Back to Florida for 2016-17 Winter Season

We decided that things went well last winter travelling to Florida instead of Mexico, so we are planning a similar trip this winter. We have not decided if we will stop anywhere before we get to near FL. I created some maps with our plans but we have not made any reservations until we reach Orlando. We hope to leave about Nov. 10th.



We picked Jekyll Island, GA as a good place to start the trip since the weather in mid-November is usually warm and they have really nice bike trails to get back biking again. The next stop is still in GA in the Okefenokee Swamp. Hopefully like last year are the mosquitos will be gone. It’s our first opportunity to get back in our canoe again. I bought a light weight wheeled canoe carrier to help get the canoe to the water without carrying it long distances. Ocean Pond campground in Osceola National Forest is our next camp spot where we will spend Thanksgiving. Last year the place was packed over the holiday. We then plan to head further south to a few Florida State Parks, O’Leno, Ichetucknee Springs and Manatee Springs, staying a few days in each and doing some canoeing.



In early December we will get down to Silver Lake in the Withlacoochee State Forest a nice place to bike on the 46 miles paved bike trail and canoe on the scenic river. We plan to fly back to Cleveland for the holidays on Dec 15th, so a few days before that we will head over to North of Orlando to paddle Rock Springs Run. Then we will put the RV in a storage lot in a KOA campground right by the airport.

More Florida Trip Planning

Right after the New Year we will fly back to Orlando to return to our RV and continue our trip. This part of the trip becomes harder to plan because many of the nice public campgrounds start to fill up with snowbirds like us. We do not like private campgrounds because they crowd too many campers into a very small area.

So there are a few campgrounds we make advanced reservations, otherwise we could not get into those parks. These include Hillsborough River State Park, Fort DeSoto County Park, WP Franklin Corps of Engineers Campground.

The other campgrounds shown we will take our chances based on our previous experience, this should take us through mid-February.



Of course our plans are flexible and could change depending on weather, health and campground access. We will try to keep the blog updated as we go and anyone that wants to camp, canoe or bike with us should feel free to contact us along the way.

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Turkey Day Get-Together

Every year, since we leave before Thanksgiving Day, Peggy likes to put on a big Turkey Fest with the family. This year it was held on October 23rd. However our kids decided it was time to remove some of the burden on their mom by moving the dinner to Joan’s home, which was a lot more room for the growing family. Even though 4 of Jeff’s family were missing from this photo, it was a nice sized group.T1-KobakThanksgiving-s

Great fun and great food. Brian had Avon Oaks Country Club make the big turkey, dressing and gravy, while everyone else made side dishes and deserts.T4-KobakThanksgiving4sT5-KobakThanksgiving5sT6-MazzolaBrucinos

It was good that Peggy had a nice relaxing day with the family.

Now after the Indians win the World Series, we have to pick-up our RV and get packing. We hope to head South right after the election. Once we get on the road I will try to Blog more often.

First Day on the Road South

Lehman's Country Store in Kidron, OH

Peggy & I raked leaves and mowed the lawn for the last time on Thursday.  We decided to have another supper with Pam & Joan  and their kids at Fiesta Jalapenos. A fun night to say goodbye to half the family. But I forgot my phone, so no pictures.

We left about 8:15 AM on Friday morning and took a little detour to Ohio Amish Country. Peg has not been down here for a while so we took our time stopped at the famous Lehman’s Hardware. Then went over to Ashery Bulk Food store to stock up on candy, nuts and some Swiss cheese. A little craft shopping and by noon we were on our way heading south on I-77.Amish Buggies

Of course we saw lots of Amish buggies and all the kids at schools along the way.

It was cool but sunny and windy.

Peg checking out the RockersPeggy, checking out the rockers. I was off mine.

Our drive to Beckley, WV was uneventful and we did some food shopping at Sam’s Club and had dinner before spending the night in the Super Walmart parking lot. We will gas up in Wytheville and try to get into SC near Charleston on Saturday.

Jekyll Island–Camp spot #1

Views of the Bay at Jekyll Island

We got an early start from Beckley, WV on Saturday morning and after a couple of gas stops we made it to Savannah, GA by 3 PM. We overnighted at the same Wal-Mart we had stopped at last year after touring Charleston, SC.

The place was packed with campers but we found a tiny spot next to a lagoon behind the store that was very quiet. We again got an early start and got to the Jekyll Island campground at 9 AM. Since it was a Sunday there were plenty of available sites.

This is really the only crowded private campground we plan to stay at this winter but it has strong Wi-Fi, good 4G phone signal, Cable TV and is right on the islands 25 miles of bike trails.

Peggy at Jeykll's Horton HouseSunday was cloudy and cool, 65o. After setting up we caught up on some rest while I watched football on TV.

Before supper we took a short 5 mile bike ride on the trails near camp.

Monday it is supposed to be sunny and warmer so we plan to take a longer bike ride to the historical area.

Last Day at Jekyll Island

Our Jekyll Campsite

The weather was cool but dry so we biked all three days that we were here. Each day we biked a little further around the island’s paved bike trails. After the first 5 mi warmup on Sunday, we biked 9 miles over to the historical area on Monday.Jekyll Island Club

There are some really cool old buildings in that area and most are still used for the high end lodging.

The hotel chains are all along the ocean on the north side of the island which is where we biked 12 miles on Tuesday. There were a few other bikers but in general this is a very quiet time of year.

Jekyll Ocean View1

The trail goes along the sand dunes with lots of public access to the beach.

There are many picnic pavilions and parking lots, but they are probably crowded in the summertime.

Jekyll Ocean View2The island had lots of damage from Hurricane Matthew that came up the coast in early October. The workers were everywhere, including in the campground, removing fallen trees, branches and debris. But it didn’t look like there was any home damage.

Jekyll Island Ocean View

On Wednesday morning we hope to get an early start and drive to Osceola National Forest’s Ocean Pond Campground in Northern FL. Our earlier plans were to stay in Ga and head to the Stephen Foster State Park  in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. We may head there around Thanksgiving. See new map.

FL 2016 Map1a

Settled down for a week at Ocean Pond

Ocean Pond

We left Jekyll Island at 7 AM on Wednesday and after a quick grocery shopping trip we arrived at Osceola National Forest’s Ocean Pond campground at 10 AM. Since this is the weekend before Thanksgiving we knew finding a campsite with electricity would be difficult, but they have sites with water only and that is where we first pulled into. I got on my bike and found that two campers just left the electric sites, so we quickly moved to the site with power for a week. They take no reservations here, so it is first come gets campsite. With our Golden Eagle pass it is only $12/night.Ocean Pond Campsite 8

The campsites are large and there is a very strong ATT 4G signal here but no Wi-Fi.

Peggy get Ready & Aim

I had a nice rest in my hammock as the temperature finally warmed to near 80oF.

On Thursday we decided to take a little 9 mile round trip bike ride to the site of the biggest civil war battle in Florida at Peggy-FiresOlustee Battlefield Historic State Park. Peggy tried out the cannon to see if she would have been a good soldier.

Still at Ocean Pond

Peggy's Bike Routes

We stayed here for a full week and decided that we would skip driving back north to the Okefenokee Wildlife area as we had originally planned. So we decided to spend Thanksgiving here and stay until Sunday morning. The campground sites with electric power fill up as soon as someone leaves each morning.

Peggy Biking Grassy RoadsPeggy and I did 3 bike rides as shown on map. One to the Olustee Battlefield that I blogged about. The next was our 14 mile ride around the lake with a stop at the Olustee Visitor Center, an old train station. The volunteers were surprised to see us ride up on our bikes, having no idea where we came from.. It turns out they live in Inverness, FL but travel North for a few months and volunteer as museum hosts. It was hard to get away as they wanted to keep talking since they get so few visitors.

Peggy enjoyed most of the rides except some of the forest roads got too sandy for her to keep going on her bike. But her walks were only a few hundred yards. The main paved roads near the campground had virtually no traffic, so that didn’t bother her at all.

I did a couple of rides North of I-10 on the forest roads but when I realized it was deer & bear season, I felt a little uneasy biking down these sandy roads without an orange hunting vest on. I figured I made a nice moving target.John's Thanksgiving Dinner

Peggy saved some leftovers from our Thanksgiving dinner last month with the family.

So like the past 9 years, I lift my glass to celebrate another Thanksgiving dinner away from home.

Our next planned overnight on Sunday, is O’Leno State Park, only an hour away. We plan to do some grocery shopping in Lake City and maybe take a bike ride on the Woodpecker Trail in the Big Shoals Park nearby.

Ocean Pond to Ichetucknee River

Ocean Pond to IchetuckneeBigShoalsStatePark

After spending 11 days at Ocean Pond National Forest Campground we moved on  Sunday morning .

We remembered a nice paved bike trail at Big Shoals State Park called the Woodpecker Trail. It was only a short drive from Lake City where we did some grocery shopping. So we biked for a few hours and then drove to our overnight at O’Leno State Park. It is a nice campground right off I-75 and usually has room after weekenders leave.

John at head of Ichetucknee Spring

We had no phone or Internet here and decided to do the first canoe paddle on our trip the next morning at Ichetucknee Springs.

This is a big spring with a lot of flow and even though we have paddled it many times it is a great 2-1/2 hr. paddle trip. Turtle Family

We saw 4 deer, hundreds of turtles, lots of Heron and Ibis.

We had no problem getting the canoe off and on the RV. I bought a small cart that made it easy to get from the parking area to the boat launch.

We like to park at the take-out and paddle upstream to the spring and then have an easier float back to take-out.

After the paddle, instead of going back to O’Leno we drove to another Florida State Park, Manatee Springs. We got there at 1 PM and on a Monday they had lots of available camp sites.

Manatee Springs State Park

Manatee Springs

The weather has really been pleasant and there has not been any rain for a month. Manatee Springs is a major spring but only produces a river of about 1/2 mi where it flows right into the Suwanee. Pileated Woodpecker

People swim and dive in the deep spring and there is a canoe launch and a nice boardwalk to the mouth of the river. An easy walk from the campsite. We didn’t see any Manatees.

On Tuesday morning, while it was still cool, we did the North End Trail, a 2-1/2 mi self-guided nature trail. They allow bikes but it has deep sand and would not have been any fun. It’s about a 1/2 mi walk from campground to get to the trail. Our plan is to leave here Wednesday morning and head to our favorite campground at Silver Lake.