Saturday, March 23, 2013

Georgia North & South Carolina

Amelia Island is still beautiful and the touristy pirate town of Fernandina is still alive and well. We traveled the length of that barrier island, checked out the town and our favorite "junk" shop. I got to buy something this time! 50% off of course! But now it is time to head north to Georgia and our path leads us to yet another island. Blythe Island doesn't seem like an island because there are no rolling waves, crashing on sandy beaches. Salt marshes and ribbons of waterways wandered thru them. We've been to Brunswick Georgia on past ventures but we've found more to explore. H found the restored old courthouse that was partially hidden by all the palms, magnolia trees and azalea bushes that were in full bloom. Over one of the many tall graceful bridges was St Simon Island. The town square was dotted with eclectic shops,a lovely park with yet another mammoth live oak with outstretched limbs. a fishing pier and lighthouse standing guard like a tall toy soldier.

The further north we head , the colder it gets. Charleston North Carolina was no exception! Our trusty little heater is working harder and longer into each day! H found a PA campground just outside of town and the heater was turned on right away. Lake Aire Campground does have a small U shaped lake/pond. The place also comes with a batch of nosy Muscovy Ducks that make the rounds of the campers at least twice a day. We found out they like bread crusts and crackers but not chopped peanuts from McDonalds!

I can't remember if we've been to Charleston in the last 5 years but there is SO much to see that repeat trips are always welcome. This time we even stopped at the Visitors Welcome Center and took the free trolley downtown to the Historic Old Towne. We walked the waterfront park and pier and then headed back in a few blocks because the wind coming off the open water was COLD! It was so neat to walk the old stone streets and to peer thru the wrought iron gates into the impeccably groomed inner courtyards, full of blooming azaleas and manicured hedges. The houses sat right next to the street with their layers and layers of full length porches that faced the waterfront. All had heavy doors at the street side end of the first floor porch, making the house seem much wider than it actually was! We quietly stepped inside St Michael's Episcopal Church, built in 1761 and is the oldest in the city. We found the Old City Market, a 3 block long collection of low brick buildings that now house various venders and craft folks. It smells like horses because right outside is the lineup of horses and buggies that take folks on tours of the city!

As old and historic as Charleston is - Myrtle Beach is the opposite! The term used for MB is 'The Grand Strand" because it is 60 miles of beautiful beaches and tall grand hotels and fancy resorts. MB claims a boardwalk that wanders over and thru small sand dunes covered with seaoats and other grasses, and passes by an assortment of T-shirt shops and tourist stores. Several blocks over is the line up of seafood buffets - one after the other with their coupons and their fake gaudy sharks and oversized crabs hanging from their brightly painted roofs! A few weeks back it was Bike Week in Daytona - - it is Spring Break in MB! The beaches were full of scantily clad teens trying to have fun in the barely 50 degree weather! H spotted 2 brave (crazy?) girls wading out in the breaking waves in their tiny little attires! What do yah think?

Our home for 2 nights was the Briarcliffe RV Resort - another PA selection. It was gated - but the gate was left open for most of the day. It had a new clubhouse and pool that sat right next to the Intercoastal Waterway. There was cable but no wifi! This park was selected because it was the closest campground to my high school classmate Sue - and she came to spend the day with me! A girls day out - shopping and lunch! Greasy gooey yummy big hamburgers along with monster onion rings and sweet potato fries! We should have ordered just the burgers so the rings and fries came home with me and was our supper that evening. I must admit - they were better fresh!

Time again to move on north - NORTH CAROLINA. Weather reports are showing cold and rain ahead of us. Can't move too far or too fast!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St Augustine & Jacksonville

We've always thought that Bike Week in Daytona was the first full week in March and we've always steered clear of that area at that time of year. In Salt Springs the roar of bikes had begun and we learned that bike week this year was the SECOND full week in March. H was able to get 2 nights in Anastasia State Park in St Augustine in spite of all the bikers. The weather turned cold and the winds picked up and blew steadily. As in the past - one of the first items on H's agenda was to drive his truck out on the wide, tire rutted sand beach. Thanks to bike week and spring breakers - we were caught in the time of day when the park staff charge to drive on their beach! It HAD to be done - the Jeep Liberty got to, the 94 Ford Truck got to, so this truck got to prove he was worthy, too! The day was cold and windy The sky was void of sun and hung heavily with charcoal clouds. Hardy folks were huddled under blankets and some were behind bright colored beach umbrellas or hidden behind their parked vehicles. Younger folks (teens!) were braver and were attempting to work on their spring break tans anyway but their goose bumps were getting in the way! We did see a group of riders on horseback having fun, splashing in the shallow waves at the waters edge.

The first settlement in Florida calls us to come see her history, every time we approach the Old Town area of St Augustine. The cold weather was keeping the bike accident tragedies down but that meant a big bunch of warm weather bikers had come to town and the main street was domino stacked with a selection of Harleys and Goldwings of various colors and amounts of chrome. The bikers were easy to spot with all that Harley gear they were wrapped in!

We are island hopping. A1A starts down south of Miami and ends at the Florida - Georgia border. All along our journey north on this winter's adventure, we hopped on and off of A1A and her barrier island bridges, thru fancy neighborhoods lined with huge mansions that probably belonged to more than one movie star and then along the sheltering grass covered dunes that protected the islands residents. Anastasia Island was one such island and so is the island that protects Jacksonville and is home to the Mayport Naval Station and the small town of Mayport. Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park must be the area's best kept secret! A huge, beautiful park with clean Atlantic beaches that stretch what seemed like forever from the mouth of the St Johns River and Mayport Naval Station to points south. The strong winds from St Augustine have followed us north because the waves were still raging and crashing against the thick encrusted pylons of the fishing pier just south of the park itself. The naval station is host to several large gray ocean vessels and has to be the training facility for ALL helicopter pilots since the roar heard overhead was continuous all day long. We took a ride down to "historic" Mayport and found a good view of their landing field and red brick lighthouse. Too bad there was a shiny barbed wire fence that stood in the way.

Check our past blog to read about the great Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens! We both remembered some of the animal displays and some seemed totally new to us. High wooden boardwalks crossed high above the animal enclosures giving everyone a great vantage point to admire each variety of four legged creatures. Our last visit was on a trip heading south in December and the other park visitors were at a minimum. Not so this time - 9 big yellow buses full of school children and the necessary amount of Mom's to keep close watch on their excited young charges! All were eager to see the elephants, bears, colorful birds, camouflaged reptiles, intelligent looking gorillas, a funny playful black otter who was busy chasing his tail around and around and the handful of tall, long legged giraffes!

New on this trip to the zoo was the adorable 3 week old baby giraffe who was curled up on the ground with it's legs tucked under trying to stay warm in the afternoon sun. It's Mama was not going to let it rest for long, as she persistently nudged until it struggled to stand up on its wobbly toothpick legs. After our zoo visit we managed to find downtown Jacksonville with it's modern looking shiny buildings and crossed over the wide St Johns River again. Our last stop before heading back to the "condo" was a recommended restaurant for - YEP! MORE seafood! Singleton's Seafood Restaurant looks rather shabby from the outside and the inside is lined with picnic tables, complete with rolls of paper towels. Out back were moored the large shrimping boats that would bring in their fresh catches each day. One room in the rickety building is filled with beautifully built wooden model boats of all sizes and types! And the food ??? I thoroughly enjoyed the perfectly fried "Trigger" fish and chips!

A1A leads to the ferry dock at the north end of the island and we were to drive aboard the large flat ferry platform the next morning and continue our slow journey home. From the dock on the north side of the wide fast flowing St Johns River we will travel up the length of yet another one of Florida's barrier islands.