Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hunting Island SC to Durham NC

We put on old clothes and took down a very wet tent and packed up all our gear. Then we changed into clean clothes for our trip. It was not as hard as we had thought but everything was wet to be sure. We stopped at a McDonalds on Lady’s Island for breakfast and made our way over to I 95 for an uneventful trip north. We watched spring lessen as we headed north – we stopped at South of the Border to see what this place had become. We had planned to eat lunch here and did; but it was very poor quality. Then we crossed into North Carolina and stopped to buy some Rockport shoes at an outlet mall in Smithfield. We were at Jeff, Robin and Daniel’s about 3:30 and enjoyed a great visit with all. Daniel has become quite the conversationalist since we last saw him at Christmas. We had a great dinner and good nights’ sleep.

Hunting Island March 16

Our breakfast was the last package of pancake mix – Jane made a wonderful discovery- it could be mixed in one of the red plastic cups avoiding anything to wash-up. The only part of camping that Jane dislikes is washing dishes. Well Lysol wipes with on side scratchy and one side antiseptic along with paper towels and some excellent Pam have made it easy this trip but using disposable items when possible makes it even better. Since we always have a location to throw away trash it has not been a problem. Most campgrounds have recycle bins for plastic bottles. We have used tea and water in plastic bottles and always keep a quart of Gatorade mixed up in the refrigerator.

Today we walked for a long way on the beach – it was cloudy with limited visibility but walking on the beach was very pleasant. Then we drove to the north end of the island to the fishing pier that was probably 100 yards long or more. We watched birds diving for food and tried to get some photos. Ben remembers fishing on this end of the island when we were here before. Then we drove out to the lighthouse and had lunch (the last of our fish from the platter in St. Mary’s) along with cheese crackers, fruit, and chips. Having the microwave to heat up the fish was great! We surely made good use of that seafood platter for 2! The only thing we did not eat was 2 deviled crabs. We started out eating lunch at a picnic table right on the beach at the lighthouse but about halfway through lunch it began to rain a little so we moved to a shelter. The rain did not last long and we got some photos. You could climb this lighthouse but we neither one felt the urge to do so.

Ben collected palm frond sticks for himself and Daniel. He says they are the best sticks around. Then we drove out to the fishing area on the ocean side of the island and to see the beach cottages that are for rent. They are on a very isolated section of the island and looked very nice with screened porches. There are also some private cottages in that area. Some of them had been nearly washed away in a fairly recent storm.

All the camp stores, gift shops etc. are closed today for taking inventory so Jane will have to wait until tomorrow morning to buy a patch for her hat. This is a very nice park and will certainly be worth another visit when it is a little warmer. It was very pleasant yesterday and perfect temperature last night. Today however, the wind has really picked up and it is chilly. We have the flaps all down on the tent and are enjoying a pleasant couple hours reading, working on the computer, and Ben has found we get 3 TV channels! With the flaps down the wind is cut and it is very pleasant. Ben is working hard on getting all the edges of the palm fronds smooth so his and Daniel’s sticks are perfect.

Well the rain came and continued all afternoon and most of the night. We were very glad we had the tent up as it provided a dry place to fix and eat dinner as well as read for a while. Jane made it over to the bath house in the rain and had a good shower – there was lots of hot water and it felt good to get warm! The only down side to the shower was she forgot her towel! Well a knit shirt filled in just fine. A good reminder of being sure you have everything you need with you on shower trips!
The rain on the roof was peaceful through the night.

St. Mary's GA to Hunting Island SC

We ate continental breakfast at the Sleep Inn and were on our way to the Cumberland Island Visitor Center. We looked at the exhibits, took a photo or two, and got the passport stamp. Ben got one on a slip of paper when he and Steve were here but now we have it in the passport book. It has been at least 30 years since Jane was here and nothing seems the same. She remembers a sleepy little town and now it is bustling even on a Sunday morning. Ben of course has been here numerous times with scouts and his hiking friends. We found our way back to I 95 and headed to St. Simons Island for our visit to Fort Frederica. Jane had visited this island numerous times for Red Cross meetings at Sea Palms. She had even gotten the passport stamp at Fort Frederica but did not visit the fort because no one else wanted to pay the fee and no one had Golden Eagle Passes at that time. The stamp was in our original passport book anyway – which was lost in the rental car in Arizona some years ago – the only good thing about that loss is it encourages us to repeat visits to places we had been. St. Simons is a beautiful island and even more so now with the azaleas blooming. We watched the movie at Fort Frederica – it was a British fort in the 1730’s. It was built to protect the colony sent from England and the colony of GA from the Spanish who were in St. Augustine area where we were yesterday. There were only 1 or 2 battles and the British won. But when the troops were withdrawn the colony just disappeared when the people left for other areas. It has been preserved very nicely – not many structures left but all the foundations of buildings are still there and identified. It was a very pretty area and well worth our visit. We then drove down the island to the lighthouse for Jane to take a photo. We ate some snacks and decided to go on to Tybee Island for lunch. We got back on I 95 and headed north to visit Tybee Island and Fort Pulaski. A huge traffic jam kept us at a snail pace for miles somewhere along the way - we think it was a wreck. We just got to listen to more of The Hostages. The main problem with Fort Pulaski is the only way to reach it is to go through the middle of downtown Savannah. Sunday afternoon might have been better than other times except everyone was having St. Patrick Day parties. Green flags flying, green clothes, lots of people drinking beer, and even people with green hair were to be seen. The GPS did a great job, we made it with little trouble arriving at Fort Pulaski about 3:00 to eat lunch in the picnic area. We had great fish sandwiches made from most of the fish leftover from our platter last night. This fort was part of 30 forts built along the east coast of the US in the second half of the 18th century. They were all similar and Fort Pulaski was very similar to Fort Jefferson on Dry Tortugas. There was a moat, mounds for magazines, etc. It was however much smaller than Fort Jefferson. Visiting the other forts will have to be left for another trip. Jane got some photos and we walked around some but did not stay too long as we knew we had to get back through Savannah and on north to a campground for the night. The trip back through Savannah was OK but we were a little concerned when the GPS took us across the river and into South Carolina without going back to I 95 the way we had come. Ben has “Home” in as our final destination so it choose the shortest way to home – luck was with us that it was headed in the right direction – we selected Hunting Island as our next camping location after Jane called and they had lots of sites available and did not close until 9 PM. We followed a back road towards Hilton Head and Beaufort before turning towards the beach and Hunting Island. We had camped here before but Ben remembers little and Jane remembers less. We arrived about 6 PM and easily got a campsite very near the water. There are surprisingly many campers here in this 200 site campground. The campsites are fairly far apart under high pine trees. The ground is covered with pine needles on the sand which makes it much nicer than sand for camping. We immediately said – let’s just stay two nights! So back to the camp store we went, got a site for 2 nights and set up our tent and settled in. It is cloudy and was very dark since the moon is not giving any light. There is a wide beach to explore tomorrow, a lighthouse, and boardwalk nature trail so we will have plenty to do tomorrow. We called Jeff to say we would be there to visit Tuesday night, cooked supper of beef stew and cornbread and went to bed about 10PM. The cornbread was great cooked from cornbread mix – using slightly less milk than called for and cooking like pancakes in the skillet. I guess instead of cornbread we had corn cakes.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jupiter FL to St,. Mary's GA

We packed up and were on the road before 9 AM. We drove into Jupiter FL to find the lighthouse which we found but they did not open until 10 so we just took photos, bought some gas and were on our way north. Ben was thrilled with the mileage on the Sprinter was the best ever 25.6. We are really involved in W.E.B. Griffin’s The Hostage and are about half way through 15 CD’s.

When we reached the Space Coast we headed for the Kennedy Space Center – the internet site spoke about all the pricey tours; but Jane had a tour book that said you could visit the space center visitor center and park at no cost – so we thought why not! Well the book was wrong but they told us where we could go to visit a gift store to find some surprises for Daniel. We retraced our steps back to the Astronaut Hall of Fame and found way more than we could possibly buy for Daniel. It can be a surprise but it is not the $50 astronaut jump suit! It would be outgrown in 3 months! After our shopping we headed across to the Canaveral National Seashore and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Luckily the Wildlife Refuge was open until 6PM today but the Seashore was closed. Tomorrow there is a space launch; and since these two facilities are in close proximity to the launch area they close to prevent any exposure to accidents if one might happen. We had a nice lunch at the Refuge Visitor Center – surprisingly they had the stamp for both themselves AND the Seashore so we got the stamp even if they were closed – well we were really here – they were just closed! We also took a nice hike around some lakes and forest but did not see too much wildlife since it was 1 PM.

Today we had the worst weather of our trip – other than the snow on the day we left! It rained during the night and several times today. In the Saint Augustine and Jacksonville area it was very foggy. Not cold but just cloudy and damp.

We then continued north with Jane driving for the first time this trip – Ben needed a rest for his back since he had worn the wrong shoes today – too much walking in his moccasins. Our next stop was Fort Matanzas National Monument just south of St. Augustine. We found it but the last ferry of the day was leaving just as we arrived. We did not realize the visitor center is on one side of the river and people have to be ferried across to the actual fort – their large ferry was getting inspected by the coast guard today so small boats were trying to handle the people and failed. We listened to some historical information from a period dressed Spanish Soldier. They were going to have a ceremony in St. Augustine tonight with a large number of the dressed soldiers marching and performing. We drove up the island a way to see if we could get a site at Anastasia State Park but alas they were full up.

We did not find another private campground so decided to head on up to St. Mary’s GA (about 50 miles) to camp or get a motel and eat at one of Ben’s favorite seafood places in St. Mary’s. The drive to Jacksonville from St. Augustine on A1A was interesting – very narrow strip of land. As we neared Jacksonville the homes became larger and larger. We were driving through one of the most exclusive areas of Jacksonville.

It was 6:30 when we arrived at St. Mary’s – it would be dark in 30 minutes so we checked into a Sleep Inn and Ben discovered from the receptionist at the Sleep Inn that his favorite restaurant had closed! She recommended St. John’s Seafood as a good substitute. It was outstanding - best scallops and clams either of us had ever eaten. The shrimp, fish, hush puppies and oysters were good too. We even have fish leftover we put in the fridge in the Sprinter for sandwiches tomorrow!
Tomorrow we continue north and will visit Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons and then Fort Pulaski National Monument on Tybee Island. Then we will head into South Carolina and see how far we get. We have not been to Fort Sumter National Monument even though we lived in Charleston so we may try to go there.

It was 59 degrees when we stopped in St. Mary’s – time to get out the long pants!

Key West to Jupiter FL

We left Leo’s Campground on Stock Island – immediately north of Key West and made two stops as we drove north. First stop was at a bookstore in Marathon to see if they had the Nevada Barr book written about an assignment at Fort Jefferson but they did not have it; neither had the bookstore in Key West. At least the book store worker in Marathon knew what I was talking about! Ben wanted to stop at a dive shop to see about a new mask – something broke on his yesterday. He found the whole set of things for under $100 which was a bargain compared to some prices in the store.
We stopped at the Fish House in Key Largo and had fish sandwiches and key lime pie. Since we had been doing most of our own cooking this trip – we had not had any yet – and these were good. Then it was on to Miami for Ben to stop in at one of the inspection companies he works for, and thanks to the GPS we drove right to the location. Jane thought she would get to read several chapters in her book – but Ben was back quickly having said hello to everyone he works with on his inspections.
Then we headed north up I95 with a target of somewhere in Palm Beach/Jupiter area. Jane studied the Florida Camping Book and came up with West Jupiter Campground and called them – they had a spot so here we are in a full-fledged “snow bird” campground. It is really very nice – there is a small lake and we are camped beside it. Mallard Drakes make the lake their home and are very tame coming right up to our table and chairs. The campground has a quite extensive program – pizza dinners, bingo, aerobics classes – not sure what else – but tonight was a concert by a Rod Stewart look-alike with free beer.
We ate dinner, tried to call Jeff, Daniel, and Robin on Scype – that failed so we just talked on the phone. We cleaned up around camp, did some catching up on email etc and went over to the concert about 7:45. Probably 50 people at this party – well it is 10:30 and can hear it just as well here in the Sprinter as we did in the room. The act was one guy who indeed did look like Rod Stewart and two other guys. Their music was not too bad but the jokes were awful. Since neither of us know what Rod Stewart sings we are not sure if this guy sounds like him or not.
Tomorrow we head on north;hoping for stops at the Kennedy Space Center and a few other places.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Dry Tortugas

We did not sleep well – maybe afraid we would not wake up on time. We needed to be at the ferry terminal at 7:30. A rooster crowed most of the time from 4:00 on! We got up about 6:30 and made it to the parking and to the terminal on time. The boat is a large catamaran which would hold up to 250 persons they said – today there were probably 150. The trip over was fairly smooth – some small2-4 foot waves at times. Jane had remembered to put on a scopolamine patch yesterday so had no problems. They served us a great continental breakfast and we were underway at 8:00 AM as scheduled. We reached the Dry Tortugas at 10:30. It is a little more than 70 miles from Key West. We passed a number of smaller islands before we hit the open water. They are all in a protected part of the sea.
The island where Fort Jefferson is located is almost entirely the fort. A 6 sided fort with a moat all the way around. Some of it is being restored. It has been used since 1861. Civil War prisoners were kept there including Dr. Mudd who was a part of Lincoln’s assassination plot. We debarked, walked and toured around the fort – went on all three levels and inside. We then returned to the boat for a lunch of deli meats and salads. After the lunch we walked around part of the moat and ended up at the swimming area where Ben was going to snorkel. He had taken his own mask and snorkel but got a set of flippers and a BC – buoyancy compensator – learn something new everyday! He snorkeled around for about an hour saying it was fun but not too much to see. He saw a barracuda, some urchins, coral, and fish. Then we visited the gift store and returned to the boat about 10 minutes early. The most impressive things to me were the beautiful color of the water and how large the fort was. Strange to believe this fort was a Union stronghold during the civil war. Not too sure why so I am going to have to read up on that!
The trip back was a little rougher but pleasant. We got to our campground about 6PM and had good leftovers for supper. We are both tired. The sun was very hot today and although we had 30+ sunscreen and drank lots of fluids- we are still tired.
We plan a short visit back to check internet at the camp office and then maybe read and plan where we will go tomorrow. This is the end of our previously planned adventure so we have to plan a little!

Long Key to Key West

Jane was up and got a couple early morning photos and enjoyed coffee while all was quiet and peaceful. Of course this location at Long Key has been peaceful almost all the time. We took down all the gear, the tent, and packed stuff for travel. Then we sat in the sun for a little while more before we left. A couple camping a few sites down came over to say they were moving in #16 when we left. They left a few things by the picnic table and went off to run errands. We left about 11:00 and began our drive south. The weather was beautiful. We turned our CD book on again and drove to Pine Key where we stopped at a Winn-Dixie for a few items we needed. We also bought some chicken peg legs to have for lunch. We tried to find the deer refuge but finally decided it was the entire island. There is a very small deer that is endangered that is protected on this island.
We then continued on to Key West where we found Leo’s Campground without too much trouble. We had a nice lunch on the boardwalk that runs behind their tent sites. There was a group of ‘spring break” guys camping here previous to our arrival – they had left a lot of trash so we picked it up and settled in for the two days. We will not put up the tent since we go on the tour to Dry Tortugas – leaving at 8AM and returning at 5:30 so we will not be here much. We both spent a while on the internet since we had not had access for several days. Then we drove into Key West to scout out locations to park. There are several parking garages but the Sprinter is too high for most of them. We found a lot a couple blocks from where the ferry leaves so we are all set.
Tonight was the night Jane cooked the outstanding meal – we had lightly breaded bonnethead shark that Ben had caught. We then had shrimp/spinach enchiladas that Jane had found on a camping webpage. She also made some excellent salsa with avocado and tomato bought from the roadside stand earlier this week. It turned out really well and since we had not really planned on the shark we had too much so there are leftovers for tomorrow. Ben has been warned not to expect this level of cooking on a regular basis.
After dinner Ben began experimenting with his TV/computer device again – he found lots of stations and we watched an episode of American Idol as clear as on real TV.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Long Key Day 3

We had a cooked breakfast this morning – biscuits and sausage gravy. Jane baked biscuits in the electric skillet and the sausage gravy came in a can but it was pretty good for a beach breakfast! After breakfast we left on an excursion – we had 4 goals – explore the rest of the park; find a Laundromat and wash clothes; find some shrimp or fish to cook for supper; and find a Wi-Fi location. Well 3 out of 4 was not too bad because we did not find the Wi-Fi. We had to drive back to Islamorada to find the Laundromat and we found shrimp and stone crab claws – that will make a great supper. There is not really much to this park besides the campground, one hiking trail, a canoe trail and a short board walk. We explored all but the canoe trail in a short time. We ate lunch, sat in the sun a little while; Jane read and collected some more shells. Ben explored out in the water with his mask and snorkel reporting fish, coral and more sponges. We took a while cooking supper. Jane had bought a bottle of shrimp scampi sauce and it was easy to prepare with some brown rice and tasted great. The Stone Crab was good with some melted butter. Cleaning up and packing the cooking gear took a few minutes longer than usual since we leave here tomorrow morning.

Ben had been watching the guy next to us fish and fish – he would catch the bait with a throw net and then fish and fish. Ben had brought all his Dad’s salt water fishing gear which I doubt had been in the water in 25 years if not longer. Ben spent some hours working on it all getting it ready to fish and we agreed he could have 1 maybe 2 of my pound of shrimp to use as bait – no more! He was not happy that I had shelled and cleaned up the entire pound (half of which we will eat tomorrow night) but it was all he had for bait! So I watched him walk way out in the surf to cast and then come back in to camp to sit in his chair and wait. Well I had been in the Sprinter maybe 5 minutes putting the cooking gear away when I heard the commotion – out I came with my trusty camera to see him land a bonnethead shark about 2 feet long! What excitement – the guy next door helped him filet it – half for them and half for us. We have it soaking and will eat it tomorrow I guess. Ben was very proud of himself as the photo will show and says this now cinches the deal – he has to come back each March. I have more photos but this one shows the shark best.

A little computer work and reading as well as packing up everything will fill the rest of the evening. We have made reservations for the boat to Dry Tortugas on Thursday and at the same campground where we stayed last year for Wednesday and Thursday nights. Friday we will head back up the coast to somewhere north of Miami – or see how far we get – maybe we will have a surprise and one of the parks will have an opening Friday night – that would be a miracle – everyone has been full every-night.

Long Key Day 2

Long Key State Park, Long Key FL
Jane was up about 8:30 to catch up on the log but Ben slept until well after 9:00. We loafed around camp this morning reading and walking up and down the beach. Jane collected lots of small pieces of what looked like white coral. Ben thinks it is a type of grass that is growing out in the water and becomes covered with salt or something from the water. It is hard and if we can drill small holes in them it will make a pretty unusual necklace. We read books, ate lunch, and walked on the beach some more. We did not move the Sprinter today. Ben took his snorkel and mask and went probably 200 yards out into the water and saw fish, a lobster, and huge sponges. The guy next to us is a big fisherman and finally now that it is 9 PM at night is catching a fish. It was a beautiful lazy day. The accomplishments are entry of probably 30 recipes in Master Cook; gathering the “coral”; cooking a fairly decent dinner – my success was baking, frying egg rolls in the electric skillet; cleaning up the Sprinter; and finishing my Nevada Barr mystery- set on Isle Royale (about as far from here as you could be and be in USA). Ben’s accomplishments were reading, transferring his life history of birds from his old to new bird book and his venture out into the ocean. Most of all we just did nothing and went nowhere. It was interesting to watch the ships at sea. We saw several what we assumed were cruise ships and at least one freighter. Tomorrow we will explore this park and find a place with internet if possible. I plan to buy some shrimp and make scampi.
Well the guy caught a shark that was probably 4 feet long. I did see him but Ben said he let it go. There is a full moon over the ocean and it is beautiful. Now I will download the photos and off to bed to read.

Collier Seminole to Long Key

Collier Seminole State Park, Naples FL to Long Key State Park, Long Key FL

We had an early departure at 8:30 to hopefully have a quick trip to Long Key. The distance was about 190 miles. We were traveling for the first part of the trip on the Tamiami Trail which we heard about last night. The ranger talked using old photographs he had collected from the days when the trail was built (20’s primarily) Reminded us of the stories told on building the Alcan Highway during WW II only the problems were quite different.

Yesterday was the first day I have not done the journal in the evening so I am playing “catch-up” on Monday morning sitting in our shade room looking out over the quietly lapping waves on Long Key. We are about 25 -30 feet from the surf. There are two small mangrove trees maybe 30 feet out in the sea, a small sail boat anchored off to the right, several pelicans playing around and the sun peeking up behind one of the mangrove trees. These mangrove trees will be out of the water when the tide goes out. It is 8:30 AM and the tide is high now. It is very peaceful as people are just beginning to stir in the campsites around us. This campground is long with 60 sites all along the beachfront. We have water and electricity at the site and a nice bath-house about 3 campsites down on the road side of the campground.

Now that the scene is set I continue to report on yesterday. We observed the water much higher in the canal that borders the road than it was on our trip along this road last January. There are alligators and many birds along the way. One new bird we have seen this year is the wood stork and there have been hundreds. As we came close to Miami we took a road directly south to Homestead totally missing the sprawl of the city. There were numerous nurseries and farms along this road. We stopped and purchased a few fresh fruits and veggies at one of the many road side stands. We did need to find a Wal-Mart or Target though since our mattress has sprung a leak. Ben thought he had fixed it but each night along the way it has required attention – the last one we had to add air twice during the night….not good. So as we entered Wal-Mart into the GPS as we entered Homestead and Florida City. We visited what we will dub as the “busiest Wal-Mart in the World” .We found a mattress, the few groceries we wanted and then got in line to pay. There were only 3 lanes not open on a Sunday at 11 AM – we were in line for a good 30 minutes and none of the other lanes were any faster. Two people in our line must have been buying a month’s groceries their carts were so full. One woman bought a 25 pound bag of tortilla flour! It was an interesting hour in that store.

The trip down US1 was about as expected, sunshine, turquoise water, motels, resorts, restaurants, and tourist stops that line the highway. We did notice a lot of “For Sale” signs on properties. We reached Long Key State Park about 1:30 and found our campsite #16 and ate lunch looking out over the beautiful ocean. After lunch we put up our screen room tent. The wind was strong Ben says 15 mph, but we had never put it up in any wind before…it took us a while but it got up and is really a great asset to our camp. We walked on the beach, watched people para-board, and did a good job of playing beach bum-did nothing for the afternoon. About 4 on a trip to the bathroom Jane noticed a sign that said don’t forget to change your clocks for daylight savings time! We had lost an hour!

Last year as we drove down this way Ben saw a Seafood Buffet that he vowed to eat at the next time we were here. So we traveled back about 15 miles to eat one of the most extensive seafood buffets ever. They touted 80 items and I guess that was true although I did not eat all 80! Ben had raw oysters and mussels which Jane skipped. We both worked our way through a huge pile of crab legs. Jane had peel and eat shrimp. Then we had grouper in some type lemon sauce, fried shrimp, another type fish in a mango sauce, several seafood salads, paella and the best seafood chowder I have ever eaten. They also had a stir fry section where you picked out the veggies and seafood and they prepared it with pasta for you. We skipped that. Then they had lots of desserts – we had key lime pie, a lemon-berry bar, and flan. Nothing was bad – everything was good. The place was huge and we saw them carry huge pans of crab legs out at least 3 times while we were there. The Restaurant – Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet - at Mile Post 83.5 was packed for most of the hour we were there. Great choice but – only once a year!

We drove back to camp, figured out how to unlock the gate, and hassled with changing out the new bed. It was fine but not as easy to pump us as our other one. Of course the other one was $150 and this one was $35 – I guess you get what you pay for. I expected the other one to last a lot longer than 2 years so I will hunt out all the papers when we get back home!

Myakka to Collier Seminole

We packed up camp easily after our travel day breakfast of bagels and cream cheese. The tent came down and packed up quickly, neither of us could recall how to do it or how long it took…..but it was simple. The internet was working at the camp store so we spent about an hour downloading mail and posting as needed. The world had been going just fine without us! We were on the road by about 10:30. We got on I 75 and headed south – taking back up where we were 3 days ago on our CD book. Down the road about 50 miles there was a terrible traffic back-up. Several miles over the long bridges in Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte the traffic was backed up 3 lanes deep. When we finally got to the end to find out what was wrong. It appeared a huge metal bridge section had fallen off of a train car right beside the interstate. There were 4 or 5 cranes in one lane of the interstate trying to recover the bridge section. A few miles further down the road we saw one of the huge metal bridge sections installed. I guess their construction schedule is a bit behind!
We ate lunch and stopped for gas and watched the scenery go by. There was nothing very interesting since we did not go over to the coast. When we got to Venice we turned east on the Tamiami Trail (Route 41) which will take us across the state to Miami and Homestead where we turn south to the Keys. As we approached the camp we were behind a large camper. A large hose began falling out the back, the further we drove the more hose that came out. Ben flashed his lights and honked the horn but the guy never caught on. By the time we were at the Campground it was in shreds – I guess he was on his way back to a wal-mart or such to find a replacement!
The campground is full so it was good we got the reservation. We have the campground hosts on one side of us. They are from Indiana and are here from November to April. They mostly keep the bathrooms clean, sell wood, and pick up around the camp. They work 4 days a week. They have a huge bus size motor home. On the other side of us is a Webelos Den of Cub Scouts. They are having a great time but is sure is not quiet. We had read, I entered some recipes in my new Master Cook program, and had dinner. At 7:30 we will go over to hear a ranger talk on building the Tamiami Canal and Road. Ben bought a new “Bird Book – Peterson’s of course and is transferring all his notes from his old one to it. The old one is falling apart – probably 50+ years old and well used. He is complaining because some of the names of the birds have changed! Tomorrow morning we leave fairly early so we can get lots of time on the ocean at Long Key.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ringling Museum

We had a great breakfast – pancakes and fried spam – hickory smoked no less – left over from our dinner of spam, sweet potatoes, and pineapple in a brown sugar/butter sauce. It is one of our favorite camping-from-a- can recipes. After a relaxed breakfast and cleaning up around camp we headed out to the Mable and John Ringling Museum in Sarasota.

It was about 15 miles to the complex that includes a circus museum, a miniature circus display, an art museum and Ca’d’Zan, the winter home of the Ringlings. Senior entry was $17 but it was well worth the expenditure. We arrived about 10:15 and spent at least an hour in the miniature building. A man by name of Howard Tibbals (from Oneida TN no less) spent 50 years competing this exhibit that contains 8 tents, 152 wagons, over 1,300 performers and workers, 800+ animals and a 59 car train encompasses over 3,800 square feet. It was fascinating and Ben says the buildings were from Knoxville. We both thoroughly enjoyed it. Then we saw a movie about the Ringlings in a reconstructed theater from 15th century Cyprus. It was saved from decay by the first curator of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota. After the movie we toured the circus museum which contained costumes, circus wagons and numerous exhibits. Then thoroughly tired of walking we retreated to the Sprinter for a good picnic lunch before continuing the rest of the venture. The various venues were spaced fairly distant from each other so we took their tram service down through the grounds to Ca’d’Zan (I believe it means House of John) and were transported to the opulence of the late 20’s and 30’s. It is a Venetian Gothic palace constructed on Sarasota Bay. It was indeed grand with numerous treasures the Ringlings had purchased in Europe and New York. After the tour we spent a few minutes resting on the terrace overlooking Sarasota Bay. It was indeed beautiful and we were for the first time HOT! We then hopped on the tram and headed for the last stop – the Museum of Art. John and Mable Ringling had purchased a large number of paintings and before his death he built this museum to hold his collection. Since we could not be considered well informed regarding art we cannot give a factual dialogue regarding the collection. We each liked some; and some we did not. It was certainly impressive and took us more than an hour to view the numerous galleries. The terrace was beautiful and was being staged for a wedding tomorrow.

We left the complex about 3:30 and found our way back to a Super Target we had seen this morning. We bought a few items and now Jane is cooking Macaroni Grill – Basil Chicken for dinner. Ben is exploring the “Prairie across the road from the campground and reports it is a thicket of woven grass (dead right now) with paths through it made by the feral hogs. Once he found the hog paths the hiking was made much easier. Luckily he did not meet up with any of the hogs.Our dinner was good and we have enough for tomorrow night as well! Another beautiful sunset and we will download photos, finish the log and read. Tomorrow morning we will post to the internet hopefully, take down camp and leave. This has been a very nice park. There were several empty campsites when we left this morning but they are all full again this afternoon as people arrive for the weekend. This is a very busy campground. Each day there have been several tour busses that passed by on their way to the airboat and tram tours.

Exploring Myakka

We woke up to much warmer temperatures. No heater needed tonight – it was chilly but a long sleeve shirt was all that was needed for the walk to the bath house. After a leisurely morning of coffee, bagels and cream cheese we walked down to the camp store area to try out the internet only to find out it was not working. We came back to camp read a while and then took off to the canopy trail where some scientists have built a canopy walk for studying the tree top life. It is about 2 miles from the campground. We hiked the ¼ mile to the site and climbed up to the 25 foot high walkway. It was well built and only swayed a little. Ben was right at home and enjoying the close up views of all the bromeliads. Jane made it across the 100 ft. swaying walkway tentatively but pleased she could enjoy it – even if for a much shorter time than Ben. There was a tower available to climb another 75 feet up but Jane passed that by and just took some photos from the ground.

We came back to camp, fixed lunch, read a while and then took off the other way in the park for about 3 miles to a bird walk area. There was a walkway built out into the lake probably 200 feet. From there many birds were visible including a bald eagle. The water in the lake is shallow – it appeared to be only about 4-6 inches in places. The tour that was available on the lake was on an airboat since the water was so shallow – but the birds loved it. The other wildlife we observed was the feral pigs (tame pigs gone wild). We say them in numerous places. We also saw a rabbit in his burrow near the walkway, many wild turkeys and a couple deer.

After the trip to the bird walk we tried the Wi-Fi again but it was still down. We hope for tomorrow as Jane wants to try posting to the travel log. We ate dinner, watched another beautiful sunset, read some, and will get another great night’s sleep. Last night we slept from 9:30PM until 7:30AM – unusual for us but I guess we needed it!

Maykka State Park

We woke up about 8:00 to discover it was 34 degrees. The heater had kept us warm in the sprinter as neither of us had woken up cold during the night. After a quick breakfast we were on our way south. Somewhere between Gainesville and Ocala spring arrived as all the trees had leafed out and the grass was green. We stopped at a rest area just south of Tampa for lunch and arrived at Myakka State Park about 1:30. Checking in with a reservation was easy and we found our campsite quickly. We are in the Big Flats Area – campsite 20. It looks out on the Dry Prairie across the road and the folks say the sunset is beautiful. We set up our screen tent over the table since we plan to be here 3 nights. It makes a nice little living area where we can place the picnic table, our chairs and hopefully if there are any bugs they will stay out. So far there have been no bugs – temperature around 70 and very pleasant. We walked down the road about ¼ mile to the camp store and area where they rent bikes, canoes, and have airboat and tram rides around the park. We are about 10 miles east of Sarasota and will plan for one day at the Ringling Museum, a day here at the park, and one exploring over along the coast. The camp store has a lovely balcony and Wi-Fi so we will be able to check email and hopefully I can post our adventures to the web. Not many adventures yet; but it has been a very pleasant trip.

O'Lean State Park Gainesville FL

It was 24 last night so we were glad we were warm in the Comfort Inn. We left about 9:30 after Ben was able to complete his report from yesterday’s inspection and email the photos and fax the report to his office in Miami. One funny from the inspection yesterday was Ben had asked the woman several times if she had a fax machine so he could send his report since we would not be returning home. The answer was always yes, she had a fax machine. When he was ready to leave yesterday he asked again and she showed it to him – she did have a fax machine but it was not connected! So the report went in today!

We started down I 75 and turned on our Book on CD and listened until we crossed the FL line where we bought gas and stopped at the Welcome Center to fix our lunch. They had WI-FI so Jane tried again to There is much history regarding the early settlers and how the land mass between the two sites was a main road for travel and trade. We took a 1 ½ mile hike along the river to the spot where it goes underground and then back the other side. There is a swinging bridge to cross back to the park. It was built by the CCC in the 30’s and there is a statue to commemorate their work in this area. We saw an alligator and numerous turtles sunning on logs in the river. The most interesting thing was an armadillo who was scratching around in the brush near the trail. We were not sure what it was and walked over very close – maybe 3 feet away and got a great photo.
We got camp all set up. Listened to the ranger who came by to say we were going to have a freeze tonight and wanted us to leave the water dripping. I can believe it might be 32 but freeze the pipes – I doubt it! We will be having lasagna I brought from the freezer at home and garlic bread for supper. Then Ben is going to try out his HDTV antenna that he developed – time will tell if it works. We have books to read if it doesn’t.

Kingsport To Forsyth GA

We left Kingsport at 8AM to drive to Knoxville. Ben had an inspection to do before we could leave for Florida. We arrived at the location at 9:30. The inspection was an interesting and unusual one. Most of the inspections are at a business or industry that is shipping something to another country. This situation was a woman who sends various and assorted items she purchases here to her husband in Liberia. He then resells the items there. They were sending construction materials, clothing, household items, 2 pianos and cases of toilet tissue. It took them 4 hours instead of the 2 expected to load the container so that Ben could seal it and the tractor trailer could depart.

We ate a quick sandwich and were off south to Chattanooga, then Atlanta, and on south to find a place to spend the night. We had planned to camp at a Georgia State Park about 50 miles south of Atlanta. Well, we kept seeing snow along the road. The temperature was 40 and it was beginning to get dark. We decided to stay in a motel and when the local weather showed the temperature expected tonight was to be 23 – we definitely made the right choice! We have a heater in the Sprinter but we feel we made the right choice!

The evening was spent in Forsyth GA at a Comfort Suites. We ate dinner at the nearby Shoney’s and watched two programs of 24 on TV.