Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Lights

A bit more practice with the new Canon S 90. I've been very happy with the low-light results.

Morty's Christmas present -- new signs from Build-a-Sign front and rear from  proclaiming: . Designing and obtaining the signs was a good experience. All done on-line and delivered by United Parcel. Even making the application onto the front and rear windows was good. Highly recommended.

A most thoughtful present -- a Christmas tree ornament from an old friend:

From RV Ornament

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Low Light Canon S90 vs. Nikon D90

The Canon S90 is a new model camera with a large sensor and lens. This means that it gives some great results in low light without flash or a lot of pushing the ISO sensitivity. Here are some samples from Christmas Eve:

shutter: 1/60; opening: f/2.0; ISO: Auto 2500

From Fern Monty Xmas

shutter: 1/60; opening: f/2.0; ISO auto 2000

From Fern Monty Xmas

Here for comparison is a sample from my Nikon D90 -- a camera with about 10 times the mass of the Canon. This could have been improved by setting shutter priority to 1/60, but I didn't have the time to experiment or think about what made sense when the S90 was getting the job done automatically. 

shutter 1/10; opening: f4.2; ISO: 1600

From Fern Monty Xmas

Thursday, December 24, 2009

New Zealand Notes from 1999(?)

The pictures are from our 1994 trip to the North Island of New Zealand. The notes are more rescuees from my old PDA data and the 1999 trip to the "South Island:

Our Great Kiwi Adventure

Flight experiences
    Seated next to 10 month old twin girls Jenna & Anna, Lynne is happy to relinquish custody at fliqht's end.
    Our new eMap GPS tracks ths flight path flawlessly. Jim looks for Hope Arkansas with no luck.
    Continental does a good job.
        Planes fly full and hot
        Sandwich fare
        Pleasant crew
        Movie watchers get a darkened cabin

Travel zone
    one leg at a time  - most are just a few hours
    Cramped feeling - how the future will differ,
        Space to spread
        Leisure  - not hurry
        Cut-off from market  - need reliable wimeless
    Bradley Terminal much-more civilized . But there seems to be a lack of aircraft.
Lady going home to Dunedin after visiting son in San Diego.
    Recommends Waneka and the drive up the west coast.
New Zealand Air
    award-winning seats
    Big 747
    dinner smells wonderful.
    Turkey or beef
    Southern Cross and thunderstorrms
        Fly straight through a major thunderhead - major turbulence.
        Gps batteries run  too low
    English Breakfast just as big
    Domestic terminal - big wait to find out we need to be waiting there
    Newly - leased plane from POLAND NO ROW 5 plane only half full -the front half still much to sort out for assigning us a new seat.
    We have a ball switching from one side of the plane to the other for the best pictures
    Another nearly full breakfast on board.
        French toast that only resembles a fish chimichanga - but hey ya gots ta love the attitude.
Sprinkles move in. The ride on the plane makes it clear (no pun intended) that clouds and rain are the order of the day.

Keith, our cab driver, talks of the flooding in Queenstown. It's starting to look like we head nort tomorrow.
    The whole place is caught in a time warp - except for the shoes.
        Shoes - vertical steel plates on pumps - major anti-retro.
        Sandals - wear with socks for ultimate cold-weather protection.
    Cars live the brand - they are customized for accessibiliy and ease of use.
    Kaikoura rainy bit a wonderful crayfish restaurant HISSOP'S. Fish chowder half a three pound crayfish.
        Crayfish that make me think of New England without the claws.
    Weather so wet and cold the locals wamt to postpone the hoghloght summer activity - the Santa parade.
    Sunday head further North in search of more sun. Drive through a couple of mountain ranges.
    Havelock for lunch at tne Mussle bouys.  Fresh salmon and green lipped NZ mussels. Beyond comprehension..
    Pohara is the perfect beach (campground)..
        Tonight, Pohara is hosting anEco-challenge (a made for MTV race) Kayaks from the beach in the mornng. A thousand racers tenting down for the night. May prove interesring or annoying.
        Southern Traverse is the Kiwi-sponsored event. Other legs of the contonuous race include biking, hiking/run. white river rafting.
            One team has a new Unimog - nearly as large as a deuce-and- a-half for part of the support team.
    Pohara- has a nesting penguin colony. But the manager knows of no one ever seeing one. The DOC thinks the're there though - they just put up a new sign warning visitors to steer clear.

    We do see several interesting species: blue heron, red beaked oyster eaters, red foted gulls, and larger gulls.
    Hot meat pies for lunch. $2 NZ for a complete meal at the Pohara General Store - on the beach.
    Conspicuous Consumption or Yank demands  come to the Kiwis: A Maui campervan puls in near us with an Electrolux air conditioning unit on the roof.

    Beach tide coverage is enormous. Perhaps up to mile, if today's experience is average.
    In Tekaka, Telegraph Hotel and Restaurant - a major surptise in a region with absolutely no competition. Superb seafood gumbo followed by the dish being entered in the Marlborough Winery Seafood Competion - Golden Bay crab sauteed with lemon and grapefruit zest over herb-roasted  ricotta and served with a glass of  sauvignon blanc.  Hot chocolate cake with cream and ice cream top it off. Tab $26.
        Need an encore performance.

Casita Trip Archive from 2000

To Stratham NH to visit my sister and her family. Our second trip in our 16 foot travel trailer. The first had been to Winter Haven Florida for Cleveland Indians Spring training. We pulled Casi with our new Honda Odyssey known as Mesabi because of its Mesa Beige exterior. This was all recorded one hand-written letter at a time on my Palm Pilot-like Handspring PDA. The software is supposed to recognize you printing as long as you adhere to the rules of graffiti -- or as we say in the real world: not so much.

From Casita
New England Camping July, 2000

Saturday 7/15 to Salem, Ohio
Mesabi pulls the Casita, with little complaint, except at the gas pump where highway mileage is cut in half from 30 to 16 mpg. Navigator lady does a good job with the routing, but we had been there a time or two before. The big news is that we are finally on vacation, without any trace of jet-lag. We hook up to 20 amp electricity in the Mother's house, and find that needing the air conditioner to dry out the humidity, that is sufficient.

Sunday we set out east at 7 am, after dealing with Navigator Lady's lack of knowledge of local streets. But then all is well. Our stops are a lot more frequent than the 500 plus miles that would normally come with the 20 gallon tank in Mesabi, but with no jet-lag, that is a minor inconvenience.

Sunday afternoon, Lynne gets familiar with the AAA Camping Guide, by directing us to the Huesatonic State Park campgrounds in Northern Connecticut, while thinking that it was only a mile from I84 in the southern part of the state.

Site was far from level, and after many tries, we pulled in a couple of places down slope, and had a fine time.

Leveling the camper is critical to refigerator function, and I read that a little stationary operation without being level, can cause a major repair experience.
 England 7/16-18 Sunday

Needing hook-ups, we head further north yet, to East Canaan and the Lone Oak Campground arriving around 5. Rates are a pricy $39, but that includes a lot of amenities. Met a friendly Ann Forrester, running the store, and camping there also. Just recently retired, they had crossed the country twice already, and were settling in for a spell. Need to look for them on the Compuserve RV forum. Tried to reach Mary on the cell phone from the campground, but the hassel of roaming credit-card calling proved just a tad too difficult, and who-knows-how expensive.

Up early on Monday with showers and yogurt. Only have a couple of hours travel to the coast. Drove through some of the prettiest towns of the Berkshires on the way to the Mass Turnpike.

Finally reached Mary on the cell while driving. Actually a suprisingly clear connection.

Got to Mary's a little after 1, Danny was napping, but Julia and Mary had a bite of lunch for us.

Shel-Al Campground in North Hampton was found by Navigator Lady getting close, and Lynne, figuring out the rest. Nice quiet place  under the shade of big maple trees. Had to try a couple of times to get level, but then all was fine.

To the Lobster Pound for dinner. $8 per pound, really increases one's shellfish appetite to about 2.5 pounds. Unquestionably the best taste ever.

New England 7/22-23 weekend

We arrived at the Gloucester Cape Ann Camp site right on time, and so did Barbara. We toured the city, the had dinner, and walked the small beach. On Sunday, we saw Rockport, and the most famous Motif Number 1 fisherman's shack decorated with lobster trap floats. Really enjoyed the walk through the fillage shops. Saw som scuba divers coming up the rocks with the several large lobsters. Given the local prices and freshness, it is difficult to understand the appeal or cost effectiveness of this practice, but they did seem to be enjoying themselves. They even had the proper tool to place the heavy ruberbands on the claws.

Went on the Yankee Spirit whale watch and  saw 17 humpbacks lounging about after a morning of filtering out their ton of food for the day. Some mothers and babies along with a unwelcome escort that had the mother trumpeting her blows. Barbara saw more than ever before, even though it had been a staple in the vistor itinerary of hers for years.

New England 7/24 Monday

Draggin from a busy pace over the weekend with Barbara. Set out for the Rusnik Family Campground in Salisbury, Mass.

Looked over Seabrook NH with its rusted out nuclear reactors. Beach towns were quite ghetto-ish. Saw the entrance to Plum Island and Newburyport, and understood how its Martha-Stewart-ness appealed to Barbara.

Stopped in downtown Newburyport for lunch, and marvelled at the efeciency of a quaint but touristy small town. Cops on cell phones keeping traffic out of the construction. Lots of places to eat, but Angies is where the locals and observant tourists stop. The county sheriff has a $75m anti-graffitti rig staffed with two deputies and three "workers" who look more than able to take care of themselves.

This is a very effecient and secure camping area. Gate access is controlled with coded cards. Everything is clean and tidy. Will swim as soon as the sun dips a little.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cruise Archives

In digging through some old files looking for contact info for Christmas Cards, I found some interesting history. Here is a listing of our cruising experiences -- a fairly regular item, with breaks for Hawaii and New Zealand -- up until we started going to the North Carolina beach.

Date / Ship / Days / Destinations
1. 9/85 Ocean Princess 10 Rome - Venice - Nice
2. 4/89 Costa Riveria 7 Western Caribbean
3. 10/89 American Hawiian Constitution 7 Hawaii
4. 3/91 Carnval Tropical 7 San Juan Southern Caribbean
5.12/92 RCL Song of Amrica 7 West Mexico
6. 8/93 Princess Crown 7 Alaska
7. 4/95 Windjammer Fantome Leeward Islands
8. 8/95 Princess Island 14 Rome Black Sea
9. 6/96 Princess Royal 14 Scandanavia Russia
10. 12/96 Princess Sky 14 Sydney NZ French Polynesia. Different dessert souflee each evening.
11. 4/97 Windjammer Fantome 7 Belize Bay of Islands Honduras
12. 10/97 Holland America 10 Ryndam Eastern Southern Caribbean
13. 12/98 Holland America Nieuw Amsterdam 14 Singaporf Indonsia Australia
14. 3/00 Wind Star Wind Surf 7 Barbedos Leeward islands

And here are the notes from my old PDA on the Wind Surf experience:

WindSurf 3/19/00 5:23 am
Smooth Eticket check - in
Remembered frequent flyer number
Delta 253 Md88 only action but has lots of customers
Miami seems full of two kinds -- stand-bys comparing their seniority  to guess departure time and very disqruntled cruise passengers.
BWIA old equipment easy style
Dinner is outstanding mahi-mahi encrusted with hazlenuts and accompanied with a puree of sweet potatoes.
    We enjoyed a bottle of champagne from our travel agent Barbara.
Monday at sea we pause en route to rendez-vous with a supply barqe pickinq up a spare enqine and replacemen hydraulic ram.
    We sail by Dominica which our gps identifies. The only island Christopher Columbus would recognize today -- rough mountains rising straight out of the sea.
Tristan waiter
Putu room steward
Anguilla on Tuesday because Nevis was trashed by Hurricane Lenny in November, 1999.
    Tough to find a mooring out of the swells and where the local authorities alow disembarkation.
        We watch the inactivity on the teeny sand bar of an island  from on-board, moored near the channel separating St. Martin.
        Lunch includes chicken salad, pasta bar and seafood kabobs.
Wednesday - St Marten just across the channel from Anguilla, with most of the same swells to rock the boat. The stern thrusters are used with great vibration to position the bow to minimize the rolling.
Thursday - St Bartholemy
    Taxi tour. Villa of Rudolf Nureyev
    Airport tuckedin among peaks, roads, and beach.
    Roads and driving very rough.
    Bannana boat ride
    Spectacular sunset and moonrise under sail
Friday - Ilses de Saintes
    Pretty and quiet
Saturday - St. Lucia, Parrot Point

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Feasts

In the great tradition of the Christmas Holidays, we have been meeting with friends for dinner, conversation and viewing of the lighted decorations. One surprise was how reasonable a shared dinner and desert was at the Cheesecake Factory -- someplace we have to get around to a little more often. Also a really great dinner at McCormick & Schmick's with our wonderful house-tending neighbors.

Canon S90

Practicing shooting with the new camera in a variety of venues. Some results:

Monday, December 07, 2009


Lynne wanted a little better TV accessibility at several of Morty's stops recently -- programs like Buckeye football, or the cable news shows. She asked about those satellite dishes some RVers put out but was a little put off by the cost [up to $5000] and hassel factors. So we decided to ask Santa for a suggestion and he came up with a Slingbox. This is a little box that sits between the cable box outputs and the TV. It also attaches to the Internet and sends the TV program or recording out to our computer wherever it is. It also sends commands from the computer back to control the cable box. Pretty awesome technology, and it's available for around $130.

Since we would need time to get it set up in advance of our next departure right after Christmas, an early opening was requested and approved. Good thing too, because I got the wires crossed and for the first day it was sending only a blue, out-of-sync picture that was barely acceptable. I tried to call customer support but couldn't get through so I had to use text-chat on the computer. You would have thought that a simple problem  like crossed inputs would have been easy enough to diagnose and solve, but it was a very difficult problem for the tech. After a couple of sessions spread out over a couple of days, I decided to just start over, and found the problem on my own. Now it's sending a great picture and sound. The only remaining challenge will be to see how well it works when we don't have WiFi and try to connect on the much slower cell phone.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

HELP! Planning for the South by Southwest Trip

We are doing some rough plans to route the big winter trip through some interesting places -- but are faced with huge space and limited time. So we are open for your comments and suggestions. Please let us know of places you think we should get to.

We are most interested in nature and historic venues with some museums and visual arts. Our time frame is January and February. Our daily travel will have to edge up into the 250 mile range. Here is the geographic plan at its most basic:

- Florida panhandle
- Southern Alabama / Mississippi
- Louisiana
- Southern Texas
- Western Texas
- Southwest New Mexico
- Arizona
- Southern California
- Return East and as far North as the temperatures go into the 70s -- except for Yosemite

View Planning South by Southwest in a larger map

So please chime in if you have any suggestions.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wash and Scrub

Morty got a good wash outside and in thanks to the fine weather in the 50s. But he also had to have his antifreeze injection thanks to the cold nights in the 30s. Thankfully, this time we had the tank fill valve closed and the plumbing took only a gallon of the pink stuff.

Thanksgiving morning was a four mile walk in the Flying Feather 4 Miler in Dublin. We walked and fininshed well in the rear, but at least before the course was closed. Our reward was a bottle of reisling wine that proved to be especially good (for a reisling) at dinner later. Thanksgiving dinner was with friends in Marysville and a real masterpiece of culinary delight. We were joined by their family and friends from Florida so the occasion was especially meaningful. Got a rather pleasant assignment to bring cameras and come back for Christmas Eve for some photos of the grandchildren.

Speaking of cameras, Santa wanted to save some money in the frenzy of black Friday and cyber Monday, and so ordered me a new compact camera with a larger than typical sensor. Ken Rockwell again has an extremely powerful recommendation: the Canon S90 -- should be here this week. It did take a pretty significant savings opportunity to make me realize just how many problems I've been having with my pocket Pentax Optio Wpi that would be instantly cured with a bigger lens and sensor. Low light "grab" shots should soon be a significantly larger portion of the posted photos on this site.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Morty pulled into his driveway just before midnight with an even 16,000 miles on the odometer. And about 860 miles for the day -- just enough driving to assure that we get to see the Buckeyes battle Michigan on TV.

Now to transfer about 8,000 pictures from the laptop to the desktop. Oh... and the mail mountain.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Morty Makes the Turn

Morty was excited to pack in all our toys this evening. He knows that in 900 miles he will be back in his turtle nest getting fresh oil and and a checkup. This will probably be a hard driving scenario since further review shows that most of our previous stops require two day minimum stays.  And, the weather is deteriorating in relationship to the distance traveled north.

So we were thinking three 300 miles days but will more likely be looking at two 450 mile days. Some things just don't want to be kept waiting -- like that inevitable mountain of mail. At least the temperatures along the way are warm enough that we won't have to use the anti-freeze in the plumbing during the trip.

The drive was so smooth and easy that we did it all in one shot on Friday -- all 860 miles. Maybe we're not quite as old as the calendar says yet.

The only regret is that the ocean is so far away from the turtle nest...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Anastasia State Park, Florida

Just a little further south along the turtle path A1A, Morty found another delightful Florida State Park -- this one fetchingly named Anastasia. A little more expensive but also a little more expansive -- nearly triple the number of sites. There are more than five miles of unspoiled ocean beach with requisite nature paths and even a lighthouse nearby. Morty got another ferry ride in the deal, this one a $5 trip across the St Johns River in Jacksonville. Riding down A1A for the duration of today's trip, there was going to be little chance of finding a Walmart, so we opted to try a Publix. We went in to replenish our supply of milk and cookies and the prices made sure that no impulse buys were even contemplated. Banannas were $.69 per pound, nearly double the going rate.

Camped at Anastasia, we are at the end furthest from the beach, so there is hardly anyone around. Biking through the beach end gives the state park version of high-density living. Unlike Little Talbot the roads are paved but the sites are mostly just as separated in the dense mangrove forest. Our site was a little bumpy and rocky at the entrance, but was so deep that we just backed into til nearly level and then finished the job with blocks under the rear wheels. I went off to bike the beach while Lynne nursed a nasty tummy. In the interim the parksies came by and dumped a couple of loads of sand on top of the bumps and rocks making it slightly less bumpy but now unstable as well. Lynne said after the first half load they left, apparently looking for other worthy recipients but soon returned with the balance and returned yet again with a third dump. I guess we'll be able to rock & roll on out on Friday, but I have to wonder about the planning here.

Sadly, this will be the southern extent of this trip. So on Friday, Morty turns it back North. There's a turkey date, and maybe even a flu shot opportunity awaiting us back in Buckeye Country. There's some thought of making another stop at Huntington Beach unless a better opportunity arises. In any event, the Adventures will continue...

Other Blogs of Florida State Parks

Here are some other views of the great Florida State Parks from better travel blogs:

Geeks on Tour visit the Sebastian Inlet State Park on the way to Ft. Lauderdale.

Avery is a teenager with a well developed eye and photographic skill.

Birder Bill Baggs  also has some amazing photographs of birds from the state parks of Florida.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Little Talbot Island State Park, FL & Leonid Meteor Shower

Less than 10 miles out of Crooked River, we crossed the border into Florida and it seemed like it was worth at least ten degrees. Morty meandered the short distance through Amelia Island and became breathless at all the fancy real estate.

We shopped Target for a new SD card reader with great success. Likewise Walmart for hose hardware and appetizers. McDonalds provided the $5 lunch for the travel party thereby proving that retirement can be cheaper than working.

Finding Little Talbot Island State Park was easy once we were under way but identifying it as meeting our modest criteria was hugely frustrating -- thanks to what may be one of the worst designed websites I have ever encountered. It is all but impossible for someone to use this site to identify a park with camping and beach access within a certain driving range -- too much info presented, too little organization. And when you try to make an online reservation with the ReserveAmerica site, the tunes just keep on comin'. The only positive thing I can say is that mercifully, there is no separate on-line reservation fee.

The friendly park ranger told us about two big events: the shuttle launch in less than an hour, and the early morning Leonid meteor shower. I asked her if she was collecting comments about the magicical website, and she knowingly rolled her eyes, and told us submitting them online was the only option. There's a key causal factor right there. How much gullibility is required to believe that the web guys will be eager to read and pass on all the negativity they're generating?

We got to the beach just in time to get some photos of the shuttle blasting off to the space station. The meteor shower did provide a couple of great streaks of light, but capturing them with the camera was a big bust. The first meteor was just after dark, and I was on a trip to the restroom when a huge fireball with streaming red tail blasted right overhead. Set the camera up and take several hundred pics in the same area and we see only two or three more little ones, all out of camera frame. Getting a good meteor picture is proving to be a lot more difficult than I ever imagined. We were out on the campground road from about 9 until 2 AM, sitting in our camp chairs. A couple of times we thought we heard wild boars grunting near us. When we woke up around 9 in the morning we were surprised to find that area under water from the high tide.

At low tide this beach is perfect for riding bikes. Five miles of park beach. Hundreds of feet of wet sand. No construction in sight.

The campground is carved out around the marsh with no paved roads. The sites are modest, but so thick with vegetation that nowhere in the park can you see more than two sites at once. The capacity of the camp is only 40 sites so it does provide a very cozy atmosphere.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crooked River State Park, GA

We are at the very southern tip of Georgia on the coast. My cheapo card reader gave up the ghost a couple of days ago and Walmart has none to sell. This has made it difficult to upload photos, and that has slowed down my postings.

We have been biking up two storms in this park and there is a lot to see: alligators, gopher turtles, wild boar, turkey vultures. You'll just have to wait to see what has been captured in silicon and what has escaped.

Environment ideal: sky severe clear, temps 80 to 58, neighbors quiet and distant. I've been having so much trouble with Florida's park reservation system, that we will probably end up staying here another day.

Lynne's update:
Jim is planning to press onward to Florida to see what their state parks are like.  South Carolina has a no alcohol policy.  Georgia has a no alcohol in public areas, which means you aren't breaking any laws if you have wine with your dinner in your RV or tent.  Ohio makes us have our Golden Buckeye card to get their senior discount;  in GA they take our word for it and the discount is available here on weekends, unlike Ohio while in SC you had to be an SC resident.

Almost everyone left the park today, I guess to go back to school and work.  I was on a trail by myself and saw an alligator in its mud hole.  Later, there were five black baby wild boars coming down the trail toward me.  I froze, standing in the middle of the trail and they kept coming, I guess until they smelled me, and then the lead two turned to run back the way they had come and ran into the ones coming behind them.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Skidaway Island SP Georgia

The park itself is tucked in off the road between two massive churches. We are in an old maritime forest with live oaks, and southern pines. Very beautiful. Just a little cool. Tomorrow will warm up quite a bit though. Went to explore by bike, saw mention of a museum, but haven't been able to locate it yet.

The sites are gigantic, huge pull-throughs. The showers and other plumbing is more than adequate. Very few campers at this time of year. A very pleasant experience.

The photos show old moonshine stills with revenooer's axe marks dating to the days of prohibition.

Google Voice Update

Just wanted to mention how satisfying it is to use Google Voice[GV] to put those dinner time fund-raising calls in their proper place. The GV caller ID gives us the number calling and time of day. I google that number to get the identity of the caller and confirm that it is indeed a fund-raiser. Then, back on Voice, I assign that number to the group that will "go straight to voice mail". Now when that number calls, it will never again ring on through. Almost too easy. And free to boot.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Georgia -- Land of Economic Enlightenment

With a forecast of clouds and cold, Morty wanted to take the opportunity to move further south. The first choice was Hunting Beach State Park only ten miles away as the little turtle swims, but a 90 mile trip on roads suited to Morty's massive paws. Probably not worth the effort in terms of degrees of warmth.

The second option was Skidaway Island State Park in Georgia -- about 130 miles. And, when we looked it up on the internets, there was no extra charge for making a reservation. And wonders of all wonders: the reservation could be made for today! Obviously the good folks that run the Department of Natural Resources here understand that online reservations are to be encouraged since they shift the workload from the paid staff to the paying customer -- a win-win for everybody. The customer wants the security of a reservation, just not at a price in excess his own labor and connectivity. When we arrived, our information was already in the system, we were issued our documents, and off we went to pick our site. Incredibly smooth and efficient. A lesson in Reb ingenuity and sound economics that might well instruct Michigan and the Carolinas.

The understanding of economics here also extends to the senior discount. Over 62? Okay, you get a discount. No residency requirement. No Golden Buckeye Card. Simple. It works and it drives business to Georgia that is passing up Ohio, Michigan and South Carolina -- to name a few states in our experience.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Long Walk on the Beach in the Rain

Today is a rain day, thanks once again to our new friend Ida. The morning was devoted to working the stock and option markets, and watching a fair and comely blond pack up the biggest RV you can get. She had a pretty rare and expensive full-length slide-out, which was not retracting properly. As a result she was having to get out and man-handle it in the rain. After numerous tries, she finally wheeled on out flapping the reins haltingly. I guess Lynne didn't want to go out to help, so neither did I.

After lunch, I put on my Cabela's Gore-Tex rain jacked and walked for a couple of miles up the beach toward the creek outlet. I picked this jacket, and one like it for Lynne at the Wisconsin Cabela's in August on the way back from Oshkosh. Since this was the first full-rain test of this garment, I was curious as to how it would perform. The rain was steady and hard enough that I had it fully sealed up -- zipped all the way up, hood drawn tight, and sleeves extending down to mid-finger length. Well, it was pretty outstanding. No rain got in. All the body water vapor got out, along with any heat build-up. And, there was plenty of room for additional layers, if it were colder. All in all, I couldn't be happier ... in the jacket sphere.

Past the campground, the beach blends right into the salt marsh which is about a quarter mile wide before human habitation appears. In this area there were signs warning against human or dog interference with the nesting seabirds. While a few egrets were evident, the population seemed drastically reduced compared to the smaller marsh at Huntington Beach. Part of that is probably attributable to the fact that the reported rate of dog illiteracy in these parts is high compared to what you find further north.

Edisto Beach State Park

This little gem of a state park is right on the beach, with several sites looking out on the ocean. It is about 30 miles from the highways, deep in Gullah country. It was established in 1935 with a gift from the land development company and built as a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Wikipedia entry tells a little more about its location. Some extensive blogging about the park by Professor Robert Angel is at mobilestudiotravels.

The photos show the beach looking a little ragged from the high tide and high surf of Hurricane Ida.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Hurricane I????? Not again!

We have the distinct honor of having been affected by every "I" hurricane in the last 25 years. We were on the Big Island of Hawaii for Iniki in September, 1992. Wikipedia on Iniki In September of 2003, we were vacationing in North Carolina when Isabel hit cutting short our stay and sending us back to Raleigh. Last year, our trees were extensively damaged by Hurricane Ike . Now we are doing battle with Hurricane Ida, which is too new to have a Wikipedia entry.

As we evaluated the weather patterns at Huntington Beach, we determined that it might be better to head south. Within our 99 mile limit the weather wouldn't be any worse than what was due to hit the north-central portion of South Carolina, and could possibly be quite a bit better, even though we would be moving closer to the eye of the storm. As we packed up this morning sprinkles were just beginning to fall. As we completed the tank dump, the rain was just beginng to get steady. By the time we were pulling out onto the highway, we were in the middle of a full-blown torrential downpour. And that heavy rain continued more or less for the next 30 miles. Then it gradally let up, and by the time we were approaching Charleston and Edisto to the South, it was all but gone. What seemed to be happening, was a "comma" shaped storm that led with the broad front, but got thinner to the south and west. At least that was I was seeing in the weather forecasts.

View Larger Map

So, the rain held off until about 7 PM, and was strong for a few minutes, and is now dissipating quite a bit. This gave us time for a hike of the beach, and a bike ride along the houses on the beach. All in all, a much better day than what was forecast for back North were we began.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Huntington Marsh Birds, [crabs, alligators and environs]

The roseate spoonbills are fantastic. A pair of eagles circled overhead then repaired to the trees to the west of the marsh.

Other Blogs of South Carolina State Parks

It is always interesting to see the place you are through other's eyes.

Here is a September blog entry by Theresa Shadington that has some great pictures of crabs and alligators, as well as more description of Atalaya.

This entry was made yesterday! Birding

And this one describes the RV experience from a year agoChuck and Pam

Here is a view of Myrtle Beach State Park from King Salt last June

Here is a published photographer: Sondra Hickman also posting currently. 

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Huntington Sights

This park is the result of Archer Huntington's wealth inherited as a stepson of a railroad and industrial baron -- how important it is to choose your ancestors well. According to Wikipedia this is still owned by his trust and leased to the state of South Carolina -- maybe he didn't need the tax deduction and didn't trust the state to not sell it off in hard times. Archer himself is remembered for his Hispanic studies and a marine museum in Virginia.

Atalaya is the partially ruined summer house on the park grounds that was built by slave labor -- admission $1. Across the highway is the extensive Brookgreen sculpture gardens that were developed by Archer's sculptress wife -- admission $10 good for seven days.

The alligator was back on his end of the little island in the late afternoon sun again today. Also saw one of the wood storks swoop by low and slow but couldn't get the photo because I had a big camera on the bike. As the tide went out from the salt marsh, I watched a couple of birds nearly gorge themselves on little fish as they were carried by the tide.

Today's hiking was over five miles. The biking total was about 20 miles -- all inside the park.

View Hiking and Biking the Huntington Beach in a larger map

Shopping Trip

The need for groceries that sparked yesterday's trip was another challenge for Miss Garmina. Her maps are now over two years old, somewhat questionable as to current attraction locations. With only 17 miles to cover, we were not too likely to encounter a Wal-Mart, the Campers Choice for all things that go into Morty and this was borne out by Miss G. She did report that a Kroger was on the way and that might suffice since only groceries were on the list. There might also be some limited sales which my 25 year-old key tag might snag for us.

We shopped and did find a couple of pretty good buys. Gatorade usually about $1 was half-off and our RV Dinners from Stouffer were only $1.49. The store-brand cherrios were also quite a bit below the branded variety. Since we were stocking up, we probably did beat the Wal-Mart total.

We did have to add an item to our hardware shopping list, though. The dump station at Myrtle Beach was over six feet from the curb, and you can probably guess how long our dump hose is. The facilities here at Hungington Beach look quite a bit easier to use, so we can probably wait for the next WM.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina

So many days in Myrtle's Beach. The pantry was running dangerously low -- yesterday's lunch: the last of the sandwich makings; dinner: the last of the RV dinners; breakfast this morning, the last of the fruits. We needed a shopping trip at least! But there is conveniently, a great little camping park just a little 15 mile jaunt further South. We asked about other RVers about it, but got below average responses -- thinking maybe skip it for a longer trip further into the warmth. No, a state park campground on the beach can't be below average if the state is fairly diligent about its parks.

So here we are, and so far it's another "Wow!" Now we feel quite a bit more removed from the city. On the beach, you can barely see any house much less hotel. This is a beach's beach. At low tide it goes on forever. Dunes with oats, sand and surf and not much else. We watch the foam build and recede as it moves back into the water. Fewer birds and fish than we have noticed lately. A couple with lines out does pull in a two foot shark that is released back into the surf.

The piece d'resistance though is the marsh. Here live a huge alligator, and birds galore. There are herons, ibises, storks, and the rare spoonbills. The picture button gets a big workout -- over eight hundred photos in one afternoon.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Myrtle Beach -- ditto

Ditto. Clement weather prevails.

More recent pics are added to yesterday's album.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Myrtle Beach

Yesterday's trip was canceled due to clement weather. It was just too perfect to leave. Today will be more of the same.

Got up early enough to catch the sunrise.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Crystal Clear Dawn in Myrtle Beach

It cleared during the night, allowing a pretty good view of the full moon. By dawn, there wasn't a cloud in the sky so we headed down to the beach for some sun and surf shots. The temperature was still in the 50s but it seemed warmer with full sun.

We will head south 17 miles to Huntington Beach State Park in the early afternoon.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Myrtle Beach State Park in 59 Degrees

A cold front moved into the area last night leaving us a bit cooler and cloud-covered today. We walked the beach in the surf before both breakfast and lunch. In the afternoon we biked the park roads and snapped a few pictures. The promise of 70 degrees tomorrow kept our spirits high.

The Spanish Moss was somewhat in evidence, for the first time in our journey South.

Myrtle Beach State Park

After hearing almost everyone we know tout the awesomeness of the Myrtle Beach Experience we were [not] anxious to try it ourselves -- probably a little overdone/[right in line] for our tastes. Really the only reason we did choose to stop here was that it was closer to our 99 mile objective than the next state park to the south. The drive through North MB and MB itself was really eye-opening -- far, far larger than anything I ever envisioned as a beach resort. Mile after mile of sameness -- huge billboards, beach wear, restaurants, and miniature golf -- all repeating themselves endlessly. Truly, the mind boggled.

Then just as we were approaching the state park, Miss Garmina threw a hissy fit telling us to make a U-turn to enter the park. No such turn was required, just a left from the highway into the park. But we were flustered enough to give it a try before reaching the entrance and ended up doing a loop through the hotels and RV resorts of south MB.

Reaching the state park was an immediate change of attitude: deep, thick maritime forest with graceful winding roads and beautiful flowers and trees -- all on a mile of pristine ocean beach.

The weather was ideal, 80 degrees, high cirrus clouds to the west, with a little squall line moving away to the east. I took some pictures with the little Olympus camera while exploring the park on my bike and walking the beach. Now this is the kind of awesomeness that I can relate to.

The park itself is quite a bit out of our ordinary experience to date. There is free Wi-Fi, but it is passworded with a code that changes every Monday. The sites are of medium size and most have both water and electricity while some have sewer connections also. We are just behind the second dune line with about a 500 foot walk to the beach which is immaculately groomed. There are no alcoholic beverages allowed -- besides mentioning it numerous times in the rules, they also stamp it on your vehicle pass and require you to initial it. The rangers are on constant patrol through the park and the county police are driving up and down the beach. Our rate is $21 per night, but to that are added: $3 Reservation Fee; 7% Accommodations Tax; 1% Capital Project Tax - Myrtle Beach; 3% Local Accom Tax; 1% Local Education Tax - Horry County. This brings the total up to $25.31 per night. So we had to look at what the comparable RV resorts were charging, and it is over twice as much.

We are just a mile or so from final approach to runway 36 at the Myrtle Beach Airport, and we see right out of Morty's window the whole gamut of airliners to private planes coming in to land.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Going to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

As Morty strained at his little turtle reins to get on the road this morning, we held him back for a hike of the Venus Fly-Catcher path to see at least one meat-eating pitcher plant. Not so much luck in the Venus department but we did encounter a couple of very bold mosquitoes.

We had to choose between a backtrack of about 30 miles to the north, or a ferry ride that cost only $10 for Morty's double size. Well, Morty would burn at least $21 in direct operating costs on such a trip, so the decision was pretty easy, not to mention that someone else would be doing the driving. You would have to say that the good folks at the North Carolina Department of Ferries (or whatever), are doing a bang up job at promoting tourism. I hope the good citizens of NC appreciate what a gem they have here. I also earnestly hope that they are not losing too much money in the big overall scheme of things.

We arrived at the ferry dock with an hour to spare so it looked like a good opportunity to do some photography -- and it was -- with egrets and flowers and boats! We were soon approached by a young lady with all the questions about what kind of Nikon camera to buy and on and on. Young Susan filled a sheet of paper with all the answers, chief among which was to read Ken Rockwell on the web. 
She now lives in Kure Beach, the town south of Carolina Beach as a retired flight attendant. When she says she never met a stranger, we believer her completely. She took a picture of us, and we got a couple of her on the ferry playing "King of the World" a'la the Titanic movie. We are hoping photography helps her come out of her shell. [Note to Susan: your email must have been sucked into the van vent plumbing -- please write us at]

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Carolina Beach State Park

After yesterday's clear moon-lit drive, Morty sloshed through miserable cold, showers and fog all the way from Weythville's 7 AM departure until we were just outside of Wilmington around 2 PM. Another 300 mile day, but then the skies cleared and it warmed up into the 80s. Almost too good to be true.

The campground is only about 10% filled, and this on Halloween. I guess we'll have no goblin parades here tonight, unlike some Michigan campgrounds. We are on the intracoastal side of the island, but it is just a short bike ride to the ocean side. Seniors get $5 off the $18 nightly camping fee, but you have to make your own electricity. Only five of the North Carolina's campgrounds provide elcectricity, and only one of those is in the coastal region -- something to think about for summer camping. We are nestled in amongst 100 foot tall pines, and tomorrow the park rangers will be teaching us about snakes.

Lynne and I biked the park grounds, and found the hiking path for the Venus Fly-Catcher plant. Afterwords, I biked across the island to check out the boardwalk and beach along with the beach town garishness of the off-season.

Tomorrow Morty will be back on his 99 mile schedule with a trip to Myrtle Beach State Park. We are hoping this good weather holds despite the forecast of rain. The South Carolina state parks seem to have electricity and ocean-front living -- a couple of things that are increasingly important.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Back on the Road Again

After five weeks of tending to the administrivia at home, Morty headed southeast for some sun and surf. He was a little balky about getting loaded again, consequently it was three PM before the big wheels were a turnin'.

A small giltch was also encountered that could have added to the delay -- the electric step was stuck in the closed position. Upon inspection though, it was determined that a yellow birch leaf was interfering with the magnetic sensor. This little gizmo can tell when the door opens and sends the step out to meet our feet. It's just a little difficult to envision just how sensitive it must be if a freshly fallen leaf can trick it into missing the comings and goings of the door.

We took the route to the North Carolina shore that we used to travel twice a year, but this time due to the late start we made it to only the half-way point -- Wyethville, VA. We will spend the night in the Flying J parking lot and get an early start in the morning. As usually reckoned, this was a 333 mile day -- something that is necessary when there is a window of only three weeks or so for tripping. We are aiming for our first destination of Wilmington, NC -- the next big city south of our old haunts at Atlantic Beach.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Orionid Meteor Shower

Yet another small disappointment. Tried to capture some photos of the supposedly abundant meteors streaming through the sky tonight.

Box score: saw three, captured none on over sixty 30 second exposures. I've done considerably better without trying.

It does make a good retirement hobby though.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pickerington Ponds Metro Park

Last night was the first frost of the season. We seem to be seeing the effects of it in a big way today. We made it to the Pickerington Ponds, but saw scant wildlife compared to the summertime. There were just a few ducks and a pair of cardinals. As we drove from one pond to another, a great blue heron jumped into the air from a stream, but it was behind us before we saw it.

The tree top nests of the heron seemed to be quite empty. A strange duck type bird did fly near us as it was squawking up a ruckus but it landed in the long grass before we could identify it. Lynne spotted a (spotted?) hawk as it flitted above a pheasant in some short grass. Evidently the pheasant was the wrong size for the next meal, and was allowed to fly away to some taller grass as the hawk left to seek some more fitting prey. Also spotted pairs of ducks and deer, which were captured on silicon.

We made a return trip to the Slate Run Farm to see how the autumn chores were progressing. The turkeys were quite a bit more vocal than last week, undoubtedly they are getting more anxious with each passing week. We got some good pictures of the meat in the smokehouse, and the preserves in the cellar.

On the way to dinner, the sun was blasting through some red and yellow leaves that provide some seasonal picture opportunities.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


This is the coldest October I can remember. Can someone please ask Al Gore what is going on with our global warming? The new sandals are still working for me. This evening's forecast is for below freezing temperatures. We are still about a week away from heading out on our next trip -- which will be to warmer weather. So this meant that it was time to inject the anti-freeze in Morty's plumbing.

I got the water drained with no problem, setting the master control valves to the tank-fill position. Then I placed the anti-freeze bottle into position and turned on the pump. It promptly sucked in my entire supply of two and a half gallons. Holy Smokes, there isn't that much piping in there! Then it occurred to me that not setting the valves to the winterize position meant that the pink stuff was going into the water tank. So I headed out to the store to get a couple of gallons more. On the way back, it further occurred to me that all I had to do was pump the water tank through the kitchen faucet back into the empty bottles, and all would be not-too-bad.

So now Morty is ready for the cold, and my supply of pink anti-freeze is up to the three and half gallon mark. It will be so nice to be following the Sun soon.

Early Results from Google Voice

We called several family members using Google Voice in the last couple of days.

Two calls to New England were flawless. Great sound quality for the entire duration of each call. One call to rural northeast Ohio was sub-par in sound quality -- with a slight tinny echo in the background-- but that might have been an effect of the destination hardware.

In addition to putting a "Call me Free" gadget on my blog pages, I also put a little blurb into my email signature that does the same thing. This works by opening a little window that asks for your name and phone number. It then calls you, and then immediately begins ringing my Google Voice phones. How cool!

So on balance, we are very happy with the performance of the system, and delighted with the free cost structure.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Phone Number Change -- Google Voice

On our last trip, I wanted to switch off the desktop computers for economy and safety. That inadvertently also switched off the phone answering machine. As a result, our home voice mail reverted to an older phone that was having fits, and called my cell several times a day. We also probably missed many legitimate phone messages. In looking for a better system, I found Google Voice which requires a new phone number, but is free.

I was lucky to be able to get a new number, 614-859-9365, which is only 1 digit different from our old one which had the 855 in the middle.

There are some game-changing features that come with Google Voice:

Free long-distance calling in North America

Incoming calls ring on multiple different phones that you set up

Voice mail is transcribed and sent as text to your Internet page

You can initiate calls from your computer

You can read about all the features here: Google Voice

The drawback, is that you have to request an invitation, and that can take some time. In my case it was only a couple of weeks. Anyhow, we will see how well it works -- stay tuned.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Slate Run Farm Metro Park

Slate Run Farm Metro Park provided a nice splash of fall color with a little atmosphere from 19th century farming. I was actually looking for the Pickerington Ponds park, but went the wrong way on Gender Rd. (The Prius has many of the metro parks in her five-year-old nav system, but not the Ponds.)

This made for a very enjoyable afternoon. The farm had authentic canning and smoking facilities with a staff of very dedicated re-enactors tending to the chores and animals. Realistic too -- I almost made it passed the slopping of the hogs, without gagging. There were even freshly laundered clothes drying on the line. How bizarre is it to get all worked up about travelling to some distant place to see these things when so many folks have them in their own back yards?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Benjamin Franklin

I had to get my iPod Touch replaced last week because of a broken home key. In getting the replacement set up, I rediscovered the free Kindle app, and that led to finding some free books on Amazon. One of the first alphabetically was the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Here is the link, but the price is up to $0.99: Amazon So, I selected that while on the elliptical machine at the Y, and "boom" there it was. I started reading it and was "hooked" immediately.

From what I've read so far, his main focus is on his early years from about age 16 to 23 and how he purposefully developed his skills and character through some enormous hardships. Every time it seemed like he was about to get a break, the rug was yanked out from under him. Life lessons galore -- should be required reading for every teenager who wants to amount to anything. There are some gaps like during the course of the Revolution. The examples he set, both then and for now are remarkable. Life experiences in the early cities of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia is vividly portrayed, including the scheming and politicking of the more prominent.

There are huge advantages to reading on the Kindle on the Touch: large easy to see type, quick turning pages, one-hand manipulation, and background music. The feature that I don't much care for though  is that you never know where you are in the book physically -- there are no page numbers, or whether it is about to end. When electronic books add such a feature -- "here's how much you've read and how much is left" -- they will become much more popular.

The autobiography is something I highly recommend. So much, that I've added a Benjamin Franklin quote gizmo to this blog's right column.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I Can Haz Money 4 Cheezburger???

Imagine my surprise when a Google postcard arrives in the mail telling me that cash is accruing in my account.
From Family & Pets

This is the result of advertisers on this blog. So thank you to my readers, thank you, please keep reading and mentioning to your friends.

Sandals -- not just for summer anymore

The sandals that served me for the summer have come apart with the coming of the autumnal equinox. This was my first experience with sandals since toddler days. I was surprised at how healthy and fit they made my feet, and was a little distressed to see them fail so soon. Actually, the fact that they cost less than $10 should have been warning enough  -- or maybe I should not have assumed that they would be fine for hiking through the surf.

So I was interested to get an email announcing lifetime free shipping from , the internet shoe retailer. I took a look at their offerings, and found a good looking replacement in the $45 price range. In a color combination that defies description, "Mud/Squash" Columbia Sandals. Certainly a lot more expensive, but still reasonable if they are a relatively more durable.

They arrived in two days, and I am amazed at how supportive and comfortable they are compared to my old ones. The fit is noticeably improved, and I am more confident that I won't trip because they might get snagged on some protrusion.  Even though the temperature and weather here has plunged into the 40s and rainies, I haven't worn anything else, except for my work-outs. And I think the health benefits are actually superior to  the cheapies. Now I begin to wonder about how cold will it get before I give in and give them a rest.

Monday, October 05, 2009


Visited a small, nearby metro park this afternoon. Took a few cloudy autumm day pictures. Combined them with a few from springtime.

Saturday, October 03, 2009


Still in between trips... Went to dinner with an old friend who mentioned a local shop Aquarium Adventure on Sawmill Rd. So we drove over to have a look. My small camera was in my pocket, so we grabbed a few fish pics.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Put-in-Bay, OH

On Monday, Morty crawled the short distance to Catawba Island for the ferry to Put-in-Bay. I was last there in about 1948 at the age of 4 on a day-trip with my grandmother. Some vivid memories of that trip: an all-day affair from Cleveland and back again; time for just an elevator ride up the tower and walk back to the ship; she packed butterscotch brownies; I was asleep by the time we were back in port.

There are two competing ferries, a longer faster one which would have cost $120; and a shorter slower one which runs more frequently and costs $26 for 2 round trips. This is what competition is all about, I think.

This trip up the tower was our first opportunity to get the Senior Pass from the National Park Service for lifetime free admissions -- pretty good deal.

We had been seeing ads for the best lobster bisque in the state. So we went to the Boardwalk Cafe and tried it out. It was indeed wonderful -- must be the fresh local lobster right out of Lake Erie. We rented a golf cart for the day and covered just about the entire island. Stopped for a dish of Buckeye Delight icecream before the trip back.

When we returned to Morty, his map had one thing to say: the distance to the next campsite is not much different from the distance home. Also, staying in Ohio Parks was getting painful to be reminded that if we had our Golden Buckeye card, the daily fees would be cut 50% from Sundays to Thursday -- something to remember for the next go-list. So that was it for this trip. We are now home for a spell, trying to catch up with the backlog of mail etc.l

Sunday, September 20, 2009

East Harbor St Pk, OH

Morty is spending a second night at East Harbor as all the working folks depart for Monday jobs. The beach area had a little activity this afternoon as the locals gathered to clean the beach and party a bit.

There are some rocks in the park which showed extensive parallel grooves as the glaciers moved over them millions of years ago. Although we have some of both Cleveland and Toledo TV, we had no afternoon football. We spent quite a bit of the afternoon hiking around the lagoons and shooting pictures of the geese, ducks, swans and egrets. Better for our photo fans.

Thinking about a stop at Findlay St Pk tomorrow.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Henry Ford

Morty took us to the Henry Ford Museum on Saturday. This was the second time there in 49 years for Jim. The only things remembered from the first trip were the big trains, and the camping vehicles -- oh, and the breaking away moment of that first trip without family. How's that for fading memories. Maybe this time the pictures will help the memories more.

One of the more evocative displays was the street car -- "Rappy" -- like the one I rode with my mom from Shaker to Downtown Cleveland. Usually they ran a more modern version, but during rush hour the older models were used. One time separation anxiety set in when I exited on the way home and Mom was blocked by standing passengers. She rang the bell on the cord frantically to get the driver to stop again.

After a brief visit with our friend, we drove a little over an hour to Lakeside, OH and East Harbor State Park. We did little after that, except for a little wine and cheese followed by a bite of dinner.

Hope I don't get flagged for excessive uploading with this batch of pictures.

Friday, September 18, 2009

On to Dearborn

Friday dawned cloudy and cooler, so Morty drove a bit further to be in position to spend Saturday joining up with an old friend at the Henry Ford. We made it to the Dearborn area around 3PM as the skies cleared and temperature rose.  We even switched on the cab air conditioner for the last few miles.

We picked the closest campground which turned out to be the Wayne County Fairgrouns. The first drawback was that they were hosting a couple of dog shows and had only 20 amp sites available -- no problem, it wasn't hot enough to require the coach air conditioning. The deal that wasn't mentioned was that they are improving the road around the campground, grading and rolling the dirt/stone mixture. Most likely only a small inconvenience, except that they started this process at 7PM, and are still at it as of this writing -- 9:45 PM -- HUH?

We meet our friend at 10 at the Henry Ford. Should be fun.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

East Tawas City

Stayed for another day -- it's just too pretty and comfortable. Had the 99 cent breakfast at Mulligans: two eggs and bacon strips with toast -- wow! Went biking through town and found the forest on the north side. Then found the road out to the point where the Coast Guard and lighthouse are situated. This put the bike miles on this trip well over 100. Got some pretty good pictures with my little camera.

The pavement painters came through in the late afternoon for the campgrounds roads. We got a straight ahead arrow in front of us and a left turn arrow behind us right into our side. Might be time to leave, before someone follows the second arrow literally.

Had dinner at Ginii's again: pork chops and fish and chips -- excellent and very reasonable again. Walking back to the campground, we noticed the gulls all over the beach suddenly get agitated and take off. Then we look up and see a huge blur through the gap in the trees. Then a moment later it comes back and, wow, bald eagle. Got a picture, not a great one but finally something to remember it by.

What's in a name?

Our Mortimer Turtle was named in a dream.

From Straits St Pk, MI UP

Yet, there seems to be a precedent from the Land to the North and Paul Bunyon:

The Original Mortimer Turtle

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

East Tawas City Park

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 emerged as cloudy, windy and cooler, so as we finished up our 99 miles down Route 23 to Alpena, we decided it was the perfect day to extend another 60 miles to East Tawas. This was right along the shore of Lake Huron, and was a very pleasant drive. The unusual name's history is explained on the city's web page.

Yesterday's neighbor, mentioned this place as "required" stop on Morty's sashay South. Why East Tawas City Park? It's also pretty unusual: very few open sites, even though hardly anyone is around this time of year -- meaning many people pay full freight to keep their choice spots; full hook-ups including free cable TV; right in the heart of the city -- next to restaurants, Wal-Mart, and fast food of all types; right on the Lake Huron beach; great bath houses; lovely shaded sites; low cost; no reservations -- you can keep your site as long as you pay for it. It's as if they were using the city's capital resources, without having to earn a market rate of return -- oh wait, that is the deal here. Great for the happy campers, not so much for the good citizens of East Tawas. Maybe the business that is brought to town is the clincher -- it would be interesting to see the actual numbers. The Wikipedia entry  has no mention of the campground.

Dinner was at Ginii's Family Restaurant, practically next-door. We were tempted by the fresh local fish, but ended up with oriental -- Moo Goo Gai Pan, and Thai Pad shrimp. Both were very good, and extremely reasonably priced. I guess we need a little more courage to go with the local specialties, due to recent experiences. Mulligan's on the main downtown street looks to be the place for a 99 cent breakfast -- also on the list of the former neighbor.

Now were ahead of the daily mileage curve. We're targeting Grosse Isle south of Detroit for a Saturday meet-up with an old friend

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Straits St Pk, MI

Retracing much of his route to the northwest, Morty reverberated to the southeast reaching repose in Straits State Park overlooking the Mackinaw bridge.

We passed a couple on bikes about 30 miles out from our destination. I remember them because one had a Meijer traffic yellow vest on. I was surprised when they took the campsite across from ours.

We parked next to a friendly couple from Ann Arbor, who told me about the secret bike route into the town of St. Ignace -- one that avoided the most severe hills. That was great, but it still had me in the granny gears that I hadn't used in years. From the town, the view of Macinaw Island and the Grand Hotel was superb. When I got back, he was ready with packed of brochures on all about getting to and exploring the island.

He recommended a campground in Tawas City, which we will make tomorrows alternated destination since it is 160 miles down Route 23. If that proves too far, we will stop at Alpena which is right at the 99 mile benchmark.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Munising City Campground

Busy travel day! We left McLain Park early still hungry for some McDonald’s breakfast. This put us on the same route we used getting there. With breakfast in hand, I tried to find a Wi-Fi signal to upload the last couple of updates. I found the one I used last time, Pasty, but it wasn’t strong enough to work. No wonder, being named after the local specialty, most find once is enough. We went across the road to Wal-Mart and had the same situation. There was a motel behind the shopping center, so we went there. Found a signal named “moyle11”. I know what a Moyle is but couldn’t figure how it was associated with a motel. The signal was awesome, did the updates and even the stock and options. So then we left for our next destination, Pictured Rocks. Turned the first corner, and saw a weather-beaten sign for “Moyle’s Sand and Gravel”. Thank you Mr. Moyle for the great connectivity.

Pictured Rocks is a National Lakeshore. I knew nothing about it except that it was on the map and some highway singage, oh, and it was the right distance from McLain and in the direction of home. As we were getting close, we noticed a National Parks Service Information Center, so I wheeled in there to get the campsite info – not a typical, but still pretty good move. The roads to the national parks campsites are all at least 12 miles of gravel, and good chunks of those are closed for construction. This was on the eastern edge of Munising. As we came into town form the West, I noticed this commercial campground, so I asked about it and the notoriety of the pictured rocks themselves. Well, the campground would be the best alternative for someone like us who were finished driving for the day. The Pictured Rocks can only be seen from the water, and the boat cruises were just ready to leave, but the fare was $33 and would take the rest of the afternoon. We headed for the campground, and passed up the boat ride.

The City of Munising Tourist Park Campground is a very interesting place. It appears to be municipally owned. It was unattended at our arrival at 4PM, so pick a spot and leave your money in an envelope! The views of Lake Superior are outstanding. The Internet is free and open. The utilities are fine. The rates are as good or better than the state parks. The brochure/guide is slick and professional. The showers and lavatories are clean, hot where needed, and supplied with soap, just a little shabby in the building department. It’s just that the roads and most sites are very dusty and gravelly. Oops, too pessimistic maybe?

This evening’s sunset was spectacular. Every time I thought it was played-out, Lynne pointed me in an new direction, and my camera kept grabbing marvelous pictures. So we kept on taking pictures, and I now have 135 pictures of Munising sunset of 9/14/09! In the old days, that would have been four rolls of Kodacolor and processing -- costing over $80 in the 70’s.

McLain Day Two

Took some star pictures last night, and got another meteor. I wonder what the odds of that are?

From McLain St Pk, MI UP

Been marveling at the construction of the chair/table conbos along the beach here. They are in some of the pictures. Perhaps the objective was to make them heavy enough to withstand the storms. Whatever the reason, their massiveness and craftsmanship must be admired. There’s a full 2 x 4 frame around the seats, extending out the back; another frame around the base with a stringer across the base and six legs for each seat. If only they were a little more comfortable, they would be the ultimate seating solution.

Well, it just goes to show that if you praise a thing too highly it will turn on you. The weather today started foggy, and just as it looked like it might dry off, it came rolling right back in. Then our view of the lake and horizon, was cut in half by a 40 foot rig pulling into the site next to ours. I guess after some people pay for one of those monstrosities, they are too low on coin to afford a suitably glamorous camp. Well, at least it is good bike riding.

Just learned that my class reunion is to be moved up to the 23rd. So this is making it look like we need to skip Wisconsin, and take the shorter route back through the Land to the North. Another factor is that the yearly permit is $35 in Wisconsin, and the one for this here state is already paid for. So will probably be headed for Pictured Rocks Nationals Lakeshore tomorrow.

Later in the afternoon the ferry to Isle Royal did appear in the fog as it sailed out to the island – got a picture, but not a great one.