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Monday, October 26, 2020

Taking An RV Road Trip During A Pandemic


We have been getting stir crazy, like the rest of the world, because of months of lock down regulations caused by Covid 19.  We had been talking for awhile about what the safest vacation for us to take would be and we kept going back to thinking that traveling in our RV would be our best bet and maybe our only real choice.

We decided we would try it when we were reunited with our RV when we got back to our snowbird home in Florida recently.  We were not taking any chances though.  We mapped out 3 campgrounds no further than 2 hours from home and not out of the state of Florida.  We bought a couple packs of disposable masks because it would be easier to use than our washables.  We made sure to bring the big bottle of hand sanitizer and threw smaller bottles in the car and our backpacks.  After we made sure we had the Lysol wipes packed, we were ready to go.

Our first stop was Fort Desoto Park.  It's a county park, Pinellas County, located on 5 keys or islands.  

The first sign we had that this camping trip might be a little different because of the pandemic, was that the office was closed and we were told by the masked camp store clerk just to go directly to our site where we would find our parking pass attached to our site number post.

Not too long after we pulled into our site, our son Mike, DIL Chrissy and grand puppy Frankie showed up to hang out with us for the day.  We were too distracted and having too much fun to think about Covid 19.

We liked that the bathrooms had roofs that were raised above the walls so were well ventilated.  We had no worries using them.  Most people in the area we camped in, like us, have their own bathrooms so I rarely bumped into another camper when I used it.

We found lots to do at Fort Desoto Park.  We avoided the indoor museum at the fort but enjoyed their beaches, for one thing, where we found lots of sand dollars at North Beach and had a great view of the Skyway Bridge at East Beach.

We left the park once to take a ferry to Shell Key Preserve.  The ferry left from the boat dock at the park.  The captain's mate had her mask on as she checked us onto the boat and half of the passengers, including ourselves, wore masks but we felt comfortable enough to take them off after the ferry left the dock.

The beach on this uninhabited island was covered with beautiful shells which I had fun hunting for but the real treat this day was the dolphins that jumped all around our ferry at one point as we headed back to the park.  The captain of the ferry was nice enough to stop so we could enjoy this amazing sight.

We had a great time at Fort Desoto.  There were plenty of safe and fun things to do here.  Now it was time to check out the first of the two state parks we booked for this trip.  

Check in was a little different at Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland Park, FL, than it was at Fort Desoto where no one checked us in.  Here we could not enter the park without a pass so we had to stop to pick one up at the ranger station first.  Soko made sure he had his mask on when he checked in.

This park was a small park, 620 acres compared to Fort Desoto which was 1,136 acres and had over 200 campsites. The campground here only had 40 sights and the public park area was also compact but there was still plenty to do here.  In fact, one of the top 10 things to do in this area was to see the mammoth Live Oak which was in Lake Griffin State Park.


This amazing tree is the second largest in all of Florida and is estimated to be between 300 to 500 years old.

This is only the second time we've seen them in a park, but when we do, we love using the exercise apparatus.  I mean, we mostly just play on them.  We don't really do a real workout even though we promise ourselves that we will when we have more time...tomorrow!    We wondered if this gym got used more these past few months while the indoor gyms were closed.  We had the gym to ourselves the day we checked it out.

And Lake Griffin State Park is where we tried kayaking for the first time.  I was a little nervous about it but I found out that there was nothing to worry about.  Soko did all the rowing while I sat in the front and took pictures.  We saw, and waved, and had a couple of brief chats with lots of people in boats, kayaks and fishing off piers.  We never came closer than probably 15 feet to anyone. It was a fun way to socialize while being able to social distance.

Most of the ride was through the Dead River.   We saw birds relaxing in the middle of lily ponds decorated with the prettiest flowers while we took it slow and relaxed and enjoyed the view.

We did leave the park once, besides for going to Walmart, to check out The Villages which was just a couple of miles away from Lake Griffin.  We have heard so much about this community and were curious to see it.  We decided to go to one of their town squares, Spanish Springs.  We walked around but didn't go into any of the cute shops.  This clothes store was advertising their current sale and made sure to let you they had a great selection of masks on sale also.

We felt comfortable at Lake Griffin and we were happy with how our vacation was going so far.  Now it was time to head off to the third destination of our road trip, Colt Creek State Park in Lakeland, FL.  This was the biggest park of the trip at 5,067 acres.

The park was large enough to have three campgrounds in it and the sites here were huge.  Our nearest neighbor was probably 60 feet from us and with only 33 sites in their only W/E hook-up campground, social distancing wasn't a problem at all.

The bathrooms here were not ventilated like the first two but, because there were only a small number of  campsites, there was never a problem of overcrowding in them.  In fact, I hardly bumped into anyone at all even though most of the campsites were being used.  

The shower in our trailer is really small so we use the campground's showers  We would have used our shower if we didn't feel comfortable in the campground's though.  If you did use the bathrooms, there were a lot of rules to observe.

We didn't have any plans to leave the park grounds so we were happy to have a few things to do here.  We leisurely kayaked around their small lake twice and we hiked a couple of trails.  We felt like we were at nature's botanical gardens on the Yellow Trail. 
Colt Creek State Park was our last stop so we really wanted to enjoy relaxing also.  We had a nice lazy day watching Sunday football and I even had a chance to do some reading during this stop, which I can never seem to find time for when we are home.  

If we were on a vacation pre-covid, we would have found a couple of restaurants to go to and definitely would have checked out the museum at Fort Desoto, but we avoided being indoors, besides for the few times we went to Walmart, and still had a really great vacation just relaxing and finding things to do in the parks.  We never felt uncomfortable and will definitely make future camping plans.  This will, most likely, be the only way we travel until the world is Covid 19 free again!

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Monday, October 5, 2020

Dingle, Ireland And Dingle Peninsula Loop


Day 4 of our Ireland vacation brought us to Dingle which was 3 hours south of Doolin where me, Soko, my sister Sandie and BIL JT were staying for the week.  The weather we experienced in the Dingle Peninsula was what I had expected the weather would be like in February in Ireland.  It was cold, damp, rainy and windy.  But we couldn't complain because the weather was mostly sunny and dry every other day we spent in this beautiful country which was unexpected and definitely appreciated. 

The first stop on our itinerary for the day here was lunch at John Benny's Pub in the small port town of Dingle.  After our long trip to get here, we were ready to enjoy a delicious traditional Irish meal.  

We were all in the mood for fish and chips especially after Sandie told us she heard they were not to be missed at John Benny's Pub.  We were not disappointed.

After lunch, we planned to walk around town a bit and pop into some of the cute shops.  We must have walked one block when the wind and the rain destroyed our umbrellas and beat us up so bad that we decided to scratch this part of the plan off our list and move onto our self-guided, 30 mile tour of the Dingle Peninsula.   Besides for jumping out to take pictures, we would be safe from the elements as we toured this gorgeous part of Ireland in our rental car.

The first picture we ran out of the car to take was of the Stone House.  The restaurant was closed but we only stopped here to see the building.  Rick Steves, travel writer, described it as "a new building but built to blend in the with landscape and the region's ancient rock-slab architecture."

All the buildings here seemed to fit into the surroundings as perfectly as the Stone House did.

The dramatic coastline was the highlight here though.  It was truly unbelievable and would have been even more breathtaking if not for the rain and fog.  But, maybe without the wind, we would not have been treated to the almost deafening sound of the waves crashing on the sides of the cliffs.

Me and Sandie had been looking for the best place for us to take a picture with the many sheep we saw all over Ireland and found it here.  We wouldn't have been surprised that this would be the place to finally take this picture if we would have known beforehand that the peninsula is home to 500,000 sheep.

This was one of the last pictures I wanted to get out of the car for which meant that I missed seeing the beehive huts (clochans) when Sandie and JT ran up the hill to see them.  Not long after that we got off Slea Head Drive and abandoned our tour because the weather finally won the fight.  It's fine though because this just gives us a good excuse to come visit Dingle again one day!