Summer Trip 2015 I've never been in Cognito, but Ive heard no one recognizes you there. Tues, Apr. 22 Tues, May 5, 2015
W g ?If youre a seasoned reader of our summer trip newsletters, welcome back. If youve received this newsletter for the first time, welcome also! Our goal in creating this project is to encourage others to live their travel dream; to take that daring step and achieve that travel trip of a lifetime. It may be a simple exploratory day-long excursion to some location youve always wanted to visit. Or it may be a month-long, or even season-long, trip to some far-off location across this continent or the other side of the world. Weve been blessed to travel far beyond our expectations, partially due to the lessons and examples of others. In turn, weve dared to go beyond our comfort zone to places we thought wed never be able to experience. We even enjoy watching travel DVDs to locales well probably never explore. And thats fine too. Maybe you, like us, are happy to see places through the eyes of others; to experience those far-off locations that are fun to visit beyond the pages of a travel magazine but not high enough on our bucket list to be worth our hard-earned coinage for an airline ticket purchase. And thats fine too. We expect that someday well visit travel spots via the photographs and videos of others.No matter where you may reside in that continuum, we hope this series of travel newsletters are worth your reading time. If not, send us an email response and request we take you off our e-mailing list. If you choose to read only portions of a newsletter, thats fine too. (We really have no way to even know you hit the delete button as soon as this newsletter landed in your bin!) If you have questions, comments, suggestions, ideas on places we can visit along our intended route hey, let us know! Our readers often give us some of the greatest ideas that enliven our trip beyond measure. In addition to travel locations and tips we also review eateries and surprise travel venues that we feel are worth special mention either positively or otherwise, so watch for these tidbits also!So are you ready to get on board and start this summer-long trip? OK, lets hit the road Jack and Jill !
Wed, Apr 22 The first day of any trip can be a surprise. You find out youve forgotten something you really, really needbut maybe not enough to drive back home that far. We stopped for lunch at the local Steak N Shake for nourishment and to give us time to think of anything else we needed from home. A quick trip to Aldis (supermarket) provided us with the few essentials we needed for meals this week. So we left Ocala prepared for the Florida Aliner Owners Club Spring Rally to be followed by six months of calm adventure (if calm adventure is possible). The drive to Tomoka State Park near Ormond Beach, FL was pleasant and setting up camp was simple. We met many friends who had arrived early (like ourselves) and spent time walking around and renewing friendships.
Thurs, Apr 23 Our tradition for the past three years has been to sponsor a pancake breakfast for other early arrivers who camp a few days before the start of the official rally. Chris made the pancakes, Sally was the hostess, and about 20 camping friends enjoyed food & fellowship. After walking around various campsites and greeting new arrivals, I treated Sally to her favorite seafood lunch: fired oyster & bacon sandwich at Corky Bells Seafood Restaurant in East Palatka, FL, a 1.4-hour drive from our campsite. Following lunch we visited a thrift store and enjoyed a leisurely drive back to our camp. This region has many backroad scenic drives that are simply stunning.Fri, Apr 24 Breakfast was light: a few leftover pancakes. Today was the official first day of the rally, primarily spent with registration and greeting new members. The Florida Aliner Owners Club is growing tremendously. We had over 60 trailers & 110 persons registered. Such growth has both pluses and minuses. One benefit is that our group continues to enjoy fantastic &
diverse people who bring with them many cultures and talents. We made many new friends. The only negative is that our increasing population is making it much more difficult to find state parks and restaurants that had accommodate our group size.With sites filling slowly we chose to drive to three historic locations just north of the State Park with our friends Roger & Peggy Macie following in their car. (We both have VW diesel station wagons that are so packed for camping that it requires we each remove our backseats for storage!) Our first stop just north of the park was the ruins of the Dummett Sugar Mill. Belonging to a historic preservation society, the ruins are encircled with a tall chain-link fence that doesnt hide the view of this slowly decaying edifice that once housed a sugar mill used to process syrup from crushed cane stalks into liquid sugar syrup that later became granulated white sugar and, often, molasses and/or rum. Our next stop was Bulow Creek State Park (no fee) that contains Fairchild Oak, a huge multi-hundred-year-old oak tree with
beautiful walking trails through the woods and wetlands. This site easily consumed -1 hour of easy walking. Famished from our senior-citizen hike we drove about a mile to Guiseppes Pizzeria near I-95 where we enjoyed a tasty thin-crust pizza. The Macies chose to head back to camp while we continued on and explored Bulow Plantation State Park ($4 per car fee). The entrance road was unique in that it was a single-lane dirt road for more than a mile. It was intentionally left this way as this is what the original road probably looked like that ran from the river inland to the nearest country road. The plantation was built around 1820 and was operated with slave labor until about 1935 when local indians overran the region during the Second Seminole War. President Andrew Jackson had ordered all indians be relocated (displaced) to western lands despite the previous unfulfilled promises theyd be given in the past. The indians knew these promises would be broken again, so the Seminole Wars were a reaction to this forced movement away from their ancestral homeland. The plantation has several ruins that give good evidence to the sugar mill operation that once existed here and the great wealth that was derived from this endeavor.In this area visiting? Its worth a few hours time to visit these three historic locations.Our trip back to camp was via a roundabout route so we could survey a potential course to the restaurant where the Saturday night diner would be located. What we found was a designated Florida Scenic byway that was stunning to the eyes waterways, estuaries, palm tree hammocks, and a treed canopy over 90% of our route. We drove this route two more times over the weekend just to enjoy its beauty. An evening meet n greet ended our first day of the rally that included entertainment in the form of jokes and stories by Paul our volunteer campground host from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (at right).
1: The long road leading to the Bulow Plantation looks like it did 180 years ago. 2&3: Ruins of the sugar mill at Bulow Plantation give a glimpse into the surprising size of this operation that employed almost 200 slaves. The process of harvesting cane, crushing it, and boiling the juice into granulated sugar occurred at a precise time of year and required round-the-clock work to make the best sugar. 4: This drawing shows the sugar mills great size prior to its burning by the indians during the Seminole War. 5: Sally stands atop a tree root near the sugar mill ruins.
Sat, Apr 25 Our morning started with a continental breakfast in the visitors hall, followed by a necessary 1.5-hour general meeting for new and seasoned club members that was well-run by our new, regional Co-Directors, Don & Sharon Gregg (at right). After a group photo and restroom break Chris did a one-hour technical presentation on Trailer Tires, which was very well received by the 40-50 attendees. The afternoon found some folks playing yard games at the visitor meeting room while others visited fellow campers. The drive to our supper spot was about 30 minutes in length so many folks carpooled using the map Chris had prepared and produced on our color printer (carried in our camper). Everyone remarked how beautiful the route was along the Scenic drive. Supper was f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c ! And we would definitely recommend Martins Restaurant in Flagler Beach, FL as a must-eat location. Our group had the second-floor banquet room to ourselves with a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. The view was second only to the super-delicious food that was nicely priced. Roger had a medium-sized prime rib that was about 2 thick and reached from one end of the plate to the other. Sally & I split a fried seafood platter ($15.95 plus $3.50 sharing charge) that included fish filet, scallops, shrimp, oysters, clam strips, deviled crab cake, hushpuppies, rolls, and a choice of two sides plus the sharing charge included two extra side dishes. We had sooooooo much food we took half our meal back to camp and got a big meal for two out of that also. Our day ended with a campfire including more humor from the volunteer camp host, Paul.
Sun, Apr 26 Our rally tradition continues with a praise & worship session led by retired minister, and former club co-director, Richard Purchase and his wife, Betty. This worship experience has always been a high-point of our camping weekends and so many of us (campers) have asked that it continue even after Rich and Betty retired from the clubs leadership position. Attendance at this event eclipsed previous services by a wide margin, further emphasizing the attitude of our club members toward their thanks for all we see firsthand in Gods handiwork. (See photo on last page of this issue.)Following worship we said goodbye to many of our friends who were packing up and venturing on to another campground or heading back home. Sally reheated our seafood leftovers and we enjoyed a mini-banquet. From there we went to a couples campsite to do repairs due to the loss of lost major plumbing parts from under their trailer. Close scrutiny found that the glue joints on several major plumbing components were not properly assembled resulting in weak glue joints that finally shook loose. Chris spent two hours under their trailer emptying gray & black holding tanks (campers will know what THAT means), sawing pipe, fitting joints, and finally gluing the new parts in place resulting in a repair that was MUCH better than the factorys! Bob & Joyce were very pleased that their camping trailer was now repaired and ready for the trip back home. We have many friends like Bob & Joyce Justice who have become close friends through interaction in our camping club. In fact, Sally and I both agree that the best part of camping is all the great folks you meet no matter where youre camping. (Under-trailer plumbing was lost; Chris repaired it.)
Mon, Apr 27 Today was another special day Chris 68th birthday! We had forgotten to get a burn permit from the ranger station so we couldnt put candles on his birthday cake. (Folks thats a joke. OK?) The club had already sung to him on Saturday morning at the general session meeting, but Sally wanted to treat him to a special lunch. We again traveled back to Martins Restaurant in Flagler Beach along with Roger & Peggy Macie. We split a small prime rib and four side dishes (see Sat, Apr 25 for details) and still had half a prime rib to take home for a future lunch. Ashley, our waitress,
was super-nice and brought Chris a decorated cupcake with a lit candle. Everyone around us joined in singing Happy Birthday to Chris. Our return trip found us: walking the beach at Gamble Rogers State Park (see photo at left), then stopping at a thrift store and other locations to do some retail store sightseeing. The evening ended with some discussions with fellow campers back at Tomoka State Park. We went to sleep enjoying the pitter-patter of raindrops on our camper roof. Wow, what a way to start a good nights sleep. (Chris celebrates 68th birthday, above right)
A Dont Miss Eatery: Martins Restaurant, 2000 So. Ocean Blvd. (A1A), Flagler Beach, FL 306-439-5830 Great seafood & prime rib
Tues, Apr 28 Today was a driving day, leaving Tomoka St Pk (Ormond Beach, FL), stopping at a local church thrift store and getting some small bargains. As we left we encountered (expected) rain that stayed with us off & on the entire day. It really wasnt a hassle. Had a nice lunch in Jacksonville, FL at Beach Road Fried Chicken, which was recommended by E.L. & Dawn (fellow Aliner owners). You order your meat and the side dishes are served family style with free refills. Food was very good; we split the meat order though we incurred a share meal expense. The mashed potatoes & gravy were unusually good; we both loved em. Our campground for the night is Camp Lake Jasper (Hardeeville, SC), a bit more upscale than our usual sites it has a pool (too cool to use), lake, and canoes & kayaks. Many friendly campers with almost all of them being big-rigs. Only two showers per gender but, again, most campers had their own bath units inside their rigs. This is a nice location for an overnight stay, maybe even longer. (above: Our campsite at Camp Lake Jasper)
Wed, Apr 29 We try to limit the length of driving days to less than 250 miles. Leaving Camp Lake Jasper we took I-95 toward Myrtle Beach, SC, the site of the Multi-Regional Beach Rally. This annual event finds Aliner owners from various regions joining together for the usual fun and fellowship. Our first two days will be spent at Myrtle Beach State Park, as the rates are about half of the rally campground. Driving was decent despite occasional rain that always finds drivers meeting each other by accident usually due to tailgating. This is especially dangerous for those of us pulling trailers as we have slower stopping rates with longer stopping distances and the potential of finding our trailer swinging around past us on the wet pavement. Lunch at a Ryans buffet in Charleston, SC was decent and a good place from which to enjoy watching the pounding rain while dining. The only funny or unusual sight today was a very expensive 5th-wheel trailer with triple axles (most have only two). Mounted on the rear of this traveling house was a full-size motorcycle and a pair of bicycles. The 5th-wheel trailer was being pulled by a semi-tractor trailer cab. Not an ordinary truck but a model with a lower chassis and a four-door, six-passenger model with an extended frame. Between the cab and the 5th-wheel trailer was a Smart car mounted sideways. The truck, Smart car, and 5th-wheel were all color-coordinated with the same paint scheme. We couldnt get a photo as this rig was passing us and driving quicker than ourselves, but we both agreed the owner(s) must use ramps to get the Smart car off the trucks bed. Check-in and set-up at Myrtle Beach St. Pk. was quick and the only disappointment was finding that the restroom directly across from our campsite was not open for business it was being remodeled during our stay (2 nights).
Thurs, Apr 30 We have been surprising ourselves as to our late-rising this vacation; we both seem to be sleeping in longer than usual. Probably because we both find camping to be a more restful experience than our time at home. The lack of housekeeping chores is certainly a contributing factor. We spent our day driving around, seeing sights, visiting a thrift store, eating lunch at a pizza place, and visiting the North Myrtle Beach Sports Complex. Our granddaughters, Symphony and Journey, will be competing in a lacrosse tournament here in July. They have camping reservations and were wondering if we cold find less expensive accommodations than their $71 per night. Our rate at our upscale campground this week end is $55 a night, so we inquired there. The summer rate is $75 a night, which we found to be typical of the summer season, so we recommended Cindi keep her current spot reserved. We walked around several stores (not our usual habit) in order to kill time before our evening venue.Tonight we enjoyed One The Show, a live entertainment event in the Alabama Theater in North Myrtle Beach. The evening featured about two hours of variety entertainment: comedy, dancing, singing, music, ventriloquism, etc. Weve been here before and really enjoyed the shows. Its was Sallys special night so I got us seats in the middle in the sixth row. Wow!
Fri, May 1 After a refreshing shower we took our daily walk, this time around the campground. Chris had a leisurely conversation at our site with a gentleman from Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. He remembered our camper from a previous time at this same campground. Leaving Myrtle Beach State Park we drove about a half-hour north to the Myrtle Beach Travel Park, the site of the Aliner Owners Club Multi-Regional Beach Rally. (Wow, my mouth is already tired from just reading the title!) We enjoyed a potluck supper with p-l-e-n-t-y to eat. After about an hour most of us retired to our trailers as the wind was getting quite cool. Tomorrow we are expecting temps in the mid-70s. Yahoo!
Sat, May 2 The second day of a rally is always the big day with much fellowship, presentations, trailer viewing, dinners (either potluck, catered, or at a restaurant). The Beach Rally was certainly no exception. Breakfast was provided in our rally fee in an area composed of several campsites where no trailer were parked. This afforded attendees a location for their camping chairs and such.
As always, folks were chatting, mingling, and sharing camping stories and experiences. Life-long friendships are often born at rallies as we find new friends that are similar in their lifestyle and personalities.Following breakfast folks were invited to tour the camping trailers of others who volunteered to explain their unique intricacies of their rig. This practice also serves to enlighten campers to mods (modifications) they can perform on their trailers if so desired. A nice technique at this rally was to have folks start at one end of our Aliner trailer cluster and walk down rows rather than go in all directions. This procedure allowed those who were showing their trailers to also travel to see others. When the entourage came to your area of the campsites you cold then stop and explain about your rig. No procedure ever works 100%, as folks get caught up in a previous camper and get to you a bit later than the rest of the crowd, but it did allow the presenters a better opportunity to see their colleagues traveling home rather than having to remain fixed to their rig giving tours of its interior & exterior appointments.Following the Trailer Tour folks interested in cooking enjoyed a hands-on workshop by Lynn Thye on how to make various recipes using a compact rice cooker. We made six dishes including a chocolate yogurt brownie; sweet n sour rice & chicken; Southwest chicken, rice & black beans; bread pudding; macaroni & cheese (probably the best Ive ever eaten); and cornbread. No dish took over 20 minutes and some as short as 5-8 minutes, with some recipes serving three persons. After lunch Chris did a one-hour presentation on trailer tires, the same as at the Florida rally. Attendees paid very close attention and participated with good responses and questions. After a group photo was taken we adjourned to Chesapeakes Seafood Restaurant for a large-group supper. The food and service was excellent. Back at camp we acknowledged the hard work of AnnaMay Douthitt, the coordinator of the Beach Rally, without whose dedication this annual event could not be so successful. The door prizes were drawn followed by gas-lit campfires (not open fires are allowed). We adjourned to the showers prior to bedtime and then plopped in somewhat exhausted. These rallies are very exciting, action-packed and can wear you out with fun, fellowship and food. (above: Paul G. (left) demos cooking with leadership from Lynn Thye (far right).
Sun, May 3 Cant leave a rally without getting stuffed again breakfast was terrific as always no need for lunch today. We are staying an extra night so we said our goodbyes this morning to so many friends, both old & new. And our good friends Beth and Willi Ehland gave us a gift of a very nice and personalized camping hatchet. Beth put her personal beautification on the handle and really made it something special to us. Following breakfast we had enough time to travel south to St. Phillip Lutheran Church and join their 10am worship service. We enjoyed their fellowship in both worship and a social time afterward. Arriving back at the campground we took our daily exercise walk that included a lap around the campsites near the beach. Chris took a short nap while Sally read and visited friends at neighboring campsites.We planned this extra day at the rally so we could schedule a special visit with one of Chris cousins: Peter P.J. Armenia. (Chris grandfather and Peters grandmother were siblings who sailed to the USA from Sicily, Italy, having come over from the old country about 110 years ago.) Both Pete and his wife Carol are excellent cooks and they demonstrated their culinary prowess with appetizers, salmon fillets on a cedar plank, pork roast wrapping around stuffing, mashed potatoes, and stuffed mushrooms. Desert was homemade amaretto cheesecake with chocolate glazed and pears, served with coffee and homemade lemoncello (a lemon-flavored liqueur Pete makes himself from an old recipe written in Italian). Their close friends Carol and Rick joined us for a hearty evening of fun, laughter and memories. We return to our trailer full, exhausted, and smiling. God truly blesses us each day! (above right: Cousin Carol Armenia demonstrates her excellent cooking skills with this homemade cheesecake topped with chocolate ganache, pears and strawberries. It tastes as good as it looks!)
Mon, May 4 We spent much of the morning in conversation with those campers who stayed an extra night (last night) and were packing up to leave. Chris helped several folks with their trailers prior to us folding down our Aliner. We finally broke camp about 12:15 after enjoying 5 days in Myrtle Beach, SC. The Beach Rally was fantastic and was definitely enhanced by our visit with Chris cousin Pete Armenia and his wife Carol. They invited us over for supper last night and we were still stuffed today. We drove from Myrtle Beach, SC to Charlotte, NC. It was about a 5-hour drive with little congestion. We phoned our next campground, McDowell Nature Preserve outside Charlotte to confirm their closing time. It turned out wed arrive after the office was closed but the gate would still be open. As we got closer to the park the roads became more populated. Set-up was quick so supper was ready in about
15 minutes and consisted of excellent leftovers from the weekends restaurant meals. Following supper we hiked on the Chestnut Trail in the Nature Preserve and, even though we had hiked it 3 years ago, we hadnt remembered how long it really was.
Tues, May 5 We purchased a discount Groupon ticket-for-two to the Carolina Air Museum in Charlotte. Using Groupon generally results in discounted prices for tickets or items at a typical rate of 50% off. This is the first time weve purchased a Groupon for a venue on one of our summer trips. Today we planned to try such a cost-saver while on the road.Do as I say, not as I do. The best laid plans of mice and men Funny how lifes phrases and truisms pop into your mind when this go awry. Our plan for our two tourist days in Charlotte coordinated the days-of-operation of the two venues we most wanted to visit: The Carolina Air Museum and the two Mint Museums of art, each at a different location in town. The drive to the air museum was surprising short from our campground, only about a half-hour. When we arrived we were surprised to see a Closed today for special event sign posted. Circumventing the sign in the driveway we knocked on the door to see if someone was home. No response. Well we had a back-up plan. We drove into downtown Charlotte to tour the Mint Museum, planning to visit the second location in the afternoon as time permitted. Charlotte is one of the banking hubs of our nation, so downtown is loaded with people everywhere. And finding reasonably-priced parking is a challenge. Whahlah! A coin-operated, 2-hour-limit, metered spot awaited us only three blocks from the Mint. Bling, bling we dropped coinage into the slot. Whoosh we were at the Mint is less than five minutes only to discover the Mint is closed Mondays AND Tuesday. WAIT! Thats not what the 2015 edition of the AAA Travel Guide says ! ! No wonder Sallys phone call to the Mint was unanswered!Weve said this many times before in previous newsletters: call before to confirm days & times of operation. Now #1 day of our Two-Only days was lost, so what to do now. Sally, the expert in our travel team suggested visiting the Levine Museum of Charlotte History, which doesnt open until 1pm and its just about noon. That gave us almost an hour to um re-coordinateandexperience. Remember, were the THRIFTY travelers; we have almost $2 tied up in the parking meter! We actually enjoyed walking up & down the main business street looking at folks bustling from work to lunch, eating in street-side cafes, or from food carts along the sidewalks. Six blocks up and back ate up almost the entire hour and coordinated with our arrival at the history museum that was just six more blocks past our parking meter. The parking ramp next to the museum was pricey at $2 per quarter-hour (gulp) but provided close proximity with 2 hours of complementary parking with a validated coupon from the museum. We enjoyed touring the Levine Museum of the New South, which specializes on the history, growth and human dynamics of the New South, the southeast portion of our nation after the Civil War. A good portion of the exhibits focused, understandably, on the desegregation of the South from the end of the Civl War to the present, with highlights placed on the tumultuous years in the 1950s through 1970s, and even into recent times. We had expected to use our two hour free-parking limit then leave. The front desk receptionist explained how to renew our free parking limit a second time so we spent another 1-plus hours exploring more of this venue.Our final planned activity for the day was supper at Sonnys Barbeque restaurant with Sallys cousin, Peggy Muckler, and her friend, Paul. Whenever were in the Charlotte area we always enjoy visiting with Peggy and recounting her and Sallys youth living in western New York state. Though only about 20 miles apart, Sally in Buffalos suburb of Cheektowaga and Peggy in the rural town of East Aurora, the distance made it fell like a huge trek via the old cars of the day especially when trying to climb the snow laden slippery road leading up the hill to Peggys rural family home. We were so engrossed in conversation about kids, grandkids, jobs, etc. that I (Chris) forgot to get photos with my iPhone. (Sorry, Peg.) And we especially enjoyed talking with Paul who is often unavailable during our visits. An hour and a half later we finally decided Sonnys needed our table so we said our goodbyes and traveled back to camp for the evening. Hmmm. Will the Air Museum be open Wednesday? Stay tuned for our next episode!(Right: Betty and Richard Purchase lead worship service in Tomoka State Park for Aliner Rally campers. Photo misses the large number of members attending this much- anticipated worship service.)
See our planned route on the next page!
Below is our expected route this summer. Were sure weve vary from it at one or more points along the trip. If you know of any especially interesting locations to visit along this proposed route let us know. If theres something worth photographing for our readers to view, tell us! Likewise, if you have comments, send them to us via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org We love to hear from our readers!
The map below shows where were planning to go (solid lavender line),and where weve been (yellow dots on the lavender line).
We left Ocala, Florida on Wednesday, April 22nd. Follow the yellow dot / lavender line to the east toward the Atlantic Ocean. After a rally in Ormond Beach, FL, we traveled north to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, then northwest to Charlotte, North Carolina. From there we drove to Marietta, Georgia, which is north of Atlanta.
Join us in Issue #2 as we travel to Nashville, Tennessee and then follow us along the Natchez Trace! Ready? Hop aboard!