Monthly Archives: January 2016

Weeks 21 and 22: St Petersburg and Cedar Key, Florida

St Petersburg

We drove west on Hwy 70 most of the way to the Fort Desoto Park just a little south of St Petersburg. The park sits on a couple of Keys at the far west side of Tampa Bay. I was anxious to explore the area. My former Johnson sisters-in-law all lived in the area for many years. Beth is the only one still in St Petersburg. They are former sisters-in-laws and now current sisters! I am very fond of Beth, Mary and Judy and hope we remain life-long friends. The Bay Area (Tampa Bay, that is) is beautiful, with water everywhere you look. And so many bridges! If you have a bridge phobia this is not the place for you. It’s very crowded too. A little too much so for my taste, at least at this stage of my life.

Sunshine Skyway Bridge from our beach

Sunshine Skyway Bridge from our beach

We weren’t able to get a waterfront site because this is a very popular park for camping. As with all the waterfront sites in Florida parks you need to reserve your site six months in advance. I was happy to get a site here at all! It’s a mile walk or a short drive to get to the two beaches in the park. Both have views of the Bay and the Sunshine Bridge.

One day I went to Passé de Grille on the southern tip of St Petersburg Beach to walk the beach and have lunch. It was a chilly, windy, overcast day so I was bundled up for my walk along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline. Quite frankly, it’s hard to tell the difference between the Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean. Both are vast bodies of water! I went to the Sea Critter Grille for lunch and had a delicious lobster roll.

I met Beth for dinner at the Stillwaters Tavern on Beach Drive. Delicious cocktails and food. Downtown St Petersburg is full of neighborhoods with shops, restaurants, galleries, etc. and bustling with people.

I also met a childhood neighborhood friend that contacted me on Facebook. I hadn’t seen Debbie for at least 25+ years. She and her sister Patsy both live in Florida now. What a great time catching up. And shucks!  I forgot to take photos.  😦

We finally had a beach day. The weather was perfect: about 73 degrees and very little wind. We look a lunch and spent the entire afternoon just sitting watching the water and birds. The seagulls and egrets were very friendly. They stood about 3 feet from us, watching and waiting for food. We’ve been in Florida for six weeks and this was our first beach day. That will tell you a little something about the weather we’ve had since arriving.

Our lunch companion-only about three feet from us

Our lunch companion-only about three feet from us


Our neighbors in the canal behind our campsite

Our neighbors in the canal behind our campsite


On the sunset side of Florida now

On the sunset side of Florida now

Cedar Key

We headed north from St Petersburg about 180 miles to Cedar Key, a place highly recommended by fellow RVers. Cedar Key is a small town with 11 outer islands just south of the Suwannee River National Wildlife Refuge.

We pulled into the Sunset Isle RV park and looked at each other with that “WTF” look on our faces. It was a very small, crowded RV park with rigs parked in every direction. But there we were and there we’d stay.

Sunset Isle RV Park

Sunset Isle RV Park


Colorful Bathhouse

Colorful Bathhouse

So I proceeded to back us into our spot and we started to go through our setup routine when our neighbor said, “Would you like to have some bread pudding with rum sauce?”. Me,”Seriously?” Neighbor, “Yes!”. So we joined two other couples at a small picnic table and ate delicious, just out of the oven, bread pudding with rum sauce. One couple, Mark and Carol, were from Quebec and the other, Steve and Karen (Karen made the pudding) were from Georgia. Wonderful friendly people and only the beginning to what turned out to be a very fun time in Cedar Key. I was very sorry that we weren’t staying longer than three days.

Mark (from Quebec) made walking sticks to sell. What a great past time. He collects the right type of sticks, then removes the outside bark, carves a logo and inserts a stone, if you want one. Even though I already have two aluminum, collapsing walking sticks (as Ralph reminded me), I still had to have one made by Mark. It’s a beauty. I will have some awesome photos and my new walking stick to remember our great time at Cedar Key.

When we were pulling in we were delayed a little by a rig that was at the dump station located right on the road near our campsite. She was blocking the road so we had to wait for her to finish. I was very surprised when an old woman with a cane walked around the corner and apologized for the delay. I asked if she was traveling alone and she was! her rig was at least as long as our rig and she was towing a trailer too! I have thoughts of traveling solo and thought, “If she can do it, I can do it!”

The weather was very chilly; 46 at night and 57-60 during the day. It finally stopped raining and was sunny most of the time. Not exactly the Florida weather we expected, but it’s better than the rain and high humidity we had in Ft Pierce.

The campground has activities everyday and I participated in one that started out as crafts and ended up being a game of charades. It was just us gals and was a hoot! I got to know a few more of the women. A woman named Pat was a teacher from Michigan and a very funny lady. As it turned out, this would not be the last time I would see Pat.

Right next door to our campground was a little Tiki Bar.  I love Tiki Bars for some reason.  Very friendly place indeed!

The Tiki Bar

The Tiki Bar

Cedar Key is a small, funky, colorful, Old Florida town with a very rich history.  Cedar Key was part of the Florida Railroad which was chartered in 1853. Construction began in Fernandina Beach 1855 and the first train arrived in Cedar Key in 1861, a distance of 155.5 miles. The railroad was built so that ships did not have to go around the tip of Florida in order to reach northern ports. When further development of the port was prevented by the local property owners and politicians, a railroad was built to Tampa and Cedar Key began to decline. The last train was in 1932. We learned about the railroad when we were in Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island (Our first stop in Florida). Now we were seeing the other end. We went to the small historical museum in town and they had quite a bit of information on the railroad. They even had a conductors uniform on a manikin and Ralph commented on how short it was. That uniform would come up again a little later in the trip.

Welcome to Cedar Key

Welcome to Cedar Key


Local Art

Local Art


Now I know what to do with all the picks I have!

Now I know what to do with all the picks I have!


Local Art

Local Art


Doorway

Doorway


The Florida Railway

The Florida Railway

The city has turned part of the railroad trestle into a nature trail that we hiked as part of a geocash search.

Many RVers geocach and I’ve wanted to try geocaching for a long time. Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity in which participants use a GPS device to hide and seek containers, called geocaches anywhere in the world. There are 2 million geocaches worldwide. A typical cach is a small waterproof container containing a logbook. Containers can hold items for trading, tracking or just viewing. It began in 2000 and the first geocache was placed in Beavercreek, Oregon. You go online to see where the cashes are in your area, enter the GPS coordinates in your phone or GPS and take off for the great outdoors. They are located in places you may not know about or have never been and it’s fun trying to track them down. We were not successful in locating the first one in a small park in Cedar Key. Neither of us was very happy about that! We decided to try the one on the Railroad Trestle Nature Trail. We walked the trail and looked for about 15 minutes and finally gave up. We started back down the trail and I found it stuck in a palm tree. Now we’re batting 500! We’ll probably try it again; at least the easy ones! Go to Geocashing.com to learn more.

Me and my stash...no not that kind...my geostash!

Me and my stash…no not that kind…my geostash!


First Geocashe found

First Geocashe found-can you see it?


Florida State Butterfly The Zebra longwing Heliconius charitonia

Florida State Butterfly spotted on the trail – The Zebra longwing Heliconius charitonia

When visiting “downtown” Cedar Key we went through a few art studios and had lunch at a little donut shop. I stopped in to see the Island Hotel, an historic hotel, and found out they had live music on Wednesday evenings from 7-9 pm. I decided to go the next day and what a wonderful time I had.

The Donut Shop

The Donut Shop

At the Island Hotel I was placed at a table with some locals and ordered my fish tacos and waited for the music to begin.  When the band cameo out I saw Pat from the campground! She was the lead singer with a wonderful sense of humor.  Henry and Brenda were seated next to me and were both born and lived in Cedar Key their entire lives! Henry told me the conductor’s uniform belonged to his grandfather!

The James Band

The James Band


Cedar Key Sunset

Cedar Key Sunset

It’s a very small, beautiful world in Cedar Key!

Next stop Apalachicola.

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Weeks 15 – 20: Ft Pierce and Port St. Lucie, Florida

We finally stayed in one place for five weeks and it felt good to settle somewhere for a long period of time. We stayed at the Savannas Recreation Area, a county park near the water in Ft Pierce. We had a nice spot overlooking part of the last savannah area on the east coast of Florida. Everything else has been developed. A Savanna is a grassland ecosystem transitioning from land to sea. It is rich in sea life and birds. We pulled head first into our spot so our vast windshield overlooked the Savanna Jensen Lake (a very shallow lake with an abundance of grass growing in the water. Because of all the recent rain, the campground was partially flooded. Within the month we were there the water eventually soaked into the ground. In addition to fishing spots, there were a few trails, and a very nice dog park.

IMG_3001

View out front window


Sunrise out our front window

Sunrise out our front window

While we were camped a civil war reenactment was held in the park. I wonder why the South wants to reenact such a bloody war they lost. I don’t get it.

Civil War - once again

Civil War – once again


Civil War - once again

Civil War – once again


Civil War - once again

Civil War – once again

We took my great-niece kayaking in the waters on one of the few days it didn’t rain. We paddled around the shallow waters looking for my little alligator friend that swam by our campsite regularly. S(he) was only about three feet long, nose to tail, and so cute. There are signs everywhere, “Don’t feed the alligators”, however, I believe people fed them anyway. Usually we would watch the little guy quietly from the bank of the canal, but, one day I was talking to our neighbor and the alligator swam right over to us. I think he was looking for food. One day I saw him catch a small fish and put on a nice display wrestling that little fish and finally swallowing it. We looked for that little alligator everyday! There was a couple of bigger gators in another part of a canal that I spotted on the bank a few times during my morning walks, but I steered clear of them!

Our pet gator

Our pet gator


Our young gator friend

Our young gator friend

The park was full of birds: Sand hill cranes, great blue herons, great egrets, magpies, yellow finches, and common moorhens, just to name a few. I got out my “Birds of the Western States” book to identify as many as I could and they were all in my book! Did they know they were on the wrong coast?? The fact is that the birds are migrating in different patterns due to weather changes and land development. I hand fed the Sand hill Cranes! What beautiful birds! They have a red heart on their heads and gray feathers. Love the color palette!

Sand hill cranes

Sand hill cranes


Sand hill Cranes

Sand hill Cranes


Sand hill Cranes

Sand hill Cranes


Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron


Sandy Feeding our buddy

Sandy Feeding our buddy

We spent a lot of time in the historic section of Ft Pierce. The small town has changed so much over the last thirty years and especially in the last ten years since the hurricanes hit the area. With new government buildings as anchor tenets, the entire downtown area has been re-energized. There is a new marina and lots of restaurants and new businesses. Ft Pierce is one of the few affordable towns on the water in Florida. I don’t think that will last long. It’s becoming very popular. On the waterfront for Christmas they had a light show to music and it was truly magical to watch at night. We ate at several restaurants in the area. I think Dave’s Diner was Ralph’s favorite. They had fried chicken to die for. You had to order it 30 minutes in advance and show up and a table was ready for you. I don’t know where they found the extremely large chickens. We had three meals out of six pieces of chicken! We took my friends Mike and Sandy there too. Mike and Sandy drove up from Marathon to visit and we were so happy they did. We considered leaving the rig in the park and driving the car down to the Keys, however, it is expensive and hard to find lodging in “season”. And especially for just a couple of days. Mike’s cousin lives in Jensen Beach so they were able to kill two birds with one stone and visit us both.

We went to the Christmas Boat Parade in Ft Pierce.  Some people go all out!

Boat parade: me and Ari

Boat parade: me and Ari


Christmas boat parade

Christmas boat parade


Christmas boat parade

Christmas boat parade

There was a Farmers Market every Saturday morning with great foods and also art vendors and live music. It’s held near the marina in Ft Piece and is a great way to spend a Saturday morning.   I purchased the most beautiful mushrooms freshly picked the day before. They were delicious! I did a little Christmas shopping for my great-nieces. The market is supported by the people in the area and it a great success for the community. There was an artist studio/gallery called Art Mundo where local artist and craftspeople work and display/sell their art. It is a wonderful way to support local artists and provide reasonably priced art to those in the area. I loved it! Even purchased a small piece for the rig. It is wood burning and paint and measures about 5 X 6 inches. It’s perfect for the little wall space I have to hang things.

Wood burning and paint

Wood burning and paint


Farmer's market finds: banana pineapple pecan bread, fresh apple cider donuts and fresh picked mushrooms

Farmer’s market finds: banana pineapple pecan bread, fresh apple cider donuts and fresh picked mushrooms


Beautiful freshly picked mushrooms

Beautiful freshly picked mushrooms

One evening we ate at a small Tapas restaurant with my nephew Michael and his wife Lauren, and my niece Theresa and her husband Jeff. Michael is one of the funniest people I know (Ralph’s right up there too) and we laughed the entire meal. It was so much fun! I love those kids (adults) so much and I am very grateful my brother had kids for me to enjoy! We will be visiting the youngest, Kevin and his wife, Mariya when we get to Yuma, Az where they now live.

Tapas for six

Tapas for six

Michael and Lauren had us over for BBQ and to see the new pool.  Lots of fun!

The chef Michael

The chef Michael


Hottubbing it: Carmen, Ari and Chy

Hottubbing it: Carmen, Ari and Chy

We spent Thanksgiving at Theresa and Jeff’s house and Christmas at the kid’s mother’s house. We’re still all one big happy family through marriages, divorces, deaths, new partners, etc. I love it! This was the first time EVER that I’ve spent both holidays with family since 1978. It was great to spend some concentrated time with my brother, Dale too. My Dad and Suzanne were supposed to come to Florida in November, but, Suzanne took a nasty fall and hurt her back, so they weren’t able to make it to Florida yet. Unfortunately we will be gone by the time they arrive. I’m grateful I had the time with him in Michigan.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day


Christmas Day

Christmas Day


Christmas Day

Christmas Day

We did a little sight seeing too. We visited the Navy Seal Training Center Museum on North Hutchinson Island near Vero Beach. The Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) were an elite special-purpose force established by the United States Navy during World War II. They also served during the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Their primary function was to reconnoiter and destroy enemy defensive obstacles on beaches prior to amphibious landings. They also were the frogmen who retrieved astronauts after splashdown in the Mercury through Apollo manned space flight programs. Later the SEALS (sea, air and land) were trained at the center. Interesting place.

Navy Seal Museum

Navy Seal Museum


Navy Seal Museum

Navy Seal Museum


Navy Seal Museum

Navy Seal Museum

I visited the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystem Exhibit and  Aquarium a couple times. Once on my own and once with the nieces. We were headed to the beach and got rained out after lunch at Archie’s. The first time I visited I was one of a handful of people. The second time it was packed due to the rain. Everyone was on Plan B due to the rain.

The Acquarium

The Aquarium

And talking about the rain! There has been SO much rain since we arrived November 23, and oppressive humidity. In fact, we were experiencing July weather on Christmas Day. The majority of the time is was in the mid to high 80s with 80 to 100% humidity. Theresa told me “This is as bad as it gets. You survived this, so now you can move to Florida!”. I’ve always said that I don’t think I could stand the summer weather here and live in Florida all year long. If I lived in Florida I would certainly see more of my Michigan friends. They all seem to travel to Florida, but rarely, if ever, to California. Maybe someday…

I’m grateful I was able to spend so much time with family during our month+ stay. It certainly was bitter/sweet to move. We both had “hitch-itch” and were anxious to move on to new adventures as we begin our westward trek, and sad to leave our wonderful camping site and family behind.

Being on the road is a series of hellos and goodbyes.

Our next stop is Fort Desoto Park in St. Petersburg, about 150 miles due west of Ft. Pierce.

The happy campers - dressed up

The happy campers – dressed up

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