Posts Tagged With: RV travel

Finding the Forgotten Coast

Life itself sure is an adventure, as I learned from this trip.  Jackie and I booked this Florida vacation to St. George Island on the Big Bend of the Florida Gulf coast about a year ago when we had little on the calendar.  Now it comes wedged in between two family weddings, a wonderful college graduation event and a celebration of life.  

The days before our departure were the usual frenzy to get everything ready.  We took the motorhome to have the cabin AC repaired, scrubbed the roof to a nice clean white finish, waited for the new steel bumper and tow bar to be installed on the Jeep (our new tow vehicle) and I was getting ready to bake two loaves of buttermilk sourdough for the trip.  I was also finally feeling better after a bout of stomach virus.  We got the Jeep back, practiced connecting and disconnecting and considered ourselves ready.  Beach stuff packed, an assortment of warm and cool clothes stuffed into the closets and drawers, liquor, food and ice stocked into the fridge… we were ready.

Then I got the call from Dad’s nursing home and we learned that he died that afternoon.  Wow.  Shock to the system, now what do we do?  Stay?  Go?  Delay?  Of course we spent time late into the night on the phone and computer, talking, crying, writing, thinking, remembering … not really sleeping much.  But we decided that Dad wouldn’t want us to change plans so in the morning we gathered ourselves and got set to leave town. I did post a tribute to dad before we left – if you haven’t already read “The Visit” you should.

The Jeep was an easy hook-up compared to the tow dolly and Rav-4.  We carefully went through our checklist and were confident we had it in “N” in the transfer case and “Park” in the auto transmission.  It was freewheeling.  

This is a new experience for us and I should fill you in just a bit.  On our last camping trip we chatted up a couple who had a Jeep Wrangler that they towed 4-down (rather than like we do with a tow dolly, where the front wheels are up on a tow platform).  They said it worked really well for them and were ready to sell that unit and buy a new Jeep pickup, but we didn’t come to a deal on the price.  It did get us thinking seriously about how much easier it would be to tow that way, especially if we were going to be going cross-country again in the fall.  So in short order we found ourselves the owners of a low mileage 2018 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, complete with the learning curve that goes with it.  A new spot around the corner from us, Jeep Wave, was a great source of help.  We ordered a steel bumper, tow bar, wires and cables and … well, let’s just say we put the COVID stimulus money to good, local use.

So as we were double-checking the brake lights and turn signals Jackie noticed that the motorhome signaled left and the Jeep signaled right.  Oops.  Better stop at Jeep Wave and ask JD to have another look.  Yeah, let’s have a look at that wiring.  Ok, only 2 hours later and we were actually on the road.  Good thing we didn’t plan to drive all the way to the Florida Panhandle on one day, because it was 4:00pm before we pulled into our campsite in south Georgia in the Kolomoki Mounds State Park.

Actually, the trip was smooth and easy, with a little anxiety once we passed Columbus and we couldn’t find a gas station until the last minute (quarter tank is last minute to me).  You might chuckle if you have ever driven south of Columbus, Georgia and done this:  as you approach Fort Benning there is this very impressive overpass with tall statues and eagles and all sorts of stars … and a very quick exit to continue on past the base.  Except if you are entranced with the Brandenburg Gate look of everything and suddenly find yourself at the military checkpoint.  Oh well, they saw us coming, waved us around and just somehow knew that this Winnebago was not really heading onto the base.  Made our U-turn and got the heck outta there, sheepishly. 

Oh, and about the final approach to Kolomoki Mounds.  We were doing great on a nice 2-lane farm road in pretty countryside, with orange-red dirt, when the final turn had barricades and a sign that the road was out in 2 miles.  Hmm.  GPS says the entrance is 2.1 miles ahead.  We called the office this morning and they didn’t say anything about the road being out … think we should try?  Creeping along we finally saw the final barricades ahead and, yes, it was closed.  Before the entrance.  Sandy shoulders, no big parking lot in sight, umm, now what?  Well the owner of the wide, sandy, kind-of-a-turnaround front yard just happened to drive out and told us we were fine to turn around there, her husband parked his semi there at night.  Ok then.  Tight as heck U-Turn and we were on our way around to the OTHER entrance to the park.  Crazy, right?

The site at Kolomoki was a pull-through, since we were only there one night.  We needed to get a wifi connection to complete some online paperwork related to Dad and the only wifi was nearly a mile away at the visitor’s station, so we stopped there on the way out in the morning, getting another late start. 

The park was quite nice, campground along a small lake, but it was very muddy from recent rains and we really didn’t get out and around the mounds from a village that dated back almost 3,000 years.

The rest of the trip to Eastpoint, Florida along the Apalachicola Bay was smooth and soon we were driving behind the dunes on St. George Island State Park.  A beautiful island with a very small town (one t-shirt shop, two small grocery stores) and a fair amount of vacation homes up on pilings.  Much of the area was hit hard by recent hurricanes.  The campground was an easy setup, only 60 sites with water and electric, and soon we had the Jeep disconnected and the motorhome set and level.

So how did we spend our week?  Well we spent time at the beach of course, with some really nice days of warm water and bright sun. 

We rode bikes a bit, walked around with Kodi to chat with other campers and sat out when the mosquitos weren’t too bad.  Even around our propane firepit they were pretty fierce. But the nighthawks zipped around above us to gobble up a few and we listened to frogs and chuck will’s widows.

I just had to find a beachside bar and have a beer and raw oysters.  The Blue Parrot is the perfect spot on the sand, actually the ONLY beach bar, and the plate of ice-cold, sweet oysters tasted too perfect with a pint of Oyster City beer.  Cheers to you, Dad!  I know he would have joined me if he could.  Jackie had a basket of fried Grouper fingers that were tender and sweet.  My, my, it is so rough to be retired!

One of the days was supposed to be overcast, so we drove to Apalachiacola that day to play tourists and also get another plate of oysters.  The town was cute, but certainly adjusting to the loss of oystering on the bay.  It is officially closed for 5 years to allow the oyster beds to recover, so all the oysters you get in town are from elsewhere.  We did find Oyster City Brewery in town and stopped in for a sampling.  Also ate dockside at The Half Shell and had oysters and grouper.

Speaking of breweries, there is another one in Eastpoint just at the base of the bridge to the Island called Eastpoint Brewing.  Really good fruit and sour beers that were very mellow and frankly some of the best I have had.  Nice spot on the bay and some of the friendliest owners!

We made sure to take the windows off the Jeep and pull the top down for some fun driving along the beach road.  Sure was fun. 

 

Last night in camp we had a big thunderstorm (while we were eating more fish tacos at Paddy’s) and it was still raining when we hooked up the Jeep.  But the sun came out soon enough and our drive up along the bay to Tallahassee and on to Thomaston and Moultrie in south Georgia was really easy. 

Our destination for one night (to break up the drive back to Atlanta) was Reed Bingham State Park.  Very nice spot under a live oak with full hookups – really an easy stop. 

Kodi, Jackie and I walked a short trail called the “Gopher Tortoise Loop” before dinner, which was a nice sandy trail and darned if we didn’t spot several of their burrows, one with the tortoise in the doorway. It wasn’t our first time seeing them, but kinda cool anyway. Jackie was disappointed not to see any indigo snakes.

We noticed a lot of big Class A motorhomes in camp and lots of dogs.  Not little Yorkies and poodles, but dobermans and border collies.  Turns out they are setting up for an agility meet tomorrow — too bad, Kodi would fit right in (except we really never trained him for agility).

We are back home now, the motorhome is mostly unpacked and we are already plotting the next adventure.  This was a really nice Florida vacation and a good chance to reflect, remember and celebrate the life of my father, someone who was so big in recreation and who set our family off on many, many camping adventures.  

Thank you to everyone who has shared memories and sent their thoughts and prayers our way.  It has meant a lot … a lot.

Thanks for coming along on the journey.  What’s next?  Maybe another trip to the North Carolina mountains to finish up John’s cabin and camp for a few days with family … a big fall swing through the Southwest?  Who knows?

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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 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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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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Salem Harbor to Shenandoah Valley and Home

Another episode in our continuing adventure to see the fall colors in New England (and sample plenty of craft beer along the way).  Yes, our wonderful site on the Salem harbor waterfront was really windy last night, so much so that we pulled in the slides to keep from rocking around.  But not much rain and it was clear and chilly in the morning. Did the whole disconnect, hitch-up and head out routine on our way back through Salem and off to Rhode Island.  

We made it around Boston and then Providence to mid-state to connect with an old friend.  It took a little maneuvering to get the motorhome in and around the stone walls to the farm, but with some help we settled in next to the horse paddock at Laurie and Brian’s place.  Actually worked out great – a good long walk around the farm with the dogs, delicious dinner and conversation to catch up and back to our own place on a darn chilly night.

Woke to another sunny, chilly morning and it was time for a repeat of the hitch-up, head out routine.  This was going to be a pretty long haul to get us into Pennsylvania and close to another brewery on the list: Yuengling Brewing.  Lots of historic rivers and bridges to cross on this drive from Connecticut to New York and Pennsylvania: Connecticut River, Hudson River (impressive), Delaware River.  Quite a few hills and mountains and very scenic, but not much of the fall color yet. As we headed to Scranton, Jackie checked on her phone to confirm the details of Yuengling in Pottsville, just a little further on.  Well, it looks like we were gonna cut it close if we wanted to make it there by closing time at 5 – but then Jackie said it looked like winter hours meant it closed at 3. So we were out of luck and out of time for that brewery.  

I was impressed with the mountains around Scranton and how cool the landscape was as we drove through the Poconos and closer to Harrisburg.  We decided to stop for the night at a KOA – pull-through site with full hookups. Very nice spot that was only 2 miles from the AT, not that we were planning to hike it, but it must have been close to where our nephew Adam made it (so proud).


I have to take a moment to say that this, like all our adventures, is a true partnership.  Yes, I do the driving, but Jackie is busy navigating, checking ahead for the best gas prices, calling ahead to some of the breweries to ask about parking, and being an extra set of eyes when we get into tight situations (including the very tricky gas stations).  We each have our set-up and pack-up routines, which helps us remember everything and we aren’t afraid to double-check each other. Anyway, it does take two when you drive a rig like this. And then there is the whole hitch/unhitch the car routine.

So that brings us to another day on this series of travel days.  Not too many pictures to share, as it doesn’t work to shoot while moving along and besides, who wants to see an interstate highway?  It was a good start leaving the KOA, sunny and in the low 40’s. We did not stop in Hershey to see chocolate world (another time perhaps), nor did we stop at the Lindor chocolate factory that we saw at the last moment, but we did have a nice drive.  Southern Pennsylvania heading toward Harrisburg was filled with small farms, the barns and silos dotting the landscape. Green fields were sprinkled between brown cornfields, most in mid-harvest. As we slipped into Maryland and West Virginia, the traffic increased and the hills were a bit more rolling.  We crossed yet another important river: the Potomac.

Into Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley was just amazing.  Blue skies, green pastures, old homes and farms all with a dark green backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Very cool, but no hint of fall color here. Jackie got back on the navigation and located our next destination: Devil’s Backbone Basecamp and Meadows.  We first learned of the DB Vienna Lager while pouring at one of our beer festivals back home and knew we wanted to stop here. Plus, Adam stopped here on his AT hike and said it was great.  Up and over the ridge from Staunton, I think it was Rooster Gap, we found our country road and wound our way along. Wow, there is a winery, wait slow down, there is a cidery. A distillery, a brewery …. Gosh the choices.  But we kept on until we found basecamp and checked in.

This is a pretty new operation, the campground just opened this year.  But is has generous room for rigs, full hookups and dump station, and lots of tent sites for AT hikers and others.  The grounds have a bandshell, outdoor bar, lots of outdoor seating, a distillery, breakfast spot and of course their tap room and brewpub.  So we walked around with Kodi, who met lots of folks, had ourselves a beer and relaxed a bit in the sunshine. We both liked Gold Leaf Lager, I enjoyed the Cran Gose, a cranberry sour and we made plans to come back for dinner.  Dog back in camper, cat fed and we went back for a flight each and a delicious meal. I mean great!

The only moose we saw on this trip:

Jackie ordered nachos with smoked chicken, I ordered a smoked top round (shaved) on Cibatta au jus.  Both were amazingly flavorful. On the flights we sampled Trail Angel Weiss (was best with the nachos), UK Lager and Vienna Lager (good with the beef) and a Brut Lager that was very dry, light and crisp.  Saving it for last, we tried their Hibiscus Hard Lemonade (6.3%) which was really quite nice. A stop in the gift shop and then a welcome walk back to the camper in the dark. We really like where this spot is going.  Definitely worth a stop if you are driving nearby.  We learned that the next day the campground was booked with vintage VW Campers … now that would have been fun to see.

Merlin is getting anxious to be home — and we have one more stop before home, somewhere near Bristol, Tennessee.  Might not be blog-worthy, we shall see.

As we left the valley at the DB Basecamp it was one wild ride.  The hairpin turns and switchbacks on the road up the mountains, and then back down again were a thrill (Jackie disagrees).  Crossed under Skyline Drive on the Blue Ridge Mountains and the AT again. The mountains were green, the sky blue and just a bit of mist was rising from the James River as we followed along.  What a gorgeous day, but no hint of fall color here.

As we get closer to closing the loop on this trip approaching Knoxville, we end where we began, with a home Tennessee football game causing traffic and trouble.  No campsites between Bristol and almost Chattanooga were available. We didn’t make advance reservations for this last part of the trip, since we weren’t sure how far we would drive.  So, as we sat in some nasty traffic in Knoxville, we made the decision to push on to home. It made it an 11 hour driving day, but when we pulled in (at our non-moving house), it felt good.

So at the conclusion of this 28-day “Big Loop” to see fall colors, we will have driven through 16 states, two countries, a total of over 3,800 mile (not counting the car excursions) and sampled oodles of craft beer and ate great regional food.  It was definitely worth it – all the driving, all the gasoline, the cold nights and the rainy mornings. We caught up with old family friends, did a few hikes, had our share of pumpkins, apples, fall festivals and scary Halloween decorations, saw some new wildlife and definitely got to see all the beautiful colors of fall.  Phew! Now one week to do the laundry and pack swimwear, shorts and t-shirts for a cruise to the Bahamas with Dad and John. I guess we are just a bit crazy. Thanks for reading along.

Until the next adventure …

Oh yeah, there are just a few photos that didn’t make the blog the first time around that I thought I would share:

Walking and picture-taking in Acadia:

The rungs, iron rails and walkways of the treacherous Precipice Trail:

The vintage campers from Salisbury Beach State Park:

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FISHY AND WITCHY in coastal Massachusetts

We woke to a nice sunny day and met some of the rally campers. Nice group of 100 or so campers, with all sorts of teardrops and Shastas, most with some very unique decor. Loved it. Our mission was to drive to Gloucester Harbor (or as my brother said Glaa Stah Ha Bah) and find some good fried fish. Winding through towns like Ipswich and Essex we noticed the dates on the Federal, colonial and salt box houses – all from the 1600’s and 1700’s. Wow. Very cute towns. Gloucester was a mix of those and Victorian manors, and very much a working town with fish processors and ice houses along the harbor of boats. Gordon’s was the largest, of course, but there were also a lot of lobster boats, too. A loop drive in East Gloucester hugged the rocky Atlantic coastline, dotted with some pretty impressive homes and Inns. We made time to stop at the Fisherman’s Memorial – a very recognizable statute that faces the open harbor and lists all of those lost at sea. Keep thinking of the movie “Perfect Storm.”

At the main harbor, just down from City Hall and downtown we found Cape Ann Brewing and Pub along the waterfront. Well, that just called out to us for sure. An order of fish ‘n chips each and a flight of six pours and we were set! First of all, the beer battered haddock was melt in your mouth good. Fries and slaw just as tasty. Good beer selections were Honey Pils, a New England IPA, Oktoberfest and Rockporter. But we found the Pumpkin Stout and Scottish Ale to be the best. Kind of getting to like some of these ales, especially in the colder weather.

We were told that last night the late-nighters around the campfire watched skunks wandering through camp (a little livelier than the roadkill we keep seeing), so we might be out after dark watching for these critters.


Sunny morning, but rain is moving in quickly, so we dump, hitch up and roll to Salem. We walked about a little last night, but really didn’t do a good skunk hunt. Probably best. The drive to Salem was pretty quick, with a stop at Costco to gas up (good price and easy pull-thru). Our campsite is a bit unusual. The city of Salem owns a park on Winter Island at the mouth of Salem Harbor. It is the site of Fort Pickering, a boatyard and small marina. We face out to the harbor from this parking spot, which is a really cool view – plus we have water and electric. We are also maybe a mile away from downtown Salem.

With the car, we drove into town and tried to see as much of this town know for its witch trials but what was also once the 6th largest city in the world.

The spotty rain kept the mood pretty creepy as we visited the House of Seven Gables and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home and then roamed the cemetery where the accused witches were buried. The town is an odd mix, with lots of tightly packed colonial houses from the 1600’s near the water and downtown is filled with brick buildings from the 1700 and 1800’s.

Since it is October, the witches and their many shops of wands, hats and potions were quite busy.

After a few hours we were getting hungry and found a nice brewpub Salem Beer Works for grub.

Lots on tap, so we had a flight of Cookie Stout, Excellent Porter, BHZ Festbier, Octoberfest and Boston Red. The Festbier and Boston Red were winning flavors, in our view. Jackie had a Pig Pig Cheese Cheese sandwich (pulled pork and cream cheese), I had a fried haddock sandwich that was soooooo good. Oh my goodness, we have been eating much too well on this trip.

Back at our waterfront spot on the harbor it looks like a rainy windy night in store. We are ok with that and plan to load up and head out to meet with some very special old friends in Rhode Island. So far the fishy, witchy Massachusetts coast has been lots of fun.

Thanks for keeping up with our Northeastern Adventures!

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MAINE TO MASSACHUSETTS

It is now Day 5 in Acadia National Park and we roll out in the morning, heading to the upper coast of Massachusetts. If you haven’t been following along from the start of this trip, be sure to scan back to some of the first postings to see our travels from Atlanta north to Canada and across to Maine.

When we last left off, Jackie was washing some essential clothes in dishpans on the picnic table. Those got draped over a drying rack in the living room and two days later are still damp. Rain was expected yesterday and indeed it rained all night and the day started just as wet. That’s ok, we needed a break day to shop and do errands instead of exploring the coast. Sounded like a good day for hot oatmeal so with the generator running, all the phones now charging, microwave heating the oatmeal and electric water heater on, we put a Keuring in the coffee pot and …… nothing. Oops moment again. All electric down. “Captain, I’m givin’ her all I got.” Time to run a diagnostic.

Generator was running just fine, it just wasn’t sending current – and since we went past 30amps, something we know not to do, it was probably a circuit breaker. Flipped the breakers one at a time, no change. Turned everything off, then back on again. Nothing. Ok, read the manuals again and scan for the solution. Ahh, there is another flip switch on the side of the generator that needs checking. Yep, reset that and we are back in buisiness. Another reminder that you have to watch everything.

Still raining, and pretty hard, so we packed up the dirty laundry (except those on the “drying” rack) and went in search of a cell signal and laundromat. Still colorful and scenic along the coastline, but much rougher water and getting pretty socked in.

Just off the island (Acadia and Bar Harbor are on Mount Desert Island) we found a Walmart and laundry. Bought some fresh groceries, then filled a washer and dryer at the laundromat while checking online. I was able to post two blogs and check emails, Jackie downloaded another eBook and we learned about Hurricane Michael hitting the Florida panhandle. Yikes, not good.

Since it was still a nasty, cold, wet day, we headed for downtown Bah Ha Ba. Crowds were down and we heard that only one of 3 scheduled cruise ships actually decided to stop in port. But the bus tours were still moving around. I had lobster in mind, not knowing if it was in season or not. Plenty of shops advertised it, so we chose Side Street Cafe and loved it. Nice big lobster roll with the meat from two lobsters! Jackie had halibut tacos and we both sampled local beers. I tried Belfast Lobster Ale (seemed appropriate) and Jackie had the Real Ale from Atlantic Brewing. That was a nice brown ale we liked from around the corner. Their beer is so good that we walked around to buy some of their Thunder Hole nut brown ale to take back home. On the way, passed a large rafter of turkeys, again!

Rainy night back in camp, but we are pretty full, so just crackers and good Vermont cheese and apples and tucked in for the night.

That brings us back to Day 5 and what to do. The laundry that didn’t make it to the dryer is still damp, there is lots of condensation dripping down the windows and it is still wet outside. Water is running low onboard, so quick, simple showers will have to do. Clearing is forecast for the afternoon and we have decided to drive around to find the only lighthouse on the island. Let’s see how that goes. Probably more turkey sightings.

Cold morning to start off, overcast and spotty rain as we began our last full day in Acadia NP. We did drive west around Northeast Harbor and then down past Southwest Harbor to the Bass Harbor Head lighthouse. Almost unimpressive size-wise (we are used to these tall structures) but we did have a good look at it and the ocean.

Back around the island we stopped at a couple other ponds and searched for beaver and loons, but all we saw were turkeys once again.

We found a delightful little bakery “The Notch” and picked out a crusty french round and two blueberry tarts for later. At the campground we walked the trail to the waterfront with Kodi and took pictures and had a last look at the coast. No sunny afternoon, however, and temperatures were dropping. Good night for tomato soup and toasted cheese with that crusty bread and Vermont cheese with bacon! And blueberry tarts!

Morning again, but thankfully no rain overnight. It was 43 degrees out, so time to hitch up and start south. Tried to drive the coast road as much as possible to Augusta and Portland and passed through some really cute towns, several of which were having their fall festivals, and over some really cool bridges. And more turkeys along the roadside! They don’t even rate their own “crossing” road sign, but there they are. Unfortunately, the rain started up again and it was a wet drive to Portland.

We made a swing through Freeport with hopes of stopping at the L.L. Bean flagship store, but it was Saturday and the whole town seems like one big shopping mall – the expensive kind. One look at the tight streets and full parking lots and we decided to keep moving and shop online. I did see the big boot, though. But our goal of finding a brewery was rewarded with a small industrial park in Portland that had six breweries within walking distance.

We hit Allagash and Foundation breweries for some flights and met some great folks. Allagash had a raspberry chocolate beer (Ganache) that I liked, Jackie had an ale aged in oak barrels that was light in color and really good (Curieux). Haunted Manor was a Maine exclusive dark, hoppy porter that was tasty, too. At Foundation Brewing we thought the Helles Lager was very flavorful and I liked their Chai Swizzle Gose. Quite a crowd at all the breweries for a rainy Saturday afternoon.

An hour’s drive or so through New Hampshire’s small coast and into Massachusetts to find Salisbury State Park and our campsite. Front gate had a note to just go find your reserved campsite and we soon learned there was a Vintage Camper Rally going on. How nice that our site was adjacent to the main event tent. Yippee!