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    The home of the WXToad
  • Off to the Sunshine State...Again '14-'15

    1 Nov 14: Here we are, back on our way south to Florida for the winter. We left home in New England two days ago and made it to southern New Jersey the first day, where we spent the night behind the Camping World store in Bridgeport. 309 miles. Whew, we hope that's the last we see of daily travels of that magnitude. Yesterday was a bit better - only 189 miles down to Fort A P Hill near Bowling Green, VA. It's a convenient and inexpensive place to stop. It's an Army post, but they honor the federal Golden Age pass so it's only $13 a night for full hookups. 

    The big story whiile at Fort A P Hill is the stray cat that had taken up residence under the RV across from our site. Folks told us he had been around for a month or more, and the fellow in the RV had taken to putting out food for him. But the guy goes home on weekends, leaving the cat to fend for itself. We were there 3 days through a cold, rainy spell with temps down into the 20's one morning, but there he was through it all. Liz took pity on the friendly creature and gave him several handouts of cat chow whiile we were there.

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    Tomorrow we'll move on down to the Norfolk area for a night or two at one of the Navy bases in that area. At least from here on, we're off the dreaded interstate highways.

    Wer're enjoying a couple of no-travel days as we let a storm pass us by. it's in the 40's with light rain and the snow isn't too far away up in western Virginia. I think we got out of New England just in time. Liz is taking advantage of the down-day by baking an apple pie. I can taste it already!

    Since these trips to Florida are in the category of "been there, done that", I'm not sure how often I'll be posting, but I'll try to update at least occasionally.

    5 Nov 14: Back on Friday I had called the Little Creek Navy Amphibious Base in Norfolk, but no one returned my calls. So on Monday morning I talked to the campground office at nearby Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story and reserved a site for that night. It was a 142-mile drive down to Cape Henry, where Fort Story is located, right at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.

    Fort Story has quite a history, actually going all the way back to 1607 when English settles made their first landing here after a two-month voyage. They explored the area before moving up the James River to establish Jamestown. The fort was established during World War I as a coastal defense facility. Dormant between the wars, it became active again in 1941. Toward the end of WWII, Fort Story became a convalescent center for wounded soldiers, over 13,400 of whom were cared for here.

    There is a monument to French Admiral François Joseph Paul, comte de Grasse to commemorate the famous sea battle on September 5, 1781 which prevented the British from reaching Yorktown near the end of the Revolutionary War.

    Today Fort Story is a Joint Expeditionary Base, training sailors and soldiers in what is termed Logistics-Over-The-Shore (LOTS) operations.

    The Fort Story campground is located in rather dark pine grove which made setting up our satellite TV a bit of a challenge. But fortunately a few months ago I had installed a satellite finder app on my phone, which turned out  to be VERY useful here. It uses the phone's camera and a data base in the app. Select the satelliite for which you are looking and aim the phone in the general direction of where you think the satelite shouuld be. Then simply move the phone to align the vertical and horizontal lines until they intersect in the circle in the middle of the screen. Bingo - that's where you aim the dish. I was able to just get through those trees and had a strong signal.

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    Because the campground was so dark and set back from the water, we decided to spend the day parked out by the water. Quite a bit of activity, what with all the shipping in and out of Norfolk and Chesepeake Bay. There was also an amphibious training operation taking place, so there were helicopters and hovercraft landing vessels zipping around.

    There are two lighthouses at Cape Henry. The original, shorter one was built in 1792 and was the first lighthouse authorized by the government. The taller one nearby was put up in 1881. Visitors can climb to the top of the old lighthouse; the "new" tower is still operational and is closed to the public.

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    fort story25 Near the lighthouses is St. Theresa's Chapel, dedicated in 1924.
    We've seen a lot of container ships in our travels, but I'm certain that this is the biggest of them all. fort story29


    5 Nov 14: Time to move ourselves a little further southward. Today’s destination was Pelican Point RV Park at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station in Havelock, NC. The RV park is virtually brand-new, having just opened in the spring of 2013. It replaces an antiquated RV park that had been located right beside the Base Exchange and commissary. Although the new park is a marked improvement, its location is not as convenient. But we were happy enough with it to book our site for a week when we arrived.

    It was a rather lazy week, getting caught up on our reading, doing some work on my campground project and getting some good walks in.

    winter1415-001 We’ve seen those little Smart cars used as toads before, but had not seen one carried in such a fashion as this. These folks had a huge fifth-wheel trailer they hauled with a large Volvo semi. There was a platform between the truck’s cab and the hitch plate that was large enough to hold the Smart car cross-wise. With a set of ramps, loading and unloading was fairly easy.
    Every now and then we run into some interesting rigs. This was a very nicely-done structure built on a large utility trailer. I talked to the fellow who built it; he said he got it done in two months, with some help from his wife. pelican point12

    12 Nov 14: Whew! Glad today is over – it was much too long a day for us. Mostly our fault for trying to cram too many things into one day. It was time to move on, but we needed to stock up on provisions at the commissary and pick up a few things at the exchange. So despite leaving our camp site at 0830, we didn’t leave the base until after 1100.

    As we approached Jacksonville, NC, I spotted a Ford dealer and since we were due for an oil change, I pulled in and we completed that mission, although it took a lot longer than they had first indicated. Ah well, at least we don’t have to worry about that for a while.

    Back on the road, we passed through the outskirts of Wilmington, NC, and since it was about 1700, we stopped to get a pizza to take with us down to Fort Fisher Recreation Area, where we planned to spend a couple of nights. So we didn’t arrive at Fort Fisher until about 1800, by which time the office was closed. They had told us they would leave an info packet for us on the front porch if we were late. Sure enough, there it was. We had opted for a cheaper overflow site, which was a bit of a challenge to find in the dark. Fortunately the information packet included a map which was a big help. Finally by 1830 we were able to sit down and enjoy the pizza. We can heartily recommend Incredible Gourmet Pizza in Wilmington.

    13 Nov 14: Talk about the Small World theory: I was walking through the campground this morning and stopped to chat with a fellow from Maine. It turned out they were here to visit relatives, who just happen to be relatives of our son-in-law and whom we know quite well.

    14 Nov 14: Time to get moving again. The easiest way to continue south from Fort Fisher is to take a ferry over to Southport, NC. I checked the NC Department of Transportation Ferry website and it said there were only two crossings on weekdays at this time of year, 0615 and 0830. So we were up bright and early and arrived at the ferry landing at about 0745. I had just barely turned off the engine while we waited for 0830 when they started loading the ferry. We were on board and on our way by 0800. The fellow guiding me into place was pretty good - he even had to push our side mirror in so we could snug up close to the superstructure. On the way across the Cape Fear River we passed another ferry heading the opposite direction. Obviously the website schedule was not up to date. The ride across the river took about 25 minutes and cost $10. We would have spent that on gas had we not taken the ferry, but it saved us time. winter1415-003

    We arrived at our day’s destination, Short Stay Recreation Area, about noon. Short Stay is a military facility operated by Joint Base Charleston. Besides the campground, it offers rental apartments and cottages, a large sandy beach, and a marina. It’s located on Lake Moultrie about 30 miles north of Charleston.

    short stay02 Here we had our second bit of good fortune for the day. I had called the day before to see if we needed a reservation and specifically asked about the waterfront sites. They were all taken, I was told, but there were plenty of others from which to choose. When we arrived, the gal in the office suggested we drive through the campground and pick out a site and then go back to register. As we made our way through the campground Liz noticed that there was one empty waterfront site: “I want that one,” she exclaimed. So when I went back in to register I asked about the empty site. The gal was surprised that it was empty. I asked if we could have it. She hollered into the back office asking if she could rent that site. “Sure,” was the reply. So we were able to park facing the water with a great view of the lake. For 9 days! So needless to say, we’re happy campers.
    15 Nov 14: T'was a beautiful day today, cool, but with a brillliant blue sky. We did a bit of walking around the area, checking out the various facilities. Down by the marina, Liz spotted this eagle high in a tree, looking out over the lake. short stay29



    30 Nov 14: We've been pretty lazy the past 2+ weeks, enjoying our spot by the lake. Puddy-Tat has been quite happy here, with lots of wildlife to keep her entertained: great blue herons, ducks, squirrels and lots of little birds.

    We've been treated to some pretty nice sunsets here. Below left is the sky at sunset just as a storm was clearing out. The other sunset was out our front window last evening.

    Time to move on tomorrow. We'll be headed down to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, GA, for a night; then on St Marys City on Tuesday.

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    24 April 15: Sorry that our log petered out before Christmas. I was about ready to do some updating when the Toad Hall website died. I could make some disparaging comment about my Web Meister and the lack of backups, but I'll try to control myself.
    In a nutshell, we spent the Christmas holiday at NS Mayport's Pelican Roost RV Park, followed by a month at NAS Jacksonville while I had a rather aggresive skin cancer excised from my leg.  We had then planned to head down to Patrick AFB for a month or so, but a phone call revealed that the campground was full. So instead we went down to NASA's KARS Park at Cape Kennedy and spent five weeks sitting right beside the Banana River. We got to see three rocket launches while there.
    Finally in early March it was starting to get pretty warm, so we began to think about heading back northward.....just not too quickly. Our travels took us out toward the Panhandle to Newport so I could stock up on my beloved tupelo honey. Then we worked our way up into Georgia, stopping at a number of places. Finally aimed the RV toward home in New England, arriving on 18 April.