Thursday, November 26, 2015

November 21, 2015 - Fruitland Park, FL to Chiefland, FL

It took us a while to finally crawl out of the bed.  It was overcast.

It is the last day of our camping at Lake Griffin State Park.  We did enjoy our stay here and will want to come back here another time.

After our breakfast we quickly put things away, put stuff back in the baggage area, blew off leaves and water puddles from the awnings before closing the slideouts.

One more hike inside the state park - the Mammoth Live Oak tree.  It is said that it is the 2nd largest Live Oak tree in Florida.  Its age could be between 300-500 years old.  Anytime you visit Lake Griffin State Park be sure to take the time to hike to see the beautiful and magnificent tree.

We left Lake Griffin State Park at 10:45 am, got on 466A going west toward Wildwood, FL.  Nice drive.  We arrived Chiefland around 2 pm, decided to boondock at Super Walmart off Route 19.  There were trucks parked there.  We found a place to park, far away from the store.  

Edith took the Jeep and went to the public library while Erwin stayed behind.  She needed to use the wifi to post blogs.  She had about 30 minutes to edit and finish the post before the library closed at 3 pm.  She went by Health Food store to pick up pink salt, but the store was closed. 

We had leftovers for supper.  It was so delicious.  Oh, you may be wondering how we reheat leftovers when there is no electricity at where we were.  We have an inverter that we can turn it on to run low wattage appliances, such as microwave, coffeemaker, toaster, etc.  It is really nice to have it when we are in a place without access to electricity.

We went inside Walmart, browsed around, bought few things.  We wanted something for dessert, decided on Klondike Krunch ice cream sandwiches.  It is bad for Edith because she tries to stay away from foods that are high in carbs.  It has not been easy for her. 

The night was very quiet with us playing games.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

November 20, 2015 - Leesburg, The Villages & Fruitland Park, FL

Slow morning for us… We did not start going out until around 10 am.  

After spending time at McDonald’s (no, we did not order anything there) to use its wifi we went to Venetian Gardens.  It is located on the shores of Lake Harris (the largest lake in the county) and has 100 acres, boat ramps and a lot of amenities.  There are bridges to walk across to 7 shore islands.  The landscaping is very beautiful.  Because of the recent rain some areas were too wet to walk on.  There were lots of birds and ducks and turtles.  Egrets and herons were on stalking mission.  There was a lady who was feeding ibises and birds and whenever she walked they followed her as if she was the Pied Piper.


Juvenile Ibis

When we were there the city crew was setting up white tents on one island and we were curious if there is going to be a festival this weekend.  Erwin walked over to inquire and was told there is Craft Beer, Wine & Food Festival tonight. $35 per person and one can sample over 25 different Craft beers, wines from around the world and a variety of foods from the best restaurants.  

It started to get little too hot to continue walking at the Gardens.  On our way back to the Jeep more people were coming in to feed ibises, ducks, etc.  

Erwin saw a sign for Bourlay Natural Historic Park and asked Edith if she would be interested in checking it out. “Oh sure”, Edith signed. As we entered into a parking area we suddenly realized that we had been here before, so we decided not to get out and go for a hike.

We went back to the campground to fix lunch before heading out for the afternoon.  We had grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.

We visited The Villages shopping district and walked around for a bit.  It was so interesting to see customized golf carts, some so fancy and others just the usual.  We know of some friends living in The Villages, FL but did not have time to contact them for get-together.  Another time...

It was around 4:30 pm when we left The Villages and were on way to Leesburg, FL to have birthday dinner at Osaka Steak House.  Our friends, Bon and Marilyn suggested us to dine there as they have specials every Friday.  

It was not crowded when we walked in. We were seated around the grill table along with two other couples.  After placing our order the chef came with a cartful of ingredients, checked order with each guest.

As usual the chef will put on a show by flipping an egg with the spatula while cooking fried rice, onions and veggies. He flipped the egg shells into the top of his chef’s hat, created fire ball, sizzling, smoking pile of fried rice, steaks, scallops,shrimp and chicken all fried different ways. Cooked mixed veggies, noodles and our portions were huge! We had plenty of leftovers to take home.

As we were leaving the restaurant the lounge was already filled up with people waiting for seats and all the tables were already full.  We will eat there again when we come visit Leesburg another time.

Our leftovers
Enough to feed 6 hungry mouths
We had an enjoyable day and we were so grateful for the lovely day/evening.  This is our last night staying at Lake Griffin State Park.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

November 19, 2015 - Fruitland Park, Leesburg & Howey-in-the-Hills, FL

It was very gloomy this morning.  It rained during the night. We are not letting it ruin our plan for today.  Nothing special today, just the usual sightseeing, shopping, etc.  

Oh, today is Edith’s birthday! One more year and she’ll say good-bye to 60’s. 

Sorry! We are not ready for this yet!
We are not dining out tonight to celebrate her birthday.  We plan on eating at Osaka Steak House tomorrow night because the restaurant has specials for every Friday.

We wanted to go out for breakfast, so we looked it up in Rae Rae’s is voted #1 out of 12.  It is in Fruitland Park, FL few miles from the campground.  It is not your typical chain restaurant and serves breakfast and lunch made from scratch.  It was already crowded when we walked in.  The seating area is rather small.  The server told us to pick any available table and there were only two left.  By the time we got the table, the last table was immediately taken.

Rae learned the art of cooking from her grandmother Ruth, a tough French school teacher from South Dakota.  She combined her grandmother’s cooking techniques with her strong Native Floridian roots and infused the cooking styles of North and South Florida. 

Erwin went with corned beef benedict and Edith had just two eggs and bacon.  Both dishes came with their homemade “cornbread” or biscuit.  Coffee for him and hot tea for her.  We were very pleased with what we had.  We will definitely go back there for breakfast next time we visit Fruitland Park.  

After leaving Rae’s we went to check out The Gun Shop & Gun Range on State Route 44 in Leesburg, FL.  Why did we go there?  Edith read somewhere in the internet that the shop is decorated with cool and unusual antiques and nostalgia.  Army jeep, barber chair, slot & arcade machines, etc.  It is a great place to visit.  The staff was very friendly and there were 10 rescue dogs behind the counter.  It is amazing that there is no dog odor when you walk in the store.  It has an indoor shooting range.  We went in the back and watched guys practice shooting.

On our way to P.E.A.R. Park we got lost for a while, took the wrong turn to what is a community park.  We came upon three Sandhill Cranes, two adults and one juvenile.  Sandhill cranes are large birds and cannot be missed!  They mate for life! The young usually stays with its parents until after about two years when it reaches sexual maturity and begins to find its own mate.  

We checked the GPS again and realized that we took the turn too soon.  We went back to the main road, made a left turn and continued driving. There was a bird on the telephone wire and Edith quickly took a picture of it before it flew away.  It was an American Kestrel.

We finally made it to P.E.A.R. Park, drove through the narrow trail to Butterfly Garden.  There were not many flowers in bloom, but few butterflies were fluttering about.  There is a large community garden nearby.  We will have to come back here in the late spring when flowers are in full bloom.

Wild Coffee, anyone?

Next stop was to check out Howey Mansion in Howey-in-the-Hills, FL.  What is so special about the mansion?  Well, it is a 20 room mansion built in 1925 on a 15 acre property.  William J. Howey bought 60,000 acres in 1916 and founded the town that bears his name.  Of course, it is abandoned and not open to the public.  When Edith checked out spots for pictures there was a police car in front of the mansion and the police officer was checking her out from the distance.  “No trespassing” signs were posted and the yellow “Do Not Cross” tapes were on the front gate.  It is obvious that some windows were broken because they were boarded up with plywood.  Vines are crawling all over and the mansion is starting to crumble.  The town cannot afford for upkeeps after Mrs. Howey died in 1981 and there were lawsuits.  It is really very sad because Mr. Howey would have loved to see it being taken care of well.

It started to rain. We decided to go back “home” and rest for the rest of the day.

Edith wanted to go back to Lone Oak Cemetery by herself, but decided not to because of the weather. The grass may be too wet and the lighting condition is not ideal for phohotoshooting (in some cases it is perfect, but it depends on the surroundings).