Friday, March 12, 2010

Savannah to Kingsport

The dreary road conditions nearly all the way home from Savannah

Thursday March 11, 2010

We were on the road by 8:15 anxious to get the day behind us. It was raining and the rain continued all the way until we reached the NC – TN line. About Sam’s Gap the rain stopped but it remained very foggy and dreary looking all the way home. Our only stop was at a Pilot somewhere in SC where we had a gas, bathroom, and food break. A subway was the option and while not our favorite we did not want to make another stop. I tried to end up in Asheville for lunch at La Paz but it would have just been too late for both of us. Just means we will have to go back over that way someday soon for a La Paz fix. Through South Carolina we saw lots of trees in bloom and daffodils blooming….spring was indeed on the way.

We arrived home about 3:00 and with the dreary skies it did not look like spring was here…but when I looked out the windows to the back yard – the crocus were in full bloom. I was a little disappointed that the peas, lettuce, spinach, and grass seeds I had planted the week before we left did not show one sign of green. Maybe in a few more days they will peak through!

The crocus greeting us in our yard

Overall we had a great trip. The trip to Long Key in 2 ½ days was definitely workable. Staying one night in a motel – particularly when it was “free” was great. The mess up on the reservation was a major issue and I need to be much more careful to read the small print! We could have driven a little further north from Long Key or planned another day in South Florida at another location. Much debate is in store before we make a decision of whether to spend a couple weeks in south Florida or south Texas next winter.

As I write this on the 12th, the Sprinter is unloaded, the dirty clothes clean, and the kitchen unloaded and put away. The morning has been beautiful. We will wait for another dry day to clean the refrigerator and vacuum the sand out ! It is looking like the afternoon will be windy and rainy. Welcome home!! At least it is not SNOW!!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jupiter FL to Savannah GA

The drive was boring but certainly with clear skies...

Wednesday March 10, 2010

We enjoyed breakfast and reading a paper for the first time since we left home. I have seen the posts on Times News On-Line every day but that is only local news. It did not look like much had changed on the national level in the almost 2 weeks we have been on the road. We were headed north by 8:45 and again listening to a book on CD – this one by James Patterson - Judge and Juries – we had heard it before but remembered only a little of it as it progressed.

The miles clicked by with nothing much to view – I am sure if we were over on US 1 or US A1A it would be interesting – but much slower to be sure. Jacksonville looks like an interesting town – maybe we will stay there one year when we make the trip south. We stopped for gas and lunch along the way.

We arrived at the La Quinta in Savannah at 3:30. Ben took a nap. I tried to take care of all the gifts that had accumulated in Farmville over the time we have been gone. Then I walked a couple blocks down to an outlet mall just to get some exercise. I wonder how the place stays in business as I was the only customer in the 6 or 7 shops I went in to look around. I really was not in a shopping mood and did not want to try on clothes so just looked around. I think the colors for spring are nice – of course if they have coral or turquoise I always like them and there is lots of coral this year.

I had narrowed the restaurant choices down to 2 – Huey’s and Johnny Harris – looked up the menus and let Ben choose between them. We took off for Johnny Harris. Driving in Savannah always seems like a challenge and I guess it is all the moss hanging in the trees that makes it look so eerie.

Garmin did a good job though and we arrived in about 15 minutes. The specials here were Ribs and Fried Chicken – it has been operating as a restaurant in Savannah since 1936. The dining room is definitely unique – a huge round room with wooden booths separated by heavy wood paneling ringing the entire room. There are also tables in the center of the large room but primarily the booths were used. I had been debating between the ribs and chicken but when the waitress came to inform us it was Lobster Wednesday – whole lobster, corn, potatoes, salad, bread, cheese spread and drinks – all for $18 – we were sold! It was very good and it was only appropriate we finish off the trip with another night of seafood. We had not had lobster since we were in Maine more than 10 years ago. I remember we had lobster 3 times on that trip and I did not think I wanted any more for a while….it had been a while.

Remains of our Lobster Dinner

The recommendation to go to Johnny Harris came from David Little a Red Cross friend from Birmingham who once lived in Savannah and had eaten there many times. He said he had never been served bad food. Thanks David for the recommendation, I will go there again and maybe have the chicken or ribs!! You can always find recommendations on the internet for restaurants but I found my Face Book friends did a great job of giving me their personal recommendations this year.

We made it back to our room without any problems and will watch American Idol and read. I of course want to finish this blog entry. Not much exciting to report for today.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Long Key to Jupiter FL

Finally a timed photo - at our campsite with neighbors sailboat in background

Tuesday March 9, 2010

A nice slow start for the day and it ended quite differently than we had planned. Pancakes for breakfast, checking email and reading began the day. Ben rode his bike, Jane looked for shells. We ate lunch and Ben took a nap and Jane was reading her book when the nice camp host came to say we needed to hurry up if we were going to make the 1 PM check out time… it was 1 PM ….we thought our check out was tomorrow that our reservation was through the 9th well it was check out on 9th!

There were of course no reservation vacancies there or at any of the other state parks in the keys…Jane checked the one private campground one key north and refused to pay the $77 for a tiny space not even close to the ocean. We have paid $28 for the site at Long Key!! The Florida State parks are a great bargain and I guess that is why there are never any empty spots. Anyway we thought if we were going to spend $77 for the night we would just spend it for a motel. We took down camp in 50 minutes – that is a record for us considering nothing was packed, we had to take the tent down, and pack up everything including the bikes. With the bikes you can’t just throw it in!!!

I tried to call Jonathan Dickinson where we had reservations for the 10th and they would not take any reservations on the phone and would not even tell us if they had open spots. The site Reserve America takes all FL state park reservations and will not make reservations less than 24 hours out – so we just had to take a chance they would have a space.

We drove from Long Key to Hobe Sound in less than 4 hours but when we arrived –no room at the inn. There are several private campgrounds around, in fact we stayed in one last year but we were tired and just drove about 5 miles down the road to a Comfort Inn…and searched for a seafood restaurant! No we are not tired of eating seafood yet…and had planned where we were going in Islamorada tonight. We ate at Schooners in Jupiter Beach. We had fried scallops and fried grouper fingers and shared both – great food !!!

So we are now watching NCIS and enjoying the TV and internet. So the day ended well even tho not as we had planned. And we have changed our Savannah reservation so will just end up getting home a day early. The unpacking will not be much fun – usually we clean things up as we pack up for going home so we do not have to get everything out and just put it back in the Sprinter – oh well.

Long Key State Park Florida

This Egret stayed at our site every day

Monday March 8, 2010

It was actually hot this morning. I did not look at the thermometer but only lasted sitting in the sun for about 30 minutes. Reading, checking email, and a little surfing filled my time this morning. It is rather slow going to surf sites on the i-phone but it works. About 10 we left on a bike ride down to the other end of the park where there is a nature trail. We parked the bikes and took the little over a mile walk through first mangrove swamp near the beach – to almost a tunnel cut through heavy mangrove thicket – to a sandy hot area with little vegetation to a hardwood hammock. All within a mile walk. The hardwood hammock might have been 20 feet above sea level and is noted as the highest point on the island. We saw very diverse plant species and some wild flowers we had never seen before. Maybe we can identify later from the photos.

Back to camp by 11:15 so Ben could be in his fishing for the day – I am not sure baiting the hook, carrying the pole out about 50 feet in the water, casting further and then walking back to shore to sit in the chair counts as fishing but – hey it worked last year when he caught the button head shark! I finished my book and started another right after lunch.

Watching my sandcastle be washed away by the incoming tide took about 2 hours – that was really hard work…funny that the tide did not take it down in the night. I am downloading photos and completing part of today’s blog so I can post it when we drive down to the end of the island to watch the sunset. The sunsets have been beautiful from here but I imagine are even more spectacular from the other side of the island. So we will venture down that way after supper and combine a little internet time with the sunset.

This boardwalk was part of our hike today

Looking for shells right after high tide will take about another hour of my afternoon – again hard work.I am cooking supper here tonight and tomorrow night – our last night here at Long Key – we will go to the Hungry Tarpon for dinner. It is highly rated and if it is better than the dinner we had at Little Italy it will be outstanding!! It is hard to believe we will have been here on Long Key for 7 days. That is the longest we have ever camped anywhere in as long as I can remember. I was a little skeptical of this plan but it has turned out to be fine. I can certainly say I have gotten lots of rest and relaxation.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Long Key State Park Florida

Sunday March 7, 2010

Today was the warmest day yet. The morning was spent in drinking coffee, checking email on i-phone and surfing the web a little. I cleaned up camp and checked what we might need if we go to Marathon later today. There is a tiny grocery on Long Key but not much there and very expensive. The wind has calmed down and the temperature is in the 70’s and it is actually warm. I settled into to a really tough morning of reading and gazing out at the calm ocean.

We drove into Marathon and had lunch at the Island Seafood Company. Ben remembered being there before and once we got inside I did too. I had a great grouper sandwich and Ben had something called Seafood Boats – potato skins with shrimp, crab, conch, cheese, red pepper, and bacon with a fantastic lemon, dill sauce. I tasted just enough to think I could try to make them – they were great. We then found the Publix grocery for the few things we needed. Note to myself for next time – the Publix is much nicer grocery than the Winn-Dixie where we went on the first trip. They had a great bakery and deli and much better selection of items in all sections of store.

On the way back to Long Key, we stopped at Curry Hammock State Park to check out their campground. It was newer than Long Key but the campsites were not on the beach as at Long Key. Being able to sit at your site and look out over the water is definitely a plus for Long Key. They did have a children’s play area, a very nice beach and boxes selling Miami and Key West papers. We have not seen a paper since we left home and haven’t really heard much news. I checked Fox News a couple times on the web and did not see much of interest.

Back at camp Ben took a nap and I built a sandcastle and searched for some small shells to string. The water was somewhat warmer today and everyone who has a boat near our campsite took it out. Several have small motor boats, and there is a canoe, and sailboat moored near us.

For supper we had steamed shrimp and some salads bought at the deli in Marathon. It was a non-cooking day. I will write the blog, work some in Photoshop and read tonight. It is VERY dark when the sun goes down and the stars are bright and the sky clear. Tonight is the first night I could be out after dark without my fleece jacket. I was comfortable walking outside with only a long sleeve shirt….maybe the cold snap is over!!!

Long Key State Park Florida

Saturday March 6, 2010

We have an alarm clock. I had Long Key on my Outlook calendar at 8:00 each day of our trip and this transferred to my I phone as an 8:00 appointment so at 7:45 it pings. Sometimes when you do something; you get more than you planned for!

Today I decided to cook breakfast, so we had biscuits and gravy. Well they were canned biscuits and canned gravy but for camping at the beach with a kitchen consisting of a refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot and electric skillet – what more can you want!! We had company for breakfast a flock of semi-palmeated plover and another flock of semi- palmeated sandpipers. I only know this because Ben found them in his new Peterson’s Bird Book. He is amazed that some of the birds have changed names since he moved from his 40-50 year old Peterson’s to the one he bought last year.

As the tide goes out the shore birds flock along the tide line searching for something to eat. The sun is bright today and from about 10 AM until noon I enjoyed sitting in the sun (with sun screen on of course) and watched the birds, read my book, and watched Ben try to fish. The consensus of all the fishermen here is that the water is too cold for the fish. No one is catching anything, not even the guys going out in their boats. There is a reef several miles off the shore and some of the guys with boats go out towards the reef to fish. Last year this same time the temperatures were 15 degrees warmer and the water was warm enough that Ben was snorkeling nearly every day. Not this year!

After lunch we drove back north to Islamorada to the Keys Art Show. It was really quite good. Most of the crafts were paintings, metal work, and jewelry. We really enjoyed the jewelry and got some great ideas for both my beading and Ben’s silver work. We got some ideas for what to do with some of the shells that may turn out nicely. I also looked around in a couple of shops at some very nice toys and clothing.

We drove back past camp and parked under the tree at Edgewater Lodge for me to upload several days worth of blog entries and take care of my crops and animals in Farmville. It is a silly game on FaceBook but it is fun and keeps me on my toes not to let my crops rot in the field. I only got one photo up for each of the days so I will have to go back by myself another day and finish the uploading.

Back at camp I fixed dinner. After dinner I had great success with my panorama photograph of the sunset. The sky was a very pale pink and because the light was not so bright as during the daytime I was able to get a very good match on the panorama settings.

Calls home today were encouraging as my mother is indeed feeling much better. She still has some cough but was able to talk to me on the phone. Blog finished – time for a cup of tea and some reading.

Long Key State Park Florida

Friday March 5, 2010

The day started with another pleasant slow morning - coffee, cereal and juice and checking email looking out over the incoming tide and clear blue skies. The water is lapping about 10 feet from my chair and while the wind is cooling it down this morning from the 72 showing on the thermometer; the tent provides a wind break and I am most comfortable. Yesterday I did get about 45 minutes of sun – hope to do that again today. I have finished 2 books and have begun a spy thriller by former defense secretary William Cohen. So far it is good – Dragon Fire. I also enjoyed True Blue by David Balacchi.(I never can spell his name)

I spent about an hour learning to take timed photos and panorama photos. Since I wanted the ocean and the light was wrong they did not turn out well but I learned what to do and not do and will take some better ones in the afternoon. After lunch we took off to find the internet so I could send a couple messages I had written for a committee I work on for the United Way.

We first headed south and at the very end of Long Key is the Edgewater Lodge…if anyone watches America’s Most Wanted .. it is where the guy who shot and killed several family members during their Thanksgiving meal somewhere in Florida was caught. He escaped from the crime scene and there was a manhunt for several weeks throughout the southeast. The crime was featured on America’s Most Wanted and the people who ran the Edgewater Resort recognized him, called in and the law came to get him with the AMW camera’s rolling. We had noticed it in the national news because it was on Long Key and watched AMW to see the capture. We drove into the parking lot and tried the internet connection and although it said secure I was able to log right in….took care of my messages and even harvested my crops in “Farmville”. We will go back again and I can try to upload some of the blog.

Then we headed north to Islamorada exploring and in search of fish to cook for dinner and some gas for the Sprinter. The gas we found easily but the fish took some searching. We finally bought some snapper at the Islamorada Fish Company. There is an arts festival tomorrow so we plan to go back and investigate some of the shops along the way. Islamorada seems to be more interesting than Marathon although Marathon must be larger as it has 2 major groceries and Islamorada does not have any.

We returned to camp and Jane cooked dinner. The weather is warmer but we decided to eat inside again and will be using the heater again. The outside temperature is 55 and with the heater is 70 inside the Sprinter. Ben got to give his sales pitch on Sprinter Vans to some guy this evening. He was camping in a tent and traveling with a van and thought ours looked unusual and wanted to know about it. Most vans do not allow you to stand up in them but of course ours does. Ben always enjoys giving his sales pitch…would be nice if he got a commission if anyone bought one.

I have finished the blog, gotten the photos all downloaded and edited. I deleted quite a few but did learn a lot today that will help me in taking future panorama and timed photos….off to read more of my current story of international intrigue.