Friday, December 16, 2011

Tomoka State Park

Tomoka State Park

Tomoka State Park is wedged between Route 1 and the Halifax River, which is also the Intercoastal Waterway. This 2000-acre “hammock” – thick THICK forest - is listed as one of the oldest in eastern Florida. Obviously, by the picture of the road on the way here, you can tell that it’s true! Here in the campground the sites are carved out of the woods and are surrounded by thick palmetto shrubs and covered with a canopy of live oaks and Spanish moss. The road thru the campground is narrow, winding and sand! But – the facilities are new and very nice! It’s our first time here – but they do not have any patches for my jacket. The “Outpost” is the general store/restaurant and the view of the lake is very peaceful – even on a gray rainy day. We had breakfast there on Monday morning. Pretty good biscuits and gravy!
Sunday afternoon we headed out to explore the local area as we normally do and ended up on the beach in Daytona Beach. H just has to get sand in those shiny new wheels! We found a spot to park and headed up and over the main street walkway to the Oceanside Mall. We finished up our stroll along the boardwalk and seawall between the fancy hotels and the pounding, roaring waves of the ocean. The beaches were pretty much void of pedestrians and instead were dotted with shorebirds and splattered with dead smelly seaweed.

While enjoying our “Buy One Get One” Whoppers it started to rain. It rained all afternoon. It rained ALL night! It rained all day Monday! According to the news, it has set a new record! Reminds me of the amounts of rain that Toledo and vicinity received during November! Even part of the seawall in Daytona Beach was to have been washed out – the only thing holding it together is the wooden steps over it.

Last evening we met out neighbors from the site next to us. Brenda and Jim left Alberta Canada last October and are touring the coastal states for 6 months! Of course – H shared some of his knowledge of his favorite parks and other places to see in Florida! Brenda’s accent was not nearly as defined as Barbee from British Columbia but still distinctive and brought back a slew of great memories of the times we spent with her, both here in Florida and in her native BC!!!

Tuesday morning we’ll hook up and pull back out onto the long road west to the Ocala National Forest! 56 miles – it’ll be a long day on the road, eh???

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Florida Part 1

Florida Part 1

We’re off again! It took 6 days to get to Florida this year!

H’s surgery was for a hernia and his surgeon released him on Friday December 2nd. On December 3rd we pulled out of the drive and settled in on I 75, heading south. After a 1-hour traffic delay in Cincinnati Ohio we finally moved on and arrived in Clinton Tennessee just before dark. Our annual breakfast at “Golden Girls” restaurant with Steve’s family was even at our same old table. Saturday evening Steve let us know that he had to work on Sunday but Melissa, Jessie and Kayla and Kayla’s 7-month-old son would be there! Dressed in denim cargo pocket jeans, green plaid shirt and camo cowboy boots that refused to stay on his feet, Ethan was the spitting image of Charlie Brown, only in miniature! After breakfast, we all drove over to Aisin Industries to visit with Steve for a few minutes before H and I unloaded Christmas gifts and then pointed the big blue truck south once more.

Route 441 is a great, picturesque alternative to driving thru Atlanta and our second night out we parked at Cross Creek Campground in Mountain City. A nice little campground – but the bathroom facilities were closed for the winter. Helen Georgia is a little town back in the hills that fell on hard times and remade itself into an alpine village – just like Frankenmuth Michigan. The road there would have been a great motorcycle ride but the dizzying narrow curves thru the deep woods was causing some concern about the return trip that would be in the dark. The town was aglow with twinkling lights and the scene was complete with several fancy carriages. Our concern about the return trip was solved when we checked the map and took a different path back to the highway and back to the campground. “Lily” (the GPS) was given the rest of the evening off!

Our next stop was Savannah and back to Skidaway Island State Park – here it is - - - SPFB! Historic Savannah was as charming as ever but not much in the way of historic Christmas lights. Jeykll Island, just down the coast a bit, was the next parking spot for our “condo”. We unloaded the new fold up bikes and attempted a ride to the historic downtown but the winds came up, the temps dropped and the ominous dark charcoal clouds moved in. Wisely, we turned around and got the bikes back in their nest in the truck before the sky opened up and the moisture came down.

Finally Florida! Old St Augustine did not disappoint with its magical display of a million sparkling white lights! All the commotion of traffic and lights didn’t seem to bother the placid carriage horses that dutifully pulled their master’s fares thru the congested town. We returned several times to stroll the old cobbled streets and peek into the eclectic selection of shops and boutiques. Saturday night was the 18th annual lighted boat parade. Lots and lots of blanket wrapped folks guarded the coquina stone walls lining the river to watch the several dozen vessels decked out with Christmas displays and lights strung gaily up their masts. The weather turned cold and damp once the sun had set and the winds were quite strong, causing choppy waters making it extremely difficult to control the boats and keep them in parade formation.

Onward again on Sunday morning! Tomoka State Park is just outside Ormond Beach and we have never been there. Neither had Lily and she took us down some back county roads with HUGE yellow signs warning of low tree limbs of 8 foot and a handful of inches. The “condo” is over 10ft tall! Nervously, H did not turn down the last road with that sign but turned the opposite way. As soon as possible H called the campground to see if we were indeed in trouble height wise and if we were even on the correct road. Deftly, H backed his “train” into a nearby driveway and turned around and headed back up the narrow, low, canopied road. No problem – the hurricane had taken out the low limbs on the live oaks that clung to the sides of the roadway but the signs had not be removed. We’ll be here for 2 nights. We’ve got some exploring to do!