We arrived in the Florida Panhandle on Oct 21, 2012. Our first destination was in at the Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Gregory E. Moore RV Resort. This was an absolutely beautiful resort. At one time it was privately owned which was very evident in how it was set-up. Everything was beautifully landscaped and all sites were on cement slabs. After the state took over they continued to keep up the pristine landscaping. This was not a place we could afford to stay very long even though we would have liked to. The beach was .5 miles from the park which was an easy walk or bike ride on a paved trail. But if you wanted the easy way you could ride a tram to the beach which ran every half hour until sunset. Ivy wasn’t allowed on the beach which always presents a problem for us. We were able to enjoy a couple of sunsets, one on our 42nd wedding anniversary. Beautiful beach, beautiful resort!
Our next stop as we drove along the Gulf Coast was at Carrabelle, FL at Ho-Hum RV Park, a fitting name for this little campground right on the water. The best thing about this CG was we were feet from the Gulf with our back window looking at the water. The worst thing about this place was the biting flies. Sad to say we had to enjoy the view from the inside of our RV. We tried sitting outside but just couldn’t take the flies. Time to move on.
Rock Crusher Canyon RV Park, Crystal River, FL was our next stop. Huge place with 400 sites but the setting was fabulous. It was pretty quiet because at this time of the year the snowbirds haven’t arrived. This park was like a Minnesota State Park. It was all wooded and sites were spaced nicely apart. You could easily walk a couple of miles by just walking in the CG. We would definitely go back to this Park.
While we were at Rock Crusher we went to Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to see the manatees. We weren’t disappointed. This park was also privately owned at one time as a zoo/wildlife preserve. When the state of Florida took over they wanted only native animals to be in the park. They were able to find homes for all the tigers, lions and other non-native animals except Lou, the hippopotamus. So Lou became an honorary Florida native. Lou just celebrated his 55th birthday and gave us quite a show. It was a nice walk through the preserve and we enjoyed seeing all the native animals and birds except the snakes which were housed in a separate building. Florida is full of snakes and most of them are venomous. We are being warned all the time to watch Ivy around brush. I am not a lover of any snake but these warnings make me paranoid. But our favorite part of our walk was the manatees. There was a river that ran on the outskirts of the preserve and we could watch many manatees. It was a thrill to be able to see them in the wild. One of the nice things about this park was they had an outdoor kennel to put Ivy in because dogs weren’t allow in the park. She wasn’t happy but it work nice for us. We would highly recommend this park.
I have talk several times about the fantastic people we have meet along the way. Some of them have been characters that I don’t think I could make up. Ellie was one of those characters. Joe took me to Ellie’s Yarn Shop in Homosassa to buy a little yarn. As I was shopping Joe took Ivy for a walk. When it was time to purchase my yarn the store owner was nowhere to be found. The woman next door came over to take my money. When I went out to the truck there was Ellie visiting with Joe and Ivy. As it turned out she loved dogs and saw Joe walking Ivy and had to bring her a treat. She didn’t give Ivy one treat, no she gave her several dozen treats from three different boxes. Ellie was 81 yrs old and had a story to tell. She had worked in Las Vegas for the “mob”. We heard about her life there, her two sons, the bill collectors that won’t leave her alone so she doesn’t answer her phone, the woman next door to her business who took advantage of her and how she goes to the local bars at night to “save the young drug dealers”. We spent about an hour with Ellie. I think Ellie was a very lonely old lady who loved to talk and found two people who enjoyed listening to her tales. She was a very interesting character and our hearts hurt a little as we drove away. We again counted our blessings because you could see by Ellie’s appearance she had a rough life.
We were getting close to Amanda and Ron’s wedding date so we moved to Fort Myers to Woodsmoke Camping Resort, a pretty typical park model and RV Resort for Florida. In the park were many park model homes with either snowbirds or permanent residents living in them. They had some nice pull through RV sites for short term stays like us and had wonderful staff. We ended up going back to this place after the wedding for a few days when my dad was with us because it was close to the airport. We found a nice dog beach that we took Ivy to a couple of times. Dogs are not allowed on the beaches in Florida unless they are specifically for dogs and those are very few. This is different from the west coast where the dogs could go on all the beaches in Oregon.
Next stop was Naples for the wedding. We stayed at Neapolitan Cove RV Resort for 10 days which was a very, very nice small RV resort with only 60 sites and wonderful managers. Again because of the time of the year it was quiet. Most RV snowbirds don’t come until after Christmas. The owners of condos usually come earlier. Our son Eric flew down a week before the wedding and spent time with us which was nice. We went to Everglade City one day and went on an airboat ride on the outskirts of the Everglades. It was a blast. Sixty minutes of riding through the mangroves sometimes at pretty good speeds. We saw an alligator sunny itself and an osprey sitting in the tree. But the fun was the weaving in and out of the waterways through the mangroves on the airboat with just five of us aboard. We would easily do this again. The captain of our airboat recommended we drive down the highway 5 miles and take a dirt road back where we would see many alligators out sunny. We weren’t disappointed! We saw many alligators and several different species of birds. We also stopped for lunch along the water and Eric tried alligator (I tried it and wouldn’t recommend it, yuck!) and I tried Gropper which wasn’t too bad. Joe of course had a cheeseburger (no adventure there). It was a fun day!
After the wedding Eric flew back to Minnesota and my 91 yr old dad moved in with us for a week. Of course when I say dad is 91 you would think of a little old man having a hard time getting around. Nope, he can pretty much keep up to Joe and me. He and my mom came to Florida every winter for 20 years so this was like coming home for him but without my mom who has been gone for almost four years. He had some sad times but mostly he did a lot of reminiscing about those good days. We decided to stay at a county park that they had stayed at some 20 years ago in Ruskin, E.G. Simmons County Park. This was a very nice CG with each campsite backing up against water. It would have been perfect except for two things, the no-see-ums and the sandburs, both were terrible. If you have never experienced no-see-ums you are lucky. They are exactly what they are called, you can’t see them and they bite worse than a mosquito. We had to keep the windows closed in the 5th wheel because they come through the screens and it was hard to sit outside because they like to bite you. Poor Ivy could only walk on the paved roads or she would pick up sandburs and they were painful (I know because I stepped on them several times inside when we would accidently bring them in).
Here again we meet a wonderful couple from Lakeland, FL who were there fishing. There is this fish called a mullet that jumps up in the water and is hard to catch with a pole. People fish with nets to catch them and we witness this all along the gulf coast. We always saw these jumping fish everywhere we stopped. The other way they catch them is to make chump out of meal, bread and some other stuff and throw that in the water. Then when the fish come to feed you throw your line in with a hook and hope you snag a fish. That is what this woman was doing. You have to have a lot of patience but this woman caught four fish using this method. It was so interesting. They told us that the mullets were very good eating fish and about this little outdoor restaurant down the road that had deep fried mullet so off we went to experience this fish that everyone was fishing for. Dad, Joe and I shared a mullet dinner. YUCK!!!!!! It sure wasn’t walleye. Not even close. It is a very boney fish that tasted a little too much like fish. Glad we tried it but wouldn’t do that again. The next day we saw the couple again and told them that we had experienced the mullet and it was tasty. They loved it so we didn’t want to hurt their feelings. The woman brought out two papayas that they grow on trees in their yard and gave them to us. Now they were yummy! Again the nice people we have had the pleasure to meet.
And so we pay it forward as we hope everyone does. The next day Joe came to the rescue with his “bad boy” truck. As we were out for one of our daily walks with my dad we came to the boat launching area where we like to watch the boats come in and out. This rather large boat approached the launch from the water and a rather small truck with a very large trailer backed down the steep ramp to load the boat. Of course, because of the large size of the boat and the small size of the truck we had to hang around to watch. Two Hispanic men were driving the truck and a nicely dressed Anglo man was in the boat. It looked like the Hispanic men didn’t know what they were doing so it took them a little time to get the boat loaded onto the trailer. Then the real show started. They attempted to pull that boat and trailer up the ramp. They would gun the truck and then kill the engine. Time and again they tried. The clutch smelled so bad and smoke was coming from the truck and they just couldn’t move that boat out of the water. The owner of the boat just sat in the boat not knowing what to do. Joe to the rescue. He offered to help with his dually. The owner jumped at the offer and had his wife drive Joe back to the CG to get our truck. After doing a little work to switch the ball for the trailer, Joe back the truck up to the trailer, hitch the boat up and drove up the ramp. As it turned out the owner of the boat was from New York but had a home a few miles from the CG where they lived 8 months out of the year. They never took the boat out of the water so they didn’t need a truck or trailer. They were going to the Bahamas for Thanksgiving and decided to have the boat painted while they were gone. They hired someone to pick up the boat and take it to the painter. I think they hired the wrong guys. These two guys with their little truck had to drive about 40 miles to the town where the painter was. We wished them luck as they drove off with the boat. Both the owner and us were leaving the next day so he gave us his New York information and told us to look them up if we ever got to New York. They would love to take us out on the town and we could stay with them. We wish we would have told them to just pay it forward. Joe’s payment was to show-off his “bad-boy” truck.
So after that excitement we went back to Fort Myers for a few days of quietness and then seeing my dad off to Minneapolis for a two week visit with my siblings. It was fun having both he and our son, Eric, stay with us and I think they both had a good time. We feel blessed to have had this time with my dad at his age. It is remarkable to think of dropping a 91 yr old off at the curb of the airport and he can do everything he needs to do to get on an airplane. If only we can be so blessed at that age!