Florida - Mar 4 - 25

It's been 3 weeks+ since our last update....no excuses, we found the sun and have been soaking in it. We also found family and have been enjoying time with them.

We left the RV at Florida Caverns State Park and drove a few hours north to the town of Eufaula, AL. Eufaula is known as the "Big Bass Captail of the World, the home of Mann's Bait Company, and most importantly, the home of our Aunt Ruby.

The kids were excited to have a substitute teacher.

Katie acquired a number of properties where we can park the RV when we head up the east coast.

Aunt Ruby lives on the great Chattahoochee river and we spent some time cleaning up the debris that finds temporary reprieve from the current on her banks.

We visited Fendall Hall, one of many beautiful plantation homes in Eufala. One of the many things that make Fendall Hall unique is the fact it had a plumbing system that was gravity fed based on cisterns in the attic.

Aunt Ruby treated us to many good eats including beef roast, scallops, and her homemade blueberry pie.  We even received blueberry pie lesson from the master!

Daddy was dead-set on cooking crawfish before we left the deep south.  He loved the idea of "mini lobsters" and knew that Eufaula was his last chance.  Aunt Ruby directed him to a local fish market. The place was so friendly he almost didn't come back when he walked in and they offered him a seat at the free Thursday fry table - hushpuppies, whole fried bream, and catfish.  But he did come back, and with giant Crawdads.  They were outstanding....we even half heartily attempted to "suck out the goodness" for the full experience.  [the faces in the pictures do not express the true sentiment of the moment]

We headed back to Big Country in Florida Caverns State Park.  The next AM we made Aunt Ruby's Cheesy Grits. Mmmmm.

We packed up and started our drive south looking for warm weather. We had reservations on Sanibel starting on the 19th of March but did not have plans until then.  The temp was in the 40s and stayed that way all day...so we kept driving.  We were also unable to get reservations at any of the state parks....so we kept driving...for 10 hours.  We made plans to put Big Country in storage on Sanibel Island the next day and decided to find a place for a single night in Fort Myers.

A couple hours north of Fort Myers we reached out to our cousin Brenda to let her know we would be in the area for a while and wanted to see her and Doug.  They had a friend who was not using a spot in their very nice RV park and we were able to stay there for the night and store it there while we stayed with Mimi and Grandad on Sanibel.  It was a treat to get to see their place, drive the golf cart, and push the cat in the stroller!  We are very thankful for the time with them and for their friend George.

After washing Big Country for the first time since Arizona (not our favorite project), we headed to Sanibel where we plan to stay until after Easter.  We've been looking for a kayak for some time and found one at Costco. Time for a test drive.

Monday was JAK's golden birthday and the day Mimi and Grandad were returning to FL after a visit back to Evansville. It was a treat to be able to celebrate his big day with family.

Like the hermit crabs in Grand Isle and Fiddler Crabs in northern FL, the gecko's on Sanibel provide hours of entertainment.

Fishing and sunsets on Sanibel...aaah....  It's a different experience/segment of our adventure sitting tight in familiar area for a month+. A great chance to spend time enjoying each other and an area of the country we love.

On Wednesday we drove back to Fort Myers to watch a pre-season game. Twins 3, Redsox 4.

Mimi volunteers at the Sanibel Historic Museum and Village so we got a backstage pass.  JAK sat on Theodore Roosevelt rocker while there.

We took "Big Orange" out on a maiden voyage and of course JAK caught the first fish.

Katie went out the next day...and seemed to enjoy being paddled around like a princesses in Venice more than fishing.

There was a St. Patricks Day celebration at the local icon grocery/hardware store - Baileys.  Anna took second place in musical chairs and Mommy and Daddy had green beer.

Sanibel is known for it's shelling.  Brenda came over one morning and showed us how a professional sheller operates. This includes getting to the beach before sunrise and using a miners headlamp.  Crazy girl;)

But she knows what she is doing - everyone found at least one fairly rare shell that morning.

We moved Big Country over to only RV park on Sanibel on the 19th.  It's a great spot with plenty of space and only 4.5 miles from Mimi and Grandad's.

Kenny, Megan, and their triplets arrived for their spring break on Friday! It's great to see them and be able to spend this next week with them.

Having grown up in Indiana and Minnesota, it's a unique experience to be located at the spring break destination rather than going to it.  We are thankful for this opportunity.

Fish Count thus far:

4 catfish
1 Jack
1 Snook
1 Spotted Trout
1 Silver Trout

And our favorite sign from the past three weeks. Spotted in Eufaula, AL.

God bless and safe travels to all whom are traveling this spring!

LA, MS, AL, FL - Feb 24 - Mar 3

4 states in a week!  Considering we covered 4 states from Oct - Jan, that's movin for us.

We stayed in the quiet state park of Grand Isle in Louisiana through the weekend. The time there included school, fishing, school, fishing, and bike riding with free laundry thrown in.

Eventually we caught enough redfish to make a baked parmesan, lemon redfish.

Almost every building on the island is on stilts.  Even the church.

On the last day, we heard the fish were hitting on a nearby pier.  The no-see-ums were terrible and almost drove us off.  But we endured and landed a few of the largest Gaftopsail catfish we've ever seen.  There was also a 45 1/2" redfish landed just before we arrived. It was a diverse and interesting group gathered on the pier but all where helpful and appreciated when we were willing to give them our fish (those cats are SLIMY!)

OK, we try to document the entire experience of our journey.  Almost all is good but there are a few down moments.  Here is one....

Both Mommy and Daddy awoke with queasy stomachs Monday morning.  Before Mommy could rise from bed to help pack the RV she was knocked down by a Louisiana flu which she later described as  "worse than child birth".  Daddy wasn't too far behind but was determined to get us to our next reserved spot in NOLA.  We'd like to say he's tough, but we know his major motivation was the negative reinforcement around the idea of cleaning the inside of a 6' x 4' RV windshield!

[Insert 24 hours of mommy and daddy curled up in the fetal position while kids had a free for all in the RV].

Mardi Gras had started and we were extremely lucky to snag a spot at Bayou Segnette State Park which is only 10 miles from the French Quarter.  The park was beautiful and quiet.

RVs throughout the park were decorated for the celebration

Tuesday we cooked a Louisiana Sausage and Chicken Gumbo.  The great thing about Gumbo in an RV is that most of it can be cooked in one dutch oven (less to wash).  There are many, many variations of this great dish.  Here was ours:

Start by cooking a roux (oil and flour until browned, but DON'T burn)

Add chicken broth to create your base. Set aside.

Cook your chicken and then sausage. Set aside.

Then cook up your veggies, deglaze your pan with a little chicken stock, then add back in your meat and pour your base over.

Cook at 215 F for 7 hours (this can be done in a Crockpot on low).  Take out your chicken, shred and add back before serving over rice with green onions.

While our Gumbo was slow cooking we took a trip into New Orleans where we started at the French Market

Took a trolly around town ($3 for a daily unlimited pass)

Had powdered sugar...eh, beignets at Cafe Du Monde

And walked through Jackson Square park.

That night, our severe weather alert went off.  Welcome to Louisiana! This had also happened in Grand Isle, but this time we were parked in what is flood area, surrounded by flooded ponds that were already within 20 feet of either side of our RV (can't see them in the picture above).  The rain came hard that night and we were up monitoring the situation, but we didn't float away.

The next day after school we headed back into New Orleans to visit the Louisiana State Museum in Jackson Square.  There is an excellent exhibit called "Living with Hurricanes. Katrina and beyond" and  a second one called simply "Mardi Gras".

Afterwards we headed towards the Uptown area.  There were two parades taking place that evening. We had been told by a number of people NOT to take our children to the parades that are at night and we had planned to forgo those events.  But upon arriving in uptown, we noticed many families setting out chairs, claiming their places for the evening.  We parked and met a local family who explained more about the parade - we were suddenly parade bound!

The parades we saw were very much kid appropriate and the crowd was fun loving and of all ages. We were awed by the event. We can't image the mistake it would have been to miss it.  That said, the amount of parade "throws" that you can accumulate in 2 hours is mind blowing and more dangerous than 2am on Bourbon street, when you live in an RV!

These guys were the most questionable characters in the parade and they were harmless and hilarious.

To give you an idea of the magnitude, we stayed around a bit to watch the clean-up.  They come down the street with FRONT END LOADERS!  It's like snow plowing in Minnesota but with beads!

Here is a picture of the jeep the next day - and this is with about 1/2 of the "stuff" taken out already!!!

The next day we drove from New Orleans to Mobile, AL.  Along the way, we passed through Mississippi and saw our first white sand beaches.  We can smell warm weather coming!

Then into Alabama

We shamelessly modeled our Mardi Gras goods once parked.  Likely generating giggles from our fellow campers

The next day we went on a field trip to the USS Alabama.  It's was impressive with it's 9, 16" guns.

With his beard and camo hat, Daddy thought he looked 1/20th as tough as his Navy Seal heros. Mommy thinks he looks homeless and would appear more natural with a "Need Work" sign than the 20 mm machine gun;)

We think we may adopt the Lucky Bag policy for the RV

There are numerous planes, boats and exhibits at the USS Alabama park (which btw is NOT state funded)

But the highlight was spending 15 minutes speaking with decorated Col. Glenn Frazier, a WWII POW and the author of the book, Hell's Guest.  He talked to the kids about what had happened to him and they kept asking him "who are you talking about?" and he'd say "that was me, see me in this picture".  It was hard for them to understand that the suffering and events that had earned him 5 purple stars were real and had happened to the man in front of them.  We had many "why" questions on the drive home.

The next day was the girls 7th birthday!!!  On birthdays, the kids get to pick their breakfast, lunch and dinner menu.

We started with Mommy's dutch baby!

We went into Mobile for another Mardi Gras Parade. Before the parade started, we visited the grave of Joe Cain.  Joe is a local hero who is credited with re-invigorating the Mardi Gras tradition in Mobile after the low period that followed the civil war.

The floats of this parade were arguably better than those in New Orleans, but the parade length and intensity was less.

While there, we met a family who said we "MUST" come back that evening for the night parade.  Each parade (and they are held daily during carnival season) is hosted by a specific Krewe and this Krewe was known for their dragon floats....So after Bday dinner of Homemade Deluxe Mac & Cheese...we headed back for a 4th Mardi Gras parade. Yes, we might have a parade addiction at this point.

While leaving our parking spot that night, Melissa's said "stop I know those people!" The Tweddell's are from Henderson, KY and were visiting their son.  We happened to park in front of the house next door!

That night we celebrated our two princesses great day! JAK even opened up the beauty salon.

We'd had our Mardi Gras parade fill and it was time to move on.  JAK's birthday is next week and the 3 of them all asked for a Wii as a combined gift.  The RV now has a Wii mini.  They finished school in record time and we headed down along the coast into Florida while they played Wii.

We have been told the Florida state parks are among the best in the country. Our first, Big Lagoon State Park lived up to the reputation.

One of the things about Big Country that we don't use often are the TVs.  They have been great for the Olympics and family movie nights, but most of the time take up valuable space.  Tonight however, the Oscars were on, the weather was perfect, and Mommy and Daddy enjoyed a peaceful outdoor living room while the kids played Wii!!  Electronics overload.

Time to move again. The next day we headed to our second state park - Florida Caverns near Marianna, FL.  We arrived at 3:30pm, just in time to rush to the last Cavern tour of the day at 4pm.  We saw a bat and hugged the "touchable" column.

At one point, one of the state park workers accidentally shut off the lights in the cavern.

One last note, if you are looking for a unique coffee from the south, Community Coffee is a staple and has quickly become a favorite in our $20 Aero Press!

God bless to all!

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