Travels with Bentley

Travels with Bentley
Bentley - our Heartland Bighorn

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Friday, March 11-19, 2016 - North Florida Fairgrounds, Tallahassee, FL



Friday, March 11-19, 2016 - North Florida Fairgrounds, Tallahassee, FL

We walked this morning, had our breakfast, showered, and hooked up Bentley.  It was 11:04 when we pulled out from the Hitchin' Post Corral & RV Campground, headed to Tallahassee, Florida.  It wasn't but a short time and we moved ahead an hour into the Eastern Time Zone.  It was an easy drive on I-10 and we pulled into the Tallahassee State Fairgrounds at 2:30 p.m. 

The address for the fairgrounds was on Paul Russell Road but we could not find an entrance into the grounds.  I called the fairground office and found out we should have turned south at the intersection onto Monroe St. instead of staying on Paul Russell Road.  The entrance is just a short distance past the intersection.  As we turned into the main entrance off of Monroe St. we could tell there was something going on at the fairgrounds.  There were many vehicles blocking the road ahead of us.  We stopped, and walked that way seeking a person to ask about the location of the office.  Someone was nice enough to direct us and we were soon at the office on the other side of all of the traffic.  We paid our fee for two nights and moved down to the hookups near the area of the fairgrounds where the boondocking rally will be held.  There were already several other rigs parked here.  We will have full hookups for two days which makes it nice for us to empty our gray water and waste tanks and take on fresh water before the start of the rally.

Soon after we arrived Linda (of RV-Dreams) drove past us (we recognized their jeep from their blog and pictures the often post), and a short time later her husband Howard walked down to introduce himself and say hello.  The rule is when someone is setting up on arrival or tearing down to leave you do not take time to visit and he soon left us to continue with our setup process.  It is too easy to be distracted and forget to do something important when you stop to visit. 

Once we were set-up we walked down to Howard and Linda's rig.  Our neighbors (Bill and Linda Napier) were already visiting with them so we pulled up our chairs to join in.  They were discussing the perfect RV layout.  These two long term RVer's had many good ideas.  Now if they can just get the RV industry to hear them out it would be a big plus for full-timers or most-timers (those who still have a home but go as often as they can).  One thing we all agreed on is there needs to be more room at the front door to store shoes so they do not have to be worn all over the home to cut down on dirt, sand, grass, etc. being tracked though out the camper.  It's fine to leave them outside in summer but during cool weather it's a bit much to take your shoes off before coming in the rig.

After an hour or so we left so we could eat dinner and settle in to watch some TV for the evening. 


Saturday, March 12, 2016 - North Florida Fairgrounds Campground

Today is my daughter's 39th birthday.  It's hard to believe that much time has passed.  She is so special and I am so proud of her and love her so very much.  I hope she has a very special day!

We walked this morning, had our breakfast and then we headed to Wal-Mart to get a few groceries.  I also wanted to stop at Dollar General to look for a small container to put apple juice in, that will fit into the inside compartment of the refrigerator.  We couldn't find one at Wal-Mart and were not successful at DG either, however we found a bottle of apple juice that will fit, so problem solved.  And why do I want apple juice?  Dean and I have about a tablespoon of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar every morning with our breakfast.  We have noticed a significant difference in the way we feel, especially in arthritis type pain.  The knuckles and joints on my hands rarely hurt if I drink this on a regular daily basis.  I also notice a big difference in my back.  If I miss a few day’s I know I’ve gone too long without it.  In a few days the pain disappears.

After we returned we did a little clean-up in the rig from all the sand at the Hitchin' Post Campground, however it probably won't last long since there is lots of sand here at the fairgrounds as well.

Later this evening we walked back down to Linda and Howard's where all of the RVer's who came in early were visiting.  We met Bob & Paige (Airstream owners), Ken & Gizzy (our neighbors to the east of us), Bill and Linda who we met last night (west side of us) and a few others, but unfortunately I cannot remember their names.  I'm sure I'll get to visit with them more this week and will eventually learn most (if not all of them) before the week is over.


North Florida Fairgrounds Boondocking Rally Site
Sunday, March 13, 2016

We moved over to the boondocking site that will be our home for the next week around 9:30 this morning and was soon settled in.  Other rigs will be coming in over the next few days.  We were on the south side of the boondocking area, somewhat by ourselves for a while.  They grouped RV's with solar on the north side, and RV's with generators on the west, south and east sides.  We only have a generator so we will be running it a minimum of 3 times a day, at 7am, sometime around 12-3 pm and again around 8 to 10 pm.  Generator hours are from 7am to 10pm.  We are set up in a circle with a large area for a campfire in the center, which allows for seating around the fire each evening.

Once we have leveled Bentley and put out the slides, we put our large mat outside, got out our chairs, along with 2 extras to provide seating for visitors, put out the awning and added our sunshade to provide as much protection from the sun as possible.  Later in the day another Big Horn pulled in on the west side of us.  Jerry and Jill are originally from Wisconsin.  He has been work camping in Florida this winter.  His wife is still working and living in Wisconsin until their son graduates from High School next year, when they will go full-time.  She flew in for this rally.  Jerry has taken a work camping job in Wisconsin for the summer/fall and they will be driving back there together after the rally. 

A short time later a small motorhome drove and we soon met Kathy.  After a couple times of pulling in and getting out to check to see how level she was, Dean and I went over to see if we could help her and Dean directed her onto her plastic tiles to better level her unit.  Kathy is originally from Orlando, FL, however she has been work camping in various locations.  She has applied for a position in Yellowstone later this year and actually did a phone interview once she arrived and was setup here.  She's pretty excited so I hope it works out for her.

We also met Russ, an older single man in a small motorhome who parked between Kathy and Jerry/Jill.  Not too much later an Alpine arrived and parked next to Kathy.  This was Gary & Mary from Texas.  We spent quite a bit of time visiting with them throughout the week.  Both of them originally worked in the telephone business for AT&T so they had something in common with Dean.  They are a very nice couple and we enjoyed spending time with them.

Howard and Linda have a nice portable fire pit to use for evening campfire.  Throughout the week I think we had a chance to meet everyone and visit a bit.  Tonight after I fixed dinner we sat around the campfire for awhile. 


Monday, March 14, 2016
We will have our first seminars this morning at 10.  Dean and I did our morning walk, had breakfast and were soon ready.  The seminars are being held behind Howard & Linda’s rig where there are several nice trees to provide shade.  This morning we learned about Boondocking & Solar which included tank management, ways to conserve water and extend the use of our waste systems, keeping our batteries charged, etc.  We finished around 12:30 or so.

After lunch, there were several people beginning to inspect their rigs to see if any changes should be made.  For us that was a big YES!  We soon headed out to purchase some new batteries.  We purchased two deep cell batteries at Sam’s and we turned the old ones in to them.  The ones we had were not very good for keeping us charged up well overnight.  The new ones proved to be a good purchase as we did not have any more problems the rest of the week.

Immediately to our left is Jerry & Jill Sweeney, in the distance, the 3 RV's starting from the left is Linda and Howard Payne (RV-Dreams owners), Kathi & Ran Cummings, Ken Altman & Gisela (Gizzy) Wieland.

The two airstreams, from the left are Linda Fox, Paige Harris & Bob Pavlechko.

The motohome the farthest in the distance is Bill & Linda Napier.

Dean taking it easy after we got back.

Left to Right:
Greg Gabert, Len & Sally Timm (Sally is formerly from Topeka, KS), Bill & Bev Scholten, Gary & Mary Curtis, Kathy Grimmett and Russ Hagberg.
Dinner was on our own, followed by the gathering at the campfire.  Tomorrow there will be some more seminars. 


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

First of all, today is my sister Cindy’s birthday.  I hope it turns out to a great day for her.  Since she is on spring break and not working this week that should be a good start! 

After our walk, breakfast and getting around we attended a seminar on battery maintenance.  One thing we learned was that overcharging and undercharging of batteries is the most common way to ruin batteries, followed by not keeping battery cells filled up properly.

The next item we discussed was How to Find Boondocking Spots.  Afterwards, Howard showed those interested how to use a hydrometer to test batteries.  Dean stayed for this and I headed back to Bentley.

As soon as Dean returned to the rig, we ran down the road to the Winn-Dixie grocery store so I could get some sour cream and scoop Fritos.  We are having a Happy Hour with appetizers this evening and I am making corn dip.  I quickly made it up when we returned so it would have time to set up before our get together at 5:30. Tonight we will do introductions and a show and tell on our favorite RV related gadget.

Some of the group decided to do a scouting trip to paddle on the Wakulla River before taking a larger group out later this week.  At 1:30 Linda is going to do a T-shirt braiding class for those who are interested.  Mary and I walked up and participated along with at least 7 or 8 other ladies.  I loved this and I’m excited to do this on 2 or 3 other T-shirts I have.  For those long men’s t-shirts it is a great way to shorten the t-shirt and give it a unique look.  Mine turned out wonderful.

Afterwards, Kathy and Mary came down and set outside under our awning and shade curtain until it was time to head up to the Happy Hour/appetizer event.

Howard and Linda had received a call from a student attending Florida State.  She had heard about the Boondocking rally and wanted to know if she could meet with them for an interview and to do a video on their full-time RVing and the rally.  Gabby, attended tonight’s event.  The introductions of the RVer’s attending the rally was really amazing.  Many of the attendees had some amazing careers and there were some great gadgets shared with the group.

The paddlers had quite a day on the water and arrived after everyone else was already partaking of the appetizers, but there was plenty for them too. 

Tomorrow Howard will give a demonstration on filling a portable water bladder with fresh water and then pumping it into the RV fresh water tank.  Good information to know about. 

It has been wonderfully cool in the mornings when we walk but it is beginning to warm up and the rest of the week is expected to be in the upper 80’s.  I hope the nights and early mornings stay cool.


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

We followed our recent morning routine of walking, breakfast and getting around for seminars, and visiting with other RVer’s.  We have another new neighbor, Susan and Todd Draves.  They are getting ready to spend 30 days walking the Appalachian Trail.  I’m not sure I could do that, staying in a tent, putting up with bugs, wondering about animals they might meet up with, and dealing with weather conditions that might not be so great.  I applaud them though and I kind of wish I was brave enough to try it!  I was never much of a tent camper though.

This morning we watched the demonstration on filling the portable water bladder.  If we ever boondock in the desert it could be a good option.  Gabby, the student from Florida State came back to video the demo and to ask Howard and Linda some more questions on their RV life.

Following the demonstration Dean and I drove to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  We heard about this from Greg who was the only person attending the rally in a toy hauler rig.  He hauled his motorcycle with sidecar along with him to the rally.  Another RV’er and her friend, who also had a cycle with sidecar rode to St. Marks Lighthouse yesterday.  Once I found out there was a lighthouse and a beach I was hooked.

It was only about 25-30 miles to the refuge.  We stopped at the Visitor’s Center to sign in and obtain a map.


With Dean’s Senior Pass for Federal Parks we did not have to pay the entrance fee.

Inside the Visitor's Center they had information about the lighthouse light and fesnal lens.




The lighthouse road meanders amongst pools and marshlands down to the coast where the Lighthouse is located.
These views were so beautiful with the grass bending with the wind.  I could have set here and just enjoyed the view for hours.

The Gulf waters.

More pools that you can see from the observation deck.

A fog started rolling in out of nowhere and it became almost impossible to see the water, and then it cleared right away like it was never there.

The lighthouse was stunning and quite stately looking.

Info on the lighthouse.

Quarters where lighthouse keepers and Coast Guard stayed.

Marker near the base of the lighthouse.


There were numerous birds.  We also saw three alligators, a snake (not sure what kind) and little crabs on the beach.

The back of the lighthouse from along the Gulf.

Love these palm trees.

Different palm tree.

Gorgeous live oak.

Old pier.

Walkway to the beach.


Look close for the alligator.  (Enlarge the picture)


Enlarge this picture as well - see if you can find the alligator.

More information on St. Mark's Lighthouse.

See if you can find the alligator above.

Alligator swimming in the water.
 It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed walking around the lighthouse and beach area while we were here.  As we were walking down a strip of land between a pooled area and the gulf I looked up to see a couple walking toward us.  I noticed a snake coming out of the pooled area and passing in front of them.  They were much closer to it than us.  I was afraid if I didn’t say something they would step on it or very near it.  I kept pointing down and saying there is a snake.  They finally understood what I was saying.  The wife jumped back.  Dean and her husband went to the side of the walkway to look at it closer and Dean got a pretty good picture of it. 


Here is the couple right after they understood I was saying there was a snake in front of them.  She jumped behind him.  If you enlarge the picture you can see it slithering off the trail to the left.
Here's Dean's picture of the snake.
We began to visit with the couple.  The gentleman told us he and his wife had retired last year, sold their home and were now living and traveling in their motorhome.  They met a couple while camping last year who live here in Florida.  The couple had invited them down to visit and they were traveling with them today.  I told them we too were traveling in our RV, although we were not full-time, and that we were here to attend an RV-Dreams boon docking rally at the North Florida Fairgrounds.  He said they drove by there this morning and he was wondering what was going on when he saw all of the RV’s parked in a big circle.  He was very interested to hear it was an RV-Dreams rally because he also follows Howard and Linda’s blog.  We really enjoyed our day here.  When we left we were pretty hungry so we headed to St. Marks to find a place for lunch.  I checked out Trip Advisor and the best reviews were for Cooter Stew Café Bar and Grille, however they were not open.  The only other place listed was Riverside Café and they had a sign out front advertising “Come on In, We are Open”. 

The Riverside Café was a large building that resembled a big tiki hut, with a waterfront bar on one side.  Here are a few pictures.

Large open building.


Open bar to water side.

Doesn't he look happy?  Can you tell he doesn't like his picture taken?

Add caption

Outside of the Riverside Cafe.

We both ordered the shrimp dinner that included fries, coleslaw and hushpuppies.  It was delicious.  The shrimp was wonderful!  Oh, I wish we could get shrimp that tasted this good at home.  The hushpuppies were quite yummy.  Shortly before our food arrived a man that was sitting at the bar, got up and as he passed by he nodded at Dean and then came over and began talking to us.  He wanted to know where we were from and after we told him Southeast Kansas, he said that’s an awful place.  Then he laughed and told us he was originally from Topeka, KS.  What are the chances?  We enjoyed visiting with him until our food arrived.

Later, while we were lounging around in Bentley, Linda came to the door and said they were having some entertainment tonight.  She was laughing and I asked her if she was going to be the entertainment.  She said well her and another lady were going to have their heads shaved if we wanted to come and watch.  Gizzy who we met the first night before the boon docking rally started has very short hair, and she cuts it herself.  Cathy and Linda asked her if she would cut theirs.  She agreed.  Before it was all over five women had their heads shaved to a very short, short cut.  Actually I thought they all looked really good.  I really considered it myself, but it got so dark, they had two truck’s headlights and LED lanterns on them so Gizzy could see what she was doing, plus the shears were dragging a bit.  Not surprising for the amount of hair they cut in a couple of hours.  One lady in particular Cathy, had beautiful white hair that was fine and laid very nicely.  With her dark complexion the new hair cut looked amazing on her.  If I thought for a minute mine would look anything like that I would have jumped in the line early on myself.
Getting ready!

Kathi Cummings

Gizzy is cutting the hair.  Linda Payne is in the chair.

Becky Tscherne

??

Before!   (I can't remember this lady's name)

After!  How would you like to have your hair cut by the headlights of two trucks and a LED lamp?

I think they all look pretty good.



Needless to say no campfire tonight.  It was pretty late when they finished and everyone headed to bed.  Tomorrow night we are having a potluck dinner with a St. Patrick Day theme.


Thursday, March 17, 2016

It rained a good part of the day, but not before we managed to get our walk in.  Gary and Mary came over and we visited inside and enjoyed getting to know each other a little better.  Dean had to pull our awning in because the wind was blowing so hard.  When they left we had to run to the grocery store.  I am making no-bake cookies for tonight but I discovered I forgot to bring the peanut butter.  When we returned I quickly made them and let them set up.  We are eating at 6:00.  Unfortunately, I did not have a St. Patrick’s dish to take.  I brought food with me for the potluck so I made Mexican Chicken.  Nothing like Mexican food on an Irish holiday, huh?  Fortunately, due to the rain it cooled off a bit, so it didn’t get too uncomfortable when I had to turn the oven on to bake the casserole.  Dean left to help Gary set up a tent to place the food under in case it rained during the event.  The Fairground had a large tent set up in a separate area from where our rally is being held.  They set Gary’s tent up at one side of the big tent so you could walk into the food tent (which had open mesh sides and a double door entrance), and we used the large tent for everyone to set under while we ate.  Fortunately it never rained, and everyone had a great time with some super good food.

Following the meal, Howard discussed data service and how to improve getting signals with various types of gadgets.  He suggested if we wanted more detail to check out RV’ers Chris and Cherie of Technomadia.   They have their own website and write a Mobile Handbook they keep updated on a regular basis.  I have the older version of the handbook, which was recently updated.  One of the things I would like to do is purchase a booster for picking up a cell phone signal.  In addition, something to pick up a stronger internet signal when in an RV park would also be nice.  We have a long list of items we would like to purchase as upgrades to our RVing lifestyle.  Even though we are not full-time, we go often enough some of the same things full-timers find important are also important to us.

This year we will be on the road for several weeks or months at a time.  After this nearly 3 week trip, we will be home for about 2.5 weeks, gone 3.5 weeks, home for 3 weeks, gone for 10-11 days.  Once we get back we have several things going on, watching some of the grandkids, a class reunion to celebrate my class’ 60th birthday, and then leaving again in mid-July for about 6-8 weeks to meet our newest grandchild.  I’m proud to say we will gain another granddaughter for a total of 5 girls and 7 boys around mid-July.   We expect to spend time out at Wichita-Hutchinson in September as well as a few more camping trips before the season is over.  All in all we will probably spend at least 4-5 months in the RV during 2016.


Friday, March 18, 2016

There was nothing planned for this morning.  Dean and I wanted to do one more beach trip so we decided this would be a good time to fit it in.  After our morning routine of walking and breakfast we were soon heading southwest towards St. George Island State Park, one of Florida’s Gulf Coast barrier islands.  We had a nice leisurely drive that at one point took us right along the Gulf Coast.   Just four miles offshore between Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, St. George Island is best known for its secluded beaches, Apalachicola Bay oysters and abundant local seafood.  The park offers nine miles of pristine beaches. 


We drove by these beautiful homes right on the beach on our way to the State Park.




It wasn't long and we drove right to the State Park.


I absolutely loved the beaches in this area.  They were nearly deserted.  It was very overcast and cooler today, so it was very comfortable in the upper 70’s.  We walked in both directions from where we entered the beach area.  I wrote my friend Carolyn’s name in the sand, along with the location for her beach picture collection.  We gathered a few shells.  While watching the waves, we noticed something out in the water and it looked like some seals but we are not sure if there are seals in this area or not.  You could see them move in the water, a dark brownish color and it looked like they were on their backs with their little faces sticking out of the water, just like seals do.  (When I mentioned this to Linda later she thought they might have been manatees.)  Dean went to the truck to see if we had any binoculars so we could take a closer look, but we did not have any with us.  I can’t believe we both have brand new binoculars we received at Christmas and we forgot to bring them with us on this excursion.  ERRR!









If we had brought our lawn chairs and something to drink, I could have set on the beach for hours listening to and watching the waves as they came in.  There is just something so relaxing about the water!  There was a nice wind and the waves were really rolling in.


I also wanted to mention that on both sides of the road as you enter the park are beautiful sand dunes.  I took several pictures.  I can’t wait to look at these on the computer and pick out the best ones to include in the blog.  Unfortunately, we are about out of our allotted data for the month so I either have to wait until we are in a park with good internet or until we get home to complete this and post it.







From the beach where we first stopped, we headed on toward the far east end of the park.  They had very large and nice bathhouses along the road and we stopped at one to take advantage of their facilities.  A short distance on down the road, the path narrowed and a gate stopped vehicles.  From this point you could not go further in your vehicle without a special vehicle permit.  Several people were hiking or bicycling though and passing through a special entrance.  It is another 5 miles along the Gulf to the end of the park.  Since neither of us were prepared for hiking and we did not have bicycles this was the end of the line for us. 

We headed back to St. George and found the Blue Parrot which was touted as the best restaurant on the Island by Trip Advisor.  Dean and I shared a seafood platter that consisted of fried shrimp, oysters, scallops, fish, crab cakes and hushpuppies, along with coleslaw.  I’m not a crab fan so Dean took it and we split the rest.  While it was good, we were disappointed compared to the meals we had on Wednesday at St. Marks, and the one we had earlier in Panama City Beach.  I did not like the scallops at all.  I ate one and tried a second one but wasn’t sure I was going to even get it down, so gave those up quickly.  The oysters were pretty good, the shrimp and fish were just okay.  It might have just been a bad day because the reviews were all great.

Our view from our table.




Here is the St. George Island Lighthouse.




We headed back to the northwest so we could stop at Camping World.  We would really like to have some new camp chairs.  After sitting in our bag chairs for the last few days and evenings, we now want them more than ever, but we did not find anything we liked.  It was after 5 before we got back to Bentley.  We stayed in the RV the rest of the evening.  Amazing how being around the water and wind can wear you out.

There is talk of cooking breakfast out at the campfire in the morning if it is not raining.  We’ll see!


Saturday, March 19, 2016

It started raining in the night and rained up until about 9-9:30 this morning.  We did not get our walk in.  At 9:30 they decided to go ahead and fix breakfast.  We made some sausage patties and cut up a cantaloupe to take.  There was bacon, scrambled eggs, frittatas, pancakes and baked French toast, as well some other fruit.  Everything was wonderful.  Several of us set around and visited and pretty soon, we started seeing blue sky in the west.

Howard Payne - RV-Dreams

Linda Payne - RV-Dreams

Headed for the breakfast table!

Kathy

Standing at the chair - Jerry Sweeny (our neighbor)

Howard and Linda provided the firepit shown above for evening campfires.

Gary & Mary Curtis




Before long it was getting warm enough we had to move out of the sun.  I visited with Linda for awhile at her rig and then headed back to Bentley to have some lunch. 

Linda came by later to see if I wanted to play Qwerkle.  I told her I had never played but was willing to learn.  They wanted four players but we were waiting on Cathy to return.  About an hour or two later, Linda stopped by again to say they were tired of waiting for Cathy to get back so if I still wanted to they would play with 3 players until she got back.  As a new player I was pretty lucky and won both of the two games we played before Cathy returned.  I didn’t win again after that.  It was lots of fun and I can’t wait to buy my own game to share with other RV friends and my family.

Tonight we had another campfire.  Knowing it was the last one, I think everyone stayed a little longer.  It has been a great week.  We’ve met some wonderful new friends and learned a lot of things about living “off the grid”.  We know we can do it if we want to, or NEED to.  I am hoping we can make it to Arizona in January of 2017 and this will allow us the ability to stay in the desert. 



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