Sunday, February 6, 2011

We LOVE this park!

Boy, what a GREAT park this is, and what a fun area to visit. Plus, of course, it helps that it's been 80 degrees every day... We've really enjoyed our stay here - the park is beautiful, our campsite it wonderful, there's TONS of stuff to do and there are lots of places to visit in the immediate area. Plus it's just so PRETTY down here.

So, lest you think only wonderful things happen to us (which, of course, IS normally the case!) we did have a minor setback the other day. On Thursday, I was planning to do the AVA walk in West Palm Beach and Dave was going to come along with his bike and do some riding. So we started out around 11:00 or so and got about 4 miles down the road when all of a sudden I heard (and felt!) kind of a "thud" on the right side of the car. It was kind of weird - almost like blowing a tire but much softer than that. I told Dave "something just happened - I'd better get off the road". We were right in front of a CVS Pharmacy so I went to turn into the parking lot and realized I had almost NO power steering. Yikes! I managed to wrestle my way into a parking spot and noticed that my battery light was on. We popped the hood and didn't see anything in particular and I was just about to call roadside assistance when Dave pointed out a Texaco station next door that appeared to have a number of actual service bays ( weird is THAT!) So we walked over there and they had us bring the car right over - Dave muscled it out of the parking spot and across the street - and the guy looked under the hood and immediately figured out what was wrong - apparently the serpentine belt (whatever that is!) had broken and the bolts on the water pump that we just replaced this fall were all loose or even missing (we obviously will be discussing this with the garage that did the work for us!) They got to work on it but unfortunately had to order some parts, so we were there for about three hours. It was kind of funny to just sit there and watch things - this station was pretty cool because it was a family owned business, and Mom was sitting in the office (if you can call it that!) still doing the books. She HAD to be in her 70's - the family moved here 40 years ago and bought the business and, even though her husband and one son have died, she and her remaining son Brian continue to run the business together. And they are actually a FULL-SERVICE gas station. They come out and pump the gas for their customers, wash their windshields and even pop the hood and top off fluids. We got such a kick out of watching their customers come in and get serviced - almost all older people (it IS Florida, after all) with VERY nice cars (it IS Palm Beach, after all) and they appeared to know most of the customers on a first-name basis. It was actually kind of cool. So after just sitting on a curb for two hours, we asked if there was a bar anywhere within close walking distance. And, wouldn't you know it, there was a very nice little bar right next door - on the opposite side of the station from where we'd been sitting for two hours. So we went over and had a drink and got some food and by the time we were done, our car was done. $148 - not TOO bad. My main thought, of course, was thank GOD we were so close to this station and thank God Dave was with me - I would have HATED to have been alone when all this happened. So, overall, a minor "disaster" but certainly nothing to have a meltdown over.

So on Friday we decided to give it another try. And this time everything went fine. I did my AVA walk, Dave did his bike ride, and we both enjoyed our afternoon. I finally figured out the "geography" and realized that the ISLAND is Palm Beach, and West Palm Beach is the town on the mainland. It was kind of a fun walk, because the downtown area was pretty cool - very "Latin" feel with a great City Center area of shops, theaters, restaurants, etc. And of course, lots and lots of flowers and greenery everywhere - we LOVE being this far south! The walk had a good mix of downtown, residential area, and waterfront. One thing we both noticed, though, was as soon as you get even a TEENSY bit outside of the main downtown area, the neighborhoods became VERY poor. I'm posting a couple pictures of the downtown area, including one picture of a certain bank that a lot of you will recognize ( fact, some of you even still WORK for that bank, come to think of it!). Maybe you should consider asking for a transfer... Anway, I found the walk to be pretty interesting, so I think when Cindi and Glennda come down this week I might suggest we do the walk on Palm Beach - they might enjoy the whole "ritzy" Florida thing and I know they'd love the flowers and landscaping and just the whole "visual" impact, especially after all the snow and cold and gray they're leaving behind.

One of the things we like to do when we're traveling is try new experiences. Many of them turn out to be wonderful, some turn out to be "not so much..." Well, Saturday was kind of the latter. I had noticed a flyer on the park's bulletin board announcing a reenactment of the Battle of Okeechobee. It was going to be held on both Saturday and Sunday, about 50 miles away right by Lake Okeechobee. We had never been to a reenactment and thought it might be fun to go to one. Well - it was different, I'll admit that. It was held in kind of a big open field (the site of the original battle, I guess) and there were a bunch of vendor booths and tents set up, plus a "soldiers" camp and an "Indian" camp, and a few miscellaneous "attractions" such as an alligator handling area. We walked around for a while and then sat in the stands and waited for the battle to start. Well... there were probably about 25 or so "soldiers" and maybe 10 or so Indians. There was a narrator who told us about the "columns" and the "positions" and stuff, but the whole battle lasted maybe thirty minutes. It was kind of funny, because basically the participants all just kind of walked around in the field and shot at each other and every now and then someone would fall down. We kind of agreed that maybe this isn't EXACTLY our cup of tea. On the other hand, if we were someplace that had a really big reenactment, maybe at a national park like Chickamaugua in Chattenooga, we would probably give it another try. But this one, frankly, was just too hokey and kind of weird.

When we left the "battlefield" we stopped at one of the many, many little access areas to Lake Okeechobee and I walked a little while Dave fished for a while. Now THIS we found to be kind of interesting. The lake itself covers 730 square miles and is totally surrounded by a man-made dike with many, many locks that are used to manage the water levels. There is a bike/hike trail on the top of the dike that is 110 miles in length. You can actually go around the entire lake on this trail. On the outer side of the dike is a channel with houses and RV parks, etc. on the far side - and they ALL seem to have boats that are docked in the channel. I don't know if this channel goes all the way around the lake, or is just sporadic. But overall, it's a pretty unique place and quite an impressive engineering feat! We didn't have enough time to spend more than an hour or so in the area - poor Brandi had been in the RV since 11:00 in the morning - but if we had enough time we would have loved to have driven a little further south along the shoreline and gone to the Visitor's Center. Definitely on our next trip in this area....!

So here I sit, updating my blog, as the clock counts down on the SUPER BOWL! Oh my GOD - the excitement is almost unbearable here in our rig! We're going to watch the game, have a few drinks and eat junk food - GO STEELERS!

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