- C Bracknell
Florida Winter Vacation 2017 February 10 – March 12th
Sunday, February 12
Our first night's camp was at Collecton State Park in Cannadays, South Carolina near St. George. We left home at 11:30 after attending Sunday School. We had packed most everything in the truck except for the ice chest items the last few days before Sunday. We had some very mild days, so the contrast of going south was not as great as years past when we left with snow on the ground. Two years previously, we also had stopped at the same park. We had left two hours later and arrived after dark. On that trip, we ate supper, showered and retired for the evening soon after arrival. The next morning we were and on our way early.
Since we arrived a little after 4 pm, we had time to look around a bit. In 2015, we did not realize that the Edisto River flowed less than 50 yards from our site. We walked down to the river's edge and watched a jet skier buzzing up and down the river before a vehicle and trailer back down the boat ramp on the other side of the river and he loaded and left.
Up from the river's edge was a park sign and map of the river showing a 23 mile stretch of the river. It gave the mileages from the park down to the next park, Givhan's Ferry State Park, showing how you could do a park to park trip. The north fork of the Edisto begins up near Leesville, southwest of Columbia and the south fork starts north Aiken. They join near Branchville and eventually flows straight south to Edisto Beach north of Beaufort. The river was flowing rather swiftly and a trip between parks could easily been paddled in two days. The campground host said the normal height of the river was three to four feet. It was then 7 feet, 4 inches. We could see on the supports of the US 15 bridge that the mud line had been quite high in the past.
Monday, February 13
We arrived at Anistasia State Park around two o'clock and set up in our reserved site. We then rode the bikes up to the old quarry site where the stone was mined for the old fort (the Castillo de San Marcos). It was grown over somewhat, but you could see the indentions where the stone was cut out by masons to be used for the fort and some other building projects. It was designated as a National Historical site in 1972.
Back down at the camping areas, we rode through the other six camping loops to see what the sites looked like and if there were some interesting camping rigs or set ups around.
After six o'clock, I called our friends, Chuck and Christine North, who were to arrive in St. Augustine from Raleigh around 5:30. They had arrived an hour earlier than they had expected and was having supper. We made arrangements to have them meet me at the gate of the park the next morning at 9 am and ride in with me, so they wouldn't have to pay the eight dollar day fee to the park.
Tuesday, February 14
The next morning, I met Chuck and Christine at the gate and we returned to the campsite. All of us then went down to the beach and Chuck and I rode out of the park, over to the lighthouse and the area around it with the bikes. When we returned, we fixed lunch and made ready to vacate the site. We had to be off the site by 1 pm. Chuck and Christine were going to spend a few more days in St. Augustine and then go to Titusville and the Kennedy Space Center. We planned to meet up with them again in a week.
We arrived at the Salt Springs forest service campground south of Palatka at 2 pm and set up. We then went up and across the highway to the Dollar General to get a loaf of bread and a small container of milk. We had boxed milk, but wanted to save it for when we might run out of the other and weren't near a store.
The temperature had gotten up to 82° so I decided it would be a great time to go for a swim in the springs there in the park. There was a cool front coming through the next day and the temperature was to be ten degrees cooler for a few days. Rhonda and I biked the quarter mile and walked the fifty yards from the parking lot to the water's edge. As always, it takes some mental effort to plunge into the 72 degree water with air temperature at 82° and the body at 98.6. Once I did it, it was invigorating. I had a mask and snorkel. As always, it was clear as tap water. There was a school of good sized mullet and about five or six other varieties swimming around by themselves.
Wednesday, February 5th
The sunrise had sort of a red glow to it, but it soon changed to an overcast sky. I worked on a couple of crossword puzzles and later cleaned some stains off the awning. We then walked up to the camp office where there was wifi to read over our emails. There were a few other campers there doing the same. I told the staff that it would make a good internet cafe, if they would just serve muffins, donuts and coffee.
At 10:30, we headed to Palatka to get some glue to fix one of my sandals and a round file to enlarge the hole on my newly built truck step/bike rack invention. The hole for the trailer hitch pin wasn't large enough.
Our main reason for driving the twenty-five miles was to eat at Corky Bell's Seafood Restaurant on the St. John's River. It was our day late Valentine treat to each other. The day before when we came by around 2 pm, the parking lot was full. We figured it was because of Valentines Day. When we arrived there again, the lot was almost full (just two or three spaces available. We checked in, got a pager, and had about a forty minute wait. It was all worth it. We got a large platter with oysters, shrimp, scollops, stuffed crab and fish. It was without doubt the best seafood we have had in a long time.
Afterward, we came back to the other side of town to a Goodwill store and the Walmart. There were a few off and on showers all afternoon, but nothing like the strong thunderstorms that had been predicted.
Back at camp, I repaired my sandal and began writing this narrative. Just before supper I got the smell of someone grilling onions. I couldn't resist. I jumped on the bike and went up and across the highway to a produce stand to get an onion. I also bought a bell pepper and a pint of Plant City strawberries.
When I returned, I pulled out my propane cook stove. Rhonda cut up half the onion and most of the pepper. I put olive oil in a pot and began the process. When they were browning a little, we dumped in water and a package of spanish rice mix. Next we added some sliced zuchini squash and precooked cubed roast chicken we had gotten at Walmart. After it was ready, we plated it and topped it with tomatoes with green chilies. As they use to say on Hee Haw “yum, yum. We finish off the meal with strawberries topped with whip cream. Our comment to each other as we finished the meal was, “we sure are good to ourselves and the Lord has blessed us bountifully” Two great meals in one day. Oh my.
Thursday, February 16th
It was another beautiful day. I spent some time wiping down the truck from the road spray we picked up from the shower coming back from town the day before. I also cleaned some mildew spots from the awning. No matter how I try to make sure it is stored perfectly dry, for some reason it gets some stains.
We also went up to the office and use the internet, after which I rode the bike around the park; then it was time to prepare for the move over to Juniper Springs. We heated up the leftover chicken, rice, and zucchini concoction for lunch. As we headed out, we got another pint of strawberries and a big bag of ice at one of the roadside ice machines.
As soon as we set up at Juniper Springs,, we made a bike tour of the campground and park, including a walk down to springs. There were some ladies sunning, but no one in the water. We have stayed at Juniper Springs four or five times before, but even without the amenities and no hookups, it is one of my favorite places to camp. As I said before, it was a perfect day with no clouds in the sky and the temperature about 67°.
As we were riding through the loop we camped in, we saw two other Coachman Clippers just like ours. There are so many different models and brands out there, it was sort of unusual to see three of the same in the same small area.
I got the generator set up before supper so it would be ready for the next morning in case we needed it if the battery did not give us all the juice we needed. As it worked out the low battery alarm came on after running the furnace fan as we were getting dressed the next morning.
Friday, February 17
I woke up at 5:15 and checked the temperature and it read 44° inside and 34° outside. I immediately crawled back under the covers until 6:40. I couldn't start the generator until after 6 due to the quiet hours rule. It did not take long to heat the inside to a comfortable 64°. I chopped some onion and bell pepper leftover from our Wednesday night meal and made an ommlet along with some cheese and bits of ham.
After some more warming outside, we drove down to Astor to check email at the library, but found it was closed on Friday. I found that I could not get to my voice mail on the cell phone, so we stopped by the Dollar General store to get a 1-800 number off one of the Tracfone cards to find out how to solve the problem.
We lounged around until lunch. Rhonda heated some Brunswick stew and we made sandwiches from her homemade pimento cheese. I had bought a package of Twinkies at the Dollar General with the expressed purpose of using them for the base of a strawberry shortcake. We split both in half and topped them with strawberries and whip cream. Now that's a strawberry shortcake.
After we walked over to Fern Springs between the Tropical Loop and the Fern Loop (tenting area). As soon as we got there, a couple pointed out that there was a small alligator in the shallow area of the spring. It was about 4 feet long.
From there we decided to walk some of the Florida Trail which passes through the park and crosses the entrance road beyond the manned entrance booth. Round trip, it was about five miles. We met three other couples (two going and one coming back) plus one backpacker. While we were hiking, we were zoomed by a couple of fighter jets likely heading down to the bombing range south of us and west of Alexander Springs. They probably were flying out of the naval base at Pensacola.
After a brief rest back at the campsite, I made ready for a dip in the springs. We rode the bikes over and as always, the 72° water had to be entered quickly. It was nice after the five mile hike.
Tuesday, February 14
Saturday, we had made plans to have lunch with Jimmy and Linda (Rhonda's brother) in Ocala. I spent the first part of the morning organizing the things in the bed of the truck, and checking the fluids. We left early enough heading to our lunch date to go by the Marion County Library to check the emails.
The restaurant was the Ivey House and was in an old Victorian house right on the main road. They had eaten at the one in Williston. It had a varied menu with a good number of seafood items. I got a cod sandwich with their special macaroni and cheese and we all shared an appetizer of very good fried green tomatoes.
A rain shower came by as we were leaving. We had brought the bikes with hopes of riding the loop trail a few miles out of Silver Springs. We made a couple of stops along the way to see if the shower would pass. It did and we were able to get in a good ride.
We stopped at the Winn-Dixie in Forest to pick up a roast chicken, potato salad and slaw so we would not have to prepare supper. I stopped just before we got back to the campground and picked up some firewood scraps from a cut over where someone had harvested timber. I could have gotten a nice quanity if I had a pruning saw.
I made a very nice campfire from the wood I picked up and some I had brought from home. Unfortunately, a shower came up and put the fire out, but most of the wood was consumed. As it turned out, it rained lightly off and on most of the night.
Sunday, February 19
Our mission for the morning was to drive to Bartow to meet up with our friends from South Carolina. They had been staying in their membership campground in Wauchula. As we had done twice before, we met them at the Camping World where they have about eight spaces with electrical and water connections for no charge. The big negative is that it on a busy highway that doesn't seem to slow up much even during the night. It is at the back of the lot and is about 75 yards from the main road. We had a great time sitting around talking. After supper, we shared a key lime pie before playing Rummy Cube. We had planned to introduce them to a new game called Sequence, but when we opened the box, we discovered that the playing board had been left at home.
Monday, February 20
We headed further south to South Bay on Lake Okeechobee. Our friends, Chuck and Christine were staying at Port St. Lucie on the coast, about an hour and 25 minutes away. South of Sebring, we passed vast acres of Orange trees and down around Lake Okeechobee it was fields of sugar cane. In Belle Glade, the town next to South Bay, had a huge sugar refinery. All around us the fields were being either harvested, cleared or being replanted. We read on the internet that this area produces half of the cane sugar in the US. They also have sod (turf) farms, vegetable crops and rice. The tractor-trailers ran not stop from sun up to sun down, hauling from the fields to the refinery.
The Palm Beach County campground was one we stayed one night a few years previously when I rode the last segment of the LOST (Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail). It was kept neat and clean, had a great bathhouse/laundry facility and a campground wide internet (something that is rarely found).
Tuesday, February 21
Chuck and Christine had gotten information on a kayak trail on the south fork of the St. Lucie River in Stuart and wanted us to join them. We arrived at the outfitter a little after 10 am and were paddling up river by 10:40. It was a seven mile trip through heavy, swampy forest after the first half mile. We saw four or five alligators and lots of turtles. One of the alligators was probably eight or ten feet and was sunning on a small piece of shoreline about halfway before our turn around point, where we stopped for lunch.
Upon our return, we spent an hour or so at McDonald's finalizing our plans for a two and a half day trip to the Keys to do some biking on the FKOHT (Florida Keys Overseas Highway Trail) which runs 106.4 miles from Key Largo to Key West. We found a nice little motel just outside of Marathon for around $225 a night including taxes, split two ways made it a pretty good deal for decent lodging in the Keys.
Wednesday, Feb 22
Rain was forecasted for the day and it did. We figured it would be a good day to run a few errands in town (Clewiston) where there was a Walmart. I wanted to top off the propane tank and find a tire for my bicycle. I discovered there were two splits in the side wall of the rear tire due to the age of the tire. I guess I don't ride enough to wear one out before it ages out.
Before leaving the campground, I went to the office and paid for three nights in their overflow area, so I could move the camper to a cheaper area (no hook ups) while were gone. One of the nights would be the night we returned from our excursion to the Keys.
We got back and spent the rest of the afternoon watching TV. The weather finally cleared enough so I could get in an eight mile bike ride up on the L.O.S.T. The ride in the Keys is to be about 50 miles, separated into two legs.
Thursday, February 23
We had picked up a brochure in the campground office on the Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach. It was an hour's drive and we arrive right at the 10 am opening time. It encompassed fourteen acres. We spent two hours walking the pathways and taking all there was to see. It was beautifully designed and loaded with georgous flowers, shrubs, trees and other plants. We saw several trees that we had seen in St. Johns, VI and Puerto Rico.
From the gardens, we drove into downtown West Palm Beach and out to the drive along the beaches on US 1A1 and South Ocean Blvd. Downtown had a very sheek look; palm tree lined streets, landscaped plazas, and beautiful high rise building
For lunch, we drove west out of town on Royal Palm and stopped at a neat little cafe on the edge of a shopping center. Rhonda and I split a good sized bowl of Italian Wedding soup and a toasted Cuban sandwich. It came with dill pickles and cheesy potato salad. The sandwich was so plentiful that each half was all that we wanted. We had been wanting to get a real authentic Cuban ever since we had been coming to Florida and I think we found it. The only place one might find one better might be in Little Havana in Miami.
When we returned to camp, I commenced to putting the new tire on my bike. I felt better by having a new tire when I would be riding in the Keys with Chuck. I didn't want to take the chance that I would have to take the time to look for one and change it. While I had the wheel off, I inspected the bearing and found that they were lacking enough grease. I did not have any with me so I went begging from my neighbors. One fella had a grease gun, but said it was empty. When we opened it up we discovered that there was just enough left in the pump handle end to do the job on my hub and bearings
Friday, February 24
Chuck and I had made plans earlier to ride twenty plus miles of the LOST, so we met at 10 o'clock at Port Mayaca on the east side of the lake. He left his car there and Rhonda and Christine drove to the town of Okeechobee to look around while we rode to our destination of the Kissimee River connection with the lake, where they would meet us. For the most part, the LOST is not all that interesting after riding a few miles, because it is much the same for miles and miles. The total circumference of the lake is over a hundred miles.
At one point, late in the ride, we discovered that the trail was closed due to some more dike or gate improvements. This closure wasn't indicated on the map I saw on the internet. We had to back track to a place where we could access the highway and make a road ride for a couple of miles to reach Taylor's Creek access. We finish the ride after six more miles at Bulkhead Ridge, for a total of thirty miles. We finished around 1:40 rather than the 1 pm we had projected. Rhonda and Christine was waiting in a large parking lot mainly used for boaters.
From there we immediately headed for a feeding trough. We found a pretty good Mexican restaurant in a shopping center in town. We went in hungry and left very full. We dropped Chuck and Christine off back at their car after I stopped by Walmart to return the tire that was too small (width wise) and purchased a set of brake pads for the bike.
Back at camp, I relaxed under the awning in a comfortable chair with a nice breeze blowing. It was good there was three days before we hit the trail in the Keys. I needed a little bike seat recovery time.
Saturday, February 25
I got up pleasantly surprised that I had little or no ill effects from the longest ride thus far in the season. I expected sore calves or thigh muscles and/or some pain in the knee. The few shorter rides I had been doing must have been enough or my old body is in better shape than I was thinking.
I installed the brake pads and reorganized the back bag on the bike where I kept a few tools, a pump, a tube, and my rain poncho. For lunch, we went up the road a mile and got take-out pizzas for lunch from a well stock convenience mart.
I watch the Carolina-Pittsburg game and then the Duke-Miami game on my tablet (portable handle held media device) after lunch. The internet connection was good enough that the Watch ESPN worked quite well. The TV reception and lineup was good enough to get the game.
Sunday, February 26
We had looked up the information on Baptist Churches in town on Saturday and drove to town for Sunday school and church. We met some nice folks in Sunday school and join in their discussion of the lesson. The worship service was a good, mostly contempary style service.
After church, we stopped at Taco Bell and then drove out to see the campground operated by the town of Belle Glade they called Tory Island. We had a little difficulty finding the street going down to it. I had seen the campground when I was riding the trail. It was interesting in that it was in the lake. In other words, inside the dike. It was an island but below the top of the dike. In case of a hurricane threat, everyone would be told to evacuate. Hurricane Wilma in 2005 flooded it and caused damage and destroyed the bathhouses, electrical and some other features.
We lounged around the rest of the afternoon and made some preparations for the trip to the Keys the next day. At five, we went back to church for a comedy-ventriloquist show. The performer, Taylor Mason had done some shows for Disney. His characters were two pigs, a penquin and a young guy (dummy) named Romeo. It lasted a little over an hour and a half and was very entertaining. I watched the rest of the Georgia Tech/ Notre Dame game on my tablet when we returned.
Monday, February 27
Chuck and Christine drove down from Port St. Lucie to pick us up for the two trip to the Keys. Key Largo was about a two and a half drive from South Bay. We moved the camper to an overflow area to save money while we were away for the two nights. We packed a small bag of clothes and toiletries and a bag of food and snacks.
When Chuck and Christine arrived, they put all the things they didn't need in our camper so there would be room for us and our stuff. I put my bike on his rack. Our main mission was to bike from Key Largo down to Tom's Harbor Bridge just on the northern edge of Marathon. We arrived a little before noon and stopped at Arby's to have lunch.
The trail's beginning or end was at mile marker 106.4 in Key Largo. The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail runs on or long the route of the old Flaggler railroad (part of the Florida East Coast Railway). The railroad was build to connect Key West to the mainland. One of its objectives was to supply coal to the steam freighters on the way from South America to New York, but by the time it was finish in 1912 the distance for the ships had increased, so the importance for the Key West stop wasn't as vital. Trade from Central America and the passenger service for tourist was also a reason for its construction. A hurricane on Labor Day in 1935 heavily damaged and partially destroyed the railroad. After that, the service ended in Florida City.
The ladies left us at the starting point and we started riding right at 12:30. We spotted them a short time later on the south end of Key Largo at a Salvation Army thrift store. Once we got past the many street crossing of Key Largo, we made good time following the paved trail that ran parallel to US Highway 1. In Tavernier, we stopped to fill our water bottles and got an ice cream cone at a McDonald's. They were nice enough to let us get ice and water from the beverage dispenser. Chuck called Christine and we arranged to meet them at a tourist shop called the Rain Barrel in Islmarada. When we arrived, they were inside and Rhonda had already found a beautiful pair of blousey pants that she said she would be nice for the Hawaii trip in May. We took pictures in front of a giant lobster statute and headed out to the day's designation at around mile marker 80 near the Tea Table bridge.
The ladies met us there after the twenty-six mile ride and we headed down to our hotel on Couch Key at mile marker 63. We had found the place on line and made a reservation for one of the few hotels under 200 dollars a night that sounded decent.
The hotel was not luxury resort, but quite nice. There were 10 units, three on the second floor and the remainder on ground level. The office, cafe, store and bait shop was on the first floor. It was called Bayview Inn and was, of course on the bay (the Gulf side). It had a pool and cabanna area and as advertised, a beach. It wasn't much of one and was in a small cove and the windward shoreline caught a lot of the loose vegetation debris from the bay and made the water access undesirable.
We shared one room with two queen beds thus making the cost about $106 a night (very resonable for a respectable place in the Keys). It had a nice balcony with a table and chairs overlooking the water and pier. We all got settled in and immediately headed for the pool. It felt like it might have been heated. I would have liked it a little more refreshing, but the warm water still felt good after the three hour ride.
At supper time, we drove into Marathon and found a restaurant called the Grassy Key. The prices were a little high, but it's the Keys.
Tuesday, February 28
The next morning we headed back up to where we had stopped the day before after having oatmeal, fruit and coffee. Chuck and I finished up at Tom's Harbor Bridge at mile marker 60 at eleven and we rode the two miles back to the hotel.
At the hotel, we packed a picnic lunch and put on our swim suits, grabbed our to towels and headed to Sombero Beach in Marathon. The internet reviews gave it a very good report. It was operated by the City of Marathon and had free parking unlike many of the beaches in popular spots in the Keys.
It was an extremely nice beach. The area between the street parking and the beach had brick paved walks, restrooms, outside showers, picnic tables and one large shelter, and beautiful landscaping. I carried mask and snorkel, but the was too churned up to see anything.
I went in immediately. The temperature was ideal after completely immersing myself. It was a degree or two less chilly than the springs back at Juniper and Salt springs. Chuck took a little longer to take the plunge. Rhonda didn't stay on the beach long. She is a bit more cautious about the effects of the sun on her skin since having a cancerous spot removed from her face. Also, her father and brother had similar problems with sun exposure.
We ate our picnic lunch at the shelter and then returned to the beach. I went back in for a while and then we were ready to go. We didn't have an umbrella and didn't really want to smear more sunscreen on to be protected, and not to lotion down would be a mistake this early in the season.
We stopped at Publix and a tee shirt shop as we were leaving. My Key West tee shirt from a few years back had stains and was showing some wear. The shop had tees from four dollars a piece and up, depending on the design and quality. Back at the hotel, we headed for the pool. We also played one game of spades after teaching Chuck and Christine. We all showered and had supper on the balcony, before we played another game of spades. The gulls beat the bouys in both games.
Wednesday, March 1
The next morning, we were heading back to South Bay after having breakfast and packing up. Rhonda and I had a Jimmy Dean breakfast bowl we had gotten at Publix. Chuck (the coffee fanatic) made some good coffee in the coffee maker from from some coffee he had brought with him.
We had lunch back at our camper and Chuck and Christine were off on their eleven hour drive back to Raleigh with plans to stop in Titusville for the night. We got an email from them that they drove all the way to Daytona Beach and got a room for $59 right across from the speedway. I guess they are cheaper right after the big race. We had found that Chuck and Christine are good folks to vacation with. They are easy going, compatible, and we always have fun together.
It was a warm evening, and since we were in the overflow with no hook ups, there was not way to run the air condition or even the fan. A good size rain shower was showing on the radar, but it missed us. I watched a ballgame on the tablet and was confortable enough to fall asleep on top of the covers. During the night I had to pull up some light covers.
Thursday, March 2
It did not take long to make our departure, since the camper was already hooked up and most things were packed away. We stopped in Clewiston on our way back north and went to town's museum. It was very interesting to look at the exhibits and see the short movie of the history of the town and the agriculture; primarily sugar cane and oranges. US Sugar had an enormous sugar refinery in town and it ran from November through March or April. The much soil from past flooding make for ideal cane growing conditions. They have over 100,000 acres in cultivation.
The orange crop is still growing (expanding) especially, since the acres around Orlando have on occasion suffered damaging freezes several times plus commercial and residential develop continues to spread in that area. Every part of the orange is used: juice, pulp, oil and peel. The peel is made into cow feed. Sugar cane is simular, but not as extensive. The residue left after squeezing all the sap or juice out of the cane is dried and used to fuel the boilers and distillers that extract the sugar and molasses.
Around Belle Glade and Clewiston, you can see the smoke from the cane field when they burn off the dry leaves and debris around the plant. The burning also kills off insects. After the fields are brunt, a machine much like a silage or corn picker cuts the stalks which go into a trailer pulled by a tractor. When it get full it takes it to a road at the end of the field and dumps it into a tractor trailer which hauls the cane to the sugar plant. We saw the trucks going up and down the road anytime we went out from sun up to sun down. In one area, rail cars and a locomotive owned by US Sugar were being use to haul to another refinery further away.
From Clewiston, we drove to Sebring for our nights stay at Highland Hammock State park. We had stayed there with the Pod a few years before. After we had lunch of leftovers, we rested in the shade and then headed in town to see what the downtown looked like. It was on the opposite side of Lake Sebring.
The historic downtown was like many cities downtown with antique shops, a cafe, bookstores and such. The center was a traffic circle with a small park in the middle. We parked on a side street and walked completely around the circle and down some of the side streets. We always like to visit the downtown of small or medium sized town to see if revitalization had taken place. When it has, its usually fun to see what they have to offer.
We got back to the park in time to ride the loop that makes it way through the part of the park that exemplifies the essence of the park, the hammock. We road it twice for a total of about five and a half miles.
Friday, March 3
After riding the loop in the park again, we left the park mid-morning heading to Dade City. On the way, we stopped in Sebring at a Goodwill store and bought some yard ornaments and a steel drum Christmas music CD. I love Caribbean steel drum music and thought it would be enjoyable to hear and share it at Christmas.
In Bartow, we got the hankering for pizza and stopped at a Pizza Hut buffet. It was ok, but often I feel that the Red Barron or Digiorno frozen pizzas are actually better. I'm sure there are a lot of very good Italian and pizza restaurants out there, but this Pizza Hut ain't one of them.
The Town and Country RV Resort was four miles north of Dade City on Highway 301. It was primarily comprised of permanent park models (moble home units). Of the 149 lots, only about 25 were available for mobile use. When I made the reservation, I didn't realize it was a golf based resort. Almost everyone were golfers and half of them had karts.
We got tucked in between to park models. After setting up, we walked around and checked the place out. Later, I took a dip in the pool, but the outside air was cool. At six, we went up to the clubhouse for the early bird Bingo. We played the cards together and left at seven without winning anything. They said the games continued on until 9 pm.
Saturday, March 4th
Overnight, the temperature dropped to forty-eight degrees outside. We didn't have the furnace on, so it got down to 53° inside. I got up and turned up the thermostat and started breakfast. Rhonda got up when I announced that it was 65 inside. We were off to check out a flea market at a drive-in theater down the highway towards town. A short distance down the road another RV park was having a yard sale. I bought three golf clubs for a dollar, three yard ornament butterflies for four dollars and a set of ceiling fan blades for a dollar. I had been looking for the blades, so I could make a giant dragon fly for yard bling.
When we got to the drive-in, we saw that no one was there, so I headed to McDonald's for coffee. We saw a sign for a downtown farmer's market in a park. We got there and saw that they were just setting up, so I continued on to the original mission of getting coffee. Upon our return we saw it was mainly an arts and crafts sale. There was one produce stand where we bought strawberries and two ears of fresh sweet corn. I asked the vendor where the corn came from and he said “Belle Glade”. A few days previously, we had seen truck loads in crates ready to be shipped.
` We stopped at the Save-a-Lot grocery to get some fresh meat to grill and a few other items. Next door was a thrift shop and I found a few pieces of flatware. I have been collecting them when I can find them real cheap. There are dozens of metal working projects that I hope to make using spoons, forks, and knives when I get my welding skills honed.
As we came back through town, we saw that there was a car show around the old courthouse. There were not many there, but there were a few real gems. I took pictures of the ones that impressed me.
Back at the camper, we made sandwiches and I settled in to watch the Virginia and Pittsburgh ballgame. Rhonda went back downtown to check out some of the shops. When she returned, she said that there were about three times the number of vehicles at the cruise in around the courthouse.
After the ballgame, I took two golf clubs and walked over to the park's free driving range and hit a couple dozen balls. The one drawback was that you had to retrieve you own balls. I was surprised how well I hit most of the shots, since I hadn't swung a club in years. You certainly get more exercise when you have to walk to pick up the balls. Back at the clubhouse, I stopped and tuned the TV there to watch the Notre Dame – Louisville game. I had to hook up the antenna and figure out the configuration on the TV. It wasn't very clear so I didn't stay to watch much of itl
For supper, I grilled the chicken we had picked up. We had corn on the cob and slaw with it and there was those fresh strawberries for desert. What a meal, simple but good.
Sunday, March 5th
We went to Sunday school and church at the First Baptist Church that we had attended last year. For worship service, they had a team that had just got back from Cuba on a mission trip. Their enthusiastic and inspirational testimonies made me want to go on a mission trip. It made me feel a little guilty for just traveling for pleasure and fun. We went to Bubba Cue's for lunch.
Back at the campground, I got two of the golf clubs and then went down to the driving range. Rhonda went along to help pick up the balls that I hit. On the way back, we stopped by the clubhouse where they were selling root beer floats as a fund raiser for the Relay for Life.
Monday, March 6th
We moved to a campground north of Ocala and fairly close to Rhonda's brother's RV resort. In route, we took a side trip to Floral City to see if the automotive decal place was still there, but we found out it closed. On the way, we met about 50 vintage model A cars on a rally. I found out later that there were 130 of them and they were staying in Crystal River. We had seen them there back in 2014 in Crystal River when we camped behind Dave's Crab Shack. While in Floral City, I took a 10 mile ride on the Withlacoochie Trail with goes through town. We ate lunch in the parking lot when I returned.
After setting up, I realized that I did not have a coax cable for the cable tv. I asked at the office and they had an extra. It was pretty poor cable service so it didn't matter much. I could not get a station carrying the ACC tournament.
Later, we drove over to Williston and spent a couple of hours visiting Rhonda's brother at Williston Crossing. They had brought their camper down after Thanksgiving, stayed a few days and came back before Christmas and went back down after the first of the year. They drove us around on the golf cart showing us the improvements and additions that had been made around the resort.
Tuesday, March 7th
We visited a very interesting and extensive antique and collectables sales store. Actually it more like a musuem. It was in a very old two story building near where the road to the campground came back to the interstate. We spent more than an hour looking an the enormous collection of antiques and oddities. If one is interesting that sort of thing, it is well worth a stop.
Jimmy and Linda came over in the afternoon and we went to a very good seafood restaurant in Ocala and then drove downtown. The restaurant was in a typical small shopping center and was sort of an unexpected find.
Wednesday, March 8th
We decided to drive back into downtown Ocala to get a closer look and discovered it didn't have much of a downtown. There was a artisan shop on a side street with some beautiful items such as paintings, wood and metal crafts and other well made and attractive pieces of handmade artsie crafts. We checked our accounts at the Wells Fargo bank and walked around the town square. There was a barbecue restaurant on the corner that was putting out some mighty fine aromas, but it was too early to have lunch. I stopped by a bike shop and bought some new handle bar grips for my bike.
Thursday, March 9th
We relocated to High Springs not far up the road. I wanted to investigate the Sante Fe River and the springs in the area. I had read about canoeing on the river and wanted to check it out for the next year. The campground was old and not very impressive, but the volunteer host and her husband were very nice. They were from Kansas City, Kansas and spent the winter there because their daughter and grand children live not far away. She let me watch one of the ballgames on the tv in the office.
Mid-afternoon, we drove to the river and talked to an outfitter to get an idea of what kind of float trips they provided. We then looked around the quaint little town. It was touristy, and surprisingly, most of the stores on the main street were occupied. I went to the library to see if I could use the internet to watch the ballgame, but was only able to listen to it on an internet station. Rhonda went looking for a place to get a haircut, but didn't find anything that appealed to her.
Friday, March 10
Our destination for the day was Walterboro, S.C. As we left the campground, we decided to follow some back roads rather than jump right on the interstate. We also stopped at South Newport to if the little church (America's smallest church in Georgia) had been restored since the fire a year or so ago. It was the inspiration for the smallest church several friends and I built in 2010 in Wytheville.
We got word through the internet and saw pictures where there had been a fire. It was assumed that it was arson or a vagrant being carless. We were happy to see it had been completely repaired.
Just a few miles before exiting the interstate at Walterboro, the traffic was backed up for miles and just creeping along. The campground was not far from the exit (actually a little too close). We were glad not to be stuck in the traffic. We had stopped at the same campground last year on our way back home.
The information on the New Green Acres campground said they had cable so I was counting on watching the Duke – Notre Dame game. When we registered, the lady said all the cable sites were taken. Boy was I disappointed. A little later, after setting up, I went back up to the office to see if they had a clubhouse or game room with a TV and cable hookup. It just so happened that someone called and cancelled their reservation because of tire trouble on their RV and would not make it. Their site had cable so I gladly paid the extra two dollars and relocated.
Saturday, March 11
We were out early headed for the McDonald's, our first eat out breakfast. The place was extremely busy with travelers. Some of them may have been a few of the folks that got caught in the backup the evening before and decided to stop for the day in one of the near by motels.
We arrived at our friends, Don and Mary Martin's house, between Union and Jonesville, South Carolina shortly before noon. When I went around to the back of the camper I found that my bike had come partially off the rack and had drug the rear tire and rubbed off one side of the tread. I had stopped for gas in Union and when I exited the station there was a significant dip (street gutter) and it must have caught the bike then.
After talking a bit and getting a tour of their lovely home, we went to a local barbecue restaurant and road through a part of town. After a light supper, we watched the ACC championship game
Sunday, March 12
Sunday morning we awoke to snow falling and about an inch was on the ground. They were happy to see it, since they don't get much. It didn't stay around long. There was practically not a sign that it had snowed by mid-afternoon. Don and Mary took us out for a tour of Jonesville and Union. Mary had grown up on the farm where they currently lived and Mary taught school in Union for her entire career. Don was raised in the area and moved away, returning after his three years in the service.
Monday, March 13
Don gave us directions on the quickest route to Gaffney where we could connect with I-85. We were home by early afternoon and began the task of unloading and tucking the camper back in the shed. It was another great month in Florida. It was especially good to connect with our Raleigh friends on three occasions for some quality time and great fun. Looking forward to doing it again next year if the good Lord is willing. In the meantime, there are other adventures to be had.