Posted on April 12, 2015
The Final Chapter…
I bet you all have been wondering just what the hell happened to us? Were we swallowed by a haunted bayou someplace in the wilds of Louisiana? Or eaten by a pack of ravenous ‘gators? Kidnapped by Crazy Canadians? Or did we just turn around and head back to Key West, to lay on the beach, drink margaritas and chill until all of our credit cards were maxed out or we ran out of Land Shark beer?
Well, none of the above, actually. You can attribute this prolonged lack of our communication to just sloth and pure laziness on my part. (The reality is that it take me about 12-16 hours to prepare each chapter of this blog and I simply just could not bring myself to sit down and get to it.)
We made it home pretty much in one piece (well, some pieces got left and other pieces got added, but you are going to have to keep reading to figure out exactly what that means.) We have been back home in Silver Lake, WA, since Sunday, March 22. But, let’s go back several weeks to where we left off, near Lafayette, Louisiana…
We stayed a couple of nights at the Frog City RV Park, in Duson. We had intended on going back to Prejean’s Cajun Restaurant in Lafayette one more time but decided to try this other place, near Duson (just down the road from Lafayette) on the advice of some locals. Big mistake. BIG mistake. Deep fried everything. And pretty bland. And over cooked. And mediocre service. But, at least the beer was cold. Oh well…we can always head back to Prejean’s on the next trip.
On the road once again, we passed through Lake Charles and then exited Louisiana on Interstate 10 and entered Texas…dismayed, but not surprised to note that the first mile marker we saw indicated ‘899.’ Gads! (By comparison, from San Ysidro, near Tijuana, to the Oregon border – taking The 5 all the way – is only 796 miles…so that gives you a sense of scale.) It’s a l-o-n-g way across Texas on The 10 – it took us over 4 days of pretty steady driving.
After passing through Beaumont, the first major city we came to was Houston – and it’s one huge city. We were on the beltway going around the major metropolitan area and were cruising along in fairly light traffic until we encountered this incredible traffic jam that went on for miles and miles. Turns out there was some major bridge construction going on that caused a ‘funneling’ from 6 lanes down to ONE lane. That delayed us by about 2 hours. Oh well…
First overnight stop in Texas was at Columbus, where we stayed in a funky, but functional, RV park. We had dinner at a pretty good Tex/Mex place nearby (Los Cabos) that evening.
Next day, back again on The 10 headed west. We skirted San Antonio on the Beltway without encountering much traffic, and are now headed into the wilds of West Texas. There just ain’t much out there.
At all. Hardly anything.
Including RV parks. Even Google Maps gets confounded when you do a search for them. We ended up in Ozona, where we stopped at one of the few-and-far-between spots we could find. This place did not even have a name, unless you call the giant sign by the freeway that said, in ten-foot-tall letters, ‘RV Park,’ a name. Actually, it should have been called ‘Shit-Hole RV Park.’ It was raining and we were tired, so we pulled into the place and discovered that we had to walk a 2 blocks block back across the highway to a motel (a Super 8 – another dump) to check in. Got a ride from some guy who dropped me off out front. Went inside, no one there. Waited 20 minutes. Finally walked over to an adjacent restaurant and asked them where the guy was who runs the motel. They called him and he showed up 10 minutes later, with no apology. So I tell him we want to check into the ‘RV Park’ across the highway. “Forty dolla,” says he, in his middle-eastern accent. “Did you say ’20 dollars?’,” says I. “No, 40 dolla, cash, no discounts,” snarls he. “Not even Good Sam, AARP, AAA, anything?” says I. “No.” says he. “And cash.” says he. So, I paid it, with a mental protest, plotting someway to get even (and I did…) I walked back across the street to find a spot (“Stay anywhere you can find,” said he.) The place was a total Shit Hole, like I said above. A third world country. Dirty. Garbage everywhere. And dog crap (That’s how Charlie and I got even.) It looked like most of the spots were occupied by (fracking) oil workers (there is a major oil boom going on in Texas.) We pulled into a spot, leveled the RV and retreated inside until morning. Took the Glock with us, just in case.
The next morning, we could not get out of there fast enough.
OK, on the road again. Still in Texas and still heading west on The 10. Next stop was Van Horn, a dying West Texas town (somewhat reminiscent of the town in the movie, “The Last Picture Show”) but with a remarkably nice RV Park – clean, friendly and big spaces. And a nice dog run for the dog. We headed out to get diesel for the truck and find a place to eat. Found fuel, but no restaurant.
A day later, STILL in Texas, but FINALLY getting to El Paso and then crossing back into New Mexico. Wahoo! We passed through Las Cruces and stopped in Lordsburg. Now, we usually avoid KOA’s like the plague (they are usually over-priced and under-aesthic’ed), but RV parks in Lordsburg were on the sparse side so we had to opt for this place. I have to admit we were pleasantly surprised. Reasonable rate. Nice size space. Friendly. Clean. OK, we’re happy. Nearby was Kranberries Family Restaurant (when you see ‘Family’ in the name of a restaurant, it also means ‘no beer.’) Dinner was pretty blah, with probably the weirdest nacho’s we have ever had: 50 chips-out-of-a-bag and smothered in at least a gallon of genuine Velveeta. Oh, and 10 pepper slices on top, too. Dee Dee told me to quit bitching about them and lighten up…it’s probably just a local custom, some sort of Tex/Mex thing. But, the employees were, as in the custom almost everywhere in Texas, very friendly.
Back on The 10, headed out of New Mexico, into Arizona. Passed through Benson (where we stayed with our friends Gary and Debbie a couple of months before, on the way East.) On to Tucson, were we first headed to an RV park we found on the Inner-Net (and the Inner-Net never lies – never ever.) Pulled in, drove around, and headed right back out. It was ghetto. Found another place near Old Tucson – Desert Trails RV Park. The owner’s first name was Pericles and he was one terrific guy. They had ONE spot available (it’s still high-season in the desert) and we got it. This was a great place – outside of town in the midst of the Sonoran Desert and very peaceful. Incredible landscapes and scenery. We loved it. While there we had a delightful visit with an old Modesto friend, Carol Lancaster-Mingus, who taught Television classes and was a stellar member of the faculty. Such a great, gracious, lady who showed us around her home town and treated us to an absolutely delightful dinner in a restaurant where we watched the sun set on the Catalina Mountains. Wonderful evening!
After departing the Tucson area, we were on to Mesa, where we checked into a very high-class RV park, called Mesa Spirit, where we stayed for FREE, courtesy of LaMesa RV, in Mesa. Here is the ‘Reader’s Digest’ version of the next part of the story:
We had been talking on-and-off for over a year about possibly trading in our 5th-wheel for a Class A motor home. While on this trip, we started doing lots of research on what we wanted, and once that was done, finding a dealer with the right price. We talked to several in Washington and Oregon, but could not come to terms on either the trade-in value and/or the purchase price. So, we finally settled on LaMesa RV (in Mesa) who gave us a fair deal and treated us well. Plus, it was the end of the RV season for them, so they were unloading inventory. So, on Saturday, March 7, (after closing the deal and spending the night in the LaMesa RV parking lot) we moved from one unit to the other; this was a long, stressful day that almost did us in, as it got very warm in the afternoon. Plus, we had A LOT of stuff.
Our new rig is a Class A 2015 Winnebago Adventurer. We opted for gas instead of diesel. Yes, there are many pro’s and con’s regarding this choice, but we just could not justify the huge additional expense of a diesel pusher. And, as it turns out, we have been very pleased with our choice. It’s a great coach.
After moving all our ‘stuff’ across from the 5th wheel to the Winnie, we drove back to the Mesa Spirit RV Park and stayed another 3 days, once again compliments of LaMesa RV. While we were based here, we headed down to Gilbert to have lunch with an old friend from my ASU graduate school days, Neil Miller, and his wife, Marilyn. They have a great place and we really had a great time…especially seeing all of Neil’s ‘stuff.’ What a collector he is.
I spent the next 2 days about as close to death (and hell) as I ever want to come. Somehow I either got a massive dose of food poisoning, or some kind of really virulent flu. Whatever it was, it really tore me up for 36 hours. Not at all pleasant.
As the ‘disease’ was beginning to wane, we limped back out to Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction. We had stayed there several months before, at the beginning of our trip and enjoyed it so much that we booked in for another 5 days. Here we once again met up with our Prescott buddies, Debbie and Gary. We took in a Mariners/Rockies spring training game out in Peoria (it takes 75 minutes, driving 60 miles an hour on the freeways, to get from Mesa to Peoria…the Phoenix area is huge.) Seattle lost 4-1, but we still had a great time. The Peoria stadium facility is very nice venue (heck, beer is only $7 for a 16 oz. can) and we chatted with lots of folks who come down here mainly to watch the pre-season games. Everybody was having a good time.
Well, just as our last stay (in December) at Lost Dutchman was disrupted by a chronic truck problem, this one was no different. The day after the game, Dee Dee and I were out getting diesel for the pickup (we did not trade this in on new RV) and we got a text message from Gary telling us he was in the hospital. What the heck is this??!! Turns out that about 11 PM the night before he started experiencing some chest pain, so he called the paramedics and they came out to get him. The weird thing is that they were staying right across the road from us and we did not hear a thing! And there was both an ambulance AND a fire truck! So, we head right over to the hospital to see him. He looks good, and is in fine spirits, but they want to do an angiogram to take a look at his heart, so he has to hang out for another day.
The day he was discharged was the same day we had to depart Lost Dutchman State Park and continue heading back home. So, we worked with the Park to get his stay extended for a few hours to allow him time to get ready to leave. We got his RV squared away and left. Turns out that he felt well enough (even after the angiogram) to drive back to Prescott. Debbie followed in their car. (We talked with him the next day and he said he was really tired and pretty sore – felt rode hard and put away dirty.)
Whew. Well, we have not given up on Lost Dutchman…as they say, 3rd time’s a charm…
So, we continue west, stopping at this totally cool RV park right on the river in Needles – Fender’s River Road Resort. We had this HUGE spot with a great view. Once again, we lucked out and got their last spot, due to a recent cancellation. This is on our list of good places to stay if we make a return trip in this direction.
By this time, the ‘free’ 1/2 tank of gas that La Mesa RV had given us was pretty much gone, so we headed out in the truck to find a place to re-fuel. We had heard that gas prices in California were out of line with other states, but imagine our surprise when every gas station in Needles was over $4 per gallon! We mentioned our dismay to our waitress at dinner (Wagon Wheel Restaurant, great place) and she told us to head back across the river into Arizona where it was about $1/gallon less. What a difference a mile can make. Turns out that Needles gas stations (greedy bastards) were an anomaly; the remainder of our gas stops in California were not that far out of line.
Next destination, Bakersfield, at a regular stopping place, the Orange Grove RV Park. We stayed there for a couple of days to cool our jets (we had an absolutely ‘delightful’ meal at Sizzler…don’t ask why we stopped there…just dumb, I guess.)
On to Lodi for 2 more days, where we stayed at this fairly nice, but W-A-Y overpriced place, Flag City RV Park, located near the intersection of Highway 12 and The 5. I guess you could say the best thing about it was the 5 acre fenced dog run; Charlie was in Dog Heaven. Here Bob met up with 2 really old and good friends and golfing buddies from Modesto Daze, Bill Woodard and Juan Alvarez. What a great time we all had playing a round at the Spanos Reserve course. Hard, but fair. Re-kindled many great memories. We also had a great dinner with an old water-skiing-and-drinking buddy, Daryl Verkerk, and his new girl friend, a delightful lady and lots of fun. That was a nostalgic evening of reminiscing about days gone by.
We left Lodi on March 20th and now the ‘end’ is really in sight. Next stop was Yreka at another funky place that we managed to squeeze into (also on our list of places to skip next time…). Then on to Albany, Oregon, for a stay at the Blue Ox RV park, a bit hard to find, and sorta cramped spaces, but adequate…except for no dog run at all.
And then, down the home stretch to Silver Lake, where we finally arrived HOME at noon on Sunday, March 22, after a short 3-hour drive. We made it down the driveway with no problems (I drove the RV all the way back from Mesa, with Dee Dee following in the truck.) We pulled in and let ‘The Boys’ out to finally be able to run free after being pretty much confined for over 4 months. They were pretty pleased about that. The house looked great – just like we had left it. Thanks to our neighbor, Karson, for checking it a couple of times a week and texting us that things looked good, and to our nephew Stacey and his wife, Lynne, who came down once a month to start the vehicles, water the plants and look things over.
So there you have it, folks. The end of our 4-month, 12,000+ mile journey all the way to Key West and back. We stayed at 50 different locations. What a wonderful, memorable time we had. We enjoyed sharing our adventures (and mis-adventures) with all of you and hope you had a good – vicarious – experience. This installment to the blog, Chapter 12, is the last for this trip…but stay tuned. There will be other travel experiences in our not-too-distant future that we will be sharing with you. We have already started the preliminary plans for our next trip, which will probably begin around next November 1. We might even head back to Florida…one never knows…
Following are the ‘Top 46’ most favorite pictures of our journey, since this post was somewhat devoid of visuals (too busy travelling…)
All the best to each of you,
Bob, Dee Dee, Charlie and Marshall Dylan
Category: Uncategorized Tagged: Al Cover, Baseball, Beach, Beaumont, Big Bend National Park, Bill Woodard, Cactus, Carol Lancaster-Mingus, Catalina Mountains, Charlie, Duson, Dylan, Florida, Frog City, Gary Paulsen, Gauvreau, golf, Houston, Juan Alvarex, KOA, Lafayette, Lake Charles, LaMesa, Landscape, Las Vegas, Lodi, Lost Dutchman State Park, Mesa Spirit RV Park, Modesto, Modesto Junior College, Neil Miller, New Orleans, Ocean, Oregon, Ozona, Peoria, Photographs, Photography, Prejean's, Seattle Mariners, Superstition Mountains, Tennis Ball, Texas, Tucson, Waves, Winnebago
Posted on February 27, 2015
The further we get into Florida, the more crowded it gets. More traffic and the campground spaces are smaller – and less available. This all started once we left Carrabelle (on Florida’s ‘Forgotten Coast.’) But, that’s to be expected this time of the year. Everyone knows that Florida is a mecca for snowbirds (OK, we are one); in particular South Florida on the Gulf side.
Our drive from Dade City to Chokoloskee seemed like 250 miles of construction zones. Then, once we hit Everglade City (about 3 miles from Chokoloskee Island) we ran smack into the annual Seafood Festival that dominates the entire town for 3 days. After about 15 detours, we made it through town and to our destination – Chokoloskee Island RV Park, where we stayed for 2 weeks. The folks who run this place, Sonny and Carmen, were super friendly and pretty much set the ‘climate’ for the place. It’s an older park, composed of about 70% park models and 30% RV spaces. We had a pretty good spot, wedged (literally) in between 2 park models. It took a bit of doing to get in, but with Sonny’s expert help we made it unscathed. Downside of this place – no dog run. Charlie was bummed.
This was a beautiful place, at the end of the road; there is a 3-mile long causeway that gets you there. It’s on the edge of Everglades National Park, and it really feels like it. Most of the folks we met here were from places like Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Michigan and even Maine – but not a soul from west of the Mississippi River. No ‘Left Coasters;’ we were it. All the folks very laid back and friendly, most cordial and welcoming – easy to be around. However, when we told them where were from, their eyes just glazed over; they had no concept of the ‘Left Coast’, and really did not seem to care too much about it. The end of the world for them seemed to be the Mississippi River. No kidding. The most common comment we got was, “Don’t it rain a lot up there?”
Once we got settled in we headed back over to Everglades City for the annual Seafood Festival. This is a big deal here and it swells the population of the area from about 5,000 to 100,000 for 3 days. We got there early, but still had to park about 6 blocks away. To be honest, the most we can say about it was that it was extremely crowded. The seafood was mediocre and very expensive – and mostly deep fried. The vendors that sold other stuff were essentially the same ones you will find at almost street fair anywhere. We stayed about 3 hours and then left when it got so crowded you could hardly move. But, we now can say we had been there.
One of the most popular foods in the area is Stone crab; they were in season when we were there. They are harvested in traps about 10 – 20 miles off-shore. When caught, one claw is broken off and the crab is return to regenerate a new one; they can do this 4-5 times in their life-cycle. We went to a local restaurant one day to try them out. They were on the menu as a side dish – $26 for four claws! (Tourist price…much cheaper for locals as we discovered later.) The shells are very thick and hard, and come to you pre-cracked since is takes a small hammer to break them open. There is not much meat to them, and what there is somewhat bland. But, we are spoiled on Dungeness crabs from the PNW.
We took an air boat tour through the mangrove swamp; pretty interesting. Our guide, Bobby (a local good ol’ boy), was a fun guy and knew the area well. In some ways, it’s designed to be a thrill ride through mangrove tunnels, accompanied with a lot of sliding sharp turns. It was an OK experience and we had a good time. We asked Bobbie if we would see any ‘gators and he told us no, as they don’t like salt water – a statement that was later nullified when we took a NPS boat tour (in a small boat powered by an outboard motor) a few days later, with a different guide; he told us that was BS…and we saw a big-ass ‘gator to prove it. We also saw a few manatees – beautiful, huge mammals. That was pretty cool.
We booked a room in Key West and headed down there for a few days. On the way there, you head deeper into the Everglades and have the opportunity to see an immense amount of wildlife – mainly a variety of birds. It’s really a beautiful and quite amazing journey. On the way to Key West we made a stop at the smallest US Post Office in the United States, located in Ochopee, FL.
About 22 miles south of Homestead you come to Key Largo, the beginning of the 100 miles drive on the causeways to Key West. The average speed the entire way is 45 MPH. We were travelling on a Sunday – that slowed us down quite a bit. It seemed like it was bumper-to-bumper traffic the entire trip, but that was fine since it was a great drive.
Key West is nothing like we had envisioned. I was thinking of sandy, palm tree-lined beaches with a few people sitting on them, drinking margaritas, kick’n back listening to Jimmy Buffet tunes. (OK, not really, but that would have been the ideal, huh?) In reality, it’s about 8 square miles packed with humanity. Lots of traffic – and zillions of motor scooters – and very old and narrow streets. It’s a real party town with lots of and bars (all good) and restaurants (mostly all good). We found this pet-friendly B & B place at the last minute – a bit pricey ($275/night), but it was right downtown. We were there in ‘high season’ so there was really not that much to choose from – especially since we waited until about 2 days before to try to get a room reservation. (We decided not to bring our 5th wheel down for the stay, as RV parks – if you could even get in – and you could not – were charging from $150 – $300+ per NIGHT. Arrrgghhhh!!)
Anyhow, once we found our B & B, we discovered that there was no designated parking – you were on your own. (This fact was conveniently not mentioned when we made the reservation.) But, it all worked out great. I let Dee Dee off in front of the house and then circled the block about 5 times until a disabled spot opened up RIGHT IN FRONT! Wahoo!! (We have a disabled placard from Washington.) We squeezed in and dropped anchor there for 2 days. The room was very nice – old, ‘Key West Funky,’ in a nice old, historic, neighborhood about a block from the Trolley line (a really neat way to get around – we used it a lot), and the downtown area. We had a terrific time here and loved every minute of it! The people are great and there is so much to see and do. And yes, we did seek out the original Jimmy Buffet’s Margaretiville Bar and had a beer. It was a cool place, with a great bartender; and we just missed seeing Jimmy…he was there about 6 weeks before we got there. Oh yeah, also made it to the Hog’s Breath Bar, drank, and bought several of their obligatory t-shirts. One downside to being in Key West this time of the year, we discovered, were the HUGE cruise ships that came in constantly, sometimes 2-3 at a time; each one dumped a couple thousand folks into town. Oh well…
After 2 days, we departed Paradise, much poorer but happy, and headed back up to Chokoloskee. Our stay here marked the turning point of our trip. After driving over 8,500 miles, we were now officially starting our journey back to Washington. It was a sad, and yet happy time. And what better place than Key West, Florida, for it to happen. And, we will so miss all the chickens that populate the place…
On the way back up Highway 1, through the Keys, we stopped at a few RV Parks to see about booking for a month next year. Once we found out what it would cost we decided to reconsider. We found this KOA about 14 miles from Key West that was over $3,000 (plus tax) per month, and units were crammed so tight it was a true wonderment as to how they even managed to get in in the first place. Unbelievable. About 30 miles further up on the road, in Grassy Key – not too far from Marathon – we found a ‘much better’ deal – only $2,300 (plus tax) per month. We decided that if we ever returned (and we hope to, someday), we would probably stay at one of the several RV campgrounds in the Everglades, drive down to Key West and then stay in one of the pet-friendly hotels we found that are on the Trolley line. And, we would make our room reservations a year in advance – almost a necessity. After checking with several locals, they suggested coming in December. The crowds are smaller and the weather is not too bad.
The day we drove back up to Chokoloskee was a warm one – about 80 degrees. When we passed back through Everglades National Park (again) we counted at least 50 ‘gators sunning themselves on the shores of the canal that bordered the highway. That was a really great experience.
After 2 relaxing weeks on Chokoloskee Island, we headed back north to Dade City to visit some old friends from Modesto, Jim and Diane Weatherford – that was a hoot. Such great people. On the way there, we got stuck in a huge traffic jam on Highway 75. The freeway was totally closed for about 5 hours. We detoured around the area (along with everyone else…); that elongated our drive by about 4 hours. Made for a very looong day.
After Dade City, our next stop was Tallahassee where we stayed at one of the crappiest RV parks of the trip – semi-rude (and clueless) check-in lady and way over-priced. But, we were tired and there was just no place else to stop. There is much more to this story, but let’s just say it’s on our list of places not to stay ever again. Not that Tallahassee is a place to be avoided – it’s definitely a great city; we would definitely visit there again…just stay someplace else.
As we progressed further West, our next stop was Mobile, Alabama. We spent 3 days here resting up at this terrific RV park – clean, quite, in the woods just outside of town and – can you believe it? – $23 per night! The cheapest stay of our entire trip, so far. Not to mention our gracious (it seems everyone in the south is gracious) host, Charlie. What a neat guy. We took a day and enjoyed old downtown Mobile where we toured a (4/5 scale) reconstruction historic Fort Conte and then took the free trolley around the historic district. We had a very friendly driver to explain stuff, and shared the bus with several ‘locals’ who kept us thoroughly entertained. We had an incredible meal at this very nice restaurant, ‘Spot of Tea,’ where we met Ruby, the owner, who is also a great ambassador for the city of Mobile. Next we headed over to see the warship USS ‘Alabama’ and the submarine, ‘Drum,’ as well as a very good aerospace museum. We did more walking and climbing then one could ever imagine. Exciting, and very tiring, day. We would come back to Mobile in a heat beat. It’s a great city.
OK, as I type, we are back near Lafayette, Louisiana, where we stayed about 6 weeks ago, on our way to Florida. A great town with incredible Cajun food. We are staying at a different place, about 10 miles down the road in Deson. Nice park, great place to run Charlie-the-Dog, and very friendly. Last night, we drove into town (Duson) and found this really funky restaurant called Thibodeaux’s. Looked questionable from the outside, and when we walked in the question got bigger…two old folks watching Judge Judy on an old TV, and not another person to be seen. But what the hell, we risked it. Oh, and ‘no alcohol served here,’ when we asked our waiter for a beer (he was partially deaf and had to get his wife to come over to get order.) But, the food was excellent, and as we sat there, we discovered that they did a terrific take-out business. So, don’t let outward appearances deceive you…
Later today, we are going back to Prejean’s Cajun Restaurant (we ate there twice on our trip east) for more of our favorite – fried green tomatoes. Tomorrow, we are headed further west on Interstate 10 and plan to stop about 100 miles or so, on the other side of Houston…
Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter…
Category: Photographic Adventures, Travelling To Florida Tagged: Alabama, B & B, Carrbabelle, Charlie, Chokoloskee, Dylan, Everglades, Everglades City, Everglades National Park, Florida, Gauvreau, Grassy Key, Hog's Breath, Jimmy Buffett, Key West, Keys, KOA, Landscape, Marathon, Margaritaville, Mobile, Modesto, Palms, Pepe's Resturant, Photographs, Photography, Southern Most Point, Spot of Tea, Tallahasse, Texas, trolley, USS Alabama, USS Drum
Posted on February 9, 2015
Chapter 10 – The Forgotten Coast
So…..we departed New Orleans after a 1-day delay due to heavy rains and generally crappy weather. The Big Easy is a city that we will definitely visit again – there is so much to see and do, and we barely scratched the surface during our 6-day stay. One thing we will NOT miss about Louisiana are the roads – and especially in and around New Orleans. Really bad.
We continued our easterly travels, leaving Louisiana, then passing through Alabama and Mississippi on our way to Pensacola, Florida. The roads smoothed out as we changed states, making the drive much easier. Alabama and Mississippi roads are EXCELLENT! A pleasant thing we encountered were the rest areas we encountered, all of them located at the state lines. They were really huge welcome centers; very clean, great landscaping and many tree-covered picnic areas, as well as food services. Western and central states can take a lesson here…no comparison and like none we have ever encountered – at least so far.
After passing through 4 states in 4 hours, we stopped at a pleasant campground about 15 miles west of Pensacola. Very friendly, big spaces, a huge pond (turtles, but no ‘gators according to the friendly owner) and lots of room for Charlie to run and Marshall Dylan to roam (on his leash.) Pensacola, as you probably know, is a Navy town, home of the Blue Angels. Lots of water with long connecting causeways. It’s really a party place, with lots of restaurants, bars and incredible white sand beaches. We drove out to Ft. Pickens where there is a great NPS campground, several WW2 gun emplacements and historic buildings. If we come here again, we will definitely try to stay there. One downside of the beaches here is that they are generally not very ‘dog-friendly.’ Most areas don’t allow dogs at all, and those areas that do are small (like maybe 100 yards of so long) and we noticed that most people kept their critters leashed. Charlie was the exception. As mentioned previously, he has become a real ‘surfer dog,’ and has started spending a lot of time in the water.
Our next stop was the Ho-Hum RV Park in Carrabelle, Florida. Of all the places we have stayed up to now, this was – by far – the very best. Funky, yes, with fairly big spots. Everyone there was super laid back and overtly friendly. What a great place! We had this way-cool site right on the on the beach – it was literally 10 feet to the Gulf of Mexico. We spent about a week here and enjoyed every minute of it. Ho-Hum lives up to its name: it really has a feeling of ‘Old Florida;’ this part of the state, in the center of the Florida Panhandle, is known as the ‘Forgotten Coast.’ In most places it is uncrowded, with little encroachment of condo’s and hotels. Pretty undeveloped overall and really beautiful.
Ho-Hum is also unique in that it is on the ‘beach side’ of Highway 98; the other RV parks we encountered, all the way up to Mexico Beach (about 60 miles away) are on the ‘other side’ of the road; most of them were full and pretty cramped. Another nice thing about this place was the mile or so of totally empty, unpopulated, beach that was immediately adjacent to the campground – lots of room for dogs to swim and chase tennis balls. Wahoo!
I managed to get in a round of golf at a very nice near-by course (with a special ‘tourist rate.’). It was without a doubt one of the most difficult I have ever played. Every hole – EVERY SINGLE HOLE – had at least one water hazard that crossed the fairway in the form of a swamp. The guy in the pro shop told me they have 5-6 resident ‘gators, but I did not encounter any of them. The course was in excellent condition and the greens were like pool tables.
From Ho Hum, Dee Dee and I drove back to the west and visited Apalachicola, Port St. Joseph (which at one time was destined to be the State capitol – until the entire town was destroyed by a storm and the capitol was then located to Tallahassee, not too far away) and finally Mexico Beach. On another day trip we drove across a long causeway to St. George Island, a long barrier island that is home to a very nice state park with beautiful campgrounds. However, even though you can have leashed dogs in the campground, all the beaches are totally closed to dogs. Charlie was pretty bummed. But, this is also a place we would consider staying sometime in the future…maybe.
The day before we left delightful Ho-Hum, we made a reservation for next year – we plan to spend a month here next time. If all goes as we expect, we will be travelling with our good friends Gary and Debbie; we both made side-by-side reservations for spots right on the beach.
Next, we were off to Cedar Key. Now, keep in mind that we made all of our reservations last August, using information we garnered from the Inner-Net – which we all know is a bastion of truth – and never lies…or at least hardly ever. Maybe the truth was stretched a bit for this place. As soon as we drove into our destination – Sunset Isle RV Park – we turned to each other and said, simultaneously, “I think we screwed up.” Even though we had a site right on the water, with a small dock, the entire campground was the most cramped we had EVER experienced almost anywhere. Postage stamp sites. It took us a good 20 minutes just to squeeze into our site. Also, the volunteer campground hosts kept a fire going day and night, that most of the time was like a smudge pot; the smoke was carried right into our site by the prevailing wind. Worse, there was no place to run Charlie. Not good. We got so fed up with this place that we departed a day early. They had a policy of ‘no refunds,’ so we lost that day, and also got stuck with a good portion of the space rent (and it ain’t cheap here) for another 5 days we had reserved for our return trip back up the state from the Everglades and Key West. After some discussion with the site manager, that revolved around their misleading web site on the Inner-Net, we managed to get some – but not all – of our money back. OK…lesson learned.
The general area of Cedar Key was ‘Florida Funky,’ but unfortunately its popularity was also its downfall. To us it seemed way over-built. Too many people, too much traffic. On the upside, there were lots and lots of restaurants. Generally pricey, but good. As an interesting (at least to us) side note: when we were visiting St. George Island we met some people on the beach who were also headed for Cedar Key, where they were renting a condo. We had dinner with them one evening at this place called Peter’s. Excellent food at a very reasonable price. We also had a chance to visit them at their place – 3rd floor water-front condo with an amazing view.
We drove around the area for a couple of days and visited this site called ‘Shell Mound.’ The location was significant; in ancient times, local indigenous people discarded oysters shells (oysters being one of their primary food sources), creating a huge mound of shells that covered several acres and reached a height over 100 feet. There was a path to the top and although now covered by huge live oaks and palmettos; you still get a sense of the huge scale of the place. Absolutely amazing. They also constructed oyster shell causeways through the low-lying beaches.
We also got badly needed haircuts while here. Badly needed. Did I say BADLY needed?
During our exploration of Cedar Key, we did find another RV park about 5 miles outside of town. Spacious and quiet. If we ever return to the area, would definitely stay here. And, the cost was about the same as Sunset Isle.
On Wednesday, February 4th, we headed off to Dade City to visit some old friends from Modesto, Diane and Jim Weatherford, who had been collecting some of our mail. While there, I played a golf course that was adjacent to the RV Park where we were staying. I got on with 15 minutes’ notice. I pretty much knew what I was in for when I paid $14 for a round (18 holes) of golf AND a power cart. If it was not the crappiest golf course I have ever played, but it was darn close. But, what made the round somewhat enjoyable were the 2 characters I played with – both from Michigan (Upper and Lower – two separate states as I better came to understand.) Good ‘Ol Boys. Not exactly big fans of The Guv-ment. Kinda basic red-necky, but pretty funny overall and fun to be around. When they asked where I was from and I told them ‘Seattle’ (don’t ask…it’s just easier to say that to most people when you are in Florida), one guy says to me, “That’s about 200 miles north of San Diego, ain’t it?” Somehow, I think he would not do well in the ‘Geography’ category of ‘Jeopardy.’ Down in this part of Florida, most snow-birds come from the Northeast US, or Eastern Canada. (I just got this great t-shirt that says ‘What Does Snow-Bird Taste Like?’)
Unfortunately, our friend Diane contracted a bad case of the flu, so our planned visit together got short-circuited. We did talk a bit with Jim, though, and have plans to visit them on our return trip from Chokoloskee Island (near Everglade City and right on the edge of Everglades National Park), where we are now.
So, that’s it for this installment. We are sure that you are all beside yourself waiting for the next chapter of our exciting adventure. We will be here in Chokoloskee for 2 weeks, during which time we have plans to attend the annual Everglade City Seafood Festival (that swells the local population from 5,000 to over 100,000 for a single weekend.) We also hope to make it down to Key West, and also to explore the Everglades. After this, we will be making The Big Turn and head back to the PNW. To date, the odometer on the truck has logged just over 6,000 miles…
Category: Uncategorized Tagged: 2 Al's, Beach, Carrabelle, Cedar Key, Charlie, Dade City, Dock, Dylan, Florida, Gauvreau, golf, Ho-Hum RV Park, Hog Wild Barbeque, Live Oak, Mexico Beach, Pal metto, Peg Leg Pete's, Pensacola, Photographs, Photography, Pt. St. Joseph, Shell Mound, Stone Crab, Sunset Isle RV Park, Tony's Clam Chowder