Travel Day to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park

Monday February 18th 2019

Today was a hot and humid travel day. Several new record high temperatures were set in the area. It was in the high eighties with full sunshine as I got set up at the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park south of Gainesville FL. Cool cloudy days make better travel days.

Site 45 at the Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park south of Gainesville FL.

The first order of business after hitting the road this morning was to fill the motorhome with gas. I should have filled it before parking for the ten day stay. Gas was priced at $2.09 a gallon when I arrived on the eighth. The huge gas price signs that advertise for business along the highway are visible from the campground. The price of gas stayed at the low value until Friday the fifteenth. On Friday the price went up to $2.15, on Saturday it was $2.19, on Sunday it was $2.20 and today it was $2.25.

Juvenile Blue Heron? It has a blue grey beak and green legs so it isn’t an adult egret.

The price rise was going to cost me more than ten dollars by the time I filled the tank, but then the gas station layout conspired to cost me even more money. The way the RV accessible pumps are configured is unique. There is one pump for each grade of gas lined up along the island. I didn’t pick up on this feature right away. I picked the pump that kept my RV from blocking access to other areas of the parking lot. After I passed my credit card through the reader and got the prompt to select the grade of gas, I was surprised to find only one button to select. As I pushed the button I realized I was selecting the highest octane grade at $2.75 a gallon. The pump with regular grade gas was ten feet down the island. I put in ten gallons of high octane gas then moved the RV to the correct pump and repeated the process. The result is I spent more than fifteen dollars more than I would have ten days earlier.

The actual driving was uneventful. I used all interstate highways and squared out all of the corners that the secondary roads would have cut across. Not having to deal with traffic lights and stop and go traffic made the extra distance worth it. The overall time was probably comparable. I was on the road before eleven thirty and off the road shortly after 2PM.

Great White Egret.

I’m at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park until the first of March. The campground is in an old growth Florida forest on the side of lakes, and Florida prairie which seems to be more of a marsh. There is a lot of water and open space in the area. Once I got my RV home down the narrow tree branch draped road to my site, I’m pretty happy with my new location. A quick bike ride down to the lake was rewarded with a couple of bird sightings that I’ve missed seeing the last few weeks.

Okefenokee NWR

Sunday February 17th 2019

The weather forecasters didn’t got it wrong again, but it was another OK day. The morning fog and clouds hung in to around 3:30 in the afternoon. It was a humid day in the mid seventies.

This statue is the greeting in front of the visitors center.

I’ve wanted to visit the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge all week. Today was my last opportunity, so I set out for the swamp after breakfast. Half way there I had a minor panic when I realized I left my phone at home. It’s amazing how uncomfortable I feel when I don’t have the device with me. Never mind that I survive for decades without a cell phone. I wasn’t going to back track twenty miles, so I continued on without it. The only real down side was I had no idea what time it was when I was out of the car.

Mizell Prairie on a cloudy day.
Canal into the swamp.

For something that I’ve wanted to do for a while, I was remarkably unprepared. I only had a vague idea what was available to see. Consequently the boat trips were already booked. Just walking the trails and driving along the roads doesn’t provide a good overview of the swamp. Therefore, there will be a next time. To really see the refuge you need to be staying nearer and visit over several days.

Four Sandhill Cranes passing very noisily above the tree branches overhead.
Two more Sandhill Cranes over the prairie.

I did see some of the birds I’ve been missing over the couple of weeks. There were a lot of Sandhill Cranes and a Great Egret or two. The cranes were making a lot of noise as they flew around the prairie section of the park. Unfortunately none of them were very close to the observation areas.

Turtle out of the water for a little rest.
Another view of the canal into the swamp on a cloudy day.

Along the canal section of the refuge I spotted a couple of turtles on the far side right away. I thought that was going to be my only amphibian sighting until I checked an area behind the visitors center. On the far bank there was a medium size alligator on the bank and a larger one a little ways away. Watching those gators I almost missed seeing a smaller one right below my location on the near bank. So my observation count was three gators, one turtle, six Sandhill Cranes and an Egret or two.

Medium sized gator on the far bank.
Little gator in the water on along the near side of the canal.
Big gator on the far bank of the canal.

Tomorrow is a travel day back into Florida. I will be traveling a little over 150 miles to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park south of Gainesville.

Walking the River Front in St. Mary’s GA

Saturday February 16th 2019

It was an OK day weather wise, but it sure was different from the high expectations the forecasters set. The day began with clouds and a little foggy and ended cloudy. For an hour or two around mid day the clouds broke apart just enough to allow some sun light to reach the ground. It allowed the temperature to get into the mid seventies.

St. Mary’s River from the historic downtown area. It is low tide.

During the best part of the day I enjoyed a walk along the river front in downtown historic St. Mary’s Georgia. There are a number of parks wander through and historic markers to read. I wasn’t the only one out for a walk in the park today. There were a lot of people out for a stroll, a brisk walk or a jog. The river is still tidal in this area and it was low tide. The marsh that lines the north side of the river was a bit of a mud flat, but recreational boat traffic was still moving out in the river.

An Anhinga on one of the pier pilings remaining after the hurricane a couple of years ago.

I’ve been on the look out for big birds. The conditions haven’t been good for spotting the usual Ibis, Egrets, Herons or Pelicans. I still didn’t find any of those birds today. I did see one Gull and an Anhinga. I guess I have to wait until I get further south later this month and next.

Long areas of marsh line the north shore of the river.

Back at the campground this afternoon I finally got the laundry finished before the park filled up with the next set of overnight guests. I had my choice of all four machines. I just wish I knew what the drier is doing with my drier sheets. Last time I was convinced that the sheets were stuck inside something I washed only to be found at the most annoying time. This time I checked every thing very carefully, but I found no evidence of the drier sheets I know I put in the drier. Is the drier eating them? Are they getting turned into tiny pieces of lint?

Looking inland along the shore of the river.

It is very clear the park is getting filled by people on a quick February vacation from up north. There are several tents, tent trailers, truck campers and classic RVs with plenty of kids occupying sites tonight. Most of them are from Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania. These are states that a single day of hard driving would reach this point by night fall. There are also a few from the other northern states and provinces. It’s fun to observe the different types of rigs and their origins.

A Stay at Home Day

Friday February 15th 2019

Today didn’t live up to the forecast. The weather prediction was off, so my idea of how to spend the day was off as well. I was anticipating a sunny day with the high temperature in the upper seventies. What I got was a cloudy day with temperature barely making it to seventy. Cloudy days keep my initiative level low. I stayed inside all morning and didn’t leave the campground in the afternoon.

Wildflower blossom of the day.

I still haven’t got the laundry done, but the appliance repair man was working on the broken washers today. When I checked the availability of the laundry room I found one of the machines in pieces all over the floor with a repair man sorting through the parts.

Most of my time today was spent trying to figure out what I should throw out. There is a lot of stuff that I’ve been carrying around the country with me for the last thee years that hasn’t seen the light of day since I loaded them into the RV. Transporting unneeded things that add weight and take up valuable space is not a good idea. I had plenty of available space and weight capacity when I started my Rambling Road trip, but most of the space has been taken by acquisitions along the way. I’m not sure about the weight right now. Once I find the things I haven’t use, the trick is to overcome the reason I decided to bring them in the first place. Once I throw something away it’s gone for good. Things with a sentimental history will probably stay, but the things that only fit the “might come in handy sometime” criteria need to go. So far I haven’t made much of a dent.

The campground is very busy. The number of empty sites at the 11AM checkout time wasn’t as great today as earlier in the week. New arrivals started arriving as early as noon. It’s full again tonight, Some are clearly hear for the long weekend and others are just passing through. One characteristic of the new arrivals is a higher percentage of kids. Next week is a school vacation week in many of the northern states. I suspect some of the late arrivals tonight are making a speed run to Florida for vacation. The trailer in the site next to me didn’t even disconnect from the tow vehicle.

Animal Visitor Day

Thursday February 14th 2019

The weather roller coaster is on the up slope. The sun was out most of the day allowing the temperature to reach seventy. Tomorrow and the weekend are forecast to be even warmer.

Bear statue in the kids play area. If it doesn’t scare the kids, I guess they climb on it. I’m a little uncertain on its appropriateness.

Today was a domestic chore style day. I tried to get the laundry finished, but found the laundry facility full once again. The other bad sign is the condition of the machines. Two of the four machines, including the one that sounded bad earlier in the week, were labeled out of service. I’ll have to check on the other laundry facility in the park. It is usually much busier.

The second task of the day was more successful. I made a grocery run to the local Walmart Super Center. This Walmart had a large customer base from the submarine base. The number of people in uniform in some areas of the store almost out numbered those in regular clothes. The crowds around the Valentines Day cards and gifts were particularly heavy. In the bulk candy section of the grocery store all of the Valentines Day candy had already been replaced by Easter candy.

This rabbit lives under the deck around the office. He was out for a little early supper.

My excitement of the day happened after I returned with the groceries. The park was filling up as it does every evening. One motorhome pulling what I thought was a small box trailer parked in a site a nearby. When I went out later I found out it wasn’t a box trailer at all. It was a livestock trailer. The owner had set up a small coral around the back of the trailer. In the coral was an Alpaca or a Llama. I don’t know how to tell the difference without having both types of animal in front of me. The motorhome wasn’t setup yet, but the animal was getting watered and fed.
I’ve been to many campgrounds that have separate equestrian areas, but I never had horses on a site nearby let alone a more unusual animal like an Alpaca. I think half the occupants of the campground walked by to get a look at our strange animal neighbor.

Llama or Alpaca? It retreated to the trailer when people were nearby, but wandered the little coral when the coast was clear.

Another Dull Weather Day

Wednesday February 13th 2019

It rained lightly overnight. By morning it was cool and foggy. The sun worked hard to break through the clouds all day. As the sun was setting along the western horizon the clouds in the sky started to dissipate. It was too late to allow the temperature to rise above sixty. Overall it was a dull and cool day.

Today’s wild flower picture is a little more in focus than yesterday’s.

The missing sunlight and the cool temperature worked against an early start to my day. I rolled over and went back to sleep in my warm bed at least twice this morning. It was after ten before I got moving, but I had the TV in the bedroom on for more than an hour before getting up. Did my day start when I turned on the TV or when I got up?

The lazy approach to the day was set. I didn’t leave the campground all day. This afternoon I attempted to finish catching up on the laundry. When I walked by the laundry room it was empty so I hurried back to my RV home to collect the laundry. In the five minutes it took to assemble all paraphernalia and walk back to the laundry all four washing machines had been claimed and loaded by one customer. There was no point in waiting since the lady still had stuff to load into the machines. I now have all the laundry stuff sitting by my door waiting for the next attempt.

For a little bit of exercise I walked down the campground access road which parallels Interstate 95 to the end. It is about a half a mile down and back. Watching the traffic on the interstate was the only interesting thing on the walk. I passed one swamp that looked like it should provide shelter for a lot of wildlife, but I didn’t see anything. The absence of large birds in this area like Ibis, Egrets and Herons has been very noticeable. Either it is too cold in this area for the birds or the food they eat. Even down by the river in downtown St Marys I didn’t see any birds. In previous visits to this area at this time of year I don’t remember missing the birds. The big birds really draw my attention. They look stately and regal.

Swamp down the street from the campground. I didn’t find any signs of animal life. Where are the birds?

Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln

Tuesday February 12th 2019

Today began similar to Monday with fog. By noon the sun was out and the temperature was climbing into the mid seventies. The approaching front caused a few dramatic interruptions to the sunny day, but it still managed to end with the sun shining.

Wild flower blossom of the day.

I didn’t do any particularly blog worthy things today. My camera didn’t capture anything to show off either. Soon after the fog lifted I set off for the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. As I drove to the west the sky started to darken. When I reached the town of Folkston GA near the eastern boarder of the refuge, it started raining hard. Visiting a swamp in the rain didn’t appeal to me so I turned south on US 301 and drove a giant loop into Florida and backup to my campsite on the Florida Georgia line. I’ll try and make another attempt before I leave here.

When I got back to my RV home the dark clouds from the west were just arriving. The wind blew hard for a few minutes and a little rain fell, but not as much as I experienced earlier. The TV weather forecast is calling for the real rain to arrive in the early morning hours. Tomorrow’s high temperatures are expected to be ten to fifteen degrees cooler.

Every day I try to think about things to write in this blog. When I’m playing tourist or out exploring it is usually easy. Days like today are more difficult. I don’t like the monotony of writing three paragraphs on the weather. Instead I want to write about Lincoln’s birthday. A brief mention that it was his birthday on the morning news reminded me of grammar school.

Before the powers that be decided to create another Monday holiday called Presidents Day both Lincoln’s birthday on the 12th and Washington’s birthday on the 22nd were celebrated. Washington’s birthday was an actual holiday that we had off from school but Lincoln’s birthday got a lot of attention in the curriculum. When they moved the holiday to the third Monday in February many states decided to call it Presidents Day rather than Washington’s Birthday. Mr. Lincoln got diminished in significance even more. I wonder if his birthday is still celebrated in grammar schools around the USA. Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln. Not everybody has forgotten your birthday.

Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln. Your still memorialized on the penny.

Changing Weather and Some Laundry

Monday February 11th 2019

It rained most of the night from Sunday to Monday. This morning it was a foggy mess, but it gradually improved. By afternoon the sun was warming the air into the mid seventies. Overall it was a good half day.

I’m still working on catching up on my laundry. I got another load done today. The washing machine I used has been well used. It was complaining loudly during much of the cycle. I had visions of returning to a flooded laundry room from a broken machine, so I remained in the laundry room for the entire cycle. Luckily there were plenty of old paperback books to read. The laundry room in most campgrounds doubles for the library. The machine held together long enough to complete the wash cycle. After transferring the load to the drier, I went back to the book I found for another forty five minutes of drying time. I still need to strip my bed and wash the bedding.

Campground filling up this afternoon. Most of these sites were empty at noon.

All of the overnighters at the campground were gone by the 11AM checkout time. The new “crop” of over night guests start arriving around 1PM. Yesterday there apparent origin was mostly Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Tonight they seem to be from New York, the New England states and Ontario. My guess is they all left home on Friday. The ones with the shorter travel distance got here a day earlier than those with the longer drive. If you watch the traffic pass on Interstate 95 during the day you’ll see an RV go by every minute or two. Most of the volume of RVs is southbound, but there are a few northbound.

Tomorrow may be the last warm day of the week, but it may have some rain in the afternoon. I’m still trying to find good weather to ride the ferry out to the Cumberland National Seashore. Tomorrow and Wednesday are out, because the ferry doesn’t run in the middle of the week during the winter months. I spent most of my day thinking I was moving on this Friday, but I’m actually here until the holiday on Monday. That gives me more opportunities on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

A No Sun Sunday

Sunday February 10th 2019

This was a no sun Sunday. It was a foggy day with full cloud cover. The high temperature was about the same as yesterday in high fifties. The only difference was the wind wasn’t as strong which allowed the water vapor filled air to hug the ground. It was not a day conducive of much activity.

Four sailboats tied to the dock along the St Mary’s River near the historic downtown area. They appear to be occupied by snowbirds.

I took a drive to downtown historic St Marys today. I found the river front area under construction. The road is torn up and the boat launch area is under construction. It looks like they are replacing the boat ramp with piers. There were a few people walking in the area, but it wasn’t a very scenic day. The far bank of the river was barely visible in the fog.

Sailboat anchored out in the St. Mary’s River. I think I’ve seen this boat here before. This is probably its home port.

This area has a split personality. The historic downtown area is a tourist draw. It contains the mainland visitors center for the Cumberland Island National Seashore and a few shops, restaurants and museums. The broader area is a military town supporting the Kings Bay Submarine Base with all of the shopping and support services that implies.

Near the river in the downtown area I found an Azalea in bloom. It’s nice to see a little bright color on a dull day.

Dramatic Change in the Weather

Saturday February 9th 2019

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday was warm and sunny. Today was more than twenty five degrees cooler, cloud covered and very windy. The high temperature never made it out of the fifties and the wind was out of the northeast at fifteen to twenty miles per hour. The people in the campground arriving from the north probably found the weather fine. I just found it annoying.

This pine cone came from high up in the pine trees via the roof of my RV into my yard. The sound was rather startling to say the least.

I’m currently located on the Florida Georgia line. It is interesting to see the difference in the plant life here and down in central Florida. This area gets below freezing at night from time to time during the winter months. It is only occurs occasional in the Orlando area. When I was out today I didn’t find any plants with blossoms. The plants all look like they are in a dormant state. I miss the color the blossoms provide.

This campground is right beside Interstate 95. It has a large turnover of travelers every night. It was full last night, but many were gone by nine in the morning. Tonight the park is full again. The management seems to attempt to fill sites with spacing in mind. They don’t fill neighboring sites until the need arrives. When I’ve been here at less busy times of year, I usually had an empty site on each side. This time of year I’ve had neighbors both nights and suspect I’ll have them every night. When fully occupied the sites are close. Right now my passenger side is occupied by a small trailer built in the 1960s. It really looks tiny beside my motorhome.

The little repainted 1960s era Scotty travel trailer is dwarfed by my not so big RV behind it.