Wednesday, March 31, 2010
- Miles driven – 6,600
- Campgrounds sampled – 8
- Thermoses of coffee consumed – 45
- Pounds of pistachios shelled and eaten – 4
- Liters of Evan Williams sipped – 3
- Bird species seen - 145
- Laughs, “wow” moments and good chats with friends – too many to count
Yesterday was a long day on the road, traveling from South Carolina to Annapolis, Maryland. Our mouths were set for Maryland crab cakes, and friend of the Cavanaugh family, Chris Gorri, escorted us to a great little place on the water to satisfy that need. It was good to see Chris and hear about his job with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Final packing at Myrtle Beach State Park
Morning found us at Chesapeake Light Craft’s shop, looking over the boat kits and chatting with the staff. Owner John Harris gave us a good rundown on conducting kayak-building workshops. We’ve been contemplating doing one, and wanted to know what’s involved. The morning slipped away quickly as we left drool marks on the show room models of the many fine kayaks, canoes, rowing boats and small sailing craft they sell as kits. www.clcboats.com
Chesapeake Light Craft shop, Annapolis
John Harris shows us around the CLC building shop
Around noon, we knew the time had come to bring Geezer Trip 2010 to a close. The long drive home through Baltimore, New Jersey, and lower New York was uneventful, other than seeing some flooding from the recent heavy rains.
On the final leg of the journey, our thoughts turned to some favorite things:
- Campgrounds, including Gulf Islands National Seashore (MS), Collier-Seminole State Park (FL), Long Point County Park (FL) and Crooked River State Park (GA).
- Eating establishments, including Murphy’s Eats & Sweets (TN), Rachel’s Widow’s Walk (MS), Regan’s Pub & Oyster Bar (FL), Long Point Restaurant (FL), Lucky Dawg’s (GA) and Okefenokee Restaurant (GA).
- Paddling spots, including the wild barrier beaches of Deer Island (MS), the manatees and dolphins of the Indian River (FL), the serene brown waters of Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge (SC).
- People that we met along the way, new friends and old. Kenny, Jen and Martha who defined Southern hospitality and who gave us lots of laughs, fine grub and good beverages with the Old Curmudgeon, dinner with Don and Susan, meeting and paddling with new friend Andy, who lent us a kayak and his local knowledge, Walk Clark who seems to find us out of the blue wherever we camp in Florida, and, of course, the two ladies that flew down to spend a week with us (hope our wives don’t find out).
Now a final thanks to our loyal readers. Your comments helped buoy us along the way. And a toast to each other - the two of us managed to travel together for a solid month, and are still speaking – eh Mike? Mike??
Monday, March 29, 2010
Back to the campground and settled in for a quiet night dreaming of Guinness & Chicken Wings at the Ale House (Get ready, Booie!) About 3:00 AM the skies erupted in thunder, lightning and very heavy rain and Al & Mike found them scrambling to secure windows and vents in the camper - A perfect way to end a very forgetable evening.
An omelette in the making
By morning, the rain turned to a light drizzle so we hauled our sorry arses out of bed, fixed a couple of ham & cheese omlettes and got ready to explore the local waters. We stopped at a very helpful Kayak shop and got directions to the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge on the river of the same name. Absolute dead quiet - no human sounds. Gators, water snakes, ospreys galore. Mike pulled out early and Al paddled solo for another hour or so. Mike sat on the banks and engaged in the hard job of watching the river flow by! Whew! That deserved a "Whelan" (nap to you non-geezers).
Paddling the Waccamaw
Ospreys at their nest in a big cypress
Nap, showers and we were ready for diner. Unwilling to make another food mistake we followed the recommendation of a campsite staffer and headed for Murphy's Law Sports Pub. WOW - good food, huge quantities and excellent prices with helpful staff! Gets the GeezersGoSouth 4 paddle award!
Came back to a wet and soggy campground to blog and plot out tomorrows trip to Annapolis, MD for a meeting at Chesapeake Light Craft on Wednesday then back home on Wednesday night. Tomorrow, we stay in a motel - first bed since March 1. Hope we can sleep.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
On Friday, March 26th, the winds were whipping the bay up to a fair froth, so we decided to forgo a paddle in favor of a visit to Jekyll Island, GA, about 30 miles north of the campground. Interesting place, surrounded by water (Yes, it IS an island – DUH!) with tidal marshes on one side and wide, white sand beaches on the Atlantic Ocean side. Another interesting thing is that the land is all part of a state park, but there is a thriving community of homes, hotels and shops who must pay lease to the state.
Entrance to Jekyll Island and bridge to Brunswick, GA
We stopped at the Wayfarer Memorial, a monument to a ship intercepted in the late 1850’s with 487 slaves captured from Africa aboard – even though the practice of importing slaves had been outlawed for nearly 50 years.
That night, we again met up with FOG (Friend of Geezers - remember?) Andy Lundberg, who gave us use of one of his kayaks for a few weeks while the Geezerettes were visiting. We made a return visit to Lucky Dawgs pub for more good beer, good food, good music and good conversation – what more could a Geezer ask for? Well sated, we headed back to the Crooked River campground to set up Andy’s hammock/tent on our site and retired to the camper for a wee dram of bourbon and planning the next day’s adventures.
Saturday dawned bright and early – though we didn’t. Andy had never paddled in the Okefenokee Swamp, so, being right neighborly hosts, we headed the 45 minutes west and launched at the Folkston side of the 700 square mile National Wildlife Refuge. We paddled about 10 miles visiting with other paddlers and the occasional ‘gator. It was beautiful. You really had a feeling of isolation out there with the call of the Sandhill Cranes and whistle of the winds to keep you company. Since there is no solid ground, the refuge has occasional platforms for kayakers & canoeists to get out and stretch, eat or take a potty break. Geezer Mike really appreciated getting out of the kayak now and then to try and regain feeling in his legs!
Cedar Hammock Shelter at Okefenokee
A new honorary Geezer - Andy
Mike shows Geezer-in-training Andy how to take a "Whelan"
The gators showed little interest - they know that Geezers are tough eating
After loading the boats back on the Geezermobile, we said goodbye to Andy who had a 3 hour return trip to Tallahassee. He was a lot of fun to hang with and hope we cross paths again – he was even adapting his hard-charging manner to working on Geezer Standard time! Andy headed south and the Geezers headed east into the little town of Folkston where we spotted the Okefenokee Restaurant and the parking lot was full – always a sign of good things to come. The buffet contained delicious southern fried chicken, catfish, ham hocks, yams, corn, stewed tomatoes, bean cooked in ham fat, fried okra, Swiss steak in onion gravy and Georgia peaches and lots more ALL FOR $8.00! We got our money’s worth! ‘Nuff said about that!
Sunday is a travel day. We broke camp by about 9:30 or 10:00 and started north to our next stop, Myrtle Beach ,SC. Unfortunately, the highlight of the day’s travel was eating gas station “roller dogs” enroute to Myrtle. Nothing compares to the goodness of a cheap hot dog slow-cooked by six hours on heated rollers! YUM! Hopefully tonight we can make up for the insult to our bellies!
Roller dog - down the hatch
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Al got his oysters fried, but Mike wanted them raw. The only way they offered them was a “shuck them yourself” affair. Mike managed to open all 12 and to still keep all 10 fingers. The Magic Hat #9 from Vermont was really good beer, for the south. A trip to the good old “Bloody Bucket” bar will be in order before turning in tonight.
Now where does the knife go?
Launching on Rookery Bay
For our last day in south Florida, we paddled parts of Rookery Bay, a National Estuarine Research Reserve akin to our own such reserve on the Hudson River. Magnificent Frigatebird was the critter find of the day – two of them soared over the bay.
Osprey nest on a manatee sign
Pelican hits the water at Rookery Bay
Paddling back to the launch, we ran into two education staffers from the reserve, who just finished leading a public kayak trip. Once again, we found friends in common – they know the education staff from the Hudson River Reserve that both geezers worked with at DEC.
Dinner was at Marker 8, a small waterfront joint in Goodland recommended by one of the reserve educators. Chatting with a guy at the next table, we found he was from Woodstock, NY, and lived in Gallupville for a time. Another “small world” situation. Geezer Mike had the fish special, grouper done with Cajun spice, served over avocado with key lime sauce on top – ummm! Al had the shrimp Creole, black beans and rice – spicy.
We made a note to return to this small out-of-the-way town. Though we only saw it after dark, it looked like an authentic place of modest homes and interesting restaurants, a big contrast with nearby Marco Island with its condos and golf courses.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
On the Boardwalk - Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
The best place to kill time (aside from a pub) is walking a trail at a nature center and in this part of Florida, there is no better trail than the 2.3 mile boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp, operated by the National Audubon Society. The walk was great, yielding good views of a variety of habitats and numerous birds, including Anhinga, Red-shouldered Hawk, Barred Owl, Swallow-tailed Kite, Painted Bunting, and Prothonatory Warbler (a rariety this time of year). We had a great walk, a quiet lunch in the snack bar at the nature center and a browse through the gift shop, then off to drop the ladies at the airport.
Sleepy Barred Owl along the boardwalk
It was sad to see them go - was kinda nice having someone to make you want to take a shower - or maybe just make you take a shower! The four of us worked out living in a 7' X 22' camper pretty well! A definate possibility for future Geezer trips.
This afternoon was devoted to a few mundane tasks like grocery shopping, oil change for the Geezermobile and coffee & scones at a shop in VERRRRY TRENDY downtown Naples, FL - amongst all the beautiful people! Just around the corner are auto dealerships for Porche, Bentley, Rolls Royce, Jaguar and Land Rover - The 6 year old Kia Sorento Geezermobile with the rack full of kayaks and trailer hitch fits right in!
Tomorrow, our last full day in the area (forecast mid 80's YES!) probablly a little paddling and other nonsense, then get ready to transition to Georgia on Thursday.
The ladies decide to stay out of the water
A drive through Marco Island showed us how the other half live – perhaps it’s the other 3%. Golf courses and tile-roofed homes on canals, so each can have a power boat on a lift out back. They wanted $8 to park at the beach, so we headed off to Everglades City, which is nearly the end of the world in this area. After touring the small, quirky town, we found the real end of the world, Chokoloskee. This small island village is the end of the road in the northwest corner of the Everglades. The Smallwood Store there is a piece of early 1900’s history.
Back in Everglades City, we dined at the Rod & Gun Club lodge (thanks to Bill and Nancy for the recommendation). A stuffed Bobcat and Alligator skins on the wall welcome you to another piece of history. Dinner on the screened porch overlooking the river was nice. Food was good, though it was quirky enough to match the place.
Dinner at the Rod & Gun Club
An after-dinner walk on the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk trail yielded huge cypress trees, strangler figs, Barred Owl and Chuck-will’s-widow.
A Strangler Fig, wrapped around a huge Bald Cypress
Sunday, March 21, 2010
A Manatee sticks his nose out for a breath as Char paddles by
After a 4 1/2 hour trip across the State, we set up camp and had dinner at the local biker bar - the Iron Rhino Saloon. They actually had a beer darker than lemonade, plus some good fried alligator. The guys were in heaven; the ladies stuck to standard biker bar fair - pulled pork and margaritas.
Scrabbling in the back seat
One of the friendly locals at a gas stop
Iron Rhino Biker Bar
Friday, March 19, 2010
Geezer Abode (left) at Long Point Park
Tuesday morning arrived and the Geezers headed to Orlando to meet the Geezerettes at the airport. On the way back to the campsite, we stopped by the home of Phil Fibiger, his wife Emily and their 5 week old son Will, who kept the ladies amused while the guys arranged to borrow Phil’s fishing kayak for a few days. It was good to see some folks from home. After loading the boat on the car, we headed back to the coast to introduce the G’ettes to their home for the next few days and a gourmet home cooked meal of pork chops, sweet ‘taters and corn. The only downside to the evening was our contingent of drunk, loud and vulgar kids camped in the next site. They got a polite request for quiet at 11:00 PM, a more stern demand for cooperation at midnight and an up-close and personal visit from Geezer Mike at 3:30 AM! We didn’t get too much sleep that night! Lord, Keep Your arm around my shoulder, and, Your hand over my mouth.
The weather forecast for Wednesday was for some rain and wind so we decided that a trip to the land of the Mutant Mouse (Disney World) and Epcot was in order. Being school break week in some parts of the world, the place was crowded and we had a 90 minute wait for the attraction “Soarin’”. It really is an enjoyable experience, but a real pain in the feet to stand in line that long. The rest of the day we went to attractions that had little or no wait times and were quite enjoyable – and even educational! The World Showcase of Countries on the backside of Epcot was great and Al & Mike toasted St. Patrick with a pint of beer before capping the evening with a great dinner at the 9-Dragons, the restaurant in China’s showplace. It was a long day – we didn’t get back to the campsite till after 11:00.
Four at Epcot
St. Paddy Mouse Day
With a long day behind us, the Geezers and Geezerettes had a well deserved rest on Thursday, starting with a bacon & egg breakfast, some leisurely coffee around the camp, a walk on the beach (complete with nap for Mike) then back to the campsite for some lunch, paddling with the dolphins just 100’ from the camp and a great dinner with Mike’s friend Don Croteau and his wife, Susan Granpierre who live in the Vero Beach area. On the way home we were again reminded how special visits with friends, old and new have become to the Geezer experience.
Geezer Nap in Progress, While the Ladies Watch for Dolphins
Monday, March 15, 2010
The 4 hour trip across the state was interrupted by the rude intrusion of quite a few birds. We made a detour through the Three Lakes Wildlife Management area south of Orlando where we picked up Whooping Cranes (endangered species and a "life bird" for the Geezers) Sand Hill Crane, Crested Caracara, and Wood Stork. Not too bad for "windshield birding" complete with EGAD (Erratic Geezer Avian Driving) quick pull overs, 180's and lots of slow driving.
Whoopers at a Distance (far right)
Arriving at Long Point Park near Sebastian, we found our campsite was located next to the only "Spring Breakers" in the whole campsite, complete with rap music, and a huge, very smoky fire. A check with the ranger told us the bad news - no other sites available, and the good news - the kids are checking out tomorrow - just in time for the Geezerettes to fly in for a week or so.
Right now, we are in one of the slimiest, smokiest, most foul-mouthed bars that Geezer Al has ever seen - even Mike puts it in his lowest ten! But they had decent burgers, onion rings and Guinness and offered free internet access (that worked somewhat erratically!)
Some stats at the approximate halfway point in the GGS 2010 tour - 3,376 miles, 14 nights camping, and 128 species of birds. Not too bad for Geezers, right?
Sunday, March 14, 2010
We managed to get there on back roads from Manatee Springs, though Samantha (our Garmin GPS) kept insisting that we turn onto gated private ranch roads. Along the way, we took a side road to Shell Mount historic site. On that road, we happened on one of those treasures we hope to find while wandering back roads – this one was a small county campground with a nice launch into salt marsh channels. No reservations can be made, but there were many open campsites and it's the weekend.
The Shell Mound itself is quite a hill for Florida, 28 feet high and covering five acres. It‘s the largest remaining mound in the state. A shell mound is just that – a pile of oyster, whelk and clam shells, the remains of countless meals eaten over the period 2500 BC to 1000 AD.
Our first priority at Cedar Key was finding lunch (this is the Geezers Eat Florida Tour, after all). Tony’s Seafood Restaurant claimed to be the World Champions of clam chowder, so we had to put them to the test. The guys give their chowder two big thumbs up – it’s pretty fine. The oyster sandwiches and potato salad were great, as well.
Tom gives us the scoop on his new canoe
Sated for the moment, we unloaded the kayaks at a beach near the main boat launch. As usual, the wooden kayaks were very difficult to launch. No problem with the design of the boats, it’s just that people want to admire them and to know all about them. We had a nice conversation with Tom Liebert (who rents kayaks at the beach) ranging from kayaks to canoes to Greenland paddles. Tom posts paddling routes and information at http://cedarkeyguide.com/, go to "Maps".
Mike looks right at home in the waves, eh? The white knuckles are just hidden...
A Laughing Gull and Forester's Terns at Cedar Key
Dinner stir-fry at the camper
Quote of the day: “wooden kayaks are not for anyone in the witness protection program”.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
What are these Black Vultures waiting for?
Can you find the Manatees? Note the radio buoy.
After hanging out all our wet clothes and paddle gear to dry, we drove to the village of Suwannee, located on the Gulf right at the mouth of the river. Most homes were elevated on piers, hoping to be above the next flood. Boats were hoisted even higher than living spaces – these folks know what’s important.
Mid-afternoon, we drove south to Crystal River, paying a visit to FOG (friend of geezers) the “Old Curmudgeon”, Bill Whalen. Bill was set up at a Civil War reenactment event, building a small sailing craft of that era. The boat is looking good and is nearly finished.
Old Curmudgeon inspects the lines of his yacht
To our readers: please leave us comments – it’s like getting mail from home.
Friday, we met up with Andy at a boat launch on the Wicassa River today and had a nice paddle trip, exploring the passages to several springs along the river.
Now a “spring” in the Northeast brings up visions of a clear trickle running from a hillside. Along rivers in north Florida, a spring may put out millions of gallons of clear 72 degree water per day!
Our trip from the St. Joseph’s Peninsula to meet Andy was punctuated with sightings of 9 separate Bald Eagles and a pair of Swallow-tailed Kites (Geezer Al’s all-time favorite bird). Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” is well named as far as human development, but it’s great for finding critters! Our paddle turned up a Barred Owl, Little Blue Herons, Common Moorhens and Greater Yellowlegs sandpipers.
Booty was exchanged – we gave Andy a Geezer shirt and he generously bestowed each of us with a Boatabag – a nice water carrier with a sturdy cover that he developed and markets for kayak campers. http://www.boatabag.com/
One of the great things about Geezer trips, the way we have been doing them, is the friends we have made and renewed over the years. These FOGS (New Geezer term for Friends of Geezers) add a richness and depth to our travels. Andy, thank you and we hope you will allow us to reciprocate sometime soon.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday dawned bright and beautiful and we hopped right into paddling (well, about 11:00 am GST) and paddled in Eagle Bay on the sheltered side of the peninsula. One highlight was the family of dolphins that were swimming near us. Looked like 3 adults and 2 little (+/- 4') guys. What a kick!
Geezer Mike is used to having a "tupperware" plastic kayak and is not used to the attention you get when you land on the beach in a beautiful wooden kayak. Adds about 45 minutes to each paddling trip. What do they weigh? What kind of wood is that? I'll tell you - these things are real babe magnets.
After a tough paddle (ALMOST 3 MILES!!!!!!), we retired to the camper for a "Whelan" (see earlier posts) then rose for a trip into town for some dinner. We landed at Regans Pub and Oyster Bar, a VERY local joint, where we had the nicest,freshest oysters so far. Raw or baked these things were great. Top it off with a couple of cold beers and the Geezers were in heaven! Back to camp by 11:00 PM, just beating the rain, wind, thunderstorms and lightning that pelted us from about midnight till mid-morning on Thursday.
Today was forecast to be rainy all day, but by mid-day, the sun was trying to break through, though it never made it. But it was dry! We tool a walk on a nature trail, drove around to do some birding, then headed the 20 miles back into civilization to do some laundry and get caught up on electronic tasks, like e-mail and the Geezer Blog. A little din-din and we will head back to the campsite to get ready to move on to Manatee Springs (near Chiefland, FL) for the next few days of freedom before the Geezerettes join us next week.