The Longdogs

The Longdogs
Harley takes his role as navigator seriously!

Carrabelle Beach

Once we left Apalachicola, we didn't have a very long drive to our destination.  We went across a long bridge and passed another much longer bridge that led out to St George Island.  I understand that there is a very nice state park on the island with great shelling possibilities but we had another stop in mind. There is a great program called "Tents for Troops" which is for active duty military and their families.  Numerous RV parks and resorts across the country have volunteered to donate a free couple of nights of camping to this program.  We were guests of the Carrabelle Beach RV Resort which is an RVC Outdoor Destination.  

The resort is very nice and so were the welcoming staff members.  They gave us a very nice back-in campsite with a level concrete pad and attached picnic table area.  We had full hookups with 50 AMP power and cable TV and the site was long enough to leave the truck attached and park the VW wagon crosswise in front of it.  

The sites were decently spaced out.  The only problem we ran into was that the cable TV connection was near the front of the site and our cable hookup near the back of the RV.  The RV neighbor right behind us asked if I needed a cable.  I have two fairly long cords but neither would reach.  He reached into his RV tool box and came up with an extra connector.  RV people are great; he said "keep it and just pay the help forward sometime in the future."  The resort had a swimming pool, lounge (with kitchen, TV, fitness equipment, books, and games), a laundry area, decent bathrooms, and a small store.  They also have some cabins for rent.

This was our view from the door of our RV.  You can see the ocean beyond the pine trees.

The resort was located on the inland side of the highway with a beautiful public beach right across the road.  The traffic is not heavy in this area so we never really noticed any road noise.

These were a few of the homes just down the beach.  Most of them had large, screened porches.  The only issue we had in this area was gnats when there was no breeze.

We played in the pool and later on we grilled hot dogs for dinner.  Cameron was relaxing in the shade of the palm tree.

Helen used a fork for her "dogs" instead of a bun.

Chef Steve put the hat he bought in Apalachicola to good use both while he was grilling and later at the beach.

As you can see, we had plenty of beach to ourselves.  Steve and the kids were busy looking for shells while Helen was doing her training program by running on the beach.

You can see some islands far out in the distance.  We all swam for quite a while.  We saw several dolphins out further in the bay.  The kids had a ball looking for shells and digging in the sand.  We did see a couple of very small jellyfish before we left but it was quite easy to avoid them as the water was very clear and you could easily see them from a distance and avoid them.

This is one of the little creatures the kids got to see.  We also saw little tiny shellfish that the surf would uncover and got to watch them scrambling down into the sand so quickly you really had to be watching closely.

Here are the troops relaxing in the RV.

Harley quickly found a hiding place while the beds were being made up.  Yes, Loretta, you were right; the RV does have weeny dog colored upholstery.

The "kids" were asleep within minutes of hitting the sheets.  Willy and Harley "love" camping.  Willy prefers to share the pillow whenever he gets the chance.

After two nights of enjoying this great place, we were on the road again.  Right after leaving the resort, we were in the town of Carrabelle which is a small fishing village located on the eastern side of the panhandle.

They have a nice Veteran's Memorial along the side of the highway right in the middle of town.

Carrabelle is a small fishing village located on the eastern side of the panhandle. Carrabelle’s one claim to fame is that it's home to the world's smallest police station.  It looks like a phone booth but the truth is that there's not even a phone in it anymore; however, no other town can claim to have had its police force operating out of a 4-square-foot office.  Carrabelle's police officers used to answer calls using a phone hanging on the side of a downtown building until 1963. The officers would get wet during bad weather and sometimes others would use the phone to make long-distance calls with the city footing the bill.  The old booth was donated to the police when the phone company replaced a phone booth in town and the call box was moved into the phone booth.  The dial had to be removed from the phone to stop their biggest problem, people sneaking in and using the phone.

You'll find the "police station" located on the left side of the road not far past the Veteran's Memorial as you head east.  If you see the gas station on that side, you missed the phone booth.

Visit to Apalachicola

This morning we headed out on our next RVing adventure.  After leaving Panama City, we crossed the bridge towards Tyndall AFB and were on our way east through the Mexico Beach area.  This area became known as the Forgotten Coast but it is definitely worth visiting.  There are a lot of state parks and forests which are a lot less crowded than the Emerald Coast from Panama City west and every bit as beautiful.  Hwy 98 runs along the coast.

There are pine forests and palm trees and miles of uncrowded white beaches.

You might see someone para-sailing in the Mexico beach area.

Steve and Helen's mascot joined us in New Orleans and was along for this trip as well.

Our first stop was in Apalachicola.  “Apalach“, as it is known by locals, was established way back in 1831.  It was once the third largest port on the Gulf of Mexico but is a small oyster and fishing now.  Known for it’s fine oysters.  Apalachicola harvests over 90% of the oysters sold in Florida and 10% of the nationwide supply. Smaller open bay boats, are either moored or trailered each day, and go out to hunt for oysters in the shallow areas of Apalachicola Bay.

We found a great place to park the truck and 5th wheel in the shade under the large bridge heading out of town.  It was right across from the city offices, a park, and a boat launch and mooring area and only two blocks from the main area of town.  We fixed a quick lunch of sandwiches before we headed out to see the local sights.

There are many historic buildings and homes in this town as well as a couple of museums.  Although we didn't have time to visit, the first ice machine was built here and there is a museum.

Down near the bay, we found this ancient boat "moored" on Water St.  Looks like it has been beached for some time.

There are also some interesting stores to visit including some antique stores.  Morgan was quick to spot this unusual place.

We found another interesting garden type store that was outdoors right on one of the main streets.  In addition to plants, they had lots of interesting garden and patio type items.  The owner was making more items in an open air work area at the back of the "shop".

If you look closely just to the left of the stop sign, you will see something interesting.

It is a "retired sponge diver".  The store had all kinds of natural sponges in addition to handmade soap and antiques for sale.

This was one of the many boats moored along the dock area.

It was another really hot, humid day in Florida and we were glad to find this old-fashioned soda fountain.  Between the five of us, we sampled a chocolate soda, root beer float, cup of ice cream, and a real fountain cherry vanilla Dr Pepper.

We stopped to play for a few minutes at a nice little park close to where we were parked.

In case you were wondering, the Traveling Longdogs (Willy, Gretchen, and Harley) were hard at work guarding the RV while we were touring the town.  Actually, they were comfortably snoozing in the breeze pulled through the RV by the MaxxAir fan.

Swimming with the Fish

The kids like to go down to the neighborhood park to swim whenever they have the opportunity which is several times a week.  On this particular visit you can see them checking out the water very carefully.

It appears that they weren't alone.  Some people use a fishing pole.  Some people fish by hand and temporarily store their catch in a baggy.  These little guys were nibbling on this particular day.

Steve dropped off another fish and raced back to the water.

The kids were really excited since they hadn't seen any fish there before.

The park also has a place to launch boats and this is one of the more unusual boats that we saw launch on this day.  You can see by the size of the trailer with triple axles that this was a good size boat.

By the end of the swim, the catch was up to 12 fish.  We got a couple of excited photos before the fish were all returned to the bay.  This was definitely a "catch and release" fishing day.

Cooking with the Kids

Helen always has some interesting things lined up for the kids while they are here with Steve and Helen in the summer.  She is a scientist so they have done some interesting experiments that the kids always look forward to doing.  They have soaked chicken bones in vinegar for several days so that they turn into rubbery bones.  Their latest endeavor has been putting carnations in water with various food colors to see how the color flowed up into the white carnations.  Yellow and green worked best, blue wasn't bad but the purple didn't hardly do anything.  They tried putting each flower into a second color and again, yellow and green worked best, then blue.  Purple just didn't do much.  You can see part of the "experiment" in the first photo below.

Another thing the kids enjoy doing is helping to cook something.  Morgan loves to help with muffins or cupcakes.  I have to admit that Helen has way more patience at this than I do.  She made homemade lasagna with help from both of the kids.  It started with the homemade sauce from Helen's Dad's family recipe.  Fortunately she had a batch of it stored in the freezer.  Cameron handled mixing the ricotta and cottage cheese together with Parmesan and mozzarella.

Morgan mixed in some spinach and then layered the noodles and cheese while Helen added the red sauce.

You can see how serious they both are while doing their part.  The end result was absolutely delicious and the junior chefs put away their share of it at dinner time.  We had enough ingredients left over with the exception of red sauce for another batch so tomorrow I will cook down a bunch of the ripe tomatoes we have on hand for more sauce.  We'll probably freeze the second batch for another day.

Pine Log Florida State Forest

 Today we were off to Pine Log State Forest.  There are over 1 million acres in 30 state forest land in Florida which is available for public use.  They range from full facility camping along black water streams to hiking meandering trails through the wilderness--something for everyone.

The first time I came to Florida, I was surprised at all the pine forests in the panhandle.  Looks just like Michigan or Minnesota doesn't it?  Of course, it is much warmer and you are liable to see a magnolia tree along the side of the road mixed in with the pines.  This area of Florida has a lot of pine forests that are grown by the paper mills so you see evenly spaced trees in rows.

This is the unmanned self check-in area.  The cost is $2 per person or you can get a pass.  Steve has stopped at the nearby office numerous times but never manages to catch someone so he can get a pass.  He likes to come out here and ride his mountain bike or his unicycle on the paths through the trees.

Apparently this is the official greeter and guide for Pine Log.  She lives nearby and comes to greet everyone as they enter the park.

We were all prepared for a scientific expedition.  Cameron and Morgan each have a small net and a bug collection box and are ready to hit the trail.  Helen was also with us but she needed to get in a run today so she set off on the longer trail so that she could meet up with us later.  In the background, you can see a really nice pavilion that has overhead fans, lights, and a huge fireplace surrounded by picnic tables.  It is a great place to have a get-together.

Cameron, Morgan, and Steve are checking out the trail head map so they can see which trail to take and where it will come out.

Partway around the trail, we came to a tenting area which included some covered picnic tables in a nice clearing.

We stopped to take a break on a bench along the trail.  The kids were also supposed to be "bug hunting" but they seemed to be more interested in making sure their "guide dog" stuck with them on the trail.

About half way round, we ran into this unique, energetic, pink-breasted creature that ambushed the intrepid hunters from behind a bush.  The photo was taken after everyone landed back on the ground.

Now that we had an official scientist traveling with us, the hunting got a little more earnest.  Helen showed the kids how to look under leaves and twigs.  Morgan was most "into" this part of the research.

Cameron has his collection box open while Helen uses his bug tweezers to make the transfer of the caterpillar.

The bug collection box has a built in magnification window which Morgan is using to check out her bugs.

Helen has everyone involved in the hunt as we get further down the trail.  I think I should have gotten a bug collection kit for her too as she was having as much fun as the kids.  Think "dollar store" if you want to get one of the cute kits for your kids or grandkids.

Cameron was more into the whole adventure by now and was busy showing his Dad what he had found.  In the background, you can see one of the camper's vehicles.

Pine Log has a nice camping area which is very well shaded but open enough that any breeze can come through.  Each site has water and 30 AMP electric.

Most of the sites seemed pretty level and we even found a pull-through or two.  You can see a group of campers in a tent in the background.

Here are a couple of motorhomes and trailers.  The sites are nicely spaced out so that you aren't too close to everyone else.

This was a really nice big site with two tables.

The campground prices have recently gone up to $20 per night.  If you are camping, you don't have to pay the $2 entrance fee so that helps.  I should also mention that they have a bathroom facility with a couple showers and toilets each for men and women.  

There is also a pond where you can fish.  It has a long dock that goes out to the middle and has a cover at the end.

 Naturally, the kids were ready for a drink and snacks before we left.  We were joined by a very interested squirrel who kept an eye on us.  All of a sudden, the rain came pelting down.  Steve got his motorcycle and pushed it over under the pavilion.  We quickly picked up the snacks and jumped into the car.  When it slowed down a little, we jumped out and ran over to the pavilion too.  A few minutes later, a ranger or state forest worker came through the area checking things out.  He got out of his truck and walked over to the pavilion.  I think he was eyeing the motorcycle under the pavilion since riding ATVs is prohibited and I think he thought that it was an off road bike.  We quickly explained that the bike was off the road and under the pavilion only because of the rain and was not being ridden on the trails.  After I told him what a great park it was, he seemed okay with our explanation and went back to his truck.  It had stopped raining by then so Steve pushed the bike back up to the road and we got into the car and headed out.

All in all, Pine Log is a really nice park well worth a visit.  It is beautiful, quiet, and well maintained.  There are nature trails for hiking or bicycling.  The campground has 20 sites with water and electric and there is a dump station.  There are also flush toilets and showers available.  Although the "traveling longdogs" were back at Steve's taking a nap, dogs on leashes that are picked up after are welcome in the park.