Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Settled in for the first segment of our winter stay

Our first winter destination in Florida was in the central area of the state – near The Villages.  We have a few reasons for staying here – we have friends in the area that we are looking forward to visiting with, we’re researching the area for the future, and one of our friends was looking for somebody to house sit for them for a couple weeks.  We aren’t doing it, but Tom’s Dad decided to fly down to check out the area and he’ll be staying in their house.  They got guest passes for all three of us, so we could all check out the various facilities and activities that The Villages has to offer.

We had originally made reservations at Wildwood RV Village, in what was supposed to be a brand new premium site.  We arrived to find out that the new sites “aren’t quite ready” – we walked to the new area to see large construction equipment still moving dirt around – yeah, they’re not going to be ready for a while!  They offered us a site, but it was at the edge of the park, right next to a very busy truck stop.  We were not thrilled with it, so the owner offered us a site in one of his other RV Parks, at a lower monthly fee.  Lake Pan RV Village is a few miles south of Wildwood, but still pretty close to The Villages, so we settled in for the next month & a half.

We had a week before Tom’s Dad arrived, and we spent that time exploring all the new areas that have been added since we last visited three years ago – the amount of expansion going on in The Villages is really amazing! 

Tom and I took a trolley tour of the newest area, and after Dad got here, we took him on a trolley tour of the Spanish Springs area, which is the historical tour through the oldest neighborhoods of The Villages.  Both were really informative and interesting!

On this tour with Tom’s Dad, we stopped at the Mulberry Recreation Center.  Each recreation center has a different theme – this one is a country barn theme.

Very cute . .

with comfy sitting areas,

and game areas, too.

The large banquet room had several quilts on the walls, too.

There are 3 Town Squares in The Villages, and each one offers live music every night of the year, and many evenings they will also have a car show, or a craft fair, or market night.  We enjoyed the music and warm evenings several times,

and even a Halloween celebration at Brownwood Paddock Square – it was a rainy evening, but that didn’t keep the people away!

Dancing even in a full downpour – we were fortunate to snag seats under the roof!

Many Villagers brought their classic cars out for trunk or treating by the local kids,

and there were carnival games, crafts, and hayrides,

as well as lots of costumed characters!

One lone classic at the end of the night . . . looks good under the lights!

Another day we visited the Fenney Recreation Center and had lunch at the Fenney Grill.  Lunch was delicious, and the setting was beautiful!  After lunch, we walked out to the pool and the nature trail around the spring.

The boardwalk trail around the spring was very pretty,

and an enjoyable walk.  We spotted a little bit of wildlife, although the alligator remained elusive.


One weekend, we visiting my favorite small town in Florida, Mt. Dora, to attend a Craft Fair . . . and it was HUGE!  We were amazed by the number of people there!

Dad went with us, too, and our new friend in the RV Park, Sue, and we just spent a couple hours fighting the crowds in the heat. 

On the way home, we stopped in another small town, Tavares, where we had some dinner and checked out a Vintage Shop that was pretty cool – Through the Years Vintage Market – I’ll have to come back here again.

I especially liked the kitchen stuff – pretty cool!

Before Mark & Janie left on their vacation, we had a really enjoyable evening at an Elton John Tribute concert at the Savannah Center, another Recreation Center that was built as small entertainment venue.

He was REALLY GOOD – authentic, a great singer, and an outstanding pianist!  We really enjoyed the show!

Afterwards, we enjoyed an excellent dinner at the Nancy Lopez Legacy Club – very nice!

That’s what we’ve been up to so far . . . more to come!

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Continuing our trek to Florida

Our travel day from Bentonville was forecast to be a very rainy day, with major flooding, following almost constant overnight rain and storms.  We considered delaying our departure by a day, but looking at the radar map in the morning, it looked like we would drive out of the rain as we moved south towards I-40.  We waited for a break in the rain, and quickly got the slides in and the Jeep hooked up.

Driving out of the RV Resort, we could see the evidence of heaving rain and flooding on the golf course!

The creek under this bridge was overflowing and had completely flooded the gold course!  The water was touching the bottom of the bridge, and coming dangerously close to washing over the road.

Further up the road, there were areas where the road was partially covered by water.

Thankful for our high clearance, we went on through.

We only had a couple of miles to get to the interstate, and once there, we could still see evidence of flooding, but there was no more water on the road.

As expected, by the time we reached I-40, about 40 miles south, we were out of the rain and the rest of the drive was clear.  We had a longer then normal driving day (290 miles), but almost all interstate, so it was not too bad.  We stopped for the night at a small RV Park right off the interstate, where we had a nice long pull-thru site for $20.  It was a nice little campground – easy to get in and out of.

While walking Casey, we found these two classics in the back of the campground – straight out of the Long, Long Trailer!

The next morning, we got back on the road and made our way through Memphis as we clipped the corner of Tennessee and turned south into Mississippi.

Our destination for the next couple days was Tombigbee State Park in Tupelo, Mississippi.  We don;t often stay in state parks, but the website said they had FHU big-rig friendly sites, and we called to verify and make our reservation.  Unfortunately, the driving directions to the park are a little vague, but after a hair-raising drive on a twisty-turny, narrow road through the woods, we made it to the park.

We got checked in and set up on our site – a little tight, but it’ll work for a couple days.

Just down the road from the campground is the Park and Memorial on the parcel of land that once belonged to Elvis Presley’s family – his birthplace.

The site consists of a museum, a few historic structures and the memorial.  We stopped in at the museum and watched the short film about Elvis’ early years in Tupelo.  It was interesting . . . I didn’t know he was a twin, did you?  Elvis sang in the choir at their little church, and hung out at the local radio station watching various singers perform.  When he was 13, the family loaded all their belongings into their car and moved from Tupelo to Memphis . . . and that’s where this story ended.

We didn’t buy tickets to the museum, but just walked around the gift shop admiring the memorabilia and multitude of Elvis items available . . . no pictures allowed (even in the Gift Shop!), but I snuck this one so I could show my sister, Sandi . . . she totally needs these pajamas!! LOL

Outside, we followed the pathway around the grounds, past the home he was born in,

and the little church where he began singing, moved to this site in recent years.

To be complete, they brought the outhouse, too!  LOL

There’s a status of Elvis with his first guitar, at 13 years old,

and up at the memorial, a statue of young Elvis becoming the superstar.

It was a very nicely done memorial – beautiful grounds.

The next day, we continued on and made our way into Alabama for a quick overnight stop.

From Alabama, we finally made it to Florida . . . and I missed the sign!!

Oh well, you’ll have to take my word for it that we’re here.  We had a few days before we could arrive at our first winter destination, and a beautiful weekend coming up, so we picked a small park on the Gulf, and were lucky enough to snag a beautiful site overlooking the water.

We spent the next three evenings and three days enjoying the sound of the water and birds, and some amazing sunsets!

We walked to the little town beach and fishing pier at the end of the road,

but otherwise just relaxed and enjoyed the warmth and sunshine – it was a beautiful weekend!

Friday Night

Saturday night

Sunday Night

We had a great stay at the beach, and we’re happy to be back in warm, sunny Florida!!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

We had heard that Eureka Springs is a cute little town, so it was one of the places we wanted to visit during our stay in Bentonville.  Eureka Springs is in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, and quite a scenic drive from Bentonville.

We had to drive up and around the series of connected rivers and lakes that flow through northern Arkansas – the road was curvy and hilly, winding our way through the mountains. 

Just outside of town, we stopped at the Thorncrown Chapel – it’s a beautiful little chapel in the woods, made entirely of glass and timber.

We drove through downtown Eureka Springs, and quickly determined that parking was at a premium, due to narrow streets and tiny parking lots.  The Visitor Center offered parking, and a shuttle into town and to several other nearby attractions.  We decided that was the best option, and paid for our parking and shuttle tickets.

We walked along the main street, admiring the historic buildings and interesting landscape, and browsing through the shops.

Hanging baskets adorning the balconies of some buildings,

and in other areas . . . tomato plants!

We spotted this guy in a doorway, just chillin’ out in the heat of the afternoon!  Too cute, and he didn’t get up when I took his picture – barely opened his eyes!

We walked through the downtown area for a couple hours, then found a place for a late lunch before catching the trolley that would take us up the hill to the historic Catholic Church.

We got dropped off at the historic Crescent Hotel, and the trolley driver told us to just walk through the lobby and we would find the catholic church out the back door and down the hill.

It’s a beautiful church, surrounded by rock walls, gardens and statues.

We planned on going to mass while we were here, and I had seen on the website that the Saturday mass was held in the Parish Center rather than the Church, so Tom and I looked around for the Parish Center . . . but we couldn’t find it.

Tom asked in the Gift Shop, and it turns out that the Parish Center is several miles away!  That’s a first!  Well, since we rode the trolley and didn’t have our Jeep, we couldn’t get over there in time, so we would need a plan B!

We waited for the next trolley, and rode back to the Visitor Center, and then started the scenic drive back to the campground.  It started raining on the way back, and rained through the whole night . . . we were glad it had held off long enough for us to enjoy our afternoon in Eureka Springs!

Meanwhile, up in Michigan, Bryce was getting ready for the basketball season with their annual Izzone Camp-out.  With lots of rain predicted there for the overnight, too, the campout was moved inside, though, and everybody was allowed to go back to their dorms/apartments rather than staying overnight.  They still had a great turnout, though!

Bryce was actually easy to find for a change!  As the Student Athletic Trainer for the team, he got a good spot right up front!

And in Virginia,  Nicolas’ long underway wrapped up with some exercises with other members of the Carrier Strike Group, and they posted some excellent pictures on facebook.

This is a really cool picture!

Sounds like they had a successful underway, but I’m sure they were all happy to get home . . . I know Nicolas was!