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.
In general it’s a nice spot. It reminded us a lot of Hillsborough River State Park.
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.
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.
The butterfly house was packed with butterflies. More than we had seen at the butterfly garden in Homasassa. It was amazing.
They have thousands and thousands of mounted butterflies on display as well. It’s a huge butterfly research center.
There are more photos on my website.
All in all a great visit.
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.
The 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.
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.
Oct. 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.
He promptly went and hid out in the back of the lower bunk bed.
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.
August was very hot and muggy, not a big deal in Tampa, but it really doesn’t make for good camping even with AC. Why go some place and hang out in the trailer all day to avoid the heat? May as well stay home where there is more to do inside. Anyway we had a lot of distractions to deal with concerning Lynda’s “retirement”. Setting up health Ins., getting her last few paychecks, trying to move her 401k, talking to some freelance clients, fixing up Lynda’s studio, getting her home office back into shape, etc. We’re hoping to get back on the road now in September. Still just planning day trips in Florida. Maybe George’s Island SP or Talbot Island again. Not sure yet.
We still have to test the Tigger. If we’re going to go away for weeks at a time, he’s going to have to learn to live in a small trailer (he will travel in the car). We’re not sure how he’s going to react to not having a huge pool area to play in. Our plan is to take the trailer over to Simmons Park for a few days and take him with us. It’s only about 10 min. away from home so if he throws a major fit we can always bring him back.
Ft. Desoto’s Beach
We managed to get a campsite at Fort DeSoto which has a great beach for a few days. Not easy to do in the summer as Pinellas County residents get first dibs. Any way we got a pull thru and Lynda had a few days off (she’d quit her job which was turning very difficult) so we took off for the beaches. It would be our first trip over a big hill (Sunshine Skyway Bridge) and we’d get to see how the truck would perform. Everything went great, the truck had no problems especially when we used the special tow/haul button on the transmission.
Minnie at Fort Desoto Note the Minnie decal we put on the front window
It was too hot for any serious hiking, the beach was nice though. We also discovered that you need a good sized outdoor carpet for under the awning, otherwise you’re tracking dirt into the trailer all the time. We did our best to fill up the tanks, just to see how long they would last before needing dumping, using way too much water we needed to dump in 3 days. So we know what not to do, at Hillsborough we were being very conservative and we had hardly anything to dump after 3 days. We checked out all of the campsites so we know which ones to reserve next time. Great trip – more photos on my website http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com
Lynda at her new job as unpaid life guard at Fort DeSoto
Minnie at Hillsborough River State Park
We wanted to take Minnie on a short shake down cruise to check out all of the systems. So we took her to Hillsborough River State Park about 45 min. from our house, 25 min at 65 mph highway speeds and 20 min. at 45-50 back roads. No problems she ran along fine. Friends of ours had spent a few months at HR as worker bees and they highly recommended it. It’s a very nice park, even has a pool, but we were surprised by the number of tent campers there, it was hot and sticky. I don’t think we’d have been there if we didn’t have AC. The river is very beautiful and the trails go every where, but there were armies of mosquitoes who were unafraid of Deep Woods Off. I think it actually attracted them. So we gave up on hiking and went on the old fort tour instead. It was very interesting and we got a lot of good photos you can see them at http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com
Lynda drinks special coffee at Hillsborough River State park. Hmm tastes like Chardonney!
All of the systems worked fine, except for the DVD player, movies didn’t show up on the TV even though they showed up on the little screen on the DVD. I spent a couple of hours with the book and the remote control but no matter what I did I couldn’t get it to work. Finally I gave up and went to bed. The next day I had a thought and pulled on the cables that went from the TV to the DVD. They pulled right out! They weren’t attached to the DVD! So I removed the player and plugged them into the DVD and it worked fine!
The other thing that happened was the bed broke. These are just platform beds with storage underneath. The top is supported by a 1 x 3 piece of lumber and one side split and broke. I fixed it temporarily and replaced the board and added a couple of braces when we got home. It was on Lynda’s side so it wasn’t due to blubber just poor design.
We also discovered that the interior lights were all way to strong and they got hot. So we removed one of the bulbs from each fixture and they were better. I bought some lower wattage bulbs to try out on our next trip.
All in all a good trip. We emptied the grey and black tanks at the dump on our way out. This was a new experience for us. We also filled the fresh water tank just to see how the trailer reacted to that on the road. No problem, in fact with all of that extra weight over the wheels the big trucks didn’t push us around so much when they went by.
Sway Problems: When we drove Minnie home from Camping World in Bartow we noticed she had a fair amount of sway at 50+. CW had only installed one sway bar, but in researching sway I found that on this size trailer you need two. So I ordered another and installed it on the other side. It only makes sense that you would need one on each side. I also found the tires to be under inflated, 35 lbs instead of 50 – another reason for sway. We also placed a fair amount of weight in the front to add to the hitch load and help with the sway.
Back Up Camera
Big Mirrors: I thought the Expedition’s mirrors were huge, but not huge enough. I couldn’t see around this thing and what was going on behind was anybody’s guess. So I added stick on mirrors with big arms and a back up camera on the rear of the trailer that runs all the time. Hey! you can really see that Corvette that’s about to pass you on the right, just as you’re about to get back into the right lane.
Bug Screens: It’s amazing that the vents on all of these expensive items, heater, water heater, furnace, refrigerator all have vents with no screens on them to keep the mud wasps etc. outside. So I bought all of these custom screens $10-12 each for these.
We also bought an insulated pillow you stuff up into the skylight over the bed (so you can sleep in the morning) and a small solar charger for the battery, as well as hundreds of dollars of odds and ends; fresh water hose, water filter, water filler nozzle, poop hoses, a grill, etc. etc.