Saturday, March 31, 2012

North Carolina

After spending our last day in Longs lounging (and getting the usual HH chores done) we were off to New Bern, North Carolina. Situated about 6 miles from New Bern's and about 45 minutes from Atlantic Beach, Moonlight Lake RV Park seemed like a good place to spend a few days (and the price was right).

We are about 3 1/2 hours north of Longs but a million miles away. North Carolina does not have the charm of South Carolina. At least not what we have seen. We could be in northern Minnesota for all I know. Lots of bare trees, few flowers and it seems like a good amount of poverty (not the pretty houses we saw south). Thursday we went into New Bern, toured the "Historic" downtown a bit and then had a superb lunch at "Maggie's Pub". On the way into town I spied a TJ Maxx so that was next on the agenda (hey, I haven't been at one since the beginning of February!). A Walmart, Petsmart and post-office stop and we were on the way back to the BP for the evening.

Yesterday we drove to the coast-line. In particular a civil war era fort called Fort Macon, which is right on the tip of Atlantic Beach Island. It was extremely cool and, not knowing a whole lot about the Civil War, I also got a good history lesson.

The fort is also part of a state park so we walked down the beach for awhile and gathered even more beautiful shells. Jeff even has gotten the hang of the "Sanibel Stoop" a few hundred miles late...

We drove down the island road which heads south to the "Emerald Coast" but after a few miles it became clear that all we were going to see was a whole lot of condos, beach houses and hotels, so we turned around and drove north to Beaufort, North Carolina. Another beach town but no tacky stores, just a quaint downtown on the marina.

Today was rainy and cool and spent, once again, on chores. The ladder on the BP cracked due to the strain of holding two bikes over lots of bumps. Jeff is working diligently on repairing yet another issue! Tomorrow we will have a long day on the road to Hillsville, Virginia. Yee Haw!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Myrtle Beach

Yesterday we went to both North and South Myrtle Beach and I have to say, it was exactly as I thought it would be. Tacky tourist shops and typical Atlantic Beach's. In between the two areas (they are distinctly seperate) we went to Barefoot Landing...a boardwalk type outdoor shopping mall. It actually was pretty fun! It had two large areas separated by a large pond that was full of turtles (who actually begged for the "turtle snack" that was sold along the boardwalk and piers) and enormous carp. The weather warmed to about 81 degrees, which was well above the predicted 75. We had a great lunch at TBonz, a restaurant/brew pub that was situated along the Intercoastal Waterway.

At the south end of Myrtle Beach is another very large, very long boardwalk, complete with arcades and rides. We paid for three hours of parking and were there for about an hour (that included sitting about 30 minutes at a beach bar having a Pina Colada!

About the most entertaining part of South Myrtle were the names of the gift shops and restaurants. Clearly, a lot of them had been around since the 50's...there was something named after every member of the Rat Pack, that's for sure! These are two of my personal favorites...

Last night, the cold front hit in earnest and the temperature dropped to a chilly 48 degrees. Today was sunny but never topped 60. Good thing we had planned a chore day. For me laundry, and for Jeff, the BB got an oil change. This afternoon we did get in a combination bike/hike which was absolutely lovely. And we never had to leave the grounds of this beautiful resort! After a dinner of Shepard's Pie (which I KILLED!) we even got to have a campfire, which we haven't been able to have since Louisiana!

Xena studies Mom's "bibles"
(Campground guides)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

South Carolina (again)

We had a 4 1/2 hour trip to Longs, South Carolina today. And it was a pretty interesting stretch. Once we got off Hwy. 95, we were on pretty much "back road" parts of South Carolina. About a half hour off the freeway we stopped at a gas station for a "potty" break. First of all, I didn't know a woman could actually spray urine all over a toilet/floor/wall. I thought that particular atrocity was reserved for men! Second, I have never seen people, dressed in their Sunday best having dinner at a gas station, on styrofoam plates and seated at folding tables scattered in the middle of the store. Now I really feel like I'm in the south!
After that pit-stop we stayed on the road for the duration. It was a very pretty drive. Considering the scene at the gas station, I have never seen so many beautiful (brick) homes. Many with cool old barns and stables, plenty of horses and the most gorgeous Azaleas I have ever seen. Most of the homes were literally surrounded by beautiful and enormous bushes in a profusion of bright colors. And the woods were literally filled with Wisteria in magnificent purple. Then we finally arrived at Willow Tree Resort and Campground. The long drive in through the manicured lawn and surrounding woods told me this was going to be a good one. That was an understatement. Clearly, this "campground" will be rated #1 in our long list of campgrounds. It is stunning. Wide, long pull-through sites with more lawn around us than we had at home. Towering pines, a beautiful lake and all the nice extras to boot (like a pool, hot tub, gym, laundry, store, bocce ball, horseshoe pits, paddle boats, beach and volleyball courts).

Jeff and I took a walk around the grounds and the lake and are completely in awe of the absolute beauty they have managed to capture here. The only thing missing, oddly enough, is cable and wifi. Not typically important but this evening we are once again in the midst of a pretty good thunderstorm. Having grown accustomed to 80+ degree days, today's high of 74 and this evenings mid 50's seems mighty cold to me.  I'm thinking that issue may be a major drawback to this move "north".

 Tomorrow we will spend the day at the coast. Forecast is for sun and I am hoping some heat as well!

Xena loves South Carolina!
You can see it in her face..

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Daufuskie Island

Yesterday we went on a Calibogue Cruise to Daufuskie Island, just off the coast of Hilton Head Island. This area has a long history (Indians, Spaniards, the Union Troups) but the really interesting history starts after the slaves were freed and the plantation owners left the island pretty much to their slaves who were all from a tribe in Africa called "Gullah's". This particular group of slaves had held fast to their tribal customs and language and did not mix with the rest of the country (pretty isolated out there on the island). The descendants left of the Gullah Tribe still live on Daufuskie Island but they are few in numbers. There are a few "immigrants", people that moved to the island from the mainland (like the postal lady we talked to). Other than that, there is one area of the island that was developed as a rather ritzy community. These remaining residents depend on a ferry to get to and from Daufuskie. I can't imagine and hour ride just to get groceries, then lugging them back on the ferry, then on to the golfcart and home. And the kids, from 6th grade on, go to a mainland school which involves a bus to the ferry, the ferry ride over, then another bus to school. An hour and a half twice a day...UGH! But...extremely beautiful, and extremely untouched, island paradise. In addition to the Atlantic Ocean shoreline that was clean and scenic, the island is heavily wooded and heavily spanish-mossed for an altogether lovely area.

So off we went for the hour ride to Daufuskie on a beautiful South Carolina morning (yes, we are still in Georgia but Hilton Head Island, where we caught the ferry is about 75 minutes away). We were promised Dolphin sightings and did see a few bobbing up and down on both the way there and back, but no big shows or displays :(
Buck Island Lighthouse

We arrived about noon and, as part of the tour package, had lunch at Old Daufuskie Crab Company. Total rip-off (I guess you can get away with anything when you have a monopoly) and awful "buffet" lunch. But, on to the tour portion, which consisted of a golf cart and a map of the island. We were free to go anywhere we wanted on the island (which is, approx 8 square miles) except the private community of Haig Point.

First things first, of course. We hit the beach (actually called Bloody Point after an infamous Indian Massacre). It was very pretty, wide expanse of gold sand, pretty clean (no seaweed anyway) but that murky brown Atlantic water.

And a few of these attractive little buggers..

We walked the beach for a while, found some pretty shells then hopped back in the golf cart for more touring. Jeff was really getting a kick out of driving the cart. Tooling down the road with a Corona, a cigar and a big smile!

We tried to find a few of the shops and landmarks posted on the map but either they didn't exist, were hidden in the woods or we were having a bad map-reading day. For a really small island, it had a labyrinth of roads, both dirt and paved, and they were not well marked.Typically when Jeff drives and I navigate we do pretty well but we were batting a big fat zero yesterday!. No worries though, it was such a nice day and we enjoyed the views of the island itself.
We got back to the Marina well before the required time so we sat a spell and enjoyed watching the local Osprey tend to their nest on top of a near-by boat lift.

We probably would not have done this tour had we known just how far it was (we had been told 30 minutes and almost missed the boat!). By the time we got back home it was almost 7 so we stopped for a bite at a local Scottish Bar. Across the street was...

So Jeff stopped in a found a six-pack of a beer he had in Savannah that is brewed in North Carolina. The rest of the night it stormed so we tucked in. Tomorrow we head to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a few days. We were warned by the couple we met in Savannah to expect touristy crap and crowded beaches so we are prepared for the worst but hoping for the best...a few days by the shore!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Utterly Gorgeous Savannah!

Yesterday we made the "trek" into Savannah. Even the drive to Savannah was pretty but Savannah itself is gorgeous! In my usual cheap-ass fashion, I had found a parking lot on the edge of town (least expensive), next to the Visitors Center (valuable free info) and directly adjacent to one of the DOT stops (free shuttle bus all around Savannah). While waiting for the shuttle we talked with an older couple from Connecticut who were spending a week at their time-share on Hilton Head Island. They gave us some great tips for side trips in the area as well as a crash course in history.I had a rough itinerary planned and soon,  off we went to our first stop, Forsyth Park. Savannah has many "squares" throughout the historic district but this as a large park with a cafe, fountain, playing fields, gardens and stage for concerts. As described on-line, the park is well-loved by area residents. There were groups of Mom's playing with their kids at the playground, a school group on a recess, young men playing frisbee football and many visitors enjoying the "Fragrant Garden", the fountain and the grounds.
Some nice students from the near-by art college volunteered
take our picture.

Magnolias? Not sure, but they smelled great!

      After a good walk around the park and a cup of Joe, we decided to skip the shuttle in favor of walking. It was a picture perfect day and the neighborhoods seemed extremely safe as well as scenic. Savannah doesn't believe in tearing down and rebuilding. The community as a whole refurbishes. There was evidence of this throughout the neighborhoods we walked through. Lots of projects going on and "permits" that were written in an apologetic language (as in "excuse the mess").

Our next stop was about a mile up the street...the Colonial Park Cemetery. The cemetery dates back to the 1700's. Not only historic but hysterical. During the Civil War, Union Troops camped there and in their boredom, recarved dates on the headstones, making fathers younger than their children and wives 11 years old.

The headstone above is for a Josiah Muir who died at age 11, and his wife, Mary, who died 3 years later at age 17 and their son, Lewis,  who died the same year as his 11 year old father at age 12! Pranksters!

After spending a good amount of time viewing this beautiful cemetery, we continued on to the  River Walk along the Savannah River. We stopped for lunch at the 200 year old (building anyway) Boars Head Pub. I had at least 5 things on the menu I would have loved to try (Shrimp and Grits, Crab Soup...) but settled on a Crab Patty Sandwich. Jeff had a Ham and Cheese on muffin smothered in cheesy gravy that was called  "Hot Georgia Brown".
We then wandered up and down the River Walk and stumbled upon probably the greatest cigar shop ever. It wasn't so much the cigar selection as it was the woman running it (for her sister, who she said, pays her with food). She was awesome. Knew her cigars (she started smoking them with her Grandma, who died at 97), was full of southern charm (Jeff was "Baby" and I was "Sweetie"), funny as hell (stories of her Grandma and 10 siblings free of charge) and even "torched" then lit Jeff's cigar for him before we left! The remainder of the cigar was smoked as we finished walking and then we stopped for a brew at Moon River Brewery.
Next we walked to the City Market which is an area of a few blocks with more good restaurants and shops. Amazingly, the only thing we bought the entire day was a beer mug from Moon River and the cigars.

We continued on through the main downtown area and then a few squares, eventually finding our way back to the parking area. I am so glad we didn't pay for one of the tour trolleys as we were able to go exactly where we wanted, when we wanted and got a great view of Savannah on foot!
Across from the parking lot was a pub called The Distillery and since it had been several hours since our last beer and even longer since our last food, we stopped in to find yet another historic building (prohibition era). We sat at the bar and struck up a conversation with the NICEST young man (from North Carolina) who was in Savannah for work (Army Corp of Engineers). He gave us some good tips for our journey into North Carolina.

 A cup of chili and a drink later, we were back on the road. And exhausted...but enjoying every minute in this charming area.

Today was rest day and I also did some long overdue cleaning of window frames and the living room fan (I didn't even realize how grimy it was until I looked up and....whoa!). Things get very dusty and dirty when being pulled down dusty and dirty roads. RV's are NOT airtight so the road grime accumulates quickly. It was nice not having an agenda today and in addition to cleaning, I got our RV repair work scheduled, insurance claim submitted and reservations made for our next two stops. I also made a reservation for our day trip tomorrow to Daufuskie Island. More on that later...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

BP Gets a Boo-Boo

Yesterday morning we left Mims for Savannah, Georgia about 9:30. About 9:45 one of the tires on the BP blew, losing it's entire tread and causing a bit of damage to the BP's living room slide area. We had the same thing happen with our Class C a year ago as we were returning it from Door County. Now this! Unfortunately, a trailer tire hold about 120 pounds of pressure so when they blow...they really blow.
We also are unable to change the tire since you need a special jack to lift 18,000 pounds of vehicle so we had to call on a tire/tow service to A) find us, B) remove the tire, C) take the tire to Titusville so a new one could be placed on the rim and then, D) return and replace the new tire. This took until 2 p.m. at which point, we continued on to our destination. During our wait, I found that the now defunct "Holiday Rambler" is under the Monaco umbrella and repairs can be done in Wakarusa, Indiana. Looks like we have a new destination!
In the end, we actually remained in good spirits and crossed into Georgia a few hours later. We had resorted to making reservations at a KOA (which we are typically not fond of) in Richmond Hill, Ga.

We arrived just before 6 p.m. and whatever we had heard about "Southern Hospitality" has been an understatement. These people are NICE! The campground is lovely, clean and well cared for and the town itself is more of the same....clean and pretty with everything we need near by (read Walmart!).
Our Campsite

One of the camps Swans...this guy is "Crabby Joe"...
He's downright viscious in protecting his girl
and her nest!
Today was wash/errand/clean guns day. Tomorrow, we head into Savannah where I promised Jeff and full day of walking, touring and picture taking. He's thrilled!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Our Last Days in Florida

So I haven't "blogged" since Wednesday...and theres a good reason why. We haven't done a thing! Well, that's not 100% true, but we have done very little.
Thursday we attempted to get in a good bike ride. After searching on-line for a trail, we drove to south Merritt Island where there was a reported "7-mile trail around the Lagoon (and watch out for the Alligators". Couldn't find it. Found a common old city sidewalk that bumped it's way through suburbia but that was not the exciting "Alligator Central" we had hoped for. So we drove to the northern part of the island to a nature preserve where the promise was a "26 mile stretch bordering the Canaveral National Shoreline". OK, there was a shoreline up and over the dunes but riding on a busy road is also not my idea of scenic (or safe).
Friday I told Jeff I just had to see Cocoa Beach. After all, it's where all the astronauts live and surfers surf, right? He gamely accompanied me to what proved to be a very typical, very touristy, very dirty beach town with MOBS of Spring Breakers and seaweed. We basically, looked, lunched and left. Lunch was great an irish pub always is!
Cocoa Beach

Beach bar break

Nolans Irish Pub
The truth is we are just plain tired of playing tourist. We are spoiled by St. Maarten beaches and water and we are sick of tourist beach towns that all look the same and sell the same old shit. So we planned out our remaining two days in Florida very carefully (careful to avoid any more beach towns that is)...
we did NOTHING!!! Unless you count laying by the pool and working on our tans something. Honestly, I did more of that than Jeff but he did get some Xbox time in so I know he enjoyed his leisure time as well.

Too pretty to waste...

One of our little friends