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We are eagerly keeping an eye on the Weather Channel and thinking of our friends along Eastern Florida. As Floridians we have been through many hurricanes, but it is a completely different experience when you are a Full-Time RVer. In 2004, we dealt with Hurricanes Jean and Francis only weeks apart. Hurricane Jean was our first experience as RVers and we evacuated our rig and sought shelter. After experiencing shelter conditions, we rode out Hurricane Jean at the RV resort, choosing to stay in the recreation building with a handful of other RVers. We saw first-hand the power of Mother Nature. For more information on dealing with disasters while RVing, check out my book, On the Road to Disaster.
If you have been watching the Weather Channel, you probably saw “Hermine” left her mark on Florida… making landfall near St. Marks. Over the years we have made several trips through the area and always enjoy our visit to the St. Marks NWR. St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful place to picnic, hike, bird-watch, fish or view the St. Marks Lighthouse. The refuge is located right off U.S. Hwy. 98 and only costs a minimal vehicle entrance fee. Oh, and did I mention the alligators? 😉
Over the years we’ve been to many unusually named places – from Sopchoppy (FL) to Rough and Ready (CA). But sometimes it is the common-named places that are more memorable.
Like the time we stopped to eat outside Louisville (KY) and got into a rather in-depth discussion on how to properly pronounce the city’s name. Several options were thrown out and it wasn’t until a restaurant employee walked by our table that we got the idea to ask a local.
We flagged the gal over and explained that we wanted to know, very slowly if she could, pronounce where we were at. Rather surprised, she looked us over, shrugged and replied, “B-u-r-g-e-r K-i-n-g.”
Needless to say, we don’t ask that question anymore!
One thing about being a Full-Timer is that no matter how far you travel, you are bound to run into a detour. And this Nomad didn’t have to travel far to find one of her own. I was recently diagnosed with cancer and will be undergoing treatment soon. Fortunately, we are in an area that has wonderful medical facilities and plenty of activities and museums to keep our traveler’s blood flowing until I am able to take on the next leg of our journey.
Upcoming posts will focus on past travels and I’ll even sneak in a few of those embarrassing travel bloopers. Although I really was going to save those for the autobiography. 😉
No matter where you are headed – I wish you safe travels.
What a night along the Gulf Coast! Severe storms and a tornado warning had us scrambling to the Chevy. Although the storms moved on earlier this morning, the coast remained in a wind advisory for most of the day. We made a trip to the beach to see the waves. Surprisingly, the beach was deserted except for a few birds and this crazy photographer!
Visiting the local flea market was as far as we got this weekend! We’ll just have to find some new roads another day…
It was a lovely day to get in the Chevy and find some new roads…
Not in the holiday spirit yet? It’s not too late to visit your local museum or historic site. Many locations decorate for Christmas and some even host special holiday tours. When we are in Florida, we love to visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation during the holidays. They have an area called Homefront, USA (it depicts a hometown during WWII) which they decorate for Christmas. So if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed this holiday season load your kin into the old Family Truckster and plan on visiting a local museum. It’s what Clark would do. 😉
We had a chance to see the El Galeón today. The ship is an authentic replica of a 16th century galleon that was part of Spain’s West Indies fleet. At 170-foot and 495 ton – it is pretty impressive!
In honor of Veterans Day the entrance fees to Florida State Parks (except the Skyway Fishing Pier SP) will be free on November 11, 2015.
If you enjoy state parks and find yourself traveling in the Florida Panhandle, don’t forget to check out Big Lagoon State Park. The park consists of over 600 acres of land located near beautiful Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico. There are five miles of nature trails to enjoy the birds and other wildlife. And if hiking isn’t your thing, they have a wooden boardwalk and observation deck a short distance from a parking area. In addition to hiking and birding, the park is a great place for photography, bicycling, fishing or beach-combing.
Big Lagoon State Park also offers a boat ramp, canoe launch, picnic pavilions, amphitheater and campground. The campground will accommodate rigs up to 4o’; however, be wary if you have a Big Rig as some sites may require some effort to back-in.
Entrance to the park is $6 per vehicle (up to 8 people) and use of the boat launch is $12 (up to 8 people). The park is open every day from 8AM to sunset.
We haven’t seen a UFO since our stay in Roswell (NM)… so imagine our delight to see this cool UFO house in Gulf Breeze (FL). And if you look closely you can see the current occupants are peering out a window!
If you find yourself in Pensacola during the holidays, you have to stop by the Pensacola Lighthouse located on the Naval Air Station and right across from the Naval Aviation Museum. The lighthouse and buildings are decorated for Christmas. Just about every room has a decorated tree!
The admission fee ($6 for adults, $4 for seniors) includes the lighthouse and museum exhibits. And, did I mention the lighthouse is haunted? 😉
It’s that time of year again! And up go our two Christmas trees… yep, 2 trees in 1 RV!
If you are or planning to be in Florida in a few days, make sure to visit one of the many beautiful state parks the Sunshine State has to offer. November 11, 2014 is Veterans Day and admission is free at all the Florida State Parks.*
For more information or to locate a park near you, visit the Florida State Park website.
*Skyway Fishing Pier State Park does not participate in the free admission.
Over the years we’ve had our own unexplained ghostly adventures… like our time spent at Bodie State Historic Park (CA). Bodie is a modern-day ghost town. When the California State Park system took over Bodie, it left all the buildings as they stood. This is one of the most unforgettable places we have ever been. There is so much history there it consumes you. You can almost feel towns folk walking along the street beside you. Peering through windows you feel invisible eyes staring back. It is a must-see for anyone visiting the Eastern Sierras.
Another place to note is Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield (MO). This was the first major Civil War battle west of the Mississippi. The park is a five-mile driving tour and you are literally driving back through time. In fact, at one point I think I really did! I had gotten out of the truck at one stop to take a photo of two cannons in a field and when I walked past the first cannon I was overcome with chills. I assumed it was from stepping out of the air-conditioning into the ninety-plus degree heat. But after I took a photo of the farthest cannon, I walked back to the first and I got chills and goosebumps again. I stepped toward the cannon to take a photo and swear I heard someone shout “NO” in my ear. Boy, did I hustle myself back to the safety of the Silverado!
Although we have visited Pensacola Lighthouse (FL) several times, we returned to visit last year to see the lighthouse decorated for Christmas. Even though the lighthouse is haunted, I didn’t see the Ghost of Christmas Past – but I did feel a section of cool air as I entered the Keeper’s room. The last time I visited there had a similar experience in that area. And on the previous visit I had also felt someone watching me in the basement. So even after telling myself I wasn’t going in the basement this last visit, I did. However, they had a clothed dummy sitting at the desk at the base of the stairs and it startled me so much I jumped backwards onto the steps again!
Then there was the time we planned a trip to see Appomattox Court House National Historic Park (VA). Those a little dusty with their history may recall the name but not the significance of the location. This was the surrender grounds, where Generals Lee and Grant put an end to the Civil War. The building where this historic moment occurred, the McLean House, still stands. After touring the house we went outside to one of the other buildings. No sooner had we stepped through the doorway when we found ourselves quickly stepping back outside. Hard to explain why we all got goosebumps, but it just felt very wrong in there. We resumed our tour of the park and enjoyed the other buildings without problem. At least for a little while…I have a tendency to lag behind as I read every plaque and take a number of photos. We were visiting the new jail and the other two were already heading outside while I was alone upstairs. I was snapping a few photos of the window when I felt a chill. Looking down I saw I had goosebumps again. I shrugged it off until I heard a cough come from the cell. Then I headed down the stairs as quickly as I could!
But the eeriest thing happened just a few weeks ago while touring the USS Alabama (AL). The battleship is about seven hundred feet long from stem to stern and if you take the self-guided tours it will take about two hours. Parts of the ship were rather warm and stuffy and I quickly found myself finishing the tour alone. Although there were other people touring the ship, I managed to always stay a room or two apart. I was getting a little dehydrated and just poked my head in a few rooms to quickly finish that section of the tour. As I looked in one room, an officer’s quarters I believe, I noted the typewriter on the desk and was about to head to the next room when I heard the sound of an old typewriter. It was just two keystrokes. My first thought was that another room nearby had some sort of voiced display and a visitor had activated it. So I quickly continued with the tour. But after I finished that section of the tour, I saw there was nothing like that. Where did that distinctive sound come from?
Sometimes when you visit historic sites you get more awareness of history than you paid admission for… 😉
No, it’s not snow! Just sugary white sand along the Gulf Coast. 🙂
If you find yourself near Milton (FL), not far from I-10 is the West Florida Railroad Museum. This is a great little stop if you have the time. The museum area occupies an old freight and passenger depot that was built in the early 1900s at the site of the original 1882 depot. They have several cars in their collection, including dining cars, flat car, box cars, former Pullman sleeper and two cabooses. They also have a model railroad building, an outdoor scale railroad and gift shop.
The museum is free to the public, but does rely on donations to stay open. It is operated by volunteers so the museum is only open on Fridays and Saturdays. Parking is limited and there is no room to park a RV – so if you go, take the tow!
For directions and hours, please visit their website at: http://wfrm.org/index.html
Backed-in and ready to get some rest and relaxation for awhile…
hmm… now where did we pack that grill? 😉
Taking a break from busy I-10 to grab some lunch… as you can see from the reflection in our rig, we weren’t the only Campers chowing down. 🙂
We were planning on putting some major mileage in today, but Mother Nature had other plans. Flooding and severe storms in the region have us staying inside and watching the Travel Channel instead. The summer adventure will just have to wait a day… or two. 🙂
If you find yourself near Pensacola (FL) make sure you plan a day for Fort Barrancas. The fort is actually part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, however, it is located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Admission to the fort is free, although citizens need to show proper photo ID at the entrance gate.
Fort Barrancas has a fascinating history. A shot fired by a guard at the fort on January 8, 1861 is sometimes considered the very first shot of the American Civil War! The fort and other structures there were built by different groups over time. There is a great deal of history to step into… or see-through… did I mention the Confederate ghost? 😉
The area also consists of the Spanish Water Battery (Bateria de San Antonio) which has an underground passage from the fort. The tunnel section from the fort to the water battery is very dark and steep, so make sure you are wearing sturdy shoes. The fort itself is very dark in sections and you may want to carry a flashlight with you while exploring. The Spanish Water Battery has several steps going up (although you don’t need to climb them to appreciate the view).
There are also trails and a picnic area near the visitor center. And an additional treat is the view at the Overlook of Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island across Pensacola Bay!
A short distance down the road is the Advanced Redoubt. The Redoubt is unique for the time period because it was designed solely for resisting a land-based assault.
Parking at the fort is limited; however, there is a small area dedicated for RV/bus parking. The fort and visitor center is only open on Saturdays. The Advanced Redoubt has more parking and is open daily. Tours of Fort Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt are scheduled on Saturdays.
As Full-Time RVers, we are always concerned about severe weather. Although RVs can withstand moderate winds, they are not intended to be used for shelter in any type of severe storm.
And early this morning we had a wake-up call from our NOAA weather radio indicating we were in a Tornado Watch. We were sound asleep and had no clue what the weather was doing outside. Thankfully the radio’s high shrill alerted us to severe weather conditions.
All Campers should invest in a NOAA weather radio or weather alert radio. A nice handheld radio with wall adapter and back-up batteries can be purchased for around $20 and in case a storm Watch or Warning is issued, you will have the latest information. Don’t solely rely on a phone app for weather alerts.
If you are staying in an area prone to severe weather or possible flooding then you should find out where it is best to seek shelter or what evacuation route is closest. Make sure you know where to go and have a little family meeting. Even if you are just on a week vacation, discussing a plan with your family for just five minutes could end up saving your lives.
Ask the campground staff if they notify their campers about severe weather alerts and what they advise campers to do in stormy situations. Some campgrounds may recommend their restroom or recreation buildings for shelter. Many have concrete buildings that would be a solid structure to go to if there isn’t time, such as in the case of a tornado. But if you have time and know that severe weather will affect your area, make sure you seek an official shelter.
Earlier today we made a trip to see the Niña and the Pinta docked in Perdido Key (FL). Unfortunately between the heavy rain and limited over-sized parking, we weren’t able to visit the ships. I did manage to get a photo of them as we crossed the bridge off the island. We saw the Niña several years ago along the Atlantic coast, yet we thought it would be fun to see it again.
The Niña is a replica of the ship Columbus sailed to the New World in 1492. The Pinta, a newer ship, is actually larger than the original design.
For more information on the ships and their port schedule, visit their website: http://www.thenina.com/
Maybe we will cross paths with them again as we travel the U.S. 🙂
Despite that ice-age loving Groundhog’s predictions, the weather had been pretty nice here. But wait! Another night of cold temperatures made its way to Florida. Thankfully it was no where near the freezing temperatures we had just a few short weeks ago. Imagine our surprise yesterday when we were traveling on eastbound I-10 only to be diverted off the interstate near Milton because of ice. Fortunately Highway 90 parallels the interstate, but traffic was still very slow and it took us an additional hour and half travel-time.
When they started forecasting snow on the local weather, I turned the TV off. We are in Florida, it doesn’t snow in Florida. It’s the Sunshine State, after all! And millions of Snowbirds flock here every winter to get away from the snowy North. So I thought those weather folks were just a little nuts.
Then the temperature dropped… and the rain came… the ice cold rain… and then it turned to sleet… and while we were sleeping, it turned to snow. Yes, snow in Florida. And it’s not melting… it’s staying around for a while according to our frozen thermometer. And everything is shut down for a couple of days because of icy conditions.
I sure hope that Groundhog comes popping out wearing a Speedo on February 2nd (Groundhog’s Day)! 😉