"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Friday, October 7, 2016

In Georgia, and Safe

It was a wonderful summer in New England, with so many visits with friends and family, as planned. But now we are back in the south, our new home. We hurried back to Georgia in September with the promise that the closing on our home would be Oct. 1. Surprise! Or I guess I should say, no surprise, the builder revised the predicted completion date and the closing won't be until mid-November.  We have been hanging out at Coastal Georgia RV Resort, just 15 minutes from Jekyll Island, and 20 minutes from The Cottages at Jekyll Island where we hope to be living very soon

Right now however we are about 160 miles inland, in Ashburn Georgia, at Carroll's Sausage and Country Store (and Georgia Peanut RV park), sitting out Hurricane Matthew in safety.  There was a voluntary evacuation of Jekyll Island and the surrounding area, but we had already decided to leave for a few days just to be safe. (Living in an RV makes it incredibly easy to get out of the way of hurricanes, which is an argument for holding on to the RV after we move into our seaside sticks and bricks home.) The storm is expected to hit Jekyll today, with the worst winds and water levels being at high tide, around 1:30 pm. The predictions I just read are not too dire, with swells at around 15' max and winds at about 30 mph max.  It doesn't look like that will cause too much damage, but we are vigilantly keeping the best outcomes for everyone in our hearts and minds.

While we're sitting out the storm, I'm in my pajamas and in blogging mode, which never seems to happen anymore, so I'd better share a few photos of some of the high points of our summer.  Let me say though, that the greatest moments of our summer, with dear friends and family, will remain undocumented here. It is by no means a statement of their relative importance. 

MASSACHUSETTS

Our first stop was in Massachusetts where we stayed at the Country Aire Campground in Charlemont, near Shelburne Falls and the scenic Bridge of Flowers.

Bridge of Flowers, Shelburne Falls, MA


MAINE

Next we spent about a month in Maine. One of our first stops was on the coast, where our friend Mike showed us around the quaint historical town of Castine. We enjoyed a sailboat cruise around the islands off of Castine, where Rick was in his blue mood. 


Aboard the 56' vintage yacht Guildive, out of Castine, ME

Then we met our friends Steve & Wendy at Acadia National Park for a week of sightseeing, hiking and lobster.

Bass Harbor, ME

Bernard, ME

Northeast Harbor. ME

Bernard, ME


View from Park Loop Rd., Acadia NP, ME

While in Maine we also had lovely visits with the Foggs at Mousam Lake, and the Thomas's at Cold Stream Pond, and got rides on both of their pontoon boats! Lucky us. 


NEW HAMPSHIRE

We stopped briefly in New Hampshire, on the north side of the White Mountains, where Honey and I visited this beautiful mountain stream and swimming hole every day to beat the heat.



VERMONT

Now for a great find in Vermont!  While staying at the Moose River Campground in St. Johnsbury, VT, I discovered Dog Mountain, the quintessential dog-devoted experience created by artist Steve Huneck and his wife Gwen Huneck. 

Roadside sign marking Dog Mountain and Chapel

The Dog Chapel was built by Steve Huneck and is designed to give people and dogs a place to remember and honor dogs they have loved. The walls are covered with notes and photographs that people have left about their dogs.

Inside Dog Chapel

Dog Mountain is an immense piece of property with fields, ponds and woods, interlaced with walking (and running!) paths for people and happy dogs. Always open, always free, and always well cared for.

Honey at Dog Mountain

At the Steve Huneck Gallery (also dog friendly) you can purchase the artist's well known work. All proceeds go to the Friends of Dog Mountain Foundation and the upkeep of the property and chapel. Please visit their website.

Inside the Steve Huneck Gallery at Dog Mountain

 While in Vermont we continued our new found enjoyment of visiting state capitols. I believe this one at Montpelier is one of the smallest and is just as special as all the others we've visited. Each one is so unique, yet formed around the same functional government theme. Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys have a strong presence here.

VT state capitol at Montepelier, VT

While staying in Brattleboro VT we got to a few great contradances in Greenfield MA, and heard some new "high energy dance music with horns" from a band called Elixir.  It feels so good to see the contradance music and dance community that we love, vibrant with young dancers and musicians keeping the tradition alive and making it their own.

THE ROAD SOUTH

After a fast and furious (for us) two week drive back to Georgia through upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, here we are still waiting out the completion of our condo and waiting out the storm, watching the weather channel, me still in my pajamas.

I sure hope to create another post as we continue our transition from full-time RVing to life off the road, and I hope it doesn't take another hurricane to make me do it.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

No, We're Not in Florida Anymore.

I know, I've been neglecting my documentation of our travels. My creative energies are being channeled into my interior design fantasies. Apologies offered. I'll do a quick update now. This Spring and Summer are all about friends, family, and future too I guess.

Our last stop in Florida was a very stimulating one in Jacksonville, where I dashed around madly trying to visit all the furniture stores to feed my fantasies and determine which ones will be most useful when we come back to Jekyll Island in the Fall.  Jekyll is about halfway between Jacksonville and Savannah, both of which have more furniture and interior decor stores than can be found closer. Furniture Mart will be my lead provider I think, with the local Jacksonville West Elm and Ballard Design stores in supporting roles. Brunswick also has Sweats, a nice but small furniture store, which will be a great local resource.

Then we parked at Coastal Georgia RV Resort in Brunswick and spent the week gazing longingly at the construction site where our townhouse will be. We also walked the beaches on Jekyll Island every day and explored the local territory, including St. Simons Island. From the Jekyll beaches we viewed porpoises and manatee in the shallow waters, enjoyed the deep green shade of the oaks, and basked in the relaxing atmosphere of the Island. What a beautiful place Jekyll is. Even more beautiful than we remembered. We're still feeling really good about our decision to live there.

After a too short and wonderful week with our family (Hi Bob, Caroline, Catherine, Will, Sarah, Cathy, Jess and Michael!) in Mount Pleasant, SC we started making some serious headway northward.  For us that still means moving only about 2 hours on travel days, and spending a couple of days at each stop.  

In our slow and steady style we actually made it through South Carolina and North Carolina, into Tennessee, and stopped for a week at the tidy Two Rivers Landing RV Resort in Sevierville and the Great Smoky Mountains. While there, we revisited our favorite spots in the National Park, perused the hugely comprehensive Smoky Mountain Knife Works, and had a lovely visit with Rick's old friends, Bob and Barb from Louisville.

On through Tennessee, Kentucky and into Ohio, we stopped for a great visit with our new friends Barb and Phil, in Mount Vernon, OH. They were kind and generous to let us stay in their home over the Memorial Day Weekend. What a blessing it was to get a break from the crowds and expense we would have encountered in an RV park on this holiday. And Phil and Barb are just so much fun to be with. We explored all around the beautiful Ohio countryside, including Granville, where I went to college and where Rick's great grandfather was a pastor and president of a local women's college (predating Denison University, my alma mater).  Granville is still such an idyllic little town, and I think Ohio is just about the most beautiful state in the country. Thanks Phil and Barb for showing us around your home state!

After a few of more quick stops in pastoral Ohio, the northwest corner of Pennsylvania and western NY, we've landed in apple country north of the Finger Lakes for a week to catch our breath from all this hard ramblin'.  : )  Right now we're at NorWin Campground and Fruit Farm, kind of an unusual stop for us. The large campground of primarily summer homes/trailers of local folks, is surrounded on all sides by a beautiful farm, with fruit orchards, corn fields and goat pastures. Our hosts couldn't have been nicer, and found us, on short notice, a pull-through spot with an open sky so we could use our satellite. We'll get both cars serviced, clean house, do a lot of laundry and let Honey run through the orchards.

We'll be in New England very soon for some long awaited visits with many dear people who we love and have missed. Our travels will peak at Acadia National Park, then we start the long trip back south, stopping in New Hampshire and Vermont for a couple of weddings and a visit with my son Mark. Lots to look forward to.

P.S. Sorry, no photos. There is something bad going on between Picasa (Google's photo program) and Blogger (Google's blogging program). I'm not feeling hopeful about where it's going, so the future of this blog is in question. I'm very tempted to bad mouth Google, which has basically abandoned Picasa users, and may be planning the same for Blogger.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Yes, We're STILL in Florida

We do like to move slowly when we can. We've been snailing along through central Florida, staying a week at a time at a series of pleasantly surprising campgrounds. I'll just mention the last few here for those who are interested, and get on with the story.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound, FL 
This one is just about perfect. Reasonably priced, large, full hook-up sites, close to the ocean and shopping yet quiet and surrounded by nature, great hiking/biking trails, well taken care of. We'd go back and spend a month in a flash.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park - Site #79 (paved!)
             
River Ranch RV Resort, Lake Wales, FL
A kind of odd place. It's an ownership resort that the owners all seem to be leaving. Many lots for sale. It's affiliated with a dude ranch kind of resort with a rodeo, teepees, glamping - all beautifully landscaped jungle style and very well cared for.  The sites were kind of tight getting into and it was pretty pricey. 

River Ranch RV Resort - Site #278
             
Wilderness RV Resort, Silver Springs, FL
This place is all about the location, right near Silver River State Park and close enough to Ichetucknee River. (More about those later.) The park is known for it's little restaurant and sweet shop that makes great whoopie pies.


Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park, White Springs, FL 
This is a very nice state park, but kind of far away from almost everything. Good for catching up on the blog and some nice hiking. There are some very nice long pull-throughs, but very few sites that would get satellite reception. All the sites are 30 amp and have no sewer.

Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park - Site #34


Florida is like three totally different worlds: the beach-focused, busy, wealthy east and west coasts and the Keys; Orlando and all the theme park culture; and the central wild and agricultural stretch that starts at the Everglades, squeaks around Orlando and continues all the way to Georgia. Some call it the "old" Florida. Since leaving Jonathan Dickinson we've been hanging out in the latter and enjoying it a lot. It's rural and surprisingly remote in places, but full of hidden treasures, like the many rivers and crystal blue springs.


But back to Jonathan Dickinson on the beautiful east coast of Florida for a moment.  Much of the east coast is heavily developed, but there are little windows of undeveloped seashore, like between Jupiter Island and Hobe Sound, where this state park is located amidst miles of undeveloped rolling sand dunes.

It's a great location to visit some really excellent beaches, including the amazing miles-long Juno Beach where dogs are always allowed off leash. They're treated like one of the family- no fuss about it. The dogs have miles to play and swim, are not crowded into a nervous little area, and are pretty relaxed as a result.  The ocean was divine - perfect temperature, manageable waves and pretty colors. Ahhhh....

We also visited the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and took the guided tour.  Rick was fascinated by it all and walked up to the top. 





I opted out of the climb and lounged around under this spectacular ficus tree. Florida does have some amazing vegetation.



As we were leaving we saw this fisherman (with the gold necklace) haul in an amberjack after fighting with it for a long long time.  He and everyone around him were pretty excited and full of admiration for his accomplishment.  I guess it doesn't happen every day.



While at the River Ranch Resort near Lake Wales we spent a very pleasant afternoon at Bok Tower Gardens.  Near the entrance gate there is a visitor's center, gift shop, cafe and plant shop. In the patio garden they had created a wall of epiphytes (air plants) that happened to be in bloom. Not something you'd see anywhere else in the USA. They also had about 15 varieties of baby airplants for sale in the plant shop.  I was seriously tempted.





Bok Tower was built in 1929 by author and publisher Edward Bok.  It has a carillon that gives  automated concerts several times a day... 



...but occasionally it is played live. We just happened to be there at the right time for this unique experience at the end of our guided tour through the gardens (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted!). Our guide dropped us off at the base of the tower at a seating area where a closed circuit TV allowed us to view the carillon player as he gave the concert.  Watching the grace and finesse of his playing gave us a whole new appreciation for carillon music, which can sound kind of clunky and off key.

Closed circuit TV at the base of Bok Tower

We aren't big on the theme  park experiences that central Florida has to offer, so we passed on all that (except for one very fun visit to Epcot with our friends Lynn and Glenn) and spent more time hiking and paddling. While at the Wilderness RV Resort we kayaked the Silver River from one of Florida's newest state parks, Silver River State Park. 




Silver Springs is one of the largest fresh water spring in the world, putting out 550 million gallons of water daily.  It has a long and varied history as a water-based entertainment park. At one point monkeys were brought in and put on one of the islands to create a jungle theme. The imaginative owners didn't know the monkeys could swim, so now their descendants live a relatively natural and free existence at several points along the Silver River. (I don't know why they aren't all over Florida by now.)  

I learned another fascinating fact while visiting the lovely Appleton Museum, a small art museum at the College of Central Florida in Ocala. There was a short term photography exhibit about Paradise Park, a twin park to Silver Springs, which was for about a decade "exclusively for colored folks."  In the spirit of "separate but equal" it had all the same features and fun. How easy it is to forget that before the 1960's most of Florida's tourist attractions were segregated or unavailable to people of color. Silver Springs was eventually integrated, and later the state of Florida bought all the land surrounding and including the spring, and recently re-opened it as a state park. Now visitors have access by boat to the source of the spring and the river system that flows from it, and the state does its best to preserve the beauty and natural state of the springs. (There is no longer any swimming or fishing allowed in the spring or river.)




Rick and I paddled our kayaks from Silver River State Park to our campground, an easy downstream trip that took us about three hours.



The river passes the remains of the old tourist attractions, along with varieties of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, gar, jumping mullet, herons, egrets, wood ducks...

Mama wood duck and three ducklings

...swallow tail kites (one putting on a flying show for us, here skimming the water for a drink)...



...and yes, monkeys. We saw about three families or troops going about their business along the river.  This is a mother and baby, but you'll have to take my word for it.



For the first time we also saw why those growths at the bases of cypress tress are called "knees." Here is one example of a long chain of knees extending from the cypress tree on the left. The water  must have washed away the ground that usually hides the infrastructure of the knobs/knees above ground that we usually see, leaving behind this fence-like structure that does look a lot like knees. 



Silver Spring is impressive for its size and the monkeys of course, but we still think the Ichetucknee is the best spring in Florida.  We just had to paddle it again.  

The beautiful Ichetucknee River

We basically just replayed our paddle of three years ago, but got off the river at the southern most point in the Ichetucknee State Park before the river joins the Santa Fe and becomes a grueling six hour paddle against the wind.  This river is like nothing else we've ever experienced - like a magical wild river in a fairy tale. 



Afterwards Rick took a dip in the Blue Hole - the source of the Ichetucknee.



 It was cold and the current coming out of the hole was very strong. Here he is right above the upwelling of the spring.



We're finishing up our four months in Florida in Jacksonville at the Pecan Park RV Resort. It's just a stop along I-95, and right under the flight path for the commercial and fighter jets from the nearby airport. Wouldn't recommend it, but it's easy on and off with big concrete pull-throughs. We're here so I can check out some furniture stores in Jacksonville. We'll also spend tomorrow on Amelia Island before we go back to Brunswick, GA to see our future home on Jekyll Island next week. We're so excited!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Southern Florida

So here's what we've been up to lately.  For January and February we were parked at The Great Outdoors in Titusville, FL.  We stayed there a few years ago and met our good friends Nick and Cindy. We returned to spend some time with Nick and Cindy again and to get some repairs and updates done on the RV. We also made some new friends, Phil and Barb, who we hope to see again later this summer in Ohio. We did end up getting new carpet, and we love it, but with the repairs - what's to love?

Anyway, the time at The Great Outdoors seemed to fly by and before we knew it we were on the road again on a mission to explore southern Florida before it got too hot. On our way south the hydraulic pump for our whole leveling and slide system pooped out. Turned out the bushings were shot. We had just pulled into a nice campground at Savannas Recreation Area, but we couldn't open our slides or drop our jacks. In our rig, when the slides are closed, we can't get to anything but the kitchen sink, the refrigerator and the control panel. So we were without a change of clothes, toiletries and or a place to sleep until we could get it fixed.  I won't bore you with all the details, but four costly days later we were back on the road on our way to the Flamingo Campground in Everglades National Park.

As we set up our campsite the mosquitos were so thick we had to dig out the unused bug shirts we've been carrying around for over five years. Thank goodness we had them and bug spray or we'd never have made it through that first day.  After that though a strong wind started to blow and kept the mosquitos away for the rest of our week in the southern Everglades. While there we took a boat ride and a great ranger guided paddle through the mangroves. We took a few nice hikes along the main road into the park, but though we saw the crocodiles and alligators that hang around the visitors' center at Flamingo, we were surprised at how little wildlife we saw of any kind. One great sighting was a pair of very vocal and active barred owls on the boardwalk Pa-hay-okee Trail.

Barred owl

Crocodile at Flamingo Marina

The next stop on our southern Florida tour was Chokoloskee, a teeny tiny island (built on an ancient Calusa Indian shell midden) on the west coast, south of all the development, where there is not much more than an RV park, a few blocks of homes, a Cuban restaurant and the historical Smallwood Store.

We stayed at Outdoor Resorts of Chokoloskee, a very unique RV park.  Most of the sites back up to the water and have a deck and a boat launch. Those that don't, have free access to a couple of boat launches on the property.  The park has three beautiful salt water pools and spas, tennis courts, activities and lots of lovely landscaping. It is an ownership park with smallish sites pretty tightly packed together. It does rent a limited number of sites for limited nights, and we got one of those for a week, at an uncomfortably steep price. (This season is turning out to be uncomfortably pricey all around, what with repairs and Florida's high campground prices. Oh well, it happens sometimes. This too shall pass.)

Onward to Arcadia, FL, where we stayed in a truly exemplary park called Riverside RV Resort, right on the Peace River, a favorite among paddlers. It has huge sites, several free boat launches, a wonderful dog park, pool, adult activities, and it's super friendly and clean. We'd highly recommend it. From there we visited Naples (spiffy), The Ford and Edison Winter Estates (interesting), Sanibel and Captiva Islands (too crowded) and Brohard Paw Park.

The. Best. Dog. Beach. (east of California.) 

Happy Honey at Brossard Beach

Next we moved South Bay RV Campground, a county park at the southern tip of Lake Okeechobee. We are so often surprised and pleased at the quality of county parks, and this is one of the best yet. It has nice clean, large sites in an attractive natural setting, at a reasonable cost finally!  We're just here for a couple of days before we go to Jonathan Dickson State Park on the east coast. We'll be in Florida for a few more weeks, then we'll start traveling gradually northward.

Update: We found another great off-leash dog beach in Jupiter, FL. This one is even bigger. It's at the corner of Ocean Blvd. (A1A) and Marcinski Rd. There's plenty of free parking and the beach is free too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Whoa! We Sure Didn't See This Coming!

Read on dear friends, for the big reveal at the end of the story of our tour of The Golden Isles of Georgia. It's all Lynn and Glenn's fault, as usual.  They told us how much they liked Blythe Island Regional Park, near Brunswick, GA, and talked us into camping there for our traditional Thanksgiving dinner together. And, as usual, we had a great time with them, and except for the mosquitos, Blythe Island was a great place to camp. (Yes, there were too many trees to use the satellite dish, but we lived.)

Sites 87 & 88, Blythe Island Regional Park

Apologies for this post being a bit outdated (like over two months) but a lot has been going on (keep reading). In the few days we were there we managed to squeeze in lots of adventures, including Fort Frederica and Southern Soul BBQ on St. Simon's Island, and a bike tour of Jekyll Island

Beautiful oak alley at Fort Frederica

St. Simons Island was the site of a battle between the English and Spanish in 1742 that determined Georgia as an English colony.  After that battle the Fort and town were abandoned, and today the National Park Service maintains the area with the ruins as a beautiful park. 

Ruins of the Fort
After a stroll through the Spanish moss draped live oak trees we headed over to the heavenly Southern Soul BBQ at the recommendation of Lynn & Glenn's friends Diva and Scott. Excellent choice! Everything, including the friend green beans, was delicious. We'll be going again, I'm sure.

Rib sandwich

Prime rib sandwich

Southern Soul BBQ, St. Simons Island

Scott, Diva, Glenn & Lynn 

Another day we drove out to Jekyll Island, about 20 minutes away from Blythe Island.  The bridge below is named for Sidney Lanier, who wrote a lovely poem entitled "The Marshes of Glynn County" that captures the unique beauty of the low country.

The beautiful Sidney Lanier bridge from Brunswick to nearby Jekyll and Blythe Islands

Here are some of those salt marshes, a rich ecosystem that comprises much of coastal Georgia and South Carolina.  It's a look that grows on you.

"The Marshes of Glynn County"

Once on the Island, we unloaded our bikes and started our circumnavigation along the west shore. The bike trail runs around the entire island, though we pooped out about 2/3 around.  See a map here.

A tiny bit of the island's fascinating history: Jekyll Island was the exclusive and private home of a "club" of millionaires at around the turn of the 20th century.  During the Great Depression their mansions were abandoned, and in 1947 the state of Georgia purchased the island at a steal, and it is now a state park. Development is strictly regulated by the state, and limited to only 1/3 of the island. The grand homes and the Jekyll Island Club Hotel remain, in various states of repair. There seemed to have been a brief housing boom in the 1960's and 70's, resulting in several neighborhoods of nice, but modest homes from that period, and there are a handful of hotels along the ocean. Since then development slowed, until recently, when a town center with several blocks of commerce, a Westin Hotel and a conference center were built.

Within the state park, some of the old homes are restored and open for tours.  Two thirds of the island is a historical and nature preserve and cannot be further developed. 

Moss Cottage within the Jekyll Island Club

The residents pedaled around the island on these "red bugs" for fun and exercise.

Rick and Glenn get serious again, this time about cars, thus the helmets.

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel is grand and very traditional. In the photo below there are actually some people playing croquet on the lawn. It really is like stepping back in time when you visit.

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel

The historic Faith Chapel within "The Club"

Also on the island is the Georgia Sea Turtle Center where in addition to caring for sea turtles, they will treat any injured wild animal that is found on the island.

Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Here they examine a snake that was brought in by the man on the right.

At the Center there are about eight large tanks where injured sea turtles are rehabilitated so they can safely return to the sea.



They also raise a certain number of turtles from eggs.

Wee baby sea turtles with numbers painted on their backs, for the big race later on??

Near the golf course, modern day "red bugs" are available for rent.



Along the bike trail we visited the Horton House, historic ruins of the earliest white settlers on the island:



Driftwood Beach is a must see on the northeast side of the island. 

The gang of four on Driftwood Beach

Driftwood beach

As we pedaled along the ocean side of the island, almost back to the truck, we passed a new development of condos.  We didn't think too much about them at the time, except to admire their location and think what a cool place this would be to live. 



Well, long story finally made short, we returned back to Jekyll Island a month later, after the holidays with our family, and bought one.  Settling down was not in the forefront of our minds by any means. But if we stay open to possibilities, these opportunities show up in our lives and we just have to pay attention.  Now we can hardly think of anything else. Our new home won't be available to us until Fall 2016, so we will have time to travel up and down the east coast before we have to wrap our heads around moving in.

So, our full-time RVing lives will be changing later this year, but we hope to keep the RV and keep traveling for vacations. We'll just work that out as we go.  

People often ask us if we look for the perfect place to settle down as we travel around the country, and I have to say we don't do that too much. Occasionally we find places we really love, but they aren't necessarily places we'd like to stay, or we aren't ready to stay. I've come to believe that there is no perfect place. There's just the place you are. Another time, Jekyll Island might not have captured us the way it did now. Another place could have captured us instead.  For whatever reason, we've been captured and captivated, and we look forward to loving it all.