First 20 days- Tallahassee, Southwest FL, Central Florida, and Northwest FL
So it took a little longer than expected to get started with our blog. We didn’t worry too much about it for the first few days. We were off the grid and out of wifi range. We decided to enjoy ourselves and figured we would be able to catch up soon enough. Wrong. It’s taken us a total of twenty days to get all this figured out. When we got to a place where we could pick up signals, we were challenged with technical difficulties and our lack of knowledge (mostly this) related to how to deal with wifi signals (lack of), setting up new devices, learning more about the cloud, learning how to work on the blog, etc. We’ll get better with future updates and things like adding a map of our travel route, but for now, we’ll catch up by touching on some of the highlights so far:
- New Year’s Eve with Mom & Dad in Tallahassee We departed on December 31st from home and had the perfect start to ring in the new year close to home. We spent a wonderful evening visiting and watching Clemson win the Orange Bowl to earn a trip to the National Championship game. Their phone started ringing as soon as the game was over, and before midnight, plans were underway for them to make the trip to AZ with family- Joe, Julianne, Bob, Robert, Connie and Charles- to cheer on the Tigers!
- January 2nd-4th. Sanibel Island & Koreshan State Historical Site. Following an incredible farewell breakfast, hugs and goodbyes, we left mom and dad’s and headed to the southwestern gulf coast. We camped at the Koreshan State Park, a site along the Estero River that was originally settled by a small religious community in the 1800s. We hiked along the river surrounded by lush greenery and a bamboo section in the forest. It was quite beautiful and remote feeling in this otherwise densely populated area of the state. We headed over to Sanibel Island, one of our favorites, where we had lunch, took a walk along the gorgeous beach, and had a nice visit with family friends, Bobbi and Marti Braun, at their home along the canal on Sanibel.
- Myakka River State Park. January 3rd-6th. We stumbled onto this park during an online search for a place to stay near Nokomis, FL where we had scheduled a meeting with reps Coach House Platinum, our RV manufacturer. Since we purchased the RV from the original owner, we figured it would be prudent to meet with the folks at Coach House to get a thorough walk through prior to our journey. We also had batteries installed to extend our ability to camp “off the grid”. We’re so glad we did the walk through (everything checked out great) and especially glad we had the opportunity to explore Myakka. It is one of the oldest and largest state parks in FL and includes miles and miles of scenic biking and hiking trails through gorgeous sabal palm forests and live oak ridges, along a beautiful lake, and the Myakka River with tons of wildlife. We did lots of hiking and biking and enjoyed great weather (50s at night, upper 60s to low 70s for daytime highs). We figured that Maysea logged about 20 miles of running/walking along side our bikes and/or hiking trails with us in just one day there. We’re also finding that this life is really quite social. We are meeting fellow campers, hikers from all over the country. We enjoyed meeting two couples that are fellow Coach House Platinum RV owners who love their rigs. Myakka SP did take us off the grid- there was no cell phone service despite its location close to some of the most densely populated areas of the state. We truly disconnected and loved it!
- January 7th. Oscar Scherer State Park We moved to Oscar Scherer State Park near Venice. We ate lunch at a great spot on the water “Casey Key Fish House”- enjoyed delicious grilled snapper with mango salsa. Yum! Venice is a nice small walkable town along the gulf coast with lots of scenic canals. We were delighted to find Brohard Paw Park…an off leash dog park on the beach. It was absolutely beautiful- white sandy beach, clear water, and filled with happy people and happy pets!
- January 8-11th. Wekiwa State Park We moved to Wekiwa State Park mostly so that we could spend the weekend in the Winter Park area. We have great memories from our weekends there when Hunter was at Rollins College. We wandered through the farmer’s market, picking up fresh produce, walked around town, and ate at some of our favorite restaurants. We also got to connect with new friends, Jennifer and Kate, their dog Bailey, and cat, Gypsy. We met them in Savannah during one of our pre-adventure practice camping weekends. After a brief friendly chat in the parking lot, we learned that they too are on a one year RV road trip adventure (from Eugene, OR) and would be passing through Tallahassee after Thanksgiving. We invited them to stop by and camp at our house. They took us up on it and we had a great time there and again over dinner at Wekiwa and walking around Winter Park.
- January 11-13. A visit with Pat & Jack Miller in Stuart, FL We headed south when we found out it would work for us to connect with long time friends, Pat and Jack Miller. Pat and I figured we’ve known each other since I was about 10 years old. It had been over a year since we last visited, so it was a real treat to catch up. We had a great visit and lunch with Pat and her sister Kathleen at a restaurant overlooking the intracoastal waterway. We stayed nearby at Jonathan Dickinson State Park, took in hikes around the park, and found another great dog beach for Maysea on the Atlantic at nearby Jenson Beach.
- January 14th. North to O’Leno State Park. We picked this stop mostly for its convenient location on our travel route and were pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful setting. Features included a suspension bridge and several buildings that were constructed by the CCC in the 30s. We enjoyed wonderful hiking trails along the river in the midst of a longleaf pine forest. We thought of Marjorie, William’s sister, a lot during our visit to this park, as she has a great interest in the long leaf pine. We felt the change in this more The temperatures dropped significantly- we used our heated mattress pads- a great purchase. They are awesome for staying warm and cozy without the need to blast the heater in the RV. We headed out from here to head over to Grayton Beach State Park for a weekend songwriter’s festival.
- January 15th-19th. 30a Songwriter’s Festival and Grayton Beach State Park. Though our plan is to not have a plan for much of the coming year, we decided when we started that we would schedule time to make it to the 30a Songwriter’s Festival. There were tons of talented artists featured at multiple small venues- restaurants, listening rooms, a vinyl record store, etc. The headliner, Jackson Brown, played at a small outdoor venue and was terrific. We really enjoyed music from the lesser known artists and newcomers as well. We also did tons of biking on our e-bikes to get to the venues along 30a.
- January 19th. 3 Sons Bar-B-Q and cousin Chris. Before leaving FL, we made a final stop at the best Bar-B-Q spot you’ll find (and I mean it!). We pulled up and managed to surprise my cousin, Chris Vaughn who runs this from a food truck in Freeport, FL. We had a great visit, and he filled us up with the BEST brisket, pulled pork, ribs, cole slaw, tater salad, and baked beans ever! We took enough food for meals for a week. If you’re in the area, 3 Sons Bar-B-Q is a must.
One of our favorite aspects of our trip so far, is connecting with family and new and old friends.