Posts Tagged With: RV

Week 26: Tucson, Ajo and Gila Bend, Arizona

Tucson, Arizona

We were very happy to be back in Arizona.

Back in Arizona!

Back in Arizona!

Tucson was our first stop and we camped at the Gilbert Ray County Park, a small campground in Tucson Mountain Park in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. It is a county park that is very close to the Arizona – Sonora Desert Museum, Old Tucson Studios and Saguaro National Park West.

We arrived at Gilbert Ray about noon in order to ensure a campsite because they do not take reservations. Good thing we arrived early. We were the first in a line of many to get a site for the fours days we wanted to stay and explore Tucson. As soon as we finished setting up we headed over to the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. I read a lot about the Desert Museum on the many blogs I follow and was anxious to see it. And I must say it was fantastic! There are two miles of trails that wind through various Sonoran Desert habitats featuring flora and fauna native to the region, 16 desert botanical gardens, and earth sciences center cave showcasing minerals, animal exhibitions and animal-keeper demonstrations. They almost had to kick us  out of  the place at closing! It’s the number one attraction in Tucson and now we know why.

Desert Museum

Desert Museum

Desert Museum

Desert Museum

Desert Museum

Desert Museum

Fox at the Desert Museum

Fox at the Desert Museum

Desert Museum-Cholla Cactus

Desert Museum-Cholla Cactus

Desert Museum

Desert Museum

Desert Museum - Mountain Lion

Desert Museum – Mountain Lion

Yes...we see you.

Yes…we see you.

The next day we drove downtown to Tucson’s 4th Avenue District to meet a riding friend of Ralph’s for lunch. It’s a funky area with shops and restaurants. It was a lot like 6th Avenue in Austin. I love college towns. They are so alive with well…everything! After lunch we went to the Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show. What a place that was! It had everything from ready-made jewelry from dinosaur dung to ancient fossils for sale. It was interesting with a lot of eye candy.

Funky 4th St in downtown Tucson-top of a bar

Funky 4th St in downtown Tucson-top of a bar

Funky 4th St in downtown Tucson-all locks

Funky 4th St in downtown Tucson-all locks

Funky 4th St in downtown Tucson

Funky 4th St in downtown Tucson

Fossil

Fossil

Fossil

Fossil

Tucson is surrounded by Saguaro National Park East and West. The National Park was established to protect the Saguaro Cactus. The area we visited was like a forest of cacti. It was something to see. We took the scenic Bajada Loop Drive to explore the park. Here’s a few photos of the beautiful area.

These boots are made for walkin'

These boots are made for walkin’

Ramada with picnic table. Love this!

Ramada with picnic table. Love this!

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro Cactus

Saguaro Cactus

I also toured the Old Tucson Studios. I wasn’t sure about going there, but I decided to and it was interesting and educational too! The studio has hosted 300 film and TV productions since 1939 including film classics such as Rio Bravo, Tombstone and The Three Amigos. Many, many famous stars walked the streets of Old Tucson like John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, Clint Eastwood and Kurt Russell. There was a film playing that showed all the films made at the studios and the various stars. The scenery and buildings are authentic and some very old. There was a fire (arson)  several years ago, so some of the buildings were rebuilt after the fire. I took a walking tour and a train tour of the entire grounds. Loved it!

Old Tucson Studio

Old Tucson Studio

Old Tucson Studio

Old Tucson Studio

Old Tucson Studio

Old Tucson Studio

Old Tucson Studio

Old Tucson Studio

After the studio tour I headed over to the Mission San Xavier Del Bac, a historic Spanish Catholic mission founded in 1692 by Padre Eusebio Kina. It was destroyed by Apaches in 1770. The current building was built between 1783-1797 and is the oldest European structure in Arizona. It is considered the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States. It was so beautiful! They are refurbishing the building.  As you can see the left side has been completed.  They are trying to raise funds to complete the right side.

Mission

Mission

Mission

Mission

Our time was short in Tucson and I hope to get back there sometime in the future.

Ajo, Arizona

We drove about 120 miles southwest from Tucson to Ajo, Arizona in order to visit Organ Pipe Cactus National Park. Ajo was a copper mining town back in the day. It’s a cute, little town about 25 miles north of the park. It is not far from the Mexican border so there were a few border patrol check points.   Let’s just say…we didn’t fit the profile. We actually boon docked (no hook ups) in the wild on Darby Well Road (BLM land). It felt so good to be back in the wild and the wide open spaces.

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Historic Ajo

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Old Copper Mine

We spent the next day at Organ Pipe and drove the 21 mile Ajo Mountain Loop. Stops were numbered along the way and there was a brochure that guided us through the 18 stops. The park was formed by Franklin Roosevelt in 1937 to project the Organ Pipe Cactus which are rare north of the Mexican border. The cacti do not like cold weather.

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Organ Pipe Cactus

Organ Pipe Cactus

 

Gila Bend, Arizona

Our next stop was Gila Bend (pronounced He-la Bend) so we could visit the Painted Rock Petroglyphs Site. There is a campground right at the site. The campsites were very large and private with no hookups. Our senior rate was a whopping $4 per night. We could walk to the petroglyphs and also found a Geocache nearby.

That's us...the large one in the middle

That’s us…the large one left of middle

Another Geocashe found!

Another Geocashe found!

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site is an ancient archaeological site containing hundreds of symbolic and artistic rock etchings, or “petroglyphs”, produced centuries ago by prehistoric people’s.

Petroglyph Site

Petroglyph Site

Petroglyph Site

Petroglyph Site

Petroglyph

Petroglyph Site

Gila Bend has made national news by becoming the nation’s leader in the creation of a modern, renewable energy grid. It is home to four solar plant operations. I don’t understand why there are not more of these solar plants.

Our next stop is Yuma and a stay with my nephew Kevin and his family. And then friends will be joining us in the desert for some fun!

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Another beautiful sunset

Driving from Gila Bend to Yuma

Driving from Gila Bend to Yuma

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Weeks 23 – 24 Apalachicola, Port St Joe and Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Port St Joe

St Joseph’s Peninsula State Park is on a peninsula at the end of the road on the Gulf of Mexico. St Joseph Bay is on the other side of the peninsula. This park and the next one are listed as two of Florida’s best state parks. The weather was very cool the entire time we were at the park and there was a small tornado that took out four power poles and we were without power for one day.  I took the opportunity to drive the 35 miles eastward to visit the small town of Apalachicola, population is about 2400.

Sugar sand beaches, but no emerald waters. Too stormy.

Sugar sand beaches, but no emerald waters. Too stormy.

Gulf of Mexico

Gulf of Mexico

Beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

Beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

Looking west at sunset

Looking west at sunset

Campfire

Campfire

Guess where this truck is from?

Guess where this truck is from?

Answer: Texas!

Apalachicola

“Apalachicola” comes from the Apalachicola tribe  and is a combination of Hitchti words apalahchi, meaning “on the other side”, and okli, meaning “people”. In original reference to the settlement and the subgroup within the Seminole tribe, it probably meant “people on the other side of the river”. Many inhabitants of Apalachicola, have said their name means “land of the friendly people”.

In 1849, Apalachicola physician Dr. John Gorrie (1802–1855) discovered the cold-air process of refrigeration and patented an ice machine in 1850. He had experimented to find ways to lower the high temperatures of fever patients. His patent laid the groundwork for development of modern refrigeration and air-conditioning, making Florida and the South more livable year round. The city has a monument to him, and a replica of his ice machine is on display in the John Gorrie Museum.

Thank you Dr. Gorrie for the ice  and thank you Wikipedia for the info!

First Ice Machine

First Ice Machine

Maker of first ice machine and a Mason

Maker of first ice machine and a Mason

Apalachicola has a downtown area with nice shops, restaurants, and bars and I explored most of them.  The next day I returned for the Oyster Cook Off.

Once a year there is an oyster cook off for non-restaurant folks to show off their skills.  There is also live music and things to entertain children.  The music was from a band that is a regular in Nashville and was EXCELLENT!  I indulged in fried oysters fresh from the area and they were delish!  I don’t care for raw oysters, however, I love fried oysters.  Makes a great meal along with a local brew.  I talked with a few locals and had a great day.

Oyster Cook Off

Oyster Cook Off

Apalachicola River

Apalachicola River

Fishing vessel and nets

Fishing vessel and nets

Our next stop was Grayton Beach State Park in Santa Rosa Beach, just east of Destin.  We had the worst weather here; storms and a tornado watch.  We were parked in a protected area so we didn’t get all that much wind. I ventured into Destin one day and went to the Fishing Museum and talked with the docent who was born and raised in the area.  Her family photos were in the museum.

Destin was a small fishing village and now is a large fishing village.  They hold the Fishing Rodeo there once a year.  Fishing is unique in Destin because there is an ocean shelf not very far offshore with a very deep drop in the ocean.  This means that you can fish for deep ocean fish a very short distance off the shore. I didn’t get any photos while in Destin.

The panhandle area of Florida is very different than South Florida and is truly the deep south.  Many more Southern accents and much, much less populated than the rest of Florida.  However, it is catching on with snowbirds and there is a lot of development occurring.  I would love to return  when the weather is better.

Next stop New Orleans!

 

Happy Campers

Happy Campers

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Week 13: Jacksonville Beach, Florida

Hanna City Park, Jacksonville Beach, Florida

Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park is a public beach and city park near Mayport and Jacksonville Beach. It’s 447 acres of mature coastal hammock, which is rare to find along Florida’s heavily developed Atlantic coast. Part of the park was known as Manhattan Beach, Florida’s fist beach community for African Americans during the segregation period of the US. It started in 1900 by blacks working on the Florida East Coast Railway and flourished until 1940. The park has a very nice camp ground, hiking trails, off road bike trails and a fresh water lake.

While in the area I spent a lot of time exploring the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve which includes Fort Caroline, Dutton Island , Kingsley Plantation and the Theodore Roosevelt Area.

 

Getting used to the cloudy skies... lots of rain in these here parts!

Getting used to the cloudy skies… lots of rain in these here parts!

That's us!

That’s us!

The Timucuan
For thousands of years the native people depended on the rich natural resources of the St Johns Estuary. These pre-Columbian (before Christopher Columbus arrived) natives made contact with the first European (French) arrivals to the area in the mid-1500s and are known as the Timucuans. The Timucuans offered food to the French and helped the strange newcomers build Fort Caroline. The natives did not long survive contact with the Europeans. When the Spanish arrived (and drove out the French), they imposed their own culture on them through the Mission system. The natives had no immunity to the European diseases and were wiped out 100 years later.

Timucuans invented BBQ!

Timucuans invented BBQ!

Fort Caroline was built in 1564 by the French, mostly Huguenots (protestants). King Phillip II of Spain (Catholic) viewed the French as heretics and in 1565 captured Ft Caroline and massacred the French. The French recaptured the fort in 1568 and the Spanish took over again. “La Florida” would remain in Spanish control for the next 200 years. It was the first time European nations fought for control of lands in what would become the United States and it would not be the last!

Kingsley Plantation:  Florida’s Oldest Plantation Home

Kingsley Plantation by built by slaves in 1798 as the centerpiece of  a massive plantation on Fort George Island.  Florida was then a Spanish colony and the  plantation was symbolic of many such that  developed in the extreme northeast corner of  the future state. American planters came  across the border from Georgia looking for  rich lands where they could grow cotton,  tobacco, sugar cane, corn and other crops.

A unique structure, the Kingsley Plantation  House actually shows that considerable  thought went into its design and construction.  Built with numerous angles and numerous  windows, the house was designed so that  windows could be opened in all directions to  let breezes blow through to bring comfort to  the residents inside.

The front of the home faces the Fort George  River, a common feature of many plantation  houses. The river, not the road, was then the  focal point of the farm and the primary route  of transportation and communication for the  farm. Schooners and barges were loaded  there with Sea Island cotton and other crops  for transport to market.

In 1814 the plantation became the home of  Zephaniah Kingsley and his African wife,  Anta (Anna) Madgigine Jai. A planter who  came to Florida in 1803, Kingsley married  Anna after purchasing her as a slave in Cuba  in 1806. He legally freed both her and their  children in 1811.

The Kingsley family prospered under  Florida’s Spanish government. Anna was her  husband’s partner in the operation of the  farm and she also owned land and slaves of  her own.

Things changed in 1821 when the United  States gained possession of Florida. Laws  were implemented greatly restricting the  activities of both slaves and free blacks.  Zephaniah Kingsley fought against such
laws. Despite the fact that he owned slaves,  he was an early proponent of treating people  according to their abilities, not their color.

He debated with lawmakers over the civil  liberties of free blacks and even wrote a  major treatise on the subject. By the 1830s,  however, the situation became intolerable for  the Kingsleys and they decided to leave the  country.

Giving 50 of his slaves their legal freedom,  Zephaniah Kingsley relocated them along  with Anna and their two sons to Haiti, which  had become a free black republic following a  bloody revolution.  He died in 1843, but was  long survived by Anna who eventually came  back to Florida where she died in the 1870s.

The Kingsley Plantation is now maintained  by the National Park Service.  (Info taken from the website).

Main House

Main House

Slave Quarters

Slave Quarters

More ruins of Tabby construction

More ruins of Tabby construction

Slave house ruins

Slave house ruins

Tabby (oyster shells and sand) covered in stucco. This was a fireplace.

Tabby (oyster shells and sand) covered in stucco. This was a fireplace.

Inside of slave house

Inside of slave house

Theodore Roosevelt Area and the Willie Brown Nature Preserve (no, not the politican Willie Brown)

The nature preserve is miles of thickly wooded peaceful nature trails, vast grassland that supports both water and land animals, ancient piles of discarded oyster shells which yield clues about an extinct culture, and the legacy of preservation bequeathed to all by this property’s last private owner, Willie Browne.

In 1960 Willie gave seven acres of land along Mt. Pleasant Road to the Campfire Girls organization for a place to build a campground and lodge. During the last years of his life Willie struggled to keep his property. Though real estate developers eagerly offered him millions of dollars for his property, Willie refused to sell. “Money cannot buy happiness and this place makes me happy,” Willie once said. Willie worried that there would come a time when Jacksonville would be so densely populated and developed that no wild areas would remain where people could enjoy the natural beauty of “Old Florida.”

In 1969 Willie Browne donated all his land to The Nature Conservancy with the stipulation that it or any future owner would keep the land in its natural state. Willie requested that the property be named for his hero, former president Theodore Roosevelt. In December 1970, Willie Browne died alone in his cabin, content that he had done everything possible to nurture, conserve, and protect the gift of land bequeathed to him by his father. With his passing, Willie bequeathed his conservation values and his precious gift to all of us, for all time. Thank you Willie!

Willie Brown

Willie Brown

The Browns

The Browns

Mushrooms Growing on Tree Stumps

Mushrooms Growing on Tree Stumps

Mound of Oyster Shells

Mound of Oyster Shells

 

“A Behanding in Spokane” was playing at the Players by the Sea theatre in Jax Beach. The play was a little weird. About a man that had his hand cut off by gangsters and spent the rest of his life cutting off hands and looking for his hand. It was mildly entertaining.

Another Beautiful Sunset

Another Beautiful Sunset

Next stop St Augustine, Florida.

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Week 12: Fernandina Beach, Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island is a barrier island in north Florida just south of the St Marys River. We drove 100 miles south to reach our next campsite at Ft Clinch State Park. As you may have guessed, Ft Clinch is an old fort and is one of Florida’s first state parks (1935).

Florida has done an outstanding job with their state parks. There are 161 state parks and 10 state trails. In comparison, Georgia has around 50. The State of Florida has preserved historical and beachfront lands over the entire state. The parks are reasonably priced at around $30 with water and electric, and they are half price for Florida seniors. They book up early, especially on the weekends. I booked around June and was able to find sites during the week, but not on most weekends.

Fort Clinch State Park is located on the top of Florida’s northernmost barrier island at the site of a Civil War-era fort. It is surrounded by the Amelia River, the St Mary’s River and the Atlantic Ocean. We parked on the river side under a canopy of live oaks dripping in Spanish moss. We could walk to the fort along the water. The fort was named after General Duncan Lamont Clinch, a prominent figure of the Second Seminole War. Construction began in 1867 and it was built at the mouth of the St Mary’s River to protect the natural deep-water port of Fernandina. It is an excellent example of the Third System of Fortifications. Although it was never completed, it still served as a military post during the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War II. The fort is well preserved and the rooms in the fort are full of period items.

The Egan Creek runs along the park and is a wildlife preserve. The Egan Creek Greenway was purchased by the city of Fernandina Beach for conservation and passive recreational use. The Greenway was a great place for a hike and wildlife viewing. I was told there were alligators in the creek and that they were very tame. And sure enough we came upon one sunning itself near the edge of the water. Ralph spotted it first and it didn’t move at all when we approached it (at a safe distance). We were told there was an entire family of gators further up the trail. The Greenway is a beautiful place for hiking and biking. A little gem I would never have known about if I hadn’t taken a trolly tour of the area.

Greenway Hiking Trail

Greenway Hiking Trail


Cited on our Greenway hike

Cited on our Greenway hike

My morning walks along the water were full of sea life. There was a pod of dolphins hanging out in the area for the entire time we were camped here. The first morning I was startled by them swimming about 10 yards from the beach. They were so close I could hear them exhaling through their blowholes. It was thrilling! I’ve had the opportunity to swim with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key and I’ve supported the center for many years. I just love dolphins and the center does excellent work with dolphins,  manatees and seals.

View of morning walks

View of morning walks


Horseshoe Crab found on the beach

Horseshoe Crab found on the beach

I also found a HUGE horseshoe crab lying on it’s back. I turned him over so he could get back to the water. Ralph took a walk later and found him still on the sand so he gave him a ride to the water. I also found a jellyfish one morning. Didn’t touch that sucker! I’ve been stung by one many, many years ago and have never forgotten the feeling. Mr jellyfish was one his own. There is also a fishing pier at the park and it’s a half-mile long. That’s a very long pier!

I went into Fernandina Beach the small town at the top of Amelia Island. The town is pronounced like two women’s names; Fern and Dina and is rich with history. Amelia Island has 4,000 years of recorded history under eight flags. They say, “The French visited, the Spanish developed, the English named, and the Americans tamed. And let’s not forget the natives, the Timucuan Indians.

We went to the Amelia Island Museum of History in the old jail building and had an informative talk by one of the docents. We learned so much about the area. Many of the houses and buildings in Fernandina Beach are listed on the National Register, as is the entire 50-block historic district. I wandered around the town for a couple days and took it all in. I stopped at the Palace Saloon, supposedly the oldest bar in Florida, for a White Cosmo. Delish!

In jail AGAIN!

In jail AGAIN!

Before these historic buildings lined the streets of Fernandina Beach, pirates roamed the town and the island. The likes of Blackbeard, Captain Kidd, Pierre and Jean LaFite, Calico Jack Rackham, Stede Bonnett and others all called on the relatively safe haven of Fernandina Harbor at some point. Pirate use of the island came to a head in 1817 when the French took control of the harbor.

Amelia Island is a wonderful place to visit and I will be back sometime in the future. I kept thinking, “What a great place this would be to live.”

What's left of a dock

What’s left of a dock


Another beautiful sunset

Another beautiful sunset

Next stop Hanna City Park in Jacksonville Beach.

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Week 11: Savannah, Georgia

We drove 125 miles south from Charleston to the Skidaway Island State Park just south of Savannah. After you enter the park there is a 3.5 mile drive under an arch of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. It looked like the motorhome was too high to make it under the canopy, but it wasn’t. The trees are trimmed to allow a clearnace of 14 feet. We need 12 feet in order not to scrap the top. It was a  beautiful drive. This was another park where they let you drive through and find your own spot, hang your receipt and park it. Hiking trails in the park take you through marshes, live oaks, cabbage palmettos and pines. It rained for two days and of course, 100% humidity. I don’t have to use moisturizer here. It’s like living in a rain forest! Quite a change from home.

Three and a half mile tree lined drive into the campground

Three and a half mile tree lined drive into the campground

My morning walk was through the swampland looking for alligators and then it opened  to the savannahs. Each morning walk is different. I love it! And it was National Sandwich Day and Subway had two for one on sandwiches. We took advantage of that!

The savannah

The savannah

I went into Savannah for the day and visited:

Jepson Center (art museum)

Owens-Thomas House (house built in 1819 designed by William Jay of Bath, England)

Owens-Thompson House

Owens-Thompson House

Telfair Academy (historic house with a museum)

Forsyth Park (large city park in the historic district with a beautiful fountain)

Forsyth Park Fountain

Forsyth Park Fountain

Colonial Park Cemetery (burying ground from 1750 -1853, became a park in 1896)

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Most of the city squares (Savannah was founded in 1722 by James Oglethorpe and he laid out the city with many squares that were intended to provide colonists space for military exercises. Now they are beautiful parks in the city)

George Washington Statue

George Washington Statue

Leopold’s Ice Cream (best ice cream in the area)

Jones Street (historic street with houses occupied by the well-to-do; where the phrase “keeping up with the Jones” originated)

Jones Street - Keeping up with the Jones

Jones Street – Keeping up with the Jones


Steps covered in vines

Steps covered in vines


Wrought Iron Work

Wrought Iron Work

River Street (the area along the Savannah Front River)

River Street

River Street


Memorial for Mariners

Memorial for Mariners

Cathedral of St John the Baptist Catholic Church (built from 1873 – 1896)

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Alligator Soul (great place for dinner)

Bonaventure Cemetery

We toured this very old cemetery made famous by the book and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”  In 1867 John Muir began his Thousand Mile Walk to Florida and the Gulf.  In October he sojourned for six days and nights in the Bonaventure cemetery, sleeping upon graves overnight, this being the safest and cheapest accommodation that he could find while he waited for money to be expressed from home. It has several notable burials including Johnny Mercer (co-founder of Capital Records and composer), Edythe Chapman (silent film actress), James Neil (actor).  It is an erringly beautiful cemetery.

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Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski is a Third System of coastal fortifications developed during the first half of the 19th century and is characterized by greater structural durability than earlier forts. Nearly all of the 30+ Third System forts built after 1816 still exist. We visited a few of those forts. Fort Pulaski and Fort Clinch are two of the best preserved.

However well-built Fort Pulaski was the quick fall of it during the Civil War surprised and shocked the world. Fort Pulaski was considered the “most spectacular harbor defense structures in the United States.” Many considered the 7.5 foot solid brick walls with massive masonry piers unbreachable. All previous military experience had taught that beyond 700 yards smoothbore cannons and mortars would have little chance to break through heavy masonry walls, beyond 1,000 yards no chance at all. With the nearest Union battery on Tybee Island, more than one mile away, Fort Pulaski felt secure. What they didn’t know was that the Union had developed “rifled guns/cannons” which were more accurate and could go longer distances. After one battle that damaged part of the fort, Col Charles Olmstead surrendered. Bad for him, good for us. The fort is completely intact and can be toured. Very interesting place for both Ralph and I.

Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski


Fort Pulaski

Fort Pulaski


Fort Pulaski preparations for Veteran's Day

Fort Pulaski preparations for Veteran’s Day

The next day Ralph and I toured Pin Point, the home of Clarence Thomas, Supreme Court Justice (don’t get me started on this guy) and an historic shrimp and oyster factory. Pin Point is a rural settlement founded by freed slaves after the American Civil War. It is predominantly African American with a group of Gullah speakers. The historic creole language of the Low Country was drawn from West African languages. Most residents of Pin Point worked in the shrimp and oyster “factory” in the area. We toured the little factory and museum. It was a very interesting stop.

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Wormsloe State Historic Site is colonial estate founded in 1736 by an early colonist, Noble Jones (1702-1775). There is a ruin of his first tabby construction house. The house took six years to build and required mixing more than 8,000 bushels each of lime, sand, oyster shells and water to make tabby. Large shell middens left behind by Native Americans were mined for oyster shells, some of which were heated in kilns to produce lime-rich ash. The wet tabby was poured into wooden molds to dry and then the mold was removed and moved up the wall, ready to take more tabby. Tabby provides a very strong and long lasting building material, as evidenced by the ruin left today. Unfortunately I cannot find the photos from Wormsloe.

I LOVED Savannah and will certainly return sometime in the future.

Next stop Amelia Island, Florida.

 

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Week Ten: Charleston, NC

I’ve been looking forward to visiting Charleston  the entire trip. Several years back I visited Charleston for three days. While I was working in Washington DC I flew to Charleston and drove up to Myrtle Beach to meet up with my friend Dianne and her family. Three days in Charleston was only a teaser and I’ve longed to return. Finally the time was here. I love the vibe of the area and the way they have preserved the architectural history. When the colonists settled Charleston in 1680 (yes, you read that right, 1680) an urban development plan called the Grand Model established an orderly grid of streets. It’s easy to find your way around.

Charleston is known as The Holy City because there are so many churches.   Most very historic and beautiful.  Here’s a few examples.

St Phillips Church Started in 1681

St Phillips Church Started in 1681

EAM Episcopal Church - site of the shootings by Dillon Roof

EAM Episcopal Church – site of the shootings by Dillon Roof

Pink church with black iron

Pink church with black iron

We camped at James Island County Park about 10 miles south of Charleston for five days. It was a very nice park with large sites, nicely separated by trees. Live oaks with Spanish moss covered the entire park. It’s a very large county park with the nicest dog park I’ve encountered. It was huge, had a side for big dogs and a side for small dogs and both sides had a small beach and lake the dogs could romp in. One day there was a dog agility competition that entertained me for a while on my walk. With our camping pass we could also visit and park free at the two other country parks in the area. On one of the few sunny days we had, we drove out to Folly Beach and spent the afternoon on the beach. It was wonderful. I learned that in 1934 George Gershwin stayed in Folly Beach for a summer. He absorbed the joyous music of church revivals and tones of Gullah spirituals, which became the musical score for Porgy and Bess. More about the Gullah a little later.

Folly Beach

Folly Beach

Folly Beach

Folly Beach

We took Uber into Charleston from James Island. We went straight to the Visitor Center and signed up for a mini-bus tour of the historic city. This helped me get the lay of the land and determine what I wanted to visit on my own over the next few days. We make it a practice to go to the Visitor Center when we first arrive. The people in the centers are knowledgeable and very helpful with their recommendations on what to see. And taking an organized tour provides an overview and the history of the area. We had the tour bus driver drop us off at Fleet Landing for a delicious dinner before taking Uber back to the campground. When we pulled into the park it was dark and Christmas lights were on EVERYWHERE! I noticed the park folks were installing Christmas lights here and there, but I had no idea how elaborate the lighting was. I thought “Wow, this is really early for Christmas lights; it isn’t even Halloween yet!” I was going to come back the next night and take photos, but, alas, no lights were on. On my walk the next morning I talked to one of the installers and he told me we got lucky. They test the lights on Thursday nights and then make appropriate repairs. The show doesn’t start until Nov 13. And lucky we were! The lights were really something. He said it takes them 2.5 months to install all the lights and it is a BIG money maker for the county.

Starting Christmas Decorations

Starting Christmas Decorations

On Halloween I went to the Low County Bistro for dinner and the Dock Street Theatre for Little Shop of Horrors. The play was fantastic! I’d forgotten the plot. They brought the “plant” in from New York where the play ran for several years on Broadway. It was the perfect thing to do on Halloween.

Little Shop of Horrors at the Dock Street Theatre

Little Shop of Horrors at the Dock Street Theatre

The next day we went to the Charleston Museum, which is the oldest in the country.

Charleston Museum

Charleston Museum

We walked through the Public Market and had southern BBQ at Queology. We also returned to Waterfront Park. There was no Spanish moss hanging from the live oaks because a hurricane blew it all away.

Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park

Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park

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I spent a lot of time walking around the historic part of the city and soaked in the beautiful buildings, gardens and public spaces.

Old Slave Mart Musem

Old Slave Mart Museum

George Washington Statue

George Washington Statue

Cemetery

Cemetery

Marion Square

Marion Square

John C Calhoun Statue 7th VP of US 1825-1832

John C Calhoun Statue
7th VP of US 1825-1832

We had a wonderful time in Charleston and I would have been sad to leave if I hadn’t been so excited to visit Savannah, our next stop.

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Week Nine: North Carolina

We ended up spending a lot of time in North Carolina and it was a very positive experience. We drove though quite a bit of the state; from the Outer Banks to the southwest corner and loved the rolling hills, fall colors and forest. The state parks are reasonably priced and in beautiful areas with rivers and lakes. We were able to visit friends and are very happy serendipity brought us to North Carolina. Our first stop was Williamston. We chose this area so that we could take the car and easily visit the Outer Banks and Kitty Hawk.

Williamston

We camped at the Farm Country Campground and again we were one of three other campers. It’s a very nice campground in the middle of cotton fields. I don’t remember ever seeing cotton fields before.

Cotton field

Cotton field

We drove east from Williamston for 2.5 hours to the Outer Banks. First we headed south as far as Rodanthe and Wave. It was a warm, sunny day. We visited the Bodie Island lighthouse just south of Nags Head. It stands 156 feet tall and you have to climb 214 steps to get to the top. This is the lighthouse you see in all the photos for North Carolina. We had lunch on the beach and I dipped my toes in the Atlantic once again. We hated to leave the beach but we needed to if we were going to make it to Kitty Hawk before the Wright Brothers monument closed.

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Bodie Light House

Bodie Light House

Lunch at the beach

Lunch at the beach

I was impressed with the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. The Visitor Center had exhibits that tell the Wright Brothers story of solving the problem of flight. There are full-scale models of their 1902 Glider and 1903 Flyer. The First Flight Airstrip has markers at the first, second, third and fourth flights indicating how far the plane flew.

The Wright Brothers represent the best of American ingenuity and perseverance. They never married and self-funded their flight endeavors. The brothers were from Dayton, Ohio and chose Kill Devil Hills for its remoteness, hill, air currents and soft sand for landings. There is a 60 foot marble monument at the top of Kill Devil Hill that honors the Wright Brothers and the site of hundreds of glider flights that preceded the first powered flight. If you’re in the area be sure to visit this monument.

Wright Brothers Memorial

Wright Brothers Memorial

Wright Brothers

Wright Brothers

Replica of the glider

Replica of the glider

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First woman to receive the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award

First woman to receive the Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award

Mary S. Feik, aviation engineer, master mechanic, pilot, instructor, and aircraft restorer.

We had dinner at Dirty Dick’s Crab Shack and I had the best mussels, broth and bread I’ve ever had…delish!  Debated buying the t-shirt, but decided I probably wouldn’t wear it, so just took a photo.

Dirty Dicks

Dirty Dicks

Mussels were delish

Didn’t get Dirty Dick’s  Crabs, I had the mussels and they were delish!

My new look

My new look

Apex, NC (just outside Raleigh)

Thanks to our Camp Where app we found a wonderful NC state park on Jordan Lake. Camp Where only lists public campgrounds; national, state, county and city. We prefer these because they are more scenic, private and less cost than independent campgrounds. At Jordan Lake there are actually four or five campgrounds but all were closed except Poplar Point. There is one loop (loop E) that is first come, first served and it has lots of sites, some right along the lake edge. We intended to stay a couple of days, but with the weekend approaching and the nice weather (70s) we knew we might have a problem finding an open site for the weekend. The lovely ranger lady told us they were completely booked for the weekend and there weren’t many state parks open for camping so we should “ce-ment ourselves in” and stay through the weekend. So that’s what we did! And we were very happy we took her advice. It’s a beautiful state park and we had a site right on the lake. The site was somewhat private and our neighbors on one side were very friendly. Always good to have someone besides each other to talk to! Matter of fact, this post was written at the water’s edge while I was watching bald eagles fly around the lake and fish jumping. We were there for five glorious days and I know Ralph was happy to not be driving for awhile.

View from our campsite

View from our campsite

Just want to give credit where credit is due… Ralph is such a good driver of our rig. We have gone through some pretty busy cities and his driving has been flawless. I freak out just riding in the passenger seat. We take the bypasses around the cities but there is still a lot of traffic and interchanges. I’m very thankful he is such a good driver. And can fix things too! :>)

Lake Norman

We drove a couple hours from our campground to Lake Norman to visit with Debbie and Lee. They have a beautiful house on the lake and they took us out on their  pontoon boat. It was a perfect day on the lake. They pointed out their famous neighbors or former neighbors.  NASCAR is VERY popular here. Some of the race drivers that have lived on Lake Norman are Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin and Joe Gibbs (sponsor and coach of the Washington Redskins a number of years ago). Also Michael Jordon has a house there too. We went out to dinner afterwards and ended up with free dinners. The service was slow and the orders were not correct, so the manager came over and comped our meals. The food was good so it worked out well in the end. We spent the night in their beautiful in-law unit and came back to the campground the next morning. It was great spending time together and we had a wonderful time.

Debbie and Lee at Lake Norman

Debbie and Lee at Lake Norman

Lake Norman

Lake Norman

On the way back to camp  we stopped by Gretchen and Ross’s Yankee Belle Farms in Pittsboro. Gretchen and Ross moved to NC several years ago. They have two small children and LOTS of animals; pigs, chickens, dogs and alpacas. It was a lot of fun observing the alpacas. Some were very interested in smelling us. Also, got the big spit when we started messing with one of the babies. Actually Ross caught the brunt of it and I got a little overspray. It was very cool visiting with them, meeting their kids and playing with the animals. Afterwards it was a short drive back to our campground.

The alpacas at Yankee Belle Farm

The alpacas at Yankee Belle Farm

Mamas and babies

Mamas and babies

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Next stop Charlestown, SC.

The Happy Campers

The Happy Campers

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Week Eight: Lancaster County, PA and Lorton, VA

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

I’ve always wanted to come to Lancaster and now was my chance.  Ralph was not too thrilled about it; commenting, “What are you going to do; ride around and stare at Amish people?”.   “Well…yes, kinda”, I answered. And that’s pretty much what we did.  We drove around the entire afternoon, commenting on the beautiful countryside and looking for Amish people.  We stayed at the Old Mill Stream Campground located by the Dutch Wonderland (an amusement park for small children).  It was  right in the middle of Lancaster.  As we toured the country roads I noticed several more campgrounds that would have been nice.  I just took the first one I called with an opening.  I knew we wouldn’t be spending much time at the campground so it really didn’t much matter.  It turned out to be a nice campground with a clean laundry, of which we took full advantage.

Amish Country, AKA Pennsylvania Dutch Country is actually German!  Duetche was translated (poorly) to Dutch.

Our first observation  was the Amish are not poor.  The farms had large, beautiful farmhouses, many, many large barns and outbuildings on very large plots of land.  And there are  Amish that use some modern machinery.

There are lots of tourist attractions, which we chose to ignore.  Once again, I turned to Trip Advisor and followed the recommendation of several reviewers  to drive the roads outside of the main tourist area and enjoy the scenery and the small towns along the way.  And “scenic” is definitely an understatement.  Let me see how many adjectives I can think of to describe the Amish area: rolling hills, narrow roads, very green, lovely houses, road side farm stands using the honor system, quaint small towns with names like Bird in Hand, Blue Ball, Intercourse, Strasburg, Soudersburg, Smoketown and Paradise,  horse-drawn carriages and carts on the same roads with cars and trucks, men with long beards and women all dressed in pretty much the same garb.

Typical Scene in Lancaster County

Typical Scene in Lancaster County


Usual Mode of Transportation for the Amish

Usual Mode of Transportation for the Amish

We had a loose plan to find some of the 24 covered bridges in the county.  That was easier said than done!  We ended up finding two before we gave up and starting searching for dinner.

Covered Bridge

Covered Bridge


Park with Covered Bridge

Park with Covered Bridge

We stopped to purchase some fresh picked vegetables.  I bought the largest, whitest, fluffiest cauliflower I’ve ever seen.  I added olive oil and curry powder and roasted it in the oven…yum!

We had  dinner in one of the small towns at a family restaurant.  I had a German meal just like grandma would make: pork, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and buttered beats.  Ralph had a roast beef dinner, and all for under $20!

Pork, Sauerkraut and Mash Potatoes

Pork, Sauerkraut and Mash Potatoes

Ralph had to admit, it was a wonderful day that we both thoroughly enjoyed.  So glad we stopped in Lancaster.

Lorton, Virginia

Moving south another 200 miles we landed in Lorton, VA at a public campground that is an island of solitude in a very busy metropolitan area just south of Washington DC. We didn’t visit DC; we’ve both been there.  I worked in DC with a best friend  for about one year several years ago and saw most of the sites at that time.  This time I was more interested in Civil War sites and Virginia has an abundance of those!

We visited Mason Neck State Park located in  Fairfax County, Virginia. The park is on a peninsula formed by Pohick Bay on the north, Belmont Bay on the south and the Potomac River to the east.

In 1965, the Mason Neck Conservation Committee was formed after two bald eagle nests were spotted at Mason Neck. The committee, concerned about impending development on the peninsula, recommended part of the area to be used as a site for a state park. In August 1967 the commonwealth began purchasing land parcels from The Nature Conservancy with the assistance of matching federal grants. A series of events threatened the sanctity of Mason Neck in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After plans for a proposed beltway through the area were dropped in 1967, an airport, a natural gas pipeline, a landfill and a sewer line were proposed for the area. These proposals met strong opposition from groups such as the Mason Neck Conservation Committee. Plans for the projects were dropped because of the potential negative impact each had on the federally operated Mason Neck National Wildlife Refuge and Mason Neck State Park. Mason Neck State Park opened to the public in April 1985.

We went looking one day but didn’t see any eagles and left slightly disappointed.

We camped at Pohick Bay Regional Park and we highly recommend it.  And after camping in the Northeast at $50- $60 a day, The $30 they charged for full hook ups seemed like a downright deal. We stayed three days.

View from our campsite

View from our campsite

Now off to learn about the Civil War.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve said “I wish I had paid more attention in school when I supposed to be learning about all these things.”  All I can say is, “Some of these names sound familiar.”   And Manassas sounded familiar.  When I used my Google brain, I found out that Manassas was the site of the first battle of the Civil War and it was only 45 minutes away!  Off I went…

Manassas National Battlefield Park

On a warm July day in 1861, two armies of a divided nation clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking Bull Run.  Enthusiastic young volunteers in colorful new uniforms, gathered from every part of the country thought that this would be the only battle of the war and surely a short war.  How very wrong they were!  Spectators from the nearby towns came equipped with picnic baskets and wine to watch the battle, anticipating this to be their one and only chance to watch the spectacle. But all thoughts of pageantry was suddenly lost in the smoke, dirt, and death of battle.  Soldiers on both sides were stunned by the violence and destruction they encountered.  At day’s end nearly 900 young men lay lifeless on the field.  Ten hours of heavy fighting  swept away any notion the war’s outcome would be quickly decided. The young men were 90-day volunteers, called from shops and farms, with little knowledge of what war would mean. There were two battles in Manassas at Bull Run.  My visit concentrated on the first.

The Visitor Center runs a 45 minute film  reenacting the first battle with graphic detail.  I was sick to my stomach as I left the theatre.  War SUCKS and young men are the ones who lose their lives.  As I walked the battlefield I became even more sick and depressed as it truly sank in how many American lives were lost during the Civil War.  Visiting the cemeteries was another sobering experience. The soldiers were buried in areas designated by state.  New York in one area, North Carolina in another area, etc.

Here’s what I learned:

  • It was thought that volunteers should come from and fight together, from the same town/village.  It was assumed that would improve the moral of the soldiers.  Yes, maybe…and it would mean that the young male population from that village/town would be wiped out leaving only women, children and old men left to carry on.
  • There was no official uniform for either side.  Men from the same town wore the same uniform.  Therefore, it was nearly impossible to tell from all the uniforms on which side a solider was fighting  The flags were both red, white and blue; therefore when the wind was not blowing hard enough they couldn’t tell which side they were shooting.
  • Stonewall Jackson was wounded by his own troops and died from those wounds.

I also learned there are an endless supply of sites you can tour and  that one visit to a Civil War site was enough for me.

Civil War Cannon

Civil War Cannon


Stonewall Jackson in the background

Stonewall Jackson in the background


Confederate Burial Ground

Confederate Burial Ground


Stone Bridge over Bull Run

Stone Bridge over Bull Run


Judith Henry House

Judith Henry House


Judith Henry - only civilian causality of the first battle

Judith Henry – only civilian causality of the first battle

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Monument to Brooklyn New York Soldiers

Monument to Brooklyn New York Soldiers


Typical 22 year old soldier

Typical 22 year old soldier

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Week Seven: New England Part 2

Plymouth, Massachusetts

We drove close to 200 miles to our next campground in South Carver, Mass just outside Plymouth. Shady Acres was a funky campground with a lot of seasonal campers. A seasonal camper rents the campsite for an entire (usually summer) season. They move in and set up shop; building decks, landscaping and even adding storage buildings. It was Columbus Day weekend and most campgrounds were totally booked. It was also the last weekend that most of the campgrounds are open. So we definitely have to move south from here. We chose this area so we could visit Plymouth and Boston.

Our first stop was Plymouth and Plymouth Rock. What I learned about the rock made me a little disappointed with the whole story.

Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock

The rock had lain at the foot of Cole’s Hill until 100 years after the Pilgrims’ landing in 1620. When plans were made to build a wharf at the Pilgrims’ landing site, a 94 year old elder of the church, living three miles from the spot, declared that he knew the precise boulder on which the Mayflower pilgrims first stepped when disembarking. The man claimed that his father and several of the original Mayflower passenger had, when he was a youth, identified the precise rock to him. There have been doubts hinted about the accuracy of the identification, in view of his age and the dates of the landing and his birth, but there is no doubt that he grew up in Plymouth at a time when many of the original passengers were still there. Bill Bryson in Made in America says, “The one thing the Pilgrims certainly did not do was step ashore on Plymouth Rock. Quite apart from the consideration that it may have stood well above the high-water mark in 1620, no prudent mariner would try to bring a ship alongside a boulder on a heaving December sea when a sheltered inlet beckoned from nearby.” Having been a sailor in the San Francisco Bay for 14 years, I totally agree. So you can understand my disappointment.

Our next stop was the Mayflower II docked nearby. It is a replica of the 17th century ship Mayflower. It was built in Devon, England in 1955 from blueprints held by Plimoth Plantation (a museum with the old spelling so as to differentiate it from the town) using traditional methods. The ship is 106 ft long and 25 ft wide. That’s not a large ship and it carried 102 passengers and all of their cargo as well as supplies for the voyage. And for most of the passage, those not sailing the ship were below deck. It took them 55 days to make the crossing. Sounds like a nightmare if you ask me. But they did it; and all for the right to believe what they wanted to believe.

Mayflower II

Mayflower II


Mayflower II Below Deck

Mayflower II Below Deck


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Below deck

Plimoth Plantation was the last place we visited in Plymouth. Plimoth Plantation was founded in 1947 and is a living history museum that shows the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony established in 1627. The interpreters have been trained to speak, act and dress appropriately for the period. They interact with their “strange” visitors in the first person, answering questions, discussing their lives and viewpoints and participating in tasks such as cooking, planting, blacksmithing and animal husbandry. The interpreters were so knowledgeable spoke in that 17th century way; it was fascinating.

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1620 House


Inside Plantation House

Inside Plantation House


Interpreter

Interpreter

There was also a re-creation of a Wampanoag home site to demonstrate how the Native Americans lived and interacted with the settlers. It was very educational and interesting.

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Wigwam


Tree Bark Wigwam

Tree Bark Wigwam


Indian Village

Indian Village

Cranberry Bogs

I attended the Cranberry Harvest Festival in Wareham. I took a bus out to the cranberry bogs and watched as they harvested the cranberries. The cranberries grow in water on vines and when they are ready they shake the vines and the cranberries float to the top of the water. A large vacuum sucks up the cranberries and loads them into a large semi-truck trailer and off they go for processing. Ocean Spray is actually a co-op of cranberry growers. Again, educational and interesting!

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Boston and the Freedom Trail

We took the T Commuter Rail into Boston the next day. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. The 45 minute train ride gave us an opportunity to see the area outside Boston. It reminded me of riding the train in Europe. Public transportation in the East is sooooo much better than out West. We debarked at South Station and it was only a short walk through downtown Boston to the beginning of the Freedom Trail.

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile path through downtown Boston that passes by 16 locations significant to the history of the United States. The path winds from Boston Common to the USS Constitution in Charlestown. The trail includes stops at explanatory ground markers, graveyards, notable church’s and buildings and a naval frigate. We visited Boston Common, the oldest city park in the US (1634); a cemetery founded in 1660 that is the final resting place for Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Robert Treat Paine and Paul Revere; the first public school in the US (Boston Latin School); the Old South Meeting House built in 1729 which was the organizing point for the Boston Tea Party; and the Old State House where the Declaration of Independence was read from the balcony to jubilant crowds and Paul Revere’s house. The information plaques in these locations brought to life the struggle of the Colonists against British rule and taxation. The straw that broke the camel’s back and pushed the Colonists to fight for independence was that fact that the British could search Colonists’ homes and businesses at any time without cause. After many battles with the British, the Colonists won their independence. We ended our day by the harbor where the Boston Tea Party occurred.

1660 Cemetery

1660 Cemetery


Mother Goose Grave

Mother Goose Grave


Paul Revere Grave

Paul Revere Grave


Samuel Adams Grave

Samuel Adams Grave


Old Church

Old Church


Old State House

Old State House


Walking around Italian Area of Boston

Walking around Italian Area of Boston

 

Walking around Italian Area of Boston

Walking around Italian Area of Boston

The Boston Tea Party has always been a significant event for me, but not for the reason you may think. When I was in the 5th grade my Social Studies teacher asked me about the Boston Tea Party. I hadn’t done the reading so I hesitated before answering. He said, “Was it a ladies tea party with women in hats?” I answered, “Yes.” The entire class erupted in laughter and I was so embarrassed. I was never unprepared for class again! I think that event shaped me into the prepared person I am today.

Boston Harbor

Boston Harbor

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Next stop Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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Week Four: Clarkston, Marine City, and Saline, Michigan

Driveway surfing at my BFF’s (from kindergarten) house in Clarkston was a great way to visit.  We really are the best house guest you can imagine…we bring our own house!  Close, but not too close!  Clarkston is a beautiful, not so small anymore, town about 60 miles north of Detroit.  Some may know that this is the “home” of Kid Rock. We passed by his gate on our daily walk.  Clarkstson was a rural area until urban flight expanded into the area. There is still a lot of open areas among the upscale housing developments.  It was great to catch up and spend quality time together.  Dianne and I meet up somewhere in the country on a regular basis and have been able to maintain a close friendship throughout the years:  one of the great treasures of my life. Dianne’s younger sister, Pam and her husband, Leon joined us for dinner one night. My fondest memory of Pam is when Dianne and I tried smoking a cigarette and Pam was there watching. Pam promptly said to us, “I’m telling mama”. So we did the only thing we could do…we forced her to smoke with us! Now we could tell on her too! Yes folks…that’s the Detroit way! 🙂

Our time together passed much too quickly and I look forward to our next time.

From Clarkston we drove a short 50 miles to my Dad and Suzanne’s property near Marine City. They have 20 acres and with a small pond and beautiful grounds. Their driveway is at least 150 feet long so there is plenty of room for us to driveway surf here. We’ve been exploring the Marine City, Algonac, Fair Haven area via the restaurant tour! I’ve concluded Michigan makes me fat! Well…maybe not fat, but I’ m certainly not losing weight on this trip. I was able to score tickets to a production of “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” at the Snug Theatre in Marine City. It was opening night and we were able to get three seats together, so Ralph was kind enough to sit right behind us by himself. We all enjoyed the performance and laughed at the craziness of male/female relationships from dating to death.  We also visited Port Huron and the Thomas Edison Museum.  Thomas spent some of his younger years in Port Huron and worked at the age of 12 on the Grand Trunk train that ran from Port Huron to Detroit.  He sold fruit and newspapers on the train in order to earn money to buy chemicals and equipment for experiments.  The museum has one of two Grand Trunk Railroad cars in the nation.

Dad, Suzanne and me at the Thomas Edison Museum in Port Huron inside the Grand Trunk Railroad car

Dad, Suzanne and me at the Thomas Edison Museum in Port Huron inside the Grand Trunk Railroad car

We used Marine City as our base while in the Detroit area and visited family and friends for about ten days. While in the area we ate out almost every meal. That’s certainly not compatible with my eating plan and it’s been impossible to get in 10,000 steps a day. But I seem to be holding steady and that’s the next best thing to loosing weight. I’ve been in food heaven! Buddy’s pizza, Sanders hot fudge cream puff sandals, Sanders Bump cake, apple cider and fresh cider donuts, Apple pie and lots of fresh water fish and crab cakes. Looking forward to the lobster in New England. You may surmise from this that I live to eat, not eat to live, and you’d be right!

Our spot at Dad and Suzannes

Our spot at Dad and Suzannes

Lake freighter as observed from Port Huron

Lake freighter as observed from Port Huron

Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron

Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron

Our last night with Dad

Our last night with Dad

I was able to connect with long time friends Kathy and Louie  and Roseanne and Ken for a fun night of catching up and reminiscing.  I stood up at Kathy and Louie’s wedding many, many years ago.  It was a three day, big Polish wedding that I will never forget.

Kathy, me and Roseanne

Kathy, me and Roseanne

We’ve spent time with Ralph’s family and my family. Ralph had lunch with guys from high school and I spent time with some of my friends.

Ralph's high school buddies

Ralph’s high school buddies

We did a little more driveway surfing in Saline with family and I was able to connect with my step-daughter, Stephanie’s mother, Debbie. My heart is so full of love from connecting with everyone. We’ve been parked in beautiful country settings and have relished the greenery and moisture in the air. I’ve been cruising around in a 1953 Chevy, cruising Vineyard Lake on a pontoon boat, going to a Cider Mill for cider and donuts and doing all the Michigan things.   I’ve developed a strong desire to spend more time in Michigan in the summer. Ralph’s 50th Class Reunion is next year so we may just be back next summer.

A little float, a little wine and a lot of dog on Vineyard Lake in Brooklyn, MI

A little float, a little wine and a lot of dog on Vineyard Lake in Brooklyn, MI

A canal off Vineyard Lake. It went pack to a campsite co-op

A canal off Vineyard Lake. It went pack to a campsite co-op

LOTS of lily pads

LOTS of lily pads

Sunset on Vineyard Lake

Sunset on Vineyard Lake

Some of my favorite women: Jeanette, Joan and Cindy

Some of my favorite women: Jeanette, Joan and Cindy

Next stop Cleveland for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Happy Campers

The Happy Campers

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