Monthly Archives: April 2017

Summer Travels Begin, Farewell FLA, April 2017

This blog has been delayed due to my being under the weather.  It is from back in late April, but we didn’t want you to miss any of our travels, so bear with us as we catch up!

As our time in Florida came to a close, we reflected on arriving in Florida the beginning of November.  We began in the Panhandle and gradually worked our way counterclockwise around Florida.  We spent time with family and friends, had a major repair on the RV and completed our yearly physicals.  We counted many many alligators along the way and took our first airboat and swamp buggy rides.  Now it was time for our last stop in Florida.  We stayed three nights in Jacksonville and very much enjoyed visiting my Uncle Bill, Aunt Peggy and cousins.  We also managed to meet an old friend of Bill’s and his wife for dinner one evening.  Bill met a Boy Scout childhood friend he hadn’t seen in fifty years for coffee on Saturday morning and really enjoyed reminiscing and catching up.


Aunt Peggy and Uncle Bill


Rachel, Sarah, Peggy and Becky

And with that, our winter travels in Florida ended and our summer travels began!

First stop was in Cordele, Georgia for two nights so we could visit Bill’s cousins nearby.  Always nice to visit these sweet, lovely ladies!


Bill and 2nd Cousin Helen


Shirley (Ruby’s daughter), Bill and his 2nd Cousin Ruby

While in the area we made the short drive to Fitzgerald, Georgia to visit the Jefferson Davis Memorial Historic Site.  The museum was closed that day but we did walk around the thirteen acre historic site in the beautiful Georgia countryside.  Confederate President Jefferson Davis and a few men crossed the Savannah River into Georgia on May 3, 1865.  Davis was headed to unite rebel forces and continue the fight.  On May 9, 1865 they camped in this pine forest, unaware they were being pursued and the enemy was close.  At dawn they were captured by two groups of Union cavalry.  Strangely, the two Union forces were not aware of each other and briefly shot at each other, killing two Union cavalrymen.  Davis was taken prisoner and held in Virginia for two years until he was released.  A monument marks the spot he was captured.  We really enjoyed our visit here but the Georgia gnats were vicious!IMG_20170425_155134IMG_20170425_155238IMG_20170425_162242

Next up we said farewell to Georgia and hello to Alabama.  We spent four nights at the huge and beautiful Wind Creek State Park in Alexander City.  Our final days in Florida had been such a whirlwind we spent the time here resting, stocking up at Walmart, picking up our mail at the local post office, doing laundry at the park’s nice air conditioned laundry room and catching up on monthly paperwork.  We did drive over to the 2,040 acre Horseshoe Bend National Military Park in Daviston, Alabama.  IMG_20170427_135350It is the site of Andrew Jackson’s victory over the Red Stick Creeks, a faction of the Creek Nation in the horseshoe bend of the Tallapoosa River.  This was the last battle of the Creek War of 1813-1814 and resulted in the Treaty of Fort Jackson which gave 23 million acres of Creek land, half of their land, to the United States.  Today, three fifths of that land is now Alabama and one fifth is what is now Georgia.  It also brought national fame and recognition to Andrew Jackson, his first step on the road to the White House.  Nine months later (1815) Jackson defeated the British at the Battle of New Orleans, the last battle of the War of 1812. In 1828 Jackson was elected president and two years later signed the Indian Removal Bill, requiring southeastern tribes to move west of the Mississippi River to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) leading to what the Cherokees called the “Trail of Tears”.menawa 20170427_152617

I think this is definitely one of the lesser visited national parks but the ranger was very friendly and we toured the exhibits at the visitors center and watched their twenty minute movie about the Creek culture and the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.  There is a three mile loop drive with five stops where exhibits describe different events.  We enjoyed the beautiful drive and found several geocaches​.  On the way home as we crossed the Tallapoosa River, Bill noticed hundreds of turtles sunning on rocks.IMG_20170427_153609

One funny story about our stay here.  Our first day in the park we heard birds walking on our roof.  They sometimes do this when they are looking for food.  Back in November we were having the same problem and we could occasionally hear them pecking the roof.  Bill bought a large fake owl.  It is very lifelike and you fill the inside with small rocks to keep it stable.  We named him Hootie and when Bill placed Hootie on the roof we had no more bird problems.  So once again Bill got out Hootie and placed him on the roof of the RV.  That night we kept hearing an owl hooting.  He kept at it until we finally fell asleep.  We think the owl was trying to talk to Hootie!  We had the same thing happen when we used Hootie in Clearwater.  That time the hooting of the owl drew the neighbors and us outside where we saw it in a tree until we spooked it and it flew away.  Yes, Hootie looks very real and draws owl friends!IMG_20170429_112246

We really enjoyed our time at this lovely Alabama State Park.  Well done, Alabama!

Next we headed to Clear Creek Recreation Area in the Bankhead National Forest outside of Jasper, Alabama.  Bad weather was headed that way so we left Wind Creek State Park early, drove through Birmingham on a quiet Sunday and arrived at Clear Creek under a tornado watch.  We just settled in before the heavy rain started.  Fortunately the extreme weather stayed away and we just had about an inch of rain during the evening and through the night.  We were greeted the next morning with beautiful clear blue sunny skies, pleasant temperatures and a steady breeze.  We loved​ being able to open up the windows and letting the breeze in. While here we celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary with dinner at home and a bottle of Asti.

While at Clear Creek we went geocaching in an interesting area of the park.  One tricky geocache was located under these rocky overhangs, which served as shelters for prehistoric people for 10,000 years in this part of the United States.  During the Civil War this county seceded from the Confederacy and many people forced from their homes sought refuge here.  This geocache required some rock climbing which always makes me nervous so Bill found it without my help.IMG_20170502_155410

After a three night stay, just relaxing and enjoying the forest, we headed to Chewalla Lake Recreation Area in the Holly Springs National Forest outside of Holly Springs, Mississippi.  As we crossed the border into Mississippi we stopped at the Mississippi Welcome Center.  It was the prettiest Welcome Center we had ever stopped at with lovely antique furniture and paintings of Robert E Lee and Jefferson Davis.  There was definitely an Elvis presence to emphasize the fact that Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi.IMG_20170503_113109IMG_20170503_113241


General Robert E. Lee


President Jefferson Davis

Our campsite at Chewalla Lake in the Holly Springs National Forest was almost empty and very quiet.  We considered driving an hour east to Tupelo to tour Elvis’s birthplace or driving an hour south to Oxford to see the home of the famous author William Faulkner while we were in the area, but both days it rained and the temperature hovered around 50 degrees.  We just couldn’t get motivated to get in the car and do any driving and sightseeing in those conditions.  We did make the short drive into Holly Springs to pick up some supplies at Walmart.  We also managed to grab two easy geocaches so we could add some Mississippi geocaches to our total.

Next stop is Little Rock, Arkansas where the drama got real!

St Augustine, FLA April 19, 2017

The trip from Flagler Beach to St Augustine was short and sweet with beautiful views as the road followed the oceanfront for some of the way.  We settled into a site at our home St Augustine Elks Lodge for two nights where they have eight sites with electric and water hookups.

Our reason for stopping here was to visit historic St Augustine and in particular the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument.  Bill grew up nearby and has been here many times.  We got an early start and managed to get a parking spot right at the fort.  The Castillo de San Marco is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States. IMG_20170420_102336Construction of the fort began in 1672 when Florida was part of the Spanish Empire.  The fort is constructed from coquina stone, completed in 1695, and altered and renovated many times over the centuries.  Coquina is a soft limestone of broken shells of shellfish.  Coquina is the Spanish word for cockle and shellfish.  Coquina rock is very good material to use in the construction of forts due to the coquina’s porous softness which allow cannonballs to sink into the walls of the fort rather than shatter or puncture the walls if they were made of granite. Coquina has been quarried and used as a building stone for over 400 years in the Caribbean and Florida.IMG_20170420_113246IMG_20170420_113506

When the British took control of Florida in the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the fort was renamed Fort St Mark.  In 1783 Florida was transferred back to Spain and then in 1821 as part of yet another treaty was given to the United States.  It was renamed Fort Marion and declared a national monument in 1924.  In 1942 it was turned over to the National Park Service and was renamed its original name of Castillo de San Marcos by an act of Congress.  It was interesting to learn that the fort changed hands six times, all peaceful through treaty or agreement, among four different governments: the Spanish Empire, the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Confederate States of America and the United States of America (with Spain and the United States having possession two times each).

While under U.S. control the fort was used as a military prison for Native American tribe members, including the Seminoles and their famous war chief Osceola and members of Geronimo’s Apache tribe.  A form of Native American art called “Ledger Art” began during imprisonment at the fort.

IMG_20170420_102314We entered the fort through the “Sally Port” which is the only way in or out of the fort.  There is a drawbridge and heavy sliding door to protect the entrance.  The fort is made of over 400,000 blocks of coquina stone, all cut and set by hand.  The outer walls of the fort vary from a thickness of 14 to 19 feet at the base to 9 feet towards the top.  When the fort was completed in 1695 it was 22 feet high.  IMG_20170420_101619The fort was originally built as a safe refuge for the St Augustine townspeople but also as a military warehouse.  In 1702 when St Augustine was attacked by the British, about 1,500 soldiers and civilians lived in the fort for 51 days.  Between 1738 and 1756 there was almost constant warfare between Spain and England and the walls of the fort were raised from 22 to 35 feet.  By 1740 the gun deck mounted over 70 cannons of different sizes with the largest having a range of three and a half miles.  The view allowed the fort to be defended by attack from land or sea.  Under British control from 1763 to 1784, Florida was divided into East and West and became the 14th and 15th British colonies.  These colonies remained loyal to England during the Revolutionary War.  During the war 500 British soldiers lived in the fort with others living in the homes of citizens.IMG_20170420_114039

We were lucky to arrive just in time for a park ranger narrated tour which was very interesting and gave additional insight into the construction and life at the fort.  After finishing our tour of the fort we walked over to the historical section of old St Augustine.

IMG_20170420_120756St Augustine, founded in 1565, is the oldest continuously occupied European established settlement in the continental United States.  The city was the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years.  When Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1819, St Augustine was the capital of the Florida Territory until 1824 when Tallahassee became the capital.IMG_20170420_120740

We walked down the center of the historic section but didn’t stay long.  The street is cluttered with souvenir shops, wax museum, a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, pirate museum, Gator Bob’s Trading Post, and restaurants.  It is hard to distinguish the beauty of the Spanish influence on the buildings from the storefronts and restaurants.  Much different from historic Williamsburg in Virginia which is like walking back in time to colonial America.  I found the whole St Augustine historic district experience disconcerting and less than pleasant.  I suppose it is all in what you are looking for.  I was expecting something along the line of Williamsburg.IMG_20170420_115742

We did take pictures of the Cathedral Basilica of St Augustine and the oldest wooden schoolhouse in the United States.IMG_20170420_115906

Records indicate the house was built around 1740 and was turned into a schoolhouse in the 1800’s.  The last class was held in 1864.IMG_20170420_120643

We both enjoyed visiting the fort and I think Bill enjoyed historic St Augustine more than I did. Perhaps I have been influenced by many trips to Colonial Williamsburg and my Virginia roots!

Next stop will be our last stop in Florida, Jacksonville.

Flagler Beach, FLA April 13, 2017

We were sad to leave Jetty Park at Cape Canaveral, but it was time to continue north.  We drove an hour and a half to our next stop, Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area at Flagler Beach.  This is a very popular park year round and since we booked ten months out instead of the maximum eleven months, we were not able to get a spot on the beach side.  We had to settle for the riverside campground across the road (A1A).   This campground area is newer and the sites are much more spacious and the entire area is less congested.  We missed being on the beach side but were quite content with our campsite.  Once again the wind was whipping each day with a minimum ten mph winds with gusts exceeding fifteen mph.  Too windy to even put the big awning out on the RV.IMG_20170415_171405

Everyone raves about the beach at Gamble Rogers but it didn’t begin to compare to the beach and boardwalks at Jetty Park.  The Flagler Beach area sustained significant erosion damage in Oct 2016 from Hurricane Matthew.  Parts of A1A were washed away and we could see where the new road had been constructed.  Gamble Rogers also sustained quite a bit of damage from erosion, and all but one of the walkways down to the beach had been destroyed.  They still have quite a bit of repairs to complete.

IMG_20170417_185727The park is named for James Gamble Rogers, IV, a man who gained national prominence playing lead acoustic and electric guitar with the Serendipity Singers.  He was also a storyteller whom some compared to Mark Twain and Will Rogers.  Gamble traveled the back roads of Florida with the up and coming Jimmy Buffet.  Gamble taught Buffet the trade and was the opening act for Buffet at Margaritaville in Key West.  In 1991 Gamble, his wife and another couple were camping at then Flagler Beach State Recreation Area.  Gamble jumped in the water to save a man who was drowning.  Both Gamble and the swimmer died.  A plaque was erected in honor of his bravery and in 1992 the park’s name was changed to Gamble Rogers Memorial State Recreation Area.

The park has some nice trails where we enjoyed walking and geocaching.

When we checked into the park the ranger said they are trying to promote other state parks in the area and gave us a free pass to visit Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park located ten miles away in Ormond Beach.  On Easter Sunday we attended a sunrise service at Flagler Beach. IMG_20170416_065754IMG_20170416_065953IMG_20170416_070210IMG_20170416_065930 We then made the very short drive down to Ormond Beach to visit the state park.


The Dirt Road to Bulow Plantation Ruins Historic State Park

The 2,200 acre Bulow Plantation was built in 1821 and was once a prosperous ante-bellum sugar plantation where the Bulow family grew sugar cane, cotton, rice and indigo with the help of 193 slaves.  The slaves lived in 46 slave cabins also on the plantation.  When war broke out with the Seminole Indians in December 1835 during the Second Seminole War, the U.S. army troops occupied the plantation against the wishes of Bulow.  In 1836  the plantation was destroyed by fire, probably by the Seminole Indians. (A sign at the Interpretive Center said the Second Seminole War was the “longest, costliest and bloodiest Indian War in United States History”). All that is left today are the ruins of the sugar mill, a spring house, several wells and the crumbling foundations of the plantation house and slave cabins.  The sugar mill was built of coquina sedimentary rock made up of crushed shells and the ruins are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There is an interpretive center describing the plantation’s history and the process of turning sugar cane into sugar and molasses. Unlike sugar mills which used animal power before the 1800’s, this plantation used steam powered mills which allowed the cane to be processed faster.  However it was still a long, tedious and HOT process. The sugar mill business was profitable.  After the plantation and sugar mill was destroyed by fire, Bulow estimated his destroyed sugar crop for 1836 would have been worth at least $20,000.  The molasses was sold for making rum.  Like other Florida plantation owners they traded with the Seminole Indians, trading blankets, fabric, beads, black powder and lead for the Indians’ cattle and hogs. Naturalust John James Audubon visited the plantation on Christmas Day, 1831.  The property was acquired by the state of Florida in 1945 and was dedicated as a State Historic Park in 1957.


Artist Rendering of Plantation Home


After touring the grounds we spent some time geocaching in the area, hiking over four miles.  IMG_20170416_182640IMG_20170416_180950

One geocache we found was at the Fairchild Oak.  It is one of the largest trees in the South, and while it is impossible to know for sure, it is estimated to be between 2,000 and 2,500 years old!  The tree is named for Dr David Fairchild, a world famous botanist and naturalist.  Among his greatest accomplishments is the introduction of soybeans to American agriculture.  It was a really beautiful tree and another example of something we probably would have never found if not for geocaching!IMG_20170416_181211IMG_20170416_181524

While we were in Vero Beach we watched a rocket launch from the deck of a restaurant while having dinner with Sean and Cathy.  We were disappointed there weren’t any launches while we were at Jetty Park, an ideal place for viewing launches.  On our last day at Gamble Rogers there was another launch.  We stood on a beach overlook with several other people and waited but we were a little too far away and it was too hazy.IMG_20170418_111009

We ended our stay at Flagler Beach by driving up to nearby Palm Coast to meet Bill’s former boss and his wife for dinner.  We enjoyed fabulous barbecue food at Captain’s BBQ overlooking the river.  The food was great and we recommend it to anyone passing through the area.

We move tomorrow (Wednesday) to St Augustine for two days.