Monthly Archives: February 2015

Day 428 Life on the Road as a Family

Today is a short windshield day, driving from one spectacular beach to the next – Henderson Beach State Park . Hard to leave the beauty of the peninsula , but so nice to see new areas . We love being on the road again !

IMG_5365 I’ve said it before , but have to say it again – it’s surprising to see so many pine trees here . We passed a huge mill still in operation and much of the history they had on display in the Port St Joe library was about the lumber industry . Beautiful old photos from the 1930’s. My favorite painting there was of the salt works being attacked by the Union army during the civil war . The Union was trying to ruin their food supplies . A man that was there drew a picture , then another man later painted it . The salt works were huge ! Much bigger than the cairn style that Lewis & Clark used near Astoria that winter . The traffic was bad thru the little towns , so this stretch is a nice relief . We’ve already been passed three times on the right , when they were in a right hand only turn lane . Florida drivers are the worst ! Then they gun it to get to the next stop light and slam on their brakes when they get there . We’re the turtle to their hare. Happy Sunday from the Panhandle !

Day 419 on Life on the Road as a Family, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, FL

IMG_5021These are the days that I live for on this trip… here is where we studied today! That was my view!  Palm trees rustling in the wind! The campground itself doesn’t have wifi, and we didn’t feel like driving the 20 miles into Port St Joe for the library again today, so we went near the closed concession stand, moved a picnic table out of the wind, and did school on their wifi.  (It’s for everyone, always crowded.) Eliza and Nate worked in the car, then they’d come out, then back to the little car they’d go.  I had to be outside, even if it was windy and cold.  (Did you know that you can’t touch your phone and get it to work with gloves on?!)  So I studied for my real estate exam here; rough life.

Then Nate and I went for a walk down the bay beach.  It’s only about a mile long, but is a crescent shaped little piece of paradise.  The water is so clear you can see every hermit crab going in and out of his shell, all the scallop shells that I need to collect, and tiny fish trying to hide in the brown grass.  We were throwing rocks and once again, I have to admit that Nate beat me.  He can throw about twice as far as me now, wow!  We found a huge dead turtle that looked like he’d been there awhile.  (I talked to the ranger later and he said it probably died from swallowing plastic bags.)  Nate tried to pry the back off so we could see inside, but it was too tight.  We found tons of cannonball jellyfish and dropped a shell on one to see if it would respond.  It didn’t.

Then we’re walking along on our way back to Eliza and Nate says, “oh, look, there’s an octopus”.  We couldn’t believe it!  He was just the most rich color brown, gliding along next to us, about 10 feet out. Then he’d stop and spread out.  Nate kept walking, and he’d follow.  We tried to see if he was following Nate’s shadow, but he didn’t do it every time.

IMG_5037I asked Nate to run back to the car and get Eliza so she could see it, and then I yelled to an older couple that were in the parking lot to come see, too.  They were from Canada and were just as excited as we were.  We’ve never seen an octopus in the wild!  Only in aquariums and movies. This was much better.

IMG_5044So he swam along side as we walked, then we’d stop, and he would, too.  I yelled to another family that was down the beach, and then waited for them to catch up to see it. They were from Israel and the son just kept saying “a real one, a real one” as I walked away smiling.

I LOVE days on the road like this.  To explore with my family and be outside.  I do not care one whit for fancy clothes, cars or houses – this I care about.  I am so glad we made all the sacrifices we did for this trip.  It’s worth it for days like today.

Day 414 of Life on the Road as a Family, St Joseph Peninsula State Park, FL

IMG_4868Pulled out of our campground in Ocala early this morning – 8:14 a.m. – and hit the road.  Aren’t these trees gorgeous? This is the country road that I walked the dogs on each morning.  Jessica scared the cattle, Lady wanted to play with the miniature horses, and I loved it all.  It was a nice week in the country, but… the road calls.

IMG_4879Can you hear me screaming?!  I was, loudly, every time we came around a corner to this view of the Gulf.  We were back on the water and I enjoyed every moment of it.  The rest of my family isn’t nuts about water like I am, so they’d look up from their devices, mumble, “oh yeah, Mom” and go back to whatever they were doing.  I took about 50 pictures like this because every one seemed to be a better view.  We drove through little towns and there were road signs for deer, bear and then a bear with a cub – but we didn’t see any of them – just the heron and ibis and seagulls over the water.

We arrived at the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park promptly at check in time, 1 p.m., and drove to our site.  I planned on a 15 minute set up and then we would hit the beach.  Ah, best laid plans.  We got to our site, #33, only to find someone still in it and stuff spread all over – it didn’t look like they were a few minutes late pulling out, it looked like they weren’t going.  I was in the tow vehicle, so hopped out and went up and knocked on the RV door.  A dog barked.  No answer.  I knocked again and out came a couple who were not happy to see me.  I had obviously woken them up from a nap.  I asked if they were leaving and he said, no, they had the site for the week.  Then he showed me that the markers for the site numbers were behind the site – so I had knocked on the wrong door!  Oops!  So sorry!

So off to the next site I trudge and the young guy opens the door and says, “hey, yeah, uh, we were thinking about leaving” and goes on to explain how it’s not time yet.  The park ranger who checked us in specifically said to make sure we kept one clock on Eastern time, because we were right on the border of Central time, and phones/devices would go back and forth and you’d end up not knowing when supper was.  This guy said he was on Central time, so he had another 45 minutes, and shut the door. You’ve got to be kidding.  We’re blocking the road, and Dan doesn’t want to go back around because we had to go through some palm trees that scraped down both sides of the RV to get into this part of the campground. So he pulls into a nearby site and suggests I go talk to the ranger up front.

Which I do because I want to get to the beach NOW! I drove up to the office again and she said she’d send two rangers out to deal with this delightful young man. By the time we all got back, he pulled out and waved jauntily as he drove by.  Nerd bucket!

So an hour later we’re walking on the beach.  It was all worth it.IMG_4913 Look at the color of that water! And it’s sunny! And we’re in shorts in February!

IMG_4927Sunsets are a big deal in Florida.  People stop for them, plan where to go to watch them, and revere them.  I’m right there with all of it.  You have to look this state park up on  a map so you can see how it sticks out into the Gulf.  The sand is clean and white, the wind blows gently, and the sun sets majestically.  There were about 20 of us on the beach and we all stayed until it was completely down, then quietly walked back to our sites.  Another perfect day on the road.

Day 412 of Life on the Road as a Family, Ocala FLvel

IMG_4812Our 3rd favorite library in the country!!!  Aren’t the paintings beautiful?!  We lucked out when Dan found this regional library online and it would be open the week we here.  Many libraries have such limited budgets now, they definitely aren’t open 7 days a week, and sometimes they are only open for a few hours a day.  This library opened at 10 a.m, so the kids got to sleep in, which they loved.

It was a busy place, too.  We lined up with about 20 other people each morning, and then we all would walk briskly to our favorite tables.  I liked the one by the big window, Dan liked the private conference room, and Nate and Eliza just wanted electrical plug-ins for all our devices.  It was a nice, quiet place to work for the week, and we were grateful.

Day 407 of Life on the Road as a Family, Naples to Ocala, FL

IMG_4783Hard to say goodbye to this beautiful site!  We will miss the paved site, lake view, no bugs (they spray for them as opposed to the Keys), 2 pools and 3 hot tubs.  We will miss riding our bikes and dodging golf carts.  We will miss looking for gators in the lake!  But it’s also exciting… we’ve been here a month and that’s a long time.  The road calls.

IMG_4799Of course, one of the first things we have to do is get GAS.  It’s nice that the prices have gone down. We paid $4.57 (equivalent) in Canada, so $2.28 is easier on the wallet.  Dan is getting so good planning our routes now that he found this gas station online and could see how big the bays were to pull in.  We filled the propane, then pulled around here for gas.  We never know how the highway exits will be, so it’s a relief to find a good stop.

IMG_4802We are definitely heading into the country, and it is beautiful!  This area is horse and cattle country, and we’ve seen tons running in the fields.  Reminds us of home.  I didn’t get a good shot of the trees, but we mostly drove with pine trees on either side of the highway. Who knew this far south that there would be pines? So cool.  And you can see the sand in this picture.  “They” say that Florida is built on sand and swamps, and now we do believe it.

Right after I took this picture, we came upon a huge car crash.  At least 12 vehicles that we could count, and an RV with its entire front missing.  We can’t tell what started it, but it was sad to see.  Luckily the highway is divided with a huge grassy area in between and guard rails on either side, or they would have come to our side.  We said a prayer for them and the many rescuers who were working, and then noted the odometer because we could tell the highway was backed up – 15 miles down the road and it was a still a parking lot.  People were out of their cars talking to each other, and others were backing up down the highway to the closest exit, or turning around and driving down the shoulder.  I’ve said before how bad Florida drivers are, and we have seen crashes almost every day living here.  So we are glad each time we go out and come back safely!

We pulled into the next RV park outside Ocala, and headed straight to the pool.  Which wasn’t heated! Argh!  Reality!  You get what you pay for and we definitely didn’t go upscale this week. We needed a place in between Naples and our next state campground, and there weren’t many RV parks that would take kids and pets – again we ran into the 2 restrictions.  So this one would take us, and it’s fine for the week.  Now we get to watch the Super Bowl – go Seahawks!!!

Day 400 of Life on the Road as a Family, Everglades, FL


To celebrate our 400th day on the road, we headed south to the Everglades and climbed a wooden tower to get a look at the area – gorgeous! But exactly what we’d been seeing in the Keys, so we weren’t surprised. Everglades City and the National Park service area here weren’t quite what we expected – a little run down and tired and hardly anyone around. We had to take the selfie below because no one else climbed the tower while we were there!


I wanted a shot of us as a family on this auspicious day because I can still remember Day 1, Day 100, Day 222, etc. Little did I know then how much we all would have changed by Day 400. Dan and I are looking and acting more middle-aged than I ever would have guessed. We both have aches and pains and things wrong that if we really talk about it, we end up laughing. Eliza has morphed into a young lady with all the chutzpah of a princess. She can go anywhere now. Nate, dear Nate, has matured into a young man who’s 7 inches taller, has a deep voice and a mustache, and knows what he wants to do with his life. All that out of 400 Days on the Road.

We wanted to have a fun lunch somewhere, but there wasn’t any place open, so we settled for Subway in an old gas station. A fervent plea from me to “not touch anything you don’t have to” will tell you how the sanitation was.

After a quick lunch, we hopped back in the car to drive Alligator Alley. I’ve been waiting for this for months! I’ve heard alligators splashing in the water near me and seen their snouts sticking out of the water, but had yet to see one full size. This highway is known for them and so many people told me to drive it, so I was excited.

After counting about 20 of them on the sides of the canal, and me yelling and screaming, “I saw another one, Nate, how many is that?”, Dan finally pulled over and the kids and I ran across the road to get the picture below. This guy was huge! He didn’t even blink, and barely moved, but I was thrilled. We’ve read so much about them, and to finally get to see them all basking in the sun was really fun. We lost track of how many we got to see.


Alligator Alley took us right to Marco Island, a popular and very upscale resort area here in south Florida. It was beautiful and the shops looked nice, but who cares, let’s go to the beach. Which is easier said than done. You find beach access, then you pay $8 to park (I know, Dad, it killed me, too) and then you walk out to….a bay. Only they don’t tell you that when you pull in and none of the signs say it. Smart Eliza read a funny sign and figured out that we had to drive to the southern most point of the parking lot, then walk to the beach. Which was a mile out! Over a boardwalk for the swamp, left at the bay, then walk on sand until you reach the water. Took us about 15 minutes to get there!


The beach was gorgeous – white sand, warm air, and beautiful blue sky. I loved the sky and then Eliza got in the shot and now I love it even more. The water was really cold, so I didn’t even contemplate swimming and somehow got caught up in a conversation with a man from Boston who had just been to Silverton for a wedding, so he wanted to share all the details with me. Agh! I just want to walk the beach and pick up shells! After about 20 minutes I was finally able to get away. The rest of my family had been watching and enjoying their beach time and here I was, engaged by a talker. I need to learn to be more rude.

After I got my fill of the surf, back we went to our little RV park. We rode our bikes to the hot tub/pool, dodging the golf carts carrying dogs and older-than-me-people slowly riding bikes on the wrong side of the road. I’m sure I made some spectacular dinner to celebrate our 400 days without killing each other, but since I didn’t note it in my journal, I’ll just state here that I did, and it becomes fact.

Another perfect day on the road.