January 2008

 

400 miles and mostly south!  That was our heading when leaving Jekyll Island.  We stopped for a few days at Patrick AFB before moving onto Palmdale, Florida. 

The new year got off to a great start – we drove from Jekyll Island to Richmond Hill to

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We helped celebrate Lucille's mother's birthday on January 1st.

 celebrate Lucille’s mother’s birthday.  Pat and Yvette met us there. We all visited over lunch at Magnolia Manor, and then enjoyed a Carvel ice cream cake.  We took US 17 from Brunswick to Richmond Hill and back – very scenic, a little longer than I-95 but much more enjoyable, especially the canopy of live oak trees we drove under in Eulonia.

 One of the perks with working with local volunteers at the Habitat build site is learning about cool places to visit.  Dick, who winters on Jekyll Island with his wife, is a meticulous craftsman helping renovate Hollybourne, one of the ‘cottages’ in the Jekyll Island historic village.  For the past seven years, he has been refinishing the wooden shutters, having worked on about 75 pairs with approximately that many left to do.  It takes him about a week per single panel, depending on how much restoration is needed.  Dick was able to arrange a personal tour of Hollybourne, which is not open to the public.  As payment, we had to take a tour of the workshop where he does most of the work.  We were quite impressed with seeing ‘before’ and ‘in process’ shutters and the tools available to him.  Working along side of him on the Habitat site, we saw first hand how thorough he is and how much pride he has in whatever he does.

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Hollybourne can best be described as a restoration in progress.  As the photos show, floors and walls have become victims of moisture and termites.  We were given a tour that allowed us to see some of the unique engineering features that included bridge-like trusses, tabby walls and brick support piers. 

Hollybourne, built in 1890 by Charles Stewart Maurice, a partner in the Union Bridge Company, is the only remaining cottage still being preserved.  For this reason, Hollybourne is typically not open to the public.  We were thrilled Dick was able to line up a tour for us.  We learned so much information from our guide – here is just a sampling…

Trusses are identical to that of a railroad bridge, a very unusual but stable design.   Upon entering the first floor, you notice there are no load-bearing walls – it’s quite spacious.  The trusses are not visible unless you have x-ray vision and can see through walls but the trusses, from the roof, are supporting all floors.  A section of a wall in the attic was left exposed so we could see one of the trusses.  Nineteen brick pedestals in the basement also help support the house.  Five million dollars were allocated years ago for renovation – but there is a still lot to do.  It was continuosly occupied until 1947 when it was sold to the state because back taxes hadn’t been paid.  The original cost of the house was $19,000; the owners were only paid $20,000 by the state.  Hollybourne is the only cottage in the historic district built of tabby (lime, water, oyster shells and sand.)  That has caused problems over the years because the tabby was wet when poured, then surrounded on one side by wooden slats and the other by stucco.  Wood absorbed the moisture from the tabby, which caused it to deteriorate.  Stucco pulled moisture in from the outside and transferred it through, causing additional damage.  It’s also the only house in the historic district without a sump pump, but no one seems to know why.  Sump pumps are necessary in the others because of the low water table.

The Getty Conservation Institute is experimenting with a method to keep the house and humidity at an acceptable level without adding a heating and air conditioning system.  What they learn will be applied to protect archives in third world countries.  Year round, there is never more than a 5% difference in either temperature or humidity from ambient conditions – pretty amazing.

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This what the completed Brunswick Habitat house looks like.

A final note on our Brunswick Habitat experience:  it was very cold the last few days we worked.  The siding had finally arrived and we were determined to get it finished.  Wind chills were in the high teens and of course, the side we worked on was totally in the shade with wind blowing through – it was like being in a wind tunnel. You can tell how cold it was by how bundled up we all are in the picture of the house (see December 2007 travels) and that was after shedding some of the layers!  Mary sent us a recent picture of the house now that it has been completed – Michelle should be moving in mid-February.

The night before we left Jekyll Island, we joined Dave and Mary for dinner at Jinright’s Seafood in Brunswick – good food at a good price.  We try to enjoy local seafood whenever we are near any of the coasts – between eating out and buying fresh wild Georgia shrimp at City Market, we supported Brunswick’s fishing industry as well as the local merchants. Tough job but someone has to do it, right?

Time to head south to Florida – first stop, a few days’ stay at Patrick Air Force Base’s military campground.  The RV carpets had to be cleaned after a month of the campground roads at Jekyll.  Once we get to our next destination, Palmdale, we are miles away from renting a carpet-cleaning machine, so a stay at Patrick, where it was just a few miles to pick up the machine, made sense.

Patrick’s campground was at capacity so we parked in overflow, which was fine with us - the sites are more spacious. We filled up our fresh water tanks, cleaned off the solar panels, and settled in for our short stay.  After getting set up, we visited with Lucille’s Aunt Eugenie, daughter Susan and husband Ken, catching up on our lives since we saw them last in October.  Sunday, we drove to Palm Bay to attend the worship service at Fellowship United Methodist Church – it was great seeing Pastor Shirley again and the rest of the friends we’d made there last summer.  While we were in town, we got a Sam’s Club and BJ’s Wholesale Club fix, stocking up on ‘stuff’.   We ended that busy day at Carrabba’s Grill where we met with friends Rick and Eileen and Jim, Rick’s father.

The plan first thing Monday morning was to start cleaning the carpets but our truck had other plans.  It had been stalling on us before we left Georgia but it happened several times in the Palm Bay area, so Larry made an appointment with the local Ford dealer who was able to get him in that morning.  The problem turned out to be a cam position sensor which Ford recently identified as a recall issue; by 1 pm, he got started on the carpets. 

Because we’ve stopped at Patrick’s campground several times, we usually see familiar faces.  Garry and Happy (a black goldendoodle and one of Shelley’s dog buddies) pulled in the same day we did.  Garry joined us for happy hour one evening.  While Lucille was outside waiting for the carpets to dry, (soon-to-be new friends) Bill and Jane walked by with their dogs.  They noticed Lucille’s Habitat t-shirt and had questions about Habitat.  After giving them a brochure and sharing our respective travels plans from that area, we went on our separate ways.  You’ll hear more about Bill and Jane shortly! 

While parked in the overflow area, we were entertained by a great blue heron performing a courting ritual high in a tree.  He’d stretch out his neck, fluff up his feathers, crow, then break off a twig, over and over again.  The female great blue ignored him, even though he kept it up for hours. 

Time to get back on the road to Palmdale, where we’ll stay put for at least five weeks.  We made sure our route brought us past the Melbourne Beach Supermarket to pick up some of the best freshly made bratwurst we’ve ever had.  The links are so large, it’s a rare person who can eat more than one. 

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Guess what this is?  (Hint: it is not a happy face gone bad.)  See below for the answer.

Hendry’s Sabal Palms Campground in Palmdale at last – friends Harry and Marie from Ontario and Rich and Linda from Ohio were already there and came out to greet us.  We quickly got set up in our site, then joined the four of them for a cookout, something Marie started last year on first night arrivals so we don’t have to worry about fixing a meal – a thoughtful and very helpful tradition that we’ll try to continue.

A word about our site this year—Harry modified the sewer connection at Rich and Linda’s site to accommodate hooking up the exit end of a macerator hose.  There are about eight sites just east of Rich’s that are water and electric only, more spacious than some of the full hook-up sites, with beautiful views of small ponds in the front and rear.  Harry and Marie parked in the first site, we were in the next one, and the third one was reserved for Karen and Galen, our friends and music mentors, on their way from Texas.  When our holding tanks are full, Larry hooks up the macerator, then attaches our macerator hose to Harry’s hose which reaches the sewer connection – very ingenious and it enables us to have a gorgeous site with lots of real estate. 

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Spacious sites and pretty surroundings make Hendry's an idyllic place to winter.  Our RV is in the center.

Hendry’s is in the process of being sold, with the closing set for mid-February.  Frankie, the new owner, has big plans for the park – adding an inground pool, redoing the bathhouse, updating the kitchen appliances in the community room, adding an enclosed pet park, eventually adding more sites and if he can get the land rights, adding an entrance from US 27.  In the meantime, Frankie and a crew have been busy sprucing up the place – trimming the palmettos and live oak trees, hauling away years worth of old tires and junk, and even bringing in a real dumpster instead of a trailer – we’re uptown now!  Improvements are good and some sorely needed but those of us that have been here before are hoping the ambience and laidback atmosphere of the park doesn’t change much.  Time will tell.

We soon got into our Palmdale routine – morning walks to US 27 and back, a distance of about 2.5 miles round trip; riding our bikes to the post office, about 3.5 miles total; ‘happy hours’ that sometimes turned into ‘happy 90 minutes’; evening walks around the campground in hopes of spotting some of the resident owls.  Karen and Galen arrived several days after we did and were soon set up – now we’ll have to get serious about playing our dulcimers.  They’ll ‘whip’ us into shape while we’re together. 

Much to our pleasant surprise, we got a phone call about a week after we were here from Bill and Jane, the couple that Lucille spoke with for maybe all of 15 minutes while at Patrick AFB.  They were intrigued by our description of our winter home and decided to camp here for about a week or so.  Well, a week became two, then three, and then it made financial sense to just pay the monthly rate.  Last we heard, they’ve cancelled heading down to the Keys and will spend about five weeks here – between our get-togethers with our ever-growing group and the atmosphere here, they were having too much fun to leave. 

A group of musicians from other campgrounds get together to play music four nights in different locations.  They are here at Hendry’s on Saturday evenings.  Some of them are quite talented.  They break halfway through the performance to sell ice cream and tickets to a 50/50 drawing, trying to raise money for a new sound system.  One of the better performers plays his harmonica when it’s his turn – awesome, including watching his foot clapping/chair dancing that we first saw Aubrey Atwater perform.  This style of ‘dancing’ is popular in Canada – we learned during break that he and his wife are from New Brunswick. 

We’ve gotten spoiled by the non-amplified acoustic music we enjoy in Mountain View, Arkansas, so having several electric guitars and keyboard in the community room gets to be pretty loud and crowded.  We prefer when they play on the outdoor stage in the pole barn but several of the musicians don’t like the occasional bug flying into their equipment.  Now we have the best of both worlds – we bring our chairs and sit right outside the room, cracking open the sliding doors a bit to be able to hear the music – much more fun, at least we think so.

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in nearby Moore Haven puts on a fish fry some Friday evenings to raise money for their food pantry.  We all went and enjoyed some of the best fried fish ever and were quite surprised to learn it was pollock.  Another destination to add to our busy schedules here at Hendry’s.

One Saturday, we drove to Tamarac to visit with Lucille’s aunts there and give Larry an opportunity to help Lorraine fix some computer problems.  Since we sold the house in Palm Bay, our official Florida residence address is now Lorraine’s, so we had a stack of mail to pick up.

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Karen and Galen helped keep us in tune while Linda learned some of the finer points of the washtub bass.

Now that Karen and Galen are here, we have no excuse not to practice music.  Several days, we’d sit outside and plunk away, only to look up and see folks sitting around us listening.  Thanks to Karen and Galen, we’re increasing our repertoire and gaining more confidence.  We’ve nicknamed our ‘group’ the Palmdale Pickers, with Linda occasionally joining in playing Galen’s washtub bass.  

 The Fort Myers RV Show was towards the end of the month, so that warranted a field trip for all of us.  We went just to look at what’s new – we are quite satisfied with the Newmar fifth wheel we have, and the modifications we’ve made.  We stopped at the Verizon booth to check out the aircard and were offered such a great deal, we couldn’t turn it down.  After four years of using our Starband satellite dish to access the Internet and our email, we are switching back to Verizon.  In 2003, we had an earlier generation aircard when we first hit the road but swapped to the satellite system -- it was more affordable and we were able to network our respective laptops.  Since then, Verizon’s cost has come down considerably with networking now available with a separate router.  No more lugging the dish and tripod around, no more looking for a clear view of the sky for a signal…and we can even use the aircard while driving down the road.  Larry researched the best location to switch our web page and made the transition.  We’ll send out notices about our new URL and email addresses.

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Grandson Mark helps Marie celebrate her 65th birthday.

Marie celebrated her 65th birthday in January.  Harry, unbeknownst to Marie, planned a party, including having their son, daughter-in-law and grandson pop in for a surprise visit.  Marie’s sister Ann arrived a few days earlier but Marie knew about her arrival.  The party was a success, with about sixteen friends and family members attending.  Harry had gotten permission to use the community room for dining; Rich did all the cooking.   We all had a great time but agreed it will be hard for Harry to top this celebration.

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Faith teaches Lucille to weave palmetto leaves. 

Faith, one of the campground’s winter residents, taught us how to weave freshly cut palmetto leaves into a boondoggle – a wall hanging that appears to have leaves and bunches of grapes hanging on it.  You have to work quickly before the palmetto dries out too much.  There were a group of seven women learning – Lucille learned she’s all thumbs but managed to learn the basic steps.  Faith joined us for a fish fry that evening, put on by Jim and Ginny, very similar to the one they did for us last year – excellent food as always.

The highlight of our month was seeing Atwater-Donnelly in concert in Homeland, Florida, about 90 miles away.  We first saw them in person in Mountain View, then again in Madison, Connecticut last fall.  They were part of the musical entertainment at the Alafia River Rendezvous in Homeland.    The Rendezvous is an annual gathering of over 1,000 participants re-enacting life as it was pre-1840s, portraying the many different cultures and lifestyles back then.  Canvas camps and teepees are located over the multi-hundred acre field – a virtual city, complete with craftsmen selling their wares, all reproductions from that time era.  All the participants, including the craftsmen and entertainers, are dressed in period clothing, even infants.  Some of the attendees also dressed in character – we didn’t stick out too much by wearing blue jeans and baseball caps.  Traditional wheelbarrows, carts and wagons are not allowed on the property.  Those hauling their goods used barrows made of wood.  We did spot a woman using a wheeled walker but she had it covered with a piece of canvas to disguise its contemporary look.  One of the participants hung out his laundry on a clothesline, tying the clothes to the line – clothespins weren’t invented then.

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Pooka, a Celtic trio, sang and danced to traditional Celtic music.

Even the food and beverages served were period.  We enjoyed fry bread covered with a fruit filling, prepared according to a 1740s recipe.  We learned that the white ash left over from a cook fire is called pearl ash.  A little pearl ash is added to biscuits and fry bread to help them rise – the predecessor of today’s baking powder, which is basically pearl ash – who’da thunk!  We saw a huge upright smoker that resembled a narrow outhouse.  The man attending the smoker popped in a 15# turkey while we were there – it was going to take about 24 hours for it to be smoked and ready to eat.  Lucille even spotted one of the vendors with a wooden peg leg instead of a contemporary prosthesis – now that’s really getting into character.  Lucille discretely checked to see if he had the rest of his leg tied behind him as actors do but this was the real deal, even though Karen, Galen and Larry never saw it, claiming she made it up!    

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Performers Aubrey Atwater and Elwood Donnelly were among the entertainers at the Alafia River Rendezvous.  Both are accomplished singers and musicians; Aubrey's "chair dancing" is incredible and Elwood's Limberjack toys are fun to watch.

The entertainment performed on a very basic open stage with crudely made wooden benches for seating.  The first group we saw was Pooka, a Celtic trio, comprised of a guitar player, a fiddle player, and a woman who sang, danced a few jigs, and occasionally played wooden spoons or the bodhran (Celtic drum).    Following their performance was Atwater/Donnelly.  Aubrey and Elwood were also in costume and told the audience that folks in Rhode Island, their home state, would snicker at their outfits.  We snagged benches immediately in front of the stage – it was almost a private concert.  We thoroughly enjoyed their performance, as we always do.  Before they started to play, we spoke with them a bit – they remembered the four of us.  No telling when we’ll see them again but it sure was great timing that we were all in the Florida at the same time.  If you want to catch snippets of their performances (and see what a Limberjack is) go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZYMVcRmeKw and 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ql5yPys3fFY

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This colorful, alien creature is a harmless spiny orb spider.  It attached itself to Rich's bus for a couple days before moving on.

Coming up in February:  More Palmdale adventures till the middle of the month; back up to Richmond Hill, Georgia, to work on a project with the NOMADS at Magnolia Manor, where Lucille’s parents live.

 

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