Our Viva!

Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area • Flagler Beach, FL • DEC 22 - 24, 2015

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Despite Rick's itchy arms and legs, we had a great three night stay at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area. If you've read most of our blog posts you've heard this multiple times—this is our favorite place to stay in Florida.

Days one and two were in site 14 on the ocean. We did our usual activities—rode our bikes, walked the dogs, walked the beach, watched the surf. Dogs are not allowed on the beach at the state park, but they are allowed outside the state park boundaries. The park rangers cut a path from the back of the campground to a beach access that is dog friendly, which means we can now walk the dogs to the beach without having to go out and walk along A1A. We took the dogs to the beach, and Zoe got to romp in the surf.

While going back to the Viva on the new path, which has tall weeds on both sides, Rick thought of the rattlesnake we had seen on our campsite in 2014. At that moment, with that rattlesnake in his mind, we rounded a bend and were treated by a beautiful non-venomous snake stretched across our path. Rick had time to take a photo before it slithered off. We also encountered a large turtle in the campground on this trip.

On the 23rd we walked the beach after dark to High Tides at Snack Jack for one of their great vegan hamburgers and several cold beers. Tasted great on a warm December night in Florida, and nothing beats dining outdoors to the sound of the ocean. After dinner, it was a nice, relaxing walk on the beach back to the Viva, with a nearly full moon overhead.

On Christmas Eve Day, and with great reluctance (a ranger actually called to see if we were ready to vacate our spot, even though we still have about 30 minutes left), we moved from the beach to the new riverside part of the park, on the other side of A1A. We wanted to try it out, but it's not for us. If we're going to Gamble Rogers, we want to be on the ocean. There is a great nature trail, and Rick took the dogs on it.

We were the only ones playing Christmas music on Christmas Eve. We played the new version of "All I Want For Christmas (Is To R=Wrap My Arms Around You)," a song Rick wrote (lyrics) with John Schwab in 2001. Melissa Olsen, who lives in California, recorded the song this year—a vocals and piano rendition. She did a wonderful version, and we listened to it dozens of times over the course of our stay.

Cloud cover obscured the full moon, and we awoke on Christmas morning to heavy fog. We were still suffering from no-see-um bites, and were ready to go home. We packed up, unhooked, and headed out. It was 84 degrees when we arrived. Paradise!

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Sebastian Inlet State Park • Melbourne Beach, FL • DEC 21, 2015

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On the way to the campground we saw a helicopter being transported on a flatbed truck. No idea what that was about, but since we're including photos, we thought we'd explain. Now on to our "adventure…"

Well…a beautiful campsite…a terrible experience! But let us explain.

Months, repeat, months in advance we booked our Christmas week stay, three nights at Sebastian Inlet State Park, then two nights at nearby Long Point Park & Campground. We had heard great things about Sebastian Inlet, and we were assigned a great spot right on the water.

We were anticipating a wonderful time. There would be a full moon on Christmas Day (and nearly full the nights leading up to it). We were on the water. We were hoping to get together with potential new friends Priscilla and her husband (we met Priscilla on our last Gamble Rogers camping trip). There was a scheduled Space X launch, with an attempt at landing the first stage of the Falcon rocket on a landing pad at Cape Canaveral. Rick has always been a big fan of the space program, so he was looking forward to a close view of the launch, and hopefully the landing of the first stage.

We were assigned a great spot right off the water with a great view of the inlet. We hooked up and all signs pointed to a great time. Until…

We had heard of no-see-ums but had never seen them, no pun intended. No-see-ums are tiny, tiny biting mites. We noticed a few bugs as we were hooking up and unpacking. Then a few more. And a few more. Then they were swarming us, so bad we couldn't go outside. And, because they are so tiny, they could come right through the screens, so we had to keep the doors and windows shut. A young Japanese couple were camping next to us. They had a small travel trailer. The woman stayed inside while the man, dressed in long pants, long sleeves, and a hoodie , used duct tape to secure plastic over their windows. Apparently the no-see-ums were getting in even though their windows were closed. Wow!

Tybee is having some health issues and needs to go outside often to relieve himself—which meant that every time we opened the door to let him out, dozens more no-see-ums invaded the interior of the Viva. We had to dispatch them virtually one at a time. It wasn't until later that we realized we could have gotten out the vacuum and swept them up.

Rick wasn't going to let bugs keep him from watching the launch, so he lathered himself in bug repellant and went outside. There was heavy cloud cover, but he did see about 10 seconds of the lift-off. The rocket vanished for awhile, then it appeared above the clouds. He had a clear view of the first stage separation, and saw it descending for a few seconds before it disappeared again. Then, just before the first stage touched down, he saw the fire from the engine burn. He was thrilled, of course.

Back to the no-see-ums. They are nasty little guys. Most of the time you don't feel their bites, but occasionally you do—a sharp pinch. It's interesting that such a tiny mouth can cause such pain. So, because we rarely felt them as they were biting, we didn't realize the damage they were inflicting until several hours later. Rick's arms and legs were covered in bites, and felt like they were on fire. It was a rough night with little sleep.

The next morning it was easy to see the extent of the damage. We stopped counting at over 200 bites on Rick's arms and legs. Linda didn't seem to have any bites—but several days later we found dozens of bites. Rick has an allergic reaction to insect bites while Linda does not, thus his bites were much more quickly and easily noticeable.

We talked to a ranger the next morning. He, too, was covered in bites. He said that no-see-ums generally were not a problem. They are usually well to the south of the inlet, and the breeze keeps them away. However, there had been no wind at all the last few days, and it was the perfect conditions for them to invade the campground.

The winds weren't supposed to pick up, and we didn't want to spend another miserable minute trapped inside the Viva. We also knew conditions would be the same at the county park next door, our destination after our stay here.

We went online and saw that there was a vacancy at Gamble Rogers on the beach for the next two nights, and an opening in the new riverside part of Gamble Rogers on Christmas Eve. Someone had to have cancelled for those spots to open up, so we felt very fortunate to have a place to camp. We booked the next 3 nights, disconnected, and got the hell out of no-see-umville! We will return under better circumstances—this is a lovely park, and would have been perfect without the bugs.

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Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area • Flagler Beach, FL • DEC 13, 2015

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Back to Site 15 at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area. We were on site 15 the first two nights of our five night trip, and we returned to the same site after jaunts to Anastasia State Park and Salt Springs Recreation Area in the Ocala National Forest.

We can't say there was nothing special about this one night stay—every stay here is special—but it was our typical relaxing walks on the beach and kicking back to enjoy the ocean view.

There was rain in the forecast so we didn't buy any firewood. That was a good thing, because the rain came after dark as predicted. It was the only "bad" weather we had over our 5 days and nights, so we were fortunate and thankful.

We were treated to a beautiful sunrise, then we took final walks on the beach. We met a nice woman in the campground named Priscilla. She and her husband (we didn't get to meet him) were going to be camping at Sebastian Inlet the following week, as were we, so we made plans to find each other there. She was very nice and we were looking forward to getting together with them. We said our goodbyes and headed for home. Another great trip!

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Salt Springs Recreation Area • Ft. McCoy, FL • DEC 12, 2015

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Salt Springs Recreation Area is part of the Ocala National Forest. When Rick had his Harley, he would often ride up to the National Forest, but he never knew this campground was there.

Before we give you the details of our stay, we'll summarize—we loved it here! If you need to maintain contact with the "real world" while you're RVing, this is not the place for you, at least if you use the AT&T cellular network for your cell phone service. The campground doesn't have Wi-Fi, and because we had no phone service we couldn't make calls or access the web. We were here for only one night, so survival was never a real issue.

We were assigned a nice, level site. The sites were fairly close to each other, side-to-side speaking, but there was a huge common area behind us—more about that later.

Rick hooked up the Viva to services (full hookup here), but immediately noticed a problem. When we bought the Viva we also purchased a 30-amp Surge Guard, a handy, multifunctional device that protects your RV from a number of electrical maladies. The red warning light came on indicating a reversed polarity at the electric pedestal (where we plug in). Rick quickly unplugged and summoned a campground host, who summoned the manager and a technician. They arrived promptly, agreed that the polarity was reversed, and set about to correct the problem. When we were home after our trip, we looked up RVs and reversed polarity and learned it could have been a major issue. In fact, under certain conditions if polarity is reversed, a person can receive a fatal shock just by touching a certain part of the RV. We hope they got around to checking all of the other pedestals they had rewired recently!

We walked the dogs to the parking lot for the salt springs, but they weren't allowed to go any further. Later, we returned to the springs on our bikes (and without the dogs) to explore a bit. Although it was December, there were 8 or 10 people in the springs. The water is a constant 72 degrees, so it's the air temperature that dictates whether people are willing to take the plunge. The water is crystal clear, and you can see spring water bubbling to the surface.

There are a number of gorgeous live oaks on the walkway to the springs. No idea of their age, but they've been around a long time. Speaking of a long time, at the end of one of the parking lots, beyond a fence, was a huge old southern house. It looked like it had been abandoned for years (broken windows, general disrepair), but there was a new-looking front door. We hope someone is preserving the house—it sure looked worth saving, and its history is probably amazing.

We mentioned the large common area behind our row of RVs. A fellow camper set up two telescopes, one small, and one that looked like it could rival the Hubble. Well, maybe not, but it was impressive. We researched it when we got home and found it for sale on Amazon for $2,099. It was going to be a perfect night for star gazing. We talked to the telescope guy, and he invited us to come out later, well after dark, for optimum viewing. At dusk it was 1) still too light; 2) trees were blocking the view. His telescope had auto-tracking (or some technical term), and once he set reference points on the stars he could see at dusk, the telescope would automatically track the part of the sky he wanted to see once the constellation rose above the trees. We had built a fire at dusk, so we roasted vegan marshmallows and had a relaxing glass of wine. We then decided to grab a short nap (an hour or so), because we though we would be up until well after midnight watching the stars with our new astronomy friend. We slept for not much more than an hour, then went back outside. For reasons we never learned, Star Man had packed up his expensive gear and was nowhere in sight. In fact, everyone had turned in for the night. The rig beside us had built a large fire and a group of 5 or 6 guys were enjoying beers and conversation when we went in to grab 40 winks. The fire was out and the chairs were empty. No wild nightlife here! Or even late-night star gazing!

We will come back to this campground, and highly recommend it—just check the polarity when you hook up!

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Anastasia State Park • St. Augustine, FL • DEC 11, 2015

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The perfect weather continued! We had two nights between our stays at Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, so we decided to stay here and at Salt Springs instead of driving home and then back to Gamble Rogers again. We weren't able to spend all five nights at Gamble Rogers because sites weren't available—it's on the beach, so it's very popular.

Anastasia State Park is a great place for us to ride our bikes, which we did several times. We took two long walks with the dogs, to the large parking area and then the boardwalk to the beach overlook. The dogs aren't welcome on the beach here, so that is as close as we could get.

And what is that strange object in the photo above? It's a giant, inflatable movie screen. The night we stayed here the park was open to the general public for an outdoor screening of the holiday classic, "A Christmas Story." It would have taken too much effort to carry lawn chairs to the parking lot with the dogs in tow, and it might have been too much stimulation for Zoe, so instead we walked down just before the show started to soak in the atmosphere. There was a great crowd, especially considering "A Christmas Story" is shown on TV multiple times leading up to Christmas. Linda was disappointed that she didn't get to see the movie here, so I'm going to get it for her on DVD as a Christmas present. Shhh…don't anyone tell her…

We did experience a bit of a mystery. After we returned from checking out the outdoor movie theatre, and after we built a great campfire, a large, noisy pickup truck pulled up, then backed in a trailer on the site next to us. The truck idled in place for at least half an hour, then drove off without the trailer. The next time the dogs needed to go for a short walk I went past that campsite. The trailer that was left behind was an odd-looking utility trailer, with no windows, no markings, anything. Our guess was that it was somehow connected to the people putting on the movie in the park, and was used to haul speakers, wires, or maybe even the deflated movie screen. We were obviously surprised when the noisy truck returned sometime later. Through the vegetation we could see the outlines of two people, and from their (somewhat) hushed voices, we knew one was male and one was female. They spent the night in the windowless, spartan-like (at least on the outside) trailer. Odd. We didn't knock on their door to borrow a cup of sugar. Or anything else.

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Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area • Flagler Beach, FL • DEC 9 - 10, 2015

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Occasionally there occurs the perfect combination of destination, temperature, humidity, and mood. This was one of those times. A perfect two days at our favorite place to camp, with perfect weather—which resulted in a perfect mood!

We loaded our bikes on the back of the Viva this time, so we went for bike rides, walks on the beach, and long walks along A1A with the dogs. Linda was on the beach at sunrise. We took turns walking the beach during the day while the other stayed with the dogs. We had a campfire. We even had a "special guest" fly by our first day here—Santa Claus flying a powered parachute!

Rick took the photo of the object above (he takes a picture of it almost every time we're here). It's about a mile down the beach, and we use it as our turnaround point on our beach walks. No one we've asked knows what it is, but the general consensus is that it was a piece of an old ship and was washed ashore years ago. Whatever it is, it's extremely heavy, so that had to be one fierce storm!

We love this place so much it's usually hard to leave, but not this time. We headed out for our next stops—Anastasia State Park, and then Salt Springs Recreation Area—knowing that we would get to return for one more night here before heading home.

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