Dunedin, Florida – because it is!

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In the new August Issue of our online Suncoast Visitor’s Guide we’ll take you on a photo tour of Dunedin Florida. This special little community is located on St. Joseph Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. The Main Street recalls an earlier time without fast food eateries and big box corporate stores. It sits begging to be strolled and window shopped while you enjoy an old-fashioned ice cream cone you’ll find hard to resist. We’ll end this visit down at the end of Main Street where it meets the Dunedin Marina for a peek at a golden Gulf Sunset. It’s just that kind of a fun and colorful place to visit for many reasons. – Niki and Jack

Howard Johnson’s Restaurant, Lake George, NY – Last One Standing!

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Lake George, NY

Howard Johnson’s Restaurant (9/16 $39.15)*
2143 U.S. 9, Lake George, NY 12845 (518) 685-3022

We will do our best to be objective with this review. We drove 80 miles one way to visit this Howard Johnson’s Restaurant – truly as their sign says – the “Last One Standing” in the World. We arrived around 2pm and were a little concerned as there were no other vehicles in the parking lot nor other patrons in the restaurant – but then again it was past normal lunch hours.

We looked at the salad bar before being seated to see what it was like as we often just order the salad bar. This one had two sides – one was a small salad bar with a choice of two soups, iceberg lettuce, spinach leaves and only a choice of cucumber, cherry tomatoes and shredded cheese for toppings plus a selection of four dressings.

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The other side of the “Bar” – called their “Smorgasbord” offered several warm selections like beans, rolls, spaghetti (that hadn’t been stirred in awhile – spelled “congealed”) and another vegetable. It would not be an option for us.

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We ordered from the lunch menu which came with the limited Soup/Salad Bar. The soup choices this day were minestrone and chicken noodle.

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I ordered the HoJo burger which was actually pretty good ($12.95) ….

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Niki opted for the Famous Baked Macaroni & Cheese ($12.95). The mac & cheese was laughable and looked more like cooked elbow macaroni stirred into a Cheese-Wiz type concoction (and tasted like it as well). The closest it came to being baked was maybe passing by an oven on the way out to our table.

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We asked the cashier if they actually ever baked their macaroni & cheese and she acted quite surprised and offered to bring out the “Chef”.

When we were leaving the restaurant we met a couple just arriving that had driven over from Connecticut especially to have the famous fried clams that HoJo was also known for. They will have to wait another day to try them as the restaurant had already closed (at 3pm) for the day as we were leaving.

We enjoy eating out and finding new restaurants, especially the local “Mom & Pop” type in our travels. We can both still remember the Howard Johnson’s of our younger days and unfortunately this restaurant does not come close to what we remember. We have seen a couple decent reviews for their breakfasts – though $14.95 for a simple omelet seems a little on the high side. Maybe we came at the wrong time of day but then again what can you really do to breakfast.

We rate the restaurant at one-star (*). Very overpriced and not a good value for your dining $$$. We did have dessert at Martha’s down the road. Her hot fudge sundaes did make up for a lot.

Find a few dozen more of our completely unbiased reviews of restaurants along the Snowbird Routes at
http://www.snowbirdrvtrails.com/diningreviews.htm

Buck Mountain Revisited

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The pond on Buck Mountain near Uncle Raymie’s Hermitage

This past Friday I had the rare opportunity to go hiking with my best
friend from childhood – Frank Anauo – to a place we shared some
memorable times as only teenagers can growing up in the mountains. It
was one more trek into Buck Mountain.

Back in the 50’s it was a destination for adventure and had all the
prerequisites for the best teenage adventure – it was far away from
civilization, it had a beautiful pond close-by not generally known or
visited by many people (with bass and perch that were “this big!”),
and it was “The Hemitage” – as Frank likes to call it – where my
hermit Uncle – Uncle Raymie – had cleared ten acres of forest, built a
cabin, planted crops and lived contentedly for several decades to the
end of his life. Uncle Raymie was truly one of life’s most
unforgettable characters and the source of so many great memories.

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Frank Anauo lifelong friend and fellow adventurer

Frank’s and my adventure this past Friday was to rekindle some of our
own memories and that we did – like the times spent fishing and
skinny-dipping in the pond and a particular frigid Winter weekend that
probably should have killed us both – a weekend we never could forget.

It was mid-Winter of ’60 or ’61. It was cold and the snow was a couple
of feet deep with much deeper drifts. Uncle Raymie had passed away by
this time and his home had been destroyed by a bad sort with the
misguided notion that he had money hidden away somewhere when he died.
I had purchased the land from his estate but had not received
ownership before the vandals had done their worst. We had suspicions
of who the culprits were but with no actual proof.

At any rate there still stood a small shed on the property and that
was going to be our base camp on that Winter’s day. The property
itself was a couple of miles back in from our family farm so Frank and
I had our work cut out just getting into it through the drifts. We
most always took the back way in when it would have been shorter,
easier and probably more prudent to walk in from the Town road over
the mountain – but then again we were teenagers and that was just too
much common sense for any real adventure.

We had planned this particular outing for weeks and were excited when
departure day arrived. Of course we thought of ourselves as the Boone
brothers and tamers of any wilds we might encounter. This particular
outing was for the purpose of rabbit hunting.

We made it to the shack after a couple of hours of slogging through
the snow with our guns and backpacks filled with the provisions we
thought we would need to sustain us. The day had been sunny bright but
as we settled into our camp and the sun started to go down it got
colder and colder. We had our sleeping bags but soon knew they were
not going to be near enough to keep out that freezing cold (no space
age, chill preventing material in those 50’s bed rolls).

We had brought along a lantern fueled with white gas and we noted that
it did put off pretty good heat and decided to leave it on all night
for warmth. Our shack was fairly sturdy with a good roof and probably
6′ x 6′ in floor size and with a sturdy door. It did keep the howling
wind outside but was pretty lacking as far as insulation went. Now
most young men of our age – who had not slept through science class –
would know that a lantern working in a small space with no air
circulation could do serious harm to a human being. Frank and I figure
that the only reason we survived that night is because we did know
enough to leave the door open just a crack.

The remainder of the weekend is lost to our aging memories other than
we do know we did come down off the mountain with a couple of rabbits
and one good reason to remember this particular adventure – we
survived.

The ten acres are all grown up now and reclaimed by nature. We had
difficulty finding the old foundation for Uncle Raymie’s cabin. The
foundation itself is almost a work of art with many sized stones and
slabs – some quite large and “two-men sized” – intricately placed
together to form a base that looks as firm as it must have been
originally, now nearly 100 years later. We puzzled over how one man
could have put it together – he must have had help. We also found the
big pine tree near the foundation with  indentations in the bark where
a thick logging chain circled the trunk that once held a large (and
quite vicious) “family pet” of Uncle Raymie’s – another story for
another time.

It was another great day spent with a special friend and the years
just dropped away as walked and talked. Thanks Frank for a really
special day

Stopover: Chattanooga, Tennessee

CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE – Interesting places we visited on our two night stopover at
Holiday Travel Park, 1709 S Mack Smith Road (I-75, TN Exit 1B)
A nice, neat campground for RVers as well as tenters passing through. The staff is personable, the prices fair and it’s easy off/on I-75. It’s also built on a Civil War battlefield with a marker to prove it.
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Holiday Travel Park, Chattanooga, Tennessee
The RV Park is actually where an Indiana Regiment bivouacked before some fierce fighting on Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge back in 1863. There is a path to the stone marker proclaiming such within the Park. More formation about Holiday at our
http://www.snowbirdrvtrails.com/holidaytravelpark.htm

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Jenkins Buffet, 4134 Ringgold Road
Fried chicken, ham, chopped steak and a great selection of all the Southern style veggies like boiled cabbage, fried okra, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, field, green and black-eyed peas, shoepeg corn and homemade salads you’ve been craving. Save some room for the dessert table! Website: http:// .jenkinsbuffet.com/

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The International Towing & Recovery Museum, 3315 Broad Street
Who knew that Chattanooga was the Mecca for all the guys and gals who pull us out of the troubles we get into along life’s roadways. They have 15 wreckers on display from the earliest to the mammoth truck that could  easily handle 70 tons (only four ever built!). We also found the wrecker that set a World’s record for speed and even one of the big green monsters that followed our guys to the Front in WWII. They also have hundreds of old and newer toy trucks.

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Some big, bad towing machines at the International Towing & Recovery Museum!

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The Wall of the Fallen at the International Towing & Recovery Museum….
Remembering those who have lost their lives doing their jobs.

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There is a Wall of Fame….
inside the Museum honoring new inductees each year from around the World.

Both are very nice tributes to the industry.

I found the Museum interesting for a one time visit. It’s more a guy thing and kids would love it, as well as anyone interested in history, trucks and things mechanical.

Niki was not so excited by it?

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The Southern Belle, 201 Riverfront Parkway
A Tennessee River paddle boat with a beer & burger grill open on the third deck.

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The Southern Belle dockside on the Tennessee River

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Traffic on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, Tennessee

The Sara Lee Bakery Outlet Store (conveniently located across from Holiday Travel Park) was hard to miss so it made it a must! They have a great assortment of breads, cookies and all kinds of chocolate and other fortifying snacks at good prices.

Oh, and there are also several roadway tunnels under Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga which are a hoot to drive through – but be sure to leave the RV elsewhere!

Exploring America and having fun-
from the road,
Jack, Niki, K.C. & B.B.
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This trip started on Day 1 –
http://www.snowbirdrvtrails.com/2016rvtripnorthday1and2.htm

Memorial Day at Andersonville

Memorial Day 2016
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Niki and I were fortunate to spend a few hours at the Andersonville (Georgia) National Historic Site today. The Site’s 516 acres includes the infamous Andersonville Prison from the Civil War, arguably the most inhumane prison this country has ever seen, the National Prisoner of War Museum and the Andersonville National Cemetery with 13,714 graves. Through the efforts of countless volunteers, all graves held an American Flag this Memorial Day. Tomorrow the flags will be removed. This is a most thought provoking site that gives one great cause to reflect on man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. We shall have more photos of the three main sections found at Andersonville in future posts.
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snowbirdrvtrails.com

The Florida Strawberry Festival – Plant City, Florida

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The Florida Strawberry Festival

The place to find all the Midway fun and games, the great Fair food, top Country Music entertainers and whipped cream topped mountains of strawberry shortcake all in one place – for one week each year – in Plant City, Florida!

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We visited on their “Heroes Day” (March 9th) when all active and former Military were admitted free and we were surprised and delighted that they allowed Niki in free as well “for putting up with me”.

We came on this day specifically to enjoy some strawberry shortcake and to see Ray Stevens perform his comedy and all of his old and new songs. Boy did he deliver and we enjoyed it as well as a stroll around the grounds and, of course, some great, fresh strawberry shortcake.

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After the show we stopped for dinner at another Plant city landmark, Fred’s Market Restaurant for a Southern, homestyle buffet that that is so darn good and plentiful that we only dare visit once a year.

For more photos of our visit to the Florida Strawberry Festival visit us on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/snowbirdrvtrail/the-florida-strawberry-festival/.

THE FLORIDA STATE PARKS PHOTO CONTEST IS AS SIMPLE AS EXPLORE, SHARE AND WIN

THE FLORIDA STATE PARKS PHOTO CONTEST
IS AS SIMPLE AS EXPLORE, SHARE AND WIN
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~Monthly photo contest to include new prizes and themes~

Tallahassee, Fla. – Florida’s 174 state parks, trails and historic sites offer beautiful backdrops for recreational and nature-based photos, and we want to see them from your point-of-view. The new state park monthly photo contest’s campaign is explore Florida State Parks, share your point-of-view and enter to win the Florida State Parks Photo Contest!

“Time spent at a park is invaluable for building family bonds and making memories,” said Donald Forgione, director of the Florida Park Service. “I encourage park visitors to bring a camera along to tell their story and share their adventures.”

New this year are monthly themes to help focus your lens. Submit your photo here to enter.

2016 Themes:

March – Signs of spring: gardens and wildflowers
April – Camping: RV, tent or just a backpack
May – Al fresco dining: picnics and grilling
June – School’s out: kids playing at a park
July – Beach season: seashells, sandcastles and shorebirds
August – Keep cool: freshwater springs
September – Read the park: Bring a book or join a tour
October – Trails Month: hiking, biking and horseback riding
November – Water world: surfing, swimming, diving and fishing
December – Family gatherings: cabins and campfires

One winner each month will receive a Florida State Parks Tervis® tumbler and six state park day-entry passes. The public determines the monthly winners by voting here.

The deadline to enter the contest is the 20th of each month. Monthly winners are announced on the first day of each month. See photo contest rules for more details.

Posted by Jack Armstrong/snowbirdrvtrails.com

The Storks of Shoppers Way Lane

Day Trip – The Storks of Shoppers Way Lane
Hidden behind a large shopping center – just off busy US-19 in Port Richey, Florida you will find a small pond with cypress trees and ringed with mangroves. Easy to miss driving by but the perfect spot for a Rookery of American Wood Storks!

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For directions, photos and more info – visit our website at
http://www.snowbirdrvtrails.com/storksofshopperswaylane.htm

 

Day Trip to Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida

350x350boktowerbBok Tower Gardens is about an hour and a half from Tampa. It’s an easy drive and well worth the trip. In addition to the 7 1/2 acres of beautifully landscaped  grounds, trails and the Singing Tower Carillon you’ll find 126 different species of birds ()it is a designated site on the Florida Birding Trail. The gopher tortoise is in residence as well as the endangered eastern indigo snake. Plan to spend all day or at least a few hours to experience it all. In the Visitor Center you’ll find the Blue Palmetto Cafe for lunch or just a snack as well as exhibits tracing Edward Bok’s life as well as the history and development of the 205′ Singing Tower.  and Gardens. T0ur the 20 room Pinewood Estate on the property.Built in the 1930’s it’s the former “retreat” of  Charles Austin Buck, a Bethlehem Steel vice president. More photos, prices and info from our trip on our website page: http://www.snowbirdrvtrails.com/daytriptoboktowergardens.htm.