The Fungus Among Us

The final leg of this particular journey was at Douthat State Park in western Virginia. We were back in familiar territory as we hiked through the mountainous Mid-Atlantic. It was clear that we were in the midst of summer’s swan song, as the bright yellows, reds and oranges of autumn were beginning to make their presence known. The leaves demonstrated only subtle changes but the mushrooms and toadstools were robed in a vibrant fall palette.

Douthat, located in the Allegany Highlands, has four separate campgrounds, one of which caters to equestrian campers. The park has over forty miles of hiking trials, most with elevation changes that lead you to scenic summits and stunning vistas. The trails are well marked, challenging but not difficult, and we stumbled upon a rustic, swinging bridge that was fun to traverse.

Among the woodland creatures you may have the good fortune to encounter, is our friend the black bear. We did not have the joy of meeting Smokey or her cubs, but a fellow hiker warned us that he had just escaped a close encounter with a bristly, mama bear and two of her offspring. We did not venture further forward. Suddenly, the campsite seemed a much better place to be.

The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started.

T.S. Eliot

Each ending is also a beginning. I am sad to say goodbye to another odyssey but delighted to be home and hugging the stuffing out of my grandkids.

There are new journeys in the planning stages.

Stay tuned….

Running in the Rain

We arrived at Lake Wateree State Park in Winnsboro, SC and were delighted with our campsite. Situated overlooking the lake, with lake access for the dog, it just could not have been more perfect. Gypsy has become quite the swimmer. She’s a Labrador, with webbed feet, so swimming should be second nature. It took some frantic thrashing and splashing at the beginning, but after being encouraged to go deeper into the lake, with each toss of a stick, she soon segued into a graceful, swimmer’s rhythm

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

– Vivian Greene.

We have been spoiled with perfect weather for most of the journey. So, it was a bit of a bummer when the rain began to fall, but I decided to dance in the rain. I put on my running shoes and took off for an amble through the park. The showers were initially cool and refreshing, but by the time I returned, I was drenched and a bit chilly. The hot shower and warm clothes felt like being wrapped in a warm blanket.

It’s not going to be an active stop but it’s perfect for reading, blogging and playing a few games of Scrabble.

Next stop: Douthat State Park, Virginia

Stay tuned….

From Hikers to Hackers: Something for everyone at Jekyll Island.

Dogs Dig Driftwood Beach

Savannah is amazing with the town squares and the hanging moss and the French Colonial houses. It’s brutally romantic. ~ David Morrissey

When we departed Tybee Island, we did not expect to drive the motorhome through old, downtown, Savannah. These historic towns have streets that were designed for horse-drawn carriages, not behemoth busses. We should have asked our GPS to stick to the highways, but hindsight, as they say, is 20-20. We managed to squeeze through town unscathed, making it to Jekyll Island without incident.

Living amongst the live oaks.

Jekyll Island State Park is on the north end of the island. The camping area is heavily treed and shrouded with Spanish Moss. It is spotless, quiet, and has surprisingly few mosquitoes.

The park also has extensive fishing piers, a horseback riding stable, and a nature trail that is a birdwatching paradise. It meanders through the marshlands for a little over a mile and ends at Driftwood Beach; a hauntingly beautiful piece of ocean front that is strewn with ancient driftwood. It is both magnificent and other worldly.

The south end of the Island includes three golf courses, resorts, high-end hotels, a shopping district and an historic area that housed many of the robber barons during the late 1890’s and early 1900’s. There was a great deal of wealth and opulence. Private residences were erected on the grounds of The Jekyll Island Club by the social elite of the time: Rockefellers, Astors, Cranes, Goodyears and Macys were known to arrive via yacht to spend winter months at the exclusive club.

The island is roughly 7.5 miles in length and the optimal mode of transportation is bicycle. There are bike paths that circle the entire island. The trails take you along the ocean front, through the marshlands, and to the various points of interest. Motorized vehicles are allowed but many opt to ride bikes or rent golf carts. It is at this point that I give a plug to Red Bug Motors Golf Cart Rentals. I was running on the trail one morning, with Gypsy. We do not run together like a well-oiled machine. Sometimes I drag her, and sometimes she drags me. She was panting like crazy and I noticed a cooler on the porch of Red Bug Motors. I planned to buy some water and beg for a cup so that my incorrigible running partner could have a drink. The gentlemen at the rental store invited Gypsy in, filled up a dog bowl with fresh water and gave her a dog biscuit. Rich, who may have been the owner, even invited her to come back, to run around the fenced airport, which is directly behind his store! Now, that’s good, old Southern hospitality.

If you pedal around the island, you cannot escape the beauty. From large, live oaks, to colorful marshland, to spotless shoreline, to Spanish moss, the scenery is amazing.

I think that the Jekyll Island Department of Tourism should hire me. I am enamored with this delightful and dog-friendly isle.

All good things must come to an end. Time to turn around and head back to reality. Next stop Lake Wateree, SC.

Stay tuned…

After the Flood, a Rainbow…

We managed to get the RV dried out after the Gypsy-induced flood. Water had cascaded over the cook top for an indefinite amount of time, so winding up with only one inoperable propane burner was a blessing. Everything else was soggy but salvageable.

The ‘rainbow’ is a euphemism for of our relaxing stay on Tybee Island. The weather has been perfect. I have managed to run several miles each morning, exploring the entire region on foot. That sounds impressive, but trust me, the island is small. I don’t run marathons. This barrier isle, known as Savannah’s Beach, does not reflect the genteel nature of the charming, historic district of Georgia’s oldest city. It has some grit. It has a downtown strip with bars and bikers and beach bums. It has hotels, condos and a campground. Yet, most of the island is residential with everything from cottages to castles. There are historic sites. Palm trees, pine trees and southern magnolias, covered with Spanish moss, line the streets.

From the North Beach area you can watch large, ocean-going ships enter and exit the Savannah River. I’m not sure why I find this so fascinating, but I could watch these container ships come and go all day.

The beaches are not dog friendly, but thankfully, there is a dog park at the campground. The locals like to congregate there and discuss Tybee politics and the ”code enforcement gestapo” that patrol the island from golf carts. We learned about the local “dirt” while Gypsy made a bunch of new friends. She was even invited to a dog-birthday-party. Although, it would appear in the photos that she is being viciously attacked, she is truly having a wonderful time romping with Luna, Cesar, Rip and the gang.

During this morning’s run, I stumbled upon a very moving ceremony, commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. A huge, American flag was slowly unfurled from the top of the historic lighthouse, while a bagpiper, atop the 144 foot tall structure, hauntingly played Amazing Grace and Danny Boy. I paused to reflect and remember the lives lost on that fateful day.

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” — John Kabat-Zinn

We spent the rest of the day watching a surfing competition. The air smelled like Hawaiian Tropic. The emcee was blasting beach music and announcing winners of various divisions. There were finned, long-boards, short boards and body boards. Kids with sun-kissed, bleached blonde hair were catching waves and wiping out. It was like being in a 1960’s beach movie. I expected Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello to wander by singing Beach Blanket Bingo.

Obligatory Sea Gull Picture

I am truly sorry to be leaving this place but more ocean adventures await at Jekyll Island.

Stay tuned…

Verizon, Veterinarians & a VERY Naughty Puppy

Sitting Pretty

Just as we were leaving North Carolina, I dropped my iPhone on a rock, at just the perfect angle that it shattered the glass. I have had that iPhone 6S for a frightfully long time, and had an unhealthy attachment to the frayed, Blue Otter Box and the oversized screen. It had totally inadequate storage, and desperately needed updated, but it was like my “blankie”. When I saw the screen, with web-like cracks covering the entire screen, I nearly wept. Yes, I was going to have to find a Verizon store, and spend too much money, in an effort to replace my trusty, old friend. <sigh> Fortunately we found a Verizon Retail store in Murrell’s Inlet, SC and I was able to make a new friend: A purple iPhone 12 with a clear, sparkly Otter Box.

We already had a veterinary appointment scheduled for Gypsy at The Animal Hospital of South Carolina in Pawley’s Island, which was luckily right down the road from the Verizon Store. It was time for Gypsy’s post-spay check up and suture removal. I was totally flabbergasted when the vet removed the stitches, gave her a quick check up, and declared her healthy enough to resume normal activities. No more cone of shame, or inflatable collars designed to keep her from gnawing at her incision. YAY!! And furthermore, the vet DID NOT CHARGE US. That’s right. No charge. I’m still happily perplexed. Needless to say, The Animal Hospital of South Carolina is going to get a great YELP review from me.

After taking care of all of the necessary nonsense, we thoroughly enjoyed a few romps in the ocean at Huntington Beach State Park. Our campsite was right behind the dunes. We could not see the ocean, but could hear the rhythm of the tide. It was a very short walk to the beach. The park is a true wildlife sanctuary. It covers several square miles that include marshland with a myriad of birds, turtles and alligators, as well as a huge stretch of pristine, unspoiled Atlantic shoreline. I could have stayed there longer, but we had reservations at Tybee Island, GA. I will definitely be back for a longer stay.

We had planned to stop near Savannah to have a quick lunch with my brother-in-law’s niece and sister-in-law. Emily was very gracious in finding a restaurant that had a parking lot that would be large enough to accommodate our RV. We would have to leave Gypsy in the RV while we grabbed a quick bite. She had a Kong to keep her busy, and AC to keep her cool. It was only going to be a 45 minute lunch. What could possibly go wrong? She had been left on her own before, without incident. I knew almost immediately upon our return to the motorhome that something was amiss. She was sitting in the driver’s seat, after crashing through a baby gate to get access to the cab of the motorhome. I slid her over, sat down, and heard the unmistakable sound of water gushing. She had managed to jump onto the kitchen counter, turn on the water, and flood the inside of the RV. BAD DOG! My husband, with bath towels in hand, sopping up the mess, was not amused. I, on the other hand, had a hard time stifling my laughter.

Retired and rambling is not always a vacation.

We have arrived at Tybee Island, but have laundry to do, a new screen room to erect, and a wet mess to deal with.

Stay tuned….

Tunnels, Trails, (Edward) Teach and Terrible Table Service

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is a bridge-tunnel combination that is nearly 18 miles long and takes you from Virginia’s Eastern Shore to Virginia Beach, VA. I’m not a huge fan of navigating Big Bertha through ‘challenging’ segments of highway but I was determined to conquer the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. At first, driving through traffic with a large RV is not so bad. The bridge is low with a wide shoulder area and two-lane, one-way traffic UNTIL you are funneled down to the tunnel portion, which has a precariously pinched, single lane with oncoming traffic that seems hell-bent on sideswiping you. If you squint your eyes, grit your teeth and grab the wheel until your knuckles turn white, you can make it without incident.

Happiness is a long walk with a dog.

We wound our way to Goose Creek State Park, near the Pamlico River in North Carolina. The park is on swampy land that features 8 miles of trails, canoe launch ramps and swimming/beach areas. Wildlife is abundant and the turtles are gigantic! Surprisingly, even with all of the areas of stagnant water, there are amazingly few mosquitoes or biting flies. The campground is small, but brand new, with full hook-ups and 50 amp service. My initial reaction was one of mediocrity but this park has really grown on me. I absolutely love the tall, long-leaf pines covered in Spanish moss and the bright expanse of visible, celestial bodies at night.

“On your way, now. And tell the world you set sail with Blackbeard.” ~ Edward Teach

While in the area, it was a must to visit the town of Bath, where the legendary pirate, Blackbeard once resided. The town is pristine and chockfull of historical markers that educate visitors about everything from the Old Post Road to the childhood home of Cecil B. Demille. There are breathtaking views at the Point and many architecturally interesting waterfront homes to oogle over.

We did not see any dog-friendly spots at which to stop and have a bite of lunch, so we moved on to Washington, NC, another, larger, waterfront community that we felt certain would be a good place to find a Fido-friendly restaurant.

The first red flag at The Captain Cooks, Waterfront Restaurant, should have been when we asked if Gypsy could join us on the patio. The harried waitress asked how big our dog was. When we responded that she was a 45-pound Labrador Puppy, she said “I guess so” in such a hesitant voice that it was clear she did not know the actual policy. We sat down and were promptly and continually ignored by the wait staff, which appeared to consist of two, semi-frantic young women. We asked for water on three separate occasions, but it never came. I was willing to be tolerant. They did seem to be understaffed, and the waterfront ambiance was nice, so my husband fetched our drinks and a couple of menus. Still, no service. My inner-John Taffer was beginning to emerge as it became painfully aware that The Captain needed a serious BAR RESCUE. Eventually, we flagged down a server and placed an order, that 40 minutes later, still had not arrived. My husband went inside to refill our drinks, and decided to follow up on the food. It was then that we were made aware that the cook was absent (I suspect he quit) and that one of the two servers was also attempting to prepare the food. Our order ticket had never even made its way into the kitchen. Needless to say, we canceled our order, grabbed our 45-pound pup, and left.

I made ham & cheese on rye when we got back to the RV. It’s a poor substitute for seafood on the waterfront, but, since the server was also the chef, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise.

Thinking that perhaps we had been unfair and overly judgmental, we thought we would give waterfront dining in Washington one more try. What a mistake. We were seated outside at the Mulberry Street Brewery, and were provided an abbreviated menu. Twenty minutes later we were given two glasses of warm, not tepid, not lukewarm, but actual WARM water. Ten minutes later, we still had not placed an order. We looked at each other, nodded in agreement, and made a hasty escape.

We were famished. On the way back to the truck we stumbled upon The Grub Brothers Eatery. It looked like a local dive bar. No water view. No ambiance. It took an HOUR to get two wraps but at least the water was cold. In truth, the sandwiches were quite tasty and I had a side of good, southern stewed tomatoes and okra instead of fries.

Moral of the story. If you want a great meal on the waterfront, avoid Washington, NC. If you need a job go to Washington, NC. They need servers, cooks, hostesses and bottle washers.

Onward to Murrell’s Inlet, where I hear there is good waterfront dining…

Stay tuned…

Downy Oshun, Hon

If you are from the Baltimore area you know that ‘Downy Oshun’ is a colloquialism for “going down to the ocean”. Why waste syllables? There are multiple beach destinations along the Mid-Atlantic Coast, but for many in the Baltimore area, the ONLY “Oshun” destination is Ocean City, Maryland.

We’ve been to Ocean City on countless occasions. It is a very commercial strip of land that boasts a boardwalk, amusement piers, arcades, water parks and lots of miniature golf. It has hotels, motels, condos, restaurants and bars. It has world famous Thrasher’s French Fries, and Fisher’s Pop-Corn. It has neon, and music, and bicycles and tram cars. It has sun and sand and a fast food joint on every block. Ocean City is a Mecca for pizza, playtime and partying.

We are outdoor lovers. We like to bike, hike and kayak and generally do so while camped at a State Park. We initially had reservations for a site on Assateague National Seashore, which is very close to Ocean City, but due to the no dog rule, we had to find an alternate site, where Gypsy would be welcome. Thus, Ocean City and The Castaways RV Resort:

Castaways is a huge diversion for us. Not only is it a commercial campground, it is a true resort with a Caribbean vibe. There is a private beach, a dog beach, a swimming pool, a hot tub, a Tiki bar, a pool bar and a fitness center! Cabins, painted in bright, tropical colors are available for rent. Additionally, you can rent golf carts, jet-skis, kayaks, paddle-boards or inflatable party islands!

Poor Gypsy is recovering from her recent spay procedure, so she was unable to play on the doggie-beach, but she did manage to have a good time at the dog-friendly pool bar, while I managed to get in a round of mini-golf.

It’s a good thing that we had reservations for only three nights. A person could get used to that kind of debauchery.

But, time to get back on track. Goose Creek State Park, here we come.

Stay tuned…

Lightning never strikes the same place twice?

Strike 1

During our March trip to Austin, Texas, we had a tree fall on our garage. It was an isolated incident, one that would surely not repeat itself. I mean, lightening never strikes the same place twice, right? WRONG! I have researched the likelihood of multiple strikes in the same location, and it seems that because weather patterns are repetitive, it is not uncommon for two lightning strikes in the same place. How about three?

We have a kind and conscientious neighbor who keeps an eye on our property while we are out, galavanting around the globe. During our recent trek to the west coast, sometime in July, Barry called to tell us that an enormous tree had fallen into his backyard, causing a chain reaction which impacted our lot. The tree crashed through power lines violently enough that it caused the wires to catapult a telephone pole into our backyard. Picture it, a giant slingshot composed of overhead wires, loaded with a telephone pole, aimed at the center of our lawn. A number of small trees also tumbled into our gardens, and the wires wound up dangling into our pond. On the positive side, there were no electrocutions. On the negative side, no one wanted to accept responsibility for the damage or the subsequent clean up. Baltimore Gas & Electric pointed fingers at Verizon, Verizon pointed fingers at Comcast, Comcast pointed fingers at Baltimore Gas & Electric. You get the general picture.

Through some long distance persistence, the assistance of our remarkably thoughtful neighbor, and the expenditure of quite a few bucks, the mess was cleaned up.

We had a few days in August during which we could grab the grandkids and head to the Delaware beaches. After the tree fiascos, I was a bit wary of wandering away from home, BUT the kids love “glamping” and we love having their company. We stayed at the Delaware Seashore State Park which is a slice of paradise for kids. The ocean is within walking distance. There are plenty of safe roads on which to ride bikes and there are playgrounds that are packed with kids.

We were having SO much fun. We were diving into waves, playing games, soaking up the sun and swimming in the surf. We managed a trip to the boardwalk with a stop at Funland, where my grandson managed to coerce me into joining him on a ride that had me dangling, completely upside down for longer than was comfortable. I lived to tell about it.

It was perfect, until the text from Barry arrived.

A telephone pole behind our pond, NOT the one that had previously been catapulted into our yard, was on fire. Our yard was filled with bucket trucks, fire trucks and an assortment of emergency response vehicles, all of which left, deep, muddy ruts in our meticulously manicured lawn. More landscape work. More $$$$$. My yard is a money pit.

And yet, because we believe the odds are against a fourth lightning strike, we are ready to embark on a journey that will eventually take us to coastal Georgia. Dare I ask what the next backyard catastrophe will be?

Stay tuned….

And sometimes life gets in the way

It’s been a while since my last update. Our final stop on the cross country journey was at Codorus State Park, near Hanover, PA. The park is large and scenic and the sites are spacious but we did not stay long enough to take full advantage of what the park had to offer. I shall get back there some day when I do not have pressing reasons to get home.

Being retired is not ALL about fun and games and frivolity. Growing older is too often accompanied by the loss of loved ones. I had to leave Codorus to finally, after much postponement, confront such a loss.

My beautiful mother suffered for many, many years with Alzheimer’s disease. I was with her throughout the entire ordeal. I was there to hug her when she was first slipping and was filled with fear and anxiety that often presented as anger. I was there to keep her company when she no longer knew me. I was there to feed her when utensils became foreign objects. I was there to hold her hand while playing Amazing Grace on my iPhone and reading to her when she slipped into heaven.

Mom had passed away months before our 6-week RV journey began, but her funeral was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Coming home meant completing a different type of journey. Alzheimer’s is often labeled THE LONG GOODBYE, which is an accurate summary of this truly awful disease. I needed to say my final farewell, after years of slowly waving adieu to the woman who gave me life.

During the same week, we were abruptly confronted with the sudden and unexpected death of a dear, dear friend and the death of a dear friend’s mother. RIP Jaybird and Pat. Life is so fragile and so precious. All of you will be deeply missed.

Sadly, this is not my normal, light-hearted post but I promise better things are coming. Mom would have wanted us to continue to ramble, explore and enjoy our beautiful world. In fact, she kept a refrigerator magnet that featured a quote by Hunter S. Thompson: “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming “Wow, what a ride!!!”

Stay tuned.

Homeward Bound

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Bertrand Russell

I suspect that some would question why two, supposedly sane, sixtyish-year-olds would leave a perfectly lovely home, to live in a truck, with an overly-peppy puppy, for six weeks straight. Lunacy? There may be a touch of foolhardiness involved, but it is truly a wanderlust that drives us. Yet, a tug at the heartstrings is pulling us back home. It’s hard to conceive of the fact that very soon we will be seeing this adventure from the rear view mirror. Six weeks can feel like six minutes. It’s the curse of growing older.

This may come as a shock, but after 6,200 miles behind the wheel, I relented. I allowed myself to be a passenger. A major storm was fast approaching as we passed through Erie, PA and were heading on to Western New York. I could not fathom driving one mile further, especially through black skies, blustery winds and a blinding rain. I had already gone too many miles. It was the straw that finally broke the camel’s (my) back. I pulled over, pried my fingers off of the steering wheel and got situated in the back of the RV. Only intravenous valium could have persuaded me to ride shotgun. There would be no co-pilot for this leg of the trip. Once safely seat-belted in the back, I grabbed my comfort animal (Gypsy) and gave the keys to my husband. He picked his jaw up off the ground, introduced himself to the driver’s seat, and got us safely to Evangola State Park in Irving New York.

Evangola State Park is located on Lake Erie and draws huge numbers of gulls and geese. There is a mighty wind that blows off of the lake, which creates ocean-like waves that break against the beach. It is a beautiful spot for birding, boating, swimming or sunbathing.

We were able to jog a few miles on the paved paths within the park.

New York currently is one of the top 5 wine-producing states. The area around Evangola is speckled with vineyards. We made a quick stop at the dog-friendly, Merritt Vineyard and enjoyed a glass of Pinot Grigio, some cheese and crackers, and a chat with the vintner.

Next Stop: Black Moshannon State Park, which is located in Phillipsburg, PA, near my husband’s old Penn State stomping grounds. It is a well-used park with fishing, boating and numerous hiking opportunities.

We had an exceptionally muddy, ten-mile, tramp through the trails.

Only one more stop along the way…

Mixed Emotions.

Stay tuned….