Florida Panhandle, Oct 29 to Nov 8, 2005

We drove from Montgomery, AL to Fort Walton Beach, FL, on October 29 and it was a nice clear day for the 183 mile trip on two lane roads.  We were going to meet our friends Connie and Larry Farquhar, who were in the area, and pick up our mail at the post office.  The Farquhar's have a nice website called the Happy Wanderers .  Driving into Fort Walton Beach we saw a couple yellow Jeep Wranglers, which is what the Farquhar's drive and figured they had a popular vehicle for the area.  We were heading for the Fort Walton Beach Elks lodge to camp since they have spots for visiting Elks.  Our instructions said it had a big sign, but we managed to miss it and turned around wondering where it was.  Suddenly there was a yellow Jeep Wrangler following us and signaling to us, it was Larry and Connie, who had seen us and wondered why we didn't pull into the Elks parking lot.  They gave us better instructions and we agreed to meet later for dinner.  We finally found the Elks lodge, the sign was gone due to hurricanes, but we finally saw the sign on the building that Larry and Connie saw.  The camping was right on the highway, but it was cheap and Elks are nice people.  The rear of the lodge is on the water.  Here are some pictures:

We went out with the Farquhar's to a nice dinner of seafood at Floyd's Fish Market and settled in.  The next day we explored and here is the beach at Santa Rosa Island, which is the same island that the Elks lodge is on.  It did look a bit different than our previous visit in January 2004.

We ended up staying five nights at the Elks lodge, mostly due to our mail taking a while to arrive.  The local campgrounds were either expensive or we didn't feel we could fit into them.  We ate dinner once at the lodge and it was wonderful, they have excellent prime rib and steaks.  We had two more dinners with the Farquhar's, once at Connie and Larry's motorhome, which was at the military campground since Larry retired military, and once in our motorhome.  They were off to run the Hickory Farms kiosk at the local mall for the season.  We did explore the area further and did see hurricane damage, but didn't take any pictures.  Our mail finally arrived November 1st, so we headed to Carabelle, FL on the 2nd. 

Carabelle is on the Forgotten Coast, which is named that since it was left out of the state tourism guide one year.  The campground we were in had sustained hurricane damage, they lost their dock, a shed and their laundry room along with all the campsites on the Gulf.  They were restoring the Gulf campsites while we were there.  Here is a picture showing the coast in the background to show you where our motorhome was:

We explored the area and saw a lot of damage, mostly due to storm surge.  Alligator Point was the worst, but the houses were in good shape even if the roads and yards were destroyed.  The houses were newer, so they were built to withstand hurricanes.  This was our first experience with this part of Florida.  We did find some nice beaches:

There were lots of shells on the beach:

This interesting house looked like it didn't have a hurricane problem:

We had one nice meal at Caroline's in Apalachicola.

Now we were due to go to Palmer Energy Systems in Lake City, FL, for new batteries.

John Palmer and his workers are on a large property off the grid.  They sell equipment to make an RV self-contained, solar panels, inverters, low power refrigerators, etc., and they live the same way.  There is no sewer service, you go to a local campground to dump your tanks.  There is no water, they go get it locally and so can you.  There is no electric power, you get that with generators and solar power.  Here we are dry-camped at the property, with the battery bay open:

One of our batteries was bad and we decided to get Lifeline AGM batteries, they are the best for RVs.  AGM batteries cost much more than normal deep cycle batteries, but they are maintenance free, charge faster and last more years.  Here are our old batteries:

Here are the new ones:

Looks cleaner, doesn't it?  We stayed an extra night to make sure it all works and everything was great.   We look forward to having more reliable battery power when we dry camp, i.e., camp without hookups.

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