One Mississippi, Two Mississippi

I must give credit to my friend Barbara for this title.  Not two seconds, but rather counting off the two nights we spent in the crooked-letter, crooked-letter state.  Too short a time to do such a lovely state justice, but it’s all the time we had to keep on schedule with the epic journey.

Wall Doxey State Park

Our stopover in Mississippi was in Holly Springs at Wall Doxey State Park, named for a Mississippi Congressman and US Senator.  We’re guessing the park was quite a gem back in the day, but it’s showing its age.  It was built in 1935 and is in need of some TLC, but still a very peaceful place to stay in a natural setting.  Just our style.  It even has a modern frisbee golf course and Pat tried to talk me into a game.  The weather was a little nasty on and off or I would have given it a go.  Can’t throw a frisbee to save my life although thinking the trees would’ve helped me out.

Anyway, Mark, a former co-worker, comes here with his family and suggested we walk all the way around the lake.  That’s just what we did.  I thought we’d overdone it with Jackson, but he made it after all.  He also managed to plop down in some pretty yucky lake muck to cool off, and thus earned himself a bath when we got back to camp.  Stink dog needed one anyway, so it was all good.

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At the beginning of the lake walk and we’re still “fresh”.

A few favorite views from the walkabout.  Back to an interesting cypress swamp, the big uproot and luck ‘0 the Irish to ya!  I wanted the moss and blue flower together and the clover was just a sweet little bonus.

I mentioned that the park was a little crusty.  I think some of the construction does go back to the Hoover days as my Grandma would say.  Made for some good shots, too.

These steps are doing pretty well if they are as old as I think they are.  Loved the weathered boardwalk, too.  Moss and lichens covered the buildings, trails and posts – good misty, moisty feeling in the morning.  And at night?  Complete and utter darkness.  So much so that it scared the dog and he didn’t want to sit out by the campfire.

Holly Springs

No photographs please!  Well, I will say I was in the moment and didn’t want to take any, but really just lazy.  The town has a quintessential square that was used in filming a movie.  We ate dinner at a quaint little place right on it.  The dining area had rooms just like your formal dining room at home with the antique furniture to go with them.

I read all about the local sights from our Mississippi welcome center brochures and determined that we needed to go to Phillips Grocery for their famous hamburgers.  The burgers were pretty good and I supplemented mine with fried okra and corn bites.  Never met a fried okra I didn’t like!  Washed it all down with a grape Crush and remembered the grape Nehi we used to get in Alabama at reunion time.  This place was a cross between an old-fashioned soda shop and a potential Pickers treasure trove.  Old signs, old bottles and other jumbles right alongside the 4 tiny tables.

This town also boasts an Antebellum home tour and we likely saw many of the stops in our short drive around.  Worth a look if you are in the area.  I also have this place on my list if we are ever in the area in September.  Apparently the hummingbirds migrate through here and they have a festival.

Holly Springs has character, history AND a super Wal-mart – every RV full-timer’s dream.  Really we’re are not Wal-mart fans, but you can’t beat them for having absolutely everything but the kitchen sink and a place to park beastly large vehicles.  This spot gave us a chance to stock up on our provisions and caffeinated beverages.

Back Up The Truck

I realized that I missed a few tidbits from the Bham stop, so here goes.  Another first.  I’m happy to report that I was able to get my hair cut and colored by a little gal in Pelham, close to Oak Mountain.  She did a great job even if it wasn’t my Debbie from “home”.  She even showed me pictures of her 3 dogs.  People are so very friendly in these parts.

We also managed to kill a little time at a mall in the Bham area and found ourselves a Brookstone.  We were in the market for a birthday gift for our baby – soon to be 23.  Mission accomplished and while we were there, Pat & I tried out the 3-D goggles.

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I’ll just tell you.  If you want to look like an idiot, just try a pair of these on in public and wave your head around.  Oh, wait,  I didn’t mean Pat.  He looked perfectly normal….

Speaking of our baby turning 23, we’re making sure to keep up with him as we travel.  Our current modus operandi is to text him when we leave a spot and then again when we arrive.  We figure that way when we go missing, he’ll know where we were last seen.  Seriously, just seems like a good idea.  He’s doing well and deep into his research at University of Maryland.  He’s decided that Charlie is a good cat since she never scratches him and snuggles at night.  I think she’s turned out to be good company in spite of her naughty ways.

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Our boy and his kitty

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I also realized I didn’t share the best picture from our waterfall hike at Oak Mountain.  I showed you the steep climb up and down, but we felt fortunate when we saw this trailhead marker.  Strolling along one minute, a rolling bloody mess the next?  I love that someone had a sense of humor naming the trails.

Back In Forward Gear

So back on the road, and we have a new sticker on our travel map.  Actually we have 2 since we’re now in Arkansas, but that’s for the next post.  Loving the Spring weather here, especially since it looks like it’s already heating up in sunny Florida!  See you on the way.

Iron City

You can’t go back, at least that’s what Pat says.  I’m inclined to agree after this last stop.  Don’t get me wrong.  I still like Birmingham, but it was more like seeing it for the first time than it was visiting an old familiar place.

Back In The Eighties

I was here back then for grad school at University of Alabama at Birmingham.  I lived in Southside in a crummy apartment complex, and then in Homewood in a bit better one.  I have memories of clubbing at Five Points, visiting the Vulcan, and driving my manual transmission car up and down Red Mountain.  The only sameness I could dig up was a glimpse of what I think is that crummy apartment complex and shifting gears on Red Mountain.

Turns out even the Vulcan monument was refurbished since then and does not look quite the same.  The famed regional burger place, Milo’s, has since closed the original Northside location and looks just like most any other fast food joint.  The criminal justice building where I took my classes has been replaced as well, so no fond drive-bys on campus.  Sigh.  To be fair it has been 30 years.

Good thing I had a short list for this stop.  1) Burger at Milo’s – a sloppy burger with special sauce served up in a brown paper sack, 2) Visit the Vulcan, and 3) See Sloss Furnaces.

Milo’s

Pat indulged me and we had our Milo’s burger with its special sauce, although these days they come in very crisp white logo’d bags.  We’re not sweet tea people, so skipped that part.  I had tea for all meals except breakfast growing up, so I’m happy to skip that whenever possible.  Pat is not a Southern boy, so iced tea is a completely foreign concept.  The burgers were good, but we decided we’re not great fans of the sauce.  Milo’s is known for that extra piece of meat on the sandwich that they call the LSE or “little something extra”.  Fun to see that is still part of the tradition.  We both agreed that the fries were the best we’d had in quite a while, and we’d go back just for those.

The Vulcan

Pat and I met while I was here in grad school and we visited the Vulcan Monument when he came to see me.  Perfect.  We’ll go back there and it’ll be just like old times.  Not.  Apparently the Vulcan was in terrible disrepair in the 90’s.  The city closed the park in 1999 and took the poor guy down for repairs.  He went back up in 2004 and the base, statue color and what he’s holding are different.  Just enough different that it didn’t feel like the same place at all.

A bit about his history.  He was forged from iron, and built originally for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.  The Vulcan Park and Museum site says it best, “What kind of city builds a huge statue of a burly, bearded, bare-bottomed man to tower over its entire population? One that never forgets its roots. Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge, watches over all of Birmingham as a symbol of the city’s iron origins–and the ever-present spark of its indomitable spirit.”

And there he is – the Vulcan is all his glory!

From the top…

Wish I knew what I said to Pat to evoke that smile.  Captured his essence I do believe!  And if you look closely at the bottom left of the other shot, you’ll see a horseshoe-shaped building.  I think that is the crummy apartment complex.

Sloss Furnaces

Birmingham, after all, is the Iron City since it had the three key ingredients – iron ore, coal and limestone – all within a 30 mile radius.  Colonel James Withers Sloss built the first furnace in 1881 to cash in on the money to be made in iron.  Pig iron production was through the roof and the city grew practically overnight.  We learned that the name comes from the iron tapped from the blast furnace and cast into “pigs”.  These resemble suckling piglets although I think they really looked more like ingots.

I knew about this place in the grad school days, but never visited.  I was a twenty-something after all and wasn’t terribly interested in history.  Glad I had it on the list since both Pat and I found this place fascinating.  It is essentially a huge old factory, left to ruin for 30 years until it was donated to the city.  Birmingham decided to stabilize and preserve the site, and it has a National Historic Site designation.  Old, crusty and being chipped away by the elements, it is an amazing grounds.  You get a self-guided tour map and are cut loose to wander.  Pretty sure we will never see anything like this anywhere else.

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The grand old plant – Sloss Furnaces.  This shot was taken from the Vulcan.

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And the close up.

Here is my montage of views that caught my eye and seemed to showcase the place….

Finally a shot I had to have even though the battery died on the real camera.  Cell phone to the rescue

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My grandfather, Cecil Sr., operated a dragline for a living.  I have seen old black & whites of him and the equipment, but this is the closest thing I’ve seen in person.  Pat reminded me that this is really an old steam shovel, but close enough.

Oak Mountain State Park

We camped outside the city on another mountain.  Nice campground, but an odd setup.  We had a “pull-through”, which is normally a u-shape with some green space facing the road so you have a place for your picnic table, grill, etc.  Our site really looked more like a roadside pull-off and we had no such green space.  You pretty much stepped out into the road.  We moved over as much as we could to avoid that and parked the car strategically for protection.  In the end it wasn’t a bad spot, but strange nonetheless.

Great hiking, biking and fishing here.  We only did the hiking part and also visited the Wildlife Center’s injured bird hospital.  The hike to the waterfall was my favorite and most strenuous.

Pat and Jackson at the overlook and then at the bottom.  The dog was a trooper since this was not easy.  Very steep and we had to clamber over rocks and trees.

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Yes, that sign says parking and points pretty much straight up.  No lie.  We advised a family with small children not to venture down.

Good-By Sweet Home

My extended family had reunions in Alabama every July when I was a kid so I have fond memories of the state.  I got a good case of chigger bites every year scrambling through the brush to pick blackberries and fish by the ponds.  We also ruined our share of socks.

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Those socks were ruined by the Alabama red clay.  Mom tried everything to get those stains out to no avail.  I realized I hadn’t taken a picture of the clay hills, so this was my parting shot from Lucy as we drove to Mississippi.  My two best souvenirs of good old Alabama are the ceramic angel made from red clay dug from the Coosa river bank, and a long-sleeved t-shirt from the Vulcan that has a capital B + the picture of a ham on the front.  I love a good pun.  Will wear this shirt in the chilly Northwest and remember those HOT summers with the family long ago.

We’re excited for the next stop since we’re now out of familiar territory.  All new camping states for the rest of the year.  See you on the way!

Montgomery – Take 2

We enjoyed Montgomery, Alabama so much last year that we knew we needed to come back and catch the things we missed.  I really should call this post Montgomery/Wetumpka since we spent equal time in both cities and were actually in a campground with a Wetumpka address.  Montgomery we knew about.  Wetumpka we didn’t, and it surprised and charmed us both.

Wetumpka River Walk

Imagine our surprise when we drive just a few miles down the road to downtown Wetumpka and find a grand river walk on the Coosa River complete with a very distinctive bridge.  Oooh, love me some bridges.  Our first visit was on a cold, windy day and I’m calling these the herringbone clouds.  So different and definitely still hood up weather.

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But on to the star of this show….

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Our second visit was a crisp, clear day and perfect strolling weather.  Forgive me, but I had a hard time choosing my favorite bridge shots.  I’ll share a few of the best ones.

This bridge looked different than most since it appears to be completely concrete.  According to historical info, it is the only bridge south of the Mason-Dixon line that is suspended by reinforced concrete arches.  It’s hard to pay attention to the road driving under those arches and the height is only 12’6″.  No driving on that bridge in Lucy unless we want to scrape off the AC unit.

Hyundai Motors

Montgomery is home to Hyundai’s first US manufacturing plant and it is a wonder to behold.  We read about this completely free, fantastic tour when we were here last year, but alas, the tours book up a ways out and we couldn’t get in.  I booked this one last Fall so we wouldn’t miss out.  If you are ever in the area, you truly must do this.  The 3.2 million square foot plant cost 1.8 billion (that’s with a B!) dollars and was featured on the show Modern Marvels.  I can understand why after that visit.

While we waited for the tour, we got to sit in all the cars in the showroom.  I chose a matte finish Veloster since it is touted as an “edgy” look for the younger market.  Yeah, that’s definitely me.  Not the greatest picture, but the only one we have.  You aren’t allowed to take photographs during the tour.

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As for the tour, we watched a video explaining some of the finer points of the manufacturing process, donned safety glasses and special headsets to hear the commentary, and boarded a tram.  This place is so huge that they drive you from building to building to see the process.

They say most people like the robots doing the welding the best, but I liked the huge stamping presses turning flat sheets of metal into car hoods.  Wow!  Huge, heavy and loud with over 5,400 tons of pressure involved.  This plant is also proud to make their own engines for their cars.

A new car rolls off this assembly line every 50 seconds.  Think about that for a minute.  Oh wait, another car just came off the line.  We got to see them start one up for the first time and off it went to the test track.  That production pace sets them up for over 350,000 cars annually.  We even got a look at the test track and the parking lot out back.  Yeah, that holds 13,000 cars.  Amazing!

Rolling on the River

The riverfront in downtown Montgomery is pretty cool and has a riverboat for cruises on the Alabama river.  We missed that last time, too, so made sure to book a Saturday evening cruise.  We thoroughly enjoyed sitting right up top at the front of the boat and doing nothing but looking at the passing scenery for two hours.  Pat pointed out that this was the pace of life way back when.  Riverboats and horse-drawn wagons were the fastest things around.

We’re calling these the trifecta of bad selfies.

A few actual good pictures on the river….

Me and the Harrah II, Old rusty bridge at the turnaround point, my rusty tin-man water tower, and finally Montgomery and the capitol building in the distance.

Jackson’s Outings

Our trips aren’t complete without some hikes with Jackson.  Montgomery has lots of great places to hike with state and city parks all around.  We went twice to Lagoon Park, a nice city park and then took our last walkabout at Ft. Toulouse-Ft. Jackson Park run by the state.  Ft. Toulouse/Jackson is home to fort replicas and a nice walking trail.  Ft. Toulouse was the French fort and they were there defending the local Indians until they lost the French and Indian War.  Later Andrew Jackson came on the scene during the Revolutionary War and Ft. Jackson was built.  We didn’t know any of this was here, so a historical learning experience and also in Wetumpka.

The Ft. Jackson replica.  And our Jackson refusing to go around the big tree down over the trail.  Stubborn dog.

A Little Corner of Greece

I saved the best for last to close out the Montgomery/Wetumpka post.  Jasmine Hill Gardens features stunning flowers as well as reproductions of famous Greek and Roman statues.  A couple in the 1930s retired to this hilltop to create a living memorial to ancient Greece.  Supposedly they would leave the gardens in the hands of caretakers every Summer to travel to Europe to collect art and statues for the gardens.  They even recreated the Temple of Hera where the ancient Greeks would light the Olympic torch in the original games.  The couple’s dream was that one day the torch would come to Jasmine Hill.  Lo and behold it did during the journey to Atlanta for the 1996 Olympic Games.

We happened to be here at a perfect time for Spring blooms.  I’m not sure what I liked best – the sculptures or the flowers.  The combination was really spectacular.

Here are two long-range shots so you get the broad view.

My favorites – orange poppies, dark purple tulips, terracotta Dogs, dolphin fountain and The Three Graces.

And those Three Graces?  I saw a shot like this in the gift shop and ran back out to take my own version.  I think this is my fav from all the pictures I took that day.

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The original of this statue is in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.  The ladies are the mythological three charities, daughters of Zeus.  They represent Beauty, Charm and Joy.  Indeed!

I took so many pictures and it was hard to choose the best.  A few more, because I can’t help myself.

Iris at the feet of The Boxer, Bust of Zeus, and cutie little cherubs around the well.

Finally, this plaque just says it all for the day

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You Know It’s Time To Leave When….

You’ve heard the saying “familiarity breeds contempt”?  Well we don’t exactly get to that point, but when my directionally-challenged self starts to know the way around, it’s time to go.  At least that’s what we’ve decided.  After a few trips headed down the Atlanta Highway, and me bursting into song with B52’s Love Shack, it IS time to go.

Of course we did have another first at this stop.  A mobile RV repair tech came to see us.  The awning was damaged in the winds in Titusville and try as we might, we could not fix it.  Turns out it is officially kaput and we’ll have to order another one.  That likely must wait until we are still for a month during the Winter.  Oh and yes, Pat still has the ring, but I’m keeping track of your dates!

On to re-live those grad school days in Birmingham.  See you on the way!

Fear No Weevil

I know I have your attention with that title.  Rightly so since this stop was all about the weevil.  Actually we’ve been plotting this visit since last year when we made our test trip to Northern Alabama.  At that time, I was a work in progress as far as navigating goes.  Truth be told, I still am, but Pat will probably agree that I am muuuuch better.  We don’t go down too many RV rabbit holes since I’ve become wiser to the ways of Google maps and directions.

Anyway, the weevil.  We were driving along on our way to Montgomery and working on the navigation plan when I saw it on the atlas.  Boll Weevil Monument – Enterprise, Alabama.  Pat was unwilling to detour 150 miles for said monument, no matter how fascinating it sounded.  We made a pact then and there.  We’d catch it during the epic journey to Alaska.  So here we are at Frank Jackson State Park in Opp, AL and only about 25 miles from The Weevil!

Frank Jackson State Park

Yes, kids, we are finally out of Florida!  It took a while I know, but we were biding our time waiting on the rest of the country to opt into Spring.  Turns out we were right to take our sweet time with the late cold snap about to overtake us in Alabama.

Frank Jackson State Park was our first stop AF, or After Florida as it will be known from now on.  This is truly one of the prettiest and nicest state parks we’ve visited in our travels to date.  The grounds are gorgeous, there is a private secluded island, lake front sites, FULL hook-ups, good wi-fi,  and this time the all important cable tv.  Normally cable is a fun little bonus since we don’t usually watch tv, but with the weather and Pat’s crud, it proved to be a blessing.

You get to pick your spot and we choose a prime one just feet from the lakeside.  You could hear the waves lapping when we went in and out the door.  Also, just around the bend was a walkway to a small beach and then another boardwalk to the private island.  Just lovely.

It was very windy and rainy when we arrived, so we laid low the first day while Pat recuperated a bit.  Jackson and I dodged rain and bundled up in the cold to do a few walkabouts and take pictures.

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This was my “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” shot of Jackson.  He was a good boy and sat still for me to take the shot.  The weather was iffy, but the azaleas were definitely convinced it’s Spring.

The lake grasses caught my eye as did the stunning wisteria in a rare sunny moment.  I just love the lavender color.  And those lily pads – multicolored and catching the raindrops like little tongues on the lake.  I had a good thought on the walk.  Some days it rains on your lily pads and you just have to get out there anyway.

All Hail The Boll Weevil!

Day 2 at Frank Jackson and we are off to see the Boll Weevil Monument.  It was about a 30 minute drive to Enterprise, home of the monument, and I literally clapped my hands together when we first caught sight of it.  I’ve just been so taken with the story of how it came to be.  This is a story about the silver lining and how a whole community chose to focus on the bright side rather than the devastating effects of an insect pest destroying its livelihood.

The year was 1914 when the Mexican boll weevil reached the area to attack the county’s cotton crops.  Prior to that year, the local Ag Agent saw the writing on the wall and recommended planting peanuts.  He felt the area’s soil and climate would be perfect for the peanut crop.

Fast forward to 1916 and a local farmer planted 125 acres of peanuts and sold 8,000 bushels the following fall.  Other farmers followed his lead and the result was more than a million bushels of peanuts headed to market in 1917.  It was a dramatic economic turnaround for the area and according to the Alabama Heritage Magazine, “the absence of cotton was hardly noticed”.

The weevil was credited with the economic turnaround and with that the city council commissioned a statue from Italy to honor the pest.  I believe this is the only monument anywhere dedicated to an agricultural menace!

I confess the monument was smaller than I thought it would be.  Also pictured myself standing next to it for a beaming photo op, but the monument itself is smack dab in the middle of the road.  I had to settle for crossing the street at the light change and quickly snapping the pic as we walked by.

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That boll weevil sure is an an ugly sucker!  Great depiction of the whole story on the building mural next to the intersection.  We stopped by the local historical society store front so I could purchase a souvenir.  Really wanted a sweatshirt, but there were none to be had.  Settled for this coffee mug and I have no fear!

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A Little Game We’re Playing

As an aside, thought I’d share some fun we’re having.  It’s called “Where’s my wedding ring”.  A little back story here.  Pat is on his 3rd wedding ring.  #2 entered the picture after he lost the original in the snow in North Dakota a few years after we were married.  #3 arrived on the scene after #2 ceased to fit.

Just last year he Incredible Hulked #3 right off during some home repair activities.  No kidding – it just split right off his finger.  Around Christmas-time he got it repaired and all good.  The good news here is that we’ve been doing a lot of walking in our travels and have both lost a few pounds.  That has contributed to the wedding ring being a little loose.  So, it is now disappearing somewhat regularly.  So far it has reappeared in the shower drain and hanging on my giant piece of ginger on the kitchen shelf.  That second one took some talent and a while to find.  For those of you betting friends, I’m suggesting a friendly wager to determine when it disappears for good.  Soon, I say, soon!  Maybe my friend Celeste who has been giving us grief about our slow pace to Alaska can head up the contest.  Ha!

Anyway, that’s about it for this stop.  On to our Montgomery antics next.  Happy Spring and here’s wishing you don’t get any rain on your lily pads!  See you on the way.

Pensacola

My legs are tucked under me as I write and warm up from a Jackson jaunt.  The sun is peeking out today, but there is a wicked cold wind.  I’m glad for the short outing we had and the retreat back into warm Lucy.  Pat is still a bit puny, so a nap was in order for him.  I can’t wait to write about today’s adventures in Enterprise, AL, but all in good time.  You need the Pensacola tale first.

Quirky Little Campground

We stayed at Five Flags RV Park in Pensacola and despite being literally right off the interstate, it was surprisingly quiet (except for Saturday night when the Five Flags Speedway was in full swing).  Some clever craftsman gave this place true personality and we enjoyed walking around looking at the decor.

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The Etch A Sketch disguises the dumpster and is complete with a container of colored chalk so you can write your own messages.

Instead of the traditional laundry room, this place has two decommissioned trolleys filled with washers and dryers.  We’ve never seen anything like this before and so cute!

The fun Airstream trailer door leads out of the park fence directly into the Sonny’s BBQ parking lot.  The other trailer door – and they really are household doors – leads out the back to a convenience store.  Way more fun than plain old gates.

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There was even one of those tiny houses down the way from our site.  They threw a big party on Saturday night.

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Methinks someone is a bit conflicted.  An example of right colors, wrong school!

Last East Coast Lighthouse…For A While

Still at the coast, so we’re still in lighthouse country.  I’m thinking this one will be the last until we get to the West coast.  Pensacola does have a fine lighthouse and we had quite a thrill getting to it.  You have to enter the Navy base to get there.  I produced my ID for a very stern camo’d serviceman who gave us a pass to the lighthouse and aviation museum.  It’s been quite a while since Pat or I have been on a Navy base and pretty sure he would have been fine to skip that part altogether.

This is also the home base for the Blue Angels.  They weren’t at home during our visit, but the fly boys were practicing in the Navy jets.  You certainly hear them, you just can’t figure out where they are.  I’m sure you get used to the sound eventually, but our heads shot up every time they roared overhead right next to the lighthouse.

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Happy girl – Pensacola lighthouse

The grounds were very nice and full of flowers.  Love the bottlebrush – perfect name for them.

Mr. Butterfly likes them, too.

Of course I got my stamp and we paid our money to climb to the top.  This lighthouse was unique since it had a large building attached complete with museum off the first landing.  We learned about the women who served in the Coast Guard Reserve in WWII and took shore duty so men could serve at sea. Everything from clerical duties, communications, baking pies, rigging parachutes, and driving jeeps.

United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve better known as SPARS

Views from the top – catching a jet take-off, the Gulf and happy girl!

National Naval Aviation Museum

This place is huge, full of aircraft, and on NAS Pensacola – the oldest Naval Air Station in the country.  If you are into airplanes, this is the place.  We enjoyed it, and it is completely free.  The exhibit and video on the aircraft carrier barricade was fascinating.  Essentially a big net of sorts to catch the planes when the normal arresting gear isn’t working.  I can’t imagine taking off from a carrier platform, much less landing on one, and especially if the normal landing process is not an option.

Big Lagoon State Park

We took two more outings, one to the Alabama welcome center on I-10 to pick up all the good brochures for Montgomery & Birmingham, and the second to a dog-friendly place for a little hike.  Big Lagoon State Park turned out to be a great spot for the three of us.

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We saved a picnic spot for you.

The terrain was so interesting.  Definitely not in the oak and cypress forest anymore.  Lots of pine, but all sandy and scrubbier bushes.  We loved some short bushes with little purple flowers.  They look like sage, but really not sure.

The purple bushes, bright red berries on the marsh, surprising vibrant green grass after a burn, and the fallen trees that looked like driftwood.

This is a great coastal park with camping, hiking and stunning views.  I highly recommend it if you are ever in the area.  Even on Saturday it wasn’t crowded.  A little known gem apparently.

We interrupted the great blue’s fishing exploits and caught an osprey near the nest.

A few more shots from the observation tower overlooking Big Lagoon and Perdido Key.

More Winter Planning

With November set in the Dallas area, we started looking for a place to stay in December.  Our initial idea was Austin, but every place we checked was already booked for the month.  Hmmm.  We’re wondering what to do when we meet our next door neighbors at the Five Flags RV Park.  They were from Texas and particularly the hill country and made some great suggestions a little off the beaten path.  Armed with their info, we were able to find a great place.  You’ll find us spending Christmas this year in Marble Falls, TX on the banks of Lake LBJ.  Now on to January, February & March to make sure we can finish out the Winter cold months in a relatively warm spot.  Still a work in progress and we’ll keep you posted.

Next post will find us NOT in Florida anymore!  See you on the way.

 

 

Falling Waters State Park

Time to catch up on the blog and it is a perfect day to do it.  We’re settled in lakeside, and it’s cold and rainy out.  Vader and our propane heater are keeping us toasty, we have a full pantry and fridge, so all is well.  Well, not exactly true.  Pat is back to being the sickie, so staying in suits him just fine, too.  Hopefully this round of crud is short-lived.

Back to State Parks

We love state parks.  So much more natural and usually more elbow room, too.  Almost always trails for Jackson and peaceful.  We tried to stay at a few on our way West in Florida, but drat those snowbirds.  Our plans were flexible, so we snagged what we could and that was Falling Waters State Park.

Falling Waters

This spot boasts the tallest waterfall in Florida.  Before you get all excited, just remember, Florida is known for its sea level, not its tall spots.  Still, the park service is pretty proud of the falls.

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Yep, you read that right.  It is 73 feet tall.  But it makes up for height with the dark sinkhole at the bottom and the mossy, fern covered walls.  Attractive in its own secret cavern kind of way.

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Walk About

This spot was a good restful pick.  It was my turn to be the sickie so I got a lot of rest and Pat and Jackson had places to walk.  Plus Pat was able to take a field trip and tackle the mound of laundry and buy some provisions.

The Winter Plan

Now that we have a handle on the Alaska epic journey, we turned our attention to the Winter plan.  We learned an important lesson in Florida.  The Winter campgrounds are packed where it is warm, so reservations and a plan are a must.  Texas is the Winter destination, so we’ve been taking it a month at a time.  November is Thanksgiving in Grapevine with my good friend Wendy and family.  We’re planning to fly Ethan in, too.  So, somewhere in the DFW area for November is in order.  Arlington has a nice affordable place and hopefully puts us in the middle of all the folks we want to visit while we are there, so that’s where we’ll be.

December proved to be more challenging, but stay tuned.  We get some good advice at our next stop from our Texas “neighbors” from the hill country.

Pensacola is next on the docket and the LAST Florida stop. See you on the way.

Florida’s Forgotten Coast

ieFrom St. Marks to Mexico Beach is a fairly undeveloped stretch of Florida coastline dubbed Florida’s Forgotten Coast, and the spot we chose for our Tallahassee stop.  Campgrounds in town weren’t highly rated, so we opted for a nice county park right outside St. Marks. Also directly across from the road to lovely St. Marks lighthouse.  I get a lighthouse fix and get some friends & family time.  Boy did we ever!

St. Marks Lighthouse

We were oh so close to the St. Marks Lighthouse and just had to see that first.  It was a Jackson-friendly place and gave us all some trail dog time.  There was an interpretive trail a few miles from the lighthouse and afforded us some fantastic views of the area.  Pat told me to take pictures of “this”.  I asked what “this” was and he just waved his arms outward.  So here you go, “this”….

It was a gorgeous day as you can tell and the pictures just don’t do it justice.  Cool breezes and not a cloud in the sky.  Pat caught sight of the lighthouse in the distance and this turned out to be my favorite shot of the day.

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St. Marks Lighthouse

This is a birdwatcher’s paradise and many were stopped on the roads glued to their binoculars.  Turns out we missed an eagle’s nest along the way, but I did manage to catch this fellow and someone else flying by at the instant I took the shot.

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Here’s the lighthouse up close and personal along with some levee trail views.

This area is also home to some very diverse plant life.  The Blue Flag Iris was in full bloom along with the Zephyr Lillies (see my Way Down Upon the Suwannee River post for a picture of that one).  And did you know, the sandy soil that drains quickly is perfect for cactus growth?  Supposedly almost like desert conditions.

Back at the campsite, we were treated to more birds.  There was a pair of cardinals right out the windshield.  So nice to be in such a natural setting and not a view of another motorhome in front of you.

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Trip to Apalach

I mentioned before that our purpose for stopping close to Tallahassee was for a visit with my sister, but also with my oldest friend Lisa and her husband Al.  Seriously, we have known each other since we were 3 years old.  She’s been a part of every major life event for me ever since.  Needless to say, the farewell tour had to include Lisa and Al.  A nod to their tremendous hospitality since they cooked us dinner, took me out for a great Mexican dinner (Pat was sick), as well as gave us the guided tour along the Forgotten Coast.

Lisa did the honors driving that day and pointing out the sights.  Our bonus stop on the way to Apalachicola, or Apalach if you’re a local, was at the World’s Smallest Police Station in Carrabelle, FL.

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Yep, it really is just an empty phone booth.  There is a bench next to it, I guess to wait for someone to come along?

We had a great lunch on the water and browsed the artsy shops in Apalachicola.  The brewery there was inviting, but we didn’t go in.  Did get a kick out of the sign on the door….DSC00047

Turns out my craft beer name is Raging Catfish Pale Ale.  Have some fun and figure yours out.

St. George Island Lighthouse

Of course I have my lighthouse book and I’m seeking stamps for all the ones we visit.  St. George Island had a great addition.  This lighthouse fell into the Gulf in 2005.  Hurricane Wilma was apparently one too many.  All the salvaged pieces were used to rebuild it in 2008.  We were able to climb up in this one and even ascend into the lantern room, an area usually closed off in most lighthouses.  We had a grand view of the Gulf from the top.

Pat climbs through the hatch to the lantern room,  me at the top, shrimp boat in the Gulf, and the bridge from the mainland to St. George Island.

And my favorite picture of the two of use from the trip so far, thanks to Lisa –

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Judy & Pat at St. George Lighthouse

We were also fortunate that a random stranger agreed to take a picture of the four of us.

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Pat, Judy, Lisa & Al – St. George Island

Lighthouse #2 – Same Day!

And my personal best for lighthouses – 2 in one day.  After St. George Island, we headed back to Carrabelle and the Crooked River Lighthouse.  This one was also unique.  The first climb up an iron and steel tower with no outer walls.  I originally thought the view from the top wasn’t very impressive, but really was surprised when I reviewed the pictures.

The lighthouse, me at the base,  and the surprising view

Panacea

The cure-all, elixir, magic bullet.  I just love the idea of a place called Panacea.  It conjures up all sorts of happy thoughts.  Panacea, Florida is in fact a tiny coastal town and one we wanted to see since my brother-in-law Jimmy is working on completing his own welding shop.  He provided a shop tour and talked electrical with Pat.  From there we went to the Gulf Specimen Aquarium.

Not a big place at all and it caters to the smaller aquatic critters and features hands on displays.  Right up my inner-child alley!  We had some fun before we even entered…

I loved being able to pick up the specimens.  All are found in the Gulf and quite an amazing variety.

Sea urchin – before eensies, leopard crab and a big ‘ole crab that I was afraid to pick up entirely.  If the two crabs hadn’t been fighting over a hermit crab, I think I would have gotten pinched.

We were told that the female sting ray was very friendly and liked attention.  She did indeed and went around the edge of the tank flipping water on you until you would give her a pet.

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She was so incredibly smoooooooth to the touch!

I have to say that the octopuses (yes, I looked up the plural word), were the most amazing.  I had no idea they were so intelligent.  They didn’t photograph well, but they were the best.  Apparently they collect things that catch their eye.  Yes, attracted to shiny and interesting toys.  They decorate their area and steal the choice things from each other.  They had one octopus that they trained to open a jar to get his meal.  One would even wave a tentacle to the handler, take a toy from her and look it over, then hand it back.  Truly amazing creatures AND they can chomp a blue crab in seconds.  Saw that firsthand.

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After a seafood lunch, we ended our Panacea tour at the welcome center overlooking Dickerson Bay.  Great time with seester Elaine and her husband Jimmy.

Brew Bus

Our last big outing was back with Lisa and Al aboard the Tallahassee Brew Bus.  Pat and I weren’t quite sure what to expect, but thought it sounded like great fun since I’m into trying local craft beers.  We road the bus with 14 other people and met a very nice young couple.  He – loved IPAs, she – not really a beer drinker.  Pat as the Bud Light drinker could relate to her.  Ha!

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It was a fun afternoon going to 3 local breweries, mainly because Lisa brought along gourmet snacks and we paced ourselves nicely.  I can’t say the same about some of the other guests.  I was a little afraid for my camera since one of the over-served practically grabbed the camera to take our picture.

Things We Planned & Things We Didn’t

So, really long post, but an action-packed week in the Tally area.  In addition to the seester and Lisa visits, we were able to catch up with new full-time RVing friends Rich & Kathie for a BBQ dinner.  We met them in Bushnell and discovered our crossing paths in the panhandle.  All good things we planned.

Then there was my opportunity to drive the first leg of our epic journey.  Pat caught some nasty virus and was sick on bug-out day.  Gave me a chance to get back in the Lucy saddle again.  Of course he promptly gave me the nasty so I had to take a sick day leaving Tallahassee.  Things we didn’t.

Stay tuned for the next epic journey installment from Falling Waters State Park.  See you on the way!