American Locations 2


Skidaway Island State Park

We found a beautiful place to camp outside of Savannah – Skidaway Island State Park.

0951_Skidaway Island SP

We took a short hike.

0953_Skidaway Island SP

0954_Skidaway Island SP

0957_skidaway Island SP

We saw this area had taken a hit from the recent hurricane, just not as bad as Hunting Island.

0956_Skidaway Island SP

The bridge over the Skidaway River.

0958_Skidaway Island SP

After resting at our campsite, later that afternoon I took a much longer hike around the park.

0959_Skidaway Island SP

0966_Skidaway Island SP

0973_Skidaway Island SP

0974_Skidaway Island SP

0978_Skidaway Island SP

I found these piles of clam shells at several different places.

0970_Skidaway Island SP

I saw more hurricane damage.

0972_Skidaway Island SP

Like most state parks, there was the opportunity for primitive backcountry camping.

0976_Skidaway Island SP

I came across an observation tower.

0979_Skidaway Island SP

It gave a good view from its three-story height.

0981_Skidaway Island SP

0987_Skidaway Island SP

I climbed back down and continued my hike.

0997_Skidaway Island SP

There was a tree with impressive roots.

1003_Skidaway Island SP

And a bridge with a natural arch.

1004_Skidaway Island SP

I came across several clam middens that had been piled up by native Americans.

0993_Skidaway Island SP

0996_Skidaway Island SP

And the remnants of a still.

0998_Skidaway Island SP

There were also earthworks from the Civil War where canons had been emplaced to defend this approach to Savannah.

1007_Skidaway Island SP

After several miles the trail wound its way back to the campground, where I crashed for the rest of the day.


Savannah, Georgia

While staying at Skidaway Island State Park we spent a day in Savannah. We used the Hop On – Hop Off tour bus line. They are such a joy to use, I highly recommend them. We parked in their lot, then didn’t have to worry about driving our motor home in heavy traffic on unfamiliar streets, or about finding sights we wanted to see, or about discovering interesting sights we hadn’t heard of, or about parking a 23 foot long vehicle. You buy a day pass. Their buses circle through a route that has stops at all the major sights in the city. You can get off at any of these stops, spend as much time there as you want, then catch the next bus. They come by every half-hour. While you are on the bus the driver tells you all about Savannah. A relaxing and enjoyable way to see a city. We rode the bus through the entire circuit once to decide what we wanted to see. On the second go around our first stop was the waterfront.








See how the waterfront is below street level, with stairs giving access to the lower level? There are warning signs on them that you are using them at your own risk. Apparently very risky.


There are several interesting statues.



Unfortunately, the most famous one, Bird Girl, which was on the cover of the novel ‘Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil’, has been moved inside to protect it, so we didn’t get to see that one. So here is an image I found on the Internet.

Related image

We spent most of our time at the waterfront. We ate lunch at a seafood restaurant with an interesting light made of clam shells.


We also got off at several city squares. These little parks are spread all over Savannah.






There are many interesting old buildings. The tour guides on the bus will tell you the stories behind each.









And several churches.





This was where Robert Louis Stevenson lived while writing ‘Treasure Island’.


And the inn next door he frequented. Note the pirate flag.


After a long day touring Savannah we drove back to Skidaway Island to crash.


Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia

Early the next morning we drove south from Savannah on Hwy. 17 to Midway. Here we turned inland away from the coast on Hwy. 84. We continued southwest to Waycross, where we turned southeast on Hwy. 23. We turned south onto Rte. 177, which took us to the northern entrance to Okefenokee Swamp.


Where we saw several alligators.



I really didn’t get this close, I zoomed. I’ve got better sense than that. Most of the time.


We hiked into the swamp.




Lily pads in bloom are a pretty sight.


An even prettier sight was this sleeping alligator. I didn’t zoom in for this shot. You can see in the bottom left corner of the photo the edge of the boardwalk. He had curled up right next to the boardwalk to snooze.


So I had to pose with him.


We walked by other alligators who were wide awake.


In this one pond there were four cruising around, although I could only get 2 of them in the same photo.


The boardwalk led to an observation tower that gave a good view of the swamp.



Finished with the hike, we drove off to see more of the swamp.


Okefenokee Swamp 2

Finished with the northern entrance, we set off for the southern entrance, where there is a state park, Stephen C. Foster, that we could camp in. Trouble was there were no roads crossing the swamp, we had to drive around it. So we drove north up Rte. 177 to Hwy. 23, where we turned south. We rounded the eastern edge of the swamp. At St. George we turned west on Rte. 94 and passed briefly into Florida rounding the southern edge. We took Rte. 2 northwest out of Florida back into Georgia to Fargo. We turned north on Rte. 177 and drove through the southern entrance back into the swamp. I know this road has the same number as the road leading into the northern entrance. But it does not cross the swamp, no road does. We took a road off 177 that headed north along a branch of the Suwannee River.


We saw a lot of wild turkeys.


This road ends at Pine Island. We backtracked to 177 and continued to Stephen C. Foster State Park. We got a well-cleared site where no alligators could sneak up on us.


We so enjoyed this park we spent four nights here. This was our longest stay anywhere on this trip. There was a canal from the visitor center to the Suwannee River, which flows through the swamp.


Notice the sign. Small dogs are a tasty treat for alligators, so you weren’t allowed to take them out on the water.


There was an alligator who hung out along the canal.


There was a boardwalk trail to hike through the swamp.



One day we took a pontoon boat ride through the swamp piloted by a park ranger. He took us along the Suwannee River for miles.





There were plenty of alligators to see.





He took us up a narrow tributary. As you see in the middle left of this photo, there are signs directing you through the swamp.





Where we got stuck. The motor died. I suggested he get out and push us, like Humphrey Bogart did in The African Queen, but he didn’t like that idea. So he steered the boat while I paddled.


While my wife enjoyed the ride.


We got out of the narrow channel back into the main river, where a motor boat met us. This guy got our motor started. The park ranger kept apologizing, but we were both good with the delay, it gave us more time out on the river.


Okefenokee Swamp 3

The next day we rented a kayak to venture out into the swamp on our own. There was a group of college students camping there who kayaked out at the break of day and didn’t return until late in the afternoon. They did this day after day while we were there, and returned every day uneaten by alligators. So it had to be safe. The ranger told us as long as we didn’t bash an alligator over the head with an oar they would leave us alone. So off we went.




We could set our own pace and go our own route. The current on the Suwannee River was slight and no problem to paddle. We stayed in the main channel, which was clearly marked. Still, being this close to the water in a small kayak was unnerving at first. And we did see alligators.


This was black water, which meant once an alligator went under we could not see him and had no idea where he was. But they didn’t bother us and, believe me, we didn’t bother them. This next photo gives you an idea of how black the water was. There are near-perfect reflections.


This photo caught the end of the kayak, to give an impression that we were right on top of the water, which meant we were right on top of the alligators.


And there were plenty of alligators. These weren’t the same we saw from the pontoon boat since we went a different direction on the river so to see a different part of the swamp.



Once we saw an alligator start swimming from one side of the river to the other directly in front of us. Needless to say I stopped paddling, and we waited for him to reach the other side. We went several miles, until we came to a place where the river narrowed. It was just too tight for my comfort, we would have been too close to the banks (and any alligators that might have been on them). So we went up one side channel, but it soon came to a dead end.


So I paddled back to the river, then back to the canal that led to the campground dock. As with other places, the entrance to it was well-marked. An exhilarating day.

Another day I hiked through a drier section of the swamp.


One night a ranger set up a telescope. The park was remote enough to be part of the Dark Skies project, and on a clear night we got a good show. After four days we were ready to press on.


Anastasia State Park, Florida

Leaving Stephen C. Foster State Park, we backtracked out of Okefenokee Swamp on Rte. 177 to Fargo, where we turned onto Rte.94. We headed east around the southern edge of the swamp into Florida, where the road became Rte. 94. At St. George we turned south on Rte. 23, which upon crossing back into Florida became Rte. 121. At McClenny we got on I-10 and headed east. Wanting to avoid Jacksonville, I never like driving through large cities if I can avoid it, we turned south on I-295, then continued south on I-95. We exited south onto Hwy. 1. I much prefer taking scenic routes than traveling on interstates. South of St. Augustine we turned off onto Rte. A1A so we could drive along the coast. This led us to Anastasia State Park.

1238_Anastasia SP

There was a nature trail we hiked. It felt good to stretch our legs after driving for hours.

1257_Anastasia SP

1254_Anastasia SP

1260_Anastasia SP

It was a short walk from the campground to the beach. This is an interesting tree in the beach parking lot, with St. Augustine lighthouse in the background.

1246_Anastasia SP

There was also this cool anchor.

1248_Anastasia SP

And a tree that had definitely weathered a hurricane or two.

1250_Anastasia SP

An extensive boardwalk kept people off the dunes as they walked to the beach.

1265_Anastasia SP

1273_Anastasia SP

And what a beach. A wide sandy expanse.

1242_Anastasia SP

1245_Anastasia SP

One day we were on the beach 3 guys were wading out into what was a heavy surf with instruments. I learned later they were surveyors recording how much the recent hurricanes had eroded the beach. This is a screen capture from a video I took.

1271a_Anastasia SP

We also hiked a trail around the sound, which is called Salt Run. You can see the backs of the beach dunes in the distance in the top left of the photo.

1279_Anastasia SP

We also hiked to see the Old Spanish Quarries, originally known as the King’s Coquina Quarries. Coquina, a kind of limestone composed of mollusk shells and sand, was used in the building of many early colonial structures.

1281_Anastasia SP

We spent 2 days here. On the way out we toured St. Augustine.


St. Augustine, Florida

Driving out of Anastasia State Park into St. Augustine we stopped to view the lighthouse.

1283_St Augustine

Then we parked the motor home to tour the old Spanish fort.

1297_St. Augustine



We walked from the fort through the city gate.

1301_St. Augustine

Into the oldest settlement in the United States. It was founded by the Spanish in 1565, long before the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts.

1303_St. Augustine.JPG

1304_St. Augustine

It has the oldest schoolhouse in the country. I don’t know if the chain was to hold the old building together or to keep the students from escaping.

1299_St. Augustine

There were also several churches.

1287_St. Augustine

1291_St. Augustine

1294_St. ugustine

Just outside the old town was Flagler College.

1308_St. Augustine

With this spiked chain that caught my eye.

1311_St. Augustine

There was also a small park with a Ponce de Leon statue.

1290_St. Augustine

That afternoon we left St. Augustine and continued south along the coast on Rte. A1A.


Tomoka State Park, Florida

We drove south from St. Augustine on Rte. A1A. It was a beautiful drive that hugged the coast. Along the way we stopped briefly at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. I saw an alligator there. It was underneath a small bridge my wife was standing on. When I pointed it out she quickly got off the bridge.


We turned inland on High Bridge Road and crossed the Halifax River through Bulow Creek State Park. We turned south on Old Dixie Hwy. This took us through some low-lying marsh land, with water nearly up over the road. Another beautiful drive. We turned off onto North Beach Rd. and into Tomoka State Park. The campground wasn’t busy, and the sites were very private.

1325_Tomoka SP

1330_Tomoka SP

There is a memorial to the Tomoka Native Americans who originally settled here.

1312_Tomoka SP

At the northern point you can see across the Halifax River to the development on the nearby Atlantic coast.

1314_Tomoka SP

1315_Tomoka SP

From here we hiked a trail along the Halifax River.

1316_Tomoka SP

1319_Tomoka SP

That evening we went to the riverside to watch the evening come on.

1334_Tomoka SP

1331_Tomoka SP

We saw a pair of dolphins playing in the river. The next morning I took a thermos of coffee down to the river to watch the sunrise. In the pre-dawn I could hear some large animals in the trees, but I never saw what was making the racket. The lights in the distance is the high-rise development on the coast.

1336_Tomoka SP

Later that morning we continued south down the Florida coast.


Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

Leaving Tomoka State Park, we drove south on North Beach Road into Ormond Beach, where we crossed the Halifax River to get back onto Rte. A1A. We drove south through Daytona Beach. Another nice drive along the coast. We crossed back over the Halifax River at Dunlawton Ave., then turned south on Hwy. 1. In New Smyrna Beach we crossed back over to the coast on South Causeway to South Atlantic Avenue, on which we drove south into Canaveral National Seashore. After stopping by the visitor center, we made frequent stops, to view the sound.

1343_Canaveral NS

And birds, of course.

1350_Canaveral NS

We turned down several lanes off the main road.

1347_Canaveral NS

And made several stops where we could park the motor home and walk around.

1344_Canaveral NS

1345_Canaveral NS

We stopped by this old home that had been restored and made into a museum.

1351_Canaveral NS

Here is the Wikipedia entry:

Eldora is an uninhabited place in Volusia County, Florida, United States. It is located within Canaveral National Seashore, south of Bethune Beach and west of County Road A1A. The average elevation is 3 feet above sea level.

Eldora was a prominent community of orange groves in the latter part of the 19th century. After a freeze destroyed most of its crops, it was nearly completely abandoned and has never regained its population.[1]

After the death of its last resident, Doris “Doc” Leeper in 2000, a locally famous artist and conservationist in the 1980s,[2] the management of the town was officially turned over to the federal government, and the town is now located more than two miles within the borders of the Canaveral National Seashore. The town claims no permanent residents, and visitation is limited and subject to park hours. Only two of its original buildings remain. The largest, “The Eldora House”, now holds a museum.[3] Although the town’s orange groves were nearly completely wiped out over one hundred years ago, some trees still remain.
The town is also the site of two marine research facilities jointly shared by Daytona State College and the University of Central Florida.

Eldora is located at 28°54′33″N 80°49′11″W. The town’s location is remote, as it is only accessible by one service road, County Road A1A. It is nearly a thirty-minute drive to the mainland through New Smyrna Beach.

The most interesting thing inside was this rock formed by fused shells.

1353_Canaveral NS

After a short rest…

1355_Canaveral NS

We walked around the grounds.

1356_Canaveral NS

1359_Canaveral NS

At another stop I took another short hike.

1365_Canaveral NS

The sign said this was coffee beans growing wild.

1366_Canaveral NS

Near the beach there were shell middens, like I had seen at Skidaway in Georgia.

1369_Canaveral NS

I came upon some wild pigs. I followed them for quite a way on the trail. But they finally became aware of me and scattered into the brush. So I cut my walk short. I don’t know if they were dangerous, but I know enough not to upset a mother when she is with her brood.

1361_Canaveral NS

We parked at a beach access and relaxed on the beach for a while. The surf was calm enough here so I went in for a brief swim. Yet another advantage of traveling in a motor home – you always have a changing room available.

1378_Canaveral NS

After we left the beach we drove to the very end of the road. From where we could see one of the enormous buildings at Kennedy Space Center.

1382_Canaveral NS

From here we backtracked out of the national seashore and across to the mainland.


Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Back on the mainland we drove south on Hwy. 1 to Titusville. We found a county campground on the coast across from Cape Canaveral. The best waterfront sites were closed because of damage from the last hurricane, but we still secured a nice one. The campground host told us the place filled up whenever there was a rocket launch since this was a prime location to view them from.


We relaxed the rest of the day, then got up early the next morning and drove to Kennedy Space Center.



Outside there was a good collection of rockets to see.



The first exhibit we went inside to see was historical. Two full grown men squeezed into this Gemini capsule.


And an Apollo capsule.


A mock-up of the NASA control center used in the first launches.


The Right Stuff, the original seven astronauts of the Mercury Program.


Of course, there were more current displays. This model of a Mars rover wasn’t built to scale. As you can see in the background, there is always a gift shop.


In another building were displays of craft designed by Space X and Boeing.



NASA partnering with GM? That’s a scary thought. But this wasn’t a real robot, just a vehicle with a man inside.


There were many other exhibits and presentations, too numerous to mention (fact check: that statement means I can’t remember them all). But they were all fascinating. Then we hit the road on a bus tour. This was that huge building we could see from Canaveral National Seashore.


Space X uses NASA’s launch facility, too. Note the water tower. This is one of their launch pads.



A crawler transport. These things are so huge.


We got off the bus to tour a large hanger that had been converted into a museum. This is not a mock-up. This is the actual equipment NASA used in their original control room.


One really big rocket.


The actual Apollo 11 capsule, plucked from the ocean.


The Atlantis Shuttle is on display.


With the Canada Arm extending out from the cargo bay.


The suit and equipment used in space walks.


We spent a full day here, from opening to closing, and still didn’t see it all. So we were exhausted. We drove back to our camp site and crashed.


Long Point Campground, Florida

Early the next morning we drove south on Hwy. 1 and crossed over back to the coast on A1A, then continued south. Another incredible drive. This stretch of the road is right on the oceanfront. We had intended to stay at Sebastion Inlet State Park, but the campground was full. This was the only time on the entire trip we couldn’t get into a campground because it was full. The park ranger directed us to a campground operated by the county that was just up the road. So we went to Long Point. Were we ever glad we did. I have never seen so many birds in my life. It was like being in a zoo.

1459_Long Point

1461_Long Point

1468_Long Point

It was on a small island.

1469_Long Point

1466_Long Point

The mainland could be seen in the distance.

1475_Long Point

Each of the waterfront sites had their individual water access like this one.

1463_Long Point

Of course they were all taken, so we had to set up in the middle of the island. Notice all the birds.

1458_Long Point

The middle of the island had its charms, too.

1510_Long Point

There was another smaller island with no campsites to explore, but it had been damaged by the latest hurricane and was off limits.

1473_Long Point

Back on the mainland there was a short trail through a mangrove swamp. We drove over and parked.

1476_Long Point

Notice the bird perched in the parking lot.

1476_Long Point (2)

We then hiked the trail.

1478_Long Point

1480_Long Point

1482_Long Point

1483_Long Point

There was also a stretch of ocean beach that was operated by the county park. It was a bit of a walk from the parking lot.

1503_Long Point

1504_Long Point

1509_Long Point

But it eventually led to a beach.

1485_Long Point

There was a bunch of kids cleaning up the beach.

1486_Long Point

I went in for a brief swim. The surf was so rough it beat you up.

1492_Long Point

We saw this guy cruising around in a cool ultralight.

1501_Long Point

That evening the sun performed another great ‘down’ for us. We were invited onto a waterfront site to enjoy it.

1511_Long Point

1514_Long Point

1515_Long Point

Another enjoyable day came to an end.


Biscayne National Park & John Pennekamp State Park, Florida

Early the next morning we drove south on Rte. A1A along the oceanfront for as long as we could. More beautiful scenery. Just north of Jupiter Island the road turned inland and merged with Hwy. 1. We continued south for a while on Hwy. 1, but eventually got on I- 95. Then came the worst drive of the entire trip. The drive around Miami. The traffic was horrible. At some point we got off the Interstate to make our way around the west side of the city. It was a snarl. We stopped to eat lunch in a Wal-Mart parking lot, that was the kind of day it was. After a brutal day driving we finally escaped the traffic into open country. We passed by one coconut tree farm after another, until we reached Biscayne National Park.

1527_Biscayne NP

1517_Biscayne NP

We could see downtown Miami in the distance.

1516a_Biscayne NP

But there were better views.

1520_Biscayne NP

1521_Biscayne NP

1522_Biscayne NP

The visitor center had some interesting displays.

1523_Biscayne NP

Rested and recovered from a stressful drive, we made our way back out to Hwy. 1 and continued south off the mainland onto Key Largo. We got a campsite at John Pennekamp State Park.

1529_Pennekamp SP

We had a site that backed up to wetlands, so we had some interesting critters prowling around our motor home.



And birds.


Like much else of the Keys, the park had sustained considerable hurricane damage. Only half of the park was open, and only half of the campground. This bridge led to the part that was closed.


So we enjoyed what we could of the park. The waterfront.

1531_Pennekamp SP


A nature trail.

1541_Pennekamp SP

1538_Pennekamp SP

I especially liked these two trees, the twisted one and the bright red one.



It had been a tiring day, so we spent the rest of evening at our site.


John Pennekamp 2

The next morning we got an early start. We drove south on Hwy. 1. Since the glass bottom boat at Pennekamp had been damaged in the hurricane, we stopped to see about a ticket for a cruise on a commercial boat. Where the actual boat used to film the movie “The African Queen” was docked.

1553_Florida Keys

We continued south through the Keys. Where we saw a lot of clean-up from the hurricane still going on.

1556_Florida Keys

1557_Florida Keys

But the Keys are beautiful no matter what.

1561_Florida Keys

1568_Florida Keys

We found a good-sized iguana.

1563_Florida Keys

We crossed from Key Largo onto Plantation Key.

1565_Florida Keys

Where the water was just as beautiful.

1570_Florida Keys

At Long Key State Park we learned from a ranger the damage was more extensive further south, and many places weren’t open. This state park was completely closed, not even open for day use. So we decided to turn back. We had driven all the way to Key West 24 years ago and had fond memories, so we had no desire to see it all torn up. Long Key State Park was as far away from home that we got on this trip, from here on we would be getting closer to home rather than farther.

So we returned for the afternoon glass bottom boat cruise. As you can see in the photo, our boat was moored next to The African Queen.

1571_Glass bottom boat

I hadn’t been on a glass bottom boat since I was a kid. We have done a lot of snorkeling in the Caribbean, but the water here was too choppy. I’ve tried that in Mexico before, and it’s such a struggle trying to stay oriented in a rough surf it’s exhausting and frustrating. So we took the boat instead. There were a lot of pelicans hanging around the dock.

1573_glass b ottom boat

It was fun cruising out.

1577_glass bottom boat

1580_glass bottom boat

We saw more birds when we reached open water.

1586_glass bottom boat

The water was beautiful as we approached the reef.

1589_glass bottom boat

This was the view from inside the boat. The glass was really clean, but it’s just not the same as snorkeling.

1596_glass bottom boat

We motored around the reef for about a half-hour, then it was back to land.

1603_glass bottom boat

And past some beautiful homes.

1604_glass bottom boat

We drove back to our campground then for another relaxing night.


Everglades National Park, Florida

Leaving John Pennekamp, we drove north on Hwy. 1 off Key Largo back onto the mainland. In Homestead, we turned west and entered the Everglades National Park. Our first stop was at the visitor center at the east entrance. We walked their extensive boardwalks.




There was an alligator hanging around.


This ropy brown stuff was flourishing in some of the water.


One of the main attractions were the birds.


Do you see that dark thing in the water? That’s an anhinga. It’s a diving bird. The boardwalk system at the visitor center is named after them – The Anhinga Trail. They dive for fish, then surface and float on the water while spreading their wings to dry the feathers.


We learned from a ranger that the campground at Flamingo was closed from extensive hurricane damage. The visitor center there was also closed. But the view was as great as ever.




On the way back east we stopped several times to look around or take a short hike.






Since the campgrounds in the park were closed due to hurricane damage, late that afternoon we left the park and drove back into Homestead to find a private campground.

We meet a lot of fellow campers on our trips, campers are a companionable lot. We met a man and his son there from a northern state. His wife was an insurance adjuster, and she was on a 6-month assignment filing claims for hurricane damage. Her husband was a construction worker who wasn’t working at the time, it was the off-season for construction work where they came from. Their son transferred to a local school. They had rented a large trailer and set it up in this park to live in. The father and son were having a ball, while the mother worked 12-hour days. We never did meet her. Her husband said she always came in very late. While he and his son were floating in the campground pool.


Big Cyprus National Preserve, Florida

The next morning we drove north out of Homestead on Rte. 997 to Hwy. 41, then headed west. This road skirts the northern edge of the Everglades and the southern edge of Big Cyprus National Preserve. Which meant it was another incredible drive, one of the best of the trip. Our first stop was Coopertown to take an air boat ride into Everglades.


We were entertained while awaiting our boat.



There were 8 of us on the boat. It was slow-going as we went up the channel that led to the swamp.


But the pilot opened up the throttle when we got out into the swamp. You can tell how fast we were going by our wake.


But he would slow down at times so we could admire the view.


He also took us through channels like this.


And, of course, to see alligators. He knew where all the alligator holes were.



After the air boat ride, we continued west on Hwy. 41. There is an irrigation canal that parallels the highway.


With Everglades to the south and Big Cyprus to the north, we had plenty to look at.


And there were visitor centers along the way to stop at. Where, of course, there were alligators. Notice the sign in the second photo. Is anyone going to harass an alligator? I wouldn’t have thought so before I saw that video of that idiot in Yellowstone harassing a bison.



There were other critters.



There were 8 campgrounds in Big Cyprus. Only one was open. So we settled down for several days. We hadn’t been able to stay in Everglades, but this was the next best thing.



Big Cyprus 2

The campground was nearly deserted. There was one other RV and the resident campground host. And 4 alligators. Our site was on the side of a lake and on the edge of the swamp.

Once again, it was like staying in a bird sanctuary.

The campground host said there were 4 alligators staying in the lake.

I hiked all around the lake.

See all the birds by the lake?

I kept walking toward them while snapping pictures, wondering how close they would let me come. As I neared the lake without them taking flight I was so intent with my camera I didn’t see the alligator lurking at the water’s edge. I came within 10 feet or so before I saw him. He was eyeing me.

So I slowly backed off. Last time I walked around not looking where I was going while snapping pictures. That evening we took a stroll around the lake at sundown.

As we approached the only other RV we saw the campground host was there with a park ranger. We learned that the couple had a little dog with them, and an alligator was hanging around their site eyeing their dog. The ranger said there was nothing he could do about the alligator, this was a wild place and not a zoo, so his advice was to keep their dog inside if they didn’t want it eaten. We walked on, but it got dark quickly before we could make it around the lake, so we turned back. Sure enough, the park ranger and campground host were gone and the couple and their dog were inside their camper. But that alligator was still lurking around.

He’d gotten a whiff of that dog and was after a meal. But it was a pretty sunset.

One big drawback to staying here were the no-see-ums. The campground had no hook-ups, so we couldn’t run our air conditioner. It was too hot to close the windows. And these tiny black flying bugs were so small they came right through the screens and swarmed us. It was an infestation. All night long we swatted at them while trying to sleep. The next morning I went for a walk into the swamp. There was a road.

As you can see, it was flooded. But I have waterproof hiking boots. So I set off.



But the water got so deep it came in over the tops and thoroughly soaked my feet. So I gave it up before going very far. Instead, I walked another circuit of the lake and said good morning to all my friends.


Fort DeSoto County Park, St. Petersburg, Florida

Later that morning after my feet dried out we left the Big Cyprus campground. We continued west on Hwy. 41. There were sights to stop for along the way.

We stopped at this one place that had a boardwalk that wound deep into the swamp. I wouldn’t have to get my feet wet this time.

Emerging on the west side of Big Cyprus, we turned south on Rte. 29 to Everglades City. This is on the west side of Everglades and was totally wiped out. The hurricane damage was a lot worse here. Even the visitor center was closed. So we didn’t stop, we turned back north up Rte. 29. Skirting the west edge of Big Cyprus, it was another pleasant drive. At first. Once we got away from the preserve, it was the usual development. So we took Rte. 82 northwest over to I-75 and headed north. For some reason our GPS routed us into Tampa onto I-274 and around to St. Petersburg from the north, instead of taking us across the Skyline Bridge from the south, which would have been much simpler, and faster, and less hectic.

Eventually we made it to Fort DeSoto Park. They were very busy and only had 3 sites open for the night, and were booked up for the next 2. But they worked with us, moving us from our original site to a cancellation the next night and another cancellation the third night. Our first site was the best. It was on a channel.

Once parked, I hardly budged the rest of the night. I was tired from all the driving, and the view was sublime.

A pair of dolphins swam up the channel our site was on then back out. They are so fun to watch. And there was yet another nice sunset.


 Fort DeSoto 2

The next day we moved to the worst of our 3 sites. Although you can’t see it, the site was next to a playground, and the screaming was incessant.

It was a gloomy overcast day. We explored the park. There was the beach.

I don’t know where this excursion boat was from, but if they had free beer no wonder it was so crowded. They must have been going out. If they were coming back, after a cruise with free beer it wouldn’t have been so crowded.

We toured the old fort. From the position of the one canon it seems treachery was afoot.

There was a fishing pier that extended out into the ocean. Which had free fishing. Apparently the fishing fees had been covered by an endowment from some kindly rich person. Maybe he sponsored the excursion boat, too.

There was a scoop of pelicans.

And all sorts of birds.

We walked out to the end of the pier. There were several dolphins playing.

We saw this anhinga drying its wings. They were fun to watch. They’d circle in the air until they spied something in the water they wanted to eat. Then they’d nose-dive, hitting the water at such a high speed you’d think it would knock them silly. Then they’d come up and float on the water while their wings dried. Or got out somewhere to dry them, as this one did.

The Sunshine Bridge, that spans Tampa Bay from south of Tampa to St. Petersburg. Although on this day it was very hazy and overcast, not much sunshine.

On our third morning we moved to a more agreeable site.

It was a much nicer day to roam around the park.

Birds were everywhere.

These people looked like they were fishing off a paddle board. Or maybe they were just standing up in a kayak. Either sounds tricky.

We found some exotic trees.

This is the Sunshine Bridge on a sunny day.

A monument to DeSoto.

There was a second pier that went into the bay.

From which a man caught a small hammerhead shark. He took some pictures, let other people like me take some pictures, then he threw it back in. You are not allowed to fish for sharks.

This seemed like a well-staged photo to me. The chairs in the sand at the water’s edge, the beached kayak, the birds in the water. Except it wasn’t staged, we just came upon it while walking around.

Some other nice spots.

My wife had come to this campground several times with her parents when she was a child and she enjoyed seeing it as an adult. But 3 days was enough.


Chickamauga Battlefield & Rock City, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Leaving DeSoto Park early the next morning, we drove north on Rte. 679 to Isla del Sol, where we turned west onto Rte. 682. We took it to Rte. 699 and headed north up the coast. We were in no hurry, as usual, and took the scenic route. But this really wasn’t very scenic, there was too much development. After driving through Clearwater we took the Causeway to the mainland and continued north along the coast on Alt. 19. This was a much nicer drive. Eventually Alt. 19 merged into Hwy. 19, and we continued north. At Weeki Wachee we gave up the sightseeing and turned east on Rte. 90, which took us to I-75. We then headed north at a much greater speed. We stopped for the night in a private campground in northern Florida, then continued north on I-75 out of Florida through Georgia into Tennessee. As you can tell, we were getting anxious by this point to get home. We stopped for the night in another private campground just south of Chattanooga.

Notice the leaves. It was mid-November by this time, we had been on the road for 2 months. We were surprised by how cool it was.

We spent the following day in Chattanooga. First we visited Chickamauga Battlefield.

Then we went to Rock City.

This was a place my parents had taken me to as a child, and I was wanting to see it as an adult.

They were decorating for Christmas.

The parts I remembered from my visit as a child were the named rock formations. Such as the fat-man squeezes.

And others.

And the swinging bridge.

There was an alternate route. Which my wife took.

I especially remembered the overlook.

You were supposed to be able to see 7 states from there.

It was a rough walk. But there were plenty of places to rest.

At the end of the trail was Fairyland Caverns.

This black-light display hadn’t changed a bit since I had seen it in the 50’s. It was just the way I remembered it.


Stinking Creek, Tennessee

It was afternoon by the time we left Rock City, so we didn’t get very far north on I-75. We didn’t even make it out of Tennessee. Just south of the Kentucky state line we exited and drove on Rte. 9 through Jelico and past Stinking Creek to Indian Mountain State Park.

It was late in the season, so we had the campground entirely to ourselves. We hiked around a little.

It dropped below freezing that night. That morning we had to scrape ice off the windshield. Only three days ago we had been swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. So it was time to go home. We got onto I-75 and drove north out of Tennessee through Kentucky back to Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a great trip that lasted 2 months.

Next American Locations Trip beginning in June of 2020

From Pere Marquette State Park, Illinois, to Kickapoo State Park, Illinois, by way of the Grand Canyon North Rim, Arizona