Posted in Adventures, Fun Events, Girl Thoughts!, Road Trip

The Best Kind

So when a friend agrees to go on an extended weekend road trip…

What happens?

Giggles erupt

Calories forgotten

Bonds formed

Snores ignored

Flowers admired

Driver distracted

Navigator redirects

Coffee consumed

Trails walked

Dessert hunted

Stores browsed

Memories made

History explored

Headlines only

Knowledge gained

Friends lifted

God shines

Thank you, Sally, for being and staying so positive …..with love

Posted in Adventures, Fun Events, Maine, Road Trip

Oh, What a Beautiful Maine Day!

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From Brooksville to Isle Au Haut

What stood out the most on my trip to Maine?  To be honest that’s a very hard question to answer.  There were so many times I stopped along the way and simply stood in awe at the view before me.

One of my favorite days started on the second day I was staying at the Oakland House Cottages by the Sea.  They had cabins spread out and an old family hotel, but I stayed in the Acorn hostel.  I shared a kitchen, bathroom, and sitting room with several other people because there were six bedrooms in the two-story home.The mattress was pretty worn, but the price and the view more than made up for the uncomfortable bed.

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Acorn Hostel in Oakland by the Sea Cottages

It’s a beautiful place, a bit past its prime, but still charming.  Sitting on the water between Penobscot Bay and Deer Isle, it has a lovely view and the flower gardens were spectacular!

I started the morning watching a three-masted schooner pass by on an early morning walk.  That in itself thrilled me!

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My early morning ship!

 

I headed out to Stonington to catch the mail boat to the Isle au Haut.  In Stonington, I parked at a church and inquired in a nearby office how to find the mail boat.  She hurried me along because it was 10:15 and it was scheduled for 10:30.  Down the hill I flew, not wanting to miss the boat!  (Insert giggle)!

I found the ferry, however, they were only running one boat and it wouldn’t go out until 2:30.  I didn’t have a decent breakfast, so waiting wasn’t a problem.  I thought I’d find food and preferably blueberry pie.  I asked the ferry cashier about the town and she said, “We don’t have many shops.”  She did point me in the direction of a cafe.

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Ferry Tickets!

Stonington is on a hill.  A person is either walking up hill from the pier or walking down hill to it.  So off I started walking back up the hill and I had the most pleasant surprise.

Stonington is beautiful with the abundance of its colorful cottages and flowers.   They had plenty of shops to see and prowl through.  I guess the ferry cashier had lived there long enough to be immune to all the quaintness of her town.  There were cafes, a coffee shop, bookstores, and a few stores selling souvenir, art,  and boat items.  No, none were large stores, but all were interesting.

After stopping at a ‘junk’ store where I purchased an old cream pitcher from England for a dollar and visited with a man who was untangling more rope than I’ve ever seen, I stopped at a cafe.

Being a table of one while everyone else is sitting with other people can make a person feel conspicuous and when traveling alone that is a drawback.  If a counter is available, I usually always sit at the counter.  However, this cafe didn’t have one, so I sat at a table in front of the window with a nice view of the street.

I can’t even describe how wonderful Maine blueberry pie is to you, but once I discovered it, I always had it first.  I loved it warmed up with vanilla ice cream.  This cafe had it sitting in the ‘pie box’ near the counter and I ordered it instead of an entrée.  My phone battery was dying, so I plugged it in near a booth near me and chatted with the man I had to disturb to get it in the plug.  I watched out the window, listened to the conversations around me, and smiled at the three woman at a table close by while I waited for my pie.

It wasn’t long before that scrumptious blueberry pie arrived.  It brought some ‘oohs’ from the ladies and we started visiting across tables.  Two of the three were teachers and the three were vacationing together and had ferried across from Swan Island to sight-see.  One of them noticed a picture hanging on the wall next to me.  She took a picture of me and it.  We visited while eating, which made my ‘oneness’ so much nicer.

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Life & Art

The three hours on Stonington passed quickly while I explored taking pictures of the cottages, boats, and people.  I stopped for coffee and the lobster men coming in with their shorts on and rubber boots made me smile.  I visited the quaint stores and made idle conversation with the workers.  Overall, I loved that fishing village!  It was exactly what I thought Maine towns would look and feel like.  A wee bit touristy, but mostly it felt like it was a working town.

I walked back to the ferry to buy my ticket about 2:00.  when I arrived the cashier apologized to me because although she could get me on the 2:30 boat to Isle au Haut, she couldn’t get me back until the last boat departed from there because the in-between mail boat would be full from passengers from Duck Island.

I couldn’t help but smile.  It was perfect!  I wouldn’t be rushed to hurry and explore that island and I could take my time.  She even gave me a discount for inconveniencing me.  I bought my ticket and waited to board the boat.

There were lots of packages that were loaded first and then the people.  I was at the end of the line, so the outside seats were full and the inside ones too.  I found a place to stand beside the packages inside, near the windshield, across from the ‘captain’ and his deck-hand.   It was perfect for asking questions about the island, lobstering, and simply listening to the banter.

After buying snacks, water, and a soda from the general store, I walked the road and then the path that led to the lighthouse on Isle au Haut which is called Robinson Point in Acadia National Park which is part of that island.

The lighthouse is automated and the lightkeeper’s home is now an Inn, but it’s one of the joys of the island to see.  I literally drew in a breath as I walked through the trees and the view opened up.

After checking out what I could see of the lighthouse, I wandered to the chairs that set around the lawn and enjoyed the view.

I had a diet coke and a snack from the island store, and so I sat soaking up the beauty before me.  The view was breathtaking!  I sat, watching the waves and the light glinting off the water.  Occasionally, I’d hear couples talking.  Someone was sitting in a chair reading a book, facing the ocean.  I thought how wonderful the weather was to experience it on this day, but I wondered what it was like when a storm blew in or winter covered the ground?  I bet it was still breathtaking in different ways.

Back toward the landing, an enterprising group of kids set up a table at the end of their driveway selling sea glass, shells, and homemade postcards.  I bought a few for a dollar and a half.  The small boy beamed when I picked out his painted postcard.  I visited the church and smiled at the postoffice.  The population of the island is less than a hundred people normally, so a tiny post office is all that’s needed.

While walking, I visited with a lobster man setting up his new lobster traps and a park ranger about the large whale bone that was on the porch of the ranger station.

Back on the boat, I visited with a park ranger and her dog coming off of her shift and a grad student who was creating a website about the various people who lived on the island.  I learned that the island school goes from K-8 grade and after that the students get to pick which high school they want to attend on the mainland.

What an idyllic life it seemed as the conversation flowed between the people as we ferried back on that small boat.

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The Mail boat at the landing of Isle au Haut

On the recommendation of the ranger and the captain, I stopped to eat at a Mexican restaurant called El Frijoles near where I was staying.  To be honest, the first time I passed it, I thought I’d made a mistake.  I wasn’t expecting to see a restaurant in back of a home.  I say the ‘first time’ because the traffic was so backed up, I had to turn around three times before I could find a place to park.

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Not like any Mexican Restaurant here at home

The restaurant was in a barn-like building behind a residential house.  They had lights strung in trees and picnic tables were sitting around the yard, so people could eat outside.  The building was full of people.  There was also a screened porch area with tables.  I arrived about an hour before closing time.

I made my way to the counter and placed my order for nachos with shredded chicken and then went outside and sat in a lawn chair waiting for my name to be called.  I watched kids and parents playing badminton and kids swinging on a swing set.  It had a park-like feel as people ate at picnic tables and kids played around the lawn.

As the traffic lightened, I made my way back inside and found a table near the door.  I listened as the workers called orders and chatted with one another and the people eating.  I was sitting alone when my name was called.  He said, “Becky from Texas, who has all the time in the world.”  That was funny because when he took my order and told me it might be awhile since they were packed, I had told him ‘No hurry, I’m on vacation from Texas and I have all the time in the world.’

I picked it up and smiled at him.  Soon, I was joined by a man who asked me.  “Where in Texas?”  I usually replied, ‘East Texas’ since practically no one knows where Longview is, or I’d say ‘Two hours east of Dallas and one hour west of Shreveport, Louisiana.’

What surprised me was this whispered question,  “What is the derogatory name for people from Louisiana?”  Now, I was stumped.  I told him the only one I knew and he said, “Nope, there’s another.”  I couldn’t think of one worse, so I smiled and shrugged my shoulders and he sat and joined me.

I had the pleasure of eating dinner with Bill, the Merchant Marine, who had never been married and had returned to Brooksville to take care of his mom.  He kept the conversation lively and fun.  I had no idea what a Merchant Marine was before visiting with him.  Before I knew it the owner who had called my name, came over and gave me a box for my left overs.  He said, “I’m not saying you have to go home, but you have to go from here.”  which totally cracked me up.  I packed my leftovers, we said goodbye and headed to our cars.

Back at my hostel, I chatted with the people in the sitting room; two woman from Cape Cod and the couple from New York City, before heading to my bed.  From beginning to end, my day felt like an adventure.  I crawled on top of that uncomfortable mattress, preparing myself for sleep, feeling so very wonderful about my day!

Acorn Hostel room
My Room
Posted in Adventures, Road Trip, Walking

Chebeague Island

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Chebeague Island near Portland, Maine

Chebeague Island, pronounced Shuh-beeg, has not one single touristy thing to do on the island.  There’s not bumper to bumper traffic.  In fact the cars that go down the road are few and when they pass, everyone waves.  Not a side to side wave, but a simple lift of the arm and back down.  Mary told me when she picked me up from the ferry, “You wave at everyone, whether you know them or not.  It’s how you can tell if the people are local or visitors.”  I waved at everyone.  Even the people passing from behind  wave as they pass.  It’s one of the sweet things I love about this island life and I had the privilege of spending three days here.

Coming over, I parked at the satellite parking in Cumberland and rode the bus to catch the ferry.  It surprised me the amount of items that were being carried onto the boat.  People carried groceries, lawn chairs, and plants from the bus onto the float for the ferry.  There were carts that they could use to transport their supplies.  Two dogs also, rode the bus and ferry with their owners.  I watched and listened to the islanders talk with one another while waiting for the ride over.  It seemed easy to pick out the visitors because we sat apart from the others on the ferry, smiling politely or reading a book.

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Good sandwiches here!

There was one lady and her daughter that seemed to have an awful amount of food, so I asked her if they were bringing food over for a restaurant.  She laughed, nodded at her daughter, and said, “I have three growing teenagers.”  Later in the week, I met her again with the daughter and a son at the small general store.  Height definitely runs in the family.  She was concerned that my stay might have been hampered by the rainy weather.

The hosts of my Airbnb was Mary and John.  Mary is a special education teacher, and has her hat in many volunteer activities from snatches of conversation I heard.  Her love of the island is so evident.  Their home has been in John’s family for generations and was beautifully taken care of and decorated.

She endeared herself to me.  She is a gracious hostess who has a quiet, dry quick wit.  She’s from Connecticut, so she doesn’t have the Maine accent where the ‘r’ sound like ‘ah.’ It’s so interesting hearing their accent that I could truly listen to Mainers speak for hours.

While touring the island in the car, she broke out her Maine accent and entertained me with tidbits about living on island.  I think she sounds a bit like Katherine Hepburn when she speaks ‘Mainah’ (Mainer).  Totally stole my heart!  The homes on the island are lovely and historic.

In her home, I felt like a friend rather than a paying guest.  When escorting me around town, she introduced me as ‘Becky, who is staying with us.’  I felt special in such a nice way.

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Mary & Me

On Saturday, I came across and Arts & Craft fair.  I watched a weaver working on a place mat that was so beautifully done. (I did pick up her card).  There were wooden bowls exquisitely made by David, a well-spoken Englishman who later I had the privilege of watching a soccer game with him and his lovely wife, Melanie. I listened as he visited with Mary about a birthday surprise gift.  From him, I bought a simple wooden ring.  Leaving on Monday, I ran into him again on the ferry and chatted with him on the bus.  He’s a retired professor and quite the gentleman.  He speaks German and French also.

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John’s small screen!

That evening there was a Jazz band playing at the church, so I attended that with Mary.  She shared a story of how the free concerts started.  A gentleman wanted to give his wife a present, so he organized a concert for her and from there it grew.  She pointed them out to me and I spoke to them during intermission.

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Jazz concert at the church Saturday night

So, what did I do on my days playing islander?  I walked and waved.  Exploring the small seashore that could be walked, admiring homes, taking pictures of lovely flowers, and picking up sea glass and shells.  Mostly, however, I simply took in my surroundings and soaked up the personalities that make up the small community.  You’ll have to ask me about my ‘author’ encounter that left me shaking my head because it’s humorous.

A group of Methodists were using Mary and John’s home also.  Breakfast time was one of conversation pinging around the kitchen.  Imagine nine people making breakfast and standing in a small kitchen as eggs, bacon, toast , and coffee come together.  Being befriended is so sweet.

There was laughter, a slight awkwardness, and conversation as we learned to navigate.  Mary didn’t claim the kitchen, but simply joined us, letting control of the kitchen be in the hand of her ‘guests,’ giving slight instructions about the stove or in my case, how to work the coffee carafe.  Sweet camaraderie.  I happen to walk in as they were having lunch one day and they invited me to eat with them.  Of course I did!

My room was absolutely gorgeous!  I had booked the small twin bed that was attached to the back stairs in the kitchen, but when Mary picked me up from the ferry, she said they ‘upgraded’ me.  I had a full size bed, a sitting room, and a balcony.  So much roomier than the one I booked.  It allowed the church people to be in connecting rooms, and I came out feeling pretty special.

Michelle, from Texas, arrived late one night and spent one day with us.  On that rainy Sunday, we explored Small Chebeague because when the tide is low, people can walk the sandbar from Great Chebeague to Little Chebeague.  No one lives there anymore, but before WWII, there were small cottages.  In its heyday, the ferries brought visitors to the Inns on that small island.  Mary fitted us in ‘wellies’ and we donned rain coats, and off we went.  It was so much fun to explore with someone.  We took turns taking silly pictures while fighting off misquotes in the rain.

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Off at low tide

After all the other guests left and I was alone with the family, friends came over.  We watched the soccer match, drank wine, and had chicken stew.  That night Mary gave me a couple of books to read, one about a ghost and the other about the neighbor, who gardens and does sculpture.  After reading the ghost story, I slept with the lights on because it was about a ghost in their house.

No, there wasn’t anything special to do on that small island, but because of the sweet personalities of the people, it is one of the fondest memories I have of my Maine trip.  Relationships are the ties that bind and make life special.

Posted in Adventures, Fun Events, Road Trip

My Next Road Trip…Maine

& Some Advice for Planning a Road Trip

I’ve started planning my road trip for the summer!  Excitement is in the anticipation of where I’m going and what I’ll do along the way.  Planning this trip is requiring more work than I’ve done on my previous trips.

This year, I’m driving up the coastline of Maine as far as ‘Downeast’ as I can go in the USA.  ‘Downeast’ is what the people in Maine call the eastward coast because ships would have to sail downwind in an easterly direction.  Pretty cool trivia!  I’ve been pouring over travel books and looking at websites trying not to miss something I should do or go see.

For the first time I’m using a website and app to help me plan my route.  In my past trips, I just relied on Google maps, road signs or Trip Advisor to point me to places to go.  Sometimes getting lost is the best way to find things to see.

I do Google to find state websites that have information about visiting different areas that I’ll be driving through.  One of my favorite sites to visit is Roadside America because it has offbeat tourist attractions.  This site has so many oddities to visit that it really should be checked out!  Think old Route 66 sites.

 

This year I’m using Roadtrippers to help plan my route.  In the past, I’ve used Googlemaps, but I like this site to plan my route.  It allows me to put sixty places I want to see along the way and puts them in a guide.

I can choose attractions, points of interest, restaurants, shopping, entertainment and a whole list of other categories.  It allows me to find scenic routes and I can change the route simply by dragging the blue line where I want it to go.  It’ll tell me hours of driving, give me a gas estimate based on my vehicle, and the number of miles of my trip.  Pretty awesome!  It’s free and if you’re interested, please check out the website and they have a mobile app too! It is Roadtrippers and of course they have a Facebook page.  I’ve made several route options and I’m still trying to decide which route to take, but I almost have it ironed out.

The next step of planning is to decide how many miles I want to drive in one day.  About seven hours is the maximum I want to spend driving.  After that my ‘bum’ is tired of sitting.  I often stop more than I expect and my time schedule gets off.

I have expectations on where I plan on stopping for the night, but on the way, so far I haven’t made any reservations for sleeping.  I’m not above asking people if they have relatives or friends along the way to spend the night at their house.  If you have anyone along my routes let me know.

Once I get to Maine, I do have reservations.  I’ve been using airbnb for accommodations instead of hotels.  One, they are much more reasonably priced.  Two, it’s with local families, so they can tell you much better about the area.  Three, it’s nice to have someone to visit with.  Four, they are usually cleaner than hotels.

It’s simple to find rooms, suites, or even entire houses.  Just create an account, put in where and when to be there and hit search and the rooms or houses in the area will pop up.  Click on a price and the description will pop out and if interested click and the host information will be shown.

 

Now you may think it would be scary to stay with strangers, but I haven’t had any negative experience.  Before booking a room look at the pictures, there are reviews of the host, so it’s easy to see if compatibility is an issue.

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A host review

They don’t instantly book because there’s a place to put why you’re wanting to visit that area.  After staying at an Airbnb room, the host also reviews the guest, so the potential hosts can see if the guest’s previous review and can accept them or not.  Here are two of my reviews from previous hosts.

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A few of my reviews as a guest

Payment is made on the website when booking, so there isn’t any money exchanged with the host family.  You’re simply welcomed into the house.  Some houses have keys while others have a box that a code is entered to get inside.  Both work fine.

I actually planned my stopping points around the cheapest (nice) places that I found on Airbnb.  I’m trying to keep my budget in mind, so I didn’t go for the tourist towns where rooming is more expensive.

Kennebunkport is the first place that I’ll explore in Maine and then Old Orchard Beach. I’m staying my first night in Hollis, Maine. It is a small rural home called Runaway Acres.

My splurge was to stay on a Chebeague Island (Close to Portland, ME) where nothing is happening.  Nothing, but downtime and relaxation.

Three days of bliss!  I’m ferrying over, so I’ll be on foot or bicycle if I can remember how to balance.  It is an actual B&B, so there will be other guests.

My next stop driving the coast is in Belfast and I’m only spending one night here.  It’s about a twenty-five minute drive from Camden.  I’m sure I didn’t give myself enough time to explore the area, but I won’t waste a minute.

Days six through eight is in Brooksville.  I picked this spot because the room was so reasonable.  It’s in a beautiful area and within driving range of Bar Harbor and Arcadia National Park.

The next journey across the coast of Maine is as far east as I can go without heading into Canada.  Originally, I was going to stop at Bar Harbor, but most likely, I won’t do this trip again.  So I thought add two days!  I’ll end at Eastport, Maine.  This is where I hope to do my whale watching trip.  This is the only home where a picture is not featured, so I’m going to have to be surprised.  They do however have four dogs, so I’ll get my petting fix in.  I’ll be exploring two days here.

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As far East as I’ll go

Then it’s time to turn around and drive back.  I’m planning on doing it in one day, so not too much stopping along the way…if I can control myself.  Thankfully, it is a small state.

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Driving backward along the coast

I’ll spend two days in Portland, Maine.  I’ll spend one day exploring the city and then I’m thinking about taking a day trip into Boston on the train.  The train rates are reasonable, about an two hour ride, and I’m sure that I’m never going to drive to Boston.

 

From here, I’ll drive to visit Cam in Brooklyn for about four days before heading home.  I’m looking forward to hugging my son!

Things still left to consider;  I’m still looking for someone to watch my pets while I’m gone.  I’ll be praying for safety on my trip and if you’ll say prayers for me, I’d appreciate it.

I’m super excited and can’t wait to write about my days!

Posted in camping, Fun Events, Road Trip

Beautiful Water Falls, But No Bears!

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Blue Ridge Mountains

The last leg of my road trip was Northern Georgia where the mountains show their beauty in varying shades of blue silhouettes against the sky.  The tops and hills covered by beautiful green trees.

I left Savannah later than I should and the drive to Amicalola Falls State Park took much longer than I had anticipated.  It should have only been a six hour drive and I should have arrived by 10:00 P.M., but I’m notorious for being distracted while driving and I did make a few stops.

It was about 11:45 P.M. when I arrived at the state park.  I had already decided that I wasn’t going to put up the tent that night, but as I pulled through the entrance and saw the sign that warned against ‘approaching bears’ my decision was solidified.  Now (Am-i-ca-lo-la) is on the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Chattahoochee National Forest, so upward I drove.  After I passed the entrance, I started to climb.  I wasn’t looking forward to driving down the steep road.  I have learned how to use my 3rd gear driving on mountain roads.

Curving up the mountain road, I saw a sign that announced the lodge.  I pulled in and parked at the door.  Midnight arrival, I was the only person in the lobby and smiled at the  receptionist.  I took a chance and ask if she had an empty room and the cost.  Although it was a beautiful lodge, I just couldn’t make myself pay $112 for a room.  I checked in for the state park and asked for directions.  Back in the car, I took the turn for the campsite.

More climbing…I passed the sign for ‘cottages’ and campsites.’  It was a small oval with RV’s and tents occupying about half of them.  I made the first round looking at my choices and hoped I wasn’t making too much noise.  At the second pass, I picked campsite #20 and pulled my car in, turned off the engine, reached back for my pillow and sleeping bag, and leaned my seat back as far as it would go.  I was snoozing in minutes.

I woke early and set up my campsite. I visited with the campers across from me who were packing up.  After putting up and taking down the tent, I was getting pretty efficient at doing it.

Later, I went to explore the treasure of this state park; The 720 feet Falls!  My two options were to park at the bottom and hike up or park at the top and hike down.  Either way was going to be a little strenuous.  I started at the top and the first thing I saw was a group of youth coming off the trail….sweating!

After viewing the falls from the top, I headed downward.  There were stairs leading down and at first I thought, “This will be easy going” despite what the sign at the top proclaimed.  I was so wrong!  The stairs were challenging the more you descended, not because they changed in degrees, just because there were 425 steps descending.

Spectacular!  The view was worth every step!  There’s a bridge that passes over the 729 feet tall cascading falls.  Standing in front of them is simply beautiful….and loud!  The water rushing down and hitting the stones simply reverberated around me.  I stood admiring the beauty because there wasn’t any need in rushing.  This is the reason for the long drive and the breathlessness of the hike down.  It was perfect for posing in front of for pictures and there were plenty of people taking advantage of God’s creation for a background.

 

 

This is the largest part of the cascades, but definitely not the end of the Falls.  There’s about 175 more steps down and then a trail that continues downward to the reflecting pond where people fish.  Luckily there are large rocks and a few benches for resting along the way.

I hiked past the pond to the Visitor Center, gift shop, and restroom. Sadly, I never saw a bear! . . . Or was that lucky?  I have no idea what I would have done if I had actually come across one.

IMG_4038I visited with one of the rangers in the Visitor Center and she showed me the beginning of the Appalachian Trail.  Wow!  I can’t imagine hiking 2,184 miles from Georgia to Maine.

That day, I did pass four separate hikers headed for the trail with their backpacks strapped on and two of them had those walking poles. All were in their early 20’s.  One of the girl hikers asked me to call her cell phone because she couldn’t remember if she packed it in her backpack.  It was there hidden underneath something.  She looked so relieved.

I journeyed back and the stairs were way more challenging going up than down.  I was passed by two fourteen year old girls moving like bullets.  Oh youth, young bodies, and boundless energy!  I kept pausing on the landings like I was enjoying the view, but in reality, I just needed to catch my breath.

I drove to the lodge and had lunch at their restaurant.  I saw a woman sitting by herself at a table by the floor to ceiling window view.  I asked to join her.  She was a widow visiting her daughter-in-law that worked at the visitor center.  We visited while eating delicious burgers with fries.  She shared a hilarious story about her son having a ‘bear connection’ while getting his tackle box ready for fishing.  She kept me laughing and it was nice to have company eating.

After lunch, I spent some time at my camp, but went back to the lodge to sit on the back porch.  It was a beautiful long one with rocking chairs and the most gorgeous view!  I sat and rocked, listening to conversations around me, while enjoying the Internet connection and the view of Springer Mountain.  It was cloudy as twilight crept over the mountain and turned the sky and mountains an indigo blue.  Wow!  I don’t think I could ever get bored with that sight.

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View from the back of the lodge

 

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My only bear encounter

I shared my disappointment of not seeing any bears with John behind the registration desk at the lodge.  He said, “Now Ms. Becky, I can guarantee you’ll see a bear if you get a couple of T-bones from the restaurant and carry them down on the trail.  You’ll have a few visiting you in no time and have a story to tell.”  We both got a laugh at that.

 

The next morning it was raining, and I took down my campsite for the last time on this road trip.  I had slept so great.  There was a wonderful cool breeze that blew into the tent actually making me go into the sleeping bag for the first time on my trip.

The campers next door, needed me to jump off their car battery because someone left the interior lights on.  For thanks, they made me a cup of coffee.  It was instant, but it hit the spot!  I suggested that they take advantage of the view and chairs at the lodge if it continued to rain.

Their youngest daughter (about 11) tickled me the day before because she was pacing back and forth in front of the restroom when I came out of it.  I stopped to talk to her and she told me she was working up her nerve to use the restroom because of the spiders in it.  I could relate because I hate those eight legged creatures too!   The night before, I found a grandaddy long legs on the front of my shirt!  I couldn’t flick it off fast enough.

Loaded up, I set off for my next stop at Tallulah Gorge State Park.  It was my last scheduled stop for this road trip.  My road trip was coming to a close and I hated to see it end.

Posted in Fun Events, Road Trip

Friendly, Welcoming, and Charming Savannah

Savannah …. the name simply whispers southern charm.  It was the main reason I wanted to visit Georgia.  It brings to mind Scarlett O’Hara and Forest Gump with all the history in between the ages.  Savannah and the area around it is picturesque with the Spanish moss hanging from large Oaks, flowering Crepe Myrtles, and Palm trees.

I didn’t realize how many historical events took place here during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War.  Many famous people involved with shaping our heritage lived here such as Juliette Gordon Low (founder of Girl Scouts) and John and Charles Wesley (founder of the Methodist Church).  It’s the oldest city in Georgia and with the age comes history.  Graceful old homes and churches rise like songs from the ground.  Here they are grouped closely together singing majestically like a choir .

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Author of Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells was written by a pastor of a church in Savannah.  I learned that by walking through one of their many park squares and reading a historical marker.

It is said that General Sherman didn’t burn Savannah to the ground when he ‘captured’ it during the Civil War because it was too beautiful to destroy, instead he gave it as a gift to President Lincoln.  Now, you would think that the Civil War was ancient history, but when talking to an 86-year-old gentlemen in one of the parks. Sherman was brought up.

Mr. Yllis, “So what are you doing in Savannah?”

Me, “Enjoying the town.  Just Passing through.”

Mr. Yllis, “Yeah, you and Sherman.”



I decided to go to Savannah, the first time, on a Sunday because I figured there would be less traffic on a weekend.  I set out for the historic district.  It was an easy drive and traffic wasn’t a problem at all.  I parked in a public parking place and set out on foot.  I was wearing my wedge heels that I wore to church.  At the time, I thought they were comfortable enough to walk in, but let me tell you….by the time I finished walking, they were murdering my feet.  I put 26,313 steps on my pedometer that day.

After parking, I just followed the crowd of people meandering through the streets.  I met a couple of ladies with a map and they gave it to me, since they were about to leave.  Maps are wonderful things!

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Downtown map

They also shared that the City Market is a place where a lot of action happens.  I checked on the price of the tours and decided $28 seemed a bit steep for an on and off tour trolley.  I bought one of their tour books and decided to simply walk the tour.

IMG_3943In one of those quaint parks, I heard a man singing; His voice welcoming and warm.  His name was James and he made flowers out of twisted palm stalks.  Now, he ‘gave’ me one because he said it matched my shirt.  Of course, he did want a donation, so I gave him a couple of dollars.  He said, “Girl, you’re a teacher aren’t you?”  I wondered if he could tell by my clothes because teachers do have a tendency to dress alike.  He asked about what I was doing and where I was from.  Then he said, “Girl, you’ll be back in two years. You can believe ole James because I know these things.”  I couldn’t help but smile.

Savannah is laid out beautifully.  Every few blocks there is one of those square parks with residential and businesses laid out around the square.  There are 22 squares in Savannah.  They are perfect for strolling through and stopping to talk and bring people together.  The traffic moves one way around them and stops for the pedestrians to walk across without any crossing signs telling them to do so.  In fact, the only time I was endanger of being run over was by two cars with Texas license plates.

I walked toward Bay Street and toward the river where the historic area begins.  At the stairs are signs that reads, “Historic stairs.  Use at your own risk.”  They do look like caution is needed in order not to fall down them.

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One of the squares

I walked, stopping to read every historical marker that I passed.  There are markers in front of buildings, parks, fountains, and houses.  Yes, I stopped often!  I browsed stores and went to Leopold’s Ice Cream to have one of my favorite pit stops on vacation….ICE CREAM!  There are also cobblestone streets going down and I took one of those.  The river front is full of activity with lots of restaurants, bars, stores, people milling around, and wonderful smelling candy stores making pralines.  They were delicious!

I didn’t make every historic street that day, but I left happy, tired, and ready to see more when I came back later in the week.




On Thursday, I had a room booked at a Historic Inn called 17Hundred90.  It’s a combination Inn and Restaurant in the historic district on President Street.

Between packing up my campsite from Skidaway Island and finding my hotel, I stopped by the boat ramp under the Diamond Causeway Bridge crossing onto Skidaway Island.  I had found the area one evening on the way ‘to my campsite home.’  This time it was full of people and activity!

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Faye, Me, & Wanda

I parked, took my chair out of the trunk, and saw two older ladies sitting near a tree close to shade.  I stopped by them and asked if I could join them.  Their names were Faye and Wanda and they were adorable.  Two friends for twenty plus years and they worked together too, driving school buses.  When they asked what I did and I said, “teacher” they both laughed and said, “We attract teachers!”

They offered me a cup of ice and some watermelon that they were pulling out of a Ziploc gallon bag with their fingers.  I took the cup of ice, but declined the watermelon.  One of them had her grandchild, Will, with her. He was about 13 and was swimming in the river.

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Crabbing field trip

We sat, talked, and watched the group of school kids ‘crabbing’ for blue crabs with chicken pieces for bait.  One of them remarked, “They’ll never find a crab in that shallow of water.”  However in the end, they did catch one.  We talked about boats & bridges, schools in Texas, & Georgia, crabs, and the river.  I spent about an hour there laughing and enjoying the sunshine with those two sweet ladies.

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My real room for the night!

I drove the short drive to Savannah and parked outside my Inn.  I was tickled to get to stay in a ‘guest house’ about a block and a half from the original inn.  My room was on the bottom floor, room 312, and it was like having a small flat to myself.  I had my own key to the house and one to the back red door that led to my own private patio. (My very own parking space too!)

I entered a hall in which there was a small parlor filled with antiques (with price tags) and my room.  It was very pretty.  Upstairs was another parlor filled with a more modern sofa, two Queen Anne chairs, a TV, and books about Savannah. This room had two long windows facing the front street.  It was neat watching the tour trolleys go past the windows and around the block.  A thunderstorm came while I was upstairs and I saw a man dressed in G. Washington type clothing make a run from the Presidential Inn across the street to his car.  It made me laugh seeing the difference in the clothing and the car.

I took a long shower (bliss) and dressed for dinner.  I had a free drink coupon for the bar in the restaurant.  I decided to take a short nap on the inviting bed.  I didn’t wake up until 11:39 P.M.  I was so mad at myself!  I changed into my pj’s, pulled back the covers, and went to bed.  I woke up about 5:30 A.M. and dressed and left the hotel to investigate the parts of the historic district that I hadn’t had time to explore.

I set off down the street towards Forsyth Park (I did eventually get there), but hadn’t gone very far when I passed this small restaurant called Clary’s that I had read about on Trip Advisor.  It opened at 7:00 A.M.  I thought it would be a great place to eat breakfast, so I wanted to stay in the general area until it opened.

At this time of morning, there were runners and people walking their dogs.  I stopped to pet one or two and then wandered into the next square and sat on the bench.  As I was sitting there, an older man approached and said, Spreek je Duits?”and I said, “Excuse me?” and he repeated it.  I thought it meant, “Do you speak Dutch?”, but it was actually Dutch saying, “Do you speak German?”  I said, “No.” and he laughed and said, “Neither do I.” which totally made me laugh.

That’s how I met Mr. Yllis (sounds like Ellis).  He was 86 and walking a brown and white Spaniel dog.  I reached out to pet him and could tell he was old and he was. (17 years old and had some cysts hanging on his side).  Yep, that’s when the conversation about Sherman (see the beginning) started.  He sat with me and we talked for a while after learning I was from Texas.

He moved on, but that wasn’t the last I was to see of Mr. Yllis.  By this time, Clary’s had opened and I went in to see what I could order under $10 because that’s all the cash I had with me.  I walked in and took a seat at the counter between two men.  Sitting at the counter is always better to visit with people.  One was chowing down on a ham slice and eggs and the other had pancakes.

I ordered coffee and a caramel nut sticky bun.  The waitress went to the fridge by the front window and said, “You’re lucky.  It’s the last one.”  She then unwrapped it, put it on a plate, microwaved it, pulled it out, and squirted caramel over the top and heated it a little more.  I took my first bite, sighed inwardly, and listened to the conversation between the waitress and the ham eater.  He was obviously a local that she knew well.  They talked about her son practicing for band and visiting grandparents for the summer.  I found a way to jump in the conversation.  (Love doing that)!

Before too long, I learned that he lived practically across the street and was an electrical engineer.  He loved his job and said they pay him to play with circuits and spend time doing what he enjoys the most.  (That made me smile.)

In a bit, I noticed Mr. Yllis come in (without dog) and sit at a table behind me.  We acknowledged each other and the waitress said, “I would have put out a table for you if you didn’t want to take your dog home.”  Obviously, he was a regular too.  He responded with a smile and a hand wave-like it was fine.

After the electrical engineer left, I got up to leave.  Mr. Yllis said, “I’ll buy you a cup of coffee if you want to sit with me.”  I said, “I already had coffee, but I’ll have another cup with you.”  The waitress came and filled up my cup and I sit down with him.  I asked him his name again and he said, “Oh you’ll never forget it if I tell you that it’s ‘silly’ spelt backwards”  Absolutely!  That’s how I remembered it!

He chatted about places I needed to see while in Savannah.  The bar that faced the river with half priced drinks and the Telfair Museum, where he volunteered.  (I would have liked to have seen the museum).  I listened, not telling him that I was leaving after lunch.  He obviously loved his city and knew its history.

He talked about the houses that were being renovated and ask me if I had seen the large house with the scaffolding around it.  I had.  He said that was costing a fortune to redo, but he’d love to see it when it was finished.  He mentioned his ‘female companion’ and said she was an architect.

We talked about the story of the man who killed his male lover and the Mercer House, which I hadn’t seen yet.  A movie had been made about it called Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.  We visited a bit more and I shook his hand and told him it was a pleasure having breakfast with him.

I went to pay and the waitress rang up my ticket.  I took my money out to pay and she stopped me and said, “Breakfast is on me today.” and tossed my ticket in the trash.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been so touched as to have someone do that for me.  She smiled.  I thanked her and asked for a picture.  She posed by the sign that said, ‘Clary’s.’  My spirit was so lifted by the conversation with Mr. Yllis and the kind gesture of that waitress.

I knew that I wanted to take advantage of that jacuzzi tub before I left my room at the inn, so I got a move on in my sightseeing.  I walked across the street and sat on a bench and looked at the map in the book that I borrowed from the hotel.  I wasn’t sitting there long, when a younger man walked by and said, “Wow, you really get around.”  He had been sitting at the table next to us.  He told me he sometimes worked in Savannah and tried to see one new thing every time he visited.  He asked if I could tell him about the Mercer House that we had been talking about in the restaurant.  He had actually seen the movie, unlike me.  We looked it up on the map and figured out where the street was based on where we were.  Actually, it was pretty close, so he thanked me and set off toward that direction.

I found Chippewa Square where Forest Gump sat on his bench telling his story.  A very friendly homeless man took my picture of me seating there. The bench has been moved to the Savannah museum. (‘Thanks to us tourists’, so says the homeless man.)

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Chippewa Square

Yes, I contributed to his lunch in the form of a couple of dollars.  He made a family that was visiting a little uncomfortable, but he seemed pretty harmless.

A smile and eye contact goes a long way in making a person feel friendly.  Even if I’m passing someone on the street and I feel a twinge of uncomfortableness, I smile and make eye contact.  Usually, they smile back.  It’s a connection.  People need to feel connected.  Maybe that’s why I don’t feel afraid traveling by myself.  I’m not being naive…I know some situations need to be avoided, but by the most part….it’s simply treating each other with kindness and walking with confidence.

I toured until 10:00 and then headed back because I had to check out by 11:00.  I planned on eating at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room and I knew they only served until 2:00 and there would be a line.  After checking out and re-parking my car, I headed toward the restaurant.  I had been looking forward to eating Southern food.  It was about a twelve-minute walk and I enjoyed all the elegant homes along the way.  I joined the line and visited with a few people.

I walked to the front of the line to get a drink of water (provided by the restaurant) when I noticed a sign on the door that said, “Checks or cash only.”  What?  I had cash, but it meant a walk back to the car, so I hiked back (went too far and had to circle back) and then walked back to the restaurant.  By this time, it was about 12:30.  I joined the line again and met more people whom I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with.

We waited in line for about an hour and then people were getting worried if we’d get in the restaurant before 2:00 when it closed and wondered if there was a cut off for the line.  There were still plenty of people waiting to eat.  I decided to go to the restroom and ask about the line.

A man stood at the register inside.  I asked if I could use the restroom.  Without batting an eye, he said, “It’ll cost you one dollar.”  My reaction was like …WHAT!  He laughed and said, “Just kidding!” and pointed the way.  On the way out, I stopped to ask if there was a cut off in line for service.  He said, “Are you in front of the lady in red or behind her?”  I had no idea because I didn’t notice a lady in red.  He must have seen my puzzled look because he said, “Just teasing!  We’re going to feed everyone.”  That made me feel so much better.  I laughed and went and told the others that there wasn’t a cut off and we were all going to get to eat!  Just like me, they were relieved.  We had been standing out there a long time.  Yes, by this time we knew where everyone around us was from and their names.

At Mrs. Wilkes, they sit at a table of ten and serve family style and it smelled delicious!  We got in there about 1:45.  The table was loaded with bowls of food.  We passed left to right and right to left and finally just said, “If you want something you didn’t get, just ask for it.”  We left stuffed.  Now, I was grateful that I had to walk twelve minutes to the car.  I passed Leopold’s and couldn’t even get excited about ice cream because I was so full!

So, it was about 3:30 when I left Savannah behind.  It was beautiful and I utterly enjoyed visiting and exploring.  Maybe I will visit again in a couple of years.  James, the flower maker, might be right.

Posted in camping, Fun Events, Road Trip

Exploring Coastal Georgia …. Sandy, Beautiful, and Historic

Coastal Georgia is amazingly gorgeous! There’s forts, lighthouses, inner coastal rivers, huge oaks with Spanish moss, and the sweetest people!

On Saturday, I started my island sightseeing ventures with the ‘Golden Isles.’ They are the Islands of Brunswick, St. Simmons, and Jekyll. There’s another called Small St. Simmons, but I didn’t make that one. The day was overcast and threatening rain. It was a little over an hour drive from Skidaway Island where I camped.

Brunswick was my first stop. It had a small historic main street, but nothing really caught my attention and I didn’t stop to explore it.  I did however, fall in love with the houses on Brunswick. (shocking!)

I parked the car in front of a house that was for sale and set out walking.  I walked around a few blocks and found a lady working in her well kept garden.  She had the cutest cat who promptly laid down and presented her stomach to me to pet. Some cats can be so sweet!
I complimented her on her gardens and ask about the trees. That’s where I learned about the ‘Resurrection Ferns’ growing on the limbs of the trees. They were small ferns that came out after a rain and after a few days without moisture, then they curl up and turn brown. The entire time I was around Savannah, they were green.

My next island was St. Simmons. It has a touristy feel and there was a lot to stop and do. Plenty of shopping and restaurants, historic sites, a pier, and a beach. Traffic was heavy and I had a hard time finding a place to park, but I found one and squeezed in.

There was a couple of different trolleys that took people around telling about the city. One was air conditioned and the other was open without windows. It decided to pour down rain while I was there, so I decided to take one with the air conditioning!  It was a 90 minute tour.  The driver, John, was very knowledgeable.

St. Simmons had a large slave population during that time in history. They were freed and received their 40 acres land grant and many generations have lived on that land. He explained to us that the color blue was representative of water for slaves. That’s why many African American churches have blue windows.

I really enjoyed hearing about the battles there during the American Revolution War. There was one called the Battle of the Bloody Marsh, in which, not of blood was actually shed, but it was a deciding factor in the outcome of the war.
Another place the tour took us was to The Sea Island Golf Course. It is on the land of a former plantation. They still have some of the trees that led up the single drive to the plantation and they let people go up the drive and take pictures. It’s called the Avenue of Oaks. (Can’t you just see horses and carriages coming down that opening of oaks!)

Sadly to make way for the airport on the road before it, they cut down over 200 of those trees. They have harvested acorns from the trees and replanted replacements on the golf course, so that when the old trees die, then the new ones will take their place.

The pier had people fishing on it even in the rain. A large ship passed the pier while going out into International waters. It was empty and sitting high out of the water. It was interesting watching it come under the bridge and then around. It had to have a pilot boat take it to international water.

St. Simmons also had a lighthouse and museum, but I didn’t go in that one. It was pretty, but it didn’t appear to be very tall and I knew there was another on Tybee Island to visit.

My last island that day was Jekyll and it had finally quit raining. It was my favorite of the three islands that I visited that day. It cost $6 to park on it and it was the least touristy. Now it did have a beautiful resort on the island. There were also neighborhoods on the inside of the road that looped around the island.

There were bike trails all around the island and on these trails were benches where people could stop and take in the scenery.  I saw many people biking on them.  These trails also had historical markers.

There was a house standing made out of “Tabby” which was oyster shells melted down and mixed with lime and sand. It was the color of a yellow cat. Makes me wonder if ‘Tabby cats’ were named after that mixture or the mixture after the cat. Many of the slave cabins were made from ‘tabby’ and some were still standing on St. Simmons when I took that tour. The one on Jekyll was a larger dwelling called Horton House, where a French family lived when it was privately owned.

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Horton House on Jekyll Island

One of the most impressive things on Jekyll Island was Driftwood Beach where the trees rested in all of their massive bare beauty. Some were still vertical and others were sleeping giants sprawled on the sand.  I, along with others, strolled through them, touching and admiring.  The other beaches were normal sand with people soaking up the sun or playing in the waves.

I wandered the beach, walking in the edge of the waves, sometimes splashing up to my knees, and smiled at the people I passed.  Lovely day!


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On Monday, I decided to visit Tybee Island.  I waited for a weekday because I figured it would be less busy.  I heard good things about this island, so I was excited to go.  I woke up to a sunny morning and set out. It was only about a 20 minute drive.  The first thing I did was to stop to eat an early lunch.

I had picked out The Crab Shack because of the reviews on Trip Advisor. It was one of those places where the tables were on a deck by the river. I picked a table near the rail of the river and ordered the lunch special of boiled shrimp and Shack Stew.  (I do love me some boiled shrimp)!  The amount of shrimp was a bit disappointing, but the food was good.  At least, I didn’t feel stuffed and the service was great.

My next stop was the lighthouse.  It wasn’t a disappointment!  According to the tour book, it is one of the best preserved lighthouses.  The houses that the Lighthouse officers and family lived in are still there. It took three men to keep it going, so there are three houses.

It’s a self-directed tour with a video and brochure to tell about the history.  The main house is decorated from the family that lived there in the 1930’s with most of their original furnishings and pictures.

The lighthouse itself is breathtaking.  It’s painted black and white.  The staircase is a black narrow spiral with 179 steps to the top.  It has six landings with a window lookout. Thankfully because it is a heart racing climb!  The view from the top is simply WOW!

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What a view!

There’s also six gun batteries and one has been turned into a museum of the island’s history from pirates to the present day. It once was once part of a fort, but Fort Screven closed after WW II.

After being all historical, I changed clothes and headed for the beach. Before choosing a section of beach, I drove through town, but decided to come back to the beach by the lighthouse.

Now, I don’t like swimming in the ocean, but I do love walking the water’s edge.  I took my bag and set out.  I walked for quite a ways and would sit down occasionally to enjoy the view.


It was low tide, so the beach was extended.  At one point I walked out to an tidal beach with birds sitting in large groups.  I didn’t want to be out there when the tide came in, so I didn’t stay too long out there.

At one point, I passed these two men with fishing poles stuck in PVC pipe on the beach.  I stopped and spent a few minutes talking about lazy fishing with them and moved on to sit on the beach again.

As I was sitting, the ‘Dolphin Cruise’ boat drove by and stopped.  It had spotted dolphins really close to the beach.  I could see the dolphins jumping and swimming around it and the people on the cruise laughing and talking about seeing the dolphins. In a bit, it moved along.


Not too long afterward, a shrimping boat came around the curve. It was a sight to behold with the nets on the side and all the birds flying along with it. Before it got too far, a second shrimp boat came behind it. More birds flying between them.  It looked like a parade.  I could see the names on the boat, and none of them was ‘Jenny.’ That would have been too amusing!

After a while, I turned back around and started walking the way I had come. I passed the two guys again.  I stopped to watch to see if they were catching anything and we introduced ourselves.  I told the one named Ernie, that if he caught something, then it would be the end to a perfect day for me.  I had seen dolphins, shrimp boats, picked up shells, and now all I needed to see was a large fish.
I sat with them and talked. Ernie pointed out houses on the beach to me because I had walked far enough that I wasn’t around many people just taking in the beach. Mostly, I was where private houses or vacation homes were on the beach. He said, “See that gray house?” I acknowledged it. “The owner of Crispy Creme owns that.” Then he pointed out Sandra Bullock’s house and to another house and said the man that came up with the ideal of the StairMaster lived there.  He told me John Travolta’s family came and stayed in Sandra Bullock’s home.  Of course my question was, “So, where do you live?”  He pointed to a general direction and, ‘Over there.”

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Ernie

Both men were cuties!  Sorry to say, I can’t remember the name of the other, except the “Invisible Man” because he wore a hat, sunglasses, and a bandanna type thing over his face as some sort of sunscreen, but he would take if off occasionally to visit.

Ernie made a big impression because he said he’d ‘act’ like he caught a big fish for a picture.  He had ‘The Invisible Man’ pull the line while he acted like he had a ‘big one’ on his line.  That made me laugh!  I visited a bit more and moved on, but it was a shame to leave the cuties behind!

By the time I retraced my steps, the tide was rising because where the birds were . . . was now covered with water. I walked back and after smelling that restaurant on the beach all day, I decided to eat there and it was delicious!

After dinner, I walked back to the beach to take sunset and evening pictures.  They have porch swings every so often back by the dunes. I swayed back and forth and watched the stars come out while the waves added their own soundtrack.  I could have set there for hours enjoying the view and the sounds.

I left about 10:45 and headed back for the campsite. I would have loved to have company on the beach, but nevertheless, it was a wonderful day and I fell asleep a ‘happy camper!’

Posted in camping, Fun Events, Road Trip

Today I felt Like Rocky….John Wayne….Rachel!

Up early again!  It’s impossible to sleep late while camping!  The sun and birds are nature’s alarm clock.

Now, I’ve discovered people camping are usually very friendly.  It’s easy to make conversation about the weather, where they’re from, if they’re enjoying themselves, etc.  I’ve met several people while walking.  There’s quite a few people who bring dogs with them camping.

20140710_090253I set out for a walk around the lake.  The air was teaming with noise from a group of kids staying in the cabins across the small lake.  I ran into a family, I met before, fishing or at least holding poles.  According to one of the small boys, the turtles were eating all their bate off the hooks.  The mom was sitting in a lawn chair occupying Striker age 2, who was testing his boundary lines.  I visited a while and set off on the 1.5 mile walk to the swimming pool called The Liberty Bell.

Well, let me tell you, 1.5 seems a lot longer when going up and down mountain trails.  The trails were easily marked by color.  Swimming pool, look for white marks on trees.  No problem!  Early on, I met a man walking back.  We simply said, hello and carried on.

My eyes were scanning the area for wildlife, but I didn’t even see a squirrel.  Probably because they were all back at the campsite.  I begin dripping sweat, but that’s not so unusual because the high humidity.

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The Liberty Bell Pool

Finally arrived at the swimming pool and it was beautiful and empty, except for the lifeguard and the teenager working the front store.  It was threatening rain and had only been open 30 minutes.  The bottom looked like rocks and the water was a beautiful blue.  It went from three feet to nine feet.  If I had $5 and my swimsuit, I’d have spent a few hours there.  I didn’t, so I walked on.

There was a sign close to the pool that showed another trail 0.7 of a mile, so I decided…Walk on sister!  Oh my!  That path seemed more challenging.  Along the way, I met an older hiker, who leads groups on the weekend.  He was checking the trail for debris and I guess some practice.  By this time I was a wet wash rag, I was sweating so bad.  He gave me a sip of his water and seemed surprised that I wasn’t carrying any of my own.   He advised me to stop at the junction of the next trail.  I’m glad he told me that because by this point I thought it might just be easier to make the loop than to hike back to camp the way I came.

I tread on and made it to the top juncture.  I felt like I met my own challenge, but I had to turn around and do the 2.2 back to the park.  Along the way, I picked up my trophy.  A rock about the size of two deck of cards…made from quartz.  (I thank John’s dad for me knowing that).  I made it back to camp about 1:20.  I think I left about 10:10 or so.  By the time I made it back to my camp (still carrying my rock), I wanted to do the Rocky jump with my hands lifted in the air, but I held myself back.  However in my mind, I was playing the Rocky Theme music!

It had been thundering when I was walking back and just about the time I hit the tent, the rain begin.  Perfect napping weather.  I dozed for about an hour.  When I awoke, I noticed that my neighbors had changed.  Gone were the large RV’s and in their place were smaller campers behind me.  To the left of me were five ladies and two of them were trying to put up two Tee Pee shaped tents.  It was going a little slow.

I piddled outside my tent for a while.  I talked to the ladies to the left.  The only one who seemed to have camping experience was a college teacher who loved to hike.  She had invited her sister and mom to come along to enjoy her love of camping.   The other were a niece and a friend.  Those two didn’t look like they wanted to be roughing it.

I had scheduled a horse ride at 3:00.  Glad that the rain was moving away.  I had been looking forward to this!  I’ve only ridden a horse once and it was before Cameron was born and on a beach in Mexico.  (Those horses didn’t even need me to do anything except hold on).  I picked the two-hour ride because I thought it was a better value.  One hour $40, and two hours $70.  I had saved my extra earned income for activities such as this.  It was my splurge!  I thought I’d just eat cereal bars, peanut butter, and if I needed it, I’d cook oatmeal for dinner instead of buying food for today to save on expenses.

I arrived ten minutes early, that’s how much I was anticipating this ride.  I was scheduled to ride with a family group.  They were late!  About 3:10 all seven arrived.  Mentally, I added up their cost.  (Just the Math teacher in me)  We all set out to ‘mount up.’  (Cowboy talk)

We got a quick lesson on how to move the reigns to stop, go, turn left, turn right, and keep them from stopping and eating along the way, how to lean forward to help the horse when we went up, and how to lean back with our stirrups out when we went down hill, and to simply push on the trees if the horse gets too close.  No one really needed that lesson, except me.

Everyone in that family had ridden horses and knew all the ins and outs of riding.  The youngest, Victoria age 9, said she’d been riding since she was 4.  She certainly was comfortable with horses.

We mounted and lined up for the trail ride up and down the mountain.  There was ten of us and one big dog!  Now, when I thought about riding a horse, It didn’t occur to me how ‘alive’ they were or how large!  I know that sounds strange, but I wasn’t thinking about the movement of the horse under me.

I can’t tell you the trepidation I felt when Mattie Lou, my horse, started walking.  For just a minute, I wanted to say, “Stop! I’ve changed my mind.”  However that would have been wimpy and embarrassing, so I kept my mouth closed and concentrated.  I noticed that when people are comfortable riding, they only use one hand to hold onto the reigns.  Yes, I had one in each hand and was trying to keep hold of the saddle horn too.
About 20 minutes into it, I was okay.  I slowed the horse, stopped it, and the only trouble I had was my mare horse would stop to be with the gelding at the end of the line behind me and then both wanted to just stand there visiting.  On the way down they changed our positions, so that our horses weren’t by each other.

On the ride down, Victoria came up with this game that she had played before on a dude ranch.  The front rider would pick a branch off a tree and then place it on another tree for the next person to pick it up.   If the next rider missed getting it out of the tree or dropped it putting it in the tree, then we had to start over.  It was fun!  We successfully did that three times, but we started it five times.  Then one of the teenage girls, decided we should pass it back up from horse to horse from the back on the line.  Even more laughter ensued because we had to turn around and reach it from the rider in back of us!

The two hours flew by, but when it was time for me to come off of Mattie Mae, (even with help), I had a hard time walking at first.  The secret, one of the women said, was to walk and stay active, but tomorrow, I’d feel it worse.  She wasn’t kidding about that!  We went in the barn and met all the other horses.  They had about 25 horses there.  Overall, I had enjoyed it and felt like The Duke himself!

Back at the camp, I thought I’d walk and help that soreness.  I hadn’t walked far, when I stopped to talk to the group of people who had campers next to one another. Yep, they were related.  Two brothers and their families and one of the couple’s neighbors.    The couples…Matt and Sunny & Brian and Mandi and their neighbor, Megan.  The friendliest group you can imagine.  I wasn’t sitting with them long before I was invited to dinner.  (Now, this was the day I was eating what I had brought).  Steaks sounded mighty good compared to oatmeal.  I declined, but they insisted that they had plenty.  Man the steaks were smelling good too!  I accepted.  They were cooked to perfection…tender and juicy.

It was clear that the families were close.  Matt and Brian worked for the same power company.  I laughed when they asked me if I knew where Nacogdoches was because they pronounced it very strange and it took me a minute to realize what they said.  (In person, I’ll pronounce it like they guys did)!  Made me laugh!!! Lots of pride in their work!  I’m going to have to check out their plant in Nac.

Sunny and Mandi were instant friends and the kids were sweet.  Between all the families, I think there were six kids ranging between six months to fifteen years.  All adorable!  After dinner, some of the kids jumped in the lake and Brian joined them.  I just keep thinking yucky fish and turtle water.  I’m including this because when Brian went into the camper to change clothes, he did it in front of a window.  Now, I didn’t really see anything except a naked chest, but everyone gave him a hard time changing in full view!   Obviously they saw more of him then I did!  It was just too much fun not to rib him about it!

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I did finish my walk around camp and came back to join them for conversation and games.  The kids played in another camper for a while and I listened to the banter back and forth between brothers and sister-in-laws and Megan, the neighbor.   Later, we all played Scattergories.  I’m sure some of the other campers had a hard time sleeping because it was a loud game and laughter rang out with answers.  The guys were pretty competitive!  I was added to this group of “Friends” and throughly enjoyed myself!

It was my last night at FDR park and it had been a memorable day.  From beginning to end, it was the most fun one I had.  Thanks to the new friends for including me and making me feel welcome.  I fell asleep content and in the morning started the next stage of my trip.

God provides everything.  It is lonely traveling in a group of one and I was given a gift of laughter and fellowship tonight.

Headed to Skidaway Island Park tomorrow!

Posted in camping, Changes, Road Trip

Embarrassing Encounters, Flowers, and Ho-Hum Towns!

I woke up after my first night camping while it was still pitch black outside.  The clock on my phone read 5:20.  The insects from the night before were almost silent, however, the birds were beginning to chirp.  There wasn’t a breeze, so inside the tent was balmy and too warm to be comfortable.

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My view from the tent

When the dawn broke about an hour later, I set out for the shower.  It felt good to be sweat free again, at least for a little while.  I still had to register for the campsite, so I drove to the registration cabin, but I was too early.  They didn’t open until 8:00.  I had about 20 minutes to kill, so I explored the empty cabins near by.  They had four of them and they overlooked the valley of the mountain.  Taking advantage of the lawn chairs on one of the back porches, I enjoyed the view.  It was beautiful with a soft haze in the sky.   

I registered, talking to the three park rangers (all women) about the state parks I would be visiting.  I bought a parking pass and paid for my site.  $90, not too bad for three days and an annual parking pass.  It’s cheaper in the long term to buy the pass because parking is $5 a day for each park visited.  

Breakfast was calling, so I found a local cafe called Eddie Mae’s.  Nothing fancy, I ordered an Egg plate with bacon and grits.  Mia, my waitress, was very attentive.  Later, I knew why.  Now my friends, when you notice something that needs to be pointed out to someone, the polite thing to do is to say something.  I guess Mia didn’t want to embarrass me.  

After breakfast, I went to the ‘Tourist Information’ building.  Using their restroom, I was appalled to look in the mirror and see that I had my shirt on inside out!  I had talked to no less than six women and not one of them said anything about my seams or tag on the side of my shirt standing out like red flags! 

There was a mirror in the restroom when I dressed this morning and I did use it.  The problem was that I forgot to take my bra to the shower.  So, when I got back to the tent, I stripped off my shirt, put on the bra, and put my shirt back on.   Unknowingly inside out!  I walked around for almost two hours like that!  Where’s a honest person when I need one?  Oh well, I won’t be going back to that restaurant….(giggling)!

 Since sight seeing was on my agenda, I decided to start with Calloway Gardens.  Although it does have gardens, it really is a resort type of area.  It consists of 2,500 acres filled with places to stay and all kinds of activities to do.  I visited the Butterfly Conservatory, walked some gorgeous garden trails, watched skiers on the small lake.  

I admired the replica they had showing their ropes course.  I tried to get up the courage to try it, but I’m not that brave.  Maybe I’ll try a rope course and zip lining when I find my “Courage” like the cowardly Lion.

One of the park rangers suggested I go to town of Warm Springs because that’s where President Roosevelt stayed while he was campaigning for president while he was governor of New York and visited while president.  The warm springs were thought to help the effects of his polio and his house and the springs is now a historic site.   It was in this town where he died April 12, 1945.   

I drove to the small town of Warm Springs, checked out the warm springs, (Not used by the public anymore, only by The Roosevelt Institute), and had lunch at a cafe.  I strolled the few stores and visited a fish hatchery also.  I was not overwhelmed by it compared to how many people told me to visit it.

When I say, ‘small towns’, they are small without much to do.  I visited three of them.  I don’t know where the residents buy their groceries because none of them had a real grocery store.  I did find an ice cream store selling Blue Bell and of course, I had ice cream for dinner.

Back at the park, I took a three hour nap, which is why I’m still awake at 1:00 A.M. enjoying this beautiful cool evening.  It rained briefly, which I loved listening to on the tent and now the breeze is wonderfully refreshing.  I’m not even using that new fan I bought today.

I’m typing in my camp chair, listening to the rhythm of the night creatures.  The moon is in it’s waxing mode, so before too many nights, it will be full.  It’s being reflected on the lake along with lights from the occupied cabins across the lake.  I’m not the only one awake because I can hear distant voices from a tent and see the glow from inside.  Behind me two large RV’s are parked and occasionally, I’ll hear the A/C power up.

Besides the lack of conversation, I’m enjoying this camping experience.  Tomorrow, I’m staying in the park to explore.  So, now my friends, I’ll say good night and crawl into my tent, position myself on my ‘bed’ and go to sleep.

“As Scarlet O’Hara would say, “Tomorrow is another day.”

(Couldn’t help myself….Georgia just begs it to be said)!

Posted in Fun Events, Road Trip

Georgia Bound

After my road trip last year, I am hooked on Summer exploring.  Always a fan of Gone With the Wind, I decided to go see Savannah.  All the pictures I’ve seen of it are beautiful!  I browsed brochures, maps, and Internet sites trying to decide where to explore in Georgia on my way to the Atlantic Coast.  I will admit that I am a history fanatic.  There’s just something about old buildings, historic towns and homes that thrills me.  I can literally be driving and when I see an old building, my foot wants to hit the brake, pull over, and take a picture.  I’ve been known to do the same over flowers.

Keeping expenses in mind, I decided that I couldn’t afford to do nightly hotels.  So, I came up with the brilliant (so, I think) idea of camping.  Georgia has many beautiful state parks.  I don’t know if another state has as many, but when I looked up how many there were in Georgia, I was amazed.

I decide to start and move West to East and then North and back home.  So, I left Monday heading toward Louisiana and into Mississippi.  My plan was to spend the night at a KOA (Kampground of America) for my first night along the way.  Then to cross Alabama and begin my Georgia journey.  This year, I thought I put more preparation in the details.  That however didn’t make my first day go without a hitch.

First of all, I left later than I planned.  (I always do that)!  I have a ‘thing’ about leaving my house in disarray.  I can just imagine an accident happening and people having to go through ‘my junk’ and seeing just how unorganized papers and such are.  (None of my school friends would be surprised because I can’t keep paperwork organized there either).  This year wasn’t any different.  Let’s just say that I left about 3 hours later than I should have.

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Mississippi River

Passing over the Mississippi River, I stopped at the state line and took pictures of the bridge as the sun lowered itself over the horizon.  It was a pretty sight.

I was almost to Monroe, LA when Willie’s face appeared on a billboard advertising his restaurant.  It hit me that I was passing the famed home of the Duck Dynasty Crew.

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Duck Dynasty Building

Yes, I was exactly like everyone else who passes that place.  I had someone take a picture of me under the “Duck Commander, Buck Commander” sign on the building.  Off I continued to cruise!

Darkness descended and I wasn’t anywhere near where I should have been to put up a tent at the KOA.  I called and told them I was running late and they said they would put my paperwork by the gate.  At 10:00 P.M. I took the exit that said, “KOA 3.6 miles” and I followed a curvy road.  In my mind, I was giving myself the ‘How stupid could you be’ speech.  At 10:30, I gave up.  I called them and told them I was just going to spend the night in a hotel.  My heart simply wasn’t into putting up a tent… IN THE DARK…for the first time.  I got back on I-20 and continued to drive.

Adrenaline had kicked in and I wasn’t a bit sleepy, so I journeyed into the next state of Al-a-BA-MA!  I can hear Forest say it that way.  I called Cam to tell him my change of plans.  I drove another hour and stopped in a small town of Demoplois, Alabama.  To tell the truth, I was happy to have a shower and a bed for the night.

Rising early, I was on the road by 8:15.  I stopped in Selma, Alabama for breakfast.  Good ole grits and eggs and an awesome cup of coffee.  It was a Mr. Waffle and once was probably a Waffle House.  I sat at a booth close to the counter.  In front of me was three men and one was in a booth behind me.  I tried to ignore one of the men facing me, but he wouldn’t stop staring even though I was trying not to make eye contact.  I finally just laughed and decided to talk to him.  That did help stop making me feel so uncomfortable.   I became a person to him instead of an object.

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Selma Bridge

I talked to the waitress about historic sites to see there.  The sweet gentleman behind me, told me to only stick to the main streets close to the downtown and not to go other places.  I knew what he meant when I drove there.

The downtown was mostly rundown and people on the street didn’t return my greeting.  I decided to just take a few pictures and head on out.  I drove the historic route between Selma and Montgomery that the Freedom Riders took back during the time of civil right unrest.  Not a lot to see during that fifty miles.  I tried to think about the energy levels and apprehension that must have been on those buses.

Seeing that I was going to pass through Tuskegee, Alabama, I decided to stop and see the Tuskegee Airmen National Park.  It was easy to find, but sadly it wasn’t visited by many people.  I was one of about nine people there.

It was a pretty awesome display of planes, hangers, pictures, and testimonials of the men and women of the Tuskegee Institute who flew the planes and the civilians that were their support crew of mechanics.  They shared their thoughts about how they felt to be segregated, but still serving their country and the civil unrest that followed for their civil rights.  It was very educational and moving.

Found my way to Georgia finally!  I hadn’t stopped for lunch and by about 2:30, I was starving.  After I passed through Columbus, Georgia, I decided to look for somewhere local to eat.  I’m pretty sure I was on Highway 80, but it is so different from Hiway 80 in Texas.  There aren’t hardly any towns on it!  It was like that from Selma on.

 

I pulled over and took some pictures of old building and churches as I was driving.  After consulting the map, I decided to turn on the GPS and ask it to find my first state park.

About 15 miles from the FD Roosevelt State Park, I found Manchester.  It’s a sweet small town with a downtown.  I drove Main Street and found the restaurant with the most cars around it.  That’s always a good sign.

The Magic City Grill was wonderful!  I had fried green tomatoes, shrimp with a kick, and coleslaw.  Yummy!  The owner and the ‘chef’ came out and visited with everyone asking how they enjoyed their food.  He visited with me and asked me about my vacation and what my son thought about it.  He asked me if I would review his restaurant on ‘Yelp.’  I’ll happily give him a great review.  It was one of the best that I’ve eaten at in a while.  I could tell he takes great pride in it.  I did ask about the recipe for the fried green tomatoes.  He coats them in buttermilk, flour, and Parmesan.  They were delicious and didn’t taste too heavy at all.

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My first camping site

I was so happy to arrive at my destination for the next three days.  I picked a site close to the lake and proceeded to put up my tent for the first time.  Lots of sweat later, due to hammering tent stakes into rock hard ground, my tent was finished.  I visited with a few campers close by.  I strung my lights and arranged ‘my room’ to feel as comfortable as possible for a tent.

I was surprised how well I slept.  I woke about 5:30 A.M. (hot and sweaty) and decided I need to purchase a fan that plugs in.  I explored the park, walked some trails, and simply enjoyed a peaceful day.   I sat in my camp chair, admiring the lake, listening to loud croaking frogs, and bugs communicating back and forth.  I read sweet comments on Facebook from friends until about 10:00 P.M. and then ventured out to use the showers.  They weren’t bad at all.  Hot water and relatively clean, but best of all, no spiders or stick bugs.  I walked back, shining my flashlight on the ground, carefully looking for ‘wildlife’ of the long kind.

As soon as I sat back down, the no-see-ums attacked.  You know the bugs that bite and you can’t see what’s biting!  So, I cocooned myself inside the tent.

Until then Georgia is on My Mind…..Sorry, just couldn’t help myself!