Category Archives: Travels in Florida

A travel journal of Florida in the winter of 2015-2016

February 2016 – Marco Island, FL – Peace River, FL – Crystal River, FL

I think I will make multiple updates to a monthly post until I begin doing multiple activities. This way I can make a February post and then update it as adventures develop. So this is my last posting for February. Remember to click on the thumbnail photos for more detail, especially with the Solomon Castle photos.

February 6, 2016

On the first of February I left Lehigh Acres for Marco Island to spend a week with an old friend from Indianapolis, Gene. I helped Gene to create a facebook account and do some other computer stuff before going out on the river to fish in his boat. Unfortunately the boat blew a head gasket and we had to be towed back into the house.

Here are some photos of the house on Marco Island and the unusual fauna. Notice the large Fan Palm tree.

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Cactus blooming in February!

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It is so much better to have these views as I walk outside rather than the snow in Indianapolis! IMG_2586

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A sunset from the dock at the back of Gene’s house in Marco Island.

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We did get to go to the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk in the Everglades near Fakahatchee. These are the photos from the boardwalk.

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 Baby Alligators were at the front of the facility with a momma laying in the water nearby.

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Paula and Gene on the nature hike.

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IMG_2594Gene prepared a 4lb prime rib for Super Bowl Sunday! We watched the game and together shared a wonderful meal. I departed on Monday for Peace River, Wauchula/Zolpho Springs.

On the first day of arrival I found a somewhat dry place to park the RV while I participated in the ‘hookup lottery’. I didn’t get a full hookup on that day and did not attend the drawing on Tuesday.  I met a young couple camped next to me that are traveling the world while home schooling their young daughter. Precocious is the best description of her! On Wednesday I prepared Cubano Tamales and grilled vegetables to share with them. It was a little nippy sitting at the picnic table but all was good!

So here I am all snug in my dry spot with full hookup.

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We have had a bit of a dry spell and as Valentine’s Day approached I began to pull my head out of tax research and paperwork concerning the new RV; insurance and all that jazz.  For Valentine’s Day I wrote a couple of short stories and published them to a specific group of young people on facebook. It seems they were well received, I may do more as time goes on.

The 15th proved to be a great day for kayaking. I joined with two other boats to float 10 miles or so down the Peace River. One family of 4 occupied a canoe and there was a single seater kayak in addition to me. It was great going down the river. Here is the motley crew:

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We only spotted 4 alligators on the way and some turtles. The water is still very high but the trip was well worth it.

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I missed getting a photo of the small alligators so here is Stumpy from the RV Park.

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Each morning I try to ride about 4 miles on my bicycle and then spend my afternoons chilling out. On one of my bike rides I found what looks like an armadillo. This little guy wasn’t afraid of me and kept digging for food in what looked like ant beds.

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20 Feb 2016   Pickle Ball, Bingo and Solomon’s Castle

I finally broke down and went to the Bingo games on Wednesday night. I had no idea what to expect so as I walked in I found a table set up with bingo cards and cash. For $5 I got 6 cards and sat down to wait for the beginning of the games. Those around me seemed alert and ready to play. I found that as the games started I was having trouble keeping up with closing off the numbers on my cards with the numbers selected. At each break in the game I would review the board and close off my missed numbers. Finally I win a game with a $10 payout! Best investment I’ve made in years!

I’ve discovered Pickle Ball too. This is a fast paced game similar to Tennis, Ping Pong, Volleyball, Bat mitten, or Racquetball. The rules of play are rather complicated and I’m still learning them. When I can I’ll pick up a paddle and spare pickle balls to practice with and try to become proficient.

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Less than 15 miles away is Solomon’s Castle. A Russian immigrant has created a Castle in the Florida wetlands using newsprint aluminum sheets as the outside medium. He has also created 80 stained glass windows and the castle hosts hundreds of creations by renowned artist Howard Solomon. Mr. Solomon was not home during our visit but the man is a genius using scraps to create art. I’ve taken a multitude of pictures and will try to comment on them as I can. The tour guides used a script created by Howard Solomon that was full of pundits and humorous quips. I should have had a tape recorder to catch all the nuances.

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We purchased tickets ($10) and found that our tour wasn’t scheduled for another 45 minutes. This gave us time to visit the ‘Boat in the Moat’ Restaurant. The food was good but the service was horrible. If we had not grabbed a waitress, during an infrequent visit to our area on the patio, we would not have been able to order. It was well over 40 minutes before we received our sandwiches. We never received a check and finally went to the cashier in the gift shop and told her what we ate in order to pay! My recommendation is that you don’t go anywhere near the lunch hour but I do recommend you go for lunch and sit in the patio area between the boat and the lighthouse to enjoy the live music and atmosphere.

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Entering the Castle grounds we found these beautiful red fluffy flowers. Much like a dandelion the red powder-puff flower captivated our attention.

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Air plants grow everywhere in Florida. Even the Spanish moss is an air plant much like an orchid is an air plant.

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Our first sighting of the Castle is an almost blinding experience. The sun beaming off of the aluminum printing sheets makes it difficult to look at the castle from certain angles.

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The stained glass windows in the first level of the lighthouse.

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This is our talented host and narrator for our tour of the Castle. Her efforts were worth the cost of admission. Look closely at each of the photos that follow as each of the pictures hanging on the wall are created from wood. Each of the items you see are made from scrap metal items ranging from exhaust pipes, to watch gears.

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The Giraffe and other animals in the background are made from clothes hangers.

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This is an actual tortoise shell. Notice the wig at the bottom. So this piece is labeled the ‘Tortoise and the Hair’.

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Notice the detail on these train pieces. The following photo shows their relative size.

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Notice the floor. It is actually a cement floor that was ‘stamp painted’. This means a shaped sponge/paint brush was used to ‘stamp’ the design on the floor. This was done elsewhere on the grounds to good effect.

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The first piece Howard created was at the age of 4 and is a car pulling a trailer. The wheels were made from his mother’s sewing spools.

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As we began to depart the creations in the yard caught our eye. Not only was there hidden gems in the gardens but the gardens themselves revealed unusual plants.

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At the end of the nature walk we encountered the ‘fence’ with a mural on the side of the building.

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Then we celebrated Mardi Gras at the camp ground! Bring your shrimp, sausage, veggies and place the in a cheese cloth bag to be boiled in the special spices. Yum

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Denny and Diane created for me custom made sun shades that will keep out 95% of he sun, heat and light. Suction cups hold the material on the front window as well as both car doors. Denny even bought a copy of Sandbox to Sandbox.IMG_2712

Feb 22 – Feb 29

I arrived at the Crystal Isles RV Park on the Crystal River and was able to obtain reservations that carries me to March 8th. In discussing Afghanistan I agreed to conduct a 30-60 minute talk on my experiences in Kabul with the NATO and Combined Military commands.

Rain, wind and chilly temperatures kept me inside for a couple of the days but on Friday I was able to go crabbing for my dinner! Alas I didn’t get any crabs and settled for salmon and grilled veggies.

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I’ve begun the rewrite of my book ‘Sandbox to Sandbox’ to include some old pictures and to make the book read better in a more chronological way. At the end I’ll include a few Afghan adventures but the Afghan Journals continue to support those years of my life.

January 2016 Peace River, FL – Lehigh Acres, FL

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I returned to Peace River on the 30th and spent New Year’s Eve in my RV talking with Dawn, a friend living at Peace River RV Resort. That was better than a party!

I spent the first weeks of January working on the Afghan Journals trilogy covering the years 2011-2014. I was able to publish all three in both paperback and kindle ebook versions. I am happy that the library of congress with have my view of this time in history and if the books sell, then that is a bonus. My most important goal was to get these daily journals in print so that history would be recorded. I’m so glad that I had the foresight to keep a daily journal during my time in Afghanistan.

As we age our ability to pursue some of our hobbies diminishes. Tom has this motorized fishing kayak for sale. Fish finder, pole holders, electric trolling motor and many more accessories make this a steal as he sells it.

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Midmonth I departed Peace River and occupied an RV spot next to a friends’ house that I’ve met during this journey of mine. While here we have celebrated Cindy’s 60th birthday and visited with friends.

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Cindy birthday

Scott and Jane pictured and Cindy shared ‘all you can eat snow crab’ with me at Maria’s

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We went to Marco Island to visit with my old friend Gene

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With my time spent helping around Jane’s house, building this website and finding ways to promote my book ‘Sandbox to Sandbox’ I haven’t had time to get out and shoot my AR or kayak or do much more than ride the bicycle around the neighborhood. Of course all the rain hasn’t helped either.

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A friend provided me with pictures of TT Peace River RV Resort. I’m so glad that I’m sitting on a concrete slab at my friend Jane’s home. Here is a note from Tom:

Well, we certainly had an exciting stay at Thousand Trails Peace River.     Last Sunday was the Tornado that came through about 10 miles away near Duette, FL.  Winds were strong at TT, and we weren’t sure where the tornado was going after it left Siesta Key.  Our phones were quieted and we didn’t get the warning until about an hour after the tornado hit Duette (and killed two).  Our weather radio was off too… so we learned a few lessons for future storm situations!

 Then came the flood… the Peace River overflowed its banks and flooded 1/3 of the lower campground… stranding several rigs in water up to their doors.  The water came up to within 10 feet of our campsite… we and many others were all of a sudden on the edge of a large lake!… so we requested and got a move to a higher campsite.  All the roads down to the river were covered, and rigs could still get out, but those on the grassy area couldn’t move and had to be pulled out by a large tow-truck.

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Nothing like being bored to make breakfast a better part of your day though!

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We attended a RV show at the Ft Myers Civic Center.

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While there I found a great RV for me. A diesel engine, walk around bed, comfortable living area and storage were all criteria for me. I do believe that I’ve found the right RV for me that I can use and pass onto my kids to use when I’m too old.

Side of RV Floor Plan

Jane and Cindy went to play with the Manatees at the Ft Myers Manatee Park while I worked on getting my website up and running.

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December 2015 Kissimmee, FL – Peace River, FL

After spending 3 wet and rainy weeks in Peace River, Wauchula, FL I left for a friends home in Kissimmee, FL. My concentration during this stay was on my book. Through my friend Jennifer I met Joyce who became my editor (Mimi Coppola). While still in Peace River we would work through the development of my book Sandbox to Sandbox. She is in Germany and I’m in Florida so the morning hours were involved in coordinating actions and the evenings in rewriting.

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Alligator at Peace River

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As I moved to Joyce’s home and parked the RV in the drive I was able to concentrate in the seclusion of this home located on Lake Tohopekaliga.

Kissimmi house

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It was tough to be in this small home by myself and pay attention to anything but the sunrises and sunset on the lake, but someone had to do it!

Honestly though this was a very productive time in collaboration with both Jennifer and Joyce. We were able to put the book together by including Jennifer’s journey and how we are all inter-related. Through the chance meetings and friendships born in Indianapolis 10 years ago to the battlefields of Afghanistan to the New Jersey business meetings to a wonderful woman in Germany – all came together to help me complete the story book of my life.

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I traveled back to Indianapolis to spend the Christmas holidays with my twin daughters and Emily’s boyfriend Devin as the young Army Captain came in from Syracuse, NY. On Christmas Eve we continued a tradition started last year by going to a Korean BBQ at Mamma’s House in Indy. Yummmm.

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Alexis brought good news from Seattle as she has been hired by Covance as a Lab Tech and Emily shared that she has completed a semester at IUPUI towards another degree and received a scholarship and tutorial position with the math department.

I published the kindle version of Sandbox to Sandbox on Christmas Eve! The paperback followed in January.

A few pictures of the Indiana Winter sunsets and moon:

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I returned to Peace River, Wauchula on Dec 30th to escape the cold only to be inundated with the rain again!  Better than snow any day!

Now to get busy and kick out the trilogy of the ‘Afghan Journals’!

18 December 2015

I’ve been receiving Christmas Greetings from my friends so I’m preparing my own to let all of you know what I’ve been doing this year, my first year back from Afghanistan.

Emily and I visited Alexis during the last couple of months in 2014 and assisted her through her surgery. We traveled back to Indianapolis from Seattle in December to enjoy the holidays as a family.

Christmas 2014

Alexis traveled back to Seattle in January and I froze during the winter in Indy and made a commitment to myself that I wouldn’t freeze the next winter!

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Not only did I freeze but I suffered from a mild PTSD from the events in Afghanistan during 2014. I had intended to write a book during the first few months of 2015 based on my daily journal entries covering my 3 and a half years in Kabul, Afghanistan. I found that the house was too lonely, too quiet and I couldn’t write like I wanted to. So in March I purchased a small motorhome and on the first day of Spring I left Indianapolis on a great adventure to heal myself and write my book.

I have always wanted to visit Asheville, NC and the Biltmore estate so that is my first destination. I met with a friend I made on an RV site on facebook and enjoyed a tour of the city and enjoyed my time so much that I booked a week at the Cascade Lake resort where I was able to write 4 chapters in the book.

I then traveled into the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee to Cades Cove for a few nights before continuing onto Sevierville, TN where I met more RV enthusiast.

After a week I left Tennessee for the Washington DC area. First I stayed at the Andrews Air Force Base RV Park as it was convenient to all the sights. The Cherry Blossoms were almost all gone but Gina, a battle buddy from Kabul, took me on a whirlwind tour of the downtown sites to include the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Colonel Ken Rodgers, a battle buddy as well and MG Greene’s Chief of Staff, escorted me to Arlington National Cemetery. We visited our friend and boss Major General Harold Greene’s gravesite as well as our friend and battle buddy Sergeant Major Wardell Turner’s. These two gentlemen will always hold a special place in my heart and the world would be a better place if they were still here. My sincere and heartfelt thanks to Ken Rodgers for taking me there and for allowing me to be present at a dedication ceremony at Aberdeen Proving Grounds for MG Greene.

I visited with Cheryl, another battle buddy from Kabul, and helped around the house and then housesat for her and used this time to put out another large chunk of the book. While here in the Washington DC/Alexandria, VA area I met with my battle buddies from LMI for dinner, I met with other battle buddies at a reunion picnic and even more battle buddies as Maile got married! I stayed at Alex’s house for a couple of days as he was home on R&R from Kabul and even met Norma, John’s better half! Don and I spent some time together enjoying dinners and a tour of Mount Vernon before he left for his next assignment in Hawaii.

By this time I realized I needed to be towing a vehicle behind my motorhome. I wanted the freedom of movement that a ‘toad’ would give me. I returned to Indianapolis in June and purchased a shiny new red Jeep Wrangler before hitting the road for New Jersey.

Jennifer, another battle buddy from Afghanistan, and I spent the last rain soaked weekend of June at a Rib Fest and Music Concert. We had a great time. From New Jersey I departed for Newport, RI where I spent a week with Paul, a battle buddy from Kabul, learning about Newport, RI from a local. By this time I had met enough of my battle buddies that my PTSD was gone and I could continue my journey and complete my book.

Just after July 4th Alexis asked me to return to Seattle as she was to have another surgery and undergo Proton Radiation treatments. Emily had remained with her through 6 months of Chemotherapy and now it was my turn to be with Alexis. I drove the RV across country and while with Alexis as a supporting arm I also enjoyed the Pacific Northwest. I was also able to meet with Eric, another battle buddy from Kabul. Lunch with his family in Anacortes, WA was quite a treat.

Just as Alexis completed her Radiation treatments at the end of September I left Washington to meet Mary Eileen, another battle buddy from Kabul. She joined me for a quick tour of Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons, Little Big Horn, Chief Crazy Horse monument, Mount Rushmore, the Badlands, Rocky Mountain National Park and Denver. She flew back to Washington DC before vacationing in Europe and accepting a new assignment in Montreal.

From Karen’s home in Denver, yep another battle buddy, I went to visit my son in Albuquerque, NM. After some exciting off road driving on the old Route 66 from the 1930’s and the original NM Highway 1 I departed for Dallas, TX. A day of getting the RV examined and a couple of small repairs made I set my GPS on Gulfport, MS to visit Vickie for a week of quiet time to write on the book.

Vickie and I loaded up our RV’s and drove to the Panhandle of Florida to meet up with other RV friends. From Navarre, FL a few of us traveled to Carrabelle, FL and the ‘Ho Hum RV Resort’. After spending a week on the Gulf and purchasing a Kayak we pulled out for Homosassa, FL.

More friends joined us in Homosassa. I stayed for a month enjoying the warmth of Florida, kayaking and biking with friends. Unfortunately on my 63rd birthday I had a bicycle accident and broke a rib on my right side. Not knowing I broke it I went for a weekend trip to the Rainbow River state park kayaking and bicycle riding.

From Homosassa I went to Wauchula, FL and the Peace River. Here I also kayaked, biked and fished until I finally gave in and went to the Florida Hospital where X-Rays revealed that I did in fact have a fractured rib. So I became sedentary, writing on my book and through Jennifer met Joyce who is now the editor of my book. With her support and encouragement there have been many modifications to the book and we are almost ready to publish it.

I have been fortunate this year to enjoy family, friends and I’ve been able to share many memorable meals and sunsets. This has been a wonderful first year of retirement. Next year I will turn the RV toward the Western States to tour Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Oregon. But then, I have no lock on my compass and I may end up in New York or Maine!

November 2015 Homossa, FL – Peace River, FL

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Homosassa, FL has several attractions that makes staying here enjoyable. Tomorrow I am leaving Homosassa to travel to Wauchula, FL where I’ll park my RV on the Peace River for three weeks. Tom Mason and I ride bicycles each morning and try to kayak in the Homosassa River when we can. The Manatees only arrived on the 15th as they are leaving the colder water in the ocean and coming up the rivers to the warmer spring heads throughout Florida. These flowers are seen each morning as we bike ride through the park:

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Homosassa River

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Five of us from the Homosassa River RV Park visited the Riverside Crab House Restaurant for dinner. A small Island visible from the restaurant sported monkeys! Then the sunset from the deck was just awesome. I had ‘Shrimp and Grits’ from the menu. A very spicy but tasty meal!

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We learned of crabbing at Pine Island Beach near Weeki Wachee, Tom loaded all five of us (Tom, Jane, Paula, Tina, Cindy) into his van and we went with the intention of catching dinner.

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Luckily we caught 5 crabs. One crab did indeed fight for its freedom! The crab grabbed hold of my finger and was attempting to crush the bone! That hurt for another day. But once steamed and eaten all was good! Of course the beer to wash the crab down helped too.

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Old town historical Homosassa features a Veterans Memorial as well as the Old Yulee Sugar Mill. There is a park across the street from the old Sugar Mill and next to it is a restaurant/lounge called the ‘Mill’.

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Sugar Mill

Veteran memorial

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On November 12th I celebrated my 63rd birthday starting the day riding a bicycle with a friend. After breakfast I left Homosassa, FL to spend a long weekend in Rainbow Springs State Park. The Rainbow River is the clearest and cleanest river I have ever seen. A couple of days ago Cindy Shannon and I kayaked several miles from the spring head to Swampy’s restaurant where we enjoyed an adult beverage and an early dinner. Being with friends, sharing dinner and having calls from all over the nation wishing me a happy birthday made that a truly awesome day.

Rainbow Springs is now a Florida State Park but at one time it was a zoo and a rodeo. Tarzan scenes were filmed at Crystal Springs and elsewhere, not here but the 60’ falls and head spring pool and waters are an awesome sight to see.

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The Rainbow River is a crystal clear fresh water river that is home to all kinds of birds, fish, otters and turtles.

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Walking the nature trails at the Rainbow State Park Campground found us some interesting plants.

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And these two ladies (Patti and Cindy) are showing us how to scare a Florida Black Bear!

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Each evening we would gather at Jane’s Motorhome to prepare dinner and talk the night away around the fire.

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Cindy and I finally made it to the Homosassa Wilderness Park that is just a mile or so down the road from us. It is a zoo type environment for rescued animals.

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These Manatees weigh as much as 3,600 pounds! In captivity they eat lettuce but have no way to work off the fat. In the wild a Manatee weighs as much as 1,500 pounds. We watched as volunteers scrubbed the algae off of each Manatee. In the wild the algae that grows on a manatee while they are in fresh water is killed when the Manatee returns to the salt water of the ocean. The barnacles that collect on their skin is naturally removed when the Manatees enter fresh water in the winter. These mammals require warm water to survive.

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Of course no visit to Florida is the same without an alligator or two!

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The resident panther.

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American Bald Eagles

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Red Wolf

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Owls

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Flamingos! What would Florida be without the Pink Flamingo?

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Now onto the Peace River in and around Wauchula, Florida!

18 November 2015

I drove a couple of hours south of Homosassa to arrive at Wauchula and the banks of the Peace River! Cindy Bulechek and I visited Peace River to hunt for Megladon teeth in March 2011 and loved this locale!

I initially settled into a spot that I couldn’t quite get level and as I checked into the front office to give my site assignment I learned that I could use the open sites on the river. Yep, jerked up everything and moved lock, stock and barrel to sit on the Peace River where I can launch my kayak directly from where my RV is parked. There are lots of roads here to ride my bike for exercise as I will need breaks as I complete my book while here. I’ll miss traveling with friends, but at least I won’t have any of the drama associated with traveling with others.

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What wonderful view of the Peace River from my campsite!

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I’ll keep a close look out for the alligators and snakes as I go to my own private little beach to fish and launch the kayak!

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The Peace River as seen from my chair in the campsite!

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The campsite is finally set up. Bicycle ready √, Kayak out and ready √, Carpet down and table cloth on √, Awning out and power hooked up √, Cold beer from fridge! √, LIFE IS GOOD!

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20 November 2015

I’ll never tire of being around nature. Each day I’m amazed by the abundance of butterflies, birds, flowers, green trees of all kinds – Palm trees, large pine trees covered with hanging moss. I was able to prepare one of my favorite meals, Korean Kalbi BBQ Ribs and grilled veggies!

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The Thousand Trails RV Resort at Peace River is a beautiful park with lots of color.

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Today I chose to kayak on the Peace River and then to hunt for fossils. The absolute peacefulness is difficult to explain as I paddled up river for an hour and a half against the strong current of the river. The 20 minute ride back to my campsite was surreal as I was able to capture some photos.

Floating down the river I have an ‘other world’ sensation as if I am in a prehistoric place, waiting for the Jurassic Park effect of ancient reptiles to emerge from the murky waters of the Peace River! Now if the waters of the Peace River were as crystal clear as the Rainbow River all would be better!

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And then I see my campsite!

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The view from my campsite!

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21 November 2015

A day of learning for me! Carl, an old time fisherman from the RV Park is an older tall lanky man with an unknown accent. He comes through my campsite on his way to the Peace River and his favorite fishing spot. I was fishing on the small beach just below my campsite and there was a fisherman in a kayak just across the river and across from the location Carl had gone.

Carl’s favorite fishing hole is a place where the water is still on the outside corner of a bend in the River. He has to fish from a muddy shore where someone has placed a board to give some ground support. I keep hearing ‘I got another one’ over and over. As the Kayak fisherman is leaving, empty handed, he tells me that the fish are only biting where the water is calm.

Carl finally finishes his day of fishing and as he approaches me he tells me with his broken English that he has too many fish. I ask him what kind of fish he has caught. He tells me that he has caught many Tilapia. I thought Tilapia was some kind of exotic South American or Hawaiian fish. I see Tilapia on the restaurant menus and in the stores but always pass them by as I have little experience grilling fish other than Salmon.

He is lugging a 5 gallon bucket of water with his fish, a chair and a large tackle box. I offer him a ride, he tells me he is muddy and I tell him that is what a Jeep is all about and I drive him to his RV site where he lives year round.

I have a couple from St. Petersburg, FL tent camping a couple of sites down from me. This young couple take their fishing poles and radio to my little beach and set up shop to fish. I already have my fishing pole prepared and while I only have red worms instead of night crawlers I head to Carl’s fishing spot. Once there I balance myself on the board in the mud and cast out my line. I lose the bait a couple of times until I learn how to judge when I have a bite on the line. I finally catch a very large Tilapia that I am able to bring onto the muddy tree lined shore. It is here that I lose him! He has broken my line and is sporting the hook in his upper jaw. He begins to flop around and I let him go into the water rather than wrestle with him in the mud.

I notice that there are lots of bubbles coming up to the surface and that they are moving away from me and my now lost fish toward the other side of this calm bay. When the bubbles stop I notice the nostrils of a large alligator pointing toward me just 20 or so feet from me. I cast out my line a couple of times but then give up the ghost and leave the alligator to the fish!

Later Carl rides up on his bicycle and brings me his largest fish stating that he has cleaned them all and shared them with his friends.

Little does Carl realize that he has opened Pandora’s Box! With this huge headless fish in my refrigerator I go where we all go to find answers in today’s world – GOOGLE. Yep, I watched YouTube videos on how to clean and fillet Tilapia and then the different methods of grilling and baking. What do I have to lose? So I get out Carl’s Tilapia and begin to fillet it. I don’t have a fillet knife but I’m able to do a decent job on this fish. I’m looking forward to placing these two fillets of Tilapia on the grill tonight. A little olive oil, Penzy Fish seasoning and a little Garlic powder should do the trick.

My tent camping neighbors were still fishing on my beach and I told them about the alligator. As we looked out, we see that the alligator is about 6 feet long and is moving away from the bay. So this couple go to Carl’s fishing spot and catch three good sized Tilapia that they give to me. Yep, I’ve cleaned and filleted them for a shared dinner.

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Dinner was rained out and we tentatively plan on a lunch of fish and grilled veggies for tomorrow. I can hardly wait! I’ve not cleaned my own fish and filleted them before. Another new experience.

23 November 2015

This is Thanksgiving week and my face book page brought up a memory of me in Camp Eggers in 2012 celebrating Thanksgiving with Mario Sto Domingo and Mark Farrar. So much has happened since then that I want to express my thankfulness for all that has happened in this past year.

This time last year, 2014, I was in Seattle with both of my daughters after returning from Kabul, Afghanistan in October. Emily and I made a cross country drive from Indianapolis with a stop in Albuquerque to visit my son Jeff. Alexis had been diagnosed with breast cancer just days after her 29th birthday for the second time and was scheduled for surgery to remove the tumors. The surgery was successful and after her port was put in place we departed Seattle for Indianapolis where we all could share the Christmas Holidays.

I am so thankful for the support from so very many people. Financially Alexis was devastated and received such generous support through her gofundme website: https://www.gofundme.com/Alexiskc as well as from checks sent directly to her.

While I am thankful for her recovery through the surgery, chemotherapy and radiation I am most thankful for her twin sister Emily. Emily proved to be such a strong and valuable care provider for Alexis that I was able to reach out and overcome the PTSD that I was experiencing from Afghanistan. Emily remained with Alexis in Seattle, putting her life on hold, to care for Alexis as she underwent months of chemotherapy.

I am thankful for the strength of my niece Robin as she battles a Chronic Pancreatic disease that has drained the strength from her but has renewed a spirit that makes her such an amazing role model for others suffering digestive diseases.

I am thankful for those who supported me as I searched for inner peace after 3+ years in Afghanistan. Colonel Ken Rodgers, Major General Harold Greene’s chief of staff in Kabul, joined me at Arlington National Cemetery to pay respects to our ‘boss’ and friend Harold Greene. I was honored to sit in the grass by the General’s gravesite and be able to share stories of our relationship with this wonderful leader and man. We visited Sergeant Major Wardell Turner’s gravesite as well to honor two of the nicest and effective leaders I’ve had the privilege to work with.

Ken Rodgers also invited me to attend a memorial dedication ceremony at Aberdeen Proving Grounds where he and MG Greene worked together prior to Afghanistan. It was there that I met Sue Meyers, MG Greene’s wife. I was privileged to share a few moments with her telling her of my experiences with the General and how he inspired everyone he met.

I am thankful to the other ‘battle buddies’ for their contributions in my journey of healing. Gina Parker took me to the sites in Wash DC and the Vietnam Wall memorial.

My LMI co-workers had a mini reunion also – Thanks Amanda McDaniel.

Cheryl Korver and I explored historic Virginia and I housesat with her rescued dog for a couple of weeks while working on my book.

Don Sheehan and I shared a few meals and I met some of his family and friends. Don and I explored Mount Vernon together and enjoyed learning the history of George Washington from his home.

Dana Pennell, Maile Parker, John Gruehl, Liz Grahm, Don Sheehan and others met for a mini reunion of those that worked together at the Nato Training Mission/Combined Security Training Command in Kabul, Afghanistan and Camp Eggers.

I was present at Maile’s wedding and met even more battle buddies from Camp Eggers.

Alex Chowdhury welcomed me into his home and reunited me with John Gruehl and I finally met Norma, John’s wife.

Jennifer Long and I explored off-roading in my Jeep at a New Jersey state park while spending a long festival weekend together. Paul Saunders showed me the Newport, RI that he grew up in and honored me with his wife as we celebrated the 4th of July.

I am thankful for the communications with the leadership from Kabul. Mark Peterson, Todd Schafer, MG Semonite and others.

All of these associations helped me to overcome the extreme grief I was experiencing after my friend and boss, Harold Greene was killed in action. Wardell Turner and Chaps helped me through the next couple of difficult months in Kabul and then on Thanksgiving, 2014 SGM Wardell Turner was killed by a Taliban IED.

I’m thankful that I have been given the opportunity to travel the United States and experience firsthand the beauty of our great nation. I have met many fellow travelers wishing to maximize their appreciation for this country we call home. I continue to meet with other battle buddies in my travels – Eric Mehler in Anacortes, Washington, Mary Eileen Earl traveled with me for 10 wonderful days as we visited Yellowstone Nat Park, Grand Tetons, Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore, Badlands, Rocky Mountain Nat Park and Denver. Karen Reed and her family hosted me and showed Mary Eileen and me the best parts of the Rocky Mountain Nat Park.

I am so very Thankful that I am an American, that I can freely travel the roads of adventure within the borders of this diverse and wonderful nation. The world is at war with terrorism and nowhere seems to be safe. I have armed myself and I’m prepared to help protect the homeland on our own soil if it is necessary. I’m hopeful that our government leaders will make the decisions necessary to protect the citizenry of the United States and build upon our way of life, re-establishing the values and lifestyle that made us a great nation in the past. In my humble opinion America has deteriorated in the past several years and the patriotism and work ethic that built this great country must be found again within the hearts and minds of us all. GOD BLESS AMERICA!

29 November 2015

Thanksgiving has come and gone. The campers that came to the Peace River RV Resort for the holiday weekend are packing up today and departing. It will be nice to have some of the quiet and solitude back.

I finally broke down and visited the doctor. On my birthday I stopped too quickly while on an early morning bike ride which caused me to fall on my right side where I rolled on the ground to prevent scrapes. I decided to visit the doctor because as the pain has subsided and I have stopped my physical activities of biking and kayaking, I have a ‘gurgle’ in my lungs when I bend over and I still have a shooting pain when putting pressure on my left arm. So I learn that I have ‘Displaced right seventh rib fracture laterally’. I’m not certain what th at means other than I have a broken rib. Apparently there is nothing to do for it but to take it easy so that is what I’m doing.

I grilled three batches of veggies to for my side dish on Thanksgiving and this crowd seemed to have enjoyed it!

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I did visit the Pioneer Park, Cracker Trail Museum just a mile or so down the road.

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Unfortunately it was closed but I was able to walk around and see the buildings that have been located on the grounds.

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Train

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There is also a Wildlife Refuge park on the grounds.

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I think this is supposed to be a scorpion but I’m not sure!

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As the Peace River is going down after all the rains I’m hopeful to go fishing for Tilapia today. There are snakes and a 6’ alligator at my fishing spot so the water has to be down enough to be safe! But the sunshine is out, there is only a slight breeze and it is to be 81 degrees today.