01/30/19. Englewood, FL

DAY #102

Busy day today, which is why I was up and raring to go by 12:30 pm. First on the agenda was laundry, including sheets and mattress pad. Headed out to Grove City Laundry, in what turned out to be an uneventful, but necessary chore. While at the laundry, I walked across the road, and mailed the $2.00 I owed for having taken a toll road while coming to the State Forest campground and not paying. I didn’t have the correct change at the time. I don’t want a $2.00 charge mushrooming into $100.00 fine because I didn’t pay it, kind of like a parking ticket.

Coming back to the campsite, I stopped and filled up the containers with water. With the water from this stop, the fresh water tank should be full and I can add the bleach to sanitize. The plan is to let the bleached water sit until morning, then I’ll drain the tank and put another two containers worth of water in the tank to rinse out. Hopefully (fingers crossed) I’ll be able to have water at the next primitive campsite.

Last full day here. Looking at leaving around noon tomorrow for the next stop. I’ve enjoyed the time here. Spending time with Margaret & Ed was a highlight, and it was fun to go and see Mark & Diane’s lot. To just have had the opportunity to explore the area made it worthwhile. The area is more developed than I like, but Rural and “Old Florida” can still be found if you look, and that’s what made this stop memorable.

01/29/19. Englewood, FL.

DAY #101

Today I set off to revisit a couple places first seen last week. It was off to Myakka State Park to do the “canopy walk,” and then into Sarasota, to take a closer look at the Amish community there.

After the steady rain of a couple days ago, the campground was still very wet. It was so wet, they had closed about half the camp sites, thankfully, my site remained dry and accessible.

Campground road

Along the way, I stopped at a Chase Bank branch to use the ATM for some cash. Put the card in, answered all the questions, and waited for the transaction to be completed. Surprise…Transaction declined. Great, that’s just great, now what am I going to do without any cash? It sure is easy to be cool & calm, especially when everything goes right, not so easy when it goes wrong. As I’m sitting in the truck trying to decide my next move, the phone rings, its Chase fraud checking to see if I had tried to use my card, long story short, I was able to get it resolved and go back in and get some cash. I really remain, a work in progress.

Made it to the Park and the “canopy walk.” It was a short, and because of the recent rains, wet walk to the canopy. The main drawing point is the view at the top.

This is the canopy
And the tower.

Quite the thrill standing above the trees and looking to the horizon. It was worth coming up here. After soaking the scenery in for awhile, it was time to get back down to earth, and on my way to check out the Amish.

I set Pinecraft into google and off I went. After a series of twists and turns, Google informed me I was there, Pinecraft, the center for Amish/Mennonites winter residence in Florida. Except I wasn’t there, I found myself in the middle of a 55+ trailer park. It was a nice place but no Amish, just old retired Christians.

Fortunately, I had my tablet with me, I went online and did some search and research finding the right location. It is so amazing the internet, today we have the world at our fingertips, literally.

I was able to find where I wanted to be (sans google ), and after a few more wrong turns, I finally found myself in the heart of Pinecraft, and I wasn’t disappointed. The streets were crowded with mostly women but also a few men walking, all wearing traditional garb. Three wheel bikes were common, and I even saw one guy driving a gulf cart. While most were elderly, I did see a few younger folks sprinkled here and there. The homes were small, almost cottage like, and close together. the streets are narrow, less than two car widths wide. Something out of the ordinary are these houses have electricity and telephones, two things not found in Amish homes up north.

I didn’t take any photos. There were plenty of opportunity’s, I just felt taking their picture and pictures of their homes could make them feel like some kind of freaks. Oh look, those people are different, get their picture. I didn’t want to disrespect them, it was something this time, I would have to enjoy alone.

Took the long way back after another in an endless string of enjoyable days (even the bad ones).

Looking down from the tower and the tree tops.

01/28/19 Englewood, FL.

DAY #100

Expected the sky’s to be clear this morning but no, it remained as cloudy as yesterday, Oh well, at least it had stopped raining. I was nice and comfy under the covers so I thought, what the heck, I’ll snooze for a couple more hours, man this is a tough life I’m living isn’t it?

Waking up a second time, I could see the sun coming out, and the clouds breaking up, I could also see it was time to get up and get underway. Today was bring the truck in for a oil/filter change, and tire rotation day. Did a little research and found a Ford dealership not far away in Englewood. I went through their “Quick Lane” and $53.00 later, out the door I went, ready for the next few thousand miles. I can’t believe I’ve put nearly 8000 miles on the truck so far in the journey.

Next on the itinerary was to take a drive twenty miles south to Gasparilla Island, the State Park, and the town of Boca Grande. Crossing over the causeway to the island will set you back $6.00, at least they don’t charge you to get off the island (at least not yet). It’s a nice place. The vibes I got were similar to other coastal enclaves visited. In place of high-rise condo’s and resorts, it consisted mainly of single family homes, really nice homes. The island is definitely Section 8 free (don’t take that wrong). Looking at some ads later, you could easily start at a million dollars for a house with water views.

Not a million dollar home but it’s up there.

Cruising along the island proved to be a relaxing drive. Most of the homes were back from the road, giving a much more open, almost spacious feel driving along.

One of many side streets.
A lower end home, still out of my range.

I made it to the State Park, and did a quick walk around. The recent rain had left large sections of the park under water. While a nice place, it wasn’t the highlight of my visit.

Just outside the State Park.
A view that never gets old.

The highlight of the island was Boca Grande. It’s a small town with an “Old Florida” look and feel. The history of the area includes phosphorus being shipped by rail to be loaded onto ships just south of town. This lucrative business lasted up until the early 1970s, and you can still see remnants of the rail line as it crosses the water. It was so cool to see something historic in a area, where yesterday is considered old.

The railroad station.
You can’t recreate this.

The island was enjoyable, and charm of Boca Grande irresistible. This was a fun place to come and spend some time, I’m glad I came.

So unexpected but so cool to see.

From the ocean back to the forest, another solid day in Florida.

01/27/19. Englewood, FL

DAY #99

It began raining last night, and continued without break through the day, and well into the night. Add to that, it was cold (again, relatively speaking). It was a sleep in, snuggle under the covers kind of day. At some point I got up, stepped on the rug and ugh! My foot/sock was all wet. Damn it, where’s the water coming from? After following the water trail (not a very long trail) I found water leaking in through the fan in bathroom. I shut the vent which had been open, although that shouldn’t have matter, and wiped the water up, now to see if that’s where the water was coming in. Then I realized my batteries were running down, and I wasn’t sure about the generator running in the rain. The rain was starting to add up and the water level around the site was quickly rising, I felt like an island. I was starting to feel as gloomy as the weather, even thinking about just packing up and heading home (quitter syndrome).

Instead I braved the elements and went and bought a umbrella to protect the generator, and a raincoat to protect me. The umbrella worked well, as did the raincoat and with power in the trailer I was feeling a little better. It looked like shutting the vent stopped the water leaking. I did tighten the screws on the fan base that were somewhat loose. No more leaking, but I won’t be sure until next rain. Leaks in travel trailers are not good. You need to take care of them or the walls will rot and/or you can get mold.

I’d have to put today in the not so great category, hope tomorrow is better.

Pants looking kind of baggy.

01/26/19. Englewood, FL

DAY #98

When the four of us went to lunch a few days back, we noticed there were pontoon boat cruises at Snook Haven. It was one hour in duration, cost $18.50, and would take passengers up and down the Myakka River. It was something that interested me as a way to see areas not accessible by car, so I had made a mental note to come back.

Bummer…The weather had begun to change, gone was the blue sky’s and comfortable temps and in its place, cloudy, cool, and rainy weather. Even thought It looked to be a so-so day weather wise, It looked like this would be the best day of my time left here to take the cruise. It was only about twenty minutes from the State Forest, so I slept in late and still made the excursion with time to spare.

Made my reservation the day before and at 11:30 am, I arrived at Snook Haven for my 12:00 pm cruise. I was surprised that even with the less than ideal weather, there were still a lot of people around. The cruise had twenty people on it.

The weather had driven away all the kayakers and canoes off the river. It was cool, even a bit chilly and then it started to lightly rain. I had hoped the crummy weather would have held off until later in the afternoon, but no such luck. Oh well, you make the most of it. Out into the river and underway we went.

Because of the weather, not a lot of wildlife. We did see a couple blue herons (wow, they are so big), and a few other birds. The highlight of the cruise aside from the scenery was, you guessed it, an alligator.

also saw a smaller one but it stayed in water where it was warmer.

The guide was knowledgeable, and his narration made the cruise that much more enjoyable. Pointing out things we would have missed or had no clue about. The river at this point runs through mostly state/county owned land, it made one feel far, far away. The time went fast and before realizing it, the cruise was over. While not a high impact, adrenaline filled hour, it was a nice, low key way to see a part of Florida otherwise missed.

The weather continued icky (relatively speaking), but at least it had stopped raining. I went back to Manasota Key and Stump Pass State Park at the southern end of the island. When I had been there last, the park was full, not the case today. There was a 1.3 mile trail and I decided I’d walk it to the end of the island. Man, that 1.3 mile walk turned out to be a long walk. For me walking in the sand, and the trail was 90% soft sand, is a lot more strenuous that walking on hard ground.

I had made it and this is what I saw

Now I had to make it back. Being old, fat, out of shape, and having had nothing to eat all day (literally), I can understand why the walk back was an effort. I took the beach back thinking the sand would be harder and easier to walk on.

After a while, that idea fell to the wayside, and I cut back to the trail. After stopping a couple of times to rest, I made it back to the truck. I gotta tell you, it was a good feeling when I knew I had made it back. I had walked 2.6 miles in soft sand and lived to tell about it, I’m a lucky guy.

As bad as the weather was, it was going to get worse, time to go into hunker down mode.

01/25/19 Englewood, FL

DAY #97

Not much to write about today.

Decided to hang out in the woods and make a couple of trips to get water to fill the trailer tank. It’s still a work in progress, filling a 40 gal tank 7-8 gallons at a time does take time, plus when you add me to the equation, it takes even longer. Only other thing I did was to take the long way to North Port and the local Walmart.

Coming back in the dark from North Port, just as I came into the campground, saw a opossum cross the road. To get to the road from the one side, he had to go through some water first. I found it entertaining to watch it glide through the water then scramble across the road. It was fun to see. They are kind of ugly but for some reason, I like them, I think because they’re so beneficial to the environment.

While I can’t say I’ve fallen “head over heels” in love with primitive camping, it does have its positives. If you want to get as far away from people and society, while still having access (at your discretion) to them, this is the way to go. Let me tell you, I am in the boondocks out here (the part, I do love about this kind of camping).

01/24/19. Englewood, FL

DAY #96

Slept in late, and decided my activity for the day would be to start to fill the fresh water tank on the trailer.

Since I didn’t have a hose, or running water for that matter, I had to improvise (and as you’ll see, badly). What I did, was to go down to the administration building about 1/3 mile from the campground and fill up containers of water. They had a spigot where you could get potable water. I had a six gallon gas container (new), and a four gallon water jug. I was thinking, I could get eight gallons at a time and it would take five trips to fill the tank. Once the tank was filled, the plan was then to sanitize it.

After two trips filling up the jugs, and then pouring the water into the tank, which turned out to be a long, slow, and heavy process, I thought OK, it should show up on the monitor in the trailer. I checked, and it read empty. Empty, how can it be empty? It wasn’t until I had walked in front of the trailer, that I noticed a standing pool of water underneath the it.

It seems someone forgot to make sure the valve to the fresh water tank was closed. All that hassle, getting out of the truck to open the gate to the campground, getting out after closing it, filling the jugs with water, doing the fence routine again, and then finally, pouring the water into the tank like you would put gas into a car.

I didn’t freak out too bad, and hopefully I’ll take this and learn from it.

I thought, enough for today, I’ll try again tomorrow.

01/23/19 Englewood, FL

DAY #95

Last day with Margaret & Ed. We decided we’d do lunch, then they would head up to Orlando, and finally, Minnesota. Lisa had a new place for us to checkout, so we all loaded up in Charlotte’s KIA, and away we went.

After about a fifteen minute drive, started to notice a change of scenery. Left behind was the city and ahead of us, Florida, as it used to be, overgrown and seemingly endless. We weren’t that far away from encroaching “community’s,” but so cool this oasis still lives on. Lisa instructed Charlotte to make a right turn. She did, and we found ourselves even further off the beaten path. After another mile of bad road, we made it to our destination.

Today, all of this is owned by Sarasota County. It began life as a fishing resort in the 40s, and thankfully ended up as public land.. The concessions are contracted out, with the restaurant run by the same people who have Sharkys, the restaurant at Venice Pier where we were going to eat.

We sat in the screened section. The food was creative and well presented, definitely, a step above fast food. We all were very satisfied and thought this to be a really cool place. They do have live music, heard it can get pretty lively on the weekends. The Myakka river runs next to the restaurant, which only adds to the ambiance of the place.

Afterwards, we headed back to the house and said our goodbyes. For me, it was so much fun to be able to spend time with Margaret, Ed, Lisa, and Charlotte. I got to hang out with four people, the likes you will never find better. These last few days will standout as highlights of the trip.

Went and got a haircut, and stopped at the local neighborhood Walmart, then back to the farm where I hunkered down for the night.

01/22/19. Englewood, FL

DAY #94

Another early start to the day (at least for me). dragged myself out of bed and headed out, Making it to Charlotte & Lisa’s by 10:00 a.m. Today was going to be beach day.

Charlotte joined us today as we started off by going to historic downtown Venice. It’s a well kept, comfortable, and vibrant area. We strolled along its sidewalks window shopping, and occasionally stopping to check out one of the many shops. I have to admit not one of my favorite activities, but in this case, with the right people, in the right place, it turned out to be enjoyable.

After downtown, it was off to the Jetty, it’s a nice spot to get a super view of the gulf (which I didn’t get a photo ...Oops). One observation; There’s a lot of old folks (even older than me) down here. I like it, it makes me feel young.

Say hello to Charlotte.
I borrowed these photos from Margaret.

From the Jetty, we loaded up into Charlotte’s KIA Sedona (nice vehicle) and off we went, next stop, Venice Pier. Walking out the length of the pier was to get an even better view of the gulf (again, no photos, I know, I know). The plan was to eat at a popular restaurant at the pier (Sharkys), but there was a thirty minute wait. We decided to go elsewhere, which was great for me because I don’t like seafood, and the restaurant is known for seafood. Walking through the lot back to the car, it seemed like every second car in the lot was from out of state. Lots of cars from Ontario, Maine, New York, etc. So prevalent were out of state plates, you could name a state and find a car with those plates in the lot (maybe a slight exaggeration).

Decided to have lunch at an Amish style restaurant in Sarasota. I noticed as we were driving down the road near the restaurant a lot of people who looked to be Amish. At the Jetty, I had seen a couple of people (male & female) dressed in Amish garb. It grabbed my attention because I didn’t think there were Amish in Florida. The lunch at the restaurant was a buffet style and while simple in presentation, was very satisfying and actually quite good.

As we left the restaurant and headed for the beach, I again noticed all these man who looked like Amish wearing a summer style wardrobe (short-sleeve & lighter colored shirts). Of course the women were wearing their normal wardrobe, much hotter than what the men had to wear, but at least it looked cooler in it’s lighter color. The area was heavy with three wheel bikes and the homes were small and simple in design. Afterwards, I checked on google about this. It seems that these folks are Amish snowbirds. A community had been created back in the 1920s called Pinecraft and over time, the city of Sarasota had built up around it. It was unexpected but pretty neat to see.

Made it to Sarasota beach. It’s rated the number one beach in Florida. It’s a big beach and the sand is white and so smooth. It really is a solid place to spend the day.

It was a fun day. When you go to Florida, it’s a must do, going to the beach, and Sarasota Beach is one of the nicest.

Coming back from my beach day excursion, I saw an armadillo along the road leading to the campsite. It was a young one judging from its size, and while somewhat ugly, it really had a cute little face. Watching it root around the undergrowth looking for food was fun, it didn’t seem too concerned I was sitting in the truck about twenty feet away watching. I wanted to take a picture but again, it wouldn’t have turned out very good (really getting mileage out of that excuse). it eventually went off into the woods, and I proceeded to the campsite. Seeing one alive up close and personal was really cool.

Another fun day thanks to our guides, Lisa & Charlotte.

01/21/19 Englewood, FL

DAY #93

Woke up to a voice telling me it’s 9:00 am, way too early for this boy. I touch the screen on the phone for ten more minutes of snooze and then, in what seemed like a minute, the alarm went off again. I didn’t want to, but it was time to get up, I needed to meet the others @ 10:00 am.

I got up, and out the door I went, making it to the house by 10:00. Lisa had planned for us to go to the Big Bend Power Plant to see manatees. We all squeezed in to Margaret & Ed’s rental car. It was a small Nissan Sentra, but with it’s impressive leg room and comfortable seats, we all fit in comfortably.

These three are special. They epitomize the best in people. I was fortunate to spend time with them.

The power station is located across the bay from St. Petersburg. That meant we had about a 75 mile ride ahead of us. Took the freeway and made it in a little over an hour. I will say this about the freeway (I-75), it has enough lanes, it’s in really good shape, and traffic (even heavy) flows. Once there we found the parking lot full, oh-oh, then we saw a sign for overfill parking and went down the road about a 1/4 mile and parked. It was nice they had set up a shuttle from the lot to observation point.

Big Bend Power Plant discharges warm water into a man-made inlet, and in the winter when sea water temps fall below 67 degrees (approx.), the manatees come into the inlet where the discharged water has raised the temp to a level the manatees can survive in.

Only had to wait a few minutes for the shuttle to take us to the observation walk (and back). Surprised at the large number of people, Lisa commented that it hadn’t been this busy on her trips here before. Talking about it later, we concluded; because it was MLK holiday plus with the weather being ideal to see the manatees, it resulted in the much higher crowds.

The water was murky so visibility of the manatees was compromised. You could still see them well enough in person to make for an satisfying time but, when you add murky water and sunny sky’s, it makes for bad photos, and when the manatees can look like grey blobs, it makes for really bad photos. I’m using that excuse again as to why I didn’t take any photos.

It turned out to be a really neat place to go, while the backdrop of the power station 500 feet across the water didn’t do a whole lot to heighten the experience (although kind of cool in it’s own way), seeing all the manatees in the water (at least 25-30) was amazing. There were big ones and small ones, fat ones and, well, they’re all fat. I liked that you could see the manatees from the angle of looking down at them. This made it so much easier & better to see them. I really got a kick when they would come up for air. Like a big blimp they would slowly rise, and then the nose would come out of the water, nostrils open, then silently, back into the water they would go. In addition to the manatees, we were able to see a few rays, and a lot of big fish. This experience definitely lived up to the hype!

Went to lunch at a family owned pizza place in Bradenton. Able to order by the slice which was different than what used to, and it was I think, a more authentic New York style than used to. It was affordable and quite satisfying. Good company + Good food = Good Time.

After lunch, we headed to Myakka State Park to spend some time. This was the same park I had stopped and inquired about a campsite before going on to the State Forest campground. It’s a big park and impressive in its diversity, I can see why it was full when I checked.

You go to the ocean, what do people want to see? Sharks. You go to Africa, what do people want to see? Lions. You go to Florida.

People want to see Alligators.

Along with the gators we were able to see a variety of birds, deer, ferral pigs, and turtles.

At one point we took a short stroll down a trail looking for, you guessed it, gators.

Hey, that’s no gator.

We stayed at the park until near sunset and then headed back to East Venice, where we had started the day. It had been a long but enjoyable day.