Posted in Campgrounds, RV Living

Markham County Park, and More

We split our southern Florida trip into 2 segments; Markham Park before and after John Pennekamp Coral Reef.  So, let’s touch a few topics in the before section here.  I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but our windshield wipers have not really operated well since we bought the coach last year and they finally just quit working earlier this year.  From what we have read, the wiper motors on our coach are known problems in the industry.  I am the person who attacks problems; my husband is the person who waits……therefore, we have not had working wipers since this Spring.  Every couple of days, I climb up on a ladder, clean the windshield, and apply a heavy layer of RainX over the entire surface.  When it rains, I drive slower and try to peer through the rain as it slides off the windshield or pull off the road and wait it out.  I love a good rain, but not while I am driving a large motor coach on an interstate.

Waiting out the storm in the Everglades

And, since we bought the coach, it has rained. A Lot.  It rained tons while we were parked in Longview Campground in Kansas City.  It followed us and poured enough to cause 500-year-level flooding in Eureka, MO and we had to leave the area early to escape the water.    A huge thunderstorm enveloped us as we drove across Florida and I needed to pull off and wait it out.  Visibility dropped, the RainX was gone, we had to wait for a break.  It was time to get those wipers repaired.  There is a Newmar RV Service Center in Ft. Myers, we will head there after Ft. Lauderdale.

Markham County Park and Target Range was a nice surprise.  It is a large park at the edge of the Everglades, but just off Int. 75 and on the western edge of Sunrise, FL.  They have mountain bike trails, hiking trails, butterfly garden, r/c air field, r/c boat lake, disc golf, boat launch, observatory, 3 dog parks, playgrounds, target range and campground.  And it is within 30-45 minutes from our grand baby, with good traffic.  There is a swimming pool here, but it was never open and looks like it might not open anytime soon.  On any day, someone is flying a r/c airplane, or mountain biking, or jogging/walking, or playing disc golf, or launching a small boat or personal watercraft — they can actually ride for miles out toward the Everglades.   On almost every day, someone is at the target range shooting at either the Skeet / Trap fields, Pistol / Rifle range or on the Sporting Clays course scattered throughout the woods.  Local police use the target range to hone their gun skills and the range is closed to the public those days.  (One day I rode my bike back to look at the range and found that it was crawling with policemen.  Although the gates were open, a large tactical vehicle parked near the gate sensed my presence, not weird at all, and a loud speaker began to blare, “THIS AREA IS CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC.  LEAVE THIS AREA IMMEDIATELY.”  Of course, I left!  No matter who is shooting though, the campgrounds nearest the range can hear the booming guns.

There are 3 separate dog parks here:  Barkham Large Dog, Barkham Small Dog, and Puppy Barkham.  The Bermuda grass is trimmed very nicely, there are covered picnic tables to sit in the shade while Fido plays and a paved trail around the perimeters with lots of trees and benches and fountains for humans and dogs!  One of our dogs, Zeplyn, got the dog flu in December though and we no longer let them “play” in a public dog park.  (Side note: the dog flu is seriously terrible and can be life-threatening to your pet.  And the symptoms are just disgusting in an RV.). 

The campgrounds are large and spacious, some shaded, most not.  The majority of campsites are on circle drives with about 5 – 8 parking sites each.  There is also a pull-through campground for larger RVs with 7 sites but zero shade.  Each site has full hookups and no trees to block the satellite TV, however we could not get the WiFi to connect at all the entire time we were parked here.  Each of the campgrounds has one paved site that could be designated ADA compliant; but all the other sites are grass/sandy gravel parking.  The front campgrounds have easy access to restrooms / showers that were clean, but hot and humid; they also have recycling and trash containers outside the restrooms.  The back campgrounds have a bit of a walk to the restrooms.  Surprisingly, they did not cut the grass around the campgrounds before Memorial Day and it had a weedy feel.  


Overall impression?  Great park, great price ($30/night in summer), good hookups, nice and quiet…..just a little far from that grand baby!

Posted in Campgrounds, Parks, RV Living, Travels

Bay Bayou Relaxation

We love Bay Bayou RV Resort in Tampa!  It was one of the first RV places we stayed after we bought our RV last year and it made us love RV life.  It is an easy place to stay with large trees, concrete pads, full hookups, good WiFi, nice dog parks (one for small dogs and one for large ones), nice clubhouse with mail service, and a great pool.


Oh, and did I mention they have those ugly Muscovy ducks……who are also very cute little ducklings?  If you want to google Muscovy ducks to see the ugly adults, go ahead….I’ll wait for you to return……

Now that we have discussed that, let’s talk about lovely Tampa Bay.  Less than 1 mile from Bay Bayou RV Resort is the Upper Tampa Bay Regional County Park.  I rode my bike there one day, it was that close.  There are several picnic shelters and lots of space to spread out.  There are several trails that connect to boardwalks, raised trails to protect the fragile environment and keep you dry and out of the mangroves and coastal bay water.  


The boardwalks even have a couple of places with steps that lead down to the water.  I do not know why the steps are there though……I don’t think you would want to swim in this water due to the probable presence of alligators.  The trails also lead to inland pools with nice places to watch birds.


There is a very nice Nature Center in the park; they have tons of exhibits regarding the history of the area, both recent and geological, live exhibits of local fish, and some teaching centers for school trips. I spotted a giant tortoise on one of the side walking trails, but he vanished into the underbrush before I could get close enough to take a photo.  The best part of the park trails was all the little fiddler crabs all along the trails.  

Another great thing about the Tampa area near Bay Bayou RV Resort is Lobster Haven restaurant.  This little place is a market that sells fresh lobster…….great big lobsters……all waiting in big water-filled tanks to go home with someone.  There is a front seating area that looks just like a second thought for the market; just added to fill the space.  On the other side of the market is a regular little eating spot.  Decorated in New Orleans French Quarter style, there is a decent bar and several tables;most diners eat in here.  They have The Best Lobster Rolls in Florida. Period.  Don’t even ask me twice……it’s just that good.  I meant to take some photos here each time we visited (twice in 5 days), but every time the food arrived, we just started eating it all!  So sorry, you are just going to have to imagine how delicious those lobster rolls were!

Posted in Campgrounds, RV Living, Travels

Outside Marianna, Florida

I  normally select and reserve all the campgrounds while we travel.   While we had been making plans during late March / early April, Barry found one online and thought it looked like a great choice….our criteria:  full hook-ups, concrete parking site, quiet, dark at night, good WiFi, clear view of the SW sky for the Dish…..

He found Alliance Hill RV Park just south of  I-10 but near Marianna, Florida.  He needed to travel north about an hour to Dothan, Alabama for a sales call; this seemed like a great site.  The beach is a little over an hour south of here.  The website looked good enough, there were good reviews; but you know that feeling that something is just a little bit off?  When I called to make our reservation, a friendly older gentleman answered and said he would be please to confirm our dates.  Yes, he said, just call me the day before, and what is your name?  There was no exchange of RV Club info, no address, no email, no deposit…..just see you soon.  Hmmmm…..

I called the next day, same man answered, “Yes, ma’am.  See you tomorrow.”  Who runs a business like that?  We pulled in a bit late in the afternoon on Wednesday, May 17.  We had driven 7 miles south of I-10 and turned on Alliance Road….the campground was about 2 miles east on opened to a security gate.  I called and Glenn said, “I’ll be right there.”  We saw him come out of the office inside the park and drive up to the gate, turn his car around, then come back to talk to us.  “How long did you say this RV is?” and turned to look around at the mostly empty sites.  “Hmm, maybe I’ll put you…..”  and he looked over at first one site, then another, and then a third before deciding on one.  He opened the gate and we drove through and followed him around a gravel loop road, across the grass (“It’s really hard.”), across one parking site and finally into our site.  Glenn advertises this park as a Luxury Campground, no tents, no old RV’s, full hookups, pool, clubhouse, dog park, WiFi.

 

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Not our RV here, but you get the idea…..

As mentioned above, this site had all the criteria to make this a great RV campground for us.  Except, there was zero shade and it was unusually hot for this time of year.  Humid and in the 90ºs everyday with a hot breeze lightly blowing.  And there were gnats during the day and mosquitoes at night…..lots of them.  Every time we went outside, whether to walk the dogs, enjoy the sunset, clean the bugs off the windshield, etc., those gnats were on us.  They landed in our eyes and nose and ears, on my fresh wounds from a stupid fall in Mobile, on the dogs, every where.   They came in the coach with us and we had to swat at them constantly.  And the dog park was at the bottom of the hill, un-mown, and a walk through tall grass while swatting at those pesky gnats……

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But there was a bit of heaven here…….due south was Panama City Beach.  On Friday afternoon, we drove south to find the Gulf.  We picked out one of the only true on-the-beach bars and sat there for several hours.  We had snacks and drinks, then dinner and lots of sweet tea and a piece of Key Lime pie while we watched the waves and surf and sun-bathers.  We talked and relaxed, we listened to everyone around us talk and tell their stories to each other.

We were in no hurry, and it was fine.

 

Posted in Campgrounds, RV Living, Travels

All About Relaxing in Mobile, Alabama

This is a 5 star RV park!  1- Nice clean sites with concrete patios, heavy-duty picnic tables, and full hook-ups.  2-Consistent WiFi!  3-Amazingly clean, private shower rooms with private toilets spaces included.  4-Locked gates with a passcoade for security and privacy.  5-Well lit parking sites at the front of the coach, but still dark enough at the back for good sleeping.  Nice plantings along the side fences with camellias in bloom leaving a sweet fragrance in the air.  Trees along both sides with lots of birds, especially doves, cooing and singing.  Need more?  Friendly staff that gave us a jar of mixed berry jam and local things to do when we checked in; daily trash pickup behind the coach, and a welcome smile and hello everyday!  

The day after we checked in, a large storm moved through the area.  Barry, ever on the weather apps, announced that the worst of it had passed south of us, when suddenly, out of nowhere…….lightning struck and boomed simultaneously!  It had struck the WiFi antenna at the next site, blasting the WiFi adapter off the pole in pieces.  The funny was that the WiFi did not even go out!


I don’t know what Barry is doing in this photo, by the way!   They also have a claw-foot bath tub near the laundry/shower house for dog baths!  Today both boys got a much needed bath……hopefully they will smell less like dogs for a day!  All-in-all, this is just a very nice place to stay and we will try to visit as we pass this way again!

Posted in Uncategorized

New Orleans, LouisianA part two

New Orleans is such a fun town to just relax and hang-out!  After all the fun of JazzFest, we relaxed the next day at the RV, Barry got to use his new Davey Crockett pellet grill to fix a huge dinner for all!  Pork loin, shrimp, and red fish along with a meatloaf to save for later were the grilled and smoked delights! I served fresh asparagus with a Béchamel sauce and yellow rice (a Zatarain’s favorite!).  We all enjoyed the time together to talk and reminisce about JazzFest.

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Relaxing before dinner!

On Monday, Barry, Mom, Alex & I decided to head to the Quarter for some fun.  Our first stop was (of course) Café du Monde for Cafe Au Lait and beignets and some good people watching.  On the way, we passed this MtF crossdresser street performer, photographs were for tips……seems like a lot of work on a hot day to me, but, maybe there is money to be made!

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We looked for a spot to grab lunch/dinner; Alex wanted to try a crawfish boil for the first time.  We stopped at a little speakeasy called Saints and Sinners for the crawfish; Mom always gets gumbo, and Barry & I had more seafood, but it was too early in the afternoon for live music.  Alex’s BucketList: Crawfish Boil √

Our next stop was Pat O’Brien’s for a cooling hurricane…….can’t go wrong here……just remember that they charge you for the glass when you get the drink, you have to return it for a $3 credit afterward!

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Even Duckie got into the fun!

Last stop of the day was for everyone’s (but especially my) BucketList:  Preservation Hall!  We have all been to many concerts and expected this to be a smaller version of a concert hall…….it is not!  Behind old doors and off a cool, dark hall, you are ushered into a small room, maybe 25’x40′, old wooden walls, with a band set up in front.  Nearest the band are floor cushions (not for us, thank you), behind them are about 5 rows of heavy log benches and there are 2 log benches along the wall on the right.  That’s it!  The front benches are reserved  for guests who bought tickets ahead of time, the rest of us sat toward the back and late comers were allowed to sit on the floor or stand in the very back.  A couple of ladies served as unfriendly ushers, one made sure everyone was ready and all phones & cameras were stowed away and then she introduced Darryl Adams and the PresHall Brass Band.  What followed was an hour of intimate, toe-tapping, sweet Jazz music without the conflict of flash lenses or clinking glasses or table conversations……just music.  My BucketList:  Preservation Hall Jazz concert √

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Alex left the next day, Mom & I got relaxing mani/pedi’s.  She flew out the next day and we waved goodbye to NOLA……..no, not goodbye,

au revoir…….

Posted in Travels, Uncategorized

JazzFest 2017

I cannot tell you how much I love JazzFest!  The crowds of people are all hot and sweaty and happy and full of good food and music!  There is dancing near almost all the stages (there are 12 stages by the way), and you can just stand up and dance by yourself or with a friend (new or old!).  There is food, and I do mean, there is food!  And crafts for sale.  And, did I forget the music?  Let’s start from the very beginning!

We all try to ride together to pay for just one place to park; and it is usually in someone’s front/side yard near the fairgrounds.  Yep, we pull into the grass, pay about $20 cash, and hope the guy that parked us really owns the property and is there when we return.  Rosa gets an employee ticket from her friend at Smoothie King, Joey, and we can then get in the back entrance near the stables.  Once we enter the gate, Mom takes off at a trot for her favorite place, Preservation Hall Economy Tent.  The whole stage and seating area is under one ginormous canvas tent with chairs for sitting and a dance floor off to one side.  She claims about 4 seats in the middle section on an aisle and sits there all day long!  We use this as our base when we need shade or a chair or just want to hear the performers there.  It is mostly Dixieland jazz, heavy with brass instruments.  Here she can Second Line as much as she wants and knows some of the crowd that return every year for the same fun.


After she and Aunt Sis get their seats, the rest of us leave to find other music and fun!  Alex and Barry were both first-timers and went out to get their bearings; Rosa & Pat to the Smoothie King stand, and me to the Sheraton Fais Do Do (pronounced: Fay doe doe – family dance) stage.  They specialize in Zydeco & Cajun music here and I threw my blanket down and settled in to hear BeauSoleil and later, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr..  Barry & Alex joined me from time-to-time, we ate together and just relaxed and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day!


I also saw a Marci Gras Indian Parade and enjoyed the Cajun Combo: crayfish sack, oyster patty, and crawfish beignets….and got to hang out with Duckie Three!

Definition of the Mardi Gras Indians:

“Coming out of slavery, being African American wasn’t socially acceptable. By masking like Native Americans, it created an identity of strength. Native Americans under all the pressure and duress, would not concede. These people were almost driven into extinction, and the same kind of feeling came out of slavery, “You’re not going to give us a place here in society, we’ll create our own.” In masking, they paid respect and homage to the Native American by using their identity and making a social statement that despite the odds, they’re not going to stop.”

Ronald Lewis, former Council Chief of the Choctaw Hunters, a Mardi Gras Indian tribe he helped to start.        

Today, the Mardi Gras Indians parade everyday at JazzFest, throughout the grounds. They stop festival-goers in their tracks to enjoy the music, but much more, the fantastic beaded costumes each member makes by hand and wears!


At the end of the day, we all found our way back to the car (and surprise!  The parking guy did own that house and was still there to help us get out!) and headed home to shower after a great day!  JazzFest 2018…..can’t wait to meet you!

Posted in Campgrounds

New Orleans, LouisianA, part one

First, let me say that I have been visiting New Orleans and attending JazzFest for the last 14+ years with various family members; my mom, aunt, cousins……all girls!  I Love JazzFest.  No more really needs to be said, it is a long weekend of laughing and crying with music and food thrown in for fun.   We always invade my sister-in-law’s  (and my step-brother’s before he passed away) home and stay up long into the nights enjoying the time together.

This year was going to be different…….I was taking the RV and Barry.  How was that going to work out?  He is not a music-lover like me and lots of walking and standing are not for him.  Staying in the RV and not with the family?  What was I going to miss?

Good surprise:  we camped at Bayou Segnette State Park on the WestBank of New Orleans.  This was a great choice; quiet with so many frogs croaking, dark at night, wide sites with a bayou surrounding us.  No good WiFi though and no sewer hookups made it a long week, but we were just 10 minutes from my sister-in-law’s home and good food all around made up for that.  IMG_0554

My nephew had flown up from Key West to spend the week with us, another first, that gave us time to really get to know him as an adult, not a kid anymore.  I started off with a dinner of delicious soft-shelled crabs that had me ready for anything going forward! And that was not just plain potato salad — that was shrimp & red potato salad made from a Boil!

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Locally, Barry & I found a great breakfast diner, We Geaux Cafe, just 5 minutes from the park.  (Okay here’s the joke:  we were in Westwego, LA, named for the western access around southern Lake Pontchartrain.  Every word in NOLA is mangled with Creole/Cajun and and Geaux is pronounced Go, so it was “We Go Cafe in West We Go, LA!!)  Another first:  grilled biscuits!  Whaaat?  A hand-made biscuit baked until light and fluffy inside, then sliced and grilled on a flat-top griddle for perfection!  Oh my goodness, we had to go there almost every morning to satisfy our grilled biscuit craving!

We also had to stop at Morning Call and found this one in City Park near the Botanical Gardens.  This is my Favorite Place for cafe au lait and beignets in New Orleans….I know you are thinking what about Cafe Du Monde?  It’s good, but for the best, it has to be Morning Call.

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We strolled over to the Botanical Gardens to enjoy a beautiful day together, mom, aunt, nephew and me!  Lovely sculptures and plantings surrounded us as we walked and talked together.  Outside the walls, protestors were clashing with local police over the removal of Confederate statues; inside the walls, peace and quiet.   Sadly the protestors lost the battle and the historical statues were removed by the politicians.  Inside the Garden though, this lovely nymph continues to play her flute silently.  IMG_0566

Next:  JazzFest!