Cedar Key and Marianna, Florida - Robertsdale, Alabama
Another beautiful morning when we pull out on Wednesday, and it's an exciting day for us - we're turning west! Having lived in California all my life there is an undeniable pull when we are "on the other side" of the country.
Today we'll drive from one coast of Florida to the other.
We travel the Florida Turnpike to Highway 98 through a very different looking Florida. Cattle ranches and agriculture, then miles of black-fence horse farms. We take Highway 24 until it ends in the gulf. Again, we're surrounded by water.
This is one of those stops that I've "planned" to visit since I first started researching becoming fulltime RVers. A few bloggers have visited, and one lives here. I'm looking forward to seeing the island, and meeting that blogger!
Sunset Isle RV Park is the least expensive of the two parks on the water. I've read that the spaces are tight, but didn't expect just how tight! We're unable to get perfectly level on gravel sites, and since we're only here two nights we don't hook up sewer. Fortunately, for the first night we have no neighbor on our door side. We're unable to put out the awning on the second night when a motorhome barely squeezes in next to us. Next time we'll spend a little more and stay down the road at Low Key Hideaway.
|A sweet spot before neighbors.|
|Note the wood strip divider between spaces. Our awning edge is in the neighbor's space.|
We only have one day this time, but it's enough to fall in love with this laid back village surrounded by natural refuges and protected wetlands.
Our first stop is Shell Mound, a place of historical and natural significance. On the road we come upon a committee of vultures (called a wake when they're feeding, and a kettle when they're in flight). When we get to the mound we're treated to a personal lesson from volunteer Ron who happens along while we're exploring. It is these chance encounters with locals that are among our favorite experiences on the road.
|Shell Mound is surrounded by marsh and open water, accessed by a narrow sand road.|
|A tapestry of water and land patches.|
|Tall pines line the road.|
|Bromeliads grow from stumps in the shade.|
|A ghost tree peeks out between her living sisters.|
|Earlier I saw a rock that looked like a toad. Next I see a log that looks like an otter. When we get closer the log moves! And not an otter, it's a small gator that heads back to the trees.|
|One side road ends at the water.|
|Fluffy Dog ignores the raccoon around the corner.|
|Deep grasses lead to thick jungle.|
|One of several fresh water ponds.|
|Bill catches this little one keeping an eye on us.|
|Every time Bill sees turtles, they slide into the water before I can see them - until these two cooperate and give me a little pose.|
|None of the gators we see today are large, even this medium size one that looks bigger with the zoom.|
|Giant Foxtails soften the edges.|
|The refuge is like spending the day inside Jurassic Park and Swamp Thing, and Tarzan - and even a bit of Hunger Games.|
|The cutest place in town - you'd never know there's a great cocktail bar in the back!|
|A touch of color in the beer garden.|
|I'm a big fan of Pat's over and under shots.|
|Wonderful underwater black and whites.|
|I'm so happy to find my favorite photo of Cindy is a post card I can take home!|
|Pat and a couple locals share stories of Hurricane Hermine's impact on the little community. Wonderful tales of people coming together to help each other.|
|Best Banana Daquiri ever!|
We've been on the road for 3.5 years, and have never stayed at a Walmart. With good weather expected, I plan an overnight stop in Marianna, Florida, at the Walmart just off I-10.
We always keep an eye on the weather, so we're not surprised when we run into a strong down pour. Unfortunately our windshield defogger fails to clear the glass, and quickly I'm driving nearly blind in the middle of a storm. Holy crap!! Pulling over isn't an option. With a handful of paper towels Bill wipes off the moisture and visibility is restored. Whew! We're through the wet and under clear skies in less than 30 minutes. Don't need to do that again.
Our destination is north of Mexico Beach where Hurricane Michael wiped out the entire community. The drive takes us through miles of downed forest and trashed billboards. Large trees are snapped in half, others are completely uprooted. The level of destruction is hard to believe.
At the Walmart we learn that prior to the hurricane there was a large homeless camp alongside the parking lot - probably not the safest option. With the camp destroyed we have a better place to park for the night, but it makes me wonder where the homeless ended up in this financially blighted area. Several business signs and a few roofs will have to be replaced, but there doesn't seem to be much other structural damage. Michael was a Category 1 when it came through Marianna.
|Our first Wallydock with plenty of room. We leave the driver side slides in and sleep well all night. It's a success!|
|An unexpected treat from our parking lot backyard.|
Azalea Acres RV Park is a wonderful place! Coming out of the trees we are greeted at the entrance (we called ahead per their request), and led to our very long and wide space. The level concrete pad is in good shape, and the 50 amp FHUs are well placed. Park WiFi works, and we have open skies for satellite - always important for Sunday stays! Staff are friendly and helpful. The nearby gun range is a bit annoying during the day. Close to Mobile and the gulf beaches, this would be a good spot to spend more time.
For us it's a nice spot to chill out for a couple nights.
|Room to stretch out.|
|With a handsome Husky across the road, Tessa loves this channel on her dog TV!|
Back in California, Bill's 93 year old mom is doing well. We are blessed to have cousins nearby who help take wonderful care of her.
|Looking good Anne!|