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Tampa, Florida, October 14-December 3, 2003

On October 14 we began our longest trip, and first cross-country trip. Joy had done some national traveling in her early years, but Don had been few places east of Montana/Wyoming/Colorado/New Mexico, just military stops in Louisiana and Virginia, and one trip to Chicago.

There was a first-ever rally for Datastorm users in Tampa the first week of November, and that served as a convenient destination.

We had a general routing planned, but we were ready to change it if there were any bad weather predicted, and we did change once we got to Nebraska. Originally we were going to head southeast through Kansas Ciy, St Louis, and Nashville; The change took us south to Oklahoma City and then east.
Our first stop was about halfway up to Donner Pass on Interstate 80, at Dutch Flats. A heavily wooded campground, but still able to get on the internet over the tops of the trees.

On the way, we happened upon this old bus conversion at an I-5 rest stop. A truly unique RV!

After a night in Winnemuca, we proceeded on to Salt Lake City. Here we are a few miles into Utah at Bonnevile Salt Flats.
I had a good visit with some of the Motosat folks on Thursday, and on Friday we toured some of Salt Lake City with Bonnie Jo, one of our former employees. The state capitol building was one of our stops, and Joy and Bonnie Jo posed for a picture in front of one of the doors.
Holly checks out a tree in Salt Lake City's Liberty Park. She learned sometime last year that there are sometimes squirrels in trees (there aren't in Eureka), so she has to carefully inspect most that she passes now.
On Saturday we went for a long walk in the canyon above Memory Grove, seen here from the capitol area. The trail above the park is a leash-free area, one of several in the SLC area. In the afternoon we toured Hogle Zoo.
Sunday the 19th we were back on I-80 east, headed into Wyoming. We stopped for a couple of hours at Ft Bridger, then spent the night in Green River.
We measure our trips partly by the rivers Holly has been swimming in. Here she adds the Green River to the list, which includes:
The Colorado (three places)
The Chetco
The San Joaquin
The Animas
The Wenatchee
The Columbia (three places)
The Deschutes
The Willamette
Our next stop was in Cheyenne. The RV Park where we stayed was closing for the season on our second day there; apparently the upper 70s we were experiencing were extremely unusual for late October. We visited the Old West Museum, which is primarily devoted to the history of Cheyenne Frontier Days. We also spent some time in a couple of the parks and walked some of the Greenway.
In Nebraska we spent two days in Minden, home of Pioneer Village. As museums of Americana go this has to be one of the largest. The sheer volume of exhibits is overwhelming. We walked our feet off for a whole day, and probably could have spent several more looking at things in detail.
Friday the 24th we headed south instead of southeast, since a bubble of cold air was moving down into the central states and we wanted to stay as far west as we could for a few days. The north winds were quite fierce, so we stayed with two lane roads where we could travel slow enough on the east-west portions of the journey as we could. Southbound we practically could have coasted! Among the spots we passed were the geographical center of the US near Lebanon, KS, and the world's largest ball of twine in Cawker City.
We paused for another two days in the Swedish community of Lindsborg, Kansas, known for the Dala horses that line Main Street. A fort-like structure on a neighboring hillside marks the spot where local legend says Coronado first viewed the area. It offers a great view of the Smoky River Valley.
Heading east again we stopped a night in Muskogee, Oklahoma, another in Russellville, Arkansas, where Holly added the Arkasas River (at Lake Dardenelle) to her river resume. The next day we stopped in Marion, Arkansas, with a side-trip to visit Graceland. A fourth straight day of travel got us a bit caught up, time-wise, so we stopped for two nights at Sleepy Holler RV Park east of Jasper, Alabama. Getting warm again, with days in the mid-80s.
We spent Halloween night in Albany. Turned out the RV park backed against a drag strip that had an event that night; happily they were done at 10:30.

We decided to make St Augustine our first stop in Florida, and spent a couple of hot, humid days at North Beach RV Park. We did a short walk on the beach at Atlantic Beach. Before we arrived at the coast, Joy told me that the Atlantic was nothing like the Pacific, with little roller waves a foot high. Guess she didn't see it when the NorthEast wind was blowing strongly! The sand was a lot finer than anything I had previously experienced.

Lots to see and do in the St Augustine area, including the Historic Castillo de San Marcos and many very old buildings in the downtown area.

Monday before leaving town we visited the Alligator Farm, which has on display all 22 species of crocodilians.
We broke up our final leg to Tampa with a stop in Ocala. I called an online acquaintance from rec.outdoors.rv-travel, Hunter Hampton, who winters in Ocala, and she said she had a call 15 minutes earlier from another RORTer, Owen McKenzie. He and his wife Jan were in the next space over at the RV Park! The five of us got together for dinner in town.
Our six days in Tampa were somewhat of a non-stop whirlwind, with very little time to relax. I gave one seminar, and was supposed to do another but the schedule got out of whack as other sessions ran long. We had 52 Datastorm-equipped coaches and trailers in attendance. Between sessions I helped a number of other users with software upgrades, networking issues, and a variety of minor problems. There were a number of great door prizes, which we didn't win, but they gave Scott Velie and I each a $100 Best Buy gift card for our organizing efforts. I spent mine on a DirecTivo video recorder.
From Tampa we went south to Fort Myers Beach. The park where we stayed was on a small set of islands, and our coach backed up against the water. We spent most of Tuesday the 11th on Sanibel Island, first walking on the beaches and then exploring the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.
The Sanibel beaches are known for their shells, and Joy practiced the "Sanibel Stoop" a bit to collect a bag full. Holly was not happy with the waves, but they were just cool enough to make the mid-80s day comfortable.
The wildlife refuge was quite interesting. We only saw one alligator, but it obliged us by moving out of the water onto a mudflat. Lots of wildlife, including a young Crowned Heron (could be black crowned, or yellow crowned) we watched catch and eat a crab. Lots of Tri-Color Herons like this one that was successfully fishing in the shallows. We saw two young raccoons at different places, and the waters were teeming with fish including a large number of needle fish.
On the island's southwestern shore there were a lot of kite surfers enjoying moderate winds. The dog in this picture looks like Holly, but isn't.
From Sanibel we turned north, beginning the long trip home. We spent Wednesday night at Sarasota, staying at the winter place of Don and Jade Smucker, who are Datastorm users we met at the rally. We visited the Mote Aquarium Wednesday afternoon, and Holly got a good run at a local dog park Thursday morning.
Continuing north on US19, we stopped at Rock Crusher RV Park in Crystal River. Friday morning we spent a couple of hours at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which has a number of Manatees. They had 5 of them out of the water for medical checkups. Lots of other examples of local wildlife there as well.
Progressing west we spent one night in Quincy (near Tallahassee), 2 nights in Hattiesburg, MS, and 2 nights at the Lincoln Parish Park in Ruston, LA. While in Hattiesburg we walked a couple of miles of the Long Leaf Trace, and at Lincoln Parish Park there were a lot of good trails in the park and around a small lake. A major storm blew through Ruston on the night of the 17th, with heavy rain and thunderstorms. First time we've ever been somewhere with a tornado watch!
From Ruston we traveled steadily westward, stopping one night near Dallas, where we had dinner with LJ Johnson and his wife Mary. LJ is a programmer who I've known for a number of years; we both were Visual Basic MVPs for the same 4 year period.

We stopped one night in the small community of Baird, near Abilene, and the following night in Pecos. From there it got windy. Really windy. So we decided to hunker down for two nights in Las Cruces, New Mexico; the sky was full of fine dust when we arrived, and that didn't go away until the wind turned around from South to North and it turned cold. Sunday night got down to about 18 degrees, which is colder than anything Joy or I had been in for more than 30 years.

Happily, it warmed up nicely as we proceeded on into Tucson on Monday the 24th.
We spent Thanksgiving with Joy's sister and her husband at their home in Sedona.
At the top of this page is a picture of an old bus/RV we saw on our first day. To end this journal, here is another unique RV seen on the next to last day of travel.

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