Sunday, October 23, 2011

Public Service Announcement: Beware of gangs on US 98

We're having a great time discovering the beauty and history of  US Highway 98 as we drive east and once again experience our favorite time zone -  Eastern Standard Time (EST). Since we left the Destin area on Friday, we followed old highway US 98 through Panama City, Tyndall AFB, Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe Beach, Port St. Joe, Appalachicola, etc. Our reservations are at a beautiful campground in Carrabelle Beach, FL - Carrabelle Beach RV Resort. What a gem....however, we'd like to share what happened to us so it doesn't happen to you!!!!

Today, we found a great local fish merchant. We purchased freshly caught local grouper and local extra large Florida shrimp, and returned to the coach to cook out on a perfectly clear October Fall evening.  So beautiful...we are definitely excited about preparing and enjoying our fresh seafood that had been swimming in the Bay this morning.
"Oh boy, looks like my dinner is here!"

After cooking outside for a few minutes, a beautiful black and white cat appears. What a flirt!!  At this point I'm going in and out of the coach bringing this and that!  Unbeknownst to us, the cat has apparently zoned in on something, namely our dinner.  "Hmmm", RV says.  "Meow, meeowww, MEEOOWWWWW!",  is suddenly all around us, and loving us as if we have known each other for years.  What a nice cat...(we don't give an inch)...Sorry, cat, we don't have anything you'd like, and I continue to take provisions in, seafood out, seafood in...trying to finish as quick as possible.    Mind you, RV is at the picnic table cooking (he's head chef tonight), and I'm the only one going in and out.   A few minutes later I go in the coach to get the last batch of seafood, and something furry brushes against my leg.  I look down (I thought the black and white cat may have followed me), and now there's an unfamiliar black cat (oh no!) coming from our bedroom area. Friendly, not at all skiddish, the cat follows me out the coach door, never hesitating... like he's done this before.  This is definitely a very seasoned, smooth-talker and experienced black cat who has just wandered through our coach while we weren't looking, and is now hustling us for a handout.  How long has this cat been in our coach?  How did he get here in the first place???
WWFF - "Will Work For Fish"
We have it figured  out.... the other cat was a lookout and distracted us. organized cat gang! 

Just a warning. This is the first time we've experienced organized cat gangs, but we are in the Forgotten Coast of Florida.  Beware.  Don't fall for that first meow...there are many more to follow.  We have tried to get rid of all the evidence; in the meantime these cats are outside our coach waiting for us to reveal whatever leftovers we may have.  Just thought you'd like to know.

Post note:  This morning we left for a walk on Carrabelle Beach just as a beautiful sunrise appeared in the East, and here come those shifty-eyed cats.  They weren't too far away from the coach waiting on us..., or whoever goes outside first, I'm sure.

It's going to be a great day!  We leave Carrabelle Beach tomorrow and will be in Green Cove Springs tomorrow night.  By the way, it's that time of year again when the local skies around here fill up with migrating insects.  Just like a lot of our friends (the snowbirds), these insects are heading south for the winter to avoid the cold.  These insects are migrating over the Appalachicola Bay over the Gulf of Mexico on their way to South Florida (dragonflies, Gulf Fritillary, Skippers and Cloudless Sulphurs) or to Mexico (Monarchs).  We see them everywhere!
I never realized there were so many traveling together!  All you have to do is go outside around some flowers and it won't be long before you see some dragonflies and/or butterflies flying past you!

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Saturday, October 8, we departed Topsail Hill State Park in Santa Rosa Beach, and drove to Pine Mountain, GA (Callaway Gardens), for the Tiffin RV Network (TRVN) Rally.  The TRVN is a network of almost 9,000 Tiffin RV owners or some other brand owners (SOBs) wanting to learn more about Tiffin coaches, or contemplating buying a new or a used coach.   We became familiar with the TRVN several years ago when we were seriously thinking about the RV lifestyle. This rally consisted of approximately 65 coaches from all over the country.  There were opportunities to have modifications made to your coach, make arrangements to have your coach (or tow car) digitially weighed, share experiences with other Tiffin owners, and relax, kick back, and definitely enjoy the scenic beauty this area has to offer.  (Our latest modification is an LED light show installed in the undercarriage of the coach...can't wait to show you)!  On Saturday night our comaraderie and fellowship continued beyond the scheduled rally and we enjoyed a delicious smoked pork barbeque and fireside chat led by one of the originators of the Forum.  The itinerary of the rally was casual, easy to follow, and allowed  plenty of time to enjoy the surrounding area.

 We visited  The Little White House in Warm Springs, GA, where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt first came to this area in 1924, hoping to find a cure for the infantile paralysis (polio) that had struck him in 1921.  The State Historic Site and Museum, close to the house, showcases many exhibits including FDR's Ford convertible with hand controls, his Fireside Chats playing over a 1930s radio, as well as his portrait referred to as the "Unfinished Portrait" being painted when he suffered a fatal stroke and died on April 12, 1945.  FDR was the only U.S. President elected four times, and the leader who guided our country out of the Great Depression and through World War II.  However, you don't see a whole lot in history books regarding his living legacy in Warm Springs.   If you travel to this location there will be no doubt the community will never forget his astounding contributions to this part of the country.

Today, the Roosevelt Warm Springs Insitutute for Rehabilitation is one of only eight state-managed rehabilitation centers in the country.  New medical programs have emerged as a result of the early research for the treatment of brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, strokes, amputations and other neurological or orthopedic conditions.  FDR's impact on the State of Georgia immense.  The FDR State Park is over 9,049 acres, Georgia's largest State Park, which is a hiker's haven.

We went to The Bulloch House in Warm Springs, GA, for a delicious lunch buffet featuring all types of Southern cuisine such as fried chicken, fried chicken livers, fried green tomatoes and fried apples (the banana puddin' was to die for)!   The Bulloch House is over 100 years old and is well known for the Southern dining experience.  We found it to be delicious, very reasonably priced, and enjoyed having a great afternoon with our friends, Allen and Diane Strunk from Augusta, Georgia.  There were many opportunities to shop in the downtown Warm Springs area, and The Strunk's introduced us to the National Fish Hatchery closeby.

We enjoyed shopping in the quaint shops of downtown Pine Mountain and were pleasantly surprised at the quality, selection and uniqueness of each of the shops on Main Street.  All in all, there are almost 22 different shops, or something for everyone.  As a matter of fact, there aren't too many weekends this area doesn't offer something for everyone through organized local art and craft shows or historical celebrations.  

It was hard to say goodby to everyone at the TRVN Rally, but we are returning to one of our favorite campgrounds, Topsail Hill, in Santa Rosa Beach.  The weather is gorgeous, and we'd like one more peek at the beautiful emerald waters at the beaches in the Gulf  before heading east.  We'll soon be on our way to the Jacksonville, FL area to visit our grandchildren for Halloween!  Here are a few of the creative Halloween decorations on the coaches at the TRVN Rally in Pine Mountain.

Upon returning to Topsail, it was a pleasure to spend a good part of Wednesday, October 19, with our friends, Herb and Barb Daniels, (also Tiffin owners), at the beautiful Famcamp Campground in Eglin Air Force Base in Valparaiso, FL.  Herb served over 20 years in the USAF, but also worked over 18 years for the DOD (over 38 years of federal service), before retiring.  Herb and Barb are awesome hosts and showed  us a small part of Eglin AFB, (one of the largest Air Force bases with more than 724 miles of land ranges and more than 86,500 miles of water ranges in the Gulf of Mexico).  Eglin definitely fits the description of a "city within a city", and we enjoyed our visit as well as the interesting tour of the facility.   

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


We arrived at the Gulf of Mexico and the white sand beaches of South Walton County, Florida, to eat oysters from Appalachicola.!  Locals steered us to great seafood, good deals, early bird specials and where not to go.  We were provided very reliable information most of the time.

We arrived at Topsail Hill Preserve, a 1,640 acre state park, 10 miles east of Destin, in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, and immediately understood why Topsail has received Reserve America's awards for Top Ten Spots for "Amazing Locations", "Fishing Spots", "Hiking Trails", "Tours and Events", and "Unique Cabins".  This region of Northwest Florida is known throughout the world for beautifully pristine emerald green waters framed by unspoiled coastal sand dunes. Lying among the dunes are five natural fresh water lakes which occur no where else in the United States but in Florida's panhandle.  Topsail's three mile beach edges up to the Gulf in undulating waves and twenty foot dunes heaped like spoonfuls of sugar beside the emerald waters.  To get to Topsail, you must turn off Highway 98 onto Highway 30A, recognized correctly as a Scenic Highway.  Ooops, almost forgot to tell you, this is our first visit since we joined the Medicare Country Club set - half off for Florida seniors - see, there are benefits to reaching this wonderful age!

As far as a campground (and RV resort) Topsail has top-rated sites which have most of the comforts of home including cable television, full 50 amp service, and sewer.  The facility is rated in the top 1% for cleanliness and maintenance.  Visitors seem to be interested in swimming, walking and dozing in the sun.  Of course there are many little critters around, i.e., the endangered Chocktawhatchee field mouse, is one, which is scampering all around our site and we hope we don't take any of them with us when we leave!

One of the nice things about our trip to Topsail has been meeting old friends and spending time getting to know and explore the area together.   Upon arriving, our friends, Jim and B.J. Chancey, invited us over for Jim's world renowned babyback ribs, which may be on the Top Ten of our list of best ribs we've ever put in our mouth!  Also, our neighbors from Florida Grande, David and Diane Drinkwater were with us for several meals at a highly recognized local seafood restaurant, "Stinky's".  Once you get past the name, the food was delicious!

If you like oysters then you would have enjoyed our first local place, Buster's, which features a great special from 5 to 6 every night - $4.00 for 2 dozen oysters.  Nothing special, and you get what you pay for is all I'll say.  A couple of days later we enjoyed a very authentic shepherd's pie at McGuire's, a famous and award winning Irish Pub.  We then drove over the Destin Bridge to Okaloosa Island, another beautiful beach.  Crossing the Bridge on the Bayside is Crab Island, where numerous boats enjoy the clear water on a sand bar in the Chocktawhatchee Bay.  Also in this area is Harbor Walk in Destin, an area where the Wyndham Emerald Pointe Hotel is located, but also the location of many shops, a large marina, and where the Annual Seafood Festival was held this past weekend which brought in about 30,000 seafood lovers.  The weather was perfect and so were all the delicious varieties of local seafood.

We enjoyed side trips on Scenic Highway 30A as you travel parallel with Highway 98, but most of the drive you see beaches full of the "WOW" factor.  The unincorporated master-planned communities of Watercolor, Seaside, Grayton Beach, Rosemary Beach, Alys  and other beaches along this road appear to be just like the photos you saw in last month's issue of Coastal Living Magazine.  We attended Seaside's Annual Community Yard Sale, held in their Outdoor Amphitheatre on a Saturday morning.  What a treat - I was completely astounded at the huge turnout.  A side note - Seaside hosted the Hollywood filming of "The Truman Show" starring Jim Carrey.  Along "30A" we loved the classic Airstream Travel Trailer lineup of sidewalk restaurants. Barefoot BBQ, Wild Bill's Beach Dogs, Raw & Juicy Organic Juice Bar and Cafe, The Meltdown Cafe and Frost Bites.  In the middle of all this was the beautiful and historic Seaside Post Office.  The beach is very accessible to the public and these successful developments are recognized with the other above-mentioned locations as part of the new Urbanization plan.

We definitely will be returning to Topsail and the Destin area in the future.  It's difficult to describe the natural beauty of this area, the coastline, and the beautiful the beaches in Florida's Panhandle.

All this running around hasn't given me much of an opportunity to organize my thoughts for our Halloween decorations for the coach but here's one I'll show you just to see what you think; and no, this isn't RV!
Halloween decorations 2011