Friday, October 28, 2011

April 2011

It was a short 14 mile trip from the Big Biloxi Recreational Area to the Gulfport SeaBee Base. We like those sort of trips. The Navy campground was relatively new. The previous one was destroyed by Katrina as was much of the base. They have recovered very well, but that is to be expected with a military installation.

These military campgrounds are administered by the military service's Moral, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Office and are, quite often, much less expensive than a private campground. Their use is supposed to be for recreational purposes, but we have seen an increase in homesteading by both active and retired personnel. Some active duty personnel stay their entire tour in these parks which is some times up to three years. It is dependent the park's length-of-stay policy and all of these parks have different policies. One may say that is fine, but it really is not. These people are scamming the system. Active duty personnel are paid a monthly allowance for lodging. If there are not government quarters available at their duty station they collect this allowance. If government quarters are available they forfeit this allowance. This allowance is based on the location of the installation and is different for each grade. In Gulfport this ranges from $1077 per month for the lowest grade (E-1) to $2095 per month for the highest grade (O-7). The scam is these allowances are not forfeited, as they are supposed to, while staying in these government facilities. We have actually had some of these service members tell us they pay off their RV and still make a lot of money.

This practice is the fault of the individual MWR administrators by not imposing length-of-stay policies. A lot of these parks only allow 60-90 day stays with 60-90 days before they can return. These kind of policies allow legitimate use of MWR facilities as they were intended to be used. It was obvious this park in Gulfport did not have any such policy since 90% of the 68 sites were filled by homesteaders.

We stayed in Gulfport for one week and during this time we toured the coast from there to New Orleans. Our New Orleans day trip was the highlight of this segment of our journey. Guinness and Rosco went with us and were enthralled by the smells, sights and sounds of the French Quarter and the Mississippi river front. We definitely want to go back for a longer stay and see more of the city.

Our next few stops will be along the coast heading back towards Savannah. We were glad to leave Gulfport and do not plan on returning. Next stop will be Pensacola Naval Air Station's Oak Grove RV Park. This is our favorite place to stay.

Joyce, Guinness and Rosco on Bourbon St. in the New Orleans French Quarter

Joyce, Guinness and Rosco in front of Emeril Lagasses's restaurant NOLA in the New Orleans French Quarter

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

March-April 2011

Courtesy Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia-

........"The Conecuh National Forest in southern Alabama covers 83,000 acres (340 km²), along the Alabama - Florida line in Covington and Escambia counties.[1] Topography is level to moderately sloping, broad ridges with stream terraces and broad floodplains.

The Conecuh Trail winds 20 miles (30 km) through Alabama's coastal plain. The trail was built by the Youth Conservation Corps. Each year, beginning in 1976, the young people of the Corps extend the trail through park-like longleaf pine stands, hardwood bottomlands, and other plant communities of the Conecuh National Forest.

The name Conecuh is believed to be of Muskogee origin. It means "land of cane," which is appropriate because the trail runs through canebrakes in several sections.

Situated just above the Florida panhandle, the forest has a distinct southern flavor of mist-laden hardwood swamps, pitcher plant bogs, and southern coastal plain pine forest. These hilly coastal plains are also home to longleaf pine, upland scrub oak, and dogwood, as well as an aquatic labyrinth of winding creeks and cypress ponds.

Clear-cut in the 1930s, the Conecuh was reforested with slash pine that reduced the number of nesting trees for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. The forest is currently undergoing a reforestation from slash pine to the native longleaf. In time, this should increase the number of red-cockaded woodpeckers as the trees mature.".........

The end of March in this part of the country sees spring time early. The dogwood and azaleas were already in bloom and the birds and the bees, as well as all the other animals, were doing their spring time activities. Since we arrived on a Monday, the Open Pond Recreation Area campground was just about empty. Only three other RVs filled the seventy-three camp sites. Needless to say it was very quiet. The four days we spent there was very relaxing with daily walks on the trails, reading and playing with the boys. Finally, some down time.

Our next stop was another National Forest campground. Traveling a bit farther west into Mississippi, we stopped for another four days at the Desoto National Forest's Big Biloxi campground. Unlike the previous campground, this one was located close to major cities and busy highways. We decided to explore this area since we had been here before.

The countryside north of the Gulf was very impoverished. Not much to see or do outside of the cities of Gulfport and Biloxi. They, as the towns to their west along the coast, are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina Beach front property all along this section was completely destroyed. In many places the destruction went back from the coast by almost a half mile. Many have rebuilt or are in the process of rebuilding, but there are a lot of empty lots where homes and business once stood that now stand empty.

The beaches along this stretch of Gulf coast are beautiful and people were taking advantage of the warm waters and weather. We wanted to get a bit closer to the beaches on our next stop so we decided to stay for a week at the Navy's Construction Battalion (SeaBee) Base located in Gulfport, Mississippi. It was less than a mile from the coast.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

March 2011 Continued

Homosassa, Florida is a snow birder's paradise. The local population's age and the large amount of filled RV parks confirms it. We stayed here for a week and enjoyed exploring a part of Florida we had not yet seen. The Turtle Creek RV Resort provided us with a great base for our touring.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is the feature attraction of the area.

A huge fresh water spring feeds the river and attracts many manatee. The park itself is a refuge for the strange looking animal and they have a special tank they use for those that are sickly or wounded. When we saw the tank there were 5 manatees of different sizes and it was filled with cabbage heads, their favorite food.

The park boasts that all of its animals are native to Florida, except for one, a hippopotamus. Why, you may ask, is an African species found at a Florida park with all native wildlife? Well, Lucifer has lived there all his life. He was a big movie star when the park was an exotic animal park. Local residents took a special liking to Lu and often visited him between his many movies. When the park went to strictly native species Lucifer was bound for a transfer. You can imagine the demand for a 6,000 pound hippopotamus is not particularly high. When the locals caught wind of the intended transfer they put up a fight to keep Lu here. Needless to say their voices were heard and Lu was granted honorary state citizenship by the governor.
If you are ever in this area, this is a must stop. Plan on at least 4 hours for the visit.

Our next stop was Tyndall Air Force Base RV Park for another weeks stay. Tyndall is located on the southern city limits of Panama City, Florida and is the training center for the F-22 Raptor fighter jet. Again, our mission for the week was to explore the area. By the time we departed, mission was accomplished.

Panama City's claim-to-fame is its 27 miles of beautiful beach. They even have a beach dedicated for dogs. Way to go! We stayed pretty close to Tyndall and the city checking out the beaches and searching for good seafood. We took more down time than we had before. The RV park was big and very wooded so we walked a lot with "the boys". They loved it.

Speaking of the O'Doodle brothers, Guinness had the opportunity to swim and play in the bay across from the RV park. The water was quite calm and he did his favorite thing of swimming after a stick. The water was ocean water so very salty and he ingested a lot of it. When we got back to the RV, he became a bit unsettled. We guess the salt water played a number on his digestive system because all of a sudden he raced into the woods and began projectile expulsions and it wasn't from the mouth. This went on for more than an hour and we became very concerned. We made him drink lots of water to make sure he didn't get dehydrated. It took a lot out him and he didn't eat that night. He slept most of the rest of the day and all night. Next day he was fine.

Now it was Rosco's turn. The weather had gotten warmer and his long hair was making him uncomfortable. If you remember several posts back, his hair was extremely long (almost dragging the ground) and it seemed to be continuously growing. This is when he got his nickname as Fluffer Doodle. It was time, though, to do something about it.


Joyce had been a hairstylist in a previous life so she wanted to take a "whack" at it. She placed Rosco on the picnic table and got out the electric shears. It took almost an hour and a half but, the results were great and Rosco was ecstatic. He pranced, jumped and ran like he had been rejuvenated. Good job Joyce.


Our highlight for this destination was the annual air show at Tyndall Air Force Base. It was an awesome event with the culmination of each days activities showcasing an exhibition flight of the F-22 Raptor. This is an amazing aircraft. It can, literally, go straight up and "HANG" in the air. No movement what-so-ever, then continue to climb at Mach speed. Watch this video:

Our time at Tyndall was very pleasant and we will return to that destination. Next stop is Conecuh (kuh-neh-kuh) National Forest in Alabama about two and half hours north west of Panama City.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Always in Catch-up Mode

Seems like we are always in the catch-up mode. I was shocked to see our last substantial post was back in March of this year. Geez, that is, almost, inexcusable. Notice I said "almost". I guess the only excuse we can offer is the helter-skelter of our lives since that post. Best I can do is give a synopsis our adventure.

March 2011-

The trip to Mayport Naval Station RV park was without incident. We were assigned the same site as we had had the previous July when we were returning from Texas after adopting Rosco. It was right on the ocean at the mouth of the St. Johns river. A beautiful sight to wake up to every morning. As is always the case for that time of year the winds were constantly high. The temperatures, however, were very moderate so it was comfortable.

We spent most of our time exploring the area and eating awesomely fresh seafood.  A highlight of our stay was a journey across the St. Johns river on a ferry.  Rosco and Guinness, especially Guinness, did not know what to think.  He kept looking, nervously, down at the water the entire crossing and was ecstatic when we drove off onto the dock.  We took the bridge on the way back and he, I am sure, was very grateful.

Another highlight was visiting the Budweiser brewery in Jacksonville. It was a great experience and the tour was enlightening. Of course the free beer was good, too.  The most memorable, though, was seeing the Budweiser Clydesdales.  What an awesome exhibition.  We saw the three trucks drive up, wagon and trucks unloaded and the horses tacked.  That took the better part of an hour.  Their exhibition included circles around the parking lot and photo ops for the public.  How well behaved they are.  Beautiful.

Our stay at Mayport Naval Station was short, but we packed a lot into the time we stayed. Our next stop was Homossasa Springs, Florida located on the Gulf Coast about 80 miles north Clearwater. On the way there, we stopped in Gainesville for a short and pleasant visit with our nephew. Stayed tuned for more.