The new year has started, and, yes, we are out on the road – albeit without any social plans, dinners out, friends, or family until things get better.
We pulled the “Get Out of Cold Weather” card, and decided to head to Florida for a few weeks – warm up a bit. I know Georgia isn’t really THAT cold, but I have to say the Florida weather has been superb – high ‘60’s, low 70’s mostly, cooler at night.
On our trip south down I-75, we could not resist a stop at a perennial favorite: Carroll’s Sausage in Ashburn, GA. We did not camp there, but whenever we go by there, I need to stop and pick up some of their delicious, fresh sausages.
If you have ever traveled on I-75 in South Georgia through Ashburn, odds are pretty good you have been ticketed for speeding. While the officer is writing your ticket, look to your right – that’s Carroll’s Sausages. And not for nothing, Ashburn is the home of the Red Ant Festival! Who knew.
We spent our first night not at a state park but at one of our favorite campgrounds – the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel Restaurant. Hey, big spender. But if you need a place to camp for a night, their parking lots are great. The restaurants are always close to the highway, so you get the ambience of sleeping close to a highway. We try to spend a few coins with them when we stay there, just as a token for their hospitality.
Our first legit camping stop was at Lake Griffin State Park, in Fruitland Park, FL. It was a really nice campground; sites were relatively private, the campground was quiet, ours had full hookup (7 of the 40 sites have full hookup), and there are some walking/hiking trails within the park. There are also kayaks and canoes for rent, and you can charter a pontoon boat to tour you around the marshes. But the park is beautiful – with magnolias, live oaks with Spanish moss, and all kinds of ferns.
While it is called Lake Griffin, the park would be more correctly posited as Dead River, since technically it sits on the Dead River. But the Dead River feeds into Lake Griffin. Perhaps the marketing people thought it better to name the park Lake Griffin than Dead River. Marketers get funny about things like that.
Like most Florida state parks, you feel like you are locked away in a little cocoon. Visually the park is really nice – acoustically, it is a bit wanting what with the nearby traffic noise.
If you don’t know where Fruitland Park is, it is about 5 miles from The Villages. And if you aren’t familiar with The Villages, then you are probably under the age of 50. The Villages is a HUGE development (some 20,000 acres) where old people come to die. Stop! Just kidding! Jeez.
The Villages is a retirement community where I am sure mostly healthy people from up north move, either full-time or seasonally. Your biggest challenges would appear to be where did you park your golf cart, who you are teamed up with for pickle ball, and who’s going to call to make 5:00 PM dinner reservations at Golden Corral. Several years back we did a Halloween spoof on the Villages.
Karen decided she wanted us to ride our bikes through The Villages because they have great bike (read golf cart) paths throughout. We made one turn and I saw a sign for a particular neighborhood within The Villages called Chitty Chatty. Can you imagine? As one who abhors contact with other humans (my bride and yourself notwithstanding), can you imagine me being a citizen in good standing of the Chitty Chatty community? “Security, clean up in aisle 3 – we need a guest removed from Chitty Chatty – stat.”
On our ride through the Villages we seemed to get a bit lost. Karen says to me, “Hey, if you see a sales office let me know – I am sure they would have maps.” “Yes dear.” NFW.
Anyway, it feels good to be on the road and camping! More to come from sunny Florida…