Sunday, April 27, 2014

Florida Georgia Line

No, I'm not talking about the country pop duo, I'm talking about the route we followed from Marianna, FL to Savannah, GA - heading north out of Marianna then turning east to cross into Georgia above Lake Seminole. That way we avoided I-10 and traveled mostly four lane US 84 angling up toward the east coast.

Avoiding fast, heavy traffic and enjoying scenery such as this along the way. Richmond Hill, just outside Savannah was our stop for the night.

And since we didn't have reservations, we were on the lookout for a likely-looking motel. Bud spotted this Scottish Inn which advertised 'Senior Rates' and clean rooms. What a deal. It was one of the cheaper places we stayed and the room rate and ambiance were great.

Savannah wasn't our main destination for the day, but I at least wanted to drive around it a bit. No time for one of the celebrated "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" tours. I felt we could find the area on our own and thought we had when I saw this square across the street from those picturesque row houses.

But instead of Bonaventure Cemetery, we had happened upon Johnson Square Cemetery. So we wandered around it for awhile, reading interesting plaques and tombs.

I didn't write anything down about this tombstone. I liked the juxtaposition of the old gravestone, fence, brick tombs in the background and the Spanish moss.

The square was more like a park than a cemetery. Beautiful flowering trees, pathways, benches upon which to sit and perhaps contemplate one's own mortality. Many of the graves were very old, dating back to men famous from the Revolutionary War and important to the founding of Savannah.

One of my favorite's was this "Duellist's Grave" marker for James Wilde's tomb. His brother was the poet, Richard Henry Wilde. You may have heard or read these opening lines:

"My life is like the Summer Rose
   That opens to the morning sky;
But ere the shades of evening close
   Is scattered on the ground to die."

Savannah is one of those places I wouldn't mind having several days to explore. But it wasn't on my 'must see' list for this trip. I was content with the brief visit.  On to Charleston! It was on my list.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Falling Waters and Sink Holes

"On the fifth day* of the journey, I was looking at all the life. There were plants and birds and rocks and things...."
On the fifth day of the journey, after leaving Panama City Beach and before reaching Marianna around noon our destination was one Christine had told us about - Falling Waters State Recreation Area. It was interesting as we stopped at the entrance to pay our fee there was a sign noting that water was not flowing over the falls at all times and that we should ask - which we did.

We were in luck. Water was indeed flowing in Florida's highest waterfall. A short walk on the boardwalk and we could hear the water falling. A little further along, around a bend and down about twenty-five steps we were standing on a platform next to the falls.

Looking over the railing to the bottom of the cylindrical sink is a bit daunting. The falls is described as 73 feet while the sink is said to be 100 feet deep. I'm still trying to understand the difference. The falls powered a grist mill during the Civil War era. In 1891 a distillery was constructed on the site.

Looking down to the bottom of the falls. The stream disappears underground here. The water's final destination remains unknown. The limestone is covered by moss and ferns.

The entire park lies atop of a bed of limestone which has eroded over the years creating many sink holes and caverns.

A boardwalk around many of the sink holes provides an easy and safe route from which to view them.

Some of the aforementioned plants (flowers) and rocks and things. Supposedly Native Americans used the sink holes and caverns in which to hide from Andrew Jackson during the Seminole Wars.

This was a very nice, peaceful, scenic stop on the way to Dale & Christine's. I would like to see it when the falls are in full flow, maybe then I could imagine them powering a grist mill.

(* First part of the journey in America's 'A Horse With No Name' lyrics.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

A One Year Anniversary

Almost exactly one year ago right now (5:25 p.m.) Dr. Reeves sat in my hospital room and said, "Well, you've had a stroke". I began to cry - not because I'd had a stroke - I'd been telling hospital personnel that all day. No one would agree with me. I cried because finally someone acknowledged what I already knew.

My stroke was in the left internal capsule of the middle cerebral artery branch. It did cause some loss of use in my right arm and right leg. How lucky I was that what paralysis there was went away after a few days.

A month after the stroke I attended granddaughter Deise's high school graduation reception. I thought I was doing pretty well.

But now when I look at this picture taken that day, I can see how tired and wan I looked. I was still having problems with dizziness and lack of energy.

Compare that with this picture of me with great-granddaughter Lily taken about eight months before my stroke and you can see what I mean.

There's nothing like holding a baby to make one feel wonderful regardless of age.

I had another little transient ischemic attack (TIA) about four months after my stroke. (I'd also had one about six months before.) The TIA set me back some, but there was no loss of use of hand, arm or leg that time. Just more problems with balance and light-headedness. Enough so that my Dr. referred me to a neurologist who specializes in stroke patients.

He was the one to show me the scans of my brain that were taken the day I had the stroke. He also told me there was nothing I could do to 'cause' another one. The best indicator for another stroke is having already had one. I know the first few days I was home from the hospital I found myself just sitting in my recliner 'waiting' for the next one. I finally got over that and learned to go on with my life....if it happens, it happens.

This is a picture of me last month on vacation atop a fifty-five foot mound at Winterville, MS historical site. It was the second Mississippian Culture mound I had made it to the top of on our trip. I felt good the whole time we were on the road.

I think I still walk a little gimpy but that could be as much about my arthritic knees as it is from residual stroke problems. Probably the biggest change during the year was an exact 20-lb weight gain. And if that's the worst, I'll deal with it. In fact I've already begun losing some of those pounds.

So, on this one-year anniversary I will once again reiterate how very lucky I was. I'm grateful. I thank my personal angel for being with me that day - just as she has always been.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Red Flag Day At The Beach

By Thursday evening we had made our way along the Florida Gulf Coast as far as we were going before turning and heading toward Christine & Dale's in Marianna. I had called ahead and booked a room in Panama City Beach. The surprise was when we got to our room and found we had a whirlpool suite. I hadn't asked for that and the agent on the phone hadn't asked if we wanted it. So, surprise!

When we got to the beach the next morning the top floors of the condominiums were shrouded in fog. Visibility lowered the whole time we were there.

The flag halfway along the fishing pier was a good indication of how strong the wind was blowing. - Not that we didn't already know that.

Surf's up! There were few people on the beach and I don't remember seeing any in the water on this morning.

Perhaps because it was a Red Flag Day. Red flags mean "High hazard, High surf and/or strong currents. Double red means the beach is closed. Yellow is medium hazard; green is low hazard and purple is for dangerous marine life - like jellyfish. 

I don't suppose they call them snow fences in Florida. Are they called sand fences? Or beach fences? At any rate, I thought it was interesting the way the sand had piled up to the top and across the fence in this area - just like snow does during our Iowa winters.

One thing I've noticed about Hondas is that even if they are no longer pretty, they still keep on running. You might think this one had been customized to carry a wheel chair or some such but we watched as a guy removed a huge cooler on wheels and headed for the pier. And while the beach access was free, the fisher people had to pay to go out on the pier.

Time to head inland.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Life's A Beach And Then You......."

That's not exactly how that t-shirt adorning phrase from the '80's went but as we left Fort Morgan to wend our way across the panhandle of Florida next to the Gulf it was just one beach town after another. The first beach I wanted to walk on was still in Alabama:

Orange Beach. Where or when I first heard of this beach I don't remember. Its soft white sand certainly lived up to my expectations. I still haven't come up with a metaphor to describe what walking in this sand was like.

Bud in his new beach footwear standing in the surf. The water was still chilly but that didn't stop people from going in as those young women in the background were doing - trying to surf on their little boards.

And while Bud wore his sandals on the beach and I carried my shoes, as we left I noticed many trusting souls just left their footwear on the boardwalk before going down onto the beach. Next time I'll know how to act like a local.

I wonder what it would be like to stay for a week or two at one of these condos. Every day could be life at the beach.

It was hard to believe how white the sand was, not only on the beaches but in the dunes all along the highway. When I asked a woman at an information rest stop, she did not know. Googling it said that the white sand beaches came from quartz grains washed down from the Appalachian Mountains thousands of years ago. That was one heck of a lot of quartz!

Oh, oh. Looking ahead I can see another one of 'those' bridges coming up. By this time crossing bridges was hardly even bothering me. Maybe having that 'talking to' myself before leaving home actually worked!

A view of more of that white sand from the bridge as we crossed. I learned that I could take fairly decent pictures even as we were zooming along the highway.

A view of Gulf Islands National Seashore. After we were back home, granddaughter Deise asked if we had gone to Santa Rosa Beach. She had been there and described it as the most beautiful place. Had I remembered which beach she had been to I would have made it a point to see that one. As it was, we did drive past it. Too many beaches, so little time, but all of them gorgeous.

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Fort and The Ferry

Fort Gaines is the Civil War era fort at the east tip of Dauphin Island best known for its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay. It and Fort Morgan, across the bay, were built to protect the entrance to Mobile Bay.

Self-explanatory - "Shell hit from U.S.S. Chickasaw". Not self-explanatory - this wall is the interior west wall of the fort. Meaning the cannon ball came from out in the bay, across the interior of the fort before hitting the wall.

The sign reads "Do not climb on cannon" - proof to the grandkids that I'm not the only one who doesn't mind the rules. (Reference the 'Please stay of the rocks' picture of me at Moundville.)

The ten-seater latrine, built so the tides 'flushed' everything out to sea..

The anchor from Admiral Farragut's flagship, the U.S.S. Hartford. It was after the ironclad U.S.S. Tecumseh struck a confederate mine and was sunk that Farragut famously ordered, "Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!" Or as Bud paraphrased, "Damn the mosquitoes, full steam ahead."

Boarding the ferry that would take us off-island and on toward our Florida destination. Crossing the bay on a ferry? Me?

But there were really only two choices - the ferry or going back across that bridge which can be just barely seen over my left shoulder. It was a warm and windy day. And if it looks like I was having fun, surprisingly I was. I actually enjoyed the 35-minute crossing.

Looking back at Fort Gaines. Good-bye fort. Good-bye Dauphin Island. It was a good choice by Bud. A fun and interesting side-trip.

Two of the oil rigs in the bay. We were also on the look-out for dolphins, but didn't see any.

Departing the ferry at Fort Morgan. We were coming in for a perfect landing.

And it looks as though this pelican was, too. Although the one in the middle may have had other ideas.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Swimming With The Dauphins

Bud's first must see stop of our trip was Dauphin Island in Mobile Bay. When he posted a picture of his first run in April on Facebook and labeled it with the Island's name, my wise and cute little brother asked if he got to swim with the Dauphins.
I did some reading about the Island before we even left home so I knew two things about it: 1) We would have to cross a scary bridge to get there. 2) There was only one motel on the Island.

The bridge. Yes, I hate crossing bridges - have since I was a child. But I told myself we would have to cross a lot of bridges and a lot of water in order to go and see what we wanted to. I guess that helped some because I didn't get as freaked out as I usually do.

This is the Gulf Breeze Motel where we stayed. It has been owned by the same family since 1982. Nothing wrong with staying here except we missed the lower winter rates by two days. It was clean, comfortable, close to the bay side and the beaches.

Which is were we headed as soon as we unpacked the car. It was a bit windy and cool, but oh so much better than what we had left behind in Iowa.

I limited myself the number of shells I would bring home from each beach. The little one at the bottom was still hinged together when I found it. I tried packaging it so carefully, but of course it was in two pieces when I got home.

Indian Shell Mound Park is one of the bird sanctuaries on the Island. We heard more birds than we saw except for these two guinea hens. I was hoping they would make a noise because I've forgotten what they sounded like from when we had white ones when I was a kid.
 The historically significant park was so named because of mounds of shell middens found here - mounds composed of discarded oyster shells. These mounds date to the same Mississippian period (1100 to 1550) as the other mounds we visited.

The Audubon Bird Sanctuary is the largest on the Island at 164 acres. Here Bud is on the pier at the pond in the middle of this birders' mecca reading about what can be seen here. Alligators were on the list, but we didn't spot any. (Thank goodness.)

However, I did get a picture of this turtle though it was very shy. What birds we saw were too far away to identify or even see in the pictures I took of them.

Our day had begun when I asked the motel clerk for a recommendation on where to go for breakfast. He suggested the country club which was open to non-members. I told Bud, "This is going to be a pricey breakfast." When we drove into the parking lot, there were no other cars. We wondered if they were even open. But they were and it was a surprisingly cute little restaurant - not at all the fancy place I was expecting. We were seated at a table overlooking the gulf. My breakfast choice included a side of grits. My first on this trip. We're in the south now, hun.