Happy 2014!

Happy New Year to all!  We hope you all had as fantastic a year as we did, and hope that 2014 will be even better!

Last year, at New Year’s Day, we posted a blog entry listing our goals for 2013.  Well, here we are at New Year’s Day again!  How did we do?  Here’s a repeat of last year’s post, with our comments and goals for 2014.

In 2013 we said “We can’t imagine a year more exciting, challenging, draining and life altering than 2012. What could 2013 offer? We don’t know and that’s what keeps us on the move as we seek new places, new adventures and check off a bucket list item or two.

I’m not going to call them New Years Resolutions that way I can’t break them. I’ll call them goals instead.”

Here were Chari’s Top 5 For 2013:

1)   I want to develop our blog to be more user friendly, add new features and reach 5000 views. In 2012 after just 6 months the blog has 21 followers and reached 1,188 views. Now that’s nothing compared to some of the top rated blogs but we appreciate each and everyone who has taken an interest in Homeless and Loving It!

By New Year’s 2014 – To my utter amazement this was achieved and surpassed. We now have 69 followers on the blog and many more via Facebook, Twitter and Linked-in. We ended 2013 with 11,175 views. So where to go from here? Shall I really reach for the stars by saying I want 25,000 views? Yes.

2)   I want to ride a Segway on a tour in some city or other place. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time and now it’s finally reached the top 5. 

By New Year’s 2014 – Done and enjoyed in Savannah. Don’t have a new challenge selected for 2014 but I’m sure one will come along.

3)   I want to take a sailboat day trip. I’ve been on big ships and small boats. I’ve kayaked and canoed but I’ve never been on a sailboat.

By New Year’s 2014 – Didn’t get out all day but had a wonderful time on an evening cruise in Halifax Harbor.

4)   I want to continue seeing National Park sites toward our goal of seeing them all. I haven’t counted recently but I think we are at 60 out of 391. What are the chances of reaching 25% next year? That means 38 more places. Mmmm, a tough one. It’s not the count that matters but the fun and learning along the way.

By New Year’s 2014 – Made it to 22% and our count is 86 NPS sites. So let’s shoot for 30% in 2014. That means 123 sites but we’re heading west and there are more parks out there.

5)   See a moose in the wild when I have my camera with me. Two years ago I was kayaking in Idaho when I rounded a bend and came within 100 feet of a cow moose and her calf. I stopped and said “I won’t hurt you” meaning “and I hope you won’t hurt me.” She just looked, decided I didn’t need further investigation and walked away with the calf in tow. To this day I consider this the best wildlife shot I could have had, the one that got away.

By New Year’s 2014 – Saw 5 moose, once w/o the camera handy and 4 when it was too dark to shoot from our truck.

       New For 2014 – Two out of five from 2013 are moving forward to 2014. What else should I shoot for?

1)  Make myself use my tripod more often. I have a bad habit of just grabbing the camera and taking off.

2)   Keep current with our blog. Easier said than done!

3)   Get myself out of bed and do sunrise shots. For this I’ll pretend to be going back to work (yup I just said the W word). Definitely easier said than done!

Better not get too carried away I’ve already had enough self-improvement for today.

Here were Steve’s Top 5 For 2013

1-     I want an adventure.  Something I’ve never done before.  2012 saw two, flying in a hot air balloon, and flying in a sailplane.  Don’t know what this new adventure will be, just know that I want one!

By New Year’s 2014 – Well, I don’t know if anything in 2013 qualifies as a special adventure comparing to ballooning or soaring in a sailplane.  Guess I’ll have to keep working on this one.

2-    Just recently we’ve eaten a couple of meals that place first and second on my all-time favorites.  One was Emeril’s recipe for Shrimp and Grits, which we made with fresh caught Gulf Shrimp.  The other was our own recipe for Cajun style baked oysters.  Don’t know which one places first and which one second, it may be a tie, but at some point in 2013 I want to make and eat a meal that pushes them to second and third place!

By New Year’s 2014 – Finding the Atlantic Snow Crab processing plant in Nova Scotia definitely qualifies!  Buying crab right from the factory, bringing it home, making a salad, popping open a beer, and sitting outdoors dipping crab meat into a half dozen different cocktail sauces…  Ahh, Life Is Good!  And, this meal did double duty!  Putting all the shells in a pot and cooking them down made a great stock for a fish chowder!  (Or chowdah, as a certain sister-in-law might say)

3-    I want a “National Geographic Moment”.  I’ve experienced a few in my life, and Chari has had some.  One of mine was being so close to Northern Right Whales in the Bay of Fundy that when they spouted, I got wet.  Another was being on the fifty-yard line watching while two bull elk locked horns in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  Chari and I watched enthralled as the bats flew in their hundreds of thousands from Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and wound their way to the horizon in the twilight sky.  I’d like another “National Geographic Moment”.

By New Year’s 2014 – Let’s see…  would being up-close and personal with humpback whales in the Bay of Fundy qualify?  Umm…  YES!

4-    I want to experience a moment of pure wonder and serenity.  Once, I sat under a pine tree at the Grand Canyon, in the midst of winter, when the only other person in sight was my brother, who also sat under a pine tree about a quarter of a mile away, and watched while the canyon slowly changed colors as the evening sun sank into the western sky.  Another was sitting on the beach near the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse watching as the morning sun rose to my left, a thunderstorm raged to my right about a mile or so offshore, and a pod of porpoises played in front of me.  And watching a fantastic display of the Northern Lights while driving alone through the night across North Dakota was another.  I’d like to experience this feeling again.

By New Year’s 2014 – Driving along a coastal road in Nova Scotia, we turned off on a side road leading to a town called White Point.  It turned out to be a small fishing village, maybe a dozen homes and eight or ten fishing boats in the harbor.  At the far side of “town” was a path leading out onto a peninsula, about half open meadow, and half wooded.  The ocean waves swept the shores on both sides while seabirds soared overhead.  We walked passed a grave, marked “The Unknown Sailor”, and I told Chari that we found the place where she could scatter my ashes (hopefully not for another fifty years or so!) 

Also in Nova Scotia, near the town of Lunenburg, we kayaked in an area known as Blue Rocks.  Paddling through the calm waters, among rocks and islands covered with a golden colored seaweed was absolutely beautiful…  rivaling the Antelope Canyon paddle on Lake Powell as the prettiest paddle I’ve ever done.

5-    I’d like my life of wandering with Chari to go on forever.

By New Year’s 2014 – Still working on this one, and now we’ve got another year under our belts! 

Overall, I’d say that four out of five is pretty darn good, and as for having a great adventure?  Well, Life is an adventure, and we’re having one every day, so I guess that makes five out of five! 

What are my goals for 2014?  I can’t think of any from last year that I would change.  Let’s just list the same goals again!

Here’s Opal’s Top 5 For 2013

1-   I want to actually catch a squirrel.

By New Year’s 2014 – Still working on this one.  But, I’ve come close a couple of times.  For 2014, I’m going to add “catching a pelican”.  Either one will do!

2-  I want to run and roll in the sand on 10,000 more beaches.

By New Year’s 2014 – Only 8372 to go!

3-  I want Mom and Dad to take me everywhere and not leave me in the stinkin’ trailer.

By New Year’s 2014 – We’re not making any headway on this one.  What does it take to educate those people?  Guess I’ll still need to keep rolling my big brown eyes at them when they look like they’re going to leave me alone.

4-  I want “people food” with every meal.

By New Year’s 2014 – We’re doing good, but we’re not up to 100% yet.  We’ll keep this one on the list too.

5- Just once, I want to be left alone after I’ve fallen asleep for the evening instead of getting woke up to go out and pee. 

By New Year’s 2014 – They actually did it!  Once.  Let’s shoot for two times in 2014.

St. Augustine Lights Up For The Holidays

St. Augustine, Christmas

St. Augustine City Hall and Fountain

After having a jump start on holiday decorations with our visit to McAdenville, NC we were looking forward to seeing what St. Augustine might do for the season. Our hopes were met and exceeded by the whole historic district dressing in stands of white lights, restaurants sporting seasonal decor and homes and B&Bs looking so very inviting. The pre-holiday weeks are a great time to visit although we doubt that there is ever a bad time. The old historic section of St. Augustine is very walkable.   The night we chose to stroll and see the lights was mild and the streets were crowded. Holiday trolleys with passengers singing and yelling “Merry Christmas” were rolling the streets. As for parking we were able to find a lot at the Villa Zorayda that let us stay after we finished the tour.

Villa Zorayda, architecture

Villa Zorayda Exterior

The Villa Zorayda is open all year for self guided tours with an audio guide. Several nights a week in the weeks before Christmas the curator and his wife lead candlelight tours of the once elegant home cum museum. Villa Zorayda stands out from surrounding buildings due to its Moorish architecture and bright colors. It was built by Franklin Smith, a Boston millionaire, in 1883, as a 1/10 scale model of one section of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. It was the first building to reintroduce Spanish revival architecture to Florida. Franklin Smith was an innovator in the use of poured concrete. His home was built mixing local coquina stone and cement in blocks made of wooden forms. Another feature of the house was the interior plaster work was made overseas using the same wooden molds used to build the Alhambra. Can you imagine a museum today loaning a valuable artifact like that for use in construction? Smith was a collector of Spanish and Middle Eastern art and antiques. After he died the home was used as a private club, speakeasy and movie set. The second owner was Edward Mussallem, a Lebanese immigrant and well  respected oriental rug dealer and antiquities expert. The Villa gained fame for the private collection and was opened as a museum in the 1950s. The property has remained in the Mussallem family and the curator’s wife is Edward Mussallem’s granddaughter. In 2000 the museum was closed for renovation and artifact restoration. Reopening in 2008 just in time to celebrate its 125th anniversary, Villa Zorayda is enchanting. Whether it is the gold leaf ceiling murals, the oldest known rug ( estimated to be 3400 yrs. old) or the history, your tour will be money well spent. Normally photography is not allowed. However during the candlelight tour photos of the main plaza called the Court of Lions, after a room in the Alhambra, are permitted.

Tour, Christmas, St. Augustine.

Inside The Court Of Lions

After the tour we took our tripods and headed out to practice nighttime photography. So come stroll with us and enjoy St. Augustine in her holiday finery.


City Hall At Night

City Hall At Night

Christmas Lights

Old Town Lights

Old Town Plaza

Old Town Plaza

City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks

City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks

St. Augustine City Tree

St. Augustine City Tree

Entrance To The Lightner Museum

Entrance To The Lightner Museum

St. Augustine Street Scene

St. Augustine Street Scene

Holiday Cheer

Holiday Cheer

Happy 500th Birthday Florida!

Happy Birthday, Florida!

Happy Birthday, Florida!

It is April 2, 1513 and a Spanish galleon lies just off the coast of a new land. A smaller boat brings a landing party ashore. The first Spaniard, Don Juan Ponce de Leon, will step foot on what soon will be called the Treasure Coast.  He claims this new land for Spain and names it La Florida, land of flowers. Although others have come to America’s shores this is the first time anyone has made a claim in the name of a country. La Florida covers most of the North American continent. Over the next three centuries Spanish, French, British, Confederate and USA flags will fly and lay their claims.

Five centuries later millions of people inhabit the state of Florida. For the next three months we will be Floridians. Since this is the 500 year anniversary, it seems only right that we begin our first snowbird winter in North America’s oldest, continuously inhabited city, St. Augustine. We will spend the next eight days at Anastasia State Park. The park is located on Anastasia Island just across Matanzas Bay via the beautiful Bridge of Lions and Route A1A.

Google Earth, Florida, St. Augustine

Google Earth Map of St. Augustine and Area

St. Augustine was not, however, Spain’s first attempt to colonize La Florida. There had been six previous attempts. The French were successful in establishing a fort, Fort Caroline, approximately 50 miles north near what is now Jacksonville in 1564. With the French threatening his Treasure Fleet as it sailed La Florida’s east coast on the way back to Spain, the king appointed Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, Spain’s most experienced admiral, as governor. His mission was to explore and settle the New World. He arrived on August 28, the Feast Day of St. Augustine, thus naming the new settlement after the patron saint. He occupied the indian village of Seloy and even claimed the council house to billet his officers.  A larger, better equipped French Navy would have dominated the Menendez forces had they not been caught in a hurricane. The French survivors attempted to march back to Fort Caroline but were stopped by the Spanish forces and executed. With that defeat French control of La Florida ended. Today the bay is still called Mantanzas Bay, meaning slaughter.

Matanzas Bay Panorama

Matanzas Bay Panorama

Ponce de Leon never mentioned a Fountain of Youth. There were statements that this might exist in other governmental documents. Legend suggests that the advanced age (80-90) of many Timicua people when the European average lifespan was less than 40 may have been the source. Others believe Ponce de Leon was searching for an aphrodisiac for the King who in his later years married a very young woman.


A wooden fort, Castillo de San Marcos, was built to defend the settlement. St. Augustine defended herself not only against other nations but against pirates such as Sir Francis Drake who raided and burned the city in 1586. The town was rebuilt. Almost a century later, privateer Robert Searles would raid the town in 1668. In 1670 the British established Charles Town (now Charleston) and raised another threat to Spanish territory.  A new stone fort made from local coquina stone took most of two decades to build and was completed in 1695. In 1702 the British attacked St. Augustine. Unable to subdue the Castillo San Marcos they burned the town to the ground. There is no building in St. Augustine that predates 1702.

National Monument, NPS, national parks, Florida

Castillo de San Marcos

By the time of the American Revolution, St. Augustine was in the hands of the British and became a haven for loyalists. Three signers of the Declaration of Independence, Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward, Jr., were placed under house arrest in the city. Other prisoners did not fair so well being housed in the Castillo now known as Fort St. Marks. Florida was returned to the Spanish in 1784 as compensation for having aided the patriots.

The native Timicuan (pronounced Tim – i (short i) – quan) people had lived in northern Florida for over 4,000 years. Within 250 years they would all but vanish and the few survivors would be absorbed along with Creek, Yamasee, Oconee and runaway slaves to form the Seminole nation. The word Seminole is a corruption of the Spanish word cimarrones, meaning untamed or wild ones. During the War of 1812 the Seminole sided with the British. The First Seminole War, 1817-1818, occurred when the United States invaded Spanish held Florida. After destroying Seminole villages, Andrew Jackson went on to attack Spanish settlements. In a 1819 treaty negotiated by John Quincy Adams, then Secretary of State, and Spain’s Minister, Luis de Onis, Florida   became American territory. Between 1835-1842 in response to the Indian Removal Act, the Second Seminole War erupted. This stands as the bloodiest Indian war in American history. Florida’s admission as a state was delayed because it wanted to enter as a slave state. It finally did enter as a slave state in 1845 when Iowa entered as a free state.

Many of the first families to settle in the area came from the Aviles area of Spain. Later immigrants came from the Canary Islands and the Cracker families arrived with their cattle herds. While St. Augustine is an interesting place to visit at any time of year, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas bring out a special beauty when the city dons festival lights. The tree at the Visitors Center is decorated with pictures and family names of the founding families.

So join us as we wander through St. Augustine by day and night.

First Families of St. Augustine

First Families of St. Augustine

Roadside Trivia #7

author, Ripley museum, St. Augustine

Holiday Lights At The Ripley’s Museum

It seems we go for a long time and then   we find trivia everywhere.

Here’s the next one. It’s a tough one.

What American author’s winter home has been a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum since 1950?

OK, everyone hum Da, Da Da…Da, Da, Da… Dum, De, Dum, Dum… Dum, Dum Dum (that’s as close as we can get to the Jeopardy theme.)


Louder, we can’t hear you!

That’s Better!

What you want the answer?

Be patient.

Ok, here it is.

The author was Florida’s own Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings who wrote The Yearling. For the full story read the photo below. To bring it up full screen click on the photo.

St. Augustine trivia 1

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

McAdenville composite

Wishing everyone who reads our blog the best holiday season ever, however you choose to celebrate.

Decorating for the holidays is a challenge with limited space and storage. Steve made our “tree” so it is easy to take apart on moving day. He thinks it came out too skinny and is already planning a redo for next year. We’re calling it our “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree”. 

While we were killing time during our recent roof repair we returned to our former home town of Charlotte, NC.  Just west of Charlotte off of I-85 is the small town of McAdenville.  A former mill town for Pharr Yarns, McAdenville now serves as a bedroom community for commuters.  Once a year, from the Monday after Thanksgiving until the first week of January, McAdenville becomes CHRISTMAS TOWN USA.  At one time I was told that anyone buying property in McAdenville had to sign an agreement that they would decorate for this event. I don’t know if this is true but in the five times I’ve gone to this event I’ve never seen an undecorated property.

Usually, we’d drive over via I-85 and sit for an hour or more in traffic waiting our turn to meander slowly through town and enjoy the spectacle. This year we took a backroad in early enough to beat the barricade and found parking in town. Arriving early gave us the opportunity to walk and photograph the lights. Many times Steve and I are shooting side by side and when we get home we have very similar pictures.   Of course, all of the good ones are mine! This time we separated and had a great assortment. Enjoy the slide show that follows.

M   E   R   R   Y        C   H   R   I   S   T   M   A   S

F   R   O   M

S   T   E   V   E      A    N   D     C   H   A   R   I

P.E.I. Means Particularly Enchanting Island

Prince Edward Island, P. E. I.

A Mural Of Rural P.E.I.

We hadn’t originally planned to visit Prince Edward Island on this trip.  A call from some RV friends we’d met in Florida in 2011 changed our plans. They were work camping as hosts in Maine and wanted to visit P.E.I. before returning home to Pennsylvania.  Would we like to meet up? What are plans for if not to change? Prince Edward Island was named for, can you guess, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820), the fourth son of King George III and the father of Queen Victoria.

We picked a park close to the Confederation Bridge, Linkletter Provincial Park, for our stay.  Many of the P.E.I. parks offer full hook-ups.  The Confederation Bridge is the longest bridge in the world crossing ice covered waters. It opened in 1997 and cost one billion dollars to construct. When you cross the 8 mile Confederation Bridge in a car the concrete barriers block much of the view.  When you come over in a truck or RV you’re above the barrier and get a great view. There’s no charge to cross over from New Brunswick but going back with an RV be prepared for a hefty toll (almost $50 Canadian). While the park itself was very nice, if you were coming for the beach it isn’t the place we’d recommend. The beach is strewn heavily with seaweed and at high tide almost disappears.  As a base for sightseeing it worked just fine. Most visitors to P.E.I. come for the miles of red, sandy beaches. Unfortunately, we arrived the same time as a tropical storm worked its way up the coast. It was very rainy and windy the majority of the week.

Our friends had gotten tickets for a new play debuting this summer, Evangeline, a musical based on the Longfellow poem.  It was playing at the Confederation Center in Charlottestown, capital of P.E.I.  Other shows that play annually in Charlottestown are Anne of Green Gables and Ann and Gilbert based on the book, Anne of Green Gables. Evangeline was terrific! It was Broadway quality for the cast, scenery, choreography and music. If it is playing when you visit, consider this a must see. We wouldn’t be surprised if this show tours other cities in the US and Canada. We didn’t have time to sightsee in Charlottestown but would love to return.  Hey, give us credit, we haven’t said when we come back for quite a while!

The Bottle House

Entrance To The Bottle House

The Bottle House Through The Fountain

The Bottle House Through The Fountain

Flowers At The Bottle Houses

Flowers At The Bottle Houses

For a touristy but interesting spot to see go to The Bottle Houses. Long before recycling was in vogue, Edouard Arsenault, fisherman and carpenter of western P.E.I., transformed over 25,000 bottles into small buildings on his property in the Acadian town of Cap-Egmont.  His inspiration was a postcard from the bottle castle in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Unfortunately, this attraction no longer exists.  Between 1980-1984 he built six structures. The structures deteriorated after their creator’s death.  Not wanting them to disappear, his grandson lovingly restored them. The attraction is still owned and operated by his descendants.


Bottle House Church

Drinking In The View

Drinking In The View

Hydrangea In Bottle House Garden

Hydrangea In Bottle House Garden

Bottle House Bar

Anyone Seen The Corkscrew?

Another unexpectedly interesting place was the Potato Museum. PEI is flat and sandy and grows a lot of potatoes. So here’s the answer to our Roadside Trivia #6. The two places which were first to put slogans on license plates: P.E.I. and Idaho.  What did they have in common, potatoes, of course! While one side of the museum is about potato farming, the other side depicts life on P.E.I. between 1880s and 1950s. Here, you’ll find everything from old suitcases to an iron lung.  Of course, today potato farming and processing is done by large corporations and you’ll see huge processing plants as you travel the island. However, it hasn’t lost it’s rural charm.

Canadian Potato Museum on P.E.I.

This Spud’s For You

Harvesting Potatoes

Harvesting Potatoes

Picking Potatoes

Picking Potatoes

Potato Sacks

Potato Sacks

Potato Tools In Black & W

Potato Tools In Black & W

At least on the west side of the island, where we did most of our sightseeing, there are several Acadian communities. During the summer farm stands are plentiful and in the Fall new potato stands with honor system boxes take their place. If you like old churches or cemeteries you’ll find driving backroads enjoyable. We didn’t get to Cavendish NP or the east side of the island. Another trip?  Well, if you insist.

P.E.I. Landscape Photo

P.E.I. Landscape Photo

Picturesque Barn On A Backroad

Picturesque Barn On A Backroad

When you come to P.E.I. a must is going to one of the lobster suppers. Some are sponsored by local churches so just look for signs along the roadway. Others are commercial enterprises.  It really doesn’t matter. The meal is all you can eat save the lobster. That you order by the size you want. We had 1 and 1/2 pounders which was more than enough!

Notre Dame du Mont-Carmel

Notre Dame du Mont-Carmel

A View For Eternity

A View For Eternity

Guardian Angel

Guardian Angel

With this we end the posts about our glorious summer in the Canadian Maritimes.

Roadside Trivia #6

It’s been a while since we had a Roadside Trivia question for you.

In 1928, the first slogans were put on license plates. What two regions were the first to issue plates with slogans and what did they have in common?

Ok, not so easy this time. You’re going to have to wait for the answer until our next post.