Miami, FL, Thompson Memorial Park, Pod 1, Site 16 — 7 days
Sunday, March 8, 2009 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 10 Months
Monday, February 23. Dennis goes to H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center for radiology tests.
This windshield view of our park has a reflection but you can see the that Happy Traveller is crowded with tight quarters.
We are staying at the Happy Traveler RV Park in Thonotosassa, a suburb just NE of Tampa. The entrance to the park, on E Fowler Ave., or FL-582 is a major east/west boulevard that crosses I-75 a mile west from our campground. The drive to the Moffitt Cancer Center is dead easy. It is located on USF Magnolia Dr. in the University of South Florida campus and it is less than seven miles away from our park. This removed a big worry for Dennis who didn’t want to be late for his appointments.
The campus is open with plenty of space left in between big institutional buildings and the streets are lined with trees. It reminds me somewhat of the Stanford campus in California. Parking is also not a problem. We don’t have to wind our way around a parking garage and then find our way to the hospital as we did at USC Norris. This hospital has “gold valet” parking. How amazing! You just pull up to the door and go into your appointment and someone parks you car — for free. I remember when we saw a cancer doctor at UCSF in downtown San Francisco. We were late from heavy traffic and I dropped Dennis at the door, found a garage and parked and we couldn’t get the ticket stub validated so we paid for the very long wait in the waiting room for that doctor. Never again!
This was a breeze. We arrived at one o’clock so Dennis had time to register in the radiology department and then drink that nasty stuff they give him and then he went in for his two CT-scans. I went downstairs to a Starbucks just for a change of scene and then came back. I had a very nice conversation with a lady who came with her husband who has cancer. They live near Tarpon Springs about thirty minutes northwest of Tampa and she said we should go there to see the sponge docks and eat at a certain Greek restaurant. Sounds like a fun plan!
Moffitt also has better machines that scan more quickly than we’ve experienced before. He was finished and we were out of there by four o’clock.
Tuesday, Feb. 24. Dennis sees Dr. Weber.
Valet parking at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center.
Finally the day has arrived. Dennis saw Dr. Weber for the last time in Los Angeles at the USC Norris Cancer Research Center in May 2007. We were en route to pick up our new bus in Huntsville, AL and Dr. Weber was on his way to Florida for his new position at the Moffitt Cancer Center. We switched to a doctor at UCSF and Dennis saw him in January 2008. We didn’t like him and called Dr. Weber in July 2008 when we were in Billings, MT. We made this appointment at that time. It’s taken awhile to get to Tampa, FL so Dennis hasn’t been tested in a year.
Dennis’s appointment was at nine so we arrived at Gold Valet a little after eight. Dr. Weber was as charming as ever and he says the preliminary reports look good and we will get the full report shortly. We are going to have it mailed to my brother’s address in St. Augustine, FL. Dr. Weber wants Dennis to come back in six months, which would be mid-August. We asked if we could push that to early November because we will be in the Maine/Vermont/New York areas until late October. He agreed and we made an appointment. We left the hospital at 11:30 am and stopped at a Perkins Family Restaurant on our way back to the RV Park. We haven’t seen or been in a Perkins since we left Montana. There are many around the country but some states have none. They have become one of my favorite coffee shops.
Wednesday, Feb. 25. We explore the Tampa area.
At Quail Run RV Park we were amazed to see Sand Cranes walking around the RV sites.
We are done with doctor appointments but to save money we paid for a week so we have time to explore the Tampa area. First on our agenda is to find a nearby RV park that we like better than our current situation at Happy Traveler. Next time we will stay elsewhere. It was a cloudy 70° when we left at noon to drive north on I-75 to exit 279 where we went to visit Quail Run RV Park. It was a 25 minute drive so it is farther from Moffitt but not bad. It is located more in the country but there is a large mall nearby. The park is absolutely beautiful and it would be a pleasure to stay there. They have tame Sand Cranes and a goose walking around visiting the campers. We really liked it and will probably stay here next time we come to Tampa.
On the way back we got off on the Fletcher Ave. exit and drove east towards the USF campus. We found a beautiful supermarket chain called Sweetbay. I’ve never heard of them before but they have a terrific store.
Dr. Weber told us to take a drive by Tampa Bay on Bayshore Blvd. He said we’d like the views of the bay and seeing the big beautiful homes that face the bay near a town called Hyde Park. So about eleven, we took off and drove south into Tampa. I loved the drive along Bayshore and we saw a very nice restaurant facing the boulevard and the bay so we stopped. We had an excellent lunch and enjoyed the view at Colonnade. Prices were reasonable, the booths were comfortable and the ambience made me feel like I was back home. It really cheered me up.
It was a beautiful sunny day with that fresh marine breeze that I love. We continued our drive to a dead end where we turned around at Ballast Point. We stopped and walked all around Jules Verne Park and walked out on the dock where we admired the catches of several fisherman. Then we drove back up Bayshore Blvd. and detoured to admire the big homes and drove through the very affluent little town of Hyde Park. It was so much fun to see the kind of big, cheerful, Mediterranean homes that I’ve seen all my life in Los Angeles and Pasadena and San Francisco. We got back to our dogs by three and I felt very happy. This was a beautiful day full of wonderful new sights. At last I feel I am on vacation.
Friday, Feb. 27. We explore Tampa Bay.
Sites are wide and very deep. It is very booked up but if you could get in it would be a lovely place to stay.
Today we went to investigate the Lazy Days RV Park. They are much closer than Quail Run, just south of our location on I-4 at exit 10 next to a Flying J fuel station. It is a very large park and they have plenty of space and their prices are reasonable.
After that we headed south to see more of the bay. We followed the bay down towards St. Petersburg where we discovered the Fort Desoto State Park and the Fort Desoto Campground. The have 238 sites right on the water and it is really beautiful. It is in Tierra Verde, thirteen miles from St. Petersburg and 32 miles from Tampa. We drove all around the campgrounds and loved it. There are a lot of shade trees and privacy between each site. Sites are 60 feet wide and very deep. It is too far away from Moffitt and also very booked up in advance but it’s a beautiful place to stay. Maybe next time we are in town we can spend a week here after the medical appointments are finished.
http://www.rvparkreviews.com/regions/Florida/Tierra_Verde.html – CGID835
Sunday, March 1. I finally get to see “Slumdog Millionnaire”.
Yesterday we hung out around the bus and didn’t go out. Today we left at one o’clock and drove south to a new area in a mall in Brandon. Dennis was able to return an unneeded TV component to Best Buy store. Then we went to the AMC Regency 20 to see one of the big Academy Award winners, “Slumdog Millionnaire”. What a moving story and with such beautiful images tied into a desperate way of life. It’s a great film.
There is an Olive Garden in this mall so we went to it for dinner. They were crowded and we sat in the bar for twenty minutes. I didn’t mind. It was very festive. It is so much fun to have some decent restaurants available. I had a delicious seafood pasta dinner. When we came out and got back into our car we were approached by a big guy with the same story we heard in the rest stop on our way to Tampa. He came to the window as we were backing out with a sad story about a broken truck and being stranded. He needed cash to make it to the hospital for someone dying. We looked sympathetic and said we had credit cards but no cash and he went away. We saw him approach another car. Oh, my gosh! This is our third hit in Florida. What is going on?
Monday, March 2. We drive to Miami, FL.
We left Thonotosassa at 8:06 and stopped at a Flying J on Hwy 4 at 8:22 am. It’s right next to Lazy Days. Co-Pilot wanted us to continue south on I-95 and we should have. At 8:40 we headed on a southeast angle over to US-27, a boulevard that passes through many towns with many traffic lights. We had a very tough day of driving. This kind of road is fine in the country but the jerky stop-and-go city traffic when you are in a big motorhome is very tiring. The dogs were upset and Dennis got cross and I got nervous. We got to the Larry & Penny Thompson Memorial Park and Campground at 1:51 pm after almost five hours of a difficult drive.
We are thrilled with our RV Park, which truly deserves the name, park. Sites are arranged in circles or “pods” and we have a lot of space and privacy. We are in Pod 1, Site 16, the last pod at the end of the camp road and behind us is the perimeter wire fence, which faces acres and acres of wild land in the park. This place is fabulous.
Tuesday, March 3. We drive to Bascom-Palmer Eye Inst. in downtown Miami.
I had a nine o’clock appointment and we left at 7:30 am because we were worried about Miami traffic. We should have left at seven! Our Honda GPS put us on a turnpike with tolls every ten miles plus heavy rush hour traffic. The toll booths slow down traffic even more and why anyone would agree to pay money for the privilege of driving on a slow stop-and-go highway is beyond me. We got off and fought our way through street traffic (at least it was moving) and pulled up to the Bascom-Palmer Eye Inst. at 9:02 am. I got out while Dennis parked. It turns out that they also have valet parking but he didn’t see it.
Of course we were there all day. After filling out forms and appropriately long waits and some eye tests, I saw an intern and then Dr. Byron L Lam. He declared that there is no optic nerve damage and my problems all stem from glaucoma. He put me down to be squeezed in for a field vision test. This entailed a long two-hour wait. However, the institute is a pleasant building with nice paintings on the wall and very pleasant assistants. I was greatly entertained by the crowd of patients sitting in the waiting room. This is a totally different kind of group then I’ve seen before. Spanish is commonly spoken, just as it was in Mission, TX but I supposed this crowd to be primarily Porto Rican. They are handsome and dramatic people — talkative and with colorful, stylish clothes. I fell in love with them.
We sat near a threesome with a strong Bronx accent and they were big characters. The wife was a tiny woman with red hair and the personality of a giant. She was the boss and made the decisions. Her husband was big and overweight and argued a lot but clearly she knew what was best. They were with a woman friend of the wife who was an eye patient. The husband thought they would be done soon and wanted to go to a restaurant for lunch. She knew they would be there a long time and went downstairs to get them a snack. She came back with bagels and cream cheese, which she spread for her husband and gave to him with a bottle of water. I talked to the wife and she was so funny that she kept me entertained for the duration. They live in a retirement park somewhere in the north part of Florida.
Eventually I took my field test and then I saw another intern followed by Dr. Parrish, a glaucoma expert. He says my type of glaucoma requires that my eye pressure be kept lower than normal — down to about a ten. I’ve been keeping it at a “normal” level that is several points higher. At the moment there is no solution to my vision loss. We left at 3:40 pm and fought our way down I-95 and US-1 to the south, South Miami area where we are staying. We got back to the bus at 4:50 pm. It was a long hectic day.
Wednesday, March 4. I am bothered by the too bright light.
With two eye doctors and two examinations my eyes were filled with drops all day to test my eye pressure and my vision and they were dilated in the morning and again at night. When we drove home I wore plastic dark glasses over my prescription dark glasses and wore a visor hat and kept the Honda visor pulled down. My eyes burned and teared and shuddered and I couldn’t look up.
I thought they would go back to normal today but they didn’t. I kept the window shades down on the bus. Every time I looked up at a bright window my eyes shuddered. They are still dilated and I can’t tolerate the bright sunshine.
Nevertheless, we did go out about eleven on a sunny 71° day to find Starbucks as we need to buy coffee. I didn’t wear the plastic dark glasses but I kept on the visor and had to keep looking down. We see that we are in a very pleasant suburban area with wide boulevards and many shopping malls. I really am back in the big city. We sat in Starbucks and enjoyed lattes with donuts and then Dennis dropped his monthly prescription re-orders at a CVC. I spent the rest of the day hiding out in the bus.
Thursday, March 5. My eyes are still too sensitive to bright light.
My eyes are better but to my surprise I still can’t go outside without having my eyes shudder from shock at the bright light. Usually I recover in about four hours after my eyes are dilated so this is very unusual. They must have put some weird shit in my eyes….
Friday, March 6. We meet a mystery dog.
This dog lives in an empty territory bounded by fences within the park and metro zoo area. He appears to be young and bouncy and in excellent health.
Today we only went out briefly to discover a mall on Quail Roost where we bought a KFC bucket dinner. I was able to sit outside in the shade and read. I absolutely love this park. The weather is sunny and in the mid-seventies. The sky is blue with beautiful puffy white clouds. We sit in an old orchard under trees that are mango, avocado and lychee nuts. I discovered that the fruit groves used to belong to the University of Miami.
Of course, the dogs love it here. They run around on their extended leashes watering all the trees and trying to chase squirrels. We walk along the perimeter fence by the other pods and the clubhouse with the big pool and the offices and under a shady grove of mango trees to the front entrance and then back. It is a beautiful, peaceful walk. I am madly in love with this place.
“Larry & Penny Thompson Park is dedicated to the memory of Larry Thompson, a popular humorist and columnist with the Miami Herald for more than 25 years. Mr. Thompson was a nature enthusiast and advocate of park beautification. The parkland, which was once part of the Richmond Naval Station, was acquired in December 1974 as part of a 1,010 acre land transfer from the federal government and included the Miami Metrozoo property.
‘Larry & Penny Thompson is one of the last portions of wilderness in Miami-Dade County, with wildflowers, palmettos, and rock pinelands. The facility truly harmonizes the recreation experience with Miami-Dade County finest natural assets.
‘Larry and Penny Thompson Park features three mammoth water slides carved into a rock mountain. Each slide offers a different sensation as sliders spill into a cool refreshing pool. There’s also a sandy white beach and clear blue lake that visitors boast is “the ideal inland swimming spot.” Nearby is a concession stand that sells cold drinks and ice cream.”
This area is near South Miami Heights and the Cutler Ridge Mall. We’ve driven around the perimeter of this wild track of land. It is bordered on the south by 184th St. also known at Eureka Drive, our entrance street to the Thompson Memorial Park. It is bordered on the west by SW 137th Ave. On the north it is bordered by SW 152nd St. and on the east by SW 117th Ave. The NW corner is bisected by the Seaboard Coast Line railroad tracks. On the west, the north, and the east perimeters, parts of this huge rectangle are broken up by tracts of land for a US Army Reservation, a US Coast Guard Communication Station, a US Navy Reservation, and a US Army Reserve Training Facility. On the north from 152nd St is an entrance with a long driveway that leads to the Miami Metrozoo and a railroad museum. It is directly opposite the Thompson Park on the south. The southeast corner has yielded to a cheap residential area, possibly called Eureka Park. Through the rectangle from NW to SE passes the Black Creek Canal, which empties into the Atlantic at Miami-Dade Black Point Marina.
Seriously tall fences that go into the ground break up the area. Fences surround Thompson Park and the campground. Other fences surround or separate the US military zones. Large areas within these fences are wild. How much and where became interesting after we met our wild dog. The first night when Dennis took our dogs out for a walk along the fence, a strange dog suddenly materialized in front of them. Dennis says our barky dogs were so astounded that they didn’t utter a peep. Through the fence, they each sniffed noses with this big dark dog and then he departed, as suddenly as he appeared.
A few days later when I could go out and walk the dogs I was pleased to see this dog for myself. He is fairly large and dark and looks slightly German Shepherd but not entirely. He has a plumy dark tail with long hair. His ears stand up and he has amazing hazel eyes. He never barks. He’s greeted our dogs a number of times but now they bark with excitement so he doesn’t come up to them anymore. He doesn’t like barking.
He has no collar and he looks unkept but he has legs like springs and he is in excellent condition. Clearly he lives alone without an owner on this land. But which fences enclose what and how large is his territory and how does he live? This is a mystery.
Saturday, March 7. We explore north on Hwy 1 and drive out on Key Biscayne.
We walk through the back side of the Deering Estate towards Biscayne Bay.
Today we went out to see the sights. We drove due east on Eureka (SW 184th St.) until it came to a T at Old Cutter Road where we turned north passing Paradise Pt. and Shoal Point by Deering Bay on our right. We had no destination goal in mind and just kept our eyes open. We pulled into the Deering Estate and got information but decided not to stop for the tours. We walked around the back side of the property to look at the water. From there we could see the back side of the estate.
We continued north on Old Cutter Rd. passing the Deering Bay Yacht & Country Club and then the Fairchild Tropical Garden located next to the Matheson Hammock County Park. All of this we would like to see but today being a Saturday we thought we would take advantage of no rush hour traffic and explore the larger area. Old Cutter Rd. passed under tall, dark trees and the road is lined with venerable old estates. It is a lovely drive. We passed a residential area by Sunrise Harbor with houses on a marina and I commented that this was the real thing, not an imitation with man-made canals far from the ocean.
Eventually we struck Hwy. 1 or S Dixie Hwy where we turned east on the Rickenbacker Causeway to drive out onto an expensive spit of land, an island called Key Biscayne. (All the islands here are called Keys.) On Crandon Blvd. we drove all the way to the end at Cape Florida and the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. The entire key is clearly a beautiful and affluent place to live.
On the way back we pulled over in the town of Key Biscayne and stumbled upon a marvelous little restaurant at the rear of a small mall. It is called Le Croisie French Bistro. They had an odd combined menu of Huumus and other Arabic foods together with French foods. I had a unique sandwich called Pastrami Panini. Pastrami was served on an excellent French roll with melted white Panini cheese, carmelized slices of red apple, sauted onion and a yogurt sauce. It was to die for….
After lunch we returned to the mainland and ventured north into Miami and then out to south Beach on the MacArthur Causeway. On this key, we worked our way north on A1A through heavy traffic. We avoided work day rush hour but we hit weekend beach traffic. We fought our way up to North Bay Village and the Miami-Dade Pelican Harbor Marina and returned on Causeway 79 Marina, turning south once again on Hwy 1 to return to less hectic surroundings.
Sunday, March 8. We decide to stay an extra week at Thompson Memorial Park.
Today I went into the office to ask if they have space for us to stay an extra week. They are very busy but they found a spot. So tomorrow we will move from Pod 1, Site 16 to Pod 6, Site 4. It’s equally nice but there is a pod behind us instead of the perimeter fence. It is far enough away that we still have the same sense of privacy.