02/13/19 Naples, FL

DAY #116

Wow, how fast things can change. Yesterday was hot and humid, and today was cold (relatively speaking) and raining. The one day it would be cool to sleep in late and here I was, awake at 9:30 am (early for me).

Since I was already awake, I got up and went online, doing some research/shopping for a mattress topper. The mattress that came with the trailer isn’t holding up that well (not uncommon), and it’s beginning to lose some of its fullness. I’d been reading that a lot of people with RV’s use them, and that they really improve comfort.

It’s a good thing retail isn’t dead yet,. I’m not sure if I ordered on Amazon, would they ship it to a campground where I’d be staying?

Found a topper that was in stock at a Target store on the edge of Naples which was closest to the campground. I went there, found the topper (actually had it in stock) and left. a hopeful boy dreaming of a comfortable nights rest.

Then it was on to do some laundry. It just wouldn’t be right to have a new topper and not have clean sheets, plus I had some other stuff to wash. As I was waiting for the clothes to wash/dry, I went back online looking for a device to clean the trailer toilet, and a RV hose for water. I was able to find both at a Ace Hardware store just down the road from the laundromat, how cool was that? After finishing up at the laundry, off I went and purchased the stuff at Ace.

I needed the device to clean the black water tank because this morning I finally used the toilet in the trailer. Nature was calling, real loud, and I didn’t know where the porta-potty was located in the campground (I do now). It worked out quite well, although I am a bit sad that my black tank is no longer a virgin.

Another bit of good news is there was no leaking around the vent in the bathroom. Had about an inch of rain today. I am so thankful.

There’s sure a lot of traffic on the roads around here. Made it back to the campground and settled in for the night. I’m looking forward to see how the mattress topper works out.

02/12/19 Naples, FL

DAY #115

Today was a hot and humid day. Well it may not have been perfect weather-wise, I’ll take it over cold any day of the week and twice on Sundays. It was so hot and humid (how hot and humid was it?), that it just sucked the energy right out of me. As a result, today ended up being a do-nothing day.

I did go into Golden Gate (suburb east of Naples) to get some groceries at the local ‘Publix’, and to check out the area on the trip there and back. Getting into Naples and the Gulf is about forty five minutes away from the campground, I didn’t think I was that far away. Just to get to the ‘Publix’ grocery store from the campground, was a 30 minute trip.

One thing I’m noticing out here; while development is coming and coming fast, it looks to be mainly single family homes on multi-acre lots, and (so far), very little commercial activity, like no strip malls or fast food joints. Another thing missing, are ‘Deeded Communities,’ although they’re alive and well, starting about ten miles closer to Naples.

New Construction.
Typical street in the area.

Everything looks to be new, like it was built yesterday new. As much as I hate seeing the area developed at all, I would rather see it developed like it is, single family homes on multi-acres lots, keeping some semblance of habitat for the non human creatures also wanting to live there, rather than having it turned into another cookie cutter model of some marketers vision of what Florida should look like.

One interesting story to leave you with.

I was stopped at an intersection (Collier Blvd), when I noticed to my left, a Toyota Prius going through the intersection (Green Blvd) at a really slow speed and farther over in the lane than it should have been. It was crossing with a green light, so Collier Blvd traffic was stopped (thankfully), and we just watched it roll on by. As I’m saying to myself, why are they going so slow? I saw or rather, didn’t see, was anyone in the drivers seat. There was a used car lot on the corner and it looked like it was one of their cars. after going through the intersection, it went up a curb and came to a stop, resting up against the traffic signal pole. The light turned green, and off everyone went.

The Prius rolled through this intersection, left to right.

02/11/19 Palmdale-Naples, FL

DAY #114

I’m thinking I’ll sleep pretty good tonight. Awake until 4:00 am, and then a fitful sleep until 9:45 a. m. when the alarm went off. Man, I don’t know what it was, but when I got up, I felt a year older,

This trip had me filling the fresh water tank for the first time. the next stop doesn’t have any potable water (or electric), and I wanted to have some water available. After getting everything else ready to go, I filled the tank with 35 gallons. It turned out to be a pretty easy task to do. I remained a little concerned if/how the extra weight (300 lbs) would effect the ride. It turned out to be a non-issue…yes!

The drive was another short one. This time, around an hour and forty-five minutes. The agricultural nature of the area around Fisheating Creek intensified as I went south, especially around Immokalee. It was the first time I noticed migrant housing. It consisted of simple, painted (tan), block homes, and faded, shabby mobile homes, all grouped together in rows. Certainly not anywhere as bad as it was at one time, but it still looked rather bleak.

Driving further on, I entered the infamous Golden Gates Estates. From my understanding, this area, along with the land where the State Forest is was part of a large scale land scandal/scam back in the 1960s. The area was going to be the largest subdivision in the country, and had plans for 500,000 people. Streets were laid out and paved, canals were dug so people would have water access, as well as a way to drain the wetland, What (in part) brought about the the downfall of the development was, during rainy season, the land would become submerged and/or water soaked, making it inhabitable. I was surprised at the amount of new homes and new home construction as I drove down the road, This part of the estates looks like it might be the next place to be in Naples. Makes sense; You’re not that far from Naples and the Gulf, and the lots look to be 1 1/4 to 5 acres. I’m thinking building costs are cheaper out here.

I’m going to check the area out more during the stay here.

Once you cross over the freeway (I-75), also known as “Alligator Alley,” the pavement ends, and up ahead it looks like a ghost town. There looked to be roads that went nowhere. Another area I’ll want to check out.

Took a right turn and followed the road for about a mile. Off to my right, the campground came into sight. I pulled in, scoped out where to set up, and then began backing the trailer into place. As I was doing that, a women came up and introduced herself, she was the camp host and informed me that I could park the trailer over there (pointing to a spot 250′ away), or stay where I was, it was all good.

Where I could have parked.

Since I was just about backed in, I thought this is cool. Finished setting the trailer in place, and getting it ready for use, including taking my lounge chair out of the truck. I grabbed a soda and sat down in the lounge chair.

Where I was parking when the host approached me.

Looking around, I noticed that the trailers seemed like they’d been here (or somewhere) for awhile. Noticed too, that a couple other spots had people in tents, and vans, looking like they’d also been here awhile. It gave off a bit of an aura of ‘transient camp’ or ‘crash pad’. I’m not overly concerned about safety, I’m just not hip to the trailer park crowd in general (I know, judgmental). It starting to look to me that those who stay at State Forests to camp, and those staying at State Parks, are two very different breeds.

It started to rain, need to get the windows in the truck up.

Welcome to Picayune Strand State Forest.

02/10/19 Palmdale, FL

DAY #113

Last full day at Fisheating Creek Campground, and I could easily have stayed longer. While the campground didn’t stand out (good or bad), it was a nice base from which to explore the area, plus being comfortable enough to just hang out and do nothing. I liked that everything worked and that it was quiet, even when the campground was full. It was a bit of a drive to get anywhere, but that’s one of the quirky things that for me, made for a memorable experience.

Overall, I enjoyed the area. It’s different than other areas visited so far in the ‘Sunshine State’. Gone were the beaches, replaced by sugar cane fields. Gone were the forests, replaced by groves of oranges. Gone were the meandering & scenic rivers, replaced by razor straight man-made canals. Gone were the waters of the gulf, replaced by the waters of Lake Okeechobee. Gone were the retirees living in new & improved communities, replaced by migrant workers living in dirty, dingy mobile homes.

I’ve really been spoiled by having had water, electric, and sewer at this campground, something that I’m really, really, going to miss at the next couple of sites.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to spend time in this area. I would come back.

02/09/19 Palmdale, Fl

DAY #112

Turned the hot water heater on last night, and finally tried the shower. The campground has lots of people camping in tents and my thinking was; with all these people in tents not having showers, they’re going to use the one at the campground. That means waiting before getting a shower and/or no hot water when you do. It was what tipped my decision to FINALLY try the shower in the trailer.

Yippee, the hot water heater came on, and the shower worked fine. There was decent pressure, and provided had all the hot water I needed. Didn’t notice any leaking other than what I caused by not putting the curtain inside the tub. It’s a small space, but with practice, I think it will work out just fine.

Around 4:30 pm, I decided to drive up to Lake Placid and do laundry. I’m not sure what the situation will be at the next stop so…. Lake Placid is a 25 minute drive and offered (at least by google reviews) the best place to do laundry.

It was a little hole in the wall, located in sleepy, downtown Lake Placid
The laundromat was dingy and borderline dirty, and the machines were playing past their prime, still it had a interesting character to it and it turned out to be an interesting experience. Joining me in laundry were 6-7 individuals who appeared to be migrant workers. There’s a lot of orange groves around the area and its harvest time. Looking at those guys, I thought about the long, long hours of doing the back breaking job they do, and compared them to my lazy ass. Man they leave me in the dust. I’d like to see anyone critical of people coming into this country to do migrant farm work, do the work they do for even one day. I think if they did, they would come away with a much different opinion.

After the laundry, stopped at the local Publix, Ya know, I really like that grocery chain. From there, it was back to the campground.

Ya know, it’s the little things that make the memory of this journey for me. Today, I had the small town, funky little laundromat, hanging with the orange pickers experience. Nothing wow about it, but it’s a memory that will stay with me.

02/08/19 Palmdale, FL

DAY #111

Today was hang around the trailer and start preparing for leaving next Monday day. The time here has gone by too fast. Fisheating Creek campground has been a really comfortable place to hang out, and there’s still so much to see. I’m not ready to leave yet.

Home away from home.

At the next site, I again will have no water or electricity. I wanted to make sure I had full propane tanks for the refrigerator (when generator isn’t running), and the hot water heater. One of the tanks on the trailer was empty, so I changed it out with a full tank and while rummaging around the truck bed, decided to pull out the generator and check/add oil to it. I think the generators going to get a pretty good workout the next couple of weeks, need to make sure it’s good to go as well.

Later, I went into La Belle, FL to the local Tractor Supply Co. and had the two empty tanks (have two extra) filled. The person working the counter didn’t know how to ring up the propane, and ended up charging me about $15.00 less than I should have paid. I know I should have said something but there were others in line, she was really slow, and hey, it benefited me so I let it go. Now the tanks on the trailer are full as are the two spares, I’m ready for the woods once again.

Forgot about this. Yesterday as I was driving along a canal bordering a sugar cane field, came across this kid.

I was wowed by this citing, and as I continued down the road, I saw another 6-7 gators of various sizes hanging out on the canal banks, now that was cool.

02/07/19 Palmdale, FL

DAY #110

Had planned on getting up at 7:00 am and checking out one of the trails at the campground, but as usual, I woke up, turned off the alarm, and went back to sleep, still too damn lazy to get up and get underway.

It’s OK, I wasn’t bummed, I’ve been getting a little hung up lately on having to be doing something all day, everyday, and if I don’t, I’ve somehow failed in purpose. I need to remember that just being on this journey is purpose enough, and if I take some time off and do nothing, it’s cool.

There was still a fair amount of daylight left so, I decided to hop in the truck and check out the rest of Lake Okeechobee. I drove from the west side of the lake to the north and finally east back to where I had ended up yesterday.

So c’mon, get in, buckle up, roll down your window, and sit back and relax, as we cruise Lake Okeechobee. Its a beautiful day.

One of the many canals used to handle water overflow

The closer to the lake, the more palm trees I was seeing. I like the palms, they make me feel warm, almost tropical.

I do find myself wanting the photos to be of better quality (I think I’m my own worst critic). It’s hard to set the shot up, when you’re steering with one hand, and holding the camera with the other, all the while going down the road 55-65 mph.

Found a spot on the north side of the lake where I could get some photos of Okeechobee.

Normal View.
Artistic View (Uh, OK)
Such a diversity of birds.
Cameo shot.

This is what the dike looks like at the top, as it runs around the lake.

Continued driving around the edge of the lake. I knew I was close, when I could see the dike rising up from the ground. An observation that crossed my mind while rolling down the road, it looks like all the white collar retirees settle near the Gulf & Atlantic, and the blue collar folks end up here near the lake. Lots of modest senior trailer courts, along with lots of single width mobile homes period. The area has not been gentrified, thats for sure.

The omnipresent dike.

Went over a bridge that took you across a large canal, and OMG, it provided such a fantastic view of the lake. I couldn’t do a, get the camera, take a shot, and keep your fingers crossed shot. I turned around, of course it took what seemed like an eternity to find a spot to turn around (or so it seemed), and headed back to the bridge. I pulled over to the shoulder at the highest point, and put the 4 ways on, got out and took a couple of photos. It really helped that the road was pretty quiet. As I was taking my last photos, a semi crossed over and wow, could I feel the bridge vibrating.

Looking away from the lake

Got a couple more shots of the lake after getting off the bridge and onto the dike,

The western and northern part of the lake is in an area of mostly grazing land for cattle. I heard that Florida is ranked #8 in beef production, and based on all the cattle I’ve seen, I believe it. When you get on the eastern and southern side, that changes. You’ll still see some cattle, but now you’re more apt to see sugar cane and sweet corn.

One thing I’ve noticing after spending some time around the lake, is the change in demographics. This is a working class part of the state. It’s heavily agricultural, with the crops grown being very labor intensive, Those labor needs are being met by migrant workers, the vast majority, Hispanic.

Gone is the new, crisp, and clean Florida, of retiree community’s and tourist attractions, and in its place, the dingy, gritty, dusty Florida of migrants, transients, and people living in poverty.

Lots of pictures this day. First time driving around a lake, and a big one at that and never seeing it. Not a big fan of the dike, but I guess I can understand why it exists.

It was an enjoyable day. I got to see a different side of Florida. Yes it was different and maybe at times not as pretty, but I liked it.

it was a good day in the sunshine state.

02/06/19 Palmdale, FL.

DAY #109

Another in a string of gorgeous days, we’re talking sunny sky’s, 75-80 degree temperatures, and mild breezes. It never gets old, that’s for sure.

I’m still dealing with staying up until the wee hours of the morning and then sleeping until twelve or even one in the afternoon. I keep telling myself that I’m not going to get much done doing that, why don’t I listen? It is so frustrating. I’ll lay down and try and sleep around midnight, but I just don’t fall asleep. Blimey, its a real bugger!

So today was another late start. I decided to check out Lake Okeechobee. The lake is huge, covering 720 square miles. Interestingly, while it is so big, it averages a depth of only nine feet. It reminded me of a really big lake Mille Lacs in Minnesota.

First, I would check out the west and southern part of the lake and then move onto the east and northern part, at least that was the plan.

Just as I crossed the bridge in Moore Haven, there was a semi-tanker that had overturned not long before my getting there. The police were on the scene, you could see and smell the diesel fuel. I hadn’t seen anything like this so close up before, defiantly an experience. Tried to take a picture of it, but going down the road 40 miles an hour and having to watch traffic ahead of me, I had one shot, and oh how I whiffed.

Nice shot of the overturned semi-tanker

l was surprised how much of the lake is inaccessible. Most of the western and south-western part is devoid of any roads getting anywhere close to the lake.

There’s also a dike that runs around the circumference of the lake. The Hebert Hoover Dike is designed to control flooding and stands 30 feet tall. I’ve got to say, it messes up any thoughts of a Sunday drive in the country.

I was able to find a spot and walk to the top of the dike and get a view of the south end of the lake.

Looking towards lake from top of dike.
There’s still a lot of space that can flood before encroaching on the dike.

The land changes east of Moore Haven. It becomes more agricultural with each passing mile, and sugar cane takes center stage. In Cleweston, the U.S. Sugar Corporation has a huge mill.

Sugar around here is big business.

Continued around the southern end of the lake which took me up to Pahokee, FL. Here I was able to get a much better view of the lake.

The lake has ongoing algae issues.

I still had some daylight left and thought I’d continue driving around the lake. I set up a route in google and that’s when things went haywire.

I hate it when google map doesn’t instruct you (via voice) until after you start moving. You’re basically guessing which way to go and if you guess wrong, it will send you on a ’round-about’ to get you back on its route (and be even more confused).

As bad as that is, worse for me, and what happened today; I thought google had mapped the route the way I wanted, but it had changed the route, so I go along listening and following the instructions. After driving for a few minutes, something didn’t seem right, and of course, there’s no damn place to pull off the road to check on things. One thing about a lot of these rural roads, they don’t have much room as far as shoulders. I’m finally able to get off the road and check and sure enough, google changed the route. Try as I did I couldn’t get it to route the way I wanted to go. It got me so frustrated.

Because things didn’t go the way I wanted it to, it was time to have a melt down. The anger welling up, and exploding out of me, temper tantrum style. I wanted to smash the tablet, that would show it, that would show it what happens when it doesn’t do as I want (rational thinking? I think not), And it went downhill from there. Why don’t I get it? Why don’t I let this anger go? Ya know when it comes over me, there is a moment when I have a choice, I can feel it. Do I let it go, or act the fool. Why do I continue to make the wrong choice?

I’ve been feeling good for awhile, and this bummed me out big time. I think because it showed that again, I failed. Sure, its easy to be laid back when not being tested. But when I am (like today), I’m reminded that the anger is still there, ready to explode like a geyser in all its gory (rather than glory).

It would be nice if there were a pill, or an answer for this to go away, and maybe there is and I’m just not seeing it yet. No more quitting for this boy, I’ll get up, dust myself off, and keep looking.

I guess today ended up a ‘two step back’ day.

02/05/19 Palmdale, FL

DAY #108

I headed out today, intent on exploring in more detail, the Lake Placid area. Did my homework online, and was able to map out a route using back roads to take me most of the way up there. To me, there’s just no better way to see the land, people, and the culture of the region than by taking those roads, especially when getting there is what the journey is all about, something I struggle to (at times) remember.
Along the drive, I was entertained by a panorama of trees, pastures (cattle), and more and more as I headed north, orange groves.

Ugh, sorry it came out a little dark.

I must have simple tastes, I got a kick (so to speak) as I went by the groves, and it’s especially cool, because the fruit is now in season, ready to be picked. In fact, I saw buses carrying people to (I can only imagine) the fields to pick the oranges.

Taking the back roads psyched me out to see the lakes in the area and I wasn’t disappointed. While not ‘mind blowing,’ the lakes were a new and exciting experience. It’s a part of the Florida tapestry I hadn’t seen before.

Lake Placid.

Lake Placid is one of the larger lakes amongst the many to be found in the area. The bottom was a fine, tan colored sand, and pretty clear visibility.

Another large lake was Lake June in Winter. Very similar in makeup to the other lakes.

Lake June in Winter.

There’s a large state park on the western side of the lake and that’s great to see. In the decades to come, having left these lands undeveloped will benefit us many time over.

Walking around the park I noticed a trail, and decided to hike it a short ways. Nice, but nothing spectacular (other than nature in general).

The last lake checked out was also the largest of the lakes.

As I was heading back to the campground, the thought flashed across my mind on how today was fun. I’m finding that the time is going by much too fast, I think I could stay here awhile longer.

02/04/19 Palmdale, FL.

DAY #107

Took some time to check out the wildlife area outside of the campground. Went down to the river and wow, what a view.

Fisheating Creek.

As I was walking around, I met a couple of new friends.

Looks like these two already know each other.

Next on the ‘to do’ list was going to La Belle, FL. La Belle is 16 miles from the campground, and is another quiet (albeit bigger) town, La Belle, like Moore Haven, are nice little communities that really don’t leave much of a lasting impression. That’s not to say they’re bad places, they’re not. Rather, it says that nothing really jumps out and grabs you. They’re what I would describe as ‘working towns.’

While these two towns may not have wowed me, I’m finding the area around the campground (which includes Moore Haven and La Belle) to be a very interesting area, and I’m finding the more I see, the more I like.

I did find a place to eat that turned out to be a real satisfying experience. It was BBQ, and it was good.