Thursday, April 13, 2017

South to North Part II

Georgia presented one of the true highlights of our two years on the road...the Golden Isle, and more specifically, Jekyll Island!  We have wanted to visit the island since we hit the road, and this time the logistics were perfect!  The big attraction for us on Jekyll Island was the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.  Why?  Well, we developed a love for sea turtles while living on Cape Cod in MA, when we volunteered for Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (and where I worked for our last four years on Cape). During the summer, adult and  juvenile sea turtles (primarily loggerheads, greens, and Kemp's Ridleys, the rarest and most endangered of all sea turtles) born in the south, migrate north to the Cape Cod Bay to feed on an abundance of food.  As the water temperature starts to dip, the instinct to migrate back to the south for the winter kicks in.  Putting it simply, the juveniles don't quite get it and end up stranded in the bay.  As water temperatures continue to decrease into the 60's and 50's, these remaining turtles get stunned by the cold temps.  Their metabolism severely slows down and they begin to float on the water, unable to fend for themselves.  November and December are the peak months for stranding so the wildlife sanctuary forms a large corps of volunteers to walk bayside beaches looking for these stunned turtles.  The turtles are typically brought onto shore by the incoming high tide and then as the tide goes out, they are left on the beach.

Volunteers are trained how to handle these stunned turtles, who look dead.  But in many cases they are actually alive, but so severely stunned they do not move.  Sanctuary staff gathers the turtles off the beach and take them back to the center where initial assessments are made as to the condition of the turtles.  Then additional volunteers drive the turtles to the New England Aquarium for rehab.  If the number rescued is very high, the aquarium will ship the turtles out to other turtle rehab centers for care.  Which brings us to the Georgia turtle center!

We were thrilled to visit the hospital area and see 3 Cape Cod turtles that were saved this past winter!  Be prepared for lots of following photos!

The above two photos show the tanks used to rehab the sea turtles.  The above turtles are loggerheads.  They are tended to by veterinarians, vet techs, and volunteers.  See below.

The above two photos are of diamondback Terrapins, a salt marsh turtle, not a sea turtle.

The above are box turtles!  These turtles are superficially related to tortoises in their terrestrial habits and appearance, but are actually members of the American pond turtle family.

The center had a very impressive education center and gift shop, too!  

Jekyll Island itself is beautiful!  Quiet residential areas, lovely beaches, fantastic bike and walking trails, small shopping areas, and more.  We camped just two nights at the island campground.

Lots of island history to check out, too.

We look forward to returning to the Golden Isle to visit other islands in the chain.  Meanwhile, stay tuned for South Carolina!  See you in a few days!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

South to North Part I

After spending a few days in Ft. Myers, Florida with Michael's father and brothers, we headed to Tampa for a visit with family, my sister and brother-in-law, Linda and David.  

David with some of his large orchid collection.

Linda cooking for us...again!

One of Linda's friends, whom we never met, left a gift for us.  It was perfect:

While in Tampa, we had to find a place to camp each night as Linda's neighborhood doesn't allow parking on the street overnight.  So we alternated between Walmart and Cracker Barrel.  And who knew birding could be so good in a restaurant parking lot!

Wood stork

Great egret with some breeding plumage.

White ibis.

It was time to head north, so once again we headed to Ocala National Forest.  Since Lake Eaton didn't have potable water or a dump station, a fellow camper told us about another Ocala campground a short distance away that had both the dump station and water.  This campground at Fore Lake was larger with roomier campsites, so we ended up camping there for a couple of nights.  It also gave us the opportunity to continue our unsuccessful search for the elusive red-cockaded woodpecker, and once again, no luck finding this bird!!

Next stop, Georgia!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Thoughts and On the Road Again!

When we decided to hit the road in 2015, we really had no idea how our routine and travels would unfold.  We had lots of tent camping experience but had never towed a travel trailer.  Confidence wasn't a big issue, until I jackknifed with the teardrop, our first trailer, and put a sizable dent in the 4Runner.  That shook us up a bit.  The teardrop survived unscathed, but ultimately became too small for us when we adopted a cat in New Mexico!  Not part of the travel plan, but we couldn't resist Nevelle!  And then we happily traded up to our 20' Rpod travel trailer and adopted two more kittens!

So our first year brought those unexpected surprises.  It also taught us that there's more to consider living full-time on the road then traveling to really cool destinations.  Foremost, finances.  Never having done full-time traveling, we had no idea how to budget for expenses.  With so many variables, we had to travel for some time to learn what our costs would be.  Fuel, campground fees, entrance fees, recreational costs, medical needs, food, repairs, and on and on.  Expected and unexpected expenses are faced every month, just like you all experience.  We resolved the questions over time, although fuel and medical expenses still challenge us!

Secondly, thinking of resources that are national, not regional, like banks, vets, and pharmacies.  

Third, surprise medical issues, of which we've had a few!  We have used hospital emergency rooms and care clinics which can add up financially.  We do return to Texas in the winter for regular medical check-ups.  Health insurance has also presented its challenges!  Being Texans, I had to go through the ACA, and only one insurer is available, and this year my previous PPO is now a more restrictive HMO.  Michael has had the stability of Medicare.  Hoping for a healthy 2017.

Overall, we are still so happy with this lifestyle.  When we drive, we often take back roads so the scenery is mostly pretty.  Even on interstates we often pass through beautiful spots.  We like seeing all of these unfamiliar places!  But we're getting itchy to broaden our horizons.  For the last two years, we've followed a similar route so we could be in Melbourne, Florida in November for the Native Rhythms Flute Festival.  Then south to travel back to Texas for the winter.  It's time for a change!

We're skipping the flute festival this year, however we are in Florida, heading to Ft. Myers to visit Michael's father who is quite ill.  This weekend of March 17th we are meeting up with Michael's two brothers to spend a few days visiting.  We are then planning to head north up the east coast ultimately to northern New England.  Then we will travel west, either through Canada or the upper tier of the US. Canada's 150th birthday is this year and as a promotion a pass for free entry to their national parks is available (at no charge).  I received ours recently so we plan on visiting Canada at some point.  After that, who knows!  We have several travel options to choose from.

Recently, we were in Texas for annual responsibilities such as auto inspection, physicals, etc.  We had plans to work/camp at the Escapees campground in Livingston.  Without going into details, let's just say it didn't work out.  After several days we packed up and left for the Sam Houston National Forest, to a favorite spot where we have camped previously.  And an added bonus was having our friends, Charlene and Alan, camp with us!  They, too, are full-time RV'ers, whom we met last year in Texas.

It was both fun and relaxing so we stayed for about three weeks.  In addition to walks and drives around the area, we began hearing the songs of birds as they began to migrate through on their way to breeding grounds.  On the sunny, warmer days we felt spring had already arrived!  We also had our share of chilly and rainy weather which reminded us that we were still in the clutches of winter!

Black swallow-tailed butterflies were everywhere!

Curry getting used to being on a leash outdoors.

Last Thursday we departed Texas for our trip east to Florida.  We reached Florida a few days ago.  Along the way, we camped in a small RV park in the panhandle to charge up the trailer batteries and hook up to what's referred to as city water (great for long showers in the Rpod!).  We had noticed our batteries were reading a low voltage which could indicate a problem.  We posed some questions to the fantastic Facebook Rpod group and got lots of feedback about potential resolutions.  It was recommended that we get hooked to AC electricity to see if we could successfully charge the batteries.  Happily it worked.  Since we often stay a night at Walmarts and Cracker Barrel restaurants for free, we have to depend on our 4Runner to charge the trailer via a seven pin plug that runs from the car to the trailer.  Since this hadn't charged the battery, Michael checked around under the hood and thinks there might be a fuse issue.  We will be looking into this further when we depart Ft. Myers and reach Tampa for a visit with my sister.

For now we are camping in the Ocala National Forest (for our second time!) and with sunny skies we are getting a great solar charge for the trailer.  A beautiful spot!

Michael keeping our kittie Rice warm!  It was around 40 degrees this morning!

We'll be in touch soon.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Long Time No See!

It has been some time since I have posted, and mostly due to the fact it has been a relatively uneventful period of time.  I also spent much of December "under the weather", so my ambition level was low.  But, in this new year, I do feel better and wanted to catch up!  Belated happy new year wishes to you!

We traveled through Biloxi, Mississippi, parking overnight at Harrah's Casino for free.  About five other RV's were parked with us for the night.

In Biloxi, we met up with a wonderful man who makes fantastic Native American style flutes, George Dyson, Jr.  I already own one flute by George, a beautiful cedar key of G.  George had another flute for me that I had ordered from him back in November in Florida at the Native Rhythms Festival.  This one is a beautiful key of low C, made out of river cane.  George incorporated some malachite that I had bought months ago in Oklahoma and he did a wonderful job using it.

Welcome to Louisiana!  

We found a great little neighborhood spot for lunch called Fiorella's, in East New Orleans.  The menu offered Cajun and Italian, and we had a terrific meal there.

One highlight was visiting Baton Rouge in Louisiana where we spent a few hours at the Museum of Art and Science.  We were lucky to find parking for the car and trailer, along a river walk by the Mississippi River.  At the museum we went to a planetarium show and walked through exhibits.  It was a great place and only cost $9/per person.

The Red Stick

The museum and planetarium dome.

A feast at a local restaurant!

We are now in Texas.  We have returned to a wonderful spot in Sam Houston National Forest where we have camped before.  Upon arrival, it was cold!!  Temperatures went into the twenties and teens at night with ice accumulating on the car, grass, and even on our windows inside!  

Dressing warmly!

We are happy our trailer has a heater.  Without electric hookup we ran the thermostat low, but it was enough to take the edge off the chill.  

Nevelle and Rice cuddled for warmth!

Homemade corn bread by Michael!

We will be here for a couple of weeks more.  Although temperatures rose into the seventies, and we had sunny weather for a few days, it is very rainy now.  Won't see sun for another day or two.  Passing time in the local library!