Monthly Archives: April 2008

Last day in Niceville

I left Niceville after 2pm this afternoon after having lunch with Jacquie, Katie, and Gracie (bow ties with ham, peas, and cheese…MMMMmmm).  It was a great conclusion to a wonderful visit with them.  Yesterday afternoon after I posted, we took the dogs to the park, Rocky Bayou SP–and believe it or not, it was not even my suggestion although it is one of my very favorite activities.  Colin had to work all day, unfortunately, but lastnight after he got home he helped me fly a couple planes and a helicopter with his flight simulator (I crashed the helicopter) and we chatted for a little while in the hot tub while watching Lucy fearfully threaten an inflatable goose. 

Today began with a special pancake breakfast, coffee (Jacquie makes really good coffee in addition to her delectable yet easy-to-make meals), a great talk with Jacquie, and a lovely violin/piano duet.  I spent an hour or so packing up, a little time reading, and a longer while enjoying the sun from the pool deck.  I have to believe that the dogs had a great time, because they received endless love and treats, and…and you know what?  So did I!  I can’t wait to see these guys in no. Va later this year.  I heard there will be flashlight tag, right Colin?

Niceville 010

Gracie and Katie each chose a dog to lavish with affection

Now I am a couple hours away in Fairhope, AL.  They have wifi here and I hope to plan at least through the weekend.  Let’s be serious, there’s no way I’ll plan any further ahead than that, and if I get that done I’ll be impressed with myself.


I get to visit more family!

Let’s see, I left off at Manatee Springs, yes?  Next I spent a night at Ochlockonee SP, which has a small but very nice campground on the Ochlockonee River.  They had good trails, too.  Here’s a photo from our morning walk.

Ochlockonee SP

This little mouse has a surprisingly loud voice and called attention to himself as we left the campground.  Not wise when Lucy is around, but fortunately I recognized it as a furry creature before I let her at it.  I guess I have less sympathy when she’s after bugs.


We only stayed here one night because we were rushing onward to Niceville, FL to see my cousin, Colin, and the rest of his family: Jacquie, Katie, and Gracie.  Colin took me flying at Eglin AFB!  Here’s a picture of Katie, Colin, and Gracie in front of the plane we intended to fly.

Katie, Colin, and Gracie

Usually when I see these guys there are a ton of other people around and it’s great to have the opportunity to see them here.  I had planned to stay in the camper here, but it was late by the time we finished dinner lastnight (so delicious!) and I still hadn’t set it up and they generously offered us a bed in the house.  They are wonderful hosts and I am really enjoying my time here.  I leave tomorrow though, and head…northish?

Manatee Springs SP

This, my friends, is the coolest campground we’ve been at yet.  I ended up having to switch sites today because I foolishly only made reservations for one night, but it’s worth it!  The campsite is shady, the hiking trails are good, and 300 meters away is the spring.  It’s so beautiful I literally gasped in wonder when I saw it.  Even in places where the water is 20 feet deep you can see all the way to the bottom.  You see fish, turtles, some kind of grass, everything that’s down there.  Manatees like to winter here because the water stays a constant 72 degrees and if you are in the water when they arrive you can swim with them.  I haven’t seen any yet, but there is always tomorrow.  This morning and lastnight, deer came right into our campsite to eat and I discovered that Lucy doesn’t really get crazy about them until they start running away.  She coolly watched one munch on the grasses nearby for at least 10 minutes without making a peep. 

Manatee Springs 006

This afternoon we drove out to Cedar Key to check it out.  It’s a small town, very walkable for all but the slowest dogs (but we’ll cut him a break because he had a seizure this afternoon).  I am camped outside the public library, Lucy is whining impatiently (brat–as if she didn’t hike today), and I am getting uncomfortable so I’m off. 

People seem curious about where I’m going next.  So am I.  😛  Somewhere up near Tallahassee or southwest of that nearer the coast.  Depends when I go and who’s got space.  We’re into the weekend now, which makes it tougher to stay in choice campgrounds (read: state parks) if you haven’t planned ahead.  I might end up at Manatee Springs one more night. 



A plea for gin

During the summer I like to drink gin & tonics, but I really prefer to use Seagram’s orange twisted gin.  I’ve searched for it in several states now, including the place where I used to buy it regularly, and nobody carries it!  I’ve checked the website and they apparently still make it.  Today I tried adding a little orange juice to my gin & tonic, which improves it but requires me to keep another ingredient on hand. 

Astor 010

If, in the course of your regular liquor shopping, you find a bottle of this nectar, would you grab one for me and I’ll pay you back? 

Easy Street

I confess: since saturday I’ve been in Astor, FL at my Aunt Tricia’s house.  Thursday I had decided that I was done dilly-dallying and just wanted to make a beeline for Astor, so I drove to the Flying J just south of Valdosta, GA on Friday and arrived here a little after noon on saturday.  The Flying J was probably our least favorite campsite, but for camping at a gas station it was pretty nice.  They had a huge field where we could run around saturday morning before hitting the road, and having the food mart next door was a treat.  For breakfast I bought milk to have with my peanut butter and honey sandwich.  I haven’t been keeping milk in the camper because the fridge temperature fluctuates so much as I travel.  I tried lighting the pilot light at the Flying J so I could run the fridge on propane, but started a tiny fire inside the controls compartment and decided that it wasn’t that important.  I’ve regained my boldness and will try that again soon.  With the fire extinguisher in hand.

Upon entering Florida I stopped at the “State Farmers’ Market” (one stall in a gigantic parking lot) and the visitors’ center.  I realized that by entering states on secondary roads you miss out on the visitors’ center and crucial information.  I also stopped at Dairy Queen for a dipped cone, because I can only pass so many DQ billboards without stopping.  I wedged myself into the tiny, dead-end parking lot but adroitly K-turned the camper to get out, thank you. 

Aunt Tricia lives in Astor, just south of Lake George on a canal off the St. Johns River.  Miriam (I have dubbed her, as instructed), my GPS-enabled navigator directed me here without a problem.  Later today she’s going to tell me how to get to Publix for groceries.

the canal in the morning

The canal in the morning

Sunday we went out on the river with Helen and Mary Ellen, friends of Aunt Tricia.  We saw gators, an osprey on a nest, turtles, blue herons (I think) and sundry other birds, and we even glimpsed a manatee. 

Tricia and Boomer

Aunt Tricia and Boomer on the boat

Since then I have been doing a lot of reading on the deck and looking into where I will go next (and so has Kristie, thanks Kristie!).  I walk the dogs in the morning and then maybe do some kind of low-key workout and then I lounge.  I did make another attempt to seal the persistent leak in the camper and finally manipulated that tube without getting the goo all over myself and/or Angus, and yesterday Aunt Tricia took me to lunch at this great restaurant called The Old House Cafe.  

The Old House Cafe 

The Old House Cafe

We sat outside on the deck in the shade with an amaryllis on our table.  The food was delicious and right up my alley.  I had the southwestern wrap with chicken, which was a spinach wrap containing meat, lettuce, olives, corn, beans, and a creamy chipotle sauce.  On the side I had herbed potato salad and fresh fruit.  Mmmm.  Check out our view.

TOHC dining room

Movie recommendation: Anatomy of a Murder (1959).  Filming for this movie took place in the hometown of Helen and Mary Ellen, who went out on the river with us sunday, and Helen was one of the extras in the court room scenes.  It was really entertaining and packed with notables including Duke Ellington, who also wrote the score.  I’m probably telling a lot of you something you already know, but I’m sure you youngsters at work haven’t seen it. 

I plan to set out on the road again tomorrow, but it will be tough leaving this lap of luxury. 

Day trip to Macon, GA

Thursday morning we took a day trip to Macon, GA.  Our tour started inauspiciously as the visitors’ center is in a part of town that is 2/3 abandoned and slightly scary.  The buildings, while attractive, are mostly boarded up, like this one:


Then while I was unloading the dogs, Angus launched himself out of the car but caught his front leg in the seatbelt, so he somersaulted out the back door and hung suspended from the seatbelt by his leg, howling.  Once I untangled him he seemed unhurt, so we persisted.  Just up the street is a beautiful Catholic church

St. Joseph's in Macon

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church

and the home of the South’s surgeon general during the Civil War.


The remainder of our tour included a number of beautiful antebellum homes and a park containing memorials to folks who fought in WWI and WWII.  We didn’t spend too long in Macon.  When we first arrived I was a little uncomfortable walking around by myself, but perhaps I was a little reassured when I met Curt Fletcher, Homicide, who told me they have only had 3 murders so far this year. 

I didn’t pack a lunch that day because I figured I would find somewhere interesting to eat in Macon, but I didn’t.  I was famished as we drove out of town and the small towns between Macon and the Lake Sinclair campground offer limited cuisine, but I found what appeared to be a locally popular restaurant serving food to go and ordered an oyster po’ boy.  The fries were fat and crinkly and the oysters were perfectly crunchy.  I ate the whole thing and it served me for both lunch and dinner. 

After getting back to camp I diagnosed my lighting problem (merely a loose wire) and then settled in for a pleasant afternoon reading.  That night I had my first campfire, but it was short-lived.  See my haircut?  When I was in Blacksburg I got to see Kevin, who is the only stylist I really like going to see.  This situation is rather inconvenient when I am living in NoVa. 

First fire

That’s Lucy in the background, flouting the leash rules

Oconee National Forest

Wednesday through Friday we stayed in Oconee National Forest at the Lake Sinclair campground.  When we arrived, I was excited to find that we were the only ones in the park!  Before setting up camp we inspected our surroundings without having to adhere to any pesky dog rules, such as “No dogs allowed on beach” and “Dogs in campground must be on 6-foot leash.” 

Lake Sinclair

Lucy surveys Lake Sinclair

Lake Sinclair

Angus is lethargic in the Georgia heat

Ours was a roomy site and level, with a concrete picnic table and a hiking trail 75 meters away.  In the mornings we take a walk, usually after breakfast and sometimes with coffee so I was extra pleased about the trail because it meant that I could definitely walk Angus off his leash, leaving me a hand free for coffee.  (Lucy’s leash occupies my other hand.)

As the sun approached the horizon on wednesday, some folks pulled into a spot two sites down from us.  I walked over to introduce myself as they were setting up camp and surprised myself by saying that I was glad to have neighbors.  And I wasn’t lying. 

campsite at Oconee National Forest

Our campsite in Oconee National Forest

That night around sunset I realized that the camper interior lights didn’t work though all other equipment running on electricity was fine.  I decided to read by candlelight that night, which is pleasant anyway, and put off looking into the problem until thursday and daylight.  It had been a long driving day and turned cold when the sun went down, so I crawled into my sleeping bag.