Saturday, May 29, 2010

Brookgreen Gardens

Getting out to see and enjoy nature is one of our favorite activities as we travel. One of the sights near Myrtle Beach is Brookgreen Gardens, an outdoor museum with majestic oaks and world-renowned sculpture. Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington bought several run-down plantations on Murrells Inlet south of Myrtle Beach in the 1930s.. Anna was a sculptor and Archer a poet. They planted the gardens around the old brick walls left from the plantation buildings. Sculptures created by Anna and others they purchased are showcased in the gardens. The non-profit company that operates the gardens today has continued to buy sculptures. I hope you enjoy these pictures. And, if you are ever visiting along the Carolina coast, don't miss Brookgreen Gardens.

We were captivated by our visit. As we drove in we saw a coyote run across the road. The gardens are a wildlife sanctuary. The wandered around looking at the formal gardens and reflecting pools. The blooming rhododendron were beautiful and we loved Live Oak Alley.

The variety of sculptures we saw was amazing. They represented numerous styles and decades of work and included bronze and marble works. Some were serious, some represented a whimsical look at the world and some just showed human (especially childlike) joy.

Finally, we walked the Low Country Trail to the Low Country Zoo,where numerous injured and rescued birds and animals that can no longer live in the wild are housed and cared for. We saw river otters; white, cattle and black crowned night herons; red and gray fox, and alligators.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tourists in South Carolina

The Grand Strand is a strip of white sand beach over 60 miles long, including Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where we spent four days. The beaches really are beautiful.

Three mornings there we went to the beach, where John ran three miles a day and I ran some, walked more. It was fun to watch the waves coming in.

We saw people fishing, others trying to surf board, and lots of people walking and running on the beach each morning. We even saw a surf rake, this machine that smooths the beach sand. Is it a Zamboni for sand?

The first morning, as we drove down the main drag, we kept seeing signs like this.

It took a while to find a road that did go through.

Our RV park was right next to Barefoot Landing, a major shopping, dining and entertainment venue in the very touristy section of Myrtle Beach where we were staying. There was a gate we could go through at the park to access Barefoot Landing. We rode by these yachts that people were staying in--just another way to travel.

It was fun to watch this young boy try to ride a mechanical bull--just one of several carnival-type activities..

As we biked around it smelled wonderful--there are lots of restaurants. Since we had already eaten, we decided on an ice cream cone. We should have checked out the price before we placed our order. Here is John enjoying (?) his $4.95 single ice cream cone. Have you ever heard of a cone costing that much?

We were glad we hadn't planned on spending Memorial Day Weekend at Myrtle Beach. It is the weekend for Black Beach Week. Here is a quote from the web site for the event.

Black Bike Week is not only the largest black bike festival in the world but its also the largest black beach week event period. Every Memorial Day Weekend ( May 27-May 31, 2010) over 350,000 bikers travel to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for fun, food, festivities and more. If you love bikes and the people who ride them, you cannot miss this event.

It began Thursday night, our last night there, and all night long--at least until 3 am, we could hear loud motorcycles going up and down the street in front of the RV park. Our park itself, was quiet, but we were next door to a motel that was really loud.

We're Not in Kansas anymore, Toto

Or Colorado or Arizona.

We are in South Carolina and yesterday I went into the local Walgreen's to pick up medicine for our cat, Partner. I noticed spray bottles of something to "Stop the Sting" from Jellyfish. That certainly is not something we would see in Kansas, Colorado or Arizona. At the local Wal Mart, we saw displays of beach towels and buckets to use at the beach, huge coolers and fishing rods for fishing in the surf. As we drive the streets of Myrtle Beach, we have seen several superstores of beach toys and beach wear.

Here we see hookup sites for water yachts, much like the hookups we have for our land yachts. In fact, we have stayed in RV parks with hookup poles for water and electric that look just like what we saw last night.

The fishing boats we see trucks hauling through town are sure a lot bigger than the bass boats we are used to.

These differences are part of what makes it so interesting to live in different parts of the country.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Nature Lover

One of the things I love most about living in our RV is that it puts us more in touch with nature. I am even more aware of loving that when we park in a commercial RV park after almost a month of state and Corps of Engineers parks. Briarcliffe RV here in Myrtle Beach, SC, is nice. But it doesn't compare with Skidamore Island State Park, Savannah, GA.

Sunday night we were treated to over an hour of lightning flashing, thunder rumbling and crashing and rain beating on the roof. And you can really hear the rain when you are in a metal box. I know we would experience a thunderstorm anywhere, not just in a state park. It is a part of the natural world I enjoy anywhere, as long as I am dry and there are no tornado threats.

For two nights at Skidamore Island I heard a bird in the middle of the night, something that doesn't usually happen in the city. The first night I thought it might be a Whip-poor-will, something I had only read about. The next morning I looked it up in my Audubon Society handbook and was pretty sure I had been correct. There is another bird with a similar call, a Chuck-will's-widow. Both birds are rarely seen and are heard only at night. The second night I listened carefully to the call and realized it contained four syllables, not three. That means is was a Chuck-will's-widow. Who on earth has heard of a bird with a name like that?

We live in a house with about 350 square feet of space, so having a large, private front yard full of birds, squirrels and tall trees really improves our living space. And that living room keeps changing every few days. Does life get any better than this?

I have been reading a book, Amish Peace by Suzanne Woods Fisher. Last week I read, "The God who created all of this beauty and grace must be a wonderful and loving being." and "I promise myself to make a daily appointment with nature to remind myself of Whose capable hands are in charge of this earth." p. 188. Living and traveling in our RV makes keeping a daily appointment with nature easier that living in our stick house.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


We are spending this weekend in Savannah, at the Skidaway Island State Park. The campground is great and the city of Savannah even better. We often watch programs on the Food Network and this is where Paula Deen has her The Lady and Sons restaurant. We hoped to have lunch there. It is located in an old building that has been converted for her use.

They accept reservations, but only when you show up in person to make them. When we approached the hostess at 10:40 am, they had two seats in the lounge at 1:30 and two in the dining room at 2:30. We had lunch at Panera Bread.

Savannah was established by General Oglethorpe and others from England, who started the colony of Georgia. It is a beautiful city and in the old part of town, there are lovely oases of green about every two blocks, called "squares." This one contains a fountain.

And another has a statue of Oglethorpe.

Oglethorpe was the commander of the fleet of Confederate ships that attempted to attack Fort Matanzas, which we toured at St. Augustine.

These squares were filled with beautiful trees and some had blooming azaleas.

In one of the squares, the monument has this relief of a railroad train. The monument was dedicated to a man who had built the first railroad in the area.

Like we saw in St. Augustine, many tourists see the city on special vehicles--here they look like trolleys.

We followed them around downtown to see where the sights were. Other modes of transportation included horse-drawn carriages

and pedicabs.

For a year or two as a young child I was a Girl Scout Brownie, so we had to go by the birth place of Juliette Gordon Low,the founder of the Girl Scouts, here in the city.

Her father was one of the founding members of the colony.

This is the steeple of the Presbyterian Church in the center of the city.

We also visited the Catholic Cathedral, which was beautiful inside.

Many of the downtown residential streets were lined with Spanish Moss-decked trees. This is one of the hallmarks of Savannah.

Isn't the Savannah City Hall beautiful?

Today we toured Fort Pulaski and drove around Tybee Island, where the people of Savannah go to enjoy the ocean. Fort Pulaski was one of more than 30 fortifications built to defend our nation's coast from possible European attack after the War of 1812. These forts were built of brick and at the time thought to be impregnable. This one was started in 1829. By the time of the Civil War it had never been garrisoned with soldiers. Just before Georgia seceded from the Union, the Georgia troops took over the fort. Unfortunately for the South, technology, in the form of the rifled cannon, make the fort obsolete. In only 30 hours of shelling in April 1862, by Union guns on Tybee Island, Fort Pulaski was forced to surrender and was held by Union troops through the end of the war. It successfully kept Savannah shut off from the sea, unable to ship cotton or bring in supplies and munitions.

This is a picture of the US flag with 34 stars, like was flown over the fort during the Civil War while Union troops were there.

We saw both a demonstration of musket fire

and field cannon fire.

Both were quite impressive.

This is a view of the inside of the fort.

We took this picture of the Tybee Island Lighthouse during our drive around the island.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

St. Augustine

Yesterday we drove south along the Atlantic Coast through some really nice areas, especially Ponte Vedra. The dunes line the road, so we couldn't see the ocean most of the way, but we did see some impressive houses. Our destination was St. Augustine, a city I had heard about for years. From the city's web site, it looked like we might need more than one day to explore. There are museums galore, for instance. The surrounding area first explored in 1513 by Spanish explorer, Ponce de Leon, who was then the governor of nearby Puerto Rico. He claimed the region for the Spanish crown. The city itself was established in 1565 and has been ruled by the Spanish, the French, the British, the Spanish again, and in 1821 it finally became part of the United States.

This is one of the early gates that guarded the city.

Today the most obvious sight is trains like this,

which take tourists around the old town. They drop people off at each museum and other locations. I think buying a ticket on the train gets you into most of the museums. Since we wanted to walk around ourselves, we didn't get free admission. This is the "oldest school house museum" in the country, they say.

We didn't pay to go inside. We also didn't pay to go into a living history exhibit. We did explore the Saint Photios Greek Orthodox National Shrine and Saint Photios Chapel. A Scottish physician, Andrew Turnbull, received a grant from the government of Great Britain to settle land in its newly acquired property in Florida. His wife was the daughter of a Greek merchant in Smyrna, Asia Minor, and he believed people of the Mediterranean area were suited to the warm Florida climate.

On March 23, 1768, 1403 colonists sailed for Florida, to a settlement called New Smyrna. Only 1255 survived. They were not prepared for the harsh conditions as indentured servants or for clearing the swampland filled with alligators, poisonous snakes and mosquitoes. In just over two months, they revolted. The revolt did not bring about improvement and by the end of the first year, 450 men, women and children were reported dead. By March 1777 many of the settlers began leaving for St. Augustine, about 75 miles to the north. There the Greek settlers established the first permanent Greek settlement on this continent. The shrine and chapel celebrate that settlement. Isn't the chapel beautiful?

This is one of the numerous narrow lanes in the old town area of St. Augustine.

Some of the older (not oldest) buildings in town are really interesting, especially the tile work on the roofs. This is the Methodist Church. Click the photo to enlarge and look at the roof.

The Catholic cathedral looks much the same. Another old building has been converted to use as Flagler College. The tile on the tower here looks the same.

After leaving the city, we checked out the St. Augustine Lighthouse. That would cost $7 to go inside, so we didn't. We did take this photo. It is a great lighthouse.

Then we drove on 14 miles south to Fort Matanzas National Monument, built in 1740--42 by the Spanish to protect Matanzas Inlet, the "back door" of St. Augustine. Admission is free (even if you don't have a US senior pass). A free ferry takes tour participants across the inlet to the fort.

This is a view of the small fort from the water.

These are some of the guns that protected the fort and access to St. Augustine.

They were only fired once at British ships, in 1742. They drove the British ships away and no major attack was attempted on the facility after that.

This is kind of a cute guard house. But would it protect the soldier inside?

Here is where the soldiers slept.

We biked to the beach again last evening, then walked in the surf. Here are some of the gulls that kept us company. And note the large ship in the distance. We don't know what kind it is.

This morning we ran along the beach. I haven't been able to run for 10 days because of problems with my foot. I only made it about 1 1/2 miles this morning, but it sure was fun. There is no better place to run.

Monday, May 17, 2010


Yesterday we parked in this tropical jungle--on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in a Jacksonville city park, Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park.

John thinks maybe we are in Jurassic Park and a brontosaurus might come out to get us. But we have good electricity and there is hardly anyone here--maybe 15 rigs in a campground with over 200 full-hookup sites.

This sign is posted all over the campground. I can understand not feeding alligators or raccoons. I wouldn't know how to feed a possum--the only ones I have ever seen have been roadkill. But cats? What cats? Why shouldn't we feed them? Maybe they mean big cats? Somewhere near here you can go to view panthers.

After getting set up, we rode our bikes down to the beach. There were quite a few people enjoying the sand and the water.

And lots of sea gulls looking for dinner.

The campground is next to a lake.

I wish I knew what this camouflaged thing floating in the lake was.

Tonight we biked back to the beach. We had it almost to ourselves. There were a few shore birds.

And there were more waves.

Maybe we can do our run along the beach before we leave.

Cairin (our GPS) died about the time we drove into Florida. We bought a new one at the Tallahassee Wal Mart, but when we got it home, it wouldn't turn on. Today we visited a Wal Mart here and traded Cairin II for Cairin III. We really like this Garmin nuvi 1450. And it makes it so much easier to find where we want to go in cities.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

We Drove to Florida--er Georgia

At 7:30 this morning I was sitting outside, drinking my second cup of coffee, listening to the birds and watching the sun come up and hit Lake Seminole. The temperature was 67 degrees. If I were still living in our stick house in Centennial, the temperature would have been 33. No wonder we are living here on the road.

Monday morning we left Alabama and drove to Florida, to the East Bank Campground on the shore of Lake Seminole, a Corps of Engineers lake in Georgia and Florida. We have never spent the night in our RV in Florida, so we were looking forward to adding that state to our map of places where we have been. Unfortunately, shortly before we drove into the campground, we encountered a sign that said we were going into Georgia! We will have to wait till Sunday to add Florida, I guess.

Monday night there was a beautiful sunset over the lake.

Yesterday morning I was delighted to see this Great Blue Heron feeding along the water's edge.

Sunday, on our last day in Alabama, we drove to Dauphin Island. That is one of the major areas being impacted by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. From the shore we could see several drilling rigs that are still in operation.

The beaches have beautiful white sand.

People were out enjoying the sun and sand.

At the same time, boats and other equipment was assembled, waiting for deployment to clean the sand if the oil slick arrived.

As we drove onto the island, we saw these booms floating in the surf, hopefully able to keep any oil away from the beach.

And then we saw this stuff at the edge of the water. It looked like a kitchen scrubby, but is really a special kind of boom meant to catch any incoming tar balls, like had been found the day before.

While we were on Dauphin Island, we toured Fort Gaines, built in 1821 to protect Mobile Bay. It was the center of an 1862 Civil War battle, when Admiral Farragut of the US Navy was reported to have said, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead."

As we crossed Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, we have driven over miles and miles of bridges. We thought it was expensive to build interstate highways in the mountains of Colorado. Building them across the swamps, bayous, rivers and bays of the southern river deltas must cost even more. This is the bridge from mainland Alabama to Dauphin Island.