Florida Trip Jan 26 – Feb 17, 2012
We departed the cold North on Monday January 23 and started south chasing weather. At least we got to see the only snow storm of the season before we left.
It was very windy as we travelled down the I90 towards Erie, PA. We were towing our 32 foot travel trailer with our Ford Excursion we had purchased the Wednesday before our departure date because our F350 was having some issues with a leak in the fuel rail and was currently in pieces.
It was already an adventure of epic proportions taking a twelve year old “new to us truck” on a 3000 mile journey, but of all the things we thought might happen, didn’t, and things we didn’t count on did.
We were two hours into our trip when the thirty foot protective plastic under belly of the trailer was partially ripped off by the high winds. We pulled over onto the side of the I90 and Brent pulled the flapping black material off and away from the truck.
The New York State Trooper was kind enough to stop and ask if we needed a tow. In my best Canadian accent I gave the thumbs up “not yet eh?” He laughed as he walked back to his cruiser and drove away.
We climbed into the truck and drove for a few minutes in silence before Brent said “I didn’t see that happening”. Yeah, me neither.
A few hours later on the I77 south near Canton, Ohio I heard a horrible scraping sound and Brent pulled over at a most dangerous spot in the middle of a wide sweeping right hand turn just before a bridge. I jumped out of the passengers seat and ran to the back of the trailer. I wish I’d had my camera!
We had loaded our three bicycles onto the back of the trailer, but the straps had come lose and we were dragging the three bikes down the interstate. It looked like we were trolling, but for what?
It took several minutes to untangle the bikes and get them back up on the back of the trailer. Two quick straps and we were heading towards an exit and a safer spot to secure the bikes.
We pulled into the parking lot of a Fireworks store to survey the damage. Yikes. Metal handlebars were shaved down to nothing, two seats were missing part of themselves and a rear carrier was gone. Much to our surprise the core of the bikes seemed solid.
After so many difficulties in getting this trip off the ground I turned and asked “Do you think we should head home?” There was no hesitation in Brent’s voice as he said “no” and climbed into the driver’s seat like a man possessed.
We drove in silence for a long time before I broached a discussion about turning north. It wasn’t much of a discussion. Brent was set: we were going south.
We got as far as Charleston, WV the first night. Not as far as we’d planned, but given our troubles we were happy to crash out in the hotel room and get some sleep. The dogs loved the hotel. They slept all day during the drive and were ready to play. We walked and played ball until they finally settled down to sleep around midnight.
Excitement woke me at 630am and I woke everyone else. We gathered, collected, re-organized and prepared to hit the mountains of West Virginia.
We took it slow and did our best not push the transmission on our Excursion. Thanks to the wisdom of a friend we decided to call her the Canyonaro due to the cavernous interior space and Simpson reference. Thanks Justin.
The dogs had five dog beds to chose from, a food and water station and an area where I could go and have a nap. There was still another five feet in the back.
There seemed to be a lot of bounce to the truck and trailer combo that made it difficult to drive and Brent recalled some information on packing. We stopped at the welcome centre in South Carolina to re-arrange our load. We were learning.
Once we put all the weight in the front of the trailer the driving improved ten fold. We were cruising at sixty-five miles an hour as we pulled into Savannah, GA for our second night in a hotel.
The first thing we noticed in the morning was the sunshine and the warmth. It was sixty degrees at eight am. We were on the second floor of the hotel and I let the dogs run around the upstairs hallway. They chased each other and the ball with excitement.
We didn’t have too far to drive to make it to our first state park for three days. Just north of Orlando is a park called Wekiwa Springs State Park in Orange County. Wekiwa is best know for it’s spring which maintains a constant temperature of seventy-two degrees all year round. There’s also fifteen miles of paddling and a fifteen mile hiking trail.
After unpacking the food I realized I’d left the burgers in Canada. We found some processed food to consume for dinner and decided after a short walk with the dogs to watch a move from the eighties.
I pushed the VHS tape into the player and relaxed as the player hummed and the first cords from Beetlejuice started.
A few glasses of wine and we both were asleep long before the end of the movie. I woke at two am a little confused and very thirsty. I opened the door to the trailer to let the dogs out and heard a big sound coming from the forest. Black bears were common at this park. I wondered? I did ask the park ranger what the biggest danger to my dogs was: alligators, bears, snakes or eagles? He said the leashes were for their protection. I turned several shades of pale.
After letting the dogs out for a potty break I settled into bed with an old book. There was a moment when the puppies were sleeping all around me and the quiet was peaceful. I was glad we made it.
The morning came around eight o’clock and we took it slow. We drank tea, read books and talked a good game about what we were doing today. We had to get some supplies and perhaps a little internet which meant a trip to town. I really needed a shower.
State park showers are usually excellent. Good water pressure, lots of hot water and very clean. This park was no exception. Brent and I take turns leaving the camp site, so one of use is always with the puppies.
The sun is warm on my back and the puppies have all settled in for a mid-morning nap. I’m feeling lazy today and I imagine it’s going to be some time before we hit the big town of Apopka, Florida in search of BBQ food and Internet.
We relaxed and enjoyed our first three day stay just north of Orlando with temperatures pushing 80F. Brent and I took long walks with the puppies and a dip in the spring fed water before packing up on January 28 to head south to Collier Seminole State Park near Naples, Florida.
It seems we still had lots to learn about packing because we dragged the bikes again down the I4 west of Orlando. Another bad spot on the interstate with a blind curve before a bridge that left us a little breathless. With the damaged bikes secured we continued off the interstate and onto some lovely country roads that had us listening to all american country music.
We were happily singing along when we heard that familiar noise again. After hours of screwing the protective cover back into place it had fallen off again. It took nearly an hour to pull it off and stuff it into the trailer before we were on our way.
We were tired and dirty when we pulled into the park, but still had enough energy to register the shock of seeing the trailers packed tightly together. The one thing Brent and I had always found about state parks was the spacious sites, but Collier Seminole seemed to be the exception to the rule.
We squeezed into our narrow spot and set up our trailer in the fading light of night. We were pulling the kayaks off the truck when the mosquitos began their ruthless attack. I had fifteen bites that first night and ten more in the morning when I took the dogs for a walk. I never leave the trailer without a quick spray of deet 40. The mosquitos make Taz look like small.
It was several days of relaxing, booking reading, shopping, hiking and kayaking before we really found our relax.
The next morning poor Poco got stung by a wasp on his front paw. He limped around whining until I gave him some painkillers and benadryl. Luckily, he’s not allergic and was perfectly fine for hiking the next day.
On Monday, February 6 and we had a nice day trying to bike, but the rain kept driving us back inside. Violent downpours of the tropical nature pushed us to watch movies and read books instead.
Brent’s folks had rented a place on Marco Island for a month. We met for dinner at a fun restaurant in Goodland called Mile Maker Eight. They welcomed the puppies and served up some tasty fresh ocean caught treats.
After a lovely meal we drove back to our park under the glow of a full moon. It was so beautiful we stopped by the water to walk the dogs and reflect of the beautiful night. Super Taz was nosing around a bush when she suddenly ran towards the truck in a panic.
What the heck? We got her under the light and I could see one red ant crawling on her paw while she was rubbing and digging into the seat. We drove back to the trailer and Taz became increasingly agitated. After a few minutes the facial swelling became apparent.
Taz is severely anaphylactic to bees, it is wasn’t surprising that she’d react to other biting insect venom, or so the lady at the Vet Emerge Clinic told us in Naples.
Taz’s face swelled up so we could barely see her eyes as we rushed into Naples to the Vet Emerge Clinic at eleven that night. After a couple of shots of benadryl and dexamethazone the swelling was starting to recede. She wasn’t having an anaphylactic reaction, but they called it a severe allergic reaction due to the massive facial swelling.
We got back to camp at one in the morning and had to have a sip of wine to relax. We’re grateful Taz survived her run in with the ant hill and hope she choses to pee on things that won’t sting her in future.
Tomorrow brings new and exciting adventures, but hopefully we can stay out ofthe emergency room. Kayaking seems like a good plan. What a beautiful place to kayak.
On February 8th we spent the day on dog beach with Brian and Ellen. I love letting the dogs run through the surf and sand with tails flying and tongues out in delight. Jackson became so caught up in a solid game of chase that he was chest deep in salt water before he realized his paws were uncharacteristically wet.
February 9th we cycled around Marco Island with Brent’s folks and investigated the off leash dog park. We weren’t aware of the dress coat for the dog park on Marco Island and were immediately identified off as out of towners. It seems the biggest thing at the dog park is having matching outfits. Shoes, bag, shorts, hat, tee and even poop bags.
We even saw one dog who’s paws and tail were dyed pink matching her owner’s shoes. I was impressed, but slightly embarrassed as we were only wearing tees and shorts suitable for biking – not the dog park.
The thing that impressed me the most was each dog was impeccably groomed. Perfectly fluffy tails with nails polished and a jaunty spotted bows in both ears. Clearly, my dogs had been camping. Poco’s tail looks stringy from swimming in the ocean.
February 11, 2012 we departed Collier Seminole State Park at 10 am this morning and the GPS says we should arrive at Paynes Prairie State Park at around three o’clock. We were on the road for all of an hour when we blew a tire on the trailer while driving on the I75 north in Fort Myers.
We managed to change the tire and then decided to find a tire shop to get another spare. It took about an hour before we were on the road again heading in our least favourite direction – north.
About twenty miles south of Sarasota we came to a complete stop on the I75 and watched as the air ambulance helicopter landed on the highway. We can’t see the crash, but imagine it must be horrific. We count our blessings that we haven’t needed anything more than a few repairs.
The helicopter was on scene for about ten minutes while and as we watched it lift off we figured the traffic would get moving. Boy, were we wrong. We were suppose to stop at a friend’s place, but now we’re just hoping to get to Gainesville before dark time to set up camp. It’s so much easier during the day.
As entertainment Brent is throwing his orange peels at cars that are trying to squeeze by on the shoulder. He’s hit five out of seven. Not bad. He says he throws apples in WNY. After thirty minutes at a stand still we’re finally moving at 110 p.m. and it’s a good thing because Brent is out of orange peels.
February 13 – Monday Paynes Prarie State Park
Lost power. No water. Temperature below 27F. Packed up and left around 6pm and headed north out of Florida and into Georgia. Stopped in Valdala, Georgia in a beautiful La Quinta.
February 14 – Happy Valentine’s Day!
We were planning on stopping in Lexington, KY, but only made it as far as Knoxville, TN as we had another tire explode along the I75. We stopped, switched the tire and got the old one fixed in under 2 hours. We’re getting good at changing tires. It was one of the new tires that blew. I know you’re asking yourself why so many blown tires? We don’t know. We’ve checked tire pressures and bearings.
We stayed at a cheap Super 8 in Knoxville, TN where the front desk clerk advised us where to park so the trailer would be under the security camera. There were no locks on the exterior doors of the motel, but we did have a dead bolt on our room door.
February 15 we made it eight miles north of Mansfield, OH when we had a massive bearing hub interface failure on the passenger’s side of the trailer causing the tire to fly off – luckily into the ditch. Nobody was injured, but we were stuck on the side of I75 for two hours waiting for AAA to tow us to their garage where they promised they could fix it for about $600 depending on the damage.
We found a new La Quinta Inn and Suites and are hoping to make it to the hotel in time for happy hour which lasts from six till eight. It’s 6:13 right now and I’m sitting in the back of the Canyonaero with Jackson trying to get some of this crazy adventure on paper.
We’ve had some crazy times and feel a little lucky that nobody has been injured in all the tire failures.
It’s 616pm and the tow truck just arrived. I hope we don’t get screwed. We’re really over a barrel.
As the tow truck drove away without any lights on the trailer into the dark night on the I71 heading north Brent and I both had mild heart attacks. No lights as it disappeared into the dark. We watched several transport trucks brake hard to avoid hitting the trailer at the last minute and we can only hope the drive ends up uninjured.
I upgraded our hotel room for tonight for an extra $15 and it’s the best money I’ve spent. We have a king bed with soft quality sheets. A couch and chair where we enjoyed our take out chinese. I play hotel hallway ball with the dogs for about ten minutes where Taz stood at the hotel room door begging to get in to lay down.
Still enjoying the adventure.
February 16, 2012
We made it home just as the sun set. The puppies were delerious with excitement and ran around the farm greeting every tree, blade of grass and stone. They raced around the kitchen and ate kibble right off the floor. Happy puppies.
Armed with flashlights we went out and checked on all the farm animals. Horse, goat goat seemed very happy in their shelter with fresh water and plenty of hay. The pigs only rolled over in greeting before snoring loudly and the ducks seemed more put out than anything by our intrusion.
Everything in the farm house seemed to be in working order. From water, to pump to furnace and hydro. Everything was working just fine. Brent and I unpacked the canyonario and sat heavily down at the kitchen table for some left over spagetti that had traveled to Florida to back. With a glass of red wine held loosely in his hand Brent asked “If you knew then what you knew now… would you still have gone to Florida?” I smiled as I considered my answer and after a few moments of consideration I say “No. I’d have stayed home”. He laughed and said “Damn. Me too”.
We’re one week into March and the trailer repair has been delayed as the makes of the axel have been on shut down for a few weeks. Just our luck. It’s okay, because the black truck is still not done. At least we’ve got each other and our puppies.
As of March 20th the trailer is still in Ohio. Sigh.