Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Merriest of Christmases

What is the plural of Christmas?  Christmases, Christmas-i?  This year was a very good year.

I planned to stay close to home this year.  Both of my brothers and their families came to visit. The youngest sibling came from California for the week, and the middle brother from Tennessee for a long weekend.

Mom baked cookies and put up the tree early in an attempt to have a traditional Christmas.  But this was the first time all four of us had been together in probably 6 or 7 years... and we chose some family traditions that aren't usually associated with Christmas.  We fried up dozens of pork tacos from a recipe that was shared with mom back in the late 50's.  We've been making these together as long as any of us can remember.  The feast was accompanied by plenty of cold beer, red wine and ended up in a sing along of 70's rock songs with John on guitar.  What a blast!

The siblings with mom
At the last minute I decided I could not make it through Christmas without seeing my grandkids!  So, I packed up the truck, took the dogs to a good friend for their version of camp and headed to Tennessee for a long weekend.

Along the way, I made a quick stop in Georgia at the Carroll's Sausage Company and Country Store.  If you are ever traveling along I75, it is so worth the stop.  Best sausages ever and a wonderful butcher's counter.  There is plenty of room to park with a trailer attached.  In fact, there is even an RV park for a quick overnight (although I wouldn't recommend it -- right next to I75 and not a tree in sight.  There are much nicer state parks and private RV parks near by.)
Off I75 at exit 82

Jams, jellies, gifts - and they serve breakfast and lunch.

Beautiful selection at their butcher's counter

but the RV park is pretty desolate and right on I75 with no sound barrier

My visit with the kids was great, even if too short.  I got to see everyone and we had a great early Christmas together before I headed back on Monday.  Sorry to all my friends in Tennessee that I didn't get to see... this was a very last minute trip :-)

Meanwhile back in Florida, my sister hosted a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner AND Christmas Day brunch - of which I took not a single picture for some reason.  They were both lovely, and I didn't have to do a thing but enjoy myself... which I did!  Hope your Holidays were meaningful for you and I wish you the best for 2015.

Breezin' and the traveling canines  and I plan to have a spectacular year!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Happy Birthday Breezin'!

Earlier this week, I took a trip to JD Sanders RV in Gainesville
to have annual service done on Breezin'.  It's hard to believe that I've owned her for a year already.

Though we got off to a slow start, we traveled  48 nights and 4,200 miles during the past twelve months.  We visited a couple of local campgrounds (Silver River and Gold Head Branch in FL); Visited Cumberland Island National Seashore and had Thanksgiving in Savannah; Took a trip to visit friends and family near Nashville, Hit the Blue Ridge Rally with T@B friends in Jefferson, NC; watched the fireflies at Elkmont Campground in the Smokey Mountains; Spent a few nights in Kinard, SC working when project deadlines loomed on the way home; and rounded out the year back in SC with a visit to Hunting Island, and a few days on Jekyll Island.

It was a great year - and hopefully a small sampling of the next twelve months!

A blustery day headed to Cumberland Island

Sunrise at the KOA near Nashville

Gold Head Branch (FL) our first outing

Crooked River State Park

Skidaway Island
Hunting Island SC
Elkmont, GSMNP, Tennessee
Raccoon Holler, NC

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wishing for Warmer

The last week of October, I joined some camping friends for a week in Hunting Island, SC and Jekyll Island, GA.  This was my first experience with a camping caravan and I had a blast!

The cold weather has kept me inside this week so I thought I'd share a few sunny photos from that trip.  Keep warm!

Sunrise - Hunting Island, SC

Our campsite - yes, that's the ocean in front of me... bliss!

Hunting Island Lighthouse

Another beautiful sunrise

Bike trail - Jekyll Island

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Wow, hard to believe the whole summer has flown by and we are mid-way through the fall season already.

It's been a long while since I've posted anything here, but I really didn't have a lot of blog worthy adventures this summer.

I did get to catch the last half of the T@B Coastal Caravan the last week of October.  Four days at Hunting Island with a beachfront campsite and then three days at Jekyll Island with a wonderful group of folks was good medicine for the soul.  The weather was picture perfect all but the very last day.  Good food, good company with lots of campfire chat, bike riding and beach sitting.  Ahhh...

 Home again and ready for the next adventure!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Belated Fourth of July Greeting

Hope all of you had a safe and relaxing 4th of July holiday!

I didn't do much celebrating this year, but I did spend more time than usual reflecting on all the men and women who have sacrificed to keep our country's independence and give us a reason to celebrate this day each year.  Thank you.

After my last weather post, a friend chided me about scaring everyone away from Florida :-)  Although it IS hurricane season and we do have some weather to contend with ... I want to point out that there are another 265 days that are beautiful, without the cold winters of the north, or the spring tornados of the midwest.

This year for the 4th, there was a parade along A1A in the morning,

Along with an art festival on the square and the Friday Farmer's market.  About 1pm the outer bands of Arthur came ashore for a wild afternoon of weather and enough rip currents to keep everyone out of the water.  Today's afternoon was the worst of what Florida got, and my thoughts are with everyone in North Carolina and further up the coast where Arthur was more active.  

photos courtesy of Wunderground - The Weather Underground

The skies cleared about 7pm, just in time for what I hear was a spectacular fireworks display.  I skipped the fireworks and headed home to sit with Grace, who is thunder phobic and has a hard time on the 4th of July.  My normally brave and adventurous Aussie becomes a 50lb. lapdog who shakes and cowers.  I've tried all the distraction tips, tried crating her and finally gave up and let her sit in my lap until the fireworks and thunder were over (not very comfortable for either of us).

I'm ordering a Thunder Shirt to try.  If anyone has any experience with one, please post me a comment and let me know how it worked for you.  I really don't want to resort to drugs but the older she gets, the worse it gets.

Today, it's 80 (which feels cool) and glorious... we are off for a walk!

Hope your holiday weekend was spectacular!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sweltering in the South and a visit to Astor

It is HOT, I mean really, really, really HOT.  Yesterday's heat index was 113 degrees inland and 108 on the coast. It is soupy and rainy and we are one month into Hurricane Season here in Florida.  Our first tropical activity is happening off shore but so far nothing predicted but more rain.  Florida is also the lightening capital of the US with storms occurring approximately 100 days out of the year.  The most dangerous area runs from St. Augustine (north) to Lake Okeechobee (south) and from east to west coasts according to the University of Florida.  Where do I live....yep, right about there.  Daily summertime showers are a fact of life in Florida and we rank number one in the number of deaths due to lightening, 94% of which occur between late May and the end of September.   Now you know why the snowbirds all go north around the end of May :-)

Visit to Astor, FL

Drawbridge over St. Johns River
Being too hot to do much else,  a friend and I met in the middle yesterday for a lunch along the St. Johns river.  The town of Astor is said to be "a quaint little Drinkin' Village with a Fishin' problem".  I didn't make that up, it came directly from the city's website. 

Located on the west side of the St. Johns River between Lake George and Lake Dexter, with a population of under 2,000.  In 1874, William Backhouse Astor, Jr. from New York's wealthy Astor family purchased over 12,000 acres, and established a town he called Manhattan. New settlers arrived by steamboat to the town which consisted of a church, schoolhouse, botanical garden, and free cemetery. William Astor also built a hotel, saw mill, and eventually a railroad. Over the next twenty years Astor saw his town grow, but the Manhattan name never caught on. When William Astor died in 1892, the town was officially renamed Astor in his honor.
Astor is directly off of SR40, the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway.  There is hiking and biking, boating and fishing, and sightseeing.  We ate lunch at the Blackwater Inn on the river but opted for the inside view to beat the heat.
Our view through the window screen

Our waitress was very nice - entertaining, but nice!

Good lunch company

I don't know if Astor is famous for yard art, but they should be... there are two huge shops along the road with very unique "art".  There's also a Pioneer village that I'd like to visit one day, when the temperature is under 100 degrees!  So, if you need a life-size bear, or a 10' pink rooster, or a 15' T-Rex for your yard, let me know... I can hook you up!

T-rex, notice the people for scale.  Taken through the car window

Monday, June 23, 2014

Meeting the Sisters in Elkmont

A secondary reason for my visit to Elkmont Campground this month was an opportunity for a Sisters On The Fly event.

I originally joined this organization two years ago.  The vintage trailers and camaraderie appealed to me and I was looking for others who liked to camp.  After all, what is not to like about camping trailers, horses and fly fishing (although I've yet to attempt the latter)?

I've scheduled two or three trips over those two years but for one reason or another had cancelled every one of them.  I was determined to get in at least one trip this year before my membership expired yet again.

Wanting to see the fireflies in the Smokies, this seemed like the time to do it!  I signed up, convinced a camping friend to go with me to try it out, and away we went.

This is a HUGE event for SOTF with over 80 "sisters" attending from all across the country.  In that regard, it was hard to meet everyone.  There were several people there that I have met through T@B camping and rallies (the greatest bunch of people ever) and I tended to gravitate toward them.

There were several events that I didn't partake in - a fly fishing excursion and a trolley trip to Cades Cove.  Potlucks for breakfast and dinner and a ranger walk through what used to be the town of Elkmont were ones I did participate in.

I enjoyed meeting a few new people, and the "prom" (which was the one event I thought I'd pass on) turned out to be great fun watching everyone.  They truly do "have more fun than anyone"!

Would I go again -- maybe.  It was very scheduled and a little regimented for me, though I don't know how you would do it any differently with that many people and the organizers did a great job.  I think I'd like to try a smaller event where you have a better chance of getting to know people.   I did enjoy the women I met and seeing all the different trailers.  There were at least three vintage Airstreams that I didn't manage to get a picture of.  Here are just a few of the vintage campers that were there...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Synchronizing in the Smokies

After a quick stop in Elko, GA for an overnight--
Does anyone know what these are?  We passed about 10 of them in a row...some type of converted school bus
A quick overnight in Elko - Twin Oaks is a small well-maintained campground we stop at on the way to Nashville.  At $19 (Passport America) it's a great quick stop right off I-75

we were on our way to the GSM National Park to see a phenomenon that occurs only there... the synchronization of thousands of fireflies.    We stayed at Elkmont Campground, in a site with a view that more than made up for having no services.
Our campsite at Elkmont

Room with a view - out the back window of Breezin'

My morning coffee spot!
 I added a second battery to Breezin' before we left and I was pleased that we made it 4 nights and still had most of our battery power left.  We were pretty conservative, using lanterns at night and it was cool enough we didn't need the overhead fan.

Thursday I took Grace and Dillon to a local boarding facility that had a fenced acre to run on, while a friend and I took an impromptu hike to Laurel Falls.  I would show you all the beautiful pictures we took at the falls but we didn't make it all the way there!  About a mile in (and the trail is only 1.3 miles long) the skies turned black and the thunder started to rumble and the lightening started.  Since we were hiking in shorts with no jackets or supplies at all (we hadn't planned on hiking) and I had my camera without a case of any kind, we turned around and headed back down to the car.  Can't believe I just admitted that :-)

Wildflowers along the trail
Early morning in the Smokies
Backpacking bear at NOC
Later in the day we took a quick trip into Gatlinburg, tourist mecca of the Smokies.  Not my kind of place, but we had a great burger and beer and there is a NOC Outdoor Store of Appalachian Trail fame,   which I had to visit (and spend a little money).

 Later that night, we walked to see the fireflies.  I wish I had the photographic skills to show them to you (I don't).  Instead I'll leave you with this link that tells more about it:  Synchronized Fireflies

I went with the idea that this would be nice to see, cute maybe.  I was wrong.  It was completely magical and something you should take the opportunity to see if you get the chance.  It only happens at the Elkmont area of the Smokies and only two weeks a year.  It was incredible!

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful.  I had a book going to press (no, I'm not the author, just work for the publisher) so I spent a couple of days in Kinards, SC at a campground with 4 bars of 4G Verizon to get the final work on it done and then a night at the KOA just south of Savannah.  Would have loved to stay at Skidaway Island state park again but needed the stronger signal to finish up.

Back home in Florida....   ready to go again!