Country Oaks RV Park, Ga

Day 62

     We are taking a day of rest today, after all we are retired. I will take this opportunity to answer some of your questions on the RV lifestyle.

How do you find driving a 40 ft RV?

     Actually, it is 39′ 10 inches. I do not find it as difficult as I thought. Remember, I have driven fire engines for 28 years. The thing to remember is that when I make turns, the 5th wheel will cut into the turn. To compensate for that, I make a wider turn than I would make with my car, sort of like the tractor trailers. Our main learning curve is backing up the Sphinx into a campsite. Although we are getting better, we have not got it down just yet.

In one of your posts you indicated you had to be self sufficient. What does that entail, and how long can you do it?

     It means that we do not have to be hooked up to water, sewer, or electricity to maintain ourselves. For electricity, we have four 6 volt batteries.  Supposedly that will provide our electricity for a week or so, not using the air conditioners.  We have a 69 gallon fresh water tank, and three 40 gallon waste tanks, one for the toilet, one for the bathroom shower and sink, and the final one for the kitchen. We testing living without hookups for 3 days with no problem. At one campsite their water supply was contaminated and we used ours for 4 days with no problem. We did supplement that with bottled water. We also have a 5 KW generator to run the air conditioner and recharge our batteries. The generator runs off our propane tanks, which are two 30 pound tanks.

When you are traveling down the road, how do you keep the food in your refrigerator cold?

     For the first few weeks of our adventure the weather was so cold we had no problem, so long as the doors remain closed. Unfortunately, we did not realize that the refrigerator was not level and the doors came open during transit. The lettuce rolled around the RV. After leveling it, we also had to put tension bars to prevent items from rolling around inside the fridge. Even leveled, we have to secure the doors to prevent opening while jostling The Sphinx down the road. Now that we are in the South, and the temperatures are in the 90’s, we have an inverter that converts our battery 12 volt DC power to AC 110 volt power. This is for the fridge only, and works great.Camper (9)

The red box is the inverter, below that you can see 3 of the 4 golf cart 6 volt batteries.

How do you get your mail while traveling?

     We don’t. Prior to leaving I convert all bills and notices to electronic form. All my banking is electronic, and all my bills are paid through the bill pay of my bank. We even got our absentee ballots from Harford County electronically. We did have to mail the actual ballot in, but since they are in PDF format, I printed them out at the campsite office. All our taxes are done electronically, as well as keeping all my records. I have the laptop that I use to publish this blog, plus I have a scanner to convert all receipts that I get on the road. I then discard the paper receipts. With the exception of my credit card, all value cards, like food discount cards, have been converted on my I Phone to be electronic. The cashier can scan that electronic bar code as if I actually had the card.

What do you miss most now that you are no longer living in your house?

     Nothing. We had to make adjustments in our lifestyle, but we anticipated that. We keep in touch with my father and other relatives by phone and messaging. We keep in touch with Chip and our granddaughters through face-time. Barbara wants to look at them on her tablet. Works great. My granddaughter just had her braces taken off, and Barbara can see her new smiling face. They also have an app on their smart phone that tells them exactly where we are. The purpose of this blog is to keep our friends and family informed of our whereabouts. We have adapted well to full time RVing.

     Oh! I see by the great electronic clock on the microwave, it is time for my nap.

     Feel free to send me any other questions, I will be happy to answer them.

Silver Spring, Florida

Day 60

Since the late 1800’s Silver Springs, Floridaday 60 (1) has been a Mecca for those seeking warm climate from the harsh north and those looking for medicinal remedy in the warm Spring waters. From the 1920’s until Walt Disney showed up, it was the biggest tourist attraction in Florida.

We took a tour on a glass bottom boat. day 60 (19) day 60 (5) day 60 (6) day 60 (4) day 60 (7) day 60 (12)The tours in these vessels have been going on for the last 100 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saw turtles both below and above the waterday 60 (9) day 60 (8)

 

 

 

 

 

The depth was an average of 25 feet. With the deepest part, where the spring actually begins, 85 feet.

They say if you have your picture taken on this looped palm, you will have 5 years of good luckday 60 (11)

 

 

 

We had several pictures takenday 60 (15)

 

 

 

 

 

We then walked around the springs

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and relaxed in the beauty

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I sat with Chief Osceola. day 60 (17)He did not call himself a Native American. He called himself a Seminole Warrior. He was responsible for defying the Indian Relocation Act (not Native American Relocation Act) and keeping the Seminole’s fighting the US.  Osceola led the war of resistance until September 1837 when he went to a US fort for peace talks. While under a flag of truce he was captured. He died a short time later in captivity.

Of course, we had ice cream. I live by two maxims: Chocolate cures everything, and you must have ice cream every day.

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Back at the ranch, we watched a beautiful sunsetday 60 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

After which Barbara slaved over a hot fire making dinner

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For desert, we made s’mores

Does life get any better than this?

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Bee seeing ya.

Ocala, Florida

Day 59

History is written by the victors. – Winston Churchill

Day 59 (1)

     As we crisscross back and forth through Florida, we have stopped at some of the historical places and battlefields of the Seminole Wars. Although the statistical information varies depending on who’s side you are listening to, the general consensuses is that “white man speak with forked tongue”.

     One of the key spots of the war was Fort King, now Ocala, Florida. The only remains of the Fort is this marker:

Day 59 (2)

      The Seminoles burned the Fort down, twice.  If Major Dade had reached the Fort today (see Day 49) he would be amazed. With modern technology I hold my I-Phone up to any one of 23 markers and I get a narrative of what happened at that site and how the war, over 40 years, was progressing.

     The narrator pointed out that after the War of 1812, the United States had defeated England, twice, and was considered to have the best trained military force in the world. However, the Seminoles defeated that army over and over again.

     Nevertheless, each of the wars caused large casualties, on both sides. Many Seminoles after the 2nd war were tired and agreed to move of Oklahoma in accordance with the Indian Relocation Act issued by President Andrew Jackson.

     Finally, as stated in an earlier blog, the US decided for the few Seminoles left in Florida it was not worth the cost and declared the Wars over. According to the narrator, the US Military was not beaten as badly again until over a 100 years later in Vietnam. He pointed out that both wars were “gorilla wars” in which one side was defending it’s home in the jungle, and the other was not. 

 

 

Brooksville, Florida

Heinz Day

     The Florida Blueberry Festival is held each year in front of the County Courthouse in  Brooksville, Florida.

The Courthouse hosts a statue in tribute to the confederate soldiers.Day 57 (9)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had blueberry shortcake for breakfast.

Day 57 (1)

 

Turkey leg and cheese steak for lunch

Day 57 (4)

     

Barbara had some blueberry vodka, she did not like it and chased it down with blueberry bourbon.Day 57 (7)

And then we had blueberry pie for dinner

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 Of course we had to add ice cream_DSC2147

It’s a tough life we lead.

Crystal River, Florida

Day 54

Travel

     We took a boat ride on the Crystal River through the estuary toward the Gulf of Mexico. Day 54 (7)This area was inhabited by the Indians from about 2500 years ago to 500 years ago. The changing climate, which attracted them in the first place, was also the reason they left.

     Left behind were “mounds” of their trash, from which archaeologists have been able to assemble their eating habits, religious habits, and politics. Part of this State Park is dedicated to teaching archaeology. Unfortunately that teaching section was closed today, but you could still walk the area.

     The interesting thing about this area is that the water in the Crystal River is fresh, but as you go through the estuary it begins to mix with the salt water of the Gulf of Mexico. This allowed the Indians to harvest both fresh and salt water fish. The most abundant sea life was oysters, which made up a majority of the “mounds”.Day 54 (101)

 

 

 

QUIZ  (What, you didn’t study?)

What is the difference between these two birds? (Click picture for enhanced view)

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Hint: One is an Osprey and the the other an American Eagle. Can you tell which is which?

 

 

Left: Osprey  Right: Eagle

After the boat ride, we walked the woods through the areaDay 54 (118)

and came across interesting wildlife.

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      For the first time we saw snakes. They were called Southern Black Racer, a harmless snake, but they did move so fast I could not get a picture. One was about 3 feet and the second about 5 feet. It was hard to see, since Barbara jumped into my arms blocking my view.

Technical Stuff

      Back at the Ranch, we were inundated with thousands of caterpillars. Day 54 (3)They especially like my tires. Day 54 (4)We were told they would be around for a couple more weeks. We did not come across them in any of our other travels in this area.

Withlacoochee Trail, Florida

Day 53

     The Withlacoochee State Trail is a paved walk/bike trail stretching 46 miles from the Withlacoochee River to Owensboro. We were actually taking the day off and were looking for a restaurant that was recommended in the State Park. Did not find the restaurant, and decided to hike 3 miles of the trail. Because this section was close to the highway, we saw no wildlife, and therefore no pictures. Unless you want to see our feet walking on the paved road. I didn’t think so.

      We try to walk between 1 and 5 miles every day (averaging 2 -3), as our main form of exercise. After all, we have to work off all the ice cream and pizza we are eating.

Bushnell, Florida

Day 52

     The Florida National Cemetery Day 52 (2)is a United States National Cemetery located in the Withlacoochee State Forest, approximately 50 miles north of Tampa near the city of Bushnell in Sumter County, Florida, about 3 miles from our camp site. Administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, it encompasses 512 acres, and just began interments in 1988.

     I found the most notable graveDay 52 (1) (actually a memorable marker, as most were) to be that of Major David Moniac, who fought in the 2nd Seminole War. He was in the 6th U.S. Infantry, Alabama Mounted Creek Volunteers. In 1822 he was the First Native American Graduate from the US Military Academy. My understanding of the history is that the Creek Indians were driven out of their lands in Alabama and Georgia and joined with the Seminoles in Florida. It appears this guy joined the US Army and fought with the white man against his own people.

     I am finding the Seminole Indians and the 3 Seminole Wars quite fascinating.

Dade Battlefield, Florida

Day 49

    Major Francis L. Dade, for whom the County and battlefield are named, was an early causality of the the battle that led to the 2nd of 3 Seminole wars. It appears that after the War of 1812, General Andrew Jackson was ordered to remove the Seminole Indians from Florida to Oklahoma. Evidently, he was quite brutal in his efforts. When he became President, he continued this endeavor.

    We visited the Dade Battlefield in Bushnell, Florida, where Major Dade was leading a US military force of 107 men from Fort Brooke (now Tampa Florida) to reinforce Fort King (now Ocala Florida) when he was attacked by 180 Seminole warriors. Only 3 of the soldiers survived, while the Indians only suffered minor casualties. The Seminole’s considered it a major victory.

 

Seminole Indian Reservation, Cypress Swamp, Florida

Day 42

     On the Seminole Indian Reservation, Barbara pointed me out for the warriors (I guess for the alligator mishap).

Day 42 (2)

     It appears that for 40 years the US Government tried to move the Seminole Indians from Florida to Oklahoma. The Seminoles did not want to go, and there was War. The US classified them as three separate wars ( I could put the dates here, but do you really care?). The Seminoles considered it one long war. Finally, the US said, after spending 50 million dollars, and losing 2000 soldiers, that most of the Seminoles had been killed or moved to Oklahoma, and declared the 3rd Seminole War over. The Seminoles position is that there were 840 of them still living in the Everglades, where the US couldn’t find them, and since no peace treaty was signed, they won the war. Sounds logical to me.

     Time to mail our taxes and absentee ballots. In the Everglades, not much of a Postal system. They are only open 2 hours in the morning and 4 hours in the afternoon.

Day 42 (1)

Technical Stuff:

No cell phone reception. I guess they still use smoke signals.

Florida Everglades, Part 1

Day 40

 Florida Everglades

The Florida Everglades was teaming with life. From flowers

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To Insects Day 40 (128)

 To Fish Day 40 (124)

 To Birds


To Alligators

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My, what big teeth you have, Grandma!

 And even baby Alligators

     Meanwhile, back as the ranch, we went looking for the alligators that the camp host indicated were in the lake. Sure enough, we found him (or her, Barbara did not want to check) directly across the lake from The Sphinx, laying in the grass, getting a tan.

Day 40 (184)

 

Cypress National Preserve

Day 39

Travel

    We decided to be more adventurous by making our next stay with limited facilities. For the first 38 days we made it as easy on ourselves as possible, until we learn the basics of the RV life. We only camped in areas off a major highway. We always had full hook-up, that is water, electric, and sewer. All 3 are hooked up to The Sphinx. We tried to get a site we can pull straight through, although the last 2 were back in, which we are getting the hang of.

    Today’s destination was a National Park in the Florida Everglades. It advertised as only back in sites, no sewer or water hook-ups. Only rigs that are self-sustaining, which our is, were permitted.

    Because we have a residential refrigerator and two air conditioners, we require 50 amps of power. The National Park only offered 30-amp service. Anticipating this type of situation, I had purchased a dog-bone plug converter from 30 to 50 amps. This allows my 50 amp plug to hook up to a 30-amp supply. My major concern was not making too much power demand from the 30-amp supply, which I have been told, will blow fuses or breakers in my rig. And, if that happens, we know I won’t be able to find the blown fuse or breaker.

    The campground had 26 RV sites and an area for tent camping in a semi-circle around a lake about 300 feet long by 60 feet wide. The camp host told us that there were 2 resident alligators in the lake, and there were signs everywhere telling you not to feed them and not to swim in the lake.

    The sites were much wider than our previous two sites, and fortunately for us, they, in fact, had 50-amp service.Day 40 (189)

Technical Stuff

  Although it has been 39 days (plus 14 days in our driveway) I am still figuring out stuff. 

     We decided to have pizza for dinner tonight. Since Domino’s doesn’t deliver to the Everglades, we chose Digiorno.  We have a 3 burner propane stove with oven. The burners on top have a “clicker” switch to light. You turn on the gas and rotate the switch to create an electronic spark to ignite the gas. The oven requires me to get down on the floor while Barbara turns on the gas, which I ignite with a match or butane lighter. Down on the floor I am, won’t light. Don’t know if you just turn the knob to “pilot”, turn and push in the knob, or turn on the gas all the way. Of course, no manual came with the oven. Now, I am approaching 70 years old, and this is no easy task. Getting down is OK, getting up not so. Finally, we both realize (now don’t forget, we both have advanced college degrees, and are professionals in our respected fields) we forgot to turn back on the propane cylinders we had shut off for safety reasons during travel. Turned on the propane tanks, back down on the floor to finally light the oven. Then we burned the pizza.

Grassy Key, Fl. to Cypress National Preserve, Fl.   135.4 miles

11.6 mpg

3 hours 14 minutes

 

Key West, Florida

Day 36

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It was a sunny, beautiful day as we drove to Key West, Florida. From here, the southern most part of the United States, we were closer to Cuba than a Walmart.

 

We took the trolley tour to get the lay of the land, then walked all through Key West.Day 36 (9)

 

 

 

The most important decision, what to eat. Key Lime pie, of course.Day 36 (25)

 

 

 

 

 

In walking through town, met the rooster and his brood.

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Met with my friend, Captain MorganDay 36 (31)

 

 

 

 

 

Then we took a sunset cruiseDay 36 (73)

 

 

Day 36 (106) Day 36 (104) Day 36 (99) Day 36 (90)All and all, another routine day.

Marathon, Florida Keys

Day 35

     Took a tour of Crane Point, a nature preserve in Marathon, the city we are staying. I was curious about the coral from which the keys were formed. I wasn’t sure if the “rocks” we saw were in fact coral. Our guide did not know.

Day 35 (6) Day 35 (5) Day 35 (7)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Got my chance to be a pirate captainDay 35 (15)

The Captain didn’t agree, and I had to deal with him.Day 35 (17)

 

 

 

 

 

 

     It was either get the shot or save Barbara.Day 35 (23) Sorry, no more pictures of Barbara.

     While in the keys, we (now me) try to eat dinner at places that lift the fish right out of the sea and serve it. Here we watched as the pelicans raided the fish locker when the Captain wasn’t lookingDay 35 (29)

As the fishing boats came in with their catch, we got to watch an expert at work.

He threw the non usable parts to the waiting pelicans

 And the finished product

      Obviously, Barbara doesn’t preview my posts.

 

 

Islamorada, Florida

Day 34

Travel:

     The History of Diving Museum was more than I expected when I paid my eleven dollars. It was a very hands on museum which covered all the aspects of the origins of diving, from Aristotle to present day. Although they did not mention my favorite diver, Lloyd Bridges of Sea Hunt. I learned a lot, like Edmond Halley (of Halley’s Comet fame) perfected the diving bell to allow divers to have an external air source.

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They even had a mermaidDay 34 (20)

 

 

Is this fish giving you the evil eye?Day 34 (27)

 

 

 

 

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Technical Stuff:

     To see where we are, click on the following PDF link (It will download the file, which you will then open. I don’t know how this works on your mobile phone. I don’t think it will blow it up, but I don’t really know):

Scheinins in the Florida Keys

Diesel $2.06 gallon