A May Trip To Ft. Desoto 5/25/2015

We needed to test out the A/C system on the pop up trailer. We now call her Minnie and the big trailer Maxi. So we took it to Ft. Desoto, that way we could just go home if it didn’t work, only 45 min. away. It worked fine, cools the trailer way down even in the heat of the day.

The refrigerator is another matter. It’s one of those ammonia type that will cool on A/C, DC or propane. Cool is the main word though as it will only go down to about 50. I have the feeling that I will have to replace this with an AC unit. We basically go to places with AC anyway so we would just freeze down the unit every night. I can get a very small AC unit that will fit in the space ( 2 cubic foot with a very small freezer ). First I thought I’d ask the dealer about recharging the ammonia one.

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Any way we are at Ft. Desoto again. We bought a small cheap light weight kayak so we could cruise around the inside bay here. We have big sea kayaks, I made but they are wood and epoxy, but I’m afraid when they are on the roof of the truck the sun will cook them.

With the mini trailer we can be down in the tent area of the park, no RVs allowed here. So you don’t have some huge bus next to you running his two loud ACs all night long, even when it is cool outside. I’m also somewhat concerned by these huge TV screens outside in their own bay. What are they thinking? That they will blast the big game or the news or just run it all day? Why don’t they just stay home if they need a 5 foot TV. Luckily there are mosquitos to drive them back in.

Other than rain the first night the weather has been gorgeous. Hot days and cool nights, other than to test it we haven’t run the AC at all. Off kayaking a number of times, to the beach, roaming around, etc. the sunset last night was very cool and you could see the planets in a line with the moon, no city light, if you look out to sea, so you see a lot more of the stars. It does make me wonder what it would be like hundreds of miles off at sea on a perfect clear night.

We did see a lot of birds here, Osprey, Heron, Cardinals, etc. An Osprey on the beach seemed to be sick (his photo below), he kept sitting on the beach panting. He’d fly away if approached but he would just come back to the beach. There are also some feral cats in the park. Lynda saw one with her three kittens by the ladies room and I saw the mom cat a couple of times. They are truly wild as they just slink away if you come up to them, not even trusting you for food.Osprey2

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Annistasia State Park St. Augustine, FL 4/12/15

DSCN3007I’ve wanted to go to Annistatsia State Park since we started camping. So we made the 200 mile trip from Tampa to St. Augustine. The park is located out on the beaches just ten minutes or so from downtown. Lynda wanted to go by the back roads rather than I-4 and I-95. I-4 can be a total disaster on weekends around Orlando. DSCN3016The camp grounds are very nice. We’re off in the tent, pop up and camper area. Big RVs are off in their own section. The sites all appear to be heavily wooded here. You’d appreciate that in the summer. Here in Florida you’re always looking for shade. We went for a walk around in the RV area, we do still have a big trailer although it is up for sale. Some of the RV sites are a little short, so you would need to check the length and width before you would reserve your site. It’s a beach park so you may have to take what you get as sites are always in demand. Bath houses are relatively clean but old. There is a beach cafe and a camp store. Wood, water, ice, hamburgers, even ice cream! Last night on my trip to the bath house I saw a lightning bug. I haven’t seen one of those in decades. When I was a kid in Philadelphia we used to see and catch bunches of them in glass jars. I guess all of the insecticides and development killed them off. Maybe we just caught too many in glass jars. DSCN2977DSCN2975We went to the old town in St Augustine today. I remember it as one or two short streets of old buildings with wrought iron porches like New Orleans. Now it is half a dozen long streets of buildings made up to look old, many with wrought iron porches, nothing but storefront after store front. At least they are not Gaps, Macy’s, Nordstroms,etc. they are all independents. One sold only Tervis plastic cups and such. We tried to go to the Kingfish Grill, a nice water front place we went to the last time we were here, but it no longer is open for lunch. Went back to the campground and went to a walk on the beach before it could start raining again. Cooked a cut up Cornish game hen in the electric skillet and had cole slaw with it. I took the trash to the dumpster in the dark and saw a lot more lightning bugs, probably a dozen. It began to rain again tonight so we wrapped it up and we’re sitting in trailer reading and writing. DSCN3010Up at seven and wow it’s not raining! Egg McMuffins made in the trusty electric fry pan then off to the beach. The weather is predicted good all day, until five or six anyway, so we’re going to take advantage of it. We had a great day on the beach, sunny with a good breeze. Left about two, we wanted to search for some special art glue the wife needed. W didn’t find it so we went back and roamed the camp ground. Some of the sites are very close to A1A and the St. Augustine Amphitheater. When they have a rock concert I’m sure they blast everyone away. Supposedly they shut down by 10:30 but what about loudness, encores and general craziness? We went to Kingfish grill for dinner. It was about the same as we remembered it. Good sea food, a little pricey, but it is right on the water. While we were eating it poured rain but it stopped by the time we were done. DSCN3024

It poured buckets of rain last night. Luckily for us the pop up does not leak. It’s our last day here so we went for a long walk down the beach this morning. Just sitting around after lunch, Lynda’s doing art and I’m typing on the iPad. We went to the old coquina quarries where they mined the stone to build the fort and a lot of the town. Not much there now. Just looks like concrete but close up you can see the shells. Lynda thinks Annistasia is second to fort Desoto but she loves the Beach and we haven’t been to many of the campgrounds yet.

Going Again – St. George Island, FL

BeachPanWe decided that Minnie was a little too big for just running around in Florida. Gas mileage dropped down to 9-10 mpg and maneuvering it in the streets, parks and traffic was a pain. Plus we didn’t really feel that we were camping. It was just too comfortable.

MicroMiniSo we bought a used pop up that a friend of mine had for sale. It’s only 8 x 8 feet closed and 8×16 feet opened up. Queen bed on one end and a full on the other. No kitchen and only a portapotti. But it’s very easy to tow and swing around in traffic. People don’t seem to be so desperate to get ahead of you as with the big trailer. And we get the normal 17-18 mpg. Also gassing up is not a hassle as we don’t need a huge gas station to move around in. It pulls great, the truck doesn’t even know it’s there.

We decided we needed a real trip so we are taking it up to St George’s island, about 300 miles north of us. It’s an island off Appalatchacola FL with a huge beach and camping. We stopped at Paynes Prairie about half way, for the first night to break up the trip. Going there, traffic on 75 north from Tampa was horrendous with a two hour stretch of stop and go. The road is terrible, from Wesley Chapel to Brooksville lots of it has no pull off space at all due to construction, just two lanes with jersey barriers on one side and a hill or drop off on the other. If you just have a flat there is no where to go. Any accident or break down results in a major traffic jam. I didn’t notice it the last time but it’s noisy here, you can hear the highway all night long. Guess that’s what happens when you sleep in a tent on wheels.

SGbeachMarch 30. Four hour drive over two lane roads from Paynes to St George’s, basically two hundred miles. Long, long bridge over the bay to get there. Reminded me a lot of the Keys highway. Beautiful island, very limited day parking so it doesn’t get over run with people. Nice campground very quiet, all you can hear at night is the ocean just a hundred yards or so away. You can buy ice or wood but there is no camp store. Barbecues are just a fire pit with a big grate on top so you need to bring your own or cook over wood. There is a boil water notice today as they they broke a water main a few days ago and they have to flush the lines. No drinking water but you can wash with it. Going out to Appalatchacola tomorrow.

ApalatMarch 31. Apalatchicola is a small town just across from St. George’s. It’s kind of quaint and funky, but it does appear to be gentrifying on Main Street. It’s really an old fishing village and parts of it are somewhat run down. Art wise there are a number of galleries, pricing ranged for normal to the ridiculous. Lots of old brick buildings. We had lunch on the roof of the Owl Cafe and roamed a bit, lots of closed up places. We went to the dollar store and bought necessaries, broom, dust pan, etc., gassed up, bought ice and went back to the island. We went for a walk on the beach, cooked chicken Parmesan in the electric fry pan, this might be an idea for a new book Camping Electrically!

PoachedApril 1 fools day. Today we’re going to cook poached eggs in cups with English muffins. Again in the electric fry pan. We have a toaster for the muffins. We’ve used propane camp stoves before, but we thought the pan would be more controlable and smaller. If we can eliminate a couple of big fry pans and pots, we will. Space is a big deal in this Micro Minnie trailer, there isn’t very much. Most stuff has to go in the car and then there is the problem of finding things. Which bag is it in? And where is that bag? Can get really frustrating at times, particularly with two different people putting things away. We think we can solve this by putting everything into bins, we probably will have to mark them: breads, pans, drinks, towels, etc. but it might be better.

SloughPanWe took a hike out to Hadley Slough (bay) to see if the bay side would be good for shooting a sunset. The hike from the RV park is about two miles. It looks like it will be good for shooting, but we will drive there as it is just the next beach area down the road and just a short walk. Hiking back we did see a three foot rattlesnake sunning himself by the trail. The woods anywhere in the South is the home to the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.

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Spag3SpagServedWe cooked vegetarian spaghetti in the electric fry pan. Who knew you could cook spaghetti in a fry pan! Again it eliminates a pot! Cook the meat or other goodies first, in this case peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini. Remove  the goodies, then boil and cover the broken spaghetti in about a half inch of salted water until done. Drain the excess water, add the goodies and a sauce if you want it and hooray! You have a spaghetti dinner. See the recipe on my food blog http://www.BillsEntree.com

Ft. Desoto for 10 Days 6/1/2014

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We wanted to spend a little longer time at Fort Desoto, so back in January I made a reservation for 10 days, including a weekend. By spring you can’t get a weekend here to save your life, but in January – No Problem. We got #209 again, right on the bay, there are no sites over on the beach. As usual you can blow up all of these pictures by double clicking on them.

We brought the cat and he did fine for the week, except for tearing up the upholstery in the settee area. He is settling down but we did take him home after a week as he seemed to be getting bored,

We basically loaded everything we owned, except for the kayaks so it would be a real test of how we would survive in a small space. After the first few nights it hardly rained at all. One of the things about florida is the evening thunderstorms. Not a big problem as it does cool everything off.But you do have to put everything away otherwise it gets soaking wet. One storm came up so fast that Lynda could just barely collect up all of her art pages she had laying out drying on the table before it hit.DSC_0149

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went back on Monday to pick up the printer’s proof on my cookbook. It’s my first so we really wanted to see what it looked like. If you’re interested its up on Amazon. Just look for “Small Foods” by Bill Fishbourne. Printed version only right now but I should have the Kindle one up later this week. Kindle’s kind of a pain to work with and I had to reformat the whole book.

Here’s the cover

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This is one recipe. There are about 25 in the book.

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Through judicious use of the grey water tank we did manage to spend the 10 days without dumping the tank until the very end. But we did notice some material going out that looked like slices of bread. I can only imagine that it was fungus growing in the tank. We’re using Odorloss in the tank but I think we’re going to have to take more severe steps in the future.

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There was a lot of wildlife around and some brilliant sunsets. More on my photo site http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com

 

 

Kereshan, Corkscrew and Lover’s Key

 

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2014 Koreshan State Historic Site

We did about a 2.5 hour run down 75 south to the Koreshan camp grounds. I checked the tongue weight on Minnie and found it was about 850 lbs. more than enough so that it wasn’t the cause of any sway. So we loaded up the back end of Minnie to reduce some of the tongue weight and see how that worked out.

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The run down was excellent. Our goal for this trip was to visit the Corkscrew Swamp, miles of wooden walks which run thru the Corkscrew Swamp just east of Naples. We expected to see lots of swamp but we were surprised to see all of the wildlife as well; gators, birds, raccoons, snakes, etc. It wasn’t really buggy yet but give it a month or so and it will be swarming with mosquitoes and biting flies. I was nabbed a couple of times by deer flies.

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We are camping at the Koreshan site so we did drop over to see what it was about. The Koreshans were a religious sect that formed in the 1890’s. They believed that the earth was hollow, etc. and they practiced celibacy. At its best there were about 200 of them here in FL. Needless to say the last of them died in the sixties, leaving the 300 acres to the state. We shot a mess of pictures of the old buildings etc. and there are a ton of imported trees. Worth a visit if you were already here.

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The camp ground is nice, fairly wide sites with foliage between each one. Lots of trees, we have an ear tree right over us and it drops these hard seed pods about three inches long and shaped like an ear. They weigh about 1/2 ounce, when they hit the top of the trailer from way up in the tree you can really hear it! We have the awning out not for the weather but to keep all of the tree flowers off the sitting area. Bath rooms are clean and serviceable but showing their age, showers definitely need floor re-grouting.

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We took a run down to Lover’s Key a nice beach a little south of Fort Myers. It’s about 2 miles long. Typical south west Florida beach, hard white sand, lots of shells. I found a couple of shark’s teeth. We also went to Estero Bay Preserve. Not much there it’s really just a birding trail. There’s another one of these just a block or two north of Koreshan. It looks as though there was a good sized state park there once with a parking lot and entrance booth, but it’s all crumbled down now and just a birding trail. Guess the state needs to find some money to develop this park.

You can see more flics on my website http://www.fishbourne.shutterfly.com

Enjoy

 

 

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.