Archive for October, 2020

Pocahontas State Park, VA to Kings Bay, Ga

Saturday, October 31st, 2020

October 21, 2020 – Pocahontas State Park, VA. the most beautiful setting is how I will remember this park. Huge wooded sites and quiet. We settle in, and go out to Fredericksburg National Battlefield. The park ranger gives us a lunch spot recommendation down the road some so we check it out. Wonder of wonders its poutine, french fries smothered in good stuff. Our first experience with poutine was in Vancouver, CA where the fries were drowned in delicious seafood. This version has the fries smothered in pulled port, bar-b-q sauce and cheese, all slathered in sour cream with scallions sprinkled on top. I know what your thinking, as my friend Carla Hollingsworth would say, that’s a heart attack on a plate. Yes indeed, but it was delicious!

October 22, 2020 – Pocahontas State Park. Out to see the world, at least this corner of the world. We visit what else, another Civil War Battlefield, Richmond National Battlefield. The visitor center is open under a tent outside and I get my book stamped. We walk on the short trail at the visitors center itself and then follow the shorter of the two driving tours. This is exhausting, stop the truck, get out, walk, walk uphill, walk downhill, walk across streams, make all 8 of the stops to read the informational signs and soak up the history.

Back at our campsite I try and start a fire but the wood is wet and I fail. Oh well, a glass of wine and leftovers instead of the hot dogs that were on the menu will have to do. We had a great day, walked almost 10,000 steps during that driving tour and are happy to use the microwave and tap that box of wine sleeping quietly in our refrigerator.

October 23, 2020 – Pocahontas State Park. We have no agenda today, I tell Carl to take a hike so he does, around Beaver Dam Lake in the morning while I hang out in the trailer enjoying my solitude. In the afternoon we drive into neighboring Chesterfield to the Food Lion for provisions and gas. Later in the day Carl hikes a second time and I write.

October 24, 2020 – KOA Fredericksburg, VA. What a zoo, we had no idea this park would be hosting an early Halloween trick or treat event for local kids. We lay low and watch TV.

October 25, 2020 – KOA Fredericksburg, VA. Rain rain go away….Kathy and Carl want to play. No luck, we drive to Robert E. Lee’s childhood home in the driving rain. On the way Carl has some kind of event with his left side of his face, primarily his eye. We pull over and it passes but scares us. The Lee family home is the quintessential plantation home. Wide staircases, huge rooms for dancing and an outside kitchen and laundry. All of this set on the Potomac River, wow. The gift shop is wow too and I spend a happy hour in there deciding what I would like to purchase. Two bee plates, replicas of plates that would have graced the table at Lee family soirees.

October 26, 2020 – Ft. Belvoir, VA. The showcase of the Army in the DC., no WWII buildings here! The most upscale Exchange and Commissary, Starbucks and restaurants you would never see at any other military installations. Housing, Officer quarters are small McMansions and the enlisted quarters are smaller versions of those, not like anything I ever got to live in. The RV park is perched on the north side of the Potomac river, with a stunning view. Big concrete spaces a good distance from your neighbor and every amenity, wifi, cable TV, laundry room, bathhouse. George Washington’s Mr. Vernon is right down the road. We are very comfortable here and can’t wait to get out and visit DC.

October 27, 2020 – Ft. Belvoir, well that’s disappointing, nothing (park service wise) is open on the George Washington Parkway (31 national park sites). Despite what their web site says and their voice messaging service says, it’s a nogo. So we drive back to Virginia and pass Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts (technically in DC). Not open but the venue itself is worth the time we took. Walking around I spot a park ranger driving a golf cart. He stops for me and I ask him if he has access to a stamp for my passport? He not only produces the stamp but bags of free stuff for the kids. Here take as much as you want, nobody else is..

Next stop is Manassas National Battlefield Park (Bull Run). I called and actually got a human on the phone who assured me their visitors center was open. In addition to the site stamp, they also have a “hallowed ground” stamp, I opt for that one.

We walked the entire site, ate our lunch and watched the short film in the visitor’s center. From the 1860’s photos of the battlefield it looks as if nothing has changed, I can see confederate troops hanging at the tree line, Stonewall Jackson sitting atop his horse.

It is supposed to be cold, windy and raining for the next several days so we stop and pick up a space heater on our way home. When I plug it in and turn it on it runs for 30 seconds before it dies and takes the TV, water heater and who knows what else with it. I know to check the fuse panel and when nothing is wrong with that I yell for help. Carl comes in, checks the fuses and gets out the iPad for some uTube help. The inverter, what’s an inverter and why do we have one in our RV? Moreover where the expletive is it? We go to bed before we crack the case. It’s under the mattress, in a hole with a screwed down panel, a difficult location. It took literally 1 second to push the correct button and animate everything. Hallelujah!

October 28, 2020 – Ft. Belvoir. At breakfast this morning Carl tells me he thinks the episode he had in the car on the 25th could have been a TIA (transient ischemic attack) or mini stroke. He also confides that wasn’t the only time it happened. So, although he seems fine, we make a difficult decision and decide to head home. We will both feel better when we know all the facts.

October 28, 2020 – Ft Bragg, NC. We drive to Lazy Acres Campground just off I95 near Ft. Bragg. Nice site with wifi and cable so we just chill for the remaining part of the day. When we checked in, the staff informed us that President Trump is due to hold a rally here tomorrow, argh. We don’t even put out the door mat preferring instead to hedge our bets and make our escape as soon as is humanly possible in the morning.

October 29, 2020 – Kings Bay, GA. Carl has a telemedicine call today at 1530 so we drive to the submarine base at Kings Bay and barely get there in time to park and make the call. It’s mostly good news, the cardiologist can’t rule out stroke but thinks the more likely culprit is an ocular migraine.
Carl agrees to be in Tampa on Monday for some cardiac diagnostics and on Tuesday for an appointment with his ophthalmologist. He is also advised to see his rheumatologist. Sigh.

Since we are relatively close to home and very comfortable here we book this site for two additional nights and resolve to just chill until Sunday.

And, it’s warm, a fringe benefit of that hard decision. It was starting to get cold in Virginia.

October 30, 2020 – Ft Caroline National Monument was closed on our way up so we try again and make the 30 minute drive to Jacksonville. Yeah it’s open. Reading the information, a “Le Gaule” was one of the original Huguenot settlers, I wonder… My family name is “LeGalley” and written family history attributes our presence in this country to Huguenot ancestry. I’ve always suspected I was a heretic!

Kings Bay GA ‘Living in a Tin Can’

Friday, October 30th, 2020

To quote Jimmy Buffett: ‘They’re ugly and square, they don’t belong here. They looked a lot better as beer cans’. Our Airstream is aluminum but not square. Actually it’s got pretty nice curves, ‘aerodynamic’ they claim. Either way I’ve probably finished off enough cans of beer in my life to build at least one trailer so I’m okay with Jimmy.

Acorns are loud. Laying in bed at night they sound like big rocks hitting the roof when they fall from the oak trees overhead. The sound is amplified by the acoustic qualities of our tin can. This is the second site where we’re bombarded by acorns but it’s the season. The squirrels are busy gathering acorns for the coming winter. They get stuck in the treads of our aggressive oversize all terrain truck tires (acorns, not squirrels) and crunch as we roll.

The changing leaves in Virginia are beautiful. We’re told we missed the peak for red leaves but yellow leaves are everywhere. They drift gently to the ground like snowflakes when the wind rustles the tree branches. It rains one night and yellow leaves fall and stick, covering the truck and trailer. We look like a big mottled yellow school bus. But then the sun comes out to dry us off. The leaves stream off when we drive down the road.

I really like our trailer. It’s compact (23’) with the head in the back, galley and dining in the middle, and bedroom in front. The shiny metal interior makes it seem like we’re inside an airplane cabin. We have to pass single file whenever we move around. It’s an upscale hotel room on wheels with everything we need to live comfortably on the road. We limit ourselves to essentials. It’s a work in progress but we rely on the experience of numerous worldwide backpacking trips to keep stuff to a minimum.

Food is part of the adventure. We don’t eat out in restaurants very often, especially in these Covid times. When we do we seek out local or unique places, like Frogmore stew at the Foolish Frog in Frogmore SC, or shrimp and grits at Virginia’s in Charleston, or buttermilk fried quail with collards at the Glass Onion in Charleston or fried flounder in Nags Head NC or ham platter at the Taste of Smithfield in Smithfield VA. So we end up preparing most of our meals. Coffee and cereal for breakfast. Sandwiches for lunch while we’re out. Insta Pot, skillet, or microwave dinners in the evening, along with a glass of wine or two. Our portable induction plate works great for our skillet meals. Microwave rice, curries, and chilis in pouches are delicious.

Trick or treat at the Fredericksburg KOA is interesting. We’re there on the Saturday night before Halloween and the campground is full. It’s a family oriented Holiday park and they’re holding their own trick or treat. Most of the campsites are decked out in pumpkins, spider webs, spooky lights and sounds. People are giving out treats to the pirates, cowboys, princesses, witches traipsing around. We don’t participate, not because we don’t want to but we didn’t know. The next morning the campground clears out. Sunday night we only have a few neighbors. It starts raining that evening and continues all night long. We break camp in the morning in the rain and cold. We’re really looking forward to our next stay at Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia. But of course that doesn’t quite work out as expected.

Camp Lejeune, NC to Ft Story, VA

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

October 12, 2020 – Camp Lejeune, NC is a massive Marine Corps training base. On the drive out to the Onslow Beach campground we see Marines doing what Marines do, training. The well used “tank crossing” signs we pass on the road, field sites complete with camouflaged nets, and the V-22 Osprey aircraft we hear overhead all conspire to bring back memories, some good, others.. There are experiences in life you feel so acutely that for the rest of your life you never forget. Like the taste of camouflage grease smeared all over your face for example, bugs stuck in it or the stench of your battle buddies who have not showered in a week. The past is the past, I know, I know, but I can still taste that grease.

The campground itself is just across the street from the beach and our site is closest to the beach. This is a good thing because our neighbor, Mike, retired Navy whose life position is he’s in charge, of everything all the time comes over as soon as we turn the truck off. Look what I found! He produces a very large fossilized Megalodon shark tooth he found on the beach. Wow, this is very cool, Carl spent many happy hours on the beach looking for his own shark tooth.

October 13, 2020 – Up early for the drive to Moores Creek National Battlefield. We have a cool crisp autumn morning to visit, leaves falling all around us as we walk the well maintained historical path. This is the site of the first decisive defeat of British troops by Americans in 1776. The bridge is the where the action took place and I try to imagine the Americans as they carried out their sabotage work, prying up every other plank then waiting in ambush for the British to cross. It was all over in three minutes.

October 14, 2020 – Cape Lookout National Seashore. When we arrive we are pleasantly surprised when the visitors center is open. Wow that almost never happens. More often, a park ranger is sitting outside with park brochures and a few souvenirs for purchase. Sometimes they will stamp my passport, sometimes they have pre-stamped pieces of paper that I cut and paste into my book. The two islands that comprise the park are a ferry ride away but we decide not to visit. None of the historic buildings are open on the island. There is also a pretty good size crowd waiting to board the ferry so we reason it’s a risk not worth taking.

Instead we take the short walking trail along the water but I feel like, what’s the point? I can’t stand still to read anything for more than 5 seconds before mosquitoes break through my defenses and start their attack! I cannot do the sunscreen, bug repellant thing so my only defense is long sleeves/pants. Not a good enough strategy I know, but lotions smeared on my skin, nope!

October 16, 2020 – Today we visit Cape Hatteras National Seashore and we plan to eat out so don’t pack lunch. At home we almost never eat out, preferring instead to cook at home and drink a little wine without having to worry about the drive home. Carl is the cook in our family and I am usually perched across the bar doing odd jobs for him. Pour me some more wine, can you get me the big roasting pan? I love that arrangement.

The lighthouse at Bodie Island and Pea Island are the only things we visit. The lighthouse was closed for climbing and at Pea Island we walk the nature trail.

In the car and on our way back to North River the clouds that have been threatening all day finally begin to drop rain on us. The rain continues all night.

October 17, 2020 – We woke up this morning to a much cooler day, around the 50 degree mark, but cloudless and beautiful. Since we only have to get to Ft Story, VA today we take our time getting ready to go. Carl and I walk and get in around 5000 steps, about half what we shoot for on a daily basis. We’re ready by 0900, set the GPS and head out.

Arriving at Ft. Story, VA we pass through the guard shack with no problems and proceed to the campground with some anxiety. I have read the campground is horrible and I have read that it is wonderful. Which is it? Driving to our site, I’m leaning towards horrible. The sites are all haphazardly laid out and not remotely level, the utilities are wrapped in insulation and look like they have been here since 1950. The WWII bunker down the street is masquerading as a bath house! And the neighbor, OMG, I tell Carl if I go missing on my way to the bathhouse look there first.

October 18, 2020 – First up today is Ft. Monroe, VA. This is a new National Monument site signed into existence by President Obama. We walk across the moat in a dungeon like corridor not tall enough for Carl to stand up. It discharges us into the belly of the fort where soldiers lived and worked. It’s Sunday morning and nothing is open so we pick out the main points of interest, General Lee’s quarters to name one and then just wander around reading the informational signs. I enjoy the history very much but the thing that I find the most poignant, that speaks to me and the humanity of the soldiers that served here is the pet cemetery. There are easily fifty graves on top of a battlement, all tucked among the old gun emplacements. Tippy, Sarge McFerren and Ginger are all marked with granite headstones.

Leaving Ft. Monroe, Yorktown is our next objective and it takes around 40 minutes to get there. This is a huge site and not easily condensed, so we just check out the Freedom Monument and Yorktown itself. One of the buildings, the custom house has been restored by the Comte de Grasse DAR chapter. How cool, I want to be a member of that one. But since there are no Revolutionary War icons in boring Brandon I’m stuck with the “Brandon Chapter”. The Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War have all been fought here so many of the buildings have been destroyed. Still there are quite a few to admire. We were lucky enough to catch the local Fifes and Drums of Yorktown performing on the town green. These are kids that spend their free time learning, practicing and performing Revolutionary War era music, they were outstanding.

Jamestown is up next, we get in line behind a couple arguing with the clerk about the price of admission. The man says, you won’t take our pass? No sir, this is a private enterprise, the park service doesn’t own this, that will be $25.00! No thank you@$^*. OK then… We get in with our Golden Access pass and enjoy our visit.

All our wandering today has led us about 75 miles from home. It takes well over an hour to get home, but the day was worth it.

October 19, 2020 – Oink y’all! Today we visit the town of the pig, Smithfield, VA. I was expecting pig art on the streets, in shop windows and touted on every restaurant menu. Huh, no ode to the pig anywhere. Just a sleepy little town with a few open shops and not many more restaurants. Carl has done some homework and steers me into the “Taste of Smithfield” cafe for lunch. I had, wait for it, a ham sandwich and Carl ordered the ham steak!

After lunch Carl goes to take pictures and I to shop. We head home and build a fire, its not really cold but a good way to relax, eat dinner and drink a little wine.

October 20, 2020 – Today is an admin day that we use to catch up on blogging, laundry, cleaning and any maintenance issues that have cropped up. We discovered that if we sit at the picnic table outside the park office we can log onto their wifi. We have been without cable or wifi since we arrived. We get a little work done but the wooden benches get old fast and there is no shade so its hot.

One last thing about Ft Story. Every morning at 0800 and every evening at 1700 we could hear the colors. Reveille at 0800 and retreat at 1700 brought back a lot of memories from our time in the Army.

October 21, 2020 – Ft Story is situated at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. Early this morning, maybe around 0400, I could hear ship based fog horns, it was so cool. We got up to drink coffee around 0700 and the fog was still so thick it fell like rain out of the trees. We packed up in wet conditions, not fun.

Outer Banks (OBX) NC

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

Left Camp Lejeune Onslow Beach campground after one last walk on the beach for sharks’ teeth and crushed shell to hide them in for Zane and Sienna to find later. And a few pictures and video clips that may come in handy for the blog. Military stays are interesting – Ospreys (VTOLs) flying over us along the beach, hovercraft throwing spray offshore, tanks and troops chugging through the woods.

So here’s how we got here. We wanted to get away for a bit. Every other attempt to travel this year got canceled because of Covid-19 so we’d take the opportunity to head out for a couple of months in our camper. Since we planned to spend Thanksgiving in Illinois with Richard and family, we worked up a loose itinerary to get there. We also needed to place grave markers for Kathy’s pioneer ancestors in Sturgis Kentucky. And head to Apalachicola for a family reunion in December. To tie it all together we’d visit as many national parks as we reasonably could along the way. We’d vary our stays between military campgrounds, state parks, national parks, private campgrounds, and possibly Harvest Hosts. We’d head up the East coast as far as Virginia then wind our way west to Kentucky and Illinois before turning south back to Florida. We’ve been to a lot of the national parks in the southeastern region and we’ll be able to visit a lot more on this trip. The passport book is filling up for this region.

Even though we’re well into Fall, we’ve encountered a lot of annoying insects – mosquitoes, gnats, flies, and now ticks. Well we didn’t actually encounter ticks, they just deterred us from staying at the Cape Hatteras National Seashore campground at Frisco. Most of the reviews for Frisco mentioned sand spurs and mosquitoes. Coming from Florida those weren’t really a concern. But then Kathy noticed some recent reviews that mentioned ticks, and lots of them. While we were looking forward to a couple of days of boon docking at the beach, the threat of ticks convinced us otherwise. We had a bad tick experience at Sturgis last year so the mere thought of them was enough to change our minds.

Mosquitoes however were a real nuisance. They swarmed us at Kingsley Plantation with a few managing to sneak into the truck to keep us busy the rest of the day. One beautiful sunny day at Cape Lookout National Seashore, we set off on the seaside trail. When we entered the tree canopy they were waiting. I immediately noticed four on the back of Kathy’s left leg. Stopping to swat them off we played right into their trap. Those four were just a decoy. The main force were ready and waiting and descended on us full strength. We took off at a brisk pace. When we came to a fork in the path, we separated hoping to confuse the swarm. It sort of worked as long as we didn’t slow down. We met back at the truck and compared welts.

Gnats can be really annoying. Walking around with a cloud of gnat bastards zooming around your head is bad enough but breathing them in is really insulting. And then they manage to get stuck in your food or even worse, swim laps in your glass of wine. Ugh.

Joe Biden signs have been few and far between, about as scarce as Teslas in this part of the country. If the election is decided by the number of flags, banners, signs, posters, and folks yelling from the bed of a roadside pickup truck, Trump will win handily.

We’ve had a good trip so far but like always, we manage to stay too busy and not schedule enough down time. There’s so much to do, see, eat, drink that we can’t help ourselves. We like staying active, then coming back to our trailer in the afternoon, usually to a glass of wine.

Kings Bay, GA to Camp Lejeune, NC

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

After a disappointing start to 2020 that saw us cancelling two international cruises, a family reunion to Lithuania and many other smaller trips, we are finally on the road in our International Globetrotter. This trip we will try to visit as many National Parks, Monuments, Seashores, etc as we can. When we’ve had enough American culture we will head over to Illinois to spend Thanksgiving with family, then down to Apalachicola, FL for a scaled down but still eagerly anticipated Gedmin family reunion.

My inspiration to write this blog comes from the Fitz Perfectly’s Grand Loop Adventure. My friend Jan did a very skillful job of sharing the trip she and husband Mike took following their 2018 retirement. Congrats Mike and Jan on a retirement well earned.

Oct 7, 2020 – Today we are heading for the submarine base at Kings Bay, GA. Eagle Hammock is one of our all time favorite campgrounds. We arrive around 1600, check in with the camp host and drive to our site. After we set up we head out to the paved walking trail to get some exercise. About 10 minutes into it my blood sugar takes a dive and I fall down, try to get up and fall down again. Carl gives up on the walk and leaves me on the trail, talking to the alligators. He heads back to get the truck and hopes the security police don’t spot me, think I’m drunk and transport me to the pokey. They don’t, he rescues me and one juice box later I’m recovered. We relax for the rest of our first day and eat leftovers we rescued from the refrigerator at home.

October 8, 2020 – Our second day at Kings Bay we are up early and head south, back across the FL line to spend the day visiting FL state parks. We also sneak one National Park into that itinerary, Timacuan Ecological and Historical Preserve. We drive out to Kingsley Plantation on a heavily rutted, muddy dirt road. It takes about 20 minutes to go 2 miles. The plantation is closed but we were hoping the grounds would be open, they’re not. Out of the truck the mosquitoes attack. They’re voracious and we’re fresh meat. We don’t stay long. The visitor center is at the Ribault Club, a cool 1920s building. We get passport stamps and walk the grounds.

From Timucuan we head to Little Talbot Island State Park, stopping at Huguenot City Park on the way to check out the campground and beach. Little Talbot and Big Talbot have nice beaches that we walk along, taking in the views and driftwood. Fort Clinch State Park is a beautiful example of Fort architecture and we were glad we made time for it. The park ranger is what you hope for at every park visit, welcoming, knowledgeable and obviously enjoying her job. We spend about an hour admiring the fort and then head out to see the battery on the water. Its down a wooded path where the mosquitoes lay in ambush so our walk was brisk.

During our visit I get a phone call from a representative from DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) letting me know that the person I worked with to get all my paperwork together for membership has fallen ill and I will have to submit and/or verify everything again, ugh. It’s a tedious process and I thought I was finished with it. Moral of this little story, you can travel far far away but your cell phone can always find you.

October 9, 2020 – We said goodbye to Kings Bay and headed north to Charleston, SC stopping along the way to eat Frogmore stew in Frogmore, GA. We sat outside at the Foolish Frog with a view of the marsh and a cool breeze. The food was delicious and such sizable portions, we will have a second meal at our Charleston campground.

We checked into Lake Aire Campground just outside Charleston for three nights. The site is big enough but a little uneven. We got out the leveling blocks and the small error we were trying to correct became a much bigger one. We tried again this time backing the trailer toward the pond a little further, yikes. That was the answer so now we can set up our camp and have that much needed glass of wine. We devote the rest of the day trying to figure out how to use the new MAC books we purchased for this trip. Carl fought the VPN (virtual private network) but finally got it installed on both computers. Now to figure out why I can’t get my photos out of the cloud, I would like to put some visual to this narrative.

October 10, 2020 – Hungry for some low country food we head into Charleston to the Glass Onion. We have eaten several times at this unpretentious restaurant and are going back for more. I have buttermilk fried quail, collards and beans (with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc) and Carl, he wants pork belly, but they don’t offer that today so he orders the fried catfish instead. We shared bread pudding with whisky sauce and leave feeling blissfully full. Folly Beach is right down the road so we went for a walk on the beach looking for sharks teeth and interesting shells. Back at camp we relax with some dark beer, enjoy each others company and fade away to sleep with no cat interruptions or outside noise of any kind.

October 11, 2020 – Walking around Charleston today we are once again delighted with the Georgian architecture that fills this beautiful city. I suggest that if we get to build another house while we are still young it is in the Charleston style with big side porches and a front door to nowhere. Carl agrees, I think. At any rate some of you reading will remember my sister Penny spent a great deal of time in Charleston working for Cameron & Barkley Company. She went on and on about how beautiful Charleston was as I only half listened. Now she is gone and I painfully understand what she was talking about. Miss you Pen.