Sunday, March 27, 2011

Geezers Beat a Retreat

After a month of good weather and temps in the 70’s and 80’s, we just could not face two days of rain and temps in the 40’s. Plans to camp at Myrtle Beach have been scraped and the day was spent on the road – Geezers Go North.

We found the good and bad of the road over the past day. Hoping to spend the night around Charleston, we could not find room at any motel. They said it's “fashion week” and a big soccer tournament is going on. Driving on to Georgetown, SC, we got a room at the Harbor Inn (sounded nice, “spacious and clean rooms guaranteed” according to their brochure). The room turned out to be cramped and ill-appointed, but at least it smelled bad.

Breakfast at a small bakery along the road this morning offered a bit of redemption. Big breakfast sandwiches, fresh  pastries and fast internet made us linger a while. When we finally made the decision to flee north, we got into serious travel mode. As I type this piece, we are crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel. We’ll find a motel on the other side, and plan to stop at Chinquteague in the morning on the way home.

ACA Success and Geezers Go North

We're reporting this morning from rainy Pawley's Island, SC. Al finished up with his Level 3 Coastal Kayak Instructor training yesterday, while Mike packed up the trailer. We headed north out of Florida after the class concluded, soaking in a last bit of Florida sun.

It was a successful run of five days (four for Mike), but we're feeling pretty beat up. On day 5, Al played "rescue bait" for the other students, his penalty for bringing a dry suit. Doing rescues in a 4 kt. current and waves was fun!

Big Mike to the Rescue

The night was spent in a cheap motel and we'll set up camp at Myrtle Beach State Park today where the temp now is 44.6 degrees, the forecast high for today, yikes! Our pants and shoes may have to come out of storage. I'm sure that all you Northerners feel our pain.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The beginning of the end

Another successful day - at the campground, toilets flushed, water poured and lights lit! It really is a nice place, in a beautiful setting, but is in serious need of good management and some basic maintenance! On the kayak front, Geezer Al continued toward his level 3 instructor certification and Mike played along with the other big kids! VERY informative and useful information and the two instructors, Tom Nickels and Rick Wiebush are top shelf! I'm going to be proud to say they were my mentor instructors.

After a long day in the sun and sea, nothing is better than a Guinness or 3, the best corned beef and cabbage I have ever had (sorry, Mom)and some live music at Culhanes again. Check them out The Food Networks Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-ins and Dives)calls it "The Best Irish Pub and Restaurant" and the Geezers agree!

Tomorrow morning, Mike will get Al headed off for assessment day (testing for his instructor rating) and will pack up the Geezer abode and the Geezermobile to begin the ride to the icy north. I have not had long pants and regular shoes on since the end of February - it's going to be a tough adjustment!

Enroute home, we will spend a few nights camped in Myrtle Beach for some kayaking and naturalizing before beginning the final trek to Albany. Keep following us, because who knows what will happen!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A successful day!

OK, maybe the campground hasn't been the most successful part of the trip - We returned last night to find the power still out (which, by the way puts the toilets out of commission because they are electric automatic flush!!) But, at 11:30 we heard a collective cheer from the campers, because we had lights again! Not to worry, the city of Jacksonville's prize campground still had one more trick up it's sleeve - the power was out again when we woke up this morning! So, no coffee, no shower, and a full day of demonstration, evaluation and testing in our kayak instructors course.

Robin watches Rene prepareing to get underway - destination Montreal
From that point, however, things went pretty well for the Geezers! When we arrived at the park where our course was being taught, we had a chance to say goodbye to a chap we met yesterday - an adventureous soul sailng his Hobie Kayak with outriggers from the Everglades to Montreal. Neat guy with plenty of adventures to share on his blog ( We look forward to catching up with him as he comes up the Hudson in a couple of months.

The kayak training was great - a wonderful experience. Geezer Mike is now a certified and officially blessed American Canoe Association Level One Kayak instructor and with a few more things to perfect, can change his conditional level 2 certification into a permanant one! He is really psyched! Geezer Al has 2 more days of training, shooting for a level 3 certification - while Mike enjoys kayaking without the pressure to perform demanded by the course. The two instructors we have had are phenominal, professional and just fun to be around! Thanks Tom and Rick.

Instructor Trainer Tom Nickels with Mike
and Suzanne
The day was capped off as we left the final evaluation session and spotted what looked like an Irish pub! A rarity in thes parts! We hustled back to the campground to find we had electric, water and hot showers all at the same time! Unbeliveable!!!!!! We almost didn't leave the campground, wanting to enjoy the comforts of home, but the lure of Guinness was just too strong - especially on a day to celebrate. We arrived at Culhanes Irish Pub to find, not only Guinness, but Shepards Pie, Bangers and Mash, the bartender was a gregarious guy who had lived in the Saratoga area for a while AND (Get ready!) FREE WIRELESS INTERNET! Geezer heaven!

Everything goes better with a Guinness!
A good as the pint tasted, Al has two more days of body bashing coming, so we will say goodbye for now.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Strike Four and Counting

Well, the campground water main got fixed today, and they hit the electric in the process. There is water, but the johns will not flush and the water heaters don't work - and there is a boil water order. More fun.

The course is going well, though we are both whipped tonight!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Strike Three for Hanna Park Campground

Bummed-out Geezers are reporting in from Atlantic Beach, FL. Our first day of ACA Kayak Instructor training went well, but on return to the campground, we find there is no water. It's not expected to be fixed for some time - so, two port-a-johns for 300 campsites, and they are a quarter mile from our site.

This is the third strike for Hanna. On our arrival two days ago, the power was out. Then we discovered the thousand or so dead fish in the lake next to us (a low oxygen kill, we hear). Now this. A nice woman in our class invited us back to her motel room for showers - we are forever in your debt, Suzanne!

Char says bad things come in threes - let's hope it's now over.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Glades, the big move and great Geezer Food!

Mike in the Mangroves - 10,000 Islands
Well, our final day in Collier Seminole was a great excursion to the 10,000 Islands area of the Everglades National Park. What a day the Geezers had! Breakfast at a little diner in Everglades City, then to the park to launch the kayaks. The 10,000 Islands lie in the NW corner of the Everglades and are accessed by crossing Chokoloskee Bay into Indian Key Pass. Once there, you are treated to thousands of beautiful mangrove islands, and occasional shell beach and all sorts of lagoons and little bays - teaming with wildlife! We saw plenty of dolphins, jumping fish all around and heard reports of sea turtles, and rays in the clear waters. The only difficult part was navigating the currents and waves from the tidal action combined with bust boat traffic in the main channels. From the visitors center it's about a mile or mile and a half paddle to get into the islands. Once there, you can go forever!

Here is a video of two dolphins heading right for Geezer Al - watch them spook as they sense the kayak.

The currents and winds were playing games with us, but we perservered! On the way back, we had about a 15 knot wind, right on the nose which kicked up a bit of a challenging chop on the water, but the Geezers arrived back at the NPS visitors center in Everglades City after an 8 mile paddle safe, sound and dry!

We celebrated by going to Kelleys Fish House in Naples. Good food, expensive and a bit too high falutin's for the Geezers, but popular with the blue haired old ladies. After dinner, laundry and a little Kayak repair in the parking lot while the skivvies tumbled. The laundramat was filled with Mexican workers and Geezer Mike swears he heard "Gringo loco" as they watched us!

Crazy Gringo

Today was devoted to packing up, breaking camp and making the move to Jacksonville for the ACA Kayak Instructors workshop that starts Tuesday morning. We got to the campground at Hanna Park after 7 hours on the highway to find the electric power out at the campground, a dead battery in the camper and a large fish kill in the beautiful lake in the park! Undaunted, we set up camp and ventured out to familiarize ourselves to the area. The absolute best news after a long day was stumbling across a little restaurant called Two Dudes in Atlantic Beach. The place was tucked in a little off the main drag but eagle-eyed geezers can spot good food from miles away. And we were not disappointed! Fresh fish tacos, Shrimp Po'Boys and a mango wasabi slaw hit the spot. They had a good selection of drafts at a reasonable price and pleasant staff. Now, loyal Geezer followers know that we sample Key Lime Pie almost everywhere we go. (Purely for evaluative purposes, of course) Two Dudes Key Lime pie was OFF THE CHART! Best of the trip so far! As a real bonus - free WiFi access! It rated 4 paddles on the Geezer scale. They just opened for business, but if they continue like this, they will be around for a long time!

Two Dudes Seafood in Atlantic Beach - our new home

Best Key Lime Pie of the trip so far!

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Day of Practice

It's getting close to clutch time for our kayak instructor's course in Jacksonville. The guys spent much of the day on a small local lake, practicing kayak maneuvers and going over coaching techniques. Some in-water rescues were done in the cold winter waters - in the frosty low 70's we'd estimate!

Our thanks go to the great folks at Naples Kayak, where we shopped and chewed the fat on kayaking topics. They pointed us to our great launch spot yesterday, and to Lake Avalon today. Thanks, guys.

We should mention the best bird of the day. Just as we launched on Lake Avalon, Mike pointed to a bird flying low over the water, dipping it's beak in for a drink like a Barn Swallow might often does. It was Geezer Al's favorite species, a gorgeous Swallow-tailed Kite, which then soared up and circled right over us for a minute or so - spectacular!

Also, we post here a tribute to Geezer Mike's long-suffering wife Kathy (Clark). In Marco Island village, we ran across Cathy O'Clarke's Irish Pub. Though we drove back there last night, the loud and boisterous celebrations of St. Patrick's Day were more than the Geezer psyche could take - we passed up the possibility of a Guinness and drove on. We were toasting you in spirit, Kathy!

Geezer Reprise

What is a Geezer?
Since we now have thousands of new followers to the Geezers Go South blog (OK, at least 20 since last year!) We are sure that some of you are asking what a Geezer really is. Well, in an effort to spread some sunshine on the cloudy world of Geezerdom, we will reprise elements of a post from a couple of years ago, when this nonsense first began.

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.

Campgrounds While we don't spend much time in the campsite, Geezers appreciate ones with a natural setting and wildlife around. The large, Megabus RV oriented sites are really not our style. We also appreciate campsite neighbors who strike the right balance between friendly and unobtrusive.

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.

FOGs - We try to make friends with other like minded individuals along the way and have christened them FOGs (Friends of Geezers). The old Curmudgeon, the iniatiator of the oft mentioned "Whalen" was the first FOG. Added over the years are folks like Kenny and Jen in Mississippi, Andy in Tallahassee, and that waitress in Sopchoppy with the really great...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Paddle

This heron likes the high rent district of Florida - looking at Capri Island

Another miserable day in South Florida – temps in the high 70’s, full sun and a moderate breeze. We paddled today from Capri Island to Tigertail Beach and back. How’s that for exotic-sounding locations? This was on the north side of Marco Island, if you are looking for it on a map. Actually, here is a map of the trip, straight off the GPS on Al’s deck.

Starting spot is labeled "Tigertail", but the beach by that name is at the
southern end of the route
It was only 6.5 miles, but we contended with currents, wind waves and lots of boat wakes. Geezer Mike didn’t like the choppy stuff, but he did well in it, keeping the cockpit side up all the way. The area is full of mangrove islands and shifting sand beaches. The major part of the outer beach did not show on the GPS topo or on the navigational chart.

For you birder’s, here are some goodies from the past day: a Barred Owl was sitting was sitting in the road just after dark as we came back from our paddle last evening. Two of them hang around the campground and call periodically through the night. A Chuck-will’s-widow is calling as it gets dark tonight. On our paddle, we had a large number of Royal Terns, along with a few Caspians and one Sandwich Tern. Some shorebirds were found, though not some of the ones we’d hoped for. New for the trip were Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and Piping Plover.

Corn beef and cabbage - and Yuengling
Our launch spot for the paddle was the Capri Fish House Restaurant, where Naples Kayak Company also has a kayak rental location (they invited us to launch at their place). It’s St. Patty’s Day, of course, and as we landed, we found the place had a corned beef and cabbage special – how could we resist? It was good and plentiful, and hit the spot! No Guinness, though. Mike asked the waiter if they had it, and he replied “No, we only have beer and wine”. Paradise does have a few short-comings.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Muscle sore Geezer - Al is fine!

Wild beach on the way to Cape Romano
Tuesday - March 15th. A warm, sunny and breezy day in south Florida. We got moving in reasonable time this morning and headed to Marco Island for a paddle in the Gulf out to Cape Romano, to the south of Marco's Caxambas Park. We had a great paddle - headwinds and beam waves in both directions! Aside from that, the scenery was beautiful with ospreys, bald eagles and dolphins to keep us company. The total trip took us almost 7 hours to cover the 12 miles including stops to stretch and have a bite to eat. Mike was hurting and about 3 mile from the finish, the Geezers put ashore on a white sand beech for a nap, Whalen style - just plop your arse down on the sand and sleep! It felt great, though we can now add sunburn to the list of hurts (hip, knee, shoulder, back, wrist, elbow). A sip of water and a granola bar and we were good as new for the final leg across the harbor back to the car. An incoming tide gave us a much appreciated push and the guys packed it up about 7:00pm.

Same place, looking back at Marco Island - not so wild
Too tired, sweaty and grungy to think about fine dining, we stopped at a supermarket in toney Marco Island to grab provisions for a home cooked dinner. Since the ladies left, our home cooking has take on a bit more of a utilitarian, "one pot" flavor. In Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" Huck laments about the Widow Douglas's cooking. "...there warn't anything the matter with them. That is, nothing only that everthing was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds 'n ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and thing go better." Well, our barrel of odds-n-ends tasted great after a long day on the water.

Black Skimmers, terns and more
A full stomach, a cold beer, a hot shower and 1000mg of Vitamin I and we feel human again. Speaking of food, here we are two days before Paddy's Day and Mike still has yet to nail down a source for corned beef and cabbage in either Naples or Marco Island! We will keep you briefed on the progress of his mission!

Found on the beach near Cape Romano - see note
Note - here is the story on the dome house:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Family and nature - goes great together!

Sitting in a Micky D's parking lot about 15 miles from the campsite - just wanted to give a quick update...

Yesterday (Sunday) the Geezers left the campsite at Homosassa Springs and made the 3 hour (at Geezer speed) drive to visit Mike's Brother, Gerry and his wife Carol in Winter Haven, FL. As a bonus, their daughter Kelly and her husband, Tracy were there along with daughter Mackensie. It had been a couple of years since Mike had seen his brother and over 10 years since he had seen his niece. Made the old boy feel good. We had a nice dinner and visit. Mike continued to chat with family while Al took a paddle around the nearby lake - seeing a few neat birds and a gator or two.

Monday morning we got an early start (9:00 GST) and made our way further south. We made a stop in LaBelle FL for lunch at Flora & Ella's Restaurant - been in continious operation since 1933. Ellas granddaughter still runs the kitchen - turning out some pretty decent chicken and dumplings and great home baked pies. It's good we stopped, because this little piece of Americana is going to close in 13 more days - gone forever. It's so sad to think that we are becoming a nation of chains controlled by big corporations who put out "safe" food - nothing special, just appealing to the lowest common denominator and maximizing profit over service and the personal touch. (He sits on his soapbox in a McDonalds parking lot - oh well!)
Flora & Ella's in LaBelle

Soon to close

After lunch we continued south on 27 and 29 and set up camp at Collier Seminole State Park, located right in the middle of the Florida Panther reserve. There are only about 100 of these beautiful cats in the world - we are hoping to see one.

After setting up the Geezer abode, we ventured out for a little sightseeing ending up in Everglades City and the little settlement of Chokoloskee (Google it) at the end of the road on the tip of the Everglade wilderness. We will explore the area by kayak in the coming days and report back to you.

The trip so far - 3,870 miles and counting!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Paddling with Mermaids

What a couple of days - both for eating and paddling! The Geezers paddled both the Crystal River and the Homosassa River today. Yesterday, we moved camp from St. Joseph's Peninsula to Homosassa, with a lunch stop in St. Marks. We'll catch you up on our discoveries.

Mike and Andy in the Riverside Cafe, St. Marks
After packing up yesterday, we met our friend Andy Lundberg in St. Marks, not too far from his home base in Tallahassee. The Riverside Cafe turned out some great fish and shrimp sandwiches, and we just had to sample the Key Lime pie. The cafe is somewhat open-air, with Boat-tailed Grackles and a Yellow-rumped Wablers flying in to look for leftovers among the tables. We gave Andy back the kayak we'd borrowed, and he also took the one we bought in Mississippi, so we could trim down to just two boats. Many thanks, Andy!

Which of these birds is alive?
After lunch, we moved on to the old village of Homosassa, and what turns out to be a very nice spot at Camp'n'Water, right on the Homosassa River. Today, we paddled on the Crystal River and found lots of Manatee's. These gentle giants (mistaken for mermaids in the olden days by sailors who were away from home far too long) will swim right up to your kayak, and raise their heads to take a look. We saw several cows with calves. One calf came up under Mike's kayak, looking for a place to nurse.

Pining for the 'ole home bar
In our search for Manatees, we paddled by the Ale House, a moniker stolen from Geezer Mike's favorite pub in Troy, NY. I think I saw a homesick tear in his eye for a moment there. That is until we remembered that ice jams are threatening to flood parts of Troy. Here is FL, we paddled in bright sun and temps in the 70's (we'll take it).

A big Manatee comes up for air
An ice cream cone and a quick Whalen gave us new energy, and not having enough paddling for the day, we set out on the Homosassa just before sunset. Ospreys, Cormorants and Night-Herons kept us company as we paddled a loop down the river and back through canals in the village.

Dinner recommendations came from the Old Curmudgeon, friend Bill Whalen. Even though he had to be in Orlando and could not join us, he steered us right. Only a few minutes away was the Freezer, also known as the Cedar Key Seafood Company. Their old freezer room is now a bar and seafood spot. Draft Beers were $2, the clam chowder was good and the boiled shrimp were fantastic. Reader can check it out at

'Nite, all!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Free Margos, Sleeping on the Wet Spot, and missing Airport

Bet that got your attention, didn't it? Well its all true - so read on.

After posting last night's blog post at the laundramat, we took the ladies to their last dinner in sunny Florida (More on that later). We hit a Mexican place called "Peppers" that happened to be celebrating their anniversary, so they offered FREE Margaritas!!!! Not just your typical little, watered down concoction, but a full fledged margo by the pitcher! And the waiter kept them coming! The food was great (we think) and we topped it off with a couple of orders of fried Ice Cream that were large enough to feed 6 of us!

We needed the reinforcement because we returned to the campsite in a full fledged squall line with high winds, torrential downpours and frequent lightning & thunder. The camper held up OK to the punishment, but leaks were developing along some of the tent seams. The matrasses got a bit soaked and the camper rocked and rolled in the storm till well after midnight! This morning, we mopped up, packed up and brought the ladies on their next step of the adventure - to the airport at Panama City.

On the windy St. Joe's Beach after the storm
After an hour and 20 minute ride, the GPS led us directly to the airport - which was CLOSED!!!! Not closed because of weather or mechanical malfunctions but closed, period! Thank you Garmin! The first clue should have been the conspicious absence of cars in the parking lot or the lack of signs leading us in. We pulled up to the terminal building and were met by a 120 year old security guard who said the airport had been moved about 1/2 hour drive away! Damn good thing we were early. The only directions to the new airport were on a faded sign - we hastilly made our way to the new airport, got the ladies there on time for their flight, said our goodbyes and POOF! We were magically Geezers again!

What the...? Thanks Garmin and AAA map!
The Geezer magic continued when we made our way to Regans Pub and Oyster Bar for dinner (Raw $8/doz and baked oysters $9/doz, grilled shrimp $9/doz and a beer or four $2.25/pint) and get this - free internet access! GEEZER HEAVEN! (we had to stop in honor of Geezer Al's new daughter-in-law, the lovely Jill Regan).

It's a dive, but the oysters were mighty fine!
Beer $2.25 a pint, and free wireless.
Tomorrow we bid farewell to St. Joe's Pennsula and head to Homossa Springs for a couple of days before continuing on to the NW Everglades. The Geezers are back!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Time on our hands

The area of Florida we are in is located right on the border of the Eastern and Central time zones. Our cell phones keep changing depending where in the campground we are and what tower is the strongest! For an interesting look at what it's like to live here, read
Well, we Geezers are living the highlife! Been busy showing the ladies all the sights on our little slice of paradise on St. Joe's Pennsula! Monday Night we had a great dinner at a place called the Dockside with FRESH Apalachicola oysters, fresh tuna, fresh shrimp and chicken tenders for Kathy. Dessert was large servings of homemade Key Lime pie topped with a beautiful sunset over the marina.

Oysters at the Dockside

View from the restaurant
Tuesday started with walk on the boardwalk and beach, followed by a paddle into the teeth of 15-20 knot wind & waves. The upwind paddle took about 45 minutes till we stopped for a bite of lunch on the beach. The return trip was much quicker (about 10 minutes!). A little resting around the campsite followed by a simple homecooked dinner in the trailer flushed down with multiple Margo's and a sunset over the Gulf that was superb! Just before turning in for the night, we took a walk to the beach to see the stars, completely undisturbed by surrounding light pollution! Absolutely phenominal show.

Lunch stop along St. Joe's Peninsula

Today (Wednesday) is the ladies last day in the sunny south. While the weather has not been too warm, it has been a welcome change from the "in like a lion" March weather of upstate NY. A morning walk on the beach with a little shell collecting has become the closest thing to a routine we have developed (well, Margaritas in the afternoon is another routine) Today we were greeted with red flags flying on the beach warning of high winds and dangerous surf. As we exited the beach, a volunteer at the park warned about high winds coming about noon time, but so far - no problem. Tonight we will treat ladies to a Mexican dinner in town to celebrate their time with us. By this time tomorrow, the Geezers will be flying solo again. We will miss the Geezerettes (a little!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dinner with Friends and on To St. Joe's

Saturday was a not-so-great weather day, so we toured a couple of nature preserves, then went north to Lucedale, where Ken and Jen live. Their kind invitation to dinner was most welcome, as the walls of the Geezer trailer where starting to close in on us. The drive was eventful, with torrential rain and close lightning - no chance to count between flash and crash, they came at the same time. We felt the thunder along with hearing it!
Jennifer and Kenny - and the Christmas Tree

Dinner was great and the company better. Kenny even gave Mike and Al each a turn with his Red Rider Commemorative BB rifle. Tin cans in the back yard were the only casualties. A big thanks go to this great couple for making our time is Ole Miss very nice.

Sunday we wrapped up the camper and hit the road for Florida. Six hours or so later, we set up the rig at St. Joseph's Peninsula State Park. After a cold night, we hiked the shore and paddled on the bay. Cormorants, loons, buffleheads, shorebirds and pelicans kept us company - but no dolphins, yet.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Thursday March 3 and Friday March 5 - Sittin’ in the Geezer Trailer sippin’ a Margarita and fixin’ ta tell ya’ll what we bin doin’.  Sorry, being back in Mississippi has that effect on me!

What a great couple of days the Geezers and ladies have had.  The weather has been a bit iffy with high winds yesterday joined by bands of rain showers today

Our dear friend Kenny just can’t win!  His plans to play hooky with the Geezers on Thursday got changed with the announcement of his new boss, press release to write resulting in a raft of phone calls to return.  He did finally manage to break away, but the Geezers made sure the pressure stayed on him.  He had arranged for us to be able to paddle from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Estuarine Education Center, a beautiful new facility that trains students to work in the outdoor recreation industry.  It was a windy day and we made the poor guy paddle against 15-20 mph winds, in heavy boat with a paddle reverse feathered – and he did it, despite our finest efforts!  We were rewarded with a glimpse of a bald eagle, many ospreys and lots of herons.  In an effort to further complicate Kenny’s life we lead him through a series of twisty and increasingly narrow passages through the bayou in a futile attempt to take a new route back to the dock.  He spent much of his time in the marsh grass earning him the nickname “WeedWacker” Flanagan! 

Back to campground for shower then we met Kenny at the Shed – BBQ joint that makes the Dinosaur look sterile and formal!  Good food, good beer and good friends – it just doesn’t get better than that!

Just before bed, Mike made a garbage run to the dumpster.  Let’s see, campground, midnight and garbage what should someone with Mike’s wildlife background expect?  Well, he forgot and got the bejesus scared out of him as two raccoons bolted from the dumpster as he opened the lid!  The medications seem to be working – no heart attack!
Friday – lazy morning – Off to check e-mail at coffee shop Delo’s Heavenly House of Coffee then to meet MGCCC Estuarine Education Center for a crack at their climbing wall.  Kathy went first, making it about 2/3 of the way up the wall before making a controlled fall to the matting.  Al went next, testing his ailing knee against the wall, making it just a little further up before succumbing to the laws of gravity.  Fat ole Mike, against his better judgment, decided to test the limits of the mechanical belay system and climb next.  He made it about 2 feet, peeled off and got mad!  Another try had much better results, and he managed to propel his bulk almost to the top of the wall before he did something that no experienced climber would do – he stopped and thought!  Since thinking is just as strenuous as climbing for the Geezer, he did the only thing he could do – fell!  The director of the center, Wayne Taylor, was a gracious host to the Geezers and we thank him and his staff for letting us play with their toys!

The excitement continued.  In keeping with the theme of Geezers Eat the South, we pulled into the Country Gentleman a little local restaurant in Gautier for a “light” lunch – you know, soup and salad – right!  The homemade Chicken Noodle soup had a unique lemony/acidic taste that proved that it didn’t come from Campbells, the Seafood Gumbo was rich in crawfish, shrimp and crab and a great spicy brown roux.  Both soups came in either cup or bowl size – the cup was about the size of a small child and you could take a bath in the bowl!  The salad ($3.95) came on a platter that you could serve your Thanksgiving turkey on!  So much for a light lunch!
The afternoon entertainment consisted of visiting the Mississippi Sand Hill Crane Refuge for a chance to see one of these elegant and beautiful and highly endangered creatures.  This bird, a distinct, non migratory sub-species of the Sand Hill Crane has been teetering on the brink of extinction due to habitat destruction.  At the time the refuge was established in the mid 1970’s, there were only 30 birds known to exist.  Through the efforts of the refuge, the population is currently at 112 individuals.  After a bit of driving around the area, we were indeed fortunate to spot 2 of the cranes near a fenceline outside of VanCleave

Tonight, we introduce the ladies to Rachel’s Widows Walk, a place the Geezers enjoyed a couple of times last year.  Sam, the owner has certainly maintained high standards over the past 12 months – he was not here, as he just got married yesterday. Congrats!

Off to bed to the pitter-patter (and ROAR!) of rain on the camper roof!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Up To Date (and up to no good)

OK, loyal followers, we got behind on our postings – that’s what happens when wimmin break up the Geezer’s routine (and also when you move from a campsite that has wireless internet!) But we’ll try to make it up to you by including the latest from the Big Easy as well as a peek at the beginnings of our stay in Mississippi.
Biegnets at Cafe Du Monde
 Monday, February 28th – Dawn broke to the sounds of bulldozers and pile drivers once again! The ladies first night in the Geezer camper was uneventful (we are old you know!) and we wandered into Nola for a great lunch at Crescent City Brewers, some foot-powered sightseeing in the French Quarter and Market District, and the obligatory stop at Café Dumond for beignets and a café’ au lait (though Geezer Mike, true to form, had "coffee- dammit just coffee". The brief rest put us in the mood for a little more sightseeing, this time by horse drawn carriage for an informative ride around the French Quarter. The horse refused to move past the Old Blacksmiths Shop, a pub noted for it’s Hurricanes, so in order to appease the stubborn horse and get on with the historical tour, we drank some. Drinking seems to be an accepted practice down here, so we had another round at a Dixieland club, another at a jazz club and another at a fine establishment that featured a rockin’ Cajun band. Dinner at Felix’s oyster house and another tour of the music clubs on Bourbon Street and we were done for the night! – a good time was had by all!
A carriage ride in the French Quarter

Tuesday, March 1st – We packed up the camper for the first time since snow country (where the Hell do we put all this stuff???) and said goodbye to New Orleans. Not being in much of a hurry, we took the slow route along highway 90 instead of the Interstate. On the way, we stopped at Bayou Savauge National Wildlife Refuge for a walk along their boardwalk nature trail. Of all the people to get successful, Kathy spotted the first snake of the trip. A good one, too - a cottonmouth! We continued on through Pass Christian, Biloxi and Ocean Springs into to Shepard State Park in Gautier, MS our home for the next 5-6 days. This is a familiar and sentimental landscape for Geezer Mike who spent nearly a month here in 2005 helping with recovery following Hurricane Katrina. Aside from lots of memories and a great experience, Mike also brought home a lasting friendship in the form of Ken & Jennifer Flanagan. They stopped by the Geezer camper for a Margarita, then we all went out for a fine Mexican meal and many, many laughs at San Marcos, a great little Mexican Restaurant in Gautier.
Getting our paddles wet in Davis Bayou
Wednesday, March 2, found us up at the crack of dawn – OK, well, 7:30 or so. We had a leisurely breakfast in the camper then packed up to go paddle. A wind had come up during the night so the crossing to Deer Island, though short, looked a little challenging. Our back-up plan was to go to Davis’s Bayou at the Gulf Islands National Seashore where we did a leisurely 3.5 mile paddle in the Bayou watching the ospreys soar and feed on the abundant sea life. A real nice way for the ladies to get their paddles wet for the first time this season. Mike and Kathy did a trip to the store and a little Katrina tour while Al and Char took a walk around the campground and prepped for cocktail hour. Margaritas followed by great dinner of grilled chicken, stir fried veggies, brown rice and tossed salad. The ladies played some Scrabble while the Geezers worked on the blog – all for you, dear follower!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lazy Sunday

All this sun, warm temperatures and nice breezes; where is the frigid wind, snow, ice and shush? Back home - that's where!

Today mostly revolved around the arrival of the Geezerettes at the New Orleans Airport. This morning we cleaned camp, sorted laundry and re-organized our confusion so the ladies could move into this male bastion.
So we ran into these two blondes at the airport...
After greeting them at the airport with Mardi Gras beads, we headed to Traceys, the restaurant in the Garden District recommended by Bryan Holt last night on the Ferry. En route, we encountered a Mardi Gras parade that probably went about 2 miles - great fun. The only problem is the parade route was between us and a good lunch! By twisting and turning in the back streets we finally found an alternate route to Traceys - thank God for the GPS to aid in steering!
An unexpected treat - one of the many Mardi Gras parades
Well, Bryan did not steer us wrong! The Roast Beef Po' Boys in a friendly pub atmosphere hit the spot for the travelers.
How can you go wrong with Irish flags out front?
Back at the campsite, we took a walk, a quick Whalen, then set about preparing a dinner of char-grilled pork shops and a veggie pasta. Tonight will be an early night - big day exploring Nola tomorrow afternoon and evening!

Saturday - Paddling, birds, good food, old friends & new friends

Another crappy day in paradise. High 70's-low 80's and lots of sun, as evidenced by Geezer Mike's arms & legs! After a little breakfast, we loaded the boats to paddle Bayou Segnette (pronounced locally as "S'nyet"). We went down along the levee, which is being rebuilt for hurricane protection. Saw lots of waterbirds, the coolest being a bunch of Black-necked Stilts.

Barataria Preserve - good paddling

Black-necked Stilts

Stopped for lunch along the levee and found out how sticky Mississippi delta clay can be. This stuff could cling to teflon! Thought we'd try a circle route, but the GPS maps were not up-to-date and the delta landscape seems to have been redesigned after Katrina. Since we were already 4+ miles from the launch site, we were tired from fighting the wind (OK, Al was fine - Mike was tired!) and unsure of our directions, we headed back on the route we came in on. After 8 miles on the trip, two muddy, sun bleached, hungry & thirsty Geezers loaded the boats, grabbed a shower, a Whelan and headed for the French Quarter.

Dinner was raw oysters and gumbo at Felix's. You just stand at the bar while the guy shucking oysters keeps them coming - right on the stone bar top. Who needs plates? Mix your own cocktail sauce with the hottest horseradish in the world and slurp them puppies down! Hog Heaven!

While walking along Bourbon St., we looked at the throngs of people stumbling along and spied Art Newell, a fellow we had both worked with at DEC! Had a nice chat with Art and Jackie and heard about their trip while we explained our travels. Small world!

Bourbon Street on a Saturday night a week before Mardi Gras was wild! People watching here is about the most fun you can have anywhere. We heard some great Jazz, some Cajun music and sampled some local beers and the beverage for which the street is named!

Revelers on Bourbon Street
We caught the last ferry back to the West Bank where we met a local guy, Bryan who gave us some great tips on places to go and restaurant recommendations. He urged us to spread the word about the Big Easy to our friends up north. If Bryan is an example of the local hospitality and friendliness, New Orleans is in good hands! Thanks, Bryan!

Today, Sunday, is dedicated to preparing to welcome the Geezerettes to share our adventures for the next 10 days.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Travels to Oil Country

Wanting to see some of the most southerly reaches of Louisiana, today we drove down to Grande Isle. This long and winding road goes through some of the southern parishes of the state, and past Exxon and Chevron operating bases for Gulf oil drilling. Even the old guys fishing along the bayous had shiny new pickup trucks. Driving by in the old Geezermobile with 130K on it, the oil influence was quite apparent.

Grande Isle State Park beach - note tracks from oil spill crews

How to jack up your single-wide - Grande Isle style

The only evidence of the BP oil spill was the closed beach at Grande Isle State Park. Truck tracks all along the shore were from oil patrols, we guessed. Dolphins were actively feeding in the tidal rips along the shore, as were flight formations of Brown Pelicans. We've heard reports of dead baby Dolphins washing up on the Gulf beaches, but overt signs of damage were hard to see.

Returning to Westwego, a stop at the nearby fish market netted us a pound of fresh wild-caught shrimp from Grande Isle. To this we added a little garlic, butter, EVOO, parseley, lime and penne. Not bad for Geezer chefs.

Starving on our own cooking again...

It's getting cool as we write at 10:00 PM and we're thinking of putting on some long pants. It sure beats the 10 inches of wet snow they got at home today.

Thursday - Paddling down Bourbon Street

Well we didn't actually paddle on Bourbon St, but we did finally get the boats wet. Yesterday morning we awoke to the dulcet tones of a bulldozer, soil compactor and a pile driver as crews continued work on the levee surrounding Bayou Segnette's campground.

Since we had an early start, we decided to capitalize on the day and head for the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park & Preserve just south of New Orleans. We settled on the Barataria Preserve section for a quick walk around one of the trails and then paddled the twin canals area. What a great location for a first paddle of the season! The canals are surrounded with natural vegetation and there were plenty of birds and alligators to watch. We saw Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, White Ibis and Little Blue Herons all within a few yards of each other. The winds were quite strong and blowing straight down one of the canals so the trip upwind was a challenge, but the ride back was great!

On the water - Barataria Preserve 

Ferocious gator - this one was almost 2 feet long!

We returned to the campsite late afternoon for a shower and a Whalen. Refreshed and not smelling so bad, we hopped into the Geezermobile for the short ride to the ferry landing that would give us a ride to the French Quarter. We found the best restaurant, the Crescent City Brewhouse where we dined on oysters, a phenomenal seafood cheesecake and salads with grilled shrimp - PLUS they brew their own beer!

Oysters and seafood cheesecake - Ymmm!

Since the cathedrals and art museums were closed, after dinner, we wandered up to Bourbon Street for some music and libation. What incredible sights and sounds! Every kind of music you can imagine pouring from each doorway - all of it free and VERY good! Of course, the bead tossing drunks lining the balconies ensured that the sights were free and VERY good, also!

Bead Magnet on Bourbon Street

We caught the last ferry across the mighty Mississippi and got back to the campground in time to beat a thunderstorm that rocked our world for a couple of hours.

New Orleans skyline from the ferry

Thank you for riding the Geezer Express - please remain seated till the ride comes to a complete stop - (In about 5 weeks!)