Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Suwannee River, an armadillo, and a black eye

When most people (at least, we northerners) think of Florida, they picture sunny skies, palm trees, and a deep blue ocean (or gulf). But there is another Florida, much different from the Yankee version. It exists in the north central area, where palm trees do not grow naturally and the ocean is a long way off. We visited here a few weeks ago, when we stayed at two different RV parks on the Suwannee River. Seeking somewhere to get away and try our new kayaks, we again sought out the river, but this time we are staying at the Suwannee River State Park outside of Live Oak, Florida.

After we finished parking Junior, we were greeted by a baby armadillo burrowing for grubs in a nearby open space. Armadillos are quite myopic, so we were able to get pretty close before it ran away from us. They are also usually not seen during the day, and when they are spotted, it is usually as road kill.



This state park (and all Florida state parks) is a real bargain for us old RVers. We get a 50% discount. I believe staying here for three nights cost us about $40--and that includes water, 50 amp electric service, and even sewer! We are nestled under the shade of live oak trees, only a few hundred yards from the boat ramp, where we launched our kayaks yesterday.

Late last year, Jim and I purchased a number of different kayaks. The first two were 10 footers. Nice kayaks, but they were sit-ins. They were not as stable as sit-on-tops, and they were much, much more difficult to get into and out of, especially for me.

We sold one of those kayaks and gave the other to Jim's granddaughter. We then decided to purchase two pre-owned 12.5-foot fishing kayaks. Lots of storage and rod holders. Pretty stable, and they were sit-on-tops. We bought them for a good price. The problem, though, was that each weighed about 60 pounds. Jim made dollies to transport them from the car to a launch site, so weight was not a problem in land transport. But putting them on top of the car to carry them was another story. They were just too much for the two of us.

We sold them. I don't think we lost any money on them, either.

A few weeks ago, Dick's Sporting Goods had some 8-foot sit-on-top kayaks on sale. They only weighed 39 pounds. We decided to get two.

I practiced paddling in our pond, and I also put a kayak in our pool to practice getting on and off in water (should I roll off). If I were in deep water, I would be in trouble, but as long as I can step off the bottom, I can get on and off all right. The kayaks are also surprisingly stable, very hard to roll. That is a good thing!

So, yesterday, we did our official first kayaking jaunt up and down the Suwannee River. We also fished (did not catch anything). We were out on the river for several hours.

Our biggest challenge (Jim's really) was getting the kayaks back on top of the car. I am sure practice will make perfect, and maybe he will learn a better technique, but it is still a struggle to strap those babies down. Jim is currently wearing a badge of honor--a black eye, which happened when the strap's ratchet swung back and hit him under his right eye.
My kayak warrior and his black eye.


Ouch.

I am not sure if we will go fishing or kayaking again this afternoon. Tomorrow we go home, where more palm trees grow, the sun shines, and the ocean is only 10 minutes away. But, we have enjoyed our getaway.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Any (mis)adventures this trip? Well...

We are home. It was a great vacation, even though it rained a lot and we didn't catch any fish. And, it was almost uneventful. A Segall-Cullipher trip wouldn't be complete without a little (mis)adventure, would it?

With rain definitely in the forecast for early evening yesterday (the forecaster did not lie), we decided to head into Live Oak, to find an auto parts store for a light bulb and to go to dinner.

The first two auto parts stores did not have the bulb, but the third one did. He came out of the NAPA store with his 69 cent light bulb, happy as a lark. He started the car, put it into reverse, and...backed into a post! At least it wasn't a palm tree.

I suppose we could blame the ding on the backup camera. The Ford Edge's camera has been screwy for some time now but currently works--sort of. Its images are in clear color but are upside down! Neither of us has quite mastered the upside-down pictures, so we do look over our shoulder and in the rearview mirror as we back up. I guess Jim didn't look closely enough. And he didn't pay attention to those annoying warning bells either. Oh, well. It's just a little owie.

Just a little ding...

We had a second (mis)adventure just as we got onto I95 in Jacksonville. All of a sudden, the engine lurched a bit and then quit working. Jim, as usual, was driving in the right-hand lane and managed to coast to a stop safely on the side of the road.

The problem? We ran out of fuel.

A couple of years ago the fuel gauge in the RV stopped working. Jim had worked on it, and it seemed to give a read out, but he didn't trust the sensors. Instead, he uses mileage to gauge when we should get more diesel. Unfortunately, we had been running the generator quite a bit since our last fill-up, and it must have used more fuel than he realized. (The generator uses the same fuel as the engine.)

Good Sam came to the rescue, however, thanks to our roadside assistance insurance. So did the Florida Road Ranger. We called our emergency road service number and told them we ran out of fuel. While we waited for the road service to come to our aid, a Florida Road Ranger pulled up and asked how he could help us. When we told him we were waiting for roadside assistance, he said he would wait until they came. He put out traffic cones to help ensure safety and even offered us water!

Roadside assistance came, provided us with five gallons of diesel, primed the fuel injector, and even made sure we made it to a filling station.
Filling up an empty Junior
The nearest filling station we could get into had a very slow diesel pump. I think it took us nearly an hour to put in 100 gallons.

So, we did have our little (mis)adventures this trip. Thank goodness they were small.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Monday, June 19, 2017

Way down upon the Suwanee River...

We spent two nights at the Suwanee River Rendezvous RV Park, a great place for, well, rendezvous--meet ups--of RV groups. The new part of the park was rather run-of-the-mill, with average RV sites, few trees, and little shade.

The older part of the park, directly situated on the Suwanee River, was wooded. It would be difficult to get any big rigs in there, but there was an abundance of shade from the live oaks throughout the area.

We were disappointed, however, with the fishing facilities. The park promised fishing. Technically, there were areas to fish from the shore, but they were difficult to reach. The banks were steep, with little actual shoreline. No pier. No benches. We managed to climb over tree roots without falling into the water and find some areas to fish, but we did not catch anything. We were also disappointed that the park did not offer anything else other than the natural springs and a heated swimming pool for amenities. No pool table. No library. Nada.

In the heat of the afternoon yesterday, we became very, very bored. Too hot to fish; no desire to go to the pool. Our stay was a BOGO--buy one night, get one night free. When our BOGO deal was done this morning, we packed up and drove about 30 miles up the highway to another Suwanee River RV resort--this one called the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park. It claims to be world class. It is not. But it is unique.
That is Jim, taking a look at the river flowing below the deck.

Peeking out among the live oaks is the Suwanee River.
 
The light area in the center of the photo is the Suwanee River meandering along the park's border. Huge live oak trees with gossamer Spanish moss grace the RV park, which approximates the size of a small state park.

This place is a private park, but has acreage to rival a small state park. It boasts more than 800 camping spots that can accommodate every type of camping from tents with no hookups to big rigs such as ours, tohorse camping. Unfortunately, although it has some full hookups, it has very few 50 amp service sites, which puts a crimp in using two air conditioners. The park, however, has hiking trails, canoeing and kayaking availability, a swimming pool and playgrounds. No community center, though, and no pool tables.

It took us more than an hour to drive through the campground to see all it offers, it is that big. Its call to fame is music, as it hosts music festivals throughout the year. Some of these festivals attract upwards of 5,000 people, and music is played in many different venues throughout the park. Most of the festivals are in the spring and fall, although there is a small one scheduled for this weekend.

Like the other park, this one is also on the Suwanee River, albeit farther north than where we were yesterday and closer to a real town (historic Live Oak) that has a number of restaurants. (The first park was near a town called Mayo, which only had two or three restaurants that were not open on Sunday.)

The river banks in this park are quite steep and sheltered by live oaks, but we found a man-made beach area where we can easily reach the river to fish.

However...it is raining. And it will probably rain tomorrow also. (There is a threat of a tropical storm, and the outlook looks very wet for the next week.) So, we probably will not be able to fish here. One nice thing: this park has excellent fast, free wifi. And, because no major festival is scheduled for this week, the park is virtually empty. And, I forgot to mention, our two days here are free.

I don't think we would return to either of these parks. The fishing is not good, and there is really nothing else to do, unless you want to hike in the woods.

Originally we had considered going up to the Panhandle to stay at Ho-Hum RV Park, directly on the Gulf of Mexico. However, because of the weather threat, we will be heading home. But, you know what? Rain or not, blistering temperatures or not, we have had a wonderful time. We spent time with family; we got away from our usual routine; we relaxed.

Until later,


Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Feeding the fish

One thing is for sure: When we go fishing, the fish don't go hungry.

Last night and then again this morning, we fished in the Intracoastal at Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler Beach. The park is very nice, and we intend to go back, when we can get a spot directly on the beach. That is when we will do some surf fishing there. Because of the heavy rain yesterday afternoon, we did not surf fish, but we put our lines in the Intracoastal.
Jim feeding the fish at Gamble Rogers State Park


I caught a couple of oysters. (Don't ask me how. I don't know. They were on my hook when I pulled the line out of the water.) And both of us fed a lot of fish, which were especially fond of the dead shrimp we were using as bait.

After an hour of fishing this a.m., we headed to the Suwanee River, located a little west of Gainesville. Yes, this is the Suwanee River of folklore song. I didn't know it was a real river until I moved to Florida. It is real; it is wide; and it is beautiful.



It is a slow-moving river, one on which I would have no hesitancy to launch our small boat.

We are staying two nights at one RV park, then two nights at another, both on the river.

Our neighbor gave us some skinny worms, leftover from her fishing foray. I drowned a few, and I fed the fish quite a few. We'll try again tomorrow morning. (Afternoons are out; it has been raining like clockwork at 2:30 to 3:00, with heavy downpours drowning any ideas of outdoor activity.)

Although we did not catch any fish, we did see some really big sturgeon jumping in the river. The sturgeon are protected, but they are something to see as they sport in the water.

It really doesn't matter if we catch fish or not. We are having a good time, and isn't that what it is all about?

Until next time,


Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Friday, June 16, 2017

Family, turkeys, and camping


On the road again…it’s so nice to be on the road again.

Yes, we are planning to sell Junior, our 40-foot Country Coach. But, until we do, we are planning to use it and do some traveling.  Even if we were to stay in Florida, we would have plenty to see and do.
We left Wednesday (June 14). Our first stop was Wekiva State Park, just a couple of miles from my brother Mike’s house in the Orlando area. We could only get two nights there (state parks fill up rapidly during the summer, especially on weekends), but we made the most of the two nights we were there by relaxing and visiting Mike and Susan and Judy and Paul. My older sister Judy actually arranged the meet-up. She and Paul had driven to Florida to help settle her daughter into her new home in Fort Lauderdale. So, on the way back to Texas, why not stop and see siblings? Good decision, Jude!



The two days were filled with talk and laughter and dining together. Our family is spread out across the country, and it is difficult to get to see everyone, so  two days were special.

Rain beat down on our campsite both days (typical in central Florida this time of year). So, we did not get to do much in the way of “recreating.” Park rangers had warned us about the presence of black bears. (Mike also told us stories of fending off bears in his back yard.) We had no bear encounters, but on the way to Mike’s house yesterday, we stopped to watch a gaggle of wild turkeys on the roadside. The group included a mama and her newborns. Unfortunately, by the time we got the camera out, the babies hid themselves within the brush. Mama wasn’t so shy; we got a picture of her.


Wekiva camping came with full hookups under a canopy of large trees. We decided to backtrack a bit and drive up to Flagler Beach on the east coast (just above Daytona) to stay a night at Gamble Rogers State Park, situated on both the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean.

Right now Jim is preparing some fishing lines, and after the afternoon storms pass, we intend to try some surf fishing and/or fishing in the Intracoastal.

Tomorrow we will head over to the Suwanee River area, about three hours from here. We will be staying at two different RV parks for four nights. We intend to do some fresh water fishing there.
Whatever we do, it will be fun and relaxing, something we are in need of. Retired people (at least this retired couple) work too hard!

Oh, before I forget…knock on wood, so far this trip has had no misadventures. Nice, for a change.
Until next time,

Your Reluctant Rover,

Linda


Sunday, April 9, 2017

An annoying beep

If you have followed this blog throughout the years, you know that most of my travel journals lament the woes of something going wrong in our RV, especially our second (and current) RV, "Junior." Many of the woes I have written about concern electrical problems, which can be particularly nagging in a motorhome because manufacturers do not conform to a standard method of running wires. Each motorhome is laid out differently.

I am happy to report that on this trip, we had no unexpected problems. (We did have one, which Jim will fix, that occurred whenever we started the engine after its being idle for several days. But, we knew about that one, so it doesn't count!)

Well, my statement about no unexpected problems isn't exactly accurate. We had one--an annoying one--which we eventually solved.

The annoyance was a very quiet, intermittent beeping, similar to the sound a microwave makes when it announces your food is done. The sound was three beeps, often (but not always) followed by five short beeps.

I Googled this type of beeping. Articles on the web said that it could be caused by a detector's batteries that are dying--or it could be caused if the detector was ending its life cycle, generally five years. Those theories sounded reasonable. So we started listening.

We stood under the carbon monoxide detector attached to the overhead cabinets in the kitchen. Nope, not that one. We listened at the smoke detector. Not that one either. We put our ears down near the floorside LP gas detector. It wasn't  that detector either. And we had run out of detectors.

What could it be?

Jim thought it sounded like it was coming from under the refrigerator, so he went outside, opened the basement door, and listened. And he heard it.

It turns out the beeping was from dying batteries--in the safe he had installed when we bought Junior four years ago. Actually, the safe with its original batteries predated Junior; Jim had originally installed it in our first RV, "Baby."

Jim changed the batteries, but that, unfortunately, was not the end of the beeping. Finally, after another 24 hours of this annoyance, he looked at the safe again and decided to reprogram the entry code to the one he had originally inputted. That solved the problem. It turned out that the fresh batteries were needed, but the safe did not like the new longer code Jim had programmed.

Problem solved.

We are home again, after a great vacation in south central Florida. And we did not have any real problems to plague us.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda


Friday, April 7, 2017

Cool parks and Echo Farm

We moved from our Arcadia, Fl., "residence" Thursday, after our week's free stay was up. Our next (and last) stop for this vacation is in North Fort Myers, at another winter "haven" for snowbirds. Like the Arcadia RV park, this one is also very big. A co-op type of "resort," it also has a combination of park trailers and RVs, along with a heated pool, a library, and a multi-purpose building. No billiards, though, which is too bad. I was starting to get the hang of putting those ceramic balls into their holes.

The "cool parks" in my headline does not refer to this RV park. (Like the one in Arcadia, it is, to us, just a safe and inexpensive place to stay.) No, the cool parks refer to the parks around Fort Myers.

Because our move to this RV park took less than an hour, we had plenty of time yesterday afternoon to explore. Much better than Arcadia, which was really inconvenient to everything. Here we are minutes away from restaurants and "civilization."

We had asked the local tourist information center attendant where we could fish. She told us to go across the bridge and we would find fishing piers. The piers, it turns out, are local, on the river which exits to the gulf. And unlike the fishing piers in the Jacksonville area, these piers are free and open to the public. Nice.

No one was catching anything, though, so we continued our explorations.

We found another park, named after the conquistador Hernando DeSoto. It had two piers, as well as a boat dock. We dipped our lines for a bit (no bites) before visiting a local tourist attraction, Fisherman's Village, a marina offering restaurants and local shops.


Personal flotation devices are available free to keep kids safe on the water.

What struck both of us was how Fort Myers has taken advantage of its waterways with offerings for both locals and tourists. It even had a kiosk of children's life jackets, free for the lending, to encourage safe boating!

Why can't Jacksonville make its waterfronts this friendly to its residences?
Now on to today...

Jim follows a natural gardener on YouTube. This fellow recently visited Echo Farms in North Fort Myer.


What is so special about this farm? Well, it is about 55 acres of sustainable farming, featuring all edible plants that can feed the world. Echo is actual a Christian ministry, which has as its mission to reduce hunger and improve lives worldwide. Instead of donating food to starving people, Echo teaches these people how to farm, using the resources available to them. It uses creative methods to get more out of the soil. In its own words:

"ECHO exists to reduce hunger and improve the lives of small-scale farmers worldwide. We provide agricultural and appropriate technology training and resources to development workers in more than 165 countries.  ECHO resources include a large knowledge base of specialized information, technical support based on years of experience, and an extensive seed bank focused on highly beneficial, underutilized plants.  We work to identify, validate, document and disseminate best practices in sustainable agriculture and appropriate technology. ECHO creates opportunities for community leaders to network with one another to share experiences, ideas and solutions."


We took two tours: The Echo Global Farm Tour, which showed us how the organization makes the most out of small-scale farming, by growing appropriate edibles and raising the right livestock for the climate of an area (tropical, monsoon, rain forest, etc.). The second tour featured using appropriate technology. Echo teaches farmers how to use resources at hand to make the most of their efforts."

Jim wanted to tour Echo because in the videos he had seen he discovered there were a number of plants we can raise that are nutrient heavy. We bought moringa seeds, which will grow into a hedge. The moringa tree is a miracle tree. Virtually every part of it is edible. We intend to find out.

We also bought a katuk plant, chaya, and papaya. Katuk can be planted as a hedge. Its leaves have a peanut-like flavor when eaten raw, but are usually cooked like any other green.


Chaya is known as tree spinach. It can be harvested continuosly, as long as 50% of the leaves remain on the plant. It should be cooked, however, because its leaves contain cyanide. 


So, we will be experimenting with new greens. 


Tomorrow, our last day here, I hope we can catch our dinner,.


Until later,


Your Reluctant RoVer,


Linda