December 31, 2004

Coming Home

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 8:53 pm by diandy2004

Well, life was different when we returned.  We got home on December 1st and felt like strangers in a familiar land.  Things were the same, yet felt very different.  Some changes were due to the hurricanes.  Many large banyan trees and oak trees that used to add so much character to our otherwise flat landscape were missing.  Blue tarps covered many rooftops.  Beaches were altered.  Businesses or restaurants closed due to damages.  Other changes reflected the continual increase in the number of people moving to south Florida – more high- or mid-rise buildings sprouting up, and the traffic.  Traffic here this winter is the worst we have ever experienced.  Could it be that our perspective changed?  After a year of traveling across country in relatively open or rural areas we thought at first it was our perspective that was different.  But no, we’ve been here for two months now and we still think traffic has never been so bad.  Including our little city of Boca.

But living in an RV did show us that we can live happily in smaller quarters.  Our house suddenly seemed so large.  And all of a sudden we began to really appreciate the fact that in the RV we didn’t have so much home maintenance to worry about.  Cleaning all of the space we realized we didn’t need; home repairs; yard-work.  Granted, a lot of it was “catch-up” due to the home being vacant for a year, but we started to re-evaluate our lives and what we wanted to do with our time.  This was the beginning of our thoughts on down-sizing into a condo.

The last two weeks in December we spent in Philly visiting our families for the holiday.  My (Diane’s) mother is planning a move from the home we grew up in, so much of my time was spent helping her with home repairs, packing, etc.  It felt good to help her prepare for her down-sizing to a place more appropriate for her, too!

Needless to say, we didn’t get to think much more about our life until we returned in January.  To read more about the changes in our life and our future travel plans you’ll need to continue reading our 2005 blog or return to our website and click on the current weblog to see what we’re doing today!

November 28, 2004

Orlando & New Smyrna Beach, FL

Posted in Uncategorized tagged at 8:51 pm by diandy2004

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen this many rednecks…no wonder Andy’s brother Joe likes central Florida so much – he fits right in! Only kidding Joe (but do visit again for pictures of Joe riding his jet ski while it’s still on the trailer). Thanksgiving with family was wonderful, as usual. Dot and Joe open their home to not only family, but several friends. This year there were 18 for dinner with more visitors dropping in afterwards.

Saturday morning we popped in on our friends Gerry and Chris Thomas who have just relocated to Orlando. Literally – the movers were there delivering furniture Saturday. When we saw them in January, Colin was an infant, and now he is teetering around trying to walk. So we spent a few hours at their new home before heading over to New Smyrna Beach to re-join Andy’s family.

We did the usual in Smyrna – crochet, bocci, ping pong, bike, shop, the kids surfed…But it wasn’t the same without Rob and Betsy there. We stayed at a nearby campground because we weren’t sure about the RV fitting in the driveway. We’ve measured it now so we know we can fit for future visits, but of course that leaves no parking space for anyone else! We may be back as early as January when Andy’s other brother, Bobby, is in town with family visiting. But there’s also that little trust issue…trusting Joe and Nick (and you too Bobby) with the RV parked that close. These pranksters can’t be trusted, especially when together.

During a bike ride along the intercoastal today we got to see dolphins. Several. They were coming close to shore for fish. We watched them for awhile. They would take off after a fish at incredible speeds, and sometimes even jump out of the water chasing fish.

Can’t believe we’re heading home to Boca tomorrow. It’ll be interesting to see what has changed and how our perception of our world has changed. We’ll keep you informed of any and all future trips. Just keep checking our blog to see what we’re up to!

November 23, 2004

Crystal River, FL

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:50 pm by diandy2004

The weather has been perfect. Sunny and warm. It would be a delight to sit outside and enjoy the temperatures, but the gnats have been fierce. Driving us insane with their bites and buzzing.

Yesterday we visited Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. They have a variety of Florida’s wildlife – manatees, alligators, panther, black bear, foxes, bald eagles, cranes, hawks, and lots of other birds. Some of them have been injured and cannot be returned to the wild. We almost didn’t make it into the park, however, since the boats were full and the lines were long and slow. The disorganization of it all was almost too unbearable to wait through.

Afterwards we played some tennis at the RV Park. It’s an Encore Superpark and they have all the amenities – heated pool, spa, pool table, shuffleboard, tennis, lake, docks on the canal, a variety of classes, etc. Sadly, Andy beat me at pool and tennis. I have to quit teaching him so well. Then we relaxed in the spa and pool (heated to 84 degrees).

Today was a dual-sport day. Drove to Dunnellon to kayak in Rainbow River and bike on the Withlacoochee State Trail (Rail to Trail). Rainbow River was beautiful. We put in at KP Hole County Park and paddled against the current to the headsprings. The water is crystal clear, and a year-round 72 degrees. Kayaking this river is like snorkeling without getting wet. We could see fish and turtles swimming below us. We had hoped to see anhingas and alligators pass by underneath but we weren’t that lucky.

Kayaking Rainbow River

Kayaking Rainbow River

Rainbow Springs State Park is the headwaters of Rainbow River, so we got out of our kayaks and walked the trails here. They have several waterfalls (all man-made) but still a very pretty place. Unfortunately several paths were closed due to downed trees from the hurricanes. Rainbow Springs is the fourth largest spring in Florida. No disposable items are allowed on Rainbow River (Gatorade bottles, snack bags, etc) which could be one reason we didn’t see any trash – even on the bottom!

Rainbow Springs State Park

The Withlacoochee State Trail is a 46-mile paved path running from Dunnellon to US 304. We almost always enjoy biking these Rail-to-Trails because they are more peaceful than biking on unfamiliar roads. The one problem that we have encountered several times, however, is finding the trailheads. Today was one of those days. Oh, well. Once we found it, it was a nice 12ft wide path with trees buffering any paralleling roads. Rolling hills kept it interesting. Andy had some trouble with the local wildlife though – almost running over a snake and a gopher tortoise (which would’ve been messy for him and the tortoise).

Afterwards we slowed down to enjoy another gorgeous sunset…

Sunset on the Gulf

Sunset on the Marsh

Ok for now, we’re heading back to the pool and jacuzzi!  Clicking on any picture will take you to the Web Albums where more pictures have been posted…

November 21, 2004

Cedar Key, FL – Kayaking Old Florida

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:24 pm by diandy2004

In Cedar Key we kayaked, kayaked, and shopped a little.

This is a neat little town with art galleries and small shops, restaurants and bars, and water, water everywhere. Some of the original buildings from the 1850’s are still standing.

Downtown Cedar Key

For Sale

We took the ‘yaks out two days and paddled around several of the small islands surrounding Cedar Key. I’ve never seen such a variety and quantity of birds as we saw here: gulls, pelicans, terns, sandpipers, herons, egrets, ospreys, roseate spoonbills, kingfishers, 3 bald eagles, and many more. These were the first bald eagles we’ve ever seen in Florida! And their huge branch nests. Very exciting.

Bald Eagle Nest

Bald Eagle

Tides have to be closely watched here, because when the tide goes out, much of the area becomes mud flats. And there are huge mounds of oyster shells that can slice up you or your boat if your not careful. And much of the area is dotted with grassy keys which creates a kayaking-maze with lots of dead-ends. We enjoyed it immensely and will have to come back some day to do some of the other islands.

Andy Kayaking

Jerry and Dee popped in on Saturday for a visit. Thankfully their timing was perfect (since we didn’t check phone messages) and they caught us after our kayak and just before we were heading out for lunch. What a great surprise to have friends ‘pop-in’ to spend some time with us.

We spent two nights at a Tiki Bar a short walk from camp. The gnats were a little easier to handle here then on the docks at our RV Park. The sunsets on the Gulf were beautiful and the conversations there were lively. Three couples who help run the motel are full-time RVers and we had lots to share.

View from Tiki Bar

Just Another Gulf Sunset

More pictures are available on the Web Albums – just click on any of the above pictures to look at the others.

November 18, 2004

Old Town, FL – Kayaking Old Florida

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:49 pm by diandy2004

From Tallahassee we headed south and stayed along the Gulf Coast. We refer to it as “old Florida” because it’s what Florida used to be like before all of the condos and concrete.

In Old Town we stayed at a lovely RV Park called Suwannee River Hideaway. The park office was an “old” 1920’s General Store.  The owners had built – by hand, mind you –  a 1500′ boardwalk through the swamp to the Suwannee River.  Shortly after arriving, we set out to find the boardwalk and the river.  We sat on the floating dock enjoying the view and then were joined by another couple – Jerry and Dee, and their dog Jaxson.  The hours slipped by before we knew it.  Jerry and Dee have been full-timing for the last three years and it seemed once we started talking we couldn’t stop. After three days together, we feel like we’ve known them forever. We’re hoping to cross paths with Jerry and Dee again someday on our travels.

The 1500' Boardwalk

The Floating Dock

It was too long of a portage to carry our kayaks to the river from the campground, so we drove to the town of Suwannee looking for kayak launches. There were supposed to be two along the 9-mile Dixie Mainline Road – one on Sanders Creek and one on Shired Creek. The spots were too crowded with saw palmettos and other pointy plants and too thick with muck to be inviting. Not to mention that a “blow-back” tide was in effect, in which the wind was pushing the tide out even though it was a rising tide. The thought of the water getting any lower was disconcerting. Luckily we ran into a FL Fish and Wildlife Ranger who gave us several other boat ramp options to choose from. We had a wonderful paddle down a narrow waterway from Munden Camp to the Suwannee River and then down some other channels leading into a wildlife refuge. (Note: we finally got to paddle the Suwannee 10 months after our first attempt in Jan).  We saw turtles, alligators, and lots of birds. I rescued a dragonfly who had lost a wing and was floating in the river – he stayed with me the rest of the trip.

Paddling from Munden Camp

My Hitchhiking Buddy

There are several canoe-kayak trails near the Gulf that we saw in a brochure.  We’ll have to investigate these on another trip.

We should mention too that the drive along Dixie Mainline was a treat – taking you through wetlands, marsh, swamp, and dry hammocks – and was worth the trip even if we couldn’t kayak. Many of the homes in Suwannee were on stilts, some around 20′ high.  We did a couple of short walks during the drive, too – to Fishbone Cemetary, Fishbone Observation Point, a boardwalk at Salt Creek – so there were places to get out and stretch and explore.

Dixie Mainline

View from Dixie Mainline

Another day we rode our road-bikes along the Nature Coast Trail (a Rail to Trail). The trail is a total of 32 miles long and is shaped in a “y” going to different towns. We started in Old Town near the Hardees and rode to Trenton and then down to Fanning Springs. Eventhough we rode 28 miles, it was a lazy ride with a lunch stop in Trenton (at the Cypress Swamp Cafe at the Trenton trailhead which was built in an old 1925 Coca-Cola building and offered salads, sandwiches and deserts) and then a stop at Fanning Springs just to enjoy the green waters of the spring. They experienced some damages from the hurricanes here, but fortunately for us the waters returned to their natural green color last week.  If you’re lucky you’ll see some manatees here.  The springs are a constant 72 degrees.

Trenton Train Depot

Fanning Springs

Added Note: Suwannee River Hideaway throws a big halloween Party every year – and they even put together a “haunted house”.  If we’re ever back in that neck of the woods in late October, I want to remember to check it out.

November 14, 2004

Tallahassee, FL

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 8:48 pm by diandy2004

Well, we’re back in Florida. We crossed over the border yesterday. After setting up camp, we toured the old Capitol building yesterday and was quite surprised. After visiting Oklahoma’s and Texas’ Capitols we were expecting marble and grandeur. Our state capitol (the old one) more closely resembled a plantation home with red and white striped awnings over each window and a grand staircase in the lobby. No marble, no ornate woodwork. But pretty in its simplicity. Even the stained glass in the dome was simple. The new Capitol built in 1977 is a 22-story skyscraper without a dome at all. What’s a capitol building without a dome? We weren’t able to tour the new capitol building since it was closed on the weekends. But from what we saw, if I was Jeb I’d much prefer to work in the old capitol.

Old Florida Capitol from 1902

Old Florida Capitol from 1902

Inside the Capitol

Inside the Capitol

New Florida Capitol from 1977

New Florida Capitol from 1977

After touring the capitol we walked around downtown Tallahassee for a bit.  We had hoped to hit some more museums and the like, but it was after 5pm so everything was closing up.  We’ll have to revisit the city another visit.

Today we took a nice long bike ride on the Tallahassee-St Marks Historic Rail Trail. Sixteen miles each way with a lunch stop in St Marks. I was happy to see that the Riverside Cafe actually offered vegetarian items in this tiny (2-cafe)  fishing village near the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately it was quite chilly (high 50’s) and windy (15mph + and in our faces…both ways) making it feel even colder. So much for being in sunny Florida. But it was a nice ride on a paved bikeway with trees most of the way. At one point I was chased by a small pug shorter than my knee. Actually, I think it was more of a ‘race’ than a ‘chase’. He didn’t seem as much interested in biting me as he was in just beating me. I clocked the little guy at 20.8 mph – unbelievable for tiny little legs like his. It’s been a long time since we’ve ridden 32 miles. We’re sure we’re going to feel the pain tomorrow. Got to keep practicing though so we can keep up with Melissa when we get home to Boca!

February 2, 2004

Northern Florida – Springs, Rivers, and Waterfalls

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:58 pm by diandy2004

In northern Florida we stopped in White Springs hoping to kayak the Ole Suwannee River, but the temperatures plummeted to 19 degrees here and we just aren’t used to (or interested in) kayaking in those temperatures!  But here’s a picture of the kayak ramp at the campground.  The bank was so steep to the river, I’m still not sure how easy it would’ve been to get our kayaks up and down the embankment.
Suwannee Kayak Launch

Suwanee Kayak Launch

So instead we visited the Stephen Foster Center (the man who wrote songs such as “Oh Susanna!” and “Way Down Upon the Suwanee River” to just name a few), and saw the “largest bell tower in the world”.  We also went for a short hike to Big Shoals, which is a Class III rapids on the Suwanee.

Hike to Big Shoals

Hike to Big Shoals

We also went for a short mountain bike ride on the White Springs Trail.  We’ll have to save some of our other adventure ideas for another visit.  At least we know we’ll be coming back through this area (or close to it) on our return trip.
Driving to Marianna, FL had us crossing our first Time Zone into Central Time.  Having to change all the clocks and watches periodically will take some getting used to.  We visited the Florida Caverns, which are worth the visit.  The bats we saw in the caverns were tiny, 2-3″ long Pipistrelle Bats.   The park also has some nice trails taking you past bluffs, ‘crevices’, large cypress trees and elms.
We were able to get back into our kayaks here and paddle the Chipola River.  The Chipola runs right through the campground in Florida Caverns.  We put in at the boat ramp in the campground and paddled north against the current.  We like to do that  til we’re tired, and then get to float back.  A beautiful place with very large trees.  To combat the temps here we bought scupper plugs for our ‘yaks, and wore our new waterproof ski pants!  We’re adapting…you forget what cold is when you live in South Florida.
Paddling Under a Tree Trunk
Paddling Under a Tree Trunk
On our drive to Holt, FL we detoured to Falling Waters State Park near Chipley, FL.  A rare Florida waterfall.  Here the water spills down 73′ into a sinkhole and then disappears into underground caverns.  We walked some of the trails before continuing our drive.
Diane at Falling Waters

Diane at Falling Waters

Our last stop in Florida was Holt. Our target was to hike in Blackwater River State Park.  We did do a short hike to Blackwater River.  There would’ve been great hiking and biking in other areas if it wasn’t for hunting season, which appears they hunt something there all year long.  So, for safety, we drove to Milton and biked a Rail-to-Trail there:  Blackwater Heritage Trail.  It was a nice, tree-lined path that dead-ended at the Whiting Field NAS.   The campground we stayed at was close to Eglin Air Force Base, which had night-time target practices.  Have you ever tried to go to sleep to machine-gun fire and bombing explosions?  It was a pretty interesting stay, needless to say.

Some more of our “Firsts” that we experienced in just the first month of our trip:  doing laundry in an RV Park, driving the RV & towing the car, going to a public library or cafe for internet access, had to use a heat lamp to Nikki warm at night, and we started creating our own “you might be a redneck if…” jokes.
It took us two weeks to get out of Florida.  Some might think we’re slow, but we’re in no rush and we’re enjoying parts of our state we hadn’t seen before.

January 27, 2004

St Augustine, FL – Anastasia

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 7:55 pm by diandy2004

Our next stop was back towards the coast:  St Augustine, FL.  We stayed at Anastasia State Park campground, where Andy perfected his fire-building techniques (using Duraflames, of course).  The temperatures have been surprisingly cool, so we’ve been happy that we invested in some winter clothes prior to leaving on our trip.

St Augustine is a beautiful, historic town that’s well worth your time to stroll through.  There’s also an old fort – Castillo de San Marcos – which is a National Monument that’s right in downtown.  Fort Matanzas is nearby if you wanted to see another fort and National Monument.

Historic St Augustine

Historic St Augustine

We enjoyed our visit to the lighthouse, which included a climb to the top:

St Augustine Lighthouse

St Augustine Lighthouse

View of Town from Lighthouse

View of Town from Lighthouse

View of Inlet from Lighthouse

View of Inlet from Lighthouse

The beaches are packed sand you can drive on.  Unlike our sand in South Florida.

Andy and Ele on the Beach

Andy and Ele on the Beach

We had several family members from Orlando and friends from Jacksonville come visit us during our short stay here.

Here are some of our friends from Jacksonville who came down to visit us at the campground.

Chris and Colin

Chris and Colin



January 24, 2004

Ocala National Forest – Salt Springs

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 7:53 pm by diandy2004

From Blue Springs, we continued north to Ocala National Forest.  We stayed in a private campground near Salt Springs.  There are several areas in and around Ocala National Forest where you can camp.

We took our mountain bikes out on Alexander Springs Trail in the morning, then kayaked Juniper Wayside in the afternoon.  Gotta love these multi-sport days – and with all of our toys being inside Ele, we didn’t even need to go home!  We also found a great use for the tailgate – that’s where we ate lunch.  Perfect.

The Alexander Springs Trail was about 12-miles of sandy, scenic trail through a pine forest.  Not technical, which was good for me to practice more.

Our Lunch Spot!

Our Lunch Spot!

Juniper Wayside was a narrow creek with a strong current.

Kayaking Juniper Wayside

Kayaking Juniper Wayside

Kayaking in Ocala Nat'l Forest

Kayaking in Ocala Nat'l Forest

Our last day allowed us to sneak in a 7-mile hike through the pine forest and past numerous small lakes before heading out of town.  We did a spur trail from Salt Springs to the Florida Scenic Trail.

Hiking in Ocala National Forest

Hiking in Ocala National Forest

January 22, 2004

Orange City, FL – Blue Springs & Manatees

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 7:51 pm by diandy2004

After leaving Jonathon Dickinson, we experienced one of our “Firsts” in RVing – we began towing the Honda Element behind us. We’re excited to experience many more “Firsts” on this trip. Moving north up the eastern coast of FL 185 miles, we stopped at Blue Springs State Park for manatees.
We saw over 32 manatees hanging out in the Springs. And what a beautiful setting with the big oak trees and steam rising above the water.
Mist over Blue Springs

Mist over Blue Springs

Andy on a Misty Morning

Andy on a Misty Morning

A Mother and her Baby

A Mother and her Baby

A Manatee

A Manatee

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