Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Horseshoe Cove RV Resort, Bradenton FL

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bradenton FL 001The day before we finally decided to leave Pellicer Creek Campground we booked a week stay at Horseshoe Cove RV Resort in Bradenton Florida. This was a long drive of about 213 miles which we hadn’t planned to do but since we stayed an extra week at Pellicer CG we decided not to stop near Orlando. The days drive was all Interstate which is my least favorite place to drive as it is very boring and always too much traffic since I like to go about 62 mph.
We left about 10:30 am and had lunch at a rest stop where we gave the generator a bit of exercise which we know is good for it to run awhile under load. We rolled through Orlando and later through southeast Tampa without incident. By 3:30 pm we made it to our destination in Bradenton.
bradenton FL 007Here is where it got interesting…
We pulled up to the gated entrance and told the gate person we had a week reservation. She looked at her paperwork and computer saying that my reservation was not in the system. I said well you charged my credit card for the one night deposit so I should be in it. She said that it would be no problem as she could assign us a site and we could check with the office in the morning to let them know which site we were in. No problem…
She gave us a nice pull through site in an area where there were mostly motorhomes as this is a Carefree Resort which caters to the over 55 crowd and has mostly manufactured housing on the lots. Sharon got me aligned perfectly in the spot. Usually I do all the heavy lifting when we set up but due to the sutures I have from my surgery Sharon has to be the heavy lifter for us for the next several weeks.
bradenton FL 003So we got the bikes off of the car and everything set up including our patio stuff. We then made dinner and settled in for the night.  The next morning I sauntered  over to the office to let them know where we were but I was told by the office clerk that I was in the wrong site and had to move. After I protested a bit she finally took the time to look at the site I was in and then realized no one had it reserved for the duration of our stay. Great! So I asked if we could stay put.  Her answer was we could  but to stay I had to pay $5 more per night. 
bradenton FL 008Another $5.00 per night! You have to be kidding me I said after your staff made the mistake and put me in the wrong spot. Not flinching she said if I didn't want to move I would have to pay $35.00 more for our weeks stay? What a way to do business? SO I said I would like to talk with Sharon and check out the other site and get back with them.
The other site, to put it mildly, was unpleasant. So I went back to the RV and wrote an email off to Carefree’s Corporate office to ask for a $35.00 refund since I was going to pay it rather than have to move. After explaining this fiasco to Sharon, she  wanted to speak with the office person to see if she could get them to reconsider especially since it was their mistake in the first place not to mention our circumstance and inconvenience. She would not budge… Sharon got a little angry and a bit vocal with her when her manager stepped out of his office to see what the commotion was…
Suddenly it was going to be okay after all for us to stay on our site and he said that of course we shouldn’t have to pay anything additional since it was their fault. So we didn’t have to move after all… This is what should have happened in the first place but it didn’t. RANT ON Why is that in America that only the squeaky wheel gets oiled? RANT OFF
bradenton FL 009Well the manager saved me from having to write a very un-complimentary blog about this resort and their staff’s attitudes as we was very friendly, kind and understanding even if it may have been the result of Sharon’s emotional discussion with the desk person. SO with all that behind us we walked around to explore the park we are in for a week.
It is an older park with 475 sites, but most have park models on them, and has a really nice feature nearby, a 12-acre private island wooded park along the Braden River. The island has a lighted fishing pier, nature trails and a huge screened-in picnic pavilion. At the end of one trail is a neat comfy swing in a gazebo overlooking the peaceful river.
bradenton FL 005They also have some great facilities. They have four laundry rooms, three bathhouses and a dog walk for pet-owners. They also have a large recreation center with a kitchen, library, billiards and darts room, a crafts room and a gaming room. Outside they have shuffleboard, horseshoes, P├ętanque (a French game similar to  bocce. They have a super nice heated swimming pool and a small but nice hot tub.The fitness room and equipment is brand new.  It looks like it would be a nice winter location and is 15 minutes from the gulf coast beaches near Cortez Florida.
Although we didn’t have the best first impression, the manager consoled us and after we walked around the park we think we will enjoy our stay here. The title of the blog before we spoke with the manager was almost certainly Carefree could Care Less… But we feel much better about it now that the unpleasantness is behind us.










Sunday, November 24, 2013

Princess Place Preserve near Palm Coast FL…

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St Johns Music Fest 002We haven’t done a whole lot the past few days since I was instructed to be somewhat inactive after having minor surgery on Tuesday. I am already getting pretty tired of this inactivity stuff. One can only read so many books and watch so much TV before going a little stir crazy. We did get a little hiking in at a nearby park that is worthy of mentioning though.

Pellicer Creek Conservation Area is a State Preserve under the jurisdiction of the St Johns River Water Management District. This preserve is over 3,500 acres in St Johns Music Fest 016size and is only minutes away from our RV park. This property has water features from Pellicer Creek, the same one I kayaked on, and the Matanzas River. It also shares a common boundary and miles of trails with the 1,500 acre Princess Place Preserve. So there's plenty of hiking and boating in this area.

The Princess Place Preserve has a lodge that was built by Henry Cutting and was also an estate that once was home to a Russian princess! The lodge remains at Princess Place and was originally built in 1887 in what is called the Adirondack Camp Style. The lodge itself is very interesting and most of the materials used to construct the building are from Florida not the Adirondacks. Some of its unique building materials include the pink coquina walls and porch supports made from red cedar posts and palm tree trunks… cool!!! Yep this park and the lodge too are a slice out of old Florida…

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Also at Princess Place is Florida's first in-ground pool, where it is said that the rich and royal frolicked in its spring-fed 72-degree water. As can be seen from my photo it is now only a shadow of its former elegance. The old bath houses are mostly still standing and the park hopes that someday funds will be available to restore it to its past glory. 

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We saw lots of nice trails there and  some were even all concrete for those St Johns Music Fest 011physically challenged. The vegetation was a mix of maples, palm trees and mammoth, centuries old and Spanish moss draped live oaks. Really beautiful for hiking…

Today we are leaving Pellicer Creek Campground and heading over toward Tampa where we will stay a week at the Horseshoe Cove RV Resort in Bradenton, Florida before making our final winter stop in Bonita Springs.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Rain and a Kayak down Pellicer Creek…

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The last few days here at Pellicer Creek Campground near Palm Coast Florida have been mostly cloudy with occasional rain showers. The temperatures have been mostly in the upper 60’s and low to mid 70’s but the showers have been frequent enough to have kept us mostly indoors. This has been great for catching up with our reading as I have read a couple of thriller books and Sharon has read a few books herself.

imageThe day that the rains were to begin there was a 3 to 4 hour window of opportunity for me to get in a paddle down Pellicer Creek. When we first got here we wanted to take our inflatable kayak down the creek to see what was there. Well I chose this time since the rains were still a good distance away and went out to inflate our kayak. You may remember we were thinking about buying a kayak when our son said he had one a friend had given him that he would probably never use. It is a really inexpensive one but free is free!

Once we got the kayak we realized we needed to buy a keel and a paddle. We tested it out while we were at a campground that had a small lake near it. It worked fine but we really haven’t had the opportunity to use it since. So I inflated it and made sure it was still sea worthy. We toted it down the hill to the kayak access on Pellicer Creek here in the campground. Sharon had decided it in her best interest to not join me on this foray as she suddenly got cold feet when she learned there were alligators in the creek. Something about being in an inflatable kayak in alligator infested waters made her a bit, well… SCARED!!!

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I put the kayak in the water and slowly drifted away. The current was slowly going with me as the tide was still going out and low tide was still about 40 to 50 minutes away. So at worst I would still have a slight current to paddle against if I didn’t stay too long and at best I could coast back.

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The creek starts out narrow with lots of Live Oaks, Magnolias and Palm trees lining the shoreline. Lots of ferns under them made this typical of what is called Pellicer Creek Kayaking 019the Real Florida area. As I paddled under Interstate 95 the cars and trucks were whizzing overhead as I lumbered slowly down the creek. At that particular time  I imagine my day was so much different than those rushing by on the highway overhead.

The creek began to widen just past the I-95 bridge and as I got closer to the Pellicer Creek Kayaking 020Princess Place Preserve the creek flowed into a larger body of water. I could continue on to the Mantazas River but since that is a shipping waterway so I decided to turn back before going too far. The tide was still going slowly out so there was a small current and some feisty winds I had to deal with. I had turned back earlier than I wanted as the winds gusted up suddenly alerting me of the impending rain not far behind.

I got back to the Pellicer Creek Campground and toted the kayak back to the RV. What a relaxing and enjoyable trip this was and as I told Sharon about it her first question was what…. Did you see any alligators…  Nope, not a one… I think she wished then that she had gone with me after all…

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

St. Johns River Blues Festival, Palatka, Florida…

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St Johns Music Fest 026With the weather being a bit overcast and with a slight chance of rain we decided that this past weekend was a good time to drive inland over to the town of Palatka, Florida. Why Palatka? After all, it is a small town of less than 11,000 people along the St. Johns River. What is it known for? Some say it is the bass fishing capitol of Florida but it is known really for all of the festivals that are held in such a small town.

This past weekend was the St. Johns River Blues Festival. When I first discovered a web page about this event what caught my eye was that it was free… you just don’t see this a lot with Jazz or Blues festivals. So after lunch we took off west and around thirty or thirty minutes later we pulled into a parking spot behind a bank adjacent to one of the two stages. We were a bit worried that we may have made a blunder coming here as there were only a few people in the streets and  the parking lot was not full even though it was next to one of the two stages!!!

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We decided to stroll along the main drag of downtown Palatka and see what all the hoopla was about. There was a twosome on stage bellowing out some decent Blues music so we decided to go back to the car and get our chairs. We sat on a curb across the street from the main stage and enjoyed the tunes…

We only stayed about 4 hours so we did not make it to the headliners. We did get to listen to a father daughter blues duo that played some decent music. The young girl was an excellent guitarist and could bellow out some blues that sorely called for a better band to back her up. Her father played okay but our advice to this young lady was that maybe it was time to lose your dad and find a real back up band!

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We also stopped by a local bar on the drag called the Downtown Blues Bar and Grille that also had a a band pumping out the blues. It was another classic dive bar so we grabbed a couple of adult beverages and sat back to absorb their version of the blues… As much as we enjoyed the blues we also enjoyed the people watching in this sleepy little town. We totally enjoyed our day in downtown Palatka and I loved their t-shirts. The only thing that kept me from buying one was the other hundred or so t-shirts we already have.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pellicer Creek Campground…

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We have been here almost a week and other than a little road noise from nearby Highway 1 this has been a real nice little place to stay. This park may not have a ton of amenities but it perfectly located to explore both St. Augustine and the Palm Coast areas of Florida. Combine that with their Good Sam’s discounted weekly rate we plan on staying another week here.

St Augustine FL 001We are enjoying exploring this area and will continue to enjoy it the additional week we plan to stay. However we would really have preferred to move on to the Orlando area for week instead. Why don’t we? Well as it turns out, I have another appointment at the Mayo scheduled this next Tuesday and this is the main reason we have added the additional week here. I had a mole taken off last week at the Mayo that turned out to be an in situ melanoma… sigh!!! Nothing to overly worry about as these in situ or stage 0 skin cancers are 99% curable but still not the news we had expected to hear from the Mayo. I think I would rather deal with motorhome issues! However, C'est la vie we can’t always have good news in our lives… and for now we are both looking forward to our winter stay in Bonita Springs.

The weather has been a bit dicey with the some of the early season cold fronts coming through but even with a little rain here there is no puddling on the RV sites. The park has paved roads and pads and the sites are well sized. There are only about 30 sites in this park and the owner is well motivated to ensure that his customers are always happy. He is a friendly fellow who isn’t afraid to put some money back into his park. They even recently put fresh grass sod on any area that was a bit bare and while we were staying on our site there were several landscape plantings added.

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There is a small club house with a laundry room but you won’t find a workout facility or pool here. However, one nice feature is the park is adjacent to Pellicer Creek and they have build a access point to the creek that is perfect for launching canoes or kayaks from. We plan to take our inflatable kayak on Pellicer Creek at least once before we leave this area.

St Augustine FL 005Hopefully before getting to Bonita Springs we will be able to spend some time near the Tampa/Bradenton area since we really have only briefly explored this part of Florida. Also several of our RV buddies will be in this area as well… We have read a lot of blogs about this area and hope to not only visit some of our friends but see some of the nifty things we have read about…

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fort Matanzas National Monument…

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Palm Coast and the fort 008While in St Augustine we had visited  the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, a bastion that was part of the walled defense line surrounding the city of St. Augustine. There is another small National monument nearby that is worthy of a visit as well, the Fort Matanzas National Monument closer to Palm Coast than to St Augustine.

Fort Matanzas is yet another piece of the early Spanish empire in this part of Florida. As we entered the National Monument we couldn’t help but love the Palm Coast and the fort 016beauty of the Live Oak trees as we parked. We parked and got out our National Parks Pass but as we neared the visitor’s center we noticed visitors had to take a boat over to an island to view the fort. We assumed that that fee would not be waived by the park pass as many of these type of National Park excursions are done by non-national park personnel and additional fees are required. Sharon asked the ranger at the desk if our pass was good for the boat ride and she said we didn’t need the pass as access to this monument was free… as in no cost at all!!! Not sure how they pay for all that gas but we weren’t going to complain as I figured 40 years of paying taxes probably covered my share.

Palm Coast and the fort 020So we picked up our boat passes and still had about 40 minutes before departure. We found a nearby nature trail that was about a half mile so we decided to do it before visiting the monument. It turned out to be a nice trail, mostly on boardwalk,winding through the forested area nearby and over to a salt water marsh near the Matanzas River. When we finished we queued up at the dock and waited for our ride to the island.

As the boat brought over the last group that toured the island a splash cought my eye as we spotted some dolphins frolicking in the river. I was able to snap a few pictures with my cell phone since I had inadvertently forgotten my camera… sigh… Also by the docks were large schools of mullet swimming against the current that we could see from the dock as well. When the passengers departed the boat we got on and listened to the narrative of one of the rangers explaining the history and significance of the monument.

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In the early 1700’s the Florida Governor, a Spaniard,  was worried about a British invasion that most likely would come through the unguarded inlet at Matanzas. As a result he had the small fort built to guard this southern approach. It took a long time to build due to challenges of sinking posts into the marsh. Also the British and their Indian allies tried to stop construction repeatedly. But by the Palm Coast and the fort 002early 1740’s it was built and once completed few British attempts at invasion occurred and those that did were repelled by the fort.

What a cool little fort on the Matanzas River and with the free boat ride it is also a great spot for watching the dolphins in the river enjoying themselves… Of course as we were done it was time to got find a spot for a cold beverage. We ended up at JT’s Seafood Shack where we scored another happy hour with a buy one get one free. Loved what was printed on one of the T-shirts we recently saw  – “Life is too short to drink crappy beer!”... Did we mention, we love Florida…

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

St. Augustine, Florida…

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St Augustine FL 006Our first place to visit while staying at Pellicer Creek Campground was the town of St. Augustine, Florida. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European established settlement and port in the entire continental United States. It was founded in 1565 some 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock… wow!!! Much of the city was destroyed by the British in 1702 but there are 36 buildings of colonial origin still remaining today. Since we love to walk we wanted to tour the city so we made our way overSt Augustine FL 007 to the visitor center. When we asked about walking tours they strongly suggested that it was too far to walk and would take too much time… they suggested we take a touring train.

Hah! They don’t know us very well as we picked up some maps and made our way over to the waterfront in search of a parking place. It was very crowded this day because it was Veteran's Day. We probably should have waited another day but since we were here we decided to just do it… A nice thing about the holiday was that the normally $1.50 per hour parking meters were free due to the holiday… score one for us. After parking along the waterfront we paused to enjoy the draw bridge and ships while eating our picnic lunch.  We browsed the maps and plotted out a loop walk of about 3 miles.  This allowed us to view historical and architectural sights while avoiding the crowded shopping areas.

St Augustine FL 015We made our way inland noticing the beautifully landscaped neighborhoods along narrow streets with patches of exposed cobblestone.  The Spanish architecture predominant in St Augustine is breathtaking.  Some of it was very simple while other buildings were extremely ornate.  On this sunny warm day we found many a stop to take in the beauty and/or to photograph the sights.  Flagler College and the nearby former Ponce De Leon Hotel were amazing examples of the style unique to this town.  And as we stepped into the lobby of the main administrative building for Flagler College the same ornate style carried over to the inside where there were beautifully carved mahogany accents, gold foil accents, wallpaper decor, fantastic Spanish floor tile and spectacular paintings.  What an awesome place to be a student.  The main courtyard was bustling with students so we sat amongst the palms for a time to soak in the energy.

St Augustine FL 014From there we wanted to see the historic churches built by Henry Flagler who as the son of a minister loved building churches that he hoped would be enjoyed by many future generations.  One magnificent church near the college is where he is interred.  He built this church in honor of a daughter who died tragically.  The church is spectacular and visitors are always welcome.  The next church we visited was much smaller but also beautiful in its simplicity.

Next we made our way over to Castillo de San Marcos National Monument where to our amazement the tours this day were also free!  We would have gotten in free anyhow with our National parks Pass. In addition we arrived just as the period costumed rangers were staging a canon firing demonstration.  It was very impressive and I am sure our grandkids would have loved it.  The Fort, construction started in 1672, also offered amazing views of the city and waterways. We took in all the historical significance this fort endured. When we completed our tour we elected to return to our car via the walkway along the water front thus ending our day with water views we both enjoy.

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To celebrate another great day in Florida we stopped on our way home at Cafe 11 and visited their bar for some nice crafted beer…

Monday, November 11, 2013

Last Day in Jacksonville Florida…

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JAX the city 013Well with the passing of our final exams at the Mayo Clinic we decided it would be wise for us to celebrate our good health and fortunes. It had been a long three days as we had to be at the Mayo by 7:30 am and were there the first two days till 4 or 5 pm and the last day until noon. When we finished up early that last day we did a few chores and then at last made our way over to Engine 15 for happy hour to celebrate the completion of our physicals.

Engine 15 makes some nice craft beers and has an early evening happy hour. I particularly liked a few of the IPA’s and Sharon was fond of one of their Porters. We really savored these fine crafted beers in honor of both of us receiving a clean bill of health.

Mayo Clinic JAX 014Sunday it was time to leave Jacksonville and we found it hard to believe that we had been there for nine days already. When we first arrived the weather was rainy and overcast with gusty winds making the first three or four days not as much fun as we had hoped. We made one nice day trip into the city and stopped by to visit one of our son’s best friends. Neil and his family  who have made their home here.  We had visited the last time we were here as well but this time there was a new addition… another baby boy. It was really nice to visit with him and see his new son.  As we were leaving he surprised us with a parting gift of some venison!  Thanks Neil, we will enjoy this for sure!!!

The next three days we were tied up at the clinic and this was when the weather was nicest –( of course).  However the last couple of days were pretty nice so we got in some fishing and some quality beach time. No luck for me fishing but we really enjoyed the walking or biking in and around Hanna Park and along the beach. On our last morning before we left we made one more walk on the beach and then broke camp ready to hit the road by about noon on Sunday.

Mayo Clinic JAX 015We didn’t go very far but made our way down 1A1 along the coast through Ponte Vedra into St Augustine. Ponte Vedra looked very upscale and we were amazed at the size of some of the homes we passed.  We read later that this St John County area is known for golf and boasts having ultimate three, four and five diamond resorts. It ranks as the third wealthiest county behind Palm Beach and Naples and it showed! It was a beautiful area to drive through especially in the motorhome since it allowed us to see over top of the short dunes. Catching glimpses of salt marshes, the ocean at times and occasional ospreys in flight for an early afternoon snack made for a really enjoyable travel day.

Mayo Clinic JAX 013About 15 minutes south of St Augustine we pulled into our next home for the upcoming week… Pellicer Creek Campground. This is a cozy little “mom and pop” owned park with only about 30 sites alongside Highway 1. This is a nice park along Pellicer Creek and the perfect spot to explore both Palm Coast and St Augustine. We hope to relax here for a week before we change coasts in Florida once again…