February in Palmdale - in a few words....fun and friends! Lightseys in Okeechobee is an old-time Florida restaurant, overlooking the canal. Karen and Galen's friends Laura Lou and Roman met us there for lunch one afternoon. We sat in the screened porch and enjoyed a wonderful lunch - the Tuesday 3/$30 special. You get one appetizer, one dessert and two different entrees - something for everyone. Our appetizer choices were the hush puppies and critter fritters (hush puppies with crab and shrimp) - we did some horse-trading with Karen and Galen with the appetizers and the desserts. The grilled shrimp entree was awesome - well worth a return visit when we are next in that area. But making new friends was the highlight of our day.
Lucille's former co-worker JoAnn and husband Ron came down from Zephyrhills for an early dinner and short dulcimer/guitar concert. We caught up on what had been going on since we last saw them, including JoAnn's retirement. The gals pot-lucked the side dishes and our entree was Costco's wonderful rotisserie chicken.
Later in the month, Dianne came to visit the four of us - a treat to see her again. We'd met her many years ago at Lazy Days RV Center in Seffner while she was there awaiting repairs on her motor home and we were just strolling the grounds there. After talking to her for a few minutes, we realized we had a lot in common - our respective parents living in Melbourne, her future volunteer gig at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park in Michigan, where Karen and Galen were headed that year. The five of us became friends, saw each other again in Mountain View and lost track as our lives kept us all going in different directions. Let's hope we don't wait that long next time!
Last, but certainly not least, we met up with our Quebec friends Art and Suzan at the Clewiston Inn in Clewiston. They were parked on the east side of Lake Okeechobee and we were near the west side so Clewiston was a good halfway point. We've managed to see them usually at least once a year in our travels - love this lifestyle! Seeing them was great but we were all disappointed in our meal - not up to the Inn's usual standards.
Back at Sabal Palms - our morning walks were always interesting. Even though we followed the same route, you never knew what you'd see. Sometimes the neighboring cows would escape and peacefully wander the two-lane road, Larry spotted some river otter pups one morning - curious about this two-legged creature approaching till their mother rounded them up. The sandhill cranes were always entertaining - several times they'd take a bath in the pond immediately behind our rigs. Too funny to watch as they each had their own style of getting in the water and splashing around. Then when they'd get out, they'd flap their wings to dry out which started nearby cranes flapping their wings thinking they were getting ready to take off.
The Evans Acoustic Trio performed for two hours in the clubhouse one afternoon - a pretty good show - a little rock and roll, country, bluegrass and gospel. One Saturday there was a benefit breakfast for one of the park's residents - you can be guaranteed a great turnout whenever there is food around, especially breakfast. One of the other residents baked her signature cinnamon rolls - over eight dozen of them, with the proceeds going to the resident needing some financial assistance while undergoing chemo treatments.
Visiting Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring was a delightful way to spend a day. In addition to the many well-maintained trails, there is an informative Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) museum. A short recap - the CCC was one of the most popular New Deal agencies, operating from 1933- 1942. Created for young men between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five, they led a military-like lifestyle in camps managed by the Army and located throughout the US.
The CCC left quite a legacy in Florida - creating eight of Florida's state parks became a high priority. Some of the parks benefiting were Highlands Hammock, Myakka River, Hillsborough River, Fort Clinch and Florida Caverns. In nine years, they 'planted 18,924,000 trees, constructed 3,620 miles of trails and roads, built 2,736 bridges, spent 97,993 work-days fighting fires' - all within Florida - impressive! A short DVD told the story of some of these enrollees, most of whom enrolled to be able to support their families still reeling from the Great Depression. One enrollee stated his stint was a vacation from poverty - wow. All that hard work yet what does that tell you about the times then if he considered it a vacation....
We enjoyed the Hammock Inn's signature sour orange cheesecake pie - freshly made and delicious. There are nine nature trails, averaging one-half mile each - all well maintained, several with boardwalks, with interpretive signage identifying the local flora and fauna. We spotted one alligator and watched a white egret eating a frog and in the distance, saw a family of wild pigs scurrying away. Had we had more time, we would have loved to have biked the 3.1 mile paved loop. There is also a one-hour tram tour and several guide walks and evening tours - well worth a repeat visit.
Coming up: Palmdale through the middle of March then we start our migration north with several short stops planned in Florida before getting to the Savannah area; continuing north to Charleston, South Carolina; Sneads Ferry, Hendersonville and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. After a quick visit to Fort Meade in Maryland, we'll head over to Carneys Point in New Jersey for a two-week RV Care-A-Vanner build with the local Habitat affiliate and ending up at our site in Klondike Resort in Otis, Massachusetts.