Bay View Park – Reba’s Reviews

February 5th, 2023

Mom and Dad happened upon a very special neighborhood while staying at Pensacola Beach RV Resort.

They can load me in the truck and we can be there in just ten or fifteen minutes and they have not one, but TWO DOG PARKS!

The first one we tried out is actually a dog beach with a few hundred feet of shoreline. The water is pretty clear and mom can chuck the ball out for me over and over and over and over and over and….well you get the idea.

I think this is my best look!

The first time we were there I did a great job swimming out, grabbing the ball and bringing it back to mom. The next time, there were so many dogs that I got distracted between getting the ball and the bringing it back part, but it was still tons of fun!

Mom thinks all the dogs love her, but it’s just that she had the ball…

As we were leaving the first day, mom saw that there was a second large dog park in the middle of the park (no beach) but filled with so many dogs! I ran and ran and ran and ran and because the park is tiered I got a chance to show off my jumping skills too!

I’m a good little jumper.

Then the next day mom and dad found and other part of this cool neighborhood, the Bay Bluffs Park. We walked (I pulled) down the boardwalk and steps to a very quiet beach and we were able to walk and swim a little there too.

Come for a walk on the beach with us.

Mom was gushing about how cute the houses were in the neighborhood and she said that they were priced pretty good. Too bad none of our family lives nearby or I think she would have started house shopping and I could live my life at these parks!

I wonder if Lexi and Duke and Puff and Bailey and Addy and Penny could get their pawrents to move here too. Maybe Katie and Caleb could come make their music over here. I could find them a nice doggie friend to join in the fun.

Backwoods Crossing – Tallahassee, FL

January 31, 2023

Timmy’s ribeye was perfect.

As we were pulling up to our one night stop at the Tallahassee RV Park I saw a building that said Farm Table and thought maybe we had happened on a fun restaurant to try.

After we unhooked in our nice, level, recently graveled spot we decided to go get gas and check to see if I was correct. Luckily I was right!

We pulled up to Backwoods Crossing, a beautiful farm to table restaurant not more than a half mile away.

Backwoods Crossing is owned by Jessie and Tyler Rice, brothers who grew up on ten acres in northern Florida. Their love of the land and it’s bounty grew into a desire to create this wonderful dining adventure.

It was just getting dark, so we didn’t see the grounds, but I understand they have acres of gardens on site that they use to create the amazing dishes we had.

The Rice Brothers also added a chicken coop and their happy hens provide over 18,000 fresh eggs for their dishes each year according to their website.

Tim had the ribeye with roasted vegetables and I had a prosciutto and grilled cheese sandwich with a side salad. The salads were fresh and flavorful and Tim could not keep me from stealing the veggies off of his plate.

Backwoods Crossing has a full bar with a very nice selection of bourbons. I tried High West bourbon and Tim had a tasty Old Fashioned. They came in these cute tilty glasses!

Loved the tilty glasses!

It looks like many of the staff may be students from FSU. Our waiter was outstanding. He is finishing his accounting degree and going to work in Chicago at one of the top firms there. Small world – we told him about Emily who is doing exactly that!

I took home an order of their bread pudding and it was incredible!

If you are anywhere near Tallahassee, you should stop in. Backwoods Crossing is at the top of all the restaurants we have tried on our journey!

Come fishing with us

January 24th, 2023

Tim and I took a full-day fishing charter with Captain Austin Sawchuk of Monster Bass Fishing Charters. Austin took us out on Lake Griffin in central Florida. It’s part of the Harris Chain of Lakes. Lake Griffin is about seven miles long with a maximum depth of 19 feet.

Our fishing charter left from this beautiful cove.

We got to the main lake through a beautiful canal. Here is a little snapshot of our trip to the lake.

One minute of a beautiful Florida canal.

Once we got to the lake, Captain Austin got us set up along some weeds and within the first few minutes Tim caught a nearly 7 pound bass!

This beauty was almost 7 pounds!

It was chilly when we started out at 8am, but it warmed up nicely and we peeled off the layers as the sun came out and warmed things up.

Tim caught two more nice bass and we pulled in about 20 pounds of bowfin (we call them dog fish in Wisconsin) and I got a beautiful shad, that Captain Austin called a stinky fish. I found out why when I picked it up for a picture!

Shad

Captain Austin is a US Coast Guard licensed guide. He has Merchant Marine & Homeland Security TWIC credentials. Austin has lived on the Harris chain of lakes for more than 15 years. He took us out on a 26 foot Tri-toon Pontoon Boat. We loved having more room than a standard bass boat provides.

He was very helpful, but also willing to let this old gal try casting and replacing bait herself too! His casts were ten times the distance of mine and MUCH more accurate, so I let him help often!

The marina he launches from is in a lovely little mobile home park/marina that has ample parking and comfortable, clean bathrooms! Yea for us old folks!

If you are in the central Florida area, we would highly recommend giving him a call!

Call Captain Austin at 352-431-9451

Fun night with new friends

January 19th, 2023

You do not go hungry at Stavros and Sons.

I need to start a new line of posts about all the incredible people we meet on the road. Last week we had dinner at Stavro’s and Sons Pizza Restaurant in Fruitland Park, Florida with our pals Mary and Dan Bolger from Chicago.

They have other restaurants, but we went to the original

We met Mary and Dan and their adorable pup Minnie in April of last year when we made our first visit to The Grand Oaks RV Park. We happened to be next to each other and we spent many hours with Dan chucking the ball for Minnie and Reba. Minnie is outstanding off leash and never leaves the area. Reba however….we are still working on her manners.

We found that we were both coming back to the area in Jan/Feb of this year and we ended up just a few sites down from each other again. Reba and Minnie picked right up where they left off, enjoying each-other’s company while chasing the ball. And their people did what they do best – eat. 🙂

On our first visit we had gone to Stafro’s and Sons a couple of times and so we asked them to join us there for dinner last week. The restaurant is homey and packed with locals so you know the food is excellent. I had the lasagna like I usually do and everyone tried something different. Mary and Dan’s meals came with a “side” of spaghetti and when the meals came to the table and they set the “sides” down we all went whoa! We thought that was the whole meal! Nope, there was more coming!

We couldn’t end the night there. We recommended that we stop in another local place we found on our first visit, Mystic Ice Cream! This place is known for their boozy concoctions. They have other options too. We each had what they call a small, but it was a cup piled with gooey goodness.

The ice cream is outstanding, and you are also treated to an eclectic decor filled with memorabilia from the 50s, 60s, 70s and probably a few more decades thrown in for fun. Mystic features trivia nights, which I understand get pretty competitive and karaoke nights which can range from outstanding talent to someone who may have had just enough manhattan ice cream to dare the stage.

Mystic Ice Cream with Mary and Dan.

We have made fast friends and will definitely keep in touch as we continue our travels!

Guess who drove?

Sunday January 17th, 2023

It has been a full ten months and while I have driven a couple of segments in that time, Tim gets pretty darned nervous when he’s not at the wheel.

We are headed out west in a month or so and Tim and I had some heart to heart talks about the fact that I have been driving for over 40 years and I drive the truck without the rig all the time. And that it’s just SAFER to have two experienced drivers before we head out to the western national parks.

I may have thrown in that just in case something happened and he couldn’t drive, SOMEONE had to be able to get us home….so, he reluctantly agreed to put aside his passenger side nerves and let me take the wheel from Tampa to The Grand Oaks in Lady Lake, FL.

I hooked us up (perfectly I might add) and drove the entire way to the new park. We stopped at a rest area and he tried to talk me into letting him finish the trip, but I prevailed.

I felt pretty cheeky (Tim’s words) when I got us backed into our new spot perfectly!

Tim has promised to let me drive at least once a month or so to stay practiced.

Look at that parking job!

Blue Springs State Park

Wednesday January 18, 2022

Over 500 manatees spent the day in Blue Springs State Park.

Wednesday was the perfect day to spend at Blue Springs State Park. The weather was perfect and the crowds were minimal.

Friends of ours had gone on a weekend and had to wait nearly 45 minutes to just get into the park. They close the area periodically as the park gets to capacity. We had just a few minutes wait as people paid the $6 per car entry fee.

Blue Spring is the largest spring on the Johns River and is manatee refuge. It stays close to 72 degrees year round and in the winter, this temperature attracts West Indian manatees looking for a warm place to lounge from November through March.

We began the day with a nice picnic lunch and then headed to see the manatees.

The park has a nice walkway and several observation areas where you can get close to the water and see the manatees and tons of beautiful fish. We saw Florida spotted far, tarpon, channel catfish, mullet, crappie, bass, tilapia (not a native fish).

The observation decks are over the water, so you can get close to the manatee without disturbing them. (It’s a $2,500 fine if you feed or try to touch them.)

Tim and Reba stayed behind while I spent an hour in a kayak on the Johns River.

Reba and I walked the boardwalk up to the spring head. The waters are crystal clear and filled with fish.

Hillsborough River State Park

January 4th, 2023

So many gators watched as I kayaked the river.

We wandered through Hillsborough River State Park a couple of days ago. This gorgeous property is a short drive from downtown Tampa, but it feels like an entirely different planet!

This park opened in 1938 and has trails and pavilions dating back nearly that far.

Reba loves hiking in Florida’s state parks. They have very well defined trails that are packed with lizards and turtles and SQUIRRELS for her to dart after. I have tried to explain to her that breaking mom’s arm or shoulder for a squirrel may not be in her best interest because I use that arm to feed her with.

We took the trail that follows the rapids. The scenery and sounds are beautiful. We got a little lost, but that just added to the adventure (in my mind – Tim was not as excited about it.)

After our hike, Tim and Reba waited in the truck while I took a kayak out on the river. Reba wanted to come, but I didn’t bring her life jacket so she has to wait till next time. I may have to rethink her joining me after seeing some of the river’s inhabitants.

They had well maintained kayaks for rent.

The river is beautiful and filled to with turtles and gators. All but one of the gators I saw was on the bank sunning themselves, but I did see one in the water that was longer than my kayak. He ducked under just as I managed to get my camera out.

We will definitely be back. There is a fort we need to explore and several longer paths that Reba and I might enjoy.

On the Road Again

January 2nd, 2023

After ten weeks at The Tides RV Resort in Palmetto, we hit the road again on New Year’s Day. It was nice to take a break from driving the RV place to place, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t travel.

We spent Thanksgiving and Christmas weeks in Aurora, IL with our girls and came back to the RV in between. Luckily we booked on American and so we were not hit by the Southwest meltdown. In total we were delayed 2 hours over four flights….not too bad!

We will remain in Florida for another month in hopes that the rest of the country will warm up a tad and we will not have to worry about cold weather/RV challenges.

We are now at Lazy Days RV Park in Tampa. The campground is clean and they have a nice pool/laundry and other amenities, but it’s more “urban” than I like. The sites are pretty close together and small and our view is of the Lazy Days sales lot filled with row after row of rigs for sale. While not perfect, it is close to many area parks and activities, so we will be spending our time exploring the area.

Our first park visit was to Eureka Springs Conservation Park. We found this little gem on the Bring Fido app. We would have never found it otherwise. If you travel with your pup, I highly recommend checking out Bring Fido for restaurants, activities and accommodations on your route.

Eureka Springs Conservation Park.

This incredible park was donated to Hillsborough County, Florida by botanist Albert Greenberg. He established the property in 1938 as a botanical gardens of rare tropical plants. When he died, the property became a county park for everyone to enjoy.

The 31 acre park has a mile long boardwalk walking trail that takes you over wetlands and gorgeous wilderness filled with ferns and other plants that northerners have potted in their homes. However, these versions are gigantic!

The hike was only about a mile, but we packed in so many gorgeous sites!

The greenhouse is filled with beautiful and unusual orchids.

The park includes a lovely rose garden and flowering bushes. While they were a little rough due to the recent hurricanes, several were still blooming beautifully.

Santa and Mrs Claus stopped by

Florida Means Family – Santa edition

December 17th 2022

Santa was a hit!

Thanks to our daughter Emily and FedEx, Santa and Mrs Claus were able to make an appearance at my brother John and sister-in-law Chris’s neighborhood luminary walk.

Their beautiful neighborhood in Lutz, Florida has been doing this fun event for several years. The gorgeous homes were delightfully decorated and just as the lights came on, thousands of luminaries lit the way for kids and kids at heart to take a stroll to enjoy the sights.

Several of the homes had cookies and candies and holiday adult beverages available at the end of their driveways. But nobody else had SANTA show up!

Santa with Abby and Jaxon just before they headed out on their walk.

Mrs Claus joined Elf Chris and Abby and Jaxon on the walk through the neighborhood and Reindeer Reba wanted to join in the fun. Mrs Claus’s hands were fully keeping Reindeer Reba on the right path so Abby helped out by taking pictures along the way. She has a future in photography!

Can you tell we love doing this?

Santa had many, many littles come tell him what they wanted for Christmas. He told me one little gal walked up slowly and whispered, “I can’t believe it’s YOU.” She wanted a unicorn snow globe, a unicorn art set and a stuffed unicorn. Santa assured her she would get a wonderful unicorn surprise. Mom and Dad looked on and smiled.