We went to the J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge today and it was very busy. I thought it was because it was Saturday, but it turns out the refuge was celebrating Earth Day. Earth Day was officially April 22, but many places held activities today. There were lots of people riding bicycles through the refuge. It was nice to see so many people enjoying the outdoors.
We probably arrived too late in the day to see many birds, so I hope to return early in the day tomorrow. We saw lots of small crabs, anoles, and young fish. The mangroves are awesome at the refuge. Someday, I would like to kayak through the refuge. They have some kayak trails. Hopefully, I could do it without getting lost in the mangroves.
One of the MANY things we forgot to bring was the cable to download pictures from the camera to the computer. (Pictures posted the last couple days were taken with our cell phones). The list of things we forgot is so long, it makes me wonder that we remembered anything at all.
I forgot to mention something I saw on our drive from St. Augustine to Fort Myers. As we got within about 45 minutes of Fort Myers, we started to see hundreds, if not thousands, of white butterflies flying along the side of the road. I wonder if they might have been Great Southern White butterflies. I have never seen so many butterflies at one time.
We packed up and left for a long week-end in Fort Myers, Florida so we could get the battery problem fixed and get the dinghy (towed) set up for towing. There are a couple terms for the vehicle that is towed and we like dinghy the best since this really is our land yacht. Following is a picture of Dart with a pile of stuff to put in the RV. I don’t know whether he was trying to ensure we didn’t forget him, didn’t forget his ball, or both. Note his green ball on top of the blue notebook.
So, we spent the first night in our motor home at the North Trail RV Center. Following is a picture of Dart and Regis waiting for the RV center to let us know where we could plug in for the night. The only thing missing is the Margarita.
It was a nice setup at the RV Center. They are huge and efficient. It appeared that some of the technicians may stay in RV’s on site. Staying there requires you to be locked in for the night, but it is a small price to pay for a free night with water and electricity. We got our batteries fixed and went to the campground for the week-end. The RV Center will get our dinghy set up for towing on Monday.
A pleasant surprise was to find out that the RV Center will give you a coupon to stay for some free nights at the campground when you are having work done at the RV Center on your RV. We have to stay 4 nights because we have to stay through Monday night, so we have a coupon for two free nights.
Dart is struggling to deal with the changed situation. He doesn’t handle change well. He doesn’t like all the new noises in the RV. We learned from last year that he eventually adapts and gets comfortable. He needs time. I drove the dinghy to Fort Myers behind Regis in the motor home. Dart started off with me. At one of the rest stops, we put Dart in the motor home. Regis exited the rest stop and got off at the next exit. I was curious why. As soon as he stopped, he told me that Dart tried to run between his legs as soon as he got the motor home moving. You can’t drive with a dog between your legs. On the way back, we will be able to tow the dinghy and I will try to make Dart comfortable with a moving RV. (He never had to experience being in the 5th wheel while it was moving.)
Dart is making himself comfortable in the new motor home.
Regis plans to do some work on the motor home over the week-end and we will check out the local area. Sanibel Island is close by and we are camping on the Caloosahatchee River. I would love to do some Stand Up Paddleboarding but I didn’t bring the proper clothes. In fact, I really messed up on packing and didn’t bring anything to sleep in either. Our list of forgotten items is so long it almost fills a page right now.
I question our sanity, but we traded in the Ford Pickup and Elkridge 5th wheel for a Jayco Seneca motorhome and a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk to tow behind it. We bought the motorhome at North Trail RV in Fort Myers, Florida. It is a 4 1/2 to 5 hour drive from our home in St. Augustine. Regis was very interested in this particular model and it was the closest place we could see it.
The main reason we made the decision to switch is because the motorhome will be easier to maneuver. I was okay with the 5th wheel on the interstates, but didn’t feel as comfortable in tight spots which included some campgrounds. I have already found I am comfortable driving the motorhome. We don’t have the Jeep set up to tow yet, so we will have to see how that changes things. At least the Jeep can be unhooked and driven if you get in a tight spot.
Additionally, it will be more comfortable driving. The person who isn’t driving can go in the back. The Jeep will be easier to use as the “drive around” vehicle than the pickup was. The pickup had an extended cab and full bed, so it required more than one parking space. That was limiting in certain situations. The icing on the cake is all the nice features that comes with the Jeep Cherokee. I’m still learning about them. Between the motorhome and the Jeep, there are mountains of manuals to read.
Tomorrow we need to head back to Fort Myers because the batteries in the motorhome are bad. North Trail RV is going to let us stay on their lot for the night and fill up our tank with fuel because we have to return. As long as we are headed down there, we are going to have North Trail RV set up the vehicles for towing. They can’t do that until Monday, so we are staying in Fort Myers for the week-end. It works out well because we wanted to do a local camping trial run before we head on our long trip. It will give us the opportunity to make sure everything is working okay before we hit the road.
I had an opportunity this morning to photograph some birds at the beginning of their nesting season. Here is some of what I captured:
Here are some egrets nesting.
Here is a Wood Stork:
Here is a Roseate Spoonbill:
This woodstork worked very hard at getting a branch from this shrub and was eventually successful in getting something to take home:
And this poor alligator suffered the consequences of being beneath nesting birds:
Yesterday, we flew in a brief helicopter ride over St. Augustine. The weather was beautiful and it was amazing to get some aerial views.
Today we went to the Alligator Farm. There were numerous alligators, crocodiles, and other reptiles. There were some albino alligators. We heard the alligators making noises. I didn’t know alligators could be noisy. Native birds nest in the trees above the alligators. It is safe from predators, so there are many birds and it is quite a show. I intend to continue going back during nesting season to enjoy it. I have included a collage of pictures taken at the Alligator Farm.
I have been spending some time taking golf lessons, going to the driving range, and playing putt-putt. There are too many golfing options in the area to not take advantage of playing golf. I’ve been walking Dart A LOT. I don’t think he’ll like it when it gets hot here but he definitely likes getting so much walking in. He clearly enjoys all the great new smells.
Our current plan is to get going in the RV in early May. I’ve plotted a draft trip to take us back west through New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon and up to Seattle again. Then we would head back home through a different route. If anyone has recommendations on what to see/do, let us know.
I have inserted a collage of pictures from today (and one a few days ago). The first picture is the moon rise over the ocean. I didn’t use a tripod, so it’s shaky. It was almost a full moon and it was beautiful.
The rest of the pictures are from Marineland and a beach next to Marineland.
Today was a fantastic day. My friend told me about a Right whale mother and her calf off the local coast. We headed out in the car with binoculars and the camera and were very fortunate to see them. I believe there are only about 500 Right Whales in the world, so that fact that we were able to see this pair is amazing.
I get it that the whales are small in this picture, but they are there and we saw them!!!!
I originally planned to watch a green sea turtle get released today but the sighting of the Right Whale altered our plans. It worked out well. Wahoo!
The other day we went hiking through the 12 mile swamp. The part we went through was not very swampy. It is obviously an area that was cut down and replanted. I didn’t personally find it very interesting, but Dart felt otherwise. There were enough smells to get him excited and he was very exuberant on the walk.
We recently moved to St. Augustine, Florida from Maryland. As a result of this move, we don’t expect to get on the road again with the RV until at least May. We are planning a trip to Utah and other places to be determined. But, there is so much to explore right now in our area that we plan to stay still for a few months to do that. There is a lot of wildlife to see in the winter and then a lot of nesting begins to take place in March. Can’t miss that!
Since exploring the area should be a lot of fun, I plan to enter some occasional posts with pictures to show what we are seeing. We recently went to the Guana Matanzas Tolomato Reserve which sits between the ocean and the intracoastal waterway. There is freshwater and saltwater in the reserve, so there is a variety of wildlife to see. This is clearly a place worth exploring on many occasions. Below is a picture of Regis and Dart enjoying the beach on the intracoastal waterway. Also, Dart met his first armadillo on the trail (it may also be a first for Regis but he can’t remember).
We see lots of pelicans and here is one of my favorite shots of a Brown Pelican.
I’m taking some Florida Master Naturalist classes and really enjoying how much I am learning about the nature in Florida. As we explore, I hope to share some of that with you. Now, the Right Whales are calving off the coast here. There aren’t many of them, so it is unlikely we will see one. But, I keep looking.
I had a really hard time sleeping last night, so late morning I put Dart in the car with me and we headed to the beach to watch the sunrise. Of course, it was awesome. It was too dark when we got there, so we had to wait about 15 minutes before we could start walking. I found a great shell. It is the best I ever found. We will be doing this more in the future.
Sunrise in St. Augustine:
I want to thank those of you who have been following our travels everyday and getting in touch with me. Some of you respond to the blog post, some email, some text, and some call. It’s made me feel very connected with everyone and has made the trip more than it would have been other wise. I feel that I spent more time observing than I might have, knowing that I wanted to share the adventure with everyone. There are things I would have missed if I didn’t continuously think about sharing it.
Thank you everyone for being there and sharing your thoughts. It has meant a great deal to me. I can’t wait to embark on another adventure!
Now that I’m home, I have 3 months worth of TED talks to catch up on! I’m so grateful for my high speed internet access at home. I’m in heaven!
We arrived home about mid-afternoon. Dart was the happiest dog I have ever seen. Just running around was not enough to exhibit his exuberance so he continued to bark. He ran and barked and barked and ran. I think he’s happy to be home.
Our neighbors did a better job of taking care of the place than we did. It’s in great shape and there wasn’t much to do when we got back. We turned off the water and gas before we left, so we had to get them back on. Other than that, we mostly spent the day starting the process of emptying the RV. That’s a job for multiple days.
The weather is beautiful, so we were able to open the windows and air the house out. It is already getting cool, so I think it will be pleasant sleeping weather.
The battery in my SUV is dead, so tomorrow’s project will to be to replace it. We’ll continue emptying the RV and then clean it thoroughly tomorrow.
It’s nice and quiet here. Most of our recent campgrounds have been very close to interstates, so it is delightful right now.
Although this particular adventure has come to an end, we will plan others. I won’t be posting every day, but I’ll post as we solidify next steps.
It’s been great fun!!!!!