grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

11-13JAN09 - Perry & Navarre, FL

About halfway to our next camping site, Navarre, FL, we stopped at a KOA campground in Perry, FL. After the Camp Host explained to Dan how to hook up the utilities, Dan surprised him by asking what part of Canada the host was from? Dan pointed out that the host had called the electrical connection the “hydro” (as in hydro electric). Turns out the host was born in Winnipeg and now lived in Ottawa except for the winters when he and his wife work in Florida.

Monday after another short drive we pulled into the RV park in Navarre, FL, where our good friends, Chuck & Anneke Guldenschuh, were encamped. See our BLOG below from New Years 2008 for more about the Guldenschuhs. They have finally sold their house in Toledo, OH, and have become fulltime RV’ers like us. After setting up camp, we headed over to their RV for good conversation and beverages, while Anneke cooked a delicious meal.

The next day the Guldenschuhs joined us on a driving tour of scenic highway 30A along the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. But first as always Dan had a few stops off the beaten track. The first stop was an appliance store that was supposed to have a giant Maytag repair man statue on the roof. We found the store but no statue? Dan went inside and was told that the statue had been damaged by a hurricane and had been removed, probably never to return. As we got back into the car a man came out of the store and invited into the back lot to view the remains of the Maytag Repair Man statue. It was obvious from the statue’s condition that an entirely new one was needed.
Next up was the oldest Goofy Golf putt-putt course that just turned 50. It birthday was celebrated with the return of “Hammy,” its freshly-restored mint-green T-rex, which had collapsed in 1993 and had lain in pieces in a local boatyard ever since. This Goofy Golf (and a sister course in Pensacola) served as working laboratories for the elaborate statue concepts that were later built — and still stand — at the Panama City Beach Goofy Golf around 50 miles east.

We then continued our sightseeing down highway 30A to the town of Seaside, FL. If the pictures of this town look familiar, then you probably saw the movie “The Truman Show” starring Jim Carey. Seaside is an award winning master-planned community often sited as the first “new urbanist” development. The community was started in the late 70s and pretty much finished by the mid 80s. Everything is within walking distance, in fact there are numerous pathways between houses and buildings to use as shortcuts. There are many small cottage mixed in with larger houses and condos. The houses are painted a mix of pastels and tropical colors, and we found it a very pleasant setting. Unfortunately as can be seen by the housing prices on the below website, this piece of paradise is out of our league.

Further down highway 30A is another planned community called Rosemary Beach that was built in the early 90s. To us this was a poor imitation Seaside. The architecture of the cottages and housing is not as cohesive as Seaside, and it appears that they made more concessions to the auto (ie things are further apart and some distances are not walk able).

To check out the Guldenschuh’s perspective, and pictures, of our sightseeing trip, see their BLOG:

We made it back to the RV in time to enjoy a beautiful sunset, before being joined by their daughter, Heather Baxter, for dinner at a local BBQ place. Although our time together was too short, it was a good time, good conversation, good meals, and a great sunset with good friends.

Monday, January 19, 2009

09/10JAN09 - Seffner & Tarpon Springs, FL

Since we needed to meet some friends in a couple of days on the Gulf of Mexico side of Florida, it was time to leave the eastside of the state and drive westward. Due to the distance involved we decided to split the drive into two legs and stop about half way outside of Tampa. In fact we stopped at the Lazy Days RV dealership in Seffner, FL, where we bought our RV over two years ago. Lazy Days is the largest RV dealership in the world, and they say one of the top five most visited attractions in the state of Florida. We can tell the economy isn’t doing well, because Lazy Days only has about one third the new and used RV models on hand as compared to the last time we were here.

While surfing the internet Dan discovered that right down the road was Airstream “Ranch”. The original “ranch” was the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX. Cadillac Ranch is several 60s vintage Cadillacs stuck nose first into the ground. If you remember our below BLOG entry (see below) when we were in Amarillo, Dan not only visited Cadillac Ranch, but Love Bug Ranch and Tractor Ranch. Turns out that a local Airstream Trailer dealer has half buried old Airstreams in the ground as an artistic statement. Unfortunately, the county doesn’t view it as art and has started actions for their removal.

Saturday we headed to Tarpon Springs home of a sponge diving Greek community, otherwise known as the Sponge Capitol of the World. The reason Tarpon Springs is viewed as the capitol of sponge diving is because around 1905 a Greek immigrant, John Cocoris, introduced hard hat diving to harvest the local world class sponges. He sent word back to Greece and soon Tarpon Springs was the largest Greek community outside of Greece.

When we lived in Holland we twice vacationed on the island of Crete, and we have to say the look and atmosphere of Tarpon Springs is very similar to tourist towns and villages of Crete - blue and white colored buildings; shops selling replicas of ancient Greek pottery and statues; streets lined with restaurants and Tavernas; etc. And outside every establishment is a Greek gentleman urging you to step inside their establishment since it is the best and cheapest in the town. But if you wonder off the main street on to the side streets you will find the old timers drinking Greek coffee, eating baklava, and discussing the world’s problems in Greek.

We did have one disappoint on our visit to Tarpon Springs. Dan wanted to check out a local museum dedicated to the Greek sponge divers of Tarpon Springs called Spongeorama. According to Dan’s internet research the Spongeorama would be “...ever-enlightening with dioramas depicting the history, biology and lore of the sponge. Exhibits like "Popular Greek Foods" and "How Spongers Are Paid" are behind grimy glass. The most memorable is about two thirds of the way through -- a sad diorama that should be called the "Sponge Diver's Nightmare”." Sadly, the museum is closed supposedly to open in a new building sometime in 2009?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

06-08JAN09 - Melbourne, FL (10, 9, 8, 7, 6.......)

Tuesday, 06JAN, we continued down beautiful A1A enroute Cape Canaveral. Our intentions were to stay at the military RV park on Patrick Air Force Base. But there was no room at the inn, so we decided to splurge and stay at a RV Resort. We have stayed at RV parks that have the word “resort” in their name, but often they leave a lot to be desired! But this time it was truly a resort with four heated pools, tennis courts, club houses and their own access to the beach. Turns out that even though we had complete access to all facilities, we didn’t use them because we were too busy sightseeing.

The forecast for the next day, Wednesday, was for several rain fronts to roll through after lunch time. So we decided to visit the Cape Canaveral National Seashore on Merritt Island before the rain got there, and then go to Patrick Air Force Base to do some shopping. The National Seashore basically surrounds Kennedy Space Center and is the largest undisturbed natural habitat of its type left in the USA. Being winter time it turns out this is the best time for bird watching, since hundreds of species are wintering over. We even were fortunate to view some Manatees feeding in one of the canals. However we were not successful in getting a clear picture of a Manatee. Their skin color is very close to the color of the greenish, dirty, water, and they only surface a small portion of their head every few minutes to get a breath.

On our last day we headed to the Kennedy Space Center. Although pricey ($42 per adult for two days), it is worth it if you have the least interest in space exploration. They have the complete history, including actual vehicles and mockups, of the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs; as well as unmanned satellites and probes and finishing with the ongoing building of the present Space Station. In fact, one portion of the tour allows you to view the clean room where modules are prepared for the delivery by the shuttle to the space station. The day we were there, Japanese scientists and technicians were preparing their module/experiment for transport on the next shuttle mission. Also included in admission are several IMAX presentations, shuttle simulation take off and landing, and free admission to the Astronaut Hall of Fame located off the Center in Titusville. One thing that impressed us was the small size of the capsules carrying the astronauts; check out the picture of Dan trying to get into the mockup of the Mercury capsule. We didn’t see it all and could have used the second day, but were already committed to moving on and meeting friends in the Ft Walton, FL, area.
Trivia - Why was there no Apollo missions numbered 2 thru 6

Thursday, January 15, 2009

04/05JAN09 - St Augustine & Daytona, FL

Heading south from the Mayport Naval Station we took Highway A1A along the Atlantic Ocean. This is a very scenic drive, and much of it in northern Florida has escaped the wall-to-wall development of southern Florida or what you see along any portion of US 1. We had planned on sightseeing at the coastal town of St Augustine before camping in Daytona. As you may remember from your USA history classes, St Augustine is the oldest, continuously inhabited town settled by European colonists in what eventually became the USA.

As we entered the city limits we saw signs for the Fountain of Youth, the Old Jail, and other attractions that led us to believe that this was the historic center of St Augustine – NOT! These so called attractions were at least one mile north of the old town and are what we would call “tourist traps”, but not knowing this we parked and got out for a walk about. We immediately realized our mistake and headed back to the RV. But we did find a beautiful park (or what we thought was a park), it was really the grounds of the first Spanish mission in the new world “Mission of Nombre de Dios”.

Finally we found the true old St Augustine. Parking an RV, or even a car, anywhere near the center of town was impossible, so we parked about fifteen blocks out, and jumped on our bikes. St Augustine definitely has an European look and feel, even though overrun by tourists. The town is laid out in a classic grid pattern centered on the Plaza de la Constitucion, the oldest public space in the USA.

Since we had only a few hours to sightsee, Dan left Corrie in town and rode his bike over to Castillo de San Marcos for a quick tour (aka Fort Marion at one time). Fort San Marcos is the only surviving European fort in USA, and it never fell to an attack or siege. One reason it never fell to attack was because it was made with local Florida limestone called “coquina” which remarkably absorbed the impact of cannon fire, rather than shatter like brick or other native stone. In 1875 a Capt Pratt, US Army, was charged with bringing several Kiowa Indians as prisoners to the fort and supervising their imprisonment. One of the prisoners documented this imprisonment in a very detailed and beautiful sketchbook called “Kiowa Odyssey”. Amazingly, Dan has seen portions of this sketchbook in MAY08 when touring a Texas museum in Canyon, TX (see below BLOG internet link).

Also while touring the Fort San Marco Dan learned the history of the first free Black settlement in the USA, Fort Mose. In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida chartered Fort Mose as a settlement for freed Africans who had fled slavery in the British Carolinas. When Spain ceded Florida to Britain in 1763, the inhabitants of Fort Mose migrated to Cuba. Unfortunately nothing remains of the their settlement or fort.

Our time in St Augustine was too short and we plan on returning for any extended stay. But we needed to get to Daytona Beach and set up camp. The next day, Monday 05JAN, we drove the Toad to Cassadaga spiritualist center. As a young man from New York, George Colby was told during a séance that he would someday be instrumental in founding a Spiritualist community in the South. That prophecy was fulfilled in 1875, when Colby was led through the wilderness of Central Florida by his spirit guide "Seneca" to an area surrounded by uncommon hills. Colby homesteaded the land and in 1895 deeded over 35 acres to the newly incorporated Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association. The business side of spiritualism must not be to good because the only café in town no longer opens on weekdays, and it appears that over half the homes are for sale.

From Cassadaga we went back to the RV and picked up Gumbo and headed to the famous beaches of Daytona. Part of the reason the beaches are famous is that early car racers, raced their vehicles side by side on the beach. Supposedly this led to the creation of that billion dollar enterprise called NASCAR. Because of this history you can still drive your vehicle on the beach, but no faster than 10 MPH! Dan immediately noticed that there was not another dog in sight. Turns out in over thirty miles of beach, there is not one inch where dogs are allowed. We learned that at the very end of the island (ie 15 miles away) there was a county park, Lighthouse Point Park, that allowed dogs on the beach. After paying the $3 entrance fee (all the other beaches are free) we discovered that we still could not take Gumbo on the Atlantic beach side, but could only take him on crappy section of sand that was part of entrance jetty. And the beautiful lighthouse that the park is named after is not even on park property and is not accessible to the public!