Friday, May 19, 2017

Who Needs History?

Lee Circle
New Orleans, LA 70130
GPS:29.943312, -90.072500

When you don't like history ...

Bamian, Afghanistan

... take over power and rewrite it.

Robert E. Lee Monument, Lee Circle, New Orleans, LA, USA

Friday, May 5, 2017

Lunch With An Old Friend

Osprey Cove RV Park
US Naval Station -- Mayport
Mayport, FL
GPS: 30.378405, -81.404034

Today was a different kind of day for us. We didn't do any tourist things. We drove into Jacksonville to have lunch with Dan Bessman. Dan was our son Adam's college roommate for four years at the US Naval Academy, then Best Man at his wedding. Dan stayed in the Navy and is currently stationed at Jacksonville Naval Air Station. We haven't seen him since their fifteen-year reunion three years ago.

We had lunch at the Maple Street Biscuit Company. That is a new location for us. The menu was different and the food was good. It was good to catch up on his family and his Navy career. Both are doing well. Dan is at the eighteen-year decision point which every career military officer faces. I remember it well. He is the proud father of three lovely daughters and his eyes light up when he talks about them. Well done Daniel.


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Lions and Tigers, No Bears, Oh My!

Osprey Cove RV Park
US Naval Station -- Mayport
Mayport, FL
GPS: 30.378405, -81.404034

Today saw a trip to Camping World in Jacksonville, where I tried unsuccessfully to buy a motor and switch for the bathroom fan. They do not stock this part but can order it with about a one week turn around. We were able to use our $25 gift certificate to buy a new cover for the spare tire on the Cougar. Most RVs are now combinations of tan, gray, and black. Spare tire covers are however still white or black -- white if you want anything on it. This is what we got:

Our real adventure was in the evening. Looking around the web for 'different' things to do in the Jacksonville area uncovered the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary. Here are the particulars:

Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary
1860 Starratt Road
Jacksonville, FL 32226
GPS: 30.493166, -81.587501

Catty Shack Ranch is an all volunteer organization. The animals are all rescued from other organizations. None are taken from the wild. An interesting fact is that there are now more tigers in captivity that living in the wild. They keep somewhat unusual hours, dictated by feeding time for the cats and availability of volunteers. If this post motivates you to visit, be sure to check their website for hours. We visited during the evening tour and feeding (6 PM to 8 PM).

During out visit, I took 152 pictures, so I decided to try something new with this post. I am going to put the photos in an album in Google Photos. I have included just a few pictures here. Then I am going to try to link this post to the album in Google Photos. I have no idea how it will work out. I would appreciate hearing from you about the success or failure of the experiment.


Visit Sarah

Athena, Aphrodite, and Hercules, siblings, are lifelong residents

Sprout, Star, & Runty. Three siblings from Wisconsin that get along well

Monterey, Colby & Brie. Three cheeseheads from Wisconsin that get along well

That's enough. There are many more big cats and other critters at this sanctuary. See them yourself or check out the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary website.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mayport, Fort George Island, Kingsley Plantation

Osprey Cove RV Park
US Naval Station -- Mayport
Mayport, FL
GPS: 30.378405, -81.404034

Today we played tourist and explored the area close to our home base at Osprey Cove. Our first discovery was that this area is severely complicated by the St Johns River Delta. I don't know if it is officially a delta, but it looks like what I think a delta should be. Tidal marshes and waterways that change shape twice a day with the rising and ebbing tide.

Mayport has a small town look about it and it is hard to believe that it is dominated by the US Naval Station and the major seaport city of Jacksonville just a short distance upstream. The town has been around for a very long time -- established May 1, 1562 -- 455 years yesterday. Happy Birthday Mayport.

Those of us who live on the Atlantic coast of Florida are familiar with State Route A1A as the beach route that runs along most of the coast. Today I learned that A1A includes a Ferry across the St. Johns River. In fact A1A is part of the Ferry's name. I also noted that there is no apostrophe in Johns.

St. Johns River Ferry State Route A1A

One way passage across the river is $6 for autos and trucks. The ride is short but the driving alternative is very long. So $6 is a bargain. Come to think about it, that's the purpose of any ferry. Duh!

The area on the north side of the river is known as Fort George Island.

Route A1A continues north and a long narrow, winding, rutted dirt road took us to the Kingsley Plantation.
Road to Kingsley Plantation

Kingsley Plantation
(1676 Palmetto Ave., Jacksonville, FL, 904-251-3537, GPS: 30.439941, -81.437831)
is part of the National Park Service's Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve.

The products from this plantation were Indigo and Sea Isle Cotton, but the story is the same as all others -- opulent lifestyle for a few made possible by grinding poverty and misery for many. I'm not going to repeat that classic tale here. However, Anna Kingsley appears to be the unique twist in this story.

The central figure of the plantation was Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley, African wife of the English plantation owner, Zephaniah Kingsley, who had settled in Spanish Florida in 1803 and became a successful merchant and planter. He purchased Anna as a slave in Cuba in 1806 when she was a teenager and freed her and their children in 1811. In 1814 the Kingsley family moved to Fort George Island, and Anna became her husband's business partner.

For those who want to dig deeper, the story of Anna, Zephaniah, and the plantation are easily found on Google.

The Big House

I wonder if this tree saw it all

The slave quarters' thick walls were made of 'tabby', a concoction of oyster shells mixed with sand, and they've outlasted decades of humidity and hurricanes to survive from about 1814.

Leaving the plantation and heading back to the ferry, we came across the St George Episcopal Church. We had to stop and take some pictures. The church secretary saw us and came out to host us on a short impromptu tour of the building and grounds.

... and she was kind enough to take our picture to prove we were there.

A return trip on the ferry put us back in Mayport on the south side of the river, by now very hungry.

Singleton's Seafood Shack was our target for solving that problem.

As we approached, we exchanged greetings with this cute couple. They applauded the food and encouraged us to try the 'colon cleaner'.

Singleton's menu was to die for. I settled on an Oyster Po' Boy and Michelle tried the Crab Cakes. Both delicious.

Singleton's Seafood Shack Oyster Po' Boy

On the table was a bottle of 'Colon Cleaner'

We sampled it "Whew!". Michelle bought a bottle for Adam. I'm not sure when we'll be able to give it to him or if we'll remember it and be able to find it when the opportunity comes.

Fed and comfortable we headed back to our rig at Osprey Cove, where I found another shakedown surprise. The bathroom vent fan is not working. I can't tell whether the motor, switch, or both is faulty. I'll deal with that tomorrow.

We had a good day. This is what RVing is supposed to be all about. Faulty fan is a minor inconvenience. I'll fix that.


Monday, May 1, 2017

On The Road Again

Osprey Cove RV Park
US Naval Station -- Mayport
Mayport, FL
GPS: 30.378405, -81.404034

Departure day finally arrived. We've spent the last week shutting down the house and getting the Cougar ready to travel.

"What's the big deal? You've done this before.", you say.

Yes, we have. But it has been two years, the house we are leaving is different, and our worldly possessions have changed -- both in the house and in the Cougar. The Cougar has aged just sitting for over a year, and I found several problems resulting from inactivity that needed to be fixed. Finally, our mode of travel will be different this year than in the past. This year our stops will be one week, not three months. That alone made me reconsider taking many items. We got it all done -- except what we forgot -- and we rolled out at 9:30 AM.

I've been planning this trip for over two years and I thought everyone was familiar with what we are doing. Those who follow the blog may not be, so let me synopsize what we are up to.

Our trip focuses on the "The Great River Road" which is the scenic byway running the length of the Mississippi River. We plan to follow it from New Orleans, LA to Lake Itasca, MN. I laid out the trip in roughly 150-mile increments with a seven day stop at each place. Considering a 75-mile radius around each stop, lets me visit every interesting location along the river.

There are two other parts of the trip. First getting from Titusville to New Orleans, then getting from Minnesota back to Titusville. I'm working on those legs.

Today we traveled to Jacksonville, FL, just 149 miles and three and a half hours.

We pulled into our first stop, Osprey Cove RV Park, at 1:00 PM.

The US Naval Station-Mayport has two RV parks for military travelers – Pelican Roost and Osprey Cove. They are close together and operated out of the same office.

Today was really hot, so getting the Cougar set up and the A/C running had top priority. Thank goodness things went smoothly and uneventful. With that finished, we went to the office at Pelican Roost to register, which gave us a chance to look the place over. This naval station is right at the mouth of the St Johns River. Our brief drive around the station revealed an aircraft carrier and several smaller ships (destroyers, I think) docked here.

For dinner, we found a Thai restaurant in a nearby shopping center, had a nice meal, then turned in early. It felt good to be sleeping in the Cougar again.


Monday, April 10, 2017

FTTA Rally at Lion Country Safari

West Palm Beach/Lion Country Safari KOA
2000 Lion Country Safari Rd, Loxahatchee, FL 33470
GPS: 26.713930o, -080.318188o

Time get the Cougar awake and moving again. This weekend we participated in a rally at Lion Country Safari held by our travel club the Fun Times Travel Association (FTTA). Rally Masters Frank & Jeanne Colca and Jack & Sandy Juba did an outstanding job with the arrangements and were exemplary hosts for the event. Our thanks to them for an excellent job.

This was a shakedown cruise for us and for the Cougar and we all needed it.

Friday, 07 Apr 2017

For the past several days, Michelle and I (mostly Michelle) have been working to get the Cougar cleaned up and restocked for this weekend and for our summer departure on 01 May. This morning, shakedown started in our garage and I visioned not being able to move the Cougar. Several weeks ago the techs from Eagle's Pride brought our rig home attached to their truck (a Ram 3500), which was several inches higher that my truck (a Ram 1500). We did not lower the landing gear before dropping the feet. So this morning when I tried to hook up to our truck, I did not have enough travel in the landing gear to lower the rig far enough to get all the weight off the landing gear.

After a brief period of frustration trying to figure out the problem, I called Eagle's Pride and one of their techs came out with the big truck. We used that truck to support the Cougar's weight while we adjusted the landing gear. In short order, the Cougar was hitched to our truck. Thanks to Eagle's Pride for a speedy response with quality service.

We got underway at 11 AM, an hour later than planned but still with plenty of time to easily cover the 158 miles to West Palm Beach without missing a beat. We pulled into our campsite at 3:30 PM after a four and a half hour drive including a lunch stop.

As I understand it, this West Palm Beach/Lion Country Safari KOA is recovering from a bad reputation. They are doing a super job accomplishing that. Check-in was flawless and we were led to our campsite by a skilled and pleasant campground employee – about as painless as one could ask for. It only took a few minutes to see that the campground is clean and well maintained.

We quickly went through our set-up checklist, relearning what we haven't done for so many months. It came back quickly but thank goodness for the written checklist. Without it, we would have been a disaster in the making.

Late afternoon socializing was followed by at Pot Luck dinner at the campground pavilion and some more socializing.
FTTA people are experts at socializing ...

... and eating

As an aside, I heard several complaints about traffic jams encountered by some of our club members trying to reach our location. We are in West Palm Beach – apparently within traffic jam distance of Mara Lago where the President spends his weekends.

Periodically, through the evening and night, we were greeted with the sound of lion's roaring from the adjacent park. I was impressed. After a while, however, we detected that the roaring was too regular in timing and duration, so we suspected that it was a recording. Later there was quite a discussion between the two camps – those who insisted that the roaring is real and those who believe it is recorded. Neither group convinced the other.

There was a definite nip in the air after sunset. More so than I would have expected for this time of year this far south in Florida. That's OK with me. We turned in early. It felt good to be sleeping in the Cougar again.

Saturday, 08 Apr 2017

Morning began with a gathering of the sleepy-eyed for coffee. It was chilly this morning, so gathering for morning coffee was a welcome start to the day. Our hosts outdid themselves with pastry and fresh fruit, even cold cereal, and, of course, an abundance of coffee.

Thanks to Jeanne, Sandy, Frank, and Jack for getting our motor started on a brisk morning

After my first cup, I returned to the Cougar where I got the second and third shake in our shakedown. I entered and pulled the door shut behind me. Part of the door handle came loose and disconnected and I was locked in. Waving to friends through the window to come and help just got me cheerful waves in return. Finally, I called my friend Jim Spain on the cell phone and he came and opened the door from the outside.

Inspection revealed that two of the four bolts holding the door handle/lock were missing. Where and when they fell out beats me. I couldn't find them anywhere nearby. That always raises the question: "What other screws are loose and about to fall out?" I found a couple bolts of the right diameter and thread but wrong head style and length in my miscellaneous hardware and used them as substitutes until I can get to a hardware store to buy replacements.

The third shake was when I tried to turn on the furnace and found our propane tanks to be empty. I'm sure I left them full. So do I now have a propane leak somewhere? That becomes a project for next week.

Time to spend the day at the park which we all came to see. This KOA is perfectly located at the entrance to Lion Country Safari. From the KOA entrance, the Safari ticket booth is less than fifty yards.

The main attraction is the drive-thru wildlife sanctuary. Jim and Bonnie Spain joined us for the ride. Jim and I sat in the back seat of the truck photographing like crazy, frequently being told by the ranger (in their own truck) to close our windows.

Days later, when I started building this blog post, I decided to construct it along the same lines as the welcome brochure they handed to us at the entrance. I was sure we saw and photographed all the animals. Seems we missed a few. To make the presentation complete, I cheated and downloaded some stock photos from Lion Country Safari website, and a couple from Wikipedia.

So here is the record of our safari. The park is divided into seven separate preserves and our safari began with:
South America expression for "grassland"

ALDABRA TORTOIS: Shell 5 ft long; weighs 500 pounds; lives 100 years

RHEA: 4 ft tall; weighs 50 pounds

BROWN PELICAN: Only species that dives into the water to catch their prey

SOUTH AMERICAN TAPIR: Weighs up to 650 pounds

LLAMA: Lives 25 years; raised for wool, meat, milk. Used as a beast of burden

Moving along we enter:
an unspoiled African wilderness

GREATER KUDU: weight up to 690 pounds; horns curl around 2.5 times and average 4 ft long

OSTRICH: World's largest bird; up to 8 feet tall

IMPALA: Weighs up to 145 pounds

Next we venture into:
named for a well-known national park in Gujarat, India

NILGAI: largest Asian antelope

BLACKBUCK: smallest member of antelope family at 3 feet tall

ASIATIC WATER BUFFALO: Up to 1.5 tons; lives 25 years; widely domesticated; few wild specimes remain

KULAN: Weighs 450 pounds; 4 feet tall; runs up to 45 mph despite short legs

Now we are approaching where the stars of the show live:
A famous African wildlife area in northern Mozambique

This compound is securely enclosed and heavily guarded – for our protection?, theirs?, maybe both?

We were told there are two prides. Each has it's time "on stage."

AFRICAN LION: males up to 500 pounds; live in family groups called "Prides"

His Majesty wasn't in the mood to provide a show today and frankly this part of the safari was downright boring. So I went to the website and pulled down some photos from better days. I know you want to see lions and I don't want to disappoint.

I understand completely the urge to get out and pet those big kitty cats, but we must move on while we still have all arms and legs in their proper location:

named for the most famous east African wildlife areas

WILDEBEEST: huge herds migrate biannually to find food and water; calves can run with mother shortly after birth

WATERBUCK: identified by target-like pattern on rump; elude predators by submerging in water up to their nostrils

ELAND: largest African antelope; weigh up to one ton; excellent jumpers despite their size

WATUSI: horns may span 10 feet

The literature claims that Lion Country Safari has Watusis. We didn't see any and thus no pictures. I took the above picture from the web and posted it so that we could see what we missed. I would have loved to see horns that spanned ten feet. Maybe next time and I'll sure keep my eyes open to see a Watusi anywhere else.

GEMSBOK: can last long time without water

More stock photos. We didn't see any Gemsbok.

From east Africa to Zimbawbe, we continue:
Largest game reserve in western Zimbawbe; located between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls

GIRAFFE: Tallest land mammal; height up to 17 feet; long prehensile tongue can extend 15 inches

Scarcity in some species is made up for with giraffes. Plenty of giraffes.

NYALA: weighs up to 300 pounds; non-territorial

GREATER KUDU: weight up to 690 pounds; horns curl around 2.5 times and average 4 ft long

WHITE-HANDED GIBBON: only primates which, like humans, move upright on two legs while running or walking

SOUTHERN WHITE RHINOCEREROS: weighs up to 2.5 tons; live up to 40 years
poor eyesight but excellent smell and hearing

GRANT'S ZEBRA: stripes unique to each animal; more stamina than race horse

CHIMPANZEE: primate mostly closely related to humans; share 97% of DNA

On to southwest Africa:
Dry plateau in southwest Africa approximately 100,000 square miles

NILE LECHWE: weighs up to 225 pounds; inhabits wetlands and flood plains; feeds in water up to shoulder height

OSTRICH: World's largest bird; up to 8 feet tall

SCIMITAR-HORNED ORYX: Lion Country Safari involved with study examining and quantifying
genetic diversity in large captive herds to help with conservation breeding

All of us big game hunters were worn out by the strenuous day out on the savannah, but we still had to rush to get ready for our special dinner at the Texas Roadhouse

Hey! That was "rush to get ready"

On the way to dinner, we stopped at Lowe's so I could pick up the bolts to repair my door lock. Thank goodness they were standard #10-32, 3/4 inch bolts. I am always amazed at how much non-standard stuff the RV industry manages to put in their products and happily surprised when something standard is the answer.

Texas Roadhouse was expecting a hungry group and had set aside the back of the restaurant for us. The food was great and so was the company.

Back at the campground, I was able to repair my door and still have time to socialize before dark. 'Home before dark' is one of the requirements of being a senior citizen.

At this evening's social, I learned that one of our group is a writer of children's stories. We enjoyed some shop talk and maybe I convinced her to try our TGO writer's group, 'Just Write', next fall when we are all back from our summer adventures.

Sunday, 09 Apr 2017

This morning we were back at it – a little slower that yesterday. After fortifying ourselves with our morning coffee, we headed out for our second day at Lion Country Safari. We went through a bit faster today, but animals had moved so there were different photography opportunities.

We spent more time in the 'walking' part of the park, where we could see smaller animals and birds up close.

Monkeys, but not up close ...

We saw some beautiful birds ...

... aah we saw some REALLY beautiful birds ...

... and all manner of creatures great and small

We sat in on one of their presentation at the amphitheater.

Early dinner or late lunch? Not sure which, but we had a mid-afternoon meal at the Wild West Diner. These folks gave us a private room and a delicious meal (ordered from the menu).

After this fine meal, we hurried back to the campground for an important meeting to discuss ...

... where are we going to eat next?

Like all important meetings, snacks were served.


Monday, 10 Apr 2017

No excitement or pictures today. Time to pack up and head home. We relearned our close–up routine. The checklist served us well. We stopped at the Wild West Diner for breakfast, then had an uneventful 158-mile ride home.

Getting the Cougar back in it's den was a minor adventure (down from major). Not so much getting it in, I've got that figured out, but rather getting it exactly positioned so that we can open the door and the slides. I need more practice at that – maybe I'll do that next November.

All ended well. It was a good weekend that got me itching for the summer to come.