Back to Florida and Georgia


A little late in posting this entry.  We have returned to CT where we spent Thanksgiving and experienced the coldest West Hartford Thanksgiving on record.  However,  before heading north, we stopped in Sarasota to visit family and friends.  Jon played low stakes poker with high school best friends who still get together yearly for poker and to relive adventures of growing up in Sarasota.  Versions of their experiences perhaps change through the years but always provide fond memories.

Myakka River State Park

In all our visits to FL, we have been amiss to not stay in a state park.  This trip we got out of the city and spent three nights at Myakka River State Park in eastern Sarasota county.  Myakka is Florida’s largest state park, 37,000 acres, and more than a tenth the size of CT.  RV sites are well spaced for privacy with lots of  Florida vegetation between sites.  Bikes are helpful for exploring the park’s 40 plus miles of trails.  We biked daily (thanks for the bikes, Lenny) and saw lots of shore birds and vultures throughout the park.  Vultures perched in the trees gave a Halloween mood to the park in October!  Alligators, or gators as the locals say, are abundant in huge Myakka lake and smaller outflow areas.

About half of a 17 mile bike ride one day was through trails like this one–real Florida grasslands, fields of palmetto plants and swamps.  No gators seen.

A great blue heron hunting for dinner

This wood crane seems to be judging a three gator race.

A great way to see gators is to go on the tour boat.  We did and saw this large gator heading towards the lake in search of dinner.

Egret at sunset.  A beautiful park to visit and view the real Florida!


Our college basketball season officially began when we visited friends in Gainesville and cheered the University of Florida Gators to a victory over Florida Southern University.

Jekyll Island

We spent a night on Jekyll Island, a barrier island off of Georgia.  We had visited before, but for only a couple hours.  The grand summer homes of the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, beautifully maintained grounds and quiet, wide white beaches drew us for a return visit.  We explored more of the island this visit.

There is a nominal, daily entrance fee.  Money well spent.

Scenic marina on the bay side.

The Sea Turtle Center is for turtle health and rehabilitation.  Lots of turtle information is gleaned on a visit.

Only one turtle per tank to prevent spread of infection.

Postop suture removal and wound check.  Visitors view hospital activities  through an observation window.

This might be a tough intubation -medical term for inserting a breathing tube in the airway.  Hopefully the tube is in place in this large sea turtle.

Some amazing facts.   





On the way back from Colorado we stayed overnight in the Corral Drive-In RV Park, Guymon, Oklahoma.  We had a great site for camping and would have had a front row seat for a movie but movies are only shown from May through August.  Add this to our list of unique campgrounds!

The screen was closer than it appears in the photo


Medium sized city USA 🇺🇸 Dodge City, KS
Population 27,720
Claim to Fame: Famous frontier town and fictional location of the TV show Gunsmoke

Fort Mann was built in 1847 to provide protection for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail in the area that became Dodge City.  It was part of Mexico until the conclusion of the Mexican–American War in 1848.  In April 1865, the army constructed Fort Dodge which became Dodge City, one of the wildest cities ever in the Old West.  [Wikipedia–Dodge City]

Gunfight deaths were common. The fighters were buried on Boot Hill so named because they were interred wearing their boots.

The Boot Hill Museum at the foot of Boot Hill provides several hours of fun and education about gunfighters and the West. It includes the Long Branch, an actual saloon made famous in the TV show Gunsmoke.  You can have a seat in the Long Branch and sip a beer or a sarsparilla.

Impressive bar at the Long Branch.

Everyone’s favorite Marshall, Matt Dillon (from Gun Smoke).

You can always find a poker game in Dodge City.


Medium sized city USA 🇺🇸 Gadsden, AL
Population 103,931
Claim to Fame:  Noccalula Falls Park

Gadsden is located about 60 miles NE of Birmingham on the Coosa River.  We decided to spend a few days at a campground on the river and discovered an amazing “public” [city/county] park, Noccalula Falls Park.

Beautiful fall decorations. 

 Every square inch of the park is extremely well maintained.  

We took a short trainride to the first stop with some 1800’s buildings, petting zoo and . . . .

Sheila, the lioness who has lived at the park for more than 30 years.

From there we hiked down into the gorge, crossing the stream on a suspension bridge.

After a mile and a half of a moderately tough hike we came to this amazing place behind the waterfall. Definitely worth the hike!

Later coming up to the top we saw a nine-foot-tall statue of a young Cherokee woman, Noccalula, who, according to local legends, plunged to her death after being ordered by her father to marry a man she did not love.

An amazing park, the highlight being the dramatic waterfall.



Colorado holds many memories for us.  We met in Colorado in 1979, moved to Florida where Sharon did her residency and moved back to Colorado in 1983.  It is always great to return because we have good friends to visit, most days are sunny and the scenery is unbeatable (in our opinion).  Our son now lives in Denver so even more reason to visit.


Small town USA 🇺🇸: Penrose,CO
Population: 3,580
Climate/geography:  Semiarid desert in the foothills 35 miles south of  Colorado Springs.
Claim to Fame:  Apple🍎 Day Festival which celebrates the apple orchards and apple farmers of Penrose.

Pikes Peak

 A view of majestic Pikes Peak every day from our campsite was a bonus.


We looked at several areas in Colorado and decided to move to Penrose.  The hospital in the town 10 miles away was recruiting a physician and a new office building was being built in Penrose. We liked the opportunity to become the only drs in town and took the offer! Jon practiced Family Medicine and Sharon Pediatrics. We met many great people here and enjoyed the independence of our primary care practices. A special memory is that our daughter was born in Colorado! 



Salida, CO is where we went to ski and be in the mountains. It was and still is a beautiful drive from Penrose up the Arkansas river valley.


Getting closer and the views are getting better. No photoshopping done!


Arrived and enjoyed a hike on a spectacular day. Mount Shavano in the background is a 14,231-footer in the San Isabel National Forest.


A closer look at Mount Shavano.


The aspens were peaking. Yes, their brilliant yellow color on a sunny day is as stunning as the multiple fall colors in the Northeast.


On the trail through a grove of aspens.


Our former cabin still looks good. It is close to Monarch Ski area that gets up to 350 inches of yearly snowfall.

Hiking west of Denver

 Living in West Hartford, we are used to bears.

Our son guided us on some fantastic hikes. We were happy our daughter flew to Colorado so we could all vacation together.  The Hessie Trailhead hike was through beautiful aspens in Nederland, CO.


Roxborough State Park is a Colorado Natural Area and a National Natural Landmark. This hike was through spectacular red, sandstone formations.


Roxborough State Park


The sandstone structures resemble Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Cheyenne Mountain State Park

One of our favorite campgrounds anywhere sits ~1,000 feet above Colorado Springs. Sites look out over twinkling nighttime lights.  We always try to get a site on the highest level. Hope our readers do not mind seeing this view again—we never do!

There are a number of great hiking trails in Cheyenne Mountain Park. Also a large archery range. 

Sunset over Cheyenne Mountain—awesome place!




Medium sized city USA 🇺🇸 Jackson, MS
Population 166,965
Claim to Fame: Capitol and largest city of MS

LeFleur’s Bluff State Park on Mayes Lake is an urban park in Jackson.  We camped there for two days while visiting the city. This snowy egret visited our lakeside campsite several times a day.

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum opened Dec. 2017. The history of Civil Rights from 1866-Present is covered but the focus is on the years 1945-1976.  Eight interactive galleries present a wealth of history!  The museum is a gem!  The few pictures we have do little justice to this museum.

Both sides of five columns are filled with names of lynching victims. Sources: Lynching Subject File at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and Ralph Ginsberg’s 100 Years of Lynching.  It is probable that many additional cases were undocumented.

This exhibit displayed the disparity of “separate but equal” Mississippi schools.  Furniture, books -or their absence-, length of school year, building conditions were a few of the issues depicted as you sat within the “school rooms” and listened to an audio discussing the disparities.  Note the benches and 6-month school year on the left.

The early 60″s saw a generation of activists born.  In the summer of 1961 Freedom Riders rode interstate buses into the segregated southern states to protest segregated bus terminals.  Many Freedom Riders came to MS, many were jailed for alleged minor offenses and held in deplorable conditions. Jail terms were for months.  It took several walls of this gallery to display mug shots of all the jailed Freedom Riders.

No caption needed.

Adjacent to the Civil Rights Museum is the Museum of Mississippi History. Closing time was approaching so unfortunately we only had time to look at a small part of this museum. It is also a very modern museum. The introductory video was show on the seven screens above. As you entered the “forest”, a “campfire” and “trees”  set the mood.  


Cane Creek State Park

Cane Creek State Park is a small park on Cane Creek Lake in rural, southeastern Arkansas. A canoe “trail” on the lake was beckoning us!  Leaving the Mississippi Delta, we headed to Arkansas.

The trail is 2.5 miles of easy paddling through both dead and live cypress trees. The trail is well marked with yellow blazes on the trees and yellow buoys in the water.

Two beaver lodges were along the trail.

Beavers were sunning themselves in the early am. They would scamper back in the lodge but reappear soon to see if we were still trying to get their photo. Yes, we were!

Sunrise as we stood on the dock by our campsite.

A few minutes later… more color.

Petit Jean State Park, Arkansas

Petit Jean State Park is the oldest state park in Arkansas and encompasses 2,658 acres. Many of the facilities were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The park is beautiful and campers are kept busy exploring caves, waterfalls, a natural bridge and several hiking trails. There are  also beautiful views to be enjoyed by just staying at your campsite!

We hiked to the natural bridge on a very hot day. No water under the bridge….it would have been refreshing if there had been a little.


Winthrop Rockefeller, son of John D. Rockefeller Jr., had a very privileged upbringing. He attended high school at Loomis School in Windsor, CT  (now Loomis Chaffee). Winthrop attended Yale for three years before withdrawing. Rather than joining the family oil empire, he traveled to Texas and became a roustabout in the oil fields for three years before enlisting in the Army in 1941. He saw action in the South Pacific receiving the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

After a few years of living a playboy lifestyle, Winthrop moved to Arkansas and bought land atop Petit Jean Mountain turning it into into a showplace ranch, Winrock Farms. In 1966 he was elected to the first of two terms as governor of Arkansas. Winrock Farms is still a showplace which includes a cattle ranch, airport, restaurant, lodge and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute. While we camped at nearby Petit Jean State Park, we explored Winrock. What are unique place to visit!

1966 campaign bus; notice Winrock brand above 66.  The visitor center has an extensive gallery of photos telling Winthrop’s life history. 

Winrock Ranch became widely known for raising high quality Santa Gertrudis cattle. We were impressed by the rich color of the cattle in the lush pastures.



We headed south from Springfield towards Sarasota to visit Jon’s family.


Within a mile of our campsite at the Illinois State Fairgrounds is the Tomb/Memorial of Abraham Lincoln.  We took a morning run over to see the impressive Memorial.  The granite structure has a rectangular base, an ornate terrace and a 117 -foot-high obelisk.  Note: The Illinois State Fair was not taking place when we camped there.  The fairground RV sites are open for public camping.  Another unique camping location to add to our list!

Lincoln was temporarily interred at the site of this small granite marker during construction of his Memorial.  Nine years after his death, the Memorial was complete and his body moved to a burial room in the Memorial.  Two years later,  two Chicago criminals attempted to steal his body and planned to hold it for ransom but failed.  It was then that his body was buried several feet underground in a brick vault in the Memorial.

In front of the Memorial is a bronze head of President Lincoln.  Tradition says that rubbing his nose brings good luck. As a result, the nose is shiny and a bit atrophied.


Our visit to Jon’s home town was enjoyed.  Spent time with family and friends, canoed, and saw some tourist sites.

Went to Lido beach, on Lido Key, at sunset. Shown is a dad teaching his son the right way (his way, of course) to fold up a beach chair.

One good tern deserves another. And another . . . . These birds looked like seagulls but are terns. There were hundreds.

Sunset came and was worth the wait.

Paddling at the south end of Lido, the barrier island across the bay from Sarasota.  The tunnels in the mangroves are a great way to try and stay cool on a 94 degree day.

Sarasota has been in a red tide epidemic for many months. Many areas of the bay are devoid of much of their aquatic life. Our friend, Carl, is a senior research scientist at Mote Marine. Although a shark specialist, he knows the bay and suggested canoeing in Vamo bay.  It was a great paddle and we loved seeing a group of manatees!  The clue that they were amongst us was first hearing their blow sound.  We then scanned the water and saw their snouts. 

One of us paddles and the other sits behind and steers. Does the stern paddler paddle, too?

The John and Mabel Ringling home’s deck overlooking the bay is spectacular.

The Ringing home’s grounds include statues and roses.


Leaving Sarasota we now headed west again–towards Colorado and stopped at one of our favorite Alabama State Parks, Frank Jackson, in Opp, AL.  Beautiful, private sites overlooking the lake are a treat.

The grill chef at work.

Each October local clubs, schools, businesses etc. put up scarecrow-style exhibits on the running trails. Some are quite elaborate, some smaller. 

In mid September only a few were displayed. Someone decided their ironing boards could be put to better use.  They were very creative!

Indiana-Wisconsin-North Dakota


We are back on the road enjoying our fifth autumn of traveling!  The anticipation of what might be down the road and around the corner still draws us.  Every place and everyone has a story, so we will keep listening.


We passed the RV/MH Hall of Fame/Museum on I-80 in Indiana many times and decided we really should stop. A huge, modern building tells the history of RVing by viewing historic RVs. Great museum!

1931 Mae West Housecar –  Paramount Studios designed this lounge car to transport Mae West from her hotel or home to filming locations. It was part of Paramount’s enticement to get West to begin filming and leave the vaudeville circuit. She often sat in a rocking chair on the “back porch” [shown to left] with a cup of tea. No bed was present but a small kitchen and sitting room were included.

1913 “Earl” Travel Trailer and Model “T” Ford – The world’s oldest travel trailer. Custom made for a Cal Tech professor by a Los Angeles carriage maker. Trailer restored in 1980 and car restored in 1990.

Interior of 1913 Earl Trailer.  Dining table seats four and converts to a bed. Storage under benches and by each side of the doors.  Interior is similar to many RV’s today.

1937 Hunt Housecar – Futuristic motorhome built by a Hollywood cinematographer.  The color and aerodynamic curves reminded us of our Airstream.


Home of the Badgers
UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON    Student Population 43,820

Part of the campus is on the shore of Lake Mendota. Everyone was hanging out at the lakefront on a beautiful, late summer Saturday.

A huge terrace was packed with tourists, students and locals.

Notable alum William Harley received a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1907. He cofounded Harley-Davidson in 1903.

Our enthusiastic student guide gave a great tour of the campus. He is explaining how the standing desk designed by John Muir works. Muir attended college here for a couple years.


America’s dairyland has big cows! It was good to have a cheese store very close to our RV park. We stocked up on cheese curds and cheese.


The National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown, ND  has a small herd of buffalo on its grounds. A very rare white buffalo is included in the herd.

Marketed as the world’s largest buffalo, this buffalo is easily seen from the interstate.

The white buffalo is an albino with an incidence of 1 in 10 million. Some Native American tribes consider them to be sacred or spiritually significant.

Alabama and Tennessee


Northern Alabama and Tennessee are often too cold to visit in the fall, winter and spring when we travel. On the way back to Connecticut, we camped at Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park in northern Alabama.

College football fans know the “Iron Bowl“ [that used to be] played yearly between Auburn and Alabama in nearby Birmingham [now home and home–thanks Len Smally].  Northern Alabama’s Red Mountains, the beginning of the Appalachians, contain rich deposits of iron, coal, and lime.  These are the three ingredients needed in the production of iron and steel.

Tannehill State park contains an extensive display detailing the history, methods, and historical relevance during the Civil War and WWII of Alabama’s steel production.  At the end of the second world war, Alabama ranked third in the nation in the production of iron ore.

Chattanooga is one of several towns we’ve visited that has used a river, the Tennessee River, to create civic improvement via tourism.  There are small stores and boutiques to browse, the Hunter Art Museum, Discovery Museum, aquarium  and of course the famous Chattanooga Choo-Choo.


The Chattanooga Choo-Choo [Wikipedia] was made famous by the song written in 1941 by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren after traveling on the Birmingham Special from New York City to Chattanooga.  The original train was a small, wood-burning steam locomotive which belonged to the Cincinnati Southern Railway and travelled from Cincinnati to Chattanooga.

The 1941 song was originally recorded as a big-band/swing tune by the Glenn Miller Orchestra and featured in the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade.   It is the first song to receive a gold record, presented by RCA Victor in 1942 for sales of 1.2 million copies.

We are back home in CT after driving 9,500 miles around the south and southwest. It was another great trip!