Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Tale of Three Tails from Two Tails Ranch

About 50 miles from Salt Creek Recreation Area is the Two Tails Ranch  founded in 1984 to provide a safe place for elephants in need of either a permanent or temporary home.

Founder, chief cook and bottle washer Patricia Zerbini established Two Tails Ranch as both an elephant sanctuary and educational facility located near Williston, FL.  Patricia’s family has been training, showing and caring for exotic animals for nine generations.  Patricia herself has performed under the big top but much prefers her life as a mother of four sons and caretaker of as many as 40 elephants at one time.  Her charges come from Ringling Bros. Circus as well as from zoos that need a place to send elephants while undergoing repairs or restorations.

While we were there we met the three resident Indian Elephants.  First we were introduced to Bunny.
Bunny has a sweet tooth and loves peppermint candy.  Here she is waiting for Patricia to give her a piece of Christmas candy cane.
Patricia told us a funny story about Bunny.  Seems as though Bunny took a liking to a small Matchbox car which Bunny hid in her barn and from time to time would put it into her mouth,  then take it outside, retrieve it from her mouth and push it around on a flat surface.
Next we met Roxie.
Sandy opted to buy some carrots and feed Roxie and said it was really a neat experience. The money helps provide for food for the elephants who can consume up to 300 pounds of hay per day along with 30 to 40 pounds of fresh produce.
Last -- me met Luke, who  is a superstar of the elephant world, because he has raised over $175,000 for Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Luke is nearly 12 feet tall and weighs close to 12,000 pounds.  He has been at Two Tails for 23 of his 25 years.   Luke’s fame comes from the fact that he is an accomplished painter.  Proceeds from his paintings go to charity.
Here Luke is deciding on his next brush stroke as Patricia adds more paint to his brush.
A close up of this gentle giant. 

Admission by appointment.  Cost is $10.00.

Stay tuned

Friday, January 21, 2011

Oldest city in the United States

We drove to St. Augustine on Thursday with our friends Deb and Dale Wiegand, who spend winters in their Florida home near Punta Gorda.
There is a lot of history in St. Augustine and we barely scratched the surface.  A history buff could spend a week here and not run out of things to see.
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Photo from by Barry Drawn
The National Park Service has conferred National Monument status to the ancient Castillo de San Marcos which is the oldest masonry fort in the United States.  Construction on the fort was started in 1672. However, the city itself was established in 1565 and since that time has been continuously inhabited – making it the oldest city in the United States.
A working replica of the original gate.
One of the many mortars used to defend the fort.   This one could lob a iron ball slightly over one mile. 
These cannon (on right) could send a canon ball up to 2 miles, providing plenty of protection against ships in Matanzas Bay.
This is the Shot Furnace in which canon balls were heated until red hot and then carried inside the fort and up the stairs to be propelled at wooden ships where the damage they wrought was enhanced by starting fires.
Officer quarters.  Others were even more Spartan.
The old fort is one of the main attractions in St. Augustine, but we may go back to see what me missed in the city.
For centuries St. Augustine was surrounded by a wall with gates that were locked from sunset to sunrise.
The oldest wood school house in the U.S.
Flagler College started as the ultra-modern Ponce de Leon Hotel built by Henry Flagler in 1882.  {Flagler was an early railroad baron.} Today the building is a four-year liberal arts college.  I took this photo from a trolley ride which I cannot recommend as a good way to take pictures.
Many of the older homes are on narrow streets and are behind brick or stone walls, giving the area a charming and unique feel.
Tomorrow we plan to do something really different. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Laid back in Florida

We are really into the laid back lifestyle of Florida.  We get to sleep in, we get to take nice long walks and we have met some new and some old friends.
We even had an unwelcome guest.
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This little lizard was sitting on a bathroom towel bar so I quickly escorted him outside.  He probably liked the idea of living in a unique-to-him motorhome, but I carried him outside before he tried to sell me an insurance policy. 
Speaking of unique, this unusual home-made RV is located in our campground.   The owner did a nice job on the outside.
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We had a first-time event in that we met one of my blog followers John and Ellie from New York.  John does a fine job on his blog
We really wanted to spend some time with John and Ellie, but their short time in the camp overlapped with a visit from former Illinois neighbors.  We hope our paths crossed again soon so that we can do more than have a couple of brief conversations in front of our motorhome.  Safe travels on your trip home to see your daughter, Kelly,  sworn into the the U.S. Navy, following in her father's footsteps.
Yesterday we drove into Ocala to meet Dale and Deb Wiegand, dear friends and former neighbors from the Shady Hill subdivision in Barrington, IL.  We caught up with them at the Hampton Inn.  After lunch, we spent the afternoon playing Michigan Rummy and Mexican Train and laughing a lot about old times in Illinois.  For dinner we found a unique restaurant with excellent food and wine and a quirky waiter and an interesting owner/chef. 
Dale and Debbie, spent the day with us in St. Augustine and then we had dinner at a little local restaurant near the Corp campground that was excellent.
My next blog will be about our visit to the oldest city in the United States: nearby St. Augustine.
Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Home in sunny Florida

So far, so good here at Salt Springs Recreation Area 35 miles east of Ocala. We have been here just over one week and the weather feels good:  not too hot and not too cold.  It certainly is a beautiful campground built by the Army Corp of Engineers.
The sidewalk leads to the salt springs that flow at a rate of about 50 millions gallons of salt water daily at a constant 72 degrees.  I love the moss draped live oaks.
Like so many other federal campgrounds, Salt Springs is managed by a private contractor.  American Land and Leisure does a fine job.  The first day we were here we had an electrical problem and they came and fixed it within 10 minutes of our reporting it. Sandy and I might do a camp hosting stint with them sometime this year at one of they many camps in other states.  We’ll look into that later.
Morning mists can’t hide the three grebes looking for food.
These three guys were also hoping for some food to come their way.
On the property is this mysterious-looking and neglected two-story residence. It seems to fit the image of old Florida.
Ferns are everywhere.
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This artesian spring has supplied fresh water to residents for a couple hundred years.  The Schedule 40 PVC pipe is a 20th Century improvement.  The water is cool, clear and delicious.  We re-filled all 8 of our gallon water jugs.  We use this water for cooking and for making coffee and tea.  We usually buy water from the machines in supermarket parking lots.
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This section of walkway is part of the 45 minute walking trail around the camp.
Yesterday we drove into Ocala to have lunch with one of Sandy’s sister and her husband, Sharon and Chuck Dewey.  They have a Montana fifth wheel and are at an RV park in town.
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On the way back we saw a sign that advertising Eggs and Citrus.  We drove down the longest, narrowest driveway ever and emerged into a genteel and lightly neglected farm yard with two big labs and orange, grapefruit and cumquat trees around.  We bought about 10 pounds of juice oranges, two grapefruits and two Temple oranges, plus a dozen freshly laid eggs for $3.50.  Wow!
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This emu curiously followed us down the farmer’s driveway.

I’ll end with this early morning shot of the salt springs.
Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Back to life in the motorhome

From the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers campground at Salt Springs Recreation Area in the heart of the Ocala National Forest, Florida

Sandy and I are glad to be back in our motorhome and back on the road. 

As some of you know, Sandy is also known as Cookie Queen.  When we stayed with family in Illinois, she made close to 600 cookies.  Here is a photo of my favorite cookie, called Chocolate Crowns.  On top of the chocolate cookie she places a large dab of cherry fruit filling, puts a marshmallow on that, pops the cookie back into the oven to soften the marshmallow and then covers most of the cookie with her own custom-blend semi-sweet chocolate coating.  They are to die for.

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While we were in Illinois we got to see our new grandson: Oscar William Levenson-Stoltz.  At this point in time he has no idea what wonderful baked goodies are in store for him from his Grandma Sandy.

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We arrived here just after lunch on New year’s Eve. We have a campsite that is somewhat difficult to back into, and a number of campers stopped what they were doing to watch us squeeze our 40 foot beast into the diagonal site.  But we did so with aplomb.

This Corp campground is quite different from any other we have been in in that it has quite a variety of activities. Last night we attended a New Year’s Eve party that included


some really great music from a small band that is in between cruise ship bookings.  We didn’t stay long, but it was a pleasant start to our 3-month stay here.

The park is managed by a private contractor, and we have been very impressed by the pleasant/helpful attitude of all the camp hosts we have met so far.  Today, New Year’s Day, I walked up to the office to report that we were having a problem with the power pedestal.  It is about a 7-minute walk back from the office and when I returned to the motorhome the electrician had already started on the repair. That’s pretty incredible service anywhere.  I’ll tell you more about the campground in the weeks to come.

Stay tuned.