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.

















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