Friday, 9 May 2014

From Florida back to Ontario

We have to backtrack a bit, just to prove we were actually in Mississippi,

Swamp and River

Welcome to Mississippi

and Alabama 
Welcome Centre

Mobile,  Alabama

Tunnel under the river

Battleship Alabama

and I was awake. When we entered the Florida Welcome Center,


Spirit of Naval Aviation, Welcome Centre

we were offered fresh orange or grapefruit juice. I couldn’t resist. It was delicious!

We had decided to go to the Airstream RV Park north of Pensacola. It was quite 42km north, then off the highway on a small country road to Mystic Springs Airstream Campground. There were seven trailers there plus the host. 
Beautiful Campsite, no one home!
We find out that actually, there is no one in the trailers, some are storage, some are left there for members to come up to on a rally. There is just the host. She is a delightful lady, who is hosting for the first time. She said take any spot, except the blue power boxes as they were 50amp. Each site had a small concrete rectangle as a patio or front step or porch. It wasn’t large enough for a picnic table or chairs. It was a little difficult to figure out where the sites were as often the electricity was in one place, the water in another, often different sides of the site, and the sewer was somewhere else. 

Which is the site?

Our site on the edge

We found sites on the outside which were a little more conventional, and used one of those. In spite of some challenges, the park was quite pretty, and Carol was a great host! She had a large covered site, with a couple of chairs, outdoor chesterfields and a swinging bench which made it perfect for our nightly cocktail hours. 

We drove to see the National Naval Aviation Museum at Pensacola Naval Base. 

We had a wonderful guide, a Vietnam vet, who had flown for 51 years. He was able to give us interesting anecdotes about each of the planes. 

On our way into Pensacola, a funeral procession led by 3 police cars, approached on the opposite side of the highway. All traffic stopped until the tailing police car passed. 

We had a couple of stormy days, so stayed longer than we originally planned. When we had a break in the rain, we decided to go down to Historic Pensacola. We had seen a group of four Airstreams used as food carts/restaurants. There were four-Thai, BarBQ, Everything Gouda and Tacos. There was a large patio with tables and umbrellas. 

Al Fresco Dining - at Airstreams

Tasty Airstreams

 We stopped for lunch, then went across the road to a wonderful coffee house. We then walked around the historic buildings. 

Now a Museum

Colonial Home

Unfortunately they were closed, so we could only wander down the streets, and look at the architectural ruins of the old fort.

We decided to drive over the bridge and over the causeway to an island and a peninsula. There were some beautiful beach-front houses, 
Beach House
many in water frount communities. All houses were up on stilts with garages below.

On stilts

Para-sailing on the Gulf side

Another couple came in on our second day, and two more arrived as we were leaving, so Carol had someone to host.
On our way again, we drove along hwy 4, then I-10 to Torreya State Park, just west of Tallahassee. Beautiful azaleas, were in practically every yard, 

and often used as hedges. It looks as if it was just south of I-10, but it was actually 14 miles off it. However, it was a lovely trip along a winding country highway. The road was lined with clouds of red “You Can’t See Me’s”. 

You Can't See Me  wild flowers
The park was beautiful, wooded site. When we arrived a friendly neighbour came over to chat. He said to be careful the ticks were falling from the trees and the snakes were out because it was getting warmer. That was enough for me, I spent most of the time in the trailer! I went to log on to the computer, but it had done an update and locked me out of my own computer. Several hours later, I had figured out how to fix it. We just stayed the night, so we didn’t even unhitch.

Next day, we were on the way again, this time to Crooked River State Park in Georgia.

A huge site
It is another beautiful campground, friendly, helpful, gated, with large, level sites well laid out, and with all sites off-set. There was only one problem - bugs- clouds of gnats and mosquitoes. We tried to sit outside, but were slapping bugs non-stop, so indoors became our choice. 

The next day was beautiful, so we decided to go to Cumberland Island, Georgia’s southernmost barrier island. It is a 30 minute ferry ride from Historic St. Marys through saltwater marshes and the intracoastal waterway. 
Landing on the Island
It is absolutely beautiful. We walked up the alley of Live Oaks

Live Oaks
to the Dungeness ruins. These are from the third house on this site.  The first house was built by Catherine Green, widow of Revolutionary war hero, Gen. Nathaneal Green, who purchased the land in 1783. The house was a 4 storey, 26 room tabby with 6 foot thick walls, that she named Dungeness. Tabby is a type of concrete made from oyster shells, sand, lime and water. This house burned down. In 1884, Thomas Carnegie, brother of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, with his wife Lucy built on the Dungeness foundations. It is the ruins of this last house we see.
From the driveway

From the water-side, wild horses on the grass

Beside it is a 2 storey tabby house which was originally built for the architect, and subsequently used for 2 slave families.

Tabby House

Pergola, covered in vines and flowers, wide enough for the carriage to drive through

There were ruins of various outbuildings, a pergola, and the boathouse. Around the front is a huge lawn with a beautiful fountain. There were feral horses, including a young foal, grazing on the lawns. 

The foal is lying in the grass
From there we walked along the oyster shell paths towards the beach.
Oyster Shell paths
We walked along the boardwalks over the marshes

The marsh from the boardwalk

and the inter-dune meadow to the dunes 

The Dunes

Inter-Dune Meadow

and the on to the beach. It is incredible, wide pale sand as far as you can see in both directions.

To the South

 A type of gull - all facing the wind

To the North

We walked barefoot and were surprised how hard the sand was.  We wandered to the ferry dock, past the camping area.

A beautiful picnic area beside camp sites

Unfortunately, we did not have time to go to the north end of the island where The Settlement was established in 1890’s for black workers. When we got back to the mainland, we found a great little coffee-house, the Blue Goose, and enjoyed excellent lattes.
The next day after doing  some cleaning of the RV, we did a bit of the necessary shopping, wandered around Historic St. Marys, and bought a couple of books at the Visitors’ Center. Later we had an excellent late lunch of fish and chips at the Seafood Grill.
On our last day, we decided to check out the ruins of a tabby sugar works. 

Walking towards the Sugar Works

Unfortunately, John slipped and the oyster shells jumped up and cut his leg. After he was appropriately bandaged, we went to dinner at Lang’s, a fabulous Seafood restaurant, known far and wide for their fresh caught shrimp. We both decided on “all you can eat large shrimp”, the special of the day. It was wonderful - boiled and perfectly seasoned. We each managed two full plates.
On our way again, straight to Georgia, to Oak Plantations Campground,

Our second site

just north of Charleston. We booked in for 2 days. Our site was a back-in, wide, grassy and almost level. We got ribs from the “Home Team”, a restaurant which had been recommended. They were delicious- smoked with a rub, but tender and juicy. 

We went to Magnolia Plantation, planning to look around there in the morning and go into Charleston in the afternoon. We spent the whole day at the Plantation. It is the oldest on the Ashley River, and has been in the Drayton family for nine generations, since 1676. The gardens are extensive, over 70 acres, and magnificent.  There were azaleas throughout the entire estate, in an array of colours.

Flower gardens were fully planted so there were blooms everywhere, from tulips and daffodils to lilys and marigolds. 

A secluded garden

A camillia in a tree

Azaleas and Wisteria everywhere
A garden path, Now

... and 150 years ago

There were also several lakes

Cypress trees beside a lake - the knobs sticking up are their roots

We took the tour of the house 

Magnolia Plantation

and also the self tour of the Audubon Swamp Garden. The house was furnished as a summer home and looked as if the family would return at any moment. 

The Swamp Garden is 60 acres of cypress, gum trees and black water. You wander along raised boardwalks, bridges and dikes to enjoy the diversity of wildlife in their natural, hauntingly beautiful setting. We saw alligators, lazily swimming near a dike,

turtles climbing on slides, 

snakes on logs nearby

and Great Blue Herons, Egrets, Cattle Egret and black and white Anhinga in the Rookery.

Since we had not yet seen Charleston, we decided to stay for an extra day in spite of a forecast of rain. Unfortunately we had to move sites in the morning, in the rain. We were a little annoyed, as our first site was not occupied and there were many sites which had been unoccupied for our entire stay. 
Charleston has really interesting architecture. 

one of the most photographed buildings

We drove in, parked right downtown and walked. First we found a wonderful coffee cafe, with excellent quiche, on East Bay Street. Then we walked around the Harbour area, out onto the pier, and saw a dolphin by the shore. We walked up to the City Market,

City Market
often called the slave market because this is where the slaves shopped, and back along Meeting Street. We walked around a round church,

Front of the Round Church

which was the original meeting place, hence the name of the street. The main graveyard was behind the church, but there were special crypts and headstones in front and at the side of the church. 

Then it began to pour, so we ran from tree to awning to any overhang or doorway that afforded some shelter, as we made our way along cobbled side-streets back to the car.

1688 - Pink House is for sale

From there we drove to Carolina Beach State Park just over the border in North Carolina, for one night. 

Our site

The marina at the Park

Carolina Beach homes- That is the ocean on the other side!

We had decided to follow hwy 17 up the coast- marked as a scenic coastal drive. It was scenic if you like driving through beach traffic and small towns, and of course road-work. We did get one glimpse of the beach through the trees!  The park was forested, and sites were huge and level. We had a pull-through, without any services, but there were water spigots throughout the camping loop.
We drove north to Medoc Mountain State Park in North Carolina,

At a Rest Stop- Snowbirds heading North again, one even with a golf cart!
just south of the Virginia border. We didn’t even unhitch, as we were only staying one night. Here, there were fewer trees in full leaf, but the dogwoods and wild pear trees were in bloom. There was the spring mist of green on the trees and bushes.  
Next day was a long drive up I-95 to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, so we were up and out by 10am - early for us. Traffic was reasonable as we skipped through 4 states in one day: North Carolina

Bridge over one of the many rivers
through Virginia

Although we didn't stop, we were pleased to see it was "Open for Business"!

Virginia Blooms!

and Maryland 

to Pennsylvania!
We pulled into a lovely wooded KOA just outside Gettysburg. Since it was Easter weekend, it was really busy, but we had a site down near one end, away from families, and the kids’ thoroughfare! We had full hookups and sites were arranged so each had privacy. 

We drove around to get a feel for the battlegrounds and town. It had really changed since we were there in the 90’s. Much of Gettysburg is designated as a National Military Park. It was developed as a memorial to both armies, by identifying and marking the lines of battle. The Welcome Centre houses a theatre, a huge museum and a cyclorama of the battlegrounds, as well as a cafeteria and bookshop. 

The Theatre and Cyclorama to the left The Cafeteria, Museum in the centre and the Bookstore to the right

There were several options to see the battlegrounds: a bus tour with a guide, hire a guide to go with you in your own car, or take a self guided tour with a CD or cassette audio, or read a pamphlet with notes. We first watched the movie – a clever mix of actual photos and footage mixed with re-enactments footage to tell the story of the battle of Gettysburg on the first 3 days of July 1863. 
The museum is outstanding with pictures, artifacts and audio segments and film shorts of each day of the battle. You start with an excellent overview and, as you wander through the myriad of rooms, the battle “plays out” from July 1st to 3rd. You gain an excellent understanding of the causes, the strategies and rationale of both the Union and the Confederate armies. Gettysburg was the turning point in the American Civil War. The eventual Union victory ended General Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North. It was also the bloodiest, with 51,000 casualties. It was here that Lincoln gave his famous “Gettysburg Address”. 
We chose to take the audio self-tour, but without the audio, as there is no CD player in the Ram. It was getting late, so we only followed the first 6 of the 16 stops. All along the route, which is very plainly marked with signs, there are many information tablets,

cannons, monuments and markers. By 1912, the US War Department placed more than 350 tablets and markers explaining the roles of various military units.

Markers- square base indicate Confederate army, Round base indicates Union Army

Regimental monuments commemorate State and US Regular Army regiments and batteries, placed usually placed at the site of their line of battle.

Confederate and State memorials commemorate all soldiers from a particular state.
Pennsylvania State Memorial has the name of every soldier who fought

Generals and other notable persons associated with the battle are commemorated with bronze sculptures.

Lt Gen. James Longstreet Bronze Statue

Minister blessing all the Union troops prior to battle

The next day, having extended our stay, [does this sound like a familiar theme?], we decided to buy a book with a more detailed account for each of the stops. It also had the CD. We decided to take John’s laptop, plugged it into the truck, loaded the CD, and we were set for the rest of the tour. We actually sat and listened to the first part, then began at stop 6 and and wound our way along streets, around hills and through fields following the conflicts to the end of July 3rd

Confederate Major Gen. George E. Pickett attacked on July 3rd 12.000 men forming a battle line a mile long across the field, with little protecction

The Union's Defense - a fish hook along the top of Cemetery ridge

Looking across the fiels where Pickett's Virginian Confederates charged the Union Fish hook
and then to the Soldier’s cemetery. It was an incredible journey.

McPherson Barn-still in use

Army units could only take the top rail for firewood

Trostle Barn with a cannonball hole [just above the lower roof]

We spent a couple of evenings with another Airstream couple from London, Ont. who were travelling much like ourselves, except for only part of the year. We exchanged places to stay, places to eat and “must see” sites across the country.
Our time in the the US was coming to a close, but there was one more place we wanted to see, Corning Museum of Glass. We headed north and found Ferenbraugh Campsite in Corning had just opened for the season. When we got there, they were indeed open, but barely. It had been such a long winter, that the upper wooded section was still too wet to clear and get ready, and their opening had been delayed. We were able to stay in a large open field in the front where there was one other RV.

 The owners were friendly, the site, a pull-through, quite large, but with just electricity.
The Corning Glass Museum is certainly a must-see. It is amazing. There are several sections- basically Explore Glass through a section on Contemporary Glass [1975-2000],

One of our favourite bowls

A Cup Within a Cup

Glass Rocking Chair- not for sitting!

All Glass Chess Set - each figure holds a different religious symbol

the story of design, craft and art of American glass, a very large section of the history of glass and collections around the world, from the Cavemen, through Roman, Islamic, Venetian, European, American, 

450-400BC glass

Snake Thread Glass

Sasanian Glass 500AD

German Enamelled GLass

Beilby Glass, 1700

Copy of the Liberty Bell, 1905

and collections of paperweights, stained glass,

A Glass Moasic Table

modern glass
Connected: An interesting showcase

and of course - Chihully

and interesting uses of glass. 

The second main section is Experience Glass - one part a glass breaking demonstration, how sheet glass is made, a hot glass show, an optical fibre demonstration, unique treatments of glass, eg argon low-e, and how it works, how sheet glass is made, and a lot of hands-on experiments to do. Of course, there is the Glass Market Shops where you can buy everything glass. Each day there is a “You design it, and we make it” contest. One design from the day is chosen, and the lucky artist gets to see his or her design being turned into glass.
We spent 5 hours there and could have spent the entire day! But we needed to get on to Ontario and Bronte Provincial Park. 

We drove along I-95
New York "Rest Areas are called "Text Stops"!

up to Highway 104 west from Rochester. It was a pleasant, drive on a two-lane road, with many beautiful stone houses, 

 one of many beautiful stone houses

that brought us right to the Lewiston Bridge to Canada. 

US phone and money put away, Canadian phone and money out, and we were good to go. We were a little later than we’d planned, so we were unhitching as dusk fell. But, we are ‘pros’ now, so it was no problem. We have a few days here, a few days in London with my brother when the Airstream gets its annual check-up, a few days in Glen Rouge, east of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal then back to Ontario for a while. We will be catching up with family and friends as we travel - so look for us at a park near you!
It has seemed very odd to go from the dry, quite barren, though beautiful desert to the lush green and full blooms of New Orleans and Charleston with azaleas, spring bulbs and roses blooming, and shorts and tank top weather, to the ever more barren trees and bushes and more layers of sweaters and jackets as we travelled north. It was like going back in time from summer to early spring.

1 comment:

  1. John and Susan, it was very nice meeting you in St. Mary's Georgia at the Crooked River State Park. This is Judy and Bruce Woodburn with the 13' Scamp trailer, which was right next to your campsite. Glad to see that you enjoyed Home Team BBQ in Charleston, SC and the Charleston area - it's gorgeous! Maybe we'll see you someday on one of your future travels to the good 'ol USA!