This isn’t how we prefer to travel….

Our current spacious site

We already wrote about our “ideal travel day“. Since we recently traveled a few days that weren’t our ideal, we thought we would share about it.

Life on the road as a full time RVer is exciting, addicting, full of adventure, just a great way to live and be active everyday. Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? But life still goes on and then we got one of those dreaded phone calls….

On March 22, 2015, we were in our seventh Florida State Park, Little Talbot Island, Jacksonville. While we’ve visited here a few other times (and Bill lived in Jacksonville before marriage), we never camped on the island.  We imagined four action packed and full days, but the weather didn’t cooperate. So we slowed down and just enjoyed the beach with long walks, dressed warmly and dreamed about our next adventure.

That plan was to finally visit Wilmington, NC. It has many beaches there and we wonder if it might be THE place we would eventually settle in.  And then on that date, Debbie received that dreaded phone call, Cancer. Oh no, another loved one afflicted. We’ve both lost our dads to cancer.  What is it with this disease? We hated the phone call, and now we had a bit of a dilemma. When we left our daughter’s home in early January, we promised her we would return on April 1, which was just a week and a few days away. What could we do back home we wondered? We were praying, but what else could we do?

As the day to head north came, March 25, we still didn’t know where to stay in Wilmington, and now we see for a reason….We decided to head back down south. As it turned out, we actually were needed….please pray for our family as we begin another dreaded cancer journey.

After being with Debbie’s family for that week, it was time to head back to our daughter’s home.  She understandably knew we couldn’t keep the April 1 date, but she was anxious for our arrival (she always has repairs/remodeling things for her dad). And we were both compelled to get there as soon as possible because it had been a full three months since we had seen our only grandchild. And he is the reason we started our adventure travels, so we at least have to come see him every few months!

As former work-a-holics, we are really trying to take life slow and easy. And that means, our ideal travel day is around 250 miles and we like to keep it to around four to five hours driving time. While we prefer to stay any one place a week, we could only get in most of the Florida State Parks four days since we made last minute reservations.  It was also the month of “Spring Breaks” for every school district and college in Florida and within a state or two of Florida!

On March 31, we sadly headed back up north, and decided to break our “rules” of travel. We decided to travel as fast as we could and get there by April 2, just a day late. We guess us work-a-holics are also compulsive promise keepers.  So that meant, we would stay one night at two different campgrounds for the 870 plus miles and 14 hours of driving time. As members of Passport America, we could find inexpensive campgrounds near I-95. Little did we realize March 31, a Tuesday, was probably one of the biggest travel days in Florida as all the snowbirds are heading north.

Our first stop was 287 miles and it should have been about a five hour drive. With all the traffic, it was a six hour trip. We decided to try Walkabout Camp & RV Park, just seven miles north of the Georgia/Florida State line. We had actually tried to stay here one other time and I (Debbie) was glad they were fully booked due to a “rally” of some sort. It was unimpressive…at least that day. But  now it was really an ideal location and we ended up being very pleased. For me, Debbie, being able to actually walk about and get in a two mile walk is my ideal. Guess now we know where the name came from. It looked small and uninviting the first time we stopped in. It was actually a little bigger and it has some nature trails. So we couldn’t manage 2 miles, we got close. What also really helps any campground is that initial friendly and welcoming check in! And this park is managed by the owner who was happy to oblige! Click here for our review which includes pictures.

The next leg of our trip included a bit of a traffic nightmare. Bill likes to calculate our travel by using the 250 mile rule, which would be around Florence, SC. There was bridge repair work being done on I-95 north bound for about 45 days, which meant the already narrow two lane highway would merge into one lane near the bridge repairs. And this was a minimum of an hour delay, or the detour which was 30 miles and would add at least an hour to the trip.  Bill wanted to stop before the detour, but Debbie really wanted to press on.  But since Bill was the driver and Debbie likes to maintain a peaceful relationship :-}, she bit her tongue and tried to make the best of it.

We had stayed here once before, the Swamp Fox Campground, Florence, SC for one night, 1/7-8/2015. This was the day of the great polar vortex, or was it the second or third one. No matter how many, our pipes did freeze, but fortunately, no damage was done. We really didn’t spend any time there as we had traveled 353 miles (and over seven hours) from Fredericksburg.  But this time, we only drove a little over 250 miles in about four hours. That’s an ideal drive!  We arrived early enough to do laundry and Debbie managed to get in a 1.3 mile walk. To read about this campground, click here for our review, which also includes pictures.

As it turned out, on April 2, 2015, a Thursday, there was no traffic delay since there was no construction! It appears to us, the best travel day is on Thursdays and this date proved it. We had an aggressive drive, 342 miles and over five hours, BUT we made fantastic time! We arrived at 2:00 pm.

We were nervous about the campground, R & D Family Campground in Milford, VA, but our concerns were unfounded. Our campsite was level and we were hooked up and ready to go pick our grandson up from daycare in record time! We had a grand reunion with him and he even spent the night with us….he revived us after a long but smooth day of travel. Click here for our review of this campground.

Colin catching us up on the past three months!

 So even though this was not the ideal way to travel, the reward at the end of the push was well worth it! He gave us both a big smile, tight hug and kissed our cheeks!

Little Talbot Island State Park, 3/21-25/2015

Miles of beach Miles of beach

Our experiment is over, seven Florida State Parks in about a month’s time. And it was hugely successful, well, sort of. All but one were in the Florida Panhandle. Since we love the beach, we had to finish up at one close to the beaches of Florida. And this State Park has way more to offer than we can ever hope to enjoy.

We came mainly for the solitude and beach walks. It’s best to look at the official website for a little about this unique and very diverse State Park: “With more than five miles of beautiful, white sandy beaches, Little Talbot Island is one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier islands in Northeast Florida. Maritime forests, desert-like dunes and undisturbed salt marshes on the western side of the island allow for hours of nature study and relaxation. The diverse habitats in the park host a wealth of wildlife for viewing, including river otters, marsh rabbits, bobcats and a variety of native and migratory birds.”

Seagulls Seagulls

How I wish I was a birder because this is an excellent location for it:  “You can see buntings, and its hammocks are good for migratory songbirds in season. At trail’s end on the north point, loafing Black Skimmers and terns are common. Large numbers of Piping, Wilson’s and an occasional Snowy Plover feed in winter on 5 miles of pristine beach. Other beach birds include seven sandpiper species, four plover species, Red Knots, Dunlins, Marbled Godwits and occasionally Long-billed Curlews.” I tried to get some good photos, but it was too windy and overcast. But the seagulls were out in full force!

As well as for fishermen, more from the official website, in excepts: “With literally miles of beach, Little Talbot is a surf fishing paradise.” “Surrounding surf and tidal streams present excellent fishing for bluefish, striped bass, redfish, flounder, mullet and sheepshead.”  “Pick up a copy of the local edition of Fishing Connection at the Ranger Station to get the inside scoop on nearby angling.”

“The coastal salt marsh on the ‘back’ side of the island offers superb light tackle angling. From tailing redfish to bottom hugging flounder, ambushing trout to hard pulling black drum, you are sure to find something to ‘stretch your string.’ Bait fish like mud minnows and finger mullet may be caught using a cast net in the shallows. Shrimp, fiddler crabs and artificial lures are also popular options. For a real experience, try a guided fly fishing or flounder gigging trip.”

“Other popular park activities include hiking, kayaking, beach combing, surfing and picnicking….A campground is located along the eastern salt marshes of Myrtle Creek. Kayak rentals and guided paddle tours are available at Kayak Amelia, (904) 251-0016.” Another opportunity to try to kayak, but again, the weather didn’t cooperate.

As campers, we were welcomed “to visit all seven of the parks which collectively comprise Talbot Islands State Parks: Pumpkin Hill Creek Preserve State Park, Amelia Island State Park, Fort George Island Cultural State Park, Yellow Bluff Fort Historic State Park, Big Talbot Island State Park and George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier State Park.” Oh so much to do and see and so little time! This was our third visit here and we had no idea what all was available – not until we became registered campers did we learn all this.

The weather for this stay on the island was less than optimal. While our site was very private, it was narrow and began to feel like a “rain forest.” Because it rained on and off during our stay. BUT we didn’t let that ruin our fun, much. And that’s what we love about living in a recreational vehicle. We just can’t let the weather spoil things for us. 

Soon after we set up, we set out to explore the campground. While we walked 1.52 miles, it included a .8 mile nature loop. We learned so much about the area on this loop, as it is full of interpretive signs that provide information about the natural surroundings: live-oak hammock, rolling dunes, salt marsh, Myrtle Creek, open vista of the sea islands and shorebirds, red cedar, resurrection fern, rushes. Some people see Great Blue Herons, Ospreys, Opossums, bobcats, raccoons and fiddler crabs. It was so dreary, we think we were the only “animals” out there! Here are some pictures of our site and this fabulous little enchanted nature trail:

We had a lot of rain our first night. But it seemed to clear up enough for us to head to the beach. But looks like our beach chairs, umbrella and suits will stay at the camper.  (I wore jeans and a flannel shirt.)  Our first full day here, we took a walk to the north end of the island. It was a great 4.7 mile walk to the northern end of the island. We could see Amelia Island in the far off distance! A few pictures of this walk:

Our last long beach walk was at the southern end where we can now say we have walked the entire Atlantic Ocean side of Little Talbot Island. This was our third time to walk this beach, first time in January 2014, second time in January 2015 and now March 2015. Here is a slide show:

We’ve enjoyed great beach walks, enjoyed the campground and ended by eating at Safe Harbor Seafood Market, a fresh seafood market in Mayport, by the Naval Air Station. We don’t eat out much when we travel, we prefer our “kitchen” and Bill prefers his own cooking! But he doesn’t cook seafood much….so it was a real treat.

There is not much else to report other than we were hit with some challenging family news while here. We appreciate prayers for Debbie’s step dad and mom. We are thankful for their great faith and for family, friends and a strong church support system to help carry them through these challenges. And we are so grateful for the Easter Season as we had little reminders of our most holy holiday!

We’d like to share details about the campground in our review on Campendium campground review site.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Express Yourself

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Express Yourself.” I needed a prompt to blog during our “down time” to handle the mundane tasks of life.  Today, I am supposed to finish preparing our taxes for our accountant. We’re due a refund so I don’t need much motivation, but being a full-timer now, makes it so hard to sit inside the camper while it is a GORGEOUS day outside. I’ve already put it off enough and today is my deadline.  So after reading Ingrid’s awesome post this morning, I decided to take a quick detour and join this weekly photo challenge!

There are four things in this world I love as we travel. So first, the foundation of our marriage began walking on a beach in Jacksonville, Florida 40 years ago, just about to the month!  We were “falling” in love and discovered we both love the beach. So here are just a few snaps of our recent walk on Little Talbot Island near Jacksonville.

Little Talbot Island

The way to the beach is almost as good as the walk on the beach

The walk to the beach

The walk to the beach

Fabulous beach

Fabulous beach on Little Talbot Island

Cool dunes!

Cool dunes!

Bill lived in Jacksonville, FL soon after graduating from a technical training institute. He fell in love with the beaches and vowed to never move north….then he met me (Debbie), who was from the north. And like the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, it looks like we’ve been wandering that long too!

We decided to travel full time because we no longer know, or really care, where we live (in a stix and bricks house). Because as much as we love the beach, we’ve decided it’s not the place to live…permanently! We love to visit and during the off season! We just bundle up a bit!

So the next thing we discovered about each other is that we love to visit historic places, museums and gardens. So while in Jacksonville, we went to a garden/museum we had not visited before, the Cummer Museum, a garden and art museum. Now this was a bonus visit as it also had a great water feature, the St. John’s River! I just couldn’t caption these as it depicts a few things. One is a very old and huge oak tree that has become art itself. Much like life, as it grows, it adapts to the environment! My words just can’t do it justice! And then this fabulous urban museum overlooks the St. John River where I captured a boat gliding by with a bridge just peeking through my pictures. This was once a sanctuary for a family to express themselves, entertain and eventually help rebuild Jacksonville after the great fire of 1901.

And then our third love, we discovered we had was in July 2003, hiking! After we moved to Florida in 2005 (the Bible says God will give you the desires of your heart, so this was after 30 years of marriage), we thought our new found love of the mountains was never to be revisited.  But alas, in November 2013, we discovered we could easily find ways to hike. We just take our mobile-home with us and go to the mountains. And have we ever!  Here are a few snaps of our most recent visit to the mountains, near Franklin, NC.

We discovered our love of hiking goes back to our childhoods. Bill played in the hilly woods growing up outside of Pittsburgh, PA. And I spent a glorious six years in Colorado Springs, CO as an adventurous little girl.

So this brings me to our last great love of things on this earth and it is because of this, we have become full-time RVers! So we praise God for whom all blessings flow for delivering to us the next best thing in life, next to our own child, is our grandson! You see, when he was born, we lived 800 miles apart. And we were in Florida where Bill had yearned to return after our marriage nearly 40 years ago! So here I sit in the warmth of Florida while I blog, and thinking on these things that really help express who I am!

One year old birthday pic

We’ve entered the promised land!