Rare Species and New Friends – Ochlockonee River State Park

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White Squirrel

Ochlockonee River State ParkSnagging a reservation at a Florida state park during the winter months is like winning the lottery, and odds are you won’t get in if you don’t reserve far in advance.  We thought booking nine months ahead would be enough, but it wasn’t for most of them.  If you’re setting your sights on staying at Florida state parks next winter, now is the time to reserve.

We did manage to get reservations at two parks, one being Ochlockonee River State Park.  Ochlockonee means “yellow waters”, and is a mix of brackish tidal surge and fresh water.  This river is pristine and deep,  and it empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Ochlockonee River

Fire at a distance reflected on the Ochlockonee River

Ochlockonee State Park is located 38 miles south of Tallahassee, in the town of Sopchoppy.  It encompasses 543 acres along the banks of the Ochlockonee and Dead rivers.  Getting Betsy in there wasn’t easy (see Steve’s review here).  However, once we were settled in we fell in love with this very secluded park.  There are only 30 spacious campsites nestled in the shady wooded trees, surrounded by a beautiful pine woods forest.

#6 Ochlockonnee River State Park

Betsy stands alone in site #6 at Ochlockonnee River State Park

Our site had its own path leading to the Ochlockonee River and Pine Flat Woods Trail.  It runs along the river, then winds through picturesque pine flat woods.  Since the access was right in our back yard, we walked it every day when it didn’t rain.

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Ochlockkonee River Nature Trail

The peaceful atmosphere here made our walks very relaxing.  On days when I walked alone, the solitude I felt beneath the tall canopy of longleaf pines was very refreshing. The splendor of the longleaf pine habitat, the array of bird calls (lots of them) singing/chirping, the woodpeckers hammering away and the rustling of the wind made me feel blessed to be here.  Very tranquil!

Pine Flatwood Trail, Ochlockonee River State PArk

 

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Ochlockonee River Trail

I learned that three of this park’s local residents are rare species.  One is the white squirrel, whose coat is a product of a rare genetic mutation of the Eastern gray squirrel. I saw it darting and leaping along the branches of the live oaks but couldn’t get a picture. Fortunately, Steve was also on the lookout and he caught a glimpse of this fellow in our neighbor’s yard.

We had another rare sighting as we were walking along the trails.  It was a Piebald deer, which is white and brown.  I learned that a genetic variation (defect) produces the piebald condition in some white-tailed deer.  It certainly ruins any chance of camouflage for this poor guy, he’s so easy to spot!

But my most exciting sighting was the red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered species since 1970.  The park hosts several of them, due to its mature pine forest.  In fact, during registration we were told to take note of some pine trees that were marked as the homes of red-cockaded woodpeckers, which only nest in old-growth trees. Looking closely at one tree, we saw the candle-wax effect of sap spilling down its trunk. The woodpeckers drill into the tree just under their nest to make sap run down and ward off snake invasions.  How cool is that?

Finally, we had a human sighting as we met some new friends – not in the park, but in the town of Apalichicola.  Being the social butterfly that I am, I never pass up an opportunity to meet other like-minded folks, especially bloggers.  So when I realized that Laurel and Eric of Raven and Chickadees were only a few miles away, I quickly set up a get-together.  They are full-timers from southern Oregon who have covered a lot of ground here in northwestern Florida.  Their blog is full of “Real Florida” adventures, complemented by great photography.  Our time together flew by as we shared stories of our adventures, and we hope to cross paths with these fine folks again.

Raven and Chicadee

With Laurel and Eric

Typical of late, we were homebound for two days as the rain just kept coming down.  But as soon as the sun peeked out again we had a campfire.  It had been a while, and we started early so we could enjoy the fire before the pesky skeeters could come out to get us. Steve and I usually read while enjoying our fire, but the abundance of birds made me forget about my book as I started snapping pictures once again.  I didn’t have to walk far, as my feathered friends were hanging out right around our site.  Some of them were challenging to get shots of, but here are my latest sightings.

All of those three types of woodpeckers could be heard pecking nearby.   If you’d like to see more of my bird pictures, click here.

I really loved sitting outside first thing in the morning, enjoying the serenity and beauty of this park.

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Next up:  More Real Florida-Wakulla Springs and River

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Our “alone time” at Homosassa Springs, FL

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Pink Flamingo

Real floridaIn our lifestyle, “alone time” is occasionally required (my fellow full-timers know exactly what I’m talking about).  Most people would otherwise end up at each other’s throats after hanging out together 24/7.  Although Steve and I do get along very well, we make sure to enjoy some alone time, even if it just means Steve running off to the store for a bit or me doing laundry by myself.  Sometimes I can hardly wait to do the laundry!

I had some real quality alone time when Steve stayed at home to work on Betsy while I went off to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which was advertised as a showcase of Florida wildlife.  I was not disappointed, and I think Steve wished he had gone along when he saw the pictures of gorgeous wildlife I took there.  But of course he wouldn’t admit it!

There are two ways to visit this park, one by tram and the other on a pontoon boat along Pepper Creek.  I chose a 20-minute ride on the pontoon boat and gave my camera a real workout.

Pepper Creek,Homosassa Springs

During the trip our guide narrated the history of Homosassa Springs, its beginnings and the importance of the spring.  At the same time, he pointed out the many colorful wood ducks swimming alongside us.

Wood Duck

First a brief history of the park.  In the 1920’s, a train stopped at the springs to allow passengers a close look at the crystal clear 55-foot deep springs that form the headwaters of the Homosassa River.  In later years a zoo-like park of exotic animals  was built.  The ownership of the springs area changed many times since 1940 due to economic hard times and recession.  Then on January 1, 1989, the attraction officially became the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, owned by the State of Florida and managed by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Homosassa River

All exotic animals and non-native plants were removed in order to restore the park to the “Real Florida” – except for one.  If not for hundreds of school children protesting the removal of Lucifer the Hippo, the last exotic animal would have been gone.  “Luc”, who remains in the wildlife park from the attraction days, has received an honorary citizenship by declaration of late Florida Governor Lawton Chiles.

After the boat ride I immediately went to the centerpiece of the park, a freshwater spring which produces millions of gallons of fresh, crystal-clear water every hour. This spring outflow actually creates the Homosassa River.  The spring and headwaters of the Homosassa River is the only known place in the world where thousands of fresh and saltwater fish congregate.  These fish are free to come and go to the Gulf of Mexico, nine miles downriver.

Homossasa Springs

Fish Bowl floating and underwater observatory directly over the spring

At the Fish Bowl floating and underwater observatory, I saw literally thousands of fish from above the lookout and then below the surface in the clear spring environment. Unfortunately, the park’s resident manatees were not present while I was there.

And that was just the beginning!  I followed the elevated boardwalk while taking the Wildlife Walk.  The 210-acre park is home to native Florida wildlife, and I got to see them all in their natural setting.

Strolling on the boardwalk, I had a front-row view of Florida’s wildlife, including a bear, bobcats, Key deer, alligators, a wide variety of wading birds, birds of prey and some beautiful Flamingos.  Although I always prefer to see these animals in the wild, it looks like this is the best I’ll be able to do for some of them.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Bird paradise!

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Flamingo

Some of the birds here were injured and can not be returned to the wild.  I feel very fortunate to have been in Florida’s wilderness (refuges/ preserves/national parks) and exposed to many of these birds – although some at a great distance.  On this day I got quite excited as I had an up-close view of some endangered and threatened species. Since Steve was not there to whisper in my ear about taking so many pictures, I snapped away to my heart’s content.  Click on each image to get a bigger and better look.

After almost overheating my camera, I sat down and listened to the Flamingos honking in unison, while also enjoying the sound of the Whistling Ducks at the nearby Shore Bird Aviary.  I thought all ducks quacked until I met these guys.

I had a wonderful day at this park and went home whistling like a duck!  I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys wildlife and is in this area. It’s worth every penny of the $13 entry fee.

On my drive home I caught a glimpse of this sign – do people really have to be told how to use parking spaces?  Hmmm..I wonder if it’s meant for locals or tourists?

Parking notice

Back at home, Steve was also smiling and looking contented. He had completed a few of his Betsy to-do’s.  He even commented about how relaxing it is to do his work while the “supervisor” is away.

He had installed these nifty door locks for our new residential refrigerator, to keep the doors closed while we travel.  They can be “disabled” once we are parked, and they actually look kind of cool.  They’re designed to keep children out of the refrigerator, but work perfectly for our purpose.  Only about $5 each at Toys-R-Us, not bad!

Refrigerator locks

Cheap but effective refrigerator locks

He also took our noisy fireplace back apart for the second time to clean and lubricate the motor again.  It runs quiet for a while each time he does this, but we’re going to replace the motor next time it gets noisy.  Steve’s become quite an expert with electric fireplaces, so at least we’ve been able to save money on labor – and he loves taking things apart.  I love it when he puts them back together!

Motorhome Fireplace

The guts of an electric fireplace

We enjoy our alone times such as this.  How about you, are you getting enough alone time?

Next up:  Rare Species and New Friends

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Fun and fruit in Citrus County – Homosassa, FL

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Crystal River Preserve State Park Trail

With our 2nd anniversary celebration week out of the way (hey, we’re always looking for something to celebrate), we’re back to posting about “regular” stuff.  We have been fortunate to enjoy mostly gorgeous weather lately, and being outdoors and active beats sitting in front of the laptop anytime.  We’re continuing to slowly make our way up the Florida panhandle, seeing even more of the unspoiled and laid back nature here.  And the temperatures seem to drop a few degrees with each stop we make – maybe we’re moving too fast after all?

We exhaled a sigh of relief when we arrived at Chassahowitzka River Campground in Homosassa (Steve’s review here).  Why?  At our previous two stops we had dealt with terrible road noise and jetliners roaring overhead.  The reason is that the RV parks most frequented by snowbirds save their best sections for the regulars who come down for extended stays every year, while the transient folks like us get relegated to the noisiest sites right next to the roads.  Of course, that’s the way it should be, but it didn’t make our stay in those busy areas very pleasant.  Oh well, that’s behind us now and our new home base was a county-owned property that was rustic and near a river – a long way from the sounds of the hectic life.  Peaceful days and restful nights could be had once again!

Chassahowitzka River Campground

Back to the quiet life – this is more like it!

We were in the midst of Citrus County, with its four main towns within an easy drive of each other.  While registering for our site, the office staff gave us a list of 41 points of interest in the towns of Crystal River, Homosassa, Inverness and Floral City.  We couldn’t see them all in just a week, so we selected and timed our “must-do’s”, taking into account some forecasted rain.  But first I inquired, “If this is Citrus County, then where are all the citrus trees”?  The reply was that the county was originally named for its abundant citrus trees, but citrus production declined dramatically after the “Big Freeze” of 1894-1895. Today, citrus is grown at only one large grove, Bellamy Grove, within the county.  We did see many roadside stands selling fruits, mostly the very yummy Honeybell oranges which we had heard weren’t in season any longer.  Well, we got some!

Of the two nationally protected areas in Citrus county, we chose to explore a section of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.  The Refuge itself is over 31,000 acres that were set aside by the federal government in 1931 to protect the rich waterfowl habitat there.  It also happened to be located only about three miles down the Chassahowitzka River (called “The Chass” by locals) from our campground.  And our site was only a short walk from a boat ramp, which was the ideal starting point for exploring the river and it’s surrounding springs, creeks, water trails and wildlife.  After forking over $30 to rent a kayak for the day, we paddled off early in the morning to avoid the crowds and we were richly rewarded.  The river was very clear, shallow and calm.  

Chassahowitzka River Campground

We paddled leisurely along as we viewed bald eagles and an abundance of egrets, great herons, little blue herons, ospreys, ducks, manatees, turtles and more.  We can’t remember a place with such a variety of wildlife packed into such a small area!  It was a very relaxing day of paddling, experiencing nature and just being in a quiet place surrounded by all of that unspoiled beauty.  Awesome!

We drove to the county’s smallest town, Floral City.  It is known in the area for its Avenue of Oaks, which are at least 125 years old.  We came here to refresh ourselves with what Floral City is really known for, fresh-squeezed orange juice from Ferris Groves.  The business began in 1930 as a roadside fruit stand and has grown to include a retail store with a gift fruit business.  The juice was excellent, and we ended up hauling a gallon of it and a bag of oranges home with us.  Yum!  Did you know that Florida provides 80% of the orange juice sold in the country?

Our next outing was to take on the claim to fame for the city of Inverness – Withlacoochee State Trail.  It is Florida’s longest paved multi-use path, and a recognized National Rercreation Trail.  At 46 miles long, it stretches from Inverness all the way to Trilby in Pasco County.  This trail made it into our top seven biking trails, for it is shaded in many parts and has ample comfort stops along the way.  Since it also passes right through Floral City, it’s a great trip to include a break for lunch (which we did) and pick up some fresh orange juice at Ferris Groves.  We began our ride at the Inverness trailhead and quickly discovered how popular this trail is, as we had lots of company from other cyclists, walkers and runners.

On another day, Steve and I decided to hit the walking trails at the Crystal River Preserve State Park.  There were several trails to choose from and we decided on the longest one, a 7-mile loop.  This trail was characterized by marshes, swamps, hammocks, flat woods and tidal creeks.  We didn’t really have any wildlife to entertain us, so with my camera on standby we got some good exercise.  Although there was a mosquito warning, we were in luck as the skeeters apparently decided to take that day off.  Yay!

The RV park manager mentioned there was a restaurant nearby that the locals raved about, called The Freezer.  We decided to give it a try for lunch and were very pleasantly surprised.  The place was packed, and we ended up getting the last two seats at the bar. Very informal and with a simple menu, we heard their boiled peel-and-eat shrimp were to die for.  And they were!  I got a pound of them, while Steve tried the Talapia and was extremely happy with it.  We really struck gold when we discovered this out-of-the-way place, and we’d recommend it to anyone coming within 50 miles of it – it’s that good!

Lastly, the final outing was an “alone time” for me, as Steve decided to stay home and do some little maintenance chores on Betsy.  Like most folks, we need to be away from each other once in a while and this was a perfect way to do just that.  Being alone, no one can whisper in my ear, “How many pictures do you have to take of that bird?”

So off I went on my merry way to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park…to be continued!

Homosassa Springs

Next Up:  Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

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Our favorite beaches – Final 2nd Anniversary Post

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Dauphin Island Beach

This last installment of our 2nd year anniversary celebration week postings is a new category that will appear only once.  We jammed along the coastlines of both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic ocean last year (Mar 1, 2013 to Feb 28, 2014).  I thought it would be fun (and possibly helpful to others) to share our favorite beaches during that journey. Walking on the beach, enjoying the smell of the salt air, the sounds of the water, the hypnotizing rolling waves, the crunching of the shells, and the birds entertaining us made the saying ” life’s a beach” a reality for us.

Our selection is obviously colored by the fact that we visited many of these beaches off season, hence the overall experience was enhanced by the lack of noisy crowds.  Many times we enjoyed the solitude with just the birds keeping us company.

So, in no particular order – since it was too difficult to pick a favorite – below are the beach experiences that we will miss and remember most fondly as we travel the midsection of the country this year.  As before, the blue link with the location name is a link to more information about that spot, and the month we were there.  The “Click our related post here” goes to our blog about it.

Dauphin Island, Alabama – March

Betsy was parked across from the public access to the beach, so we had no issues with parking or entrance fees.  The water was blue and calm with small waves.  With no huge attractions or condo buildings lining the beach, it was a very quiet, unspoiled place to just enjoy walking the stretch of white sand and dunes.  We loved watching the birds and gorgeous sunsets so much that we’re going out of our way to spend a couple more weeks there at the end of this March!

Click our related post here

Dauphin Island Beach

Dauphin Island Beach

Rosamond Johnson Beach – Perdido Key, Florida – April

This beach is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and is considered among the whitest, most beautiful sand beaches in America.  It is considered an excellent example of a pristine Florida Panhandle beach.  With no commercial buildings or residential homes, it remains unspoiled and beautiful.

Click related post here

Gulf Shore National Seashore

Kitty Hawk Beach – Outer Banks, North Carolina – October

Betsy was parked just across the street from the beach, making it a pleasure to jump out of bed in the morning and run over to get sunrise photos and hang out, or to take a long walk.  There were no tall condos or hotels along the beach and the area was characterized as low to medium density, single-family residential developments – mainly running small businesses.  Our memories are of sunrises painting the sky with colorful pastels of orange, pink and yellow.

Click related post here

Kitty Hawk, Outerbanks, NC

Kitty Hawk Beach

Glorious sunrise at Kitty Hawk

Bonita Beach Park – Bonita Springs, Florida – January

The beach got crowded with snowbirds as the day progressed, but not early in the morning when we arrived to take our walks.  The shorebirds were plentiful and fat, hanging around and waiting for the equally fat tourists to feed them.  Although the beach is not known for shelling, we could hear our steps crunching as we walked on piles of sea shells.

Click related post here

Bonita Beach Park

Bonita Beach, FLorida

These guys ignore anyone who won’t feed them – and we never do!

Marconi Beach – Cape Cod, Massachusetts – September

This gorgeous beach is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, and the moment you look out from the bluff you become mesmerized by the miles of white sand beach and the huge steep sand cliff located behind the surf line.  The beach is beautiful and serene, providing an unbroken, pristine natural scene in all directions.

Click related post here

Marconi Beach, Cape Cod

Marconi Beach looking north

Marconi Beach, Cape Cod

Marconi Beach looking south

How about you?  What’s your favorite beach to spend time at?

Next up:  Real fun in the “Real Florida”…

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Our Top Seven Biking trails – 2nd Anniversary

Comments 12 Standard

Continuing with our 2nd anniversary celebration posts, this time we share our top seven biking experiences during the period March 1, 2013 to Feb. 28, 2014.  Steve is always happy when he can unload our bikes so we can actually ride them, rather than just haul them around the country.  Our qualifications for these rides is the most points for: (1) the trail was nice to ride and well-maintained, and (2) the experience during the ride was memorable.  The list below continues the tradition I started with last year’s top seven. Continue reading

Our Top Ten Favorite Hikes – 2nd Anniversary

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Stone Mountain Trail

We have crossed another milestone.  Two years ago today, on March 1, 2012, we embarked on our new lifestyle of living on the road.  One of our many goals was to continue to exercise and be active.  Building on what I began last year, and to commemorate our 2nd year of full timing, I have compiled our new set of favorite hike/walk trails.  This top ten list covers the trails we explored between March 1, 2013 and Feb 28, 2014.  It does not include the dozens of beach walks we took while on the east coast.  Although we love long walks on the beach, they tend to be fairly similar and we decided not to try to rate them. Continue reading

Good Friends Gather Once More – Punta Gorda, FL

Comments 27 Standard

We are continuing to meander up the southwest coast of Florida, on our slow northward migration.  Our next stop was in the city of Punta Gorda, spanish for “fat point”.  It sits at a point where the Peace River meets Charlotte Harbor.  On our way there we caught a glimpse of this interesting car.  Would you ride in this red wagon?  Steve said he would!

Immediately after settling in, we contacted our friends Dave and Sue, John and Pam, and Joe and Judy to make arrangements to get together one more time before we leave Florida.  Fortunately they were able to carve some time away from their “busy” retirement schedules to meet us for meals.  But more on that later, as Steve and I had some exploring to do around our new home base.

Harbor Bridges, Punta Gorda

Harbor Bridges Mural

During our walk along the Punta Gorda Harborwalk we discovered the cool Harbor Bridges Mural.  It depicts Theodore Roosevelt (who came to Punta Gorda in 1917) and his guide in the foreground with a Manta Ray they had beached.  The center of the mural shows Charlotte Harbor, and the sides show the old and new Harbor Bridges.  The arrow indicates the locations of Punta Gorda and Gasparilla Island, our points of interest while staying in the area.

Punta Gorda Harbor Walk

A section of the Harborwalk with the Harbor bridges (highway 41 north and south) in the background

Steve and I had been lamenting that our walks here in Florida lacked elevation.  The walking/hiking trails are almost completely flat, and we were hoping for some changes in elevation as we walked around scenic Charlotte Harbor.  The pathway is quite popular, well maintained and cuts through various city parks.

As we neared the east end of the pathway, it branched out.  One path went safely under the bridge and the other lead across it.  We followed the one onto the northbound US 41 bridge, and ahead of us was the steepest incline we have seen in months – the bridge itself.  Pitiful!

US41 bridge heading north

Hey, look at that hill!

Harbor Bridges

Twin bridges, US 41 Northbound and Southbound

Walking across bridges is obviously not our favorite way to exercise, what with the noise and car emissions.  But we walked both of them, and after adding that to our harbor walk we had covered several miles.

Harbor Bridges, Punta Gorda

The Harbor Bridges (also called the Highway 41 Twin Bridges) cross the Peace River and connect Punta Gorda to Port Charlotte to the north. Our efforts were rewarded with several wildlife sightings – dolphins, jellyfish, stingrays and other fish.  Not bad after all!

In another area we saw these feathered friends frolicking and scurrying for food in the the pond at nearby Fishermans Village.

On another day we hauled our bikes to Gasparilla Island, part of a chain of Gulf Coast barrier islands.  We paid the $6 causeway toll and a $3 parking fee before beginning our ride from the south end of the island where the restored 1890 lighthouse sits.

Boca Grande Lighthouse

A restored 1890 Boca Grande Lighthouse

From there we followed the Boca Grande bike path, a paved 6.5-mile trail which is credited as Florida’s first rail-trail.  It travels the length of the Gulf Coast barrier island. The northern section has a separate jogging/walking path that is privately maintained and beautifully landscaped.  We shared the bike path with an ocassional golf cart, which appear to be the preferred mode of local transportation in this upscale area.

Boca Grande Bike Path

Landscapde Boca Grande bike path

On our way back home we stumbled upon a Fishery Market and Restaurant in Placida. We saw fresh-caught fish being unloaded from a boat and taken directly to the market. I was so excited to see not only the various fish, but they also had blue crabs available when we stopped by.  I wasn’t going to pass up that opportunity!  I got 5 crabs and 3 various kinds of fish for a measly $17!  After packing them into our trusty ice chest that never leaves the car, we proceeded to have a fabulous lunch at the Fishery Restaurant. Then we raced home so I could clean my yummy catch in time to have some more for dinner!

One day we hopped on a boat cruise that took us across Charlotte Harbor for Sunday brunch at a place called Burnt Store.  Legend says the Trading Post there was burned down by Billy Bowlegs, the leader of an Indian settlement who was pissed off when settlers invaded their territory.  The Trading Post was never rebuilt, and the name Burnt Store stuck.  The road leading to it – and the one on which we stayed at Gulf View RV Resort (see Steve’s review here) – is Burnt Store Road.  Although the boat cruise was relaxing, the brunch was not very good and there was nothing much else to see or do at Burnt Store.  However, we were happy to see the migrants just offshore, White Pelicans hanging out on a sandbar.  It’s hard to tell in the picture, but these guys are huge – much bigger than a typical brown pelican.

White Pelicans

White Pelicans migrants

The birthday boy, Steve, celebrated his birthday by going to the Muscle Car City Museum after reading Sue and Dave’s recent post about it. He discovered that the museum  was right up the street from our RV park.  It had an amazing collection of Corvettes, at least one from every year it has been produced.  He also salivated over the Camaros, Chevelles and El Caminos, all of which he had worked on and rebuilt in his earlier mechanical life.

Muscle Car City

Muscle Car City Museum

This guy bought a former Walmart store and filled it with classic cars – how cool is that?

Muscle Car City Museum

Steve had a good laugh at this sign in the restroom

Finally, the chance to gather with friends had arrived.  We first met up for lunch with Joe and Judy at Ft. Myers, a midway point between Bonita Springs and Punta Gorda. They were so kind to restock us with fresh-squeezed Florida orange juice from Sun Harvest.  After our BBQ meal we talked about where we might meet again and said our goodbyes.

Next we drove to Venice, Florida to meet up one more time with Sue and Dave of Belugas Excellent Adventure, and John and Pam of Oh the Places.  We had a delicious lunch at Sharkys by the Pier and then walked to the Venice pier and along the beach.  Sue introduced us to fossilized shark tooth hunting/collecting.

Sue told us that collecting prehistoric shark’s teeth has been a favorite pastime for visitors and residents of the Venice area for years.  They may be black, brown, or gray, depending on the minerals in the soil in which they have been buried.  They range in size from one eighth inch to three inches, and on rare occasions larger.  Collectors or enthusiasts bring their metal sifter, scoop up a bunch of sand, then dump it on the beach before sifting through for the teeth.

During subsequent walks I have collected some items, but I think only one of them might be a shark’s tooth.  Am I right Sue?

Fossilized Sharks Teeth

Fossilized Sharks Teeth?

After the beach adventure we followed our friends to Snook Haven, where the sign says it all:

Snook Haven

After enjoying a refreshment and more talk, the cool people had to split up and be on their way.  We vowed to meet again somewhere in this vast land of ours, perhaps this summer.  Thank you friends, for hanging out with us – and lets keep in touch!

Next up:  A 2nd Anniversary Post of our Top Ten Hikes

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Of Friends and Palm Trees

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Fiji Fan Palm Tree

On our way out of the Florida Keys, a funny thing happened as we were leaving the RV park.  It’s not often that we see another Winnebago Tour motorhome in an RV park – they are not nearly as common as the Tiffin Phaeton model.  But on this day as we were about to hook up our car, Steve pulled up next to another Winnebago Tour towing a Honda CR-V like ours.  And the other folks were also registered in South Dakota, using the same mail service we do!  We enjoyed talking with them for a few minutes before they pulled out just ahead of us, heading to Fort Lauderdale – just as we were!

wpid22306-2014-02-15-FL-1290893.jpg

In addition to birds and beaches, palm trees dominate the scene in Florida, especially in the southern part of the state.  Here, palm trees adorn highways, line side streets and are used in landscaping for houses or just as centerpieces.  I didn’t pay much attention to these trees until my one time header, taken of a palm in Puerto Rico, got LuAnn’s (Paint Your Landscape) curiosity as to its name.

Her query  got me into “research mode”, and I began to focus my camera on palm trees so I could google them to learn more (as if learning about birds isn’t enough for me).  I couldn’t find that particular palm from Puerto Rico here in Florida, and as a last resort I contacted the hotel in San Juan to ask about it.  Incredibly, they got back to me with complete details about the Fiji Fan Palm Tree.  Isn’t it a beautiful one?

Fiji Fan Palm Tree

Fiji Fan Palm Tree

You may wonder why I went to such trouble?  Well, I was about to finally meet LuAnn. We had been hoping to meet since last year when we were both in Arizona, and again while we were in Ohio.  But our paths and schedules just never came together.  Fast forward to this winter in Florida, and our stars finally aligned.  She and Terry were parked just a few miles from us when we were in Davie, near Fort Lauderdale.

Happy hour at the Lowe's

Over wine, good food and LuAnn’s smooth and yummy chocolate pudding dessert, we had a great time talking with her and Terry.  This was our first time getting together, yet we felt like we had known each other for a long time and were just catching up.  We clicked right away, and there was such a positive vibe between us.  LuAnn is reserved, as I’d imagined her to be when reading her introspective posts.  She has one of the most well-written blogs encompassing not just their RV travels, but also musings about life, her beautiful poetry, great photography and yummy recipes.  Terry is ever the gentleman, outgoing and funny.  We all got along so well that we lost track of time!  We had a wonderful visit and vowed to meet up again, maybe even to travel together somewhere in the future.  They are a delight and we are so glad our paths finally crossed.

Paint your Landscape

Blogger gals rendezvous

It’s funny that we forgot to talk about the Fiji Fan Palm tree, as there were so many other interesting tales to share.  But here are some notable palm trees that I have encountered here in southern Florida.  These trees enjoy the warm, humid climate and sandy soils that Florida has to offer. There are thousands of palm tree types but these are the ones I thought worth showing.

Royal Palms

Royal Palms at Homestead

Fox Tail Palm Tree

Fox Tail Palms at Punta Gorda

Indian Date Palms at Ft. Myers

Bizmark Palm Trees

Bizmarck Palms along our route to Miami

Coconut Trees

Coconut Palms obscure a mansion in Miami

Indian Palm Tree

Dr. P. Frost’s (inventor of Viagra) mansion lined with exotic  Palm Trees in Miami

Palm Trees seen in Venice, FL

Palm Trees in Venice

Steve and I love all of these palm trees, they just put us in such a fun tropical mood. We’ll miss them and the ocean shoreline that we’ve enjoyed for the past several months, when we begin making our way inland in a few weeks.

Finally, a last look at the Miami skyline with windblown palm trees in the foreground.

Miami Skyline

I’m glad LuAnn sparked my interest and that I paid more attention to these beautiful trees.

Next up:  Punta Gorda, FL

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