Life on the Open Road

Life on the Open Road

Monday, May 30, 2016

Back at Amelia Island, FL: Shrimp Festival, Fort Clinch State Park, and the Beach

I returned to Amelia Island and the beach. There is just so much to see and do and even after all the time I spent there, I’ve hardly done anything but be at the beach. I did go to the Harris Teeter. This is probably my favorite grocery store chain and if a town has one, so far, I’ve found I really like that town. 
At some point I noticed a pirate themed parade vehicle driving around. I wondered why… somehow I ended up looking online for events and the big Shrimp Festival was happening that weekend. At the beach, it was life as usual. In the downtown, it was a huge festival with several vendors and blocks of stuff happening. It was a Friday night and I decided I would check it out. I had missed the parade and would make it for the fireworks that evening.

I wanted to park close, in the downtown, so I could easily walk. They had parking farther and buses to bring you back and forth. There were also a bunch of places offering parking for $5-20 a spot. So I passed all that, knowing that I wanted to be closer to it. I found a public lot right on a street near a live band playing at a club and a bunch of vendors closed up for the night. It was full and just then, some folks came back to their car and pulled out. Perfect!

With a great spot, I headed out into the still fairly crowded streets. There were some food vendors still open, some shops, too, and farther downtown by the water, there was a booth selling pirate related products. I really had no idea pirates were such a big thing in Florida until I moved down there. Even with numerous visits prior, I just had no idea. I watched some of the fireworks, admired this idea for eating and trash combined(basically a round wooden board around a trash can so people stood to eat and then threw whatever away right there), and then began to walk around some more. What I decided was that I didn’t need to come back. It felt like being in NYC. I’m not dissing either, it just wasn’t what I was wanting at the time. I did find it cool to learn that you could find shark teeth on the beach. I saw a booth that would buy or trade them.
So… the next day I decided I would spend a night at Fort Clinch State Park. As I checked in, the rangers mentioned the Shrimp Festival. I said I went for the fireworks the night before and would rather be in the woods. One ranger leaned in and said, “So would I!” So I checked in and got a nice site very close to the water and some hammocks, which I enjoyed. This was a Saturday night. I would make note that it was VERY BUSY with so many campers. I am not a camper, I live full-time in my RV. The “roughing it” they are doing is luxury for me. I contemplated asking if I could switch to the next night, however, it was hot and I ran the AC through the night so the noise was muted. Also, so many people left very early Sunday morning. My cat loved the AC and was happy there. She got to come outside in her tent some, too.

The next day I needed to leave my site by 1pm, and was told I could stay at the park and spend the day. I walked the beach, looked for shark teeth, and had a fun new experience with some cactus plants. By that I mean, I thought I was on a trail of sorts and probably was not. Something went into my leg and I tried to get it off then stopped, realizing it was a cactus stuck in me. Intrigued, I pulled it out and examined it. What a fascinating defense mechanism! I also stepped on some and they were going up through my flip flops and into my feet. I also discovered tiny pieces still stuck in my foot… and long story short, it didn’t hurt and was an interesting experience. And I am still sometimes finding a piece has come through my flip flop and is poking my foot. Some I pulled out, mostly I just got it so they were in the shoe low enough to not be in my foot…
I was wanting to hike on a trail and went into the visitor’s center at the fort itself to ask for a map. The woman said she was about to open the doors to the fort for the last half hour and I was welcome to go in without paying the additional fee. (Camping includes the site and park, the fort is a couple dollars extra.) Awesome! This fort was so lovely, I could imagine living there.

Overall this was a nice park and I would consider going back. They save some sites for walk-ins, too. I was also fortunate to get the last $10 of quarters from the ranger. He said he was looking to get rid of them and I had used mine up paying for parking at St. Augustine. Perfect! I did laundry there, too. 
The second day there was more enjoyable, calmer, and quieter. 
After this, I simply went back to the beach.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Choosing to Be Happy 

The same way there were so many things I let be my excuse for not allowing myself to do what I really wanted to do- to get an RV and travel all over- birthdays and holidays and this and that coming up, family, and could be's and what if's- I could put off being happy, too. And I did. And at some point I realized it and wondered what would happen once all of that was "done" (it never would be, there could always be something) and I was living how I wanted to. 
The story of how I got my RV is a good one and the story of setting off may be even better. Both are in the past and the present and future are far more exciting to me. What I want to comment on is the momentum. There was so much push and pull that when I finally let go, I soared. There were tiny bits of turbulence along the way as I experienced my own resistance to a smooth flight, yet overall it was good. Even those bumps were part of the ride. I'm not going to say struggle makes you stronger. I don't believe struggle is necessary, especially not so much. One can have contrasting experiences that are just as thrilling as when everything is going downhill with ease. It isn't the situation, it's how I choose to feel regardless of the situation. It is unconditional. 
The momentum was strong as so much of my resistance had been released and I remember saying aloud to myself one day last fall, "I don't know how I'm going to do this, I just know that I am." I KNEW it. I knew I was going. And I left without looking back. 
I can appreciate the bumps on the road here and there as aid in my alignment. Noticing how I respond to things helps, too. What I notice most of all is the sense of trusting and ease I feel. I know everything is always working out for me. I know I will get a great parking spot, I know I will always find a safe place for me to park at night, I know it feels so incredibly wonderful to go as I feel like it and that that enjoyment will bring me and the places, people, and situations I want to experience together. And I love that.
The other afternoon I thought to myself, I am doing what I have always wanted to do. Like woah, really! I am! 
There can be excuses to live differently than desired. There can be external factors that most people will accept as good reasons to do or not do something. When one's happiness and choices are based on such external factors, it is conditional. If someone else needs to do something for you to feel good- a partner needs to give you something, your kids need to behave a certain way, the government needs to do this or stop doing that, whatever it is- if it is outside of you, it is out of your control and it is a conditional approach to be dependent on that for your own joy(peace, life, whatever.) 
A beautiful sunrise view one recent morning.
"You can choose to be happy." I don't know who said it. I remember being a teenager and reading that and I wrote it down and put it inside my bedroom door. I understand it way better now. 
It may displease some people that I do things the way I do. There may be "obligations" to many that I no longer view as such. There may be moments when someone wants or expects something from me in a conditional way (to make them "happy.") And there may be moments when I am less than thrilled with what surrounds me. 
I can't change what is outside of myself. I can change how I feel. Just through my thoughts, I can change how I feel. I can choose to think things that feel better and good. I can choose to believe things that feel better and good. I can choose to trust myself and that strong feeling of knowing all is well, that knowing that I am safe and supported in living how I want to, that feeling of alignment with who I am. I can choose to be happy regardless of the conditions. And as I do that, my perspective of the conditions changes. 

And as I do that the way those conditions are in my life changes. And my life gets better and better. 
I won't wait until this or that situation, person, whatever, changes to make me happy. I will choose to be happy now either way. Happiness is a choice, not something from outside oneself. 
I won't put off what I feel inspired to do, I will move when I feel moved to. 
I can choose to be happy. That is the most powerful thing I can do. And as I do it, everyone and everything around me shifts. Everyone senses a light in the darkness, even those who cannot or do not see it. Everyone senses it. 
And the ones wanting the light go toward it. And the other lights make it brighter. And once there is light to see, there is clearer contrast and there is hope. 

I can choose to be happy. And so can you. And a great thing about doing so is how what you really want comes to you when you do. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

St. Augustine and Jacksonville, FL

Since I had stopped in Palatka on my way back to Amelia Island, I decided I’d head to St. Augustine again to visit Castillo de San Marcos during National Park Week. It was free to get in and a place I’d seen only from the outside. I’ve been to St. Augustine before and really enjoyed the trolley tour I took there. I love those tours and find that, when I return to the area, I so often recognize a lot of it. 
It had been over a decade since my last visit yet I was recalling so much(monuments, areas, and the water from the Fountain of Youth tasted like sulphur, for example.) Awesome! Doubly awesome because I did not recall all the pay for parking and the change I had was just enough to cover seeing the fort a bit quickly and getting back with a few minutes left. (If anyone from the park reads this, it’d be so great if you added that to the website because needing to find a spot potentially far away and then pay and then walk with enough time to get there and back… well that would have been good to know beforehand.)

The art drawn into the walls was interesting. Also interesting so many people were taking pictures straight on as that shows reflections VS at a an angle like I did. In this case, you still see reflections, just not mine. :)
I wondered if the average adult height was shorter then since all the beds there seemed short (bunk beds not pictured, especially.)
I liked seeing the fort and hearing folks happily surprised when they found out it was free to get in that day. Lots of people had no idea about National Park Week and seemed to feel it was their lucky day. :)
Imagine this lined on one side with parked vehicles and a class B driving past them. Yep! Phew, glad we made it.
I also drove around a little bit and will say that when this town says “No trucks” for a roadway, they mean it! One road I went down seemed tighter than the one in the picture above(which I took later, when it was safe to.) I was so glad I have a class B RV on those narrow roads! This would be a great place to park and drive a toad, if you have a big rig, or to stay at a campground and somehow get to town to walk or take the trolley tour to get around. It’s rather touristy, yet has a lot to see and do and worth seeing if in the area. I had already seen so much of it, the few hours stop was enough for the day. As I was leaving, I stopped by a lighthouse and got some pictures by the water.

Next I went to the Timucuan Preserve in Jacksonville. This park is actually always free. It was nice, clean and well maintained with a trail to walk as well. The fort, Fort Caroline, was not an original fort. It was based on what it was believed to be like. I thought that was interesting. A much smaller fort than the one in St. Augustine, the preserve also includes a hut and some other areas to check out plus an information center with a little museum of sorts in it. (That’s what I’d call it, anyway.) I got a postcard at the store and heard just a bit of a volunteer playing a dulcimer on my way out.
Fort Caroline
Not far from here is another monument that’s part of the preserve so I went there, too.
I stopped at the Camping World in Jacksonville and the folks there were nice.
An oddly captured pano on the riverwalk.
On my way leaving the East Coast later on, I stopped in the downtown of Jacksonville. I hoped out quickly to see the riverwalk. This seems like a place I’d enjoy exploring more. I am a fan of free public parking, especially for visitors. Every area is different, I’ll just say that without an easy place for me to park, I’d have to realllllllly want to see something in order to stay there. Since that wasn’t the case, I left.
All in all, I'm glad I checked these places out.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A Different Route to the Same Location: Palatka, FL and Pacing

National Park Week included free admission to many parks across the country. I quickly found that the majority of parks in the area I wanted to go to were state parks, not national parks. Florida has a really great state park system! I knew I wanted to go back to Amelia Island(which I affectionately call, “The Island” as I love it SO MUCH!) and decided I would take a different route than I had before.
I drove through the beautiful Ocala National Forest:
and found myself traveling in an area right on the St. Johns River that looked lovely. So I stopped. This is what I love about the freedom to travel like this! Yes, I had a destination in mind, yet I saw something I liked and was interested in, so explored more, too. I believe this was my first time in Palatka and at the St. Johns River. I enjoyed both. Here are some pictures:
A funny thing was, as I was driving, I came to a stop light. The truck next to me honked and I lowered my window. Two young men were in the truck and one asked me if I was interested in selling it. The RV. I laughed, seriously laughed, and said, “No!” He gave me this look like when someone asks a person out and is shut down. And I added, “I love it too much!” And he kind of nodded and smiled and that was that. Really funny and unexpected. Then I wondered how much he’d have paid. :)
While I only briefly stopped in Palatka, the area by the water was very nice and I enjoyed breaking the trip up a bit. I knew where I was going- back to the beach!

Here is an excerpt from a note I wrote around a month ago, April 22. It is fitting as I am currently traveling fewer miles each day than I’ve commonly done in the past as I make my way to the Midwest. I’m also enjoying the old rolling highways instead of major, faster and more crowded ones. The flow changes as I adjust while I go and that is actually quite what I want in my travels.
I took a highway today for a brief while for the first time in months. I have loved traveling shorter distances and exploring areas more. The past couple days have been more intense and, while still mostly enjoyable, I would like to set a smoother pace.
I'm so glad I stopped yesterday when I saw a bridge with a nice spot for stopping right before it. Boats, trailers, walkway, and historic information all walking distance to the downtown and even over the bridge itself, if you like. I walked along the water and to the end of the dock, taking it in. I had no reason to keep going. That was the point, I can stop when and where I like. There is no rush. So I spent the night, backtracking just a bit in the process.
The pacing matters. The flow, the ease, the smile on my face as I drive through a new place, that all matters. I want to enjoy it more. Part of that is my attitude and part of it is being more aligned with what I want to experience. It'd just go smoother then.
So that is what I am doing. I'm purposing to have great clarity about what I want to experience and allow myself to go with it and enjoy it a lot more.
Right now, the state roads and backroads and through town routes are where it's at for me. I like seeing things along the way. I like the newness. Highways can wait. I've driven them before. They'll be there.
I like the old roadways. For now, they are the perfect pace.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Turtle Takes to Sea (Video) and Some Experiences While Walking the Beach at Amelia Island, FL 

Turtles in a parking lot at the beach.
While visiting Amelia Island I saw several turtles, mostly in the sand and grass by parking lots. I watched one walk much faster than I'd have imagined a so-called "turtle's pace" to be.
Then one day as I walked the beach, I saw one making its way to the ocean. I watched as it approached the water and went between moving forward and waiting as the waves came in and out, sort of like it was getting a feel for it. I saw its feet catching the beach beneath it, attempting to stay belly down, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. I watched the waves flip it over and wondered if I should "help" (or perhaps this should be "interfere.") I got something to help turn it, yet hardly made an effort before backing off. I watched and sensed this turtle knew what it was doing. I didn't need to help it and I don't even think it wanted my help. Someone passed by and told me it would make it, unless a bird got it first. I figured as much and continued to watch.
Another wave came and it flipped back over. This repeated and the turtle was deeper and deeper in. I could still see it and had enjoyed viewing it so much. The clawed feet made much more sense to me; they help to maneuver in the sand and hold steady in those waves. I began to walk again, glancing back a few times and noticing someone else who was now watching. The turtle was and would be fine. 
Turtle taking to sea.
This might be a Pink Meanie Jellyfish.
I also saw many jellyfish on the beach and briefly looked up some information on them. I found that they let the waves take them and carry them. This contrast reminds me of the turtle entering the water. It was still grounded, wanting to keep in control, while also going with the flow of the crashing waves. It had greater control of where it was going, in that respect- resistance VS utter acceptance of the moving water so it would simply be taken in completely. At the same time, it was not trying to control the ocean, something outside of itself. It was working with it, using it to its advantage as it could and staying true to itself in the process. 
The bird by the water.
And then there was a small bird I spotted one day. It appeared to have gotten wet, just at the area where the dry and wet sand near the water meet. A big wave would have touched it. Unlike with the turtle, I got the strong sense this bird would accept some help so I went to get something dry and helped it on. It watched me with a sideways glance as I carried it toward the grass. I put it down in the shade so it could dry off and rest. Then I thought I could move it to a different spot and when I tried, it hoped off and then away a bit, showing me it was and would be fine. 
Walking the bird to a dry, shaded place.
Resting spot.
You can see more pictures from the beach on the sidebar via my instagram account. I saw lots of cool things!
Yesterday afternoon I felt inspired to play with some of the videos I took on my phone of the turtles and beach at Amelia Island. I discovered I had the footage to make a short piece and used an app in my phone to put it together. I watched a lot more than I filmed, still was pleased to find what I had captured the story of a turtle taking to sea. 
This video is straightforward and simple and includes the first song I wrote and recorded using new to me software earlier this year (the imperfections and rawness of both seemed so fitting for this.) It was fun making it and playing with the programs. My first time using the time lapse feature is also included. I have reduced from the high quality HD to upload it here and will likely upload a higher quality at some point.  
I loved my time on Amelia Island. Here's the video: Turtle Takes to Sea! 

Friday, May 13, 2016

My New Engine Battery Confirming Things Always Work Out 

Old battery.
My engine battery had a code on it that read "Shipped Aug. 08". This suggested to me that it was around eight years of age at this point which is a good run for an engine battery. It had some corrosion on it, too. I had had it checked at an auto store that does free testing and also checked it with my multimeter along with being sure it was tested during oil changes. Multimeters are easy to use and relatively inexpensive (for a basic one, around $12-20 is good, you can get fancier ones for much more, around $100 or so, I've seen.) I recommend a multimeter as a basic tool good for RVers. I also have a volt meter that goes into an outlet and gives a digitial reading. 
The battery kept checking out as good and I was advised to keep it. Fast forward to some hot nights when I ran my Endless Breeze fan. While the fan was still running in the morning (it has a low draw), I woke to a dead engine battery. Twice. Thankfully I have unlimited jump starts with my roadside assistance. It took some time and multiple phone conversations, still I was happy with the service and got jumped with no problems. I had the battery and alternator tested after the first jump start and was told it was good. I also stopped at an RV center and spoke with service about what was going on. They were helpful and the ones who suggested the auto parts store first. (I bought propane from them, too and that is when I asked.) At this point I was thinking it was an isolator issue. The isolator in my RV keeps the batteries separate so that the engine battery will not be drained if the house battery ever is. I love this and find it reassuring. Though I don't run my battery down like that, it's good to know I could still drive if ever I did. 
Then it happened again on a Sunday. After waiting over an hour for the jump start (company came from far away), I went right to an auto parts store and got a new battery. Two jump starts in a few days plus a battery nearing age eight? I just figured replace it. Wow, what a difference the drive was after that! I could feel more consistent and stronger power and a better drive overall. 
It was a Sunday night and I ordered online for 30 minute pick up at the store. This gave me a 20% discount. We waited for the order to pop up in their system. It hadn't yet and the employees were great, swapping it out based on trusting it would come through. After installing it, it was near closing time and the order still hadn't shown up for them. They gave a call and I spoke with a woman who explained my bank hadn't approved it yet, it was pending, and they couldn't give me the battery until it went through. They had already given me the battery and were close to closing for the night. The manager, I believe, who had tested my battery the first time and remembered me said he was sure it would go through and they let me leave, giving me a card and saying that if it didn't, I'd need to come back and pay full price (since I got the discount for buying online.)  I agreed and would come back for a receipt anyhow because it gives me the three year warranty on it and I needed to sign to officially pay for it. 
New battery!
So I left and kept checking for my email notification from the store the next day. By afternoon I figured I'd just stop in. He had gotten it and just hadn't called me yet. I officially paid and got my receipt and was good to go. 
Then I went back in and asked if they tested isolators. I said I had a meter and wasn't sure how to check the isolator. I thought the house battery was draining and pulling from the engine battery and my rig is set up to not have that happen. This RV does not have the jumpstart feature some others do and the engine battery does not charge when I run the generator. Well a mechanic happened to be there and came out and spoke with me. We talked about ohms and how the isoltator system could work. He mentioned I could look online and find videos and such and I said I had looked and nothing I found was clear enough in a few ways so I hadn't tested it myself. He then told me to wait 30 starts before going to a shop and to be mindful of the draw of things.
After this I decided I would double check my manual. This RV was owned by one couple before they traded up for a new one and I bought this one. I have the original bag full of manuals, records, etc of various sorts and I so appreciate that and have been adding to it. Right there in the booklet it explains that both the 12 volt outlets in the dashboard are connected to the engine battery. Oops. I could have sworn that one was connected to the house battery. One works when the engine is running and the other works all the time. Well that misunderstanding may have caused me to need some jump starts(in the summer, too) and a new battery sooner, however, reading that manual saved me from going to mechanic and having things checked. I was draining the battery with the fan and not realizing it! 
I have two 12 volt outlets connected to the house battery right next to each other in this RV. That is it. This has prompted me to want a 12 volt extension cable because I was partly using the front one for things due to the distance. 
As you can see in the picture, I bought an Autocraft battery from Advanced Auto Parts. I like that there are over 5,000 stores across the country and a three year warranty. The price was right and they installed it for me. So far I am very pleased. 
This whole experience is full of examples of how things are always working out. :)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My First Night at a Campground with Hook Ups at Lake Griffin State Park in FL and Fruitland Park Day 2016 : Spring Visit

During my first brief visit here I mentioned really liking Lake Griffin State Park and feeling it was a campground I'd actually want to stay at. Well as it turned out, it did become the first campground I stayed with and had hook ups at. I love dry camping and the freedom I have with it. I wanted to pamper myself - water and electricity, showers, hikes and a place I could comfortably set up the cat tent outside was so appealing, so I went for it. I mentioned that this was a treat for me to the ranger who said some people complain about the dirt sites. Haha! Perspective and preference really makes a difference. To me, this was a night of luxury. Oh yeah, and laundry at excellent prices, too!
I emptied my  tanks and went to my site to hook up. I took showers two days in a row inside the comfort station and did some laundry faster and cheaper than the laundromats I've been going to. I washed my dishes and even my gallon water jug which had been out of use until I could clean it well like this. I probably used close to five gallons of water in the RV during that one night stay's time. Folks, that is a lot of water for me these days. I emptied my tanks again on my way out because I could!
I ran the AC some and walked the trail, snapping pictures and noticing all sorts of things. Loved the dragonflies and plants. The Live Oak was beautiful. I honestly thought there was a lot more to this park. I now could see why the entrance fee was a little less than some of the others. I set off to hike to find there was just a fifteen minute or so walking path. Oh well. You can rent or bring your own kayak, too. I'd love to do that with someone else, not solo, so just watched the people doing it and the fishers nearby a bit.
The sites are private and nature filled. There is a dog area, too. The ranger alerted me to bear warnings. I didn't see any. We did see some young cats, one of which the camp host told me had been caught the morning I was leaving. A cute orange kitten, probably around six or so months, I'd guess.
It was a nice stay and a once in a while thing. To get such luxuries every now and then, to empty and fill tanks, get showers and laundry, electricity and running water with a city hook up, and nature like this is totally worth it every now and then. I still love dry camping and will continue to mostly do it. Once in a while, a camp ground stay is a fun choice.  $19.98 a night when I walked in, more if you reserve in advance online. Depending on the season and all, this place can be pretty booked. My timing was perfect and made for a mostly pleasant stay. I'll add that I had registered online so registering in person was even faster and better. With my phone number, all the info came up so it was pretty easy. Once you are in the system, any of the parks will have access to this to make checking in more efficient.
This leads to the Ocklawaha River! You can read about my visit to the restoration area on the river here.
These were all over the place.
Gators? Please, we're cool. These were all over the place. :) They remind me a little of the worm on the wall in Labyrinth.
A nice set up for ranger talks.
A nice walking trail, easy and short.
The park is home to one of the oldest Live Oak trees in Florida. It was magnificent. I wanted to climb it, alas, I stayed on the ground.

While driving in Fruitland Park I saw a sign for Fruitland Park Day coming up. A parade and events free to the public? Sure! So I set off Saturday and caught the end of the parade. OK, I looked online and at the sign and didn't see where these events were actually taking place. Rather than call, I just figured I'd drive and find it. I did. The parade was short and even some kids, with lots of candy thrown to them from the participants, commented along the lines of, "Shortest parade ever."  It was a long strip and they moved quickly. Maybe a shorter one would have seemed longer. Anyhow I drove around after that and found the other festivities. Lots of fun stuff for kids especially, booths, vendors, performances, face painting and caricatures, snacks and games and a pulled pork (they might call it "pull pork" as well) contest and more. I tasted key lime pie for the first time and enjoyed it. I also decided to do the tasting contest. $1 got you seven tickets to try each kind and you'd vote for your favorite. I don't remember who I voted for and didn't stay for who won (much like my cane syrup tasting contest experience... hmm.) I soon learned that I do not care for pulled pork. :)
I enjoyed seeing the cops dancing while on duty and this was a fun, mostly free for all event. I'm glad I stumbled upon it. After this I went to the park nearby where I knew I could play with my tennis racquet. This was when a skater approached me and we had a great conversation for a few hours. When he asked where I live and I pointed to the RV, he had questions and it's so funny to think that my normal was so unheard of. He said I was really out there (in a really good way!) and I found that interesting. He's rather out there himself in a really good way! So he asked me how many people I know who are also way out there and waited kindly as I thought. I guess more than I had realized! When it's your normal, it just seems less out there, I guess. We spoke of so many things and it was a very enjoyable conversation I mentioned here.
This signs says it all! Except the location... :)
At the parade. These were some of the parade vehicles.
All sorts of fun for kids like this bubble soccer, a climbing wall, bounce houses, and lots more.
All in all, I enjoyed the time spent in Fruitland Park both at the campground and in town that day.