Monday, March 24, 2014 (somebody’s birthday)
Sorry for the delay, Google Blogger has been misbehaving for several days. Stay away from Google Plus, what a nightmare.
The drive from our Titusville campgound to St Augustine was only an hour and a half. We figured if we got going by mid-morning we would have time for an afternoon visit. We were headed for the Indian Forest Campground just a few minutes west of St Augustine. The folks across the way from us in Titusville were headed there as well and we heard from another Foretravel owner that they were also there.
We arrived shortly after noon and got everything set up. It only takes about 20 minutes and then we were off to see St Augustine. It claims to be the oldest city in the US. Santa Fe might argue with that. They have been a capital city since 1608. We were there in 2008 and they were celebrating their 400th anniversary being a capital city.
Somehow we were expecting a smaller, sleepy, historic town. Not! It is old all right with narrow, cobbleston streets not much bigger than an alley with lots of old buildings. Allmost all were privately owned and turned into anything that could make money. The oldest, woodem, one-room school house in America was there for you to “tour” for only $40. There were very few free places. Even Parking in the city owned public lot was $10 and a walking tour guide at the visitor’s center was $3.00.
Off we went to see and do. Lots of people, lots of traffic. The city has Spanish origins and had a nice central plaza.
At one end is the Government Center. A Catholic curch on one side and an Episcopal church on the opposite side and at the other end, the market. All the bases covered. No Lutherans anywhere to be seen.
This is not the original Government Center but a rebuilt one. Almost nothing survived the Spanish then the French then the Seven Years War then the Spanish again then the British then the Americans and then the tourists. Mexico had something goimg on in there for a while as well. The city was nearly burned to the ground and most of the inhabitants were killed or fled at every change of control. Nice. There are only a couple original buildings at all and the tourists are doing their best on those.
The “old” main street is a narrow track filled with tourists, people selling stuff to the tourists and people selling things for the tourista to do.
It really was more crowded than this. It was in the low 60’s with a stiff breeze and not much sun. Everyone in shorts was secretly suffering. I had my jeans on and was secretly wishing for a jacket.
At one end of the historic district was a really nice Visitor Center and a parking ramp half surrounded by a moat and some nice wooden bridges.
The leaves are falling everywhere. It is just like Fall and at the same time everything is covered by a layer of green Sringtime pollen. We had an early dinner at Barnacle Bill’s, shrimp. It was sort of like eating with Forrest Gumps shrimp cooking buddy, shrimp every conceivable way. We had the shrimp. I had some cheesy grits as well. Pretty tasty.
St Augustine is the home of Flagler College. Now we know where our friend Bob Flagler is spending his winters.
Beautiful woodwork inside and stunning murals.
No idea what they teach here but the buildings were pretty amazing!
Back at the campground after a grocery stop I visited Forrest and Mary Clark, Foretravel full timers originally from Green Bay, WI. They were very nice. It is always nice to meet folks and swap stories about things we have in common.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Today we drove over the bridge to Anastasia Island and then to the southern end where the Matanzas River empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The Spanish built a fort there in 1740 made of shells, sand and ground up shells burned in a fire to get lime ash to make cement. This small fort (Fort Matanzas) was about 50’x50′ and 30′ high. It had six cannon, a watch tower and was manned by 6-8 soldiers for a month at a time from the bigger fort at St Augustine. It is a National Park site and you have to take a free ferry to get to it.
It took three years to build. After long since falling into disrepair (ruin) it has been restored. Their cannon could reach the inlet a mile away to deter invaders or unwanted visitors (French). Can you imagine a month out here almost 300 years ago in the summer heat, humidity and mosquitos? In your Spanish Army duds?
We followed the Atlantic coast line back to the far northern end of the island to Anastasia State Park. A friendly ranger gave a short term visitor pass so we could check out the campground. We were going to stay here but it was full. No wonder. It is a nice park, nice campsites and right near the ocean beaches. Across the road from the park is the St Augustine Light Station. We went on the walking tour (for a small fee, of course).
The keepers scraped and painted the tower twice a year. It would sort of make me dizzy.
The keepers house (a duplex) was beautiful, surrounded by huge Live Oak trees. It is the most grand light keepers quarters that I have ever seen. The Live Oak trees were prized by shipbuilders because of all the crooked branches that happened to be the shape of the ship parts they needed.
The interior was deluxe Southern Victorian.
There were also displays about the shrimp boat building business and the shrimping industry. St Augustine played a major role in the development of both. More displays were about hunting for ahip wreaks off the coast and recovery and the restoration of artifacts. There were classes going on about the craft of building wooden boats. A simple sail boat and a nice looking row boat were in progress. Very nice. As a woodworker it has always been something I would like to do.
Then it was off in search of another seafood experience. The day before we had picked up a menu for Harry’s New Orleans Style seafood place. It looked very good. Off the island, one way, over the draw bridge. Pretty easy going into St Augustine. Three directions of traffic converged on the bridge from the mainland side and cars were backed uo for several block in every direction. We found a parking spot just a half block from Harrys. It was a very pleasant outdoor, early evening dinner.
Sorry, no dinner pictures, we ate it all before taking any. We shared crab cakes, blackend red fish, red beans and rice, grilled andouille sausage, cole slaw and key lime pie. No leftovers. Why is it called cole slaw?
After dinner we walked to the city’s public marina. There was a tall ship there that calls St Augustine one of it’s home ports around the world.
A few other tubs floating around as well.
The beautiful balck sail boat was 78′ long. The next white boat out was close to a hundred. The monster at the end was about 160′ long. I walked out there and the bottom row of rectangular windows just above the dock were about head high on me. A guy there said it had a crew of 20 and was available for lease by the month.
Where is my row boat? Actually we would like to get a couple of kayaks to haul with us if we are going where we might be able to use them.
Back to the Indian Forest Campground where it is dropping into the 40’s overnight. We are off to a Jacksonville city campground on the St Johns river where it empties into the Atlantic. The Mayport (I thought it was the Mayhem) Naval Air Station is right across the river. The river is the main seaway access to the port of Jacksonville. Maybe some big ships?
More as soon as I can. And Google willing.
Roger and Susan
We have been waking up early, we switched to Daylight Savings time and then into Eastern time. It is wierd, we wake up when we feel like we are supposed to and it is still dark. It gets light here about 7:20. It just feels odd. KSC opens at 9 so we got going in plenty of time. We got in, parked (for $10) and then got to the main gate where you get tickets. That took a short while and we were in.
There was a Rocket Garden that had most of the rockets launched from the KSC since the early 1960s. There were lots of different kinds of exhibits covering everything from explorer robots to the Cape Canaveral Wildlife Refuge. A two hour bus tour of the launch complex was part of the admission. We went by the Vehicle Assembly Building. In a picture it doesn’t look that big since there is no reference. Each of thoste vertical doors is almost 40 stories tall. The doors at the bottom of each vertical door open up to more than 120′ wide. Four Empire State buildings would fit inside. 9 NFL football fields would fit on the roof. It is the largest building by volume on the planet..
Two giant mobile transporter platforms moved the Saturn V rockets and the Moon Mission vehicles to the launch pad. Only a few years later they carried the space shuttles out to the same launch pads.
There are two launch pads like this that were used for the Space Shuttles. There were more than 30 launch pads all up and down the Cape. As the Space Age unfolded and the Space Race heated up there ware launches from the Cape every 10-14 days. When the shuttles were launched more than 1/2 million gallons of water was flooded through the flame diverters in just a few seconds to keep them from melting. It was mostly steam from this water that you saw during a launch billowing out from the launch pad. This launch pad is being rebuilt for the new Space Launch System, a rocket bigger than anything before. The second launch pad is being rebuilt as well.
The bus tour stopped at a big “going to the moon” exhibit. There was on the three remaining Saturn V rockets, a Lunar Command Module, a Lunar Lander, a Lunar Rover, space suits that had been to the moon and back complete with moon dust still clinging to them and the actual launch command center.
Susan met a friend there.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis is the main attraction now. After it landed ending the final shuttle mission and the end of the shuttle program after more than 30 years it was towed to the partially completed display building, raised into position and then the building was finished around it.
There were some very well done videos going in and then the doors opened and Atlantis was right there, tipped at an angle (43.21 degrees like a countdown) to give you sort of an astronaut’s view from space. It is something to behold. Something I worked on before it ever flew and now 40 years later its mission is complete. I always hoped to see a launch but that never worked out. To see this in person, so close was pretty stunning for me.
Atlantis is just as it was on its return, scorch and burn marks included.
The payload bay is 15′ in diameter and 50′ long.
My dad led the program at Honeywell in the 70’s to develop the shuttle main engine controls. Lots of meaning here for me. Pretty amazing!
Lunch then an IMax movie on the Hubble Telescope. It was a very full day.
We went to Lakeland about 70 miles west of here to visit a couple (Larry and Nancy) we met last winter in Texas. They are Foretravel owners and live in an RV community in Florida during most of the winter and travel in the summer. We went for a pontoon boat ride on the lake in their community and had a nice lunch. Later we had carrot cake and a visit. They were fun to see.
Owners could have just an RV pad with water, electricity and sewer connection. Some of these may have storage sheds. More common is a house ( of various sizes) with garages. This one had an RV port, a two car garage and a golf cart garage. Most have two or more bedrooms.
Today we went grocery shopping. We were going to a farmers’s market in Titusville but they had closed it down. So we went to the Waffle House for breakfast. Actually, pretty good. Then a Super Target for groceries. Home by 10 and then off to the Cape Canaveral National Seashore. It is the north end of the Cape, north of the 300 ft x 3 mile long shuttle landing facility (SLF). Actually a runway. Everything at the KSC and all of the systems were assigned an acronym. Some were funny.
Out in the National Seashore there was a place where manatees are frequently seen.
They were right there by the shoreline. Pretty big, up to 12 ft long. There were six in the shade. They eat underwater sea grass. They are distantly related to elephants and evolved from land animals. They like the water to be warmer than 70°. The water thermometer there said it was 76°
Then we went to the beach. There were 12 beach access points with parking. They averaged about a half mile apart. These were the access points to the beach on the south 1/4 end of the shore. About 1/2 was accessible from the north. There was a big section with no access by car in the middle, just walking on the beach.
This beach literally goes on for miles. We were only about a mile from one of the shuttle launch pads. Lots of folks fishing.
Susan got to wear her “blind glasses” and her new sun hat.
We walked way down the beach and back. More than 10,000 steps. Wore down the bottom of our bare feet. Mid 80’s today, strong southerly breeze. It was very nice.
Another fine day. Tomorrow we will try for a farmer’s market in Cocoa. Maybe a quiet day. Maybe a book day. Maybe some more beach time. That’s all tomorrow. Moving up to St Augustine on Monday.
Roger and Susan
We had one last thing to do in the Apopka area before we left. The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in downtown Winter Park was one place we did not want to miss. It houses the largest collection of Louis Comfort Tifanny art work in the world. There are paintings, drawings, glass work, windows, parts from his Laurelton Hall home’s dining room, living room and other rooms and the Chapel originally created for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago and later restored and installed at Laurelton Hall. There are also extensive collections of art pottery and furniture in the Arts and Crafts style and from the Art Nouveau period.
No pictures were allowed inside. This is from the Museum website. It is hard to describe how amazing all of the different things were. And then there was a pretty stunning gift shop.
Winter Park was very nice.
Right downtown there was a beautiful park (the land came from Charles Morse). There was a train station right in the center of the park on the other side. And just then the orange and white Amtrack train came into town. Maybe it was the Orange. Blossom Special. The orange trees are in bloom and the air is filled with an refreshing aroma.
The streets are all cobblestone and tree lined. Mostly small shops and eateries. A Panera Bread was on this corner. The museum a half block down the street on the left. A nice looking church where Susan’s cousin attends was a block down on the right.
So a nice stroll around the park and downtown and then back to the coach and off towards Titusville.
We are staying at a county park campground just south of the causeway leading over to the Kennedy Space Center. It is an older park right on the water with campsites complete with water, power and sewer connections and pretty good wifi. The sites are wooded, some pretty large, some big enough.
Ours was easy enough to get into and while not the biggest in the park just fine for our 6 day stay. We discovered a couple from Cottage Grove in the campground today. They have been here since December and have been here every year for the last seven. You can stay here for up to 180 days each year. There is a fishing pier at the park. It doesn’t look like it is more than four feet deep at the end. Across the “river” (the intercoastal waterway) is the Kennedy Space Center. Between the trees is the Vehicle Assembly Building where the moon rockets and space shuttles were prepared for launch before they were moved to the launch sites.
And right across from us is the KSC Visitor’s Center that wee will visit on Thursday. The Space Shuttle Atlantis the on display there. A two hour bus ride through the entire launch complex, iMax movies, the Astronaut Hall of Fame and more is all part of the rather pricey admission price (although it is about 1/2 the cost of goint to Disney World). The big orange and white thing is the space shuttle main fuel tank and the solid rocket boosters standing next to the Visitor’s Center. It is at least five miles away.
Tha park has a large grassy area right on the water. A great place to watch a launch.
Last night we created two home made small Evil Jungle Pizzas. A spicy peanut sauce, barbeque chicken, carrots, onions, red pepper, snap peas and cheese. Very tasty.
Today we drove down the coast to Melbourne Beach and over the causway to Cape Canaveral and the back up along the ocean side through Cocoa Beach and on to the Kennedy Space Center and back to our comfy home on wheel.
Plugging along ..
Roger and Susan
Time to leave Grayton Beach and head towards Central Florida. But we had to try an interesting place for breakfast first. “Another Broken Egg”. A delightful spot. We had fresh beignets with a citrus-honey marmalade and eggs. Susan had a crab omelette. I had a chorizo and cream cheese stuffed omelette. We brought home half of everything.
Then east along the panhandle coast towards Port St Joe. The road goes right along the water. Susan though it reminded her of Hiway 61 on the North Shore. A bit further on to Apalachicola. They call this area Florida’s Big Bend. We stopped for a break under the bridge leading out to the causeway.
These two lane high bridges are white knuckle rides for Susan.
A long, straight causeway over the bay and then a very long 40 some mile drive towards Perry, FL. It is through flat forest land. Straight as an arrow. Borring! A completely unremarkable overnight in Perry. But some amazing leftovers for breakfast.
We are in Eastern Daylight Time now. It doesn’t get light until well after 7 AM! We got up and got going shortly after. Highway 27 is a nice 4 land divided highway. We went for an hour and a half and only saw four other cars headed the same way. Near Ocala we branched off onto two lane roads through Florida’s horse county.
Immense places with long fences for each ranch. Palaces for the owners and even bigger ones for the horses. It looked like 1/3 of them were for sale. It was a very nice drive. Green grass everywhere and it got warmer as we got further south.
We were headed for a county park in Orage County where Orlando is. We are at Kelly County Park and the north side of Apopka. What a nice park, 50 amp electric service, water, dump station, 26 site, about 6 other campers here. Oak, pine and palm trees, go figure. Hiking trails, a pool, a spring fed river that you can swim or tube in.
The leaves are falling now, it feels like fall except that it was about 80°.
Susan’s cousin Patsy and her husband live in Apopka. We went to their house for an extended chin wag. Their son Tom and his bride to be, Bethany were there too. Tom visited us about 24 years ago and went to Oshkosh with us in the original Home2. He was a big airplane enthusiast at the time. Tom got a personal tour of a Quantas 747 cockpit from the Captain. Somewhere we have a picture of him in the pilot’s seat with an enormous grin.
My sister says we need more selfies.
So there you are.
Rain Monday afternoon. Time for a jigsaw puzzle, read, a nap and a blog post.
Tomorrow we are going to the. Morse Museum (everything Tiffany). And the off to Cape Canaveral.
Everyday is an adventure!
Roger and Susan
Friday was another pretty nice day. Although it was a cool 44° overnight the sky was clear and the sun warmed things up in a hurry. We hit just over 14,000 steps on our step counters yesterday so we were a bit slow getting going. When we did we walked up to the intersction of Highway 30-A and the county road to the west of us. Lots of shops there and a really pretty nice old fashioned hardware store. Unlike the one we visited in Panama City Beach this one was very well stocked and staffed. I had to return a nut and bolt I bought earlier this week because it was the wrong size. The new one I got turned out to be the right size but not the fine thread that I needed. I give up. It just goes into the container of nuts, bolts, washers, screws, pins, retaining clips and everything else that has no home. It is nice to be prepared but most of the time I don’t have what I really need so I improvise which is just as good as being prepared.
We checked out several gift type shops, some home decor shops (beach chic), a couple restaurants, a upscale surf shop where they had surf boards, stand up paddle boards and extraordinarily expensive flip flops and other beach essentials. Far more essential than I need.
Susan bought a Panama Jack sun hat at a more normal store. She sort of looks like Indian Jones. Very cool!
We stopped for a Kona Coffee at the Bad Ass Coffee Shop. There was some claim linking donkeys and coffee in Hawaii for their name. Not too sure about that but I never spent much time on the Big Island checking out the donkeys.
We went to the beach this afternoon. The sun was warm, the wind off the water was bracing. We lasted for a bit over an hour. No one else seemed to be enduring it for any longer. It was definitely cooler than our last beach excursion.
After supper we walked down to a trail around a lake between the campground and the dunes (and then the beach). It is a pretty good sized lake with a canoe launch. Looks like there is fishing in it as well.
Thare are some aquatic hazards as well. The swimming area is not fenced! I thought they only did that in Austrailia to keep out the Great White nippers. I am not going in there for a swim. I have to say we are disappointed in not having seen an alligator yet. Someone in the park lost a little brown dog the other day. There were several people hunting for some time before they found the small dog. Better him than an alligator with a grin.
It is not dark yet and the moon is out and almost full. In between the pines it was pretty impressive. I thought these were Southern Yellow Pines. What else would one think a pine tree in the south was? They are not. They are called Slash Pines. They have sort of a rounded over top, long needles and produce enormous amounts of sap when they are slashed with several V shaped cuts up the trunk. A metal funnel like thing is nailed at the bottom of the cut area where buckets are hung. Is is sort of like maple sap collection to make syrup. The sap or pitch is collected and boiled, distilled and condensed to make various grades of turpentine. We visited an old (no longer used) turpentine distillery. It looked pretty much like you would have expected a big whiskey still to look like.
14,451 steps today.
Tomorrow we depart for a drive east along the shore and then over to Perry, FL for one night and then on to Kelly Rock Springs County Park near Apopka where we will have a chance to get together with Susan’s cousin, Patsy and her husband Joe.
And then to the Moon and Beyond at the Space Coast. Maybe we will see a rocket launch.
Roger and Susan
Wednesday began mostly cloudy after the rain the night before. It started breaking up soon after breakfast. The winds were strong and gusty from the south. And that pushed up the surf.
Not quite Hawaii like surf but respectable. Both the Red Flag and the Purple Flags were flailing in the wind. Red means dangerous surf or rip tides. Purple means dangerous sea life. Sharks? Jelly fish? Giant squid? They didn’t say. No one was in the water except for three 8-10 year old girls running in up to their knees and then squealing like only 8-10 year old girls can do when a wave came in and splashed them. We asked a Park person later and she said it was jelly fish. I was hoping for the Creature from the Lagoon.
Any day at the beach with a good book and some sun is wonderful. Even if someone wasn’t very warm.
These folks tried surf fishing in their chest high waders They didn’t last very long.
It was windy all day. By late afternoon the wind had turned mostly from the south to right out of the north. The temperature was dropping. We went for an evening twilight walk. The moon, almost full, was out. On the way back from the beach area we were heading right into a cold wind.
It got down to 43°, cool enough to turn on the heat. The bathroom in the coach has its own thermostat and heat zone so we can close the doors and crank up the heat. A shower when the bathroom is near 80° is pretty nice.
This campground is quiet. Makes it easy to sleep a long while.
This morning we got going and had breakfast. Something got to Susan because in no time flat she was rearranging drawers, the kitchen cabinets, the pantry and our storage bins. It was something we had talked about but it was happening right then. In no time flat we had made room in one drawer for the the toaster, the electric tea kettle and the insulated carafe. That left room in a kitchen cabinet to rearrage some dishes and supplies. And cleaning out the miscellaneous stuff drawer left it almost empty. We need to find a small plastic box to hold the inside tools that are just in there loose now. All done, now all we will have to do is remember where we moved things.
Then we set off to explore the Watercolor resort area. It is immense. Hundreds of homes, double homes, quad homes, condos and resort hotels. There are also the requisite shops of every imaginable type, mostly catering to tourists with money. Lots of restaurants, wine shops, cafes, coffee places, bike rental places, a boat, fishing tackle, stand up paddle board rental place, several pools, a tennis center, an art camp and on and on. There are five distinct neighborhoods (ocean side, lake front, art camp and so on). Each has its own park areas and a town center of sorts. The houses are all similar but range greatly in size and price. Some look like Cape Cod shingle style cottages.
Most were a traditional southern style with porches, exposed rafters, lots of architectural detail and virtually no yards anywhere. These are not new but are very well maintained. We saw several being renovated, new windows, doors, siding, decks, railings and so on. These would be a challenge to paint.
They ranged from single level bungalows, maybe 1500 sq ft to giant 6-7K sq ft homes. The small ones were in the $1.5M range, $3-4M and up for the bigger ones. There is an empty 57’x112′ lot for only $700K. Can you imagine the monthly association fees?
Very nice park areas.
A boat rental on a lake.
And of course, there is a beach. It is the same beach we are on just east of us about a mile and a half. The beach goes on for miles. Where we are there are no rows of empty rental beach chairs standing guard against the onslaught of dangerous marine life.
65 and sunny. After lunch we are walking west to the Grayton Beach Store, about a mile away, to look at hats and maybe an ice cream treat.
More to come …
Roger and Susan
It is only 35 miles from St Andrew’s State Park to Grayton Beach State Park and a much different experience.
Monday was a moving day. We always have a few things to stow for moving and to put away. The bikes go back on the bike rack. The chairs back in the basement. The awnings rolled up. The power cord disconnected and wound in. All of the electronics get fired up, the engine started, the room retracted and when all indicators are in the green we are ready to go. 15-20 minutes on the short end, maybe 30 normally. We pull out to a good spot to reconnect the Jeep and do a light check and we are off.
We stopped for some groceries and headed west. Grayton Beach is half way between Panama City and Pensacola. There is a small town, Santa Rosa Beach, nearby. It is in between the Blue Mountain and Watercolor resort areas. Blue Mountain is older, a mix of newer, rehabbed, existing and rundown rentals and aome residential. Lots of shopping opportunities. Watercolor looks like a planned community built from the ground up. It all looks the same age, some condos, some single family, a town square, a shopping center, beach access and all of a common style, sort of a southern country mini-plantation look.
Both are a modest bike ride away.
Grayton Beach SP has two campground loops. The older one where we are is in the Florida dune-woods. Each site is pretty much surrounded by trees, quite private and separated from the others. The other loop is more open and newer. Several of the sites are paved (handicapped accessible) and several have sewer hookups. Campers from all over the US are here.
We got settled and headed for the beach. It is a couple hundred yards as the crow files. We walked around this small salt marsh. The campground is in the pines.
The beach was white sand, went on for several miles and where we were, had very few people.
The sand was very fine and white.
Today was a quiet day. We went for a walk through the dunes and the pine forest, a bike ride and a Jeep ride to explore the area. Almost got in our 10,000 steps. Those things don’t count bicycle pedaling. I finished one book today. Susan has finihshed four so far.
A bit of rain tonight. Breezy and some clouds tomorrow. Cold coming in the the north by Thursday. Thanks.
Roger and Susan