Life on the Open Road

Life on the Open Road

Friday, April 29, 2016

Georgefest 2016 in Eustis, Florida

Check out George Washington playing brass with the band.
I had no idea how to pronounce this town’s name(I do now!), I just knew I hadn’t explored it and it was near Mount Dora, where I wanted to visit again. I decided to venture out to experience Georgefest 2016, the 114th celebration of George Washington’s birthday in this town.
The streets were lit.
The festival covered many streets in the downtown.
They got wet!
Fireworks on the lake the first night. Great way to kick the celebration off.
It was located in the downtown area and parking was a breeze. There were streets filled with vendors of all sorts, food carts, live music, and a carnival. The first night included fireworks over the water. The second day I ended up venturing to Ocohee and Orlando so I missed the parade and other events that day.  I think it would have been a lot of fun and perhaps the fullest day of the festivities. The third day I walked around and visited the museum in town where they had free admission and an ice cream social. There is a lovely lake where seaplane rides were happening and a nice boardwalk near the museum.
Folks could color this in.
The lake.
This seaplane was giving rides right off the lake here.
The museum. Lots to see inside.
I really enjoyed learning about "the real Indiana Jones" who led quite an interesting life. Some of these items were his. This room was a favorite of mine in the museum.
I think Saturday’s events would have been a lot of fun and that this was a great event for a family and kids. Unless I was attending the parade day, I’m not sure I would go again, however, it was neat to experience such an old tradition. The people were nice and the location was, too. I know there were shops and restaurants in the downtown I simply didn’t focus on.
If you go here this festival is fun and great for families especially. And regardless of the reason, if you’re there, check out the post office! I went to mail a postcard and was happy to discover the old boxes they had there. Antique mail boxes still in use. What a cool thing!
At the post office downtown. They still use these!
I love how this gives the place character and what a cool mix of old and current.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Fruitland Park and Lake Griffin State Park in Florida Part 1: Winter Visit

This is part one since I went back this Spring and have much more to show and say about both Fruitland Park and Lake Griffin State Park! I am keeping  in order with my Winter travels so will post part two at a later date. :)
Fruitland Park is a city, and Lake Griffin State Park is a park in Fruitland Park.
The heart of Fruitland Park is quite small yet has a couple of nice parks I visited. One has tennis, a lake, basketball and baseball and the other has a skate park and racquetball area plus a pool.  It’s got really small town charm and both parks were nice to spend time at. I'm pretty sure this visit included the first time (and so far only time) I saw how porta poties are emptied. :p
Lake Griffin State Park is just on highway 441, not far from these parks and close to Leesburg. This is a beautiful setting and I stopped here to use their dump station and fill my fresh water tank. (Best tasting water I've gotten from a park yet! I don't really drink from my fresh tank yet do cook with it sometimes. This was good!) The people were really nice and I got to drive through the campsites to get there - they are so great. As one who has thus far boondocked or dry camped everywhere, this was the first place I went to and would spend a night at. It was pretty booked and I didn’t want to pay the extra fee to reserve in advance online so I didn’t stay there. I would though! The sites are diverse and in nature, with nature separating them. Even though they are close, it is not like a parking lot - you have privacy from your neighbors. There is a nice parking lot and the park gets great reviews just for a visit. I liked it a lot so, while I don’t have much I can actually say about it, I did want to mention it because it felt so good to be there, briefly as I was.
I played with my new tennis balls and racquet here. Originally I thought one ball would be enough. I promptly got one stuck in the fence up there. 
It's great to have a three pack of tennis balls to keep playing when this happens. It's also great when a racquet ball player comes along with a hard ball to throw up to hit the fence and dislodge your tennis ball for you. Thank you! And how hilarious his then got stuck in the fence as mine fell out! :) 
This lizard was chasing me, following me on the grass until I chased it back, then following me along the court as I played. It wanted my attention and got it. I captured this picture of where it kept going back to. It became the first picture I put on Instagram. Thanks, lizard! 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tuscawilla Park in Ocala, Florida

Having known of Ocala for years and not yet visiting, I made a day trip to check it out. I drove around downtown a bit and ultimately ended up at a park. It's called Tuscawilla Park.
I liked this piece and walking around it to see how it appears from different angles and lighting.
This is actually to sit on. I wasn't sure until I read the information there.
This is actually to sit on. I wasn't sure until I read the information there.

More art.
More art.
There were art pieces throughout and a water fountain where the award winning water could fill your large refillable jugs for free if you wanted. I tasted the water, still opting to continue drinking Glacier water(a post on that is to come. Best water yet!)
The water fountain and fill.
The water fountain and fill.

Birds, turtles... gators?
Birds, turtles... gators?
A good number of people were out, from walkers, families, fishers, and friends. There is a walkway and playground, basketball court, and things like that. Nice for an afternoon. I saw a sign a while later saying that Ocala is the horse capital of the world. Interesting.
This was across the street from the park. There had recently been a horse and cowboy type event held here.
This was across the street from the park. There had recently been a horse and cowboy type event held here.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Silver Springs State Park and the Knapp-In and Prehistoric Arts Festival in Silver Springs, FL 

I wanted to visit this park and looked at the events happening to determine when might be the time to go. Perfectly, I found the Knapp-In and Prehistoric Arts Festival was coming up and the entrance fee included the fee to enter the park and the museum on the premises. Awesome!
The museum is really nice and a good size. Fossils, Florida specific information, and exhibits filled the space. If you visited this park for a day, you could easily see the museum and walk some trails. It’s a very good size for the experience to be pleasurable without being overwhelming.
This was pretty fascinating. Click to read and visit to see more along these lines.
The festival was also neat. There were vendors and demonstrations to check out. It’s held on the grounds with some historic buildings you can tour and there was even a mill similar to the one I saw at the Raising Cane Festival earlier in the year. I was happy to put some of my knowledge to use when a woman and her young adult daughter and I were walking by and the mother mentioned this “ride for kids" and I looked over and explained that was actually a mill and told her the process of how it worked. I could sort of see how it appeared to be a large seesaw or something along those lines. I really enjoy these walking villages of sorts with old homes and buildings.
The mill and some old buildings on the grounds.

Folks of various ages tried throwing atlatls and tomahawks.

I also took the opportunity to try my hand at atlatl throwing and tomahawk throwing. I missed them all! It was still fun and definitely something I can tell one would improve at with practice. I have video clips I'd like to upload at some point and link to here.

Walking a park trail.

After that, I went to walk the trails. I overheard a mother of many talking with her daughter about monkeys and I thought they were having a fun conversation, not a real one. Well later on I was told that there was to be a “monkey island” here. Someone had the idea to have monkeys on the island so he could run boat rides for visitors to see them. He didn’t know that the monkeys would swim off the island and live in the forrest as they did. So apparently there are actually monkeys here. I am so glad I did not see any. :) I did see other creatures like an armadillo and a beautiful deer.
Boat launch. Lots of fish were on the ramp where it was under the water.
This day included some really nice conversations with people and I was also excited to meet Turtle, the 10th generation granddaughter  of Pocohantas.
Overall well worth the visit and a lovely state park.
Note for campers: They do have a campground and a dump station. The rates are higher than many of the other state parks I’ve seen and inquired about, however, it is really nice and if camping like this interests you, I think you’d enjoy this location a lot. I parked in one of the sites during my visit and it was lovely. The people were nice, too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Starting and Joining Conversations as a Solo Traveler

Lush green in the awesome woods of Vermont, Summer 2015.
I admit that conversation generally comes easily to me and I guess the fact that people approach me so often makes it even easier. For example, a few days ago I was at a park and a skater came up to me. We spoke for somewhere between three to four hours and had a really great conversation. It was thoughtful, insightful, and awesome! I think we were both incredibly happy with the encounter and I was so glad he'd approached me. The way he did so was how I would, too; friendly and open. We are like minded in our approach to life and being that that is not the most commonly found one, connecting like this was a lot of fun. I look forward to more experiences like it.
In my post "Alone and Not Lonely" about traveling solo, I ended saying striking up a conversation can be easy and that a solo traveler may be even more welcome into a conversation. I imagined some people reading that and thinking how they haven’t found it to be the case. I know it isn’t for everyone. I thought I’d share a few ways, like the one above, I have experienced it.
First, people have noticed I am alone and approach me whether they are alone or with others. I toured a state home once with a woman and her adult son(probably around my age) and we were all talking before the tour, during the tour as we discussed the rooms, and later when we were outside and happened to see each other again. Situations like this have happened various places and could be a way to meet people, if you wanted to explore a place with others. You’re all there to see the place so that gives you something to talk about.
Second, kids approach me. I love this. I take it as a good sign just as I do when happy animals approach. The conversations I have had with kids have been interesting and fun. I love their honesty and perspectives. I love their questions and ease with learning more.
Third, older folks. I have enjoyed conversations about topics such as older technology(a counting machine that gave you an arm ache because you were pulling the handle hard all day), weather and outdoor activities, traveling, and whatever else. Their perspectives and experiences can be really interesting to hear about and I feel like, when they notice I am genuinely interested, it brings an excitement of sorts. It’s not just because someone wants to listen, it is because someone much younger wants to listen. More on that in a moment and a note: unless you're one of the oldest people alive reading this right now and "older folks" aren't really to be found, the actual ages don't matter much as "older folks" and "younger folks" are relative for everyone.
There are people my parents age who treat me like I get the sense they do their own children. One night I asked if a couple heading back to their car could get out passed me all right since I parked slightly angled and the response I got was hilarious. Something about them being "old" but they could handle it. It was said in jest and I said, “Have a good night.” We smiled and went separate ways.
Then there are people closer to my own age who immediately treat me as an equal. They talk to me like they would a friend, strike up conversation easily and, if I am in a place where there are a lot more older(and maybe even younger folks, too), seem to give a feeling of letting loose a bit and relaxing. No need to be proper, I suppose. Some of these conversations are the most comfortable. I really enjoy that aspect of it, that it is so easy and they feel they can just be themselves.  A funny thing is they also seem to curse more.
Even if you feel you stand out, you also fit in. (Another picture from Vermont in Summer 2015.)
It is amazing how differently people can feel and behave and speak depending on who they are with and how they perceive them. How you feel influences your interactions with them. Ever been in a place where someone is obviously unhappy about something yet smiles when noticing you anyway? In general, I have found it easy to interact with people of various ages, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Why limit yourself to one demographic? Why not talk with that happy child who wants to chat? Why not have that conversation about skipping golf today due to the weather? Why not engage in these brief and fun moments of connection?
I’m not talking about forming life long friendships here. These are the moments that make it fun to be IN THE MOMENT. Traveling is about movement, not building roots and settling down. The five sentence conversation about root beer floats while on the check out line, the question and answer about the remote control boats, hearing about the squirrels who climb into vehicles and chew on wires causing thousands of dollars worth of repairs needing to be done before the car is even sold. All sorts of connections with all sorts of places, events, peoples.
If you’re traveling alone, hey, even if you are out and about during your normal routine and you just feel like chatting, be open to it, relax, and see who comes your way. If you don’t like the person, just walk away.
It's a big world, it's a small world. It's a perfect sized world in each moment with lots of open road and opportunities! (Photo is Upstate New York in Summer 2015, near Lake George.)
Addendum: In various places I have also been the one to start a conversation. I do it pretty much the same way those who approach me do. I just do it. I love learning new things and especially when a person has a passion for something, it is easy to ask questions and get them excitedly talking about whatever (their store, this location, art, museum, book, something they are buying or doing). If there is no sincere interest on my part, however, I probably won’t do it. The timing, the place, the vibe all come into play. This is inspired action. If you don’t feel inspired, it is best not to engage. If and when you do, speak up!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Weirsdale, FL

I headed back north some to see Lake Weir and drove around the area, stopping at a couple of parks to walk around. This struck me as a quiet area with a few local hotspots and beautiful scenery. 
I visited Little Lake Weir. What a nice spot to spend an afternoon. 
Here are some pictures:    

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Tampa Riverwalk and Lazy Days in Suffer, FL 

I’d been to Tampa once or twice before, visiting the Big Cat Rescue and The Dali Museum, both of which I really enjoyed. The Dali Museum is still one of my favorite museums I’ve visited and the tour and guide were fantastic.
This time I went to the downtown area and discovered the new Riverwalk. Arriving on a Sunday morning was perfect and I scored a great free parking spot right at the river. It’s a lovely walk, still being developed, yet totally useable as is now. There are parks and boats and shops and museums and easy access to it all. I walked the entire thing and only trekked a tiny bit into the streets.
The Riverwalk is beautiful.
View from the other end than pictured above.
Part of an art project along the walk. Lots of these, each uniquely designed.
Gasparilla Ship!
I’m not too familiar with the celebration involving pirates known as Gasparilla. I did know they have a reenactment of the pirate ship coming in and I had missed it earlier in the month, however, I was able to get close to see it since it was still docked there. It looks like a fun time and perhaps is something to attend in the future.
I really liked this Riverwalk. It also gives you a bit of free wifi every 24 hours.
If you have the interest and a credit card like I do that gives you free admittance to a bunch of museums the first weekend of each month, the Tampa Museum of Art is included. I had thought I’d go and ended up enjoying the walk so much and the nice day (the day before was pouring rain which is partly why I ended up coming here on a Sunday instead of Saturday as I was originally thinking) that I decided to skip it. Maybe another time.
Tampa is worth checking out and the Riverwalk is a great new edition to it!
I also walked the bridge and briefly walked around the University of Tampa campus. I found a hearse in the parking lot. So that was that. :)
A hearse in the parking lot.
After this I made a trip to nearby Seffner to the Lazy Days RV Supercenter for the free dump station and to check out the store which I learned was brand new. Wow. This place is huge and the people working there were nice yet no one seemed to know where the fresh fill was. I only saw the dump station and, being later on a Sunday, the people who would know were either not available or any of the several I spoke with. Long and comedic story short, I filled my fresh tank in the area where they prep sold RVs. The conversations with the workers were pretty funny:
A: “Usually there is a fresh fill nearby…”
Me: “I know, I just didn’t see it.”
B: “Are you new, too?”
Me:  "…I’ve just never been here.”
C: “Maybe someone can drive down there… do you have a car?”
Me: “… I have an RV…” LOL.
A: “Are you a full timer?”
“Me: Yes.”
A: “That’s so cool.”
Me: Grinning, “I know, I love it.”
There were a bunch of RVs plus construction going on and so, after all this, as I was pulling out to leave, I see clear as day, the fresh fill area. It is on the other side of the building that’s next to the dump station closer to where you enter. I had even walked around, just not that far around. Good to know! The women in the store and I were agreeing that maps would be a good idea. It definitely tells you something about how big a place is when people working there aren’t even sure about where things are(this is not a criticism. I know some of them were new with the store being new and thought it was a bit funny the two security people who likely pass this station every day they work didn't know.) They were nice and the grounds were impressive. That's the first time I've needed to go through a security gate to give my info and get a dashboard card to enter an RV place. What an operation!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Inverness and Zephyrhills, FL

A perk of having a small RV is that I can bring it to the regular chassis dealership for service instead of a special truck or RV center. I went to Inverness for an oil change and tire rotation and ended up having the brake fluid and something else done, too. I love having a well maintained vehicle, especially since I live in it!
I decided to spend the night and explore the area a bit. The downtown was an enjoyable walk about. From there it was easy to get to this park. I took very few pictures during my visit. It was nearing dusk and overcast so this boardwalk was a bit ominous, still lovely.
The boardwalk.
I'm combining Inverness with my soon to follow visit to Zephyrhills. I went to some other places in between as well and thought I took more and better pictures and have found that isn't the case. Oh well.
I knew Zephyrhills for the bottled water which I figured was about the local equivalent to Poland Springs from Maine, so I was sort of excited to visit it. I drove around some, did a bit of food shopping, and explored the historic downtown and a nearby park. Overall I would say this was OK for a visit and the park was really nice, yet I wouldn’t really venture this way without some other reason(passing through, some event, etc.)
Sunrise in Zephyrhills. This picture is actually from the morning of the Kumquat Festival in nearby Dade City.
I think it was a Sunday and most places were closed. I got a taste for it and got to see some kids and teens hanging out at the park. I also saw a bunch of chickens and cats living on a nearby side street at what I recall was a law firm in a house. That was interesting.
Zephyr Park was great. It has nice loops for walking, the popular workout stations where I actually saw people use them, birds, fishes, turtles, playgrounds, tennis courts, and picnic areas. I spent a lot of time there and found it to be a good spot. Parking was easy, too. Oh! And there is a water park! It was closed for maintenance and is open seasonally. From the reviews I read online, it is a hit with kids and a popular place.
The sign in the water reads, "No Trespassing" ... LOL. OK...
A funny thing I experienced there was when approaching a bridge where a small crowd was formed, talking together. They were watching large fish. A man struck up a conversation with me there and I figured I was up for a brief chat so asked if he knew what kind they were. I don’t remember what type he said he was told they were. He gave me this look. He said they were not that kind, he knows that kind, and pulled up his sleeve to show me a large tattoo of a that kind on his arm. LOL. He said these were bottom feeders and he wouldn’t eat them. OK, well that was a fun little moment and I walked once more around.
A whole lot of fish and a different kind than what the crowd was watching.
I also saw a young woman walking with a rabbit on a harness and leash. They got some good attention from passersby and the bunny seemed happy to eat some plants. This is a popular spot to feed birds and walk with dogs as well. These days, if I see a couple pushing a carriage I don't always know if they have a baby in it or a dog. I've even seen a cat in one!