Olympic couch potato

Sunday August 14th 2016

It was a cloudy day with high temperature around 90 degrees. The humidity was about normal; thick and sticky. Around 6pm we got a flashy and loud thunderstorm that dropped a little water in the area.

I got off to a very slow start this morning. The Olympics are to blaim once again. The Women’s Marathon drew my attention for most of the morning. The race isn’t the real attraction. It is the area the women are running through. I like seeing the roads, buildings and the beach in Rio as the race goes through the various areas. Four years ago watching the running through London was a little more interesting, because I’d actually seen some of the areas in person. This was interesting because of the beach and the knowledge that they had “cleaned up” the areas the race was passing through. Even so, I have no desire or expectation of ever going to Brazil.

Once I broke away from the Olympic coverage on TV, I made an attempt to visit the World Golf Hall of Fame. It is just one exit up the interstate from my campsite so if I’m going to see it now’s the time. I couldn’t really build up a strong desire to see the hall of fame. I watch golf on TV a lot, but have played about two rounds in the last 40 years. From the web page it is clear that this hall of fame has a focus on the history of the sport and on exhibits for active golfers. With this ambivalence on my mind I headed for the Hall.

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World Golf Hall of Fame at the World Golf Village outside St. Augustine Florida

The approach is through the heavily landscaped entrance to the World Golf Village planned community. You wind along tree lined roads past the real estate office and the entrances to several gated housing developments. You have to watch closely for the discrete little signs that direct you to the parking for the Hall of Fame. You finally arrive at a man made lake with buildings lining the shore. The World Golf Hall of Fame is here along with a building labeled PGA Entertainment, First Tee, several golf related shops and a hotel. In front of the Hall of Fame building is a golf tee area with a green on the opposite side of the lake. One of the opportunities a golfer gets with admission is a chance to drive a ball onto the green. I don’t know what they would win if they got a hole in one.

I didn’t get any further than a walk along the promenade around the lake. There were not many people around. Those that were present were all couples that looked like they had just come out of the country club after a round of golf and dinner. My ambivalence rapidly changed to frugality.   I don’t think it was very expensive, but I didn’t even find out. I watched one couple drive three balls into the lake trying to reach the green then returned to my RV home.

Ironically, I spent the next couple of hours watching the Olympic coverage of the Men’s Golf final. The top three or four finishers were actually players I’d heard of before. With so many of the top golfers backing out for fear of health and security at the Olympics that was a real surprise. Later in the afternoon I cooked a pork chop with potatoes and corn for dinner. The only other activity for the day was a walk around the campground shortly before the sky opened up.

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

Saturday August 13th 2016

This morning I went to the Washington Oaks Gardens State Park. The park is located south of St. Augustine on the barrier island about 30 miles from my campsite. The Matanzas River which forms part of the Intercoastal waterway is to the west and the Atlantic Ocean is to the east.

wog2The land has a history that dates back to the Spanish rule of the early 1800s. A distant relative of President George Washington married the daughter of the land owner in 1845. That is why “Washington” is part of the name of the park. The land was donated to the State of Florida in 1964 by the widow of Owen Young. He was the Chairman of the Board of the General Electric Corporation in the 1920s. The Youngs put in the formal gardens that are one of the parks attractions.

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View across the Matanzas River

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Cruiser passing down the Intercoastal waterway.

The views on the river side of the park are fantastic. You can watch all of the boats and recreational traffic in the Intercoastal Waterway. There are also people fishing in the river. I saw a couple of small fish caught while I watched. I couldn’t identify the type of fish, but they were about 10 inches long and not of any interest to the fishermen. Both fish were released back into the salt water of the river.

I took a hike on one of the trails from the garden area of the park to the picnic area. The trail is only a little over a half mile in length. It goes through an oak hammock with tree branches covered in Spanish moss. I didn’t see any animal life, but the sound of chirping insects (or something) in the trees was ever present.

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Formal Garden area of the park.

The garden area of the park was disappointing. The water features were all drained and under repair. The azaleas and camellias which the garden is known for were not in season. The rose garden was in bloom, just not in peak bloom. I think in the spring, the gardens would be more impressive.

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Atlantic Ocean beach at the Washington Oaks Gardens State Park.

Across highway A1A from the garden section of the park is a beach area on the Atlantic. Nice white sand covered the Coquina rocks that are common in this area of the coast. Coquina is a sedimentary rock made of sand and shells. Some of the architectural details in the plantation side of the park are made of coquina rock.

Circle Drive

Friday August 12th 2016

It was a bright sunny day with high humidity and the temperature in the mid 90s. A typical summer day in northeast Florida.

I spent most of the morning working on the computer and telephone. I returned a few Emails and looked up more information about establishing my domicile here in Florida. Around noon I got in the car for an aimless ride. My objective on these rides is to see what I can see.

In this case I drove north to the southern edge of the Jacksonville metro area. Then I returned south on the other side of the St. Johns river. About all I saw was traffic until I was back in Green Cove Springs.

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Pier in the St. Johns river from the Green Cove Springs town park.

I stopped in a small public park behind the town hall on the banks of the river. There were shady areas with benches and a pier out into the St. Johns river. I got out of my air conditioned car and sat in the park for a while. The breeze off the river made it tolerable in the shade. I don’t envy the people that work in the sun in this heat, but just sitting in the shade isn’t bad. The biggest challenge is overcoming the shock leaving the air conditioning.

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Today’s wildlife sighting. The four turkeys that visit or live at the campground.

During my evening walk around the campground, I saw the turkeys again. This would seem to confirm that they are an ordinary occurrence here. While I stopped to take their picture other people just walked by.

Tomorrow I am going to try and find another natural setting to take a walk/hike. There are a couple of state or county parks south of St. Augustine near the beach.

St. Augustine Beach

Thursday August 11th 2016

It took three tries, but I finally got to the beach today. This morning I went for a walk on the beach in St. Augustine Beach.

I got an early start for a change. The beach is about 20 to 25 minutes away. I was there before 10am. The sun was shining brightly and the temperature was already in the high 80s. I had sun screen and a hat, but it was still uncomfortable in the sun.

My beach walk started at the St. Augustine pier. Not to many people were on the pier. There is a nominal charge to use the pier. I think it was $3 to fish and a dollar to sight see. The pier is high above the water level. It really stood out at the low tied during my walk.

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St. Augustine Beach Pier

The sand on the beach has been graded to support the re-establishment of sand dunes. Sand has been piled up at the back of the beach with a steep drop to the tidal area. An attempt to get grass to grow is supported by fences to break the lateral wind action. The lower area of the beach has a gradual slope with less sand and lots of broken shells. A few people were searching for shells.

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St. Augustine Beach at low tide.

There were people trying to ride the waves and surf. Other people were walking along in the water line. I walked north along the beach at the high water line trying not to get my feet wet as the tide came in. There were not a lot of people sitting on the beach. Most people were either in the water or walking the beach like I was. You would really have to have a beach umbrella or other sun shade to sit on the beach for any length of time.

I was back at the car by 11am, so I was out in the sun for about an hour. I lucked out and didn’t get burnt. Back in the car the air conditioning was welcome as I took a long route home. I drove north halfway to Jacksonville before turning west toward the St. Johns river then south and east back to the campground.

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One of the campground turkeys.

This campground comes alive after supper in the evening. The people who were out during the day have returned and the people that have been hiding in their air conditioned rigs come out. I also came out of my air conditioned RV for a walk around the park. In the back corner of the park a storage field was home to four turkeys this evening. They were good size and very dark colored birds. Since nobody else that was out walking paid any attention to them, they must be a normal sighting.

Another Uneventful Day

Wednesday August 10th 2016

I’m going to blame the Olympic coverage for today’s lack of anything interesting to write about tonight. I got a slow start to the day, I turned the TV on at 7:30, but didn’t get out of bed for another hour plus. How much TV I watched and how much snoozing I did remains a mystery.

Over my breakfast coffee I got hooked on the NBC Olympic coverage. Some of the interviews they were showing caught my attention. As I write this blog entry I can’t remember who was being interview or what they were talking about. All of the coverage seems to blend together. The significant thing to me is that all of the competitors are so dedicated and driven. Even the athletes that don’t stand a chance in a million are committed to their sport.

At mid day I made an attempt to get out and do something. I set out with a general goal of checking out the beach area of St. Augustine Beach. Traffic and a general lack of interest conspired against success. I ended up driving in a big circle, 25 miles or so, and returning to my RV home for lunch and more TV.

Later in the afternoon, I tried to get interested in visiting the World Golf Hall of Fame. Similar to my earlier excursion, I missed the turn, ended up in first day of school traffic and abandon the idea. The trip wasn’t a total loss, I picked up some groceries at the local Publix supermarket.

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View of the storm front to the southwest.

The TV weather people say that today’s weather is back to summer normal. That translates into sunny in the morning with highs around 90 followed by a chance of showers in the afternoon. Around 4:30 there were reports of thunderstorms heading in the direction of the campground. They were wrong. The storms passed by to the west. Tomorrow and Friday have similar forecasts.

Working around the RV

Tuesday August 9th 2016

It was cloudy all day with a continuous threat of rain. Save for a couple of brief cloud bursts like yesterday, the rain held off until evening. Starting at about 6pm real rain began falling.

I spent the day at home catching up on chores. Chief among the tasks was the laundry. This RV park has a laundry with 8 washers and 8 dryers. Both cost $2 a load. The gotcha is that front load washers are smaller in capacity than I’ve become used to. I needed to do an additional load to complete my washing. The dryer was a large capacity machine. Using a different type of machine each time I do the washing has had a negative impact on how clean I get my clothes. I don’t have enough trials to experiment with the various cycles or the amount of detergent and other additives. The next time I’m in one place for a few weeks, I’ll need to really work on getting things cleaner. In the mean time, I may have to go clothes shopping.

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Close up of my audience for the take dumping task.

When I went out to dump the holding tanks I had a spectator. A gecko (or some kind of little lizard like thing) was sitting on the hose watching my every move. I was able to take several pictures without disturbing the little thing. Eventually the fluid rushing through the tube freaked it out enough that it retreated to a nearby tree trunk to continue to observe the operation. There are many of these little creatures scurrying around on the ground here.

The other advantage of a stay at home day was having the time to cook food with a longer preparation time. Tonight I prepared and cooked a pizza. This one was a pepperoni pizza. I usually make a sausage pizza, but I only had a stick of pepperoni in the refrigerator. It was an extra spicy pepperoni, so I probably should have just had a plain cheese pizza.

Tomorrow I may check out the World Golf Hall of Fame which is one exit north on I95 from here.

Checking out the St. Johns River

Monday August 8th 2016

The weather continues to be a mad oscillation between sun and rain. One minute it is full sunshine and the next is a cloud burst for 5 minutes or so. Unlike yesterday, I didn’t let it get in my way today.

I put my focus for the day on the area west of St. Augustine. Specifically, I went looking for land based recreation opportunities on the shore of the St. Johns river. I wanted to find a hiking trail or a bicycle trail. I’ll need to do a little bit of internet searching, because the driving around approach was unsuccessful.

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Looking south on the St. Johns river. The black cloud above opened up on me about 2 minutes after this picture was taken.

What I did discover was a lot of interesting roads, some with low hanging Spanish moss laden branches. You had the sense of driving in a tunnel of vegetation. I also stopped at a couple of boat launching areas and small parks to look for activity and wildlife.

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Birds hiding in the shallows under the overhang of the trees.

My travels today took me across the St. Johns river into Green Cove Springs, then down the west side to Palatka. I didn’t return directly north on the east side. Instead, I angled north east toward I95. Later in the day I went back to checkout some of the east side of the St. Johns river. There is still more to check out another day.

Back at the campground this afternoon I extended my stay for another week. This seems to be one of the better campgrounds in the area. For an area as famous as St. Augustine there are fewer campgrounds than I thought. At the campgrounds that are available, many of the sites are occupied by long term residents.

Complaining about the Weather

Sunday August 7th 2016

The weather really got in the way today. Not because it was bad, but because it was unpredictable. It seems like every time I wanted to do something the weather had other ideas.

I decided I’d do some of the tourist stuff in the downtown historic district this morning. The morning weather forecast called for clouds with rain possible near mid day. That’s exactly what it looked like when I stopped for breakfast at McDonalds on my way downtown. When I came out of McDonalds less than 20
minutes later, it looked like night was returning. I assumed the mid-day rain had arrived early.

The rain caused me to change plans. I went to the grocery store and to Walmart for a few things, then back to the RV to put the perishables away and regroup. So far, it only rained a couple of times for less than 5 minutes. None of the weather behavior was aligned with the forecasts on the TV.

Around noon it was looking brighter. The sun came out for a few minutes now and then. I decided to make another attempt at the tourist attractions. My first stop was at a couple of the beaches north of St. Augustine on route A1A. They were occupied, but not so heavily that I couldn’t find a place to park. There was nothing remarkable about this section of Atlantic Ocean beach. It had plenty of sand and the ocean was the ocean. I had the option of driving up the coast to Jacksonville or turning around back to St. Augustine. Returning to plan, I headed for the downtown tourist attractions.

Downtown St. Augustine has many narrow one way roads. I navigated those looking for a place to park without success. My only option was to get in line for the parking garage with about 25 other cars. As I approach the garage the sky opened up again. It went from sunny to down pour in the snap of your fingers. My interest in walking around in the rain was not great, then I saw the cost of parking. It was going to cost $12 to park. Even if it wasn’t raining I wouldn’t spend a lot of time playing tourist. I let my cheap side win and I got out of line and continued looking for a parking alternative. Navigating the narrow one way streets in the rain was even more difficult.

Fifteen minutes later with the sun out once more, I was in St. Augustine beach south of the city. This area seems to be more popular than the beaches north of town. I saw plenty of parking areas, but none of them had any space. While I was considering my options, mother nature turned the switch again. It went from sunny to down pour again. I decided to give up for the day and try again during the week when fewer people will be competing for the available space. My impression is that most of the people I’m competing with are local. There are not many out of state plates on the cars. This is unlike the winter when every 3rd car has an out of state plate.

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The campground is prepared for heavy rain. Each road has small drainage ditches that run to a big ditch between the campground and the storage area.

The story with the weather, according to another TV forecaster, is that a tropical low pressure system is stalled over the Lake City Florida area. This is about 100 miles to the west. The counter clockwise flow around the center is bringing water in off the Gulf of Mexico. We are on the fringe of the current area of impact so sometimes we get rained on and sometimes we don’t. As the storm moves east we will get more consistent impact.

What all that means is if I want to do something, do it. Just be prepared to get wet. I just dug an umbrella out of the closet. This now concludes my complaining about the weather’s impact on my life. I’ll grow up tomorrow.

Walking in Palm Coast Fl

Saturday August 6th 2016

The day started with heavy cloud cover that slowed the temperature rise from the overnight low in the 70s. There was a brief period of sun in the late morning, followed by a return to cloud cover as the stationary low pressure system to the west of here rotated. The weather is predicted to be very cloudy and wet over the next few days.

I took advantage of the morning weather to go for a walk. The location I picked was in the community of Palm Coast about 35 miles south of St. Augustine. Palm coast is a planned community that has been in development for about 40 years. It still has a great deal of open land available for development. The good thing about planned communities is all of the recreation opportunities they incorporate.

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Looking north at Waterfront Park. The birds in flight are metal sculptures of Blue Herons.

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View across the river from the walking trail. A boat is pulling a tube with 3 kids in the river.

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Another view of the river.

I parked at the Waterfront Park on the Matanzas River. The river is part of the Intercostal Waterway in this area. It separates the mainland from the barrier island. The walking and bicycling trail goes north from the park to the Hammock Dunes Bridge over the river. Piecing together the various distance signs, I’d guess I walked north about 1.5 miles. With the return walk added in I walked about 3 miles over the course of an hour. There were several stops for pictures and just watching the activity.

There were many people out walking and riding bikes. Everyone was very friendly. Good mornings were exchanged with everyone and a few additional brief conversations were also conducted. It really was surprising how chatty people were this morning.

I plastered on the sun screen even though I was starting the walk in cloudy weather. It is a good thing I did, because the sun came out during my walk. By the time I got back in was sunny in the 90s. I finished off my bottle of water on the home stretch of the walk. The walk is primarily along the river. Following the paved path you go inland to cross the feeder creeks on wood bridges. The brief inland sections are shaded, but the rest of the path is open.

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Boat slips on the left (west side of the river). The Hammock Dunes Bridge in the background.

The northern part of the walk passes in front of condominiums and beside the boat docks for the condo residents. Most of the slips were full and all of the boats were out of the water on lifts. There were signs that the water level is very changeable. I’m not sure if the water is tidal or if the level is controlled by run off.

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Kayaks and large cruisers sharing the river.

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Kids riding on tube pulled by boat.

I enjoyed the walk. There were Saturday morning boaters and fishermen to watch. A couple of bigger wading birds made an appearance to keep me amused. Both an Egret and an Ibis were along the bank searching for lunch.

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Egret swallowing a morsel of food.

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Ibis on the shore

After the walk I returned to my RV home. I watched the Olympic coverage on the TV. I haven’t reached my Olympic saturation point yet. My frustration level with the commercials and the sometimes lame attempts at human interest back stories is growing. Usually, by the second week of coverage I have moved on to other programming.

Area Familiarization Tour

Friday August 5th 2016

After a couple of days of travel, today was a much slower day. It was nice sunny day until late afternoon when the predicted thunderstorms moved into the area. My primary focus for the day was getting the lay of the land.

After a leisurely breakfast with the morning TV, I headed west across the St Johns river to Green Cove Springs. This is the county seat of Clay county. My mail service is located in this town. One of my primary reasons for stopping in this location is to setup my Florida domicile. Now I know how to find the county court house with the appropriate offices I’ll need to visit. On the way back I found a grocery store to stock-up on food for the weekend.

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Sailboat on a lift in the St. Johns river in Green Cove Springs Fl.

After storing the groceries away in the RV, I headed east toward St. Augustine. I stayed away from the historic district today. My goal was to locate other major stores. The area Walmart, Target and big box home improvement stores were all on US route 1, south of the historic district. I didn’t stop at any of these places today, but will likely need them during the next couple of weeks.

Late this afternoon after having a late lunch at the RV, I went shoe shopping at the outlet mall at the same Interstate 95 exit as this campground is located at. Today was a busy day for shopping. It is a no sales tax weekend for back to school shopping. Florida has a few quirks on the tax moratorium. Only items of clothing less than $60 are exempt from taxes and stores in resorts can not participate. They really want to make sure the majority of the savings go to people returning to Florida schools.

The $60 number is significant. I saw more pairs of shoes that were curiously on sale for $59.99. There were about 8 different stores that sold the kinds of casual shoes I was looking for. I went into most of the stores and walked up one isle and down the next then out the door. I finally returned to the Skechers outlet store that I started in to buy a pair of shoes. With any luck this pair of shoes will replace 3 pairs of shoes. I’ve worn through 2 old pairs in the last couple of weeks and I have one pair that I just don’t like. Unfortunately, for my motorhome’s weight carrying capacity I still have other shoes.

Tonight I’m watching the Olympics opening ceremony. Tomorrow I may try and find some natural settings to visit or possibly some of the tourist stuff in old St. Augustine.