Monday, December 10, 2007




I am leaving here shortly, so got up early and wandered around, sitting occasionally enjoying the surroundings. As I walked by Chipper Chimp’s cage, he was very excited because he had just received his breakfast in a paper bag. He clutched the bag as he made his way to his favourite spot, expressing his pleasure as he went. It is little items such as the bag that indicate what caring individuals there are here at the Center. It would be easier just to leave the food on the floor, but Chipper obviously got a great deal of pleasure out of receiving his surprise package.

I said goodbye to Tina, and then Patti, thanking her for her many kindnesses. I feel privileged that she considers me one of the “family” and therefore allowed me to stay at the Center. I drove the RV out of the tree-filled yard, and heard some scraping on the roof which I ignored thinking that it was just branches going over the roof. Little did I know that the “branches” must have been a large limb which tore apart the air conditioning system! I only discovered this later in the day.

Melanie was still at her house, so I drove by to say goodbye to her, and Ripley and I were on our way, once again.

Wauchula has a large post office, so I took advantage of the opportunity to mail off all my Christmas parcels. While I was waiting in line, a 91-year old man came in to open a post office box. The woman waiting on him was very patient with him, as he slowly gave out the information required to open a box. All in all, I would say that he spent about half an hour in this procedure, as he asked questions which had to be repeated and explained by the clerk, and then he had to find his three pieces of identification.


As I drove through Crystal River, I spied a Bealls Outlet store and decided to stop to see if I could find some good sneakers at a reasonable price. The shoes are stacked in rows, much like our Canadian Payless stores. As I was replacing a pair of sneakers, suddenly I was struck on the back of the head by a very heavy boot from the top row. It must have weighed all of one pound or so because the impact was very strong, and a lump began to form almost immediately on my head. I was a bit dazed and went to find the manager to report the accident. I finally found her outside re-arranging some items, and her manner indicated that she could have cared less, and this incident was just a nuisance. However, she went into the back to find the form to fill out and took down the information. At no time did she express any kind of concern about my well-being and overall I thought that she did not do a professional job. When I asked her for a copy of the report, she said that it was not possible as they had no photocopier.

The thought has crossed my mind to sue for damages. However, I will not be in Florida much longer, and a lawyer would probably cost me money. At the very least, I will write to Bealls head office to complain of the attitude of the manager. I should have taken her name down.

Passport America led me to Crystal Isles Resort, which has a heated swimming pool and hot tub, free wireless and cable TV amongst its amenities. Rosie, the woman at the office, was very helpful both in helping me to choose a site and also to give me information on where to rent a kayak tomorrow. The first site chosen was not very suitable (too difficult to back into because of the trees and someone had already hooked up a hose at the water pipe). I chose another one further down in this very large park, which borders on the Crystal River.

After I plugged in the electricity, I turned on the air conditioner. Nothing happened except a faint buzz. I decided to climb on the roof to see what the problem was and that is when I discovered the extensive damage that I had done. I was horrified and ashamed that I had been so careless.

As I walked Ripley around the park, I came across warning signs about alligators in the campground pond, so steered away from there. There is a camper rally going on, so the campground is almost full and thus very crowded. Nevertheless it was great to be able to go down after dark and be the only one in the pool and hot tub! Most people either play cards in the evening, or watch TV.

My head was still hurting, but the lump was going down, so I put ice on it and watched TV.

All in all, this has not been a good day.



I was up early in order to be at Aardvark’s Florida Kayak Company by 8:30. Susan met me and directed me to where to park my RV. She offered to take care of Ripley while I was off in the kayak, and Rip immediately became fascinated by something in the wall of the bathroom. It is an old building, and it is possible that there are mice in the wall.

I left with Jim, a marine biologist who used to study manatees for the US Fish and Wildlife Service before opening his own business. He and other conservationists want to pass legislation to prevent people from touching and tickling manatees because he believes that wild animals need to stay wild, and I have to agree with him. The current law prevents people from feeding, climbing on the manatees’ backs and separating mothers and babies, but the term “harassment” is open to interpretation and needs to be more clearly defined to include touching.

Jim helped me to launch my Eddyline kayak in King’s Bay and off I went.
Right away, I was fascinated by the number of pelicans in the bay, and the
clearness of the water. It is rightly called Crystal River. King’s Bay eventually runs out into the Gulf of Mexico, and as winter approaches, the manatees come into the bay seeking warmer waters. Their favourite basking sites are declared sanctuaries, with marker buoys warning people to stay outside, with heavy fines imposed for those who do not obey. There are also specific wildlife refuge islands as well.

I paddled around the area, using the map provided by Jim to lead me to the best manatee spotting areas. The river certainly has been aptly named, as the water is crystal-clear and I could see right to the bottom. The first area right beside the launching point yielded nothing except some large fish swimming by, so I continued on into the bay and into an area known as Three Sisters. I was soon joined on this portion of the bay by two different large boats holding many snorkelers. There are companies that offer the opportunity to snorkel with the manatees, and these are the culprits who promote touching and tickling the animals.

By the time I caught up to one of these boats, the people were already in the water and the manatees had come out of their sanctuary area to greet them. They have become accustomed to being scratched, particularly in the genital region. The snorkelers are not supposed to swim after the manatees and to only stay still to let the manatees come to them, but of course none of them were paying attention to that rule! There must have been about twelve of them all swimming around after the manatees. One of them actually glared at me for getting in the way of his taking photos of the animals.

Because there were so many people around, I decided to go up further into the channel of the Three Sisters where I came across the second boat with snorkelers surrounding a single manatee. And so I went up further, but the channel ended and I turned around and joined the second set of snorkelers. Their dive master was quite friendly and told me that three of her snorkelers had cameras, and the manatee was staying with them because it could see its reflection in the lenses. It did come over to me to investigate my yellow kayak and poked its head up right beside me. I must admit that it really is tempting to touch them!

I continued on downstream and came across a yacht tied up next to one of the fancy houses that are found along the narrow channel. The couple had a Rottweiler on board, who seemed as though he wanted to jump in the water to join me. I hurriedly continued on and got back to the first manatee viewing area. The snorkelers were still there, but some had returned to the boat by this time, so I decided to stick around. I had the thrill of being visited by several different manatees, and seeing them swim around and under my kayak. There
was a baby nursing from its mother just below me, as well as one older one who swam around, plus a couple of huge adults. They truly are strange-looking creatures, but oh so gentle. I understand that their nearest living relative is the elephant, and their skin looks as tough as an elephant’s. Again, it was so hard not to touch them when confronted with a face staring at me right beside the kayak!

I guess I spent about half an hour amongst these wonderful creatures before deciding to explore the bay some more. I paddled on back under the bridge that separates the Three Sisters from the main part of the bay, and around the corner, I came across a yellow crowned night heron on the bank
, and a little
further on, a white ibis. I managed to get quite close to both of them while they ignored me. And just beyond them was an anhinga drying its wings.

Suddenly, I seemed to be surrounded by fish leaping out of the water to catch insects. Their silver bodies would flash in the sun as they left their natural element to find their breakfast. It was amazing just how far out of the water they could leap – a foot or more. I wish I knew what kind of fish they were.

I continued on and came across some huge “summer homes” on the banks. I can only guess at how much these places are worth, or who the people might be who own them. It reminded me of the Muskoka cottage country of my native Ontario.

I was making my way to the Narrows, another manatee viewing area, when I came across the same yacht with the Rottweiler, only this time the couple was in the water with the dog, playing with it, right next to the manatee sanctuary! What an idiot. If only the Fish and Wildlife authority had seen him, but Jim later told me there is only one person to patrol a very extensive area.

So, I detoured over to the shallows of one of the islands that is designated a wildlife refuge to check out a pelican swimming and to wait for the idiots to leave. I wasn’t really expecting any manatee to come out of the sanctuary area to visit me after the dog had left, but I checked it out anyway. The water was much deeper here, so it was difficult to see anything.

Since I haven’t done any paddling for quite some time, I soon developed blisters on my hands, and my neck and shoulders were beginning to ache, so I reluctantly decided not to overdo it and turned back, encountering more
pelicans and other birds on the way. It was noon when I hit land again. I’m out of practice in getting out of a kayak and I’m chagrined to admit that I tipped and got a dunking! Fortunately, my camera, binoculars and cell phone were all in plastic bags inside the kayak and it was only dignity that was damaged!

I called Jim on my cell phone, who came back to pick me up, wet clothes and all, and took me back to the office. Before going in to retrieve Ripley, I quickly changed into dry clothes in the RV. Susan said that Ripley had a great time spending much of it trying to get to the creature in the wall in the bathroom. She eventually closed the door of the bathroom and took Rip for a walk. I got the usual exuberant greeting, thanked Susan and we went on our way.


I had been grappling with the idea of what to do about the air conditioner. Leave it and continue on to Texas, or get it fixed now? I decided since I was close to Save A Buck, who installed the refrigerator, that I would return to them and get their advice. I was hoping that perhaps it could be repaired, but alas, the consensus was that I needed a new unit. Yes, I could proceed without an air conditioner, but the RV can get very hot when the sun shines down on it and it would be extremely uncomfortable not to have it for the next nine months or so that I will be on the road. So, I asked them to order the replacement. Not only will it be expensive, but it also means that I will have to remain in the area until Monday. If they order it today (Thursday), it will arrive Friday afternoon (too late to install it then), so it will be Monday before the work can be done.

I’m trying to convince myself that I’m not really on a schedule and it really doesn’t matter if I arrive in Texas late. But it may mean that I won’t be able to visit with one of the people whom I was scheduled to see there because Lou will be leaving to visit his daughters for Christmas. I will have to see what happens.

I checked the Passport America book to see what was in the neighbourhood and cheap. Although it is a little further away from Save A Buck, the fee is only $12.50 per night, so I made my way to Breezy Oaks Campground in Bushnell (the same area as Florilow Oaks, which was more expensive).


Breezy Oaks is at the end of a dead-end road, but next to highway I-75, so it is noisy with the cars zooming by. However, I have a shady site, and there is a pool here. However, they do not have wi fi or TV. There is a state park nearby with nature trails.


While I was in the laundry last night, I came across a pile of magazines and picked up a couple of People magazines. I enjoy reading these trashy things every once in a while, and spent the evening and part of this morning reading all about the sexiest men alive.

Perhaps it was the blow on my head, but I just felt like sleeping for part of the day. My head still hurts.

It is a little on the cool side, at least to the Floridians (70 degrees), and so the pool is closed today.

Later, I took Rip for a bike run. We headed out the gates of the campground and down the country road, which contains horse farms and cattle. The first house we encountered had a sign “Jack Russell Terrier on Guard”. It wasn’t on the grounds, but I could hear it barking from inside the house. There were four Quarter horses out in the fenced-in paddocks, and I would say that they had a hefty helping of Thoroughbred in their backgrounds. On the right there were several steers in a large barbed-wire field.

The houses along the road were far from modest, so I assume that the owners are not hurting for money.

I let Ripley off the leash, and she really enjoyed racing along beside my bike, stopping every once in a while to investigate a good smell.

When we returned, I helped Rip take out some burrs that had got entangled in her foot.

Since there is no TV, I am catching up on my blog entries while listening to CD’s on my stereo system. It is one of the items from home that I decided to bring along, and I am very glad that I did.



After a good long shower, I took Ripley for a bike run up to the main road and back, passing several farms with dogs (behind fences, thank goodness as some seemed very fierce). Rip seems to enjoy these runs, especially when I let her off the leash so that she can stop and explore smells. However, there are little tiny burrs that get into the pads of her feet, so I had to stop every once in a while to remove these nuisances.

When we returned to the RV, I went over to the office to pay for the remaining nights ($12.50 each night), and ran into Mary with her Chihuahua Chica. I mentioned that I wondered if anyone had some metal washers so that I could hang up a shelf, and she offered to bring her husband Jamie over to have a look. Jamie has cerebral palsy and gets around in a wheelchair, although he can walk for short periods of time.

Jamie assessed what I wanted to do, and recommended that I not install the shelf where I had planned to. Because it is on the wall beside the fridge, it would not be a good idea to drive screws into the wall. Instead, I had thought of putting eyeholes in the ceiling and support the shelf with wires. Jamie said that the weight of the canned goods that I had planned to put on the shelf might very well pull the ceiling down. So, back to the drawing board. I could support the shelf with legs, but that would mean taking the shelf down every time I moved on. I’ll have to re-think this idea.

Later, I went for a swim in the pool, and while I still had a swimsuit on, gave Ripley a bath at the outside tap of the RV. She endured this indignity and raced around the inside of the RV, rubbing herself on the comforter on the bed to dry off. I then gave her the monthly dose of Revolution, to keep her parasite free.

I have been giving Ripley Linatone now for about a week, plus crushing a glucosamine and chondroitin pill into her food (as recommended by Cathy from the Jack Russell Rescue Group), in the hope that this will aid in stopping her from shedding so much and the latter pill to assist her in guarding against a luxating patella, which apparently Jacks are prone to. Cathy suggested that this condition was the cause of her hurting herself last month. Anything to keep my sweetheart healthy is fine with me! She has decided that she will accept Beneful dry chow and Pedigree wet food. How spoiled can you get?

I’ve borrowed Dirty Little Scoundrels from the library here and that will be tonight’s entertainment.

Later. Michael Caine and Steve Martin are really very good in this funny movie. I enjoyed it a lot, and followed it with Mr. Brooks. Normally I don’t like Kevin Costner, but he and William Hurt were both perfect in their role in this story of a seemingly “good guy” who is a secret murderer.



I’ve been reflecting on the plight of Susan and Jamie. He has cerebral palsy; she has lupus. Both are incurable but can be alleviated with medication. Both Susan and Jamie are on disability and are barely scraping by; hence the necessity to sell their home and live in a fifth-wheel at Breezy Oaks. Susan has been trying for some time to get the correct papers required to get Medicare assistance for their medications, but the doctors are stalling because they owe them money. Consequently, they cannot get the medications that would make life easier for them. As I travel around the USA, I have met a number of people who have expressed their concern about the lack of healthcare in this wealthy country, and am thankful that Canada has a different set of priorities in this regard. How sad to think that someone cannot get the care here that would help them.

Today it is very hot – 83 degrees F, and of course I have no air conditioning. The RV tends to heat up during the day, even in the shade. And to make matters worse, I have a bad headache – possibly from the blow on the head I got a few days ago. The spot still hurts and is bruised.

Nevertheless, I am determined not to let this spoil things, so I took Ripley for another bike run out on the road again, past the horse and cattle farms. This time, the two Jack Russells and two other smallish dogs were in their fenced-in yard and made quite a racket as we passed by. Rip wanted to go over to greet them, but I thought it would be more prudent not to let her too close to the fence. Earlier, Susan had told me that these people had another Jack Russell who disappeared one day. The campers joined in the search to find the dog, and eventually its body was found, apparently killed by a venemous snake. I know there are a few varieties of venemous snakes here in Florida (and indeed in most of the southern states), and am concerned for Ripley's safety.

There is a little pond on the campground property, and Susan had told me that there were fish and turtles there and she has been asking people to give them leftovers. I hunted around and found some crackers and half a loaf of stale bread and took Ripley with me. Sure enough, the pond has hundreds of tiny minnows, plus one catfish and a few softshell turtles. I had forgotten that these turtles are indigenous here. They are quite unusual-looking because their shells really are very soft when you pick them up, and they have a long snout on their face, which they use to poke up from under the water to breathe, while sitting on the muddy bottom. I don’t know how they all survive in this tiny pond which has a lot of algae growth, indicating that it is not very healthy.



I was up early at 5:30 a.m., took Ripley for a walk and then got underway. I wanted to be sure to get to Save A Buck RV Repair in Floral City by 8:00, and I made it at 7:45 a.m. Richard, Tammy and ? were already there, and Richard and his two workers got busy right away to install the new air conditioner. They had some trouble taking out the old one because of the heavy silicone glue around it. They also found that the vent for the toilet had been slightly damaged, and replaced the cover on it. Since they were doing the work, I also asked them to look at the leak on the greywater valve, and also to replace the cover on the sewer connection (which has only had one flange on it since I bought the RV).

I had previously asked Nick, the maintenance man back at Florilow Oaks to replace the greywater valve, with the new one that I had bought, but apparently in doing so he broke off one of the screws, allowing the water to leak through. So, Richard suggested that it would be better to replace it with a new one for $14. In order to avoid any further leakage, I agreed. Richard, his son and the other worker (who has just returned from cataract surgery) did a very efficient job, and their labour prices are only $75/hour, as opposed to $95 at most RV places. They are very honest and I appreciate their work ethic.

I again sat in the trailer office watching TV while they worked, and the wife (whose name I didn’t get) chatted with me again, while their daughter Tammy went off to get a part for another customer. She was telling me that they had started a lawnmowing business during the summer, just so they could continue to keep everyone on their payroll over a difficult period. The fellow with the cataract surgery has been taking a lot of time off for medical reasons, and he is their mechanic. So they have been unable to take on any mechanical work on RV’s which has hurt them a lot. A tougher business person would have let him go and hired someone else, but they didn’t want to do that.

When the work was finally done and I had paid the bill, she asked me if I would mind if we prayed together, and she very sweetly asked God to take care of me on my journey and help me along the way. In turn, I prayed that He would look after their family and help them get through a difficult period in their life. These are the type of people that you wish everyone was like – kind and generous to a fault.


Once again I was back traveling on the Nature Coast, the same highway that I had taken when I first arrived in Florida after getting off I-75. After checking my Passport America book, I decided to stay at Nafeen Campground just outside of Perry because it was cheap. However, after seeing the decrepit bathrooms, and overall slovenly appearance, I quickly changed my mind, did a U-turn and went on to the Wal Mart in town. There were two large motorhomes parked, so I parked nearby. This particular Wal Mart is open 24 hours a day. Perry did not appear to be doing very well, as I passed several houses that looked run down.

The night was very cold, and Ripley was shivering as I prepared for bed. She spent most of the night under the blankets with me.


I decided that I had better buy some antifreeze if the weather was going to continue to be near the freezing mark, and while I was in Wal Mart, I found some more shelves and storage baskets, to help organize things in the RV.
Gas is $3.09/gallon at a fill-up.

While traveling along the highway, a bus passed me with the name Jerusalem Number One Baptist Church. This seemed like rather an odd name for a church. Is there a Number Two? Or Three?

We stopped at a rest area just west of Tallahassee where there was a large park with big trees where Ripley could run off leash. On the other side of the fence there were horses.

Later on, near Pensacola at another rest area, Ripley was again able to run off leash in a grassy picnic area where there was a large retention pond that was empty. What made it look even more out of place was the fact that there was a dam at one end. It really brought home the serious nature of the drought throughout this area.

In fact, there was an article in today’s newspaper, the Tallahassee Democrat, from a reader remarking that the state of Georgia is responsible for the problem in Florida because the governor will not release water upstream through their dam system. He went on to state the consequences as follows:

- the Apalachicola oysters are almost gone. The east and west ends of the bay are dead
- The mussels and sturgeons have declined considerably
- Reduced water flows down the Apalachicola River mean saltwater encroachment upriver into the estuaries, where the gulf seafood spawns, thus wiping out the seafood aquaculture. Goodbye shrimp and grouper. Then go the birds and other wildlife

The trees in the northwestern portion of Florida are mostly deciduous, and thus have been changing colour and dropping their leaves – very different from the palm trees further south. It looks more like Ontario – but I have been listening to the weather there. Winter has come early and has hit hard. I don’t want to gloat, but I am very, very happy to be in Florida!

The Gulf of Mexico has several states surrounding it. Florida and Texas get the bulk, but in between there is a smidgeon of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.


Gas is $3.04/gallon at the next fill-up, now that I am in Alabama.

I have now passed through another time zone, making that three that I have gone through since I started on my travels. It is an hour earlier here in Alabama.

I have traveled over 10,000 kms. in the four months that I have been on the road.

The highway that is taking me along the Gulf corridor seems to have no houses on either side. All I have seen is trees for miles and miles.

Passport America led me to Wilderness RV Park in Robertsdale, Alabama. The sites are very spacious, with lots of trees and grass. There are two ponds on the property and people can fish for catfish and bass. What had attracted me to this particular park, though, had been the advertisement that there was a pool and a hot tub. Alas, the hot tub was broken! And it was too cool to go swimming. So, I took Ripley for a long walk around the property instead, and we came across some sheep in a pasture next door.

The other day I had bought a new comforter for $7.49 at Big Lots. I’ve been experiencing some allergic reaction (itchy hands) in the past two days, so decided to wash the comforter, in case it was the cause.

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