A visit to Florida’s Lake Griffen State Park

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As some may know we purchased our new, 2018 Roadtrek Class B this past December but due to some medical issues we were unable to schedule our first trip to check out all of the systems until now. I am happy to report that we did finally get away for a couple of days to test out all systems in our “Sunset Princess” and our shakedown cruise went off even better than expected. All systems operated efficiently with the exception of the on-demand hot water heater which I need to research but with the temps in the 90’s here in Florida the cold water tap was actually warm enough for our needs this time!

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Our Class B is a completely self contained 19′ vehicle for camping, sightseeing or escaping the paths of looming hurricanes. It has a generator on board, full bathroom, sofa that makes into a queen-sized bed, microwave, two burner stove, furnace, refrigerator and a 24″ color TV with surround sound. We purchased it because with two bad knees Niki can no longer negotiate a car seat in a standard Detroit automobile. This has swivel seats making life a whole lot better.

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We set-up at Lake Griffin State Park located between Ocala and Orlando. Not really a destination Park but serene and quiet especially in the middle of the week. The Park has full hook-ups which is our preferred way to travel and makes a Simplicity SRT our perfect choice.

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The lake itself is about a mile from the campground with a canal that connects the two. The campground rents canoes and kayaks and there is also a Ranger guided tour of the waterway probably available on weekends.

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The restrooms, shower section and laundry area were spotless, brightly lit and well maintained.

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This Park has 40 campsites including seven pull-throughs of varying lengths. All sites have electricity and water and seven have sewer hook-ups with ten having 50 Amp service. We chose site 9 but would recommend sites 10 and 11 as being longer and more spacious and also having full hook-ups.

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There’s a beautiful boat ramp, dock and picnic area where canoes and kayaks may be rented. It’s located at the head of a 1,000′ canal that leads to the Dead River which empties into Lake Griffen. There are massive old oaks dripping Spanish moss throughout the Park including a mammoth old oak near the entrance and said to be the second largest in the State.

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I have attached some photos taken in the Park. Their are several Nature Trails and the children’s play area includes a swing for wheelchairs that I had not seen before. They do a lot with and for children including camps in the Summertime. We found the staff to be most courteous, conscientious and smiling. It’s apparent they love their jobs.

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One of our favorite things is to visit the locals favorite restaurants when we visit a new area. Our first was a visit to the “Original Stavros Pizza Restaurant” nearby in Leesburg at the suggestion of the Ranger on duty. It is a beautiful restaurant inside. Though some of their dishes may be excellent the Italiian subs we ordered were not. They were wet with dressing to the point of puddling and the taste was not up to par.

Another evening we tried the La Palma Mexican Grill and the outcome wasn’t much better. Niki and I both had the Chimichanga dinners. The refried beans had a burned taste and the chicken chimi’s were tasteless. The rice was pretty good. All in all we should have patronized the American Legion Post only a short distance from the campground.

Lake Griffen State Park is located at 3089 Hwy 441-27 in Fruitlnd Park, Florida.
Website: https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/lake-griffin-state-park

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A State Fair in the middle of Winter??

In February when much of the Country is buried in snow and freezing temperatures it’s nice to visit the Florida State Fair in sunny Tampa with blue skies and temps in the 70’s. It’s rides, food, entertainment and attractions – musical acts, racing pigs, zoo, circus, flying dogs, dancing bears and all of the cuddly baby animals you can take!

Join me as we take a photographic tour of this year’s 2018 Florida State Fair on my Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/snowbirdrvtrail/this-is-the-florida-state-fair/.

Keep current on Tampa and Suncoast Area happenings on our free monthly Snowbird Visitor’s Guide at http://www.tampabaysnowbirder.com/.

On the Road Again… and Again!

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As many of our friends know, we sold our 5th Wheel and F-250 this past Spring. The steps were just becoming too difficult for Niki to negotiate and still call it fun. My eyesight is not what it once was and I was uncomfortable guiding our ten ton missile down the road amongst all the crazies on the road that believe an RV can stop on a dime.

That was then. We spent the Summer off the road – the first in eight years – and we decided we missed it a bunch, so the logical answer was just to downsize a bit. We took delivery of our new home on wheels today. These Roadtrek Class B’s are amazing!

It is equipped with a generator and inverter for boondocking (if we were so inclined.)

Included also – Awning, AC, furnace, two-burner gas range, microwave, furnace, back-up camera, 24″ TV with BluRay CD/DVD Surround Sound, 5cu. ft. fridge, pull-out pantry, electric sofa/bed.

More adventures, routes and stories to come. We are Niki and Jack and we invite you to join us.

More on our website at http://www.snowbirdrvtrails.com/

Exploring Florida’s Suncoast in November

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Jack and Niki bring you the November issue of our Suncoast & Tampa Bay Snowbird Visitor’s Guide. It’s now up on the Internet at http://www.tampabaysnowbirder.com/.
 
This issue explores a 12-mile scenic stretch of the 45-mile Pinellas Trail that runs along a former railroad bed with Parks and other interesting places to visit as you bike, walk or jog. Where to park, what to see and some interesting mile markers.
 
Did you know the Beach Markets are reopening for the Season? When and where are they?
 
How about a list of area restaurants open for a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner?
 
All of the above plus our regular features including what’s playing this month at the Pier 60 Sunset Cinema, a listing of November’s local art & craft fairs and festivals, area attractions by city/town, webcams, shopping, parks, dining and more.

Happy November from Niki & Jack Armstrong!

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

What can’t an artist do with a pile of sand?

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Pier 60’s SUGAR SAND FESTIVAL on Clearwater Beach

The best Sand Sculpture Artists from around the World are invited to the Suncoast to spend a week doing their thing in the white sugar sand of Clearwater Beach creating masterpieces for the World to see. I – being part of said World – spent a wonderful morning, this past Friday, perusing their artwork. It’s difficult to believe it’s just sand, water and talent! The following photos are a few of my favorites and you can see more on our Pinterest page at This is Tampa Bay USA!

It’s the Annual Pier 60 SUGAR SAND FESTIVAL
This year’s theme – “FantaSea – a magical journey above and below the sea”
presented by St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida.

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More on our Pinterest page at This is Tampa Bay USA!

Can we talk about good eats?

Let’s talk about Restaurants and good food along the major East Coast RV Routes.

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Alligator bites on Clearwater Beach

Niki and I find that the best way to feel – and yes, taste – the local flavor of an area is to seek out the locals’ favorite places to dine. You meet people and you get a better feeling for what it might be like living in an area. Of course, the other benefit is that you find some delicious local tummy fare along the way.

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“Michigans” at the original Clare and Carl’s in Plattsburgh, NY

If you share our interest in RVing, exploring and good food – or I should say good food and good value – or maybe just looking for a good suggestion to grab a bite on your trip, we have broken down our lists three ways.

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Dining along East Coast RV Routes

First we have a BIG list from our Snowbird RV Trails files – Restaurant Reviews by State – from Maine to Florida and from the Outer Banks of North Carolina to Arkansas and the Mississippi River.

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Afternoon tea at Upper Canada Village

Secondly – Florida has been the home base in our travels and consequently we have visited more eateries here than any other State. Enough so that the Sunshine State Restaurants deserved a page or two of their own.

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Desserts to die for on the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs, FL

Now as Florida residents, the Tampa Bay Area is the epicenter of our lives which includes Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater Beach along with all of the surrounding picturesque smaller Towns. We, of course, continue our “hobby” of finding good places to eat in this area.

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Things to do and places to go in Tampa Bay

We publish online our local Tampa Bay Visitors Guide which we update constantly. It’s always a work in progress. On the website we have a section devoted to dining in this area with special emphasis on where to Find Cheap Eats in Tampa Bay for our out-of-town visitors – Snowbirds, Spring Breakers, family vacationers and all other beach goers and sun worshipers who want to see and do all there is in the area but still stay within their budget.

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Waterfront dining in Hooters of New Port Richey

We hope you enjoy our “lists” and find them useful to you. If you would like to comment or maybe add a favorite of your own for us to visit, we’d like to hear from you. Send us an email to snowbirdrvtrails@gmail.com or tbsnowbirders@gmail.com.

Until we cross paths, we wish you safe travels and to always enjoy every journey.
Jack and Niki

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Lunch in Skene Manor – Whitehall’s “Castle on the Hill”

 

Things to do in the Tampa Bay, St. Pete and Clearwater Beach Areas

As our friends know – Niki and I like to see, to do and to explore wherever we go. The Tampa Bay Area has been our Winter Snowbird destination for the past several years. While here we continue to explore and have developed our own version of a Visitor’s Guide to this area. If you are planning a trip to the Tampa vicinity then we hope that it might be of some help to you. We’ve a map to some popular tourist destinations, dozens of suggestions for places to visit all around the area, dining reviews (we love to eat out!) including where to dine on a budget (Cheap Eats for Spring Breakers!). We’ve also listed tons of places to shop and many of the Parks in the two County (Hillsborough and Pinellas) area. There are photos, a list of area webcams and much more. Visit Niki and Jack’s Visitor Guide to Tampa Bay728x146welcometotampabay

A Visit to the 2017 Florida Strawberry Festival

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Yesterday was a beautiful day to spend a few hours at the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City – just a few miles East of Tampa.

Plant City is arguably the largest strawberry growing area in the Country. During each March ‘s strawberry harvesting time the area shows its pride with one heck of an eleven day agricultural fair celebration paying homage to the growers – many are multi-generational family farms. Besides a large midway for the kids and young at heart, there are the animal and Ag demonstrations and exhibits with two real stand-outs. First is the strawberry decked out smartly in every edible form imaginable from shortcakes, shakes, sundaes to jams, jellies and more.

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Secondly, it’s over a week filled with some of the finest Country stars making appearances on the Wish Farms Sound Stage. This year featured Willie Nelson, Little Big Town, The Bellamy Brothers, Jennifer Nettles, Brenda Lee, Maddie & Tae and Rascal Flatts, to name a few.

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This year we chose to see Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers’ afternoon performance. They were as good as we expected, singing many of the hits they have had over their 40+ year career. They had two of the famous Lennon Sisters – Jan and Kathy – join them on stage for a couple of songs. They sang their hearts out for a very large crowd for about an hour and a half. Great show – even though the temp was hovering in the low 80’s, there was a nice breeze now and then that was much appreciated by the crowd.

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Our friends from Canada – Cheryl and Ray – joined us for this excursion and we spent several hours at the Festival enjoying the sights, listening to (and buying more CD’s from) one of Niki’s favorite groups – “Runa Pacha” – so versatile on the pan flute. We also enjoyed the Fair-type food including, of course, a mandatory round of huge, fresh, strawberry shortcake.

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The Florida Strawberry Festival is a lot of fun and we enjoy visiting it each year. We do recommend  if you ever have the chance to catch it as well.

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See more photos of the Florida Strawberry Festival on our Pinterest pages at https://www.pinterest.com/snowbirdrvtrail/florida-strawberry-festival/.

Safe travels and enjoy every adventure,

Niki and Jack