Monday, October 31, 2011

Faver Dykes State Park in Florida

My internet has been super flaky here, I am tucked back in the hammock under towering trees with intermittent cloud cover and drips drops. This lot came with hammock poles too.  Hammock has two meanings, one being that wonderful bed made of string or canvas or rope, strung between two trees or poles, the other being an elevated tract of land rising above the general level of a marshy region. (A good place to string a hammock too, but that's also on my long wishful  list somewhere towards the bottom, as I am sure I will never get anymore work done, if I ever get one.)
Came for a night, stayed three at Faver Dykes State Park in Florida, south of St Augustine. 

I guess I travel at about the same speed I walk these days, about 1 mile per hour. I left Georgia to go to Florida 28 days ago. So far I've done  700+ miles with a detour through South Carolina,  just to arrive in St Augustine, Florida. I still have 150 miles to go to my workamping destination. My latest adventure works out to about a mile an hour for 24 hours, 28 days. Maybe next time to save gas, I'll just walk with a backpack to Florida. Oh but wait, that won't work, they require a self-contained RV to be a workamper. I could sleep out under the stars, but Harley wants his 28 foot roving doghouse to sleep inside at night. 

Wild animals often hunt at night. Harley would make a lovely hors d'oeuvre. So I can see his point.  

I wish I had four hands, so I could play with Harley while making a video. He has these little super bouncy balls. We've invented yet a new game of bouncing the rubber ball off the side of the wheel estate.  Puppy runs towards the RV then the ball bounces the other way, so he races back to catch it mid-air, but often misses. The 9x12 woven patio mat was laid outside on the super soft sandy dirt.  Harley was occasionally dribbling the ball on the mat, like practicing for basketball. Indeed one of the rubber balls is a miniature basketball. Wouldn't that make a hilarious video?

For some insane reason, he has bitten off chunks on some of his balls.  Luckily he spits these out. But the bitten balls bounce erratically, making the game more comical. (Now that I re-read this paragraph, it sounds very strange...)

The world is so fast, and I am so slow. I surely can't figure out what happens at the Florida border. Friday I woke up with errands to do.  I decided Brunswick, Georgia would be a good place to try to do them all. Well, I managed to do  4 out of 7 errands.  I became lost again, it started raining, so I decided 4 errands was a good hit, the other 3 would just have to wait. No need to stress myself.  

I decided to get on I-95 to see how many miles I could make. I had a few campgrounds in mind, but wasn't sure how far I could drive. I was elated when I passed the Florida state line. The temperature soared up another 8 degrees but incredibly the traffic suddenly became 10 times worse. Where do all these cars, trucks and RV's come from?  I've noticed this phenonmenon before when passing the state line into Florida. It's mind boggling. 

I watched a guy pulling a fifth wheel going 80 miles an hour, lose control of it a few times, fishtailing around the interstate, yet incredibly he never slowed down, until traffic forced him to.  At that point I saw a repo sticker on the window of the fifth wheel. If he was the reposessor, then I guess he was in a huge hurry to get it far away from the  prior owners. Or perhaps the prior owners had stolen it back from the repo guy and they were in the big hurry to run and hide it somewhere new. Either way, the repo sticker was still stuck on the window. 

On the back ladder of the fifth wheel was two beach style adult sized bicycles. I secretly coveted one of them, wishing for the day when I finally have enough money to buy my own bicycle. It looks like he didn't give the prior owners a chance to remove their personal articles. I entertained myself with various  scenarios about what could have happened here. Perhaps the prior owners left their fifth wheel in a campground, then went grocery shopping in their pickup truck. Imagine their shock to come back with their groceries and their fifth wheel was gone. Bicycles too. 

Down the interstate I sped past exits that would take me to various campgrounds, then around St Augustine, I was feeling very tired and hungry. Although Harley had done a few one minute walks at our various stops, he was looking a bit weary. We had a close call, that upset us both. 

We were doing about 70mph, something rare for me. But the engine seemed fine, the ride was good, so I figured it wouldn't hurt. Traffic was flying at much faster rates all around us. Up ahead the van in front of us, suddenly swerved violently to the right hand shoulder.  Then I saw it. A huge tire lay right in the middle of the lane.  I had no choice but to swerve off to the shoulder too. It had that awful bumpy pavement that I call "driving by braille" because it makes a horrible sound when you hit it, so you naturally want to get back in your lane quickly, before your teeth are ground to nibbles. 

I gently applied the brakes, while swerving, I didn't want to do anything drastic that might cause a wreck but I didn't want to hit that tire either. I muttered some unprintable words, Harley woke up, leaning into the back of his seat, while whimpering and giving me alarmed looks. We drove over the braille strips which jarred us both, the sound reverberating throughout the coach. 

Watch the driving lady, that wild maneuver interrupted my nap and gave me a nightmare! 

That's it, I've had enough. I'm ready to call it a day. My adrenaline is running at high speed, making my heart race. When I swerved, I had no idea if we would survive the sudden direction change or not. Thankfully we did. I tried to reach over to pet Harley to calm us both down. His eyes literally looked shook up. 

I saw a sign for Anastatia State Park, so I followed it off the interstate and down 10 miles of roads hoping and praying they might have a walk-in sight available. I had totally forgotten that it is on the beach.  I've never been there, but I remembered the name from reading about Florida State Parks. The ranger looked at me like I was crazy when I inquired about a walk-in spot. She answered my question with a question "Do you have a tent?"  I did not. 

Knowing that I had read about but never visited Faver-Dykes State Park (south of St Augustine) I asked her if they might have availability. She wrote down the phone number and passed it to me with a shrug. Back in the RV, I made a quick call, grateful my cell phone was working. I was informed there were two walk-in spots left, for first come, first serve. I asked her if I could get there by coming south down US-1. She assured me there would be plenty of signs, but that it was about 20 miles or so from Anastatia State Park. Traffic was maddeningly heavy.  

It was crush hour. 

Usually I drive sedately, like a little old lady, trying to avoid accidents at all costs. But this time, due to my sudden tiredness, I just got back in traffic, with my heightened senses from the adrenaline still flowing from the swerving, I battled crush hour traffic for 5 miles to get back on US-1.  I flew down the highway as fast as I could, making it to Faver Dykes in less than 40 minutes from my phone call. This seemed astounding to both me and the park ranger I spoke with on the phone, who was closing up when I arrived. (There is an iron ranger to pay on the honor system for after hours.)  It seemed like 50 traffic lights I went through with a ton of commuters. The numerous signs she promised were not in evidence. Indeed all I ever saw was a tiny brown sign "Faver-Dykes, Next Left".    Somehow I was able to cut over 3 lanes of traffic, then slow down enough to keep all six wheels grounded,  to make the turn in time. 

Harley gave me another strange look as if to say "You drive like crazy person!"

Has Florida simply made me a wild beast behind the wheel?  I felt like I had just competed in some sort of awful race. I was a bit miffed at myself for forgetting it was Friday.  Finding a weekend spot at a campground or RV park in Florida on the weekend without advance reservations is like searching for a needle in a haystack. 

The pavement ran out, I was driving on dirt down a lumpy road. Ah, this must be why I remembered that in the past, I wanted to visit Faver Dykes State Park, it's definately off the beaten track. Anytime my next campground is down a dirt road, I am pretty happy. Matter of fact, the last campground I stayed at, McIntosh Lake Campground and RV Park, was down a dirt road too. My kind of place for sure. 

Like last year, when I discovered Altamaha Regional Park west of Brunswick, Georgia. I was rambling down a small highway in the countryside, when a sign announced "Pavement Ends".  I thought to myself, great!  I am going to love this place. Indeed I did enjoy my stay there.It was another place where I stayed longer than planned. I am not sure why I bother making plans. Maybe it's just to pretend I am organized. 

At Faver Dykes State Park, I was delighted to find out that the nightly rate with tax was only $19.80.   Two spots were available. I leashed up Harley, who had cried and protested mightily when we left Anastatia, as he too was ready to camp and couldn't understand why we were leaving instead of parking. He was thrilled to go for a walk as we quickly toured the campground, selecting our camp site. One was small and the other smaller, but both had loads of privacy and a tropical feel.  Plus very fine powdery sandy dirt. It stuck to everything!

We went back to our wheel estate, where I am sure we carted a pound of sandy dirt back inside with us. I drove to our new spot, backed in, shoved a few boards under the front right tire to level us up nicely, then I quickly pulled up all the carpets. 

That sounds so grand, but after two years, all the rubber fell off my old carpet runners.  I have now learned that laundry detergent eats the rubber!  So now when I wash a rubber backed carpet in the washer, I use mild dish soap. Mostly I shake the rugs out thoroughly from time to time, only washing them when they get really dirty.  Maybe I overwashed my rugs in the past, in my haste to keep germs and allergens out of the rig. Through a stroke of sheer magic, I recently  found 4 various sized rubber backed carpet rugs in coordinating colors,  deeply discounted at Dollar General. I had bought them on their $5 coupon day at two different stores, over the course of several weeks and coupons. So the end result was I ended up with new carpets for the motorhome for a ridiculously low price. I just love it that the colors work perfectly with my existing decor. 
Easy care vinyl tile, done with the loving help of friends in Michigan, while camping in their driveway.

I may be in an old motorhome living on a shoestring budget, but that's no reason not to make things aesthetically appealing. I was deeply flattered recently when I saw old friends who had not seen me and my rig in a year. They complimented me on the new upholstery and decor, saying the place looked beautiful. But wait,  I don't have new upholstery!  I have the 17 year old version. But I have cleaned, vacuumed and decorated carefully around it.  This is not easy, because the valances over the windows have beautiful printed material. Patience is on my side. It took me nearly a year of window shopping to finally find a cotton comforter, I could afford, in a color that was perfect for my bed. Then I had the guest loft to do. The motorhome came with the original bedspread which was the same printed fabric of the valances. But it had a big hole in it, the prior owners were carefully hiding behind a big pillow. When I washed it, more holes appeared.  
The new throw rugs to warm us up when it's cold. Harley chimed in with his own design flair by immediately decorating the carpets with assorted toys. 

Decorators and designers change colors every year, so shopping on today's market for colors popular 17 years ago, can be very challenging. Add to that, a shoestring budget, and the task becomes one of the hunter in search of the elusive. 

Lately, it's been so c-c-c-cold, that the new carpets were laid out, to help keep Harley and I warmer. 

I guess you  are wondering why I ripped out the 17 year old carpet to lay vinyl tile, then cover it up with throw rugs again. But when it is cold outside, having the throw rugs out, really helps to warm up the coach considerably. When the weather is hot, the rugs are rolled up and put away. So in this manner, I have carpet when I want it and easy care vinyl tile when I don't. 

I feel very spoiled. Matter of fact, my adrenaline rush must be good for something, the propane furnace is now fixed!  I am so excited beyond description. Don't ask me how I fixed it, because I have no idea what worked, but it's working now.  I had given up on my efforts, but forgot to turn the thermostat off. 

Back in the motorhome, I smelled something funny. I rapidly checked around to see if all was OK. That is when I realized the smell was my furnace blowing out dusty hot air!  I checked each and every duct, marveling at the wonders of central heat. Wow!  I won't freeze this winter, and yes it can and has dropped to freezing in Florida. My ceramic electric heater can't keep up when temps drop below 40F, at that point I really need the aid of the central propane furnace to stay warm.  So having it fixed and running, made me want to dance with the puppy. 

I just learned that the mid Atlantic states and northeast has been treated to a very early snowfall as of yesterday. Simply amazing for October!  Windsor, Massachusettes received 26 inches of snow. In October!  I was reading about all the power outages, thanking myself for fixing my furnace, which runs off propane and 12volt battery, meaning I can have heat without 110 electricity. 

I probably worry about lack of electricity more than most folks. Having spent decades on boats and tiny Caribbean islands, with erratic power, I am accustomed to planning for life without electric. 

I bet plenty of RV folks up north, are packing to head south quickly. I know many wait until December, but I bet they are having second thoughts. The private RV parks in Florida, must be rubbing their hands in sheer delight. 

Now this morning it is pouring down rain.  I feel so sorry for the tent campers. There are only 6 motorhomes camping, the other 24 spots are full of tent campers with a few pop-up campers thrown in the mix. I was reading about Faver Dykes State Park, when I noticed they are limited to 30 foot maximun campers. I've run into this before, I am so grateful I am only 28 feet long. Although, there is one Class A RV here that looks well beyond the 30 foot length, but he has somehow managed to squeeze into his site.  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My First Career

My first career was in accounting and tax preparation. As a young teenager, I worked in an office with two grumpy old men. One was a tax lawyer, the other an accountant and tax practitioner. 

They suggested I take courses in income tax preparation, which I readily did. It was tough hard work, but I mastered the course and passed with the high scores in the class.  They also had me do research on their own tax cases. The lawyer was often in and out of court on tax cases while the practitioner had audits to handle. It took me a long time to learn how to read the tax codes.  But mostly I just found all the references they needed, so they didn't have to do the hunting. They were also teaching me bookkeeping and accounting. I was also taking accounting and business law courses mornings and evenings in two different towns. 

Everyday for nearly two years, at  lunch I ate potted meat spread on stale bread. My earnings were meager in the early years and I could only budget $1 for 6 lunches. Stale bread was 25 cents and 6 cans of potted mean were 60 cents, the other 15 cents I saved for Saturdays. The vending machine down the hall charged 15 cents for a soda. It was my weekly treat to myself. 

I missed my friends who were leading relaxed lives as high school students, while I was emancipated and paying rent on a crummy apartment I shared with someone else. But by the time I was 21, I was purchasing my second home and became a 40% partner in the business. An astonishing accomplishment at the time. But I had given up my days, nights and weekends to developing a career at an early age. 

Now, life is much simpler. You can go online to learn to become a tax preparer.  

I was often commuting 45 minutes one-way at night to attend courses. Now you can do it all online, without the commute, without the rigid schedule. You can even learn at your own pace.  

Twice in my career, older accountants with separate businesses,  retired, sending all their clients to us. Many were of advanced age, or disabled or both, but still had taxable incomes.  As a courtesy, I was often dispatched to their homes to pickup their tax information, bring it back to the office, prepare or assist in preparing their taxes, then deliver their tax returns back to them. 

If I had known about RV's then, I would have simply set up a mobile office in a small Class C, doing their tax returns in their driveway, right in my motorcoach. 

For someone energetic, taking an income tax course, could launch you into nearly fulltime RVing. Just spend four and a half months preparing taxes, then go travel the other seven and a half. If you end up working the crazy hours I did during tax season, you surely won't have time to spend much money, making it easier to save for traveling. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

McIntosh Campground and RV Park

The day I left Hunting Island, Harley had to go to the vet, then we had errands to run, groceries to buy then suddenly I was wore out, unable to travel very far. I threw my plans out the window, searching for a campground. We had managed to make 100 miles in one day. I looked for something budget-friendly as I only expected to be there one night. What I found was $22 a night minus 10% off for my AAA card, making it only $19.80 a night. 

Later upon settling in, I discovered this was a huge bargain as it included a small lot on the lake with electric, water, sewer, Wi-Fi, and cable TV. 

 The whimsical mailbox at McIntosh Campground and RV Park in Townsend, Georgia near the  east coast. 
 My little old wheel estate was assigned this spot next to the mega rig. The couple that owned the rig, came walking up to their coach.   I said "Good afternoon!" to them as I was hooking up my utilities just a few feet away.  I was answered with eerily dead silence. Were they deeply offended by my cheeriness?  Did I break some mysterious unwritten code of conduct?  
McIntosh Lake was quite gorgeous. The campground was peaceful and beautiful. There is a highway nearby, but it wasn't very noisy, except when the occasional 18 wheeler sped past. Harley was thrilled to tour the park several times a day on his beloved walks.  We came for one night, then stayed four. I would have readily spent a month here, had I not been on a deadline schedule.  Still, I threw out my current plans, to stay three more nights. So much for my planning.
 I tried my best to capture the smoke on the water (left) early one morning when the air was colder than the lake water, creating this uncanny phenomenon. I have posted a daytime picture of the lake beside it, for comparison. Watching the smoke on the water seemingly roll across the waters was mesmerizing. I guess it doesn't take much to entertain me.  I am sorry I couldn't capture it better with my camera. 
Temperatures were down in the 40's at night for the first 3 nights.  Harley napped in a sweater in his little fleece lined cat bed. Amazingly, the bed is in great shape after 18 months of heavy use.  I wash it now and then to keep it clean and comfy for him. He is always alarmed when it's time for a washing. Last time I let it air dry in bright sunshine outdoors. He gave me suspicious looks, as if he was being permanently banished to the outdoors. When it finally dried, I moved it back indoors.  The joy and relief on his face was comical as he gave it a thorough sniffing before he deigned to curl up in it. 
McIntosh Lake Campground and RV Park boasts a new dog park. Harley and I were thrilled until we discovered his slender body could slip right through the fencing. The owner says he is going to eventually fix that. I sure hope he does. Little dogs need to run and romp as much as large dogs. 

Early one morning, Harley and I were in the new dog park. I could see he could slip through the gap in the gate and post, so I found a log to block that off. We were playing fetch with his tennis ball. Suddenly he slipped right through the fencing.  You can't really tell it here, but the fencing has large squares. He would not come when he was called, instead he was running faster than the wind, around the park, dangerously close to the public highway. I was pretty mad at him, and scared for his foolish future. 

This is one area, he is driving me insane!  He randomly comes when he is called, just like a cat. This is not good.  He has no road sense at all.  He doesn't understand that those big wheels can flatten him into a teeny tiny greasy spot in the road. 

I think pets can sometimes see ghosts.  I also think sadly, that my lost cat, "Lil Bear" has met his death. Whenever I call his name, Harley's ears perk up, he looks off into space and barks like he has seen a cat.  Is it Lil Bear's ghost he sees?  

I had a dream about a little ugly dog. The very next day, I met Harley for the first time. He was the spitting image of the dog in my dream. Could he be Lil Bear reincarnated?  Lil Bear was lost in Blacksburg, South Carolina the night of September 30, 2009. It was my first day in America and I lost my cat of 9 years who had flown up here with me. I pray he is alive somewhere, but I never found him. I cried for months. I felt so lost in America with my beloved cat missing. 

Harley was born December 25, 2009 in Orlando, Florida.  In March 2010, I drove my motorhome to Orlando to park on my friend's property while I recuperated. They encouraged me to get a dog.   I was still so shook-up over losing Lil Bear, that I couldn't deal with another cat, but I was super lonely.  I adopted this little waif, Harley,  May 25, 2010. The family that had him, no longer wanted him, saying they had too many dogs and little Harley had been voted out of the family. They fed him a diet of corn chips and Doritos. He was severely malnourished with thin limp fur and while he was very loving, he had no energy. They gave him to me for free.  

While I stood at their door holding the tiny puppy, I asked if he had a leash or toys or vet records. They gave me a strange look, saying "He has none of that!" as if I had asked if he came with  a trust fund. 

Their son called me several times, over the next few months,  nearly in tears, to check on Harley's progress. I fed him a healthy puppy diet. A few days later, he suddenly sprung into action with all sorts of mad energy. His legs shot up and his little body looked so funny perched on them. The first week he lived with me, I was sure I had made a huge mistake. He wasn't housebroken as promised, he had never had a toy or a leash. Indeed he refused to walk on a leash, so training him to go outdoors to do his business was a bit awkward at first. Finally by the end of the week, I had him walking on a leash though frightened of everything and through me walking him hourly (yes hourly!) and praising him lavishly when he did his potty business outdoors, he quickly became housebroken. 

He understood all about toys immediately. He loves his toys, his bed, his sweaters, his motorhome. I just wish he could learn to drive. 

Now he is healthy, full of energy, loves to walk on a leash, can't get enough of playtime and is still pretty goofy looking. I love my wacky fur baby. He filled a large empty hole in my heart. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Really Love Those Comments

Thanks for the comments, I love to read what everyone writes. Sorry I have to have that word verification. But you can post anonymously too. I still have to check my comments everyday to clear out the spam. 

Ooops!  Doggy needs  a walk. 

Hunting Island Scenes Part Seven

"I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floatin' around accidental-like on a breeze. But  I think maybe it's both."

Quote from Forrest Gump in movie by the same name

I allowed myself the rare treat of a  souvenir from Hunting Island, South Carolina. It's not like me to ever buy  souvenirs.  I am on a teeny tiny budget plus I live in a small mini-motorhome. But a coozie cup is very handy for me since the only tumblers I have in the motorhome are stainless steel and kept in the freezer for icy cold drinks.  Being a southerner, I love iced tea. In my case, I drink copious amounts of green iced tea for health reasons. My stainless steel cups fit the coozie perfectly, providing a built-in coaster as well as insulation. 

The Vietnam scenes from Forrest Gump were filmed at Hunting Island in the jungle and marsh.  Indeed the shrimper scenes were also filmed around Beaufort, South Carolina. Beaufort (pronounced Bue-Fort) is the closest town to the island, at 21 miles away, down highway 21. 

In the movie, they often showed a feather falling in the scenes. I can see why, because while I was at Hunting island, this phenomenon kept happening to me too. Suddenly out of nowhere, a feather would come wafting down from the heavens, right before my eyes. It seemed to happen to me several times a day. Harley would often jump and leap to try to catch the feather. Once caught, he was unsure what to do with it next. 

The feather represents the journey to destiny, free and random like dumb blind luck. It  simply floats about on the breeze, no direct route and no known destination. (Gee whiz, does that sound just like me or what?)

 The ocean tosses up driftwood on a regular basis at this island.
I was surprised to find a big jellyfish in October. He was beached as the receding tide gently left him behind. He is over 12 inches in diameter.
 A lone sailboat on the sea. I was surprised to see him so close, as the waters are shallow with hidden sandbars. As a child at this exact same island and beach, I fell in love with islands, oceans and boats. Incredibly, as an adult, all three played a major role in my life as I spent over two decades messing about in boats at sea, working and sailing to exotic islands. 
As a child at this island, we used chicken necks and kite string to lure in crabs, which we scooped up with a net, depositing them into a bucket. When we had caught enough for our supper, we took them home to boil in a big pot on the stove. They were delicious. Mom taught us how to distinguish the boy crabs from the girl crabs and how to pick them apart for their delicate tasty meat.
I figure there is nothing wrong with splurging on  edible souvenirs, so I bought some of Joe Trapp's yellow grits. I love yellow grits though I am not fond of the common white version. In the camp store, the food choices were limited and mundane, save for these wonderful yellow grits grown and ground in South Carolina.

They also make an exquisite base for heavenly casseroles. Sometimes I make a quickie version in the microwave. First I cook the yellow grits. One serving  takes about 5 minutes.  The method is 3 to 1, with 1 part grits to 3 parts water. Once cooked, I then  add beaten eggs, cheese and bacon bits, stir that into the grits, then cook again to let the eggs set and the cheese melt. 

Many folks like their grits with copious amounts of butter and salt. I do add sea salt to my grits for sure, once they are cooked. 
Although the Spanish Moss appears so large and heavy, it's very light, hanging off a delicate limb as shown here. It likes humid moist warm weather for growing. It's not a parasite, it just likes to hang about on oak and cypress trees, though it will sometimes attach to other trees as well except it generally avoids evergreens. 
This was my second campsite, as we had to break camp and move further into the jungle, in order to extend our stay. Us,  being me and the goofy dog. I took a final picture of our spot, before setting out on the road again. I am backed up close to the jungle. I don't want to leave, not now, not ever.
While the campground roads are paved, the sites are not. The roads are one lane and marked for one way traffic. I preferred the roads when they were paved in sand and seashells. It was like that before progress hit and the big heavy rigs complained of getting stuck too often. 

Some people just can't appreciate natural beauty. I met a camper with a mega rig who loudly declared "What they need to do here in this campground,  is chop down 90% of these trees so the big rigs can get in and out easier!  They also need to pave over the campsites and get rid of this sand."

I so wanted to knock him silly into the very  next state... clearly he didn't belong at Hunting Island. There are plenty of ugly RV parks with excess pavement and lack of trees for people like him. Why he chose to come to this gorgeous park and complain about nature, is incongruous. He went on to inform me "They also need to put dumpsters in all the camping loops, this business of having the garbage so far away is downright inconvenient."

I so wanted to say to this rude little man, "The exit is that way mister!" But I held my tongue and gave him my silly grin I reserve for fools. 

This is Delaware State Park in Delaware, Ohio with my camper in back, taken last summer.
I think that camper should take himself to Delaware State Park in Delaware, Ohio. Last summer, I ended up at their ugly campground and I am so sorry I did. The office is miles from the campground, so I had no idea until after they had my money, that the place was so ugly. Every campground loop had a huge overflowing dumpster as their focal point, right in the middle of the camp area. That is my rig in the background, in the spot they assigned me. It was my first (and last!) visit to that park. They had no pride in their state park at all. I even called the office, to tell them the garbage was overflowing.  They told me "Someone will pick it up next week."  I wanted to capture the cat-sized rats in this picture that were munching on the garbage, but I startled them and they ran for the woods to hide. One was bigger than my dog!  

At Paris Mountain State Park in South Carolina, a ranger explained to me that the  state park system, in an attempt to preserve the beauty of nature, has removed all their garbage collection cans and dumpsters, instead settling on one central garbage dump in each park. I personally prefer looking at nature rather than  looking at scattered garbage dumps. I think it was a very smart move on the South Carolina state park system.  The walk to the dump area was refreshing for both me and doggy. It may be a tad more inconvenient, but the trade off of beauty instead of garbage dumps, is well worth it in my book of happiness. 

Another camper was telling me about a campground they went to on the Florida panhandle ages ago, that was so close to the ocean, they kept a big tractor around, to pull the RV's back out of their sandy spots when it was time to leave, should they dig in and get stuck.
The marsh that surrounds half the island is sometimes dry and other times water logged.
The narrow bridge from Hunting Island includes a traffic light, to alert drivers when the draw bridge is about to open. If you should see an 18 wheeler crossing the bridge, you best wait on the other side until he has crossed, otherwise you might lose your RV mirrors as you pass him.
A final farewell to the low country, as it is commonly called along the coast of South Carolina. Once again, it left tears in my eyes. I always feel so at home here and I have no idea why. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Jack O Lantern Carving Party

Guest post written by Michelle Lineberger

It seems like now any time that I want to hang out with my friends, I have to plan something that our kids can come along and do too. But I guess that's just what happens when you're a mom. I shouldn't be that surprised because that's kind of what I expected for years. The only time that my mom saw her friends was when I was around. So I thought that the perfect fall excuse for getting my friends and their kids together would be a pumpkin carving party.

I looked up some really great pumpkin carinv ideas online with my wireless internet providers Denver and printed out some templates. Then I thought that it would be a good idea to have my computer at the ready to print out extra templates, depending on how many people wanted to use which templates.
It ends up that it was such a hit! We had it on Saturday and I had everyone bring their own pumpkins and carving tools. There were some pretty impressive pumpkins and I took pictures of everyone with their own jack o lantern.

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Times Have Changed Again

My father was an avid trader in the stock market. Sadly he died before being able to utilize online trading.  Every day when the market opened, he spoke with his broker and again when the market closed, his broker called him with his customized list of stock quotes. If there was news on one of his stocks, the broker would call him immediately. Eventually the broker retired and my father died.  I still recall the huge spread sheets he kept on pale green accounting paper that was the size of a big desk blotter. 

I am still amazed at how the internet has transformed the way business is done. It used to be if you wanted do stock trading, you had to have loads of money to open up an account, then pay a broker a handsome fee to make the trades for you. 

The internet leveled the playing field with online trading and mobile trading.   You can even move your IRA accounts for self management or you can use an online broker to assist you. 

Now with computers you can customize reports to track your stocks, compute your gains and losses, locate history about your transactions and so on. 

What a shame my father didn't live long enough to enjoy these features. He would have had a field day.  

In Loving Memory of My Father

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My little monkey on a string got himself into a heap of trouble. Everyday while at Hunting Island, South Carolina, we hiked  to the beach. Mostly we tried to go at low tide, but we managed to show up at high tide several times because the pet parent forgot to check the tide times.  

Somehow, Harley managed to get those awful sandspurs in his fur. The first one I noticed because just as we came off the beach, I needed to borrow the restroom. There was nowhere outside to hook up Harley's leash to wait on me, so I took him inside. Just as we entered the door from the sandy beach, he let out a cry then began limping and crying, woefully looking up at me. 

I picked him up to look at his injured paw, seeing a sandspur stuck in it. I grabbed a wad of toilet paper, then removed the offending hitchhiker. Harley was happy again, bouncing around on all 4 paws. 

The next day at the beach, a lady was flirting with Harley. She picked him up to pet him, then yelled "Ouch!" as she encountered a sandspur on his silly head. Between the two of us, we managed to dislodge the sandspur from his head. Harley was not amused, but tolerated our actions.

Later, after returning back to the motorhome, I noticed Harley had picked up several more sandspurs on his head and jaw.  I tried to remove them, getting only two out before my precious sweet darling snapped and snarled at me in such a vicious way that I know my own jaw fell open in disbelief. I screamed "NO!" at him. We gave each other dirty looks. 

Once again, I started to remove the sandspur with the aid of some blunt tipped first aid scissors I found in my kit. He snapped at me again, clearly quite hurt and angry at me for seemingly making it worse.  Now we were at odds with each other. It made me enormously sad. 

Later in the day, another camper volunteered to help, but when she saw Harley do his angry snarling snapping attitude, she too was as stunned as me. Could a little 5.5 pound dog be so savage?  It really was a shocker, because Harley is well known for his delightfully happy enthusiastic personality. Indeed, I have been trying to train him in hopes he could volunteer at children's hospitals in his future, spreading cheer and love. 

If anything, I now know this little fellow could stand his ground.  I never thought of him as being much protection, but a great alarm system while we are traveling in far flung places. But heaven forbid, I think he could scare the living daylights out of somebody if they saw his dark side. 

I remembered somewhere in my addled brain, that a gentle creature, when injured, can appear to be quite malicious, because the pain is speaking for him in the only way he knows to project his discomfort. 

We still had a day left on our reservation. It was 25 miles to the nearest town where I might find a willing groomer or veterinarian to assist.  I began breaking camp in anticipation of our leaving the next day. I checked around for vets in the Beaufort area and finally settled on one that seemed to have good reviews on the internet. I know that's a strange way to pick a vet, but I was clueless what else to do.

Meanwhile Harley and I regarded each other with an edge. I didn't bother to take his harness or little red T-shirt off that night. Normally I remove his harness when we are in for the night, this signals to him we aren't going out again until morning.  He often likes to sleep on his back at night. But with the harness on, he can't do that because it pokes him in the back where the dual D-rings are for attaching his leash. His T-shirt was dirty from his romping around the camp, but I feared pulling it over his head, would cause him to snap at me again in that frightening way. 

We were poised to leave early the next morning, but I woke up having a rough time. Right when I think my life is fabulous, my health on the mend, I seem to have a relapse. Very frustrating all around. We didn't get out of the campground until past 11am, hardly the early start I imagined when I awoke at 5am. I felt truly awful. Harley was still kind of grumpy. 

First on my list, was to visit the vet, second was groceries and third was to find a new campground further south. Actually I had radically changed plans. I searched all over the internet, maps, guides and books, for a budget friendly campground. I reasoned the vet costs were going to put a serious dent in the pocketbook so our planned visit to another coastal island, went out the window.

I also had no idea how the vet would react to a walk-in client. We've had good and bad luck with vets. Last year when Harley got a stick stuck in his jaw, a friend used her car to rush us into a nearby veterinarian's office, asking for help.  Harley was seriously distressed and I could not figure out the problem. The bill for that 30 seconds to remove the errant stick that I had somehow overlooked in my own attempts to fix his ailment, cost us an astronomical amount of money, more than I had at the time. My friend graciously loaned me the rest but she was as shocked as I at the triple digit cost for removing a stick. 

Furthermore the vet lit into me, telling me what a horrible pet parent I was, that Harley was severely malnourished and neglected. On and on she went thoroughly chastising and lecturing me.  Finally, I was able to get a word in edgewise to explain that I had only had him a few weeks. He came to me severely malnourished and I was feeding him a healthy diet to improve his situation.  We paid the enormous bill and left. 

So today, I was a bit worried, wondering what his latest mishap would cost us. Harley and I walked into the new vet's office. The waiting room was empty, save for a massive cat. I mean this cat gave new meaning to the term fat cat. He was the biggest cat I have ever seen in my entire life. He was ensconced under a chair by the window, looking cool and confident, totally ignoring Harley's sniffs and inspection. 

At the reception desk, a slender gold tabby feline sat in the chair, giving us an inquiring look. I already liked the place, but I was beginning to wonder if any humans worked here. I began  explaining to the cat, what our problem was, when  a lady appeared from a back office to assist. She was amused that the cat and I were engaged in conversation.
Harley's new look...

I explained we were travelers, who had just spent time camping at the beach.  I wasn't even sure we needed a veterinarian, but we did indeed need help, as Harley had these painful sandspurs stuck around his face he would not let me remove unless I was willing to donate fingers or arm.  Harley was of course flirting wildly with the lady, trying to show her just how cute he could be. The kind lady called a vet assistant to come out. They dtermined that putting a muzzle on him would be impossible because of the sandspurs on his jaw. So one grabbed him by the scruff of his neck, holding him tightly, while the other one used a cordless shaver or trimmer to quickly zip-zap-zip the offedning sandspurs out of his fur. Meanwhile Harley screamed like they had skewered him alive while I tried to comfort him with soothing words.  He wasn't hurt or being hurt, but I think he was just mortified that these strangers were more powerful than him and clearly they were going to do something against his current will. 

When they were done, he stood on the table, looking very confused.  He now had a large tuft of fur missing from the top of his head and his sideburns had been severely trimmed, leaving him a fluffy goatee. Finally he shook himself as hard as he could until he got his fur laying just the way he liked. 

The bill was ridiculously cheap, matter of fact they refused payment entirely. Even when I opened my wallet to make a payment anyhow, they waved my money away. Talk about angels looking out for us!  Such good people exist in this world!

Harley and I are back on loving terms. However, I gave him another 24 hours of peace, before I resumed petting his farcical head. 

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Something Else Besides A Hat Rack

Below is a map of Hunting Island Campground, South Carolina

The original campground was just one bath house and tent camping. The green areas is where it expanded offering 30amp electricity. The upper blue areas is where the campground enlarged venturing into the jungle area. It offers 30 or 50amp service plus water. There are no lots with sewer or TV cable.

This trip I stayed in lot 146.  Ironically, last March, I stayed in lot 145.  My friend and his dog came to visit recently, they were lucky enough to get lot 147 across from me.  The folks coming after me cancelled so I extended my stay through October 20th.

Now that I am messing about with the insurance over my roof stabbing, I extended my stay again through the 23rd but had to relocate to lot 184. This map is not at all accurate, but it's sort of close. For instance lot 111 and 146 are side by side, but on this map, it looks like a great expanse between the two.

The green area is mostly sand and palm trees.  The blue section is mostly dirt and jungle. The little dark blue lines are how they laid it out for suggested parking on your camp site, but many folks wiggle around to get the best spot that suits them. The beach camping areas have changed over the years, as front row camping lots were consumed by storms and high tides. 

The roads are narrow and one way.  The trail-side camping in pink, is really quite wonderful. I went up there hiking with my friend and the dogs, to check on the space, since they weren't in use. Inside the holler of a tree, someone had left behind some  split dry wood wrapped in plastic. My friend carried it back to my campsite.  We built a roaring fire that afternoon, then dined in the evening on spicy Jambalaya with local shrimp and hot sausage. We made piglets of ourselves, it was so delicious. The fire lasted until late in the night.   It was still roaring along, when I went to bed, it seemed safe enough in the fire ring.  I was in bed, propped up with pillows watching it from my bedroom window. 

Then the rains came, the fire fought mightily, then lost the battle to the waters from heaven.

But for a brief time, that fire enchanted me, transporting me back to Overbrook House.  I owned it for 7 or so years  in the 80's in Greenville, South Carolina. The house was nearly 100 years old, very sturdy, with generous rooms and high ceilings. I loved the place, it was less than 5 minutes from work.  I had three pets living with me, two cats and a dog. In my bedroom was an ornate fireplace built for coal. It was small but suitable for wood burning too. 

Out back I had two piles of firewood.  One stack of short logs for the bedroom fireplace and longer split lengths for the living room fires. 

As long as I lived in that house, I built a fire in my bedroom every  night in the winter. I also had a fireplace in the living room which was in use almost as much as the bedroom fireplace.  I liked having  the cozy home fires. I used to lay in bed after a rugged day in the executive jungle,  letting the fire mesmerize me into drifting off to a deep sleep. My cats were piled on the bed with me, my big white German Shepherd was laying in front of the fire, on a rug that was purposely super padded so it felt like walking on the softest thing imaginable. The dog loved that rug, me, the fire, the cats. We were one happy cozy family. 

One time I ordered up wood over the phone from a guy who was going to cut trees into logs, then split the wood, deliver it and stack it.  I explained I wanted half the load in 15 inch lengths for the bedroom and the other half in 30 inch lengths for the living room.  The agreement was he would not only deliver the load, but stack it up for me too. I had a nice covered area out back.  

Saturday morning, I was in the sun room off my bedroom in the back of the house. I heard this awful roar.  I ran to the front door, to see that the firewood truck had showed up, then dumped this huge pile of wood in one big heap of a mess on my font lawn, flattening out flower beds, mashing up the postage stamp sized grass in the garden. 

I was flabbergasted. I ran out to talk with the goofy man asking him WHAT was he doing?  He proceed to start grabbing a few pieces of wood and stacking them on the large front porch. I explained I wanted it stacked in back, under cover, since it was green wood and I wouldn't be using it this year.  Then I noticed the entire load was in identical sizes. All of them about 20 inches in length. 

Even funnier, the guy selling the wood couldn't understand, no matter how many times I tried to explain to him, why I wanted logs in two different sizes.

He just kept telling me over and over that the 20 inch logs would burn as nicely as 15 or 30 inch logs.  

Had he left the load in the truck, my driveway ran down the hill, along the side of the house, to the big backyard, where I wanted it stacked under a rear addition that sat on 8-foot high brick columns.  My house was a town home that was slender across the front, but super long down the sides. From the street, it looked like a tiny house with a big front porch. The front yard was terraced level, but the lot sloped downhill along side length of the house to the back garden.

I wish I had a video of the idiotic conversation we had over where the wood should be stacked and the size problem and so on. Plus I was pretty irate that the dunce had ruined my front garden in his thrill to try out his new dump truck mechanism. In the end, the guy was such a bully, hard-headed and stupid as cardboard. If anything that video would have been a great example to show kids why they should never ever drop out of school (for fear of ending up a pure halfwit like this prime example before me.)

For some insane reason, I ended up buying the wood, just to get him to move it off my front garden  and get him off my property. When he was done, there was a huge mess where my beautiful flowerbeds and grass had been. I had worked so hard on my outdoor garden. I was nearly in tears when I saw the huge damage he had wreaked. Then the bloke suddenly bent over, started ripping my flattened flowers out of the ground and tossing them randomly around the garden while I screamed "Stop that!"

I paid the man, to get rid of him. Incredibly he was seriously trying to tell me to call him again for more wood.  I told him I wouldn't call him if he was the last man on planet earth and I was freezing to death.  He looked at me and asked in a serious tone "Why not? I done give you a fair price and I custom cut it for you."

As I stood there before him, I so wanted to say "Your head ain't good for nothing but a hat rack!"  But I bit my lip instead. (Wimpy me!)

It was an expression I clearly remember my mother saying to me in a slightly different form. I had done something stupid and she got mad and declared "Try using your head for something else besides a hat rack!"

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