Monday, June 15, 2015

First-time surf fishing

June 13, 2015—I am red-faced, but I am not embarrassed. I am slightly sunburned. That’s what a day on the beach will do to you, if you don’t use enough sunscreen. And apparently I did not.

We drove down to Mexico Beach on the Gulf yesterday. We first dipped our line in a quiet lagoon near the gulf; no fish took the lure. We then found a bait store and beach access and set up, for the first time, our surf-fishing rods.

My first attempts at getting the line in the water were comical. I can cast a normal, six-foot rod pretty well, but the surf rods are about 10 feet long. I did not have too much luck. Instead of going 100 yards straight out, my line had a tendency to go about 10 yards to the side!

Jim came to my rescue. He was able to cast pretty well, most of the time. I tried again several times, and eventually made a few good casts. Good casts aside, we still came away from the beach fishless, despite the yummy bait we had on the hooks.

After several hours in the sun, we went back to an inlet where a number of fisher people were trying their luck. Something— a crab—decided that our thawed shrimp would make a good supper. I actually caught a crab on my line and managed to pull it in without losing it. Alas! I got the crab on the land, but we had left the fish net in the car, so when it landed on solid ground, it let go of my line and scurried away. I admit I was too concerned about getting pinched by its claws to make much of a grab for it and by the time Jim came to my rescue, the crab was gone, safe in Davey Jones’ locker.
We had great time, but it was also a reminder of why I don’t go to the beach, which is only less than 20 minutes (with traffic and parking) from my house: I don’t like the sand.

I had sand in every crevice, and the car is filled with the white, sugary stuff. I managed to find a shower at the fishing pier, but I don’t think I ever felt so grubby! I think I will confine my surf-fishing to our home base, so that I won’t have to wallow in the gritty stuff for very long.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Falling waters, two eggs, and a possum

June 13, 2015—Did you know there is a town in Florida called Two Egg? Actually, by its website’s own description, it is not a town, because it does not have a tax base, a government, a mayor, or anything else that would make it a town. It is actually a wide spot in the road in Jackson County, whose county seat is Marianna.

That wide spot in the road claims to have its own ghost and is near a ghost town called Parramore. (We didn’t see either one.) We did stop to take a picture of the town’s sign. (How many times do you find a town called Two Egg?)

Our main destination today was visiting Falling Water State Park. The park boasts the highest water falls in Florida. When water falls (only after rains), it cascades down the falls and drops into a 100-foot sink hole. Quite impressive—the hole more than the falls. The state park, which is not very big but does have camping and swimming in a sinkhole, spring-fed 2 acre lake, is located in Chipley, just outside of Marianna. This state park would be a great place to camp with kids.
Falling Waters 

Water fall and 100-foot sink hole

We had heard that this area had been home to many different Native American tribes for several hundred years. One of our neighboring campers, who lives about an hour from here, said he is constantly digging up arrowheads on his property. Given that knowledge, we thought we would like to find out more, so we hunted for a visitor’s center.

It is Saturday. Everything is closed. Don’t these townsfolk know that tourist actively tour on weekends? That’s when a visitor’s center should be open, not closed.

Although the region’s welcome center was closed, we decided to take a chance that the the visitor’s center in Marianna would be open. Although it was closed, perhaps it would have some brochures available.

We pulled up to the historic building in which the center is located...and discovered it was open! Not officially, however. It was hosting a birthday party. We “sort of” crashed the party by snooping around the various rooms of the old Victorian house. Very nice. Oh, and we picked up a few brochures.

Turns out the self-guided walking tour really only featured several old houses. Not really our cup of tea.

Another of the brochures was the Jackson County Visitors’ Guide. One of the highlights in Jackson County is Greenwood, a town featuring Pender’s Store, founded in 1869 and “remains the oldest operating store in Florida” (according to the brochure). We found the store. But it is no longer open. It must have closed sometime after 2014 when the Jackson County Visitor’s Guide was published. Bummer.

The guide also had pictures of Service Drug, a pharmacy established in 1906 in Graceville. Apparently this drugstore still has a real soda fountain. (I remember going to a Walgreen’s in Gary, Ind., that had a soda fountain.) We were on the opposite side of the county, so before heading out that way, I decided to call. No answer. Again, what’s with these small towns? If they want to attract tourists, they need to keep their tourist attractions open on weekends! At least the number I called did not reach a disconnected number.

As I was researching some of the areas attractions on my cell phone (aka my pocket computer) I found that the town of Wausau, not to far from Falling Waters State Park, boasts it is the possum kingdom of the world. The state legislature in 1982 proclaimed the benefits of the possum, a humble rat-like ugly but apparently very nutritious creature. The state erected an monument to the possum in Wausau. That’s about all there is in this small town. Oh, the town does have a possum festival the first weekend in August. Darn. We’ll be in Indiana then and will miss it. Darn!
Monument to the humble possum

All in all, it was a great day and a fun vacation. It was nice getting away. Tomorrow it is back home.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Friday, June 12, 2015

Xena on a leash

June 12, 2015--This is the first trip Xena has made without Charlie. She was a good girl.

Jim is determined to get her used to walking on a leash. It was comical to watch him pull her along. She hunkered down and refused to move! Eventually, though, we did walk--especially when Jim headed toward the RV. Home never looked so good to her.

Florida caverns

June 12, 2015—Weatherbug, that little Android app on my cell phone—the only electronic device to pick up a signal here in Three Rivers State Park—advised that Mexico Beach on the Gulf, our planned destination for Thursday—was to experience a series of thunder storms and heavy rain. So, we nixed the idea of surf fishing and opted, instead, to visit Florida Caverns State, located outside of Marianna, Fla.

The reform school in Marianna is where supposedly delinquent boys were treated in despicable ways. It operated from 1900 until 2011, when the truth about the abuse, beatings, rape, and even murder of many young boys eventually was proven. The institution was one of the biggest reform schools in the United States.

Jim said that when he was growing up his parents made the hollow threat of sending him to Marianna unless he shaped up. (In my family, my brothers were threatened with military school. I don’t recall the threat to us girls.)

Marianna is actually a nice little Panhandle town nestled in an abundance of beautiful natural resources, including Florida Caverns State Park. 

When people think of Florida, they immediately think sunshine, sand, palm trees, and flat land. This part of Florida (Northwestern Florida) has plenty of sand and some palm trees, but it is definitely not flat. It is very hilly, with many rivers and creeks. Its bedrock is limestone, and as every spelunker knows, when acid rainwater seeps through limestone, caves (and sink holes) are created. 

Florida Caverns is the only state-operated public caverns open to tourists.

This park, like many other 161 state parks in Florida,  was built during the Great Depression by the CCCs. (My dad served in the CCCs as a teen, but not in Florida.) The young men labored to create a walk-through tour of the caves.

The caverns are not on par with any others I have seen, but they are well worth the time nevertheless. My neck still aches a bit from having to walk through some of the passageways hunched over. One passage is only two feet wide and four feet high. It wasn’t very long, though.

Upon exiting the caverns, we had three choices to return to our car: a 9-minute walk that ended at the gift shop; a hiking trail (I forgot where it went); or a 45-minute trek through the woods, where we could see a shelf cave and walk through the Tunnel Cave. We opted for the latter.

I am not much of a hiker. The trail was replete with roots and stone “steps” that we had to navigate. My problem is balance. Navigating up a trail or steps is not too bad (I only get out of breath and don’t enjoy the workout), but  going down steps, especially uneven steps on a trail, challenges my balance. However, I managed. I admit that I was tuckered out and extremely thirsty by the end of our walk in the woods.

The hike tested my endurance, but it was fun. It ended by our going through a Tunnel Cave—a cave that was open on both ends (hence, a tunnel), which led us out near the parking lot.

I slept well last night.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Serenity at Three Rivers State Park

June 10, 2015—Three Rivers State Park, near Marianna, Fla., and about 45 minutes outside of Tallahassee, is truly beautiful. We can look out at the lake from our campsite. I am sure Lake Seminole has an abundance of fish,but so far, none has been tempted by our feeble attempts to catch them.

I did snag a baby alligator, who thought my worm lure looked appetizing. He spit it out though, so no harm to him or the lure. 

We only fished for a while last night (although I went out this morning while Jim was still asleep), because for a couple of hours yesterday, Jim had to “play” with the wiring on the car.
Lake Seminole at Three Rivers State Park

The baby alligator that liked my fishing lure
He is at it again this morning. With any luck (and skill, since Mr. Fixit always finds a way to correct electrical and mechanical problems), we will have working brake lights today.

We intend to try our luck at fishing this lake. We are also considering going down to the Gulf Coast to try our hand at surf fishing, something we have been wanting to do for a year. Let me see...we live about eight miles from the Atlantic Ocean in Jacksonville, where we can surf fish, so we drive 238 miles here, then another 60 miles to the coast to try our hand at this type of fishing. Does that make sense? And how about fishing in lakes and rivers? Again, the Jacksonville area has an abundance of water around it, but we drove five hours to go fishing in this state park.

Of course, fishing was just one of the reasons for this trip. The main purpose for this trek was to get away for awhile, since it had been so long since we had taken a vacation. (I know, I know: When you are retired life is supposed to be one continual vacation. Unfortunately, it is not.)

I have no internet access; I have a T-Mobile hotspot, but T-Mobile does not work in this area. (Fortunately, my AT&T-based Cricket cell phone operates well.) We only get one TV station during the day, and it breaks up at night.

I think all that quiet is called serenity.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Monday, June 8, 2015

Test Run

June 8, 2015-- We have not RVed for more than a year. Time just sort of slipped away without our being able to enjoy our RV. Some of that time was not pleasant, including several medical issues and death in the family. And some were pragmatic: We had to equip our “new” Ford Edge with the proper equipment to allow it to be towed.

Since we had new equipment (the car and its towing harness and hitch), we needed to do a test run before we head out for a long vacation later this summer. The purpose of a test run, of course, is to find out if all systems are “go.”

Naturally, they weren’t.

We discovered that the wiring to the lights on toad (our SUV) did not match the wiring on the RV. Only tail lights lit up. We drove anyway. When we got to the campsite, we also had a dead battery. Actually we were aware that the battery might die (Ford lies when it says this model is towable), but Jim thought he had solved it when he wired the car. However, since the wiring was not correct, the battery trickle charge did not work along with the brake lights.

The campsite host helped us jumpstart the car, and tomorrow, even before we think about fishing, Jim has to fix the wiring.

I won’t be able to post this (or other blogs) for a while. Although I can get email on my phone (thanks to the AT&T network Cricket uses), my T-Mobile hotspot does not work here in the woods, along the banks of Lake Seminole at Three Rivers State Park near Marianna, Fla.

So, until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Back home again...

Rob and I hit the road about 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 15. The movers were incredible: They had everything loaded into the huge moving tru...