Tag Archives: Florida

We Return to Camp Barlow
March 29, 2009
St. Mary’s, GA, Crooked River State Park, Site 53 — 1 day
Sunday, March 29, 2009 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 10 Months
Monday, March 16.  After a two-week stay, we leave Miami.
By the lake channel is a one-way street with shaded picnic tables in a park.

By the lake channel is a one-way street with shaded picnic tables in a park.

We left Miami at nine and we arrived at the southwest end of Lake Okeechobee by 11:15 am.  It was an easy drive.  From Thompson Park on184th, we went west to SR-997 and turned north to merge onto US-27.  It is a decent two-lane boulevard that brought us to Lake Okeechobee.

When we were small my sister and I would joke about the lake because the name sounded funny to us. Because of this memory, I was curious to see the lake so we stopped in Clewiston.  From the road, Lake Okeechobee is entirely hidden on all sides by a tall levee.

I chose Okeechobee Landing RV Park because with Passport America it costs $27.  A work volunteer assigned us to Site 8 in a row near the entrance and close to the highway.  We backed into our site and it was a very tight spot with empty sites nearby that were much larger.  Once situated, we discovered we only had 30-amp.  And we discovered that empty sites next to us had 50-amp. Why did this guy place us where he did?   I later discovered that he doesn’t usually work the desk and assign sites.  He didn’t know what he was doing.  I wanted to complain and move but Dennis didn’t want to bother.  30-amp means we must be careful about overloading the system and we can’t run all our utilities.  We used one A/C in the living room, (zone one), but we needed the other zones turned on.  It was uncomfortably warm in the afternoon/evening.

We went out in the car and drove to the lake and up onto the levee at a boat launch ramp.  There was a one-way lane with a line of picnic tables with shade roofs.  You could sit here on top of the levee and look down at the lake — but there was no lake.  We saw a large, deep channel with marshy grasses as far as the eye could see towards the interior of the lake.  Where was the lake itself?

We brought the dogs with us to give them a walk but there was a sign that said, “No Pets”.  We stopped at a table and I talked to a woman sitting there.  She said we could park and walk the dogs down the paved levee path that is blocked to vehicles.  I said, “Where’s the lake?”  She told me that on this end it is all marsh but on the northwest end you can see the water.  I asked about the levee.  She said there was a flood in 1942 that killed “thousands” and so “the WPA built the levee”.

Later I did a little research on the matter.  Lake Okeechobee was formed about 6,000 years ago when ocean waters receded and water was left standing in a shallow depression.  The Seminole tribe named it Okeechobee or Big Water.  The lake served as a direct source of water to the Everglades by way of small tributaries passing out of the lake’s southern end.

Developers changed the lake.  In the 1890s Hamilton Disston constructed a canal from Lake Okeechobee to Lake Hicpochee, the headwaters of the Caloosahatchee River, providing the lake’s first outlet to tidewater.  Other canals continued to drain water from the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.  The goal was to drain the Everglades for agricultural purposes.

Originally, a small muck levee was constructed along the southern shore of the lake to protect small towns and farms that arose by the lake. However, in 1926 and 1928 major hurricanes struck south Florida. One of them generated a storm surge in the lake that flooded coastal areas and hundreds of acres to the south, resulting in approximately 2,000 deaths.  The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) lead efforts to prevent future tragedies of that scale. They built the Herbert Hoover Dike Exit DEP Disclaimer, an earthen levee that surrounds the lake’s perimeter.  Today, except for Fisheating Creek, all discharges into and out of the lake are artificially controlled by a system of canals and levees built by the Corps.  These water management activities have greatly encumbered the water flow from the Big O to the Everglades. Instead of alternating wet and dry seasons, which provided steady sheets of water, the Everglades now receive times of drought or powerful discharges of water.

Today Lake Okeechobee links the Atlantic and Gulf sides of Florida via the Port Mayaca Lock on the east side of the lake and the Moore Haven Lock on the lake’s western side. Drainage canals lower the lake and drain adjacent lands for farming. Agricultural activities around the Lake Okeechobee area include cattle ranching, dairy farming, and crop production of sugarcane, winter vegetables, citrus, sod, sweet corn and rice. The lake is approximately 37 miles long by 30 miles wide, totaling over 730 square miles with an average depth of only 10 feet. To fishermen nationwide, it’s renowned for the number of bass it contains per acre. Lake Okeechobee produces more bass over 7 pounds than any lake in Florida and the United States.

We walk the dogs on the levee path above the lake channel on the right.

We walk the dogs on the levee path above the lake channel on the right.

We walked the dogs along the levee for about a mile each way.  It was 1:30 by then and although I thought we had cloud cover, it was sunny and hot.  The paved path was easy to walk and there was no one around so Dennis let Margot go free.  Rudi was content to trot along so I kept him on his leash.  Margot scampered back and forth and for once she got enough exercise.  She was hot and panting when we got back to car where we keep water in a bowl for the dogs.

There wasn’t much to see but it was pleasant to take a walk and let Margot run.  We saw some herons and also a few alligators.  By the edge of the water there is a steep drop covered by retaining wire Gabion Baskets.  So Margot could not easily get to the water for a drink but I worried.  She doesn’t know about alligators.  She thinks she is the hunter and she bounds high over the grasses when she sees movement.  She was riveted by the great blue herons.  No chance she would get near one but if she did she’d be sorry.  A large hawk or eagle make tight circles over us at a low elevation.  He was definitely interested in our little white dogs and we called them close.

Tuesday, March 17.  We drive to St. Augustine, FL on St. Patrick’s Day.
Morning.  Last night, we used our computers and in the evening Dennis turned on the living room TV.  We were making tacos when the power blew but it wasn’t because he turned on something extra like the microwave.  It was a power surge.  Everything went down.  The bus has built-in power surge protection.  And the 50-amp hookup has power surge protection, but the 30-amp does not.  It completely blew out the GFS (ground circuits on the bus).  Dinner went on hold while Dennis tried everything.  The computers and microwave and lights came back on.  But the King Dome for the satellite, the TVs and some electric outlets were dead.  We never got them fixed, so there went my program, Dancing With the Stars.  Why does something always happen on a Monday night?

Fortunately, we still had our computers so I continued my work on our summer itinerary plans.  I sure have a great trip planned.  So far I’ve planned three months and covered both the coastline and mountains of Georgia, South and North Carolina and Virginia.  We will be near Richmond, VA looking at the James River plantations the last full week of April, which is Virginia’s Historic Garden week.  Many historic homes and gardens will be open that week only.  I missed the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC because it reaches its peak on April 3rd.  We will be there in early May.  But as it happens we land in Philadelphia the first week of July so I will try to attend an outdoor Fourth of July pops concert in the city of our countries birth.  Probably we can’t do half of what I’ve planned.  But if you have a plan, it is likely you will see more than otherwise.  It’s adjustable, so we will see.   We are supposed to travel with Betty and Jay but they have their own agenda so I am going to go ahead with mine.  Maybe we can hook up here and there.

This morning Dennis will call Tiffin and find out what we need to do to restore power.  I hope it is simple and not complicated. We only came 100 miles yesterday, so if repairs are required, we will probably travel the remaining 256 miles as quickly as possible to Jerry’s.  I was going to stop enroute to see my cousin, Caroline Peeke.  She and her husband retired near Orlando but I discovered they are in St. Paul, MN visiting family.  We will try to catch them when we return in November.

I carry a small notebook into RV offices to fill out address, license numbers, etc.  I’m going to add a checklist to this and be more vigilant about asking questions.  We need 50-amp.  Paying any amount of money for 30-amp is ridiculous.  If we’d parked at Wal*Mart last night and used our generator we would have been better off.  A power surge from inadequate wiring in old parks is not acceptable.

Later.   Dennis talked to Brent Bullard, a tech support guy at Tiffin, before we left Clewiston.  It turns out that the one thing we didn’t try last night was to turn on the generator.  I did suggest it to Dennis but he said it wouldn’t help and I couldn’t see how it would either so I didn’t insist.  I should have said, “Let’s try just because…” Brent told us to turn on the generator.  When we did the King dome, TVs and everything else came back on.  It was the shore power that was defective, although we had lights and some things worked.  If we’d known we could have watched TV.  But it was good we learned about what to do.  We thought we might have an expensive electric bill if our wires had been burned out.

We left at 9:50 am and drove 268 miles all the way through to St. Augustine.  We arrived at 3:30 pm so what with a few stops we averaged our usual 50 mph.  We went on a principle highway, SR-78 around the north side of Lake Okeechobee.  It was nice country with small cattle ranches and many RV retirement parks.  At Okeechobee we turned north on SR-441 and then took SR-70 E to Ft. Pierce where we turned north on I-95.  This was an excellent two-lane freeway and the entire drive was very easy.  We started out at 80° but the sky got more and more cloudy and it was 70° by the time we arrived in St. Augustine.

Marsha was expecting us and was here when we arrived but just on her way out.  She has to stay at her daughter’s house and baby-sit for a week because both parents must be out of town.  Jerry was surprised when he pulled in at 6:30 pm.  He is captain of a tennis team and he was in Jacksonville for playoff games.  We went into the house and visited for a while and then we all turned in early.  His team won and he has two more final quarters for his team to make it to the state finals.

Wednesday, March 18.  Our first day in St. Augustine.
Today Marsha is at Nicole’s house getting the kids off to school.  She kept Marisa, four, at home from pre-school, so she is busy.  Jerry went off at 8:45 am to pick up his partner, Paul, for their weekly game of golf.  We decided to go out to do some errands.  We found the Beachcomber Restaurant on A1A and A St. in St. Augustine Beach.  We ate there last time we were here.  There are picnic tables on a patio by the sand dunes right next to the beach.  It was windy and a bit chilly at 67° but it was fun to sit outside anyway.  We had an early lunch at eleven o’clock.  Then we drove to Camper World because Dennis has to buy an extra extension of hose to reach Jerry’s sewer dump.

In the evening Marsha came home with Marisa and Page, fifteen, and we were joined by Aila, four, Marisa’s girlfriend and her mother, Sharone.  Marsha and Jerry threw together hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner.

Thursday, March 19.  I have lunch with Marsha.

We go out on the dock to enjoy the view of the Intercoastal.

We go out on the dock to enjoy the view of the Intercoastal.

This morning Jerry was around until noon and then he took off for a golf game with Paul and another couple.  Together we hooked his truck to the Denali and backed it up close to the driveway by the house.  Dennis backed up and pulled in behind the Denali and we barely fit without our tail end sticking out into the entrance gravel driveway.  Then we hooked up to the sewer.  But our cord is not long enough to plug into the 50-amp outlet by the house.

Marsha came over after she got Marisa to school.  Jerry took off and Dennis went to Camper World to buy more 50-amp power cord.  Later we discovered that Jerry’s electrician put in 30-amp, not 50-amp as Jerry requested.

Marsha invited me out to lunch so we went to a vegetarian restaurant called the Manitee Café. She left to pick up the kids and I threw together a chicken pasta dinner for Dennis and Jerry.  Jerry made a salad and garlic bread.  We reminisced about Mom and Dad and the family.

Friday, March 20.  Ostara, the Equinox.  Marsha gives me information to do errands.
Nicole and Ernesto both come home tonight so Marsha will be free from duty after she gets the kids to school.

Marsha has an RV trip planned to go to the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Zion and Bryce in their fifth wheel.  She also wants to visit her son, Trey and his wife and new baby in San Diego.  They plan to do all this in six weeks!  I volunteered to help Marsha with her itinerary because I don’t think Jerry wants to put in 300-mile days of driving every day for six weeks!  I want them to have a good time and not get too worn out. I don’t think they can do everything she’s planned in six weeks.

Marsha and Jerry invited us out to lunch.  We followed them because she has Marisa with her.  We drove to Hurricane Grill & Wings and ate outdoors behind a plexiglass windshield.  The weather is windy and partly cloudy in high fifties, low sixties.  Afterwards we grocery shopped at Winn-Dixie and got back to bus by three.

Marsha helped me find people for my errands:  cleaners for our bedspread & shams, groomer for the dogs, tailor for Dennis’s pants, stylist to cut my hair, salon for nails, and optometrist to get new glasses.  I have appointments for next week.

Later we all sat around the kitchen bar and snacked on a shrimp appetizer with bread and wine.

Saturday, March 21.  We run some errands.
Today Nicole and Ernesto are giving a joint birthday party for their daughter, Marisa, who turns four, and his daughter, Lauren, who turns ten.  Lauren lives with her mother near Orlando.  The entire tribe of Ernesto’s Puerto Rican family is coming to the party from Orlando, as well as all of Marisa’s little friends and their parents.  Marsha and Jerry put in an appearance but Dennis and I passed.  We went out to do errands.  We took our bedspread and shams to Dockside Cleaners and then we went to Lonnie’s Alterations to shorten the pants we bought for Dennis at Tommy Bahama’s in Kansas City way back in July of 2007!

In the evening, Marsha put the leftover shrimp in a salad for dinner.  We contributed strawberry shortcake for dessert.

Sunday, March 22.  We visit Pat Barlow’s grave.
Jerry asked if we’d like to go out to breakfast and we met at 9:30 am.  Dennis drove the four of us.  We went to the Palm Grill and I had a spinach omelet.

After breakfast I asked if we could go to Pat’s cemetery.  We stopped at a Publix for a few groceries and I bought a live flowers in a small pot and then went to St. Augustine Memorial Park.  Jerry had to search for a while and finally found her stone towards the back near a big tree.  Jerry and Patricia Hathaway married on Long Island, NY in 1953 when I was thirteen.  Pat was an only child and she was thrilled to have sisters by marriage.  She was a good big sister to me. Patricia J. Hathaway Barlow was born in New York on Feb. 12, 1933 and died in Florida on Oct. 2, 1990. She and Jerry were highschool sweethearts. They were married for over 36 years and had three children, Jerry, Scott, and Tara.

Marsha’s ex-husband died recently so we also drove down the road to the Catholic cemetery, San Lorenzo, to see the imposing headstone put up by Nicole for her father, Andrew Joseph DuPont, Jr.

After our cemetery visits, Marsha suggested we go to downtown St. Augustine.  It was crowded and all the parking lots were full.  We got permission from the owner to park behind his shop at H W Davis because he knows Jerry and Marsha.  He has a special brand of blue jeans that are lightweight that Jerry wears.  We found two pairs in Dennis’s size so we bought them plus a shirt.    After that we came back to the bus.

Marsha made a chicken spinach salad for dinner.  It was superb.  I really have to learn to make this.  They served it with garlic bread.

Wednesday, March 25.  I finally upgrade my prescription and get new glasses.
On Monday I went to Marsha’s stylinst, Jen and got my hair done. Yesterday it was the dog’s turn. Early in the morning I dropped them at a very chi-chi salon called Pet Paradise. Later, Marsha and I got our nails done.

Today we went to see Richard A. Greene, O.D., P.A.  in St. Augustine and I finally bought new frames for my everyday distance glasses.  I kept the frames for my reading and dark glasses and got new lenses for them.  It’s been years so finally I am seeing through my correct prescription.  The one for my left eye has really changed.  It is a very thick lense.

Thursday, March 26.  Marsha and I go shopping.
Marsha had to see her doctor near Jacksonville.  I waited for her at Starbucks and bought a book to read.  It was very pleasant sitting outside.

We drove to the Sawgrass Shopping Mall and shopped at Chico’s.  I bought white jeans, a pink tank top and a lovely, thin, floral blouse.  Marsha was looking for two outfits for a church wedding and a wedding on their dock but she didn’t find anything.

We drove to a huge shopping mall in Jacksonville.  We had lunch at PJ Changs (lettuce wraps) and then looked in stores.  Miracle of miracles, they had a Pottery Barn.  I replaced my little $3 glass vase that broke on one of our drives.  I got a red cover for my button pillow and bought a new couch pillow — beige with red & blue stripes.  I got a lantern to put on the windshield for a summer theme decoration.  I’m going to decorate it with a rope, shells, and a candle.  In Anthropologie I found some Christmas gifts.

For dinner, Jerry and Marsha cooked a new recipe, Shrimp & Sirloin Sizzle.  We have fun sitting and talking to them every evening.

Saturday, March 28.  Our last day in St. Augustine.
Yesterday was overcast and rainy and today it was overcast all day.  I finished up #121 about Tampa and Miami and posted it.  We never went out.  Jerry and Marsha did a steak dinner.  After we went to bed there was an electric storm.  Our bedroom window faces north and I had a clear view of sheet and forked lightening.  It poured rain on and off and that is noisy on our roof.  Fortunately it held off until I finished watching “The Garden of Good and Evil”.  The setting for that movie is in Savannah where we will go next.

Sunday, March 29.  We drive to Crooked River State Park, St. Mary’s, Georgia.
Marsha served up a steak and egg breakfast before we left.  She and Jerry have been so good to us.  Now we’re back on the road.  We left about 10:30 am.  After breakfast I followed the bus to Flying J where Dennis hooked up the car.  The parking lot there was very crowded.

I-95 N as we drove through Jacksonville was also crowded.  The snowbirds and everyone else are on the road.  We stopped at the Georgia Visitor’s Center (very crowded) and they said it would be less busy after Easter (April 12th).  I hope so.

We arrived at Crooked River State Park just after one o’clock.  We drove the car through the campground and found a big site with southern sky exposure.  Number 53 is private and very nice.  We are in pine trees with palmetto undergrowth. Nearby, the Crooked River flows east into Cumberland Sound.

The weather today is perfect — sunny and warm but with a beautiful, cool sea breeze.  I love it.

We drove into St. Mary’s and got information about taking the ferry to Cumberland Island tomorrow.  St. Mary’s River flows east into Cumberland Sound. It is south of the Crooked River. Both rivers lead to Cumberland Island.

There are two ferry companies in St. Mary’s and they are not clearly distinguished so it is confusing.  We parked by a dock with flags and a sign that gave ferry information.  But the times and days were not as I had understood them to be.  This was a private ferry service.  We walked down the sidewalk and came to the ferry run by the National Park Service and confirmed that it would operate tomorrow.  There are two departures at 9:00 and 11:45 am.  We decided nine is too early and would make for too long of a day.  Tomorrow, we can buy tickets between 11:00 and 11:30 for the 11:45 am ferry.

We grocery shopped because we have take a picnic lunch.  There are no cars and no places to eat on Cumberland Island.  We bought deli slices of meat and cheese, lettuce, fruit, nuts and trail mix.  The ferry costs $15 round trip and it takes 40 minutes each way.  It returns at 4:45 pm so we will be gone without car or restaurant for five hours.  Is this a good idea?

We Drive to Key West and Back
March 15, 2009
Miami, FL, Thompson Memorial Park, Pod 6, Site 4 — 14 days
Sunday, March 15, 2009 — Fulltimers 1 Year & 10 Months
Thursday, March 12.  We drive to Key West — and back.
We stop for breakfast at Mrs. Mac's Kitchen.

We stop for breakfast at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen.

Today we decided to make the big effort to drive a long ways to see as much as possible of the keys — Key Largo and points south towards Key West.  I don’t want to leave Miami without seeing something of the famous causeways stretched across the ocean between the long, narrow string of islands.  Also we want to scout for possible RV parks that work for us.  Next time we could drive down on the bus and stay for awhile.

This time we got on the toll road to head south towards Homestead where it merges into FL-5 & US- 1 in Florida City and then passes south along the eastern edge of the Southern Glades Wildlife & Environmental Area. It took us 48 minutes to arrive in Key Largo at Mile Marker 105.  Here we stopped at the very helpful Visitor’s Center.

By 10:20 am we were five miles down the road by a marina at Laguna Beach and seated in Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen for breakfast.  Owned and operated by the Wittke sisters, this restaurant is a long time landmark in Key Largo.  Casual and crowded, the atmosphere reminded me of Alice’s Restaurant up on Woodside Rd and Skyline Blvd. in Woodside, CA at the La Honda Crossroads. http://www.cutesmalldogs.com/Pages/

The mile marker number describes locations on the keys.  On Key Largo, Mile Markers start at 106 on the north and end at 91 in the south.  Bearing the name of the 1948 Humphrey Bogart movie, Key Largo is called the Diving Capital of the World.  It is most famous for its beautiful offshore reef, found in John Pennekamp Park and the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary. We left Mrs. Mac’s at 11:20 and  admired the lovely blue-green hues of Key Largo’s waters as we passed through the towns of Tavernler and Plantation Key and started over a series of narrow island strips called Islamorada.

Is that Conch Island?

Is that Conch Island?

We passed Windley Key and Upper Matecumbe Key and then stopped at noon by the Teatable Key Channel, MM 80, to look at the water.  Heading south on the causeway we saw the two tiny islands of Indian and Lignumvitae Keys and then passed onto the Lower Matecumbe Key.

On Islamorada, Mile Markers start at 90 in the north and end at 65.  Islamorada, or “the Purple Isles” was named by Spanish explorers centuries ago.  The area is known for world-class sport fishing.  We passed Anne’s Beach and started on another long causeway to Marathon, passing the tiny islands of Conch and Duck Keys and crossing Tom’s Harbor bridges along the way.

At 12:40 pm near Grassy Key we stopped at a Big K/Shell station for fuel.  We had a 75° partly cloudy, breezy day for our drive.

On Marathon, Mile Markers start at 64 in the north and end at 43.  Marathon is known as the “Heart of the Keys” because it’s the midpoint of the island chain.  The town’s roots go back to a fishing village and it has evolved into a quiet family vacation place.

At 1:00 pm, we continued south past Crawl Key and Key Colony Beach, Vaca Key, Boot Key and Knight’s Key to MM 45 where we entered the Seven Mile Bridge to Lower Keys.

Detail of Lower Keys

Detail of Lower Keys

On the Lower Keys, Mile Markers start at 36 in the north and end at 5.  Seven Mile Bridge ends with a series of bridges over small round islands.  From Little Duck Key & Beach, we crossed on the Missouri-Little Duck Bridge to Missouri Key and then crossed the Ohio-Missouri Bridge to Ohio Key where we stopped to see an RV park at MM 39.

We went into the office and drove all around Sunshine Key RV Resort & Marina to get some idea of what you can expect of RV parks in the keys and the price ranges.  Ohio Key is bisected by US-1 and Sunshine Key on the Bayside is, in effect a 72-acre peninsula that takes up all of that side of the island.  For an RV site, we were astounded to discover that they are charging upwards of $1,800 per month, depending on the season.

I was not impressed because at that particular time and place there was a wide strip of mud exposed between land and water on much of Marathon and the other keys.  It had the rank, gassy smell of rotting vegetation, the sort of smell you find in marshy areas.  It was very strong in the sites at Sunshine Key RV Park.

We crossed the Ohio-Bahia Honda Bridge and stopped at the Bahia Honda State Park.  However, we couldn’t enter without paying the $6 fee.  It wasn’t worth it because we didn’t have time to stay so we missed seeing this RV Park.  Prices aren’t listed on their brochure.

“In for a penny, in for a pound.”  It was 1:30 pm and we were 35 miles from Key West so we decided to make it to the end.  We passed the Keys of Big Pine, Cudjoe, Saddlebunch, Big Coppit, and Boca Chica Key and at Stock Island we wound our way down the last five miles to Key West.

A Key West Victorian B & B.

A Key West Victorian B & B.

In the Lower Keys, Mile Markers start at 36 in the north and go to 5.  Anchored by Big Pine Key, the Lower Keys are the largest and least developed in the island chain. Famous for Key Deer and an abundance of other wildlife, the Lower Keys are sought by those who truly want to get away from it all. The trek through the Lower Keys is a sedate preface to the busy clamor ahead in Key West.

By the time we turned around on Eaton St. and Truman Ave. it was 2:45 pm and we had 142 miles ahead of us to return to the bus.  No time to stop and look around but we got the general idea and I’m glad we got a fast survey of all the keys.  We made it back to the bus by 6:10 pm.  Our poor Cotons had been alone for nine hours.  They were fine and had held their water so they were good little dogs.  If we’d known that we would not be leaving the car but driving all day, we could have taken them with us.

Saturday, March 14.  We see the film, “Revolutionary Road” and discover Cocowalk.
Yesterday we did a big grocery shopping but otherwise we staid “at home” and rested.

Today we drove back to Coconut Grove and found AMC Theaters Cocowalk 16 where we saw a mid afternoon showing of “Revolutionary Road”.  I read the book and I was very anxious to see how the characters were portrayed.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s a wonderful film.

AMC Theatres Cocowalk 16 is located in this mall.

AMC Theatres Cocowalk 16 is located in this mall.

Cocowalk turned out to be a three-story outdoor mall that offered stores and restaurants as well as the theater.  It was a lovely, warm early evening and we enjoyed walking around the patio and the two decks above looking at the people and all the sights.  We finally settled on a little outdoor bar that served delicious quesadillas.  It was great fun to enjoy good food and participate in the lively, colorful ambience.  I loved it.

Sunday, March 15.  I plan our summer, eastern seaboard itinerary. 
Today I walked the dogs and then I sat outside in the shade.  I got my Reader’s Digest book, “The Most Scenic Drives in America; 120 Spectacular Road Trips” and spent hours making an itinerary for the rest of the summer on the east coast.  There are so many beautiful places to see.

So far I’ve got Cumberland Island and the other islands on the coastline of Georgia to Savannah.  We will see Hilton Head Island and move up the South Carolina coastline to Charleston.  We will stay at Huntington Beach State Park to visit friends and then move up past Myrtle Beach to Jacksonville.  We will see Cape Lookout National Seashore and up the North Carolina coastline to the Outer Banks Highway and Cape Hatteras.

In Richmond, VA I have the James River Plantations planned for Virginia Historic Garden Week at April 19th to the 25th.  After seeing Williamsburg, we will go over to Cape Charles and up the cape to see the Assateague National Island Seashore.   In early May we will spend a week in Washington DC.

After that we will move to the mountains to take Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park and then continue south on the Blue Ridge Parkway through the Appalachians and the Carolina countryside to Nantahala National Forest, the Smoky Mountains and the Cherokee Foothills in the southern Appalachians at the Georgia border.

From the mountains we must quickly retrace our path north to see the Brandywine Valley with the Dupont mansions and the Wyeth art museum near Wilmington, DE.  This puts us near Philadelphia during fourth of July week so perhaps we can be near the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the Concert and Fireworks.

There is a mango grove by the office and the pool.

There is a mango grove by the office and the pool.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten but I think our summer sightseeing tours will be fantastic.  We’ve never seen any of these places.  I hope it works well for us in terms of roads and finding RV parks, etc.  I love planning stuff like this and I had a good time with my maps.  When I get a chance I will type it and make improvements.  If you have suggestions, please let me know.

I saw my wild dog at the fence so I got a pizzle stick and went to meet him. Much to my surprise I met two dogs. One is smaller and is subordinate to the larger dog.

Tomorrow we will begin to drive north to visit my brother and sister-in-law in St. Augustine, FL. On our way, I thought we might stop near Okeechobee Lake to get a better look at it. It’s very big.

Florida Tornado and Siblings Unite
June 19, 2007

St. Augustine, FL, Day Ten at Camp Barlow

Day Thirty-five in our bus.


It was very hot on Sunday and Monday and we spent part of both days driving to RV sales lots to look at fifth wheels for Jerry and Marsha. Because I’m from California where weather stays very much the same each day, I got into a mindset that everyday would be similar — hot and sunny. On Tuesday, we got a surprise.

In the morning we walked the dogs on the beach. Marsha and Jerry had appointments but their houseguest, Teri, walked with us on the wide beach. The beach here is miles long and with a permit, people are allowed to drive on it. They bring all their gear, park on the beach and set up for the day. But this was early and the sky was overcast. We had it to ourselves. The dogs loved it and wore themselves out running back and forth on their extended leashes. We walked about a mile on the firm low tide sand, south down to the Matanzas bridge and back.

We returned about eleven. The dogs were wet and sandy. I rubbed them down and left them tied outside the bus. They like the thick, matted grass because it is cool and cushy. It was hot in the bus. Marsha and Jerry had decided on their fifth wheel and bought a 30’ Dinali. Jerry had promised to deliver his camper to Gore RV sales as a trade-in. He and Dennis worked to load it on Jerry’s truck. When they were ready they asked Teri and I if we wanted to go with them. We could stop for lunch afterwards. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision. Teri and I got into the back of Jerry’s super cab. Dennis drove. We left the bus with the dogs tied up outside (to stay cool), door open but screen door shut, windows open and the vents on the roof up with fans running.

There were dark clouds on the horizon but we’d gotten used to the overcast and didn’t think about it. Jerry didn’t say anything about a storm brewing. Merrily we drove away. We drove about fifteen minutes to Gore’s RV and pulled in just as it began to sprinkle. Jerry said, “We’ll unload this real quick and then go back home to make sure everything is OK.” He went to get a salesman. Then it began to rain hard. No one wanted to unload the camper and now we worried about rain getting into the bus. With the camper still on the truck we turned back towards Jerry’s home.

Jerry, a Korean Veteran, is ever the optimist. “Don’t worry. Lots of times it rains on the west side of the Intercoastal and never makes it to the east side.” But within minutes it became clear that this wasn’t going to be the case. Suddenly we were in a downpour and a very strong wind had come up. We approached the bridge over the Intercoastal but within minutes we couldn’t see the road. We pulled over. Gale winds buffeted the top-heavy truck and debris flew around us. Later we discovered that it was a tornado with 65 mph winds. We were on elevated ground and out in the open so we caught the brunt of it. We waited for the worst to pass through and then slowly drove over the bridge. I was afraid we’d be blown over sideways into the water. We were all worried about the bus and the dogs. Finally we pulled into Jerry’s yard.

I was amazed at the dogs. They were calm and showed good sense. They had crawled under the bus by the steps and the front door. They were wet and lying next to each other and peering out at us when we got to them. They didn’t bark or act excited. They were quiet and subdued. In the wind and downpour I unclipped their leashes and got them inside. I’d left their towels outside and we had no extra towels. Jerry went running to get all the towels in the house. The bus was drenched from stem to stern. Dennis and I went running around closing windows and vents. Jerry came with towels and we began to mop up water. I quickly toweled the dogs and told them to get in their beds, which they did very promptly.

My monitor and keyboard were wet but my Mac G5 is protected under my “desk,” the dining table. Dennis’s router and laptop were wet. The printer was wet. All the counters and furniture were wet. Bedding and carpet were wet. Thank goodness our floors are tiled and not carpeted (except the bedroom). They were puddles of water. We pulled the plugs on the computers and printers and wiped everything dry. Jerry scooped four small juice glasses of water out of the pocket behind my passenger chair. It was swiveled around with the back facing the open window and door

It was still pouring rain when we finished with the bus. We carried the dogs into the house and I toweled them dry again. I put them on a blanket that I found lying on the garage floor. It was an old throw from Jerry’s camper. Teri had been working on picking up the house. The screened-in porch in the house was a mess with chairs blown over and broken potted plants thrown on the floor. The wood Adirondack chairs on the dock were blown over. One was in the water but they are tied down and can be fished out again. Jerry’s red lifesaver chair and his Camp Barlow sign were blown over. A small corner of the metal roof had peeled up. Some siding from a neighboring house came off. All things considered, not too much damage

Dennis was so mad at himself. He kept saying, “I’ve read about this. I’ve read the warnings: ‘Never leave your bus open to the elements anywhere except in California. Weather can change quickly everywhere else in the country.’” We made a huge beginner’s mistake: we left the bus. We left the bus open and blithely took off — without a thought.

Nothing was damaged and everything dried out. The computers and printers are fine. The pillows dried with no visible water damage. I had to use Marsha’s large washer and dryer to dry our bed coverlet and we did a lot of laundries for the sheets and all the towels. The large electric awning performed exactly as advertised; it retracts automatically when sensors detect wind. The bands that hold down the smaller awnings all snapped off their hooks and rolled up. However, all were in good shape and no damage was sustained.

We got off easy. I kept saying to Dennis, “This is a good lesson. We’ll never let this happen again.” Now I’ve memorized the location of the three toggle switches that raise and lower the three fan vents. I don’t want to lose any time getting them closed when it starts to rain!

(It takes 15 sec. to lower each vent and in addition, maybe something over a minute for one person to close all the windows. There are 8 windows plus the door in the living area. There are 4 more in the bathroom & bedroom areas. Some slide vertically and have a difficult hook. Some slide horizontally and are heavy to push or pull. Despite silicone lubricant treatments, they tend to stick.)

Marsha came home and fixed us hot dogs. It was perfect for hungry people who just finished battling the elements. We were starving and we were celebrating the fact that we had not suffered any permanent damage. We had a hilarious late lunch as we discussed our wet and windy adventure.


We greatly enjoyed meeting Teri. She works for the University of Texas at Austin so we hope to visit her there whenever we pass through that area. Before she left we all enjoyed a dinner by the ocean at a small local seafood restaurant, South Beach Grill on St. Augustine Beach.

Everyone loves Jerry’s dock that sits over the Intercoastal. You can swim and there is always a cool breeze off the water. It faces the bridge and you can sit to watch the sunset. On Wednesday, two of Marsha’s co-workers, Alan and Kevin, (middle school teachers) came by with a bunch of summer camp kids in two boats. We all watched while they swam to the beach and ran out on the dock to jump in the water and do it all over again. Oh to have that kind of energy again!

The dogs love it here. Now they are so clear about where the front door to their bus/home is located and the doors to the Barlow house and the perimeters of the front yard and the side and back yard (the Intercoastal and the dock) that we let them run free whenever we are outdoors to keep an eye on them. Rudi stole granddaughter Marisa’s foam soccer ball and has been having a wonderful time wrangling it around the beach and in the water. The dogs have been made to feel welcome in the house and promptly made themselves comfortable on one of Marsha and Jerry’s soft chairs.


We were able to dump our gray (washing) water into the bushes at the side of Jerry’s yard (by an empty lot), but the day came when the black tank registered full. Dennis had to move the bus off the soft lawn and drive to Flying J to dump the holding tank. It took some worry and maneuvering to get off the lawn and straightened out on the long driveway. Then Dennis had to back out onto A1A south. Jerry stopped the traffic. No one seemed to mind. By then, Jerry’s camper was moved so when Dennis and Jerry returned, Dennis was able to park the bus on the side loop of the gravel driveway.


My brother, Jerry Barlow, is nine years older and my sister, Sally Barlow Perez, is 21 months younger than me. Our parents moved from Port Washington, Long Island, New York when I was ten years old so Sally and I grew up in Redondo Beach on the west coast and we remained in the west as adults. Jerry remained on the east coast and raised his family in Smithtown, Long Island, so we have had few opportunities to visit and see him.

As soon as we arrived here, the four of us began talking about how great it would be for us three siblings to be together at one time. Sally lives and works in Palo Alto, CA where Dennis and I lived until a month ago. Marsha made a surprise move. She called Sally and then bought tickets for her to fly to Florida for an extended Father’s Day weekend. Jerry had extensive open-heart surgery on May 11th — just a month ago. Events like this tend to put life in perspective and the importance of family connections rises to the surface. Marsha said this was her Father’s Day gift to Jerry. He was very touched. It was a gift to us all!

Sally arrived at the Jacksonville airport, more than an hour’s drive north from here. Marsha and Dennis met her 12:30 AM arrival and we were all reunited over a late breakfast Friday morning, June 15th. Of course she was excited to see the bus — our new home.


What with fifth wheel scouting and a tornado, up until then, Dennis and I had done little sightseeing. Now with Sally’s short visit, we became serious, immediate tourists.

On Friday we spent time on the beach. On Saturday we toured Old St. Augustine. We visited the Lichtner Museum http://www.lightnermuseum.org/ and Old St. Augustine Village. http://www.old-staug-village.com/

On Sunday Dennis, Sally and I took the Ft. Matanzas tour. http://www.nps.gov/foma/ At midday, Marsha’s daughter, Nicole came by with granddaughter, Marisa. In the afternoon, Sally, Marsha and Dennis toured the St. Augustine Fort, Castillo de San Marcos http://www.nps.gov/casa/ and the Oldest House (Gonzalex-Alvarez) in St. Augustine.   http://www.staugustinehistoricalsociety.org/

Jerry and I have less energy. We met them for Father’s Day dinner at Cap’s Restaurant, located 4 mi. north of St. Augustine and 2 mi. north of the Vilano Bridge on A1A north. We sat at an outside table in the bar and waited 45 minutes for a table. It was fun to watch the Father’s Day crowd and the kids climbing all over the trees bordering the beach. However, as a referral to others I would have to say the place is scenic and fun but the food was less than ordinary. http://www.florida-secrets.com/Restaurants/NE/Caps.htm


Monday morning, Sally, Marsha and I drove on scenic A1A north to Ponte Vedra Beach where we shopped in the Sawgrass Village Mall and had a lovely lunch on the deck of the Aqua Grill. (Go try their green fried tomatoes for an appetizer!) We dropped Sally at the Jacksonville airport at 2:00 PM and I think she got home about 11:00 PM Pacific Time.

Well! Life is certainly a lot more exciting when you live on a bus! We aren’t disaster people — honestly we aren’t — but here we’ve come through a second scrape. We’ve also had another very busy week and a very social week. It was great!