Sunday, February 1, 2009
What a great day with Lon and Gwen! We shanghaied her parents’ car and went sightseeing. The first stop was at the power plant where the manatees hang out in cold weather. The warm water coming from the plant makes the water comfortable for them. There were hundreds of them – some with babies! They float near the top of the water so it easier to get their breaths, so they look like a bunch of stepping stones. We had hoped to swim with them at a spring, but it was a bit chilly and the tour left early in the morning. Maybe in my next life. Visited the #1 beach in the U.S. for 2005 – near St. Petersburg. It was gorgeous with white sand. Quite a few people there, but too cool for swimming. Visited the Greek town near Tarpon Springs and had a nice dinner on the water. This is a working village that harvests ocean sponges. They sold them in every variety and size.
All good things come to an end and it was time to leave our lovely visit with Lon and Gwen. There is citrus growing in everyone’s yard, so we had wonderful grapefruit and orange juice while there. Got a few grapefruit to go. Spent the night in a national forest fish camp on a river near Tallahassee. There are bears in this area and they had bear crossing signs on the highway. Wished we had seen one. This camp was outside the hamlet of Sopchoppy – how about that for a name?
Boiled peanuts is a treat sold in the south. In one place they had two crockpots going with them – one Cajun spiced and the other not. Haven’t had the urge to try them yet. They are boiled in the shell, so it will be a messy project to eat them. Soon. Visited St. George Island state park and took a 5-6 mile walk on the beach and through the dunes. These beaches here are gorgeous and there are not many people using them (though it is winter). We see people harvesting oysters in the shallow water from boats. They bring them up with long-poled tong-like tools. Almost every house and lot is for sale here and on St. Joe Peninsula. If you ever wanted to buy an oceanside lot or house, now would be the time. This is called the Forgotten Coast and the gorgeous white sand beaches make you wonder why it has been forgotten.
Went for a walk on a nature trail and observed a deer at very close range. Since there is no hunting allowed in the state park, she was not afraid. It poured rain for a bit while we are driving and had to pull over. Panama City Beach has a lot of tourists and tons of high-rise condos and hotels. This is the biggest spring break destination currently. This is also called the Redneck Riviera since it is a vacation destination for many in the south. They can have it.
Florida is experiencing another cold snap – lucky us to be here. The wind blows cold air from the north. Navarre Beach is another area where everything is for sale – lots of businesses, too. The real estate market and economy have been a double whammy for Florida. We took a ferry from Ft. Morgan to Dauphin Island in Alabama so we didn’t have to drive clear around Mobile Bay. The water was very rough and splashed water onto all the cars that were aboard. There are a lot of oil rigs in the bay and beyond. The Mobile City limit sign was on the bridge taking us to land – about a mile still out in the ocean! Maybe they plan on colonizing the ocean some day. We stay in a county park campground which appears to have a lot of long-term residents. Maybe after “the storm” (Katrina) they relaxed their rules to help people out. There are two identical large dome-style tents and one of them has a satellite dish outside.
It is nice and sunny, but there is a cold wind. We make our way to a military rv park that has a wonderful location of just across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans! The rv park is full, but we are able to stay in the adjacent parking lot for free and can use their bathroom facilities. About 1.5 miles away is the free ferry that takes us to downtown. This is fantastic! We spent a wonderful day exploring New Orleans – Jackson Square, Bourbon Street, walking in the French Quarter.
It is all we have ever pictured it and not too many tourists. There are a lot of mule-powered carriages – no horses. Many street entertainers. Our favorite was a guy singing in a 5-gallon Home Depot orange bucket. Dave tipped him and then he made up a song about us. He was so friendly and happy – a memory we will always have of N.O.
Had warm beignets from Café du Monde. These are French doughnut-like things and were fantastic! They come in a bag with about half a pound of powdered sugar on them. Soon we and the ground were covered with it. We hope they sweep it up and re-use it.
We saw many houses in the area where we are staying and next to the roads that have a lot of storm damage even though Katrina was 5 years ago. There are still some houses with blue plastic on the roof and houses that are uninhabitable. There are large areas where there are only slabs and front steps left. It is mind boggling to think of all the debris that was hauled out of here.
The laundry here is convenient, so we manage to gather together a load. We have to take advantage of these facilities when they present themselves. When we travel we don’t do much sorting of darks and lights, so some things come out a slightly different color. We have some more sights to see that we missed yesterday, so took the ferry back to town. Our first stop was to take a trolley to a museum with a lot of outdoor sculpture. It was a great day to be outside and view artwork. Then we got back on the trolley to go to one of the local cemeteries where everyone is planted above ground. Well, the trolley had to stop because there was an accident that was blocking the way. So, we jumped off and walked the rest of the way. I guess if we hadn’t already seen this style of cemetery in Argentina, it would have been more exciting – not so awesome.
So then it was back on the trolley to go to the beautiful Garden District. This is an old area of opulent homes and huge hundreds of years old live oak trees. Whatever storm damage was done here must have been covered by insurance, because we saw little damage. Then it was back to Bourbon Street to the party scene. We decided this must be old people’s paradise because the bands were playing for dancing at 3 pm! You can do your partying and still go to bed early! Since this was Saturday, there are many more people than yesterday. Mardi Gras is close, and they already have some of the bleachers up for the parade. We glimpsed some floats being built and many houses are decorated with wreathes and swags in the official colors – purple, green and gold. It is legal to drink alcohol on the streets, so you can get anything to go. In the evening we ducked into several places representing several genres of music. The country place was fun because they had the mechanical bull riding to watch, but music was recorded. The Cajun place was fantastic – we love that music.
In the place with rap and a dj it was fun to see all the girls dancing in unison on the floor to some of the songs – like line dancing to rap.
Then we were walking by a rock and roll place and they were playing “All Right Now” so had to dance and listen to one of Cheryl’s favorite guitar rifs. What a fun place this is! If you haven’t been here, it would make a great vacation! Took the ferry back to our car and returned to the rv park by 10 pm – aren’t we party animals?!
Left New Orleans this morning and headed into Cajun country (west and south). In several swampy areas we saw hundreds of white birds together – such a beautiful sight. The Acadian swamp dwellers are slobs and there is trash everywhere – alongside the road and around their houses. We see some of the most meager and dilapidated housing that we have ever seen. This makes the Navajo Reservation look good. Every ancient trailer must end up here and is then used forever. The only coat of paint many houses got was when they were new – 50 years ago. These people would think they had died and gone to heaven if they got a new double-wide. There are probably other places like this in America, but this is the worst we have seen. There is still an unbelievable amount of unrepaired storm damage and there are still downed trees in lots of yards.
In the middle of nowhere, south of Lafayette, is the Tabasco factory. There was a small booth at the entrance where a cute old man collected a dollar from each car entering. Because his booth was on the passenger side (what smartie thought this up?), he has a stick with a clothespin on it that he places through your window. You remove the parking pass and clip a dollar to the pin. They make the Tabasco here that is shipped to 160 countries around the world. We take a tour of the factory – there is a family here from France on the tour! In their store they sell every imaginable Tabasco product – we helped support the store of course. Barbeques at our house will now have a little more kick. We are driving on small roads most of the day through sugarcane fields and very sad poverty and filth. Went to a KOA so we could watch the Super Bowl. The Cardinals put up a good fight, but not good enough. Good commercials, though.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Can you believe we got all our Christmas decorations, etc. put away and are already on the road? It seemed easier than we thought it would be, because the van was mostly packed with our trip necessities. We need to be in
Drove too far this first day – quite a lot of snow on the roads. Went all the way to
Heading south as fast as we can, we made it to
Yeah – no more snow! We stopped in a Truth or Consequences NM and went to the downtown Post Office. They were out of postcard stamps! Didn’t want to try a bank – they might be out of money! We have now tried to wash the van at 3 car washes without success (it was very dirty from the first day in the snow). The first two were frozen and we were too tall for the third. Fourth was the charm. Feels much better to not have a filthy vehicle. People like to honk their horns around here – I think many of them may have come from
Another warm and sunny day in
Saw a big wind farm today – is that what you call it when there are a lot of electric-generating windmills together? We think it is a great idea to make electricity this way – better than polluting the air with coal smoke or making it with nuclear (is this right? – Bush got me confused) reactors when nobody wants to store the by-products. Went to the Junction, TX city park which is on a wide place in the river. They allow overnight camping – we were the only people until later. Deer come down to the river and we see big fish in the water (probably carp). It is very quiet. The deer are not very afraid and they like to munch the grass on the ball field. Happy New Year! We heard a few fireworks at , but it was quite a quiet celebration here.
It is cloudy around
Foggy today, but 66 degrees to start. It was just an hour drive to a naval facility with an rv park. But, they had no tv, so moved on – gotta see the
We have killed all the mosquitoes inside the van, but hundreds of them are hanging on the screens hoping to get in. I want to be somewhere warm with no mosquitoes. On the way to this campground we see some very shacky houses that look like they should be bulldozed rather than being lived in. One place did have a dog duplex, though, sided in siding to match the house. At the campground last night we heard a conversation that indicated that part of the family had come without insect repellant. I don’t think I would ever be without it here. Saw a couple wearing tall rubber boots (Wellington-type). Hope that was for the swamp and not the snakes I heard the kids talking about.
There is a lot of swamp next to the road – must have been difficult to build the freeway. They are advertising homemade boudin and cracklins around here. I think cracklins is fried pork rinds or something, but have never heard of boudin. I get the impression it comes from a pig. The
Then we are in
Very foggy today so can’t really see much scenery. Today we traverse the lower small piece of
Took a nice loop hike along and around the
Balanced Rock on Suwannee River
No recollection of this day. I keep little notes in a small notebook to jog my memory of each day. Unfortunately, somewhere on the canoe trip it got wet and obliterated my notes. We worked our way closer to
Made our way to
The ranger office opened at , so we felt we had to be there by in case people were in line for permits. Can you believe that you cannot arrange your itinerary in advance? This is a crazy system. There were two guys there ahead of us, but they didn’t affect our choices. We did not get a permit for all the inside areas of the
Loaded and launched the canoes by about and we were off! It very soon struck us – what were we thinking?? This paddling a loaded canoe is hard work. We had to go 16 miles this first day – across numerous large bays in this inland waterway. The wind was blowing against us and we often ran into very shallow areas where our paddles hit bottom. These waterways are affected by the tides. When we finally arrived at our camp (
Lo and behold, there were some local guys there with a power boat that had been fishing. Jim and Bob (we called them collectively Jim-Bob)met us with an ice cold Tecate! This was fantastic since we had no coolers or ice with us. Then, they cooked a large trout they had caught and gave it to us to share! What hospitality! Plus, they had some advice as to our route for part of our trip. However, I am still thinking that Dave and I needed to head back the next day – this was going to be too much for over 100 miles. Slept well.
Not as sore as expected, so maybe we will give this a try for one more day and not turn back. However, the further in we go, the further it is to turn back. So today we have smooth water and beautiful paddling. Got to our camp, Lostman 5, early afternoon. It is a beautiful, sunny day and we have a lovely, relaxing afternoon. Our campsite today is on platforms on the ground – the ground is wet around us.
We see tons of alligators today – too many to count. A couple of times they jump into the water from the bank near our canoe and startle us. They are not aggressive and only do this because they are scared of us. We skipped the camp where we were supposed to be (
Dave's homemade mudwalkers - didn't work
No-seeums were thick, so we put our headnets on. Made it difficult to drink, though.
To get back on our campsite schedule, we only paddle up the coast for about half a mile to
We are awakened at by people that had been camping up the beach – they are already paddling by us. As we look at the flat water, we decide we need to hit the water also before it gets rough. The tide is out, so we have to drag the boats into the water and haul our stuff out quite a ways. No breakfast, no teeth brushing – we are out in 45 minutes. The water gets rough anyway and we are paddling through whitecaps. This is the travel we wanted to avoid. We make it the 7 miles to our camp (Graveyard). We are on the beach, but we approach the camp through a small creek. This is another beautiful sunny day which we enjoy relaxing and exploring this area of many downed trees. Another wonderful campfire tonight keeps us up to marvel at the clear sky and stars.
Today we start by crossing a 4-mile bay mouth (Ponce de Leon) that is sometimes treacherous. It starts out quite calm, but soon turns to whitecaps. We head closer to shore to offer a bit more safety or at least the perception of safety. Stopped at our
We stopped for a rest and a beach walk in the afternoon. Came upon a coin that was quite corroded. We were sure we had found a Spanish doubloon or something else valuable. But, alas, it was a
This is the day we take out at Flamingo. Another day of headwinds and currents. We took a passage between two small islands and ended up slogging through knee-deep mud and pulling our boats through. It is a beautiful sunny day, though. This 100+ miles has been a challenge, so we feel we accomplished a mighty feat. The scenery and wildlife has been magnificent, but we are sure glad to be off the water. We have to wait several hours, but eventually the people arrive with our van and the trailer to take the canoes back to Chokoloskee. A couple of rooms in
Drove down the
Wanted to snorkel on
Explored the Art Deco area of
Drove to the old historic Fontainbleau Hotel in
Finally could sort through all our stuff and reorganize the van. Dropped Vic at the airport about and now we are on the road again! We heard that
Today we drive through thousands of orange trees – some still loaded. At a juice factory there are hundreds of huge trucks full of oranges waiting to be squeezed. We learn that many crops in
The weather has warmed up again – yay!