We visited a tour company the other day. They had airboat tours, canoe trips and almost any kind of tour you can imagine to see this area. They are an independent company but still located within the Preserve. We didn't do a tour as such, but they also have a 'petting zoo' of sorts located in the back of their building.  Here is Michel holding a baby alligator. It sure was a cute little thing - hard to believe it will grow into a huge, menacing creature!! But we have learned that they usually won't bother you, if you don't feed them!!!

Michel made friends with a couple of birds - Here he is 'talking' to a cockatoo.

Funny thing is, you'd almost think they were carrying on a conversation!!

Then there was this huge parrot. He had such beautiful coloring.... Michel said he was very heavy and his claws were quite sharp.

(Reminds me of a parrot/pirate joke) ha! ha!

This is more my speed -
I'm not a 'bird' person, so as much as the cockatoo wanted me to "hold" him, I just couldn't do it....
and I've never had the urge to hold a reptile
But I was A-Okay in the pen with the turtle... just as long as he didn't think my red-painted toenails were strawberries!!

There were 3 or 4 cages of snakes too, pythons - big ones!! Nobody asked to hold any one of them that's for sure! 

Point of Interest:  Pythons are not indigenous to Florida (I never knew that) - they began as pets, and when they got too large the pet owners released them into the swampy areas of Florida. They made the Everglades their home and began reproducing. Now they are over-populated. In fact there is 'open season' in January to hunt and kill pythons!! 

December 29, 2012

Sweetwater Strand is one of the deepest strands
along the Loop Road.
The Loop Road is a 24 mile long scenic drive through some of the more remote areas of the Big Cypress Preserve. The scenery is mostly cypress swamp, which are flooded forests in the summer, but mostly dry in the winter, except for the areas of lowest elevation - the '"cypress strands". There is usually wildlife in these strands. Alligators, and many different species of birds know this is a good source of fish. We did see a lot of alligators!! They are everywhere.......

There is a point along this road called the Middle of Nowhere. Being the midpoint of Loop Road it was said to be marked with signs. What a disappointment - no sign depicting the Middle of Nowhere!! It was a slow drive (15 mph most places), but we enjoyed the scenery and the wildlife along the way.

We spent the afternoon in Miami, went to lunch then a movie!!

December 22, 2012

The Blessings of Peace
The Beauty of Hope
The Spirit of Love
The Comfort of Faith

 May these be your gifts this Christmas Season.
Let the spirit overflow from your heart and spill over to all your dear ones.
May the miracle of Christmas fill your heart with warmth and love.
Wishing you Merry Christmas

December 11, 2012

Reindeer Games ?

No - not games ----- painting.....
a small group of VIP's got together today to paint reindeer faces on the 'boots' of palm leaves.  They will be used to decorate the meeting room for the Christmas gathering.

Here is a group shot of the finished product - 14 reindeer (I think) and Rudolph!
I think I got the names of the ladies correct. The only one I'm unsure of is Maddie....
Anyway, we had a good time, and a few laughs.....

(l to r) Myself, Melissa, Maddie, Arlene, Peg, Cookie (front)

November 29, 2012 - 02

In the evening we walked around Duval Street, which is really the only shopping district in the Keys. But there were all kinds of galleries, sidewalk cafes, souvenier shops, open-air bars, jewelery stores and boutiques stretching more than a dozen city blocks. There are several well known brand-name stores, like Banana Republic and Birkenstock, but most of the places are owned by locals and are "infused with a salty-sweet Key West flavor" you won't find anywhere else!!

Sloppy Joes Bar on Duval Street is where Ernest Hemmingway used to hang out. There is a lot of memorabilia honoring him in this bar, BUT everywhere you go in Key West, there is Ernest Hemmingway "stuff".

Key West is also where Jimmy Buffet began the original "Margaritaville"! Now they are EVERYWHERE!! But he started here first!

Key West is only 90 miles from Cuba at it's most southerly point.

November 29, 2012 - 1

Key West, Florida

The Florida Keys resemble a broken necklace, each island a charm on a 125 mile chain. There are 1700 islands linked together by more than 40 bridges, the longest bridge being the 7-mile bridge which connects Marathon to Big Pine Keys. Key West is the most well known and the most popular choice for vacationers. Key West measures only 2 miles wide and 4 miles long, but it is just brimming with things to do.

We arrived in Key West this morning, too early to check into our hotel, and while we were driving around we happened by the home of (author) Ernest Hemmingway. So we decided it was a good time to take the tour.

Hemmingway purchased the 1851 Spanish colonial-style mansion in 1931. The house, set it a lush tropical garden planted by the author, is home to more than 50 cats, all descendants of Hemmingways' felines. He loved cats and has a memorial outside in his garden for all the cats who've passed away.....

He named his cats after celebrities!!

November 27, 2012


Say hello to our resident alligator.....
This fella lives in the pond here at Midway campground, but so far we haven't seen much of him. He doesn't show his face very often, but apparently he's been out walking around the park from time to time, though not since we've been here - thank God!! Don't want to get too close to this guy, he looks mean!!
The other day we learned there are two alligators living in this pond. The other one is smaller than this one, but we haven't seen him yet.
This guy was walking through the park today. He's a snapping turtle and he measured about 18 inches long from tip to tip. Don't want to get too close to him either....

November 22, 2012


We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving pot luck with the other volunteers. The Rangers were also included in this feast!

November 21, 2012

We are now at Big Cypress Wildlife Preserve.
Arrived on Tuesday, Nov. 13th. We can stay here for the winter if we so choose. We've been 'hired' as 'Maintenance' so our pad rent is nil. Camped next to us is another couple Gene and Lorna, who are our relief. They've been doing the job for 7 plus years, so they'll make sure we're doing what we're suppose to be doing. We'll be working 4 on - 4 off with them, so on our 4 days off we can get out and do some touring of the area. There will also be two Camp Hosts working the same way.


We're located half way between Miami and Naples on the Tamiami Trail; about 50 miles each way.  These sights are very common, the Tamiami Trail also being called Aligator Alley. You'll see them in the swamps that cover this whole area. We have a small lake in our campground, with it's own resident alligator, but we haven't seen him yet....

This is also a great place for bird watching (if you're into that). Anyone who knows me, knows I'm not a bird person, but this one on the left is a tri-colored heron, which is a little different than the rest of them.

This is an un-welcome critter. A rattlesnake!! He slithered about 10 feet behind our motorhome. Didn't pay much attention to us, just kept on going - THANK GOD!!!


Here we are in our cute little outfits! (minus the sandals - we have to wear covered shoes)

In the background is the Oasis Visitor Center. This is the boardwalk which runs parallel to the highway, where people can get some pictures of the alligators as they bask in the sunshine.  This is where I took my pictures.....

November 12, 2012

We thought about going to Universal Studios or Disney World while we were sitting at Clermont, but after being there three nights it was time to move on. We have to come back this way anyway, so maybe we'll catch it on our way home??  

We left the morning of Nov. 9th for Vero Beach. Here we visited with my cousin Karen and her husband Tom.  They have a beautiful home and were so hospitable. We parked the motorhome at a truck stop at the edge of Vero Beach and bunked up at their place for 3 nights..... Could have just moved right in (ha ha) we had such a good time.  Michel went with Tom to play golf one morning, something Michel hasn't done in a long time. Karen and I went shopping. We played cards in the evening, had a nice walk on the beach one morning, went to the pool (hot tub) talked and laughed. They introduced me to a new drink - Fuzzy Navel - YUMMMY! I had a few of those.

On Veterans day we went with them to their Clubhouse where we took part in their Veterans Day Celebration. The ladies all received a rose. Karen is part of the chorus group that were performing. Of course all the songs were patriotic songs, and my cute little Canadian cousin sang the lead in "I'm Proud To Be An American".......Good job Karen!!

Here we are - picture taken at the end of the celebration.
Karen, Michel, Myself, Tom

Thank you again - we sure did enjoy our visit with you!!

November 4 - 8, 2012

We left Savannah on Sunday, Nov.4th and when we crossed the border into Florida we stopped at a big Welcome Center, where they welcomed us with glasses of Florida Orange or Grapefruit juice. Here we picked up some information on camping. There are quite a few RV parks and State parks along the Coast Hwy, so we turned at Flagger Beach and slowly made our way south along this hwy. But we discovered that the State parks we were interested in were full (you need a reservation) and there weren't any RV parks along that road. So at Ormand Beach we headed back inland to make our way to Orlando. Stayed for a couple of nights at a Walmart in Orange City where we just kicked back and relaxed.

We arrived at Clermont, FL on Tuesday, Nov. 6th. Here we hung out for 3 nights. We joined a small group in the clubhouse for Coffee and Donuts the next morning, then walked with an even smaller group around the park a few times.

We took a wine tour and wine sampling at Lakeridge Winery (Nov 8). They use a grape called Muscadine. I've never heard of it, and the wine they produce tastes NOTHING like the wines we're used to. Quite an unusual flavor.

Our computer crashed while we were here. The motherboard, we were told. So now we have to buy a new one..... an expense we hadn't planned on..

November 3, 2012

Here we go again !! - Entering Savannah, GA, thinking we'll find a Walmart to park at, or a mall to unhook at, we once again ended up right downtown. There was some kind of event happening, a lot of the roads were closed, so we turned around first chance we got and found a place to park and unhook.

We enjoyed touring around the downtown Historical area of Savannah. There were all kinds of Trolley tours, but we just drove around in the car for awhile, then parked and went walking. 

This is a picture of the City Hall.  
Their streets are so pretty with trees shading both sides.  The whole of downtown is built around one block square parks called districts, and there is a 'square' every couple of streets. Very interesting!! 
The buildings are big and old , and of course there is 'history' behind each one. Some you could tour, but we didn't tour any houses. They even have a 'ghost tour' for all the haunted houses there.
This is the bridge that connects South Carolina to Georgia. We drove over and turned around and came back, just to say we've done it!!

November 2, 2012

Atlanta., GA The weather in Tennesee had been cold, as most were saying, colder than usual for this time of year, so we decided to head further south, to see if we could catch some warm weather. We got away pretty early and got into Atlanta, GA around lunch time. The weather was beautiful - 80 degrees!! We planned on parking at a mall just off the I-75, unhooking the little car, and driving downtown, BUT as luck would have it, we ended up smack downtown with the motorhome. Tried to park in front of the CNN building, but security re-directed us....
So we toured the CNN Newsroom.  It was interesting enough. We rode the longest escalator - it was 8 floors long - to the top floor. Started at the top and worked (walked) our way down....

We were done by 2:00 and walked about a bit downtown, thought maybe we'd check out the Coca Cola Tribute building, but realized that it would be in the heart of Friday night rush hour by the time we were done, so we just 'got out of dodge' - This was bad enough - we were a half hour to go three blocks to our exit.... This is the highway as we were leaving Atlanta....
One of the cameramen walking by took this picture of us....

November 1, 2012 P.M.

This afternoon (after Cades Cove) we drove through Gatlinburg and into Pigeon Forge, the home of Dolly Parton and her theme park Dollywood!!

We followed the signs.

This was a dissappointing sign!!
Who knew this is the time they change everything to Christmas theme...?
So we turned around and headed back to Gatlinburg.

It looked like there was lots to do here!! The streets were busy, people everywhere. What a cute little town.

This was interesting!

And they weren't kidding - They had 12 different flavours of Moonshine, and we sampled a few, Blackberry being my favorite!
They have their vats just next door and you could see the process through the windows in the courtyard.

There was a lot to see - All the Ripley's 'stuff' was there, "Believe It or Not!", 'Haunted Adventure', 'Aquarium of the Smokies' -
As well as: The Guinness World Records Museum, Stars Cars Museum, Wonderworks, Amazing Mirror Maze, much more - like I said there was a lot to see.

There were all kinds of candy shops, gift shops, galleries.....

There is quite a bit of history in Gatlinburg, but you'll get your history lesson in the A.M. blog.....We just walked about, enjoying the day. Tomorrow we leave Tennessee - time to find some warm weather!! 

November 1, 2012 A.M.

 Cades Cove is 2500 acres of open space located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is a beautiful, sheltered valley with a mixture of forest, meadows and and outdoor museum of pioneer life dating back to the 1800's. The primary access to Cades Cove is a narrow 11-mile, one-way Loop Road.

The Cove was a farming community, with corn being the most important crop.  In 1850 the population of the Cove was 685 with 137 families. By 1869, only 269 remained.  The population slowly grew throughout the years, but only reached 500 in the late 1930's when the park was established. We drove the 11 mile Loop Road visiting the homes of the old pioneers and the churches they built. The last of the old pioneers died in 1999.


This is the primitive Baptist Church, established in 1827. There was also a Methodist Church which looks identical to this one. It is said it was built in 15 days for $115 in 1902.



"Col. Hamp" Tipton had this house built in the early 1870's, but never lived there. Rather, his daughters, who taught school in the Cove, lived there.

On the other side of the road stands his double-pen corn crib ( I've never seen anything like this before). 
There were 7 cabins still standing along the route, as well as 3 churches. The Cable Mill area consisted of the Blacksmith shop, smokehouse, corn crib, sorghum mill, other barns.

Around 2 million visitors come each year to drive the 11-mile one-way Loop Road.  Now we are two of them people - and although we didn't see much for wildlife (a few deer and wild turkeys) it was a lovely drive.