Finally! I’m back home. Twenty-five days on the road and I still have to tally up the miles and the states (I think 18 states), but, I have to admit, coming home was bitter sweet.
I was mostly disconnected from work, my cell phone, laptop, and social media in general, however, not by choice; there was little to no reception in most areas that I visited. To be honest, that was not such a bad thing.
I had the opportunity to do a trip of a life-time, something I recommend everyone to do as well. Life is truly short and with so many obligations in our lives, there really never is enough time for anything, especially for a 3 week trip, but, my suggestion to you: find the time and the money! You won’t regret it.
Day 1 was met with the Florida heat. The feel like temperature was 104 degrees and add to that the heat rising from the road and the engine, and it was easily 110 degrees. Of course, it’s Florida, and in no time and out of nowhere, came the strong summer storms.
By the time I reached Orlando, it was scattered thunderstorms which means at any moment, the sun could come out, and it did; typical of Florida weather. This continued all the way to Ocala National Forest but in Ocala the storm I rode through was bad enough that I had to stop. It was only because the roads were empty that I continued to ride in such bad weather. Finally, the last 4 to 5 miles, it was down to a sprinkle (thankfully). I don’t care for riding in the rain, but I certainly did not want our first night spent setting up the campsite in a storm.
To get to Ocala, I rode US-27 all the way and that was the mistake I always thought it would be. US-27 is too congested for my taste and way too many traffic lights. I much prefer taking 441 North. US-27 is fine from Miami to Sebring, but after that, I wouldn’t ride it until arriving at Leesburg. As much as I hate the highway, I would prefer it to that stretch of US-27.
Today would also be the first time two rookies set up camp. Anny has never camped before and I have only camped twice in my life with both times being horrible experiences that lead me to never camp again (more on that later). We also brought our faithful companion with us; Bella, who rode in the truck with Anny.
My first time camping, I was barely out of high school, and my girlfriend at the time, her cousins decided on the spur of the moment to camp in Flamingo Park in the Everglades. I have no idea what month it was since this was in 1990, but obviously it was the summer because the mosquitoes were out of control. No amount of burning wood in the fire pit could get rid of them. If you entered your tent in less than 10 seconds, 400 mosquitoes still got in. I stayed in a tent with her cousin and we ended up jumping into his Ford Bronco and having to drive for miles to get the mosquitoes out. We slept the rest of the night in the Bronco, or at least tried to sleep in it, because there were still plenty of mosquitoes to be dealt with.
My second time camping was during law school. My brother wanted to go camping with the kids in Bahia Honda in the Florida Keys. All was fine. We spent the day drinking and fishing, and dinner was the day’s catch. However, someone thought it was okay to pitch a tent around 3 a.m. and all I heard was the banging of the hammer to the metal spikes and those people talking and arguing while they tried to figure out how to set up the tent. Where was the camp host? We complained yet nothing got done. We even called the Police hoping that would scare them, but there isn’t much law enforcement could do and the campers continued. Our only source of retribution was we heard one of them give out his beeper number; remember those? Anyway, my brother and I kept “beeping” him from different numbers, including the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department just to aggravate him. At 7 a.m., I decided I had enough. I packed my tent and rode in my Honda Civic another 30 miles south and checked into a cheap motel in Key West. After my nap, I spent the rest of the day and night by myself having a great time. Now you see why I never went camping again?
Our first night was spent at Rodman Campground. I reserved the site with a nice view of the river which meant less privacy but better a view. Anny didn’t sleep well, but I did which surprised me. Then again, the heat, 345 miles, and melatonin helps.
Our site was quiet and not being surrounded by other campers allowed me to enjoy the solitude. Walking around campsites late at night with Bella in total darkness became a tradition I enjoyed every evening. Like every park we visited, I wished we could have spent more time there, but Pensacola awaited us, and that was a long ride in 100+ degree heat.
For more pics- click below: