Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More new old friends

We are in Lawrenceville Georgia. This was a travel day with a long drive, for us, from Savannah to Atlanta. We were ready for a break after a morning of heavy rain. We were ready for a rest stop, but it is temporarily closed. At least with an RV any place off the highway can be a rest stop. But there is no place to stop to make a sandwich, so we head for a Shoneys. I had never heard of this chain. The menu says since 1947. No buffet for us as we are having dinner with friends tonight. Had a great visit with Ray and Lori. Since she is finally retired as of today and have a son in california, they promise to visit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Last day in Savannah

We get up a bit late and shower, in cold water! I had about 1 1/2 minutes of warm water. Brrr. Red Gate farm for all its quaintness is wearing on us. There is no TP either. So napkins and paper towels and a trash can have to do.
Finally we head off to town. We go to the Telfair Academy. Two rooms in this former mansion are decorated with period pieces, a receiving room and a dining room. The kitchen downstairs was original with the house although the furnishings were not original. We are most impressed with a special exhibit upstairs of paintings by Phillip Juras.
I especially liked the forest fire paintings.
The admission to the Telfair Academy is for three sites. One is closed but the Owens-Thomas House is open with docent tours, so we walk over through 2 of the lovely squares of Savannah.
The tour of the Owens-Thomas house starts with the slave quarters, a 2 story building where some 9-14 slaves lived. Across the courtyard, now a formal garden, to the 2 story house. In the basement was the laundry and bathing room. This house had running water from 2 huge rainwater cisterns on the roof. The bathing room had 2 marble tubs, think Roman, and a cold water shower. No hot running water.
The front two rooms are done in the muted colors of the original owners, the Richardsons, who spent $50,000 building it from 1816-1819. Mr. Richardson suffered personal and financial losses and the home went to the bank. In 1830 Mr Owens bought it from the bank for $10,000. This was a huge fancy Regency home.
The back rooms and the hall are done in the dark colors fashionable later in the 19th century, mostly a hideous green and pink. The tour was great.
But now we are hungry and every restaurant we pass is closed. We are not on restaurant row. Finally we see Barnes BBQ and a neon open sign. No one is inside, but 3PM is not prime lunch time. There are pictures of the food in the window. This is a genuine BBQ joint. So I will go in and have a beer and William will go back to the RV, feed the meter and drop off some parcels. Are you OK being left here he says?
Yes I say!
So I go in and order my typical Bud Light and ensconce myself near the front window. The 3PM crowd begins to trickle in. I am shilling for the place by sitting at the window. Some look like locals. Some young people. Some obvious tourists.
William gets back and we order. A Redneck Reuben with collards for me and a City Slicker with fries for William. He orders a Sweetwater 420 pale ale. Code word!
We walk around downtown until it is time to head back to Red Gate. Thankfully they have not given our spot away. But they have not cleaned the bathroom. We both ransack the place looking for TP. I think they have forgotten to buy any. We are not recommending this place. We hear it is undergoing a change in management.
A bit of soup and bread is plenty of dinner. Off for Atlanta to visit friends in the AM.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Eating our way around Savannah

Up early with a hearty breakfast and an appointment at Camping World. We have figured out that our converter is working only part of the time. It has a tiny fan that you can only hear when it is very quiet. A couple of nights ago when we were very close to another vehicle at Lake Harmony I heard their fan and realized I had not been hearing ours. So that is why it could test as working when we had the auxiliary battery replaced in Ft Meyers and yet still not be working at times. It would stop working when it overheated. We are customer #7 and our problem is fixed rather quickly as they have a converter in stock and agreed that the fan was the problem. Although they said it was just a coincidence that we started having the problem after we hit that pothole at speed on the freeway in Louisiana.
We now have a print map of the Savannah greater downtown area and see why the navigator wanted us up on the freeway. So we take the freeway back to Oglethorpe Tours and buy a $5 apiece ticket for parking and bus rides to selected locations. We hop on to go to check out the reservation situation at Paula Deens restaurant, Lady & Sons. The reservation lady says that lunch is all reserved and that people line up as early as 630AM for lunch reservations. So William asks what about dinner and she says she has spots left for 5PM and 8PM. We choose 5. Off to find a place for a light lunch.
But wait that is the place where Oglethorpe, the founder of the Georgia Colony, landed and this bench is where he pitched his tent. Must have a picture of William as Oglethorpe.
Down the elevator to River Street, where we wander along looking at menus and in the doors of various restaurants. A little old lady comes up to us and says if you want a good lunch you should go to Huey's. So on her recommendation we try it and have a great lunch. I have a fried green tomato muffuletta with a side of red beans and rice. William had one half regular muffuletta with fries. We sat in the window with a great view of the water. I later told the waitress about the old lady shilling for the restaurant and she was quite amused.
We hop on the shuttle bus again for the Andrew Low house. They are having a huge group tour by reservation at 3pm. We will visit the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist and the Colonial Park Cemetery while we wait for the 330 tour.
The cathedral is really gorgeous. It burnt to the ground in 1898, but the bishop vowed to rebuild. It took until 1920 before the cathedral could be consecrated. In those days a church could be used for services, but not consecrated until it was debt free. The baptismal font was carved in Italy. The stations of the cross were carved in Bavaria. The stained glass was from Innsbruck, Austria. With murals of saints and slender columns decorated with gold leaf it rivals European cathedrals except in size.
We take a walk through the cemetery looking for the famous Borden's of Savannah. We didn't find any, but we didn't look too hard.
It is time for our tour at the Andrew Low house. If you have time for only one house tour in Savannah, this is the one to take. The home went directly from the family to the historical society that cares for it. The furnishings are all priceless antiques. The formal garden is as it was in the 1850's. William touches the lucky lion.
We hop on the shuttle again for the trip to Lady & Sons. We are early so we stop at the Paula Deen Shop for souvenirs. I'm not telling what we bought.
The street is full of 5PM reservations. The reservation person is miked up and calls out names and gives you a card for first, second or third floor seats. We are called near the last and go up to the third floor. The place is busy but efficient. I like the high faux windows with mirror panes. We decide to order regular menu items rather than the buffet. William's drink is a mint julep with lots of mint and mine was a pear/honey martini. I ordered Steak and Pie. William had Crab Stuffed Shrimp. Then we shared a piece of pecan pie with whipped cream. We lumbered out and were glad that it was still light as we had quite a ways to walk in a mist. No shuttle busses after 530.
A quick trip through Savannah on the surface streets. The section that looked scary in the rain is just poor.
We arrive back at Red Gate to find that our spot had been given away? WTF? A 40+ foot RV with pop outs on our pad.
We call and get "You left, we thought you were gone." We had paid for 3 nights and certainly could not leave a chair or anything with rain threatening.
We get put on a dirt pad. I hope it does not rain or we will be in a puddle.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


After a fairly leisurely drive we arrived at our RV site for today, Red Gate Farm. Although the office was open there was no one around. William left a note on our check in packet that we would be back before they closed up.
Off to Savannah. The problem is we have no map getting us from here to downtown Savannah. So William says lets just use the Navigator on the phone. Considering our vast success with it so far I am not so sure. But I input the address of the trolley tour company we want to go to. Problem right away. It just says searching for GPS. William does not like where it wants to send us anyway. After a bit of backtracking we finally approach downtown and miss a turn and almost go to South Carolina. We turn around on an island and after a couple more wrong turns arrive at the tour company.
The trolley takes us on a 90 minute tour of historical Savannah. 250 years of history. In the 50's the Savannah that Sherman thought worth saving was getting disheveled and historical buildings were being torn down for parking lots. A small group of women formed an historical society and began a mission to save the old city of Savannah. We are touring the city they saved. Savannah is an important port city, but it's number 2 industry is tourism.The Mercer/Williams House famous from the story, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Williams, who was accused of murder and who died in the house, has a sister who still lives there, but has it open for tours from 10-4 weekdays. Odd. William says to pay the taxes.
After the tour we get off in City Market and look for lunch. We found an excellent place in Cafe in the Market. I had an authentic local dish of blackened shrimp on grits with greens. William chose a crab cake sandwich, a crabby patty. But before we finished eating the thunderstorm blew in. Although we were under a covered porch, I had to move a bit because of the force of the rain and splashing.
The rain would wax and wane and we managed to get to our pick up spot. Back at the RV and again there is the fight with the Navigator on how to get back to Red Gate. She wants to put us up on the freeway and William wants surface streets. He takes us through some really interesting neighborhoods before he decides to listen and turn right. But the corner is flooding. A regular car barely makes it through. But we are higher and I want to leave this area. So I say to go for it. Finally we are headed back and make it home safely, other than me being quite wet as William had left my window down a bit for air and my seat was soaked.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 20-March 26, 2011

We're Back!
We're Back in the saddle again!
Even though we are still making some loops, we reached our turn around point, Key West, and are heading home. Looks like a Snowicane in Nevada City.
Heading back along highway 1.
A drawbridge in Miami.
After we get here to Jonathan Dickinson State Park, William sees that Reserve America was not truthful about the two campgrounds. One is next to the river and has lots of vegetation. The other is up on a rise that is part of a burn that got out of control in 2006 and has very small vegetation. But both campgrounds are described as having no screening vegetation.
We also are intrigued by a parasite that we have seen in Death Valley and now see here in Florida. We saw it on the roadside bushes on Grassy Key and now here in the park.

Dodder is a very versatile parasite to live in such widely variable climates.
We were taking pictures of dodder when William took this picture of me with Flagler's RR in the background. He developed Palm Beach. There would not have been much Florida without Flagler.
The night before we decide to go on the River tour to the Trapper Nelson Interpretive site before we drive to Disney World. We awoke at our usual leisurely time of about 815 and I call the number for the tour times. I should have called the night before as the tours are 9, 11, 1 and 3. We need to make the 9AM tour on the other side of the park. Leah would have been proud of me as I cram my hat onto unbrushed hair. We are there in time and after paying for our tickets William rushes back to the RV for our coffees and something to eat. A slice of bread and a cup of coffee is better than nothing.
The tour is worth the rush. Only one other family is here, grandma and grandpa, daughter and 2 grandchildren 11 and 7. The guide on our flat bottomed boat is very knowledgeable about the river and we see lots of birds, 2 alligators, turtles and a mother and baby manatee. I add pied-billed grebe, anhinga, great blue heron and great blue heron (white phase) to my Bird checklist. I already had osprey checked, but I did see a chick in the nest. Sharp eyes. Did you know osprey nests can withstand hurricanes?
The Trapper Nelson Interpretive site had a ranger led tour. Trapper Nelson came here as a young man from New Jersey in 1928. By the 30's he settled on the Loxahatchee river and his main income at this time was from trapping. He continued to buy property by paying the taxes on abandoned properties until he had almost 1000 acres.
He became famous in the area and people started to visit so he developed a zoo of wild animals and a tour for people who came out to visit. He built houses with indoor plumbing and propane lights.
He died in mysterious circumstances at age 59. He was found dead of a shotgun wound to the chest. The death was ruled accidental or intentionally self inflicted. But really, who knows? He was especially liked among the town ladies.
Our Florida map blew away in the parking lot while I fixed us a nice brunch before we took off. This adds a bit of spice to the trip.
We manage to find our way and also Mount TrashMore.
The phone GPS takes us the wrong way in the park, to a Disney Hotel rather than Fort Wilderness campground, but the gate man sets us straight. The check in line gets us in the mood. There is wifi in select locations in the campsite or we can try to struggle with a cable modem. We try the cable modem but it does not work for us. William got in a bicycle work out taking the modem back and forth.
Epcot is our first choice in Disney World as they are having their annual flower and garden show. I don't know what I expected, but it was not this. A majority of the show is character topiaries. They did have a few locations with presentations on aspects of gardening, but it was not much. We did enjoy Epcot for itself though. Lots of bump bump rides with a strong green conservation message. I was pleased with all the live exhibits of plants and animals, better fish than in the Aquarium in New Orleans. In a full day we saw and rode everything in Epcot except Soaring and the 45 minute Ellen Degeneres movie about energy. We missed the fast passes for Soaring. They were all given out. But we were told about the ride and since it was all about California we felt we had been there, done that. We are green level astronauts and car test track drivers. We also had dinner with the belly dancer.

Disney may be the reason few Americans travel abroad. You are presented with a sanitized, safe version of different countries. You don't have to bother to go any where else, just come to Disney's version of the World.
We have been here once and won't come again. But we met people who come twice a year. I don't know why.
This was a long day and we arrive back at the RV exhausted and are right to bed without even downloading any pictures or journaling.
I had originally thought I wanted to go to the Magic Kingdom for our second Disney day, but after looking at the brochure I see that it is just a larger, fluffed up version of Disneyland. We did Disneyland when Jon was 3 and Val was 6, so we don't need to go again. So I pick Animal Kingdom, since now I know it will not be all animatronics. We did the Kingdom just right, too. Rush to get in line for the Safari first while the animals are still up in the morning. Then rush to get a fast pass for the river ride and the mountain ride. Fill up the time in between with train rides and animal adventure trails and we were worn out for the day. Animal Kingdom compares favorably with an animal park that we went to once in Southern California with the children and is better than any zoo. I would have liked one more waterfall on the white water rapids and managed to survive the Yeti mountain. The tree of life is really impressive. We had managed to find a reasonable seat for the mid day Mickey Safari Parade
and ended the day at the Lion King Show. Dinner was at the Rainforest Cafe. Good food, but loudly filled with animatronic screaming monkeys, trumpeting elephants, and jungle drums. We were supposed to be calling cousin Mike Elias. It would have been funny to call from the restaurant and put the phone on speaker.
We find our way to Universal Studios RV parking and begin our trek to the Wizarding World. The Harry Potter part of the park is just one of the islands in the Islands of Adventure. I hear someone ask how to get there and they are told to just follow the crowd. So true. Although I have to smile as I come through the gate and past the train, the place is wall to wall people at before 10AM.

A quick look at the site map and I know I am only interested in one ride. So off we go through the crowd to Hogworts as quickly as possible. No fast pass here and the wait time already says 75 minutes and stretches way outside the confined loop area. There is no choice but to get in line as it isn't going to get any better. The best time to visit this park would be midweek, no school holidays, with a hurricane threatening. Maybe then you would actually be able to enjoy the castle tour that is a rushed through preliminary, after suffering in line for an hour, to the thrill ride itself. A swooping up and down round and round ride as if on a broomstick with Harry in the lead. It is a great ride, but it is less than 10 minutes. And you have to stop and get out of line right near the ride and put your purse in a crazy locker. If you are going to this park don't take a purse. Wear clothes with cargo pockets that button or zip or wear a compact fanny pack that buckles tightly and zips closed. Don't shop before going on the rides either, no shopping bags allowed.
With the main attraction over, I am not interested in the dragon or hippogriff open air roller coasters, we look around. There are lines to get in Olivander's. This is just a store. Since I am not interested in purchasing a wand we move on and just window shop.

There is no line at HoneyDukes so we go in and look at the candy. I purchase a small box of Bertie's Every Flavor Beans to give to Leah. There is a huge line to get Butter Beer, but I ask the doorman at the restaurant if they sell Butter Beer inside and he says they do. So we get in line for lunch. I order Cornish Pasties with salad. So unauthentic. They are too small, too mechanically made. The crust is too flakey. The filling is mush and the flavor is wrong. Tomato and cumin in a pastie? The butter beer is a nice dessert. Too sweet to be anything else. Another look around and good bye to Harry Potter. I wish Disney had done this. They would have done a better job.
But this bit of a street has added hugely to Universal's profits I hear. We wonder through the rest of the Islands of Adventure. It looks like themed carnival bits with various themed roller coasters. We are back at the van in early afternoon and figure out how to get to Cousin Mike's.
They live in an older part of Orlando and their house is not too hard to find. We have plenty of time to wash up, change and visit before dinner. Cousin Dick and his wife Joan are down for part of the winter in their RV nearby from Indiana. So there are six of us out to dinner at a lovely French restaurant with a Cajun touch. Great food, great conversation, Mike and Merle are great hosts.
Deep sleep in a soft high bed. Must have been the same mattress I got for our guest room.
Since I actually remember the street name of the house where I lived in Orlando when I was in sixth grade, Mike looks it up and since it is very close offers to drive us there. This is from Orlando Before, Before Disney. The house has been remodeled. The one car garage is now a room. The place looks scruffy enough to be a rental. It is no longer at the end of the street, but two houses further down, the street ends at the Greenwood Wetlands. Mike and Merle figure out what school I walked to and drive the route and there it is. Cherokee School. I didn't remember the name, but the school is the same.
Time to say good-bye to Cousin Mike and Merle. It has been a most enjoyable visit and we are glad that since they have a son in Walnut Creek, they will actually take us up on our offer to come and visit.
Off now to Kennedy Space Center. We are advised numberless times during our visit that no tax dollars are spent on this visitor center. It is run by a concessionaire. We get on the bus for the tour. Highlights are the fact that the last flight of the Space Shuttle is set up to go and seeing a full size actual Apollo rocket.

We are here in quite a nice RV park north of Titusville, whose wireless does not reach to this end of the park. Maybe better luck with the internet tonight. This will be a long blog post.
Lake Harmony RV park is lovely. I wish I had brought my fishing pole as you do not need a license to fish in this private lake. I have given up on ever connecting to the internet. The connection is OK but my computer does not recognize the network even though I entered the password. I am connected to an unidentified network with no internet connectivity. I blame the changes to my computer that the Disney tech had me make. Maybe if we ever get to Colorado Cyndi or Jon can fix it.
On our way up from Florida we stopped at Jekyll Island for a tour of the winter cottages of the Gilded Age millionaires who were members of the Jekyll Island Club.
The club had some 50 members with names like Rockefeller, Morgan, Goodyear and Gould. They wanted to have a private club for hunting and family outings. Now we have seen where the wealthy lived January through March. They lived in Newport, RI. for about 3 months in the summer and the rest of the year in places like New York.
The Jekyll Island Club survived until 1942. The truly wealthy survived the crash of 1929 just fine. It was the small investors who were wiped out. The truly wealthy had no problems during the depression. It was the workers who suffered. How similar to now is that sounding. But with the start of WWII the club had trouble hiring enough help. They decided to suspend operations until after the war. But the younger generation did not like Jekyll Island any more and were not keeping up with the dues. When the governor of Georgia found out that Jekyll Island was behind on its taxes he confiscated the property for the state.
It still costs a bit to stay in the hotel. More than $200/night. I am sure the restaurant is equally pricey. We bought a roasted chicken at the Winn Dixie in Brunswick. We got southern smoked, but Mexican chickens are better, not factory raised.
William had a good connection, so we knew I had a problem. We managed to revert to an earlier version of my set up and that worked. It will take forever to finish this blog post, but I will try.

Monday, March 21, 2011

using the phone

This post is going to be short. In fort wilderness and no wifi at this campsite. I will continue to journal and post in a few days

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Day in Key West

Key West is a party town. The only industry is tourism these days and all things revolve around the tourist.
We decide to drive into town as we are told that a small van like ours can find a place in a lot. We are first directed to a parking garage. Oh No! 7 foot 2 inch height limit. Our fans will remember that we are nine feet. Around the corner we go looking for an open lot. We find one with big signs, No RV's. We figure we do not count as an RV as we are parking lot legal. But the bikes hang out. We back the bikes into some bushes and make the mark. I get us a one day ticket from the machine.
We plan to take the on and off trolley around town, but William has to go back to the van. That is how I wound up in the Schooner Wharf bar with a beer. We find out that the town is having a second St Patrick's Day celebration in addition to a Pub Crawl and not to forget the great moon and the normal sunset celebration. Every day is party day here.
We find the silver one day ticket trolley and have an enjoyable ride. But I have to tell some of the stories about Key West. In 1982 the federal government decided that they needed to search all cars coming in and out of Key West for illegals. The blockade caused a 19 mile long traffic jam and people quit coming to Key West. The locals decided to secede from the union and voted to form The Conch Republic. They declared war and threw stale bread and tomatoes at local military. They immediately conceded defeat and demanded reparations of one billion dollars. They did not get the money but the feds called off the blockade and the tourists came back. I bought a Conch Republic flag.
Truman liked it here and vacationed often. It was his other White House. Robert Frost spent 16 winters here writing poems about snow. I spotted a sign for a clothing optional bar, upstairs.
The Southernmost Point in the USA.
The Caribbean chickens.
After a too huge lunch at The Conch Republic Seafood Restaurant
we stagger back to the trolley. I want to go back to Ernest Hemingway's house to do the tour and see all the 6 toed cats.
This cat watering trough was made out of a urinal Hemingway brought home from Sloppy Joe's. His wife at the time, Pauline, dolled it up with the urn and tiles.
They have about 48 cats at this time.
We walk back to sunset beach to find a good spot to have a drink and watch the sunset
As we drive home (back to Sugarloaf Key KOA) we are treated to the Great Moon high in the sky.