August 25, 2018 – Heading Home Today

I opted out of the campground's waffle breakfast and headed home a little earlier than planned, knowing that we had to traverse Washington DC, Baltimore, WIlmington and Philadelphia … always the worse 287 miles due to traffic and road conditions.

Again, as was the case during the past two days, the police were out in force.

Then … your guess is as good as ours!

Before the northbound traffic came to one of its several unexplained halts, we saw it backed-up in the southbound lanes.

Later, while sitting creeping along at less tham 5 MPH, several cars, including a red sports car flew past us in the breakdown lane.  Hate to admit it but people like htat really annoy us. 

But … for a change, there is justice!

Despite the fact is was a Saturday morning, the traffic from about 50 to 20 miles from south of the Potomac River was, again, a nightmare.  While the volume of traffic seems to inexorably increase; more and more drivers treat the road like a skier's slalom course, weaving from lane to lane and cutting other drivers off in the process; as noted above, using the breakdown lane and even the shoulders when no other options are available; the clear lack of directional signals on most vehicles … as so motorists actually use them; drivers backing up in the breakdown lane when they've missed thieir off ramps; and other motorists who sudenly veer from the passing lane across two or three other lanes of traffic to an exit ramp.

Unfortunately, and having traveled across the country several times, while the lack of safe and courteous driving is not limited to Virginia, it seems to be noticably more prevelant from the Mid-Atlantic to Boston area.

We finally reached the Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River and crossed into

Another state where the taxpayers are involuntarily paying for the ego of their governor

The most notable sights were the open drawbridge

just south of the Francis Scott Key Bridge The Francis Scott Key Bridge, also known as the Outer Harbor Bridge or simply the Key Bridge, is a steel archpshaped continuous through truss bridge spanning the Patapsco River.  The main span of 1,200 feet is the third longest span of any continuous truss in the world.  Named for the author of the Star Spangled Banner,the bridge is the outermost of three toll crossings of Baltimore's Harbor.  It is 8,636 feet long and carries an estimated 11.5 million vehicles annually. This bridge is a designated hazardous materials truck route, as HAZMATs are prohibited in the two tunnels.

The trip through Maryland is other wise notable for another traffic tie-up north of the bridge.

Next,

where we pulled into the resat are to grab lunch, where we spotted a vehicle that it appeared was being used as a home for its owner,

before heading out into yet another traffice slow-down.

Finally, we were back in

and more congestion

and a car which went roaring past us at well over the speed limit!

After arriving back at Shady Brook and unloading our motorhome, it was time to take it back to the secured lot where we store it … just 4½ miles away.  After a nearly three month trip across 28 states and 8,640 miles of driving,… and some 88,000 miles of accident-free RV driving…  less than a mile from our storage lot, I misjudged a curb on a road with virtually no traffic resulting in sufficient damage to require having to reaplce a rear tire.

$$$$

We were able to park our motorhome where it will sit until we leave for Florida at the end of the year!

 

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August 24 – One More Day

Trying to drive the 500-plus miles from Wade (Fayetteville), NC to Langhorne is just too far for us to undertake in a single day, so our destination is Ashland, just north of Richmond, VA.  Under normal circumstances we belong to the 250 or 2:30 club … driving no more than 250-300 miles a day and shooting to arrive at our evening destination no later than 2:30 to 3:00 PM.

Leaving our Wade camground, it was a short ½ mile drive to I-95.  Merging into the traffic lane, we discovered we were in the middle of an army convoy.

After passing an accident

Police hadn't even arrived

we spotted another convoy across the median headed south.

This is the first time we've seen military vehicles on a highway where the soldiers were sitting in exposed positions

We passed several fountains which graced a Rooms to Go warehouse  the third Confederate flag we've seen since leaving Sarasota and a grouping of the U.S., State of North Carolina and French flags.

Then, there were the pair insects looking to hitch a ride on a window of our motorhome.

When driving, I often get lost in thoughts, some serious (frquently resulting in some of the OpEd opinions I grind out), some simply to keep my mind working (the number of Class A, Class B, Class C, Fifth Wheels, Travel Trailers, Pop-ups and Truck Campers), and still others about the scenery as it wizzes past us.

Relative to the latter, since leaving Dade City, Florida, much of our driving time over the past several days has been along Interstates bordered by trees

with only occasional breaks as we pass through occasional towns and a few cities.  The scenery can almost become boring, and is clearly far less interesting than even the mostly barren and uninhabitied I-10 corridor across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas … in large part becasue of the lack of trees, one can see for miles.

Then, we find we have an interesting oxymoron that … whether in the Midwest or in the so-called Bible belt … there appear to be more billboards obviously sponsored by conservative Christian groups

as well as those advertising a life style far removed from such teaching.

 

sometimes in extremely close proximity.

Oh well, tomorrow we get to navigate Washington DC, Baltimore, Wilmington and central Philadephia just to get home!

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August 23 – Northward from Richmond Hill, GA to Wade, NC

While doing a last minute walk-around of our motorhome and tow vehicle, we noticed that a "local" had climbed aboard and obviously looking to "get out of dodge" … actually Richmond HIll.

Back on I-95 north, there was again little of note other than

located in a shoopnig mall.

Next we crossed the Savannah River and into

Ever wonder why taxpayers of a state tolerate their governors spending on having their names on or under highway "Welcome" signs.  Does anyone really care?

As we observed yesterday, local law enforcement was out in significant numbers patrolling the highways.

Well hidden, by the time a motorist spots anyone speeding, they are "toast!

Clearly, their tactics were working.

In our years of traveling all across the U.S., we can't recall any other two-day period when we've seen so many motorists pulled over.

We remain mystified as to why the state's DOT is clear cutting long streteches of the median between the north and south bound lanes of I-95 …

often leaving just one or two trees standing.

About 50 miles into South Carolina, the first of some 60-plus highway billboards begin to appear promoting "Pedro's South of the Border" 

South of the Border

is located at the intersection of I-95 and US 301/US 501 just south of the border between South Carolina and North Carolina. The site is a 350-acre compound that contains a miniature golf course, truck stop, 300-room motel, multiple souvenir shops, a campground, multiple restaurants, amusement rides, and a 200-foot observation tower with a sombrero shaped observation deck.  It is also home to "Reptile Lagoon", the largest indoor reptile exhibit in the US.

The entire motif of South of the Border can be described as intentionally Campy.

South of the Border was developed by Alan Schafer in 1950.  He had founded South of the Border Depot, a beer stand, at the location in 1949 adjacent to Robeson County which was, at one time, one of many "dry" North Carolina counties.  The business was steadily expanded with Mexican trinkets and numerous kitsch items imported from Mexico.  The site itself also began to expand to include a cocktail lounge, gas station and souvenir shop and, in 1954, a motel. 

In 1962, South of the Border further expanded into fireworks sales, potentially capitalizing on the fact fireworks were illegal in North Carolina.   In 1964 it was announced that the route for I-95 would pass right by South of the Border, and the facility would be next to two exits and within view of the highway.  By the mid-1960s, South of the Border had expanded to include a barber shop, drug store, a variety store, a post office an outdoor go-kart track complete with other outdoor recreational facilities and the 104 feet tall image of the mascot, Pedro.

Over the years, the billboards with messages some considered racist and offensive changed to become tamer but still funny. Schafer continued to deny his attraction was racist.  In fact, he was known for hiring African Americans, and even helping them to vote, and standing up to the Ku Klux Klan.

About 300 people, mostly local employees, work at South of the Border. At one time, with 700 working there, it was the largest employer in Dillon County, South Carolina.

Then we were in

Debbie spotted a field of "yellow" and wondered what it was.  After checking on the Internet, we discovered we were looking at a mature tobacco field.

Just after exiting for our campground, we found ourselves abreast of another tobacco crop.

While checking in to our campground, we were told that this evenigng there was a taco and ice cream dinner …

for the "exorbitant" cost of just $3.00 per person! 

We later enjoyed a great meal … one Debbie didn't have to cook, making it even more pleasureable for her. 

The best news of the day, however, came from Ken's wife, Cheryl.  Back in the hospital since shortly after we left on Tuesday morning, he has made a remarkable turn around and his pain significantly reduced.  We even facetimed him this evening and he looked 100% better, was sitting up, animated, and his former talkative self!  He and Cheryl are now looking forward to his discharge and flight home to Cape Cod in the near future.

 

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August 18th thru 22nd – Last Days in Sarasota and Heading Home

After our morning walk around the campground,

we spent much of our last three days in Sarasota visiting with Ken, for whom the past week has been uncomfortable due to a dibilitating pain in his shoulders and extremely challenging physically for him.

Back at our motorhome, we were able to enjoy a couple of final Florida sunsets.

Yesterday morning, we stopped by the rehab center one last time to see to Ken one last time before beginning our trip home.  While we knew it was time to leave, it was extremely difficult for us to say, "Goodbye."

Our drive was relatively short, just ninety miles to Dade City where we visisted with John and Leslie Wilhelm, one of the couples we traveled to Alaska with in 2011 and whom we'd not seen since a reunion in 2014.

Today's drive to Richmond Hill, GA was uneventful except for the large number of unfortunate motorists who had the opportunity to get to know Florida and Georgia law enforcement officers.

 

Tonight, we are staying just south of Savannah, GA at a campground we've visited in the past … where the many swans on the lake take center stage.

and mix freely with a variety of geese and ducks.

Taking refuge in trees are storks

and egrets.

while two trutles ensure their safety (other than from the alligators who also inhabit the lake).

 

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August 11 thru 17 – Still in Sarasota

Ken continues to make daily slow but noticable progress.

Tuesday evening, Debbie and I decided to eat out at Lee Roy Selmon's, a local restaurant with the best meat loaf around.  When we got there, it was no where to be found … replaced by

We discovered that both had the same parent company … and that the meat loaf was even better!

Yesterday Ken had one of his best days since we arrived almost two weeks ago!

Last evening, we had no sooner returned to our motorhome and finished grilling the salmon for our dinner than we were hit by one of the heaviest downpours we've experienced in our coach.

After a gorgeous sunrise,

We took stock of the results of last evening's gale-force winds and discovered we were faced with cleaning up many downed limbs from the tree whose limbs are over our motorhome.

During our morning walk, the strength of the winds was evident where some of the nearby vegetation was still severely bent over.

This morning, I decided to take my camera with us on our daily walk.  For a combination RV and park model campground with nearly 1,600 sites (one of if not the largest in the country) which are mostly occupied during the winter months we are here and the activities venues … Sun N Fun

adversies that there are some 178 activities which take place during those seasons … the place is nearly deserted

during the week in the summer.

Some other intresting sights:

Spent most of the day with Ken. 

This evening, while enjoying our first glass of wine, we began to hear the rumble of thunder and then spotted two flashes of lightening among the building cumulus clouds to the south.

To the north, another mass of clouds were growing ever higher

although the sky above us remained a crystal clear blue!

 

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August 8, 9 and 10 – Sarasota

Thursday – I spent most of the day at the rehab facility with Ken while Debbie and Cheryl took a "girls day out", getting a pedicurer, doing some shopping and just chillin' out at our motorhome. While at the mall, they ran acorss a most interesting classic car show.

\ \ \ I am sorry I missed it!

While back on our RV, Debbie and Cheryl were suddenly aware of a loud noise just outside and were sruprised to see a young man … who Debbie thought looked about 12 … with a mini-backhoe breaking up the concrete pad next to us.

She was concerned that he might actually hit our RV.

However, he did his job like a pro, removed the concrete, added cravel and elveled the site

in preparation for the forms to be installed by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, I had scheduled a mobile RV service to stop by to see if he could help me discover where we were getting some water infilltration during heavy rain storms, resulting in a couple of small leaks over our dash.  While Jim Smith sealed several suspected area

I trimmed the live oak and the Spanish Moss draping down from it and massaging the roof our RV.

Friday – Again this moring, after our walk, we enjoyed our first … and second … cups of coffee on our "patio" before the humidity got to oppressive.

Soon thereafter, a concrete truck arrived to pour a new concrete patio slab in the site next to us.

Ken and Cheryl's daughter, Kim, and husband, Terry, had flown in yesterday afternoon.  The five of us spent most of the day with Ken. Terry, Ken and I playing around-robin cribbage match.

Terry (l) and Ken (r)

Saturday – We stopped by to see Ken this morning before heading out to a local theater to see

This was an extremely well-done movie … and based on an incredible true story. 

It tells the story of Ron Stallworth, the first African-American detective to serve in the Colorado Springs Police Department.  Determined to make a name for himself, Stallworth bravely sets out on a dangerous mission: to infiltrate and expose the Ku Klux Klan. As face-to-face encounters with the Klan are imperative, he recruits a more seasoned colleague, Flip Zimmerman, into the undercover investigation of a lifetime. Together, they team up to take down the extremist hate group as the organization aims to both sanitize its violent rhetoric to appeal to the mainstream and assassinate a local college black student organizaiton president.

At the same time, the movie was disturbing as it make the view realize that vicious raical, religious, ethnic and sexual-orientation hatred adn bigotry depicted is not artificial but has significant roots is all too many segments of our society and, regretfully not being adequately confronted by our government.

 

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August 7 – Sarasota

After a morning walk, we spent most of the day at the rehab center with Ken.  While he is still very weak, he seems to be making significant strides in his Occupational and Physical Theraphy (OT and PT) session.  While he has a long way to go, it brings to mind a quote from Mao tes-Tung, "A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step." 

The good news is that he has taken several single steps toward a goal of full functional recovery.

On the way back to our motorhome, we spotted a brilliant rainbow.

which lasted until well after we got home.

Later, while savoring a dinner of cheese & crackers and wine, we were seranaded by hundreds, if not thousands, of cicadas

and the occasional rumble of thunder while threatening clouds billowed all around us

although we had no rain whatsoever.

While tonight's sunset was hidden, it painted the nearby clouds brilliant reds and oranges.

 

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August 4, 5 and 6 – Sarasota and Time with Ken and Cheryl

Saturday morning's drive from Lake City to Sarasota was interrupted only by a stop for gas, spotting several of Florida's finest (in some cases with no one but a fellow police cruiser pulled oevr),

power boats with names their owners obviously think adds to their macho image,

the odometer on our motorhome click past 

and we also celebrated our 1,300th day of RVIng!

Well before noon we arrived in

and then at

the campground where we spend our winters shortly thereafter.

After getting to our site and hooking up our ultilities

we headed to Heartland Healthcare and Rehab to finally see Ken

Sunday, we stopped by to again visit with Ken before driving to Naples for lunch with Debbie's close and long-time friend, Wendy.

While at lunch, Ken's wife, Cheryl, texted that Ken had fallen and was in the ER at Sarasota Memorial.  By the time we were gettng back to Sarasota, Cheryl let us know that Ken had had X-rays, CAT scans, an MRI and several other tests … all of which were fortunately negative … plus five stitches on his forehead and was headed back to the rehab facility.  Surprisingly, while he looked a bit "beat up", Ken was very alert, animated and even cheery.

Back at our motorhome that evening, a rather dramatic, post-thunderstorm sunset.

Monday morning, we were back to see Ken and then off to Publix for some badly needed groceries while he had his daily Physical Therapy … and then back to see him again this afternoon.  At this tiime we have decided we would delay any plans to head home until next Sunday at the earliest. 

This evening, we cooked dinner on our grill for the first time on this trip which began more than two months ago.

Tonight, another colorful sky.

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August 3 – Across the Florida Panhandle

Leaving our Pensacola campground, we noticed a painted fence which we'd not seen when arriving yesterday afternoon.

Back on

while only the nation's 11th longest public roadway at 2,460.34 miles between Santa Monica, CA and Jacksonville, FL, navigates through perhaps the most varied landscapes of any Interstate or U.S. highway. 

From the maze and congestion running from the Pacific through Los Angels County to the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas to the crowded highways around Houston to the many low bridges spanning miles and miles of Louisiana and Mississippi bayous to the tunnel and 8 mile bridge in Mobile, Alabama to what is little more than a 200-plus mile green corridor through the Florida panhandle before crossing I-95 and heading into Jacksonville.  

Over the years, we've driven I-10's entire length … and had the "pleasure" redriving some 2,300 miles of it again during this trip

For the most part, our five hour drive across the Florida panhandle was most notworthy for its roadside "wall" of trees.  However, the road was in excellent shape and the traffic exxtremely light, other than for about 5 minutes just east of Tallahassee.

In several areas, there wre multi-acre sections which had obvisouly been cut down and replaced with evergreens over the years.

Both in the Pensacola area and along I-75 after we left I-10, there was evidence of the state's support for the U.S. Navy.

We only saw one decorated sound barrier

Then there was the woman with her bike … walking!

We also had a semi pass us in whch we could see the refelction of our motorhome … a veiw we rarely see

During our two-month-plus trip westward across the country and now back east, we have been very fortunate not to have encountered any serious weather (having avoided rain, wind and dust storms) other than one night in Altoona, Iowa when we were under the threat of tornadoes for a few hours.

However, late this afternoon, the sky darkened and began to be puncutated with bright bolts of lightening and then the heavens opened up.

We are anxious to get to Sarasota tomorrow and spend some time with Ken and Cheryl,

 

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August 2 – Four States Today

We traveled through four states today enroute to Sarasota where we are planning on going to see Ken and Cheryl.  Ken has been hospitalized for the better part of two months due to his multiple myeloma, both viral and fungal pneumonia and some other undiagnosed reasons for the pain he is experiencing.  Meantime, Cheryl has had to deal with Ken, his doctors and the prognsis uncertainties surrounding his diseases.

***************************

There was little to distinguish the trip in Louisiana other than a 1957 Chevy truck.

Then on to

where speed limits were posted along with radar indicating a driver's speed.

Next,

Perhaps today's most interesting place was the Alabama Welcome Center

which had more sculptures and artwork than we've seen at any other rest area across the country.

An oyster shell adorend with the history and historic figures from Alabama

This Mark-8, 2,700 pound armor piercing projectile  – which was fired from one of the nine 16-inch 45 caliber mark 45 “big guns” aboard the USS Alabama (BB-60).   It travels at a speed of 2,300 feet per second or 1,568 miles per hour; more than twice the speed of sound.  The guns are accurate up to 20.97 miles away from the battleship.

Several colorful inlays in the Welcome Center floor

Model of the USS Alabama (BB-60)

Driving through Mobile,

RSA Battle House dominates the Mobile skyline

Navy F-4 Phantom and Battleship Alabama (BB-60)

Throughout our 150 mile drive through Mississippi and Alabama, we saw an unusual sign.

A little checking yields some interesting information we were completely unaware of. 

The United States and Spain held long, inconclusive negotiations on the status of West Florida.

Pink area west of the Florida peninsula

In the meantime, American settlers established a foothold in the area and resisted Spanish control. British settlers, who had remained, also resented Spanish rule, leading to a rebellon in 1810 and the establishment for 74 days of the Republic of West Florida.

In West Florida from June to September 1810, many secret meetings of those who resented Spanish rule, as well as three openly held conventions, took place in the Baton Rouge district.  Out of those meetings grew the West Florida rebellion and the establishment of the independent Republic of West Florida, with its capital at St. Francisville, in present-day Louisiana, on a bluff along the Mississippi River.

Early in the morning on September 23, 1810, armed rebels stormed Fort San Carlos at Baton Rouge and killed two Spanish soldiers "in a sharp and bloody firefight that wrested control of the region from the Spanish."  The rebels unfurled the flag of the new republic, a single white star on a blue field.

Fast forward … at 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, December 10, 1810, "the men within the fort marched out and stacked their arms and saluted the flag of West Florida as it was lowered for the last time, and then dispersed."

We finally reached our fourth state of the day (and 22nd on this trip)

and our campground for the night, which recognized members of the military and fallen policemen

was extremely pretty .. as we overlook a small lake.

The last time I was in Pensacola, other than when heading either west or east along 

was in December 1960 when ourTufts University freshman Naval ROTC class took a trip to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola for an introduction to Naval aviation.

Together with my roommate, Bob Serino (l), aboard the USS Antietam (CV-36)

 

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