January / February 2004

..."The rest of our stay here will be spent doing repairs and maintenance on my parents' house, with plenty of time for local sightseeing and a day trip to Tampa for the RV show."

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Breezy Palms Campground Palm Bay, FL

And that was how our last travel update ended - boy, were we optimistic, and naive! We spent two full months in Palm Bay and were finally able to go walking on the beach Week 7. Once we started the work on the house, we realized we had underestimated the amount of time needed. And one project suggested another, which suggested another. But, the work is behind us now and we are all happy with the results. The house has a fresh coat of paint, the landscaping has been spruced up, the front porch was screened in, and several other miscellaneous projects were completed. The only difference between a regular paying job and the time we spent working is that we got up when we wanted, quit when we wanted. 

We managed a quick day trip to attend the Tampa RV Show, catching a seminar, as well as checking out new model RVs. We grabbed a quick bite for lunch and met John Dodgen, owner and founder of Born Free Motorcoach Corporation. What a wonderful lunch partner with an interesting story about his company and its success. He is a fascinating and very young 77-year old. 

Some of the highlights of our stay: 

Lucille's sneaky Pete siblings paid a surprise visit to Palm Bay near the end of February - what a houseful of visitors my parents had for a couple of days and what fun we all had! They planned their trip when the work on the house was done - how convenient! 

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Airboating on the St. John River with Capt. Rick.  Many alligators were spotted.

Friend Rick owns and operates Grasshopper Airboat Rides. We went out with him and his wife Eileen one day and then again with Lucille's siblings a few days' later. We highly recommend Rick's eco-tours if you are ever in the area. We learned a lot about the St. Johns' River and its inhabitants - spotted lots of wildlife including alligators.

The nature tour at the Environmental Learning Center in Wabasso, about 20 miles south of Palm Bay, educated us on the mangroves in the area, as well as some of the migratory birds. We continued our birding education on a guided beginning bird watching tour at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the country's first refuge, started in 1903. We later went on a 7-mile auto self-guided tour at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and were rewarded by spotting our first spoonbills. As often as we have visited Florida in the past, this is the first time we are aware of the many species of migratory birds found here. We picked a great time to be here, with the original 'snowbirds'. We strolled through a county RV park, also known for its birding habitat, and got a picture of a wood stork sitting down, with his legs sticking out straight out, right at home amongst all the campers. 

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Spoonbills, storks and manatees were part of our wildlife viewing.

But the highlight of our wildlife experiences were the days we not only saw manatees in Goode Park, but were able to pet them. We found out they love to have their backs rubbed and will do a belly roll, just like an overgrown dog.

The Brevard Zoo is small but well laid out. Most of the animals are roaming free in habitats natural to them. The McLarty Treasure Museum, located on A1A, is also small but packed with information on how that particular area of Florida was named the Treasure Coast. In a nutshell, an armada of Spanish ships sank in 1715 during a hurricane. It wasn't until the late 1960s that Kip Wagner, a building contractor, found treasure washed up on the shore. After extensive research, he determined the approximate location of the ships and eventually hired Mel Fisher, the famed salvage diver, to help him locate the treasure. Surprisingly, after 30 years of bringing up millions of dollars worth of gold, silver and other valuable items, there is still more treasure, both to be found on the ocean, as well as what is washed up on shore. Next time we're on the beach, we'll take a closer look where we walk!

We have frequently heard that RVers are very friendly, and several instances have reinforced that over the past couple of months. One neighbor at Breezy Palms RV Park, where we stayed for the two months, brought us a plate of smoked turkey one evening. Another neighbor's son made us a beautiful seagull mobile as a thank you for helping his father with his awning. Another former neighbor spotted us walking around the county RV park where they were currently parked and invited us to stop by for a visit and some fresh apple salad - what a great life!

We are now parked at Pelican Roost RV Park, at Mayport Naval Station, in Jacksonville. And we have a waterfront site overlooking the St. John's River! In the first hour we were here, we watched a navy destroyer come into port, a container ship leave, as well as a cruise ship. We can't believe our luck to have gotten such a prime site - it will be hard to leave our 'front yard' but the sights of Jacksonville and surrounding areas await!

 

 

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