12/10/18 High Springs, FL

DAY #51

Quite a difference from the weekend when it seemed like Grand Central Station (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a tiny bit).  Now this is nice.

Today started windy, gloomy, and relatively cold (47 degrees).  No watching football today, the only broadcast channel I can get is NBC (I can watch the night game). Decided I’d spend the day catching up on the blog.  Since I couldn’t upload photos because of the poor Verizon reception in the campground, I had to get in the truck and out of the park before I could get a strong enough signal…Damn Frustrating!  I ended up going a few miles down the road to a gas station/take-out and uploading the photos.  Everything turned out OK,  and I had dinner to take back to the trailer to boot.

Leaving the trailer, I noticed a brown liquid all over the side of the camper.  What the hell I thought, where did this come from?  As I was cleaning it up, the only plausible explanation I could come up with, was the two people who had camped next to me last night must have done it.   They had come in past sunset in an old Durango SUV and U-Haul trailer.  I had heard a noise in the morning consistent with someone shaking a tarp out and maybe they spilled on it and that’s what ended up on the trailer.  I caught a glimpse of them through the rear window and I know I’m being judgmental, but they did fit the stereotype of “White Trash.”

One thing I’m noticing in the campgrounds is that for the most part, people are considerate of each other.  These two clowns bought me back to the real world, thanks pinheads.

There were a couple of highlights from the day.  As I was driving back into the park (near dusk), a boar ran across the dirt road ahead of me.  Either that or someones pig got loose.  Then a short distance later, there stood five deer.  They were so innocent looking and just beautiful creatures, and finally, I saw this big black four legged creature running down the road.  What could it be out here in the wildness of Northern Florida?  Turns out it was a dog (again, an attempt at humor, knew it was a dog when first saw it).  There are some private homes bordering the park and he/she must live at one of them.  The dog did seem out of place out in the woods.

Watched Da Bears on TV and called it a day.   Life is good.

12/09/10 High Springs, FL

DAY #50

Woke up early to rain, and we’re talking a lot of rain.  I felt satisfied with the rain and how it was impacting the other campers around me, who last night made me feel like I was living in some Section 8 apartment complex (My oh my, ain’t I the  snob).  Freaking noise until late into the night.  Cars doors shutting, trailer doors being slammed, people burning garbage (at least it smelled like it).  Yea, I was satisfied as I pulled the covers up and dozed back off to sleep while the mosquitoes packed up and left for home. 

This is what it looked like with the all the campers, they were even closer than the photo looks.   

The trailer is just to the right of the picnic table.

Later in the day the weather cleared up and I headed into High Springs to check it out. 

The Downtown has been revitalized and still retains its historic look.  It appears that a number of the businesses are what one might call progressive, kind of what you’d see in a college town or upscale neighborhood. 

Some of the other older buildings of significance.

This is where the tracks once ran.

That’s a peanut & tree nut operation to the left.

The old railroad depot which no longer has any tracks to run along it.

I really like the houses in town, they have that southern style that it seems I can’t get enough of, they just flat out have character.

Along with these style of homes you’re beginning to see what I would call Florida style architecture, it’s just simple, and bland.  It has no character.

High Springs lies on what I would describe as an imaginary border between The South and Florida.  While the southern culture (and history) remains strong, you can feel the beginning of a difference.  It’s like the trees.  They’re still overwhelmingly cedar pine, oak, etc like what you see all over the south, but now your adding palms and ferns to the mix.

It is a nice little town, I’m glad I took the time to check it out.

Picked up some grocerys from Winn-Dixie and headed for the shed.

12/08/18 High Springs, FL

DAY #49

Woke up to a incessant banging sound, what the F*#! is that noise?  I took a moment to calm down so I didn’t make an ass out of myself by flying out of the trailer bellowing; what the hell’s going on!  Then, I nonchalantly (oh yeaI’m cool) opened the trailer door to see where the sound was coming from.  The people next to me had kids and they were banging a volleyball around, that’s what the noise was. 

OK, now that I was up (thanks kids) I thought,  might as well make the most of it.  It was another courageous day and with the campground full, I decided to head to the gulf,  Cedar Keys, FL to be specific. 

Cedar Keys is approx. 60 miles southwest of the park and to get there meant an 1 1/2 hour drive through a terrain of trees and fields.  This part of Florida remains very rural and undeveloped. 

Among all the trees, I didn’t see a lot of crops being grown (of course the growing season is over), but did see a number of fields and pastures with cattle (both dairy & beef).  I noticed driving along that quite a bit of land is up for sale around these parts.  A lot more than I’ve seen anywhere else so far on the trip.  I wonder, does it mean this is going to be the next big place to hang in Florida?

 I’m noticing the trees and undergrowth are changing.  There’s more native palms mixed in with the pines and other deciduous trees, and it looks like the palms people have planted have taken root quite well.  I’m starting to feel that I’m leaving the south and entering a new region.  The architecture of the houses are also beginning to change as well, and I’m noticing a whole lot more trailer houses.

After a mellow drive, made it to Cedar Keys and the Gulf…Ah, I really have a crush on the ocean.  Some history about the area.  Cedar Keys is the second oldest port in Florida, after St. Augustine.  The area for many decades supplied the cedar for those No 2 pencils we’ve all used.  It’s one of the largest providers of clams in the U.S. (or so I was told by the boat captain), and still produce’s a large number of oysters (now aqua-farmed).

Why are the photos always crooked?

Cedar Keys is an undiscovered gem.  It reminded me of a kinder, gentler Key West.  Other than the gas stations, there were no chain or corporate outlets.

A popular way of getting around town.

Some of the cool old buildings 

As I was walking around I noticed a number of stands on the pier that offered  tours of the keys, It was a quiet day and most of them were empty but I was fortunate enough to find a excursion.  It was a 1 1/2 hour cruise around the outer islands (keys) that cost $30.00 and afterwards thinking to myself, well worth it.

Look who’s back. 

The cruise left at 1:30 pm. According to the boat captain, the water in the bay is just a few feet deep (at high tide) and only drops one foot per mile. This makes staying in the channels imperative unless you have a boat with little draft.  Usually the water is quite clear but with the recent rains and lots of wind, the bottom which is mud/silt on top of limestone gets stirred up and hence, the water clarity decreases. Today though there was no wind when we first went out, it was so calm.

Looking at shore from the boat, it was so refreshing not to see high rise condos and resorts lined up and down the beachfront.

One of the keys (Island)

There’s six or seven islands during high tide, during low tide that number greatly increases as the water level recedes.

Got to see a dolphin which was super cool.  I think he/she was playing us. First it would come up on one side of the boat and you’d get ready with the camera, and as you’re waiting,  it would then come up on the other side.

Sighting confirmation. The best I can say about this photo.

There are a lot of birds around here.

Those are white pelicans.

One last look of the bay and then back to land.

After coming back in from the bay I walked around a little to see the houses in town.  I so like this style. Simple yet eloquent.

A bit more Florida than Southern style but the view.
The guys asked for one more photo.

A great day in the gem called Cedar Keys. Great weather, great time on the water, great time in town, hey, just a flat out great time.

Some views as I headed north away from the gulf, 

Continuing north, I came alongside the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge and decided to veer off route and take a loop through the refuge.  It took about an hour to complete the loop and it was so special, seeing Florida at its most natural.  Driving through the refuge was as exciting as it was scary.  It reminded me of the time spent in the refuge in Alabama.

The coolest thing happened driving through the refuge.  Running across the road was an armadillo, it ran into the underbrush before I could get a photo but man oh man, I got a good look at him, how cool was that!

Got back onto the main road and back to the campground.  Since it was after dark, I had to unlock and then re-lock the gate to the park, thankfully, they gave me the right combo.

It was a super solid day…

12/07/18 High Springs, FL

DAY #48


The weather was in the low 70s, sunny, and low humidity.  Just a flat out courageous day!

Decided to spend a laid back day around the park, with a leisurely drive into High Springs later in the afternoon. 

Did a quick walk around the park, including the spring.  There looks to be some interesting trails and the springs themselves, while not a “blow your mind” experience, is still a pretty cool phenomenon.  I think some of the trails go from the springs to the Santa Fe river, I’ll have to check that out (I’ll let you know what I find).

Notice the sandy soil.
Really like the Spanish moss hanging from the trees.

 
OK, where’s a photo of the springs? Isn’t that what the park is all about? Patience grasshopper, time will show you what you asked. (truth be told, I haven’t gotten around to taking any photos yet).

I decided to take a shower before heading into town.  The bathroom/showers were adequate, though they fell short of some of the other parks.  Reviews have said this place gets super crowded in hot weather and the bathrooms/showers are shared (compete) with the campers.  A park overrun with people resulting in having to wait to use the bathroom/showers is not what you look for when camping, definitely not cool.   Argh!  There’s no WiFi and my Verizon service is lousy at best, so that’s kind of a bummer (OK, hard core camper I’m not ),  OTA TV stations limited to four (out of Gaineville, FL).   You don’t miss it until you don’t have it (gee, that’s profound), really applies here, and it’s kind of a sad statement that it does.

Went into High Springs and after some trial and error, found the post office, needed to mail a couple of bills.  While driving around trying to find the post office, wow, the roads are so narrow and many in poor shape.  I felt like I was driving down an alley.

Stopped and had a late lunch at Bev’s Burger Cafe, and then off to Winn-Dixie for some grocery’s.  I did do a quick once over of the town, and put it on the list to check out again later in the week.

Headed back to the park and settled in for the night.  It was interesting to watch the caravan of weekend campers come into the park.  Many had big (30′-35′) trailers and what with the rutted sandy roads and cramped sites, it made getting around for them dicey.  The park really filled up by nightfall and with the sites so close together, well lets just say it wasn’t an ideal arrangement.  The campground went from quaint and quiet to congested and chaotic.  Not a good scenario for camping (at least not for me). I guess this is one of those times that you have to “roll with the flow.”

initial impressions of the park;  It’s has potential and a lot of positive things going for it.  It also has a lot of deficits that the State needs to address before it can become a first class park & campground.  Only time will tell of my experience here at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park.

12/06/18 Opp, AL-High Springs, FL

DAY #47

Up at 7:00 and ready to go by 7:30 a.m.  The weather was a brisk 29 degrees with frost covering the ground.  Relatively speaking; When you’re staying in a non-insulated trailer and using a space heater, that’s cold.  The sky though was blue and another nice day (call me strange, I really like nice days) was on tap.  Breaking down the trailer is getting to be routine, but I still really appreciate it when everything goes right.  One last look at Frank Jackson State Park, and then off to the next destination on the journey.  Time to get the Opp out of here.

That destination was Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park.  The park is located 6 miles west of High Springs, FL ( 45 miles NW of Gainesville).  Getting there meant a long day on the road, something I had gotten away from, so it really seemed long.  From leaving to arriving, it took more than seven hours and 360+ unremarkable (but scenic) miles using a mix of freeway and back roads.   I also changed time zones when crossing into Georgia. 

On the way I stopped at a Camping World in Dothan, AL.  I wanted to buy a power extension cord.  One of the things I came away with after reading reviews about Blue Springs State Park, the power boxes were opposite where they normally should be, and a extension cord for power would be needed.   It worked out super, found what I was looking for and best of all, the CW was right on the way. 

Stayed clear of the big cities (which was easy since there were none) and while getting 11 mpg, traveled out of Alabama, cutting across the southwestern corner of Georgia before heading into Florida.  The big difference that I saw between Alabama and Georgia were the number of trees. There’s still a whole lot of trees, but I also saw a lot more fields, mainly peanuts and cotton along with raising cattle.  The vibe in Georgia began to feel different from Alabama. It felt more agricultural, or at least it did for awhile before the trees (mainly cedar pine trees?) came back.   Florida also brought you back into the trees (more like Alabama) with the occasional pasture for cattle grazing.

As I traveled east I crossed the path of Hurricane Michael and even up in Georgia, you could see the damage.  There were pile after pile of trees that had been cut & stacked, now lining the side of the road waiting to be picked up, along with the other debris created by the hurricane. Trees that had been snapped by the wind, and signs bent by the force of the storm.  A number of homes had tarps over parts of their roofs, and here and there, you could see an old building collapsed by the wind.  The damage reminded me of a tornado, what amazed me was how wide a band in which the damage occurred, it went on for mile after mile.

I saw another Armadillo but like the first one, it was road kill.  Darn it! (pardon the rough language).  I won’t consider my journey complete until I see one alive. 

Made it to Gilchrist Blue Springs state park and was appreciative of the overall quality of the roads along the journey today, it makes towing the trailer that much easier (less anxiety).  The park is the newest in Florida system (just over one year) and centers around a large spring of water.  The area around the park is rural with a continuing mixture of trees (deciduous & pine) and fields (pastures?).  

The first impression with the park was the road into it.  It runs approx. 1.2 miles and it is a bumpy, washboard ridden, slow going (5-10 mph) sand road.  It looks and feels like it hasn’t been graded since it became a State Park.  Reviews had made note of this and to see it and drive it first hand, I got to say, they were right. 

Driving down the road into the park I saw two groups of deer.  The first group of three looked at me, and then effortlessly jumped The fence and off they went. The second group further down did the same, but it was neat seeing.   Checking in was a breeze and off I went to find the site.  The campground is small as are the individual sites.  After driving around twice, not fun on a really poor, sand road while towing a trailer and I didn’t appreciate the lack of signage,   I found my assigned site,  backed the trailer in and set up.  While setting up I thought, man it could be tough bringing in a big trailer or coach into this campground.  Hooking up the power, I expected to have to use the extension cord I bought at CW. To my surprise, both the water and electric were where they should be so I didn’t have to use the extension cord and who knows, maybe I’ll finally try out the water. 

Checked out the bathroom location which is vital.  It was OK, about 150′ to the facilities.  The campground was quiet, there were no people there for the springs and the campground only had three others. 

Home sweet home for the next ten days.

 

12/05/18 Opp, AL

DAY #46

My last full day in Alabama, and I decided to spend it looking around Andalusia.  I’d gone there a couple of times before (it was a 20 minute drive) but only as far as the local Walmart.  After spending time there today (and yesterday as well), I’m glad that I did.  

It was another beautiful day, if even a tad cold (48 degrees).

I drove from the park into the city center and there it was, the southern town of my mind, with  the town square, and the courthouse.  I was excited.

It’s Christmas in Alabama and that means using the town square to help celebrate it.  That’s the County Courthouse in the back.

Some other photos of the Downtown area.  I could have gotten some more photos of the other sides of the square but forgot to until now…little late.

These buildings in part house Covington Caskets.  Since 1924.

By far the most interesting building in town.  It’s the rare small town that has a building this tall. 

I like the holiday decoration.

For me, these old buildings show the history of the city, and in doing so, it’s culture and even it’s soul.  The story fades and crumbles over time, only to be replaced by new buildings and new stories, but if you look hard at these buildings, you can still find the old stories, the stories that I want to hear.  One building that really brings this home is the old city jail.  Just imagine the stories from this building.  

The old jail was located directly behind the County courthouse.

Another interesting building, the train station.

Recurring theme?

Another building with such a rich history, the old high school.

One of the many churches in Andalusia.  As I said earlier, if you’re looking for faith, this is the place to come.

I continue to be smitten by what I would call Southern Architecture.  It takes simple and makes it eloquent.

Finally, I found some homes worthy of being called a southern mansion.

I kind of ignored this charming city, and I’m thankful that I decided to check it out.  Seeing the old buildings helped take me back to a time that I associate with the “old south.”  It was a rich and satisfying day.

UPDATE:  My newfound friends, the ants, have diminished in number.  I did spray Raid and put out some traps but I think the cold weather has zapped them more then the poison.   Having said that, there still some crawling around the table.

I was amazed to find this bamboo growing along one of the side streets.

Tomorrow morning the journey continues.  Up early and it’s going to be a long day.

12/03/18 Opp, AL

DAY #44

Another nice day in the Grand Ole Opp (ry).  Blue sky and bright sunshine with temperatures in the upper 60s.   The park’s been really quiet during the week and it’s nice, it feels like all the amenities are there just for me, no waiting or having someone pulling on the door when you’re, well ya know. 

Not much on the plate today.  I did go into Opp and washed the truck, stopped at Dollar General to pick up a couple things, and finally. went into IGA to buy some cheese straws. 

Cheese Straws.

I’ve never been in a Dollar General before and well it looks messy and seems unorganized, it really had a lot of stuff.  What prompted me to go to the general?  I had noticed yesterday how humid it felt in the trailer after being shut up all day, what with all the rain we had (3+ inches).  I remembered that at the State Park in Pensacola, another camper had told me about moisture absorbents that you hang in a closet or in the bathroom, and so I thought, why not give it a try.  I don’t want moisture in the trailer, that’s a death knoll to a trailers health. 

Another reason for going was to pick up some spray/baits.  It seems that the ants have decided to become my buddy’s and hang out with me (by the thousands!).  First noticed them above the fridge, and then later, found them on the other side of the trailer by the microwave.  Also noticed after looking outside, literally a line of ants coming up the power cord (which is laying on the ground) and getting into the trailer from who knows where.  They’re the real little guys, so they’re more pest than anything.

Later in the evening did a couple loads of laundry, and binged watched Schitts Creek on Netflix.  Not an exciting day by any means, but a nice day just the same.

12/02/18 Opp, AL

DAY #43

The rain finally stopped and the clouds were slowly breaking up when I headed out this morning.  On the agenda was a full day exploring the area north of the campground highlighted by stops in Selma, and Montgomery, AL. 

It was still a bit foggy when I left, but the temperature was in the mid 60s and there was the promise that the weather was going to only improve.  Not long after leaving, I saw not one or two, but three cardinals on the side of the road.  I thought, WOW, and with a smile on my face murmured, today’s going to be A-OK.

This part of Alabama is trees, trees, and more trees. and the drive up to Selma is no exception.  Once you get over the anxiety of, oh my god, what happens if something goes wrong, It really is nice driving down these back roads.  They’re usually quiet except when you get that one car who comes out of nowhere and wants to go 20 mph over the speed limit, That kind of brings you back to reality. 

County Roads.

 Pictures may be a bit blurred.  I took them through the windshield, while driving and oh yea, the windshield was really dirty.

State Highway.

Driving up to Selma took about 2 1/2 hours and the further north I drove, the clearer the sky became.  It was turning out to be a beautiful day in East-Central Alabamy.  The roads were free of traffic and with the exception of some real real back roads, in remarkable nice shape.  Alabama is a very low tax state and I always thought that meant things like roads and state parks would be a joke, but in reality, they’re quite nice.  I did not appreciate all the garbage on the sides of the road, damn it, it really ticks me off, cmon people, cmon!    Another observation, If you have faith, or want to find it, this is the place to come.  I’ve not seen so many churches, they’re everywhere.

Made it to Selma.

This is the Edmund Pettus Bridge that was made famous in the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965.

Looking at the bridge from the west.

The bridge crosses the Alabama river.

Some glimpses of the Selma riverfront.

Coming into Downtown.

Some of the buildings that make up Downtown

I really like this old Rexall sign.

While there are signs and monuments along with other indicators of the importance of Selma in the civil rights movement, it still feels like an undiscovered find.  I did see a few people walking around with cameras and cellphones at the ready, but overall it was a low key (but very important) experience.

Downtown is still in business, as is along the riverfront (I think).   I’m not sure by the way it looks if it’s been revitalized (along the river) or if its hard core ghetto, it is that much of a dichotomy (I don’t really know what this means, it just sounds impressive).  there was no one around or any cars on the street, but it looked like there were places open for business (closed because it was Sunday) .  These two areas have a “worn at the edges” look, as does the city in general.  There are a lot of old buildings in various degrees of condition and when you cross the tracks (figuratively & literately), some neighborhoods look as though success has passed them buy. 

I wanted to take some photos but I always get hesitant taking pictures of peoples homes.  Sometimes they see you and depending where you are, and who you are, it can become uncool.  Now when you cross the tracks, not as much a concern.  Not saying anything, it’s just the way it is.

Built in 1847, This building has served as a masonic university, Confederate hospital, and Courthouse

After Selma, it was time to head out towards Montgomery.  Montgomery is about an hour east of Selma and fits into the category of “big city.”

I stopped to mail a letter along the way.

Before getting to Montgomery I stopped at a small city called Prattville.  I guess it’s considered a “bedroom community” for Montgomery, but in its day, it was its own little world. 

A nice mixture of revitalized store fronts & old school business’s.  Oops, forgot to include some revitalized buildings but believe me, they’re there. 

For decades the building shown manufactured cotton gins, the implement that removes the seeds from the cotton boll.  Up until early this century the plant was still in operation.

Bye, Bye Prattville, interesting little town. On to Montgomery.  As I said, Montgomery is a big city.  It has freeways running through it, and tall buildings  and an overall look to it of modern America, so for me not a lot to see.  There were a couple of things that I really did want to see.

First, I wanted to see the church that Dr. King preached in, and the Montgomery bus boycott had it’s beginning.

It’s only been 50+ years since the days of the civil rights movement, a movement that fundamentally has changed America.  I was surprised that the church is only one block from the state capital.

 Looking towards Downtown Montgomery.

The State Capital of Alabama.  The street was at an incline.  I’m not sure if it’s the street of me responsible for how this looks. 

When Jefferson Davis was inaugurated as President of the Confederacy, he walked down this street, given Montgomery was the first capital of the CSA.  Ironic that little over a century later, the people he fought to enslave marched down this very same street, with freedom in their hands and hearts, and soul.

And here is the first “White House” of the Confederacy

That was it for Montgomery, I still had a couple of hours to get back to the land of Opp and wanted to do so before sunset. 

Coming into and leaving Montgomery I noticed some changes in the landscape.  It became more hilly, with more fields, but still, lots and lots of trees.  Nice ride back and another day in the books.  This was a very satisfying day for me.

12/01/18 Opp, AL

DAY #42

It began raining last night around 9:00 pm, and it did not stop until 9:30 (still hearing thunder) this evening.  And did it rain, not on again, off again, but a heavy steady rain.  In checking, it looks like we had 3+ inches of rain.

TODAY WAS A TOTAL WASHOUT.  (LITERALLY & FIGURATIVELY).

I left the trailer only to use the bathroom.  This is one of those days that you really appreciate having Netflix & Amazon Prime since going outside was not an option.

It looks like no leaks in the trailer, man it sure did get tested though.  One good thing about all this rain, I had a real excuse for not hooking up the water hose that I’ve been procrastinating doing.

Tomorrow promises to be a better day.