Arriving in Sarasota

Today was the first time we've had clear sunny skies since before leaving home. Our route took us along a short stretch of I-95, then I-295

Wildlife warnings

and the first real winds we've experienced

to I-10 West and finally I-75 south to Sarasota.

A fairlly severe, multi-car accident

which backed-up northbound traffic for almost fifteen miles

Colorful racing car transportation semi

The wind gusts out of the west had picked up

Another accident … a rollover

Two motorhomes pulled off the road … no idea why

Confederate Flag at the intersection of I-75 and I-4 (been there for years)

Shortly before 2:00 PM we pulled into

recognizing both its American and many Canadian visitors

and back to the same site we have called home for the past two years.

Once parked, however, we were faced with more than an hour of getting setup beyond the normal hooking up the electricity, cable,water and sewer:  our grill; patio chairs and tables; covering the tires, mirrors and wipers; taking the bikes off the car and pumping up their tires; digging the clubs out from under the bed and storing them where they are easily accessible, in our Jeep … just for starters.  Meanwhile, Debbie set up the inside of our coach to make it very extra comfortable and liveable for the next four months.

We are now making plans to catch up with firends and family living in the area.

 

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Florida At Last

When traveling in our motorhome, we always keep a close eye on the weather.  Thus, we knew a farily strong front was due to push through the I-95 corridor today.  After checking the projected timing of it hitting Hardeeville, where we had spent the night and Jacksonville, our next destination, we decided to head out shortly after 9:00 AM.

For most of the trip, there was a fair amount of mist and fog.


Again, not much or interest to report on.

Sculls

Unusual  RVs

8th Air Force Museum B-17 Stratojet Bomber

One of several antique cars headed for a show somewhere

Rail car wheels

Georgia's and Florida's Finest (lots of speed traps along the way)

During the last twenty miles of the trip, the winds began to pick-up from the west, a warning of the approaching storm

 

We arrived at our campground in Jacksonville shortly after 12:00 PM under warm (mid 70os) partly sunny skies.

Howevver two hours later …

the Heavens opened up.

We've stayed at this RV park on several occasions when heading south into or leaving Florida.  It is notable as it sits just ½ mile off one of the runways of Jacksonville International Airport.  Depending on the direction of the winds, landing or departing aircraft soar only a couple of hundred feet above our motorhome.

If they were any lower we could talk with the passengers.

The one downside is that the noise from these aircraft can get so loud we need to use the Closed Captioning when watching television.  Fortunately, by 10:00 PM the flights pretty much stop.

By around 4:00 PM, the storm had pretty much ended.

A couple of hours later, as we were just sitting down to enjoy a glass of wine, we noticed a glow off the side of an adjacent motorhome,  Looking out of the window, we were treated to a beautiful post-sunset.

 

 

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January 3 – Hardeeville, South Carolina

We spent an extra day in Wade giving Debbie additional time to recouperate.  While cooler than on New Years Day, the weather was still much improved over that back home.  I even played another round of miniature golf.

As Debbie's temperature  back to near normal and her coughing pretty much gone, and although some showers were predicted for later this morning, with tomorrow's forecast was for potentially heavy rains we decided to continue our trek southward today.

The sky was again overcast and morning temperature a bit warmer than the past two days, in the mid-50os.

Most of the I-95 corridor between Virginia and Florida is pretty uninteresting, a ribbon of blacktop threading its way between rows of tall evergreens and cotton fields … interrupted by occasional road or river overpasses or small industrial areas.  Diversions are were you find them.

Old and abandoned buildings

The local authorities apprehending offending drivers

An unfortunate jack-knifed semi

And, when really hard up, sections grooved pavement

For most of our trip the rains held off … however, a completely dry drive was not to be.

We reached our campground in Hardeeville, SC shortly after noon

and will likely stay here thru tomorrrow before heading for Jacksonville and then on to Sarasota on Sunday.

 

 

 

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January 1 – Debbie is Recovering

H a p p y      2 0 1 9

Yesterday, Debbie became one of eight (this select group also including Jason, Jake, Krista, Sean, Meg, Will and Calleigh) of our fifteen family members who were together at Nancy's this past Christmas who has succumbed to a nasty "bug" … sporting a 100o-plus temperature and nagging cough. 

As a result, we decided to remain in Wade for at least a couple of days before continuing on to Sarasota.  Unfortunately, we will have to cancel our planned side trip to Hilton Head where we had hoped to visit with friends and family. 

While she rested, I addressed a couple of minor projects and then dug my putter out of my golf bag stored beneath our bed so I could take on the challenge of the RV resort's miniature golf course … under partly sunny skies and temperatures reaching into the low 70os.

This evening, Debbie seems to be feeling significantly better.  However, we are going to sit tight for another day to allow her to, hopefully, fully recover.

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December 31 – Ashland, VA to Wade (Fayetteville), NC

We woke early and immediately checked the weather.  The huge swath of rain which caused our day-early departure yesterday was headed toward Richmond and parts of the I-95 corridor south toward the North Carolina state line, although Debbie had had a fever last evening, it was just below normal this morning.  

So,we decided to to leave Ashland for a relatively short drive (217 mile) drive. We knew we would get in early so she could have the balance of the day to relax and tomorrow to do nothing more than watch the Tournament of Roses  Parade (which is a must for Debbie)! We could then decide on whether to go to HIlton Head, as planned or bypass it and take a more direct route to Sarasota.

While warmer than the past couple of monrings (48o), it was still overcast.  With not much in way of scenery, Debbie resorted to one of her favorite subjects, old and decaying houses and barns.

There were an unusually large number of speed traps.

Then the antique car (we wish we could have identified).

Meanwhile, while we avoided the worst of the rain, we did run in and out of several showers,

only one of consequence … but it did not last long.

This is also the first time we had seen … not one but dozens of … signs advertising a "dog park".

The traffic was again light, only slowing down once for what appeared to relate to a dog on the highway.

We couldn't tell whether it had been hit, jumped from a moving car or some other cause.  The good news is that a good samaratain seemd to have the dog under control and out of harms way; although we couldn't tell if it had any injuries.

Oh, yes, just before crossing the Virginia/North Carolina state line, we … again .. passed by Paul Bunyan and Babe!

Then about 20 miles from our destinaion FOG.

Although it couldn't hide one sign of the old south … we'll pass a total of three before reaching Sarasota.

 

The bad news — a pick-up truck which was passing us threw up a small stone which hit our RV's windshield and caused a small chip.  The good news — it is small enough to be filled and our comprehensive insurance will cover 100% of the cost, which we'll have taken care of when we reach Sarasota.

We'll spend New Years eve and day here in Wade,

giving Debbie a bit more down time to shake her temperature and cough … and watch the New Year's Day parades.

Wishing everyone a Safe, Happy and, most important, Healthy 2019

 

 

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December 30 – Heading South Toward Warmer Weather … Again

We were fortunate to spend a wonderful Christmas week at Nancy's in Bedford, New Hampshire; where Doug and Scott and their families were able to join us.

Back row (l to r)  Debbie, Dick, Scott, Doug, Ben (20 – Doug's oldest son and a sophomore at Bloomsburg University), Nancy, her husband Jason and Jake (12 – Nancy's and Jason's son)  —   Middle Row (l to r)   Doug's wife Meg, Taylor (14 – Nancy's and Jason's daughter), Scott's wife Krista, Kira (15 – Scott's and Krista's daughter), Sean (12 – Scott's and Krista's son)   —   Front row (l to r) Will (9 – Doug's and Meg's son) and Calleigh (10 – Doug's and Meg's daughter)

We truly treasure those all-too-frequent times when our entire family can spend time together, even if for only a few days!

We headed home on Saturday … and having checked the weather for Monday (our scheduled date to head for Florida) which was forecasted for moderate to heavy rain … we decided to pick our motorhome up on the way home and load it with clothes, food and other items we always travel with. 

This morning, under chilly temperatures, overcast skies and a few small flakes of snow

we left Langhorne (a day earlier than we'd originally planned) and headed south down I-95 for Ashland, Virginia where we planned to spend our first night.  

Until reaching Lorton, VA (about 10 miles south of Washington, DC) the traffic was surprisingly just light to moderate. Then, merging lanes and several crowded on-ramps created a four-plus miles traffic jam, with average speeds often reduced to under 15 MPH.  Sadly, this is not the first time we've run into a slow down in this area. 

The only item of interest we saw during our trip was a small flatbed truck hauling a propeller or set of large fan blades.  Never could figure it out for sure what we were looking at.

We arrived at Americamps RV Resort in Ashland mid-afternoon, giving us a chance to get hooked up and begin to make the bed, clean our windshield and other exterior windows and better organize our clothes and other items which we'd just tossed into drawerrs and cabinets when loading yesterday.

Tomorrow we'll check the weatehr system moving up the East Coast from the Gulf of Mexico before deciding whether to move on to Wade (Fayetteville), North Carolina or simply sit tight and watch the rain.

 

 

 

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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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