Category Archives: County Park

County or City Park visited or camped here

Day Trip to Santa Barbara, OCT 31, 2018

Continuing our stay at the Ventura County beach park, on Wednesday we drove to Santa Barbara to look around the town. Our first stop was at the Reagan Ranch Center. 20181031_12420820181031_124232

The Center, called the “schoolhouse for Reaganism, is a Young America’s Foundation Center dedicated to Ronald Reagan.  20181031_124814 

There are exhibits about Reagan as well as rooms for lectures, conferences, events related to the conservative movement  and a replica of his library at the ranch. 20181031_13252320181031_132542

The Center is free and we were given a tour by a Center docent. We saw a movie about President Reagan’s presidency, policies and life at his nearby ranch. The Reagan ranch, Rancho del Cielo (Ranch of Heaven) is not open to the public. IMG_20181031_13335820181031_132932

During his presidency the ranch became the Western White House.  He loved spending time there chopping wood, clearing brush, chopping up telephone poles for fences, riding horses and reading in the evenings by the hearth. Reagan loved the ranch, the land and all it represented. IMG_20181031_13190920181031_132805

The Center has a chapel room with President Reagan’s favorite verse printed on the wall. This was was his mother’s favorite verse, the verse he mentioned during his inaugural address in 1981, and the family Bible was open to this verse when he took his oath of office. His mother, Nelle, had written in the Bible beside the verse, ‘A wonderful verse for the healing of a nation”. 20181031_125706

We saw Reagan’s riding boots, a piece of the Berlin Wall, his jeep given by Mrs. Reagan for his birthday in 1983 and one of his saddles.20181031_12483320181031_13283620181031_13234820181031_132357

It was hard to get pictures at the Center because of glare from the museum lights. (An example is the picture of his boots where it looks like the top of one boot is missing due to bad glare). 20181031_12463520181031_13004320181031_12494020181031_125955

Next up was the Moreton Bay Fig tree, the largest fig tree in the United States. A seaman visiting Santa Barbara in 1876 gave an Australian Moreton Bay fig tree seedling to a local girl who planted it. IMG_20181031_134017IMG_20181031_134144

Last we toured the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, without a doubt the most beautiful courthouse we have ever visited. It was completed in 1929 after the first courthouse was destroyed by an earthquake. It is a Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture and the Spanish influence is everywhere. IMG_4460

The courthouse is composed of four buildings with red tile roofs, a four faced clock tower, beautiful arches and a sunken garden. On the grounds are plants and trees from 25 countries. You enter the main building and see wrought iron chandeliers and railings and colorfully tiled floors.  Even the walls around the water fountains are tiled as well as the elevator doors. 20181031_14433120181031_144750

Our favorite room was the mural room with hand-painted murals. IMG_20181031_14551420181031_14550520181031_14545120181031_145439

Bill did a panoramic shot of the room. If you click on the image and then again the arrow and move the picture (up/down/left/right) with your fingers, hopefully you can see around the room.  Click this link to see panorama interactive image

In the clock tower we had gorgeous views of Santa Barbara. At each of the four corners was a display showing us what we were looking at. 20181031_150418IMG_446620181031_15060620181031_150640

On the way back down the stairs we passed the Bisno Schall Clock Gallery where we could see the mechanism of the huge clock installed in 1929 and still keeping time on the four faces outside. IMG_4469

What a great day, and we were pleased that none of the places we visited today charged a fee and Santa Barbara provides plenty of free parking. The only annoying part of the day was the rush hour traffic jam we got in on US 101 on the way home.

We really enjoyed our time on the beach in Ventura watching the surfers, viewing the amazing sunsets and going to sleep each night to the sound of crashing waves.

Next up: lots of fun things in the Los Angeles area

Ventura, CA OCT 28, 2018

After enjoying our time along the coast in Oceano we traveled inland towards a private campground bordering the Los Padres National Forest about thirty miles inland from Santa Barbara. The campground was nestled in a valley which trapped the heat and made it very hot with temperatures of 90 each day. We have been in the 70s to mid 80s most of this year. The campground also had a scary very narrow road leading into the campground with sharp blind curves and much of the road too narrow for two cars to pass. I drove the car ahead of the RV and we used walkie talkies (ham radios) so I could let Bill know if there was a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction. We managed okay entering and leaving the campground but it was definitely a negative for possibly returning in the future.

After four days we headed back to the coast for a week long stay at a small county campground right on the Pacific Ocean in Ventura. IMG_4430IMG_4447

Arriving on a Sunday we had quiet days in the campground until Friday when it filled up and became crowded and noisy. A note for next time: arrive on Sunday and leave on Friday before the crowds arrive.

Our first five days were quiet looking at the waves, watching all the surfers and enjoying the gorgeous sunsets. This is a popular place for surfers since it is both a campground and a day use area.  IMG_4456IMG_4457IMG_20181029_163402IMG_20181029_163617

Bill was fascinated with the new surfboards. A hydrofoil board is a surfboard with a hydrofoil that extends below the board into the water. This design causes the board to leave the surface of the water so the surfer skims above the water. IMG_20181029_173641IMG_20181029_173915

One day we drove down the coast to Malibu, enjoying the scenery along the way. We remembered when we were in Malibu four years ago there was a seafood restaurant with really good food. So along with enjoying the views we also had the goal of stopping at Malibu Seafood for lunch; Just as good as we remembered! On the way home we drove Pacific Coast Highway to the snaky Mulholland Highway to the US 101. 

 We stopped by the Channel Islands National Park Visitors Center. IMG_20181030_153425

The Channel Islands are made up of eight islands off the coast of southern California. Five of those islands make up the Channel Islands National Park. They are only accessible by boat. The U. S. military uses some of the islands as training grounds, weapon test sites and as a strategic defense location. Boat tours to the Islands are available but rather pricey. Maybe next time. The Visitors Center had great views of the nearby marina where the National Park Service parks their boats and views of the city of Ventura. IMG_20181030_161851IMG_20181030_161930

Next up: A day trip exploring Santa Barbara


Salt Creek Recreation Area, WA July 26, 2018

We left the Port Townsend area and headed west to Salt Creek Recreation Area.  We were last here in 2014. Somehow back then we missed the WW II bunkers at Camp Hayden (built 1942-5).  You can actually drive your car through the bunker! Camp Hayden was used during World War II as a harbor defense military base.  The two concrete bunkers housed 16-inch guns and several smaller bunkers. IMG_20180727_144311IMG_20180727_144556

The huge guns were 45 feet long and shot one-ton projectiles 28 miles. IMG_20180727_144407

The guns were only fired for practice. While in the area we found several geocaches. IMG_20180727_150226

From our campsite at Salt Creek Recreation Area we had a beautiful panoramic view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Crescent Bay and Vancouver Island, Canada (British Columbia).  Our front window gave us views of cruise ships and barges passing by until the fog rolled in each day during the evenings. IMG_3255

The international boundary between the United States and Canada runs down the center of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. IMG_20180727_142124IMG_20180727_142145IMG_20180727_145933

On Saturday we drove to nearby Port Angeles to meet a friend of Bill’s who now lives in Washington state. Her family went to the same church as Bill in the 1980’s.  We had a lovely lunch and introduced her to geocaching. IMG_20180728_141938

We saw this wall mural of a old car ferry. Port Angeles has regular ferry service to Victoria, Canada. 20180728_142242

While in the area Bill and I went to the Olympic National Park Visitors Center and drove up to Hurricane Ridge. Due to clouds and haze the view of the glaciers clad mountains was not as good as it was when we were here in 2014.  IMG_20180728_16250720180728_163423

Hurricane Ridge, at 5,242 feet is the most easily accessed mountain area in Olympic National Park. IMG_20180728_162351

Hurricane Ridge got its name from the intense wind often experienced in the area. While we were there it was a nice 70 degrees with light winds. We saw a few deer lounging around. IMG_20180728_163652IMG_20180728_163735

On Tuesday we drove once again into Olympic National Park along the picturesque Crescent Lake.  IMG_3252

Our main purpose was to hike to two waterfalls. The first waterfall was the Marymere Falls, a beautiful 90 foot waterfall we accessed along a one mile walk through the forest. IMG_20180731_121414IMG_20180731_121705IMG_20180731_123106IMG_20180731_122516

We then drove to the next waterfall and hiked another mile to the Sol Duc Falls which splits into four channels as it cascades 48 feet into a narrow, rocky canyon. IMG_20180731_145858IMG_20180731_145701-EFFECTS

It was a wonderful day and we got in almost four and a half miles of hiking. IMG_20180731_151014IMG_20180731_130330

Next stop: Clallam Bay, Washington

Ridgecrest, Buena Vista REC Area, Hollister, CA MAR 30, 2018

After leaving Death Valley National Park we traveled back to Ridgecrest for three nights. Bill visited the China Lake Museum whose mission is to preserve the history of the Navy’s spectrum of weapons research, development and testing. Formerly located at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center, the museum is being relocated off base to make it more accessible to the public. China Lake was started to develop missiles and also was involved in the Manhattan Project. IMG_20180327_123504IMG_20180327_113458

After three days in Ridgecrest we headed north to Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area near the tiny town of Taft, California.  Along the way we passed field after field of solar panels and occasionally wind turbines.20180329_114206

The terrain changed from a dry rocky landscape to the agricultural California Central Valley.  We passed field after field of crops, citrus trees and grapes.20180329_132048

We could see aqueducts helping irrigate the fields as well as political signs from farmers asking for more dams instead of the proposed funding for the high speed rail between San Francisco and Los Angeles.20180401_132331

We had a campsite with a view of the lake and enjoyed a peaceful weekend even though it was Easter weekend and the park was full of families. We enjoyed just relaxing and some walks around the park with beautiful sunsets.IMG_20180330_185258

We left Taft and headed to a campground near Hollister, California for a nine night stay.  Hollister is one of three towns in California claiming to be the “Earthquake Capital of the World” because it was built directly on the very geologically active Calaveras Fault, a strand of the greater San Andreas Fault. One evening we felt the earth gently shake and later learned it was a 3.0 earthquake. No big deal.

IMG_20180403_110958Our main reason for visiting this area was to visit Pinnacles National Park. Formerly a national monument established in 1908, it became a national park in 2013, the 59th national park and our newest national park.

The pinnacles are eroded leftovers of the western half of an extinct volcano that was once part of the San Andreas Fault. The park is divided by the rock formations into an east division and a west division with no road connecting the east and west sections of the park.IMG_20180403_113731IMG_20180403_123837

The park has numerous unusual talus caves that are home to more than thirteen species of bats. Talus caves are not like the typical limestone underground caves.  In fact they are not really caves at all. They are formed when steep, narrow canyons are filled with a jumbled mass of boulders from the cliffs above which happened during the ice age. There is no known evidence of the existence of any Native Americans ever living in the talus caves.IMG_20180403_125057

One day we drove to the eastern section of the park which was more easily accessible from our campground. We stopped by the Visitors Center for trail information.  

We discovered there are not a lot of hiking trails in the park, and the trails they have are either rated moderate or strenuous. After talking with a ranger we chose the Bear Gulch Cave and Moses Spring Trails after her assurance it was not a difficult trail. The hike started with a fairly uphill walk until we reached the cave.IMG_20180403_115953IMG_20180403_115236IMG_20180403_120152IMG_20180403_115516

Upon entering the cave we had to rock hop over a series of rocks to keep our feet from getting really wet. Hmm, don’t remember the ranger mentioning this. As we continued on the cave was so dark we had to use a flashlight and light from our cell phone as we began to climb a series of steep steps cut into the cave walls.IMG_20180403_120957IMG_20180403_121224

Hmm, don’t remember the ranger mentioning this. To our left we could hear, but not see running water. Illuminating the area the best we could with the flashlight, we could see a series of waterfall.IMG_20180403_121123

Our path continued either over rocky terrain or steep steps with occasional very narrow passageways we had to squeeze through. At the end of the cave the exit was so low we had to get down on our knees and crawl out. Hmm, the ranger didn’t mention this!20180403_121606IMG_20180403_121655

Once out of the cave we continued on the trail to the reservoir. Once again we climbed steep rocky stairs and at the top emerged into an oasis of water and a few trees. IMG_20180403_123208IMG_20180403_123417IMG_20180403_123422 

After resting a while and enjoying the view we went back down the steep stairs.IMG_20180403_123929IMG_20180403_124035PANO_20180403_12364820180403_124333

Luckily the trail back to the parking lot didn’t not take us back through the cave, though we noticed some people choosing that option. Once was definitely enough. On the way back we passed along some high rocky walks where Bill heard growling from above.  This made us nervous since the area is known as home to bobcats.20180403_130713

We arrived back at the car hungry for our picnic lunch and a rest.

Another day we visited the west side of the park which required a much longer drive from our campground to access the west entrance.IMG_20180409_11544320180409_12532920180409_13024720180409_130948

This side of the park was much quieter and appeared to be less visited. We enjoyed chatting with the friendly park ranger who suggested a brand new trail. This easy one mile loop gave us great views of the pinnacles.

Next up we head to Yosemite National Park to see the many spring waterfalls.

Kansas City, MO August 9, 2017

While we were staying near Independence we drove one day into Kansas City to visit The National WWI Museum and Memorial, the world’s most comprehensive WWI collection.  The museum was amazing!

On the top of the Memorial are two Assyrian Sphinxes.  One, named Memory, faces east toward the battlefields of France, shielding its eyes from the horrors of war.  The other Sphinx is named Future and faces west, shielding its eyes from an unknown future.  Around the top of the Tower are carved Guardian Spirits of Honor, Courage, Patriotism and Sacrifice. We began our visit by taking an elevator to the top of Liberty Memorial, a 217 foot tower completed in 1926 with views of Kansas City. IMG_20170809_131238IMG_20170809_133103IMG_20170809_163018 

Sixty-five million people served in the Great War (later referred to as World War One), nine million died and the war involved over thirty-six countries around the world.

On the outside wall of the museum is the Great Frieze, one of the largest sculptures of its kind in the world.  Dedicated in 1935, it is 148 feet by 18 feet and represents the progression of humankind from war to peace.IMG_20170809_162519

The current museum was expanded in 2006 and designated a National Historic Landmark.  To enter the museum you walk on a glass bridge over a symbolic red poppy field, a symbol of the war because they grew profusely on the European fields of war. 


These 9,000 Poppies Each Represent 1,000 Soldier Lost

Inside are two main galleries, 1914-1917 and 1917-1919.  The amount of information presented through pictures and exhibits was overwhelming.  Each year 500,000 people visit this museum.

One of the best known symbols of WWI was trench warfare.  Both sides dug deep trenches and by the end of 1914 there was a network of over 400 miles of trenches across Belgium and France.  By 1917 there were 35,000 miles of trenches across the Western Front.  Poet John Masefield who served in the British Army called it “the long grave already dug”. Replicas of trenches were located throughout the museum.20170809_145112IMG_20170809_14473520170809_14531520170809_150452IMG_20170809_144709IMG_20170809_145330IMG_20170809_15490220170809_14491120170809_15062020170809_150925

President Woodrow Wilson signed the declaration of war against Germany on April 6, 1917.  Millions were inducted, given basic combat training and by June 1917, U.S. troops had arrived in France.  The army was small and poorly equipped with uniforms the same as those used in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.  Equipment was scarce so in some cases they had to train with wooden guns and rifles.  For many, it was their first time in the military.20170809_15075720170809_153159

Americans across the country answered the call to help by rationing food, buying war bonds or stamps, worked longer hours and enlisted.  Industries switched to producing weapons, ammunition and uniforms.  The American Red Cross auctioned wool from sheep grazing on the White House Lawn, raising $100,000.  The wool was used by Americans to knit socks and sweaters for the troops.  Within a year, America had a military force of four million men and women.20170809_15281220170809_15282120170809_15290020170809_15330420170809_154944IMG_20170809_155638IMG_20170809_155702

Bill’s Grandfather Robert Tucker was a dispatcher motorcycle rider on a motorcycle like this for General MacArthur, 42nd Division, Rainbow Division.


20,000 1917 Harley-Davidson Motorcycles were sent Over There!


By November 11, 1918 fighting ended on the Western Front and Germany signed an armistice and began to withdraw its forces.  The Treaty of Versailles to end the war was drafted in January by the leaders of the United States, England and France.  In June, Germany signed it but protested the harsh conditions. 20170809_155937 

At the end of the year the U.S. Congress rejected both the Treaty and the recently formed League of Nations.  The United States later signed its own treaty with Germany and never joined the League of Nations.  The League of Nations was replaced 26 years later after World War II by the United Nations.

What else happened during WWI:

  • Herbert Hoover announced the United States sent $1.4 billion worth of food to the Allies in 1917.
  • Wartime Prohibition began with the Food Production Bill, making the U.S. completely “dry” until demobilization was completed.
  • President Woodrow Wilson signed the Selective Service Act which required all men between the ages of 21 to 30 to register for the draft.  It was later extended to men 18 to 45.  On the first day, over 9.2 million men registered at their local draft boards.  Only 252,294 men failed to report.
  • June 1917, Congress enacts the Espionage Act allowing the government to censor mail and making it a crime to aid enemy nations or interfere with the draft.  On July 20th, the first American draftees are chosen by lottery.
  • U.S. Post Office began airmail service and issued the first airmail stamps.
  • “Over There”, a patriotic song written by George M. Cohan was recorded by Enrico Caruso.
  • The first Choctaw Code Talkers, in which Indian languages was used as a substitute for code, occurred during WWI.  They translated field telephone calls, radio messages and field orders.  The code was never broken by the German intelligence.  This led to a greater use of Navajo and other languages as codes by U.S. forces in WWII.
  • March 31, 1918 U.S. begins daylight savings time by Congressional Act to save daylight.
  • The American Legion was formed in 1919 as well as the Women’s Overseas Service League was formed to aid returning WWI veterans.  Congress authorized disability compensation and vocational rehabilitation.
  • “I am back from the front and believe me!!…I have just come out of one of the worst battles and the most deciding battle of the war.  The American soldiers are the most gallant, brave, witty and stubborn fighters in the world”. Corporal John Lewis Barkley, 4th Infantry, 3rd Division in a letter home, November, 1918

IMG_20170809_171117After touring the museum we were famished and made the short drive to Kansas City, Kansas to have dinner at Joe’s Kansas City Barbecue. Bill had ribs and I had beef brisket.  Both really, really good.  Located in a gas station, the long line attested to their reputation.  A newspaper clipping on the wall named them one of the thirteen best places to eat before you die (see #13).IMG_20170809_173531

Kansas City Missouri Facts:

  • Population 460,000
  • Has more than 200 fountains, giving it the nickname “The City of Fountains”; more fountains are here than almost anywhere else except Rome.  In the 1800’s the fountains were used as water troughs for horses.
  • Locals say Kansas City has more barbecue restaurants per capita than any city in the country, earning it another nickname, “Barbecue Capital of the World”.
  • During the 1800’s Kansas City was the last stop for travelers to get provisions as they headed west.
  • During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Kansas City was known as “The Paris of the Plains” because of the many jazz clubs, gambling halls and disregard of Prohibition.
  • Across from the museum was Union Station, built in 1914 and formerly a train station but now a science museum.  We read that more than 79,000 trains passed through the terminal in 1917 and half of all GIs deployed during World War Two passed through this Union Station.IMG_20170809_164252

Next stop: Topeka, Kansas

Eyota, MN June 5, 2017

We left Forest City, Iowa and headed north towards Minnesota, another new state for us.  Even though Minnesota is known as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”, the landscape between Iowa and southern Minnesota did not really change.  We continued to see farmland, silos and many wind turbines.  All beautiful scenery.

Our next stop was four nights at Chester Woods County Park in Eyota.  I wasn’t happy to see the signs at the park entrance warning of ticks and Lyme Disease.  It was a nice county park with electric only sites.  It was about a fifth full while we were there during the week.  I am sure it is full on the weekends.

IMG_20170606_111725One day we drove to Austin, MN to visit the SPAM Museum.  The museum included interactive exhibits and galleries on the history of the company, but was mainly dedicated to their product, SPAM.  We didn’t know what to expect but found the museum very interesting.  We were welcomed by a friendly greeter and then immediately someone came over to give us a free sample of their teriyaki SPAM.  Bill said it was good, I passed.20170606_115430IMG_20170606_114530IMG_20170606_11252520170606_112424

Hormel Foods Corporation is based in Austin, Minnesota.  It was founded in 1891 by George A. Hormel and named George A. Hormel & Company.  In 1993 the name was changed to Hormel Foods.  Today they have 40 manufacturing and distribution facilities.  They developed the world’s first canned ham in 1926.  20170606_112512Dinty Moore beef stew and Hormel Chili was introduced in 1935.  When the Federal Government abruptly ended a Depression era program to aid livestock farmers which left Hormel with 500,000 empty cans, they decided to sell beef stew.   They acquired the Dinty Moore name from another company and sold beef stew for 15 cents a can.  

20170606_114800When Hormel introduced their Hormel Chili Con Carne they organized a twenty piece Mexican song and dance troupe called The Hormel Chili Beaners to promote the product and give away samples.  They also offered double money back to anyone dissatisfied with their chili.  

SPAM luncheon meat was introduced in 1937.IMG_20170606_11222320170606_113217

In 1941 Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act, in which the U.S. agreed to provide “as much aid, short of war,” to the people of Great Britain, France and Russia.  In response, Hormel Foods supplied 15 million cans weekly.  By 1945 over 133 million cans (100 million pounds) of SPAM, had been shipped overseas to feed hungry soldiers and civilians. Nikita Khrushchev once said, “Without SPAM, we wouldn’t have been able to feed our army”.IMG_20170606_11240520170606_112959

In 1942, the Austin Hormel Foods facility became a War Facility with its workers photographed and fingerprinted and its perimeter fenced.  During World War Two, 1,961 Hormel employees went off to to serve with written promises they would have jobs when they returned.  By 1944 more than 90% of the canned food produced by Hormel Foods was destined for war operations.  Supplying food to troops has continued through the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf Wars and recently in the Middle East.20170606_113404

SPAM Fun Facts:
  • SPAM can be stored in the can for up to five years.
  • SPAM is sold in 44 countries around the world.
  • Over 8 billion cans of SPAM products have been sold.
  • Guam is the largest consumer of SPAM with an annual average of 16 cans per person.  Hawaii is second.20170606_112611
  • The SPAM JAM Festival is one of Hawaii’s largest festivals every year.
  • There are now over thirteen varieties of SPAM.20170606_113204
  • SPAM products are made from six simple ingredients.IMG_20170606_114139
  • Hawaii consumes 8+ million cans a year, more SPAM products than any other state.  It is sold all over the islands including at 7-Eleven, McDonalds and Burger King.  
  • In 2015 the SPAM Portuguese Sausage was created for Hawaii.20170606_112914
  • Dwight Eisenhower said in a letter to Hormel Foods on their 75th anniversary, “I ate my share of SPAM along with millions of soldiers.  I’ll even confess to a few unkind remarks about it.  As former Commander in Chief, I officially forgive you of your only sin: sending us so much of it”.
  • A U.S. Marine on leave from the South Pacific once said, “You never fully realize how delicious and good SPAM really is until you taste it out here in the bottom of a fox hole”.
Minnesota Fun Facts:
  • Even though it is nicknamed “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, there are actually around 15,000 lakes in Minnesota.
  • Legend is that Paul Bunyan’s Blue Ox named Babe trampled the land leaving his footprints in the mud which created 10,000 lakes.  Along roadways throughout Minnesota are statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe.  The real geological story is the grinding force of advancing and retreating glaciers left behind beautiful lakes and vast, fertile prairie.
  • The state was built by immigrants from Scandinavia, Germany, Finland, and other areas of Europe.
  • Early settlers used prairie grass sod that was cut and stacked to build crude shelters.  Many lived in these for years until they could afford to build a wooden prairie home.  This is described​ in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s account in “Little House on the Prairie”.
  • Minnesota is known for formidable winters with intense cold and large amounts of snow.  The first snowmobile was used in Minnesota.
  • The first permanent settlement was in 1819 at Fort St Anthony, later renamed Fort Snelling.
  • In 1858 Minnesota became the 32nd state.
  • In 1863 Dr William Mayo started a medical practice in Rochester that later became the Mayo Clinic.

FLA Treasure Coast & Space Coast March 23, 2017

Leaving Fort Lauderdale we made our way north to Fort Pierce and settled in at the Savannas Recreation Area.  This is a wonderful St Lucie County campground with full hookups.  It is also another one of the very popular, hard to reserve Florida county parks.  Our campsite backed up to a narrow canal.  A stiff wind during our stay kept away mosquitoes.  There were many signs warning of alligators in the canal but we only saw one during our week stay.  The Savannas area is a popular fishing and kayaking area but it was too windy to get out on the water while we were there.

We enjoyed driving around the Fort Pierce area.  We looked for other possible campgrounds for future visits but didn’t really see anything we liked better than where we were staying.

We did some geocaching and stopped by the old Fort Pierce site.  The fort along the Indian River was built in 1838 as a main supply depot for the army during the Second Seminole War.  It was abandoned in 1842 at the end of the war and burned down the next year.  Nothing left now but some historical markers and a beautiful view.  It is also the site of an ancient burial mound of the Ais Indian tribe who once lived from the Cape Canaveral area to Saint Lucie inlet.IMG_20170329_165323IMG_20170329_165518IMG_20170329_165549

The city of Fort Pierce is very picturesque with lovely views of the water.  It is nicknamed the “Sunrise City” and is a sister city to San Francisco, the “Sunset City”.IMG_20170329_165604

IMG_20170329_160942Last summer while traveling through Pennsylvania we stopped by Shanksville to pay our respects at the site where United Flight 93 crashed on September 11, 2001 due to a terrorist attack.  We noticed on the wall honoring those who died, the name of CeeCee Ross Lyles from Fort Pierce.  She had been a member of the Fort Pierce Police Department before becoming a flight attendant.  We knew there had to be a memorial to her somewhere in Fort Pierce.  We stopped by the Fort Pierce Visitors Center and found out it was just a short walk away.  We found her statue and memorial at a beautiful, peaceful spot overlooking Indian River.

Next we traveled to Vero Beach for a five night stay to visit Bill’s son Sean, Sean’s fiancee Cathy and Bill’s Aunt Charlotte. Always nice to visit with them!


Bill, Sean and Cathy dining near Vero Beach

As we continued traveling north our next stop was one of our favorites, Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral.  Jetty Park is a Brevard County Park campground, extremely popular and rather pricey.  We love this campground because there is an easy, close access to a beautiful beach and we can watch cruise ships depart each day.  It is a great place to watch rocket launches at the Space Center.  We watched a couple of launches when we were there last year but unfortunately none were scheduled while we were here this year.  During our ten day stay we spent time at the beach and enjoyed long walks on the beach, pier and boardwalks.  The beach was beautiful both during the day and at night under the full moon.  Each day we watched cruise ships departing with throngs of excited passengers crowding the decks.IMG_20170410_172254IMG_20170408_134319IMG_20170408_134347IMG_20170407_171947IMG_20170407_172032IMG_20170411_215306IMG_20170411_220646

We learned that on March 10, 1783 the last Continental Naval engagement occurred nearby during our eight-year War for Independence.  The Continental Frigate Alliance inflicted severe damage on the British warship HMS Sybil and then went on to her destination in Rhode Island.IMG_20170407_170355

One day Bill’s college friend Pete and his wife Beth drove over from their home near the gulf coast to spend the day with us.  Bill and Pete reconnected back in January after almost forty years and we have enjoyed seeing them several times during our five and a half months in Florida this winter.  Thanks so much Pete and Beth for making the long drive over to Jetty Park.  Much, much too soon our time in Jetty Park was over.  (Huge sigh)IMG_20170410_172414IMG_20170407_142402IMG_20170407_142552IMG_20170407_142521

Next stop will be Gamble Rogers State Park at Flagler Beach.

Fort Lauderdale, FL March 20, 2017

We left Miami and continued our counter clockwise travel around perimeter of Florida, making the short drive north to the Fort Lauderdale area.  We camped at Markham Park, very popular Broward County park.  After getting all settled in we made the short drive to visit Bill’s cousin Crystal and her family. We drove to Ft Lauderdale Beach to see how it compares to Miami Beach.IMG_20170322_144445IMG_20170322_140420IMG_20170322_140224IMG_20170322_152215

On Tuesday Bill met an old Boy Scout childhood friend for lunch and then did some target practice at the Markham Park rifle range.IMG_20170321_153114IMG_20170321_153111

IMG_20170320_133945The highlight of our visit was on Wednesday when we drove inland ninety minutes to the Seminole Indian Reservation to visit the Billie Swamp Safari.  What an amazing experience!!  We signed up for the day package which included an airboat ride, swamp buggy ride, a critter show and a venomous snake show.IMG_20170320_140112IMG_20170320_140643

First we went on the airboat ride which included earplugs because of the loud noise of the motor. It was fun to fly across the “River of Grass”, slowing down occasionally as the guide pointed out different animals and birds.  It was over far too quickly!20170320_14291320170320_14391220170320_14455720170320_14475720170320_14530920170320_14532320170320_145758

Next up was the Critter Show.  The host was a unique guy, part wise guy and part comedian, but very knowledgeable about the animals.  He picked different people from the audience to come up to handle the animals.  Once you were selected you couldn’t say no and you didn’t know until you got up there what you would have to handle.  I was rather nervous I would be selected to handle a snake.  In that case, no would mean no, and they would have to take me kicking and screaming from the room before I would do it.  Luckily I wasn’t selected to handle the tarantula, snake, skunk, alligator or ferret.20170320_155412

We had a little time before the venomous snake show so we walked around the property and saw a very rare Florida panther, a bobcat, two wolves, otters, a bear, exotic birds, crocodile and many alligators.20170320_15072320170320_18003620170320_17595420170320_18014620170320_18035320170320_180444


Red Tail Hawk sunning


Crested Caracara


Barred Owl


One huge alligator has the name Trump, he was named several years ago.20170320_150929

I can’t believe I agreed to go to the venomous snake show but I thought facing my fears and learning more about them would help.  I told Bill I wanted to sit on the top row far away from the host.  The host was extremely knowledgeable and didn’t expect anyone to come down front so that pressure was off.  He answered lots of questions including several from me such as “how long do you have to get help once you are bitten before you die?”.  I can’t say I loved the show but it was very informative and I was glad I went.20170320_16250220170320_16392120170320_164908

Our last activity of the day was the swamp buggy eco tour where we explored more of the swamp in an elevated buggy to get better views.  We thought the tour would be going more through water but mainly we were on land.  It was quite bumpy and lots of fun!  We saw bison, antelope, zebras and ostriches, including ostrich eggs, just to name a few.  At one point we had to wait for bison to get out of the road, reminding us of our visit to Yellowstone.  We even saw a baby bison, the youngest we have ever seen.20170320_17140520170320_17474920170320_17463020170320_17450120170320_17511120170320_173710

Much too soon the day was over and we left marveling at all we had seen and done in one day.  I would love to go back and do it all over again, even the snake show! We recommend this multi-hour adventure.

Next stop: Fort Pierce, Florida

Miami, FL Part 2 March 4, 2017

IMG_20170316_113049This blog continues with more of our time in Miami.  Even though it was Spring Break time for college students, we decided to drive to Miami Beach.  Rather than taking the interstate or turnpike, we took the scenic route Old Cutler Road.  The drive was beautiful with huge trees including banyan trees as well as azaleas in full bloom.  IMG_20170316_114429IMG_20170316_115547IMG_20170316_115730IMG_20170316_120418IMG_20170316_120715IMG_20170316_120857IMG_20170316_120914IMG_20170316_120940When we entered the Miami Beach city limits we began to see cruise ships and the traffic picked up.  IMG_20170316_125005IMG_20170316_125133We drove down Ocean Drive and as expected it was pretty crazy with throngs of scantily clad college students crowding the restaurants, roadways and beach.  IMG_20170316_132529IMG_20170316_132140IMG_20170316_132218IMG_20170316_132544IMG_20170316_132809We drove to the northern end of Miami Beach where it seemed a little calmer and after only a little time stalking for a spot, we found a parking space.  IMG_20170316_140955IMG_20170316_141031There was a very nice boardwalk sheltered from the sun and we found walking on it much more appealing than the crowded beach in the hot sun.  IMG_20170316_141419IMG_20170316_142346IMG_20170316_144037Pictures sometimes really are worth a thousand words so I will let the pictures do the talking.  One college student from Kentucky managed to get in Bill’s picture.  IMG_20170316_142642He told us he hated going back home to the cold weather the next day.  He said he had had a great time in Miami but had also made some bad decisions.  Sounds like stories I don’t want to know!  Along the boardwalk we passed big hotels including The Fountainebleau, featured in the 1964 James Bond movie “Goldfinger”.PANO_20170316_151621

IMG_20170318_145633On our last day in the Miami area we visited the Gold Coast Railroad Museum.  The museum is on the site of the former Naval Air Station Richmond, the largest coastline airship base built for World War II.  The museum featured exhibits of passenger cars, locomotives, freight cars and cabooses. IMG_20170318_132935IMG_20170318_140439IMG_20170318_140551IMG_20170318_141914IMG_20170318_144137IMG_20170318_144206IMG_20170318_144838Many of the trains were open to tour and some had exhibits inside on the history of train travel. Our main reason for wanting to visit the museum was to see the Ferdinand Magellan, a National Historic Landmark and the Pullman car built for President Franklin Roosevelt and used by the president beginning in December, 1942.IMG_20170318_134851  IMG_20170318_134817IMG_20170318_133942IMG_20170318_133938IMG_20170318_133823IMG_20170318_134012The train also carried Roosevelt’s body back to Washington after his death. The car has four bedrooms, a dining room and an observation lounge. There is 5/8 inch steel armor plating, three inch bullet proof glass and two escape hatches, one in the ceiling of the observation lounge and the other in the side wall of the shower in the presidential bathroom in the center of the train. IMG_20170318_133959At one time there was a special elevator installed on the platform for Roosevelt’s wheelchair but that was removed after his death.  This train was also the location where Truman held up the famous newspaper headline declaring “Dewey Defeats Truman”.  IMG_20170318_134817(1)IMG_20170318_134024IMG_20170318_134207Four presidents used the train, with the last official use ending in 1954.  Ronald Reagan used the train for one day in 1984 during his presidential campaign as part of a whistle stop tour. Due to extreme deterioration of the interior, tours of the inside have been very limited.  But we asked about seeing the inside and the guide graciously offered to unlock the door and let us walk through.  It was amazing to walk through the car and imagine the history that unfolded there.  The guide told us Roosevelt’s casket was placed on the dining room table and we could visualize presidents waving from the platform. The inside smelled very old and much restoration still needs to be done to preserve this piece of history.  According to the museum’s brochure they are waiting for funding.IMG_20170318_134228

We ended our last day in Miami by having dinner at Casavana, an excellent Cuban restaurant.

From Bill Baggs State Park to Biscayne National Park to touring Miami Beach to historic Gold Coast Railroad Museum, we had a great time in Miami!!

Next stop: Fort Lauderdale

Miami, FL Part 1 March 4, 2017

We reluctantly said farewell to our alligator friends at Big Cypress National Preserve and headed towards Miami.  Fortunately we moved the day before smoke from wildfires blanketed the Big Cypress National Preserve.  We encountered some road construction and then arrived at our destination for the next fifteen days, Larry and Penny Thompson Memorial Park located in South Miami Heights.  This is a large, popular county park located about twenty miles south of downtown Miami.  It is so popular that reservations are very hard to get, as are many parks in southern Florida in the winter.

Our campground, as is all of Miami, is located in a culturally diverse community.  One quickly feels like the minority in this area of south Florida.  Miami has changed quite a bit since it was once called “The Magic City” and was viewed as a winter playground for the rich and famous.  Between 1960 and 2000 the Miami metro area grew by 141%, with a large number being people from Cuba as well as Puerto Rico and many foreign countries.IMG_20170309_142049

IMG_20170309_133654On Wednesday we drove over to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.  We enjoyed the beautiful views located in the park.  Juan Ponce de Leon called the area Cape of Florida when he landed here on his first Spanish expedition to Florida in 1513.  The park is home to a lighthouse built in 1825 and reconstructed in 1846.  It is the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade County.  Near the lighthouse is a reconstructed lighthouse keeper’s house, Bill and I enjoyed the nice water views from the rocking chairs on the front porch.00001IMG_00001_BURST20170309121308IMG_20170309_122342IMG_20170309_121046IMG_20170309_120741IMG_20170309_120607

From the Biscayne Bay side of the park, we had views of the remains of what was once Stiltsville, a group of wood shacks built on stilts.  It is believed the first shack was built in 1933 toward the end of Prohibition by Crawfish Eddie Walker.  He built the shack for gambling which was legal a mile offshore.  A few years later two of Eddie’s friends built shacks on stilts and between shipwrecks and channel dredging, more people built stilt shacks.  IMG_20170309_121858IMG_20170309_115328IMG_20170309_115317Newspapers began calling the area “the shacks” or the “Shack Colony” and in the 1940’s and 1950’s it was a popular place for lawyers, bankers and politicians to drink and relax, including Florida Governor LeRoy Collins.  Various social clubs were built on stilts shacks and when rumors of gambling persisted, the clubs were raided in 1949 but no evidence of gambling was ever found.  Crawfish Eddie’s shack was destroyed by Hurricane King in 1950. Most of the remainder structures were damaged by Hurricane Donna in 1960.  In 1965 the state required shack owners to pay $100 annually to lease their “campsites”.  No new construction was permitted, no commercial leases, and no shacks more than 50% damaged could be rebuilt.  In 1980 the area fell within the boundary of Biscayne National Park.  The leases were still honored. At the beginning of 1992 there were fourteen shacks but after Hurricane Andrew struck that same year, only seven remained.  The Stiltsville Trust was formed in 2003 to save the remaining structures with caretakers doing periodic maintenance and park personnel installing hurricane strapping to try to prevent damage from major storms, all in an effort to save the historic structures.  Over the years Stiltsville has been the setting for movies, TV shows and books.

We enjoyed a nice picnic lunch where we were visited by some new friends.IMG_20170309_135934 20170309_125255 (1) We then went down to the beach and enjoyed dipping our toes in the Atlantic Ocean.  We enjoyed the views of Miami during the drive over and back.IMG_20170309_133405IMG_20170309_131840

IMG_20170315_142949Another day we drove to Biscayne National Park.  This park is located thirty-five miles south of Miami International Airport, twenty-one miles east of the Everglades, and is the northernmost part of the Florida Keys.  IMG_20170315_143542First established as a monument in 1968 and later as a national park in 1980, it is made up of 181,500 acres, with only 5% of the park land.  The other 95% of the park is submerged or made up of small islands only accessible by boat.  It is a paradise of crystal clear aquamarine waters and lush seabeds.  It is composed of the longest stretch of mangrove forest on Florida’s east coast and part of the world’s third longest coral reef tract.  We drove to the land part of the park at Convoy Point and visited the Dante Farrell Visitors Center where we saw an excellent film on the park’s ecosystems.  We walked along the boardwalk where we saw a stingray, barracuda, schools of fish and views of a distant Miami.IMG_20170315_152222

In the next blog we will continue our explorations of Miami.