Out And About In Arkansas

During our stay in Hot Springs, Arkansas we needed service work done on the RV several times. This meant leaving the trailer at the repair shop. Since we had to find temporary housing it was a great opportunity for some short “vacations”.

Our first trip was to Fort Smith, AR on the Arkansas/Oklahoma border. We visited the Fort Smith National Historic site. Originally built as an Army fort on the far western frontier to protect settlers from Indian attacks and outlaws in 1817, it later became a federal courthouse and prison until it closed in 1896. There are exhibits on the U.S. Marshals, outlaws,  Judge Parker and the Trail of Tears. We’d hoped to return to participate in one of the trial re-enactments they hold there but didn’t make it. Fort Smith has one of the most unique Visitor Centers we’ve seen. It is in a former brothel. We thought we’d just stop in for a moment and look around. This is a slow time of year and the docent asked if we’d like a tour. So for the next 45 minutes we were entertained by the story of  “Miss Laura”, her girls and their gentlemen callers as well as the details of the house and how it became the Visitor Center.  Last on our list of places to visit was the home and museum of General William O. Darby who formed the special WWII unit eventually called the Army Rangers. This is privately run and hours very. When we were there the docent was one of the founders. Sensing an interested audience talked for almost two hours and displayed items in their collection not normally on display. We had to graciously depart or we would have been there a lot longer. We can’t find our pictures so these are from the internet.

Fort Smith NHS

“Miss Laura’s” As The Fort Smith VCB

Renovated To Its Former Style

“Gentleman” Waiting At Miss Laura’s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General Wm. O. Darby

Boyhood Home Of General Darby

The second trip took us to the north central part of the state near Harrison and the Buffalo River National Scenic Riverway. We rented a dog friendly cabin through VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) at the same price as a motel room. We visited the Buffalo River National River, a NPS site although it was too chilly for on the water activities. We did a few short hikes and enjoyed the area. We are saying “when we come back” as it would be a fabulous place to paddle. Yes there are shuttles available if you like us have only one car. We also drove to the Mountain Home area to visit one of Steve’s uncles.

Buffalo River View

Imagine Paddling Here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trip number three was at the end of our stay and we headed to Petit Jean SP. This was Arkansas’ first state park. Stephen Mather, first director of the National Park Service was consulted and you can see his influence in the lodge. It looks like a smaller version of the great park lodges of the west. The CCC did a lot of work here in the 1930s from building cabins (like the one we used), to a stone water tower, to furniture still in use at the lodge today.  For those who can do a strenuous hike there is a beautiful waterfall. We plan to return some day and use the excellent campground. The story of Petit Jean, a young woman who stole aboard ship to be near her beloved but pretended to be the cabin boy.  A favorite of the crew “he” was nicknamed Petit John. Not until “he” became ill was it discover she was a female. She died and is buried at the park overlooking the Arkansas River.

A Beautiful Place To Hike

Overlooking The Arkansas River At Petit Jean SP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve and Opal At PJSP

 

Our Cabin

Exploring A Cave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some day trips took us to Mt. Magazine SP, the highest point in Arkansas. This park also has a beautiful lodge and some of the cabins come with hot tubs! We are very impressed by the state parks we have seen in Arkansas. On our way there we stopped at Hickory Nut Overlook for a great view of Lake Ouachita and Ouachita National Forest. Another trip took us to the Lum & Abner Museum. I don’t remember this radio program but a friend of mine does who was raised in Arkansas. They were local “class clowns” who entered a local station’s talent contest making up the characters of Lum and Abner from Pine Ridge on their way there. Like Andy Griffith they used their home town area and people they knew in the routine. They became regulars and later went on to be syndicated. The store they featured in the program is now the museum. It is full of L&A artifacts and implements from early years in the Ozarks.

Lum And Abner Store And Museum

Lum And Abner In Real Life And In Character

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museum Inside

 

 

Ozark Women Wore Corn Husk Hats To Work Outside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heading south we visited Hope, AR, and the NPS site, boyhood home of President Bill Clinton. Arkansas loves Bill Clinton. Hot Springs is where he graduated from High School. There is a big sign letting you know it. Apparently, another claim to fame for this small town was the world’s largest watermelon. Now although surpassed several times, the sign still brags about the event. I had to stop and take a photo of a bit of roadside humor photography at a local grocery. The name of the town is Hope for a reason as it has seen better days and is hoping for a recovery.

Bill Clinton’s Birthplace

On A Ranger Led Tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Town Named Hope

They’re Proud Of That Melon

Make You Hungry?

We made several day trips to Little Rock to visit Heifer International Headquarters, The McArthur Museum, eat at Cotham’s Mercantile, tour the Arkansas Capitol and return to Central High NHS since we’d missed the ranger led tour when we were there in 2014. Steve’s Mom has been donating to Heifer International in lieu of giving Christmas gifts for the past several years. We were very impressed with both the philosophy of the organization and its totally green headquarters. For history buffs the Mc Arthur Museum is a treasure. This is where General Douglas McArthur was born. Right next door is the Arkansas Art Museum where we viewed early works by Ansel Adams. If you are going for lunch at the original Cotham’s Mercantile (there is a new one in town), do get there early. It gets busy by noon. They’re famous for the Hubcap Hamburger. Free tours of the Capitol give you an overview of state history and government. It is the only state that let’s you enter the vault and hold on to a big pile of cash. They do insist you give it back though! For anyone wanting to have an “in the moment” experience of what Civil Rights in the 1960s was all about should take the ranger led tour at Central High NHS. Since Central High is still used as a high school the tours  inside are available only when school is in session and very restricted hours. You need to call ahead and claim a spot but the tour is free.

Heifer International Museum

Heifer International Green Headquarters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mc Arthur Museum

Korean War Memorial

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arkansas State Capitol

Stained Glass At The Capitol

Show Me The Money!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Cotham’s Mercantile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Would You Eat Here?

We had a wonderful and busy three months in Arkansas and still didn’t see everything we wanted to see or do. So as we like to say… “When we come back…”

A Day In The Life Of A Volunteer At San Juan Island National Historical Park

off to work 1Many of you know that Steve and I have spent summer 2015 working with the National Park Service as volunteers on San Juan Island in Washington. There are two locations where volunteers work: American Camp and English Camp. We are assigned at English Camp. Our duties run from simple greetings to more detailed explanations of the park’s history, selling bookstore items, working with children on the Junior Ranger program and performing in the weekly Living History. As we became more knowledgeable about the Pig War, Steve developed an in depth talk for interested visitors. To his own surprise, he has found he enjoys public speaking. Chari has found, to her surprise, that she enjoys working with children far more than she would ever have imagined. Volunteers give their time but get so much back in return.

We took our small video camera down to the English Camp Visitor Center with the intention of filming Steve giving his presentation to a small group for our own use. As luck would have it, that day a group of 20 high school students from OMSI camp (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) were visiting and interested in hearing his talk. Then another ten or so visitors came in who also wanted to attend. We set up the camera and Steve talked about one of our country’s lesser known conflicts. Just this past weekend Steve had given his talk to a gentleman who said he wished his grandson could have heard the talk. His grandson is a real history buff and they have visited many Civil War Era battlefields together. Steve offered to e-mail him this video but alas it was too many gigabytes. So we are posting this for him and hope some of our other followers enjoy hearing it too.

The blockhouse At English Camp

The blockhouse At English Camp

A quick note to correct something in the talk. Since filming this we realized we had a name wrong. To set things straight, when Steve talks about one person having kept their cool in thirteen years as Admiral Baynes, it should be Captain Hornsby of the Royal Navy. The learning curve goes on… Also after the introduction which was recorded with a microphone later you may need to turn up the volume on your computer.

And now… Here’s Steve……………..

Our Wonderful Time As Volunteers At Petrified Forest National Park

Well here it is our last day of work as volunteers at Petrified Forest National Park. It is with mixed emotions that we will pack up and set off on new adventures in a few days. We’d planned on doing several posts while here at the park. But you know how things can keep sliding from today to tomorrow to next week. So instead of a lot of details about how all of the trees turned to stone 225 million years ago we offer a half hour slide show instead. The show also includes a few pictures from Canyon de Chelly, Route 66, Winslow and Christmas 2014.

When you see the petrified wood there are two types. The colorful pieces are agatized (fully petrified) and the pieces that still look like wood are per mineralized (petrification process was interrupted). A cubic foot of fully petrified wood weighs about 200 lbs. so you can just imagine how heavy some of these trees are.

To view the video full screen, click on the center arrow to play then click on the diagonal arrow in the lower right corner.

We hope you will get to visit and enjoy this interesting and beautiful place for yourselves some day. Until then, sit back, put your feet up and enjoy!

A Rocking Good Time In Little Rock – Part 1

After spending Easter weekend with relatives in Corinth, MS we cross the Mississippi River into Arkansas. The Dreamchaser is finally heading west. Our first stop will be in the state capitol, Little Rock, and from here we’ll make several day trips. Our “home base” for the next few days will be a COE park called Maumelle. As with all of the COE parks it is beautifully arranged. The sites are placed along the Arkansas River. Our Interagency Senior Pass gives us a 50% discount too.

Bill Clinton, U. S. President, Little Rock

Main Display Hall At Clinton Presidential Library

In keeping with our attempt to see all Presidential homes and libraries we head into town to the Clinton Presidential Library. We spot the museum store and grab a free parking spot nearby. After purchasing a lapel pin we walk three blocks to the library. There is parking at the library but it’s a gorgeous spring day for a walk. There is a large city park along the river and we note it has a wonderful bike path. Already we’re talking about coming back! We arrive just in time to purchase tickets for a tour. We highly recommend you take the tour. Our docent guide was excellent. We first went up to the second floor into a mock up of the Cabinet Room and then on to the main exhibit hall. Floor to ceiling bookcases house most of the papers from the Clinton Presidency. There are many more in storage off site. The panels running down the center feature main events by year. If you are interested in exploring a particular event in depth there are alcoves perpendicular to the main panels that have detailed information. On the third floor are exhibits of White House china, gifts from foreign countries, White House Christmas decorations and other memorabilia, a mock up of the Clinton Oval Office and a special exhibit room. There were special exhibits about Presidential pets and a traveling exhibit from the Spy Museum in Washington, D. C. called Terrorists, Saboteurs and Spies.

tour, Clinton Library

On Tour Of Clinton Library In The Cabinet Room

Presidential campaign, Clinton

Clinton Campaign Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photography, Clinton

The Clinton’s At Home

Oval Office, Clinton

Mock Up Of Clinton Oval Office

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gifts from foreign countries, Japan

Priceless Jade Sculpture From Japan

Saturday Night Live, Clinton

Puppet Of Clinton Used On Saturday Night Live

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chilhuly, Christmas tree, White House

White House Christmas Tree By Dale Chihuly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White House china, Clinton

A Set Of White House China Used During The Clinton Administration

 

 

Olympic Torch, Atlanta

Olympic Torch From 1996 Atlanta Games

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clinton's Presidential Limosine

Clinton’s Presidential Limosine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

collage, campaign buttons

Clinton Campaign Buttons

From there we walked to the Old State House which is now a museum. The building has been restored and offers a crash course in Arkansas history.

museum, Old State House, Arkansas

Restored Old State House Museum In Little Rock

One of the most interesting events displayed was about the Brooks-Baxter War of 1874. The gubernatorial race of 1872 between Joseph Brooks and Elisha Baxter was contested. In 1874 a small group of men following Brooks entered the State House and evicted Baxter. Within hours crowds supporting both sides gathered and federal troops were placed between them to prevent bloodshed. The uprising last a bit over a month during which the Brooks contingent occupied the building with artillery. The building sustained a lot of damage. Governor Baxter finally retook the State House and his office.

Another interesting episode occurred in the early 1900s after the new State House was built. The Secretary of State was attempting to fill the building with tenants and offered University of Arkansas Medical Department space rent free. The human cadaver dissection and anthrax studies requiring animals to be kept on the property were not popular with other tenants. However, the federally funded Crossett Experiment which led to the control of the Anopheles mosquito and malaria was headquartered in the building in 1916.

Mary Stenbergen

Mary Stenbergen With Her Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame

Dale Evans

Dale Evans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash Poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billy Bob Thornton

Billy Bob Thornton

Of a more modern theme a special exhibit called Arkansas Stars featured stars of movies, recordings and television who were from Arkansas. These names should sound familiar: Mary Stenbergen, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Billy Bob Thornton and Dale Evans. Of special interest to the Maier family who watch “A Christmas Story” every year is Melinda Dillon who played the role of the mother in that holiday classic.

A Christmas Story

It’s Italian. It’s Fra-gee-lee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Learning History And More About RV Living Firsthand On The Road

wildflowers, Tennessee

Tennessee Spring Wildflowers

We are self confessed history buffs. That’s probably one reason we’re making a point of seeing all 400+ National Park sites. Our Plan B route was designed to take us through areas for some of the lesser known NPS sites, some privately operated sites and visits to family.

Our first stop was Greeneville, Tennessee to visit the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. We had to stay in a commercial park as the two closest state parks were renovating their campgrounds. We found a small private park, A Round Pond, located on a farm in Baileyton. We did check out Panther Creek SP for later use and the new campground looks very good.

Andrew Johnson, history, US President

Andrew Johnson As A Young Man

So how much do you know about our 17th President, Andrew Johnson? If you are like us, chances are not much. He was catapulted into office upon Lincoln’s assassination. He also was the first President to face impeachment proceedings. Like all the other Presidents from Tennessee, he was not born there. He was from North Carolina. His widowed mother struggled to raise her family and when she could no longer support them she apprenticed her two oldest sons to a tailor. Working long days and no formal schooling cut his childhood short. Like the man he would follow in the White House he was self educated but read everything he could. After getting into trouble as a young teenager Andrew Johnson ran off to South Carolina and Tennessee where he established a tailor shop in Greeneville. He married and it is his wife who is credited with helping fill his education gap. The Andrew Johnson NHS is composed of a Visitors Center, the home where the Johnson family lived in the 1830s-1851 and the home he returned to after his Presidency. It was during the 1830s that he entered politics first as Alderman, then Mayor, state representative and US Representative. One term as Governor of Tennessee 1853-1857 led to his election to the US Senate.

history, US Presidents

Original Johnson Tailor Shop

Lincoln, Johnson, politics

Presidential Ticket In 1864

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

portrait, photography

Andrew Johnson After Being President

 

 

 

 

 

The beliefs he carried throughout his political career were anchored in strong faith in the common man. He favored free land for homesteading, public education and elimination of the electoral college in favor of direct election. He also believed in the preservation of the Union. It was this last item that made Lincoln choose him as Vice President. He needed a southerner from a border state on his ticket. However the two men differed greatly in personality. Lincoln was known for his jokes and storytelling as well as his ability to convince opponents to see his viewpoint. Johnson on the other hand was a very forceful and demanding personality. When met with opposition he became even more forceful which created enemies.

In the tumultuous days of Reconstruction Johnson butted heads with many politicians and even his own cabinet. One such conflict was the cause of the impeachment proceedings. Johnson wanted a federal army. William Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of State who stayed on, wanted states to have their own armies. When Stanton proceeded with his idea over Johnson’s disapproval he was fired. There was a law that no President could fire a cabinet member once they were approved. The Congress used this as grounds for impeachment while Johnson claimed he had “inherited” the Cabinet rather than having named his own. Much of the underlying ill will between Johnson and members of Congress played a part. He was impeached by the House but failed impeachment in the Senate by just one vote. He returned to Tennessee and lived the rest of his life as a private citizen.

A Trunk Owned By Andrew Johnson

A Trunk Owned By Andrew Johnson

Johnson's Field Desk When Military Governor

Johnson’s Field Desk When Military Governor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Johnson's Post Presidential Home

Andrew Johnson’s Post Presidential Home

Easter, egg decorating, egg roll

Egg Decorating Sponsored By The NPS

Today his legacy lives on every year when the White House sponsors the annual Easter Egg Roll. While he wasn’t the first President to hold the event he was the one who made it an annual affair. We were at the Andrew Johnson NHS just a week before Easter and the park was holding an egg coloring activity for local children. We’d been warned by the Visitor Center that there might be crowds. We went down to the second home for the tour anyway. Crowds? What crowds? We were the only people on the tour! The Ranger was very knowledgeable and spent a lot of time answering our questions. Don’t limit your visits to our National Parks to just the big ones. History really comes alive when you visit our historic sites too.

The following day we made a trip to another type of National Park site, the Obed Wild and Scenic River. First we stopped at the Visitor Center in the town of Wartburg, Tennessee. Then we drove to a parking area at the river and took a short hike to an overlook. Most people come here to hike, whitewater canoe or rock climb. It was still early Spring so the landscape lacked color. The Fall is most likely the best season for photography.

river, scenery, NPS

View Of The Obed Wild And Scenic River

hiking, photography

On A Hike At Obed River

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obed River In Early Spring

Obed River In Early Spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For our next stop we headed to the Nashville, TN area to visit Steve’s family. We were staying at Cages Bend, a COE park in nearby Gallatin, TN. About ten miles from our destination a car was waving at us. “One of your trailer tires is very low”. We hadn’t felt a thing but pulled over right away. Yes it was low but Steve felt we could make it to the park. We did but just barely. By the time we’d parked and set up it was flat. So it was off to Discount Tire but they wanted us to bring the tire in. No problem as they loaned Steve a floor jack. The tire had a big gouge and was unrepairable. So $300 later and several trips back and forth to the tire dealer, we were all fixed. 

Andrew Jackson, The Hermitage, Nashville

The Hermitage

flowering trees, Hermitage

Hermitage Grounds In Early Spring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a good time with Steve’s aunt and uncle we took a day to visit the Hermitage, home of President Andrew Jackson. This is a privately run historic site rather than a NPS site. “I guess we’re spoiled but neither Steve or I were impressed with our time there. We paid $12 each for entry then another $8 for audio tour sets. The museum was good and we learned a lot. Then we went on to the home. The tour was given by a series of guides who looked and sounded bored. It was a ‘get ’em in, get ’em out’ approach. Rooms were roped off so it was hard to see while in a group.” Compared to our NPS experiences and other historic home tours it fell way short of our expectations.

Andrew and Rachael Jackson, history, Tennessee, U.S. Presidents

Life Size Statues Of Andrew And Rachael Jackson

Andrew Jackson was a military hero after winning battles at Horseshoe Bend (1814) and New Orleans (1815) when he became a leading frontier political leader in the 1820s-1830s.. He had a tough and aggressive personality (nickname Old Hickory) which led him to initiate battles during the Seminole Wars and fight duels over personal slights. The most famous duel was over his marriage to Rachel Donelson Robards. She thought herself divorced when she married Jackson in 1790 only to find she was still legally married. Once the divorce was final the couple remarried in 1794. In 1806 after a political opponent published an attack on Jackson in the newspaper and mentioned the bigamous relationship, Jackson challenged him to a duel. Jackson sustained a bullet in the chest but shot and killed Charles Dickinson. Elected as our 7th President in 1828, his beloved wife died of a heart attack two weeks after her husband’s victory. Jackson was one of our few unmarried Presidents and his niece served the necessary social role until the Petticoat Affair (1834) and her death in 1836. Then Sarah Jackson served as well and this is the only time two women have served in the role of First Lady simultaneously. Although childless, Andrew and Rachael Jackson raised two Indian children, a nephew and acted as guardians for eight other children.

 During his tenure, Andrew Jackson championed States Rights but believed in the preservation of the Union, vetoed the reissue of a charter for the Second Bank of the United States, paid off the national debt in 1835 (the last time it was paid off in full), called to abolish the Electoral College, initiated rotation in government office for political appointees, passed the Indian Removal Act, survived the first assassination attempt on a sitting President and saw the admission of Arkansas and Michigan to the union. There is much more written about him than can be addressed here. A very interesting and controversial figure to be sure.

So now we pull out of our campsite and head to see some of Chari’s family in Mississippi. Chari practiced hooking up the trailer and drove out of the site and park for the first time. Still a bit nervous about driving in traffic Steve took over. “I really do think we have a guardian angel!” We hadn’t gone more than ten miles when BANG!! It sounded like a shotgun and we immediately knew we’d had a blowout. Yep, the other tire on the side of the flat had blown. There had been no evidence of damage or loss of air while we were parked. We pulled off, got out and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Here’s what we saw….

blowout, RV accident, roadside assistance

Damage To RV From Blowout

So here we go again. Call the insurance. Find a dealer on our route. Wait for parts to be ordered. Hope it doesn’t mess up our plans too much. How did that black cloud from Florida find us here in Tennessee? So Steve removed the torn fender. We called Roadside Assistance and got another new tire. Then headed on our way.

Best Of Times, Worst Of Times In Key West

Off we go to the southernmost point on the continental US, Key West, Florida. Finding an RV site nearby was a challenge.  We really wanted to stay at Bahia Honda State Park but that’s like winning the lottery. So we reluctantly settled for a commercial park, Boyd’s Campground, on Stock Island just north of Key West. This turned out to be every reason we hate commercial parks: overcrowded, expensive, unpleasant neighborhood and noisy. Had it been just us, we might have cancelled and walked away from our deposit but we had a good friend from Charlotte flying in to join us.

Boyds Campground in Key West

Too Close For Comfort

The site we were given was so tight that it took three park employees to guide Steve in and at least twenty back and forth moves to get in place. At one point our rig was so close to a palm tree that only the fronds kept us from rubbing against the trunk. If the site across from us hadn’t been empty we would never have gotten in. Once in our site, the box on the rear was in the bushes. We couldn’t have gotten our bikes off even if we wanted to ride them. The site was unpaved and unlevel. The “sitting area” barely held three chairs and our slide was only 18″ from our neighbor’s sewer connection. Oh yes, to add to the ambiance we were in the flight path for the Key West International Airport and Boca Chica Naval Air Station where they train the Top Gun pilots. The surrounding neighborhood was industrial buildings mixed with rundown mobile home parks (slums). Finding a place to walk Opal was a challenge for sure.  All this for four time so what we normally pay.

Having gotten most of “the bad” covered, we’ll go on to the “the best” part.

birds, Audubon, Key West

Audubon Print Of White Crowned Pigeon

birds, Audubon, print

Original Audubon Print Of A Cormorant

Key West today is geared to tourists but still has the flavor of bygone pirate and starving artist days mixed with “Margaritaville” and grand old homes. When you find a parking place (all are paid spaces) you stay there and walk…and walk…and walk. One of our first stops was the Audubon House. John James Audubon stayed here during his trip through Florida in 1832. At that time the property was owned by a wealthy harbor pilot and master wrecker, John H. Geiger. The property remained in the family for four generations but fell into disrepair by 1958 as the family fortune dwindled. When the last owner, a Howard Hughes type of recluse, died the property was scheduled for demolition. Through the efforts of a local benefactor the property was restored and now showcases life circa 1850 with eighteen original Audubon prints on display. One, the white crowned pigeon, was painted using the tree that still stands in the front yard. This painting had special memories for me as my Mother, an avid bird lover, had this print and the one of wild turkeys in the dining room of my childhood home. The gardens around the house are beautiful and a wonderful introduction to subtropical plants of the area. There is a brief docent lecture then you continue on a self-guided tour. Photography is allowed but no flash inside the home.

Audubon, Key West

Audubon’s Workshop

Audubon, garden, orchid, photography

Orchid In bloom In Audubon House Garden

Audubon, garden, fern

Backside Of Fern Leaf In Audubon House Garden

bromeliads, garden, Key West

Bromeliads In Bloom In Audubon House Garden

Key West, Mel Fisher, museum

Mel fisher Museum In Key West

Stop number two was the Mel Fisher Treasure Museum. Located in an old firehouse near the cruise ship pier it is a must see stop for anyone who has ever dreamed of finding buried treasure. Two ships of the Spanish treasure fleet, the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita were enroute from Havana to Spain in 1622 laden with gold and silver bars, coins and wealthy colonial passengers.  Their treasure was desperately needed by the royal treasury to offset the cost of the Thirty Years War and Court expenses. The two ships carried over a million and a half pesos which in today’s dollars would be over 400 million. The Atocha was fitted with twenty cannon and sailed in last position.  The fleet sailed in September, six weeks late, at the height of hurricane season. Caught in a storm just off present day Key West they sank taking their treasure with them. Of 265 passengers only five survived. The Atocha treasure would not see the light of day until relocated by Mel Fisher and his team on July 20, 1985, sixteen long years after the search started. If you want to read more about Mel Fisher or the treasure ships visit http://www.melfisher.com. If you are a certified scuba diver perhaps your bucket list would include the vacation package to dive The Atocha.

Atocha, sunken treasure

Photo Of Diver At Atocha Treasure Site

Mel Fisher, Spanish Treasure Fleet

Drawing of Mel Fisher At Work

For us landlubbers, a visit to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum must suffice. There you will find conserved artifacts of gold, silver, porcelain, emeralds and religious items along with maps and photos of the recovery site. But we went further than just seeing the artifacts behind glass. We took the behind the scenes tour to the conservation lab. It costs ten dollars in addition to museum entry and is offered Monday-Friday. Schedule your visit ahead as only small groups are taken into the lab on each tour.

shipwreck, treasure, museum, behind the scenes, tour

Artifacts In Conservation Lab Tank

conservation lab, Mel Fisher museum

A Cast Being Made From A Horseshoe

shipwreck, artifact, tour

Tour Guide With Brain Coral Encrusted Hammer Artifact

No visit to Key West is complete without playing tourist as you stand in line waiting to take a picture of yourself at the Southernmost Point in the USA Marker. While there we learned about the cable hut in the same location. This was transported to Key West by Flagler’s railroad. Its job was to protect the connection between the land line and the 125 mile underwater telegraph line between Key West and Havana, Cuba.

Old Town is filled with funky shops, restaurants, sidewalk vendors and the ever present Key West chickens. Everyone gathers at Mallory Square and Sunset Pier for the spectacular orange sky sunsets.

Southernmost Point, Key West, Florida

Chari And Steve At The Southernmost Point

Key West ,Telegraph

Telegraph Cable Hut

lighthouse, Key West

Key West Lighthouse

KW Street Musician (aka "No, I don't know where you can get pot!."

KW Street Musician (aka “No, I don’t know where you can get pot!.”

museum, Key West

Hustle And Bustle In Old Town Key West

Key West, Mallory Square

Pier At Mallory Square In The Evening

jet ski, Key West

Jet Skis Along Harbor In Key West

Old Town Key West Evening

Old Town Key West Evening

Key West Cigar Store Indian

Key West Cigar Store Indian

sunset, Key WestView From Sunset Pier

Everyone Crowds Sunset Pier

Everyone Crowds Sunset Pier

Chari And Steve Swimming In January At Bahia Honda SP

Chari And Steve Swimming In January At Bahia Honda SP

The Wharf, Florida Keys, restaurant

Steve At The Wharf

To give ourselves a break from walking, we took a day and drove to Bahia Honda State Park. This is the closest state park to Key West and Florida’s most visited state park. The water temperature was listed as 73 but oh it felt a lot cooler than that going over your stomach. However we were not going to come to the Keys and not go in the water. Mind over matter!! Once in it wasn’t bad at all. We drove over to the campground and checked it out for future visits. On our way out we asked the gate volunteer for a restaurant suggestion. He said a place called The Wharf was good. We can second that. After a relaxing day on the beach a good meal on an outdoor terrace was the cherry on the sundae. We even watched an iguana have dinner on leftover veggies from the restaurant.

iguana, Florida Keys

Iguana Joined Us For Dinner

More sightseeing took us to the Truman Little White House and Ernest Hemingway’s home. The Truman Little White House is located in the Truman Annex neighborhood of upscale homes and condos in Old Town Key West. Originally the home was built as officer quarters for a submarine base. Although it bears Truman’s name because he visited here more than any other President he was not the only President to come here. President Taft came enroute to his inspection tour of the Panama Canal. Taft was known for his love of driving the countryside. Each year the museum crafts an original Christmas ornament. One year it used the car Taft drove loaded with presents.  Thomas Edison stayed for 6 months while developing new weapon systems. FDR visited here several times. The Department of Defense was created here by the Key West Agreement. President Eisenhower stayed here to recuperate from his heart attack in late 1955-early 1956. President Kennedy visited twice in 1961 and 1962. The base was closed in 1974. Other Presidents who have stayed here after their term of office include Presidents Carter and Clinton. The property was deeded to the State of Florida and opened as a museum and historic site in 1990. A list of the most popular Presidents was posted and Truman ranked #5 after Lincoln, Washington, FDR and Teddy Roosevelt. Rounding out the top ten were Kennedy, Thomas Jefferson, Dwight Eisenhower, Woodrow Wilson and Ronald Regan. Bringing up the five least popular were Harding, Harrison, Pierce, Andrew Johnson and  Buchanan. We were given guest passes because of our connection with Dr. Watson that we mentioned in an earlier post. The tour was very informative. Having read Truman’s biography, we enjoyed our visit very much.

Truman, Key West

Truman At Dedication Of Everglades NP 1947

Truman, Little White House

Truman At Little White House

Kennedy, Hugh McMillan, Key West

Kennedy And McMillan Meet In Key West

Jimmy Carter, Key West

The Carters Spend Christmas At Little White House

Our last sightseeing stop was at the Hemingway House. This was the best tour we took. The stories the guide told were funny and informative. Hemingway was an enigmatic character: handsome, hard drinking, outdoorsman and philanderer. His books are classics as are the movies made from them. His home is also the home of over thirty six toed cats. One of the stories told is about the cat’s water bowl. Hemingway was a frequent face at Sloppy Joe’s Bar. When the bar moved from its original location he brought home a urinal from the bar stating “he’d pissed enough of his money down it to buy it.” His then third wife took it and after cleaning it up made it the cat’s water dish. Another story relates to a penny buried in concrete at the home. When his wife (can’t remember if it was number 2 or 3) installed a pool over his objection he threw a penny into the concrete saying she now had his last cent. This visit made me want to read more about Hemingway and his books.

Hemingway, author

Portrait Of Hemingway At Age 35

Hemingway's Writing Studio

Hemingway’s Writing Studio

The Hemingway House In Key West

The Hemingway House In Key West

Hemingway, Old Man And The Sea

A Painting Of Hemingway’s Old Man And The Sea

The Unique Garden Fountain And Cat Water Bowl

The Unique Garden Fountain And Cat Water Bowl

We decided to have dinner at Sloppy Joe’s and enjoyed the fish tacos and nachos but the key lime pie was terrible. It was prepackaged and the sugar wasn’t dissolved giving it a granular texture. Find your key lime pie elsewhere. Be sure to locate the web cams and call a friend who can go online and see you.

restaurant, Key West

Restaurant Poster At Sloppy Joe’s

Sloppy Joe's, restaurant

Sloppy Joe’s Is A Key West Icon

Hemingway, Sloppy Joe's

Painting Of Hemingway Fishing

restaurant, sailfish

Mounted Sailfish At Sloppy Joe’s

Now we return to “the bad” part of our visit. Steve had realized that Boyd’s Campground was so crowded we would not be able to exit following the proper direction of the road. That should speak a bundle about the poor design and crowded conditions at Boyd’s. We spoke to two employees who after looking at the situation agreed we’d need to go out the “IN” route. They said “don’t worry, we’ll get you out OK. We do it all the time.” The next morning when we were ready to leave we got them to assist us. One man drove a golf cart ahead to make sure no one entered while we were exiting. The other employee walked ahead of our RV and at each and every turn faced our rig and gave Steve verbal and hand signals to ease us through the tight turns. We’d made it to the last turn but there were times we’d missed cars by just inches. The last turn took us out of the campground and past the office. There were two RVs parked on the left in the waiting area and another car parked on the right at the laundry. This forced us to make a sharper turn than we would have preferred. At no time did the employees try to open up space by asking the RVs to back up, move the parked car or ask campers to move the cars in front of their rigs parked just inches from the road.  Any one who knows anything about trailers knows the tighter the turn the more the rear end of the trailer will swing. We were 90% through the turn when we heard the sickening sound of metal scraping. The right corner of the box on the back of our trailer had sideswiped a car. We stopped of course. Police were called but no citation given because the accident occurred on private property. We claim that we were under the direction of the park employee and that the park is at fault for not giving enough clearance for safe exit. They are claiming no responsibility. How this will end is unknown. We can only warn anyone considering a stay at this park, DO NOT COME!

RV accident, Boyd's Campground, RV parks Key West

Running The Gauntlet Through Boyd’s Campground

RV accident

RVs To The Left Of Us

RV accident

Cars on The Right Of Us

RV accident, Boyd's Campground

All We Needed Was A Few Inches To Get Through Safely

This Place Bugs Me!

Christmas, Kennedy Space Center

Christmas 2013 at KSC

We are not finished with some great things from St. Augustine but you’ll see why there’s an interruption in a moment. For our second stop in Florida we moved about three hours south to Sebastian Inlet SP near Vero Beach. It had still been “cold” in St. Augustine so we welcomed the warmer temperatures or at least I did!. We’d be here for Christmas so Steve put up our tree again. This time he hung it from a tree branch with a bungee and spread the base further. It looked very good.

However we quickly discovered a problem. No-see-ums were everywhere! Chari reacts quite strongly to any insect bite with huge welts that last a week. Steve usually doesn’t react very much and 10 minutes later you wouldn’t know he’d been bitten. Not so here. Even Steve was showing welts. Within a day or so my legs and to a lesser extent my arms and torso were covered with bites. I was forever scratching. My legs looked like I’d walked through poison ivy. I was going to take a picture but then thought it was too gross looking. Now other people seemed to tolerate them. Bug spray and repellent didn’t work. Steve seemed to become immune after a few days. Not Chari. She was miserable the whole time. So instead of doing a lot of outside activities we stayed inside. With regret as it is a nice park we put this on the DO NOT RETURN list.

Adding insult to injury Chari’s computer took a bath. I was sitting under our awning which was only halfway extended due to some tree branches. All of a sudden condensation from having had the A/C on at night came rolling down. All over me! All over my open laptop. Quickly mopping up the computer everything seemed to work so I thought I’d dodged a bullet. About an hour later the keyboard stopped working. To make a long story short my computer has been in the repair shop for about a week. Working on the iPad for photo editing and posting to the blog leaves a lot to be desired. Steve’s working on a book on our May – December 2012 travels. So even batting my lovely hazel eyes at him and a “if you really loved me you’d let me use your computer” look goes unnoticed.

I notice it but I don’t acknowledge it!

We got to see the METLIFE blimp fly over just before New Years. We guessed it was down here for the Orange Bowl. Cute Snoopy character on the front but you might not be able to see it as all we had available was the iPhone.

blimp

Snoopy In The Skies

We did check out another park, a county park called Long Point, when we kayaked there. We didn’t notice any bugs so if we return to the area we’ll stay there. While kayaking we watched two osprey hunting. They’d dive and grab a fish but often they came up empty. We could have watched them for hours.

A Loaf Of Bread, A Hunk Of Cheese And Pasta For Dinner.

A Loaf Of Bread, A Hunk Of Cheese And Pasta For Dinner.

So Now For Some Fresh Citrus

So Now For Some Fresh Citrus

Without the computer I’m falling behind on the blog. So if you see things posted later that seem out of order hopefully you’ll remember why. We did go to Ft. Pierce to the Farmers Market on Saturday where we bought some great cheese, bread and citrus. We also bought an organic bug spray advertised for no-see-ums.. That didn’t work either. Also in Ft. Pierce is the UDT (underwater demolition team) and SEAL Museum. Steve has “volunteered” to do that entry.

Our Christmas present to each other was a trip to the Kennedy Space Center with a behind the scenes tour of the VAB (vehicle assembly building) and launch pad. There is so much to see we were glad the tickets were good for a week. We made a second trip up to see the IMAX movie Hubble 3D, take the Shuttle Launch Experience and to finish the exhibits. We attended a lecture by a retired shuttle astronaut, Sam Gemar, and had a photo op with him. When a little girl asked him what his favorite food was in space, he answered “shrimp cocktail”. The reason for this is that the taste buds loose sensitivity in space so spicy foods taste better. Between weightlessness and no taste buds maybe I could finally loose weight! On the way home from our second visit we stopped at the Astronaut Hall of Fame as our KSC tickets covered admission here as well. Both at the Space Center and at the Hall of Fame we became aware that only a few other folks were probably alive when all of this was happening. Once again we find ourselves seeing our lives in a museum. Was it really that long ago? Anyway, consider this a coming attraction notice for a video.

Kennedy Space Center, Christmas, Florida, space exploration.

Coming Attraction For Our Video

blog, Homeless and Loving It, NASA, astronaut, space shuttle

Chari and Steve With Space Shuttle Astronaut

You all know we call our RV the DreamChaser. So when we saw that one of the next generation shuttles by Sierra Nevada Corporation was being given the same name we wondered, is this what RVs will look like in space? In the early years NASA did all of its own engineering. Now that will be in the private sector and NASA will rent vehicles as needed for missions. This model is a 1/3 scale model.

Dream Chaser In Space

Dream Chaser In Space

Within 48 hours away from Sebastian Inlet SP, at our next park, Lake Louisa SP, I finally stopped itching (and yes you could also put a B in front of that). Oh, you have no idea how good that feels!

Colorful Citrus Box Labels

Colorful Citrus Box Labels

After ten days my computer with what they called a new top case is back and working great. When we drove over from Orlando to Vero Beach to pick it up, we stopped at the Citrus Museum. It’s a small but very interesting place and the docent gave us a free tour. Here’s a piece of trivia for you… did you know that 75% of the grapefruit grown in the Indian River Valley are shipped to Japan! Don’t order it over there though unless you are ready to pay $15-20 each! After the tour we know why our favorite oranges, Honeybells, are so expensive. If they tried to use mechanical pickers or even pluck them the skin breaks off from the stem leaving fruit exposed. So they must be hand cut from the tree. Oh, but they are so sweet and juicy! The docent gave us directions to Poinsettia Growers processing plant where they have a small store. Crab from the factory in Cape Breton to fresh Honeybells from the grower in Florida. Can you believe this life?