Saturday, July 30, 2011

Shenandoah River State Park and a bucket list item checked off…

2011-07-30 Shenandoah State Park 015

The travel day to Shenandoah River State Park was a bit exciting as Alice (our GPS) tried to take me a way that I was certain was wrong so I went further down highway 40. Guess what? Alice was right… so as a result we went a completely 2011-07-30 Shenandoah State Park 022different way than we had planned but it turned out okay… other than driving down a few small 2 lane roads with no shoulder and through very tight roads in small towns… ahhh, the learning curve strikes again!!!

Our first day in the park we had an extremely fun filled day. Since the temperature here was suppose to be in the high nineties we started the day with a three mile bike ride along the Shenandoah River which wasn’t as nice a trail as we had hoped. Between the horse hoof prints in the trail and the fact that the park had leased out the haying in the park (tractors everywhere..) we decided to go back to the RV and go on  to plan B.

2011-07-30 Shenandoah State Park 039Plan B was a three mile hike from the campground to the overlook and then to the visitor’s center then down to the river and back to the campground. Plan B won out as the hike was nice and enjoyable even though at times it was strenuous. We got back in time for a late lunch and then decided to head to town to McDonald’s for some internet access and an ice cream cone.

After my bride got a haircut in town we started to drive back when we saw the north entrance to Shenandoah National Park. It was only 4:30 so we drove in and bought our annual park pass for $80.00 (entrance fee was $14.00 without it) and decided to drive up the skyline road for about 15 miles and then returned back.

2011-07-30 Shenandoah State Park 020

On the way out of the North Park entrance I noticed something cross the road and pointed it out to Sharon. I explained as to where I saw it cross exactly and as we stopped to see if we could see what it was we saw a female black bear!!! 2011-07-30 Shenandoah State Park 014This was a life list item for me as I have backpacked in bear country for many miles and never ever saw one. But today there she was… how did I know she was a she? Because she had a twin cubs who were staring at us some 50 feet from our car standing on a rock in a beam of sunlight as if the sunbeam was showing them to us (no pictures because we were in awe).

All I can say is WOW… that is why you do what we are doing instead of slaving on in the workforce! Go out and see what there is to see… experience what there is to experience… and regret nothing!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

One more day in Raleigh then a travel day…

2011-07-27 NC State and bike ride 021.

We were getting ready for dinner the night before we planned to move on to Virginia when we decided we really weren’t ready to leave yet… so we called up the ranger and paid for another night. Love this lifestyle! So what did we do the extra day? Well since the temperatures dropped into the mid nineties we decided it was time for a bike ride.

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After a morning visit to the Raleigh Farmer’s Market (a good one, by the way) we came back home to plan the day. We wanted to see the North Carolina State University's JC Raulston Arboretum which is highly regarded. We also wanted to tour the NC State University campus. So I plotted us out an 8-10 mile ride and off we went… Well we no sooner got started when we realized we were lost. After checking with our GPS on our smartphone we retraced our route till we were headed the right direction.

The JC Raulston Arboretum lived up to its billing and even in these hot summer days there were many flowering plants available to see, smell, and just plain enjoy. There is quite a diversity of both trees and other plants to see in this arboretum and the trails are varied and well laid out.

2011-07-27 NC State and bike ride 025

After taking it all in at the arboretum we biked on down the road to the campus of North Carolina State University. We visited the student center (which was under construction), the library, the bookstore and rode by their softball stadium. Then we set off to find a small tavern to have a frosty beverage but couldn’t find one near the campus where we could still keep an eye on our bikes (we forgot to bring our bike locks). So we decided it best to just start on back to the campground.

2011-07-27 NC State and bike ride 014We rode up the main drag from NC State until we came across Meredith College which we were unfamiliar with. Chartered in 1891 it is one of the largest women’s colleges in the USA. There was a greenbelt bike trail along its perimeter so we took the path and even though I knew it was taking us the wrong direction. After we rode around their campus we noticed that we had entered the greenbelt area of the North Carolina Museum of Art which is pretty close to the campground.

So we took the trail all the way to the Museum and then hoped no one would steal our bikes (not at a cultured place like a museum – right?) and went inside. There is no fee (only a donation if desired) and we walked around and took in the arts that were on display. Gin and Syl recommended we visit this place and here we were – they were right it should be visited if you are in the area. And as they recommended the “art in the park” may have been the best part of it (photos of it are above).

2011-07-27 NC State and bike ride 016After consulting the GPS once again we realized we were a bit north of the campground so we plotted a new trail back and finally got back to our RV at about 4:40 pm. I think we must have drank about 2 gallons of water during this bike ride and I was sure it was longer than we planed based upon how we felt. So I plotted it all out on Google maps using their bike feature and it was just a shade over 15 miles… Yikes!!! no wonder we were tired.

Today is a travel day where we will drive a long leg since we were unable to find a park we wanted to stay at that was closer. Therefore we will drive 318 miles and set up camp at the Shenandoah River State Park for a few days and use this a base to visit our nation’s capital for a bit…

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fun times in NC…

2011-07-25 Central North Carolina 021

We are still hanging out at the Raleigh NC fairgrounds and even with the heat it has been enjoyable being able to visit with our daughter. The heat did subside a bit yesterday as the temperature only got up to 95 after record breaking heat in the Raleigh area the last four days.

I have been able to do more on the boo-boo repair and was able to get the last coat of primer on it and after lightly sanding it I was also able to add two coats of the matching base paint. With the humidity over 50 percent I am unable to spray on the clear coat but I think it is all going to look pretty good after I finish.

2011-07-25 Central North Carolina 0242011-07-25 Central North Carolina 0192011-07-25 Central North Carolina 020

Once again we set out for a new disc course we found on the internet just south of Raleigh. The park is said to be one of the “most challenging courses“ in the area and it was located about 20 miles south of us. This Wade County park is actually part of a nuclear plant facility on Harris Lake is park that has no fee to enter. It has quite a few nice features such as trails for hiking and biking, as well as fishing, pavilions and of course the disc course. The picture above and left of the nuclear plant stack has a sign that says “no swimming or wading” and with that nuclear plant in the background I wouldn’t think the sign would be necessary…

We really enjoy playing disc golf and like to look for courses in any area we stop at. Why we do love to play it?

  • there is no fee to play – free!
  • you get some nice exercise walking in the woods
  • you get to view wildlife and birds while playing
  • you are only competing with yourself so we enjoy playing with each other
  • and lastly it is just plain fun!!!

Ground Skink

After playing in the heat on this course we headed into the town of Fuquay-Varina to stop by the Aviator brewing tap house for a cold draft hand crafter beverage. After a few samples I settled on a Devils Tramping Ground Tripel at 9.2% 2011-07-25 Central North Carolina 001alcohol It was very tasty but lightly sweet Belgian ale. Sharon had the Crazy Pils at 5.2% alcohol which was a style of a Czech Pilsner. This was was too bitter for our likings so we finished our sampling with a SteamHead at 6.1% alcohol which they called a California Common beer. This one was very smooth and nicely finished.

Then it was on to our daughter’s house near Campbell University where we stopped by and I made her and her roommates a good low country dinner of Shrimp and Grits. After dinner and visiting it was back to the RV with my new toys that we had mailed to her address - Portable Surge Guard Protector 120-240V 50 Amp, Surge Guard Universal Lock Hasp, and the Blue Ox Patriot Brake Control Braking System. I get to play with them later today… I love new toys!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hot as heck around here…

IMAG0277It sure has been fun getting to visit with our daughter once again. We are staying in the Raleigh area at the Fairgrounds and it has been scorching around here (over 100 F the last few days). Keeping us indoors way more than I like to be. We have been having fun just running around the town of Raleigh with our daughter to see the things she wanted to see and to assist her in getting her car taken care of mechanically.

We were able to stop by the Trader Joes in Cary, NC and restock up on our favorite Trader Joes stuff. Man we missed having one of those while down in Florida. Getting our multi-grained pancake mix and two buck chuck supply restocked we are now ready to take on the world once again…

The heat allowed me to get started on repairing our boo-boo we got back at Long Key State Park. I was able to sand out the area where we scraped the paint and get a good coat of primer on it one morning before it got too hot to continue painting. At least now the area is covered with paint even if it is grey primer.


We were able to get out early one morning to take in a round of disc golf. If you have played this before it is a lot lot normal golf but you use different frisbees instead. We only have a few different frisbees we can use to drive or putt with but we still had a blast playing the course we found at Kentwood Disc Course. The course features a lot of shorter holes and has several holes that cross each other but was a really fun course to play. We are not very good at the game but do enjoy playing when we are near a course.


In the meantime we are trying to figure the best route for us going north. With the heat we were thinking of taking a more inland round through the Shenandoah Valley but are more interested in moving more along the coastline but are unsure of the roads going north if we do that (and possible ferries as well). We will likely move on north on Tuesday and by then hopefully a plan will come together…

Friday, July 22, 2011

Back in North Carolina and new RV toys…

Reservoir Park Lake

After a long travel day from Brunswick, Georgia we have found ourselves back in North Carolina. We wanted to revisit the Aberdeen area for a quick stay so we found a place called Oasis Of North Carolina RV Park. When we were last in the Sandhills of North Carolina we looked at a lot of RV parks in the area but found none really suitable for extended stay. This one caught our eye on the internet since it was 15 minutes away and claimed to be relatively new.

Once we found the RV Park we knew right away that it was going to be a disappointment. The park claims to be a Good Sam park and it has an affiliation with Passport America (our rate was $18.90). The park is nothing more than a field of grass with few trees and few sites. It doesn’t seem to be very well cared for as well. The positives are that it has 50 amps, full hookups, WiFi, and good reception over the air for the TV. We had planned to stay two days here but only will stay one. What we will remember the most about this park is the scattered geodesic domes, including the office, which was covered with aluminum on the ceiling (are we afraid of extraterrestrials here?).

park office                    park office cieling

Since we got an early start leaving Georgia we got to the site and were set up by 2:30 pm which allowed us ample time to get out and visit a lot of our favorite sites in the Aberdeen and Pinehurst region. So our first stop was our favorite park, Reservoir Park, in Southern Pines. We rode our bicycles on the 2 mile loop around the completely placid lake. From there we visited Pinehurst with a small stop at the Carolina Inn and Maxie’s pub. We basically just visited some of our favorites haunts. We ended the night at open mike night at the Railhouse Brewery.

Maxie's Pub

Since our daughter wanted to spend the weekend with us we will spend the next several days at either her house in Lillington, NC or at the fairgrounds in Raleigh, NC. I had ordered some items from (great prices by the way) and we will stay until we receive and test them but it should be in the next 2-3 days. I ordered the following:

  1. Portable Surge Guard Protector 120-240V 50 Amp
  2. Surge Guard Universal Lock Hasp
  3. Blue Ox Patriot Brake Control Braking System

This should just about complete our wish list of items we felt that we needed for our new lifestyle. These one time expenses for us should just about be over with and we can now look forward to a more stable budget.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Getting lost and Jekyll Island…

3 Wood Storks

The main reason I picked Brunswick, Georgia as a place to stay was of its proximity to Jekyll Island and the surrounding area. When we first arrived at Golden Isles RV park (a Passport America park) our plans were to visit Jekyll Island. The park itself isn’t anything to write home about but with 50 amps, WiFi, sewer hookups and cable it is a bargain at $19.00 per night.

St Simon Beach     WWII History

When we got into the park and got all set up we went for a drive to “get lost” which us my way of seeing what is around us. Getting lost for me is just driving around with a pseudo plan to see as much of the surrounding are as possible. By doing so I have discovered many things that the web didn’t tell me. On this trip we discovered St. Simons island  which apparently everyone else in Georgia knew about it except us. What a wonderful place this was for a “tourist resort.” There was free parking and multiple beach access points and the beach (although it was brown sand) was a really nice wide beach and it was packed with people even on a Tuesday!

Jekyll Island bike rideThe next morning we made plans to visit Jekyll Island as it has an interesting history. The first building built on it was done so in 1742 just 300 years after Columbus sailed the ocean blue. More history can be found on this link.

There is a $5.00 parking fee that is collected at the main entrance which allows you to park anywhere – better than meters in my opinion. Once we paid the fee we drove around the north end of the island and parked near the beach.  We then rode our bikes on the bike trails around the south end of the island.  This trail was about 8 miles long and with the heat at 96 degrees we decided it was enough for bike riding.Jekyll Island     Jekyll Island Driftwood Beach

We had a nice lunch that we brought (more farmers market veggies – Yum!) and then decided it was time for a dip in the Atlantic. How refreshing it was to be in colder waters than what were in in the Keys. After a nice swim we toured the rest of the island with the highlight being Driftwood Beach. This area is an eroding beach area and as a result what was left behind was many trees that died and were completely uprooted with the wave action. Needless to say we took many photos here.

Jekyll Island Driftwood Beach            Jekyll Island Driftwood Beach

After a fun filled day we headed back to the campground and made plans for the upcoming days. We have decided that we will push ahead tomorrow on a longer than normal day since nothing new along the way excites enough to stay any longer. So tomorrow we will be back on North Carolina just south of Aberdeen where we will stay a few days. While here we will visit with our daughter and then head northwards into new territory for us…

Jekyll Island Driftwood Beach

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Goodbye Florida… Hello Georgia…

IMAG0264Wickham Park would be a really nice park for an extended stay in this area especially with its 15 percent discount when booking 7 days or more making your per night cost with tax around $18.00 per night.  And with all its amenities and only 10 minutes from the beach it is a place we will likely come back to but we have decided that Melbourne, Florida is not on the “it has it” list for a place for us to consider retiring. However, just a short distance south of here is Sebastian, Florida and it may have more of the intangibles we want than does Melbourne.

We drove down to Sebastian yesterday but halfway there we encountered a wall of grey clouds and had been raining all day there just some 30 miles south of where we were staying which had sunny blue skies. We thought about staying here a while longer to get to know Sebastian but have decided to move on to Georgia and continue our travels northward (we can always come back). If you do come to the Sebastian area though a great campground is at Sebastian Inlet State Park with sites at $26.00 plus tax per night and it is on the coast at the confluence of the Indian River and the Atlantic ocean. Beautiful park even in the rain!

IMAG0262So we left the Sebastian area and headed backIMAG0260 north and stopped at one of the many beach access parks established by Brevard County Parks. These are all free access with no parking except one park we saw at Indianatlantic Beach. After relaxing on the beach and playing in the larger than normal swales in the surf (due to the tropical depression just offshore) we visited a little roadside bar and grille called Lous Blues. Aquirky little joint with an excellent view of the Atlantic from the second floor balcony. Cold bottled beer at $2.00 each and with a view that is most excellent we sat here and planned out our next day.

IMAG0258             IMAG0259

We had some nice memories here in Melbourne and at Wickham Park but our favorite incident was when a pair of sand hill cranes flew in and landed near one of the lakes in the park. I grabbed the camera and thought I should take a picture of them. As we crept closer and closer to them we finally figured out that they were real afraid of us and as a result we could get quite close to them if we moved slowly towards them. Sharon had never seen them before and was astounded by their size as they stand nearly four feet tall and can nearly look her in the eye.

IMAG0251Another of our good fortunes came when we first arrived in the area and found a farmer’s market in the neat little town of Eaue Gallie. Since vegetables were very expensive in the Keys and usually of inferior quality if we did buy them it was such a treat to buy an assortment of produce and go home and make us a scrumptious lunch with much of our newly purchased cache.

We also really enjoyed watching the wildlife and birds in the area and had fun playing a round of Frisbee golf while at Wickham. However,we now feel it is time to move on, so it is onwards to Georgia. We will stay at a Passport America Park named Golden Isles RV park with a daily rate of $19.00 per night (tax included). Don’t expect it to be the best but with full hookups, 50 amps, cable and Wi-Fi it is a good place for a few days to see the surrounding area…

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The art of finding places to stay…

Reddish EgretWe are currently staying at Wickham Park Campground in Melbourne, Florida. This park is one of the many parks managed by Brevard County. We didn’t know what to expect when we booked this place as we were just trying to find an inexpensive spot along the space coast of Florida near Melbourne. Melbourne is another town that is in an area we are considering retiring to in the future.

When we are looking for a campground we are doing one of two things when we are seeking a new place to stay:

  • we are looking for a inexpensive place to stay for a short period of time as a transition from one campground to another – 1-5 days stay
  • we are looking for a place to stay for a longer period of time to get to know the area better to see if we may want to live there in the future – 1 or more weeks stay

Armadillo at Wickham100_5420

Once we have identified a potential area we research the area for campgrounds and for things to do, places to visit, unique places to eat or imbibe etc. Once we have identified a place we want to stay at we look for a campground that offers us close proximity to all the things we want to do while visiting.

We don’t always find a perfect place but a longer stay campground for us ideally will have the following:

  • 50 amps of service (we can live on 30 but prefer 50)campsite number 1 at Wickham
  • larger spaces for camp sites (not the KOA model)
  • sewage connections
  • hike and bike trails nearby
  • additional recreational opportunities nearby
  • water such as a lake or stream or other scenic feature making it a pleasure to be in the park
  • reasonable proximity to grocery stores
  • not bust the budget

frisbee golf hole at WickhamWhen we first get to a new area we have a pattern of behavior that has developed within us. On the first day of arriving at a new site we usually just stay in the campground after setting up and get to know the immediate area we are in. The second day we reconnoiter the surrounding area in to get to know more about what it has to offer for things to do and places to see or visit.

After staying in a place for two days we usually have a pretty good feel for how long we will stay in the campground or the area. When we came to Melbourne Florida we had planned to stay a while to get to know this area since it was on our list of potential future retirement areas but after our initial two days here we have a feeling that we won’t be here much longer. We will probably stay a little longer here to see if we are right in our initial thoughts.

Reddish EgretSquirrel in PalmAs an aside, we must say that Wickham Park is a really nice place by itself. This nearly 400 acre park has something for everyone. Yesterday there was a horse show (they have an equestrian area), a triathlon (they have hike and bike trails and swimming areas) and a live concert (under one of the many large pavilions). Combine this with an onsite archery area, dog park, softball field, sand volleyball court, horseshoe pits, soccer fields and fishing lakes there is always some good people watching to be had. The bird and critter watching isn’t too bad either. It even has a disk golf course and a senior center on site!

campsite number 1 at WickhamHowever, there doesn’t appear too much to see or do in the immediate area other than going to the beach. The beaches here are super nice and the parking is free at most of them but you can only go to the beach so many times. Melbourne just isn't the place we thought it was. But as I said before we will give it a bit more time and see what happens. However, that little storm in the Atlantic may cause us to change our minds…

Friday, July 15, 2011

Mile Marker –1 and goodbye Keys…

Summer Squall

Well we stayed in the Keys for 30 days and we decided that on our last day we really needed to splurge a bit and take a boat ride out into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic ocean. We had met a really interesting person Captain Victoria who is a true Conch as she was born in Key West and has lived her entire life there. Her husband and first mate is Art who is a fascinating fellow with many stories to share about Key West having moved there 50 years ago as a Marine at age 17. What better people to go out into the waters with as they provided us with so much history and knowledge of the Keys and their surrounding waters.

Snorkeling over hard coral in the keys     Cruise ship at Key West

So our last day started in the morning with us putting things away for our departure on Friday. At noon we headed over to mile marker 5 and met Captain Capt. Victoria's adVictoria at the wharf. We loaded our gear aboard her boat and set off four a four and one half hour adventure. We snorkeled at three or four different reefs in the Atlantic ocean side of the keys near where the Gulf of Mexico water mixes in with them.

A slight current allows for drifting along snorkeling and seeing a wide variety of hard and soft corals along with a large diversity of fishes. Some of the highlights we saw were a massive brain coral, a pencil urchin, a hogfish, a 2 foot long puffer, several nurse shares (including one up to 10 feet in length), lots of very large stingrays, and several turtles. We moved around the sea until we had completely circumnavigated the island of Key West. Looking back at Key West there was a cruise ship docked which dwarfed Key West

.Captain Victoria        Art

We completed the adventure at around 5:00 and we had our last happy hour at the Hogfish Bar and Grille.  Then Captain Victoria and Art came by for the evening where we shared stories and Sharon treated Captain Victoria to a handwriting analysis session. We had some good laughs and the day ended on

Goodbye to the keys

what was definitely our most memorable day in the Keys. If you ever travel to Key West you must get out on the water, and I can recommend wholeheartedly that Captain Victoria is the one to go with if you can.

Friday morning came early as we stowed the remaining gear and left Bluewater Key with a tinge of sadness but we know full well new adventures lie ahead. Travel this day was 328 miles where we find ourselves at Wickham Park in Melbourne Florida. We will stay here anywhere from 2 to 10 days depending on what we find to do in the area. Goodbye Keys… Hello Melbourne…