Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Same ole' story: Fishin', not catchin'


June 27, 2018--What is it with fish? Whenever we go fishing, they seem to go somewhere else. Maybe it’s the heat, because it is hot in Florida. It’s been in the mid-90s for several weeks, with humidity to match. (As a side note: I saw a statistic the other day: Jacksonville is the second-most humid city in the United States, with an average humidity level of 75.8%. New Orleans beats us with an average of 75.9%. I’ve had the misfortune of living in both of these cities.)

This state park (Faver-Dykes, south of St. Augustine) has a lovely fishing dock. At least, that is what it is called. I think a better label would be “observation deck.” We observed at least one gator, a few birds, a lot of mosquitoes, but no fish. Nary a nibble, both times we tried fishing from it. Ah, well.

We next tried the fishing pier in Flagler Beach. Nice pier; lots of people using it. But few catching anything. Jim caught a couple of small whiting, not big enough to filet. And one young man caught a shark, which he landed right by us.


The shark put up quite a fight. Despite the fishing pier’s rule against shark fishing (you can’t help it if you catch one, but you need to release it), the young fisherman was intent on landing the shark and getting a picture taken. That would have been OK, except that to haul it up to the pier, he had to use a gaff, which tore into the shark’s torso. I doubt that shark survived the ordeal.

The best times to fish are when the tides are either coming in or going out. (Yes, we were at the park’s dock at the right time, as well as the Flagler Beach Fishing Pier.) So, yesterday afternoon we went to the ocean around the Matanzas River Bridge on A1A. We were told that that was the area where many people surf fish.

We found a good place to park, found our way down the embankment and out toward a point where fishing generally should be good. The tide was, indeed, coming in. Fast. So fast that after about 20 minutes we suddenly realized that we needed to pack up and move, else we would be wading through water to get back to the car!

As we packed up, another fisherman advised us that fishing was generally pretty good down the beach a bit (probably about a quarter mile). Instead of heading home, we repositioned and starting dipping our lines again.

Obviously, our attention was on the ocean to the east of us, but we after getting set up, we casually looked over our shoulder to the west and saw very dark skies. Checking the phone’s weather app, we saw that a storm was heading our way…maybe. It might hit us; it might not.

I am skittish about storms. Just this week, someone was killed by a lightning strike on a beach in northeast Florida. We packed up and headed home. (The storm missed us incidentally. But better safe than sorry.)

This morning, we went back to the same spot on the ocean as the tide was heading out. Jim does the casting; I was watching the lines. I suddenly saw one of the lines bend. The action did not look like it was caused by the waves or current. Was there a fish on it? I decided to reel in the line to take a look.
I cranked and cranked. Something heavy was on the end—or the line was snagged on some rocks. I finally handed the pole over to Jim, who continued to reel it in.

What did we catch? A sea turtle.

No, it did not bite the hook. The poor baby got its fin snagged in the line. Jim hauled it in, untangled the line, and let it go.

As the tide kept going out, it was necessary to wade out into the ocean to cast into the deeper areas where fish might be lurking. I wasn’t too successful wading. Every time I waded into the water, the sand (much like quick sand) sucked me in.Literally. I finally gave up.

Jim didn’t, however. He took a pole and waded out quite a distance. He finally caught a black drum. Unfortunately it was about an inch or so too small.

So where does that leave us? A great time, but no fish. Fortunately, I brought plenty of food for dinner.

Tomorrow it is home again.

This may be our last RV trip. (If you know anyone looking to buy and excellent small RV, let me know.) It won’t be our last fishing trip, though.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Monday, June 25, 2018

Still for sale, but traveling

"Thor" is officially up for sale, with postings on FaceBook, FB's Marketplace, Nextdoor Neighbors, Craigslist, RVT.com and RVTrader.com. But until it is sold, we will continue to use it. So, here we are--at Faver-Dykes State Park, which is about an hour south of our house (30 minutes south of St. Augustine, Fl.).

This is a huge state park with more than 6,000 acres available for hiking, camping, fishing, boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Wildlife abounds.Our first wildlife encounter was a few minutes after setting up camp. Jim called me outside and pointed to the ground. We watched an insect crawl out of a hole, shake off the sand, tumble around, until it finally got itself together. Later we realized that it was a cicada. Since then, I have seen countless holes from which the cicadas have emerged, and at night, the trees hum with their mating calls.

Unfortunately, we did not think to grab our camera phones and capture the "birthing" as it happened.

Camping is slightly different for us, this time. We brought Molly along. Our neighbor asked if we could dog-sit while they went to New Jersey for 10 days.  I love having Molly with us; it gives me my "dog fix." It's like being a grandparent: You can love and spoil them for a while, then give them back to their parents.




Molly has never been camping before, but she is enjoying it. The first day was taxing for her; there was so much to see and so many new smells! She was so excited she never took a nap. Needless to say, she slept like a baby.

Yesterday, Jim and I explored the area and decided to tour Fort Mantanzas, a Spanish fort that guarded the southern entrance into St. Augustine through the Mantanzas River. The fort is a National Monument. Surprisingly, there was no admission charge, even though tourists must take a boat to the actual fort, which was built in 1742. Now fully restored, it is an interesting relic of the past. Some original cannon still guard the river against invaders.






I was a bit concerned that Molly might bark when we left her during the day, but that did not happen. She is not much of a yapper. I think she was grateful we had left for awhile so she could rest.

Jim and I intend to go fishing, both in Pellicer Creek (not a creek like we have up north; it is like a river) and in the surf.

Until later,

Your Reluctant Rover,
Linda

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Time to Say Good-Bye to RVing

 All good things must come to an end. Jim and I have enjoyed RVing since 2010, when we bought our first motorhome, a 38-foot, 1998 Newmar Dutch Star. Its successor was newer (a 2007 Country Coach), larger (40 feet), and more comfortable (three slides), but when it began to feel its old age, we decided to trade it in and at the same time, trade down to a smaller sized RV—a 2016 Thor Axis 25.2. Now we have decided it is time to say good-bye to Thor; it is for sale.

Thor is a member of a new and highly coveted generation of RVs called an RUV—a recreation utility vehicle. What exactly is an RUV? Well, think of an RUV as a compact Class A motorhome: It is compact in size but offers all the amenities of a full-sized motorhome for less cost and easier accommodation.

We have truly enjoyed “Thor.” But, life has a way of going on, and sometimes it cannot accommodate traveling by way of an RV. So, we have decided it is time to say good-bye to Thor and to RVing.

Thor is a great RV, especially well-suited for a small family or a couple. We have experienced no mechanical or electrical or plumbing problems with it. We want it to go to a good home where it will be loved and used as we have done.

I can see it carting the kids to weekend sporting events (soccer, tennis, gymnastics, skating?). Or, perhaps going on spontaneous short vacations, camping in either resorts with amenities or in nature at state parks. Thor’s smaller size makes it easy to set up camp in some of Florida’s older parks or in coveted areas such as oceanside at Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler Beach, Fla.

Some of Thor’s features include:

  • ·        Queen-sized bed
  • ·        Convertible jack-knife sofa
  • ·        Drop-down overhead bunk (can be used for storage, if bed is not needed)
  • ·        30”x36” shower
  • ·        Large wardrobe
  • ·        Two indoor LED TVs
  • ·        One outdoor LED TV
  • ·        Built-in bedroom radio
  • ·        Power awning
  • ·        Three-burner stove
  • ·        Six cubic foot refrigerator (gas/electric)
  • ·        Microwave/convection oven
  • ·        Removable pedestal and coffee tables
  • ·        Built-in USB chargers
  • ·        Flip-top desk in passenger-seat area
  • ·        For V10 engine, E350 chassis
  • ·        Capable of towing 8,000 pounds
  • ·        Short enough to park in most driveways.

This RUV only has 9,200 miles on the odometer, and 367 hours on the generator.

We are asking $69,900. If you are interested in seeing Thor and test driving it or just want to know more about its many features, please give us a call. Or, perhaps you know someone who is thinking about buying an RV. Please spread the word!

Our number is (904) 821-8031. We are located in Jacksonville, Fla.

















Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The glass-bottomed boat


February 21, 2018—“Memories, like the corners of my mind, misty water-colored memories, of the way we were…”

The lyrics of Barbra Streisand’s song rang clear as Jim and I paid admission to Silver Springs State Park and boarded a glass-bottom boat. Jim said he had been there when he was a small boy. Likewise, I remember when I was here: It was the same vacation when we we went to see the mermaids frolic in the clear waters at Weeki Wachee Springs.

Pan fish seen through the glass-bottomed boat.

Both Silver Springs and Weeki Wachee were private entertainment centers back then. The company that owned Silver Springs offered it at a bargain to the State of Florida in 1993. The state also turned Weeki Wachee into a state park in 2008.

It must have been in 1950 or 1951 when my parents loaded up the car with me, my older sister Judy, and my younger brother John. I remember that Johnny was probably a toddler, so I had to have been no older than 5 or 6. We drove all the way down to Miami Beach, where we played in the ocean, and along the way down (or back home), we stopped in these tourist areas.

Silver Springs actually has a number of different springs that spew water from the aquifer to form the river. The waters are crystal clear and, according to the guide, about 98% pure. The tour allows guests to see the springs (yes, you can actually see the springs gushing water from the aquifer into the river), as well as the various fresh-water fishes, such as blue gill, bass, and fresh-water mullet. 

When I took the glass-bottomed boat ride 65 years ago, the boats seemed magical. The center of the boat had a clear glass plate; you could see down into the depths of the waters, watching fish go by, and if you were lucky, some manatees. To a child, this was pretty exciting, almost as good as being able to dive right into the water itself and swim with the fish. We also oohed and aahed over alligators, as well as turtles and assorted “foreign” birds (foreign because they did not live in the northern climates of the Midwest). Now, of course, alligators, turtles, cranes and cormorants are commonplace to me, as a long-time transplant to Florida. They remain, however, fascinating to watch.

The boats are the same as they were years ago. But the spring beds are not. Because of fertilizer runoff, the white sandy floors of the springs are dying with algae. The turtles and alligators come out of the water with their shells covered in algae. As they dry off, the algae does too, and it washes away when they dive back into the cool waters.

The springs are also endangered today because the aquifers are threatened by possible fracking as well as from being sucked dry by the continually growing Florida population.

I’m glad we took the glass-bottomed boat tour. It is not the same as it was so long ago, but then nothing is. The magic is gone, but going to Silver Springs brought back memories, and that counts for a lot.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ahoy! The American Victory Ship in Tampa

February 19, 2018—Even today’s school children know (I hope!) that the United States was on the “winning” side of World War II. (Sadly, war actually has no winners, just those who have not lost as much as the other side.) Some of the unsung heroes of that war, as well as all other modern wars, are the Merchant Marines, the civilian corps that carry fuels and cargo to the fighting forces overseas.

Tampa has a permanent floating museum—the American Victory Ship and Museum—located at the piers where boarding of the cruise ships takes place. The Victory Ship was built in 1945 (making it my age); it is one of four fully operational WWII ships in the United States. Surprisingly, it was built in only 55 days; there was a rush to get cargo and transport ships built fast to supply U.S. troops sent to the Pacific front. This particular ship saw service through WWII, the Korean War, and the Viet Nam War.



The ship was brought to Tampa in 1999 and lovingly restored by volunteers, who still keep her maintained as a fully operational vessel.

Jim, an old tar, longs for the sea. To satisfy his sea-dog yearnings, we try to tour ships wherever we find them, so yesterday, after a wonderful brunch at the Salvador Dali Museum with my Peru Group 65 friends, we headed to the ship to take a self-guided tour.

I don’t think you can appreciate how big a 455'x109' cargo vessel until you start tramping all over it. This is not a luxury ship; there are no elevators. (I’m glad it was 80 degrees, but without any humidity.) We saw bunks, bedrooms, johns, and showers. We walked through the small galley that would have fed the entire crew. We climbed up beyond the quarterdeck to the gunnery areas and up to the flying bridge. Virtually all areas of the ship are open to tourists.

I could never have been a sailor, for a lot of reasons. Jim, though, reminisces of his sailoring days, back in the mid-1950s, whenever he gets around a ship.

I’m glad he had the opportunity to tour the boat. I’m just glad it was moored. I suspect I might get seasick if it were out on the ocean.

Until the next ship…I mean, until next time.

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Linda 

Forever friends and family

February 19, 2018, Tampa—People who take the time and incur the cost to travel long distances are either friends or family. In the case of our Peru Group 1965, we are both—not by blood, of course, but by a bond that we created as we learned, endured, and enjoyed an academic year in a foreign country so long ago.

It was in March 1965 that we first met—17 girls, three boys, a young program director and his wife and their (then) two children, a toddler and a babe in arms. And now, 53 years later, we have met again. We mourned the loss of Jane, our program director George’s wife, who passed away 16 years ago and the one group member who had died in a tragic plane crash many years ago. We reflected on the absence of the five who could not make it to this reunion in Tampa, because of health or other pressing issues, and we wondered (as we always do) on the one member who cannot be found and the one who chooses not to be found.




Interestingly, I believe that we are better friends today than we were in 1965. George and Jane did a remarkable job of creating a family-like atmosphere in which we could feel safe and in which we could relieve some of our homesickness. Classes at the Universidad de San Marcos were erratic; the culture was a shock; the food was different from what our Hoosier palates were accustomed to; and communication to family back home was (at least in my case) relegated to weekly letters. 
(International phone calls were too expensive for my family to afford.)

To compensate for anticipated and unexpected hardships of living and studying abroad, George and Jane opened their home to us and created events, from birthday parties to a Thanksgiving dinner, to keep us busy and to nudge us into making friendships.

Friendships, I believe, were largely developed because of proximity. For example, Nancy, Trina, Mary (Coche) and I lived within blocks of one another, and we became pals. Although we knew each other, back then we did not “know” each other.



Now, it is different. Our reunions “officially” started in 1990, 25 years after our year abroad. At these weekend gatherings, I think each of us has been able to get to know each other in a more profound way.

This weekend’s reunion was, to me, especially gratifying. Because of staggered arrival times, I was able to meet and mingle easily and at length with different people on Friday night. Jim and I brunched with a small group and ate Sunday night dinner with another small group. And because George opened his home as a central meeting place on Saturday and Sunday, we continued our many conversations for hours. It was just like a family reunion, which is appropriate, I think, because over the years, we have become more like family than like friends and classmates.

Our conversations are propelled more by caring than by curiosity: We really care about how the hurricanes impacted Irene and her family, who live in Puerto Rico; our hearts mourn for the loss of Izora’s husband of more than 50 years; and we genuinely care about the health of those present and absent.









I still feel especially close to my small clique that formed 53 years ago, but I also feel that I could become true “let’s go out and do things”  with virtually everyone in the group, if we lived in the same vicinity.


These reunions create an emotional high that leaves me charged for days. Our age is catching up to us, however. We are all in at least our mid-70s. Who knows how many will be here in another two years for our 55th anniversary?

In the meantime, I am going to savor every minute of this past weekend.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Forgotten Coast

November 29, 2017—Blue skies, a sugary white seashore, soft waves breaking on the beach, temperature in the mid-70’s, and glorious sunsets—if paradise has a definition this is it.



Marketers divide Florida’s coastline into a number of different segments: The First Coast (where Jacksonville is). A bit farther south is the Treasure Coast (where many ships, including pirate ships, have sunk in angry seas). Then there is the Space Coast (Kennedy Space Center), and the Gold Coast (wealthy Palm Beach, Miami and Dade counties). You get the idea.

 My favorite is the Forgotten Coast, along the gulf shores from Florida’s “arm pit” westward. It is called the Forgotten Coast for two reasons: Few tourists deliberately travel to this area. And, the population of its “big” cities remains fairly small: Pensacola (on the far western edge of the panhandle) only has 57,000 people. Panama City) boasts a population of around 38,000.

We are staying at T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph State Park outside of Port St. Joseph on the Forgotten Coast.  Our campsite is only yards from the park’s 9.5 miles of white, sandy beaches, where we have been fishing (without much luck, alas). On the backside of our campsite, separated by a marsh, is St. Joseph Bay, a shallow body of water which also purports to have an abundance of living seafood.  (We have yet to fish there.)

Fishing has not been great (so far, I have caught our only fish, a smallish whiting),  but relaxing has been wonderful.  And nothing can beat that.


Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Linda