Friday, August 16, 2019

Dolphins!

August 16, 2019--This is an addendum to my earlier blog:

When we were at the beach this morning, sitting in the shade of the umbrella and drying off from a dip in the Gulf, Jim spotted some dolphins.

It is not unusual to see dolphins, whether you are at the beach, one of the many rivers that empty into the Gulf or the Atlantic, or at a bay. But it is rare to see what we saw today: dolphins frolicking the the sea, jumping high into the air, as if they were performing at Sea World! I don't know if they were entertaining themselves or us, but it was spectacular to view.

Of course, by the time I took out my camera, they had stopped playing. Just my luck. So, I have no photos to post. You only have my word that we did, indeed, see a pod of dolphins having fun at the beach.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer

Linda

Beautiful clear water, but no fish


August 16, 2019—We decided to surf fish today. It was a rare day in which the warm water was an emerald green in the shallows and deep blue past the sand bars. Aside from seaweed, the water was crystal clear. Usually, clear water means good surf fishing, but not today. All Jim caught was a tiny little jack crevalle. I don't think we even had any other bites!
Jim caught only one puny jack crevalle! He let it go to grow up.


We had fun any way, and although the temperature was in the mid 90s, our umbrella and a sea breeze kept us comfortable.

The camera did not do justice to the color of the Gulf. It was a beautiful emerald green in the shallows, juxtaposed against the deep blue where the water deepened.

We were amazed, however, at the thoughtlessness of beach goers.

As anglers, we are considerate; we walk down the beach away from any bathers. We would not want anyone to become entangled in our lines or caught by a hook. However, we weren’t fishing very long, however, when a group of teenagers (I think it was some type of church or community group) led by a man jumped into the water with boogie boards. They were very near our lines. We finally got their attention and all but one (stubborn) girl relocated away from the lines. (She finally got out of the water.)

An hour later, a mother with her two young kids walked by us and plopped down about 10 yards from us and decided that was a good place to play in the waves. They were oblivious that the current and wave action were slowly taking our lines in their direction.

We decided to give up. The fish weren’t biting anyway…why get in a hassle with swimmers?

We reeled in the lines and decided to take a dip ourselves. It was the first time in probably seven or eight years that I have swum in the sea. The last time was when either my son or my daughter and their family were visiting. Wave-hopping isn’t my favorite pastime, but we had great fun anyway.
We went home, rested, and we are going back to the pier on the bay later. The last two days we have fished off the pier and have caught some croakers—not many, but enough for dinner. Maybe we will add to their number before I cook tonight.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hot, hot, hot! A last summer vacation


August 14, 2019—On the go again, this time at Grayton Beach State Park in Santa Rosa, Fla., which is in the Florida Panhandle, about midway between Panama City and Pensacola. We arrived yesterday afternoon, after about a five-hour drive from Jacksonville.

The drive was uneventful—until we decided to get fuel in Marianna. We pulled into a Murphy Express Station by a Walmart. The station was very busy; we had to wait a bit to get to a diesel pump. After filling up with diesel, Jim pulled out and patiently waited to exit the station. Finally, we turned out of the station and headed for a Hardee’s, about three miles up the road, for lunch.

Below the reflection of Jim's legs (he was taking a photo of the damage), you can see the small scratch our camper made on the car. Ouch!

As we pulled into the parking lot of the Hardee’s, a car pulled up next to us, and the driver (nicely) confronted Jim: Jim had inadvertently sideswiped his car when he had pulled out of the gas station. Our truck and camper are big and heavy; we never felt the scratch occur. We know what happened, however. The long “legs” of the camper stick out a bit from the body of the camper and the truck. Apparently, the truck pulled up too close to the much smaller car and the bottom of the leg scraped the car.

Stuff happens. This was one of those instances. Jim reported the accident to the insurance company, and right now, we are waiting for an adjuster to come out and look at our truck and camper, despite the fact that there was no damage to our vehicle(s), a fact we repeatedly assured the adjuster.
Waiting for the adjuster is making us postpone our first day of fishing—not a real tragedy, because the heat index is 106 degrees. We hope that when we are by the water’s edge it will be cooler.

This is a nice state park, which has access to the Gulf as well as a briny lake. We are also near a bay. The park is outstanding for two things: First, we have internet! Yea! The last couple of state-park stays have found us “stranded” without access to the outside world, except for nightly news on a network station. Second, we have sewers! Being able to hook up sewer lines is really nice. We took a shower in our camper for the first time.

Our campsite at Grayton Beach State Park--complete with electric, water, and sewers!
It is actually too hot to use our tented canopy but we put it up anyway. 

On the downside, however, the park has no fishing facilities—no piers, no cleaning stations—a disappointment. We can fish from the shore of the Gulf as well as the lake, but it would be nice if there were a pier. Also, the park is far enough away from both Panama City and Pensacola that we are unable to get any network or PBS television stations, only a couple of local stations. We aren’t big TV watchers, so that is not a big deal, but it would be nice to watch the news. (We keep forgetting to contact DirecTV to ask if it is possible to take our satellite box with us and use it in the camper. Our camper actually has a satellite dish built into it!)

Enough for now. Wish us luck when we fish. I hope the fish aren’t as lethargic as we feel in the heat.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

A tour of Fort Clinch to end our stay


July 30, 2019—We packed up early this morning and drove the short distance to Fort Clinch, the historic brick fortification located with Fort Clinch State Park, a site worth investigating.
Here I am standing by one of the cannon on the parade grounds.

Fort Clinch's parade grounds. Several cannon are on the upper level, protecting the inlet.

According to the fort's history, its first fortifications were begun in 1736, but it wasn’t until 1847 that the brick fort was begun. Its purpose was to defend against foreign invaders that might try to come up the Amelia River, which was a deep-water port, from the Atlantic Ocean. Erecting the fort took considerable time: Only about two-thirds was finished by the start of the Civil War, with cannons yet to be mounted on the walls.
Jim is walking toward one of the very large cannon that protected the inlet. The guns could be swiveled for precise firing.

The island seen in this picture is Cumberland National Seashore. It can be visited only by boat.

More of the buildings surrounding the parade grounds of the fort.


By default (because of its southern location), at the start of the Civil War, the fort went under control of the Confederacy. By 1862, however, General Robert E. Lee ordered the evacuation of the fort, and the Union took it over. Despite Union occupancy, the fort was still not finished by the end of the war, and by 1869 the army had abandoned it.

In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, Fort Clinch was again used as a barracks and ammunition depot, with cannon and a minefield outside the walls added for fortifications. About a year after hostilities ended, the fort was once again abandoned.

A barracks room. Soldiers slept two to a bed.

In the middle ground of the photo is an inverted rooftop. Several roofs were built like this to catch rainwater and store it in a large cistern.
The fort became one of Florida’s first state parks in 1935, and thanks to the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), it was restored.

The fort served its final strategic mission as a joint operations center for surveillance and communications during World War II. After the war ended, it was returned to the state.

Visitors are regularly educated and entertained by re-enactors throughout the year. Apparently, the living museum is operational only on weekends; we saw only one costumed “soldier” while we visited.

We were surprised by the size of the fort; it is quite large, and on the upper levels offers an expansive view of Cumberland Island National Seashore, where (it is said) you can sometimes watch the wild horses prance on the beach. We didn’t have binoculars with us, so our view was limited.

After a quick tour in and around the various buildings in the fort—including the quartermaster’s office, barracks, jail, kitchen, and ammunition rooms—we headed home…another great get-away, and one to which we will return.

After all, the fishing was great!

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Monday, July 29, 2019

14 little 'uns and 1 mystery fish




July 29, 2019—It was a good day of fishing. We caught around 20 fish (albeit all small ones) and kept 15. We do not know the names of what we caught, but we are sure that none was a protected species. We decided to have a massive fish fry at home. Those little ‘uns have a lot of bones, but they sure are good eating.

One of the 15, however, we tossed to the seagulls once Jim had cleaned it. I suspect it is a variety of ladyfish, a species that are fun to catch but not real tasty. (As soon as we have an internet connection, I’ll do some research and see if I can identify it.) The ladyfish we have caught elsewhere were essentially black, not mottled like this one. And they had larger eyes. However, this fish was elongated, like ladyfish, and had somewhat bulging eyes, very similar to the ladyfish we have caught in the past.

This is a mystery fish. When I returned home, I researched it and discovered it is called a lizard fish. Although considered a trash fish (and an ungly one with many sharp teeth, at that!), several anglers who do "catch and cook" vlogs tried cooking and eating this ugliness. They were all surprised: It is apparently a very tasty fish, mild, with a taste similar to flounder. Just goes to show that there are few (if any) inedible fish in the sea. Below are two more photos of our mystery fish.

The lizard fish almost looks like a snake!



Ladyfish are not filleted or cooked like “regular” fish. Their flesh is mushy. (So was this fish’s meat.) To use the fish, it is recommended to freeze it for a couple of hours, then fillet, but instead of skinning it, to take a spoon and scrape the flesh off the skin. This pulpy flesh is then used in fish cakes. I made some fish cakes from ladyfish. The recipe I used was not worth repeating. However, I would try another recipe the next time we catch a mess of them. Like I said, they are really fun to catch.

We fished until the bait was gone. This time, we were on the Amelia River, away from the inlet, where we were yesterday. We agreed that we would like to return here. The campground is very nice; the wash house is air-conditioned; and the fishing is good.

Tomorrow we return home, a “long” journey of about one hour. After we pack up, we will stop at the fort and tour the museum. Not sure if we will go into Fort Clinch, however. We have been to several forts around Florida built in the same time.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Little 'uns


July 28, 2019—A perfect fishing day. High in the 80s (we think. With no internet, I have no idea what the real temperature is). Humid, yes, but at the inlet the breeze was constant, and that made for a comfortable day to dip our lines.

We decided to fish at the spot where some locals said they always had luck. We started at 11 a.m. and finished around 5:00 p.m. I went back to the camper and made us a picnic lunch. Something about salt water…it whets the appetite.

We didn’t catch any big ones today, unfortunately, but we caught a variety of small keepers, mostly those tasty croakers. We took home five, but Jim also caught three baby sharks (two bonnet heads and one black tail). Although there is no size limit for either of these species, we decided to let them grow up a bit more. He also caught a saltwater catfish. Saltwater catfish taste very much like freshwater cats, but they have to be fairly good sized to get enough meat. This one was pretty small, so Jim threw him back, also.
Our take-home catch of the day, waiting to be cleaned. 

Tomorrow I think we will try our luck at the fishing pier here in the park. If they aren’t biting, then we’ll move to another spot.

Right now, I’m bushed. Saltwater not only stimulates your appetite, it also ensures you will sleep well that night.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Yikes! Campground has no internet--again!


July 27, 2019—One of the aims of many people, when they go camping, is to get away from it all. The Florida state park system seems intent on making that happen. No internet. No cell phone signal. Isolation. 

We arrived at Fort Clinch State Park, about an hour north of Jacksonville in Fernandina Beach, which is situated almost on the border to Georgia. (Yes, Jacksonville is that far north! We are really in southern Georgia, for climate and culture.)




The roadways in the park are tree canopied, which suggests a taste of old Florida, long before Disney.
This is a very nice state park: Shady campsites, and although they are close to one another, the trees give a semblance of privacy. The roadways are tree-canopied, with Spanish moss hanging from the limbs and giving a glimpse of what Florida was before Disney.

The sites are not nearly as big as they were at Saint George Island, where many campers bring boats, but ours is adequate. The shower house is a short walk. In contrast to all others we have used, this one is air conditioned—a nice amenity.



The park is the home of Fort Clinch, a 19th century brick fort built to guard the entrance to the Amelia River from invaders arriving via the Atlantic Ocean. We will probably tour the fort tomorrow. Inlet areas on both the east and west side of the fort provide good fishing. There is also a fishing pier a bit farther up the river, as well as a beach on the ocean, where we can surf fish.

Two photos of Fort Clinch, taken from the riverside of the fort.


It is the lack of internet that I bemoan, as well as the fact that we can get few TV channels. We are just north of Jacksonville and should be able to pick up all the Jax stations, but no. The only network we get is CBS.

The fact that we have no internet means that I will be posting these blogs after we get home.
Our stay here is only for three nights. If the fishing is good, however, we may return, since it is close to home yet allows us to get away.

Tomorrow, we dip our lines. Wish us luck. We always enjoy trying to entice the fish to our lines, but it is much more fun when we can pull them in!

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Wrapping up our vacation


June 29, 2019—It is our last day at St. George Island State Park. We spent several hours fishing—and catching.

We returned to the fishing pier today where we had had success two days ago. (Yesterday was a rain day. After “fixing” the truck—by filling up the fuel tank—we stayed in all afternoon as the rain came down.) Although some people on the pier were catching black-tipped sharks and a few larger species, such as flounder, we knew those fish were not abundant, so we decided to concentrate on catching more croakers. Those little fish are fun to catch, and more important, delicious to eat.
Jim, fishing for croakers on the St. George Island fishing pier

My first catches of the day were a couple of ladyfish and catfish. Most anglers condemn ladyfish as trash fish and throw them back or use them as cut bait. We have learned that no fish is trash; all can be eaten. Some are just better tasting than others. When we were in Sebastian Inlet in May, we caught a number of ladyfish and learned how to clean and use them to make fishcakes. The fish are fun to catch, but today we decided we didn’t want to mess with their special cleaning (they need to be scraped, not filleted), so we tossed them back. Likewise, the catfish. Saltwater catfish taste about the same as freshwater catfish, but cleaning them is not as easy as filleting other fish. We let them live for another day to steal bait from another angler.

We ended up catching (and keeping) 18 croakers. We would have caught more, but we ran out of bait. Those 18 will be enough for two dinners for the two of us. Yum!

***
Despite the beauty of the white sand beaches and dunes, we won’t be coming back to this state park. It just doesn’t have enough to offer us.


Our campsite is spacious and shady. That’s good. It is also near the shower house. The walk to the gulf from the parking lot is relatively short (unlike the walk to the beach at Anastasia Island State Park). I think those are about the only good things I can say about this park.

Although it has miles of beach and several dedicated beach-access areas, parking is inadequate, especially for anglers and campers. Each access area only has about a half-dozen non-handicapped parking spaces. It is not possible to park alongside the road, because the shoulders are sand. Signs distinctly state that the sand will not support vehicles. Even if you could park alongside the road, it wouldn’t be possible, because almost all of the land between the road and the beach (except for the beach access areas) is roped off—prohibited--to protect shore bird and their nestlings.

The park is bounded on the south by the gulf, on the north by the bay or sound. (I don’t know the technical term for that body of water.) The park has two boat ramps to the sound. But there are no fishing piers, and no access to fishing the sound from the shoreline. Except for the one day we did surf fishing, we went “off base” to fish at the pier in town.

We have visited many state parks during the last two years. Because of the limited capacity of our RV’s holding tanks, we use the public facilities to shower. Some of these facilities have been very old and in need of repair and replacement of shower heads. Others have been newer. Most have been very clean. This shower house is wanting in cleanliness. I won’t go into specifics, but I don't think it is too much to expect toilet stalls to be clean and mildew to be removed from the shower walls.

If we were to return to this part of the Forgotten Coast, we would stay at St. Joseph State Park near Port St. Joseph, rather than here. Unfortunately, that park was hit hard in the hurricane last year and is not yet open for camping.

In August we have reservations at another state park on the Forgotten Coast, in Santa Rosa, Fla., which is near Pensacola. I hope we will not be disappointed in the facilities or the fishing.

Despite the limitations of the park, however, we had a wonderful time. It is always relaxing to get away from the day-to-day chores that confront us at home, even if our camping experience isn’t all that we had hoped it would be.

Until next time (when we return to Faver-Dykes State Park, near St. Augustine), I am

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Friday, June 28, 2019

Weird truck


June 28, 2019—Last night on the way back from fishing, Jim sighed and probably said a few choice words: Our 1999 diesel Ram truck was having trouble shifting. It refused to shift out of second gear. Definitely not a good thing.
Whoever heard of a transmission problem caused by low fuel level?  

We stopped; he checked the transmission fluid. It was OK. Then we started making plans: He said this was a transmission problem and we would have to drive very slowly (about 20-30 mph) to Tallahassee, the nearest big city (about 80 miles away) where we would be able to get service. And fixing the problem would probably be expensive. Tomorrow we would drive into the center of the island where we could get a cell phone signal and google transmission shops. (We don’t have a cell signal in the campground.)

We knew when we bought this package—the 2003 Lance truck camper and the 1999 Ram truck—that we would have to spend some money on maintenance and repair. It was inevitable. The original owner of the truck and camper was a rabbi. A nice guy, but self-admittedly not mechanically inclined. We believed he had done normal maintenance, but beyond that, he was oblivious to what should be done to a vehicle and was incapable of doing more than driving it down to a mechanic.

When Jim took the truck in for an alignment last week, he was given a list of front-end problems that needed to be fixed before the alignment could be done. Jim opted to put on new shocks himself, and will take the truck back for the other $1500 of repairs after we return.

But I digress…back to our current problem, an apparently faulty transmission. We were resigned that we were going to be faced with an unexpected and unwanted repair.

A bit after we hobbled back to our campsite, I drove the truck down to the dumpster to get rid of some garbage. I glanced down to the fuel gauge—less than one-quarter of a tank of diesel. And I remembered something the rabbi had told us about the truck as he was explaining to us the idiosyncrasies of the camper and the truck:

The rabbi had said, “Oh, don’t let the fuel get below one-quarter tank. The truck doesn’t shift well when the fuel gets low.”

When the rabbi said that, Jim smiled and rolled his eyes. I asked him about the rabbi’s comment later and he said, “The fuel level doesn’t have anything to do with shifting gears.” True, it doesn’t, at least not directly. But I reminded Jim about the rabbi’s comment when I returned from the garbage dumpster. After all, although the rabbi was not mechanically inclined, he had driven the truck for almost 20 years. He knew its foibles.

“It doesn’t make sense, but tomorrow morning we will go fill up the fuel tank. Let’s hope a full tank takes care of the problem.”

So, this morning we limped the 15 miles across the bridge to Eastpoint, to the nearest fuel station that sold diesel. While we were chugging along, I finally got a signal on my phone and immediately started googling “difficulty shifting 1999 Ram 3500 with low fuel” and got several hits. One was a query on a forum about an identical situation. The expert who answered the question did not discount the problem. Rather, he listed several plausible reasons why the truck might not shift when the fuel tank was near empty! He said that with a full tank the shifting problem should go away, although that does not solve the core cause of the problem.

When we reached the nearest gas station that sold diesel, Jim pumped fuel into the nearly empty tank. He then started the engine, pulled out onto the highway and…

…the truck shifted! Problem solved.

Well, not solved, exactly. Jim will do some problem solving to address the cause of this situation after we get home. But, in the meantime, he promised me he would not complain when I ask him how we’re doing on fuel. I always get the tank filled when it drops to one-quarter; he likes to drive on fumes. Not any more, at least in this truck.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Good eating


June 27, 2019—What a good dinner! What would make a good dinner while camping/fishing other than freshly caught fish? Our dining was not elegant , but it was delicious.

Jim and I headed back out to the fishing pier, an old bridge that once spanned the distance between the mainland and the island. The county retained about a half-mile of the bridge on both sides for fishing. Yesterday we fished on the Eastpoint pier, chosen at the suggestion of a local fisherman. He said that pier was better than the one of the St. George Island side.
St. George Island Fishing pier

It wasn’t. We didn’t catch anything, although we fed the fish.

Today, we decided to fish on the St. George pier. And catch fish we did!

Granted, we did not catch the “big” ones, but we certainly caught the tasty ones, croakers.

Croakers can be described as salt-water bluegills, small fish with a large dimension of tastiness. They love to nibble the bait off your hook, especially larger hooks meant to catch big fish.  We caught a few on the hooks meant for flounder and trout, but we finally realized that if we wanted to catch croakers, we had to use small hooks. Jim changed our hooks, and we started catching.

Image result for croaker fish
We were too busy catching croakers to take pictures of them,
so I captured a photo from the internet. Small guys, but really tasty.

We caught more than a dozen, but silly us, we threw back the first few that we caught, thinking they were too small. Then we realized  they don’t get big, and started keeping them.

Altogether we took home 10 and had a feast.

We will go back to the same pier tomorrow. Sure, it would be nice to catch some big fish, but catchin’ is much better than fishin’ and those little ones went down just fine.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda 


Too hot for the fish to bite?


June 27, 2019, St. George Island State Park, Fla.—I guess fish are like people. They don’t like it when it is too hot or too cold.

The fish is our little backyard pond are that way. During the winter, they couldn’t be tempted by any lure we used. They hid somewhere in the pond, trying to keep warm. Then, once the water warmed up, they can’t be tempted to come out of their hidey-holes where the water is cool. (I think the pond is more than 10 feet in the deepest area, beyond reach of our casting.) I think I’ve only caught one bass in the last couple of months.

Jim enjoyed surf fishing, although it was about 98 degrees and the fish were not biting.

We are here at St. George Island State Park on what is known as the Forgotten Coast. It is a beautiful area, with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the sound or bay (or whatever it is called) on the other. We (along with all other fishermen) had no luck the other day surf fishing, nary a bite. 


Yesterday, we drove over to the sound and dipped our lines for several hours off the fishing pier, an old bridge that extends out into the water.

The fish were biting all right. Biting and eating our shrimp and whatever other bait we used. Some even managed to eat the Fish Bites, an artificial bait glommed onto a tightly knit mesh. The Fish Bites are very difficult to get onto the hook, and even harder to take off, once the bait itself has dissolved. But some fish managed to bite it off!

The day wasn’t completely without catches. Jim caught an undersized black drum and a catfish. I caught two catfish and what we think was a juvenile spotted trout. None was a keeper. All were fun to pull in.

Oh, and it wasn’t just us. The other people fishing had just as poor luck as we did.
I blame the lack of catching on the hot weather. I don’t know if I am right, but it sounds like a good excuse.

***

After fishing, since we were over the long bridge from the mainland, we decided to have an early supper in Apalachicola, a town that used to be a fishing and oystering haven. As oystering has tapered off in recent years, the town has maintained its allure as a quaint fishing village with restaurants and tourist shops.

The last time we were here, in 2017, there were a number of seafood restaurants from which to choose. Hurricane Michael (I think that was the one) must have had a bad effect on the town. The choice of restaurants was limited this time, and I can’t say the food was very good.

Today or tomorrow we may drive over the Mexico Beach, which is perhaps an hour away, to see the devastation the hurricane wrought. The federal government has not been good about providing disaster relief to the area. I think if you wanted to buy gulf-front property there you could pick up some bargains. Me? Too much sand.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Camping, but no internet!


June 25, 2019, St. George Island State Park—I am writing this on June 25, but unfortunately I will not be able to post anything until we return home. No internet! Yikes! I feel so isolated. I am not one of those people who has her nose in the phone all day long, but I rely on the internet to get my news (no more print newspaper), to get mail (virtually nothing comes via snail mail any more), and to shop (except for clothes and food, we do most of our shopping on eBay and Amazon Prime). I rare use the phone to talk, but having it with me keeps me connected. I guess I will survive for five more nights without cyber activity.

St. George Island State Park is on the Forgotten Coast of Florida, in the Panhandle. It is an island in the Gulf of Mexico, about 265 miles from Jacksonville. This is the third time we have stayed in this area. The first was in 2015, on our way back from the Midwest. We stayed at Ho Hum RV Park, a park that boasts no amenities except for being directly on the gulf. We had a delightful time.
The second time, November 2017, we booked a reservation at T. H. Stone memorial State Park outside of Port St. Joseph on St. Joseph Bay. We truly enjoyed that vacation, fishing in the gulf as well as in St. Joseph Bay. That state park was severely damaged in the hurricane a year ago when Mexico Beach, Fla., was decimated, and still has not reopened.
A heron, one of many shore birds, at St. George Island State Park. 

St. George Island State Park is across the St. George Inlet from Apalachicola and Eastpoint. Not much on this island. It seems to be an area for vacation homes. But the park is lovely. The dunes remind me of the sand dunes at Lake Michigan. Most sand dunes in Florida have sea grapes (or oats?) growing on them, to protect them from erosion. The sea grapes block any view of the water from the roadside. Not so, here.

This is our second excursion in our truck camper. We learned much from our first outing a couple weeks ago. This time, we were smarter in how we packed our gear. We discovered that by folding up the rear seat in the back of the truck, we were able to stow most of our equipment, rather than put it in the aisle of the camper.

We also purchased a stand-alone tent shelter, where we can sit outside and not be bothered by insects. I don’t know why we didn’t do that years ago! For less than $100, we can now enjoy the outdoors. (I’ll not dwell on the heat and humidity that detract from this small pleasure.)
We purchased a stand-alone tent shelter where we can sit outside without (mostly) being bothered by mosquitoes and other annoying insects. I don't know why we didn't buy one 10 years ago! It is very nice to sit outside and enjoy nature and a fire.

Our aim, as always, is to No. 1, have a good time, and No. 2, go fishing. We spent several hours on the beach today, surf fishing. Nary a bite! Jim doesn’t care. He likes to sit and ponder the mysteries of life while watching the waves break. I admit I am less patient; I like to at least have a few nibbles.

Maybe tomorrow.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Sand and surf fishing


June 6, 2019—Surf fishing. Jim loves it. He claims it is relaxing and meditative just to sit on the beach, watch the fishing rod (in hopes that it will bend to the weight of a catch), and listen to the waves break on the shore.

He’s right. It is relaxing. The only problem is that to do surf fishing, you have to go to the beach. And the beach means sand. Sand. Sand. And more sand.

Hard sand by the seashore is OK. But to get to the shore, you have to walk across soft sand, the kind that makes its way into your beach shoes and hurts the bottoms of your feet. Walking in soft sand reminds me of walking in knee-deep snow. I never liked snow-walking. I hate walking in sand.

There is really only one rule about surf fishing: don’t set up your gear and fish around swimmers. Avoiding swimmers means having to hike down the beach. In sand. Soft sand. Soft sand that swallows your feet. Did I mention I don’t like walking in sand? (I think there is a reason why I have been to the beach less than a dozen times since I moved to Florida 21 years ago, and it has to do with sand.)

OK, enough about the beach and its sand that creeps into every crevice of your body. We went surf fishing today. Catching was not great; we brought home a few small fish. I guess the fish weren’t too hungry today.
Jim is holding the baby hammerhead shark I caught at Anastasia State Park while surf fishing. Weird-looking fish.

Shortly after I cast out my line, however, I got a bite. What did I catch? The brother of the little shark I caught yesterday. It was about the same size, around 8-10 inches. We released him to grow up.
I cast my line again, and within a few minutes I had another bite! It was not a heavy fish. It was…another shark! This time a baby hammerhead! We released him, too, to grow up.

Today is the last day of our mini-vacation. We return home tomorrow. As usual, we have had a good time. Our next adventure will be six nights at St. George Island State Park on the Gulf, in the panhandle, at the end of June . We also have time booked at Faver-Dykes State Park (central Florida, east coast) in mid-July, and at Fort Clinch State Park (about an hour north of Jacksonville) at the end of July. After that? Well, wehave to get out the state park map and start planning.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Verdict on the truck camper...great!


June 5, 2019—We are at Anastasia State Park, in St. Augustine, Fl. Our first night in our “new” truck camper has passed. It was nice.



Thor, our 27-foot Class A motorcoach (which is at Campers Inn in Jacksonville, on consignment), had essentially about 17 feet of usable cabin space, plus the bedroom, but it was only 8 ½ wide. Lance, our truck camper, is overall 20 feet long, from the head of the bed (which is elevated) to the door. The cabin area is roughly 12 feet long, but this area has a slide, which makes the living area much wider than Thor’s. That extra width in the cabin area makes all the difference for comfort.
In Thor, we had to set up a table every time we ate. In the truck camper we have a dinette table. I have adequate space to cook, and if I need more, I can use the table.

Storage? The camper has less than Thor, both inside and especially in the “basement.” But it is adequate for our needs.

Since we purchased this camper a couple of weeks ago, Jim has been busy. We bought a 24” LED TV, to replace the 12” antique that was in the TV cabinet. He was able to modify the built-in articulating TV stand to accommodate our new TV, so the television can be viewed from both the cabin as well as lying in bed.

Jim has changed out most of the lights to LEDs for energy efficiency. We put up a magnetic strip, which holds all the knives and some utility kitchen items. That small innovation has freed up drawer space, which is in short supply.

We also took up the camper’s blue carpeting in the cabin. Beneath it was “virgin “white linoleum. Not attractive, but much easier to keep clean. Eventually, Jim will probably lay some tile planks that resemble hardwood flooring. Not a high priority, though, since the linoleum is in good shape.

The truck has also been the target of some improvements. We discovered that the cruise control did not work. A trip to the mechanic fixed that problem. Jim installed two wireless back-up cameras—one on the truck and one on the camper. These cameras improve safety on the road and make it easier to back the truck in order to load the camper.

The first week we had the truck, Jim installed new airbags—not the kind used for safety (the truck has those of course), but the kind that eases stress on the truck’s springs and creates a more comfortable ride. (The truck had air bags, but they were not functioning.) Also, before we even brought the camper home, Jim purchased some quick-release tie-downs. (The camper has to be “tied down” to the truck. The quick-release tie-downs allow fast set up and tear down.) We found that it was not very difficult to put the camper on the truck and was even easier to set it down in the campground.

Still to be done: a new radio in the truck. The current radio does not have Bluetooth, nor does it have an auxiliary jack. We like to listen to audio books when we travel, so replacing the current radio is a priority that Jim will address in the near future.

All in all, we are very pleased with our purchase. To be sure, this truck camper would not have met our needs nine years ago, when we purchased our first RV. Then, we wanted to do longer travel. (Jim wanted to live in an RV full-time. Not me.) We needed the space we had in our first RV, which was 38 feet long. The second one was 40 feet long. Thor was, as I said, 27 feet. Perhaps, if Thor had had a different configuration, we might not have put it up for sale and bought this truck camper. But, needs (and wants) change. 

Now, if only the motorhome will sell quickly at the RV dealer!
***
It was fortuitous that we had this camping trip to Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine planned prior to our buying the camper. The campground is less than an hour from Jacksonville, so it was a good place for our first trip.
I can’t say that I am too impressed with this state park. The sites are very nice, private, and shaded. But to fish on the beach requires walking a great distance. Neither of us is fond of walking far on sanding beaches. Also, although there is an inlet where it is possible to fish, there is no boat launch, nor is there a fishing pier. I don’t think fishing along the bank will be very inviting. (We did not bring our boat for this trip.)
We drove to the St. Augustine pier today. Fishing was poor. Although each of us caught several small fish, most were too small to keep. Two (species unknown) made it to our dinner table tonight. I also caught a baby shark. By baby, I mean very small, only about eight inches long. If it survived our release, it will grow up to menace other fish, hopefully not humans.
We may go back to the pier this evening, to fish on the incoming tide. Hope the catch is better than this afternoon.
Until later,
Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda

Monday, May 20, 2019

Moving day

Our first motorhome (purchased at the end of 2010) was a 38' Newmar Dutch Star . It was an oldie-but-goodie RV, extremely well built. But, it only had one slide and we had two cats, who demanded litter boxes. There just wasn't enough room for all of us to be comfortable, so after a couple of years, we upgraded to a 40' Country Coach with three slides. Jim and I, as well as the cats, were happy with the extra space. Moving into our new accommodations only required transferring our goods from one RV to another.
Our first motorhome, a 38', 1998 Dutch Star.

Our second motorhome, a 40', 2005 Country Coach.


In September 2017, we decided to downsize. We realized that our RV lifestyle had changed. We no longer yearned to make extended journeys across country. Instead, we focused on shorter (but more frequent) get-aways in state parks, where we could not only tour the area but go fishing. So, we traded in that goliath of a motorhome and purchased a 27' RUV (recreational utility vehicle). We were happy.

Our third motorhome, a 27', 2017 Thor Axis 25.2

Downsizing was a challenge. We had not realized how much (needless) stuff we had been carrying around, "just in case" we needed it. (We never did need it.) 

We remained content traveling in our RUV until we realized that we did not really like its configuration. We had chosen this particular model because it had a back-slide for a queen-sized bed, rather than one that had a side slide and more room in the galley/cabin. 

We also realized that again our RV lifestyle had morphed: We truly enjoy the state parks and going fishing, especially with a boat. We decided that the best RV for us would be a retro RV--a truck camper. We were fortunate to have found a truck and truck camper for sale here in Jacksonville, for a good price. 
Our fourth (and last!) RV, a 2003 Lance truck camper, atop a 1999 Dodge Ram diesel dually.
Although in total length, the camper is only 11.5 feet, it actually offers more room in the cabin/kitchen area that Thor. So, in that regard we are very happy. The downside is that it does not have as much "basement" storage as a motorhome, nor quite as much inside storage.

Today was moving day. We brought Thor home and started transferring our goods. I had to be ruthless about what I would carry in the camper. How many blankets do we need? Right now, one lightweight blanket--I don't need to carry four. Dishes? We have mostly been using paper plates to cut down on washing dishes, so no more Corelle. Flatware? We don't really need a full set of eight dinner forks, salad forks, teaspoons, knives, and tablespoons. I evaluated every piece of cutlery and utensil: If I had not used it within the last year, it would not have a home in the camper. Same with storage containers, pots and pans, and items in the junk drawer.

Tomorrow I will finish finding homes for everything I need, and finding new homes for all the things I will not pack into the camper.

It was a long, hot, sweaty day. But Thor is empty; Camper (or is its name  Lance?) is ready to be put together for our next trip. Tomorrow as I finish putting things in their new places, Jim will install the new 24" LED TV. We will be very comfortable when we go on our next trip in two weeks.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda






Sunday, May 19, 2019

A new chapter in our RVing story

May 19, 2019--Last week I posted that we listed and sold our little 2004 Nissan Frontier truck in one day. (Thank you, Craigslist! Well worth the $5 posting fee.) Why did we sell the truck? We had purchased it only a few months ago to be used as a vehicle to haul our fishing equipment and to "tow" our boat to the boat launch while we were camping. Jim had replaced an oxygen sensor, the alternator, and the radiator. The truck was in great shape; it ran well. So why sell it?

We needed a bigger truck...a much bigger truck...to carry our new truck camper!
Side view of our "new" truck camper and truck.

Let me give you the back story: We have been RVers for almost nine years. Our first motorhome was a 1998 38' diesel pusher with one slide. Excellent engine, but we wanted more room. Bigger is better, no? So, after a couple of years, we traded up to 2005 40' diesel Country Coach that had three slides. Opened up, it was as big as a New York apartment. We really loved the room that motorhome provided. Jim loved to drive it. But, it was plagued with a variety of problems, and we finally decided to sell it about 18 months ago.

When we decided to sell "Junior," we realized our RVing lifestyle had changed. We were no longer interested in taking extended vacations, as we had done three times in the big coaches. So, when we sold the 40-footer, we downsized to a 27' Thor RUV--a recreational utility vehicle. The size was good; we could get into small RV sites at state parks. It didn't take us long, however, to realize that the configuration of Thor did not work well for us. Its single slide was in the back, to allow for a queen-sized bed. The cabin/kitchen area was narrow and not very comfortable for cooking or for watching TV. We regretted not purchasing an RUV with a slide in the cabin/kitchen.

Also, we became interested in boating. It is possible to tow a boat behind an RV, but you can't launch one using an RV. (At least, we weren't going to try.) Hence, we purchased the Porta-bote and the little truck. We could carry the Porta-bote on the truck, which we could tow.

Towing the truck with the Porta-bote solved the boating problem, but we were still confronted with the challenge of the configuration in Thor. We just didn't like it.

We began to think about other solutions, including a truck camper.

Truck campers are probably the granddaddies of RVs. The camper slides into the back of a big pickup truck. The camper can be left in place, or can be taken off the truck as a stand-alone camper while RVing. That allows the truck to be used for other purposes, such as site-seeing or launching a boat.

In our search, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that many truck campers have slides (to expand living area) and even dry bathrooms. (For the uninformed, a dry bathroom is one that has a separate shower. A wet bathroom, common in Class B and many truck campers, is a small bath in which the whole room converts to a shower.)
Back view or the truck camper. 


This truck camper has one slide.

New truck campers come with a healthy price tag, plus you need a big full-sized truck to carry them--another high cost. New was out of the question. We started looking (casually) at various websites for used truck campers and trucks.

As luck would have it, Jim found an ad on eBay for a truck camper as well as a truck--located in Jacksonville. Last Sunday we took a look and fell in love. We bought the package, for an excellent price. We didn't have to mortgage the house to buy them.

The owners (a rabbi and his wife) had purchased both the truck (a 1999 Ram 3500) and the camper (a 2003 Lance 1121) new. They were meticulous owners and were only selling because their health no longer allowed them to camp.

The truck is a diesel with only 90,000 miles on it. (Diesels are hardly broken in with that type of mileage.) It is a dually, which means that it has four wheels on the back. The camper is the largest that was built back in 2003. Although the camper needs some upgrading, it is well made and can be used as is.
Our "new" 1999 Dodge Ram 3500 dually. Jim can been seen installing some air bags. He will also install a backup camera on the truck as well as on the camper.

Front view of our new truck. It is big!


The interior of the camper provides a lot of living area and will be much more comfortable than Thor. No, there are no easy chairs in it, but the dinette's cushioned couches are comfortable to recline on, while watching TV. (We do have to buy a TV. The one that was in it was pre-LED.) It has quite a bit of storage (I think more than the newer truck campers), including a pull-out pantry. It has a microwave, three-burner gas stove, and a gas oven. It also has a dry bathroom, should we wish to shower "at home" instead of in the campground shower facilities. The bed, which is over the truck cab, is queen-sized.
Interior of our new camper. We will be taking up the carpeting and installing plant flooring. (There is new linoleum under the carpet.) The bed is overhead. To the right is the slide with banquette.

The kitchen has a microwave and gas oven.

The kitchen also has a lot of storage, including this pull-out can storage.

The bath is dry.

The bathroom also has a cabinet. For this size camper, it is well-sized.

In addition to providing us with a more comfortable cabin/kitchen area, the truck camper will allow us to tow a boat. Who knows? Perhaps we will get a "real" boat in the future. 

Our task this week is to sell Thor to a dealer, unless we miraculously get an offer from Craigslist or Marketplace within the next couple of days.

Our RVing journey continues, but in a direction we would not have considered when we started nine years ago.

Until next time (when I report on our first adventures in our "new" RV),

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda