Sunday, May 31, 2015

Travel Day Sunday May 31

Today was the end of the RV-Dream Reunion Rally at Tom Johnson Camping Center in Marion, NC. 
After breakfast it was time to say goodbye to many new friend and head-out to the next location. 
Bonnie and I had a short trip planned. Only about 120 miles on I-40 & I-77 to Exit 82 and Boonville, NC. 
We had planned to stay at the RagApple Lassie Winery in Bonnville.
About 3 miles from the our exit we got a check engine light & check ECU Coolant alarm. So we made it to the exit and pulled into the BP-Truck Stop. 
I got out and found we had a broken hose clamp on the bottom of the radiator and was leaking anti-freeze coolant. 
Placed a call to "Good Sam's Roadside Assistance". About 1 1/2 hrs later, Sam from "Southside Road Service" of Jonesville, NC was on site. One hour later after he install a new clamp, add about six gallons of anti-freeze coolant, and check the operation of the cooling system we were back on the road.
Thanks to "Good Sam" and "Southside Road Service" for a fast and timely repair. 
The rest of the day was great had a wine tasting at RagApple Lassie Winery. 

And a visit to Mount Airy, NC to see Andy Griffith Museum 

and Aunt Bees Dinner. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Zipline Adventure

Fred enjoying his first zip
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
RV-Dreams Rally at Tom Johnson Camping Center Marion, NC

This morning a group of  nineteen people started out to travel Barnardsville, NC which was about 35 miles from the campground.

The Blue Ridge experience group
We were all heading to Navitat Canopy Adventures Center to enjoy  a 3 hr.  Zip line & Hiking tour in this area of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They have two types of Zipline Adventure Tours, Moody Cove Adventure and Blue Ridge Experience. 

The Moody Cove Adventure has 10 single zips ranging in length from 120 to 1100 feet and hiking that includes 2 sky bridges and 2 rappels.

Fred and Howard above the trees

I choose the "Blue Ridge Experience" an exciting mountaintop Zip trip. This tour has 3 huge side-by-side racing zip lines. We had a total of ten campers from the rally enjoy this tour.  

The 3600 ft Zip
This tour had three zips from 1100 - 3600 + feet long. Plus three scenic hikes with amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

This was just so much fun. Can't wait to experience this type of adventure again. 

You have to add this item to your "Bucket List"

Thanks everyone. 
Fred Lee

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Outdoor Lamp Project

Solar lighting with style
I have been looking for a way to use solar lights in our outdoor patio area.
Fred and I frequently underestimate the time we be away from our RV and forget to leave an outdoor light on. 
We could have just stuck them in the ground, but I worried about the tripping over them. I am sure Rascal would have had his lead wrapped around them in a pattern resembling 1970's string art.

Enter Redo it Yourself Inspirations where Saratoga Springs blogger Robin wrote a post called Cut the Cord. In that post Robin demonstrated turning old salvaged lighting fixtures into solar lamps.

Thrift store shopping is a favorite pastime of mine. We had to visit several before finding a lamp that was heavy enough not to blow over in the wind and sturdy enough to survive being carted around in the motor coaches storage bays during travel.

Salvage store lamp $4.99
Found it! This lamp is made of cast metal with a brass plating. It is heavy.
On the way home we stopped at Lowes to find a solar light that would complement the lamp and
paint that matched the color of the solar light.

The guts of the lamp were easy to remove.  Fred cut off the electric cord. Then all we had to do was unscrew one nut at the bottom to release all of the other components.
The exterior of the lamp was very shiny so I spent 30 minutes sanding to give it a surface that the paint could adhere to.
A quick bath with warm soapy water followed by an hour in the sun and our lamp was ready for paint.
We chose a Rustoleum brand paint and primer in one, in an oiled bronze color that is very close to that of the solar light.

The painting took several hours as we preferred to apply multiple light coats. We also flipped the lamp over between coats to make sure that all of the turns and ridges were covered.

We took the stick off of the solar light and glued it into the top of the lamp base.

Solar lamp after painting
 We were pleased with the finished product and have enjoyed coming home to its gentle light on our RV's outdoor patio.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Memorial Day with our RV-Dreams Family

The Rally puzzle was completed by Fred, Nancy, Connie and Bonnie

We had a wonderful Memorial Day at the RV-Dreams Family Reunion.
Monday was our first Holiday away from our extended family and one that has always meant opening the pool and the first back yard barbeque of the Summer.  We missed our loved ones at home and especially missed visiting Fred's Dad at the Saratoga National Cemetery.

It was very nice to be surrounded by our new family and to share the day with them.

Watching Corn-Hole, Washer-Toss, and Frisbee Golf from the Games Gallery
We had a catered southern style breakfast followed by a photo shoot.

The afternoon was full of fun and games.

Linked Hula Hoop Relay winners

Then our potluck dinner turned out to have just the right amount of everything.

Linda put together a lovely slide presentation with photos of past Rally's and a memorial to those who are no longer with us.

The evening was made complete by a roaring campfire under a crescent moon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In Search of the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Fred and I have had to admit that we are coffee snobs.
We don't need to drink coffee made from beans cultivated on a specific mountain peak picked by virgins during a full moon but we have found that we have very specific likes and dislikes when it comes to our favorite brew.
Stewarts coffee, an upstate New York treat, is our favored brew.
We brought 5 bags of it with us when we started our grand adventure.   Mary and Becky have generously sent us more.
Lissa and Clay have sent of a wonderful  blend from Stew Leonard's  that we have come to appreciate since she has become a Connecticut commuter.
We are grateful to them all.    We have consumed most of it and now down to our last few familiar beans we set out to visit Coffee shops in nearby Ashville North Carolina in search of the perfect cup.

Our first stop was Ashville Coffee Roasters, located at 85 Weaverville Highway in Ashville.

The shop was easy to find and has excellent parking available.
It is a delightful place, very relaxed and casual as a coffee shop should be. We stayed for a while talking to Greg and Andi, comparing New York places and experiences, as well as which Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor was the best.  We could not believe that Andi had never experienced Ben and Jerry's Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz or Pistachio flavors. She is a big fan of Pistachio ice cream so Fred called her later at the store when we found that flavor in a local supermarket.
Asheville Coffee Roaster's signature French Roast called Pitbull on Crack was a little intimidating as we prefer a mild and earthy flavor.   Co-owner Andi  recommended their Sumatran Blend which we found to be delicious and has the benefit of being extremely low acid. We replenished our dwindling coffee supply with a pound.
Greg told us about originating the Ashville coffee shop bus.  He acquired the  bright red 1963 double-decker English bus in 1999 and turned into an Ashville landmark.  The bus is still a coffee shop  and a great place to stop when you are downtown near it's Biltmore Avenue location.  Fred and I enjoyed looking through the photo album that they made to remember the bus by as they moved to their new and much roomier location.

We moved down the road to Biltmore Coffee Traders located at 518 Hendersonville Rd. in Asheville.
The shop has a drive through for those that prefer to order ahead.
Biltmore Coffee Roasters is a spacious 2 rooms with plenty of seating and free WiFi. There is a lovely garden in the back.
Biltmore is also a bakery and offers a selection of teas and local crafts as well as their signature coffees.
Laura and Rick Telford pride themselves on their micro roasts.  I had had enough coffee by this time.    Fred spoke with Rick at length about the different beans and Rick made him a robust cup of Guatemalan coffee.
We brought a pound of those beans back to the Behemoth too.

 Coffee Crisis averted we drove the 30 miles back to Marion enjoying the mountain views.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Amelia Island Florida

Amelia Island Lighthouse as viewed from Fort Clinch State Park
King's Bay Georgia is just over the Florida Georgia line so we took the opportunity to go back  and visit Amelia Island to try and catch a glimpse of the Amelia Island Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse, which is owned by the city of Fernandina Beach, is only open to the public on twice monthly bus tours which did not fit into our schedule.

Amelia Island Lighthouse is Florida's oldest still standing light. It was originally located on Cumberland island in Georgia as a marker for the St. Mary's River which runs between the two islands. Heavy storms caused changes in the channel  and made the light not visible from the water. It was dismantled in 1838 and reassembled on Amelia Island  where it could be used as a navigational aid for the channel.

We were told that the best views of the lighthouse were in a Florida State Park called Fort Clinch.

We entered the park's main gate and drove toward the Fort. There is a well marked Lighthouse viewing area with parking and a boardwalk out to the salt marsh.  We had a great view of the top of the 64 foot tower .  The outbuildings and lower half of the light were hidden by trees.

Fred found a great climbing tree

We did stop and walk the grounds of Fort Clinch, a military installation that was begun in 1847.  The fort was not completed and still had no cannons  in place by the outbreak of the Civil War.  Fort Clinch was deactivated in 1867, its stone and brick design having been made obsolete by the invention of the rifle barreled cannon.

The drawbridge entrance to Fort Clinch

Fort Clinch was used by military forces during WW2 as an observation and communication post for the Atlantic coast.

Climbing all over the fort and up and down all those stairs made us very warm. We took advantage of the restrooms at the visitors center to change into bathing suits and drove to the other side of the park to enjoy the beach.
The beach at Fort Clinch State Park, very quiet on a May weekday.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Lighthouse Adventure: St Simons Island

St Simon's Lighthouse
St. Simons Island is one of Georgia's barrier islands and home to the St. Simon's Lighthouse.

The island is a short day trip (about 50 miles) from Kings Bay and the Eagle Hammock RV Park at the Navy Submarine Base where we are staying.  It was a lovely drive along salt marsh over bridges and a causeway with great views of waterfront homes and boats on the water.

The St. Simon's Light is one of 5 Georgia lighthouses. It is an active aid to navigation on St. Simon Sound with a beam that can be seen 23 miles out to sea.

The lighthouse tower and keepers dwelling were designed by Great Lakes Chief Engineer Orlando Metcalfe Poe.   He assumed that position after serving as an officer in the United States Army during the Civil War. 

The "Poe Style" tower is a tall brick structure with a gentle taper from bottom to top.  Poe lights are embellished with arch topped windows and masonry corbels. It was his vision that a lighthouse could have the beauty and grandeur of a stately home while maintaining the feel of a government structure.  
View from an arched window in the tower
The St. Simons Lighthouse and it's keepers dwelling have been skillfully restored and are maintained by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society. The keepers home is now a museum that exhibits artifacts of a keepers lifestyle. The Docents working on the day of our visit were friendly and knowledgeable about the lighthouse and its restoration.

We learned that during WW2 when German U-boats prowled the Atlantic Coast the Coast Guard Station and Lighthouse keepers were active in rescuing survivors of the Esso Baton Rouge and the SS Oklahoma after both were torpedoed on April 8, 1942.

The waterfront lighthouse grounds are home to a Gazebo and oceanfront lawn that host a series of music concerts during the Summer months. The beautiful setting was being readied for a wedding ceremony on the day of our visit.

We climbed the towers spiral staircase of 129 steps and enjoyed the panoramic views from the open air observation deck.
129 steps to the observation deck
The climb had us looking for refreshment so we strolled down the beachfront boardwalk to the village and enjoyed a late lunch at the Blue Water Cafe's Rooftop Lounge. We chose the cafe for its water views but were delighted by it's interior design that features signs and sports memorabilia.  It made us laugh to see that hockey sticks and snow shoes were part of the display.

Blue water Café and Rooftop Lounge

Sunday, May 17, 2015

RV Park review: Eagle Hammock SUBASE King's Bay Georgia

USS George Bancroft on display at the bases main gate
Eagle Hammock RV Park is located on the Navy's Submarine base in Kings Bay Georgia.
Fred is a retired Air Force/Air National Guard Master Sergeant.  One of the benefits of his service is that we can stay at Military campgrounds called MWR Fam-camps across the country.

We stayed at Eagle Hammock for 9 days.
It is a a quiet park that is well maintained.   The sites are neat with concrete pads, metal picnic tables, and fire rings. Sites are separated by shrubs that camouflage the hookups for water, electric, sewer and cable TV.

Amenities include  excellent  free wifi, free laundry, clean bathroom and shower areas and a large clubhouse.
Sunset over the lake
The RV Park is adjacent to a small lake that is populated by alligators and a variety of birds including cormorant, wood stork and egret. We never did see an eagle.
There is a fishing pier and small boat launch.  We enjoyed watching the sunset from the pier.  It is a little disturbing  that when you walk out on the pier alligators start swimming toward you.  We came to the conclusion that people must feed them and that they were looking for a handout.

Looking for a snack
The roads in the park are loose gravel, making them difficult to navigate on a bicycle.  Outside the park the base contains 14 1/2 miles of running/bike trails for riding.
King's Bay is a full service base with Commissary, Base Exchange, Mini Market/Package Store and gas station.   It has its own Post office and a recreation area that offers a bowling alley, large gym, 18 hole golf course and a pool.

We would definitely stay here again.
The location gave us easy access to Jacksonville and to Florida and Georgia's Barrier Islands.

My only disappointment  is that the submarines are off limits and so carefully guarded that we didn't even catch the glimpse of a periscope. The only sub that we saw was the USS George Bancroft, a  static display at the bases main gate.


It was nice to enjoy a campfire after the burn bans in Florida all Winter.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Butterfly Rainforest

My favorite mosaic moth named Charaxes brutus
Fred and I made a trip north to Gainesville last Thursday to visit the Florida Museum of Natural History.
The museum is on the campus of the University of Florida at Gainesville and is in a complex that includes a Butterfly Rainforest, a Florida Wildlife and Butterfly Garden, the Harn Museum of Art and the Phillips Center for the Performing Art's.
UF Gainesville is a beautiful campus that welcomed us with both ample parking and outdoor art exhibits.

Outdoor art exhibit
We spent some time wandering through the exhibits which included Florida fossils, Waterways and Wildlife and Calusa and Seminole native peoples.

We even met a traveling T. Rex named Sue!

The crowning jewel of the complex and our reason for visiting was the Butterfly Rainforest. The rainforest is an outdoor screened in enclosure that is beautifully landscaped with walking paths waterfalls and trickling streams.

Butterfly gate in wrought iron

It is planted with lush foliage and flowering plants to provide a rainforest environment for the hundreds of butterfly's that call it home.


Common Birdwing

Atlas Moth, the largest in the exhibit

Fred was a butterfly magnet. Several landed on him and visited for a while.

Tree Nymph

Cream Spotted Tiger Wing
To see more butterfly's you can visit our Flickr Album.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Paynes Prairie at Sunset

Sunset over Payne's Prairie

We made it back to the overlook on Highway 441 in Micanopy yesterday evening to watch the sunset over Payne's Prairie.

There were about 10 cars there so we were not the only ones to realize that Sunset over the prairie would be a beautiful thing.

The light of the evening sun on the prairie grasses was beautiful.

There was also a rising moon.

To see more photographs of this beautiful Florida State Park visit our Flickr Album Payne's Prairie.