03/27/19 Fargo, GA

DAY #158

Took a trip back to Valdosta, GA,  not for pleasure but business, I needed to do laundry.

After finishing up with the laundry, did a bit of driving around the city before heading back to camp.  I was surprised how big it is. Valdosta has over 56,000 people living in the city, and at least twice that in the metropolitan area.  The city is home to a State University and not far out of town, Mosby AFB.  The downtown area was interesting to drive through. It was rather substantial in size, and dotted with a large number of old/historic buildings. In its prime, this was the big city for the region. 

(Hey, where’s the photos?)

Since, I started out from the campground so late, plus it took almost an hour and half to get there, I didn’t have much time after laundry to do a proper exploration of the city, more like a snapshot.  I’d like to come back.

It was a nice ride back to the park with the sun to my back (for once).  For a do-nothing day, it had turned out to be pretty good.

 It was dusk when I got back into the Refuge and just before getting in, I got to see a wild boar, running in the ditch along the road.  Perhaps not first choice on anyone’s list of must-see animals, but nevertheless kind of cool.

Driving back, the roads were smooth and the traffic light. The trees provided a soothing mosaic of colors and textures. I turned the music to mellow and let it all come together to take me to a place where my thoughts could run free.

In my mind, God came before us and offered this deal; if we follow his commandments through this life, then we will have everlasting life in a land where sin doesn’t exist.  Pretty sweet deal.  What God demanded from us was simple and direct.  All of our questions could/can be answered by those simple commandments.

Then along came man to create religion (I do understand I’m taking some liberties).

Man, (over time) has proceeded in the name of religion to , institutionalize, politicize, and industrialize the message from God. Man has taken what was meant to be all including and turned it into a complex, exclusive, divisive type of litmus test.

Religions at odds with one another, our version is better than your version, etc. Religions that put as much belief in idols and dogma than in the worship of God. Religions that operate more as a business than as a house of God.

Thinking about all this as the miles rolled along, I came to a belief that we as a people have lost our way. We’re not walking with God, as much as we’re walking with man. We need to find our way back to God, to that simple message.

It really is, just that simple…

03/26/19 Fargo, GA

DAY #157

Today was going to be a ‘tie up loose ends’ kind of day.  The plan was to take the long way to Lake City, FL, which is about an hour’s drive (if you stay on paved roads) from the campground. Once there, I would find a McDonald’s (or Starbucks) and use their WiFi to update the blog using the laptop. I’d also planned to bring laundry along and wash/dry if I got the chance.

Why would I drive that far just for a WiFi signal? couldn’t I have gone into Fargo where I would’ve had Verizon service, and then setup a hotspot with the phone, and update the blog using the laptop?  The short answer as it turned out was yes. However, there were a number of reasons why I didn’t do it that way.

  • The ride to Lake City itself was a big part of the plan, I wanted to meander around, including going into the National forest.
  • I didn’t think that the hot spot would have given me enough ‘juice’ to download the photos onto the blog.  On my Verizon plan (which I’ve come to regard as ‘it sucks’), after you use 15 GB of total data, speeds when using hot spot slow down to only 600kps, which is dial up slow. Since I usually go through that much data quickly each month,  I didn’t even think about using the hot shot option, I thought I had already exceeded the limit.
  • I wanted to get a square meal and I wasn’t up to doing it myself.

And why did I pick Lake City, FL?

  • It’s hard to find WiFi and especially free WiFi.  It’s difficult to find in large cities and next to impossible in rural areas.  I remember when travelling in Africa how Internet Cafes were such a big deal, they were everywhere, not so here in the USA.   McDonalds is one of the few places where it’s offered and free.  Lake City has two McDonalds.
  • Lake City is South of the campground.  It would have been just as long (miles) to go to any town with a McDonalds whether I went West, North, or East.  I hadn’t been in this area so I thought it would be fun to see some of it as I was doing errands.  Kind of like work and play at the same time.
  • I guess I just wasn’t ready yet to say goodbye to Florida.

Well, things don’t always go as planned and in my case, things seldom go as planned. 

I started out later than originally planned.  The alarm failed to go off, yeah that’s it, the alarm didn’t go off. Because of that, plus add in the detours I took, which ended up taking more than twice as long to get there, it would have put more out over 10:00 pm, so it had to be a pass on the laundry. 

The drive to Lake City was enjoyable.  I got off the paved highway and took dirt back through the National Forest for approx. eight miles.  It turned out great, first, the views and vibe were so cool, and second, the dirt turned to asphalt, becoming a county road that eventually brought me into Lake City.

Found the McDonalds and after ordering a soda, found a seat and pulled the laptop out of its bag.  Turned the laptop on, clicked to connect with McDonalds WiFi and ta-da, IT WOULD NOT CONNECT. I just drove 50 miles through the freakin woods, and it won’t connect… I was frustrated but remained  calm, I didn’t want people looking at me with that ‘what’s wrong with him look’ as I’m having a mental melt down, talk about embarrassing. 

I’m not sure why it wouldn’t connect.  After leaving Micky D’s and getting in the truck, I went online with the tablet and tried to find out what the message I was getting meant, in the end I never did find out what the problem was.  Sometimes its hell being computer illiterate.  It was on to Plan B.

Plan B was going over to the Longhorn Steak House where I had decided to have dinner, but first, sit in their lot and try and update the blog in a kind of jerry-rigged (not sure what that means but I’ve heard it used before) manner.  I thought I could copy and paste from word to the blog, then download the words using the hot spot, and go back using the tablet to download the photos.  Time consuming to be sure.

Caught a break. I tried just for kicks to see if I could download a photo using the hot spot and sure enough, it worked, what’s going on I thought?  Did some checking and found that I hadn’t exceeded the 15 GB threshold, so the photos were shooting through at high speed, that’s why I said, I could have done all this in Fargo.  It made for a faster process but still one that took some time.  After about an hour sitting in the lot downloading, I decided to break and go inside the steakhouse.

Overall, it was a good experience.  It reminded me of an Outback Steak House with a pseudo western theme instead of a pseudo Australian one.  It defiently was a step up from McDonalds.

Went back to the truck and spent another 90 minutes finishing up downloading.  The sun had set by the time I was ready to head back to the trailer.

The ride back was mostly in the dark, but I only had to take a couple of roads and they were in great shape.  I like the reflective tabs on the road, they really light the road up.  One of the problems back home that I have when driving in the dark is it being hard to see the center line because they’re so faded.  The reflectors on the road tonight almost look like lights illuminating the road.

 I was hoping to see some life forms on the way back but alas, didn’t see anything. Good news: Made it back by 10:00 pm curfew.

Even though things didn’t go as planned, everything worked out in the end, I’m thankful for that.

03/25/19 Fargo, GA.

DAY #156

Today’s ramblings from the Old Man.

Slept in late today, I continue to have trouble sleeping at night (but I could sleep all day), adding to the frustration, I get the ‘jimmy arms’ and ‘jimmy legs.’  Not sure what I mean? You’ll have to watch the sitcom Seinfeld for the answer.

While walking down the road (path) to the bathroom, I noticed how quiet the campground has become.  All the weekenders have gone home, and the road travelers have yet to arrive, it’s kind of nice.

The only thing that I’m not really happy about here is the lousy (as in non-existing) cell service.  The OTA signals do give me a handful of public service stations (the boring ones) so I guess I should be appreciative of that.  

I understand the argument of how camping is all about being one with nature with getting away from manmade distractions being one of its goals.  If I were out on the road for a relatively short period of time, I would/do embrace that thinking, but since this has almost become a way of life, I miss the niceties that man can sometime provide. 

Lying in bed, I’m still finding it reassuring when I hear the hot water heater kick on.  It tells me its working and hot water is at my disposal.  It can be quite loud and startling when it first comes on since it sounds slightly like a jet engine winding up. I can imagine that over time, it might become a sound that I will find more and more annoying, and knowing me, start ‘pissing and moaning’ about it.                             Check back to see how it turns out. 

It really is a pretty campsite, some more views of my backyard.

Took a ride into town and got me a fountain drink. Afterwards, found a place to park down near the Suwannee River, and while humming that famous song about the river, surfed the web for about an hour.  It was such a nice day, and such a cool spot to hang out.

Saw the turkeys again on the way back to camp, always get a charge when see something, even if seen before.

03/24/19 Fargo, FL.

DAY #155

What should we do today?  I know, let’s take a ride around the Okefenokee Swamp, starting on the western side of the swamp, heading north, then east, south, and finally west, back to the campground.

A few more sights around Fargo, GA. I’ve noticed that people from Fargo, GA seem to talk with a different accent then those from Fargo, ND. Uff da, ya you know, you betcha.

Driving around the Okefenokee Swamp, it’s easy to feel alone, there’s so little traffic as you drive mile after mile of tree lined roads (in a good way). No houses, no towns, no nothing, and when you get off the paved roads and onto the dirt ones, wow, that feeling is only magnified.

The one thing that you do see, the scars left from timber harvesting.  Some are fresh and ongoing, while others show the stages of healing by the size of the regrowth.

As I got up around the northern end of the swamp, the road deviated away, I began to see a number of fields that looked like what I had seen the other day.  Driving by one field I noticed a sign, slowing down (you can do that on the back roads), I was able to read the farm name and what was being grown, it was blueberries.

Waycross, GA was the halfway point around the swamp.  It’s a town of around 14,000, and around these parts where nothing looms large, it really feels like the big city.  

Did a quick drive through the downtown area.  Sadly, like so many towns, the downtown and central parts of Waycross, where so much of its history lays, has been largely abandoned. If you look hard  you can still see a small vestige of its history through the architecture of its buildings and homes.

 What bothers me about how easy we seem to abandon our past;  Our history is what makes us and keeps our culture, our identity.  When we walk away from it, like bugs attracted to a bright light, running from one ‘the latest and greatest’ to the next, and so on. What does that say about our culture, our identity, hell, our future?  Not much, I gather to say.

I stopped at Kroger for the first time and I was disappointed.  I’ve come to really like Publix, so much so that I’m using it as my standard when comparing other stores.  This Kroger reminded me of a wannabee that didn’t quite make the grade.  I ended up going to Walmart.

The rest of the trip around the swamp and back to the campground was pretty much a carbon copy of the first part of the drive, it was a nice, laid back, sing along to the song on the radio ride.

Another good day, this time in the backwoods of Southeast Georgia.

03/23/19 Fargo, GA.

DAY #154

Hung around the park today.  I noticed the trailer was sitting crooked and decided to correct it. It meant putting all the stabilizers up, hooking the trailer to the truck, and moving it around to a better spot. I knew when I first parked the trailer it was at somewhat of an angle, just didn’t think it was as pronounced as it was. After that, I was energized and decided to do a bit of a walk about. Started out by taking a walk along one of the trails in the park.   The trail was a short one at a little under two miles with one fourth of it consisting of a boardwalk over the wet, boggy, ground.  While not challenging, it was an enjoyable walk along level ground, I really got a kick out of the woodpeckers, there were two of them.

You could really here them pounding away at the wood.

After the walk, I proceeded over to the ‘trading post’ marina where I was catching a boat to take me on a 90-minute cruise of the Okefenokee.  The cost was only $15.00 which was very reasonable and included a park naturalist to help give a better understanding of the swamp.

There was only three of us on the cruise, a couple and myself. Kind of like having it all to oneself. Off we went, with our custom-built skiff boat plying into the infamous Okefenokee Swamp…

Can you ever get enough of gators?

The cruise turned out to be an informative and enjoyable (if low key) time.  The weather was beautiful, the waters smooth, and the guide knowledgeable. The color of the water is the color of dark tea which makes it look deeper than it really is, the water in the swamp is only eight feet at its deepest.   I was surprised at the number of alligators seen on our relatively short time spent on the water.  The naturalist told us that they estimate over 12,000 alligators call the Okefenokee home.

I ended the day by going into Fargo and eating at the one and only restaurant in town.  On the way into town and outside of the Refuge, I got the opportunity to see my second Bobcat (so freakin cool!).  It ran across the road ahead of me. Judging by its size, it must have been a younger one compared to the one seen yesterday on the Suwannee Sill. 

The restaurant experience in town was much like the food, it was OK.  The waitperson was kind of odd.  It was super busy, but she seemed to be almost in a fog as she went about doing her job, maybe she hurt her back and needed to take some oxycontin for the pain, yea I’m sure that’s it.  Hey, I’m not judging, just observing what I see (OK, maybe a little judging).

Before leaving the Refuge and on the way into Fargo,  I took a quick cruise down the Suwannee Sill to see if anything was happening.  I did happen to meet some guys who gave me the low-down about the place.

I didn’t even see this guy while I was taking a photo of the big gators across the river.  I could almost bend down and pick him up, but something in his eyes told me no-no, so I settled for a couple of photos.

Growing up, I had read and heard stories about the Okefenokee Swamp, and dreamt that someday, I’d get the chance to go there.  Well boys and girls, reporting from the Okefenokee Swamp, dreams do come true.

03/22/19. Fargo, GA.

DAY #153

Somewhere yesterday between St. Augustine and Stephen C Foster State Park, I lost the top of my LP tank cover.  Yes, the tank cover that I had just bought and put together.  I don’t think it was anything I did or didn’t do, I’m not sure what happened.

 Now I know it’s not a big deal to most people but to me, I won’t let it out of my head until it’s replaced, hey call me quirky.  Plus, I wanted to get a replacement latch to hold the trailer door open.  The original one broke when I shut the door with the latch attached.  I found that super glue does not work well on ABS plastic (at least in my experience).

Before heading out I wanted to check the campground out.  The sites are deep but fairly narrow.  There’s enough foliage to create a natural fence from your neighbor, but you still know they’re there. Behind the site is where the view really gets good.  You look out into the swamp/woods and the towering pines raising straight and true to the sky. 

The road through the campground while paved, is winding and narrow.  I think if you had a big RV, it might be a bit of an effort to get it in and out.  It’s a decent campground.  Kind of looks like a camper’s sub-division. Looks cramped, but everyone has enough of their own space to make this setup work.

The bathrooms an showers are just a short walk away and look to be clean and in nice shape.  There  is one washer and one dryer available, always a nice little extra.  One thing I really like is outside the bathrooms, there’s an enclosed screen porch, and in this space two or three rocking style chairs that you can just sit in and watch the world go by.  Not a biggie, just haven’t seen anything like it before and it works.

Having given the campground, the once over it was time to head out towards Valdosta, where there was a Camping World.  Conferring with google once I had Verizon service;  mapped out a route, put the truck in D, and off I went.  It was about a 45-mile drive that would take me along some of the highways and secondary roads of Southeast Georgia

I find it really neat to find these old homes and buildings. They give us a snapshot of a different time.  I know that there’s a lot of bad, despicable things that white southerners did (and sadly many continue to do) to African-Americans, I don’t celebrate nor embrace that heritage, what I do find so appealing and  embrace, is the way life that used to be before the homogenization of America’s cultures.

Saw this, it says a lot about the area.

After a couple of hours meandering around the back roads, made it to Valdosta and Camping World.  I was able to get everything I needed, and after a quick look around Valdosta, Headed back toward the campground.

Decided to get off the pavement and do some hard-core meandering for a spell.

Driving along these dirt roads I was surprised to come across a number of pretty large field growing, I wasn’t sure what.

Later, I found out they’re blueberries. and are just coming out of their dormant stage.

Made it back to the Refuge and it was still light, I decided to take a ride down the narrow but paved road called the Suwannee sill.  It runs for a mile along the edge of the swamp and brings you to the headwaters of the Suwannee river (the inspiration for the mid-19th century song).

If you look hard, you can see the Bobcat.  It was so mega-cool to see.

From the sill, it was a seven-mile drive to the campground.  It was quickly turning to dusk, along the way, I got to see three deer.  It was an enjoyable end, to an enjoyable day.

03/21/19. Palatka, FL-Fargo, GA.

DAY #152

Busy day planned ahead.  Not only was it moving day, it was also bring the trailer in to Camping World for service, and the truck to Bozard Ford for an oil change/tire rotation day.  Hopefully, all these things would be accomplished and still have time to get to the next campground before sunset.

Rodman Campground was a nice “pit-stop” on the journey.  While the area didn’t offer a lot in the way of attractions, excursions or activities, and if you’re lazy like me, the options became even more limited, it did offer a quiet, comfortable, picturesque spot to set down stakes and just enjoy life, if even for only a few days. It was a perfect place to complete the transition from the world of ‘New Florida’ to that of ‘Old Florida’.

The day started early, I was up before sunrise, but decided to snooze a while longer (didn’t take much convincing), didn’t feel like hooking the trailer up in the dark.  After my snooze, had the trailer broke down, hooked up, and ready to go by 8:30 am.  The first stop was at Camping World (CW) in St. Augustine, Fl.  It was an hours drive from Rodman and the nice part of it was, I could make the stop and not have to deviate off route.

I was expecting a full day wait (best case scenario) at Camping World to get the trailer serviced.  The hot water heater had stopped working and needed to get fixed.  Thankfully, it was still under warranty but if a part needed to be ordered, or if it turned out to be a major repair, it could mean a wait, something I didn’t look forward to, but resigned to, if that’s the way it went. 

Dropped the trailer off and headed down the block to the Ford dealership to get the truck serviced.

While sitting in the Quick Lane lobby waiting for service to be done on the truck, I got a call from Camping World, it seems they had diagnosed and repaired the hot water heater. The trailer was ready to be picked up, and it wasn’t even 11:00 am.

Wow, here I was concerned that I might be laid up for a couple of days in St. Augustine, that between you and me I wouldn’t have minded, to getting a call an hour and half after dropping the trailer off, telling me it’s good to go. 

OK, the truck was ready, the trailer was ready, and I was ready.  We all got together, hooked up (so to speak), and back on the road we went.  Next stop; Stephen C. Foster State Park located within the boundaries of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

My last miles in Florida would be spent on the interstates.  The route took me from I-95 North (St. Augustine) to I-10 West.  Along the way I went through Jacksonville, FL.  Being on the freeway you can never get much of a feel for an area and that held true here.  From what I could see while trying to navigate the crowded and congested freeways, was a metropolis with interesting and inviting waterways, and a rather unimpressive downtown skyline. It’s a big city, with a big city look and feel.  It took a while to get clear of it and back into the wild.

 Not long after getting out of Jacksonville, google informed me to exit the freeway and begin the last segment for the day.  This final 50 of so miles would be taken along winding tree lined two lane blacktop.

Shortly after getting off the freeway and before getting into Georgia, I stopped at a Walmart to stock up.  In doing my homework I found that it’s about 45 miles from the campground to any place for shopping, etc.  It struck me that I sure seem to be staying at a lot of places that have long drives for shopping, etc.  After Walmart it was back on the road.  Not long after entering Georgia, I began seeing some large fields that appeared to be growing cabbage.  I also noticed a number of buildings along the highway that by their appearance, looked to have been at one time housing for migrant farm workers.  Given the condition they were in, it was apparent they hadn’t been used for quite a while. I found it quite interesting to see.  It gave a glimpse of a bygone time (good or bad).

As I continued along, the fields gave way to trees, lots and lots of trees (mainly pine).  Along with the trees came swaths of land where timber had recently been cut and cleared. 

Timber is big business in Georgia and in this part of the state, timber is king.

Outside of trees, I saw very few pastures and even fewer farms. One thing that caught my attention was the number of trailer homes (manufactured homes), it seemed that at least seventy five percent of the homes were trailers.

Driving into Fargo, GA meant I only had 17 miles left before the State Park.  Fargo is the closet place that has any services.  There are a couple of places for gas, a restaurant and a convenience store.  Nothing to really motivate you to drive to from the park, but if you’re on your way back after a day of activity, it’s a nice option to have.  Fargo is kind of a neat place, there’s a character to it, maybe not as strong as in its heyday but still, you can feel it.

Easy to get to the State Park, and National Wildlife Refuge from Fargo, simply get on #177, and take it until you run out of road.  Before you get into the State Park, you’ll first enter the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

One interesting thing that I found out, the gates to the refuge close at 10:00 pm, and there is no code to open them.  If you’ve been out and about and it becomes after 10:00 pm, you can forget getting back to your campsite for the night.  It’s another seven miles to the State Park.  Once there I found the Admin building and checked in.  Check in went smoothly and soon, I was on my way to campsite #48, my home until the 29th of the month.

Another interesting tidbit; The State Park Gate also closes at 10:00 pm and there is no code to open the gate.  Conceivably, you could get into the Wildlife Refuge before those gates close and still get locked out at the State Park since it’s about seven miles from the Refuge entrance to the Park entrance.

 I guess in short, there’s a curfew and it’s 10:00 pm, the injustice of it!

Found the campsite and backed the trailer in.  It went pretty well, I only had to jockey around a couple of times.  Proceeded to set things up and yea…everything, including the hot water heater was working.  It’s always a good feeling when things go as they should.

The day ended with my reflection how today was a break from being tested.  Yeah, today was a good day.

03/20/19 Palatka, FL.

DAY #151

Last day at Rodman Campground State Park just outside Palatka, FL.

Didn’t have any big plans for the day. While this has been a great area to spend some time, it really isn’t the place to be if you’re an adrenaline junkie.  Now, if you’re a laid back, do it tomorrow, sit back and think about it a while, kind of soul, then you’ve found the perfect place to call home.

I liked going into Palatka.  Palatka is another of the undiscovered small Florida towns, it gives a glimpse of what life in Florida used to be like, I find myself wishing it had never gone away.  The town was relatively close to the campground (ten miles), and was big enough, yet not too big.  It offered shopping opportunity’s that could meet just about everyone’s needs. It was the perfect ‘close to the campground town.’ 

What stands out for me about Palatka, was the relatively large number of modest two-story houses.  In the rural south, my observations have shown me that while it’s common to see two story homes for  affluent members of the community, it’s uncommon to see two story homes designed and built for people of middle class means.  Palatka seems to be the exception to the rule.

Even though I did next to nothing while spending time here, I don’t consider it lost time. I appreciated what the area had to offer and enjoyed every minute of my time here.  Would I come back?  Oh yea, I’d be back in a heartbeat.

Onward and Upward!

03/19/19 Palatka, FL.

DAY #150

Wow, it’s been five months since this journey began.  Over 11,000 miles on the truck, and 3,700 miles on the trailer have been logged so far. The time like the miles, has gone by fast.

One of the goals of the trip was to stay one step ahead of “old man” winter and so far, that goal has been met.  There’s been a couple nights where the temperature dropped below freezing, and just a few days when the highs didn’t get out of the upper 40s.  Those have been the exception, the weather for the vast majority of the time has been nice, warm, and even hot.  There’s been more sunny days than gloomy ones, more dry days than rainy ones.

The weather has been one of the high points so far in the journey. 

Been to a lot of places and seen a lot of sights.  One bad thing (at least for me) is when you’ve seen so much, you start to forget some of the places you’ve been and some of the things seen, it all starts to run together in the memory, which brings us to another of the goals of the journey.

I want to document the trip, so that when I’m sitting in front of the pellet stove in the dead of winter looking out over frozen Lake Osakis, I’ll be able to sit back in the recliner, and relive the journey all over again.  Maybe, even remembering some of the things I thought I had forgot.

I don’t think there’s been any one stop where I haven’t enjoyed the time spent there (yes, some more than others).  I’ve enjoyed the diversity of the landscapes and cultures. The architecture and styles of the homes and buildings seen along the way. In their facades and choice of colors, they help to bring out the history of the area, they help to show a time long gone. 

The truck has performed flawlessly, and trailer has had only one minor hiccup (hot water heater).  I’m so fortunate and appreciative, that both the truck and trailer have been non-issues, which is a good thing since I don’t know if my fragile psyche could handle it (just kidding).

 The more time spent in it, the more I like the trailer.  It’s proving to hold up to the rigors of the road and is providing a comfortable living space with enough room.  I really like that I’m able to take a hot shower if I want, that’s nice. 

One area that I’m not so satisfied with is gas mileage.  Without the trailer, the truck is averaging 25 mpg (which is super). When towing the trailer, that number drops down to 11 mpg (which is not).  It was OK when gas was under $2.00 per gallon, it becomes more of an issue when it hits $2.60 per gallon.

I feel like I’m writing from a check-off list, does it seem that way to you? 

So far, I haven’t hit the wall (figuratively), still excited about what’s ahead, and looking forward to every day.  I’ll want to keep that attitude, there’s still a long ways to go before the light in the window back home can be turned off.

As Sonny sang to Cher; And the beat goes on (just how old are you).

03/18/19 Palatka, FL.

DAY #149

Wow, it must have been one heck of a Saint Patricks day. I woke up so worn out that I didn’t even leave the trailer once today.

The rain’s stopped but still cloudy, gloomy, and a little chilly (but beginning to warm up).