August 7, 2010, was Vicky's 50th birthday, so Val and I planned a visit to Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. Val drove to Florida and we made a few local trips to nearby attractions in the little Toyota Scion before departing on the camping trip to Wisconsin in the GTRV Westy. Our visit to the West Farm is covered in West Farm - 2010.
Val arrived just before midnight on Monday, July 19, and we immediately went swimming, which Val enjoyed after driving all day. Tuesday morning we stopped at Paynes Prairie State Preserve on the way to Gainesville and took pictures of dragonflies and other reptiles at the boat landing on Lake Wauberg and the visitor center. Val got a picture of of a young blue-tailed skink with a very blue tail, and I got a picture of a broad-headed skink.
We did our usual visit to the Butterfly Rainforest Exhibit at the Florida Museum of Natural History
. "CSI: Crime Scene Insects" was the special exhibit being featured, and included an interesting "Fly Wheel," a stroboscopic sculpture exploiting an optical phenomenon known as the persistence of vision. I did my usual tour of the whole museum and the outdoor butterfly garden which was quite over-grown since I last saw it. The butterfly house is a beautiful structure, even on the outside.
Wednesday was the visit to Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
in Gainesville, after dropping the GTRV Westy off for a checkup before we go camping. It was very hot and humid again, but we found many interesting things while exploring the tropical plant house, the children's garden, the butterfly garden, and the new boardwalk on the lake with the Giant Victoria plants from the Amazon Basin, the world's largest water lily. Val found the larvae of a Brazilian skipper which is pictured below. We picked up the van on the way home and were in the pool by 6 pm to try to cool off. Dinner tonight at China Lee Buffet where Val introduced me to some oriental delicacies.
Thursday we went to Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. The manatees put on a real show as they circled around the underwater viewer while rolling over and over. They really looked like they enjoyed the performance, as did the people viewing them. The otters are now in their new habitat next to the reptile house. We stopped at Rainbow Springs State Park on the way home and took pictures of Rainbow Falls (the rock formation for the falls came from the river and the water is recirculated from the river. The water cascades about 60 feet to form the falls.) Seminole Falls are remnants of Rainbow Springs Attraction era, built in 1937, and utilize soil dredged from a nearby phosphate pit.
Friday we went to Leu Gardens
in Orlando, but it was another very hot day. We took many pictures of plants and insects, including the 6-legged spider pictured below which fell on the table on the patio while we were eating lunch. We had a short heavy rain shower as we were leaving the gardens through the historical house, but no rain at home in Ocala. We loaded the two kayaks into the van before it got too dark, ready for tomorrow morning.
We hiked the 3/4 mile sandy walk to the Silver River at the State Park and got on the river by 8:30 am and didn't get back until 3:30 pm. Val used the Swifty
by Perception and I used the Puffin Sport
by Pakboats. We saw lots of wildlife, including birds and limpkins, monkeys, alligators, fish, snakes, and insects. After we got home, we had a nice swim and returned home to put the boats away. Then we got a nice thunderstorm and several more throughout the evening. Val fixed a delicious fish (from the freezer) dinner.
Sunday morning we went to the Florida Greenway (cross-Florida land that was abandoned) to take pictures of the many insects there. Then to the new Silver Springs Conservation Area across the road from the State Park where some people were releasing a rescued huge gopher tortoise. Spent the rest of the day swimming, packing, and eating at the Chinese Buffet. Left for Stone Mountain
, Georgia, on Monday and got a few storms with the hot weather. Saw the laser show twice while we were there. On Tuesday we spent the entire day at the Georgia Aquarium
about 16 miles away.
Wednesday we were at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens
all day. They had a fabulous orchid display and a couple of Chihuly
glass sculptures. Had another rain storm as we were leaving. Went to the Stone Mountain park to eat and watch the laser show again. Thursday we were at the Zoo Atlanta
. When leaving there, a Yellow Taxi cab driver nicked the skirting on our van but we could not stop and he disappeared quickly. Duct tape covers the damage. The campground had Krispie Kreme donuts every morning and a shuttle to the laser show. Friday we drove to Mammoth Cave National Park
and managed to take a couple of tours before evening. Val also got a space on the special photography tour in the Frozen Niagara area "Focus on Formations."
Saturday we drove to the KOA campground which has a pool and internet access. Sunday we went to the Missouri Botanical Garden
where Val again used her WFC membership for free entrance and discounts. More Chihuly sculptures and great insect exhibits.
The St. Louis Zoo
on Monday, with fantastic insect exhibits, an insect quilt, incredible old buildings, great carousel, a train ride, an Everglades exhibit. One unfortunate event was parking in the "patrolled" North parking lot, our van was broken into, but, other than the damaged lock, nothing was taken. We were lucky; other out-of-staters had broken windows, stolen cash and other items.
Devil's Lake State Park on Tuesday, August 3. Tried to stop at Delaney's, but it is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Walked on a few of the trails by the lake.
On the way North, we stopped at Castle Rock for a brief walk, but were attacked by swarms of vicious mosquitoes. We got a couple of pictures and left in a hurry. We arrived at the farm about 11:00 am. Spent the next five nights in Turtle Lake at the West Farm
Leaving Turtle Lake on Monday, August 9, we stopped at Delaney's on the way South. The old building had burned down several years ago, and now the new warehouse is very modern and accessible - and big. Val went directly to the exhibits where she fought off the mosquitoes. I met Lady Eleanor Every and she told me about Dr. Every's health problems. I bought a book (A Mystic Obsession, The World of Dr. Evermor by Tom Kupsh, and a DVD, "Statues by the Road, 'Power On!' at Dr. Eavermor's Sculpture Park."
We stopped in Minooka to visit John's sister, Helen, and her daughter Tommie and Tommie's husband Bob. Helen gave us some delicious food. Then we went to visit and spend the night at my brother Rich's house. He has two miniature schnauzers that keep him company. Val and I enjoyed his hospitality and letting us sleep on a real bed.
We thought we would drive directly back to Ocala, but got tired and stopped at Red Top Mountain State Park north of Atlanta in Georgia. It was still hot and the sun was almost setting. We found a safe campsite and climbed down the hill to swim in the warm lake and watch a magnificent sunset - leaving our cameras in the Westy at the top of the hill.
We returned home in Ocala at 4:00 pm. That evening here was a beautiful rainbow in the Eastern sky over our house. Thursday morning, Val left for Texas in her little blue Toyota Echo on wet roads. It was a great multi-purpose camping trip.