We decided on an early start this morning in hopes of getting into and around Washington before there was any apprecaitble traffic, even thought is was a Sunday.
Surprisingly the traffic was very light and had virtually no slowdowns around DC and even up and over the Francis Scot Key Bridge in Baltimore.
Debbie spotted two "unusual" vehicles along teh way, a "differnt" motorhome
and care with what at first appeared as spiked hubcap bolts … which turned out to be "bullets".
We continued to make excellent progress and it looked like we'd be home before noon, in a record of 4½ from Ashland. That is until we were a mere 21 miles from home!
When we finally got up to the scene of the apparent accident, we couldn't figure out what had happened.
Finally arrived back to ShadYBrook before 12:30. A couple of hours to unload and ready to relax when Debbie discovered we'd had soem "visitors" in our absence. After tracking and cleaning up the hundreds of little black droppings, we discovered a dead mouse!
For the moment, we think we're rid of the rodents, but are now chasing down the source of some ants.
Oh well … home safely and stayed COVID-free all winter.
Now looking forward to our next trip, leavin gin mid-August.
Overnight a classic GMC motorhome pulled in next to us.
We also noticed the picnic table at the side on our other side likely needed some work (better still, replacement).
Our drive was pretty uneventful … normally a good thing … with only a few sights of interest.
Three classic cars
Circa 1975 VW "Bug"
Circa 1968-70 American Motors AMC AMX
Circa 1968-70 Plymouth Duster
A couple of motocyclists
The James River bridge.
Oh, yes, there was the 15 mile Road Work slowdown.
And, at one point, we noticed a white truck backing upp onto the soulder and then trying to turn around to head back in the wrong direction. FOrtuantely we we by him before there was any risk to us.
The silkies on the roof or a horse trailer caught our eye, as my grandfather was an owner and racerof trotters in the 1930s.
Of course, there is always Debbie's decaying barn of shed.
We arrived mid-afternoon in Ashland
Giving us ample time to defrost the refrigerator, dump our black and gray water tanks and do some other necesary housekeeping before arring home th enext day and putting the coach in storage for a period ot fime.
Today's 330-mile drive, all along I-95,from Jacksonville to Dillon, SC was our longest on our trip home. While the skies were crystal clear
there was a strong and gusty wind from the WNW which buffetted our motorhome the entire day.
A little less than an hour after getting on the road,
we appraiched the exit where we normally refuel when we noticed
the exit ramp waas blocked. However, not only was our ramp closed but the entire intersection was shutdown by dozens of state and local police.
As we crossed the overpass, crouching behind the railing was a police sniper with his rifle secured to a tripod and obviously already aimed at some subject to the east. Unfortunately, we saw him too late for Debbie to get a picture.
Later on the Internet did we learned the following:
Glynn County Police took a suspect in custody before 2 p.m. today, ending an 8-hour standoff with a man who barricaded himself inside a vehicle on the side of U.S. Highway 17 near Exit 29 off Interstate 95 and claimed to have a bomb, county police officer Earl Wilson said.
Glynn County police negotiators had been trying to persuade the man to peacefully exit the vehicle since the incident began at 5:30 a.m. Friday on the side of U.S. 17 near the Love’s Travel Stop east of the I-95. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation's bomb squad was also on scene, Wilson said. GBI agents approaching the vehicle with a remote-control robot in an effort to communicate with the man and bring about a peaceful resolution, he said.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Glynn County Police Department appeared to apprehend the man after an hours-long SWAT standoff on Highway 17 near Interstate 95.
Glynn County Police Chief Rick Evans said the department received a 911 call about a car in a ditch along the highway. Inside the vehicle was a naked man who said he had a bomb in the car and threatened to kill himself and others, the caller said.
Officers arrived on the scene minutes later but couldn’t make contact. That’s when SWAT was notified and responded, along with the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and other law enforcement agencies.
A bomb squad vehicle was also on the scene as police attempted to bring the man some underwear to put on, but he did not accept it.
The GBI deployed its robot, which was used to speak and negotiate with him.
Around 1:30 PM one of the crews on the scene heard two shots that appeared to come from an armored vehicle on the highway.
Evans said officers finally made contact with the individual at 1:41 p.m. While on the scene, officers deployed five 40mm gas canisters.
After officers were able to get the man out of the vehicle, Evans said they had to tase him while placing him into custody because he was holding his hands under his stomach.
No one was hurt during the incident. Police have not yet released the individual’s name but did confirm that he is from the area.
During the investigation, officers found that a good Samaritan had stopped to see if he needed help, and that was the person he threatened, Evans said.
After reailzing how low we were on gas, we had a brief moment of panic. However, the good news; we were able to get gas at the next exit.
The rest of the drive was without incident, passing two cars with messages written on their rear windows,
The first kind of sad
While the second more upbeat
and two classic cars either going to or returning from an auto show,
Ever wonder why Governors feel compelled to have their names on highway "Welcome" signs?
Seems that it s nothing more than vanity and free advertising for their next campaign … and ought to be outlawed.
We then spotted a group of Army Good Samaritans who had stopped to help a disabled couple who had broken down.
Then, a traffic slowdown for no reason we could at first figure out.
Then, we caught up the rear echelon of the Army convoy which had appropriated the right (grammy) lane traveling at well below the speed limit of 70 MPH.
After finally being able to pass the convoy, we enjoyed clear sailing, although wondered about the fellow walking along the road's shoulder, miles from any exits
and even briefly following an airplane staircase, a sight rarely seen on a highway.
We settled in at a small, but vary nice campground just off I-95 in Dillon, SC.
We woke to an unexpected and very foggy eather this morning.
After having our newly installed windows water-proof checked we headed north toward the Orlando area where we planned ot pick-up I-4 east toward I-95. The visibility was still poor during our first half-hour on the road.
The fog burnned off as we took US-98 out of Sebring.
Another Sebring mural
Armored equipment frequenly on display outside National Guard Facilities
Strip mall murals
Brightly colored but aabandoned motel
Citrus producer Florida Natural's processing plant's water tower
One of many speed traps
Classic 1950s auto
Just prior to reaching I-4, we hit a major construciton delay
We continued to see sod trucks and patches of lost parts of their loads along the highway
After a beautiful late moring, we began to see some of the predicted storm clouds ahead
Once on I-4, not surprisingly we found ourselves in creep-and-crawl traffic through the entire Orlando and Kissimmee areas
We unfortunately passed several accidents
Just as we pulled into a rest area for a break, the rains began … and FORTUNATELY we decided to check our wipers
as we discovered one of the blades was not properly attached to the wiper arm
As promised, around 8:15 AM the Darren Thomas' workers appeared to pull our motorhome into their bays to replace our badly "fogged" windows
which had lost their seals.
As we left, we passed the sometimes-gator-inhabitied pond. While no wilddlife was spotted, the still waters provided a near perfect reflection of the trees on the far side.
Our frist stop was in the historic district of Sebring, where a circular park
Sadly, homelessness is found everywhere
Battery-powered rental scooters
is surrounded by quaint shops
and restaurants (we'd hoped to grab a coffee and muffin, but unfortunately, none open at the early hour we were there)
and a number of architectually interesting buildings
some located on the six, equally-spaced streets radiating out like the spokes of a wheel.
We were surprised and delighted to discover that large murals were painted on the sides of many of these buildings, shades of Lake Placid, FL although on a smaller scale.
From there, we drove out to Highlands Hammock State Park, which had been highly recommended. Hammock is a term used in the southeastern United States for stands of trees, usually hardwood, that form an ecological island in a contrasting ecosystem.
Encompassing more than 9,000 acrea, the park is known for its old-growth hammock cypress swamps. First opening in 1931, the park is one of the finest symbols of early grass-roots public support for environmental preservation. In 1934 the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
camp began working on a botanical garden project on the land adjacent to the park. When FLorida's state park system was established the following year, Highlands Hammock became one of the state's first parks. In 1941, the park and gardens merged as the CCC camp closed due to impending war. During those years, the CCC had planted thousands of plants, constructed roadways, dams, bridges and buildings. Although the gardens never realized their original vision, the park's beauty and diverse ecosystems evolved.
Nearing the park, one must navigate a series of
a term we'd never heard but quickly discovered it was Florida-speak for
a speed bump.
There was another hold-up when the car in front of us suddenly stopped for no apparent reason. Minutes later, we saw the driver carrying a softshelled turtle off the roadway to the safety of the shoulder.
Palm trees and massive live oaks, heavy with bromeliads
and Spanish moss characterize the hammock.
One oak, measuring 36 feet around is over 1,000 years old
and another estimated just shy of 1,000 years old.
Minimal light filters down to the forest floor,
covered with decaying tree trunks and stumps,
shrubs, a variety of flowers
and small palms.
White-tailed deer (this one letting us get within lwo feet of where it was grazing),
barred owls (this one we initiatlly spotted from its back),
raccoons, bobcats and even an occasional black bear can often be seen in the shadows (unfortuantely they failed to appear for pictuers while we were there)..
A cypress swamp borders a blackwater stream
in the parks lowest elevations. A stroll across an elevated boardwalk
along the Cypress Swamp Trail offers views of ibis, anhingas, turtles, alligators … a juvenile
more than a dozen very young gators
.and momma keeping a wary eye on her brood …
carp (one of many which had stayed off mama gator's dinner menu),
and an amazing variety of dragonflies flitting to and fro,
red wood ants,
and spiderr webs seemingly everywhere.
Enroute back to our motorhome, we stopped in for lunch at
where we enjoyed a great lunch of shrimp BLTs … just the second luncheon at a restaurant since early 2020 and the second time in just one week, with our table providing a view of Lake Jackon.
Our final stop was just two miles from the glass dealier replacing our windows, the Sebring Internaitonal Race Track, although closed when we were there.
Returning to our rmotorhome this afternoon, we were absolutely amazed at the clarity of our new windows.
They are clearly, worth the cost!
Shortly after we retuend to the glass company's faciliteis, we began to receive a disturbing series of emails. Apparently there had been a fatal fire at Sun N Fun destroying two or more park models
and which tragically claimed the life of an 11 year old girl who aapparently ran baack into the burning building to rescue her puppies.. This coming just weeks after our firend, Jack Lynch, lost his motorhome to a fire. At this point, we do not belevie we know any of the people whose homes were involved. We anticipate more details over the coming days.
We'll remain overnight for a final water test and then heading for Jacksonville tomorrow morning.
For the past month, our activities haven't changed all that much; both of us walking mornings with an ever-shrinking group (many people leaving for home), a chance to do some limited, local photography,
and sailing 2-3 times a week, at Sun N Fun and Benderson Park with the Sarasota Model Yacht Club.
Last week, we also had our coach professionally washed and waxed, which we do annually and has served to protect its finish over teh past decade.
On a vastly more positive note, over the coure of the last week to ten days our social schedule has taken a definite uptick, happliy one resembling pre-Covid times … dinner one night with friends from Michigan, our first lunch at a restaurant since sometime before February 2020,
fortunately, we neither smoke or vape
we really hadn't planned and physical activities on our table
dinner at our RV with Debbie's brother Dick and wife Kate
Debbie and Dick
and just last evening dinner at my cousin Sandy and Jeff's home at Misty Creek.
After dinner, Jeff took me on an evening tour of the golf course (which I have played on many occasions in the past … but only during day light hours).
Today, we began our trip home,
albeit with a detour to Sebring, Florida … as we need to have five of our motorhome's duo-pane windows which have lost their seals replaced.
Our 76 mile drive, however, took an interesting "turn" when our GPS told us to take a RIGHT in the center of Arcadia. Thirty-plus miles later we knew something was amiss forcing us to reverse direction. Along the way (you may notice some blurred spots on the following photos, the remains of Florida's infamous "lovebugs" … more later) …
Boarded up businesses in many of the small towns we passed through
Old military equipment
Tractors, an ubiquotous form of local transportation
A occasional truck loaded with cirtus
A storage yard for apparently abandoned cruise ship lifeboats … in the middle of central Florida
A sign which caught your eyes and was more intriguing until we read all of it
We took a shortcut through are area known as Sweetwater, which saved mileage but not much, if any, time as it was a narrow, winding, two-lane road through miles citrus groves.
Some 124 miles after leaving Sarasota, we finaly arrived at our destination.
There we discovered how many lovebug lives our motorhome had claimed
It took the batter part of an hour in 90o-plus heat for the two of us to scrub these carcasses from our windshield, the front of the coach and backs of our wing mirrors.
The name says it all, ovebugs are bugs that are usually paired together with a “mate.”
They will attach their bodies to their mate and fly in tandem together. They have black bodies and red heads, and they are typically 6-9 millimeters in length. Although referred to as bugs, these insects are actually flies. They’re more closely related to biting midges and mosquitoes rather than other common bugs like grasshoppers or termites.
Since their time as flies is only a short period of their life cycle, they spend more of their lives as larvae. Females lay their eggs on the ground and can have around 200-300 eggs alone. The good news is although these bugs are a nuisance to drivers, they cannot cause any physical harm to you or your pets.
Lovebugs have made Florida their home because they thrive in warm, humid climates — commonly on the Gulf Coast. Many times these flies are seen in swarms, most commonly during their two specific mating seasons–once in the spring (April to May), and then again in the late summer (August to September). Lovebugs are most commonly found swarming cars because they are attracted to the gases emitted from vehicles. You’ll most commonly find them swarming fast moving vehicles during the day.
One of the nice amenities the glass company offers is six RV sites complete with 50-amp power and water located in their gated lot making our day-early arrival desirable and convenient.
Nearby is another fenced lot with dozens of abandoned and discarded trucks and other vehicles.
On a more pleasing note, I spotted a cluster of small, yelow and green flowers in a tree
which I discovered were African Primroses.
We have been advised there will knock on our door around 8:15 AM tomorrow morning. They not only hope to complete the window replacements by the end of the day but, after remeasuring our windows, told me the final cost will actually be LESS than their original estimate.
A brief downpour passed though this evening.
Oh yes, we were advsied that if walking around after dark to watch out for the alligator which sometimes frequents the large pond on the property and the Florida black bear which will occasionally wander in from the adjacent woods.
This past week was pretty much as the last several, with the exception of a day photo-trip I took to Fort DeSoto, a County Park south-southwest of St. Petersburg and located on Mullet Key.
Photo from the Internet
My drive to reach Fort DeSoto took me across one of the areas signature landmarks, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
The land that would later become Fort De Soto on one of Florida’s barrier islands was inhabited by Native Americans from about 1000 to 1500 A.D. thanks to the plentiful fish, clams, conch, oysters and whelks from the Gulf of Mexico, supplemented by occasional game food as well as the wild plants they gathered.
In 1529, the Spanish explorer Panfilo de Nafvaez investigated the barrier islands after his expedition landed near present day St. Pete Beach. Ten years later, Hernando De Soto came ashore somewhere near the southern part of nearby Tampa Bay.
In 1849, a detachment of US Army engineers, including Robert E. Lee surveyed the area. They recommended Mullet and Egmont (an island off Fort De Soto) become fortified as appropriate site for coastal defense installations. Both keys could only be reached by boat since they were islands off the mainland. Although no fortifications had yet been built, Union troops were stationed on the two keys during the Civil War (1861–1865) to aid in the Union blockade of Tampa Bay with the Egmont Key Lighthouse acting as an observation tower.
The keys were again abandoned by the military until 1882 when military reservations were officially created on the two keys. However, it would be several years before actual permanent construction would commence as a result of defense considerations linked to the Spanish-American War.
The main operation on Mullet Key, however, became Fort De Soto in 1900, named for Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. The Army post was officially a sub-post of Fort Dade, which was constructed on Egmont Key. These posts were to contain batteries of artillery and mortars to protect Tampa Bay from any invading forces.
Construction of Fort De Soto began in November 1898 and completed in 1906. The foundation was constructed of a seashell concrete formula, and the walls and ceiling used a seashell, stone, and concrete mix.
Arriving on the Mullet Key, you are struck by the enormous American flag at half-mast … in honor of the tragic death of U.S. Capitol police officer Brian D. Sicknick.
A right turn
takes you north and to the remains of Fort DeSoto
The main attractions at the completed post were the artillery and 12-inch coast defense mortar batteries, Batteries Laidley and Bigelow.
Two of Fort De Soto's remaining four 12-inch coastal defense mortars of Battery Laidley. The battery originally had 8 of these guns, two in each "pit"; these guns are in Pit "A". These M 1890-MI breech-loading and rifled mortars, which were built by Watervliet Arsenal of Watervilet, NY had a maximum range of 1.25 miles at a 70° elevation and 6.8 miles at 45°. It took a crew of 12 men to operate them. Only four of these mortars still remain and these are the only two in North America.
One of Fort De Soto Park's two 6-inch 40-caliber rapid-fire Armstrong guns. Originally located at Fort Dade on Egmont Key, the guns were refurbished and remounted for display at Fort De Soto in 1980. These were installed to fend off smaller and faster boats.
The tops of the ventillation shafts which cooled the ammunition magazines are visible atop the earthen berms.
Observation towers were constructed on both Egmont Key
Egmont Key's Lookout Tower also serves as a lighthouse
and Mullet Key
Still can not figure out how anyone climbed to the top of this lookout tower
where a nest of Ospresy keep watch to this day.
In November 1922 the Army announced it would soon close both Forts De Soto and Dade. On May 25, 1923, the forts were officially abandoned, and only one caretaker remained at each post. A number of tropical storms and hurricanes severely damaged the buildings on the post. A few were destroyed, as was Battery Bigelow in 1932. The Army attempted to sell the post, but there was little interest. In September 1938 Pinellas County bought the areas on Mullet Key for $12,500.
For many visitors, the main attraction is the Gulf Bay Fishing Pier
Although others prefer to wading just off the beach for their fishing experiences
while a lonesome kayaker with a fishing pole trailing behind paddled by the end of the pier.
This was the only evidence of any fish over a few inches actually being caught.
For others the park boasts miles of magnificent white sandy beaches and turquoise and emearld green water …
and teeming with Osprey,
Great Blue Herons,
Pelicnas and Anhingas,
and other wildlife!
Before exiting the park, I drove to the east end where yet another distant view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge was visible from a near-deserted beach where I ate a picnic lunch Debie had packed for me.
On my way back to Sarasota, I took a brief detour to Cortez, a quaint area known for its commercial fishing, white pelicans (although I've photogrpahed them there before, I saw none today) and several "RV Resorts" (most look in need of major upgrades.).
Nearby, were several abandoned boats in desperate need of repairs.
My final shot of the day was of the largest Seahorse I've ever seen … it's gotta be 15-20 heigh!.
Yesterday morning we received our second Moderna COVID-19 shot.
Now both of us are "card carrying" members of the COVID-19 vaccinated set.
Other than a little tenderness at the injection site, neither of us has had any side effects from our shots last evening. Today, I am still feeling great although Debbie began feeling a little off and had a slight temperature. Hopefully, with another day and some Tylenol she'll be back to normal by tomorrow morning.
On the way back to our campgorund, we were driving beside a Cadillac SUV with the license plate reading "RJ GRONK"
and the guy inside looked amazingly like a former Partiot and now Tampa Bay Buc, Robert James Gronkowski.
We're told that in another 14 days we should have our full immunities to the COVID virus … although no one is sure about the protection they might offer to the several emerging UK, South African, Brazilain and even US-originated variants. We assume there may be booster shots in our future.
Just as we have for the past month, we are being extremely careful and, yes, wear masks when in close interaciton with others here at Sun and Fun and always when going anywhere off the property. We assume that this will remain the norm even after the next 14-days.
Since our last post, little has changed in our lives other than the weather has been close to outstanding with daytime highs ranging from the mid-70os to the upper 80os.
We both walk daily and I am RC sailing two to three days each week. However, the Camera Club is over for this season.
We did participate in another Craft Show where Debbie, again, sold a number of the baly blankets and hats she had knitted
and I sold several prints and took an specail order for a larger print.
I have been able to do some limited photography, mostly of wildlife and local fauna both here in the park and at the nearby Celery Fields conservation area.
Great Egret Gliding to a Landing
Great Blue Heron
Tuscock Moth Caterpiller
Mexican Prickly Poppy
Common Water Hi\yacinth
White Water Lily
Allamandsa Scholto Flowe, and its Prickly Fruit
Tabebuia Tree in Bloom
Bird of Paradise
Live Oakss Draped with Spanish Moss
Espostoa Guentheri Cactus
Then a number of plants which have taken root in the gutter above one of the Sun N Fun Post Office's doors
The past week was highlighted by my participation in a local Art Show here at Sun N Fun where I sold some additional prints and have one oversized print on order.
We also had two great friends from our 2011 Alaska RV trip, Joe and Jeanne Warwick, over for a delicious pizza and key lime pie dinner before they left for home earlier this past week.
The balance of the past ten days has been pretty routine, sailing and photo club for me and our morning walks group for both of us … and many hours spent in and aournd our motorhome as we are still being extremely cautious even though we have had out first COVID-19 vaccination.
However, we did make one exception … this past Friday night we went to Circus Arts Conservatory benefit ("Prevail") performance at the youth Sailor Circus Arena with friends Daniel and Traci at which there were several acts by a number of professionals, including some who have performed with Cirque du Soleil … each of whom had donated their time for a brief engagement. Prevail will subsequently be available on-line, and although we've seen a prior Circus Arts perforemance on-line, it did not compare with being there in person.
From a safety point of view, the capacity was only 30%, masking was mandatory, social seating distancing was observed and as we had front row seats there were no people seated in front of us.
Of all the subjects I have tried to photogrpay, a circus is unquestionably the most challenging due to the ever changing blue, red and other colored lighting, each of which can vary in intensity during an act.
There was one sad note, earlier this past week one of Debbie's Pennsylvania friends and participants on her weekly Sunday morning Zoom get-together passed away, although it was not unexpected. Mariana was the seventh friend of member of our extended family whose passing we have learned about since leaving home just prior to Christmas.
Debbie and I received our first COVID-19 vaccination shots this morning in Manatee County, just north of our winter campground, where we had previously registered and appointments were made on randomly on a "lottery" system.
Once arriving at the park where the shots were being dispensed, everything ran like clockwork. All we had to do was provide identification proving we were age-eligible, show proof we are "long term" snowwbirds (as there have been problems with people making appointments and driving into the state specifically for the shot and then going home immediately thereafter) and pass a temperature check. We barely felt the needle and the post-innoculation 15 minute wait-period breezed by. We never had to leave our car.
Coincidentally, just yeasterday afternoon, we'd also been notified our name had bubbled to the top for an appointment this Saturday in Sarasota County, where we are located and had registered a couple of weeks before doing so in Manatee County.
Interestingly, today would have been my parents 83rd anniversary … when in 1938 the two Newton, MA residents and college (Harvard and Pembrike) students secretly eloped to Nashua NH. Duing the years we lived in New Hapshire, we traced down and found a photogrpah of the person who married them … and surprised them with a copy on their 50th anniversay.
This past week was pretty much routine, generaly beginning with our 2-plus mile walk with the Suntrekker's Walking Group..
We were exhibitors at a craft show her at Sun N Fun this past Saturday morning where Debbie displayed and sold her knitted baby blankets and a hats, and I was selling some of my photography.
Last month, Debbie was the sales dollar winner but I eked out a victory this month!
Debbie's "highlight" was with our morning walking group which took a new route over to the Celery FIelds. After struggleing to figure out how to take a group selife, they spotted a net fisherman at one of the several lakes and asked if he could help them … which he was glad to do.
The group with their new-found friend.
As they got to chatting with him, their obvious question was, "Have you caught anything?'
Actually, he had
A talipia underneath a smaller [unknown] fish.
Neaby was the carcus of a Gar,
an invasive species in Florida. When caught, prople are asked NOT to throw them back but to leave them on the shore where the birds will dispose of it.
My week started off with yet another trip to my dermatologist where he took another biopsy of a small "growth on my right cheek (hope to have the results back next Monday).
After nearly two weeks of model sailboat race cacellations due to high winds … when they exceed 15-16 MPH they are too strong for the boats … I was able to sail with the Sarasota Model Yacht Club yesterday. I ended up with a 4th, 5th and several results we won't mention. In fairness, many of the other dozen competitors have been sailing this class of boats for years and one is a national champion in the DF-95 Class. Great guys and great fun!
.Oh yes, our other big event was a weekly trip to Publix, our local supermarket, CVS to pick up a prescription and a side-trip to Total Wines (no explanaiton needed).