Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Three Flags to Manatee Springs

We picked up Suzanne at the Orlando airport on Thursday (1/23).   After a mid-afternoon lunch and an hour drive back to the campground we were all worn out.   Suzanne did a one mile training run around the campground.

Friday morning Daniel met us at the campground.  After a nice breakfast at a nearby Bob Evans, we  visited Silver Springs state park. 

The silver springs, one of the largest in Florida is the source of the Silver river.  Crystal clear 72 degree water flows out of the springs at the rate of some 500 million gallons a day.

 It's really kind of old-school,  however, the glass bottom boat tour is still interesting.  You can clearly see the springs and the plentiful fish at 30 or more feet deep.  

As a pre-teen I had seen Silver Springs with my parents .  At that time the park was privately owned and was one of the premier attractions in Florida.  Silver Springs has since become a state park.  After some years of apparent neglect by a contractor, the state government is now doing a lot of repairs.

 Just as it was some 50 years ago you could hardly understand the tour guide who more or less sang his descriptions with a heavy deep southern accent.

I think the walking trails in the park will be much more interesting in the Spring when there will be more plants in bloom.  Other hikers  reported seeing the wild monkeys which were released into the wild many years ago.  However, we didn't see any wildlife.'

 Friday evening we visited Tommy and cousin Ginni.  Ginni's daughter Stacey;  her husband, Stephen; and their five children met Daniel and Suzanne for the first time.  I think a great time was had by all.  It's really unfortunate that our family has been geographically separated for so many years.   Ina and I will certainly try to keep closer contact with these wonderful relatives.

Suzanne and Daniel completed their half-marathon run early Sunday morning.  Ina and I wanted to at least be on-hand for their finish.   Unfortunately we were unable to reach the area of the race in time.  We met up with the pair later for lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. 

 After lunch we visited Winter Park, a mainly high-end community northwest of Orlando.  Along with many shops for the well-to-do, there is a "Boutique Goodwill Store".   The Boutique Goodwill store stocks only new merchandise.  All of the clothing has new labels.  Interestingly, the clothing was only slightly more expensive than the ordinary used clothing in normal Goodwill stores.

 On an impulse we checked a boat tour of Winter Park.  The one-hour tour transited three lakes (Virginia, Mizell, and Berry)  in Winter Park which are connected by canals.  The multi-million dollar houses on the lake shore were impressive - some in the 20,000+ square foot range.  Also Lake Virginia is the site of Rollins College, a very exclusive liberal arts school.  According to Wikipedia:  "Winter Park was founded as a resort community mainly by northern business magnates in the late 19th and early 20th centuries."   Anyhow the boat tour was inexpensive and worth the time.

On Monday, we packed up and headed for Manatee Springs state park (an easy 1 hour drive a little north of Cedar Key.)  The park was reasonably priced at $20 per night.  We settled in for a two night stay.  We are hoping to see some manatees.   The springs, like Silver Springs produce about 35-50 million gallons of warm water per day.  The mantees are attracted to the warm water.  However, the warm spell of the past few days has driven the mantees downstream in the Suwannee river. 

Although we've not yet seen manatees, there are a lot of rather ugly vultures in the park as well as deer.  Perhaps we'll see some mantees before we leave.  We had originally planned on leaving on Wednesday.  However, with the icy roads in northern Florida, we decided to stay an extra day.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cedar Key to Wildwood

It's been some time since I've posted.  We are now at Three Flags RV Resort near the The Villages at Wildwood, FL.  We are into the second of our two week stay here.  During our time at Cedar Key, Daniel brought his canoe and spent a day of fishing with us.
Although the day was pleasant with temps in the high sixties, the previous two cold rainy days drove all the fish into deeper waters.  We caught no fish; not even bites.   Others we met were having similar luck.

Cedar Key is surrounded by miles of shallow water and is an ideal locale for canoeing and kayaking.  We explored one of the islands less than a mile from the main island marina.  There were a number of people enjoying the calm water and the many birds.
This pelican was siting on a rail of the fishing pier and did not want to move allowing us to get close.

At the Cedar Key RV park, we noticed a huge Newfoundland dog.  Many times while walking Barney we passed by the dog without drawing any reaction or apparent notice.  Finally we got the chance to pet the dog while its owner was there.  This enormous 180lb animal turned out to be very sweet and affectionate. 

We leisurely packed up and left Cedar Key on Tuesday morning, January 14th.  It was a short 1 hour drive to Three Flags Resort at Wildwood.  We had the choice of several sites.  Only one of the vacant sites allowed a clear enough view of the southern sky to allow satellite TV reception.  The sites are all full hook-up water, electric and sewer - an OK adult park.  Our Thousand Trails membership limits us to two weeks at a time in their membership parks.
On Wednesday, Jan 16th, we spent most of the day in the retirement golf communities, The Villages.  It is kind of a unique area where several themed communities cater the retired golfing enthusiast.  Golf cars seem to be everywhere and are the family car of choice.  The carts are allowed to travel many of the streets along with regular cars and trucks.

Ina also got her fill of shopping at Chico's and Beale's outlet.

On Thursday we went to the RV show at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.  Although the Hersey RV show in September billed itself and the world's largest.  This show certainly appears to be larger.  There was at least 50 acres of new RVs of every conceivable size and type.

We spent most of the day looking at motorhomes which could be possible replacements for our current RV.   We looked at diesel powered class-A motorhomes in the 36 to 42ft lengths.  Prices ranged from the $830K Newmar King Aire to the $269K Forest River Charleston.  Reviewing the new prices and features will make an interesting  future comparison when eventually we shop for probably a used coach of the same model and year.

After five hours we were wornout.  If we attend the show next year, we will camp in their parking lot. This would have allowed a noontime break for lunch and a nap.   It appears that one $12 parking fee covers a stay for the entire show.  If so, it would be a very cheap four day boondocking campsite.

On Sunday we picked up Daniel and journeyed to Patrick Air Force Base, near Cocoa beach and Cape Canaveral.  The base campground there appears to equal the very nice Navy campground at Mayport .  The park is sited right on the west shore with the Atlantic shore less than a mile on the other side of the cape. 

Daniel and I fished at an excellent fishing dock near their MWR (Morale Welfare & Recreation) equipment rental office.  Although the weather was a marvelous 68 degrees, as usual, the fishing gods were not smiling at us.  Dan caught the only fish, a small puffer fish. 

After getting skunked at fishing for the third time in Florida, we packed up the gear and headed back to Orlando.  Meeting up with Monica (who was working that day) we had a more satisfying dinner at Bubalou's.  We took no pictures. However, the pulled pork dinner with slaw, fries and baked beans was very good and reasonably priced.

Monday was a recovery day spent watching  TV and relaxing.  On Tuesday, we got some much needed laundry done.  The campground has standard sized washers and dryers priced at $2 per load. Since the camp laundry was busy, we did the wash at a local Laundromat where there were high-capacity 5-load front loading machines.  The cost was probably about the same, but we were done in less than an hour.  The standard sized machines would have taken a couple of hours.

Tuesday we had a good breakfast at Bob Evans restaurant.  Then we picked up about a month's worth of mail from the post office.  We had not sent for our mail since Christmas.  We called several old friends to say a belated thanks for their cards.     

Today was clean-up day.  Ina re-organized the kitchen/pantry storage and I vacuumed the motorhome. I then gave Barney a haircut and a quick bath.  

Tomorrow we will pick Suzanne at the Orlando airport.