If this is your first time here, you might want to start from the beginning of our fulltime RV Journey with our Past Blogs
Moving Into Our Second Month Fulltime on the Road!!
Thursday March 1st 2007
We took the Coach up to Great Time RV's to have the hitch adjusted today. I guess this entire time we've been pulling, the sway bars haven't even been working? Hopefully correcting the angles of the hitch will solve the dipping problem.
Bob over at Great Time is loaded with RVing knowledge and we sat and talked for hours. He was one of the most honest men I've ever met and told me many things to keep in mind while traveling fulltime on the road.
After leaving Great Time, we went and dumped the holding tanks at John Prince Park as we've been staying at Jeff and Jen's house for the past few days without hook-ups.
Once back at Jeff's house, we cooked up some steaks and chicken on the grill beside the Tiki Bar and some old friends stopped by for a visit. Rob and Caroline came over with their son and we all hung out at Dick Boy's Tiki bar sharing stories while sipping on cocktails.
Saturday March 3rd 2007 Dick Boy's Famous Boat Trip!! Happy B-Day Donielle!!
After a long Friday night of watching Dick Boy and Jen sing Karaoke at their house with Cindy trying to steal the microphone, I woke up at 6am with my sides aching from the laughter. For those of you that don't know, Cindy is a Karaoke Queen and was going through withdrawals after leaving her friend Derrick "The Karaoke King" back in Michigan.
Today we were going out on one of Dick Boy's famous Boat Rides. Jeff and I cleaned up the boat and packed everything up while the girls made some lunches and packed the coolers full of cold drinks.
We launched the boat from Bryant Park in Downtown Lake Worth heading north up the intercoastal waterway. Marianna and Chris had come along for the boat ride and what a day it had turned out to be. From the water, you have the island of Palm Beach on one side with the mainland lining the coast to our Port side. Seeing all the mansions that line the water is quite the view and made for some great sights.
We anchored at Peanut Island where we found a floating Tiki bar; despite the stiff Westward wind, we all got into the warm water to cool off. We walked around the island but didn't go visit Kennedy's bomb shelter. I guess the island used to be a Coast Guard station and there was a bunker built into the hill where JFK had an elaborate bomb shelter built in case the country was under attack. With so many government cutbacks, they've turned the island into a park and moved the Coast Guard station inland? Doesn't really make since to have our Coastal Border Patrol stationed inland hidden behind miles of canals, but that's our Government for you.
After a long day on the water, I think I was asleep by the fire pit in Dick Boy's back yard by 5pm!!! Nothing like a nice campfire to ease those Sea Legs. That and a bottle of Captn' Morgan's....LOL
Today is our Daughters 21st Birthday and we both are very sad that we weren't able to spend it with her. We'll see her in a few weeks in New Orleans, so we'll just have to make up for some lost time there. Happy Birthday Donielle and We Love You very much!!
Sunday March 4th 2007
We woke up early and cleaned the boat up after yesterdays trip. We packed everything up and planned on heading West in the camper. "One last bike Ride" was what the girls said. Next thing I know, we're riding down the street on another night with this crazy couple.
We rode up to Igot's in Downtown Lake Worth. Jeff has this hat that he's attached a stuffed parrot to. Riding behind him is one funny sight after another. Every person that passes us is pointing and staring thinking its a real bird.
After Bowling with Guy, Kirby and Jeff, we rode on down the street making people laugh with the antics of our rolling parade of bikes. Our last night of fun here in Lake Worth and boy did we have it!! Next thing I know, I'm waking up by the fire pit looking at the full moon. Two nights in a row!!
Monday March 5th 2007 Leaving Jeff & Jen and Moving North by North-West
Today was the day. Jeff opened the camper door at 7am yelling, "When I get home from work, you had better be gone!"
All I can say is after a week with these two, I'm not fat, it's just my liver hanging over my belt. Thanks for the fun times, and for not having seen them in almost ten years, we made up for it in one week.
We drove West crossing the state and fighting the high cross winds in the open cane fields. The state isn't that big, and everything is crammed along the edges. Travel a few miles into the middle and it becomes ghost towns again.
Before long we were pulling up to the Gulf Coast. We made it just in time to watch the sun set on Englewood Beach.
With a cool breeze blowing in, we knew we were onto uncharted waters. From here, the journey is all new sights and new experiences. What will tomorrow bring? You'll just have to come back to see for yourself.
Tuesday March 6th 2007
What a surprise we had this morning! We woke up on the beach and went for a long jog down the white sand. When we got back to the camper, a good friend from Michigan had called saying he was in Daytona for Bike Week and wanted to ride over to see us.
Roger writes motorcycling articles for the Smalltown Lowdown and with more miles logged on his Harley, you'd think his butt cheeks were made out of steel. This man will wake up and ride a few hundred miles to the Mackinaw Bridge for breakfast, then turn around and come back to Milford for lunch!!
We drove North to Anna Marie Island and left the truck and trailer in a park on the beach. We then unloaded the bike and rode a bit to meet them in Bradenton. We all met at a rode side bar and caught up on the past few months worth of stories. He had a friend also named Pat from back home with him and the two were like an old married couple. They fought over everything and were quite funny to watch. Pat would order a beer and Roger would snap "Say Please!" Then he would get the beer and Roger would snap "Say Thank You!" Cindy and I laughed at there arguing and thought, it'll be a long ride home!
We all rode our motorcycles back to Anna Marie Island which is Beautiful. Very Small like the Southern Keys, but much more upscale like Palm Beach, which is not really our style. No worries, the water was great and we saw a few Dolphins in the Bay. Roger and Pat were going to stay in a local hotel and Cindy and I were going to try and find a local campground as they all looked very nice.
Well that was till we found out how much they were?! Call it frugal, cheap or what ever you want, but we refuse to pay $68 a night for a slot to park the camper! I'd rather sleep in a parking lot. We usually stay out doing things till after the sun goes down, so we're really only sleeping in the coach. Who cares if we're sleeping in a parking lot for free or a $68 RV Park!?! With our solar panels and bank of Deep Cycle batteries, we don't need to be plugged in to shore power to be fully functional, so we can still use everything when just Dry Camping as those in the RV World call it.
They called us back saying they had found a hotel room and there was a restaurant right in front. We just pulled in, had a few drinks and spent the night right in the parking lot! Yeah for us, that saved $68 and we got to see some more hometown friends on our journey.
Wednesday March 7th 2007 Anna Marie Island
I think our sleeping schedules are finally starting to loose the bar setting they've been on for the past six years. Instead of staying up till the wee hours of the night and sleeping the morning away, we're now starting to go to bed a few hours after the sun goes down and wake up just a the sun rises.
This morning we both woke up around 4am and decided to go back over to Anna Marie Island to watch the sun rise. We parked right along the beach, so you literally stepped out the door of the coach onto the beach, and watched the moon set over the water as the sun came up behind us. What a peaceful morning with the sounds of the birds, the ocean and the warm sun hitting you on the back. Now that were on the West Coast of Florida, it's weird to see the sun come up backwards from what were used to. As we both sat quietly listening to the waves gently lapping the sand, we watched 3 Dolphins swim past following a school of fish they were feeding on. It's moments like this that we both know this trip is worth every penny most say were wasting.
That picture is the Moon setting over the Gulf at around 5am this morning. Amazing how bright it was!!!
We spent the entire day right in that spot. I'd say this little island is as peaceful as they come. As long as you're looking towards the water, you cant beat it. The white sand beaches aren't too crowded, the water is calm and warm, and the sunsets are to die for. My whole life I've always said I wanted an office that overlooked the beach, and today I realized I finally got it. The best part is if tomorrow I want my office to overlook the woods, or maybe the bayou, then all we have to do is drive there and we have it.
It's hard to tell with how small this picture is, but that's the beach outside the Camper door!
After watching the sun set and eating one of Cindy's scrumptious dinners, we got a pounding on the door from Mr. Policeman telling us we couldn't camp on the beach. I'm sure by this point the local residents, who I'm sure had paid a pretty penny for their million dollar views, were sick of seeing us on the beach. No worries as we were packed up and ready to move to our next spot for the night.
It's days like this when we both realize how truly blessed we are.
Thursday March 8th 2007 Anna Marie Island
The Bay side of Anna Marie Island looked to good to not come back another day and put the kayaks in. So after a big Cindy Bear Breakfast, we packed the boats up and shoved off. Going South down the water, we both were amazed at how fast our boats felt. We were barely paddling and seemed like we were flying across the bay. Maybe we were just caught up in the crystal clear water or the multiple hues of blue and green the water was as we followed a few Dolphins playing in the water and learning the best way to handle the big boat wakes that were trying to capsize us.
After a few hours of paddling South, we had some lunch in a secluded mangrove area, then decided it was time to turn around and head back. Call us amateurs or just dumb, but we soon found out why we were going South so fast. As soon as we turned around, we realized we had a 10 to 15 mph wind at our backs. This made it very hard to paddle back and when we would stop to give our arms a break, you would instantly start moving backwards. It's not like we were in any danger, as we could see the shore the entire time and there were various islands around us. It just made for a challenging paddle. We also learned that anything you bring with you while going against the wind will get soaked. You get a fine salt spray mist across the bow with every wave.
We reached the shore with aching shoulders and a hunger that wouldn't quit. Cindy made some snacks while I loaded the boats back on the truck. With full bellies, we said good-bye to Anna Marie Island and headed North by North-West.
Driving way West to Avoid Tampa, we joked that by missing some heavy traffic delays, we probably drove a few hundred miles out of our way to stay on back roads. But I'd rather get to see the middle of the state with all it's horse farms, pastures that stretch to the horizon and barely passing another vehicle the entire ride, then sit in ten minutes of rush hour traffic.
This trip isn't about getting anywhere fast, it's more about seeing the back roads and towns that tourists have forgotten. We found a little campground with hook-ups as four days is about our limit before we need to empty the black/grey tanks and refill the fresh water. This little campground was only $18 and we got every pennies worth. I hadn't been able to shave for a week now and I couldn't tell whether I had nose hairs that were covering my upper lip, or my goatee was getting too long. After a half-hour hot shower and going through 2 razors, I was now cleanly shaven and looked like a completely different person.
We were too far into the middle of no where to get a connection so we couldn't update the website and were both too whipped to do much of anything anyways. We hit the sack and called it a day.
Friday March 9th 2007 Cedar Key Florida
Waking up this morning with achy shoulders and tight backs, we took it easy. We've been trying to go for a long run and do some different exercises for the past few days straight, and I think my bodies confused with what I'm doing to it...HA! HA!
We headed North West after spending the morning cleaning up the coach and Cindy tried to tame the Dog Hair situation in the truck. The weather was so perfect yesterday, it's hard to not have all the windows down while cruising down the road. The problem is with all the windows down, the dog hair gets swirling around inside the cab and you end up with a mouth full.
After rolling down some back country roads for a few hours, we ended up in Cedar Key. Found a little roadside Resort/Tiki Bar/Grill that has 3 RV spots. Castaways is right on the water and at only $30 for full hook-ups, you cant beat the price.
The owner Dan is the type of guy, that said "Just park it over there, and we'll square up later." You know you're in a small town when the last thing they're worried about is getting their money, they understand that you want to get out and enjoy yourself, and paperwork takes up way too much time.
You'd probably call a town like this a "Little Fishing Town with a Drinking Problem" as every other store is either a Bar/Restaurant or a Bait Shop. This is Clam Capitol of the U.S.A. and old clam boats line the shores.
We couldn't get the bikes out fast enough and after riding around town, sampling a few of the local bars, we found a small roadside cafe that reminds me of something Cindy would own some day.
Very Small and FANTASTIC home made food! After a Scrumptious dinner, we weaved our bikes home trying to find our way in the dark, and when I say dark, I mean BLACK! I just rode down the center of the road and knew as long as I was hitting the reflectors, I was staying on the road, Cindy wasn't so brave and got off to walk across a few of the bridges thinking she was going to fall into the water.
If you've never been out West, or on an Island with no city light fall off, then you've never seen stars before. No matter how dark it gets back home, we saw more stars last night then I've seen in my life. We brought our beach chairs out onto the dock and almost fell asleep out there except for the occasional mosquito keeping us awake.
Saturday March 12th 2007 Castaways & A Cedar Key Saturday Night
We planned on Kayaking over to an island just off of Cedar Key today, but after breakfast, we noticed the tide was still going out and thought we'd better wait.
We noticed that the Castaways Tiki Bar was open behind the little 5 room resort we were staying at. We walked over to question on the tides and starting talking with Dan the owner and Phil the bartender. Dan had just had a local fisherman bring in a bushel of fresh caught oysters and he was grilling them up. They looked fabulous, but neither Cindy nor I eat Shell Fish.
It's hard to be sitting at a Tiki Bar on the water without a cold one in your hand. Next thing you know, we're all swapping stories talking like ol' friends and the Coors Lights were going down smooth.
Castaways is like the local stop off while on your way into or out of town. People would randomly stop by for a drink or a couple would wander over from the neighboring campground. Everyone would talk to the Dogs who had been lying at our feet the entire day. We both Joke that they have a better life than most people do as they practically live in a vehicle and get to see so many new places each day.
One couple came by to question availability and Dan called all the other hotels in town to see if anyone had a room for them, as he was booked full. This was all done from the Tiki Bar while sharing a cold one with the people while they waited.
This in my book is the best way to do business and it felt good to be in a small town again where business is done the right way and money isn't ever brought up till the end.
By this point Kayaking was out of the question as we were just informed Cindy and I had drank them out of Coors Light. We had to switch to a different brand as we couldn't miss the setting sun putting on a show across the bay at our backs.
After the sun went down, Dan informed us he and Phil, were going to take us into town and show us what a Cedar Key Saturday Night is like. We went back to the camper to shower and change and they were knocking on our door in no time. We all piled in Dan's truck and drove the few miles into downtown. First things first, we parked the truck and Dan handed the keys to a friend who was working at a local bar as none of us would be driving home.
We started at the Raw Bar as it was the first bar on the street. We could hear music coming from the patio and the place was filled with locals dancing.
Cindy and I have this strange way of finding weird people or just very drunk people who latch on to us and follow us around all night. It didn't take long before this woman came up to us commenting on my hat that said "The Original Six" as in the first six teams in the National Hockey League. She said she was a hockey fan and was from Detroit. This was when we should have ran!!
Before I go any farther I should mention that this woman was in her late 40's, highly intoxicated and squeezed into a one piece jean jumpsuit which had a full length zipper running down the front of it.
She also was very large breasted and wouldn't leave Cindy alone begging her to join her in Karaoke. Anyone who knows Cindy knows you don't really even have to ask her when it comes to singing Karaoke and in no time they were both out on the stage singing ol' Tammy Wynette ballads.
This is where the outfit comes into play. Cindy was singing and I'll bet in a past life, this woman was a stripper by the way she was dancing and grinding on the microphone stand. The crowd was yelling, egging her on, and next thing you know, the full length zipper came down unleashing the twins which made the full patio erupt into laughter and screams.
I'm sure this was a shock to the family that was sitting having dinner and the two young children probably seeing this for the first times in their young lives.
If you could have seen the faces of the crowd it would be priceless, but I couldn't stop staring at Cindy who was just dancing behind her like nothing was going on. I should also mention that we later found out it wasn't karaoke at all, just a guy singing, but when Cindy sees a microphone, plan on her hijacking it and whaling away till the end of the night.
I found 3 young college students that had come to Cedar Key from Gainesville for the weekend to do some fishing and kayaking and was sitting with them at their table.
The one kid said as he sat in shock of the spectacle taking place on the dance floor "Never in a million years did I think this would be happening tonight when I was fishing this morning!"
Getting the woman to stop dancing was the hard part, now she was going around the patio giving out free lap dances to anyone who would sit still long enough to let her finish. Dan suggested we move across the street to Coconuts Bar as they had a live band and maybe we could lose the Stripper.
Coconuts had a live band, and within seconds, Cindy was their new lead singer. It didn't take long for the stripper to find us and the show had just moved across the street and was now entertaining the crowd in this new bar.
Last call was given and I knew we needed to get out of town before we got ourselves into some trouble. We piled back into Dan's truck with our new sober driver Steve, and didn't stop laughing till we said good night and hit the sack. Cedar Key reminds me of a wild night at the Red Dog back home and how nice of Dan, Phil and Steve to show us a wild time we wont forget any time soon. Make sure to check out the March Gallery as it's filled with pictures of the stripper and Cindy singing at the various bars.
Monday March 13th 2007 I-98 West Along Florida's Panhandle
After a long enjoyable weekend on Cedar Key, we pulled stakes this morning and headed up the coast of North-Western Florida. If you ever have time to kill, or just want a very scenic drive, take I-19/98 West out of Florida. It follows along the coastline through some backwoods of Florida that would make you think you're anywhere but the Sunshine State. Not that the sun wasn't shining all day long, the temperature was actually 86 degrees today, but with all the logging and cow farms, it makes you think you're out West without the mountains.
I've never seen Bulls this big before! I was tempted to pull over and take a picture just to prove how gigantic they are. But Cindy wouldn't climb over the fence so you'll have to wait on the picture.
Cindy is the navigator and she decides where we're going. I just drive the rig. So today I drove it to St. George Island State Park, a beautiful barrier island which lies under the Pan handle of Florida. Neither of us have been through this area so we like taking our time to see the sights. One of the reasons we choose a smaller 25' travel trailer is so we could maneuver around back roads and turn around without too much of a hassle, as we tend to stop to take pictures quite often.
Well I'm finding that the 25' camper is a little too large to stop as much as I'd like to. See, I'm a picture taking fool. I like to stop and take pictures of anything and everything that looks neat. That gets old real quick when I have a line of cars who are probably already pissed off because I'm going a few miles an hour under the speed limit as to not miss anything, and then I'm pulling over every few miles and getting out.
Cindy thinks we should get a sign made up for the back of the camper that says "Stay Back 500 Feet, this Vehicle Makes Frequent Stops!" I'm honestly thinking of having one made up.
I'll have to post some pictures in the next few days as we just wandered around today enjoying ourselves and left the camera in the case. This area is beautiful and I cant wait to go out tomorrow on the motorcycle where I can stop in a moments notice or make a u-turn in the road if I have to. It's really the best way to go out scouting for cool places to take pictures, but only really feasible if we're going to stay a few days or as long as we have a safe place to leave the camper.
Arrow Points to St. George Island on this Map
When we pulled into town, we had to cross a very long bridge to get to St. George Island State Park. While crossing over the Apalachee Bay, we saw a school of dolphins playing in the blue water below. The St. George Island State Park is something you see on the covers of travel destination magazines. It's a long island that's only about a 1/4 mile wide. You can see the Apalachee Bay on one side and the Gulf on the other. With a cool salt water breeze and those long deserted white sand beaches, my heart sank when the park officer told us they were booked solid for the next few weeks. With the sun setting over the Gulf we looked at the bay waters which were so calm and inviting, and knew we had to find a campground close by so we could enjoy a few days of this place.
Although we have a connection tonight, the first time in the past few days, it's about as fast as our Beagle in the morning (Very Slow). Once the sun went down we caught up on some emails. We got a nice email from a woman back home who said she owns an RV Dealer locally and had been partying in the Red Dog over the weekend. Jessica asked if it was ok to link to our website from her website (JP's RV's) so customers could follow along and I was happy to know that people are interested in our Journey. Thanks Jessica and hope to catch up with you some time along the adventure.
Wednesday March 14th 2007
Dumping the camper in a nice little spot across from Carrabelle Beach, we got a campsite in the Carrabelle Palms RV Park so we could hook up to some shore power so the dogs would be comfortable in A/C with today's heat. Our little Beagle is on her last leg and we are trying to make her as comfortable as possible before we have to do the inevitable.
Yesterday we spent the day riding bikes along the narrow roadway that intersects the Gulf and the Apalachee Bay in St. George Island State Park. We have to keep reminding ourselves that this is full blown tourist season because while wandering down the beach yesterday collecting Sand Dollars, we went for over an hour without running into another soul. That is except for the hundreds of Crabs crawling along the shore all around us. It was quite the Crab Highway and funny to see so many scurrying around in the calm water.
Walking along these Gulf beaches feels like walking in cool powder and is like nothing I've ever felt squeaking under my bare feet. The bright white sand is so deserted, you think it would be the middle of the summer when Florida is anything but a Tourist hot spot. We've both come to the realization, that if you want to have some seclusion, North-West Florida is the spot to be.
We drove into the metropolis of Carrabelle which lays claim to the Worlds Smallest Police Station. It's actually just a phone booth on the side of the road! The main street is about as long as our truck and trailer combined and with a few little cafe's set along it's main road, the town is everything you would imagine when you think of the South.
We stopped and found a Yacht Club on Apalachee Bay that we think we might be able to afford a membership at. Figuring the club house is an Airstream trailer, it's right up our alley since our two yachts fit on the top of our Tow Vehicle.
Rolling along I-98 it's hard to stay in your lane. Not that you'd have to worry about getting in an accident, the traffic is next to nothing. The problem is there is too much beauty to look at and it's hard to keep your eyes on the road. We took plenty of pictures of the local houses which are so unique in the way their built. Each one is completely different from the next, some on Stilts, some Floating on the Water and some looking like something out of a Lemony Snicket movie.
When we were leaving Anna Marie Island, I grabbed a local magazine called Sweet Tea. I wanted to flip through it and try to spot anything cool to do in this area. The cover had a really cool picture on it and that sort of thing always grabs my attention. While reading a few of the articles, one writer talked of kayaking the Blackwater River which we were headed towards - Looks like we found our next destination!!
Heading North by North-West, be ventured into the Blackwater National Forest and if we thought Anna Marie Island was isolation, start playing the banjo music in the back of your head here! Don't get me wrong, these type of places are the spots were after, but we're talking driving down a country road for a half hour without passing another car. One thing I will say of this area of North Western Florida, the locals sure are friendly. Everyone you pass on the road waves or nods and everyone you meet says "Hello" or tips their hat. I guess its that southern charm.
Finding a camp ground on Hurricane Lake we thought we found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There was only one other camper in this beautiful camp ground with a million dollar view. You could see another campground across the lake; I guess that one had RV hook-ups and the one we were sitting in had none. This is when we both smile and know that the solar panels and 6-volt batteries we had installed are starting to pay off. This side of the lake was only $5 a night, and we had it all to ourselves.
Within no time we had camp set up and Cindy was working on one of her famous dinners. Another campground that had NO SWIMMING - ALLIGATORS signs posted? Try as we might, we couldn't get one to go after the damn dogs?!? This whole time in Florida, we haven't seen one stinking alligator.
After dinner, we got out our lounge chairs and OOH'ed & AHH'ed at the star display for a few till our heavy eyelids and consistent mosquitoes drove us into the camper.
Thursday March 15th Rainy Day Ramblings & Life's Contemplations
Waking to the sounds of rain
thumping on the camper roof, our plans of Kayaking the Blackwater River were thrown to the wayside. With our first
rainy day in weeks on our hands, we sat in our 200 square foot palace
quietly listening to the rain drops while contemplating our journey up
to this point.
Today is different, today; we’re sitting in a secluded campground in the Blackwater National Forest in North Western Florida overlooking a small lake. Our humble little abode is quietly nestled under a canopy of tall pines. We woke up to a light rain that hasn’t let up since.
Mind you, our 25’ Travel Trailer is only a few
hundred square feet and the two of us are sharing it with two old dogs,
one that is on her last leg who doesn’t know we’re just buying time
before she makes her way to those pearly gates. Is this starting to
sound like an old country song or what?!
Maybe listening to the sounds of the dozens
of birds that have grown comfortable enough with this large white object
intruding on their habitat, or the glass like water the lake is
reflecting of the surrounding woods, or the very expensive bottle of red
wine we finished after breakfast; whatever it is, I’m really enjoying
I’m starting to realize why 90% of the great poets, writers and artists
have all been considered recluse, whack jobs. When you let go of the
daily rituals, those mainstream must-haves, the rat race that has become
the American way, you understand it’s all just hype.
In a time when everything is multi-tasking and you have to be doing ten things at once just to get by, do you need to sell everything and travel around North America in a Travel Trailer for a few years to realize this? I’m guessing NO, but I do think a few days spent away from the real world in a quiet secluded spot, (where ever you might find that) won’t hurt you either.
talking about packing up the entire house and bringing all the bells and
whistles either, I’m talking about some seclusion spent in the back
woods away from your computer, your cell phone, the blackberry and every
other gadget that ties you to modern day America. Try and go a few days
without the interruption of television, forget your voicemail and that
nagging deadline. It’ll probably take a few days before you can even
start to not have this burden in the back of your mind.
It was at this point
that I knew my life style was way too hectic. I couldn’t even relax
after countless drinks on a picture perfect beach without felling my
pocket to see if my non-existent phone was vibrating.
Yesterday we sat on a secluded beach watching the South Florida sun set. The day before that we sat two miles out into the Gulf of Mexico with water all around the little key we camped on, and last night we sat in the forest listening to the wind howl through the trees while gazing at the stars thinking how small this world of ours really is.
At this point in my life, I can’t imagine doing
anything else. I look back to a few months ago thinking how overloaded
we both were, how we couldn’t stand still due to the busy lives we led.
Now I wonder why we did all that nonsense. Was any of it necessary or
were we just trying to keep up with the Jones’s, which has become the
Friday March 16th 2007 Kayaking the Blackwater River
Waking up this morning the rain was still falling lightly, and we both said "Who Cares?" A little water in our kayaks isn't going to hurt us. We drove back into Baker where we had made arrangements for a Kayak Livery to drive us upriver and dump us off, so we could paddle back down to our truck. We met Carlas and his wife who own Action on Blackwater River Canoe/kayak Livery and like everyone else we've met in this area of the country, they were as nice as could be.
We got dropped off just down the road from our campground in a light rain. The young guy that dropped us off gave us a slight chuckle saying "Good Luck" and probably thought "What are these two crazy Michiganders doing going out in the rain when it's only 60 degrees outside?"
The Blackwater River isn't really Black, the water is a dark, tannin-stained color, sort of like that perfect cup of tea . The Creek Indians called the river “Oka Lusa” (water-black) and have been hunting these waters back before us stupid white people came and developed all their stomping grounds. Paddling down the river, I can imagine what it must have looked like for them. In the five hours of paddling we only saw two houses, and not another person on the water.
Mid way through the trip, the sun decided to pop out and the day turned from a somber hazy day, to big fluffy clouds with a nice warm breeze. We decided to pull over on one of the many white sandbars and take a mid-day nap. We also needed to take off some of the layers we had on as things were starting to heat up.
With not a sound in the air, except for the birds chirping and the water bubbling, we sat sleeping on the shore enjoying the warm sun. What a perfect day on the water and who could ask for more!?!
It's hard to top a day that good on a river, but when we got back to the camper, Cindy pulled out a nice surprise. A friend of ours from Milford had given us a bottle of Dom Perignon at our going away party. We've been waiting till the right moment to pop the cork and we felt this was the right time.
While she got the bottle and some glasses, I gathered up some wood for a little camp fire, set up the lounge chairs and got to work on my fire starting skills. By the time I heard the cork pop, I had the fire going and we toasted to our blessings. Thanks Joe Suliman for our awesome Fire Side Beverage!!
We spent the afternoon watching the sun go down over Hurricane Lake. The breeze kept the bugs off us while the bubbly kept us warm. Early to bed as we were off in the morning to hit Alabama. I guess our hometown newspaper the Milford Times ran an article on the two of us and it made the front page this week. Cindy cried when she read it!
Thanks Aileen Wingblad for such a poetic article!! Click here to read the article if you'd like.
Saturday March 17th Happy St. Patty's Day!!
We were up first thing this morning. Not sure if it was because we went to bed so early and tired, or if it was because the temperature had dropped down to 55 degrees and you could see our breath in the camper. We ate a big hearty breakfast, packed up camp and headed on our way. We both mentioned to each other that this will be the first year in the past six that we aren't behind the bar serving green beer at the Red Dog Saloon.
We had a place that a few people had told us about that we wanted to make sure we stopped at. Sense it was St. Patty's day, we figured it would be a great addition to our journey. We thought if we were going to be traveling through Southern Alabama without stopping at Judge Roy Bean's bar, it would be a wasted trip. Supposedly this bar was as back woods as they come and had the charm to prove it. It had a Billy Goat for the Bouncer that slept in a booth in the back and a giant Tom Cat that slept on the bar. Sounds like our kinda place!
Pulling into Downtown Fairhope Alabama, we couldn't believe how much traffic there was for such a small town. Then we asked someone what was going on and they told us it was the 55th annual Fairhope Art Show, one of the largest in the state. Sounded like fun, but after driving around for about twenty minutes looking for a parking place, I was about to give up. I spotted the Fairhope American Legion and pulled over to ask for some directions to Judge Roy Beans. That was when the nice gentleman told me I was a few years late, as it had burned down 2 years ago.
Not to be outdone, (I didn't want this to be a wasted trip) we got to talking and I asked if there was anywhere else he would recommend that could compare to Judge Roy Beans place. He told me it would be just as bad if we didn't stop at Manci's Antique Club over in Daphne. Manci's it was.
I'm not sure if you would call this place a Bar, an Antique Shop or a Jim Beam Decanter Museum. What started as an old wooden produce warehouse in 1924, turned into a gas station, when the owners son, the town mayor took over the business in 1947. After obtaining a liquor license the gas station became a bar. As time went on, the club became the local hot spot and now holds a few records. They hold the largest collection of Jim Beam decanters in the country, and also holds the title for the "Bloody Mary Capitol of the Eastern Shore".
The guy at the American Legion had told me "You could go there every day for a month, drink a beer and look around before you'd see everything." I'd say he was lying. I think you could go there everyday for a year and drink a few beers and not see everything!! By the time we left, our necks hurt from looking around at all the chotchkey displayed around the bar. If you're ever in Daphne Alabama or the surrounding area, don't miss out on Manci's Antique Club. You'll be amazed at the amount of stuff in such a cool little bar!
After leaving Manci's, we walked back to the camper which we had left in the local ball field. While getting back into the truck, some guy pulls up asking where we kayak around here. We introduce ourselves telling him we're from Michigan and just passing through, and he jumps out of his truck and starts giving us directions to a great kayaking spot.
Remember how I said the people we've run into are so nice, well let me tell you about Max Cassidy. Max is a Local Attorney who loves to kayak, he's been born and raised here in South Alabama and is one of the friendliest people we've met so far. He starts to tell us about this river that no one knows about because it's surrounded by private land which he happens to own a large piece of backing up to the river. He then says "Hold on a second", he calls his wife and says "Honey, what do we have planned for tomorrow?" Hangs up the phone and says, "Mind if I take you there myself?"
He gives us some directions to a local place to park for the night, invites us to a dinner party he's having and says he'll meet us at 6am sharp so we can be on the water at sunrise. Everyday we're more surprised at how nice the people are around this country of ours!!
Sunday March 18th 2007 Max's Secret River
We're up at 5am this morning. For one reason so we can get breakfast in our stomachs, lunch packed for today's paddle, and because we're right on the line for the time change. We're so screwed up with the time change thing, because if we drive a few minutes East, we're back on Eastern Standard Time, if we go any farther West, we move into Central Standard Time. Really confusing as we have every other clock changed and cant figure out which one is right?!?
Max pulls up on time, and we follow him an hour north into some Alabama back country. Now mind you, we've met this guy for about ten minutes in a parking lot, he pulls up with a friend at 7:30am and says follow me. We're driving into the country and haven't passed another car for an hour and doing all this thinking "Are we in for some trouble?"
Let me tell you a thing about the back roads in Alabama!! OH MY GOD are they bumpy. This and the fact that I'm trying to keep up with a local who's doing 70 down these narrow roads and isn't pulling a 25' trailer. I can only imagine what the inside of the trailer will look like when we get to our destination.
We pull through a few towns that have dried up due to the Farm Bill being cut in the 1980's, and finally hit the river. We drop off a vehicle and go to grab Max's kayaks from his little cottage a few miles up the river.
8am and we're on Max's Secret River
This river, (I was asked to keep it a secret as not to ruin it by tourists) is flowing nicely and churning the color of a dark brown. The river almost has a red tint to it, I'm guessing from the dark red Alabama clay that surrounds us.
We load up and our new day's paddle has begun. Max brought a friend, Jim who is paddling a kayak for the first time. Max tells us there are only a few spots where we'll paddle through some rapids, and only Class I stuff anyway. Jim says he's an old salt when it comes to canoeing, and wanted to try his luck in a kayak, so he should do fine on this maiden voyage.
There isn't a sound to be heard except for the flowing river against the banks, hawk's in the air and the our conversation. Some parts of it are wide and smooth, where other sections are narrow and filled with pools bubbling up from unknown obstacles waiting to grab the bottom of our boats. Max has got Cindy's eyes glued to the banks when he tells us there are plenty of Alligators on this river. He later tells us this time of year, they're all farther south in warmer water.
Our first break is at an old Mill that was used up to the 1920's to process grain and corn. Max tells us it was in 1930 that electricity came into these parts and the mill went out of business. This old mill used a small stream that feeds the river to power the large wheel used to grind the corn or grain.
The wheel is still set on the stand with many years of work left on it rough sides. One thing that amazes me is the teeth used to run the wheel were made out of wood!! How many times would these things break during a days operation? We hang out here for a while exploring the area and nibbling on a bit of food to keep our energy level up for the rest of the days paddle.
This is also the first time that I've had to put my feet into the water, and this stuff is flowing colder than Beer out of Colorado. My feet go numb almost instantly and I cant imagine how it will feel if one of us tip over.
From the mill we hit out first section of rapids and after Max scouts out the best run, we all make it through with only a few splashes waking us up with the rivers cold water. Even Jim who is paddling for the first time makes it through like he's been on the boat for years.
The rest of the day is spent leisurely floating down stream at a nice pace. The river itself is quite interesting as some of the banks are lined with nice sand bars, while other times you're paddling between deep sandstone walls that shoot straight up out of the water. There are signs of debris some 20' higher than the water level is today, showing that during some of the nastier weather, this river could be quite dangerous.
We learned plenty of local history while all sharing stories from past adventures. I had to keep reminding myself that we had only met these two guys for a few minutes before this float trip. I find it amazing how people sharing the same hobbies can get along no matter what their upbringing or social status. It just goes to show you that you should never be afraid to meet new people or you'll miss out on beautiful days like today!
We reached our pull out spot with Cindy and I both saying "Come on, where here already?" We had floated for over 3 hours without seeing another person, hearing a vehicle or seeing any intrusion from modern day life.
We saw a huge Blond Beaver scurry into the water, listened to screeching hawks fly over us and enjoyed every second spent on the water! Max said "I like to float down this river and think this is the same view the Indians would have seen a few hundred years ago" I couldn't agree more and can't thank him enough for sharing this little gem of a river with us.
I'd like to say look Max up if you're in these parts, but I'm sure being a river guide isn't what he has planned, and his river is so secluded, I'd hate to see it ruined by the beer drinking rowdy sorts that give us Kayakers a bad name. It's great knowing there are sections of the United States that still sit untouched by development and "Thanks Again Max, for showing us a little piece of your backyard."
Make sure to check out our Gallery from our day on the water with Max.
Monday March 19th 2007
After leaving Max's place in Alabama, we skirted through Mississippi late in the after noon on Monday. We needed to be in Louisiana by Wednesday to pick up our passports which were being held for us at the Passport Agency in downtown New Orleans. We didn't get on the road till late in the afternoon as we had a really fast connection in the Wally World parking lot we had slept in the night before. We did some updating to the site and answered the emails that had been piling up the last few days.
Heading across Alabama, we were into Mississippi as the sun was setting. We normally try and find a campground around this time, but we had got on the road so late, that we decided to go against our normal rules of 'No Driving at Night' and keep on truckin'.
Around 10pm we decided it was so dark, that even with my high beams on, we could barely see anything. Besides, it's no fun driving at night and we didn't want to miss anything. We found an abandoned parking lot that was loaded with empty FEMA trailers, and nestled ourselves in-between a few of them.
Tuesday March 20th 2007
We were up first thing and back on the road. This far south in Mississippi, the state is only a few hours wide, we were into the Big Easy in no time. Pulling into Louisiana we came through the little town of Bogalusa where the eye of Katrina had passed through a ways inland. It's really just a huge forest with a little bumpy road intersecting the middle. We passed an area where it looked like it had been clear cut for a golf course or large subdivision. Then we noticed the trees were still standing, yet they were all tore in half and scattered around like toothpicks. It's amazing to think there's still areas that are still trashed from that hurricane that struck 2 years ago.
We parked the truck and Camper at Cindy's sisters ranch which is an hour out of downtown in the little town of Folsom. Not the one that Johnny Cash made famous, just a little horse ranch community nestled in the suburbs of New Orleans. We'll be staying here for a few weeks; we need to fly out with some great friends of ours on a trip that we've had planned for some time now. There's plenty of room here and we plan to do some maintenance on the truck and camper while we have all the luxuries of home.
Wednesday March 21st 2007
We had to be in Downtown New Orleans bright and early this morning to make sure we could get our passports. I'll tell you this - If you haven't applied for your passport yet, DO IT NOW!! Cindy and I had applied for ours back in January and they told us it would be 4 to 6 weeks at the longest. 11 weeks later, we still didn't have them.
Cindy has almost used up the minutes we have on our Cell Phone Plan waiting on hold and every operator just says the same thing, "You'll have to go to wait and see if you get them in time." After 15 phone calls of an approximate 2 hour hold each time, a nice lady spoke with her supervisor and said to see if we can pick them up at the New Orleans office.
Cindy's sister let us take her car so we wouldn't have to take the truck which is loaded with kayaks and all sorts of gear. Thank God, because downtown New Orleans is like a war zone! There is so much construction going on, I don't think we would have been able to find a parking place with our big truck.
In and out and we had our passports in hand!!! YEAH!! We can both breath a little easier now knowing we can actually leave the country on Monday morning and don't have to loose our money we've already spent for this trip.
Bourbon Street and St. Bernard Parrish
Being as we're in the Big Easy and we now have the rest of the day to waste, we strolled up and down Bourbon street looking in the shops. If you've never been in this city, you're missing some serious history. The buildings are so cool, it's amazing half of them are still standing. We sat looking at a few that are a good foot different from the top to the bottom when it comes to being level or straight?!? There is no way there can be a Code System in place here, or none of the buildings would have Certificates of Occupancy.
New Orleans during the daytime isn't as wild as it is during the nighttime. There's no beads being thrown or breasts being bared. We've been here a few times for Mardi Gras, we've seen plenty of Breasts and been hit by many beads being thrown, so this time we just walked around with all the other tourists. We watched the horse carriages roll down the historic streets, checked out some world class galleries and sampled some authentic Creole dishes.
You cant be in New Orleans
without sampling some frozen daiquiris. Bourbon Street in known
for its daiquiri bars and with it being legal to walk around with
drinks, we had to indulge, even if it was only 10am. After a few
hours of wandering around, walking our 190 octane drinks off, we jumped
back into the car and headed out of town.
Rather than take the same route back to Folsom, Cindy's sister had given us directions so we could drive through St. Bernard Parrish where the nastiest part of the devastation had been after Hurricane Katrina. Imagine what its like when you lose power after a storm, now imagine it being two years later and there is still no power. I remember thinking to myself while watching Hurricane Katrina just demolish this area from the comfort of the many televisions in my bar, anyone who is still there is an idiot! Then thinking why are they still saying they need assistance from the government this long after the storm?
After seeing it first hand, I said many prayers for these people when I went to bed tonight. We're talking an area the size of any average city, with block after block just mowed down. There are still large areas that haven't even gotten their power turned back on yet!?!? It's too hard to describe and I'm sure everyone is so sick of hearing about this by now, I know I was until I saw it for myself. It's was almost too much to absorb, but seeing house after house with spray paint on the front telling who searched it, how many bodies they found and if it can be entered into or not, was just too much. Imagine your local Home Depot looking like a bomb had gone off inside, then the entire parking lot becoming a make shift RV Campground loaded with FEMA trailers and this is what it looks like here.
Cindy and I both thought aloud to each other, we're doing this trip for a few years because we planned on it for a long time. I cant imagine having to live in a trailer our size with a family and work everyday trying to rebuild my life from the ground up. Next time you think you're sick of hearing about the Hurricane Katrina relief funds, don't think for one second that these people are just trying to mooch off the system.
I didn't take too many pictures for a few reasons. Cindy's sisters car was a convertible Corvette, there is no Police presence in any of these areas and most of the time, I felt to guilty pulling out my camera to take a picture of this much devastation when people were standing there trying to rebuild their lives. What I really wanted to do was get out and help.
Thursday March 22nd 2007 Spring Cleaning
Finally having some time on our hands, we pulled out the host of RV products we collected and put them to good use today. Being the first day of Spring, we figured it was a perfect excuse to enjoy this beautiful weather we're having. We started with the roof. For some reason, RV companies use a rubber roof material and they always make it white? Well ours was a nice shade of dark grey. Luckily for us, we had a product called Thetford RV Roof Cleaner that made the job a whole lot easier. You just spray the cleaner on, let it sit for a few minutes and then scrub lightly and the grey turns back into a nice shade of white.
The problem is now, when you spray the nasty grey stuff off the roof, the sides of the camper that were a little dirty to begin with, are now a real nasty mix of dirt and grey streaks. Cindy stayed on the ground and as I would hose off the roof, she would continue to hose off the sides. Thetford also has a product for the Black Steaks that are all to common on RV's.
You simply spray the Black Streak Remover on the nasty spots, and you almost don't have to do any scrubbing! Maybe a few spots where the streaks were really bad, but for the most part, just a simply spray will remove the ugly streaks. After we had spent a few hours washing down the rig, it was looking like the day we picked it up from General RV.
This is when I got to waxing it. This is not like waxing your car. Waxing your RV includes a ladder, and lots of arm strength. One side later my arms were burning, but man did it look nice seeing our baby shine. We unrolled the awning and "Oh Man!" From here on out, we need to open it every time we stop for the day. We normally only open it up when we're parked in a campground. This is rare as we have only spent 5 nights in a campground this month! With the wild temperature changes, there is a light dew on everything when we wake up in the morning. We haven't opened the awning in a few weeks and it smelled bad like mildew - Not Good!
Back into our box of goodies where we found Thetford RV Awning Cleaner! Cindy sprayed this on, let it sit for a few while she worked it in with a scrub brush, and the ugly looking awning was looking new in no time. We both said this will be a lesson learned and we'll be better parents to our Sunline from here on out. It is our home, so we have to take care of it. She kept joking saying "How many couples do you know wash their house together?"
When we were done, the camper was spotless, had two coats of wax, and looked better than the day we rolled her off of General RV's lot! Tomorrow we tackle the Truck!
Make Sure to check out our March Gallery for tons of cool pictures from this months adventures.