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Parrottrek Journal 2009

February 23rd - Our Cross Country Trip Begins! - Starting Point: Phoenix, Arizona -
Yes, this is the day we have been waiting for. The day that we get to drive more than a few hundred miles in one sitting. The day that we get to sit back and watch the pretty views of multiple states slowly pass by our windows. The only day better than today, will be the day we arrive at our place in Florida and, if all goes as planned, that day and time should be Wednesday at noon. But in the meantime, we'll bring you along with us on this fun drive with updates and photos every few hours over the next couple days. It should be fun!

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The drive to Florida began this morning at 3:32 as we left Chandler, Arizona. Odometer reading - 221642 - mile marker 160 on Highway 10 - Arizona. A few hours later we were treated to a beautiful sunrise.

7:20 am - Mountain Time - odometer reading 221855 mile marker 15 - New Mexico. As we drove this morning we saw 100's of abandoned rail cars just parked along the tracks due to the decline in the country's shipping.

9:45 am - odometer reading 222018 - mile marker 0 - Highway 10 - Texas. Two states down and one loooong one to go for the day. We are surrounded on all sides by cows, which I personally love to watch.

3:28 - Central Time - odometer reading - 222276 - mile marker 259 - Texas - The birds were getting a little antsy so the 4 of us had craft time, while Frank drove, and made new toys with rope and blocks.

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Later this same evening ... ... ...

9:36pm - odometer reading - 222632 - rest stop at mile marker 618 - Since the driver's seat is empty, it's safe to assume that we have stopped for the night. We are at a very nice rest stop here in Texas. We drove a total of 990 miles, too bad the rest stop wasn't 10 miles further down the road since we've never driven 1,000 miles in one day, but today's recorded mileage is our newest record.

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6:34pm - odometer reading - 222485 - mile marker 468 - Highway 10 - Texas - It's been a very scenic day and pretty cool to think we watched the sun rise in one state and the sun set in another. I forget how wide Texas is, until we drive across it each year. Thankfully we will be out of it tomorrow.

990 miles down... ... 1,188, or so, to go

February 24th - Making Great Time -
Texas is behind us as well as Louisiana, so Mississippi and Alabama are the only things that currently stand in our way of arriving at the Florida state line, which we hope to hit later this afternoon. I can already hear the beautiful, crystal clear Atlantic Ocean calling. We hit a little bit of traffic in Houston this morning, but it's been smooth sailing ever since except for the crappy run down roads of Louisiana.

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6:43 am - odometer reading - 222746 - fuel stop at mile marker 732- Texas. The sun is out, I am awake and we just paid less than 2 bucks a gallon for diesel. This is the lowest price diesel has been since we started our travels back in 2005. Yahooooooo!!

9:30 am - odometer reading 222894 - mile marker 1- Highway 10 in Louisiana. I apologize for the bugs on the windshield that obscure the view of the sign, but it was too dark this morning for Frank to clean the windshield. The waterways here are vast, numerous and very green.

4:25 am - Central Time - odometer reading - 222634 - leaving the rest area. Antsy Frank is starting to drive. The above picture? The back of my eyelids. It's way too early to compose a sentence... Cody and I are going back to sleep. Zzzzzzzzz.

2:11 pm- odometer reading - 223176 - Finally out of Louisiana - To avoid the lovely grass growing roads above, this picture was taken in 2006 and extremely bumpy, we took a short cut around New Orleans and enjoyed a slightly, smoother ride over the water on Highway 12, below.

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3:50 pm - odometer reading - 223288 - WE MADE IT, WE MADE IT!!! Okay, so we still have a couple hundred miles to go until we hit the sunny coast of home, but at least we are in the state. Florida not only has the best beaches in the good ol' USA, it also has the smoothest roads, which makes happy drivers and occupants!

Hold your breath because this tunnel in Alabama goes under the ocean.

February 25th - Home Sweet Home - The Great Outdoors, Titusville, Florida -
We're here and it's fabulous. We planned on arriving around noon today, but to our delightful surprise we pulled into our driveway at 9:52 am. Once we arrived, Frank cleaned the country length film of dirt off the motorhome, inside and out, yes ladies he's a keeper since he LOVES to clean the house. He also cleaned the Jeep, cleaned and fixed up all the things around the lot that needed to be fixed while I did about 8 loads of laundry. Thank God for the laundry room here where they have unlimited spanking clean machines, so 8 loads of laundry are done in the time of just a couple. Once all was clean, tidy and put away we headed out for a bike ride with the birds to let them stretch their wings while we visited some neighbors and took a couple laps around to see if anything had changed around the resort. Read below about our adventurous, and thankfully uneventful, trip to get here.

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February 26th - Fire Watch-
Over the fence from our nature trail are acres and acres of open forest without any homes, so every three years or so they have a controlled burn in those woods in order to keep all of us, with homes, on the other side of the fence, safe. We've never been here during the previous burns, nor have either of us ever been this close to a fire, controlled or otherwise, so it was a little nerve wracking to say the least. The flames were just a few feet from our neighbors homes across the street, but the forestry service was right on top of any stray flames.

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Who needs a bar-b-que tonight?

A rainbow in the clouds

The firemen would cruise back and forth on their quads, one with an accelerant to burn where they wanted, and they other with a hose to calm down the flames when the snuck up too close to the property lines. It was quite a production to watch. Aside from a few charred palm trees, the views into the St. John's Forest are now better than ever, and the wild turkeys and deer are still alive and cruising around, which makes me very happy since I was a bit concerned about their welfare since we had received an e-mail notifying us about the up and coming fire and I was pretty sure they hadn't gotten the memo.

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The Manor, houses parties and movies

The cafe, where we had breakfast this morning

TGO's church, look close at the cross

Our ever faithful hawk watches over the church

February 26th - FAQ's about The Great Outdoors -
We have had many many questions about what kind of place The Great Outdoors, Golf and RV Resort is. It's an amazing place, but very hard to explain unless you see it live and in person... ... so here goes our best attempt at explaining it to those who haven't been here, yes I will add as many photos as possible. The Great Outdoors is a 3,000 acre nature preserve that has about 1,000 acres of home sites. Each of these sites are privately owned, by people such as Frank and I. The lots vary in size from a simple lot where you can build a quaint 1,000 square foot 'Florida Home' which translates to half house and half patio/ screened in house. These screen rooms, with a full roof, are wonderful to hang out in in any weather because they make it feel as though you are still outside. Other lots are large enough to build a home that can range in size from 1300 - 4200 square feet, far too large for my liking, but some people do build all the way up to 4,200 sq ft, and boy are they gorgeous! All the streets here are nicely spread throughout the acreage, so it never looks as though you have too many neighbors on a visual level. Also nestled in the 3,000 acres is a beautiful church that seats about 500, The Plantation House, a great restaurant, The Manor where they have all sorts of things such as movie night, yoga, concerts, bingo, dances, dance lessons, book signings, talent shows, fashion shows, potlucks, ... ...etc... etc... We also have a cafe and grocery store, two enormous pools and jacuzzis, a fabulous workout room, full mail facility, a bank, Hobbyland, which each night of the week, if one so desires, you can learn a new craft or hang out and work on your current craft. This week the 'Hookers', which is what the funny ladies have knick-named themselves, are knitting hats for the local cancer patients, such an awesome thing to do! We also have a golf cart sales and service place, since about 80% of the residents use these as a get around vehicle. There is also a RV sales and service lot, storage facility, dog park, tennis courts, full 18 hole golf course, shuffleboard courts, 6 miles of nature trails to walk or bike through and many other amenities. Most importantly all of this is located just a few miles from the beautiful Atlantic Ocean with it's white sandy beaches and clear blue green waters. It pretty much feels like you are always on vacation here with so much to do and you can do as little as you want, or as much as you want.

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Riverside Bank, with a golf cart drive-up window

Eagle's Pride golf cart sales and service

beautiful turtles on the nature trail

A Blue Heron in our backyard lake

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The basket that mounts on my bike, along with a few odds and ends at Home Depot

A little measuring, improvising and cutting and what do you get? ... ...

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February 28th - Basket Weaving 101 -
Abbey loves going on our daily bike rides but she's not a big fan of being out in the open, so she crawls inside her little black box on my handle bars. These last few days she has attempted to be more brave, once we are in the sunshine, but since she's a little flighty at times it makes me nervous not having her inside a protective barrier. Today, Frank and I decided to draw up our own creation of keeping her in the sun and protected at the same time. First stop, Home Depot. Second stop, the picnic table, where we constructed a suitable cage that fits in the basket on the front of my bike. She was a little nervous at first, but after a couple times around the block she felt right and home

A safe place to watch alligators from. Can you see him across the lake?

A perfectly sized, protective yet airy cage for little Miss Abbey

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The new Nature Center being built

An addition on the church

A trip to the Post Office

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It started out a civil, friendly game

...but once the boys began to get behind

it turned a little less friendly...

no worries, happiness was later restored

March 4th - Pegs, Jokers, a Bottle of Banana Rum and Other Friends -
What started out as an idea of a friend of a friend, has turned into a very fun and popular game. Not quite Milton Bradley popular, but maybe someday. It's called Pegs and Jokers and is sort of a team against team version of the classic game Sorry, with a twist, and a deck of cards for each player. Rick and LaVerne drove over from Kissimmee and joined us at Tom and Coni's house, which is just a couple blocks away from us here at The Great Outdoors. The six of us met a few years back at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri and have kept in touch ever since, which has been even easier since Tom and Coni also own a place here and spend about 5 months a year in Florida. We spent the day bar-b-queing, enjoyed some Malibu banana rum and then played the game, where only a few fists were thrown. We girls were victorious in the first game, and as soon as it was apparent that we were going to be victorious in the second game, Tom flipped the entire board upside down and called it a tie.

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Our favorite place to alligator watch

A funny white bird digs for worms

Turkey vultures share a fish

There's no place like home

March 6th - Quicker than the Blink of an Eye... ... or at Least a Camera Lens -
Over the past couple weeks, whether we were on a bike ride, sitting out back, walking along the nature trail, driving to the beach, or Wal-Mart for that matter, sitting at the lake or by the pool, we have seen so many great things before it even hit me to pick up the camera and take a shot, or if I did then the scene was gone even quicker than it had come. Last week we saw a flock of wild turkeys scatter through the forest, the other day a bald eagle soared over us, this morning a flock of butterflies fluttered along with us on our bike ride, while the friendly neighborhood alligator sunned himself along the banks of the river and dove in before I caught him on film. Maybe someday someone will invent a camera that attaches to your sunglasses and clicks away as fast as one can blink and of course would know just what I want to snap a picture of and what I don't. Hey, a girl can dream. I did get a few shots of the less than speedy animals that live around us, however, most of them were having lunch, or searching for it and didn't seem to even notice us.

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March 8th - A Morning Bike Ride -
Our average day here involves at least one bike ride, if not two, usually each around 10 miles long. Our birds love being outside and pretty much cry for more once the ride is done. As we rode around today, we noticed a nest high in the one of our neighbor's trees. Once we stopped, we noticed that there was only one inhabitant in the nest. Since it is still the cusp of Springtime, yes we are very thankful for the wonderful Spring weather, we realized that the momma was still sitting on eggs.

Frank and Cody serenade us...

... ... as a vulture looks for scraps

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No luck for the vulture, because this hungry bird cleans up her plate and basks in the wonderful sunshine to dry off

Charlie is still safe and sound

Every so often, we could hear her yelling to her mate that she was pretty darn hungry and he better do something about it, and FAST! Moments later a beautiful hawk arrived with some sort of morsel in his beak. Her screaming quickly stopped and we watched her enjoy her lunch, however once the male took off, Cody was sure he was next on the menu and began to get very nervous and clung to Frank, so we peddled away to prevent him from being too scared. Later on our ride we ran into Casey, Cody's long time love of The Great Outdoors and her older sister, Ziggy, a beautiful amazon. Once we arrived home, after checking in to see if Charlie, our neighborhood alligator was still around, Frank and Cody played the guitar by the lake as another member of the wild bird family enjoyed a meal. I'm not quite sure what type of feathered friend he is, but his blue is the most beautiful color I've ever seen on a large wild bird. He kept soaring over the lake, back and forth and back and forth, until he finally plunged in, grabbed a fish, swam to shore and quickly consumed it. Moments later he was on the shoreline, wings spread wide, drying himself off, as some type of vulture sat in the tree high above looking for any part of the fish our swimming blue friend may have left behind. I tell you, I can never get enough of the wildlife here and am sad to think we have to leave in just a few short days.

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A1A goes all the way to the Keys, but today we only went as far as Daytona

Once we arrived, we drove all along the beautiful beach, scoping out a fun place to stop

The beach is nice and quiet on weekdays

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March 9th - Driving on Daytona Beach -
We awoke to another gorgeous day, so what better to do than head to the beach. Daytona Beach is about 30 minutes from us and very different from the private beach we have just up the road, where you rarely see another soul aside from fishermen. Here you can drive your car on the sand, walk out on the pier, rent chairs or umbrellas or even a quad and ride all around. We drove up and down the white sand for about an hour and then found a great little restaurant at the end of the pier, had lunch and then found a nice quiet spot on the sand to park the Jeep, splash in the waves and read in the sun.

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We walked to the end of the pier...

... and stopped off for fish and chips

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The water here is so clean and clear

Our only neighbors in sight

Parking was wide open and close

We slowly made our way back down the beach

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The hawk nest from a distance

A close up shot of momma

Our birds cry for another lap

Casey, Cody and Ziggy

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Camped just steps from the water

Sleeping pelicans on the nearby dock

The views to the right

The views to the left

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March 17th - Happy St. Patrick's Day -
Port St. Joe, Florida, a quaint out of the way port right on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, is our place of relaxation for the next three days or so, along with some friends. There is so much wildlife around us to watch and enjoy, along with beautiful views, that we decided to blow up the kayak and head out into the Gulf. We discovered that the water is very shallow, which made for some great fish and crab watching. There is a little island about a half mile out that we were tempted to check out, but with the tide going out so strongly, we weren't sure how long it would take to get back and we wanted to go to dinner before the sun set. With today being St. Patrick's Day, and noticing on the brochure from the campground that there is a restaurant named O'Malley's just up the road, the eight of us decided that we would walk there for dinner and enjoy some green beer. Making sure it wasn't too far, the guys jumped in the Jeep to check out it's proximity and came to find that it's closed on Tuesday nights. Explain that one! An Irish pub closed on St. Patrick's Day... ... very odd. I would have thought they might make an exception for this Tuesday night, but no such luck. Since none of us wanted to cook, we ordered a bunch of pizza, put a slice of lime in our drinks, since we didn't have any green food coloring, and enjoyed a very pretty sunset in our lounge chairs.

Natural shade provided for us

Fishing for dinner in the reeds

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Once the kayak was inflated... ...

... ... we headed out to sea

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Even Cody enjoyed the sunset

The fishing bird flies home at dusk

A perfect place for a hammock

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Beautiful ocean front property

March 18th - An Ocean Safari -
This morning we took a ride around the town of Port St. Joe and to the other side of the jetty. We came across lots of white sandy beaches and various walking trails leading to others. We even found a piece of ocean front property for sale with nothing on it but sand and beautiful waves. Considering all the homes around here are built on stilts, this isn't a place I would trust to build a home and have it stand too long. That's the down side of the Gulf Coast, hurricanes. We will stick to the fairly safe Atlantic side. Once we returned home, we took a walk around the docks and found even more sea life.

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The lumps on his back show that he is growing

Hermit crabs on the ocean floor

Swimming alongside the dock was the tinniest sea turtle imaginable, but boy was he speedy. The first few pictures I took, you couldn't tell his size, or lack thereof, so I snapped a picture with him and my big toe to show just how tiny he was. In the clear waters we could see dozens and dozens of hermit crabs in all sorts of different shells and even a few hard shell crabs. I kept waiting for them to come to the surface, but apparently they can hold their breath for an eternity. On top of the pier was a relaxed pelican, watching us crazy humans get so intrigued by boring crabs, that I guarantee he would have rather eaten than just observe.

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I think I'm becoming obsessed with sunsets.

How the lighthouse looks today

The very well built oil shed

The beautiful rebuilt tower

Cape San Blas Lighthouse -
Just up the road from the campground stands a lighthouse that was built back in 1848, only to be lost in a gale storm in 1851. The picture to the left is what it originally looked like, made of brick. In March of 1857 the lighthouse was rebuilt, again, made with wood and brick. The lighthouse was then lost during the Civil War, this time being burned down and destroyed by Union soldiers. In 1883, with funds from Congress, the structure was rebuilt once more. This time out of iron and placed 1,500 feet from the breaking waves. Guess what happened? Yep, the water quickly began to move closer and closer to the lighthouse until only a mere 144 feet of sand stood between it and the Gulf of Mexico. The locals realized that it needed to be moved further away from the water, but they didn't move it quick enough because a hurricane hit it in 1916, damaging the iron skeleton. Finally in 1918 the Cape San Blas Lighthouse was moved a quarter of a mile from the shore, rebuilt with a stronger skeleton and hasn't been damaged since. The brick building that stored the oil to light the lighthouse back in the 1800's still stands today. Unfortunately, the tower is only open on the weekends, so we could only admire it from the land. After our brief tour, we headed back to camp to enjoy yet another breathtaking sunset. No matter how many I see, or what state we are in, they are still one of my favorite things to witness.

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The original lighthouse

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Our adventure begins

The island off in the distance

Hooray! We made it without capsizing

The back of the island

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March 19th - Kayaking to an Island in the Gulf
All week long, we have been looking out over the waters here and have been admiring a little island that appeared to be about a mile away by sea, so today we decided to climb aboard our mighty vessel, aka our handy inflatable kayak, and set out to sea. Actually we could have walked to the island due to the shallow water, but the story sounds more exciting if I add some suspense, no? And besides, there are hundreds of crabs all along the ocean floor, some small, others not so small, so walking may have put us at risk at having our toes caught in a not so friendly crab claw.

I bravely explored the island

Frank and our fun kayak

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Heading back to the dock

A slight detour through the trees

A very scared hermit crab

Our very own beach house

We tried to pick up a couple of the bigger crabs, but since we were both too chicken to do it with our hands, we tried to use the oars. The little buggers were so fast that by the time we had our oars under them and began to lift they were about a foot away, so we settled on finding a few slower hermit crabs to examine. The only downside of hermit crabs, is that they crawl inside their shell and close themselves up in hopes that whatever has a grip on them might eat them for lunch.
On our voyage, the tide was coming in, which made for a good workout going to the island, and a relaxing float home. Once we back at the dock, we noticed a bridge that went under the road, so we rowed over to it and found all sorts of fingers of water that lead through trees and bushes. It looked as though we were on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, minus the scary savages and attacking animals of course. Once we got a little deeper into the apparent jungle, we noticed that there were all sorts of stumps around us. Not wanting to sink our craft, we turned back and headed in to the open waters and then headed home after getting a couple pictures of camp from the ocean.

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