Florida Trip Log
Robert & Barbara's 3315 mile trip to Florida in the new Toyota Prius, March 2008

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March 2
We departed Madison about 2:20 pm after the 3/2/08 Humanist Union meeting. In Illinois we had to turn from I-39 on to I-74, and Barb directed me on to I-74 west toward Peoria. When we got to Peoria, 35 mi. later, we discovered we were going the wrong direction. We should have headed east on I-74 toward Champaign. Back on track, we got as far south as Marion IL, and spent the night there.

March 3
We woke to rain and TV predictions of a nasty storm approaching, but by about 9:30 am we had reached the edge of the precipitation and drove the rest of the day under dry conditions. After crossing the western tip of Kentucky and Tennesee we stopped at a rest area in Alabama near Huntsville where I took photos of a Saturn IB rocket set up next to the highway. Temperature was in the 70s and flowers were blooming. With good driving (and a chance of rain the next day) we continued until about 11 pm EST and stopped for the night in Lake City FL, not far south of the Georgia border on I-75.

March 4
We arrived at Bill and Margot's "Emerald Isle" North Redington Beach condo, on the Gulf coast near Tampa, in time for lunch. After lunch Tavery and I hiked north up the beach. We saw funning looking black and white birds on the sand with large orange and black beaks which I photographed. She took off her rubber beach shoes and I carried them as she collected jingle shells, washing the sand off them in the ocean one at a time and depositing them in one shoe. After our return to the condo she spread the shells on the table, where I photographed her with them. I looked up the birds I had photographed in Barb's book of Florida birds and found that they were Black Skimmers.

March 5
When I went out to the Prius I found an egret next to the parking lot which walked across to the other side of the lot near our car. Barb and Tavery were down heading for the beach. I told them about it and they arrived in time to see it catch a geko which it swallowed before flying low across the road. The three of us walked up the beach past the long pier to the north and made sand walls around a little courtyard. We were visited by a rather tame heron which I photographed after it flew a little way up the beach. I also went a bit further up the beach and photographed a group of Black Skimmers with some Royal Terns. Upon our return to the pool area, on the beach side of the condo, Tavery and Barb spotted a geko with a truncated tail which I photographed on top of the post where condo residents could wash the sand off their feet or wash off the salt or chlorine if they had been swimming in the ocean or the pool. Then Barb, Margot and Tavery posed for me on the second floor balcony of the condo. Later Tavery and Margot went for a swim in the pool while we watched from the balcony. I reached Betty Jo and Doug by phone. We had planned to get together with them the next day in Plant City, where they were planning to be with a church trip to the strawberry festival there, but we learned that the church trip had been canceled due to predicted bad weather.

March 6
I hiked south down the beach by myself as far as the the border with Madeira Beach. The section of beach with one to three story buildings before that boundary was the nicest, least crowed part of the walk. The high rises start again at at the Madeira Beach border. The white elephant statue that I photographed is just beyond a little park with a parking lot. After supper we watched the Keke Palmer spelling bee movie Akeelah and the Bee (2006) - very well done.

March 7
This was a windy day. Barb and I hiked north up the beach after lunch as far as the area with posts and ropes on the shore. There is a little park there with tall grass in which an egret was standing. It took flight as I approached with my camera. After our return Tavery and Margot went for another swim in the pool. Later, while Tavery napped, a thunderstorm developed.

March 8
We had high winds and 3 ft breakers this morning. Carl Hommel and his wife Margaretta arrived from their motel for lunch, and we went for a short walk on the beach afterwards. The chilly wind blew sand in our faces, and Bill headed back to the condo after a short distance. A large part of the beach had been swept clear of sand down to a layer of shells. For supper the 7 of us drove south along the shore to a tourist shopping area and went upstairs to a 2nd floor restaurant (Stoffer's?) with a rusty roof. We were told the parking meters were enforced until midnight, and checked every 15 or 20 minutes, with a $20 ticket for expired meters. (Parking cost 25 cents for 15 min.)

March 9
Carl and Margaretta met us at the UU Clearwater church for the 11 am service. SOUL (Singers of United Lands, from the Czech Republic, Brazil, Georgia and Zambia) performed. RE was having a monthly fund raising lunch after the service and we stayed for that. Since the tables inside were full we sat on benches circling a pond outside with the singers (now out of costume). Tavery was soon off pursuing a frog near the far side of the pond. Doug called Barb's cell phone while we were at the Sunday school playground after lunch to propose that we join him for a night time Shuttle launch (about 2:30 am). After we got back to the condo Barb went swimming in the pool with Tavery.

March 10
We talked to Doug on the phone, confirmed that the launch was Tuesday am, and arranged to meet him along the shore in Titusville. Then we all went to the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. Tavery's favorite parts were riding a camel, feeding a cracker to a giraffe, and the goat petting pen. Barb and I stayed longer than Margot, Tavery and Bill, and saw things they had missed. About 5:30 pm we headed east for Titusville on the Pacific coast, arriving about 7 pm. We found Doug and his RV in the expected location, and Betty Jo arrived a few minutes later. We all boarded her big Lincoln and went to the Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant for a fine dinner of shrimp and scallups that Doug treated us to. Afterwards Betty Jo headed back to the house while Doug stayed with us in the Monaco RV. (At the restaurant he had told me it had a 370 hp Cummins diesel engine. They upgraded to it after major problems with their Safari RV. Doug said new they sell for about $450,000.) With the TV on constantly we did not really have an opportunity to talk. Doug and Barb dozed off in front of the TV. I lay down on the bed during the Late Late Show.

March 11
At 2 am we all got up and got ready for the launch. I hung my digital recorder from the ladder on the back of the RV, where people were gathered to watch the launch across the Indian River Lagoon from Titusville. Then I climbed on the RV roof and with a folding 3 legged stool Doug gave me, and set up my Kodak digital camera on my tripod. When the launch started I took a video (18 MB MOV) with the camera, zoomed in as far as it would go. The Shuttle soon disappeared into a cloud bank. When we came inside we watched the TV report of the successful launch. By that time the Shuttle was already over Australia. Then we went to bed, Barb and I in the bedroom and Doug in the front RV room. About 7 am Doug got up because he had a doctor's appointment, and Barb got up soon afterwards. I got up just in time to say goodbye as Doug headed out the door. We had strawberries and whipped cream for breadfast in the RV. As we were leaving I spotted a set of keys in the grass. The man by the next RV said they were not his, so I tried a key marked "RV door" and it fit Doug's RV door. Barb wrote a note and we left them by the RV kitchen sink (locking the RV door using its pushbutton electronic system). We headed back to the Gulf coast, arriving in time for lunch as promised, but Margot, Tavery and Bill were out. Barb and I had some breakfast cereal and then walked down the beach, in and out of the water in bare feet, as far as the white marble elephant. On the way back I photographed a handsome heron holding a fish in its beak. I was in shorts. It was mostly cloudy, but the sun came out enough to sunburn my legs and feet at little. The other 3 were back when we returned from our walk and Barb got in the pool with Tavery. The wireless Internet connection, which had been available the first week but not the second, came back briefly in the evening. I emailed Doug about the RV keys. The video of the launch made the Gateway laptop crash when I try to download photos from the camera, but I showed it to Tavery, Barb and Margot on the camera's little view screen. Tavery also listened to the MP3 file of the sound of the Shuttle taking off from my digital recorder. After supper Tavery and I went for a walk on the beach and I took some nice sunset photos.

March 12
Warm and partly cloudy again this morning. I moved the camera's SD memory card to the digital recorder and used it to download photos and video from yesterday to the laptop. Doug sent an email response saying the keys were his extra RV keys "which must have slipped away before I woke up". While Margot, Tavery and Bill were off Barb and I walked up the beach to the bird hospital just past the posts and ropes in the water. The birds outside the cages were more interesting than those inside, and we both photographed them. Barb was having hip pain so she started back while I went a little farther to the second pier to the north of the condo. Then I headed back and caught up with her.

March 13
Mostly sunny today. Margot, Tavery and Barb went to the store for a hermit crab cage for Tavery. After lunch they went for a swim in the pool while Bill napped and I also stayed in the condo, and took some photos of the swimmers from the balcony. I also made a short digital recording from the balcony, Tavery's voice being the loudest of the several swimmers. In mid-afternoon we went out to BJ's for key lime pie. The pie was delicious and the wallpaper was the ugliest you can imagine, but novel. It consisted of $1 bills in various states of being torn or curled stapled to crude plywood pieces, with messages from the donors scrawled on the bills. After supper Margot, Barb, Tavery and I took a short walk on the beach. (It was shortly after sundown, but there weren't enough clouds for an interesting sunset.) We watched "Barbie as the Island Princess" before Tavery went to bed, not quite as bad as it sounds.

March 14
Hazy morning. I took a brisk walk to the next pier south after breakfast. Tavery was still in bed when I left, and being read a story by Barb when I returned. Barb took a walk on the beach a bit later. The afternoon brought rain. After completing sufficient kindergarten homework, Tavery and Margot went to the store to get her reward, a lively hermit crab. At one point Tavery picked it up by its shell and lifted it out of its cage on the table, holding it out at shoulder height. The crab reached out and touched her fingers as which point she immediately dropped it on the hard floor. The crab seem uninjured, but after hearing how upset the adults were she retreated to her dark bedroom for a time. After that she played with the crab on the floor, setting up rings of shells, which it climbed over, and using an inverted laundry basket to try to restrict its travels.

March 15
We successfully vacated the condo on time, at 8:30 am, and went our separate ways. We had managed to clear everything out of the refrigerator except for a few popsicles. Heading north, we passed the Atlanta area after storms and a tornado had passed through and encountered only a little rain. We took I-75 to Chattanooga TN and I-24 to Nashville rather than taking the longer route through Birmingham that the AAA had mapped out for us on the way down. We decided against the more easterly route through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park that had been mapped out for us because of stormy weather in that direction. We drove until late, listening to an audio book on CDs, and got as far as the Grand Rivers KY exit before stopping for the night.

March 16
In the morning we found our Best Western motel looked out on an enormous stone and gravel quarry. We also found that we were near the north end of the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Since we were in relatively easy striking distance of Madison, we took most of the morning to do some exploring there. After crossing the canal that connects the upper ends of the two lakes, we took the scenic drive that loops along the bluff overlooking Kentucky Lake on the west, and a bit further down we drove to Pisgah Point and stopped for a bite to eat, to look at one of the old cemeteries, and to observe a flock of coots in a feeding frenzy in a shallow area near the shore. Farther down we took the side road to Cravens Bay on Lake Barkley on the east (not worth the drive). Returning to the central road ("The Trace"), we headed straight down to state highway 80. A detour caused us to go a bit beyond our turn, but we got to see a field of daffodils in full bloom that we would have missed otherwise. We took 80 west to U.S. 68, and took that north to I-24. Uneventful interstate travel north, except for a side trip 2 mi. each way to stop at a Dairy Queen, got us back to Madison about 9:30 pm.

Gasoline cost $3.00 to 3.26 per gallon.
The Prius averaged 46.7 mpg for 7 fillups on trip.
For the last 4 fills, in warmer temperatures, the car averaged 49.5 mpg.

North Redington Beach photos
Titusville photos
Family Recollections