Here we go again……

It has been almost 3 years to the day since we pulled into our driveway after our last journey.  Little did we know that that trip was the start of something not the end of it.  We have enjoyed being home taking advantage of the spacious 1886 farm house that we remodeled and made our own over the last 20 years. We have taken every opportunity to spend time with family and friends and immersed ourselves in our careers.  The wanderlust however was always there…

 

Having met some awesome pets on the road and always having our last Golden, Cassie, in our hearts and memories we felt the need to add to our family. When we got home October 5, 2009 we adopted Nali and Kai, sisters from the same litter, who were born 9/11/2009.    We really couldn’t imagine “the girls” not being a part of our lives at this point. One of their favorite spots in the house was curled up by the fire on a cold Fall or Winter day….

 

How cute were they?

 

 

They have grown a bit since that time but they are still very cute!!!! (ok, we are a little bias) They have had many opportunities to stretch their legs over the last three years.  We have made sure they experienced a variety of people and places in preparation for the future adventure we hoped to embark upon. Nali (red head) has proven to be our athlete, catching anything you throw at her (sometimes in mid air) and diving into any body of water, swimming great lengths to retrieve any object that entices her.  Kai (the blonde) on the other hand is our somewhat clumsy social butterfly and professional cuddler. She makes a point to say hello to any two legged or four legged creature she comes across.  At night she is the first to crash and snuggle in front of a fire or movie.

 

The decision to completely change the path of our lives was not an easy one.  We thought long and hard about the family, friends, careers, home, and  “stuff” that we would have to give up in (what we now know is) our pursuit of happiness.  There was much to consider and even more to do in preparing for this day.  Every decision seemed so important; from the timing of when we were leaving, to selling or giving away basically everything you own, to saying goodbye to people we love, to giving up careers in a time where so many are struggling.

Kim concentrated on the house stuff like packing and getting rid of everything in a 2100 square foot house that has been accumulated for the past 20 years. Several garage sales later and there is still “stuff” to get rid of.  All these years we thought we weren’t collectors… Who knew?

Chris concentrated on getting the house ready to sell and the “new house” ready for prime time.  When not glued to his computer working, he has spent his time on all those items his wife has nagged him to get done for years.  The house looks better than ever, if only we could find a buyer. Unfortunately, we had it sold but the deal fell through.  We will remain optimistic about future prospects which include renting it, keeping it, or outright selling it. Chris has also spent a great deal of time, energy, and money making the camper more comfortable and safe (building in cabinets, changing drum brakes to disc brakes, strengthening the axles and suspension, and cleaning/waxing from top to bottom).

We are off to visit Kim’s sister and family in New Hampshire.  From there we head to Acadia National Park for a week, Kim’s favorite childhood vacation spot. No camper, wrong direction…. The plan is to finish up all loose ends when we get back and officially start the journey at the end of October.

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Fall in New England

When leaving Rochester to head to the East Coast our emotions were mixed. We are officially in what we are calling our “pretirement”… Our temporary retirement. The side trip to New England was for several sentimental reasons. One last trip to visit Kim’s sister and the Mazzella clan before leaving the East Coast and also one last trip to Acadia National Park, a very nostalgic place for Kim. We can’t say this is the start of the “TRIP”, however it is the start of our new lifestyle…

Cooper shows us the way.

We had a great time at “Club Mazzella”. There is a great 3 mile walk right across the street that we enjoyed with Danielle one day then the rest of the family the next. Cooper was sure he was invited every time. The colors were a bit past peak but they did pop around the bog!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The girls cheer on AJ their way.

It is fall, Cheer and Football are in full swing. Kim enjoyed seeing the girls at tumble and cheer practice. We all had fun at the game on Sunday watching AJ’s team destroy their opponents while Chloe’s cheer squad cheered them on.

Chloe shows how the professionals cheer.

Danielle, Sophie and Aunt Kimmie showed their team spirit from the sidelines.

The Coach

 

 

 

 

Coach Angelo was serious about the boys getting a win.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AJ, the football hero.

The center of attention

AJ had several star moments. He made us all proud!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “girls” in the semi back seat on the drive up to Maine.

We left Club Mazzella Monday morning for Acadia. It was a great ride and we saw some nice colors. We took the scenic route as we weren’t in any hurry. The girls had no trouble making themselves comfortable. If they could have been in our laps they would have been. By the way, never clean the car before a long road trip with 2 golden retrievers….

 

 

 

Home for the week.

As we crossed the bridge to Mount Dessert Island Km had a tear in her eye.  Having spent many summer vacations with her family camping here in Acadia the memories caught her by surprise. We were excited that our cabin was at the end of the campground which was convenient with the dogs. There were very few people around and it was like having our own private vacation cabin. Thank goodness for electric! This side of the Island is pretty cool and quiet this time of year and we needed to make the most of our amenities. Good thing Kim brought the coffee pot, electric frying pan and electric heater! Looks like we will need to make some creative one pan meals.

 

Break time while walking along Long Pond.

 

Among the fallen leaves

Our first day was fun. We got acclimated to the park and Island. Stopped at the ranger station to get maps and purchase a National Park Pin. After much debate we decided this was a new adventure and we would collect pins instead of hiking medallions this time. The hike around Long Pond and through the Great Notch Trail was fun. The girls got to do a little swimming and we got to see how out of hiking shape we had gotten over the past 3 years…those darn desk jobs!

 

Top of Cadillac Mtn

After our hike we drove up Cadillac Mountain to check out the panoramic views. As always it didn’t disappoint.  It was a pretty full day so we decided to solve our dinner dilemma. After searching high and low for inexpensive down home lobster dinners, we settled for a home cooked meal of mushroom ravioli, hand made Italian sausage, and sauce in the electric frying pan. Very yummy!

 

 

 

 

Walking on Sand Beach

Wednesday proved to be soggy… The plan for a trek up the Beehive to the Bowl was postponed as the top of the mountain was nowhere to be seen. There was a steady mist and low lying clouds that made our decision to seek out more sea level activities a no brainer. Off to Sand Beach for a walk around the cliffs. The girls were a hit with everyone! We can’t count all the people who stopped to say hello. They enjoyed their first experience with an ocean. We, on the other hand, were second thinking the water and sand… Boy did they get icky!

 

Posing on the cliffs over Sand Beach

Of course, we had to pose for all the posterity shots. Family timer shots have become more of a challenge with our four legged family members. They WILL be timer shot whiz’s when we get done with them.

I have the best models, even though 2 of them do not follow direction well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ending a rainy day in Acadia with a walk in Bar Harbor and along the Historic Shore path just seemed right. Then, back to the cabin for steak and salad! We are still working out the kinks of our new technology equipment and our internet is very slow here. Promise these posts will be better format soon!

View from the historic Bar Harbor Shore Path

 

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The Precipice

View from the top of The Precipice.

 

If Wednesday was the perfect soggy day in Acadia, Thursday was the perfect sunny day in Acadia. We woke up to a crisp Fall day with bright blue skies. Since the weather can be sketchy here, we decided to make the Precipice trail our main focus for the day. This is one of the more strenuous and most sought after hikes in the park. Kim has been hiking the Precipice since she was about 5. Her memories include complaining the whole way up to disappointment at not being able to climb due to nesting Peregrine Falcons. This trail is a protected nesting place and is closed from March through July. The past several times we have been here the trail has been closed.

The Precipice and Beehive trails both offer rungs, ladders, and rock climbing in their summit route. We opted to take the more challenging Precipice route up and incorporate the Beehive in our descent. This way we were sure to get the best of both climbs. Unfortunately the girls would have to wait for us in the car for this one.

According to the sign “the Precipice is maintained as a non-technical climbing route, it is NOT a hiking trail”. As you can see from the pictures below they are not lying!

We were pleasantly surprised with our ability to tackle the climb without too much trouble. Ok… we took a lot of pictures (not resting). We met a few other hikers along the way, among them were Serenity and Mike who shared some awesome stories about their adventures. These stories included setting a Guinness world record luging down a mountain in Brazil to ice climbing and naming a new mountain in Alaska (Mount Hope). They make our adventures seem like a walk in the park. Serenity, good luck in the MDI Marathon on Sunday!

After reaching the summit of Mt. Champlain, via the Precipice trail, and leaving our new friends we headed along the Bear Brook trail to the Bowl. The views were spectacular. The dichotomy of mountain, lake, and ocean with a little fall color was outstanding! The Bowl is the perfect swimming hole conveniently located between all these great trails. Kim shared her stories of swimming in the Bowl with the family on their many summer trips. No swimming today, very windy and cool.

From the Bowl it was time to head to the summit of the Beehive from the backside. After stopping for a quick snack and enjoying the views of Sand Beach (where were were yesterday) we started our descent from the Beehive. At this point it was hard to enjoy the views… Nothing like watching your trail disappear over a cliff and knowing you had to go there… We had fun getting timer shots to emphasize the difficulty and ledginess (made that word up, poetic license).

The girls were glad to see us when we got back and we were glad to see them too. Actually, we were glad to see the car so we could sit and rest our weary legs. We spent the rest of the afternoon touring the island and stopped for a quick mile and a half walk at Ship Harbor. We needed to stretch our legs and so did the girls!

We ended our day with a cold bottle of Chardonnay, 2 pounds of steamers, and 3 lobsters cooked perfectly in our electric frying pan!

Ps- An electric heater and a beer glass work great for melting butter 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Last licks in Acadia

Friday morning was a washout, however we were able to get a post up about the Precipice and practice our relaxation strategies. This is something Kim has promised Chris she would work on, he even got it in writing! By 1 o’clock the weather seemed to have passed and we decided to venture out.

 

No more biscuits for you!

Having a shorter window for the day we opted for a hike close to home and chose the Beech Cliffs trail from Echo Lake. Great idea, however we didn’t read the fine print and found ourselves facing some significant ladders at the top. Chris did his best to heft the girls up the first one not knowing that there was more to come. Nail and Kai were troopers and held on for dear life as he brought them up and then back down the ladder.

 

 

 

 

Overlooking Somes Sound from Beech Cliffs.

Overlooking Echo lake from Beech Cliffs.

We are rarely beat by a hike so we drove around to a different trailhead and found the top of the Beach Cliffs. The views of Echo Lake with Somes Sound in the background were noteworthy as was looking the other way.

 

Saturday was gorgeous but quite brisk. We opted for breakfast out for the first time. Kim was craving her traditional Maine blueberry pancakes. A shout out to Sea Biscuit in Southwest Harbor, very yummy!

 

Overlooking Somes Sound from St Sauveur.

We decided to stay on the quiet side of the island and conquer the Acadia Mountain and St. Sauveur Mountain loop. Yes, that is 2, count them, 2 summits today! We started by way of St. Sauveur. Kim had to capture the views with Chris and the girls. It really didn’t matter which direction you looked, it was all spectacular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our prickly friend.

We took a few side trips on the Valley View Cove trail and the overlook, adding mileage and an encounter with a porcupine to our story. Not sure who was more freaked out, the porcupine who scampered up a tree when she caught sight of the girls, or the girls themselves. We were very happy things didn’t go differently. Cooper has recently had 2 run in’s with porcupines and it was painful for him and costly for the Mazzellas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overlooking Somes sound from Acadia Mountain.

Starting to get a bit tired… too bad, time to head up Acadia mountain. Chris made sure to capture this vista with Kim and the girls. We made it down after about 6 miles of up and down rock climbing and hiking. It was time to call it a day and figure out our dinner plan.

Sunday morning the weather in Acadia was less than stellar.  After looking out the cabin window and seeing the global gray and pouring rain we checked the radar to confirm our suspicions.  It was going to be an all day rain… Having done most of the bucket list items for this trip we decided to leave a day early.  We spent Sunday afternoon at Club  Mazzella in New Hampshire to break up  the ride home.

We will be back in Rochester Monday night.  Looking forward to squaring everything away at home and visiting with friends and family before we set out for good. We aren’t sure when that will be but we have reservations at a State Park in North Carolina  for our Thanksgiving visit with Mike, Carrie, and Chase. Hopefully we are on the road well before then.

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Downsizing

 

Last of many parties at 237 Phillips.

As we worked on selling or giving almost everything we owned away, we realized the job was way bigger than expected.  It was probably a good thing that our house went back on the market and our departure date was delayed. We were actually pretty busy every day. We couldn’t imagine leaving much earlier than we did. It takes time to liquidate your belongings, determine what you will REALLY need day to day and what will fit in the camper (yes, I need 20 pair of shoes!), what is important to save if and when you resettle, what is best to give to whom, what is best stored where, spending time with all of your friends and family…

 

 

 

The last night in our house on the last of our furniture.

As it was, everything really came together on Monday the 19th.  Although we planned on leaving that morning, we stayed till Tuesday in order to get everything done. There was more to pack, more to clean and some big loose ends to tie up (like the house and Kim’s car). It was midnight when we finally set our heads on the pillow, having signed the contract on the house and watched the Subaru pull out of the driveway on a flatbed at 11 PM.  Whew…

 

 

 

 

Hitting the road.

We are very excited for Jessica, Danny, and their daughter Malley who will be moving into the house next week. We hope they love it as much as we did. Jess was so excited, she got to the house before we left on Tuesday (don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, ha ha).  This worked well as she was able to help take this picture to capture the moment!

As excited as we were to get on the road we were equally nervous about what the future will bring. This was it!  Everything we had been working toward for the last few years has finally come to fruition… On the road again but this time with no end in sight.

 

 

 

Not quite as comfortable for the pups as the Subaru.

So the journey starts. Chris is nervous about towing on a good day, so pulling out with a load a bit heavier than ever before, new disc brakes, modifications to suspension, heavy duty reinforcements to the axels, and several other items he was a bit more on edge than ever. Looking at a first trip of over 800 miles was a bit daunting.

It couldn’t have been a more perfect day for starting out.  Sunny and relatively warm.  It wasn’t long before Chris was feeling more comfortable and started to relish the moment (ok, maybe 200 miles, but he got there none the less!).  Nali and Kai however had no problem making the back of the truck their new home!

 

 

We stay at all the best places.

We made over 400 miles and 5 states the first day. Planning to stay at the Flying J truck stop didn’t pan out, it was a zoo!  Lucky for us a few miles down the road was the Virginia Welcome Center and Rest Area where we made camp.  Tired and hungry we made some dinner and passed out by 9, it had been a very long few days. Our second day on the road was again uneventful.  Another perfect sunny day.  We arrived at Jordan Lake State Park mid afternoon and checked in.  Our site was beautiful! Looking forward to spending a long holiday weekend with the family.
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Thanksgiving

Jordan Lake campsite.

Our campsite at Jordan Lake State Park was gorgeous. Unbeknownst to us, the park gate closes at 6PM this time of year, REALLY… Since we were here in North Carolina to spend the holiday weekend with family there was no way we could make it back that early. We had to figure out how to get back home after the gates were closed. After investigating other options including moving to alternate campgrounds, we decided that nothing compared to the beautiful site we had. We were also not thrilled with the prospect of having to pack down the RV and reset again. After a little poking around, We found a little church not far from the gate. We headed out each morning prepared with coats, leashes, and flashlights. Each night we parked at the church and left a note on the truck with our contact information and a thank you. We then proceeded to walk the 1.4 miles in to the campsite every night. Since we didn’t want to take advantage, we were sure to get up and walk the same route in reverse every morning by 8 (when the gates opened backup) to recover the truck! It was of course well worth the effort! It’s always good to be with family for the holidays. Even more special this time as we will miss the next few…

 

Another perfect Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving at Mike, Carri, and Chase ‘s was great as always! Thanks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campsite picnic.

We had the whole weekend to enjoy the family so what better way to spend an afternoon than to have everyone over to our campsite for some lunch. It was fun entertaining for the first time in our “new” home… It was another beautiful, yet brisk day. Played a little football/catch (for some of us there wasn’t much catching going on…), took a little walk along the lake, then headed back to Mike and Carri’s for a Southern Shrimp and Sausage Low Country Boil compliments of Jim and Sandy (Carri’s parents). Yum and thanks! No shortage of eating this weekend!

 

 

 

 

Resting after a long shopping spree.

Resting after the big shopping spree.

Saturday morning everyone met at the Flea Market. This isn’t just any Flea Market, it has to be the biggest one ever, having something of interest for all (ok, maybe not Chris but he was a trooper!). We make a point to spend a few hours there every time we visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Football heroes.

Sunday we headed back over to Mike and Carri’s. It was the day of the BIG football game. A tradition started several years ago with a”fancy” trophy for the winning team to display proudly in their family room! Afterwards, Mom and Dad treated everyone to a yummy Italian dinner, thanks mom and dad!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did a lot of hanging out, tinkering with technology, telling stories ,sharing music, taking walks with the dogs, and yes… wait for it… eating and drinking. A good time was had by all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Charleston, SC

After a relatively easy 260 mile travel day we arrived at our new campground tucked waaaay back in the woods at about 3 in the afternoon. We were greeted by the owner who added up our charges for a three night stay totaling a whopping $34.50, gotta love Passport America which gives us 50% off. We also met our next door neighbors; our immediate neighbors were working Carnies, and the other is apparently a permanent camper who we are now convinced is a vampire. We have only met him briefly as the sun went down and haven’t seen him or his wife since. We hear them though, working on cars and playing music all through the night… Weird. No complaints as we have full hook ups for $11.50 a night!

We picked this spot for its central location to the places we wanted to check out in this area. Charleston was our first day trip. We have heard so much about what a great city it is and have read that it is rated a top must see US city in a few different resources. Although we aren’t big on city destinations, we have to say we were impressed with the classic old feel and beauty of Charleston. We enjoyed walking the French Quarter area admiring the architecture, the seaside park and fountains, the cobblestone streets, the churches and cemeteries, and the Charleston City Market established in 1807. Even with the weather being a bit drippy, we had a great afternoon and did over 3 miles taking in the sights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we headed out bright and early (ok, 9:30 is bright and early these days). Just as we were leaving our campground we were surprised by a huge tailless cat crossing the road. As the “cat” sat and posed we grabbed the camera realizing we may be seeing our first bobcat! Bobcat sightings are very rare and we were not sure if this was truly one. Rangers and the campground owner later confirmed this was a bobcat.

 

 

 

All this while on our way to our next destination de jour, Congaree National Park. It was a bit of a drive from where we were staying but we still chose a scenic route to get there anyway, all you see on route 95 is traffic. It proved to be a very interesting drive. Much of it was quite remote cutting through very poor rural old south. We passed through miles of cotton fields, some harvested and some not. Something neither one of us had seen in person. Another first for us today!

 

Congaree is one of the newest National Parks, established in 2003. It’s claim to fame is its primeval forest landscapes created by the Congaree River floodplain. This is home to the “largest contiguous area of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the US”. Walking among the Bald Cypress trees and their “knees” that come out of their root system and giant Loblolly Pines covered in Spanish Moss created many a surreal landscape. The girls had fun stretching their legs as did we on the 6.6 mile Oakridge trail. Tired and content we headed home. Congaree is a little disappointing as a National Park. If you are in the area, definitely worth a visit but we would not recommend going too far out of your way to do so.

 

Since the campsite was so inexpensive we decided to stay for one more day and check out the Francis Marion National Forest via the motorcycles. Kim was a bit nervous at first having to reacquaint herself with her ride. She hadn’t ridden since June… It wasn’t the most impressive ride of our lives but it was a great shake down run. Kim returned unscathed and feeling more confident then when she started.

Tomorrow we are off to Georgia and Savannah!

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Georgia

After leaving Charleston we headed toward Savannah. Having heard so much about what a great city it was, we had to scope it out for ourselves. We know we are weird and our take on Savannah may confirm just that. Our first day we headed into the Historic District which was along the river. We were not at all impressed and were actually a bit annoyed at the level of tourist trap shops and restaurants that had taken over what must have been a pretty cool old riverfront. Try we did to find the ambiance everyone talks about. We walked several blocks up from the river but to no avail, we crisscrossed many blocks but were not impressed. There has to be more to this town that we are missing….

 

Since we lasted all of about an hour in Savannah, we decided to drive out to Tybee Island and see what was there. On our way we happened upon Fort Pulaski, being the good Polocks we are, we decided to stop. It was actually quite interesting. It was built by US. forces in the second half of the 19th century to protect Savannah from river approaches. We had fun reading the history, viewing the historic rooms and artillery and taking pictures. Good thing as Tybee Island proved to be a bust.

 

When we returned home we did some more research on Savannah. There had to be more to it, we couldn’t possibly be that crazy to not see what so many other people have. The next day we doubled up on Chris’s motorcycle and headed back in to checkout the Victorian District. This was much more interesting.

 

 

 

We took to our feet for a few hours walking the quaint streets, taking in the interesting and grand old homes, churches, and park squares. Still not somewhere we would spend a great amount of time, but we did see the charm. From there we took a ride to Hilton Head Island. Again, we have heard a lot about it so we thought we would take a peek. Well, it looks like a nice place if you like to golf, shop, have money, etc… All things we do not… We couldn’t find a single public area to walk around so we grabbed a frosty from Wendy’s in a very posh strip mall and headed home.

Before we took off on Monday we wanted to check out one last thing. We were staying right near the Savannah Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately dogs are not allowed so we just planned a short hike  before getting on the road. The 4 mile loop we wanted to take was closed for the season so we drove the scenic wildlife loop and found a shorter walk to get up close and personal with nature. Chris got a few nice shots of what we have expertly identified (using Wikipedia) as a Red Shoulder Hawk and Great Blue Heron.

 

 

 

Our next location was in southern Georgia, not far from the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge. This was dog friendly so we headed out with the girls for a well deserved walk. Once again our plan of a long walk was thwarted by closed trails. This time due to wildfires last year that made many of the trails unsafe. We did manage to get in a few miles and checked out the Chesser Family Homestead in the swamp, which was pretty cool. We had a hard time finding things to do in this area so we took some time to get a few projects done on the camper, get the differential oil changed on the truck, and do some overall reorganizing. Heading into Florida tomorrow.

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Florida, Part 1

After leaving Georgia, we headed for the Ocala National Forest in northern Florida. We were interested in checking out the forest and it was a good location for getting to Orlando to see Kim’s sister, brother in law and niece, Sophie, who were in Florida for the National Cheer Competition. Sophie’s team made it and Kim’s sister is one of the coaches for her team, pretty exciting!

 

We spent the first day checking out the Ocala National forest. Apparently there are a lot of bears in the area. We spotted our first one within hours of getting there, just chilling on the side of the road. Our second was also along the road about 12 hours later.

 

After investigating our options we decided to hike the Yearling Trail, named for the  1938 novel written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings…….. Kim was a bit nervous at first. When we first got on the trail there was copious amounts of bear scat! It was a nice hike/walk, through an old homestead area with some interesting history, artifacts, and topography.

 

Having the dogs can complicate things so to avoid issues in Orlando our plan included separating for a few days. Chris drove Kim down to Orlando Friday night. He hung for dinner with the family then headed back to the camper to take care of the girls and check out some of the dirt biking in the forest for the weekend. Kim stayed in Orlando for the weekend to watch the competition and visit with family. The National Championship was actually pretty interesting to watch from a competition and cultural standpoint. The best part of the whole thing was Sophie’s team took first and were crowned the Division 10 Red Small National Champs! After the competition it was back to the resort for a pool party to celebrate. A good time was had by all!

While Kim played with her family Chris explored the forest on his motorcycle. He quickly reminded himself that sandy trails suck!

 

On Sunday, Kim and her dad headed south to his new place in Boca Raton. The plan was for Chris to leave the camper at the Ocala campsite and come down with the girls to spend a few days at Dad’s place and check out his new stomping grounds. Chris was right on time and arrived at 11:45 Monday, unfortunately he couldn’t get past the gatehouse. NO DOGS ALLOWED! It was time to hit up the technology and find a solution. Within 15 minutes, dad on his I phone and Chris on the laptop we were able to find a cheap pet friendly hotel 15 minutes away. Dad insisted on paying, thanks Dad! Although it complicated some of the plans we moved on. The dogs however continued to be a bit of a problem. We found out pretty quickly that this part of Florida is not the most pet friendly. Seemed like everywhere we wanted to take them had restrictions. We were lucky enough to find a pet friendly county park near our hotel where we spent each morning letting the girls stretch their legs before we left them at the hotel to hang with dad. The girls did not seem to mind as they enjoyed the king sized bed, a treat they rarely get.

 

We had a full couple of days in Boca. Dad took us to one of his favorite wetland walks where we saw some indigenous birds and an alligator.

 

 

 

We spent one day deep sea fishing and had a blast. Although it was a huge fishing boat there were only 6 of us on board. We had lots of attention from the Captain and Deck Hand which was a good thing as we needed it. We actually had lots of action! Kim was the big winner with 5 keepers, Chris came in second with 4 and dad pulled up the rear with 2. This didn’t include all the throw backs, it was a good day of fishing! We ended up with 8 Yellow Tail Snapper, 2 Trigger fish, and 1 Sero Mackerel. We are looking forward to some good eats!

 

The last several days had been quite busy with a great deal of driving.  Although we had planned on going to either Biscane or Everglades National Park, we just couldn’t stomach all the driving to make it happen.  After a good long walk with the girls at Quiet Waters park we decided to chill by the pool with Dad on the last day in Boca. It was a great way to end our visit, especially with the yummy lamb chop dinner prepared by Chef Ira!

 

The next day we headed out early. Our goal was to get the camper and move on to St. Augustine, the Nations oldest city, where dad will meet up with us for another day of two.

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Florida, Part II

After dragging the girls off the king size bed, we checked out of the hotel relatively early (for us 8:30 is early these days). It was a busy day. We drove 4 1/2 hours straight to where our camper was stored in the Ocala National Forest. We made a quick lunch and packed up. By 3:30 we were setting back up just outside of St. Augustine. We took our time as there was a great deal of cleaning to get the sand and dirt out from the last place…

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342 291We picked this location to check out St. Augustine, another city location that we had heard a lot about, and a good place for a visit when dad stops by on his way North for the holiday. There was also a state park nearby that we thought we could checkout. The first day we headed out with the girls, starting at Anastasia State Park. After all the hotel time in South Florida we wanted to get them out as much as possible. The park was not what we expected but we made the most of the little nature trail and got as close to the ocean as we could with the dogs (dogs are apparently not allowed on many beaches in Florida…). From there we headed into St Augustine to get the lay of the land and do some more walking. According to the tourist information it was supposed to be dog friendly, and it was! We were stars, at least the girls were. We managed a few miles between all the petting and compliments from strangers. We had fun taking advantage of some photo ops and checking out the architecture. We learned that it was the oldest city in the United States and had some pretty cool old buildings.

324 331Dad arrived on Saturday evening. He was traveling with a family friend, Nancy, who was grabbing a ride back to NY for the holiday. Although the camper was a little cozy for the four of us, we managed to make it work. We spent the whole afternoon Sunday walking around St. Augustine taking in the sights. We actually went into the fort (Castillo de San Marcos NM), something we couldn’t do with the dogs. After some good meals, bad movies, and overall chatting/catching up everyone went their separate ways on Monday. Dad and Nancy to NY to spend the holiday with family and us off into the great unknown…

378 370It was a noteworthy day of travel as we were finally starting to journey West. We decided to stop in the panhandle area of Florida, somewhere we had never been. We made camp in the Ecofina River State Forest where there just happened to be an RV Resort ($12.50 a night, yeah Passport America!). This proved to be a good location for checking out the local sights. The first day here we started our day with a walk right out our back door. It was a nice 3 mile jaunt through some marshy and woodsy terrain. We happened upon a couple of REALLY big traps which freaked Kim out at first. We soon realized they were for the wild hogs that had overrun the area… From there we enjoyed a truck tour of the nearby Big Bend WMA and Hickory Mound Impoundment area. Saw some birds, trees, and got an idea of the damage rising ocean levels can have on these areas.

399 401The second day was a motorcycle day. Chris had read about a scenic drive from our location. We also wanted to check out Leon Sinks Geological area along the way. Although the ride itself didn’t prove to be that scenic, we had a great day. We enjoyed some coastal views and stopped for an awesome roadside lunch (baskets of fried grouper fingers, oysters, french fries, grits, hush puppies, and a dozen raw oysters for dessert!). We were glad to stop for a break at Leon Sinks and stretch our legs on a 3 mile walk with interpretive information about the sinks, local animals, and plants. It was getting late, from there it was a bit of a ride home and we were worried about the cold and dark. On our way back to camp we happened upon the Wakulla Springs State Park. This was another place we wanted to see. A man stopped to chat with us earlier in the day and recommended this park. He told us that the manatees winter at the spring and many could be seen playing in the water from the diving platform…. had to stop. It was our lucky day. When we asked about the cost for getting in, the man at the gate informed us he had just closed and we could go in for free. We spent about a 1/2 hour watching a manatee hang underwater occasionally surfacing for air, not much of a photo op… but someone has to do it. While there we chatted with a nice threesome of friendly local twenty something’s who shared some other ideas for us to check out if we stayed for longer. We lost track of time and it got quite late. It was a cold and dark ride home.

424 411Thursday the weather was threatening. A big storm was coming in later in the day. Since we left the girls all day yesterday we decided to stretch their legs and ours at St Marks WMA, another recommended place. Here we experienced our first photo/bird blind. We enjoyed walking around some of the marsh ponds scoping out the alligators and birds. We stopped at the lighthouse then walked a few miles on a section of the Florida Scenic Trail that passes through St. Marks (Count them, 7 alligators, and those were just the ones we saw. No mom, don’t have alligator spray! ) Toward the end of our walk the skies got pretty dark. We made for home before we got soaked! We had a productive evening while it stormed. Kim buzzed Chris’s hair for the first time (quite nerve racking even with the lesson from Lindsay before we left), dyed hers (I know, giving away her secrets…), did some laundry, and made a great fish French meal with our catch from last week.

Tomorrow we head further West…

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