Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Little RV Visits Gulf Islands National Seashore

We have moved on to the Florida Panhandle and are camped near Pensacola. It is much cooler here. In fact there has been frost in the mornings for the past two days. Today was an absolutely gorgeous day with the temperature at 65 degrees and beautiful blue skies. There aren't many people here this time of the year so things were quiet and uncrowded. 

We stopped at three different beaches and I had an opportunity to hunt for shells. The beaches here are so pretty. The sand is pure white and the contrast against the blue water and sky make a beautiful scene.
After some beach combing we drove to the end of Santa Rosa Island to visit Fort Pickens. The fort was built to protect Pensacola Bay. Construction was completed in 1834. We were able to walk around the ruins of the fort. 
This is an aerial view of the fort I found online.

The Main Entrance
Officers quarters had plaster walls.
See the canon?

This guy was getting a drink of water
from a puddle in one of the rooms.
Parts of the fort are crumbling. 
Arches were used in the
construction because of their strength.
I loved this view through the arches.
Anyone know what this is?
A canon atop the arches and
another in the foreground.
After another quick stop at the beach we headed back home.  On Thursday we are moving to Mississippi. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Little RV Goes on Another Shelling Adventure

I have OCD! When I get into something, I get all the way into it. So I've been studying up on shelling and according to the information I have found online the best time to shell is during low tides and the lowest tides are during new and full moons. 

Last night was a new moon and the low tide was at 7:07 this morning. Sunrise was at 7:17 am. I set my alarm to get up by 6:00 am so I could be at the beach in time for the low tide and sunrise. As it turned out I woke up at 5:20 and Rob was already up so he tagged along with me. Rob brought his camera along to capture the action and the sunrise.
Banded Tulip

One of the first shells I found was a Banded Tulip but when I turned it over to take a better look I discovered it was occupied by a little crab so I had to put it back. I never did find another one.

Here I am at 7 am wading around with my shell bag on the hunt for that illusive perfect shell. Check out all of those shells on the beach.

I wanted to go to Blind Pass which separates Sanibel Island from Captiva Island. It's about an hour's drive from our campground. We made it just in time for sunrise.

Shelling was pretty awesome today. This is a small section of last night's high tide line.

Most of what I found was small but I kind of like the mini shells.  Check out this pile of Cerith shells.
Left: Scallops, Right: Cerith

I did find several different types of shells for the first time today. That makes me happy. 
Clockwise from top right:
Lettered Olive, Worm Shell, Auger,
Nutmeg, Cabrit's Murex,
Lace Murex and Lightening Whelk

I'm really going to miss the beach but I have one more day!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Little RV is Chillin' and Shellin' on Florida's Gulf Coast

We have been in Bonita Springs for a week and were supposed to leave today but we have decided to stay another week. We were able to extend for another week in the same space so we don't even have to move.  Bonus! 
Florida Fighting Conch
I have always loved the beach but never really got into shelling except a few found here and there while walking on the beach. 

Rob grew up on the beach in Newport, RI so he also enjoys going but he likes to relax in enjoy the sun. It really is perfect because I can park my junk next to his chair while I wander off and look for shells. 

The reason we decided to camp here is because the shelling is some of the best in the world. Since we arrived we have been to several beaches. 

We went to Bonita Beach first because it is closest to the RV park. 
Bonita Beach, FL
The beaches here are white sand with lots of seashells.  The shells wash onto the beach in piles.  Most are tiny but occasionally you find a biggun! 

There are literally places on the beaches here where there are piles of shells a foot deep. Most of these shells are broken or very small but if you sift through them you can find treasure.

Bonita Beach had pretty good shelling the day we were there but our next beach day took us to Lover's Key State Park. It was outstanding.  I was able to walk into the surf and watch for shells as they tumbled up onto shore where I would scoop them up. Lover's Key is great for conch shells.
Today's haul from Bonita Beach
I'm totally hooked and would go shelling every day if I could. 
My Captiva Island booty.
I pulled this one right out of the surf today. It's one of my favorites.
Gulf Oyster Drill

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Little RV Emerges from the Swamp

After 7 full days in the Florida Everglades we have returned to civilization. We moved yesterday and are now in a brand new, still under construction, RV park in Bonita Springs, Florida.  

The Everglades was interesting to say the least. We had record high temperatures with high humidity the entire time we were there but we got out every day and hunted for opportunities to photograph the wildlife. 

The alligators were on the far side of the canals the first day we went out but the second day we went earlier in the day and they were on the near side in the sun so we got a few better shots.

I really wanted to see some Roseate Spoonbills in person, or is that in bird? The last day we were out driving we spotted several along the main highway and were able to photograph them. Who doesn't love a pink bird?

Here in another shot showing why they call them spoonbills. 
The grasses make a great backdrop for all the beautiful birds.
Now that we are in a place where it's safe to step in the water I plan to take full advantage. There are miles and miles of beautiful beaches in the area. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Little RV's 2014 Year End Wrap-up - Part 2

In June we finally left Washington State.  We had been there for 11 months but medical issues had us stuck there much longer than we wanted to be but we finally  made our escape.  Part 1 of our 2014 year end wrap-up can befound here.

We left off in North Dakota where we added our first new state sticker, for this trip, to our visited states map.

We really wanted to spend time in some of the states we missed the first trip through. Little did we know just how much time we will be spending in Minnesota. As we left North Dakota we filled both of our fuel tanks in preparation for the drive to Minnesota. Unfortunately we filled them with gasoline rather than diesel. We have a diesel engine. This was a costly and very time consuming mistake. We ended up spending more than two weeks in Knife River, Minnesota while the entire fuel system in our truck was replaced.
During this extended stay we had to make the painful decision to have Grant (our dog) put to sleep. We made it through that awful month and Grant is traveling with us in spirit.

After we got our truck out of the shop we beat it out of Minnesota. Next stop, Wisconsin! We really wanted to "do" the Great Lakes during this trip. Along the way we found some great casino campgrounds that were very inexpensive. We liked the casinos so much we plan take advantage of their offerings whenever possible. Michigan was next on our itinerary.

In Michigan we accidentally found ourselves in the middle of an antique tractor parade. I never knew there was such a thing but we now have photographic evidence of its existence.  We were camped at another casino in St. Ignace, Michigan which was a great central point for seeing the sights. 

One of our favorite day trips was to Mackinac Island. It was like going back in time. 

After Michigan we had planned to drive the next leg of our trip through parts of Ontario, Canada. That didn't work out so well because they kicked us out of Canada. We eventually did visit Canada without the Little RV. Niagara Falls from the Canadian side is absolutely amazing.

Our next stop was Vermont and we got there just as the fall colors were at their best. I loved Vermont and would love to go back one day.  New Hampshire was up next but it rained the entire time we were there so we didn't get to see much.  We did have a nice relaxing stay for a few days.

The icing on the travel cake was Maine.  I had been looking forward to Maine for a very long time and it didn't disappoint. What an amazing place.  Did I mention the lobster

We rode out the rest of the camping season in Maine and when everything closed down we made tracks for Connecticut.  The day after we arrived our most recent grandchild was born a few weeks early.  How's that for timing?

We stayed in Connecticut for a few weeks and enjoyed some time with family. We had reservations in Florida for the month of  December so we had to get moving again. On November 12th we left Connecticut and stopped for the day in Pennsylvania at another casino.  We had an incident on the interstate with a traffic cone and some extensive cosmetic damage was done to the Little RV. Since it is only cosmetic we decided to move on and get it fixed later.  We were also trying to outrun a very cold front.

We moved on through Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and finally Florida. 

We really enjoyed St. Augustine and stayed for the Thanksgiving weekend. It's another of those places I would go back and spend a longer period of time getting to know the area.

On December 1st we pulled into our campground for the remainder of the year. We were visiting with Rob's Mom, Sister and family and his brother along with his new love. Her name is Julie also. It was a whirlwind of a month between getting the Little RV back in shape with a wash and wax and some long overdue maintenance, Christmas shopping and shipping, celebrating birthdays and Christmas with Rob's family we were busy, busy the whole month. We pulled the Little RV 6,532 miles last year.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

On New Year's Day we packed up and moved 112 miles southwest from our site in Lake Worth, FL to a Federal campground in Big Cypress National Preserve which borders Everglades National Park.  We chose this campground because of the very few in this area it has electrical hook-ups. The weather has been in the mid to high 80s and extremely humid. There is no shade here. One bad hair day after another for a girl who has naturally curly hair.  

On our first day here we went to the visitor center to get information about the area. One of the rangers gave us some great information about the best places to see the critters.
Wood Stork

This area is so remote there is no cell phone service or internet connection so we are communicating with the rest of the world as we go out and find service as we are sight seeing.  

We are amazed at the number of alligators and birds we see just driving along the highway. There are usually canals along one or both sides of the highway and those canals are teaming with alligators of all sized and the most amazing collection of birds. 

The past two days we have gone driving along the county maintained roads and like the highways they are lined with canals teaming with wildlife. 
Female Anhinga

Don't know what variety of bird this is.

Great Blue Heron
Cattle Heron