Sunday, April 27, 2008

05-08 Holt Florida to Bay St Louis Mississippi

Campground: River’s Edge Campground, Holt Fl. Recreation USA members $10 per night. It’s a very nice country campground. Lots of trees and it’s on the river. Sites are good size, well maintained dirt/sand roads.

Campground: Hide Away Rv Park, Bay St. Louis, MS. A Recreation USA member, $10 per night. Every things new after Hurricane Katrina came through a couple years ago. Most of the FEMA trailers are gone as well and they are just about to open the swimming pool.
Camping News:

Ok, so call me a bit confused, but I ended up turning left when I should have turned right and ended up at River’s Edge Campground, when I was supposed to go right to get to Eagle’s Landing Rv park. Eagle’s Landing is the home office of Recreation USA (the $10 a night club), which I did go visit. The owners are really nice and have lots of good information to share with fellow campers.

Of course I had to tell them I was at the “other” park, but they were really cool about it. Now I’ve got to tell you, River’s Edge is more my type of campground, as it has more of a country feel to it. Eagle’s Landing is a new park and is more like a flat orderly park, with very straight rows of campsites on grassy lawns. Virtually no trees. Very neat and clean looking. Great if you want to set up a satellite dish and don’t want to deal with trees.

Niceville Fla.

Enough of that, I also took a day trip down towards the gulf of Mexico to Niceville. How cool is that? I had to check it out just because of the name. Well, actually it was nice, but nothing special. The very small town, more like new shops and strip malls along a road that passes by the bay. Oh, it’s also surrounded by Elgin A.F.B. Just outside the town of Niceville is the Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Recreational Area. What a “nice” find. It’s not a huge park, but has 42 campsites, with elect/water and each site is surrounded by lots of scrub oaks and other vegetation. All sites are back in. A couple sites are right on the Rocky Bayou with great water views. And would you believe, only $12.00 a night camping! Just a bit further down the road and right on the Gulf of Mexico is Henderson Beach State Rec. Area. Now I’m sure it would be much harder to get into Henderson, so check online for reservations. PS, it’s close to Ft Walton Beach and a couple other state parks to boot.

Blackwater River State Park.

Today I decided to get out on the river and rented a kayak for a days journey down the Blackwater River. They have two outfitters and it only cost $26 to rent a kayak for the day. They brought us up river 11 miles and then we all paddled back downriver to the Blackwater River State Park. It was a perfect day to do it as well. Middle of the week, no crowds, sunny and mid 80’s.

The eleven miles was an easy paddle, as the Blackwater River was flowing fairly strong, so it was just a matter of light paddling and steering around the occasional dead tree in the river. It was silent except for the birds in the trees and the occasional helicopters doing flight training from the NAS. There were lots of places to take out on gorgeous white sandbars all along the river, which itself was only about 2/½ feet to 3 feet deep. The entire length of the river bed is sandy. Great for jumping out of the sit-on-top kayak and splashing around to cool off.

I didn’t see any wild life for the majority of the trip, then came across two lonely turtles on a log and a great blue heron. The only tracks I saw on the sand bars were a set of raccoon tracks. Oddly, as clear as the water was, even with the tea color from the tannin in the water, I didn’t see any fish swimming along. Perhaps the fact that the river bed is all sand and no aquatic weeds for them to feed on was the reason for the lack of fish.

But overall a perfect day to get back to nature. My buddies from the Great outdoors would love this river and adjacent campground. I’m staying an extra day at Rivers Edge, waiting for my mail to arrive. I usually request it be delivered even before I get to the next campsite, so it usually arrives a day or so after I get to the next park. But I’m in no hurry to head out to the next destination, Bay St Louis. (Less than an hours drive to New Orleans).

188 miles down the road on hwy 10 and I’ve arrived in Bay St Louis, Mississippi. I saw quite a few military vehicles along the highway from Florida to Miss. From camouflaged Humvee’s, fuel trucks and even a few armored tankers. There are quite a few military bases in the panhandle of Fla.

Heading into Mississippi I stopped in their welcome center. Can you imagine a more beautiful center? Classy. Spiral staircase. Antique furniture.

While traveling along hwy 10 through Alabama and Mississippi I've noticed a wonderful scent of jasmine in the air. How refreshing.

Here at the Hide Away Rv park in Bay St. Louis, I was talking to the owner and his son. Of course we had to talk about the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the park. It’s 3 miles from the Gulf of Mexico at an elevation of 18 feet. Yet they had 5 feet of water cover the entire park. Needless to say it has taken them all of three years to completely recover. They were able to reopen the park shortly after the flooding and the silver lining was that they were filled with FEMA trailers for most of the time, providing a steady income during the rebuilding. The owner told me that they had to hire a company from Tenn. Along with housing and feeding the crew while they rebuilt their home and rec. hall and picnic pavilion. It’s now built to withstand a category 4 or 5 hurricane! So much has been destroyed that will never be rebuilt. He also mentioned that if they hadn’t had all their money in the park, they would not have re-built.

I’ll be touring the area and possibly getting into New Orleans, less than an hour away. And of course I need to check out some of the casinos in the area. More on that next time.
Have a super great day, your traveling buddy,

Doug P

Saturday, April 19, 2008

04-08 Lake City to Tallahassee Florida

Campground: NeverDunn’s Rv Park. A Recreation U.S.A member, $15 per night. Full hookup. Lake City Fla. A small campground on a country farm type setting. Dirt road ok. My rating: Basic.

Campground: Beaver Lake Campground. Passport America, $19.00 per night (winter rate). Full hookup. 20 miles west of Tallahassee. Large grassy sites, near hwy but not noisy.

Dade City to Lake City Fla.
Lake City to Tallahassee Fla.
  • Tallahassee Museum (History and Science Museum)
    Tallahassee Capital
    The Museum of Florida History, R.A. Gray Building
    The Florida Archives/photography
    The Florida Library
    The downtown Farmers Market

I’ve traveled 126 miles to this north Fla. city of Lake City/Ft White to visit with friends John and Margie. The traffic on hwy 75 wasn’t too bad and I traveled a comfortable 65 mph. Averaging 13 mpg. John recently was able to refinance his home at a fixed rate. So it can be done. Diligence and constantly calling a couple of mortgage brokers was the trick. John is a famous Florida artist who continues to do well even in these recession times. Talk about talent. He recently finished building a two bedroom addition to his home along with creating some awesome painting of the real Florida. Check them out at:

On Wednesday I went over to John and Margie’s and we had a BBQ lunch. Can you imagine. On a Wednesday. Right there in the middle of the week and John’s friends were able to stop work and join in. When you live in the country, and Ft White is real country, folks not only have fun at the work they have to do, but they have no problem putting it aside for a couple hours to have a BBQ with friends. How cool.

Today I’m having another new tire put on the camper, to match the previous one I had put on about a month ago. I could have waited, but I plan on replacing all the tires anyway by the end of the year. This breaks up the cost over 6 months and gives me two matching tires on the back of the camper.

Heading on down the road, I’m traveling along I-10 heading towards Tallahassee. It’s good to be out on the open road again. Traffic is light on the highway and the new Chevy diesel truck is handling well. It has so much more power than the previous gas engine Chevy. I-10 is bordered by miles of forest and green grass medians. Even with construction along the route through Tallahassee, it was an easy drive. Maybe it’s knowing I have the best truck and power to handle towing my camper.

I-10 has really high fences on either side, though you can hardly see them between the heavy treed vegetation, to keep the deer and other wild animals off the highway. Also not seen from the highway are the small towns in north Florida surrounded by the dozens of prisons with their own fences. It always surprises me to see so many prisons in one area.

I arrived around noon, after traveling about another 135 miles to Beaver Lake Campground. Haven’t seen any lake, but it’s a nice grassy campsite and easy access to the highway. After setting up, I was able to wash the truck and front cap of the camper. I even put on some shiny stuff on the tires. A clean camper is a happy camper.

Saturday and I’m heading into Tallahassee for a bit of culture and refinement. That’s what one does when one retires. The first place I hit was the Tallahassee Museum because they had the largest official brown signs leading into the city. So I figured it was a huge museum and probably Florida’s best, being right here in the Capital.

Come to find out, it’s run by a not-for-profit organization and nothing to do with being an official museum of Florida. But, it is a compilation of historic buildings on a large plot of land, more like a park, along with two lakes and walking trails. I did get a sense of what it was like to live in the early development of Tallahassee as it grew from being a plantation based town to the state capital of Florida. Otherwise, I could have probably saved my $9 entry fee. It was geared more for the younger crowd, as in children.

So I headed into the heart of downtown, found a parking garage, expecting to pay a hefty fee for parking and was pleasantly surprised upon leaving that I owed $1 for the couple of hours I had parked there. Ps, most of their parking garages appear to be underground. Hmmm.

As I walked onto the main street, I could see the white tents at the end of the street, where they have a weekly farmers market, art and crafts show and some music. How cool. After getting a steaming cup of coffee, I wandered through the arts and crafts area, listened to an electronic keyboard player (pretty good too) and stopped by a stand and picked up a free Tallahassee Newspaper. Had a really nice conversation with the guy as we discussed movies and how his parents travel in their Rv too.

After lunch, I headed over to the Old State Capital with it’s candy striped red and white awnings for a quick tour. Florida’s early history is mired in the history of black suffrage and I found the stories well documented both in the old State Capital building as well as the Tallahassee Museum I’d visited earlier.

Heading out the back door, past the newer Tower Capital Building and Supreme Court building I headed onto the History Museum. Now this is the official Florida History Museum in the R.A. Gray building which also houses the official Historical records and Florida’s Library.
I went to check on the historical photo’s to see what they have. My friend John Sterpee has begun to paint some historical structures and I thought this might be a good source for him. Check out the historical photo’s at: I’m including a photo I found of an “Auto Trailer” on the Overseas Highway of 1940. How cool is that!

Libraries have such a wealth of information and now so many of them are online as well.

Now for the Florida History Museum. Can you believe, it’s in the basement. (cost: Free)Though I have to admit, it’s one huge set of rooms with fantastic high quality displays capturing the history of Florida from the early ice ages, through the various Native Indian life on up to the pirates and treasure hunters. Oh, and yes, some of the percentage of treasures the state claims on any salvage are on display. The gold and silver really put a sparkle in my eye….. And the time travel continues through the hey day of tourism on up to the present day. Well worth the time to explore.

Whew, I’m pooped. Lots of walking up and down those rolling hills around the capital. There’s so much more to see in the area. They have a half dozen State Parks surrounding the city and a number of really great auto tours as well. They even have some Indian mounds, which I didn’t have the energy to go see or climb up and down. Maybe next time.

On the Road again and loving it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

03-08 Lakeland to Orlando Florida

Campground: Moss Park. Orange County Park. $17.50 Senior rate. W/E. Large new campsites. Between two lakes and a forest for hiking.

Lakeland to Orlando

Ok, so I drove over to Lakeland on my way to Orlando to get my 5th wheel camper wheels aligned. Tampa Spring Co did the work and did a great job. I had originally called Flagship Rv about an alignment because one of the wheels was wearing badly and actually blew out when I was last in Orlando. Flagship wanted to put a new axle on the camper without even seeing it. Rv’ers, don’t let an Rv place tell you you need a new axle if your tires begin to wear badly. It may be a bent axle, but go to a professional axle/alignment place for big semi trucks and Rv’s to have them determine if your camper needs an alignment or more. Most Rv places are not equipped to handle alignments or even determine what is wrong with your wheels and axles.

Bottom line, I paid $170 to have all 4 wheels and axles re-aligned. The mechanic told me that most travel trailers/5th wheels are out of alignment from the day they come out of the factory.

Back to Orlando. My sisters husband Dave has had to go into the hospital due to some breathing problems. He has very limited lung capacity and is on oxygen. He also has sleep apnea and hasn’t been using his breathing device at night.

Update. Dave has gotten out of the hospital and is doing fine.

My sister Dorothy and her Daughter Kelly came to the park the other day with her two kids. We had lunch and went to the playground so Lucas could get in some play time.

The week has gone by fast. Doing laundry one day, I talked to one of the workers, a gentleman from India who just became a U.S. citizen last year. He had his own business and had to sell it. He now makes $7.50 an hour and wonders how he and his wife can continue to pay the $500 a month for insurance. And even though he has the insurance, he’s afraid to go in to see a doctor about a pain in his side because it will still cost him a fair amount of money and he has to pay full price for any prescriptions. He also wondered why the Gov. and State are able to tax his money from the sale of his small business since he’d already paid taxes on that money in the past. Welcome to America.

I visited with Ione and talked to her son on the phone. They were my best neighbors when I lived in Orlando. Wayne was at work with a terrible chest cold of some kind, but had to go into work. Ione had been taking care of an elderly woman along with another one of her sons. The ordeal was overwhelming and she told me that at one point she felt like she was not herself. Just going through the motions. Thank goodness they finally decided to put the gal in a nursing home.

Along the way, I had lunch with a couple folks from work and it reminded me that I was very fortunate to have worked with such wonderful people throughout my Navy “civilian” career. Jan has worked for 35 years and could have retired over 5 years ago. Another friend Lorraine is in the same boat. I guess some folks just like working. I can tell you, I am profoundly grateful that I’m retired and am able to enjoy this new adventure.

My friend Pat who works for a company that sells foreign stamps, tells me that with the value of our dollar so low, that the stamp business is booming. Many of the Asian buyers are paying twice as much for the stamps, making the company he’s working for quite happy. In actuality they are paying about the same as before, since the dollar has devalued to about half it’s former value of just a couple of years ago.

Of course that’s also why we are paying over $3.00 a gallon for gas. If the government would bring the value of the dollar back up, the price of gas would only be about $$1.50 a gallon. But of course we have to protect all the folks who speculated on home they couldn’t afford…. You know the drill.

I haven’t had a chance to read much of the local papers while here. But from the news on tv, it appears that there’s still lots of crime to go around in Central Florida along with the heavy amount of car accidents. There hasn’t been a day that has gone by that I haven’t seen a couple of accidents. Which usually involves closing entire streets off for a couple of hours. Yuck.

Moss Park is like an oasis of tranquility. A short distance north into town, yet I’m in a quiet park surrounded by huge old oak trees, tall pine trees, lakes and hiking trails. At night, there are no street lights so the campground becomes a dark primitive place, silent as can be.