SNOW?!!? A week before Thanksgiving and we got 4 inches of the stuff! Sparkling white, beautiful snow! Would it still be around for the grand start of our Winter 2015 Venture?? Would it cause a delay? NO – Thankfully, or sadly, the gorgeous glittering wonderland in our back yard was back to drab green and dull brown by Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving, as usual was held at Dave and Staci’s home and our family Christmas was on the Sunday following. Last year, Jean and her family and Dave and his family met us at the perfect facility – Nazareth Hall in Grand Rapids Ohio (See Previous Florida Blog!) but this year we met at LaRoe’s Restaurant in historic downtown Grand Rapids. Not a very extensive buffet but it was still good to get this part of our families together before we left for the winter again!
This year’s route south was the same as last but without all the wheel bearing problems. Going thru Columbus Ohio, H smelled something hot and for a moment got nervous but as it turned out – it was hot brakes from a semi truck and not our wheels. The rain that we started out with when we left Michigan was still with us when we parked for our first night out at Paintsville Lake State Park in Kentucky. Bud and Carol parked in the spot we had last year and we parked right across the little campground loop road. The memory of all the ups and downs of US 23 must have faded from our minds, but we prevailed and crossed Tennessee, Virginia and entered the bad roads of North Carolina, thru Asheville and down to Strausberg where we parked in the mud at Cunningham’s RV Park for the next night.
In Virginia, H made an executive decision and turned off the highway to stop and see Natural Tunnel State Park. After a short winding narrow road we reached the dome of the small state park and got out for a well-deserved chance to stretch our cramped legs. While H and I had been to this amazing little park a long time ago, B&C had not and seemed amazed at the view from the top of the gorge – looking down into the gargantuan mouth of the train tunnel below. On our last visit, H and I rode the ski lift down into the valley to stroll into that mammoth opening in the mountainside. Before we climbed back into our vehicles, C and I climbed aboard a festive looking bright green steam train engine that had been in the park since 1996 and pretended to wave to imaginary well-wishers.
In Savannah Georgia, we parked for 2 nights in Skidaway Island State Park. It was easy to park our collective wagon train since all the campsites were large half circle pull thru’s. We had all been to this historic town before so we just enjoyed refreshing our memories and strolled in and out most of the intimate little shops that are still nestled below the shops on the main road level. Then, poor Bud had to follow H’s directions as he tried to steer around the small green parks that were hidden among the city’s quaint antique homes.
From Savannah to Jacksonville Florida, our route detoured out onto A1A and Amelia Island to stroll the busy holiday decorated streets of Fernandina. As in Savannah, it was cold and windy near the waterfront but as we walked and shopped further inland we were able to get a bit warmer. Of course, I had on my eclectic collection of patches jacket and several folks stopped to ask or comment about it. One shopkeeper lady was so impressed with my jacket that she even handed me a circular white patch with the Fernandina Lighthouse on it with instructions that I should affix it to a hat since there was no more room on my jacket!
Finally arriving in Jacksonville we fought our way thru all the cross-town traffic to park for 2 nights in Abbey Hanna Park & Campground. The following day’s choice of exploration was lunch at Singletons Seafood in Mayport before heading farther down A1A to St Augustine. H felt the cheapest place to park was the parking lot for the Castillo de San Marcos Fort since at 5pm the parking there would be free AND it was close to Old Town. Out on the lawn of the fort were 3 sets of costumed soldiers – Old Spanish, English Red Coats and Old Floridian. As we shivered in the cold wind, they proceeded to demonstrate how they loaded and then shoot several rounds with their temperamental muskets. As long as we were there at the fort, and had our Eagle Passports, we chose to tour the big stone structure once more. In and out of the small cave-like rooms we went, and then up the wide steps to the 4 diamond shaped bastions with the wide protected walkways still lined with large black cannons. We did our own walking tour of old town, took a hot chocolate break, toured the interesting museum of dug out canoes in the restored Government House. The nice ladies there even let us sit for a while, out of the wind, in their little courtyard. We tried our best to wait till dusk for the lighting of the trees in the park at the end of old town but the cold got the best of us and we voted to head for home. In the warmth of the car, we enjoyed the Christmas lights on A1A instead!