Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Amazin Amazon

How do they do it? 

I ordered the Kindle Fire and accessories yesterday morning.  My order arrived at  3:25 PM today. 

What's next?  Astral projection?

Track your package

Date Time Location Event Details
November 27, 2012 06:55:00 AM Opelika AL US Out for delivery
November 27, 2012 01:48:00 AM Atlanta GA US Shipment received by carrier
November 26, 2012 03:43:13 PM Chattanooga TN US Shipment has left seller facility and is in transit to carrier

There's little doubt, for better or worse, like it or not, we are living in the Golden Age of Consumerism. 

Of course, people probably said the same thing when the first Sears-Roebuck Catalog showed up in the mailbox.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Tech Upgrades Galore!

I've been busy!
New Computer.  I upgraded my 2008 HP Pavilion to a new HP Pavilion G6.  The newer version weighs less than half what the old one does and has a much longer battery life – 2 important considerations when traveling.

Mine's the super-cute blue one!
New Kindle.  I’ve had the Kindle Fire on my Amazon Wish List for a while now.  But today, Cyber Monday, Amazon had a smoking deal (get it?) on the Fire for $129.  I got it along with the accelerated charger, and the leather cover. 

I absolutely love my current Kindle 3G but …..


I also added the Prime Account (cost = $59 for the year as opposed to the usual $79/year).  My order should arrive on Wednesday.  That’s another nice perk from Prime – free 2-day shipping.  I just set up our Roku so I can stream movies and TV for free at home too.  Well, not free exactly, but for less than $5/month.   That will be nice on the road as well.    

New Wi-Fi.  On my past trips in the GDB, I used free wi-fi.  It was only slightly inconvenient but sometimes I missed being connected in the evenings while camped.  During the day, I used locations from libraries to Starbucks to hospitals.  My favorite wi-fi spot was Lowe’s.  But, because I’ll be teaching online, I need the capability to access the internet immediately and often.  After a lot of research, I’ve decided on Millenicom.  Many of you are using this service and the feedback is overwhelmingly positive.  Here’s the opinion of fellow blogger Wheeling It:


Whew!  All of this gadget switch-over is time-consuming.  For example, I’m slowly transferring all my files to the new HP - that’s 4 years of photos alone.  Not to mention learning how to operate Windows 8.  And when the new Kindle arrives, I’ll be busy learning all its features.  After that, I’ll tackle the Millenicom hardware.    

Especially nice is the fact that our older HP can stay home with John so we can Skype!  We tested the system yesterday and it worked beautifully.  Doris joined in showing up on camera and adding some audio as well.  It’s gonna be nice to see her sweet little face every day.  John’s too! 

Another improvement to life on the road will be having my local library’s audio books on the Kindle.  Much more convenient than discs.  Plus, I can return and renew easily, unlike books-on-CD. 

Do you ever feel like we are all caught up in some technological rip-tide?  Yet aren’t we fortunate to have access to all these gadgets that make road tripping easier?  GPS, digital cameras, smart phones, wi-fi, e-readers ….

IMO,despite the price of gasoline, there’s been no better time to be a gypsy! 



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Book Give-Away


                                        Happy Thanksgiving!

Update: Debra was the first to contact me.  I hope she enjoys it as much as we have.  I also hope she will pass it on. 

I got this wonderful book from MeriKay (who got it from Judy) with the promise that I would pass it on.

It contains a soulful, deeply reflective account by a 50-something year-old woman who through-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1994. It's one of the best books I've read about the Trail experience.

I'll send it to the first person who emails me with contact info. 

Who wants it next?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Florida Roadtrip Wrap-Up

My first trip to Florida's east coast was even more fun than I expected.  More expensive too.  First, here is my route and camping spots.

Note to self: this is a great time of year to visit the coast.  You are in-between the summer crowds and the snowbirds.  The weather is ideal because the heat and humidity are gone.  So are the screaming kiddies. 

Here is the breakdown of my travel expenses.  I wanted some numbers to analyze so I can determine how to cut costs.  I'd like to keep it down to $50/day max.  If so, this trip would have totaled $750 - a savings of almost $200.

15 days/14 nights
1347 miles
    $ 310
(13 nights)       
Average Cost

The one category I may be able to improve upon is camping fees.  I averaged $29/night for 13 nights. 

Ideally, I should dry camp every other night and save roughly 50% - I'll try that on my next trip but every third night might be more my style.  Although $385 for accommodations for 2 weeks isn't so bad.  That's the equivalent of 3 nights in a decent hotel. 

I think the food costs were reasonable at roughly $10/day.  I had 3 dine-in restaurant meals and 3 fast food meals.  And the occasional grab-and-go tourist bites (i.e. that tasty empanada).  The remainder was spent at grocery stores. 

And, of course, I could save a lot of money on gas ..... if I never left the driveway! 

I find that the numbers at the pump don't hurt as much if I ignore the cost per gallon or cost per tank and focus on the cost per trip.  I'm willing to spend $300 for 2 wonderful weeks on the road.

My strategy is .... don't look at the pump!

                             Put the receipt away and reach for the camera!

I'm open to any cost-cutting ideas.  How do you save $$$ on the road? 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Day 14 - November 17th - Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Uh, roger that.

Spent a good part of today looking for gators.  I don’t say that very often. 

I staked out Alligator Pond from the comfort (and safety) of the GDB.  Sadly, I didn’t see a single large reptile.    

The sun showed up!

After breakfast I took the pretty drive to the Refuge’s Visitors’ Center. 
They had some interesting exhibits.  This was my favorite. 

It gives the perspective of being underwater looking up at a big ole alligator belly.  And lots of other flora and fauna further down the food chain. 

This refuge encompasses a massive piece of land at over 400,000 acres.  I’ve not seen a habitat like it before.  It’s not really a swamp but more a “liquid prairie”.  Land of the Trembling Earth, as it's known.  If you ever find yourself questioning the diversity and tenacity of life on our planet, come see.  It’s a complex eco-system, and all about adaptation and survival.

Next, I followed Judy’s trail to the Cane Boil at the Chesser Island Homestead.  This is a restored homestead that gives a glimpse into the life of swamp people.  (I’m sure there is another name for folks who inhabited this area, but you get the idea). 

The home has a traditional syrup shed that was put to good use today.  The process is pretty simple, really. 

The cane gets crushed

It's so easy a little girl, a horse, and two government employees can do it!

The extracted syrup then goes in a large vat and is heated by a wood fire until it’s a big bubbly cauldron.  After a few hours, the process of evaporation leaves you with just syrup. 

We got to sample some of the cane syrup on biscuits.  Sorry no photos - it all happened so fast!  

There was a bluegrass band

playing that haunting tune There Is A Time For Us To Wander.   Here's some audio. 

Then the 4th generation Chesser ladies broke into song.  They had impressive harmony!

Built in the 1920's, the interior of the house is evocative of that era. 

It reminded me so much of homes I was in as a kid in North Alabama. In fact, it smelled like my grandmother’s house. 
By now I was in the mood for some veggies and the Okefenokee Restaurant in Folkston serves them up southern/buffet-style. 

Not my first trip to the buffet line

Really hit the spot!  I wish I had the recipe for that broccoli salad. 

About 3 PM I returned to my campsite and just relaxed.  Sometimes that’s the best part, isn’t it? 

There is a meteor shower in the wee hours of the AM, the moon is crescent, and there is no light pollution here.  (It’s 7 miles to little Folkston, the nearest town).  However, I fear the cloud cover that moved in this afternoon will preclude any viewing.  But maybe some of you can see the show?    

I start the journey home tomorrow and, while I can’t wait to see my family, I dread putting the GDB in dry dock even though it’s only for about 5 weeks. 

Have I mentioned that I love it?  

So long from Okefenokee Pastimes Campground



Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day 13 - Friday November 16th - Folkston, GA

Settled in for the night just outside the entrance to the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge in Southeastern Georgia. 
 I stopped here for a couple of reasons.  One is, of course, the great opportunity to view wildlife and the second was the chance to meet Judy (who is not wild at all).  She was kind enough to drive over and make sure I had arrived. 

Judy has a very popular blog, Travels with Emma, that I’ve been following for a couple of years.  This amazing woman fulltimes in her motorhome, along with adopted mutt Emma, as she volunteers at Wildlife Refuges across the country.   

 It was a real thrill to meet her!  As we were talking, Judy spotted a pair of red-headed woodpeckers. 

Check out the locations she's traveled to over the years. 

Well, tomorrow should be a lot of fun even if the sun doesn't show up.  The refuge is hosting an “Old Fashioned Sugar Cane Boil”.  I don’t know what that is, but there will be biscuits …. that’s all I need to know.  And Bluegrass!  I’m looking forward to driving the loop and perhaps spotting some Cranes. 

I can’t tell you how these dreary skies of the last few days has changed the whole vibe of this trip.  The #1 topic of conversation among local folk seems to be about what happened to the sun.  It’s just gone!  The passengers boarding the ferry for the Cumberland Island National Seashore looked glum and I don't blame them.  Is there anything more dampening to the spirits than a gray blustery day at the seashore?  People keep saying that this is an aberration for this time of year.    

Here is a shot of Amelia Lighthouse taken over the expanse of salt marsh in the Fort Clinch campground as I left this morning.  It's hard to get a pretty photo with this sky as a background. 

And here are a few photos from later in the day at St. Mary’s, GA.  Another lovely small seaside community where the Visitor Center for the Cumberland Island NS is located. 

I observed my morning coffee ritual parked behind this pretty church.

 I stopped for some internet at the town library. 

 All in all, another fun day on the road.  With the promise of more tomorrow!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 12 – Thursday November 15th – Fernandina Beach, FL

As hoped, I made it back to the Marina Restaurant for lunch.  I ordered the soft-shell crab (what else?), fries, cole slaw, and sweet tea. 

Oh My! 
I see why they’ve been in business for 40 years!  When you are just steps away from the wharf, the standards are high.  And my theory that paper placemats = good, unpretentious seafood is, once again, supported by the evidence of my clean plate! 

My original plan was to make it back to the park and maybe rent a bicycle, explore the park, and do some beachcombing but the weather was uninviting – gray skies, blustery winds, chilly temps. 

So, happily sated, I walked the streets of Fernandina Beach again.   

Here’s another thing I’ve learned that no one tells you.  If you want some good quality clothing but you’re cheap (like me) visit the consignment shops in the ritzy area.  Fernandina Beach shares the same pricy real estate that is Amelia Island.  So …… I ducked in here. 

Consignment Shop
And bought a dress for $7.   

Tres chic!

I passed by Lowe’s and parked to see if the wi-fi is as good as rumored.  Alan and Susan, the musicians who full-time in their Roadtrek and performed at the rally, swear by Lowe’s parking lot internet.  They were right. 

Quick connection and good speed.  Finally I get a little rebate from all these years we’ve been loyal Lowe’s customers! 

BTW, here is Alan and Susan’s blog if you are interested.  I haven’t had a chance to check it out yet.  Really neat couple.  They dry camp pretty much exclusively.

After finding some crab soup for dinner later tonight from The Crab Trap, another local restaurant highly praised by the natives, I arrived back at the campground and met my new neighbors.  I didn't learn their names or hometown, but this is their vintage camper.  They were gracious enough to let me take some photos. 

A 1972 Fleetwood Prowler

Isn't it a gem?  They’ve owned it for 6 years and, as you can see, have put a lot of work into it.  They take it out for weekends. I just love it when a deserving rig finds a good home. 

Towards dusk, the wind died down and the sun peeked weakly through the heavy clouds.  I still can’t believe this is my view a mere 30 paces from the door of the GDB.   For $30 a night yet.

Tomorrow I leave Florida for St. Mary’s, GA where the Cumberland Island Visitor’s Center is located.  I’ve decided not to take the ferry to the island – I would have to be there at 8:30 (ugh!) and the ferry doesn’t return until 4:45.  That’s a long day and the weather is supposed to be much like today’s.  But I’m sure I’ll learn a lot touring the facility. 

Then I turn west …. towards home …. via the Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge!   

So long, Florida!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 11 – Wednesday November 14th - Fort Clinch State Park, FL

Yep, Florida has it going on state park-wise. 

 I’m tucked away at the Fort Clinch Campground on the banks of the Amelia River which flows into Cumberland Sound.  Another impressive facility.  I’m in the last spot and, as a result, can see my own private beach outside my living room.

Beach to the right

My campsite is right over that dune

The campground here feels exceedingly isolated – it’s down a winding narrow almost 3 mile drive from the park entrance.  It’s beautiful and quiet here at Land's End.

It’s been a blustery grey day, very different from the weather I’ve been experiencing.  It’s a great night for a campfire, that’s for sure.  My water heater is humming away right now; I don’t want to wash up with cold water tonight!  

Stopping for hot coffee and some crossword time this AM was fun as usual.  Wonder if I'll ever get tired of it?

 I also stopped off at Fort Caroline National Monument near Jacksonville.  They have a “Bark Ranger” program for dogs.  The rangers will take your pup’s photo and post it here at the head of the  Nature Trail. 

I wonder how Doris would look in a ranger hat? 

One of the highlights of the day happened as I was motoring along and my GPS pipes up “Turn left.  Board the ferry”.  

Did you say ferry?
I didn’t expect that.  Five minutes and six dollars later, I was across St. John's River.  What fun!  I was so excited I had to text John during the 0.2 mile crossing. 

On the other side of the river, the landscape opened up to a beautiful coastal view into and through Amelia Island.  Before continuing to Fort Clinch, I stopped in Fernandina Beach to grab some internet at the local library.  What a charming town! 

So I strolled around ostensibly admiring the buildings and the waterfront but really trolling for she-crab soup.  Or something like it.  I was stopped for lunch earlier in the GDB and thinking how nice it would be to have a fresh seafood dish for dinner and this fella pulls in right in front of me.  It was , literally, a good sign.

So I searched around town and scored a bowl of clam chowder from the Marina Restaurant for dinner tonight.  If it’s one thing I’ve learned, when a seafood restaurant has those paper placemats – you know the ones, with the local ads? – the food is gonna be good. 

They have lunch specials from 11 – 2 so maybe I'll show up tomorrow if I'm not traveling to Cumberland National Seashore.  I may do that on Friday so I won't have to double-back to get to Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge.  I want to stop off and visit fellow blogger Judy on my way home. 

Back to today.  After I got hooked up, I did some housekeeping.  This is a broom and dustpan that I won as a door prize at the Roadtrek rally and it’s really come in handy what with all the sand I’m tracking in the house.  My new step really helps though.    

I was thinking just now, walking around the campground, about how far I’ve come since August when I picked up the GDB; I was all eager but anxious too.  It was a big step, of course.   

But here I am now, two short months later, learning every day about how to live on the road and gaining confidence in the operation and care of my rig.  All I can say is that it’s been a deeply satisfying few months.  I’m sure you all know what I mean!       


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 10 - Tuesday November 13th - St. Augustine

It’s dark here at my campsite though it’s not yet 5.  There are still just a few tents and me but the authorities were thoughtful enough to make sure we are decently spaced. 

I explored the old city today.  First stop was Castillo de San Marcos – a fortress the Spaniards built in the 1700’s to protect the city though it was occupied and used by subsequent conquerors over the years. 

These cannon have a 3.5 mile range

Yesterday I mentioned that forts are not my favorite NP sites.  There are some exceptions, like Fort Sumter, and Castillo de San Marcos is another.  It’s a fascinating place.  The structure is an engineering marvel; all the walls are built with coquina, a substance composed of inumerable tiny seashells.

Can you see the composition from this small patch of wall?  Mindboggling.
Coquina was mined from a quarry just down the road here in the campground.  When freshly cut it resembles a soft cheese.    

I noticed that coquina is a common building material all over the old town area. 

Imagine these fragile specimens that, eons later, gave strength to this fortress.  A fort that was never destroyed or damaged in all its existence.  (The closest call was in the 1930’s when a developer wanted to tear it down and build a golf course).  Ironically, it was never taken by force but changed hands many times through political agreements. 

After touring the monument, I strolled the streets of the city.  It is tourist-oriented, of course, and that usually means 2 things: outrageous prices and some great opportunities to totally pig-out.   

So this historic city was host to another historic event – my first empanada.  It was wonderful!  Ground beef nicely seasoned, with a flaky center crust but crunchy on the outside. 

I’d like to go back and sample one of everything.  A couple of locals assured me that all the items on the menu are good. 

And who could resist this sign?  Of course I had to stop. 

French Fry Angel?

It was a tough decision but I went with the French Quarter fries with remoulade.  OMG!  It was french fry heaven!  The spicy heat was complemented by the creaminess of the sauce.   

I placed the cone in the umbrella hole of a nearby table.  I was still able to make a mess. 

I leave tomorrow and make my way toward Cumberland Island National Seashore.  I’m learning not to leave chores until departure day so I filled the gas tank, emptied the other tanks, aired up the tires, and after all that work, a little more beach time was in order. 

 So I say goodbye to Anastasia State Park.