Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Old Town to Ocala

Suwannee River Hideaway is a Passport America campground. It was H’s 2nd choice of places to stay at first but it turned out to be a great place to call home for a few days! Originally it was going to be an overnight stop but ended up being a 5-day stay! It is located just 3 miles outside the small town of Old Town. When you first turn onto the long entrance drive it feels as tho it had been a state park in a previous life, but according to the great camp hosts Bettye and Jay, it was built from scratch about 6 years ago. Basic facilities but very clean and a wonderful clubhouse with wifi were added perks. The best perks were the owners and the hosts – including Patsy and Billy! We were invited to their potluck Christmas Party and were made to feel right at home. Off exploring we went - one day to find Fanning Springs State Park and from there we found 2 more small Florida Springs – Otter Springs and Hart Springs. Another day we followed yet another back road and ended up out on Cedar Key for lunch. (Ready? SPFB!) Some of the previously occupied stores were now empty and one restaurant had burned down but the gang of local pelicans and cormorants still called the storm damaged old docks home. H has been having trouble with pain in his heel so we’ve had to limit our walking. One highlight of the campground was a ¼ mile long boardwalk, which lead across the cypress filled swamp to the wide dark Suwannee River. All the posted signs clearly stated NO BIKES! It was not to be experienced IF we had to walk it. H dug out our fold up bikes and we were given permission to ride. I did ride it but only one way! It was a really nice boardwalk – long and as wide as any normal sidewalk, but only had retaining WIRES strung thru the tall pylons pounded down into the muck. Speeding along the long narrow pine needle strewn planks on that skinny little bike was torturous. My shoulder blades ached and my knuckles were clenched tightly around the handlebars. Hence – I walked my bike back across the “skyway bridge” to the safety of solid, albeit sandy ground.

Ross Prairie State Forest Campground, just south west of Ocala is always one of my favorite spots and not just because it’s within 3 miles of my sister Sharon’s home. The park is also set up for equestrian camping but this time there have been only 2 horses and they only stayed 2 days. H likes the park because it is close to a lot of things – our friends R&J in Dunnellon, several great flea markets, shopping (OK – that’s mine!) and the always-beautiful Rainbow River! The weather most of the time has been in the 50’s at night and up to the mid 60’s, low 70’s during the day – those are the days we’ve gone exploring or to the various flea markets with our list of “needed” items. Sharon and I went girl shopping one day and managed to find a few things on sale that we didn’t really need! Such great deals tho! Of course, spending time out with D&S is always fun – especially when it’s Dick’s birthday! The warmest and sunniest day (79 degrees) we headed for the Rainbow with our little orange bubbles! The bright sun felt so wonderfully warm on our bare shoulders as we paddled upstream in the amazingly clear deep blue water. H normally wants to call it quits within a half hour of uphill paddling but this time he didn’t complain and so we kept on going. After 2 hours, that warm sun still felt good but our upper arms and shoulders were in agony even after a brief time out at the state park dock. Going back downstream was a breeze! We still managed to see lots of different fish, turtles and birds but no otters and no gators this time!

As most of you have heard, seen on TV or experienced for yourselves, there has been a named winter storm that has just charged across the country. We haven’t had snow here but early Saturday morning and Sunday morning were both cold enough for snow. 29 and then 26 degrees! Our poor little heaters have been working overtime. A warm up is on the way! So is Christmas!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Florida Panhandle


Twin Lakes Resort is a quiet, woodsy little campground in the panhandle of Florida, just 10 miles NW of DeFuniak, Florida. Lots of oak and pine trees that are dropping lots of leaves and needles! The park host had to use his heavy duty leaf blower strapped on his back to clear off the debris from our campsite so we could at least see the green deck and the edge of the parking pad! After 2 days it was covered again! See our amaryllis pot sitting on the edge of the pad? The park is wedged between 2 pretty little lakes – both full of tree stumps and fish (according to the many pictures in the office!) Flocks of bluebirds bounce from the leafy floor to the multitude of branches above. Robins, woodpeckers, very vocal egrets and the resident trio of domestic gray geese also call this spot home! Not far from this spot is Ponce DeLeon Springs but we were the only ones on that gray overcast day who were there to admire this pretty little fresh water spring. The water was clear and you could see the roots as they dug down into the sand. So we set out to explore. DeFuniak because it is full of small quaint shops and historic old buildings that surround an almost perfectly round serene lake. Their Christmas parade did not come anywhere near the small town of Ida Michigan’s parade, but it had its share of fire trucks and police vehicles! Oh, yes - - and candy thrown all over! H and I kept the good chocolate and gave all the stale bubblegum and tormented tootsie rolls to the youngsters who sat next to us with their mom! One day we even found the beaches of the Gulf coast! Straight down Rt 331 was Blue Mountain - - never saw any blue mountains but the beaches were snow white and the crystal sand crunched under our feet! The only “mountain” part of the area was the high banks of reinforcements to protect the houses that sat up on their “cliffs”. On we went, pausing at several public beaches to see if they needed closer viewing. Thanks to H’s good eyes we stopped at one to watch a fella strap what looked like a huge fan or a small airboat prop to his back and like a 2 legged burro – carry it to the beach. Once he was hooked up to the awaiting parasail laying out straight on the beach, he walked into the wind and then flew up into the breezy bay air! Quite fascinating! On west we went then, to drive thru Topsail State Park/RESORT, and revisit Henderson Beach St Prk. Destin was our objective for the day to revisit the harbor and then watch the fondly remembered boat parade of our last trip thru this area! OK - - - here it is - - SPFB!! When I first retired from State Farm, we came to the panhandle then followed the Gulf road to Texas and got to see the boat parade while we were parked at beautiful Henderson Beach St Prk. The harbor has been built up and the lowly boardwalk is now a fancy walkway surrounded by shops and boutiques. We were there way to early in the day to wait till after dark and then drive 50/60 miles back to the campground. And if the area was now that commercial - - - could the parade be any better than the one in our memory??? I think not! We headed back “home” via yet another back road. H was napping in his recliner by the time the parade did start!

From DeFuniak it was back to the Gulf coast and points east. A stopover in Panama City Beach at a brightly colored tropical looking mall was in order to stretch or legs before we settled in at the Rustic Sands Campground in Mexico Beach, east of Panama City and Tyndal Air Force Base. Once we were settled in for the day, we headed back out to investigate the small town and to find the beach and fishing pier but the already gray sky got even darker. You could easily see the rain streaking down from the low hanging clouds out over the gulf. We found the pier and the downpour found us! 15 minutes later it had passed over and we gathered our sweatshirts around us and stepped over the puddles to go out on the long wet pier!

Had the weather been better we might have stayed another day but it was not to be, so back on Rt 98 to follow the coastline road thru Apalachicola. We were done with the Gulf for a while and the landscape had changed from beaches to deep forests. Over several rivers on thru many tall pinewoods we were heading for Old Town and a place to park for a day or so.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

South Again


It’s December! It’s time for us to be back on the road! Imagine - H drove across 3 states in one day - - - From Michigan, across Ohio and on to Lexington Kentucky. Once we reach Florida – it’ll be 3 months of driving in ONE state!!

Our favorite Kentucky Horse Park Campground was hosting a “drive thru” Christmas light display that started in the campground area and then wound around and thru the enormous Horse Park area. H decided we should WALK the part of the bright colored animated display that ran around the perimeter of the campground. As we carefully stepped on and off the campsites and roadways, admiring the bright lights and trying to guess what each design was to represent, H saw the road leading from the campground area out and thru to the paddocks and arenas. It was lined with even bigger and brighter displays - 12 of them! Each big bold bank of flashing LED brilliance represented the 12 Days of Christmas. And, Yes, we had to sing the silly song to remember the rhyme of each verse! Then H realized how far we would have to walk to get to the rest of the displays and knew his feet would not make it that far and still have to walk all the way back. Sadly we turned around and found our way back to the “condo”.

Clinton Tennessee is ALWAYS our Saturday night stopover on our way to Florida so I can visit with my oldest son Steve and his family. Steve had to work and even tho he was tired, he did stop over and visited with us before heading home. Sunday He also had to work but the rest of us still met at Golden Girls Restaurant. Kayla’s little guy, Ethan is still a sweet chunk of toddler. Still Charlie Brown! But H was getting restless so we headed down I75 to Chattanooga where we turned right instead of turning left at Knoxville. Off of hectic I75 and all of truck traffic and across the NE corner of Georgia to Alabama we went. The traffic was better but the roadway was pits - pardon the pun! Pits and bumps and cracks!

Once to Alabama, we left Rt59 behind and picked up our favorite kind of road – two lane and country. The road led by farms with already harvested empty fields. The fields looked like soybean fields but there was a dusting of white everywhere. There were huge round hay like bales lining the sides of the fields, but these behemoths were white! And the roadway was dusted with white as tho it had just snowed and the passing cars had blown the dry powder to the side. Yep, it was cotton! We were soon climbing the narrow winding roads of the Talladega National Forest. This mountain range is the highest area in Alabama and is their Smokey Mountains. Once at the top of the ridge, the road traversed from one peak to the next, from north to south and the views from the overlooks were spectacular! The Cheaha State Park is located just NE of the historic town of Talladega and the park buildings were built by the CCC men back in the 30’s. Near the campground were a small lodge and a handicap accessible boardwalk that stretched out and over a rocky outcropping of large boulders.

In Montgomery, we spent 2 nights in a Passport America campground – Woods RV Park. A huge big field with 3 small trees and a bunch of resident FEMA trailers on site. Full hookups and good facilities but no picnic tables. It was a good place to park because we could easily drive downtown and to the zoo from its handy location right off the expressway.

Montgomery is the capitol of Alabama and they were just decorating it and the other downtown historic buildings. We parked at the Visitors Center, which was also the beautifully restored old red brick train station and explored on foot some of that area. Another spin around downtown to admire more stately old homes, we saw the signs for Dexter Street where Rev Martin Luther King preached and led the Civil Rights March. The Montgomery Zoo is also a pretty good zoo with all the needed animals – lions, tigers, elephants, and a herd of giraffes! A North American pen had bison, deer and a bull elk with romance on his mind! We even splurged and rode on the cute little red train that ran around the whole zoo.

Three days in Alabama? It’s time we get to Florida!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ride in a 1929 Ford

Ride in a 1929 Ford

As a little girl back in the 1950’s, I can remember my father Charlie and my Uncle Ned, flying from the Ohio mainland to a small island in the western basin of Lake Erie in a small rumbling 3 prop plane. The two men would load their service cycles and gear into the plane and spend days on end out on the island, fishing and riding their motorbikes. The small town they flew from was Port Clinton, just 40 miles east of Toledo and nestled among a multitude of canals, ponds and creeks that all fed into the lake which was lined with summer cottages. The island was Middle Bass Island, home to the famous Perry Monument, which commemorates Commodore Perry’s victory in the war of 1812. The city on the island was known as Put in Bay, home to the world’s longest wooden Tavern bar and the world famous singer - Pat Daley. The Ford Tri-Motor airplane was built in 1929 in Dearborn Michigan and was affectionately known by us all as “the Tin Goose”.

In last weekend’s Toledo Blade Newspaper was an article on another one of the Ford Tri-Motor Airplanes that had been restored. The Tri-Motor Heritage Foundation was offering flights out of Port Clinton at the Erie-Ottawa County Airport. H felt he/we HAD to go ride the “Tin Goose”! Tuesday, July 3rd was the chosen date and we gathered up B&C to share in this latest adventure. Bud was concerned about Carol tho, as she has a tendency to get motion sickness, but she bravely joined in. The weather was unsettled as we left home and was still hazy and overcast with a slight threat of a storm when we reached the airport parking lot and learned that all flights had been delayed till conditions improved. No problem - Jolly Roger Restaurant for fresh Lake Erie Perch dinners and a bit of exploring around the area filled up our vacant time! As we moseyed back to the airport – the Tri-Motor roared overhead! H hurried now in earnest- he wanted to fly! In the back of the hanger where the Tri-Motor was flying out of, was yet another skeleton of a plane. The proceeds from the all the local flights were to be used to restore that plane which will be parked in a designated hanger at the brand new Liberty Aviation Museum! As we waited for the plane to land and taxi to the hanger, we were given a brief history of the aircraft. We found out that there were only 199 planes made and the one we would be flying in was # 58. The plane that I flew in as a child was #38 and was sold for parts for the other 6 remaining Tri-Motors in existence! The narrow 9-passenger cabin area had one seat on either side of an even narrower aisle. The pilot area was open to the passengers who could see him work the 2 big foot petals that controlled the rudders and brakes and 3 knobby handles, which controlled the speed of the plane. On the ceiling was a pretty good-sized crank handle that was for the plane’s horizontal trim. It was interesting to learn that the original plane had NO brakes because they were landed on grass, as there was no cement landing strip back then. Due to passenger liability laws today – these restored planes must have brakes! Thank you VERY much! One by one the large engines that hung right outside the cabin windows, was coughed to life and began their roar as each prop spun faster and faster. As the knobby handles were slowly pushed forward, the plane also moved forward and rumbled out onto the runway. Holding our breath and hoping we didn’t run out of runway before the laboring plane lifted off, we all sighed with relief as she slowly reached for the sky - just in time! We never did “reach the sky” – we rose just high enough to view the scenes below as though we were looking down at a miniature train setup! You could see the tiny cars on Rt 2 and the miniature boats coming and going out of the never ending ribbons of water that lead from a million boat docks out to the calm waters of Lake Erie. The water tower looked like a dainty pearl balanced on a tiny matchstick! All four of us were snapping pictures as fast as we could press our camera buttons. H took time out to check the airplane’s speed on his hand held GPS - 65 mph at takeoff, up to 100 mph in flight and landing at 73 mph! Safely back at the hanger we continued to bombard the pilot and co-pilot with questions before sadly exiting the plane, ducking as we went because the doorway was a small oval opening just barely 4 feet tall.

Of course, the day was topped off with a stop for ice cream on our way home!

On July 5th, the Ford Tri-Motor was to fly to Kalamazoo, Michigan and then return to its home base in Oshkosh, Wisconsin the following week. If you want to learn more, go to: or

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Central Ohio

Central Ohio

It all started with Grandpa H taking our 2 grandsons tent camping and kayaking down in the Mohican area. The reports from each said they had a great time on the river and at the state park, swimming and cooking hotdogs along with Mac and cheese! Three of the four basic food groups, eh? Grandpa H came home with a 1-800 phone number to call for “FREE” camping at Wally World RV Resort! The hitch was that we had to take a 2-hour tour and listen to a sales pitch on buying into the resort. Since H has a firm grip on the word “NO” we decided to go down for our “Free” weekend. What could it hurt? Free camping, free lunch and free passes to camp at their other resorts!

Wally World Is an old campground/resort that has been taken over by Travel Resorts of America and is now selling memberships for admittance to all 6 of their resorts. For a much younger family, this deal may have been a good thing. However, it came with too many zeros to work for us! Our young tour guide was very friendly and the sales pitch was very soft sell. The park is still more rundown campground with crowded sites and less than adequate public facilities. The pool was great and we made good use of the putt-putt course. At the far end of the resort is the pick up point for one of the local canoe liveries and was a great source of entertainment since there was NO TV, NO radio and NO cell reception! Our awning-to-awning neighbors were a very nice younger couple with 3 well-behaved children and their children’s 3 well-behaved friends! The neighbor on our backside who came in on Friday, was a monster fifth wheel toy-hawler that just barely fit end to end on the pull thru lot. His slides were within 2 feet of our slide! Yes, our blinds stayed closed on that side of the condo. Their 3 big dogs let everyone know when anyone went past their territory!

Anyway, we arrived at the park on Thursday afternoon and proceeded to spend the rest of the day out exploring the beautiful rolling Amish farm country that surrounds Loudonville, Millersburg and Berlin Our evening was topped off with a refreshing swim and a round of putt putt. Friday morning, our little orange bubbles were slid into the water of the Mohican River at the River Run Canoe Livery and we headed down river to repeat the ride that Calvin and Levi took the week before! Like them, we also encountered really shallow areas with lots of rocks, hidden under churning water in the several rapids that broke up the boredom of the otherwise slow moving brown river. We knew to avoid the reversed white caps that meant a BIG rock was underneath and must be skirted around quickly! Friday afternoon was taken up with our “tour” and the day was topped off with us falling asleep while listening to one of H’s recorded books! Saturday was a crowded day on the river and we were glad to be sitting on the shore, watching all the drunks making fools of themselves, young folks dumping their canoes for the fun of it or dragging their tubes because it was faster than floating or novices getting really REALLY stuck on the biggest rock in the river! The canoe livery guys earned every bit of their pay that day! Those teenage boys were just as much fun to watch! So intent on goofing off between take out groups, they ignored the warnings that they had left the headlights turned on. When it was time to turn down the blaring radio and take the full load of canoes and rafts back to the livery, it was no surprise that the truck would not start! And when a young couple got stuck on that rock – all 10 teens huddled behind the truck and tried to smother their laughter. Not one of them offered to venture out and help the distraught couple!

Sunday was a beautiful day to take the winding (yes, sometimes gravel!) back roads down to Cumberland Ohio to visit “The Wilds”, one of the largest and most innovative wildlife conservation centers in the world. Located on nearly 10,000 acres of reclaimed strip mine land, it is home to more than 28 rare and endangered species from around the world in an open-range habitat. The “Safari Transport Pass” is an air-conditioned bus ride throughout the park with frequent stops to view and take pictures of all the extremely interesting animals. It was also the least expensive tour – especially when our Toledo Zoo Membership took off half of the cost! We could have taken an open-air vehicle or even a Zipline Safari that included 10 ziplines built into a series of observation platforms. Each guided zipline took you farther down the broad grassy slopes over the free grazing animals below. The temperatures got into the low 90’s so we were very thankful for the cool air on our bus. Our guide did a wonderful job and the neat thing was that there were only 4 of us on this tour! We saw Eland, and Oryx and Sable Antelope! Persian Onagers (wild donkeys!) and huge shaggy brown Bactrian Camels! Very stubborn Przewalski Wild Horses and several weird kinds of deer and strange looking cattle from Asia! Along with seeing the White Rhinos, the One Horned Asian Rhinos paraded right by our dusty tour bus. I kept snapping pictures, as they got closer! Besides all the hooved creatures and various birds, the animal list also included the African Wild Dogs, the Cheetahs and a pair of Dholes, which is a beautiful red fox like creature with a full thick black tail. Our young guide dropped us off back at the visitor center and it was a quick shuttle ride back to our dusty hot Big Blue truck. We cranked up the air conditioner and took the scenic, very winding Rt 83 back north and then to the campground, which was by then way less crowded from all the weekenders! We were just in time for another bunch of laps in the pool, followed by TWO rounds of putt-putt! I let H beat me the second round. We headed home on Monday to rest from our long weekend of travel! Now it’s time to get the bigger boat out and into the water. It’s time to go catch some fish. Just wait - - there’ll be another adventure next month!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Northern Michigan

Norhtern Michigan

They played our song and H’s travel lust could not resist! “On The Road Again, Going Places That We’ve Never Been”! There are still a few places in Michigan that we have not been and this trip we chalked off a few more. “Making Music With Our Friends”! (R&N are family but good friends too!) Thursday, May 10th, the condo was loaded, the truck’s gas tank was full and the new big screen Magellan GPS was mounted to the dash with the Gilmore Car Museum in tiny Hickory Corners, as our first destination for the coming week of adventure. Hickory Corners, NE of Kalamazoo, may be just a pinprick on the Michigan map but the car museum scored a big bulls eye for our memories! Their brochure said that nestled on 90 landscaped acres were a 1930’s Shell Gas Station, an authentic 1941 diner, a Franklin auto dealership from Los Angeles that had been disassembled then rebuilt at the museum and over 10 restored historic barns filled with over 200 extraordinary vehicles spanning over 100 years. It did not lie!! It did not disappoint! Lush deep green grass accented the dark red barns that were trimmed in glistening white. The inside of each building was glowing with perfectly polished chrome on each immaculately restored vintage vehicle whose deep hued vibrant colors far exceeded ANY of today’s car show quality. From the ceiling, at appropriate angles to best show off each and every prized vehicle were spotlights aimed at every available inch of metal, glass and supple leather. There were Pierce Arrows, Cadillacs and Lasalles, Bentleys, Rolls Royces, famous stock cars, Corvettes and Mustangs, a Tucker and a 1946 Stout which none of us had ever heard of. Of course, close to my heart was the 57 Chevy Belair, fuel injected, Carmel colored, convertible! Vintage motorcycles had their own building, as did the huge collection of children’s pedal cars and toys, which even included the movie set from the Disney film “Gnome Mobile”! What a hoot! There was even a display of a Conestoga Wagon Camping Trailer being pulled by a 1930’s vehicle. When our minds were totally crazed from the overload to our senses, our own wagon train pulled back onto the black top and headed towards Grand Rapids and the Woodchip Campground. Heading farther north on Friday, thru Grand Rapids and Newaygo, we reached our next GPS destination – Mesick and the Northern Exposure Campground where we once again circled the wagons and parked them for the next couple of nights. The campground is twenty miles west of Cadillac on the dammed up Manistee River and was originally built by Consumer Power Co. Since we were in the middle of the Manistee National Forest, and both of H’s previous power toys were allowed to explore and climb the rough terrain, this Big Blue Ox had to show that he could accomplish the same feat! For being such a BIG boy (next to the Zuki he is!), he did very well! Thru the puddles and thru the deep sand, H and R were checking out all that he and his gauges could do - - gauges to say what the sideways tilt of the truck was or how steep of an angle the rutted sandy hill was!! Check the picture - H made some of those big holes in that steeper than it looks hill! This May was the 53rd Annual Mushroom Festival in Mesick! And it did not rain on the parade this time! We girls got to shop the Flea Market AND the Craft Show while the boys wandered and did their own thing. Fresh baked Pasties made by the local Masonic Hall folks were as good as ever! It’s too bad the parade did not seem as organized as it has been in the past and both the Mud Bogg and Horse Pulls were hid from free loader viewers like us. We didn’t want to pay the price to go see them so we returned to camp for some kick back and relax time. Sunday morning, we hitched up our wagons and headed out. Both GPS’s were leading us down country roads and thru small towns, one of which is Kaleva, which is known for it’s Bottle House that was built in 1941 out of 60,000 pop bottles from the local bottle factory! The Finnish gentleman that owned the bottle company and built the house died before he and his family could move into it. West thru Manistee and then down to Ludington for our next Port of Call! We had to check out the two mammoth ferry boats, the Badger and the Spartan that were still moored there while being prepared for the busy summer of transporting folks and their vehicles across the vast blue Lake Michigan to the shores of Wisconsin on the other side. Whispering Surf is another Passport America campground just north of Pentwater and has a lovely wooden boardwalk that leads thru the pine forest to also lovely Bass Lake. From Pentwater, it is a short drive down to Silver Lake Sand Dunes! You have all seen the pictures from Previous Michigan Blogs of the Zuki and the Jeep Liberty up on top of test hill so don’t be so surprised to know that H just HAD to do the same with BB Ox!!! Of course, his first attempt ended about 3/4th of the way up. Duh – after backing back down the hill, H pushed the 4-wheel drive button and the next attempt was just an easy walk from the bottom of the hill to the top where we perched for the whole world to see! A thorough tour of the park followed with much gauge and gadget checking – you know how boys and their toys are! Back out of the park, the bouncy soft tires were once again filled with fresh air and off we went on firm, road worthy tires. R&N had to head home on Tuesday morning so our joint travels came to an end. But not us! H and I meandered another few days down along the beautiful Lake Michigan coastline. We stopped at all the scenic towns – Montague, Whitehall, and in Muskegon we stayed over at the Fisherman Landing for the night using the Passport America again. Further down the coast, Grand Haven was also gearing up for the upcoming tourist season and Holland was just about out of tulips but the ladies did say that the festival this year was a good one! Our busy day concluded with a quick tour of Benton Harbor and St Joe and an overnight stop in Dune Lake Campground just outside of town. “LAKE” is a bit misleading since it’s really just an overgrown pond surrounded by sandy mounds. The grass was also overgrown and a few more trees need to be removed so rigs can navigate the narrow roads easier. By the summer season – it’ll be all ship-shape, no doubt! So, we’re home again. The grass is green and mowed. The garden is planted. Laundry is done and is back out in the condo. Bring on the next trip! You are invited to come along with us!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Florida to Michigan To enlarge pic double click on pic

Florida to Michigan

Talk about a delay! It’s time I catch up on our journey north!

Northern Florida and Southern Georgia look the same. We were definitely out of sandy beaches and swaying palm tree territory. The Suwannee River State Park is about 20 miles south of the imaginary line on our Atlas that says Florida/Georgia, however it took a half of a day to reach that line. Rt 90 is the east/west route that leads from Jacksonville on the Atlantic, thru and past Tallahassee, the capital of Florida. And it is a lovely road to travel! Rt 27 is the north/south route that snakes up the west side of Georgia, thru red dirt farms and pine forests. I could have picked up another state park patch if I were collecting Georgia ones because we parked for the night at Kolomoki Mounds State Historic Park. A nice little campground nestled by the side of a small lake, the park is significant because it is the oldest and largest Woodland Indian site in southeastern U S. It was occupied as far back as 350-750 A.D. Georgia’s oldest great temple mound, 57 ft high, dominates 2 other mounds and several other ceremonial mounds.

South of Columbus, off of Rt 27 is Providence Canyon State Park, also called the “Grand Canyon of Georgia” and rightly so! Now, here’s a warning to any and all RV’ers who pull into the Visitor Center parking lot, expecting a place big enough to park a rig - - - - DON”T DO IT! Park in the lot when you first turn into the park! R&N have visited this park before us but failed to remember to warn us about the extremely short turn around area for trucks pulling trailers! IF the lot is empty of other parked vehicles – it can be done, HOWEVER – there were several vehicles parked closest to the pathways and ONE lone renegade SUV parked against the back of the lot about 5 or 6 spots from the furthest end. That left just enough space for H to pull in and hope for enough space to turn and escape. Not to be! We all know that H can back his way out of a tight squeeze blindfolded and he did great in wiggling out of this tricky bind with just a few well planned (lucky) maneuvers! I still held my breath, but he never even came close to scratching that SUV! With a sigh of relief, he parked along side the park road and off we went to explore a bit of the dramatic views spread before us! The official website for the park states that all of this magnificent beauty and vibrant colors displayed throughout the 1300 acres of canyon are all simply caused from erosion due to poor farming practices back in the 1800’s. The 3-mile hike around the canyon surround some of the awesome views that rival the other well-known Grand Canyon. The white, orange, red and purple colors are as vivid as any in Brice Canyon! The many well posted signs warn of steep drop-offs not more than 3 feet from the other side of that worn wooded rail! The park is just for hiking and viewing with no camping facilities so back on the road we went with plenty of time to explore more of Georgia’s back roads. Along the river that divides Georgia and Alabama, thru the Florence Marina State Park, “Lily” took us on a shortcut – over the river and up an Alabama road, adding to another state traveled before lunch! Gas was also cheaper in Alabama! We were back in Georgia at Columbus and back up Rt 27 to John Tanner Park (west of Atlanta) for our stop for the night. Until this spring it was listed as a state park but according to the young lady in the office, the park did not meet state park standards and is now listed as a Carroll County park. A pretty little park with two lakes and the usual hiking paths, it should be popular in the summer time. The campground is wedged on the side of a large wooded hill so many of the spots are terraced sideways down the gentle slope. The “facilities” are up at the top so there is plenty of cardiac exercise! H selected an easy in, easy out, pull thru and we never even unhooked. Since the only other rig in the campground was the camp host, we did not disturb anyone when we left in the morning!

Cloudland Canyon State Park was just a morning’s trip up the road, but the road from the entrance of the park to the campground seemed as long! Deeply forested and very curvaceous, it finally ended up at a double looped campground atop one of the crown like hills in the park. Terraced parking sites where built of railroad tie sized timbers and filled with stone to make level areas to park. New timber fences kept us from backing off and down the mountainside! Unlike the Providence Canyon, this area was thick with forest and hills and fog layered on the edges of the highest peaks. Since we had the whole afternoon to explore, H wasted no time in unhooking the condo and setting the Big Blue Ox free! Cloudland Canyon is on the south side of Lookout Mountain in Georgia and the north side is in Tennessee, facing the snaking Tennessee River and the sprawling city of Chattanooga. The views from the World Famous Mile High Incline Railway Observation Deck were gorgeous but the ride down the mountain in one of the two brightly painted trolley like cars fairly took our breaths away as the car first started to drop down the 72.7% grade! It’s the steepest passenger railway in the world and has been since it’s beginning in 1895! We found the ice cream shop at the bottom and then braved the ride back up the mountain. Literally – we backed up the side of the mountain, causing a weird feeling in the pit of our stomachs but it afforded another neat view while climbing backwards up the steep grade. We even passed the other car coming down as we went. On another corner of the mountaintop is Point Park, the National Park where the “Battle of the Clouds” was fought in 1863. We stood on the bluff where Ulysses S Grant stood and we read the history of the Civil War Battle that took so many Union and Confederate lives. And the views – phenomenal!

Our last day in Georgia – “Lily” led us down the west side of the mountain to the expressway below. Down some wonderful motorcycle roads - with more than just one 15 mph hairpin curve! We could see the taillights on the condo as it dutifully followed us down and around the zigzag curves! Yee-haw! Down on the busy expressway that we had just admired the day before from the top, we reversed our gaze and amazed at the views of the mountain ridge from the valley below. “Lily” took us from Rt 59 to Rt 24 thru Chattanooga and then I 75 north.

The fun and games of our winter adventure was over – we were going home for serious now. One more night out at the Kentucky Horsepark and then we gritted our way thru Cincinnati and Dayton and finally, Toledo, Rt 23 and Michigan. The few minor “adjustments” to the condo have been completed and it’s tucked away in the backyard, waiting for the next adventure.

Come with us again!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ocala to Georgia line

Ocala to Georgia line

Sunday morning – it’s time to put in the slide, roll up the steps, hook up the condo and put the big blue truck in gear. It’s time to head north. Rt 441 is a great road. From Ocala north the terrain is gently rolling hills. Thoroughbred farms change to more cowboy type farms the farther away from Ocala you get. South of Gainesville is a quaint little town called Micanopy (Mick an OH pee). Back in the early 1990’s there was a movie called “Doc Hollywood”, and starred Michael J Fox as a small town doctor. The town portrayed was in South Carolina but the movie was done in Micanopy. We strolled up and down the main street, stopped in several shops and even chatted with some of the owners. One antique shop was in the town’s 1906 bank building and that owner shared some of the things she remembered from being there when the movie was being shot. On the opposite side of the street were several large homes that had been reborn as gift shops, ice cream shops and a coffee shop. Their coffee was good and the egg sandwich was freshly made just for us.

Getting thru Gainesville was a breeze – straight on thru and got most of the traffic lights green! We stopped for the day at one of Florida’s first state parks - O’Leno State Park. I have a new patch for my jacket! Back in the 1860’s it was a town called Keno after the lotto gambling game. It was changed to Leno in 1876 and by 1890 it had become a ghost town because the railroad bypassed the tiny town. The park was acquired in the 1930’s and developed by the Civilian Conservation Corp. A lot of the buildings are still being used today. Dark brown wood cabins, a long dark lodge made of logs and even a CCC museum that looked more like the left over corner tower of an old Indian fort! The park is located on the Santa Fe River – literally – ON IT. The river runs thru the park and then disappears underground and then emerges 3 miles away. The pond where is goes underground is called the River Sink and we walked over a high swinging, suspension bridge, along the river trail, thru the woods and then back around the Sink Pond. Delicate wild Azaleas and white lacey Fringe Trees dotted the woods.

Monday afternoon I added yet another patch to my jacket. Suwannee River State Park is another historic nugget that lines the steep banks of the Suwannee River. The campground was pretty much full but we lucked out and got one of the last available spots – the paved handicapped site right next to the “facilities”. While H enjoyed his “happy hour”, I grabbed camera and went off exploring the steep banked river’s edge. I found the remains of the old mill, the railroad bridge and the bridge next to it that carried 441 from one side of rhe Suwannee to the other. Up past the cement lined boat ramp where the shallow water at the base looked like strong tea lapping at the rivers bank, the narrow sandy path led past a tall post with bright colored markings and the dates that the river flooded to those marked heights. The brightest and highest band was for 1973 - - - 60 some feet of floodwater filled that space where I was standing, plus about 10 more over my head!! It was hard to imagine! On up along the limestone-lined river, the trail traveled around a small cove where a few tall Cypress trees stood guard on the shore, creating an interesting silhouette on the water. The pathway then snuck past a wooden stairway that stepped down that steep embankment and ended about 4 feet above the water. The stairway to nowhere!! Once down at the bottom I did see the bubbling water that was churning up out of the middle of some knarly tree roots! It was a fresh water spring. The next interesting spot on the trail was listed as “the Balanced Rock”. And it was but the broucher picture was taken a long time ago – way before those trees grew up around it and attempted to strangle it with their long armed limbs. Back at the condo – we shared our adventures - mine about the sights I saw and the pictures I took and H told me about our new neighbors - from Vineyard Lake Michigan who live next door to one of H’s old shooting buddies!! They were traveling on a motorcycle and pulling a trailer!! Shades of our past vacations on H’s faithful red Yamaha Venture!! Sweet!! Then we had a different kind of visitor! A teeny, tiny green frog that was smaller than a nickel. H and I were both laughing and were doing a pretty goofy looking two-step, trying to keep our little trespasser on the cement slab so H could get a good picture of him. Isn’t he cute?

Enough of Florida! The weather was threatening rain so on Tuesday we headed to Georgia. The trip home is getting serious now!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ocala area

Ocala area

Alexander Springs Campground is in the southern end of the Ocala National Forest and is one of H’s favorite campgrounds and springs. There is no electricity and no water hookups at any site. The 67 camping sites are all good for one kind of unit or other but finding the appropriate spot for a good sized trailer with a good sized slide is a bit more tricky than driving a Jeep and pulling an Aerolite! But we managed and parked in an ample-sized wooded spot with plenty of room for the slide AND the awning! In the high 80-degree weather – both the shade and the awning were much appreciated! The cacophony of birds woke us (ME!) each morning and the squirrels darted from tree to tree around us (ME again!) as “we” walked to the “facilities” via the leaf-laden path thru the woods behind our “condo”. As always in the “forest” we must go off road exploring - both the roads traveled with the Jeep and down other roads even less traveled by any vehicle. We revisited state forest roads 73 & 18, which led us back to the same river landing as last year. OK – here it is SPFB! Last years blog shows the Jeep with its nose and front wheels down in the river! Following yet another sandy forest road, the forest (jungle!) growth kept encroaching on the sandy track till it was barely big enough for the Jeep let alone the Big Blue Ox! And then, there it was in front of us - a huge, black, moss laden tree trunk crossing over the rutted sandy path like the slash mark in a percentage sign! Would we fit under it? Whew – JUST barely! As it happened when we ran out of road, we HAD to return and pass under it again! Back onto blacktop roads, we located the St Johns River and then drove back to camp thru the small town of Astor. Astor has a lovely new library with very friendly librarians and very good wifi, which we gratefully borrowed.

And then there is the spring itself! 70 MILLION gallons of sparkling water still gush from the wide, sapphire blue funnel each day! Our snorkel equipment was utilized more than once to view the deep crater and to watch the bunch of curious fish that called the underwater grasses their home. A well-weathered boardwalk winds thru the jungle, between towering palm trees and ends up at one scenic overlook where you can scan the swimming area and springs. Further up the walk you can look up and down the swift moving run that eventually ends up at the Ocalawaha River. One afternoon we wheeled the double stacked kayaks down to the canoe launch and drifted down that swift moving clear stream. Fish, turtles and even a squawking Limpkin were spotted along the waterway. Water lilies, Arrow plant and tall grasses lined the shoreline with various dead tree snags breaking into the water between them. A long skinny overgrown island was just a bit farther downstream and H led the way along the left side ahead of me. We were almost to the end of the island when it looked like he was entering into a section of white water rapids because the water surrounding his kayak was churning and foaming. Oh no - it was not a rapids - - it was H doing the back paddle like a Mixmaster on high speed! And why you ask was this sudden urgency to go in reverse? There was a VERY large dark alligator that wanted his turn at crossing the stream. He wanted it NOW and took it – right in front of H’s quickly back paddling orange bubble. Lucky for me, I can paddle faster than he can!

Out of the Ocala Forest and closer to Ocala for our good-bye visit with Dick and Sharon is always our semi official start to our push to head home. Ft Wilderness RV Resort on Rt 40 is the exact opposite of the wildernesses that we’ve been living in, and it was our next stopping spot on our journey! The first time we camped there it was a bit more of a campground than a “resort”. Not so now. There is a laundramat, a fitness building, a lodge, a restaurant with a general store and a delightful swimming pool! All sites have a black topped parking pad, full hookups, CABLE TV and we even had free wifi! Although the sites are now quite a bit more spacious than before, when you look out the back window or along side the trailer you don’t see the canopy of tall green palms, pines and live oaks of the forest or state parks - you see the alternating backyards in the zig zag line of parked RV rigs. Some yards were beautifully landscaped and manicured with equally beautiful rigs and occupied by some very nice folks. Maureen and Gary are from West Virginia and he and Harry swapped travel stories

Dinner with D&S on our return stop now seems to always end up at the Bob Evans in Silver Springs, probably because it’s a halfway spot for both of us. There are never enough hugs, never enough laughs and NEVER enough time to catch up on the last 3 months or to talk of hopes for the next 8 and half months till we can hug each other again. Time to go. In the morning we head north on 441. It’ll be a long day. It’s about 80 miles from Ocala to High Springs, just NW of Gainesville.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring in central Florida

Spring in central Florida

It must be springtime in Central Florida! From Moss Park our northern trek led us from south of Orlando to just north of Orlando and the small town of Apopka and Wekiwa Springs State Park. Around the corner and up the road, it was on to Kelly Springs Campground. Next we’re going to Alexander Springs Campground in the Ocala National Forest!

Yes, we’ve been here before but to refresh – Wekiwa means “spring of water” and the 42 million gallons of crystal clear water are still being emitted everyday from the deep blue crevice. There is still an abundance of small fish and when the weather warms – still lots of folks who cool off in the wide walled swimming area or relax on the sloping grass slope nearby. There are 2 camping loops and there is not a bad campsite in either loop. Some are open and some are surrounded by palmettos and pine trees, making them a bit more secluded. We were parked on site 32 for several days but because of the “ site specific” reservation system we had to move to site 33 for our last 3 days. This spot was sideways to the road so we put the tailgate down and displayed my dishcloths and potholders! Great conversation starters and several dollars ended up in my pocket!! The winter must be over down here. The tall pines are no longer dull army green; the live Oaks are showing off their new bright green leaves, as are the Cypress and their lime green new growth! Outside of the park there are Dogwood, Redbud, and Azaleas in gorgeous colors from white to coral and pink. The tall tan wild grasses in the woods and meadow just outside the camping area have now endured a “ prescribed burn” to clear out the dead undergrowth and allow the new grasses and wildflowers to emerge and grow. Pretty un-nerving when they light the fire just feet from the perimeter of the campsites!

Apopka is on the east side of Lake Apopka and Winter Garden is on the south side. Back before 1950 the lake was clear and a busy with lots of fishermen and families wanting to get away from the big city. Today the grimy green lake is full of fertilizer run off and other noxious pollutants. The lakeside park is still cared for but the small boat harbors are full of weeds and scum. What a shame. According to the information kiosk, there is a group working to make changes and bring the lake back to its previous life. Lets hope it works.

Unlike Moss Park with her pretty lakes, Kelly Park has a crystal clear spring like Wekiwa State Park, however this spring originates in a cave. Kids of all ages can tube or float down the swift moving “run” that opens up to a wide swimming area then on to another jungle lined stream that leads to the Wekiwa River. The river flows north to the St Johns River and the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville. We arrived on Friday and were anxious to get our suits on and take our turn at floating on down. No water adventure that day! The ranger who was guarding the area said there was an “alligator issue” and there were trappers on their way to the park. NO – the creature was not captured that day – nor was it captured on the following 90 degree day when the park was FULL hot kids and frustrated parents. Nor was it captured during the entire week that followed. The stories that evolved vary from how big the gator was (or is) to whatever actually happened to it. It’s again a Friday and the swimming area is now open – the first day of bike week AND spring break!! Once again the park is full of boisterous teens cooling off and enjoying the refreshing clear waters. Is there an alligator or isn’t there?

Thankfully there are other wildlife! There is a tom turkey that is far bigger than the toms at Moss Park. This one is in love with the shiny bumper on H’s truck when he and his friends are not rambling thru the park. There are butterflies that can’t stay away from the deep red petunia blooms that keep our amaryllis company in the white pot on the picnic table. By the walkway to the bathhouse is a deep hole that looks as tho a beagle had been digging there. A Gopher tortoise lives there and shares the warm sand with a 4 ft long Rat Snake. Cardinals, Pileated Woodpeckers, Blue Herons, a Swallowtail Kite Hawk and all kinds of happy sounding birds call this haven their home. It’ll be our home for one more night and then we’re heading north again – to beautiful Alexander Springs.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Moss Park Fl.

Moss Park Fl.

SPFB !!! In case you have forgotten, it means: See Previous Florida Blogs!!

Moss Park is yet another SPFB!! Go back to last year’s blogs to read about me blathering about the 2 pretty little lakes or the narrow little river that joins them and how when the sun sets, the trees on its banks glow as the blasts of golden shards of bright light hits them. On Lake Mary Jane, the park’s beach is usually peaceful and quiet during the winter months. This year, several groups of high school students from New York and Connecticut congregated there for a training camp to fine-tune their talents of team rowing in those long narrow vessels called sculls. 8 oarsmen manned those 40 to 50 foot long boats and rowed in unison out onto the calm water for 2 hours of intense training followed by a quick lunch and 2 more hours out in their skinny crafts. Either 4 or just 2 oarsmen handled the shorter boats. Ally and Tommy were a team of 2 from Long Island and were very patient with all my questions about their sport!

And Moss Park still has animals! The person who cares about them the most is George, Moss Parks Camp Host and Resident Wildlife Photographer! Each morning the herd of white tail deer, the Turkeys, the Gray squirrels and several pairs of tall gangly Sandhill Cranes gather for their breakfast of corn and grain. The crows overhead announce the arrival of daylight and the Pileated Woodpeckers begin their incessant pounding out of a nesting cavity in the top of the dead pine tree behind George’s parked motor home. During the day, the bright colored Northern Parula Warblers flash their silver blue backs and yellow tummies as they flit from branch to branch and warble their little hearts out. As always, the Sandhill Cranes clatter and squawk from sunup to sunset! Each Saturday evening, George shares his love of photography and the animals of Moss Park during a movie he crafted and presents to the campers. Last year, we congratulated him on the birth of his last batch of Sandhill babies. This year we got to do it again! What a delight to have these doting avian parents lead, feed and protect their long legged tan youngsters while still letting all of us take picture after picture! Last year we met “Gimpy” an injured Sandhill with a terribly crooked leg. He is still in Moss Park – painfully limping thru the campground to visit each campspot as always but now he has a girlfriend. They stayed in our site quite awhile, hoping for a treat from bookworm H. NO Sandhill gets a treat from H – but Gimpy does from Grandma B!

Sherman Squirrels, Armadillo and Gopher Tortoise are still in Moss Park too! And the Baby Barred Owls are just a ways outside the entry gate in the 15-foot high crook of a sprawling Live Oak Tree. The parents nervously perch in nearby trees, watching over their children while George takes their weekly photographs. We were invited to go with George to see the babies for this 3-week portrait update. After we crawled carefully under a raggedy old barbed wire fence we climbed the 15 feet up the ladder and cautiously peered down into the oakleaf lined nest cavity to see the 2 buggy eyed, fluffy white babies that were crowded together in that deep niche.

As much as I enjoy the experience and the memories of these creatures of God, I cherish the friends we’ve met along our camping adventures even more. Our Georgia, dulcimer-playing friends, Bobbie and Gene are 2 of those special friends! We met them several years ago, here in Moss Park when G was only able to get around in a wheelchair pushed cheerfully by his best friend and wife, B! He now rides his bike around the park and tells lots of stories about their times together. Our travels lined up once more and we spent time together here in Moss Park where our friendship began. Campfires, conversations, Sour Orange Pie and lunch out at the Catfish Place are now added to the growing list of not to be forgotten memories.

The condo is almost packed down and Sunday is moving day once more. From southeast of Orlando we’ll be moving northwest to Wekiwa State Park for 5 days. This weekend is the NBA All Star Basketball game in Orlando and the Daytona 500 races are running this weekend too. Getting around this town is never easy and dragging the trailer will not make it any better with these 2 mega events going on.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012