The last week has been spent in Navarre Beach, FL for the Christmas Holiday. The campground is literally right on the sound and in sight of the Gulf of Mexico. We have finally experienced a regular weather pattern with warm sunny days mixed with cold, rainy and windy days. Still not bad for the end of December.
This has been another good holiday, as we were able to spend it again with two of our children and Heather’s husband, Ryan. In this way we can extend a little longer our family holiday traditions. One of those is the preparation (and eating) of a special German style Christmas cookie that was a specialty of my mother. It is an all hands process for the finishing touches.
While the exchange of gifts is always a fun event, the real value is in the opportunity to spend time together and catch up on what everyone has been up too. It also a time to have some laughs and let the competition flow in various games. Since Ryan is a master of electronic matters, that means playing the latest Xbox360, Wii and other games.
The only problem experienced was my chipping a tooth on Christmas day, but I was able to have it repaired quickly today at an excellent local facility. I can only hope this will be the only negative event this trip. It is always over too soon and Katie has to leave tomorrow for Las Vegas and Air Force duties. The good news is we will be in Vegas by the middle of February, if all goes according to plan.
We are looking forward to spending New Year’s in the area and also meeting up with our Friends, the Ryan’s, who should be arriving by motorhome in a few days.
We did manage to visit one interesting place while at Tyndall- Apalachicola, FL. This small town on the Gulf was founded in 1831 and became the third largest port on the Gulf of Mexico. First it was the cotton trade followed by the lumber business and finally became famous for the Apalachicola Bay Oysters, which is the main product today. Like so much of the Florida coast, it is also trying to make itself a resort/retirement community for those who want to spend lots of money to be near the water.
We had lunch at Boss Oysters, which is locally famous for the many many ways they prepare these little suckers. While not a fan of oysters, we felt compelled to at least sample them. After choosing to have them baked with parmesan cheese and blue crab meat, we found them enjoyable, at least for one time. Then we had a more traditional, for us, lunch of grilled grouper Cajun style, which was very good.
The main commercial business of Oystering is visible all around town with the many oyster fishing boats. They are in varying states of repair which may be the result of the declining population of oysters as a result of the several year old drought.
We have been camped along the Gulf of Mexico for the last eight days at Tyndall Air Force Base. It was clear right away on our arrival that we were going to get a regular, and loud, demonstration of the projection of air superiority of the U S Air Force right from our Camp site. The fighter jets pass overhead on a regular basis on their training runs. The campground is nestled in trees along a small estuary on the sound side of the barrier island that the base occupies and we share the space with a good number of local wild inhabitants including black bears. We saw their tracks on occasion but never the bears.
They call this the forgotten coast and it seems a fitting name in this difficult housing market. There are a tremendous amount of houses for sale all along the coast and many building projects abandoned in mid construction. Its bid to join the big boys of the Florida coast development is apparently on hold for the moment. The towns of Panama City and Panama City Beach have all the necessary conveniences but seem to lack any real charm.
We have spent much of our time working around the motorhome and visiting with the fellow campers here. There are a number of social events from coffee get together in the AM to a gathering around the enclosed campfire in the evenings. The Holiday entertainment on the grounds and at the Civic Center have been very good.
We have been a bit distracted here, as we have finally received a serious, if low, offer on our house in Ohio. This process has taken some real soul searching and acceptance of the poor housing market. There have been negotiations over a number of days that at this writing are still ongoing. We are hopeful that we may have a sales contract in the next few days.
In two days we move on to Navarre Beach to spend the holidays with Heather, Katie and Ryan.
9 December 2007 As we have searched for interesting things to do in the area, we have come to realize that the big attraction here is the Spirit of Suwannee Music Park-where we are camped. This is a semi-public operated combination Music center with several indoor and outdoor stages where music performances are put on throughout the year, campground, Horse Park, hiking trails, craft center, and outdoor recreation hub with canoeing and other water sports with its own white sand beach.
It sits on 685 acres and has 7000 acres of public land all around it. We have spent much of our time hiking the park trials in the woods and along the river. We have also managed to put a fair amount of miles on our bikes inside the park boundaries. They have a 2.5 mile Christmas light display with 5 million lights in the park that bring in visitors from the greater surrounding area.
In the evenings we have attended the craft fair that includes entertainment, campfire and free hot chocolate and marshmallows with ready to hand roasting sticks for the campfire. We have enjoyed the small stage bands and even one jam session made up of campers that happen to be in the park. The park provides a building just for these get togethers.
We move on tomorrow to Panama City, but have enjoyed a quiet visit here to the Suwannee River Valley.
6 December 2007 We are camped along the Suwannee River, in the heart of the Suwannee River recreation area of Florida. This area of Florida has been popular with settlers and travelers since the early 1800’s due to the climate and the hot springs that have been abundant in the Suwannee River Valley. In fact, the Seminole Indians believed that the springs had medicinal qualities. This brings to me to the topic of this post. There is not great deal of historical places to visit in the area and most of the towns near here could be considered mundane.
We first visited Lake City, FL which is clean but not particularly interesting. It requires that you look under the surface to realize that it was a major Seminole Indian village until the early 1800’s. As is the case with most of the history of this country, the Indians were a hindrance to the expansion of the European settlers, which led to pressure on the Indians that in turn led to the famous Dade massacre of 1835 led by the Seminole Chief Alligator from the village that is now Lake City. This started the Seminole war, which was the longest war, the United States was ever engaged in. So even the most unobtrusive places can have an amazing past.
We next visited the town of White Springs, which was the first real tourist town in Florida. It was very popular from the mid 1800’s until the early 1900’s as a resort with a number of hotels with various levels of luxury service. What made the town popular was the White Sulfur Springs along the Suwannee River that were thought to have healing and recuperative qualities. There was a spa built around the main spring at the edge of the town on the Suwannee River. Once the tourist started heading further south, the town quickly faded into history. Perhaps its last claim to fame was as a WWII prisoner of war camp located here, where a good number of the prisoners chose to stay after the war rather than return to Germany. What is left is a small reminder of its former short lived glory and the Stephen Foster State Park.