Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bikes, TVs and a New State Park

Well, here we are at the next-to-the-last state park on our trip. Where did the winter go? We are now at Paynes Prairie, about 10 miles south of Gainesville - and we LOVE it! What a pretty, pretty park! After we leave here (in 10 days) we go up to Stephen Foster State Park for 10 days and then we begin to meander home. Unreal.

But let's go back to Blue Springs for a final farewell. As I mentioned, I don't think we'll make a big point to come back here again, even though we really do like the area a lot. It's nice to be kind of close to Daytona and kind of close to Orlando, so we'll definitely come back to this area again - just not this park. We didn't do an awful lot our last couple days here, although on Saturday we went into Deland (which is only about 5 miles north of Orange City, where Blue Springs is located). Saturday was the official beginning of the Daytona Bike Week. I should look it up on the internet and get a few stats about how many bikes visit the area, but all I know for sure is that it's about a jillion! Daytona Beach, of course, is absolutely crawling with bikes - thousands and thousands - but on Saturday Deland has its own one-day bike rally. There is a big stage set up for music, a few beer tents, lots and LOTS of merchandise vendors (think black panties with the Harley logo across the back and...). They close off a few blocks of the main street and divert all traffic away from downtown and they just LINE UP the bikes - I'm attaching a picture because it actually is kind of cool to see so many bikes - and this is only fraction of what you'd see in Daytona Beach. So basically, what everyone does is walk around with a beer in their hands, look at each others bikes (some of which are incredible, to tell you the truth - a couple pictures are attached), and try to look really, REALLY cool and "biker-ish". The music was good, the beer was pretty cheap and the people-watching was excellent! So we spent most of the afternoon hanging out.

On Sunday we didn't do very much - primarily got everything all packed up because we had to SET THE ALARM for Monday morning! OMG!!! We had made the big decision to put in two new TVs and have everything upgraded so we made an appointment for Monday to have everything done. We went to Sam's Club and bought the TVs on Sunday and then headed over to Sunshine RV early Monday morning. We left the rig, left the cats, left the TVs and took off in the car. We went to Bob Evans and got a little breakfast and then headed down toward Orlando (to Winter Park, actually) and took Brandi to this GREAT dog park - what a HOOT to watch her running all over with all the dogs. She had an absolute BALL! We stayed there for probably two hours just watching her and laughing at how crazy she was. She's such a good little dog - she doesn't get the least bit agressive, even with the tiny little dogs - she just wants to PLAY. After we got her back into the car (where she promptly fell sound asleep for most of the rest of the afternoon), we went to a couple other places and waited for the call that the RV was ready. They finally called around 3:00, we got there around 4:00 but didn't actually leave until close to 5:30. The new TVs are great, and Ron did a good job of eliminating one or two of the control boxes and spreading things out a little, but we STILL need to upgrade our Direct TV receiver to HD in order to receive a high-def signal (I've got someone coming tomorrow to do that), and our switcher box (which has all the buttons like SAT vs ANT vs DVD for both the front and back set) is apparently going out, so I need to replace that at the nearest Camping World. Plus I need a longer monitor cord if I want to hook my laptop directly to the TV and use it as a monitor. This is beginning to feel like one of those endless projects that just goes on and on forever! (Brenda - does this sound like your kitchen??) But we are definitely pleased with everything so far and we are sure that, when everything is finally done, we'll be set for years and years. ....RIGHT???
So we finally left the RV place and headed out to our next park. It was about a 100 mile drive, so I had called to tell them we would be late. The ranger gave us the combination to the gate (all Florida state parks have gates that are locked at night when the office closes - we really like that a lot) and we pulled in at 7:00, pretty much in the pitch dark. We do NOT like setting up that late, but we had no choice. Fortunately, we are in a nice roomy site so it was pretty easy for Dave to get backed in and for us to get all set up. Our initial impression of the park, just driving through and getting to the campground, was very positive. So this morning we jumped in the car, finished registering at the office and drove around the park to get our bearings. And, wow, what a nice place it turned out to be. The park is about 21,000 acres, with a very pretty little lake maybe a quarter-mile away from the campground. There are miles of trails, with a very nice visitors' center - I'm attaching a picture of the center from both the front and back. There is also a very short walk from the visitor's center to a nice observation tower that looks out over the prairie. The park is kind of interesting - instead of just that Florida scrub, this park has lots and lots of pine trees -it smells wonderful! - with a large, flat, grassy prairie area - very unusual down here. Apparently, the prairie was formed by a large number of sinkholes all kind of collapsing together and then filling it to form this large prairie-type of area. It's very hard to try to explain, but extremely pretty. And apparently there are all kinds of wildlife in the prairie, including bison and wild horses - I guess they are hard to spot, but visitors do occasionally see them, especially if they walk out on the longer trails. I plan to do all the trails that I can - although it's unfortunate that some of them prohibit pets - poor Brandi! Anway, Dave and I both had nice days today - he put his kayak into the lake and fished all afternoon, while I took Brandi for a nice walk, then took my bike out on a ride to the visitors' center. And tonight we are going to have a nice campfire - our first in quite a few weeks - so I'm looking forward to that. We're both thinking these ten days will be very nice - a great way to begin winding down on our trip.

PS - today is my mother's birthday - HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!!!! 83 AND STILL GOING STRONG! ALL MY LOVE TO YOU!

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