A Good Day

Monday, April 27, 2015 – Wildwood, Florida

 

I was a good day.

Kevin, the mechanic was out to look at our awning first thing in the morning, as promised.  He pushed the button and the awning worked.  Andy and I stared at each other dumbfounded. I know four or five guys at Key RV who will tell him it does not work.  Andy said the awning will go out, but won’t come back in.  Kevin said he would check it out.

We hopped into the car and headed to Gainesville for Andy’s cancer checkup. It is about an hour north on I-75 from Wildwood. The appointment for the CT scan was for 1100, but we got there at 0930.  Andy announced to the receptionist, “I’m early”. They must not have had any other appointments at that hour because they called him in soon after we sat down. The CT scan only takes a few minutes and we were out of there before 1000. Andy’s plan worked out well as we had plenty of time before the next appointment.

We decided to take a short walk before getting back in the car. Then we drove to Alachua to Conestogas Restaurant for lunch. We took another walk up and down Main Street first. Then we sat down to the best hamburgers I have ever eaten.  They set bowls of roasted peanuts on the tables and I ate half of those before the meals were served.  What with the half-pound hamburger, sweet potato fries, and two glasses of Dr. Pepper, I was stuffed.  But I still kept eating the peanuts.

It’s a good day when you get a Conestogas’ hamburger.

Then, it was back to Gainesville to the Shands Cancer Center for Andy’s checkup with Dr. Mendenhall at 1330.  When Nurse Terry came out to the waiting area to call Andy in, she said she still remembers how awful the treatment was for Andy in 2012. He was walking around like a zombie back then. He looks and feels so good now compared to those dreadful days.

Dr. Mendenhall stuck the tube up Andy’s nose to have a look at the base of his tongue. Poor Andy hates that so much. Despite his best efforts, Dr. Bill could not find any cancer. I did not cry this time when he made the announcement.  I am accustomed to the idea now, after two-and-a-half years. Still, our spirits were up and our step was lighter as we walked from the cancer center to the College of Dentistry.

It’s a good day when you are declared cancer free.

Dr. Cha inspected Andy’s teeth.  He has been very conscientious about brushing, flossing, and  doing the fluoride treatment every night.  She did not find any problems. Dr. Cha is a delight and after hearing our praises, she wrote down the name Conestogas and said she was going to get one of those hamburgers this weekend.

It’s a good day when you are not worrying about your teeth falling out or your jaw bone rotting off due to radiation damage.

The drive back to Wildwood was uneventful.  Our motorhome was still at the service bay.  As we walked over to see how the job was going, someone knocked on the front window of their motorhome as we walked by.  It was Bill and Dawn Laatz, who had been two lots down from us at Key RV in Marathon! We chatted for a bit and they invited us to stop in their place in Oakland, Michigan this summer.  They said they have 33 acres and two motorhome hookups.

It’s a good day when you get an invitation to visit someone with a full RV hookup!

Mechanic Kevin was just finishing when we got to Sao. He said he did end up changing the motor for the awning.  Andy just KNEW there was a problem with the motor. Kevin drove Sao back to our site in the campground.  We will pay our bill in the morning and then be on our way, right on schedule. We should be back in Big Creek on Wednesday.

It’s a good day when all the needed repairs are done in one day.  This is the first time that has happened for us at Alliance. I don’t think we’ve ever been out of here in less than a week in the past.

Yes, it was a good day. And, I didn’t take a single picture.  I didn’t even take the camera with me, but did get four and a half miles on the pedometer.

Lake Okahumpka Park

Sunday, April 26, 2015 – Wildwood, Florida

 

This was a quiet day. I browned a chuck roast and put it in the Crock Pot in the morning. We computed, read, and took a couple walks.  Our longest walk was around the path at Lake Okahumpka Park. It is just a few miles down the highway from Alliance Coach.

 

b Park Sign

 

I strategically parked in front of the toilet building.

 

b Parked in Front of Toilet Building

 

We followed the RED route, which is about a mile and a third long.  So, with three laps around the park, we covered four miles.  It was a pleasant day, mostly cloudy, with moments of sunshine, and there was a nice breeze.

 

b Red Route

 

A small flock of doves few a few yards distant each time we got close to them.  Finally, they decided to sit on the fence.

 

b Doves on Fence

 

The Red route goes through the woods and around a large grassy area, so we had sun, shade, and a breeze.

 

b Path Through Woods

 

The wildlife comprised birds, squirrels, and lizards. The notable fauna was live oaks, Spanish moss, and magnolia trees in bloom. These small lavender flowers were in shady areas under the trees. They are about three or four inches tall.

 

b Small Lavendar Flowers

 

There were not many people in the park.  Two boat trailers were parked at the boat ramp.  A man had two dogs in the new dog park near the picnic pavilion. Two young couples were playing disc golf. A man with two small boys was flying a kite on the large lawn. A couple on a motorcycle stopped in to use the toilet building. Maybe two or three others passed by, but that was about it.

 

The western edge of the park has a large drainage pond just outside the park fence.  We walked along the fence to get more breeze than on the path in the woods. The section of the fence that goes under the big oak trees is draped with Spanish moss.

 

b Spanish Moss on Fence

 

This is the only view of Lake Okahumpka.  Google Earth tells me the lake is actually larger than it appears from the boat ramp.

 

b View of Lake Okahumpka

On the Road Again

Thursday, April 23, 2015 – Marathon, Florida

 

For several days, we have been preparing to leave for the summer, which mostly means taking down the screen room and stowing the patio furniture.  Here she is in the afternoon, ready to go, except for bringing in the awning and entry steps. Oh, now I see from the picture that the wheel covers and the signal booster antenna still needed to be taken off.

b Sao in Key RV

And that is when we encountered our first problem of the trip. I turned on the awning power and pressed the retract button, but the awning did not move. It has done that before, so Andy got the push-broom and pushed on the awning to get it started. That trick did not work this time. I got out the manuals. If the problem is power getting to awning rather than the motor failing, you can use a nine-volt battering with some leads to a couple spots under the awning motor cover.  The problem is that it involves a tall ladder and a nine-volt battery. I really didn’t want Andy standing at the top of a tall ladder so I called neighbor Ted to come help.

Key RV Park is the kind of place where, when one or two guys are outside messing with something, they attract the attention of other guys who come over to help out.  Before we knew it, we had a whole team with a ladder, a battery, and tools. Tom was the one who climbed the ladder and held the leads on the motor. The awning retracted. He determined that the plug on the side of the RV for the awning did not have any power coming to it.

b Tom on Ladder with Battery

They had to move the ladder a couple times as the awning retracted.  I don’t know how Tom managed to get it all the way in without mashing his fingers behind the awning frame. And, I was a little bit worried about that battery and wires being so close to his delicate parts.

b Men Working on Awning

Mabel and George are here from Boca Raton for a few days, staying in Glen and Jenn’s trailer. They came over to say good-bye and posed for a picture for me.

b Mabel and George

Friday, April 24, 2015 – Marathon, FL to Fort Pierce, Florida (248 miles in 5 hours 4 minutes)

 

The only thing left to do in the morning was to hook the car to the back of the motorhome.  I pulled the RV out into the road and went back to get the car while Andy readied the tow bar. Everything went smoothly, with a hitch. We rolled out at 0723 singing On the Road Again. Andy was expecting that we would get to Fort Pierce at 1630.  I was anxious because we just joined up with Harvest Hosts  and were supposed to arrive during business hours (1700 for Endless Summer Vineyard). Fortunately, Andy’s calculation was a bit off and we got here at 1227.

I turned into the driveway and stopped near the winery tasting room and shop.  I had not even printed out my membership card yet, but the woman did not ask for it.  We just signed the guest book and a rules agreement.  The customary courtesy is to buy something from the hosts so I got some grape-seed oil. Her husband came up in a golf cart and led us to a field behind the winery.

I could tell from the mailbox that we were in the right place.

b Vineyard Mail Box

When we turned into the driveway, there were grape vines on our left and a tree nursery on our right.

b Entrance to Endless Summer Vineyard

The building was inviting, with rocking chairs on the front porch. Note the palm tree wearing sunglasses at the left end of the building.  This is their logo. You can check them out at https://www.endlesssummerwine.com/.

b Endless Summer Winery

Here is Sao parked in our private space for the evening. It was private because we were the only ones there.

b Sao  in Vineyard Parking Spot

We were free to walk around and enjoy the grounds.  They have a large pavilion with plenty of interesting things to look at for events.

b Andy in Front of Pavilion

Andy spotted the circle of chairs at the far end of the sidewalk and asked if it was for Quaker meetings.  When we got closer, we saw that it has a fire pit in the center.  Andy posed for me in one of the chairs.  I took a quick picture before he could take a nap.

b Fire Circle

The grapes are tiny right now.

b Baby Grapes

I was shocked to see the disc golf course in the vineyard.  It seems to me that they would not want Frisbees and such bashing into their vines, but the whole course is through the vineyard. We also got a kick out of the nautical touches, such as the manatee zone markers at the base of the baskets.

b Disc Golf Basket

There are wine barrel tables inside the pavilion.

b Wine Barrel Tables

Another section has picnic tables made from surf boards.

b Surf Board Picnic Tables

We walked out onto the pier over the pond behind the pavilion and watched the fish for a bit before continuing our walk through the vines. Sao is parked in the back right.

b Pier

A surf board forms a most unusual wind vane at the far end of the pavilion.  It was actually spinning with the breeze while we watched.

b Surf Board Wind Vane

Here is another look at the pond.

b Sao Across Pond

All the vines looked rather young to me, but I really don’t remember how long it takes them to get this big. Just a couple years, I think.

b Sao in Vineyard

We continued around to the nursery side to look at the trees. Later, I re-read the rules and realized we should not have done that.  I felt badly for breaking the rules, but am glad that I got a close look.  There are cables running along each row of trees to keep them from blowing over in the wind.

b Trees in Pots

We walked back to the motorhome through a grove of palm trees.

b Road Through Palms

It was such a delight to wander around and enjoy the plants. After looking at all the pots, cables securing the trees, and the irrigation system, we were impressed with how much work it is to run a vineyard and nursery.

We took our books to the porch swing hanging in a little pavilion next to the pond and read while swinging.  We were still enough that a couple birds came very close to us while searching for supper in the pond.

b Shore Bird

The Great White Egret was getting plenty of fish.

b Great White Egret

It had the longest and skinniest neck ever when stretched out.

b Great White Egret Profile

Saturday, April 25, 2015 – Fort Pierce, Florida to Wildwood, Florida (148 miles in 5 hours 49 minutes)

We loved spending the night in the vineyard so much that neither of us really wanted to leave this morning.  Andy said that waking up there made him happy.  He took another walk around before I got out of bed. We had not opened the slides or set up anything so all we had to do this morning was get dressed and drive away.  We did that at 0708.

I don’t remember what time we stopped on the Florida Turnpike. We did not see what the problem was until we got to the scene of the accident.  By that time all the emergency vehicles were gone except two flat-bed tow trucks, one with a minivan and the other with a mangled motorcycle. We had not noted the time when we reached the backup, but estimate that we sat there for one and a half to two hours before traffic started moving.

We had not planned to stop at Alliance Coach on our way north.  Our original destination for today was Alachua, 70 miles north of here.  But the awning needs repair and here we are.

b Sao in Alliance Coach

While Andy was hooking up the power and water, I went back inside and took some pictures.

b Andy Hooking Up Water Hose

This is what the motorhome looks like when we are on the road.  We have the two little coffee tables on my sofa with books, exercise mat, and the basket where I keep my purse and camera bag on top. Andy has a few books and hats piled on his sofa on the right. The slide-out on the right is pulled in and we only have a narrow path. My cart for extra counter space is stowed behind the table and lashed with a rope.

b Sao Road Ready

I see from the picture that I had already set the coffee pot on the counter.  It rides in the sink. Here is the cockpit. The string wrapped around the steering wheel is something Andy rigged for me to attach to my keys so I will remember to turn the headlights off. The other end of it is around the light switch.  It worked when we stopped at a rest stop for fuel and lunch, but not when we got here and I left the key in the ignition.

b Sao Helm Station

These are the controls to the left of the driver’s seat.  The silver knob is the parking brake. Next is the leveling system control panel. The two rows of switches are cruise control, air dump, battery boost, exhaust brake and one to flash the lights like the truckers do. Then there is a mirror heater switch and mirror adjustment buttons. The panel on an angle has the transmission buttons. It still seems a little odd to me to change gears by pushing buttons.

b Sao Controls

We met Bill and Pam at Crispers for dinner.  They arrived in the golf cart.

Bill and Pam with Golf Cart

 

 

 

Crispers is one of my favorite places to eat. We sat outside on the patio on the left.

b Crispers

 

 

I had a superfood salad and cup of butternut squash soup, but don’t remember what everyone else ate.

b Pam, Bill, Andy

German Journeyman Carpenters

We ate lunch and took our walk today at Sombrero Beach.  There were three oddly-dressed young men in the large pavilion and I struck up a conversation with one of them after the other two had left.  There are from Germany.  His English was pretty good, enough to tell me that they are traveling for three years and a day.  I thought he meant between school and starting work like a “gap year”. They are in the US for two months, but are not working here. He said the costume is “old”.  I asked if it was traditional, but he didn’t know that word so I asked if it was old. I did understand that they are carpenters.  His name is Johannes.

b Johannes Wandering Journeyman

They were carrying interesting bundles and he posed with his for me.

b Johannes with Bundle

We took several turns around the park and along the beach to get two miles on the pedometer. It was not crowded today.  There were even plenty of parking spaces available. This is my picture of a little girl in a red swimsuit on the beach.

b Little Girl on Beach

This Little Blue Heron and Snowy Egret were foraging at the far end of the beach.

b Little Blue Heron

b Snowy Egret

The other two men were back when we were leaving.  They had walked to Publix for some beer. The one in the center has a terrible sunburn.

b Three German Journeymen Carpenters

I did some Googling when I got home and found a blog where someone else has done the homework.

http://jandme3.blogspot.com/2012/02/monday-february-27.html#comment-form

Goodbye Sumac!

Sue and Mac left this morning, heading, eventually, back to Michigan for the summer. It is a bit exciting to think about getting on the road again. They posed with their motorhome, just before taking off.

b Sue and Mac w Motorhome

Here, Andy is saying “Go!” and Sue and Mac are clowning around.

b Sue Mac and Andy

Then Mac pulled out with the motorhome towing the boat.

b Mac Drive RV Towing Boat

Sue followed behind in the pickup truck carrying the motorcycle and some other stuff.

b Sue Drive Truck w Motorcycle

We have really enjoyed them as neighbors for the past two winters, but they are not coming back next winter.  They have decided to try an ocean-front RV park south of Vero Beach. One thing they say about motorhome life is, “If you don’t like your neighbors, you can just drive away”. Well, the obverse is when you love your RV neighbors and they drive away, It is sad.

We worked a bit in the motorhome and then headed to Bahia Honda for our walk. We ate lunch at our usual pavilion. This red-winged black bird watched us.

b Red Winged Black Bird

We started walking on the beach, but didn’t plan for the tide very well.  It was coming up and the wind was blowing it higher.  There were too many bodies on the beach to maneuver around, so we decided to go to the south end of the park and try walking there. The beach was not as crowded down near the old Bahia Honda Bridge.

b Beach Near Bahia Honda Bridge

I realized that we had never walked on the beach there and when we got to the end, I had a new perspective of the old bridge.

b Bahia Honda Bridge

 

I don’t know what atmospheric conditions coincided to create the colors today, but the ocean was spectacular. A little stripe on the horizon was brilliant blue. It was hard to get a picture of it though.  We had noticed it driving across the Seven-Mile Bridge, but I couldn’t stop up there to take a picture.

b Color of the Ocean

Walk on Bahia Honda Beach

Low tide was at 0925 today so we took a morning walk on the beach at Bahia Honda State Park. This was my first beach walk since the spider bite.  There were only a few scattered souls on the beach when we got there.

f Andy Walking Onto Beach

We followed a little flock of birds up the beach for a while before they decided to fly.

f Birds Walking Ahead of Us

This cloud moved in front of the sun.  There might have been a little rain falling from the right edge of it.

f Cloud

We went as far north/east as we could and turned around.  Here Andy is brushing the sand off a shell he found.

f Andy Found a Shell

I always take a picture of these palm trees leaning over the beach.

f Palm Tree on Beach

There were dozens and dozens of little crab holes along the beach.  Some times we would see one skittering into the hole up ahead of us.  Three times, though, the crab sat still and posed for me. The first one had brown eyes.

f Crab with Brown Eyes

The second one was brown with black eyes.

f Brown Crab

f Crab with Dark Eyes

This little flock of birds stood by the water as we passed.

f Birds on Shore

We came across a shoe sole with barnacles on it.  Andy said there was a guy buried upside down in the sand.

f Shoe Sole with Barnacles

There were still only a few people when we walked back past the parking area. We practically had the place to ourselves.

f Empty Beach

Another brave crab was standing its ground down at the southern/western end of the beach. That one was yellow and white with brown eyes.

f White and Yellow Crab

f White and Yellow Crab Front

After I took the two pictures, the crab skittered a couple yards and disappeared into its hole. This pelican was sitting by itself on a sandbar  in the cove at the south/west end of the beach.

f Pelican on Sandbar

A lot of sand has been washed out at that end of the beach. We turned around and headed back into a great breeze. In fact, there was so much wind today that we actually had a little bit of surf. I mean waves you can hear break.

f Grass Sand Water

This beach always has sponges washed ashore scattered on it. This one looked nice with the sun shining through it. It is common to see someone, usually a woman, carrying one to take home.  I have considered it on occasion, but always decide that they are too sandy and I could buy a clean one in Key West. I haven’t done that either. These are as big as a person’s head.

f Sun Through Sponge

At one spot, people have been turning them into heads and lining them up along the grass. This is half of them and there are more than twenty in this picture.

f Long Row of Sponge Heads

Here is a closer look.

f Row of Sponge Heads

And here are two that I especially liked.  I think this one is a deer

f Sponge Deer

and I just call this one “hair do”.

f Sponge Hair

This beach is usually almost pristine.  However, trash does drift in from the sea.  Today, there were plastic bottles, shoe soles and this earphone with barnacles on it. I’m sure the park employees or volunteers will be out there today picking it up.

f Earphone with Barnacles

A good number of beachgoers had arrived when we got back to the parking lot.  Two fathers were giving their kids rides on paddle boards.  It was right into the sun so I got a silhouette.

f Dad w Two Children on Board

Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden

We finished our business in Key west in the morning and, after lunch, went to the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden.  It is on College Road behind the golf course.   The property is an interesting mix of natural-looking forest and garden.

The courtyard is just behind the visitor center entrance to the site.  The far end is raised as a stage – and it has a moat. There are a few strings of lights hung overhead.  It would be a very nice spot for a reception.

f Courtyard

North Side Lake looks pretty shallow, but it has turtles in it. The two ponds on this property are fresh water, which is extremely rare in the keys.

f North Side Lake 2

The Western Loop is natural-looking tropical forest.

f Dirt Path

Desbien’s Pond was shockingly red from tannin in the water.

f Desbien's Pond

My only guess is that it came from the dead seagrape leaves. A long section of the path around the pond was carpeted with them.

f Seagrape Leaf Carpet

Some sections were a paved path.

f Paved Path

Much of the path was a large boardwalk with numerous wide spots for a bench or a gathering. This gnarly-branched gumbo limbo was just before the loop around North Side Lake.

f Gumbo Limbo Branches

There was a large patio across the lake with several musical instruments.  These bells sounded great. There were also two large and artistic xylophones. Note the nice boardwalk behind Andy.

f Bells

This very large terrace is across the lake.  It also has a stage area and lights strung up.

f Lake Terrace

This mermaid sculpture is at the edge of the terrace.

f Mermaid

Here is her view to the right, back to the bridge across the lake.

f North Side Lake

We spotted this huge palm behind the terrace.  Andy, my scale model, posed in front of it for, well, scale.  There was no sign telling what it is. A good breeze was blowing through and those huge fronds/leaves were flapping and the fringe was fluttering.

f Large Leaf Palm

The surprise of the visit was what they called “Cuban Chugs”, boats that Cubans have used to cross the Florida Straits in to get here.  Andy recalls that there were about a dozen of these boats.  Looking at them sure gave us time to think about how desperate those Cubans were to leave Cuba and get here, and how creative they were with what materials they had.

f Boat 2

f Boat 3

f Boat 4

f Boat 5

This one actually looked like a pretty good, seaworthy boat. It has a Florida registration number on it.

f Boat 1

This is a Cuban Petticoat Palm.

f Cuban Petticoat Palm

The tropical forest and botanical garden was well worth the $5 senior entrance fee.