Thursday, November 1, 2018

Tricks and treats at Sebastian Inlet


Last night was Halloween. Nobody was in costume at Sebastian Inlet State Park, but Jim and I received both tricks and treats. First the tricks:

We got locked in again—just like the other day. Jim again had to exit through the escape window in the bedroom. The first time this happened (a couple days ago), he had discovered that the door would not open because a screw had worked its way out of the latch on the door jamb. He tightened the screw, but when I discovered it coming loose again the next day, he removed it. 

Last night, as he was going to the shower house, he couldn’t open the door. The latch, held in by only one screw, had become dislodged enough so that the door would not open. So, Jim had to put on his clothes, climb out of the window, and pry the door open.

Jim says the fix is easy: apply Locktite to the screw. I hope we don’t have any more problems between the time we leave and when we get home. We have to go in and out several more times. Wish us luck.

Another “trick”—the no-see-ums. I am one big bite--actually, I have hundreds of tiny bites, from head to toe. Literally. And I am miserable.

For those of you who do not live in Florida, no-see-ums are tiny, tiny biting insects, females that seek a protein in vertebrate flesh to use in their reproductive cycle. If you were to spot them on you, you would think they are a fleck of dirt. In the proper light, you may see them flying about, looking like dust.It is virtually impossible to kill them. Slapping at them does no good. By the time you feel the bite, they are gone.

Incidentally, these pesky insects are not always deterred by bug spray. And even worse: They can come through normal screening.

We have no-see-ums in Jacksonville, but they are not as bad as they are here. Also, they do not bother us on our screened in porch because the screening is fine enough to keep them out.

The no-see-ums are the worst part of this state park. All else is great…which brings me to the “treat” section…

It was a real treat fishing here. Jim caught his first red(s) on Tuesday. Yesterday, he caught two slot-sized black drum (17 inches and 15 1/2) and a slightly undersized red, as well as numerous jacks and even a baby grouper.  Me? I just caught some small jacks that I threw back and encouraged to grow up and almost caught a red, which shook off the hook at the last minute. (I’m pretty sure it was undersized, though.)


In addition to our own catch, we were given treats by fellow fishermen. A neighboring fisherman caught a huge jack but didn’t want it. (Jack is considered a trash fish, and many people don’t keep them, but we have found that if properly prepared, jack is delicious. In fact, most "trash" fish can be prepared to taste good.) That big fellow went into our cooler.

The second treat came later in the afternoon, when a school of mullet swam directly in front of the fishing jetty. It was a huge school—hundreds of fish.
Jim's catch and extra treats: two black drum, a huge jack crevalle, a smaller jack, and two mullet.


The most common way to catch mullet is by casting a net; they don’t usually take bait on a hook. We didn’t have our net with us, so we were out of luck. (It was exciting to see the school, however.) But a fellow who had a really big net (perhaps 10 feet in diameter) cast. It took three big, muscular men to haul that catch of mullet up. It weighed a couple hundred pounds, at least. The catch overfilled a large ice chest. I asked the owner if I could have a couple of the fish, and he graciously gave me a couple, which joined our other catch in our cooler.

We will brine the mullet tonight and tomorrow smoke it. Can’t wait to taste them.

The treats were better than the tricks. We always have a good time on our getaways. This little vacation was different: We had a superb time (despite the faulty door latch and the no-see-ums)!

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer

Linda


Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Catchin'

Sebastian Inlet, about three hours south of Jacksonville, is a fisher-persons's paradise. The area used to have a thriving commercial fishing industry. A change in fishing laws (to protect from over-fishing) as well as a hurricane put an end to commercial fishing. However, the inlet is a haven for sports fishing.

I reported that on Sunday we went down to the jetty and watched people haul in HUGE fish. One young man pulled in a snook that had to be three-feet long. (If it was that long, he had to throw it back. Snook is a slot-fish. Only those between 28" and 32" can be kept.) "Ah," we thought, "we will finally catch some fish!"

So...the next day we went down to the jetty and fished. And fished. And fished. We didn't even get a nibble. We weren't the only ones; no one was catching fish on Monday. Maybe the fish knew we were there; perhaps we were jinxes.

Yesterday was a different story. In the morning, we fished off a fishing pier on the lagoon in the state park. I almost immediately caught a fish...unfortunately it was a little pin fish, about 5 inches long. Pin fish are bait fish. I decided to cut it up and use it as bait.

Jim caught a starfish.

That brownish blur is a manatee that decided our fishing spot was a good place for brunch.

In a little while, I had my second catch: a good-sized hardhead catfish. It was big enough to offer some nice filets, but we decided to toss it back. Saltwater catfish are considered trash fish. We subscribe to the theory that all fish are edible. Some are more tasty than others, however. The hardhead is not bad to eat; it's just not delicious.

I had been fishing with bait; Jim had been using artificial lures. He finally switched to bait after the pin fish nibbled away at two or three of his soft lures. His only catch? A starfish. Obviously not edible, but interesting!

The morning was highlighted by a manatee that decided to brunch on the underwater greens near us. 

During the afternoon's outgoing tide, we went back to the jetty. We took a position on the ocean-side of the jetty, about 10 feet away from an Asian couple.

That man and woman snagged fish after after! Within 20 minutes, I swear that had caught 20 fish. Many were jack crevalles, a fish that many (again) consider trash.  This fish has no size or quantity limits. I caught two, one which was too small to keep. Jim caught a small one.



The prize for fishing in our family, though, went to Jim: He caught a 19 1/2 inch red drum--the first red he has ever caught in his 81 years! A bit later, he caught another red, but it was undersized. (They must be between 18" and 27" and only one per person is allowed.)

We left the jetty around 5 p.m. and stopped within the park to clean our catch. The cleaning table had running water. Waste water (and any scraps) rinsed down a pipe into the lagoon. Three big birds (a species of egret, I believe) waited at the end of the pipe. They actually fought after a piece of waste! But all of them went away well fed.


One last day of fishing. I hope it is profitable for our dinner table tonight. Dinner last night was delicious.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda



Monday, October 29, 2018

Locked in!

As I have written so many times before, even retirees need a vacation, and for the next several days, that is what we are doing--vacationing.

We arrived at Sebastian Inlet State Park (about 3 hours south of Jacksonville) yesterday afternoon. This is a beautiful area, with many places to fish, including just off out campsite. We went down to one of the piers yesterday afternoon. People were pulling in huge (36-inch) fish (snook), as well as smaller species. Today we will try our angling skills. Our campsite has an unobstructed view of the inlet, with the ability to fish by walking across the road. The park has many other places to fish, however.




The state Department of Natural Resources still has the park listed as having red tide, but there is no evidence of it. Birds are fishing; people are fishing. Some people are also going into the water. This morning it was only in the upper 50s, and water temperature is only in the 70s, so I won't be getting wet any time soon--at least intentionally.

The fishing is promising, but the big news is that we were locked in last night!

Jim was going to go outside and check on the awning before coming to bed. He could not get the door open! Obviously, 11 p.m. is not the time to try to fix a problem such as a stuck door, so we "slept on it." The problem, of course, didn't go away during the night.

He wondered if there was a problem with the chassis...somehow buckling? Sounded far-fetched, but who knows?

Anyway, Jim couldn't get the door open from the inside, so he climbed out through the emergency escape window in the bedroom. Fortunately, ours is not a tall RV, so the drop to the ground was not bad. Now we know how to escape.

The problem with the door turned out to be a screw that had semi-dislodged and jammed the door so that it couldn't open. He managed to pry it open, reset the screw, and we are back in business. Problem solved.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

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,

Linda

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,
Linda

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,

Linda

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,
Linda

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,

Linda


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,

Linda

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,

Linda



Thursday, August 2, 2018

Misadventures? Sort of...

What would a Reluctant Rover blog post be without telling the tales of misadventures? Since we bought Thor, our 27-foot Thor Axis (which is for sale), I haven't had many misadventures to report, thank goodness. For one thing, Thor is pretty new (2016 model, with only 9200 miles on it). For another, even if Thor were to experience problems, we bought maintenance insurance on it. We learned the hard way how expensive some things can be to repair, so we decided not to take any chances this time. Peace of mind counts.

However...

This trip we have had a few "interesting" things happen to us.

When we arrived here at Lake Oconee, near Greensboro, Ga., and registered, we were told it would be easier and better if we unhooked the car before going to our RV spot. Jim began the process, and as part of that, I opened the car and put on the emergency brake. We use a tow dolly to pull the car. This means that Jim has to physically go under the car to hook/unhook safety chains. Safety protocol requires putting the car's emergency brake on. However, once the car is hooked up, the car is put in park, and the emergency brake is disengaged.

When he began the process, I put the emergency brake on. Then, we began talking with Terri, the customer service lady who would lead us to our camping spot. She said we could unhook in the overflow lot and leave the dolly there. We thought that would be a good idea, so we stopped what we were doing and drove over the overflow lot, which was probably about 500 feet (maybe more) away.

When we got out of the RV, Terri said, "Your back wheels weren't turning!"

Oh, no! When we decided to move over the overflow lot, I forgot to disengage the emergency brake! We dragged our car those 500 feet. Not a good thing. Unfortunately, we were not a stranger to dragging: The very first time we every hooked up a car to our first RV, Jim had attached the braking device too tight, and we actually dragged the car about five miles. That little mishap cost us about $800 in new tires as well as a new brake job, including rotors. This tiny bit of dragging? Well, the rear tires go "thump, thump" and we will have to replace them. The moral: Always go through the checklist, even if you don't think you have to. Checking to make sure the wheels turn is always the last thing I do whenever we hook up the car.

The second (mis)adventure concerns the refrigerator.

Again, if you follow this blog, you may remember that the refrigerator in our second RV died on us. Jim was convinced to repair it himself, so he ordered a part online. Unfortunately, the company he ordered it from was a cheater. We are part of a lawsuit the Arkansas attorney general has against the company because of the numerous complaints against it for fraud. We will probably never get that $700+ back. We eventually spent another $1400 for a new unit, and had it installed. (We later still had  periodic trouble with the refrigerator, by the time we traded  in the RV for our current one.)

Our troubles with the refrigerator were a major reason why we decided to buy the maintenance insurance.

OK, back to the present. Yesterday was a rainy day, not good for fishing. So, we went exploring. A town called Eatonton, Ga., was among the places we visited. (We had visited Eatonton, home of the Uncle Remus Museum, several years ago, when we spent a few weeks in Georgia on our way up to the Midwest.) We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce to get tourist information, and picked up a flyer about a local butcher shop that prepares its own sausages.

We eat very little meat, but we do enjoy homemade sausage. So, we hunted down the meat store and bought samples of various types of sausages--bulk hot sausage, andouille, boudin, and alapeno bratwurst. We arrived home and...

...discovered that our refrigerator was not working! The bag of ice in the freezer had completely thawed. What could have happened, we wondered. Jim considered possible causes, but because of the late hour (and darkness) could not test. He switched from electric (which obviously failed) to gas. But by this morning, the refrigerator still was not working.

After cleaning up the melt in the freezer, we needed to find some ice. Fortunately, we had brought a cooler, where we could store our frozen goods. But the RV office was closed, so we had to find a store to buy ice.

We spied a customer service person driving around and asked him for the closet place for ice. He gave us directions, which we realized after a bit of driving, took us farther than if we had driving to the nearest Publix. So be it. We found a gas station, bought ice, then programmed our GPS to find a shorter way back. Garmina, however, told us to go back the way we had come, by taking the first right.

That would have been OK, except that the first right turn was blocked off, and we ended up on I20. In total, we probably drove more than 50 miles to get two bags of ice, and were gone an hour. A trip to the local Publix would have been about 15 minutes each way. Oh, well.

Jim considered possible causes to the refrigerator problem and came up with a plausible one: We were parked on a slant (which I reported in my last blog). RV refrigerators require being level, front to back. If they are not, they cannot cool down. So, first thing this morning we asked to be moved to a level spot. If they could not accommodate our needs, we would go home.
Our new campsite, directly on the lake

Jim is enjoying the campsite, despite a constant rain. The awning is protecting him from getting wet.


Well, here we are. Not only are we level, we are directly on the lake! And the refrigerator? It is once again working.

So, fans of the Reluctant Rover's (mis)adventures. I hope I have not disappointed you.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Anniversary celebrations at Lake Oconee, Ga.

July 31, 2018--Fourteen years ago, at just about this time (5 p.m.), Jim and I stood under a beautiful willow tree in our back yard and exchanged vows. The willow tree has died; my friend, Ginny, who performed the ceremony for us also passed away several years ago. But, we live on. It took a long time to find my life partner, but I am grateful I did.

We are not home celebrating; we are at a lakeside campground on Lake Oconee, near Greensboro, Ga.
A view of Lake Oconee from our campsite. The day is overcast.


Shortly after purchasing our current RV, we sat through a presentation lauding the benefits of RV resort membership. Well, we've been there, and done that. In our first year of RV ownership, we traveled out West and were suckered into buying a similar membership. On the surface, these memberships really sound good--and they are, for many people. But we are not resort people. We use our RV as a movable hotel. We discovered our RV lifestyle after we shelled out a couple thousand dollars for the membership. So, when we went to the presentation last September at a resort outside of Orlando, we already knew we did not want to join. However, for sitting through the presentation, we were given three free weeks of free camping at any of the Travel Resorts of America campgrounds.

The one outside of Orlando (in Orange City, Fla.) was a new acquisition for TRA, and it was a long way away from being classified as a resort. So, we decided to get away to the one in Georgia, a comfortable six-hour drive. We arrived yesterday afternoon.

This "resort" is on Lake Oconee, a beautiful, big reservoir outside of Greensboro, which is a friendly, quaint town of about 3,500 people.

I put resort in quotes for a reason: Like its Orange City counterpart, it is far from being a classy resort. It is a KOA, with some amenities already made, and many more to be made (supposedly). It has two pools, a sandy beach, fishing piers (no license required when fishing on private property), and (best of all) wonderfully fast WIFI.

It also has a slanted RV sites (and our RV does not have levels), crumbly roads, and sometimes smelly sewers. I would not pay to stay here.

The RV sites are tiered because of the hills around here, and many (including ours on the third tier) have a view of the lake. We are only about a 100 yards from the shore.

When we arrived yesterday, it was sunny. Today has been overcast and sometimes rainy. I hope the rest of the week will be comfortable so that we can do some fishing, and hopefully some catching.

I'll keep you informed!

Until next time,

Your ReluctantRover,

Linda

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.