Florida Winter Retreat - 2019
We spent a good part of Saturday organizing and packing the truck and camper for our escape to the sunshine state. It was a mild day; much nicer than the several days earlier in the week. We put the kayaks on the newly installed roof rack I had mounted on the truck’s camper shell. It went fairly well. The hardest part was getting up on the truck in a good position to strap them down.
We left after church on Sunday after having some leftovers for lunch. Rhonda stayed home from church to get a number of last minute things done; among which was changing sheets on our bed and vacuuming. Karissa and family are planning to come up while we are gone to go skiing over at Winter Place in West Virginia.
We pulled out just before 1 pm with a five hour drive ahead of us. Our destination to the first night’s stay was at Collecton State Park north of Walterboro, South Carolina. We had stayed there on two previous trips to Florida. We drove through Charlotte and Columbia with no traffic issues via I-77, I-26 and I-95 and arrived at the park at 6:15. The gate was still open so we did not need to use the gate code they had given us. It had rained prior to our arrival and the campsite was a bit soggy and soft. It was mostly sand and would have been better if there was more gravel or if it was paved.
It is a nice little park right on the Edisto River. The Edisto River is one of the longest free-flowing black water rivers in North America. It meanders over 250 miles from the Piedmont fall line south of Columbia to Edisto Beach on the coast. It is a popular river for kayaking and canoeing. There was a canoe and kayak rental business across river from the park.
We didn’t disconnect from the truck or hook up the water; just the electricity. We heated up a chicken and broccoli dish made with cream of chicken soup and crescent rolls in the microwave and had a quick supper. I tuned the tv and we got a half dozen watchable stations. The super bowl was on, but we didn’t watch much of it because I did not care for either one of the teams and there was very little scoring (boring). We went to sleep after watching Clint Eastwood and Shirley Mclaine in “Two Mules for Sister Sarah”.
Monday morning, I made breakfast and we were out the gate a little after 8 am. We stopped for lunch at a Cracker Barrel outside of Jacksonville. Someone had given us a gift card for Christmas and we put it to use. We both had some very good meat loaf. I had steamed broccoli and mash potatoes with mine and Rhonda had fried okra and mac and cheese with hers. We ate the corn bread along with the meal and wrapped up the two biscuits to take with us.
We walked across the big shopping center parking lot to the Walmart afterwards to get a water filter replacement for the camper and some sympathy cards. My best friend, Brian’s little dog had died the afternoon before. Also, a Latino lady in our church mother had passed away in Mexico. She is undocumented and has been in the US for at least 20 years, but cannot go back to Mexico to the funeral because she would not be able to return.
We got to the River’s Edge RV park in Georgetown, Florida on Lake George a little after 3 pm. The office was closed and a sign said some would be back at 4. I had not written down the site number when I made the reservation, but I knew it was near the bathhouse. We backed in the only one vacant near the bathhouse, but did not start the set up. We walked down to the pier and the boat ramp area to check it out. The owner returned around 4:40 and I registered and payed them. We were on the correct site.
I had bought a portable satellite antenna and a receiver several months back on sale from Camping World. Since I enjoy ACC basketball so much, I decided I didn’t want to miss seeing some of the games when I could not get local reception. The connection only cost seven dollars extra a month and there were no start up or cancellation fee and it could be canceled at any time.
I spent close to an hour setting up the antenna and receiver and connecting it to the TV. I also had to spend twenty or thirty minutes on the phone with the Dish Network person to make the final connection. One thing I did not realize is that it does not give you the local channels. At our present location, we are not able to tune in anything on the tv even though after scanning it says I have six stations. (They are all broken up). The built in antenna on the camper is not all that good anyway. We are too far from Ocala, Gainesville, Jacksonville, or Orlando for it to receive anything.
Tuesday morning, we got up about seven and it was 48 degrees outside and 60 inside. I plugged the little electric heater in to warm it up to 70 while I was fixing breakfast. It was predicted to be around 75 degrees after lunch. Mid-morning, we drove a few miles back down the road to the Welaka State Forest where we had seen parking for their hiking trails. It was an absolutely beautiful day for outdoor activity. We made a two mile round trip walk to Muddy Springs. It wasn't what its name implied. It was a relatively small spring about the size of a medium sized swimming pool. It flowed out for a couple hundred yards into Lake George. We met another couple out hiking and a volunteer that helped maintain the trail. He was using a DR brush mower almost just like the one I've used on the Appalachian Trail for the past ten years.
We returned to the camper to have lunch and rest a bit before driving down to the boat ramp and taking the kayaks off the rack on top of the truck . We paddled up and back along the shore for about an hour and then loaded the kayaks into the back of the truck rather than rack them. The height of the truck makes for a little more work. We will rack them when going a longer distance.
After lounging around the campsite for a while, I took the bicycles off the rack on the back of the camper and we rode around the roads in the campground. When we went to the dock and boat ramp our next door neighbors were there with their kayaks. They had a special kind that had a propeller and you pedaled it instead of paddling it. The neighbor lady asked if I wanted to try it out, so I did. It was unique and felt like pedaling a recumbent bike. There were some more streets to ride nearby, but the highway in front of the campground was too treacherous to go out with the bikes with the occasional large truck going by.
Our neighbors are from Kenia, Alaska when not in Florida. He was raised in Asheville and went to Carolina. His wife's parents had left them property in Florida so they had a place to store the older motor home when they were not using it. He had spent his working years commercial fishing and doing guide work in Alaska.
After supper I watched Duke vs Boston College and some of Wake and Pittsburgh. We couldn’t get the Carolina – NC State game, because they were on a local channel and we had no reception.
Wednesday morning, we drove to East Palataka to ride a trail that is being developed to run from St. Augustine to the center of the state over near or at Starke. I had ridden from Palataka to Starke several years ago. It was not quite completed to Starke so I ended up riding on the highway some of the way.
We parked at a bank beside the trail and rode east. At the five mile point, Rhonda turned around and returned to where the truck was parked. I rode on to Hastings and turned around. When I got back to East Palataka, I had ridden 17.7 miles.
Just before arriving at the truck, I stopped at a Burger King and picked up some of the cheap chicken nuggets (10 for a dollar) for lunch. We ate it along with some items we brought at a picnic table beside the truck in the bank lot. After lunch, we drove back up to Hastings and stopped at a produce stand beside the large fields that grow a large variety of early vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, collards, spinach, turnip greens and more. The area is also the potato capital of Florida. We bought fresh rainbow chard, sweet potatoes, some baby kale, corn, and a zucchini squash.
We stopped at a car wash back in East Palatka and I cleaned the truck up. I had not had a chance to wash it with the cool weather and all the other things we had to do before leaving home.
We stopped at a couple of thrift shops on the way back; not really looking for anything, but some times something finds us. At one of the shops, I bought a paperback novel and a metal Jello or cake mold to use for making a yard flower. I have made several and I pick up the molds when I see them for a dollar or less.
For supper, Rhonda made salmon cakes, chard and corn on the cob. We try to buy a small amount of fresh produce when we can, either from the grocery store or a roadside stand. We are looking forward to finding some good Plant City strawberries.
Thursday, we stayed around the campground and didn’t do much. We took the kayaks out after lunch and paddled north up the lake to where a creek and canal entered the lake. There were several very nice vacation homes along the shore. The weather was ideal. It was sunny and about 75 degrees with a slight breeze. On this kayak trip and the previous one, my right shoulder got quite sore. I think it might be bursitis or arthritis.
We drove back up to the trail along highway 207 on Friday morning. I wanted to complete the 10 remaining miles from Hastings to I-95 east of St. Augustine. The trail is a little over 18 miles and connects Palatka with St. Augustine. From the neighborhood of Vermont Heights, it is connected by way of sidewalks and a bike lane to St. Augustine.
I met Rhonda on the trail walking in my direction as I approached Hasting. The short section between Spud and Hastings had just been completed. Previously, it had been a road ride. Before leaving town, Rhonda wanted me to see an old 20s model car someone had in a junk store (warehouse). It looked more like an old racer. The man said he was going to fix it up some for his grandkids to drive.
Rhonda dropped me off at the bank in East Palatka so I could ride the remaining mile and a half into Palatka which goes across the St. Johns River on a tall bridge. I told her we could meet in the waterfront park there on the left side of the bridge. When she got there the entrance was closed in preparation for a big Bass Masters tournament. She turned at the next block and parked along the street.
When I got there, I put the bike on the rack, secured it and we headed back a few blocks to Angel’s Diner. It was acclaimed to be the oldest diner in Florida. It was kind of like an old Sonic without the drive up ordering feature, but you could eat inside also. We both had their cheeseburgers and shared the fries and onion rings. We walked around some of the downtown and waterfront afterwards with the temperature around 82 degrees, before returning to the campground. I took pictures of some beautiful murals on the sides of several buildings.
That evening the campground had taco night with a guest speaker that gave a presentation on the attractions of Putnam County. The campground host provided the tacos and fixings and everyone else brought side dishes or deserts. Rhonda made a black bean, corn, tomato and cilantro salad. Everything was good and there was plenty.
Saturday, we drove down to Crescent City to see what there was to see and there wasn’t much to see. The day was cooler and somewhat windy. We stopped at one yard sale that really had nothing but pure junk. During the afternoon I watched ACC basketball and put the bikes on the camper rack and the kayaks on the truck rack. We had spaghetti, a salad and the two remaining ears of corn for supper. We also added the fresh zucchini to the sauce.
It was overcast Sunday morning but warmer and less windy. We finished making ready for the move over to Salt Springs across the lake. We left around 11:30 with plans to beat the Sunday crowd at Corky Bell's Seafood restaurant on the St. John's River in East Palatka. It is the best seafood place we have found in Florida. It was our third time eating there. We were seated right away and I ordered the senior seafood platter for two. It had fish, shrimp, oysters, scallops and devil crab and came with four sides. Everything was so good. By the time were well into our meal the restaurant was full and they had folks waiting.
Afterward, we drove through Palatka and turned south on highway 19 and arrived at the campground about 1:30. On the way, we drove in some light rain, but it stopped before we started setting up.
Later in the afternoon we walked down to the springs. There was several young ladies walking back to the parking lot carrying rubber mermaid tails (suits). Down at the spring was another young woman with one of the mermaid suits and a guy with a professional looking underwater camera. We both commented that we wished we were there earlier to see them in the water doing their thing.
Monday, we straighten up the camper, went to the Dollar General across the road, and did a load of laundry. We both read for awhile after lunch and then took the kayaks down to the boat ramp in the campground. There was also a public marina on the other side of where the springs flowed out into the small bay which flowed into Lake George. The marina rented kayaks, canoes, and stand up boards.
After we got out on the water, we paddled by a small motorboat with several people watching something in the water and discovered there was several manatees around their boat. I tried to get a picture, but there was too much glare on the water to get a shot of anything distinguishable. We got several good looks when they would partially surface to get air.
We paddled up a small canal like creek and then up and across the bay. We stopped at the edge of the entrance to springs to watch people playing in the 72 degree water. It was roped off and had a sign for boats, kayaks and canoes to keep out. Before taking the kayaks out, we went back to the mouth of the creek and observed the manatees again. There was another couple nearby in a tandem kayak and we pointed out to them, a manatee that had broke the surface to get some air.
We rode the bikes back down to the spring after returning to the campsite. I stopped by the office and signed up for the Valentine dinner and dance on Friday. It was ten dollars each and included live music. We watched the Carolina and Virginia basketball game after supper and I finished the murder mystery novel I was reading. The weather is very pleasant with daytime temperatures of 72 to 80 degrees and the nights are just right for leaving the windows open and sleeping with light covers.
Tuesday was another very pleasant day in central Florida. We got up just past seven with the temperature of 68 degrees. There were a couple of very brief showers before sunrise. Mid-morning, we decided to go to Palatka and get a few groceries, some cash and have lunch at Sonny's Barbecue. We split a sampler plate with ribs, pull pork, chicken and brisket. The sides were slaw and baked beans. There was even some leftovers that we brought back.
We stopped at Goodwill where I got a pair of four dollar shorts and a shower curtain. None of the showers at the Forest Service campgrounds have them and the water gets on the floor in the dressing area making it difficult to dry your feet or put on apparel for your bottom half and not get the item wet. I've made it a habit to carry a piece of plastic tile to stand on while I dress.
When we returned to the campground, we paid for the Valentine dinner and I worked a couple of crossword puzzles in the the shade of the new camper awning. I say new because I had to put a new one on after the wind tore off the original one when we were down doing disaster relief down in Washington. I usually anchor the awning down or retract it when I think there might be strong winds, but in this case I didn't and had to pay the price.
After Rhonda played several dozen songs on her clarinet, I put on my swim trunks and got my mask, snorkel, fins,and shorty wet suit and we rode the bikes down to the spring for a cool dip. Actually, it was just me. Rhonda wasn't quite ready for the cool 72 degree water. The air temperature was about 80.
There were several other folks in the water, but left shortly after were arrived. While snorkeling in the area where the spring comes out of the rocks on the bottom, I spotted a good sized blue crab, probably six to eight inches across. It was the first time I had seen anything other than fish while swimming in the springs in Florida. I have been in Alexander Springs, Rainbow Springs, Juniper Springs, Silver Glen Springs, DeLeon Springs, Fanning Springs, and of course, Salt Springs.
From the early hours of Wednesday morning until daybreak, it was raining off and on. The clouds were getting higher after lunch, so we headed out for a hike to a large sink hole about a twenty minute drive west of us in the Ocala National Forest.
A sinkhole, also known as a cenote, sink, swallet, swallow hole, or doline (the different terms for sinkholes are often used interchangeably, is a depression or hole in the ground caused by some form of collapse of the surface layer. Most are caused by karst processes—for example, the chemical dissolution of carbonate rocks or suffosion processes. For example, groundwater may dissolve the carbonate cement holding the sandstone particles together and then carry away the lax particles, gradually forming a void Sinkholes may form gradually or suddenly, and are found worldwide Sinkholes vary in size from 1 to 600 m (3.3 to 2,000 ft) both in diameter and depth, and vary in form from soil-lined bowls to bedrock-edged chasms. The formation of sinkholes involves natural processes of erosion or gradual removal of slightly soluble bedrock (such as limestone) by percolating water, the collapse of a cave roof, or a lowering of the water table.From the dirt road parking area there were two trails. The one to the sink hole was a mile round trip and the one to Easton Lake was two miles round trip. There were two vehicles parked there; one from Idaho and one from Pennsylvania.
The sink hole was eighty feet deep and probably 150 feet across. There was a boardwalk and several levels of steps (the sign said 188 treads) down to a newly rebuilt platform near the bottom. There were signs that repair work was being done. One ten foot section had collapsed boards with only the stringers still in place. At the entrance, someone had nailed up a board to the stairs, probably to signify that it was closed, but there were no signs. We walked down and back and I took a few pictures. There was heavy vegetation throughout.
Back at the parking area, we decided to walk the other trail down to the lake. We talked to another couple at the observation deck on the edge of the lake. They had brought rakes and had been cleaning the leaves and pine straw off the boardwalk out to the deck. At another observation point we talked to a man sitting and listening to music. The was driving the van from Idaho.
Overnight, it got back down in the thirties, but warmed up incredibly fast. We decided to go back down to the parking area for Easton Lake and clean it up a bit. The trash receptacle was over flowing. There were cans, bottles and trash all around it and the pit toilet building. We had got two large trash bags and a broom from the staff at our campground. We had disposable gloves in the camper.
Rhonda swept out the men's and women's toilets while I emptied out the double trash bin and we both picked up all around the building, in front of the trash bin, and remove the trash from the wall mounted receptacles in each toilet. A forest service employee was parked over by the trail head so I went over and told him we were, cleaning up but only had two 55 gallon bags. He said he would notify someone to see if they could come by and get the rest out of the two bins. It looked like it hadn't been cleaned out in six months or more.
We stopped at a produce stand on the way back and bought our first fresh strawberries. It was then on to the Dollar General for some Twinkies and a frozen pizza. We had brought the whip cream with us so we would be ready for the first strawberries. Life is good.
We took the kayaks out on the open water near the springs. The manatee were still in the area and spent a lot of time partially above water (their backs mainly), so it was easy to spot them.
The Valentine dinner started at four and the music at six. The main course was grilled steak and chicken. We got there a little before 5 and all the potatoes and green beans were gone. There was slaw and lettuce for a salad. When I paid for the meal, I said I didn't want to eat that early, the staff person assured me that there would be plenty if I waited until five or after. There was plenty of chicken and steak, but they had not planned well for the sides.
The entertainer was a keyboard player and singer that had worked on cruise ships and had played in clubs in Las Vegas. He was very good and had hundreds of songs in his repertoire from many genres. He started to playing before five and played to almost nine. It started to get chilly and I didn't bring a jacket, so we left around 7:30.
Friday afternoon, we drove down to the Oklawaha River on highway 19 and put the kayaks in at the boat ramp. From the boat ramp beside the highway, there was a side inlet which led to the main channel of the river. It was swampy with lotus pads and cypress trees all along the way. I saw our first alligator for the year sunning on a log at the edge of the water, but he slipped into the water before Rhonda could see him.
When we got to the main channel of the river, I turned right, after about 100 yards, I realized that I was going down stream. When Rhonda got close, I suggested we should go in the other direction so we would start out paddling against the current. If we were tireder coming back it would be easier with the current. We saw two more smaller alligators and lots of turtles.
After supper, I stopped on the way back from putting trash in the dumpster and talked with a couple from Springfield, Missouri about hikes and bike rides we both had walked or ridden all around the country.
It was flee market day on Saturday. There was a small one at the small shopping center across the road from the campground. A larger one was down the road less than a mile. It had about twenty vendors. We had shopped there a couple of years before while staying at Salt Springs. I bought a bike mirror, a machete, a metric wrench, a mechanical screw driver with multiple tips and two metal forks.
We went down to the springs after lunch. There was a dozen or so folks in the water and twice that many relaxing in chairs and on beach towels along the edge. Rhonda was still not inclined to get in. I found it very refreshing. While I was snorkeling, I saw couple of schools of good sized mullet. I did not see the blue crab. I guess there was too much activity in the water and it was in hiding among the rocks, where the flow came up from the bottom 10 or 12 feet down.
We went to Sunday school and worship service at the First Baptist of Salt Springs. It was only a mile down the road. The Bible study began at 9 am and the worship at 10:15 and was over at 11:30. The pastor gave a good, but lengthy sermon on the story of the rich ruler and what is involved in gaining everlasting life.
After returning to the campground, we finished packing and hooking up. The sewer dump station was our last chore. We also put about ten gallons of water in our fresh water tank since we would be dry camping at Juniper Springs (no hookups).
Our lunch stop was at a take out place called Joe's Place just on the edge of town (I'm using the term “town” loosely). We saw smoke coming out of an outside cooker beside the restaurant as we were coming back from church. There was no dine-in, but there was a nice covered table area on the grounds to sit and eat. I got a chopped pork sandwich and Rhonda got a chill dog.
While there, I called my friend in Wytheville and he said ice had formed on the trees during the morning. I advised him that the temperature was around 80 degrees so I didn't think there would be any ice around here.
When we arrived at our campsite at Juniper Springs, we found the previous night's occupants were still there in the process of loading up their gear. It was a few minutes before 2 pm. Checkout was 1 pm and check in was 2 pm. We drove on pass and waited back at the beginning of the loop. When their vehicle came up behind us, we drove back to the campsite. There was some camping gear still there. The campground attendant informed us that they should have been off the site. They told us the previous campers were moving to another site and would be back for the rest of their stuff.
It was a hot afternoon and the site did not have shade on the southwest side. We opened all the windows and hoped some breeze would cool off the inside before bed time. The site we preferred and had stayed at before was not available when I made the reservation back in October.
After all our set up was done, we rode the bikes over to the spring. Sunday afternoon was a big day for the day use visitors. The spring and the area around it was busier that I ever seen it. We decided to wait until later in the week to go in the water when it was not as crowed.
The next morning, we drove about an hour to just outside of Gainesville to meet our friends Chuck and Christine North from Raleigh so Chuck and I could ride a bike trail. The trail began in Hawthorne just off US 301. Rhonda and Christine drove on to a very nice city park in Gainesville where we met up after an 18 mile ride and had lunch. Since it was President's Day, there were lots of parents and kids in the park.
The next thing on our agenda was a visit to the little tourist town or village of Micanopy. We had visited it the previous year with Rhonda's brother, Jimmy, and sister-in-law. We thought Chuck and Christine might find it interesting. It was mostly antiques, junk and collectible shops with a restaurant and a B&B. After we had seen all we wanted to see, we drove another twenty-five miles to Williston to visit with Jimmy and Linda at the Williston Crossing Resort.
While we were there, another couple from Franklinton came by. They were down for two weeks and staying in Gainesville. Jimmy came in from playing golf and after a little more socializing, Chuck, Christine, Rhonda and I departed for supper at Bubba Que's restaurant there in town.
As we were leaving the restaurant, Jimmy, Linda, Andy, and Diane came in. We headed south towards Ocala and Chuck and Christine headed back to their Air B&B in Gainesville. We arrived back at the campground just before 8 pm. The gate was locked and we had to use the code they had given us to get in. The gate was not suppose to be closed and locked until 8.
Tuesday was a day for laundry and some restocking of groceries. We drove to the little community of Forest for those chores. The change machine did not work at the laundry facility, so we drove a little further to a BB&T bank and got a ten dollar roll of quarters. After laundry, we had lunch at one of those little strip mall Asian restaurants and shopped at the Winn-Dixie.
Right after we got back to the campground, we headed for the spring for some cooling off. Rhonda even got in up to her neck.
Back at the campsite I cranked up the generator to charge the battery and see if I could get the satellite receiver to work. I had tried it on Sunday, but could not get it to pick up the satellite. This time I put the dome antenna on top of the camper and it worked. After supper, I watched the Wake Forest – Notre Dame game until half time and then shut down the generator.
It was sometime during the game that I started experiencing kidney stone pain. I tried putting off taking anything since I had a limited supply of medication, but finally did and got to sleep around midnight. The next morning I had to take another pain pill. I felt pretty lousy all day and did not eat much breakfast and had a light lunch.
That evening I ran the generator to charge the battery and watch the Louisville – Syracuse game and again for the first half of Duke – UNC game. The generator had to be shut down for quiet hours at 10 pm. It was one more dose of pain medicine in order to sleep. I had increased my intake of fluids hoping to flush out the stones.
The next morning (Thursday) I had no kidney stone pain, so I could go drug free. Of course, I had some with me just in case.
We had a date with Chuck and Christine to kayak down the Silver River. After paying park entrance, launch and shuttle fees, we put the kayaks in at a ramp on a canal just off the springs in Silver Springs State Park before 10 am. There was a pretty good size group of paddlers launching at the same time. It was the first time I had seen the famous springs. It was much, much bigger by far than any other spring I had seen. It was at least the size of a baseball field maybe a little bigger.
It was also much deeper than any around. I can see why it was such an attraction. The glass bottom boats still provide tours around the springs and down the river a short distance. I read somewhere it was the location that much of the television series “Sea Hunt” was filmed. Also, some old Tarzan movies had scenes filmed there.
The vegetation was beautiful all along the way with the palms, lotus, ferns and other such plants it was almost jungle-like. I photographed several blooming water plants along the river's edge. Not long after we left the spring area, we came upon the area where the ferel rhesus macaque monkeys hang out. Unfortunately, they were high up in the trees and running about too much to get a picture.
A colony of rhesus macaques was established around Silver Springs in Florida around the spring of 1938. The monkeys were released by tour boat operator Colonel Tooey to enhance his Jungle Cruise ride. A traditional story that the monkeys were released for scenery enhancement in the Tarzan movies that were filmed at that location is false, as the only Tarzan movie filmed in the area, 1939's Tarzan Finds a Son contains no rhesus macaques, in part because of the species' bad temperament. The monkeys continue to thrive along the Silver River to this day.
We brought water and snacks because we knew we would be out on the river beyond lunch. We reached the takeout at the Ocklawaha River after noon and I called for our shuttle to pick us up. After returning to the park and loading our kayaks on the truck, we met Chuck and Christine at Arby's for lunch and then went down to the Marjorie Carr Greenway, where Chuck and I rode about ten miles. We made plans to meet again in a week down in Fort Myers for a bike ride around Sanibel Island.
Friday and Saturday we did things around the park such as swim in the spring, ride the bikes and walk the boardwalk. We also went back to Winn-Dixie to get some groceries which included fresh catfish, cornmeal, slaw, and some seasoned shrimp for supper. We started some packing up some items since we were moving down to Arcadia on Sunday. Nearly all the camping spots were taken on Saturday night.
Sunday we headed south for about three hours and twenty minutes and 165 miles. Our new destination was just outside Arcadia at Craigs RV Resort. We had reservations for a month but was only going to stay for twenty-five days. The monthly rate was cheaper than the weekly rate times three.
About 40 minutes down the road, we were driving through Eustis on highway 19 and saw that there was a festival underway. We decided to stop and walk around the streets and check out the exhibits and booths. It a very attractive town with a population of about twenty thousand people. It is located on beautiful Lake Eustis.
We arrived at Craig's mid afternoon after stopping for lunch in Minneola. We discovered that our reservation actually didn't start until Monday, but the site they had for us was vacant so we pulled in and set up. It was a small corner lot with barely enough room to park the truck, but it was across from the bathhouse and laundry. It was very hot and the awning was a real blessing. I got the new antenna set up after everything else was done – the NC State – Wake Forest game was on at 6 pm. The resort had free cable TV but no ESPN channels, but we had to pay for the internet and since were on the monthly rate, we had to pay for the electricity that we used.
Monday morning, we rode our bikes all around the park to see what was there and to see what our neighbor's units looked like. There were license plates on the vehicles from all over the northern states and Ontario, Canada. When we came by the bocce courts, I stopped to see how the game was played. When it was time for the games to start, they needed another person to make up another two person team. They gave me a quick course on the rules and some techniques of the game. Rhonda decided to go on back to the camper.
There were eight colored balls (two red, two green, two yellow and two blue), so up to eight persons could play at a time with four teams of two. The court was twelve feet by 60 feet with four feet behind the foul line on each end. The game begins by tossing a smaller ball called the “palino” beyond the halfway line, then the players in turns, try to hit the palino. If a player hits the plaino, it is called a bocce and a point is given to that player. Also at the end of that series the closest to the palino also get one point for the ball or balls closest. This game has been played on grassy lawns and on packed sand. The surface we were playing on was carpeted concrete.
My partner and I lost the first game, but was tied at the end of the second game. I got a bocce and a point for closest and put us ahead. My partner got two closest on his turn and we won.
After the match, I talked to one of the lady players, Mel from Erie, Pa., with a kayak and we set up a trip to paddle a stretch of the Peace River which ran south and west of US 17 the next morning. We planned to put in at Gardner and take out at Brownville (both little places only recognizable because there was a sign). She said she would get her husband to help us with the shuttling of the truck after we unloaded the kayaks.
After lunch, we drove the six or seven miles to town to check our accounts at the Wells Fargo bank, get some cash and a few things at Walmart. We always like to check the credit card account when we are traveling to make sure there is no unauthorized activity.
One thing we needed was a case of bottle water for drinking. The water at the park had a slight sulfur taste. Even with the filter on the hose going into the camper, it did not completely remove the taste.
We discovered that since the last time we were in Arcadia several years ago, the Sonic had closed and there was a new Publix and Harbor Freight. There was also a KFC under construction.
The next morning we went by Mel's lot and loaded her kayak in the back of the truck (we had ours on top). I dropped the kayaks off at the boat ramp and Rhonda and Mel stayed with them while I took the truck down to the boat ramp and park at Brownville. Mel's husband pick me up and brought me back to Gardner.
It was partly cloudy, which made it nice for paddling. The river was different from our other paddling trips further north. The bank was steep on one side and sandy on the other. Of course, there were trees along the way (tall palms, cypress, cottonwoods, live oak, etc.). There was very little aquatic plants in the water because the flow of the water was much swifter. We saw two alligators, several vultures and snowy egrets and a big blue heron along the way. When we arrived at the boat ramp, we loaded the boats and headed back to the RV park. It was a most enjoyable hour and three-quarter paddle.
Rhonda did laundry after lunch. While she was in the laundry room, a very heavy rain shower came by and really dumped some water for about an hour. I made sure I had the awning anchored down good so I didn't have another mishap like I did in Washington back in November. We watched Virginia Tech beat Duke after supper.
Wednesday, I took the golf clubs I brought with me and went over to the driving range on the property. I hit about 40 balls. I surprised myself by hitting about thirty pretty good shots. There were markers up designating the distances so I could tell how far I was hitting them. The building at the range had bags of clubs and three five gallon buckets of balls and several of those pick up devices. There were some drivers in the building, so I decided to give one a try. I do not have driver because I usually do not have much luck or skill at hitting a decent ball with one. I generally use a three iron instead. Again, I surprised myself and made some pretty good shots.
We went back to town to get some more water in gallon jugs to make coffee, tea, and lemonade. We also went to Goodwill where I bought a golf club driver ($3.99) and a tv cable. We ate lunch at an Asian buffet and went to Winn-Dixie to get the water and a few items for a covered dish lunch in the clubhouse. It was a lunch for the five and six hundred blocks (north) of the park. For some crazy reason, they were having it at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. We went mainly to meet people and socialize. We sat across from a nice couple from Ontario, Canada. They had been at the park since September.
Biking on Sanibel Island was on tap for Thursday. The island is roughly 15 miles long and 5 miles wide at it widest point. The flora and fauna along with the beautiful homes, beaches, bike paths, and nice cafes and shops makes it a great place to visit. We met Chuck and Christine on the edge of Fort Meyers and drove over to a bike shop on the island to rent a bike for Christine. We left our truck in the parking lot and headed to the J.N.Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.
The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on the subtropical barrier island of Sanibel in the Gulf of Mexico. The refuge is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. It is world famous for its spectacular migratory bird populations. Jay Norwood Darling was instrumental in the effort to block the sale of a parcel of environmentally valuable land to developers on Sanibel Island. At Darling's urging, President Harry S. Truman signed an Executive Order creating the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge in 1945.
The refuge was renamed in 1967 in honor of the pioneer conservationist. The refuge consists of over 6,400 acres of mangrove forest, submerged sea grass beds, cord grass marshes, and West Indian hardwood hammocks. Approximately 2,800 acres of the refuge are designated by Congress as a Federal Wilderness Area. The refuge was created to safeguard and enhance the pristine wildlife habitat of Sanibel Island, to protect endangered and threatened species, and to provide feeding, nesting, and roosting areas for migratory birds. Today, the refuge provides important habitat to over 245 species of birds.
There was a seven mile 15 mph loop road with about two thirds of it a one way. Rhonda and Christine took a short cut and met us back at the visitor center. There we checked out the exhibits, visited the gift shop, took advantage of the restrooms and refilled our bottles out of the water fountain with a special water bottle refill feature. We all ate a snack from our bike bags and headed back up the bike path and over to the beach on the west side of the island. From the beach we could see the mainland beaches of Estero and Bonito further south.
It was getting past lunchtime so our next destination was back up to Periwinkle Road, the main road of the island, where most of the shops and eateries were located. One little shopping center called the Tahitian Gardens had three restaurants. We chose the Sanibel Cafe because of the variety on the menu and reasonable prices (for Sanibel). Rhonda and I split a fish Reuben panni with fries and Chuck and Christine split a Philly cheese steak with fries.
From the cafe, we rode back to the bike shop to turn in the rented bike. The ladies had ridden over twelve miles. I had ridden seventeen and a half. Christine wanted to see the lighthouse up close so we drove up and Chuck rode his bike and met us there in the parking lot. He ended up with over 23 miles total.
At the lighthouse, we took pictures and walked through the trees and out on the beach. Across the inlet, was Fort Meyers Beach. There were a good number of boats on the water in the area.
This Sanibel Island Lighthouse is one of the best areas to visit on Sanibel. Located on the East end of the island, it encompasses the entire tip of the island. With one of the larger parking lots for beach goers, restroom facilities, great shelling, the fishing pier and more, it is a very popular spot. The Sanibel Island Light or Point Ybel Light was one of the first lighthouses on Florida's Gulf coast north of Key West and the Dry Tortugas. The light, 98-foot above sea level, on an iron skeleton tower was first lit on August 20, 1884 and has a central spiral staircase beginning about 10 feet above the ground. It was built to mark the entrance to San Carlos Bay for ships calling at the port of Punta Rassa, across San Carlos Bay from Sanibel Island.
After we dropped Chuck and Christine off back at their car, we headed back to Arcadia. The traffic was stop and go for quite a ways before we got out of the Fort Myers area. The trip took about an hour and a half and we got back to campground right at 7 pm. For supper we ate what we carried in the cooler for lunch.
Friday, Chuck and Christine met us at our park and we went north up US 17 to Zolfo Springs for their pioneer festival. It turned out to be mostly a very big flea market. There were some old tractors and a lot of hit and miss engines. Most of them running and demonstrating some of the work they did back when.
We ate lunch at a church food trailer and walked over to the stage area for a bluegrass show. The band was called “Swinging Bridge” and they were very good; mixing bluegrass and classic country.
As we were leaving, we went by where we had seen strawberries for sale for $1.50 a pint, but the spot was empty. At that price, they must have sold out quickly and left.
We returned to the park and Chuck and Christine went to check in at the Air B&B that they had reserved in downtown Arcadia. After supper, we went up to the pool to cool off and relax.
Saturday, we met Chuck and Christine at their a Air B& in town and we went over to the Joshua Orange Grove for their orange blossom festival. The first thing Rhonda bought was some of their soft serve orange ice cream. There was three flavors and she got the orange – vanilla. It was kind of like the old orange Dreamcicle, but they use real orange juice They also had just orange and orange-pineapple.
There were informational and sales booths from outside vendors and lots of things from grove store available for purchase. They had wagon rides into the orchards with a guide telling about the business of orange growing, a bluegrass band, things for the kids and grilled food. Before leaving, I bought some alligator jerky as gifts and a small bag of Valencia oranges to eat here.
We shared lunch back at the North's place and afterward Chuck and I went back the camper to watch the first half of the NC State – Florida State game, before taking the kayaks out to the river at Gardner. I dropped Chuck and the kayaks off and drove down to Brownville. I called Christine and Rhonda to pick me up and take me back to the Gardner boat ramp.
It was a very nice trip down the river for the second time in a week. Even though it was around 82 degrees, there was a breeze and some shade from the trees on the west bank of the river. We spotted five or six alligators of varying sizes. All but one eased down into the water as they became aware of our approach. The one that didn't must have be lazy or just enjoying the sun too much to want to move.
After loading the kayaks at the takeout in the Brownville park, we met the ladies at the Beal's Outlet and then drove over to Slim's Barbecue. It was earlier than we normally eat supper, but by the time we were seated and served, it about the normal time we eat.
After supper, Chuck and Christine came up to the park and we went to a bluegrass show that the park was providing. The park has a huge stage and covered area for a monthly bluegrass show for that entire area on the fourth Saturday. It is located down at the back corner of the property and has its own parking and restroom facilities. The band was the same one that we saw up at Zolfo Springs the day before (Swinging Bridge).
We left after the first set, because we failed to put on bug spray although the bugs were not that bad. I wanted to leave early because my lower track was bothering me. It felt like I had painful gas that I couldn't find relief. Chuck and Christine was ready to go anyway since they were leaving for Raleigh the next day.
Worship services were at 9 am so we put on our church attire and walked up the street to the park's chapel (other than Sunday morning, it is the rec hall). There was plenty of good singing with a good music leader. A trio of men did the special and it sounded like a professional gospel group.
The pastor preached a very good sermon from Revelation, but before he began he led some verses from from songs related his message. Someone told me he was retiring and the resort owner, who was an ordained minister, was going to fill in until another preacher could be found. At the end of the service everyone joined hands in a big circle and sang a kinds of benediction song to the tune if “ Edilvise”.
I did not feel like doing anything all afternoon. My lower digestive system and or the kidney stones made me feel yukie. I watched some of the Sunday night ACC game. It was a warm evening and we had all the windows open and the fan going until it was time to go to sleep.
Monday morning, I felt much better. I did not want a big breakfast as we normally have so I just fixed some jazzed up oatmeal with fruit on the side. Our little one cup coffee maker bit the dust and Rhonda had bought a cheap little drip type at the Habitat store. It looked like a toy, but it did a good job.
The weekly members meeting was at the big meeting/activity room at 9 am. There was coffee and donuts before hand for seventy-five cents each. They made announcements and went over all the activities for the week. They gave away door prizes to the winning ticket holders and had a 50-50 raffle. Most of the prizes were free meals or discounts from the businesses in town The produce guy that come every Monday morning also donates a small basket of fruit and a basket of strawberries.
After the meeting, I headed down to the bocce court and helped set up things for play. There were enough for five teams. We started by drawing poker chips with a number and a color to determine who you would be your partner and where you were to play. I ended up with the same partner I had on the previous Monday. We played two matches and lost both.
After lunch, I played corn hole for two hours. There was a pretty big group there to play and there were just two set of game boards, so there was some waiting between games until some of the older ones got tired. By the time I had played four games, my arthritic shoulder was feeling a little sore.
Tuesday, was laundry day for Rhonda and I met the bocce group for two games. The cool spell was moving in and it was overcast so I decided to ride the bike a few miles down the road after the bocce games. After about three miles, I felt some rain drops so I turned around and headed back. There was a strong head wind and the return trip was a lot more effort even though the road was pretty much level.
We went to town for a buffet lunch at a different Asian restaurant with much bigger variety. We got cash at the bank and pick up a few things at Publix, including our first key lime pie.
Wednesday we awoke to a temperature of 40 degrees and had to turn on the heat for a few minutes to take the chill off the inside of the camper. We drove up to Zolfo Springs and Wachula to see what shops and anything of interest were there We saw a Italian restaurant on main street and I had a hankering for a calzone, but they did not have it on the menu so we settled for a hand made pizza baked in their wood-fired oven.
When we came into town earlier, Rhonda had spotted a sign indicating the direction to the boat ramp for the Peace river to the east of town. We drove over to see where it was in case we had an opportunity to kayak again. At the river, we discovered a nice little park with a two mile trail that partially followed the river back to the parking area. There was a sign with an arrow indicating that there was an observation platform down the trail. The trail made a lot twist and turns before we finally got to the platform at the river.
When we returned to the RV park, I waxed some of the truck and went down to the driving range to hit some golf balls with the driver I bought at Goodwill.
After supper, Rhonda went to the big assembly hall (rec room) for a group Gospel sing and I took in the night game of bocce. We had an uneven number of players so I played both ways. In the second game, I scorched the other two teams. When I returned, I watched the Clemson – Notre Dame game.
Thursday started off cool again with a temperature of 45 degrees. After the bocce games, we went by the rodeo arena and got tickets for the afternoon show. The 91st Arcadia Championship Rodeo was going on for four days in the brand new Mosaic Arena.
To kill time before the rodeo started, we went up town and browsed the numerous antique and collectible shops. One was in a very old opry house where the stage and seating area was on the second floor. Most all of the shops on main street had antique and collectible prices, not flea market or thrift store prices.
We went by Burger King and got burgers before returning to the arena and ate them in the parking before going inside. The preliminary show started at 1 pm with pairs of horses and riders doing precision riding in a square dance style with about 16 to 18 riders. It was followed by mutton busting where small kids tried to ride the sheep. One larger boy was the only one that stayed on for any descent length of time. The main show started at 2 pm with an opening ceremony honoring the military branches and veterans, followed by the national anthem. All the flag bearers were naturally on horse back.
The first event was steer wrestling where two riders were on each side of a steer at a full run. One of the riders would lunge from his horse and try to land on the steer and attempt to wrestle him down. One was successful. Most mistimed their jump and missed the steer.
That event was followed by bronc riding (both bare back and saddle), steer roping and an event where twenty kids chased three calves with a ribbon their tail. The kids that got the ribbon off the tail was awarded a cash prize.
The rodeo clown performed between some of the events. One of his acts was a set up to where he was supposed to have gone to the airport in Tampa to pick up this big time Mexican horse rider, but got it mixed up with he next day and did not pick him up. When the clown was told that they were going to pay the trick rider five thousand dollars for his act, the clown said he would ride the horse for five thousand dollars.
As part of the act, the clown appeared to know very little about riding a horse. He even had trouble getting on the horse. There were three tricks the professional rider was to perform. In each case, the announcer had to describe the stunt and then the clown would successfully perform the stunt as if it was the first time and in a somewhat comical manner. He finished the act by repeating all three tricks in rapid succession while riding from one end of the arena to the other. It was obvious that he had serious equestrian skills.
The last event was the bull riding. Out of about ten or twelve riders only three got points for staying on the bull for a full eights seconds. Since it was a four day event, I think the winner of each event was determined after point accumulation for the four days.
We stopped by Winn-Dixie on the way back to the park and picked up a nice piece of salmon. I fired up the charcoal grill and cooked it outside for supper. We had slaw and Rhonda fried corn bread.
Our block in the park had a big breakfast on Friday morning at 10 am. We provided and I cooked two dozen eggs of the six dozen eggs there. There was sausage, bacon, biscuits, two kinds of gravy, fruit, pancakes, sweet rolls, hash browns, a cheesy potato dish, orange juice and coffee. There were about forty people in attendance.
Needless to say, there was not any need to think about lunch. At one o'clock a group assembled to play corn hole over near the walking track. A partner and I won one and lost one game.
That evening, there was music and dancing at the recreation hall. The house (park) band provided the music. It was kind of like four people doing karaoke with two guitars added in. All four were pretty good vocalist. There quite a bit of line dancing, but there was also a mix of couples doing the two step and waltzes on the slower songs.
About bedtime, I was struck again with another kidney stone attack. It was after three am before I got relief from taking small doses of pain medicine. It took a good part of the day on Saturday before I was over the groggy feeling the drugs gave me.
We went to town before lunch to get another gallon of water, a case of carbonated water for Rhonda's fruit drink mix and fresh meat for supper. Winn-Dixie had T-bone steaks for less than six dollars a pound.
After lunch, I watched Tennessee get beat by Auburn and some of the Clemson- Syracuse game. I could not get the NC State game on TV so I listened to it on the internet radio app while I waxed the truck. At four I took in the Virginia – Louisville game and at six I enjoyed the Carolina – Duke game.
At half time, I went up to the recreation hall to see what the entertainment was for the evening. A fellow by the name of Jimmy Duke was putting on a one man band show of pop tunes. He sang and played various instruments along with canned or recorded music. The instruments he played was the guitar, keyboard, trumpet, and a saxophone. He had the guitar and saxophone mounted on a stand so he could play them without having to pick them up and put them back down.
It was a pretty good act. He had a good voice and a varied selection of songs, but sometimes it would be distracting to see him flipping switches and switching instruments. The saving element of his show was that the canned music tied it together.
I showered and moved the clocks forward during the half time of the Michigan – Michigan State game. I fell asleep before the end of the game. I was not surprised since I had lost sleep the night before. I know you must be saying that I'm quite the college basketball nut. I must admit that I am. Thanks to the new satellite antenna and receiver setup, I can take in the ACC tournament next week.
The site behind and to the right us has been vacant since we've been here. The folks beside it use it as a gathering place. It is nice because there is a big oak providing some great shade most of the day. A pop-up camper was assigned to it for two nights over the weekend. After they left, I made a comment to them that I bet they were glad to have their extended yard back. I also jokingly told them that when I came back next year, I was going to request that site because of the nice shade. Sandy, the neighbor, quickly replied “you'd better not”.
We woke to a foggy and more humid morning. Fortunately, the breeze continued. The weather has been much like it was on those trips to the Virgin Islands with 80 to 85 degree days with some humidity offset by tropical breezes. We attended the wonderful worship services at the park chapel again and at 1 o'clock we went over to the bluegrass barn area to have strawberry short cake. They gave everyone a very large portion of yellow cake, vanilla ice cream, strawberries and whip cream. The bluegrass jam session that is usually held at someones lot in the park, was on the stage at Bluegrass Barn. The corn hole and hillbilly horseshoe games were also there and I played corn hole for over an hour.
Monday, was the weekly meeting of coffee, donuts and announcements. I won a small basket of strawberries as one of the door prizes
After the bocce games, we drove over to the very pretty little town of Lake Placid on highway 27 in Highland county about an hour away. The estimated population in 2017 was 2,269. The town has two nicknames: "Town of Murals" and "The Caladium Capital of the World". Lake Placid has 47 murals painted on buildings throughout the town, and 75 percent of the world's caladium bulbs come from Lake Placid. There are 14 calladium farms, spanning 1,200 acres, and these plants have been grown in the area since the 1940s. In 2013, Reader's Digest named Lake Placid America's Most Interesting Town. Lake Placid, which was formerly called "Lake Stearns", was chartered on December 1, 1925. Dr. Melvil Dewey, the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, and the founder of the Lake Placid Club in Lake Placid, New York, proposed that Lake Stearns change its name to "Lake Placid".
The town is home to the Lake Placid Tower, a closed concrete block observation tower that is 240 feet (73 m) tall according to early sources or 270 feet (82 m) tall according to late sources. However, government sources exclude a 270-foot height, allowing only a 240-foot height. There use to be a 1 minute ride to the top, but it was discontinued in 2003 and is not just used as a cell phone tower. There are lakes all around town. There is Lake June in Winter, Lake Clay, Lake Mirror, Lake Serena, Lake Pearl, Grassy Lake, Saddle Bag Lake, Lake McCoy, Lake Huntley, Lost Lake, and of course, Lake Placid.
We walked all around town looking at the murals; all with a historical connection to the town or surrounding area. I bought a book at the visitor center containing the murals and a description of what it depicted. Some of a them have a marking on them that indicate that something was left out or added by the artist and challenges the observer to see if they can detect it.
We found out the two of the prominent restaurants were closed on Mondays. We ended up stuffing ourselves at Golden Corral; which had some of the best smoked chicken I have ever ate.
After lunch, we drove out to one of the caladium farms and purchased a dozen and a half for a dollar a piece. We discovered after talking with former owner, Mr Bates, (his son and daughter own it now) that they had a piece of property in Patrick county near Woolwine and had lived in Cary when he worked for the Research Triangle Institute back in the seventies. They were very friendly people to talk to.
We stopped in back in Lake Placid briefly before returning to the park to check out several thrift stores and a shop that sold items created by local artist. Much of it was various objects created with the caladium as its theme.
The rest of the week we relaxed and rode the bicycles several times. The ACC basketball tournament started on Tuesday and of course I had to watch some of the games.
Wednesday, our street (block) had a fish fry. I helped tend the roasting corn and take up the fish as they were cooked. There were plenty of fixings including french fries, slaw, hush puppies, shrimp and several desserts. I think the host said the fish was grouper. It was all quite good. Rhonda went to a painting activity before hand and got there just as we started to eat at 2 pm. We ate a light supper that evening.
Thursday and Friday were somewhat take it easy days with lots of ACC tournament watching. On Friday. I played several good games of corn hole and there was a “Senior” Prom dance at the rec hall with most dressed in fancier duds and the crowning of a prom king and queen. I mainly watched the semi-finals with Duke and Carolina and Florida State and Virginia.
It began raining during the early hours of Saturday morning and rained to just before lunch. Arcadia was having its Pioneer Day and Barbecue down in Veterans park on the Peace River and the rain put somewhat a damper on it. I had planned to ride the eight miles to down on my bike and meet Rhonda at the festival. The rain made me change my mind.
We went to Walmart to get more water, fresh meat, and a watch band for the watch I bought in Seattle on the way to Hawaii year before last. I had tried to repair it several times, but it finally broke beyond repair. There was only one water proof band that would fit my watch and it was marked down to five dollars.
The rain had stopped while we were shopping so we stopped at the festival on the way out of town. They had three or four groups cooking and selling barbecue, demonstrations of old-time skills and crafts, civil war re-enactors, music, vintage cars, engines, and a old fire truck and activities for children to experience old crafts, such as candle making, doing laundry, old time games, butter churning, and there were horse drawn wagon rides and historical displays of Arcadia and Desoto County.
Orange growing is a big thing in Desoto County. No matter what direction you go out of town, there are orange groves. When you are in town it would be rare that you didn't see at least one tractor trailer loaded with oranges coming through town. Desoto is the second largest producing county in Florida, Hendry county south of Lake Okeechobee and north of the Everglades is largest producer. Due to the danger of frost, many of the orange groves that use to be north of I-4, have move further south.
Saturday, evening, a group at the park had put together an hour show. I was a fun and very entertaining rendition of Hee Haw, complete with scenery, costumed entertainers, corny jokes with the park jam session band providing the music. There was some funny skits and good music. The folks here at the park sure know how to have fun.
I finished the evening watching a great ACC championship game between Duke and Florida State.
After the worship service on Sunday, we had a baptism in the swimming pool just outside of the chapel/recreation hall. Everyone gathered around the pool as the pastor immersed a senior lady. We all held hands and sang the closing benediction song we used every Sunday.
At one o'clock, we gathered for a very nice pastor appreciation lunch prepared by some of the wonderful volunteers in the church group. The pastor had been serving there for ten years and going to retire. He lives over near Port Charlotte on the gulf. We had bought tickets a couple of weeks earlier. There was meat loaf, sides dishes, a fruit cup, and Devil's food cake topped with a cherry sauce.
Monday, we attended the weekly meeting at 9 am and I joined the regular group for a couple of games of bocce and corn hole after lunch. There was a larger group than usual, so one of the players went and got his set of playing boards and bean bags. So more could play at the same time.
After the games were over, a neighbor came by to help me put the kayak on the roof of the truck camper shell. Since we were planning to leave the next day, we spent some time putting away some of the items such as the outside chairs and table, and putting the bikes on the rear rack of the camper.
It started to rain about bedtime and rained most of the night and off and on the next day. We went to Harbor Freight in town to get a small hand pump to remove water from the kayaks once they were mounted on the truck after it stopped raining. We also went back to the orchard to get some bagged oranges for our cat feeders and to get some of the delicious orange juice juice soft serve ice cream.
Wednesday morning we headed north after finishing all the things needed to leave. The park manager came by and read the electric meter and determined that we had used $18.75 worth of electricity and said they would just put it on the credit card we use for the camping fee.
I drove 450 miles and seven hours, arriving at the Walmart in Walterboro, SC. Our biggest slow down was through the Orlando area. It is a busy city with all the tourist attraction, but it is almost unbelievable the building and construction going on everywhere. Of course, the highways has to be expanded and redesigned to accommodate all the traffic. We never came to a stop but it was very slow in several areas. It was interesting to see, but next time we may take another route north.
We decided to stop for the night at the 24 hour Walmart in Walterboro, South Carolina. Several times in the past, we had stayed at a campground called New Green Acres which was a few exits south. We stayed at the Walmart lot for several reasons. We had friends that had stayed there, it saved us thirty dollars, and we could now say that we had stayed overnight in a Walmart parking lot. We see RVs often in the Walmart parking lot in Wytheville, particularly when the snowbirds are going north or south.
It was after five o'clock when we pulled into the gas pumps. Our gas level warning indicator had come so it worked out great. There were five motor homes, already parked there in the lot. Two others pulled in before dark. We were the only travel trailer type camper in the lot. We went in the store to get a jug of water, before we heated up supper.
We were all parked off to one side of the lot so as to be out of way of the customers of the store. It was just a couple of hundred yards off the interstate. Needless to say, there was a steady drone of the highway traffic, but it did not bother us getting to sleep that much. Even though we had all the shades down, the parking lot lights still had the inside dimly lit.
The next morning, we were up and ready to pull out before 7 am. I had seen an IHOP restaurant on the edge of the parking lot and had a powerful hankering for one of their omlettes with pancakes. Rhonda and I shared a plate and it was all we could eat. After driving all morning, we got to the post office in Austinville before they closed for lunch and picked up the seven weeks of mail.
I was a little cool and breezy with a few sprinkles as we began the task of unloading the truck and camper. We mainly got out things that needed to be moved to the refrigerator in the house and our luggage. The remainder of stuff we unloaded over the next couple of days. We are so blessed to be able to enjoy the warmer climate, see new sights, and spend time with our friends and meet new people.