Wilmington, NC: family, work, and beer.

Our Charlotte plans to visit Key West friends Dennis and Ginger fell apart under the obstinate forces of multiple impending weddings (Ginger is a professional planner for such events,) so we extended our stay in Lake Powhatan by a day and then rushed our journey east a bit.  Such a route required, at least for our conservative daily road mileage preferences, a one day stop over.

Google maps offered two major routes from Asheville to Wilmington, but the southern option allowed us a stay at another low cost military RV site: Falcons Nest Family Campground on Shaw Air Force Base, outside Columbia, South Carolina.  This is a perfectly serviceable place offering electric and water connections (plus a dump station) in a reasonably sized site for only $20 a night.  While not exactly in a destination area, it was perfect for our needs, and allowed us to stamp our Air Force Base Family Camp passport book with our tenth stay, which, as part of the Air Force Frequent Camper Program, will grant us five free night certificates at future AFB’s. 

From there it was on to Wilmington, where I had procured five days of RV storage at a private lot, Jack’s Boat & RV & Storage, just outside town in Castle Hayne.  RVers choosing to stay with relatives who do not have sufficient driveway space face a real challenge in finding reasonably priced temporary storage for their rigs.  Most of the chain storage places want a minimum three month storage fee, and many of the military bases have waiting lists.  Just as in Venice, we were lucky to find this private storage lot; just one man trying to offer a flexible service on his fenced in acres.  Hard to beat $6 a day.

We dipped down into South Carolina on our route to Wilmington, which means we got to pass this questionable landmark as we turned back north along I-95.

Serenity properly stored, we loaded up Loki with supplies for five days, the cat, the cat’s various accouterments, and any food from the fridge that needed consuming, including the last of the Key West fish fillets I had caught and frozen.  For Mothers Day I prepped an excessive amount of it so that we might all enjoy fish tacos to go with our bubbly and still wine. 

In previous visits we kept PKM completely isolated from the labs.  This time we decided to make controlled introductions.  It went well: Rex could not care less and a supervised Ginny stayed under control.  The key?  PKM did not run, so where is the fun in chasing?

Having labored for several days helping Gloria with her new home, it seemed only fair to offer such services to my mom as well.  Any thought I had that she might poo poo such a gesture as unnecessary evaporated with the near immediate and lengthy list of things that needed done.  So Rose and I spent a couple of mornings and early afternoons assisting with invasive vine removal, spreading mulch, chopping down and cutting into pieces four trees, moving furniture, and cleaning out roof gutters. 

We did not have the ideal tools for the job, but a hatchet and my sawzall did the trick.

Mom and Tim have a running joke about the very many things there are to do in Wilmington, and that you just can’t possibly do them all in a short stay, which has a nice air of self aware irony when it comes to visiting grandchildren and other kids.  But for adults, it works on a different, more sincere level: there really are plenty of fun and interesting things to do regardless of your interest.  And they know their audience: gone are the proposed visits to, I dunno, symphonies, museums, and the like.  They accommodated our well established preferences with the the ocean, wine, and beer, starting with a late afternoon trip, picnic basket included, to Wrightsville Beach.  We always enjoy seeing different beaches in the many coastal states we visit, and this was yet another nice one.

Later in the stay we did a self guided tasting tour through three of Wilmington’s fourteen breweries.  We shared flights at Flytrap, Front Street, and Waterline Breweries.  Each has a very different vibe, we enjoyed them all, but particularly liked the offerings at Waterline and the knowledgeable server at Flytrap. 

Flytrap Brewery’s collection of mascots.

On our last evening the four of us headed to the Sweet n Savory Cafe for their weekly (every Wednesday evening) free wine tasting.  This is a bit nontraditional, in that it is intended to be part of a meal rather than a stand-at-the-bar tasting.   They offer half a dozen one ounce pours with some connecting theme, and the purchase of any bottle results in a free appetizer or dessert.  Assuming we would for sure buy a bottle, we went ahead and ordered their Stuffed Meatballs, while Mom & Tim selected the lightly fried Crispy Cauliflower, and even I had to agree that they made the right choice; it was awesome. 

When the manager explained that the wine tasting theme for the evening was German wines, I audibly groaned, assuming it would be a selection of sweet rieslings which I do not like at all.  He insisted we withhold judgement and give it a go, and damn if we didn’t so thoroughly enjoy one of the options, a Silvaner (another varietal I had never heard of, much less tasted) from Hans Wirsching in Bavaria.  What a pleasant and eye opening surprise!  We bought two bottles (at $20 each) which covered the appetizers, and look forward to not only enjoying them at a future special occasion, but also to finding more Silvaners.  If the appetizers are any indication, the food at Sweet n Savory is fantastic, and the bakery goods looked deliciously sinful as well.  We will definitely come back again, especially on a Wednesday evening. 

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Asheville, NC: Lake Powhatan National Forest Recreation Area

Rose had two stops in mind in between Atlanta and Wilmington: Asheville and Charlotte, NC.  So we went a bit out of our way to the former, and chose Lake Powhatan National Forest Recreation Area as our base camp.  Good weather and a popular destination area meant this excellent park had few openings, but with our stated willingness to move sites, the staff was able to find us a four day stay.  Our high tempo travel pattern has made us particularly good at moving quickly and without drama.

Our first site at Lake Powhatan.  So much better than the private RV “resorts” provide.

Lake Powhatan is yet another one of those fantastic National Forest campgrounds located in a beautifully wooded setting on a series of creek fed lakes, with the added distinction of being 10 minutes from the heart of Asheville.  We love the careful balance between being in nature and yet close to a lively area that places like Lake Powhatan provide.

The campground offers options from dry to electric/water only to full hook up sites; based more on view and specific location than services, we chose the $31 full hook up option.  That’s a pretty good rate for a beautiful spot so close to a city as interesting and cool as Asheville.  If there is a downside to Lake Powhatan, it is the very tenuous-to-nonexistent Verizon connectivity available in the park.

Aside from relaxing in the forest, while there we made daily outings to the local libraries and a wonderful indoor farmers market: the former for wifi and the latter for excellent local cheese, butter lettuce, and the “caviar of the south,” pimento cheese spread.  I grew up on the stuff, but it was all generic, big brand stuff.  For the first time in my life I had actual small batch, home made, high end versions of it, and I am completely sold.  Whether you are a southern boy who at least had the Winn Dixie option growing up, or a northerner who has never heard of pimento cheese, I urge you to give the real version a try.

Our site pics are almost always from the front.  Here is something a bit different; a shot from the hill leading to the lake.  Also: notice but one bike on the ladder rack?  Not for long…

As a part of Rosemarie’s jewelry making ventures she has dealt with a large variety of suppliers, but one of her favorites has been Cherry Tree Beads.  So passing through their home town could we possible avoid a pilgrimage there?  No we could not; and though we did not buy all that much from them that day, we learned a lot about the way a big bead and gem distributor works, and will be definitely be ordering more from them in the future.

As we were departing Cherry Tree Beads, we spotted a Bicycle Thrift Shop, and pulled in on a whim.  This is exactly what it sounds like: a thrift store that specializes in, or perhaps more accurately, exclusively deals in bicycles and their associated parts and accouterments, and does so for the benefit of Trips For Kids, a charity focused on providing children with outdoor bike activities.

The past few years of casual biking have made clear that Rosemarie needs a 24″ bike (not one of the more common sizes; they tend to jump from 20″ to 26″.)  And what did we discover at Bicycle Thrift Shop?  A practically brand new 24″ women’s mountain bike in purple glitter and white.  It could not have been more perfect for Rosemarie, and at $40, a steal.  We added a floor pump and an interesting behind the seat strap down addition for $10 bucks total.  What a deal. 

Lastly, Aheville is a top tier craft brewery destination, and we took advantage of that with trip to a couple of the locals; of particular note is Burial Brewery.  We were unable to hook up with brother Jason this trip, but hopefully on our next visit to the region we can meet up.

Outside Atlanta with more cousins

We had some making up to do: during our 2016 East Coast circuit we missed visiting Rosemarie’s Aunt Clarivel and cousins Betsy, Marissa, and their family.  This year we made sure Atlanta was on the route to remedy this.   We made the three hour drive from Wanee Lake, a surprising portion of which was on back roads, up to Snellville, a bit outside of Atlanta proper.

The welcoming comittee

They had told us that Marissa’s driveway was easily long enough to accommodate Serenity, what went unstated was how very steep it was.  Undeterred, we noted that the unpaved area on the left had a bit less of an angle, and with extra blocks placed under the hydraulics, we were able to get our rig almost level, though that left us with about a three foot climb to get in and out!

Hard to show how hard it was to get leveled, but Serenity’s front wheels are off the ground, and in this pic you can just make out the rigged up platform I made to get in and out. 

Rose had not seen this part of her family in eight years, so it was great to catch up, and they welcomed us completely.  Clarivel is Rosemarie’s aunt on her mothers side, Betsy is her daughter (Rose’s 1st cousin), and Marissa, Gami, and Daniela, are Betsy’s children (Rose’s 1st cousins, once removed.)  Marissa and her husband Ray have two children, almost three year old Annalise and newborn Sarah.

L to R: Rose, Jack, Ray, Marissa, baby Sarah, Betsy, Annalise, Daniela, Clarivel, and Gami.

Betsy made us excellent lasagna for our arrival dinner, while we contributed with a big Cinco de Mayo steak and taco BBQ meal for the whole clan, cooked in stages on our little Weber grill.   Marissa found it quite humorous that we casually referred to Serenity as “our house” but we were the “home owners” on that lot able to provide a big boiling pot and a working gas grill!

It still surprises us how much PKM tolerates children, but Annalise was particularly gentle.

While there Rosemarie and Marissa exchanged Cricut stories and ideas; a Cricut is a machine that look like a big ink jet printer, but it is capable of cutting (and drawing) on a wide array if materials.  It is the absolute rage in the crafting circule of late, and Marissa is particularly adept at employing it.  She has a bit of a part time, self employed job making birthday decorations and the like.  Really nice stuff.

I was even able to introduce Gami to geocaching during a run to the store on afternoon.  All in all this was an excellent family visit, and we are forever thankful to Marissa and Ray for hosting us in their driveway, and hope the neighborhood watch did not get too excited about the situation.  And Rosemarie is particularly grateful for Titi Clarivel’s homemade flan that we were able to abscond with during our departute.

Our 2018 Plans: Maine, Canada, and The UP.

This is just a short post to lay out our rough plans for the rest of the year, and note that our Where Are We Now page is up to date.

In our first three years of full time RVing we alternated between west and east coast circles of the US, managing to hit all 48 states while doing so.  For this year we decided to continue that pattern with another circuit of the east, but doing so with a slightly altered route, a different pattern of stops, and the inclusion of a cut through part of Canada.

As to the route: in 2016 we hugged the east coast all the way up to Maine before winding our way below the Great Lakes over to Ohio and Indiana before turning north into Michigan.  This year we started with a more inland route until we reached Atlanta then started our cut over to the coast, reaching it in Wilmington, NC.  We will remain close to the Atlantic as we work our way up to Maine, then cut through Canada’s eastern provinces towards Michigan’s UP.

In our first couple of years of RVing we tended to have a lot of short, perhaps 2 to 4 day stays, so as to get a taste of each and every state or region.  In our third year we shifted to more of a sprint and stop pattern; one or two day stays in places we had previously been or perhaps just had little interest in, with longer stays in “destination” places.  That’s what we are striving for this year as well.  Our meandering exit from Florida excepted, we have up to five day stops with family and friends planned or completed in Atlanta, Wilmington, Virginia and New York, punctuated by short one to three day stops in between.  Starting in early June we will begin a one month stop in Bar Harbor, Maine, followed by approximately three weeks of travel through Canada, and then a one month stay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during August, though that will be split up between two or three UP campgrounds.

We have not yet sorted out our return route to Florida, but we assume that in early September we will start a two month sprint and stop in a general south east direction with stays to visit family, friends, and favored locations along the way.  Leaving Michigan earlier than last year will allow us a more leisurely pace as well as room for deviation from the nearly straight shot to Florida we made in 2017.  November will see us doing our usual bouncing around The Sunshine State to see friends and family until Thanksgiving, after which we will have a one month stay in Sanibel, by far our longest in seven years of visiting there.  Then Christmas with family before starting another winter in Key West.

So there you have, our 2018 plans, mostly solidified through Maine, a little rougher after that.

Wanee Lake Golf & RV Resort: new ownership, changes afoot, still a great deal

After stumbling across Wanee Lake Golf & RV Resort in 2016 as we made our way back towards Florida, I made a point to put it on the priority stop list for any future route that took us through south Georgia, and indeed we stayed for a few days a year later during our return trip south as well.  In those years, for $16 a night on the Passport America rate, you not only enjoyed a pull through, full hook up spot (with free wifi in some sites) but you also had unlimited golf on their 9 hole course.  And after the three day PA 50% rate expired, they still honored a 25% off rate for additional days.  For those reasons we called Wanee Lake one of our best value parks in both the 2016 and 2017 year end reviews.

Upon securing our reservation this year, we learned that the resort has new owners, and that the prices have gone up a bit for pretty much everything: RV site fees, club membership, even the domestic beer in the club house.  The RV Passport America rate now leaves you paying just under $21 a night after taxes (still very reasonable) but they have extended the PA 50% off to up to seven days vice three.  This still includes unlimited walking golf (cart rental is extra). 

Wanee Lake rate sheet.

New ownership means change, and the other RVers and club members I spoke with were generally quite positive and hopeful.  I had the opportunity to meet and talk with them, , and I share that optimism.  The impression I gathered was that the previous managers had let conditions, particularly on the golf course, degrade, and that the new owners had already taken noticeable steps to get things back on, er, course.   In addition, they have purchased new equipment and started some major renovation and construction plans. 

Our spacious grassy site, full set up for outdoor crafting.

This is a long way around to me saying that as it currently stands, Wanee Lake is still one of the best value parks we have encountered, and should the prices we were charged this year remain generally in place, the ongoing improvements will make it an even better bang for your buck deal.

First tee hole viewed from our site.  I have mostly likely just hit an egregiously bad shot.

I played at least nine walking holes every day, plus both the Tuesday and Thrursday evening scrambles.   Rose used this five day stay to work on various crafts and reorganze her jewelry and other crafting equipment.  Visitors to Wanee Lake should keep in mind a couple of things: the town of Ashburn is a quaint and quite little place that is not exactly a destination spot; you are coming here for the value and golf, not the excitement of an exciting metropolitan area.  Also, Turner County has blue laws, i.e., no packaged liquor is sold there, and even packaged beer and wine sales are prohibited on Sunday, so plan accordingly!

Next up: our plans for the rest of the year.

40 Months Fulltiming: April 2018 Report

Still catching up, but less than three weeks behind now!
The Distance:  841 miles as we really pick up the pace, working our way out of Florida.  Running total for 2018 is 1674 miles.   May will likely be a significantly higher mileage month.
The Places:  We departed Coral Springs and crossed to the southern Gulf Coast with stops at Koreshan State Park, Venice (twice,) Sanibel Island, and Fort Myers.  We then made our way north and out of the state, along the way spending time at Wekiwa Springs State Park and O’Leno State Park to visit cousins before crossing the Georgia border to begin our stay at Wanee Lake Golf and RV Resort.  This worked out to 10 nights in state parks, 11 in private campgrounds, and 9 in relatives’ houses.  Of those 21 days in campgrounds we had 17 days with full hook up connections, and 4 with just power and water.
The Budget: We barely squeaked under by 0.4% this month.  The lack of markets, increased gas expenditures, a full fill up of the big propane tank, and eight days at our most expensive park were just offset by the nine days staying free or nearly so with relatives.  We remain well under budget for the year so far, though May could be a challenge with what I anticipate will be three or four full fill ups of Serenity’s 75 gallon tank.
The Drama and the Improvements:  We purchased a new under water point and shoot camera, the very affordable Fujifilm XP 120, so some of our pictures should start looking better, though admittedly we still use our smart phones for most of them.  After years of coming to the island to shell, we found a Junonia in Sanibel!  And I have a nearly new mountain bike thanks to Rose’s brother Jerry; he had an extra one with a bent rear wheel, and I happened to have a spare wheel from my Key West bicycle repair days.  Other than that, most of the improvements were performed on Gloria’s new house in Venice.
Our monthy reports so far this year:

 

 

And here are our 20172016, and 2015 annual summaries which include monthly report links.

Last week in Florida: Venice, Wekiwa Springs, and Gainesville

On our way north from Sanibel we stopped in to Gloria’s, initially intending on staying a few hours before moving up the coast a bit to spend a weekend at MacDill Air Force Base.  With the weather forecast worsening, we decided to once again forego our Tampa area plans and stay in Venice a couple of days, particularly with Venice Ranch extending their $5 a night storage fee offer in the empty lot next to Gloria’s house. 

So it was another 48 hours of gardening and errands, for which we were rewarded every day with more excellent cooking.  PKM continued her daily hunting practice, slightly reducing the population of lizards, but mostly just getting some much needed exercise.

PKM getting her nails trimmed.  She doesn’t fight, but she doesn’t cooperate either.

From there it was back to Wekiwa Springs State Park for a few days of relaxation,  reorganizing, and prepping our rig for a multi month journey through the northern states and beyond.  For those interested in this excellent central Florida state park: if full hook up (as opposed to electric and water only) is important to you, make sure you check your reservation carefully; while most sites have sewage, about a quarter of them do not.

Our last site at Wekiwa Springs State Park

From Wekiwa we made the short drive north to Gainesville, securing a one night reservation at O’Leno State Park.  We had timed our visit for a weekend so that Cousin Rob and the twins, Maeve and Nola could camp with us.  Colleen was working late shifts and unable to join our party, but we made the best of it with a quick dip in the O’Leno River, a nice campfire, and smores for everyone.  There may have been some beer and other spirits consumed as well.

 

We also handed off our gift package we had been collecting for the girls, consisting of our highly coveted casino playing cards, books from the Sanibel Library $1 a bag sale, some balsa wood airplanes (a true hit with the twins) and assorted other trinkets.


While O’Leno is a nice wooded state park, the river has almost zero visibility due to high tannin leakage from vegetation, and so is not exactly an ideal swimming spot.  Next time we are passing through Gainesville we will plan a bit further in advance so that we can secure one of the sites at Florida’s newest state park, Gilchrist Blue Springs.  Rob says it has some of the best swimming springs you can find, so we look forward to an even better family camping experience, hopefully this Fall as we are making our way back to Key West.

A skink we found while geocaching with the twins.

We closed out April with a run up to South Georgia, but more on that next post.

Back to Sanibel. And yes, we found a Junonia!

For those not in the know about Junonia’s, I’ll make that clearer down post.

After leaving Gloria’s in Venice we made the little over an hour ride back south and across the causeway ($12 for our two vehicles) to Periwinkle Park, one of our perennial faves, with Rose focused on replenishing her shell collection, and hopefully adding some new and interesting things to it.  After setting up camp we celebrated our arrival with a quick drive around the island and big fried chicken meal at The Pecking Order.

Our corner site at Periwinkle Park.  Almost ideal.

We had asked for and been the spot we had during our visit in December, #227, which suited our space, privacy, and cat needs particularly well.  One of the lessons learned is that what is good in one season might be awful in another, as we found out parked under a wonderful large ficus tree of a particular species that produces massive amounts of little purple squashable berries throughout the spring, and we were there for prime bombardment season.   

This is about three days worth of droppings.

As for the shelling, it was pretty spectacular.  We hear reports from people that were disappointed in their Sanibel shelling.  We can only conclude that they went to the nearest beach and didn’t change things up by trying other parts of the island with a willingness to walk a ways; conditions change, and shelling on one area may be poor one day and great the next. 

One of the shell mounds Rose found. A couple of feet deep in places.

The closest beach to our park has only occasionally been good, Light House Point is sometimes quite decent and frequently just so-so, but the miles in between Bowman’s Beach and the Sanibel-Captiva cut have been a reliable producer for Rose.  I frequently drop her off at one end and pick her up hours later with her net bag weighted down with her haul.

Half way through our stay our friends from Sigsbee Rusty and Charito joined us; we had adjust our dates to assure we would have overlap with there stay.   The four of us, or in pairs, had many great outings over the course of three days.  Rose and Charito had a fantastic day of shelling from Bowman’s Beach, while Rusty and I did some geocaching, during which I finally cleared every physical cache on the island, some of which would have been particularly difficult without Rusty’s geosense. 

We did a part driving, part walking tour of Ding Darling National Refuge, including sections Rose and I had missed during our previous tour.   We were fortunate enough to see a mama gator and a handful of her recent brood in one of the canals of the estuary.  Can’t recommend this place enough for those on the Island, and with an annual national park pass (or senior lifetime pass) you get in for free. 

Another strong recommendation: the Sanibel Library.  Lacking a cable internet connection, we rely on our Verizon cell data plan, which has gotten progressivly better over the years, but even their “Unlimited” plan has some built in restrictions, strangling download speed for each device once you reach 15 gigs.  With these restrictions we have become local library hounds, frequenting them for the free wifi, but often running into unexpected benefits.  We saw a birds of prey live demo, a concert by the local chapter of the Sweet Adelines, and a presentation on the solar eclipse (along with free viewing glasses), as a few examples.

The park does not allow dogs, and the few cats there are inside animals, so the local rabbits don’t have much in the way of self preservation training.

This year the Sanibel Library came through big time.  Due to renovations their normal $10 annual membership fee was waived, and by signing up we not onl had access to books, DVDs, and a surprising assortment of other items, we were also able to check out passes to the island’s nationally renowned Shell Museum.  During past visits we had just not been convinced that the $15 a head admission would be worth it.  But with our library passes we were able to get in free, and the four of us thoroughly enjoyed it.  By the way, the library also has passes to the museum and Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). 

In addition to return visits to The Pecking Order and the very affordable Island Pizza, we finally got around to trying what may be Sanibel’s most famous eatery, The Island Cow.  It did not disappoint.

OK, lets get to that Junonia.  In terms of Florida Gulf Coast shelling, the prize find is a Junonia.  Its not the biggest or even the prettiest shell from the region, but it is the rarest.  Thanks to our trip to the Shell Museum, we learned why it is so unusual to find them: they are not living near shore like nearly every local beach find, but rather lives 150 miles off shore in a couple of hundred feet of water.  So to get to the beach, it has to be rolled a heck of a long way mostly up hill.

Honestly, I never expected that we find one; people have been coming to Sanibel for decades without even finding the broken remnants of one.  Heck, I had already started planning to just buy one for Rose’s birthday: $50 bucks gets you a decent medium sized one.  So: on our last full day in Sanibel, Rusty, Charito, Rose and I parked at the small public lot near the Sanibel-Captiva cut, and were walking and shelling along the shore, finding large mounds of shells to dig through. 

This one had a lot of damage, and was not the Florida Horse Conch I kept, but it had a cool crab inside it, so photo.

We eventually passed a group of three people in chest deep water with mask and snorkels searching in the low visibility water, and successfully finding half a dozen large Florida Horse Conchs (a great find in and of itself.)  Thus motivated I joined them, and in short order found my own Florida Horse Conch (our first.)  This was, I though, the topper for the day.

We moved on down the beach, and I went back in thinking we might find another big conch.  , and as I pushed along the bottom I saw it, the tell tale regularly spaced brown spots on the off white background rocking gently on the bottom.  I snatched it, still only half believing that I had found one, and rushed out of the water shouting for Rose.  It was undeniable, Junonias are quite distinctive and don’t have any particularly close imitators in this region.  Besides, we took it on a victory tour which included the Shell Museum, our favorite local shell shop, and three of the other RV sites that showed signs of a serious sheller.

So there you have it, our highly successful and fun eight days in Sanibel before we start moving north in earnest.  Next post: A short stop at Gloria’s again before nearly another week In Wekiwa Springs State Park north of Orlando.

Four days in Venice with Mama Gloria before backtracking south to Ft Myers.

We left Koreshan State Historic Site and headed an hour up the road to Venice, where Rose’s mom, Gloria, had recently purchased a new home at Venice Ranch Mobile Home Estates.  After some negotiation, they gave us a very reasonable daily storage fee for Serenity in the empty lot next to Gloria’s new place.

Serenity’s storage spot next to Gloria’s “Little Shack”

This was somewhat new territory for my mother-n-law: living on her own, sole ownership of a new place, establishing complete independence.  We came prepared for labor since her new “Little Shack,” as she calls it, needed some work, and she had way too much “stuff” for the square footage there.  So we all set to work: moving furniture and sorting out basic maintenance, but also doing one of my favorite activities: selling stuff on Craigslist.  After some discussion, we identified ten or so bulky items; things she just didn’t need and couldn’t reasonably store, and so up for sale they went.  In our short stay there we made five sales, and what didn’t sell she either re-purposed or it ended up at Goodwill.

Another one of Rose’s Cricut productions.

During our visit we were happy to have a couple of visits with Rose’s brother, “Baby” Jerry and our niece Laura and nephew DJ.  Both are working teenagers, finding there way in a world with no small degree of confusion as to job security and future prospects.  Special thanks to Jerry for helping me change out Loki’s leaking head gasket, as well as identifying the source of his coolant leak, since repaired.

Florida’s unpredictable weather altered our plans for a two day visit to MacDill Air Force Base, and instead we extended our stay at Gloria’s, enjoying a plethora of Puerto Rican dishes while we continued assisting her in getting the house in order.  PKM loves Gloria’s new place; she has a screened in lanai that provides out door like stimulation, the yard and bushes are crawling with lizards, and every now and then something truly interesting comes to visit.

This rabbit came every evening we were there.

The wood stork was particularly enjoyable.  It stayed for half an hour, jostling for position with our cat, moving from one end of the porch to the other as kitty pressed up against whichever screen panel was closest to this oversized bird.  We figured that the previous owner fed the thing since it exercised such devotion to this site.

After four days we packed up and headed back south, stopping in Ft Myers for one night before our Sanibel reservation.  Rose wanted to check out Ft Myers beach, so I found a Passport America participant, Groves Mobile Home and RV Park, that fit our needs.  Though our check in customer service was excellent and the park appeared very well maintained, the roads are quite tight, as are the sites.  With some maneuvering we worked ourselves into a nice site with a couple of big trees.

We then made the short drive to Ft Myers beach and found it… wanting.  Granted, there is still some Spring Breaker activity going on, but in general we thought it way to kitchy and touristy.  Crowded and filled with trinket stores, bar after bar, and little else, it reminded me a lot of Cocoa Beach; just not our thing.  Regardless, The Groves was a solid prepositioning point, since we were able to transfer to Sanibel in less than half an hour the next morning.  More on that next post.

Working our way out of Florida with visits to both coasts: Coral Springs and Koreshan State Historic Site.

As mentioned in our March in the Keys post as well as the March Report, we ended the month with a drive up to Coral Springs, staying with Xavier and Joy for four days.  We timed the stop to overlap with two of Rose’s sisters’ visits there.  Dolores, Josh and Tamiri flew in from California, and Melissa from New York.

Tamiri opening her Easter basket from us, with lots of Cricut enhanced items.

The city of Coral Springs does a massive Easter Egg “hunt” for the local children, with dozen’s of volunteers organizing the kids by age group and having separate “heats” for each group.  The plastic eggs are scattered quite liberally all over the ground and hay bails in the designated area, and no child walks away without a few.  Niece Tamiri certainly got her share. 

Somehow we did not take a pic from the big Easter Egg Hunt, but here is one from the private, Tamiri only hunt Dolores arranged at Xavier and Joy’s house.

We also enjoyed a great afternoon at Melissa’s friends Ralph, who threw a taco barbecue event for us with wayyyy more food than we could eat.  Ralph’s cousin visiting from Georiga is a chef, and the results of his work were clearly indicated by those of us that had to have just one more taco before lolling in a semi stupor waiting to digest. 

Ralph, Tamiri, and Bardock, who is named after the father of Goku from the Dragon Ball Z anime series, because geek.

We also were fortunate enough to have our time in Coral Springs include Easter, and managed to bring together a decent sized gathering of family and friends for a robust meal.  Which is another way of saying I cooked a full turkey, again using my never-failed-me three step process: brine it overnight, get the butter and herbs under the skin, and spatchcock it.  I love this recipe so much I would make at least three turkey’s a year given the opportunity. This year I managed to get an even better surface browning thanks to a tip from Ralph’s cousin. 

For our last day in Coral Springs, Rose and I hit a couple of Best Buy stores to pick up one of her long time wish list items: a new waterproof point and shoot camera.  I had narrowed the field to five contenders, of which we were able to find three to compare in person.  Surprisingly, Rose was perfectly happy with one of the less expensive options in the group, the Fujifilm XP120.  For a compact camera it has a nice big screen, easy controls, only one water tight door to deal with (some models have two),  and will certainly be suitable for the shallow water snorkeling we enjoy. 

From Coral Springs we crossed over to the Gulf Coast for a short stay at Koreshan State Park near Bonita Springs.  It is an odd place, founded by a utopian religious group called the Koreshan Unity, that, as best I can tell, were very arts oriented, had a few hang ups about with whom and for what purpose their members had sex (surprise!) and believed we were all living inside the earth, not on the outside surface.  Huh.  Anyway, the group petered out in the early 20th century and the last surviving member deeded the Unity’s land to the state, which eventually turned it into the Koreshan State Historic Site. 

Our site at Koreshan State Park.  Reasonably spacious with some privacy.

The property is beautiful, and deviates from the scrub forest setting that many of the states central and southern properties have.  We also encountered some wild life, which we would most definitely have missed had it not been for our sharp eyed and keen of hearing cat.   She found two black snakes ( or possibly one snake two times) while we were having cocktails (Rose and I, not the cat and I) one evening. 

Another night she was pressed up in full alert mode against the window behind the kitchen sink, a place she knows she’s not supposed to be.   Her demeanor suggested something interesting, and upon investigation we found this. Awesome.  Good cat. 

These things are nearly blind, and I was able to get right up to him, close enough to touch while he was foraging wood ants.

Koreshan’s location allowed for easy day trips to three beaches on Rose’s shelling radar: Lover’s Key State Park, Barefoot Beach County Preserve, and Little Hickory Island Beach Park.  We tried out Lover’s Key first, using our new Lifetime Florida State Park Pass for free day use entry.  It is an excellent state park with plenty of parking and a really nice beach a few hundred yards from concession and parking areas, and even offers a tram service for those that might have trouble with that distance.

The beach itself was quite nice, and we were lucky enough to be there on a day with relatively clear water.  Aside from The Keys, most of the Florida Gulf Coast beaches we have visited have had terrible water visibility, so it is nice to luck out and have reasonable near shore snorkeling.  While the shelling was limited, once in the water we spotted plenty of live fighting conchs, a horse conch, large lightening whelks and an olive snail. 

Florida Horse Conch

On the way home from there we made a scouting run by Little Hickory Island to help decide between there and Barefoot Preserve for the next day’s outing.  It looked like a nice enough beach but pretty similar to Lovers Key, but much more crowded, so we spent our last full day Barefoot Preserve instead.  This was the right decision.  It is a long beach, and therefor easy to find spots that are not particularly crowded.  Though the water was not as clear as our day at Lover’s Key, the beach shelling was significantly better, and we had compared for a longer beach stay than normal, using our fat wheeled market wagon to tote our cooler, lounge chairs, snorkel gear, and beach umbrella.

We closed out the day with stops at a couple of local thrift stores before setting in for a calm evening to ourselves before heading to Venice to see Rose’s mom Gloria the next day.