Monday, April 30, 2012

Savannah Sights

We were going to stay just a week at Thousand Trails The Oaks at Point South, but after seeing a tantalizing glimpse of Savannah, hearing that Charleston is about the same distance in the other direction, and hearing that FIFTEEN tall ships are coming to Savannah the first weekend in May, WE'RE STAYING! And it's a free, two week stay at TT, so that enables us to explore Savannah and do a few touristy things, like perhaps go for a sail on a tall ship?
downtown Savannah
Off to Savannah today to take a Grayline tour with Richard, on the Oglethorpe blue bus tour. Eldo LOVES Grayline tours, and this one for an hour and a half, was just 15.00 a person. What's even cooler, is, Grayline takes you all around the tour first, with no stops, then you can go back to the stops you want to spend more time at, and hop on, hop off for free with your tour stop sticker for the rest of the day. Richard was a great tour guide...he grew up in Savannah, and remembers when parts of the city should have been condemned and he used to play in the old sections and in the old houses. He was very proud of his city having made a turnaround. He was also very interesting and VERY informative. We had time to take photos, it wasn't rushed.

We learned that Sherman didn't burn the city of Savannah, he never touched it, he left it intact so he could get supplies from the harbor there. We learned that Savannah has a HUGE shipping industry that generates about 60 billion dollars a year and provides over 300,000 jobs for the city. We learned a lot about Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, which was the colony originally intended for EVERYBODY except Catholics and heavy drinkers. Just kidding, but that's partially true. Oglethorpe allowed everyone to settle in Georgia, it was a debtor's relief program for the poor back then to relieve crowding in the English prisons, but Catholics and lawyers (!) were not welcome (the colony was supposed to be for Protestants) and slavery was forbidden. AND, NO ALCOHOL! Ogilthorpe did not want anything that might contribute to colony residents being lazy and the colony itself floundering and not growing. But, for some odd reason, he brought plenty of beer over on the ship, I kid you not! (This is Sparky's oversimplified version, she's not a history buff, explains E.) When the settlements floundered because the emigrants were a little on the lazy side, slavery ended up coming into the Georgia colony. There's a whole lot more to the story, but Sparky is sticking to her abbreviated version. Sort of a Sparks' notes on Georgia...hehehehe......

We learned that Johnny Mercer, a Savannah native, wrote over 1400 songs and one of his most famous was "Moon River."

We saw and learned about the beautiful Victorian houses and architecture. The staid Victorians liked using color but not this much! Like this pink "Pepto Bismal" house, (NOT in the historic preservation district!) The other house pictures are....

......the churches...

Savannah is one super planned out city, with regular symmetrical streets and about twenty town squares where beautiful trees provide shade along with all kinds of memorial statues to famous soldiers and war heroes. Here is a tribute to the Haitian soldiers who fought so valiantly for our country in its early days.

We learned that the local Kroger store came in, paid a TON of money to move three architecturally beautiful and historically important houses one block over so they could put up their parking lot, then they designed their store to fit in with the neighborhood vision and a previously demolished architectural gem. Here is a photo Richard showed us of the building that didn't get saved...
And here's the Kroger store....
Every effort is made to preserve the integrity of the design of new buildings to blend in with the old, as much as possible. Lots of renovation is still going on in the heart of the city and it is spreading outwards. And here are a few more tour tidbits: Richard said that there are two things you don't mess with around Savannah natives, one is their "to-go" can drink alcohol to go in a paper cup out and about town...and two, Girl Scouts. Somebody tried to do away with the drinking outside of establishments, a politician, and he was soundly defeated. Someone else tried to make the Girl Scouts pay for selling cookies on the street, and that said person was totally embarrassed into making a retraction and run out of town, well, sort of. Remember, Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts is a Savannah native. You don't mess with those two traditions here in Savannah!

Lots of culture here...lots of interesting things going on, a very vibrant city...We loved exploring the town today, on the tour and a little bit on our own.....
some harbor entertainment
You need a couple of weeks to explore Savannah, if not more...We'll do our best with about a week left in our stay, we'll be back! Gotta see the home of the Girl Scout founder, Juliette Gordon Low, and some other very special things to see and do in this beautiful city.....See you later!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

LOOKS Like Michigan, FEELS Like Michigan....

But it's South Carolina! We're back in the forest lands of America..Woo-hoo!  We're back where there are beautiful oak trees, TONS of them....
We're back where the temps are in the sixties during the day, and forties at night...and there's sweet smelling honeysuckle blooming....WOO-HOO!
Never mind that it's going to be 87 degrees in a day or two. Ugh!... But we're not in Michigan, we're in SOUTH CAROLINA.....for a week, maybe two, at the Thousand Trails park called The Oaks at Point South, in Yemassee, South Carolina, off I-95, exit 33. It's an old park, aren't most Thousand Trails?  This park is located near the tiny town of Yemassee, there's nothing there, really. No main grocery stores, just a couple of convenience gas stations, and a few motels that are dying. But we have 50 amp service and the park looks like an RV park in Michigan...It's heavily treed, but we had no problems getting into our site. It's shady and very pleasant.  All the sites are pull thrus...Sites are level and gravel. You pay 3.00 a day extra for very basic cable. People are having difficulty getting satellite because of all the trees, it appears.  AT & T phones shift in and out between two bars and "E" and sometimes for a fleeting moment 4G and sometimes no signal at all. No wi-fi unless you pay for it. Verizon Mi-fi card works fine if you move it around in different locations in the coach depending on your site for best reception. For us, it's the front of the coach, three bars. There's a pool, but it looks like this....Score 1 for the algae!
Here's our site....You can bike around the park a little or go outside the park and get some miles in on area roads, but we're not sure it's safe to do that, so Sparky is going to restrict her riding a bit.
We like our site, we like the park. And it's FREE with our Thousand Trails zone membership! Woo-hoo! Our site has trees closer than some other sites. We can't get our awning out all the way. There are other sites with more width before getting trees in your way.
Typical site....
The park is located in a very economically depressed section of the nearby grocery stores or places to shop other than convenience store gas stations. To get to a "Piggly Wiggly", it's 12 miles. (That helps keep Sparky's compulsive grocery shop spending down, says a relieved E.) It's also a bit of a drive to get anywhere to see anything like Savannah, 42 miles away, Charleston about the same distance. Beaufort, a smaller historical town is about 22 miles away. Hilton Head is about an hour's drive. There are so many islands and harbor towns in the area that it would take weeks to explore the area. This really is a central location to stay to explore the "Low Country". You're just going to have to budget some more money for gas for your car if you stay here. But gas prices are around $3.68, which is a welcome relief from what they were in Florida.

The KOA campground is directly opposite on the same road as the Thousand Trails park. Sparky rode back in there to see what it was like. It's very nice but overpriced for being far from most attractions, 45.00 a night. But they have a wine bar/cafe! Woo-hoo! And you are welcome to come and visit if even if you are staying at the OTHER park, our TT park! The wine bar is GREAT. For 5.50, we got to taste 15 local wines, yep, that's right--15! Many of them came out of Hilton Head or the Biltmore Estate Winery...One was a margarita wine! Very nice....And if you purchase a bottle of wine, you get 10% off...Good thing we rode our bikes over there instead of driving the car, haha....(Sparky is the lightweight here, NOT me! explains E. She was a little all over the road going home....) Uh, I was just avoiding some potholes, honey! :-)
Look at this cool phone booth they have outside the KOA office. Wonder if the phone works?
It will be tough to explore such a historically rich area in just a few days, but we're gonna try! We amassed a HUGE bunch of brochures of things to do and everything you'd want to know about South Carolina/Georgia at two different visitor's centers today, the one for Georgia and the one for South Carolina.

The visitor's center at the Georgia/Carolina state line had a cool kiosk called "Tourist Assistance Portal" or TAP.

You scan the bar code (that little square box with lots of black squiggles--see right photo) with your smart phone providing you have downloaded a little scan code reader for the Android or iphone, and it loads an app all about Savannah, complete with tours, maps, music, things to do, family stuff, lodging, food and fun, etc.  AND complete with DEALS! Like 5.00 off a tour or something, or a buy one, get one free entree at a local restaurant. Once you get the app loaded, the TAP kiosk mails you great deals to your phone for the city you are visiting, then you just show the deal on the phone to the restaurant, the tour company, whatever. Cool! (Sparky LOVES technology! explains E.) The company, Blue Focus Media, is planning on expanding this program as it has been wildly successful in Savannah.....It will be fun to try and pick some things out that won't break the budget while we are here. Stay tuned!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Wham! Bam! Thank You, Ma'am, Er, Sir!

We left at 9:00 this morning, on our way to the Oaks at Point South, in Yemassee, South Carolina, our destination for tonight.  It was about a 250 mile drive, no biggie for Eldo...About a half hour into our drive, with Sparky passively knitting her way through her second sock, minding her own business and letting Eldy take care of the big business of driving the rig through heavy traffic......

What the hell was THAT??????!!!!! SOMETHING HIT THE COACH!!!!! Did we blow a tire? Eldy quickly pulled over to the shoulder to see...Sparky's heart was beating a million times a minute...It was so SCARY! It sounded like a cannon shot hitting the side of the motorhome! He said he saw something black go flying by the window while he was driving...But it wasn't any of our tires. We thought maybe the truck driver who passed us had blown a tire and it smacked the side of the motorhome. All the tires were ok....whew! But the side of our Tiffin wasn't...A rest stop was less than a mile away, we pulled in, just as we saw the driver of the truck who passed us pull out. He must have been checking HIS rig for a blown tire. He apparently didn't have the damage but his rig sucked up the road debris and then threw it at us...Gee, thanks a LOT, buddy! But, it could have been a lot worse, and maybe he didn't know what happened as he blew by us. We looked at the damage...It makes you want to cry when you see a nice, almost new rig with no scratches get a bunch all at once....
Our Tiffin has such a nice shiny coat it's hard to see how bad it REALLY can see the reflection of the RV's from across the way in it.
Whatever hit us, bounced right at Eldy's driver window, slid across the side of the rig and down to the rear tire, it even scuffed the tire and then flew off...thankfully, not under the rig where it could have done some more damage. It could have been worse...There's one small scratch through the paint, the rest can be buffed or super buffed out with the right equipment...We'll probably get the scratch fixed when we head to Red Bay later this year. We've got slides with edges abraded by ill fitting gaskets, so there's a second paint job in our future at Red Bay.

The rest of the trip went uneventfully, thank goodness. Every time a truck passed, Sparky's heart started beating crazy fast, thinking another SOMETHING was going to come flying out at us. We finally arrived with out further mishap....We're settled in at the Oaks at Point South in Yemassee, South CaroLAH-NA for a week. Another FREE stay with our Thousand Trails zone pass, we're out of the Florida Max Pass zone now.....We'll tell you about the park tomorrow.....

Friday, April 27, 2012

Scenes from St. Augustine

For our last day at Bulow (yay!) we took an afternoon drive to St. Augustine...about a 45 minute drive from Flagler Beach. St. Augustine is the OLDEST city in the United States, founded in abut 1565. Lots of history there...we just wanted to look around and see what there was to see for a couple of hours.

After visiting the beautiful visitor's center--don't miss it! It has a beautiful mosaic entrance, and a gorgeous spacious interior.

We decided to take the trolley tour, a quick way to see a city and learn something about it. For 23.00 a person (no discount rates), and about a 70 minute tour, we learned a few things about St. Augustine. Sparky forgot that on these bouncy trolley tours, it's just about impossible to take a decent photo, so not very many good photos today. What did we learn about St. Augustine?
Flagler College
It's got some BEAUTIFUL architecture...Flagler College is the top destination for tourists according to Trip Advisor. It is named after Henry Flagler, the railroad baron who originally was a Standard Oil man and it used to be known as the Ponce deLeon Hotel that Flagler built. The college is one of the finest examples of Spanish Renaissance/Revival architecture. You can take tours to see this beautiful National Historic Landmark, part of which would be worthwhile to see the dining hall where the students eat under numerous Tiffany stained glass windows. Flagler also had a memorial church built in memory of his only daughter, who died in childbirth.
dome on Flagler's church
There are beautiful churches and missions in St. Augustine...we saw some on the trolley tour..You can hop off and hop on at any time on the trolley, but when you hop off to see something, it costs extra to tour--like the "oldest house" in St. Augustine, or the college (7.00 admission for that) or the "old jail". We were pressed for time because of the lateness in the day and couldn't hop on, hop off, we had to stay on for the ride.

We learned that Ponce deLeon was a short guy--4 ft., 11 in. tall, and he always wore a plumed hat, the the feather standing straight up to make himself appear taller.

We learned that the Spanish moss is NOT Spanish, and it's not moss. It's a bromeliad, an air plant or epiphyte. It's a close relative to a plant called "beard lichen" but is really a member of the pineapple family. The "moss" used to be used to stuff mattresses in the 1800's. Florida used to have quite an industry in shipping "tree hair" over to England to be used for stuffing mattresses. The guide said you don't want to handle it, that it's a good way to get "chiggers" which are little bugs that make you itch for DAYS. GREAT! It's bad enough to worry about no-seeums, now there's chiggers!

The "Fountain of Youth" is one of the trolley stops, but it was unclear where the fountain was, and it seemed very hokey the way the Fountain of Youth Architectural park was set up. Nearby was one of the oldest oaks in America, the "Old Senator", and it supposedly marks the spot a few feet away from Ponce deLeon's footsteps....
Oh...and the original, first Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not museum is in St. Augustine, with a reproduction, full, life size statue of Michelangelo's "David" the full monty (the entire anatomically correct form), with a hedge row of bushes half way up the statue and half way around so you can't see his private parts from the street in case there are little children running around. Heck, all they have to do is run around the bushes, and VOILA! There he is! Mom and Dad will have some explaining to do, maybe, if they haven't been informing parents.

We were disappointed in the tour, it was not one of the better trolley tours which this company runs in major cities...can't quite put a finger on what was so disappointing..For one, it was too fast the way it was conducted, the trolley kept moving and there was seldom enough time to located what the guide was pointing out before you were past the point of interest. There was constant shifting back and forth between the left and right sides as to what you were to look at, and because we kept moving, you couldn't really see what you were looking at with the canopy on top of the trolley. The trolley would stop momentarily for people to get on and off, but never long enough to get out from under the canopy to take a photo. We would recommend a slower carriage ride tour instead, or heck, why not just walk around? There's a great fort across the street, and the churches and missions are very close to the center of town. There are also a TON of cute restaurants, bars, grills, and tourist trap shops all in the center of town.

Tomorrow, we say goodbye to Florida, we are heading for South Carolina and eventually, Freightliner School!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bulow Plantation RV Park in Flagler Beach, FL and Daytona Beach

This is one of the Florida Encore parks in the Max Pass membership of the Thousand Trails system. It is on Old Kings Road South in Flagler Beach. We stayed here for three days as a stopover before we headed to South Carolina. The literature for this park calls it a "Premier RV Resort".  We'll let you judge by the accompanying photos. If you are wanting an overnight destination, this would be ok. If you are thinking of staying longer, think again! In our humble opinion, this park is in severe disrepair and definitely showing its age. Everything about it is old, rusty, falling apart, and not very pretty. The entrance/exit to and from the park was VERY narrow and almost impossible to navigate with our 40 foot Tiffin and the car in tow. We highly recommend unhooking your car before coming in the entrance should you decide to stay there and not hooking up till you are OUT of the park. It was difficult pulling in and we barely missed scraping a mailbox and running over the curb on our way out.

This is the clubhouse. Looks like they gave up trying to repair the roof.
How hard would it be to slap a couple of cheap electrical face plates on the outlets in the bathrooms? Rusty mirrors, soap scum on the shower handles. We know for a fact they clean the bathrooms daily basis, but they still look bad!

Sites are mostly grass and dirt. There are some good things about it. It could be a beautiful park with all the huge, mossy live oaks. There is plenty of space between sites. Some of the sites have concrete patios, although very tiny. The rear of the park is filled with ancient trailers that have been made into more permanent trailer homes. They look terrible. There are some new park models at the very back of the park.  Our site was wonderfully shaded, which we liked. They allow any make and model of trailer or RV to stay in this park, which is great, because not all parks allow that. Electric is dated and only 30 amp, not sure if there's any 50 amp in the park. But we didn't have any troubles with the service while we were here. AT & T phones were a little spotty, three bars but our side of the calls were cutting in and out when we made calls. The mi-fi had two bars. We seemed to get kicked off more than normal here in this park on the mi-fi.

They have a 60 foot pool which looked nice. Free cable TV, which Eldy appreciated...they have a 24 hour laundry which is in serious need of an update, but the machines worked fine. They have firewood for sale but the park was under a county wide burning ban. There is a little grocery store with beer and wine and RV supplies, but we never saw it. The "waterfront" RV and tent sites are either on a canal or small pond that has litter in it. There are 25 rental cabins, but they are in need of repair as well.

But here's a great's 10 minutes to Flager Beach, and you're on the Atlantic Ocean! Not a bad beach, but not a lot of sand, it's a narrow beach. The town of Flagler Beach is a small fishing town, there's not much there.

After checking out Flagler Beach, we decided to head down to Daytona Beach, about 25 miles from Flagler Beach. Eldo wanted Sparky to see how you can park your car on the beach. So we did, cost us 5.00 but that's not bad. It was a very cloudy-with-a-chance-of-rain kind of day, so we didn't stay too long....
But Sparky got to ride her bike on the beach--it was a good workout even if the sand was packed!
Not too many people at Daytona Beach today, just a few shell searchers with not very many shells to find....
And Eldo just HAD to have some ice cream even if it was 3.50 a bar! (Now, Sparky, c'mon, you did, too!) Yup! I did.....See you tomorrow...maybe in St. Augustine, if it's not raining too hard....

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Magic Kingdom

Having grown up with the Mickey Mouse Club, and Walt Disney, it was only natural, for Sparky and Eldo to make their way towards the end of the day to the Magic Kingdom, their third and final stop. Eldo wanted Sparky to see the wonderful parade around the Main Street and the castle. It's a beautiful park, as all of Disney World is....very clean, and such beautiful landscaping...We had to spend a couple of hours waiting for the parade to start at 9:00 PM, with fireworks at 10:00. It was fun to people watch....We saw lots of high schoolers having their senior prom (?) trips at the park. Can't imagine being a chaperone for that and trying to keep track of the whereabouts of a bunch of high schoolers! Lots of luck with THAT! This group was spending three whole days at the park!

We sat at the end of Main Street in front of the Walt Disney and Mickey bronze statues at the base of the castle..About 8:00 PM, there was a wonderful show to watch to help pass the time...It was so beautiful watching the colors change, not only of the castle but of the night skies as darkness fell.....

At 9:00, the Disney Electric Light Parade started.. By this time, the tourists have all piled into the park section down by the castle and it's shoulder to shoulder..Some people have no regard for individual space! Sparky was jammed into the wall by the Disney statue with a pregnant woman and her boyfriend and their shopping bags right in front of her face. She couldn't move an inch and had to endure their kissing and canoodling two inches away from her! Geez, get a room why don't ya?  Bah, humbug...oh, sorry, wrong season..Time to turn attention to the parade...The park turn off the park lights and here comes a parade of all kinds of floats with Disney characters and a bazillion lights...Very catchy music as well....The dragon even blew smoke!
There was a spectacular eagle lighted float that was very impressive...All the floats were huge and fantastically lighted...It was magical!
And then came a wonderful light show on the castle...superimposed giant photos of kids and adults having fun at Disney everchanging display/montage of everything magical about the park...The photos can't begin to describe the incredible and interesting changes to the face of the castle as we watched the show entranced. Hard to get one focused, but you get the idea.

And then, the fireworks to cap the magical, enchanted evening.....

The day would not be complete without a few photos of the many, many little princesses we saw all dressed up in gowns and Disney garb.....These little girls were at Hollywood Studios earlier in the day....

And this tired little princess was on the tram heading back to the parking lot at the end of a very very busy day....(I think my princess was just as tired, says E.)  Aw-w-w, yes, I was...It was a truly wonderful, magical day at Disney World...Thanks for joining us....