The Many Faces of Florida

Adventures in La La Land

Boat Dock Mt. Dora

Mount Dora is a very unusual place.  (I had an Aunt named Dora!)

Mt. Dora BeautyHave you ever heard of mountains in Florida?  We were amazed at the hills as we approached Mt. Dora.  Mt. Dora stands about 266 feet above sea level.  The Mount Dora golf course picked the most rugged terrain!  We were golfing sideways on some holes.  To give you a perspective, Merritt Island is three feet above sea level and Titusville is 10 feet above sea level.  Miami is 6.5 feet above sea level and Kansas City is 909 feet above sea level.  If you find yourself in a hurricane in Florida, head for the hills!

Masonic Temple Sign

I wondered how the hills developed.  According to geologists a sinkhole could develop anywhere in Florida.  Some areas are more prone to losing foundations than others.  Here is a website that discusses the sink holes.  Click here:

In simple terms the mountains are due to the erosion that produces sinkholes.  As the earth opens up it pushes some land up.  This, again according to geologists, occurred millions of years ago. So, the land that is pushed up is usually sand.  I noticed a lot of shells on the golf course and wondered if there were shell mounds in Mt.  Dora.  There is evidence of the Timucuan indigenous people but no one seems to be interested in shell mounds.

Great Thai and Japanese Food

Mount Dora reminds us of Westin and Arrow Rock in Missouri.  It has the same 19th century feel with dreamy houses, lots of shopping, festivals galore, and great Thai food!  And… it is surrounded by lakes!

Yellow vegetable curry

Vegetable Curry for you!

Bento Box

Bento Box for Tom!

Tavares the Administrative Center for Lake County (Home of Mt. Dora.)

The architecture was interesting.  This building looked like the colosseum in Rome

Taveres Administrative Bld

Lake County Seat in Tavares

(I think they were going for a parthenon image above?)

Camping Reservations in Florida

Since Covid hit, it is almost impossible to make reservations at state campgrounds.  Millions of people are hitting the online sites at the same time.  We have tried several times and each time we have failed to get through to book a site.

Trimble.  An Orange County Park

Trimble park map

A friend of Tom’s recommended investigating Orlando’s city and Orange county parks.  They number over 140. He found Trimble Park which is near Mount Dora.  It had an opening for three days in the middle of Spring Break.  How lucky we were!

Entering Trimble Park makes you feel as if it is Halloween.  Spanish moss drips off everything creating a very gloomy entrance. It is small, only 15 spots on the lake.  Our space was advertised as 75 feet long,  but it was barely 40.  The coach is 41 feet.  And our surge protector would not work in its outdated electrical structure.

RV Parked At Trimble

At first, I wanted to escape Trimble.  Who wants to fight your way to a lake through Spanish moss dripping with flying things, and beaty alligator eyes watching you? 

Sitting on the Dock

But as we began to explore the park, we recognized its treasures.  Some of the trees were at least 15 feet or more in circumference.  I wrote the park and asked about indigenous ruins and the trees.  The park supervisor (who remained nameless) answered (Post is edited.),

Trimble Trees

(See that blue dot on the right.  That is me!)

“This is our grand-dad tree, it boasts a 15′ 11-1/2″ diameter, has multiple limbs that reach 30 yards in length and is the focal point as your drive to the end of the main park road. It is a southern live oak, and many years ago its age was guessed at over 100+ years just based on the diameter of the trunk. This tree has withstood Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne and most recently Irma in 2017 and never budged in those tremendous storms.”  I think the tree is 500 years old.

Trimble Park Tree #1

As I wandered about the park, I kept wondering why the city purchased the land in 1978?  As we learned while visiting Mt. Dora, Lake County just down the road has a thousand lakes.  Why did a county so close need another lake?  I wonder if there are indigenous ruins on the property.   The supervisor could not speak to the Indian presence. 

There is no swimming at any of the “alligator lakes.”  And as you can see the water is polluted.

No Swimming Sign Trimble

I think I would pass up camping at this park again, but I would advise anyone to spend an afternoon exploring the ancient spaces.  Take bug spray!  (Why would I not camp here?  Huge cockroaches fell out of the trees and invaded our RV.  I think we have finally eradicated them.)

Spanish Moss

Covid Tourism

Long ago I decided that the only vaccine for me was Johnson and Johnson.  While camping at Trimble,  J&J vaccine became available the following weekend.  We both tried for an appointment and finally Tom landed one near Panama City.  It was the last available vaccine appointment in the state.  He made the appointment.  Panama City was about 360 miles away.  We started figuring the costs of an 800-mile round trip just for a vaccine shot.

Yes, you guessed.  We went for it.  We expected to do a little touring around when we arrived and before we left.  The catch was that we had to find a place to stay.  Tom found one at a wharf, Gulf Oaks RV Resort.  (Don’t Camp here!) So, off we went.  I began remembering the hurricane that hit Panama City and Mexico Beach a few years back.  What had we done?  What kind of shape was the city going to be in after only two years after the hurricane?

Gulf Oaks Sign

Upon arriving to a dilapidated RV resort that did not take credit cards and had no check in building, we became stuck in the sand.  Wrecked by the 2018 hurricane, new owners were trying to rebuild the place with sand.  What a mess! (I decided not to take pics of the the place because it was so bad.  I felt as if I was invading people’s lives and did  not want to feature their poverty.)

We tried for hours to dig out the wheels that had gone so deep in the sand that the bottom of the motorhome was on the ground.  Several people tried to help.  Finally, the manager(?) called someone (a friend) to tow us.  She said that there was only one tow truck in town that could pull out a big rig.  When the guy arrived, he knew the landscape and told us to park some place else.  He asked for $300.


(This pic doesn’t look so bad but we could not budge the RV.  The wheels just spun with the back of the unit on the ground.  We were on a hill facing forward.)

We finally chose a spot to stay for two nights.  As Tom pulled the RV forward the wheels began to sink again.  Quickly moving it back, we were able to stabilize the coach.  Upon leaving, Tom had to back out because we could not turn.  As he backed out, the wheels went down.  What an experience! We fear other damage to the RV and will find out on our way home when we stop at a Freightliner RV Service Center.

Hurricane Ruins 

The beach houses are gone!

Mexico Beach Land for Sale

During our stay in Panama City, we explored Mexico Beach, Tyndall Airforce Base, and Panama City Beach. (Driving from Panama City to Mexico Beach was a shocker.  The land was burned and churned up.  We saw these signs everywhere.)

Near Panama City Blasting Area

Coast Guard assesses damage during overflight of Mexico Beach, Fl

A Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin aircrew from Air Station Miami assesses the damage of Mexico Beach, Florida, from Hurricane Michael, Oct. 11, 2018. After a storm passes, the Coast Guard focuses on saving lives in the impacted area and responds to hazardous environmental threats. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Colin Hunt)

Hurricane Michael, at a category 5 with 160 mph, hit most of these areas in October of 2018.  Mexico Beach was obliterated.  They didn’t even have phone service. Insurance claims exceeded $6 billion dollars.  Fighter jets that were damaged at the Airforce base, cost over $6 billion.  Hundreds of buildings were destroyed on the base.

Mexico Beach a messBoth Mexico Beach and the Airforce Base are still recovering.  The sights are mostl pitiful.  I bet it will be 25 years before they come back to normal, if ever.  Apparently the owner above does not have enough cash to tear the buildings down.  You wonder if he/she was killed in the storm?

New Homes in Mexico Beach

(There are some bright spots on the beach.  I think these were selling for $500K.)

Panama City was also hit.  Signs are still dangling.  Tree tops are gone.  Churches are boarded up. Steeples lay on the ground.   Large parcels of land are empty.   We lunched at an Oak By the Bay Park where all the Oak trees are gone.  It is a city gasping for air.

Panama Beach was not hit by the hurricane.  On Florida 98 you could see exactly where the hurricane passed.   At one point on 98 mammoth trees lined the streets again.   Panama Beach is a spring break Makkah and filled with hundreds of hotels and busy people taking selfies and sunning themselves. The smell of tanning lotion filled the air as we escaped.

A Publix with a Heart (They are now at the center of scandal regarding Gov. DeSantis.)


A Lynn Haven Publix was hosting the vaccine event.  We were 400 hundred miles from home and my appointment was at 3:00 PM.  Tom encouraged me to call and they graciously changed the time to 10:00 for me.  I went in early and I was the first one to get the shot at 9:00 a.m. How wonderful they were to me and to us.  Now we would make it home before dark!  And we would not have to find another campground to stay for the night!

Cost of the vaccine shot:  $325 for gas.  $300 for towing.  Gulf Oaks will not respond to us regarding payment for the towing.  (I bet they do not have liability insurance.) Food for three days was about $100.  So, a free vaccine cost us $725.  Go figure!

One of our Last Moments in Paradise this Year! We will be heading back to Missouri soon!

I am calling this photo, “Seafood by the Sea.”

Oak hill

Please protect yourselves from this awful disease.

Please accept my apologies regarding the design and layout of the blog.  I am unable to create what I want to create in this primitive software. And there are extraneous paragraphs that I did not create.

As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge

This entry was posted in Camping, Coping with Covid, Coronavirus in Florida, Covid Tourism and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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