Now that we were back on our Monday to Monday schedule it was time to move on to our next destination. Besides the weather had been chilly the last few days, so it was time to go further south (I guess). In any case, our destination was Lake Okeechobee in south central Florida. This is the largest fresh water lake in the continental United States outside the Great Lakes and we were interested in seeing what that meant. The drive was a little less than 3 hours (especially with stops along the way at the rest areas) with much of it along I-95, so it was uneventful. The weather got steadily warmer the further south we went, although it was very windy with gusts around 40 mph from the west so it was hitting us broadside. Even though we could tell it was blowing the RV did not sway or pull us around. It is good to know that we can take a crosswind with no problem. As we traveled inland, the terrain of central Florida is a lot different than along the coast. Most of the land has been drained over the years and are used to grow oranges, sugar cane, vegetables, and especially cattle. Consequently, there are not as many trees as I expected, but wide open country. We pulled into M RV Resort on the west side of the Lake around 2 in the afternoon to sunny skies and a wicked wind. The Resort is about 5 miles from Moore Haven, which is a small town, along US 27 and is out in the country with cattle ranches on all sides. There are not a lot of trees in the Resort and the sites are close together, although there is a concrete patio and full hookups at each site. I recall the problems I had making reservations in Florida back in December, so it was surprising to find out that there are over 40 spots open when we pulled in. I suspect that nearly all of the residents of the Resort are either snowbirds from Canada or the mid-west and northeast or full timers such as ourselves. We have heard a lot of French from the Canadians this week! Consequently, there is a community atmosphere to the Resort and we have gotten to know our neighbors, even though we spent most of our time seeing the countryside. While it was very windy that first day, the weather settled down for the rest of the week with plenty of sunshine and temperatures eventually in the 70s every day. I can certainly see why everyone comes to Florida for the winter, as if there was any doubt.
Tuesday was Kal’s day to catch up with the laundry and normally I try to clean while she is doing this. However, it was time to take the truck in for an oil change and maintenance check, so we found a BG garage in nearby LaBelle, Florida. So while Kal did the laundry, I drove about 25 miles to LaBelle to spend the day at Jack’s Garage. Fortunately, their mechanic, Greg (I never did meet any Jack) was able to get right to the truck with only about a 15 minute wait, so they were done in about an hour and half. The truck checked out fine and we are ready for another 5000 miles. I also found a grocery store while I was in town and managed to not spend all day as I expected. By then Kal had easily completed the laundry and we spent the evening getting to know some of our neighbors from Canada, Ohio, and New York.
I wanted to have a day to just play after dealing with the truck on Tuesday, so about 10 on Wednesday morning we drove back to Ogeechobee, Florida to check out the Seminole Casino on the Brighton Reservation. It is a relatively small casino on the reservation, but was still quite busy in the middle of the day thanks to all the snow birds staying in the RV parks all around the lake, especially just outside of Ogeechobee. After a couple of hours I had lost my initial $20 and Kal had already gone through her $40 for the day. So we took a break and got lunch in the Casino, after which I relented and let Kal have another $20 from our cache so we could play some more. It took longer, but Kal still managed to lose all of her money (plus $10 she had in her pocket). However, I got real lucky on the last machine we played and won over $70 on their bonus feature. I quickly cashed in and we left the casino only down around $40. We did enjoy ourselves and look forward to our next opportunity.
Finally, on Thursday it was time to check out Lake Ogeechobee. First, Kal wanted to try out the game of Petanque. I believe this game is similar to bocci ball, but the French Canadians called it Petanque. It is played on a small gravel court with wooden sideboards. Players are split into two teams with two metal balls apiece. The game starts with the throw of the “piggy” (a small red ball) out onto the court. Then the first player of a team throws one of their metal balls as close to the piggy as they can. Then the first player of the other team tries to get their ball to land closer to the piggy. If they do, then the play switches back to the first team. If not, then they try with their second ball. If this is still not the closest ball to the piggy, then the next player for the team throws their first ball. This continues until they get a ball closer than the opponents. Once this happens, the play switches to the other team. Once the entire team has thrown all their balls without getting one closer, then the other team finishes out their balls trying to score more points. Of course, the piggy can get hit in which case it can change the game completely or you can hit other balls moving them around. You score a point for your team for every ball that is closer than the closest of the opposing team and the game continues until a score of 13 is reached. Kal really enjoyed the game and was welcomed by the other players who loaned her a couple of balls to play along.
After Kal finished her game we loaded up into the truck and took off for Lake Ogeechobee. It turns out that they have built an earthen dike all around the lake to control flooding from tropical storms, which drowned hundreds of people back in the 1930s. They do have a walking/bike path along the top of the dike, but for the most part you can’t see anything from the road except for the top of the dike. We asked our neighbors in the Resort about places we could go to see the lake and it turns out there are not a lot of places to do this. Most people would have a boat for this purpose, although I suppose the most popular reason is for fishing? There is public access and a viewing pier in the town of Ogeechobee, so we once again headed north around the west side of the lake. As I expected, you can’t really see the Lake from the shore since much of it is very shallow and is really a large expansive wetland. However, we enjoyed a nice picnic lunch while watching the birds. We walked out on the viewing pier, but even though it was a better view from higher up, you still could not see what I would call a lake. Kal got a few pictures of some unusual birds we saw and another visitor pointed out a small alligator in the rushes along the shore. On our way back we stopped at another public access point at Lakeport, Florida which had a wooden platform that was much higher above the lake. We could finally see what I would call a lake in the distance, but the surrounding area was still a very large wetland. Don’t get me wrong. This is what I expected to see and it was beautiful with a lot of birds and crystal clear water. We stopped one more time on our way south where we could access the dike and walked along the dike for about a half mile and back. Even from this vantage point it was difficult to see any expanse of water. Lake Ogeechobee is very large, being over 200 miles in circumference and the other side of the lake may be very different, but I doubt it.
For Friday, Kal had read on the internet about some Indian mounds at a state park towards Ft. Myers, so we decided to check it out. We drove to Alva, Florida where the state park was suppose to be, but all we found was Caloosahatchee Regional Park, which is a community park outside of Ft. Myers. The trail map they had did not say anything about Indian mounds and we never did find them. We did enjoy a couple of hikes along the Caloosahatchee River before lunch and in the slash pine flatwoods after lunch. In all, we hiked for about 3.5 miles along some easy trails, saw a lot of pretty scenery, and took a lot of great pictures. Especially with the weather in the low 70s and plenty of sunshine, it was a perfect day even without any Indian mounds.
Wanting to give Kal one more chance to see an Indian Mound we headed out on Saturday to the Big Cypress Semiole Indian Reservation to the south. Our destination was the Ah-Tah-Ti-Ki Seminole Museum. Once again there were no Indian mounds, but the museum was great. If you ever in the area and are interested in the history and culture of the Seminole Indians, you have to visit this museum. Beginning with a very well done film about the Seminole Indians, I am beginning to understand their history. I did not know they were originally part of the Creek Nation in northern Alabama and Georgia. Having been forced out by Europeans under the auspices of England, they migrated to northern Florida where the native Indian tribes of the area had been wiped out by slavery and disease from hundreds of years of colonization by the Spaniards. During the colonial years, the Seminoles had good relations with the English and Spanish and raised vast cattle herds in northern and central Florida, mostly for trade. In the early 19th century the U.S. Army made numerous incursions into Spanish territory to recapture runaway slaves, which became known as the Black Seminoles. In 1819, Spain ceded Florida to the US in return for any claims the US had in Texas. This brought additional settlers to Florida and in the 1823 Treaty of Moultrie Creek, the US seized over 43 million acres in Florida in exchange for a 4 million acre reservation in central and southern Florida. However, in the 1832 Treaty of Payne’s Landing the Seminoles were to be moved to a reservation in Oklahoma. Thus began the Second Seminole War in 1835. Although most of the Seminoles were eventually killed or captured and moved to Oklahoma, but many moved deeper into the Everglades from which is was nearly impossible to remove them. Today, these Seminole Indians that never surrendered to the US make up three reservations in Florida. This museum commemorates their history and culture with many very well done exhibits. There is also a boardwalk through a cypress bowl that is about a mile long. The boardwalk is very well done and meanders through the swamp with interesting interpretive signs about every 10 feet. About half way around the boardwalk they have created a “campsite” that has a few covered pavilions and firepits for presentations and ceremonies throughout the year. They have also set up working areas for local artisans to create and sell their products. Unfortunately, January is not a busy time of year for tourists to the museum, so there was only a single artisan making a basket while we were there. This would certainly be a great place to spend some time during the summer months.
After enjoying the day at the museum, we decided we did not really want to go back to the Resort yet, especially when there was another Seminole Casino about 30 miles to the West. So we headed over to the Immokalee Casino to see if I could continue my winning streak. This casino is considerably larger than the one in Brighton with numerous card games in addition to the slot machines that we spend all our time at. It also has a large hotel as part of the casino. Over the next hour and a half, Kal had once again lost although she did have more luck and was only down $20. In that time, my luck had certainly held since I had won a couple of big bonuses and cashed in $55 over my initial $20. We had dinner in the casino and decided to play some more. After another couple of hours, Kal had again lost her $20, but I had made another $15, so in combination we came out ahead by just over $25. Not a bad night and after a great day we were back in our RV by 9:00.
Sunday was a day to get ready to move further south again, so Kal went and did laundry again, since we are going to be very busy playing tourist next week. I got the RV cleaned finally since it had been three weeks since it had been cleaned. I also got started on this blog while we enjoyed a great afternoon with a light southerly breeze and temperatures near 80 degrees. I feel a little bit guilty enjoying this weather when I think of all my friends and family dealing with another winter, but only just a little bit!!!