Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #16

 

Monday, April 29 and Tuesday, April 30, 2019-Scranton, PA: This city of 78,000 folks lies in the Lackawanna River Valley of Northeastern Pennsylvania. It was historically famous for its abundance of Anthracite Coal which led it to becoming a major industrial city and a railway hub for the region. So, it’s only fitting that the National Park Service chose Scranton for its National Historic Site devoted to early railroading…called Steamtown.

The genesis for this historic collection of railroad artifacts came from the collection of Nelson Blount, a wealthy business owner from Bellows Falls, Vermont. His private museum, which he named Steamtown U.S.A., was eventually donated to the National Park service and moved to Scranton. Since the cities “Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railyard” was still in operation it provided the infrastructure to create a world class museum complex.

Situated on 63 acres the site includes a restored and repurposed roundhouse and houses many historic passenger and freight railcars from the Blount collection, as well as a number of additional acquisitions.

In addition to a visitor’s center and movie theater, there are various interesting displays and railroad artifacts within the restored 1902 roundhouse…

…such as this cutaway of a 1923 Baldwin Locomotive which shows the inner workings of a typical steam engine.

The centerpiece of the roundhouse is a fully operational turntable…

which allows museum pieces to move between the central display area…

… and the restoration, repair, and maintenance stalls of the roundhouse.

As in most National Park facilities, there are ample opportunities to get up close to the historic displays…

…and allow your inner child…

… to shine!

Guided access was also allowed inside the repair and maintenance shops contained within the roundhouse…

…where huge industrial machines allowed the repair or refurbishment of the museums rolling stock.

On a railcar most everything is massive, requiring very large examples of common tools such as this four-inch diameter drill bit!

Parts and pieces for the oldest components of the museum’s railcars are difficult to come by, so any usable items removed from a scrapped car are kept for possible use in a future restoration project.

And out in the “boneyard” lay locomotives…

…boxcars, and other rolling stock…

…waiting their turn in the restoration queue.

I’ve learned from my friend Jeff, an avid railroad buff, that railroad locomotives are generally classed by their wheelset configuration. So, four leading wheels, followed by six drive wheels, then followed by four trailing wheels would receive a classification of 4-6-2.

A 4-6-2 locomotive currently undergoing restoration is an artifact of the Boston and Maine Railroad.

From Google Images

Old number 3713, built in 1934 by the Lima Locomotive Works, was later named “The Constitution” as a result of a contest by New England schoolchildren and is undergoing a fundraising campaign to help finance the restoration.

This 81,000-pound steam locomotive operated throughout New England for over twenty-five years before being put out to pasture. Following its restoration, the old workhorse will once again be under steam and join the fleet of the museum’s excursion trains taking visitors on short trips around the area.

Nearby, “The Constitution’s” six-and-a-half-foot drive wheels are refurbished and ready for assembly when the locomotive frame is competed.

Another survivor waiting for some attention is the Union Pacific 4012, known as “Big Boy”.

A 4-8-8-4 class locomotive, the “Big Boy” weighs a massive 1,250,000 pounds making her one of the world’s largest steam engines ever built. As such, it is too large and heavy to fit inside the roundhouse so is slated to be left original, made mechanically sound, and return to operating condition.

Kit and I enjoyed a great day of immersion in railroading history. However, we had one additional stop before returning to the campground. The former Scranton Train Depot has been restored and repurposed into a high-class downtown hotel and, it’s open to the public.

We took a walk through the ornate lobby…

…and envisioned the many passengers that strolled through…

…this classic former railroad terminal.

Well, it’s been a nice stay in the Scranton area but tomorrow we start heading home, by way of Rhode Island, where our grandson CJ who is a first-year university student.

 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019: Up and on the road before 0800 under cool and overcast skies. We wound our way south of Scranton in order to avoid the morning commuters and merged onto interstate 380 heading south. Within a few minutes a car pulled up alongside us and motioned that we had a problem with the camper. Thinking it was a blown tire, I pulled onto the aptly named break-down lane…

…walked back to the camper and discovered a tire was indeed missing, as well as the wheel rim, as well as the brake drum, and part of the brake assembly…

…Yikes!

Now, how does an RV’r not feel, hear, or see such a catastrophic malfunction? In hearing other RV’rs similar tales of woe, and reporting the same phenomenon, it appears to be very common!?!? Dual axel trailers are designed to suffer loss of a wheel and still safely support the load, at least for a short while…thank God for the good Samaritan that warned us!

So, what happened? It appears the outer wheel bearing failed causing the wheel assembly to slide off the axle spindle. Not sure why, all four wheels were professionally maintained just five months ago, the undamaged inner wheel bearing showed plenty of grease, and I had just checked the torque and the integrity of all four wheels a few days ago. In the immortal words of Forrest Gump…Stuff Happens!

Calling roadside assistance resulted in the nearest available mechanic arriving in a converted school bus chocked full of tools, machines, equipment, and parts.

Jim quickly realized there was little he could do roadside, so he called a friend nearby and received permission for us to park at his large bus/truck storage yard. With Jim’s large yellow school bus behind, we limped our three-wheel camper safely off the interstate. At the storage yard, Jim carefully surveyed the problem and decided the failure of the wheel bearing damaged the axle spindle and proceeded to remove the axle right then and there.

So, we are now on two wheels, and four leveling jacks, which pretty much makes us residents of this community until an axle can be located. Fortunately, Mel, the gentleman that owns the lot…

…along with his partner Diana…

…also own a nice café on the premises, which serves delicious breakfasts and lunches.

Mel and Diana turned out to be good old down-to-earth folks and are the nicest people one is likely to meet! They quickly realized the stress level of our ordeal and adopted us into the community of café regulars making us feel welcome and secure. There are parts of this country that would react differently to travelers in distress by taking advantage of their plight for their own personal greed. However not only did Mel and Diana provide us a secure place to camp but refused to take anything in return!

 

Thursday, May 2, 2019-Moscow, PA: Spent the day attending to laundry, fueling up the truck, lounging about the camper, and packing for our motor trip to Rhode Island. Yep, were still going…wouldn’t miss an opportunity to see our grandson!

 

Friday, May 3, 2019: Up early, grabbed some coffee from the café, said goodbye to Mel and Diana, and hit the road by 0700 hours…leaving the camper behind felt a bit odd after all these years of pulling it around the country.

Traveling on I-84 East we crossed the Hudson River at Newburgh, New York 45 minutes later, then an additional hour found us intersecting the state line of Connecticut. After a few rest stops, one of which included breakfast in Southbury at the Laurel Diner, we arrived in Rhode Island at 1222 hours, and at our motel shortly before 1300.

Since Chris isn’t expecting us until tomorrow, Kit and I grabbed lunch at a nearby restaurant and took a drive about the area. With the weather being overcast, cool, and a bit drizzly, we decided to cut our tour short and return to the motel and just veg out.

 

Saturday, May 4, 2019-Rhode Island: Today was devoted to spending time with Grandson, CJ…a first-year college student.

The weather was cool and overcast, but fortunately no rain! CJ gave us a tour of his beautiful campus…

… and as we strolled along, he brought us up to date on his life away at the university.

We had hoped to meet CJ’s girlfriend Shileigh, but she was out of town for a track meet, so we will look forward to seeing her this summer up in Maine.

Located in a rural area, the school grounds are large and park like…

… with very colorful landscaping.

Following the tour, we were getting a bit hungry so, decided to visit CJ’s favorite restaurant…”The Thirsty Beaver”.

Where we continued to visit and enjoy each other’s company over some excellent tavern fare.

It was great visiting with CJ and seeing his campus. This summer he has an internship up in Portland, Maine so we hope to spend more time with him then.

 

Sunday, May 5, 2019: Up and enjoyed a nice complimentary breakfast at the motel before heading back to Pennsylvania. We basically retraced our route and, other than a few rest stops, made steady progress toward the west, arriving back at our disabled camper by 1400 hours.

 

Monday, May 6, 2019-Moscow, PA: This morning we learned that our configuration of axel would have to be custom made by Dexter and that it would take a few weeks for construction, testing, and shipping. So, over breakfast at the Café we broke the news of the delay to Mel and Diana and were told to not worry about it, we could stay for the summer if we liked…what great folks! So, Kit and I decided to spend the day loading as much stuff in the truck as would fit and take off for home in the morning.

 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019: Up early, stopped in the café for a big breakfast, said our goodbye to Mel and Diana, and hit the road for Maine. But before we departed, since they wouldn’t take payment we asked if we could bring anything back for them. To which Mel, who by the way loves to visit Maine, replied; “Yea, bring me an issue of Uncle Henry’s Weekly Swap It or Sell It Guide”.

Shutting down our campers’ systems, and locking everything up, we bid it goodbye…

… confident in the knowledge that Mel would look out for it as he does for the school buses and long-haul trucks that we share space with.

On the road at 0855 hours under cloudy skies and a temperature of 64 degrees. Made our way on the standard highways and interstates that Kit and I have traveled so many times in the past, however this trip seemed a bit odd in that we had nothing in tow.

The eight-hour trek to our home did give us ample opportunity to review this year’s Excellent Adventure and we came to the same conclusion. All in all, it was an enjoyable trip with opportunities to explore parts of the country we had not been in for some time. Our only regret about staying east of the San Antonio River was not being able to see our youngest daughter and her family in Las Vegas and our friends and family in Tucson and San Diego.

On many former trips we usually select a musical number that becomes that year’s official road song. Past selections have been Willie Nelson’s-On the Road Again, Woody Guthrie’s-This Land is Your Land, Kenny Chesney’s-American Kids, The Eagles-Take it Easy and The Beach Boys-Fun, Fun, Fun. However, as we motored along sans camper, a Kenny Rogers tune popped into my road addled brain.

So, with apologies to the former front man for The First Edition, here is my version to this year’s road song:

You picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel
With four tires on the road
And heading for the adobe
We’ve had some fun times
Lived through some sun times
But this time your failure won’t heal
You picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel

So, with that to keep us amused, a few stops at full featured rest areas, and a break for a fast food lunch, we eventually encountered a familiar and welcoming sight.

Then as is tradition, I pulled off the interstate after we crossed the Maine state line in order to pay a visit to Kittery Trading Post for some walking around time…

…and to enjoy some authentic Maine seafood at a nearby clam shack.

Back underway at 1627 hours, we made our way north on I-95 and 80 minutes later arrived at our summer abode. Whew, what an experience this past week has been…sure feels good to be home!

 

Kit’s Bit’s: This week’s adventure was certainly unexpected! Traveling around the country as we do, you just never know what can happen. We are very thankful there were no injuries and that our hosts were so welcoming and allowed us to leave the camper in their lot while it was being fixed. Also, we thoroughly enjoyed having our meals at the restaurant! During our stay there, at least I didn’t have to worry about meals and kitchen clean up. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with CJ! He is very happy at school and doing well. Hard to believe he will be 20 in September! Where does the time go?

 

Here are the statistics for our 2019 Excellent Adventure:
Length of Trip: 124 Days
Total Distance: 8,885 Miles
Total Fuel Used: 703.3 Gallons
Average Fuel Economy: 12.40 MPG
Highest Diesel Fuel Cost: $3.56 in Pennsylvania
Lowest Diesel Fuel Cost: $2.44 in Texas
Highest Camping Cost with Hook-up’s: $61.93 in Fredericksburg, Virginia
Lowest Camping Cost with Hook-up’s: $18.00 in Blora, Texas
Average Camping Cost: $24.90 per Night
Freebie Camping: 8 Nights, “THANK’S FOLKS!”

 

And the cumulative statistics covering the past eleven years:
Total time on the road: 1,563 days
Longest trip: 207 Days
Shortest trip: 99 Days
Total distance traveled: 127,388 Miles
Total fuel consumed: 11,905 Gallons
Average price per gallon: $3.35
Average cost per night for campsite: $25.84
Average spent on campsite fees and fuel per year: $6,720.00
Number of nights camping for free: 311
Lowest elevation visited: -279 feet at Bad Water Basin, California
Highest elevation visited: 11,158 feet at Vail, Colorado
Lowest temperature experienced: 26 degrees at Coconino National Forest, Arizona
Highest temperature experienced: 102 degrees in Globe, Arizona
Number of states visited: 46, only Rhode Island, Washington, and Alaska remain.
Number of National Park Unit’s enjoyed: 86
Number of Canadian provinces visited: 4-Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
Number of Excellent Adventure Journals issued: 264
Number of hits on our webpage: 136,746
Number of address’s in group notification email list: 206
Number of folks signed up for notification of release of latest journal: 76
Number of comments from readers: 2,095
Top commenters: Randy R, Chet G, Pat C, and Nancy G…Thanks Folks!

 

A quick postscript. The trailer is repaired, and we will likely head back to fetch it sometime next week…wish us luck!

Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #15

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.
Joseph Campbell

 

Monday, April 22, 2019: Up early and departed our campsite at the Short Stay Military Recreation Facility, Moncks Corner, South Carolina under sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 60’s. Before making it too far had to make a quick stop at the campground’s wastewater station.

This is one of the better designed dump stations we have come across in our eleven years of RV part-time living. Plenty of room, accessible from either direction, and sloped just right to ensure a quick and efficient evolution. It also should be noted that, due to the rather large capacity of our wastewater holding tanks, we were able to live in our camper for eight days without needing to use any of the campground’s restroom or shower facilities…gotta appreciate the efficiency of “Navy Showers”!

Back underway at 0800, we followed Lucy, the GPS, as she directed us down a series of country roads basically heading toward the north.

Meandering through one small town, Kit was delighted to see this colorful Bookmobile…

…likely bringing the thrill of reading fine books to some remote South Carolina town.

Lucy eventually found our way to US-17 which hugs the U.S. Eastern shoreline and then continued North through Huntington Beach State Park and the resort town of Myrtle Beach. Shortly before noon found us crossing the North Carolina border, and within another 90 minutes, pulling into Southport where we queued up for the NC Ferry System ride across the Cape Fear River.

Being a larger vehicle waiting to be loaded on a medium sized ferryboat, we garnered our own lane to wait the ferry’s arrival, and then were one of the first vehicles to load…score one for us!

The NC Ferry System is Americas largest fee-free ferry organization and is managed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. It connects the states coastal byways across various bodies of water, mainly to the islands of the Outer Banks.

The MV Southport we were on is one of the newer ferries in the system. At 180 feet long and a beam of 44 feet, she can carry up to 44 automobiles and over 300 passengers.

As we pulled out of Southport for the 35-minute transit…

…we were offered a bon voyage by some local residents…

…who had an ulterior motive for their friendly attention to our boat…

…as the rotating props in the shallow river churned up a lot of delicious edibles!

Midway across the river, I happened to notice that our GPS was dutifully keeping track of our voyage.

Which provided a unique image and indicated the boats speed of 9.5 MPH…however, our indicated elevation of 33 feet above sea level was a bit suspect!

Arriving at the debarkation point of Fort Fisher, we rolled off the ferry and made our way north…

…a few miles to the town of Kure Beach, NC where we pulled into our home for the next few days…

… Fort Fisher USAF Recreation Area and set up in their nice spacious campground.

Then, following a nice meal, a walk about the area, and a nightcap, we turned in for the evening.

Goodnight!

 

Tuesday, April 23 and Wednesday, April 24, 2019-Kure Beach, North Carolina: Woke as the sun was rising over the beach front homes a block east of our campsite.

Kure Beach, pronounced “Cure-e Bee-ch”, is an oceanside town of a mere 2,000 year-round residents, that swells to ten times that number during the peak summer tourist season. Due to its relative isolation and the strict zoning laws, Kure Beach has not succumbed to the overbuilt touristy enclaves that plague so many coastal towns but primarily consists of privately-owned cottages…many of which are brightly painted.

The small downtown of Kure Beach is quaint and very walkable with beautiful flowers along the sidewalks…

…which lead to a municipal fishing pier at the foot of the main drag of Atlantic Street…

…where one can capture panoramic views of the coastline…

…and enjoy the warm ocean breezes!

However, things were not so tranquil last September when Hurricane Florence ravished the Atlantic coastline with 100 MPH winds. The resulting six-foot storm surge inundated this low-lying area and washed away a significant amount of beach sand. Today the US Army Corps of Engineers is undertaking a massive $17,000,000.00 remediation project…

…to dredge over a million cubic yards of sand from offshore…

USA/COE Website Photo

…and deliver it via large diameter pipes to help restore approximately 3.5 miles of eroded public beach…

…which they then sculpt to a normal beach terrain using heavy equipment…a process the government calls “Oceanfront Nourishment”.

As you can imagine, seafood joints are the restaurant of choice in Kure Beach, and one that came highly recommended was Jack Mackerel’s Island Grill…

…where we enjoyed an excellent dinner…

of locally caught Flounder!

At the southern tip of Cape Fear lies the Confederate stronghold of Fort Fisher.

Where fortifications guarded the entrance to the Cape Fear River, a major strategic point during the Civil War in that it protected the port city of Wilmington, North Carolina 17 miles upriver.

A small museum staffed by knowledgeable docents greets the visitor and provides a glimpse into the life of the soldiers and sailors that manned the fort. In addition to military artifacts behind glass cases…

…there was an opportunity for the public to touch and inspect some fragments of cannon balls found near the fort…

…and I was surprised by how heavy these relatively small pieces were!

Walking around the grounds of Fort Fisher…

…one notices the stunted and misshaped coastal trees…

…which is a direct result of the near constant onshore winds in this area, which also…

…makes for some great kite flying!

Kit and I thoroughly enjoyed this, our second visit to Kure Beach, North Carolina…

…but tomorrow it is time to pull chocks and continue our journey toward the Northeast!

 

Thursday, April 25, 2019: Woke to another spectacular sunrise…

…and following breakfast broke camp and headed up Cape Fear under sunny skies and temperatures in the 80’s.

Kit and the GPS soon found our way to Interstate 40 and we soon crossed the southern border of Virginia. We rolled through Richmond at 1507 hours, and 90 minutes later found us pulling into the KOA Campground in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Since this is to be a quick overnight stop, I kept the truck and trailer connected and didn’t bother to extend the leveling jacks.

After dinner, and a walk about the small but nice campground it was time to call it a night.

 

Friday, April 26, 2019: On the road by 1000 hours and headed north on I-95. Our fellow RV’ing friends Vince and Candy advised us on a great way to bypass Washington, DC which added a few miles to our transit. It was far more enjoyable driving through the lush countryside of Virginia
than the congestion headaches of DC.

Kit and I enjoyed a pleasant and uneventful day as we rolled through the Shenandoah Mountains while making our way toward Interstate 81.

Shortly after noon we crossed into West Virginia, and a few minutes later clipped the corner of Maryland before entering the State of Pennsylvania. At this point, we decided to stop for the night in the small mountain town of Tremont, PA and located Echo Valley RV Park.

Setting up for an overnight stay…

…I once again did not bother to disconnect!

 

Saturday, April 27, 2019: This morning, over breakfast, Kit and I decided to remain another night at this rustic campground in the hills of central Pennsylvania. Judy, shown at left in the below photo, is a former Mechanical Engineer who gave up the corporate rat race and purchased this campground a few years back.

The gentleman to the right lives in the park and is the campground caretaker. Both he and Judy were very friendly and down to earth…we had a great time getting to know them both.

The park borders a pleasant stream which was running at capacity due to snow melt and the spring rains that had recently moved through this area.

A great place to rest and enjoy a day off the road!

 

Sunday, April 28, 2019: Up to gloomy skies and, following breakfast, we were on the road by 1040 hours winding our way through the countryside…

…as we headed back to I-81 North.

The interstate was in even rougher shape than when we passed this way a year ago!?!? If one moves over to the left passing lane, the road surface is a little better…but in the travel lane that we generally use due to our moderate speed, it can be very rough as this is the same lane that all the long-haul truckers use and is pretty darn beat up.

Nearing Frackville, Pennsylvania we encountered dense fog, and noticed the temperature had dropped to 41 degrees…a might bit cold for us snowbirds!

By midafternoon, we were nearing the city of Scranton and decided to pull in for a few days, as I had wanted to visit a National Park Unit in this city for some time now. Locating a campground that had just opened for the season, we pulled off I-81 and wandered northwest through farming country.

Yep, that’s a dirt road we are on, and a not very wide one at that! Also, the low hanging branches added additional battle scars to the sides of our camper. Oh well, such is the plight of the adventurous RV’r.

At 1454 hours, we pulled into Highland Campground and set up on a nice secluded campsite…

…bordered with an iconic stone wall.

These types of walls are scattered through the Northeast and are the result of early settlers clearing the hardscrabble land in order to build cabins and clear an area for vegetable gardens. In later years, the walls became official land boundaries and were surveyed as such. In more current times, as land was sold off and surveys were conducted with modern GPS enabled equipment, many boundary lines were either gapped by a segment of no-man’s-land or were shown to overlap other owners’ boundaries which created disputes…some of which continue to this day.

Up next, a visit to Steamtown National Historic Site, our nation’s premier railroad era museum complex where some of the most important and historic railroad artifacts are housed.

Ones that helped American grow, prosper, and provided citizens a quick and comfortable method of travel…in fact, many of our National Parks were initially serviced by the railroads. So, join us next time as we explore this vast complex dedicated to the early days of railroading and the rather exciting, not so excellent, “adventure” of our final push home to Maine.

Kit’s Bit’s: On that note, our peaceful and somewhat predictable roving lifestyle took a “turn”. Stay tuned for the final phase of our trip. So far, it’s been a very nice getaway, a bit different than our routine jaunt out to the Southwest. The scenery has been beautiful, I love all the green trees and spring flowers. We were finally able to spend time in a few places where we had lived (and never were able to explore) and some new places along the southeast coast.

Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #14

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, April 14, 2019: On the road at 0910 hours heading up the Eastern Seaboard on Interstate 95. We then crossed the Savanah River two hours later which delivered us to the State of South Carolina. After a lunch and rest stop at their welcome station, we diverted a bit northwest on US-17 through Goose Creek and into Moncks Corner, SC.

Finding the military recreation facility of Short Stay, Kit and I pulled in just as the winds began to pick up which churned up Lake Moultrie.

Even with the strong winds, we were able to set up camp on a nice secluded site

Kit and I hunkered down for the afternoon until the wind abated and then strolled down to the lakefront where we enjoyed a nice sunset.

Goodnight.

 

Monday April 15 through Sunday, April 21, 2019-Short Stay Military Recreation Area, Moncks Corner, SC: Woke to cool but sunny weather and following breakfast Kit and I took a walk about the campground and recreation facility.

Short Stay is a Joint Base Charleston facility operated for the benefit of for our military personnel and their families.

In addition to the campground, there is a convenience store, a marina, as well as rental cottages, lakeside condos, and two large assembly halls. The nice beach features a swim area and a separate beach for those who bring their personal watercraft.

However, on this preseason morning, there were only these two beachgoers that braved the elements to paddle about.

Based on their posture, I suspect the odd duck facing left is a democrat…and, the odd duck staring to the right is likely a Republican.

Since we spent a week camped at Short Stay, and since the western view across Lake Moultrie provided some very nice sunsets…

…and since I really enjoy photographing the sun as it dives toward the horizon…

…I captured photos most every evening which I intend to scatter throughout this issue.

 

Kit and I were stationed in Charleston back in the late 1960’s…in fact that was where our son Joe was born. In those days, we didn’t have the time, finances, or frankly interest in exploring this historic city…well, this week, that is to be rectified.

Founded in 1670, Charleston is the oldest city in South Carolina. With a population of 134,875 folks, it is known worldwide for its rich history, well preserved architecture, and southern hospitality.

As in many east coast cities, the downtown streets are very narrow.

Now, couple that with our fairly wide truck and it makes for some interesting maneuvering…at one point, I had to fold my mirrors in to clear the trees to the left.

Oh, and Charleston still maintains some cobblestone streets to add to its historic character…

… and it also helps verify your vehicles shock absorbers are functioning properly.

Within the confines of downtown Charleston lies the City Market.

Built in 1807 as a place for farmers to sell meat and produce, Charleston Market now functions as commercial retail space similar to Boston’s Quincy Market. Covering four narrow blocks near city center, the market caters to the tourist traffic and features crafts, souvenirs, food, and various street vendors pedaling traditional handmade items from natural materials…

…such as this young man with flowers made from palm leaves.

And handmade Sweetgrass Baskets one of which Kit selected to purchase…

…or prints of paintings depicting the area, such as this intown Charleston scene that I chose to buy.

And, what would a Bill and Kit daytrip be without us seeking out an unusual dining establishment…like Charleston’s Five Church Restaurant.

Housed in a repurposed church, this interesting eatery retains most of the architecture and ecclesiastical details both outside and in…

…including the vaulted ceiling and the iconic stained-glass windows both of which give the establishment a glimpse of my Sunday mornings as a child. If today’s church’s also featured a bar, I would probably attend more often.

On the massive ceiling, the owner had a local artist hand letter the entire book by Sun Tzu titled The Art of War.

An ancient Chinese tome from the 5th Century BC, the book details ways to win, not by armed conflict, but by outsmarting one’s enemy. Translated into many languages, and published worldwide, the philosophy of Sun Tzu is studied to this day. In fact, it has been reported that US Army General Norm Schwarzkopf and football coach Bill Belichick have both drawn inspiration from passages in The Art of War.

The lunch menu at 5Church consisted mainly of tavern style food…

… but the plates were plentiful and the food very tasty.

A great day was spent in an iconic and historic southern city, but it was time for us to head back to the campground. As we motored the 30 miles toward Moncks Corner, Kit and I agreed to schedule a return visit before leaving the area. And, as an added bonus to this fine day, we arrived just in time to enjoy another spectacular sunset!

Goodnight!

 

In the town of Monks Corner, there lies an interesting museum of regional history.

Featuring exhibits of local historical figures, such as Francis Marion…known as The Swamp Fox.

Serving as a US Army Colonel during the Revolutionary War, he was credited with developing creative military tactics that later became known as Guerrilla Warfare.

There was also a large exhibit on the history of Moonshine in the area.

At one point during prohibition, the State of South Carolina decided to reap some benefit from the illegal liquor trade by passing a law requiring the bottling of booze in state supplied containers and sold only at state dispensaries.

Today, these South Carolina liquor bottles are highly collectable with some rare examples reaching $10,000.00 at auction.

In front of the museum is a replica of the CSS David.

Built for the Confederate States Navy during the Civil War, the David is a semisubmersible vessel featuring a long spar protruding from the bow with an explosive charge at the tip. In its first combat action, the CSS David slipped into occupied Charleston Harbor under cover of darkness and rammed the Navy ship USS New Ironsides. The explosion did little damage to the much larger warship, and the resulting plume of water from the blast rained down on the David extinguishing its coal fired boiler and causing the boat to lose propulsion. Little is known of the ultimate fate of the CSS David, but it can be partially credited for the later development of the PT boat of WWII fame.

Back at camp, it was cocktails and evening snacks as the sun dove into the placid waters of Lake Moultrie.

Goodnight!

 

Since Kit loves cities, and I just sort of tolerate them, we frequently meander off toward our areas of interest…in this case, I wandered across the Cooper River via the Ravenel Bridge, a 13,200-foot cable-stayed bridge…

…to visit Patriots Point, a maritime complex featuring decommissioned Navy vessels now operated as museum relics, which is a bit disconcerting as I remember serving with a couple of these ships!?!?

One of which is the storied aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown (CV-10).

This Essex Class aircraft carrier was built during WWII and served for thirty years with a brief decommissioning prior to the Korean War.

Moored just astern of the Yorktown was the USS Clamagore, a Guppy Class diesel powered submarine that also served our nation for thirty years…primarily as a US Navy training ship.

Unfortunately, due to the high cost of maintaining a waterborne submarine and the lackluster interest in it by the public, it has been decided to tow this veteran to sea and scuttle her. However, she will continue to serve under the sea as an artificial reef helping marine life find shelter and habitat.

Over the years I have toured and written about many Navy museum ships, mostly submarines, aircraft carriers, and battleships, so therefore I only spent a brief time on the carrier and sub displayed here at Patriots Point. But having an opportunity to walk about a classic WWII era US Navy destroyer was the highlight of my visit to this museum complex.

Why, you may ask? Well, the USS Laffey (DD-724) is similar to the destroyers I served on during my 22-year Navy career. As the saying goes…“Haze Gray and Underway”, which was true as the destroyers I served on made many overseas deployments to the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, Asia, South Pacific, Northern Europe, the North Atlantic, Caribbean, and ports up and down both coasts of the United States.

The Laffey is a Sumner Class ship, and one of the last remaining all gun destroyers…in other words, these ships were well suited to shore bombardment since they had not been updated with guided missile systems.

The Laffey’s Main Battery is the venerable 5”/38 caliber gun, of which this destroyer has six.

As soon as I walked aboard, a flood of familiarity engulfed me as I was instantly transported back to age 18 running through the narrow passageways on the way to my assigned battle station during the myriad drills that occurred day and night.

My primary job on these Tin-can’s, was as a Sonar Technician.

Where we stood a four-hour watch searching the oceans depths for anything of military interest…primarily submerged submarines. However as in many of the smaller Navy warships, the crew had multiple other duties…member of the firefighting team, damage control team, gun mount crew, repel borders team, security detail, and other duties as the mission might dictate.

Two of my destroyers, the USS Robert H. McCard (DD-822) out of Charleston, and the USS Hamner (DD-718) from San Diego, deployed to the South China Sea and were assigned to the Gun Line off the coast of Vietnam.

Since the Tonkin Gulf was fairly shallow, and since the enemy submarine threat was virtually nonexistent, my division of Sonar folks were reassigned to other duties. Even though we were trained in the operation of the .50 Caliber Machine Guns, of which the ships possessed four, our primary assignment was as members of the Shore Bombardment Team. And in that capacity, the equipment I operated was available to view, in all its enigmatic glory, deep within the bowels of this museum ship.

The Mk-1 Able Gun Fire Control Computer was developed during WWII. This 3,000-pound electromechanical monster would make ballistic calculations for aiming and firing the 5”/54 guns.

There were twenty-four manual inputs into the Mk-1 which were manned by a team of operators clustered about the device…with todays digital electronics all these inputs, and many more, are automatically fed into the modern Naval Gun Fire System’s computers.

Inside each gun mount a team of 13 sailors, some of which were from my Sonar division, were manually loading 55-pound projectiles atop 28-pound powder cans before each gun firing.

Even being manually loaded, a well-qualified gun mount crew could only pickle off a round every 10 seconds or so…todays 5-inch mounts are unmanned and due to automation are capable of a 2 second rate of fire.

Navy Gun Destroyers were deployed to Vietnamese waters primarily for shore bombardment in support of USMC/USA ground operations. The relatively short 10-mile range of the 5”/38 caliber gun required the destroyer captain to hug the shoreline, or sail into bays or up the larger rivers. Although not heavily reported by the press, Navy Gun Destroyers were engaged in combat with Vietcong Shore Batteries. But fortunately the Vietcong guns had limited range of movement and all our coastal navigation charts noted the danger zones so the only counterbattery we experienced was when the ship approached these danger zones, which was rare.

While continuing to explore the old familiar spaces of the ship, I eventually made it up to the Signal Bridge…

…the highest manned deck on a destroyer. As you can see, we are still significantly below the flight deck of the Yorktown across the pier. When our ship would depart the gunline and cruise out to Yankee Station, we would come alongside the carrier to receive food, water, supplies, movies, and most importantly…mail. During those underway replenishments, we were about the same distance from the carrier as the photo above depicts. And while 100% of our focus was the underway replenishment evolution, the carrier was also engaged in launching and retrieving aircraft while also nursing another Destroyer on her port side.

I really enjoyed walking around this old war horse and meeting the volunteer docents, many of which were of my generation and served on similar ships…it was truly a nostalgic walk down memory lane.

While I toured the Navy ships of Patriots Point, Kit enjoyed walking about downtown Charleston…

…where she visited the historic Slave Mart.

Ryan’s Slave Mart was built in 1859 by city councilman Thomas Ryan. It is a 67-foot by 19-foot brick structure where newly arrived Africans were held until the next scheduled slave auction. The Slave Market was utilized until February 1865 when the Union Army occupied Charleston and freed the remaining Africans being held there.

More than half of all Africans brought to America entered through the Port of Charleston and nearly all the servants and workers in Charleston were indentured servants from Africa. During this era, the ownership of slaves was a mark of stature and class and frequently, even wealthy citizens of color, known as freemen, kept slaves.

Kit and I thoroughly enjoyed another interesting and educational day in this southern city we lived in so many years ago. And to top it off, as we returned to the campground…you guessed it, another sunset!

Goodnight!

 

Another historic site near Charleston we had too long delayed visiting is Fort Sumpter, the site of the first shots fired in the Civil War.

Located in Charleston Harbor a visit requires a ferry ride from the town of Mount Pleasant.

Work on the Fort Sumpter was begun in 1829 and was still incomplete by the time South Carolina succeeded from the Union.

The newly formed Confederate Army fired on the Union fort as the citizens of Charleston strolled to the waterfront with picnic baskets in hand to enjoy the show. The Confederates eventually succeeded in taking the fort which remained in the hands of the south throughout most of the Civil War.

Under responsibility of the National Park Service, Fort Sumpter National Monument houses park rangers and interpretive guides who provide history lessons throughout the day.

This ranger was particularly entertaining as he told the history of Fort Sumpter and the soldiers that were stationed there.

At some point during the Civil War, the ground level of the fort was filled with beach sand as an added barrier to any Union soldiers that breeched the brick outer walls. This enhanced fortification was very effective as a few holes were blown into the fort and Union soldiers attempted to crawl through only to encounter the heavy wet sand. As this sand was excavated by the park service, many artifacts were uncovered including rows of cannons.

These newly discovered historic artifacts are undergoing preservation to ensure that they will not decay further.

Also discovered during the restoration were cannon projectiles imbedded in the fort walls.

These were left where found as a visual historical marker of the intensive battles that raged at Fort Sumpter during the Civil War.

While in the area, we decided to visit Fort Moultrie a short distance away. Also, under the auspices of The National Park Service, it is one of the few remaining examples of a once long string of coastal defense forts constructed along the Atlantic shore.

Built by the colonists shortly before the Revolutionary War, Fort Moultrie has the distinction of serving as a military fort for 171 years! A lot of the museum pieces are similar to displays we have seen at Fort Clinch in Florida, and the recently visited Fort Sumpter. However, as a strategically positioned fortress guarding the entrance of Charleston Harbor, Fort Moultrie was manned during WWII and the restored artifacts from that era were particularly interesting.

In addition to the more modern gun batteries, the fort also featured a US Navy observation platform with signal lamps, spotlights, and signal flag lockers.

Kit and I had an interesting and educational day exploring these two historic forts, but it was time to eat…so we sought out the highly recommended Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island for a meal and liquid refreshment.

History records that Edgar Allen Poe was stationed at Fort Moultrie, and when on furlough used to enjoy visiting the taverns in nearby Sullivan’s Island. In late 1827, Poe took inspiration from the area and penned the words to his classic novel The Gold Bug. His namesake restaurant features great tavern fare as well as photos and mementos of the great writer.

After a great meal, Kit and I returned to the campground where, yet another nice sunset was enjoyed!

Well, this ends our enjoyable stay in Coastal South Carolina where history abounds and the locals are extremely courteous, accommodating and friendly. And, where some of the prettiest sunsets can be enjoyed.

Goodnight!

 

Kit’s Bit’s: I extremely enjoyed our visit to Charleston, SC. We lived in that area from August 1966 to April 1970. During that time, we had 2 small kids and Bill was away most of the time I was able to manage things on my own during those years but rarely able to get out beyond the necessities, such as Dr. appointments, grocery shopping etc. The City of Charleston was quite interesting, and, I hope to return sometime in the future.

Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #13


Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures.
Lovelle Drachman

First, a few notes:

  1. Kit and I have arrived safely, sans camper, at our Maine Home…no pun intended.
  2. Our camper decided to breakdown in Northern Pennsylvania…more on that fiasco in a future journal.
  3. All in all, Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure was a great trip!
  4. We are over three weeks behind on documenting our travels. However, with Kit’s judicious note taking, and my hundreds of photos, we have the resources for at least another two journal editions…so, just pretend we are still on the road.
  5. Now back to your irregularly scheduled edition of Bill and Kit’s 2019 Excellent Adventure, Journal #13

 

April of 2019:  Well, Kit and I are still at the Submarine Base in King’s Bay, Georgia awaiting parts to return the truck to full operation…in other words, without the limiting speed restrictions! So, our immediate plan is to take advantage of this unexpected delay in our travels and further explore this fascinating corner of America! Towards that end, Kit and I headed out one morning to travel a bit north and explore Sapelo Island.

Where we first stopped at the visitor’s center…

…and learned that this barrier island is protected by the State of Georgia. They restrict and monitor access to Sapelo Island in order to help preserve the unique environment, and to protect the residents of Hog Hammock…the last known authentic Gullah-Geechee community.

Gullah’s were enslaved African Americans imported in the 1700’s from West Africa to work the many plantations on the island. They created their own culture including a distinct Gullah language based on Creole. The 427-acre village of Hog Hammock is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and originally numbered 400 plus slaves…today there are only 47 confirmed Gullah decedents living on their ancesteral island homeland.

As a point of historical irony, these indentured peoples from Africa lived with high incidents of malaria and had developed an immunity to the disease. However, being brought over on slave ships they carried the plague with them which began to infect slave owner families and resulted in some wealthy landowners dying from the disease.

Tickets for the ferry which provides passage to Sapelo Island are limited and sold out days in advance, consequently we couldn’t visit the island but it’s on our bucket list for a future trip.

The Visitors Center provided a nice veranda with comfortable rockers for Kit and me…

… to sit and enjoy the view across the salt-marsh toward Sapelo Island.

Upon leaving this area, Kit learned of an unusual roadside attraction a few more miles to the north…so off we went in search of the self-proclaimed Smallest Church in America.

This 10 foot by 20 foot roadside sanctuary…

… will seat 12 heathens…

… and one pious soul standing at the altar.

This miniscule place of worship was built in 1949 by Mrs. Agnes Harper and then deeded over to Jesus Christ. I doubt it’s the smallest church in the US, in fact there is a tiny church in Wiscasset, Maine that only holds three folks…but this one is pretty darn small.

On another day, Kit and I poked around the nearby town of Kingsland and noticed this intriguing place.

Yep, the old fellow that owns the place specializes in the possessions of dead people…otherwise known as antiques. Unfortunately, he was “SHUT” for the day as the sandwich board indicates. Asking around in town we discovered that the proprietor is a widower who only opens shop when he feels like it so getting inside is a crap shoot…interesting place however, at least from what we could see through the window. So, why does it say, “SHUT and not “CLOSED”? Well, again according to local lore, the owner found two small boards lying about…on one he printed the word “OPEN” and the other only had room for the word “SHUT”.

More toward the center of this town of 15,946 citizens we walked into the small shop of Eberhard Sopp.

An immigrant from Germany, Sopp, as his clients call him, apprenticed as a young lad learning traditional woodworking skills using primarily hand tools. In America, he started receiving acclaim and recognition which developed into acquiring upscale clients from New York City to Miami.

As the yellowing news clipping tacked to his shop’s wall can attest to, Sopp has done restorations for Mr. Ted Turner as well as an historic bedroom piece for the White House!

The retail portion of his shop is filled with interesting old pieces of furniture he has brought back to life and are for sale.

As an amateur woodworker myself, it was a blast meeting an old-world craftsman like Eberhard Sopp!

Further down the main drag lies the Thiokol Memorial Museum.

Dedicated to preserving the life stories and sacrifices of the 29 people that lost their lives, and another 50 that were injured, from an explosion at the Thiokol chemical plant in nearby Woodbine on February 3, 1971.

Jannie Everett is the founder and CEO of this memorial museum containing artifacts and historical documents from what was, at the time, one of the worst industrial accidents in the nation.

The Thiokol plant was under a Department of Defense contract to make tripflares for use in Vietnam to help guard a friendly compound from sneak attack. A main component of these flares is magnesium, a highly flammable element and very difficult to extinguish. A small fire in the plant led to a conflagration and ultimate detonation of over 56,000 assembled flares. Jannie is passionate about developing her museum into a nationally recognized monument to the victims of the explosion. Kit and I made a donation to her effort and received her gratitude and a big hug in return. Best of luck Jannie in your endeavor…keep up the good fight!

All that walking about and exploring the town of Kingsland made for two hungry folks, so a stop at The Green Room Restaurant was in order.

Recommended by one of the base gate guards as serving the best meatballs he had ever tasted, Kit and I decided to verify his claim…

…and agreed that he was correct, the huge meatball sandwich was incredible!

On the way back to the base, we spotted a Goodwill shop and decided to stop in to see what we could find. Walking toward the store, I noticed this truck parked in front.

Well, I guess if you own an Alligator Farm it pays to buy used clothing. This area is supposed to be full of alligators, but try as I might, I couldn’t spot a one…bet it’s like all the tourists that come to Maine to see moose, generally it only happens by chance.

The sight of the truck got me to thinking…what’s the difference between an Alligator and a Crocodile? I bet it has something to do with if you see one later or see one after a while! But a quick check with Professor Google tells me that Alligators live in fresh water, and Crocodile’s prefer salt water. Google went on to explain that Alligators can grow up to 12 feet…but for the life of me, I’m not sure why the heck an alligator would need any more than four feet!?!?

With the truck parts still not received, Kit and I looked for other adventures. So, on another bonus day we headed South into Florida to visit Amelia Island.

Where we toured Fort Clinch which was built during the Seminole Wars as a coastal defensive stronghold. During the Civil War, it was seized by the Confederate Army to provide safe anchorage for their Blockade Runners. Then it was later garrisoned during the Spanish American War.

After undergoing extensive restoration in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps Fort Clinch became an important communication station during WWII.

Photo by NPS

The fort contains over five million bricks and was actually never completed…

… but pressed into service anyway.

A self-guided tour allows the visitor to wander the many tunnels deep within the fort…

…and explore the officers’ quarters…

…as well as the kitchen…

…before ascending to the ramparts and viewing the artillery…

…where the soldiers enjoyed a commanding view of the bay.

A very nice restored fort, even Kit enjoyed this one!

As in most attractions, the only way to leave the premises is through the gift shop. I normally mumble a few words to the clerk about enjoying the tour as I head for the exit…however a beautiful wood strip kayak caught my eye. It was hanging above the T-shirt display and looked vaguely familiar.

Stopping to read the information card below the boat I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this fine piece of craftsmanship was made in Wiscasset, Maine by Ted Leavitt. A craftsman of fine handmade kayaks, Mr. Leavitt is well known for his beautiful creations, many of which end up as decorative display pieces as this one has. Wiscasset, Maine to Amelia Island, Florida…it’s a small world indeed!

While in Florida we decided to visit American Beach, an historical site during the Civil Rights Era. Parking on a side street, Kit and I made our way across the coastal dunes by way of a boardwalk…

…and discovered a nice large beach.

During the time of Jim Crow, black folks were not allowed to swim at many Florida beaches, but relegated to segregated areas often miles away from town. As in other places in the old south, the black citizens made the best of it and built their own beach communities.

In 1936, Mr. Abraham Lincoln Lewis, the president of the Afro-American Life Insurance company and Florida’s first black millionaire, poured his own resources into making American Beach a first class recreation area and the continued vitalization and oceanfront construction is ongoing today.

Walking along the high tide line, we spotted millions of seashells both up and down the beach as far as the eye could see.

Due to the configuration of the shoreline and the tidal effect, American Beach has more collectable shells than any other Florida beach we’ve been on!

Today, the segregation restrictions are long gone, however this beautiful beach is still popular amongst African Americans and many families reside within walking distance of the shore.

As we drove along the towns roadway…

…Kit and I marveled at the many small gardens containing colorful flowers…

…and nearby, we spotted this fellow walking along.

He/she didn’t seem to be in any danger, so after snapping a few photos, we left the guy to his daily walk.

Kit and I love to eat out…yea, I know, no kidding! However, as hard as it may be to believe, approximately 75% of our meals are prepared in the camper…and for breakfast we have been enjoying authentic maple syrup form Darkwood Farm’s

This sweet nectar of the god’s is from the sugar-shack of our son Joe. He taps about seventy five trees on his acreage in Maine, then spends the spring boiling the sap down in a stainless tray heated over a wood fire. I’ll admit to some bias, but I truly believe his Maple Syrup is the best I have ever enjoyed!

Well, the parts have arrived, and the truck is finally repaired, so after a day of test driving to verify it will be able to endure the challenge of pulling a 13,000-pound camper, we started making preparations to get under way. Both Kit…

…and I…

…are once again HAPPY CAMPER’S!!

And wouldn’t you know it, the evening before we are to depart, the lone alligator in the lake decided to go swimming by.

Well, you’ll have to take my word for it, but that stick looking thing in the middle of the photo above was a gator!

Sunday, April 14, 2019: On this morning of our departure, the weather is ideal for travel and as a gesture of good tidings, the eastern sky once again gifted us with a pleasant sunrise.

So, until next chapter, we bid you all a good morning!

 

Kit’s Bit’s We thoroughly enjoyed our time in King’s Bay. So many places around there to investigate and learn about. The RV Park was very nice, and we were close enough to town to do
a bit of shopping, when necessary. Most days, the weather was perfect, however, a few were quite warm and humid. Good thing we have a robust AC unit in the trailer! I’m looking forward to visiting this area again.

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…😊