First, Rick has to mention an event from Sunday, three days before the start of the trip: he took 2nd place in his age group, and 25th overall in a field of 400+, in the annual Mount Dora 5K race. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog.
Since buying our Viva in May 2014, we have camped 207 nights—which means we stay in the Viva more than one in every five nights. Sometimes it seems like Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach is the only place we camp, but we have traveled to 30 states and stayed in 77 different campgrounds. So, we do get around—but Gamble Rogers Memorial SRA is (by far) our most frequent destination. We have stayed here on 23 different occasions, for a total of 77 nights.
Despite our number of visits, it is not easy to book sites here because it is almost always full. You have to book online, and it's just luck if you find an opening. We were especially lucky to be able to book six nights in a row over Christmas.
This was the first time we brought both the Viva (Rick drove) and our CRV (Linda drove). The Viva, having just a 6-cylinder engine, cannot tow a car. That was the trade-off for excellent gas mileage and easy-to-drive maneuverability. Rick also brought along his kayak for his initial launch on the Intercoastal Waterway.
We had site 15 the first night, then site 20 the next five nights. The coolest day of our stay was Wednesday, the day we arrived, and we just stayed inside after hooking up. No walks for the dogs, and they were not happy.
We drove the CRV to St. Augustine on Thursday with a plan to walk around and see the Christmas lights but, despite circling and circling and circling…we couldn't find a place to park. That was disappointing, but we were able to see a lot of the lights while we were circling and circling and circling…(guess who had to drive?).
Rick paddled the Intercoastal Waterway three times, and it was wonderful! It rivaled kayaking the Dora Canal, but was much more isolated in the back channels. He has a two piece Point 65N kayak, a cool little kayak whose two pieces fit in the back of the CRV, yet when connected turn into a solo kayak over eight feet long. Linda even tried it for the first time on Sunday.
On Christmas Eve morning Rick ran 3 miles, taking Zoe along for 1.5 miles, and later went back to the Ranger Station to give the rangers a copy of his book For The Record. Linda walked the beach (which she did several other days), and we walked to Snack Jack at High Tides for an order of fries and some holiday cheer. We met a lady with two 8 year-old Standard poodles, siblings from the same litter. The black one looked exactly like Zoe! Late in the day we watched a couple arrive to camp in the space next to us. They had a sleek Safari Condo trailer. Once disconnected from the tow car, the man used a remote and the trailer backed itself into position! Amazing! We ended Christmas Eve by having a campfire and then retiring to the Viva to watch "A Christmas Story," an annual tradition.
Christmas Day, after we both spent time in the kayak, Linda walked the beach and we just had a relaxing day. We watched "Christmas Vacation," another movie tradition.
We got together with a very nice couple on the other side of us (in a nice Class A), Trish and Gary from Port Orange. We had met them on an earlier stay here. They joined us for a good time around our campfire. We invited them to come to Mount Dora sometime to go out on our boat and tour the Dora Canal.
Monday was spent kayaking, walking the beach, walking the dogs, and going back to Snack Jack at High Tides. We packed and put everything away Monday night, so we could break camp early the next morning.
Six days and nights passed too quickly!
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..and back to Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area, four nights on the beach on Site 21!
We arrived on Monday in the early afternoon. We leveled, hooked up, and Rick moved the picnic table to a better spot. As he was dragging it through the sand, he felt a couple of insect bites on his legs. He didn't think much about it at the time, but he would realize at that moment he had been assaulted by a swarm of no-see-ums (for his previous encounter with these tiny, nasty bugs, see the log entry for DEC 21, 2015). He has a strong reaction to the bites (see photos), but he didn't start breaking out until Tuesday. He was miserable Tuesday evening, but thankfully better by Wednesday. Linda? No bites at all…
We took long walks on the beach, watched gorgeous sunrises and a beautiful full moon rise over the ocean, rode our bikes, went to High Tides at Snack Jack two times, hiked the trails on the Riverside, enjoyed two campfires with vegan hot dogs and vegan marshmallows, watched dolphins frolic just off shore, and…time to pause for a breath! Rick went for a 4-mile run in preparation for this coming Sunday's Mount Dora 5K (in which he would place 2nd in his age group, and 25th overall in a field of 463 with a time of 24:33). We met Sam and Shirley from Homosassa Springs, and also a couple from Port Orange who were camping in their son's 2017 Winnebago Trend (the twin of our Viva, same floorplan). Linda attended a sunset presentation conducted by a Ranger who talked about the moon and tides.
The weather was perfect until a brief shower on Wednesday. It did turn cold and very windy on Thursday night, but it was nearing the end of our stay so we weren't upset. A guy on a bicycle tour camped next to us in his tent, and we shared our firewood, starter log, and water with him. We admired his willingness to ride long distances on his bike and tent camp along with way, but that's not in our future!
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