Off to Florida’s East Coast

The last part of our Florida journey begins as we head east out of Destin and Henderson Beach State Park to make a brief return to Falling Water State Park in Chipley.  We had planned this stopover as part of our initial itinerary so the trip to the Atlantic coast would be in two smaller runs.  Little did we know we would have been evacuated to the park as part of the Hurricane Sally “drive around.”  So although this was our second visit, at least it was dry and sunny.

 

     

     

Once making camp we hiked a rather long trail to the waterfall again, turns out that yes, there was still water there.  But it did look brighter in the sun and the rest of the 3 mile hike was filled with lots of wildflowers blooming.  Fall seems to be a lot of purple and yellow colors: asters, goldenrod, wild indigo, sunflowers and such.

The trip east to St. Augustine took 5 hours, surprisingly, but it was flat, straight roads with little traffic but rain for the last miles.  As we made our way around the historic district and across the Bridge of Lions we remembered the last time here when Jeff and Vic joined us for a few days and we met up with Phil and Jennifer, friends from home.  But it was in the 90’s then and right now it was 70’s and drizzly.

 

Not to worry, we got ourselves settled into the Anastasia State Park campsite with no problems, although all we put out was the awning for now.  Didn’t take long for the mosquitos to find us.  Funny, we have been watching DVD’s the past week or so, since over-the-air TV hasn’t been available, and one of our selections was the first three Jurassic Park movies.  This campsite could definitely make you think you were there on the island, with overhanging trees, palmetto leaves, Spanish moss and vines hanging from the branches.  Need to watch those puddles for vibrations …

   

It cleared off and we drove to the beach access.  As we did we got a nice teaser (also a reminder from last visit) as two spoonbills flew over the car.  Naturally I didn’t have the camera handy.  My previous visit here was an unsuccessful attempt to get a photo of the spoonbills.  Looks promising?  But the next day, as we were scanning the marsh from the beach boardwalk we only saw egrets and ibis.  Jackie asked an obvious birder (big camera, pair of binoculars) where we might see spoonbills and his reply was “well, they’re kind of all around.”  But he did add that peregrine falcons were migrating through and “there’s one now.”  Actually, we did see another falcon but no more spoonbills yet.

   

     

   

Since we had a cloudy day, chance of rain and the surf was pretty wild, we drove back to the St. Augustine historic district and walked around the oldest city in the US.  Very quaint and filled with history of the Spanish settlement – and plenty of shops for the tourists.  Lunch at the Prohibition Kitchen was a huge burger and beer cheese soup that hit the spot on a drizzly day.

So what else did we do?

One nice, breezy but sunny day at the beach with some wild surf

   

 

 

Another brewery discovery and two flights at Bog Brewing

 

Dinner on the rooftop of the Salt Life Food Shack (yes, THAT Salt Life) and lucked out with half-price sushi rolls and happy hour beer!

Dark night walks with Kodi around the camp, only to get bit by those darn skeeters

Add another brewery to the list: Old Coast Ales 

Beach time watching the shore birds.  This time we discovered that the ruddy turnstones (sandpipers, not a musical group) took quite an interest in us – standing around at our feet – looking for a handout?  Also marveled at how much the sand was covered in shells and bits.

Searched for the spoonbills every day, with no success

Did see gopher tortoises again

And then we packed up for the road and drove to Hilton Head Island.  This was an extra few days we added once we heard from Dad’s community that he needed a bit of help with some essentials.  It took us 5 hours, somehow a bit longer than expected, but where we were staying was a very nice private spot: Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort & Marina.  We’ve been here before and it really is nice – it’s the closest spot to park the motorhome and also see Dad.  So we have the weekend to take care of a few things, meet Dad under limited COVID conditions and visit with my brother Jeff , Vicki, nephew Adam and his fiancé Ashley.

We did manage to get all of our assistive items set for Dad, had lunch of fish, shrimp and calamari on the bay at Hudson’s (saw dolphin but had to run indoors from the patio mid-meal due to a downpour) and met up with Adam and Ashley to see their new home.  Oh, and Jeff got his hot tub powered up and bubbling, so we got some time to unwind.

We finally head out for home as this weekend wraps up.  Watching yet another hurricane (Delta) hit the Gulf coast we are thankful we aren’t still in the area.  This month in Florida has been a bit more rain, a bit more driving for Jackie than we had planned and a whole lot more of Florida than we expected but that’s why we call these things adventures.  Great fun in the sun, surfside eats and new breweries to explore – but it’s always nice to get back home, too.

Are we there yet?

Thanks for coming along on the journey.  What’s next?  Maybe a fall trip to the mountains, a “deep cleaning” of the car and motorhome for sure.  Who knows?

 

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Florida ‘Destin’-ation

 

A month in Florida in late September, camping beside some of the best beaches – what could be better? It’s that retirement dream we all have while we are grinding through a tough week at work. Well, that’s what this trip is for us – or was planned to be. As you no doubt read in the earlier posts, Hurricane Sally had other ideas. But once we finished our panhandle “camp-around” to avoid the tropical storm and flooding we were back on track at Panama City Beach and now are actually set to leave Henderson Beach State Park in Destin after nearly two weeks in a wonderful campground.


Racoon River was a good stay for 4 days, since it was just a block from the beach. And yes, we did see a couple of raccoons trekking across the road one evening. The weather started to cool down into the 60’s and 70’s and it continued to be pretty breezy and overcast, but we rode bikes and tried to get the best of our beach time. Within biking distance was the Shrimp Basket, so we ordered a take-out meal of fried fish to enjoy back at camp. Breaking camp was easy and the short drive to Destin meant we were settling in at Henderson Beach early in the day. There are only 60 campsites here, so you have a lot of privacy. It can feel like you are in the middle of a scrub pine woodland – until you hear music and voices from the club level of the condos that are barely 200 yards away. Even though we enjoyed a Saturday evening wedding reception from afar (“I present Mr. and Mrs. …”), it was a wonderful, spot and a generously large pull-through.

  



The 10 days we spent here were different each day. Things started off overcast and breezy, somehow the remnants of the tropical storms Sally and Beta. We had double red flags keeping us out of the water a few days, so we drove to the public beaches of Miramar Beach one day.

 

 

 

On the not-so-great days we did some shopping and searched out WiFi service. We can’t pick up any over-the-air television stations, so it’s a good break from whatever is going on in the world. We drove to Destin Harbor and walked the shops.  Once the rough water and waves cleared, along with lots of debris in the water from the storms and flooding, we were back to awesomely clear, smooth water. Some quick hits on what we have been up to:

  • Lunch at Back Porch beach bar was amazing – huge fish tacos, filet of red snapper, smoked tuna dip and baked oysters with crab and cheese (actually went twice)

 

 

  • Steak dinner at camp, complete with long sleeves and sweater!

  • Beautiful sunsets

  

 

 

  • Lazy days at the beach with flat, clean, clear water to splash around in

  

 

 

  • Watching pelicans and osprey dive for fish
  • Evenings around the (propane) campfire

  • A couple of skates in the water (yeah, Doug stepped on one that fluttered out of the sand and we watched it swim along and then disappear back into the sand)
  • Only one sighting of dolphin this whole trip
  • Watching the shorebirds

  

 

 

  • A visit to Destin Brewery to have a flight of beer each (and get that fridge sticker!) Good brews!

  

  • Too many trips to the WalMart across the street for WiFi and incidentals – one for long sleeves and pants, since the temps got down into the 60’s. All Doug brought were shorts and tees – it’s Florida after all!

  

  • A video call with our grandsons from the beach
  • Long, long walks from the campsite to the beach via a lovely path and boardwalk. Doug finally hooked the beach cart to the bike for part of the mile long trek

  • Plenty of aircraft – both from all of the coastal air bases but also from the tourist helicopter rides across from our camp
  • Walking Destin Harbor and spotting a frigate bird high above (joined by an osprey, for comparison)

  • The latest way of advertising to the beach crowd – floating billboard

  • Doing a load of laundry at the bath house (it’s been a couple weeks, after all)
  • Finding out that there IS WiFi at camp at the bath house,  but on the last day


So as we dust off the sand, disconnect the water and electric, pull in the slides and pack up the bar once again we are off to one quick night at Falling Water SP (again) on our way to Anastasia SP on the Atlantic coast at St. Augustine. We will definitely put Henderson Beach SP back on our camping list for the future.

More to come, so stay tuned.  Sign up to be notified of the latest posts.

 

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Florida Replay

So when we last left off on our fall Florida adventure we were camped out in High Springs, Florida blogging and beer sampling at the High Springs Brewery. You know one of our travel goals is to magically find the nearest brewery to sample new brews and catch up using their wifi. And somehow we manage to find those local gems, enabling us to help the local economy just a bit and upload our stories and pictures.

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



We did manage to get a weekend stay at a campground just a block off the beach in Panama City Beach, so we packed up once again and hit the road to go back about 250 miles west to restart this Florida vacation. I have some pictures to share of the springs here at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, which actually started as a privately operated swimming hole until it was recently acquired by the state. So not everything in the campground was up to the usual standards (such as no breakers on the electric hookups).
 

Maybe the most white-knuckled part was the road in and out of the park. When we first drove in I was surprised that we were driving down a sand road, not a dirt road, but a two-rut sandy track. I carefully kept moving down the half-mile long drive following along behind Jackie and was sure glad we weren’t towing the car on the tow-dolly behind us. But it got better – naturally we had an overnight thunderstorm the first night with rivers of water running through camp. When we decided to try a trip to town for wifi (and cell service) we felt ready to tackle the sandy road after watching a FEDEX semi driving in. Heck, if he could do it … but dang, it was a wild ride out and through the big puddles. Our RAV-4 did its best impression of a 4WD Jeep as we splashed up and down and swam and skidded along the track. It was just as bad coming back in and I just kept wondering how in the heck we were going to get our rig outta there. Again, I shudder to think what we would have done if we were towing the car.



Maybe I am a bit jumpy about getting bogged down after the stuck-in-the-mud episode at John’s place this spring, but I surely did NOT want to add “sinking in quicksand” to this adventure. So the next morning I took several deep breaths, instructed Jackie to lead on (but to keep moving no matter what) and I would follow behind. I’m telling you, people pay to do these mud runs, probably not in 33 foot motorhomes, but they pay for an experience I would just as soon never repeat. As I navigated around most of the deepest puddles and tried to find solid, dry tracks to follow, side-slipping and bouncing along I finally spied the last big mudhole. This one would not stop me, so I hit the gas and figured there was no stopping me at this point! Made it through, but I think we owe the park a couple of bags of sand (they can come wash it off!)

Enough of the dramatics – we actually had a nice 5-hour drive across the Apalaciacola River basin and surrounding swamps and pine forests. One handy tool we have used this trip is a pair of 2-way radios we brought along. It made it easy to share navigation info and gas status between the two vehicles instead of relying on the cell phone.

 

We are now back in PCB in a decent campground that is very close to the action. First thing after getting set in camp (again!) was to get to the beach. Yes, the sand was just as white, but the water was definitely murkier brown, not the see-your-toes clear gulf we love. Well, what can you expect, the flood waters are still receding. We swam a bit, sat in the beach chairs a bit, then went back to shower, change and go out for dinner (before we got chased away again). We took our Fat Tuesday mugs with us for frozen daiquiri refills at Pineapple Willys and finally felt like we were starting the beach vacation. Along with a LOT of other people. And kids. Guess the fall breaks are starting already?? Ah well, we had our face masks and got a nice table way out on the pier at a big table all to ourselves. Fried oyster po-boy and mahi-mahi strips made it a perfect beach dinner. And those brain freeze daiquiris!

 

 



Back home it seems they got a good round of rain from Sally, too. Terri was nice enough to check on the house and yard – our rain gauge said 4” of rain but otherwise all was ok. Friends are good!

To round out our stay at PCB we really wanted to swim more, but we got a cold front that blew in, overnight showers hit, temperatures went to the 60’s, breeze kicked up from the northeast and the sun hasn’t been seen in days.  We hear that Tropical Storm Beta is sending some clouds our way, too.  So we spent a day cleaning up the motorhome and restocking some food and drink.  Of course had to drive to Pier Park and wander the shops, with masks, and basically not spend money but comment on all the other folks wandering around.

Also opted to unhook the bikes and ride along the beach road, looking for potential rental units for the future.  By Monday, our last day here in PCB, it was still overcast, but at least the water was getting back to clear.  Since our pass for St. Andrews was still valid we drove to the park to see what it was like.

  

 

     

 

The campground was still closed off and there was a lot of water in places you normally don’t see it,  Making our way to the beach revealed a big transformation.  The same spot next to the jetty where just a week ago we were sitting on beach chairs was now a new channel from the lagoon to the gulf.  A big new area of sand filled half of the children’s lagoon and there was lots of dune erosion.  Sad to see such damage.  Good thing they had moved out the heavy equipment we saw last week, but I am sure more will be back to rebuild these dunes and fix the breach.  

And with a bow to tradition, we went to Sharky’s for lunch, complete with grouper sandwiches and “Shark Attack” drinks on the beach.  Still one of our all-time favorites.

Tomorrow we pack up and head to Henderson Beach State Park in Destin.  A phone call confirmed that they are open, minus some of their beach.  Looks like we are in for more overcast and rainy weather, but we are ever optimistic that this warm and sunny Florida vacation will yet happen. A good omen was a bald eagle we saw circling overhead.

Stay tuned and thanks for following along.  I feel so good that there are friends and family out there who actually enjoy reading these musings. Happy Birthday wishes to Linda, btw.

 

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Florida Foul Play

A month along the Florida coast, soaking up the sun, snorkeling in the clear salty water, chilling on the beach with a cold beer. It was going to be a relaxing time away from isolation at home. That is until Tropical Depression 19 (yes, the same no-good 19 that hangs with COVID), turned our triple play into one big foul play.


As the storm moved into the Gulf of Mexico trying to become Hurricane Sally barely a day after we arrived in Florida, we were told that St. Andrews State Park was closing at 3 PM. That meant we had to scramble to find alternate arrangements. Jackie got on her phone and found that there was a spot at Falling Waters State Park, just an hour north of PCB in Chipley, Florida. We booked two nights, hoping to return to St. Andrews once things blew over. Since the campground at St. Andrews sits barely a foot or two above sea level, it was all but certain that the 3 foot or more storm surge, combined with heavy rain, was going to flood the entire campground. So, off we went to the north.

Kitesurfer as the big winds kicked up!

      

      

Longer hair can be a pain!

Even feathers get ruffled

    

Much of the park remains untouched since Hurricane Michael.

    

Look close to see the needle fish

Last one to leave …

Well, someone is happy

Looks like trouble

It wasn’t too bad breaking camp on Sunday, since we had pretty much pulled everything in the night before when a nasty thunderstorm blew through. That meant we had Saturday at the beach and some time early on Sunday. We had no problems getting to Falling Waters, and were chuckling a bit since we had a night booked here later in the month anyway. So we leveled up and hooked up, waiting for the rain to begin. This seems like a proper spot, since it is one of the highest points in Florida, although we were advised in the afternoon that we MIGHT be asked to evacuate if the storm moved east. Doubtful.

     

   

     

 



But before all that we took a short hike to the waterfall and sinkholes at the park. The tallest waterfall in Florida (75’) is certainly different, as it spills into a deep cylindrical sinkhole of limestone. Pretty cool. Upstream there was a small lake that was open for swimming. However, as you can see from the swimming area, there was a mixed message – swim, but please avoid the gators.

All in all it wasn’t a bad spot to ride out the storm. We had books, crochet and a few DVD’s on hand. But by lunchtime the second day (this is now Tuesday morning) we had the knock on the door to tell us the park was evacuating everyone. Back on the search for our next spot (one that would be northeast of the coast but not too far away) and we located a spot on the southern side of Lake Seminole at Three Rivers State Park. It was already raining pretty steady and we both got soaked as we first did a dump of grey and black water, then connected up to electric and water, leveled up and put out the slides. We were just along the shoreline of the lake, but the place had taken a pretty big hit from Michael two years ago and the trees were pretty sparse. Well, it was only for three nights and, fingers crossed, we might be able to get back to St. Andrews.

Lake Seminole in the distance

Fun Fact:  When the ground is saturated with water, fire ants love to float by, grab your ankle and, well, bite.  Good to know for the future.

On the road

Rained all night with three tornado warnings for PCB vicinity and alarms about flash flood alerts. As we were having early morning coffee (on Wednesday) I suggested we get dressed just in case and sure enough we got another knock on the door to say they were evacuating the park and we needed to head out. That meant another scramble on ReserveAmerica to find availability somewhere well east of us this time. We booked a spot at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park outside Gainesville, about 3 hours away. Drenching wind and rain this time as we pulled in the water and electric and hit the road. It was blinding rain driving on I-10 with the wipers on high and trucks throwing up spray and splash. We decided for this trip not to tow the car, which now meant Jackie was doing a lot more driving, but it sure made departure much quicker without having to hook up the tow dolly and ramp the car onto the trailer.

As we crossed back into Eastern Time Zone and into the park we could actually see the sun. Set camp and then put on bathing suits to hop in the clear spring water – a beautifuly clear sand bottom swimming hole that was …. Yikes cold! Maybe 72? Well, it took a little getting used to, but we were swimming at last, looking through snorkels at the underwater spring and nearby bluegill fish. Oops, a late afternoon rainstorm had to remind us that it wasn’t quite over yet, but cleared in time to grill a steak and dry out for a while.  We haven’t even been gone a week and we are in our fourth state park!  But overnight and the next day, Thursday, we had bands of rain and thunderstorms come through, even though the hurricane is now around home in Atlanta.  We did manage a quick dip back in the Spring, which certainly felt refreshing.  

So this is Thursday and we hope to go back to PCB and resume our trip back at St. Andrews State Park. However, a call to the park told us they won’t be open until Monday at least, and we only were to stay until Tuesday morning anyway.  Another call to Henderson Beach told us they weren’t sure they would open by Tuesday.  So off to find some wifi (the High Springs public library, on a picnic table outside).  Our best bet might be a private (more expensive) spot in Panama City Beach near Pier Park called Raccoon River.  Might work, but we are waiting on a call back for availability for the next 4 days.  If we can’t book that spot, we might just pack up and head home.

   

All is not lost, however, as we discovered the High Springs Brewery in town and are busy uploading pictures and editing this blog.  It’s a cute little town and seems to enjoy being the center of “springs” activity.  Oh, and we heard back from Raccoon River and we can stay there the next four nights!  So back to PCB for now and fingers crossed that Henderson Beach will open on Tuesday and we are back on track.

Thanks for following along on this crazy adventure.  More to come.

 

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Florida Triple Play

Well, here it is September and the end of the traditional summer, but what about this year has been traditional? Our last big outing to Florida was in March and we pretty much left as the doors were closing, literally. The pandemic had just become bad enough that bars, breweries, restaurants and even campgrounds were declared closed and we left on the last day that Grayton Beach was open to camping. It was our last planned day anyway, but it did feel weird at the time.

Now we are two seasons later and bars and breweries in Florida are still closed, but the campgrounds are now open. We were lucky enough to get reservations at some of our favorite spots in Florida: St. Andrews SP in Panama City Beach and Anastasia SP in St. Augustine. In-between we are trying out Henderson Beach SP in Destin. The panhandle area on the Gulf is a wonderful spot and we are hoping to enjoy the sun, sand and water for a true vacation. The motorhome is packed up, bikes, paddleboards and snorkel gear all ready to use once we hit the campground. We will probably also rent a golf cart at St. Andrews to shuttle us around and up to the beach.

Since it has been the start of one bizarre school year, we are frankly thankful that we retired from teaching not so long ago and I have to hand it to all of our colleagues who are still teaching, trying to be creative and effective with online, hybrid and in-person classes. Best of luck, stay safe and healthy. Our t-shirts declare “Retired Teacher – every child left behind” along with worries and concerns.

So, on to our latest Florida adventure. What new things will we discover, what new experiences will we have, what awaits us? How can I find some unique photos to add to the blog? Well, one topic will be the condition of St. Andrews following the damage from Category 5 Hurricane Michael just two years ago. The park and campground got hit pretty hard and we wonder how things have changed.

Once we arrived and set camp we headed to the beach. A lot less sand was there and a lot more of the rock jet exposed. But the water was still as clear as before and the sand just as white. An evening storm was moving along inland, but so far looking good at the beach.

More to come.

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Sweet Spot Alabama

Georgia has lifted many of the stay-at-home restrictions caused by the corona-virus, but we remain housebound most of the time, researching future adventures. Our deck and backyard serve as our outdoor escape, and what with all the critters, we could almost believe we are at the edge of some wildlife refuge.  (Is sleeping in the middle of the glass totems really the best spot?)

If you haven’t seen the videos of our backyard at night or the newborn fawn posing in front of the trail camera, you should take a moment to have a look now. 

Fawn’s First Days
What Happens at Night?
More of What Happens at Night



We were supposed to be on a big ship headed to Alaska this week, but as you know, all cruises out of Seattle, Canada and Alaska are cancelled. So we lamented our lost adventure to see Orca, humpback whales, eagles and more, but had our own sail-away party from the upper deck anyway. Gosh, you should grab a drink and join us for the celebration!

Alaska Sail Away

And since the motorhome sitting in the driveway was a strong reminder that we ought to be out camping somewhere, Jackie and her sister Judy got on the computer and searched out a spot that would be halfway between us (she is in Nashville) and a fun spot to meet up for a few days. The result was Lewis Smith Lake in Alabama, just 4 hours away and northwest of Birmingham. It is actually the Clear Creek Recreation Area in the William Bankhead National Forest. They reserved adjoining sites and we headed out for a mid-week get-together.

      

   

       

It was a great choice and the midweek arrival meant we had our half of the campground practically to ourselves. The weather was sunny and cool, the campsites wooded and nicely separated and the water in the clear lake was a perfect temperature. The only downside was that only one restroom/shower building was open and it was not in our loop. We were actually fine, but it did make it inconvenient for anyone who didn’t have onboard facilities.

     


We played it pretty low-key. We paddled around the lake with our kayak and paddleboards, bobbed in the water of the swimming area and rode bikes along a really nice bike path that followed the lake edge. If you want to get a sense of the lake and the bike path, watch this brief video, but be advised, the biking is a bit disorienting. 

Smith Lake Bike and Paddle video

   

Craig and I were delighted to learn that the nearest town of Jasper, maybe 20 miles off, had not one, but TWO breweries that were open. So of course we all had to trek into town and see what was on tap. Hands down the friendliest brewery was Twisted Barley, with most of the owner’s family helping out. We had flights of some really tasty beers – from IPAs to sours to pilsner and barrel-aged. Nice selection. We also ordered up some pizza and “pig wings” – little riblets that had a bit of a kick to them. Definitely worth a stop if you are in Jasper.

 

 

Maybe a block further down the street was the other brewery, Tallulah Brewing, with a really nice outdoor patio. We only stayed for a single beer, but it was a beautiful night out and the town was really quite cute, if a bit deserted.

 

As the weekend approached, more campers arrived and the boat traffic picked up, but we still had some nice paddles around in the lake. Soon it was time to pack up and head home, having spent a really nice couple of days in the woods.

  

It wasn’t without a few glitches, however, and this seems pretty typical when you are driving around in an older motorhome.

For some reason the electrical problem with the refrigerator (that I fixed back in the driveway) was back again. It meant that the fridge ran off of propane instead of electric, even when plugged in to shore power. The fix is to replace a 5 amp fuse on the control panel, which is difficult only because you can’t easily reach the screws that secure the cover on the back of the fridge. I replaced the fuse and all is well, so far, but I also replaced some screws with Velcro for easier removal of the panel cover the next time this happens (my knuckles thanked me).

The fridge fuse (on left) and control panel

And I have suspected a leak in the hydraulic system used to push the slides in and out and the leveling jacks down. I had to add a significant amount of fluid on our last trip and learned this trip that, yes indeed, we have a leak. While setting camp, we lowered the jacks to level up and began to move the slides out the sides until we lost pressure and things stopped. Since I was out of the transmission fluid used in the pump, a trip to town and the nearest NAPA dealer was in order. It was there that I also bought extra buss fuses to repair the fridge. Back in camp I added the extra fluid that allowed the slides to fully extend, but I was able to see the spot where we were leaking fluid while it was under pressure.

The area where the hydraulic fluid leaks

Of course I kept wondering if we would be able to fully retract the sides of the motorhome and get out of camp and back home. I discussed the problem with John, Craig and did some online research, but figured I had one shot at holding down the leak and getting back home to make repairs. And … that’s how it worked. I held pressure on the leak, Jackie flipped the switch to bring the slides in, fluid leaked but pressure on the spot kept it to a minimum and now I have to figure out how to make the repair. Not to worry, we won’t be headed out for at least 2 months.

 

So another adventure ends and a few more await us this fall.  Thanks for reading along and stay tuned to learn about our next trip to Florida (St. Andrews SP, Henderson Beach SP and Anastasia State Park) for nearly a month.

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Finding Our Groove This Spring

I don’t think I need to tell you that 2020 is one heck of an unusual year.  When we last shared our adventures with you it was mid March and we were in the midst of the country’s shutdown due to COVID-19.  We had just returned home from a week in Florida and two days in FDR State Park in Georgia.  

Plans changed for an upcoming family wedding (just immediate family with a fall celebration instead) and our big plans for an Alaska cruise with friends and family got cancelled.  Staying at home was the required and healthy thing to do, so the motorhome got a good cleaning, but but didn’t leave the driveway.  That also meant more crochet projects for Jackie, more glass sculptures for me and a new project of converting old VHS tapes to digital home movies.  Yeah, that’ll keep ya busy!

 

Plus, I had this new talent for homemade bread and pizza.  The problem with that was that everyone was baking at home and, well, you know the rest: flour and yeast shortages.  Fortunately, I was already deep into home baking mode, so I had the equipment and supplies on hand to keep rolling along.  And if you ever try sourdough baking, you know the stress of feeding and using excess sourdough.  It just keeps on growing!  So I have tried sourdough waffles, pancakes, biscuits, bagels, pizza dough, beer bread … with darn good success.  

     

      

   

In the Backyard

Our birdhouse was home to a Tufted titmouse family this year and I managed to catch one of the youngsters hop out of the box.  And we watched our usual herd of deer wander through the backyard, two does particularly heavy, and knew we were in for another birth or two.  Since they have been very protective in the past, involving incidents with our dogs, we kept a wary eye and finally saw the morning that a new youngster was born next door, wobbly legs and all.

 

Finally, some travel

It has been hard to book campsites, both for this year and next, given that so many are either closed due to coronavirus or still under repair, such as St. Andrews in Florida.  We tried to book Grayton Beach again for next spring with Judy and Craig (or any Florida campground), with no luck.  And we are pretty good at this, too.  So here we sit at home, like most of the country.

But, brother-in-law John is still working on his cabin in North Carolina (this is a no-hurry, one man, bucket list project) and was at the point of needing another helper, so we cautiously made plans to leave home and stay with him for a week.  Jackie thought it would be a good idea to try and book a night on the return trip in one of the Georgia State Parks, Moccasin Creek St. Park, so we made that reservation from the road.  Ok then, it felt good to be underway to somewhere.

Getting to Rutherfordton, more or less, in rural North Carolina was no problem and we set ourselves up in his backyard.  Nice grassy spot that let us connect water and electricity.  The weather was nice, so we ate outside and even tried out our new propane firepit (thanks to the idea from Judy and Craig).  We saw wild turkey in the farm fields and heard coyotes at night (and let me tell you, they were creepy yelps), but missed seeing the red fox that lives nearby.  John’s friend Elvie brought over some homemade pork egg rolls and sweet and sour sauce one night that made for a delicious treat.  Life was good and we were out of the house (and yes, we were wearing masks and washing hands as needed).

 

About that groove …

Over at the cabin, John explained what we were to get started on:  tongue and groove pine siding that he was using for his interior walls and the porch ceiling.  OK, no biggie, right?  Besides, John had already gotten some of it started.  We set up some boards for Jackie to stain – 12 and 16 footers for the porch, and John and I finished up the upper part of the stairway wall.  Not too bad, just way up on ladders and such.

 

But when it came to the overhead porch ceilings, it was a lot trickier.  Not all the boards wanted to slip into the grooves easily, so there was a bit of thumping, banging, cursing, and reaching – especially on the 16 footers.  Ping, ping, ping and we got some nails in.  Pushing, tapping, wedging and we got more boards in.  Ok, load up Jackie’s staining table again and stop for the day.  Next day, repeat.  Oh, and the jigsaw just kept seizing up at critical moments, so some creative means were used for some of the cuts needed for outlet boxes.  Maybe the sixth or seventh “jam” brought about a “@#$%&!” moment and the saw went flying out the door into the driveway.  Better order another one.

 

Rain was predicted and John wanted to pick up his hearth stone, a rather large slab of sandstone up in Marion before it got too bad, so we rode out to the quarry and they loaded up the stone.  Back at the cabin we hefted it out of the truck bed and inside to the hearth.  Not too shabby, but pretty darn heavy. 

From that day on (three days?) it rained pretty hard.  Didn’t slow our work on the “wonderful” tongue and groove, but there was some pretty good flooding going on.  We did our best to finish our project list, but didn’t quite get the porch ceiling done.

   

One last challenge

The night before we were to pull up and head out I had a nightmare that woke me up good.  I kept imagining our stabilizing jacks would sink into the ground and we wouldn’t be able to retract the slides (sides of the RV) because we were tilted.  I was also imagining that the soggy wet ground would make us slip on the grass and we would bog down in the mud instead of backing out of John’s yard.  So I jumped out of bed and pulled in the living room slide, waking up the dog, cat and Jackie, who all thought I was nuts.

As it happens, we were able to back out of our spot in the yard and onto John’s gravel driveway with no problem, BUT while making the K-turn to swing around … my nightmare came true.  Stuck in the mud.  Just barely got wood under the rear hydraulic jacks to lift us up and slip a board under one wheel, and John tried to pull with his pickup truck, but the board snapped and we sunk in deeper – no luck.  

 

We called a wrecker and Jack did a great job with a winch to pull us to safety (after nearly bogging down himself), and we then backed all the way out the driveway.  Not a fun way to start the day.  I was in no mood to spend the night at another campground, especially one with “creek” in the name, so we cancelled our reservation and just headed back home, leaving a trail of mud clods behind us.

And while we were gone?

Once back home we spilled out of the motorhome and unpacked.  Everything looked fine.  I pulled the memory card out of our backyard trail camera and was stunned to find a perfect video of our latest addition to the herd.  Our second fawn was caught on camera the day he/she was born and was caught looking adorable.  The youtube clip is precious and I am amazed that the youngster and mom hung out right in front of the camera.  Maybe they knew?  

Fawn’s First Day Video

So, even though we are pretty much staying home (although Georgia is trying to reopen), we have found some new adventures.  They might not be the cruises and family gatherings and celebrations we had planned – like everyone else – they still provide a sense of wonder – even the tongue and groove (I wonder why those boards won’t go together? thump, thump, curse).

The Adventure continues … (will we still be camping in Florida this fall?  Stay tuned)

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Last One to Leave, Turn the Lights Out

If you followed our previous post, Searching for Spring Sun, you know we just left Grayton Beach State Park in Florida after a wonderful, sun-filled week that was a perfect escape from the incessant rain.  No rain, all sun. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus and protective measures ramped up as we made our way south to camp along the Gulf coast. With no television, scant information on the radio and occasional news feeds on our phones, we were probably slow to learn about the fast-moving plans to limit social interactions. 

By the time we packed up on Friday to leave the campground as planned, the campground itself was closing, beaches were shutting down, bars, restaurants and shops were closing – it almost felt like the last time we had to leave Florida in a hurry ahead of hurricane Michael. We expected a caravan of cars, motorhomes and trailers headed away from the coast, but were surprised to have little traffic until we reached Dothan and Eufaula, Alabama.

Not much further along, near Pine Mountain, Georgia, we found our destination for the next two nights: FDR State Park.  The campground was completely full, although much of it is under renovation and maybe a third of sites are not available.  Our reservation was for a site along the shoreline of Lake Delano and was a perfect spot, even though there was construction and erosion control fence around us.  We set up, had dinner and sat out to enjoy a cool night by the lake. Just as we fell asleep, later, the sky opened up and we had major rain pelting down on the camper.  Gosh, such a nice welcome back to Georgia!

It also seems that pollen season has just started — our site was awash in the yellow stuff and the chairs and outdoor rug were pretty well soaked from the rain.  At least the sun came out to dry things out and we made sure to wipe and brush off as much pollen as we could. It probably means we have minutes before it hits us hard back home. 

Since we had the car disconnected for the back-in site we figured we ought to explore the park, find the Little White House and check out Warm Springs.  The museum at Roosevelt’s Little White House was actually a great history lesson. We had the place to ourselves, took time to watch a short film, look at the exhibits and wander the small house. 

I couldn’t help but see the parallels with current events: President Roosevelt had to deal with the nation’s great depression, joblessness and people in need and later, at a time when he and many others were suffering from polio, a national health epidemic.  It was in the mineral pool at Warm Springs that he was able to relax and relieve pain and was inspired to develop the area for others suffering from polio.  He founded the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for the rehabilitation and relaxation of children and adults suffering the effects of polio.

It was here in the study of the Little White House that he suffered a fatal stroke and collapsed while having his portrait painted.  Touring the home and viewing the unfinished painting I mentioned to a volunteer that it seemed so sad. She remarked that in fact it was a very happy place, since it was here that he was able to find so much peace and comfort.  It was in rural Georgia that he was inspired to develop policies such as the Rural Electrification Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Just down the road is the town of Warm Springs, which grew as a result of his numerous visits and the Institute he created.  It is from the railroad station in town that his casket began its journey back to Washington, DC and later to Hyde Park, NY.

The town has little happening today, not just because of the coronavirus closures, but sadly, there simply is nothing much there.  I guess “potential” would be said of the brick storefronts and the clapboard buildings but the only activity was around a motorcycle shop. Even the famous warm mineral pool was difficult to find, closed and no longer contains water from the spring. 

The welcome center/gift shop for the park is a classic CCC-built stone building that commands a great view of the valley below.  Heading back along the ridge of the park you can’t help but be impressed with that view – you think that Georgia’s only mountains are in the north.  Even though you are less than 2,000 feet elevation, you are high above the surrounding woodlands and farmland.  We noticed several trailheads for the 23-mile Pine Mountain Trail – and boy were the cars packed into the lots.  So much for self isolation.  

  

  

 

  

The overlook at Dowdell’s Knob was equally busy, but such a wonderful view. This is a spot where FDR often had picnics, noted by the remains of a stone grill he used, plus a bronze sculpture of the president.  It was also a big day for cyclists, as you can see.  

We did a little hiking and picture-taking before relaxing by the lake.  No rain overnight, so packing up and leaving camp was easy enough in the morning.  Rangers said they were expecting to hear soon that the park would close, but for now it was still pretty much full.  A couple of hours later we were parked in our driveway and hauling clothes and food out of the camper and back into the house.  At least the traffic was light, even for a Sunday morning.

And so ends our sunshine adventure amid the coronavirus outbreak.  We are hearing from friends and family that they are healthy, but plans have changed for an upcoming family wedding (postponed), a restaurant closing puts our son-in-law out of work, others are making the best of teaching from home and everyone, including us now, is sheltering in place.

And now it has started raining again!

The Adventure continues … (will we still be cruising in Alaska in June?  Stay tuned)

 

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Searching for Spring Sun

How about a little rain? How about a LOT? It has been quite a stretch of rainy, wet, cloudy weather so far this year in our part of Georgia and we need to find some warm sun! That means it is time to uncover the motorhome and make preparations to head south for a week or so.



Luckily, our winter months have had their share of fun adventures – we even had a day of snow. A new adventure in the kitchen, thanks to Alex, was to learn breadmaking in the Ken Forkish “Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast” method of artisan baking. So many delicious loaves of bread have now been baked and shared – plus homemade pizza dough. And that called for a gathering of the BrewCrew to celebrate a leap-year birthday and make personal pizzas. Such fun. And of course the brewery visits continue.

   

 

Once the cover was pulled off the motorhome this month, John helped me change the engine and generator oil and filters. The roof was cleaned and waxed with UV cleaner/protector, tires were inflated, rotated and brakes checked. Hydraulic fluid was added to the slide/jack system, the water tanks sanitized, rinsed and filled and minor repairs made. Bikes got the once-over (and one new seat), chairs and small tables wiped down and we started to fill the pantry and fridge and pack up clothes. Yep, it was going to be an early start to the camping season.

Roof cleaning 2020

All-important roof cleaning

This outing is to Grayton Beach State Park in Florida to camp with our family from Nashville. It is their spring break, so Craig, Judy, Rachel and Colin will be camping in the park with us – well, near us. Hopefully no “oops, left that beef stew in the microwave the last time out” mishaps will occur. You may recall reading the post about our trip to Big Lagoon State Park in Pensacola last year.

We decided to break up the trip to Florida by staying one night outside Eufaula, Alabama at Lakepoint State Park.  Then, on our way back from the panhandle, Jackie and I are going to spend a few days in FDR State Park in south Georgia, a visit that should be both hiking and history-filled. 

As we prepare to head out, we are learning more about the spread of the coronavirus and the active measures our local and state governments are taking to limit transmission of the virus.  All schools in the area are closed, all major sports and public events are cancelled – all of this you know.  Although we are well and are taking recommended precautions, we do feel just a bit odd at the start of this adventure. But  life in the motorhome will be rather contained anyway, so we press on.  Might affect our brewery visits, though.

So off we go to escape the cycle of rain and overcast skies and find the warm Florida sun.  The trip through Atlanta and south towards Columbus was smooth until Kodi let us know that there was a brewery nearby in LaGrange … well, actually we saw a billboard for the exit. 

 

We were in no hurry and it was lunchtime, so the brewmobile pulled into a really nice spot at Wild Leap Brewing. We had a beer each and some delicious smoked brisket from a food truck.  Kodi had a wonderful time meeting the patrons, being fed dog biscuits and generally just enjoying not being in the motorhome.

Lakepoint State Park

Not too much further along we were in Eufaula and pulled into our site at Lakepoint State Park for the night.  What a great spot along the lake! We had a pull-through spot and didn’t have to disconnect the car, so we were all set to leave quite easily the next morning.  This might be a regular stop on our future trips to the Florida panhandle.

 

Grayton Beach State Park

After a nice morning drive through some small Alabama towns and the Florida panhandle we arrived at Grayton Beach State Park.  Recent improvements to the park mean that the sites are certainly ample and all have electric, water and sewer. Our spot was an easy back-in and we soon were joined across the way with Judy, Craig, Rachel and Colin.  We arrived on Sunday and did a little biking around the campground and up to the beach to see how nice it was.

Monday morning was a sunny start to the week.  We spent time at the beach, working on our early sunburn and testing the chilly water.  The weather is great so far.

  

  

 

  

  

 

 

  

We all decided to ride bikes around the corner for dinner at the Grayton Beer Brewpub and had a delicious dinner.  A flight of beer each was accompanied by grouper sandwiches and pork nachos and then a ride back to the campground.

  

 

    

 

It was almost sunset, so Judy and I grabbed cameras and hustled to the beach to catch the spectacle, which was naturally not as bright as the night before (when we didn’t have cameras).

  

 

   

Enter COVID-19

Tuesday morning (St. Patrick’s Day) was another nice sunny start to the day.  We learned, however, that the coronavirus was going to have an effect on our trip.  Now this is not news to you, but we haven’t had access to TV and news, with only spotty information on our phones.  We know from our teaching friends and family that schools are cancelled for weeks. Slowly the news of cancellations trickles our way and we learn that our campground will close on Friday.  That’s not too bad, since we were heading out on Friday, but it does seem weird — like a hurricane evacuation.

  

I drove to a favorite brewery in the area, Idyll Hounds Brewing, before dinner and learned it was their last night serving from the taps.  Starting tomorrow all bars have been ordered closed and restaurants to operate at half capacity. Now I understand the need for social isolation and preventive measures to keep this virus from spreading quickly through the population, but it hit me weird that our camping would be so affected.  But by the time you read this on my post, things will certainly have changed again and of course you are all too familiar with the run on groceries, toilet paper, bottled water and the like. Strange times indeed, and we certainly are not as affected as so many others.

  

 

  

    

  

But back to our otherwise wonderful time in Florida.  We rode bikes around Western Lake today and into Watercolor and Seaside resorts.  Wow, that was like major spring break time. Loads of people, but nearly all under 30.  None of the “elderly” in sight. We have now realized that we fall into both the Senior Citizen and Elderly categories .. not yet at the “infirm” and frail designation.  Anyway, word is that the beaches will “close” on Saturday. How do you close a beach anyway?  

  

 

 

 

 

 

We keep hearing of playgrounds, parks and campgrounds closing, but the weather and water are perfect here.  We did indeed find the Florida sun — it is out, warm, no rain in sight and we even braved the water, which seems to have warmed from the 65 degrees or so.  Such a contrast from what we left at home (and we are wearing shorts! Bathing suits! T-shirts and bare feet!) The rest of the week will probably be beach time, biking, photography, crochet (both Judy and Jackie) and reading.  No paddleboards this time, since we figured it would be too cold and windy — heck, what do we know? And I need to find a bar or something that will be open for me to upload pics and this blog story. May have to wait a few days.

  

    

One last dinner out was delicious.  We all enjoyed our meal at Hurricane Oyster Bar, but I especially enjoyed the oysters on the half-shell.  These were monsters, nice and sweet. Yes! I got my seafood fill, and Jackie had some delicious smoked, spicy tuna, declaring it a wonderful meal out.

So I will close this story for now, with an update to follow that will finish the trip back home.  This trip was a success in our search for the sun in Florida, but it was weird in so many other ways around us.  Hoping all our friends and family stay safe and healthy.

The Adventure continues …

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Snorkeling the Western Caribbean

It’s mid-October in Atlanta and the temperature has finally dropped from 97 degrees to a more fall-like 65 degrees with 40’s overnight.  Jeans have replaced shorts, shoes replaced sandals and it is cold enough to use the firepit. Yet here I am at the pool bar, sipping a fruity frozen drink as a warm breeze blows ripples across the water.  What just happened? Maybe I better back up the story a bit …

You see, since our last great cruise on the Harmony of the Seas this summer, Jackie and I stated rather firmly that we would not be cruising again for a year or so, since we had plenty to do back home with grandson-sitting, beer festivals, maybe a fall camping weekend and such.  But it was just fine if Dad and the family wanted to head out to the Caribbean once again, we would wish them well. So plans were made for Dad, my brother Jeff and wife Vickie – even my sister Linda and husband Norman – to head out to the Western Caribbean on the Harmony of the Seas for a fall cruise.  Good stuff – wish you well.

But things got complicated when Norm’s family announced a trip to the Canadian Rockies and suddenly Linda was a single cruiser and gosh she needed a way to get to Port Canaveral via Atlanta (from California) and wouldn’t it be nice if Doug picked her up from the airport and drove her to the port and heck, he could even be her cabin mate.  Hey, Doug, whatcha think? Well it seems that, being retired, Jackie and I go where we are needed: so that meant cruising as a plus-one with my sister.

Turns out it was a great time.  We drove to Orlando and spent the night, checking out two breweries of course.  Hourglass Brewing had a lot on tap so of course we had two flights between us. Then a return visit to Rockpit Brewing meant another pint to try before returning to the hotel. 

 

Up early in the morning and off to the ship! We parked, checked in and were on the ship by 10:30 – just minutes before Jeff, Vic and Dad arrived. This trip Jeff arranged a scooter for Dad, so we had to practice getting him in and out of the room and around the ship.  Turns out it was the BEST move, as he was soon zipping along on his own.  

 

How about some highlights from the ports and sea days aboard ship you ask?  

Perfect Day at Coco Cay

The scooter made a world of difference for Dad, who was down the gangway and on his way across the dock to the Oasis Lagoon pool in no time.  We found lounge chairs by the huge pool and were soon sloshing around with drinks in hand. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, as you can see from the pictures.  

The only disappointment was the snorkeling reef.  Over the years we have been coming here, the area to snorkel has been corralled in closer to shore and the last hurricane seems to have damaged the reef enough that you really didn’t have much to see.

Cozumel Snorkeling

The three reef excursion Linda and I took certainly was a change from Coco Cay.  We walked around and through the maze of shops on shore to find a taxi to the departure marina to meet our guides. 

Turns out there were only four of us on the small boat, which was awesome. Snorkeling in Cozumel is usually a float over the reef with the water current moving you slowly along.  We saw triggerfish (Queen and black), angelfish (Queen and French), parrotfish, yellow snapper, blue tang, butterfly fish, scrawled filefish, trunkfish and a couple of black and white eels.  Check the video:  Cozumel Reef Snorkel

 

 

We had a photographer along who kept attracting the yellow and black Sergeant Majors in front of us to get photos – nice at first, but a bit annoying if you were looking at something else on the bottom.  Overall, it was amazingly clear and a great snorkel. A float vest I purchased worked out perfect, along with a rashguard shirt that substituted for sunscreen (they are serious about protecting their reefs – no sunscreen).  Fish identification was much easier thanks to some waterproof cards I bought from fishcards.com. Thanks to Michael Greenberg for all his help getting us these essential cards. We had a few cold Coronas on the way back to the marina while sharing what we saw. 

Roatan Snorkeling

 

Getting to the reef in Roatan from our dock in Coxen Hole was much more of an ordeal than in Cozumel, where the reef was in sight of the ship.  Jeff, Vic, Linda and I made our way ashore (where they are in mid-construction of a second big dock), wound through the maze of shops once again and found our excursion driver.  Into a van with four other divers and we were off to the northeast coast. It was an hour’s drive up and over the mountains along a busy 2-lane road that was surrounded by small houses (barely one-room shacks by our standards) and market stalls.  Despite all the happy house hunters I have seen on HGTV, I can’t say that I would have chosen to retire to the island. Not exactly prospering.

   

But once we reached our destination at Turquoise Bay Beach and Dive Resort it all changed.  The small marina had several dive boats and we were soon joined by 5 others with Subway Watersports to head to the reef and snorkel.  Next to us was a beachside resort that we would be able to enjoy after the snorkel. Not far off shore we were moored and ready to slip in the water in a sandy spot that was maybe 6 feet deep with a few sea stars.  There was a bit of wind chop as we were directed ahead to find an underwater oasis of coral, sponges and fish that were just amazingly beautiful.  

The “wall” was covered with sponges, fans and corals of all sorts.  The fish were much like what we saw at Cozumel, darting in and around the corals.  A lionfish was pointed out to us along with a yellow trumpetfish. Our guide took my gopro down to get a shot of the lionfish (which was stunning, although destructive to many native fish on the reefs).  Again, my vest was a big help, since we were probably snorkeling the reef for an hour. The sponges and corals (thanks to my ID cards) seemed to be sea whips, sea fans, tube sponges (blue and yellow), sea fingers, vase sponges, staghorn coral, brain coral, star coral … gosh so many colors and shapes.  Check the video:  Roatan, Honduras Snorkel

As I mentioned, we were able to hang out at the beach resort until our taxi arrived to take us back to the ship.  Totally gorgeous spot on the water – dreamy. But since we would be leaving port early and Roatan was 2 hours behind ship’s time, we were a bit anxious when it had not arrived. We were told we would be waiting for the divers in our party to return, but when they were overdue and in fact were choosing to continue their dive, the excursion owner opted to have one of his staff drive us back to port.  We made it with time to spare, but grumbled about the decision by our fellow passengers to have extended their dive at our expense.

Costa Maya Shopping

We were surprised to hear Dad say he wanted to go ashore in Costa Maya to buy a shirt, but once again the scooter made that possible.  He was down the gangway and speeding along the dock ahead of all of us, making a beeline for the cluster of shops on shore. He found his shirt while shopping, as did the rest of us, and soon we were all back aboard.  Costa Maya is pretty much the shopping arcade, a water park and some nearby excursions and nothing else for miles around. But the coastline is very pretty and our sail away was beautiful. 

Around the Ship and Sea Days 

Now this is a big ship and you have a few of your close friends with you – about 6,000 of them, with about 3,000 crew members.  So finding a lounge chair on sea days can be challenging. You have to first get your Irish coffee at the Park Cafe, find something good for breakfast (waffles with strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate syrup maybe?) then grab a mimosa or bloody mary and head for the towel check.  Maybe some sunscreen gets slathered on and you are all set – until Jeff says “hey let’s go do the waterslides!

   

So we climbed the stairway to the waterslides for the highest view aboard ship and zipped down.  The “toilet bowl” slide was a first time for Linda and she screamed the whole way down. I did the dark Abyss dry slide again; we bobbed in the pool and Jeff and I decided to brave the Flowrider kneeboard.  The board took a moment to get the hang of, what with all the water shooting at you, but soon we both got up on our knees and … well, we took a few falls and scooted around the fast-moving sheet of water. Totally fun and a real blast – I definitely got better as the week went on, but neither of us felt confident enough to do the stand-up wakeboards.  Check the video: How We Did Harmony of the Seas

 

Dinners were in the main dining room, except the night that three of us ate at Jamie’s Italian (oh my gosh was it a lot of delicious food!).  A plank of meats and cheeses, garlicky prawns, lasagna, pasta and lamb chops washed down with a delicious red wine and followed by a huge plank of desserts. We had a delightful serving staff at dinner, with special after-dinner shots to toast the day (thank you Mikayla).  Late nights involved pizza slices and Octoberfest beer and lunch involved the famous Royal Kummelweck roast beef sandwich in Central Park. We all lunched at the Sabor Taqueria one day and had a fabulous and filling meal – so much so that we skipped the dining room and just did nibbles for dinner.