Vacation Is Over - Sunday, January 23, 2011

We had an uneventful, but COLD ride home from Townsend, Georgia today.

Leaving Lake Harmony - Townsend, Georgia

We took our time coming home as neither of us wanted the vacation to end.  We even drove through, instead of around, Charleston.  We never ride over the new bridge, so that was fun!
Bridge in Charleston, SC

Over the last 2 1/2 weeks, we traveled almost 2000 miles (1996 to be exact) and had a ball.  Usually after a vacation we are ready to get back to normal...NOT THIS TIME!! We are ready to get this house sold and start full-timing!

But first, we need to unload the van, put the toys away and get some wash done!!
YES, Vacation is OVER!!

FLORIDA TRIP - Homeward Bound – Townsend, GA -- Saturday, January 22, 2011

We decided yesterday that neither one of us was up for a 400 miles plus drive day, so we decided to come about half way today. Nancy mapped out a very scenic drive for at least half the journey. The rest of the drive was interstate – YUK!

We left Silver River State Park about 8:30 this morning. We drove Rt 314 and Rt 19 through The Ocala National Forest.
Pretty drive through The Ocala National Forrest

We made a quick stop at The Salt Springs Recreational Area and checked out the campground for future reference. It is one of the few state campgrounds with full hook-ups. The sites are close together, not really our cup of tea, but the location and recreation opportunities make it very attractive, not to mention the really reasonable rates.

Salt Springs

After a stop for a bowl a cereal at the always welcome Wal-Mart parking lot (we can’t seem to find any little roadside rests or picnic areas on the roads down here), we drove the rest of the way to a little campground named Lake Harmony RV Park.
Campground Office

Our Site!!

It is just ¼ mile off of I-95 about 40 miles south of Savannah, GA. The campground is nothing to rave about (a 5 on a 1-10 scale) but it does have full hook-ups so I can clean out and drain our holding tanks before we head home tomorrow. They do have free wifi so Nancy can get the blogs up-to-date on somebody else’s minutes!!

Well, tomorrow it is back to Murrells Inlet, SC – Home – for now!!

FLORIDA TRIP - A Peaceful Day at Juniper Springs – Silver River State Park -- Friday, January 21, 2011

After a long day of driving yesterday, we actually needed a good night’s rest. We had quite a thunderstorm last night with a lot of lightning. It even woke me up and that’s saying a lot. I slept through Hurricane Hugo in 1989 so you know the sky was putting on a show last night.

It was damp and cool this morning, so Nancy decided to hunker down in the van and catch up with the pictures and the blog. I went on a hike to find a couple of geocaches. I found them both!! When I got back from geocaching, I wiped off the Van and Tahoe.

Nancy decided it was too cold to go kayaking today, so she packed us a lunch and we headed east on Route 40 to the Juniper Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest. We paid the $10.60 entrance fee as my National Passport was not accepted there. (I still don’t know why?) We did see a natural spring and walked the nature trail.

Natural Spring Pool

View along the Nature Trail

We inquired about the 7 mile canoe trail they have, but the ranger informed us that blow-ups, like our Sea Eagle, are not permitted.
Canoe Launch Area
Still it looks like a wonderful trip and one we might rent a canoe to do.

As we were leaving, we saw this Pileated Woodpecker on the edge of the parking lot.

When we got back to the campground, I purchased some firewood to have a campfire tonight. It took a little effort to get it burning. The wood was damp from the rain last night and I only had a small amount of kindling. But once we got it burning, we roasted hot dogs and made Smores for dessert.
Not a healthy meal, but every once in a while we do something like this and it tastes GREAT!!

We were checking the map and realized we would have to drive well over 400 miles to get home to Murrells Inlet in one day. After yesterday, I do not want to travel that far. Since the weather is not going to cooperate with us for kayaking, we decided to leave here a day early and drive about half way home. We called and made reservations at Lake Harmony Campground off I-95 in Georgia for Saturday night. It is hard to believe our vacation is coming to an end. But it has been full and fun!!

FLORIDA TRIP - One Long Ride!! – Silver River State Park -- Thursday, January 20, 2011

Our plan was to get up early and get on the road to Silver River State Park in Silver Springs, Florida. Nancy had mapped it out and we knew it was going to be a long day. We decided not to take the interstate and take Route 27, a more scenic route. BIG MISTAKE!!   I REPEAT…BIG MISTAKE!!

The first couple of hours were great. We left around 7 am, shortly before sunrise.
The sunrise was gorgeous as we headed east on the Tamiami Trail to Rt 29 north.

We traveled for a couple hours before stopping for breakfast in Labelle. We wound up in a grocery store parking lot and struck up a conversation with a US born man with Mexican parents.
He told us all about the citrus crops and how they get harvested. He was quite a well-educated man and was very passionate about the farm workers' issues and the future of the citrus industry in Florida.

Shortly after breakfast, we got to Route 27 which runs through central Florida. Our memories of this route had been nothing but citrus for mile after mile. It started out just as we remembered it.

A quick stop for Citrus to take home!

Then, as our Labelle friend had pointed out, 50% of the citrus crop is gone. Yes, and it has been replaced with cities, cars, shopping malls and restaurants.
From just south of Sebring until we got to the campground just outside of Ocala,  we hit stoplight after stoplight, town after town, congestion after congestion.
The Citrus Trees are no more!

In all, 305 miles in 9 hours…that averages out to less than 36 miles an hour for the trip. That’s a long day!!

We were pleasantly surprised when we got to Silver River State Park…it is a beautiful park.
Our site is huge, level and close to the very clean and spacious bath house.

After setting up, we walked down to the river to see where we could launch our kayak.
Trail to the Silver River

The main reason we came here was to kayak up to Silver Springs. We quickly realize it is too far to carry the kayak to the river, so tomorrow we will figure another plan, weather permitting. But the view at the river was beautiful...sure hope we can get out to see more of it.

Nancy just checked the weather and it is supposed to start raining about 8pm tonight with showers off and on tomorrow. Oh well, we’ll see what tomorrow brings. As for now, we are both tired of driving and look forward to a good night’s sleep.

FLORIDA TRIP - Shark Valley: Part III, Everglades NP – A Spectacular Bike Ride -- Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Before we start Part III, there are 2 more birds that would not post in Part II.  Guess I used up all the blog space for one post??  Anyway, here are #14 and #15...
Bird #14 - Help!!

Bird #15 - Help!!

Now for Part III - the Alligators at Shark Valley.  You would be hard pressed to be this close to this many alligators that were not in a Zoo.  They are all along the tram path, especially in the first part which has a canal on the right side.  Big one, little ones and my favorite...Momma and her babies.  Be sure to click on them to enlarge the pictures.

Here's looking at you...

It's hard growing up in the Everglades...

View from the top of the tower...

Big Daddy...

Momma and New Babies...

Closeup of new babies...

It is hard to think of alligators as caring and nurturing creatures, but seeing the momma gator with her new babies reminded me that I had read that they are very protective.  So I googled Momma Gators and found out some interesting facts:

• Alligator breeding season in Florida begins in April and runs through the end of May. It was surprising to see these babies in January.

• The female alligator builds a nest. This is also called a mound.

• The female alligator lays eggs over a two week period.

• The female alligator lays about 35 to 40 eggs. This is called a "clutch"

• Alligator eggs are creamy white in color. These eggs are about the size of a goose egg.

• Baby alligators emerge from their egg after about 65 days.

• The mother alligator protects the nest.

• The mother alligator will actually assist the hatchlings to break out of their shells. The mother hears the baby grunt form inside the shell. She will then lift the egg in her mouth and roll it around against the roof of her mouth with her tongue. This cracks the egg and the little one is able to escape.

• The mother alligator will often carry the new born to the water.

• Alligator mothers often remain with their young for several months.

• While the eggs are incubating, higher temperatures, of 90 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit result in males while slightly cooler temperatures, 82 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit result in females.

• If a baby issues a distress call, which is a series of grunt sounds, the mother alligator or other adults will respond quickly to the aid of the babies.

Isn't nature just amazing!!

FLORIDA TRIP - Shark Valley: Part II, Everglades NP – A Spectacular Bike Ride -- Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This is Part II - The Birds of our Shark Valley bike ride post.  We got some great photos and have been trying to identify each bird.  (click to enlarge the photos) This is all new to us so any help you can give us will be appreciated.  So here goes....
Bird #1 - Anhinga

Bird #2 - Anhinga

Bird #3 - Help!!
Bird #4 - Help!!

Bird #5 - Help!!

Bird #6 - Great Blue Heron

Bird #6 - Great Blue Heron closeup

Bird #7 - Help!!
Bird #8 - Belted Kingfisher
Bird #9 - Wood Stork
Bird #9 - Wood Stork taking off

Bird #10 - Great Egret (I think)

Bird #11 - Snowy Egret (I think)

Here are several Bird #12 - Roseate Spoonbills...
They were so cool couldn't pick just one!!

Bird #13 - Help!!