Thursday, August 10, 2017

Northern Michigan week 2

I have gone back and re-read our July/August blogs from the last 2 years!  Last years trip and story about Petosega is just about the same as this year’s!  We are still in awe of God’s gorgeous landscapes that he calls Northern Michigan!  Every time we come rolling over a certain hill on the way to Petoskey and the agriculture quilt-block of farm fields open up before us, I catch my breath! Yes, I do get the camera out and ready but there is no chance of catching that vision on film.  First are the fields of dark brown horses, then the curve of the road in the sunshine. Past that are the fields of golden grain, perfectly straight rows of vegetables and the yellow tassels that top the ripening corn that stand calmly, surrounding the picturesque red barns.  Past all that are more hills and the first glimpse of Petoskey and the blue waters of Lake Michigan.  Once again we found ourselves strolling along the waterfront parks, admiring the harbor and expanse of blue beyond.
Petoskey Harbor
And once again we enjoyed a wonderful Polish dinner at the Polish Kitchen – this time with our hometown neighbors, C&T and their handsome son, Nate who was up visiting them from Georgia!

Harbor Springs is another beautiful, historic town that sits on the opposite bank of the bay and can be seen from the harbor in Petoskey!  Both towns have quaint tourist shops that line the downtown areas and manicured grounds and gardens along the walkways by the bay.  We arrived just in time to observe a sailing lesson for a handful of soon to be dare
Harbor Springs
devil sailors in their little white “bathtub” boats with their bright blue and white sails!  The little fiberglass vessels at first looked indestructible but the longer we watched – we realized they were tip-able after all!!  After many near misses and even more almost tips – one small craft did finally go bottoms up and the young crew ended up in the cold water!  Not to worry – everyone had life jackets on and the adult instructors were there quickly to rescue the crew and teach them how to right their upside down craft.  All ended well!

This north shoreline is it’s own protection from the west and north winds so  docks stretch on for the length of the town!  Some docks were lined with small rubber landing boats that serviced the many anchored boats that dotted the bay. Some docks had the average sized sailboats or motor powered runabouts. Then there were the docks that had the yachts pristinely moored to their chocks!  The  “Seaquest” is owned by the son of Dick and Betsy DeVos, the founders of Amway.   Built in 2008 and at 163 ft, it is valued at $40 million!  On another dock was the “Lukousarus” out of Boca Raton, Fl and is valued at $1.69 million.  Handsome young men in matching white attire were busily “swabbing” her decks and polishing all her chrome!

Our stay was drawing to an end and we still wanted to go find our “old” neighbors who had sold their home and moved up to Sault Saint Marie!  Thursday arrived and the forecast was for clouds and possible rain so we made a beeline for the Mighty Mackinac Bridge and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The winds were kicking up and the precipitation was coming down but we got in line with the rest of the rain soaked vehicles and drove out onto the 5-mile long, famous suspension bridge.   At first we drove on the outside lane – the SOLID CEMENT outside lane!  Road repairs then moved us all to the inside lane – the OPEN GRATED METAL inside lane – where it felt as tho the van tires were wiggling from side to side and if you looked down you could see the white caps on the water - some hundred or so feet below! 
Thru St Ignace with a stop for pasties and then we were back on I 75 north - 60 miles to the “Soo”.   From memory we remembered part of their address and how to find their 3-story home near downtown and lucked out and found them almost right away!  A wonderful visit included the grand tour of their “work in progress” remodeling project before we bid adieu and headed out once more.

On Friday the sun was shining again and we “headed out once more” – heading south towards home – just “towards” home!  We still had two more nights out!  Wilson State Park is in Harrison Michigan on the NW edge of Budd Lake.  We vaguely remembered camping there in the past but it was way too far in the past to remember much – other than it is right across the road from the fairgrounds.  We arrived late Friday morning and the loop we were assigned was beginning to fill up with great groups of tents and Ninja Warriors on their little two wheelers!  By Friday evening we were surrounded!!  Green Ninja Turtle bike helmets with red sashes and orange sashes were zooming around and around the camping loop!  We were getting dizzy!

The boat launch to this lake is on the opposite side of the lake but we found it and launched quickly and easily.   On our tour around the lake we each caught 2 fish but H’s 2 could have passed for bait instead of supper!  Not a problem – we tossed them all back anyway and headed out to the local restaurant for their fish dinner!

Sunday came early and we headed home – retracing our journey back down the way we came.  It’s always fun to go but it is good to come home!  We’ll be doing this again so check back to see where the “tan train” wanders next!

Monday, July 31, 2017

UP North

Camp Petosega
While in Florida, you know I like to refer to things that we’ve done in the past or places we’ve been before with SPFB – See Previous Florida Blog. Well, every late July, early August we’re up in Northern Michigan or even over the Mackinaw Bridge into the Upper Peninsula.  So, here it is – SPMB!!   This is not our first time to this beautiful, well cared for Emmet County Park called PETOSEGA on the SE shore of Pickerel Lake.   Each campsite is spacious and separated from the next by Birch, Poplar, Maple, and/or Pine trees with lush undergrowth.  The grounds are mowed and watered. The modern playground areas are cushioned with heavy rubber padding.  There is even a tiny museum - housed in the rear of one of the 7 rental cabins!  The long narrow beach is not nearly as spectacular as the ones in Florida but it is shallow for the kids and gives a wonderful view of the lake!

Pickerel Lake is connected to the Inland Water Route – the 40-mile stretch of lakes and rivers between Cheboygan on Lake Huron and Conway, which is about 2 miles from connecting to Lake Michigan.  We fished Pickerel Lake and H caught a small Pike, which quickly got tossed back in.  We ran the boat up and around Crooked Lake and Crooked River to the Dam/Lock and back.  The next time we trailered it to Burt Lake and headed
towards the always-interesting Indian River.  The same antique boat houses still house antique wooden boats with fascinating names and the still well cared for colorful quaint cottages, still have layers of flowers and rock formations, Tiki Bars and monster pontoon boats moored along side or in custom boat slips, notched into the breakwall.  Under I 75, then we zig zagged along between the green and red channel markers leading the way thru the tall sawgrass marsh to Mullett Lake.  The signs still say “Wildlife Area” and we did get to see Loon parents and their 2 teenage children before they ducked under the dark water.  Of course there were also the swan families and the always-present groups of Canada Geese bobbing in the small wakes of the passing boats!  Out on the huge Mullett Lake, the winds and waves were too much for even this trusty little Tracker fishing boat so we swung around and headed back up the river.  As we rounded one curve in town we came upon a group of tentative teenagers who must have been debating as to whether they should jump into the cold water and chilling currant or not.  So I helped them along by yelling: “ Go Ahead – JUMP!”   And they did!!!

Of course, we’ve been out revisiting our other favorite spots in this historic and scenic county at the very tip of the “Mitt of Michigan”!  A ride down the coast to and thru Walloon Lake to have lunch with friends in Boyne City was first.  We wandered in and thru historic downtown Petoskey and “had to” stroll along the waterfront and inspect the vast collection of boats in the well-secured harbor.  Last year it was boys who were doing the fancy dives off the protecting breakwall – this year it was the girl’s turn!   It rained the whole time we were in Mackinaw City but we had our rain-jackets in the truck so enjoying the walk to Skalawags for whitefish lunch was NO problem!  The Mighty Mac Bridge was shrouded in mist and light fog!  From there a swing down the Huron side of the “mitt” to Cheboygan included a stop at the still over cluttered junk store in town!  We even bought a movie since the TV reception is nihl up here.

No trip north would be complete without a visit to the “Red Roof Inn” – the log home of M&D up on Paradise Lake!  We missed having B&C with us since the 3 “boys” grew up together in Swanton Twp as kids and makes the visit even more fun!  We girls always have fun together!  The good food and good company had to come to an end tho since the sun was starting to slip to the horizon. The sighting of a timid deer as we left their tiny back road home was our exclamation point to a really good day!

Our stay up here in the north woods still has more lunches out with more friends from home, more boat rides and MORE fishing!  From here we move south to another Michigan State Park and MORE exploring before we make the final run for home!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Northern Michigan

We’re loaded and we’re ready to go.  No – wait – gotta fix the boat trailer lights.   Now, we’re ready – here we go.  No – wait – gotta stop and fix the burnt out bulb in the “train” back light.  OK, Now we’re finally on our way NORTH!  Our route this year has mirrored our trip last year – across on Rt 50, up Rt 52 and onto Rt 127.  It’s SO much easier than fighting traffic back- ups and potholes on US 23 thru and around Ann Arbor. 
S. Higgins Lake St. Park

Houghton Lake and neighboring Higgins Lake have 3 state park campgrounds with a combined 700 campsites between them – all of which were filled for the weekend so H’s choice for a place to park for 4 nights was West Houghton Lake Campground on Old Rt 127.  While there is nothing special about this unassuming campground it’s best feature is the green grass and the proximity of the DNR boat launch right across the road!  On Weds afternoon, as soon as we were parked and leveled in the lumpy green grass, we launched the Tracker and headed out to explore the southern end of the lake.  On Thursday the wind whipped up so we headed out to survey the surrounding countryside and back roads, leaving the boat and trailer behind.  A drive thru each of the 3 state parks confirmed their popularity!   It’s a good thing we added the Michigan Parks Passport sticker to our van’s license fee this year!  We’ve gotten our money’s worth out of it already – boat ramps and inquisitive drives thru state parks!

Houghton Lake is shallow with olive green water.  Higgins Lake, 11 miles to the north is the opposite with crystal clear DEEP blue water with 22 miles of shoreline.  While Houghton Lake is on average under 10 feet deep – Higgins Lake depths are mostly double digit with the 1st digit being between a 5 and a 9!  We launched at the DNR site on the west side of the north lake and cruised easily around Flynn Island (See the map of the lake!) and aimed the boat towards the state park on the south shore.  A dredged channel with green and red buoys on either side led the way thru the shallow clear water along the shoreline to the protected harbor.   On the cream colored sand, a group of wedding goers were gathering to celebrate a couple’s vows!  Their white and khaki clothing silhouetted against the blue water and the bluer sky!  It was hard for the sweet little girls in their long white sundresses to stay away from the beckoning sand and rocks by the waters edge!
Crossing back over the still calm waters, we passed between several boats that were anchored and fishing.  Look at the map again and see what looks like an island in the southern end – that is a shallow area that is under only 1ft of water!  As we neared it and saw the bottom getting closer – I actually SAW several good sized fish as they darted away from the disturbance the boat was causing!  H pivoted the boat around and we retraced our path back to deeper water and then drifted – casting our favorite lures out and letting them fall deep in the water before reeling them back to the boat.  BAM!   I caught one!  BAM!  H caught one too!  This was repeated until we had enough Rock Bass for a meal!  Those scrappy little fish with the bright red eyes are fun to reel in and even better to fry up in Bisquick and Beer!  Sweet and mild!  Alas – the sun was hot and we were too so we took our day’s catch and headed back to camp.  H had fish to clean!

Saturday’s weather forecast was rain.  The storms that were predicted had passed us by but we did wake up to a gentle rain on the roof.  That meant breakfast out!  Roscommon is north and east of Houghton Lake and east, across US Rt 75 from Higgins Lake.  One of our favorite breakfast spots on trips in the past was a little German CafĂ© right in the center of town. This old building leaned at such an angle that even back then we thought the windows would crack and the building would fall over!  It is still there but is now Roscoe’s Restaurant.  They no longer serve potato pancakes that used to draw us in but their breakfast plates were piled high with delicious food.  Even my weird sounding MEATLOAF Scramble was yummy!
While in town we found a very busy canoe/kayak launch site on the South Branch of the AuSable River.  We watched as several novice groups of landlubbers attempted to climb ungraciously into the narrow, wobbly kayaks.  It was only after the last of them headed awkwardly down the river and we had returned to the van that I realized that I did bring the camera and it was in the van!!  Back to the river for pictures – without any kayak craziness!  That was found farther downriver!  We happened upon another smaller launch site and found that some inexperienced canoeists were stuck cross wised in the river, causing such a traffic jam like 5 o’clock traffic in the big city!  As more and more kayaks, tubes and canoes came downstream – the boat jam got worse!

Houghton Lake

Since H had forgotten to take his drone with us on Thursday’s day of exploration – we needed to go back to the DNR boat launch and take some pictures high up over this end of the lake.  The sky was dark but  - not to worry – this storm passed us over also!  And see the bridal party waiting
to have their pictures taken?  (Bottom left) It must be the weekend for weddings!  It’s also the weekend for us to move farther north!  Tomorrow’s the day!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Southern Ohio In June

A trip south!   Well, southern Ohio!  I75 out of Toledo is now 3 lanes but the construction is not totally done and the amount of overloaded semi trucks still rumble and roar down that road.  St Rt 68 was our preferred choice and the well-groomed fields and historic old towns were much more enjoyable!  H chose John Bryan State Park for our first nights stay.

John Bryan St Pk is one of the first state owned parks and sits between Yellow Springs and Clifton on the Little Miami River Gorge.  Ohio State Parks have no water hookups at the individual sites and this state park has only latrines – no showers, no flush toilets.  However – the sites are spacious and the campground is located on the crest of several rolling hills, which made up for everything else!    Yellow Springs is known for its liberal arts college – Antioch College and its alumni Rod Sterling (Twilight Zone) and Leonard Nimoy!  3 miles east of John Bryan Park is historic Clifton and the still operating 1802 mill that bears its name. The Clifton Gorge Mill sits ON the edge of a shallower portion of the gorge.  The Mill now has a restaurant and gift shop.  The Mill is hung with millions of white lights that are lit each Christmas season.  Next to the mill is a covered bridge, which afforded a great place for pictures of the shallow gorge, waterfalls and water wheel.
Caesar Creek St. Park

I thought we were in Florida – the heat and humidity was present and our “move down the road” the next morning was a lengthy 28 miles from John Bryan St Park to Caesar Creek St Park!  While northern Ohio is as flat as a pancake, the southern part of this beautiful state is all rolling hills covered in magnificent woodlands, limestone cliffs and meandering rivers – including the Little Miami River, which has a earthen dam at the southern end of the lake.  The Caesar Creek area was named for a black slave captured by the Shawnee on a raid to the Ohio River.  They adopted him and gave him the valley as his hunting ground.  The valley was impounded in 1978 by the Army Corps of Engineers to assist in the flood control of the Little Miami River watershed.  The 4,700 acre park was dedicated soon after.

Each day was full of exploring the different sites in the park along with trips to nearby Lebanon, Dayton - even Cincinnati and Covington Kentucky!  In Lebanon – I finally got to eat at the site of Ohio’s Oldest Inn!   “The Golden Lamb” was established in 1803 and in 1815 a two-story Federal style brick building replaced the original log tavern.  Our lunch was great but even greater was knowing that the likes of Mark Twain, Dewitt Clinton, Charles Dickens, Wm Henry Harrison and Ulysses S Grant also ate and slept there! Guests are encouraged to explore the upper floors of the building and to look into the uniquely furnished rooms with the name of the famous visitor who stayed there!
Carillon Park

In Dayton, H was in his glory – reliving all the trips he and his fellow NCR co workers made there in order to learn their life’s trade!  National Cash Register has now moved to Atlanta Georgia and their old headquarters complex is now the University of Dayton!   The former education and dorm campus is now the campus of a Christian school!  Our first major stop on that day’s list of places to revisit was one of Dayton’s best known landmarks - Carillon Historical Park – directly across the street from the original HQ buildings and easily seen from the I75 expressway nearby!   This 151 ft tall carillon with 57 bells was a gift of Colonel Edward Deeds (past NCR Chairman & founder of the Delco Corp) and his wife Edith who was inspired by carillon music she heard on a trip to Europe.  Her carillon was completed in 1942 and its beautiful music can be heard yet today.  Colonel Deeds opened the historical park with displays that focused on Dayton’s transportation, industrial and inventive history.  Our favorites were:  the history of NCR and the collection of 90+ cash registers, the building that houses the history of the 1913 Great Flood that destroyed most of Dayton and of course everything of the Wright Brothers! 
Cinci River Front Park

Our jaunt to Cinci was on sometimes winding but always scenic state roads so to avoid the always-hectic I75.  We ended up on Rt 52 – right along the massive Ohio River and right into a busy downtown!  We were surprised to see all the pedestrians who were heading towards the river – most of whom where attired in the color RED!  We soon realized that there was a baseball game between the Cinci REDS and the LA Dodgers at their waterfront stadium. (Cinci lost by one point!)  Over just ONE of the many bridges that cross the massive Ohio River to Covington, we found a good spot for a great view of the impressive skyline of the expansive city we had just left! 

Also, another sight that is in clear view of I75 is the old German Mainstrasse Village and it’s stately red brick clock tower.  There happened to be a 3-day festival going on, so several blocks were closed to vehicle traffic but wide open to pedestrians and to all the beer, food and other various vendors!

We came  - We saw – We took pictures!  Monday arrived – still hot and muggy with a promise of rain so we hitched up the “train” and headed north once more.    Our next venture will be even farther north!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Spring Time Day Trips

Florida seems like such a long time ago!  Here it is the middle of June!

The “tan train” has been back to the factory again - - but now it’s better than brand new!!!  The folks at the Forest River Repair facility in Goshen went above and beyond H’s expectations on fixing the trailer – even tho it is out of warranty! 

Of course, when we went to pick up the trailer – we couldn’t just drag it back home without stopping for an overnight stay somewhere!!  That “somewhere” happened to be the Elkhart County Fairgrounds Campground, which was about 2 miles from the repair facility.  A nice overnight place to stay - - with very clean bathrooms and parking pads that were long enough to accommodate both the trailer and the truck. While the sites were not overly large – they were still ample.  And plenty of freshly mowed green grass!!

Goshen is the RV/Trailer Capitol so everywhere you looked there were parking lots FUILL of RV’s waiting to be delivered.  Once out of town the countryside was rolling hills occupied by neat and tidy Amish farms, complete with black buggies and fields of grazing horses and black and white milk cows.
Linton Gardens 
Just north of Goshen and neighboring Elkhart, we found Linton Gardens, a spacious garden and gift store, surrounded by sprawling acres of various displays of uniquely named bushes, flowers and trees!  Interspersed were child sized Victorian houses and Oriental buildings and even a petting zoo in one far corner.   Inside the huge gift shop, the aisles meandered in and out of smaller rooms, each with it’s own unusual theme – from fairies to ferns and from succulents to shoes!!!  What patience H exhibited while I browsed!!!

Our other trips have all been of the “day” variety and mostly involved the boat and fishing!  Each week we’ve attempted to spend a day out and about – not worrying about the yard, the garden or the house.  We’ve revisited some of our favorite picturesque inland lakes that dot the landscape in southern Michigan!  On Evans Lake in the rolling hills of Irish Hills, H caught 2 fish and I caught 5 - all catch and release because Michigan’s Bass Season was not open yet!  North Lake – appropriately named is north of Ann Arbor and was calm and serene when the Tracker was slid into the water the next week.  We caught a few sweet pictures of some of the many doting swan parents and their fluffy gray, pretty soon to be white, cygnets!   This time H caught 5 fish and I only caught 2.  While we normally have the fun little contest of who catches the first, who catches the most and who catches the biggest – by far I believe this “mama” takes that prize!  It’s a good thing H had the net with us!  She was/is too big to eat and it still wasn’t open season so, yes, she is also back in her lake!   On Center Lake, between Napoleon and Michigan Center, the lake was SO weedy that we got tired of catching
North Lake
“GRASS pike” and only a few small bass.  That day we called it quits early and headed back home.  Our last fishing day was on another favorite lake – Baw Beese Lake up in Hillsdale.  It was a coolish day to begin with but the winds were so strong that H had the engine turned all the way to one side and still had trouble keeping the boat going straight.  No fish on that lake but after lunch we stopped at Bird Lake - a little further down and on a backcountry road.  Once the boat was in the water, I told H, “OK, so catch a fish!”    And he did!  I teased him that it was the first time I had told him to do something and he actually did as he was told!!   Giggle!!

My Gnome Village is all back in place amongst the clusters of hostas and the other small plants under the protection of the tall Spruce tree.  The noisy wrens are darting in and out of their house that hangs from a low limb.  The newest additions to the village are a Mickey Mouse and an antique looking red mailbox!   Mickey came from a second hand store in Florida!  In his previous life he was a sippy cup from Disney World!  Now he is the official “G’Nome Land” Greeter and stands under an arch made of children’s Duplo plastic building blocks!  The mailbox is a birdhouse from Joann’s and now has a red button covering the entry hole!  See – it even matches the red “telephone booth”!  Of course there is a snail by the mailbox and a gnome with a laptop sitting by the phone booth!  - - OF COURSE!!!

The vegetable garden is all planted and almost all mulched with layers of newspapers and grass clippings to keep the weeds down and the moisture in. We’ve cut back a little on the amount of tomato plants this year – only 14 and 5 varieties.  The plethora of gorgeous spring flowers has all faded.  The poppies are big, bright and beautiful but they too will soon be gone.  The summer’s collection of lilies and coneflowers are just budding. The ever-growing amount of weeds is momentarily under control.  The bugs have been sprayed for and the flowerbeds all fertilized.   Now it’s time to pack the “train” and head out for another adventure!  We’re heading for south central Ohio.  Wish we could see you there!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Heading Home

Okay, H “did” the last blog!  Did you like his style?  Did you learn anything about Salt Springs in the Ocala Forest?   You did learn that H has a terrible time getting into his kayak tho, didn’t you!  He does like to jump into things headfirst!!   Yes, he is getting pretty good at taking pictures with his new drone.  And - of course you also saw that it was a very warm sunny day when we ended up on Daytona Beach for our beach-walk.   There was a lot of “nature” strolling up and down those beautiful beaches that day.

 But alas, our 2-week stay in the forest was used up and it was time to head north.  The route H chose took us up Rt 301 to Rt 23 and on north into Georgia, past the Okefenokee Swamp and into the Laura Walker State Park.  Oops!  Spring Break and they were full so we pressed on north!  Staying on Rt 23 till McRae, we switched to Rt 441 and then I remembered the pretty golf course as we passed by it and entered the Little Okmulgee State Park.  Luckily we found an almost level site with a parking pad long enough for both the tan train and the bright blue truck because H was hoping to not have to unhook the truck for just one nights stay.
KOA in Georgia
In years past, we got to know dear folks, Gene and Bobbie from Eatonton Georgia.  Gene has passed on but every once in a while our paths cross with Bobbie and on this Day 2 in Georgia we met her for breakfast near her hometown.  Our destination for the day was a “resort” on the other side of her town and a sprawling Lake Oconee.  H and I had endured a sales spiel at a Wally World RV Resort in Ohio a year ago and as a result were issued passes for free camping at some of their organizations other camping resorts.
Since the price for this hilly, old KOA campground was right – we signed up for 3 nights.  “HILLY” is using the term mildly – VERTICAL is a little bit closer.  The bathhouse was at the bottom of the steepest hill!  They put us in the transient, very narrow sites near the top of the hill - of course!  The view of the lake and park from H’s drone in the sky is much more impressive!  The building to the left of center is the bath house/meeting room area.  Below that are a swimming pool and several shelters.  BELOW that is another row of camping sites and then the hill that ran down to the water finally!  Bobbie came to spend the afternoon with us and we three even attempted to play putt-putt golf on the rundown, falling down old course.  After just 2 nights, H and I had had enough and we pulled out – heading north again.
The road from there was hazy. No, really – on and off fog, drizzle and heavy gray clouds along with wind for most of the ride home!  At one high spot in the road we crested a “mountain”, driving thru a low hanging cloud!  On the downward side the sun was shining but then it was back into gray again.  Up thru North Carolina, across the western tip of Virginia where you could look out over the landscape that looked like a miniature train setup, and then the eastern tip of Tennessee – right past the “scenic turnout” where we had stopped 3 years ago, with the smoking wheel on the Rockwood Trailer.

Warriors Path State Park, which sits between Johnson City and Kingsport Tennessee, is named for the Cherokee War and Trading Path.  It is located on the Patrick Henry Reservoir on the Holston River. There are 134 campsites and the bathhouses were new in 2015.  Spring Break - this park was crowded too but it was fine for one night!
Boat ramp at Warriors Path St. Pk.
Rt 23 led us up thru Kentucky to the expansive bridge that crosses the Ohio River and on to Portsmouth Ohio.  The Shawnee State Park was just west of town and was open.  However – this elderly state park obviously was not accessible for anything bigger or longer than a pop-up camper.  We drove around the entire campground and finally settled on a semi level site with enough space behind it that we could back in on an angle.  We had to stop JUST before the backset of wheels went off the pavement and into the muck OR the spare tire that is mounted on the back bumper ended up in the mud on the incline behind the site.  The tongue of the trailer was at the road’s edge and the truck was delegated to park across the way in another empty site.  No problem – there was only one other camper parked in the entire campground!  The biggest problem was the broken water line which meant NO running water ANYWHERE in the campground for several hours.  The gracious lady at the park headquarters let us fill our jugs with fresh, clean water!  Rustic camping!

So, now we’re home.  Time for the Spring Chores to begin!   The flowerbeds are full of Chickweed and Creeping Charlie.  The lawn is scattered with sticks and branches from all the winter damage.  Lots of dead pine trees are lying splayed across the backyard.  And my tomato seeds need to be planted! 


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ocala National Forest Area

It's in here some place
Bobbi normally writes the blog, but now it’s my turn. So instead of a lot of words I’ll just show some pics of my favorite places in and around the Ocala National Forest.                                                       

party time at Salt Springs

Manatee crossing

Salt Springs
Salt Springs run to the St. Johns River

Selfie at Salt Springs

            Silver Glen Springs

Good fishing ?

Silver Glen Springs

Daytona Beach

nature watching during spring break

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lake Placid

The intent was to be up early and be on the road before the 20 – 30 mph winds started.  H chose to drive south/southeast on RT 41 to the crossroad RT 29 and head north.  Then the winds started battering us. The gusts were stronger when the roadsides opened up from the scrub woods to open cattle pastures or farm fields.  On Sunday the winds were not as strong at Camp Florida RV Resort but still way too strong to put the awning out!  Each day that followed we saw the winds lessen and lessen until we finally were able to get that awning unrolled.

That Sunday evening, the TV news brought word about a monster wildfire that was ravaging the Picayune State Forest.   In our last blog I mentioned our scenic trip that ended up taking 4 hours to get out of - that was the Picayune forest!! The rectangle of land that is bordered on the north by east/west I75, on the west by Collier Blvd, on the south by south/east RT 41 and on the east by RT 29 is/was that dry wooded area. The northern half of that area – 7600 acres have now been destroyed by this “man made” caused mass of flames and fueled by the 20-30 mph winds. After a week of fighting this out of control wildfire it was still only 50% contained. 

Bud and C winter home

We HAD to stay at Camp Florida!  H had a “package” being delivered to Bud’s winter home and H wanted to get it and start playing with his new toy.  H is now a registered, licensed drone pilot.  Once all the winds settled down he made good use of the sunny weather to practice his flying prowess!  Now we have lots and lots of pictures of the top of the trailer with us standing next to it!   Our neighbor from that park also wants one of his own now!  D and his wife J have the same first names as one of my sons and of H’s daughter!  What an easy way to remember them by!  And these great folks are from Michigan!
Camp Florida is a lovely RV Resort set in the rolling hills of south central rural Florida.  There are activities everyday and all day. The large heated salt-water pool sits next to the lake and across the parking lot from the activities building, which, is next to the shuffleboard, tennis and boucie ball courts!  There are enough hills in the park to wear out your legs if you attempt to go up and down them too many times in the day!

Camp Florida is a few miles south of Lake Placid the city and Lake Placid the lake - which is only one of the many picturesque lakes that dot this gently rolling region!  Lake Placid the city is the Caladium Capitol!  Surrounding the small town are dark muck like fields of recently planted Caladium bulbs.  Bud took us to one of the commercial growers and Carol and I both got to select our favorite colorful plant choices but in fat brown bulb form to bring home!  Lake Placid is also famous for its 48 colorful murals but I never got a chance to get any pictures because IF we were in town – we were going somewhere – to the Elks Club for steak dinner or to one of the neat Mexican Restaurants!  And now there’s no time – our week is up and it’s time to move north again.  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Naples Area

Collier Seminole State Park is one of Florida’s oldest state parks and is home to the last “Walking Dredge”.  It was built in Michigan and was used to dig the ditches that provided the rocks and dirt to build the Tamiami Trail (route 41) from Tampa to Miami Florida. SPFB!!  The park has been closed for the last year for renovations.  Some campsites have been eliminated, some enlarged, and some still should be enlarged.  The old relic of a bathhouse has been torn down and rebuilt but has to be closed again to make the MANY repairs needed!  Our site gets full sun all day so we’re grateful for the awning and the sunscreen that provides some respite from the heat.  The back of the trailer faces a shaded area where a resident hawk resides!  The early mornings are full of her raucous calls as she swoops after the small gray squirrels!  The lights on the bathhouse do a great job of attracting the many types of moths, including one large Sphinx moth.  It was docile enough to climb on my fingers and allow me to carry it home for some pictures!  The next day it was back in it’s spot on the bathhouse wall!

The weather has been HOT, HUMID and FULL of small black hungry mosquitoes.   The air conditioner has been on every day – and the one in the truck works great too!  LOTS of day trips!  One was to Everglade City with a stop at the National Park Visitor Center and more stops to watch the resting pelicans on top of the pylons along the many bayous lined with moored boats. A “scenic” route on our way home was supposed to be an 11-mile side-trip but ended up being 4 hours of heat, dust and monster potholes!

Another early morning jaunt was to retrace our path to the beach in Naples. Our day’s exercise was to walk along the crashing waves to the pier and back.  Marco Island was another favorite destination!  Their new museum was a refreshing cool stop!  Parking lots near the beaches were $8 but we found the perfect spot down the road to park the truck in the shade.   Our little bikes were unfolded and we rode up the multi use sidewalk to one of the narrow public accesses between the tall resorts lining the beach dunes.   While not the snow-white sand of the upper Gulf Beaches – these beaches were still wide and clean - and sprinkled with millions of small beautifully perfect shells! 
Bright sun umbrellas and tall brilliantly colored sails made for a great picture!  We were on the beaches early and off before noon!

One morning H got to go shoot some skeet at a gun club farther down Rt 41.   From there we went exploring a subdivision and marina across the highway.  The dark water of the marina was full of all kinds of things – motor boats, sailing ships, manatee tour boats and a long dark gnarly looking sleuth of a gator!  On the edge of one of the retention ponds in the housing section there was another large black creature sleeping on the bank – within 30 feet or so from the lovely home next to the pond!  Yipes!

Our new Illinois friends, J&A, who we met in Trimble Park and again at WP Franklin, arrived the weekend after we did.   Their stay was only 2 days as they are on their way back north.  She graciously invited me to join her in visiting the Naples Botanical Garden.   The wonderfully colorful gardens at the Toledo Zoo are something to see and the fantastic Thomas Kincaid like gardens at the Butchart Gardens on Victoria Island, Canada is out of this world!  This spacious botanical paradise took us from tropical Florida to the floral jungles of South America and then transported us to Oriental paths in the Japanese section!  There were exotic trees and shrubs with strange names and equally strange blooms in vibrant shades of reds, oranges, yellows and purple!  There were deep dark calming reflection pools, splashing fountains and relaxing waterfalls! Luckily, there was lots of shade and a soothing breeze!  The amazing conclusion of our visit was the orchid collection, hidden in a dappled sunlit nook of trees, slabs of bark and bubbling collections of water.  Orchids of every size and every color hung in wooden baskets or clung to branches in the small trees!  After 2 hours in the heat we were both beginning to melt and our 2 heroes soon rescued us and took us out for a seafood lunch!

Naples has several interesting and unique museums. The first we toured was the Collier County Museum.  It shows the development of Florida’s “last frontier”.  It is a 5-acre historical park, which includes a 1910 Steam Engine, a 1920’s swamp buggy, a WWII Sherman tank and a Seminole Indian Village replica.    The Naples Depot Museum is set in Naples’ first passenger train station.  It focuses on how generations of Floridians used transportation and technology to conquer the vast wilderness that was Florida.  Plus - sitting out front was one of H’s favorite old cars a Studebaker Avanti!  There were several railroad cars outside for touring, too.

Our two weeks are up.  The temps have been in the high 80’s for the last 2 weeks but now a cold front has come thru and the temp today was ONLY 79 degrees but VERY windy.   All of our neighbors have moved out and new ones have moved in.  The sunscreen is down and the awning is rolled up.  The road NORTH is beckoning us and we can’t resist its call.