Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Everglades Airboat Tour

Odometer- Unchanged at 29078

Joan and I are finishing out the month of February here in Fort Myers, Florida, and before packing up and heading to the Keys, we wanted to experience a trip in an airboat.

These incredible conveyances are a flat-bottomed boat with an aircraft type propeller used for forward movement.
There are at least a dozen or more vendors set up on the northwest edge of the Everglades eager to provide this type of adventure, and since we are just a couple hours from the "Glades" we decided that we just had to take a tour. The tours closest to Fort Myers take off from Everglades City about 2 hours south of here. We will be traveling this same route with the motorhome on the first of March, however we only have one day to get 265 miles from Fort Myers to Big Pine Key and get set up for the night, so we elected to drive our towed car (toad as it's known to RVers) down yesterday to take this tour.

These boats are just a little noisy, employing a V-8 engine and a 60" pusher-type propeller, so some form of hearing protection is a very good idea. (Note ear plugs, Marla). Our captain demonstrated how little water depth is really required for the boat to glide forward- basically wet mud or grass will work as well as water.

The vegetation in the picture above is mostly Saw Grass and in the distance, very young mangrove, the water is layers of fresh and salt water. How much is salt and how much is fresh depends on the storm surges (salty)and thunderstorms (fresh). We saw lots of fish everywhere we looked.
Of course, no everglades trip is complete without a gator or two! It is definitely their world here.
This 6 foot juvenile was not intimidated by the approach of our boat as the captain cut power and drifted over where it was. The alligator, actually moved over next to the boat. The captain said she would welcome a "hand-out"! Not my hand!
All too soon it was time to return to the dock. This compares well with the jet boat tours on the Rogue River in Oregon

We had packed a lunch, so on our way back up State Route 41 we stopped in at Port of the Islands Marina and watched the harbor activities as we dined on sandwiches. This is a very nice marina and it provides access to the Gulf, as well as to the Ten Thousand Islands and many channels and bayous of the Everglades.

To make things more interesting we chose a route back to Ft.Myers that would take us over Route 92 and onto Marco Island. This is a pretty upscale community, it was fun to check out the beautiful houses with canals and boats behind them. We have never seen so many boats and we are not talking small boats! This route would allow us to drive the length of the island, about 6 miles, and take the northern bridge off the island and onto SR 951 which connects back to SR 41.

The rest of the trip back up 42 would take us through Naples and Ft. Myers Beach but would be very congested at this time of day, so we reluctantly jogged over to I-75 for the rest of the journey north.


All the above was yesterday (Monday 25th). Today (Tues) we have to hang around home base in the morning because we have a tech coming by to do a rock chip repair on our windshield. We took a hard hit to the passenger side of the windshield while we were crossing the Atchafalaya causeway and are staying in Ft. Myers long enough, that we decided to get the repair here.
This afternoon we will probably go to the museum or the movies- can't decide- ooh the stress!

Jeff and Joan

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Fort Myers, FL (part II)

More adventures in Fort Myers. We woke up early enough to get a 9 AM start on our venture to Sanibel and Captiva, two of the many barrier islands.

We crossed over the bridge and causeway after paying our $6 toll, and headed up island to the far end of Sanibel. Our thought was to get past all the closer beaches and head for the far end of Captiva Island, to see if we could find a beach that was not terribly crowded. My second motive was to get to a beach that was listed as a good snorkeling beach, so I could pick shells that hadn't been tossed up on the beach yet.
We traversed all of Sanibel Island without seeing more than a glimpse of the water.

The road goes right up the center of the Island, and the Island is heavily wooded. It is very chic, with gated houses, on large well landscaped lots, interrupted only occasionally by a boutique general store or small shopping center. There were numerous opportunities to get to public beaches, but the parking situation was similar to our last foray to Fort Myers Beach. A short driveway to an impossibly small parking lot. We chose the very last beach on the north end of Captiva, and having arrived before 10 AM the lot was only about 1/3 full. The parking is metered and costs $4 for each 2 hours. We plugged the meter for 2 hours and headed for the beach.
We were rewarded with a great place to set up our chairs, dappled sun coming through a small grove of palms. We had heard legends about the tons of shells that wash up on these islands and we were primed!
My only disappointment was the water clarity. As with Fort Myers Beach the day before, the water was so cloudy I could see only 18" to 2 feet in front of my mask. We walked the beach looking in the sandy waterline for un-broken shells and there were many thousands of small ones but we were looking for a Conch shells, Lettered Olives, Ribbed Contharus, and anything exotic. When there are thousands of shells your eyes go cross-eyed very quickly!
We caught a break- we were thrashing in the surf trying very had to get some fresh shells when we came across a shell net that someone had abandoned in the sand. this is a very cool device that allows you to scoop shells out of the surf and sort through for the keepers.

I still had fun swimming and snorkeling in the waters off the beach. I continue to be amazed at the shallow waters on the gulf coast. The sandy shelf usually continues out hundreds of feet off the beach. Underwater there is nothing to see really, as there are no rocky bottoms- only smooth sand and the occasional shell. I have great hopes for the keys- I want clear water, reefs, and fishes!

I did manage to get a first class sunburn on my shoulders and back- I'll be out of the sun for the next several days. I have the sun block- I just forgot to get Joan to put in on my back- everything else that I protected with sunscreen came out okay.

Even Joan got into the water- this is a first for this trip- and she had a great time scooping nets full of shells and sorting through them.

Yesterday and today (Fri and Sat the 2nd-23rd) We did some exploring by car, and went to Walmart to get our prescriptions filled. Something always goes sideways during this process. I am grateful that we have the ability to get our prescriptions filled no matter where we are in the country, and that they will bill our insurer- (a tiny Oregon only insurer). Having said that, I have to wonder how come the order always gets screwed up- it's all on the computer- come on- really? Our trip to Walmart took us through old downtown Fort Myers.

The Fort Myers area has been a popular winter destination since the 1880's and even attracted the likes of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, who both had vacation homes here backing up on the Caloosahatchee river.

As I mentioned earlier, this particular RV park is the tightest we've been in, and I promised pictures.

Everyone is very friendly and very considerate and we are having a good time- regardless of the close quarters.

We have wanted to get some spare keys made for the motorhome for some time now, and it turns out that it is more difficult than it would seem. Today we looked up the local Camping World to see if they carry the special blanks that we need for the entry door keys. We made a pact that we would not go hog wild and buy anything else but light bulbs and keys. When we got to the store, they did not have the key blanks, but they could direct us to a locksmith in Fort Myers that could make the keys. As luck would have it-the shop was open today (Saturday), and had the proper key blanks to make the keys! The second item was replacement bulbs for the directional reading lights that operate on 12 volts and take a 12 volt mini-flood. We needed 2 that had burned out, and I wanted to replace them with LED style lights if possible. Unfortunately the LED replacement bulb was $17 against the $3 cost of the OEM incandescent mini-flood. Joan remembered that we had received a coupon for $10 off our next purchase at Camping World. Joan went out to the car and got the iPad, opened our mail from Good Sam and showed it to the cashier. Score! We got one LED bulb for $7. Gotta love the technology.

Jeff and Joan

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fort Myers, FL (part one)

We are here in Fort Myers, Florida for the next 8 days and this will be quite an adjustment for us. The park we are in is tight quarters, but that's actually not too bad, the adjustment here is the crush of people.
Today started off sunny and warm, so we were excited to get out and do some preliminary work scoping out the beaches in the area. Job one was to get snorkeling equipment for us, but I was hoping to get it on the cheap if I could. I was set to go to pawn shop or Goodwill, but as luck would have it- the Outlet Mall fell under our sights first. Buy one, get one free was all I needed to hear.

We jumped in the car and headed for the causeway to Sanibel Island where I had the info on seven public beaches. What I did not research, was that the bridge to Sanibel was a toll bridge. It was close to noon and we thought better of spending the $6 to get to the island and not be ready to spend a whole day- besides Fort Myers Beach doesn't have a toll bridge to get to it- so we felt we should investigate those beaches on our half-day.

After a quick lunch at home, we set out for Ft. Myers Beach, about 3 miles down San Carlos Blvd. We figured we'd be getting wet in about 15 minutes. Uh-uh. Grid lock traffic with EVERYONE going to the beach. The 3 miles took us 45 minutes of torturous stop-and-go traffic. When we got to Estero Boulevard that runs along the waterfront it too was near gridlock- so we headed south to see if the crowd would thin out some and give us an opportunity to park and hit the beach. The island of Fort Myers Beach is 7 miles long, so we headed for the half way point and found a public beach where we actually found an empty parking space. Then we saw the parking meter. One look at the rate schedule told us why the space was vacant. $2/ hour (that's 8 quarters) We were not prepared with change and even though there was no limit on the time you could buy- we could only dig up enough coinage for 50 minutes- what the heck. We dashed for the beach, set up our chairs, and I headed for the water.

My new gear worked well, but the water clarity was very disappointing. I swam and snorkeled for 40 minutes.

Very soon our time was up and we had to pack up and leave before we got a parking ticket.
The whole 7 miles of beach is completely built-up from one end of the island to the other. The city has done well with frequent opportunities for public access, but the parking is another matter. The city offers only about 10 metered spaces for each access point. All other parking is either paid lot or metered.
We decided to continue on south down Estero Blvd. and leave the island on the south end to avoid the traffic we had encountered on our way in from the north. In the end it was no quicker, maybe even slower. We stopped one more time to check out the beach near Lovers Key and got back to the RV around 5 PM.

As the sun set the temperature moderated a little but was still warm and pleasant as the evening surrendered to darkness.

Our quest for tomorrow- we must find a beach with clear water and no meters!

Jeff and Joan

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Changes in Latitude

Odometer 29078 miles

Trip meter 230 miles

Fort Myers Beach, Florida
Our trip today was to get on Interstate 75 and glance off the eastern edge of Tampa/ St Pete about 80 miles south of Homosassa Springs, and continue another 149 miles south to Fort Myers Beach.

We left Homosassa Springs at 9:30 AM- not a bad start for us time-wise, but it was down hill from there. Right away I came to a 3 way junction in the road and took the wrong turn- or more accurately, I didn't turn at all. In my defense who would think the road you are on- the one you want to stay on- is the one that make a right angle turn- and some completely different road continues on straight ahead? So- okay I may have been a little hard to convince that I had indeed gone the wrong way- but once Joan did convince me, we got turned around and went back.
Once we got out to State Route 98 and headed south, we missed our turn onto Hwy 700/ 98 to Brooksville, which continues east to Interstate 75. We did not want to take Route 589 the Suncoast Parkway, because it is a toll road, and even though the GPS was telling us to turn, Joan and I saw the toll sign and kept going straight. Well we later found out that to stay on route 98 you have to turn because if you continue on straight the highway changes to State Route 19. You starting to see the pattern that we weren't grasping here? Well no big deal we thought, we'll continued down 19 and cut back over to the Interstate on State hwy 50. Surprise! Route 50 is under construction- miles and miles of it.
We did eventually get to Interstate 75 and got headed South towards Tampa/ St. Petersburg. As we neared Tampa the traffic got more dense, and by the time we were 20 miles out from Tampa, we were in the middle of 3 lanes of solid traffic. Any one who has read this blog knows that I do not like Interstates, and we would not be on one today if we did not have reservations in Ft.Myers Beach for tonight. We could have taken our time and gone down the coastline. Poor planning on our part, mostly because of all the cold weather we have been running into here in northern Florida. We were ready to be in warmer climes and got ourselves in a hurry to get there. We decided to skip on down to Ft. Myers Beach and then hop out to the Florida Keys- surely it has to be warm and tropical there- doesn't it?

While calling for reservations in the Keys we learned that RV space rents go down starting in March. If we were willing to change our itinerary and stay in Ft Myers Beach area for 10 days we could get a substantial discount on our space rent in the Keys. The economics made sense to us. Our stay in the Keys is going to cost us big time- about 4 times as much as the mainland- so any discount is welcome. Fort Myers Beach is the access to Sanibel and Captiva Islands and there is a lot to do here, We were happy to find an RV space that was available and some-what affordable there.

So much for the sidebar- back to our road trip.
I was in full whine about the curse of Interstate driving. As the driver of a big rig like ours, when you are going 65-70 mph in three to four lanes of traffic, you have precious little time to look around, and it's like playing a video game to try to keep the other drivers sorted out, and your coachwork from intruding on someone else's lane. Add a side wind like we had today and it makes you tense and irritable.
Luckily I have Joan sitting next to me with the map, or more likely the iPad open to a moving map, guiding me on what lane to be in and where to take an exit.

By noon we were just clearing the traffic associated with Tampa, so we decided to exit at Ruskin, Florida, Where we stopped in a mall parking lot to make some sandwiches for lunch, and to stretch our legs.
Back on I-75 for an additional 149 miles. The sun was shining and the temperature outside climbed to 78 degrees- warm enough to call for a touch of air conditioning! The farther we got from Tampa, the better the traffic situation- life is good. We settled into a steady 65 mph and cruised into Fort Myers Beach, arriving at around 3 PM. Joan navigated me through some city traffic and with some help from our GPS- ended up at the front door of Fort Myers Beach RV Resort. Swimming pools and movie stars! Well a swimming pool anyway.

Even though we look at the websites for each prospective RV park we choose- it's not always an accurate indication of what your going to experience. We admit it, we were a little concerned about finding a place here that could take us on short notice and had a spot for 10 days- which is how long we plan to stay. With a 10 day stay, however, it's important to get a good situation, that you can be comfortable in. I said all that, to say this, we are in the tightest spot we have ever been assigned in a park setting. The woman that checked us in and assigned the space, warned us that we would not be able to get around the park with the car in tow- and she was not kidding! I still have trouble believing we made it into this space, and I have no idea how I'll get back out!

I'll take some pictures tomorrow and see if I can better explain with a photo or two. We did get situated and spent about 45 minutes getting set up, connecting the utilities, putting out the awnings, putting the sun shades over the front windows (a first for this trip- haven't needed them till now). The temperature was in the high 70s and I worked up a sweat, before I got smart and traded my cool weather clothes for shorts and a T-shirt. We got out our comfortable chairs and kicked back with a cold drink and some Cheez-Its while we were getting used to our surroundings.
As the sun was setting we had a quick dinner and then went walking to check out the rest of the park.

Tomorrow we plan to to pack a lunch and head for Sanibel Island, splash in the ocean and hunt a few exotic shells.

Oh!, by the way. I just looked this up-

The latitude of Medford, Oregon is: 42 degrees, 32 minutes north
The latitude of Fort Myers Beach where we are is 26 degrees, 44 minutes north
The equator is of course 0, and the poles are 90 degrees.
A degree of Latitude is approximately 69 miles on the surface of the earth. That would mean that we are now 1,085 miles south of Medford.
We only had to drive 4,659 miles to get here!

Jeff and Joan

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Florida Big Bend

Odometer 28612

Trip 119 miles

Grayton to St. George Island

We really hated to leave Grayton Beach, so soon, but the weather is turning cool again and we are freezing our tookus off when we go to the beach.

The beach is BEAUTIFUL!, but the wind cuts like a knife and we end up bundled up in wooly pullovers with a windbreaker over the top. The water is warm by our standards but the thought of getting back out -wet- on this 57 degree day with 10 - 12 mph breeze blowing- not happening.
We stayed two nights at Grayton then raised the stabilizing jacks, pulled in the slides, and headed 119 miles south and east along the Florida coast to St George Island State Park. We were obliged to cross Apalachicola bay west to east, and then turned 90 degrees and re-crossed north to south to get onto St. George Island, where the State Park is. As we descended the bridge from the mainland onto ST.George Island, we were greeted by a small town, and this wonderful lighthouse

The park was nearly full and we could only get one night, but we arrived early enough to get set up and go to the beach for some shell hunting.

The hunting was good as you can see by our selection here. We love that the clam shells are so colorful here, with orange, brown, and yellow hues all intermixed. Our next door neighbors, Larry and Mimi showed us their collection, (several hundred pounds by Larry's estimation- tee- hee ;->)which got us energized and optimistic as we headed for the beach. We returned to the RV at dusk, and we felt like Popsicles, the sun just could not warm the driving wind, and having your hands wet from the surf was chilling to say the least.
Time to head towards the tropics
We are also calculating what time we have left until college spring break descends on Florida. We'd like to be out of the major tourist areas before the students arrive. We really can't see how this will work out because it's spring break somewhere throughout the whole month of March. Some schools are early March, some later- no matter what, we are going to be impacted. Our best bet is to have reservations and stay on a schedule- something we have not been very good at.

The result of all these concerns is that we decided to skip over some areas that we'd love to come back to on another trip in the future.

Odometer 28849

Trip 237 miles

Homosassa Springs

I know if you are not a local our sub-title here is a phonetically challenging, but after you have been exposed a little bit, the names get easier and more appreciated. We have traveled around the panhandle of Florida and are now about 1/3 of the way down the west coast. We have passed over or through places with names like Choctawatchee Bay, Apalachicola, Ochlockonee Bay, Sopchoppy Highway, mixed in with names like Perry, Cross City, Eugene and Salem! It' really fun!
We stretched our comfort zone and charted a route clear down to the Crystal Springs area north of Tampa, a trip of about 240 miles. We knew it would take longer, but we really wanted to follow the coast as much as we could on the way south.

I know, it sounds like I'm whining, but listen, the speed limits on many of these smaller roads goes from 55 mph to 35 and down to 25. Our average speed was around 40 miles an hour stretching out our travel day to 6 hours not counting a stop for lunch in Panacea. We arrived in Homosassa River RV park at about quarter to five, just before the office closes for the day.

We had made a reservation for four days here because we wanted a chance to see the manatees that frequent the warm springs in the area, and we also were able to get 1/2 the normal rental rate with our Passport America membership -Yeah! It all helps. We also have to weigh our travel expenses against out lodging expenses. It's a whole lot cheaper to stay in a park than travel down the road. Yesterday's fuel cost us $122 and 4 days at the park will cost us $67. It's easy to see that if we traveled this far every day of the month it would cost us $3600 dollars a month, just for the fuel. Sorry, didn't mean to drag you into an economics lesson here- suffice to say we have to balance our travel out to stay within our means. We have to bank some travel up to be able to swing the long trip out to Key West (130 miles each way from Homestead)
The RV park is built around a channel off of the Homosassa River. The river itself is the result of several large springs that bubble up millions of gallons of water from the porous limestone below the surface.

Unfortunately the stagnant nature of this small finger means the water is rather dark as opposed to the crystal clear waters in the fast moving river itself.
Oh! did I mention that the spring waters are a constant 72 degrees!
One of the major benefits of this particular RV park (other than the very reasonable rates) is that they are located less than a mile from the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, which is a small zoo of local animals including, foxes, wolves, bears, Key deer, flamingos, 4 or 5 different Owls, Roseate spoonbills, raptors, eagles, and of course- Manatees!

The park is designed around an active spring feeding the river, and a viewing structure is built into the spring to allow visitors to go below the water to see the marine life in the spring.
Today we did not even have to go below the surface to see several manatees inches below the surface of the warm river water

Manatees are drawn to this spot by the warm water. In fact, manatees cannot tolerate water temperatures below 68 degrees for any long period of time. As the Gulf waters cool in the winter, the very survival of the manatee depends on these warm springs. The typical adult manatee is 10 feet long and weighs over 1000 pounds.
We also saw many species of birds in the park. Flamingos are very rare, so we were glad to get to see these birds up close.

We got our first good look at real alligators here in the wildlife park. I swear, we thought these were painted plaster replicas of gators, until one moved!

Crocodiles are not native to the US- so if you see one of these reptiles in the wild, it's and alligator. We learned that gators are not active in the winter months, and will not eat from November to March. As the weather and the waters warm up they will become active again. They are mostly a nocturnal feeder, and will generally look for prey that they can eat whole, as they do not have chewing molars.

Jeff and Joan

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Odometer 28493

Trip meter 103 miles

The weather held off for us and we were able to pack up from our four days at Gulf Shores State Park, Alabama and hit the road for Destin, Florida. This is a short trip of about 100 miles due east. Our trip would take us up State Highway 292 along the Gulf and into the edge of Pensacola, where we would take State route 98 over a long, long bridge over Pensacola bay and down to the southeast side of Pensacola Bay , where we were set to continue due east to the town of Fort Walton Beach. At Fort Walton Beach we crossed over a short bridge to Okaloosa Island where route 98 continues east to Destin, FL, back on the main land. The next 15 miles on Hwy 98 were grueling, stop and go grid lock traffic as we moved through a shoppers haven of big box and chain stores. Finally we got our chance to break off from 98 and take County Highway 30A to Grayton Beach State Park.
When we got to the park we were greeted with a sign that said the park was full. We decided to ask before we just drove away- and sure enough, there was a spot for one night- which we grabbed. We quickly set up the RV and got ready to go to one of the best beaches in the US. The weather was iffy- it actually started to rain as we got in the car to drive down to the beach- but we could not be discouraged. When we got to the beach a few minutes later, the rain had stopped and the temperature was around 67 degrees. We bounded down the boardwalk to the beach and discovered that the red flag was up for hazardous conditions.

Not deterred, I had to get wet. I checked out the temperature by wading in up to my knees and it felt cool, but not cold.

After wading in the surf I decided I had to get in
This is a huge part of what I was hoping for in this trip! Water warm enough to swim in and clear and appealing enough to make it fun! Can't wait to get a mask and snorkel and do this again.
If we cannot get a space in this park for another day or two, we are prepared to move on to the St. Joe Peninsula about 2 hours south and east of here. Looks like we may have to start making reservations as the parks get busier, something we really don't like to do. We value our ability to come and go as the mood strikes us.

Jeff and Joan

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gulf Waters

Odometer- getting rusty
Trip meter- 0

We had a little scare yesterday with a weather report that put us on the edge of a predicted severe weather storm. By 3PM the report added a tornado watch for several counties, including ours! Our good fortune was someone else's bad fortune, the predicted tornado hit Hattiesburg, Mississippi north and west of here. The destruction was horrific- I hope never to witness it myself. The forecast was for wind and rain through the night and rain continuing today.
Much to our surprise, the weather started out with low fog, which was starting to lift after 9 in the morning- so Joan and I decided to put on a windbreaker and head for Orange Beach just a few miles up the road from our park. The closer we got to the beach- the more sun we were seeing.

Soon we had our jackets and shoes off and our pants rolled up- the water was warm, and we had a great time wading up and down the beach.
The whole beach front, out side of the state park is covered with mid, and high rise condominiums, and apartments, and this not being the "prime" season there were only a few of us to enjoy miles of beach.

I love the way the dune covered with sea oats sets off the clouds and blue waters of the gulf. This scene is like the pictures I've seen of the tropics- the ones that have me excitedly exploring this area.

By lunch time Joan and I decided to head back to the RV for some lunch and come back to the beach with shorts, towels and chairs.
On our way back to the park, we passed a restaurant on the beach made with used shipping containers- an idea Joan and I have had for our home. We loved the way it was put together and the way they used woodwork to soften the harsh angular look.

Sadly, by the time we had lunch, the clouds rolled in and the predicted rains began to fall. What was such a glorious morning of sun and 75 degrees soon dissolved into cloudy and 61 degrees with intermittent rain and cool breezes. We had to content ourselves with working on our taxes and taking a short walk around the park between showers. Well- it's better than shoveling snow!

Jeff and Joan

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Grandnephew is born!

Odometer 28,390 miles

Trip meter 0 miles


We got a text last night that my niece Karon and her husband Todd had their baby at at 3:30 PM in Salem! Tayvin Springstead, 7 lbs 8oz- we are delighted, and very happy for Todd and Karon!
Here is the only photo we have so far, mom and daughter, Kylie, and newborn son, Tayvin.

Gulf Shores and Fairhope

Today was to be our day at the beach, however a chilly breeze kept the temperature from getting into the comfort zone for us, so we decided to take a drive to Fairhope this morning, and see about the beach this afternoon. Fairhope located on the east side of Mobile Bay, is a charming, eclectic, and artistic town with many beautiful houses and boutique shops. Joan and I would liken Fairhope to Ashland, Oregon or Carmel, California.
Although the weather was too chilly to sit on the beach today, it has been good enough overall to coax the flowers into full bloom.
One of the few places we could find near Fairhope to see out onto Mobile Bay was to sneak down into the yacht club.
As we stretched and took in the views of Mobile Bay we watched some boaters expertly tack their way out of the harbor under sail.
I love to stop and read the informational signs at the historical markers along the roadside. This historical marker, surprised both of us.
Who knew that this lonely spot on County Road 98, on the east edge of Mobile Bay, is the highest point on the coastline between Maine and Mexico!

I continue to be amazed at what a traveler can discover about each new place. Not an earth shaking thing every time, but interesting none the less.

The state park we are staying in this week is situated on 6,150 acres, and includes two lakes and two miles of sugar white sandy coastline.
We scored an RV space right along the water.

This is actually a boat channel between the two largest lakes in the park. Haven't seen an alligator yet- but we understand that they are around.
The park system has a very nice dock on the lake where you can rent space for your boat, or rent one of their canoes.
It's a short walk through our part of the RV park and across Perditio Beach Boulevard to the beaches on the Gulf waters.
There are boardwalks through the dunes so the users will not destroy the fledgling sea oats getting established in the dunes. The sand is almost as white as the sand we saw at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.
The surf feels warm and the waters are more blue than we've seen so far.
If the cool breezes would turn warm, I might be persuaded to wade out in the surf!
There are not a lot of shells that wash up on this beach- we've been advised that the early birds get most of the unbroken ones. These pieces of shell caught my eye because of the striking colors, and they look kinda like bird wings to me. Right mom?

Jeff and Joan

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Odometer 28390

Trip meter 150 miles

Today was the day we planned to leave Mississippi and head for Gulf Shores, Alabama, a trip of about 150 miles. That's about the perfect distance for us in a one day trip- let me explain.
In our blog post yesterday I related as to how it started to rain as I packed up the bikes.... Well it rained some more, and then it really rained- all night long. But, and this is the good part, I couldn't believe my eyes this morning as I awoke to brilliant sunshine leaking around my closed blinds! Yep, not a cloud in the sky.
But I digress, back to my explanation about why 150 miles is the perfect distance- Since we had all that rain, I decided that before breakfast I would squeegee off the rain drops on the car and bus. I figure win-win, off with the accumulated dust and no water spots. Only takes a minute- right? Then breakfast, fill the freshwater tank, unhook the utilities, flush out the black tank, clean the windshield, check the tire pressure and check the oil, pull forward and hook up the towed car, etc, etc. Well we were off to a good start, then we got to South Beach Boulevard and found out the rain water was streaming sandy/muddy water off into the roadway. So much for the squeegee job.
Next task- fuel the beast. We scoped out the lower priced stations on our way in last night so we headed up to Waveland Avenue to State Route 90 for fuel. Well- guess what- road work on Waveland Avenue, and the street department has put delineators up the center of the road- well near the center. Our side of the road is about 9 feet wide now. I can just make it without falling off the edge of the road if I miss the delineator and run over it's rubber base. No shoulder, of course, and this goes on for miles- I'm not enjoying this.
Out on route 90 and into the fuel station. Again we block the road with our toad, while we run the credit card through the pump 3 times to fill at $75 increments. I start to hatch and idea for a fuel station catering to RVers. A few of the truck stops SAY they want RVs, but it ain't true. We got our fuel for $3.75 on our credit card today at Murphy, the truck stops we passed today were showing prices of $4 dollars for cash, $4.07 credit, and they still won't let you pull into the truck lanes- they send you to the car plaza.
Sooo.. Now it's close to noon, and we are on our way!
With only a stop for salads at our favorite ( okay- Jeff's favorite) fast food place, we did this:
Drove down Interstate 10 east towards Mobile. Crossed some serious lake/estuarine bodies.

Drove through Mobile, and across the causeway at the top of Mobile Bay. Took State Route 59 down to Gulf Shores. On that- Route 59 is one long town meets town, stop and go, traffic light to traffic light drive that takes a long time to negotiate.

However, we arrived at Gulf Shores State Park and got one of the last 4 spaces they had left- and that was only for tonight- waiting list for tomorrow if we want to stay on. Interesting, and not totally un-expected, but consider we were one of 3 visitors camped in our part of Buccaneer State Park in Waveland- lots and lots of open spaces. Everyone is here, we guess.

Alls well that ends well- eh?

Jeff and Joan

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pascagoula Builds Ships!

Odometer 28240

Trip meter 0

Pascagoula is the far eastern edge of the Mississippi coast, and it was my plan to visit each of the coastal cities before we move on, so this morning we headed out to see the coast from Ocean Springs to Pascagoula. We are staying at Waveland on the Louisiana (west) side of Mississippi so Pascagoula is a 55 mile drive. Of course we never go straight anywhere! We meandered up the coastline and stopped in Biloxi For lunch at Shaggy's Beach Grill. I wanted some Gulf shrimp, and Joan wanted anything else.

After a fabulous lunch we set out for some coffee at Starbucks, and coffee in hand, we set off on a walking tour of historic Biloxi homes and buildings. The map was provided by the welcome center and the tour took about an hour. The first stop was the Katrina memorial which is a stone monument with the names of the victims inscribed on it. It was also a graphic representation of how high the water rose- the top of the monument.

We showed a mural in our last blog post about the Biloxi Bridge, and we were pleased to see a similar one here at the site where the Library used to stand.

The library is long gone, but this mural survived. It was a community collaboration put together in 1999 for the Biloxi Tricentennial.
There were many fine buildings on the walking tour, too many to show here. The Redding House shown below had to be our favorite.

The Redding house was built in 1908 for Charles Redding a prominent Biloxi business man.

Last time we were in Biloxi, we drove right by this lighthouse, and I wondered how the hell could there be a real litehouse in between the lanes of State Highway 90- but it turns out that it is real and has withstood every storm since it was erected in 1848. This lighthouse is 48 feet from the base to the lantern room and made entirely of cast iron over a brick interior.

After lunch and our walking tour, we drove east on state hwy 90 to Gautier, and Pascagoula

We found out that Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, established in 1938, is a leading shipbuilder for the US Navy, employing over 10,000 workers, they are the largest private employer in Mississippi. HII has built many US Navy submarines and ships, Oil Drilling Rigs, and even cruise ships.

The security was tight enough that they wouldn't let us run around with our camera- so you'll have to be happy with this long distance snap.

In case you were wondering how the city got it's name- we Googled it, and it comes from the native American word meaning "bread eaters".
After a driving tour of Pascagoula, we zoomed back to Waveland and our home, via Interstate 10, arriving at 6PM, giving me just a few minutes to pack up the bicycles and get ready for travel before dark arrived, and with it, the rain. The rain is expected on and off all night and into mid morning tomorrow.

Since we have traveled the Mississippi coast extensively in the car, we will break with tradition and travel the freeway to Alabama tomorrow, then jump off the freeway to take state hwy 59 to Gulf Shores for the night.

Jeff and Joan