What’s a Kumquat?

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Several people at Zephyr Palms where we are staying recommended we make a trip to Dade City for the 20th annual Kumquat Festival. Hmmm what’s a kumquat?

So, intrigued we made the half hour drive to find out.

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This is a big deal in these parts. There were 400 booths, a car show, live entertainment and all things kumquat.

We learned at the kumquat education booth that kumquats are the little kings of the citrus family. They are about the size of a large grape and look like a small, oval orange. You eat the whole thing, peel and all. Just pop them in your mouth and start chewing. The peel is the sweet part and the flesh is quite tart.

Maybe an acquired taste?

We will admit the kumquat pie was delicious! Reminiscent of key lime pie.

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…As was the kumquat beer. We enjoyed an IPA and a sour.

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So we came away with a new appreciation of the little kumquat.

Ocala Adventures

We were enjoying our time at the Santos State Park and the trails and foliage including palm trees there, but when we are someplace, we try to venture out and see a little of the surrounding area.

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Mountain Bike practice area Santos State Park

To get some ideas, we drove to Ocala and the Visitors Center to get info on things to do in the area. There are several state parks, the Ocala National Forest, and horse farm tours.

We drove out to Silver Springs State Park where there are glass bottom boats and nature trails. It was too chilly and we weren’t prepared, so we just checked it out and decided we would return on a warmer day (which unfortunately we never did).

Then we got the idea to visit The Villages – a planned adult community. It is the fastest growing city in America – like Disney World for retirees. It’s a big place with lots of golf courses, pools, clubs, and recreation. We left with some brochures and information.

We revisited Ocala for lunch one day and found a southern restaurant right on the town square and ate BBQ and drank local beer outside.

We decided we needed to see the ocean, so we drove to Cedar Key on the Gulf coast. It was an hour and a half straight west of Ocala. The scenery on the way out consisted of golf courses, horse parks and a lot of trees. It’s not in THE KEYS, but it has some of the same flavor. Cedar Key itself is a quirky little town with a few restaurants and shops. We walked the dock street and drove around a bit. We had lunch with another RVing couple we met there at the Big Deck Restaurant.

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RViewToday – Cedar Key

On the way back, we checked out a few campgrounds including Low Key Motel and RV that has a total of 3 sites and 5 motel rooms centered around their tiki bar.

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The view from Low Key

Next door is the Sunset Isle RV on the water with sunset views. We also saw Angler’s CG a pretty dumpy place, and Cedar Key RV – a new RV park with a pool and paved sites  but not on the water and with a drive into town.

Another day we visited Lake Weir and had lunch at Easton’s Beach restaurant with a view of the lake. It had its own beach, great food and a raw bar.

Ocala is a beautiful area of old Florida and if we return, we’ll be able to find lots more to do.

Santos State Park

Santos State Campground – 3080 SE 80th St – Ocala, Florida

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When we were staying in Indianapolis, we checked the Florida State Parks website daily to see if we could snag anything while we were down here. I was able to book 5 days at this park and 2 days at Manatee Lake State Park about a week later.

The reviews for this park were mixed and we were a little apprehensive about staying here. It is close to Ocala and the restaurants and stores there, even closer to the small town of Belleview with fast food restaurants and groceries. The big draw here is its location along mountain biking trails. This is good and bad in that it is a nicely wooded area with trails, but a lot of cyclists stop and use the bathhouse for showers and it gets overuse. The policy is to charge $8 a shower, but it is not enforced. There’s an area next to the park where cyclists can practice skills. We talked with our neighbor who has been here before and he said the last time he was here 50 boy scouts were camped in the scout area and the cleanliness of the facilities were awful. Apparently, it gets very crowded on the weekends. (We stayed Monday – Friday). The 25 sites have 50 amp and water – there’s an ok dump station that we used on the way in since the tanks were full. We are on site 11 – an interior site by the restroom. We barely fit and I had to hold back a branch to back in. Cost is $22/night. There are 2 shelters also. Surprisingly, with all the trees we were able to access sattalite TV.

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We enjoyed walking the trails on a weekday morning when there were very few cyclists. The Ocala area has many beautiful horse farms and we saw a whole different aspect of Florida while driving around.

Planning Ahead

We got a really late start planning our Florida trip. A lot of people are making reservations now for next winter.  Campgrounds in Florida are booked up and packed December, January and February. While in Indianapolis we spent a lot of time researching possible places to stay with not much luck in putting it all together. We were able to find a day or two at a state park, then a week at a private campground and a few days at a development for a free 3 night preview. After we got down here, we were even more discouraged by availability. As you look closer to the coasts and further south, it gets even worse.

Our new friend Christy from the Newmar Kountry Klub, suggested using the Sun Resort network to piece together the rest of our stay, and that’s just what we did. Sun had a large booth area at the Tampa show where we sat down with two young men that spent about an hour with us finding 2 week blocks at three of their resorts.

Fingers crossed we like what they found for us and it all works out. So we have our Florida jaunt scheduled out until April, when we are told places empty out and we will be able to ‘wing it’ more easily.