Redefining Travel

When the Covid hit back in early 2020, we thought that by the end of the year we would surely be able to fly international again.  But as the months dragged on, we realized we were being overly optimistic and began to re-think our definition of “travel.”

cancelled!

In September of 2020, we bought Terrapin with the intention of exploring Florida for a year or so, driving no further than 2-3 hours away.

morning coffee out at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park

We’ve had an incredible time and are absolutely thrilled with how easily Oscar and Maddie have adapted to being happy campers.

Oscar and Maddie peeking out Terrapin’s screen door

We are now almost halfway through 2021, with no more clarity about when we can use our passports again than we had a year ago.  Countries that are Covid-safe are either prohibitively expensive or do not want us.  Countries that will accept us pose far greater health risks than we face here at home.

Indonesia trip: 2009

And there does not seem to be an end in sight.  International travel is off the table for the rest of 2021 and most likely through most of 2022.

So, we have started to look beyond Florida to the rest of the USA.  There are plenty of places in this great continent that we have never been and would love to visit.

cross-country road trip!

But as much as we enjoy Terrapin, she only gets seven miles to the gallon.  No big deal when driving the 35 miles to our favorite Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park.  But when planning a 5000-mile road trip, those gallons will add up quickly.

This week we began “Phase II” in re-defining travel.  We bought a 10×14 tent and headed to Kissimmee Prairie for three nights. 

heading to Kissimmee Prairie for a few nights

The tent is big enough for a queen-size futon with plenty of room to spread out.  If everyone were comfortable sleeping in the tent (including Oscar and Maddie), we could plan for longer distances in our much more fuel-efficient Jetta Sportwagon.

tall enough for TG to stand up inside!

Because the forecast called for daytime highs in the 90’s, we also drove Terrapin so that we could leave the pups in cool A/C while we hiked during the day. But all of our cooking, washing, and sleeping would be in the tent.

Setting up camp took no time. 

plenty of room for a queen-size bed and to spread out

Once complete, we took a nap to introduce the pups to our new sleeping arrangement and escape some of the worst of the midday heat.

naptime!

Later that afternoon we rode our bikes down to “alligator alley” for some fun gator action.

alligator snapping at dinner

Storm clouds rolled in that evening and we fell asleep to the steady rhythm of the rain beating against the tent roof.   Sometime after midnight we were awakened by two barred owls calling from the trees above us.  “How wonderful!” I thought as I drifted back to sleep.

sleep tight!

I woke long before dawn to find TG already up.  The skies had cleared and the stars were shining bright.  He had set up the tripod for a star stack, which turned out quite lovely.

Tuesday morning star stack

While enjoying my first cup of coffee I heard the call of the barred owls again.  I found one perched in a tree just a few yards away.

barred owl in the tree above our campsite

TG wanted to shoot the sunrise, so he took off east on his bike.

TG’s sunrise pano

I was told about a nesting pair of white-tailed kites near the primitive campsites, about 2 ½ miles west.  It was a beautiful morning, cool with a thin layer of mist hanging between the saw palmettos and the treetops.

it was a cool, misty morning

On my way I saw at least a dozen deer including a shy buck,

lots of deer in the early morning!
shy buck peeking out from behind the saw palmettos

Bunnies and fresh bobcat tracks,

lots of bunnies hopping about
definitely feline!

Red-winged blackbirds, red-bellied woodpeckers, caracara

caracara

Various warblers, ibis, herons, and eastern meadowlarks.

eastern meadowlark

I also saw a large gator in a very small water hole right below the trail!

this was all I could snap before he disappeared beneath the surface

When I arrived at the nesting area, I spied a pair of swallow-tailed kites but not the promised white-tailed.   But the swallow-taileds are also a beautiful bird and I was happy with the sighting.

swallow-tailed kite

That afternoon we rode our bikes back to the alligators, many of which were sunning themselves right along the trail!

not sure if he was smiling at us or just panting in the afternoon heat

We were also enchanted by the number of bobwhites out and about.

TG stopping to watch the bobwhites
bobwhite crossing the road in front of us

And I got to play “chicken” with an inquisitive yellow rat snake!

whose going to move first?!?

Although there were too many clouds to attempt any star shots that night, we did enjoy “glamping” with a freshly made pizza while listening to the night sounds.

I’d call this “glamping”

TG was up early again Wednesday morning for another star stack. 

star stack Wednesday morning

I wanted one more chance for the white-tailed kites, so I rode my bike out to the nesting area.

prairie pano

Once there I found the swallow-taileds, a pair of red-shouldered hawks, crows, doves, a pileated woodpecker and even a bobwhite calling from a tree far away.  But if there were white-tailed kites around, I did not spy them. 

swallow-tailed kite

On of ride back, I passed a tiller coming from the opposite direction.  He was getting the path ready for a controlled burn – cutting a six-foot wide swath of 3-inch deep furrowed rows in the soft dirt. 

getting ready for a controlled burn

Not exactly bikeable, I walked the remainder of the way back to camp.

about a mile to walk the bike back to camp

By the time I got back, TG had already begun to break down our campsite.  Rain was in the forecast and we did not fancy packing a wet tent the following morning.  We finished up and headed home.

heading home!

All-in-all, “Phase II” was a success.  Oscar only barked twice:  once when a critter crunched in the gravel outside the tent, and a second time when noisy people walked by around midnight.  If I were more awake, I would have barked, too!  The pups did great and TG and I loved falling asleep under the stars, with the sounds of the night singing a sweet lullaby.

Sweet dreams!

Before Covid, I never could have imagined tent camping.  But so much has changed over the past fifteen months.  And, as time goes on our bucket list has also evolved.  Although we would love to see the temples of Nepal, Mt. Everest, or the Northern Lights, those trips are still just a dream.  Until we can safely sit on a plane for ten hours, we are content to travel where Terrapin – or the Jetta – can take us.

our campsite at KPPSP

Author: TG&jet

Nature photographers - wildlife, landscapes, underwater; travelers; bloggers

2 thoughts on “Redefining Travel”

  1. Great report and that looks an excellent tent.
    We can consider it on our next excursion.
    Love the Bobwhite shot. They are normally so hard to see that well.
    Great job as usual!
    Thanks.
    John .

    Like

    1. Thanks J! We loved the tent but it’s definitely not for Florida in the summer. It was a great “test tent” for making sure O & M would be happy so we are looking now for something even better. Of course I loved hearing the owls right above me!

      Like

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