Flower Power


The Charleston area is known for having a variety of historic plantations that are popular with tourists and locals.   Although there are a number of things to see at these places, I was most excited about the gardens.   I love seeing garden plants and especially flowers in bloom.  Before we sold our house, my flower beds in the spring, summer and fall were a big delight.  I enjoyed cutting the flowers to bring inside the house or take to work. Growing a garden of flowers is not possible now, but in our travels I can enjoy the immense beauty of these southern gardens.   Spring was the right time for us to be here because the azaleas, which the South grows so abundantly were blooming profusely.

Of the two main plantations I visited with lots of blooming azaleas, Middleton Place was my favorite.   Middleton contains the oldest landscaped gardens in America and is a historic treasure.  It was settled in the early 1700’s by the Middleton family who were rice farmers when rice was the most important cash crop in South Carolina.  The Middleton men were also active in politics with Arthur one of the more prominent as a member of the Continental Congress and signer of the Declaration of Independence.   Middleton Place has been run by the same family for over 300 years.  The original home can be toured but I skipped the house tour and spent some time checking out the barns and stable yards before hitting the gardens in earnest. Sheep run freely on the grounds and a variety of other farm animals are kept here to give visitors a chance to see a working farm during the time period.

Crafters in period costume worked in their shops including a barrel maker, potter, blacksmith, candle maker and wool dyer.  My favorite was the dyer who just finished a mustard colored batch using onion skin.  I either did not know or had forgotten that you could get a natural dye from onion skin which is rather cool.  I especially liked the blue yarn which was dyed from the indigo plant that grows on the plantation.  At one time, growing indigo was another main cash crop in South Carolina.  Dye created from the cochineal bug provided the pinkish color.  This bug can be found on prickly pear cactus which has to be imported.  While watching this crafter I thought how interesting it would be to take a class or learn how to dye in the traditional manner.

Middleton Place is a feast for the eyes with terraced lawns sweeping from the house to the Ashley River.  The river was the main transportation source for the plantation as roads took so much longer.   The property has a number of ponds and small lakes surrounded by huge oaks draped with Spanish moss.  Several alligators swam by or lounged on the banks.  The gardens were created in 1741 and continued to expand and change over the years.  Azaleas were not introduced to South Carolina and grown here until about the 1840’s.  There are now over 100,000 of them on this property!    As I walked around I was amazed by the amount of azaleas.  They bloomed en masse along many pathways and next to the long reflection pool pictured below.

I really enjoyed walking the trail along the “Azalea Hillside” where azaleas were planted in a more natural forest setting.   Although they were gorgeous during my visit, some of the plants were not in full bloom and maybe more stunning a week or two later.

I am always a fan of a swamp and Cypress Lake had impressive views of azaleas reflected in the water along with cypress trees and hanging moss.

One of my favorite spots was the secret garden.   I returned here again at the end of the day before closing time to sit on the bench and reflect on the beauty of the dogwoods, azaleas and statuary placed at each corner.

I spent several hours in the gardens dazzled by the beauty, strong color and abundance of the azaleas.  It was hard to leave but my feet were tired from wandering and the day was coming to a close.  The azaleas here at Middleton definitely had me in their power!

As always, thanks for reading!  In my next blog I continue our adventures in South Carolina!

U.S.S. Yorktown – The Fighting Lady

Located at Patriot’s Point in Charleston’s harbor, the U.S.S. Yorktown is a popular area attraction.  Besides being a great visit, it also has some significance to us as my father served on this aircraft carrier in 1958 – 1959 when it traveled to Japan.  It was fun to wander through the ship and imagine my dad sitting in this officer boardroom, getting his hair cut in the  barbershop, eating in the mess hall, sleeping in the officer quarters or landing his helicopter on the flight deck.  In the picture above, one of my favorite views was the long bridge walk to the carrier with many American flags positioned along the way.

The Yorktown was the 10th aircraft carrier to serve in the U.S. Navy, commissioned on April 15, 1943.  The carrier is best known for her role in the Pacific during World War II.   In 1968 the ship also recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts, the first men to orbit the moon.  In 1970 the Yorktown was decommissioned and dedicated as a museum at Charleston in 1975.

There are several levels of the ship to be explored, so good exercise up and down the many stairs.  In the picture above, Mark disappears down a level.  Along the ship’s passageways you can get a picture of life aboard ship seeing the mess halls, kitchens, dining and sleeping areas, supply quarters and medical treatment rooms.  Over 3500 men made this carrier home during WWII.  Some of the rooms just featured information on other wartime ships with sign boards and photos.  It was too much to read and remember so I passed through quickly!   The day we visited there were many visitors including large groups of students we had to navigate around.   At one point, I wanted to go down the only stairs to tour a level and found a throng of about 50 school age kids also trying to get down the narrow opening.  I decided not to join the throng and returned later.

In the 1950’s the ship was converted to an anti submarine carrier and my father flew one of the helicopters that searched for subs and was prepared to drop torpedoes if needed.   Above is a picture from the torpedo room.  The sign explained that this is a 1960’s era torpedo and once in the water, began a spiral search pattern to find the target.  I thought for sure the twisty end of the torpedo was the front that enabled the spiral search.  When Mark quit laughing, he told me that was the propellor on the back end that made the torpedo move.   I often realize how little I know about how mechanical things work!

The flight deck (above) was one of my favorite spots as there are expansive and lovely views of Charleston, the harbor and Ravenel bridge.   A number of planes are positioned on the deck but there were no helicopters from the time period when my dad served.  I would have liked to have seen one of them!   In the picture below, I am looking down on the flight deck from the Radar Deck. The U.S.S. Laffey Destroyer which is also docked here can be seen to the left and was our next stop.

The U.S.S. Laffey has a fascinating history and is known as “The Ship That Would Not Die,” as she barely survived attacks by Kamikazes during WWII.  On April 16, 1945, the Laffey was near the island of Okinawa when the Japanese launched an attack of 50 planes.   A fierce battle ensued with six Kamikazes and four bombs hitting the ship, killing 32 men and wounding 71.  Although the ship was on fire and suffered much damage, it was able to shoot down 11 of the planes with the help of nearby fighter planes who came to the rescue.

Mark and I were amazed that this small ship (above) could withstand such a fierce assault.  There was a wonderful film as well as a simulation of what it would feel like to have been on the Laffey during the Japanese attack.   In addition to serving in the Pacific, the ship was also at Normandy during D-Day, bombarding Utah Beach.  While docked here the ship weathered another potential disaster when in 2008 over 100 leaks were discovered in the hull.  Due to concerns that she would sink, she was towed to dry dock for repairs at a cost of $9,000,000.

There is much to see at Patriot’s Point which also has a submarine that can be toured as well as a Vietnam Experience.  You would need a whole day or more to really see everything.  What an enjoyable day we spent here!

Thanks for joining us!  In my next blog I plan to talk about “flower power.”

Florida Gulf Musings

Before traveling to the Gulf in Northern Florida, I had visions of spending some time in the water and possibly even snorkeling if it was warm enough.  During the few weeks we were in the area, I never saw anyone swimming.  Even though it was Florida, it was still winter here in late January and early February.  Most people I saw walking along the beach were wearing jackets and long pants.  In the picture above, I am at Henderson Beach State Park in the Destin area.

Mark and I found it interesting that the beaches along the Gulf always have a flag to let visitors know the status of the water. There are four types – purple warns of potentially dangerous marine life; green is generally safe to swim; yellow means the ocean is rough, use caution and red is the most hazardous with potential high surf or dangerous currents.  In the photo above, Mark encountered a red flag at Henderson.

We visited Miramar Beach near Panama City on a cloudy and cold day.  I was disappointed at first that there would not be a colorful sunset, but actually I liked the cloud reflection on the sand and interesting lighting.  It was a day of beautiful grey clouds and I no longer missed having a sunset.  As I wandered down the beach, I met a group of “snow birds” that were glad to be in Northern Florida’s chill.  They had just arrived from their home in Ohio where the day’s high was 20 degrees.  Winter really is a matter of perspective.

At Miramar Beach I saw a sailboat stuck in the sand next to the surf.  I did some research and read that “Phantom of the Aqua” belonged to a Florida man who in October 2017 was attempting to sail to the Virgin Islands to assist residents after Hurricane Irma.  He got stuck in Hurricane Nate, abandoned the boat and was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter.  He thought the boat would be destroyed in the storm and was surprised to learn several weeks later it washed ashore.  When we were there in late January, the boat had still not been picked up even though news articles written in October and November 2017 quoted the owner as making plans to get it off the beach.  I just read a follow up article that in mid February the boat was finally salvaged with the help of an excavator and a tug boat.  When the boat was pulled out to sea crowds on the beach cheered and the song, “She’s Gone” by Hall and Oates was played.  In four months on the beach, the boat had become a celebrity to locals and visitors and people were sad to see her go.  The original owner was unable to get the boat out and ownership changed a few times before she was back on the water.

One evening Panama City beach pier afforded us a lovely sunset.  We arrived to the beach just in time to see the sun go down behind the pier.  It made for a great photo op.

I wanted to share some pictures from our RV park called “Live Oak Landing.”  It was located about a 20 minute drive north from the nearest Gulf beaches between the towns of Destin and Panama City.  We stayed here for two weeks and this was one of my favorite parks on our trip – a lovely, quiet, tree filled park in the country with a scenic river next to the RV sites.   The river system, called “Choctawhatchee” – (wow, that is a mouthful) was my favorite part of the park and a great place to hang out.   The river’s course seemed a little mysterious to me as we never saw it outside the park and there were no nearby parks where we could see the river flow.  Our park had a small pontoon boat that could be rented and I thought it would be interesting to explore this swampy river and see where it went.

Mark seemed interested to give the boat a try, but changed his mind when he stepped on it and was sure that it would easily tip over.  It is hard to change the mind of someone who is not a water or boat person, so the river’s course remained unknown.   And so I close with an evening picture along the river.

Thanks for reading!  In my next blog more exploring in South Carolina.

Charleston Tea Plantation

We arrived in Charleston on March 13 and the day after visited our first attraction, Charleston Tea Plantation.  I had wanted to see this tea farm for some years.  Mark asked me when I first learned about it, but I couldn’t remember for sure.  I have always been interested in researching places to visit around the U.S. and a fan of attractions where things are grown and processed.  Mark and I really enjoy drinking tea and learning about it.  Mark taught some tea classes at Modesto Junior College Adult Education – a three night course spaced once a week.  For awhile, he collected different kinds of tea ware.  Our first visit to a tea production facility was at Celestial Seasonings in Boulder, Colorado.  Although they don’t grow tea there, you can tour the processing and packaging plant.  The mint room was the most interesting – they warn you before you enter as it really opens your sinuses with the intense smell!   We relaxed in their tea tasting room where we could sample many varieties.   It was a cold, overcast fall day when we visited and I can still remember sitting around the inviting room drinking cups of hot tea and admiring the Celestial Seasoning art on the walls.

So it seemed only fitting that our first place to visit was the tea plantation which is actually located on Wadmallaw Island outside of Charleston.  The drive to get there is a scenic byway along a tree shaded country road with lovely small churches, homes and farms.  The plantation is also quite beautiful with fields of green tea bushes and huge live oaks with Spanish moss (above).  Below a close up picture of tea bushes.

Tea plants were imported from China in the late 1700’s to South Carolina, but in the next 150 years, propagating and producing tea was unsuccessful.  In 1888, a Dr. Shepard founded a tea plantation in Summerville, South Carolina where he was able to produce tea until his death in 1915.  His plantation closed and the tea plants grew wild for the next 45 years.  In 1963, an experimental tea farm was begun on a former potato plantation with tea plants from Dr. Shepard’s former plantation.  In 1987, Mr. Hall, a tea expert purchased the property and the Charleston Tea Plantation was founded.  His tea company became known as “American Classic” and was the first to have 100% American grown tea.  In 2003, Bigelow Tea Company a well known tea brand in many stores bought the property in partnership with Mr. Hall.

This part of South Carolina is perfect for tea growing due to the sandy soil, hot, humid climate and abundant rainfall.  I really enjoyed walking in the tea fields, checking out the plants.  In the picture above, I am standing in the experimental field which has the original and oldest tea plants on the farm that came from Dr. Shepard’s 1888 farm.  Although the tea bushes come from just one type of plant – Camellia Sinensis, there are many variations.

There is a trolley that takes visitors around the plantation to see the fields with a guide explaining history, plant care and harvesting.  We also stopped at the greenhouse to view the tea plants that are being propagated and prepared for planting.  We learned from our guide that no pesticides or herbicides are used on the plants which are naturally pest free.  We were told that tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world.  We were asked what we thought the first beverage was.  I answered “coffee” but actually it is water.  Makes sense, but I guess I wasn’t thinking of water as a beverage, ha, ha.

We visited the farm before harvest time which usually begins between April and May. That is when the tea bushes have produced the first new leaves called “first flush,” considered the best for tea making.  The leaves are harvested by a special machine called the “Green Giant Tea Harvester” which can be seen above.   The bushes are planted close together and the harvester passes easily through cutting off several inches from the top and throwing the leaves into the machine.   As the plants keep producing new leaves, harvesting continues every few weeks until fall when the weather cools.   This one machine replaces a labor force of 500 people hand cutting tea.   In most tea growing countries tea has to be hand cut because the plants are located on the sides of hills or mountains.  Charleston Tea Plantation is one of the few tea farms that is on level ground.  Below is a picture of me next to the plantation’s mascot, Waddy who holds a cup of plantation tea.

The plantation has a small tea processing plant with a short but informative 12 minute video tour explaining the whole process from fresh leaves to processed tea.  We were able to see the machinery but there was no tea being processed due to the season.  In the gift shop there is tea and tea ware for sale including delightful teapots and teacups.   At a tea station we were able to sample as much tea as we wanted from six different flavors.   My favorite was the mint (I am a big mint tea fan) and we bought a tin of this tea to take with us.  The tea is rather costly here so we didn’t stock up, but we thought it tasted quite good.

It was a delightful and relaxing visit to this tea farm getting to see tea bushes close up and learning how they are grown and processed.

Thanks for checking in!  In the next post I plan to write some more about our visit to the Gulf beaches in Northern Florida.

A Fort With a Moat

We have been to about four forts during our travels in the South and Fort Pulaski located between Savannah and Tybee Island is probably the best one yet.  It is so well preserved and maintained, the National Park Service has done a great job keeping this fort looking sharp.   Plus this fort has a moat filled with water – how can you not love a fort with a real moat?  I liked that the moat is still filled from a canal that brings water from the river just as it was done from the earliest days.

Fort Pulaski was completed in 1847 to protect the port of Savannah.   When the Fort was built it was designed to withstand enemy gun fire.  In 1861 Confederate troops moved in to occupy the Fort at the beginning of the Civil War.  In 1862 Union soldiers used rifled cannon, a new weapon that was able to batter the brick and mason construction.  This was the first time these new weapons were used and and they made brick forts pretty much obsolete.  After the main powder magazine was exposed by the battering, the Commander surrendered to prevent further destruction and loss of life.  The Confederates only controlled the Fort about 14 months before surrendering.   This closed Savannah’s port to the Confederates and was a devastating blow to their economy.   In the picture below you can see a closer view of the damage including a cannon ball still stuck in the wall in the top left hand corner.   One of my favorite things about visiting here was being able to see the damage to the Fort.

Later in the war, the Fort was used as a prisoner of war camp for Confederate officers known as the “Immortal Six Hundred.”  They were housed on one side of the Fort with men crammed into bunks in a very small area for this many people.  Thirteen of the men died here.  I learned during a ranger talk that the Union commander was more kindly toward the prisoners than other Union officers could be, so the prisoners probably fared a little better.  Below is an interior view with gun placements.  I noticed that all the floors were swept very clean and free of any debris.  This was different than Fort Morgan, Alabama which I wrote about in a previous post.  Morgan was more atmospheric with loose dirt and debris all over.   It shows how different two places run by the National Park system can be maintained.

To get to Fort Pulaski you have to cross a few waterways including a bridge as the fort is located on an island.  After we crossed I noticed many downed and damaged trees, like they had been tossed around.  I learned at the visitor center that in one year two hurricanes and a tornado hit the area.  An article from a local paper noted:  “Fort Pulaski can’t seem to catch a break.”  In October 2016 Hurricane Matthew landed in the Savannah area and then on May 23, 2017 a tornado touched down on the island.  In September 2017 Hurricane Irma hit and although less destructive than Matthew, the island and fort experienced significant flooding.  The fort area was turned into a lake with wooden bridges that visitors used to cross the moat washing away.   After each disaster the fort had to be closed for repairs.   When we visited the fort itself looked good but the main Visitor Center was still not open.

Once you cross over the moat you enter through two sets of original doorways with the neatest old wooden doors.  The first doors have iron studs so they couldn’t be axed by intruders.   I have to say I am a fan of doors and doorways and they were one of my favorite things to see here.

You can walk around the whole bottom and top of the fort seeing the parade grounds, the various cannons and views of the waterways around the island.   Below, Mark caught a picture of me admiring the view from the top.

After visiting the fort we drove on to Tybee Island which is a favorite vacation spot for visitors to the Savannah area.  We visited one of the beaches which was peaceful and pretty.

Since I love lighthouses, I was happy to see the Tybee Island Light Station.   Two earlier lighthouses were destroyed after being built too close to the shore.  In 1736 the third was built a little further inland and so far has held firm.

In 1867 it was added on to and is now 154 feet tall with 178 stairs to the top.  When we visited the light was closed for repairs but you could go inside the lighthouse keeper’s home as well as a few other buildings on the property.  This is Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse.

As always, thanks for reading, we appreciate your support!  In the next blog we have moved on to Charleston, South Carolina and I plan to write about the first attraction we visited there.

That Turquoise Water

Recently I mentioned writing about more current locations and from time to time interspersing posts from earlier traveling as well.   In this post I wanted to talk about some of our exploration along the Gulf of Mexico in Northern Florida, also known as the “Panhandle.”  Although our RV site was not located near the ocean, we had a fairly easy drive of about 20-30 minutes to the beach towns.    Before getting to Florida, what I was probably looking forward to the most was seeing the beautiful turquoise Gulf.  In fact, the Florida Panhandle is known as the “Emerald Coast.”

Like California, Florida has many state parks – about 171 in total.  I really enjoy visiting the state parks in California and wanted to see some in Florida as well.  Luckily, there are half a dozen or so parks along the Emerald Coast.  Our favorite park to visit was St. Andrew’s near Panama City which we visited twice.  It was here I first got to see the turquoise water up close when I walked out on the pier.  I think I exclaimed in joy at the color around me!  In the picture below, Mark looks for dolphins which we saw swimming near the pier.

The beaches on the Gulf are known to have the most beautiful white sand.  I spent some time here gathering sea shells and enjoying the bird life.  The birds, including Ruddy Turnstones and Willets were so calm they even walked close by me as if I wasn’t there.

The dunes in this park and in many of the coastal state parks in Florida really add to the beauty of the beaches.   The sea oats pictured below are an important part of conserving the dunes as they stabilize, increase dune growth and provide a habitat for birds and animals.  These grasses are protected with no trampling or picking allowed.

After hanging out on the beaches for awhile, we visited the rest of the park.   There are a  few different trails for walking and hopefully seeing wildlife.  We checked out Gator Lake with the heron rookery and nearby forest.

I loved walking among the coastal scrub with twisted, dwarf trees and palmettos.  Deer can be spotted here like the one I found below.

Thanks for checking in!  Next post I plan to talk about a Civil War era fort we visited in Georgia.

Sights Around Savannah


Savannah’s River Walk is a popular place for visitors with a number of shops and restaurants located in the historic buildings.   Mark and I enjoyed seeing the tugboats and large ships on Savannah River.  In fact, Savannah is an important port city and the second busiest container exporter in the United States (after Los Angeles).   I was surprised to learn about Savannah’s port while taking a trolley tour.  I had never even heard about Savannah having a port before visiting here.  I enjoy all the learning that comes with traveling!    In the picture above, a large tanker was just coming by as we got to the river front.  I always get a thrill seeing the big ships.

Savannah has a a number of remarkable, historic churches.   I really enjoy checking out churches while touring cities.   My favorite here was the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist built in 1873 which is stunning both inside and out.  It was hard to get a picture of the whole building because the spires are so tall!   I took the picture of the cathedral in Lafayette Square across the street.

The lovely Presbyterian Church has a tall thin steeple.  For those that are Forrest Gump fans, that steeple (and church building) were featured in the opening scene of the movie when the white feather floats past the steeple and down to the park bench where Forrest sits.  In the picture above I caught a horse and carriage passing by.  There were so many horse and carriages for hire in Savannah, more than I have seen in any other city or town.

Speaking of Forrest Gump, one day I wandered around Savannah on my own and decided to stop for lunch at Debi’s Restaurant where a scene from the movie was filmed.  In the film, Jenny was working as a waitress here when she saw Forrest on television running across the U.S.   I had the tasty fish and grits with mushroom sauce which is advertised on the sign out front.

Speaking of something good to eat, when in Savannah you must have a praline (or two).  At least I believe so.  I became a big fan of this sugary treat in New Orleans where praline shops are a common fixture.  I have found in my travels in the south that not all pralines are created equal with some better than others.  The pralines at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen were loaded with big chunks of pecans and worth all the sugar and calories.

I really enjoyed seeing the historical row houses in Savannah, usually built in close proximity to the squares.   I wish now I had taken an architectural tour as it would have been interesting to learn about these impressive homes.   Most of them are brick and have stairways with iron railings on the side of the home.  Under the stairways is another entrance, although I don’t know where these doorways lead.   These charming homes were built in the mid 1800’s.  You have to watch your footing on the uneven brick sidewalks!

Downtown Savannah has some important historical homes that can be toured.  One of Savannah’s more well known citizens was Juliette Gordon Low who founded the Girl Scouts in 1902.  Juliet was born in this home in 1860 and spent her young life here (below).  When the home was scheduled to be destroyed, it was bought by the Girl Scouts in 1953 and continues to be run by the organization today.  March is Girl Scout cookie sales month and I thought it was cute to see a group of scouts selling their cookies in front of Juliette’s home.  I decided not to tour the inside of the house, but quickly visited the gift shop where many young girls were checking out the Girl Scout merchandise for sale.

Thanks for coming along with me as I checked out Savannah.  In my next post I plan to go back a little in time and talk about exploring the Gulf of Mexico in Florida.

Walking Around Savannah

Savannah is a city full of history and in order to really see it, I think you need to go by foot.  I actually started my tour of Savannah by taking a 90-minute trolley tour, in order to get a look at what the city had to offer.  That was a great introduction, but I got a real feel for the city by walking around and seeing it up close.

Savannah, founded in 1733 is known as the first planned city as it was laid out in a series of grids with squares and parks.   There were originally 24 squares and 22 are still around today.  These squares make the city very unique and different than any other city we have visited.  Each of the squares have a name, such as Monterey Square above built in 1847.  The squares are named in remembrance of an important individual or event.   This square has been used in several films including the movie, “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” a film I have never seen.

We started out visiting Forsyth Park, the largest of Savannah’s parks with a beautiful fountain and huge oaks with hanging moss.  This is a park where people love to hang out – playing music, painting nature scenes, napping in hammocks, walking their dogs and even tightrope walking.  When we came upon this large park I was delighted as the azaleas were in bloom and there was a riot of color where ever I looked.  We continued to see blooming azaleas not just in Forsyth Park but all over the downtown.  I don’t think I have seen that many azalea bushes in bloom in any other town or city, it was wonderful.

It was fun to walk around and try to see as many of the 22 squares as possible.  I probably did not make it to all of them, but I saw most of them.  Some had a monument, statue or fountain in the center but some were quite plain, with no ornamentation other than a few park benches.  Most had the large oak trees that Savannah is known for.  One square was used in the filming of Forrest Gump when Forrest was sitting and waiting for the bus before visiting Jenny toward the end of the movie.

Above is a picture of Wright Square, one of the original four squares laid out in 1733.   It was hard for me to imagine that this shady brick square has been around for 285 years.  It was the square situated next to the court house and named for one of the royal governors.  I thought it was one of the most attractive of the squares.

Another square I enjoyed seeing was Reynolds Square pictured above.  It was completed in 1734 and was the sixth square laid out.  It has a statue of John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist religion who came to Savannah in 1735 on a mission trip, staying for several years.  The statue marks the spot where his house was supposedly located.

Thanks for coming along on my exploration of Savannah.  In this post I am talking about our current travel location as we were exploring here today.  This is the first post that uses our new photo editing system (just a little start).

In my next post, I plan to talk more about exploring this city.

Return to Jekyll Island, Georgia

Four years ago in March I finished a group tour with Road Scholar that was located on Amelia Island in Northeastern Florida.  I wanted to stay a few more days before flying home and was curious to see Jekyll Island on the Georgia Coast.  I spent one night there with the whole next day to enjoy before driving to Jacksonville, Florida in the evening for an early flight the next morning.  Biking is a favorite activity with a path that rings the island for about 15 miles through beautiful scenery.   There are miles of open ocean views as well as marshes, forests and a charming historical district.  I rented a bicycle riding from morning to late afternoon, having the time of my life not even stopping for lunch.  I was fortunate to have sunny, warm and clear weather, perfect for biking.   Unfortunately, my Road Scholar trip had been cold and rainy for most of the week, so this day of sunshine was much appreciated.  Perhaps my friend Anette remembers that cold trip?    Above is a picture Mark dug out of the archives of me biking back in 2014.

I stopped to walk Driftwood Beach where dead trees still stood in the sand near the surf or lay where they fell in twisted shapes.   This was one of the most interesting and scenic beaches I had ever visited.   I rode to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center where I learned about the turtles that come to nest here on Jekyll Island and visited the turtle hospital where they receive care after they are picked up injured or ill.   I went off the bike trail and rode down dirt paths next to huge oaks filled with Spanish moss and palmettos.  I stopped by Horton House, a shell of a home that was built in 1736 by Major Horton for his plantation residence.  Horton commanded a regiment of British troops stationed here.  Below, another from the archive featuring me in one of the home’s windows.

On this island there are no strip malls, shopping centers, chain restaurants or stores, just a great deal of natural beauty.  I decided Jekyll Island was a place to return to – a special place where I wanted to spend more time.   Here is a little piece of paradise.  The feeling of paradise was shared by others and in 1886 the island was purchased by a group of wealthy families as a private retreat.  The Jekyll Island Club was built and members included millionaires J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William Vanderbilt and Marshall Field.  Prominent families such as the Rockefellers, Goulds and Goodyears built vacation homes here they called “cottages.”  On my first trip to the Island I took a tour of the historic district where we learned about the families that stayed here, the cottages and were able to see inside several of them.

When we were planning this trip I wanted to spend a week at Jekyll Island after finishing our time in Florida.  A few months before we wanted to come, I called the only campground on the Island to get a reservation.  I found out that they only had an available site for three nights around the time we wanted to be there.  I was disappointed at not being able to stay longer, but decided to make the best of it.  Jekyll Island is popular with “snowbirds,” as well as a nice place to vacation for the beaches so I knew beforehand it might be difficult to get a reservation.

On February 24 we left St. Augustine, Florida and arrived to Jekyll Island, our first time staying on an island on this trip.   The campground (above) is beautifully tree covered and in a nice location, but our campsite was short, narrow and difficult to back into.  We were very close to another camper and felt squeezed in.  Still, I was happy to finally be back.  While Mark attended to some things around the trailer, I walked over to the “bird sanctuary” at the back of the campground.  I had visited this spot as well on my first trip.    In our travels, this is the first RV park that features an area devoted to feeding the birds.  Enclosed by a wooden fence, there are about eight feeders of different sizes and as I watched, a number of birds were happily feeding including Grackles, Mourning Doves, Cardinals, Tufted Titmouse, and Carolina Chickadees to name a few.  There is even a large poster nearby that lists common backyard birds in the Southeastern United States to help with bird identification.  A mailbox for those that want to put a card or letter to the birds is a favorite with the children.  It is a delightful little spot.

Unfortunately, our trip to Jekyll was not meant to be.  We left St. Augustine sick with an upper respiratory flu or virus, our first real illness of the trip.  Neither one of us usually gets sick like this so it was a stroke of bad luck.  It looked like my plans of riding a bike along the sunny paths of Jekyll would not be realized.  Our first full day after checking in the day before, found us bedridden trying to get well.  On the second day I was determined to do a little sightseeing and drove to Driftwood Beach, not far from our campground.

It was a very grey, cloudy day with rain showers on the forecast for later in the afternoon. I thought if I started out shortly before noon, I would have some time before the rain came.  After walking down the beach awhile, enjoying all the driftwood sculptures, the sky became even darker and it started raining.  It was perplexing as I had only been out about 15 or 20 minutes.

I had not brought a jacket and as I walked back my shirt was soon wet, not very smart for someone trying to get better from an upper respiratory illness.  I headed back to the truck to wait it out and see if the rain clouds might pass, but after about 20 minutes with no sign of a letup, I drove on.  My last stop of the day was the Horton House for a very short visit before more rain started falling.   I took a picture of the front to post since the picture of me on my first visit shows me only sitting in one of the windows.

I had hoped to visit the Turtle Center again and have some pictures and information to share on the blog.  I didn’t feel well enough though to spend the time there and the rain had dampened my spirits.  Below is an evening sunset we took the first day we arrived at Jekyll.  The view is the lovely Sidney Lanier Bridge in the distance that crosses over to the town of Brunswick.

The next day we prepared to move on to Savannah, Georgia and Mark was still sick but resigned to the move.  I had not succeeded in making him a fan of Jekyll Island.  He really didn’t like the campground and was not that impressed with the Island after I took him on a few driving tours.  Of all the places we have traveled, Jekyll was the place we differed the most about.   I argued for the great natural beauty, the quiet, the feeling of getting away from it all, the uniqueness of a place that has not become over built with hotels, stores and houses.   He argued that it was not much different than the rest of the coast we had seen and not being able to find a cold drink and NyQuil on the Island was hardly a virtue.   My argument that prominent and millionaire families found much to like here also did not hold any weight.   Was his flu addled brain not thinking clearly?   So dear readers, I hope those that have not visited Jekyll Island but are considering a visit in the future will take my word for it.   Jekyll is worth it – it’s a pretty cool place!

Thanks for spending time with us!  Next blog we are off to Savannah.

From Sea to Shining Sea – 6 Months

After selling our house and moving into our trailer on August 25 last year, our first stay was at an RV park in Mosslanding, California on the Pacific Coast.  This had always been one of our favorite places to visit and once we had an RV, it became a favorite place to camp as well.  We loved being right next to the harbor and marina with a short walk to the beach.  We heard seals barking throughout the day and night and sea otters hang out at a little inlet next to the park.  A few times I have done whale watching trips that left from the harbor just steps away.   And down the road is perhaps our favorite seafood restaurant, “Phil’s” with the best Cioppino I have eaten.  So it was fitting that we begin our journey here before heading on our adventures to the  east.  Below is a picture of me in the town of Pacific Grove during a day trip from Mosslanding.  It was a grey, foggy day on the Pacific!

As I write this, a few weeks ago we reached the Atlantic Coast in St. Augustine, Florida and have traveled as far to the east as we can go.  So, when I was thinking of a title for this blog, the first thing that came to mind was “sea to shining sea.”  (Mark also added, “with the Gulf of Mexico in between.”)  We also reached another milestone on February 25 – six months of full time RV living.  We have traveled in 12 different states (including California) and stayed in 29 different RV parks.  It has been a great adventure and a wonderful learning experience!  Below is a picture of the Atlantic across the road from our RV park in St. Augustine.

Just like Mosslanding on the Pacific was so special, I have found our park and the city of St. Augustine on the Atlantic to be very special as well.  I plan to write more about our stay here in a future blog, but so far this has been my favorite spot since leaving California.

And now, I would like to discuss the direction of the blogs.  Mark and I would like the blogs to be more current, since I have always been behind this past six months and unable to catch up.  I plan to start making them more up to date now which will mean not writing about all our Florida adventures right away.  The thought is to write about our current adventures and intersperse some of our past travels in Florida from time to time as well.  In addition, I plan to select just a few highlights from each area that we travel through and write shorter blogs in the process.  I believe by making these changes that the blogs will become more manageable and readers will finally have a more real time idea of where we have been and what we are doing.  The hope is the blogs will be easier to write and more interesting and you all will find them more enjoyable to read as well.

We are also working on upgrading our ability to work with photos.  It has been frustrating for me not to be able to crop, edit or make changes to the photos.  It has been a challenge but should be soon resolved.

We appreciate you following along these past six months and look forward to sharing more of our adventures as we enter into our next six months of traveling!

In my next post, I will be writing about our brief stay on Jekyll Island, Georgia.