Monday, December 31, 2007

Canoe Trip on the Hillsborough River

Ed and I learned about Canoe Escape during our visit to Sargeant's Park while geocaching. We met one of the guides at the boat launch area and decided to sign up for a self-guided canoe trip down the Hillsborough River. There are a number of tours and we chose the 4.5 mile trip downriver from Sargeant's to Morris Bridge Park. We opted for a canoe although kayaks are available.

This stretch of river is noted for an abundance of wildlife and we were not disappointed. This guy is the reason that Canoe Escape doesn't allow you to bring dogs. No free meals for him, please!

We've seen lots of turtles in our life but not this kind, called a Florida red-bellied turtle.

This is a Great Blue Heron, although it's hard to get a sense of his size from this photo.

We first saw anhingas in the Everglades. They look similar to cormorants and they hang their wings out to dry in the same way.

When I snapped this picture I didn't know what it was as I'd never seen a bird quite like it before. I thought maybe it was an immature heron. But no, after consulting our bird book, I discovered it is a limpkin. Apparently it's more active at night so we were fortunate to see it.

Sargeant's Park and Morris Bridge Park are just two of six parks in the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Area. There are off road trails throughout for hiking and biking as well as fishing and bird watching opportunities on the river. We look forward to exploring and doing some geocaching here this winter!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

GPS & Geocaching

For our Christmas gift to each other, Ed & I bought a Garmin Nuvi 350 GPS unit. The list price is $480, we paid a little over $300. Oh, if this technology had been available so inexpensively five years ago, it would have made my job as navigator so much easier when we were on our Great Adventure cross-country trip! But now we have it and it will come in handy as we navigate Tampa this winter since we are new to the area. GPS will help Ed locate customers when they call for Protech Mobile RV Service.

Now that we own our own GPS, we can participate in the sport of Geocaching. Never heard of it? Neither had we, until we met fellow RVers Karen and Guy at Jekyll Island in April of 2006. They explained that participants hide and seek "caches" of trinkets, using coordinates published on the interactive web site Karen and Guy invited us to tag along on one of their hunts. We trekked through the woods in a nature preserve full of wildlife and found an ammo box with the cache inside. It's a high-tech treasure hunt for grown ups and a great way for all of us, adults and kids, to get outdoors and have fun! Watch this video to see how it works.

Treasure Near Your House! Can You Find It? - video powered by Metacafe

The first step is to visit the Geocaching web site and type in your zip code to get a list of caches in your vicinity. Ready for our first venture and armed with a printout of each cache that we wanted to search for, Ed entered the coordinates into the GPS unit.

We knew that there were two caches located just a couple of miles from us at Sargeant Park here in Thonotosassa, FL.

The first one, according to the web site, was along a 1/4 mile long boardwalk.

We crossed the wetlands and were rewarded with a river view, shared with a group of canoers.

As I homed in the target area according to the GPS coordinates, Ed searched for the cache. This one turned out be velcroed to the underside of one of the park benches. Here is Ed exploring the loot.

Next step is to sign the logbook.

Next it was my turn to search. The GPS led us to a dirt trail. With the dogs, we walked along, checking the GPS, learning to avoid tree cover that would block the satellite signal. In about 15-20 minutes, I found the cache hidden at the base of a live oak tree.

This cache was a camouflaged jar filled with trinkets.

We took a small kaleidoscope and left a tiny Christmas ornament. It is customary, although not required, to take something and leave something and sign the logbook. Then, once home, we visited the geocaching web site again, logged in, and recorded our finds. Our geocaching user name is (surprise, surprise) "protechrv" if anyone wants to connect with us through geocaching.

Thank you so much, Karen & Guy, for getting us interested in this exciting adventure!

Thanks to my sister-in-law, Gina, I now have a web photo album account at Gina and my other sister-in-law and blog fan, Mary, have suggested that I include more photos on the blog. So if you would like to see additional photos taken at Sargeant's Park, click here to visit my web album. It includes these photos plus a 1/2 dozen more of the landscape and wildlife.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Long View RV Superstore; Tampa, Florida

Ed & I moved the motorhome down to Tampa where we'll spend the next three months. We checked in at Long View RV, where I'll begin work on January 2, 2008. For more interior and exterior photos, click The store is located at Exit 14 off Interstate 4. Our complete inventory is available online at

Our first big event will be the 2008 Tampa RV Supershow held Jan. 16-20. I'll be working at the Long View booth in the Gulfstream Motorhomes display. If you're in the area, stop by and say hello!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

An Airstream Christmas

Ed & I will do a little RV Christmas decorating but NOTHING like this. It's an Airstream trailer with flashing Christmas lights, choreographed to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Wizards in Winter."

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Meredith Rodney Turns Three

I'm visiting my family in CT this week. Tonight we celebrated my niece Meredith's birthday. She turns three years old tomorrow and I can hardly believe that it's been just over two years since we brought her home from China. Here she is in my arms, wearing a birthday crown made especially for her by her sister, Catherine.

The theme of the party was "Hello Kitty" with an appropriate cake!

I don't know if Meredith made a wish but she did a great job blowing out the candles with her Mom's help (my sister, Marguerite).

After cake it was time to check out the birthday, gifts.

Here's Grandpa, my dad, holding Catherine, who is 5 1/2 now.

In the aftermath, here are our girls along with Zoe (on Marguerite's lap) and Sarah (far right)who were part of Meredith's adoption group.

Fort Clinch State Park; Fernandina Beach, Florida

Just before Thanksgiving, my laptop computer died and had to be sent back to the factory for repair. It turned out to be a defective mother board and Compaq replaced it under warranty even though it was beyond the 1 yr. original warranty. But I've gotten a bit behind in posting here since it took a couple of weeks.

After Thanksgiving, Ed & I spent four days up at Fort Clinch State Park in Fernandina Beach, Florida. Ft. Clinch is on Amelia Island, located on the Georgia/Florida state line. Cumberland Island National Seashore lies across the river. The great thing about Ft. Clinch SP is that they have two campgrounds - one on the river and one (our preference) with direct beach access.

Here is our campsite.

A short stroll down the boardwalk across the dunes brings you onto the beach.

Ft. Clinch SP is popular with fishermen and Ed decided to try his hand. Sadly, the fish weren't biting on this day.

The pelicans patrolling the shoreline may have had better luck!

Campers wishing to stay at Ft. Clinch should make reservations although a certain number of sites are held open for walk-ins. All campsite have water and electic hook-ups. We're hoping to stop back on our way up north in April.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Smyrna & Apollo Beaches, Florida

If you dislike the beach, you might not want to keep reading! Ed & I are making up for having NO beach time during our busy summer. We are visiting beaches every chance we get and spending a week at New Smyrna Beach Campground. New Smyrna Beach is located just south of the better-known and busier Daytona Beach, across Ponce de Leon Linlet. From behind a dune at New Smyrna, you can see the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and the high rises of Daytona in the background.

At New Smyrna Beach, as at Daytona, you can drive your car on the beach for miles. Here's the Protech Mobile RV Service & Repair van making a "beach" call!!!

As you drive south down Rt. A1A from New Smyrna Beach, you come to a protected area, the northern side of the Cape Canaveral National Seashore. We relished the unspoiled tranquility of Apollo Beach. Ed learned the names of the various seashore birds, sanderlings and ruddy turnstones, from reading the boardwalk signs.

This ruddy turnstone, named for it's reddish colored legs, was very busy working for its dinner at the edge of the waves.

How refreshing to stand on the boardwalk as our shadows lengthened, listening to the roar of the surf.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Jekyll Island, GA

In May of 2007, Georgia Sea Turtle Center opened in its brand new location - the renovated power company building in the Historic District on Jekyll Island. It is a hospital and rehab facility for sick and injured turtles. This is Macaroni, half under a towel on the exam table. He was hit by a car, was left with a hind leg dangling that had to be amputated, and the vet techs are cleaning the wound.

This plaster cast of a prehistoric turtle skeleton greets you in the lobby/gift shop. Adults weigh hundreds of pounds and take 35 years to reach maturity.

Exhibits are appropriate for both children and adults to learn about the life cycle of the giant sea turtle. The nesting season runs from May-August. During that time, residents are asked to keep their lights out. As the hatchlings emerge from their nests on the beach, they instinctively head for the brightest light, which should be the horizon over the sea, where they need to get to. They can get confused by artificial light.

Volunteers routinely check nests after the hatchlings have emerged. They count the egg shells and sometimes find stragglers. Nine years ago, they found two such stragglers and brought them to the Center, and named them Bob and Dylan. Dylan was kept as a mascot to be used for educational purposes. Bob was released. Now, the Center is preparing to release Dylan, probably next spring. In the interim, he is being prepared to live on his own, getting his own food, etc., to be able to survive without humans. Here he is coming to the surface to take a breath.

He will have a chance to live the life he was meant to live and will be tracked by a satellite transponder. Track other turtles and even adopt one at

Monday, November 05, 2007

Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, GA

I love the beach. Who doesn't? But there are some beaches that are special because they are unspoiled - no hotels or condos, no T-shirt shops, no crowds - just natural beauty. Neyes Provincial Park in Canada, Kalaloch in Washington state, and Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island are a few of my favorites. There aren't many places that Ed & I like to visit again and again, we are generally into seeing new places, but we never tire of Jekyll.

Duncan enjoyed barking at the waves and jumping over them.

Roxie, on the other hand, hates water in any form. She stayed back with her daddy on the shore.

Time for Miss Roxie's close-up!

You can stroll for miles or even ride horseback along Driftwood Beach.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Jekyll Island, Georgia

We FINALLY made it to Jekyll Island yesterday. But instead of the week we had planned, we'll only have three nights and two days. Beofre we checked in at the campground, we spent a couple of hours parked at the shoreline. There was plenty of room to park the motorhome, even with Ed's van still attached. Very few people were around because it's off-season.

It was high tide and the beach had disappeared. The water was right up to the sea wall at this section of the island coastline. By law, only 65% of Jekyll Island may be developed. These dunes will remain protected.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Folly Beach, Charleston, SC

Ed & I have been to Charleston several times and there's lots of interesting things to do and places to visit. We've spent time wandering the streets of the historic waterfront district, we've visited plantations, toured the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier, and taken the boat to Ft. Sumter, site of the opening shots of the Civil War. But this time we're lazy, burnt out and just want to sit around and do nothing. Well, next best thing to doing nothing is going out for a seafood lunch and strolling on the beach. So that's we did today!

The beaches in North Carolina are dog-friendly, much to our delight. So we headed out to Folly Beach State Park.

Of course, when we had this great idea around noontime, it was all blue skies, sunshine, not a cloud in the sky. By the time we got to the beach after lunch, it had clouded over but Duncan, Roxie and I had a great time dashing in and out of the water. Well, it was mostly Duncan doing that!

And of course, around 4:00 as we were driving back to our campground, all the clouds blew away and the sun came out. But I can definitely say this - a "bad" day at the beach still beats a good day at work!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Our mascot, Dusty

We arrived this afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina. With the high winds and rain forecast for Jekyll Island for the next few days, we decided to play it safe and stay a bit further north. It's sunny, dry, and low seventies today in Charleston. Our campground is Lake Aire RV Park, off the beaten path but only about 10 miles outside of the city. We first stayed here on Great Adventure, spending Easter in 2003. We usually stop by and see Amber & Chris, the lovely young couple who have worked to make this a delightful campground. Best of all, we get to stay 1/2 price because they accept our Passport America RV Club membership.

Dusty is the third cat that we've taken traveling in the RV, and she's the only one who actually enjoys riding on the dashboard while we're going down the highway!