Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: March 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Part 1 - Lesson Learned

Wind Creek State Park in Alexander City, Alabama! We had read the glowing reviews in advance and understood “going in” Wind Creek State Park boasts the largest state-operated campground in the United States with 626 sites. 

We arrived late Wednesday afternoon, and were assigned site B245. The Ranger said “you will enjoy this site” and we did. We had wonderful views of Lake Martin, quiet and serene evenings, we even slept with our windows open to take in the cool night breezes. Mornings we awoke gently to the little chirping birds, and seeing the awesome sunrises.

However it all changed Friday! RVs, 5th wheels, tenters and travel trailers, towing along throngs of boats, kids, weird paraphernalia and I may add…yapping dogs. What happened? The weekend happened to the largest state-operated campground in the United States with 626 sites…and we would guess 90% of them were filled. 

The kids and families were all having a great time, and at a reasonable price in today’s world! It really was great to see people and families out having fun, playing with their kids, fishing, boating, and enjoying campfires. 

We get it! Not every day camping is a day camping is paradise for us.
Lesson learned! Stay with our plan of camping in more secluded campgrounds…even on the weekends. SEE PHOTOS HERE

Part 2 - The Battle of Horseshoe Bend

Saturday was a perfect day to escape the “crowd” at Wind Creek State Park and learn some history. So, we jumped into our Honda Fit and headed to Horseshoe Bend National Military Park.

The park commemorated the 198th anniversary, (the actual battle was on March 27, 1814), of a battle you may never have heard of - we had not or if we had, it was buried as an obscure footnote in our high school American history class. Yet, it was a battle that played a key role in shaping the career of General Andrew Jackson and lead to the end of the Creek Indian Wars.

In the treaty that followed, Creeks ceded 23 million acres to the United States much of which is now the state of Alabama. Andrew Jackson “Old Hickory” went on gain more notoriety in the Battle of New Orleans and ultimately to become the seventh President of the United States.

It was Jackson who signed the Indian Removal Bill requiring all tribes to move west of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). This was the “Trail of Tears” journey.

The park had set up several “living history camps” consisting of Creek and Cherokee hunting camps as well as, Tennessee Militia and United States Infantry camps. The “camps” were basically exhibits featuring skills such as flint knapping, hide tanning and basket weaving.  There was also a musket and cannon firing demonstration.

We spent the afternoon learning the history and soaking in the beauty of the “bend”. It was hard to imagine the carnage that had taken place her almost 200 years ago. SEE PHOTOS HERE

Friday, March 23, 2012

Eufaula – Southern Charm


One of the great things about focusing on the journey vs. the destination is that you are free to make detours. It was a detour that landed us in Eufaula, AL. After leaving Three Rivers State Park and crossing from Florida into Alabama we checked the web and our cool new Rand McNally GPS for interesting towns to visit and up popped Eufaula. A bit more checking and we found Lakepoint Resort State Park and Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge both about 5 miles north of town.

Eufaula sits right on the bank of the Chattahoochee River (Lake Eufaula). Creek Indian tribes, the Eufaula’s first inhabited the area. The fascinating and charming town has a rich history in the pre-civil war southern cotton trade. Today, its many beautifully preserved mansions are a major tourist draw as is the fact that this is a bass fishing mecca. There are over 60 historic buildings and homes on the self-guided driving tour and many are on the National Register of Historic Places. We were able tour the Shorter Mansion and Fendall Hall. What made it extra special was the fact that all the dogwood, flowering plum, and azaleas were all in full bloom.

Staying at Lakepoint Resort State Park was also a treat. We opted for a site in a secluded wooded area away from the lake. We could still see the lake and there was only one other RV in our loop. As I mentioned earlier Bass fishing is big here and the State Park has its own marina, boat rentals and guides. The park is also one of the gateways into the National Wildlife Refuge. While we didn’t log any new birds to add to our life list we still enjoyed our evening ride. SEE PHOTOS HERE

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Three Rivers State Park

What a little gem! Three Rivers State Park is just as peaceful and serene as can be. It is located north of Sneads, on the shores of Lake Seminole near the Georgia border, in northwestern Florida. It is named for the main rivers associated with Lake Seminole: the Chattahoochee and the Flint (which flow into it from Georgia), and the Apalachicola (whose source is the lake itself.)

The camp hosts – Terry and Bob were just fantastic! Helpful, friendly, and having been camp hosts ourselves, we especially enjoyed their contribution to the campers and this 30 site park.

We had a great time canoeing, checking out the birds, and doing some hiking on the interpretative, well maintained trails. What fun! We even got a glimpse of turtles, and alligators. Take a look and see for yourself! SEE PHOTOS HERE

We’re truly enjoying our travels in Tiger III, our Winnebago 2011 Adventurer. Every day we feel so blessed, and most thankful to Lazydays for their attention to quality and detail and helping us to achieve our dream.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Anastasia State Park

Where? How about camping at Anastasia State Park? Where?

That’s what we wondered when we asked around for a place to go while spending time away from Lazy Days waiting for Tiger III to be readied.

So we headed there and what an enjoyable time we had! There we were…camping in a very private wooded area that was within walking distance to the Atlantic Ocean along one of the softest sand, prettiest beaches we have seen, in addition to the abundance of beautiful birds, amazing sunrises and sunsets. We had a great time beachcombing and taking photographs.

Anastasia State Park was our “center of operations” for adventures and discoveries in the St. Augustine, Florida area.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Our "Adventurer" Adventure


In our Feb 23 Blog post “Friends and Family” I talked about staying at Lazydays Campground near Tampa. In that post I said, “that an RVer going to Lazydays is like a “chocoholic being set loose in a Godiva factory” and also promised more “detail” in a future post. Well, this is that post.

To dispense with the suspense – Yes, we bought a new RV. But wait… there is more.  JoAnne and I have decided to make a major change in our lives and become fulltime RVers. While we have talked and dreamed about going fulltime for several years, I can assure you that when we started this trip we had NO intention of either buying a new RV or going fulltime. This was not a decision we made lightly or without a lot of thought. As I mentioned we had talked about going full time for many years. This past year of travel and volunteering as camp hosts answered many of the questions we had about being on the road for long extended periods - for both of us the decision  just "felt" right. JoAnne is always reminding me that it is all about the journey – not the destination. I agree and this has been quite a journey.

Ok, now to back up a bit and fill in the details. While camping here in February, we couldn’t resist looking at all the beautiful new rigs on the Lazydays lot. We started out on our own but soon realized without a guide (salesperson) we would wander around the huge lots aimlessly. We cried “uncle” and were introduced to Tom Johnston, who quizzed us about our RVing preferences and then drove us around in his golf cart showing us several wonderful RVs. As we narrowed the field (mind you we still had no intention of buying an RV) he took one last look at his long inventory list and mentioned that he had a 2011 (one year old) used Winnebago Adventure with 7,000 miles on it coming in on trade. While he couldn’t show us the used RV, he did have a 2012 with the same floor plan as the 2011.  At this point I have to tell you that the Winnebago Adventurer has always appealed to us but we had never really walked through one. At one point during our tour of the Adventurer we both looked at each other and said “we could live in this.” It felt good and seemed to be the perfect RV for our needs and being “used” it would be affordable. Yes, if this all worked out we would make a huge life style change and hit the road fulltime.

But it would be several days before they would have the trade-in on site – no problem; we were off on our planned trip to visit our friends in Key West for the next week. So, we put down a refundable deposit on a sight-un-seen RV.

While in Key West, Tom called several times to give us status updates and finally told us the Adventure was at Lazydays and sent us tons of pictures. While it looked great we kept our expectations and excitement in check until we could see it in person – besides there was still all the negotiation stuff that needed to take place.

On February 21 we returned to Tampa from Key West and headed to Lazydays…and bought our new home. Well almost, Ford (the RV chassis) had a minor recall, which needed to be fixed before we could take possession. How long? We were told it could take a couple of weeks (this is where the “journey” part comes in). No problem, we would just head for the East Coast and Anastasia State Park until the RV was ready. Surprise of surprises - it was ready early. We headed back to Lazydays and have now spent the past week transferring all our stuff from the old RV (Tiger II) to the new one (Tiger III) and checking out all the systems – all good!

Yesterday we headed out on the first day of our new journey. We still have to go back to Colorado and get our sticks and bricks home ready to rent. If everything falls into place, home will be wherever we are parked starting in June or July.

There is one more “twist” to this story. The very day we decided to buy our new RV and change our lifestyle, I got a call from Glacier National Park. They had kept our resume from last year when we had applied to be camp hosts and wanted to know if we were still interested in being hosts. Indeed we are. We have accepted a volunteer camp host position in Apgar Campground for this August and September.

JoAnne is also fond of saying, if it is supposed to happen it will … Wow!

A final comment... We want to acknowledge the really great experience we had at Lazydays.  Lazydays bills itself as "friends and family".  As corny as that may sound - that is how we felt we were treated.  Smart marketing and branding - yes, but they lived up to their promises. From our first meeting with our sales person Tom Johnston (in above photo) to our final check with delivery manager Ken Irvin every encounter exceeded our expectations. Business manager Craig Gilbertson, delivery inspecter Bob Voght and mechanic Manny were all great to work with. Never did we feel pressured or rushed. We drove out of the campground knowing that is there was ever a Tiger IV we would return here.

SEE PHOTOS HERE (BTW - we removed the decals)

Friday, March 2, 2012

St. Augustine and the Forts


Many times when we hit a “new” city we find a tour. In this case we hopped aboard the Old Town Trolley for a 22-stop one-hour ride through Old St. Augustine. Yes, it is all very commercial but it did give us broad overview and ideas of places we wanted to go back to and explore in more depth.

Besides Castillo de San Marcos it was most interesting learning about the influence of Henry Flagler and seeing the Hotel he built which now houses Flagler College. Where did Flagler get all his money you ask? He along with John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil.

Needless to say we also made our way down St. George Street – which like the Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall is a pedestrian mall full of shops and restaurants.

Yes, St. Augustine is an interesting city full of history but as mentioned above the biggest draw for us was three historic sites that told the story of both French and Spanish occupation, British rule and ultimately Florida statehood.

Castillo de San Marcos was the Spanish empires northernmost outpost. Construction started in 1672 and completed in 1695. It was built to fortify St. Augustine and protect the Spanish Galleons loaded with gold and silver and “exotic” spices looted from South and Central America natives from pirate raids as they sailed the Gulf Stream back to Spain. We all know about Ponce de Leon and the Fountain of Youth – but his most significant discovery was the Gulf Steam.) It is an impressive place and still has great view of the Intracoastal Waterway and Matanzas Bay.

Downstream about 14 miles from St. Augustine is Fort Matanzas National Monument. This like Castillo de San Marcos was part of the Spanish defense system against the British. To get to the Fort you take a very short boat ride with a park ranger as your guide and historian.

 Our final trip was to Fort Caroline National Memorial and Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. This is where the French – who interestingly enough founded this fort in 1564 in attempt to lay claim to North America and a year before St. Augustine was founded. Unlike the Coquina Rock construction of Castillo de San Marcos, this fort was built from timber and has long since disappeared – but all the history was none-the-less the history is fascinating.

Combine the history of all three forts and starting with the 1513 Spanish claim to Florida you have several hundred years of European history being played out in the new world.

Tomorrow is JoAnne's Birthday and we will be celebrating at the Columbia Restaurant in St. Augustine.