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Showing posts from April, 2009

North to Magnolia Springs State Park

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
near Millen, GA

Because our drive today was planned to be a long one (220 miles... long for us), and because most of the planned route was on two-lane highways that weave through any small town along the way, we got an early start. By 9am, we had the bus running and on it's way to our next stop, Magnolia Springs State Park near Millen, GA.

Leaving the Swamp near Fargo, GA, we headed north to Waycross where we picked up US-1, which we took all the way to Swainsboro. I had to make a difficult right hand turn in downtown Swainsboro... tight roadways, intruding curbs, turning into a single lane between oncoming traffic waiting for the light on the left and parked cars on the right. I couldn't borrow much lane-space from anybody and couldn't avoid climbing a curb with my starboard-side drive-axle tires and, of course, the tires of the toad followed. Ouch! Both Dar and the fresh black tire-scar reminded me later of the wisdom of planning routes through tig…

Alone in the Okefenokee

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Stephen Foster State Park (GA)
in the Okefenokee Swamp

Yesterday, Monday, we joined a few other hearty souls on a two hour swamp tour with one of the Rangers here at the State Park. The State of Georgia leases the park grounds, known as Jones Island, from the National Wildlife Refuge which controls and manages the bulk of the Okefenokee. There are only 4 public entrances into the Swamp, the State Park here being one, and the only one on the west side. Since the only good reason to come here has to do with the Swamp, and the only way to really see the Swamp is from a boat, it made a lot of sense to find a boat. This boat, a pontoon boat, conveniently came with a knowledgeable guide who could help us understand what we were seeing and who would have a good chance of getting us back to the dock again.

The west side of the Okefenokee is the more heavily wooded portion. Out in the wet parts of the swamp, Bald Cypress, Pond Cypress, and Black Gum prevail. In the not-…

The Okefenokee Swamp

Monday, April 27, 2009
Stephen Foster State Park (GA)
in the Okefenokee Swamp

Back a few years, when I was a kid, every once in a while you'd hear something about the Okefenokee Swamp. Usually what you heard left you with the impression that it was big, far away, remote, and something to be feared. There, huge beasts ruled and if someone were foolish enough to venture out into it they had better be prepared for trouble. There were herds of huge alligators, nests of even bigger snakes, big bears, and insects that could, and have, carried off small dogs. A run-in with any of these was surely fatal, or worse. There were moderating influences to our impression of the Okefenokee as well. For example, the kindly characters of the comic strip Pogo lived in the Okefenokee Swamp, and they seemed to like it.

But explorers, especially intrepid explorers, aren't daunted by things like 'gators or snakes or other dangers. No way. The Okefenokee is an important historical part of the America…

Stephen Foster and the Suwannee River

Saturday, April 25, 2009
White Springs, FL

Born in 1826 in Pittsburg, Stephen Foster left a legacy that won't soon be forgotten. His talent was writing songs... hundreds of them over his short 37 year lifespan. Although you probably won't recognize him as the author, his works include: "Oh! Susanna", "Camptown Races", "Old Folks at Home" ("Swanee River"), "My Old Kentucky Home", "Old Black Joe", Beautiful Dreamer", and "Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair", and many many others.

Although a lot of his songs have a Southern theme, Foster never lived in the South, and actually only visited once, on a riverboat trip down the Mississippi to New Orleans for his honeymoon.

But to honor him and his contribution to music and Southern Folk Culture, the states of Florida and Georgia have both named State Parks in his memory.

Today, we visited the Florida Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs, jus…

Flying Memories

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Orlando, FL

Between June of 1975 and July of 1976 Dar and I lived in Southwest Orlando -- actually not far from Turkey Lake Park where we're now camped. We had been married for a few years, hadn't had kids yet, and didn't own a house -- kind of foot-loose you could say. I had been working with Duo-Fast Corporation for a few years by that time and, when offered, we eagerly accepted a transfer from Minnesota (brrrr) to sunny Central Florida.

During that time I was flying, a skill I learned while living in Minnesota in 1974. After moving to Orlando I searched the area for the right airport I could call home, at least for my purpose of stretching my wings, as it were, and feeding my interest in aviation.

The general aviation airport of the Orlando area was Orlando Executive/Hernden Field as I remember it was called then. A few times I did fly out of Hernden but didn't like it. With it's control tower, shared airspace with Orlando International, an…

Orlando Days

Monday, April 20, 2009
Orlando, FL

In case you're wondering, I haven't visited any of the attractions here in Central Florida. And there are no plans to do so. When our two kids were growing up we made a number of excursions here specifically to see Disneyworld and some of the other theme attractions in the area. Those were great trips full of wonderful memories of small kids taking in all the amazing sights, rides, and fantasy; and watching the big smiles on their little faces. It was the right thing to do at that time.

There were one or two little incidents that don't exactly fall under the category of fond memories however. Why, I still wake up in a cold sweat when I have flash-backs (a form of post traumatic stress syndrome, I've learned) of the time our "boat" got stuck inside "It's a Small World" for nearly half an hour. Once extricated it took three days, some medication, and equal measures of oxygen and scotch to get that song out of my hea…

A Hitch Switch

Thursday, April 16, 2009
Orlando, FL

Yesterday we pulled up jacks at Ho-Hum RV Park and continued the trek eastward. It was a 200 mile drive along quiet desolate coastline, boggy wetlands, pine forest, and hilly horse-country. We followed US-98 to US-19 at Perry, then through Fanning Springs, and Chiefland where we picked up US-27 for the ride into Ocala, FL.

A couple months ago I became aware that the trailer hitch and receiver on the bus-house was the subject of a recall. Apparently, the company that made it screwed up, didn't make some parts to spec, and when it all came to light, went out of business, leaving Spartan Motors (the manufacturer of the bus-house chassis) holding the bag. About 1000 hitches on motorhomes all over the country had to be replaced. I reckon that costs a few bucks.

Over the past week or so I've been researching a good service shop to make the change and coordinating the part, and us, being somewhere at the same time to get the job done. Well, it all cam…

A Capitol Disappointment

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Carrabelle, FL

Since we're within about an hour or so of Tallahassee when we're at Ho-Hum RV Park in Carrabelle, we decided to make the drive and knock another State Capitol Building off our list. We did a little research before going and discovered the Old State Capitol is at the same location as the New State Capitol. Very convenient.


From a distance the grounds look like an office complex with an older ornate building plopped down in the middle of it all. That older building is the Old State Capitol and it dates from the 1840's, although it's been added onto and changed numerous times over the years. The surpising thing is that this historic building served as the State Capitol for well over 100 years, until the middle 1970's when the New State Capitol was built.

We toured the Old State Capitol first.

After the New State Capitol was completed in the mid 70's, there were plans to raze the old structure and create a courtyard for the ne…

Florida's Forgotten Coast

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Monday, April 13, 2009
Carrabelle, FL

The Gulf Coast that lines the "bump" or "horn" on the panhandle of Florida has been termed Florida's Forgotten Coast. Why?

The beaches aren't as spectacular as those near Destin or Ft. Walton Beach or Panama City. The area is out-of-the-way and harder to get to... the nearest Interstate Highway is 50 miles to the North and the nearest airport with commercial service is about that far off too. Despite numerous attempts, big-time development just hasn't happened here, much to the chagrin of those who've invested in it. Shopping can be a project -- there's not even a Walmart anywhere nearby. It's slow. It's sleepy. It's very laid back. There's no pretense, no bling, no fa-lala-lala. It's cool!

The past two days we've gone off exploring the area around Carrabelle.

During WWII, the Army hastily put together a training camp on 155,000 acres, right here and surrounding the area where Ho-Hum …

A Work Day

Saturday, April 11, 2009
Carrabelle, FL

There have been a number of projects, little tasks really, that have been giving both of us gas... and I mean full-fledged heartburn natural-methane flatulent GAS. These little administrative and paper-work things have been dogging us, following us around, waking us up at night, and biting down on our meaty-parts anytime we thought we'd procrastinated the dang things away. NO WAY! "You're not going to forget about me... oh no... Not that easy!"

When we woke to clouds and a wet-rainy-feeling morning it seemed like a great day to get these jobs done... finished... acompli... outa-here. So we did. We're both paying bills, following up on insurance questionnaires, entering expenses into our budget tracker, updating this and that, applying for this and that, and on and on... until we looked up, about 2pm, and saw the sun was out. It was a beautiful day. There was very little wind. It was warm. People were milling around... wonderin…

The Gulf Beaches of Florida

Thursday, April 9, 2009
Mexico Beach, FL

Today, after 20 days... after Dar's bout with walking pneumonia... after who-knows how much rain (certainly more than 12 inches), we vacated site number 13 at Escapee's Rainbow Plantation and resumed our trek eastward. Despite the challenges encountered, we really enjoyed the Escapee's park and will certainly stop back there the next time we're in the area. In my limited experience, it's one of the nicer Escapee's parks we've been to.

But it was time to go. And the weather was a bit of a factor in our decision. Today was going to be nice but starting tomorrow Northern Florida is looking to be more unsettled, rainier, windier, cloudier, etc. So we decided to strike out today and get some miles behind us to make tomorrows drive easier. We have a reservation near Carrabelle for the weekend and after today's drive we're only about 70 miles away. That'll make tomorrow a much easier day -- even if it does rain.

Tod…

The Navy's Blue Angels

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Summerdale, AL

Yesterday, Monday, while exploring the Naval Aviation Museum over at the Pensacola Naval Air Station we discovered that the Blue Angels would be practicing Tuesday morning, this morning, precisely at 8:30am at the airfield right behind the Museum. Those fly-boys and fly-girls sure do get up early in the morning, don't they?

So Dar set two alarms and we were up at 6am in order to leave by 7am so we could be there by 8am. She was a determined girl and she was going to see this with me or without me. And one way or another, somehow, we got there just a few minutes after 8am, but well before start time.

Behind the Museum and it's airplane restoration hangers are bleachers just a few hundred feet from the main runway. This being spring break week for the public schools in this part of Florida the stands were full of families with kids. Dar and I found a place to stand within a few feet of the front of the cordoned off area -- off to one side. I…

Pensacola Naval Air Museum

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Monday, April 06, 2009
Summerdale, AL

What happened to our warm Spring? About 4am this morning I was awakened by gale force winds blowing through my little open window right next to my sleeping head... and it was cold. A cold front was obviously making its entrance and letting everyone know winter isn't quite over yet. There are freeze watches up for the next two nights and it could get down to 30f or so. I checked the forecast for Beaver Dam, our hometown in Wisconsin, and the predicted low tomorrow morning is 25f. So the difference between the two is more than 1,000 miles and just 5 degrees. Hmmm.

We got a call from our daughter Andrea this afternoon making sure we knew the Northwest was having a breakout of summer weather. It was well into the 70's there, under bright skies, and she, Ryan, and Evan were having lunch out on the patio. I think she wanted us to know what we were missing. Thanks Andi.

After my usual coffee and internet time this morning we headed off to the Nav…

A New Blogger

Sunday, April 5, 2009
Summerdale, AL

We went nowhere today. The toad rested... is stone cold from the lack of travel. What I did do was transition The RV Sabbatical Blog over to a new bogging software provider... Blogger. I was having problems with the previous supplier -- Yahoo! -- and decided to make the switch now rather than wait for serious problems to crop up later.

The new blog is still called The RV Sabbatical Journal, and it's still available from the links/menus on www.tdhoch.com, our website front page. Most of our readers will notice nothing except for a new look. Only those who created a link or set up a shortcut directly to the old blog will have to change the address that link or shortcut points to. For you guys, the address of the new blog is tdhoch.blogspot.com.

I moved over all posts from this year, 2009. But all posts from previous years are NOT available on the new blog. I've got them, in a big PDF file, but they won't be available, ever, on the new platfor…

Lunch on Mobile Bay

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Saturday, April 04, 2009
Summerdale, AL

Our time here at the Escapee's Rainbow Plantation RV Park is growing short. With that in mind we thought we'd venture out and try to find lunch at a restaurant on Mobile Bay, that big body of water just 8 miles west of us. We didn't have anything particular in mind, just to wander, explore, and hope we happen upon the right place.

And we did... at the Fairhope, AL. municipal pier, a gathering place for locals and tourists since the 1920's. About half way out this historic and storied public pier is the Yardarm Restaurant, a somewhat "pricey" place but with the clear advantage to us of being right on the water.
From Fairhope, AL
We choose to dine alfresco and thoroughly enjoyed the views of birds and boats while we ate and soaked in the day. The bay waters were particularly brown, even muddy, the apparent result of all the rain we've had recently. But the skies were mostly clear and we could see the buildings of downtown …

Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan

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Friday, April 03, 2009
Summerdale, AL

No excuses! Both of us are feeling fine. The sun is out, temperatures are mild, winds moderate. It's time to go exploring!

So we loaded up the toad and took off for Gulf Shores. Gulf Shores, AL. that is. This is the town that sits in the middle of one of the premier beaches along the northern Gulf Coast. Over 20 linear miles of wide white sand and usually warm water... when someone mentions "idylic white-sand beach" this is the mental picture that springs to mind.

The good news is the beach is still there. The bad news is that much of it near Gulf Shores is hidden behind private condominiums and beach houses. Apparently, this is just another version of pay-per-view. We drove mile after mile along Hwy 182, the closest road to the beach and only occasionally caught a glimpse of the white sand and water. It seems developers have gone wild and local politicians have let them sell off the beach, lot by lot.

From Gulf Shores & Fort Mor…

A Wet Week

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Thursday, April 02, 2009
Summerdale, AL

Well, it's been a wet week here in "L.A." -- "Lower Alabama" as the locals call it with a smirk on their face. March is normally a wet month for this part of the country and this year we just happened to be here for one of the really exceptional ones. The weather service has the past week's rainfall total for this area in the 10 to 15 inch range, a good portion of which fell just last Friday night. Average precipitation for the entire month of March is usually about 7 inches.

We're in a pattern of one nice day followed by a couple three rainy ones. It's easy to complain but I've found myself learning to live with it. Other than head on down the road to somewhere else which may not be any better, there's not much I can do about it anyway. So if I can't be outside exploring or soaking up sunshine I'll find a comfortable place, a warm drink, and a good book to keep me occupied. It's a state of…

Dar Returns

Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Summerdale, AL

As difficult as it was to get Dar out of Pensacola and safely into Madison last Tuesday and Wednesday, when I looked at the forecast yesterday morning it appeared that we'd have more of the same problems getting her home. There was rain expected in Wisconsin and there were, once again, predictions of heavy thunderstorms for Pensacola and she had a tight connection in Dallas. But all you can do is go with the flow. When the plane leaves you'll leave. When it shows up, you'll show up too. Relax. Chill.

This has been quite a weather spell here in Lower Alabama with rain and storms most days. In Texas, the entire time we were there this year, there were daily concerns about wildfires. It was so dry and usually so windy that if a fire got going it wouldn't stop until it got to Louisiana. But here, lately, I'm not at all concerned about wildfires.

Dar's flight was due into Pensacola at 4:40pm. I confirmed she was in the air before…