Friday, August 16, 2019


August 16, 2019--This is an addendum to my earlier blog:

When we were at the beach this morning, sitting in the shade of the umbrella and drying off from a dip in the Gulf, Jim spotted some dolphins.

It is not unusual to see dolphins, whether you are at the beach, one of the many rivers that empty into the Gulf or the Atlantic, or at a bay. But it is rare to see what we saw today: dolphins frolicking the the sea, jumping high into the air, as if they were performing at Sea World! I don't know if they were entertaining themselves or us, but it was spectacular to view.

Of course, by the time I took out my camera, they had stopped playing. Just my luck. So, I have no photos to post. You only have my word that we did, indeed, see a pod of dolphins having fun at the beach.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer


Beautiful clear water, but no fish

August 16, 2019—We decided to surf fish today. It was a rare day in which the warm water was an emerald green in the shallows and deep blue past the sand bars. Aside from seaweed, the water was crystal clear. Usually, clear water means good surf fishing, but not today. All Jim caught was a tiny little jack crevalle. I don't think we even had any other bites!
Jim caught only one puny jack crevalle! He let it go to grow up.

We had fun any way, and although the temperature was in the mid 90s, our umbrella and a sea breeze kept us comfortable.

The camera did not do justice to the color of the Gulf. It was a beautiful emerald green in the shallows, juxtaposed against the deep blue where the water deepened.

We were amazed, however, at the thoughtlessness of beach goers.

As anglers, we are considerate; we walk down the beach away from any bathers. We would not want anyone to become entangled in our lines or caught by a hook. However, we weren’t fishing very long, however, when a group of teenagers (I think it was some type of church or community group) led by a man jumped into the water with boogie boards. They were very near our lines. We finally got their attention and all but one (stubborn) girl relocated away from the lines. (She finally got out of the water.)

An hour later, a mother with her two young kids walked by us and plopped down about 10 yards from us and decided that was a good place to play in the waves. They were oblivious that the current and wave action were slowly taking our lines in their direction.

We decided to give up. The fish weren’t biting anyway…why get in a hassle with swimmers?

We reeled in the lines and decided to take a dip ourselves. It was the first time in probably seven or eight years that I have swum in the sea. The last time was when either my son or my daughter and their family were visiting. Wave-hopping isn’t my favorite pastime, but we had great fun anyway.
We went home, rested, and we are going back to the pier on the bay later. The last two days we have fished off the pier and have caught some croakers—not many, but enough for dinner. Maybe we will add to their number before I cook tonight.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hot, hot, hot! A last summer vacation

August 14, 2019—On the go again, this time at Grayton Beach State Park in Santa Rosa, Fla., which is in the Florida Panhandle, about midway between Panama City and Pensacola. We arrived yesterday afternoon, after about a five-hour drive from Jacksonville.

The drive was uneventful—until we decided to get fuel in Marianna. We pulled into a Murphy Express Station by a Walmart. The station was very busy; we had to wait a bit to get to a diesel pump. After filling up with diesel, Jim pulled out and patiently waited to exit the station. Finally, we turned out of the station and headed for a Hardee’s, about three miles up the road, for lunch.

Below the reflection of Jim's legs (he was taking a photo of the damage), you can see the small scratch our camper made on the car. Ouch!

As we pulled into the parking lot of the Hardee’s, a car pulled up next to us, and the driver (nicely) confronted Jim: Jim had inadvertently sideswiped his car when he had pulled out of the gas station. Our truck and camper are big and heavy; we never felt the scratch occur. We know what happened, however. The long “legs” of the camper stick out a bit from the body of the camper and the truck. Apparently, the truck pulled up too close to the much smaller car and the bottom of the leg scraped the car.

Stuff happens. This was one of those instances. Jim reported the accident to the insurance company, and right now, we are waiting for an adjuster to come out and look at our truck and camper, despite the fact that there was no damage to our vehicle(s), a fact we repeatedly assured the adjuster.
Waiting for the adjuster is making us postpone our first day of fishing—not a real tragedy, because the heat index is 106 degrees. We hope that when we are by the water’s edge it will be cooler.

This is a nice state park, which has access to the Gulf as well as a briny lake. We are also near a bay. The park is outstanding for two things: First, we have internet! Yea! The last couple of state-park stays have found us “stranded” without access to the outside world, except for nightly news on a network station. Second, we have sewers! Being able to hook up sewer lines is really nice. We took a shower in our camper for the first time.

Our campsite at Grayton Beach State Park--complete with electric, water, and sewers!
It is actually too hot to use our tented canopy but we put it up anyway. 

On the downside, however, the park has no fishing facilities—no piers, no cleaning stations—a disappointment. We can fish from the shore of the Gulf as well as the lake, but it would be nice if there were a pier. Also, the park is far enough away from both Panama City and Pensacola that we are unable to get any network or PBS television stations, only a couple of local stations. We aren’t big TV watchers, so that is not a big deal, but it would be nice to watch the news. (We keep forgetting to contact DirecTV to ask if it is possible to take our satellite box with us and use it in the camper. Our camper actually has a satellite dish built into it!)

Enough for now. Wish us luck when we fish. I hope the fish aren’t as lethargic as we feel in the heat.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A tour of Fort Clinch to end our stay

July 30, 2019—We packed up early this morning and drove the short distance to Fort Clinch, the historic brick fortification located with Fort Clinch State Park, a site worth investigating.
Here I am standing by one of the cannon on the parade grounds.

Fort Clinch's parade grounds. Several cannon are on the upper level, protecting the inlet.

According to the fort's history, its first fortifications were begun in 1736, but it wasn’t until 1847 that the brick fort was begun. Its purpose was to defend against foreign invaders that might try to come up the Amelia River, which was a deep-water port, from the Atlantic Ocean. Erecting the fort took considerable time: Only about two-thirds was finished by the start of the Civil War, with cannons yet to be mounted on the walls.
Jim is walking toward one of the very large cannon that protected the inlet. The guns could be swiveled for precise firing.

The island seen in this picture is Cumberland National Seashore. It can be visited only by boat.

More of the buildings surrounding the parade grounds of the fort.

By default (because of its southern location), at the start of the Civil War, the fort went under control of the Confederacy. By 1862, however, General Robert E. Lee ordered the evacuation of the fort, and the Union took it over. Despite Union occupancy, the fort was still not finished by the end of the war, and by 1869 the army had abandoned it.

In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Fort Clinch was again used as a barracks and ammunition depot, with cannon and a minefield outside the walls added for fortifications. About a year after hostilities ended, the fort was once again abandoned.

A barracks room. Soldiers slept two to a bed.

In the middle ground of the photo is an inverted rooftop. Several roofs were built like this to catch rainwater and store it in a large cistern.
The fort became one of Florida’s first state parks in 1935, and thanks to the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), it was restored.

The fort served its final strategic mission as a joint operations center for surveillance and communications during World War II. After the war ended, it was returned to the state.

Visitors are regularly educated and entertained by re-enactors throughout the year. Apparently, the living museum is operational only on weekends; we saw only one costumed “soldier” while we visited.

We were surprised by the size of the fort; it is quite large, and on the upper levels offers an expansive view of Cumberland Island National Seashore, where (it is said) you can sometimes watch the wild horses prance on the beach. We didn’t have binoculars with us, so our view was limited.

After a quick tour in and around the various buildings in the fort—including the quartermaster’s office, barracks, jail, kitchen, and ammunition rooms—we headed home…another great get-away, and one to which we will return.

After all, the fishing was great!

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Monday, July 29, 2019

14 little 'uns and 1 mystery fish

July 29, 2019—It was a good day of fishing. We caught around 20 fish (albeit all small ones) and kept 15. We do not know the names of what we caught, but we are sure that none was a protected species. We decided to have a massive fish fry at home. Those little ‘uns have a lot of bones, but they sure are good eating.

One of the 15, however, we tossed to the seagulls once Jim had cleaned it. I suspect it is a variety of ladyfish, a species that are fun to catch but not real tasty. (As soon as we have an internet connection, I’ll do some research and see if I can identify it.) The ladyfish we have caught elsewhere were essentially black, not mottled like this one. And they had larger eyes. However, this fish was elongated, like ladyfish, and had somewhat bulging eyes, very similar to the ladyfish we have caught in the past.

This is a mystery fish. When I returned home, I researched it and discovered it is called a lizard fish. Although considered a trash fish (and an ungly one with many sharp teeth, at that!), several anglers who do "catch and cook" vlogs tried cooking and eating this ugliness. They were all surprised: It is apparently a very tasty fish, mild, with a taste similar to flounder. Just goes to show that there are few (if any) inedible fish in the sea. Below are two more photos of our mystery fish.

The lizard fish almost looks like a snake!

Ladyfish are not filleted or cooked like “regular” fish. Their flesh is mushy. (So was this fish’s meat.) To use the fish, it is recommended to freeze it for a couple of hours, then fillet, but instead of skinning it, to take a spoon and scrape the flesh off the skin. This pulpy flesh is then used in fish cakes. I made some fish cakes from ladyfish. The recipe I used was not worth repeating. However, I would try another recipe the next time we catch a mess of them. Like I said, they are really fun to catch.

We fished until the bait was gone. This time, we were on the Amelia River, away from the inlet, where we were yesterday. We agreed that we would like to return here. The campground is very nice; the wash house is air-conditioned; and the fishing is good.

Tomorrow we return home, a “long” journey of about one hour. After we pack up, we will stop at the fort and tour the museum. Not sure if we will go into Fort Clinch, however. We have been to several forts around Florida built in the same time.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Little 'uns

July 28, 2019—A perfect fishing day. High in the 80s (we think. With no internet, I have no idea what the real temperature is). Humid, yes, but at the inlet the breeze was constant, and that made for a comfortable day to dip our lines.

We decided to fish at the spot where some locals said they always had luck. We started at 11 a.m. and finished around 5:00 p.m. I went back to the camper and made us a picnic lunch. Something about salt water…it whets the appetite.

We didn’t catch any big ones today, unfortunately, but we caught a variety of small keepers, mostly those tasty croakers. We took home five, but Jim also caught three baby sharks (two bonnet heads and one black tail). Although there is no size limit for either of these species, we decided to let them grow up a bit more. He also caught a saltwater catfish. Saltwater catfish taste very much like freshwater cats, but they have to be fairly good sized to get enough meat. This one was pretty small, so Jim threw him back, also.
Our take-home catch of the day, waiting to be cleaned. 

Tomorrow I think we will try our luck at the fishing pier here in the park. If they aren’t biting, then we’ll move to another spot.

Right now, I’m bushed. Saltwater not only stimulates your appetite, it also ensures you will sleep well that night.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Yikes! Campground has no internet--again!

July 27, 2019—One of the aims of many people, when they go camping, is to get away from it all. The Florida state park system seems intent on making that happen. No internet. No cell phone signal. Isolation. 

We arrived at Fort Clinch State Park, about an hour north of Jacksonville in Fernandina Beach, which is situated almost on the border to Georgia. (Yes, Jacksonville is that far north! We are really in southern Georgia, for climate and culture.)

The roadways in the park are tree canopied, which suggests a taste of old Florida, long before Disney.
This is a very nice state park: Shady campsites, and although they are close to one another, the trees give a semblance of privacy. The roadways are tree-canopied, with Spanish moss hanging from the limbs and giving a glimpse of what Florida was before Disney.

The sites are not nearly as big as they were at Saint George Island, where many campers bring boats, but ours is adequate. The shower house is a short walk. In contrast to all others we have used, this one is air conditioned—a nice amenity.

The park is the home of Fort Clinch, a 19th century brick fort built to guard the entrance to the Amelia River from invaders arriving via the Atlantic Ocean. We will probably tour the fort tomorrow. Inlet areas on both the east and west side of the fort provide good fishing. There is also a fishing pier a bit farther up the river, as well as a beach on the ocean, where we can surf fish.

Two photos of Fort Clinch, taken from the riverside of the fort.

It is the lack of internet that I bemoan, as well as the fact that we can get few TV channels. We are just north of Jacksonville and should be able to pick up all the Jax stations, but no. The only network we get is CBS.

The fact that we have no internet means that I will be posting these blogs after we get home.
Our stay here is only for three nights. If the fishing is good, however, we may return, since it is close to home yet allows us to get away.

Tomorrow, we dip our lines. Wish us luck. We always enjoy trying to entice the fish to our lines, but it is much more fun when we can pull them in!

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,