Friday, June 24, 2016

RVing in Alaska-Part I

So you are thinking about renting an RV to tour Alaska? There are a couple of ways you can do that...You can drive a new unit from Iowa or Elkhart, IN. You are basically delivering the RV from Iowa or Indiana to Alaska and you have two weeks to deliver it. Any time after that, you pay about 100.00 a day, according to one such arrangement. So you are paying the RV company their shipping charges and getting a vacation rental RV out of the deal. You pay for fuel, you pay for insurance, but you get the use of a new rig to go to Alaska, along with any possible snafus that come with driving a new rig long distances. And we heard of such an instance when we picked up our rental. A couple drove a brand new RV from Elkhart, IN to Alaska and on the way, had some major problems with the wall and the slide out coming apart, and a few problems getting someone to fix it on their way. But they were able to overcome that obstacle and enjoyed their trip nonetheless.

We aren't familiar with the arrangements to rent and deliver an RV from the midwest to Alaska, but do know that Winnebago, out of Iowa, is one of the RV companies which you can do that.

Eldy did lots and lots of research on the second way to tour Alaska in a rented RV. That way is to rent directly from an RV rental place in Alaska once you get there. We are not going to name the particular place we finally chose, because of all the legal ramifications that are involved with rating or  discussing our experiences, but think you will be able to figure it out by the time we are done. We chose to fly to Anchorage and rent an RV from there....

Now when you research different rental companies, and there are LOTS of them, there are all kinds of different charges for different things. Eldy investigated FIVE companies. Some companies charge for EVERYTHING in the rental--they charge you for linens, they charge you for kitchen ware, they charge you for a coffeepot, they charge you for extra insurance, some will charge for generator use by the hour, lawn chairs, cleaning charges, etc. Eldy found a company that did not charge extra for any of those things, nor did they charge for extra mileage. The price included UNLIMITED mileage, which was fantastic. Their rate also was half price, 160.00 a day up until June 15th. That included EVERYTHING, except for 11% Alaskan taxes. Good deal! Be sure to ask what models the company is offering. Some say "all new 2016-2017" but you don't know exactly what you are going to get till you get there. We were excited and booked an RV for nine days! Eldy then researched and researched air fares and the best, most economical way to fly.  He found a fare from Orlando to Denver, then Denver to Anchorage, for around 250.00 per person,  then double that for round trip. We thought that was pretty decent. Coming back, we flew Anchorage to Chicago, then Chicago to Orlando. He managed to find a flight to Anchorage that got us there at 2:30 PM Alaskan time so we could get an orientation for the RV and then be on our way....When Eldy researches, he truly researches. He investigated flying out of different airports from different locations, from different times of day, from the same airline round trip, to individual airlines single trip one way fares. Baggage fees? No baggage fees, he explored ALL the angles.

Day I--We arrived at the rental place. We found we were getting a 2015 rig, class C, which was no problem, not a new model that we thought, but it was actually bigger than what we had originally signed for, for no extra charge. It had 15,00 miles on it, so it had been out on the road and we were hoping that the bugs had been worked out it! We told the guy we had been full time RVers, so our orientation was VERY short. He showed us where to find different switches, and we examined the rig for previous damage or wear and tear and documented it with pictures on the phone. The one thing he DIDN'T tell us was that when dumping the black tank, there were TWO valves, one valve where you normally expect it, and one on the OTHER side of the coach that you had to open before dumping. (We found that out when we went to dump the first time on our trip and nothing happened. A few minutes later, when we looked under the rig, wondering why the heck nothing was coming out with the first valve wide open, we discovered a second valve to the dump tank line on the driver's side!)  The rig came with sheets, pillows, plenty of blankets, a small pot and pan and frying pan, a set of silverware for two, some kitchen utensils, a coffee pot, a toaster. It didn't come with soap, or paper towels, or a dish cloth, or anything to wash dishes with, so we had to stock up before heading out on the road.

Back to the paperwork...We had to sign and initial all kinds of warnings...we were responsible for the tires, if something happened to the windshield, we would be responsible for the first 600.00 of the repair or replacement, if we didn't dump the tanks before returning the unit, there was a fine. There were fines if you didn't bring it back gas full, water tank had to be filled, the normal stuff. There were highways that we were NOT allowed to go on, (the rougher, gravel highways) and we were NOT allowed to enter into Canada. There was even a hefty fine for writing and or publishing a review without getting it ok'd first. But we finally were ready to roll!

Before we roll and fill you in on our marvelous trip which is coming in the next few days, day by day, we want to let you know that there are some resources that we found to be invaluable if you are going to RV in Alaska, whether you rent, or take your own RV. The first one is an atlas called Milepost 2016. It's available on Amazon for about 24.00 and you can see it here....


This is a fantastic resource....The main highways in Alaska are marked with mile markers. They are not always accurate as road improvements are going on all the time up there, (frost heave and tough winter damage you know), but for the most part, the mile markers are what you watch for constantly. This atlas covers EVERYTHING you need to know about traveling the Alaskan highways--where the roads are bad, where to find the best chances of seeing wildlife, where gas stations and rest stops are, where the pullouts for viewing and staying overnight are, 30 major routes, 60 side trips, 100+ maps, AND an E-book edition comes with it, also histories of cities, narratives of where to stay, narratives about the areas, the sights to see while you are in the area, they truly cover EVERYTHING!

Sparky sat with this book in her lap most of the trip, calling out cool stuff that was coming up along the highway...where the pullouts were, (and there were TONS of them, many you could stay safely overnight as long as you didn't mind a little road noise) and although we had the e-edition, it was easier to look at and navigate a real book. The only downside to this book is the pages are VERY thin and tear easily. (Ask Sparky how she knows that!)

The second resource we purchased before the trip was this book....Kenai Peninsula Wildlife Viewing Trail Guide, as we knew we were going to be visiting the Kenai Peninsula. It's about 9.00 and was a great little guide.

This book has 65 viewing sites located throughout the Kenai Peninsula. They are all of the Kenai Peninsula's major wildlife habitats. Each site has a notable species list, the key to the site icons located on the back flap, land ownership information (almost all are on public lands), field notes which are background information of the geological features, dominant species there, the habitat, helpful hints (like dress in layers for wind and rain), and a section called "getting there"--the specifics for accessing areas, in some cases only accessible by ferry or plane. In addition, some of the sites have viewing tips such as "park back by the ferry terminal and scan the entrance to the harbor. Bring binoculars or a spotting scope to observe off shore activity." There's also a wonderful chart of the 12 months of the year color coded as to when to see wildlife...Example: caribou can be seen grazing in the Kenai Flats in August.

So-o-o-o-o-o...the trip of a lifetime began....and by the way, this was Eldy's gift to Sparky--a celebratory triip to celebrate Eldy's full recovery from open heart, quadruple bypass surgery...Yay!

And in the next few days, you will see our itinerary which unfolded day by day. We didn't really have one for this trip till we got there. We knew we had 8 full days to explore, we wanted to go to Denali, and we wanted to see the Kenai Peninsula and we knew we'd be setting off from Anchorage...So off we went.....


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Quick Trip to Houston

Sparky's little grandson had a birthday coming up, it was time to go see him! Sparky's daughter, Kerry, was a contestant in the Galveston Island Beach Review Contest, and Sparky was needed for support and grandson control! She was on it!


Kerry, third from the right
The Galveston Beach Review is a fun contest where the women dress up in vintage bathing suits and forties and fifties outfits during the weekend event and the contest officially sets off the summer season at Galveston Island. It's an annual tradition.  We arrived at Galveston Island the night before some of the contest events and prepared to check in.

What was weird was, the motel room, booked through Hotwire, was through a third party rental, so the hotel could not give us the key. And the hotel was a homeowner's association hotel, meaning lots of individual owners had individual rental agreements with different agencies on the island, which turned out to be problematic. We had to travel down the street to the rental place which was closed by the time we got there. No problem, they had after hours check in procedures, which Kerry had not been given by hotwire, nor had she been told of this different type of arrangement. We called the first number on the door, it was disconnected. We called the second number and got a voicemail message to call a third number. Mama Sparky called the third number and got a gentleman on vacation out in Vegas, wanting to know how we got his number. He was the owner of the rental agency and we were not supposed to have access to his cell number. Apparently, hotwire screwed up on that one. After numerous attempts to explain our situation, and by now it was getting dark and late, and we were getting grouchy and tired, the guy tells us a code number to use on a bike style lock on an old lockbox which contained our room keys to the motel back down the street. Only the code did not work. We tried for half an hour to get it open. No luck. Kerry tried for 15 minutes. Sparky tried for 20. We pulled and tugged on the lock, we tried reversing the digits, we tried turning the lock the other way around and doing the combo backwards. We reset the lock each time by spinning the tumblers. Again we called, we got the number for the rental agency. She said she would come out and help us. But she lived 30 minutes away...That's okay...we needed help!....Thirty minutes later, she pulls up, walks up the steps, looks at the lock, doesn't even touch it and says, "It's open."  "WHA-A-A-A-T?????"  Somehow, the lock had popped open. She drove all that way only to tell us and show us that indeed, the lock had popped open after 45 minutes of yanking and tugging on it. Sparky was mortified! There was NO WAY THAT LOCK WAS ABLE TO BE OPENED AT ANY POINT IN TIME WHILE WE WERE TRYING TO USE THE COMBO. We apologized profusely to the lady and got signed into our room. (more on that later) We stayed at the Casa Del Mar, a wonderful place and our little condo was beautifully decorated in a nautical theme, although the unit was VERY tiny. The Casa Del Mar people were absolutely wonderful in trying to help us with our problems with the rental agency. They were instrumental in getting us what we needed. The unit was wonderful, but didn't have enough toilet paper. The hotel doesn't furnish it for that particular room as it was a private rental through a third party, and the rental agency was supposed to take care those things. If you do book a place to stay on Galveston Island, be sure you know who controls the booking, who owns the booking. We were never told that the entire hotel was full of individual, homeowners association condo units, and so they were not able to take care of our needs as they arose. But they sure came to the rescue on more than one occasion during the weekend when they didn't have the responsibility of having to do so. We highly recommend the Casa Del Mar right across from the beach on Galveston Island and would book directly through them next time and not Hotwire.

After that snafu, we had a ball...Sparky was only there for three days...so we made the most of it...while Kerry got slammed up for the contest....The meet and greet was first...

While Kerry met the other contestants, Grandma took Barron to the beach across the street....He loved it!
He played and played by himself, imagining the "bad guys" coming in on the waves and jumping over them to avoid them. :-) Grandma made sandcastles with him...He could have stayed there for hours, amusing himself.

He watched his mom come down the steps to the beach for a group photo, all 40 ladies in the contest were dressed in their vintage bathing suits and pink bathrobes....
Here's Kerry slammed up in her bathing suit....
Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate much...by the time the actual bathing suit review paraded each contestant thru the stage, the rain started. :-(   But spirits were high, and Kerry had a lot of fun. As each contestant comes thru the stage, they pose different ways in the forties, flirtatious style of batting their eyelashes, twirling an umbrella or other such prop, smile and blow kisses at the audience, kind of like a Betty Boop style pose. The top ten have to answer questions from the judges. Kerry didn't make the top ten, but she really enjoyed the experience!
a beautiful mosaic tile bench on the beach commemorating the beach review
While Kerry was occupied with the contest and the events, Grandma took Barron to Chick Fil-A at least three times over the weekend, as it was within walking distance of the hotel where the contest was being held. Barron LOVES Chick Fil-A, and since he's a picky eater, that's where we went. Of course, Grandma likes Chick Fil-A too!
And of course, we spent lots of time together making silly faces at each other, which for some reason, Barron just absolutely cracks up laughing so hard at Grandma's faces...


We went to the Strand in Galveston Island, a shopping district of old stores and old streets. The Strand is very dated, the streets are hard to navigate with strollers or wheelchairs, the curbs are high, and they are just not very user friendly for the handicapped or for the elderly. They really need to do something about that. But the shops are great and have some beautiful merchandise. Some are very expensive, some are very touristy, and some are very reasonable. Sparky always finds something she would love to buy, but didn't buy anything while she was there. They also have some great places to eat, but we were conservative while we were there, and ate simply. We will have to explore that option another time, as Sparky LOVES to eat out and try new restaurants! But of course, we had ice cream at one of the cool candy/ice cream shops while we were there!


One of the district's storefronts.....

Here's Barron enjoying himself by a water fountain...He's such a cutie! Well behaved and very smart.
Here's Sparky enjoying a vintage phone booth at the Strand....Reminds me a lot of the phone booth on Dr. Who, only it needs to be blue!
Too soon, the weekend was over....As we went to check out, the rental agency charged us a 50.00 lockout fee. We weren't locked out, we never could get the lock to open and get the key!..Sparky was incensed! She talked to the guy at the desk, and told him the whole story how we couldn't get the lock opened, and then how it popped open just as the lady arrived to assist us, and he says, "Oh, yeah...we had problems with that lock just last night!" AHA! Ammunition...Sparky fought hard to get reimbursed for that charge, and finally, a week after returning home, the charge was reversed. Whew!

At any rate, it was a lovely weekend and too soon it ended....Kerry had fun...Grandma had fun, and Barron had fun....Time to head back home to Florida and get ready for our Alaska trip coming up within a week and a half! See you later......Bye bye, my favorite little guy.....xoxoxoxox

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

An Encounter with a Gator, the CLOSE Kind!

Sparky said she was going to tell you all about kayaking on the Braden River, so here goes....She's ready to go kayaking...

And because she's saving for a new kayak, she has to rent one. No better place to rent one than down at Jiggs Landing, which is a hop, skip, and a jump behind her subdivision. Jiggs Landing is a marvelous place, a former fishing camp that recently underwent renovations and got a family to run concessions. There are "throw back to the forties" fishing cabins, which are now getting AC to make them more comfortable. There's a new parking lot, a boat ramp, a nifty floatable kayak launch, a nice playground, and a beautiful boardwalk to view the wildlife from the reservoir, which leads out to the Braden River. Kayaks can be rented for 20.00 for four hours, a reasonable rate! They are short, though, only 10 footers, but that's a great size for just lazy day paddling along the river....The staff at Jiggs are very friendly, and keep a close eye on things.  One day Sparky went out with her brother when he came for a visit. We were going to paddle all the way to Linger Lodge, a cool old Florida tavern in an old RV campground with lots of taxidermy stuff, a big screened in porch and live entertainment. It's about a two and a half hour paddle. We stopped there, Charlie had a beer and Sparky had a root beer. As it was getting late in the day, Sparky's better half called Jiggs Landing rental shop and just said we might be a little delayed, since closing time was getting close. They are thinking, ok, drinking at Linger Lodge Tavern, we'd better check on them. We were almost all the way back, when here comes a pontoon boat coming up the river with a park staff member, looking for us. Guess they had some previous experience with drinkers along the river, but it wasn't us! We were fine..."You sure?" as he checked us out very carefully... "Yep! We're fine!"

Back to the paddle today....You never know what you are going to see....Sparky started out slowly up the river, (it's not much of a current), and she soon saw a flash of colors on a duck, it was a WOOD duck, one of the most beautiful ducks in duck world, in her opinion! Woo hoo! She loves these ducks! He was all by himself as far as she could tell.
On she went....There are beautiful plants along the river, sometimes Sparky will only see just one bloom of a certain kind....Sparky doesn't know the names of this one, it could just be a weed, but this one caught her eye....it was gorgeous!

A beautiful red cardinal.....
She saw a banana tree in someone's yard that lives along the river...Wonder if they taste good?
Some more beautiful river plants....
The reflections on the river were so pretty....


And get a load of this! Sparky was floating along and came up along side a tri-colored heron...she snapped the shot with her camera phone, and not till AFTER she got home and posted it did she notice the bird's foot clamped down on top of a turtle! Don't know if the bird was just resting, claiming the turtle for a later lunch, or if the turtle got away....Cool beans! (Doesn't Judy say that, of Travels with Emma fame?)
What else happened on this eventful kayak trip? (Uh, yeah, Sparky...remember your title? reminds E.)

Yep...Getting there....Sparky sees a gator...no big deal...Sparky sees at least one gator every time she goes on the Braden River. This one was about 100 yards in front of her boat. Sparky kept paddling. No worries, the gator will see her coming and slowly submerge to get out of the way before she gets close enough to take a good photo. He doesn't move... Sparky keeps paddling....He doesn't move...He is now directly in front of her kayak bow. Sparky gets out her phone and takes a quick photo. She is not sure what he might do, so she needed both hands on her paddle to be ready....But she's not worried. (Sparky is stubborn and is a little bit of a risk taker, explains Eldo.) Notice he said LITTLE bit of a risk taker. Sparky has seen and photographed LOTS of gators. They are NOT interested in a bright green hard shell kayak, 99.9% of the time. Sparky was NOT worried....He was not a huge gator. So she kept moving forward expecting him to submerge or swim away from her at any moment. He never did. Sparky went RIGHT OVER THE GATOR'S BACK and could feel the bumpy ridges under her seat as she went over him, (at least she would swear she could)..."OMG, I JUST RAN OVER AN ALLIGATOR!!!!!" That was a little bit unnerving to say the least! 

Nothing else can top THAT experience of the day! Only as she was floating by the shoreline (following it fairly closely after that unusual experience), she just casually glanced off to the right and saw another BIG gator sunning himself on a log, that one was less than ten yards from her.

It was a fabulous day on the Braden River today.....and exciting, too! The next time you see Sparky, she will be in Houston visiting her little grandson! Soon to follow that will be Sparky and Eldo heading to Alaska!   See you later!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Bike Rides are NOT Boring in Bradenton!

Hi, folks...Sparky's on vacation...NOT! Not really, just going to blog today in first person...Me, Jeannie Sparks, a.k.a. "Sparky." Well, time to post a collage or two of nature's beauty that I have seen in the last several months on my 12-15 mile bike rides a couple times a week in the residential areas of Bradenton and Lakewood Ranch, a beautiful master planned community adjacent to where we live.....These are some of my favorite photos..Got lots more...But thought it would be nice to collage a set, although you can't see all the details that way. The bee in the middle is having a "bath" in a magnolia blossom. He was just diving in and out and all around in the fallen pistols (?) stamens (?) or whatever that magnolia "stuff" is. Then, when he realized there was a great big HUMAN photographing him, he started doing a wild and crazy warning dance to another bee who had alighted on the same blossom, who didn't pay him much attention. Down on the bottom right, a young heron with an itch....

I have been really lucky in all the nature and wildlife sightings that have graced my bike rides. Most of the time I use my iPhone 6S for the closeup nature and flower shots, and for the longer distance sightings, I have used my little point and shoot Canon camera that has 30X zoom for quite some time now.  I'm not very happy with it because often the birds' feathers are washed out, but I'm sure that's the amateur in me, not knowing how to fix that...I know that time of day is very important, so I try to take photos early in the morning and near sunset in the evening, as those are prime times, but my photos still look overexposed many times.

I've tried experimenting with different settings on the point and shoot, but I can't seem to figure out how to get improved visibility of bird feathers with this type of camera. Years ago, I thought a Nikon SLR camera would be more to my liking, but it wasn't portable enough and I found that it was taking so much time to switch out lenses and get the right settings that I gave up. I'm not a very patient person on things like that. I needed something a lot more simpler to grab and go, so I'm back to the Canon SX500 IS that I use, and my iPhone 6S, which takes amazing landscape and amazing close up photos. Some day I will upgrade my point and shoot again, and hope for a little better quality of detail on my photos when using that kind of camera. But I am REALLY happy with the iPhone 6S. Twice now, my iPhone photos that I submitted to a local newspaper were chosen to be featured as the photo of the week. Here's my latest chosen photo, a bee on a bristlecone flower, taken with the iPhone 6S, and published in the Observer, our local weekly newspaper.

When you are retired, you can stop and look at the darnedest things that capture your interest, just because you can. Sometimes, it's the bees on the flowers that captivate me....

Sometimes, it's the patterns on water or leaves that interest me.....

At any and ALL times, it's roseate spoonbills! (Yep, can't tell you how many times Sparky has yelled, "STOP! There's a spoonbill! Stop the car!" laughs E.) Just today, I happened upon a flock of seven spoonbills at a local park here in Sarasota. I have not seen a flock of spoonbills in over a year, maybe two. Just one here or there, but today, there were SEVEN of them! They were in a ditch over at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, by UTC mall, having a feeding frenzy, not seeming to mind that people were walking by not too far from them. Usually, spoonbills are quite the elusive bird, and skittish around people. Not these....Here are three out of the seven....

Captured this spoonbill shot at a marsh that I ride by at least three times a week. It's on River Club road, in and around Lakewood Ranch, part of my 12-15 mile ride that I do about three times a week.
This is with my Canon point and shoot, 30X zoom...No doctoring at all of the photo...natural light, that's the bird's actual colors, everything just came together on this one.

I always see tricolored herons on my ride....

And a new batch of sandhill crane babies with their mom and dad....In case you missed them, they are at the bottom right of the photo....
The one day I was watching these little cuties late in the afternoon......

A small herd of deer passed directly to the right of me and crossed over the road to the other side...I have never seen a herd of deer, not even one or two deer in this residential area in the three years I've lived in Bradenton!

Saw this egret and spoonbill together in the same big marsh one day, that I pass by every time on my bike..It's a big marsh on River Club Road in Bradenton in Lakewood Ranch. Usually WONDERFUL sightings there, but not always...
A wonderful place to observe wildlife, Bradenton really has it all......You just have to keep your eyes open to see it and take your time....Until next time, when Sparky gets out on the Braden River to kayak!  See you later!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

In the Meantime.... How's Eldo Doing?

Eldo is doing well...It's 2 1/2 months since quadruple bypass surgery..Eldy is driving, walking 30 minutes a day, and just recently got back on his bike.  He is also back to playing golf twice a week. He has very little discomfort of any kind. No chest pains or "pulls" as he describes it--a pulling sensation as if gravity were tugging his chest down to the floor, which is what he had felt for the first month and more after surgery. He is having a lot of trouble sleeping, that's his only complaint right now. He is just really really restless when it's time to go to sleep and sometimes he can't fall asleep. We don't think it's related to any medications he's taking...(Plavix and Lipitor, blood pressure medicine and a vitamin.) He still has numbness along his right leg where they took an artery from the leg to do one of the bypasses. The numbness might never go away, the dr. said, but he can live with that. His biggest complaint is his chest hairs growing back in prickly. :-) (Eldy is a hairy guy, it's just not on the top of his head!) If that's his biggest complaint, he's made it almost back to where he was. He still tires easily, and the simplest activities remind him that he still has a long way to go as far as stamina goes.

What have Sparky and Eldo been up to lately?  A trip to Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island one Sunday....What did we see and do? A great blue heron high up in the pines preening....

A little girl peeking out from a changing station at the beach, watching the passers-by on the boardwalk.....



We took a beautiful walk along the boardwalk.....Eldo is still trying to keep up his walking, so we walked the boardwalk, which is a lovely, shaded with Australian pines, long walk parallel to the beach...
We saw a circus performer wannabe.....set up a cord between two trees and then practice over and over to try and keep his balance. Sparky went over and talked to him. He wasn't really aiming for the circus, he just wanted to achieve this goal of being able to walk a tightrope.

We've been going to Anna Maria Island's Gulf Gate Cafe for Sunday breakfasts now and then....We love the vibe out there....

After breakfast at the restaurant, we drive over to the city pier to see what the fishermen are catching...

Eldy celebrated his 68th birthday this month....He's got a new lease on life....Doctors have told him several times it's a miracle he didn't experience a heart attack before they fixed him, with the "widow maker" 90% blocked. We may be doing a little traveling soon to celebrate... We celebrated his birthday dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in Sarasota, in our opinion...healthy, fresh food cooked by a wonderful chef...Paul Mattison, at Mattison's City Grille, in downtown Sarasota. The food is presented beautifully...This salad looks ordinary, but the tomatoes had the most wonderful flavor...white balsamic vinagrette dressing...yum!
Sparky's dinner....Extra rare steak, of course! Eldy had a wonderful meatloaf dinner...
And for dessert.....Mango cheesecake for Eldy....
We are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful area and for Eldy to be on his way to being healthier.....Although Sparky complains a LOT about the heat, (and HOW! laughs E.), she loves her subbing job and as long as we can get away some times in the summer, she'll try to not complain as much. :-)

Bye for now......

Monday, April 4, 2016

Sparky Visits Cheatham Annex and Her Daughter in Williamsburg, VA

If you are member of the military, you have some wonderful, reasonable places to stay as an RVer or family member of the soldier. Sparky's daughter, Kelly, invited Sparky to come for a visit to Williamsburg, VA where she was running a 5K race in Colonial Williamsburg AND she had a reservation at a cabin at the Navy base there, Cheatham Annex, also known as CAX.  What a fantastic place! The base is considered a small one but boy, did it have the options for fun and it was absolutely beautiful! We stayed in a modern cabin with lots of amenities.....

We were there for four days...It is located in the heart of Williamsburg, just minutes from the "historic triangle" of Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown and the beautiful Colonial Parkway and is on the York River...It supplies Atlantic fleet ships and provides recreational opportunities to military and civilian personnel. It has an RV park which appeared to be relatively new and modern, it has cottages for both non-pet owners and those who have furry friends. A link to the RV park and cabins: http://www.militarycampgrounds.us/virginia/cheatham-annex-recreation-cabins-and-rv-park
There are 69 RV sites and 31 cottages on the base which has 2,3001 acres of woodlands and three freshwater lakes. Some of the recreational activities that are there...bike rentals, canoe rentals, boat rentals (kayaks and rowboats), fishing, hiking and golfing is available at a nearby course. We loved the trails there, as they wind around the annex, skirting the bay.

We spent four wonderful days exploring the historical part of Williamsburg, albeit that part somewhat briefly because we were having so much fun checking out the shops, museums and restaurants and a Black American History Tour in addition to walking the trails on base and watching Kelly run her race. We did  not purchase any of the tours to go into the different shops of historic Williamsburg. Instead, we got an overall view of the town and its history through an African American tour with Trish, a very knowledgable tour guide with the Williamsburg Walking Tours. African Americans comprised HALF of the city of Williamsburg in the 18th century. We learned a LOT about this city's history with Trish. She gave us excellent background to set the stage for learning about some of the African American citizens and store owners who fought to earn their freedom, to keep their freedom and a lot of interesting history tidbits that have never been spoken about in history books. Unfortunately, Sparky lost her notes she took while on the tour so you'll just have to ask for Trish's tour! She wrote it and got it on the books for the tour company, Williamsburg Walking Tours, to offer to you. She also does a haunted ghost walking tour, and we would have LOVED to have taken that tour, but we ran out of time. She had some interesting side bits of stories to tell us about personal experiences with people on the haunted spirits tour, both in the flesh and not of the flesh! Sparky got shivers up and down her spine....

The buildings in Williamsburg are amazing, of course! We chose to focus on the outside of the town on our first visit...Noticing all the period costumes....the double brick bridges on the Colonial Parkway.....


















the Governor's Palace....



The 300 year old Bruton Episcopal Church still having services....

the cloche jars covering the plants from the cold in a Williamsburg garden...


Kelly ran a 5K race while we were there and it was terrific! The race was started by a drum and fife corps...They walked all the runners from the William and Mary College campus to the race starting line, playing and drumming the whole way. The race started with a musket shot! It was inspiring to say the least!
We took the Alewerk's Brewery Tour...It's a small brewery but has great beer. Sparky doesn't drink beer, but Kelly reports the beer was great!  Sparky bought Sparky Jr. (Kelly) a cool growler mug. For us in the U.S., we thought we drank a lot of beer nationwide (20 gallons a year per beer drinking person) but in the Czech Republic, they drink 40 gallons per person a year! We learned that your palate changes about every 7 years which explains why Sparky never used to like mushrooms, and now she does. :-)
We experienced some of the local restaurants and can recommend DoG Street Pub, for tavern fare, Water Street Grille on the Yorktown River Waterfront (a little pricier but well worth it!) and Shorty's Diner on Merrimac Trail in Williamsburg, for breakfast.


We visited the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum and Dewitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum--TWO museums in one. This was one of the most beautiful museums we have ever seen. The layout was fantastic, the exhibits were laid out beautifully, the explanations and signs were well lit and easily readable, unlike other museums we have seen in our travels. There was a fantastic display of African American quilts while we were there....Some of the other exhibits were the Thunderbirds jewelry of Santa Domingo, outdoor folk art, innovative 18th century fire fighting techniques, the evolution of spinets, harpsichords and pianos, and birds, bugs and blooms from the 18th century....a very eclectic choice of exhibits to appeal to a broad range of interests!

The photo on the left is in the Birds, Bugs and Blooms exhibit.


Our short visit drew to a close...


We can highly recommend the Cheathem Annex naval base as a place to stay for  military members and their families...Great location, close to everything, nature in your backyard, the ocean and water activities right there, too. Accommodations were fantastic....

We loved our hikes together on the Cheathem annex campground trails....and Moxie, Kelly's dog, loved it, too! It was a fabulous way to spend time with Kelly...Thank you, Kelly, for taking Mom on this wonderful trip....xoxoxoxo



We will leave you with this beautiful closing shot in colonial Williamsburg....A beautiful scene as daylight was coming to a close.....We will definitely go back to Williamsburg again some day...There's so much more to see...Thanks for stopping by today to have a read....