East Coast of Florida

Tuesday, 3/18/2014. 

We had one last thing to do in the Apopka area before we left. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in downtown Winter Park was one place we did not want to miss. It houses the largest collection of Louis Comfort Tifanny art work in the world. There are paintings, drawings, glass work, windows, parts from his Laurelton Hall home’s dining room, living room and other rooms and the Chapel originally created for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and later restored and installed at Laurelton Hall. There are also extensive collections of art pottery and furniture in the Arts and Crafts style and from the Art Nouveau period.
No pictures were allowed inside. This is from the Museum website. It is hard to describe how amazing all of the different things were. And then there was a pretty stunning gift shop.
Winter Park was very nice.
Right downtown there was a beautiful park (the land came from Charles Morse). There was a train station right in the center of the park on the other side. And just then the orange and white Amtrack train came into town. Maybe it was the Orange. Blossom Special. The orange trees are in bloom and the air is filled with an refreshing aroma.

The streets are all cobblestone and tree lined. Mostly small shops and eateries. A Panera Bread was on this corner. The museum a half block down the street on the left. A nice looking church where Susan’s cousin attends was a block down on the right.  

So a nice stroll around the park and downtown and then back to the coach and off towards Titusville.

We are staying at a county park campground just south of the causeway leading over to the Kennedy Space Center. It is an older park right on the water with campsites complete with water, power and sewer connections and pretty good wifi. The sites are wooded, some pretty large, some big enough.
Ours was easy enough to get into and while not the biggest in the park just fine for our 6 day stay.  We discovered a couple from Cottage Grove in the campground today. They have been here since December and have been here every year for the last seven.  You can stay here for up to 180 days each year.  There is a fishing pier at the park. It doesn’t look like it is more than four feet deep at the end.  Across the “river” (the intercoastal waterway) is the Kennedy Space Center.  Between the trees is the Vehicle Assembly Building where the moon rockets and space shuttles were prepared for launch before they were moved to the launch sites. 
Zoom, zoom…

And right across from us is the KSC Visitor’s Center that wee will visit on Thursday. The Space Shuttle Atlantis the on display there.  A two hour bus ride through the entire launch complex, iMax movies, the Astronaut Hall of Fame and more is all part of the rather pricey admission price (although it is about 1/2 the cost of goint to Disney World).  The big orange and white thing is the space shuttle main fuel tank and the solid rocket boosters standing next to the Visitor’s Center.  It is at least five miles away.

Tha park has a large grassy area right on the water.  A great place to watch a launch.
Last night we created two home made small Evil Jungle Pizzas.  A spicy peanut sauce, barbeque chicken, carrots, onions, red pepper, snap peas and cheese.  Very tasty.
Perfect.
Today we drove down the coast to Melbourne Beach and over the causway to Cape Canaveral and the back up along the ocean side through Cocoa Beach and on to the Kennedy Space Center and back to our comfy home on wheel.
Plugging along ..
Roger and Susan

Travel Days

Saturday
Time to leave Grayton Beach and head towards Central Florida. But we had to try an interesting place for breakfast first.  “Another Broken Egg”. A delightful spot. We had fresh beignets with a citrus-honey marmalade and eggs.  Susan had a crab omelette. I had a chorizo and cream cheese stuffed omelette. We brought home half of everything.  
Then east along the panhandle coast towards Port St Joe. The road goes right along the water. Susan  though it reminded her of Hiway 61 on the North Shore.  A bit further on to Apalachicola. They call this area Florida’s Big Bend. We stopped for a break under the bridge leading out to the causeway.
These two lane high bridges are white knuckle rides for Susan.  

A long, straight causeway over the bay and then a very long 40 some mile drive towards Perry, FL. It is through flat forest land.  Straight as an arrow.  Borring!  A completely unremarkable overnight in Perry.  But some amazing leftovers for breakfast.

Sunday
We are in Eastern Daylight Time now.  It doesn’t get light until well after 7 AM!  We got up and got going shortly after.  Highway 27 is a nice 4 land divided highway.  We went for an hour and a half and only saw four other cars headed the same way.  Near Ocala we branched off onto two lane roads through Florida’s horse county.  

Immense places with long fences for each ranch.  Palaces for the owners and even bigger ones for the horses.  It looked like 1/3 of them were for sale.  It was a very nice drive.  Green grass everywhere and it got warmer as we got further south.

We were headed for a county park in Orage County where Orlando is.  We are at Kelly County Park and the north side of Apopka.  What a nice park, 50 amp electric service, water, dump station, 26 site, about 6 other campers here. Oak, pine and palm trees, go figure.  Hiking trails, a pool, a spring fed river that you can swim or tube in.  

The leaves are falling now, it feels like fall except that it was about 80°.
Susan’s cousin Patsy and her husband live in Apopka. We went to their house for an extended chin wag. Their son Tom and his bride to be, Bethany were there too. Tom visited us about 24 years ago and went to Oshkosh with us in the original Home2. He was a big airplane enthusiast at the time. Tom got a personal tour of a Quantas 747 cockpit from the Captain. Somewhere we have a picture of him in the pilot’s seat with an enormous grin.

My sister says we need more selfies.

So there you are.
Rain Monday afternoon.  Time for a jigsaw puzzle, read, a nap and a blog post.
Tomorrow we are going to the. Morse Museum (everything Tiffany). And the off to Cape Canaveral.
Everyday is an adventure!
Roger and Susan

Wind and Sun

Friday was another pretty nice day. Although it was a cool 44° overnight the sky was clear and the sun warmed things up in a hurry. We hit just over 14,000 steps on our step counters yesterday so we were a bit slow getting going. When we did we walked up to the intersction of Highway 30-A and the county road to the west of us. Lots of shops there and a really pretty nice old fashioned hardware store. Unlike the one we visited in Panama City Beach this one was very well stocked and staffed. I had to return a nut and bolt I bought earlier this week because it was the wrong size. The new one I got turned out to be the right size but not the fine thread that I needed. I give up. It just goes into the container of nuts, bolts, washers, screws, pins, retaining clips and everything else that has no home. It is nice to be prepared but most of the time I don’t have what I really need so I improvise which is just as good as being prepared.

We checked out several gift type shops, some home decor shops (beach chic), a couple restaurants, a upscale surf shop where they had surf boards, stand up paddle boards and extraordinarily expensive flip flops and other beach essentials. Far more essential than I need.
Susan bought a Panama Jack sun hat at a more normal store. She sort of looks like Indian Jones. Very cool!
We stopped for a Kona Coffee at the Bad Ass Coffee Shop. There was some claim linking donkeys and coffee in Hawaii for their name. Not too sure about that but I never spent much time on the Big Island checking out the donkeys.
We went to the beach this afternoon. The sun was warm, the wind off the water was bracing.  We lasted for a bit over an hour. No one else seemed to be enduring it for any longer. It was definitely cooler than our last beach excursion.
After supper we walked down to a trail around a lake between the campground and the dunes (and then the beach). It is a pretty good sized lake with a canoe launch. Looks like there is fishing in it as well.
Thare are some aquatic hazards as well. The swimming area is not fenced!  I thought they only did that in Austrailia to keep out the Great White nippers. I am not going in there for a swim. I have to say we are disappointed in not having seen an alligator yet. Someone in the park lost a little brown dog the other day. There were several people hunting for some time before they found the small dog.  Better him than an alligator with a grin.

It is not dark yet and the moon is out and almost full. In between the pines it was pretty impressive.  I thought these were Southern Yellow Pines. What else would one think a pine tree in the south was? They are not.  They are called Slash Pines. They have sort of a rounded over top, long needles and produce enormous amounts of sap when they are slashed with several V shaped cuts up the trunk. A metal funnel like thing is nailed at the bottom of the cut area where buckets are hung. Is is sort of like maple sap collection to make syrup. The sap or pitch is collected and boiled, distilled and condensed to make various grades of turpentine.  We visited an old (no longer used) turpentine distillery. It looked pretty much like you would have expected a big whiskey still to look like.  

14,451 steps today.
Tomorrow we depart for a drive east along the shore and then over to Perry, FL for one night and then on to Kelly Rock Springs County Park near Apopka where we will have a chance to get together with Susan’s cousin, Patsy and her husband Joe.  
And then to the Moon and Beyond at the Space Coast.  Maybe we will see a rocket launch.
Roger and Susan

There Be Waves!

Wednesday began mostly cloudy after the rain the night before.  It started breaking up soon after breakfast. The winds were strong and gusty from the south.  And that pushed up the surf.

Not quite Hawaii like surf but respectable.  Both the Red Flag and the Purple Flags were flailing in the wind.  Red means dangerous surf or rip tides.  Purple means dangerous sea life.  Sharks?  Jelly fish?  Giant squid?  They didn’t say.  No one was in the water except for three 8-10 year old girls running in up to their knees and then squealing like only 8-10 year old girls can do when a wave came in and splashed them.  We asked a Park person later and she said it was jelly fish. I was hoping for the Creature from the Lagoon.

Any day at the beach with a good book and some sun is wonderful.  Even if someone wasn’t very warm.

These folks tried surf fishing in their chest high waders  They didn’t last very long.

It was windy all day.  By late afternoon the wind had turned mostly from the south to right out of the north.  The temperature was dropping.  We went for an evening twilight walk.  The moon, almost full, was out.  On the way back from the beach area we were heading right into a cold wind.  
It got down to 43°, cool enough to turn on the heat.  The bathroom in the coach has its own thermostat and heat zone so we can close the doors and crank up the heat. A shower when the bathroom is near 80° is pretty nice. 
This campground is quiet.  Makes it easy to sleep a long while.
Thursday, 3/13/2014
This morning we got going and had breakfast.  Something got to Susan because in no time flat she was rearranging drawers, the kitchen cabinets, the pantry and our storage bins. It was something we had talked about but it was happening right then.  In no time flat we had made room in one drawer for the the toaster, the electric tea kettle and the insulated carafe.  That left room in a kitchen cabinet to rearrage some dishes and supplies. And cleaning out the miscellaneous stuff drawer left it almost empty.  We need to find a small plastic box to hold the inside tools that are just in there loose now.  All done, now all we will have to do is remember where we moved things.
Then we set off to explore the Watercolor resort area.  It is immense.  Hundreds of homes, double homes, quad homes, condos and resort hotels.  There are also the requisite shops of every imaginable type, mostly catering to tourists with money.  Lots of restaurants, wine shops, cafes, coffee places, bike rental places, a boat, fishing tackle, stand up paddle board rental place, several pools, a tennis center, an art camp and on and on. There are five distinct neighborhoods (ocean side, lake front, art camp and so on).  Each has its own park areas and a town center of sorts.  The houses are all similar but range greatly in size and price.  Some look like Cape Cod shingle style cottages.
Most were a traditional southern style with porches, exposed rafters, lots of architectural detail and virtually no yards anywhere.  These are not new but are very well maintained.  We saw several being renovated, new windows, doors, siding, decks, railings and so on.  These would be a challenge to paint.
They ranged from single level bungalows, maybe 1500 sq ft to giant 6-7K sq ft homes.  The small ones were in the $1.5M range,  $3-4M and up for the bigger ones.  There is an empty 57’x112′ lot for only $700K.  Can you imagine the monthly association fees?
Very nice park areas.
A boat rental on a lake.
And of course, there is a beach.  It is the same beach we are on just east of us about a mile and a half.  The beach goes on for miles.  Where we are there are no rows of empty rental beach chairs standing guard against the onslaught of dangerous marine life.
65 and sunny.  After lunch we are walking west to the Grayton Beach Store, about a mile away, to look at hats and maybe an ice cream treat.
More to come …
Roger and Susan

Grayton Beach

It is only 35 miles from St Andrew’s State Park to Grayton Beach State Park and a much different experience.

Monday
Monday was a moving day.  We always have a few things to stow for moving and to put away.  The bikes go back on the bike rack.  The chairs back in the basement.  The awnings rolled up.  The power cord disconnected and wound in.  All of the electronics get fired up, the engine started, the room retracted and when all indicators are in the green we are ready to go.  15-20 minutes on the short end, maybe 30 normally.  We pull out to a good spot to reconnect the Jeep and do a light check and we are off.
We stopped for some groceries and headed west.  Grayton Beach is half way between Panama City and Pensacola.  There is a small town, Santa Rosa Beach, nearby.  It is in between the Blue Mountain and Watercolor resort areas.  Blue Mountain is older, a mix of newer, rehabbed, existing and rundown rentals and aome residential.  Lots of shopping opportunities.  Watercolor looks like a planned community built from the ground up.  It all looks the same age, some condos, some single family, a town square, a shopping center, beach access and all of a common style, sort of a southern country mini-plantation look.  
Both are a modest bike ride away.  
Grayton Beach SP has two campground loops.  The older one where we are is in the Florida dune-woods.  Each site is pretty much surrounded by trees, quite private and separated from the others.  The other loop is more open and newer.  Several of the sites are paved (handicapped accessible) and several have sewer hookups.  Campers from all over the US are here.
We got settled and headed for the beach.   It is a couple hundred yards as the crow files.  We walked around this small salt marsh.  The campground is in the pines.
The beach was white sand, went on for several miles and where we were, had very few people.
The sand was very fine and white.
Tuesday
Today was a quiet day.  We went for a walk through the dunes and the pine forest, a bike ride and a Jeep ride to explore the area.  Almost got in our 10,000 steps.  Those things don’t count bicycle pedaling.  I finished one book today.  Susan has finihshed four so far.
A bit of rain tonight.  Breezy and some clouds tomorrow.  Cold coming in the the north by Thursday.  Thanks.
Roger and Susan

A Sunny Sunday

Sunday

A lovely day today.  We woke to a warm sunrise over the Grand Lagoon.  Some coffee and a walk before breakfast through the entire campground.  The park we are in has a wide variety of growing zones.  The beach is white sand.  The dunes are covered in low growing grasses and shrubs that help hold them in place.  There are two types of pine forests here.  The flat land pines grow between the dunes.  Others grow in the areas beyond the dunes.  And then there are palm trees which grow everywhere.  We even saw cactus growing today.
There are some pretty classinc camping units here.
And the beach waiting for everyone.
Even the Spring Breakers get attention.

After breakfast we rode our bikes over to the main beach access from the park and walked down the beach for a mile or two and then back.  The sun was warm, the sand white, the Gulf waters calm and slightly green.  Boats, sailboats, parasailers, airplanes, people (very tanned seniors), jetskis and spring breakers. We were gone for about 4 hours.  A very nice day.

Home made just baked oatmeal raisin cookies and a glass of milk and a good book end to our day.  I actually see pink on my face and arms.  
We are off to the west tomorrow, 35 miles to Grayton Beach State Park for five days.  And then somewhere else yet to be determined.  
Every day is an adventure!
Roger and Susan

Florida at Last

Florida

After departing Huntsville, AL. on Thursday, March 6th, we headed south towards the Gulf of Mexico.  Our destination was St Andrew’s State Park at Panama City Beach.  It took us about 45 minutes to get through Dothan AL on the bypass route!  I counted 22 stop lights and we caught almost every one.  There was enough traffic that frequently we had to sit through two cycles.  And it was raining.  The closer we got to Florida the more it rained.  Once we crossed into Florida it was about 60 miles to go.  

Somehow I had imagined a state park like we have in MInnesota.  Not quite what they have here, at least this one.  We drove through Panama City and then across a high causeway (bridge) to Panama City Beach (known by all but us as the Spring Break Party Capital of the World) then over another shorter causeway (if you listen to them down here they will tell you that’s what it is cause you need it to get that-a-way … my theory anyway) and then on down the road right through the middle of town.  At the end of the road starts the park.  We registered, we were a day late, our loss, and drove in to find the first of our two sites.  It had been raining nearly every day for a week of more and some sites were flooded and in general it was very wet.
We were right on the Grand Lagoon.  Cloudy, raining on and off, got stuff set up and hooked up, no power.
I checked the 20 amp line and it was correctly wired based on the output of my tester nd checked voltage on the 20 and 30 lines.  Good enough.  Checked in the coach which is full of smart stuff and my power line manager said the hot and neutral on the 30 amp line were reversed.  I called the park office and told them.  They were surprised that there was a problem since someone had just been there.  The service guy showed up much quicker than I expected and indeed the hot and neutral were reversed.  He was pretty surprised that I was able to detect it.  He swapped the wires and we were good to go.
My cousin, Sue and her husband Lloyd were staying just down the road.  They were leaving in the morning so we called them up and arranged to have dinner with them and then back at their place for a visit and Key Lime pie.  Very tasty fish and shrimp dinners. We got a bit of a tour through historic St Andrews and Panama City.  Hard to figure out what is what at night.  It was nice to visit with them.  They had been here for two months and were not eager to go home but then the weather here had been not so great either.
Friday
Friday was cloudy and 47 in the morning.  It was nice and warm in the coach.  We had a nice breakfast and did some chores (house cleaning, inside and out).  I spent way too much time looking for  a nut that had come off and fallen into a never to be found place.  That made two nuts I needed. Time for a hardware store trip.  By mid-afternoon the sun was coming out as well as campers.  We went a long walk around all of the campground.  There are more than 200 sites so it is big.  At the far end we found were our next site was going to be, a nice site. Beyond that was the boat launch and a fishing pier.  Further on was a camp store. And then we came to Alligator Lake.
Lots of birds and turtles.  I did see a smaller alligator.

I guess I will leave then alone.  There were some other roads to follow but we figured they would wait.

I went for another fairly long walk about 6.  It was cooling off.  I went through the parts of the campground we had not seen.  There are campers of every imaginable description and age here from everywhere.  Several from Ontario and Minnesota, one guy from Oregon, some from California, Colorado, everywhere..  The folks next to us were from North Carolina.  They made reservations for this place last June.  Most parks in FL are very busy.
I put up the TV antenna to see what we could get… 25 digital channels. Not bad but then we’re right next to town.
Saturday
Moving day. Groceries.  And the hardware store.  Susan located hardware store on the way to the grocery. It was an old, old hardware store.  The owner and a couple of his good old boy buddies were there and if not for him we would have never found the two nuts I needed.  It was pretty much disorganized chaos. I needed two different sizes of locking nuts.  It took about 15 minutes for him to find them and he knew right where to look.  It totaled up to a whopping 42¢ including tax.  I don’t even know if they have sales tax here.  
Then groceries.  It is always an adventure going into a new grocery store.  This one was no different.  Prices were about 50% more than we were used to.  Didn’t get too much.
Then we came back and moved about 1/2 mile to a nice big site with 50 amp power that was OK.
We sat in the sun at 70ish temps and had a nice lunch.  I fixed the things that needed nuts.  We got the bikes off the bike rack, cleaned them up, added air to the tires and went for a 3 or 4 mile bike ride to places in the park not yet visited.  
Beyond the boat launch there is beach access near the jetty at the entrance to St Andrews Bay and the Grand Lagoon.  The campground is on the Grand Lagoon.  On the other side of the Bay is St Andrews.
All of the sand is white(ish) and there are lots of dunes.  More down the road end we came to the Pier. Lots of fishing people there and to the west Panama City Beach stretches for several miles.

At the far end it is much like carnival/frat party for the spring breakers.  There are amusement rides like they have at the State Fair that appeal to this crowd (bungee jumping for example). They have fenced in areas where the cops take those who have been arrested for who knows what to be detained.  They are held over night in the “dog pound” and processed, taken before a judge in the morning, fined or jailed if found guilty and if they can pay the fines they are released.  If not, who knows what.
Having never experienced a spring break excess before, it is outside my imagination.   It is all about drinking and misbehvior.  My friend Mike and I usually spent spring break at the library or at choir practice.  😉
That’s it for now.  Time to get started on dinner.   A Foyle’s War for desert.
Roger and Susan