Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #12

Life is either a great adventure or nothing.
Helen Keller

Thursday, March 28, 2019: Departed at 1023 hours from Eagle Hammock RV Park at King’s Bay Navy Submarine Base in Southeast Georgia. It’s a warm and sunny morning as we wound our way through the town of Saint Mary’s heading toward the Interstate. A few minutes into our days travel, a Check Engine Light illuminated on the truck’s Drivers Information Console. Pulling off into a nearby Walmart parking lot, I ran diagnostics on the engine and discovered a DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) trouble code. Arggg, the trial and tribulations of RV travel!?!?

The trucks engine seemed to be running normally, but not wanting to chance the open road with a potential engine problem I called the folks at Eagle Hammock…

…look kind of familiar? As it turned out the office folks hadn’t checked us out, so we were able to return to the spot we had just vacated.

Once safely camped at our original partial hook-up site, I called the local Chevrolet Dealer and explained my problem and how it was impacting my travel plans. Fortunately, the service manager said to bring the truck in first thing in the morning.

 

Friday, March 28 until Whenever, 2019-King’s Bay, Georgia: Up early and off to the dealer where they discovered the same fault codes I had, and said it was a common problem with a General Motors Technical Service Bulletin covering the issue. The good news is that the repairs will be covered by GM, the bad news is that the early DEF model tanks were a high failure item and on backorder. Another piece of good news is that the truck is still drivable, as long as we don’t exceed 100 miles of driving…and if we do, the speed will be restricted to 65 MPH for the following 100 miles, and so on. I guess this process of restricting vehicle speed in distance segments, known as “Limp Home Mode”, is better than in the old days when cars would just up and quit!

So, we have a few bonus days to further explore this fabulous area and to work off the frustrations of being delayed. Towards that goal, Kit and I decided to enjoy an afternoon walk along some of the paths the trails that honeycomb this part of the base.

As we ambled along a base perimeter path, we noticed something slowly moving up ahead…

…yep a geriatric turtle, which was methodically making his/her way toward a marshy area just off the path.

Had this been a roadway, I would have picked the old fellow up and relocated him closer to his destination, but this was a path vehicle restricted so thought he would be just fine making his way leisurely toward the swamp.

As we continued to walk along, Kit noticed some unusual flowering weeds the likes of which we haven’t seen in other parts of the country.

Not a clue what it is, but thought it unique and colorful enough to photograph.

Also photographed another native species that is prevalent in the American Southeast…

…the Saw Palmetto, which grows in abundance in this humid and tropical environment.

In addition, I snapped many photos of the granddaddy of them all…the Live Oak, which is usually hosting a parasitic shrub known as Spanish Moss draped from it’s massive spreading limbs.

The Spanish Moss does not harm the Oak tree, so this symbiotic relationship remains in natural harmonious balance.

Then, occasionally, while walking along one come across the proverbial Snake in the Grass…in this case a harmless Black Snake.

Which slithered away from the path as we approached…much to Kit’s relief.

A few days into our unplanned stay, the nice folks at MWR worked out a way for us to move from our partial hook-up site in the low rent district to a premium full hook-up site fronting the lake!

Where we enjoyed a very nice view…

…and a picnic table to do some barbequing…

…in the warm afternoon sun. Life is indeed good!

During our stay lakeside, there were two days when millions of flying insects hatched out and covered every surface!

They didn’t bite nor bother either of us…

…and the RV Park’s fisherman were glad to see this hatch as it made their attempts at fly-fishing much more productive.

One of our mutual pleasures while on the road is to visit random small towns and walk about to see what we can discover…to this point, one day we stumbled into the town of Darien, Georgia.

This two square mile village of 1,975 folks sits on the Altamaha River and is home to a small but productive shrimping fleet.

Yea, the gathering storm clouds are arriving from the west as predicted…might get wet at some point this evening!

The center of town features the usual storefronts, such as the Turnip Greens Country Market…

…where if they don’t have it in stock, then there’s a good chance you don’t need it!

Darien, being the shrimp fishing port that it is boasts several seafood restaurants, such as Skippers Fish Camp…

…which was overseen by Myrtle the Guard Turtle who held court in a cement pond near the front door.

This coastal restaurant has their own shrimp boat moored riverside…

…can’t get much fresher seafood than having a fishing boat in your restaurant equipment inventory!

Inside Skippers Fish Camp the casual nautical motif was inviting…

… and our window seat was perfect for the two of us.

Kit ordered the Crab cake and Scallops…

…and I went for the Tempura Fried Shrimp…

…both of which were delicious!

After dinner, we strolled along the riverfront and marveled that some of the buildings from Darien’s early days were still standing…

…and others, made of Tabby were slowing losing their battle against mother nature.

Tabby is a form of concrete developed in the 1800’s for building construction. It was developed due to the unavailability of materials to create traditional cement and the high cost of importing bricks to the American Coastal Southeast. Tabby is made from oyster shells, sand, wood ash and water…

…being a bit porous, it was not as durable as other building materials of the time so most Tabby structures were plastered with stucco. However remarkably, when properly maintained, many examples of Tabby buildings remain standing today.

One structure that fortunately did not use Tabby was the Sidney Lanier Bridge we crossed many times during our stay.

This trip, as we approached from the north, I noticed a small park under the bridges approach that provided excellent views of this imposing, and very important structure…as well as an information kiosk adorned with a beautiful mosaic crafted by a local Girl Scout.

Opened in 2003, the 2,500-foot-long cable-stayed bridge is supported by 176 cable bundles containing a total of 484 miles of wire. The Sidney Lanier Bridge replaced an earlier lift bridge that was prone to ship collisions and was also disruptive to vehicle and ship traffic. Spanning the Brunswick River, this new bridge provides vehicle travel on US-17, while commercial shipping glides under the bridge on its way to Port Brunswick.

Returning to our campsite, the storm had largely passed this part of Georgia, but the retreating clouds provided a nice palette for a spectacular sunset…

…an even more special treat as the above phot was snapped looking east! The entire horizon was aglow with a pink hued skyline!

One bucket list adventure we wanted to go on last week but ran out of time was a cruise out to Cumberland Island National Seashore (CINS). So, with this unplanned extension of our stay, we headed down to the waterfront to catch the Cumberland Queen…

…and 45 minutes later we disembarked onto Cumberland Island.

This National Seashore is protected and managed by the National Park Service. Established in 1972, CINS is the largest of Georgia’s Golden Isles and features beaches, sand dunes, marshes, tropical forests, and a few freshwater lakes. As does Baxter State Park back home in Maine, CINS limits visitors to help preserve the pristine nature of the island and to enhance the visitors experience.

There is little development on the island, and one must bring all food and other supplies then ensure all trash is carried back ashore. For the adventurous camper, overnighting on the island is allowed in primitive campsites.

There is an extensive network of trails on Cumberland Island. Although there is a guided motorized tour available Kit and I decided to enjoy the island on foot and selected a loop trail that led from the ferry landing through dense tropical vegetation.

What a magical journey, photographs just do not adequately illustrate this beautiful place.

Walking along the sandy path one has the sense of how it may feel to be marooned on a deserted tropical island!

There are numerous animals that call Cumberland Island home, including these wild ponies we kept seeing grazing in the open meadows.

And this little fellow was spotted scurrying about on the edge of the meadow.

Every few miles there were old buildings with exhibits chronicling the islands past with strategically placed picnic tables for trekkers to rest…

…one of which we took advantage of for our picnic lunch.

At the far south of the island are the ruins of Dungeness Mansion.

In the mid 1980’s, Thomas Carnegie, the brother of steel magnate Andrew, purchased land on the southern end of the island and started building a 59 room estate home.

Photo from NPS

However, unfortunately he died before its completion so his wife finished Dungeness, then later bought more land and constructed homes nearby for the Carnegie children…

..and ultimately the family owned more than 90% of the island.

The last of the Thomas Carnegie family moved ashore in 1925, and the property started to be vandalized and eventually burned in 1959. Today the ruins are protected by the National Park Service as part of the CINS experience.

A couple of delightful young ladies Kit met on the boat and we kept crossing paths with along the hike were Alexa, and her mother Brenda.

Alexa is a newly minted US Army Officer stationed nearby, and her mom was down visiting from New Jersey. It was a pleasure meeting the two of them and sharing stories!

As we left the Dungeness Mansion, the trail led us south to an elevated boardwalk over a vast salt-marsh…

…where panoramic views can be enjoyed in the distance…

…or up close by using the provided binoculars.

The sturdy boardwalk allows one to travel over the marsh, enjoy the view, and watch for any wildlife while keeping your feet dry.

Once off the boardwalk, the trail then led East through the coastal dunes…

…and ultimately to the Atlantic Ocean…

…where miles and miles of pristine and undisturbed beaches lie.

Walking north on the hard-packed sand, we came to a flock of gulls minding their own business…

…until a dufus photographer tried to sneak up on them for a better shot, which caused…

…all heck to break loose…

…as the gulls squealed and squawked while taking flight, scaring the bijous out of the clueless photographer.

A mile up the beach, the trail turned to the west and once again dove into the woods…

…where another serene place of rest was provided.

From this point it was less than half a mile to the ferry landing, where we discovered that the days walk…

… amounted to a lot of steps!

Waiting for the return ferry, one of the National Park Rangers conducted an impromptu talk about some of the items she has collected along the shore. Some of which were not from the natural world and were detrimental to the health of the park’s birds and sea life.

Soon it was time to board the ferry for our cruise back to the mainland.

What a great day exploring yet another of our nations National Parks. If your travels ever find you in Southeast Georgia, do not let this opportunity pass…you will not regret it!

Disembarking in the town of Saint Mary’s, Kit and I decided to walk over to the Riverside Café for dinner where we both enjoyed their signature Greek Salad topped with a freshly made crab cake!

And to finish off the great day, we both chose a great desert…

…creamy Carrot Cake!

Well, this journal has exceeded my self-imposed page length, and the truck is still awaiting repairs…so I close this chapter chronicling our extended stay at King’s Bay, Georgia with an epic sunrise photo.

Good morning and until next time we wish for you the kind of great experiences we have enjoyed…well, except for the truck thing, which if not resolved might just cause us to settle in this beautiful area permanently!

Kit’s Bit’s
Despite the issue with the truck, having an extra few days to explore has been great! One thing Bill forgot to mention, the walk we took where we ran across the turtle, turned out to be a walk around the base! We had gone to find a mostly unused gate to the base and, rather than turn back once we found it, decided to take a nicely paved walk which turned out to be the perimeter around the base! We had no clue where we were going. Turns out, it was a 4 hour walk which logged 13,693 steps covering 5.1 miles on our iPhone Health App! Amazingly, no one from security came along to inquire about what we were up to. One other thing, just in case our kids notice… the photo of me (eating), my Mother’s and Grandmother’s ring is missing. Turns out, I had a bug bite, which caused my finger to swell up. Woke up in the middle of the night and panicked, Bill had to dig out his wire cutters and cut them off before my finger turned blue! This is the second time I’ve had this issue. First was in San Diego in the early 70’s when I was stung by a bee while taking clothes off the line. My finger did turn blue and I had to have my wedding ring cut to get it off.

Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #11


Don’t settle down and sit in one place. Move around, be nomadic, make each day a new horizon.
John Krakauer

Sunday, March 24, 2019: Departing MacDill Air Force Base at 0913 under sunny skies and a temperature of 66 degrees. Hauled the camper back up The Selman Expressway to I-75 and pointed the rig North. We soon found US-301 which took us to I-10. Then, we turned toward the East until intersecting I-95 which we took North crossing the Georgia state line at 1448 hours.

Fortunately, my alert and stalwart traveling companion was keeping track of the sights along the way, as well as watching for our next exit.

Umm, never mind! However, fortunately my alert and stalwart traveling companion completed her biological experiment in determining if her eyelids were transparent in time to alert me of a stoplight looming ahead. And a good thing she did, as I had blown through dozens of stoplights during her outage!

With Kit’s help, I found the appropriate exit and pulled into King’s Bay Submarine Base a short time later.

I guess if Army bases can display tanks and the Air Force their planes, then a Navy base can feature a submarine surfacing from the netherworld! After passing through security, where our camper was thoroughly inspected, we found our way to the Eagle Hammock RV Park…

…and set up in an overflow site for the next four days.

This is our first stay at this RV Park, consistently rated as the top Military Campground on the East Coast. In addition to nice level concrete pads, the park is situated on a beautiful lake.

However, our overflow spot is in the Low Rent District where we park on grass next to a numbered site and tap into their electric and water supply. Oh, and the lake can’t be seen without a 5-minute walk to the fancy spots. However, no complaints as and this is a very popular RV Park and we were fortunate to get in at the last moment!

Monday, March 25 through Wednesday, March 27, 2019-King’s Bay, Georgia: On day one, Kit and I were up early with excited anticipation of our upcoming visit with some long time Maine friends who spend the winter on Saint Simon’s Island which is located an hour north of King’s Bay. Heading out via back roads and over the Sidney Lanier Bridge which crosses the Brunswick River and gives us access to Saint Simon’s Island.

This 7,779-foot-long cable-stayed bridge rises 185 feet above the river and was completed in 2003 to replace the earlier bridge that had been damaged by oceangoing ships unsuccessfully navigating the narrow passage.

Arriving on the island, Kit and I were treated to a beautiful oasis of tree lined streets…

…where residents, snowbird’s and vacationers alike use human powered transportation…

…as much as motor vehicles.

Saint Simon’s boosts a year-round population of 12,743 folks which grows to over 16,000 during the winter months as northern citizens migrate to the many seasonal homes on the island. During its early years, Saint Simon’s Island was covered in cotton plantations alongside groves of sturdy Live Oak trees, which due to the coastal breezes, grew in perfect shapes for utilization in constructing wooden ship’s hulls…including the USS Constitution, the worlds oldest commissioned Navy ship still afloat.

Yes, Saint Simon’s is a beautiful coastal island worthy of exploration, but what brought Kit and I out here where these two fine folks…

…and their faithful pup, Augie.

Tony, a retired Navy fellow, and I worked at the same company during our post military careers. He and his lovely wife Diane have become good friends within a convivial LM Retiree group that enjoys socializing…generally around dinning out!

Tony and Diane spend their winter in a nice condo…

…overlooking a pristine saltmarsh…

…and within a short walk to the Atlantic Ocean…what could be better?

We were fondly greeted and given a tour of their three-story condo followed by coffee and morning pastries in their bright and airy living room. Then Tony and Diane serving as our knowledgeable tour guides, loaded Kit and I into their car and we headed for nearby Jekyll Island.

One of the four Golden Isles of Georgia, Jekyll is owned by the State of Georgia. The humid subtropical barrier island is seven miles long and only one and a half miles at its widest point. Its west shore is primarily tidal marsh, but to its east lies seven miles of beach accessible by crossing one of the many dune boardwalks…

…which lead to wide, smooth, hard packed sand.

Following a nice walk on the beach, we enjoyed a homemade picnic lunch sitting at one of the shaded tables located on a large pavilion overlooking the ocean.

Next stop on our tour was the famed Driftwood Beach.

Technically not driftwood, but rather the bones of formerly vibrant shoreline trees that perished due to their supporting soil being washed away during storms. Driftwood Beach has become a popular spot for young, and not so young, lovers to have their pictures taken.

After enjoying Driftwood Beach, it was on to the renowned Jekyll Island Historic District, home of the iconic Jekyll Island Club.

Constructed in 1886 as a winter retreat for 100 carefully chosen American families whom each paid $600.00 dollars, or $18,273.00 in today’s dollars, to become members.

In its heyday, the club’s limit of 100 memberships provided the very select, and very wealthy, a sanctuary from the more common folks cluttering the island to the north.

Leaving the historic district, our next stop on the tour was Fort Frederica National Monument.

This early colonial fort was built in 1736 by the army of British South Carolina in the “Debatable Lands” area to protect against attack from invaders of Spanish Florida.

Photo from NPS

The ruins were a bit of a walk away, and it was getting late, so we decided on a quick tour of the visitor’s center which featured a small but nice museum detailing the history of the fort and adjacent village that grew up around it.

Leaving the National Monument, we returned to Saint Simon’s Island where Kit and I were treated to a nice driving tour of Tony and Diane’s winter hometown…and what a beautiful place it is!

A return to our host’s condo involved more visiting and reminiscing over cheese, crackers and wine on their backyard lanai.

Now what would a Bill and Kit Adventure with old friends be without dining out? In this case a drive into the village of Saint Simons Island led us to a popular seafood restaurant called Iguanas!

Where their specialty wasn’t Iguana meat, although I would have ordered it had it been on the menu, but what a surprise…Fried Shrimp!

And yes…it was as good as it looks, especially with the great company we had dining with us!

Well, all good things must come to an end, and as the sun set over Sidney Lanier bridge to the west…

…we bid our friends farewell for now!

Thanks Tony and Diane for showing Kit and I your little corner of paradise…

…we had a blast!

Our temporary home in King’s Bay, Georgia is also the East Coast base for the US Navy’s Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) Submarines.

US Navy Photo

The base was established in 1976 on a former decommissioned US Army post. The facility was quickly enlarged and improved to house the fleet of FBM Submarines following their ouster from the American Naval Base in Rota Spain.

As in many military bases since the unprovoked attack of America on September 11th, 2001, King’s bay is a base within a base…meaning the militarily operational portion of the base is protected by fences and armed guards restricting access. However, the more common areas are open to anyone with a military ID and usually feature the shopping areas, barracks, dining halls, recreation fields, movie and bowling facilities, and the RV Parks. And there are usually static displays of the particular bases military hardware such as these Fleet Ballistic Missiles.

The Polaris, Poseidon, and newer Trident weapons displayed are one leg of the strategic deterrent system protecting the US Mainland from attack. Fortunately, these weapons have never been fired in anger, and hopefully never will.

And just outside the sub base lies the quaint little village of Saint Mary’s.

While Kit explored the small downtown areas retail opportunities, I made a beeline for the waterfront where I discovered a small but very well curated submarine museum.

And also discovered that Keith, the museums Executive Director, is a retired Submarine Qualified Navy Chief…

… who underwent similar Navy technical training that I had. He was enthusiastic about his position and very knowledgeable about the US Navy’s Silent Service and the many artifacts his museum has on display.

The museum also featured a Submarine Control Station with an operational Periscope…

…that seemed very realistic to the eye of this retired surface ship sailor.

When Keith heard about my brother Dewey’s submarine service, he looked for a ballcap adorned with the emblem of Dewey’s submarine the USS Tecumseh and gave it to me for him!

Reconnecting with Kit, we walked through the town’s pretty waterfront park…

…to the local seafood joint at Lang’s Marina…

…where Kit and I enjoyed an excellent meal of Tofu on a bed of Kale and fresh Bean Sprouts! Unfortunately, I failed to get a photo of this sumptuous plate, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Well, tomorrow Kit and I once again hit the road. We both thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Southeast Georgia and vow to return for more exploration on a future Excellent Adventure trip. So, as the sun sets over the trees surrounding our campsite…

…we bid you all a pleasant goodnight!

Kit’s Bit’s: Southeast Georgia has been on our list of places to visit for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially our delightful day with Tony & Diane. They graciously set aside an entire day to show us their winter home. What a delightful day! Also, we thoroughly enjoyed Augie, their beautiful dog. Our tour of Jekyll Island and St. Simon’s Island was wonderful. Such a beautiful place with many interesting sights. Many thanks to both of you. We also enjoyed visiting Saint Mary’s, GA. The downtown area had a lot of construction going on; however, we were able to navigate our way around it. We thoroughly enjoyed the Town Park, which is right on the water and a perfect place to rest for a while after touring most of the day.

Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #10


It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves.
Andre Gide

Friday, March 15, 2019: Kit and I departed Palmetto, Florida at 0927 hours under bright sunny skies and a temperature of 72 degrees…

…then chose a variety of back roads to travel north into Tampa, before hooking around to head south on the Selman Expressway towards Port Tampa.

At the extreme tip of the Tampa Bay Peninsula sits MacDill Air Force Base…

…where we found Raccoon Creek Recreation Area and our camp spot for the next four days.

This is our first stay at Raccoon Creek and, regardless of its name, Kit and I did not find one single racoon. However, we did discover a first-rate military recreation facility located next to a beautiful beach featuring panoramic views overlooking Tampa Bay…

…where picnic cabanas are strategically placed along the shore…

…and where a beachside restaurant and tavern called The Seascape sat…

…where live entertainment is often featured during the weekends.

Oh, and since the beach is blessed with an unobstructed view to the Southwest…the sunsets are spectacular!

Believe it’s going to be a relaxing and pleasant stay…goodnight!

Saturday, March 16 through Monday, March 18, 2019-MacDill AFB at Tampa, Florida: The weather was delightful during our stay, warm sunny days followed by cool evenings…perfect! And surprisingly, this US Air Force Base contains an abundance of open land being that it is only a few miles from downtown Tampa…a city with over 385,000 residents! There are trails that lead from the campground to various other recreation facilities…

…such as this fresh water lake…

…which is purported to have a family of alligators somewhere in its depths, but the only wildlife I noticed were the many songbirds living amongst the pine and oak trees…

…which could be heard but I never spotted them.

On one fine pleasant day, Kit and I attempted to visit the illusory town of Del Boca Vista and visit the infamous Hanging Chad Museum. However unfortunately the museums founder, Mr. Frank Costanza, had closed it down…so we drove out to see Honeymoon Isle Instead.

Now a Florida State Park, this once private island is located off the coastal town of Dunedin. The island was once owned by wealthy industrialist Mr. Clinton Washburn who in 1939 built several rustic thatched huts…

Photo from Google Images

…and offered them to newlyweds for up to a two week stay, free of charge. All the honeymooners needed do is to write a letter to Mr. Washburn explaining why they should be chosen for this honor. Over 200 couples enjoyed his hospitality until the onset of WWII when the program was stopped, and the huts fell into disrepair. However, for the next dozen years Mr. Washburn kept in contact with all the couples and there had been no divorces, which today helps brand Honeymoon Island as a magical place for young lovers to visit.

Driving into the Honeymoon Island State Park on a narrow paved one-way loop road…

…brings the visitor to many secluded beaches…

…with unique vegetation…

…and the occasional four-legged residents…

…some of which were quite shy!

Then there was an abundance of two-legged residents…

…living amongst the many wildflowers…

… growing in the most unusual places.

As mentioned, the state park has many easily assessable beaches that go largely unused. However, there is one large beach area with a massive parking lot, snack bar, beach equipment rental and…

… hundreds of vacationers attempting to get away from it all. The proverbial Herd Mentality at its best.

Following our visit to Honeymoon Island, Kit and I returned to the base campground for evening cocktails and yet another spectacular sunset!

Goodnight!

Well, it’s been a few pages without mentioning food, yea I’m surprised at that as well! So, here is one dining opportunity we enjoyed in coastal Clearwater which is accessible by a bridge from the mainland…

…that led us to Frenchy’s Salt Water Café, where…

…their source of fresh seafood is just a few feet away…

…and their specialty being Grouper…

…which Kit and I selected to have fried and in sandwich form. It was some of the best Grouper we have ever enjoyed! And a shout out to the folks that recommended we visit Frenchy’s, our friends David and Betty…thanks guys!

On the way back to the base we were caught in commuter traffic, a bit of a mild nuisance to us retirees. But the slow speed did allow Kit and I to enjoy some of the highway landscaping…

…that most folks just whiz by at breakneck speed.

Once back at our campsite…guess what? Kit and I walked down to the shore to view yet another stunning sunset!

Goodnight!

Well, this morning, the day before Kit and I were to depart MacDill AFB and head over to the East Coast of Florida, we received word that some Maine RVing friends were inbound from the south. And, since we’ve not been close enough to co-camp with them over the years…it was quickly decided that we would stay here for a few more days.

Tuesday, March 19 through Saturday, March 23, 2019 – MacDill AFB at Tampa, Florida – (extended stay): Woke to more beautiful Florida weather…sunny and rising temperatures! Spent the morning lounging about and working on the journal. Shortly after the noon hour, long time Maine friends Vince and Candy arrived at MacDill and set up in a site next door.

We have known this pleasant couple for over thirty years…

…ever since the day that Vince, a fellow Navy retiree, joined the group at Lockheed working at Maine’s Bath Iron Works.  They also arrived along with their dog Jake…

… a beautiful animal and a seasoned traveler in his own right!

The next few days were spent walking the beach and along the wooded paths bordering the campground, or just sitting, eating, drinking, and enjoying each other’s company.

One morning Vince, Candy, and I walked over to the Seascapes for a complimentary breakfast as the sun rose in the East.

Sponsored by Morale, Welfare & Recreation (MWR), the folks that manage the campground and Marina, put on this feed as a “Thank You for Staying with Us” event.

The chow line featured eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, and the best homemade biscuits I’ve enjoyed in quite some time!

Following breakfast, Vince and Candy decided to take Jake for a walk down a wooded path, and invited me along…

… toward the pond I had visited a few days earlier. Along the way we spotted these nesting pairs of Osprey….

…but did not notice any young ones about, however.

Once at the pond, Candy and I climbed the observation platform…

… and enjoyed the early morning view which included…

… some waterfowl wading in the placid waters.

Returning to the campsite, the four of us spent the day visiting and enjoying each other’s company, followed by a great barbeque meal hosted by Vince and Candy featuring plenty of adult beverages.

While sitting around camp, Jake took a liking to Kit which she thoroughly enjoyed…

… partly because Jake reminded her of Finny…

… our Great-grand-dog back home in Maine

And of course, as nighttime fell, there was yet another sunset to enjoy.

Goodnight!

Vince and Candy winter over in Key West, and over the years have amassed a huge circle of Key West camping friends, some of which have returned to their summer places up north in the Tampa area. While we were at MacDill, Candy arranged for those folks to join us at the Seascapes Lounge for the traditional Friday Crab Leg and Shrimp Boil.

Kit and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting these fine folks and sharing camping stories over an excellent meal.

Now, that’s a lot of food…and I ate every morsel…and it was incredibly delicious!

Back at the campsite we all sat around, having a few drinks, and visiting until it was time once again for the sun to set in the West…

…and a gorgeous sunset it was…goodnight!

On the final day at MacDill for Kit and me, we hung around the campsite, taking care of some maintenance chores and doing laundry followed by an afternoon of visiting with our neighbors. Then that evening, the four of us walked down to the beach and enjoyed one final Tampa Bay sunset, an image made even more special by these lovely ladies!

Goodnight Vince and Candy, its been a blast camping with you, reliving old times, and meeting some new friends…I think you’ve convinced us to visit Key West again and thanks for that as well! But for now, Kit and I will pull chocks and start heading north in the morning…stay tuned for Chapter Eleven of our 2019 Excellent Adventure.

Kit’s Bit’s: We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at MacDill AFB and spending time with Vince & Candy! Lots of laughs, memories and shared camping experiences, both good and, not so good! Thanks to both of you for such an enjoyable visit. As we wander around Florida, the northern part, we’ve seen lots of neat places and discovered some cool places to spend time during the winters. We still need to check out the southern half of the state, mainly Key West, one of these winters, which happens to be the first place we lived after getting married and where our oldest daughter, Kimber was born. Stay tuned…😊

Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #9

In life, it’s not where you go, it’s who you travel with
Charles Schulz

 

Friday, March 8, 2019: This morning we depart from Country Aire Estates in Dade City, Florida following a thoroughly enjoyable week camping and chuming around with our Maine (no pun intended) friends Jeff and Catherine.

Departed at 1053 under sunny skies and a balmy 80 degrees with a light wind. Found our way to US-301 which we took to the south before intersecting with I-75.

Ninety minutes later we merged onto I-275 North and within another ten minutes pulled off the Interstate into the town of Palmetto, and our base for the week…Fiesta Grove RV Park.

Where we set up in a small lot amongst mostly mobile home style units.

This older park is like many in Florida as it features lots for rent on an annual basis, so folks can anchor a park model trailer or some other type of small manufactured home and attach so called Florida Rooms for more living space. Not the nicest park of this type we’ve stayed at, but the residents are pleasant, and the park is neat and clean…it’ll do for the week. And even in this landlocked park, the classic Florida sunsets can be enjoyed over the surrounding homes.

Goodnight!

 

Saturday, March 9 through Thursday, March 14, 2019-Palmetto, Florida: Decided to come down to this area in order to spend time with some Maine expatriates…Sterlin and Pat.

Although Maine natives, these dear friends decided to become residents of The Sunshine State and then reverse snowbird back home where they reside in a beautiful lakeside cottage.

Their new hometown is in Ellenton, Florida where they have a nice place in a 55+ retirement community called Colony Cove…

…which is a large community of neat and tidy manufactured homes, such as theirs…

…and features numerous swimming pools…

…exercise rooms, ponds, community centers, and access to the Manatee River

…which flows to Tampa Bay and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico. All in all, a perfect place to relax for the discriminating snowbird, primarily winter weary humans, but the other type of snow-bird as well…

…such as the Sand Hill Cranes shown above.

While in the area, we enjoyed a lot of activities…and of course food was paramount! To this point, the four of us met up with Betty and David, another couple of Maine expatriates who live full time in a nice community an hour north.

This time, I chose the meet up place, and I selected…

…Ford’s Garage, a regional chain of comfort food joints with a heavy theme of the iconic Ford Model A.

In addition to the cars, the place was decorated with dozens of Model A parts and engines.

Even the lavatory had distinctive automotive touches.

I think everyone enjoyed the ambiance, companionship, and food.

I know I certainly did!

Yep, that’s a fried egg on that burger, and note the use of a shop towel for napkins and the hose clamp for the napkin ring…automotive themed to the tiniest detail!

 

Even though we spent time enjoying the company of Pat, Sterlin, Dave, and Betty…they have lives and previously made plans, so Kit and I took the opportunity to explore areas they get to see on a regular basis, such as Emerson Point Preserve…

… located on a peninsula that juts out into Tampa Bay….

…and features many small private beaches…

…divided by Mangroves…

…a shrub that grows in salt water and creates a habitat for numerous shore birds and aquatic animals.

 

On one day that Pat and Sterlin were free of other obligations, we met up at the nearby South Florida Museum located in Bradenton.

Where the history of the ecology and inhabitants of this region were on display. However, surprisingly there were no dinosaur bones in the museum. That’s when I learned that when these giant reptiles roamed the earth, Florida was mostly underwater!

A special mission tasked to the museum is the rehabilitation and reintroduction to the sea of sick or wounded Manatees.

The Manatee is a large aquatic mammal that eats primarily vegetation. Also called Sea Cows, or locally as Chubby Mermaids, the Manatee can grow to 13 feet long and weigh over 1,300 pounds. They graze in shallow water making them frequent victims of boat strikes…hence the need for rehabilitation centers. Manatees primarily reside in the ocean, but visit fresh water sources in search of food, and to help lower the level of salt in their bodies.  See, even Chubby Mermaids are health conscious!

We enjoyed touring the museum, but now it’s time for lunch…yep, there’s always time for food! So off we went to Pier 22 Restaurant, surprisingly located down the street on pier 22.

Where we enjoyed more visiting and some of Florida’s excellent seafood!

 

One morning in town, Kit wanted to explore Anna Maria Island, a peninsula that juts out into the Gulf of Mexico south of Saint Petersburg…so one foggy morning we set off. However fortunately by the time we reached the causeway leading to the island the fog began to lift.

This seven-mile-long barrier island is partly a bird and sea turtle sanctuary. However, the main industry in the village of Anna Maria is tourism, with quaint little shops and restaurant’s lining the main street of Pine Avenue.

While Kit shopped, I rambled about in search of photo opportunities, and came across a small historic district with a few unusual structures.

In 1927, Town Mayer Mitch Davis built this open-air jail to temporally house citizens and tourist who became overly inebriated and set about disturbing the peace. The doorway, windows and roof were originally all steel bars, which allowed the voracious nighttime mosquito population to enjoy a feast and teach those incarcerated an unforgettable lesson…rural justice at its best! A proper jail was constructed on the island years later and this one was painted with catchy slogans as a tourist attraction.

Next to the old jail was this handsome cottage.

Known as Belle Haven, it was originally built in 1920 with similar cottages on the town pier as tourist lodging. However, six years later a major storm battered the pier and all the buildings were swept into Tampa Bay where most broke up and washed ashore as firewood. Local legend has it that Belle Haven remained intact and floated into a protected part of the bay where a guest emerged and walked ashore. The cottage was soon sold to a local for $125.00 and he relocated it on the island as his residence.

The Gulf side of the island features miles of sugar sand beaches…

…where many pale snowbirds…

…strut about enjoying the warm sunshine.

What would a Bill and Kit exploration trip be without food? On this day, we learned of a quirky local hangout called Ginny’s and Jane E’s.

A repurposed IGA market, the Café, bakery and gift shop has a loyal following and serves some great breakfast and lunch fare.

Which one enjoys at antique tables surrounded by funky wall art.

An interesting dining and visual experience!

On another day in town, Kit and I accompanied Sterlin and Pat to the nearby Tampa Power Company generating plant…

… to see if any Manatee’s were being drawn upstream by the warm discharge into the sea by the outflow of cooling water from the plant.

Sterlin and I walked out into the bay via a long pedestrian walkway but…

…alas, no Manatee’s, just these Mullets cavorting about under the pathway.

Sterlin did point out several areas where the surface water was being disturbed by some sort of aquatic creature, he surmised they may by Manatee’s, I’ll take his word for it.

Returning to the visitor’s center, we encountered a touch tank that contained several Manta Rays…

…which seemed to like being stroked by humans, as whenever they circled the tank and came near a person, the Ray’s rose and slowed to allow touching…their skin felt a bit like rubber.

Returning to Colony Cove to enjoy snacks and retrieve our truck, I noticed this nice sunset down the street from Pat and Sterlin’s place.

Goodnight!

 

Woke to overcast skies and we (I) decided it was a good day to see some collector cars. Like Southern California there is a vibrant car culture in South Florida with many unique automobiles on the road, and plenty of upscale car dealerships and museums about…one of which I toured while Kit engaged in some local retail therapy.

Located in the resort town of Sarasota, the museum is the result of one man’s passion that outgrew his ability to store his collection at home. As a result, this building was constructed in 1952 and is recognized as the second oldest private car museum in the nation.

With over 75 automobiles on display and about that many in storage or undergoing restoration, the collection is very eclectic with examples of some interesting vehicles…such as this 1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt.

Ford wanted to get back into drag racing, and rather then support a team, decided to produce their own drag cars. Only 100 of these factory racers were produced, each with a 427 CID engine and dual four-barrel carburetors which produced a whopping 600+horsepower. The car was lightened by deleting all parts and accessories that were not essential to its purpose which rendered these cars ineligible to be registered…however a number of them did find their way to public streets.

The museum also has some unusual one of a kind automobiles, such as this 1937 Gougeon Streamliner.

This odd-looking car was hand built as a prototype by a wealthy business owner in Michigan. The aerodynamic body was placed on a donor chassis with the drive wheels in front and the Ford Flathead engine in the rear. In the 1930’s, there was a push for modern looking fuel-efficient cars and several prototypes were cobbled together in backyard garages…many, like this example, never evolved beyond the experimental stage.

Another futuristic car in the collection is this Shark Roadster.

Designed in the early 1960’s by Industrial Designer and Florida resident Henry Covington. The roadster, along with a companion coupe called the Tiburon, was recognized in 1963 as the most aerodynamic automobile in the world. This notoriety encouraged Covington to go into production, and ultimately build twelve automobiles before his untimely death which caused the company to fold.

Other cars in the collection that found wild success were those produced by more established automotive manufactures in the 1950’s and 1960’s…such as this 1963 Cadillac.

Which received fancy pinstriping and a flame paint job during its restoration.

At the collections other end of the spectrum, size wise, was this diminutive 1957 BMW Isetta.

Which held a special place in my heart as my mother owned a version of this strange vehicle whose only door was in the front. The five-foot-long car weighed under 800 pounds and was propelled by an anemic 18 CID motorbike engine producing 13 horsepower. The small and lightweight car allowed my brother and I, along with a few other teenagers, to lift the car and place it in some unusual locations…much to the chagrin of my mom.

An historic vehicle in the collection is this 1922 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.

Once owned by John Ringling of circus fame, it accompanied him via railcar to circus venues through the United States. A unique Rolls, it was assembled in a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts from parts shipped over from England which cost far less in import tariffs than shipping a complete automobile.

Then there was this 1959 Bentley…

…which was designed and painted for The Beatles to use during their later US tour’s.

I really enjoyed seeing these interesting classic and antique automobiles, but it was time to fetch Kit and find somewhere to have lunch…yep, food again!

The downtown portion of Sarasota is neat, clean, and nestled on the shore of Sarasota Bay…

…where the highly rated restaurant Marina Jacks is located on the waterfront, and since the overcast had cleared, that’s where we decided to eat.

Since it was the classic blue-hair hour of 1500 hours, we were able to score a nice window table overlooking the marina, Jack!

So, what did we order from the menu? Well, Kit choose a large salad with grilled Salmon…

…and I went with the Alligator Tacos!

Both meals were excellent, and by the way…alligator meat doesn’t taste like chicken either!

And, for desert we each selected Key Lime Pie.

Which was every bit as good as the offerings we enjoyed in Key West many years ago!

After dinner, Kit and I walked about the boat docks a bit where I noticed this vessel was for sale…

…so, I decided to take a closer look. Gently used, and only $3,440,000.00 I quickly deducted that I could probably afford to make an offer on the American flag flying proudly from the stern…however, I doubt the yacht broker would be willing to sell it separately.

Yep, Sarasota Harbor is replete with high end yachts…

…and the local police department has a nice vessel parked at the ready as well!

Walking back to the truck we passed the valet lot for Marina Jack’s and spied this high-end beauty.

A late model Rolls-Royce which likely cost more than my home!

Being there was still daylight, and considering we were in the area anyway, Kit and I decided to take the bridge over to Longboat Key…

 …where we visited Coquina Beach…

…another unspoiled coastline with soft white sugar sand and where…

…near-do-well beach bums tend to hang out

There is a lot of money in this part of Florida, and where the rich and famous reside one finds many high-end automobile dealers. However, if the moneyed set want something more unique and classy, they head for Vintage Motors of Sarasota…a classic and collector car dealership where the “Deal of the Day” routinely sits out in front to lure prospective buyers, and tire kickers, into their showroom.

Just inside the dealerships front door rests this beauty! Woodies, such as this1940 Buick Estate Wagon, are my personal favorite type of antique automobiles.

This gorgeous fully restored wagon is one of only twelve documented 1940 Buicks know to exist and therefore demands a purchase price of $195,000.00.

Of all the expensive collector cars in inventory, there were a few more pedestrian models on the showroom floor such as this 1966 Ford Bronco Roadster.

This version of Ford’s venerable Bronco 4X4 came with no top or doors, although both were an option, and the windshield could be folded flat to the hood for a true open-air off-road vehicle. The fully restored Bronco had a price of $49,000.00…ten times its cost when new!

At the other end of the price spectrum was this 2006 Ford GT.

The Ford GT was inspired by the GT-40 race car of the mid 1960’s that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans four years running. This street version was designed with the assistance of Carroll Shelby and sold in 2006 for $139,000.00. The mid-engine 330 CID supercharged power plant produced 550 horsepower for a 0-60 time of under four seconds. The sticker on this beautiful, well cared for vehicle, with under 500 miles on the odometer, is a mere $369,900.00.

Another rather unusual sports car for sale was this 1956 Bangert Manta Ray.

Designed by a 20-year-old Noel Bangert to be made of fiberglass and dimensioned to fit on many European sports car frames of the day, the Manta Ray was likely the first Kit Car. This restored example, of which there are only four known to exist, is offered for $49,000.00. As an interesting side note, Noel Bangert got out of the car business, moved to Hollywood and entered the movie industry…to his credit is the classic horror film The Exorcist.

Then there was a rather plain looking Mercedes sitting on the showroom floor.

This 1979 Mercedes-Benz 300TD with a turbo-diesel power plant was the last vehicle owned by John Lennon and was not for sale.

My personal favorite vehicle, that was for sale, is this 1941 Chrysler Town and Country…know as a “Barrel Back”, for obvious reasons.

Wood bodied station wagons of the late 1940’s were viewed as upscale vehicles and demanded higher prices, so many auto manufactures added wood paneling to their passenger cars as well.

With only twenty-three examples of this vehicle know to exist, this gorgeous and extremely rare example is listed at $384,900.00…making it the most expensive vehicle on the showroom floor.

Well, it’s time to close this chapter of our Florida adventure, but not before thanking these two fine folks for their companionship and decades long friendship.

Thanks, Sterlin and Pat…looking forward to seeing you around the Lake District this summer!

And lastly, one final sunset that didn’t fit anywhere else, but I wanted to post it…so here!

Goodnight!

 

Kit’s Bit’s: Well, other than “tagging along”, (and, occasionally escaping) looking at cars, we had a wonderful time with Pat & Sterlin. It was great to see their winter home and meet some of their friends. We went to an auction at the Club House which included dinner and was fun. We also spent a lot of time catching up on things which we haven’t had much time to recently. Spent some time with David & Betty, too. Catching up on things in their life and remembering old times when we first met, in 1977. Each of our 3 kids are about the same ages as their 3 kids, so, it’s always nice to catch up on their activities.