Fort Pickens, Pensacola Beach, Florida

Day 1751

     Hidden beneath this vegetation is Battery Langdon, Ft. Pickens. Its 12-inch gun could propel a projectile 17 miles out to sea. This massive gun bunker, begun in 1917 and competed in 1923, was covered with soil during WWII to camouflage it from enemy aircraft.

     In 1816, the United States began constructing Third System forts along its coastline to protect important waterways and seaports. Five years later, the federal government began fortifying areas along Florida’s 3,500 mile seaboard. Pensacola Bay was one such area.

     Tidbit of Information: Unlike First and Second system forts built between 1794–1812, Third System forts had durable construction materials and uniformity. Brick and stone forts were more resilient to time, nature, and battles. Maryland’s Ft. McHenry is a third system fort. The Third System came to an end around 1867. More powerful weapons technology, like steel breech-loading rifled cannon and steel steam-powered warships, made the forts obsolete.

     European powers had long considered Pensacola Bay one of the most important on the northern Gulf Coast. With depths ranging between 20–65 feet and a length of about 13 miles, the bay afforded excellent anchorage and protection for ships. After the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, in which Spain ceded East and West Florida to the US, Pensacola Bay became a US territory. In 1825 President James Monroe signed a law establishing a new navy yard and depot on the bay. Forts were needed to protect the natural bay and navy yard, and thus Fort Pickens was conceived. In May 1828, the federal government acquired 998 acres on Santa Rosa Island to build Fort Pickens. The fort is named for Brigadier General Andrew Pickens, who fought in South Carolina during the American Revolution.

     The fort would be built on the western end of Santa Rosa Island, a low-lying barrier island that provides natural protection to the bay and mainland Florida. From this location, Fort Pickens would command the approaches to the channel, control access into and out of the bay, work with forts built around the channel, and prevent an enemy force from using the island to launch attacks against the navy yard. With five walls, cannons installed at Fort Pickens could fire at all points of the compass. During times of peace, a garrison of 60 soldiers could occupy Fort Pickens, increasing to 500 during times of war and up to 1,000 soldiers during a siege.

     Another Tidbit of Information: At the time of its completion, Fort Pickens was the largest brick structure on the Gulf of Mexico. It exhibited the latest theories in coastal defense design, construction, and weaponry. The fort illustrated the growing power of the US, and as a part of the Third System, it helped make the nation virtually impregnable.

     While the fort was a formidable force, it really only saw actual action during the Civil War. Fort Pickens was only one of four seacoast forts in the south that remained under Union control. When the confederates, who were holding the mainland, took on the Union soldiers at Fort Pickens they were met with a fierce battle that lasted two months. The Confederate soldiers were finally forced to retreat.

     And yet another Tidbit of Information: On October 25, 1886 the Fort was used as a prison to house Geronimo and his braves. Now, everyone knows Geronimo, but how about the 14 braves that survived with him? They are:  Natchez, Porcio, Fenn, Abnandria, Mahi, Yahenza, Fishnoith, Touze, Bishi, Chona, Lazalyah, Molzos, Nulthigal, Sophonne and Louah.

Pensacola Beach, Florida

Day 1750

     Pensacola Beach, (known as “Ochuse” since the expeditions of Hernando de Soto in 1541) is an unincorporated community located on Santa Rosa Island, a barrier island, on the Florida’s Emerald Coast.

     Tristán de Luna y Arellano was born 1510 in Borobia, Spain. A Spanish explorer and Conquistador, he came to New Spain (now Mexico) and was sent in 1559 on an expedition to colonize Florida. Luna established a colony called Santa Maria de Ochuse at modern-day Pensacola, the earliest multi-year European settlement in the continental United States.

     “CIG” is a 3ft. sea turtle made from 1238 cigarette butts from the Pensacola Beach. Bet you didn’t know cigarette butts grew on the beach.

     We went out in search of the Eighth Methodist Church. We never found it. We did find the First Methodist Church. Not as exciting as the Eighth, but you work with what you are dealt.

    The First United Methodist Church of Pensacola was founded December 7, 1821 and is the oldest Methodist congregation in Florida. This is actually the fifth building the Church has occupied and dates back to October 14, 1908.

     This house was built in 1867 for Danish sea captain Charles F. Boysen. It was constructed using materials from wrecked buildings along the street. Boysen was the Norwegian Vice-Consul, and during his tenure the home served as a Consulate of Sweden and Norway. In 1882 the house was acquired by Edward Aylesworth Perry, who served as Governor of Florida from 1885-1889 and lived here until 1900. The house is now owned by First United Methodist Church of Pensacola.

Technical Stuff:

Pensacola, Fl. to Pensacola Beach, Florida: 22.4 miles

1 hour 7 minutes

9.7 MPG

Diesel: $3.08

Pensacola, Florida

Day 1749

     We have been to Pensacola a few times before. See Day 819 and Day 981 and Day 984 and Day 985.

     When you go to Ocean City, Maryland, you have to go to Thrasher’s for their french fries. In Pensacola, you have to go to Bailey’s Produce for their fresh vegetables direct from local farms. 

     Baileys Produce can trace its beginning to 1936 when Doc Bailey began selling crops grown on his family farm in Jay, Florida. He and his wife Helen opened Bailey’s Curb Market in 1938.

     Their boys grew up working in the family business. Their son, David, and his wife Billie, put their skills to work and later passed them on to their sons. David Jr., Doug and Don working alongside their parents to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to the Gulf Coast area. Don Bailey became their business partner after graduating from college. 

     Because each days produce is fresh from the farm, and changes daily, all signs are magic marker written.

     This is General Bernardo De Gálvez. Every time I tried to take his picture, he turned his head. 

     He was the Spanish Governor of the Louisiana Territories at the time of the American Revolution. In 1779, when Spain became an ally of the American Revolutionaries, he was the Commanding General of Spain’s army and naval forces in the New World. On March 18, 1781, he led the naval charge into the well-defended Pensacola Bay. After weeks of siege, on May 8, 1781, he successfully drove the British out, making the “Siege of Pensacola” the longest battle of the American Revolution.

     Built in 1907, this building was the original City Hall. Today it is a museum, named for Theodore Thomas Wentworth, Jr. born July 26, 1898, in Mobile Alabama. His family move here in 1900 and at age 22 he became the youngest County Commissioner ever elected in Florida. He was an avid collector, and it is his collection that formed the basis of this museum. 

     Here, Barbara is getting directions from J. Earle Bowden, a newspaper cartoonist.

     The Seville Quarter of Pensacola looks a lot like New Orleans.

     The Charles Lavalle House, built in 1805, is the oldest standing house in Pensacola. There might me a sitting house that is older.

     And….here is Charles now:

Technical Stuff: Dothan, Georgia to Pensacola, Florida: 156.2 miles

3 hours 3 minutes

10.5 MPG

Diesel: $2.89

Dothan, Alabama

Day 1747

     When we entered Dothan to walk the town, we saw these children frolicking in the sunshine.

     Between 1763 and 1783, the region that is now Dothan was part of the colony of British West Florida. You remember from Day 352 and Day 529, one of the 15 colonies that wasn’t. During the American Revolution, British West Florida decided not to join those rabble-rousers.

     The first permanent white settlers consisted of nine families who moved into the area during the early 1830s to harvest the abundant timber. Their settlement was named Poplar Head. For nearly 30 years, the Poplar Head community changed little. By the late 1870s, however, with the rise of the lumber, turpentine, and naval stores industries in the area, more settlers came to the area for work. They began clearing the surrounding land for farms and built more homes. Soon, they asked for their own post office. 

     So imagine this: It is November 11, 1885, the town fathers are sitting around the pot belly stove discussing what to name their town after they were informed that the Post Office cannot use their name of Poplar Head, as it was already the name of another town in Alabama. “Well,” says one, “since we are a lumber town, why don’t we name it Bunyan, after Paul Bunyan?”  “How about Colfax, after Schuyler Colfax, the 17 Vice President of the US?” “How about Irvin, after Irvin McDowell, the famous confederate General?” “How about Jumbo, the star attraction in P. T. Barnum’s circus?” And the most timid town father suggested “Kisimova after Eugenia Kisimova, Bulgarian feminist, philanthropist and women’s rights activist?” No, they all decided, they would name the town Dothan (דֹתָן), after the biblical city in Egypt where Joseph’s brothers threw him into a cistern and sold him into slavery. Yes, they all agreed, that is it. Go tell the Postal Authorities. 

     The above Joseph statue at Millennium Park is a ten-foot cast bronze sculpture in the downtown area. It represents the Bible verse “For I heard them say, Let us go to Dothan” (Genesis 37:17).

     Following the devastation of the cotton crops by boll weevil infestation in the 1910s, the area embraced peanut farming and has developed into one of the largest peanut-producing regions in the world.

     Eventually, farmers turned to peanut production, which was successful and brought financial gain to the city. It became a hub for the production and transport of peanuts and peanut-related products. Today, one-quarter of the U.S. peanut crop is harvested within 75 miles of Dothan. Peanuts Around Town is a public art project organized by The Downtown Group, consisting of 5-foot-tall peanut sculptures decorated in various fashions and displayed around Dothan.

     Ok, you are in downtown Dothan and you want to go from College Drive to Appletree Street? You take Troy Street, of course. The smallest city block in the United States.

     Boy, it is a hot summer day:

     Cones are to protect Barbara from cars.

     Wow! I didn’t realize we were in town that long.

Technical Stuff: 

Milledgeville, Georgia to Dothan, Alabama: 230.9 miles

5 hours 10 minutes

10.4 MPG

Diesel: $2.89

Chattahoochee, Florida

Day 1190

     For our last night on our trek to Louisiana, we are camped out in Chattahoochee, Florida. There is nothing here. We had to drive 15 miles to Walmart to get DEF for the truck. Chattahoochee is a name derived from the Creek language meaning “marked rocks”. I did not see any rocks, much less marked ones. If we were staying here longer, I would seek them out. 

     Tomorrow we will drive 358 miles through the rest of the Florida Panhandle, through Alabama and Mississippi to Louisiana, it should take us about 7 hours, with a rest stop or two. 

Technical Stuff: 

Hardeeville, South Carolina to Chattahoochee, Florida: 348.8 miles

6 hours 31 minutes

10.2 MPG

Diesel: $2.90

Pensacola Lighthouse, Florida

Day 985

     I haven’t blogged about lighthouses in a while. The Pensacola Lighthouse was built in 1859, and is located on the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida.

     At 191 feet we climbed 177 steps to get to the top.

     Tidbit of Information: Who says lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place? The Pensacola Lighthouse was zapped in 1874 and then struck again the following year. Nature took another swipe at the lighthouse on August 31, 1886, when a rare earthquake shook the tower.

     The top of the tower offers stunning views of Pensacola Pass (where Pensacola Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico).

The Blue Angels, Pensacola, Florida

Day 984

     What comes to mind when you say “Pensacola, Florida”? The Blue Angels flight exhibition team of course.

     We went to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola to watch the Blue Angels.

     At the end of World War II, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, had a vision to create a flight exhibition team in order to raise the public’s interest in naval aviation and boost Navy morale. Nimitz ordered the establishment of the Navy Flight Exhibition Team on April 24, 1946.

     The team of top pilots performed its first flight demonstration on June 15, 1946. The team was introduced as the “Blue Angels” at the Omaha, Nebraska air show in July of the same year.

     The first of 26 Blue Angel pilot fatalities occurred 106 days after their first demonstration, on September 29, 1946, when Pilot Lt. j.g. Ross Robinson failed to recover from a dive while performing a maneuver at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida.

     The Angels use the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, which has been their plane of choice since 1986. Each plane costs 21 million dollars. 

Pensacola, Florida, Reunion

Day 981

     We are back in Pensacola, Florida (see Day 819), for Barbara’s family reunion. We drove the Sphinx here and just parked it in the driveway, as we joined 21 other people in this beach house that sleeps 30.

     This is a view of the Sphinx you haven’t seen before

     A walk over the dunes to the Gulf of Mexico, and into the Gulf we went. 

     Water nice and warm.

Technical Stuff: Mobile, Alabama to Pensacola, Fl.: 85.8 miles

3 hours 52 minutes

9.6 MPG

Diesel $2.60

Holt, Florida

Day 850

     Our last 1 night stopover before reaching Louisiana tomorrow. We are staying at River Edge Campground. Can you believe, it is on the edge of the Yellow River.

Technical Stuff: Madison, Florida to Holt, Florida: 217.0 miles

4 hours 8 minutes

10.0 MPG

Diesel: $2.70

Tampa RV Show, Florida

Day 845

     Attended the Florida RV SuperShow at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida. They advertise themselves as “the greatest RV show in the country, with over 450 vendor booths and more than 1550 RVs covering 26 acres”. 

     We are spending 4 days here with some of the couples from our Alaska Trip. 75,00 people are expected to attend. 

     There were marching bands:

      and performers though out the fairgrounds:

      Hopefully, Barbara won’t get roped into buying a new RV:

      We might consider this if we downsize:

      This mobile robot was very amusing,

but, when I caught his operator, he came up to me and said “I was trying to avoid you!”

      You have to watch out, some people will grow on you:

      How did they get her to pop out of his head?

Technical Stuff:  

Weight Station, Fl to Tampa Fairgrounds, Fl: 8.5 miles

35 minutes

7.1 MPG

Diesel: $2.81

Weigh Station, Interstate 4, Florida

Day 844

     We are spending the night at the Florida Department of Transportation weigh station located at mile marker 13, west bound Interstate 4, in Seffner, Florida.

     This is one of Florida’s newly renovated stations, with state of the art scales and utilizes laser technology. When a truck pulls in, it is scanned by 9 laser cameras that presents a 3 dimensional image on the controller’s computer screen.

     It gives the operator the height, width, length of the tractor and the trailer, as well as distance between axles. Along with the scale, that measures weight of the cab and separate weight of the trailer, it is like a cat scan of the truck.

     In talking with the station master, we learned quite a bit about truck weight and violations. For example, some trucks will be randomly selected to be fully inspected, including undercarriage.

     As the truck pulls onto the scale, it’s weight is compared to it’s dimensions and axles,

which determines if the truck is in compliance with the law.

     This truck is overweight on one axle. However, the driver can move that axle to distribute the weight more evenly, and therefore come into compliance.

     This truck has a length violation. To correct that, the driver can move the king-pin to make the length shorter.

     Tidbit of Information: Maximum truck length is 51 feet measured from the front of the cab to the center of the rear axle. By moving the kingpin forward, that moves the trailer closer to the cab, and therefore shortens that distance. Maximum height of tractor trailer is 13 feet 6 inches. The Sphinx is 13 feet 5 inches.

     We met 2 other rigs from our Alaska trip here, and will all be going together tomorrow to the Tampa RV Show.

Technical Stuff: Eustis, Florida to Weight Station, Florida: 98.5 miles

2 hours 8 minutes

10.5 MPG

Diesel: $2.81

Eustis, Florida

Day 841

     Although the U.S. opened up the area of Eustis, Florida, for homesteading in the 1850s, settlement was delayed by, among other things, the Civil War. Surveying was finally completed in 1875 and in 1876 A.S. Pendry homesteaded and set out a citrus grove. The town was named for General Abraham Eustis, born March 26, 1786 in Petersburg, Virginia. General Eustis was an Indian fighter during the Seminole Wars.

     We visited bridge playing friends from Maryland who have a summer estate home in neighboring Mt. Dora. From their lanai, where we ate lunch,

the sandhill cranes came up to watch us. 

On their small lake were ducks, 

and geckos were everywhere 

Technical Stuff: Woodbine, Georgia to Eustis, Florida: 176.8 miles

3 hours 31 minutes

10.3 MPG

Diesel: $2.96

Tallahassee, Florida

Day 821

     On February 19, 1819, Spanish minister, Do Luis de Onis, and U.S. Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, signed the Florida Purchase Treaty, in which Spain agrees to cede Florida to the United States. The Territory of Florida existed from March 30, 1822, until March 3, 1845, when it entered the United States as a slave State. 

     The founding of Tallahassee was largely a matter of convenience. In 1822, a territorial government was established, but the impracticalities of alternately meeting in St. Augustine and Pensacola, the two largest cities in the territory at the time (the Spaniards had built a road), led territorial governor William Pope Duval to appoint two commissioners to establish a more central meeting place. In October 1823, John Lee Williams of Pensacola and Dr. William Simmons of St. Augustine selected the former Indian settlement of Tallahassee, roughly midway between the two cities, as a suitable place. The name “Tallahassee” is a Muskogean Indian word meaning “old fields”, or “old town.” Tallahassee became the capital of Florida a year later in 1824. 

Technical Stuff:

Navarre, Florida to Tallahassee, Florida: 199.4 miles

3 hours 47 minutes

10.7 MPG

Diesel: $2.77

Pensacola, Florida

Day 819

     Pensacola, Florida, the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle, has a long and sordid history, as it was a highly desired sea port. Located on Pensacola Bay, it is protected by the barrier island of Santa Rosa, and connects to the Gulf of Mexico.  Since 1559, when Spanish Explorer Tristán de Luna founded a short-lived settlement here, 5 flags have claimed Pensacola as theirs: Spain, France, England, United States, and the Confederate States of America.

     First known  as “Panzacola” in 1686, after the Indian tribe living here, then anglicized.

     Pensacola was an interesting place to tour because of it’s long history. For example, this anchor, which was found in 1992 at the bottom of the bay, was from one of Tristán de Luna’s ships that sank in the hurricane of 1559. 

      This anchor is 459 years old, sat under water for 433 years, is made of iron, and displays this sign:

     That is a laugh.

     After all this time, I can’t believe a person’s fingerprints are going to destroy this relic. Nevertheless, some people don’t listen. 

     Many of the buildings and homes of the various periods are preserved in Pensacola. Over the last 3 years, we have been though many of these types of homes, but this item, from about 1805, has us stumped.

     Do you know what it is?

     The Christ Church, built in 1832, is the oldest brick church in Florida on it’s original foundation (somewhere is the oldest brick church not on it’s original foundation, the oldest wood church, etc. etc.).

     The church had an interesting stained glass depicting Jesus knocking on the bathroom door to see if the room is vacant.

     Another interesting thing we found was this mummified cat. In 1850 the cat became trapped inside the walls of a house under construction. It’s body was found in 1946 when the building was torn down. 

     Barbara window shops in a 1900 depiction of Pensacola. 

     She commanded the street car,

     but had to stop at the first traffic light in Pensacola, put up in 1926

     Anyone who lived in Pensacola is familiar with Trader Jon.

     There was an excellent exhibit on lumbering

     Do you remember the name of this type of saddle?

     Well, my staff and I have to get back to writing the blog.

Navarre, Florida

Day 817

     What is wrong with this picture?

     Barbara is wearing a hooded fleece jacket.

     This violates our 40/80 rule, which states we do not want to be anywhere were the temperature is less than 40 or more than 80. It is 38 degrees in Navarre, Florida. We cannot go any father south here, as we are already along the Gulf of Mexico, on the panhandle of Florida.

     Navarre was first settled in 1884 and named Eagan, after a local politician. Guy Wyman, born May 21, 1878, in Perry, Ohio, is credited as being the founder of Navarre. He was a surveyor for the U.S. Army and surveyed this area in 1905. He then came back here, platting and naming the community in 1925. In 1930, he served as an engineer in the construction of the original Pensacola Bay Bridge. He also served as an engineer at nearby Eglin Air Force Base. For some unknown reason Wyman named this place after a province in Spain. 

     As the sun slowly sets in the west, I leave you with this thought: 

Technical Stuff: 

Ponchatoula, Louisiana, to Navarre, Florida: 239.2 miles

4 hours 56 minutes

10.6 MPG

Diesel: $2.90

Destin, Florida

Day 592

     We drove down the Emerald Coast to Destin, Florida. Destin is named after Leonard Destin, born in 1813, a New London, Connecticut fishing captain who settled in the area around 1850. He comes from a family of whalers and fisherman

     The city is located on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from Choctawhatchee Bay.

     You know you are old when you see something you use to use every day, now in a museum.

     So, this was Jonah’s view?

     Destin is a fishing village, popular with tourists. Today’s catch:

     And the pelicans are looking for handouts:

Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Day 591

     We are at the fairgrounds in Fort Walton Beach, Florida to attend an RV Rally. Not only is there no Fort here, there is no Beach.

     George Walton, born 1749, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence as a delegate from Georgia. His son, also named George Walton (some people are just not very imaginative), born August 15, 1786, was a Colonel under General Andrew Jackson during the 2nd Seminole War. He was named Secretary of Florida under Governor Jackson. Walton County was named for him. 

     Fort Walton Beach was originally named Brooksville, after John Thomas Brooks, who was the first settler in this area. In 1913 Brooksville was renamed Camp Walton. During the Civil War confederate troops “camped” here. Their camp consisted of tents, and nothing more. Walton is the name from the County that encompassed Brooksville. In 1932, Camp Walton changed it’s name to Fort Walton, because it sounded better. In 1953 Fort Walton was renamed Fort Walton Beach to attract tourists (even though there is no beach).

     The only interesting thing we found at Fort Walton Beach was the restored one room school house, built in 1912, that housed grades 1 to 5. 

     As it turns out, I am not smarter than a 5th grader. 

     You are really old if your grade school Report Card looked like this: 

Technical Stuff:

Milton, Florida to Fort Walton, Florida: 56.2 miles

1 hour 37 minutes

9.7 MPG

Diesel: $2.70

Indian Bayou, Milton, Florida

Day 586

     Our campground is located on the Indian Bayou. We decided to go canoeing on the Bayou from our campground, even though we had never canoed before.

     It took us 15 minutes to get the canoe off the shore. We placed the canoe in the water, with the rear still on the beach. Barbara got in and we almost turned the canoe over. We decided I would get in the bottom of the canoe in the middle, with Barbara in the rear. Could not get the boat off the shore. Got out, pushed the canoe further in the water, and tried again…. and again. Finally got all the way in the water without tipping over. 

     Fortunately, the water was very calm. We paddled for about 45 minutes up the Bayou when he saw a large splash in the water just ahead of us. We saw bubbles coming out of the water from the shore to the middle of where we were paddling. We figured it was either a large turtle, or an alligator. We quickly made a 180 degree turn, and began paddling back down the Bayou.

     We did see some wildlife (other than the turtle or alligator). 

Air Force Armament Museum, Florida

Day 585     The Air Force Armament Museum, adjacent to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, is the only facility in the U.S. dedicated to the display of Air Force armament. Founded in 1975 it was originally located on Post, but move just off Post in 1985.

     The leader of our Alaska trip was with us. He was a Combat Control Specialist in the Air Force, the equivalent of the Navy Seal, during Vietnam and recently retired as a Rocket Scientist with the Department of Defense at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. 

     He explained to us all the airplanes on display from Vietnam to the present, including the Black Bird, the high flying reconnaissance plane. 

     Another cool thing in the museum was this Norden Bomb Site. Developed by Carl Norden, it was used in World War II in the B-17 bombers. Although I have heard about it, this is the first time I saw one. 

     In tribute to one of my faithful readers:


Milton, Florida

Day 584

     Milton was settled in the early 1800s as a small village centered on the lumber industry. The settlement was originally known as “Scratch Ankle” because of the briars and bramble that grew in the area. Milton was incorporated as a city in 1844, one year before the Territory of Florida joined the United States as the 27th state.

     We went to the nearby city of Fort Walton to view the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. They have a long fishing pier on which we walked  1/4 mile into the Gulf.

     The Pelicans also liked the pier:      As well as the Blue Heron: 

     And, of course, the sunset:

Technical Stuff:

Lamont Florida to Milton Florida: 205.6 miles

3 hours 45 minutes

10.3 MPG

Diesel: $3.10

Lamont, Florida

Day 581

     Lamont, Florida is an unincorporated town off of I 10. The only thing here is this campground and some gas stations and eating places. We are here as a stopover to Avalon, Florida, where we will be meeting with some of the group that we will be going to Alaska with, and then going to an RV Rally in Ft. Walton, Beach, Florida with them. 

     We were going to drive the 25 miles to Tallahassee, Florida, but then realized we were there on day 340. Until we looked at the blog for that day, we did not realize we had been there. Have we been traveling too much?

Technical Stuff:

Mount Dora, Florida to Lamont, Florida: 202.1 miles

4 hours 41 minutes

10.6 MPG

Diesel: $2.86

Rocket Launch, Mount Dora, Florida

Day 578

     Our campsite featured a Blue Heron:

     And a Gekkonidae:

     We came to Mount Dora to visit friends.

     They took us to their friend’s house who had a direct view of launches from Cape Canaveral. We watched the SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch from the Cape. The payload was SpaceX’s founder Elon Musl’s red Tesla Roaster. 

     Enlarge the picture and see the Tesla through the space craft window.

     Away it went, leaving only a vapor trail:

Mount Dora, Florida

Day 577

     We were here on Day 18.

     Dora Ann Fletcher was born on May 12, 1826 in Irwin, George. She married James Drawdy in 1843 and had 3 children. When he died in 1848 she married his cousin William and had 6 more children. She and her husband, William, wanted to live the frontier life. At that time Florida had recently joined the Union and was mostly unexplored wilderness. The Drawdy family built a raft and ferried their possessions down the Suwannee River and then by horse and wagon to Central Florida. William and Dora placed a claim on 164 acres near a large lake. 

     Dora befriended federal surveyors with her warm hospitality. In 1846, the surveyors named Lake Dora for her, and years later, in 1883, the small but growing town was named for the lake. The town’s name was officially changed to Mount Dora to reflect the fact that the settlement rests upon a plateau 184 feet above sea level – an unusual feature in Florida.

     Visited the Mount Dora Museum. This museum is the location of the first fire station and city jail, which opened in 1923.

     The exhibits highlight activities in Mount Dora from the 1880s to the 1930s. Like this old time mix-master:

     Whether you lived or died, this guy made money:

Technical Stuff:

Ft. Myers, Fl to Mt. Dora, Fl: 206.9 miles

4 hours 33 minutes

9.6 MPG

Diesel: $2.96

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel, FL

Day 574

     Jay Norwood Darling was born October 21, 1876 in Norwood, Michigan. He was the cartoonist for the New York Herald Tribune from 1917 to 1949, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartoons in 1923 and 1942. 

     He was an important figure in the conservation movement. Darling initiated the Federal Duck Stamp program and designed the first stamp. He was instrumental in founding the National Wildlife Federation in 1936, when President Franklin Roosevelt convened the first North American Wildlife Conference.

    The J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is part of the United States National Wildlife Refuge System, located in southwestern Florida, on Sanibel Island in the Gulf of Mexico. We took a guided tour led by a naturist through part of this area. 

     She pointed out various plants and trees, like this Gumbo Limbo tree, a native of South Florida. It develops unusual red bark that peels back – reminiscent of sunburned skin – which gives gumbo limbo the nickname of “Tourist Tree.” :

     And this cabbage palm tree: 

     The spokes on the trunk of this palm are called boots. The name comes from when the area was cattle country. At the end of the day, the tired cowboys took off their wet and muddy boots and hung them on this stiff appendage to dry.


     Yellow belly turtles


     White Ibis

     Great Egret

     and this bird, which I already forgot the name

Edison and Ford Homes, Ft. Myers, Fl

Day 573

     In 1885 inventor Thomas Alva Edison was cruising Florida’s west coast and stopped to visit Fort Myers. He soon bought 13 acres along the Caloosahatchee River because numerous bamboo trees grew there. He was using the bamboo fiber in his light bulbs, which he now had to import from Africa. Here he built his home, Seminole Lodge, as a winter retreat. 

     With WWI approaching, Edison and Ford worried about rubber production, and although most rubber was made in England, the US bought 70% of the world’s rubber. Edison planted many types of trees and plants from which he could extract latex, a key ingredient of rubber.

     He built a laboratory to test over 17,000 plant samples he and his staff collected in his quest to find a way to produce rubber in the United States. His lab was preserved:

     In 1927 he planted this banyan tree which produces a white milky sap (latex) which can be used in the production of rubber:

     This is all one tree which was planted from a single 14″ stem.

     This Brown Woolly Fig tree was planted in 1928, and now stands 102 feet high and 305 inches in circumference:

     Arn’t those roots cool?

     In 1916, automobile magnate Henry Ford purchased the home next door to Edison’s. We took a guided tour of both homes.

     Instead of walking through the houses, you peered in through the outside windows.

     Tidbit of Information:  For a short period, Henry Ford worked at the Edison Illuminating Company. On an occasion of Edison visiting the plant, Henry Ford showed him his prototype of a gasoline engine. Edison gave Henry encouragement in pursuing the project. Henry, shortly thereafter, left the employ of Edison to form a motor company.

     In the early 1900’s Ford and Edison took many road trips. In Ford’s garage on this estate was the first “RV” made for these trips:

     It was a box containing food and cooking supplies on the back of a Model T.  Notice the water spigot on the side. Thank you Henry, otherwise I would not be traveling the Country. 

Seminole Veterans Building, Okeechobee, Florida

Day 571

     Ok, I know. I already published day 572 and now I am doing 571. I clicked 572 when it should have been this. So, here it is.

     On the Indian Reservation, next to the casino, is the Seminole Veterans Building. The building is build in the shape of a 5 point star, like on the American Flag. 

     One point of the building covers the Seminole Wars, another, World War II, and a third, Vietnam and later. The remaining 2 points are administrative. 

     In the center of the star building, a pentagon, is located a 500 seat auditorium.

     The staff of the building supports getting benefits not only for the Indian Veterans but all veterans. They concentrate on service connected disability compensation for exposure to agent orange. 

Fort Myers, Florida

Day 572

     There is no Fort at Fort Myers.

     During the American Indian Wars of the 1830’s the United States built Fort Myers as one of the first forts along the Caloosahatchee River. It was used as a base of operations against the Seminole Indians. The Government abandoned the fort following the Civil War.

     The Fort Myers community was founded by Confederate Captain Manuel A. Gonzalez on February 21, 1866. On August 12, 1885, the small town of Fort Myers—with 349 residents—was incorporated.

     The city is named after Confederate Colonel Abraham Myers, a Jewish American army officer and a graduate of West Point, Class of 1833. He was descended from Rabbi Moses Cohen, an emigrant from London to Charleston, South Carolina.

Technical Stuff:

Okeechobee, Fl. to Fort Myers, Fl: 92.4 miles

2 hours 56 minutes

9.6 MPG

Diesel: $2.85

Battle of Lake Okeechobee, Florida

Day 569

     On December 25, 1837, as part of the United States Government’s effort to rid Florida of the Seminole Indians, 800 US troops under the leadership of Zachary Taylor, engaged 400 Seminole warriors led by Chief Billy Bolek, known as the Alligator Chief. 

     The Indians engaged the troops in an effort to allow the women and children to evacuate the area. Once that was accomplished, the Indians retreated, killing 28 Americans, and wounding 111, most of whom died of their wounds. The Indians suffered 11 dead and 14 wounded. The press seized upon the Indian retreat as a major victory for Zachary Taylor, which made him an American hero and led to him winning the Presidency of the United States. 

     Chief Bolek considered this a win for the Indians based on the number of Americans killed, and the fact they accomplished their objective. Years later he visited Washington and on being escorted through the buildings of the Capitol and viewing many statues and paintings, he suddenly halted before a portrait of Zachary Taylor, grinned and exclaimed: “Me whip!”

     The site of the battlefield is now considered hollow ground, as evidenced by this marker:

Next to the marker is this dumpster and outhouse:

     What is inside the outhouse?

     “On December 25, 1837 Colonel Zachary Taylor stood here:”

Okeechobee, Florida

Day 565

     The name Okeechobee comes from the Hitchiti words oki (water) and chubi (big). The Hitchiti language, one of the many languages spoken by the Seminole tribes, was spoken in Georgia and Florida during the Colonial Period. The Seminole Indians were originally from Florida. Today they principally live in Oklahoma with a minority in Florida.

     We are staying on the Seminole Indian Reservation. Today they had a fish fry that included alligator. Very tasty. 

     The reservation sits on Lake Okeechobee, which is the largest freshwater lake in the State of Florida.

Technical Stuff: Oakland, Fl. to Okeechobee, Fl.: 115.8 miles

3 hours 4 minutes

9.5 MPG

Diesel: $2.90

Oakland Park, Florida

Day 564

     Stopped here to see cousins. Now that we are in warm weather we will start sightseeing at our next stop, an Indian reservation, (oh, and they have a casino). 

     One of the interesting things we did was have our truck and Sphinx weighed. This is needed as there are limits for safe driving on the axles and tires of each vehicle. 

     Prior to the weighing we made sure our truck and mobile home were as heavy as it will get within the next year. When we left home we restocked our supply of firewood we carry. I filled my main gas tank and 50 gallon auxiliary tank. Filled our fresh water tank, and did not empty our waste tanks, which were all full. 

     We were weighed by an organization called RV Safety. We met them at a Gulf Resort, where they weighed us with their portable scales that are placed under each tire of our 4 axles (2 on the truck and 2 on the Sphinx). 

     They first weigh the truck hooked up to the Sphinx, and then have us disconnect, and weigh the truck again. This tells them our “pin weight”, which is the weight the Sphinx places in the bed of the truck. Each wheel is weighed separately.

     The manufacturer lists the weight restrictions of each axle. In fact, if you look at the door jam of your car, you will see these weight restrictions. 

     All this data is placed in their computer, which calculates wether or not we are within the manufacturer’s specs. For example, the axles on the Sphinx are rated at 7,000 lbs. That is 3500 lbs. on each tire. We have 2 axles, 4 tires, so we can carry 14,000 lbs. Another 2,000 lbs. are exerted on the pin, where the Sphinx is hitched to the truck, for a total weight capacity of 16,000 lbs. The reason each wheel is weighed, rather than each axle as at truck weighing stations, is that the weight is not distributed evenly over the axle. The side of our mobile home that has the refrigerator, stove and entertainment center was 1,200 lbs. more than the side that has the dining room table and lazy-boys. 

     Fully loaded, like we were, we were within all the manufactures’ specifications.  However, if Barbara decides to buy trinkets and stuff, then she has to poop that much less. 

Technical Stuff:

Titusville, Florida to Oakland Park, Florida 195.1 miles

4 hours 34 minutes

9.3 MPG

Diesel: $2.90

Titusville, Florida

Day 560

     Drove to Titusville, Florida, which is on the Indian River, west of Merritt Island and the Kennedy Space Center, and a short distance from Cape Canaveral, to watch a rocket launch. 


     United Launch Alliance launched it’s SBIRS GEO-4 on an Atlas V rocket, the fourth Space Based Infrared System Geosynchronous satellite. The satellite’s purpose is to provide the U.S. military with early warnings of missile detection, so watch out Korea. 


Disney World, Florida

Day 355

     We will be staying a week at Disney World, Florida. No battles were fought here, and most people know it’s history. Therefore, I will not be writing any blogs for the next seven days. However, stay tuned for the further adventures of Steven and Barbara.

Technical Stuff:

St. Augustine, Florida to Disney World, Florida: 125.7 miles

2 hours 56 minutes

12.3 MPG

Diesel: $ 2.39


Castillo de San Marcos, Florida

Day 352

     When you think of St. Augustine, the first image that comes to mind is the Castillo de San Marcos. 

Day 348 St Augustine Fl 2362_Fotor

     There has been a Spanish fort on this site from the time of the settlement of St. Augustine. Nine wooden forts to be exact, up to 1672. At that time, the city was plundered, sacked, and burned to the ground by the pirate Robert Searless. The Governor then order this brick fort to be built, construction began on October 2, 1672. Since that time the fort has never been taken by force. 

     This is now North America’s oldest masonry fortification. 

     TIDBIT OF INFORMATION: How many colonies did England have in what is now known as the United States?    

     Wrong! There were 15 colonies. When England gained control of Florida from Spain at the end of the seven years war, in 1764, she divided Florida into 2 colonies to better govern this mass territory. In order to inhabit this new and untamed land, settlers were offered land and goods. At the time of the Revolution, these new colonist were very happy with England, and her rule, and would have no part of the Convention in Philadelphia planning a Revolution. 

     With the British losing the Revolution, Florida was returned to Spain for her support in the war, and the 2 colonies were dissolved. 

Day 348 St Augustine Fl 2345_Fotor

Fountain of Youth, Florida

Day 351

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     The area around St. Augustine has numerous peacocks. You have all seen peacocks.

 Day 350 St Augistine lighthouse Fl 2671_Fotor0

     You might have even seen one with it’s full plumage

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     But, have you ever seen the Mother of All Peacocks?

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     How about this?

 Day 350 St Augistine lighthouse Fl 2668_Fotor7

     Tidbit of Information: Nineteen year old Juan Ponce De Leon was a sailor and part of the ship’s crew on Columbus’s second voyage to the new world in 1493. 

     In 1513 Ponce De Leon came back to Florida searching for the Fountain of Youth. He did not find it. I don’t know why, it was clearly marked:

Day 350 St Augistine lighthouse Fl 2579_Fotor1

     Actually, I thought it was a fountain like you see in the parks. I forgot, this is 1513.

 Day 350 St Augistine lighthouse Fl 2610_Fotor3

    I told Barbara not to drink so much of that water



Saint Augustine Lighthouse, Florida

Day 350

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     What? Back to lighthouses? Yep, I enjoy them. This one is a little different from the rest. First, it has a much wider staircase. Second, it is being used as a research facility. 

     The lighthouse was first lit on October 15, 1874, and is the city’s oldest still standing brick structure.  

Day 350 St Augistine lighthouse Fl 2536_Fotor

     We climbed the 219 stairs to get a view from the top. 

Day 350 St Augistine lighthouse Fl 2523_Fotor     

     During the closing days of the Revolutionary War, there were many British loyalist in Charleston, South Carolina. On January 1, 1782, sixteen ships left with these loyalists and their possessions for the British Colony of East Florida. The ships were caught in a storm and sank off the coast of St. Augustine. One of those ships was discovered and an expedition, with headquarters in this lighthouse, began recovery efforts.  

     The most interesting artifact found was this rare carronade cannon made in 1780. The second oldest existing one in the world.

Day 350 St Augistine lighthouse Fl 2551_Fotor     It was brought up and cleaned here at the lighthouse:

Day 350 St Augistine lighthouse Fl 2546_Fotor_Fotor


Pirates in Florida

Day 349

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     Pirates were common in the St. Augustine area of Florida since the Spanish occupation. It was a goldmine for merchant ships, ripe for plunder, as well as St. Augustine itself.

     The pirate museum in St. Augustine claims to have more authentic artifacts of pirates than any other museum, including this original Jolly Roger from 1850:

Day 349 Pirates in Fl 2446_Fotor


   And Pirate Thomas Tew’s treasure chest.

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     Our host through the museum was none other than Captain Morgan, himself.

Day 349 Pirates in Fl 2416_Fotor

     He pointed out that the Jolly Roger was a warning to ships under pirate attack to surrender quickly or die. The black flag was raised first, indicating that good quarter (merry) will be shown if no resistance was met. A red flag indicted no mercy and death to the party under attack.

     Each pirate had his own flag. The most popular was that of Calico Jack, and the one we most associate with pirates.

Day 349 Pirates in Fl 2419_Fotor

     Although pirates kept their plunder in chests, none were buried. The spoils were divided evenly among the crew or placed on the readly available black market. There was no reason to bury the plunder.


St. Augustine, Florida

Day 348

     On April 2, 1513 Juan Pounce de Leon lands here and claims all of North America for Spain, calling it La Florida. Therefore, Maryland was once part of Florida.

     I think I will search for the Fountain of Youth while I am here.

     This landing precedes Jamestown, and the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock by over a 100 years. In fact, both the Spanish and the French were here before the English. 

     St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement within the borders of the continental United States. The City was founded on September 8, 1565, by the Spanish conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. He named the area St. Augustine in honor of the feast day of St. Augustine, that honored that Catholic saint, and was being celebrated when he first spotted this site. He came here on the orders of King Philip II to  drive out the French, build a fort, and set up a permanent settlement for Spain. The French had built a fort a few years earlier, in 1562, in present day Jacksonville, Florida, just north of here, which was Spanish territory. 

     Immediately upon landing, Menéndez marched his soldiers overland for a surprise attack on the French Fort, where they find that French military is not there. By chance the French set sail for St. Augustine to drive out Menéndez and the Spanish. Unfortunately, they get caught in a hurricane and their ships are wrecked or scattered. Menéndez hearing about this (I think he got it on twitter), returns to St. Augustine where the French survivors are coming ashore, Menéndez executes them all. The name of the bay at St. Augustine is now called Mantanzas, the Spanish word for slaughter. 

     Eventually a fort and wall were built around the city. The gates to the city:

Day 349 Pirates in Fl 2413_Fotor

     Of course, restaurants abound, and we took full advantage:

Day 349 Pirates in Fl 2453_Fotor

    Aviles Street, named after the founder of St. Augustine, is the oldest street in the United States:

Day 349 Pirates in Fl 2479_Fotor

     And now, I leave you with this thought:

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Technical Stuff:

Lake City, Florida to St. Augustine, Florida: 104.4 miles

2 hours 13 minutes

11.9 MPG

Diesel: $2.50


Olustee, Florida

Day 346

     One of the few Civil War battles that took place in Florida occurred on February 20, 1864 at Olustee, Florida. 

     You are probably tired of me telling you about obscure battles of the Civil War, so I will spare you my narrative, only to say, the Confederates won this battle. 


Suwannee River, Florida

Day 345

     We hiked 5 miles along the Suwannee River in Florida. The river gets it’s name from the Creek indian word for “Echo”. The river begins it’s journey in the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia and proceeds southwest to the Gulf of Mexico, not far from us. Hence, we are way down upon the Suwannee River. 

Day 345 Suwannee River Fl2232_Fotor

     The river became famous from the song by Stephen Foster, Old Folks at Home. Stephen Foster was born July 4, 1826 in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, now known as Pittsburg. Foster had neither been to Florida, nor seen the Suwannee River. His original version of the song began “Way down upon de Pee Dee Ribber, far, far away…” But that did not fit in with his song. He looked on a map of the southern United States and decided on “Swanee”. A modified version of his song is now the Florida State song (They took out “offensive language” like “darkeys”). 

Lake City, Florida

Day 343

     The site of Lake City, Florida, was a Seminole village named Alpaca Telophka meaning “Alligator Village”. By 1830, a Euro-American town called Alligator was established, adjacent to the Seminole town. The city was incorporated and changed to its current name in 1859 because the mayor’s wife, who had recently moved to the town, did not like the name. Obviously, he was not a very strong mayor. 

Technical Stuff:

Tallahassee, Florida to Lake City, Florida: 97.6 miles

2 hours 9 minutes

10.9 MPG

Diesel: $2.40



Mission San Luis,Tallahassee, Florida

Day 340

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     The Apalachee Indians, who lived in the area around present-day Tallahassee, were among the most advanced and powerful of the Florida tribes that were met by early explorers.

     Spain’s Juan Ponce de León came to Florida in 1513. He named the land “La Florida”, meaning flowery, and claimed ownership for Spain.

     Hernando de Soto arrived in 1539 to seek his fortunes in La Florida. Native peoples in the region told the Spaniards that riches could be found in the Apalachee Province. The de Soto expedition was the first from Europe to camp in this area. 

     The myth of Apalachee treasure was represented on early European maps by the name given to the Appalachian Mountains.

     The largest Apalachee building was the council house that could hold 2,000 to 3,000 people. In the council house, the Apalachee and their chiefs met to govern the village, consider complaints, administer justice, conduct traditional rituals, and receive visitors.

Day 341 Mission San Luis Fl2108_Fotor

     The entrance door was built low so a person entering had to stoop, thus easy to see if they had weapons, plus they were bowing to the King. I entered first so Barbara could show her respects. 

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     In 1656 the Mission of San Luis was established here. The friars converted over 5,000 Apalachee’s to christianity. 

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     In 1690 the Spaniards built a fort to protect their interests in the area from the British. England was expanding it’s hold on Spanish Florida and made advances toward the Mission and fort. On July 31, 1704, two days before the British and Creek indians would arrive in the area, the defenders realized they would be outnumbered and burned the mission and fort to the ground, moving to St. Augustine. I think we will also migrate there.  

Technical Stuff:

Panama City, Florida to Tallahassee, Florida 137.5 miles

3 hours 10 minutes

10.9 MPG

Diesel: $2.37

Panama City, Florida

Day 330

Day 330 Panama City FL1689_Fotor

     Panama City is located within the Florida Panhandle and along the Emerald Coast. The Emerald Coast is the unofficial name for this Gulf of Mexico coastal area in the state of Florida that stretches about 100 miles from Pensacola to Panama City. The term Emerald Coast was coined in 1983 by a junior high school student, Andrew Dier, who won $50 in the contest for a new area slogan. 

     The development in this part of Northwest Florida had previous names such as “Floriopolis,” “Park Resort” and “Harrison.” In 1906, the development was titled “Panama City” and incorporated in 1909. A developer named George Mortimer West hoped to spur real estate development in this area during a period of intense popular interest in the construction of the Panama Canal by changing the town’s name from Harrison to Panama City. 

Day 330 Panama City FL1751_Fotor

     Today was the annual “Blessing of the Fleet”. The Blessing of the Fleet is a tradition that began centuries ago in Mediterranean fishing communities. It is a blessing from the local priest and pastors that is meant to ensure a safe and bountiful season. This is an event held throughout the world at numerous seaport towns at the beginning of the fishing season. I don’t recall it ever being held in Maryland. 

Day 330 Panama City FL1742_Fotor

 The ships would line up in the harbor and pass before the priest who would bless each ship.

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   More than 150 vessels participate in the Blessing, ranging from ships to kayaks.

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     The pirates wanted a picture with Barbara.

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     This pirate takes his role seriously.

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Technical Stuff:

Gulf Shore, Alabama to Panama City, Florida: 182.7 miles

4 hours 15 minutes

11.1 MPG

Diesel: $ 2.20


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

day 60 (14)





and relaxed in the beauty

day 60 (20)




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.

day 60 (21)





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






After which Barbara slaved over a hot fire making dinner

day 60 (3)





For desert, we made s’mores

Does life get any better than this?

day 60 (18)





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


 Of course we had to add ice cream_DSC2147

It’s a tough life we lead.

Crystal River, Florida

Day 54


     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)

Day 54 (47) Day 54 (32)



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.

Day 54 (115) Day 54 (113) Day 54 (90) Day 54 (106)



      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.


Ft. Myers, Florida

Day 46

Technical Stuff

     Our first trip over 275 miles pulling The Sphinx, and therefore had to stop for gas. Sorry to disappoint some of you, but we had no mishap pulling into the station and getting gas. Although it was a new experience.

Cypress National Preserve, FL.  to Bushnell, FL.  278.9 miles

7 hours 18 minutes

11.1 MPG

Diesel 2.17 gallon


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.

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Cypress National Preserve

Day 39


    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

Day 36 (22) Day 36 (28) Day 36 (26)





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


     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

Grassy Key, Florida

Day 32


     We set out 6 initial destinations we wanted to achieve during our five year journey: The Florida Keys, Mt. Rushmore, Grand Canyon, Albuquerque, New Mexico (for the Hot Air Balloon Festival), Death Valley, and as far north you can go on paved roads toward the North Pole (not necessarly in that order).  Today, as we traveled the Overseas Highway, Florida, entering the Keys through Key Largo, we achieved the first of our destinations.

Of course, the first thing we did after setting up our site, was to eat frog legs, and key lime pie.

Technical Stuff:

West Palm Beach Florida to GrassyKey, Florida 168.9 miles

Travel Time: 4 hours 37 minutes

11.9 MPG

Diesel: $2.14

Boco Raton, Florida

Day 31

     The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is a great place for kids. When Mary Martin, playing Peter Pan, looked into the camera and said “promise you won’t grow up”, I promised. Therefore I fit right in as a kid.

     The place is named after one of the dominant trees in the area. As we were walking down one of the nature trails and Barbara was describing the trees from the guidebook, I asked her if she new which one was the Gumbo Limbo? When she responded that she did not, I told her, “then it is this one.” Pointing to the tree that I happened to be standing next too. Then, from the guide, she described the tree as having a distinctive pealing red bark. Turned out that was the tree I was standing next too. Boy am I smart.

Steven and Barbara at Gumbo Limbo Tree

     The Center had an amazing aquarium from which you could view fish, turtles and and other sea creatures from above, as well as below.

day 31 (2)

They had stingrays


day 31 (22)

even sea horses

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as well as fish I have never heard of

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Thirty Day Mark

Day 30

     It has now been 30 days living full time in our 5th Wheel, which we are now calling “The Sphinx” because of it’s size. Each of the 30 days has brought a new challenge, which we, for the most part, have overcome. I wanted to explain some of those challenges, and how we solved them, but Barbara says it would be too gross. Suffice it to say there is a lot to know about water conservation and waste management.

     For those that want to know: “did we make the right decision in giving up our 2,800 sq. ft. home on an acre of wooded countryside land for a 240 sq. ft. home on wheels?” YES. We have not regretted it for 1 minute. Despite the challenges and obstacles, we are having the time of our lives. Actually the challenges are part of the adventure. 

     We will be returning to Maryland for our granddaughter’s graduation from George Mason University in May, and then we will be flying to Alabama for a get together of Barbara’s family for a week’s vacation. I wanted to drive the Sphinx there, but Barbara said the time frame between Graduation and the Family get together was too short (another boxing match I lost).

     After Alabama, we will be attending the Maryland State Firemen’s Convention in Ocean City, Maryland, as I am still the Chairman of a Committee until June. After that, it is wherever the wind takes us.

     For now, we are continuing our travels in Florida.

Lake Worth, Florida

Day 29


     Continuing our journey South toward the Florida Keys, we stayed at our first County Park Campground. John Prince Park in Lake Worth, Fl. The cost was much less than some of the other places we stayed, and the facilities much nicer. We stopped to spend time with some of my relatives, both here and in Sarasota. It is great being able to travel around the Country to see family. Sorry, no pictures of relatives. I don’t think they would appreciate having their mugs splashed over the internet.

Technical Stuff:

Arcadia, Fl. to Lake Worth, Fl. 168.8 miles

Time: 4 hours 37 minutes.

10.1 mpg

Bradenton, Florida

Day 28

Greetings from Day 28 (7) Day 28 (8)Mixon’s Grove, a Citrus Fruit Farm.

     Can’t visit Florida without visiting an Orange Grove. It turns out this is not the harvesting season. The orange juice I tasted was not as good as Bayside Skillet in Ocean City, Maryland, the best fresh squeezed orange juice I have ever tasted.

The Mixon Fruit Farm tour was given by a lifelong orange grower.

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It doesn’t matter the uniform

Day 28 (21)

They not only grow oranges, but other citrus fruits as well. Day 28 (19) Day 28 (10) Day 28 (9) Day 28 (6) Day 28 (5)


     Can you tell what they are? Neither can I. They are various oranges (including Valencia and Naval), lemons, limes, grapefruit, and something that is like a grapefruit, but is not. Day 28 (18)

They even had coconut trees.

     Part of the tour included rescued animals by Wildlife, Inc. they use part of the farm’s land for rehabilitation of the animals, and education of the public through a live exhibit.  

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Day 28 (13)They had baby alligators, python snake, Day 28 (14)Day 28 (15)Day 28 (16)raccoon, skunks,

hawks, a bob cat and even a hick turtle

Day 28 (17)

      We then walked through their gardens Day 28 (1)




To their fish pond.Day 28 (2) Day 28 (3)Where we were met with open mouths.

     These things are running around all over Florida. Day 28 (11)




     They are called Anoles, a harmless lizard. Would you like me to bring one home to you?



Day 26

    OK, before I tell you, do you know what the title of this article means? I will give you a hint. We are in Sarasota Florida. No? How about a picture:

Day 26 (58)  Still no?



Now you know.

Day 26 (45)

      Yep. Ringling Brothers Barnum & Baily Circus Museum. We thought we would spend a couple hours here, then spend the rest of the day at Siesta Key, because I liked the name, and then watch the sunset.

     Wrong, we spend 6 hours on the Museum grounds before they kicked us out for closing. We never got to the Art Museum of John Ringling, which is supposed to be one of the best collections on the East Coast for European art.

We did get to see the Rose Garden: Day 26 (5) Day 26 (11) Day 26 (10)

And his home:

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Look, I learned another new thing, a slide show.

Release the Kracken

As was expected, it was lavishly designed and furnished

with multicolored windows to give each room a different hue

Day 26 (20)

Simon says “everyone look up, but keep your mouth closed”.

We also visited the very cool Circus Museum:

Day 26 (50)

So that’s where animal crackers come from

Day 26 (51)

Not enough room to put up and down.

Day 26 (49)
Self Portrait in the funny mirror


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It is not easy being the last elephant (the view sucks).



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Eventually, they rode me out on a donkey

After being kicked out, we went to Lido Key. Lots of Birds.

We sat to relax in what happened to be feeding time for the pelicans.

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they would fly, looking for their fish, then dive straight down into the water to nail them.

Then eat them, take off, and repeat the process. Sorry you can’t hear Barbara doing the sound effects for the dive:

— yee-alm —- boom.

Meanwhile, down a little way, sail boats were coming in for the evening, when one tipped over

They eventually righted themselves and made it safely to shore.

And so ends another broadcast day.



But wait, here is a candid shot of Barbara, don’t tell her I took this:Day 26 (26)