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To complete our exit from Florida, we spent a few nights at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park along the banks of the Suwannee River. We have stayed here before and it’s a great, mellow park with some good walking along the river. We didn’t do much here, mostly walked and did some chores. A major chore was to run over to Green Cove Springs, FL to visit our mail service and pick up some important items in person. Getting mail while living on the road needs to be planned and physically receiving it can be difficult. Most of the time we have them scan and then shred our mail, but we had received a debit card and decided to just go by and pick it up ourselves. We made a day of it and took a nice drive across NE Florida.

Otherwise we just enjoyed the beautiful weather. I took a couple of walks along the Florida Trail but didn’t get any biking in. I tried to get some photos of the Spanish Moss in the campground but the only evening I was free at the appropriate time (for that good evening light) it was very overcast. Maybe next time.

We have found that three days at a location is just not enough when you need to actually live your normal life at the same time. Groceries, banking, and all of the other “normal” activities take up time. We are currently heading to an appointment in Iowa but once we clear that we’ll be slowing down. There’s a lot of roses out there to smell and we plan on taking the time to do so.

Almost that good light. Stephen Foster SP, 4/16/19

Backwoods campsite, Stephen Foster SP, 4/16/19

It’s nice to be walking real trails again. Stephen Foster SP, 4/17/19

Spotted on the trail. It was still so cool that he didn’t move as I approached, knelt down, took the photo, and walked away. Stephen Foster SP, 4/17/19

Nora is adjusting well. That’s her seat. Stephen Foster SP, 4/17/19

 

Enjoying the Silver River, 4/13/19

We have been to Silver Springs several times over the years and have always loved it, so we made it our next stop in the Crawl Out of Florida. Easy drive, no entry line, nice weather, perfect. This park is divided into two parts: camping/recreating and the old Silver Springs attraction which is famous for its glass bottom boat tours of the springs. Campers get free admission so we have been to the springs several times and taken both the regular and extended tours. They’re both great. This trip, Patti wanted to go kayaking, so that’s what we did.

We went over on a Saturday morning which could have been bad, but wasn’t. We spoke with the girl behind the counter, money changed hands, and soon we were floating through the park. And it was great. We quickly got the hang of controlling the kayak (well, mostly) and had a lovely float down a side channel of the Silver River. Very wooded and not too hot. And, because of course there are, there were monkeys.

Back in the 1930s, a local entrepreneur (Colonel Tooey) had the bright idea of importing some monkeys to an island and then charging tourists to see them “in the wild”. What he didn’t realize was that rhesus monkeys could swim, which they quickly did. Hence, several colonies of monkeys are roaming about Central Florida (predominately here at the park). And there’s your fun fact of the day. (Bonus fun facts: they filmed portions of “Sea Hunt” and some Tarzan movies here. If you don’t know what “Sea Hunt” is, ask your parents.)

The bonus to the day was that I decided to charge the batteries of a very old waterproof camera (an Olympus 720, to be exact) that I hadn’t used in a decade or so. To my great surprise and pleasure it still works great, so see below.

Finally, we brought Nora out of Sybil in a harness and leash. She’s not quite comfortable yet, but she sure is interested. Stay tuned on that front.

Silver River, 4/13/19

 

Cheeky Monkeys, Silver River, 4/13/19

Contemplating a turtle, Silver River, 4/13/19

Walking the cat, Silver Springs SP, 4/13/19

The wait to get into Wekiwa Springs 4/7/19

We spent 3 weeks at Wickham Park in Melbourne moving out of the house, transitioning into Sybil, and saying our goodbyes. It was difficult, particularly the goodbyes, and we were very tired and more than a bit shell-shocked when we headed out to our first “official” stop. Only a bit under two hours away is Wekiwa Springs State Park, our home for five nights. It was an easy drive on a beautiful Sunday afternoon until we came around the last corner and saw a large backup waiting to get into this very popular park.

Now, understand that when we are towing the truck we are 63′ from end to end. If it wasn’t for the kindness of a stranger we’d be sitting there still. We sat there for 45 minutes waiting to get in, but it wasn’t that bad. Secure in the knowledge that we could empty our bladders whenever we wanted in our very own bathroom, the wait was stress free.

Our time at Wekiwa was as mellow as we could make it. We went over to St. Petersburg to make our farewells to my sister on one day, on another we strolled the town of Mt. Dora. Otherwise it was nice long walks on the trails in the park, naps, some normal chores, and basic decompression. It was extremely relaxing and a welcome change to the hustle and bustle leading up to our departure.

We are settling into our new reality. I’ve rearranged my clothes several time after learning what works and what doesn’t. Same for our basement storage. And the kitchen/pantry is most certainly a work in progress.

Below are a handful of photos as well as a map of our stops so far. The map only shows two stops so far. Stay tuned, that number will only grow.

The driver casually cruising. 4/7/19

Nora casually cruising. 4/7/19

Lady Sybil at Wekiwa Springs, 4/11/19

A view of Sand Lake. Note the sign next to the bench warning of alligators. How relaxing. 4/11/19

A Mt. Dora bookstore. Our kind of place. 4/10/19

 

After we left Markham Park, we went about 90 miles NW back to Ortona South. We were here last year and liked it enough to return. It was three days of mellow after the hustle and bustle of Ft. Lauderdale. We visited a bit with some friends who were also there, strolled the dam, and puttered about the RV fixing this and organizing that. Quite pleasant.

The big news, however, is that Fall finally fell. Markham had been very hot and the first couple of days at Ortona were hotter. We woke up our second morning to beautiful skies and temps that were BELOW 70! That may not seem cool to most of y’all, but it’s wonderful to folks that haven’t seen a temperature in the 60s since March. The rest of the trip we slept with the windows open. Perfect.

A big change that we recently implemented is that we are traveling with our cat, Nora. She’s an old lady and is adjusting slowly to this mobile life. But she is adjusting, which pleases us to no end. She has the run of the RV while we’re driving, which helps, but we still have to train her that under the steering column and behind the gas/brake pedals is not a place for a cat while driving. Otherwise, we have provided her with plenty of soft places to lay and/or hide, so she seems to be good.

We’re enjoying retirement more and more. Strongly recommend!

Morning coffee, Ortona South COE Campground, 10/20/2018

Entering the lock, Ortona South COE Campground, 10/20/2018

Gator guarding the lock, Ortona South COE Campground, 10/20/2018

Sybil at rest, Ortona South COE Campground, 10/20/2018

We just spent 3 nights at Markham Park, a Broward County park located on the western edge of the Fort Lauderdale area right against the Everglades. And is it ever a nice place. We were made aware of it via a respected blogger we follow (we’re looking at you Wheelingit) and are we ever glad we went. Our site was huge (most of the back half of the campground is like that) and backed up to the canal that separates the campground from the Glades. The park includes areas for mountain biking, RC Flying, RC Boating, a huge dog park (that was VERY popular) and an extensive target range. The range has facilities supporting both long and short guns, a skeet range and a “sport” skeet range that apparently involves wandering through the woods on a trail blasting away. Our site (which a park employee informed us was the “best in the campground”) was at the end near the range so we had the sound of gunfire all day, including one morning when the sound of extensive automatic weapons accompanied our morning coffee. Not our favorite sound but it didn’t last very long. Note: Wednesday morning is the day the Broward County sheriffs come out to play.

Our stay here was just fantastic. We saw our New York nephews who just happened to be in town. We also got together with some close friends who we haven’t seen in way too long. We biked along the berm that holds back the Everglades from civilization (or, more realistically, holds civilization back from the Everglades), saw a beekeeper doing his thing (just feet from our RV), dodged iguanas and even managed a wee bit of shopping at Ikea.

Oh, and it looks like there’s a wifi hotspot in each circle of 5 sites. We had 54Mbps download. Sweet.

Our greeter at Markham Park, 10/16/18, Sunrise, FL

The Everglades. Our site is directly behind this shot beyond the berm. 10/17/18, Markham Park, Sunrise, FL

Our site from the berm, 10/17/18, Markham Park, Sunrise, FL

Pointing to the Queen Bee, 10/17/18, Markham Park, Sunrise, FL

Scream! 10/17/18, Markham Park, Sunrise, FL

I see I last posted way back in March. Huh. There’s been a lot going on since then. Among other things, we have taken the RV out a half dozen times. We have been to:

  • Tampa, where we had the RV serviced, including a recall on the dashboard software;
  • Gulf Waters RV Park in Fort Myers where we stayed with some friends and toured a local rum distillery;
  • Myakka River State Park, a very large park with lots to do … when it isn’t under water from the heavy rains they had just had;
  • Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral, where we tested out our new cell booster and took Nora on her first trip in the RV. She accepted it. Barely.
  • Fort Wilderness at Disney World, where we did a lot of nothing while it rained for 3 days, and
  • Wekiwa Springs State Park, which was awesome! Beautiful, cool springs which were exactly what we needed on the (very) hot September days we were having.

Oh, yeah, and I retired. Best decision I ever made.

We’re spending our time getting rid of stuff in preparation to hit the road full time, exercising and relaxing, all three of which seem to make the days fly by. Here are a couple of photos from the last little while.

(BTW: I sit here on October 2nd and our air conditioning has crapped out. It’s supposed to hit 90 degrees and the humidity is over 85%. I can’t wait to hit the road and get out of here.)

Sunset at the Outer Banks, Hatteras NC, 5/11/18

Hatteras Lighthouse, Hatteras NC, 4/5/18

Wicked Dolphin Distillery, Fort Myers FL, 6/2/18

View from our window, Wekiwa Springs State Park FL, 9/18/18

Wekiwa Springs State Park FL, 9/20/18

FMCA @ Perry, GA, 3/14/18

We’re still trying to figure out this RV’ing thing. There are a lot of balls to keep in the air when you’re tooling around in a 40 foot house on wheels. Plumbing systems, electrical systems, propane, AC, furnaces, etc…. Not to mention the care & feeding of an 8.9 litre, 380 HP diesel engine, 6 speed Allison transmission, air brakes, air bags and on and on. This learning curve we’re facing is one of the reasons we were looking forward to the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) Convention that just wrapped up in Perry, Georgia. We spent 8 days taking classes, attending seminars, cruising vendor booths and meeting lots and lots of nice people.

We pulled away this morning much smarter then when we arrived. Who knew, for instance, that under normal wear and tear the brakes on our Class A coach will last its lifetime? I learned how to change the air filter on the coach. We found a bunch of items that we’ll end up getting (I’m looking at you, WiFiRanger) and were able to research a bunch of others. I got the representative from my tire pressure monitor system to come out and troubleshoot my problem (thanks, TST, for getting me working). And we had a great time with new friends (hi Tim & Beth, we’ll see you soon).

Probably the most important thing that I’m taking away from this trip is the confirmation of just how much I’m enjoying the whole RV process. I like driving it and setting it up as much as I like seeing the sights and meeting new people. This 2 week trip will be tough to come back from. We’re already looking forward to next time.

Watching the coaches arrive, 3/11/18

Partying hard in Perry, 3/16/16

Patti & the Major General, 3/19/18

Coaches parked backed to back, Perry, GA, 3/19/18

Good times with new friends, Perry, GA, 3/19/18

At work the other day I was offered an opportunity to get launch passes for the upcoming SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch. This was a big deal, since it was the first launch of this new vehicle. It’s also probably the last chance for Patti to come onto the base and get up close & personal with a launch viewing, since I’m now within a 12 month window to retirement. So we went for it.

We saw the launch today. It was pretty cool. We were among the closest civilians to the pad. Needless to say we were blown away. Also needless to say, I got some good shots. Enjoy.

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Lots of photographers were there. KSC, FL. 2/6/18

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Launch. KSC, FL. 2/6/18

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Liftoff, KSC, FL. 2/6/18

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Ascent, KSC, FL. 2/6/18

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Ascent, KSC, FL. 2/6/18

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Two of the three boosters descending. KSC, FL. 2/6/18

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA There’s an old saying that goes: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” I have a nice example of that philosophy that occurred this weekend.

We headed down to a Corps of Engineers campground called Ortona South. It is located at some locks on the Caloosahatchee River between Lake Okeechobee and Fort Myers. It’s a beautiful campground with nice level sites and great views. We are continuing our familiarization with the RV, lounging and strolling the campground. We met the local otter family, watched boats passing through the locks and did some light biking. All in all, a very relaxing weekend.

This coach, as I described in my last post, has a very advanced electrical system that includes a built-in surge protector. Despite that, one of the first accessories I bought was a surge protector that sits between the power cord and the plug on the pedestal. It not only protects the RV’s electrical system from surges, it monitors the state and quality of the power being delivered and shuts down if the voltage is too high or low or if the receptacle is mis-wired. It seemed a bit redundant and I almost returned it when I realized how nice our coach was, but I decided that multiple levels of protection could only be a good thing.

I need to mention that when we have no power, we have an inverter that supplies AC power for the fridge and most, but not all, of the outlets. Last night when we went to bed, we left our phones plugged into one of the non-inverted outlets. At 4 AM, we woke up to the sound of power being applied to our phones (“ding”). That signified the return of our 50 amp service. Turns out the external surge protector had detected an over-voltage situation (>134V). It had automatically isolated the coach until the power returned to an acceptable level, potentially saving it from damage.

This took place on our second trip. As far as I’m concerned, the device already paid for itself. I think I’ll remain paranoid, at least about stuff I can control.

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Lady Sybil at Ortona South, 11/10/17

 

Boats queuing for the lock, Ortona South, 11/10/17

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The local family getting ready to dine, Ortona South 11/10/17

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Dinner, Ortona South, 11/10/17

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North Captiva Island, 12/27/16

North Captiva Island, 12/27/16

Last year we decided to get together this winter with the family and celebrate my birthday (60) and my brother-in-law’s birthday (70). We wanted to rendezvous someplace nice, so we tossed the task of searching for a place over to my sister-in-law. Her track record of finding sweet locations to stay is pretty damn good so we had high hopes. As usual, those hopes were met.

We spent the Christmas holiday on North Captiva Island, just off the southwest coast of Florida. Who knew that a four-hour drive (and a half-hour ferry ride) can take us from our daily life to authentic island time? No cars, golf carts only. We never removed the keys from the carts. For that matter, we never took the key out of the front door of our house. We were directly on the gulf, so close that we were told that often the gulf is actually under the house. Our activities consisted mainly of strolling the beach, reading, boating, fishing, taking photos, enjoying sunsets, catching up with the family, eating and drinking. It was hard.

Being located on an island necessitated leaving our truck on the mainland. It also required us to buy enough food to feed 10 to 12 people for eight days, including drinking water. (While the island has all of the normal amenities like electricity, internet, etc., the tap water is highly sulfuric. It stinks. Badly.) This was a logistical issue but the ferries are used to it and getting the food and all our stuff to the house went smoothly.

While we already live in sunny Florida and were able to drive over to the ferry, our family came in from colder climes (Ogden, Utah, Bozeman, Montana, and New York City). They had a perfect week for it. Weather was warmer than normal with zero rain. We couldn’t have asked for better. Now we’re all back to our normal temps, sub-freezing for the westerners and only 72 for us. (I couldn’t resist.)

I wonder where we’ll meet up next time?

Christmas Sunset, North Captiva Island, FL

Christmas Sunset, North Captiva Island, FL

Our house on the beach, 12/24/16, North Captiva Island, FL

Our house on the beach, 12/24/16, North Captiva Island, FL

Working men on Christmas Day, North Captiva Island, FL

Working men on Christmas Day, North Captiva Island, FL

We were directly next to a grass airstrip and saw this all week. Christmas Day, North Captiva Island, FL

We were directly next to a grass airstrip and saw this all week. Christmas Day, North Captiva Island, FL

From our living room. 12/29/16, North Captiva Island, FL

From our living room. 12/29/16, North Captiva Island, FL

Until next time! 12/27/16, North Captiva Island, FL

Until next time! 12/27/16, North Captiva Island, FL