WEEK TWO: GATORS AND BIRDS


CONTENTS

Rearview Mirror
- Summary of the past week: Off to a great start!
Pups Across America - Our latest canine encounters: Meet Lacy the Coconut Pup
RV Gourmet - Jan shares her on-the-go culinary secrets: Starts next week
Favorite Photographs - Pick pics, pointers, and ponderings: Alex meets world-class shooters
Travel Tools & Toys - Gadgets for fun and productivity: The marvelous MiFi
Camper’s Corner - Thoughts on the places we camped: Little Manatee State Park
Headlights - Our best guess as to where we will be heading: The Alligator Farm

REARVIEW MIRROR
Start: Lake Manatee State Park near Tampa, FL
Stop: Anastasia State Park near St. Augustine, FL
Stop: Holiday Campground near Panacea, FL
Stop:Island Retreat RV Park near Gulf Shores, AL
Stop: Riverboat Travel Park in New Orleans, LA

Sunday
Walked the Pups between rain showers, worked on getting the initial blog completed, drank our traditional Sunday champagne, and watched two movies. The camp was quiet and so were we.

Monday
I took the Little Ones for a pre-dawn walk, and since it was early with not much traffic of any kind, I let them roam free after a couple days of leash-only marches. They had a wonderful time chasing rabbits on and off the hiking trails. I put the Pups back into the coach, then Jan and I went back out walking. Just rounding a curve I spotted a big bobcat heading into the woods. Later, when I reported my sighting to the rangers they confirmed that they had some good sized cats, plump from the large rabbit population. I also told them of my Great Horned Owl sighting earlier in the week (I forgot to put into last week’s blog :<<<).

keeping_watch

We were on the road by 10:00 a.m. on a fine day for traveling. Instead of jumping immediately on I-75 as Google Maps and Garmin recommended, we headed east on State 64. If you ignored the occasional Sabal palms, you’d swear by the green and flat scenery you were meandering across central Iowa. We turned North on Highway 27 at Lake Wales and drove to Haines City where we pulled off of the road for lunch and my noon marketing call, where the main topic was social media—who’d have every thought that I’d have a FaceBook page! Oh, my...

Soon we headed east on I-4 then north on I-95, pulling into Anastasia State Park just on the edge of St. Augustine at 4:30 p.m. After some excellent hand signals by Jan and some precision backing on my part, we maneuvered into our site and set up our camp.

happy_faces new_friends

Tuesday
At dawn I took the Pups out onto a “Restricted—No Entry” service road that followed the perimeter of the park. The big excitement of the walk was an opossum that scurried up a Live Oak and trembled at the first gaze of ferocious Mitzy and the formidable Jerry.

Once back at the coach, I packed my photo gear and drove the five minutes to the Alligator Farm to shoot birds (with my camera of course). More on this below. I spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon on business issues, primarily conducting a phone focus group to gather data to tailor an upcoming series of services account management training.

gator feeding_time mom_and_little_one

Around noon, Moreen and Brad, Jan’s aunt and uncle, arrived at our coach door after driving the 100 miles from their home in Apopka (NW of Orlando). As a reference point, they spent a week with us last year camping and exploring Yellowstone. After a picnic lunch, we went to the beach, but then spent the majority of the afternoon sitting around camp catching up on affairs and enjoying each other’s company. A campfire and Jan’s RV Gourmet meal-of-the-week (see below) topped off a wonderful evening.

Wednesday
After a morning walk, I returned to the Alligator Farm for more photography. Next we had a farewell breakfast with Moreen and Brad before they headed back to Apopka. We spent the rest of the day enjoying the park.

taking_flight pink landing

Thursday
After our morning routine, we packed up and headed north on I-95 then took the I-295 loop that goes to the west of Jacksonville connecting to I-10 North. We fueled up then pulled into a rest stop off the highway to have lunch and prepare for my noon Webinar with Service Strategies. The session went off without a hitch, and now there are another 75 or so converts as to the wonders of building services businesses! Soon we decided to get off the beaten path and headed south on 14 to Shady Grove, then continued south to Perry where we took 98 West down to Panacea and our campground right on Ochlockonee Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. A beautiful day on the road and another nice, quiet evening on the water.

Friday
After walks, work, and preparation, we headed west on Scenic Highway 98 along the Gulf coast. Just a perfect day for driving with moderate temperatures, attractive scenery, good roads, and light traffic...at least through Apalachicolia, Port St. Joe, and Mexico City. Then things slowed down considerably with traffic lights every 100 feet (or so it seemed), heavy tourist traffic, and the majority of sights being high-rise condos and strip malls. We crawled through Panama City and Panama City Beach, slogged through Destin and Ft. Walton Beach, and force-marched out way through Pensacola, and then across the border into Gulf Shores, Alabama. With the rain and wind increasing and lightening appearing to the west, we quickly pulled into our campsite, set up, and stayed inside while the storm rose and continued on for several hours.

Saturday
The four of us started the day with a nice walk along a bike path with lots of squirrels for entertainment. After all the rain from the night before, the croaking of frogs was so loud we could barely hear each other talk! Jan did laundry, I did some work, and then we were out of the park by 10:30 a.m., heading our way north on Highway 59, then heading west into the rain on I-10. Head-on winds with “significant” gusts kept me alert at the wheel for the couple hundred miles across Alabama and Mississippi to our next stop in Louisiana. Inside the New Orleans city proper we found our campground, set up camp, grilled out, worked on the blog, had a nice grilled dinner, and planned our sightseeing. This was a good first full week.

PUPS ACROSS AMERICA!
Wonderful Promotion
I received a call from Mark, a fellow Pup Parent and executive producer of RV Buddies Online. Within hours, he had a great story about Pups Across America up for his readers. Check out http://www.rvbuddiesonline.com/pups-across-america-photo-tour-launches/. I’d also suggest that all you RVers bookmark the site as it looks like a good read and a great resource. Thanks, Mark. Also, Mark sent a pic of his pups—they are quite a good looking pair and our Pup Pic Pick of the Week.

pup_pic

Carlsbad, California Shoot
We have been asked to do a Pup Shoot for this city north of San Diego. Thank you Carlsbad! We will have a firm date nailed down soon, but right now we are looking at mid-June. Looks like a really great place and hope to see you southern Californians there with your pups all spruced up and ready for action. Details to follow soon.

Denver, Colorado Pup Shoot
We are now actively looking for an organization to help sponsor/coordinate a May 22 and/or 23 pup shoot in the Denver area. This is a dog-loving town if I ever saw one! If your organization wants to be associated with the good cause of helping pets in need, please let me know. We’d also consider Boulder, Estes Park, and Colorado Springs.

peek-a-boo

Other Locations?
We will be adding dates and locations as we roll along out West, however, we are open to suggestions. Would your organization like to be involved, have fun, and raise some money for “at-risk” dogs? Please contact me, and we will do our best to work with you.

Pass the Word
Know other Pup Parents who might enjoy this blog and the Pups Across America event? Please spread the word.

RV GOURMET: Frogmore Stew

forgmore_stew

In honor of our distinguished guests, Chef Jan turned to Frogmore Stew, an always-pleasing meal for those with particular palates. Here is what she has to say:

Murky History: Many years ago a National Guardsman named Richard Gray had the task of cooking for lots and lots of fellow soldiers. His most popular meal was one he termed "Low Country Stew." However, that term did not stick. Since Richard
was from Frogmore, it became know as "Frogmore Stew."

Recipe: Serves 4 people and no dogs.

1 bag of fingerling potatoes
4 quarts water/crab boil seasoning added (optional)
3 T Old Bay seasoning
1 lb. Kielbasa or hot smoked sausage
4 ears of corn cut into half or thirds
1 lb. large shrimp
Optional: onion

1. In a big pot, bring the water and fingerling potatoes to a boil. Cook for about 7 minutes.
2. Add the Kielbasa and cook for another 5 minutes.
3. Add the corn and cook for another couple of minutes.
4. Then add the shrimp with the Old Bay seasoning and cook until the shrimp are done.
5. Drain and put in a big bowl or dish.

Condiments: Make your own cocktail sauce out of catsup, fresh lemon, worchestershire
sauce, and horseradish. Grey Poupon is another good choice.

Tip: Tired of cleaning all those plates and utensils? Keep them in the RV! Let your eaters dip from the pot and place their selections on newspapers.

Yummy - enjoy!

chef_janny

FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHS
The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, www.alligatorfarm.us/, is quite the place. All easily accessible by boardwalk, one walks out over the water and the alligators to view the “you-can-almost-touch-them” birds in the rookery. Spring is a great time to view nest-building, egg-hatching, and lots of squawking as young birds demand to be fed. Although you’ll still see the serious bird shooters there with the 500mm-plus lenses and camera gear that costs more than a mid-size car, the birds are close enough for someone like me armed with a fairly fast DSLR and a medium telephoto to get decent shots. Also, adding interest to the experience, it doesn’t take much to get the big male gators in a frenzy—the first morning I was there the space shuttle was landing and the sonic boom set off a bass symphony throughout the entire park with the bellowing of these big boys.

TRAVEL TOOLS & TOYS
Nothing this week.

CAMPER’S CORNER
Anastasia State Park bordering St. Augustine, FL, was highly recommended to us and now we know why. A walk away to the beach on the Atlantic Ocean, a stroll to historic St. Augustine, super clean, private sites. Full Florida State Park hook-ups (water and 30 amp electricity). Adequate cell phone coverage, a very nice nature trail. Camp sites are a tad narrow, but long and very private with foliage all around. We hope to come back. Highly recommended.

web

Holiday Campground near Panacea, FL, was right on the Ochlocknonee Bay. Neat as a pin, it had full service, cable, WiFi, playground, and on and on. Lots of bird houses and carefully planted flowers were a very nice touch. Recommended. www.holidaycampground.com

Island Retreat RV Park by Gulf Shores, AL, had full hook ups, cable, pool, laundromat, etc, plus fast Wi-Fi. Both back-in and pull-throughs, it is only a short walk from the Gulf Beach. Another nice touch was a biking/walking path right on the edge of the property. Only there for one short night but we enjoyed it. Recommended. www.islandretreatrv.com

HEADLIGHTS
Next week after enjoying New Orleans, we will be heading NW toward Denver. Here is where we plan to be.

4-25
Riverboat Travel Park: Site 14
Near New Orleans, LA

4-26 thru 5-2
TBD
Heading NW

5-3 thru 5-8
Cherry Creek State Park: Site 26
Near Denver, CO

TBD
Boulder, CO

5-22 & 23
TBD Pup Shoot
Near Denver, CO

5-27 thru 5-31
TBD
Near Denver, CO

Mid-June
TBD Pup Shoot
Carlsbad, CA

Going to be near? Look us up. Have some suggestions? We are open. Know a Pup Parent in the vicinity? Pass on this Web site and have them give me a call to schedule a shooting of their best friend.
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