Saturday, December 13, 2008

From Islands to the Forest

Wednesday morning was cold and foggy. Took time to ride around the island and then hooked up the “mobile motel” and headed south again. Florida before noon! Our next island was Amelia and we passed both of the Talbot Island State Parks where we had stayed before. There were not too many campers parked at Hugenot County Park, which is sandwiched between the ocean and the St Johns River on the north side of Jacksonville Florida. WINDY and GREY! The naval helicopters stationed across the river did not stop swooping low and loud over our camper till after 10pm that night.

The weather forecast for Thursday was thunderstorms, high winds and possible tornados so we were up and gone early. The storm hit as we were exiting St Augustine and heading southwest to the Ocala National Forest. We watched a twirling gust of wind that whipped leaves and road dust on the far side of the road but other than some wind and rain, we traveled thru the cold front with no other problems. The “forest” was sunny and the roads were soon dry. And our camp spot in Salt Springs was ready for us!! Unfortunately we found out that the spring area is closed for repairs.

Friday was sunny and cool so we went exploring other campgrounds between the forest and Ocala. Stopped in to see Dick and Sharon to set up plans for our move next week and then headed back home. We now have our fishing licenses and hopefully we can put them to good use soon! H was taken aback because the cost has gone from $30 to $47!

Temps today were in the low 60’s and should make it to 70 on Saturday after a very cool night tonight.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

From the Swamp to the Island

From the Swamp to the Island

Down 441 and then east on 82, our next parking spot for the day was at Laura L Walker State Park, just inside of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge Swamp. Our “mobile motel” faced the lovely little lake where the campsites were more than ample. H had been thru this area on one of his previous trips to Florida and decided it was time to stop and explore. We went to the Okefenokee Swamp Park, which was further down the road in the swamp. The park’s name should have been HOKIEfenokee Swamp Park instead. We were the only passengers on the ½ hour, ¾ scale train ride thru a small area of swamp. We did see one alligator, a turpentine mill and a small-restored farm on a tiny little island. There were a few pens with animals and of course the standup of Pogo! In the reptile building was the restored studio of Pogo’s creator, Walt Kelly. IF you are not at least 60 yrs old- you have no idea who Pogo is/was!!

Tuesday we moved from the swamp to the ocean and drove from sunny to cloudy and rain and back to sun again. The temps warmed up enough for short sleeves and H even ventured to wear shorts. The bikes came down off the rack and we rode from the Jekyll Island Campground on the north end of the island to the historic district 3 miles away. The magnificent “cottages” were all decorated for Christmas and visitors were allowed in a few of them that are now museums. We walked thru the Jekyll Island Club Hotel and felt like we were at the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island Michigan! The Macys, the Goodyears, the Rockefellers, the DuPonts and the Morgans all had huge mansions (cottages) right on Riverview Rd and all were surrounded by live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. The bike path from the campground to “town” was a delightful 6ft wide swath of cement that wound in and out of swamp and oak groves. On our way back to the park we met a 3 ft long corn snake that let us get up close and personal! Isn’t he cute?!

Later, when it was dark we drove back thru town to see how it was lit up for Christmas. The main boulevard onto the island was lit up from one end to the other! Tree trunks were wrapped, limbs were draped w/double strands of blue and white which made it look really frosty (in 66 degree weather?). On our way back we drove thru several neighborhoods and saw at least a dozen deer munching away in several different front yards or ambling down the dark back streets. It’s now 8:30pm and is 66 degrees still!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thru The Smokies

Knoxville area

Fox Inn Campground was a few dollars more than staying at Norris Lake State Park but it was right by the expressway, close to Clinton which saved on time and gas, and was right down the way from Golden Girls Restaurant-my favorite place for breakfast when visiting with Steve. There are really nice friendly folks who run it and it’s right next to a big, clean, stuffed full of stuff antique store! Breakfast was good as usual and the girls seemed to like their gifts. From there we followed Steve to where he works at AISIN Automotive Casting, a plant where they make pistons and parts for Nissan, Honda and Ford. It is a huge new plant, just built in 2004. I was impressed with its size and cleanliness. When we finished with our tour, the girls found out that Grandpa Harry and I were going to the American Museum of Science and Energy and they begged to go along. Grandpa H was patient and I was lovin’ getting to spend more time with my 2 granddaughters!! Energy was the main force of the museum with hands on things for all of us to do. We attended a program in the auditorium and Jessie was selected from the audience to help demonstrate static electricity, involving a huge generator. Her foot long blonde hair stood on end and she looked like a big blonde puff of fluff! When the program was over, Kayla got to take her turn! When she shook her hair it looked like Aretha Franklin’s locks on steroids!! I would have LOVED to shown them to you on this blog but H felt it was not a good idea to put their faces online. Steve and Missie came to retrieve their tired young ladies and we two tired old folks traveled just a bit farther to find “the Secret City” of Oak Ridge. This city and its 3 facilities to make atomic weapons was built in 3 years from 1942 and 1945. They called it “secret” because even those people who worked there did not know what they were building. These atomic weapons plants took up 59,000 acres and were called by code names of
Y-12, K-25 and X-10. We found K-25 but it was too late in the day to take any tour. Today K-25 is called the East Tennessee Technology Park and is undergoing an accelerated schedule for site clean-up and environmental restoration.

Sunday, December 7th was clear and cold as we headed south for Knoxville and then east to Sevierville and the north entrance of the Smoky Mountains National Park. From Rt 40 south, the road has turned into one long stretch of tourist shops and restaurants but once inside the park we remembered the beautiful sights of the smoky blue mist that lays gently on top of the distant mountains. On the way up the north side of the mountain we were constantly in and out of the bright sun and then deep shadows as we followed the zig zaggy road and its hairpin turns. The higher we rose, the colder it got. 19 degrees as we crossed from Tennessee to North Carolina – and snow! Thankfully the top of the mountain was the only place that had all the frozen waterfalls and snow.

Down the mountain, thru Cherokee and the rest of North Carolina, and on into Georgia with sunshine and temps up to 50. We have parked for the night at Little Ocmulgee State Park on RT 441 near McRae Georgia.