June 9 -23 – Off to NH, Cape Cod, Quebec, Vermont and New York State

Our latest adventure began on June 9th with a trip to New Hampshire to visit Nancy and family.  We were fortunate enough to be able to park our motor home at our former next-door neighbors

while we visited family and then spent a week at our cottage in Brewster, MA.

The next day, we got to watch Taylor in an ice skating show

which included one routine with her dad, Jason.

That evening, Debbie and I celebrated our 46th anniversary

One of us is obviously a Saint and has had the patience of Job!

The following Wednesday, we were fortunate enough to be on hand for Jake’s graduation from Kindergarten.

Unfortunately, our schedule meant being disappointed in missing Sean’s Kindergarten graduation back in New Jersey!

On Saturday, we left for Cape Cod where we spent a week.  Debbie’s brother, David was there for two days before he flew back to Phoenix.   Other than some spring cleaning and outside yard work at our cottage,

we spent most of our time with Ken and Cheryl, the couple we met on our honeymoon and with whom we’ve had a very special relationship for the past 46 years!

Aside from a round of golf at Highland Links in Truro (one of only a handful of legitimate “links course” in North America), we did some sightseeing on the Outer Cape (Eastham, Wellfleet, Truro and Provincetown,) where we never get bored with its charm and beauty.

Den Robin Beach, Brewster where you can walk out on a mile of “flats” at low tide (the widest of anywhere in the United States)

Oyster Farm, Brewster, MA

Red color from miniature clams and alga

Burrowing Crab

Provincetown Pier

Beach in Provincetown

Tidal Estuary

Cape Cod National Seashore

Castle Hill Art Center

Typical Cape Cod Home in Truro

Wind-sculptured Sand Hoodoos

Gull Reflected on Brewster Flats

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March 9 thru 14 – Hilton Head, Bluffton and Home

The last week of our trip became very busy and I am only now, in early April, getting around to a brief summary of our trip from St. Marys to the Hilton Head/Bluffton, SC area and then home.

We arrived in Hilton Head, staying at the same campground and even in the same site where we’d stayed two years ago.  We got to spend two days in Bluffton with Jeff and Judy Glazer,

with whom we traveled to Alaska last summer, including taking in a marvelous Barbershop event (in which Jeff was participating), celebrating the 100th anniversary of this form of entertainment.

We also had two days to visit with my cousin and his wife, Bob and MJ, who have also retired to Bluffton.  Aside from visiting and some great meals, we joined a local group on a bike trip, played official bocce ball, Bob and I enjoyed a kayaking trip where we had some up-close-and-personal views of both American Red-bellied Turtles

and more Alligators.

While our original plans were to take a few days longer driving from Hilton Head back to Pennsylvania, our granddaughter, Calleigh,

had a “Bring a Special Friend” day, coincidentally her 4th birthday, at her pre-school and had called Grandma to see if she could go with her.  So two 380+ mile days later, we made it home in time for Grandma to be there for her!

Already planning for our next two adventures!

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March 8 – Cumberland Island, GA

This morning, we took the 9:00 ferry from St. Marys to Cumberland Island, the largest and southernmost in a chain of barrier islands extending the length of Georgia, known collectively as the Sea Islands or sometimes as Georgia’s Golden Isles.

Cumberland Lady

The sights along the 45 minute ride were most enjoyable.

Actually, Cumberland Island is a complex ecological system of interdependent animal and plant communities.  The three main flora zones are the saltwater marshes (which we only skirted), the maritime forests (thick with saw palmetto and other palm shrubs and canopies of live oak trees (some more than 400 years old) and beaches, some of which are close to 100 yards wide when the tide is out.

We had taken our lunch and ate it on one of the expansive beaches on the Atlantic side of the island.  The water wasn’t overly cold.

As time, dictated by the departure schedule of our return ferry (there are no stores, restaurants or accommodations on the island … other than the Greyfield Inn where the nine rooms start at a bargain rate of $495/night), was limited, we were only able to see the southern part of the island.  Fortunately, that included the two Dungeness estates … on land owned or inhabited at various times by Revolutionary War hero General Nathaneal Greene, the founder of Georgia, James Oglethorpe, Andrew Carnage’s younger brother, Andrew, and other Robert E. Lee’s father, Henry Lee III, and other lesser well-known Americans.

A variety of horses roam free on the island and as of last year numbered just over 141.  They are descendants of horses brought by the Spanish in the 16th century and other breeds which were introduced by later inhabitants.

Yearling Offspring of Mare and Stallion in Above Photos

While raccoons, armadillos, owls, peregrine falcons and small deer (which we glimpsed at a distance from the boat).

The only other “Critter” we saw up-close-and-personal” was an as yet unidentified beetle.

A return to St. Marys and Cumberland Island is a MUST for next year’s winter trip to the Southeast and Naples!

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March 7 – Crooked River State Park and St. Marys, GA

While taking our bikes off the car, one of our campground neighbors with a similar coach to ours stopped by and struck up a conversation about Winnebagos and the differences between our motor homes.  His wife stopped by soon thereafter and we wound up in their coach for coffee and cookies.

By the time we got back to our motor home, it was time for lunch.  Afterwards, as we were just about to leave for a bike ride when another campground neighbor stopped and asked if we’d like to join a group taking a ride down the street to the Crooked River State Park.  What a nice group of people they turned out to be!

The state park provided a lovely place for a bike ride,

filled with Live Oaks laced with Spanish Moss.

I was interested to discover that the timbers forming the hull of the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides”, aboard which I received my Navy commission, came from Live Oaks from the area in and around St. Marys, GA.

We were also advised that we should not miss taking a trip to Cumberland Island.  The Ferries to Cumberland are extremely limited each day, we drove down to the quaint, historic district of St. Marys to purchase tickets for Thursday morning’s ferry.

After paying for our tickets, we wandered through a picturesque park located on the St. Marys River.

where there was a threatening sign for breaking any one of a number of locally forbidden actions … the last of which I could most easily break. While there, we also noticed three exquisite cars

1930 Cadillac Formal Sedan Limousine (Vehicle No. 10 and one of only three of just 18 ever made)

Debbie with D.A. Martin (owner of these automobiles)

1970 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow

Excalibur Limousine

which were standing by to transfer three couples, apparently finalists in a “Bachelor/Bachelorette” type reality show being filmed by Oprah for some upcoming television show.  After waiting around to see these “couples” and talking with the owner and drivers for the better part of an hour, we figured our time would be better spent heading back to our motor home and some wine!

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March 6 – Leaving Florida

We’d hoped to get an early start this morning.  By 8:30 AM, were ready to hook up our Jeep to our motor home.  However, we were unable to shift our Jeep into a “free-wheeling” mode which is necessary for towing.

Fortunately, there was a Jeep dealer in Titusville.  They explained that we needed to first shift the car from 2-wheel drive into 4-wheel drive to permit it to become freewheeling.

While it worked … it is interesting that over the prior 18 months and 27,000 miles, we’d never shifted into 4-wheel drive and never had a problem!  We finally got underway around 10:00 AM.  Oh well!

During our drive from Titusville to St. Mary’s,

we were following an 18-wheeler carrying a load of sod when a clump fell off just in front of our motor home.  Shortly thereafter, a car passing us began beeping its horn and pointing at our vehicle.  After pulling over, I got our and during a walk-around inspection noticed that one of our “basement” compartment doors was wide open!  During the majority of the trip, we were again buffeted by high winds, this time from the East … wanting to shove our motorhome into the left lane, making driving more of a challenge than I’d have liked.

Just before reaching our destination, we were approaching a traffic light when Debbie noticed what appeared to be some black plastic blowing across the road.  As we got closer, it quickly became apparent that a motorcycle rider dressed in black and operating a black motorcycle had taken the corner too fast and he and his bike were tumbling across the road and median strip.  Fortunately, they avoided any other vehicles and he appeared unhurt was we passed him, although his motorcycle likely had some damage.

Finally, with the day’s excitement behind us, we arrived safely at a small but lovely RV park

where we will spend the next two days and where some of our immediate, two-legged neighbors are very noisy at times!


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March 5 – Merritt Island

As we’d previously toured Kennedy Space Center, we opted to take in Merritt Island today.  After a stop at the Visitor’s Center, where we were treated to

Ospreys

Cardinals

Queen Butterflies

we drove the 7-mile Black Point Wildlife loop road through the salt marshes along the Indian River side of the barrier island.  The scenery and waterfowl were again breathtaking!

Pintail Ducks

Herons

Egrets

Male Coots

Female Coots

Alligators

Horseshoe Crabs

and several species of butterflies

And many great reflections …

We then stopped at a Manatee viewing area along Haulover Canal linking the Intercoastal Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon.  While we’d seen manatees in the past, those views were generally little more than light-colored shapes drifting below the surface of the water.  Here, however, we got some great views of a large manatee.

From there we decided to drive out to Playalinda Beach on the Atlantic Ocean.  The beach road, between the dunes, is well marked, has 13 parking areas with beach access,

an occasional sign

and at least one

We stopped by a couple of the beaches, which are fairly narrow although have extremely fine sand.  At the last beach, however, we finally found some additional wildlife we’d not encountered before!

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March 4 – Drive to Titusville

Today we left Bradenton and were planning on stopping by Bok Tower in Lake Wales.  However, it was a windy day, with gusts to 40 MPH and we decided it would be more fun to visit and photograph on a calmer day … now on our agenda for next year when returning to Naples.

During the trip to Titusville, we were constantly buffeted by the winds, making the drive more tiring than it would otherwise have been.  The only slowdown we encountered was in the Orlando area.  From there, we jumped on the Beachline Expressway, where we quickly discovered that the State of Florida had placed no less than three expensive toll booths in the first ten miles and another as yet unopened one just five miles further down the road.  Next time, we’ll find a different route!

We did, however, enjoy another fantastic sunset!

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March 3 – Pittsburgh Pirates Spring Training

Thanks to Neal Huntington, the General Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Debbie and I along with her brother, Dick, and his wife, Kate, were given a private tour of the team’s spring training facility in Bradenton.

Parenthetically, in addition to Neal being one of our son, Doug’s, best friends since elementary school, I had the privilege of coaching Neal in both baseball and basketball over many years.

After the tour, we drove to Dunedin, north of Tampa, where we had great seats for the Pirates’ opening game of the Grapefruit League season, against the Toronto Blue Jays.

We stopped at the Riverside Café in Bradenton on the way home for a great dinner.

Afterwards we walked out on the piers where we enjoyed yet another gorgeous Florida sunset.

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March 2 – Selby Botanical Gardens, Sarasota

Debbie’s brother, Dick took us to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is nested in 14 acres in a brick-laid residential section of Sarasota.

Enroute, we passed a statue of a famous VJ-Day kiss.

It is an open-air and under-glass museum of thousands of colorful and exotics plants.  Many of these plants have been collected from the wild on more than 200 scientific expeditions to tropical rain forests by Selby Gardens research staff but it is perhaps best known for its living collection of more than 6,000 orchids and is also the home for an established collection of other epiphytes including bromeliads, gesneriads, and other plants

Aside from the trees and flowers, the wildlife consisted of literally hundreds of Brown Anoles,

Spiders,

grazing Ibis and

Some of the largest Koy (some close to 2’) we’d ever seen. Across the river from the Selby Botanical Gardens were a few “every day” homes of some local residents.

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March 1 – Back in Bradenton/Sarasota

We are always glad to get to visit the Bradenton/Sarasota area … giving us time to spend with family.  We met Debbie’s brother, Dick, for coffee and ran some errands.  That evening, Dick and his wife Kate joined Debbie and I for dinner at my cousin Sandy’s and husband, Jeff’s home.  Sandy was like a second sister to me when we were growing up and we’ve remained close over the years since!

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