Monday, November 24, 2014

Seminole Campground. Arrive. Relax.

Just over a month since I left my brother and the campground in New Market, Alabama, we reached North Fort Myers, Florida for winter.

The campground was quiet and only sparsely occupied when we arrived. Linda and Dale's rig was in place but they were not home.  We pulled into our site, the same one we had last year, one site over from where we were during our first winter here. Improvements to the campground are easily seen: fresh sod and gravel. Word is there will be a beach area for campers too.  Not a real oceanside beach, but a nice, clean, sandy place alongside a lake on the backside of the campground property.

Our campsite... for the second year.
Within an hour or so after we arrived, Dale and Linda came in from a day at Sanibel Island and were surprised to see our rig in place. There's not much better than getting those first hugs from good friends.

Looking up the campground road to our site. 
From what we gather, Joyce and Charlie are due here next, followed by Rick and Louise, just after Christmas, then Mark and Janie.  Pam and Ernie, along with Fran and Mary will spend December at the Lion Country Safari Campground in West Palm Beach. The M&M's (Millers and Marchands) will meet at Disney World for a few days before coming here. Pam and Ernie will go from WPB to Naples for January, then come here for February and March.  It's a hectic schedule but I managed to keep up some of the time.

The site beside us would be occupied only occasionally and for short periods of time until late in January. 
The campground offers a small shed rental for $75 a month and this year, we've added one of them to our site. It's a good place to store bicycles, grooming tables and patio chairs to keep them safe and out of weather.

Looking down our campground road to the left. 
While it's really nice to be here, the temperatures are in the mid 80's and the humidity is really high. Nevertheless, life is really, really good here.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Flight South for Winter

It took two days to get from Panama City to Fort Pierce, Florida. The ride through the panhandle was lovely; all the small communities along the highway fascinate me and I often think how nice it would be to own a small tract of land for spending time in fall or spring.  Ahhh.

We stayed overnight on November 20th in North Ocala. After a while, with sun shining through Endie's windshield, I warmed sufficiently to shed my socks and house shoes and it felt good to leave the cold behind, finally.

As is true every time we come here, Wayne wants to explore other places in Florida before we settle in for the winter.  I know he has an urge to take the rig into the Keys, possibly going on to Key West, but he doesn't like what he reads about the campgrounds there... either way too expensive or the sites are really jammed together.

Today we'll settle for getting over to the east coast. we've got ten days to spend before our reservation begins. We drove quite awhile before deciding, between us, to stop in again at Savanna Preserve Recreation Area near Fort Pierce. Having been there before, we know it's an "okay" place. We'll stay a day or so while he decided where else he wants to go.  I rarely have a strong feeling about the places we go in Florida.

Our site at Savanna Preserve Recreation Area

Looking the other way from our coach.
Yes, there are alligators in these waters, ma'am. 

I suppose the economic downturn of years past is over as evidenced by the lack of camping space this early in the winter visitors season. We called several campgrounds but couldn't put together a stay at a place with a price we liked.  After three days we realized we were just marking the days until we returned to Seminole Campground. One phone call to the campground encouraged us to arrive a week early. Here, we knew we would be comfortable and could settle in for a good long winters rest.

On our last day at Savanna Preserve, we drove a ways south on the coastal highway. To our surprise, we came upon a nice dog beach near Jensen Beach where Lexie and Ozzie enjoyed a romp in the sand and surf.

A rare find in Florida -- dog beach. 

Ozzie gets to go "off leash" but not Lexie. If she gets frightened, she will run from us. 

From here we'll move on to our winter home at Seminole Campground in North Fort Myers.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Cold Stop In Panama City With D.J. and Tom

This was Tuesday, November 18th.  It took the better part of the day for us to make the drive from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Panama City, Florida but the weather improved as the sun warmed us as we drove along Highway 98 through all the tiny beach towns from Pensacola.

Early afternoon, we reached Tyndall Air Force Base and the Famcamp park where Tom had secured a two night reservation for us in the gravel overflow lot just inside the complex. DJ and an AVA walking friend she met the summer before, named Diane, waited for us right on the side of the highway. It was great to see DJ's smiling face.

Turned out Diane is a full-time RV'er too. She's retired from one of the railroad companies, sold her home in Texas and travels in her Honda Pilot, pulling her 17' Casita camper. DJ asked if we'd impart some of our travel thoughts with Diane as she too planned to get into South Florida for winter.  Of course we did.

DJ prepared shrimp linguine and we visited her home for the first time, to eat that night. Oh and DJ is a good cook!

Next morning we converged at a quaint little home town eatery for breakfast and talked more about upcoming travel, Diane's trip to south Florida and the purchase of a new rig for Tom and DJ as we are looking forward to travel with them again soon.

DJ, Diane, Wayne and Tom. 
The second day was spent around Tyndall and Tom got Wayne in for a close look at some of the newest flying machines which was a super thrill for him. We girls shopped the post exchange and planned another seafood dinner.  This time, DJ fried grouper she had nabbed herself while scuba diving. Oh it was heaven.  She also prepared a luscious key lime pie.

After dinner the five of us returned to the Famcamp where we sat around the campfire that was conveniently located inside a plastic covered gazebo. DJ discovered an apple drink that we warmed and sipped. Good thing we had hot drinks, the nighttime temperature dropped to 29 degrees. I thought I would surely freeze to death.

Our visit was short but sweet and we pulled out of Tyndall's Famcamp the next morning headed south with a vengeance.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Gulf Shores and The Push East

I continue to struggle to catch up the blog so this post is being written four months in arrears.  I feel bad about my tardiness but console myself by saying that it won't matter when we're looking back in coming years as our memories won't be so good then anyway.   I keep trying. 

So, with winter threatening, we departed Hoover, Alabama on November 10th. Our four month winter reservation at Seminole Campground in North Fort Myers won't begin until December 1st, so we're left wondering where we'll wile away the next three weeks.

Gulf State Park at Gulf Shores, Alabama is the destination for now. During this time of year, the weather there can be warm, rainy or downright cold though so we're not sure how long we'll stay... if we can even get in the campground.

But indeed, there is plenty of room for us at Alabama's crown jewel state park so we settle in and get the bicycles, including the dog wagon, out for rides. The first afternoon was fine -- sunny and warm.  The campsite we're assigned isn't great, but it is okay and I didn't complain.

The weather did turn, for the worse... and quickly.  We suffered wind, cold and rain, sometimes simultaneously. It was awful and we couldn't wait for our week to end.

During the week, one of the idiot lights of the car's dashboard illuminated itself and caused a problem. The repair was made at the area Ford dealer.

Finally our week ended and we moved eastward along the coast, stopping at Joe Patti Seafood in Pensacola for a seafood chowder fix on another bitter, miserably cold day. Wayne had hoped to visit Frank and Beverly again, but they were not at their Gulf Shores home so we missed seeing them this year.

Most likely the coldest day so far here on the gulf coast. 

Joe Patti (on the stool) welcomes customers and calls numbers for fresh seafood service. 

We each got a small container of hot seafood to take away the chill.
I had clam chowder, Wayne had seafood gumbo. Mine was best.

After our chowder, we drove (too cold to walk) across to the small restaurant and ate another round of hot food. Then we returned to the seafood market where we bought fresh seafood to take along with us.

Our next stop is in Panama City where we'll finally catch up with our old friends Tom and DJ who live there.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Birmingham Days and Not Going To Auburn

Going to Birmingham is always fun. We get to visit with Wayne's Aunt Helen and his cousin, Lynn and her husband, Jay who are true foodies, executive chefs and we get to enjoy the fruit of their labor.

On Saturday, we all gathered at Helen's to watch the Auburn / Texas A&M football game that Auburn lost but had a great time anyway. Lynn, Jay and Helen are reluctant Auburn fans as their daughter (granddaughter) attends Wayne's fine alma mater but they all went to that other Alabama college, the University of Alabama.

Lynn and Wayne who proudly wears his Auburn University orange shirt. 

Couldn't resist getting this picture of Lexie and Ozzie at Helen's house.
One afternoon, Helen, Wayne and I took Lexie, Ozzie and Helen's shiz tsu, Dusty, to a nice walking park near the baseball stadium in downtown Birmingham. After the walk, we picked up a pizza at Jim Davenport's Pizza Palace. It was heavenly.  Jim Davenport, the famous baseball player, is from this area and knew a few of Wayne's father's family members.
Helen and Wayne 
Another afternoon, we took a drive down memory lane as Wayne so enjoys doing when he visits Birmingham. Wayne's father grew up here and Helen remembers all the old family haunts. She helps find the old places. The afternoon wasn't complete without a quick drive by Vestavia Country Club. Another great outing.

The school where Wayne's father and his brothers attended was especially handsome. We didn't get out to walk the grounds or see the football stadium, but enjoyed a tour from the car. Later we learned the school was going to be used in a movie set. That's why it looked so good.  Hummmm.

Woodlawn High School, Birmingham, Alabama
No trip to Birmingham is complete without a visit to the family graves. We visited the graves of Wayne's grandparents, his father, Uncle Roy and Helen's parents. 

Helen, me and the dogs near Wayne's dad's grave. 
The last full day in town, Wayne drove to Green Springs and looked up his old friend and former boss at Auburn, Brad Ashmore.  It had been more than forty years since they'd seen one another and they clearly enjoyed a few hours or reminiscing. 

Wayne and his old pal, Brad Ashmore 
After much deliberation and frequent discussion of the pros and cons, we decided to forego going on to Auburn for the final home game against Samford. It would be sandwiched by games at Georgia and at Alabama.  We stayed a total of 5 days in the Hoover RV Park before heading south to the Gulf coast.