Our Sunday video is up. Until we get to travel again, there will only be two more travel videos from our channel. It makes us sad to think that and to honest we are itching (like all of you) to get back out there. But, this episode is a good one!
We left Apalachicola and headed in our van to Destin, Florida. There we stayed at a State Park RESORT, saw the most amazing beach sunset, showed you how we quickly do a Cousin Eddie and gave you our review of Topsail Hill Preserve State Park.
It’s our hope and prayer that each of you who are so much a part of this crazy adventure we’re on in our van is safe and healthy… and that you’re heeding the warnings and staying home and distancing yourselves from being infected by this virus and… doing your part! We hope this glimpse into our travels in some way brightens your day!
We were surprised to find out how it feels to actually get kicked out of a park… well, kind of anyway. We had planned to utilize overflow parking for one night that was full during our stay at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Florida but to our surprise they would not allow it. You see because we had to change our reservations at this park to delay our arrival at the Everglades National Park we ended up with a 3 day stay, a non-booked day and a 2-day stay at Jonathan Dickinson.
Since we had previously utilized staying in overflow parking at other Florida State parks we assumed we’d be able to just stay in the overflow area, have fun at the park the next morning and then check back in for our last two night. So, when we checked in we asked and were told, sure… if nobody cancels for that night we’ll gladly let you stay in overflow as long as you’re in a self-contained unit. Can’t get much more self-contained than our camper van so we were extremely surprised when we checked for cancellations and found none and were then told we could not use overflow parking since we had a reservation the next night there. What??? Yep! If you have a reservation coming up you can’t arrive early and use overflow.
OK, we’ll just find a place to stay the night and everything will be fine. Wow! Southern Florida is not very dry-camping friendly. In fact they are about the opposite of dry-camping friendly. We had to drive an hour further south to find a Cracker Barrel that allowed overnight stays. So, off to Boynton Beach for that night and then it was back to the state park where we got to actually get out on the Loxahatchee River on our paddle boards and actually caught a few fish! Yeah!
So all that said, that one night could leave us bitter and upset… but, nope! We just rolled with the flow and arrived back at the gate around 10am the next morning, found our campsite for the night already open, hooked up the electric and headed out on the water for a very fun day.
And, Maggie got to meet up with two of her biggest fans, according to Shawn and Dawn Kane of Michigan. They reached out to us to find out where we were since they were in Florida and quickly made their way to the park we were at so we could spend some time together. Well, more like so they could meet the famous Maggie and we tagged along. 🙂 We found a great Mexican restaurant and headed out for dinner together. It was great getting to know them and hear about their Travato van travels too. Maggie felt right at home with them too and even rode in Shawn’s lap on the trip. See, she is the star of the channel… but we’re OK with that. She is such a bundle of love and fun and we are so lucky to have her in our life.
Have you heard the saying, birds of a feather flock together? When you feather is a Winnebago Travato camper van then it seems you flock to the same campgrounds, seeking out the same experiences. That’s what happened when we visited Florida’s oldest campground, the Highlands Hammock Campground near Sebring, Florida.
We pulled in to set up and right in front of us was a Travato… Gary Varner’s Travato to be specific. Right across the street from his was another one… Susan Pell’s Travato. Wow! Then we learned from them that Marilyn and Ann both had their Travato camper vans parked at this little campground too. 5 Travato camper vans in one park. Wow! That must be what was meant by birds of a feather flock together. What a great time we all had visiting and talking about everything from traveling, camping, eating and of course our favorite topic, Travato modifications.
As if it could only get better, our friends we’d made at our last Travato gathering, Art and Luann, came by one morning to knock on our door with donuts. We gathered up everyone else and we had a little Travato breakfast around our picnic table, right next to the Coach Whip snake that we’d seen several times, but luckily it was too much noise for him so he did not make an appearance. It is always a surprise and blessing to get to meet up with folks that know us as we travel. To be there with 5 vans all sharing stories together was just the pure definition of Travato family.
As usual we took the bikes off to ride and learned that the biking trails at Highlands Hammock are superb. One trail lead us to the Cyprus Swamp boardwalk hike, where we saw our first of many Florida alligators in the wild. If you are in or near this park this hike along this raised boardwalk trail is something you have to put on your list. The reflections of the trees, birds, alligators and sky off the black water plays tricks on your eyes. Like us, you’ll find yourself wondering where the reflection ends and actual object begins… it all kind of melts into a 360-degree picture that immerses you into nature, a place where we love to be immersed as you’ll see in this episode that features this awesome hike.
In episode 7 of our “No Reservations Florida Tour” we luck into seeing hundreds of manatees at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida. Known as the winter home of the manatee, this natural spring whose constant temperature of 74 degrees draws in hundreds, maybe thousands of manatees each winter. This winter, with the colder than usual temperatures, the numbers of manatees visiting have been staggering. And we just lucked in to it. We thought we were heading to another town to do a 2-night dry camping stay at a Cracker Barrel. But the park had openings so we decided to spend those 2 nights right there exploring the park and spending time with these beautiful, gentle creatures.
We also explored on bikes and went for an awesome hike on one of the 9-mile trails that had us searching for an armadillo. While hiking out a couple told us about seeing them so of course Lynn had to keep walking until we finally saw one.
What we learned? The best things happen when you are open to changing your plans and flexible enough to be OK with what rolls your way. What rolled our way this time was just about the most surreal setting with the manatees and just about the funniest thing ever with the armadillo. We are so grateful our channel continues to grow and so many of you are finding information and entertainment in these crazy adventures. We can remember being excited when we got to our first 100 subscribers. By the time this video is released we will probably be over 1,500 subscribers. Wow! All we can say is THANK YOU! We are so happy you are along for the journey with us.
As we continue our journey south in Florida we find ourselves in Ormond Beach, Florida at the “old Florida” style State Park, Tomoka State Park.
We originally schedule our 5 days at Tomoka State Park so we could be close to our aunt and uncle, who were scheduled to stay in Ormond Beach during that time. As we get older we realize the importance of family and making sure we do our part to visit as often as we can. Steve and Marion always go out of their way to both visit with us and make us feel welcome no matter where they are. But as circumstances would happen, they had to leave early, before we arrived, to take care of a family matter back in Miami. So, Lynn and I found ourselves at the lovely park and beautiful area with no plans and no set agenda.
And… it rained… no poured… 3 of the days we were here. One of the days it was supposed to rain all day so we took off to Ormond Beach to take in a movie and find a place to eat seafood. Both choices were perfect. It’s a great thing to do when it’s rainy or really cold… get out of the van and lean back and watch a big screen and then let someone else cook for you and clean up.
As we rode bikes when the sun was out we found out so much about this historic area and park. We met up with Scott Cornelius a.k.a. Captain Corn of the Tomoka Outpost and learned how he’s always dreamed of owning the store and how he made that dream come true. He and his wife are awesome folks and you need to look them up if you’re in the area.
Many of you who follow us on YouTube have been asking for more shots of normal day to day life inside the van… the cooking, cleaning, etc. So in this video Lynn prepares two meals for you to see and they were delicious meals too.
And what video from us would be complete without a hike or a beautiful sunset. This one has both. All in all we did not get to do the visiting and reminiscing with family we had planned but as we always do we made the best of it.
Thanks for being connected to us as we travel around North America in our Winnebago Travato 59K camper van.
We are continuing to have a blast traveling around Florida with no reservations, seeing what we can see in our Winnebago Travato 59K camper van. This week finds us at Anastasia State Park in St Augustine. If you haven’t visited this area, here’s what you’ll find. Beautiful, extremely wide beaches that when we visited were practically empty of people… lots of birds and the birds loved having the beach to themselves as did we. It was a great place to ride our bikes too and we took full advantage of that, riding the trails and riding down to the beach.
We stayed two nights and found the campground to be a great “Old / Real Florida” experience. Paved roads but sandy shaded sites made for a great combination. There were tons of sites at the park too but it was pretty full. We made our 2-night reservation a week ahead of time in January. As temperatures warm up we bet you’d have to book a little further in advance to get in here.
In this week’s episode we also met a couple who were staying in the park and recognized us from the channel. That was a blast, especially as we shared laughs about toilet paper. 🙂
On our way out of town as we headed for a longer stay at Tamoka State Park (next week’s episode BTW), we stopped in the take a look at the St Augustine Lighthouse and Museum. We did that stop in true camper van style, spending zero dollars and still enjoying the stop.
We are Lynn, Owen and Maggie and we are having a blast living in a TRAVATO camper van, traveling around the country exploring new and old places. This week started out with us in Fernandina Beach asking the ultimate question that pops up when you have no destination in mind… Which way should I turn? Left or Right? Tampa or Miami? All along we had thought maybe we’d like to just meander down to Key West taking in as much of Florida as we could. But, somehow we convinced ourselves that heading over to Tampa to be part of the Tampa RV Super Show was a good idea. So after I turned in our camping pass we had a decision to make right then… turn right and head towards Tampa or keep heading down the coast.
We turned right. RV Super Show here we come. Not so fast. Thirty minutes into the drive and Google Maps has routed us many miles north of Orlando due to accidents. So much north in fact that we were rolling past Gainesville, FL and a place another camper had told us we should visit, Payne’s Prairie State Preserve. So we stopped in and although the ranger, who was so nice to us and to Maggie, told us they were full but said we could stay in overflow parking. Well, as Lynn said, that beats the crap out of Walmart and that’s what we did.
The next morning we were at the RV Super Show and ready for a fun day. The day started out just right for us as we met up with Dave, Irene and Pistol of Cary On Vagabonds. After spending some time with them we headed out into the heat to see what we could see. A few hours of that and we were back in the van discussing the RVs and people we’d seen and met so far. Then it was off to a Winnebago Travato meetup where we were so happy to meet so many online friends face to face. Later Winnebago fed the 70+ Travato owners to a pizza dinner around a circle of fellow T owners. We went to bed glad we had made the trek over to Tampa.
The next morning we were up early heading to St Petersburg to spend the day with longtime friends. By dark we were driving back towards Orlando looking for a Cracker Barrel to pull in, eat and spend the night and realizing how very much we missed our dear friends in St Pete. Our Cracker Barrel turned out to be the one right beside the Daytona Speedway and it was from there that we watched and filmed the January 21, 2019 lunar eclipse, blood red moon. Wow! It was a spectacular way to end a great weekend. We slept like babies, well except for the diapers and the waking up every 2 hours to nurse part. Thanks for being part of our journey as we trek down the coast of Florida searching for adventure, fun and friends… not necessarily in that order.
We were so happy to have a 70-degree day in NE Florida, about as Northeast as you can get actually, to go for what ended up being an 8-mile hike at Fort Clinch State Park. If you’ve never been to this state park let me sum it up for you… Spanish Moss, Live Oak Trees, River On One Side and Atlantic Ocean on the other side. In other words, it is literally a slice of heaven.
Here’s our VLOG for our 4-hour hike and tour of both campgrounds:
How We Roll –When we travel we usually have one jewel to visit at each anchor point of the trip. Our jewel for this anchor point was supposed to be Crooked River State Park in Georgia (<— watch the video here). After spending one day there we drove back across the bridge into Florida to try out another hike at Fort Clinch. We’d heard great things about it but thought the best of the trip was behind us. We were wrong. The best part of the trip and probably the best coastal hike we’ve ever taken was right there at Fort Clinch.
The Drive Into The Park – To be honest the drive into the park to get to the actual fort, which Lynn and I didn’t even get to visit this trip, was pretty enough to warrant the $6 per car entry fee. You drive under what many times appears to be a canopy of live oak trees and spanish moss, with low hanging limbs that are protected by warning signs. Take you time on the drive in and enjoy it.
The Parking Lot – The parking lot is right in front of the visitors center and the entrance to the fort. It closes around 4:30 so if you hike first, like we did, make sure you can make it back to visit the fort before it closes. Otherwise, visit it first and then do the hike… if you’re up for it.
The Hike – The hike is surprisingly hilly for a coastal trail. You walk in one direction and mountain bikes whiz my in the other direction. We had several close calls but managed to not cause anyone to fall or get creamed ourselves. Remember that road you drove on coming in? Well the trail hugs that road… all the way to the park entrance and then you cross the road and, you guessed it, hike back to the visitor center. The day we visited it was 66-70 degrees outside… perfect weather for the hike. We took water and crackers and snacks, as well as our camera equipment. If you hike this in the heat of summer make sure you take A LOT of water. There are no bathrooms or water on the trails so water and the “comfort” from a comfort station are waiting for you back at the visitors center. If at anytime you feel like you can’t make the entire loop just cross the road and you should be able to find the trail heading back. Trust me, you do not want to be 4-5 miles, that seems like 40-50 miles away from the visitor center when mother nature calls. If you find yourself in that predicament, like I did, you will find lots of privacy off the trail with trees for the easy relief and sticks to dig holes for the hard on your old knees relief.
Our Thoughts? Do It Again? Well, yes I think we would. In fact when we return through the area next month we plan to try to stay a few days at one of the sites in the 2 campgrounds. We drove through and documented both campgrounds in the video if you want to see for yourself, but it looks like being on the river or the ocean would be a great choice with lots of water activities.
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