Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What the sea giveth, it taketh away

Catch and release is a good policy, if you are not a fish eater, or if the fish you catch are protected. But the catch and release that we experienced today...well, that's a different story.

Before I tell you what happened, let me tell you where we are--Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler Beach, Fla. This state park is rather unique: a section sits directly on the beach, with another (larger) section on the intracoastal waterway. Getting an RV spot on the beach is all but impossible. It is even hard to snatch one on the intracoastal, but we managed to get three consecutive days. Our plan was to fish from our kayaks one day and to surf fish another day.

The weather did not cooperate. We got here Sunday. The ocean was an angry dark green of crashing waves. The intracoastal likewise was rough. It was windy, hot, and overcast and rainy Sunday and Monday. But the weatherman promised that Tuesday afternoon would be sunny and pleasant. It was.

So today we headed out to fish--not in our kayaks, nor in the state park. Yesterday we drove around Flagler and found a wonderful park with fishing off a long walkway along mangroves, leading to the intracoastal. We also found more convenient areas to surf fish along highway A1A.







So, after consulting the tide charts (for best fishing times), we dipped our lines in the intracoastal and caught five fish! Unfortunately, they were all teeny-tiny catfish, too small to keep. But we did catch five!

After lunch (at a made-from-scratch vegetarian cafe we discovered), we set up our surf-fishing gear on the beach a couple miles from the state park. Jim promptly caught two small(er) white fish. He decided they were too small to keep, and he released them. (Mistake. They were OK to keep.) We decided to keep anything else we caught, so our bucket soon became home to two more fish--one Jim caught, one I caught.

I went up to the car for something. When I returned, Jim was laughing. "It's either laugh or cry," he said. It turns out that while he was tending his line, the bucket holding our two fish got caught in the surf. It turned over and the two fish that were going to be part of our dinner got a reprieve.

It was a wonderful day, and we quickly caught two more fish. In they went into the blue bucket. A while later, Jim said we should freshen the water in the bucket. We did, but he left the bucket too close to the surf--again. And again our dinner swam away.

What the sea giveth, it taketh away.

Despite our inadvertent catch and release and the soaking each of us took when we fell into the surf as we cast our lines (incidentally, we were not wearing swim suits), we had a great time.

The leftovers we had for dinner were good, too.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Pioneering

October 12, 2017--This trip was a bust, if we were counting on fishing (and catching), because the only fishing we did was yesterday in a little creek in a city park in Blountstown, Fla. But we had a great trip, nevertheless.

Today we visited the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, which was founded in 1989. Similar to Connor Prairie Farm in Fisher, Ind. (outside of Indianapolis), the Pioneer Settlement shows off buildings and crafts from life in Florida Panhandle from the 1820s to the 1940s. We had a personal guided tour.
One of the cabins in the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement
The gentleman who took us around to the 18 historical building that were originally located through the region and relocated to the village was a native to the area. He personally knew some of the families who had lived in or worked in the buildings. For instance, one of the buildings was the doctor's office. He said that his mother used to take him to the doctor who practiced in that building. Cost of a visit was $2. The doctor practiced in the building until the mid 1900s.

Next weekend, the town of Blountstown will be celebrating Goat Days. Concurrent with the goat celebrations will be Pioneer Day, when there will be demonstrations in each of the buildings. Apparently, the organization offers classes in basket weaving, blacksmithing, jelly making, woodstove and fireplace cooking, and sugarcane syrup making.

We like history and museums. Living museums like this one are especially fun.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Lazy days, little fishing

When we decided to take a short shake-down trip, we looked at the various state parks that were within a couple hours' drive of Jacksonville. Our first choice was Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler Beach. It is a unique park, with camping both on the ocean as well as on the intracoastal. Unfortunately, because of its uniqueness, it is in high demand, especially for campsites on the ocean. We were not able to secure a campsite for this week at Gamble Rogers, but we will be staying there in two weeks. We are looking forward to it.

Torreya State Park had vacancies, and that was how we were came to camp here. According to the park literature, there is supposed to be fishing and boating/kayaking. However...

Fishing apparently is available if you are willing to hike, toting all your fishing gear, down (and then back up) the bluffs to the Apalachicola River. Hiking is not my forte, especially since copperheads are very prevalent in the forests here. Warning signs about the snakes are posted throughout the camping area. I don't like any snakes, especially poisonous ones that are difficult to see in the fallen leaves.

Jim talked with the ranger this morning about kayaking. Yes, he told Jim, there is a small boat ramp, in another area of the park. However, it is very remote, is not policed by the rangers, and is known as a place where ruffians hang out. Your car, your kayaks, and your well being may not be safe. We decided to pass on kayaking/fishing there.

With park kayaking and fishing out of the question, to while away our time, we drove to the nearest civilization, which is about 12 miles from here. You first pass through Bristol, Fla., (about five miles away) which is in the eastern time zone, cross the river, and enter Blountstown, Fla., which is in the central time zone. The fact that you cross into a different time zone is significant, because when we left the campground, we thought we would drive into Blountstown and have lunch. We had to wait a while to eat; restaurants don't start serving lunch until at least 11 a.m.

As we drove around this small town, we found an unexpected gem: the M&B Locomotive and Depot Museum, free to tour (donations accepted). There we found all types of memorabilia about the town and the railroad. The real prize, however, was the volunteer docent, who gave us history and answered our questions about where we could fish.

Jim operating the last locomotive to run on the M&B RR line in Blountstown, Fla.


He told us we would be able to launch our kayaks on either the Apalachicola or the Chipola rivers. He said he fishes the Chipola, where his house is located, but he calls it the "no fish" river. "You can see the fish," he said, "but they never bite!"

After our museum trip (and with plenty of time before restaurants opened), we continued our tour of Blountstown, where we found a large city park with an area called Pioneer Village. The village wasn't open today, but we will go back tomorrow.
The fishing hole we dipped our lines in at Blountstown
Within the park we also found a creek with two fishing piers, so we decided to dip our lines. On Jim's first or second cast, he attracted the attention of what appeared to be a large bass. However, that attention was all we got for our hour's worth of fishing. It was fun, though.

There is no doubt that this is a very beautiful, rural area of Florida. It is not at all what we northerners think of Florida--nary a palm tree in sight. Lots of pines and cypress and other species, though. And rolling countryside with bluffs overlooking the rivers.

As far as this state park? We are relaxing and enjoying the time away from home, but we won't come back here. Too many parks in Florida where we can do things we want to do. Just saying, not complaining.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant Rover,
Linda


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Our shakedown trip

We bought Thor (yes, we named our Thor Axis, "Thor") a month ago, but we had not yet had the opportunity to use it because of our recent hurricane), until now. We were able to snarf a three-day stay at one of our state parks Torreya State Park, which is located about 30 miles west of Tallahassee. (It is surprisingly difficult to get into Florida's state parks. We like them, though, because as senior Florida citizens, we get a 50% discount on camping.)




This park is rather unique: It boasts high bluffs that overlook the Apalachicola River. According to the park's description, there is supposed to be a small boat access to the river, where we should be able to fish. We cannot affirm this description, because although we put into our campsite before 3 p.m. today, we have yet to see a ranger, who should be able to give us directions to the boat ramp. We have found that rangers seem to come and go; there don't seem to be any set hours when rangers are available. Hopefully we will get information tomorrow.

So...what have we learned so far about our new 2016 Thor Axis, which is only 27 feet long? 

Let me explain that Junior was a 40-foot behemoth of a motorhome, which provided us with living space equivalent to a New York apartment, plus a huge amount of "basement" storage. It took us more than a week to sort through all of the stuff we had stored in Junior. It was like downsizing from a 2,000 square foot house to a one-bedroom apartment. 

Deciding what had to "go" and what could "stay" was difficult. Finding places to stow the stuff we decided we absolutely had to have was, to say the least, challenging. 

But, we did it. And today/tonight were the first tests to our decision to downsize. 

On the whole, I would say we made the right decision. Yes, it is much more crowded. It will get some getting used to the tiny kitchen area and even the tinier 6 cubic foot refrigerator. The fridge works well, but it is small. I suspect I will rely on cooking and freezing food in advance of any planned trip in order to minimize cooking. (Of course, that presents another challenge, since the freezer is also miniscule!)

The bathroom is also very small. We will try the shower tonight, since it is raining outside and we don't want to walk down to the shower house. (This campground has electricity and water, but no sewer, so it will be navy showers tonight.) Its worst feature, however, is the toilet. It sits so high that your feet virtually dangle when you sit on the pot! Jim put a footrest in front of the toilet. It think it will work out OK. 

Jim misses driving his big rig. He says that driving this 27-foot motor coach is like driving a truck. That makes sense, since it is a truck. This RUV (recreational utility vehicle) has an F450 engine (gas). It doesn't have the pep that Junior had. It also does not have the luxuries that Junior (a 2005 Country Coach) had. For example, Junior's seats had power controls; these seats are manual. The seats are also not as comfortable--at least mine isn't. I need a footrest to sit comfortably.

We also noticed that although the seats are supposed to swivel, it is virtually impossible to turn the driver's seat all the way around. The steering wheel gets in the way of the swivel. Whoever designed the cabin certainly did not try to use the design. 

Oh...I have to tell you about the one misadventure we had today. No, it did not have anything to do with electrical problems, which were common in Junior. It has to do with getting locked out.

Yep. As we were getting set up, somehow I (it was probably me) inadvertently pushed the doorlock as I was opening the door. The deadbolt also was opened, and I could not close the door. Jim discovered that the deadbolt was tripped. He undid it then closed the door. 

Ahhh...the door locked. And of course, the keys were inside. Jim finally managed to pick the lock and we got it. The lesson we learned: Keep the extra set of keys in the car. And always use the deadbolt. It was pretty scary finding out how easy it is to pick the lock.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda