Sunday, April 27, 2014

2014-7 Savannah Georgia


Savannah Georgia

Holbrook Pond
a gator sunning itself at Holbrook Pond

Campground:  Ft Stewart, Holbrook Pond Campground.  Although this is on the military grounds, it is isolated from the main base, surrounded by pine forests and the pond.  50 amp Electric/Water, free wi-fi,  concrete pads and patio.  Cost:  $20-30, also accepts the National Park Senior Pass making the campsite cost $15.00.  Small annoying gnats this time of year.  They don’t bite but make it unpleasant to sit outside.  Down by the pond, with a slight breeze it’s gnat free….  Note:  the general public may also use this campground, very unusual for a military campground.

Distance Traveled:  89 miles

As you may have noticed, I’m not traveling very far with each leg of my travels.  Even I expected I’d go my usual 150 miles but with so many places to visit the distances have been relatively short.  My GPS wouldn’t give me directions as it kept saying the route would bring me on private or restricted property.   But I was able to make it alright without the GPS and came in from the eastern end on hwy 144.  Entering the military base from  this end enabled me to enter without needing to go through base security as it is a local road passing through the military installation and is available most of the time for local traffic.  All I saw for the 15 miles were forests of tall pine trees and dirt roads with signs like “Caution, Tank Crossing” and numerous shooting ranges.   Fort Stewart is 250,000 acres in size and is the Army’s largest installation east of the Mississippi.  Driving around the pond on the single lane paved berm holding back all that water, I also had to dip down into a spillway with a couple of inches of flowing water.  Heavy rains recently filled the pond to capacity and it was draining out over the spillway.


RV Tip:  I read recently that using Pine sol in the black water tank as well as grey water tank will keep them smelling good.  I’m giving it a try.  Instead of spending all that money for those “special” black water treatments which rarely work, this may be a viable solution.  Seems to be working after a week.  I'll keep you posted, via the poo smell meter.

Day Trip:

Savannah has a wealth of homes one can tour.  For the first timer as well as repeat visitors it’s a good idea to get a trolley tour pass.  Along with learning the lay of the land and lots of history, one can get on and off the tram all day long.   Saves a lot on having to find parking spots as it’s all metered parking downtown.  This is a great town for walking around and seeing all the neat parks surrounded by all those wonderful old historic homes.

Mercer/Williams House
The house I wanted to tour most this time around is the Mercer Williams House.  Construction began in 1890 and took 6 years to complete due to the Civil War going on.  The house was sold a number of times including to the Shiners’ who used it for their meetings. Jim Williams purchased the house in 1969.  Having restored many homes in the area, he purchased this one, restored it over two years and lived in it for 20 years.  Mr. Williams story became the essence of the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” .  A true story, it’s one of those books you just can’t put down once you start reading it.  I highly recommend it.  The movie by the same name was filmed here as well as a few others.  The house being the scene of the crime and Jim’s eventual death 10 years later.  Jim Williams became a millionaire by restoring homes, owning an antique store and refurbishing antique furniture meticulously.  Being able to see the house in person as well as having read the descriptions in the book and seeing it in the movie was quite a thrill.  The spiral staircase with a stained glass dome, the exquisite original furnishings and paintings, the office where the crime took place all added up to some pretty heady touring. Nice to know that it is still owned by Jim Williams sister who has made it her main residence since 1990.  The second floor is not available on tour.

Savannah's historic district

a peak inside the Williams house

view from one of the square parks throughout Savannah

one of many square parks throughout Savannah

On another day, I drove first to a Flea-Market where there was a mix of old weathered homes probably from the pioneering era.  Some old rusted out farming equipment and antique farming machinery along with covered and mostly enclosed flea-market stalls.  Unfortunately, about half of the stalls were without power and made the enclosed spaces almost pitch black.  Obviously not suitable for finding that perfect used item or bargain of the century.  I did enjoy one of the buildings that had lots of antiques and vintage stuff, but nothing I couldn’t live without.

lots of antiques in this bldg

great idea, made from clay pots!

Then it was onto Tybee Island which is off the coast of Savannah Georgia.  The road leading onto the island actually crosses over multiple islands and back bays filled with sea grasses and channels leading to the ocean. That is if the tide is high, otherwise one would have to have a very shallow boat to navigate those channels.  Tybee Island is a great seaside resort community which still has that older beachside vibe.  Not a lot of high-rise towers here.  Hint for travelers, park over by the lighthouse, but not on the center shelled parking area (reserved for lighthouse tours only) and you can park in the area for free.  Then after touring the lighthouse, go across the street to see the fort/battery complex and walk through the break in the wall to the beach.  Weekends they have a great little seafood beach diner with live blues/jazz musicians.  At least the weekend I was there.  And no, I did not climb to the top of the lighthouse.  Not sure how many steps it is, but it looked really, really tall to me.

Tybee Island Lighthouse

I’ll do a couple more tours in downtown Savannah next week before heading out on Thursday.  If I see anything worth reporting on, I’ll put it in next weeks report.

Next stop:  An Army Corp campground outside of Augusta Georgia on the South Carolina side.

More Pictures on Picasa.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

2014-6 Kingsland/St Mary's Georgia


Campground:  Walkabout Camp & RV Park,  P.A. discount is valid for two weeks. 742 Old Still Rd, Woodbine GA, 31569: Local: (912) 729-4110, PA rate: $16.50 - $17.60, Normal Price: $33.00 - $35.20
All pull-thru sites.  Modern Swimming pool and clubhouse.

St Augustine, last day

On my last couple of days of enjoying the St Augustine area, I took in one more old attraction that has been around since 1893, the Alligator Farm, Zoological Park.  With 23 species of Crocodilians, some of the largest gators I’ve ever seen, including a couple albino gators.  A big surprise for me was the bird rookery.  The rookery is natural occurring, with gators wading below in large ponds and on shore sunning themselves.  Wooden walkways wind out over the gators and get the viewer close to the birds nesting in the large trees, some only feet away.  In a way the gators are protectors of the large tropical wading birds.  Protecting them from the normal snakes, raccoons and other critters that would normally go after the birds eggs and young hatched birds.  Hundreds of large birds nesting in the trees above, hoping their young can learn to fly the first time around without becoming gator bate.  Now if that isn’t enough for you, they also have what’s called the Crocodile Crossing.  A series of zip line and aerial courses one can traverse high overhead through 7 acres of live alligators, crocodiles birds and lemurs.  I would definitely consider the zip line, but some of the aerial course was way too challenging for someone of my “mature” age.  Ekk! Splash, plop…

This is one of the reasons it’s always a good idea to keep coming back to a popular place.  Giving the traveler the time to explore some of those places one wouldn’t normally go too the first time around.  Those hidden or older attractions that at first glance just look like tourist traps, but in fact contain some real interesting things to explore.  Sometimes, like the Alligator Farm, those places become favorites.

Roseate Spoonbill

Snowy Egret

bird rookery

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue heron

Distance traveled:  87 miles

Kingsland/St Mary’s Georgia

I was hoping to explore Cumberland Island a bit more on this leg of the trip, but with lots of rain in the area over the last couple of days, I’ve pretty much had to put that on the back burner.  I have been able to enjoy lots of good seafood dinners over the past couple of weeks and have been impressed with the large portion sizes each of the restaurants have provided.  I especially liked the shrimp and great sides.

I did go into the little town of St Mary’s, a nice seaside town where the boats take you out to Cumberland Island.  Since it was a crappy day, I decided I’d check out the Submarine Museum.  Cost $4.00.  Alas it was not even worth that little amount of money.  Two rooms filled with old photos, type written descriptions faded and yellowing.  Lots of old awards.  Restaurants along the water front are higher priced than inland.  One definitely pays for the view along the bay.

Rain, rain…and more rain.

Well the next day it has been overcast all day and I thought, this would be the perfect day to explore the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (Swamp) that is.  It’s about a 45 minute drive from where I’m staying.  As I headed west through rural Georgia, I noticed how low lying all the land is in the southern part of the state.  The water table is just about level with the land, so any rain creates lots of shallow lying water everywhere.  All of the creeks and rivers flowing out of the Okefenokee swamp are filled to overflowing.  Quite a contrast to the drought they had over the past couple years.

Entering the park there are large stands of pine trees on both sides of the paved road leading to the visitors center and tour boats.  Kayaks, canoes and small motor boats are also available for rent, including primitive camping on islands within the park.  After watching a 14 minute old and dated film on the Okefenokee, I headed out and joined a boat tour.  Had the best boat tour guide one could have.  Someone who loves the swamp and willing to share that love with us tourists.  Missing a few front teeth, his booming voice needed no microphone or speakers to convey his story of life in the swamp.  As we glided across the dark tea colored water our guide told tales of the 5 venomous snakes that live in the swamp, how the owls love to catch them for food as well as the baby gators this time of year.  The good fishing available in these pure filtered waters.  Explaining the rhythm of life in the swamp, what’s edible, some of the scary situations he’s found himself in and his respect for the Indian spirits, as the Indians once lived in the swamp over 4,000 years ago.  How the remote islands once had moon-shine stills on many of them, proving liquor up and down the east coast during prohibition.  How the swamp had been de-nuded of cypress trees during the early years of this country.  Much of that lumber going to make railroad ties for the ever expanding railroads of the era.  Okefenokee is one of the main sources of the water that fills Florida’s aquifer.  Without it much of Florida would have no drinking water.   Later I would drive the 8 mile paved trail through an island where the Chesser Homestead still stands.  All in all a pretty interesting day in a mysterious land or should I say water covered prairie, swamps, lakes and remote islands.

baby owl

My next stop:  Savannah Georgia.

more photos on Picasa