Thursday, March 20, 2014

Charleston S.C.

It was still drizzling when we pulled out of Blythe Island.  The “condo” was covered with soggy yellow pollen and thick drips of tree stain besides all the splattered mud.   The easiest way to get from Brunswick Georgia to Charleston SC is to get in line with all the roaring semi trucks on busy I 95.   Once parked in Lake Aire RV Park and Campground just outside of Charleston SC, H promptly set to making his filthy condo shine once more.  It took lots of elbow grease, simple green and polishing compound!  I had to check all our past blogs to see when we were last at Lake Aire and Charleston – it was last year!  With all the rain that has been released from the heavens lately – the serene little lake has a good supply of water now.  And the gaggle of Muscovy Ducks still make their daily rounds!  Our neighbors across the muddy path are from McClure Ohio but originally from West Toledo and Point Place areas! They have family in Bedford!  AND - - H’s grandparents bought their home on Wilkens Rd in Whitehouse Ohio from Gary’s grandparents back in the early 30’s!   Talk about the world getting smaller!

Fort Moultrie
Charleston is still an amazing and interesting historical town.  The weather on Tuesday was SO crappy but we still had to go explore more of the area. Old Charleston is actually a peninsula surrounded by salt marches and lined with the Ashley River on the west and the Cooper River on the east side.  We drove down thru the main part of old town and checked out the Fort Sumter Visitor Center at Liberty Square before crossing the double arched Cooper River Bridge that lead out to Mount Pleasant and Sullivans Island to see Fort Moultrie.  Older than Fort Sumter that sits in the middle of the mouth of the two rivers, Ft Moultrie was originally built in 1776 to protect Charleston from an attack from the British.  Back then it was made of palmetto logs spaced 16 ft apart and filled with sand.  The second fort was built of brick before the Civil War to help protect the busy important port.  It was restored again in World War II so all the displays now range from Civil War thru WWII.   Huge black cannons from those eras still line the high walls.  Driving back towards the tall graceful Cooper Bridge we could see the Navy vessels docked at the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum. 
Click on picture to enlarge to read
  We found a wide cement pier that stretched out into the fast moving river and rested in the shadow of that tall graceful river crossing.  The pier was lined with plenty of benches and sturdy railings to lean on for the best views of the city on the other side and a closer look at the USS Yorktown, the aircraft carrier that was first in line at the navel museum!    One of the informative signs on the pier told of an old sunken hull of a cement passenger vessel that sank in 1926, refloated in 1929 and moved to its now final resting site.  On our drive back to the campground we saw sunshine – the first time in days!

Battery Park

The weather promised to be warmer so H extended our stay one more day so we could venture back down to historic Charleston!  Because the Portabote is still strapped to the top of the truck, parking in a garage was out of the question.   Parking on the street at a meter was impossible but we did manage to find a spot in Battery Park that was big enough for us!  And FREE!  The park was cool to walk thru because of the overlapping branches of all the ancient old live oak trees and the breeze that came from the waters just beyond the tall sea walls.  The grand stately gorgeous 3 story homes will never fail to amaze both of us.  The amount of wrought iron!   The colorful collections of flowers and hedges that divide each tiny enclosed yard.  The tall spires on the churches and even the steps by the curb where ladies entered their carriages in days of past glory.  We walked from Battery Park, up the 8 –10 blocks on Meeting Street to the city market and then back along Church Street and even thru the French Quarter area.  
Wandering thru the narrow, sometimes one way, sometimes cobblestone streets in the truck with those big wide side mirrors was a challenge as we tried to maneuver out of the old part of town and back to the busy traffic of modern day Charleston.

Showers are taken.   Dishes are done.  And now the blog is written!  We’ll be heading out fairly early on Friday and heading north.  H has his sights on Kingsport Tennessee.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Jacksonville Area


We really must be heading north – from Ocala to Jacksonville in one day!  In one morning!   But in all fairness – we did pull out early, but not before Bob came over to wish us well and safe travels!  He was also moving soon.

The Sullivans
                                            Jacksonville straddles the mighty St Johns River that is the only river in the USA that flows from south to north.  Out on the beach island is the small historic town of Mayport, which was founded in 1562.  This small town is home to the nation’s third largest Naval station which is port for 22 vessels, a Nuclear air craft carrier, an 8000 ft runway and a helicopter pad that launches over 100,000 flights a year.  The last time we camped at Kathryn Abby Hanna City Park, we included a picture of the oldest structure in this quaint OLD town – the St Johns Lighthouse that was constructed in 1858.  Also in that old blog was a discussion about the Singleton Seafood Shack.   It is STILL the total package of a seafood SHACK!   Its shackitude displays it all: low ceilings, wood floors, tables and hard benches, food served in Styrofoam and plastic utensils!  The seafaring bric-a-brac is hanging everywhere and the annex/museum still holds the dusty collection of fabulous hand crafted wooden ships.   And the food is still dee-lish!!!  Scallops one day and on the second visit we split our sweet tasting fried shrimp and stuffed deviled crab.  Out back are moored the very boats that bring the various fishes and crustaceans in from the ocean beyond.  Hopeful pelicans still perch and wait for a snack.  They can dream, can’t they??
Jacksonville Beach
After one of those very satisfying meals at the Singleton, we found a narrow looking hole in a fence that showed tire tracks that lead out thru the wetlands and along the rocky shores of the river.  Unable to yield NOT to temptation, H carefully threaded the truck thru that opening and out along the narrow rutted path.  At the end of the sandy track was a loop and a good spot to get out and stretch our eyes to see what was up and then down the river.   Up river we could see the Nuclear power plant and across the river was a large Navy vessel in dry-dock.   We could see the big number 68 on her bow.  Upon some investigating, we found that that number was assigned to the 505 ft guided missile destroyer, “The Sullivans”.   She is named for the 5 Sullivan brothers who fought and died together in World War II.   Since her launch, she has served in the Persian Gulf and after 9/11 she served as a temporary hospital in New York during Operation Noble Eagle.  During Operation Enduring Freedom in 2002, Al Quaeda attempted a bomb attack while she was in port in Aden, Yemen.  Their small boat was so overloaded that it sank and the attack never happened.  Later they tried the same type of attack and successfully bombed the USS COLE in October of that year.  As of December 2013 she had just returned from another 6-month deployment.  It must now be her turn to be rested and renewed!

This long thin stretch of island is home to Mayport, her seafood and 3400 acre Naval station, the mile and half of ocean beachfront of Hanna Park and then south to Atlantic Beach, Juniper Beach and Jacksonville Beach with its long thin fishing pier on pilings that stand out across the wide beach and into the rolling waves of the Atlantic.   Again we parked and slipped out of our sandals and onto the cool damp sand.   Between the pier and us we spotted a gathering of gulls like we had seen over on the Gulf side of the state.  This group was even more diverse with long black-billed Skimmers, my favorite “bad hair” Terns, black headed Laughing Gulls and a half dozen other kinds of gulls and shorebirds!  On another sandy walk on Hanna Park Beach, we heard the soft roar of an approaching engine.  H turned towards the noise and realized a motorized para-sail was humming up the coast, cruising low over the young ladies lying on the beach in their brand new Spring Break bikinis! 

Another snowstorm was on the evening news for up north.  Another rain- storm was on the same evening news for Florida and Georgia.  Seems every week there is a threat of more rain – some even severe!   Like the folks up north are saying – “Will this ever end?”  We were up early Sunday morning, in time for the 9am ferry boat that crosses the wide dark St Johns River - up the length of A1A on Amelia Island and over to the mainland and Yulee.  Farewell to Florida - Georgia was on our mind!  However, a “bridge out” sign caused us much consternation and we ended up on an extremely lengthy detour before we finally reached Blythe Island Campground in Brunswick Georgia.   And it has rained ever since we parked the “condo” and unhooked the wet truck – ALL night and ALL day! Thankfully no severe weather but it has sure put a damper on this part of our adventure. Two nights here and we’ll be on our way again! 

But now  - - - - - HAPPY ST PATRICKS DAY, EVERYONE!!   Our now just green Amaryllis sports a Welcome Flag; Erika’s Gnome looks dashing in green beads and my latest purchase 2 Vancouver Geraniums show off their Irish flags!