You’ll have to read to the end to find out about the disaster; first I had a wonderful few hours kayaking Just north of Green Cove Springs, I found a launch site close to where this creek joins the St John River. Smaller is generally more interesting, so I went upstream – I turned around shortly after this; it was getting too narrow to feel comfortable after something – probably an alligator – grabbed my paddle. It let it go quickly enough; not the right flavor, I guess! I didn’t see a ‘gator, but there was lots of other wildlife.
The foliage is not what I’m used to seeing in New England – and the light shining on and through the palms was beautiful.
And I am used to colorful fall maple trees – but they’ve long since lost their leaves up north, and I don’t generally see them with Spanish moss!
As I was heading back, a train came through: Then I went past the launch, and out to the St Johns River. The longest river in Florida, and very wide here, I paddled only a small piece – time to be moving on. Back on the road, I finished with Florida, and headed into Georgia. It became increasingly obvious that the Roadtrek was not happy – it was OK at highway speeds, and through Georgia and into South Carolina I was on the interstate, but at slower speeds it was overheating. I thought I was heading for one of my tried and true camping spots in the Francis Marion National Forest – but as I had to stop more and more frequently to let the engine cool, it became clear that that was not a prudent course of action. By that time it was well after dark, and I started looking for a likely repair shop, stopping as necessary, topping off the water, sleeping for a few hours in a parking lot, and eventually, pulling in to Andrews, SC (home of Chubby Checker) just after dawn. I found an auto repair shop right next to an auto parts place, but it wasn’t open yet; I went to the auto parts people, who said that garage did reliable work, and should be open by 8. I dozed, ate breakfast, and at 9 gave up and went back to the parts place. They recommended Freeman Tire, just a couple of miles back down the road. They were very helpful – getting me in, and getting the parts, and replacing a water pump with a long crack in a hose and bearings that weren’t really there any more, with a new one. So much for the kayaking I’d planned to do on another stunningly beautiful, warm day, but I did get a bunch of knitting done!
It was about 4PM when I was able to get back on the road, and I made only one stop between Andrews, and Newport, North Carolina where cousins were expecting me. The Roadtrek is much happier now, and much quieter with the water pump bearings working the way they are supposed to, and it is much less stressful knowing the vehicle is not planning to overheat.
Monday, December 2: I said my goodbyes (and had to figure out where I’d hidden the keys!), and drove down to Sarasota to visit with my friend Pat, who, at well over 90, is now in assisted living. Her husband, of the same age, was off in Maine, so I didn’t get to see him! From there I drove to Mt. Dora, to visit Trudy – with her collection of bonsai and artwork. She’s got the smallest rose I’ve ever seen – the camera didn’t focus well on this bud, but my finger gives an idea of size!
Tuesday, December 3: Then it was on to Leesburg, to visit Andy and Dinata. A couple who have lived aboard a boat, and in a motorhome, we have a lot of travel in common. I got to see the slide show Dinata had given that day in the community center, about their travels along the intercoastal waterway from the Keys to Newport, Virginia. I’d traveled much of it, and kayaked some, and it was fun to see it from their perspective.
Wednesday, December 4: Taking my time driving north, I stopped at Lake Eaton, in Ocala National Forest. I’d thought I’d take the kayak out – it was obviously a beautiful day – but it was really windy, and the smallish lake was clogged with plants; not appealing. And it was only 10:30 in the morning.
The next stop was to walk around the park that is on the riverfront, with the old spring. Here’s the history: A lot of the architecture of the town was Victorian or Craftsman style houses, but I didn’t get any good photos. Pictures from the park:
The water from this spring goes into a swimming pool (closed for the season), then down into this brook tumbling down to the river.
There are very clean restrooms, and lots of nicely situated benches, as well as a well used playground and meandering paths.
The day continued – but I’ll save the kayaking for a separate post.
The reason for coming to Florida was to visit my youngest granddaughter, and her parents, for Thanksgiving. I rolled in the evening before, and stayed through the weekend. Their development is built around ponds, probably created from the surrounding swamp to build up the ground level for the houses. That means LOTS of wildlife – although the alligators that have moved into it have meant fewer birds.
It was amusing to watch this little blue heron walk up to the sleeping ‘gator, give it wide berth – and scurry quickly past, then slow down again and resume fishing. The ‘gator woke up and yawned as soon as the heron was out of range.
I’d not met Florida soft shelled turtles before.
I started to refer to this group of sandhill cranes as the “Crane Gang.” They are mooches – and the neighborhood feeds them, so they are very comfortable around humans. Not that I believe that’s a good thing, but it certainly made taking their photos easy!
Checking out the Roadtrek – And maybe if we knock on this door, they’ll feed us!
There were four of us for Thanksgiving; we ate well.
Wednesday, April 24: I left Bill and Pat’s after breakfast; they are not early risers, so I didn’t leave until 9:20. A stop back at Trinity, to pick up the extension cord for the Roadtrek, and the charging cable for the computer, and then on to Mt. Dora for a very quick visit with the friends there, and by shortly after 4:00 I was at Andy and Dinata’s in Leesburg. I didn’t have directions to their house from Mt. Dora, so did not take the most direct route – but I did find it! After a delicious meal of very meaty ribs, we went out looking at Big Trees: live oaks in the neighborhood. The first was A couple of photos with people for scale –
Then it was on to Lady Lake, and Heritage Park, and a smaller tree – There were lots of plants growing on it, of which I could identify Spanish moss and resurrection fern (both in the first photo):
It looks like the garden club has its hand in here; there were fountains and walkways, and lots of plantings.
It’s great to see these people who live too far away, and have them share part of their neighborhood. But time to continue north –
Thursday, April 25: It was hot. It was too hot for kayaking to be appealing, although I stopped at three different places in the Ocala National Forest to check it out. The sun was blazing, with little or no shade, at the first two places; stopping at one of my favorite places, Juniper Springs Run did have some shade, but my northern self was just too hot to get the boat out and carry it down to the water. Back to the air conditioned vehicle, and on in to Georgia at 2:00, and South Carolina at 4:30; I pulled in to at 8:10, after 432 miles. I occupied one of the three campsite with people in them – the place was not busy! And it’s dark, and it’s possible to find a flat space without having to level the camper; the frogs’ serenade drowned out traffic on the local road until dawn, too. The downside of free camping? No toilet paper in the outhouse! But I’m self-contained; I have my own.
Monday, April 22, Earth Day: I celebrated Earth Day by kayaking on Phillippi Creek, just south of Sarasota, and picking up trash I could reach along the way. Phillippi Estate Park has a carry in launch – longer than I’m usually interested in carrying in, but it was worth it. The Edson Keith Mansion is the centerpiece of the park (and seems to be a wedding venue), but there is also a double gazebo, a playground, and a couple of fishing piers. But my focus was on the water, and I set off upstream.
I’ve never seen a boat stored like this –
Read the sign! I wouldn’t want to have to get into a kayak that far down, though…
I have friends who like little green men – this is for them!
There were quite a few colored leaves floating, from what I think are sea grapes.
I didn’t go far enough to escape the development, but the maps show that I could have gone further upstream and found more of the natural world, including a state park. That’s for another trip… For now, it was on to visit down in the Vamo area of Sarasota.
Thursday, April 18 to Monday, April 22, Trinity, Florida: This time was spent with my youngest granddaughter and her parents. There was no school on Friday, which gave me the chance to hang out with Elizabeth Ann while her parents went to work. The weather was not inspiring – there were a couple of incidents of pouring rain. This very wet heron was not appreciating it!
The house backs on to a pond, of which there are many in the neighborhood. I suspect it gives some resilience against flooding. It also provides a place for every water bird in the neighborhood – although the population is down compared to previous visits. Perhaps that’s because of this –
This was a parent; there was also a young alligator spotted while I was there. Also seen around the pond:
For a while, there was an anhinga on or in front of every house along one side of the pond – but never more than one. I guess the territory of a human family is about what one of these birds requires.
There were also roseate spoonbills and great blue herons, but none of my photos of them are worth posting. There are lots of little lizards, and they move quickly once disturbed!
On Saturday, we had a day at the beach as a family. In front of us was the advertising vehicle of the trip: We went to the beach at Clearwater, through heavy traffic on this Easter weekend. On arrival we saw the warning flag – further down the beach, it was closed to swimming; where we went we were just warned to be very cautious.
It’s rare that I get good bird-in-flight pictures – but it helps a lot when someone is feeding the gulls french fries! Looking away from the water:
Easter Sunday we all went to the religious observances of our choice, then met back at the house for a big dinner. The next day, Monday, it was back to real life – Elizabeth back to school, Dad to work, Mom to an appointment. And I left for Saratoga, and a visit with elderly friends, people I’ve known for decades from Connecticut, who now spend their time in Florida.
Thursday, April 18: I left Ellen and Ormand Beach after a leisurely breakfast, not being in a huge hurry. I planned to stop and kayak at Alexander Springs Run, where CR 445 crosses the run. The access is unmarked, but knowing it was there I was going slowly enough to make the turn. There were a couple of young couples making a day of it, but no other boaters. Or rather, all the other boaters were coming downstream from the state park where the Alexander Springs originate. I eventually caught up with this canoe.The life cycle of a water lily flower:
It’s only a little over a mile to the park; I spent about 2 hours going up and back, with lots of stops for nature – the water is very clear, and while I wasn’t able to take photos, I did see several schools of good sized fish swim under me. There were also turtles,
anhinga, green heron, limpkin; and spider lilies:
I could hear the people in the swimming area long before I could see them. It’s about $5.50 to enter the park; there were a lot of people there! After paddling back to the bridge, I loaded up the kayak, then went down for a quick swim before making some lunch and getting back on the road. The next stop was a quick care package drop, not too far off my route, and then on to the Trinity area of New Port Richey, where my youngest granddaughter and her family live.
Tuesday, April 16: Up early, wanting to get around Jacksonville before rush hour, I pulled the Roadtrek back on I-95 at 5:45, leaving behind the Florida Welcome Center. As a place to spend the night, it was level, but not either dark or quiet! It was a cloudless dawn; I was beyond Jacksonville by the time the sun came up, but it was a very uneventful sunrise. I angled over to St Augustine, stopping on the draw bridge while a parade of boats went through, and working my way south on A1A, the coastal route. I enjoyed glimpses of the Atlantic, pulling over sometimes to let all those poor commuters who had to be in a hurry rush by. Before leaving the barrier islands I overshot the turn, and found a place to park so I could walk and get the kinks out, by this mosaic fountain. Sun’s not very high, yet!I pulled in to Ellen’s driveway in Ormand Beach at about 9:00, and it was great to catch up with an old friend and my e-mail! Her house is surrounded by native plants; it looks like Dr Seuss was here: It seems as though each Powderpuff/Mimosa flower lasts only a day or two – but the supply next to where the camper was parked seemed to never end.
Wednesday, April 17: While Ellen was off at her late afternoon poetry group, I took the kayak to the Ormand Beach Central Park Canoe Trail. There are five lakes connected by navigable channels; I toured four of them. These fish were swimming just in front of the launch – I saw larger ones, but this was the best photo. They were about 6 – 8 inches long.
This is definitely NOT New England!
These egg masses belong to the Florida applesnail – wonder how it got that name! And if I’d known that was what they were, I would have tried to get a photo of the snail that goes with them – but I hadn’t identified either the egg masses or the snails, yet.
Anhinga, osprey on nest, limpkins:and the non-native Muscovy duck:This was the first time I’ve seen bananas fruiting since I was in Hawaii over 10 years ago:
My sister came through with the name of this plant for me – nothing like having a plant physiologist in the family! Its common name is rattlebox; it’s Sesbania punicea. Sure is pretty, even though invasive –
There were a couple of dead ends, and a fisherman in the middle of the narrow channel to the last of the five lakes; I didn’t get to that one. The two corrugated culverts made interesting reflections in the water.
Back to the house after a couple of hours on the water, with perfect weather, getting there with just enough time to take a quick shower before Ellen came home.