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The Happy Wanderers

Our adventures.

January 2006 Travel Log

1/31/06: Patrick AFB, FL: We arrived at Patrick AFB, which is next to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center, a couple days ago. We plan to spend a week or two here. There's plenty to do and see, and I'm sure Connie will be tired of Space Museum's before we leave. We thought there was a Delta rocket launch scheduled (with a weather satellite) for February 6th, but it's being postponed until March. This is a nice campground, but full. We're in overflow parking again, but am enjoying our green gassy site for $9 a night. Our solar panels have been earning their weight lately. We've gotten the reading bug again and spent our last few days obsessed with our books. It's a small pleasure to sit out in the sun enjoying a cool drink and reading a book without hardly a care in the world. Sometimes, we wonder if life can get much better. Today, we'll do a little exploring of the area while the weather is perfect.

1/29/06: Pahokee, FL: Our missing mail finally caught up with us - over 2 weeks after it left Texas. What made the ordeal worse, is we expected our Hickory Farms bonus checks in this package. Not there.

Key West was hit by 4 hurricanes this past year. They've recovered pretty well, but the Navy campground was full of displaced Navy families. Only 20 hookup sites were opened to guests, with all other guests staying in "overflow". Overflow is just another term for "no hookups", or dry-camping. Over 200 RV's were dry-camping around the 3 camping areas at Sigsbee Navy annex. After a couple days there, we noticed the daily ritual which we called "the dump dance". Motorhomes would roll up their awnings and raise their jacks and head for theHighway US-1 to Key West, FL. sewage dump. But trailers and 5th wheels usually had a portable dump tank known as a "blue boy". Since it's more involved to move their trailers, it was easier to use 10 or 15 gallon portable waste tanks. Usually, they would tow these little blue boy's behind their pick-up and drive real slow. It was humorous to watch the "dump dance" take place every morning. With family visiting, we lasted a week before we needed to do the dance, which happened to be same day we left Key West. Usually, when it's just the 2 of us, we can last about 15 days before we need to dump waste water and fill up with fresh water.

Camping on Lake OkeechobeeAfter leaving Key West, we stopped for a couple nights at a casino outside of Miami. They allow RV parking overnight after signing in with security. We also enjoyed a nice buffet dinner in the casino. But later that evening was crazy! There was some popular boxing match going on at the casino and the parking lot got extremely crowded and noisy. There were some flared tempers outside our RV and we half expected some trouble. But things eventually cooled off. We spent the next day in Miami, taking a driving tour of South beach and Miami beach. We enjoyed the deco style of South beach, seeing many historical hotels along the beach. This morning, we headed for Lake Okeechobee for the night. What we found was the "sweetest town" in the USA. It's harvesting season for the 250,000 acres of sugar cane, producing 1,312 tons of sugar daily! Lake Okeechobee is one big lake!

1/24/06: Key West, FL: We had to say our "good-byes" to our kids today. We enjoyed their visit over the past 6 days. It's a little different having 4 Key West Sunsetpeople live our little condo on wheels, but everyone adjusted well. We're dry-camping at the Key West Naval Air Station, Sigsbee annex. I'm sure their stay would have been more pleasurable if we had hook-ups. Mainly electric for Air Conditioning. The weather has been warm, in the mid 80's. Although the humidity is probably only around 70%, it feels terrible to us. But commercial RV parks here are costing Hemingway house in Key West, FL$50+, where we're only paying $9 per night and we're only 2 miles from downtown Key West. During their visit over the past few days, we've enjoyed walking the tourist area and shops, had a couple good meals out (enjoyed our first Cuban meal), Andy enjoyed his reef dive, the girls toured Hemingway's Key West house, we participated in the "Sunset party" on the docks, stopped by the seafood festival in the park, visited the most southern point of the continental USA (90 miles from Cuba), played games, devoured a Caribbean rum cake, and had shrimp cocktails and cold beer under our RV awning. I think we showed our guests what a rough life we live now.

1/20/06: Key West, FL: A few days ago, we moved to the Everglades National Park, Lone Pine Key campground. Most of this national park is closed, due to hurricane Wilma a few months ago. Although the main campground is closed, this one recently opened up. After our visit to the Shark Alley part of the park, we were pretty disappointed with the rest of the park. But that was part of the adventure and learning experience of never being here before. We did learn a lot about the Andy & LeslieEverglades and now have a better understanding of what it actually is. It's just not what we expected. Our daughter, Leslie, and her hubby Andy arrived a couple days ago. She's 4 months pregnant and looks like she'll have a HUGE baby in June! We showed them the better parts of the Everglades, seeing lots more alligators and exotic birds. Today, we made the 130 mile trip to Key West. Again, the trip wasn't what we expected. We had imagined a 90 mile long bridge over the ocean. Instead, and to Connie's delight (she has a fear of long or high bridges over water), we traveled on normal roads with only a few bridges island hopping. The longest bridge was 7-mile bridge. Of course this area is a very tourist area. But it put me in the mood to wear sandals, lay back on the beach, and have a cold beer. Andy has already made plans to go SCUBA diving tomorrow, so I'm sure I'll end up following the "girls" around stores in town. But I'll get my cold beer, eventually.

1/15/06: Big Cypress National Preserve, FL: Getting our mail finally became a small problem. For the past year, we haven't had any problems getting our mail. We use the Escapee RV Club mail forwarding service. Since Texas is our legal domicile, that's where I also wanted our mailing address to be. Our mail goes to Livingston, Texas and is held there until we request it. Usually, every two weeks we Email the Escapees and have our mail forwarded to where we want. This has worked great, until this week. But at no fault of the Escapees. Knowing we were going to be in Tampa for a week, I had our mail forwarded there. BUT... I didn't request it until last Saturday. When Escapees returned to work on Monday, they confirmed my mail would be sent out on Tuesday. We had planned to leave Tampa on Thursday, but our mail wasn't there yet. We extended one night, but our mail still wasn't there on Friday. Since we needed to get going to meet our daughter near Miami, we are having our mail forwarded to Key West. We hope our mail shows up in Tampa, then gets forwarded to Key West. Let's keep our fingers crossed. Lesson learned - be sure to request our mail be forwarded more than a week from when we want it to arrive.

Yesterday, we left MacDill AFB in very windy weather. Not much fun, as it makes the motorhome rock and roll. We arrived safely further south at Big Cypress National Preserve. We're staying at Monument Lake, which is a nice campground, but a tad expensive. I think $16 a night is too much for a campsite without any type of hookup. But we do have a pretty view. We're currently outside our motorhome, laying in our lounge chairs, I'm updating the website and Connie is reading about the National Parks Pass we bought today. Pretty nice life, eh?

The National Parks Pass is $50 for the year and gives us unlimited admission to over 400 national parks, recreation areas, historical sites, and more until February 2007. We already recovered $10 of this pass today, by entering the Everglades National Park. Today was a GREAT day! We packed a picnic lunch and planned go exploring. We didn't get far and saw an alligator along the side of the road. Being city kids from the west coast, we went crazy! We stopped at the nearby preserve visitor's center, then headed down the road to the "Shark Alley" visitor's center, which is in the Everglades National Park (hence saving the $10 admission fee). We had read about the tram tour at "Shark Alley", which took visitor's 7 miles into the Everglades. We got there, and the tram was $14 a person. But we could walk the trail as much as wanted. So we elected to save the bucks and starting hiking in. WOW! We saw over a hundred alligator's, many within mere feet (or inches if we were crazy). Tons of large exotic birds all over the place. We saw Storks, Anhinga, Ibis, Blue Heron, Egrets, and many more. We went crazy with the cameras. After lunch, we later drove a back country road into the Everglades and Big Cypress Preserve. Very scenic and interesting to us.

Connie, the alligator hunter.Just laying around.Baby gator.Gator

Watch out!They're everywhere!The EvergladesBig Bird ??

Bird sunning himself.Big Bird???Anhinga sunning himself.Wood Stork

1/12/06: MacDill AFB, Tampa Bay, FL: You know what really bugs me lately? Nothing! 2006 has started off being a great year. We've had cool nights (better sleeping) and warm days. Last week, I wrote how we didn't get to see any Manatee's when staying at Manatee State Park. Karen Lueck, a reader of this web, wrote and told us about the nearby Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Area. We took a picnic lunch and spent the afternoon at the viewing center yesterday. Being our first visit to Florida, this was GREAT! Not only did we see a Manatee in the wild, we saw over a hundred of them! During the Winter, when the water is colder, the Manatee seek out warmer waters. The coasts and canals near the electric plants attract the Manatee. It wasn't difficult seeing them, but taking their picture was. We could see their outline in the water, and they would need to come up for air every 5 minutes (or so). Sometimes we would just see their nose, sometimes a back or flipper, and sometimes their tail. But catching that second on camera was difficult. Check out their website. You too can see the Manatee using their webcam.

Manatee ShapesA Manatee up for air.Lucky shot of the Manatee.Okay, I cheated on this photo.

1/10/06: MacDill AFB, Tampa Bay, FL: So far, this has been a relaxing week. One of the main reasons we came to the Tampa Bay area, was we knew a few friends who worked with us at Lake George Escape, NY, were working near here. Connie contacted them and found out there were a bunch more in the area than we thought. An informal reunion was planned at the Lazy Days RV Dealer. We'd heard about this HUGE dealer and wanted to visit there anyway. So all SIXTEEN (!!) of us met for a picnic lunch, catching up, and looking at some new RV's in the lot. The reason we met at the RV dealer, one of the couples is working there for the next few months. It was great meeting all of them again and finding out what everyone is up to.

Since we spent yesterday cleaning the rig, doing laundry, and catching up on website projects, we spent today playing tourist. Friends told us about a nearbyTarpon Springs Sponge Boat tourist town. We spent the day in Tarpon Springs. Tarpon Springs boasts the largest Greek population in the US. It's also one of a few major natural sponge Sponge Boatsports in the world. Since 1891, Greek immigrants have used Tarpon Springs as home port for gathering sponges from the Gulf of Mexico. One day a year is a day of religious celebration - Epiphany day, which was celebrated 4 days ago. Although we would have liked to observe the Greek celebration, we wouldn't have wanted to deal with the huge crowds. Definitely a tourist town, we did enjoy the tacky museum and sponge shops. The aroma of Greek food throughout the streets was tempting, but we had brought a picnic lunch. However, we couldn't resist the Greek bakeries. Connie bought us some Baklava Cheesecake, a delicious looking chocolate cake contraption (we forgot what it was called), and a loaf of Tsoureki Sweet Bread. We'll probably dig into it later. It was a very pleasant day with good weather. As with our tour of the Paper Museum in April 2004, Connie and I now have a new found respect for sponges. In addition to visiting Tarpon Springs, we enjoyed the drive along the coast and across many parts of Tampa Bay.

1/7/06: MacDill AFB, Tampa Bay, FL: Although we took a few hikes along Manatee Springs, we never did see any of these relatives of the Elephant. We did get entertained by a hundred squirrels and some deer that hung around our campsite. We left Manatee Springs State Park a couple days ago and stopped at Sumter Oaks Escapee RV Park near Bushnell. We had breakfast with Jim and Ruth Roberts, friends from Lake George Escape (we worked there last summer), and with fellow Boomers Bob and Carol Ann Iles. By coincidence, Jim and Ruth worked with Bob and Carol Ann at Lake George a couple years ago. So it was big friendship reunion! Later that evening, we met Internet friends Howard and Linda Payne. They started fulltiming last year, and are off to a good start. Their RV Dreams website is getting popular, and they are giving a seminar at the Tampa RV show in a couple weeks. While visiting with the Payne's, we also had a surprise visit with fellow Boomer's Larry and Claudia King, and Jack and Jeanne Albers. A new friend we met at the campground, Tom, also stopped by. So we just had a little party with 9 people in our motorhome - it was too cold to be outside.

This morning, we made an hours drive south into Tampa Bay and are staying at the MacDill AFB family campground. We plan to be here for a week. Connie's already arranged another friendship reunion for tomorrow. We're meeting another 5 or 6 couples of friends we worked with at Lake George Escape last summer. Somehow, we all ended up in this part of Florida at the same time. It's a small world.

1/3/06: Manatee State Park, FL: $950 later, we finished work at Camping World yesterday. Our slide-out awning toppers had seen better days. Primarily from sitting in the Arizona sun for a few years, they were pretty torn up. So we had the two of them replaced, an oil change, and the electric hot water heater repaired. While staying at Lake George Escape, our electric hot water just stopped working. I thought it might be the heating element, but it turned out to be a switch near the heater. In addition to the repairs, we purchased a few items for the motorhome. Water filters are over $30 each! I also finally broke down and bought a patio recliner chair. When we arrived at the Camping World in Tallahassee, we discovered they have W/E hook-up sites. Work on the motorhome took longer than we expected (and shouldn't have), so we asked to spend the night. No problem. We spent the night in their parking lot with 30amp electric along with a few other rigs.

This morning, we headed for Fanning Springs, where I heard there was a city park with free overnight camping. We couldn't find the city park, but noticed Florida's Manatee State Park was nearby and headed for there. It's a nice, quiet park along the Suwannee River. Yes, the famous Suwannee River in the song. Although we didn't plan it, this is prime time for the Manatee to come into the nearby springs. They live in the Suwannee River, which gets too cold for the Manatee in winter. They come into the Manatee Spring to stay warm. We hiked along the springs today, but didn't see any Manatee. We heard a couple were there this morning, and they come and go all day. Perhaps we'll see some tomorrow. Although we didn't see any Manatee today, we did see a ton of Turkey Vultures. They migrated south from Georgia. A couple hundred of the vultures were hanging around in the trees across the Spring.

Manatee SpringsTurkey VulturesTurkey Vulture Guess we're in Florida now.

1/1/06: Tallahassee, FL: We spent the last couple days at the Tyndall AFB family campground. A nice campground with friendly people. When we checked in last Friday, we were told someone would be here today (New Year's Day) to sell propane from 9 - 4. We're low on propane and stopped to get filled before we left. Of course, the office was closed. We tracked down the camp host who said they wouldn't be open today. We specifically asked and told them we'd be back today around 11:00am. Oh well. The drive to Tallahassee was uneventful, with cloudy skies and high humidity. We're spending the night at the Elks lodge, which normally has 6 full-hookup sites. They're full, but made room for us with a 15amp electric hookup. The reason we came through Tallahassee was to visit Camping World. We have an appointment tomorrow morning to get new slide out awnings installed, the electric water heater repaired, an oil change, and our tow bar checked and adjusted. We also have a small list of items we want to purchase. I know tomorrow will be an expensive day, but we haven't had to spend much on repairs or maintenance on the motor home for the past year. This is actually the first chance we've had since early May. Depending on how long Camping World takes, we may spend tomorrow night in their parking lot. Our next destination is the Escapee park in Bushnell, FL. Ahhh... the freedom to do as we want, go where we want, when we want. Of course, we really don't want to work 6 months out of the year, but at least we can choose the job and location. Workamping is actually part of the adventure and has it's own rewards.

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February 2006 Travel Log
December 2005 Travel Log

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Thursday, 22 August 2019

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