We left home on Saturday, February 14th, heading south to Florida. After a night's stay in Jennings, Florida, we moved on to Brandon for a brief visit with son Larry and his family. Debbie's Mom was very ill. Tim and Shanna invited us to join them for dinner at the Cracker Barrel.
On Tuesday morning we moved on to Sarasota for the annual Florida State Rally of Airstreamers. Saw a lot of old friends from caravans of the past. Attendance at the rally was down considerably from previous years - probably because of the well publicized poor economy. Final count was 390 RV units. In some respects, the smaller numbers made for an easier going event. Nightly entertainment was good, and other events were equally enjoyable. We participated in the Joker tournament, the hobby show, and the flea market, and attended several seminars. There weren't too many vendors there, and those who were complained about the lack of purchasing. Guess the most excitement for us was winning "Best of Show" honors at the hobby show for Walter's woodturned bowls. We even sold a few of them.
Then, on Sunday the 22nd, we moved from Sarasota to Sebring for a four night stay at Highlands Hammock State Park with some fourteen other Airstreamers from the Tampa Bay Unit. The park was the first of Florida's state parks, created in 1930. During the Great Depression, the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) worked to build the facilities, cleared trails, dug drainage canals, drew maps, and established playgrounds and campgrounds. The laid back, peace and quiet of the park made it a very pleasant stay.
On Monday we took a two hour tram ride through the park with a ranger explaining the various habitats. We saw alligators, turtles, raccoons, a gopher, lots of birds, several ancient oak trees, cabbage trees, and lots of palmetto. There many signs of wild hogs having rooted around in the ground, but we didn't see any of them. The 9,000 acres of hammock probably represents what Florida was like before all the development. A walking trail leads to the oldest oak tree in the park - the old tree was said to be over a thousand years old. No one would argue the fact. It is 36 feet in circumference, gnarled and wrinkled, but still alive.
Our group gathered each night around a campfire for cookouts, snacks, and socializing. Don Kenny set up his new slimline television and showed a couple of our caravan videos so everyone could share the experiences of the Mountain Heritage and American Adventure Southwest caravans. One night a couple in the park came over and played their guitar and mandolin for an hour or so.
On Tuesday we drove in to Sebring through the historic old town and around large Lake Jackson before joining several others for lunch at Chicanes Restaurant in the old Inn By The Lake Hotel. Traffic was fierce on US27, and we were glad to get back to the quiet of our campsite.
On Wednesday we drove 20 miles to Bowling Green for a visit with our friends - Gene and Henrietta Brumbaugh - from Hiawassee. Their park - Avion Palms - is where we spent some time about 10 years ago. They have a park model and were enthusiastic about all the activities available to them now. We had lunch at a Greek restaurant and later played several games of Joker - the 3-card variant before heading back to our campground.
On Thursday morning we broke camp and headed north to Kissimmee to the Tropical Palms RV Park near DisneyWorld. Our object was to attend the first home game of the Atlanta Braves in their Spring Training schedule.. Ten minutes after setting up at the RV park, we were turning off US192 into Disney's Wide World of Sports. There must have been a hundred traffic controllers directing the surge of cars into the parking lot at the ball park. The size of the crowd was surprising. We found our seats right behind home plate, six rows up. The location was great except that we were right in the sun. By the end of the second inning we were cooked. Looking around we found a couple of empty seats further up under the overhanging second tier - much better.
The game was between the Braves and the Astros. The Astros jumped out to a three run lead in the top of the first inning, then added four more runs as the game went on. But Atlanta had a big seventh inning and pulled the game out 8 to 7. We watched Chipper Jones make two errors and strike out twice before he left the game for the "no namers." The young guys are the ones who pulled it out.
One would never know that the country is in an economic downturn by the traffic, the crowds, and the way folks were spending money at the ball park. Prices were unreal - $3 for a bottle of water; $3 for a box of popcorn; $5 for a little hot dog; $30 for a ball cap; $25 for just a visor. Tee shirts were $45 each.
On Friday morning we headed north again, stopping for a short visit with Frances and Lamar Cockrell in The Villages before driving on up to Perry, GA for the night. Then amid reports of bad weather coming, we moved on toward Atlanta. Before long it started raining - hard. Reports of thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hail, we drove on to cousin Addie Edwards' home in Peachtree City. By the time we reached Addie's the rain had ceased.
Addie's sons Greg and Fred with their wives Kathy and Robin joined us for a nice lunch. It was great seeing those folks again, if only for a short visit. Three hours later we pulled into our own home in the mountains - happy to be sheltered from the stormy weather that had returned. It had been a good trip - maybe one of our best to Florida.