Friday, January 16, 2015


Lake Louisa State Park would remind you of the Irish Hills up in lower central Michigan with it’s rolling hills and beautiful lakes. The well-groomed roadsides held back the thick foliage but still gave peeks of the lakes nestled down in the valleys.  This is a campground I will be happy to revisit in the future!  The real reason we stopped for the night at this park is because our beloved Rockwood has been traded in for a new trailer.  Since the Rockwood’s problem was not going to get solved, H bit the bullet and chose to replace it.   This park was the closest to the dealership.  That and we’d not been to this state park before - - so there is a new patch for my jacket!  We took advantage of the afternoon to get boxes emptied and things semi settled in our new winter home.

EG Simmons means Ospreys!  Their penthouse nests, made of sticks and moss, are even higher than all the utility poles that line each roadway.  Almost every one had at least one large black and white bird taking up residence and glaring down at us each time we passed below.  EG Simmons is one of our “must do” campgrounds on our annual rounds of Florida.  Since the new trailer also has a large picture window in the back, we still could look out thru the mangroves and the dark salty water that hid behind them.  Each morning a pair of Yellow Crowned Night Herons stalked along the edges looking for tiny little crabs that hid in the muck and sand.   Our bike rides took us from one view of beautiful Tampa Bay to another.    Along the way were open areas where fishermen dotted the shore.  Thru one opening you could see one of the white sand lined peninsulas where horseshoe crab shells end up and across the way, one of the many fishing docks. 
On this stay in Ruskin, we ventured up the coast to Tarpon Springs again.  The last time involved the Greek Ceremony of Epiphany where the priest throws a gold cross out into the water and the hoard of teen boys dive in and grab for the sunken cross.  This time we went hunting for the famed sponge docks!  The streets bordering the docks were lined with small shops that sold souvenirs and local sponges.  The docks were lined with colorful boats laden with strings of drying sponges and across the way, large commercial fishing boats.  We even ate at the same Bayou CafĂ© that we ate at on our last visit.  On our way back home we drove all the way down Alt 19 to the Skyway Bridge, which is Florida’s version of the Mighty Mackinaw Bridge that connects the Upper and Lower Peninsula of Michigan.  The wind was strong as we approached and H noticed all the brightly colored kite board sails flying back and forth across the open water.  Of course we HAD to stop and watch.  Those kites that were not flying were lined up on the beach like a field of bright tulips in a flowerbed.

One of H’s high school classmates, (another) Bud and his wife Nancy, live in a lovely gated community about a mile from the campground so we spent some fun time with them.  The Red Barn Flea Market down in Bradenton was one day’s venture.  Nancy and I even got to spend a girl’s day out for lunch and shopping!  One afternoon, the four of us climbed into B’s truck and drove up around the bay thru Tampa and Clearwater and out over the causeway bridge to Clearwater Beach to watch the sunset from the fishing pier there.  Each afternoon, vendors lined the pier with their booths of crafts and trinkets.  The sea wind was strong so large multi colored patio umbrellas hugged the backside of the railing to protect the folks and their wares.  Out on the pier was a large dolphin that was painted with a mermaid.  (Ocala has horses – and Clearwater Beach has dolphins!)   In the park at the base of the pier was a plethora of various street entertainers – a juggler with a stunt dog, acrobats, a magician and even a pirate who chatted with all the kids and allowed the parents to take pictures.  This guy really looked like Capt Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean! 
As the sun started to spread its golden glow across the horizon, a pirate ship (an evening dinner cruise) appeared and crossed in front of the sinking orb, slowly cruising back and forth until that bright orb finally sank into the sea.  Gold changed to coral and then pink and bounced off the lingering clouds and jet streams that formed a tic tac toe grid in the sky.

The week has passed quickly. Anna Marie’s Oyster Bar has been visited and coconut shrimp has been sampled at Crabby Bill’s.  We’ve had fresh, deep red, juicy strawberries!  We may as well move on!  WP Franklin Lock and Dam Campground is the next place we’ll call home for awhile.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Apopka and Winter Garden

Rock Spring  Kelly Park
Apopka is a growing and expanding town.  It is still surrounded by all the various greenhouses that advertise orchids or other exotic foliage or plants. Where there are no greenhouses is Wekiwa Springs State Park and her adjoining county park – Kelly Springs 

Rock spring run under water
(Yep – SPFB!).  According
 to the staff at Kelly Park, the mosquitoes were especially bad this winter because there has been no killing frost.  The campground is in the middle of the woods and the bugs were thriving!  There was no sitting outside without bug spray on the warm sunny days.  Thankfully down at the spring area it was wide open with a great cooling breeze, hence no biting bugs.  The turkeys were still wandering thru the park – just not thru our campsite – and the gopher tortoise had dug her burrow under a palmetto palm about 20 feet behind our condo.  Some days it was just easier to climb in the truck and use the excuse of “exploring” to escape the hungry bugs and go revisit our favorite areas - Sanford, Winter Garden with her still beautifully decorated downtown boulevard and Christmas tree and Mt Dora with her quaint shops and sprawling old flea market.  We even bravely ventured down to Orlando!  And of course we made our annual trek to The Catfish Place in downtown Apopka for scallops!
Winter Garden
Last year my nephew Rich from Indiana, wife Susan and son Brady drove from Lakeland to Ocala to visit with us while we were at Ross Prairie.  Last time we took them to Rainbow Springs.  This year we were happy to show them another one of Florida’s hidden treasure – the crystal clear waters of Rock Springs.  H took the first float down the run with R&B while Susan and I manned the stash of shoes, shirts and glasses!  She just had more surgery in October and was still wearing a bulky air cast on her right foot and calf so she was confined to a wheelchair.  While the boys were out playing “salmon”, I wheeled her along the wide cement sidewalks that lined the swimming areas and over the arched steel bridges that allowed a great view of the entire area including any bobbing bodies floating down the winding clear stream.  My camera was still laying on the table in the condo so I was depending on S to snap some good shots with her cell phone!   Next it was my turn to jump in the cold refreshing water with R&B and “bob” on down the run along with all the others trying to cool off on a hot Sunday afternoon.  We chatted the entire way down and then chatted some more while we stood in the waist deep waters of the open area.  H even came over to the edge to see if we were all right!  It was decided that we should “bob” further down the stream and then walk back up – against the currant.  That job was easier said than done – but we did it and it was an excellent workout for my flabby old thighs!  Of course R & B made it look like a walk in the park instead of a push uphill in a swift currant!   Back in the air-conditioned condo, we visited until way after dark.  They climbed into their SUV and left our campsite, heading for the exit.  Then returned  - - they had seen a bear in the campground!  All these years that we’ve camped here and THEY see the bear?!   Go figure.

Monday was moving day once more.  Down thru Winter Garden for breakfast and on to Lake Louisa State Park for more of this winter’s adventure.