Thursday, November 22, 2007





I have decided that I really can’t continue on the rest of my journey around North America without a fully operational refrigerator, so I have made an appointment for today with a company recommended by Dick Allam, the manager of Florilow Oaks Campground. Although I am feeling feverish and coughing a lot, I did not want to miss the appointment.

Save A Buck RV Repair is a family owned and operated small business that specializes in repairs to RV’s and is located in Floral City, about twenty miles away from Florilow Oaks campground in Bushnell. When I arrived at 8:00 a.m., I was greeted by the owners and invited to sit in the office while the husband (I can’t remember his name!!) assessed the situation. After reading a magazine or two and watching “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” on their TV, he confirmed what I had suspected. It was not worth spending any more money on the old refrigerator. So, I was faced with a decision. Make do and limp along with what I have or bite the bullet and order a new one which will cost $1,500. Well, that’s what credit cards are for!

The lady in the office was very friendly, and we talked about real estate in the county. She told me that many people are losing their homes because they can’t afford to pay the taxes which have been increased to unreasonable amounts. For instance, a house in a nearby town originally had taxes of $1,700, but when the owner sold it, the taxes rose to $4,500. Mortgage companies loaned money to potential buyers, who now find themselves unable to pay and consequently find themselves foreclosed.

I had also asked the mechanic to look at the hot water system. The heater heats up but then shuts down and all I get is cold water. He fixed the problem with a new shut-off valve installed under the sink in no time, so now I have hot water whenever I need it.

While I was waiting, I took Ripley for a walk down the side streets, but we ran into two snarly dogs (a Pug and a Pekinese who came charging across their lawn and over to Ripley. They didn’t hurt her, but they were certainly trying to put her in her place, even though she wasn’t on their property!

I had originally asked the people at Save A Buck to do a tune-up on the RV too, but their mechanic recently had heart surgery and was not working. They did recommend Dennis Automotive, also in Floral City, so I called and made an appointment for Thursday. Philippa has had little care since I left Toronto and is badly in need of some attention.

So, the refrigerator will be here on Wednesday and I will return again at 8:00 on that day.

Time to do something about my cell phone that doesn’t work properly. I tried to exchange it at Wal Mart, just as the service rep from Tracfone had instructed me, but they refused to accept it unless I had the receipt and the original packaging. Since I had bought it back in Maine, of course I did not have the original packaging. So, no luck.

I did get some hanging compartments to help make the storage area in the R.V. more efficient, including a shoe bag and broom holder.

I had passed Sonny’s BBQ and decided to try some for a take-out lunch. Delicious smoky BBQ ribs, french fries, baked beans and cornbread for $7. And enough for a second meal.

I got back in time to join everyone for Happy Hour around the campfire at 4:00. The park is almost full now that many have returned from the rally up in Ocala. It was pleasant to sit around and chat with various people about home towns and other topics.

Campsite at Florilow Oaks with Ripley

This is Veterans Day in the USA – similar to our Remembrance Day, and the social group arranged a very nice ceremony at 7:00 p.m. that evening. It started off with a recording by Alan Jackson entitled “Where Were You on That September Day” (alluding to 9/11). The US and Canadian national anthems were played (I knew the words to both, thanks to my days at the Air Canada Centre), followed by the American Pledge of Allegiance. Larry, a Canadian, gave the history of the poem “In Flanders Fields” and Mo, another Canadian, read the poem. Bugles heralded a minute of silence. Another camper played the theme music for the Marines, Navy, Army and Air Force on the piano. This was followed by a song by Lee Greenwood. Those in the room who had served were asked to stand. I was glad to be a part of this ceremony, even though I was feeling quite feverish.


I had a bad night, coughing a lot and feeling achy, so I slept in this morning.

Nick is a local handyman, who was recommended to me as a person who could “fix things” for a reasonable cost, so I had asked him last week if he could come over and do a few things for me. He showed up at 10:00 a.m. today and did a great job in hanging my various new storage bins and bags, but he also installed a new valve for the greywater tank so that it can now be shut off and opened when needed; repaired the screen window that Ripley had torn in her attempts to get out while I was away one day; “fixed” the lamp that is screwed down next to my bed (it needed a special DC bulb instead of the AC that I had tried to put it in there). He was here for several hours and charged me $45 – a very reasonable price indeed.

Later, I took Ripley over to the dog yard and met Sally who had just arrived from New Jersey with her Scotty Noah. Noah wanted to play, but Ripley wasn’t interested. Instead, she brought me a tennis ball to throw for her. Boy, does she get possessive of me!

I spent the rest of the day downloading photos, re-labeling them all and reducing them in size so that they can go on the blog. This takes quite a few hours to do.


I unhooked the RV once again and headed over to Save A Buck to have my new fridge installed. It took several hours, and since I might still be contagious with the virus, I declined the invitation to sit in the office. Instead, I sat outside on their patio in one of their rattan chairs and worked on my laptop, while Ripley wandered around on her long lead. I took her off for a walk, but in the opposite direction from the two dogs we encountered last time. She saw a snake, as it slithered under a fence and tried for some time to find it again. She really is quite fascinated with the local small wildlife (especially the lizards). When she sees one, she leaps at it and of course they run away very rapidly. She then heads into the bushes, wags her tail and tries desperately to find it. She has not yet been successful and probably never will be!

So, now I have a lovely new refrigerator – with a light inside!. It switches automatically between electrical power and propane, so this will make my life a lot easier. Previously, I had to buy only a few items at a time, so that I could transfer them to the plug-in cooler when I was on the road. I no longer have to do that—and the cooler can serve as a drink container now.

On the way back to Bushnell, I stopped in at Ferris Groves and bought some grapefruit, oranges and tomatoes – all fresh and local. It is such a treat to have these fresh fruits and vegetable.

Yesterday I had looked up on the internet the locations of Tracfone dealers in Bushnell and wrote down four of the five (the fifth being the Wal Mart that rejected me the other day). I tried CVS Pharmacy first, and they happily exchanged the phone for me – no questions asked! The only drawback is that I now have a slightly larger Motorola phone, rather than the LG flip-phone that I had previously.

I was feeling very tired, achy and feverish by this time, and rested for the remainder of the day, until Happy Hour. I sat beside JB, a full-timer, and Mo the Canadian woman.

The committee organizing the Yard Sale (which is happening on Saturday) had laid out a lot of the items, and I spied a cordless battery-operated drill and bicycle seat cover, and put “sold” signs on them to reserve them. Mo is in charge of pricing everything tomorrow and will let me know how much I owe.

I am still sneezing, coughing and feverish. I really could curse that child at the Kennedy Space Center! My illness is really spoiling things for me.


I drove back to Floral City, this time to Dennis Automotive for the tune-up for Philippa. Dennis is the owner and head mechanic, and his wife runs the office. She and I chatted and exchanged stories about our lives while I waited.

Dennis came back to tell me that I needed new plugs, points and wires, so I gave him the go-ahead. In addition, he changed the oil, checked all the fluid levels and the tires, for a quoted price of $160. Boy, that credit card amount is rising fast!

Since the work took several hours, I took Ripley for a walk on the trails behind the garage. The mosquitoes were fierce! But Ripley enjoyed being let off leash so that she could check out the lizards, etc. We both came back with those little hitchhiker burrs that you get when you wander around in bushes.

We got back around noon, and I decided that I should try to alleviate Ripley’s scratching by giving her a flea shampoo. Now that I have warm water, I used the outside tap on the RV and she endured this bath. After a good toweling off, I put her back into the RV and she rolled around on the bed to help dry herself off. It seems to have helped, as she doesn’t seem to be scratching as much. I sent an email off to Cathy, the person from the Jack Russell Rescue Group who arranged my adoption of Ripley, to ask for her advice. She suggested that Rip might have an allergy, as white coloured dogs are prone to it and also sunburn, and that I should try giving her yogurt and Benylin, and also check for a food allergy. She also told me that Jack Russells are prone to luxating patella and that might account for her injuring her leg last week. She suggested giving Rip chondroitin and glucosamine. I should probably be taking it too.

After a rest, I decided that Philippa needed a bath too. She hasn’t been washed since I left Toronto, and is quite dirty. It wasn’t a very thorough wash, but I did scrub her down with detergent and then hosed her off. She certainly look cleaner, I have to admit.

Despite still feeling ill, I decided that I would attend my last Happy Hour here at Florilow Oaks, as I am leaving tomorrow. I paid for my auction items – a grand total of $1.50. However, the battery on the drill is done, so it may not have been much of a bargain. I’ll have to see if I can get a replacement part. The bicycle seat cover, however, fitted very well and makes the seat more comfortable.


Another glorious day – mid 70’s F., sunny with a bit of a wind. The radio mentioned that Santa was coming to town this weekend!! And I heard Christmas carols!! This is much too soon for me.

I said goodbye to Mo and Dick; perhaps I may see them again some day. Then, up the road to the Florida Turnpike and on to Walt Disney World, where I had arranged to meet up with Kathy again, so that I could pay her for the Christmas gifts that she had bought on my behalf.

I arrived a little early and took Ripley for a walk at Disney Downtown. The
Cirque du Soleil show is in this area, along with several restaurants, Virgin record store, a huge interactive game building, a store to buy Hollywood memorabilia, Planet Hollywood and other places to spend money. Rip and I walked along the waterfront – there is a large lake with a shuttle boat service from the resorts across the lake to the dock here. From here there is a shuttle bus to any of the Disney attractions areas. It truly is a grand-scale operation. I can see why people book their vacations here and stay for awhile, and return again and again. There is a lot to see and do to escape the reality of everyday
life, and enter a world of fantasy. And I suppose that’s why it is so successful. The Disney people have it down to a science. Just as I was enjoying this view, a security guard came along and told me that dogs were not allowed in this area, so after a hasty apology, we returned to the parking lot.

I met up with Kathy and Skye in front of the Cirque du Soleil tent where we chatted for awhile. She had managed to purchase some great gifts for my great nieces and nephews – fairy princess purses, phones and hair clips for the girls and Mickey backpacks and soda straws for the boys, all for a very reasonable price. I really like Kathy and would enjoy spending more time with her. She had come down to Disney from her home in Lakeland to be part of a candlelight procession, with a complementary room at the resort, so was enjoying the time. She planned to meet up with her son later for dinner. So, after a brief visit, we parted, but not before agreeing to meet again on my way back north. She very generously offered to get me into any of the parks again for free, but I think I like the idea of seeing the Cirque du Soleil show (for which she gets a discount). As much as it is tempting to see some of the other theme parks, I have to think about Ripley. As my only transportation now is the RV, I simply can’t leave her all day in a hot trailer in the parking lot while I go off and enjoy myself. They do have kennels, but I’m not sure that Rip would enjoy that very much. I’ll have to think about it.

After some research, I decided to reserve a space for tonight at Fijian RV Resort, on Lake Okeechobee, and we headed down there, stopping for gas (now $3.09/gallon) and propane ($26 for a fill-up, as opposed to $16 last time). There are a lot of Spanish-speaking people in this area (Cuban refugees? Migrant workers from Mexico?).

The RV park is located on the Rim canal around Lake Okeechobee. Swimming is not allowed, as there are alligators in the canal. But, there is also a lot of birdlife in the vicinity, and I had some spectacular views from my waterfront campsite. John and Eileen (camp hosts) greeted me when I arrived around 5:00 p.m. Shortly after I got set up, Greta introduced herself and invited me to their campfire tonight.

I did a double-take when I saw an endangered wood stork standing on the cement patio of a vacant site just two down from me. It seems that the previous occupant had fished every night and fed the stork, and it was patiently waiting for its evening meal. I ran to grab my camera, but it had gone by the time I got back. Too bad. That would have been a great photo. Nevertheless, I was treated to the sight of anhingas fishing and drying off their wings on the dock in front
of me, and then going to roost for the night in a tree on the property, cattle egrets on the opposite shore, great blue herons flying past and other unidentified birds. What a treat!

After I finished my supper, I headed down to the campfire and was introduced to Marion (originally from Seattle), Greta (from Tennessee), Nancy and Eileen (from Wisconsin). They were very nice people, and all of them lived at the resort. Marion was widowed two years ago and has had to return to work (manager at Burger King), but the others are all married and live here as retired couples. Some of the husbands were playing euchre in the rec hall. I thought it was kind of them to invite me to join them as soon as I had arrived. We shared some wine and sat around until the wood ran out. Apparently, they do this once a week.

As we sat there on the cement patio overlooking the canal beside the boat ramp, I noticed that there were several catfish and tiny fish congregated in the water under the light located there, and wondered if this was because they felt safer there from the alligators.

Speaking of alligators, I am quite paranoid about Ripley and am being very careful about keeping her away from the ledge, even though the water level is quite low along the waterfront and it probably is not a spot that the reptiles would be lurking. But, just in case…..


It had been my intention to go on my way today, but I have decided to remain another day, in order to see the sunset.

In the meantime, I was up at 5:30 in order to watch the dawn.
I was a little early, but I sat outside on my patio with my binoculars, bird book and camera, and slowly the wildlife woke up. It was somewhat like a movie unfolding before me as a glorious sun slowly rose in the east. First the anhingas started to leave their roosting tree to fly along the canal. One or two stopped to fish along the way. A kingfisher (maybe ringed) landed on the next dock, but was too quick for me to catch a photo. Many, many kittiwakes (I think that’s what they were) flew around, diving for fish right in front of me (again, too quick to photograph); A great egret landed on the opposite shore and stood there for awhile; plenty of cattle egrets congregated in a tree on the other side as well. Several fish came to the surface to eat insects. What a lovely way to start the day!

There is a berm on the other side of the canal, and I’m told that it is a bicycle trail. The only problem is that, to get there, I would have to drive along a very busy highway and risk getting killed, so I have decided to forego the pleasure of going over there.

As I walked Ripley around the park, Greta came out of her RV and invited me to go with her and Eileen to a craft show after lunch. That sounded like fun, so I quickly agreed.

The craft show was at Freedom Ranch, which seems to be a commune with a non-denominational gathering on Sundays in their outdoor kiosk. There were several booths set up with hand-made items, some of which were quite ingenious – palm fronds painted to look like fish; coconuts panted with different sayings on them; home-made dog treats (of course I had to buy a package – at $5); Christmas decorations painted from used lightbulbs; nativity scenes; handbags made out of old jeans; a bracelet that was supposed to tell a story by the stones on it; hand-made knives with interesting handles, etc., etc.

Most of the items were overpriced, and it looked as though nobody had sold very much.

Greta and Eileen decided that we should go to the local flea market, so we headed into the town of Okeechobee, where we wandered around looking at all the items. There were fresh watermelons for $3, but I didn’t see how I would eat the entire thing myself; Would you believe that one person was selling cassette tapes for $5?? Who did he think would buy them at that price? I did manage to get a few extra Christmas items for my great-nephew Dmitri, who is only one year old, plus an interesting top for me (it is very lightweight and stretches to fit, and has a pattern of leaves and butterflies). Greta and Eileen didn’t buy anything, but did run into Sandi, who also lives at Fijian RV Resort and who makes jewelry.

We headed off for another yard sale at a church called the Gathering, but they were closed; then we got lost for awhile in a subdivision before finding our way back to the main street and then back to the “resort”. To me, a resort has amenities like a pool, games area, cable TV and wi fi – there are none of these, but the price is reasonable compared to the rest of the region. I guess the resort comes from the fact that it is situated on the water and of course boaters use the canal, even though the entrance to the lake has been blocked off, due to low water levels. As I head south, I have noticed that the rental fees are increasing in price. Fijian is a Passport America location, so I paid only $24/ night instead of $48.

I spent some time wrapping up some presents – particularly those that need to be mailed to Japan where my nephew and his family live.

At 5:00 p.m. I took my binoculars and camera to sit out on the patio again, with Ripley tied up beside me, and was treated to the sight of a wood stork flying along the canal. Then several cattle egrets landed on one of the small docks. The anhingas began to gather in their roosting tree. It’s funny to watch them because they have chosen a tree with thin branches, and as more and more birds land, the branches bend even lower, dislodging some of the birds already there. The kittiwakes (?) dove for fish again. A little green heron landed on a dock a few down from mine and I did manage to photograph it. And, of course, there was another beautiful sunset.

As I sat there, Marion arrived home from her job. She works 11-hour days, five days a week! She seems like an intelligent, lovely woman and it seems a shame that she has to work so hard after having lost her husband. She has mentioned him often in the short time that I’ve known her, and I suspect that she misses him a great deal. She introduced me to her Scotty dog Charlie and her dacshund Missy before going in to get ready for dinner with her friend Greta.


I wish that I feeling better. I spent the night coughing up green phlegm, and consequently, didn’t sleep very well.

Nevertheless, I was up at 6:15 to see the sun rise, and to watch the birds again, along with Ripley. This morning I was treated to the sight of literally hundreds of anhingas flying over. Again, a great egret flew by and landed in the reeds on the opposite shore, and a large unidentified raptor, and a white ibis flew over, and a little green heron and doves. The fish came up to the surface to feed again. A crow landed on the roof of my RV and noisily announced his presence. But what was truly exciting for me was watching a pair of sandhill cranes up on the berm, as they slowly made their way along its rim.

I truly enjoyed sitting on my patio watching all these marvels of nature, and I had a front row seat! I understood why the people enjoyed living here. John had gone by on his bicycle to his favourite fishing spot at the end dock a little earlier, but no one else was up.

It was time to move on, so I said goodbye to Eileen, who was the only one I could find, and then headed south along the lake. I was soon in a different world entirely, where most people on the roads and in cars were dark-skinned and I was surrounded by sugar cane fields. The housing was pretty sub-standard, as far as I could see, and I can only assume that the majority of the people here may be Cubans or Mexicans who work in the cane fields. I felt a sense of unease, and decided to head east along the highway towards I 95 and down the coast towards Miami.

I had been in touch with Sian Evans, who manages the DuMond Conservancy at Monkey Jungle, but she had not received my email when I called her. Consequently, she wasn’t able to see me tomorrow as I had hoped; so I changed my plans and will see her on Wednesday instead.

In the meantime, I decided to head along I 95 to 575, stopping at a Comfort Inn, to plug into their wireless connection in their parking lot (something I’ve just learned I can do) and then along 75 – otherwise known as Alligator Alley. This highway joins the east and west parts of Florida in this region, and cuts through the Cypress Swamp Wildlife Preserve, as well as part of the native Indian reserve. I had hoped to see some alligators, but the highway is fenced on both sides of the road, and I just kept driving, with a stop at the only gas station on this stretch of road, where I walked Ripley around.

The only wildlife that I saw on this stretch of road were several kingfishers sitting on the fence wire.

I had to make a decision about where I was going to spend the night, and chose a Passport America location called Club Naples RV Resort. Now, this is what I imagine a resort should be – a pool and hot tub! There are also courts for games like petanque, horseshoes, shuffleboard, as well as a games hall/rec center, planned activities as well as cable TV and wi fi. I couldn’t wait to get into that hot tub!

Naples is an upscale community, as evidenced by the number of country clubs in the region, as well as the very large houses. It is also near the home of Randy Wayne White, an author whom I discovered about a year ago. Coincidentally, I had picked up his novel “Dark Light” at the discount book store in north Florida, and have been reading it the past few days. It features his protagonist Doc Ford, who lives near Sanibel Island. So does Mr. White, at Pineland, according to his bio. It would have been interesting to visit the island to see if there really are some of the places that he mentions in his very good mystery stories.


Check-out time is 10:00 a.m. – quite early, so I had to get up and prepare to leave. This takes some time, as I need to go to the bath house to shower, have breakfast, feed and walk Ripley, unhook the lines and stow everything away. So, it was about 10:20 when I pulled out and headed to the post office to mail off the parcel to Japan. I was surprised to learn that it would probably arrive in a week to ten days. Better that, than being late for Christmas.

Having done this little task, I headed south on 951, stopping at Publix grocery store to pick up some of their very good five-grain Italian bread, milk and food for Ripley. I am going to try Pedigree pouches to see if she likes them any better. And I’ve returned to the Purina Beneful that she was being fed when I first got her.

I had done some more research, and today we are headed to the Collier-Seminole State Park in the Everglades. This is one of the few state parks that
allows dogs, and the price is reasonable ($18). The facilities here are very adequate, with showers and washrooms, playground for children, rec hall, interpretive centre and nature trails. And there were very few people here during this week.
Anole at Collier-Seminole State Park

I was feeling feverish again, so took some more Acetaminophen, retired to the bed with my novel and slept for awhile.

The nap helped and I unloaded my bike and took Ripley for a run over to the nature trail. We walked along a saltmarsh and tried out the Royal Palm Hammock nature trail, which took about 45 minutes. Ripley had great fun checking out the lizards as they scooted away. We paused at the river’s edge (where a canoe can be rented), and read the sign about manatees. I would like to have rented a canoe, but it is difficult for me to paddle one because of the angle necessary. My back just doesn’t hold up under those conditions, whereas I find it relatively easy to paddle a kayak – but they weren’t available. So, instead, we sat on the dock and watched fish leaping up out of the water to catch mosquitoes. Speaking of mosquitoes, they are very very plentiful here. Time to get out the bug spray.

Ripley on Boardwalk of Royal Palm Hammock

On our return trip, I stopped at a monument to Barron Collier, the man who donated much of the land for this park; then we headed over to an exhibit featuring the only walking dredge that is still around (according to the sign).
This dredge was used to create the Tamiami trail through the Everglades. This is highway 41, which is the road where the state park is located.

My site is shaded by various types of hardwood and palm trees and quite pleasant. I have tuned in a local Naples radio station that features music that I haven’t heard in a very long time. I guess it is aimed at retirees because the majority of the singers are from another era – Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, Peggy Lee, Captain and Tennille, etc.

When I entered Maine a few months ago, gas prices were $2.86/gallon. Today, the price is $3.25. I hope they don’t rise too much more.

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