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.
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 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.
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?