Saturday, June 29, 2019

Wrapping up our vacation


June 29, 2019—It is our last day at St. George Island State Park. We spent several hours fishing—and catching.

We returned to the fishing pier today where we had had success two days ago. (Yesterday was a rain day. After “fixing” the truck—by filling up the fuel tank—we stayed in all afternoon as the rain came down.) Although some people on the pier were catching black-tipped sharks and a few larger species, such as flounder, we knew those fish were not abundant, so we decided to concentrate on catching more croakers. Those little fish are fun to catch, and more important, delicious to eat.
Jim, fishing for croakers on the St. George Island fishing pier

My first catches of the day were a couple of ladyfish and catfish. Most anglers condemn ladyfish as trash fish and throw them back or use them as cut bait. We have learned that no fish is trash; all can be eaten. Some are just better tasting than others. When we were in Sebastian Inlet in May, we caught a number of ladyfish and learned how to clean and use them to make fishcakes. The fish are fun to catch, but today we decided we didn’t want to mess with their special cleaning (they need to be scraped, not filleted), so we tossed them back. Likewise, the catfish. Saltwater catfish taste about the same as freshwater catfish, but cleaning them is not as easy as filleting other fish. We let them live for another day to steal bait from another angler.

We ended up catching (and keeping) 18 croakers. We would have caught more, but we ran out of bait. Those 18 will be enough for two dinners for the two of us. Yum!

***
Despite the beauty of the white sand beaches and dunes, we won’t be coming back to this state park. It just doesn’t have enough to offer us.


Our campsite is spacious and shady. That’s good. It is also near the shower house. The walk to the gulf from the parking lot is relatively short (unlike the walk to the beach at Anastasia Island State Park). I think those are about the only good things I can say about this park.

Although it has miles of beach and several dedicated beach-access areas, parking is inadequate, especially for anglers and campers. Each access area only has about a half-dozen non-handicapped parking spaces. It is not possible to park alongside the road, because the shoulders are sand. Signs distinctly state that the sand will not support vehicles. Even if you could park alongside the road, it wouldn’t be possible, because almost all of the land between the road and the beach (except for the beach access areas) is roped off—prohibited--to protect shore bird and their nestlings.

The park is bounded on the south by the gulf, on the north by the bay or sound. (I don’t know the technical term for that body of water.) The park has two boat ramps to the sound. But there are no fishing piers, and no access to fishing the sound from the shoreline. Except for the one day we did surf fishing, we went “off base” to fish at the pier in town.

We have visited many state parks during the last two years. Because of the limited capacity of our RV’s holding tanks, we use the public facilities to shower. Some of these facilities have been very old and in need of repair and replacement of shower heads. Others have been newer. Most have been very clean. This shower house is wanting in cleanliness. I won’t go into specifics, but I don't think it is too much to expect toilet stalls to be clean and mildew to be removed from the shower walls.

If we were to return to this part of the Forgotten Coast, we would stay at St. Joseph State Park near Port St. Joseph, rather than here. Unfortunately, that park was hit hard in the hurricane last year and is not yet open for camping.

In August we have reservations at another state park on the Forgotten Coast, in Santa Rosa, Fla., which is near Pensacola. I hope we will not be disappointed in the facilities or the fishing.

Despite the limitations of the park, however, we had a wonderful time. It is always relaxing to get away from the day-to-day chores that confront us at home, even if our camping experience isn’t all that we had hoped it would be.

Until next time (when we return to Faver-Dykes State Park, near St. Augustine), I am

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Friday, June 28, 2019

Weird truck


June 28, 2019—Last night on the way back from fishing, Jim sighed and probably said a few choice words: Our 1999 diesel Ram truck was having trouble shifting. It refused to shift out of second gear. Definitely not a good thing.
Whoever heard of a transmission problem caused by low fuel level?  

We stopped; he checked the transmission fluid. It was OK. Then we started making plans: He said this was a transmission problem and we would have to drive very slowly (about 20-30 mph) to Tallahassee, the nearest big city (about 80 miles away) where we would be able to get service. And fixing the problem would probably be expensive. Tomorrow we would drive into the center of the island where we could get a cell phone signal and google transmission shops. (We don’t have a cell signal in the campground.)

We knew when we bought this package—the 2003 Lance truck camper and the 1999 Ram truck—that we would have to spend some money on maintenance and repair. It was inevitable. The original owner of the truck and camper was a rabbi. A nice guy, but self-admittedly not mechanically inclined. We believed he had done normal maintenance, but beyond that, he was oblivious to what should be done to a vehicle and was incapable of doing more than driving it down to a mechanic.

When Jim took the truck in for an alignment last week, he was given a list of front-end problems that needed to be fixed before the alignment could be done. Jim opted to put on new shocks himself, and will take the truck back for the other $1500 of repairs after we return.

But I digress…back to our current problem, an apparently faulty transmission. We were resigned that we were going to be faced with an unexpected and unwanted repair.

A bit after we hobbled back to our campsite, I drove the truck down to the dumpster to get rid of some garbage. I glanced down to the fuel gauge—less than one-quarter of a tank of diesel. And I remembered something the rabbi had told us about the truck as he was explaining to us the idiosyncrasies of the camper and the truck:

The rabbi had said, “Oh, don’t let the fuel get below one-quarter tank. The truck doesn’t shift well when the fuel gets low.”

When the rabbi said that, Jim smiled and rolled his eyes. I asked him about the rabbi’s comment later and he said, “The fuel level doesn’t have anything to do with shifting gears.” True, it doesn’t, at least not directly. But I reminded Jim about the rabbi’s comment when I returned from the garbage dumpster. After all, although the rabbi was not mechanically inclined, he had driven the truck for almost 20 years. He knew its foibles.

“It doesn’t make sense, but tomorrow morning we will go fill up the fuel tank. Let’s hope a full tank takes care of the problem.”

So, this morning we limped the 15 miles across the bridge to Eastpoint, to the nearest fuel station that sold diesel. While we were chugging along, I finally got a signal on my phone and immediately started googling “difficulty shifting 1999 Ram 3500 with low fuel” and got several hits. One was a query on a forum about an identical situation. The expert who answered the question did not discount the problem. Rather, he listed several plausible reasons why the truck might not shift when the fuel tank was near empty! He said that with a full tank the shifting problem should go away, although that does not solve the core cause of the problem.

When we reached the nearest gas station that sold diesel, Jim pumped fuel into the nearly empty tank. He then started the engine, pulled out onto the highway and…

…the truck shifted! Problem solved.

Well, not solved, exactly. Jim will do some problem solving to address the cause of this situation after we get home. But, in the meantime, he promised me he would not complain when I ask him how we’re doing on fuel. I always get the tank filled when it drops to one-quarter; he likes to drive on fumes. Not any more, at least in this truck.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Good eating


June 27, 2019—What a good dinner! What would make a good dinner while camping/fishing other than freshly caught fish? Our dining was not elegant , but it was delicious.

Jim and I headed back out to the fishing pier, an old bridge that once spanned the distance between the mainland and the island. The county retained about a half-mile of the bridge on both sides for fishing. Yesterday we fished on the Eastpoint pier, chosen at the suggestion of a local fisherman. He said that pier was better than the one of the St. George Island side.
St. George Island Fishing pier

It wasn’t. We didn’t catch anything, although we fed the fish.

Today, we decided to fish on the St. George pier. And catch fish we did!

Granted, we did not catch the “big” ones, but we certainly caught the tasty ones, croakers.

Croakers can be described as salt-water bluegills, small fish with a large dimension of tastiness. They love to nibble the bait off your hook, especially larger hooks meant to catch big fish.  We caught a few on the hooks meant for flounder and trout, but we finally realized that if we wanted to catch croakers, we had to use small hooks. Jim changed our hooks, and we started catching.

Image result for croaker fish
We were too busy catching croakers to take pictures of them,
so I captured a photo from the internet. Small guys, but really tasty.

We caught more than a dozen, but silly us, we threw back the first few that we caught, thinking they were too small. Then we realized  they don’t get big, and started keeping them.

Altogether we took home 10 and had a feast.

We will go back to the same pier tomorrow. Sure, it would be nice to catch some big fish, but catchin’ is much better than fishin’ and those little ones went down just fine.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda 


Too hot for the fish to bite?


June 27, 2019, St. George Island State Park, Fla.—I guess fish are like people. They don’t like it when it is too hot or too cold.

The fish is our little backyard pond are that way. During the winter, they couldn’t be tempted by any lure we used. They hid somewhere in the pond, trying to keep warm. Then, once the water warmed up, they can’t be tempted to come out of their hidey-holes where the water is cool. (I think the pond is more than 10 feet in the deepest area, beyond reach of our casting.) I think I’ve only caught one bass in the last couple of months.

Jim enjoyed surf fishing, although it was about 98 degrees and the fish were not biting.

We are here at St. George Island State Park on what is known as the Forgotten Coast. It is a beautiful area, with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the sound or bay (or whatever it is called) on the other. We (along with all other fishermen) had no luck the other day surf fishing, nary a bite. 


Yesterday, we drove over to the sound and dipped our lines for several hours off the fishing pier, an old bridge that extends out into the water.

The fish were biting all right. Biting and eating our shrimp and whatever other bait we used. Some even managed to eat the Fish Bites, an artificial bait glommed onto a tightly knit mesh. The Fish Bites are very difficult to get onto the hook, and even harder to take off, once the bait itself has dissolved. But some fish managed to bite it off!

The day wasn’t completely without catches. Jim caught an undersized black drum and a catfish. I caught two catfish and what we think was a juvenile spotted trout. None was a keeper. All were fun to pull in.

Oh, and it wasn’t just us. The other people fishing had just as poor luck as we did.
I blame the lack of catching on the hot weather. I don’t know if I am right, but it sounds like a good excuse.

***

After fishing, since we were over the long bridge from the mainland, we decided to have an early supper in Apalachicola, a town that used to be a fishing and oystering haven. As oystering has tapered off in recent years, the town has maintained its allure as a quaint fishing village with restaurants and tourist shops.

The last time we were here, in 2017, there were a number of seafood restaurants from which to choose. Hurricane Michael (I think that was the one) must have had a bad effect on the town. The choice of restaurants was limited this time, and I can’t say the food was very good.

Today or tomorrow we may drive over the Mexico Beach, which is perhaps an hour away, to see the devastation the hurricane wrought. The federal government has not been good about providing disaster relief to the area. I think if you wanted to buy gulf-front property there you could pick up some bargains. Me? Too much sand.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Camping, but no internet!


June 25, 2019, St. George Island State Park—I am writing this on June 25, but unfortunately I will not be able to post anything until we return home. No internet! Yikes! I feel so isolated. I am not one of those people who has her nose in the phone all day long, but I rely on the internet to get my news (no more print newspaper), to get mail (virtually nothing comes via snail mail any more), and to shop (except for clothes and food, we do most of our shopping on eBay and Amazon Prime). I rare use the phone to talk, but having it with me keeps me connected. I guess I will survive for five more nights without cyber activity.

St. George Island State Park is on the Forgotten Coast of Florida, in the Panhandle. It is an island in the Gulf of Mexico, about 265 miles from Jacksonville. This is the third time we have stayed in this area. The first was in 2015, on our way back from the Midwest. We stayed at Ho Hum RV Park, a park that boasts no amenities except for being directly on the gulf. We had a delightful time.
The second time, November 2017, we booked a reservation at T. H. Stone memorial State Park outside of Port St. Joseph on St. Joseph Bay. We truly enjoyed that vacation, fishing in the gulf as well as in St. Joseph Bay. That state park was severely damaged in the hurricane a year ago when Mexico Beach, Fla., was decimated, and still has not reopened.
A heron, one of many shore birds, at St. George Island State Park. 

St. George Island State Park is across the St. George Inlet from Apalachicola and Eastpoint. Not much on this island. It seems to be an area for vacation homes. But the park is lovely. The dunes remind me of the sand dunes at Lake Michigan. Most sand dunes in Florida have sea grapes (or oats?) growing on them, to protect them from erosion. The sea grapes block any view of the water from the roadside. Not so, here.

This is our second excursion in our truck camper. We learned much from our first outing a couple weeks ago. This time, we were smarter in how we packed our gear. We discovered that by folding up the rear seat in the back of the truck, we were able to stow most of our equipment, rather than put it in the aisle of the camper.

We also purchased a stand-alone tent shelter, where we can sit outside and not be bothered by insects. I don’t know why we didn’t do that years ago! For less than $100, we can now enjoy the outdoors. (I’ll not dwell on the heat and humidity that detract from this small pleasure.)
We purchased a stand-alone tent shelter where we can sit outside without (mostly) being bothered by mosquitoes and other annoying insects. I don't know why we didn't buy one 10 years ago! It is very nice to sit outside and enjoy nature and a fire.

Our aim, as always, is to No. 1, have a good time, and No. 2, go fishing. We spent several hours on the beach today, surf fishing. Nary a bite! Jim doesn’t care. He likes to sit and ponder the mysteries of life while watching the waves break. I admit I am less patient; I like to at least have a few nibbles.

Maybe tomorrow.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sand and surf fishing


June 6, 2019—Surf fishing. Jim loves it. He claims it is relaxing and meditative just to sit on the beach, watch the fishing rod (in hopes that it will bend to the weight of a catch), and listen to the waves break on the shore.

He’s right. It is relaxing. The only problem is that to do surf fishing, you have to go to the beach. And the beach means sand. Sand. Sand. And more sand.

Hard sand by the seashore is OK. But to get to the shore, you have to walk across soft sand, the kind that makes its way into your beach shoes and hurts the bottoms of your feet. Walking in soft sand reminds me of walking in knee-deep snow. I never liked snow-walking. I hate walking in sand.

There is really only one rule about surf fishing: don’t set up your gear and fish around swimmers. Avoiding swimmers means having to hike down the beach. In sand. Soft sand. Soft sand that swallows your feet. Did I mention I don’t like walking in sand? (I think there is a reason why I have been to the beach less than a dozen times since I moved to Florida 21 years ago, and it has to do with sand.)

OK, enough about the beach and its sand that creeps into every crevice of your body. We went surf fishing today. Catching was not great; we brought home a few small fish. I guess the fish weren’t too hungry today.
Jim is holding the baby hammerhead shark I caught at Anastasia State Park while surf fishing. Weird-looking fish.

Shortly after I cast out my line, however, I got a bite. What did I catch? The brother of the little shark I caught yesterday. It was about the same size, around 8-10 inches. We released him to grow up.
I cast my line again, and within a few minutes I had another bite! It was not a heavy fish. It was…another shark! This time a baby hammerhead! We released him, too, to grow up.

Today is the last day of our mini-vacation. We return home tomorrow. As usual, we have had a good time. Our next adventure will be six nights at St. George Island State Park on the Gulf, in the panhandle, at the end of June . We also have time booked at Faver-Dykes State Park (central Florida, east coast) in mid-July, and at Fort Clinch State Park (about an hour north of Jacksonville) at the end of July. After that? Well, wehave to get out the state park map and start planning.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Verdict on the truck camper...great!


June 5, 2019—We are at Anastasia State Park, in St. Augustine, Fl. Our first night in our “new” truck camper has passed. It was nice.



Thor, our 27-foot Class A motorcoach (which is at Campers Inn in Jacksonville, on consignment), had essentially about 17 feet of usable cabin space, plus the bedroom, but it was only 8 ½ wide. Lance, our truck camper, is overall 20 feet long, from the head of the bed (which is elevated) to the door. The cabin area is roughly 12 feet long, but this area has a slide, which makes the living area much wider than Thor’s. That extra width in the cabin area makes all the difference for comfort.
In Thor, we had to set up a table every time we ate. In the truck camper we have a dinette table. I have adequate space to cook, and if I need more, I can use the table.

Storage? The camper has less than Thor, both inside and especially in the “basement.” But it is adequate for our needs.

Since we purchased this camper a couple of weeks ago, Jim has been busy. We bought a 24” LED TV, to replace the 12” antique that was in the TV cabinet. He was able to modify the built-in articulating TV stand to accommodate our new TV, so the television can be viewed from both the cabin as well as lying in bed.

Jim has changed out most of the lights to LEDs for energy efficiency. We put up a magnetic strip, which holds all the knives and some utility kitchen items. That small innovation has freed up drawer space, which is in short supply.

We also took up the camper’s blue carpeting in the cabin. Beneath it was “virgin “white linoleum. Not attractive, but much easier to keep clean. Eventually, Jim will probably lay some tile planks that resemble hardwood flooring. Not a high priority, though, since the linoleum is in good shape.

The truck has also been the target of some improvements. We discovered that the cruise control did not work. A trip to the mechanic fixed that problem. Jim installed two wireless back-up cameras—one on the truck and one on the camper. These cameras improve safety on the road and make it easier to back the truck in order to load the camper.

The first week we had the truck, Jim installed new airbags—not the kind used for safety (the truck has those of course), but the kind that eases stress on the truck’s springs and creates a more comfortable ride. (The truck had air bags, but they were not functioning.) Also, before we even brought the camper home, Jim purchased some quick-release tie-downs. (The camper has to be “tied down” to the truck. The quick-release tie-downs allow fast set up and tear down.) We found that it was not very difficult to put the camper on the truck and was even easier to set it down in the campground.

Still to be done: a new radio in the truck. The current radio does not have Bluetooth, nor does it have an auxiliary jack. We like to listen to audio books when we travel, so replacing the current radio is a priority that Jim will address in the near future.

All in all, we are very pleased with our purchase. To be sure, this truck camper would not have met our needs nine years ago, when we purchased our first RV. Then, we wanted to do longer travel. (Jim wanted to live in an RV full-time. Not me.) We needed the space we had in our first RV, which was 38 feet long. The second one was 40 feet long. Thor was, as I said, 27 feet. Perhaps, if Thor had had a different configuration, we might not have put it up for sale and bought this truck camper. But, needs (and wants) change. 

Now, if only the motorhome will sell quickly at the RV dealer!
***
It was fortuitous that we had this camping trip to Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine planned prior to our buying the camper. The campground is less than an hour from Jacksonville, so it was a good place for our first trip.
I can’t say that I am too impressed with this state park. The sites are very nice, private, and shaded. But to fish on the beach requires walking a great distance. Neither of us is fond of walking far on sanding beaches. Also, although there is an inlet where it is possible to fish, there is no boat launch, nor is there a fishing pier. I don’t think fishing along the bank will be very inviting. (We did not bring our boat for this trip.)
We drove to the St. Augustine pier today. Fishing was poor. Although each of us caught several small fish, most were too small to keep. Two (species unknown) made it to our dinner table tonight. I also caught a baby shark. By baby, I mean very small, only about eight inches long. If it survived our release, it will grow up to menace other fish, hopefully not humans.
We may go back to the pier this evening, to fish on the incoming tide. Hope the catch is better than this afternoon.
Until later,
Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda