Plans, What Plans (Part 2 of 3)

So we’re on the road heading to West Branch State Park in Ohio. We have driven through Ohio but never camped there. This stay will cross that state off the list and leave us with only 2 states in the lower 48 we have not stayed in (West Virginia and Connecticut). West Branch SP is a great park for exploring northeast Ohio and we’d come back here any time. We arrived in good weather but saw that would change so we headed to Cuyahoga National Park. This is one of the most urban of our National Parks. Maybe it’s because we were raised in very similar areas but we really didn’t see a whole lot that seemed special. The area does provide a green belt in an otherwise built up area and is heavily used by walkers and bikers so if for nothing else it is valuable. There is some important history about canal building as well. We used our visit to photograph some wildlife and enjoy a beautiful Spring day.

Blue Heron In The Rookery

Mallard Pair At Cuyahoga NP










Cuyahoga Waterfall

Some of the places we wanted to see (James Garfield NHS and Perry Victory and International Peace Monument)  either were not open or didn’t have their boat trips running for the season. We headed to Canton, OH to see the First Ladies NHS. A small Visitor Center has a few exhibits but the main reason for the site is a tour of President and Mrs. McKinley’s home. It was her family home as well. You access it only by guided tour.

McKinley Home At First Ladies NHS

McKinley Desk










Beautiful Staircase

On the way out, being the brochure collector that I am, I picked up a flyer for the Blue Water Majesty miniature ship museum. Steve had put up well with a morning of looking at women’s things so we decided to check this out. Even with the address and our GPS, when we got to the museum we weren’t sure it was the right place. No sign, no other cars and only a small handwritten sign on the door saying open. We went in and were greeted by the owner/model maker, Larry Pulka. We paid our $5 entry fee. That was $5 well spent! This turned out to be one of those hidden gems that we love to find!  He started building ships from kits over 40 years ago when his wife said “get a hobby!” Now he is an artist of the first magnitude crafting sailing ships from exotic woods and even bone. He uses no paint but scours the world looking for exotic colored wood. We never knew there was an exotic wood collectors society. He handcrafts every detail of the ships from original plans. Even the cannons have 51 separate parts!  The attention to detail is amazing. Each link of his chains are handcrafted. We can’t begin to tell you what a fantastic find this place is. Before you think maybe you’d like to take one home, they starting cost is $25,000 and up with a 2-3 year wait. We settled for a wonderful private tour and lots of photos. Rather than paraphrase information about the models we are posting the info cards on each ship shown. Click on the pictures for enlarged viewing and easier reading. This is but a small sampling of his work.

Tiny Cannons In My Hand

The Cutty Sark

Cutty Sark Info

Frigate Model












Frigate Info








Info On The Unicorn










The Unicorn








A Shipyard Diorama



Shipyard Info








Attention To Detail

Then the rain started.  Our newly repaired roof leaked worse than ever before! To say we were upset, distressed and just plain mad is an understatement. We checked to see how far away we were from the Prime Time factory in Elkhart, Indiana. Only 5 hours away. We called and told them we’d done everything we could to get this repaired without success. We wanted to come to the factory for repair. With our manufacturer’s warranty due to run out in 4 weeks we expected a run around. Much to our surprise they were very accommodating. The factory repair facility was booked but we were referred to John Klinge RV Repair who did their overflow work. He could take us the next week. So we lived with a bucket and towels and a leaky roof as best we could. Plans for visiting sights in southern Ohio were cancelled and we made plans to go to Indiana. Yes, we contacted the dealer in Pennsylvania and after working our way up the chain to the Service Manager, we eventually got reimbursement for everything spent on the roof “repair”.

By now we were in need of some fun and laughter. The Maier family never misses a Christmas without watching “A Christmas Story”. In Cleveland is the house used for part of the film. It has been turned into a very profitable tourist attraction. Even though it is very commercial, very kitchy and quite pricey, for real fans it is lots of fun. Everyone who goes immediately finds themselves acting out scenes such as sticking their tongue out at the flagpole, posing with the Red Rider BB Gun etc. We learned lots of little known info about the movie and had that well needed laugh.

A Christmas Story House

Triple Double Dare You!

You’ll Shoot Your Eye Out!











The Cast

On to Elkhart, Indiana, RV Capitol of the USA. We dropped the trailer off. John Klinge turned out to be our newest Guardian Angel when he immediately diagnosed the problem as an improperly installed air conditioner. Water damage was extensive and would require removing the roof, removal of sheathing and roof framing, removal of insulation etc. Repairs would take about a week. We hung out in Elkhart for a few days to make sure all was going smoothly.

While in town we visited the RV/MH Hall of Fame. If like us you think MH stands for motor home… wrong! It stands for manufactured housing. This place is huge. We spent all of one afternoon looking at campers and RVs from early 1900s to the 70s. They have so many more RVs to display that an addition is planned. Among our favorites were the oldest known camper, the one owned by Lindberg where he hosted Thomas Edison and Henry Ford and Mae West’s chauffeur driven model.

RV?MH Hall of Fame

Vintage RVs On Display

Chari Poses With Mae West’s RV










Since we were here where Prime Time Manufacturing (makers of our Sanibel) is located, we scheduled a visit to the factory. Seeing the construction and quality control was enlightening. We talked at length with the sales rep and he made notes about our issues and suggestions. We viewed a 2019 Sanibel and they have made some good changes. However the separate wine fridge is a bit over the top for us. We followed this with a visit to Goshen, IN and dinner at a Triple D restaurant, South Side Soda Shop. The dinner was just OK but the pie was worth the visit.

South Side Diner

How Many Steve’s Do You See?

We also let our sweet tooth loose at the Wakarusa Dime Store known for their candy display. We had lots of fun doing interior photos of the “old time” candy. Ya, I know it’s what we ate as kids. The extra large jelly beans kept calling our names. So much for dieting!

A Selfie

Old Time Advertising

The Waukarusa Dime Store









Who Else Remembers These?

Thank Goodness for family when you truly find yourself “homeless”. Steve’s brother lives near Yipsalanti, MI so we spent the remaining time there. During our stay we visited River Raisin NHS and toured the old Hutchinson mansion. Anyone else remember sticking S&H green stamps into books as kids? Well Hutchinson was the H of S&H. The home is now the head office of an educational research group. Since our sister-in-law works there we had a tour. Normally this is not open to the public.

Hutchinson Mansion

Did Your Mother Save These?














We returned to Elkhart and picked up our 5er. John had identified some other issues that would be covered under warranty. Since we had a schedule to meet we arranged to return in the Fall. Lesson learned: unless you can’t move or the problem is a minor one, head to the factory for major repairs.

See you soon for the third and final segment.

A Winter On The Crystal Coast

Oceana Pier On Atlantic Beach, NC

Winter On The Outer Banks

Along The Crystal Coast

We arrived at Cape Lookout National Seashore in early November 2017. This would be our home for almost 5 months while we volunteered as Visitor Center docents for the National Park Service. The main Visitor Center is located on Harkers Island, North Carolina and the National Seashore  protects the southernmost islands of the Outer Banks: North and South Core Banks and Shakleford Banks. The  iconic landmark for the Cape Lookout is its black and white diamond painted lighthouse. The seashore is also well known as a shellers haven and for the wild horses that live on Shackleford Banks. This part of the North Carolina coast is called the Crystal Coast because of the beautiful beaches, ocean access and numerous bays and rivers. East of the town of Beaufort to Cedar Island (where you catch the state ferry to Ocracoke Island) is referred to as “Down East” with a unique culture and way of speaking due to being isolated well into the 20th century. We don’t have space enough to detail all that we did here but we hope there is enough so you’ll come visit yourself.

Cape Lookout Lighthouse And Assistant Keepers Quarters

A lot of people ask “Why do you want to go to the beach in the winter?” Our reply is because everyone else doesn’t! The pristine beaches you can walk for miles and rarely see anyone else, after a storm the shells are washed up and ready for the taking and in town you can walk in to a restaurant or find free parking without the hassle. One other reason: Steve hates heat and humidity so he’d never go in the summer! I lived in North Carolina for 20 years and had gone to the northern Outer Banks but never to this area. I couldn’t believe what I’d missed!

CALO Visitor Center In Beaufort


Oil Shed And Summer Kitchen Near Lighthouse










When we started work as volunteers both the Harkers Island and Beaufort Visitor Centers were open so we had days at both. The Beaufort VC is located in the old post office building with some city offices. The building was a WPA (Works Progress Administration) project in 1937 during the Great Depression. In the lobby are four murals painted by Russian born artist Simca Simikovich representing life and history of this sea oriented area. One shows range markers used to guide ships into Beaufort harbor. Because of the shifting shoals and sandbars Cape Lookout and the Outer Banks were called “The Graveyard of the Atlantic”.

Mailboat Mural

Another mural shows a mailboat headed for Cape Lookout lighthouse. Due to rivers, bays and marshes the Down East area had no roads or bridges until the 1940s so all transportation and commerce came and went by boat. The mailboat was the link between the isolated communities and town.

Live Decoy Geese Mural

A third mural shows geese that were raised from eggs by the Ca’e Bankers of Portsmouth Village on North Core Banks. They imprinted on the villagers and stayed. The birds were used as live decoys to bring in migrating wild geese for hunters.

Shackleford Ponies Mural

Of course there is one of the Shackleford ponies. At an average of 44-48″ at the withers they are between pony and horse so both terms are used. DNA tests link these horses to Spanish horses but no one knows just how they got here.

The last mural depicts the famous wreck of the Chrissie Wright. It is placed over a doorway. When this ship foundered on the shoals  off Shackleford Island during a winter storm all but one of the crew froze to death while islanders watched helplessly from shore. This tragedy led to the establishment of a lifesaving station on Cape Lookout two years later. Even today locals will refer to a cold stormy day as a “Chrissie Wright Day”.

Chrissie Wright Mural

The town of Beaufort was the third town established in North Carolina and dates to 1713. History abounds all through the area and we took full advantage of learning as much as we could from tours, special events and lectures. 2018 is the 300th anniversary of Blackbeard’s capture and the sinking of his ship, The Queen Anne’s Revenge, nearby. One of the most interesting locations was the Ann Street Cemetery. If you love old cemeteries this is one you need to see. The self guided tour brochure details many stories from the unmarked graves of settlers killed in the Tuscaroran War in the early 1700s to the little girl buried in a cask of rum when she died at sea to area privateer turned statesman Ottway Burns.

Chari At The Veterans Day Parade

Shortly after we arrived Cape Lookout was represented in the Morehead City Veterans Day parade. So we rode in one of the NPS boats and showered the kids with candy. We learned that because of the area being home to several military bases this parade is one of the longest in the country. We also did the Down East Christmas parade and served as Santa’s sleigh!

Have You Been Naughty Or Nice?

Another holiday event was the Beaufort Candlelight Home Tour through private homes and buildings in the historic district. The Beaufort office was open that night. We worked a few hours and also had time to tour. On Christmas Eve we attended services at the Ann Street Methodist Church built in the 1750s and still in use.


Christmas On Harkers Island



Crab Trap Christmas Tree At Core Sound Museum

We enjoyed touring Harkers Island to see the holiday lights. Several of the homes displayed the area’s symbolic anchor outlined in lights. We decorated the interior of our Visitor Center and strung lights on the anchor from the Olive Thurlow, a shipwreck near cape Lookout, that greets visitors to the Harkers Island location. The Cape Lookout lighthouse is normally open for climbing mid May to mid September. So we were very excited when a New Years Day climb was scheduled and we were to be working. In preparation, we learned the history of the lighthouse, interpretive points and climbed it – all 207 steps! The view is fantastic! Unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t cooperate and the climb was cancelled.

Hackers Island Visitors Center


View From The Top Of The Cape Lookout Lighthouse

For Thanksgiving we took a harbor cruise aboard The Crystal Lady around Beaufort Harbor and had Thanksgiving dinner. A great way to spend the holiday when you are in a new area. A special holiday celebration was our trip to New Bern, NC to take the city tram tour and visit Tryon Palace. We highly recommend the tram tour. Our guide was excellent and gave us insight into this historical city. It is said that houses have moved more in this city than anywhere else as the city expanded and developed. As we observed several times when the guide would say “This house used to be over there.”  One house has been moved 5 times! The original Tryon Palace burned down and the current structure is a replica built from the original plans. New Bern was the capitol of the colony of North Carolina and Tryon Palace served as the Governor’s palace. Each December for two weekends they hold a candlelight tour of the palace with living history skits done in several locations. Outside on the grounds are tents with period entertainment and in front of the palace black Americans perform the traditional song and dance of enslaved people called Jonkonnu.

Thanksgiving Day Dinner Cruise






















Tryon Palace Living History Dancers











Jonkonnu Singer




Jonkonnu Dancers







Performer Signora Bella Does A Comedy Juggling Routine

During the winter the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort holds monthly lectures on Wednesdays. Since we were off the lectures became a highlight of our time here. We attended four lectures on topics from Native people of the area and the Tuscaroran War, whaling on Shackleford Island, the story behind the sperm whale skeleton and heart on display at the museum and Churchill’s Pirates (a British fleet sent to the USA to patrol the Outer Banks against German U-boats). There are three NC Maritime Museums but the Beaufort location is the largest. It houses displays and relics from the Queen Anne’s Revenge, about the Civil Air Patrol in WWII, the Menhaden fishing industry and sea chanteys, and boating/recreation in the area.  After the lecture about the sperm whale Steve and I got to hold the plastinated heart which weighed in at 55 lbs. This museum is a must see if you visit.

That’s A Whale Of A Heart!

Speaking of must see brings us to another wonderful museum, the Core Sound Waterfowl and Culture Museum. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history and folkways of the Down East communities. The Core Sound is the body of water between the mainland and the Outer Banks. Each November the CSM and the Decoy Carvers Guild sponsor the Core Sound Decoy Festival. Thousands of folks attend. We worked one day at a NPS table with a kids fishing activity and one day in the VC but we did have time to see the festival for a few hours. I never realized there were so many types of decoys! Decoy carving is still active and the best carvers are true artists. The second floor of the museum is dedicated to telling the story of the independent and hardworking people who lived on the islands and mainland Down East communities. They were a self reliant, closely knit and religious people whose way of life is but a memory. Don’t miss this either.

Jellyfish Dancing

The Aquarium Dive Show












Other great places to visit are the North Carolina Aquarium in Pine Knolls Shores and Fort Macon State Park. Fort Macon has a wonderful beach area and provided a place for us to go when the ferries weren’t running. The Fort itself has a lengthy history from the mid 1800s thru WWII. Rooms are set up with interactive audio and displays of the various historical periods. The Pine Knolls Shores Aquarium features fish and reptiles of the NC coast. It is one of three NC aquariums. Both Fort Macon and the Aquarium have extensive programing so be sure to check the website before your visit.

Fort Macon

We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about the great restaurants in the area. Seafood lovers rejoice! Not only in the restaurants but we found fish markets galore. We ate our fill and then some of red and black drum, sea trout, shrimp, scallops and oysters. However once in a while we took a break and pigged out at Grumpy’s in Morehead City. Known for the in house cured corned beef, we highly recommend the corned beef hash and reuben sandwiches. Another seafood break spot was the Seaside restaurant at the Citgo station on Harkers Island for the best fried chicken. We toured areas up to two hours away. When we went to Kinston, NC to see a Civil War era ironclad we also dined at The Farmer and The Chef of Food Network fame. A higher class restaurant than we normally frequent, it was a superb meal. Another trip took us south to see Moore’s Creek National Battlefield. They were renovating the Visitor Center and we had postponed the trip hoping it would reopen before we left. That didn’t happen but we did walk the trail and read interpretive signs. That gave us an appetite (doesn’t everything?). We looked on the GPS and picked a spot called Something Fishy just based on its name. When we walked in we saw Guy Fieri’s poster on the wall. This was a DDD spot he’d been too just 3 weeks prior. The evening I am writing this blog we saw the episode including Something Fishy. Let’s just say we never had a bad meal!

Dinner At The Farmer And The Chef

Moore’s Creek National Battlefield

January and February are the slow months for the national seashore and we worked 2-3 days a week. This, according to locals, was the coldest winter they had had in 30 years. We had not one but two snowstorms albeit not more than four inches of snow. However for this area that was a lot and we got “snow days” off from work. There were several days when winds would be too high and the ferries to the islands wouldn’t run. On the days they did run we took advantage and enjoyed combing the beach without crowds. A home school group came and the equine biologist did her Horse Sense tour for them to Shackleford Island. Did we want to go along and take photos for the park? How fast do you think we said yes? Dr. Sue is so informative and gave a great tour. This tour is given monthly in the summer and fall. We highly recommend it. You need to sign up for it as space is limited. During our workdays Steve and I enjoyed doing research and read extensively. We were able to develop some outlines for Shade Shelter talks to be given by staff during the summer. Topics we learned about were the history of lighthouses, types of sailing ships, WWII along the Outer Banks, the Menhaden fisheries, the Winter of 1918 when Core Sound froze over and stories of Down East plus a great book called The Paper Canoe.

The Welcoming Committee

Banker Horse

Snow At The Seashore

That’s Not Sand!

When we arrived five months seemed a long time but oh, it went so quickly. We had a wonderful time and best of all the staff said we were welcome back anytime. OK, twist our arms! We take with us wonderful memories! So long Cape Lookout! So long Crystal Coast!

Worth Getting up Early To See

Steve At The Top Of Cape Lookout Lighthouse

South Core Banks Pier










Leave Only Footprints


Peace And Quiet In Disney’s Backyard

state park, citrus, Orlando

Citrus Gone Wild

Sorry for the disappearing act over the last month. Between being busy, computer problems, RV problems and poor or no internet connection we had to put the blog on hold. So much for our New Year’s Resolution to catch up and stay caught up. Now that we will have a few days of waiting for some RV repairs and free wifi be prepared for a flood of posts.

From Sebastian Inlet on Florida’s east coast we drove to the Orlando area and stayed at Lake Louisa State Park about 25 miles west of the city. Just what part of “busiest week of the year”, “all kids out of school” and/or “everyone goes to Disney at Christmas” did I not grasp when I scheduled us to be in the area the week between Christmas and New Years? OK, now on to Plan B. We knew we didn’t want to tackle any of the parks and battle the crowds. So what to do? 

Lake Louisa is one of Florida’s newest state parks and situated in an old citrus orchard. Having made reservations as early as we could secured a full hookup site that was very private. We had room to put up our screen tent and took a few days to just relax. What a concept? We need to take more time like this but normally every time we say we’ll relax we find something to do and off we go. The old citrus grove still has fruit bearing trees. We found a few grapefruit still within reach and loads of tangerines or lemons free for the picking. We had so many we even made “care” packages to send north to family who were in the freezing temperature of a severe winter. The lemons were bigger than Chari’s fist and very bumpy. At first we thought maybe they were reverting to a wild strain but then learned it was a variety called a Ponderosa lemon. We made chicken piccata and lemon and orange meringue pies from scratch.

state park, Florida

Kayaking At Lake Louisa SP


Along The Canal Between The Lakes

We took time to ride our bikes around the park for about ten miles on two different days. Other times we kayaked on one of the lakes. Our favorite was a wooded canal that ran between Lake Louisa and Lake Minnehaha. While paddling there we met a couple from the Cape Canaveral area and visited with them later that night around a campfire. The old citrus groves had several good trails for walking Opal each morning.

Christmas, Florida

Christmas At Leu Gardens

garden, holiday decorations

On Tour At Leu Gardens

We did take in two sights in the area, Leu Gardens and the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum. At Leu Gardens we joined the garden and this membership gave us  reciprocal free entry for a year to gardens that are participating members of the American Horticultural Society. The original home on the Leu Garden grounds was open for a guided tour. We caught it at the tail end of the Christmas season so it was still decorated. Each year interior design students from a local junior college decorate the rooms based on a theme chosen by the park. This year it was Christmas songs. A very creative group of young designers. Our favorite were the “swans a-swimming” in the bathtub.

Holiday Decorations

Holiday Decorations

The day we visited was a cool and windy day but seeing the texture in the bare trees along with tropical looking plants blooming in mid-winter was a treat.


A Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow Tree

Fothergilla Blossom

Fothergilla Blossom


Spider Lily

A Study In Texture

A Study In Texture


Orb From Coleus


A Yesterday, Today And Tomorrow Tree

Canna Blooming In January

Canna Blooming In January

Canna In HDR Vintage Colors

Canna In HDR Vintage Colors


This Is Called A Green Rose

Green Rose As A Pencil Drawing

Green Rose As A Pencil Drawing

Rose "Calico"

Rose “Calico”

The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum is a not to be missed attraction in Winter Haven, Florida. The museum was begun to display the art work and Tiffany works owned by its namesake. Later his granddaughter and her husband increased the Tiffany collection. When the former Louis C. Tiffany estate on Long Island burned in the 1950s his priceless works were simply lying scattered. Through personal connections the museum rescued them and now houses the world’s largest collection of Tiffany artwork including the chapel designed for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. I am seldom speechless but this collection defies description. Be sure to put it on your “must see” list. there is a strict NO PHOTOS policy. The pictures used in this blog are copied from the museum’s website. The colors, the delicate way light is transmitted and the craftsmanship are amazing.

tiffany lamp

Dragonfly Lamp

A Transom Panel circa 1910-1920

A Transom Panel circa 1910-1920

Autumn From The Seasons

Autumn From The Seasons

Daffodil Column From Tiffany Estate

Daffodil Column From Tiffany Estate

Summer Panel From The Seasons

Summer Panel From The Seasons

Spring Panel From The Seasons

Spring Panel From The Seasons

One Of The Windows From A Church

One Of The Windows From A Church

Window Titled 'Feeding The Flamingos'

Window Titled ‘Feeding The Flamingos’

Another Tiffany Lamp

Another Tiffany Lamp

An Unusually Shaped Lamp

An Unusually Shaped Lamp

The Tiffany Chapel

The Tiffany Chapel

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.

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

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

Prime Time Acadia

NE harbor panoramic blog

Steve has told you about the ‘Attack of the Tree Branch’ in his last Nuts and Bolts post.  This was our rough beginning in the Bar Harbor area. Then it rained or drizzled or was foggy or overcast for the next week. This reminded us of our trip to the north rim of the Grand Canyon when we expected to see the world’s best known abyss only to look six feet down and have the entire canyon socked in. We did see Acadia in a different way in the mist and fog.  The scenic drive along Sandy Beach, Thunder Hole and Otter Cliffs was beautiful whatever the weather. (Chari) Having seen and heard so much about Acadia National Park I wondered if it would live up to my expectations. This was my first visit and I was not disappointed.  Steve had been here before but only had time to do the scenic drive. This was his first lengthy visit.

We registered at the park and obtained our entry pass and thanks to our Senior Interagency Pass it was free. The fog hung like a wet blanket along the coast. Sandy Beach was our first stop. Unlike most beaches in Maine that are covered in cobbles this is a coarse, sandy beach.  I headed off to take pictures of some plants while Steve went to the shore. Next stop was Thunder Hole. This area is known for the water forced through the rocks near high tide. Our timing was good but the fog was so thick we couldn’t see much. Then down along Otter Cliffs that tower over one hundred feet straight out of the ocean. We’d come back for a hike along the Cliff Trail later.

There is much more to Acadia than the scenic loop.  As the weather cleared and temperatures reached the high 80s we drove to the top of Cadillac Mountain.  In North Carolina we’d call this a bald where the soil has eroded and rock outcroppings are the dominant feature. The end of June is bloom time for small wildflowers called sandworts. They cover the mountain. We enjoyed the view, took some panoramic shots and then stopped for lunch.  Our plan was to hike around the mountain but within half an hour the fog moved in and you couldn’t see anything more than ten feet away. We’d heard that this was a good place to come watch fireworks on the 4th so we’d be back, or so we thought.  We planned to join a Ranger for a walk along the carriage roads and learn about Mr. Rockefeller’s Bridges that connect the twenty-three miles of carriage roads in the park. We didn’t go … it rained and rained and rained. We did hike along a lake and take a short bike ride on a carriage road later on in the week. We wanted to go kayaking on one of the lakes but again the weather was not cooperative.  Acadia is a much more pet friendly park than many of the National Parks. Opal was allowed to accompany us on the carriage roads and ride in the car.

(Steve) One morning at our campsite in Lamoine SP I spotted several cedar waxwings in a tree nearby eating the berries. I knew Chari had never seen one so I quietly walked to the trailer to get her. We spent the next twenty minutes watching and photographing them. We even observed a pair courting by feeding berries to each other.

There is a third section to Acadia National Park called the Schoodic Peninsula Scenic Drive. It, like Isle Au Haut, is visited by fewer people than sights at Mount Desert Island. It’s a great place to explore the rocky terrain, the woodlands or ride a bike. There is a newly expanded Visitors Center there. We didn’t visit as the dedication ceremony was taking place that day. The Schoodic Scenic Drive is a National Scenic Byway route. Don’t miss it. We’ve put together a 7 minute video of some photos we hope you will enjoy. For best results allow the movie to load before playing.

Acadia is a beautiful park and we look forward to returning to see it in the autumn and maybe Spring too. Being the July 4th holiday it was a madhouse with lines at the Visitors Center just to buy the entry passes. If you plan to go try to avoid major holidays although nearby Bar Harbor does have a great fireworks display.  To celebrate the 4th we drove to Bar Harbor and parked about a half mile away. Then we walked about a mile to the Lobster Fest being given by the local Kiwanis Club. The YMCA (or was it YWCA?) was having lobster races to raise money. We got there for the last two “races”.  Races is in quotes as this falls somewhere between watching grass grow and watching paint dry. On our way back through town we stopped for some ice cream and started talking with a family from the New York City area.  They were fascinated with our RV lifestyle and said they’d be reading the blog. So if you’re reading this… Hello!

Since the weather had turned warm and sunny we thought going on the harbor sunset cruise and watching fireworks from the boat would be fun. Luckily even though it was a last minute decision we were able to get tickets. The cruise was about an hour long and went around the harbor islands then came back to the pier. The fireworks were being launched from nearby so we had a front row view. (Steve) I thought this was one of the best firework displays I’d seen from a small town. Here’s another short video of the display.


It’s very hard to describe this type of beauty so we put together a short video of our still photos.  We hope you enjoy this armchair visit and get to see the park for yourself one day.