Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas in Florida

Dec 23 - Just another relaxation day
A little cooler today. 52ᵒF this morning
Another restfull day. Down to Miss Lucilles to do internet stuff
Email from our friends, the Warrens, from Thorhild, Alberta. They are unable to join us this year as they say that to include a flight from Belize to Texas increases the cost significantly, coupled with the security implications, as well as increased health Insurance costs, had to decide to abandon the joint trip.
Maybe next year !!
Went to Win Dixie for some groceries -- Man, if we would just stop eating, we could have a cheap vacation!!
Dec 24th - Rain, Rain, Rain. What can I say!!
Most of day this was the case and then it detioriated as the day wore on. By 6:00PM we had a tornado warning and watch until 1:00AM
Santa must not be having a very easy delivery night!
Dec 25th - Woke up this morning to a much improved weather picture. Sun was shining and temperature near 50ᵒF

Merry Christmas everyone!
Went to Miss Lucilles and talked to kids at Shannons on SKYPE
Then had coffee and cinnimon bun at Miss Lucilles and returned home
Started cooking Christmas dinner at 1:00PM. Turkey breast in the oven, but had trouble keeping pilot light on
Delicious dinner by 5:00PM
Dec 26th - Out to the Waffle house for breakfast
Stop at Kitchen Outlet for some RV Supplies
I walked to Campbell Lake in afternoon

Sunset pics
Dec 27th - Today drove to Panama City along the beach. Their beach accesses are not nearly as good as Destins are.

No parking at most places and houses line the seaside along the entire route, so you seldom even see the beaches.
Found a Marine Museum anlong the highway and found these old relics. The upper photo is of the Trieste II. It has dived as deep as 16,400 ft! Not for me, thanks!!
Return home via highway 98 by 2:30PM.
Back to Win Dixies for a few necessary groceries, then to Miss Lucilles for internet
Denice takes a couple sunset pics
Returm home and Denice makes a turkey stew for supper. Ummmmmm!!!
Dec 28th - Planned on being up bright and early this morning and heading to Pensacola to see the Pinta and Nina, that sailed into the Palafox Pier, but as usual didn't get that early of a start but were still at the pier by 11:00AM.

Went aboard both the Pinta and Nina, and had a great self guided tour. The thing that struck me most about the two ships was there small size. The Nina is only 65 feet long with an 18 foot beam, and a displacement of 80 tons, while the Pinta was 85 feet long, a 24 foot beam, and a displacement of 101 tons. How these small vessels managed to navigate around the world in wild seas leaves a lot to the imagination. Although, of course, are only replicas of the original, but were built in Brazil to the exact specs of the original ships. These exact little vessels have in fact themselves sailed most oceans of the globe including both the Atlantic and Pacific, as well as the great Lakes and many inland waterways through out the world. Moored adjacent to these ships there were modern day Yachts of equal length, with all their sophisticated navigational equipment. I would be hesitant to head across the Atlantic in one of them. let alone one of those unpowered sail ships, with only a compass and a sextent.
Dec 29 - Clean up day in preparation for moving on tomorrow
Denice washes clothes at 7:00AM
Then we just get all the preparations done.
Late in afternoon run to Publix for a few necessary groceries, then to Miss Lucilles to get caught up on emails, then a few sunset pics.
Down to the beach and did a little sandcastle construction. Not too difficult when you have a construction backgound. You do believe I did that, don't you?
Supper at Applebees, then some final stuff in ELTORO.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Vacationing at Destin, FL

Dec 19- Someone must have heard me since we woke up this morning to Sun. Still a little cool at about 50 degrees, but should warm up as the day progresses. Went down to Miss Lucilles and did the internet thing, then drove on down highway 30A to the junction with 98, a distance of about 20 miles. Lots of neat shops and expensive ocean cottages along this route.
Turned back at highway 98 and on way home stopped at a 1960's route 66 type diner made from about 6 airstream trailer units. Pretty neat!! Bought some great Bar-B-Qued Brisket for lunch.

Then came home Late in the day we walked the 1 mile to the beach to see if we could take some sunset pictures. Didn't seem that promising so Denice caught a ride home with the Ranger Shuttle, but I elected to stay, and did take some not bad pictures, but then had to do the 1 mile walk home again.

One Day I'll figure out how to do a slide show

Should do that every day a couple of times and maybe lose some of this spare tire that I pack!
Dec 20 - In morning went to Destin to Panera Bread, a soup and sandwich place in a huge Outlet Mall that caters to Internet users with a WIFI hookup.
Only issue was that it was 11:30AM, and from 11:00AM til 1:30PM they only allow 30 minutes on the internet Denice typed quite a long email, but Murphy's law, couldn't send it as she had been cut off, and so lost it. Not a big deal for a fast typist, but for us that "hunt and peck" the impact is significant. From there I wanted to go to a "Campers World" that I had seen while we were on the road down. I couldn't quite remember where it was so we just drove, and drove, and drove. After 40 miles, gave up and returned home without any success. The next day once I was able to get on the internet, found that when we turned back were probably only a couple of miles from or goal. Oh Well!!
Dec 21 - Another rest day
Went down to Miss Lucilles and did the Internet stuff, then had lunch at her Gossip Corner sandwich bar. Returned home and then I went to Bass Pro Shop, bought a air mattress in case the Warrens come to visit. On way out of Home Bass Pro Shop got onto wrong highway and was diverted across the Bay Bridge, a three mile long one. Found that interesting, but once at the far end realized that it was a toll bridge. I just followed the flow of traffic that went through a pre-pass lane where there was no place to pay. Now what?? But now I had to turn around and go back. Now I had to go through the pay booth and fess up. Well it just so happened that I had given my last $5 to Miss Lucilles to buy a couple of cinnamon buns, and only had a $1 bill in my pocket. I've always told my kids to always have some money in your jeans to pay for some unforseen item on the road, Well here I was flat broke with a cranky old toll clerk staring down at me demanding money. I handed him my Master Card, but he quickly rejected that. "Sorry, can't except that" Finally dug through my jeans and did come up with the additional $1 and half change. I explained my wrong turn and he gave me a slip to fill out with details and then to send a cheque to the Toll Board with payment. Lesson learned here: Have money in your jeans! Do not make wrong turns!! GOOD THING DENICE WAS NOT WITH ME!! Then on to Home Depot. Looked for gold wire, but found none. Bought an oak board and some clips for a new shelf in the China cabinet Then on to Wally World, and bought some RV Supplies, and some Velcro Had to get home before my curfew was up at 5:00PM. Made it with 3 minutes to spare!!
Dec 22 - Little to report for the day, but the sun is shining and it is nice and warm (+64ᵒ F ) What else do I need to say ---.
Off the Ace Hardware and bought some gold wire to hang Xmas decorations on. That’s about all.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Hello to Waveland, Mississippi

When we arose in Natchez on Dec 9th we found it had dawned a nice morning, and our reservation had terminated, so we packed up and moved on down to the Gulf of Mexico at Waveland, Mississippi. Waveland is half way in between New Orleans and Biloxi. We chose an RV Park called Bay Hideaway RV Park, for that reason. There were several in and around Biloxi, but those were too Urban for us. This one is quite rural. Arrived here by shortly after noon and got set up. Had lunch, took a nap, and then went for a short drive to the beach that is only 3 miles away. We drove east along the beach road, all the way to the bridge over the entrance to the Bay of St. Louis. Returned home on Highway 90.

Stopped along the way and bought KFC for supper.

Not much to report for the last several days other than rain, rain, rain, and more rain. I don't know how many inches we have had in total, but one night I know I told someone that I was sure we must have had 4" overnight. Well, during the next day I was talking to the owner of the park and he told me that we had 7" that night. He knew that for a fact as in his swimming pool, he had checked the night before, and it's level was at the bottom of one of the 6" tiles. The next morning it was above that tile and up onto the next. Before that we had a full day of heavy rain, and since we have had 2 days of sometimes torrential downpours. I'm sure we must have had at least 12" of rain.
We had planned on going to New Orleans and then out along the Mississippi River to the delta, a distance of about 65 miles, one day, but we watch the detailed weather on my computer, and it just keeps giving flood warnings every day for the "Big Easy" so we have declined going there. Again, listening to the weather man, who reported that several roads were flooded in the area. He tells us that there hs been 22 inches of rain already in December. The highest precipitation prior to this year was 12 ½ inches in the total month of December.
Even around here water is everywhere. You cannot walk away from any elevated ground before you are in water. The land is so flat that the whole landscape is basically slightly submerged. All that rain has to get to the gulf, but it flows very slowly.
We also wanted to go to NASA's Stennis Rocket Testing facility here, but it is only open on Wed, Thur, Fri, and Sat. We went with the intention of going on Sunday, but of course it was closed. Now we plan on leaving tomorrow, Wed, so I guess we will miss it this time around. There is still lots more to see here so I think on our return from Florida we will stop off here again. Hoping the weather better then. On Tuesday the 15th,although it was still raining we decided we had to go and see some of the sites of the Gulf towards Biloxi. Highway 90 is right on the beach, and lined with huge old Oak trees.

We stopped and looked at one that is 500 years old, called the Friendship Oak. It is huge with a span of at least 200 ft. Oh, how I would like a chunk of one of its limbs to turn some bowls from it.

Many of the trees that succumbed to Katrina, have had their stumps carved into sea creatures and seabirds by an artist from Destin, Florida.

We drove along the Gulf, even past Biloxi, and over a long bridge over the Bay, to Ocean Beach. Here was a large carved structure of an Indian chief. We then headed home on I10, as it was quicker, but did take to time for a short detour to see the biggest rocking chair in the world, then home, and to the Silver Slipper Casino for their Buffet supper.

It was well organized and presented with several different types of fair. Asian, Italian, Southern, and traditional were just some of them. We indulged heartily, and as always ate too much.

Hello Alabama & Florida for the first time ever for us

Today dawned sunny and warm. Reservation here at Waveland expired so time to move on to the east and south.

Travel through Alabama at Mobile and on into Florida at Pensicola on Interstate I10. about 5 miles east of Pensicola, turn to the right onto highway 281, a toll road. Crossed a 4 mile long bridge, hence the $10 toll, and joined highway 98 on the south side. I will tell you one thing, “They sure do know how to build bridges here”. Several have been over one mile long, and the one across some wetlands and waterways near Mobile was over 8 miles long!! From there followed 98 through many small adjoining towns for about 50 miles. Speed limit for the most part was about 45 MPH. This is mostly an upscale touristy area featuring large hotels, grand shopping, and beautiful beaches. That is one thing that stands out in my mind is the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. They are wide white sands and never ending, and it seems at this time of year basically unused. I suppose for the resident population here that it is too cold to enjoy them, but for us northerners, it seems quite warm and inviting. After passing through Destin, Florida, the largest of the towns, or I guess cities, as I am sure they are large enough for that status, we travelled another 7 miles and then turned right onto 30A. Only needed to go 1/2 mile and then arrived at Topsail Reserve State Park where we have reserved for 2 weeks, and over Christmas. Initial reaction is that it is pretty upscale. We checked in and then went to our reserved spot,number 48, a back-in site. It is very nice, cement pad with evergreen trees around us. Neighbors are a fair distance away, and we are not impacted by them.

Our closest ones immediately to our left are from Tennessee, and have a couple of huge dogs, Newfoundlanders we think. Not our choice of travelling companions, but each to his own. After getting setled in, I took a walk to the beach, a distance of 7/10ths of a mile down a paved road, and then a couple hundred meters of boardwalk. Looks like a great place for sunset pictures!! A shuttle runs back and forth to the beach, no cars are allowed, every two hours, with the last return trip at 4:30PM. So will have to walk back home after those great sunset pics!! Build appetite for Dinner!! Only drawback to the park is no WIFI. Apparently they are trying to have it installed, but so far none. They advise us to go down the road to Miss Lucilles, a coffee shop that has free internet , or back to Destin at a mall there that has access.
Dec 17 – Cool weather again, so didn’t do a lot. Went into Destin and bought some groceries at a grocery store called Publix. Nice store, good meat. Once home and Denice was re-stocking the shelves, I went for a drive to find WIFI. Found Miss Lucilles, and are easily able to hook up from inside the Jeep. Not too much of an inconvenience for us. Amazing how much we rely on the web these days. News, weather, contact with friends and Family, SKYPE, RV Reservations. The list goes on and on.
Dec 18 – Heavy rain overnight again – Come on Florida – Lets have some of that southern hospitality, with some sunshine.

Our trip to Date

This leg of our Vacation

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Natchez in the Rear View Mirror

Guess its time to move on. We were planning to travel on to Biloxi area on Monday, but weather forecast was not good, with heavy rain forecast for the next 2 days, so we just decided to sit tight and vegetate until Wednesday when the weatherman says it is to be sunny. We have no timetable, so sitting an extra few days has no impact on us. And rain it did!! Extremely heavy during the last two nights.
When we originally checked in at this RV Park, the lady at the counter, recommended that we sign up for "Passport America", that give 50% rates for over 1500 RV Parks in the US, Canada, and Mexico, with some stipulations about week-ends and holidays. Becoming a member costs $44/year, so she showed that if we had been a member we could have paid for the membership during that 1 week stay. So, after some deliberation, the next day we went to the office and signed up. Now when we decided to stay another two days, we were now members, so the rate was only $22/night, rather than the $44.

Now, what we did for the last period of time since my last Blog.
Lets see, the last I did was on the 4th. On the 5th we drove up the Natchez Trace. Woke up to some snow, but went anyway. Phiedeaux thought it tooo cold to go, but we just covered his ears and took him anyway!!

This is a scenic 2 lane highway that extends from Natchez 444 miles to Nashville, Tennessee, Of course, we were not able to drive it all, in fact only about 65 miles, and that took us from about 10:00AM until 3:00PM.
Yes, that is snow!! 1/2 inch of the stuff!!
There is just so much to see and so many stops to check out things. One of the unique things about it is, that it travels through what appears pristine forest land, and wetlands, where Spanish Moss and Vines cling to all the trees. But unknown to the traveler, there are rural communities all along the route only short distances from the road.

An old Indian Pyramid. It is huge, almost on the scale of the Aztecs.
Some great planning must have gone into this to hide it from those that use it. Also just a few miles away, is highway #61, a super interstate highway for those that are in a hurry. Speed limit on the Natchez Trace is 50 mph. After our 65 mile drive we jumped onto the Freeway and were back home in an hour. Well,we took a little unplanned detour that added another 1/2 hour. Never Lost!! Only taking the scenic Route!! Thats my story and I'm sticking to it!!

The Old Original Natchez Trace. It was the route that the settlers used to return home from taking their product to market down the Mississippi to Natchez. They would boat their product down, but were unable without power to return upriver, so would sell their boats at Natchez and walk home up the Natchez Trace.

A harvested Cotton Field. Looks like a lot left there yet?

Looks like Gator country to me!
Then the 6th, 7th, and 8th, we did very little, but rested, shopped for groceries one day, and just generally relaxed. I, for one never get tired of seeing the big tugs pushing their barges up and down the river. For a landlubber like myself, I find it really intriguing. Had a chance to talk to an old neighbor RV'er today who had spent a lot of time on the river as a deck hand, and he filled me in on a lot of details, that I did not know. Most of the river traffic consists of grain going down the river and Oil up. Big barge groups go from New Orleans to Alton,IL, just up river from St Louis. The reason being this as the stop point, is that from there upstream there are locks, that require splitting the load. Downstream there are no locks. Some of the tugs take as many as 21 barges per trip. That is 3 wide by 7 long. In fact, we even saw one group that 2 tugs had joined together pushing their load of 42 barges before them. Now that is a lot of freight!!
My informer told me that each tug is equipped with 2 diesel electric power units of about 7800 hp each. Crews on one of these big tugs number about 18 members. They work 6 hours on and 6 hours off, with only 2 crews. He says that although some of them look a little rough on the outside, each captain is very proud of his boat, and they are extremely clean inside. He likened it to a first class hotel, complete with cook and helper. Return trip from New Orleans to St Louis is about 15 days. There is a interesting page about the Mississippi at this link:

And of course a sunset to end the day!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Natchez in Review

Time to Post a Blog again. Just trying to keep everyone updated to the Langs Adventures.
Since last blog day before yesterday, we have seen a lot of the sites of Natchez. Yesterday started something like this:
Ahhh Glorious sunshine this morning.

Took a city tour of Natchez today- Denice and I the only ones on the bus so we had service plus!!

Saw most of the Antebellum homes during the one hour tour.

Then came home for lunch and then returned to Natchez for our own tour.
Stopped and did a detailed tour of one of them. It was called Longwood, and was an octagon shaped one with construction starting before the civil war, but never completed because of the war. This taken from their Web site:

No site epitomizes more the rapid rise in wealth that one could attain in the pre-Civil War era, nor the rapid rate of decline in wealth in the post-bellum era. This six-story 30,000 square foot mansion was designed by Samuel Sloan of Philadelphia for wealthy planter Haller Nutt and his wife, Julia Williams Nutt. As it was nearing completion, the Civil War began and the workmen dropped their tools and went home. Haller died in 1864 and his wife Julia continued to live in the finished first floor that today contains many original family furnishings. T
he upper five stories are an architectural wonder - a magnificent work in progress where time just stopped and stayed. This grandest octagonal house in America is a National Historic Landmark.
one can see more about each of the registered houses at:
Of course no historic site visit would be complete without a trip to the old cemetery. Lots of 1800's ghosts there!! End of the day.
Then today:
Late start this morning
Then about 11:00AM took a drive down the west side of the Mississippi for about 85 miles to New Road (Name of a town), and then crossed the Mississippi on a ferry and returned through St. Francisville and returned to Natchez on highway #61 by 5:00PM
A good trip with lots to see. The west side road is mostly built on the levee that holds the river back. As the ground is sooo flat, the levee is up to 50ft high. Me, being a construction guy, recognize the sheer magnitude of a project like this, to do both sides of the river for hundreds of miles. One of the things that boggles my mind is "Where did all the fill come from?" If the fill is 59 ft high, with a 2 lane highway near the top, and 5:1 slopes on each side, this works out to approximately 2,650,000 yd3/mile!!
And no borrow pits. At least it is not evident to me, to see any. Could it be from dredging the channel? I guess it's a job for me to research on the internet.

Denice took lots of pics of water birds. Cranes, egrets, cormorants (at least that is what I called them, but she thought they were anhingas), hawkes, and vultures.

But John Bown, the Roseate Spoonbill, still alludes her. She says, "You wil be eating your words" before this trip is over.
For those that don't understand the last comment about John Brown. He is a good friend of ours that we spend a fair amount of time with last winter down in Rock Port Texas. As you all know how Denice is about taking pictures of every type of Flora and Fauna that she comes across, well while on the Gulf Coast, she was determined to get a shot of a Spoonbill. So, time after time we pulled to the side of the road to try and capture a shot of one. No Luck. She was bamboozeled. Anyway, John sent her a photo of one that he says he took on an early morning walk along the coast. Hmmm, there or Florida? We are not sure!