Thursday, January 29

Old Posters

While waiting for the big Kumquat Festival on Saturday I stopped by the Pioneer Florida Museum. It's a museum preserving some of the agricultural history of the area and includes both buildings and displays. In one of the buildings they had several old advertising posters for some of Florida's early citrus producers. Here's a collage with some of the more interesting posters.


Tuesday, January 27

Tale Of Two Nights

Yesterday I was on my way back to Cedar Key - then changed my mind. Why? Because I could. Plan "B" (Cedar Key was "A") was to head towards Saint Pete and overnight at a Walmart along the way. Found a Walmart, asked if I could spend the night in the parking and was told - "sorry, we don't allow that anymore". Time for Plan "C" - so away I go, with no plan (which is actually pretty much the standard procedure anyway). An hour later I come across a Flying J Travel Center (better know to most of you as a Truck Stop) so I pull in, having heard they are RV friendly (hence the "Travel Center" thing, I suppose). Turned out to be fine (for a parking lot) it even had a Denny's and a Cinnabon Shop.

In the morning I head out, still with no plan (but let's call this Plan "D" in this tale, just because). Thirty miles down the road I'm pulling into Dade City and decide I should do my "little town" thing - go for a little walkabout. I stumble upon the the local Chamber, pop in, and ask what's happin' - the nice lady announces (drum roll) "the Kumquat Festival, of course". But, of course, that doesn't happen until Saturday, so she gives me the lowdown on other stuff to keep me busy until then. So it's Dade City for a few days, sounds like a plan.

Which now brings me to the second night of this tale. Night one in a truck stop and just for a change of pace, let's spend tonight in a BIG field!

The field is actually part the Withlacoochee River Park just outside Dade City. When the man asked, did I need the hookups (water, electric) in the RV Camping Area ($25) or did I just want to park on the Recreation Field ($5) you can see I opted to go with cheap. Two other intrepid campers are in the "field" - but they are waaaaaay down at the other end. Love when a plan all comes together!



Sunday, January 25

A Prime Backroad Day

Today's outing actually started yesterday when I noticed a sign just down the road from the campground - Fort Gates Ferry. I couldn't tell if it was a reference to something long ago, name of a town, or an actual ferry. I asked around and it was all three, which always has the potential for a prime Take The Long Way outing.

So today, I found myself driving down a unpaved sand road to see what I might find. The road (it could be loosely defined as such) ended (after 7 miles) at the rivers edge and I indeed found the Gates Ferry. Which, it turns out, is the oldest continuously operating ferry in Florida - 1853. Today it's a little barge, with a homemade tug (a sailboat hull with a motor) that you summon by flashing your headlights if it's on the other side. A 20 minute chug across the river and I find myself smack in the middle of nowhere!

After disembarking I find my way to a paved road and wait until someone comes by so I can ask where I'm at. Next stop, the big city of Palatka (after stopping for a couple of short hikes on the way) which is on the Saint Johns River and has a nice riverside park which, of course, I needed to explore. After the park walk I go over a couple of blocks to checkout downtown. Not much, BUT - it's home to Florida's oldest diner, the Angles Diner which started business in 1932. Still going strong and the food was pretty good. While sitting on my stool my ears perk up when someone at the booth behind me says - "only 4 still flying" - which sounds like it might be interesting. So, after inserting myself into the conversation, I find out that a Ford TriMotor (that's an airplane if you're not into flying) is out at the local airport.

Care to guess where my next stop was? Arrive at the airport and see a beautifully restored 1928 TriMotor on the ramp. Walk into the small rampside building and the pilot says - "last flight is leaving now" - I whip out my credit card and away we go. This plane is from the era when flying was an adventure - it was the first all metal, multiengine, commercial airplane, it even had a heated cabin (with wood trim) and flew at a blazing 90mph. With all these marvels, the intrepid air travelers of the day needed three days to travel from New York to LA. Ah yes, those were the good ole days - my 25 minute flight sure was nice.

After the airplane ride it was just a short drive back to the campground - I actually knew where I was by then - and my day of land, sea and air surprises ended with a nice sunset.

Hope you have your share of primetime days.


Thursday, January 22

On The Water

Yesterday I took a dip in the swimming hole here at Alexander Springs - it tuns out that the hole is actually called a "Boil" (where the springs water come boiling out) even though it's not a hot spring. Today I started out from that same "boil" for a little kayaking on the Alexander Run - a "run" is what locals call a river whose source is a spring. Got that?

Nice little paddle on crystal clear water with lots of wildlife. I saw fish, birds, turtles, one alligator and two otters. Only two others paddlers during the two hours, so it was also nice and quiet.



Wednesday, January 21


I'm still in the Ocala National Forest and will spend the next two nights in the Alexander Springs campground. Today I did a short 1 mile hike and then decided to take a dip in the spring - little cool, both the air and water temp where around 72 degrees, refreshing.



Tuesday, January 20

Water, Water

I'm wandering around Ocala National Forest and enjoying the peace and quiet. Great hiking trails, nice campgrounds ($6 a night with my Senior Pass) and lots of water



Saturday, January 17

Interesting Day

Decided it might be a good idea to do a little NASCAR pit crew practice with the van (get out the jack and change a tire) before it happened for real. Being familiar with how things work is always a good idea. Things went well, except that I have a couple of mystery thingies in the jack kit - I'm sure they must be very important/useful, just need to figure out what for.

After the practice session we headed out to lunch (found a good BBQ joint) and then, while driving out in the middle of nowhere we come upon a DOG SHOW. It was a BIG deal, apparently a qualifier for the Westminster show. Dogs of all shapes and sizes, doing the show ring thing.

Charlie was a visitor (just like us) not a competitor

After leaving the dog show we were driving thru the "big city" of Brooksville and another surprise. We were just in time for a little live music on the court house steps. Pretty darn good and typical of what you stumble across when you travel the backroads.


Tuesday, January 13

Lazy Campground Day

I'm currently staying in the Edward Medard Park just outside Tampa. It's a county park with a 700 acre lake, and a small campground. Yesterday it rained most of the day, but today it was 70 and sunny so went for a walk - lots of birds.


Saturday, January 10

Hiking The Shell Mound

This "shell mound" was first in use some 6,000 years ago and the shells, along with fish, turtle and deer bones cover several acres and is over 28 feet tall. It's hard to grasp the size of the thing because you are walking on top of all this debris a lot of the time. The trails are an easy walk with some nice views and the weather was perfect for hiking at 60 degrees.

Aningha drying its wings


Friday, January 9

Cedar Key

I'm in Cedar Key (NOT part of The Keys) a little town on Florida's gulf coast about 150 miles north of Tampa. The tiny town's history has some interesting highlights: John Muir lived, worked and almost died in Cedar Key before moving on and becoming a well known naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness areas. Then the good news bad news cycle started. In the late 1800s the pencil was king, as two mills shipped large quantities of cedar "blanks" to major pencil factories in the US and Europe, alas, they cut down all the cedar so it is no more. Florida's first cross state railroad ran from Fernandina to Cedar Key which contributed to its becoming a major port - with ships sailing to Havana and New Orleans - alas, they moved the railroad to Tampa, no more sailings. It was also home to the Standard Manufacturing Company makers of the Donax wisk, a very high quality brush made of palmetto fibers - those brushes (if you are old enough to remember) that the salesmen in the finer menswear emporiums used to brush a newly purchased suit or hat as the final touch, alas, also gone. Its traditional fishing industry has also taken some major hits from weather (hurricanes) and pollution and was on the skids. Alas, the tide turned and today Cedar Key is a major center for clam farming - it's a big time, ongoing, success story!

Today's Cedar Key is a slow paced (which I like) tourist destination with two interesting museums, a neat little downtown and waterfront to walk around, several good restaurants, and some good hiking trails (which I like). If you visit, stop by Tony's Seafood Restaurant (which I really like). Tony's clam chowder has won the Great Chowder Cook-off in Newport, Rhode Island, three times (yes 3X, isn't that amazing) - even more amazing - it actually is the best chowder I've ever taken a spoon to. Think I'll hang around for a few days.


Wednesday, January 7


I made it to Florida today in time to enjoy a nice 65 degree sunny day. I'm in Sopchoppy (my favorite great sounding small town name) in a county park next to a small river. Had some good BBQ just down the road and then took a short hike along the river.

View from the van
The river path


Tuesday, January 6

End Of The Road

In the Georgia boondocks for the night. The Backroader is right at home. Not much else to say.


Monday, January 5

Just A Pic

Crossed into Georgia today and found some great backroads. Sun came out and had a nice two mile hike, so the day was a success!



Sunday, January 4

On The Road

Hope everyone had a great holiday season. Welcome back to Take The Long Way.

I left Bardstown today on my trip to Florida. I did a similar trip last year before I got the van. Last year when I arrived in Florida I was greeted by record-setting low temperatures, I'm sure hoping this year turns out to be a little warmer.

Tonight I'm in a Tennessee state campground - the place has almost 200 sites and I'm the only person in the entire campground, guess I missed the crowds. It's a little cold and rainy but I did manage to get in a short walk, now it's time for some chili.

Take care, stay warm!