Wednesday, October 23, 2013

2013-36 Ocala to Orlando Florida, Moss Park

Ocala/Silver Springs

Ocala Florida


Campground:  Holiday Trav-L-Park, Ocala FL, 34482, PA rate: $17.50 Normal Price: $35.00.  An older park with many older rundown trailers.  Staff is below average and over charged me.  No comment, no recommendation.  Small swimming pool and free wi-fi upfront at office/recreation hall.

Campground:  Moss Park, Orange County park.  I'll be a camp host here for the winter.  A spectacular park on the south side of Orlando, 3,000 acres, two lakes, gorgeous large modern back in campsites including "family campsites"  consisting of 3 sites on curved loops.

Distance traveled:  69 miles.

I could have taken the quick route, I-75, but settled on taking hwy 441 through Gainesville then south through horse country.  There are some amazing horse farms surrounding Ocala and I love to see them with their 4 board wood fences, magnificent horse barns, rolling hills of green pasture land, large oak trees and native palms.  And once I got out of Gainesville proper, 441 becomes a scenic 4 lane divided highway going through the Real Florida.

Ocala is quite a southern style town with all the modern stores, an historic downtown and neighborhood.  On the east side of town, Silver Springs Blvd. becomes this grand road with a wide park like setting dividing the east and west bound lanes.  Huge spreading oak trees and lush green grass in-between.  Quite impressive.

Typical post modern buildings, Downtown Ocala FL

I spent the good part of one morning at the Appleton Art Museum on the grounds of the College of Central Florida.  It’s an impressive art museum for it’s size.  Lots of 19th century European paintings, an impressive Mexican and pre-Columbian collection of sculptures and some Chinese art in a another wing of the museum.  I missed a photography exhibit of historical Florida by about a weeks time, darn it all.  Well worth the small admission fee to check it out what they do have.  They were just setting up the Christmas displays so I’ll include a few shots from that as well.  After signing a form indicating I was a reporter/photographer for the blog, I was able to take a few pictures inside the museum, just for you.

Courtyard of Appleton Art Museum

just getting started on their Christmas displays

all decorations are collectables and unique

African Mask

Pre-Columbian figurine being carried on a platform

detail shot of one of my favorite paintings

Ocala’s downtown square, though clean and neat doesn’t offer the tourist much in the way of shopping or entertainment.  There were about 4 good restaurants on the square and a Starbucks.  Most of the shopping is off of College drive.  Including the Paddock mall and all the big box stores and chain restaurants.

Silver Springs State Park is a must for any visitor and be sure to take the glass bottom boat ride.  Tarzan movies were filmed here and you’ll see wild monkeys in the trees along the boat ride tour.  They were left behind after the filming of the movies.  And for those interested in more outdoor nature stuff, the Ocala National Forest is nearby with more springs to enjoy a swim in or paddle down river, camp and hike in the woods.

the famous glass bottom boats


Angel Trumpet

sleeping hibiscus or Bishops Cap

looking into the giraffe exhibit,  now closed

Well on my last day in the Ocala area, though I had many choices to tour various places, I decided to re-visit Silver Springs and the glass bottom boats.  What a change.  The park had apparently been run down my a concessionaire that had a lease on the place.  The state of  Florida being the owner, decided to take over the entire park with a goal of bringing it back to more of a natural park.  When it first opened under a private owner in the 1870’s Silver Springs was considered the first real Florida Attractions and was the first place to use glass bottom boats.  Silver Springs gushes over 550 million gallons of  crystal clear water each day.  Of course with the Disney World’s, Sea Worlds, etc, the shine was eventually off of Silver Springs and it has gradually declined over the years.  The state of Florida has recently removed the zoo animals as well as the train ride and jeep tours through the animal exhibits so much of the park that I remember is currently closed.  The outdoor musical venue will be starting up again, but when I went online, I didn’t recognize any of the musicians, being of the younger set.  I remember going to a number of the concerts years ago with the likes of Randy Travis and Loretta Lynn and Chrystal Gale.  I did of course go on the glass bottom boat ride, about a 25-35 minute tour, looking down into the crystal clear spring waters.  They don’t go down river as far as I remembered, not passing by the island with all the monkeys.  They tell me the monkeys are still in the area, but I didn’t get a chance to see them.

I found out that the house that Ma Barker and her gang were finally gunned down in is over near Lake Weir, Ocklawaha.  The house is up for sale so if you want to start a historical/museum here’s your chance.  The house even comes with bullet holes.  They say that Ma Barker really wasn’t the master mind of the gang, Harvey Bailey, a bank-robber friend said, “the old woman couldn’t plan breakfast.  When we‘d sit down to plan a bank job, she‘d go in the other room and listen to Amos and Andy or hillbilly music on the radio”.

Or I could have gone over to Ormond Beach and visit the Rockefeller Casement Mansion.  Now owned and used as a multi-purpose bldg by the city of Ormond Beach.  Closer by there’s always the Marjorie Kinnan Rowling House it is part of the Florida State park system and is the one of the best examples of an early Florida Cracker type house and features the life of this famous author.  Just down the road from there is Micanopy.  An 1821 pioneer town that has never accepted any of those fast food places or gas stations.  A great place to go back in time to a simpler Florida lifestyle.

Florida has so many unique places to discover if you get off the main highways and away from the beaches.

Distance traveled:  98 miles

I took my final jog down the road, across the Florida Turnpike (toll road) into Orlando and across hwy 528, The Beach line expressway (toll road) and after going through all those toll booths I racked up $17 in tolls.  Central Florida is noted for all their toll roads, but now that I’m here, I’m hoping I can avoid most of them.  I think I still remember most of the back roads around town.

Orlando Florida.
Moss Park.

I’m getting settled into my camp host spot #8 in Moss Park, but here again, I may change sites within the next week or so as it is not a particularly good site to get in and out of.  This is an Orange County park with over 3,000 acres and two large lakes and one hidden lake back along a wonderful forested trail called Split Oak trail.  I’ll be getting indoctrinated into my position in the park over the next couple of days and will tell you all about it in a "special report" in the next couple of weeks.

I’ve discovered first off that the camp host site only has water and electric so I’ve thought about getting a portable waste tank to haul my poo to the dump station.  Though I may just hook up the camper and drive around each time to the dump station, hence the need to move to a site that‘s easier to get in and out of.  I could also use a bike to get around as the park is pretty large and they are not providing me with a golf cart, which isn’t a major problem as I can always use the exercise.  It’s just one of those nice things to have.  I do have really good over-the-air tv stations available.  Over 60+ stations and I have 3G and 4G Verizon coverage at my site.  I’m also interested in the use of a kayak for the winter months if any of my Orlando friends have access to one or any of the other things I’m mentioned.  Drop me a line or call me.

Sandhill Cranes are here year round

boardwalk to campground boat ramp

Moss Park campground boat dock

I’m looking forward to having all my Orlando friends stop by for many visits and I’m sure there will be more than a few lunches and dinners to attend.  So here’s a special invitation to all my friends and relatives in Florida to come on by and enjoy a beautiful country setting, here in Moss Park with your host with the most, Camper Doug.

A few more pictures on Picasa.

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