We celebrated New Year’s Eve in our usual fashion, sound asleep before midnight. However, Phil was awakened at midnight by our partying neighbors. We met Jo and Dave Peterson that afternoon for a poolside hot dog and brat cookout.
On Sunday, January 2nd, we went to the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Bushnell for the 41st annual reenactment of the battle that launched the Second Seminole War. We rode with Jo and Dave Peterson, but Roxi Rykal and Laurie Tamas parked next to us. After strolling through demonstrations of period arts and trades, we joined the crowd in the bleachers for the reenactment. More than 100 soldier re-enactors and Seminoles from across the United States participated. Before the battle, one of the Seminoles and one of the soldiers explained each piece of their authentic period costumes. The battle was narrated throughout with the ghosts of Private Ransom Clark and Chief Jumper telling their own perspectives of the conflict. The battle, which started on December 28, 1835, was the result of Seminole resistance to removal to a reservation in Oklahoma. A column of 107 soldiers, led by Major Francis Dade, were marching to re-supply and reinforce troops at Fort King, now Ocala. An estimated 300 Seminoles lay in wait for them, hidden in the palmetos. A sudden volley from their rifles killed half the command. Major Dade, on horseback, was the first to die. A second attack killed most of the remaining soldiers. Only three soldiers escaped to recount the attack. Following the re-enactment, the soldiers and Seminoles lined up and fired their weapons to clear the chambers.
On Tuesday, we played bingo at the clubhouse with about 50 other campers. Unlike bingo at Flora-Bama, this was a very professional and fast-moving operation. We played 12 games in one hour and 40 minutes. Unfortunately, we didn’t win any of the games.
On Saturday afternoon, we met Jo and Dave Peterson by the pool to listen to a musician perform for a couple of hours. He was very talented and was definitely the best entertainer we’d had since arriving at Oak Alley.
On Sunday, Jan joined the other ladies for lunch at the Sunrise Asian restaurant in Wildwood, FL. Phil and Dave Peterson met Jan and Jo Peterson at the Big Bass Bar & Grill afterward. Despite Jan’s having called and gotten assurance that there would be live music, there was no music while we were there.
On Monday, January 10th, Jan made ham and potato soup using the ham bone from our Christmas dinner. Beth and Todd Ehlenfeldt, Roxi Rykal and Laurie Tamas joined us for dinner and brought an assortment of side dishes.
On Thursday, we took our bikes to the nearby General James A. Van Fleet State Trail and rode 13.2 miles. The Van Fleet State Trail is one of Florida’s most rural trails, spanning 29.2 miles through Sumter, Lake and Polk counties. This 8-foot-wide paved trail, originally a railroad corridor, runs through the Green Swamp, a system of cypress swamps, marshes, hardwood forests and flat pinewoods. The swamp is the habitat for lots of wildlife but, unfortunately, we didn’t see anything other than birds.
On Saturday, we rode with Dave and Jo Petersons to Crystal River, FL for the 35th annual Manatee Festival. We met Todd and Beth Ehlenfeldt and Laurie Tamas at the mall where we caught a shuttle bus to the festival. The festival was quite popular and there were lines for everything. Upon arrival, we wandered through block after block of vendor booths until we reached the main stage area. We managed to find seats near the stage but had to wait nearly 1 ½ hours for the Tom Petty tribute band to perform. Fortunately, the weather was very nice.
On Wednesday, January 19, we went with the Petersons to Lake Panasoftkee and did the Tom and Jerry’s Airboat Ride. Our hour-long airboat ride took us through the Florida swamp and across the lake. We spotted five alligators, numerous turtles and lots of waterfowl. The highlight of the airboat ride was a section of the swamp where the trees were loaded with well over a hundred vultures. When the ride was over, we took turns holding a four-foot-long alligator.
On Thursday, we went to the Florida RV SuperShow in Tampa. Jo and Dave Peterson rode with us. We met Beth and Todd Ehlenfeldt and Judy and Rob Crosson for lunch and, then again, before leaving. We spent most of our time in the two large expo halls visiting the many vendor booths. We did visit the DRV display and walked through a few models. It really didn’t tempt us to buy one. If anything, it made us more appreciative of the unit we already own.
On Friday, we rode with the Petersons to Lake Pan RV Park where the Rykals, Ehlenfeldts and Laurie Tamas are staying. We spent the afternoon playing Giant Jenga, then enjoyed a fish fry using the fish Tom and Todd had caught on Lake Panasoftkee.
The weather cooled down considerably over the last week of January. We had two nights with low temperatures below freezing. Although this cold weather affected our plans somewhat, our weather was much better than the winter storms that ravaged much of the country.