Another one bites the dust, a month that is. March could have been a clone of what we did in February - this was month two of our stay at Sabal Palms. There were potlucks, bingo, walks, practicing our music with Karen and Galen, and just enjoying hanging out together. We'd often sit out behind our rigs, overlooking one of the ponds, and be easily entertained by the antics of the sandhill cranes and blackbirds and wading birds. It doesn't take much to entertain us. There have been several sandhill crane couples this year. One of them built a nest on the upper end of one of the ponds and soon there were two eggs with one of the parents taking its turn on the nest, occasionally getting up to turn the eggs around. Ken, the campground's maintenance and all-around handyman and nature expert, said it would be about four weeks before the chicks hatched - darn....We'd be gone by then.
One thing we've noticed in the years we've been going to Palmdale is that the nearby town of LaBelle may be small but Larry has managed to find some pretty good automotive support there. This time it was to get the front bumper of the Fit fixed. He found an auto body shop that could repair it without having to replace it, saving us hundreds of dollars. Galen followed us down there one morning when we dropped off the car - the four of us then enjoyed breakfast (our favorite meal) at Vicky's. The car was ready the next day - no more patched up bumper.
We did some sightseeing - visiting Solomon's Castle in Ona, with a breakfast stop at the Wheeler Cafe in Arcadia on the way. Howard Solomon is an artist and sculptor who can create art from just about anything and then give it a quirky name, sometimes a twist of words of something familiar. Howard still lives there and opens up his home (castle complete with moat) for tours during most of the year, except for summertime. He is still creating works of art in his workshop on the premises. The castle is covered in old newspaper printing plates - certainly an eye catcher. The tour was a little corny but you have to appreciate his sense of humor and creativity. The Boat in the Moat Restaurant on the premises is run by his daughter and her husband with a full menu available. We enjoyed having dessert only as we had had such a big breakfast earlier that morning.
Another day the four of us went geocaching in LaBelle - snagging several caches while being introduced to parts of the area we weren't familiar with - one of the perks to geocaching. Before we set off on our hunt, we fortified ourselves with lunch at the Forrey Grille, another LaBelle gem.
Lots of great visits with friends, from all over. Michigan friend Linda, whom we'd met at Palmdale a couple of years ago, came down to stay in the area for a week. Ontario friends Harry and Marie, along with their friends Bob and Nancy, came down from their winter homes in Frostproof, bearing a box grapefruit from our favorite citrus place, The Orange Box Cafe, as well as pizzas. Karen and Lucille provided drinks and desserts. It didn't take much arm twisting for the four of us to put on mini-concerts.
Speaking of concerts, one of the camping clubs visiting Sabal Palms over one weekend hosted a No-Talent Talent Show - the four of us played a couple of tunes (we named ourselves the Palmdale Pickers). For some folks, this was the first time they'd seen mountain dulcimers. One woman had one and had no idea about the variety of music you can play on one. The rest of the show had some storytellers, a few comedy acts, as well as one couple doing their Sonny and Cher imitation, and three brave men, baring their bellies, each belly painted with a face, and wearing huge top hats that covered their heads and necks. They jiggled those painted faces to the whistled tune of the Bridge On The River Kwai - alas, no pictures of this class act - but they got lots of 'belly' laughs from the audience. And it sure took a lot of guts (pun intended) for these men to put on their performance - we're not talking washboard abs here! Check out this youtube clip of a similar act - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8oaVoT9KqY.
After an idyllic two months, it was time to raise the jacks and start heading north, destination Ja-Mar Travel Park in Port Richey. Klondikers Rose and Carl have their winter home nearby so we planned on getting together with them while in the area, plus do some sightseeing as this was a new section of Florida for us to visit. Our first evening there, we enjoyed a wonderful spaghetti dinner with Rose and Carl but the company was even better.
One day we visited picturesque Tarpon Springs. This still active fishing town, known as the Sponge Capitol of the World, is also home to the highest percentage of Greek Americans in the US. The region first attracted visitors in the late 1800s as a pleasant place for winter homes. The first Greek immigrants were hired during the 1880s to work as divers in the growing and quite lucrative sponge harvesting industry. There are about 10,000 square miles of sponge beds in the Gulf. A red tide in 1947 wiped out the sponge fields - today only about eight to ten boats go out and have to go further out each year to harvest sponges. Easily found at the Sponge Docks, the Sponge Museum has a free movie about harvesting sponges, types of sponges and includes an old clip of the Greeks bringing their skills to the area. Fishing and shrimping have replaced the formerly profitable sponge industry.
After visiting some of the shops on the Sponge Docks, we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Hellas Restaurant, stopping at their bakery on the way out for take-home goodies.
Nearby is the Railroad Depot Museum run by the Tarpon Springs Area Historical Society. We were lucky to catch it open - hours are limited as it is run by volunteers. Two of the docents were there to answer our questions as we toured the restored railroad depot waiting rooms, station manager's office and the freight warehouse, now used as the exhibit area for the Historical Society's artifacts, including items related to sponge harvesting.
In search of a geocache, we then walked down to Spring Bayou - what beautiful old homes there. A paved path leads around the bayou - we walked just a part of it before calling it a day. The bayou is the location of the celebration of the Epiphany on January 6th each year - part of an elaborate Greek Orthodox tradition of the blessing of the boats and waters. Each year a gold cross is tossed into the bayou and young Greek men between the ages of 16 and 18 dive to search for the cross. The finder is said to be blessed for the next year. Tarpon Spring's population triples during this special one-day event.
Another day, Rose and Carl picked us up and we all drove down to Fort Desoto. a beautiful county park with plenty of biking and hiking opportunities. We toured what is left of the historic fort and enjoyed ice cream treats at the pier. We returned home by way of the coastal route, stopping for dinner at Salt Rock Grill in Indian Rocks. The 50-minute wait was well worth it when our dinner arrived. We lucked out with outside patio seating, and lucked out again when the rains held out until we finished our meals.
Ron and JoAnn, whom we'd seen last month in Palmdale, live nearby. We made arrangements to meet them halfway at a Sonny's BBQ, along with their daughter Brenda. Lunch was great, as was getting to see them once more before we leave the area.
Next stop was Sumter Oaks, an Escapees park in Bushnell. We quickly got set up and then made arrangements to hook up with our friends Paul and Margery (our residential fridge mentors) the next day. They came over around 1 pm and we visited at our place for a while, showing them the fridge conversion. We then followed them to where they are staying, Blueberry Hill RV Resort, and played with their fur-kid Freeway a bit, got in a quick tour of the resort before driving to Lady Lake and the OakWood Smokehouse and Grill, one of their favorite eating-out places. Larry enjoyed the baby back ribs and I had the smoked beef au jus with enough left over for another meal. On the way home we stopped at a Russell Stover Outlet Store (yum). We also drove through one of the fastest growing communities in Florida - The Villages - HUGE and still growing.
The next day, we visited yet another Klondiker, Cindy, at her home in Hernando - a beautiful gated community with very friendly neighbors. The three of us enjoyed a wonderful breakfast-for-lunch at nearby Red's Restaurant.
We then left Bushnell and backtracked a bit down to Patrick Air Force Base near Satellite Beach. Because we had scurried down to the Fort Lauderdale area in January to help with family, we had cancelled plans to meet up with Lucille's aunt Eugenie and cousins Diane, Susan and her husband Ken. We met them for dinner at the Applebee's in Melbourne, and caught up on our lives since we saw them last.
As has happened a couple of times before at Patrick, we ran into fulltime RVer Robbie and his goldendoodle Happy, also parked at the military campground at Patrick Air Force Base. We visited with Robbie over a good breakfast at the Sun Tree Cafe.
A must-stop when we are in the area is the Melbourne Beach Market for some of their homemade brats and Italian sausage - we grilled some that night - yum! What a wonderful selection of fresh foods, a huge olive bar, and an extensive wine selection - all packed into this small store near the beach.
Another reason to be on the east coast was to enjoy a Easter sunrise service on the Atlantic. We had scoped out a potential location but when we got there early Sunday morning, the parking was already full, with additional parking quite a distance away. We drove back to Patrick and stopped at the sunrise service the local chapel was having there (we'd not seen any information on this earlier), and thoroughly enjoyed the service. The chaplain got some laughs when he said that they changed the starting time this year to a bit later as he is known for his short sermons and last year, the service was finished before the sun was even up. His timing was right on this year. Afterwards, the chapel provided a full breakfast for all - wotta deal!
And what a wonderful way to end the month. Coming up: time to start our trek north with a short stop in Richmond Hill, Georgia; Charleston, South Carolina; and Sneads Ferry (Camp Lejeune). Plans to arrive at our site at Klondike RV Resort in Otis, Massachusetts were accelerated by about six weeks due to a death in the family - more on that next month.