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  • Writer's pictureWm Bracknell

2020 Florida Winter Retreat

Updated: Jan 16, 2021

Florida 2020

We were at Faver-Dykes State Park for two nights, February 5 -6. According to the reservations I made, we were scheduled to be there on Tuesday, February 4th, but my intentions were to stay Wednesday and Thursday the 5th and 6th. The park is located about fifteen miles south of St. Augustine off US1 and is on a small waterway called Pellicer Creek and is a part of the larger Pellicer Creek Aquatic Preserve. It is inland from the Matanzas River and south of the Mantanzas State Forest and is less than ten miles from Palm Coast. We planned to kayak some of the waterways, but the winds were gusting 30 to 40 mph. It would have taken some extra effort to paddle against it.

We had left home around nine o'clock on Monday and driven to our usual stopping point at Collecton State Park on I-95, north of Walterboro, S.C. It's address is Canaday on US 15 at the Edisto River.

We made a detour into Orangeburg, SC to get a preview of the Edisto Gardens. Obviously, there wasn't much in bloom as we expected. There were quite a number of camelias blooming all around the immediate area. The gardens are maintained by the City of Orangeburg, Park and Recreation Department. In the late spring and early summer their rose garden is supposed to be quite beautiful.

Afterward, we arrived at the park and backed into the site we had reserved. The campground host came out and checked us in. This was our fifth time we had camped there. It has always been a pleasant experience. The park is small with only twenty-five sites. It is right on the river. The park is kept neat and clean and the restrooms/showers are also. That amenity is always something we hope for and appreciate.

On Tuesday, we drove into Walterboro and visited the fabulous artisan center. It is one of the best in variety and quality of art and craft items you'll find most anywhere; even raveling Tamarack in West Virginia. The center is housed in an old residential type building with displays in four or five rooms with items of ceramic, pottery, wood, paintings, stain glass. We had stopped here previously in 2014.

Walterboro (original spelling: "Walterborough") was founded in 1783, as a summer retreat for local planters looking to escape their malaria-ridden, Low country plantations. The original settlement was located on a hilly area, covered with pine and hickory trees and named "Hickory Valley". Two of the earliest settlers were brothers, Paul and Jacob Walter. The brothers were prosperous, plantation owners, in nearby Jacksonboro. Paul's small daughter Mary, was taken ill with malaria; a common disease amongst the families who constructed and cultivated their plantations in the marshy areas of the Lowcountry, due to the grounds suitability for rice production. To prevent Mary from succumbing to the deadly virus, the Walter brothers went looking for a healthier location in which to live during the summer months, and came to settle the town; with it later being named in their honor.

In 1817, Walterboro was designated as the third county seat of Colleton County, and has remained such through present-day. This designation was followed by, the construction of a county courthouse and county jail in 1821, with the courthouse being designed by well-known architect, Robert Mills. The town quickly spread from the original Hickory Valley location, after its population experienced a significant increase; this being fueled successively by, the town becoming the county seat in 1821, the establishment of a railroad line that connected the city with Columbia and Charleston in the 1880s, the establishment of an airfield in the 1930s, and more recently, the establishment of Interstate 95 in the 1960s, making the town a prime overnight stop on the road to Florida or New York.

In 1942, Walterboro became home to the Walterboro Army Airfield, a sub-base of Columbia Army Air Base, and part of the national network of army air training facilities erected across the U.S. during World War II. The base was established for the purpose of providing advanced air-combat training, to fighter and bomber groups. It also hosted the largest camouflage school in the United States, as well as, a 250-person prisoner of war camp.

In 1944, the airfield changed command and became an advanced combat training base for individual fighters, primarily the black trainees graduating from Tuskegee Army Airfield in Tuskegee, Alabama. Over 500 of the famed Tuskegee Airmen trained at Walterboro Army Airfield, between April 1944 and October 1945, including individuals training as replacement pilots for the 332nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, along with the entire 447th Bombardment Group .

The base closed in October 1945, returning to its origins as a local airfield. Presently, Walterboro is dotted with historic homes dating back to 1820, and a downtown area that has kept many of its historic buildings. The city has become increasingly known as an antiquing destination, and is a popular day-trip from Charleston and Beaufort.

We were talking with a staff person at the artisan center about thrift shops and she told us about one not far from there called “Consignment Envy”. She said they have a large inventory with a tremendous amount of variety. The pricing is kind of different, in that all merchandise is priced and dated. If it is 30 days old, it is marked down 25 percent, 60 days old – 50 percent and 75 percent if it has been in the shop more than 90 days. They give you a price sheet with the markdowns to make it easy. I bought a dozen golf balls, new in the box, for five dollars and a cell phone carrier for three dollars. Rhonda got a small battery table clock for $4.50.

After lunch at Arby's, we visited the Walterboro Museum. It was extremely well done. It included an excellent exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen that trained on a base located where the present day Walterboro High School is located.

The next morning, we drove back through town on the way to the interstate. It was not the shortest or quickest route, but I wanted to get a picture of the Ivanhoe Shopping Center sign and a bag of ice from one of those stand alone ice dispensers. You can get a 20 lb bag for two dollars.

Along about Brunswick, Georgia, we had our first flat ever on the camper. I heard it get pierced and immediately looked for a place to pull off. I actually felt fortunate because I expected a more violent reaction since it was just a single axle trailer. We were in luck because the flat was on the passenger side – away from the fast I-95 traffic. Also, there was a very wide break down lane there because it was just beyond the entrance ramp. The tire pretty much had come apart by the time I got stopped. The shredding rubber did some very minor damage to one place on the lower, inside part of the wheel well and loosened the wheel well trim, but I was able to remount the trim and bend the thin wheel well metal back in place.

A Georgia highway safety truck pulled up behind us after I got out the tire tool and jack and was loosening the lug nuts and jacking up the camper. The driver went back to his truck after seeing the small jack I had and got his hydraulic floor jack and I soon had the wheel off and spare back on. When he let down the jack, we saw that the spare was not fully inflated, so he pulled a long air hose from his truck and inflated it to the proper pressure. We sure were glad he came along. His jack, air compressor, and flashing emergency lights were certainly welcomed.

A few exits down the road, we began to try to locate a tire store to get a replacement tire. After stopping at a couple of tire stores and making some calls, we discovered that the right size and load requirement could not be found. We stopped at the Gander RV dealer in Jacksonville, but they told us they would have to order it and it would not be in until the next day. We got back on the road and called the Gander RV (Camping World) in St. Augustine and they ordered the tire and we made an appointment to pick it up and have it put on the rim on Friday as we would be moving from Faver-Dykes State Park to Rivers Edge on Lake George.

We reached Faver-Dykes at 4 o'clock just as the park office was closing. Initially, the attendant could not find our reservation. When he found it, the reservation was for Tuesday and Wednesday; not Wednesday and Thursday. We got set up and settled in, but had to wait until checkout time the next day to see if there was another site available so we could stay Thursday night; fortunately there was a site available.

The campground had 30 sites with the restrooms/showers centrally located. The sites were spacious and completely surrounded by vegetation (low palmetto palms and trees) much like that of the sites at Anastasia State Park on the island of the same name, just east of downtown St. Augustine. Each site had a picnic table, fire pit and a clothes line. The mile and a half park road to the campground was unpaved. We had passed a picnic and a boat ramp area and pier facility along the way. The park was in a very serene setting. It felt quite and secluded, just like a preserve should be. It was a excellent place to relax and take in the nature of the area. I had planned to kayak in the waterways in the park, but both days were extremely windy.

On Thursday, we biked out of the park and back for a five mile ride. This was plenty for us since we hadn't ridden bikes in three and a half months. Even though the road surface was sandy dirt, it was firm; making for good biking.

During the early hours of darkness, a thunder storm with rain passed through. Fortunately, it did not get that bad where we were. There were some pine cones and small stick hitting the roof during the peak of the storm.

Friday morning I biked about six miles and felt some soreness in my sitting area. We ate lunch, went through the break camp routine and headed back up to St. Augustine to Gander RV to pick up the tire and have it mounted on the rim. It took them almost an hour and a half to get the tire put on the rim.

From the RV dealer, we drove to River's Edge on Lake George to begin our week's stay. We stopped in Hasting on highway 207 at the County Line produce stand that we had bought some great fresh produce from the previous year. Much of their produce is grown in the fields around the stand. The rest comes from south of Orlando and around Homestead. There is a sign there that says they have been in business there for over 54 years. We got a small bag of baby spinach, three ears of corn, a cantaloupe, a couple of sweet potatoes and a pint of strawberries. As we were leaving, we saw a tractor with a trailer coming in from the field with a load of Brussels sprouts on the stalk.

When we arrived at River's Edge, we were able to occupy the site we had reserved. Initially, we were going to have to park in the overflow area without hook-ups for one night since we were a day earlier than our reservation, but the people on the site that we reserved for the next week had left early. The site was next to the one we had been on the previous year.

After we got completely set up, I got out the portable satellite antenna and tried to tune it in, but the program kept giving the message that it could not detect the satellite I had no problem last year, but the trees were closer on this site. I kept moving the antenna around and re-scanning, but could not connect.

Saturday morning, we drove a few miles up to Welaka and got a few things from the ever reliable Dollar General. One of the items was a frozen French bread pizza; which upon return to the camper, I put it in the little toaster oven for lunch.

After lunch we walked down to the pier to check out the conditions for kayaking and decided it was still a bit windy for an easy paddle. There was a nice wooden bench on the dock where we could sit and soak up the warmth from the sun. The temperature got up to around 62° after the front that passed through on Thursday night. The temperature had gotten down to 38° by early morning.

The trailer next to us was a permanent unit. We met the daughter and son-in-law of the elderly lady that lived there. They were doing some cleaning in preparation for the mother to return. We don't know where she had been, maybe in rehab or in the hospital. The daughter actually lives on the 237 acre Drayton Island out in Lake George on the northern end. She was the mail carrier for the people on the island.

The island can only be accessed by boat or ferry. It is a privately owned heavily wooded island on Lake George on the west side of the St. John River's main channel in Putnam County. A small public ferry, one of three left on the river, holds two cars at a time and serves the small island's population.The island is located across the river from a marina in Georgetown.

The island, during the steamboat period on the St. Johns River, was a scheduled stop for tourists and boasted a hotel built in 1875 that burned in 1878. A small subdivision was established and several homes that still exist were built. During the Plantation slavery period, prior to 1865, cotton and other export crops were grown on the island. Between freezes, orange groves produced prize fruit that brought a premium price in northern markets.

The Archaic Indian Mounds, on the north end of the island are owned by The Archaeology Conservancy, Albuquerque, NM. The St. Johns River is navigable from Sanford, Florida to Jacksonville, Florida. Lake George is about 85 miles (137 km) south of Jacksonville. The lake is 11 miles (18 km) long and about 7 miles (11 km) wide. Drayton Island is 1,700 acres (690 hectares) situated in the north end of the lake. Hog Island, a smaller island is west of Drayton Island.

That evening, I watched the very exciting Carolina-Duke game on my phone through the internet. Near the end, the reception was weak and I could only pick up the audio.

Sunday morning, we got up, had breakfast of eggs, sausage, and cheese grits. I had some cantaloupe and Rhonda had strawberries and whipped cream. We went to Sunday school and worship service at the very small First Baptist Church of Welaka. It was very relaxed and informal. They did not have a pastor and are looking for one. A very capable lay person led the Sunday school class and gave the sermon. There were about 17 or 18 in attendance. We loaded the bikes on the rack on the truck and rode about five and half miles around a couple of neighborhoods in Welaka. We stopped at an Artisan sale where there was live music and free plantains. When we returned, Rhonda fried the one plantain we had got in butter. It tasted pretty good.

Late in the afternoon, I got to talking to a couple down the way who had a satellite receiver and antenna like mine. I asked what kind of reception they were getting. From the way it was sitting on the roof of their fifth wheel, it almost looked as if some limbs were not giving them a clear view. The lady had a satellite finder app on her phone. I also found out they had set it up using south Florida in the settings and I had it on northern Florida. They came over and we aligned the antenna using her phone app and I changed the program setting to southern Florida and after another scan- “bazinga”, I had all my Dish Network channels. I went back down to their site and thanked them profusely. I watched the Clemson- Notre Dame game, FBI and the news and weather and programed the program guide to the stations that I would be interested in watching.

I discovered earlier in the day that the new tire that the dealer had mounted on the rim had a defect in it. There was a noticeable bulge in the sidewall from the rim up to the tread.

Monday morning Rhonda did laundry and I started waxing and putting a cleaner/conditioner on the black plastic and rubber surfaces of the truck. I also called the RV dealer about the tire and told them they needed to order another one. After lunch, we took the kayaks down to the lake and paddled up the lake to the south for a ways. Upon our return, we rode the bikes for a few miles around the campground roads.

Tuesday, we drove eleven miles over to Crescent City for several needed items and to wash the truck. We mailed a Valentine card to mom and a birthday card for my great nephew, Dylan, and got some craft supplies and two chain link connectors to fix the camp chair we had found back at Faver-Dykes state park.

The chair was left at the second camp site at the park. We decided that if no one came for it after twenty-four hours, we would give it a new home. The chair's back would not stay in place. The locking device that kept the back in place would not hold, as soon as one would lean back and put pressure on it, it would go all the way back. It could be used if you had the chair backed up to something so the back was stable. I fixed it with the two chain link connectors and which held the locking device in place.

Before leaving town, we did some grocery shopping at the Winn-Dixie. They had a deli, so we bought some fried chicken, potato wedges and a vegetable slaw-like dish and ate in a shady area of the parking lot. We kayaked on the lake in the opposite direction from the day before, before supper.

Wednesday was the warmest day we had experienced thus far. We decided to drive up to Palatka and ride some of the paved bike trail that ran east out of town along 207. I rode about twelve miles and Rhonda did ten. After the ride, we ate lunch at Burger King and asked about parking the camper in a nearby shopping center on Friday when we go to meet Karissa and family in St. Augustine. We also drove over to see the Air B&B we rented for five days.

Thursday, we had planned to let a neighbor lady try out one of our kayaks right after lunch, but when we got down to the boat ramp and pier, we discovered small white caps on the lake and decided it might not be advisable for a novice to make her first experience in somewhat rough water, so we loaded the kayaks on the roof rack since we would be leaving the next morning. I spent some of the rest of the afternoon preparing for our move the next morning to Palatka.

Friday morning it was raining when we got up and some of our final chores was done using an umbrella and rain jacket. In East Palatka, we parked the camper out of the way in the shopping center parking lot and went over to McDonald's for breakfast. When I went to pickup my order, the person behind the counter gave me a free McCafe' Frappe' Mocha (I think). Don't why she gave it to me. Maybe some one changed their mind or she made one too many. It was pretty good but a little too sweet and not enough coffee taste.

Our next stop was back at the Gander RV in St. Augustine to have them replace the defective tire they had sold me. Thankfully, they did not take long to get the replacement tire remounted.

We headed downtown after getting the tire taken care of. We parked in the old fort parking lot because we felt that with the kayaks on the roof of the truck there might not be enough clearance to go in the parking garage. After I thought I had done what was require to pay for parking, we headed over to the visitor center to wait for Karissa, Sammy, and Dustin to arrived. They had stopped in Hardeville, SC at the Georgia border for the night after driving down from Raleigh. They had driven some the evening before and gotten slowed up by a wreck around Savannah.

They arrived around 11:30; about an hour later than previously planned. We used our national park senior passes to get everyone in the old fort free. After checking it all out and taking pictures, we headed back over to Old Town and found a nice, but pricey, little seafood and sandwich cafe. After of a couple of hours of browsing the shops, we headed out to the Air B&B in East Palatka.

When we returned to the parking lot, I discovered that a parking violation had been put on the truck. Evidently, what I did with my credit card at the machine in the lot did not go through. I later discovered that the rate was $2.50 and hour. We were there about four hours which should have been ten dollars, instead the violation was twenty-five dollars. Live and learn.

The Air B&B was very nice and the rate was great. It was octagon shaped house and on the ground floor. The owner lived upstairs and there was another apartment on one end. There was enough parking for five or six vehicles. The host was kind enough to allow us to park the camper in one of them and plug in for electricity. The unit had two spacious bedrooms and a nice kitchen/dining / lounging area. It was very clean, comfortable and modern.

As the others were settling in, Dustin and I drove back up to pick up the camper and get some groceries (a distance of about four miles). The Hitchcock's Super Market had a Valentine's special on rib-eye steaks for $5.99 a pound. We bought a package that would feed us all along with broccoli, a few potatoes to augment the homegrown ones I had brought from home. I also got an apple pie, some strawberries, and some breakfast items for a the couple of mornings we would be together.

Saturday morning we walked around downtown Palatka and check out some antique and thrift stores. We, then went to Walmart so Sammy and Dustin could get a three-day fishing license. Their sporting goods department was unable to provide the service and they had to go over to a little bait and tackle shop nearby.

We returned to the Air B&B and Sammy, Dustin and Karissa headed down to the boat ramp and pier on the St. Johns River to fish. We came later with the truck and kayaks. The small weather front that came through on Thursday night kept the temperature at a very comfortable level just below seventy degrees. We kayaked while the boys fished. They didn't have any luck with the fishing so we returned to relax before supper.

Rhonda had put a wonderfully seasoned pork tenderloin in the crock pot for supper. In addition to the pork, she and Karissa fixed macaroni and cheese, a great kale salad with some of the uncooked broccoli added. We had apple pie, strawberries and whipped cream for dessert.

Sunday morning, Chuck and Christine, our friends from Raleigh, arrived around 10 am after driving from Jacksonville. Chuck and I did a 15 mile bike ride while everyone else went over to Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka. When Chuck and I returned from the ride, we drove into town to pick up Rhonda and Christine. K,S, & D had decided to eat at Angel's Diner, the shiny diner which claimed to be the oldest diner in Florida.

We had lunch back at the rental with Chuck and Christine before they headed to their Air B & B in Astor about 40 miles south. We made plans to meet up with them again on Wednesday after we moved down to Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest about midway between Ocala and Ormond Beach. K,S, and D had gone back to the boat ramp to fish, but again had no success.

When they returned, they took a walk down to end of the street we were on to see if there was river access. There was an overgrown lot for sale right on the river, but it wasn't easily accessible to the water.

For supper, we decided to check our phones to locate a pizza place and called in an order. Sammy and Dustin went to pick it up. Monday morning, we took it easy. Karissa and family packed up and at lunch, we joined Rhonda's brother and his wife for lunch at Corky Bell's seafood restaurant. As usual, it was a great meal. We had not seen Jimmy and Linda since the mid-fall.

After lunch, Karissa, Sammy, and Dustin headed back to north to Garner, North Carolina. Their visit was enjoyable, but way too short. That's the problem with working people – they have to go back to work.

Jimmy and Linda came by to see the Air B&B to check it out. They have a park model in a resort in Williston, northwest of Ocala. They reside there four to four and a half months out of the year.

After they left, we went to Goodwill to look for a golf bag. I brought some clubs from home, but the bag I had at home was in poor shape. I really don't play golf, but keep thinking I might want to play with some friends who do. Our last couple of weeks in Florida are at a RV resort with a golf course. So I thought I might give it a try. I played about every other week back in the mid-70s. That would be about 45 years ago. Last year, I was at a park that had a driving range and I hit about 25 good balls out of a bucket of 40.

At the Goodwill, I found a bag and a cheap tripod and started thinking how I might put some kind of platform on it so I could get the satellite antenna up off the ground. We looked around for a round heavy serving tray and found a heavy cast aluminum something (maybe a griddle). The good thing was that the golf bag was marked 40% off and the original price was $7.99. Hey, I really don't expect to play much golf.

On our return trip to the rental unit, we recovered a very nice cabbage beside the road that we had seen roll off the truck that was hauling a load from the fields. This adds to our list of roadside food finds.

In Wisconsin, (2007) we picked up a good sized fresh ear of corn at the entrance of a processing plant while I was trying to find the start of a bike trail. And in North Dakota I picked up two packages of frozen hamburger (two of more than a dozen) from a rural country road. It appeared that it was from where some farmer had a cow butchered and the meat was processed, packaged and frozen. We surmised that it was in a box that fell of a truck. We have had numerous orange roadside finds in Florida, either near the groves or near a processing plant like Minute Maid or Tropicana. We steamed the cabbage lightly and had it with the left over pork and mac and cheese for supper back at the Air B&B.

Tuesday morning, we removed the food items from the house, tidied up a bit and hooked up the camper. I left a generous tip for letting us park the camper in the yard. Our next destination was Juniper Springs about 50 miles to the south.

I stopped at Tractor Supply in town to top off our propane tank and pick up a quarter inch drill bit a nut and bolt to complete my tripod antenna mount. I was surprised to find that we had only used a gallon and three-quarters of the five gallon tank. We had been cooking, keeping the refrigerator going when off electricity and had some furnace use on a couple of cool mornings.

At Juniper Springs, we did our regular set up and had lunch. We sat in the shade and read until we decided it was time to go to the springs. I also called Chuck and we made plans for the next day.

The temperature for the springs is 72° year round. The air temperature for the day was up around 83°. I was committed to taking the plunge, Rhonda only wanted to get her feet and lower legs cooled off. There were more people at the springs than I had ever seen on a weekday. Mostly retirees from the campground, but also several young families. As usual, I eased myself in gradually until I got waist deep, then took the plunge. It was BRISK and refreshing. It was the first time I had been swimming since the trip to Kerr Lake with the family on Father's Day weekend.

When we returned to the camper, I took everything out of the back of the truck and re-organized it. It got somewhat jumbled up when I had to get the spare tire out. I also set up the tripod and antenna and it worked great. I started the generator and tuned in the satellite. While it was running, Rhonda used the microwave and turned on the vent fan as she was preparing supper.

Wednesday, we went to to where Chuck and Christine were staying in Astor. Since I did not pick up the Duke – N.C. State game, Chuck told me, to my amazement, that they had won. There was a replay of the game, so we watch it. (Chuck and Christine watched it again)

Next, we drove down to Alexander Springs to see the park and checkout the bike trail. We didn't locate the trail, but I wouldn't have been able to ride because the description of the trail said there were areas on the trail with fine sugar sand and my narrow tires would not be suitable. The temperature for the day was predicted to be around 82°.

From the park we drove to Eustis and had lunch and stopped at a couple of thrift shops. In one, I found a very nice bluetooth speaker (wireless) for $2.00 and found out it was marked down to a dollar and a half. We stopped at a Publix and got our first Key Lime pie for the season and we split it with our friends.

Thursday, Chuck and I put the kayaks in Juniper Run at the launch area over by the springs after moving the truck down to the take out on highway 19. The previous year the run (stream) was closed because of a rogue bear in the wilderness area where the run is located. It was a seven mile paddle through the Juniper Prairie Wilderness which encompasses over 13,000 acre in the Ocala National Forest. It was warm and overcast which made for a very comfortable excursion.

The water in the run is mostly clear with a white sandy bottom in many places. When you first launch, it looks as if you are going to drag the bottom, but we never did. There was thick, heavy tropical-like vegetation on both sides; primarily palmetto and Sabal palms. There is also long leaf and scrub pine, swamp hardwoods and sawgrass.

Around the four mile marker, we stopped for a snack and water break. I had been on the lookout for the small sandbar that Rhonda and I had stopped at for lunch several years back when we canoed the run. Shortly after our break, we came upon the best place on the trip to easily get out of the kayak and stretch your legs, that sand bar I was looking for. Such as often is the case, like when we find a good buy and then discovers a better one a short time later. Along the way, we saw about seven alligators varying from several in one spot a foot long to a big ten or twelve foot one not far from the take out.

It was almost 1:30 when we got back to the campsite. We had called after we loaded the kayaks and the ladies had lunch laid out on the picnic table. We both had contributions, but the main liner was some steaks strips made ready for fajitas. We had a nice supply of tortilla wraps which is a staple when we camp and travel because they keep in their zip lock bag forever.

We all went over to the spring afterward, but Chuck and I were the only ones to go in. The ladies left us soon after we got there and went back to the campsite.

Friday, was a very overcast and chilly day. The temperature never got above 50° Chuck and Christine came over and we spent the morning hiking around the trails and boardwalk in the campground. Rhonda fixed Salmon cakes, Christine made slaw from some of our roadside cabbage and I peeled and boiled potatoes. After lunch, we drove to Silver Springs to check out some possible rental units for another year and went to two not-so-interesting thrift shops.

Saturday was partly sunny and up to about 65°. We met Jimmy and Linda and two cousins at the Blackwater Restaurant in Astor for lunch. Chuck and Christine had left the area to visit a first cousin once removed that lived near Daytona Beach during the winter.

When we return to the campground, I started the generator and watched a couple of ACC basketball games. It was during the games that I got to thinking about the long runs of the generator to watch ballgames. It came to me that I could probably rig another battery with a solar charger and an DC to AC inverter and not have to run the generator so long. I could run it just for charging the main battery and briefly use the microwave. The TV and Dish Network box only used a small amount of wattage.

Sunday was an even nicer day. I fixed and ate a good breakfast, but my day went steadily downhill from there. We were planning to go to church somewhere, but I was starting to have kidney stone pain. I took a pain pill and the back pain subsided, but I was feeling somewhat nauseated. I could not eat anything for lunch and early in the afternoon, I threw up several times. I got Rhonda to drive us up to the Dollar General to get some Pepto Bismal. The first dose didn't stay down, but subsequent ones did. I finally decided that the upset stomach came from me being stupid and rinsed my toothbrush and mouth with water from the faucet. The water from the faucet had come from the freshwater holding tank that had not been completely and thoroughly clean out. Praise the Lord; the next morning I was feeling much better. Almost back to 100 percent.

We met a couple from Isle of Palms near Charleston staying a few campsites away from ours. They had a new A Liner camper along with two bikes and three kayaks. They were planning to kayak Juniper Run and were going to take their vehicle down to the takeout on highway 19 and ride the bikes the eight miles back to the campground. I told them I would be glad to pick them up and bring them back so they could avoid the, sometimes busy and always scary big trucks on highway 19 and highway 40. After we got back, I went down to one of the boardwalk viewing platforms to video them as they came by. I waited, for what I felt was a long time, and started to wonder if they had already gone by, I was sure I got there in plenty of time. Finally, they came into view and I videoed them as they passed. I later put the video on a CD and gave it to them so they could watch later. They planned to meet family in Orlando for a week and then head to the Keys to a state park with one or two of their grandchildren. They must have booked it well in the past. The couple of state parks in the Keys are very hard to get a reservation.

The couple camped across from us were from a small town near Pittsburgh. He was a recently retired professor from Slippery Rock University. They were canoeing several rivers in the area. From talking with them, they were quite the outdoors people. He and Chuck actually knew the same couple in Emlenton, Pennslyvania. Chuck had known the guy from when he lived north of Pittsburgh as a youth. They grew up together in the same neighborhood. The couple run a bed and breakfast in Emlenton right on the Allegheny River. We moved down to Happy Days RV Resort in Zephryhills south of Dade City on US301.

As we traveled south, we contacted Chuck and Christine who had left the Daytona Beach area and were also headed down to another Air B&B rental a few miles out of Zephryhills. We met up in Dade City and had lunch together in a city park and made plans to get together the next day.

There was a small cruise-in event in the parking lot of a small shopping center near the Happy days resort. We stopped there to pick up a few things for supper and breakfast. There were several very nice vintage cars. One that was particularly impressive was a 1997 Thunderbird with a 1950 Ford fiberglass body kit. Also, there was a golf cart on a trailer made to look like the tractor part of an 18 wheeler.

The next morning, our friends from Raleigh came over and we checked out several thrift stores and had lunch at a good seafood restaurant called “Catch of the Day”. It had good reviews and the parking lot was full. The “Catch of the Day” was an open air restaurant and have a great variety in the menu and the food measured up to the reviews. We had seen a barbecue restaurant listed on a search we did with our phones. After founding, the place and going in, we changed our minds. There was an odor that smelled like burnt rubber when we entered. I kept getting a whiff of it as we studied the menu. Somehow that didn't tantalize my taste buds.

After lunch, we went out to a big produce stand and picked up some items to make a stir-fry. A rain shower came through while were there. After we left, we each returned to our temporary abodes to relax and then we went out to where Chuck and Christine were staying to play cards and rummy cube, have supper together and make plans for the next day. It rained off and on while we were there.

The next morning, Friday, we drove back over to our friends place with plans to bike the twenty-nine mile General Van Fleet trail. It began in a place called Mable on highway 50 and went down to Polk City. Chuck had texted me to tell me that a part on his bike rack had broken and that he wasn't sure if he could drive and haul the bikes.

We emptied out the back seats of the truck and put my bike rack on, the event I needed to drive. When we arrived, I was able to fix the bike rack arm with a bungee cord and we were off to the trailhead in Mabel, about an hour's drive.

The rain from the afternoon and evening of the day before must have been a part of a small front. The high for the day was predicted to be 62 degrees, but were starting out around 50°. Chuck and I both had on long pants, a jacket and attire to keep our heads warm. After only five miles, we began to shed the pants and eventually the jacket and warm head gear. The beautiful and serene trail was very flat and straight and marked with mileage on the pavement every half mile. It was in a large natural area; a third of which was the Green Swamp.

We began about 10:30 and finished a little over three hours later. In the last few miles, I started to feel my lack of bicycle conditioning during the last three and a half months. At around, mile 24, my leg muscles just above the knee was getting sore and achy, so I adjusted the seat up. That help aleve the muscle discomfort, but by the time I got to Polk City, both hip joints were hurting significantly. I immediately got a Tylenol from Rhonda and took it. We loaded the bikes and headed to a barbecue restaurant almost within sight.

The restaurant was call Polk City Barbecue. It is a offshoot of the Lakeland Barbecue Company. Their pit master has been in the competitive barbecuing business for a number of years. There was photo and trophies displayed all around. They had a great menu with very reasonable prices.

This statement was on their webpage: Lakeland BBQ Company was born out of the desire to bring competition quality BBQ to your plate each and every day. Pitmaster Joel Vann has been in the restaurant and catering business for the past 13 years. Joel has a passion for freshly prepared food that excites your palate. Joel was former owner/operator of Good Buddies BBQ and Catering and competes in both FBA and KCBS Professional BBQ competitions with competition partner Bobby King. Good Buddies Competition BBQ team finished 4th overall in Florida BBQ in the 2015 season achieving two Grand Champions, 2 Reserve Grand Champions, 3rd Overall in Chicken, 3rd Overall in Pork and 5th Overall in Brisket. We still compete to this day to better our craft and enhance your culinary experience.

I was in agony while I was trying to decide what I wanted. I took another Tylenol before the order came. The discomfort began to ease up by the time I finished eating. It was a great meal and lived up to the billing. I had a hankering for a milkshake and a Jamoca shake from Arby's would be ideal. Fortunately, we checked our phones and found one down off I-4 not that far away. Now things were much better. What a beautiful day. I had just rode a wonderful trail with a great friend and buddy and topped it off with some great food. Life is good, even with some aches and pains.

Chuck and Christine were heading home the next morning, so they need to start getting their things together. We said our good byes and expressed how we always enjoyed our time together whether it is biking, hiking, kayaking, thrift shopping, sightseeing or eating together. He been a great friend for at least forty years.

Saturday morning, Rhonda and I went to Walmart, Hobby Lobby, and Harbor Freight. At Hobby I got a higher quality wood burning set and at Harbor Freight I bought a DC to AC inverter in order to rig the camper so that I could watch TV with battery power instead of the using the generator for the next time we dry camp. We had bought a whole roast chicken at Walmart for $4.99 to have for lunch. That's the best chicken buy around. We had plenty left over for a salad for supper. I watched a couple of ballgames and Rhonda did laundry before supper.

Sunday morning we got up and discovered that the resort was without water (a pump problem, I think). I had planned on washing my hair before church, but with not knowing about the water situation, we had no spare water to use. Fortunately, we had put some water in the freshwater tank and had plenty for flushing. We attended a very nice Sunday school and worship service at the New Hope Baptist Church just a half mile down the road. The leader guided the lesson and there was some good comments and discussion. As usual, much of the class was made up of seasonal people.

After church, we ate lunch, changed clothes and headed out to a park south of town that a bike shop owner down the street had told me about. Rhonda got the GPS to send us right to the parking lot of the park. The 320 acre Flatwoods Wilderness Park and was in the Lower Hillsborough Preserve. The areas around it was created for temporary impoundment of flood waters and the filtering of rainwater going into the river. It includes 13 miles of the Hillsborough River and adjoins the 3,000 acre Hillsborough State Park. The 20 wells on the property are some of the water supply for the City of Tampa. There was seven mile paved loop for walker, joggers, and bikers. With the access road and a side trail to another trail head, I logged over twelve miles.

We stopped for an ice cream cone on the way back to the camper. We spent a short time in the pool upon our return to substitute for our evening shower. No, I did not use soap.

Monday, we drove up to Webster, about an hour away, to one of the largest flea markets in Florida. We only found a few things we wanted to buy. When we left the flea market, we drove over to Leesburg and visited some South Carolina friends who come to Florida every year also. We usually catch up with them each year.

Tuesday, we moved to Travelers Rest RV and Golf Resort just five miles west of Dade City. It is one of, if not, the best resort type camping facilities we’ve ever stayed. It is as Rhonda says, like a summer camp for Senior Citizens. From the moment we drove through the gates, we felt we had really upped our game. It is very well taken care of. Most of the sites are permanent or long term seasonal. It is divided into five areas. The area we are in is called Golf View. It has seven rows of pull through sites with 11 sites per row all with concrete patio pads. There is no shade except for unit awnings. As the name implies we are next to the golf course.There is another RV section called Oakview with 10 spaces and they have no patio pads. You may ask, what is it with patio pads. They come in nice to prevent one from tracking in sand and grass debris. It is also nice if it rains to reduce tracking in and it make a nice level surface for chairs. The other three areas are permanent and long term seasonal and are owned by the residents.

The Resort is resident own in which members buy or leash (a lot). Almost everything is done by the residents. It is a massive volunteer organization.They have a weekly newspaper that looks much like a regular town newspaper. The main thing that impressed us was the amount of activities that you can take part in. The center two pages of the newspaper list the numerous activities, and when and where they take place. Some everyday, some twice a week or more.

I volunteered to work in the beautiful ornamental garden twice a week. ( more often if you want). The group time is from 9:00 to 11:30. There was a thirty foot bamboo fence in an area just above a small slope. It had deteriorated and needed replacing. When I saw that there was some bamboo that had been cut back to give more light to a banana tree, I had the idea to completely remove the old rotting bamboo material and replace it with new bamboo that had been cut. I worked on it during the scheduled work times and other times when I needed to fill my time with something to do.

Saturday we went back to Zephyrhills, to their Heritage Day parade and festival. It was the one hundred and tenth anniversary of the founding of the town. It was a fun event with the many of the usual entries of a parade along with several blocks of craft and merchandise venders. Some of the parade participants threw out candy and Mardi Gras beads. That afternoon, the Golf View section had a social where we brought snack food and met some of our neighbors.

Sunday, after the wonderful worship service filled with a music emphasis, I hooked up with a couple from Sandusky, Ohio for a twenty-two mile bike ride on the Withlacoochee State Trail. We went to the garden club cookout later in the afternoon. Some very good grilled hamburgers and hots dogs with the fixings were provided. We brought a side dish and dessert.

Sunday evening, there was an dollar ice cream social prior to the entertainment. We were still stuffed from the cookout and didn't get ice cream. The entertainer was by a guy billing himself as Johnny Counterfeit. He did impersonations of singers and comedians. He also performed a few very funny parody songs. It goes with out saying, I had a very busy day, as is most.

Monday, I worked in the garden, played bocce, and when to Dade City to get a haircut and get something fresh for supper. It turned out that all but one of the barber shops were closed on Mondays and that one was full until closing There is a great little market in town that caters to the Hispanic population. It is a little different than the standard grocery stores and offers some unique selections

Tuesday, I took a group golf lesson. It lasted two and a half hours; in which I got some great tips and coaching. It has been around forty years since I have played golf.

We went back to town to get the haircut that I wasn't able to get the day before. We had a hankering for pizza. I asked the barber for a recommendation for pizza. There are four or five places that had pizza in town. The place he suggested was ABC Pizza House. It was down the street on US98. They were a chain of 12 restaurants in central Florida. They had a great buffet and salad bar. It even included spaghetti, chicken wings and pizert.

On the way back, we went by a kumquat packing house where they had a gift shop with all kinds of kumquat products. We bought several jars of kumquat marmalade for friends and kin back home. The area around the little community of St. Joseph and San Antonio, Florida produces the largest quantity of kumquats in Florida. After we got back, I played bocce, swam in the pool and watched UNC play Va Tech in the ACC Tournament.

We drove about an hour and a half north to Dunnellon and kayaked down the Rainbow River, which comes out of Rainbow Springs on Wednesday. It was a perfect day for being out on the water. The river is clear so you can see the bottom in some places where there is not aquatic vegetation. We saw one fair size alligator lying on the shore. This is also an area where there is tubing; this sort of made me wonder.

The outfitter wanted customers at the facility 30 minutes ahead of the schedule shuttle in order to check in, and get the watercraft loaded. We rushed to catch the 11 o'clock shuttle. We paid for a shuttle at the outfitter in Dunellon and they took us in a bus with our kayaks on a trailer with other customers up to K.P. Hole county park. The river is 5.7 miles down from the headwaters at the springs. Our put-in at the county park was 1 ¼ miles down stream from Rainbow Springs State Park. It took right at two hours to do the trip. I would have wanted to go up the river a ways to see the 30 deep hole where people scuba dive, but I also wanted to get back to the camper so I could see the Duke – N.C. State game. After we got back, we discovered that the game had been canceled due to the Corona virus pandemic.

We were in the pool and hot tub several times. It is one of the nicest pool and hot tubs in any place we have stayed. It was a great place to cool off and get some different exercise at the same time.

Friday, more fence work before lunch. Rhonda and I had lunch down at the snack shack followed by three games of bocce. For supper,we went back up the road to St. Joseph to the Catholic Church for their lenten fish fry dinner. The plate was full with a big piece of fish, cole slaw, choice of macaroni and cheese or grits, two hush puppies and a beverage. We possibly could have split a plate like we usually do, but we did not know the size of the portion. Yet, we both cleaned our plates.

Things really started to slowing down at the resort with all the precautions due to the virus and the end of the season. We got notice of the entertainment and the St. Patrick's dance being canceled along with church services on Sunday.

Sunday, since there was no church service, we took the bikes out early and rode down a dirt road nearby. (They did do a Facebook or website version with the pastor and some music.) When we got back to the paved Johnson Road, Rhonda went back to the resort and I rode down to the end to where it T-ed with Bellamy Brothers Road (hwy 581). I didn't realize that we were just a few miles from Darby, Florida where the Bellamy Brothers are from. It was pretty flat and about sixty percent in the shade. I ended up with a little more than ten miles.

After lunch, I went down to work on the fence some more and practiced on the Zubo instrument I bought new at the flee market. It is a simple whistle-like device that has a sound much like that of a penny whistle. There are four holes on the top and it about three inches in diameter. It is shaped like a rounded off square. Notes are played by covering or uncovering a combination of the holes.

Later in the afternoon, I heard music being played by a small jam session from the next row and about five sites down. I strolled down there with my camp chair and asked if I could sit and listen. The fiddle player was very good.

Monday afternoon was still warm and there was a good amount of cloud cover. The golf course appeared to be getting less busy, I decided to go down and play a round or two. The golf shack was closed and operating in a self service mode. I signed in, filled out an envelope, put in twelve dollars, and got a score card. I waited for a foursome to get to the green before taking my first shot on a course in over 35 years. Over the nine holes there were certainly a number of shots where I just took out another ball and tried for another a better result.

I had seen a sign posted at the starter shack that said “Golf is a game where there is an endless series of tragedies obscured by an occasional miracle.” That pretty much describe my endeavor. I think I surpassed par somewhere around the fifth or sixth hole. The little USGA certified course had some really nice holes and the course was well cared for except for two greens with a bald spot. The members did some volunteer work on Tuesday mornings. The bigger jobs were done by the resort's paid maintenance crew.

It was five o'clock when I got back to the starter shack after the first nine. I decided that I wanted play another nine to get more for my money. I sent Rhonda an email from my phone that I would be late for supper rather than take the time to walk back to the camper. A couple came up about the time I was about to walk up to the tee. I told them to go head, I didn't want to hold them up. They suggested I join them, but I declined.

After they got down the fairway, I saw the the lady didn't appear to be much better than I was. A single lady in a golf cart came up after I hit the tee shot. By the third hole, we all decided to play as a foursome. The couple was from Nova Scotia, the single lady was from Prince Edward Island, Canada. They knew each other and they were very friendly and cordial to me. I made more good shots on the second time time around, but still far from anything near par.

There was another sign in the starter shack that said “ A drive off to the left is a hook, one off to the right is a slice and one straight down the middle is a miracle.

As I mentioned earlier, Tuesday morning was the time that volunteers did work on the course and the cart path was open to walkers and bikers. Rhonda and I decided to take a ride, basically around the perimeter of the course. There were a number of folks walking and we were the only ones biking. I had reset the bike computer and determined that it was about a mile and three tenths around.

I worked with the garden group afterward and finished the reconstruction of the bamboo fence. I put in almost twelve hours of work in taking down the old one, hauling off the debris, cutting the downed bamboo to the needed lengths and rebuilding it. It got a lot of positive comments.

After bocce on Wednesday, we drove to town to fill the truck with gas, eat lunch, and get some coffee beans from Publix. Rhonda had bought a seed and nut grinder and I was interested to find out if fresh grounds beans made a difference in the taste of the coffee. We ate lunch at an Asian fast food restaurant next to Publix and got gas for two dollars a gallon.

When we returned, I decided to give golf another try since it was reasonably priced and very convenient. It was around 87°. The course is less crowed in the middle of the afternoon when it is hot.I played the first nine holes by myself. Before starting the second nine, I went back to the camper and told Rhonda I was starting another nine and guzzled down a bottle of Gatorade.

When I returned to the starter shack, there were more players showing up. I was invited to join three others to make a foursome. I started out fairly good on the first hole, bad on the second hole and birdied the third hole (a short par three). I had a pretty good fifth hole, but the rest were disasters. I think I was getting tired and trying too hard. I decided I definitely needed to spend some time at a driving range. After supper we went to the hot tub to help the tired muscles with the warm water message on my back and legs and then in the pool to cool off.

Thursday, we finished putting things away and hooking up. We headed out of the resort and up to I-75 for a lunch date in Ocala with Jimmy and Linda. The restaurant was Darrell's and was in a shopping center just a few blocks off the interstate. We had great sandwiches and they spaced us a table apart.

We had a reservations in the national forest campgrounds at Salt Springs. I wanted one last swim and snorkel in another one of Florida's wonderful clear springs. When we arrived, we discovered that the restrooms and showers were closed because they did not have enough gloves and cleaning supplies to keep them sanitized. We set some water containers in the sun so we could sponge off before bedtime. We have a shower in our camper, but have never used it. We use the area for storage.

After setting up and reading a bit, we headed for the springs. It was busy with people of all ages. I put on my mask and fins and took the cool 72 degree plunge. As usual the water was invigorating. It felt great after a minute or so. The air temperature was up around 86 degrees.

Friday morning we, again, headed north and stopped at Winn-Dixie in Palatka to get some basic things so we would not need to go to town right away when we got back. My friend, Brian warned us that some grocery items were in short supply in Wytheville.

Just after we crossed the Georgia line, the driver side tire on the camper blew out. I was in the center lane and traffic behind me wasn't patient and kind in letting me get over to the shoulder. Several even passed me in the breakdown lane as I got to the right lane and blowing the horn. It was kind of harrowing changing the tire with 65 to 70 mile per hour traffic going by. Afterward, we stopped at a truck stop/ gas station to have lunch in the camper.

It was a relief to get to Collecton State park north of Walterboro on the Edisto River. The traffic had been slowed a deal of the way up through South Carolina. It was nice to know that we could relax and have the use of the very nice restroom and get a good shower.

Rhonda had bought some very good North Carolina style barbecue at Winn-Dixie, I made slaw and we had blackeyed peas along with it. It was a great supper at the picnic table out under the awning. A breeze was stirring as it cooled down some from the very warm day. We were surprised that moving north 250 miles north, it was still the same temperature as central Florida.

We had a two day reservation at the park. This was required for a weekend. But we also wanted to plan it this way for two reasons: first, we wanted to kayak on the Edisto River and the other was that we wanted to time our drive through Charlotte to be on Sunday. We have found it to be the best time as far as the volume of traffic.

As soon as we arrived in the park, we started trying to find a way to get a shuttle for the kayaks, so we could do a two or three hour paddle. Rhonda ran into a lady named Terri, who was looking to do the same. She was a very experienced paddler and had done the nine mile section from the park down to the take out at Stokes Bridge road. What a stroke of luck. (get the pun). The next morning, we were ready after she returned from leaving her truck at the take out location. It was a beautiful morning. We launched our boats right at 9 am. The river was running nicely at 8 feet, which is flood stage. The steady paddling and current allowed us to finish in two hours and a quarter. The water was well up in the trees in many places. There were some vacation homes, residences and shanties here and there on the right side, but very little on the left (north side).

After lunch, I called several tire shops in Summerville near Charleston twenty-five miles away and found one that had a tire close to what we needed. It was a little narrower than want was supposed to be used and the load range was about 100 lbs lower than the minimum. It would do as a spare. We did not want to take a chance to make the four or five hour trip without a spare. Another flat would leave us beside the interstate with not much of a way to get a tire, especially the right tire on Sunday.On the return trip to the park, we stopped for ice and filled up with gas for $1.77.

In the mid-west last fall were were paying $2.65. We spent the rest of the afternoon being lazy around the park. The park has only twenty-five spaces, so it is generally very peaceful. The staff is always friendly and helpful and the restroom/showers are A-1.

Sunday morning was overcast. I got up, and we were on our way by eight after completing the routine chores associated with breaking camp. We stopped at McDonald's at the next exit up the interstate to get take-out only breakfast sandwiches and a coffee.

We arrived home after stopping for the take out lunch at McDonald's (I am not normally that big a fan of McDonald's except for breakfast). The Love's truck stop just across the Virginia line was an easy in and out. The gas was $1.59, the cheapest I had seen anywhere. We then began the task of unloading the truck and camper, which we spread out over two days.

It was another fabulous trip. With great weather, good time with family and friends, and lots of fun things to do. We traveled 2,765 miles from the time we left until we returned. We are blessed.

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