Monday, December 31, 2007

The Trip To Galveston, by sea!

After leaving Sam Houston Jones State Park, we returned to a horrible interstate 10, which continued to be bad into Texas. As we had been unable to reserve a spot in Texas, due to the Texas State Park System redoing their reservation system, we tried again and again to book into Galveston Island State Park to no avail.

Finally we gave up and called a private park, Jamaica Beach Rv Resort, in Galveston and were able to reserve a spot for three nights. The upshot was that the owner told us to go a different way, than through Houston, and we ended up taking the house on a free ferry! It was wild! Before we could board, Homeland Security inspected us, but we passed and loaded. We were the biggest thing on the ferry! As we crossed we were able to spot dolphins and view the many ships leaving port.

After disembarking it was a short drive to the park. We set up and rested for the rest of the day. Clear skies.

Sam Houston Jones State Park

After leaving Grand Isle, we drove 250 miles north and West until we got to Lake Charles and Sam Houston Jones State Park. Now to be on the safe side I had called ahead and reserved a spot in a premium spot. As we arrived, after driving on about the worst road we had been on, interstate 10, we entered into a beautiful park. However when we got to the campground we were met with an old, uneven and crowded site.
The site was so uneven that I bent both jack pins, 110 bucks. I should know better, that when the electric jack motor starts to strain something is binding. Oh well another thing for the learning curve. It did have sewer, the last one on the park.

So the site was actually two sites with a thin rock line between ad site 11 was almost impossible to back into with me in site 10. Worse, it was reserved for the next night. However when the people got there, they swore a bit, and then moved to another site.
The electrical was so bad that we blew the breaker, supposedly 30 amp, but more like ten.
It was only for two nights so we prepared to tough it out in our home:) It turned out that the park is replacing the campground next year.

As to the park itself, it is a pretty park. The locals we talked to said that it had been damaged severely by Hurricane Katrina. It really looked in good shape, compared to where we had been.
We enjoyed walking in the park and resupplied the house with a trip to home depot, to buy bolts for the damaged legs. A nice resting spot none the less. Clear skies.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sea Otters and Rosetta Spoonbills

I can't close the blog on Grand Isle without mentioning the wildlife we viewed. Among these were sea otters, Rosetta Spoonbills and Dolphins.

The dolphins are ever present. Especially when you are fishing. One day I walked up to Batteria Pass and fished from shore. There were so many dolphins that when I caught a fish, one would swim over and splash with it's tail, saying go someplace else! Renita's favorite animal, by far, is the dolphin, so Grand Isle is special to her for this reason.

On our way to New Orleans, and while fishing with Pair of Dice Charter, we were unexpectedly treated to viewing three sea otters that were feeding and frolicking in the salt marsh. I didn't even know they had sea otters there and here I got to see three! They swam away, after we spotted them, and we left them alone, as it should be! The picture was taken along Palmetto Bay.

Finally, we were able to see Rosetta Spoonbills. It was our third trip to Grand Isle and the first time we spotted them. Connie said winter was the best time, and we spotted them both times we went up the bayou. I was also able to see one when we were fishing for redfish. The picture was taken along Highway 1.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sight Fishing Redfish at Grand Isle

Christmas Day came and we celebrated it at Connie's with a huge meal. Danny and Janelle and Blaine had arrived so it was a full house. The food was excellent, especially the turkey! We also were joined by Connie and Gary's friend Keith, whose wife was working as she is a nurse.

After dinner Keith invited us to go fishing the next day. Now Keith is a fishing guide, Captain Keith and Pair of Dice Charter, so we readily agreed to meet him the next day. We met him at 7 am and after a 30 minute run, at 55mph, we started fishing for speckled trout. We tried several spots and it was neat watching him deploy a Cajun anchor, which is a slender stainless steel bar which is slammed into the mud and attached to the boat with a line. However we didn't catch any specks. We tried another spot, after another run, and still no specks. IN the mean time Keith and Gary start casting for red fish.

Now the red fish, at receding tide, is butted against the grass waiting for the bait fish to swim

out so the idea is to see them first and cast a little in front. It is amazing. Gary quickly hooked up with a big red which first ate his jig and then ate his bobbe! Hungry! Keith then put on a she dog top water plug, silver and black, cast it in front of the next red fish, which attacked it like a torpedo. It litterly came out of the water and ate the hard plastic lure! It was then Danny's turn. He put on a bull minnow and after a bit caught another, and another, and another. My turn now so I cast a plastic tailed jig ad bobber to a red. The fish hit and ran for the open water. It was all I could do to hold him an I was using 17 b test line on a speros 4000 reel. What a blast!

This continued for quite a while. His trolling motor used up the battery and so reluctantly we left and went back to fishing for specks. Keith took us to his final hot spot an it worked, as we put quite a few into the boat.

The day ended as we ran from a storm and after getting back, going to Keith's house to watch him clean the fish. Now I have to buy an electric knife. Ashe was cleaning the fish he left the skin and scales on four of the big reds and told us to grill them until the scale side was black, basting them with garlic powder, salt, and butter. We took them home and cooked them and it was as excellant as the day. Clear skies.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Orleans, December 23

New Orleans December 23
Going to Louisiana, without visiting New Orleans, is kind of like kissing your sister. So we loaded up, Danny and Janelle, Connie and Gary, our fearless tour guides, and left for a day of fun. Hearing all the reports of crime and seeing the damages from Katrina were two things that weighed on my mind, and while they remained, we managed to have a very enjoyable time.
We started on tour of New Orleans on the paddle wheeler Natchez, riding up and down the shoreline and listening to the guide speak about the City. It was cold and windy, but still enjoyable and I finally got into the spirit of things when the guide stopped talking and they started to play jazz on the ship. Renita was tapping on the deck and for the first time in a while I felt the calmness of the moment. Peace.
We left the ship and went to one of my favorite places, the Café Desmond. A hot latte and beignets hit the spot and warmed my hands and my heart. I remembered when we were last there, listening to street musicians playing jazz, in the hot and humid June sun.
Connie then took us to her favorite spot, the Southern Candy Company. Oh my! The candies were all we expected and we left with a large box of assorted chocolates and pralines. Life is good.
A short walk then took us to the trolley and we rode though the flood damaged areas to Vionnes, an Italian restaurant that had been rebuilt since the flood. AS we rode you could still see boarded and destroyed buildings, along with the water mark from the burst levee. However you could also see much has been rebuilt and signs that the City has rose from the waters.
The food was excellent; we had a great house salad and a thin crust pizza, recommended. After the meal we returned to Bourbon Street via the trolley and walked down the street passing urchins that were tapping, poorly, with shoes capped with cans. It was quite busy, as a Saints game had just been played and lost, so fans were commiserating in the quarter.
The goal was finally reached as Gary led us to the Tropical Island bar where the Bourbon Street Cajuns were playing Josephine Est Pa Ma Femme and Jambalaya. We danced to the Cajun band and watched Santa Claus and an elf gets down and dirty. Before Christmas! We also watched as an old woman in red who walked in, put on her dance shoes, and proceeded to out dance everyone on the dance floor!
She also was dirty dancing with the band. We had a blast but regretfully had to leave and drive back to Grand Isle. A long but enjoyable day. Next time we are going to spend the whole day in the French Quarter, and spend a night. Clear skies.

Gary's Redfish and Grand Terre December 19th

Gary’s Grand Isle Redfish, December 19th
It’s been a week here on Grand Isle and as always at Connie and Gary’s, a week of great food, company and fishing. Connie is simply the Martha Steward of the family and Gary simply is a red fishing pro!
We went out and Gary caught another huge red fish. This one was about as pretty as you can catch and about 30 inches. It was huge. He caught it on a shrimp at a point he calls the redfish point, aptly named. Luckily we had a new net and so we boated this one. Truly a trophy fish that Gary released!
We also cruised around and looked for gps hotspots, and caught a couple of catfish. So that was neat as I was able to lock in a bunch of oyster beds and other spots. The specks were not cooperating, so fishing wise it was slow, but any tie you put a trophy fish in the boat is a great day.
In the afternoon we picked up the ladies and went for a sight seeing adventure. First, we went t o the fort at Grand Terre. The fort was built in the 1830’s but never manned. We parked the boat and tried to walk the beach, to get inside, but we ran into an inlet that had mud at the bottom. I thought Connie was going to sink out of sight!
After that we returned to the boat and drove through the pass to see the fort. Gary pointed out a sunken shrimp boat and we were treated to another sight as the shrimp fleet was going out! Truly an amazing place.
Finally we boated along the waterfront of Grand Isle, the part which is full of the oil and gas terminals and the rest of the shrimp fleet. A long and tiring day, but a really fun one. Clear skies.

Grand Isle December 14th

December 14, 2007
Grand Isle

Grand Isle is a place that is still the way the Gulf Coast should be. No high rise condos, although there is a lot of money, but there are also a lot of normal people trying to make a living. In the past four days I have met a bunch of really neat people. I have gone fishing two days, walked on the beach, put out crab pots, and learned how to shuck oysters. As if this wasn’t enough, Connie has been trying to fatten Renita and me up with her usual quality food.
We got here on Tuesday the 12th, after spending the night at a beautiful state park called Fariview-Riverside. Connie and Gary were both surprised at how big our fifth wheel is but we still managed to park it along the neighbor’s camp and next to their house. We rested, talked, and made plans for the next day. We launched the boat, got fishing license, so it was uneventful, except that Connie made a shrimp boil!
On Wednesday, Gary and I got up and went to the marina, where he has his boat on a lift, and went out. We first cast at the marina and caught some white trout, Gary caught a nice speckled trout and I caught a pinfish. WE then went to Gran Tare and fished, caught some redfish and sting rays and then Gary caught a huge bull red, about 25 pounds. It was amazing! We had seen them tailing and had caught smaller ones but it was huge. So big in fact that when I put it in the net it broke right through and ended up getting away,(which was actually ok as the big ones are not good to eat and we just wanted it for pictures and to show the girls).
Thursday, we went out again. We first caught some white trout for the crab pots and then took them out and set them and then we went to a cut by Independence Island and caught 4 nice specs. We tried some other spots for specks and redfish. Gary caught one redfish and I caught a stingray. We got back to camp, ate venison stew,( I made it), and we were so tired that we rested for the rest of the day.
Friday was a rest day in which Gary took me to meet Flyod, who catches the oysters. Floyd asked me if I was going to become a “Cajun Coon Ass”, like Gary! I could easily! After returning to Connie and Garys, we shucked the oysters. I only cut myself one time. Reuban and Richard stopped by and and shucked some. Richard ate about half of what he shucked and I had some raw oysters. They were the best I have ever had! Connie got home from work and we had oyster stew and oyster po boys and grilled oysters in lime juice. Oh my! Clear skies.

Fairfield Riverside State Park December11th

Fairview-Riverside State Park
We left Gulf Shores State park and drove about 200 miles to a state park on the north side of Lake Ponchatrian, (now we could have driven to Connie and Gary’s house but it was 350 miles which it too far for me to drive when we have the house attached). The reason we picked the park was because rvparkreviews said it was the second best in Louisianna.
It is beautiful! Cypress trees along the river, huge oaks covered with Spanish moss. We walked the park and boardwalk and made plans to return. We met a couple from Idaho that were doing our trip in reverse and discussed state parks. We also met a full timer who had been on the road for 6 years. When he heard that Renita drove the truck and fifth wheel, he was impressed. He said that she was a special rarity as few wives would drive something that big. Renita liked that!
The park contains a huge house, the Otis mansion, and a steam sawmill, that was used to lumber the cypress, long ago. It reminded me of the turpentine still on St Andrews, (which is also called a cracker, hence the name crackers for uneducated people).All in all an beautiful small park. Clear skies.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Alabama, Golfing and Gators

Another day in Alabama. Temperature is 75. It rained the other day so we stayed in and vacuumed and cleaned and ate....

So yesterday we went for a bike ride, to the beach, and saw the biggest gator we have seen so far. Renita spied it sunning itself on the bank. She's getting good at spotting critters! This is in the campground, just down from us, at campsite 475.

Beach was nice, as usual, its about three miles long and there were 4 other people. The surf was big. There were a lot more shells here so we looked for a while but only found one new shell, a mollusk.

Went golfing for the first time here and made some new discoveries about golfing in Alabama. Namely, don't hit into the water and when you do don't look for your ball. Need I say why? I also learned that it's hard to hit the ball if you lift your head, hmmmmm...... Anyway I shot a 95, so pretty usual game. I played Gulf Shores State Park Course. The greens were a really thick grass, and really slow. The cost was 31 bucks for 18 holes but you couldn't walk until 11am so I had to rent a cart to play. Golf was meant to be walked. It wasn't very busy but really humid. I was sore from swinging as it had been a while.

Met some nice people from Mobile yesterday. They were camping next to us. Maybe play some tennis today, but it is a pack day as we are leaving for Louisiana tomorrow! Clear skies.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Alabama and the Drum

On the way to Florida we passed the Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, in Mobile Bay, so when we returned I had to play history buff and take the tour. The tour also included the submarine Drum. What a neat day.
The battleship looked huge. In the picture on the left you can see me standing below the 16 inch guns. Once inside the quarters were amazing and I was surprised how compartmentalized everything was. We walked the entire ship. The view from up near the conning tower was acrophobic. The 16 inch shells were huge.
The submarine was so small, and it was a fleet submarine from WW 2. The picture is of Renita in the conning tower. I was surprised at how cramped everything was. Definitely claustrophobic. I could barely fit through the watertight compartment doors! I sure have a new appreciation for submariners. Clear skies.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Returning to Gulf Shores

We left Topsail on the 3rd and drove back to Gulf Shores, Alabama as we both wanted to check it out. The drive was more of an adventure than I wanted as we missed a turn in Pensecola, again, and ended up driving down a residential street. Luckily there were no overhanging trees or underpasses so we were able to turn and get back on the road without incident.
Drove about 100 miles and got to Gulf Shores State Park. What a place! The campground has over 400 campsites and even has month long parking! It was only about half full and we were able to get a great campsite on a lake, facing the sand dunes on the gulf. The area is still recovering from Hurricane Ivan, so there are many dead trees and some damaged structures.

Anyway we set up camp, facing the lake, and paid for a week. The campsite usual costs 30 bucks a night but the winter rates are in effect and it only costs 134 dollars for a week. Under budget,(Did I say I made a retirement budget?)! Monthly rates are 330 bucks which includes electricity, water, and sewer. Nice. We then rested for the day as towing the fiver makes me tired and we went to the grocery store to restock the pantry. A good day.

The next day we got up and went for a walk and then a long bike ride. We did see an alligator in the lake, There are warning signs everywhere. Amazing. In the afternoon we drove to the golf course and fueled up so we are good to go. Another resting day. Clear skies.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


I finally caught a pompano, 17 inches long, and it may be the best tasting fish I have ever eaten, (Florida has a size limit of 11-20 inches and only one over 20 with six fish being the limit).
I went fishing at the same place as yesterday, threw out a shrimp, set out the second pole and promptly caught a pompano. It fought good, not as good as a bluefish, but had several good runs. I caught two more bluefish and lost another pompano so really had a fun time.
The pompano stayed alive on the stringer, really hardy, and filleted very easily into two big thick fillets. A fish made for eating. The meat is white and very firm. I grilled it, left the skin on, and put some lemon pepper marinade on it as it cooked. Again, it may be the best fish I have ever eaten. Renita says it's definitely as good as Mahi Mahi. We have to go to town today to get more bait. Hopefully I can find some live mole crabs as they are pompano's preferred bait. I also need to buy some doc's goofy jigs, for pompano. It's 6am so it's time to wake Renita and make a bait run!
Clear skies!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cornbread tastes pretty good!

Pompano is supposed to be one of the best tasting fish there is. I wouldn't know because I can't catch any. Maybe today?

What I am catching is bluefish! I didn't get to the beach, for fishing, until yesterday as the waves were huge. Big surf with tubes forming. So yesterday after tennis and lunch, I went down at 1 pm and saw fish jumping by a sandbar. I went down there, waded out, and tossed a frozen shrimp into a swirl. I then waded back to shore put the pole into a holder and started to bait the other pole.

Now there is a whole bunch of things in that statement. First, I met a former teacher, now a real estate agent, who told me the jumping fish were mullet, probably being chased by blue fish. As I waded out I had a good sized fish chased minnows right up to me!

Anyway I turned and looked at my pole to see it had a big fish hooked, I grabbed the pole and had one of the best fights I have ever had,(I was using light spinning gear). The fish had powerful runs. It took me ten minutes to finally beach it. I actually had a crowd of people watching. It was a bluefish. Luckily one of the people warned me not to put my fingers in it's mouth as bluefish have sharp teeth. I put it on a stringer, it promptly died, and now I had the dilemma of fishing or riding my bike back to camp to clean the fish. Soooooooo.... I packed up my gear, went back to camp, and cleaned the fish. I then repacked my gear and rode back to the beach, put out the poles and soon had another bluefish on. Fought that one for a while until it cut my line. The fish quit biting and that was it for the day.
What did I learn? Bluefish are the worst tasting fish I have ever eaten, but man can they fight. I also learned to don't keep bluefish and never leave a fishing feeding frenzy. What a day!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pompano Fishing?

Still here at Topsail and enjoying the walks and bike rides. We went to a movie in Destin, American Gangster. Enjoyed the movie but it did make you sick of dope dealers and wish they would all rot in hell..........

Anyway the blog is about pompano fishing and I don't have a clue. The score is still me 0 and the pompano 2. The first time I went to the beach to try out my new surf fishing pole. Cast some and fished with some shrimp, dead, and didn't have a bite. As we were leaving we met a guy who was going fishing for pompano. So I told him we didn't have any bites but confessed that I didn't really have a clue. He said he was catching them so I asked him what he was using and he said he ran a guide service and wouldn't tell me anything unless I hired him, hmmmmm... So I then asked him if it was ok if I watched him fish and he said he ran a guide service so if I paid him I could watch him, hmmmmm... Obviously a guy who has no friends.

I wished him well and left him to walk to his spot and then I walked back over the sand dunes and watched where he was fishing so I would have a clue. I also looked up pompano fishing on the internet. It told me to use sand fleas(?) and maybe floaters. Now I had looked at his poles to see his rigs and he was using a small spin and glow.

So the next day we went to Destin and bought sand fleas, frozen. I couldn't sleep as I was so excited. I got up early and rode to the beach to discover the tide was way out and still dropping. I spent two hours fishing, caught a blue crab, and got a super backlash on my reel. I also found some nice seashells and found a quarter.

I learned some things.

Sand fleas,really mole crabs, are really hard to use as they are so small they break into pieces when you try to hook them. It's really easy to cast your bait off. Next I think I learned that fishing with huge breakers, they were forming tubes, and fishing at low tide is pretty worthless. Still it's data none the less.

On a positive note I discovered two structures to fish at high tide. I did cast jigs for a while with no success. Not the first time I have been skunked and for sure not the last. You know what they say even a bad day fishing is better then a good day at work.

So today is the day. I am preparing myself mentally and spiritually to go to the beach this afternoon and fish the incoming tide. Hopefully the breakers will be smaller,(the one time we were there when it was calm there was a school of fish jumping). Today is the day. Fish for supper or cornbread!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving at Topsail

We had our first Thanksgiving in our new house and we were able to have all the usual stuff. The convection oven and the smaller traditional oven both worked fine. The dinner consisted of smoked turkey breast, stuffed sweet potato, cranberry sauce, stuffing, green beans, and dinner rolls. This was followed by pumpkin pecan pie.

Everything was great except the pie. I had saw a show with Paula Dean, who showed placing pecans in the bottom of the pie and pouring the filling on top. So I did. Renita liked it, she will eat any pie, but I thought the nuts became soggy and imparted a bitter taste to the pie. I can't stand bitter tastes, like grapefruit, so maybe its because I am one of those genetically different people that have an unusual taste. Anyway I thought it was terrible.

Spent the rest of the day talking on the phone and watching football. We took a bike ride to Santa Rosa beach which is about four miles. All in all a pretty lazy day,(with the usual dog walks of course). You can cross off Santa Rosa beach as a place to live as the houses are all mansions, three and four stories tall. Not quite what a retired teacher can afford,(I did talk with a developer in Panama City who said the housing market was overpriced as a house that was selling for 50000 ten years ago was valued at 400000 today. He also said the market had slowed to nothing and prices were being reduced).

We forgot Friday was the busiest shopping day of the year. We went to town to buy milk and and got caught in a traffic jam as people were lined up at lights trying to turn into the mall. Thank goodness we were not going there. We also didn't go to bass pro although I aways need fishing gear. Got back and took a two mile walk to the beach. It's really neat as I don't know the names of any trees and plants here. There is so much to learn.

The waves have been too big to surf fish, a red flag was out today, so I am patiently waiting for some calmer conditions. Nothing really planned for Saturday or Sunday. The park is really crowded for the holiday.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park

We left St Andrews and drove a total of 43 miles. We arrived at Topsail to find an upscale rv state park with all the conveniences, including cable tv and full hookups. What a place! Got setup, with no problems, ate lunch, rested, and went for a bike ride.

We went to the beach and watched the sunset. The beach is about three miles of straight, white sand, backed by protected sand dunes. The sand dunes are off limits because they contain an endangered mouse, the dune mouse.

What a beach, no boats, no seashells, sterile environment, and only about 10 people so plenty of solitude. Rode back to our house and watched the Broncos beat Tennessee. Anyway I am getting tired so I will post pictures tomorrow.

Heading to Topsail

Well the day has come and it's time to say goodbye to St Andrews State Park. It has really been fun here, even though I didn't catch any spanish mackerel. We spent 14 days here and the it feels like it's time to move,(referred as hitch itch by rv people).

I did go fishing early on Sunday but didn't catch any. I lost a nice grouper, broke off, and saw spanish mackerel jumping but didn't get any hits. I did catch a new species of fish, a searobin. It's a fish with huge pectoral fins that have mutated into feet and it walks on the sea floor. Ugly to say the least.
A few other thoughts on our stay at St Adnrews. We caught 4 flounder that measured and my best day was Thursday when I caught 5, of which one measured. Renita caught the biggest flounder at 16.5 inches. The bigggest one we saw was 18.
We saw a big, and I mean big cottonmouth sunning itself at the marsh, and as we watched it Renita spied two deer wading though the marsh near the snake, ( The deer are small here).
An east wind blows here, subtropics and easterlies, and it brings the unforgetable smell of the paper mill/lumbermill. THis is one of the advantages of being stuffed up with allergies as I can't smell it as much as Renita.

We walked around the park and took images of the nine sites we liked, besides 002 where we are at, so when we come back we will have a better idea. Topsail is supposed to be the best state park, for rv's, in the nation, so we will see if it lives up to it's hype.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Comet Homes

We had a really good day yesterday as we finally got close to a gator at Gator Lake. Rode our bikes to the lake and walked the trail and there it was, about 15 feet away. It was pretending to be sleeping but it kept opening and closing one eye. Sly devil. Made me think of alligator wrestling and fried gator!

Then to top off the day, after spending the afternoon at the beach, we were walking the dog, enjoying the stars and I noticed that there were a bunch you don't see in Gillette as we were so far south. As I was looking them up online I saw there was a new naked eye visible comet, Comet Homes, and we went out and spotted it!

Raining this morning so we are taking the dog to get her groomed and doing some other stuff we have neglected.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


While we normally eat most of our meals at home, healthier and cheaper, we have gone out to eat twice here in Panama City. For lunch we went to an overpriced poor quality place and last night we went to Hunts Oyster Bar. Hunts has the best seafood we have eaten in a long time!

Renita had the mahi-mahi dinner and I had the shrimp and oysters. Maybe the best I have eaten. We followed that with a key lime pie that was almost equal to mine.

We also went fishing yesterday afternoon and while Renita caught a flounder I caught lizard fish and four small groupers. The flounder spot was packed with people. I did use the beach cart I made, cost 23 bucks, and it worked fine. Does need another cross member. I used stainless steel hardware. We will see how long it takes to rust, before building a new cart. I also went fishing in the morning off the dock as I had heard that someone caught flounder there but no success.

Today we are going to take a break and go to the beach as a cold front is coming through tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Gator Lake

Well we finally saw a gator at Gator Lake! Went for a bike ride Sunday morning and a gator was cruising across the lake. Walked around the nature trail and got a closer view but it was still across the lake.

Went to the marsh overview and saw lots of blue herons and heard a giant splash nearby, which we assume was a big gator but didn't see it so we amused ourselves by watching a lizard Renita spotted . The park is really crowded as it's a three day weekend, Veterans Day.

Our flounder spot had 34 people fishing it with four boats. I am always amazed at the people that own boats and go fishing where you could walk and bother the shore fisherman. The boats that know what they are doing are catching spanish mackerel. Walked onto the Gulf side fishing pier and saw some fisherman casting to a big fish that swam within their range but no hit. I am wishing I had a boat.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Floundering Around St Andrews

Catching flounder! Renita's catching bigger flounder! Here's a typical day. Get up, eat breakfast, walk the dog, go for a bike ride, look for alligators, lunch, followed by flounder fishing.

Flounder are pretty easy to catch, as you just throw out a bull minnow, lip hooked, on a carolina rig and slowly drag it along the bottom. Oh and pause often. Circle hooks make hooking them easy so it's pretty simple. Oh and Renita is out fishing me every day.

I have tried throwing plastic grubs but we are catching them on bull minows. I did catch a black grouper, they fight well, an atlantic croaker, and a bunch of lizard fish which look ulgier than their name sounds.

Flounder taste really good, so there are lots of other flounder fisherman. The flounder migrate down the lagoon and go out into the gulf to spawn. The trick seems to be fishing where they are halted ad the high tide comes into the pass. Oh and the other trick is remembering the tides so you bait doesn't die.

The attached picture is from a bike ride around the park.

Yesterday we took a break and went to a crafts fair. They are equally bad here, but it was for charity so I talked with other husbands about paybacks. Today we are gong to take a break from flounder and go to the gulf side beach. There also happens to be a fishing jetty next to the beach, hmmmmm........

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sunrise at St Andrews

Got up early this morning and we watched the sunrise. It is cold as a front just came through so we took it easy, did some repacking, and I got a haircut. Wow, life is good when a haircut is a big event!

In the afternoon we walked the dog and went to the fishing pier and watched a guy from Nebraska catch eel. Cast jigs to no avail and got to talking to a guy who was from Florida and casting a net to catch mullet for their eggs,(roe). He said they cooked them smothered, with the lid on. He also tried to catch some pinfish for bait for me but to no avail. He did tell me that if we wanted to catch flounder we should go down to the far end of the island.

We took his advice and I caught a flounder. We had other bites but for some reason we are missing them so its learning time again. Maybe if I buy more gear and poles and.....Can't wait till tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Safely in St Andrews

Yeah, after a year of planning and over 5400 miles of driving,(2400 round trip getting the fifth wheel and 2000 from Rock Springs to here), we are at St Andrews State Park in Florida,(Campsite 002). We left Gulf Shores, Al, at 10am and it took us 4.5 hours to go the scenic route along the coast. This does include getting off route and other harrowing experiences in Pensacola. At least we escaped with no damage and I must say the Florida drivers were nice.........Shopping malls and condos for over half the distance but it got pretty just before Panama City.

The park is beautiful, our site is on the lagoon and we are staying put for two weeks. The park ranger told us we have one of the best spots in the park. I will post a couple of pics later today. Anyway we got set up took a walk and relaxed at our house on the seashore. Retirement is good.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Got up and drove to Gulf Shores, Alabama which is a drive of only 110 miles and we found................

Squeaky sand! I have never been to a place where the sand squeaks when you step on it. It is amazing! It is about 100% fine quartz and white, oh my! We are in Gulf Shores Alabama, staying at Gulf Breeze Campground, and Renita has found a place she would stay at! It has my two favorites also.

The campground is rated five stars, the highest rating Woodalls gives and it deserves it's rating. It is older, but well maintained, roomy and the shower house and facilities are top notch. Plus the monthly rate is 410, so it is well under budget.

After walking the beack we finished the day bu having a pina colada at the pink pub and saw dolphins. Went back to or house, grilled burgers, and called it a day. Or as Renita said, "A very good day."

Lots of neat stores, fish markets, gulf courses, and of course the beach is ever present, about 2 miles away. Nice. This is definitely a come back to place.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Biloxi, Mississippi

After taking a break at Vicksburg we pondered which way to go and ended up going south to Biloxi. Woodalls Campng guide saved us again and we ended up a Majestic Oaks Camprgound. Called Majestic Oaks, which should be majestic because it is also the most expensive placed we have stayed.

It is also the only campground open after katrina. We got here in the afterrnoon, about 2 pm, and rested before going to the beach and driving around to see the damages. The rebuiding effort has gone well but there is so much still gone. One old building has a sign showing the water level. It is amazing anything survived.

I did wade in the Gulf, so I have waded in Lake Superior and the Gulf, in about a months time!

We are so excited to be near our long goal of St Andrews Park In Florida.

Vicksburg and The Battlefield Park

Got to Vicksburg and found our campground, Riverview(like you could see the river not... just the trees), and set up and the took a nap and rested from te drive. The campground host provided us with a cd of the driving tour of the battlefield and so the next day we left and had a really neat time touring the battlefield, listening to the cd, and walking the sites. Also got to visit the Cairo River gunboat museum.

Talked with Mike just before we toured and learned that Butler's,Grandmother Brackin/Miller's grandparent had brothers in the 38th Iowa that fought in the battle. Unfortunately they got malaria as they were camped in a swamp and the site of the 38th had the plaque stolen sooo..... anyway it was so neat. I had used the oxbow bend of the Mississippi river at Vicksburg in my classes as an example of man trying to change the river so it was really neat to actually be there.

After touring the battlefield we went to the old town and ate unhealthy fried catfish and saw the place where Coke Cola was invented and then tried to find dog food to no avail so that was frustrating so we went back to camp and planned our next day drive.

The picture is of the Iowa Monument on the left and I am in a line of Union Cannons on the right.

The Cotton Fields of Mississippi

After two days at Lake Texoma, we had to leave. However of all the places we have been, this is a neat place and worth an extended stay. So we left and planned on a normal drive and ended up driving 300 miles, a normal day is 200. Why, because we could not find a campground in Arkansas. Now there are lots of campgrounds but few along 82, the road we were driving and the one we were looking for had closed for good. So we ended up driving till we got to El Dorado ad ended up in the Wal-Mart parking lot. What a place to overnight on Halloween! Teenagers driving by with loud music booming from their vehicles, knowing that they were planning mayhem…….. I worried so much I stayed up till 10 pm before falling asleep and having a good night’s sleep, with no problems whatsoever.
We got up and decided to drive to Vicksburg. Took 82 east to Mississippi and Leetown and then south to Vicksburg. Found a campground without any trouble. What a drive! Between the huge cotton fields and the swamps, and bayou’s and we drove across the Yahoo River by Yahoo City! I taught about yahoo rivers for 30 years! Got to watch the cotton harvest with cotton pickers and huge bales, topped by plastic that comes out of the pickers. Oh my. WE stopped and Renita picked some cotton along the road!
Resting now for a busy day tomorrow as we age going to the Vicksburg National Battlefield Park and plan on spending a day here absorbing the history.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lake Texhoma, Oklahoma

Another day another 200 miles down the road! The idea of full timing is not to travel every day but to park at a nice spot and enjoy the view,(although traveling is fun, just tiring). So we left Calumet and headed east and south, stopping at the Home Depot and the Camping World to buy needed supplies, barbecue grill, sewer hose support, and odds and ends, and then drove though Oklahoma City.

I didn't want to drive though the city it just happened, so I took it easy and it was fine. We went east and the and south at Shawnee and ended up at Lake Texoma Resort and State Park, oh my! What a pretty place! The internet is slow so I couldn't upload a picture yet, but this is why we are traveling.

We are on Catfish Bay, across from the Marina at spot 541. not the best spot here as it is in the middle but it's the biggest and We fit with lots of room. I actually measured several other spots after we parked and we could have fit there also. Anyway the place is called Ben's Campground and it's full of fisherman and retiree's. What a place. Listened to one guy who was complaining he couldn't catch anything while we saw another cleaning a big mess of fish.

Had a nice walk, although the dog got stickers again so we spent time cleaning her fur. Her and me both need haircuts, maybe today? Grill worked fine and I made pork chops and filet migon so we would have left overs. I also heated up soup and didn't cover it so this morning I will clean the microwave.

Think we will stay another day and run into town for groceries, maybe take the bikes out and go for a ride.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Oklahoma Journey

We left Dodge City, kansas, and headed south toward Oklahoma. Expecting more of the same, grasslands, we were both surprised as we found a beautiful state with trees, and signs promoting the local rock roses,(barite roses)!

Drove to Hinton which is just outside of Oklahoma City and spent the night at a KOA. Now I normally don't like KOA's but this was really nice. I mean we parked in a parking lot but they have trees with a little lake.

Walked up to the restaurant for desert and visited a souvenir shop. They had mounted giant western diamondback rattlesnakes, so of course that's what I dreamt about! Haven't dreamed about snakes since I quit drinking:)

All in all pretty scenery and traveled 240 more miles toward Florida. Renita drove over 100 miles as the conditions were nice with no wind! She did a good job! We ended up on Interstate 40, from Clinton as we came down 83, and talk about trucks. Don't want to travel much on this road!

Camping World today, so we should be finished up with outfitting our new home. Maybe we can actually live on the budget now!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dodge City Kansas and Boothill

Dodge City, Kansas. Boothill and the Long Branch Saloon,Gunsmoke,Wyap Earp, and Bat Masterson. I had to go there, not just to see what it was like, but as a tribute to my dad and Renita's dad who were both western buffs. Remembering our childhood and the cowboy mystic we grew up with. Fiction and fact, what a fun day.

We traveled for only 160 miles from Colby,Kansas to Garden City and Dodge City. The first 100 miles was some of the flattest country I have ever seen, the classic image of Kansas. As we traveled you simply can not believe the harvest taking place and the unbelievable piles of grain at every elevator.

Got to Dodge City, found our campground and disconected from the fifth wheel for the first time! If this seems suprising, we had problems disconecting once before and broke a cotter pin and anyway we disconected correctly!

Tried to take a nap but I couldn't sleep as I was too excited about Boothill! Went there paid our seven bucks and realy had a nice time viewing their museum, the remnants of the cemetary, the locomotive, and the period antiques. I would recommend this! It, as always makes a place special once you see it and can relate it to books you have read. How I love traveling.

A fun day but I am tired, and watching the Rockies lose so time for bed.

Camping at Colby, Kansas

Drove in horrible winds again today, actually worse then day one, as a front moved through. Got a late start, because of Cabelas, and ended up 240 miles down the road so ok for a day,(our goal each day is to drive at least 160 miles to reach Florida on the 5th of November).

We passed near the battle site of Beecher's Island, named for Lt Beecher who was killed there by Roman Nose. Didn't stop as I couldn't find the spot,(the area of the Arikee river is covered with big cottonwood trees from the flood of the 30's. I doubt the trees were there for the battle), and it was too far off the road to search, so no bullets, bones, or buttons for Mike.(I had to laugh as my brother who at age 12 in 1958 collected a piece of Wild Bill Hickock's headstone, which has been replaced and is now protected).

Got on the interstate and drove to Colby, Kansas where we are spending the night. Another private campground but it is right next to a Walmart so we feel at home!

We will drive to Dodge City, if all works out.

On another note it is so nice to be retired from teaching. I am somewhat amazed at how I don't miss it at all. I heard a bunch of my friends are retiring. I am sure they are nervous, but they shouldn't be.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Journey Has Begun

Well we are finally heading to Florida and the journey has begun. We finished moving our last stuff from Gillette and spent a miserable and cold night in the Walmart parking lot. Drove to Rock Springs in scary and icy roads on Sunday and spent three days there finishing our packing and celebrating Matt's birthday before starting for Florida,( I am sooooo glad that packing is over and done and all the planning has worked and now it is time to relax).

Speaking of relaxing, we drove on 80 and had horrible winds along the way at Elk Mountian. Matt had warned us about the possibility and he was right. The truck handled the winds and the pass fine but I sure don't lke driving in those conditions. I was white knucking it for a while.

Ate lunch and took a break at Cheyenne and decided to drive to Sidney Nebraska and Cabelas for the night. While they do have free camping we stayed at their campground, for 24.08 and watched the Rockies get beat again:(.

Think we will head down to Kansas, maybe towards Dodge City, but we will see where the road takes us.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Across South Dakota

Well it's three days later and we are almost in Wyoming. After leaving Red Haw we drove to North West Iowa and spent a night in CampLana near a small lake. Raining and messy but the camper worked fine. As we left Lake Okobojo we drove to Chamberlain South Dakota and stayed at Al's Oasis Campground. It rained all the way and by the time we got there I was tired and hurried and I brushed some tree branches but we were ok and parked. The campground had good showers, but it was gravel and muddy. We ended up staying for two nights as high wind warnings closed the interstate for high profile vehicles. Finally we headed west on Friday.

We drove Friday till we got to Elkridge Campground, just before Spearfish. What a nice place and the rates were only 28.19. Definetly the best campground, private, we have stayed in so far. Our first choice is always a state or national park, but if you have to camp in a private campground, this is the best one here. Today we will drive to Gillette and boondock at Walmart as there are no campgrounds available, that will fit our unit. Should be our last trip to Gillette for awhile as we will empty our storage and head to Rock Springs and finally Florida. Yeah!
Clear skies,(and low winds),

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Red Haw State Park

As we left Elkhart, never having gone to the RV Museum:), our first day of travel was uneventful. I drove for about 250 miles and then we camped at Hickory Hills campground in Illinois. The campground is a private one and pricey at 30 dollars a night. The spot was on a slope and had two trees that seemed to block my exit,(I also bottomed out pulling in). Oh well live and learn! No damage so no foul and we got past the trees with our walkie talkies and Renita talking me though it.

Enjoyed our second night and then traveled another 250 miles to Red Haw State Park. Along the way we were on the Great River Road in Illinois, and I thought of Carol's favorite place abd my promise to send her a postcard if we got there,(I sure hope she signed up for retirement). At a quandry as no postcards where we stopped, hmmmmm.......... Need to come back and travel the length of the road.

Flat, for most of the drive. We did pass through Galesburg, Carl Sandburg's birthplace, and also went through Peoria,(nice looking place), and Burlington, Iowa, a really neat river town with a beautiful suspension bridge over the Mississippi River.

Finally, we got to our destination, Red Haw State Park, in Iowa. Drove through the campground and thought the spots were too small but the campground host talked with us and helped me back into a spot that fit. What a nice couple! Eleven dollars a night with electricty.

Took a walk and saw deer, including an unforgetable sight as a fawn peeked at us around it's mom. Of course we didn't have the camera. Did take a lot of pictures after that. Also heard turkeys in the distance.

We liked it there so much we stayed an extra day to enjoy the deer, red headed woodpeckers,
and squirrels right outside the camper. Also gave us a chance to rest up before heading to Wyoming. We must get back to license the vehicle, take the last load to Rock Springs, load and head south before winter sets in,(I keep remembering the Donner party).

Clear skies,


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Elkhart Continued

Earlier, I didn't mean to be too harsh on the people here. They are nice and friendly and polite, but you don't see anyone walking or biking. Probably because there are few sidewalks and bikepaths, Gillette really is way ahead of a lot of places, (with that in mind pictured is a walkway bridge and path in South Bend, near the dam and fish ladder).

There are some pretty neat things here. The fishing alone is impressive. The flea market is supposed to be the worlds largest and it was too much for me as I went back to the truck and took a nap. Renita was able to tough it out and see it all:)

The good news is that we are getting or fifth wheel tomrrow and heading back to Gillette and Rock Springs on Saturday. Yeah! I hope I don't have to stay in a motel for a long while. I am also looking forward to healthy foods and home cooking!

Too say we are excited is an understatement!

Clear Skies