Posts Tagged With: motorhome travel

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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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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