Our Viva!

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park / Gregory E Moore RV Resort • Santa Rosa Beach, FL • AUG 27 - 29, 2017

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A long trip for a short, uneventful stay. We had booked four nights, but we headed home after three nights due to heavy rains predicted all day on our final day, as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Still, we enjoyed it here as we always do. We both rode bikes and swam in the Gulf. The Harvey-influenced waves were even strong enough for Rick to body surf. The dogs got their walks and Rick and Zoe ran. We love it here and wish we could have stayed longer.

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Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area • Flagler Beach, FL • AUG 21 - AUG 24, 2017

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It will likely be a long time before we eclipse this trip! And, of course, that was because of the eclipse that we saw from the beach on the afternoon of our arrival. We weren't in the path of totality—we would have needed to drive over 200 miles north—but we were treated to about 90% coverage (our photos were darkened to show the eclipse a bit better, we noticed only slight darkening in the sky). We came prepared with a 3-pack of eclipse glasses, the smallest quantity we could order. When we checked in at the Ranger Station we asked if they were going to watch the eclipse, but were told they didn't have any glasses. We gave them one of our extra pairs. Then, during the eclipse, we noticed that our next door neighbors, an older German couple and their adult daughter, didn't have glasses, so we gave them our second pair and shared our remaining glasses. We read that the eclipse would confuse animals and send them into nocturnal behavior. We didn't witness any of that, but we did seem to want a glass of wine earlier in the day than usual.

We both took walks on the beach, and later Rick walked Zoe past the Ranger Station, where our favorite Ranger thanked us for the glasses and gave Zoe a treat.

The next morning, Rick took Zoe to the beach so she could play in the surf. She had a great time, dividing her attention between the incoming waves and all of the birds walking on the sand and flying about. On the way back Rick found a painted rock (see photo). On the back there was writing directing him to a Facebook page. We later met the rock artist, a teenage boy who had brought 70 painted rocks to hide around the campground for people to find and keep. We learned that painting and hiding rocks is catching on around the country. We found four more rocks during our stay. Linda rode her bike in the afternoon we both walked the beach at low tide.

On Wednesday morning, Linda walked the beach at sunrise and took some great photos. Rick did a 4 mile training run in preparation for the Donnelly House 4 Miler race on Labor Day, and later went body surfing. The best way to detail the latter is to repeat his post on Facebook:

"After far too long of an absence, the self-appointed (but nearly universally acclaimed) World's Greatest Body Surfer returned to the waves, this time at Flagler Beach. The waves were strong, the undertow almost overwhelming, but the boy showed that he still has it. I rode several waves so close to shore I was scraping bottom. The beach was empty except for a couple sitting in chairs watching me. When I finally came out of the water, the woman actually clapped and gave me a thumbs up. Seriously! I wear my title proudly…"

Rick took Zoe to the beach for a second time, and Linda rode her bike again. We went to Snack Jacks for dinner—they have great veggie burgers, and there is nothing like sitting on their porch drinking a cold beer with an open air ocean view. We spent a lot of time in the screen room with the dogs, just relaxing and doing some reading. Just after sunset we heard the sound of bagpipes. We went outside to find that the daughter of the German couple next door was serenading the campground by playing (quite well) her bagpipes. The sky was spectacular, with millions of stars and a great view of the Milky Way. A nice campfire closed the evening.

On Thursday, our last full day, Linda again walked the beach at dawn and Rick ran 4 miles. We moved from site 13 to site 17 (from the left of the German couple to the right!). Zoe got her trip to the beach. Not meaning to leave Tybee out—he got twice daily walks with his dad! But he is 15 and slowing way down, so he spends most of his time indoors in the air conditioning. He did venture out to the screen room for a bit while we read our books again. Thursday evening ended with another bagpipes concert and campfire.

On Friday before we left, Rick took Zoe on the first 2 miles of his run, then dropped her off back at the Viva before he ran another 2 miles. It's just too hot for Zoe to run 4 miles in August. Linda then went for her walk on the beach, and had a thrill she will never forget. She was wading in the surf when she looked down and saw a baby sea turtle struggling against the tide. The poor little guy wasn't going to be able to make it out to sea on his own. Linda looked around and didn't see any of his brothers or sisters, so he was the last one from the nest, the last one into the water. She gently picked him up, marveling at how long his flippers were for such a tiny turtle. She took him out a few feet and put him back in the water, but he was again being pushed toward the beach. She cupped him in her hands again and took him out to deeper water. This time he had his bearings and found the strength to go against the tide (something the Coopers can relate to!). Linda watching him swim away, in a magical moment that will always stay with her.

On our way home we refilled the propane tank at the Daytona International Speedway KOA, then went through Deland to buy some bread at the Deland bakery. We drove past Stetson University, where Linda started classes almost 50 years ago to the day—and this was just a week after going to Ohio for her 50th high school class reunion. She had quite a week!

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Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area • Flagler Beach, FL • JUL 31 - AUG 1, 2017

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Much has happened since our last (one night) camping trip in May. We bought a house in Tavares and spent the month of June and the early part of July making some renovations and moving in. In mid-July we closed on our previous home in Mount Dora. Linda then made a trip to Ohio for her sister and brother-in-law's surprise 50th wedding anniversary party (Rick had to stay home to babysit the dogs). We finally had time to hit the road again in the Viva. And our first destination after being off the road for over two months? Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach, of course!

Our house in Mount Dora had a short, steep driveway, so we had to leave the Viva on the street when we loaded it before a trip because the RV has to be level to turn on the refrigerator. Our new house in Tavares has a flat driveway that is long enough for the Viva, so we can park it off the street and load it at our convenience. We had a 30 amp service outlet installed on the outside garage wall, so we can have full power (air conditioning!) while loading, unloading, cleaning, etc. The size and slope of the driveway were critical requirements when we were looking at houses.

Because we were leaving from Tavares and not Mount Dora, we chose to take a new route to Flagler Beach. We prefer less traveled roads instead of interstates and freeways, so we took SR 19 through the Ocala National Forest. We had turned onto 445A when just ahead, less than 200 feet, we saw a black bear cross the road. Linda had seen a bear down here before, but it was a first for Rick. By the time we stopped the Viva on the side of the road and grabbed Rick's iPhone, the bear was almost out of sight. He looked back at us before heading off into the woods just as we snapped a quick photo. We are posting two photos, but they are actually the same photo—the second one is just a cropped enlargement of the first one.

Our campsite wasn't ready when we arrived, so we had to sit in the waiting area for about twenty minutes. That might not seem long, but when you're itching to get to your spot on the beach it seems like forever. We finally got the green light. The beachside part of the campground (across A1A is the riverside part) is always booked solid, but for some reason the first five spots on the even-numbered row went unoccupied the first day.

We stayed two nights, but on two different sites. The first night was on site 12, then the next day we moved across the road to site 19 directly on the beach. Site 19 is the same site where we saw the rattlesnake—see the blog entry for November 12, 2014. No rattlesnake this time!

The weather was perfect—not a single drop of rain the entire time, despite the storm that was drenching a band that stretched from the Tampa area eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. Rick and Linda enjoyed multiple walks on the beach, and saw dozens of sea turtle nests that were cordoned off. The large object (part of a ship?) we have photographed many times was exposed more than ever before due to beach erosion—sad—but the beach will recover. Rick went for a 3 mile run, and took Zoe to play in the ocean. Tybee leisurely meandered on several walks and, now 15, spent a lot of time sleeping. Linda saw a great sunrise on the beach, and we closed our second night with a relaxing campfire.

Although it was a short trip, we enjoyed being on the road again!

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