Saturday, January 27, 2024

The East Coast of Florida

 I don't complain often, but right now I am tired and crabby. Operating on just a few hours of sleep makes Jim not a happy camper. We had been happy up to this last stop. In fact, we were having a blast. 

After leaving Forrest and family in Savannah, we continued south to Brunswick. We were going to visit Jekyll Island, but a friend suggested St. Simons so we went there instead. We had visited Jekyll last time we were in the area, so we thought we would try something new. 

Our first stop was Fort Frederica. There is a dozen or so forts like this scattered along the coast dating back to the mid 1700's. What I find interesting about these forts is what they were built out of. Looking at them for the first time, I thought they were built out of a manmade material of seashells and some kind of concrete. I later learned that I was not that far off, but it is natural, not manmade. 

Coquina is a sedimentary rock of all things ocean; seashells mostly. They were able to cut it into slabs and build the forts out of it. Much of it is still standing, hundreds of years later. Very interesting. 

Some of the trees on the grounds were equally impressive dating back up to 300 years. 

We drove to the other end of the island where we walked the waterfront and saw the lighthouse. Whenever we are in places like this Barb peeks at the real estate prices, not because we are looking to buy, but to see how much out of our price range the houses are. Very few houses were under a million and if they were, they were fixer uppers. 

We spent the night in one of the sketchiest Walmart's we have in a while. I can tell you for certainty, that Brunswick has a drug problem and most of the deals are taking place right in that parking lot. Some genius based their operation out of a beat-up Class A right there in the lot, about 15 yards from us. Car after car approached this RV, stopping for a few seconds before taking off again. We were never in any danger, but it did give us something to watch. 

The next day we headed to the St. Augustine area in Florida. Our friends Dan and Jeanie were driving over from their place in Dunnellon to hang out with us for a few days. They were staying at the Hampton Inn right on the beach. We were just going to wing it and find someplace to stay at night. That is the beauty of a truck camper, you can usually find a place to park at night. 

Our goal for the next few days? To fish and check out St. Augustine. We met Dan and Jeanie at Vilano Beach, after saying hello, they went and checked into their hotel. When they came back Jeanie hands me a parking pass saying that the clerk said we stay right in the Hampton parking lot! So, we tucked into the corner and called that home for the next couple of nights. 

Neither Dan nor I had been surf fishing before so we wanted to see if we could figure that out. Dan had bought and brought all the rods, reels and equipment to do it, so off to the beach we went!

We learned a lot. Our very first lesson came when we baited the hooks and walked to the edge of the surf to cast out lines out. The lesson? Put your bait away before you walk away from it to cast out your line. When we walked away, birds immediately landed on it and gobbled up the rest of the bait!

Speaking of birds, we had our first Wood Stork sighting. What an odd bird. It just followed us around and hung out while we fished. 

There were also a lot of gulls and osprey overhead as well. 

The fish were just not cooperating. We packed it in for the night and decided to get up bright and early to see if the morning bite was any better. It was not. We then headed over to the local pier to try our luck at pier fishing. 

Nope, nothing going on there either. If it was any consolation, the other fisherman were not catching anything either. It wasn't. Dejected we headed into town to drown our sorrows at the St. Augustine Distillery. 

The tour was free and it was pretty cool. They had different taster stations set up throughout the distillery offering both mixed tasters as well as the straight product. 

After a tour and tastings, we were still dejected so we headed over to San Sebastian Winery for a tour and tasting which apparently no one took any pictures at. Then it was into the historic district of St. Augustine to walk the streets. But wait? What is this? City Gate Distillery? Of course we have to stop! We picked up a bottle of Cookie Dough Whiskey. Sounds horrible, but it actually quite delicious! By then we had worked up a hunger, so we walked down to the famous Columbia restaurant for an early supper. The Columbia offers authentic cuban cuisine. It was very good!

After supper we walked down to the old fort. 

We did not have time to take the tour, but even walking around the outside was fascinating. 

One more walk on the beach the next morning and we hit the road headed further south. 

But we did not go our separate ways. Dan wanted to try one more fishing spot about an hour down the road at Flagler Beach. The results you ask? Well, let's just say, the fish won this round as well. I still have yet to figure out this surf fishing. Our "Adventures with Dan and Jeanie" portion of our east coast tour complete, we parted ways and headed in different directions. 

Barb and I carried on south while they headed back to Dunnellon. We stopped by Rusty's Seafood and Oyster Bar in Port Canaveral for a late lunch. This place was recommended by our friends Jim and Diana who have wintered in Melbourne Beach for years. It did not disappoint!

Our destination for the next three nights was Long Point Park just south of Melbourne Beach. Our plans were to meet with Jim and Diana down here. They have been wintering down here for 7 seasons, but when they heard we were headed this way and were going to visit, they decided they would rather endure the cold Michigan winter than see us so they did not come down this year. 

That brings us to now, we are in the last day of our stay here. At first I thought we would love it. It is a remote park. Reasonable at ~$50/night. Quiet and it offers a lot of fishing opportunities. In fact, that is all we did while we were here. We got out the inflatable kayak and hit the water! 

Not being experienced saltwater fisher-people we did not know exactly what to do, but we tossed some live shrimp into the mangrove bushes and it was not long before Barb had her first fish on! It was a Whiting. We had to buy a cheat sheet at the local bait shop just to know what we were catching. She also caught a sea trout and a catfish which left me a bloody mess by the time I unhooked it and got it back into the water. All told, Barb caught 5 fish to my 1, a typical day fishing for us. 

After lunch I went out by myself for an hour and caught quite a few.  Black Drum, Mangrove Snapper, and a Jack Carvelle that pulled the kayak around before I finally landed it. 

Barb came and joined me after a while, she quickly caught a few more fish taking the lead back. The coolest part of the afternoon were the dolphins. 3 or 4 swam by us a couple of times within feet of the boat. The problem was we could never get any good pictures of them! They would surface and be gone before I could put the pole down and grab the camera. Very cool to see though. 

When we first arrived in the area, we thought "This is someplace we could spend the winter". Barb even went as far as researching monthly prices at the park. That all changed when the sun started to set and we started to feel all these little pin pricks on our legs, arms and necks. We could not see anything, but we knew what it was. They don't call them no-see-ums for nothing. Anyway they attacked Barb like crazy. If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know that Barb blows up like an Umpalumpa.

We retreated inside to escape them, but these little buggers are so small, they were making it through the screens! We started a Thermacell, which helped but they still attacked us both all night long making for a miserably sleepless night. Barb has been taking Benadryl, putting on hydrocortisone, but nothing seems to be helping. So, what we thought was our paradise has turned into our nightmare. 

It is fine during the day, but at night it is a terror. We leave today and carry on south. Hopefully our next stop is bug-free, and we get a good night's sleep! Looks like we might be without cell in internet at our next stop so we will not be able to keep up with reading blogs.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this calm and soothing video I took of the surf at sunrise in Vilano Beach.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Savannah; Beaches, Breweries and a Birthday!

 We had another birthday this week when our little baby turned 37. Funny how I forget what I did yesterday but remember this event 37 years ago like it was yesterday! It was a Saturday; we were driving from our apartment in New Richmond Wisconsin to my dad's in Shell Lake. The drive is a little over an hour. We were about 1/2 way there, when Barb started having really bad contractions. We turned around, a short time later, Forrest was born. We have never been broker than we were back then, but we were happy, everything was new and we had our whole lives in front of us. 

We did not know the gender prior to the birth, something I think very few people do anymore. Gender reveal parties are now the rage so rather than be surprised at the birth, expectant parents gather together with all their friends and family and make a party out of it. Did you know the gender of your child(ren) before they were born?

Speaking of surprises. I had a surprise when I went to empty our black tank the other day. For those of you unfamiliar with RV'ing, the black tank contains everything from the toilet. We had stopped by Camperworld to use their dump station which was a broken off pipe in the middle of the parking lot in the back, near their service area. No water available to rinse, or wash anything when you are done, just a hole in the asphalt. 

So I pull up, get my hose, hook everything up and pulled the tank lever. Apparently, I had not used this hose in a while and when the "liquid" started down the hose I quickly found out it had a dozen or so pin holes in it resulting in something that looked like a sprinkler hose you would use in your garden! I quickly turned it off and switched to my back up hose, but the damage had already been done. I used my outdoor shower to clean it up the best I could, but there was only so much I could do. Camperworld really should provide a water source at their dump stations!  

Now, for this week's edition of Find the Frenchie! This is a tough one, you may really have to zoom in. Don't worry if you cannot find it, I have a picture near the end that shows exactly where she is. 

We got out on several adventures this week. The first was just Forrest, Lily, Barb and I while Somer was sleeping. We headed to the Hilton Head Beach to take in some sun and sand.

Those are my toes on the left, I think my last manicure turned out really well! Barb's, however, need a little work!

Forrest brought his metal detector. We looked for treasures but only came up with bottle caps, pull tabs and a few foil wrapped candy wrappers. 

Then it was off to mini-golf!

We finished the day off with a stop at Hilton Head Brewery for a couple of cold beers and jumbo pretzels. 

On Somer's first day off work we headed to the Prohibition Museum in Savannah. A very interesting time in our country's history. The older I get, the more I discover that our country has not progressed a lot in the past 100 years. The issues have changed, but the blowhards on both sides in Washington continue to push their agendas with regard to what is really good for the country. 

The museum had displays depicting the time leading up to prohibition, during and after. The wax figures were very realistic.

From there, it was off to the Bonaventure Cemetary. In use since 1864, it is one of the oldest in the country and has some really spectacular headstones and monuments. 

One thing different about this one compared to others we have seen is the number of Family Plots. It seemed like the majority of them were large family plots that could hold up to a dozen or more burial sites. Some were filled, some were empty, some had only one or two sites used, where other family member decided to go elsewhere. There were a number of baby sites where the infants were a few days or few months old. Always sad to see, I can only imagine the hardship those parents went through. 

Barb, Somer and I enjoyed the cemetery, Forrest to a lesser extent, Lily, not at all. 

For Forrest's birthday we had planned three events. We started off by going to Burnt Church Distillery in Bluffton, SC. 

This is a very cool distillery offering lots of whiskeys, moonshine, bourbons, gins and vodkas. We each had a flight of tasters and a couple of appetizers. I really liked the cards that accompanied each of the tasters. It explained what goes into each and a QR code that links to a short video telling a story of each.

The highlight for me, was the bathroom. I think I need one of these in our house! It is a cascading water wall, quiet, peaceful and serene making for the perfect setting when the need arises. I just hope it is not recirculating water!

From there it was off to bowling! Twice in two months. We all had fun; Somer had her highest game ever at 141!

Then we were off to the Bluffton Seafood Company for supper. Good, but not great. Their prices were reasonable though. 

The next day Forrest and I loaded up our inflatable kayak and hit the New River in Bluffton. We had Barb drop us off at a launch and we floated 4 miles upriver (the tide was coming in) to another launch where we were picked up several hours later.

It was very cool and very remote. It is amazing that you can be in the middle of a city one minute and in the remote swamplands the next. Forrest brought his fishing pole to see if he could catch anything. Neither of us knew what species of fish were in the river so we were going totally blind. On his second cast he hooked into a largemouth bass that danced its way across the water as he brought it in. It got off right at the boat, but Forrest was pumped that he even caught anything. 
I paddled and guided the boat while he fished. 15 minutes later, he hooked into something else. This time it was much, bigger. As he fought the fish, he finally got it near the boat and we got a look at the distinctive dot near the tail. A Red Fish! We did not bring a net, so Forrest swung his rod around to guide it to me to try and pick up. It took several attempts, but I managed to get it in the boat. No easy feat in the kayak! Forrest took a picture with me holding it, then I handed it to him for a picture. Forrest had it in his hand for a total of 1 second before it gave a mighty wiggle and plopped back into the water. Oh well, he was happy to have caught his first Red!

I started with a pup picture; I should end with one too. Here is a close up of the Find the Frenchie picture.

Every time we come home, those two eyes and little pointy ears are in the window. And sometimes there is a big white lab head right next to her!

I get the biggest kick out of Chloe. I do not know how to describe her expression. Mournful? She always has the goofiest look on her face. And then there is Jack. Anytime there is food around, he sits up like this and rotates his head from person to person trying to act cute so someone will give him a treat. It worked every time!

Today is our last day here in Savannah, it is time to move on. Who knows what adventures await as we head south into Florida!