Summer Trip 2021 – Stop # 1 – Ross Prairie State Forest

Ross Prairie Road Sign


“Ross Prairie State Forest is a 3,532-acre tract of public conservation land that was acquired in 1995 through the Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) program with funding from the Preservation 2000 Act. The state forest is managed by the Florida Forest Service under a multiple-use concept. The Florida Forest Service works to protect, conserve and enhance the forest’s unique resources so they will be available for future generations. Ross Prairie State Forest is located in Marion County approximately 10 miles southwest of Ocala. Access is off State Road 200.”

from the FDACS.GOV website



We made Ross Prairie State Forest our fist stop on our 2021 Summer Trip so that we could spend a little time with family and finish up a couple of doctor’s appointments. We were just looking for an acceptable, inexpensive place to park that would be fairly close to family before we pulled out and headed North for the Summer. What we found was a lot more.


Ross Prairie is a little known gem that puts you in the middle of some of the best reasons to visit this area. A quick 30 minutes or so to Dunnellon with its Rainbow Springs State Park. Less than an hour from Williston with its Devils Den and Blue Grotto, if you are intent on scuba diving. Less than an hour from Silver Springs State Park, and really way too many great places to visit to mention.

The campground is only 14 sites, so even when it’s full, it still isn’t very crowded and loud. The sites are good sized and set up so that you don’t feel all packed together. The camp hosts, when we were there were excellent. Very friendly and helpful but not “all in your business”. Exactly what we like.


If you have horses, bring them, there are miles of riding trails, as well as hiking trails. The Florida Trail passes through the park giving you access to a day hike. Mountain biking is big here too.


One of the things we liked a lot were the huge showers at the bathhouse. Lori and I both voted these as the best showers of any campground we’ve stayed at so far.


All in all, we really like this park. We will definitely keep this on our list of state parks to camp at in Florida.


If restaurants are important to you, there are hundreds within a 30 minute drive. Pretty much any kind of food you can think of. We were pointed towards one down the road in Hernando and it was great.

The Real Adventure Begins

Up until a couple weeks ago, our adventure had been put on hold. We were in our camper and it wasn’t parked in our driveway anymore but because of Covid-19 and one or two other things, we were in a holding pattern.

Thank God we have family, wonderful friends and a church that helped us stay on track, even if it was a little stilted and delayed. We were sort of halfway there, if that makes any sense. We were holding the whole puzzle but not all the pieces were in the right places.

Then, just as it was feeling like we were in a never ending holding pattern, the last pieces of the puzzle started to drop into place. Excitement and anxiety ran hand in hand with us, but, at least we were running in the right direction. At least we could see the real adventure and it was about to begin.

We loaded everything into what would be our working configuration, for the time being anyways, and hooked up the camper to the Burb. It was a most glorious Sunday morning, yes, a little wet but glorious all the same.

Our first foray into the future was a fairly short trip but that was the plan. A first little hop that would be our shakedown cruise and alert us of things we had not thought of or provided for. Happily and thankfully, there was very little that didn’t work as it should and we arrived at our first destination, Crystal Isles in Crystal River, Florida. There is a proper park review in the works but, though it was quite a busy park and a fairly stressful step for Annie the Cow Dog, it worked. IT WORKED!

We were there for five days, again, it was a short shake down cruise and it worked wonderfully for it. It is the Summer in Florida, Crystal River is on the coast, so it was relatively hot, humid and wet but it worked. That was the important part. It was also the beginning of the scallop season, something we were unaware of until we landed in the middle of it. Note to self; research local happenings before making reservations.

We left Crystal River on the Next Friday and headed for destination number two. This would not be a shakedown cruise, this was three hours, again in the rain part of the way, to a mega park in Clermont, Florida. We will be in this park for three weeks and then shift to another park just down the road for two more weeks.

The adventure truly has begun. The reality of it is sinking in and we are certainly smiling a lot more, still finding our way in a big new world but looking forward to what is yet to come. One more step on our Next New Normal path. One more chance to praise a God that has taken a disaster and made it into a life that we would never have thought possible. A path of despair that has lead to a new beginning, a new chance at life and a most exciting Next New Normal. God is Good!

How We Got Where We Are (Our Story)

I have a message to share with you today that I would not have believed a few short years ago but in our lives, it is more difficult to disbelieve than it is to accept as the truth.

I am not sure how much you believe God reaches down and directs the everyday things that happen in our lives, but I know I have been amazed at what has happened in Lori and my lives.

We have tried to keep faith that God would provide in our time of need but I must admit that my faith has faltered at times. I must admit that I spent some long nights wondering where all of it would end up, where we would end up.

Let me give you a quick history of our story, so that you might understand where we are coming from. A few short years ago, both Lori and I had fairly good jobs, we weren’t getting rich but we were making decent money. We had money in the bank, we owned our own home, our vehicles were paid off, our credit was good and we were able to pay our bills without much worry.

The first thing that happened was that Lori’s department was going through some major changes and they were restructuring everything. Unfortunately, Lori’s job basically got restructured right out the door. Not a great time but I still had my job and after a few months, Lori was able to find another job although making approximately half as much.

As all this was happening, a medical condition that I had had for some time, which was then undiagnosed, started to worsen at an alarming rate. A job that I enjoyed and was pretty good at, was quickly becoming more than I could handle. It not only affected me physically but also cognitively and mentally. I could no longer focus well enough to keep all the aspects of my job straight. My everyday memory was getting worse and worse; there were times when I could actually see a difference from one week to the next. I worked as long as I could, but it was becoming very apparent that I was no longer able to keep up with the duties of my job. I spent some time in denial, some time in serious depression and anxiety. Eventually my annual contract wasn’t renewed and for good reason. I could no longer accomplish what I was getting paid to accomplish.

Those were some pretty dismal times and I wish I could say that I stood strong in my Faith, but the truth was that I faltered greatly. I found it very hard to trust that there was any plan in place that was going to lead anywhere that we wanted to go.

Lori, my wife, is a wiz at robbing Peter to pay Paul and she kept us going financially for a very long time.

We had tried to come up with some ways that I could make some money, any money but the reality was, and still is, I am really not able to do anything that will provide any sort of steady income. Our financial situation began to deteriorate at a faster and faster rate. We started selling off what we could but nothing we tried really amounted to much.

I applied for disability and was promptly turned down. That’s not surprising because I had no real diagnosis yet, so I couldn’t really even explain what was wrong with me. I could list the things I could no longer do but not why and not backed up by much of anything that my doctors could agree about. Time went by and things were going from bad to worse.

I finally found a doctor or two that could start to unravel the mystery of exactly what was going wrong. Lo and behold, I finally got a diagnosis and we hired a lawyer to deal with disability. But everything takes time, excruciatingly slow moving time. Of course out in the real world, time was moving along at what seemed like a pretty good clip. We were falling further and further behind in everything with no respite in sight.

Those were dark times, but we started noticing something pretty amazing. When we were down to our last dollar and there were still things to pay or food to buy, always at the eleventh hour, something would happen. Something would sell that no one had been the least interested in. A check from some long forgotten source would turn up; a friend would walk up and tell us that God had put it on their heart to help in one way or the other. Friends that would step up and help when we most needed it. So many of these things happened that I am not sure we could actually list them if we tried but when we most needed it, funds would turn up.

These weren’t funds that would keep us current on our mortgage really or anything like that, but they were funds that would allow us to survive. Funds that kept a vehicle on the road so that Lori could continue to go back and forth to work. Funds that would pay the insurance or a multitude of other things that kept us from going under.

We had a great disability lawyer that assured us that eventually, I would get disability. We had a great bankruptcy attorney that guided us through and assured us everything would turn out okay. Even with all this, it was still about the most anxious and difficult times that Lori and I had gone through as a couple.

Through all of this, we both, prayed fervently. We both asked God to lead us through this dark and scary time. I can’t speak for Lori but I can tell you, although there was an underlying part of my soul that somehow knew we would make it through, day to day life was pretty close to exactly the opposite of that. It just seemed that there was an impenetrable wall that we kept coming up against. Time dragged on.

Eventually, my disability hearing came up and, though this is rarely done, we left the hearing knowing I had been approved. After 3 1/2 years we were basically offered back pay of 24 months and there was no question that we would take it. The fact that they wouldn’t go back 3 1/2 years presented a few problems. We could probably rescue our house out of foreclosure but because we were unable to spend anything on the upkeep and maintenance in all the time I was out of work, we would be starting out in the hole. By the time we got it out of bankruptcy and then paid for the repairs it needed, we would have spent all of the back pay and then some. It was then that things started to get real weird.

My sister and brother in law had been in the military and fallen in love with traveling. They were planning on giving up their apartment, selling what they no longer needed, purchasing a camper trailer and starting an adventure of Rving full time. At first, after all the stress of the last few years, I thought how great that would be if we could afford it but our reality at the time was that we were barely going to be able to get our home out of foreclosure, a new life on the road wasn’t anything that seemed even remotely possible. In conversations with my sister and brother in law, we started to learn that it might actually be possible to do and in fact, it might actually turn out to be a much better solution for us then rescuing the house. This crazy idea actually began to show itself as our best choice.

So many things started to fall into place, that we began to feel like we were being shown what we should do. Of course, we could have decided to do something else but thinking of doing anything else felt like we were going against the tide. Thinking of doing anything else just felt wrong. Looking back, we realized that there were a lot of instances where, we might not have been forced to go a certain way, but it sure seems like we were being funneled into a path that lead us to where we are today. Which is, living in a beautiful little used camper, waiting to hit the road!

There are so many more bits and pieces to our story, and we may share more about that later, but the main part that seems the most important is that God provided in every instance when we really were at the end of our resources, when we were completely out of ideas. Though we could have made different decisions, every sign post sure seems to have pointed us in a particular direction. Time will tell if we’ve made the right decisions but things continue to fall in place to make our new life or our Next New Normal the only path that makes any sense.

And A Little Time Goes By

And a little time goes by and the Next New Normal becomes the Now New Normal. The fear and the depression ease and things feel a little more familiar.

That’s where we are right now. Looking forward to the end of March so that we can be on our way. Getting everything ready to start the new adventure.

A set of tires, a couple other must haves and the serious planning begins.

The anxiety of the unknown begins to be the anxiousness of getting underway.

The call of the road becomes more than a whisper.

We are as ready as we will ever be.

We are thankful to our friends and family who have helped us get to this place.

We are thankful to God who has walked us, step by step, to where we are now. Our Faith becomes stronger with each one of those steps. We don’t know the whole plan but we are beginning to accept that there is a plan, all we have to do is trust.

Trust that, as has happened from the start of all this, what we will need up the road will come into view as we draw closer. We only need to look back over our shoulder to see all the times that He made sure we had what we needed, when we needed it. He has used friends, family, happenstance and strangers to get us here, we need to remember those blessings and trust that He will continue to bless us as He sees fit.

And The Changes Keep Coming

It has been a while since we have posted anything on here. There’s only one way to explain that. So much has been going on, so much more change than we expected. We just needed to circle the wagons and take care of ourselves.

I’ve talked about life changes before and that some of them can be difficult to deal with, sometimes I’d rather not be right. But the truth is, it has been rough. It has taken all of our attention and most of our time.

Of course, some of that time has been spent actively pursuing our plans but some of it has been spent surviving, adjusting, finding our new footing.

I know this all sounds negative, and it has felt pretty negative at times but that is part of the trip. Sometimes you have to walk through a lot of rough times just to get to the new ones, the better ones. I wish it wasn’t so but it is and the time will come when we will look back at these days as building days.

They will be days we built our Next New Normal, certainly, but also days we built ourselves. Days we fought the torrents and built new bridges to rise above them. Days we questioned ourselves and our ability to adapt, and learned that we needed to do some building inside of ourselves.

The reality is that change can be hard but that doesn’t make it impossible. Change can be tough but that doesn’t mean it defeats us. Change can leave scars but they only show the places that we toughened up and made it through.

The most important part of all this is that we have survived, we are surviving. Maybe we underestimated the climb but we have just put our head down and kept on climbing.

We will come out the other side of this and be stronger and more sure of ourselves. It might not all turn out exactly the way we’ve planned it but it will turn out and we will deal with the adjustments we have had to make.

In the end, it will be our Next New Normal and we will embrace it and count it as ours. This is certainly the biggest Next New Normal we have had to deal with as a couple but we are dealing with it and we will continue to deal with it. That’s what we do. We are a team and that is how our team rolls.

Life is All About Change

Life is all about change.but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Life’s changes can be positive or negative but we seem to notice the negative ones more because those are the ones that force us to confront those things that we counted on to make us comfortable, those things maybe that defined our role in our view of our life. Positive changes can be a little uncomfortable too but they seem to become part of our lives in a much smoother manner than the negative ones do.

The reality of this new project is a form of therapy to help me deal with some massive changes that have happened in my life in the past couple of years. Though I’ve put off starting this for a while now because it felt almost like I was just trying to spread the negative around, I know that I’ve found some ways to deal with it all and I would really like to share that with others.

I don’t want you to get the idea that this is all about the changes, it’s not. It’s more about finding ways to look at what might truly be glaring negatives and finding some peace with it all. I was told once by a counselor that it might be time to find my “New Normal”. It turns out that was great advice, even though all it did at the time was make me angry.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that phrase because it has turned out to make so much sense in what has become my life. It dawned on me that life is all about change and with most of the bigger changes, we are left with finding our Next New Normal.