2015  HIKING, CYCLING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Denali AKA Mt. McKinley

 

   
 
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   THREE FLORIDA DAY TRIPS: TAMPA RV SUPERSHOW, 
   RAINBOW SPRINGS SP, & MAYPORT NAVAL STATION

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19

 
  "So many people never get out of the driveway because of the unknown.    
The adventure is the unknown. The steeper the learning curve, the more fun it is.
Once you get it all figured out, it's less exciting."
 
~ the "RV Shrink" (he has a column every week in the online RV Travel Newsletter)
 
 
That pretty well sums up our full-time RV travel lifestyle. We're used to all sorts of adventures and mis-adventures in the last eleven years of RVing all over the continent.

We had some more in these three day trips we took from Kings Bay Sub Base in January and February.


Rainbow Springs State Park

Come along for the ride!

FLORIDA RV SUPER-SHOW IN TAMPA

This show is advertised as the largest or one of the largest camping-travel expos in the country. We've heard about it for several years but have never attended an RV show this big.

Even though we are not in the market for a new RV, we thought we could accomplish several things by going to Tampa during the show in mid-January -- check out the camping options at McDill AFB, drive around the area to sightsee, get information about disc brakes and other RV equipment at the vendor booths, and yes, traipse through some well-made 5th-wheels and motorhomes to see current costs and options just in case we get "new paint fever" one of these days.

For simplicity's sake we decided to leave the Cameo at King's Bay and stay at the Inn at McDill AFB for two or three nights.

We requested a room that allows dogs but those are available on a space-only basis. The weather was supposed to be cool the days we were at the RV show so we figured we could leave the dogs in the truck overnight if necessary. Because so many people were in town for the RV show we were unable to find a reasonably priced, pet-friendly motel room anywhere near the show grounds.

The four-hour drive to Tampa on a Thursday morning went as well as can be expected in such a heavy traffic corridor on a cold, rainy day.

We got to the expo site at lunch time. The parking area for the expo was HUGE and filled with hundreds of RVs belonging to people who were attending the show. The cost to park an RV overnight was $20. As crowded and muddy as the place was, we were glad we left our camper at Kings Bay.

Our daily parking fee for the truck was $6. Show entry was $10 each, minus $1 coupons we had. We found a parking spot under a large tree in case the sun came out. We left the dogs in the truck and they were fine while we were exploring the show grounds the next couple of hours.

The show area was spread out over several acres and because of the cold, misty weather the indoor venues were mobbed with people. There were fewer people riding shuttle buses or walking around outside, checking out the gazillion new RVs ranging in price from pop-up tent campers to very expensive Class A motorhomes.

We spent time both indoors and out, but mostly in because our first priority was checking out several supplier booths in the two large exposition buildings.

We made a list of the vendors we wanted to see and their locations. We found all of them except British Columbia -- America's Mailbox (our mailing service in SD; they now have offices in FL and TX, too),

Bigfoot auto levelers, Coach Net, Costco, CURT hitches, Escapees RV club, MCD window coverings, Mor/Ryde, North to Alaska, and Stop Your Trailer.

Jim had questions at several of the booths and spent the most time with the guy he's been talking to on the phone re: disc brakes at Stop Your Trailer.

We assumed we'd be back the next day so we didn't go look at the Lifestyle 5th-wheel or Tiffin motorhome displays outside or the antique RV display. We left about 3:30 PM to check into our room at McDill AFB.


Jim talks to the BigFoot rep about two of our switches
that needed to be replaced; he did the work himself.

And that's when the trouble started. Not only were there no rooms available where dogs were allowed, they told us the security force would NOT allow us to leave our dogs in the truck overnight even though it was overcast and cool. We tried to find a motel where we could stay but that was rather hopeless with thousands of people in town for the SuperShow.

We did drive around McDill AFB some, walked the dogs, and checked out the campground. We had such a sour taste in our mouths about the base, however, that we never did make reservations at the campground in March.

After getting some supper we drove back to Kings Bay in the rain. It was a long day -- 14 hours total, and over 500 miles of driving. Chalk that one up more to a mis-adventure than an adventure. We did gather some important information, however.

RAINBOW SPRINGS STATE PARK

Our next day trip in Florida a couple weeks later was much more pleasant -- no mis-adventures this time.

One reason was the near-perfect weather. Another was the lush landscaping in the park, with colorful camellias and azaleas in bloom at the end of January. And the entry fee was a low, low $2 each. That's really inexpensive for a state park.

Cody and Casey had more fun on this trip, too -- leashed dogs are allowed on the trails at Rainbow Springs.

We learned about this park from the website of a couple on the Cameo online forum. Their description and photos from a kayak trip on the clear stream below the headsprings enticed us to drive 160 miles to see the place. 

The park is located about 15 miles southwest of Ocala, a mostly scenic, three-hour drive from Kings Bay. Although it was a sunny Saturday there were only about 20 vehicles in the large headsprings parking area when we arrived and the trails through the park were never crowded.

The headsprings area is beautiful. The water is very clear blue and turquoise:

 

There are two swimming areas, canoe and kayak rentals, picnic tables, and nice smooth trails winding through the live oaks and pines.

 

 


Sorry, Casey, you can't swim in there because of possible resident alligators.

The landscape is very lush in the park, with thick ferns, mosses, palmettos, and camellias and azaleas in bloom in early spring The azaleas hadn't peaked yet but lots of colors were already visible at the end of January:


A camellia bloom

Above and below:  azaleas

We enjoyed walking around the hilly, winding trails and seeing several little manmade waterfalls. Here are two of them:

 

There are another three miles of trails through the forest but we didn't go there.

We spent about an hour wandering around a couple miles of the trails with the dogs, then drove seven miles to the campground entrance. One purpose of our trip was to determine if we wanted to camp there after leaving Kings Bay in March.


Flowers in the butterfly garden

We could easily hike and kayak in the park but there aren't any good roads for Jim to ride his bike so we decided not to camp there this spring -- maybe another year. 

The campground has about 65 sites; we saw perhaps 20 that would be accessible for our 36-foot 5th-wheel. Most were a good size, with shrubs and trees to screen for privacy. The RV sites are full hookup for $30/night.

NAVAL STATION MAYPORT

One sunny day in February we took out of town guests on a tour of this busy military seaport and air base.

We have camped at Pelican Roost RV Park on base three times previously for up to two weeks at a time and love walking along the beach on base property. I've written about our activities at Mayport several times and have shown lots of photos previously.

We were delayed for about 20 minutes when we arrived that morning. Base personnel were finishing an exercise in which they conducted a mock attack on one of the ships in the naval yard and other ships came to its rescue.

We heard later on TV that various drills were being conducted at all three of Jacksonville's Navy bases that week.


Surf's up!

Because it was so windy in the grassy park across from the RV park we ate our packed lunches in The Roost, the campground's nice activity building.

Then we walked two miles along the nearby beach. The waves were higher than usual and we saw a couple dozen surfers. The tide was very close to its peak; we couldn't tell for sure if it was coming in or going out. There were a lot of shells at the edge but none that were very collectible, like more interesting ones I've seen on Cumberland Island.  

All of a sudden as we were walking along some of the sea gulls flew very close to our heads:

That was unusual. Unbeknownst to the rest of us, Jim was feeding the birds!

He had some tiny Milk Bones that he broke in half, like he does for Casey's treats when they play ball. He threw them into the air and the birds caught them. Pretty soon more than a dozen gulls were flying over us.

 
The arrow marks a tiny piece of dog bone.

 

 


Yum!  A dead fish!!

After a couple miles of walking along the beach Jim drove through the nice residential area by the ocean, through the long-term Osprey Cove RV Park, past some older, one-story housing, and out to the naval yard where we could see the ships more closely.

One of our guests, a Navy veteran, was thrilled to see large destroyers like the USS Carney. 

We exited the base via the air strip so we'd come out near the ferry in the town of Mayport. We waited about 15 minutes to board and had a front-row seat going across the wide St. John River.

  
Posts marking the far end of the military property at the beach

On the other side of the river we drove AIA north past some parks along the coastline, up to Amelia Island, and back home at Kings Bay.

Next entryphotos of pristine coastal scenery, wild horses, and more from three day trips to Cumberland Island

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2015 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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