Saturday, October 6, 2018

Linda, 6; Jim, 0

In a turn of events, I out-fished Jim. (Jim usually out-fishes me!) That is not saying much, considering that my take-home of the six little bluegills I caught over two days was only two fish, but Jim didn't catch anything. (Lots of nibbles, though.)

The fishing may be good in the Chain of Lakes in Lake County, Florida, if you are out in a boat, but it certainly is nothing to brag about when fishing from a pier (which seem to be in short supply, too). We stopped at a bait store and inquired about public fishing piers. The clerk told us about three in the area; we tried two of them.

The first pier we used was probably not meant to be in use any more, since access was not immediately visible. We parked in a boat-launch parking lot, then hiked about a quarter mile, first down a sidewalk, then through a field of sandspurs. (Sandspurs are pesky stickers that really are painful when you step on them. We discovered that they not only stick to your socks, they also stick to the bottom of sneakers and then escape into carpet. Ouch!) The pier was in disrepair, with rotten boards and holes in the flooring. We took care not to trip as we walked on it. Despite all of the good worms on our hooks, we had no takers, not even a nibble. Either it was too hot, the wrong time of day, or there just weren't any fish.

The next place was in a park with a boat ramp and an outlet that went to Lake Griffin. It was there that I had my luck. The first night I caught four bluegills (two keepers), the second night two. (Jim would say 1 and 1/2, since the last one I was reeling in jumped off the line before I could get my hands on it. It was so small it was going to go back into the water anyway.) We fed the fish well those two evenings. The second night, we had to leave before dark because we ran out of bait. Oh, well.
My two little bluegills await Jim's scaling knife.
Yesterday (before going fishing) we also traveled out to Howie-in-the-Hills (yes, that is the name of a town in Lake County), where we visited a plant nursery. Jim had found the nursery on e-Bay and discovered that it was actually in a nearby town. We arranged to buy some plants directly from the grower instead of having them shipped to us.

The grower was very generous. Jim had anticipated buying plants in two-inch pots. Instead, the grower let us have huge plants, some of which will bear fruit next season! We will have a paw-paw tree, a mulberry tree,  Okinawa spinach (a purplish-colored green), three kinds of dragon fruit (pink, purple and white), a boynsenberry bush, three kinds of fig trees, a blackberry bush,  and a vick's plant (its leaves smell like menthol). The grower gave us a couple of the plants gratis. As I said, he was very generous. A few of those plants are more than four feet tall! The cost: $82.

After buying the plants, we decided to cut our camping trip a day short. Fishing was not great; we had exhausted touring points of local interest; and we wanted to watch our college football games on TVs with good reception on Saturday--at home.

So, that is where we are. We arrived home and unloaded Thor about three hours ago.

We had a great time, but there is no place like home.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Thursday, October 4, 2018

Fruitless in Fruitland

We are staying at Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland, Fl., a town that is in Lake County. The county is aptly named because of its chain of lakes--big ones and small ones. The lakes are its primary attraction.

Tuesday Jim and I went off  in search of the Lake County Visitors' Bureau. It apparently no longer exists. Perhaps the citizens of Lake County think that the lakes themselves are enough of an attraction that they no longer need to publicize other events and entertainment within the county. Or perhaps they just don't care. At any rate, after being sent to two different locations, we were told the visitors' office no longer exists.

We resorted to going to local Chambers of Commerce, generally a good source to find things to do within a community. We were out of luck, in most cases.

At one place, we were given a map, which listed a number of "attractions," ranging from the showroom of the Central Florida Segway Company to a petting farm. After looking up all of these attractions, we agreed: There is not much to do in Lake County, Fla., except activities on the lake.

I say "on" the lake, not "at" the lake, because the communities around here seem to have a dearth of public fishing areas. There are plenty of boat docks, but not fishing piers.

Yesterday we did go to one tourist attraction--Mount Dora, Fla., a quaint town that has maintained its historical heritage. The chamber provided us with a map for both a walking tour as well as a driving tour to view a number of well-kept houses, some dating back to the 19th century. We spent a nice afternoon driving and walking around, and even bought some wonderful balsamic vinegars in a shop devoted to balsamics and olive oils.

We will be going in search of a "fishing hole" (pier) and hope that some bass or crappies swim near enough to us to be tempted by our lures.

Are we bored yet? No. It is just nice to do nothing.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Vacationing in Fruitland, Fla.

You would think that since we are retired, we don't need a vacation. The opposite is true. At home, we are busier than ever.

Jim has a long list of to-do tasks (I don't call them "honey-do" because he creates the list himself), in addition to the "normal" stuff that takes up his day. He loves tending his garden and farming his worms. (Yes, he has a small worm farm. One box is for fishing worms, and one is for worm castings, which make excellent soil enhancements.) Then, there are "extra" tasks, such as fixing things that break down. He also spends time working on arranging his workshop, so that eventually he'll have the room in the garage to do woodworking.

Me? House cleaning is not my forte, so I procrastinate until the dust accumulates so much I cannot stand it any more. I like to cook and bake. But mostly, I like to write. So I spend a lot of time on my computer.

You might notice that I haven't mentioned fishing as part of our regular life style. We go out to our pond and catch a few bass every week, but we rarely take time to go surf, pier, or boat fishing while at home. We keep promising ourselves to rectify that flow in our lives.

So, that is why we, as retired people, take vacations--to get away from it all.

Right now we are at another state park. We have grown very fond of Florida state parks. They are very affordable; this one (Lake Griffin State Park) only costs $9 a night! As seniors, we are able to camp in state parks at a 50% discount.

When we decide we want to camp, we start at the Florida state park web site and find places that meet our needs in terms of distance, activities, sites to see, fishing, as well as the number of nights we want to stay.

This week we are at Lake Griffin State Park in Fruitland, Fla., next to Leesburg, which is near The Villages in east central Florida. It is a small park, only about 500 acres, and it is convenient to shopping. Unlike others we have used, groceries and other stores are only a few minutes (and about two miles) away. This is like an oasis in the city.
Jim in front of the live oak tree in Lake Griffin State Park.
Lake Griffin State Park is home to Florida's second largest (and perhaps second-oldest) live oak tree.
This live oak tree is pretty darn big. Some of its branches have obviously been removed. The huge live oak tree in Jacksonville has some of its branches propped up, in order to preserve the tree's integrity. The live oak tree in the state park is estimated to be about 300 years old. The one in Jacksonville is about 150 years old.
We chose this park because of its proximity to the many lakes in Lake County, and presumably, its good fishing. We are hoping to find some fishing piers. The one in the park looked promising on the website. Unfortunately, the pier is full of growth and the ranger said fishing there is poor. Fishing is good, she said, about a mile away on the lake. We don't have a boat.

The park only has 40 camping sites, all of which are very private. We learned (after we had made reservations) that about 10 sites even offer sewer hookups! We are not inconvenienced by not having a sewer hookup, however. Our small RV has a tiny shower, so we actually prefer using the showers in the campground.

We haven't gone fishing yet, but we will. Yesterday we spent "touristing" around the area. Although I have lived in Florida for 20 years and Jim for most of his life, neither of us has actually driven around and visited the central Florida area.

We wanted to find the Lake County visitors' bureau to get information on what to do around here. We went to the address given on the website; it had moved. We were told where it moved; when we got there, we discovered it had been closed for several months! I guess Lake County (aptly named because of all the large lakes around here) doesn't want visitors! We will have to find our way around without maps and brochures, I guess.

Last night, we went to a local street event, geared (we discovered) toward kids and sponsored by the local police department. Food and fun, if you were 10. There were a lot of people there.

I am standing next to a "transformer" who captivated kids' attention at the local street fair in Leesburg. He actually got down on all fours and scooted via motorized wheels. 

Later today, I think we will go fishing. Or not. It just feels good to do nothing.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Friday, August 24, 2018

The Best Fish Dinner Ever!

When we travel, we mostly eat at home, but we also like to try local restaurants. Last night, we had a wonderful dinner at a local seafood place in Deltona, Fla.--A&A Crab House. We found the restaurant on Local Flavor ($15 for $30 worth of food). The garlic crabs, accompanied by garlic rice, were delightfully messy and tasty. We were not disappointed.

As good as last night's dinner was, however, tonight's was better. Why? Because we at fish we caught! Yes, at long last, we caught something!

We have gone fishing every day this week (except Monday). Today we went to Canaveral National Seashore, south of New Smyrna Beach. Yesterday an older couple who fish every day told us about the National Seashore. They guaranteed we would catch something, and we did.

Fishing is available either at the seashore itself (beach area) or in Mosquito Lagoon. We chose the latter to dip our lines.

It did not take long to figure out how Mosquito Lagoon got its name. Within seconds of exiting the car, we were swarmed by mosquitoes. We couldn't apply repellent fast enough. Fortunately, however, the 'squiters stayed in the wooded area, away from the actual lagoon.

There were a couple of fishing piers available; we shared one with a young couple. I cast my line, and within a few minutes I had a bite! Unfortunately, it was just a pin fish. Generally, we keep any fish that is big enough to provide a fillet. Pin fish, though, are not that tasty, we have learned, and this one was small, so back into the lagoon it went.

While we were fishing, we were entertained by the local fauna: A pod (herd?) of manatees made their way into our fishing area. The first one was a mother...accompanied by a baby! Then we spied another, possibly the father. And later yet, another adult joined the group. They stayed in the area, apparently feasting on the underwater salad bowl just off shore.
Look closely at the "shadow" in the back of the middle post.
It is actually a mother manatee with her baby. Alas, it is difficult to catch sight of them on the surface.
 Also while we were fishing, we saw several dolphins swim by. Normally, we like dolphins, but they tend to scare away the fish. After all, they are fishing for themselves.

Finally, we saw a rare sight--a big fish chasing a smaller one! They were close to the surface and we could see the chase.

All the while that the local marine life was entertaining us, we continued feeding the fish. I finally caught a catfish worth keeping. It took Jim a while, but he finally caught a fish that may have been a mangrove snapper. It was small, but we kept it.

Those two fish would not have made a meal, but the young man we were fishing with caught a number of catfish. Three were "keeper" size, but he did not want them. So, our meager catch was supplemented with the castoffs from this generous young fisherman.
Jim dutifully cleaned all of our fish, a messy but necessary prelude to a good fish dinner.

Our dinner was simple, but it was delicious--a bowl of homemade navy bean soup, fried fish, and peas. Eskimo pies for dessert. Life is good.

Tomorrow, it is home again.

We had a great vacation.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Lots of Sun, Few Fish

August 23, 2018--Everyone needs to get away from the usual routine. We have been getting away more than usual, it seems. And that's a good thing. This week, we cashed in another of our three free weeks at a Travel Resorts of America (TRA) campground. We are at Luna Sands RV Park in Orange City, Fla., about 30-45 minutes east of Orlando.

We were not overly impressed with the TRA resort in Lake Oconee, Georgia, a few weeks ago. The resort had potential, but it sorely needed a lot of work. Its best feature was that it was located directly on the lake, with virtually all campsites having a view of the lake. Its worst features included slanted campsites, occasional smelly sewer gas, and poor roads.

Compared to Luna Lakes, however, Lake Oconee was a gem.

Luna Lakes was the "resort" where we had our introduction to TRA last September. (We did not buy into their program.) They promised that it would be in terrific shape before long. Well, nothing has been done. Describing it as a resort is a stretch of the English language. Campsites are close (although virtually no one is here--good thing for us); the roadway is dirt; the only amenity worth mentioning is a small pool. And it is not close to anything, unless you want to visit Blue Springs State Park. If you wanted to go to the attractions in Orlando, you would have to travel about an hour. That's not very convenient.

We knew the downsides of this campground, of course, but we decided to take a week here and bite the bullet to travel to the coast to fish (about 45 minutes). We had planned to fresh-water fish in some surrounding lakes or at Blue Springs State Park, but when we checked them out, we discovered that we would probably not be catching anything: Two different people confirmed that the river and lake oxygen levels were down significantly, from two different causes: last year's hurricane and very heavy rainfall this summer. I don't think the fish have died (although there was loss after the hurricane last year). I think they seek deeper water and are lethargic, due to the low oxygen as well as to the summer heat. That said, we decided to pass on fresh-water fishing and concentrate on dipping our lines in salt water.

Tuesday, we fished under a bridge in New Smyrna Beach. That doesn't sound very pleasant, but it was. We have discovered that unlike Jacksonville, almost all of the small cities we have visited have invested money in building fishing piers for their citizens and visitors. At New Smyrna Beach we found several such piers. The one under the bridge was great: We sat is the shade all afternoon as we unsuccessfully tried to catch our dinner. The only catch we made was a robin fish Jim snagged.

Under the bridge at New Smyrna Beach. 
The robin fish is a weird-looking fish. It has fins that spread out and look like wings! We believe that any fish is edible, but this one was too small to keep.
Robin fish, awaiting his return to the water

Wednesday (yesterday) we spent some time fishing on the jetty at the inlet. That was an interesting place. The long jetty is formed by huge rocks. A sidewalk and railings are provided for fishermen, although many prefer to fish from the rocks. We climbed down (cautiously) and carefully set up our chairs and other gear among some relatively flat rocks. We (like almost everyone else there) had no luck. We were also chased away after a couple of hours by a fast-approaching summer storm.
Along the jetty 
As we drove away from the inlet, the rain let up and we decided to check out another of the piers by the causeway, where we befriended an old couple who fish every day. They were not having any luck (neither did we), but they told us that their favorite place to fish was the Canaveral National Seashore. They said they always catch fish there. When we asked why they were fishing at the causeway instead of at the National Seashore, the lady said, "I drive Uber so I can afford to buy bait. I had to drive this morning, and it is too far for just a short time, so we came here." Fishing means more to some people than just having a good time.

Bird crept close to us, thinking he might get some supper. Too bad;
we didn't catch anything at the causeway. Bird had to fend for himself!

Today, we drove to the beach with brother Mike and his wife Susan. The beaches around here are hard-packed sand; we were able to drive onto the sand (at a cost, $20), which avoided our having to haul all of our gear from the SUV to the water. It was novel to actually drive and park on the beach. (First time, for me.)

Mike and Susan don't have salt-water licenses, so they did not fish. (Jim and I don't need fishing licenses, since we are over 65.) Mike's hobby is metal detecting. He lent Jim is old detector, and both of them went in search of buried treasure. Their outcome? Each found a car...a hot wheel! Jim's was a Corvette.

Jim took only a small break to metal detect; he spent most of his time tending the surf rods with me. Despite our diligence, however, we did not cook fish tonight. The only catch Jim made was a shark--actually almost two sharks. The first one he landed, and with the help of a fellow fisherman, he managed to get the hook out and let the shark back into the water. The second shark (it might have been the same one) disengaged itself just as Jim was reeling it in. Probably a good thing. The sharks were not big, but they had razor-sharp teeth.
Jim caught a small shark. 

Except for the afternoon showers, the weather has been great--not really too hot at the water and the humidity has not been bad.

I haven't caught any fish, but I have improved my tan!
Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Saturday, August 4, 2018

Catchin' !

It is our last day here at Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga. Except for Monday, the day we arrived, I believe we have dipped our fishing lines every day. And every day we have provided Lake Oconee's fish a delightful 15-course dinner of big, beautiful red worms.

It has been fun.  As we sit on the dock and cast our worm-laden lines into the water, we watch the bobbers carefully. Inevitably, within a few minutes, each of our bobbers start to bob.

We coax them. "Come on! Bite! Grab it. Take it under!" But no matter how much we urge those little pan fish to bite, they have not obeyed us.

Tonight we went down to our usual spot. But, beginning yesterday, the RV park started filling up for the weekend, not only with motorhomes and trailers but also with boats and water skis. I don't think the fish like the wakes these water vehicles make. Plus, kids at play in the water tend to scare the fish away. So, tonight when we went out, our little friends were not even nibbling at their supper very much.

As we were sitting there, a boat pulled up. The fishermen asked how we were doing. "Not so good," we replied. How about you?" They then pulled out some of their catch--huge catfish. Of course, they know the lake, and they have a boat. Still, it seemed so unfair.

Another 45 minutes. The fish seemed to have lost all interest in eating, and I was losing interest in feeding them. We were ready to head back to the RV. I started reeling in my line, and that is when it happened!

A fish! By golly I caught a fish! It was all of four inches long, but it was a fish, a tiny little bream.

We packed up and stopped at the fish-cleaning station to show a picture of our fish to those fishermen who had caught the huge catfish. We all enjoyed a good laugh, and then one of them handed us a pound of catfish fillets. We aren't going home empty-handed.

It was a good vacation.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant Rover,


Friday, August 3, 2018

How We Are Spending Our Summer Vacation

August 3, 2018--Do you remember that first-day-of-school assignment: write about how you spent your summer vacation? Well, we are on one of our summer vacations, so I will tell you a bit about how we are spending it.

Today we spent part a while in jail...or more precisely, in gaol.

The town of Greensboro, Ga., has a rich history. Its streets are adorned by well-maintained old houses (some of which are mansions). The town center boasts a number of restaurants, boutiques, and antique stores, all of which are open during reasonable hours. It also has a museum, an old jail that housed many a bootlegger, and a really old gaol, built in 1807. The museum, unfortunately, is only open by pre-arrangement. The current sheriff is the only person who has a key to the old jail. And the old-old gaol is open only if you ask the Chamber of Commerce president for a key. (We found that out accidentally, when we visited the Chamber to get tourist information. The gaol itself does not have any information posted on how to enter.)

Sometimes you wonder if these tourist towns really want tourists.

But I digress. We did get the key to the gaol, which is a very interesting piece of history.
It is built of rock granite, with walls two feet thick. Here is what the web site details about the gaol:

"The building is patterned after European bastilles. The downstairs cells are like European catacomb cells. Prisoners in the cells could be chained to the wall. They were given a bed of straw, a tin bucket for a toilet and a candle. There was no other light, no heat and no ventilation. People arrested for non-violent crimes were sometimes put in the upstairs room where they at least had light.

The legal method of execution in Georgia was handing from 1735 to 1924. The gallows and trap door of the Gaol are just as they were in the 1800s. The hangman stood on the steps, pulled the lever, and the trap door fell away.

The Gaol was used until 1895 when a new jail was built next door. The new jail combined a detention facility with the sheriff's residence. Recently renovated, it is now the L.L. Wyatt Museum, housing memorabilia from Greene County's law enforcement history. Open by appointment."

This sign inside of the gaol warns visitors!
Jim is incarcerated. I escaped!
To the left of the gaol door, you can see a rope hanging from the second floor. Prisoners were hanged there.
This is a view of the hanging area. A trap door fell open and the unlucky prisoner was hanged until he died.

Standing in the gaol, you get a very real feeling for how the prisoners were treated. It was not a nice place. It is a good tourist attraction, however. Too bad the town doesn't make it more accessible to visitors.

When we visited Eatonton, Ga. the other day, we found a little gem of a museum, right in the Chamber of Commerce office. As we were asking about things to see around the area, I spied an old-time soda fountain through some glass-paneled doors. The receptionist said it was the Old School History Museum. It contained a representation of the early years of downtown Eatonton, with a facade of a grocery store, theater, bank, barbershop (I even sat in the barber chair, just like the one my dad had, years ago!), and dry good store. 

The museum also had arrowhead collections, photographs, and various old advertisements and articles from its Civil War newspapers--all very interesting.

We also found another free museum, the Lake Country Discovery Museum, sponsored by a bank. There we learned more about how Lake Oconee was formed by the Georgia Power Company, which not only provides hydroelectric power to the area, but also runs several parks and recreation areas, including three that have campgrounds. Camping in these areas is right on the lake. The well-maintained campgrounds provide electric and water hookups, as well as a dump station. Should we ever want to return here in an RV, we would stay at one of these campgrounds, which are superior to where we are now, and a much more reasonable cost. 

Our week here is free. This remains a KAO campground, but is being turned into a members-only resort. (They have a LONG way to go before it is really a resort.) KAOs typically cost around $50 a night. Camping in a Georgia Power campground is only $25 a night. 

 Museums are interesting. Fishing is better. But when it is raining, you don't feel like fishing. So, yesterday afternoon we headed to the movies, where the senior special before 6 p.m. was $6. We chose to see "Mission Impossible." We wanted to return today to see the Jurassic Park sequel, but we discovered that the movie roster had changed. Ah, well.

We will try our luck at fishing again this evening. Last night we each fed the fish a 15-course dinner. Maybe we'll be luckier tonight. Tomorrow we will take a drive to Georgia's first capital city, Milledgeville, in search of more history.

Until later,

Your Reluctant Rover,