Life on the Open Road

Life on the Open Road

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Winter and Spring in Florida 2015-2016: Staycation 

In the swamp.
I wrote this back in April and ended up staying in Florida about two and a half weeks into May. All my posts for during that time are covered with the addition of videos being added to a new playlist called "Florida" on my YouTube Channel which I have included below. I have more videos to come. In terms of posts here, this will wrap up the A Winter in Florida and Spring in Florida series. Should you want to read about any of those, you can use the search feature on the site with either categories or keywords.
A trail in the swamp.
The best way to describe my experiences during this six month period would be calm excitement. I had a blast. I learned so much and had so many wonderful, new experiences. Some things I left out, have forgotten, or highlighted, and no matter where the moment falls in that, I am very happy with the overall experience. From big changes to every little one, I recall the time there fondly and would say it was my best Winter and some of my favorite seasons of my life thus far. A flow of travel and pacing that I so love developed and has become my current normal. I have even recently commented how glad I am to have gotten used to roundabouts in The Villages because I am driving in so many of them lately. :)
Also from when I camped in the swamp.
April 2016:
My time in Florida late fall into Spring has really brought to my attention the diversity and offerings one state can have. It's getting hotter than I'd like and my time here for now will soon be finished, however, there are still places I'd like to visit and explore more so a return to Florida will happen at some point.
I'm hoping some of what I've shared through my A Winter in Florida posts inspires folks who are not only visiting but also residents who may like to travel and not go as far.
From the ocean to the swamp, and the lake to the city, there is something for everyone. And a day trip can be just as thrilling as a season.
Go have some fun and find your adventure!


Monday, June 27, 2016

Some Thoughts and Musings on Contrast, Travel, and Optimism Regarding the US 2016 Presidential Election 

I drove so fast to get to one location and as I went, I passed signs for places I would have liked to stop. This was not my favorite way of traveling and it was an unnecessary way of doing it. 
I can always appreciate the contrast of what I want and what I do not and this is no exception. So I explored for a few days and admit my mood was not the greatest. Without a doubt my mood was creating my perception of things. What intrigues me and comes to my awareness when this happens- when I am not feeling so happy in the moment- is how I still have wonderful experiences. Like my noticing so many people were smiling. Just smiling because. That's just about the best kind of smiling there is. Or a friendly conversation with the campground staff. All the driver's respecting the pedestrians and crosswalks. The beautiful bluff and nature I was surrounded by. There were still so many good things. 
When you're telling a joke, timing is everything. If you rush it or say something incorrectly and have to explain, even if it is funny, it doesn't get the same laugh as when you're in the flow and it is easy and hilarious. That was what I did. I rushed to get somewhere and I was not fully aligned with it. My mood was less than ideal and I enjoyed it less. 
So yesterday I left. I drove south along the coast at a pace I love, stopping here and there at a park, beach, downtown, and lighthouse. I saw two weddings! I saw houses and fields and cows and horses. I saw rabbits playing with each other, a deer poking its head out to see into the road, farm markets, birds. I felt the breeze and heard the sounds from the waves crashing. I saw so many folks stop to walk around and enjoy it for themselves whether for hours or just a brief stop. 
I walked around an area where all my senses kicked in- the place had such energy and presence. I could feel the air and see the thickness of it, hear the waves, smell the water(which I at first thought totally smelled and felt like salt water though it was fresh), sense the earthy greens and soil... it reminded me of The Secret Garden as I climbed stone steps up among the trees. 

Last night I found myself smiling as I drove. I felt it on my face and made a point to look at myself in the rear view mirror. The roads were flowing and I had a Great Lake to my left and fields to my right. Occasionally a car or few would come behind or from the other direction. They'd pass me and soon the road was open again. I loved the mix- the fields, the homes, the vastness. Then I'd drive through the little towns and see others here or there. I never got the sense it was empty or I was alone. I felt that people live here. Yet it wasn't busy. The radio news had even mentioned that roads were expected to be busier with the festival over the weekend. If this was busy, what was not?! :) 
I drove through small towns with cool names like Alaska. I stopped at a lighthouse harbor and walked all the way out to the end and back. I watched at the beach in Algoma as people enjoyed the sand and swim. 
The journey is the fun part. Taking a bite of something delicious and savoring it, recognizing its components and how beautifully they go together to create the whole. Carpe Vitam! Harvest life. 
It's not about the destination. It never was. You can't get lost when you don't have a set place you are going. And my GPS will continue to guide me to the route no matter what turns I take. 
Now I am parked in a beautiful setting. I can hear the highway noise from nearby. Yet I can see the field and grasses and watched the sky as it turned pink and purple and lovely shades this evening. 
I walked some trails at a large park this morning and jumped when I realized eyes were watching me. I had passed by a fawn curled up on the path, just near the tall grass. I jumped and then it jumped. It would have just stayed resting, I bet, had I not been startled. It moved away and I said something along the lines of, "Wait. I didn't know you were there." And it waited, scratched its back, turned and looked at me. I snapped some pictures. I knelt down and thought it might come over to me, then thought it might be best not to have it so trusting of people. I'm sure it could tell the difference though as it was still so calm and seemed to take a liking to me. Then I left and kept walking. No clue where it was when I came back through. And I wondered how many times I pass things by without realizing as I hike and figured I probably do it every time. 
And I didn't have to notice the people I see smiling, the curtesy of the drivers, the island type vibe of this peninsula I had visited. I wanted to, and so I did. 
I want to notice more of these things and continue being aware of them and enjoy them when I do. 
Not having a set place I was heading next was slightly getting to me. As I drove yesterday and today, today actually ending up rather different than I was first thinking and my current location other than I thought it would be, I noted how much I love the traveling part. It isn't about where I am going! I picked a place and meandered on my way there. It's the movement and discovery as I go that I so enjoy. I love the rendezvous along the way, the moments and people and animals and nature and experiences that I simply could not plan. It sometimes feels like I happen upon them yet my belief is that we meet up with each other because we are like magnets drawn together, open to the shared experience and connection. I can trust myself to feel my way and I can trust that there will always be a match to whatever it is I want and whatever it is I am feeling. 
For now, I choose to feel better. And then better than that. And better than that. Better feels good. 
There is something else regarding contrast that's been on my mind since the other day. I've summed it up:
The most fantastic thing this election is giving us is the incredible contrast of what so many of us do not want. The clarity gained from this on what we DO want is tremendous! And I remain optimistic about this election and steady in my knowing and belief in the wellbeing of our world.

(I'm voting for Gary Johnson, as I did in the last election. This adds further to the contrast- it feels great to be aligned with and excited for a candidate!) 
Onward we go! 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Torreya State Park- My Final Night In Florida Spring 2016

Right about where Florida meets Georgia and Eastern and Central time cross over, is Torreya State Park. I spent one night and it was very pleasant. Just the right amount of people, friendly and with respectful volume(not noisy.)
I was checking my phone for the time in NYC as it was constantly switching between time zones. The next day, I saw this sign posted. Good to know.
I did laundry for a dollar to wash and a dollar to dry. Wow. And I showered. The first day I showered in the station in front of the laundry area. The next day I used the other shower closer to the ranger station. This is a wheelchair accessible one and it was a great shower, especially having just been cleaned. 
The sites are nice with good space and privacy. There is an overlook where the river below separates Florida and Georgia. 
They have a house you can tour and a small shop down the way plus a play ground and trails. 
I took very few pictures. This was during my walk from the campsite to the house down the road.
I love hiking and realized that my preference is to hike in cooler weather. I was drenched in sweat and hadn't even gone on the trails, just walking the roads. I was seriously considering another night when I found my site had been reserved. Instead of moving, I decided to head out. 
I recommend this campsite. It cost $17.20 a night for water and electric. The sites are a bit different in that the hook ups are in various places. I couldn't reach to connect to both water and electric so simply filled my fresh tank and plugged in. It depends on your set up and what site you choose. 
I also was next to the coolest and fanciest yurt I've ever seen. 
They have venomous snakes here and multiple people saw my flip flops and said they hoped I wasn't going to hike in them. Folks, I don't hike in flip flops. Or shorts, really. I have done nature trails but an actual hike? I prefer pants and closed shoes. With my cactus experience at Fort Clinch State Park, I was glad I did have flip flops on because my sneakers are zero drop minimalist Lems. These are super thin and those cactus pieces would have gone much deeper in me. So anyway, I guess it depends. If there are leaves and dirt and venomous snakes, I am all for closed shoes. 
One ranger and I spoke about the creatures in the area and she told me stories about various camper's encounters with snakes, coyotes, a bear and such. She said some claimed to have spotted a bear right from my site(before she knew I was at that site, I'll add. The site was on a bluff and the bear had been down below.) She seemed skeptical and said they sometimes have some weirdos and mentioned how there weren't really any staying here at the moment. Then she kind of paused, and I wondered if she was considering whether I was a weirdo to her. I decided I wouldn't ask about Sasquatch at this time. :p  
The view from my dash on the way there.
This place is a bit off the beaten path in Bristol, Florida. I'd go back and think a slightly cooler time would be even better. The rangers were very nice and the other campers I spoke with, too. My kind of campground experience. 
This was my last night in Florida as I left the state the following day. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tallahassee, Florida and A Change In Plans 

As the temperature was rising from "comfortable" to "manageable" to "too hot to be safe in the RV (without AC)" that dry erase board of plans changed. Instead of traveling the panhandle as I had been considering(the part of Florida I hadn't seen at all yet!), I opted to take a different route. I headed West to Tallahassee for the first time and spent a few days there, resting, exploring, and getting a feel for what I was going to do next. I knew better than to act without clarity so these few days were helpful for that.
First, I had a hunch this area might have a Trader Joe's and I was correct. I have a gift card so bought some things there with it. At the check out line, the cashier told me she used to live on a boat. That was pretty cool. A short convo and meeting someone else who is young and has lived rather differently was neat.

After that I found a park to enjoy. I love parks, especially ones with water. This was a nice loop with animals and people enjoying it. I liked it so much, I went back the next day after exploring the downtown area some. 

While in Tallahassee, I had an oil change done at an express lane. I liked this because it was still at a dealership yet I could walk right in without an appointment. While it did take hours(they only had one lift that would work for my RV), it was nice to be able to just stop in rather than plan ahead or stay in the area. I imagine a day other than a Saturday morning would go much faster. 

During the time in the waiting area, a family with small kids were also waiting. A cat in there is probably less common and we interacted a little with them. The next day, inspired by this interaction and after observing them, I created a simple game geared to families with young children. There isn't much to it strategy-wise though there are ways to make it more complex. It is really the excitement of the young kids learning the connections of gameplay like matching, player's turns, card recognition, working together, collecting, etc. that makes it fun. Everyone wins in this game. We shall see if and when I get to play it with kids. Solo as an adult is not so thrilling. :p :) 
With all this and more done, I stayed in the area a few days total and then decided to set off again. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Sounds of Silence, RV Maintenance and Visiting Family in the Midwest

I'm digging the new cover of "The Sound of Silence" by the band Disturbed. It was originally called, "The Sounds of Silence" and the title somehow got shortened. And how fitting as my posting has been so little this month so far.
I have been spending time with family in the Midwest and taking care of some RV maintenance. Little things like checking my water heater's anode rod- still good to go for quite a while. Having routine maintenance done for my generator- the technician told me every 100 hours, still I wanted it done now for peace of mind since it had been about two years(before I bought it.) Sealing two leaks - one the back door which additional weather stripping took care of, the other a new leak on the side window. I open the windows so often that I think it was getting worn from use and the window began separating from the seal on part of it. Glued and good to go! And having my fridge checked since the temps were a bit off. The propane valve wasn't open fully and they cleaned it out to have a good, strong blue flame. It works great now! 
Tonight I prepped the RV with a rinse for a wash and wax tomorrow. I last washed it before I set off and it has gotten lots of use since. People usually think it is a newer RV than it is as it looks so nice and clean and is so well maintained. I love it. 
I also got a new 12 volt extension cord. It is 12 feet long and I have wanted one for a while. It can be used inside or outside and what I really wanted it for was mostly for my fan. This was the fan I was running at night from the front cab area not knowing that I was draining my engine battery instead of using the house battery like I thought. Now that I have the added length with this cord, I can put the fan up front and run it off the house battery when I want to. It's quiet on low yet loud enough I prefer to not have it so close to me in the back. (I have been working on an Amazon store with products I like and use and will add links to the fan and cord once I have that up and running with my site.)
I'm about 1,200 miles from my next oil change and will say that so far, I am liking the express lanes at the dealership. No need to stay in the area and wait for an appointment, just show up and you're good to go! I continue to love having a small class B that can be serviced at most dealerships for the same cost as the usual auto price. With my less common 5.2L engine, it only takes 5 quarts. 
So all this taken care of, I'm enjoying some more time with family and a different pace as I near a departure and more travel. 
Kayaking at a preserve the other day.
I'm loving new experiences like eating authentic Lebanese food (delicious!) and enjoying the different flow. All is well and excitement is building for what is to come! 
I've got travel posts in the works for my trip here and will get back to more regular posting soon. 
Until then... :)    

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

I Was Told There Would Be Gators... Video and a Return to Mount Dora, FL

After GA and another return to Amelia Island(I love it there), I was back in The Villages area. I saw a band I liked and noticed how much quieter the area was becoming with the snowbirds leaving and largely gone. 
As I walked around the water one night, I was thinking about how I'd been in Florida for months and not seen a gator. I've seen them before, just not during this time. Sure, I'd heard them and found prints. I knew they were there. I even was right by someone as he saw one and it was gone before I did. So I thought how I'd like to see a small gator from afar. 
The next day, I felt inspired to make a drive to Mount Dora again. I really didn't need to and yet, there I went. 
It's interesting how the experience of a place can be due to how you are feeling and the events of the moment. I was first and last in Mount Dora for New Year's and had a cool experience of it. This time was hot and far less crowded. There were many shops and I did go into some. 

I then went back to the parks and the boardwalk there. It is one of the best places to take pictures and especially of birds and dragonflies, I'd say. 
So I was walking and then it happened. I saw a baby gator resting partly in the water and partly on land, not far from the entrance to a boardwalk yet far enough. Perfect. That was exactly what I'd wanted to see. 
And then a cooler thing happened. I kept seeing gators! It reminded me of Captain Hook from Peter Pan. Tick tock tick tock. Head above water, stalking perhaps. Clearly a bigger gator, not a baby. I am not sure how many I saw. I just know I was thrilled to have seen some. OK, my time in Florida was pretty complete, I had seen gators.
As I walked back around and to another area, I saw another large one and a young man on the side who seemed to be calling it. I started to walk the dock to get closer and more pictures and saw an Anhinga. These are beautiful birds I loved learning about and seeing when I visited The Everglades (not this time in FL, a previous visit.) I saw its hesitation and turned around instead of getting closer. 
Gators are a part of the life in Florida and I am really comfortable with that. They are still wild creatures and I'm not that kind of fool, so I went back to the land. The young man looked at me as he was getting up, smiled, and simply said, he tried. 
Then some older women were walking by and one does a gator call. And the gator followed her! Fast. I got closer and took some pictures and video until it turned and looked right at me, facing me. I backed up, sensing this gator would be ready to move really fast if it wanted a meal and it did seem hungry. That look in its eyes said to stay away. So I did.

As I began to walk back to my RV, the young man appeared to have just caught a good sized fish with one hand. He was talking with a fisherman who seemed totally thrilled and surprised and they were checking if it was an edible fish or not. That young man was cool and impressive. I'm not sure why he was calling the gator and am probably happy it didn't care to come to him! 
This was a brief return visit and a successful one at that. 
I created another very short video using my phone with another original tune. These are just fun. It's called, "I Was Told There Would be Gators." 
I Was Told There Would Be Gators
Check it out, if you like. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

St. Marys, Kingsland, and Folkston, Georgia

Amelia Island is really close to Georgia and I wanted to check out a couple of places right over the border, not far from where I was. I started with St. Marys, visiting the McIntosh Sugar Mill Tabby Ruins. I had seen the Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins in Florida which I wrote about here and was intrigued with how different they were. That site was very worn and had been made of brick. The areas were still somewhat discernible. This site was made with shells! It appeared to have held up better yet was really just the structure without any areas I could easily say had this or that mill component to it. It was neat to see the differences and few similarities.
A close up of the wall made of shells. Very cool and well put together. Solid, too.
Next I went to see Cumberland Island from across the way. I walked around the area yet skipped even the local museum and information center. It was really hot and this was satisfying enough. The park there has a "No Profanity" sign up. I wondered if that is legal. Freedom of speech and all. No worries, I cursed in my head the entire walk. :p Just kidding, only some of it.
I loved seeing this plant growing on the sign at the spot I parked at.
I went to Kingsland and got some more information about things in the area. Folkston Funnel sounded cool and was close enough, I figured I’d check it out. Most of the trains going through Florida pass through the Folkston Funnel. I read some reviews online of people enjoying the stop and saw some folks come and go to watch the trains and listen to the defect detector. I am more familiar with seeing passenger trains so seeing so many types of freight trains was pretty cool. They were long trains, too! I soon understood why drivers would turn around and go a different way if one was passing and they were going to need to wait. :)
I think this would be a really neat short documentary project and I'd love to make one. While it may be a bit of a niche, there are certainly fans of the railway system and sitting to observe the trains can be a popular pastime for a variety of people. I really enjoyed it and would like to go back. I have been playing with my phone apps and created this trailer about Folkston Funnel for fun. Please note, I simply did this for fun and to play with the app. No copyright infringement intended and the footage and pictures are my own.  I've titled it, "Traaaiiiiin at Folkston Funnel" - check it out:

After my visit to Georgia for a few days or so, I decided to simply drive and see where I felt I wanted to go. Surprisingly, I re-entered Florida on a different route than I had before and wasn't expecting to see that Florida sign. Not surprisingly, I found my way back to The Island. I think I've said all I will say about Amelia Island for this season although I have several more beautiful photos so who knows! As I left this final time, I went a different route and saw some parks nearby(Talbot Island parks) that I would like to visit at a future date. Such a lovely area.
The tweet says it all.