Sunday, April 25, 2010

2010-10 Crystal River Florida

Crystal River Florida

B&B Rv Park. Lecanto Fl.   Full hookups w/cable Tv.  $10 per night.  A simple small park with about 40 units, many permanent Rv’s.

I headed out of Orlando traveling along the Florida Turnpike to hwy 44 and into Lake County.  Although this is considered the dry season, Florida has had lots of rain over the winter months and along with lots of brimming lakes, I.e. Lake County, the pasture lands and low lands are covered in water.

I’ve arrived at another Passport America park, and although the owner said he really was no longer a participant in the PA club, he gave me a great deal on the camp site. And after arriving, I found out he had heart surgery this past weekend.  He’s recovering and was really lucky as he said that an artery was completely blocked.

Life can throw some pretty sudden curves our way.  Just hope we can bounce back like he did.

I’m close to the west coast of Florida and have been wanting to visit the Crystal River Archeological State Park.  It is the location of the largest Indian Mound site in Florida.  The first day, I took a boat tour down the Crystal River.  Views of the Crystal River Nuclear and Coal power plants and 4 bald eagles.  The park ranger on board provided us with a history of the area, noting that as many as 7,500 Native Indians visited the site each year.  And as  many as 50,000 could have live in the surrounding county.  We were also able to see the largest of the mounds from the water.

This is the only site where some of the mounds were used as burial sites in Florida.  The second day I visited the museum and toured the numerous mounds and middens.  They have two main Steles (stones turned upright with some carvings).  This is the only known site in Florida to contain such stones.  A park ranger was kind enough to give me more information then one would normally receive after I’d told him of my research on Native American sites throughout the US and Canada (amateur of course).  The ranger showed me a stele that most of the public would never see, indicating a hand print in the stone as well as some concentric circles carved near the bottom of the stone.   Quite exciting to see something that had been carved almost 2000 years ago.

The description of the tallest mound, over 30 feet in height, would have been visible from the Gulf of Mexico, the red and yellow flags of the tribe flapping in the wind.  As other tribes would have paddled down the coast, coming to the area most likely to trade goods, they would have seen those flags and known they were in the midst of a great tribe.

Copper and mica from the north west and Ohio area have been found at the site as well as items that most likely came from the Mayan culture.   This site was occupied continuously for over 1,600 years.  Imagine.

The next couple of days I decided to just tour the country side.  Traveling through small communities like Beverly Hills, Dunellen, Yankee Town and Cedar Key.  The countryside is thick with oak trees, pine and palm trees.  Lush green pasture lands interspersed between the forests.  So thick in many areas I couldn’t see 10 feet into the forest.  Beverly Hills isn’t so much a town, actually I didn’t see one, but they have one heck of a beautiful one mile long boulevard.  Single lanes flank a wide grass and tree lined center median with sidewalks on both edges of the median.  Small concrete homes from the 60’s line the side streets.  Dunellen is a quaint Florida Cracker town and I’ll have to tour it some more.  Yankee Town was little more than cracker houses and a couple small motels, boat docks. With the main road passing through  miles of marsh land and islands surrounded by a sea of tall grasses leading to a dead end where there was a boat ramp and small picnic area.  The Gulf of Mexico shimmering in the distance.  An older couple who live fairly close drove their motor home over to the picnic area and just parked it there for the day.  Enjoying the Gulf views, islands off in the distance.  How cool.

 Cedar Key, normally a lazy fishing village on the Gulf coast was filled with tourists ogling all the Florida artists displaying their wares.  My Friend John Sterpe was there with his awesome “Real Florida” scenes of spring fed rivers and landscapes.  Lots of new artists I’d not seen before.

A final note on this region.  While exploring the Crystal River area, I’ve eaten at a number of local restaurants and I must say, they’ve all been pretty darn good, both price wise and quality of food.  At one, I paid $6.95 for an appetizer, Greek salad, fresh roll/butter, coleslaw, and a Tilapia sandwich.  Oh the drink (a soda) cost $1.00.

Enjoy exploring your own corner of the World.  

PS don't forget to check out additional pictures on my PICASA Web site.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

2010-09 Orlando, Dr's Appts

Bill Fredrick Park, at Turkey Lake. Orlando.  Campsites have elect/water with a few having full hookups.  $15 per night.  Gorgeous manicured park like setting.  When I drive the long winding road back to the campsites, I keep expecting to see Tara just around the next bend in the road.


This is not so much a report on traveling as it is about health issues while on the road.  As a full time Rv’er, one has to consider where to get medical treatment when needed.  Fortunately, I have Gov BC/BS, which permits me to get medical care anywhere in the country.  Most campers will spend time, usually a winter campground where they will make all their medical appointments.

I should have done that this past winter while in AZ, but I was enjoying so many of the activities at Desert Trails, that I just kept putting off making all those appointments.  So here I am on my old turf of Orlando, scrambling to have a few procedures done.

Without going into detail, I had a small scab on my right temple that would not go away.  Bingo, it was skin cancer.  After surgery and 10 stitches, it has been taken care of.  It was not melanoma that most aggressive type of skin cancer, so I was fortunate there.

The other procedure was for a colonoscopy, you know that procedure where they go up your butt looking at your own person grand canyon.  And they take pictures!  Now for all those approaching that 50th birthday and beyond and you haven’t had it done yet, you need to go in and have it done.  Colon cancer is the number one killer and is so preventable.

One, you do not feel a thing.  My Urology Center uses Propofal to knock one out and it is excellent.  Having no side effects afterward, I came out of it quite alert and with no fussy feeling in my head.  If you take the gallon of laxative which is what most people take, I recommend mixing it with “Crystal Light” rather than the flavor packets they give you.  It helps disguise the yucky flavor of the laxative and makes it much easier to get down.

I have had one polyp discovered with each exam and of course they removed it.  If I had let it go, it could and probably would eventually become cancerous.  So I’ve been able to add many more years of life expectancy to my life and hope you will with yours.

We do maintenance on our homes and cars, it’s time we did a little Preventative Maintenance on our bodies.

Back on the campers traveling note, while on the road, I have had the need on a number of occasions to go to either a walk-in clinic or an emergency room for treatment.  I’ve found that walk-in clinics are covered by my health insurance, though I quite often have had to pay about $50 in extra fees.  On one occasion, I had an eye infection and had to go to a small town hospital emergency room as it was a holiday weekend and all Dr’s offices were closed.  My BC/BS took care of it and I was not asked to even make a Co-payment for the visit.  Note:  Small town hospital emergency rooms are much easier to get into than in larger towns.

One can also call their Doctor back home and ask if the Doctor can send a prescription to a local pharmacy where you are currently staying.  I’ve described my problem over the phone and had a prescription faxed to where I was staying within 30 minutes.

It may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s all quite doable.  Oh, and when I was on my trip to Alaska last summer, I’d run out of one of my eye drops for my glaucoma while in  Skagway.  With no pharmacy available and only a small clinic, I was given instructions on how the “locals” get their meds.  I ended up calling the pharmacy in Juno, had a currier pick up the prescription and bring it to the airport.  Where a local commuter jet picked it up and transported it to Skagway that afternoon.  It cost me about $75 for the extra service and was a good lesson.  Make sure I have enough of my meds for those long trips.

It’s good to have all those tests completed.  I feel better knowing I’m ready for the next leg of my journey in good health and good health to you in your travels as well.

PS, One final note.  I continue to take my Vitamin D supplement.  It has done wonders for rebuilding my muscle, joint and cartilage.  It is now recommended that a person take between 1,000 and 2,000 units of Vitamin D3 daily.  My back feels great and I have no pain in my joints anymore.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2010-08 Florida City to South Bay to Sebring Florida

Leaving the Florida Keys.

Florida City, Belle Glade, South Bay, Clewiston.

Marathon Coast Guard:  DoD personnel only.  $24 per night.  Full hookups.  Only 4 sites available.

Miami Everglades Rv park.  $39 per night.  Full resort style, swimming pools etc.  Full hookups w/cable Tv.  5 star commercial facilities.

South Bay County Park.  $26.  Full hookups, concrete pads, cable Tv and wi-fi.  Beautiful setting along the canal leading into Lake Okeechobee.  5 star facilities.

As it turned out, I was able to spend 15 days in the keys at the Marathon coastguard.  Plans were in place for me to get an Rv site on Big Pine Key, but the owner hadn’t left the site when I arrived and we had no idea when he was leaving.  Rather than spend a few nights boon docking (the temps are getting into the low 80’s) I decided to begin my trek back to Central Fla.

Sometimes it’s like trying to squeeze too much fun into a short period of time.  Like a good Florida orange, you try to get the last drop of orange juice out.  By heading out, I was assured of being able to visit, Ed Leedskalnin’s Coral Castle and a few other sites I have in mind of visiting.

The coral castle is one of those truly Floridian attractions that dates back to when car travel was just becoming popular.  Although Ed didn’t plan it as a Fla. attraction, to me it is the essence of just that, a quirky, kitschy attraction.

The coral castle is a creation of one man.  Ed, who’s only 5’ tall and weighed only 100 lbs.  No one ever saw Ed move the pieces being worked on or being moved into place.  Many of the pieces weighing several tons each.  When the original site in Florida City started to become too crowded, he moved the entire thing 10 miles up the road.

The whole castle was created as a tribute of sorts to his lost love, who decided not to marry him at the last minute.  It was created over 20 years between 1920 and 1940.  Many of the coral chairs rock back and forth, they were so perfectly balanced.  Including two large coral gates that swivel on old Ford car parts.

It’s just a magical place that I’ve wanted to visit for many years and finally got the chance to see it.

The next day I headed to South Bay, just outside of Belle Glade Florida along Okeechobee Lake.  I’d heard of a great county park and decided to stay there for a couple of days while exploring the area.

As a full time traveler, I stay in everything from commercial parks both high end and low as well as forests, state parks and county parks.  The more I travel, the more I appreciate those parks that go out of their way to do it right.  South Bay is one of those parks.  Campsites are easy to back into because they’re all perfectly angled.  Paved sites, nice picnic tables, grassy well maintained landscaping.  Ponds with walking paths around them.  Soft lighting, full hookups with cable tv and good free wi-fi signals.  On site laundry facilities.  They just about have it all.  Makes for a pleasant stay all around.

One of my stops in the area was to Clewiston.  A small farming community surrounded by sugar cane fields, cattle ranches and orange groves.  The town was designed by John Nolen, a renowned city planner.  The design remains but the town has remained, truly a small town.  Only recently getting a super Wal-Mart on the edge of town.  I enjoyed a tour and movie at their museum which fills in the story of creating the Hover dyke after two hurricanes devastated the area.  The development of orange groves and sugar cane with many farmers migrating from Cuba after Castro took over the country.  The time during WWII when the area was host to the British who came here to learn how to fly.  This is the original Florida which I love.  Large flat landscapes dotted with palms, uninterrupted blue skies with puffy white clouds slowly moving across the sky.

I had lunch at the Clewiston Inn.  Built in 1937 in the Neo-Classical Revival style, it oozes southern charm.  They have a very nice buffet lunch, but if your not in a hurry, order off the menu.  I had a chicken broccoli casserole, sweet potato casserole and fried okra all for $5.95.  The buffet is $10.95.  The food I got was beautifully prepared, even if the service and wait was a bit long.  Nice to dine in an historic building feel a bit pampered.

Driving around town, some of the side streets are lined with tall majestic Palms in double rows. Canals off of Okeechobee Lake boarder the northern end of town and continue to the west coast of Fla.

 I also drove into Belle Glade and was not overly thrilled with the town.  The original downtown area is mostly boarded up and falling apart.  Most of the stores are closed or are discount or Goodwill type stores.  Many buildings  and homes have security bars over their windows and doors.  I did see a couple of nice residential areas that were well maintained, but they were so close to the run down areas, it was all a bit sad.  Even the local Winn-Dixie looked like it was running on borrowed time.  Most of the free standing displays were of soft drinks, colored water of no value what so ever.

The town does have half a dozen fast food joints, but that’s about it.

Traveling along hwy 27, through the heartland of Fla. I enjoyed the smell of the orange blossoms in bloom.  The orange pickers were still at work  hard picking the last of the crop and it looked like they had many more days of picking ahead of them.  Those bright oranges showing off against the dark green leaves.  I reached Sebring Fla around noon time and will settle in for three days before heading to Orlando and a few Dr’s appts.  There must be some money here in Sebring, I saw a black, dark tinted windowed Rolls Royce idling next to the Super Wal-Mart center.

Nice to be traveling familiar ground through out Florida.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

2010-07 Marathon Florida


Marathon, Key West, Big Pine Key Florida

Perception.  How each person sees things through their own lens.

I’ve already mentioned that the keys are a special place for me.  But I was thinking, what makes the keys special to me and how is that different from other places I’ve been.

I guess it goes back to my childhood, growing up in Northern Michigan.  Where we would have 10 feet of snow in front of our house by mid winter.  My fantasies and dreams of living where there were palm trees, sunshine and water started way back then.  Watching the Lucile Ball show and the rhythm of Rickie Ricardo’s Cuban band added that tropical spice and rumba beat to my dreams.

I of course I made it to Florida in my early 20’s and remained in the Orlando area for over 30 years.  But it wasn’t until I made my first trip to the keys that I felt I’d come home.

I’ve been coming down here off and on for over 30 years now.  I have friends that say they’ll make it down here one day, but it’s not their dream and I doubt they’d ever make it here.

It’s a special chain of islands or keys that swing down off the coastal tip of Florida, eventually heading west, making Key West the last island in the chain.  A1A being the concrete ribbon connecting all the islands.  Imagine when Flagler first built his railroad through Fla and into the keys, even with a barge that brought the trains across the gulf of Mexico to Cuba.  Hurricanes destroyed the train line and the roadway was put over the original rail line.  You can even see the old rails, as they were used to build the railings along the new roadway.

The keys are not a perfect Shangri-La by any means.  I couldn’t afford to live hear what with Rv sites going for $1,200 to $2,200 a month in season.  Purchasing a lot would start at around $100K.

The summers are excruciatingly hot and humid.  Many locals don’t move around swiftly during the summer months.  Construction workers are hard to find and usually only show up when they want to and often can’t be found after they’ve headed out to a local pub for lunch.

Everything costs more in the keys.  From gas, to water, to laundry which I mentioned last week at $4 for a small top loading washer and $2 to dry.

But then you have the continually good seafood throughout the year.  Snapper, grouper, tuna, dolphin and Florida lobster.

I’m continually mesmerized by the colors in the shallow Atlantic and Gulf waters.  The small islands that dot the waters with their palms trees swaying in the breeze.  Boaters stopping along their sandy shores for a break or lunch.  Fishermen bobbing along near the bridge piling to fish.

The sky somehow seems bluer and the air feels cleaner.  Yet the never ending traffic along the only highway through the keys can become tiring very quickly.

Could I live down here full time.  Probably not, nor would I want to.  It’s magical to me and will always be a part of who I am.  But that’s it isn’t it.  It’s just a part of me.  The other parts enjoy the mountains and the desert.  The wild rugged streams and rivers along the Rockies.  Places yet to be explored and discovered.  Places that make life an adventure.

So I’ll hold those magical places dear to my heart and discover new ones along the way.  And while here in the keys, I’ll ride my bike up and down the bike paths along A1A, visit with friends for long evening dinners out on concrete docks overlooking the watery canals filled with every type of fishing boat imaginable including sail boats.  Staying out late, watching a full golden moon rise over the black calm waters of the gulf.  Stars so bright you’d think you could touch them.

Driving home into the evening, the moon shining its light across the water, creating a silvery reflection on the dark Atlantic side that follows me all the way back to my camper at the Coastguard in Marathon.

The keys have to be experienced.

For all you folks who are just tired of eating the same stuff over and over.  I created Doug’s Simple Green Salad the other night and it went over very well.

1 bag of chopped hearts of romaine
3 or 4 stalks of celery, each stalk sliced into three long sections, then finely chopped
½ box of frozen baby peas, green giant (thawed)
2 or 3 thin slices of onion, then cut in half

A good ranch dressing (I usually get the jar from the chilled produce section) approx. two globs.

Mix all ingredients.  Mystery writer Diane Mott recommends tossing 40 times to ensure fully blended.   

I think you’ll enjoy this simple and easy salad.

From the keys to your home, Island life, just down the road.