Central Florida

We all know central Florida is home to Disney World and lots of other big time tourist attractions.  Staying at an RV park near Clermont we’ve discovered many other attractions that appeal to us.

Mt. Dora is a lovely town with the historic Lakeside Inn on Lake Dora.  We were lucky enough to visit when they had tradional Irish music in the pub and a Florida Highwaymen Art Show.  Mt. Dora is known for a quaint town atmosphere as well as a lively art scene and local theatre.  Sadly the tourist train operating there has closed down.  Thanks to our friends Joe and Diane for a wonderful day.

Friends Joe and Diane

Friends Joe and Diane

Florida Highwaymen Art Show and Sale

Florida Highwaymen Art Show and Sale

Historic Lakeside Inn

Historic Lakeside Inn

Us, January 2016

Us, January 2016

Sunset on Lake Dora

Sunset on Lake Dora

 

Oakland Nature Preserve is on the south shore of Lake Apopka.  We attended an open house which included a edible Florida hike with an expert edible weed picker.  Great fun learning we can eat Smilax, Spanish Needles, Elderberry, Sorrel, and Beautyberries.  Florida also has wild citrus, blackberries, blueberries and lots more.  The preserve has great hiking too.

Peggy Lantz - Florida's Edible Wild Plants

Peggy Lantz – Florida’s Edible Wild Plants

Edible sorrel

Edible sorrel

Boardwalk to Lake Apopka

Boardwalk to Lake Apopka

Great Egret

Great Egret

Baby alligator

Baby alligator

 

Lakeland has the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright designed buildings in the world. During the Great Depression Florida Southern College envisioned a college of tomorrow and invited Wright to design for the school.  He designed 20 buildings of which 10 were built initially and one was just completed in 2013.  Wright described his work at the college  as “out of the ground and into the light, a child of the sun!”  It is a under the radar gem of Florida history.  Lakeland also features many lakes filled with birds.

Pfeiffer Chapel- Wright's premier work at FSC

Pfeiffer Chapel- Wright’s premier work at FSC

Interior features thousands of colored glass blocks

Interior features thousands of colored glass blocks

Usonian House was completed in 2013

Usonian House was completed in 2013

Lakeland has brick streets and colorful bungalows

Lakeland has brick streets and colorful bungalows

Lakes and swans

Lakes and swans

Deland is another interesting town in central Florida.  Joe and Diane joined us for a tour of the Stetson Mansion.  The famous hatter, John Stetson built the home in 1886.  It is privately owned and a home yet today.  It is Florida’s oldest grand home and available year round.  Deland is a very walkable town with great restaurants and shops.

The Stetson Mansion

Clermont, Minneola and West Orange County have countless lakes and great hiking/biking trails that go on for miles and miles, one to the next to the next.  While awfully close to horrendous traffic and crowds, central Florida has a lot for us.

R & D on the West Orange Trail

R & D on the West Orange Trail

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Florida as Tourists

Since we have lived in Florida nearly all of our lives, we have been looking forward to visiting our home state as tourists.  Its no wonder the state is so popular during the winter months.  The weather this year has been amazing.  While the rest of the country has been battling tornados, storms and cold Florida has been basking in near perfect conditions. With no house to tie us down in one place and without the chores and obligations we are free to do those things tourists do in Florida.

Rural west central Florida

Rural west central Florida

Crystal River, seafood town

Crystal River, seafood town

Our visit to Florida includes time with family.  Our daughter Ginger and her kids met us for a fun afternoon.

Ginger and co.

Ginger and co.

3 generations

3 generations

We have settled into RV parks in the west central Florida area.  Nearby towns include Inverness, Crystal River, Wildwood and Bushnell.  Some of the attractions include the Nature Coast, hiking the Withlacoochee State Trail (a rails to trails), kayaking the Withlacoochee River, kayaking in the Gulf of Mexico, and historic Dade Battlefield State Park.  The Webster Farmers Market and flea market are famously huge.  We found a big selection of fruits and vegies and we were just in time for Plant City strawberries.  Roadside stands sell backyard citrus and homemade preserves and honey.  And Sandhill Cranes are common in RV parks and roadside fields.  It was great to meet our friends Carol and Warren in Inverness.

Friends Carol and Warren

Friends Carol and Warren

Kayaking Crystal River harbor

Kayaking Crystal River harbor

Withlacoochee State Trail

Withlacoochee State Trail

Easy kayak launch site

Easy kayak launch site

Winter Cypress lined river

Winter Cypress lined river

Cypress reflections

Cypress reflections

Peaceful easy paddle

Peaceful easy paddle

Homemade preserves - honor system!

Homemade preserves – honor system!

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Sandhill cranes

Dade Battlefield State Park commemorates the historic Seminole indian attack on Major Dade’s US Army brigade.  Of the 108 soldiers in Dade’s unit, only 3 survived.  Thus began one of the longest and costliest wars in US history.  We were lucky enough to be in the area for the re-enactment of the battle which occured December 28th, 1835.  The actors did a great job portraying soldiers and Seminoles on a rare cold day much like the weather reported in 1835.

Re-enacting Dade's Brigade

Re-enacting Dade’s Brigade

Smoke of muskets and cannon

Smoke of muskets and cannon

Victorious Seminoles

Victorious Seminoles

Winter is a great time of year to be in west central Florida.  There a lots of snowbirds yet it doesn’t feel overly crowded.  Citrus and strawberries are abundant.  The weather is so mild you don’t mind the occasional cold front or rain.  We can definitely see ourselves wintering here again.  Note to self:  It’s 100 degrees and humid here in the Summer!

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Year End in Florida and 2016 Review

Holiday greetings from Florida

Happy New Year from Florida

 

The year end finds us back in Florida where our full-time adventure began nearly 2 years ago.  Its nice to be warm and enjoying sunny weather.  In our experience Florida is the only warm place in winter.  While we love the desert and all Western states,

Florida is THE warm place in winter.

Gulf coast Florida

Gulf coast Florida

Travels in Review – Where did we go in 2016?

2016 was our second full year on the road fulltime.  We started in Southern California then spent 5 weeks in Baja Mexico with a Baja Winters Caravan.  We crossed at Tecate, visited Pacific beaches, deserts of rocks and cacti, Carnival in La Paz, Loreto, Bahia de Concepcion, Los Barriles, Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos and best of all – petted gray whales in the lagoons of Guerrero Negro.  We loved Baja and plan to return.

After returning to California we stayed near Palm Springs visiting the desert and Joshua Tree National Park.  From California our travels then took us to Arizona where we boondocked near Quartzite, camped in Cottonwood, visited Jerome, Clarkdale, Sedona, Phoenix.  We stood on the corner in Winslow, visited the Petrified Forest and Gallup New Mexico on our way to Durango, our home away from home in Southwest Colorado.  We then traveled West again to Lake Powell, Zion National Park and Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada.  Then on to Death Valley and US395 North along the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, staying in the Alalbama Hills in the shadow of Mt, Whitney.  US395 took us north thru Bishop CA, Carson City and Washoe Lake State Park NV.  Then on to Northern California and Bend Oregon.  We caught a Royal Caribbean Cruise out of Seattle visiting Vancouver and Nanaimo BC.

Then after visiting with family we took off East again to eastern Washington and north into the great Canadian Rockies.  We stayed and soaked at Radium Hot Springs, then explored Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper before crossing the Rockies again to Kicking Horse pass and  the headwaters of the Columbia River.  Mid year found us back in western Washington visiting family, having family visit from Florida and helping our son and his family move into their first home.  Then our trip turned south again.  We stayed on the Pacific coast in Seaview WA where we had one of best mushroom hunting days ever.  We visited Astoria OR and had RV service performed in the Eugene area.

Stayed again in Bend OR to see our favorte Celtic band, Gaelic Storm, at a beautiful restored theater.  Weather in Oregon in October is not the best but we got to see gorgeous Crater Lake NP on a sunny day with a fine dusting of snow.  Then back south into California, visiting Redding, Pinnacles NP, Watsonville, Bakersfield and Tehachapi  Loop before staying at Soledad Canyon just outside of LA.  Regional rail allowed easy access to exploring La La land including the taping of a couple TV shows.  Vasquez Rocks is still a favorite hiking destination.

And from Los Angeles we hopped across the southern route to Florida enjoying time with friends along the way.

Total mileage for the RV 11,513 miles.  Our towed CRV contributed another 14,093 miles.

Maintenance, Repairs and Upgrades in Review

Our RV home requires maintenance and upgrades as any home.  In 2016 we upgraded to 680 watts of solar panels along with a MPPT controller and remote display.  On a good sunny day we can see 40 amps flowing into our batteries.  We also upgraded our batteries to the best wet cell Trojan T-105s and installed the best chassis batteries.  This led to a new pure sine wave electric inverter and battery charger.  Additionally we replaced the RV toilet, microwave and our electric mattress pad (we consider this essential to cold weather stays). We also replaced our bedroom TV and DVD player and remodeled the main cabin TV cabinet to more closely fit the flat screen TV.  We upgraded our TV antenna to a power boosted, signal sensing digital model.  We replaced the bedroom carpet with laminateand upgraded most interior lighting to LEDs.

Thats a quick recap of our adventures in 2016.  Hope all our friends had a good year as well. We have big plans for 2017 traveling to all 4 corners of North America as well as some long distance cruising.

 

 

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A Day in Los Angeles

We are NOT big city people.  For us to enjoy Los Angeles, one of the largest most sprawling cities in the world is most unlikely.  Yet we like visiting LA.  We have visited 4 times since 2012.  Most recently our base has been the Soledad Canyon RV Park in Acton CA.  It is in a very rural area about 70 miles northeast of downtown LA in the desert beyond the San Gabriel Mountains.  The weather is dry, temps mostly very mild and almost always sunny.

One of the great features of the area is the Metrolink train a few miles from the park.  No need to drive LA’s famous freeways and over crowded streets!  We hop on the train to Union Station, then take the subway or bus where we want to go.  It is a very inexpensive and relaxing way to see the city.  Finding LA’s extensive public transit was a huge plus and makes the city enjoyable.  Who knew, LA has transit.

Metrolink near Acton CA

Metrolink near Acton CA

Our first “day in LA” found us back in the car.  We got free tickets to the taping of a sitcom “A Man with a Plan” starring Matt LeBlanc (Friends) and Kevin Nealon (SNL) at CBS Studios near Hollywood.  It was a 5:15PM taping so we could get into town before the worst of rush hour.  And we had no idea how long it would take to tape a half hour show. Turns out it was a good choice as we did not get out until 8:30, 3+ hours.  It was good fun as there was a standup comic, Ron Pearson, keeping the audience laughing between scenes so we would be ready to laugh at each take of each scene.   Some scenes were shot 4 times.  The show was pretty funny and a clever script.  Ron gave away prizes to good laughers and Dianne won a Starbucks gift card.

Another “day in LA” was a train, subway, bus trip to the La Brea Tar Pits.  These are a world famous source for prehistoric ice age fossils which were trapped and preserved in a huge pit of asphaltum (tar).  Literally thousands of fossils have been and continue to be pulled from the tar.  We could smell the methane gas seeping  from the gooey ooze.  Giant sloths, mastodons, camels, saber toothed cats and dire wolves are among the skeletons on display at the visitor center.  The large park area around the many pits is open free to the public.  On our way to the tar pits we had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown near Union Station.  We loved the vegan Pho made with mushroom broth.  You know its a good place when you are in a sea of restaurants at 11:30AM and there is a line!  After the Tar Pits we walked to the LA’s Original Farmers Market.  This started during the Great Depression on land owned by the tar pit guy.  We brought our farmers market bags, ready for some serious veggie shopping.  Alas, it is now more of a shopping/restaurant area but we did find some nice oyster mushrooms.  We had to laugh at ourselves.  Bus, subway, train and we are home again.  A day in LA.

La Brea Tar Pits

La Brea Tar Pits

Ancient bison ancester fossils recovered from Tar Pits

Ancient bison ancester fossils recovered from Tar Pits

LA Original Farmers Market

LA Original Farmers Market

Our next “day in LA” was another train, subway, bus trip to see a taping of the game show “Wheel of Fortune” at Sony Studios in Culver City.  It has been on TV for 34 years and we wanted to see Pat and Vanna live.  The set is not huge but takes up a large soundstage all year for 34 days of taping!  We saw 3 shows taped in 3 hours, they shoot 6 per day.  The shows we saw will be aired Dec 22,23 and 28.  And yes, Vanna is 59 and size 4!  We were soooo glad we took transit when we got out onto the streets of LA at 6:30 and found gridlock!

Our last “day in LA” was a special train trip downtown to Memorial Coliseum to see our Miami Dolphins take on the Los Angeles Rams.  Have not seen the Fins in person in many years and the timing and opportunity were irresistible.  The train was an hour and a half late but we got there for kickoff.   As soon as we got to the train station we saw Miami Dolphin fans dressed for the game.  We were so surprised to find Miami fans everywhere.  Rams fans were polite but seemed almost outnumbered.  It rained the whole game.  The Dolphins played poorly for 3 1/2 quarters before exploding for 2 touchdowns to win 14-10.  Again the train was an hour late returning.  Such are the chances you take with public transport but we had a great day.

Near our RV park is another gem of LA County, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area.  We had visited last year and loved it.  It is a geologic wonderland of tilted rocks and hiking trails including a bit of the Pacific Crest Trail.  We love the hiking and desert scenery.  Many many films and TV shows have been shot here including Blazing Saddles and Star Trek.

Vasquez Rocks

Vasquez Rocks

Great hiking

Great hiking

Great hiking

Great hiking

Desert landscape

Desert landscape

PCT tunnel under hwy 14

PCT tunnel under hwy 14

More rocks

More rocks

More rocks

More rocks

Beautiful lichen decomposing rock

Beautiful lichen decomposing rock

We visited the area from November 2-22, 2016.

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Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles is the newest national park in the US.  It was created by an act of congress in 2013.  It was set aside as a national monument in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt making it one of the oldest monuments.  Reaching national park status has increased its visibility substantially.  It is located inland from the central California coast south of Hollister.  The area is classic California with hills with scattered oaks golden brown in the Fall.  Vineyards and cattle ranchos dot the landscape.  This area is very sparsely populated.

Our nation's newest national park

Our nation’s newest national park

Classic California hills

Classic California hills

Early 20th century rancho

Early 20th century rancho

The park itself features rock spires and caves formed by huge boulders tumbled into canyons.  The caves are home to bats and the park has deer.  People come to the park to hike, picnic, camp and rock climb.  With over 30 miles of trails, Pinnacles in the Fall is great for hiking. We visited October 29-31, 2016.

Gorgeous hiking

Gorgeous hiking

Boulder formed caves

Boulder formed caves

Flashlight required

Flashlight required

Rock climbers love it!

Rock climbers love it!

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Oregon

We first visited Oregon in the Fall of 2007 and promised we’d be back.  With so much of the coast dedicated to public access we knew we wanted to return in better weather.  There is a lot to see in OR.  We visited again in the Fall of 2015 and again had poor weather.  We did find an excellant RV Service company in Harrsburg, Elite RV Repair and Restoration.  These guys are the best RV technecions we’re ever used.  They diagnosed quickly and accurately and got the repair done promptly.  We also found Cummins in Eugene for our routine diesel engine maintenance.  One nice thing about Oregon is there is no sales tax.  If the price is 9.95, you pay 9.95.  In contrast Washington has a sales tax of up to 9.6%!

Spring of 2016 we were back in OR again.  This time entering from CA along US395.  We stayed at a Thousand Trails near Bend.  Bend is in the sunnier part of the state.  Seems like a nice mid-size city,  we want to keep an eye on Bend.

Update:  Returning to OR in mid September, Bend is 30 degrees in the AM, highs in the 70s. Weather is up and down in the Fall.  Snow in the Cascades.  Then suddenly temps in the 70s. Then gray 50s and drizzle.  Not sure its our cup of tea.  There is lots of hiking, mountain biking.  Supposed to be good mushrooming although we’ve had no luck.

Mt. Bachelor

Mt. Bachelor

Green Lake Trail

Green Lake Trail

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Astoria Oregon is a very nice small city, the oldest on the West coast of the US.  It was founded in 1811.  People are very friendly and hail from all over the country.  There is a nice sense of community.  They say it only rains once a year – from November until June!  The nearby state park, Fort Stevens, has a weekly ranger led mushroom hike from late September until November.  We attended the first of the season and found boletes, lobsters and learned about Shaggy Parasols (very tasty).

Megler Bridge across the Columbia

Megler Bridge across the Columbia

Astoria downtown

Astoria downtown

Now in late October its time to head south.  Oregon rains have begun and temps rarely reach 60.  Our mobile one bedroom apartment will head to warmer, sunnier climes of California.

 

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Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park has been on our bucket list for a long time.  Each year when we would consider going there it was either too early in the summer or too late in the fall.  You see there is a very short season at Crater Lake.  With an average of 44 feet of snow each year, summer starts late (July) and winter starts early (October).  This year we planned to leave western Washington early enough to catch the end of season at the park.  What a treat!  We had a spectacular clear sunny day if a bit on the cool side.  There had been snow that week so we had the additional feature of snow on the mountains.  We visited on October 8th.

Blue Lake

Blue Lake

First look

Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Lake and rim

Lake and rim

Crater Lake has been a national park since 1902 making it one of the oldest.  It was a far sighted person, William Steel, who wrote over a thousand letters to convince President Cleveland to set aside the area.  The place had been first visited by Euro-Americans in 1853.  We were fortunate to see a ranger program on the naming of the park.  It was a very entertaining story of the quirky way the name was established.  A newspaperman from Portland rowed a leaky boat to the cinder cone island in the lake and peered into its central crater.  He then declared the name “Crater Lake”.  Trivia alert:  the name was derived from the crater on Wizard Island, not the huge lake itself.

Ranger talk, great as always

Ranger talk, great as always

Crater Lake Lodge

Crater Lake Lodge

An easy hike in the park took us to Plaikni Falls, created by a stream originating at a spring formed by seepage from the caldera.

Plaikni Falls

Plaikni Falls

The lake was created when a super volcano named Mt. Mazama collapsed after a week long eruption 7700 years ago.  This is very recent in geologic history and would have been witnessed by Native Americans living in the area at the time.  Mt. Mazama is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire which includes volcanoes in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Japan and Indonesia.  The eruption of Mazama collapsed the 12000 foot mountain and created a caldera.  The caldera was then gradually filled with rain and snowmelt creating the lake we see today.  There is no river flowing into or out of Crater Lake.  At over 1900 feet deep it is the deepest lake in the USA and holds some of the purest water on earth.  The purity provides the spectacular blue color.crater6crater5crater4crater27803crater-1

Those fortunate enough to see the movie “Wild” will understand the majesty of Crater Lake. The opportunity to see things like Crater Lake is what our lifestyle is all about.  Everyday we get up with the chance to enjoy the beauty of our world.  Crater Lake is one such beauty.

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