Horses, Bourbon, & Brews

In the Lexington area, we found the Kentucky Horse Park for a week’s stay. That is a large park that is everything equine, with an RV campground attached to it. They have tours for things like a Parade of Breeds, you can watch grooming and other chores related to horses, and Man o’ War is buried in a memorial garden there. We did not take any of the tours, not being real horse aficionados. I guess Man o’ War was kind of a big celebrity in his day, won lots of races and sired lots of champions. The RV campground was OK as far as campgrounds go, spacious enough, but getting level was a chore on the paved site. It was disappointing the sites were W/E only (for $30 a night, sewer would be nice), but at least they had 2 dump sites in the park. There was a nice playground area for the kiddies, pool area (although not in use right now), toilets/showers, and a bike trail leading out of the park.

We hit up some more of the Bourbon Trail distilleries while here in Lexington and stumbled upon an additional “trail” that was more or less localized around Lexington…the Kentucky Brewgrass Trail. That would consist of 11 fairly local microbrewers of all things beer. OK, challenge on! Well, at this stop we did complete the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (the 10 “big” corporate-type distilleries like Beam and Wild Turkey). We closed in on completing the Craft Tour. But we hit a wall with the dang microbreweries. Their days and hours were all over the map. We goofed at first and assumed businesses were generally open when we drove 40 miles out of Lexington to get to the breweries in Danville & Harrodsburg only to find them closed. And the final straw was after checking days and hours to make sure they were open, then driving out again to Lemons Mill Brewing in Harrodsburg only to find them closed again. I called their phone number and spoke to a person who said they would not open that day due to lack of patrons lately and there were some sports events on TV. Arrrrggghhhhh!!!!!!

During one of our drives to Harrodsburg, we did encounter Beaumont St., a historical area of mini-antebellum style mansions. We let Woody lead us on a walkabout down the street and to the Beaumont Inn.

This area of Kentucky is hugely into horses and horse farms. Claiborne Farms is just one of the local outfits and they offer tours to us mere mortals, and part of the intrigue is they offer you the opportunity to wrap your arms around $90,000,000 worth of horse (that’s seven zeros, folks!). We could not pass that one up. The ranch consists of some 3,000 acres, 50 barns, and 35 houses. Obviously, the tour did not cover the whole schmear, but basically the business end of the thoroughbred breeding enterprise- – – the breeding shed, the stud barns, and face to face with some of the current studs, including top dog War Front, currently valued at about $90,000,000 and who fetches a stud fee of $250,000. Just a few of Claiborne’s historical accomplishments:

-raised 63 champions and 17 Horses of the Year

-stallions and offspring have 22 Kentucky Derby wins, 19 Preakness wins, 22 Belmont wins, 29 Breeder’s Cup wins

-6 of 12 Triple Crown winners have been sired by Claiborne stallions.

OK, enough about horses. Well, almost enough. The Keeneland Racetrack happens to be here in Lexington and son-of-a-gun-show-me-some-fun we just happened to be here during their opening weekend, so a day at the horse races seemed in order. $5 admission says you can’t argue with that! Now this was interesting. I don’t know if opening weekend is different from other weekends. The place was jam-PACKED! The track itself was ankle-to-elbow, but there were probably twice as many folks outside the track area showing no interest in going inside to watch races. The crowd was majority college kids (we are, as a matter of fact, in UK country), and they get all dressed up like going to a prom. It appeared to me they were all deeply involved in study groups for their class “Power Drinking 101”! I felt like a pinball walking around inside the track, drunks bouncing off my shoulders constantly, some nearly falling down. But we managed to survive the crowd and Jeanne got to donate a little cash to the local horse economy. I think her last horse betted on had 81:1 odds. Come to think of it, as of the time I am writing this, that very horse is still rounding the first turn…

Our “last hurrah” at this park was our bike ride along the Legacy Trail. It was about a 20 mile round trip ride into downtown Lexington along Cane Creek. If this trail was indicative of the way Kentucky does all their hike/bike trails, they definitely got it going on. At all the trailheads along our trail, they installed a “Fix It” post. These included manual bicycle pumps and a slew of hand tools cabled together for all manner of bicycle repair. Anyway, it was a nice moderate ride.

That catches us up, until next post…

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“Barreling” On Toward the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (no pun intended…well, OK, so it WAS intended!)

We chose to pop on over to Atlanta so we could visit Jimmy Carter’s Presidential Library. We stayed at the Stone Mountain Park again for a quick 2 day stay. Since our last stop there, they have done quite a few improvements such as adding yurts and park model trailers for rent, erected a large, very nice playground area for the kids, and across the lake a huge Marriott’s hotel sprung up.

The Carter Presidential Library (it is actually called a “Center”, not a library) was OK. I was disappointed not more attention was devoted to the Iran Hostage Crisis. Even the Bush libraries had extensive displays regarding their wars, whether you consider them justified or not. I think the hostage crisis overshadowed the Panama Canal Treaty and even the Peace Treaty between Israel and Egypt. It should play a more prominent part in Carter’s Library. Just my two cents…

We had a little bit of spare time so we wanted to do the walk up Stone Mountain. The mountain does not look very daunting, but it is actually a good leg workout, continuous incline with numerous rocks/steps thrown in for good measure. But the view at the top was very nice.

So with another Presidential Library notch in our belts, onward and upward. Weather looked to be getting a bit more mellow, so we decided to start our northward trek. Chattanooga, Tennessee was our next chosen stop. We found a Camping World campground on the south side of town which was actually an OK stop; full hookups, level site, $17 per night, and close to town. We used this opportunity to do a Costco run and load up.

A short trip into downtown found us at the Walnut Street Bridge which is a foot bridge across the Tennessee River. We walked around the area a bit and found a sidewalk that was anything but straight. Not much had changed in the area since we were here last. We already checked out Rock City and Point Park on Lookout Mountain (Civil War site). This time we were going to visit Ruby Falls, an underground waterfall, but seeing it was a short excursion, we opted instead for a 9.6 mile hike on the Mullen’s Cove Loop Trail in the Prentice Cooper State Forest. That was one killer hike! My hams and quads are still singing…

From Tennessee it was up into Kentucky for our next adventure, at the Mammoth Cave National Park. We stayed 4 days at the park campground, right next to the visitor’s center. The park offers several different cave tours and we started out with the Historic Entrance self tour. This was a short walk/tour and pretty uneventful as far as caves go, especially if you’ve ever been anywhere like the Oregon Caves or Carlsbad Caverns. We also took the short hike down the River Styx Spring Trail to see the spring. Unfortunately, the park does not allow flash photography inside the cave system, so cave pix are sadly lacking here. But I tried, as evidenced by the photos posted.

While at the campground, we found the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail. The bikes got a little work in (NO! My hams and quads got all the work! Ouch!) on the 16 mile ride which included a couple of healthy (read: steep) inclines.

After all that physical exertion, I was ready for some sedentary living and beginning the Kentucky Bourbon Trail was just the ticket. From our base at Mammoth Cave, we were able to start both trails. There is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail that consists of 10 distilleries (the ones I call “corporate”, large conglomerates like Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark), and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour that consists of 13 small distilleries (the mom-and-pop family outfits). All 23 are scattered pretty much around the Bowling Green-Louisville-Lexington triangle. Our start got us visiting 6 of the 23 from our home at Mammoth Cave.

We concluded our stay with one more cave tour, the Domes and Dripstones Tour. The name of the tour is more spectacular than the sights along this tour. There are a few cave features at the end of the 2 hour tour, but, if you have seen anything like Carlsbad Caverns, you will be disappointed here.

Time to move along, we relocated to Bardstown with a 4 day stay at the White Acre Campground. We started here with a little walkabout town, steeped in Civil War lore and architecture.

From this stop we were able to snag another round of Kentucky Bourbon Trail stops. Trying to hit up all 23 distilleries is certainly giving us some exposure to back roads and some beautiful scenery. Some of the horse farms we passed were spectacular, especially when your looking at a huge mansion, then realize it is just the horse barn! We should live as well as some of these horses…

After 4 days and a couple of very large thunder/lightening spectacles, we motored a bit north to the Louisville area. We found the Add-More Campground actually in Clarksville, Indiana for a short 2 day stop to finish up this area’s Bourbon Trail participants. Besides the distilleries here, Jeanne found an area of downtown called 4th Street Live! which we took a stroll through. It was daytime as we did, but it looked more to be a happening place for the nightlife. The area is similar to Fremont St. in Vegas, sans the freakazoids, with stage area for bands and all the food and liquor you could imagine. While there, we ventured over to Main St. and found the Louisville Slugger factory/store as well as the Louisville Slugger baseball field, home to AAA Cincinnati Reds team, the Louisville Bats.

There was also a foot bridge called the “Big Four Bridge” that crossed the Ohio River and gave good views of downtown. That bridge was a railroad bridge built in the 1880’s-1890’s and in 1929 they built a new bridge inside the old frame. 42 workers died while building the bridge, so now it is considered a monument to those who died.

Well, it’s moving time again. Headed east now, gotta finish the Bourbon Trails with the Lexington area stops. Lookout, Lexington, here we come!

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Like a Coiled Spring…

Our stay at Turkey Creek RV Park certainly did not go unpunished. One of the early nights we found ourselves smack-dab in the middle of “Tornado Central”. The town sirens were a-blarin’ and the thunder/lightning show was a-blastin’ and off we were, to the rock building shelter they had at the RV park. The Big Man upstairs was looking over us though, no touch down anywhere near us this time. But a meager 2 days later, here we were in the middle of a snowstorm, and we all know how much I love the cold weather…NOT!

During the week we got lots of family time with Jeanne’s sister, brother-in-law, and nephew (the Bevins clan; Denise, Don, and Cedric) and her niece’s family (the Pace clan; Savohna, Robert, Cooper, Brody, and Khloe). Robert kicked it off with a dinner of smoked bacon-wrapped meat loaf with smoked mac-n-cheese. Holy-moly was that tasty! Some people want to be buried at death. Some want to be cremated. I want to be smoked.

One day Robert, Savohna, Jeanne and I ventured over to Springfield. Robert pointed out a place called “Hurts Donut”, and, well, solely based on what I did for a living (hint: #bluelivesmatter) we just HAD to go and sample their fare. Outstanding donuts! We later hit the lunchwagon at Springfield Brewing Co. and had to sample their fare. The beer was OK, not outstanding. I got a kick out of an old photo hanging on the wall. It depicted the 1906 State Normal School Women’s Rifle Drill Team. Nice to see the students of yesteryear wore uniforms and came to school fully armed!

Back in Branson, Don and Denise took us over to see a new baseball venue that is “in-progress”. It is an old strip mall taken over by “Ballparks of America” and looks to be 5 baseball fields for youth baseball. The fields are game ready and in fact they were due to have a small tournament that very weekend. The infrastructure buildings (old store fronts) are still being retrofitted and will soon be team rooms, shops, and possibly bowling alley and ice skating rink, among other things. The fields were absolutely awesome! Wall-to-wall artificial turf, even the “dirt” was artificial.

Don and Denise live on the outskirts of town and they have a little bit of real estate behind their house (OK, thick trees and no neighbors as far as the eye can see). Don has enjoyed his hobby of shooting and reloading for quite some time. And he has quite the arsenal on hand. I got the opportunity to cap a few rounds through a couple of “mini-cannons” he owns; a S&W 460 Magnum and a Ruger Super Redhawk Alaskan 454 Casull-45 Colt. Rock and roll, hootchie koo!!! My nose is still numb from the repercussion! After stopping the nose bleed, I got to watch “Deadeye Cooper” display his prowess with his .22 pistol. Fun times.

With a break in the weather, Jeanne and I took Woodrow Wilson on a hike at the Lakeside Forest Wildlife Area above Lake Taneycomo in downtown Branson. It was a short hike, maybe a couple of miles tops, but the 300-some rock stair-steps was a ham-burner. Pity it was not during or immediately following a rain storm, there would have been a nice little waterfall along the route. But alas, it was dry. A couple of small grotto areas were drip drip dripping on us like a natural mister and there were a couple of caves off the trail. Unfortunately, as seems to be more common every day, good things cannot go unspoiled. Our homeless fellow humanoids see fit to take up residence in every nook and cranny, leaving piles of their earthly belongings, garbage, and drug paraphernalia to ruin it for normal nature enthusiasts. Sometimes you do not need the nighttime hours to “see stars”.

A week in Branson, family medical emergency stabilized for now, it was time to move on. But where to? We were still playing the weather, waiting “like a coiled spring” to head northward. The northeast is still digging out of the last late-season blizzard and temps here in the south are just starting to get away from freezing. So we decided to head back south to Little Rock just to visit Clinton’s Presidential Library. A couple of nights at the Downtown Riverside RV Park was the perfect place for the library visit. It is just across the Arkansas River from the library with a nice walking bridge to access it without having to drive anywhere. We hit here at the right time too, the library had a temporary display honoring The Beatles, so we got a “two-fer”.

Our next destination stop was the Tannehill Ironworks State Park in McCalla, Alabama. We broke the drive up in two and overnighted at the Tupelo Walmart again, then into the state park. We just happened to arrive for the opening weekend of the “Trade Show” they put on here inside the park every 3rd weekend from March through November. The “Trade Show” is actually a large flea market with a bit of farmer’s market thrown in the mix. It is interesting as a full time RVer to walk around a flea market, sometimes you see something that makes you think about owning a house again, but then reality strikes and you remember there is no way you would want to buy some of this stuff due to lack of storage space in your current living quarters.

This particular state park is a civil war historical landmark. The Tannehill Ironworks was the Confederacy’s second largest ironworks and the site of a major offensive by the Union. On site there are many log cabins from the civil war era that have been relocated here from their original locations and some are even available as cabin rentals. The original ironworks, left in ruins by the Union, has been restored and there are many hiking trails throughout the park. We took one such trail up to a slaves cemetery, where the gravesites are marked only by large rocks and several show the telltale depression in the dirt where the bodies are located.

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Home sweet home at Tannehill Ironworks

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Quaint little country store.

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Some of the history lessons to be learned on site.

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They have a number of Civil War-era cabins restored in the park, some actually for rent.

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The ironworks buildings.

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All that marks the graves at the slave cemetery are unmarked stones and every now and then the depression in the soil with a stone marker.

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I guess this is how to fly fish in Alabama. Fishing on Roupe’s Creek.

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I found some of my friends here too. Here is the telltale sign of fire ants. Nice, sleepy little village, heck, looks abandoned…

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But when some knucklehead disturbs the nest, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! (Yeah, I’m the knucklehead)

On site there is also the Alabama Iron and Steel Museum which has displays related to the early goings on of the ironworks, as well as some Civil War items and memorabilia.

Tannehill Ironworks State Park is an excellent family campground. For $30 per night for full hookups, they have plenty of activities available for the whole family, all outdoor related and nothing to do with video games or cell phones. (Internet service is extremely poor here in these hills). Besides the living history lessons, they have hiking, biking, a playground along the creek, and fishing. There is a Pioneer Farm where it looks like they do demonstrations of things like blacksmithing. Some of the restored cabins looked like they do crafts such as quilting. We stayed here for 4 days, kinda out in the sticks. The beauty of it was, a short 20 minute drive and we were loading up on supplies at Costco in the town of Hoover (suburb of Birmingham).

The spring is still tightly coiled, we’re not quite ready to pull the trigger and barrel our way north, not sure of our next destination yet, but moving day is tomorrow and to quote that famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) River Sub-Station Sgt. Dave Anderson, “Just do it!” OK, Dave, we’re gonna do it…

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Florida Visit Shortened

The Florida Keys behind us, it was back to the  mainland and points north for us. We did a short drive to an overnight stay at the Miccosukee Casino/Resort on the west end of Miami. This was another fairly nice Indian casino with a very large outback parking area and the price was exactly right – zilch. Just had to check in with security and let them know how many days we would be there. And Jeanne, of course, had to earn our keep at the slots. This particular casino offered no card games except for a poker room. The only drawback for us was during the night a black Escalade pulled in within 3-4’ of the back of our Jeep (still hooked up to the bus), headlights glaring into our bedroom window, with engine running, and remained like that for about 10 minutes. Initially I thought someone had just pulled over to play on their phone, but after 10 minutes of no change, I stuck my little Mustang into my shorts pocket and went out to investigate. I found the driver passed out behind her wheel, a young gal of the local tribe, and unresponsive to my pounding on her door/window. Just the kinda stuff I have been running from for the past 6 years of retirement! A quick phone call to security got their local tribal police to respond and clean up the mess. Onward and upward…

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Our home at Miccosukee Casino/Resort.

Still wandering around without reservations anywhere in particular, we found a 2 day slot at the Midway Campground in the middle of the Big Cypress Nat’l Preserve (a swamp surrounded by the Everglades). It was a very nice campground circled around a small pond right off Hwy. 41.

Our first day we took off on the bicycles, following Hwy. 41 which also followed a narrow creek-like piece of the swamp. We got to see a whole bunch of gators, babies to adults, scattered along the water.

Day 2 we decided to go to Shark Valley and take a tram tour through some of the Everglades. It was raining on us most of the tour but we got a narrated tour of the area, saw a couple of gators and native birds, and the tour guide was entertaining as well.

One problem that is not uncommon for us is we basically had no internet during this stay. That makes it rough on moving day, with no way to research for a next location. So we packed up and headed west aiming for the Naples area. Not long into the drive, internet came available, so Jeanne found a week’s stay for us at the Pine Island Resort in St. James City, FL. It is a typical snowbird park with lots of sites jam-packed on top of each other, and is a KOA/Encore/Thousand Trails combination park. Although not the most scenic of parks, Pine Island Resort does have plenty of activities for all ages such as pool/spa, playground, shuffleboard, horseshoes, basketball, tennis, pickleball, dog run, and a clubhouse for group gatherings.

Our first excursion was to check out Sanibel Island and the beach there. The big drawback to Pine Island is it takes a long drive to go ANYWHERE! Even the 2 closest civilized cities, Cape Coral and Ft. Myers, are a half hour away minimum. To make matters worse in the case of getting to Sanibel Island, the bridge over has a $6 toll, $2 to get back, and parking at the beach over there is $4 per hour. Ridiculous costs, considering the beach is a big nothing on my scale-of-wow.

The bicycles got more work in when we took off for St James City (the far end of Pine Island). We found no beach areas to lollygag at, but did find a couple of potential eating & drinking establishments that we would visit soon. One, the Ragged Ass Saloon, was the local biker bar. We went there with our newfound Canadian friends Paul and Dianne (neighbors at the RV park) and had a nice dinner and a beer or four. Jeanne and I not being the typical bar-hopper types, it has been quite a while since I was in a bar surrounded by a bunch of drunks, especially hard core drunk bikers, but, surprisingly, I got a kick out of it. Some people are so easily amused…The second place we scoped out was Woody’s where Jeanne took me out to lunch and we had a lovely date. Of course I had to take advantage of a photo op while at Woody’s. They had a satirical duplicate land marker in their parking lot area to that marker in Key West designated as the Southernmost Point in the continental U.S.A. Only Woody’s marker is designated the Drunkenmost Point in the continental U.S.A. Good times with my hot babe!

Jeanne wanted to make a road trip to the Sarasota area and Siesta Keys, so we did. She heard that Siesta Beach was one of the top beach locations in the country, so we tripped on up and promptly discovered two things. 1-It is a very large, very white sand, very beautiful beach. 2-Our usual lack of paying attention to things around us guarantees a bite in the butt. We arrived to find we were smack dab in the middle of their Spring Break. Kids EVERYWHERE! Wall to wall bodies. Parking lot full (at least they don’t charge for parking). Needless to say, we kept on going and I got zero pictures of beach.

During our stay here in Florida we encountered a family medical emergency for one of Jeanne’s kin in Branson, MO. So, our motto comes true again, “plans change every day and twice on Sundays…” We decided to make a warp drive detour up to Branson. We made it in 3 stops. First was the SKP park in Bushnell, FL. Not anything to write home about. Second stop was overnighter at a Cracker Barrel near Peachtree City, where we at least got to poke our heads in and say howdy to my cousin Dave, his wife Kim, and daughter Dana. We had not seen them for years. Stop #3 was an overnight at the Walmart RV Resort in Tupelo, MS. (No, I am being a smart donkey, there is no such thing as a “Walmart RV Resort”). Then we landed at the SKP park known as Turkey Creek RV Park outside of Branson, MO.

So there you have it, a full accounting of our shortened stay in the great state of Forida. And now we are back to our “no plan” mode, taking life as it comes. Still aiming for the northeast parts of our country. We’ll see…

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The Florida Keys

So we stumbled our way onto the Keys without making long-range reservations during their very busy “peak season” time. For any of you out there looking to visit the Keys, their busy season starts waning in March, so non-reservation RV visits will be a little more successful in finding space. We lucked into a 3-day span at a place called Jolly Roger RV Park in Marathon, about half way to Key West. And being the peak season, prices are exorbitantly high everywhere you look. We paid $94 per night for our stay, taxes included. Most of the private RV parks can lay claim to having waterfront sites, but they all seem to be cut from the same cloth and come with the same types of complaints. The sites are stacked up on top of each other; the interior roads are skinny and include very tight maneuvering space; the lovely aroma of raw sewage seems to hover over the Keys in areas of the RV parks; many have long term residents with rigs in all manner of repair and disrepair; and the prices are absolutely outrageous! It is a cryin’ shame that just due to location and popularity, RV parks can charge these high rates for less than average facilities. But, you can’t blame them, they are backed-up busy and people are willing to fork over the dough, even for sub-par parks. Now, one alternative is to try and get reservations at one of the state parks along the Keys. There are several, but some are not possible in bigger rigs. Of the parks we drove by, I would venture a guess that Bahia-Honda State Park is the crown jewel of the series. It had numerous waterfront sites and appeared to have a little more foliage between a lot of the sites, giving one a feeling of privacy even though these parks also have the sites packed in like sardines. And their $40 nightly rates are much more reasonable.

Our first day we took Woodrow Wilson with us to Key West, about an hour’s drive from Marathon. We hung out in the area of Old Town and let Woody take us for a walk down the very pedestrian-busy street. This area I would describe as a cross between San Francisco’s Castro district and the French Quarter in “Nawlins.” Lots of rainbow motif and posters advertising drag queen contests on the one hand and the VIP Gentleman’s Club (with one of the girls sitting on the front porch next to a chalk board advertising their different services provided) on the other hand. Some of this stuff I had to cover Woody’s eyes, I did not want him to get embarrassed… We got to see the marker for the southernmost point of the continental USA, the southernmost house, and the southernmost beach. The beach was laughable, see the picture below.

The next day we took the bicycles for a spin. They have some nice bike lanes scattered along the main highway and we found a couple of bicycle/kayak/rental/everything shops were down the road from us. We needed some parts and pieces for the bikes and decided to ride in their direction. We found Wheels 2 Go and the gal there was very helpful. What we could not find there, she told us the Overseas Outfitters was just down the road and would probably have the other things we needed. O.O. took very good care of us and we got everything bicycle related squared away. If anyone is in the area and needs bike work or parts, those two outfits are outstanding! Anyways, we rode our bikes to the 7-mile bridge, then to Sombrero Beach, and back to the park. Don’t laugh…my butt still hurts from that ride 2 days ago, it was 26.2 miles round trip done in about 5 hours total (go ahead, runners, laugh! Yes it was a marathon in Marathon. Yes, you could have clocked us with a calendar. Yes, I understand you real marathon runners can do it in the 2 hour range). It was a good ride, at least for us. Gotta love the views.

On our third day we decided to drive to Key Largo to check it out a little better than just driving through it to get here. Key Largo turned out to be nothing spectacular, but on the way back we hit the Go-Anna (aka: iguana) jackpot. Them little (some not so little) buggers seemed to have crawled out from everywhere. We stopped several times and got some photos of the mini-dragons and my one regret was on one stop for a particularly spectacular specimen with a flaming orange “sail” and various matching body parts, the little creep was actually too fast for me, he shot back into the brush like a dart. But I still got some good shots of others…

Our stay here gave us lots of opportunity to see critters other than the Go-Annas. Between watching an awesome sunset from the dock area and walking along the sea wall, we saw things such as a sting ray, nurse shark, barracuda, parrot fish, lobsters, crabs, and a few nasty-mean  looking eels.

All in all, we were not blown away at all by visiting the Keys. Other than getting to see the critters, the cost here is ridiculous for what it is about. There are basically no real beach areas anywhere, the “beaches” here are the size of postage stamps. The main attraction here is the consumption of alcohol, some folks enjoy happy hour all day. It is a GREAT place to come if you want to fish, dive, snorkel, kayak, jet-ski, take boat tours, or eat. Other than that, the area is junky, there are lots of “pigs” (not of the porcine variety but the 2-legged kind) roaming freely as evidenced by all the garbage strewn about. The constant sewer smell is overwhelming at times. And during peak season, the traffic is miserable! If we had our “druthers”, anywhere from Cocoa Beach south to Miami, or the Florida panhandle, would be more preferable to visit. One of our favorite areas, so far, is the area of Hollywood Beach. Another is the panhandle area around Pensacola and Destin.

That about covers it for now. Now we head up the Gulf side to all points north. Until next post…

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Livin’ the Life in South Florida

One thing I must say about Florida drivers in the southern part of the state…THEY SUCK! You need to have your head on a swivel, be able to overcome the constant “fight or flight” syndrome (that is the overwhelming desire to choke the living sh*t out of those around you), and be prepared to make ample use of your car horn. To date I have not seen this many texting drivers driving HUA in any other state. I am surprised I have not blown up my horn by overuse. The sheer traffic volume anywhere within shouting distance of I-95 is frustrating enough. OK, ‘nuff whining.

We found a couple of days at a Christian RV park, Sonrise Palms in Cocoa, to stay and check out the Kennedy Space Center and to play on the beach in Cocoa Beach. We took one of the tours at the Space Center (a bit pricey at $50 per person) and we did not even get the full tour. This is a working NASA facility and the tour normally includes the launch pads. However, they were in use the day we were there, obviously for something other than a launch, so we missed that part. The VAB was an interesting behemoth. That is the Vehicle Assembly Building where they put all the ships together. It is a single story building but you would not guess that from the following photos. We also got to see the only Saturn V rocket left, the space shuttle Atlantis, and numerous other displays of NASA “stuff” and equipment. Most of the site is a self guided tour and we took about 3 hours to complete it.

The next day we lollygagged on Cocoa Beach. Not being too far south into the state, Cocoa Beach was not quite as crowded as we thought. Weather was beautiful, sand was soft, water was “swimmable” (AKA: too cold for her, just right for me).

From there it was on to a 5 days stay at one of Broward County’s county parks, the Topeekeegee Yugnee (TY) park in Hollywood, FL. This was a very large, very nice park with a lake and campground. And it had a central location so we were able to venture out to the Miami area as well as to Ft. Lauderdale. The park itself had a good sized walk/bike path around the lake and Woody went crazy with all the squirrels. We even managed to espy a pair of wild iguanas hanging out at one of the shelter areas.

Our first day we drove on down to the Miami area and checked out the beach areas, Little Havana, and the Wynwood art district, including a touristy spot called Wynwood Walls. I have to say, coming from the north San Franciscso Bay area, having worked most of my career in a gay resort area, they got NOTHING on the sheer weirdness that is found in the Miami beach areas! If you want to hob-nob with the rich, famous, and “beautiful people”, then Miami is definitely the place for you. It was a Sunday evening we were there, amongst the hordes and masses. Parking is also a problem in south Florida, bring lots of cash and good walking shoes. The Wynwood art district and Wynwood Walls was unique. Folks painted all manner of scenery and designs on building walls, interspersed with graffiti here and there, reminiscent of the psychedelic age of San Francisco.

The next day we had mail duty. Living as full-time RVers, we have domiciled in Texas as members of the Escapees RV Club. The SKP park in Livingston, TX, is the HQ for SKPs which has the central mail service center, as well as a senior care center for infirmed RVers. The mail center is our official mailing address so when we decide we want our mail, we contact them and have them send whatever is there to an address of our choice, usually general delivery to the city we are currently in. In 4+ years I have come to the realization that our esteemed U.S. Postal Service is just as screwed up as the rest of our government. My go-to website is USPS.com as far as getting the locations for my general delivery. Unfortunately, the website is extremely inaccurate and on at least 5-6 occasions I have had my mail sent to a post office, listed on their website as offering general delivery services, only to find out they do not handle general delivery. Then, as it is now, I had/have to hunt down which exact post office my mail is hiding at. Not fun, time consuming, thank you Uncle Sam.

After a successful hunting trip (mail in hand), we took a drive down to the Hollywood Beach area. We walked a very nice boardwalk along the beach and decided to return tomorrow for some more beach lollygagging.

After doing the beach bum thing, we drove into Ft. Lauderdale to check that area out. We walked along the beach and storefront areas, then took a stroll along Las Olas Blvd. which had a sort of Little Italy ambience going on. We had a nice conversation with a woman working a cigar shop and found out Cuban cigars are still illegal to sell in the states. But you can visit Cuba and bring back Cuban cigars for personal use. However, get caught selling them and the penalty is your lungs will be removed from your body. (Not really. But it is illegal to sell in the states.)

That pretty much catches us up to now. Tomorrow we forge ahead further south, heading toward a stay in Marathon down in the Keys. Catch us later…

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Florida Via Good Ol’ Red Bay, Alabama!

With the kids all gone back to the state of Lunacy (AKA: California), we stayed just a bit longer in the Nashville area but moved over to Two Rivers RV Park which was just a few hundred yards down the road from the KOA. We had a chance to meet with our friend Dava who was one of the Rock Island State Park Rangers we had worked for when we camp hosted there about 3 (!) years ago. We had a nice breakfast visit, catching up on all things Tennessee and beyond. We also took the time to go visit the Hermitage. That would be the former home of one Andrew Jackson and now a historic park in the heart of downtown Nashville. It also contains Jackson’s burial site. This is why I like the south, you get non-stop history in any direction you look.

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It got a little cold for a few days here in Tennessee…

Our stay in Nashville was not without RV issues. The temps got pretty low (not topping 20 degrees some days), and even with proper prep work, we awoke one morning to a frozen solid water pump. That just started our problems. With water restored, our Precision Temp tankless water heater stopped producing hot water, only putting out luke warm water at best. I popped the cover on the water heater and noted the interior flame, when activated, was about a half inch high (supposed to be about 3”). Not being the sharpest marble in the drawer (AKA: mechanically inept), I referred to the Tiffin owners web site to research the problem. Several posters on this subject advised to call “Gary” at Precision Temp, so I did. He talked me through a diagnosis and came to the conclusion that my LP regulator needed replacing, that it was widely known that Tiffin had used a bunch of defective regulators in the past. Bada-bing, bada-boom we just happened to be next door to an RV repair facility. I got them to replace the regulator and test pressure. Still no hot water. The RV facility seemed to be at a loss for a resolution, and we were already on our way to Red Bay for some other minor fixes, so we toughed it out until we got to Red Bay. Another Griswold Family Moment arose during our travels south. We heard some slight banging around in the back of the bus, similar to the occasional chair tipping over or bag falling off the bed. Upon stopping for the day we found the bedroom wall mounted TV had popped off the wall and fallen partways on the bed, thankfully no damage (It is a pretty large screen TV). There is a bracket on the back of the TV and to hang the unit you lift the TV up and over the wall bracket, then hook the lip over the wall bracket. The bottom of the TV bracket has some holes for screws to anchor to the wall, but apparently nobody had done that. I guess we lucked out for the past 3 years, not having any TV-falling-off-the-wall issues. Note to all you RV owners…check your wall mounted TV’s.

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OUCH!!!!!!!!

This visit to Tiffin we were able to use the Express Bay (less than 3 hours of work needed). Their tech could not solve our hot water issue either, so we ended up replacing the whole dang water heater. But boy howdy we got hot water now!

You just can’t get out of Red Bay, Alabama fast enough. All fixed up, we raced southbound for the sunny state of Florida. One quick over-niter at the Walmart in Opelika, AL, then on to a couple of days at the Wanee Lake Golf & RV in Ashburn, GA. Not a particularly happening place (their high point for the year in Ashburn is the annual Fire Ant Festival), we motored into neighboring Valdosta, GA to look around. Another happening place…not!

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Home, at Wanee Lake Golf and RV, Ashburn, GA.

Next stop—St. Augustine, FL! We caught a few days at St. John’s RV Park and were able to explore St. Augustine Beach and Vilano Beach. Our NP pass got us into the Castillo de San Marcos Nat’l Monument, a historical fort at water’s edge. And finally, OUT OF THE COLD WEATHER! We actually took Woody on a short hike at the 12 Mile Swamp Conservation Area. For the life of me I don’t know who named this area, about 3 miles of hike never showed any sign of a “swamp”.

Daytona Beach came next. We were able to get a week at the KOA. This, despite we are in the heart of the busy snowbird season for the whole state. Anything a week or longer is next to impossible here, we are holding out for a few days here and there as we can get them.

Daytona Beach touts itself as the “world’s most famous beach.” Personally, there are beaches I feel are a little more famous—Waikiki, Malibu, West Palm, Saint-Tropez, Monaco, etc. And the beach area of Daytona is not real “deep”, just stretched out. But it was cool being able to drive along the sand and just park at the spot you want. The boardwalk here leaves a lot to be desired, nowhere near the quality of other boardwalks like at Virginia Beach or Myrtle Beach. But definitely LOTS of motels…

Being on the road going on 5 years now we have been a wee bit lax in church attendance (OK, a whole lotta lax and no, the church roofs do not cave in when I walk into them!) Without being anchored down, we kinda gotta hit on a style of “salvation-to-go”. And wouldn’t you know it, Daytona Beach just happens to have the Daytona Beach Drive-In Christian Church. We took the opportunity to attend on the Sunday we were here and it happened to be a communion service, so bread & wine (OK, grape juice. You didn’t really think they would pass out alcoholic beverages to drivers operating motor vehicles, did ya?) were passed out at the gate. It was a rather unique experience.

We wanted to see some manatees, so it was off to Blue Spring State Park. The manatees do a seasonal run on the St. John’s River to this Blue Spring area, the whole area designated a manatee refuge, November through March. Several hundred animals are usually present during the run and can easily be viewed by a nice boardwalk area running along the river. We were definitely not disappointed. Got to see lots of critters. And the Spring is a very interesting place. A small “crack” in the river bottom descends over 100’ down to an underwater cave, a popular spot for SCUBA diving. Also on site is the Thursby house, a restored historical site built in the late 1800’s during the steamboat era on the river.

Smyrna Dunes Park is a county park at Smyrna Beach. They have a 2 mile boardwalk path that winds over the protected sand dunes with views of the ocean and is big for naturalists, ecologists, and students to come and observe animals and vegetation in natural habitats. We strolled the boardwalk and got to see some turtles hanging out at the dunes.

We took a couple of days to lollygag on the beach. Florida really has goofy weather, one minute you can be baking in intense sunshine, then next covered in black clouds. But the sand was fine and the water starting to warm up. It sure has been nice in these 70’s temps. And what trip to Daytona Beach would be complete without at least a stop off at the raceway. We not being big time race fans, $50 for a tour at the track just did not appeal to us. So we settle for pix.

That’s it for now. Catch you on the next post…

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