December 2006


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We left Huntsville, Alabama on December 1st and made our way to Jacksonville, Florida and then Patrick AFB also in Florida.

The first of December saw us back on the road, heading south.  We got off to a later start than normal though, tying up some loose ends before we left the area.  Years ago, we had our wills and other legal documents drawn up while we were still Alabama residents.  We finally got around to getting them all updated now that we’ve been Florida residents (for three years!)  Luckily, our Alabama attorney was able to make all the changes, much easier because she had all the originals in her computer database.  What we didn’t count on was that signing all that stuff was almost as bad as when you buy a new home.  We were there almost three hours, reviewing and signing all our documents. 

We finally hitched up our home on wheels and hit the road around noon, with no clear destination in mind for that evening.  Our plan was to get as close to the Florida state line as possible before stopping for the night.  We made it as far as Dothan, Alabama, stopping there for a couple of reasons. 

Reason #1 - The sun was starting to set by this time and all the holiday shoppers were out in force, some of whom had left their brains and common sense at home.   Several cars pulled right in front of us, causing Larry to slam the brakes on.  Have these people no clue how long it takes almost 30,000 pounds to stop!!!  After a couple of these episodes, we were ready to get off the road, which led us to...  

Reason #2 - Conveniently, there’s a Camping World in Dothan.  Some Camping World locations allow you to overnight there, so here was a convenient place to stop (and a chance to leave some of our money buying some RV stuff.)  This particular Camping World store is partnered with Emerald Coast RV, an RV dealership.  What a surprise to find out they had water and electric pull-through sites available for their customers and we were welcome to park in one.  The weather was comfortable enough that we weren’t going to need electricity, so we opted to dry camp in another part of their lot, leaving the sites to others.

Refreshed after a good night’s sleep, we got back on the road – traffic was better in the morning.  Our destination was Pelican Roost, the military campground at Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, one of our favorite places to stop.  As we have at our last stops there, we were assigned a pull-through site overlooking the waterway – life is good!

Most of our week’s stay at Mayport was doing mundane things--like laundry, washing the rig and the truck, stocking up on groceries, and the like.  We took a couple of long walks on the beach, which was practically deserted.  Shelley even felt up to walking with us.  Her days of walking several miles with us are history but she managed almost two miles with us one time.

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Fort Caroline National Memorial, located near the mouth of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville,  commemorates the establishment of a French colony there in 1564.  The memorial consists of a small fort laid out in the design of the time.  A short distance away, an obelisk marks the area where Jean Ribault placed his marker claiming Florida for France in 1562.

One beautiful sunny day we packed a lunch and drove to the Fort Caroline National Memorial and Timucuan Preserve, located in northeast Jacksonville. 

Fort Caroline pays tribute to the colony that the French tried to establish near the mouth of the St. John’s River in 1564.  With help from Indians, some 200 soldiers and artisans started building the village and fort, naming the area La Caroline, after their king, Charles IX.  Good relations with the Indians eventually soured and by the following spring, the colonists were close to starvation.  They were about to leave in 1565 when Jean Ribault, who originally discovered the area for France, arrived with a relief expedition of supplies and 600 soldiers and settlers, including women and children.  Hearing of this, Spain’s Phillip II sent Admiral Menendez to dislodge the French.  Ribault set sail to attack the Spanish but his ships were scattered by a hurricane and beached south of the fort.  Menendez attacked the weakly guarded colony--140 settlers were massacred.  About 40 to 50 escaped and sailed for France.  Menendez then went south and found the shipwrecked Frenchmen and killed them, sparing a few musicians and those that professed to be Catholics.  In 1568 the French attacked and burned the fort then sailed home.  Spain rebuilt the fort but abandoned it in 1569.  France never again strongly challenged Spanish claims in North America.

The Timucuan Preserve tells the story of pre-Columbian people, the Timucua, whose lives depended on the rich natural resource of the St. Johns estuary.  They took advantage of the waterways for transportation.  They made tools from natural materials, then cut, burned and scraped tree trunks to make dugout canoes.  They hunted and gathered in the forest and marshes, fished, and collected oysters and clams.  The most easily recognized clues are the mounds of shells found throughout the preserve. 

After touring the memorial and preserve, we walked one of the many trails located on the preserve and met a fellow walker who informed us we were currently standing at the highest point in Jacksonville, maybe 100 feet?  Nosebleeds were not a problem at that altitude!

Another day, we enjoyed lunch at Singleton’s Seafood Shack – good seafood at reasonable prices – just don’t let the décor (or lack of) turn you away.

Our next stop was another military campground and a very familiar one – Manatee Cove at Patrick Air Force Base, just south of Cocoa.  Military snowbirds hadn’t started to flock in yet so we were able to get a water and electric site for the first two nights, then we moved to a full hookup site overlooking the Banana River for the rest of our stay.

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Shelley's new friend is a Goldendoodle named Happy.  Happy even looks happy!

Parked across from us were Garry and his fur-kid, Happy, a Goldendoodle (part standard poodle and part Golden retriever).  Garry’s not sure why it’s doodle instead of poodle, but however it’s spelled, Happy was adorable and very friendly.  He looked quite a bit like a black standard poodle but you could see the retriever part in his head shape and sweet personality.  Shelley has a new friend now.  We find she’s mellowing as she gets older and gets along better with other dogs than she did when she was younger. 

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December's night shuttle launch was impressive.  Unfortunately, while numerous photos were taken, we were just too far from the cape to get impressive photos.

A major WOW moment our first week at Patrick – we witnessed the shuttle being launched from nearby Cape Canaveral, while parked in a day use area at Patrick.  It was awesome to see the sky light up in that direction and to hear the roar of the engines.   The pictures we took barely represent what we saw that night.   What memories, though!

We kept the local Lowes and Home Depots in business during our stay there, buying whatever was needed to do repairs and maintenance on the house in Palm Bay (we own the house but Lucille’s parents live there year-round.)  A good part of our time was spent taking care of the homestead with some time in between to visit with Lucille’s parents. 

Lucille got to see her brother Roger and his wife Kathie and cousin Richard, who had all just disembarked from a weeklong cruise as they stopped to visit us all in Palm Bay.  Roger and Kathie live in Arizona and Richard in Nova Scotia, so it was a plus to see them while they were in this part of the country.

Christmas Eve we attended the candlelight service at one of the base chapels.  One of the chaplains performed an opera-quality rendition of Jesu Bambino – very moving.  Christmas Day, we visited with Lucille’s parents for a while, with all of us going to Golden Corral for a holiday meal.  They had quite a spread for a very reasonable price – we enjoyed Christmas dinner without having to worry about the preparation and clean up.

Aunts Lorraine and Florence came up from Tamarac New Year’s weekend and Yvette and Pat came down from Georgia.  New Year’s is always a dual celebration – the New Year and Lucille’s mother’s birthday.  Yvette and Lucille took turns preparing meals that weekend – we never go hungry when we all get together.  Lorraine made a couple of her famous custard pies – they were history in a short time.

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At Goode Park in Palm Bay, the manatees came up to the dock for some attention.  They liked to be scratched and have their bellies rubbed.

That Sunday, Pat, Yvette and the two of us decided we needed to burn some calories from our meals, so we first drove to Goode Park, a regional park a few miles from the house.  Besides being a popular place for boats, canoes and kayaks that launch into Turkey Creek, it’s a popular gathering spot for manatees.  We experienced another WOW moment that afternoon.  At least seven manatees (six adults and a baby) swam to us at the dock to get some attention.  They love to have their bellies rubbed and will do a slow roll so you can oblige them.  Most of them were pretty active that day, with one of them even spraying us with water as it ‘sneezed’.  We saw at least another dozen in the middle of the creek and spoke with some canoers who said they had to carefully paddle through a herd of them.

Afterwards, we drove to nearby Turkey Creek Sanctuary and walked some of the trails through the hammocks – the weather was ideal for our nature hike that day.

Rick and Eileen, longtime friends from Alabama who relocated to Florida years ago, invited us to a cookout at their place on Lake Poinsett one evening.  We met their friends Ron and Loretta, also full time RVers and enjoyed seeing Rick’s father then too.  If you’re ever in the area, be sure to call Captain Rick for a ride on one of his airboats – a memorable experience with a knowledgeable guide.

Another day, we drove to Kissimmee to visit with Rick and LaVerne, with whom we’d worked in Connecticut over the summer.  They surprised us by inviting John and Maureen, also coworkers at Lone Oak, while we were there.  Rick and LaVerne are working for MGM, one of the Disney attractions.  They offered to take us into one of the attractions but we opted to spend time visiting with the four of them.  We did go to the All Star Café for lunch, a Disney restaurant that is part of the World of Sports.  We all benefited from Rick and LaVerne’s employee discount.  John and Maureen are currently workamping at Sun N’ Fun RV Resort in Sarasota and will spend part of their summer back at Lone Oak.  It will be fun working with them again.  We’re hoping that sometime this winter, the four of us can get together again.

We’ll finish off our December news with a ‘small world’ story.  Earlier this year, we met Ed and Camille Pronovost at Jekyll Island Campground in Georgia.  Their last name got our attention – could they be related to friends we grew up with in Connecticut?  After chatting with them, we found out that although they were from Connecticut, there was no known relationship.  We gave them our business card and went our separate ways.  Imagine our surprise to hear that after reading about our travels and specifically our work at Desert Haven Animal Refuge in New Mexico, they decided to make that a stop on their way to their winter jobs in Tucson, Arizona.  A few days’ stop turned into two weeks during which they fell in love with the place and the work that is being done there.  Besides volunteering while they were there, Camille has added a link to Desert Haven on their personal website and established a Paypal link for those wishing to make a donation.  She updates the blog weekly with Desert Haven happenings.  This is yet another example of the wonderful people and friends we are making while enjoying the full timing lifestyle.  Check out Ed and Camille’s website:

Yipes – the year has ended!  This also marked the end of Year Three on the road – boy, has time gone by at the speed of lightning!  To those who wonder how long we’ll continue traveling – no plans to stop anytime soon.  We’ll go as long as health and finances permit.

Next up:  January in Palmdale, a very, very small town northwest of Lake Okeechobee, with friends Harry and Marie; meandering around Florida before we head back to Jekyll Island mid-March.


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