This is “old news”, but I had a lack of pictures, and was distracted by summer pursuits. Essentially it was written in the early part of 2013, and included in the interests of continuity. The general plan is to assemble a “history” of our many years on the road … in chronological order … editing out the boring bits and general rubbish. Like all projects it may not come to fruition, but it all starts with ambition.
I have started to chronicle some of our wanderings in this Fall of 2013, and will post these as soon as I can. As always we are plagued with a lack of high speed internet, and an old and cranky notebook.
OK – Florida vs. Texas.
We have discovered on our travels that we are “in a minority”. Not “right” or “wrong”, and not even “odd”, though this is arguable! Likely it is our background: we are basically urbanites, who have always welcomed the opportunity to visit wide-open spaces, rather than other cities. Fortunately both of us have this preference, and in fact our excursions prior to our marriage were in some pretty rugged rural landscapes. Another point of “difference” is that we are not avid TV watchers. This is likely related to my being in the TV racket for many years, where watching was paid work, and became a mite tedious.
Ah yes, but what about the beaches? Definitely a plus for Florida, and we have been fortunate to visit some of the very best of these. But a beach is a beach, and if you look out to sea on Padre Island, Texas, the feeling, view, and saltwater tang is the same as on the outer beaches of Florida. But if you like crisp, dry, desert air, you won’t find this anywhere in Florida, and you will notice a great lack of hills. In Texas there is a lot of desert and some pretty impressive mountains.
I was coerced into a couple of months in Florida for the 2013 winter, though Elaine says this is too strong a word. OK … I agree to being out-voted, or maybe my love for the grandchildren persuaded me to come this way. I said I would do so “with an open mind”. And I think I have. In fact we have had an interesting and enjoyable visit, in spite of some persistent coughs which may or may not be related to the high humidity.
Unlike the usual entry via I-75, we tiptoed in from Texas via the Florida “Panhandle”. Pensacola, Destin, Panama City and round the corner into the southern part of the State. Scenic, and surprisingly rural in places, with excellent State Parks and spectacular and quiet beaches. This part of Florida can be cool in February, but we hit a warm patch and it was just fine. The St. Joseph Peninsula was magical … until the fog and rain arrived to see us on our way! Some of the little towns on that coast have charm, but the one we really liked proved enormously expensive. Such is life!
Orlando is big and busy, but mandatory for the “Harry Potter” events which were the priority for the family. Maybe it was the Potter wand, but we lucked out with a city park just ten minutes from Universal Studios. Quiet, pleasant and inexpensive. Who would have believed it? Louise, Alexandra and K. had a great time, and, after all, this is the most important thing of all.
On the downside is the driving and traffic. Not quite as bad as Toronto, but close. Orlando to Clearwater is similar to a drive on the 401 on a holiday weekend. We spent two weeks in Clearwater at “The Closest RV Resort to the Beach”. Excellent facilities, but to reach the ocean there are over seven miles of traffic lights. This is similar to taking Eglinton Avenue from Etibicoke to Scarborough. In fairness, when you finally reach Clearwater Beach, it is somewhat more scenic than Scarborough.
As always, you have to seek out the better spots. Louise “found” Tarpon Springs with its lively Greek community (and food), and some persistent searching of the net found Fort De Soto, where we spent a week camping close to one of the best beaches in the U.S.A. (this according to “Trip Advisor”, and I would agree). One most enjoyable day was to Honeymoon Island State Park, and then the ferry to Caladesi Island.
Ponderous gopher tortoises were fairly common on the outer islands, and were obliging for photographs.
Numerous ospreys and other birds roosted in the trees, and then the highlight as the ferry captain diverted to frolic with the dophins. (These are difficult to photograph!)
We had a few cool days, but this was because we decided to forego travel further south to Port Charlotte or even down to Key West. One can travel only so far on a tank of gas!
The Blue Jays lost one of the Spring Training games we saw, but we did beat the local Tampa Bay Rays in the other, and cheered mightily for our home runs. Meaningless games perhaps, but the intimacy of a small stadium and excellent seats without paying a ransom made for a couple of fun afternoons.
Flowers, beaches, food and fun are Florida staples, and this was a good mixture. But endless strip malls, subdivisions and intersections made us yearn for the open roads of Texas, with mountains beckoning in the distance. Many continuous days of sunshine and dry weather are also on the Texas plus side, at least in the west. Did I mention the cost? Texas is further, but cheaper when you get there, but wherever we go, the usual rule applies: if we cannot afford it, we will stay home!
Next year (later this year) … who knows? So long as we escape the snow and cold for a while, we are thankful we are still holding together, and that our buckets of bolts disguised as a truck and trailer do likewise.
John, with the usual edits by Elaine.
Some of the pictures are courtesy of the Simos family, who have a better camera than ours.