Sunday, February 28, 2010

Landed in Perry, GA

Well, we didn’t get away quite as early as expected, but still we were parked and set up in Perry by mid afternoon.  Thankfully, and exactly what we like, our drive from Silver Springs was uneventful.

We don’t really have a plan for our visit here.  Our first priority is to get Gene’s tooth fixed.  We, of course, want to spend some time with family.  My brother lives in Macon, I have a nephew and his wife and son who live in Perry, and another nephew and his wife in Warner Robins. We could easily spend countless hours with them.  Besides family, we want to get to Andersonville as well as Plains for the Jimmy Carter stuff.  RVing friends, Mike and Gerri, are just a few miles west in Pine Mountain and a visit with them is almost certain.  So we have plenty to keep us busy for the time it will take to get the tooth repaired.

Gene has an appointment with the dentist tomorrow afternoon.  We should know more then and will be able to make a few plans.

That’s it.  I’ll be back tomorrow.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Farewell to Silver Springs

Friday morning was busy around the house.  Gene got the tires aired up and the hitch cleaned and greased.  I got all the laundry done.  I don’t especially like the laundry facility at this campground, but it is cheap.  I think I washed everything in the house.

Ocala claims to be the horse capitol.
A large chunk of the afternoon was spent visiting with Bill and Helen.  We are so glad we were able to work out a time to get together again before we left Silver Springs.  They are heading out west this year and we are heading north.  Who knows when our paths may cross again, but one thing is for certain, they will cross and we look forward to that time.

There are some beautiful horse farms around the area
We hadn’t hiked in a couple days, so even though the weather forecast predicted rain, we went out anyway.  It was cold and wet, but we had a good hike.  We closed in the gap on the Florida trail which we skipped over before.  With todays hike, we have done 26 miles of this trail.  Actually, we’ve done that 26 miles twice, since we have to hike out and then return to the truck.  Today, we saw several patches of spring wildflowers and a few blooming trees.  Although it is hard to tell with the snow still falling in the northeast, I think spring is on its way, finally.

Horse playground?
This is our last day in Silver Springs.  We will probably get an early start in the morning for our 250 mile drive to Perry, Georgia.

We have enjoyed our stay here.  The weather hasn’t been real warm this winter, but it hasn’t been warm anywhere.  Ocala is a large enough town to have a variety of large groceries, a couple Wal-Marts, a mall, and a Hobby Lobby.  There is live entertainment at the Silver Springs attraction every Saturday afternoon and it is very reasonably priced if you buy the season pass.  If you’re staying a month or more, it’s worth it.  It is an easy day trip to Daytona on the Atlantic coast and Cedar Key on the Gulf coast.  Other cities are within range of a day trip--Orlando, Tampa, Gainesville.  There are several state parks within 75 miles of Ocala and we have found the Florida State Parks to be very worthwhile.  We have enjoyed the hiking in the area.  Although we have spent most of our hiking time on the Florida Trail, there are trails in most of the state parks and many trails in Ocala National Forest.  Despite my original fears of dying from snake bite, we only saw that one tiny snake on our first hike.

We have not been overjoyed with our campground.  When we come back to this area, we’ll select a different place to park.  Other than that, we have no complaints.

That’s it for today.  Tomorrow night I will be writing from Perry, GA.

Change of Plan

Yesterday was a day to regroup and work through the logistics of making a change in our original plans for leaving Silver Springs.  It came about like this.

A couple weeks ago Gene made the comment that something unusual was going on with one of this teeth.  Of course, my advise was to eat on the other side cause we don’t go back to the dentist until November.  Wednesday evening that tooth broke in half so I guess it must be November already.

Seriously, now was the time to decide what to do about getting the tooth fixed.  We both have crowns, so we recognized right away that is what was needed--a time consuming event.  The question became do we stay in Silver Springs, move to our next destination (Savannah), or the next (Macon), or go on back to Nashville to our trusted dentist of the past decade.

Yesterday, Gene got busy with all the things that needed to be done to get this issue resolved.  One look at the weather report for Nashville quickly dropped that possibility off the option list.  We don’t love our dentist that much.  We also quickly dropped Savannah from the list.  We weren’t planning to spend very many days in Savannah and if we had the tooth fixed there, we would miss out on our time with family in Macon.  Well, that narrowed down our options.

The next priority became to find a dentist either here or in Macon.  Gene went to the campground office to see if we could extend here and to get a dentist recommendation.  We also e-mailed my brother and nephews to get recommendations from them.

Extending here was not a problem and when Gene called the dentist the office recommended, he was able to get an appointment.  He was also able to get an appointment with the dentist my brother recommended in Macon.  Time to made a decision--stay here or go on to Macon.  It came down to whether we wanted to stay here where the weather was just a tad warmer or go on to Macon for family and the other things we want to do there.  Since our hitch had already started to itch, we opted for family and a new locale.

We spent the remainder of the day getting organized for an early departure, doing a quick run to Ocala to pick up a few items, deciding how to spend our last two days in this area, canceling reservations in Savannah, and doing the mental exercises required to get your mind around an unexpected event.  That done, all is well.

Gene’s appointment is on Monday, so we will leave Silver Springs Sunday morning, a day earlier than originally planned, we’ll put Savannah on the list for another trip, and we’ll have a nice long visit with family in Middle Georgia.

Today will be a house cleaning and chore day.  Friends, Bill and Helen, are stopping by later this afternoon for one last visit before we all leave central Florida.  So I better get up from here and get busy.
Black Skimmers
By the way, the photo on the Cedar Key entry of shore birds on the beach has now been named.  I thought they were some type of gull, but couldn’t find them in the gull photos I looked at on the internet.  With a little more research, I learned they are black skimmers.  I haven’t done enough research to know if this is a type of gull, but at least they have a name.  I always like to know what’s in the photo.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cedar Key

Several of our friends recommended we go to Cedar Key.  Located on the Gulf coast about 70 miles southwest of Gainesville, the Cedar Keys are a cluster of small islands with the main island a laid back fishing village reminiscent of what they call “old Florida”.

Island Hotel established in 1859
Today we wandered along the few blocks which make up this historic village.  We got there about noon and immediately went in search of Tony’s for the famous clam chowder.  The small dining room, which will only seat about 30, was full except for a table for 2 which we took.  A steady stream of folks came in while we were there, many ordering at the take-out window.  Tony’s won the World Championship honor for the clam chowder last year and clearly it was in a class of it’s own.

With our tummies full, we walked the streets, stopping in a few of the shops.  This is an artsy town and the local merchants exhibit and sell works of the area artists.  We also stepped into the public library and the Island Hotel to get a peek at the inside of these old buildings.

Cedar Key was much older, more rundown, and more artsy than we expected--all of which made it that much more charming.
A few of the town cats
We didn’t go directly to Cedar Key, but instead drove from Silver Spring all the way to the coast via highway 40.  With the exception of a small section in Daytona, we have driven the entire width of Florida on this highway.  Of course, state route 40 does not actually go to the coast, but ends at Dunnellon.  We made a little jog and got onto county road 40 and made our way to the gulf.

The end of Highway 40
Even though it was a cloudy, cool day, we really enjoyed our trip to the Gulf coast.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Our Hitch is Itching

We managed to entertain ourselves close to home today.  We just didn’t have the enthusiasm to wander off.  I think hitch itch is setting in.  This usually happens about the third week of a month long stay.  Three weeks is about our limit in any one spot.  In that amount of time, we’ve seen the area attractions and still had plenty of down time.  The big discount in renting by the month instead of by the week is significant enough to keep us signing up for month long stays.

That being said, we still didn’t want to just sit in the house on such a beautiful day so we found our way to a trailhead.  Nothing like a 7-mile hike to make you rethink sitting in the recliner all day.  Every time we have hiked during our stay in Ocala, we have done a different section of the Florida Trail.  There are a few gaps along the way, but we have completed almost all the trail from Marshall Swamp to CR 484, a distance of about 15 miles.  We’ve also done nearly all of the 8 miles across Juniper Prairie Wilderness in Ocala National Forest.  We can definitely tell the difference the exercise has made.  We have a way to go, however, before we are ready to tackle those 12+ mile days we expect to do on the Appalachian Trail in May.

Even though we are ready to leave this area, there is still one place we just must see--Cedar Key.  The forecast for tomorrow looks great, so we’ll be heading west early in the morning for the 100 mile drive to the Gulf coast.

Until then, safe travels and hike light.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Evinston General Store and Post Office

Upon the advise of our friends, Bill and Helen, we drove north about 20 miles today to the very small community of Evinston.  We were in search of the oldest post office in Florida.  What we found was a real treasure.

This is not just a Post Office, it is also a grocery, thrift shop, library, and art gallery.  It is one of those places where you just have to linger.  In fact, there are chairs surrounding an old wood burning stove which invite the guests to “sit a spell”.  We didn’t sit; there was just too much to feast our eyes upon.

The Post Office is at the front of the store and the long-time postmaster, Wilma Sue Wood, was on duty today.  I guess she is used to folks coming in to see the place.  Four other tourists were just leaving when we got there and someone else came in while we were there.  Wilma Sue just went about her business and let us roam around the place taking pictures.

A wood burning stove was sitting in the middle of the store surrounded by easy chairs.  It was too warm today for a fire, but I think I could have kicked back for a while during the colder days this month.

The old wooden shelves were loaded down with everything you can imagine from canned good to old toys; baskets to farm tools.  In the back of the store was fresh produce grown in the garden out back. There was a small section of used items--well worn from days gone by.  LP records were on sale--buy 4 and get 1 free or something like that.  There were a few children’s movies and used books.  Freddy Wood of Wood and Swink is an author and his books on Evinston history were available, complete with autograph.  Freddy, by the way, is the one who keeps the garden out back.  In addition to these things that we often think about associated with General Stores, Wood and Swink’s had a large selection of paintings and prints by local artists.

The community of Evinston is located about half way between Ocala and Gainesville, just off US 441 not far from Lake Orange.  This is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area, but go during the week.  The store is not open on weekends.

We never did get to Gainesville to the museum.  Neither Gene nor I were too enthusiastic about going, so we marked it off the list.  After our tour of Evinston, we came home to chores and the pitter patter of raindrops on our roof.

We don’t have a plan for tomorrow.  No telling what we’ll get into.  It’ll be hard to top today’s find.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Silver River State Park

Oh, what a beautiful day!!  That makes two in a row.  Might this be a new trend?  Made us want to get outside to play.  We went across the street and around the corner to Silver River State Park.

This is a very nice state park and almost within spitting distance of downtown Ocala.  They offer hiking and biking trails, a big rig friendly campground, picnic pavilion, canoe rental, and cabins.  They also have a nice little museum and a pioneer village.

School/church in the pioneer village
There is a small day use fee which is true of most, if not all, Florida state parks.  We also wanted to go to the Silver River History Museum which was an additional $2 each.  We were quite impressed with the Museum.  It is run by the Marion County Board of Public Education and its primary purpose is for the benefit of 4th and 7th graders studying local and state history.  It is very well done and not too juvenile for adults.  It is open to the public on holidays and weekends, otherwise it is used by local students.  There are a couple classrooms and also a nice library.  The $2 fee for non-students helps keep this facility available for education.  Great idea.

The more modern school used in the 1930s

Along with the museum is a replica of a “cracker” village.  This is a hands on area for student projects and the buildings were not open today.  From reading the brochure, it appears they are open to the public, with interpreters, during summer months but only once a month during winter months.

Boardwalk over the swampy area
After we did the museum, we hiked two of the four short hiking trails.  Two people had suggested we do the trails that lead to the river, so those were the ones we did for a total of just over 3 miles.  Our favorite, and the longest of the two, was the swamp trail.  This trail was a loop with a nice boardwalk over the swampy area close to the Silver River.  I was hoping to see an alligator sunning on the bank, but I had no such luck today.  We saw only squirrels and could hear only the noisy sandhill cranes overhead.

Following our hike, we drove through the campground just to see what was what.  Each site is very spacious with water and electric hook-ups.  There is a dump station available.  It appeared that all of the 59 sites would accommodate a big rig and each site had a picnic table, a grill, and fire ring.  Sites are $24/night and there is the typical 14 day limit. A notice at the entrance station indicated the campground was full today.

It was a very nice way to spend the afternoon on this glorious day.

We had originally planned to head over to Cedar Key today, but with rain in the afternoon forecast, we decided to put that off until later in the week.

Tomorrow, we’re heading to Gainesville to visit the Florida State Museum of Natural History.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Villages and Bushnell

In our search for a winter roost, the Escapees park, Sumter Oaks, in Bushnell was on our list to visit.  Like the other escapees parks, they have a 4 o’clock social every afternoon and we wanted to be there for that.  It would give us an opportunity to meet more folks and thus get a better feel for the park than we would just driving around.

Sumter Oaks is much smaller than the Plantation at Summerdale.  They have about the same number of campsites (99) and about the same number of ERPU lots (25), but there are no stick houses and the campsites and lots are much smaller.  Don’t get me wrong, they are still very spacious compared to most private campgrounds.  They have an indoor pool and a very nice activity building.  The park is in a beautiful setting nestled amongst the live oaks.  The interior roads are gravel and the sites are gravel with concrete patios.  We still like the Plantation at Summerdale best of the places we have scouted while in Florida.  Although we went with the intention of attending the 4 o’clock social, they have their daily gathering at 10 AM for coffee, so we missed out.
Shots from Spanish Springs Village

On our way to Bushnell, we stopped by Spanish Springs Village, just one of many communities in “The Villages”.  The Villages is an interesting concept in community living.  The best description I can give is individually governed neighborhoods.  The Villages, as a whole, is a rather large community made up of individual villages like many neighborhoods make up a larger town.  The difference is that each individual village governors itself through home owners associations.  It is a popular area for retirees and is one of the fastest growing communities in Florida.

Each village has it’s “square” or common area with shops and restaurants and apparently evening entertainment.  The streets are golf cart friendly.  There are probably more golf carts on the roads and in the parking lots than cars.  Since The Villages spreads out on both sides of highway 441, the communities have built an overpass over the highway for safe passage of carts to either side.

Golf Cart overpass on Highway 441

Bill and Helen first introduced us to the Villages and took us on a driving tour of Spanish Springs last Wednesday.  We wanted to go back for a more leisurely look about.  As you might guess, the architecture has a predominantly Spanish flair.  We strolled around the square, stopping in several of the shops and boutiques.  The square was busy in the early afternoon, but not near what the crowds will be at 5 o’clock when the margaritas and live entertainment start to flow.

Tomorrow, if we can squeeze one more gorgeous day out before the rains set in, we’ll drive to Cedar Key.

That’s a wrap for today.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Silver Springs

Today was the day for the classic Florida vacation experience.  We walked across the street to “Silver Springs: Nature’s Theme Park”, commonly referred to as the Silver Springs Attraction.  After keeping an eye on the weather forecasts and waiting for a warm, sunny day our patience paid off.  Today was almost perfect--bright sun, blue skies, and very little wind.  It started out a little on the cool side, but not uncomfortable, and quickly warmed up.
Silver Springs Boat Dock on Silver Springs

Looking through the glass bottom of the boat
Our primary objective was the glass bottom boat ride which we did first.  Besides this ride there were two other boat rides plus a small zoo and animal shows.  There is also a floral garden, but the cold weather has rendered it more on the dead side than anything else.  We found only one shrub in bloom.  There were a large number of exotic birds; some in cages, some on open perches.  Being Florida, there were more alligators there than anything else.  Many were confined so visitors could get a good view, but we also saw several sunning themselves by the river’s edge.  The flamingos were quite a treat.  I had never seen one so up close and personal.  The photos turned out orange, but I promise they were really pink.

Our least favorite part was the safari ride.  We boarded a tram towed by a zebra stripped jeep and headed into the deepest, darkest jungle.  Well, you could still see highway 40 so I guess we weren’t too far away from civilization.  You would have thought this would be the place where they kept the giraffe and cougar, but what we saw was a cow, a few sheep, some llamas, and emu.  Well, there you go, even the jungle is changing.

We’re not much for zoos.  We much prefer to see animals in the wild enjoying their natural habitat.  However, there is something to be said for seeing giraffes and cougars which we have never seen outside of a zoo environment.  It was even kinda nice to look at the snakes with the confidence that we wouldn’t be bitten.
Left over from the Tarzan shows
During the middle of the last century, Silver Springs was used often as a TV and movie set.  Relics of these old sets are scattered about the park, both on land and under water.  Many of the early Tarzan episodes were filmed here as well as some of the Sea Hunt episodes.

We did the boat rides, the safari ride, the snake show, and wandered around through the world of bears, gator lagoon, and past the giraffe barn. It was an enjoyable day.  The best part--tickets were two for one.  I’m not sure we would have gone if we would have had to buy two full price tickets.  The season ticket is a great value.  It includes unlimited visits to the park as well as the Saturday concerts for just $45.  Now, that’s a value.

We’ll probably stay close to home tomorrow morning, but in the afternoon we want to drive down to Bushnell to check out the Escapees park there.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Electric Ears or Can You Hear Me Now

We woke up to another beautiful day in Silver Springs, even if it was a little nippy outside.  Since we hadn’t had a chance to hike for a couple days, we went out for a short hike this morning.

Even though it was a short hike of about 5 miles, which really didn’t take very long, the drive to the trailhead was much farther than we anticipated.  We hadn’t gotten a very early start and, consequently, it was after 1 PM before we got home for lunch.  Still, it was good to get out and stretch our legs and we truly enjoyed the sunshine and blue skies.

Shopping was on the agenda for the afternoon.  The primary item on the shopping list--electric ears for Gene.  This shopping expedition started several months ago.  I have been complaining that Gene can’t hear very well.  To humor me, he had his hearing tested when we were in Nashville in November.  Sure enough, he has what I think is a significant hearing loss.  He has looked at hearing aids at several places, finding the best price at Costo stores, but still in the thousands of dollars.  Either he read somewhere or someone suggested to him to try a sound amplifier.

Last week he checked out what was available at Radio Shack.  The sales person suggested a small amplifier which he could drop down in his shirt pocket or clip to his belt.  With the addition of stereo earbuds, like magic, you have hearing aids for less than $50.  Well, actually, what you have is what Gene has dubbed “electric ears”.

Gene didn’t want to invest even $50 without a little research on the product recommended by the 18 year old clerk at Radio Shack.  Last week, we came home empty handed to do the internet search.  Satisfied with what he read about that product, we went back today to make a purchase.

Today, however, we had a different 18 year old sales person.  He suggested something different.  For about half the price of the amplifier and earbuds, a device that looks like a bluetooth will do the same thing.  Not exactly, I guess, since Gene only purchased one.  I think he figured having amplified sound in only one ear was better than looking really goofy with a bluetooth in each ear.

Surprisingly, this works pretty well.  I had to ask him to turn the TV up so I could hear.

We have waited for a warm, sunny day to do the glass bottom boat thing.  Tomorrow looks like the best day since we got here and, according to the 10-day forecast, will be the best for the rest of the month.  So tomorrow is the day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

MOC Luncheon

When we purchased a Montana 5th wheel in 2005 we joined the Montana Owner’s Club, or MOC.  Although Gene was relatively active on the MOC forum, we were never in a position to participate in the monthly luncheons nor were we able to attend a rally.  Today, now that we are no longer Montana owners, we attended the monthly luncheon.
Frank and Sandy
Our friends, Bill and Helen, invited us to accompany them to Orlando for the luncheon today.  It was fun to be with a large group of RVers, many of whom are full-timers, and to put faces with the names we had seen only on the forum.  Not only did we meet a lot of great folks, we also saw a couple we had met originally in Vermont a couple years ago.  We thought their faces looked familiar, but it was Frank and Sandy who remembered we had been parked at the same campground in Vermont.  Running into folks from time to time as we travel about the country is one of the wonderful benefits of this lifestyle.

After lunch at Sweet Tomatoes, Dennis and Judy invited the group to their home to continue our visiting.  Most of the lunch group ended up at Dennis and Judy’s.  This gave us another couple hours to visit, establish friendships, and catch up with those we haven’t seen in a while.  As if we hadn’t had plenty to eat at lunch, we had cake and ice cream to celebrate birthdays.

On our way back to Silver Springs, Bill and Helen gave us a quick tour through a small portion of The Villages.  The 5 o’clock entertainment was just getting underway on the square at Spanish Springs.  We were far beyond eating anything else today and we were far too tired to enjoy the festivities on the square.  We’ll have to go back for the full experience of The Villages another day.

A busy day, but one we thoroughly enjoyed.  Thanks Bill and Helen for inviting us.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cousins Meet for the First Time

Well, today has been very special and very rewarding.  Gene met his cousin, Rita, for the very first time.  Here’s their interesting story.

In the fall of 2008, we spent a couple weeks in central Ohio doing a little research on Gene’s family history.  Each day during those weeks, I would post on our trip journal (Homeward Bound) where we went and what we learned.  Of course, in tracing your ancestors and visiting cemeteries, family names are important and many of those names would appear in my trip journal.  When doing a Google search, those entries in the trip journal popped up.  That is how Lee and Rita learned we were relatives.

Rita, the Curp, contacted me via the guestbook.  We have been corresponding for several months and have exchanged family history information and photos.  Today, Gene got to meet his cousin, Rita, and her husband Lee.  Rita’s grandfather and Gene’s grandfather were brothers.

We really had very little to add to Lee’s extensive research.  He has been working on recording the Curp family history for some 30 years.  What dedication!  We are very grateful and appreciative to him for sharing that work of love with us.

We spent the afternoon telling family stories, looking at old photos, and sharing tidbits of our lives.  We hope to visit with them again, if not this trip, then one in the future.  We never know when our paths may cross again.

That’s it for tonight.  Tomorrow we are going to Orlando with Bill and Helen for the Montana Owners Club luncheon.  That’ll be fun.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Passing Through Spider Kingdom

Hope everyone had a very fine Valentine’s Day.  We certainly did.  After a few chores in the morning, we spent the afternoon on our computers.  I finally got set up on Facebook.  That had been a hard decision for me to make; I’m not sure why.  The Wandering Wishnies got me to thinking about it over a year ago and I’ve been thinking about it all this time.  I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing, or supposed to do, or something.

My sweetie took me out to dinner last night.  Even got dessert--how special is that.

Today we went back to Juniper Prairie Wilderness to finish what we started last week.  We drove around to the north end of that section down a dirt road to the small trailhead parking lot.  We had 4 miles to connect to the section we had hiked previously.  It was a good hike, but not high on the scenic meter.  This area had a lot of hurricane damage a few years ago and has since burned.  New growth is started, but it will be a few years before it is back to “normal”.

The trail meanders between and around numerous ponds.  I just love the long grasses of the prairie.

It is easy terrain so we marched right along.  Just before we got to the place where we stopped on our first hike here, we saw smoke in the not so far distance.  We walked on about five more minutes and noticed that the smoke was getting much worse.  Since getting caught in a wildfire was not on the agenda, we immediately turned around and headed back to the truck.
Easy hiking but not so scenic through the burned areas.
We found ourselves a lunch spot between two ponds.  We seemed much farther from the smoke and the wind was blowing in the opposite direction.  We decided we would take our chances with the alligators in the pond if the fire got too close.  As it turned out, we had found a great lunch spot.  It appeared to be a backcountry campsite although there were no posted signs.  It had clearly been used as a campsite.  We settled in on the logs which had been placed in front of a fire ring and ate our lunch while keeping one eye on the smoke.

We always try to do our part to keep the trails clean by packing out trash we find along the way.  We found two special treats today.  Gene spotted a shiny object sticking out of the sand.  When he pulled on it, a watch came out.  Even though it was a Timax, it wasn’t ticking and won’t ever tick again I’m afraid.  We carried it out to the trash can.  The real prize was my find.  While stepping off the trail behind the bushes, I found a Gerber knife.  Gene cleaned it up after we got home and will try to sharpen the blade.  We’ll drop it in a hiker box one of the days.  Someone will be glad to get it.

While Gene was looking up the knife on the internet, he discovered the latest in Swiss Army Knives.  Some now come with 2 gig flash drives.  Remarkable.
Time to get out of here
I have not forgotten about the electric ears.  That story will have to wait until later in the week.  Tomorrow we have a visit scheduled with one of Gene’s cousins whom he has never met before.  We are looking forward to that visit.  The story of how they found each other is interesting and I’ll tell that tomorrow.

That’s all for today.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Day With Friends

The full-time RV lifestyle is wonderful and we enjoy it immensely.  However, living “on the road” also means we don’t see family and friends as often, in some cases almost daily, as we did when we owned a stick house.  Perhaps the hardest thing for me to adjust to was filling that void that had been occupied by family and friends.  

We had heard of and read about the phenomenon of meeting RVers and then running into those people over and over again as we travel around the country.  Over the four plus years we have been full-time RVers, we have added a number of friends to our base of “Nashville friends”.  These new friendships are one of the great blessings of this lifestyle.

Today, we had lunch with JW, a very fine fellow who was parked next to us during the months of November and December while we were in Nashville.  Ocala is JW’s hometown and he is here now visiting with his family and hometown friends.  For us, he is the local expert on the places to eat in Ocala.  He suggested Murphy’s Oyster Bar for our lunch to satisfy our craving for seafood.  It was a great choice and our fried shrimp were very good.  Gene also order gator tail. I had to try a bite.  No, it doesn’t taste exactly like chicken. It can’t hold a light to shrimp, but it wasn’t bad.

JW also invited one of his good friends to join us.  It was great to meet Mike as well as to visit with JW again.  Hopefully, we’ll have another chance to spend some time with JW.  Since he is a native of Ocala, he is a great source for information about the local area.  As we drove to the restaurant, he pointed out several places that we would not otherwise have noticed.  Thanks JW for the personal tour of town and a wonderful lunch.

While we were waiting for JW to come by this morning, Helen called to invite us to their place.  About mid-afternoon we drove over to their campground, Wilderness RV Park Estates.  It is hard to say when we first became acquainted with Bill and Helen.  They are Montana owners and are very active in the Montana Owners Club.  Since we were also Montana owners, Gene had come across Bill and Helen on the forums.  We started reading Helen’s trip journal, Here We Go Again, long before we actually met them.  But, as happens in this lifestyle, our paths finally crossed and we got our first Escapees hugs from Bill and Helen when they were in Nashville a couple years ago.  We last saw Bill and Helen in Albuquerque last spring.

We got the grand tour of their relatively new Big Sky and let me just say, it is beautiful and Helen has done a marvelous job of decorating.  We visited over a light snack and wine for the remainder of the afternoon.

Besides being anxious to see Bill and Helen again, we were also excited to see Wilderness RV Park Estates. This is one of the campgrounds we are interested in for a snowbird roost.  Helen gave us a quick tour of the park.  It is a very nice place and ranks right up there in our top three.

We look forward to attending the Montana Owners Club luncheon next week with Bill and Helen.  Thanks, guys, for a great afternoon.

Aren’t friends wonderful!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Longest Trailer

This has been an uneventful day.  We woke up to very chilly temperatures and strong winds.  We dilly dallied around getting the morning routine chores done and sipping coffee waiting for the sun to warm up the air a little.

While we waited, I stepped out quickly to take a picture of our next door neighbor.  This trailer, the longest I think I have ever seen, pulled in just after dark yesterday evening.  I took particular notice because the trailer seemed very close to the tree outside our window.  The driver noticed, as well, and backed up to make a wider turn.  Because most of our day/night shades were down, I couldn’t see the rest of the trailer.  As I watched the driver navigate to avoid the tree, I was amazed that the trailer just kept coming and coming.  They didn’t unhitch, just hooked up their water and electricity and pushed out their slide.  This morning, outside and with the benefit of sunlight, the true length of this trailer was amazing.  This rig filled up a 60 foot sight end to end.  I feel confident this plain white trailer is hauling a race car (maybe two) of some description.

About mid morning, we headed out for a 5-mile walk.  The sun was bright, but the temperature and wind demanded coats, hats, and gloves.  We moved right along trying to stay warm and were home in time for lunch.

That’s been about it for today.  The highlight for me was this longest trailer.

Tomorrow we have a luncheon date with J.W. who was parked next to us during most of our stay in Nashville during the holiday season.  That’ll be fun and great to see him again.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Scouting A Winter Retreat

We have another rainy day with temperatures in the 50s.  The weather in Florida has been somewhat disappointing this winter.  It has rained more than usual and the temperatures have been much cooler than normal.  I’m not complaining, mind you, just stating the facts.  Every day we are out of the bitter cold and snow in almost any region north of here, we are grateful.

Warm weather is what we are looking for in our winter destination.  We don’t necessarily want it to be hot, but at least rarely in the freezing zone.  Last winter, we wandered around south Texas to see how we liked that area.  Basically, we found it too windy and brown to suit our tastes.  It had its pluses, of course.  We found some really nice campgrounds, the people, both winter Texans as well as the locals, were very friendly, and goods and services were generally very reasonably priced.

We’re looking around northern Florida this winter.  We don’t have the winds like we did all over the southwest and the live oaks, shrubs, and even some of the grass is green despite the cold temperatures this winter.  So far, we haven’t found a campground we truly like which is also within our budget.

This morning we took a drive over to Williston.  This small community is about halfway between Ocala and Gainsville, but a little farther west.  We had heard good things about a new campground there and wanted to check it out.  Williston Crossings RV Resort is a relatively new campground; open maybe 3 years.  There is still construction going on.  It is very highly rated and justifiably so.  All the interior roads are paved, the spacious sites are concrete with concrete patios, and the park is beautiful landscaped.  We spoke at length with Mrs Owner who was very helpful and answered a zillion questions for us.  They have about 140 sites open and almost all occupied with another hundred under construction.  The new clubhouse is gorgeous.  They have a few activities, but certainly not the number we are familiar with at the Escapees parks.  This park has one big drawback for us--it is 20 or so miles from both Gainsville or Ocala where the larger supermarkets are and a Wal-Mart pharmacy.

It is a nice park and we were impressed.  Still, at this time the Plantation in Summerdale, AL is our first choice, but Williston Crossings is a close contender.

After our visit to Williston, we stopped by the grocery for some grub and have been relaxing at home this afternoon.  This is a super day for an afternoon nap, but I have resisted the temptation.  I wonder why?

We have no plans for tomorrow.  We’ll wait to see what the weather is like.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Ocala National Forest

We were back on the trail today; this time in Ocala National Forest for another section so the Florida Trail.

Ocala National Forest is the second largest national forest in Florida.  This 600+ square mile forest was established in the early 1900s making it the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi.  There are a variety of habitats from lakes and ponds (they say about 600 in all), swamps and wet prairies to longleaf pine and the largest concentration of sand pine in the world.

This is a very popular place around here with a wide range of activities to interest almost everyone.  There is hiking, of course, plus canoeing, fishing, swimming, camping, bicycling, and, in designated areas, hunting and ATVing.

Many areas of the forest are free, but there are also many areas which charge a day use fee.  I’m all for the fees and gladly pay at state parks.  We always purchase a yearly pass for the National Parks.  We were surprised that this National Park pass was not valid at Ocala.  It has been accepted at all the other National Forests we have visited as well as many Wildlife Refuges.  Still, we were not opposed to paying the day use fee here when we thought it was $5 per car.  We were shocked to find that it was $5 per person.  Consequently, I have to write a rant.

Juniper Springs Pool
The area we went to today, Juniper Springs, is a popular place.  They have a very nice restroom facility, gift shop/snack bar, picnic area, campground, a nature trail, canoe rental, and a beautifully landscaped area around the spring which is a comfortable 72 degrees for swimming.   However, we didn’t use any of that.  What we needed was a place to park the truck while we were hiking outside the Juniper Springs area.  They had conveniently put up “NO PARKING” signs along both sides of the half mile road approaching the fee booth.  We paid the ten bucks, parked the truck, and walked back past the fee booth and down the road lined with “no parking” signs, to our trailhead.  Then we spent the day in the Juniper Prairie Wilderness area.

Our hike was very nice.  We hiked north along the trail for just over 4 miles.  The first couple miles was mostly open.  Signs indicated that there had been much destruction during the 2004 hurricane season plus there was evidence of a burn.  I guess the starkness left by these destructive forces led someone to amend the sign to read Juniper Prairie Wasteland.  Saw palmetto is coming back along with other small shrubs, but that is about all at this time.  Past the burn area, we got into wet prairie with open ponds, cypress, pine, and palm trees, and long grass.  We found a small clearing for our lunch break then turned around for the 4 mile return hike.

After our hike, we walked around Juniper Springs.  The water was crystal clear with aquatic plants swaying under the surface.  Enjoying this beautiful setting may have been worth the $10 fee.

Tonight my feet are tired so it will be an evening in my recliner.  Tomorrow, who knows.