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Slowing Down On Dauphin Island

Slowing Down On Dauphin Island

Posted by on Apr 16, 2016 in Alabama, Biking, Birding, Gallery, Hiking, Musings, Travel | 34 comments

We’ve been talking for a long time about slowing down our travels. In a couple of months, we’ll have been on the road fulltime for three years. Since we pulled out of our hometown of Ashland, Oregon in June of 2013, we’ve put 52,000 miles on our truck. At least half of that has been towing our home-on-wheels behind us.

We love our traveling life, but we’ve also realized that we want and need to make some changes if we’re going to be happy long-term in this lifestyle. (And yes, we want to continue.) But it’s a bit of a challenge, for a variety of reasons.

Here’s what we can’t change: We have family in Florida, but we also have family on the West Coast, as well as our home and many dear friends in the Pacific Northwest. That means cross-country trips, both directions, every year, boomeranging between Florida and the West Coast. Flying isn’t really a viable option because of the length of time we want and need to spend with family. Plus, we want to have our home with us—it’s really hard to go back to any other kind of travel after RVing. We also love our summer camp host gig on Lopez Island, and we’re not yet ready to give it up.

Here’s what we can change: The pace at which we travel, and the rhythm of our daily lives. Each time we’ve journeyed cross-country, we’ve extended the amount of time we’ve taken to get from the Pacific Northwest to Florida. First it was a month, then five weeks, then six—last fall, we took seven weeks. This time, as we make our way back to Lopez Island for our camp hosting gig mid-June, we’ve given ourselves just over two months. My crystal ball predicts we’ll be slowing the pace even more.

We’re also staying places longer—we’ve agreed that we’re not going to stay anywhere for less than two nights, unless there’s really nothing of interest and it’s an easy overnight stop. Most places, we’ll stay a minimum of three nights—many places, we’re planning to stay five to seven nights. We’ve always kept our travels to about 200 miles for each move—but now we’re keeping at least half of our travel days to under 150 miles.

Perhaps most importantly, we’re doing our best to stop behaving as though we’re on a two-week vacation. It might sound strange, but one of the primary drawbacks to full-time RVing is that it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of wanting to see and do everything. At least, that’s been true for us. Eric and I both love hiking, biking, kayaking, birding, exploring new places, museums, music, art, architecture, festivals of all types, hanging out with long-time friends, meeting new friends, cooking, discovering new restaurants, farmer’s markets, and photographing everything.

New places—and familiar favorite places—offer a never-ending array of things to do. But constantly being on the go is wearing on us—apparently too much of a good thing really can be too much. Unlike our pre-full-time-traveling life, we don’t have time to naturally integrate our travels with “normal life” by returning to a stationary home. Therefore, we need to rein ourselves in.

We need some down time—time to hang out at our site in the morning with a cup of coffee, enjoying an easy start to the day. We’re both avid readers, and would like leisurely time to read a good book (not just a couple of pages at night before falling asleep, book in hand). I want time to practice my guitar and learn new songs; Eric wants time to update his birding photos and bird lists. We want time to enjoy sunset with a leisurely happy hour, instead of skidding into our site just in time to make dinner after a long day of adventures. (I’m not even talking about work/blogging/trip planning/daily life stuff—all of which adds to the hours that are spoken for in a day.)

We’re off to a promising new beginning. We spent the first week of April on Dauphin Island, a narrow barrier island just off the coast of Alabama. It’s a good place for not doing much of anything. With easy biking, lots of trails for hiking, and a good portion of the island devoted to bird sanctuaries (it’s one of the top locations in the U.S. for spring bird migration), it’s a paradise for slowing down. We first visited the island a couple of years ago on an all-day birding extravaganza with our friend Mona Liza (Lowe’s Travels) and had such a good time that we vowed to return.

We spent the entire week doing nothing other than biking the island, visiting various bird sanctuaries, walking miles of trails, and leisurely looking for birds. Other than a ferocious rain and windstorm that lasted most of an entire day and night, we enjoyed a peaceful stay. We even met new friends on the trails—Diana, Ed, and their sweet kitty Eze—who decided on the spur of the moment to meet up with us at our next stop, New Orleans.

If you’re looking for a place to get away from it all, Dauphin Island is a lovely choice. Bring everything you need, especially food. There is no viable grocery store on the island, and Mobile is 30 miles away. However, there is a fantastic fresh seafood market with local offerings (they’ll even steam your shrimp/crab/fish for you) and a surprisingly good lending library located in the nice little Visitor Center.

About the campground:

Dauphin Island Campground is a unique and wonderful place, located directly adjacent to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, with miles of walking trails through beautiful forests, marshlands, and access to miles of beaches (with unfortunate views of offshore drilling platforms). The bathrooms are beyond funky and the washers in the laundry are rusted—the whole bath complex is scheduled for a major overhaul this summer. We stayed in a partial hook-up site for $28 per night; the seventh night is free. (The campground also has full-hookup sites, both 50 amp and 30 amp.) Verizon coverage is good.

Choose your site carefully. The considerable rainstorm we had left much of the campground with enormous pools of standing water for several days. Our site (and the other sites at the east end of the campground) was fine after 24 hours, but others weren’t so lucky. We loved our time there, and will happily return.

Next Up: A Fabulous Few Days In New Orleans

Red-Breasted Mergansers On The Beach

The Bridge To Dauphin Island

Snowy Egret On The Jetty

Reddish Egret In Breeding Plumage

Campground, Beach And Bird Sanctuary Map

Late Afternoon In The Marsh

On The Coastal Trails

Osprey Nest Along The Beach Trail

Great Blue Heron

One Of Many Ponds In The Refuge

Blue-Winged Teal On The Pond

On The Trails In The Refuge

Beautiful Hooded Warbler

Summer Tanager First-Year Male

Blue Grosbeak

Biking And Birding Dauphin Island

A Quiet Moment Birding At Shell Mound

Black-And-White Warbler

Summer Tanager, Adult Male

Trails Through Deep Thickets

Scarlet Tanager

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

Prothonotary Warbler In Bottlebrush

Northern Parula In Bottlebrush

Eastern Fox Squirrel

Eastern Bluebird

Nice Site At Dauphin Island Campground

After The Storm

Some Spots Were Lakefront For A Week

Red-Breasted Mergansers On The Beach
The Bridge To Dauphin Island
Snowy Egret On The Jetty
Reddish Egret In Breeding Plumage
Campground, Beach And Bird Sanctuary Map
Late Afternoon In The Marsh
On The Coastal Trails
Osprey Nest Along The Beach Trail
Great Blue Heron
One Of Many Ponds In The Refuge
Blue-Winged Teal On The Pond
On The Trails In The Refuge
Beautiful Hooded Warbler
Summer Tanager First-Year Male
Blue Grosbeak
Biking And Birding Dauphin Island
A Quiet Moment Birding At Shell Mound
Black-And-White Warbler
Summer Tanager, Adult Male
Trails Through Deep Thickets
Scarlet Tanager
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo
Prothonotary Warbler In Bottlebrush
Northern Parula In Bottlebrush
Eastern Fox Squirrel
Eastern Bluebird
Nice Site At Dauphin Island Campground
After The Storm
Some Spots Were Lakefront For A Week
Red-Breasted Mergansers On The Beach thumbnail
The Bridge To Dauphin Island thumbnail
Snowy Egret On The Jetty thumbnail
Reddish Egret In Breeding Plumage thumbnail
Campground, Beach And Bird Sanctuary Map thumbnail
Late Afternoon In The Marsh thumbnail
On The Coastal Trails thumbnail
Osprey Nest Along The Beach Trail thumbnail
Great Blue Heron thumbnail
One Of Many Ponds In The Refuge thumbnail
Blue-Winged Teal On The Pond thumbnail
On The Trails In The Refuge thumbnail
Beautiful Hooded Warbler thumbnail
Summer Tanager First-Year Male thumbnail
Blue Grosbeak thumbnail
Biking And Birding Dauphin Island thumbnail
A Quiet Moment Birding At Shell Mound thumbnail
Black-And-White Warbler thumbnail
Summer Tanager, Adult Male thumbnail
Trails Through Deep Thickets thumbnail
Scarlet Tanager thumbnail
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo thumbnail
Prothonotary Warbler In Bottlebrush thumbnail
Northern Parula In Bottlebrush thumbnail
Eastern Fox Squirrel thumbnail
Eastern Bluebird thumbnail
Nice Site At Dauphin Island Campground thumbnail
After The Storm thumbnail
Some Spots Were Lakefront For A Week thumbnail

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One Night Stands: Making A Beeline South

One Night Stands: Making A Beeline South

Posted by on Feb 10, 2016 in Alabama, Gallery, Mississippi, Musings, Travel | 14 comments

We don’t like one-night stands. They’re too much trouble for too little return. But sometimes, we just have to do it.

I’m talking about our travels, of course. (You knew that, right?) Everyone who travels finds his or her unique pace. We’ve met people who stay a month or longer everywhere they go. (The longer we travel, the more appealing that sounds—except that a cross-country trip at our preferred travel rate of 150 miles per stop would take us 15 months.) At the opposite end of the spectrum, we met an 85-year old man who had been on the road with his wife for 20 years—and they moved every day. “Why?” I asked. He said, “It’s the driving part we like best.

In our opinion, moving too frequently is a big pain. It takes us an hour or two to set up (depending on how many toys we unload), and the same in reverse to prepare for moving. We’ve settled into a rhythm of staying three to five days most places; if it’s a place we really like, we enjoy lingering for a week or two. And in some very special places, we put down temporary roots for a month—or even two.

Occasionally, though, we succumb to a one-night stand. Sometimes it’s because we’re just passing through and there’s nothing that really calls to us—no hiking, no biking, no kayaking, no compelling points of interest or fascinating quirkiness. Other times, our one-night stands are the result of meandering a bit too much along our route and having to pick up the pace to get to a reservation on time. Which is precisely why we dislike making reservations.

For the most part, we avoid making reservations far in advance. We prefer to see how things unfold throughout our travels, making decisions as we go along according to the weather, our desires, and interesting things that come up along the way. If we make reservations, they’re usually just a week or so out.

But there are some places that strategy doesn’t work. The Florida Keys, for example. If you want to camp at a state park in the Keys during the late fall/winter months, you had better make reservations 11 months in advance, or you won’t get in. (Good luck, even then.) Last January, I somehow managed to snag reservations for two weeks at our favorite state park in the Keys, in a primo waterfront site beginning December 1st.

In late November, we awoke in Tupelo, Mississippi, with 1,000 miles to go and 10 days to get to the Keys—including a six-day stopover to see my folks in Apalachicola before continuing south. Which meant, of course, we had some one-night stands in our near future.

 

One-night stands really aren’t too bad if you don’t travel too far in one day. If the drive is between 150-200 miles, there’s still time for a hike (or at least a good long walk). We have friends who prefer to bite the bullet and get the miles behind them, traveling 400+ miles in a day. But we’ve found that four hundred miles is a killer day towing a trailer. We arrive cranky and tired, there’s no time for a walk, and neither one of us feels like cooking dinner. (Wine + popcorn does not make a satisfying meal.)

Even though we occasionally indulge in one-night stands, we don’t just settle for any port in a storm. We look for places that are in beautiful, peaceful locations with easy access to hiking trails. Not too far off of our route, but far enough so that it’s a quiet location, ensuring a good night’s sleep. We make every effort to get a level site so that we don’t have to unhook (if you travel towing a trailer or fifth wheel, you know how much time this saves). And we look for places that are inexpensive. Mind you, we don’t always get our desires met (we did, after all, spend a one-nighter at a rest stop in Amarillo, Texas a couple of weeks ago in the company of a herd of eighteen-wheelers), but we do our best.

About the campgrounds:

• Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham AL

At only 150 miles from Tupelo, we were able to swing through Birmingham, do a big shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and head for the hills. Or mountains, in this case.

Oak Mountain State Park is the biggest state park in Alabama, with miles of hiking and biking trails and even a sweet nature trail—an elevated boardwalk with a half-dozen luxurious cages that house birds of prey (all suffered injuries that make them unreleasable).

Water and electric, $26 per night. Decent Verizon. The sites are pull-through and level; the outside sites on B-Loop are especially nice because they back up to the woods. Fall is gorgeous here.

• White Oak Creek COE, Eufala AL

Another 165 miles brought us to the Alabama/Georgia border and White Oak Creek campground, a Corps of Engineers site (we’ve yet to find a COE campground that we don’t like). Spacious sites—most overlooking Lake Eufala—with water and electric hookups, concrete pads, good Verizon coverage, and hiking trails, this was another place that we could have easily spent a few days. COE campgrounds are a bargain at $12 (that’s the half-off Senior Pass price).

• Ross Prairie State Forest, Dunellon FL

After six days with my folks in the panhandle of Florida, we headed for the Keys. Ross Prairie Campground was a terrific find in the highly popular Ocala area (where it can be difficult to find spur-of-the-moment campsites). Although it’s designed as an equestrian campground, rigs without horses are welcome. Fifteen pull-though level gravel sites, electric and water, good Verizon, and a horse wash rack should you need it. Nice hiking trails right from the campground. $22 per night.

• Sabal Palm RV Resort, Palmdale FL

This is why we have Passport America. Sabal Palm RV Resort was a great stop for us en route to the Keys—pull-in, hook up to water and electric (sewer if we wanted it), a long walk around the pretty park, and a good night’s sleep in a dark and quiet campground. All this, for only $15 per night at the 50% Passport America discount.

Next Up: Almost Paradise: The Keys

Making A Beeline South

Fall Colors At Oak Mountain State Park

Beautiful Hike At Oak Mountain State Park

A Slippery Slope

Sweet Little Waterfall Hike

Didn't Expect Such A Great Hike In Alabama

Treetop Nature Trail

"Princess" The Albino Turkey Vulture

Spacious Site At Oak Mountain State Park

Lovely Site At White Oak Creek COE Park

Visit From A Red-Headed Woodpecker

Nice Little Campground At Ross Prairie SP

Wearing Tropical Camouflage On The Prairie

Convenient Overnight At Sabal Palm RV Park

Friendly Horses At The RV Park

Classic Florida Kitsch

Yard Birds At The RV Park

Making A Beeline South
Fall Colors At Oak Mountain State Park
Beautiful Hike At Oak Mountain State Park
A Slippery Slope
Sweet Little Waterfall Hike
Didn't Expect Such A Great Hike In Alabama
Treetop Nature Trail
Spacious Site At Oak Mountain State Park
Lovely Site At White Oak Creek COE Park
Visit From A Red-Headed Woodpecker
Nice Little Campground At Ross Prairie SP
Wearing Tropical Camouflage On The Prairie
Convenient Overnight At Sabal Palm RV Park
Friendly Horses At The RV Park
Classic Florida Kitsch
Yard Birds At The RV Park
Making A Beeline South thumbnail
Fall Colors At Oak Mountain State Park thumbnail
Beautiful Hike At Oak Mountain State Park thumbnail
A Slippery Slope thumbnail
Sweet Little Waterfall Hike thumbnail
Didn't Expect Such A Great Hike In Alabama thumbnail
Treetop Nature Trail thumbnail
Spacious Site At Oak Mountain State Park thumbnail
Lovely Site At White Oak Creek COE Park thumbnail
Visit From A Red-Headed Woodpecker thumbnail
Nice Little Campground At Ross Prairie SP thumbnail
Wearing Tropical Camouflage On The Prairie thumbnail
Convenient Overnight At Sabal Palm RV Park thumbnail
Friendly Horses At The RV Park thumbnail
Classic Florida Kitsch thumbnail
Yard Birds At The RV Park thumbnail

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It’s Raining Birds!

It’s Raining Birds!

Posted by on Apr 27, 2014 in Alabama, Biking, Birding, Friends, Gallery, Travel | 18 comments

We’ve always wanted to experience the spring migration of songbirds along the Gulf Coast. Eric was interested in adding new species to his life list; as for me—well, I was fascinated by tales of multitudes of brightly colored birds dotting the landscape like Easter eggs.

During the first week of April, our wish came true. We stayed for a week at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama, right in the midst of prime birding territory. We made field trips to Fort Morgan State Park (25 miles away) and Dauphin Island (a 30-minute ferry crossing from Ft. Morgan) and were rewarded with incredible up-close encounters with buntings, hummingbirds, orioles, tanagers, warblers and other beautiful brightly colored species.

Flyways from the Yucatan Peninsula to North America

Flyways from the Yucatan Peninsula to North America

In early spring, the coast of Alabama is one of the top birding spots in the Southeast. That’s because it’s one of the first places that neotropical migrants make landfall after their arduous 600-mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico. Each spring, millions of birds gather on the Yucatan peninsula, journeying from their winter homes in Central and South America to prepare for the flight to their summer breeding grounds in North America. It’s difficult to imagine any birds, but especially the tiny ones, making that demanding trip—a ruby throated hummingbird weighs barely more than a penny! They fly across the Gulf in one night, navigating by the magnetic fields of the earth and the constellations. Come daybreak, if they’re strong and lucky, they’ve reached land, and have the opportunity to rest and refuel before continuing on to their nesting grounds throughout North America.

We were fortunate to be there during the bird banding that takes place for two weeks during the spring migration. Bob and Martha Sargent have devoted the past 30 years of their lives to tracking and banding neotropical migrants; they founded the Hummer/Bird Study Group, a non-profit organization for the preservation of hummingirds and other neotropical migrants. Their tireless efforts have helped to chart and protect migratory routes, monitor bird health and populations, and gain insights into the effects of weather on bird migration.

Gently holding a worm-eating warbler, Bob reassured us:“They’re not unduly disturbed by the banding process,” he said. “It’s a minor inconvenience in their day, and as soon as we’re finished weighing, measuring, and banding them, they go back to their normal feeding behaviors.” He deeply cares about the welfare of these birds; I watched him overcome with emotion as he gently held a cerulean warbler. “Most birders don’t get to see one of these beautiful birds in 20 years of birding,” he said. The cerulean warbler holds the unfortunate distinction of being the fastest declining neotropical migrant songbird. Why? Because the birds’ forest habitat is disappearing, in both their breeding and wintering grounds.

We watched dozens of birds go through the banding process, which involves weighing, measuring, and placing a tiny lightweight band on the leg. None of the birds seemed traumatized, and each took flight immediately as it was released. Only trained bird banders are allowed to remove birds from the mist nets, take measurements, and band the birds. The public, however, is allowed to participate in the releasing—which lasts mere seconds. Cup the bird in your hands in the way the handler demonstrates, open your hand, and the bird disappears in a flash of bright feathers. The precaution of placing the bird on the back of the hand is taken with small children to avoid inadvertent squishing of the bird.

We were delighted to share our birding adventures with friends who enjoy birds just as much as we do. On our first day at Gulf State Park, we met up with Loretta, Henry, Patricia and Ken, whom we first met earlier this year at Ochlockonee River State Park while searching for the elusive red cockaded woodpecker. They invited us to join them at the bird banding activities at Fort Morgan, and we shared a fun day of birding and a terrific seafood dinner at the Tin Top Restaurant.

Two days later, we met up with MonaLiza (lowestravels) and returned to Fort Morgan for another day of bird banding activities, followed by an all-day adventure on Dauphin Island. She and Steve had just spent a week on the island, and MonaLiza acted as our tour guide for the day. We took our bikes on the ferry, and spent a wonderful day exploring and birding. (Steve is not as obsessed with birding as the rest of us, and he was happy to have some time to work on projects of his own while we birded ourselves into the ground.) We met up with him for another delicious dinner at the Tin Top, though, and had a delightful happy hour together at their place the evening before we left. (I regret that I didn’t get photos of either event—I was obviously having too much fun!)

It's Raining Birds!

Neotropical Migration Routes

Bob And Painted Bunting

Cerulean Warbler

Worm Eating Warbler

Baltimore Oriole Trying To Pry Bob's Fingers Apart

Volunteers Checking The Mist Nets

Birds Waiting To Be Banded

Gently Removing A Bird From The Holding Bag

Banding A Sapsucker

Yellow Bellied Sapsucker

Recording Bird Banding Info

Observing The Weighing And Measuring

Inspiring A Young Birder

White Eyed Vireo

Feeling The Heartbeat Of A Hummingbird

Patricia With A Hummingbird

Giving Hummingbird A Drink

MonaLiza And Her Bird

Orchard Oriole

Releasing The Oriole

MonaLiza Looking For Birds

Searching For Birds With MonaLiza

Painted Bunting

Exhausted Northern Parula

Blackburnian Warbler

American Redstart

Patricia And Ken With Their Bigfoot Flipflops

Brightly Colored Homes On The Beach

At The Tin Top With Henry And Loretta

Fantastic Oysters Rockefeller

Ferry Between Fort Morgan And Dauphin Island

Eric And MonaLiza On The Ferry

Wonderful Bike Paths On Dauphin Island

Indian Shell Mound Park

Trails At Shell Mound

Summer Tanager

Hooded Warbler

Audubon Sanctuary On Dauphin Island

Taking A Break

Green Heron

Great Horned Owl And Owlets

Fierce Little One

Sign In The Campground

Biking Trail At Gulf State Park

Biking The Backcountry Trails

View From Our Campsite

It's Raining Birds!
Neotropical Migration Routes
Bob And Painted Bunting
Cerulean Warbler
Worm Eating Warbler
Baltimore Oriole Trying To Pry Bob's Fingers Apart
Volunteers Checking The Mist Nets
Birds Waiting To Be Banded
Gently Removing A Bird From The Holding Bag
Banding A Sapsucker
Yellow Bellied Sapsucker
Recording Bird Banding Info
Observing The Weighing And Measuring
Inspiring A Young Birder
White Eyed Vireo
Feeling The Heartbeat Of A Hummingbird
Patricia With A Hummingbird
Giving Hummingbird A Drink
MonaLiza And Her Bird
Orchard Oriole
Releasing The Oriole
MonaLiza Looking For Birds
Searching For Birds With MonaLiza
Painted Bunting
Exhausted Northern Parula
Blackburnian Warbler
American Redstart
Patricia And Ken With Their Bigfoot Flipflops
Brightly Colored Homes On The Beach
At The Tin Top With Henry And Loretta
Fantastic Oysters Rockefeller
Ferry Between Fort Morgan And Dauphin Island
Eric And MonaLiza On The Ferry
Wonderful Bike Paths On Dauphin Island
Indian Shell Mound Park
Trails At Shell Mound
Summer Tanager
Hooded Warbler
Audubon Sanctuary On Dauphin Island
Taking A Break
Green Heron
Great Horned Owl And Owlets
Fierce Little One
Sign In The Campground
Biking Trail At Gulf State Park
Biking The Backcountry Trails
View From Our Campsite
It's Raining Birds! thumbnail
Neotropical Migration Routes thumbnail
Bob And Painted Bunting thumbnail
Cerulean Warbler thumbnail
Worm Eating Warbler  thumbnail
Baltimore Oriole Trying To Pry Bob's Fingers Apart  thumbnail
Volunteers Checking The Mist Nets  thumbnail
Birds Waiting To Be Banded  thumbnail
Gently Removing A Bird From The Holding Bag  thumbnail
Banding A Sapsucker  thumbnail
Yellow Bellied Sapsucker  thumbnail
Recording Bird Banding Info  thumbnail
Observing The Weighing And Measuring  thumbnail
Inspiring A Young Birder  thumbnail
White Eyed Vireo  thumbnail
Feeling The Heartbeat Of A Hummingbird  thumbnail
Patricia With A Hummingbird  thumbnail
Giving Hummingbird A Drink  thumbnail
MonaLiza And Her Bird  thumbnail
Orchard Oriole  thumbnail
Releasing The Oriole thumbnail
MonaLiza Looking For Birds thumbnail
Searching For Birds With MonaLiza  thumbnail
Painted Bunting thumbnail
Exhausted Northern Parula  thumbnail
Blackburnian Warbler  thumbnail
American Redstart  thumbnail
Patricia And Ken With Their Bigfoot Flipflops  thumbnail
Brightly Colored Homes On The Beach thumbnail
At The Tin Top With Henry And Loretta  thumbnail
Fantastic Oysters Rockefeller  thumbnail
Ferry Between Fort Morgan And Dauphin Island  thumbnail
Eric And MonaLiza On The Ferry thumbnail
Wonderful Bike Paths On Dauphin Island  thumbnail
Indian Shell Mound Park  thumbnail
Trails At Shell Mound  thumbnail
Summer Tanager  thumbnail
Hooded Warbler  thumbnail
Audubon Sanctuary On Dauphin Island  thumbnail
Taking A Break  thumbnail
Green Heron  thumbnail
Great Horned Owl And Owlets  thumbnail
Fierce Little One thumbnail
Sign In The Campground  thumbnail
Biking Trail At Gulf State Park  thumbnail
Biking The Backcountry Trails  thumbnail
View From Our Campsite  thumbnail

 

 

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Moving Along

Moving Along

Posted by on Dec 7, 2013 in Alabama, Birding, Gallery, Louisiana, Mississippi, Music, Texas, Travel | 6 comments

Inaively thought that given a year to travel, we would never feel rushed. But the first week of November, in the middle of Texas, we looked at each other and said, “We need to get rolling.” We had reservations for the Keys starting mid-November, but first we wanted to spend a week with my folks in north Florida before undertaking the 650-mile trek to south Florida.

That gave us one week to cover 1,100 miles—basically a straight line from San Angelo, Texas to Eastpoint, Florida. This meant packing up and moving every day, which is most definitely not fun, especially when we’ve grown accustomed to at least a couple of nights—and more often several nights—in one spot. Sometimes, moving on is preferable (like when we’re trying to get ourselves out of Texas, and we’re camped near Houston. Otherwise known as Hell). More often, we have to pry ourselves away from an interesting spot we’ve discovered, promising ourselves that we’ll return. Our list grows longer with every trip. I suspect I’m going to be dragged out of this life lamenting, “But wait! There’s still so much to do!”

Here’s how the last week of our travels to Florida played out:

• Austin, Texas: 205 miles from San Angelo, TX. We spent two nights in Pecan Grove RV Park, a funky old trailer park right in the middle of town. Many people parked their RV’s there decades ago and never left—just landscaped, stuck in a few pink flamingos and neon palm trees, and called it home.

We walked everywhere from Pecan Grove—Zilker Park is a couple of blocks away, with miles of walking trails along the river, a botanical garden, and an herb garden; toured the Moody Theatre, home of Austin City Limits; and went both nights to the Continental Club, a 1957 dive bar that’s considered the place to go for live music—we peeked in and found the downstairs bar to be deafening and overly grungy, but the lounge upstairs was great—we enjoyed world-class jazz and a relaxing, albeit shabby, ambiance. The motto of the town is “Keep Austin Weird,” but we didn’t see anything weirder than is considered normal in Ashland. Except maybe the shop with Elvis memorabilia. We don’t have an Elvis store in Ashland.

• Tomball, Texas: 140 miles. We were trying our best to dodge the vortex of Houston and ended up in a private RV park somewhere slightly north of the city. It was hot, unbearably humid, the traffic is a nightmare, and we couldn’t wait to get out of there. If there was an easy way to completely avoid that part of Texas, we would.

• Lake Charles, Louisiana: 180 miles; stayed at Sam Houston Jones State Park—a decent state park, but muggy and buggy. And it rained. Ugh. Nothing is appealing in that kind of weather. I have no idea why certain areas of this country were ever settled. Eric wants to come back to the nearby Atchafalaya Swamp, where the birding is phenomenal. So are the mosquitoes.

• Tickfaw, Louisiana: 175 miles; stayed at Tickfaw State Park, a well-kept state park in the middle of a swamp. The boardwalk through the swamp is nice if you trot along at a brisk enough pace to stay ahead of the mosquitoes. We stayed here last year because it’s convenient, but one night is plenty long enough.

• Ocean Springs, Mississippi: 125 miles; stayed at Davis Bayou Campground in Gulf Islands National Seashore. It’s a lovely campground and only $15.00 per night (half price with the Senior Pass). But it’s first-come, first-served so you need to arrive early. Lots of nature things to do in the National Seashore (hiking, birding, kayaking) and the little town is intriguing. We want to return to do more exploring; we only had time to walk a few short trails.

• Silverhill, Alabama: 75 miles. Stayed at Blue Moon Farm for an event at The Frog Pond (www.thefrogpondatbluemoonfarm.com).

This was sweet, one of those wonderful serendipitous events that happens if you’re okay with unconventional camping experiences. This was one of many venues for the Frank Brown International Songwriter’s Festival, an annual event that we stumbled upon while staying in nearby Pensacola last November. Cathe, the delightful owner of Blue Moon Farm, invited us to park our trailer on the farm while we enjoyed an afternoon and evening of talented songwriters/musicians. We’re hoping to return; she hosts Sunday evening music events year-round (the cost was a mere $25 for 6 hours of fantastic music). (Here, a music clip from the event: The Frog Pond At Blue Moon Farm).

• Santa Rosa, Florida: 115 miles; stayed at Grayton Beach State Park. Pure white sugar sand beaches, miles of coastline, great birding, great biking, pretty little beach towns.

• Eastpoint, Florida: 105 miles. Finally arrived at my folk’s house in beautiful Eastpoint!

Moving Along

Pecan Grove RV Park

Hasn't Moved In Decades

Neon Landscaping At Pecan Grove

Austin Skyline From Zilker Park

Herb Garden Zilker Park

Botanical Garden In Zilker Park

Downtown Austin

Austin City Limits

Willie Nelson Outside Moody Theatre

Moody Theatre Tour

Stage For Austin City Limits

Austin By Night From Zilker Park

So Far Out

Airstream Turned Cupcake Wagon

Inside Chuy's Tex Mex Restaurant

Elvis In Austin

Fantastic Jazz At The Continental Club

Swamp Mural At Tickfaw State Park

Boardwalk Through The Swamp

Campsite Davis Bayou

Snowy Egret

Salt Marsh

Trail At Davis Bayou Campground

Camping At Blue Moon Farm

Backyard At The Frog Pond

With Cathe On Frog Pond Stage

Getting Ready For The Music

Afternoon Set

Musicians At Frog Pond

Frog Pond Stage By Night

Great Blue Heron Footprint Grayton Beach

Sunset At Grayton Beach State Park

Sunset From My Folk's Dock

Moving Along
Pecan Grove RV Park
Hasn't Moved In Decades
Neon Landscaping At Pecan Grove
Austin Skyline From Zilker Park
Herb Garden Zilker Park
Botanical Garden In Zilker Park
Downtown Austin
Austin City Limits
Willie Nelson Outside Moody Theatre
Moody Theatre Tour
Stage For Austin City Limits
Austin By Night From Zilker Park
So Far Out
Airstream Turned Cupcake Wagon
Inside Chuy's Tex Mex Restaurant
Elvis In Austin
Fantastic Jazz At The Continental Club
Swamp Mural At Tickfaw State Park
Boardwalk Through The Swamp
Campsite Davis Bayou
Snowy Egret
Salt Marsh
Trail At Davis Bayou Campground
Camping At Blue Moon Farm
Backyard At The Frog Pond
With Cathe On Frog Pond Stage
Getting Ready For The Music
Afternoon Set
Musicians At Frog Pond
Frog Pond Stage By Night
Great Blue Heron Footprint Grayton Beach
Sunset At Grayton Beach State Park
Sunset From My Folk's Dock
Moving Along thumbnail
Pecan Grove RV Park  thumbnail
Hasn't Moved In Decades  thumbnail
Neon Landscaping At Pecan Grove  thumbnail
Austin Skyline From Zilker Park  thumbnail
Herb Garden Zilker Park  thumbnail
Botanical Garden In Zilker Park  thumbnail
Downtown Austin  thumbnail
Austin City Limits  thumbnail
Willie Nelson Outside Moody Theatre  thumbnail
Moody Theatre Tour  thumbnail
Stage For Austin City Limits  thumbnail
Austin By Night From Zilker Park  thumbnail
So Far Out  thumbnail
Airstream Turned Cupcake Wagon thumbnail
Inside Chuy's Tex Mex Restaurant  thumbnail
Elvis In Austin  thumbnail
Fantastic Jazz At The Continental Club   thumbnail
Swamp Mural At Tickfaw State Park  thumbnail
Boardwalk Through The Swamp thumbnail
Campsite Davis Bayou  thumbnail
Snowy Egret  thumbnail
Salt Marsh  thumbnail
Trail At Davis Bayou Campground thumbnail
Camping At Blue Moon Farm  thumbnail
Backyard At The Frog Pond  thumbnail
With Cathe On Frog Pond Stage  thumbnail
Getting Ready For The Music  thumbnail
Afternoon Set  thumbnail
Musicians At Frog Pond  thumbnail
Frog Pond Stage By Night  thumbnail
Great Blue Heron Footprint Grayton Beach thumbnail
Sunset At Grayton Beach State Park  thumbnail
Sunset From My Folk's Dock  thumbnail

 

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