Countdown Begins

How do the fisherman avoid getting tangled up in all those lines?

I thought I should post a quick update while I had some quiet time to myself tonight. Don is performing at the Pesky Pelican and will continue to do so every Friday night until we pull out of here April 1st. Until then we have Spring maintenance to attend to.  Don needs to sanitize the fresh water tank and replace the anode rod in the hot water heater. I’ll tackle the screens, AC unit and vents, as well as the Fantastic Fans. Then we’ll wash the 5er and truck to get rid of the tree pollen. Hopefully this cooler weather will give way to warmer days soon so we can start tackling these projects.

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Our travel plans continue to be up in the air. We hope to be in Indiana in May. Don has an appointment with an ophthalmologist at the laser eye clinic to schedule cataract surgery and we have our grandson’s high school graduation to attend. Also, we expect to  be spending at least part of the summer on the family property again.  My father will be having heart valve replacement. We know he will be in the hospital for 4-8 days following his surgery, then he’ll need to be cared for at home for at least 2 weeks, possibly longer. A surgery date has yet to be set.

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For the past 2 weeks it’s been either Don or me feeling under the weather. I suspect seasonal allergies since its that time of year.  So, we’ve spent most of our time holed up in the rig with the windows closed. It seems to have helped. We did have a surprise visitor one day. My cousin-in-law Larry was passing through on his way down state to visit his father-in-law, my uncle Lloyd. We met for lunch at the Apalachicola Seafood Grill. It’s always good to see Larry. He’s a talker, and I don’t believe he’s ever met a stranger.

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Cousin Larry with Don & I

We also celebrated Beau’s 1st birthday. Beau wasn’t able to celebrate his day at his happy place the beach because of rip tides. Instead, Don grilled him a steak and later we all indulged with our favorite ice creams. He was content with that.

Until next time…..here’s lookin’ at you kid.

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This Place is Going to the Dogs

Its Carnival season! No, it’s not as big a production on The Forgotten Coast as it is in Mobile or New Orleans but the locals of Apalachicola know how to celebrate Mardi Gras alright and it literally is one for the dogs.

Apalachicola is the most dog friendly town we’ve come across. Dogs are welcome everywhere. We’ve met them as store greeters, we’ve seen them in restaurants and bars, we’ve also spotted them alongside their masters onboard fishing vessels.  That’s why it came as no surprise to us when we discovered Oyster Town’s annual Mardi Gras was hosted by The Mystic Krewe of Salty Barkers, a parade unit of dogs and their people.  This year’s theme was Bark Side of the Moon and the dog lovers came out in droves. They lined the streets to watch the pups strut their stuff and afterwards mingled at Riverfront Park for live music, Cajun food, and fun of all sorts.

Farmers Market

Apalachicola Farmers Market

The 3 of us made a day of it. We started off with a stop at the Apalach farmers market where we picked up a breakfast of fresh cinnamon rolls. Since I had just grocery shopped the previous day, we passed on making any purchases of vegetables or seafood. We did buy a container of local Tupelo honey though, it’s said to be the purest and sweetest honey there is. Having never tried it before we wanted to taste it for ourselves.

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Eventually we made our way to the riverfront in time for the parade. Beau did not participate but he did get plenty of attention on the sidelines. Afterwards we went to the Pesky Pelican for the shrimp dinner. This was our first time taking Beau out to eat with us. We’ve been hesitant to do so as he’s not always on his best behavior. He did us proud though. Maybe there’s hope for him after all.

As for the rest of February, it was a very busy month.  Beau has a huge fan club here at Carrabelle Beach Resort, both two legged and four. People greet him by name as he goes on his daily walks and most give him pats and belly rubs. He’s also learned which campsites to stop at along the way for a treat. He often meets up with doggie pals at Carrabelle’s dog friendly beach where they enjoy romps in the surf, retrieving float toys and making dog angels in the sand. Yes, our Beau Bear has learned to swim and now we can’t keep him away from the water. I know one little boy who isn’t going to like leaving his little slice of paradise when our time here is up.

Beau with new friend Roland

February is also when Don and I celebrate our wedding anniversary, Valentine’s Day to be exact. We now have year 32 in the books. Our neighbors told us that the historic Wakulla Springs lodge at the state park hosted an annual 4 course Valentines Day dinner. They boasted about how good the food was. We’d heard that from other campers too so we made reservations to attend. I must say they do a pretty good job. The ambiance was wonderful. Lights were dimmed,  tables were set with white linens and candlelight, and a violinist and oboist played softly for the diners. However the highlight of the evening was indeed the meal. Beginning with the crab claw appetizer straight through to the Bananas Foster dessert, our meal was delicious. The drive home along the moonlit coastline was the icing on the cake.

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Wakulla Springs Lodge, the dining room is on the right

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Another celebration this month was my 60th birthday which we spent on Saint George Island enjoying the beach and eating at the Blue Parrot, a SGI icon. I taught Don the proper way to eat oysters out of the shell with saltines and Tabasco sauce. He discovered it tasted better than it looked.

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St. George Island Lighthouse

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Lastly, Don has spent much of this month tweaking his music, all for good reason. With the weather starting to turn and the Spring Breakers now joining the Snow Birds, many of the restaurants with outside seating are beginning to offer live entertainment. Since we are now on a first name basis with the owners of the Pesky Pelican, Jewel had been after Don to bring his guitar in and sing. He agreed to do so on the last Friday of the month.  Apparently, he was a success since he’s been asked to play again.

Ochlockonee River

Ochlockonee River

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Another function we attended was the Ochlockonee River State Park’s Stone Age & Primitive Arts Festival. The festival featured primitive fire making, fishing and hunting techniques, and flintknapping. Flintknapping is explained as a process of chipping away silica rock in order to make items such as spears, arrows and tools. It was very interesting to watch but I noted it was a long and tedious process. Another topic we found interesting was a hunting practice called Atlatl, a combination of spear chucking and archery. We were told that some of Australia’s Aborigines still employ this method of hunting. I’m certain if Don and I had to rely on this method to put food on the table, we would surely starve to death.

We have been here for 3 months now, thus, I am starting to get that restless feeling again. I have begun making short term travel plans for us but nothing concrete for the summer yet. Things are still up in the air as we wait for a procedure my father is having the first week of March. The results should tell us , whether or not he will be having open heart surgery this summer. That will determine our plans. Until then, here’s lookin’ at you kid…..

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Two of our Favorite Things, exploring & eating

Everyone who plays a wood guitar knows that it will need periodic adjustments. Don’s Martin had a string that sounded “tinny” when strummed, he surmised from its tone that he was due to have the neck aligned. His research found 2 places that could do this relatively close to us. The nearest was a well known instrument chain store that Don has used in the past, sometimes to his satisfaction, sometimes not. Plus their fees are usually high. The second shop, about an hour and a half’s drive away, was independently owned but had excellent reviews. Don chose the later, partly because of its reputation, partly because of its location. It being in an area we wanted to research, perhaps for a future stay.

The guitar shop didn’t open until 10 but we left the Suite Pea at 7:30 to have breakfast at a little place I’d read about on a fellow travel bloggers website, Thomas Donuts & Snack Shop. Thomas Donuts is a classic little diner near the beach in Panama City Beach. It’s been in business since 1971, making signature dishes and an untold variety of donuts. It was the donuts that brought us here, us and a few dozen other people.

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I picked up a half dozen. Strawberry, Key Lime, and Boysenberry Pie for Don, Banana Creme, Key Lime, and Maple Bacon for me. Don raved about his boysenberry donut, all of the flavors were very tasty. I’m not sure if it’s a shame that Thomas Donuts is so far away from us, or a blessing. After eating we drove back over the bridge into Panama City to Leitz Music where it took only a few minutes to have the neck readjusted. It was obvious the owner knew his stuff, and his fee was $40 less than the big name guitar shop. That done, it was time to do a little exploring.

Don wanted to scout out 2 rv parks he’d heard about and I wanted to see St. Andrew’s State Park. We found both rv parks to be attractive, well maintained, and well appointed, BUT both were exceedingly pricey. Perhaps a stay during the shoulder season would be kinder to the pocketbook. On to our next stop.

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Beach dunes

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Named as America’s Best Beach in 1995, St. Andrew’s is well known for its sugar white sand and crystal clear emerald green water. The 1,260 acre park is located on a peninsula with over 1.5 miles of beach on the Gulf of Mexico and Grand Lagoon.

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The state park offers diverse natural communities within its boundaries. There are dunes, marshes, both saltwater and fresh, and scrub and pinewood flats. The habitats make for a variety of wildlife. On our visit we spotted several deer and shore birds.

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Fresh water marsh

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My main objective at St. Andrew’s was the campgrounds. I was pleased to learn that all  176 sites have electric and water hookups but not all can accommodate large rigs. I liked what I saw and will attempt to book a stay here in the future. Reservations at most Florida state parks are hard to come by and MUST be made months in advance.

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By the time we’d completed our tour of the park it was late afternoon and we’d had nothing to eat since the morning. Having Beau with us limited our choices and with the weather being uncooperative it was too cool to eat outside and we didn’t want fast food. So we kept our eyes open for a restaurant on the way back to the rig that had big windows with parking alongside so we could keep an eye on our boy. It wasn’t until we reached Port St. Joe that we found one to suit our needs. (Port St. Joe is one of our favorite Florida towns.) Peppers is a little Mexican cantina in the historic district. Even though we’ve stayed in town before, Peppers restaurant was a new one for us. The authentic cuisine didn’t disappoint and we can see ourselves returning again and again.

All in all it was a full day for the 3 of us.

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All Manner of Critters

 

WARNING: This post has a ton of photos.

It’s been a very lively and interesting time around the Suite Pea this week. It began with a phone call I received Sunday afternoon concerning my father. The  call was to inform me that pop was enroute to the hospital due to a possible heart attack. My first thought was that dad had over exerted himself while removing snow. I was eventually able to connect to dad’s nurse and learned he did not have a heart attack but tests had been ordered to find out what exactly had occurred.

It wasn’t until Monday afternoon we learned that pop had a defective heart valve and will need surgery to correct it. Dad was released to go home but he will need to follow up with a cardiologist. We are waiting to hear what the specialist has to say on the matter.

We awoke pumped up Tuesday morning, we were going to experience our first turtle release. 52 rescued turtles had been flown down from one of the New England states via a good samaritan’s private jet to the Gulf World Marine Institute in Panama City. 24 of the 52 had been either rehabilitated or nursed back to health and were ready to return to the ocean. The reason for releasing the turtles into the Gulf rather than back into the Atlantic is because the turtles have been out of the sea for some time, making their bodies slow to acclimate fast enough to the change in water temperature. It could put the turtles into distress or worse, they could drown.

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One of the turtles was a Loggerhead. The Loggerhead sea turtle gets its name from its exceptionally large head. An adult can grow to be 2.5-3.5 feet in size and typically weighs between 155 to 375 pounds. The species has been listed on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1978. He was the first of the 24 to be freed. The crowd of about one hundred gathered around and cheered him onward, clapping as he rode the waves to freedom.

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The marine biologists and their volunteers then began unloading 23 containers onto the beach, each containing a Kemp’s Ridley turtle. The Kemp’s Ridley turtle is one of the rarest species of sea turtles and is the world’s most endangered sea turtle. The population of nesting females is estimated to be about 1,000. Females aren’t sexually mature until they’re about 10 to 12 years of age. Then, they nest every 1 to 3 years. It’s survival truly hangs in the balance. After learning the facts, we felt blessed to actually see these beautiful graceful creatures.

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While in attendance, Don and I were once again reminded just how small this world truly is. We struck up a conversation with the couple standing next to us at the release, only to learn that they too are full time RVers (since last August) from Indianapolis. Having found common ground the conversation moved effortlessly. Then we learned they were camped across from us at Carrabelle Beach Resort. Needless to say, we plan to get together again.

After such an exhilarating morning, we left St. George Island behind us and headed over to the main land for lunch. Of course Don insisted we eat at The Pesky Pelican Grille again. I’d heard the hamburgers were delicious and the fries homemade so, wanting to try one, I was on board. Afterwards, on a whim, Don pulled into Coastline RV Resort to visit with our “old” neighbors from Carrabelle. They are from northern Michigan, not too far from the family property. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch.

Driving the coastal road back to the Suite Pea Don remarked ‘this is what the RV lifestyle is all about’. Indeed it is.

Wednesday we met with a dog trainer from Tallahassee. On the whole Beau is a typical active, curious puppy and he does most of his commands when asked, but he still has room for improvement. And we too have room for improvement in the area of dog training.

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The session lasted  3 hours and I believe it went well. It was a lot of information to retain so I’m sure we will make some mistakes. Thank goodness we have a booklet we can refer to and the trainer’s phone number.  By the time we were finished Beau was tired and our brains were fried.

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Come Friday our warm temps were back and the sky was a gorgeous azure blue. A perfect day for an outing. An outing I had been saving for just this kind of day. I gathered my cameras up, then Don and I drove off in the direction of Wakulla Springs State Park.

 

Wakulla Springs is the largest and deepest freshwater spring in the world. It is believed that the source of the spring comes from an underwater cave but no one can say for sure. National Geographic has conducted underwater explorations into the cave as much as 23 miles in but still the spring’s source remains a mystery. The springs discharge as much as 500 million gallons of water daily and flows into the protected waters of the Wakulla River.

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The name Wakulla is thought to be an ancient Native American word meaning either “river of the crying bird” or “strange and mysterious waters“. The first documented people to inhabit the springs date back to the Paleo period, about 20,000 years ago. Having large game animals nearby such as mastodons, mammoths, bison, giant armadillos and sloths, saber tooth tigers and a variety of birds, this area was a mecca for hunters. Humans have remained a presence ever since. The rich history of these 6,000 acres has caused the park to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as a National Natural Landmark.

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                               Below: a Spider Lily & base of a Bald Cypress

Wakulla Springs main attraction is the boat tours that run several times a day, 365 days a year, depending on the weather. The 3 mile river cruise takes 45 minutes to an hour depending on your guide and the amount of wildlife for viewing. When water conditions permit, glass bottom boat tours are also available. The clarity of the water isn’t as pristine as it once was. According to our very knowledgeable guide the last time the glass bottom boats were used was on Memorial Day weekend 2016. The time before that was 3-4 years prior. The park is also a haven for swimmers who get a rush diving from the tower into the constant 69 degree water.

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The swimming area

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Cypress knees along Wakulla Springs swimming hole

Our intent was to take the river boat tour in hopes of spotting the elusive, gentle manatee. I’m afraid luck wasn’t with us as the water temperature of the Gulf has been relatively warm this winter. However, we weren’t disappointed. We saw an array of birds, gators, and even a few River Cooters soaking up the sun’s rays. Our guide also pointed out a huge 300 year old Bald Cypress. The base of the tree with its many knees was quite impressive.

         The top 2 photos are of a female Anhinga aka “snake bird”, the bottom is a male. Only the wings & tail are feathered, their bodies are fur covered. 

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Great Egret

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A common Moorhen with a male & female Hooded Merganser

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A closer look at a Common Moorhen

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White Ibis

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Little Blue Heron

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Great Blue Heron

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Pied-billed Grebe

                                                Double-breasted Cormorant

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Louisiana Heron

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Yellow Crowned Night Heron

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River Cooters

 

 

Baby gators

Perhaps our favorite sighting were these baby alligators. Aren’t they cute? 

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Wakulla Lodge

                                The hand painted ceiling & the tiled entry way

 

Lodge interior

The Lobby

The caged area was once the lodge post office

Soda fountain & post office

Speaking of impressive, the lodge with its beautiful hand painted beamed ceiling was worth the trip alone. It was built in 1937 as an elegant retreat. The lodge has 27 guest rooms furnished with period furniture and private bathrooms. A dining room overlooks the spring at one end of the structure while the opposite end offers an old fashioned soda fountain with one of the world’s longest marble counter tops. The old post office cage with its wood mail slots now serves as a candy counter. Central is the lobby with its 10′ high ceiling and massive fireplace. A grand piano and marble topped checker tables are available for entertainment. And then there’s legendary “Old Joe” off to the left of the check-in desk. Old Joe is an 11’2″ stuffed alligator that once made its home near the swimming hole but met an untimely death.

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Local folks say “Old Joe” took up residence at Wakulla Springs in the horse and buggy days. They believe he lived to be over 100 years old-measuring 11’2” long & weighing 650 pounds.

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We learned a couple of other interesting facts about Wakulla Springs. The popular old television show Tarzan the Ape Man starring Johnny Weissmuller was filmed here, as was the 1954 thriller Creature from the Black Lagoon, one of my husband’s all time favorite childhood movies.

The area where Tarzan & Creature from the Black Lagoon was filmed.

This is the section of the springs where filming for Tarzan & the Creature from the Black Lagoon took place.

The area of the spring where Creature From the Black Lagoon was filmed

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We really enjoyed our visit to Wakulla and would highly recommend this park to everyone. Until next time…

here’s lookin’ at you kid.

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Lower jaw teeth from a mastodon skull. A mastodon was recovered from Wakulla Springs in 1930. Now reconstructed & on display at the museum of Florida History in Tallahassee

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Family, Diners & Bears, oh my!

Saw this just outside of Montgomery, AL

Don, our daughters, and I had been looking forward to Christmas with much anticipation. It would be the first time in many, many years that we would be celebrating the holiday with both of my parents present since their divorce 35 years ago.

Don and I arrived in town almost a week ahead of time. We both had dental appointments scheduled and I also had 2 doctor appointments I needed to take care of while in town. In addition to that I had lots of presents I’d had shipped to my mother’s that needed wrapping and I also had dishes to prepare in advance of Christmas Day dinner. It was a very busy, sometimes hectic 5 days.

I did receive good news from my orthopedic surgeon. No knee surgery in my future. Yippee! I do have a tear in my meniscus but Dr. Justice felt a cortisone shot would quiet the discomfort. I opted to do the shot with the understanding that I could have another in May when we returned if it was needed. Thus far the knee’s doing great. I also lucked out with my dentist appointment.  Don and I had the last slot of the day  for our teeth cleanings but since I needed to have crown work on 2 teeth, our dentist stayed late to take care of them rather than have me reschedule. What a relief to have that taken care of.

Don even managed to get the truck into the shop for an oil change on the day I wrapped gifts. As you can see we got plenty accomplished.

Canyon Inn at McCormick's Creek

Canyon Inn at McCormick’s Creek State Park

My father arrived late in the day of the 23rd and made it known he was treating the entire clan to Christmas Eve day breakfast at the Canyon Inn Lodge in nearby McCormick’s Creek State Park. Indiana DNR does a remarkable job at running the park system. During Christmas season the lodges are always beautifully decorated and special attention is given to holiday meals.

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There’s always that one person in every family…..

We met early the following morning at Canyon Inn and were immediately seated. The atmosphere was perfect. Rustic interior with big windows looking out toward the woods. Bird feeders were hung right outside and the youngest grandchildren took great delight in viewing the many birds that visited the feeders, especially the Pileated  Woodpecker that showed up just before our meal ended.

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We all gathered again later in the afternoon at Jason and Kristi’s home for pizza, Christmas cookies, drinks, and gift exchange. Everyone had fun and we all got a kick out of watching Brad open a seriously duct taped gift from his sister Maddy. She got him good but I reminded her that payback’s are a bitch. All to soon the evening ended as there were little ones needing to get settled into their beds so Santa could come.

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If you run out of Scotch tape, there’s always duct tape

Christmas morning we awakened to find Santa had visited. He’d filled stockings with goodies for 19 month old Kendra and for Beau. We watched both babies delve into their presents then Bobbi-Leigh and I busied ourselves in the kitchen preparing food for an early Christmas Day dinner.

Our daughter, son-in-law, and the rest of the grandchildren would be joining Jason’s family for Christmas Day while the rest of us would cluster around ma’s kitchen table. That was the expectation anyhow. However, my father pulled his usual vanishing act and drove back to northern Michigan without letting anyone know he was leaving. It goes without saying that the kids were disappointed and I was a bit miffed, but I guess we should’ve expected as much. We still had a nice meal with all the trimmings and of course, we over ate.

                                                     Kendra loves her Beau Beau

Don and I returned to Florida a few days later, driving the entire way without stopping for the night like we had on our way up. Don was hell-bent on getting back into his own bed that night. It made for a very long day of travel but it was nice to be back in our little home on wheels.

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The Pesky Pelican Grille

Since I’d tossed out all the perishables before our trip home, I offered to treat Don for breakfast. It was either that or oatmeal. BLEAH! He wanted to try a restaurant he’d noticed in Eastpoint that was always packed whenever we passed by. When we arrived, the lot was full, people were sitting inside, but the entry door was locked. Things weren’t looking good for Don’s stomach. As I climbed back into the truck I spied another little diner further down the road that appeared to be open, I suggested we try it. To make a long story short, we’ve only been back in Florida 5 days and already we’ve been to The Pesky Pelican Grille 3 times. The breakfasts are good, and made to order, but it’s Jewel’s lightly breaded shrimp dinner that’ll keep us going back. Bar none, IT IS the best shrimp we’ve ever had. Another reason for going back, the owners. Chuck and Jewel are friendly down-to-earth people that we enjoy getting to know.

Basically we’ve been playing catch up since we’ve returned. Christmas decorations have been taken down and stored away for another year. Don’s washed all the salt and dirt from the truck and I’ve finally caught up with the laundry and restocked the larder. We did have one exciting episode however, Don and Beau encountered a black bear early one morning (2:30 am).  Apparently someone left their trash sitting next to the bear proof trash gondola instead of properly disposing of it and the bear had a heyday spewing it everywhere. The two hightailed it back inside the rig. Beau was beside himself the remainder of the night.

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Sunrise on St. George Sound

For New Year’s Eve we spent a quiet night at home in the Suite Pea, just the 3 of us, and listened to all the fireworks going off over St. George Sound. We weren’t sad to see 2016 behind us. It had been a rough year with the passing of our mothers and our four-legged traveling companion so I won’t be doing a recap of this past year. We did have one bright moment though, the birth of our first great grandchild. So,

here’s lookin’ at you kid and a Happy 2017!

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THE END

 

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Exploration & Celebration

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How inviting is this?

It’s mid morning on a comfortably cool sunny day when Don asks, “You want to go for a drive?” ” Sure” I reply, “Where to?”

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St. George Island

St George is one of the many barrier islands off the Florida panhandle. Unlike some of the islands that can only be reached by boat, St. George is easily accessible by a 4 mile long bridge over Apalachicola Bay. The island is 28 miles long with 9 of those miles on the eastern end belonging to St. George Island State Park. Our exploration destination.

St. George Island State Park beach

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Most of the park is undeveloped beach with rolling wind swept sand dunes covered with sea oats, prickly pear, and railroad vine. The remaining portion is designated for camping and hiking in a pine flatwood forest. We chose to do a little hiking since we had Beau with us and he wasn’t welcome on the beach. ( I admit to being more than a little peeved about this. Nine miles of beach and the park service can’t designate a mile or so as being dog friendly??? Harrumph! ) At any rate, it was a nice day for an unhurried family hike and the scenery was pleasing.

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A visit to the island wouldn’t be complete without making a stop at Cape St. George Light. The lighthouse was first built in 1833, and rebuilt three times afterwards before it finally succumbed to beach erosion and pounding waves.  In 2008 the light was moved and reconstructed. In 2009 a replica of the original lightkeeper’s house was constructed next to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is open for touring as is the lightkeeper’s residence which houses a museum. Only the grounds are pet friendly. Still, it was neat seeing  Cape St. George Light decked out in all of its Christmas finery.

Don qualifies for the National Park senior pass

Friday was Don’s 62nd birthday and knowing my way to his heart, I take him out to eat. Traditionally it’s dinner out to a nice restaurant of the birthday boy’s choosing but I decided to expand on this and offered to take him out to breakfast as well.

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Emsy’s Cafe, a little breakfast diner within walking distance from us, always has a packed parking lot. A good sign, right? With that and the wording on the restaurant board out front stating, Breakfast, come get you some, how could we resist.

Well I won’t go into detail but let’s just say you can’t depend on full parking lots as an indicator of good food in a small town with few breakfast joints.

We more than made up for our disappointment from breakfast with dinner though. One of the regular Snowbirds I struck up a conversation with at the laundry house turned me on to Angelo & Sons Seafood in Panacea and we’re both glad he did.

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Angelo’s started out as George’s Cafe & Bar back in 1945. George, Angelo’s father, constructed the original restaurant of salvaged lumber from the closing of Camp Gordon Johnston. Strategically erected on the waters of Ochlockonee Bay in what was a “wet” county surrounded by “dry” ones, it permitted the restaurant to sell alcohol. It’s the reason George’s became such a popular watering hole.

By the 1950’s the restaurant was becoming known far and wide for its fresh seafood taken right from the very waters upon which it sat. And just how fresh is the seafood? It comes straight from the boat, Angelo’s has its own fishing fleet, to the chef, then right to your plate. Since the Big Bend region of Florida is noted for its oysters, we decided that’s what we’d have to celebrate Don’s big day along with grouper, shrimp, and rum drinks. Everything about Angelo’s was top notch from the food to the service to the atmosphere. We already have plans to return.

Holiday on the Harbor & Boat Parade of Lights

Carrabelle hosts a Christmas festival annually. This year’s event started with the Senior Center’s Jingle Jog 5k run/walk then continued downtown with food, live entertainment and street vendors. There were several children’s activities going on too, from bounce houses to crafts, and of course a visit from that jolly old man of the north. The highlight of the festival though was the boat parade from St. George Sound up the Carrabelle River. Decorated boats of all sizes participated, from an inflatable Sea Eagle to fishing boats to huge yachts. We had a primo viewing spot at the Timber Island boat ramp. Not only did we have a clear view of the boats but also for the fireworks that ensued. What an awesome and fun way to ring in the holiday season!

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Here’s lookin’ at you kid…..

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Rio Carrabella

We’ve settled into our winter haven, having arrived just over a week ago. Haven being the key word here. Webster’s Dictionary describes haven as being 1) a place of safety or refuge, retreat, shelter, sanctuary, and 2) an inlet providing shelter for ships or boats, a harbor or small port. Both definitions accurately depict Carrabelle, for us, and for the historic fishing village.

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Founded in 1877, the town was originally named “Rio Carrbella” meaning beautiful river. The earliest settlers hunted the bountiful game in the area for both sustenance and the fur trade. Carrabelle’s boom period came after the Civil War when it became a thriving and internationally known lumber town, shipping wood from the surrounding acres of virgin forests as well as turpentine, a by product of pine sap. The railroad soon arrived and docks flourished with the shipping of salted mullet and other goods to the north.

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Between the World Wars I and II, Carrabelle, along with most of America slipped into a severe economic depression from which it never completely bounced back to its former glory.

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For the past 100 years or so this charmingly quaint and off the beaten path harbor town has depended largely on the sea for the bulk of its livelihood, from deep sea fishing to the harvesting of shrimp and oysters from the bay. It’s this simple charm that attracted us to winter here with its unhurried pace and “Old Florida” appeal.

Called Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” you won’t find any high rise beach condos or heavily touted tourists attractions here. What you will find is an open friendliness from the locals, an abundance of accessible  unfettered  views of the bays, thick forests of pine and cypress, and signs warning of black bears in the area. Yep, Florida has black bears and locals say they can be a bit of a nuisance. We haven’t seen hide nor hair of one yet but we understand they once overran the park before the bear proof trash bins were installed.

Speaking of the park, we are camped at Carrabelle Beach RV Resort about halfway between the town and Crooked River Lighthouse, and practically right on dog friendly Carrabelle Beach itself. Only a road separates the two. It’s a small, very clean, very quiet RV park with both back-in and pull-thru sites, and rental cabins. All sites are paved, with patios,  attractive landscaping, grills, picnic tables, and full hookups. It’s one of the nicest places we’ve camped in.

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Our site

We’ve been doing a little exploring and have learned some interesting facts about Carrabelle. One of the most fascinating facts is that in 1942 when the United States entered into WWII, Camp Gordon Johnston was built in Carrabelle and thousands of men were trained at the camp. That training prepared these men for D-Day, the Normandy landings on Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches. The Camp Gordon Johnston Museum in town tells the history of this. We haven’t visited the museum yet but it is definitely on our list of things to do while here.

Carrabelle Beach across from RV park, looking south

Carrabelle Beach

path to the dog friendly beach

Path to the dog friendly beach

The second point of interest is Carrabelle’s police station, or more accurately the World’s Smallest Police Station. In the early 1960’s, the police phone was located in a call box that was bolted to the outside of a building, exposing the officer to inclimate weather.  An employee of St. Joe Telephone Company took note of this. So when the phone company decided to replace the worn out phone booth in front of the pharmacy, the employee moved the police call box into the old booth thereby sheltering the officer from the elements. Age and abuse took its toll on the old booth but a replica of it is on display at the original site.

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There are many other fishing villages on the coast we’ve yet to explore but there’s still time. We plan to immerse ourselves into this virtually untouched coastal region for the next four months. Until next time…

here’s lookin’ at you kid.

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Sunset

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Communication & Compromise: key ingredients for a happy marriage

Cypress Cg. & RV Park, Site #97, Winter Haven, FL

Well here we are in central Florida. This wasn’t part of our original plan but it works for the time being. We had intended to spend 1 week each in 3 different locations to do a little exploring but alas, it was 3 weeks for me, a little less for Don, before we started to feel “normal” again. It’s good to have our stamina back.

Sandhill Cranes

This trio of Sandhill Cranes are frequent visitors to the park. (The photo quality is poor as I had Beau with me so I took this from a distance as I didn’t want to scare them away)

Don knew I was back to my old self when I went into cleaning mode. I had us both whipping the Suite Pea back into shape inside and out. It took us 3 days before I was satisfied but once done, it improved my mood significantly. (I should clarify, neither of us had been up to cleaning since becoming ill and Beau’s hair was everywhere.) Then it was off to the doggie spa for Beau to spiff him up too.  Now, with that all done, we’re ready to explore our surroundings.

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Lego serpent of the lake. He’s been greeting visitors to Disney Springs since it opened.

First on the agenda was Disney Springs. We had been here once before, 13 years ago, and was surprised to see how much it had grown. We enjoyed browsing the shops and checking out the art sculptures, most were new to us but we did find a few old favorites. This was the perfect outing to finish up our Christmas shopping for the grandchildren. Afterwards we had drinks and lunch at Bongo’s Cuban Cafe. We liked the mosaic tile art on the walls as well as listening to the upbeat Rumba and Salsa music. Always a good time when visiting any Disney property.

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Folks who know me well know that I’m a Donald Duck fanatic. My “Duck” collection was one thing I simply could not part with when we became road gypsies. My mother graciously offered to store it for me.

At bedtime one evening, Don and I both were having difficulty falling asleep. Don’s restless leg syndrome was in overdrive and my brain refused to disengage and quiet down. So with us both laying in bed wide awake staring at the ceiling, it was a good time to talk. And talk we did, until well after 2 am. Don is not as crazy about the full timing lifestyle as I am, he’s more of a some timer or snowbird(er). He doesn’t object to the scenery changes, it’s just that he prefers to sit longer than I, and he doesn’t care for the frequent packing to move process. I on the other hand can’t travel fast enough or often enough. After one or two weeks of sitting in one place I  become antsy, except for when we are parked for the winter. Probably because I understand that moving around from place to place in Snowbird Season is virtually impossible in warmer climes. We both agree that the only way to make this lifestyle work for the two of us is through compromise. The fact that we both want for the other to be happy too helps. So we are going to change things up a bit.

Don and I both are fond of Florida. We love the tropical atmosphere, the warm weather, and especially the beaches. He longs for familiarity. Don wants an RV park that he can return to year after year, seeing familiar friendly faces. He wants a town that he comfortably knows his way around in. He wants to establish Florida as our state of domicile, and he wants our health care professionals to be in Florida. Lastly, he wants to do all of this for at least 4 months during the winter, preferably for 5-6. The remainder of the year is all mine. Mine to decide where we’ll go, where we’ll stay, and for how long. This sounded fair to each of us. I did however remind Don that it could take a couple of years before he finds his perfect slice of Florida.

Since reaching this decision we felt we were in the perfect location to do some exploration of RV parks and towns that could fit the bill for Don. Our first all day adventure took us north to Bushnell, then west, all the way across to The Gulf, then we headed southward as far as Dunedin before calling it a day. We checked out several parks we had researched beforehand along the way, and drove through a few of the  towns trying to get a feel for them. Nothing captured, nor held our attention. At least we were able to rule out a sizable area.

Our second all day venture took us east to Titusville. We have visited this area in the past and it seemed like the perfect location for us with easy access to many of the places we like to go. We did our research and came up with 3 RV parks that sounded promising but unfortunately none of them proved to be a good fit for us. It was very disappointing.

Our third and final outing took us southwest to Bradenton and Sarasota, then down the gulf coast as far south as Punta Gorda. It was in Punta Gorda where we struck pay dirt, not once, but twice. One park was already taking names for the 2017 winter season so we immediately added our names to their list. The second park asked me to call back in January which I intend to do as we liked this facility a wee bit more than the first because of the larger campsites. So now we wait and keep our fingers crossed.

Our off days have been full too. Don has been working on his music, we’ve attended some park functions, and we’ve found two nearby dog parks that have worked wonders for our fur baby’s high energy. He’s gotten in plenty of off-leash socialization and has become fast friends with an 8 month old Husky named Coach. Coach and Beau meet here regularly.

Bok Tower Gardens Visitor Center, Lake Wales, FL

Bok Tower Gardens Visitor Center

The entry

The entry

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An old habit of mine that I have carried over into the gypsy lifestyle is capturing some of the spirit of Christmas in the 3 days immediately following Thanksgiving. I reason that most people are out hunting for Black Friday sales thereby making the holiday attractions less crowded for us.  I was told that Bok Tower would be ringing out Christmas carols throughout the day and that Pinewood Estate which is on the grounds, would be decked out in Christmas finery as well. On Friday morning we drove past the local mall and several department stores with full parking lots and made our escape to 50 lush acres of flower gardens, orange groves, pine forests, and wetlands.

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We began our exploration of Bok Tower Gardens at the visitors center where we watched a short 15 minute film on the history of the tower and estate. From there we followed the intricate River of Stone from the courtyard to Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden. I thought the flowing pattern of the pathway was beautiful. Whimsical pavers etched with wildlife were scattered here and there amongst the stones. It must have taken many man hours to lay it all so perfectly.

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The children’s garden was just as delightful as the stone pathway. It had many unique features encouraging tots to climb, build, dig and create. It made us wish we had our youngest grandchildren with us. They would have enjoyed it as much as or more so than we did. Something else we noticed, volunteers had strategically placed little snowmen ornaments around the garden for children to find and keep. Every so often we’d hear a squeal of joy from a child having found one.

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The River Walk is a water play area of misters & sprays.

Giant spider web to climb in Childrens Garden

Giant spider web to climb in the Children’s Garden

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I found the perfect spot to hang out for awhile.

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We followed the path that took us by the Endangered Plant Garden and Window by the Pond then cut across to Bok Tower, also known as The Singing Tower because of the 60 bell carillon housed inside.

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The tower was built in 1929 and dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge. Commissioned by Edward Bok, former editor of “The Ladies’ Home Journal” and a Pulitzer Prize winning author, as a centerpiece to the landscape garden and wildlife sanctuary. It’s made of pink marble and coquina shell, a combination of neo-Gothic and Art Deco, it stands a lofty 205 feet tall. The stunning brass door has panels depicting the story of creation from the Book of Genesis. Upon Edward Bok’s death in 1930, he was laid to rest at the base of the tower, between the Genesis door and the lily-padded reflecting pond.

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Edward Bok’s gravesite between the brass door of Bok Tower & the reflecting pond

Spanish Moss draped Live Oak

Spanish Moss draped Live Oak

We sat on one of the many benches surrounding the tower, admiring its architecture and listening to the bells toll out Christmas tunes. Eventually we made our way to our final stop, Pinewood Estate. Pinewood is a luxurious 1930’s Mediterranean-style home. Decorated for the holiday season, the 20 room estate is open for public tours. We chose not to tour the house, opting to tour the gardens instead.

Pinewood Estate

Pinewood Estate

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Having completed our outing sooner than we expected, we elected to stop at Fiddlers Ridge Farms & Winery to sample it’s very popular blueberry wine. The owners are quite proud of their honey wines and encouraged us to sample some. I was reluctant as I had sampled some honey mead wine at our favorite Indiana winery and didn’t care for it at all. I acquiesced and left with 4 bottles of honey wine in my procession, along with 3 each of the blueberry and peach. I understand the honey wine will go well with our Christmas ham.

Our time here will soon be coming to an end. We will depart Dec. 1 for Carrabelle, our winter spot for this season.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid……

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I Share Everything With My Mate

The day before we pulled out of Sevierville, our check engine light came on. Of course it would happen on a Sunday. I pulled the maintenance manual out of the glove box and relaid the info to Don. He followed all directions as written but still the indicator light held steady. Soon as we returned to camp and got the groceries unloaded, Don was on the Ford hotline. They suggested he take the truck to AutoZone and have them run a diagnostic test. The consensus was that the thermostat was stuck in the open position and we would need to get the truck serviced soon.

After locating a Ford service department at our next destination. We made the decision to go on ahead but we would leave very early in the morning to avoid traveling in the heat of the day, less stress on the truck, less stress on us since we would not be using the AC. It was a first for us, packing up and pulling out in the dark, an occurrence we hope not to make a habit of. We pulled into Stone Mountain Park and had Suite Pea set up by one. Don was able to get the truck scheduled for service at 7:30 the following morning.

Stone Mountain Park Orange Site #4

Stone Mountain Park, Georgia has a very nice camping facility, as it should since the daily rate is not cheap, almost twice what we budget for. I did learn at check in that the campground excepts Passport America, Good Sam, and FMCA discounts. I used our Passport membership for a $28 discount on our 4 night stay.

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We really liked our tiered site with its views of the water. I could see us having a campfire one cool evening under the trees but by Monday night I had developed a loose phlegmy cough and assuming it was seasonal allergies, knew I wouldn’t be spending much time outside.

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Tuesday morning Don drove the truck over to Stone Mountain Ford. He returned 2 hours later sans the truck. The mechanic said it needed a new thermostat and he wouldn’t have it replaced until the following day. Meanwhile, I was spending my day alternating between the bed and my recliner, in flannel pj’s and wrapped in a quilt. I ached, had chills, a low grade fever, and my cough had worsened. Still, I insisted it was just allergies when Don suggested I see a doctor.

Wednesday was more of the same but at least the truck was fixed and back with us again. I encouraged Don to go out and explore the park. I didn’t see any sense in both of us missing out on it. But, as expected, he wouldn’t do it without me. By Thursday the aching and chills had passed but I still felt like crap. I told Don I thought I felt well enough to view the Confederate Memorial Carving with him.

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The carving depicts 3 Confederate Civil War heroes, CSA President Jefferson Davis and Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The mountainside carving measures 3 acres, making it the largest high relief sculpture in the world. Everything else we had hoped to do we tabled for a future visit.

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I was spent by the time we returned to the camper and told Don I really wasn’t up to making the 8 hour drive to Welaka, Florida the next day. He contacted registration to see about extending our stay through the weekend but unfortunately for us, the park was full due to Fall weekend activities and a vendor event. Instead Don found us an rv park right off I-75, less than 200 miles further south for us to hole up in until I started feeling better. It was a good decision as that evening Don started having a loose phlegmy cough too. I knew then it wasn’t seasonal allergies because he doesn’t have them.

Even though the park wasn’t much, just 14 pull-thru sites literally right at the interstate Exit 61 ramp, we were relieved to be there. Not having much stamina, we set up the basics and went to bed. Saturday morning I located an Immediate Care Clinic nearby and we were there waiting when it opened. The diagnosis? Bronchitis. With 2 shots to my hip, 1 in Don’s, and 3 prescriptions each, we left the clinic, picked up a few groceries and headed back to camp to rest.

I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA

We holed up at the I-75 RV Park in Tifton, GA

This is our fourth and final night in Tifton. We both still feel puny with little energy but we are ready to move. Another long day of travel lies ahead. I hope we’re up for it. Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

 

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We Got Lucky

Hurricane Matthew blew in and wrecked havoc on our travel plans. After closely monitoring the storm via the weather channel and newscasts, we agreed to tweak our route and come more inland. Then updates gave reports of rivers cresting, flooding occurring inland, dams giving way and roads crumbling. I decided to touch base with friends living in both North and South Carolina for their input. Both advised us to rethink our route or sit tight where we were. Friends suggested we move westward into Tennessee then take I-75 south. We cringed at the idea. No one in their right mind would willingly take I-75 south through Atlanta at this time of year, yet here we are and we count ourselves lucky to be here. I called several campgrounds before finding one that had an opening for the time frame we were looking at. After all it is Autumn in The Smokies.

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One of the best things about passing through this part of Tennessee is Don’s aunt Bev.  She’s one of our favorite people. We spent our first day in Sevierville visiting with Bev and Jim, and Don’s cousin Tracie and her granddaughter. It was good catching up.

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Don and I with auntie Bev

Having vacationed here many times we chose not to do any sightseeing this time through. Other than breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants, we’ve been soaking up the sunshine and warmth at  Ripplin’ Waters Campground with they’re Florida-tight campsites, as Don calls them. It’s been a pleasant and restful 4 days. Tomorrow we make the push south.

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Old Mill restaurant in Pigeon Forge

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…….

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