Friday, March 29, 2013

We Are Home

It was a hectic 22 days.  The trailer was great.  Visiting family and friends was great.  However, there’s no place like home.

We were going to stretch the trip out one more day but the RV park we planned to stay in Illinois was not what we expected when we got there, so we got out of “Dodge.”  There were no other campgrounds along our route that were open along our route.  Opening day for campgrounds north of Springfield seem to be April 1. So we drove twice the distance we normally like to travel in a day, traveling from Sikeston, MO,  469 miles to home.

The drive was uneventful, which is good.  Our gas mileage on the second half of the trip was not as good as the first. I will post facts and figures after I have crunched the numbers.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Photo Odds and Ends

Hurricane bracing at the Apalachicola Estuarine Research Reserve.

Slash and burn to make way for new construction.

Osprey at Fort Pickens.

Our campsite at Fort Pickens.

Fellow camper and his wife were flying this dragonfly kite at Fort Pickens campground near us.

Later that day several people were flying kites on the beach.  This is one of those kites.

Colorful homes in Pensacola Beach.

Space ship house in Pensacola Beach.

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Ferris wheel in Pensacola Beach.

Joe Patti’s Fish Market, Pensacola Beach.

The boys on the back of the sofa.


Sand “drifts” on the road in Ft. Pickens.P1040292
Armadillo in the park.


Wildlife near the fishing pier in the park.


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Here is an oddity in Pensacola—Back-in Angle Parking.  We have never seen anything like it.

Unique architecture always fascinates us.  We are always on the lookout for dome buildings as we once lived in one.  This building is the home of Jerry’s Catfish House, somewhere in Alabama or Mississippi.

First Leg Home

This portion of our journey home took us through the westernmost part of Florida and the southern tip of Alabama, before we began making our way in a northwesterly direction toward Jackson, MS and I-55.

The morning in Fort Pickens began clear and cold. There were freeze warnings for that night in the Pensacola area, but we did not see any evidence of frost. We were on our way by 7:30 a.m. and said goodbye to the Gulf of Mexico and what appeared to be the calmest surf of our time there and Pensacola Bay, which had it’s usual white caps.  We could feel the wind as we crossed the bridges to the mainland and were hoping that once inland the winds would diminish.  That did not happen. We had the worst mileage on our trip today—a paltry 9.7 mpg. Up to now the lowest we ever had was just above 11 mpg. A very strong headwind and hilly terrain were the cause.

We took I-10 west out of Pensacola. Just west of Mobile we took U.S. 98 northwest to Hattiesburg, MS where we picked up U. S. 49. Our route took us past the USS Alabama in Mobile and through the I-10 George Wallace Tunnel under the Mobile River.  The decent and ascent into and out of the tunnel are steep but the tunnel is not really very long and we were through in no time.


We are spending the night at Movietown RV Park in Canton, MS, just north of Jackson.  When we called for a space yesterday, they told us that the park is mostly work campers so we really didn’t now what to expect.  However we were pleasantly surprised.  They run a “tight ship” and the park is neat, quiet and roomy.  Most of the RVs here appear to be newer and there are a few small park models scattered throughout. There are about a dozen camping cabins available. It certainly is not a destination park but as a stopover for the night, it is great.  All spaces are long level gravel pull-throughs  with 30 and 50 amp service, water, electric and sewer at each site. I certainly would recommend this park if you are traveling through the area and need a space for the night.

Since Winter just will not let the Midwest out of it’s grip, we called ahead to check on the availability of Thursday night’s campground in Lincoln, IL, where a few days ago they got 11” of snow.  They are plowed out and the snow is melting so that is good.

Monday, March 25, 2013

To the Mainland

As I explained in my previous post, we decided to postpone a visit outside the park due to possible road flooding. We made that trip on Sunday.

Sunday was  beautiful, warm and sunny, the first really nice day since Friday.  Everybody was out and about.


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After driving east out of Pensacola beach to Opal beach, we headed to the mainland. After we got on to the approach for the Toll Bridge off Santa Rosa Island and Pensacola Beach, we found incoming traffic was bumper to bumper and we were beyond the point of no return.  Out going traffic was a breeze. Well there was nothing to do but go and have a good time and hoped that when we were heading back, traffic may be less.

We had two goals. To go to Joe Patti’s Seafood Market and have lunch at McGuire's Irish Pub, both recommended by friends.  We first went to Joe Patti’s Fish Market.  I do not like the smell of fresh fish, so the initial assault to my nostrils really hit me. 

Joe Patti’s is a full service fish market, deli, gift shop, sushi bar and restaurant.  We didn’t buy fish but we did buy some crab spread which they packed in ice for us, and a loaf of French bread.  The restaurant is closed Sunday and Monday but we did stop at the little trailer out front where we purchased freshly-made beignets.

Our next stop was McGuire’s Irish Pub, a steakhouse and brewery.  To add to the atmosphere, over one million dollar bills cover the ceiling.  It was a sight to see.


We did experience bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way back.  The traffic was backed up all the way to the mainland.  There are two bridges, totaling 4-miles of bridges and causeway.  This is where my cup-half-empty side showed itself.  When these bridges/causeways were designed, did they anticipate bumper-to-bumper traffic?  Just wondering.


Approach to the Pensacola Bay Bridge.


On the Pensacola Bay Bridge/causeway.

After we got back to the trailer we walked the dogs and checked out the new neighbors.  This is a large campground with over 200 sites and every morning folks leave and new folks come in.  It is fun to watch the parade of campers coming in and out.  Saturday we watched two guys set up their tents in the high wind.  They got them set up and they even stayed put.

A funny thing happened on one of our dog walks.  Funny to me anyway, after the initial shock of course.  I was walking Quark in a spot that we have walked many times already when he stepped on something.  My first thought was fire ants, however we they really have not been an issue as it has been too cold. My next thought was some other of Florida’s heinous critters. So when he let out a yelp and was holding his paw up, I went to examine it and saw something dangling from his foot.  I screamed before I really knew what it was.  After a closer look it was a 1/2 x 1” section of prickley pear cactus stuck in one of his pads.  I quickly had it plucked from Quark’s foot and all was well again.

Later Tom wanted to go fishing, so I went along.  There is a free fishing pier on the bay side of the island.  Earlier in the day a guy caught a 4 ft. shark.  All Tom caught were some sunfish-like fish, which he threw back.  He was just there to have fun.  The pelicans were trying to get the fish as you threw them back.


I took this photo of a particularly handsome pelican waiting near the pier for discarded fish.



As you can see in the above two photos, the pelicans get quite close to people if they think they can get a meal.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rainy Day and Fort Pickens Tour

I an sorry to say I have become a cup-half-empty person.  In the past I was a cup-half-full person, but in my dotage I have become more negative. So, that said, here’s why I say that this time around.

I was really looking forward to staying at Fort Pickens. Being on an island with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Pensacola Bay on the other and using it as a base for other activities. However, island life has it’s challenges.

Take the recent potential for severe weather.  In an RV you are always more susceptible to the whims of nature.  How many times have you seen news stories on TV about campgrounds being ravaged by winds, tornados or even floods? We carry a weather radio with us to use if we don’t have TV reception and we keep an eye on weather reports so we know if bad weather is coming.


The forecast for Saturday was severe thunderstorms with the potential for high winds, large hail, possible tornados and inches of rain.  Yikes!! During storms Fort Pickens Rd. may flood.*  Yikes, Yikes!!!!!.  Would we be stranded in the campground? Would we be stranded outside the campground?  How long would we be stranded? The camp hosts said that roads could be closed up to three days if they would flood. Yikes, Yikes, Yikes!!!!!!!!!!!.  We hung around the campground and decided to visit the fort and take the tour as I was afraid we would get stranded out of the park and the dogs would be locked in the trailer.


As luck would have it, we toured with a group of Cub Scouts.  The ranger guide gave an excellent tour for the kids. We learned a lot, too, however there was no opportunity for us to ask questions.   Our guide said we could come back as they give tours every day at 2 p.m.

Well, I must say that the storms were insignificant.  A little thunder and some rain showers, but no wind or hail. What a relief.

* Here is the official statement by the park:  “Santa Rosa Island is a dynamic barrier island that changes naturally over time.  When sections of the Fort Pickens Road were reconstructed in 2009, it was designed to accommodate vehicle access to the park with minimal disruption to the wildlife habitat and natural processes that make this island special.  Thus, the elevation of the road is very low and, therefore, subject to periodic flooding.  This may occur at least several times a year, especially from storm surge, or when above average high tides, coupled with strong southerly winds, push water onto the road.  Flood events will range from minor instances around the time of high time—where visitors would be forced to drive through some shallow salt water to get to or from Fort Pickens—to significant over-washes, where the volume of water and sand deposited on the road may cause impassable driving conditions for days or weeks. When the water recedes, the sand will be removed from the road with heavy equipment and the road will then be inspected for damage . . .If we anticipate that a flood event will likely result in a closure of the road, or if water actually starts to overwash the road, we may evacuate the campground, cancel reservations and close the Fort Pickens Area altogether.  This may be done on very short notice. You must be prepared to leave on short notice.”

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Visiting Friends

Friday we ventured out to visit our friends Steve and Dianne who winter near Foley, AL.  The ride was to take about an hour and twenty minutes. It did take a while longer.  We ran into some road construction that delayed us for about 20 minutes.  Next we took a wrong turn, and another wrong turn and finally had to call Steve for directions.  Steve stayed on the phone until we found him.

The park they are in is really nice with large spaces, wide roads and long pads for parking your RV.  Friends Jerome and Bonnie have their 5th wheel parked right behind Steve and Dianne.  We did not see Jerome and Bonnie as they were not home.

They took us to lunch  in New Hope, AL.  Steve's birthday was coming up so we told our waitress and she brought him chocolate cake, ice cream with whipped topping  and four spoons.  Ummm, ummmm.

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On the way back to their park, I happened to mention that I didn’t get any boiled peanuts so far this trip.  Just at that moment we were approaching a place they knew that sold peanuts. We managed to get the last bag of boiled peanuts they had. 

We returned to their park and said our goodbyes.  We took the southern route, which took us along the beach front in Alabama and Florida.  Traffic was heavy through the touristy places but at least there was no construction.

It was good to see Steve and Dianne.

Later I ate too many boiled peanuts and had a tummy ache.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. George Island and Beach Strolls at the Campground


Entrance to the Blue ParrotP1040088


Across from the Blue Parrot in a storefront Catholic Mass is offered at 8:30 a.m.


Lighthouse museum on St. George Island

We took a few hour trip to St. George Island about 20-miles away to go to the Blue Parrot.  I had a fried scallop basket and Tom had fried oysters.  I think I got the better deal.  I tasted the fried oysters and didn’t like them.  Adjacent to the newer causeway are portions of the old one.  On the mainland side a long section remains that is now used as a fishing pier.  We stopped there and took these photos.


At the old causeway bridge fishing pier

Next we stopped at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve.  “The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 245,766 acres of public lands and waters in the Florida Panhandle”  There are educational exhibits, aquariums with local fish and turtles and a large mural depicting river, bay and gulf habitats.




Part of the mural

Saw dolphins after supper today in the water in front of our campground. There is constant activity in the water and in the air around our campground we have seen Clapper Rails, Swallow-tailed Kites, Bald Eagle, Plover (unidentified sp.) Brown Pelican, a variety of Gulls and Terns. In the water we could see crabs (like the hermit variety) and shrimp.

Making Our Way Along Florida’s Gulf Coast

We left Bradenton Monday morning and began heading toward Pensacola.  Our first stop was to be Old Town, FL and Old Town RV Park & Retreat.  We selected this one because it was a Passport America Park.  With a $50 Passport America membership you get 50% off at participating parks.  We have made up the $50 membership fee and then some already. 

Well the Old town RV Park & Retreat was okay. We had cable and WiFi, as well as water and electric. While it wasn’t exactly what we are accustomed to it was very quiet and the owner and other campers were all very pleasant.

Tonight we are staying at Ho-Hum RV Park, in Carrabelle, FL.  This is not a a Passport America park. It is right on the beach as you can see from the photo below.  The beach is not very wide, but it is beach.  There is a very long fishing pier.  Dogs are welcome on the beach here, which is nice. For other dogs.  Quark tries to roll on anything washed up by the tide, the smellier the better. Harley is afraid of the water and waves.  Surprise, Surprise.P1040072P1040073P1040075P1040076

ho hum rv park 

We were going to go on to Mexico Beach to another Passport park but when we called to get a space the office lady said do you have a slide because the only remaining spot was tight.  So we saw Ho Hum on the way and we decided to see if we could get in.  They had one two-night space left and we took it. 

Tomorrow we will head out to explore.  We had a restaurant recommendation from our neighbor here, The Blue Parrot Oceanfront CafĂ© on St. George Island.  We will go there for lunch.  We’ll see what else we find.