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]