We had arrived at The Rainbow Plantation, the Escapees park near Summerdale, Alabama during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. We enjoyed having time to visit
with friends, Linda and Norm Payne, whom we met during our first year on the road and have crossed paths with several times since. Over the holiday weekend we
were able to visit their newly built home at the Plantation, enjoy some meals together, catch up on our adventures and share some maintenance tips. While staying at
the Plantation for several days, we were able to have some work done on the car, do some shopping at the outlet mall and check out an RV park that has been
sending us a flood of emails. The Bella Terra Resort has some beautiful RV sites, but they are expensive to buy or rent and the amenities in the park and in the
neighborhood are still "lacking." As we headed out to Florida on June 3rd, Norm and Linda had taken to the road in their Dutch Star heading to Tennessee and
Kentucky for starters. We began our trip east in heavy rain, which, off and on over the previous several days, had prevented us from spending time on the beach
just before the oil blobs started to appear.
Once in Florida, our route was basically through the center of the state. Our first
major stop was in the Ocala area. From the Ocala Sun Resort we made some day
trips exploring the area. We'd heard a lot from various places about "The
Villages," so we drove over to check it out. The development was started about
45 years ago with homes built around a "town center" which has all the
opportunities for shopping, dining and entertainment as well as community
services. There are now about 70,000 residents and three town centers, all
accessible by golf car. The big draw for many residents is the golfing
opportunity....24 beautiful executive 9-hole courses that residents may play for
free at any time and 9 championship 27-hole courses that charge a "reasonable"
rate. We had a grand tour with a "Village representative" and were quite
impressed with the facilities and amenities...but not really tempted to become
residents! Also while in the Ocala area we were able to get our generator
serviced by the manufacturer and all is well there.
From Ocala we continued our drive through the center of the state with a stop in Moore Haven, and then on to Homestead, closer to the Atlantic shore. We passed
acres and acres of sugar fields and plant nurseries. The Boardwalk RV Park in Homestead was our home base for visits to the Everglades National Park and the
Biscayne National Park. At the Everglades we took a walk on the boardwalk with Ranger Frankie...quite interesting. We were a little disappointed, however, because
it seems it is the "wet season" and also "mating season" and most of the alligators were back in the swamp someplace 'doing their thing.' Also at the Everglades, we
drove to the section of the park called "Flamingo," which is at the 'end of the road' on mainland Florida. Flamingo was pretty devastated by Hurricanes Wilma and
Katrina and the re-building is still taking place. We made several stops along our drive through the park checking out the swamps and mahogany forest and
sometime wondering why we were submitting ourselves to the temperatures and humidity matching in the 90's. At Biscayne National Park, which is actually
95% in the water, we had another boardwalk hike and some very different scenery. We also took a short drive out into "the Keys" and had a picnic dinner
overlooking the water. As we'd been there years ago, we passed on the 100 mile drive down to Key West.
Leaving the Homestead area, we traveled north...back the way we came, stopping at the Miccosukee Casino - where we'd stopped on our way south - to take
advantage of the second of the "2-for-1 buffet" coupons they had given us. The winnings from our "free slot play" coupons paid for the buffets...not a bad deal!
Then we moved over to the Atlantic coast again. We had not planned to stop at the Kennedy Space Center as we'd been there before, but decided on the spur of
the moment to check it out...big rig and all. There was plenty of parking and we had arrived around noon, but quickly realized there was definitely a lot to see. Close
to 4:00 we decided that we wanted to come back the next day and use the other half of our $38 two-day tickets, so we went to the rig and started calling around for a
campground for the night. We found a nice Brevard County Park, Manatee Hammock, just a few miles from the KSC and were able to enjoy the rest of the Space
Center the next day, completing the tour and watching several IMAX films and checking out all the exhibits.
After a one night stop in North Carolina, we soon arrived in Stanardsville, Virginia. We hadn't found many campground options near the new home of Mary's
cousin Geoff and his wife Beth, but "Heavenly Acres" turned out to be a decent choice and if we'd been courageous enough to forge our way through the thick
woods, we were only about 500 yards from their house. However, we chose to drive the mile and a half around on the road. Geoff and Beth had both just
returned from trips out of town, but they showed us a great time in their new area and new home. We even helped with the decorating as we delivered the piece
of furniture we had picked up for them in Las Cruces, New Mexico several weeks previous. With Beth, we visited the Shenandoah National Park and Skyline
Drive. What a beautiful area, and as always we learned new things at the Visitor Center. We were surprised that so many families were displaced to create the
gorgeous park. The Monticello Wine Trail was our effort for another day with Beth and Geoff. We visited only three of the wineries on the "trail" of 21. At the
Barboursville Vineyards we had a great tour of their wine-making facilities and (of course) some tasting...$5 for unlimited choices. Next came some lunch at a nice
diner in the town of Orange and then it was on to the Burnley Vineyards ($2 for unlimited tastings) and last, but not least, we stopped at the Horton Vineyards (free
tastings!). We were pretty well "tasted out" by the time we arrived back at Geoff and Beth's where Geoff fixed us his famous and delicious enchiladas for dinner
(with ingredients we had also brought from New Mexico!) The area near their home is deep into history, so hopefully we'll have more time to explore next time.
After Virginia, it was on to "Wild, Wonderful West Virginia." In Fayetteville we settled in to the Ace Adventure Resort auxiliary campground near where our son, Reid,
lives. Our daughter and son-in-law, Ann and Matt and their three daughters arrived the next day to stay in a mountain cabin at ACE and some family fun began. Tom
and Reid enjoyed a game of golf at "The Resort at Glade Springs," a sister club of the Greenbrier Resort and the rest of us went on a horseback riding adventure.
Ann and Matt and the girls later went "zip-lining" in the woods and Ann and Matt also went white-water rafting. While they were on the river, Tom and I took Coffey,
Close and Merrick to the Visitor Center at the New River Gorge National Park and to see the 800-ft high bridge over the New River. And, after some lunch we all
spent the afternoon at ACE Lake...full of every inflatable toy you can imagine and having a huge water slide and a zip-line into the water...fun for all. We enjoyed some
dinners together at the cabin and in town and no trip to the mountains would be complete without a campfire and S'mores. Our visit in West Virginia was all too short!
We certainly would have like to have spent more time with Reid. His company has been very busy lately with some new contracts
It looks like the next several weeks will be filled with family fun -- and we're looking forward to it.
|Heading towards the "Spanish Springs" Town Center
in The Villages, Florida
|We saw many "anhingas" at the
Everglades National Park
|If you look closely, you can
see the single large
alligator we found in the
trees towered over
us as we toured the
|There are lots of different landscapes in the Everglades
in the "wet season"...from full ponds.....
|....to shallow swamps that stretch for miles.
|This huge rock is a piece of coral from the Biscayne Bay at the
|The "mangrove trees" grow along
the shore and have long roots
extending into the water.
|We were surprised by the beauty of the many "royal poinciana"
trees we saw just in the very south of Florida, with their brilliant
|This is the launch pad used for the shuttle launches at the
Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
|The Vehicle Assembly Building is where they bring all the
pieces and parts and put the shuttle together.
As we continued our northward trek on I-95, we came to the town of Palm Coast, FL. We had lived here 32 years ago when Tom worked for the developer, ITT. Back
then Palm Coast had a few houses, but was mostly swamp land. Now, close to 100,000 people live there and there are many more homes and of course all the
commercial development to go with it. Their 35-year plan must have worked well! We unhooked the car and drove around, and managed to find the rental house
that was ours for the one summer we lived there. Of course the landscaping has grown and there has been a little remodeling done, but its a wonder nobody
called the police as we backed up and down the street trying to pick out our house. Mary's mom was able to confirm our choice by consulting her old address
book! From Palm Coast we traveled on through Georgia (where we picked up a small basket of yummy fresh peaches at a stand by our overnight stop, and into
South Carolina and then North Carolina. At the South/North Carolina border we just had to stop at place all the billboards had been hounding us to "not miss." We
spent but a few minutes at the complex of "South of the Border" and then moved on north.
|We didn't have all the landscaping when we lived in this house 32
years ago in Palm Coast, Florida.
|This guy greeted us when we
crossed from South Carolina
into North Carolina.
|Geoff and Beth's home in Stanardsville, VA
|The bear stuck his nose down into
the flowers just as he came up to
|The wine cellar at the Barboursville Vineyards holding
their signature wine "Octagon."
|It was a tasty dinner at Geoff's and Beth's.
|Tom and Reid went golfing ....
|...while the rest of us went horseback riding.
|We took a break at an overlook along the New River.
|OK...here's your harness...put one foot in here...then.............
|.........it looks like they're ready to go zip-lining.
|And here's a blurry shot of Merrick (almost 10) ready to jump
off the platform and swing through the trees.
|As well as zip-lining in the woods, you can do it into the
lake...or just take the giant slide down to the water at the lake
at ACE Adventure Resort.
|At the center of the lake you can play on all the inflatables.
There are also peddle-boats and kayaks to use.
|After a long hard day of adventure, Uncle Reid was our
fire-master for making S'mores.
|We shared some meals together in West Virginia.
|The day we went to see the New River Gorge Bridge the
weather wasn't too great. Hard to imagine why people jump
off this bridge!!!
|"Rain, rain, go away!", said Merrick, Coffey and Close. (And a
little while later, it did!)
|And, they're off! At the Hollywood Casino at Penn National
Race Course near Hershey, Pennsylvania.
|Come on, number 4!
|Home, sweet, home....for a month at "J and D
Campground" in Catawissa, Pennsylvania
Ann and her family drove home from West Virginia in one day, but we tend to travel more slowly...it took us about four days to catch up with them in Pennsylvania.
One of our overnight stops was at the Hollywood Casino at the Penn National Race Course. We were basically looking for a free place to park, and we got an
added bonus as it was a perfect night for the horse races as well. On June 28 we settled in at the J&D Campground in Catawissa, for our third summer stay of a
month. We'd had a "string of three" problems a month before...and they hit us again within a day of our arrival in Pennsylvania. Our car, which had been repaired
twice already was flashing all sorts of lights on the dash indicating problems. Our refrigerator "died" and after consulting several local and distant technicians it
was agreed that we needed to replace the cooling unit - under warranty as it had just been replaced in March. So, as this report is being written, we are awaiting
arrival of the unit being shipped from Tucson...and eating a lot of meals at our daughter's house. The third "crisis" was that Mary's computer crashed. We made
several 45-minute trips to the nearest Best Buy, and the "agents" at the "Geek Squad Precinct in Selinsgrove" retrieved all the data (except for this web page
which had to be re-created) and placed it onto a new external hard drive, reformatted the hard drive and restored the operating system. Mary's back in business!