Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pictures from Memorial Day

Pop over to RVPainter's Blog for pictures from our wonderful Memorial Day at my sister Jessie's house. My brother-in-law Terry organized and coordinated the parade and all the ceremonies in their town of Princeton, MA, and he did an amazing job. It was everything you imagine Memorial Day to be and to represent. The house and barn in the pictures is Jess and Terry's house.

This morning I'm getting ready for my school visit with third graders in North Andover tomorrow. And, I'm working on some queries for article ideas I have. It's not raining, but has that sort of look and feel to it, so it's a good day for fiddle-farting around here at the campground.

Hope you have a great day and a wonderful week!

Friday, May 25, 2012

FRIDAY FIVE: FIVE THINGS I HAVE SORELY MISSED ABOUT NEW ENGLAND

Well friends, we made it up the east coast corridor from Charleston to Massachusetts - five days of driving with overnight stops in North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey and Connecticut. Honestly, we'll NEVER do that route again - at least not the parts where we have to skirt Washington, DC, Baltimore and New York City. We spent over $100 in tolls and held our breath numerous times in the dense traffic around the cities - even going during non-rush hour times. But we made it! We'll be in Massachusetts for two weeks - one week here and another out at Salisbury Beach State Park.

It's so good to see my family - saw my brother, Tom, his wife Cheryl and my nephew John in Virigina, and now my sister Jessica, her husband Terry, and my beautiful neices Olivia and Elizabeth here in Massachusetts.

So, here are FIVE THINGS I HAVE SORELY MISSED ABOUT NEW ENGLAND:

5.  Rhododendrons in full bloom



4. Maple trees growing by a stone wall


3.  Poppies growing wildly in front of a red barn


2.  Town commons with a bandstand


1.  And most of all, these faces ...
That's my sister Jessie in the middle, Elizabeth on the left and Olivia on the right xoxoxoxoxoxox

That's Dick aka RV Painter on the left, Me second from the right, Olivia between Dick and me, and Elizabeth on the right.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

MORE PICTURES AROUND & ABOUT CHARLESTON

We're on the road again - five days from Charleston to Massachusetts - assuming the weather cooperates. We're not looking forward to the drive on this leg - as we'll have to navigate some dense areas through NJ and around New York City - Yikes!  But I am looking forward to getting where we're going because I'll get to see family and friends, and will be on my "home turf" so to speak.

We're stopping in Virginia Tuesday to see my brother Tom, his wife Cheryl and my nephew, John, who just graduated from Columbia and has his pick of law schools for next year - I suspect he'll choose NYU. We'll have just missed my beautiful neice Claire, who is off for a semester of work-study in Barcelona, Spain. Lucky girl!

We'll be with my sister Jess and her husband Terry in Princeton, Massachusetts over Memorial Day, and we'll get to spend time with my neices Olivia and Elizabeth. And RVPainter's sister is having a family reunion for us all too. So lots of reconnecting!

I'll be visiting two schools in the area to read from my book and talk with the kids about reading, writing and creativity: A third grade class at Kittredge Elementary in North Andover, and the 4th and 5th grade classes at Matthew Thornton Elementary in Londonderry, NH.

While we're on the road again this week, enjoy some more pictures of beautiful Charleston, SC - a city we enjoyed very much for its beauty, charm and grace.







They have lots of these wading fountains and they make you feel like a kid running through the sprinkler - I love it!




Friday, May 18, 2012

FRIDAY FIVE: FIVE THINGS THAT LIFE ON THE ROAD HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT LIFE IN GENERAL

This road trip - which is really our "way of life" for this year at least, has been a huge learning experience. There are all the technical things to learn about the RV, of course, and then there's the part where you learn to change your mindset about what "daily life" looks and feels like.

Today, I'm listing five things that living "on the road" has taught me so far - things that I think are applicable to life in general!

5.  It always takes longer to get there than you think it will
(Especially in an RV, which you keep to around 50 - 55 mph, and if you have to go through a major city -Yikes!)

4.  The things you think will be easy end up being problems and the things you think will be problems turn out to be no big deal.
(The automatic hydraulic leveling system that should be "push-a-button-easy" has been nothing but trouble, and our GPS crapped out on us halfway through Texas. On the other hand, everyone warms you how yukky emptying the "black water" tank will be, but it's a piece of cake).

3.  You can never have enough bungi cords
(No explanation needed :)

2.  Some days are good, others ... not so much (or:Life on the road is really no different than "normal" life).
Some days are great - the weather is good, the road is smooth, you don't get lost, the levelers work, and you get to sit on a beach with sand like sugar. Other days, the road is bumpy, there's construction and traffic, the GPS takes you the wrong way (or dies) and you sleep in an RV Park along I-40 in Nowhere, Texas that makes you feel like you're in an episode of the Twilight Zone.

1.  It's not about "everything going perfectly and smoothly" all the time. It's about the kindness of people who help you out when things go wrong. 
I'm thinking about Connie, the park ranger at Palmetto Island who called ahead to Jim's Tire Repair for us; the folks at Jim's who fixed up our tire for $15 and gave us directions; the several people who gave us directions when I got us lost in Savannah; My friend Maggy who's been moral support; All my friends who've weighed in with supportive comments along the way.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Charleson, South Carolina

This week we are in Charleston, SC for the WHOLE WEEK! It's nice to have a break from all the driving and stay put for a bit. It feels like we've been on the road forever, but our road trip is, in fact, just a little over two weeks old!

Since April 30th, we've been to San Antonio, Texas; New Orleans, LA; Gulf Breeze, FL; Savannah, GA and now Charleston, SC. Not to mention a few stopovers along the way that actually aren't worth mentioning!

Charleston is a beautiful small city, old, gracious, charming, elegant and easy to navigate. So far, we've enjoyed the downtown area twice, gone out to the beach at Kaiwah Island, and visited Magnolia House - a former plantation with beautiful gardens and grounds. Today I'll post the pictures from Magnolia House, and I'll put together a Charleston montage later in the week.

So here we go:

This is actually the 3rd home on the site. The original plantation was struck by lightening and burned down. The second home was burned to the ground by the Yankees as the Civil War ended. This house is a combination of the family's hunting cottage that was picked up and moved down the river, (that's the part to the left of the tower); and an addition to the home by the daughter who inherited the house (the larger part starting with the tower and to the right).


The Drayton family built the plantation in 1676, when they arrived from Barbados with slaves in tow. The eldest son inherited the house, but one day, when riding his horse back from a hunt, his rifle accidently went off, mortally wounding him. He rode down the oak-lined avenue until he reached the house, where he dismounted and died on the front steps.





These giant oaks with the Spanish moss hanging from them are typical of plantation homes and this part of the south. The moss does not steal nutrients from the tree. It's very beautiful, but on a dark night, it would be spooky!


The youngest son, a minister, never expected to inherit. But upon his brother's death, he came back. He was inspired by one of the slaves, who created and tended lovely gardens there. Together, they worked with the natural environment to create a variety of garden spaces, including walkways that meander past lagoons and under the giant oaks, bridges, a maze and secret spaces for walking and contemplation.

The minister-owner defied the laws of the day by teaching his slaves to read and write. This of course, was not compensation for their enslavement, but he viewed it as such. Always interesting to see how people were able to justify their actions - especially in this case,  a "man of God" as the preacher was. It's hard to understand how someone like that wouldn't be able to take a higher stand for humanity - how he could overlook the obvious.

Peacocks roam the plantation gardens

Magnolia Plantation is known for the beautiful gardens throughout.
There are many "secret gardens" and special spots like this.


Donkeys roam the open field

RVPainter in front of the plantation. It was his birthday Tuesday - he turned 72 - doesn't he look great?

Pink hydrangeas

Hangin' out on the porch, waiting for the house tour and for someone to bring him a Mint Julep ;)



The Magnolia House grounds and house were lovely and the history was interesting. It's not though, what we typically think of when we think "plantation." I think of something like Tara from Gone with the Wind. Magnolia House is relatively modest in size and grandeur, and of course none of the original home or outbuildings remain (except the front and back steps - which are original to the first house).

We also thought it was quite over-priced at $15 general admission (just to walk around) PLUS $8 if you wanted the house tour, PLUS $8 more if you wanted to take the tour where they ride you around on little carts. Still, we enjoyed the peace and beauty of the grounds and learning about another piece of the past.

If you missed my New Orleans pictures, they are in the previous post. I tried making a slideshow, and thought I'd succeeded, but for some reason, Blogger isn't loading it to my page even though it looks like the gadget is there. Ah, the mysteries of Blogger :)

Will get more Charleston pictures up before we head out on the road again on Sunday. The word that comes to mind to describe Charleston is "gracious." You could also say "genteel."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pictures from N'Awlins!



Took this picture of a store window display in New Orleans

Hi Everyone!

It seems to ME like a loooonnnnggg time ago that we were in New Orleans, but of course it was just last week. We arrived in Charleston, SC on Sunday, after stops at Fort Pickens (see prior post - so BEAUTIFUL!!), Lake City, Florida (just a no-place stopover) and Savannah, GA (worth more investigation).

But back to New Orleans, or "N'Awlins" as they say it there ...

 We stayed at the Bayou Segnette State Park on Westwego Island, which is just south of the city of New Orleans. The campground is GREAT - one of the best we've stayed at, including the ones that are privately owned and command a high price. The state park price is typically $20 per night and for that price, Bayou Segnette is a GREAT deal.


One of the best things is that you can take a FREE (we like FREE!) ferry to N'Awlins from the Algiers Pier (another historic section with delightful cottages and homes beautifully preserved) on Westwego. It's 15 minutes and goes all day and into the night.


And, it drops you off RIGHT THERE in the heart of where you want to be - the French Quarter.


 
We walked down Bourbon Street, which is kind of the "den of iniquity" section. This is obvious because housed in the beautiful old homes with lacy wrought-iron balconies are mostly bars and girlie shows. During the day, when we were there, nothing was doing, which was fine with us because we just wanted to see and enjoy!




 
On Decatur Street, there are more shops, restaurants and parks, and not so much sin :-D.



We had cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe du Monde - an absolute MUST if you go. That's all they sell - cafe au lait and beignets. And they are fabulous, but you must eat them downwind or risk being covered with powdered sugar :D.





We walked all through the French Quarter and the French Market.




There is a lovely park in front of the cathedral - also spectacular - I'd have to say it may even be lovlier inside than the one in Santa Fe (though Santa Fe wins for its architecture).



So, we had essentially one full day to walk around and enjoy N'Awlins, which we did. We relaxed back at the campground late in the day and headed off the next morning.

Since then, we've stopped over at Fort Pickens State Park (see previous post) - definitely going back there - for MUCH longer!!; Lake City, Florida (just passin' through); and Savannah. We made the most of our one night in Savannah by driving through the downtown (very pretty) to Tybee Island, which we'd seen on House Hunters. It had less charm than we expected, but is still a fun, young beach town.

Now we are in Charleston, SC for a week and we love it! Also glad to be staying put for a bit. The downtown is simply lovely! Pretty and old and charming and gracious and safe and easy to navigate - all things I like :-D

We also drove out to Kaiwah Island, which I didn't even know was here. Kaiwah is actually gated - you have to live there or be visiting someone who does. Apparently movie stars and other famous folk have places out there. Just before the gate, there is a beautiful county park beach, so that's where we peasants go! (I actually know someone who lives on Keiwah, but he's not someone I really want to call!)

Yesterday was  RVPainter's birthday so we went downtown, had a lovely lunch at a place called Magnolias, and sat on the pier, enjoyed the cooling breezes, and watched the people and boats go by.
 
Enjoy the N'Awlins pictures and I'll be back at the end of the week with Charleston pictures. I took the plunge and invested in turning my iphone into a wifi hotspot - which seems to be working spectacularly well at the moment.

Later, y'all!

 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

We're still on the road to Charleston, but I wanted you to see this place!

We've been on the move since leaving New Orleans (can't remember what day that was or what day this is!). Haven't had wifi until this morning, so I'm putting up this quick post - I don't have time to load the slideshow of New Orleans pictures so I'll do that when we get to Charleston -I know you're anxious to see them. In the meantime, I just had to show you pictures of this place that we stayed for one night: It's Fort Pickens State Park in Pensacola, Florida. Very different from Palmetto Island as you can see - two completely different habitats and experiences in the same state!

Pensacola is beautiful - it reminds me of a little Aruba (we went to Aruba for many years). A thin strip of island with hotels, beautiful beach homes and restaurants. Out at the tip is the state park with ... well, look for yourself!!





The day we traveled to get here, and our afternoon and night here were about as perfect as it gets! The drive wasn't too long at 4 hours, the place was easy to find, and by 2:30 pm our toes were in the sand, which looks like snow and feels like sugar. Sun warmed our shoulders and the breeze kept us cool - that perfect balance of warm and cool that you imagine on a perfect beach day. The water, which is the Gulf of Mexico,  is that blue-green Caribbean color I've longed to see again. Within minutes, we felt like we'd been there for a week.

AND! The state park fee is usually $20 for camping overnight. But with Dick's National Parks Golden Age Pass, it only cost us $10!!! Can you imagine - $10 a night for a fabulous "Caribbean vacation?"

We went into the town of Gulf Breeze, where Pensacola Beach is - basically one long road down the narrow island strip. On one side is the Gulf, on the other, Pensacola Bay. Hotels, beach homes and restaurants - very upscale. We dined on crab cakes and crabby macaroni and cheese at the Crab House, where they have these silly crab races. A fellow sang (pretty well too) Jimmy Buffet songs, and even a little Santana on his guitar. It was so great.




Okay, gotta run to do my "hit the road" chores - will post New Orleans slideshow when I get to Charleston, and then we'll be in Charleston for a whole week!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

One Very Eventful night at Palmetto Island State Park - Down on the Bayou, Baby

It seemed like a good idea, staying a night at Palmetto Island State Park in Abbeville, Louisiana on our way to New Orleans. And it's not that it was a BAD idea, it's just that we got more than we bargained for.

We started out from Highlands, Texas, just east of Houston, and needed a stopover after about 200 miles. Since we were finally heading into territory where there are good state parks, I thought it would be nice to drop down off I-10 and stay at a park that would then put us on the "low road" - meaning route 90  - to New Orleans. That would take us through the heart of the bayou, instead of just booking along I-10 with all those big tractor-trailer trucks, and having to go through cities.

The problem was Palmetto Island State Park is about 35 miles down from I-10, but it's 35 winding, bumpy and slow miles. So what we thought would be our last half hour of driving turned out to be more like an hour and a half.

By the time we reached the park, RVPainter had been driving almost six hours. Along the road in, all the homes are built on stilts to keep them above flood levels. And, just as we finally drove up to the ranger station, a thunderstorm kicked in. RVPainter has a real fear of rain, and it didn't much help that we were in a place that had been badly hit by Hurricane Katrina.

The park itself looked like a rainforest, dark and mysterious. Trees with hanging vines towered all around our campsite. And one of the first things we spotted were wild pigs foraging at the side of the road!

We went back and forth about whether to stay. But where would we go? We were already off the beaten track and Dick had been driving too long already.  If there had been more people camping there, we would have felt less worried. But there were only two other RVs. After a bit, the rain let up so we decided to stay.

We set up and then ventured out to find the lagoons that were supposed to be the draw of the place. This is when we started to see what a nice park Palmetto actually is. They have built beautiful pavillions on the lagoon. You can canoe or boat on the lagoons, though I don't know if I would considering there was this sign:


Two fellows were fishing from one of the pavillions and the dock. We took over the other pavillion and made ourselves comfortable with our beach chairs and a picnic lunch. In no time we were feeling mellow and relaxed, the wild journey and rude welcome quickly forgotten.


It rained lightly off and on, but the drops hitting the roof just sounded like a waterfall, and when they hit the lagoon they looked almost like fireflies dancing on the water.

I can't even imagine how many varities of birds live there, because constant calls and cackles echoed around us in the dense vegetation, along with a rattling/hissing sound that welled up and then disintegrated. I don't know what that was! Green surrounded us - even the lagoon looked green.


Finally it cleared up for good. We completey relaxed and appreciated this strange jungle-like habitat, abundant with nature and mystery.




Just before bed, the little piggies can by our campsite, foraging in the mud:


Then they went on their way.

At some point, the "jungle" went completely silent - something we haven't experienced lately because RV parks are often near the highways. We slept well.

This morning, as we prepared to leave, our tire pressure sensor shrieked, letting us know that a tire on the Honda Fit (our tow vehicle) had lost pressure. So we had to go into Abbeville and have Jim's Tire Shop take a look. They found a nail in the tire, patched it up and sent us on our way for just $15.

So,  we learned that we probably aren't the type for remote, isolated camping. State parks are great, but we're better off in ones that are a little closer to civilization. That's just us - lots of people would have loved being all on their own like that.

We learned that we can stay calm when things go wrong, like a tire problem.

We learned that people in Louisiana are real nice folks - the ranger at the campground called ahead to Jim's for us, and the folks at Jim's took good care of us.

Even though I probably wouldn't do it again, I'm glad we got to experience Palmetto Island. It's really an amazing habitat and they've done beautiful work there to make it nice. It's one of those things I'm glad to have done, but am also glad is now in the rear-view mirror.

After getting the tire patched up, we came on to New Orleans via Route 90, which took us through the heart of the bayou. A beautiful day and a beautiful drive, and not too long at just under three hours. I absolutely loved the drive today.

We're staying at the Bayou Segnette State Park just outside of New Orleans, and this is more our style. Close to things, but a state park and a really nice campground. There are more people here too, but it's not overcrowded. We'll head into New Orleans tomorrow.

After that, it's on to another state park: Fort Pickens in Pensacola. We're lucky to have wifi here at Segnette, so I could get this post up. But most state parks don't have it so I may be off the grid again for a few days. When I'm back, we'll have pics of NEW ORLEANS!!