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FOLLOWING THE BROWN SIGNS AND CAMPGROUND REVIEW-Silver Springs State Park

This is going to be a combination of Following the Brown Signs and a campground review as they are one in the same. Let’s start with the

CAMPGROUND REVIEW:

The Who: Mike, Eris,the lowrider camping hound, Nick, Jodie and I went for a weekend of seeing the very first Florida attraction.

The Where: Silver Springs State Park, the campground entrance is located at 1425 NE 58th Avenue, Ocala, Florida.

The When: July 19-21, 2019

The Lowdown: We headed up on Friday afternoon. Not too far from the house so we were able to make it before the park closed. Always a positive thing. After setting up we went to El Toro Mexican Restaurant. The food was authentic and fabulous, it is on Silver Springs Blvd in Ocala. After dinner we headed back to the campground and walked around what I like to call a cracker village. Took the pups for a walk and went to bed. After a nice sleep we started our day with another walk and then to Silver Springs (the attraction). I will go into more details of all there is to offer in the following the brown signs segment. Just know that 2 days is not enough time to see all there is to see.

The Campground: The campground has 59 campsites, that can accommodate rigs up to 50 feet, with 50/30 amp service. There are some with full hook up but all have electric and water. There are two sections each with 2 loops. There are many pull through sites. Which is what we opted for. When making reservations I wasn’t sure if we would make it before dark so for the ease of pulling in, possibly in the dark, I opted for the pull through. Not sorry at all. We had a great site in with our living area facing the woods. There are also 10 beautiful cabins for those who don’t want to camp. Our Verizon and Nick’s AT&T worked flawlessly.

The Reasons to Go: There is so many reasons to go, which I will get into more details in the following the brown signs, but there is paddling, hiking, a museum, a spring, a nearby fort and who wouldn’t want to see the first Florida attraction.

Let’s get to the Following the Brown Sign:

This has been a natural landmark since the 1870’s.

History: Florida’s oldest attraction with glass bottom boats which showcase the crystal clear springs and underwater life. It is also the gateway to the Ocala National Forest. In 1971 it was designated s National Natural Landmark which offers a wealth of cultural and historical significance. This is shown through the displays above and below the water. Native Americans lived there and there is tangible evidence of their existence above and below the water. There is a dug our canoe that can be seen at the bottom of the river (Silver River). The Spanish (deSoto) visited the area and it is thought that was the first European to experience the park. There are a vast collection of natural habitats.

In 1985 the state bought 5000 acres of undeveloped land. In 1987 they turned it over to the Department of Rec and Parks and created Silver River State Park.

The Silver River Museum was the only thing developed in 1987 when the State acquired the property. In 1999 they built the ranger station, then the cabins and campground.

In 1993 the state purchased the headwaters Silver Springs and it was controlled by the previous owners. In 2013 the Florida Park Service acquired management of the headsprings area and at that time the name changed for the entire park from Silver River State Park to Silver Springs State Park.

About the park: The Park is split in two parts. The campground area, which has the many hiking trails and the Silver River Museum and the cracker village (a collection of old homes, school, store, church, etc.) and the Springs side, which houses the actual attraction of the glass bottom boats, a little museum, restaurant, ice cream shop, canoe/kayak rental, gift shop. The park is open 365 days a year, 8 am to sundown. The museum is open to the public on weekends and state holidays, 10 am to 4 pm. To get into the museum it is the usual state park entrance fee which at Silver Springs is $8.00 per carload. There is a $2.00 per person fee to get into the museum. On the spring side of the park, parking is free and entrance fee is $2.00 per person. However, if you are staying in the campground the entrance fee is free. The glassbottom boat ride is $11.00 per person for 30 minute ride (which we feel is long enough) they do offer a 90 minute ride as well. There are walkways where the monkeys are seen. The monkeys are known to throw poop so I was glad we did not see any. Kayaks can be rented. Since we did not get to rent the kayaks I will save that for another time. There were tons of movies made here.

On Sunday we went to the museum and then we headed over to Fort King which is down the road a bit just to check it out. It was interesting but not too much to write about.

There is a ton of history in the area and a ton to learn about.

We did not get to do everything the park has to offer and will return. The winter would be a much better time to go. I can see why the park is a favorite of many.

Till next time… Hope

CAMPGROUND REVIEWS, FOLLOWING THE BROWN SIGN AND ALL BECAUSE OF YOUTUBE

Campground Reviews:  This section will be short and sweet, because the campgrounds weren’t what this trip was about.  There were two, but it was mostly a place to lay down our heads and sleep.  So let’s get started shall we?

Mike and I  left Wednesday, June 26 after work and headed to Ellaville “RV PARK”, I use that term very loosely because it was about 8 pull through sites, with no amenities  right on US 90 with full hookups and made for the perfect place for us to pull in, plug in and hit the sack and get a good nights sleep at 11:00 p.m., when we arrived.  We would have stayed at a Walmart but June, nearly July in Florida is not exactly conducive to getting a good night sleep without ac.  Ellaville is a ghost town on US 90 about 4 miles from our property and right next to the Suwannee River State Park, which we highly recommend.  One might ask why we didn’t stay there, short answer is we just wanted to sleep with ac for the night so this fit the bill perfectly and was only $20, which we put in an envelope and placed it in the electric outlet when we left.  It was super easy to pull in, pull out.  After we woke up we had breakfast and hit the road.  But before leaving we heard a loud crash, I thought it was ice cracking and Mike thought it sounded like glass breaking.  I will tell more about what that was later.  When we were ready, we started our journey westward to our target destination, Rainbow Plantation in Summerdale, Alabama.

Rainbow Plantation is an Escapees RV Park.  This is the first one we stayed at.  Price was reasonable and was recommended as one the of the places to stay by Kyle and Olivia, best known  as Drivin’ & Vibin’, which was the reason to go to Alabama to begin with for their reveal of the Airstream Argosy, which is beautiful, more on that later as well. Back to the review of the campground.  Each site has full hookup, which was a first for us, well the night before we had full hookup but that didn’t count since we didn’t even unhook from the truck.  Our site, number 46, was in the middle of the trees.  There was a fabulous looking pool, which we did not use, a clubhouse with activities, which we did not attend,  because we weren’t there for the campground, we had other intentions.  The campsites did not have picnic table nor a fire ring, (not that we needed a fire anyways it was a) too, too, too hot, b) we weren’t staying at the campground except to eat and sleep and c) it was way too wet to even get a fire started). We did  set up our carpet, chairs, and table, opened the awning and headed to LuLu’s.  Next time, we will plan on bringing bikes and use the pool.  It was a nice stay and wish it was longer.  That’s pretty much it on the campground review, on to the Following the Brown Signs…..

We only got to follow two brown signs on this trip.  The first one was  Falling Water’s State Park.  It is known as one of Florida’s hidden treasures, with a 73 foot waterfall.  However, it needs to rain a lot for there to be any water actually falling, it was a trinkle.  We have been here before when the girls were young and we had the same result, no water falling at the waterfall.  Oh well, maybe next time. I was also able to get my Florida State Park passport stamped.   While there we checked out the campground.  The campground is located on one of the highest hills in Florida.  It is 324 feet above sea level.  We almost needed to get oxygen for the journey, just kidding.  The campground was just ok, with smallish sites and a weird layout and  there are many other’s I want to stay at before staying there but it was good to check it out.  The park itself is very pretty with steep hills, which is surprising in Florida. To get to the waterfalls there are boardwalks to get you down to it. It was too hot for us to explore too much so we got in the truck and headed out of the park, if we didn’t have a destination to get to we might have gone for a swim. Heading out of the park our engine brake came on, which we didn’t even know it had.  So that was interested and reassuring.  So west we headed. The other brown sign and I am not even sure it is a brown sign but we will call it that happens on Friday at the Gulf State Park in Alabama.  More of that to come.  Back to journey as we head west.

After a longish ride we finally made it to our destination, it was near 3 p.m. which was perfect as the office was closed until that time even though our paperwork was on the bulletin board awaiting our arrival.  We set up camp and headed to LuLu’s, where Kyle was playing (not only are Olivia and Kyle talented YouTube creators they can also sing and have a band).  Since we like live music and are fans of these super talented young people we did what was natural and headed to LuLu’s, which is also perfect because Mike being the parrothead that he is, and this is Jimmy Buffett’s sister’s place, and it also helps they have beer.  We arrived there near 5 and the place was packed, and if we wanted a table we would have had a 3 hour 45 minute wait, luckily the bar is first come first serve and we could also order food there.  Our seats were perfect and overlooked the stage.  After a few songs Mike went down and introduced himself to Kyle and told him we were part of the “Vibe Tribe” and were in town for the reveal.  During the break Kyle cme up and sat with us for a bit, which was totally awesome.

We headed back to the campground (oh by the way traffic sucks there just as much as it does in St. Pete/Clearwater), the wind was picking up and there were some serious thunderstorms in the distance, and all we could think of how we were stupid to leave the awning out on the camper, which we knew better but it was like 0% chance of rain. We couldn’t get back fast enough and were hoping our awning was ok.  Which thankfully it was.  The rain came down like buckets and the wind was crazy.  When we pulled up Mike hit the fob on the door, from the truck, (one of our newest additions to the camper-keyless entry, oh yeah) and we headed in, pulled the awning in, we sat up for a bit (cell service sucked) and hit the hay.  In the middle of the night, the rain and wind were super crazy, at one point  I thought we were  on the boat.  I thought for sure when we got up in the morning the table and chairs would be scattered across the campground.  I am guessing the trees offered some sort of protection as all was good in the morning and the stuff was mostly dry.  This is the time I will fill you in on the loud crash we heard back in Ellaville, we think it was ice melting in the ac.  When we got up, the compressor wasn’t working well if at all. We figure the ac froze up, without our ladder there was no way to tell for sure.  I cooked breakfast outside so not to heat up the place and we ate at our little table.  Before leaving to do some touristy things we turned the ac off.

Our first touristy thing to do that day was to go to Buc-ee’s.  What is Buc-ee’s you ask? It is a huge and when say huge I mean HUGE or SUPER HUGE gas station.  Yes it is a gas station on steroids, with over 100 gas pumps  but only for private cars, campers and such.  Not sure if any of them have the ability for 18 wheelers to come in but this location did not.  It has a huge store with beef jerky, pastries, and sandwiches.  They have clothes and of course touristy like gifts as well. After our trip to Buc-ee’s we headed to Fairhope, which took us to  Warehouse Donuts.  We got a couple little sandwiches, a donut (Mike’s choice) and a cinnamon bun (my choice) to go.  Warehouse Donuts is a nice place with amazing food besides just donuts.

After Warehouse we headed to the beach, which may or may not be considered a brown sign, we will call it one just the same.  Gulf State Park, Alabama, which was another suggested location to camp at.  However, in retrospect we are content where we stayed because it was closer to where we wanted and needed to be.  Gulf State Park is one of the 4 best state parks in Alabama that is listed in our National Geo’s State Park Guide.  Anyway, as the name implies it is on the Gulf of Mexico with 2.5 miles of white-sand beach, it has boardwalks that connect the very large campground (496 sites), 20 cabins and 11 cottages to the beach. However, if you are staying in the campground there are bike paths that can take you there as well.  The campground is on the other side of the road, so the boardwalks make it a safe journey if you are going by bike or walking.  After paying our little entrance fee ($2.00) into the park we headed to the Nature Center (which is free), what we found weird was we drove straight through the campground, some of the sites are right on the road.  The campground is nice but the sites are sort of close to each other and being that it is on the beach in the open.  By the Nature Center there is a large pavilion where we ate our lunch that we purchased at Warehouse.  The cinnamon bun was amazing, which I of course shared with Mike (there was no way I could have eaten it by myself anyways).  Sitting under the pavilion was very pleasant.  The temperature was about 20 degrees cooler.  There is a huge laundry room and a campstore, with basic stuff and campground gifts.  We went to the Nature Center  which was cool it had the basic animals like snakes, turtles and some birds.  There is also a huge pool, which probably has a separate charge for, we didn’t check it out because we wanted to see the beach.  It was super hot so we opted to drive over instead of taking the long hike over.  When we arrived there were big heads to pay for parking.  There was a solar equipped building at the top of the parking lot and it had also another huge pavilion.  There were beautiful boardwalks to take us to the beach.  Which was very beautiful with the white sand.  We hung up out for a bit, waded in the water and headed back to the truck.  We decided to go check out the pier while we were there. The pier is the longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico.  Parking was free but when we got out to the pier there was a fee to head to the end.  We saw enough and it wasn’t close to sunset so we figured why pay  and we headed back to our campground.  We may come back there someday to camp but only if we plan on hanging out there for most of the time.

There are some trips that are centered around the campground but this was not one of them. The wind was picking up again and the rain had started by the time we got home.  We put the ac on and it worked flawlessly (maybe turning the temp up a little bit may have helped-still not sure).  We cooked dinner of tacos and thought we might head into Fairhope to go to the brewery.  Lucky for us we were finally able to get Google Maps to work and it said it was closed, so with nothing really to do we stayed at home.  This would have been a good evening to sit outside and enjoy the campground had it not been for the rain.

Saturday morning, we woke up to a nice cool camper, but to be on the safe side we turned the ac off prior to leaving.  Today was the big day, the reveal of the Argasy and the reason for our trip to begin with.  We headed down to Fairhope for Warehouse Donuts, this should not surprise anyone, and had a delicious breakfast of biscuits, I had chicken and Mike had some meat and eggs.  We then went to Fairhope Brewery where the morning program of the reveal was.  After meeting some very nice folks and hearing the presentations we headed to Big Daddy’s where the reveal was actually going to be. We are all at different stages of our journeys, but we are all heading in the same direction.  We had lunch and mingled, had a presentation from Dennis the CEO of  Battleborn Batteries and if were weren’t before we are now convinced lithium is the way to go, so before hitting the road we will be getting a couple if not four Battleborn lithium batteries.  After talking to people Mike wanted to upgrade our suspension components on the trailer (Moryde).  That is exactly what he is doing now as I write this.  Then we got the reveal we all got to go in and check out the Argosy. It is so beautiful and they did an amazing job. It is not something I would want to undertake ever.  After the reveal we had a little over an hour to kill before the live music back at the brewery.  A few of us headed to the Fairhope History Museum, oh wait this could be considered a third brown sign, so there were three brown signs afterall.

Fairhope History Museum is a free museum that explains the history of Fairhope and how it is the oldest single tax colony in the US.  What is the Fairhope single tax? It refers to an economic principle where the government taxes only land (rent), a single tax, no taxes on one’s labor/wages or capital.  The land was/is owned by a corporation and leased out  and a single tax was/is paid a/k/a rent.  Leases are for 99 years which is as secure as a deed for the lessee.  Major funding of the library, Museum, hospital, college  and other places are examples of the building projects provided because of the single tax, which while modified has survived.  The museum was interesting, it used to be the fire department, mayor’s office and the police department with it’s two cell jail.

After the museum we walked around Fairhope for a bit.  Fairhope is a quint southern town.  If we had time we would have walked to the pier but we will have to save that for the next time.  After a small tour  we headed back  to the brewery to listen to the band, have some good beer and just enjoy getting to know everyone else that was there for the reveal.  After the band was done playing they mingled with us and we ordered food from the food truck and were eating together. We hung out, got to know each other, exchanged numbers and are hopeful that we will see each other down the road again sometime soon. I looked around the table and brought it to Kyle and Olivia’s attention, that life long friends were made here today all because of YouTube.

It was a great long weekend and we hated to head back east but that is what we did on Sunday morning.  Soon our adventure won’t have to end with Monday morning’s alarm clock it will be the beginning, until then….

Hope to see you down the road sometime,  thanks for reading,

Hope

 

 

WEEKEND OF FIRSTS AND CAMPGROUND REVIEW-Santos State Park, Florida

So where should I start with the campground review or the weekend of firsts…

Campground review:

THE WHERE: Santos State Park Florida, 3080 SE 80th Street, Ocala, floridastateparks.org

WHEN: June 7-9, 2019

THE WHO: Nick, Jodie, Mike and I and Eris the lowrider camping hound.

THE LOWDOWN: We went up there because Nick was doing camp with Royal Family Kids (a camp program for children in the foster system).  Mike and I and the two dogs drove up on Friday morning, checked into the camp, chilled out for a little bit and then went to the welcome home dinner at the church. After that we went to Infinity Ale Works, a local brewery in Ocala.  Had some yummy beverages and headed back to camp, set up Nick and hit the sack.

We woke up to rain. After we had a yummy breakfast cooked on our blackstone grill we headed to General RV to go to the campstore since it was still raining.  It stopped raining and we headed back to the campground. Nick was still recovering so he went in and took a nap and Mike and I hung out under the awning.  It was a nice relaxing weekend.

Let’s talk about this park and why anyone should visit.  Shall I say mountain bike trails, oh they are just not any mountain bike trails they are very epic, cyclists come from all over the state as well as the country.  These trails are well maintained by OMBA and well marked.  They range from beginner to expert with everything in between.  They were the reason we camped here the first time a few years back.

There are also equestrian and wagon trails.

There is a paved cycling, jogging, walking trail as well.

But by far my favorite part are the hiking trails.  The Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) runs straight through the campground. The FNST is one of only 11 national  scenic trails, which like the AT, PCT and CDT are congressionally designated trails, which is 1300 miles long traveling throughout Florida’s diverse ecological communities.

The reason to come here is for everything but water outside, there is over 30 miles of mountain bike trails, from beginners to experts, so bring your bikes and/or lace up your hiking boots and enjoy the real Florida.

The campground is nice and has only 24 sites with the a lot of open space that during the Fat Tire Festival.  We suggest sites 16 or 18.  They are deep and private.  The rangers/hosts are super friendly.  The only complaint I have is the bathroom, it is hot, with no windows and no ac.  Ever try to put on spandex when it’s hot?  Not pretty….

Speaking of hot, let’s discuss the weather, more particularly the weather in Florida in June.  Don’t come, in one word, it’s miserable.  However, this is where we live so we are used to it sort of.  Last year when we were here it was sweltering but dry, which meant the heat and bugs were on.  I used bug gonk that burned my skin.  So this year we came prepared for the heat and a lot of deet for the bugs.  However, it rained so it wasn’t as hot, and with the awning it was perfect, and it was hard to believe no bugs.  We lit a citronella candle and it was great.  After checking the weather forecast we decided not to bring our bikes, which was a good option.  It rained most of Sunday. Stopped long enough to pack up.

Even with the weather it was still a great weekend.  Any weekend camping is better than any day at work, I say.

On to the FIRSTS for the weekend.  Let’s start with the truck.  I wrote in a previous blog our buying experience of our new tow vehicle from Carvana.  I highly recommend Carvana, anyway this was the first time we used the new truck to tow the camper besides the trip did the loop.

Which brings us to the next first, going with the camper to a campground with hookups, that wasn’t our backyard.

Which brings us to the final first, the dump station.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought, however it’s easy for me to say, I was just flushing the toilet.

So that’s all until next time.  See ya on our next adventure.

Hope

 

 

 

THINGS ARE HAPPENING

It was a sad day the other day when I was coming home and pulling out of my driveway was our tiny camper to go to her new home.  I know it’s silly but it made me a sad.  We can’t have two campers and we can’t live in our tiny camper (obviously) so we had to sell her.  She went to a good home and her new owner is excited and hopefully she will have many exciting adventures with her.

Our tiny camper adventures began when we were still tent camping at a Fat Tire Festival (which is a mountain bike festival and yes we have mountain bike trails in Florida).  The tent leaked (which was also sad because that was our favorite tent) but the real selling point was the noise, it was so very loud, we said at that time we will get a camper.  Then we forgot, and in 2016 we went to another Fat Tire Festival, with a new, non-leaking tent, and it was still equally as loud if not louder than the last time, so we said next year we will have a camper.  So we would not forget we began building her on Thanksgiving weekend of 2016 and named her Escape Pod because she could take us away and away she did, and for the next Fat Tire Festival we were prepared and had a great time and didn’t care how noisy it was (we were told it was just as noisy).

Our tiny little Escape Pod took us on many adventures.  Our first adventure began on March 30, 2017, when we were heading to Raleigh, North Carolina for a race,  our first night was spent at Mike Ross Goldhead Branch State Park (great park, great hiking trails-we went there again after and I backpacked in one time a long time ago, oh the bathrooms were great and had a lot of hot water).  It was at that point that we realized how great it is to be small and  to not have to worry about what time you pull into a site at night, as it isn’t an issue as we simply were able to pull straight in, hook up electric and go to sleep, and deal with everything in the morning.  After a wonderful, first night sleep we left for North Carolina where we stayed at Falls Lake State Park, (great park but no hot water) then to Stevie and Maggy’s house in Charlotte, NC (they just moved up there) and we moochdocked on their street, the joy of having a tiny camper no one  knew we were actually sleeping in there.  Every since that first trip we have made it a monthly habit.  She took us on local trips, and to faraway places. We went to Raleigh, NC, Virginia Beach, VA (beautiful campground but we were in a tent site, which is another convenience to a tiny camper, however it did not have electric which = no ac, Virginia Beach, Labor Day weekend crazy hot), southwestern GA, southeastern GA, New Orleans, LA, the north Georgia mountains and Chehea, Alabama.  She took us to quite a few TearJerker gatherings, where met life long friends and we are reassured that even though we are big now we can still come to the gatherings.

Our tiny little Escape Pod also has sparked our dreams and started our big adventure, which will begin in 87 weeks.  Because of our tiny camper we were reading Cool Tears Magazine (a monthly magazine about teardrops) and joined TearJerkers.  In one of the issues of Cool Tears there was a story about a girl who was living in her tear drop camper and she had/has a YouTube Channel, thanks Mandy Lea.  YouTube sucked us into all the rest, like YouTube does, there was Keep Your Day Dream and because of Tricia’s podcast I heard about Less Junk More Journey, and then it was Hebard’s Travels, (great book John Hebard and I love texting with you Laura Hebard), Drivin’ & Vibin’ (can’t wait to meet Kyle and Olivia at Vibin’ Weekend) and  RV Love, You, Me and the RV, I’m not Lost I’m Rving, Traveling Robert,  Morton’s on the Move and the list goes on and on and on and on. They have all been inspiring and have caused us to change our life’s path and for that I will always be grateful but I will also remember it started with a tiny camper we called Escape Pod and I am  every so thankful for my Husband and bestfriend Mike for always fueling my adventures and always making them a reality.

Travel on my friends until next time…..

FOLLOWING THE BROWN SIGNS…..#2 CORKSCREW SWAMP SANCTUARY

As promised here is number 2 of the following the brown sign….

Following another brown sign on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2019 was my Mother’s Day gift to me from my loving Husband and to my  bestest Mom, who is always up for an adventure.  This has been a place I have wanted to see ever since my old boss (circa 1999) told me all about it, yes finally after 20 years I finally got here.  They have events all year long, however, summer is upon us so the events will be slowing down until fall I imagine, or our perceived fall in Florida, even though it will be as hot as it was on Mother’s Day.  W.e will look at the calendar though and keep up with what is going on because they have things like night hikes, a night hike on the swamp will be amazing.

Corkscrew Swamp is a series of boardwalks located in the western part of the Everglades, even though we saw some hikes that are lead through the actual swamp, I don’t think I want to do that.  Corkscrew was established to protect the largest remaining stand of ancient bald cypress that are left in North America. During the 40’s and 50’s the cypress forests in Florida were being leveled for their timber, the National Audubon had protected the birds within Corkscrew back in 1912 and at that time realized that the forest must be saved.  In 1955 the first boardwalk  was constructed thanks to the National Audubon Society, who had accepted responsibility to manage the area.  When the area was acquired in 1954 it was impossible to access.  Today, visitors can enjoy the natural systems of the real Florida.

The location of this beautiful oasis is 375  Sanctuary Road, Naples Florida, their phone number is 239/348-9151.  The cost is adults ($14.00) (so worth it) children/student (6-18) $4.00 and children under 6 free, discounts for National Audubon Society members ($10.00) and Full-time college students ($6.00-must have id). The hours are 7 am to 5:30 p.m. every day,  the last admission to the boardwalk is one hour before closing time (4:30 p.m.).  We were warned about black/deer fly’s this time of year, we however did not encounter any or should I say they did not encounter us.

We arrived at 10:30 ish and went to the visitor’s center, which houses a gift shop, a cafeteria type restaurant, and a exhibits as well as movie.  As we were there to hit the trails/boardwalk we decided that we would do all of that when we returned.  The boardwalk is 2.25 mileish along the swamp.  It is so green and lush and most thankfully were tree covered and shady.  The boardwalk starts out on the prairie but as soon as we got across the prairie, the big, beautiful trees take over and it becomes a shady hike, still hot but at least it is shady.     Besides the old trees and plants the wildlife was amazing.  We saw  barred owls, (2), an otter (which sadly he was too quick to get a pic), wood stock (a young one), anhingas, lizards (bright green anole) a skink (too fast to get a good pic), assuming it is pig frog and a mamma gator and her 12 babies.  What I was happy I did not see was a pygmy rattlesnake.  The flowers were plentiful.  After the walk we headed back to the visitor’s center where we sat and watched the informative film and cooled down.  We had a great time and were told by my mommy that it was one of the best Mother’s Day she has had.

Bottomline, we will be back and we will be on the lookout for a special program like a night hike. I urge all visitor’s to Florida to come and see the real Florida and this is a great way to do it.

Hike on…. Hope

OUR CARVANA EXPERIENCE -YUP THAT’S RIGHT WE BOUGHT OUR TRUCK FROM A VENDING MACHINE

And totally on my cell phone.  No salesman, no hassle, super simple done in the privacy of our home.  So how it works: just put in the type of vehicle that you are interested in, with your needs and wants and browse through the hundreds or thousands of vehicles.  On this one particular Tuesday night we found our truck and then started the loan application, which was emailed to me and completed and all I had to do was review, initial at the bottom and sign and  all of this was  done with my finger, by now I have moved from the dinner table to the living room, and within 5 minutes I received a phone call from a man at Carvana, who congratulated us on our purchase, and confirmed our pick up time for 6:45 on that Friday (we could have had it on Thursday but figured Friday would be better for work reasons).

Let me back up a bit, Mike and I have been looking for a truck for a while so we can tow our 21 foot Viking comfortably.  Mike’s current truck did it on one trip but we were due for a new one as his ol’ Chevy has 200,000 miles on it and is only rated to pull 5000 lbs.  We both dislike car dealers (don’t think I know anybody who really cares for them) so we were going to them when they were closed, looking around and taking down stock numbers that interested us and then would call them to see what kind of deal they could make, they called back after they spoke to their manager.  We originally said we wanted new but for the cost difference we were able to get a lightly used truck for half the price.  After dealing with the dealers we decided to check out Carvana (after we decided used was the way to go-to get us out there sooner) and this leaves us back to where we were before. We found our ideal truck at a price that we liked and it had all the features plus some, so we hit buy now. After the application was signed and sent back to them we received the phone call from the the nice, not pushy man, from Carvana  (afterall there was no selling that needed to be done, he didn’t have to check with his manager or any of that) he explained what would happen on deliver day.  We chose to pick it up from the vending machine, which is 8 stories and holds about 32 cars.  We wanted the full experience, he explained that when we arrive we would meet with a deliver representative (not sure if that is what they are called but that is what they did) and they would give us our token, we would put in the machine (yes you can ask to keep the token) and then the machine would fetch your vehicle and deliver it to the ground and at the time we would be able to look the vehicle over and take it for a spin and if it is all great then all we have to do is sign the registration and title transfer paper work.  No money is taken until after the test drive and you decide to take it home.  We also received a 7 day no question ask, money back guarantee. The only items we needed to bring with us was our driver’s licenses and proof of insurance for the new vehicle.  We arrived about 30 minutes early (surprisingly easy getting out of Tampa) and when we turned the corner we saw our truck, it was too big for the vending machine, sigh. However, in retrospect it was ok since Mike and Nick could lay down on the ground and check out the underneath since she was from Jersey we wanted to make sure she wasn’t rusty (oh you get that information from the Carfax that is provided when you are looking at the vehicles), so by the time the delivery person showed up we were ready for the test spin.  Which we did and were smitten, she is everything we want and need in a truck so that we can go on our next adventures.  When we returned, all we had to so was sign and we were good to go but to not to make us feel cheated out of the whole vending machine experience, Ivan (our delivery person) brought us down another vehicle to see how the whole process works.  Super cool.

The bottom line, we love our new truck and can’t wait to take her on adventures.  The process is super simple, the experience was fun and I don’t believe we will purchase another vehicle any other way.  Oh and I got to keep the token.