Friday, February 27, 2009

A Drop In Visitor

Thursday and Friday - 2/27-28

The day began with an unexpected drop-in visitor. A hot air ballon made an unexpected landing in Lake Louisa State Park!

One part of the Geezer journey is over, another begins. Al left today after a great two weeks paddling; birding and just acting Geezer-like (See the post on what defines a Geezer). Kathy arrived within an hour and a half of dropping Al at the airport – I didn’t even have time to get lonely!

Geezerette and I took a walk around one of the lakes at the campsite and then cleaned up for a great dinner at Devenneys Irish Pub where we had some wonderful beef & Guinness Pie, Potato and Leek soup, and Bangers and Mash. To top it off there was some very nice live Irish music by a husband & wife duo called “Shamrocks in the Wind”. Brought a tear to the old Geezer’s eye.

Today, (Friday) after a walk around the lake and a nice breakfast and some reading, we broke camp and moved to a KOA about 30 minutes away! Aside from the very expensive price tag ($60/night) it seems to be a nice place, heated pool, game room and actual trees! It has wireless internet throughout the campsite (I’m at the picnic table right now) and LOTS OF HUGE motorhomes – makes my 11 year old pop-up trailer look like a begger at the queens ball. Kinda like it that way, but that's the geezer in me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mike's Favorite Road

Al Turns Into Pumpkin Tomorrow

Geezers Composing Blog Updates

Geezers reluctantly packed up the trailer and departed Highlands Hammock, heading to the Orlando area. It's nearly the end for Geezer Al – flying back home tomorrow, back to the cold weather, but also the warm company of his wife, Char.

Paddling friend Pete Devitt sent a note to Al yesterday, and we hope he does not mind our sharing:

Hey Alan,

I've been following your blog.
I'm jealous.
There was freezing rain Sunday.
It was cold again today.
I saw a Robin today.
Dead and frozen.
You are paddling on salt water.
I'm paddling on chlorinated water.


Some thoughts...

Well, this have been a heck of a couple of weeks - 3,000 miles, lots of birds, many campgrounds, dive restaurants and a beer or two. The geezer co-pilot is leaving tomorrow - headed back north to the "Real World" My Geezerette is coming down for a while and I'm really looking forward to it, but I'll miss Al. A true friend for well over 30 years, companion on many adventures and mis-adventures, great kayaker, naturalist, and, as I said - friend.

You know how to tell the difference between a friend and a good friend? A friend will bail you out of jail. A true friend will be sitting in the cell besides you, saying "Man, that was fun!"

Yep - it was fun!

Watch for further updates as we continue through Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana then north.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Geezers Go to Duffer's

It was a laid-back day for the Geezers – actually, that's become the theme of the trip. After a leisurely morning, we got going around noon, walking some of the trails in the park. Walked a ½ mile trail; had lunch at the park restaurant/store; walked another 1 mile trail (complete with wild orange trees and a 1000 year-old live oak tree); returned to park store for wild orange ice cream and wild orange cake.

The evening meal was pizza at Duffer's Sports Bar – the Geezers like Duffer's! So far the only thing we've found wrong with Florida is the lack of good ales. The Geezers are concerned that we are developing a taste for Amber Bock by Michelob (ugh).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Posting From the Land of Small Chairs

The Geezers have been swiping Internet access while parked behind motels and next to coffee shops, but sometimes we go right into a public library and sit in comfort while posting the news. This evening, we are in the library in Frostfree, Florida where it's “Tax Night” and the place is mobbed with folks getting their taxes done by volunteers. The nice lady at the desk found a spot for us, though – the childrens room, where we got really well acquainted with our knees!

Small World, Again

After buttoning up the trailer electronics, we chat with kayak-builder Walt Clark of Binghamton, who stopped as he biked by our campsite, seeing the kayaks. Turns out that he's friends with Chuck Newland of Slingerlands who got Al started kayaking and he paddled the Susquehanna Sojourn with Al's friend Dan Mehlman. More small-world happenings.

The Geezers finally got going around noon (bright and early on Geezer birding time), heading a short way northeast to some of the wilder Florida scrub lands. The Avon Park Air Force Reserve recreation area was closed (apparently the open days are a military secret). Instead, we drove and hiked through some of the nearby Lake Wales Ridge State Forest. This is the highest ground in the state – 300+ feet in elevation. Our ears popped!

What a neat but dry and deserted place – pines, palmetto and live oak. Saw a few birds, but still no Florida Scrub Jays. Back to camp tonight for pasta and to try some “Land Shark” beer.

Electrical Problems Solved - DUH!

Like anything else in life, it is the little, simple things that screw you over royally! Adopting the attitude of "If I have a headache, it must be a brain tumor" the Geezers tackled the electrical problem by taking apart the converter box and trying to extract a circuit breaker! Failing at that, we tested the breakers with a continuity tester - OK that works... Follow the wires to the first outlet under the table... - Looks OK but continuity tester says there is a problem...HMMM?

OK - pull the outlet out of box and while doing so, discover that the outlet has a GFI breaker in it!!!! Push in the little button - BINGO - lights, camera and action!

KISS applies. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday, Feb. 22 Paddling the Indian River

Mike at the Old Homestead - Long Pt. County Park

Pelicans dive for fish spooked by porpoises.

Mike decides that laundry is first priority for the morning, even though Al assures him that each pair of underwear should be good for several days. Weather is warm and sunny for a change – who knew that Florida could be like this? Al decides that paddling is much more important. We pack up the trailer and Mike gets to the laundry and joins Al in a paddle to Sebastian Inlet State Park, about 2 miles south. Porpoises, Brown Pelicans and Royal Terns accompany us as we cruise the shallow waters and cross the Inlet to the park beach. A bite of lunch and a return paddle. Porpoises swish around chasing fish and the pelicans dive for the scattering minnows. Now off to Highlands Hammock for the next three days.

Saturday, Feb 21 Merritt Island

Porpoise Fins and Shuttle - Mosquito Lagoon

Roseate Spoonbill, Tri-colored Heron and White Ibis feed together.

Geezers head north to Merritt Island Nat. Wildlife Refuge for some paddling on Mosquito Lagoon and a bit of birding. Water is too cold for Manatees – they are hanging out at power plants, where the discharge water is warm. Instead, we had Porpoises feeding around us and an Armadillo checking out our kayaks while we stopped to have some lunch.

After paddling, we birded along one of the refuge roads, eventually finding our main quarry, Roseate Spoonbill. Dinner in Titusville was at a Cuban restaurant we spotted along the way – great ropa vieja and dorrato tropical.

Friday, Feb. 20 Geezers Do Some Birding

Crested Caracaras doing some fancy flying.

Due to high winds on the coast, Geezers took a day for birding and drove inland to Fellsmere Grade Recreation Area, a huge water project in the headwaters of the St. John's River. We started to drive a dike road through a waterfowl management area, only to come upon a convertible dead in the road. The nice couple with the car were waiting for a replacement from the rental company. They told us of a good paddling spot in Merritt Island. As we spoke, Mike caught a glimpse of a pair of big birds flying fast – a pair of Crested Caracaras! These huge (wing span 4 feet+) falcon relatives are not easy to find, and this pair was swooping and wheeling with each other. We were later tossed out of the area by a biologist, impatient that we did not see the sign that says the area is open only Monday and Thursday – the sign was 100 feet off the road, the open days listed in the sixth paragraph of very dry, small text...

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday Feb 19 - Much Better!

Chili, here we come!

Much better day, though not much activity. In the morning we discovered that the trailer lights (brake, turn etc.) were not working. After a little poking around, Mike found a loose screw (other than those in his head) and voila! Lights and some battery charging as we drive! Victory #1.

Only 2 minutes after packing up and getting on the road – a heavy rain started. Victory #2.

Driving through a very remote part of the state, we come across the ultimate in SansChain eating – A biker bar called the Eagles Nest with a sign boasting “Homemade Chili”. A quick U-turn and we are in this little joint with a gruff barmaid, bathrooms that could only entered from the outside (through the rain) and a huge bowl of some really great chili – once you added some hot sauce! Victory #3.

We beat the rain to Melbourne and set up in Long Point Park – and are greeted by Wood Storks (walking through the campground) and a spot to launch kayaks on the Indian River right at our site. Victory #4.

Friendly Wood Stork walks through campground

That evening we went to Vero Beach to meet up with Mike’s friend Don Croteau and attend a viewing of a documentary on the Tuskeegee Airmen of WW2 and hear from one of the legendary flyers himself! Great show and a good time with Don having some chicken wings and a bubbly beverage afterwards. Victory # 5.

Hey – 5 victories in a day is a record to be proud of – especially for geezers going south!

Wednesday, February 18 ARRRGH!

On each life some rain must fall....

Well, I guess one could say that today was a test of the Geezers patience, stamina and good spirits. One COULD say that, but the real description was beyond printability in any general consumption blog! It started out OK with a lazy morning around Manatee Springs campground, a nice walk to the spring to look for the manatees (though they didn’t appear on schedule!) and a chat with a very nice couple in the next site who were from Plattsburgh, NY and friends with Char’s cousin – a small world indeed. All was well through lunch at a Barbeque joint in Chiefland, FL. Then the world started to crumble.

Since we were getting a late start, Mike called ahead to our next campground, Highland Hammock in Sebring to see what time they locked their gates. The ranger checked and said that he didn’t see the reservation. We gave him the confirmation number and found that our campsite was booked for MARCH 18-22, not February! Now bear in mind that this is Presidents week and every campsite in Florida has been booked solid for a month! We are royally SCREWED! We scrambled around to find an internet connection (thank you, Holiday Inn!) and started to research every piece of semi-level ground in Central Florida! We found a listing for the Alexander Springs campground in the Ocala National. We hustle to get there, check in to find it is what is called dry camping – no electricity, no water.

Remember, now we have been having electrical problems with our AC power anyway – so we have to rely on the battery for lights and the propane gas to power the refrigerator full of perishables (and beer). A few minor explosions and flames lighting the refrigerator and it gets going. Hmm, the lights seem dim! A quick check with the volt meter shows the battery at 10% capacity! Crap! Ok – flashlights out – we’re really camping! By now, Mike is beginning to think that his pride and joy camper has all the capabilities of a 2,000 pound pup tent!

We are also faced with the prospect of having nowhere to camp for the next 3 days! A 20 mile drive brings us to the campus of Stetson University where we commandeer a table in the student union and try to blend in like late blooming college kids while availing ourselves of the wireless internet connection. We find one night of camping (with amenities) at a Brevard County park (other side of the state) and they offer us the “overflow area” (no connections) or Friday and Saturday. A quick stop at WalMart for some groceries, a car battery charger and electrical test equipment and drive 20 miles back to the dark camper. Mid way back, we take a sharp turn and the groceries tip over – Al jumps out of the car to open the back and secure them and off we go.

We arrive back at the campsite at about 11:00 PM and settled in for a quiet night in the dark when Al innocently asks “Have you seen my cell phone?” 20 minutes of frantic searching the car and camper yield nothing so we head for the park gates where Al jumped out to let us in – the late night bad boys that we are! Not there either! Could it be where you jumped out of the car to take care of the spilled groceries? OK – another 15 mile drive and believe it or not – we found his phone, open and laying on the driveway of the gas station where we checked the spilled bag of chicken! No one coming in or out of the gas station had picked it up to make a drug deal in Columbia, or ran it over! 15 miles back to the campsite – a little bourbon to calm the nerves and get to sleep by 1:00AM! Whew!

Up to our ______ in alligators

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Old Curmudgeon Shows Geezers How to Relax

The Geezers met friend Bill Whalen at 9:00 AM for a day of small boat sailing out of Cedar Key. Bill's “Peep Hen” 14 foot boat was already tied up at the dock as we pulled into the parking lot at this out of the way village on the Gulf. Only 14' long but wide and deep, the Hen fit the three big guys just fine and we had a great day of sailing, Geezer-style – slow and steady, in no hurry and no where in particular to be.

The winds took us to Dog Key, Snake Key and finally to Atsena Otie Key. Events included running aground several times, a few beers at appropriate times (anytime), and a half-hour nap on the beach. Birds were all around, including Osprey, White and Brown Pelicans, Black Skimmers (a flock of 50+), Common Loons and a Bald Eagle. Porpoises swam along side as we crossed the bay.

It was a totally relaxing day, capped off with a few pints of Guinness and some sea food at the bar of the local inn.

Sailing from Cedar Key

Relaxing Geezer-style

Sunset on the Swannee


Good Birds - Camper Trouble

Two life birds for Al in one day! As a long-time birder, this does not happen often. We got up early and were among the nest trees for the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers by early light. These endangered woodpeckers feed in small bands, communicating as they go. They roost in the group of 8 or so trees where nest cavities have been made by researchers. The band of 8 or more birds came out as scheduled and started feeding in the tree tops around us.

Late in the afternoon, we'd arrived at Manatee Spring State Park, set up the trailer, and launched the kayaks on the Swannee River. Right after launch, Mike spotted a large wading bird along the far shore and Al quickly ID'ed it as a Limpkin – new bird #2.

With good things can come some bad. The power outlets in the camper failed this morning, for reasons yet unknown. We are roughing it with an extension cord run from the campground hookup up through the canvas of the trailer – not so bad, says Al. Mike is still p___ed off and vows to figure out the flaw. As we get ready for lights-out, the stars are amazing overhead and the Barred Owls are hooting up a storm.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Several New Posts

We're back on an internet connection after two days (parked in front of the Franklin Co. Library). Keep scrolling down for new stuff...

At Posey's for Local Oysters & Shrimp

Thinking About Dessert - Settled on Key Lime Pie

Geezers Defined

What is a Geezer?
Some would imply that you reach Geezerdom after living a certain number of years. Well, it’s not that simple. Geezerdom is more of a state of mind than a tick on a calendar. It is marked by a real lack of concern over status, style, and schedule. A true Geezer can savor a quiet moment in the campground, take pleasure from the aching muscles following a good paddle, or stand a shift at the wheel when his buddy can’t drive another mile. He (or she) adopts a “get-along, go-along, sure, let’s try that” attitude.

GST Geezer Standard Time – whenever we damn well feel like doing something. Usually get up around 7:00, go to bed around midnight – flexible on everything else. There is no word for “hurry” in Geezer-Speak. The pointing of a bird, a tide change or closing time for a restaurant implies haste is necessary – no additional word needed.

Sanschain Eating – Avoiding the suburban blight of chain restaurants (Micky D’s, TGI Fridays, Chilis, Applebees, Dennys etc) Our criteria? Good food is a must - local speciality food preferred.! A small joint, off the beaten path is good. Cheap is preferred.

Geezer Road Speed - When towing the camper on the highway, traveling just enough below the prevailing traffic speed to be really annoying.

E-GAD! Erratic Geezer Avian Driving – Eyes on the skies for feathered conquests, ready to pull into the ding-weeds on the side of the road with no advanced warning. Accepting that it’s OK when both the passenger and driver are looking through binoculars at the same time! “Hey Mike! Are you steering?”

Geezer Drinking Behavior – See Sanschain eating for the basic criteria. No ferns, matching wallpaper or extensive menus of cute sounding drinks with fruity names like “peach fuzzy almond blast”. Preferably a beer selection that goes beyond “we got Bud, Bud Lite and Miller. What all ya want?” Pool table preferred, barmaid preferred (but not too cutesy – teeth optional). Talk to the locals if they seem approachable and safe.

Geezer Wardrobe – Casual is too formal a word. Old T-shirts & jeans by day, fleece pants and shirts at night. The sniff test to determine cleanliness doesn’t work – If the pants don’t come when called – they’re OK to wear another day.

Geezer Car Organization – It isn’t. However, certain standards apply. Binoculars on the dashboard, cameras within reach, wires all over the place for the GPS, i-Pod, 2 cell phone chargers and power inverter for the laptop (Hey – you think we waste valuable birding/eating/drinking time on this blog? We write on the road!) The back end has a pile of dead clothes, camping gear, paddling gear, fishing gear, snorkeling gear and whatever else couldn’t fit in the trailer.

Happy Valentines Day

2/14 – Happy Valentines day to the folks who love the Geezers on the road. There was rain forecast for today and they were right. Luckily, not a downpour all day long, but bands moving through. We found a sort-of dry hour in mid morning and packed up the camper to move to the Ochlockonee River State Park in a suburb of Sopchoppy, FL, in the panhandle. Had lunch in Live Oak, FL at a BBQ/RIB joint called Big Daddy’s.

2/13 Okenfenokee swamp

Sandhill Cranes

Mike Meets Gator

2/13 Okenfenokee swamp
Left the campground round ‘bout 9-9:30 (geezer standard time) after a leisurely breakfast in the camper. Beautiful day, sun shining, very little breeze and temps in the mid to high 70’s. Headed for the Okefenokie swamp for our first paddle of the trip. The OKE is a 650 square mile National Wildlife Refuge and forms the headwaters for the fabled Suwannee river.

There have been a couple of changes since our last visit, the best being the opening of a narrow canoe/kayak trail that runs parallel to the main waterway. It was very secluded and quite nice not having to share the water with the tour (“if you look to the right you can see the mighty alligator”) boats and fishermen. There was a fair number of interesting critters, though it is early in the season. We saw great egrets, green herons, red-shouldered hawks, sandhill cranes, foot tall pitcher plants and of course, the obligatory “gators” (longest about 9 feet).

We had lunch at a romantic little platform consisting of a port-a-potty and just enough room to sit by the water.

For safety, Park personnel wanted us to check out at the main center by 4:00 pm and we found ourselves about 2.5 mile from there with an hour to go. It meant we couldn’t dawdle on the way back- pretty straightforward paddling. When we got back, we discovered that Al’s watch he keeps clipped to his PFD was still on daylight standard time and we didn’t have to hurry! Al was upset we couldn’t paddle another hour – Mike was relieved!

We went into the park store to get an ice cream bar to soothe our spirits – found that the freezer had been on the fritz and all the bars were shapeless blobs, but the kind lady went in the back and came out with bowls of vanilla with chocolate syrup for 50 cents each! I think this sanschain eating is really great.

Dinner was at a great little seafood restaurant in Historic St. Mary’s. After stuffing ourselves, we went to the Bloody Bucket for an after-dinner cocktail.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Bucket

Yeah, the Bloody Bucket was just like coming home. Cigarette smoke to the ceiling, friendly faces. Actually, I think if we lived around here - we could be regulars. There were about 20 people there tonight and they all seemed to know each other. Regular folks, no pretenses or airs. the kind of people I grew up with.

A Night at the Home Bar

After paddling in the hot sun all day in Okefenokee Swamp and treating ourselves to a great seafood dinner, we stop at our favorite local bar (right outside the campsite gate). The Bloody Bucket (a motorcycle reference) is the local high-brow nightspot. A few games of pool were played, after one of the local Navy guys showed us the secret of the busted pool table - reach your hand into the slot under the table and snag the lever with your finger and lift. That lets the balls drop. We either need some pool practice, or need to drink more.

From our trip four years ago, we expected nothing but Harleys and pickup trucks to be parked at the bar. This time, there was even a Prius! The place may be going yuppie on us...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Crooked River Sunset

It might work

I think that the "no-chain" approach may just catch on. Everyone we have talked to about it likes the idea. We have really found some pearls! Good food, friendly people and great prices. Just think - If everyone supported their local small business man or woman, more $ would stay in the local area, more jobs for people already suffering from the big, multinational corporations.

Barak? You paying attention?

Beverly's Grill

Ask Jill

Our “no chain restaurants” pledge is not easy to keep. Even Jill, the sexy authoritative voice on our GPS, had a hard time finding a non-chain place for breakfast. South of Lumberton, NC, she finally gave us Beverly's Grill. The guy at AutoZone (where we stopped to make a purchase) said it was a good place to eat, but it was too complicated for him to tell us how to get there. Jill got us there, though – it was a couple more tenths down the very same road that AutoZone was on!

As you might guess from the photo, Beverly's was a gas! Chef Beverly and the waitress (both somewhat attractive, but could use a few more teeth) served us a great breakfast complete with some good grits. It was all on styrofoam, but good and plentiful. They refilled our coffees and gave us lids for the road. We gave them the story of our trip, and they wished us safe travels.

We're all set up at Crooked River State Park tonight, sitting on the office porch using their wireless. Dinner was Mexican - the seafood we've had our hearts set on for four years was not to be. St. Mary's Seafood House is closed and looks like it's out of business - booo!@%# The Bloody Bucket was still open, though - but that's a story for tomorrow.

On the Road - Finally

The geezers at the start of the venture, and Chincoteague sunset.

Drove until 1:30 AM - reporting from Americas Best Value Inn in Fayetteville, NC ($50 a night for 2 and not worth a penny more). Making things up as we go – we started at 6:00 AM yesterday morning and pointed the Sorrento southward.

After a stop at the McD's on the Thruway near Newburg for a bite of breakfast, we decided to do the rest of the trip without eating at any chain food places. Last trip south, we realized how the US is becoming the same everywhere, with the proliferation of the chains – McD's, Burger King, Chili's, Hardee's, Arby's, Staples, Home Despot, etc.

We'll see if we can make this resolution stick. Lunch was at a the Harvest Diner on the Delmarva Peninsula – soup, grilled cheese and tomato, fries and cole slaw for $3.95! Dinner at 9:30 PM was at Joe's Pizza & Pasta Palace – we found it on the GPS and called ahead to order. So much for supporting the “little guy”, day one.

The sun got warm while we drove down Rt. 113 – toyed with turning on the A/C, but did not. Side trip of the day was to Chincoteague Nat. Wildlife Refuge. We birded, walked a trail and stopped at the beach. Highlights: wild ponies, Tundra Swan, Great Egret, Winter Wren, No. Pintail and No. Shoveler. By this time the wind was ripping and the temp had dropped, so many things were laying low.

Off to Crooked River State Park on the coast in St. Mary's, GA today.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ready to go!

Ready to kick the tires and light the fires. Yep. Ready. Almost. Sort of.

The car is cleaned up, gassed up and the tires checked. Got the tunes selected, the camper packed and most of the car full of stuff.

For those wanting to follow along - here is the plan:

2/11 - Down the coast - motel somewhere when we get tired of driving.
2/12-14 at Crooked River State Park in Southern GA, then across to
2/14-16 Ochlockonee SP in Florida Panhandle.
2/16-18 Manatee Springs SP (Northcentral Gulf side), then
2/18-22 Highland Hammock SP in Sebring, FL
A couple of undetermined days, campgrounds are hard to come by - then up to the central area,
2/25-27 Lake Louisa SP -
3/26 Al flies home, Kathy flies in for a few days
2/28 - 3/3 (a KOA - blah!) a little southwest of Orlando for some family visiting, and the obligatory visit to Rat World.

Kathy flies home on 3/3

I'm going a taking the show on the road as a solo act. Up the Gulf coast for a couple days in the Florida Panhandle, then Mississippi for a few days to visit the area I was in for Katrina, then New Orleans then up through Tennessee, Kentucky and back to good old (and hopefully by that time - thawed) New York.

Planning to arrive home about 3/13-15 or so.

Well, we fiddled with the camper and vehicle through dark yesterday. Can't say we got a whole lot done, so today is crunch time. It all has to be ready by tomorrow at o'dark early...

Packing Panic

OK - I should be stuffing stuff into bags and organizing all the crap we are bringing instead of playing with the computer. Call it a bad case of paralysis with a little denial. (Up til now, I thought denial was a river in Egypt)

If all goes according to plan, 24 hours from now we should be halfway down the thruway headed south.

Got a full day ahead of me - so better get going!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Geezers Pack Up

Hey Folks,

Mike Cavanaugh and Alan Mapes are headed south. Today we'll put up the tent camper and pack stuff inside. Tomorrow the kayaks go on the Kia and we'll rush around covering last minute details. On Wednesday we head south, destination Florida. We've done Florida twice before - in February 2005 and 25 years earlier in March 1980.

We will post photos and comments every day or two along the way. Alan is going for 2 weeks; Mike will continue on after that, return date to be determined. Just two retired guys with wanderlust (about the only lust we can muster these days).

We hope you will follow our adventures as we try to prove that geezers still have it!