Florida Caverns Revisited

March 5th, 2017

After leaving the comfort of the Cracker Barrel parking lot we drove to Marianna, Florida headed for Florida Caverns State Park. We quickly hooked the RV up at the site (full hookups – electric, water and sewer!) and planned to ‘unpack’ the supplies and get settled later in the day. In the 2 sites next to ours were 2 families camping together. This was the first time in over a month of being on the road that we had kids & families in the campground, spring break was starting! The sight of kids was very exciting to our family so we took them up on their invitation to tag along for a hike within the park.

Interesting landscape in this park. The main feature of the park is an air-filled cavern of stalagmites and stalactites, while above ground was an interesting combination of woods and swamp land.

After the hike Hadley and Nolan played with the neighbors and rode bikes. This gave Cortney and I some time to finish unpacking the RV and preparing it for the 5 nights, 6 days we would at this state park. We have no plans for our stay other than checking out the caverns one morning and letting the kids just be kids the remainder of the time.

March 6th and 7th, 2017

Did not write anything yesterday and today was much of the same. We just hung around the RV and in the park. This park provides nice amounts of shade with the trees, which makes working outside easier – it cuts down on the glare on the computer screen.

What is interesting about this full time RV thing is that although many differences exist between you and your neighbor – we all share something in common – the love of being outside and traveling. There is that shared interest that bonds you immediately making it easy to start conversations with people. The neighbors come and go, some are there on the weekends for just a couple of days, others are full timing and stay several days or even weeks. We are not extroverts by any means but are really enjoying making new friends, getting to know them and hearing their stories of family, travel and adventure!

One neighbor – escaping the cold of a New Hampshire winter – came over and chatted with Cortney and I sharing how much he enjoyed seeing young families in the park. He  had noticed Cortney was walking our loop quite a bit with the kids on their bikes, seeing we did not have bikes he asked if he could give us one. It was a ladies bike that his wife couldn’t ride anymore due to back surgery. How awesome is that!? Sweet people, that bike was such a blessing to us!

Spent the afternoon today on the 7th washing the outside of the RV with a bucket of water and soap. Then dinner over the campfire.

March 8th, 2017

After washing the RV yesterday – wouldn’t you know – it rained last night.

(Note: Most of the time during the trip we did not pay much attention to weather. Occasionally if were trying to plan a trip to say a big city or major attraction, we’d check it. Other than that – we just went with it really. It’s not that you don’t care – it’s just that you care about it less. It is what is it is.)

In the morning – sat and listened to Hadley read books. In the middle of the day, Nolan, our Adventure Man and extrovert, made friends with a family on the opposite side of the loop. They had kids similar in age to Hadley and Nolan. The kids spent much of the day riding their bikes around the camp loop together, painting, and sidewalk chalking the road. As their time together was drawing to a close for the day, Nolan came up with a scheme to hang out with them longer, asking us if he could invite them over for dinner.

The kids and Cortney rode their bikes down to the Visitor Center to inquire about cavern tours and to pick up Junior Ranger books for the kids. They learned that cavern tours were first come first serve, so we would be early to rise the next morning! The Junior Ranger books were at the Ranger Station at the park entrance which meant another mile down the road by bike, filled with hills they had not been noticed when we drove in days earlier in the motorhome. On their ride back (thankfully mostly downhill) they came across some interesting reptile signs and a few turtles on the road (which, if you know Cortney and her love of turtles, they had to stop and say hello to each one, helping them to the side of the road!)

By early afternoon we decided we would head into town. We needed a bike rack for the car – now that Cortney had a bike. To this point we have just been putting the kids smaller bikes inside the Civic as it was towed. It was now time to upgrade to an actual bike rack.

Headed to a Walmart for that purchase, along with some allergy pills for Nolan. Say what you want about Walmart, I know people either love it or hate it. Honestly, we don’t shop there much when home but it is so convenient and budget friendly while on the road – there’s always a Walmart (right Sweeney’s?!) On our way back to the campground at dusk I took a small historical detour to visit a local church in Marianna. There was a Civil War battle “The Battle of Marianna” that took place there.

March 9th, 2017

We woke to an alarm clock today (a very rare thing on this trip thus far) and headed down to the visitors center to secure our spot on a guided tour of the caverns.

We were happy to have caught the first tour of the day. When we visited Nashville in October of 2016, we stopped on our way back to Denver at Blanchard Springs Caverns in northern Arkansas. Those caverns were huge and spectacular and have bit us with a bug to see as many as we can, such beauty hidden underground. The Florida Caverns did not compare in size by any stretch but were amazing nonetheless.

Because the Florida Caverns were smaller, we actually seemed to have a better view of the walls, ceilings and all their intricate details. We had the opportunity to walk through some very low and narrow spaces, carefully avoiding colliding our heads on the stalactites – you couldn’t ask to be any closer. I think the kids seemed to enjoy these caverns more being able to experience them up close.

After the tour we headed back to our site and ran into Nolan’s new friends and their parents. They accepted his invitation for s’mores that night – thanks Nolan for the new friends!

In the afternoon before dinner and s’mores; kids with their new friends went fishing at the local water hole / swamp pond. The kids were more fascinated with casting than fishing. They fished in suspense waiting for an alligator to catch their line.

Following dinner, it was a great time getting acquainted and a challenging time of s’mores – since the wood was so moist from humidity and the recent rain. Their dad, Mark, saved the day with some really savvy Boy Scout fire making skills. So fun watching the kids hit it off, sharing all the things they had in common and of course sharing s’mores!

March 10th, 2017

Left Florida Caverns today around 11am. The new friends Nolan had made have a travel trailer they enjoy on weekend and holiday excursions. Their kids had never been in something as big as our motorhome. They were very interested in riding in the RV, so we had them hop on board and drive with us from the campground to park entrance, with their (trusting) parents following behind.

We said our goodbye’s at that ranger station, promised to stay in touch and exchanged addresses so the kids could have pen pals! (To this day, the kids have remained touch, exchanging drawings, notes and even a fun time catching up via FaceTime. Friends for life, can’t wait to get back to Florida to visit them again!)

Cortney drove east, taking us from the central to the eastern time zone; while I caught up on some work.

Along the way we saw a sign for a truck stop that offered truck washes, this was a first. We had been cleaning the RV best we could with a bucket & rags, but she’s a beast and has accumulated a lot of road dirt & bugs. Honestly, where do you wash an RV? Never had a need to know until now. We stopped to investigate if they could actually wash the RV. The gentleman had a booming business and he and another man power washed our RV to the point where we finally realized our RV was a very true and vibrant white! As Hadley says, “It wasn’t tan!?”

After being slowed (parked on the highway) by a wreck that shut the highway down for 2 hours – we arrived to Central Park RV in Haines City – later then we had wanted. Arriving in the dark is never fun and always stressful, especially when they are squeezing you into a space between two Park Models. Yes, we are in a mobile home park, check that off our list of unexpected. Our arrival in Florida inadvertently coincided with spring break, which made finding a spot for the week very challenging. We were grateful to have a spot to park and that is about all it was, a safe place to park. Nothing exciting to report other than BINGO on Thursday nights! As we set up, found they did not have 30 amp service, but only 50. We needed 30. So off to the local Walmart I went to purchase an adaptor at 10:00 PM (which we never used again in all our travels!)

Tomorrow – LEGOLand! Can’t hardly wait – kids don’t know.

This post is part of our Live Like No One Else series, a retelling, through journal entries kept along the way, of all the sights and memories we made during our 2017 #getlivingadventure. We were so busy living the adventure we missed sharing many of the experiences with you. Just happy to have you along as we relive many of the great memories that we hope one day our kids will have to read and remember!


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