Saturday, October 31, 2020

Happy Halloween: Make No Bones About It

Skeleton on I.V. Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

With mask humor in woefully short supply, my walking buddy Deb Blakewood and I did a double-take the first time we saw these craftily posed skeletons.

Skeleton family: Ma, Paw and the dogs,  Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

In Vancouver's Hazel Dell neighborhood, right before the trail to the Burnt Bridge Creek greenway trail, there they were.

The kitty wanted equal time. Skeletons of Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

Every week, there was something a little different.

Skeleton warning sign: Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

We met their clever poser, homeowner Danielle. 

Eileen, the missing arm skeleton of Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

She 'fessed to setting them up in clever poses,

Bad dog, Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

All the "human" skeletons were dutifully masked.

It wasn't a reindeer that ran over Grandma.
Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

Deb and were the skeleton paparazzi, getting out shots in every time.

Bird with no feathers,  Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

Often Deb's shots were better than mine.

A-- in the grass. Skeleton near Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

Deb generously shared her best so some of these are hers, but I don't remember which are hers and which are mine.

A man and his dog, shakin' down the bones.Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

We took the part of the Burnt Creek Bridge greenway off Alki. Here's more about the trail if you're looking for an in-neighborhood gem to meander amidst the trees:

Snappy dresser but no skin and all bone.  Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

Deb and I figured we'd putt the best of the poses that we got good shots of together as a collection.

Goin' batty for the skeletons outside Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

Anyhow, Halloween seemed a fitting time to release the series.

Who says skeletons can't be cool?  Burnt Bridge Creek trail Vancouver WA.

I'm all the way across the country in Florida, this Halloween, but hope Danielle and Deb are keeping the spirit of Halloween happiness going back in the 'couve. Even though like most of the country, we're taking a bye this Halloween, these flashbacks bring a smile to my face.

Thanks, Danielle, and Deb!

Happy Halloween!!!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Ramblin' Day 27: Old Home Week


Navy Bee gunner at NAS JAX.

Jacksonville Florida still feels like home to us—a place where we made fast friends at friendly Ortega Landing Marina, where Wayne worked a couple contract jobs and I did my first two stints at West Marine. 

We caught up with marina friends we hung out and cruised with: Ron and Dee, Don (whose wife MaryAnn weathering hurricane Zeta in Mexico!), and Larry and Lena. I used to take morning walks with friends and got to enjoy a morning walk with Kate on this trip. 

We also stayed at Naval Air Station (NAS) JAX Mulberry Cove Marina and grocery shopped in the base commissary.

Mornings on the base kick off with revelry, evenings with taps, and the Star-Spangled Banner. There's a lot of "Sirs" and "Ma'ams" and while we're on the base, we never worry about locking anything.

Sandy, Bertie's dog still has a spring in her step. Dames Point Marina, Jacksonville Florida.

Another former morning walking buddy, Bertie, now at Dames Point Marina, with her dog Sandy, who sometimes joined us on our walks. I paid Bertie a visit at Dames. Sandy came out to play, but didn't join us for walkies.

Dames Point Marina's former bar. Jacksonville Florida.

Dames Point Marina isn't quite a going concern anymore, but Bertie's still welcome there. It's an intriguing historical and industrial area, close to another base, Mayport.

Chamblin Bookmine, Jacksonville Florida.

Chamblin Bookmine, Jacksonville's crazy warren of a bookstore, nearby both Ortega Landing and the base, is the same as it ever was. However, none of the books on my list were there so I managed to escape with as full a pocketbook as what I entered with.  Still, I'd rather purchase from an independent bookstore, so I was sorry my writer's reference wish-list books were not there.

We were also in the area to check out a boat in nearby Ortega River Marina. It's a "project boat," and we'd like to look at more than one before we decide that's what we want. 

NAS JAX Mulberry Cove Marina docks.

We dropped by NAS JAX Mulberry Cove Marina because if we purchased a boat in the area, that might be where we'd stay before we and the boat we buy are ready to cruise. We saw lots of vacant slips, so we figured that would be a good possibility. 

Nope, we were told, as the gal at the marina flipped through her page-and-a-half waiting list.

NAS JAX Mulberry Cove Marina mooring balls.

What about the mooring balls? We asked, as most of those were also empty. Nope, we were again told. Given the other marinas in the area are also full, that makes ending up in JAX as live-aboards while we ready for cruising a bit less likely.

Sailboat in the Green Cove Springs Marina workyard.

We pressed on to Green Cove Springs Marina, where we dry-docked and worked on our former sailboat. They're under new management, a definite improvement. Fresh paint in the office and the yard was much cleaner. Even the former smoking area outside the office was cleared out—no ashtrays or smoke in evidence.

A closer look at that sailboat getting spiffed up in Green Cove Springs. 

Alas, there were few boats for sale, no sailboats that were the size we were looking for.

Coat of arms outside a boat in the Green Cove Springs Marina workyard.

The yard hasn't lost its quirkiness, as evidenced by the plate armor standing outside one of the boats in the yard. Someone dug it out of the trash and a neighbor said maybe it would get used instead of a mermaid for the boat's figurehead.

Bertie Weaver at Dames Point Marina leaves her mark.

Meanwhile, we've just begun looking for our next cruising boat. 

So, Bertie, we're with you. We too hope our ship comes in before the dock rots. We believe it will (come in before the dock rots).

Location Location

How I know I''m back in my Sothern home: Spanish moss.
I love the way 
the light catches in moss before dipping below the flat horizon.

We are currently in Ft. Pierce, Florida, as of this eve. Tomorrow we get our  COVID tests and await the results before we get to socialize here in the commons areas—RV park rules.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Ramblin' Day 22: Florida! When in the South . . .


Souce from Greer's Market in Beaumont Mississippi. What is it? Read on . . .

Last night Wayne satisfied his hankering for breakfast steaks for dinner with a run out to Greer's, the local market in Beaumont, Mississipi, a 15-minute drive from our camp at Lake Perry.

"They had this weird stuff you'd be interested in," Wayne told me, but couldn't remember what the said item was called. Wayne knows I'm culinary-curious, and that I grew up with my Dad making delicious soups which included organ meats. I'm far more curious than squeamish than your average bear when it comes to putting parts down my hatch.

Before we took off, Wayne's wifi ceased working at our campground. He needed some extra time to participate in the "war room" of his game and a more cooperative wifi connection, so we agreed to mosey over to Greer's parking lot for better wifi for him, while I sleuthed out the weird food Wayne spotted for me. I figured out it was souse, a new item for me. However, I didn't want to pay $4.52 for a melange of pig snout, hearts, and other sundry hog bits with 20% fat. Besides, when I used my phone to Google recipes using souse, Google insisted I must've meant tomato sauce.

Later I found out it's also a form of head cheese, generally served like you would any other cold-cut—in sandwiches or crackers with cheese. Pass.

Yoohoo: Harlan Coben's favorite character Myron Bolitar's favorite drink.

While we're road-tripping, we're more thirsty than hungry, so I scouted Greer's drinks, too. I've read several Harlan Coben novels which frequently feature Youhoo, so when I saw how cheap it was, I bought a sixer. If you want to know more about Yoohoo, Harlan offers a link on his author's FAQ page. If tldr: it's really bad for you chocolate milk, loaded with corn syrup and 35 mg of sugar/serving. I usually keep my sugar doses to 14 mg or less.

Buc-ee's sign: even off I-10 in Southern Alabama, you can't miss it.

Gas Buddy prompted Wayne and me to reconnoiter at Buc-ee's in Southern Alabama for a fill-up, before crossing the border to Florida. Little did we know we were entering a hallowed Texas gas and convenience-store institution with followers as fervent as Disney. Instead of Mickey Mouse, Buc-ee's famed mascot is a beaver.

Buc-ee's Southern Alabama convenience store is 50,000 square feet!

Driving in was akin to entering a Costco parking lot, where cars weaving their way to one of 120 fuel pump stations feels a bit like an adult bumper car ride—alert, defensive driving required!

Fast food, packaged food, tchotchkes, libations: Buc-ee's has 'em, whether you need 'em or not.

"You've never been to a Buc-ee's?" gushed our pump station neighbor, incredulously. You've They're a Texas phenomenon. You gotta go inside; they've got the best jerky and even their restrooms are amazing!"

I told her I planned to use our RV's toilet because I know whose ass was last on our seat. I was masked; she wasn't.

The Buc-ee's truck, loaded with Buc-ee beavers in three sizes.

Mask wearing wasn't required by customers, but the most prominent Buc-ee beaver for sale in the store wore one, complete with a logo patch of his own image on it.

Pickled quail eggs, Buc-ee branded.

Inside, sound ricocheted off the tile floors while customers bustled about, eagerly buying whatever Buc-ee's was selling. I felt like I landed in Wall-e world.  I did cave and try their $5.99 pulled pork sandwich (okay) and some cold drinks for later.

I am no longer a Buc-ee's virgin. But next time, I'll get my gas and go.

This afternoon we crossed the Florida border. We're in a parking lot in Tallahassee. Tomorrow is old home week in Jacksonville Florida. We'll stay at the JAX Naval Air Station (NAS) until Friday when we head south to Fort  Pierce.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Rambin' Day 21: Mississippi Mudslide to Lake Perry


My low-clearance Prius once again demonstrates its lack of off-road prowess.

"Yahooo!" shouted one of our neighboring campers, rousing me from my slumber at 6 am. It was still dark. Their generator and the volume required to hear each other over it kept me from dropping back to sleep. Wayne, wearing earplugs, snoozed blissfully away for another two hours.

It poured overnight, making for muddy roads. Wayne sent me off in the Prius first. figuring he could play read guard rescue if needed. Despite the road being slicker than a greased pig, I only lost control for a few seconds, once in the five or so miles back to the paved road. Wayne said he was saying "Don't stop!" as following me, fighting to maintain control of "The Beast" too.

The official appearance of this sign on a formal building made me smile. Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Given how thirsty The Beast gets, we often use Gas Buddy to find the best price, that's not too out of our way. In Jackson, Mississippi, we bought gas at the cheapest price we've seen so far this trip: $1.63/gallon. 
Classic Hattiesburg architecture in its historic downtown area.

The last time when we drove cross-country from Portland to Florida in 2018, Hattiesburg architecture and vibrant spirit intrigued us. We made a point of stopping there again to stretch our legs in their historic downtown and enjoy the architecture.

National Bank of Commerce, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

The Vernon F. Dahmer quote outside their courthouse, If you don't vote, you don't count t seemed especially apropos, with the Presidential election a little over a week away. Vernon F. Dahmer was a martyr; he stood up to the Klu Klux Clan in defense of black voting rights. He and his wife were murdered for it, but his family made sure their killers were prosecuted.

Close up on the Bank. Note the build date, 1895, and the plants taking residence.

Hattiesburg also posted more signs urging mask-wearing than anyplace else we've driven through this trip. Mask-wearing was still hit-or-miss.

More cool concrete building detail. Hattiesburg Mississippi.

If I chose to live in a small town in South, Hattiesburg appeals. Housing prices are more reasonable than most, with a 1600 sq. foot 3-bedroom for less than $150K—36% less than the national average.

Detail on Hattiesburg Mississippi Post Office facade: airmail delivery.
I remember the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle exhibit on airborne mail carriers—
a dangerous job, back in the day. 

On the other hand, Hattiesburg rated a "D" in crime and an "F" in schools according to Area Vibes. More homework required if we ever choose a place to settle down!

Welcome sign, Lake Perry, Mississippi.

We mulled whether to burn a few more miles and treat ourselves to a meal in Mobile Alabama for the eve. However, we'd camp in a Walmart or Costco parking lot if we did. 

One of several Lake Perry docks. Mississippi's Pine Belt.

Instead, we opted for fewer miles and a $15 camping fee for Lake Perry, outside Beaumont Mississippi. We opted to skip the power use, for $7 more.

Not hard to tell who's being welcomed to Lake Perry—fishermen!

After the Little Sunflower River Recreation Area's smelly mud pit, Lake Perry offered a pleasant place to rest our heads.

The swampy area off Perry Lake Nature Trail. Near Beaufort Mississippi.

We wandered the docks and walked the nature trail.

Different shape to lily pads on Perry Lake, Mississippi.

Instead of the dank stench of swamp mud, we inhaled Perry Lake's pleasant piney scent. It's considered part of Mississippi's Pine Belt.

Wayne wasn't going to feed the 'gators. Perry Lake, Mississippi.

"Nah, I don't see any 'gators," scoffed Wayne when he saw the warning sign. 
"Just because you don't see them, doesn't mean they're not there," I countered.

Look closely! The dark streaks parallel to the gator look like another two swimming alongside.

Sure enough, later I pointed one out to Wayne. Initially, it looked like a log. "That is moving mighty fast for a log," Wayne observed. My zoom confirmed our suspicions—definitely, at least one 'gator swam by.

A good warm-up for when I return to Florida, where I kayaked with many a gator—and only once got scared. I still don't know if that was a 'gator or a manatee.

Tomorrow we'll end up somewhere in Florida; not sure where, yet.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Ramblin' Day 20: Toad Suck to Little Sunflower


Toad Suck Park, Arkansas.
Image credit 
Toad Suck | Scott5114 [CC BY-SA 2.5 (]

Okay, today's drive was really from Aux Arc Park Arkansas to Little Sunflower River Recreation area in Mississippi, but we did pass Toad Suck Park exit about 100 miles along. I wanted to stop, but it was closed.

You may be wondering how the heck anyplace got such an oddball name. Click here for the story.

Instead, we drove through long spaces between blink-and-you'll-miss-'em towns, with one of the largest a population of a little over 3,000. We drove through driving rain, thunder, lightning, and oppressive humidity. A thick towel is now resting on the dash of the passenger side dashboard to catch the liquid sunshine. Since this is our first rainstorm in the RV, we're not sure how much those leaks are due to the accident or were there before.

We settled at the edge of a swamp in the Delta National Forest between Rolling Fork, Vicksburg, and Yazoo City—Little Sunflower River Recreation area. The middle of nowhere but better AT&T hotspot access than I get in most towns.

Boat launch area at Little Sunflower River Recreation Area, Delta National Forest, Mississippi.

We called it a day, squatting on a spot far enough from the other campers to cause no offense. We walked down to the boat launch, taking in the muddy water and the dank scent of mud. The humidity and those first hungry mosquitos drove us back to our RV, pronto. We still got a few bites.

Tomorrow we're not sure how far we'll go yet. We'll probably stopover in Hattiesburg, Mississippi which we liked when we passed through it on our last cross-country trip, then just ourside Mobile Alabama for the night. Last time, Mobile surprised us with its New Orleans-style charm.

Seen on the back of a motorcycle in Oklahoma, where we stopped for gas and propane.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Ramblin' Day 18 & 19: Ozarks, Arkansas


Mulberry River launch area off Arkansas Pigtail Scenic Byway.

After confirming everything worked on "the beast"—aka our RV—after getting sideswiped, we made sure we got our ducks in a row for the insurance.

The barge on the Arkansas River across from our campsite at Aux Arc, Arkansas.

We expect that the bodywork our RV needs will prompt the insurance company of the woman who caused the accident to consider it totalled. It looks pretty bad. Meanwhile, we moseyed on down the road.

Ozark, Arkansas, view of the house atop the hill across from our campsite at Aux Arc, Arkansas.

Wayne tracked down a campsite at an Army Corps of Engineer site, at Aux Arc Park, across from the town of Ozark, Arkansas. With our America the Beautiful pass, it's only $10/night. Much better than the Walmart lot in Henrietta, where we tucked in to assess the damage to our RV and spend the night.

Former Coley Grocery store in Ozark, Arkansas.

We found out the name "Ozark" came from a simplification of the French naming "Aux Arc."

Former bookstore in Ozark, Arkansas.

We were curious to see the area because it looked so beautiful in the Netflix tv series Ozark. Technically, the series was set in Missouri; the Ozarks straddle Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

The bridge crossing the Arkansas River at Ozark Arkansas.

However, the series was shot in Georgia! 

Ozark, Arkansas is a small town, population 3,000-something, with some decent bones, but much of its sidewalks are rolled up for good.

Mulberry River Bridge from canoe and kayak takeout. Arkansas.

Our campsite at Aux Arc on the Arkansas River is picturesque, but the crown jewel of the area is the Pigtail Scenic Byway, named for because it's the popular route for University of Arkansas sports fans to take to see Razorback games.

Tree at Mulberry River kayak takeout area. Arkansas.

The 19-mile stretch of road curves its way through brilliant foliage in you're lucky enough drive it in the fall. With temps in the 70s and 80s. we picked a perfect day to enjoy the road.

Walking stick on Wayne's shoe. Pigtail Scenic Byway, Arkansas.

When we stopped to enjoy views and a hike, we came across quite a few waking stick (insects) and daddy longlegs spiders. They were we;; camouflaged, but we're grateful their scurring habits caught our eye so we didn't step on them by mistake.

Glory Hole trailhead off Highway 23, near Pigtail Scenic Byway, Arkansas.

We enjoyed a leisurely start and pace and picked a relatively short trail to allow plenty of time to enjoy the drive and return before dark. At less than 2 miles round-trip, the Glory Hole trail fit the bill.

Homestead across from Glory Hole trailhead off Highway 23, near Pigtail Scenic Byway, Arkansas.

Throughout the drive, we saw quite a few former homes and barns in state of decay, including one directly across from the Glory Hole trailhead. However, when we left, we saw someone delivering a bale of hay onto the property.

Rock clives, Glory Hole trail, Arkansas.

Glory Hole trail was a former road, so other than a lot of potential ankle-twisting rocks, it was pretty easy hiking.

Ledge overhang, home of the Glory Hole. Arkansas.

The trail's feature is a hole bored through an expansive rock, viewable from a hollowed-out cave-like ledge underneath. 

Glory Hole: a trickle in late October after a dry summer and fall. Arkansas.

We knew from reading reviews ahead of time that normally water basted through the hole, but not to expect much this fall.

Glory Hole: looking up from underneath. Arkansas.

Still, the hike was worth it even just to enjoy the fall foliage and inhale the rich scent of loam. Besides, if more water rushed through the hole, we would've missed out in the terrific view looking up through it from underneath.

Beautyberry, growing wild. Arkansas.

It's a popular trail, but we encountered less than a dozen hikers on a Thursday in fall. We needed a good day after getting sideswiped. We'd love to come back and explore this area again someday. If you can make the time, do!

Fall decor: Clarksville, Arkansas.

Tomorrow we resume our convey form of travel, me in my Prius, Wayne in the RV, heading across Arkansas. We may or may not roost in Mississippi by the time we call it a day.