We always like visiting the Oregon coast in the Fall. The summer crowds are gone and the weather is mild. Our Thousand Trails membership offers us multiple RV parks along the Pacific coast. We love watching for whales, hiking and collecting wild edible mushrooms.
Newport Oregon is one of our favorite coastal towns for the artisans, murals, lighthouses and rafts built to accommodate the abundant sea lions. They are numerous boisterous and adorable.
Sure there are cool and rainy days on the Oregon coast in the Fall but we have lots of warm sunny days in Florida and enjoy the change.
This year marks our 40th wedding anniversary and as if that wasn’t memorable enough we wanted a travel experience to commemorate the event.
What to do in the face of a surging pandemic! We have been cruisers for a long time and found a trip to one of our favorite places, Alaska. Royal Caribbean’s Serenade of the Seas was sailing out of Seattle in September on a seven day itinerary at the same time as our visit to family there. Perfect. No border crossings to worry about. No unvaccinated guests allowed. Negative Covid test 72 hours before sailing. Reduced passenger load with full crew. Travel insurance in case we decide to cancel. And great ports along the Inside Passage.
We had taken an Alaska cruise 23 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. This cruise planned stops in Sitka, Icy Strait Point, Juneau and Ketchikan. The trip began on schedule sailing north in Puget Sound. The next morning we noticed we were sailing slowly south off the west coast of the Olympic Peninsula. We then learned that bad weather around Sitka was causing our captain to dilly dally near Washington until the weather cleared. This resulted in our Icy Strait port being cancelled and our guided hike there cancelled. While we were disappointed, we were glad the captain was looking out for us.
The story of Sitka is the story of Alaska. The Tlingit people thrived here for countless generations before Russian fur traders came for the abundant sea otters and their pelts. The Sitka National Historical Park tells the story of the complex culture of the Tlinget and the conflict with the Russians. There is an impressive collection of totems as well as the Russian Bishop’s house and the site where Alaska was turned over to the United States in 1867. The Russians really had no interest in colonization as they were only there for the furs. As the fur trade declined they were happy to sell their interests to the Americans. Of course the Tlingit had no say in this and continued a long decline before a rejuvenation in the 1960s. This is a particularly abundant area of Alaska with an ice free harbor, a temperate rain forest of Sitka spruce and Western hemlock and rivers hosting massive salmon spawns. The area supports brown bears, river otters, mink, black-tailed deer and over 150 species of birds.
The mid-point of our our cruise brought us to Endicott Arm, Dawes Glacier and Alaska’s state capital – Juneau. Our wet chilly morning visit to the fjord and glacier views was awesome. The water in front of a glacier is such a unique color. The chunks of ice floating all around us were beautiful. Juneau itself was still partially shut down due to the pandemic and the cold weather cancelled our planned kayaking experience but we had a good time.
Ketchikan was our last port of call on our Alaska cruise. As with our other stops this one was more enjoyable since ours was the only visiting ship that day. Creek St is the historic red light district that operated until 1954. A local salmon hatchery had thousands of fish following their DNA upstream to spawn. Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of totems which began to be restored by the CCC during the Roosevelt administration.
Reflecting on our cruise we realize we were not just taking a vacation for ourselves but also rejuvenating the cruise industry and the musicians artists and other workers severely impacted by the pandemic. So often during the cruise the crew thanked us for coming back. In this era of huge cruise ships this really was a dream cruise. The crowds onboard and ashore associated with modern cruising just really were not an issue with this cruise. It proved to be the memorable celebration of our 40th anniversary we were looking for.
A long time favorite, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a historic beautiful 444 mile meander through mostly Mississippi from Natchez to near Nashville TN. The parkway preserves a historic route taken by early 19th century boatmen back north after delivering their boats and cargo down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Natchez. Those boatmen were following the Native American travel route who in turn were following the seasonal migration pattern of bison to salt licks in Tennessee. Natchez was a the principal trading port for cotton and other plantation crops sold to northern markets and Europe. It had more millionaires than Boston.
The parkway is a unit of the National Park Service. There are 3 campgrounds along the way. We stayed at the Rocky Springs campground after entering the parkway near Clinton MS. The campground has no hookups with nicely spaced paved sites. Our new smaller rig fit in perfectly.
Rocky Springs is now a ghost town near the parkway. In 1860 it had a population of 2616 inhabitants 2000 of whom were slaves. The Civil War, yellow fever and the cotton boll weevil led to the demise of the town. The spring dried up and all that remains is the historic church and a cemetery.
The Golden Spike Chapter of the Family Motor Coach Association is a group of RV enthusiasts who also love trains We were fortunate enough to join in their rally in Pleasonton California. We had 16 RVs and 32 people attending. Huge thank you to Dan St. John for organizing the event. We stayed at the Alameda County Fairgrounds RV Park and rode the Niles Canyon Railway which was operating a steam locomotive.
The railway operates on a historic route that was originally the westernmost segment of the first transcontinental railroad. The line through Niles Canyon connected Sacramento to Oakland and then by ferry to San Francisco. The National Park Service has designated the line as The Niles Canyon Transcontinental Railroad Historic District. It was completed in 1870 by mostly Chinese workers and is one the best preserved segments in the western US. The Central Pacific and Western Pacific railroads built the line which later became part of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Today the train runs from Sunol to Niles which is actually in the city of Fremont CA.
Just as we said we would be taking short trips in our new cozy RV we embarked on a 3 month odyssey across the country to the Pacific Northwest. We instantly feel in love with the maneuverability of the smaller motorhome as we stayed in Corps of Engineers campgrounds in Alabama, Mississippi and Missouri.
As it was right on our way, we visited Branson MO. We’ve heard of Branson forever and thought this was a good chance to check it out. The town itself is pretty ugly gaudy out-of-control “entertainment” development but we did thoroughly enjoy the Titanic Museum. The museum contained many artifacts and thoughtful exhibits. We specially liked the assignment of a passenger name to every visitor who then could be followed to the disaster in the end. It was very engaging.
Moving on to Nebraska we stopped in Kearney where we visited Ft. Kearny State Historical Park. The park was established by local citizens to preserve one of the most important resupply stops along the emigrant trails of the mid 19th century. It was abandoned in 1871 after the railroad made it no longer necessary.
Next along our route we visited Chimney Rock. Lakota Sioux had a name for this place which basically meant elk penis while emigrants called it chimney rock. One can clearly see it could be seen for many miles and guide travelers along their way.
From Nebraska we headed into Wyoming where we visited Ft. Laramie. Ft Laramie National Historic Site was established in 1938 to preserve and interpret one of the most important sites of the western plains. Ft Laramie was first settled as an outpost for the fur trade between 1815 and 1820 by Jacque La Ramee who disappeared while hunting alone. The subsequent forts and city are named for him. The fur trade fort was bought by the US Army in 1849 to protect emigrants and gold seekers along the Oregon, California and Mormon trails. The fort was decommissioned in 1890.
After Ft Laramie we stopped in the northeast WY town of Buffalo. For fans of the “Longmire” series on Netflix. Buffalo claims to be the model for the fictional town of Durant Wyoming where the show is based. The author of the Longmire books visits often and Longmire Days is a popular festival. We even picked up a Red Pony T-shirt. Buffalo is also just a nice friendly western town.
One of the real joys of our new motorhome is being able to stay in the many state park and national forest campgrounds in Florida. Recently our local kayak group set its sights on the Juniper Springs Run in the Ocala National Forest. Checking mid-week in May we found lots of campsites available. Our 25 foot RV is perfect for this campground. The sites are well spaced with a large variety of palms, trees and scrubs. Sites are no hook up with nice restrooms and water nearby. And being mid-week there were not too many kayakers on the run.
The spring pool was developed by the CCC in the 1930s and features a working water powered mill. The water is crystal clear and there are many many springs in the area. The run is 7 miles long and takes 4.5 to 5 hours to paddle. No disposable containers or wrappers are allowed. The current is swift and the course is narrow with countless bends and turns and fallen trees to navigate. There is not much need to paddle other than to avoid the next tree or bush and that is a factor constantly. After the 5 mile mark there is actually a rapids! We all made it through it OK but a few paddlers were pitched into the river elsewhere.
Our friend Mike created this you-tube video of our trip. Thanks Mike.
All in all it was an exhilarating trip down the Juniper Springs run. Not for beginners. Like an “E” ticket ride, we wanted to do it all over again. What a beautiful experience.
Our big western trip got off to a great start with a stay at Ochlockonee State Park near Sopchoppy Florida. Our new 25 foot rig fit in just perfectly in campsite #5. We love the state park experience.
One of our favorite things about staying in a state park is the wildlife. Just taking easy walks on trails in the park and campground we saw lots of birds, several deer unafraid of humans and the amazing white squirrels. It is thought that these squirrels are descended from those brought to America by gypsies banished from Spain by King Charles in 1499. The European mammals bred with native American squirrels. Eventually they were brought to a fishing camp on the Ochlockonee River in the 1950s. From there they spread throughout the area.
Near the park is the small town of Sopchoppy. While pretty sleepy today it still has a restored train depot with historic displays. The depot dates from the 1890s when the CT&G Railroad platted the town. The Myron Hodge river park nearby has a nice rv park and boat ramp.
Just a short drive from the park is the Gulf Coast and Alligator Harbor Aquatic Preserve. This is a very successful aquaculture farm supplying delicious oysters.
Our stay at the park did not go as scheduled when our motorhome slide-out failed to retract the morning of our departure. Our Good Sam Roadside Assistance was unable to help us so we found a mobile RV mechanic ourselves and he got us on the road. Then we found a factory authorized repair center for our slide-out in Panama City. While driving there a giant black bear burst out of the forest and loped across the road right in front of us. Sorry no pics, we just enjoyed the surprise. We took advantage of the time while getting an estimate to have an incredible lunch at a local landmark, Hunt’s Oyster Bar.
It will take 2 weeks to get parts so we just headed back home to start our trip again when the repair can be completed. Such is life bounding down the road in a “motor” home. Our “Little Wing” RV should then be good to go for the next big adventure.
Our recent RV tip to visit friends Mark and Lyn is typical of the kinds of quick little trips we’ll make in our new smaller RV. Mark and Lyn are long time full time friends currently living on their sailboat.
Our trip began with a quick drive south on Florida’s Turnpike to the KOA in Ft. Pierce. Our friends met us to see our new rig, catch up and have dinner.
The next day we explored the tropical coast between Ft. Pierce and Stuart. After living most of our lives in tropical Florida we were amazed at how much we enjoyed the flora and fauna of the area. We found ourselves spouting names like Tabebuia, Silver Buttonwood, Adonidia, Scaevola and seagrape. It seems like the iguana population has exploded since we left tropical Florida 6 years ago.
Mark and Lyn gave us a tour and a fine dinner on board their sailboat. We were amazed how much room there was on their catamaran. They were moored at a marina on the St. Lucie River. Then we strolled downtown Stuart. We were very impressed by this small city with a lively waterfront and the Florida East Coast Railroad rolling right thru the center of town.
Our last day the weather turned rainy so we explored the Elliot Museum which had a fine collection of cars, fishing history and local lore. As the weather cleared we went to the House of Refuge museum on the rocky shore.
Little did we know when we decided in January 2020 to get off the road and buy a home that the world would be afflicted by a global pandemic. We were happy to be off the road at that time.
Now after a year off the road we are ready to explore again at a different pace. We purchased a 2016 Forest River Forester motorhome. She’s (we already know she’s a female) 25 feet 9 inches long with a full body slide on the drivers side. Built on a Ford chassis it has a Triton V-10 gas engine, automatic leveling, a gas/electric fridge, queen bed and nice entertainment system. Very easy to drive so we can share those duties.
Our intention is to use the RV for shorter trips while maintaining the home base. We already know Florida has the best weather for us during the winter months and this will enable us to escape some of the hot humid Florida summer.
We picked up the RV in Wilmington NC so thats where our first trip started. After one night at the Wilmington KOA we stayed at the Buck Hall National Forest campground in SC. It is right on the Intracoastal Waterway and afforded nice views and hiking trails. We loved how easy it was to park our little beauty. The sites were all paved, level and well spaced but lacked much privacy due to few trees between sites. Its a small campground so we were glad we reserved.
On our way to our next stop we found one of those little gem stories that travelers love. Crossing into GA from SC we stopped at a visitors center. After we showed some interest the young man there informed us that this was the first travelers welcome center in the country. Built in 1962 before the Interstate Highway System, Its on a highway route known as the Woodpecker Trail. This was touted as the fastest most direct route to the Florida west coast. It runs along GA 121 and other roads from Augusta GA to St. Petersburg FL. Today much of it is 2 lane highway with old forgotten motels and sleepy towns. The young man also gave us samples Georgia peanuts, pecans and Coca-Cola.
Magnolia Springs State Park near Millen GA was our next stop. Its history and spring are the attractions of this place. In August 1864 the Confederacy built its largest prisoner of war camp here because of the spring providing abundant water. The camp was over 40 acres and intended to relieve overcrowding at Andersonville. While it was designed to hold 40,000 prisoners only 10,000 were transferred before Sherman’s approach led to the camps abandonment. Today some breastworks remain and the park does a nice job interpreting the history. The spring remains an attraction and we hiked some trails.
Whenever we’re close we usually stop in Folkston GA to visit the train watching platform. It was right along the Woodpecker Trail so we stayed at Jenny Ridge RV Park. As luck would have it The next day was Folkston’s Annual RailWatch Festival. There was a T-Trak model train display, food trucks. a DJ and a car show. Railfans from far and wide came to mingle and watch up to 70 trains per day transit the Folkston Funnel where multiple CSX rail routes merge to enter Florida.
Our shakedown trip was a good one. The RV drives small compared to our 3 previous motorhomes, but lives large due to the deep full body slide. We traveled with no towed car and surprisingly found that to be a pleasant experience. Back up, no problem. Turn around, no problem. Grocery store, gas station, no problem. Easy setup and departure makes life a breeze.
Its also nice to have a home to come back to. We look forward to many adventures in the new motorhome practicing photography, chasing trains and tracing history.
After 5 full years full time RVing and 6 previous years most time RVing, we have bought a new home in the central Florida community of Inverness. Its a huge change but we both knew when the time was right. We have loved traveling and exploring all over North America but now its time for something different. A new chapter is exciting.
Inverness is a nice small city near the Nature Coast of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico. We are 20 minutes from the coast and at 82 feet above sea level we’re high enough to be out of the flood zone and out of the hurricane insurance zone. Our home is near the Withlacoochee State Trail, a 60+ mile long hike bike trail. We are surrounded by some of the best kayaking in the US.
Of course its with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Goldie, our beautiful home for the last 2 years of this adventure. We have it listed on RV Trader, ebay motors, Facebook and many other websites. We look forward to passing her on to the next explorers. Here’s a link to our one of our ads…https://rvdaily.com/viewlisting.php?listing_id=140440
Our blog will continue although perhaps we will post less frequently. We will continue to travel. We will also enjoy hobbies, a new community and long time friends Sam and Debi who live nearby. It will be great cooking in a big kitchen and gardening on a third acre lot.