Florida and Georgia, March 15th till March 30th 2018
When we get up Thursday March 15th its freezing cold. The temperature is below 40 degrees and last night there was frost. We have a shower on the campground. Although the water is warm, the building feels like a freezer so I don’t even dress up but wrap a towel around me and walk to the RV. There our heater made it a comfortable temperature inside. When the Sun emerge above the forests the outside temperature is also more pleasant.
On quiet roads we drive through endless forests and slowly we arrive in a more populated area, we are near Tampa. In front of us on the road we see the first trucks with oranges. Would those be used for our “Florida’s Natural” Orange Juice?
Little Manatee River State Park is fully booked but, when we arrive further South in Lake Manatee State Park at 2 pm, after much groaning and moaning by the Ranger (something’s not right in the administration) there is a spot available. Dick says that we have to stay for two days, a good decision when we see the spot which is big, very nice and quiet. Again we were lucky because this was the last available spot. In the afternoon we walk around in the park. Of course, we take a look at Lake Manatee but it’s not tempting to swim in this dark brown water with algae. There is nobody around in the water and so we walk on and end of the afternoon we are back at our RV where we still enjoy some time in the Sun.
It‘s now 78 degrees and the freezing cold weather from this morning is gone. Friday March 16th, we get up at half past eight, terrible to stay in bed so long but obviously we needed some extra sleep.
After breakfast Dick removes our carpet from the RV and outside he is working on it with foaming detergent while I clean the floor of our RV. Everything is shining. Now we have the opportunity to look between our floors where, indeed, we find our diving suits. We will not forget them. We take our time. Because we have electricity I finally cut Dick’s hair, of course outside, it’s really necessary. After the carpet has dried up and brushed again Dick places it back in the RV, “Wooow it’s really clean”. We now earn it to sit outside in the sun and enjoy a glass of beer.
Saturday morning March 17th we get up early. It’s still cold in the morning, only 50 degrees, but there was no frost in the night. Over small roads we drive slowly further south. Finally Dick gets his favorite landscape, green pastures with cows and horses. He had to wait for it almost 10 months because I love the mountains so we always take narrow and steep mountain roads instead of a flat landscape. Men must endure a lot considering how woman, at least I do, always force a way through. Fields with pine trees alternate with citrus trees. Strange, while citrus fruit is everywhere in the trees, at Walmart Arcadia we cannot buy any citrus. After enjoying a Sonic milkshake in Arcadia, we continue our trip, partly on Interstate 75 and partly over small roads.
It is St. Patricks Day and everywhere people walk in green. At 2 pm we arrive in Collier Seminole State Park, East of Naples but the last spot is just forgiven so we continue and in Big Cypress National Preserve, at Burns Lake, we manage to find the last but beautiful spot next to a small lake. Although the water here looks very inviting and the temperature is 87 degrees, swimming is prohibited.
The next morning I see why, when a number of alligators float on the water, waiting for a prey within their reach. They have a lot of teeth! Sunday March 18th we leave this beautiful spot in the National Preserve. Rather than going east, we drive a few miles back to a viewpoint. A good decision because here we find our first real big alligators, swimming, floating and lying on the shore. They are vigilant because when I come too close the smallest of the 5 slides into the water. The other alligators are significantly bigger and even when I sit next to them they stay and don’t move, but definitely look at me. Fortunately we are not a prey at this moment. Ofcourse we drive to the Visitor Center to stamp our National Park Passport and to see the movie about Big Cypress. An impressive movie. A (natural) area comes always more to life when you know the background of the park and what interesting there is. You cannot count the number of large alligators in the water in front of the Visitor Center. It’s impressive to see so many of them. Near the end of the park is a narrow road leading back to Big Cypress. And we follow that road. First the road is paved till a campground. This campground is not appealing, too dark and lonely, so we decide not to stay here and drive back to Burns Lake.
This brings us on a dirt loop road through Big Cypress. We have beautiful vistas in the forests and of the cypress trees, see alligators on the road and orchids hanging on the trees. Ibises run across and scavenge between the water and the tree roots. It looks like a tropical rain forest. The temperature is 87 degrees and humid hot and also feels like the tropics. The road is getting worse, there are many dips, bumps and potholes and the RV shakes back and forth, this road is not really suitable for our camper. Even our dashboard announces that we have to check the diesel filter. Not a really comforting feeling in the middle of nowhere. Luckily, after an hour we arrive at Burns Lake campground where place is still available and we stay again next to our neighbor Kevin.
He left last night for a couple of hours to find a nice spot to photograph the Milky Way. I wake up at half past 1 and indeed I saw a beautiful starry sky but it was too early for the Milky Way. You could only see it around 4 am and staying awake for so long, my delicate constitution couldn’t handle. Even when growing older I still need lots and lots of sleep. We walk around the lake but unfortunately there are no alligators on the shore. Then we enjoy the sunrays sitting behind the laptop because I have to translate.
The Sun is burning and we have to put sun cream on otherwise we burn alive. It stays warm, 87 degrees. Late in the evening, the sun disappeared long ago, it’s getting cooler and we go inside. Next morning Kevin shows us a beautiful picture of the Milky Way with our RV in the foreground. We had to get up last night!!! We leave in time, say goodbye to Kevin and exchange addresses and I make a last picture of the RV when Dick drives along the lake. At 11 am we are back in inhabited area, nurseries are all around us, and it is very busy on the road. A little later we enter Everglades National Park. There are a lot of people at the Visitor Center but there are very few watching the beautiful film about this park. 5 Mile from the entrance is Long Pine Campground. As we don’t know how busy it is at the bay, at Flamingo Campground, we decide to stay here. It is a beautiful place but it is boring between the huge Pine Trees. Oh well, Dick has now the opportunity to publish the English text and I can arrange the “Escort service” we need in the harbor of Baltimore when we deliver our RV there, end of April.
Again it’s very warm and we can even eat outside. The sunset is great, a large red sphere slowly disappears behind the Pine trees. Long after darkness we go inside. The next morning, at 7 am, it‘s warm, 69 degrees and it looks more like high summer than the beginning of spring. After breakfast we dump our grey- and black water and fill with clean water and then drive further into the park to Flamingo Bay. The campground here is almost empty and we can choose a spot. Nobody protest when I ask to stay at the bayside, actually the “only tents” spot. We drink a cup of coffee and then grab the bikes and ride the trail along the coast. In the distance we see some of the thousands of islands that are all still part of Everglades National Park.
In the Flamingo Visitor Center we hear that there is a Ranger talk about Manatees at half past 1 so we hang around. Not an annoying place to do because we have a yummy ice cream, watch the Manatees swimming around in the Marina and look at a large Osprey nest with two little ones.
The parents fly off and on to give food to their youngsters, it is awesome to view the birds. Incredible, but 6 years ago, when we visited this place with Sandra and Rene, an Osprey nest was in the same spot. Rene made a beautiful picture when the Osprey flew to the nest. It’s hot outside, despite the wind the temperature is well above 90 degrees so we walk to the shade where we socialize with Lucia from California and Anita from Minnesota. Before we know it is half past 1 and we take our bikes to the Marina where the Ranger tells us everything about the Manatees living here along the coast of Florida. To prove that they really exist, the Manatees regularly show up to breathe. They are awesome and we can’t get enough seeing them. Here are also American Crocodiles, different from the alligators but unfortunately we don’t spot them.
Around 3 pm we are back at our RV and stay outside in the Sun. Here along the shore is also an Osprey nest but the birds are more shy. The elderly beep and let the small ones go deep into the nest when I’m too close by. The sea water is warm, at least 72 degrees. No wonder when you consider that the Bay remains shallow for a very long distance. I would love to swim around. But as the Ranger said that is not wise because there are some creatures around that you don’t see in the shaded water until they got you. So I stay on the shore and look at the sea.
At 5 pm the tide is coming in and thousands of birds land on the partially flooded land of the campground. Quite impressive to look at. After making a lot of pictures it is time to see the sunset, more impressive here than on the other campground. Even Dick, not a fan of sunsets, is fascinated and makes pictures, perhaps also because there is nothing else to see and inside the RV it’s too warm to stay. At 6 pm it’s still 86 degrees. When the Sun is completely gone the temperature drops till 75 degrees. Still very warm but after the heat of the day it feels cool. With these temperature we take our duvet away we can easily do with only a sheet. We leave this beautiful spot on Wednesday March 21st. There are many more clouds and the Sun is barely visible, although at 7 am it’s 75 degrees.
We have breakfast and then we drive to Florida City to do some shopping at Walmart. Not far away is a laundromat we really need. After 10 days 2 laundry bags are filled. Although the washing machines don’t really wash clean everything went through soapy water and if it is dry, despite the dirt that’s still to be seen, we declare it clean and store it in our closet. Now at 2 pm it’s too late to travel to the North so we decide to go back to Flamingo, to the coast of the Everglades, where again we book a night on the campground. This time, we may not stay on the tent field but because we were there yesterday and it is still quiet and after some talking and begging we are allowed to stay again at the edge of the tent field. It’s really a beautiful spot, silent, only a couple of tents and the sea in the background.
The temperature is significantly cooler compared to yesterday. The wind is blowing harder and it’s not warmer than 60 degrees. The strong wind is unavoidable in this open field so earlier than yesterday we go inside. However, not until Dick pitch up a tent which lies totally flat against the ground. The owner camps for the first time and has not the condition, because of his already advanced age, to get the tent stand up again.
Once again we have a magnificent sunset so we made the good decision to return. Thursday March 22nd we wake up at 8 am. That’s because again we had our down Duvet covering us and thereby it was warm or do you sleep better and longer after a day of sea air.
We fill and dump water on Long Pine Campground because at Flamingo is no fresh water. Possibly due to hurricane Irma that caused a lot of damage in September 2017. We have to wait at the dump, we are third in line, so at 10.30 am we finally leave the Everglades. Originally we would go to John Pennekamp State Park for diving but the same hurricane Irma wiped out the diving center and destroyed the compressor so for the time being it is not possible to dive there. That’s why we drive straight to the North and arrive late afternoon at Lake Okeechobee. The road is not really special, many corn-and sugar cane fields and at the lake a high dike prevents seeing anything of this enormous freshwater lake.
Only at one point we can look at the Lake and then we see a large Raccoon on the side of the road. I thought you only could see them in the dark. In Okeechobee we can stay at Walmart and find a quiet and nice spot. The temperature is not really high, 63 degrees. We walk around and of course do some shopping. I cannot resist a nice bright yellow shirt with Manatees and even Dick has no objection if he sees this beautiful shirt. Unfortunately there are no diners around and the potato wedges are sold out at Walmart so we have a simple supper of potato salad, sausages and lettuce. Friday March 23th we get up early because I want to Skype with auntie Ank and it works, we enjoy our 50-minute chat together before we move on.
Quickly we reach Hwy 1 and follow this road further North. It is no particular route but we are away from the hustle and bustle of hotels along the beach. We cannot stay on Merrill Island, nor on Cocoa Beach and there are far around no more places to stay except an expensive KOA campground, so we drive to a public park, Manatee Hammock County Park, just south of Titusville where we find a place. It takes a lot of time and begging to get a place for two nights (its weekend and everything is full booked) and only after a lot of talking and insisting I manage to get a second night. It’s on another spot but that is not important for us because tomorrow we leave anyway with the RV to John F. Kennedy Space Center. It turns out to be a sunny spot despite the many trees here and it’s protected by the wind. The latter is important because in the bay, we overlook, are huge waves. The wind blows hard and feels cold. However In the lee of the trees and in the Sun it is 77 degrees.
At 7 am the alarm wakes us Saturday morning and after a shower, breakfast and disconnecting our electricity we drive to the Space Center. Just 9 mile from the campground but the road works and lot of traffic doesn’t make it really nice to ride a bike. As one of the first we arrive at the Space Center and this allows us to park our RV in the front and without standing in line, we can buy a (senior) ticket. Then we have to wait in front of the fence because opening is at 9 am. The Sun is shining and it’s not really cold with 55 degrees so waiting is not bad. We are the first to enter and after some orientation and a picture with the many missiles everywhere, we walk to the bus that tours around the space center.
Although buses drive throughout the day it is very pleasant to be on the first bus. Not only it’s still quiet on the road so you can see alligators but at the end point where information is to be to found over the Apollo flights, it’s still not crowded and without hundreds of people around you can look at the exhibition.
The bus takes us along the launching pads and of course we see the huge building where the rockets are assembled and cross the enormously wide roads where the rockets are transported to the platforms. 3 Years ago we’ve been here and of course when we were young we saw the first moon landing (July 1969, I still remember that) but nevertheless, it’s marvelous to see how they managed to get the first rocket into an orbit around the Earth and later succeeded in a lunar landing.
We don’t stop looking around. We have lunch outside in the Sun (unfortunately there is no launch today because from this place you would have a fantastic view). After that we take a bus back to the main area of the Space Center where we see how the Space shuttles took over the task of the old rockets. We admire this spacecraft which has made it possible that the ISS space station was built and also the Hubble telescope could be adjusted and repaired.
And then we go to the future, the journey to Mars. Starting from 2020, the first test flights with new, improved missiles are carried out, the moon will be a testing ground and in 2030 a Mars landing should follow. It all seems very unlikely but our parents probably thought the same and they saw people walking and driving on the Moon. And Mars is maybe not at all so far away when you consider that there are already two vehicles driving around who regularly send images to Earth. You can find pictures of “Curiosity Rover” on the web. Of course there are several movies about space and life in the space station. They are fantastic, take you to another world and give another dimension to life. The images, from ISS, also make that you’re going to think about our Earth. You see ancient forests destroyed and glaciers disappear but also the difference between North- and South Korea. At night one country is brightly lit while the other side of the border shows a deep dark landscape.
At 7 pm, closure of the park, we leave Kennedy Space Center and drive back to the camp site where we occupy the place next to our old place. It’s already dark so we stay inside the RV and don’t go to bed very late after this impressive day. Sunday March 25th at half past 9 we drive away. We want to go to Tampa, on the west coast of Florida, to visit Christer, the former Director of our “Waterproof” dry suits sales office. Unfortunately when we call him he has already other appointments and at a time it suits him, we cannot be there, so it makes no sense to visit him now. We agree that we drive by in summer when he is back in Sweden.
So we drive to the North and near Lake Norris we search for the Cache across America of Florida. It is not really easy because the cache consists of several steps and we cannot find some points in between. But the Lake must be very nice to see so we walk on and not in vain because the view of the Cypress trees standing in the water is beautiful. And in doing so, we also find a hint that with some calculation will lead us to the final cache. After a long walk, we find the cache between the palm trees. What a pity that we are so far away from Texas because Aad, one of our friends, cracked the code of the lock so we should be able to open it now. Unfortunately we cannot test Aad’s solution until we return to Texas (and that is not during this trip) in the afternoon we are back at our RV, so we look for an overnight spot not far from here.
In the National Forest near Lake Dorr is a beautiful campground and many empty spots, where we enjoy the Sun, a glass of wine and talk about again a wonderful day. For the first time in weeks on Monday March 26th it‘s cloudy weather, the sky is completely covered and there is no sun. The RV is soaking wet of the condensation because we stay near a large lake. While we slowly drive to the North it’s drizzling and the temperature is only 58 degrees. What a difference with all previous days. After a nice lunch at Subway we arrive in Georgia and end of the afternoon we stop at Walmart in Waycross. Fortunately the rain stopped but the temperature is low. Tuesday March 27th it is still heavily cloudy but it’s dry.
After some shopping we drive to the North-West on quiet roads. Around us are flowering trees and Pine forests alternating with vast estates and plantations where peanuts, cotton, sugar cane or corn is grown. The Interior of Georgia is beautiful and lovely. Around half past 12 we arrive in Cordele, Georgia. Despite the fact that on every Pole is a sign: “No Overnight parking” Walmart allows us to stay overnight. After the past weeks the RV is filthy nasty and needs a wash. After some searching we find a carwash and our RV fits in. Moments later Dick is cleaning the RV with lots of foam and bubbles, while I put quarter after quarter, after quarter, after quarter in the machine (every quarter gives 40 seconds). The result is great because after half an hour the RV is white again and looks like a mirror. After also cleaning our clothing and bedding we drive back to Walmart.
It is now 5 pm and the rest of the evening we do nothing. Next to Walmart is a Chinese restaurant where we get a tasty meal.
Wednesday March 28th the sun shines again. Let’s hope also at the coast where Gerhard and Beate stay, on Jekyll Island. Nothing is better than celebrate your birthday (congratulations Gerhard) while the sun is shining.
After some last shopping we drive further inland. We stop on the way to find a cache and in Smithville while Dick is logging the caches I skype with auntie Ank. We stay next to a Government building and library and Dick got the password so we have Wi-Fi.
At noon we arrive in Plains, Georgia, where we go to the old High school, a National Historic Site. This little town with less than 800 peoples is the hometown of Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the UNITED STATES (1977-1981). In different buildings the story of his life is told. It is impressive.
Now is proven again that if you lose yourself into someone and hear or read, you understand more. I couldn’t remember that Jimmy Carter, at Camp David, accomplished the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Unfortunately it is no Sunday otherwise we would certainly visit Sunday school. Jimmy Carter still lives in this town and although he reached the age of 93 (same age as you auntie Ank and also the same birthday month, October 1924) every two weeks he teaches Sunday school in Plains.
The Ranger in the Visitor Center said that the food is more than excellent in the Buffalo Café so between visiting the different places in town we have a late lunch there. The food indeed is great and it also gives us the opportunity to speak with some older persons from town that know Jimmy Carter and tell about him and what it was to hire a long train for the whole town to attend the inauguration in Washington DC. After 4 pm we leave Plains, we had a particularly instructive afternoon and drive to the Florence Marina State Park. There is more than enough place and while sitting in the Sun, we talk about a special day unfortunately the sky is clouded when we get up on Thursday, March 29th. But it’s not cold so we do not complain. We’re lucky to be here and not further West in Alabama or Tennessee, where we originally intended to be. We heard on the weather channel that a severe storm with flooding is on its way from Houston, Texas, to the North-East.
Let’s hope that storm will not damage a lot. After having breakfast we walk slowly to the Visitor Center. Yesterday when we arrived it was already closed. We decide to stay another day. Not only we can explore this park along the border with Alabama and find some caches but I also can write for the website. After all, it is time again to publish. Despite the clouds the weather is good. The Sun tries to penetrate several times but it doesn’t last long and for the most part of the day clouds continue to have the upper hand.
But it is around 68 degrees and on our place surrounded by large oak trees, covered with Spanish Moss, it’s good to sit outside.
The trails are nice and I would love to be here with Halloween. On a trail through the spooky looking trees (because of the Spanish Moss hanging down the Oaks) we find storage of tombstones and crosses and also black cloths between the trees with (fake) spider’s webs. Something for you Susan. Not until end of the afternoon I finish my writings for the website. Now it’s Dick to give it another critically reading, search for pictures and to publish. I can start with the English translation.