Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Rough Times in More Ways than One

November 10-24, 2020                                      From Congaree to Gamble Rogers
Anastasia State Park                                        Closing October – Back on the Road
St. Augustine Florida

There hasn’t been a lot to take pictures of these past two weeks so I fear this post is even more wordy than usual.  I apologize.

IMG_20201108_141110839In my previous blog, I talked about how bad the weather was at Gamble Rogers.  So windy and rainy.  Not fun at the beach.  Well…just how windy was it?

Take a look at this video to see.

That will give you a good look at the wind but it got worse the next day to the point where I had to  bring the slides in for 3 days in a row and really couldn’t go outside much.  The rain was pouring down and the wind would grab the door out of my hands if I tried to open it.  One of the not so great things about being right on the ocean front.

Here’s a video from inside the RV.  I took it through the window.  It’s amazing how loud the wind is even inside.

Finally there was a break in the late afternoon so I went over to the river side of the park to see the sunset.  Yes I was quite optimistic as you can see.  Or can you even see the sun?


The raining and wind and slides in and rig shaking went on for several days

In the mean time, I have a morning daily practice in which after watching the sunrise I open Mary Oliver’s Book Devotions to a random page and read the poem that appears and journal about it.  I love my lined 8 1/2 X 11 journals from Peter Pauper Press.  This one is my fall choice.  My introspective time with my favorite poet has helped me not to be too down about the weather and the problems that seem to be plaguing my life at the moment.


Another practice I try to do daily is yoga.  I’ve found an on line series that I like but it’s been too windy to do it outdoors and impossible to do indoors when I have to bring in the slides.  But that too shall pass.  One thing I love about Winnona, a rig really too big for me or any one person, is that there is room for yoga and company to come and stay.  I hope I’ll still be on the road when Celia and Colin are old enough to come with their Mom.

I also try to go hiking or at least walking daily for a minimum of 10,000 steps.  With the wind it’s been hard to do on the beach and with the rain, most of the nearby trails are under water so I’m relegated to the campground roads and nearby streets in Flagler Beach.  The campground has a nice nature trail which seldom floods and a separate loop of sites on the river side across A1A.

I got so tired of the fraudulent election accusations that I quit listening or watching the news.  Biden is the first president to win by over 80 MILLION votes.  I can’t wait until the electoral college meets and this whole thing is over.  Although there may still be shenanigans about that.  I suppose there is no chance to get rid of the electoral college but it is certainly out of date for the times.  The person with the most votes from all the people should be the winner.

I fear even after the college meets perhaps it won’t be over since Trump and his supporters are refusing to accept the loss.  Trump clearly likes to say you’re fired but will not accept when it happens to him.  I hope this nonsense doesn’t go on and on and the man actually will move out of the White House and his supporters take down their signs and flags. IT’S OVER ALREADY.  Such divisiveness he’s sewn  Us and them.  I fear he will never go away or stop tweeting in or out of office.  I’ve been embarrassed to be an American for the past 4 years and can’t wait to get back to decency in our government.  Sorry for the rant and politics but how can one avoid it even if you turn off the TV and radio?

I’ve started on a very difficult puzzle and am finding myself avoiding it.  I need a very good puzzle person to give me some guidance on how to attack this.  I love the picture but boy is it hard.   Here is a picture of what it will look  like when/if I can finish it.  The second picture is how far I’ve gotten.  Pathetic.  Like I said, even being stuck inside due to rain hasn’t gotten me very far.

My recent reading on kindle is The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd’s latest.  It’s an interesting provocative fiction about the time of Jesus’ last years.  Kidd is a spiritual woman who has done a great deal of research for this book.  As one reviewer put it, it’s a what if book.  What if we knew what happened during those years of Jesus’ life not recorded in the gospels.  What if he was married. This is really the story of the narrator, Jesus’ wife Ana, a spirited intelligent woman.  I’m sure there will be many and varied reactions to the book.  I enjoyed it very much.

When the rain let up after about 5 days, I biked 7 miles round trip to the little commercial area of Flagler Beach.  They have a park right on the corner of A1A and Rt 100, the main intersection of town.  For years there had been a wonderful farmer’s market there on Saturdays.  I have no idea what happened to it about 3 years ago but I miss it.  The only outdoor venue now is a permanent “market” which gets its vegetables via tractor trailer.  No thanks.  Might as well just shop at Publix.

I’ve reluctantly been doing the business of life of course.  Laundry, which allows me one of my simple pleasures-clean sheets on my bed, vacuuming, cooking, paying bills, and for several days repeatedly STILL arguing with the rip off artists at Truck Enterprises in Harrisonburg Virginia about what they charged me for the work they did not do.  I’ve also made numerous calls about a reimbursement check I’m waiting from my Vision Insurance for the glasses I had made for driving.  They claim they sent it October 29 but as of today it still hasn’t arrived so I’ve had to deal with the automatic phone voice and being on hold forever to report it.  I’m sure you know how the business of life goes these days.  IF you can even do any business with a real person, you have to be on hold for what feels like days.   And then there is  the annual Medicare Part D check in late November.  It seems every year that whatever insurance I have for medications has gone up and so I change companies and then the following year that one goes up and I change again.  I spent an afternoon comparing plans and choosing yet another one.   How in the world did I ever have time to have a job and do all this personal business and have a family and a huge vegetable garden and can and freeze and . . . .   Seems like some sort an impossible dream at this point.


On Tuesday the 17th, I left my windy, rainy, ocean front site at Gamble Rogers and moved north 35 miles to Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine where I was very happy to be in the maritime forest without wind.

My site 53 is paved so I don’t have to deal with all the sand which is also a relief.  But, when I made these reservations it was just as an interlude between stays at Gamble Rogers.  So I’m only at Anastasia for 4 nights.


The ocean is nearly a mile away but it’s a good walk with a long boardwalk over the dunes.  Sky is blue and clouds are white  instead of both being gray.  It improves my mood.



When I get there the red flag is flying – no swimming and the purple which usually means jelly fish.  It’ as windy as Gamble Rogers so no one is enjoying the water or sitting on the beach.   Anastasia has a huge, deep, long beach.

I go out to the water and it looks beautiful but it’s a good thing my hat is tied under my neck as the wind from the water would blow it clean off my head.


That’s the wind blowing the brim right up next to my right ear.  If you were with me, I couldn’t hear a word you are saying.


IMG_1033I go over the next the morning for the sunrise and am in time to catch the St. Augustine Light House with its light shining.  Though at the distance from the dune walk over it’s a bit hard to see the light in the picture.  But with my zoom lens I can get a pretty good shot.  Unfortunately, the skies his morning are gun metal gray and the sunrise is no better than at Flagler.  Too many clouds.

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You can barely see the sun at the horizon with all the clouds.


The clouds are more colorful than the sunrise and they look particularly nice over the dune grasses.


IMG_1103On my way back to Winnona, in order to pick up some more steps I walk down the 2 campground loops preceding mine and find a wonderful gem, a 1973 fully restored VW bus.  Ever heard of Woodstock?   I’m going to put pictures of this beauty throughout the next paragraphs of the blog.  They call the VW Peanut.  It has its own face book page if you’d  like to see the details of the restoration.   They did an absolutely amazing job.  It looks brand new.


After reading The Book of Longings, I picked up a give away in the laundry area of Gamble Rogers.  It was the 3rd in a series mysteries, and was titled McNally’s Risk, by Laurence Sanders. This Archie McNally series is not quite a cozy mysteries series but not descriptively violent.  Archie,  the son in the law firm of McNally and Son, has an amazing vocabulary and after reading book 3, I got books 1 and 2 from my library on Kindle so I could look up all the words he uses that I don’t know.  And I thought I was pretty well educated.  Archie’s father is the lawyer and Archie is the only employee in the Department of Discrete Inquiries (aka private investigator).  Archie was dismissed from Yale Law School after streaking across the stage during a Symphony Concert.  I’ve enjoyed their feather weight fare, but after 4, it’s time to take a break and go on to something with more meat.

IMG_1105While at Anastasia, I hosed down the entire RV and Ruby in order to get the salt off.  It took me nearly 2 hours on the most powerful hose setting I have but afterward, I could see on Ruby the salt was still there so I washed her by hand.  The salt is obviously still on Winnona too but the ranger came up when I was finishing Ruby and scolded me.  No vehicle washing in the state park.  I told him I was only using a bucket with water, no soap but he didn’t care.  So poor Winnona.  I guess I’ll be looking for an RV wash.  Hope it’s easier to find here than in Virginia.  I’m concerned about using Blue Beacon with their power washers for fear that all the striping on Winnona which are decals will be damaged or come off.  Do any of you have experience with decal stripes and Blue Beacon?


The following pictures are of  sunrises and sunsets during  the first two windy rainy cloudy weeks I was at Gamble Rogers.  They reflect the way I was feeling through this ordeal on the Saturday I was moving back to Gamble Rogers.

Woman Holding Poster With Text Bad Day In Front Of Her Face Isolated..  Stock Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 51252553.

And so that brings me to the absolutely terrible horrible no good very bad day that was November 21st when I was scheduled to leave Anastasia and move back to Gamble Rogers.  Moving is a great deal more difficult as a solo.  I have to do both the inside and outside pack up, dump the tanks as well as move the car somewhere, walk back and move the RV to a place where I can hook the car up, then walk to get the car and put it on the back of the RV.  Everything is going fine until I put the brake controller in the car and it will not turn on.  I check all connections and realize that because of Covid, it has been forever since I charged it up and it is  dead and unusable.  I will have to drive back to Gamble Rogers without it.  Towing a car with no brake controller  worries me a great deal so I sit in the parking lot for an hour with the controller plugged in to the electric provided by my solar panels but to no avail. 

IMG_0782I head down the park road and when I get to the very narrow entrance a UPS truck makes a quick left turn in front of me and forces me to put my brakes on hard.  That of course is sketchy without brakes in your car so I’m looking in my rear view mirror am not careful enough with this narrow entrance.  I clip the entrance pillar on my right which rips my rear awning arm off my RV at the bottom.  I have to drive on because there is a line behind me waiting to exit the park.  I drive a few miles on A1A looking for somewhere to pull over or into that I can also get back out of in order to take a look at the situation.  By the time I find such a place, the arm has been swinging back and forth so that the  screws which held the arm on have worn a groove in the side of the RV. 


The best I can do is get a rope and tie the arm down to the frame and drive on.  But I can’t go faster than 25 or 30 mph without danger of the arm pulling completely away from the RV.  This does not make me popular with those following me.

IMG_0804I make it to Gamble Rogers, get into my site, start setting up and my back jacks will not go down.  I had the springs on them replaced just a month or so ago so it isn’t that.  The fronts went down but not the backs.  Thank goodness the site is nearly level but still in the wind on the ocean front having only half my jacks is not a good idea.  Of course it is late Saturday afternoon and I can’t get anyone to do anything until Monday.  But this is the 3rd in the Murphy series so I think I’m OK until I go out to Ruby to get the brake controller to plug it in and the back door of the car will not open.  The handle is limp when I pull it.  Both the handle and the jacks were working this morning.  SIGH….   Does this mean I’m on my 2nd set of 3 with Murphy?   I mean it’s the controller, the awning, the jacks and now the door.

IMG_0812I spend all day Sunday researching RV Service and Mobile Techs in this area and the situation is grim.  I put up requests on 8 RV facebook groups that I have joined including one each for Winnebago Brave Owners, Full Timers, Class A Owners, Winnebago any model owners, and several Women RV groups.   Over the day I get 5 mobile tech suggestions and 2 service centers.  Thanks so much to everyone who helped.

IMG_0860On Monday I start calling.  One service center does only drive train work, the other can get me in December 22nd.  3 of the mobile techs say they don’t come this far.  They are located 50 or 60 miles from Flagler Beach.  I leave messages for the other two.  Now what?   I am determined not to call the rip off artist who was so nasty last December and charged me double the cost quoted by others to replace my hydraulic motor.  So I wait.  I call HWH, they made the jacks.  Of course they will call me back in a few days.  I google everything I can think of including the HWH manual for my rig which is not with the other manuals. 

IMG_0864When I try starting over by storing the jacks and putting them back down in the hopes they both will go, I find that now neither the fronts nor the backs will go down  and I do not even hear the motor spinning.  I’ve made a bad situation worse.

At that point I am LIVID about the motor. Those of you who have been with me these past years know that last December I paid Mr. Rip Off $800 to have it put in because I had to leave the next day and could not delay long enough to have someone more reasonable do it.  I now see that I might not have been able to find someone else to do it at all in this area.  But I was ripped off and that’s been less than  year ago.  If the motor is the problem, he needs to make it right.

RV Tim

So I give up the hunt and call the nasty Tim from Atlantic Mobile RV. I’m not surprised that he isn’t too busy and can come out within the hour and does.  He is still a pompous ass but not so bad as last year.  He gets under the rig and in about 20 minutes has both jacks working.  He says it’s only a temporary fix since the rust on the wires and connections is the problem and it will just return.  GREAT to know!  Something else to worry about. 

He also fixes the awning arm and the bill is only $175 – $50 for the service call and $125 an hour for his time.  I’m amazed.   This picture is from his website as I didn’t want to inflate his ego any more by taking one of him here.  He reminded me multiple times that he has THIRTY EIGHT years of experience.  I’d say this picture might have been taken at least 20 years ago looking at him then and now.  BUT, he does know what he’s doing.  And I’m very grateful my two problems are fixed.  At least for now.


As a result, I’ve decided that despite the fact that Gamble Rogers is my absolutely favorite State park in Florida, I will make no more future reservations to stay here or anywhere else within 8 or so miles of the ocean or gulf  because of the salt damage which I have so far been unable to get mitigated.  If you have a clue how or where to get that done on the underneath side of the rig.  PLEASE let me know.  Even suggestions will help.

SO, at the moment, the day before Thanksgiving, everything is working.  Luckily I don’t think I’ve ruined the controller by allowing it to discharge to zero.  Though I have not actually tried it on the car.  AND I have an appointment on Monday after thanksgiving to get the car door fixed.   I do have things to be thankful for.

However, the take home message here is, you’d better have a nice size repair fund if you are a solo without your own personal fix it person or pretty fine mechanical abilities and tools. 

Just so I wouldn’t get too thankful or relaxed, the wind did force me to bring my slides in overnight just last night.  Wind really does get tiresome

Congratulations for making it to the end of this epic tale and Happy Thanksgiving to you all.  Stay Safe, the vaccine is hopefully nearer and so are more civilized politics and greater concern for the environment.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

From Congaree to Gamble Rogers

November 10, 2020                                                                Most Recent Posts
Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area               Closing October – Back on the Road
Flagler Beach, Florida                                             October 2020 – Fall Finally Arrives

I ended my last post with my arrival at Santee State Park in South Carolina where I’d gone in order to visit Congaree National Park whose two campgrounds only accommodate hike-in campers with back pack equipment.  State Parks are  no longer the inexpensive places to stay that they once were.  Although I suppose that at $45 a night including tax, it is still less expensive than private campgrounds.  Though it is perhaps the most expensive site I’ve paid for.  This was not for full hook ups.  Water and electric only.  Inconvenient dump station available. 

IMG_0575I arrived at Santee on Friday October 30 and found that in previous years there had been a Halloween decoration contest at the park.  But not this year sadly.  Though some people did still put out things.


On Saturday morning I drove 38 miles to visit Congaree National Park where the Mosquito Meter outside the visitor center was thankfully reading Mild.

IMG_0581I was surprised to find that inside what had been the visitor center was only a small gift shop.  All of the exhibits had been blocked off and the only information available was outside the VC at a small window manned by one park employee.  So I’m zero for two in terms of being able to see the visitor center and its information.  If you are interested in why we didn’t see it on our first visit, here is a link to that 2013 blog where you can see David having a wonderful time among the big trees even without being able to have VC information.

IMG_0582The 2.6 mile round trip boardwalk trail is the center of the trail system at the park and I started there.  There are 10 trails in addition to the boardwalk for a total of over 44.5 miles of hiking within this mostly designated wilderness park.

There are a lot of big trees here and it was a bitter sweet visit for me remembering how excited both David and I were to see them in 2013.  It appears that the last survey of Champion Trees done in Congaree was in July of 2009.  At that time there were 26 trees that qualified based on circumference, height and crown spread for National or State championship status.


Congaree protects the largest remnant of old-growth floodplain forest in the United States.  These Bald cypress and their “knees” are common to see standing in the swampy areas.

With 11,000 acres of old growth forest within the park’s 27,000 acres, there is plenty of room for Champion trees. No area in North America has a larger concentration of champion trees.  Congaree is noted for being one of the tallest temperate, hardwood forests in the world.  Loblolly pines as tall as a 17 story building, Sweetgum 15 stories tall.  Of course not all of these are near the few acres of trails in the park.  44.5 miles of trails is a drop in the bucket of 27,000 acres.


I’d love to come back and kayak Cedar Creek but probably not until there is some more ranger presence and perhaps a map to indicate how to find your way around and through.


Once a bend in the Congaree River, Weston Lake is now an oxbow lake. Over 2000 years ago the river gradually changed its course and meandered south leaving Weston Lake behind.  The lake is slowly filling in with clay and organic debris.


This iron box is an old still used to make alcohol.  After the 18th Amendment was passed in 1919 (interestingly the same year women got the right to vote), prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol, moonshiners and bootleggers found refuge here in the Congaree River floodplain.  It’s difficult terrain and tall trees made it a perfect hiding place.


I am off the boardwalk now and on  the trail to Bluff Campground.  Congaree has two campgrounds and both are backpack in.   No RVs which is why I’m at Santee State Park.


Bluff Campground.  There were 3 widely spaced tents here today.


On what I hope is the trail to Wise Lake, I find the day’s only wildflowers.


Not sure if it’s some sort of aster or a blue mistflower.  Anyone know if either of these guesses are correct?

Is this also part of Cedar Creek??  It’s hard to show in a picture how large these trees are without someone to stand next to them.


There are minimal signs in the park so a map and a compass really are necessary.

Wise Lake I presume.


Congaree has many grand loblolly pines but none more so  than this former state champion.  Loblolly are the tallest trees in South Carolina and this one is over 150 feet tall.  No way to get a picture of its height but how about its base?   My standing beside it gives a good idea of just how big it is.

And here is David from 2013, happily standing beside what was then the state champion Loblolly pine.  Same tree toes as I see today.  Had I looked at this picture before returning, I would have stood in the exact same spot.

I scattered some of his ashes around this tree to honor it and his memory.  I think it would make him happy.

dgb 2013

By looking down into the swamp waters, I can look up into the skies.


I have walked over 7 miles both on and off the boardwalk, taking several trails.  I return on the boardwalk and stop to spread David’s ashes around this giant American beech which was the first BIG tree we saw when we came in 2013 and I can remember him saying “Holy Sh**” look at the size of that beech”.  Just thinking about him here brings a smile to my face but oh how I wish he were with me now.

On the drive back to the campground I pass cotton fields and more cotton fields so finally I stop to take a picture of them and me with them and the cotton itself.
I love cotton clothing but it is a heavy feeder, destructive of the land and always reminds me of the stain of slavery on the soul of this nation.




Back at the campground, trick or treating is getting underway.  I wish you could read the headstones.  There is Kris P Bacon, Barry M Deep, Noah Scape.


And this cute graveyard guardian was handing out very creative treats.  See the next picture. 


Apropos of the times, plastic gloves filled with a candy bar and rolled sweets.  Love the spider ring.



Little Bo Peep and her sheep were here too.

Today is Saturday and usually at 11am I meet on Zoom with my friend Laurie for our book club.  Since it was Samhain and I was going to Congaree, we agreed to wait until 5:30 to discuss our current read which is The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh.  We are both fans of the charismatic bear and this book is a really beautiful  look at the place that inspired Milne’s stories.

Pooh of course is part of the club and was trying to finish his reading with Owl’s help.


I closed the night off with a beautiful full moon breaking through the clouds of a black sky.  Love these dark sky parks.


I couldn’t decide.  Similar but not the same.  Beautiful both.


IMG_0698On Monday, I left Santee for an atypically long drive of 221 miles to the Walmart in St. Mary’s Georgia where unlike a few days ago in Roanoke Rapids, everything worked fine.  In addition, for all 221 miles the Service Engine light did not come back on.   The moon appears totally full for days before and after the actual full moon date.  Even in the Walmart Parking lot it was quite a show.  Almost looks like there are continents on it.  But I don’t see the man in the moon or any witches riding by.

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My drive Tuesday was a more typical 111 miles and therefore I was able to take my time and stop at the Florida Welcome center where I knew they would have fresh orange juice.  I’m masked up to go inside and get some.

Inside I also enjoyed the clocks showing “Florida time” and both time zones in the state.  I think that is so silly to have people in the panhandle in a different time zone from the rest of the state.  Why do they do that??  Probably the same reason that we STILL do spring forward and fall back.  (This makes me start singing “Day Light Savings Time by Mike Yank and the Armadillos-right Carrie?)


And then here I am on  the main drag in Flagler Beach Florida, A1A, right beside the Atlantic Ocean.  I was stopped at a pedestrian crosswalk when I took this.


You are no longer allowed to build on the ocean side of the road and for those buildings that are “grandfathered in”, like the restaurant and little hotel next to the state park, if a hurricane destroys your building, you are not allowed to build it back.  No building on the ocean front or its dunes in Flagler County.

IMG_20201103_110229310This road reminds me of what Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach  looked like in the 70’s when I  lived on 42nd street just before the referendum passed permitting Liquor by the Drink which opened the flood gates to high rise national hotel chains and eliminated the view of the ocean from all of Atlantic Avenue.  Now it’s just a wall of buildings.  Good for the people of Flagler Beach to resist the siren song of money and protect their public beach.

I pull in to register at the park and have to stop for a parade of White Ibis crossing the road.  I feel like I’ve actually arrived now.  There’s the Flagler Beach water tower.  I wonder how many little towns still have water towers?  I just love it.


As usual here, I pull into my site, I do not back in, so that I’ll have an ocean front view out my big windows.  But before I set anything up, I need a visit to the ocean.  It’s been a year since I’ve been here but things look the same thankfully.  So many hurricanes in Florida this year, but none has impacted the park.


Pretty happy and as you can see from my long sleeves, it’s not too hot YET.


Here’s the view out my front window.


I spend most of the rest of the day leisurely setting up in site 15.


The park has two campgrounds.  One on the ocean side of A1A and one on the sound side.  Both are not large – perhaps 30 sites each – and their smallness is one of the things I really love about them.


Never enough ocean views.


My first dawn and sunrise at the beach are not that spectacular but it’s the only one that isn’t completely clouded and rained out in the first week of my visit.  I am writing this at the end of that first week after days of rain and high winds that have kept everyone inside including my slides.



There isn’t much to say about what I’ve done while here since I’ve been confined.  When the rain takes breaks I try to get my 10K steps in without being blown over by the winds.  Before I had to bring in the slides I tried to do 30-60 minutes of yoga but now with my nearly complete confinement by high winds 18-30 mph and nearly constant rain, I’m mostly reading The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd, doing puzzles,  watching videos, emailing friends and wondering how long it will be before Mr. Trump will let Mr. Biden get on with his job.   Getting antsy for sure.

Speaking of puzzles, I start out with something easy and small  on my new puzzle board which is perfect for RVing.  It folds up, puzzle, pieces and all for storage.  It’s a bit big for my dining table but I make it work.


Nearly finished.


               All Finished.

I did have a couple of days to enjoy the beach before the bad weather set in.  I so wish David were here to enjoy this with me even the confinement.  I’ve thought this throughout the pandemic.  We could play cards and games, read aloud.  But he is here in a way.  I carry his ashes as he asked me to.  He sits in the window of the RV when I’m parked as in the picture below and in the passenger seat when I’m driving.   I miss him every day.