FT Clinch and Amelia Island 2/2014

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We decided to expand our typical run so far by almost double. To date Gainesville had been the furthest we had traveled, so we decided 250 miles to Ft. Clinch would be do-able. We wanted to see how we would feel after 4-5 hours of towing. The drive did go very well although we did discover that we need to be more selective about gas stations we stop at. Many gas stations are designed for small cars and maneuvering 50 feet of truck and trailer thru one can be challenging. We were looking for a pull thru type pump and the Shell station we pulled into had one, it unfortunately was not working. We learned the hard way that the trailer just doesn’t follow the truck’s path but can pivot on it’s own axles. You do need to make very wide turns. We ran a foul of one of those protective pipes they put around the pumps and managed to scrape Minnie’s side.The white paint wiped off with a little solvent but I will have to bang out a small crease in the slide out’s bottom edge. Luckily we never bought the all aluminum Airstream we were lusting for. That would have wound up as about $8000 in damage probably. Next time we’ll just keep going till we find a bigger gas station or truck stop.

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Fort Clinch State Park sits on the Florida/Georgia border about as far North as you can go in the state of Florida. Getting here involves some tight turns on back streets in Fernandina and it’s easy to miss the entrance. In general it’s a nice park with huge over hanging oaks on the roads (really tall RVs might have to watch those branches or good bye A/C! We decided to stay in the river campground vs the beach. There are no shade trees on the beach one and it looks more like a parking lot than an RV site. The sites there are very close with no vegetation and in the full sun. In the summer it has to get very hot there. There is some standing water back in the river sites so I imagine it is crawling with mosquitoes in the warm months. You need to watch the length of your site as some are short. Ours was 35 feet but we wound up with the bike rack right up against the fence. One thing about this  camp ground that is really great, it gets the award for best bathrooms! They are brand new, extremely clean, heated and A/C’d! Closed doored so no mosquitoes or tons of hanging spider webs.

Thursday night, the high winds and rain had finally ended but I kept waking up to what sounded like highway sounds, that low roar you hear when you are too close to a highway. And I thought I heard train whistles and the clickity clack of train wheels. We finally figured out the next day that the noises were coming from the wood processing plant (paper?) up the river in Fernandina. If we were in a tent I’d have never gotten to sleep.  Below are some more photos of Fort Clinch, lots more on my website http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com

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Jan. 21 Cold Camping at HRSP

DSCN1373We titled this as cold camping, it was for us, but I’m sure those not from Florida would think this was Fall. We went up to Hillsborough River State Park as our friends Bob and June were there and we hadn’t seen them in a year. We’d been to HRSP before in the summer but we did want to go there when you could actually hike the trails and not get devoured by the clouds of mosquitoes. It dropped down to 37 degrees at night so there were no mosquitoes or other bugs as they had all frozen to death. We did get a chance to fire up the heater and the stove. The heater smelled so bad at first that we were driven out of the camper. They put all kinds of oil and wax in them to keep them from rusting inside and that all has to burn off before you can really use it. It was fine after the initial stink was over. The above is the mighty rapids of the Hillsborough river.

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We did get to hike the Florida Trail some 4 miles long that ran along the river and thru the swamps (which were all dried up). It was a nice hike but it’s full of big exposed roots and cypress knees that tend to trip you up every so often. Even Lynda fell a couple of times. There is primitive camping out there so we did stop by to see what the sites were like. No power, no water, just a tent site, we graduated from that 20 years ago. We didn’t see any “primitives”  but we could hear them out in the woods behind their tents site. Only two sites were occupied.

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I did see a four point buck white tailed deer on one of the other trails and it’s picture is up on my website as well as more of the trails, etc. The flics are up on my website.

http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com

Enjoy!

Jan. 12, 2014 The Guns of Fort Desoto

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A few people who read my Egmont Key post emailed me about the guns on Fort DeSoto (above). They wanted to see what they looked like. Ft. DeSoto is just a short drive from  my house, so on one of our trips to the beach there I shot some flics.

DSC_0272This is one of the six inch guns. They were originally over on Egmont Key but when they built the causeway out to Fort DeSoto they moved them there. They were uncared for out on Egmont and just rusting away. Ft DeSoto has had a lot better care than Egmont so it just made sense. Too bad they didn’t keep the 8 ” guns.

This is one of the 12 inch mortars. They could fire a 1,000 lb. explosive shell up to six miles. There were originally eight of these in Fort DeSoto, but 4 were shipped out to California in the 20′s. There are more examples on my website http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com  Enjoy.

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Dec. 15 Egmont Key (Ft. DeSoto yet again)

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We’d been horribly sick for the previous five weeks with a severe chest cold. It was similar in many ways to Pneumonia but without the fever. We decided we needed a trip to the beach and I’d been planning to reshoot the forts on Egmont key. So we went back to Ft. DeSoto. Click on any photo to see it full size. Many more on our website http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com

I brought Minnie from the trailer lot on Friday as we had to install an awning over the bump out. We’d had a leak during a rainstorm at Payne’s, seems that a stick the size of a pencil got stuck between the two wiper seals on top despite my being very careful to clean off the slideout before pulling it back in everytime. I also added another seal inside, hopefully this cures the problem.  I inflated the tires, cleaned the roof and replaced most of the incandescent bulbs with LEDs. Sunday we headed off to Ft. DeSoto and we had a site on the water for a change.

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I’d shot pictures of the forts on Egmont about eight years ago. using film, so I wanted to go back and do it digitally. You take a ferry over from Mullet Key (Ft. DeSoto) to Egmont Key (Ft. Dade). The two forts sit on either side of the main ship channel into Tampa. In 1898 when war with Spain broke out, the forts were built to protect Tampa. There are dozens of these forts across Florida, some dating back to the Spanish. Supposedly Spain had a huge modern navy and army to attack the US with, but they never came. So when the war with Spain seemed a possibility, we built huge forts to protect the country. Ft. DeSoto had eight 12″ mortars (four are still there, four were shipped to San Diego in 1917) they could fire an exploding shell out to 6 miles. Ft. Dade had five batteries, one with two 6″ guns (shipped to France in 1917 for WWI)  another with two 8″ guns and the rest with rapid firing high calibre cannons (most melted down for scrap). Two of these guns are over at Ft. DeSoto now. Additionally, Ft. Dade controlled a mine field that stretched across the channel to Ft. DeSoto. At one time there were 300 people living on Ft. Dade. A formidable defense that never fired a shot in anger. Ft. DeSoto has been kept in good repair, but Ft. Dade is crumbling into infinity. Egmont had a dark side, in the late 1850′s, captured Seminoles were held there until they could be shipped off to Oklahoma.

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The island is washing away, it’s only half as wide as it was in 1900. The indians and others have petitioned the state to save it but it would take millions to correct the damage. In another hundred years the island will be gone. One park ranger lives there, everyone else must be off by nightfall.

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So there are lots of crumbling concrete buildings to shoot. It took me about four trips the last time to get everything, but I knew where it all was now, so I figured a day or two. We packed up a lunch and a beach chair for Lynda and headed out. She would enjoy the unspoiled beach and I would roam the island. The ferry arrives at 11 AM and leaves at 2:30 PM so I had to work fast. Luckily it was a pleasant winter day, not too hot or too cold, just right for a long hike. I shot a bunch of panoramas with my Nikon P510 and tons of shots with my D5100. There were also lots of tortoises and Osprey. You can see them on my website http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com  Enjoy.

Nov. 3 Payne’s Prairie State Park

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We Decided to take another trip, this time for double the distance we’ve been going. So we went to a state park just 15 min. south of Gainesville. Lynda wanted to see the butterflies at UF in Gainesville anyway and there were  lots of trails to walk. Payne’s is a prairie, defined as just grass and shrubs. Sometimes it is a lake, but for now it is just a prairie, 22,000 acres of wilderness, lakes, trails, swamps,etc. One big trail runs about 16 miles from Gainesville to Hawthorn. There are Bison, (bet you didn’t know that buffalo roamed in Florida), wild horses and cattle. Note you can click on an image to see a larger version, use the back arrow (upper left of your screen) to come back.


We didn’t see the buffalo but we did see the horses way off in the distance.

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In general it’s a nice spot. It reminded us a lot of Hillsborough River State Park.

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We brought the Tigger along as he does have to get used to travel. He was fine both in the car and in the trailer. He settled right down in Minnie and made himself at home. Monday we went to the college to see the butterflies and the rest of the Museum of Natural History.

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Here’s Lynda at the entrance and we had to take this picture of the two us. This is a full blown museum of Natural History mostly revolving around Florida, but very interesting.

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The butterfly house was packed with butterflies. More than we had seen at the butterfly garden in Homasassa. It was amazing.

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They have thousands and thousands of mounted butterflies on display as well. It’s a huge butterfly research center.

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There are more photos on my website.

http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com

All in all a great visit.

Friday Oct. 8 Back to Ft. Desoto

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We decided we needed a beach fix, so we went back to Ft. Desoto Park for a few days.  Lynda also wanted to check out that she still could work from the trailer if her clients needed her to do something. And of course they had more for her to do and all very rush. So I guess she was lucky that we took the 24″ monitor and our Verizon Hot Spot so she could be online. Lynda’s not so much retired yet as she is self employed again. We left the Tigger home, between his try-out at Simmons and shots, etc., at the Vet he was pretty stressed out so we left him home to relax a bit.

It was windy when we drove the trailer over the Skyway and we did get bounced around a bit, but it wasn’t a bad trip. The weather for our stay was beautiful, cool nights and only in the high 80′s during the day and dry. So nice after the 90% plus humidity of August. The beach was lovely as usual but I was surprised at how many Europeans there were running around already. Guess the Dollar vs the Euro makes the US a cheap trip.

DSC_0191 DSC_0212The sunsets were beautiful, missed the spectacular reverse sunset the first night as I didn’t bring my camera, but the others were good as well.

I also tried to get a decent night shot of us and the trailer. The one I got is OK but I guess I’ll keep trying. We love that Xmas shot of the Airstream Bambi by some lake, all lit up with Xmas lights. You can click on the images to make them larger.

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Speaking of Airstreams we met two “Streamers” who were very friendly and happily showed us their trailers. It always amazes us how friendly and happy  RVers are. Mike and Diane had a 31 ft.  Airstream with a bump out. And they pointed out a few RVer tricks like we could stow the poop hose in the bumper and their Thule kayak rack that lifts the kayaks up on the roof for you. Very cool, we will have to get those.

The trip home was the best so far, no sway, no difficulty, it was actually a pleasant drive. When we got home our pool was clear. It had turned green when we went to Simmons and I had to replace the sand (350lbs.) in the filter. It’s crystal clear now, I guess I did it right.

We’re going to try a longer trip next time, maybe 300 – 400 miles and a week. Well see.

Tigger’s Test

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SimmonsViewOct. 4 – We finally took the Tigger to E.G. Simmons Park here in Ruskin. It’s only about ten minutes away that way we figured we could take him home if he threw a huge fit. Here’s Simmons Park. It’s a nice facility right on Tampa Bay. Bathrooms are relatively new and very clean compared to other parks we’ve been too. We basically had it to ourselves, only about ten RVs in there and it is a big facility.  We set up camp and put the Tigger inside.

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He promptly went and hid out in  the back of the lower bunk bed.

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He eventually found a storage space on one side of our bed . It’s about two feet square and he could hunker downin it and feel safe. He didn’t make a sound all day. But when we went to bed we could hear him roaming around, jumping up on tables and looking out the windows. The next day he was starting to settle down, roaming around wanting to be petted, etc. That night though he was jumping all over us. No noise just a big pain. We think he’s going to work out fine as a camper.

We did get some good evening shots of the trailer with the lights and the sunset was really excellent. The bugs though were horrible. The place was full of no-see-ums. When the wind quit they were all over you and they bit like mad. Lynda would only sit still for the trailer shot for a minute and then she ran back inside. Off didn’t bother them a bit. The place is basically in the mangrove swamp and they are there in force when the weather is warm and wet like it has been. We enjoyed the place but we won’t go there again except maybe in the dead of winter here.

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