Travels with Barrie and Val - The Big U Turn, Part 5

Wednesday, November 21st - Sunday, November 25th

On Wednesday, we drove into St Augustin which was about a 45 minute drive north of Flagler Beach. St Augustin is the oldest American city. It has a population of about 75,000 people and was settled by the Spaniard, Ponce de Leon in 1620. Old Ponce was Columbus' navigator. The city has some beautiful buildings and a central area which centers around St George street which has a lot of craft shops and eateries. We took the usual city tour which is actually the best way to get to know a place. We normally head for a visitors center and see what we are going to do from there. I would highly recommend a visit to St Augustin.

We visited an outlet mall where I bought a new pair of Dexter moccasins for $55.00. A good deal even with the lousy exchange rate as Dexter's are quite expensive and are well over a $100 in Canada. For the rest of the time we walked along the beach and hung around and took it easy and enjoyed the good weather. There's a sidewalk along the whole A1A road which runs right along the beachfront and I got back to my morning walks which I haven't been doing much of since we started doing this RV thing. But I'm back into it full time now. Gas around the Flagler Beach area was around $1.15 a gallon but I found some in St Augustin for $1.07.

On Sunday, we packed up and left Flager Beach for the town of Christmas which is located between Titusville and Orlando. It's an Airstream park but takes in all kinds of RVs. Even so, we had never seen so many Airstreams in one campground. And a number of them were 34 footers which you don't see too many of . Most people seem to prefer to the shorter Airstreams, 27 to 31 foot. But the 34 footers tow better because they have triple axles. But we are finding out that a 34 foot trailer isn't always the best when it comes to getting a good camp site. Some sites are only 32 feet long. So that's no good. We usually go for at least 40 foot in length.

I think I mentioned this in one of the previous reports, but the main reason we decided to come to Christmas RV Park is for the space shuttle launch on Thursday the 29th. Of course, you get a full briefing on that later on in this report as well as pics. But I don't know how well the pics will turn out as it's a night launch.

Monday, November 26 - Sunday, December 2nd

Monday was a rest day do nothing day but on Tuesday, November 27th we went to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC). We took a tour with a guide. More expensive, but you get more information. They've really turned the KSC into a tourist mecca. In addition to the Space Center exhibits there are stores placed strategically in the different areas. An example of this is at the area where there is a Saturn V rocket on display. Boy, those are big rockets! See the pics email. To leave that exhibit building and get back on the bus, you have to go through the store. But it's well worth a visit to the KSC. We could see the launch pad off in the distance with the latest shuttle loaded and being readied for the launch on Thursday. We also passed by the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) where the shuttle is connected to the solid and liquid booster rockets. It takes five to seven hours to make the approximately 4 mile trip to the launch pad on the tracked platform that takes it there. We also watch the IMAX movie Living The Dream about the space program. The next thing is to watch the actual launch on Thursday night.

Just down the road from the RV park is a place called Jungle Adventures with a building made out to look like a large crocodile. So we went in and had a look at the alligators and other animals that they have on display. It's also an alligator farm but we didn't see that part of it. It was interesting to see live crocs. One of them was 15 feet long and weighed 1800 lbs!!! Something to stay well away from.

On Wednesday, we had the dogs clipped at a nice little place just two minutes down the highway from the campground. More to this later on.

Thursday came and the launch was postponed until Friday. Then it was postponed until the following Tuesday. So we decided to head for an Escapees park a few miles north of Tampa. The Xmas park was a nice park, but most of the sites were in amongst the pine trees and we weren't getting any sun. But we were getting plenty of mosquitoes and no-seeums! So, even though we were only about 20 minutes away from a good viewing site for the shuttle launch, we had to get to a better camp site. So on Sunday, the 2nd, we headed over to Sumter RV Park about a mile east of the I-75. It turned out to be a good move as it's a very nice park. It had just been acquired by the Escapees organization on Nov 1st and the price was $10.50 a night plus .10 cents a kilowatt hour for electricity. Which, if one doesn't use the A/C, works out to around $1.00 to $2.00 a day. The sites are very large. Ours is about 80 foot long by about 40 foot wide.

Monday, December 3rd - Tuesday, December 10th

On Monday, we were sitting having a coffee when Val suddenly said "have a look at this." She had a daily check of Blossom our toy poodle. Well, there was a little flea running around on Blossom. I tried to pick it up but those little mother f-----s are the greyhounds of the bug world!!! I couldn't catch it! A mild panic set in as everyone knows, when you find fleas on an animal, you have to "de-flea" the whole house. In this case, our trailer. So we left the dogs in the trailer and went out looking for a pet store. Of course, when you need one you can never find one. And we didn't. But we did find a Wal-Mart, and they have a pet section. This one had a huge section just for fleas and tics. It's a common problem here in Florida, but also everywhere in the south where you have hot weather. We've read a number of RV books that say to expect to have this problem with fleas and tics at least once. Terrific!! So we bought the flea shampoo and also some flea spray for the carpet and couch etc. went back to the RV. We, actually Val, gave both dogs a good bath with the flea shampoo. I then dried them outside while Val sprayed the whole trailer. Then she took our bed linen off to the laundry and washed that as well. Ok. Ok. So she did all the work!! She didn't want me in there anyway. Hey. Who am I to argue! But the dogs are ok now. We haven't found in more of the little ones. But we think that they must have picked up the fleas at the place where they had been clipped. From now on, we'll clip them ourselves. It won't be quite as nice, but we have all the equipment with us so we might as well. I don't want to go through this again but being in the south it could very well happen again.

On Tuesday, the 4th, we headed back to Titusville which is right across from the Kennedy Space Center. If you are ever in the area when they are going to have a launch, the place we viewed it from was about as best a site as you can get without actually being at the KSC itself. From the junction of highway 50 and 405, which is just off the I-95 exit for Titusville, take the 405 North. It goes for a few k's and it looks as though you are heading out into the country; but it does a wide right hand sweep and enters back into Titusville. Stay on the 405 until the very end. And I mean the very end. the road actually crosses highway 1 and it literally ends at the water right in front of a house with a green roof. In actual fact, it's not a house but a pumping station for the city of Titusville that has been disguised in front to look like a house. Park the car and go behind the pumping station and there's your viewing site. Actually, the house on the right had a sign out in front welcoming people to view the launch from their back yard. Very thoughtful people. Unfortunately, we got about 20 minutes away from the launch time and it was cancelled until the Wednesday.

So on Wednesday, the 5th, we headed back to our viewing site and this time the shuttle took off at 5:19 PM, right on schedule. It was worth the wait. The actual launch site was about eight miles away, but when the rockets ignited at the launch pad, they could be clearly seen along with all the smoke. It then took off and although we could see much of the actual shuttle, the bright orange rocket flame was clearly visible. Unfortunately, there was some cloud overhead and we lost site of it after a couple of thousand feet. But the smoke trail was spectacular. I got it on video and on the digital camera. See the pics on the pics email. It's a little far off in the picture, but it gives you an idea of what the launch was like.

On Saturday, the 8th, we went to Hommossa State Park over near the Gulf. Our main reason for going to the park was to see the Manatees. These are Elephant Seal type animals that are related to the elephant. Strange I know but that's what the park ranger told us. They are very large but also playful as you can see in the pics that I will send out later. There were also other things to see such as a hippo, alligators, a gray fox, a brown bear that had many scares on his rear quarter and many types of birds including pelicans, pink flamingos and an American Bald Eagle that only had one wing that worked. The park took all these creatures in for various reasons. Some are injured on roads, others have their mothers lost and some are weakened by some of the storms. When they get well, they are released into the wild. Any of the creatures that cannot make it in the wild are kept in the park. The Eagle is an example of this. We attended a couple of seminars. One on snakes; I hate snakes, and the other on the Manatees. We were shown one of the Manatees who was called Elsie, that had propeller scares on her back. She was known as a sinker, because she couldn't keep herself buoyant enough and she would sink to the bottom and eventually drown; so she always had to stay in the shallow water. She did manage to go into the deeper water occasionally by getting a ride on the back of one of the other manatees who seem to understand her situation. Manatees can control the way they float or sink by shunting air from their lung cavities. In Elsie's case, the propellers had gone deep enough into her back that they had damaged her lungs, thus taking away the capability for her to use her lungs the way a normal manatee does. So Elsie will stay in the park for the rest of her life, whereas the other manatees will be released back into the sea when they get stronger.

Well, it was time for us to move on to the Florida Panhandle. We had been in the Florida Peninsula long enough considering that we weren't going to come here in the first place. So on Sunday, December 9th, we headed up the I-75 to Gainesville where we hit serious rain for the first time since we had reached Florida. We left the I-75 and went over to the US 98. This would take us up and around the bend to Carrabelle. It was a good road, but boy was it boring! Nothing but delapidated shacks and shrub along the highway.

An RV moment---Since we have been in Florida, there seems to be a lot of poverty. Yes. The beaches are great and the towns along the coast are pleasant enough, but there are always these really nice homes worth from $200,000 up, interspersed with shacks. And I mean shacks. A lot of people live in mobile homes, park models, and they are everywhere. 99% of the time they are not in a mobile home park. When we were going to the Panhandle along US 98, the whole route seemed a depressed area with many shacks or houses in a dilapidated state. Even when we got closer to Carrabelle, it only improved slightly. Of course, the roads themselves are generally in pretty good shape. We haven't been over anything yet that one would describe as a terrible road. They should be in good condition when they don't have to contend with our winters with all the frost upheaval we get.

Back on track. We arrived at the Ho Hum RV Park, which is about four miles east of the town of Carrabelle, and settled into our RV site. The park is on US 98 and right on the beach. It's a very small park, with about 60 sites in total, but all the sites are large and level. And anyone who has done any rving can appreciate a level site. We didn't have to block up our wheels as our level indicator was almost dead in the center.

But there's really nothing around here other than this nice RV park and the beach. Unfortunately, we've had nothing but rain showers since we've been here. I guess it's punishment for the great weather we've had up until now. Today we sat down and tried to work out where we're going to put ourselves for Christmas. It looks like we're going to end up at San Antonio. We leave here tomorrow and we might spend a couple of days at Panama City then go on to New Orleans for three days and then up to Dallas and then San Antonio. At least that's the plan right now! We'll see.

We're about to go down to Carrabelle and try and find a library to check our Hotmail accounts. I will try and send out this report and, hopefully the pics as well.

Barrie and Valerie on the road

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© 2001 George McKeever / Laurenzerberg IceWorks / Last Updated November 29, 2001

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