Happy 2012 – doesn’t it seem like just yesterday and we were welcoming in 2011!
We were back at Camp Carr for part of the month – we had our annual physicals and actually managed to move some of our appointments up earlier rather than later in the month. That worked out well, especially when we were deemed fit to continue on with our travels.
We celebrated Lucille’s mother’s birthday a little belatedly. She had come down with a cold and after a quick stop at a walk-in clinic and leaving with a bag full of meds, she was up to having company and enjoying the traditional ice cream cake just two weeks late.
Pat and Yvette always roll out the red carpet when friends and family come visiting. Lucille’s Aunt Alma and her husband Bud stopped in for a quick overnight visit on their way from upstate New York to Florida – we shared lots of laughs and hope to see them later in the summer.
One of the highlights of the month was attending the Annie Moses Band concert at Rincon United Methodist Church. They had a full house plus! No one remembers ever seeing that many folks in the church before. The music was very good – they are a very talented musical family on their way to a performance in Carnegie Hall, with their music being a blend of fiddle, jazz and classical. They book large venues for their tour and fill in some of their route performing concerts at local churches, only asking for a love offering .
Habitat friends Tom and Chris flew back into Savannah after being back in Michigan for the holidays. Dave and Mary picked them up at the airport – we drove down from Rincon and met them at Carey Hilliards for a great lunch and catching up on news with the two couples.
Suddenly, it was time to leave Camp Carr for the season – getting sprung early from our medical appointments gave us an opportunity to do a little sightseeing before our last warranty appointment for the motor home at Dick Gore’s RV World in Jacksonville, Florida. Our first stop was the fairgrounds in Brunswick, but not without one more fabulous fried shrimp dinner at B & J’s in Darien – we are so bad – that was about the sixth time we enjoyed their shrimp since we heard about the place last November. Luckily, there is plenty of room to park the motor home at a defunct car dealer just down the street from the restaurant.
The Brunswick stop was needed to get Lucille’s new Habitat laptop, set up to access the proprietary program and database so she can continue to process registrations for the RV Care-A-Vanners. With a little help from Mary C, she got it up and running with the needed programs.
A stop in Brunswick is not complete unless we eat at Fox’s Pizza Den, soon to be named Altierry’s (they were giving up the Fox’s franchise.) We enjoyed catching up with Ron and Jean, whom we hadn’t seen since Washington state last year, as well as the rest of the gang – Dave, Mary, Kit, Brenda, Tony, Mary, Tom, Diane, Tom and Chris.
Laura S. Walker State Park is located near Waycross, a short travel day from Brunswick. Because we arrived in the middle of the week, we had a great selection of sites and managed to snag one with a water view. There are several attractions in and near Waycross – we easily could have stayed a week just to see most of them. We narrowed it down to a couple of must-sees for this trip, saving the rest for a return visit.
The Okefenokee Heritage Center is quite the treasure trove. This is an art center and local history museum, with both indoor and outdoor exhibits. We started off our tour indoors viewing the exhibits depicting local history and cultural development in Southeast Georgia. Of particular interest was the Sacred Harp display. This is the ‘shape note’ style of singing, using four distinct shapes to aid in sight-reading but it is often called Sacred Harp because the books used most by singers today are called “The Sacred Harp.” The sacred harp refers to the human voice, the musical instrument we were given at birth – interesting to find out where the term's origin.
The earliest roots of Sacred Harp are found during the American Colonial area. Singing schools were created to provide instruction in choral singing for use in churches. The groups always sing a capella, arranging themselves in a hollow square with each side assigned to each of the four parts – treble, alto, tenor and bass. The participants take turns in leading. The leader selects a song to sing and stands in the middle of the square facing the tenors. The leader finds a good pitch, intones it to the group and the singers reply with opening notes of their own parts – the song then begins immediately. Sacred Harp singing was almost a lost art but it is slowly making a comeback.
Outside are found an 1840’s dog-trot house, currently under renovation as funds permit; an 1890 newspaper and printing shop; and the highlight – a 1912 Baldwin steam locomotive with a 342-foot train, flanked by an early 20th century depot. Visitors are free to wander in and out of all the cars.
Waycross is a big railroad town because of the junctions of several main lines. Waycross was originally called Number Nine because it was the ninth railroad stop from Savannah. After two rail lines crossed there in the late 1860s, a trading center began to develop and it was named Way Cross. Waycross later became an important part of the railroad line from Maine to Miami, built by Henry Plan and called the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.
The museum’s docent gave us directions to Rice Yard where 64 railroad tracks are found with CSX doing switching and sorting from here. Cars are pushed up a hill (hump), then gravity takes them down to the proper track – pretty cool to watch, especially from the control tower. We lucked out and were able to get a quick look from this 5th floor operation, similar to an airport control tower but with trains instead of planes. We didn’t stay very long as it’s a working operations center with computerized equipment and very security-conscious folks.
Another neat place in the area is the Okefenokee Swamp Park. The admission covers a boat ride, train ride and a nature show, and we managed to get in all three.
Melvin was our boat guide. Up until recently, boat tours had been suspended because the water level was very low. The only type of boat to get through the swamp now is the Carolina Skiff but even in some spots, it was tricky. Melvin pointed out and described many of the trees and shrubs and wildlife we saw – interesting but we couldn’t remember it all. At one point, he showed us an alligator’s nest (not currently in use) which is basically just a huge pile of brush. He had a couple of baby alligators on the boat for show and tell and touch.
Two rivers flow out of the swamp – the Suwanee and St. Mary’s with the only water coming provided by rainfall and with the water as low as it was, it obviously hasn’t rained much lately.
The train ride covered some different terrain but was also quite informative and educational. At one point, we stopped at a moonshine display, as well as a still for turpentine – the processes are very similar.
Some of the facts we gained from both tours:
Two types of cypress trees are found here – pond and bald, primarily pond because it prefers slow moving water.
There used to be three primary means of income for area: logging, turpentine, and moonshine.
500 miles of train track used to crisscross the swamp when logging was still there.
Something useful to know if you’re ever offered snake meat – the difference between venomous and poisonous snakes – venomous have venom in a pouch along their mouth, poisonous – entire body is poisonous and cannot be eaten.
Time to move on to our warranty appointment in Jacksonville. We had reservations at Pecan Park RV Resort, just a few miles from Dick Gore’s RV World – convenient if we had to make several return trips for the needed repairs. As it turns out, what repairs they could do got done in a day. Out of four items on the list, only one got done satisfactorily; on one item, parts had to be ordered for Larry to install later; one problem couldn’t be replicated so they couldn’t fix what they couldn’t see wrong; and one issue, our malfunctioning gauges, still isn't fixed - the gauges have been replaced under warranty twice. Larry is bound and determined to figure out a fix for them, and knowing how dogged he is, he’ll get it done.
We turned the motor home around and pointed it north for a short distance, meeting up with Pat and Yvette at Crooked River State Park in St. Mary’s, Georgia. It was fun having a last campout before we leave the area until our return in the fall. Once again, we had the choice of several great sites because it was mid-week and got a site overlooking the water. On Friday, we snagged a nearby water view site for Pat and Yvette for their arrival later that day. We enjoyed a steak cookout and campfire with them one night, breakfast one morning, and lunch at St. Mary’s where we met up with Bill and Jann, friends we’d all made several years ago at another Georgia state park.
Now it was time to head south again, and stay south for a few months. Our first stop was the fairgrounds in Bunnell, Florida, where we visited with Habitat friends we’d last seen in Brunswick – Helen and Gord and Tom and Diane. We all piled into Gord’s truck and got a tour of Bunnell, visiting their current build site, then went on to Flagler Beach. We’d hoped to get in a beach walk but it was pretty chilly and windy so we got to the Tuscan Grill early. We had a fabulous meal – this is quite the popular place based on everyone waiting to get in. Lots of laughter shared over a wonderful Italian meal.
We headed out the next morning after saying bye to the gang as they headed off to ‘work’. Our next stop was to meet up with Howard and Linda Payne, of RV-Dreams.com in Titusville to get the motor home weighed. We met Howard and Linda when we were selling Christmas trees in Savannah in 2010. They have since hooked up with the RV Safety and Education Foundation and travel across the US, weighing RVs in addition to presenting their own seminars on all things RV-related, either at their rallies or scheduled RV events. Since we’ve had the motor home, we’ve been curious as to what our gross weight is now that we have it loaded with our stuff. We pulled it on to an off-duty truck scale in Oregon last summer but that didn’t give us weights specific to our axles.
Howard and Linda met us at a local mall that had a fairly level clear spot to park. They carry four portable scales, one for each set of tires, on which they guided Larry as he drove the motor home onto the scales. They then note the weights and compare the results with the data sheet we had completed in advance, to see if we are within our gross vehicle weight (GVW). They also note the size of tires we have to see if they are properly inflated for the weights on those axles. We talked about making a couple of corrections in pressure but overall, we still have over 1,000 pounds of capacity, should we decide to get more stuff. Check out this link to see if you’ll be near their itinerary. It was a very quick stop – not just because they are so efficient, but we all had places to go. We’ll see them again, somewhere, sometime.
About an hour later, we pulled into Patrick Air Force Base and got a site for the next two nights in their overflow section. The military campground there has become very popular with retired military snowbirds – the wait in overflow to get hook-ups was close to two to three weeks when we were there.
Two reasons to stop at Patrick were to visit with family and friends. We met Lucille’s Aunt Eugenie, daughters Susan and Diane, and son-in-law Ken at Sweet Tomatoes Pizzeria in Melbourne. It had been a year since we saw them - we enjoyed swapping news of our families. Staying at Patrick were Habitat friends Jim and Linda – it had been over a year since we saw them also. We enjoyed dinner at the Pig ‘n Whistle in Cocoa Beach as well as breakfast at the Suntree Café in Satellite Beach on our way out of town. We hope to see them again in Palmdale at the end of February.
For not having covered too many miles, we sure did a lot in January. Once we get to Palmdale in February, life may slow down a bit till the end of March, then maybe not. We start heading north in April with a quick stop in the Baltimore, Maryland area to visit family, then on to North Scituate, Rhode Island, where we’ll be volunteering with the NOMADS at Camp Aldersgate for a few weeks. We’ll then move over to our site in Klondike for the rest of the spring, summer and part of fall.