Monday, Feb. 26, 2018: Travel Back to Florida
Mid-afternoon, we leave Cleveland, where it is 48 degrees and sunny, for Florida, where Mike has a couple of meetings. We travel in Escape, Advanced RV’s Super High Top demo model. For dinner, we stop at a rest area for soup and salad from home, and then stop for the night at a Pilot truck stop between Cincinnati and Lexington.
Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018: Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park and a Bump in the Night
After a good night’s sleep, we are on the road by 7:30am, having green smoothies from home for breakfast. We achieve our goal of meeting my sister and her husband at noon at Big River Grille in Chattanooga at Hamilton Place, just off I-75, in a high-end mall. After lunch Mike and I stop at Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. We learn the gruesomeness of these multiple day Civil War battles from the short, well-done film at the Visitor Center and then walk one of the many hiking trails, marked with numerous monuments to the soldiers from both sides who fought here.
About 11PM, as we are falling asleep at a truck stop near Macon, Georgia, we feel a great jolt to the camper, like an earthquake. Mike quickly throws on some clothes and goes out. A 5th wheel, backing in next to us, has hit our front corner on the driver’s side. The driver apologetically says, “This rig is too big and we’ve driven too long today.” He gives us all the information for making a claim with his insurance.
Thursday, March 1, 2018: Sarasota: Longboat Key and Lido Key
We enjoy a leisurely start, thinking we have plenty of time to meet friends at noon on Longboat Key in Sarasota on the west coast, without reckoning the traffic at peak season. With heavy congestion and two slowdowns for accidents, travel is slow and we arrive a bit late at our friends’ new home overlooking the Gulf. After lunch, we enjoy a swim in their pool and a soak in their hot tub. We head to Lido Key, where Mike has a two-day meeting starting this evening. I check into the Lido Beach Hotel for the night, leaving the camper out-front in the hotel designated area. A friend and I walk to St. Armand’s Circle for dinner at Blu Kouzina, an excellent Greek restaurant.
Friday, March 2, 2018 – Wednesday, March 7: Travel to Sarasota
In the morning, I meet friends at the Lido Beach Hotel for a walk on the beach and then do laundry at the hotel. For lunch, we walk to the Lido Key public beach and concession stand for their outstanding lobster rolls. I relax by the pool at the hotel until I drive the camper to meet Mike at a friends’ house after his meeting. For dinner, we go to St. Armand’s Circle to Crab and Fin. We move into the friends’ house for a few days, leaving the camper on the street out front.
On Sunday Mike and I go to the Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, the spring training home for the Baltimore Orioles. Today, they beat the Boston Red Sox 10 -7, in an action-packed game.
On Tuesday, we hike in the Myakka River State Park, south of Sarasota on SR 72. We see alligators sunning themselves on the banks of the river, and, using the park’s trail map, hike through the shady live oak and palm tree forest and climb a lookout, overseeing the sandy pine flatwoods and sunny dry prairies.
On Wednesday afternoon, we drive down to Siesta Key to visit friends, watch the sunset on this beautiful, white beach, and stay the night in their parking lot.
Thursday, March 8, 2018: Florida State Parks…the Real Florida
About 7:30AM, we depart our friends’ house at Siesta Key. We drive to Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park off Gulf Shore Drive in Naples. On this undisturbed barrier island, we walk the white sand beach. The Florida State Park tag is “…the Real Florida” and we imagine this area untouched, with its sand dunes, mangrove swamps, and coastal hammock (forest). The Calusa Native Americans and later the Seminoles lived on this coast.
Late in the afternoon, we drive up to Koreshan State Park, where they have overnight camping, and we get their last available site. It has been a couple of years since we stayed in a campground and we quickly remember what we used to enjoy: saying hello to our neighbors, one from Ontario, Canada, and the other from Maine, and strolling through the campground, seeing all the different RV’s and where they are from. Even in this campground, we did not bother to hook up. Two large, luxurious buses drop off middle school kids from Boca Ratan for a camping experience and the kids are getting set up in their newly pitched bubble tents. It is a cool night, so inside the camper, we are happy to find that the smoked, peppered salmon, avocado, mango and red-leafed lettuce, all from home, still make a good salad. On Mike’s I-pad through Netflicks, we watch the film Wind River Range with Jeremy Renner and an episode of Orange is the New Black.
Friday, March 9, 2018: Koreshan Historic Site and Night in Naples
In the morning, we enjoy the view outside our window of blue sky and palm trees. Mike checks with our neighbors to make sure that our subwoofers during last night’s movie did not bother them. They did not hear it, confirming the good sound insulation in Escape. In chatting, Mike learns that the Canadians are close neighbors and friends of Natalie MacMaster, the Cape Breton Celtic fiddler and step-dancer, whom we have heard a couple of times in Cleveland. We enjoy hearing about their rich farming lives near Peterboro, where MacMaster now lives. The world is small. We walk along the nature trail and end up at the Koreshan Historic Site. As we visit the restored historic structures, one docent tells us about the Koreshans starting their utopian community in Utica, New York in 1880, moving to Chicago, and then to this property in 1883. Another docent tells the story of the strong women who led this community, the last one dying here in the 1980’s.
We shower in the camper, fill the water, and dump the tanks, pushing to be out at the 1PM checkout time. We drive down I-41 to the hotel where we are meeting a group for a sunset cruise. Onboard, we enjoy the talk by the naturalist who points out the various keys and bays we are passing and identifies the birds, including flocks of skimmers flying low over the water and several brown pelicans. At the point where the bay meets the Gulf, we enjoy a perfect sunset. As we motor back to the hotel, bottlenose dolphins dive around us and play in our wake. After dinner in the hotel, we decide to spend the night in the hotel parking lot. We put down the E&P automatic levelers and close the window shades.
Saturday, March 10, 2018: Busted! And Lovers Key State Park
Last night at 2AM, two uniformed security officers from the hotel knock on our door and politely ask what we are doing parking there. Mike explains that we had been at the hotel for a sunset cruise and dinner, and using a line recommended by our RVing friend Dave Munro, says he had a few drinks, thought he should not drive, and since there were no rooms available at the hotel, we stayed the night here. One guard thanks Mike for his honesty – Mike had one drink – but explains that this is private property and we must be out first thing in the morning. Mike politely says this is our plan. We sleep the rest of the night and depart at 7:30AM. This is the first time we have had any trouble “sleep-stopping.” We were tucked into a normal parking spot, but maybe the levelers and shades gave us away.
We get coffee at the mall across the street, read the newspaper, and then drive a short way up to Lovers Key State Park. We walk five miles on the beach, mostly in a light rain, enjoying the shorebirds, pelicans, gulls and herons. The beach is pretty empty. We have lunch in the camper, take a nap, shower and get ready to travel to our dinner event in Naples. On our way south to the dinner, we wash the camper and stop at Whole Foods for the few things for our trip home. After dinner and showing the camper to several people at the party, Mike, who had no alcohol, drives north for about two hours to get a jump on our 20-hour trip home. We stay overnight at a rest stop south of Tampa.
Sunday, March 11, 2018: Push North
This morning we get coffee and bagels at Dunkin’ Donuts and continue to travel north on I-75 to SR301 at Ocala. At the Orange Shop, a road side market, we buy bags of Temple oranges and grapefruit to take to the office, and continue up to I-95 and then I-77. At dusk, we stop at a beautiful new rest area near Olin, North Carolina, the I-77 Iredell Co. Rest Area, which serves both I-77 North and South. We walked the large, elliptical walkway around it, enjoy the small fountain and the clean, modern bathrooms.
Monday, March 12, 2018: Travel Back to the Cold
This morning it is sleeting, with temperatures in the 30’s. The snow and ice continue on into Ohio and I am grateful for Mike’s good driving and the Sprinter’s steadiness in these conditions. We travel and make it home around 4PM, already missing the warmth and sun of Florida.