Life on the Open Road

Life on the Open Road

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Alone and Not Lonely

Birds of a feather... happy birds on rocks in Lady Lake, FL . 2016
Solo travel is capable of being incredibly fun. There are a lot of reasons a person may venture out alone and, whether it is fully preference or not, there are plenty of opportunities to socialize if you want to.
I really love going to festivals, for example. There are generally crowds of onlookers, commentators, presenters, and performers who are ready and willing to share in the experience. Whether watching a parade, sampling at vendors, playing skeeball, or dancing to the live band, companionship potential is there. It may be fleeting like a conversation about ice cream in the freezer section of the store, or questioning what kind of seed is on the ground with a police offer on the street in passing (yes, he really stopped me to ask and neither of us knew what it was), or even the small child who notices you over his shoulder, gives a glance, then smiles and says, "Hi!" while walking by a butterfly garden. I have had many such experiences. Once a woman stopped me in a store to tell me all about her dancing history and the celebrities who had pulled her up on stage to dance with them at concerts. Two kids stopped playing ball at the park to say hello. I sampled all kinds of raw honey at a shop and discussed bee keeping, flowers and flavors, infusing, and more with folks there, both shoppers and sellers. 
These may seem small and brief and often they are, however, they are so in the moment. Had I not been there at that time, the conversation wouldn't have happened. It was unplanned and enjoyable. 
Then there are the usuals like friends and family who are increasingly easy to contact regardless of locale. And, if you are in a place longer, you may build a sense of community within that location through more frequent encounters like joining a group of a like interest. Art museums are a great place for conversations. Libraries can be, too. If you are traveling with others as a solo, you likely have some things in common through the mode of transportation or location interest or whatever the case may be. Striking up a conversation can be easy in instances like that. Just join in. 
The world is full of interesting, unique people just as it is places and, when you travel solo, you may even be more welcome into conversation with them. It's fun! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Leesburg, Tavares, and the Final Days of 2015 in FL 

The last days of December were spent traveling around Lake County. I made a trip to Leesburg to get a new social security card. It was an easy 30 or so minutes from entering and leaving the office. With that done, I drove through the downtown and explored the area a bit. Now I did not document where I actually was in terms of place names so will just say I think these parks are in Leesburg. Both are right by a main road, have boat ramps, and were pleasant stops. They have signs I didn't take pictures of still, we can appreciate the pictures I did take. 

This park has picnic tables and was popular for fishing .

This was a gorgeous and colorful sunset.

This was more of a scenic parking lot and boat ramp than an actual park. It has great views and was a lovely spot. The lot itself is quite large.

I love how plants and trees grow in the water.

Here, an older couple pulled up by me to chat about my RV, saying they'd downsized to a smaller one like it, and offering me a place to spend the night on their nearby large property if I didn't have one. That was incredibly kind of them! I declined as I was in the flow of inspired trekking that day and am so thrilled at the place I ended up. I love chatting with RVers who are often just some of the coolest people. It was a very nice offer.   
After Leesburg, I found Tavares. This was a pretty location, all lit up with holiday lights and some restaurant festivities for the New Year's celebration that evening. It was fairly uncrowded, especially given the holiday. Though it was dark, it was still a bit early so maybe things were just getting started. 
The downtown was awesome with a cool park that looks great for kids, good walk along the water, and those lit streets. This was a nice stop during the evening, though not where I ended up staying come midnight or the late hours before it. I felt like this was enough time here for me that day. I have been back to Leesburg, mostly driving through, since then and not yet returned to Tavares. 
I liked the last days of 2015, with the excitement of new places, the holiday lights still up, and a sense of calm expectation. It was a great way for another year to begin and end. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Beachside Sunday

The "A Winter in Florida" series will continue. For today, I felt like mixing it up a bit. I am at the beach and just got back from a lovely walk in time for shelter from a thunderstorm. I love it- so refreshing!  
So here is something I began writing last night and thought I would share: 
Spring in Florida
I am still in Florida. Driving along the other day, I noticed purple flowers on the sides of the road. It looked like Spring, and it is. What struck me was that this whole Winter had felt so much like Summer to me and the recent seasonal changes reminded me more of the transition to Fall, that these flowers actually showed me noticeable signs of Spring here. 
The holidays and Winter often conjure up images of snow, warm fires, coats and mittens- things along those lines. Even here, Winter can be depicted as such. I saw pine trees and fake snow and warm attire displays in various places. That was, of course, so not the actuality of it. I recognize that each year will be different and this year may have been especially warm, still, there is a reason Florida has so many snowbirds and if the snow and cold were here like that at all, they probably wouldn't bother coming. It was funny to see the idea of those things connected to the season VS actually preparing for and experiencing them. (I may post more on this at another time as I've written about it elsewhere, not yet shared.) 
I'm exploring a new area at the moment- one that, when I first learned of it, I had never heard of and didn't now where to place. And when I next heard of it, it rang a bell and became a place I wanted to see. So here I am, beginning of Spring and still in Florida. I'm on the coast, at the beach as I write. The windows are open and I hear the waves crashing. It is very peaceful. It's humid and chilly because of the dampness. 
I'm not leaving the state yet. I like being here. Earlier today I called someone and told her about where I was. I said, "I would live here." (That's something I've rarely said. I'm mostly a visit and move along kind of person.) And she said something about how she could see me living in Florida. I promptly responded, "I do live in Florida." :) 
And so it is. I live in Florida. 
I'm still traveling and still learning there is so much more to see and do here. My drive to the East coast brought me through towns that I want to stop at when I venture back West. Cool spots along the road, town names that draw me, that this-is-a-highway-old-road with such charm and so different than the newer, faster, multi-lane highways that have fewer "distractions", I suppose.  
Now if the Winter and Spring have been so hot and humid, how might this Summer be here?  I do not plan to find out. I've been in Florida in the Summer before and it can be pretty thick. Yet maybe I would enjoy it just the same. Maybe. At this point, I would say that I don't mind and might even like the humidity. At the very least, it does not bother me. 
For right now, I'm in bed, at the beach, listening to the waves, breathing the ocean air, and relaxing,  knowing that when inspiration strikes and I feel moved to move, I can and I will and it will be awesome.  
I'm adding today that my plans to leave are about as gelatin solid as my plans to stay. I know it is coming at some point. I like where I am now. As exciting as it is to imagine where I'll be next, "I like where I am now" feels exciting and good, too. 
Plus I can say I've heard the storm alarm at the beach! Cool! 

Two turtles right next to the beach parking lot. They may actually be gopher tortoises.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins, Homosassa, Crystal River, and Weeki Wachee, FL

Admittedly the mill ruins site may not be worth a far out trip for itself but if you are in the Homosassa area, I'd totally recommend stopping to see it because it's cool and why not?

The sugar mill was owned by Yulee, whose story you can read a bit about, along with following plaques with pictures and descriptions of how it worked. This was very helpful since it's definitely worn down over the years. I liked seeing the mill components and learning about the different steps to the process. Mostly unfamiliar with Yulee and how a sugar mill worked, I enjoyed it a lot and can only imagine the experience the workers had doing this.
Here, I also learned that Spanish Moss had been used as upholstery filling. A funny thing (to me anyway) was that I recently saw bags of Spanish Moss for sale in a store. I looked at it and thought, "You could just walk outside and pick some up and let it dry..." We sometimes pay for bottled water and other things we could find free though so I guess it isn't too surprising.
Parking is at a park with covered tables right across the street from the mill. You could pack a lunch. It isn’t really a place you need to spend a lot of time at for the mill itself. If you like being outside, you might enjoy a walk and a bunch of the visitors were attempting to get some fresh fruit off the trees, unsuccessfully. :)
If you visit the mill, there are areas like Crystal River nearby and worth checking out as well.  I saw some bikers who seemed to be on a similar trek as I was, stopping here and there. We’d started at the mill and kept crossing paths.

There is a free cell phone walking tour of the historic Crystal River. I didn’t take this tour personally, I just took a picture of the sign. :) 
I did enjoy walking around. There were a good number of people when I visited King's Bay Park and the Pier at 3rd street. With easy to follow signs to get to and from them and the shopping area downtown, it's all relatively close, just a few minutes drive or you can walk it like I did.
Heritage Village is just down the road from the park and pier I visited. It’s a walkable area and there was plenty of parking available. I visited in December when there was a Whoville theme.


Whoville was behind where I stood here . Walking by this truck and continuing down the road leads to the river. You'd make a left or a right to get to the park or pier.

Loved this sign- that's the spirit!

All in all this made for a nice day. Some could make a weekend or more of this area as there are six parks plus restaurants and shops. For myself, this was totally doable as a one day trip, though I could see going back and exploring more at some point.
Before this, I had visited Weeki Wachee and stopped at the famous amusement park. I don’t really have much to say about it because I didn’t go inside and mostly drove around the area where there wasn't much for me to share. I also went to Homosassa Springs, intending to go to the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. With the holiday time off, it was very busy so I checked it out briefly and left. Perhaps that will be a future post, if and when I visit again. I snapped a few pictures.
Weeki Wachee mermaid in the parking lot.

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.

State park holiday manatee.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

New Port Richey, FL and the James E. Grey Preserve

I had heard of New Port Richey numerous times yet had never been so when I visited, I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. By now it may be obvious that my love for parks, water, and walkable downtowns is strong and those three things generally make for a place I like a lot.

Cotee River Park in New Port Richey. There are some nice parks in this town.

I was able to park easily at Cotee River Park and then walk around a lot. I really liked walking the dock along the water and had some pleasant brief encounters with various folks from a man fishing to a little girl and her father enjoying some time together and others.  
This also happens to be the place I saw my first snake during this time in Florida! I was walking on the sidewalk near the downtown area and saw it right to the side of me.
This pond downtown is filled with reclaimed water.
Many different birds were in and around the water. They don't mind it being reclaimed.
The stores and museum downtown were mostly closed and I'd guess this was due to my visit being at the end of December when people commonly take off. Aside from the many birds around the water, there were also holiday boards set up with various greetings. This is a good location for art and decorations like this and hopefully they utilize it year round. I went by the library and also spotted this cool little place  yet didn’t go into either of them.
I liked seeing how many of the street names were the names of states. For a landmark driver(and walker), this actually stuck with me and was useful in navigating.
Since I’m happy walking and being in nature and places were mostly closed when I was there, I am not sure how much else there is to see or do there. I can say that I felt it was a really nice place to be and a place I could see living, at least for some time. I did more than I'm sharing here. This is what I got pictures of and care to mention.
At the James E. Grey Preserve.

I also found the James E. Grey Preserve. This was a great place to stop! And it was one of the places I've written about in an upcoming post about movement. I'll link to it here when it's up.
Great visit and a good place to walk for all ages as the trails are fairly easy and not very long. I got some pictures for my Tracks Collection (link coming soon) and spotted this very useful sign which has helped me recognize and identify more and more of the prints in my journeys.

This was one of my favorite preserves yet!
Green Key Park. Gulf of Mexico.
And I really wanted to see some salt water so I headed to the beach.  I found Green Key Park. For two dollars you can pay to park there. I saw a bunch of people who parked on the road before the parking area and that is what I did, too. I didn’t pay and I only stayed briefly. It was really hot for the time of year and a lot of people had the same idea to go to the beach so… it was pretty full. I got some nice pictures and was able to scope the place out. This is a beach I’d visit again and spend hours at(and yes, pay to park up close at the beach itself). For this time, I was content with what I did. Just a bit of ocean water can do wonders.
All in all, a nice spot on the west coast of Florida.