American Locations 43 – John Pennekamp 2

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 John Pennekamp State Park, Florida

 

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.

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

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But the Keys are beautiful no matter what.

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We found a good-sized iguana.

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We crossed from Key Largo onto Plantation Key.

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Where the water was just as beautiful.

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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.

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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.

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It was fun cruising out.

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We saw more birds when we reached open water.

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The water was beautiful as we approached the reef.

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

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

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And past some beautiful homes.

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

 

Next Location – Everglades National Park, Florida

 

 

American Locations 42 – Biscayne & John Pennekamp

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 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.

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We could see downtown Miami in the distance.

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But there were better views.

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The visitor center had some interesting displays.

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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.

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

 

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And birds.

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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.

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

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A nature trail.

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

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

Next Location – John Pennekamp State Park 2

 

American Locations 41 – Long Point

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 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.

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It was on a small island.

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The mainland could be seen in the distance.

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

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

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The middle of the island had its charms, too.

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

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

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Notice the bird perched in the parking lot.

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We then hiked the trail.

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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.

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But it eventually led to a beach.

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There was a bunch of kids cleaning up the beach.

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

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We saw this guy cruising around in a cool ultralight.

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

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Another enjoyable day came to an end.

 

Next Location – John Pennekamp State Park, Florida

 

 

 

 

 

American Locations 40 – Kennedy Space Center

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 

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.

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

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Outside there was a good collection of rockets to see.

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

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And an Apollo capsule.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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A crawler transport. These things are so huge.

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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.

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One really big rocket.

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The actual Apollo 11 capsule, plucked from the ocean.

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The Atlantis Shuttle is on display.

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With the Canada Arm extending out from the cargo bay.

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The suit and equipment used in space walks.

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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.

 

Next Location – Long Point, Florida

 

 

American Locations 39 – Canaveral

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 

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.

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And birds, of course.

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We turned down several lanes off the main road.

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

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

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Here is a Wikipedia entry about it:

Eldora is an uninhabited place in Volusia CountyFlorida, 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.

History[edit]

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 residentDoris “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.

Geography[edit]

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.

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After a short rest…

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We walked around the grounds.

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At another stop I took another short hike.

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The sign said this was coffee beans growing wild.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

 

Next Location – Kennedy Space Center

 

 

 

 

 

American Locations 38 – Tomoka

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 

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.

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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.

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

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

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From here we hiked a trail along the Halifax River.

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

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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.

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Later that morning we continued south down the Florida coast.

 

Next Location – Canaveral National Seashore

 

American Locations 37 – St. Augustine

The trip is from New River, West Virginia, to Stinking Creek, Tennessee, by way of Long Key, Florida.

 

St. Augustine, Florida

 

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

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

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We walked from the fort through the city gate.

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

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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.

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There were also several churches.

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Just outside the old town was Flagler College.

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With this spiked chain that caught my eye.

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

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

 

Next Location – Tomoka State Park, Florida