Friday, April 29, 2011

Departing Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings State Park

Hellooo Hellooo Helloooo.......That's me calling you from the great blogging abyss.  I'm struggling to come up with an impressive excuse for neglecting my duties but I'm coming up short.  We did go to South Carolina for 6 days.  We stayed busy there with doctor appointments, a stop at the vet, several meals with friends and checking on the houses.  We then returned to Florida.  After returning we "worked" 6 of the past 8 days. (That's my last  pitiful attempt to offer another excuse for not blogging)  Anyway, we got back to Florida and returned to our volunteer duties, continued to enjoy the area and prepared to depart.  One little side trip was to see Dudley Farm Historic State Park.  The park is located about 25 miles west of Gainesville.  It's a working farm that dates back to the mid 1800's.  The last member of the founding family left the farm, after donating it to the state to be used as a state park, in 1983.  There's a collection of about a dozen buildings, which includes the original farm house.

They farm 325 of the original 640 acres.  Additionally, there's a great gathering of livestock which includes some sweet horses and an ENORMOUS turkey

The result is a genuine step back in time.  The setting is so authentic, because it is authentic, that it takes a small step to imagine the farm as the original occupants experienced the place.  Well worth the trip!

A significant task related to departing was buying new tires for the camper. For those unfamiliar with the fine points of full timing, tire failure is critical.  A blow out on the camper often includes much more than the loss of a tire. Way too often it includes, let's say, thousands of dollars of damage to the camper, stranded on the road, towing, aggravation etc.  The problem, from our point of view, is that the tires that come with the camper have an outrageous reputation for blowing out!  The new tires are load range G and are rated for 3700 pounds per tire. (700 pounds more than the current tires)   They come with an impressive price tag so it wasn't a decision we took lightly.  But the bottom line was to error greatly on the side of caution.  We did sell the "old" tires on Craigslist for $200  (significantly less than the cost of one new tire)!

Related to departing tasks, we also bought a "trucker" gps.  This gps will treat us like a big rig and advise us of the best big rig routes, low clearance hazards, truck stops, rest stops and other neat traveling stuff.  So Debbie uses the older car Garmin gps in the car and I use the truck Garmin gps in, you guessed it, the truck. Debbie also purchased  "Streets and Trips."  For those in the dark (like me!), it's routing software for planning our travels.  For those who know me, you know I just told you ALL that I know of the product.  But I am sure that the product and Debbie will serve us well.  We really are trying to do all that we can to be safe and  minimize any anxiety.

Now let's return to our volunteer life.  Wednesday was our last day.   Imagine, we've been winding down, finishing our little projects and starting to say our good-byes.  And lo and behold we get a little surprise.  Tuesday, our park ranger shows up with a stray Jack Russell dog that had been abandoned in the county park adjacent to the state park.  We love dogs.  Debbie REALLY LOVES dogs!  So her first impulse is, let's keep her.  She (not Debbie) is a precious dog.  Unlike many Jack Russell's, she's very calm and we never heard her bark.  I recognize that one of us must dig in our practical heels and resist all compulsion to keep the dog.  Please remember we currently travel with two dogs.  Believe me when I say it required my best powers of persuasion.  Debbie's not happy about "our" decision, but she ultimately "agreed".  My suggestion was that we foot the vet bills to get "Jackie" (Debbie's temporary name for the dog) squared away so that she would be more adoptable.  We did, and Sheila, our park ranger, took her to the vet.  Things are already looking better.  Jackie had been micro-chipped and the vet has known the local breeder for the past 20 years. Jackie is 5-6 years old.  She was likely sold by the breeder and some subsequent owner lost or abandoned the little creature.  We now are confident that Jackie will quickly find a good home.  Sheila, or maybe her sister,  may keep her.  Or maybe the local breeder will find, within the local Jack Russell community, a new home for the sweet girl.  The result of this little surprise was that Debbie spent her last two days at the park loving this great little dog!  I hope the outcome is that Debbie's love, as well as the wonderful love of others, eased Jackie's anxiety resulting from being abandoned.

So as I said, Wednesday was our last day at the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park. We were there for two months and it was a great experience!  The camping location was sublime (new word for me).  Sheila is the best!  She did a terrific job of making us feel so appreciated.  The entire staff, including the local volunteers are just a great group of people.  We were only treated with respect and kindness!  While departing Wednesday, Anne Pierce, I think she's the Treasurer of the Friends of Marjorie Rawlings, stopped by to give us a huge platter of gingerbread made from Marjorie Rawling's cookbook.  Mighty thoughtful!  The volunteering experience was entirely stress free!  We've been invited to return and we may.  But for now we're moving on!  After our "workday" we headed out for South Dakota.  We're going to take 26 days to get there.  Obviously we're taking our time, making stops, seeing our children and enjoying the ride!  Wednesday  afternoon we only drove about 100 miles.  We needed to shorten the next day's drive to an RV park in Holt, FL.  So we spent Wed. night at the Suwanee River State Park, in Live Oak, maybe 100 miles (that's a guess) east of Tallahassee.  Of course, we only stayed the one night, but from our brief tour of the park, it looked great!  Our site had full hookups, was paved, and included a picnic table, grill, firepit and even a clothesline! 

Very nice. We will have to put it on our "return to someday" list for sure.

We had pizza for dinner that night.

Has too much time passed since I last mentioned that Life is Good?!

I'll try to do better on the posting!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Another Week at The Creek (Cross Creek, FL)

As they say, "time flies when you're having fun"!   Saturday, 2 April we went to Cedar Key.  It was a beautiful spring day and, coincidentally, they were having an art festival.   We hadn't planned on taking the dogs this trip, but they behaved so pitifully as we prepared to depart that at the last moment we willingly caved in and loaded them in the car with us.  They contributed to the quality of the trip greatly.  So we had a pleasant drive of about 90 minutes.   We spent a couple hours walking through the art festival and the unique little town.  The boys were so well behaved!  We then went to check out the Sunset Isle RV Park and had at great BBQ lunch at a small restaurant right there in the campground.  We then headed home.  En route we took some little side trips to check out some more campgrounds, a wildlife preserve and discovered a great  campground, Shell Mound County Park, that warrants serious consideration for future use.

The next few days we either chilled at the campsite or cruised through our volunteer duties.  On Wednesday we went on a field trip with Sheila, our park ranger, and a few other volunteers/part-time employees of the park.  Our destination was the Big Scrub area of the Ocala National Forest.  Our mission was to visit some sites that were pertinent to Marjorie Rawling's Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Yearling.  This was an area where Rawlings spent time as inspiration for the writing of the book.  Shelia has done great research on the subject.  Her role was to read from the Yearling and other publications, writings that related to specific events in the book.  It was a unique opportunity to better understand the culture Marjorie Rawlings was highlighting in the Yearling.

We drove about an hour and began our day at the Juniper Prairie Wilderness area and the Pat's Island Trail.

Fortunately, it was an absolutely beautiful day, and we encountered none of these "risks"

Much of the area we were hiking burned in a forest fire in I think 2006, but it was coming back nicely.
As Sheila explained, in 1876, the Long family  established a homestead on Pat’s Island, a high spot in the Big Scrub.  More than 50 years later, Ms. Rawlings would stay with the Long family and learn about  life in their remote homestead.  When the novel became a movie, Pat’s Island became a set for some of the scenes. Pat's Island includes historical artifacts from the Long family such as a cistern

and the family cemetery.

After a hike of a few miles, we returned to our cars, ate our lunch and then traveled a short distance to Silver Glen Springs, a beautiful spot.

Sheila and Jackie, the Park's Master Gardener Volunteer were the only ones ready to cool off a bit.

Our field trip group, Duane, Melissa, Jackie, Ray, Sheila and Judy

At our final stop, Hopkins Prairie, we eye balled some great scenery,

and spent some time on any empty site in the campground enjoying the camaraderie of our peers.  A very pleasant day!

We then returned to "chillin". 

On Saturday and Sunday my father and his wife Marge, who live in Palm Harbor, were staying in Gainesville to spend some time with us.  We had some meals together, toured the Rawlings house and visited the Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida. 

The highlight there was the Butterfly House.

We have been to a few of these and this one may have been the best.  Debbie had the camera ready of course and even though we had  the help of a laminated identification card you can carry with you inside the rainforest, we were only able to identify a few.

Tree Nymph

Blue Glassy Tiger

More Tree Nymphs

Owl Butterfly

Small Postman
Okay, enough.  We do at least know who these are pictures of.

Marge and Pop in the Butterfly Rainforest
Duane and Pop at Natural History Museum

If you stuck it out through this whole post, thanks so much,  You are a good listener!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Catching Up (Cross Creek, FL)

Hi!  We haven't been in touch for a while but not because we've been terribly busy.  Mostly we've just been enjoying life at Marjorie Rawling's house. 

The one glaring exception is that we did return to the RV dealer to have the satellite repair completed.  Now that was an event!  We were there for 2 days.  This included multiple calls to both Winegard and Directv.  We camped in the RV dealership "campground."   We will forever fail to understand how it can be that "these people" claim to be qualified to do the satellite work when so many of their answers include "I don't understand that" or "that doesn't make any sense" or "I've never done this before" etc.  But somehow the repair was completed.  Please don't ask what was the secret to the successful repair.  I don't know nor does the man making the repair.  Wires were switched around, part of the old satellite dish was put back on, a splitter was eliminated and Directv sent us a new receiver, "coincidentally", for an unrelated problem.  But somehow, the repair was completed.  There are some positive elements to this story.  We did learn a few things about the system that will help us in the future.  Although their knowledge of the satellite subject was obviously limited, at least the staff was pleasant.  We ate at Golden Coral!  The whole process only cost us $41.  Oh yes, there was another negative. Upon doing our walk around the camper after hooking up and just before pulling out, we discovered scrapes on the rear corner of the camper that were not there when we brought it in.  No one at the dealership claimed to have any knowledge of how this damage occurred.  "Their" best guess was that someone  sideswiped our camper while it was in their lot waiting to be moved to the maintenance area.   Yeah, whatever. We couldn't prove differently.  The damage was minor, but damage all the same.

Back to the good life at Marjorie's house.  Our volunteer hours remain wonderfully pleasant.   I continue to have the best of the work duties.  I mentioned previously my plumbing projects.   More recently I worked on installing a new washer and dryer in a maintenance shed.   These will be available for the volunteers' use in the near future.  It required some plumbing and other handyman stuff.  I hung some peg board in the maintenance shed and I'll be organizing tools, etc.  I spent a day shopping for the park at Lowe's!   There are some other handyman projects I hope to be doing that I'll report on later.  In my spare time I'll return to cleaning up the grounds.  Debbie primarily helps out in the house doing cleaning.  She's also working on a computer project and she loves helping out with the animals.   The park has some new baby chicks a few weeks old.  They are the cutest!

Philosophically speaking, we love the simple environment of the house and grounds.  We even love "dressing up" in our period clothing.

Each workday we open barns,

release animals from their pens to roam the grove,

and go about our duties at a comfortable pace and hang out with low key, pleasant folks who also enjoy the place!

Sheila (park ranger) and her dog Sugar

Nancy and Carl (fellow camping volunteers)
Chris (volunteer) Sheila and Valerie (Park Manager)

Another great benefit is our park ranger, Sheila, has on three occasions since we've been here, cooked for the staff on the wood stove.

Sheila (right) is a great cook.  Here she's assisted by Nancy and Ray. 

 It's really a very down home event. The meals have all been prepared in black iron cookware on a "sure enough" wood stove. Often the vegetables come from the garden outside the kitchen window. We eat using whatever plates and utensils have been around for decades. Today we ate our meal (Hoppin John, rice, and a little meat) in Marjorie Rawling's dining room (but not on the her original chairs!).

Loved our lunch with other volunteers and  park employees
And we (today that meant me) wash the dishes in an old chipped enamel dish pan using hot water from the wood stove.

I just love the whole routine!

Even dinner this evening was somehow unique.  We, along with Carl and Nancy (the other volunteer camping couple) and Judy (a part-time park employee) and her husband Danny, went to a local catholic church for an all you can eat fish dinner. Delish! Somehow, another great event!

We love Cross Creek!!!!!!!!!

Hope you too are loving life!