Friday, December 19, 2014


We left Betty's in LA with nine days to get to our end of the year destination near Jupiter, FLA where we will be spending the holidays with our friend Marylou.  There were a couple of places along the gulf coast that we wanted to check out for possible extended stays in the future, we wanted to see our friends Ron and Linda in Mississippi and spend a couple of days with Nanc's sister Judy and her husband Bill.  This worked out to four stops with easy driving days of less than 250 miles, a very nice travel pace.
Our first stop was in Biloxi where Class of 07 mates Ron and Linda are volunteering at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR.  We had not seen them since last winter in Arizona so we had a lot of catching up and travel stories to share. 
Because they are working there we got an up close tour of the refuge's program to save the Sandhill population by hatching eggs and then releasing the young birds into the wild.  We had to hike through the woods to the blind to see the birds. The refuge is dedicated to preserving a local species of Sandhills that do not migrate and had been reduced to 30-35 birds in the 1960's. 
This is a small hatchling.  It is hard to believe these little chicks will grow into birds that can have a six foot wing span.
When the birds are grown they are placed in a two acre fenced area with one wing tied so they can't fly.  This allows them to have contact with other residents and become acquainted.
The cranes are known for their dancing behavior.  They look a lot like a bunch of teenagers strutting their stuff.
After a few days their wings are untied and they are able to fly away.  The group we saw were all at that stage of their release and they were still staying in the pen.
One crane that suddenly seemed to realize it could fly, very neat.  These birds do not migrate and will be residents of the refuge.
Some other birds we saw from the blind.  Thanks to Ron and Linda for the personal tour of the refuge.  They have volunteered at several during their time on the road and now we see why they love it so much.
Welcome to Florida.  We are looking forward to warmer weather.  I turned on the turn signal when we crossed the state line and intend to leave it on all winter so I will fit in.
The next place we checked out was Panama City Beach.  We stayed at St. Andrews State Park and had this wonderful view of the water.
The days were warm, but not enough for a swim even though the clear water looked inviting.
One of the things we love about Florida at Christmastime is the decorated boats.  We missed most of the boat parade in PCB but got this picture of one at the dock.
From PCB we took two days to drive to Apopka to see Judy and Bill.  We stayed off the Interstates and enjoyed the trip through the north Florida forests.  We stayed at Kelly Park in Apopka, a county park with a warm water spring.  For most of  the stay we were the only people in the campground.  Even though we are real close to the busy Orlando area the park is loaded with wildlife.  We saw turkeys, deer, and even a black bear running through the woods.  How cool we have seen bears from Alaska to Florida this year.
Our first night we drove to Mt. Dora for dinner.  This is an old Florida town that goes all out for Christmas.  They even bring in snow for the kids on light up night.
The musical Christmas tree is one of my favorites.  It flashes different colors to the carols.
The second evening after dinner and Nanc's sister's we played cards with Wes and Sharon who we met here on earlier visits.  They went away the big winners.
Judy and Bill are all ready for Christmas.  One of the great things about our travel schedule is that we have gotten to spend time with them every year we have come to Florida for the winter.  And speaking of Christmas, we would like to send warm wishes to all of our blog readers for a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year. 

1 comment:

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Kelly Park in Apoka, Have to remember that one.