Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mckee Botanical Gardens in Vero Beach Florida…


As I mentioned in an earlier blog we came to Vero Beach to visit Sharon’s cousin John and his wife Penny. When we drove over to Vero Beach to meet up with John he took us to where Pam was volunteering at the Mckee Botanical Gardens.


Penny decided to give us a private tour of the gardens. Now before I talk more about the tour I must include a bit of the history of these gardens. They were founded in 1929 when a couple of entrepreneurs named Waldo Sexton and Arthur G. McKee purchased 80 acres near the Indian River that was with live oaks, cabbage palms and lots of pine trees. Their plan at first was to developed the land to plant citrus groves.


However after surveying the land they decided it was simply too beautiful to alter and instead decided to make it a garden. Now Waldo E. Sexton was not your typical entrepreneur as he was known to be a bit of an eccentric genius and some even referred to him as being “an irresponsible screwball.” However , he was also known as a man that “was a genius at making money.” And thus came to life the gardens known as the McKee Gardens.


Initially Sexton had developed several structures made of all sorts of items he had requisitioned. The coolest item that is housed in one of his structures that he designed as a Polynesian ceremonial palace. Inside is one of the largest tables I have ever seen and what makes this table unique is that it was made out of a huge single 35 foot piece of mahogany that he had originally seen at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904. He obtained it and it is still here today…


The gardens officially opened as a tourist attraction in 1932 and were known as McKee Jungle Gardens. The gardens became home to a large collection of orchids and water lilies and today is home to some 10,000 native and tropical plants. In its early days it was also home to a collection of critters. There were monkeys, chimpanzees, a baby lion, alligators, parrots, flamingos and even a bear they named Dr. Doolittle. Today there are no such critters and what happened to them I don’t know. However, I did find out what happened to the bear… During the World War Waldo’s son said the family ate the bear because “meat was hard to find.”


Sadly the entrepreneur's dream came to an end when the McKee Jungle Gardens shut down in 1976. Much of the original 80 acres was sold for development and what was left was simply left alone for twenty years until the Indian River Land Trust purchased it in 1995. With funding the remaining 18 acres were salvaged and nurtured into what is now known as the McKee Garden.


Waldo died in 1967 at the age of 82 but left behind this beautiful garden. He also developed the nearby Driftwood Resort. In 1958 there was a “Waldo Sexton Day” in Vero Beach where they dedicated a park called of Sexton Plaza.


Waldo and Arthur would be happy to know that at least a part of their original 80 acres that once drew 100,000 visitors a year in the 1940s had survived the wrath of time. The current McKee Garden was formally dedicated in 2001 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you are in the area you would be remiss in not visiting these beautiful tropical gardens. Thanks Penny and John for taking us to this beautiful spot…

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Making our way to Vero Beach Florida…


Hoping we had left Murphy behind us in Titusville Florida we headed south down the road once again. After a short drive today of 60 miles we pulled off of the highway near Sebastian Florida. Our park is one of the Encore parks and also a Passport America park called Sunshine Travel RV Resort. We don’t have many more stays before we land in Bonita Springs on November 1st for 3 months.

We decided to stay here for some more beach time,  to visit Sharon’s cousin and his wife and to celebrate Sharon’s Birthday. When we started RV’ing fulltime we were carded to enter 55 and over parks.  Now after nearly 5 years we have both turned 60 so carding is no longer warranted. We are both hoping this new decade is as good as our last one was…


Since we needed to do laundry and our new park uses a coinless card system for laundry we brought it with us and did our laundry at the Great Outdoor Resort. When all was done we drove back the more scenic route and stopped at a few beaches along the way. This way we felt we hadn't wasted a day retrieving the sewer hose.


Well, despite our hopes, Murphy did show up one more time as when we were setting up our RV at our new park we realized that I apparently left our sewer hose hanging on a fence at our last park. Since we only drove 60 miles today we decided to get some lunch on the road and head back to Titusville to retrieve our sewer hose. An hour or so later we pulled into our old site and our sewer hose was still hanging on the wall. Thank goodness!


imageWe also stopped off in Sebastian at a little Nano-Brewery called Pereidolia Brewing. The name Pereidolia apparently means – “The imagined perception of a pattern or meaning where it does not actually exist.” While we didn’t find their beers that we sampled exceptional they did have some good guest taps on handimage and this is a nice little bar with a good vibe.
We ended up with a “not so typical” travel day but we certainly made up for the shaky start. Now I am only hoping Murphy likes Vero Beach and stays behind when we leave…

At least the next day was less eventful and since it was Sharon’s birthday we decided the best way to spend it was to go to the beach… so we went to four different beaches from Sebastian Florida down to Fort Pierce Florida. Our favorite one was the beach at Round Island Riverside Park. We certainly enjoyed this special day for Sharon at the four beaches and topped it off with happy hour at the 2nd Street Bistro in Fort Pierce followed by some home made gumbo!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Enjoyed our stay in Titusville Fl. even after Murphy visited (again)…


While we thought our tribulations were behind us old man Murphy had one more trick up his sleeve. It happened on our drive further south as we left Flagler Beach, Florida. Somehow from the time we left to the time we pulled into our next spot in Titusville, Florida we apparently lost our exterior hot water heater vent cover. How we lost it is a mystery and I can only surmise that after we scrubbed the oil off the exterior of the motorhome we must have somehow inadvertently un-latched the vent cover which simply fell off on our way to Titusville.


Oh well, such is life on the road. I did call Tiffin Motorhomes who told me I could get an unpainted (white) replacement for about $90.00. The same vent cover can be bought on eBay for less than $40.00 so I will order it when we get to Bonita Springs Florida.


Anyhow we ended up at the Greater Outdoor Resorts in Titusville. We did so even though this morning we were going to stay at Manatee Hammock Park but when Sharon found a BOGO (buy one get one free ) offer at Greater Outdoor Resorts we booked it to see what all the hype was about. This is a nice RV and Golf resort but some of the RV sites are a bit unkempt. They had assigned us one of the unkempt sites but we asked to be relocated and ended up in a much nicer one. A BOGO here during off season means we will only spend $25 per night instead of the normal $50 per night (high season is $65 per night).


We did enjoy walking on the nature trails of the park and checking out all the neat and varied styles of RV cottages on the privately owned lots. We even played some Pickleball, a sport we love playing but hadn’t played since we left Arizona. This is a very nice park but I still wouldn’t pay $50 a night for it.

We also drove over to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and more specifically we drove the Blackpoint Wildlife Drive Park. We did this drive back in 2011 and liked it so much it called for a re-visit. We used our America the Beautiful pass to save the $5 entry fee.


This is a self guided drive that took us through marshes interspersed with open water. This most beautiful wetland allowed us to see some of the resident birds and a few of the early migrants. Lots of Great Blue Heron, Tri-colored Herons, Reddish Egrets, Common Egrets, Green-backed Herons, Snowy Egrets, Double-breasted Cormorants, Common Gallinule, Anhinga, Belted Kingfishers and Pied-billed Grebes and American Coots were present. A few Wood Stork and Blue-winged Teal were also sighted. There were lots and lots of the cute little  Pied-billed Grebes we enjoyed almost as much as watching the antics of the Reddish Egrets fishing and dancing...


We did some some birds of prey as we spotted Osprey, a lone Bald Eagle and what appeared to me at first to be a Harris Hawk. After looking closer and looking at my bird book I am pretty sure it is a Rufus Morph of the Red Tailed Hawk. Maybe Judy can shed some light on this mysterious looking bird…


Well after this wonderful drive we drove a little further out to the Cape Canaveral National Seashore and once again used our America the Beautiful pass to save another five bucks. We spent about an hour or so walking up and down the very scenic Playalinda Beach. After our walk we called it a day and went back to pack up once again… Next stop for us will be near Vero Beach…

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tribulations and some Florida Beach Time!!!


We had hoped for yet another uneventful travel day but it got off to a rough start. First of all we had oil all over the front of our RV like someone took a spray bottle and sprayed the whole front of it and all down the sides. Then I remembered that a semi-truck passed us on the way here and had a ton of smoke bellowing out of his stacks. I am guessing he had blown something and was leaving a trail of oil in his path on all the vehicles he passed. Fortunately we were in a park that allowed washing of rigs so after an hour or so we had a clean, oil free, motorhome again.

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Then the next morning as we were packing to leave the passenger side bedroom slide didn’t want to retract. It appears as if the bottom of the slide is going out further than the top and it is very likely overextending. In the above pictures look at the black tape and you can see how much further the bottom came out as compared to the top of the slide out. Well after some internet searching I figured out how to manually retract the slide with a crescent wrench. I slowly turned the end of the slide motor until it came in an inch or two then it retracted normally. It is something I will have to address when we get settled in Florida for the winter. Sigh.


We did finally get underway and the rest of the day was uneventful, thank goodness! A drive south of a bit over 130 miles found us pulling into another park we have stayed at before called Bulow RV Resort near Flagler Beach. We were greeting by an Anhinga sunning itself with its wings spread. We chose this location mainly to spend some quality time at the beach.


I was able to purchase a fishing license on-line saving me the hassle of looking for a place that sold them. Even better is they have an app that I was able to download that holds a virtual copy of my license on my phone. This cool app also tells me the tides, best fishing time and all the regulations pertaining to which species of fish and what size I am able to keep.


With license in hand the next few days were spent on the beach. Our activities included walking for miles down the beach, occasional fishing (albeit with no luck), simply sitting and listening to the surf and visiting a local pub for happy hour. And what a great happy hour we found at the Funky Pelican. This place is right on the water at Flagler Beach and when I say that I mean the surf breaks under the piered bar deck. It is located adjacent to the Flagler Pier where we enjoyed $1.50 shock tops and $2.50 stellas while watching the fishermen on the pier, the locals surfing nearby and the colorful kites in the sky.

What a great happy hour spot and what a great place to visit for some quality beach time…

Friday, October 23, 2015

St Simon and Jekyll Island Georgia…


Another unexciting 138 mile drive down Intestate 95 brought us to a park we have been to before called Golden Isles RV Park. This is a no frills Passport America Park that is in a perfect location for us to visit a few places we like a lot. After setting up we hit the road and drove over to St.Simons Island in southern coastal Georgia.


St Simons is one of the renowned Golden Isles of Georgia and we will be visiting another one of them while we are here. The main attraction (besides the beach and waterfront) is the St. Simons Island Lighthouse. At 104 feet tall this currently active lighthouse was completed in 1872 after the original one (1811) was destroyed in the Civil War. This is a beautifully restored lighthouse!

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The quaint little town of St Simon has the typical touristy shops but during this time of year there aren’t many people around to enjoy the peace and quiet. We walked along the waterfront and into the neighborhoods lined with live oaks draped in Spanish moss. On the way back to the car we walked out on the pier to watch the fishermen. We were about to leave when a fellow apparently hooked a big one. After a lengthy battle he was able to land a monster red fish that was 39 inches in length and I would guess around 25 pounds. They had hooked another monster before we left but were unable to land it so whatever it might have been will remain a mystery.


The next day we went to one of the more interesting beaches we have ever visited. The beaches on Jekyll Island are continuously eroding and slowly losing land to the sea. As a result the beaches are littered with dead and dying trees making it a somewhat surreal setting for a arbor cemetery. The once stately oaks and pines are now but skeletons of their former selves. This makes this a photographers paradise and the setting is striking!



Jekyll Island also has several campgrounds (including a state park) with the only drawback being that there is a $6.00 entry fee for each car to the island. There is a large bike trail around much of the island and a nicely paved road that loops around it as well. We stopped and checked out a few of the historical sights along the way rounding out a great day on Jekyll Island.

After two days here we will move on down the road to escape some rain heading our way…