Black Mountain and Asheville, Part 1

While in Spartanburg we finalized plans to visit the Asheville area and see my brother and new sister-in-law in nearby Black Mountain.  Asheville is much more of a tourist destination than Spartanburg, and so we had some difficulty securing reservations, particularly since we were timing our arrival for the weekend to best accommodate Jason and Emily’s work schedules.

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When we purchased Serenity 4 1/2 years ago, he had 12,800 miles on him after nine years under previous owners.  Since that time we have added a wee bit more.

In a previous year we stayed at Lake Powhatan Recreation Area and Campground located on national forest land, but they were full up and further away from Black Mountain than ideal.  We were lucky to secure two days at the small but popular Mama Gertie’s Hideaway Campground in Swannanoa, which placed us perfectly between Asheville and Black Mountain.

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Our outdoor sitting area at Mama Gertie’s.

Mama Gerties is a tightly run ship on a multi-level property in low mountains, and requires a bit of a climb up narrow roads to access it.  Our site, however, was spacious, level, and well equipped, even for being one of the mid-level priced options available.  Pricing is relative; we paid $54 a night and that’s with the 10% military discount!  Does that sound steep?  It does to us as well, but that is simply what the Asheville area market demands.  Consider that their mountain top sites with private decks and panoramic views go for $100 a night, and while we were there they were full up!

 

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One of the mountain top premier sites with a full deck.

While there we did a bit of minor exploration in the town of Black Mountain with Jason and Emmie, which is very nice; filled with quaint shops, restaurants, and a brewery or two without being overly touristy like Asheville proper.  We had a solid meal at The Trail Head Restaurant and Bar: the burger was excellent (and I was prepared for disappointment now that my expectations have been raised so high by Cribbs back in Spartanburg) though the staff could have been a lot more cognizant of our social distancing request.

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We were only able to stay at Mama Gertie’s for two days since they were full up, at least for a rig our our size, the next few days.  So we packed up and drove down to Jason and Emmie’s place, which has two large driveways.  Jason had previously sent me video of both approaches, and it was clear that one was way too steep, but the other looked good to go.  We easily fit in the drive, with plenty of extra width and length.

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Plenty of room!

The only excitement came from the various cables and lines running from the nearby pole to the house: while the power and data lines were high enough such that we cleared them by a foot, the (defunct) phone line was significantly lower, and had we been a couple of inches taller we might have torn it loose.  As it was we had to use a broom to make sure it cleared our front air conditioning unit.

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Only the phone line was at actual risk.

Speaking of which: while at Mama Gertie’s we noticed that the front A/C was not working (it made noise but produced no cold air) and emitted a difficult to describe aroma.  My research suggested it might just be the capacitor that assists the main compressor motor in starting, but we would have to take it to the shop to know for sure.  Ah well, one more thing.

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Jason & Emmie.

Dad and Marcia rolled in that same day for their two day stay at Mama G’s, probably securing a day we could not because their rig is smaller and fit in some of the more affordable sites.  Jason and Emmie picked up take out dinner from a vegan restaurant and we met up at Dad and Marcia’s site for dinner and wine in a lovely outdoor setting until significant rain forced us all inside.  image

On our last day in the area I made arrangements to drop the RV off at a nearby repair shop, with Rose and I planning to drive to Wilmington in the tracker to visit mom and stepdad Tim while it was getting work done.  This meant that the morning of our departure had a bit of drama; some expected, some not.  First there was the lifting of the phone line via broom stick to clear our A/C and an antenna as we backed out of the driveway.  It was also obvious that there was no way I could back out of the drive and make the more than 90 degree cut to point us nose forward; instead we would be forced to back down the steep and narrow road until we got to the next cross street where I could execute a three point turn.  8-beer-flight

Wrong again, Jack.  Despite a couple of attempts at said cross street, our wheel base was too short and we ended up bottoming out the receiver hitch in the back onto the road.  This meant we would need to back down all the way to the main cross street, a good quarter of a mile.  Fortunately Rose and I have been in this situation before, and she’s good at giving me hand signals that I can easily interpret via our rear mounted camera, and so in short order we were beside the main road and hooking up Loki for our journey to the repair shop and then onward to Wilmington.

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The view from the premier sites at Mama Gertie’s.

Next up: you guessed it, Wilmington.

On to Spartanburg, SC

While in Georgia our plans started to tighten up a bit: Dad and Marcia locked in most of their July schedule, which included an immediate stop at Croft State Park outside of Spartanburg to meet up with their RV friends, Lori and Rob.  Since Spartanburg is sort of on the way to Asheville, we went ahead and secured a four day reservation there as well.  1-lake

We showed up knowing almost nothing about the park or the area, and with no expectations either.  Thus we were pleasantly surprised at how lovely both the campground and downtown Spartanburg were.  Like most state parks the sites were large, well spread out, and under a moderate tree canopy in the forest.  We much prefer this set up to the closely packed and often treeless sites found in many private parks, even those claiming “resort” status.  2-downtown-mural

The place is situated on a decent sized lake, has plenty of hiking, biking, and horse trails, and a couple of creeks running through the property.  We had a pleasant hour or two swimming and floating in one of them, just a short hike from our camping loop.  At $37 a night all in, it was a bit more expensive than most state parks, but if you have reason to RV near Spartanburg, we grant our highly coveted approval to Croft State Park.  3-creek-2

Since we had not been the best about social distancing during the last week, we tried to be extra careful while there, particularly with Dad and Marcia’s possibly immuno-compromised friends.  We were able to have evening cocktails, a dinner, and one outing into Spartanburg together.

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Of course we are social distancing!  Look how far away they posed for this picture!

Speaking of the town: part of the downtown area on Main Street is quite nice.  Parks, breweries, shops, a small walking mall area, and restaurants with outdoor seating were prevalent.  During our first outing we had Pimento Cheese (the “caviar of The South”) Fritters with Tomato Jam at Cribbs, a fantastic appetizer befitting the southern tradition.  We explored the area a bit, including a flight at Ciclops one of the three our four breweries in town.  5-pimento-cheese-fritters

The next day Dad and Marcia joined us for a visit to Growler Haus, a fantastic little place with plenty of room for social distancing and an excellent array of craft beer from the region.  I enjoyed the Jalapeno IPA so much I filled the liter growler we have been carrying around since leaving Nova Scotia last year.

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Part of Growler Haus’ 24 beer selection menu in the background, color coded by type, e.g., Pale Ales & IPAs, Porters & Stouts, etc.

For dinner it was back to Cribbs for what was the best burger I have had in living memory.  A big shout out to this restaurant and their award winning Barnyard Burger, one of the best burgers I have ever had.  Description: a lamb, beef & bacon blended patty with jalapeño, horseradish cream, fried egg, goat cheese, shaved cabbage, and tomato.  I want to go back to Spartanburg just to have this meal again.  7-cribbs-burger

When we left Florida our general plans were to visit some family and then find places to spend the rest of the summer and at least part of the fall.  Since we have enjoyed Croft State Park and Spartanburg, are they contenders for additional time?  No, no they are not.  Quite simply, it is still too low of an elevation and thus too hot.  We need mountains, and will seek them out shortly.

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Rose downloaded a mushroom ID app; just point the camera at the shroom and gives you an id.  Pretty sure it is using location data to aid in that process.  Apparently these are Red Chantrelles.

Next up: Black Mountain and Asheville, North Carolina.

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Spartaburg has a School for the Blind and Deaf, and it is reflected in the art and surroundings, such as this I Love You sculpture in American Sign Language.

 

 

 

 

Atlanta

During our last nine days in Florida we solidified our July and onward plans this much: Spend the July 4th weekend with Marissa, Ray, and their extended family outside Atlanta.  Then work our way to Asheville to see my brother and his wife Emmie, hopefully hooking up with my dad and stepmom Marcia, also full time RVers, before or after Asheville.  While in Asheville we would make a car trip to visit mom and stepdad Tim in Wilmington. That’s it.  No reservations, and all but the most immediate stop still rather ill defined in terms of timing.

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Analise and Sarah helping me make bread.

So we went with that, and left Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park bound for Snellville, west of Atlanta.  We split the drive into two easy legs with a stop at Southern Trails RV Park, a perfectly serviceable Passport America place for a one night stop over minutes off of I-75.  Being this close to the interstate, it’s is not a destination visit, but it was ideal for our circumstances, and looks to also be a great spot for those horse owners using the next door corral and riding areas.  2-analise

We continued on the next day To Marissa and Rey’s while trying to limit the back road time to preserve our cat’s delicate stomach, but alas, it’s difficult to drive to Snellville from the south without many miles of twisty turny.  She almost made it without incident. Almost.  3-cat-front-yard

We parked in our host’s front yard, parallel to the street.  For most visits to friends’ and families’ houses that can accommodate our rig, we would look to stay in the driveway or along side it.  Rey and Marissa’s, however, is much to steep; the one visit we tried it left us comically un-level and having to throw together a crude set of steps to even get in the rig.  Right along the road in their front yard has worked out much better for us since then.  We can even put out the slides since I went out of my way to park with the right side of the RV, i.e., the one with the shallower slide out, towards the street.  4-sarah

We had a great Fourth of July weekend with the family.  Ray and Marissa’s daughter Annalise looks almost exactly the same despite being nearly three years older, but Sarah has turned from a round little infant into an energetic and loving toddler.  Rose’s aunt (Marissa’s grandmother,) Titi Clarivel lives with them, while cousin Betsy and her two younger kids, Daniella and Gabbi came for a visit our first day.

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Annalise beating me at Horse.

We brought the girls a wooden train set found in the donation area way back at Sigsbee Campground in Key West, and they loved it.  It was the primary toy that we all played with during our visit.  The kids really enjoyed putting it together, making different track layouts, and pushing the little magnetically connected wooden train cars around.  6-girls-and-trains

We enjoyed fireworks both nights we were there.  On the fourth, naturally, but also again the next night because Annalise felt that Rey had been tricked that first night into buying the bad fireworks that barely shot up in the air at all.  So Ray purchased a rather more elaborate set for the fifth, and Annalise hated it since it was much louder and more aggressive than the previous evenings entertainment.  Sometimes you just can’t win.  7-fireworks

Next up: South Carolina.  8-girls-glow-sticks

 

 

66 Months Fulltime RVing: June 2020 Report

The Distance: 332 miles once we left Sanibel and worked our way north through Central Florida into the northern part of the state.  2020 total mileage is up to 786.  1-june-route

The Places:  We spent 23 more days at Perwinkle Park in Sanibel before finally heading out.  We had three days at Wekiwa Springs State Park, then one night at Trimble Park near Mount Dora, and ended the month at Gilchrist Blue Spring State Park.  That’s 23 days in a private park and 7 in public parks (6 state, 1 county.)  We had full hook ups for 26 days and partial (power and water) for 4.  2-sanibel-palms

The Budget: Like last month, we were significantly over budget again: 17% this period.  Which is a bit frustrating because our daily camping fee was significantly lower than the previous two months since Perwinkle Park started charging out of season rates on June 1, bringing their average daily fee on a monthly rate down to $33.50 from nearly $48.  Wekiwa, Trimble, and Gilchrist were even lower ($29, $23,and $21, respectively.)  Also, we did not have to spend a dime on gas for the big rig since we had filled up shortly before arriving in Sanibel.

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Rose on her B-Day: Pretty fantastic for 55…

The problem was a failure on our part to keep things well reigned in (we have gotten a bit looser with our spending after three months in COVID semi-isolation,) a complete lack of market and/or vending opportunities to pad the budget, plus two or three significant and only semi-expected major expenditures.  We finally had to replace Rosemarie’s iPad after nursing it along for years with a wonky screen, a full brake pad and rotor job for Loki, plus a new battery for the tracker as well.  Take away the either the iPad or the Loki improvements and we would be slightly under budget.  Ah well, there will always be things like this that need doing.

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…meanwhile, here’s PKM and me.

The Drama and Improvements:  We continued our electronics upgrade plan with a new iPad for Rose, a no-cost scrubbing of her Macbook’s files to open up a lot of space and extend its life, and the aforementioned brakes and battery for the Tracker.    5-gator

Final Florida Stop on Our Way to the Mountains

Our last Florida stop: Gilchrist Blue Springs west of Gainesville, Florida’s newest state park, and one of our favorites.  It is a popular place for campers, but especially for day users, for whom the park limits vehicle access to a certain number, then closes the gates for a few hours, reopening sporadically to allow in new cars if space permits.  I want to reiterate that this is not like Wekiwa Springs State Park’s policy of closing once the parking lot is full, and then reopening for five new vehicles as soon as five exit; at Gilchrist it can quite literally take hours to get in if you were not in the first group.  Thus, on weekends and during the summer months, day users are well advised to arrive quite early, i.e., before opening time, and wait in the likely already formed line.

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For us campers, the hard part is getting reservations.  The campground only has 18 hook up sites, which means that availability is limited, particularly on weekends.  We felt lucky to secure a five day run, Sunday through Thursday, on relatively short notice, particularly since schools are closed and the locals are filling the parks with their travel trailers.  One of the volunteer rangers seemed to believe that the park was well into planning major improvements that would see the entire RV section moved up the hill to the more spacious area closer to the entry road.  We will monitor that process during our twice a year visits.  2-rose-boardwalk

I screwed up a bit on day one of our stay: while making the reservation I got it in my head that our spot, #11, was the same one at which we stayed last visit; the site with the moderate oak tree nearly centered on the entrance, which complicated the back in process.  Upon arrival and check in my assumptions appeared confirmed by the ranger’s remarks, something about the challenge of getting into out reserved site.  So we headed on down, unhooked the tracker, and after a bit of maneuvering got backed in and fully set up.

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Centered is “not our site,” but we stayed there anyway.  On the left, note the oak tree at the entrance.

An hour or two later another camper arrived, couldn’t find their spot, consulted the ranger, who knocked on our door.  That’s right, I had parked in the completely wrong spot, #5, due to following my assumptions rather than looking at the actual map and signs.  I apologized to both the ranger and the arriving camper profusely, during which I learned that the new arrivals had the exact same days reserved as us.  4-nature

I offered them the choice of using our actually reserved site, or waiting the half hour it would take for us to disconnect, pull in slides, levels, and awning, and then vacate.  No pressure, we would be happy to do either, but they elected to just take our site.  I did feel bad, because it took them a long time to get their trailer backed in properly, though the oak tree in “our” site would likely have made it just as problematic had we switched back.  Lesson learned #1 from this post: check your damn site number!  6-dappled-water

Anyway, cousin Robb and the twins, Nola and Maeve, joined us that first day, though they could not stay the night due to previous commitments.  They had been at the park for hours before we arrived, having utilized the previously mentioned “arrive early and wait in line” strategy to secure entry.  The girls actually spotted us drive the rig by while they were all on a lunch break back in town.  They helped us complete our set up and then it was spring time! 6-maeve-spring

Having purchased the park from private owners a couple of years back, the state has made some limited “improvements,” by which I mean they have removed things they found unsafe, or rather, liability issues.  The boardwalk, which previously extended the full 1/4 mile out to the Sante Fe river, now only goes a couple of hundred feet, well short of the old jumping off point for rowdy teenagers.  The jumping platform, previously positioned directly over the main spring boil, has likewise been removed; which means no more fun of jumping and flipping off the roughly 10′ high structure, but also the spring itself is now safe to free dive.

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Robb down about 20′, where the main spring comes out of the base rock.

The latest change, a real heart breaker for me, is the closure of the secondary spring head to swimmers.  Located a couple of hundred yards from the main spring, the secondary spring was barely known to the majority of the day use crowd, and provided a near private natural swimming pool to those of us in the know.  I suspect they closed it for more liability concerns as it had no easy ramp entry point, but nature preservation is apparently the stated reason.  Ah well, it was good while it lasted.

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The secondary spring, now closed to swimming.

Here’s another bit of drama (fortunately not ours) with an obvious lesson that occurred during our stay.  While hanging out with the cousins that first afternoon, we noted a huge dust cloud trailing a pickup truck and travel trailer combo screaming along the main entry road.  This is a road that, even once beyond the lengthy washboard section, I still drive at perhaps 15 mph or less in our rig.  This truck was easily doing 40.  An hour later as we were all walking towards the spring, this same rig maneuvered aggressively around the campground loop, apparently to better position for her site, doing at least 20, probably more like 25 mph.  Keep in mind this is a narrow loop with tight turns and numerous trees that most parks would have long ago pared back.  10 mph would be a safe maximum speed.  She rounds a left hand bend behind us and comes to a sudden, crunching stop when the trailer’s extended wheel and fender creamed into an oak tree.  She failed to take into account two things: the trailer is wider than her truck, and the trailer does not follow in the tracks of your truck, but rather cuts the corner as you turn. Thus: tree. 9-nola-spring

At first it looked like minor cosmetic damage to the fender, but as another camper and I worked to maneuver her out without causing further damage, we noticed that the front left wheel of the two axle trailer was way out of alignment, i.e., pigeon toed inward 10-15 degrees, indicating to our amateur eyes a broken axle.  We got her out from the tree, convinced her to stay at least one night (she was, as most would be, very upset and thinking about just leaving immediately,) and advised her to call her manufacturer and discuss options for perhaps removing the front wheels to make a slow and steady single axle drive to her home 60 miles away.  She did stay a couple of nights, but as I understand it, blew off our recommendations about making calls, and elected to just pray that she could make it home in “as is” condition, broken axle and all.  Lesson learned #2 from this post: drive slow in campgrounds people, for many reasons! 10-jack-spring

Pre-COVID we would have done what we usually do in small but quaint towns: hit the local shops, thrift stores, breweries, Moose Lodge, and a couple of restaurants.  We skipped nearly all of that, though we did make a return to High Springs Brewery for a fantastic couple of beers, served in their spacious outdoor sitting area with almost no contact with the staff, much less any other customers.  Even their indoor seating is basically open air, with masks and distancing we felt pretty safe.

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PKM does not love this, but she tolerates almost anything.  Good kitty.

On our last full day the cousins returned, this time for an overnight tenting experience.  Like most kids, the twins love a campfire and smores, and Robb delivered with a rousing fire.  The evenings are quite warm as you can imagine July in Florida always is, but one of our fans hooked up to our outdoor socket helped make their large tent a bit more comfortable.  What a great visit, we always enjoy our time with cousin Robb and family, and hope that our next visit Colleen can join us as well.

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One of the great things about camping with cousin Robb is that he always takes charge of the campfire, it never fails to light, and it is always big. 

As mentioned in the last couple of posts, we are on our way out of Florida, but we have not mentioned any particular plans for the rest of the summer and fall (or winter and spring, for that matter.)  Lacking a coherent itinerary like our pre-COVID intention of making a counter-clockwise tour of the Western US and Canada, plans now long abandoned, we do have three motivations driving us: get out of the raging COVID hot spot formerly known as Florida, get out of the heat-ravaged-and-it’s-only-going-to-get-worse oven (also known as Florida,) and satisfy as best we can our wanderlust with some travel.  For now that means heading generally towards the Carolina mountains.  Over the course of the next three weeks, things firm up considerably.

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Swimming plus family and kids: exhausting for all.

Next up: June report, then more cousins, this time outside Atlanta. 14-the-twins

 

 

Working Our Way Out of Florida: Wekiwa Springs & Trimble Park

On June 24th we departed Sanibel headed for Wekiwa Springs State Park.  Forgive this digression, but a matter of local historical and linguistic importance rests on whether you use the spelling and associated pronunciation “Wekiwa” (ending in “wa”) or Wekiva” (ending in “va.”)  I believe I addressed this issue briefly in a previous post (which I can not yet locate,) but have since delved into it a bit more.  While this seems like a small matter, consider:

  • The state park and the springs are officially called Wekiwa Springs State Park.
  • The river fed by the springs is officially the Wekiva River.
  • Most, though not all, of the surrounding residential neighborhoods and businesses, if they incorporate the name at all, utilize the “Wekiva” form.
  • The road passing along the state park is officially Wekiva Springs Road…
  • … until it leaves Seminole County and enters Orange County, whereupon it becomes Wekiwa Springs Road.
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PKM checking out the sights from the Sanibel to Fort Myers causeway.

This is insanity.  Petty, minor, and for most people irrelevant insanity, but insanity none the less.  So what’s the cause of this confusion?  I have run across two explanations: first, that the Native American Creek name for spring is “Wekiwa” but the Creek name for a river fed from a spring is Wekiva, and early white explorers attempted to meet proper spellings, but no one told the road and neighborhood naming committees of the nuanced difference.  One part of this is true: the Creek name for spring is, apparently, Wekiwa, but the rest is pure fiction, having been linguistically (there is no “v” sound in Creek) and historically debunked.

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Even the entrance from a main street into Wekiwa Springs State Park is beautiful.  If only the would make a second lane so that arriving campers don’t get stuck behind a line of day use people that often have to wait for people to leave from the frequently full spring parking area.

Apparently the real story is one of bad translation due to a soft pronunciation of the second “w” in Wekiwa, leading to a century of dueling spelling preferences that eventually divided at the county line.  You can read more about it in this fun and informative Orlando Sentinel article.  Many thanks to Jim Toner and staff for sorting this out 21 years ago.  I will attempt to use the officially designated spelling for the spring, river, businesses, neighborhoods, etc, but I grew up in Seminole County, so I may occasionally default to “Wekiva” when “Wekiwa” is the proper spelling.  Mea culpa.

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Fresh papaya from Rose’ dad’s trees.  

Anyway, we headed towards Central Florida, with a slowly increasing sense of urgency to get out of Florida.  The states multi-phased reopening plan had commenced in early May (phase 1) and expanded in early June (phase 2.)  If you care to examine the COVID data for Florida, especially daily new cases, you will see a statistically significant move upward in the first week of June, which accelerated by the second week.  Since the virus has a lag time for exposure, symptoms, and next generation exposure, this is exactly what epidemiologists feared would happen.  If your morbid curiosity induces you to look even deeper, the daily new death stats paint an even clearer picture: lagging, as you would expect, about a month behind actual new cases, they began a distinct upward trend in early July.  What fun.

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Our site at Wekiwa.

Exhausted from all the COVID talk?  I get you, but it has rather dominated everything these days, and that obviously includes our RV plans.  Accordingly, when I read these 2020 blog entries years from now, I want to know the driving factors behind the decisions we made, and COVID is a big part of that.  Anyway, moving on.

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A bit of drama: at first we thought the old battery was no longer holding a charge, but it turned out to be a corroded connection point along the positive battery terminal.   

We did not do a lot of fun camping and spring related activities this Wekiwa visit, just a few short strolls down the marked paths and what not.  Son Jackson was able to make an evening visit with us, which we were all comfortable with given our isolation in Sanibel and his careful distancing in preparation for beginning his Physician Assistant program this month.

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An evening stroll along the well marked paths.

We had three days at Wekiwa Springs, with a one day gap before our next stay near Gainesville at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park.  Unfortunately, the day we needed was a Saturday, the hardest to secure at our popular preferences, especially on short notice.  While casting about for an overnight spot at various state and even a couple of private resorts along our route, we found a last minute cancellation at one of our favorite spots: Trimble County Park near Mount Dora.

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The fire pit behind our site at Trimble Park.

Not only is it at one of our faves, but the individual site, #13, is our favorite in the small park, being lake side and with no neighbor on the right (living) side of the spot.  We made the best of our one day and night there, particularly the reliable wild life sightings we always see.  This time herons and the small gator that frequents this end of Lake Beauchamp made appearances.

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A different view.

And that’s all for Central Florida. Next up, a return to Gilchrist Blue Springs and a visit with cousins during our final days in Florida, at least until we return… someday.

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One of the big heron’s that frequent the lake.

 

Final Weeks in Sanibel

After an unexpectedly long but productive stay in Sanibel, nearly 10 weeks by the first of June, we had decided that three full months would be enough, after which we would make our way out of Florida.  So we took our last 23 days and made the best of our time on the South West coast, drinking in all that (mostly) safe social distancing would allow.

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PKM admiring the picture clarity in our new (installed in March) smart TV.

We took care of some final medical appointments, got our prescription meds in order, prepped the rig and tow vehicle for travel, and visited Rose’ mom in Venice and dad and stepmom in Coral Springs.  But mostly we enjoyed Sanibel Island and her wonderful beaches, wildlife, sunsets, and shells.

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The beaches occupied a lot of our out and about time, and we worked to vary our routine by visiting beaches we might have skipped over during the first ten weeks on the island.  While we still made frequent bike trips to the closest beach (Nerita) and lighthouse point, we also made sure to include the bay side of the island, which might not offer great shelling, but had very calm and clear waters, most unlike the ocean side.  3-beach-gulf-side

For a car trip, Bowman Beach will always be our go to spot: the parking is a bit steep at $5 an hour, but we know the area and the best spots for shelling, places that the crowds either don’t know about or have a hike apparently too long for most.  We can march out well beyond the scattered groups and have stretches of pristine sand nearly to ourselves.  We count the number of new sea turtle nests along the way to the big piles of shells ready for pouring over and digging through.  4-shelling-rose

We also celebrated Rose’ big 55th birthday during our weekend visit with Xavier and Joy!  As always, Rose gets her favorite cake: strawberry shortcake.  b-day

This year we made frequent evening walks to the Sanibel Reclaimed Water system across the main street from Periwinkle Park.  I know that doesn’t sound tempting, but the series of ponds, islands, and surrounding swamp forests serve as a natural protected habitat for an extensive variety of wildlife.  This is where we see the most herons, egrets, anhingas, and gallinule’s, but also plenty of alligators and more rabbits than I thought could exist in such a small area.  5-wildlife-birds

While we would often see one of the larger, at least for this island, gators in one of the major ponds, we also stumbled across a full dozen baby gators in a tiny pond along the boardwalk trail.  We later spotted mama gator in an adjacent pond, but in this tiny little body of water no more than 15′ by 10′ and perhaps 2′ deep we found the full brood of little guys, along with two snakes neither big enough to pose a threat to the foot long gators, nor small enough to serve as a meal for them. 6-wildlife-gators-and-snake

During these last weeks Rose shifted much of her crafting time towards working on various resin projects, including cup turning, ornaments, and pendants.  The cups gave her hell; they require additional steps, involve a rotating rather than still object, and since they use a lot more resin and other supplies, Rose was unwilling to let any of them go as a learning event.  It either came out perfect or it was getting stripped and done over.  Here is her new heavily blinged insulated cup.

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And yes, we are aware that saying has two meanings.  That is the point!

We also started making near daily visits to the animal enclosures, including the monkey cages were one of the squirrel monkeys had recently given birth, and would usually come down to say hello and show off her new born clutching onto her back.  From there it was to the main duck pond filled with not only local species, but many wing clipped exotics collected by the (previous?) owner over decades.  Even the wild ones have gotten very comfortable with visitors, coming right up the the fence to beg for food.

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We are having trouble getting the baby monkey picture loaded, so until we sort it out, enjoy this unusual and beautiful tree we passed every bike trip to Lighthouse Point.

8.1-monkey

Edit: problem solved, here is the baby and mama monkey picture.

Finally, we stopped by the parrot area, with the facility serving as a rescue center for many exotic former pets who outlived (or perhaps merely outlasted the patience of) their previous owners.  With the crowds gone or reduced for months, the birds were vary eager for visitors and stimulation, with some begging not just for interaction, but also to get pet; you just have to watch out for the sneaky ones that pretend to want a neck pet just to lure in an unsuspecting but delicious finger.  9-parrots-jack

We have thoroughly enjoyed our three month stay on the island, and consider it to have been an excellent place to hunker down while assessing our options as the pandemic raged.  Having said that, it was time to move on.  I addition to a bit of stir crazy, we were growing increasingly concerned with Florida’s multi phase “reopening,” complete with full beaches, bars, and shops.  10-jack-rose

So excited to be back on the road but more than a little concerned about probable significant increase in COVID cases, we hit the road June 24th headed towards Central Florida.  More on that next post.  11-sunset-2

 

65 Months Fulltime RVing: May 2020 Report

The Distance: Zero miles again as we extended our Sanibel stay into June.  We expect actual mileage for next months report, but our 2020 total remains 454 miles. sunset

The Places:  Once again, we stayed the entire month at Periwinkle Park in Sanibel, which means 31 days in a private resort with full hook ups.  We love this place, and don’t regret extending our stay, but we are really looking forward to getting on the road again, even if it is a much more conservative summer of travel than the past five years.

site-205

#205, our site at Periwinkle Park for three full months.

The Budget: 20% over budget this month.  More than half of which was a financial fee for moving some things around that will, over the course of the next year, more than make up for that cost, but for now, it is what it is.  High in season rate park fees and a lack of market opportunities continue to really effect our budget, but we are thankful we still have our pension income, and recognize we are not nearly as bad off as those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic induced economic recession.

shell-haul

A respectable shell haul from one of our beach runs.

The Drama and Improvements:  Nothing to report this month.  Next month’s report will have some of both.  rose-beach

 

May Pandemic Projects for Rosemarie

We have stayed in one place for three months before (a couple of winters in Key West) but never in one site for that long; in Key West we were always in the notorious rotation between between dry camping and full hook up sites.  By the time we leave Sanibel in late June, however, we will have been in one RV site, #205 here at Periwinkle Park, for a full three month stop.  Such a novel luxury has been a nice change, and has allowed both of us to really “spread out,” by which I mean empty our storage compartments and set up everything we could possibly want or need.

crowns-1

Original version of the mermaid crown

For weeks I had an outdoor tool bench and kitchen under the awning for various projects and undertakings, while Rosemarie has just about every single tool and supply for her hobbies set up on her work bench, the dinette table, and elsewhere.  In a recent post I wrote about her sewing, but she has also been working on half a dozen other things. the-artist

While taking inventory of her crafting supplies, she found the last dozen or so clear glass Christmas tree ornaments, and decided to try something new: unicorn ornaments!  Who wouldn’t want at least one of those for their holiday decor?  These incorporate so many of her skills and supplies: bulbs, glitter, shells, artificial flowers, and Cricut generated ears and eyelashes. 

unicorn-1

But wait, not interested in unicorn ornaments?  Looking for something more natural?  Then her miniature cork bottled sand and shell options might be for you!  Yes, Christmas is a long way off, but the way things are going (as I write this in mid June, Florida is experiencing a major coronovirus spike) our next market opportunities might be in November, if we have any this year at all. sand-ornaments

Y’all remember Rose’ shell crowns?  Of course you do; they have been a hit at many of our craft fairs and festivals.  The problem is some people find them a bit heavy, and thus difficult for a child to wear with comfort and confidence.  So she has been on the lookout for a lighter and more secure alternative.  Behold the new options, a one part head band with flowers, shells, or both:

crowns-2

Mermaid crowns, new version.  The flowers on the left crown are made of shells.

And you can’t have mermaid princess tiara’s without scepters as well: sceptors

I’ll admit it: when I bought Rosemarie her Cricut machine for Christmas a couple of years back, I was skeptical that it would be a long and well used thing: boy was I wrong.  It not only paid for itself in the early days by transforming modest clear trivets into fun and decorated variants, it has also produced every single cut and printed backing for the wide variety of jewelry we sell.  It is one of the first things that comes out of the craft storage when we arrive at a new location.  This stop she put it to use for not only the above mentioned unicorn ears and eyelashes, but also for Mermaid tale hair bows. mermaid-hair

Lastly, at least for this post, Rose has been diligently working on her novice ukulele skills.  Her uke has remained mainly its storage case since stepdad Tim’s private lessons during our visit last November.  One of the interesting byproducts of COVID-19 social distancing is the number of companies offering free introductory access to their online content.  Fender, for instance, offered a 30 day free trial to all of their music video lessons, and Rose went all in with near daily practice during May and early June.  ukulele

Next up: May close out report.  unicorn-2

 

 

64 Months Fulltiming: April 2020 Report

The Distance: 0 miles while we sheltered in Sanibel, FL.  2020 total remains at 454 miles.

1-sunset

How about a sunset pic at the start of the post rather than symbolically at the end per our usual?

The Places:  The entire month we stayed at Periwinkle Park in Sanibel.  We really love this place, and even with heavily limiting our activity, we still enjoy this place quite a bit.  So that is 30 days in a private resort with full hook ups.

2-ducks

Periwinkle Park as two duck ponds with man variants of wing-clipped, exotic ducks.  Apparently the owners used to really be into ducks.  Though the exotic population has dwindled, regular, native species regularly enjoy the park, like these mottled ducks.

The Budget: Almost 45% under budget! I know, right?  Yeah, it was the stimulus checks, without which our high daily camping fee rate, bills still flowing in from our party days last month, and the complete lack of market opportunities to pad our finances would have left us a hair over budget. 

3-jack-cat-rabbit-1

Pad Kee Meow really likes this park as well.  The rabbit population has exploded, and they don’t seem to be used to domestic cats.  No worries, I am holding the lead so she cant actually reach the silly thing. 

The Drama and Improvements:  Aside from a global pandemic, not much drama to report.  As for improvements, there was Rose’ bike refurbishment project, and we undertook another small part of our long term electronics upgrade plan: we finally mounted, connected up, and programmed our new smart TV to replace the old one in the bedroom.

4-swan

The duck ponds have a mated pair of swans as well.

Next up: more pandemic projects and crafts.