We’s in Flo-ee-da!

The title of this blog is a shout out to Kathleen 🙂

Finally!  After traveling a total of 1,913 miles since we left Bloomington, Indiana, we finally arrived in the sunny state of Florida on Thursday, November 13.  This leg of the trip wasn’t too bad at all, although parts of I-95 were a bit teeth-jarring as the road was in need of desperate repair for the L-O-N-G-E-S-T stretch!  Whew!!

The temperatures since we’ve been here have been absolutely FANTASTIC!  For those of you in the north and east states that are experiencing record cold temperatures and snow, all I can say is “come on down!”  We have had a couple of nights where it dipped into the 30’s due to the cold front that was pushing down in this direction, but the daytime temperatures quickly crept back up to comfortable temperatures.

Before we started out on our journey, Dave agreed to make Florida our first winter trip destination so that I could visit Walt Disney World, or as he calls it, “rat world.”  I absolutely LOVE Walt Disney World as it truly is “the happiest place on Earth.” The imagination that goes into creating the entire park, whether it is a ride, show, or the development of the park itself, is truly mind-blowing.  Working at Disney, at least for me, would be a fantastic place to work, as it’s a place where people go to in order to have fun with their families and create wonderful lasting memories.  After all, life is too short and it’s meant to be enjoyed.

The resort that we’re currently staying at is located in Bushnell, which is about an hour north-west from Walt Disney World.  Dave and I purchased annual passes to Walt Disney World as we felt that it was the most logical and cost effective choice for us, since we’re going to be spending the winter in Florida.  We’ve been to Disney numerous times before, but we were always on vacations that only afforded us the luxury of a week at the parks, so like tourists, we hurried through to experience what we could.  This time around we’ve been going at a slower pace and exploring every inch of Disney since we’re not on a time schedule.  So far, the only park that we’ve made it to has been Epcot, and we’re still not done exploring it.  I’m enjoying our trip to Disney so much better this time around.  On a brighter note, we have reservations for a new RV resort in Clermont, Florida beginning December 01 for the remainder of our stay.  The resort is located 6-miles from the west gate of Walt Disney World which will allow us to spend more time at the park and we’re both excited about that.

Yesterday, Dave and I drove to Dunnellon to visit a very good friend and past co-worker of Dave’s.  Tim and his wife Bonnie moved to Florida about 5-years ago and purchased a house on Rainbow River.  Their back yard IS the river and the beauty of it is simply breathtaking!  I can’t imagine waking up to that every morning, or sitting on the deck in the evening and watching the ever changing world of the river.  The water is so clear that you can see to the bottom of the river that ranges in 8’ to 25’.  Fish abound in the water, as well as alligators in some parts, otters, turtles, and varying species of water fowl can be seen everywhere one looks.  Tim and Bonnie took us on a boat ride up and down the Rainbow River and we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery.  The only thing that would have enhanced the day would have been if the sun had been out; however, it had rained earlier and the sky was overcast.   If you’d like to learn more about the Rainbow River, please visit: http://www.therainbowriver.com/ and be sure to click on the video link as well for some really neat underwater footage of the Rainbow River.  Thank you again, Tim and Bonnie, for a wonderful day!

Views along the Rainbow River.
Rainbow River.

 

Rainbow River.
Rainbow River

 

Rainbow River
Rainbow River

 

Rainbow River
Rainbow River

 

Rainbow River
Rainbow River

 

Rainbow River
Rainbow River

 

Rainbow River
Rainbow River

 

Rainbow River.  In this picture, you can see how clear the water is.
Rainbow River. In this picture, you can see how clear the water is.

Hilton Head Island and James Island – South Carolina

Dave and I had never been to Hilton Head Island before, so on Monday, November 10, we decided to drive there and explore the area.   A former colleague of mine (Thanks, Deborah!) was able to suggest places on the island to visit where we would be able to access the beach and see the prettiest parts of the island.

Hilton Head Island, which we didn’t realize, is shaped like a foot.  Seriously!  The best part of the island is the “toe” area which contains the areas of Harbour Town, Sea Pines Plantation, and South Beach.  Sea Pines, Harbour Town and the north portion of South Beach looks out over Calibogue Sound.  The Atlantic Ocean lies against the entire base of the foot, heel, and ankle of the island and consists of 12-miles of sandy beaches.  There are numerous bike paths throughout the island as well that one can take and taking a ½-loop around the Island equals approximately 12-miles.  Wow, that’s a lot of peddling!    Dolphin watch cruises can also be booked on catamaran sailboats and firework cruises during the summer are available as well.

The island itself is BEAUTIFUL and the people that we met on the beach were so friendly!  I don’t even know if I can begin to describe the island to do it justice. The grounds are manicured and lush with foliage, there are boutiques and shops to spend money in or “window shop” if one prefers not to depart with ones money, eating establishments for any kind of cuisine that one is interested in, grocery stores, gas stations, and even a hospital.  One never needs to leave the island for anything!  Unless of course a hurricane is bearing down on the island, then one may want to move inland to higher ground.

If you are ever in South Carolina and have the opportunity and time to visit Hilton Head Island, I highly recommend it.

Harbour Town Lighthouse, Hilton Head Island
Harbour Town Lighthouse, Hilton Head Island

 

Beach view
Beach view

 

Another view of the beach.
Another view of the beach.

 

Enjoying the beach views and the sea breezes at Hilton Head Island.
Enjoying the beach views and sea breezes at Hilton Head Island.

We ended our time in South Carolina by taking a drive to Charleston, SC and visiting Windmill Point on James Island.  James Island was home to Fort Johnson which was constructed about 1708 and was named after the Proprietary Governor of the Carolinas, Sir Nathaniel Johnson.

Fort Johnson’s history is fascinating to read about; however, the most significant event that happened at Fort Johnson was that a signal shot, which opened the bombardment of Fort Sumter and marked the beginning of the American Civil War, was fired from the east mortar battery on April 12, 1861.

The fort itself no longer exists.  A free-standing brick magazine is still intact and in excellent condition, as well as two water cisterns that sit on the site.  The majority of the Fort Johnson property was transferred to the South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department in 1970.  A small portion of land was retained by the College of Charleston for the Grice Marine Laboratory, which is currently used as a teaching and research facility.  The grounds are open to the public and there are two benches along the waterfront harbor where one can sit and watch the numerous dolphins swimming in the water or take some pictures of the Charleston Bridge and harbor.  We chose to sit on the benches and just drink in the view, while watching the dolphins in the harbor.    We even saw an alligator, a gecko and a stray kitty cat on our travels!  Thankfully the stray cat was nowhere near the alligator!

A monument that marks the spot of where the 1st cannon shot was fired.
A monument that marks the spot of where the 1st cannon shot was fired.

 

A close up of the inscription on the monument.
A close up of the inscription on the monument.

 

Free standing brick magazine that still exists.
Free standing brick magazine that still exists.

 

Plaque above the brick magazine.
Plaque above the brick magazine.

 

View of Charleston Bridge from James Island.
View of Charleston Bridge from James Island.

 

Dave enjoying the view!
Enjoying the view!

 

Fort Sumter from James Island.
Fort Sumter from James Island.

 

 

 

Tybee Island, Georgia

After we left Fort Pulaski, we drove into Tybee Island, which is located near the city of Savannah and is the easternmost point in the state of Georgia. Census as of 2010 shows the population of Tybee Island to be 2,990.  Property prices on the island are extremely high, so I don’t think we’ll be buying property there anytime soon and increasing the census numbers.

Tybee Island has a lot of really neat things to do on the island. One can go bicycling, visit the lighthouses on Cockspur and Tybee Island (yes, there are TWO lighthouses), go kayaking, swim or lie on the beach, take a dolphin tour, or go deep sea fishing.  There are restaurants galore and little shops and boutiques to visit, or simply just sit and take in the beauty of the island.  Any choice that one makes, won’t be a bad choice, as there is simply so much here to choose from.

The beach on Tybee Island is quite pristine and I can imagine it being well utilized in the summer months. There are TONS of vacation homes on the island for rent as well.  The sights and smells of this area remind me of my home in southern New Jersey, with the tidal marshes and backwaters for miles on end. If we were going to be in the area during the summer months, we would definitely be spending time on this beach.

Tybee Pier Pavilion
Tybee Pier Pavilion

 

Pavilion and Pier
Pavilion and Pier
Tybee Island Beach
Tybee Island Beach
Tybee Island Pier
Tybee Island Pier

 

Storm Surge Warning Indicator on Tybee Island
Storm Surge Warning Indicator on Tybee Island

Fort Pulaski – Cockspur Island, Georgia

We arrived safely in Hardeeville, South Carolina on Thursday (11/06) after a leisurely trip of 259 miles (to date, we have traveled a total of 1,605 miles). As I noted before, we discovered that we enjoy interstate travel more, so this time we took I-77 South to eventually connect to I-95 South until we got close to our campground.  The campground that we are staying at, Hardeeville RV Park, is a really nice large park that is located on Hwy 315.  It appears to be on a major roadway to go to Savannah, Georgia or Hilton Head, South Carolina as there is a lot of traffic on the road, so it’s the perfect location for those of us that want to do the touristy thing and see the sights.

On Friday we went to Fort Pulaski which is located on Cockspur Island in Savannah, Georgia and spent the majority of the day there. The National Park Service offers two tours of the fort, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, or one can explore it on their own; however, I highly recommend taking one of the tours, as there is so much to learn in doing so.

The actual defining events of Fort Pulaski occurred during the American Civil War and the fort has stood guard over the Savannah River for over 150 years. It is quite an impressive fort and one that shouldn’t be missed if you are in the Savannah area.  There are numerous original and reproduction artillery pieces on display, and on Saturdays, they demonstrate the operation of one of their medium-sized cannons.

 

Blindage - Confederate defenders of the fort built earthen traverses between the guns and over the magazine and dug ditches and pits in the parade ground to catch rolling cannon shot.  They also erected a heavy timber blindage (splinter-proof shelter) to cover the interior perimeter of the fort to protect against shell fragments.
Blindage – Confederate defenders of the fort built earthen traverses between the guns and over the magazine and dug ditches and pits in the parade ground to catch rolling cannon shot. They also erected a heavy timber blindage (splinter-proof shelter) to cover the interior perimeter of the fort to protect against shell fragments.
The Damaged Wall - the craters made by Union artillery projectiles pock the south and southeast walls.  Rifled cannon shot fired from Tybee Island penetrated the walls 20 to 25 inches.  Some of the 5,275 shots fired can still be seen in the walls.
The Damaged Wall – the craters made by Union artillery projectiles pock the south and southeast walls. Rifled cannon shot fired from Tybee Island penetrated the walls 20 to 25 inches. Some of the 5,275 shots fired can still be seen in the walls.
Cannons on top of Fort Pulaski.
Cannons on top of Fort Pulaski.
A view of the inside of the grounds from on top of Fort Pulaski
A view of the inside of the grounds from on top of Fort Pulaski

 

The Prison - During the winter of 1864, the northeast, southeast, and part of the south casemates were used as a military prison holding Confederate officers under miserable conditions.  After the war, several political prisoners were held here.
The Prison – During the winter of 1864, the northeast, southeast, and part of the south casemates were used as a military prison holding Confederate officers under miserable conditions. After the war, several political prisoners were held here.

 

This huge triangular piece of land, bordered on all sides by the moat, protected the rear or gorge wall of the fort.  During the Civil War, this areas was flat with a surrounding parapet and contained outbuildings and various storage sheds.  The large earthen mounds, built after the war, overlay four powder magazines and passageways to several gun emplacements.
The Demilune – This huge triangular piece of land, bordered on all sides by the moat, protected the rear or gorge wall of the fort. During the Civil War, this areas was flat with a surrounding parapet and contained outbuildings and various storage sheds. The large earthen mounds, built after the war, overlay four powder magazines and passageways to several gun emplacements.

 

 

 

Charlotte Motor Speedway – Concord, NC

Yesterday afternoon, Dave and I went to the Charlotte Motor Speedway and took a tour of the grounds. The Speedway offers two tours, Feel the Thrill Speedway and Over the Wall.  Feel the Thrill Speedway is a one hour tour that offers a close-up look that are off-limits on race days, such as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Garage, Pit Road, Victory Circle, and they also offer two infield tours of the race tracks.  The Over the Wall Tour is a two-hour tour and is basically designed for the hard-core NASCAR fan.  Although neither Dave nor I are NASCAR fans, we thought that while we’re here, we might as well see it all.  The tour itself, which consisted of two other couples, encompassed all of the details of the “Feel the Thrill Speedway” tour, but we also got to visit the zMAX Dragway, The Dirt Track, access to The Speedway Club, Performance Racing Network (PRN) studios, Media Center, and a breath-taking view of the Charlotte Motor Speedway from the top of the Ford Grandstand.  They also throw in a cruise down pit road and we were able to experience first-hand the feel of 24 degree banking along the race course.  Awesome!!  Oh and we also got to race down the zMAX Dragway as well!

Our tour guide, Arlene, has been with the Charlotte Motor Speedway since 1969 and she was a great guide. We were able to meet with a couple of radio announcers in the PRN studios and we also learned that PRN has been nominated for a CMA award this year.  Since the CMA’s will be on this evening, it will be exciting to hear if PRN won.

The cost for either one of the tours is very reasonable too. Feel the Thrill Speedway is $12 per person ($10 for seniors over age 55, military personnel, EMS/Fire/Police personnel and children ages 9 and younger), and Over the Wall” is $20 per person ($18 for seniors over age 55, military personnel, EMS/Fire/Police personnel and children ages 9 and younger).  I highly recommend spending the extra $8 and going for the Over the Wall tour.  You won’t regret it and you’ll get some great pictures from the Ford Grandstand and Club Suites as well as on the ground.

The Speedway is absolutely H-U-G-E! The stands themselves can seat 134,000 people and, if you want a special place to live, the Speedway houses condo’s overlooking the track for around $460,000 (give or take a few thousand).  Want to attend the races but don’t want to live at the track?  Not a problem.  They have Clubhouse suites that organizations can rent for $100,000 per year and the suites hold 60+ people; however, the organization has to rent the suite in 3-year blocks.  Still too pricey?  Then perhaps one of the indoor air-conditioned Speedway Club seats might be better for your wallet at $250 a seat.  The seats are quite comfy (personally attested to by yours truly).  Otherwise the outdoor-sitting-in-the-hot-sun seats in the stands can be had from $25 to $180, depending on race.  Personally, I’d shell out the $250 as it is close to the food/bar and bathrooms and, the bonus for me, one does not have to worry about weather.

We’ve had a really nice time here in North Carolina and an even better time visiting with my sister, Sally, and brother-in-law, Tom. Thank you both for a wonderful time here in NC!

Tomorrow we depart for South Carolina!  🙂

Outside of the Winners Circle Arena.
Outside of the Winners Circle Arena.
Inside the Winners Circle.
Inside the Winners Circle.
Inside the Winners Circle.
Inside the Winners Circle.
One of the interview rooms at PRN.
One of the interview rooms at PRN.
Media Center where press conferences are held.  Podium is at front.
Media Center where press conferences are held. Podium is at front.
Media Center.  Looking out at the media seats from the podium.
Media Center. Looking out at the media seats from the podium.
Media Center.  Looking from the back of the room toward the podium.
Media Center. Looking from the back of the room toward the podium.  There are 14-chairs per row and 12 rows.  Lots of room for media, plus there’s ANOTHER room for overflow.  Whew!
The restaurant at the Speedway.  Lunch is buffet and costs between $8 and $12.  Dinner is off the menu and a tad bit pricey, but nothing too outrageous.
The restaurant at the Speedway. Lunch is buffet and costs between $8 and $12. Dinner is off the menu and a tad bit pricey, but nothing too outrageous.
The announcer at PRN Studios.
The announcer at PRN Studios.
Sunoco Suite.
Sunoco Suite.
View from Sunoco Suite.
View from Sunoco Suite.
The bar and buffet area in the Sunoco Suite.
The bar and buffet area in the Sunoco Suite.
Team Penske Suite.
Team Penske Suite.
A birds eye view of the track.
A birds eye view of the track.
View from one of the Suites.
View from one of the suites.
These are the $250 seats.  Very comfortable.
These are the $250 seats. Very comfortable.
Another view of the $250 seats.
Another view of the $250 seats.
Some people "purchase" their seats and when they do, they get a gold plaque put on their seat to identify that it's theirs.
Some people “purchase” their seats and when they do, they get a gold plaque put on their seat to identify that it’s theirs.
Here are the condos that are for sale should you wish to live at the track.
Here are the condos that are for sale should you wish to live at the track.

 

The seats are colored so that if the stands are completely filled, on camera it looks as though someone is sitting in them.
The seats are colored so that if the stands are not completely filled, on camera it looks as though someone is sitting in them, making for a fuller appearance. 
The decline in the economy has hurt the attendance at all speedways.  Attendance at CMS was around 97,000 at last count.  The stands pictured here, with the motor flags on them, have not been used since attendance has dwindled.  These seats are covered up with an American flag during race days.
The decline in the economy has hurt the attendance at all speedways.  Attendance at CMS was around 97,000 at last count. The stands pictured here, with the motor flags on them, have not been used since attendance has dwindled. These seats are covered up with an American flag during race days.
Additional seating.
Additional seating.
Stands with the "scoreboard" in the right hand side of the picture.
Stands with the “scoreboard” in the right hand side of the picture.
The Fuel House
The Fuel House.
Gasoline Alley
Gasoline Alley.
Gasoline Alley near Pit Road.
Gasoline Alley near Pit Road.
Pit Road.  Pit crew has between 11 and 13 seconds to replace all four tires and fill the tank so that the driver can get back on the track.  Around 2,500 tires are used during each race at a cost of over $400 per tire.
Pit Road. Pit crew has between 11 and 13 seconds to replace all four tires and fill the tank so that the driver can get back on the track. Around 2,500 tires are used during each race at a cost of over $400 per tire.

Historic Brattonsville – McConnells, SC

On Sunday, Dave, my sister, brother-in-law, and I went to Historic Brattonsville which is located in McConnells, SC.  Historic Brattonsville features more than 30 historic structures from the 1760’s to the late 19th century and provides visitors with an opportunity to see the evolution of Southern culture and architecture in the Carolina Piedmont.

The Brattons, which were a Scotch-Irish family from the Ulster Province in Northern Ireland, came to America in the 1730’s. The family lived in Pennsylvania and western Virginia before moving to the Carolina backcountry.  In the mid-1760’s, five Bratton brothers (Robert, John, William, Hugh and Thomas), began settling in what is now York County, South Carolina.

The plantation, which sits on a 778-acre site, features over 30 colonial and antebellum structures, two house museums, a Revolutionary War battlefield site, the Walt Schrader Trails, and heritage breed farm animals. In 1843, the Brattons owned 139 slaves and, aside from their daily labors, the Bratton’s slaves were hired out locally as blacksmiths, laborers, and possibly brick masons and carpenters, in addition to building the structures on the premises of the plantation.

The “Homestead” house, and much of the grounds, was featured in the 1999 movie “The Patriot”, which starred Mel Gibson.

For more on Historic Brattonsville, please visit http://chmuseums.org/brattonsville/

Billy Graham Library – Charlotte, NC

On Tuesday of last week, Dave and I went to the Billy Graham Library that is located in Charlotte, NC. The Library itself is a 40,000 square-foot building shaped like a barn, with a huge cross-shaped window in the front, is designed to reflect Rev Graham’s journey from his childhood as a farm boy to the international ambassador of God’s love that he became.  The grounds, which consist of 20 acres, includes not only the Library but also the Graham family home place where Rev Graham lived in from age 9 until he left for college, as well as the Memorial Prayer Garden where his wife, Ruth Bell Graham, is buried and where Rev Graham will be buried when he passes.

Rev Graham was born on November 07, 1918 and has spent the majority of his life preaching the gospel around the world and as has served as spiritual advisors to several Presidents from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. He has preached the gospel message to more than 215 million people in over 185 countries from around the world and was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, becoming a close and personal friend to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and, at one point, even bailing out Dr. King out of jail in the 1960’s when he was arrested in demonstrations.

Ruth Bell (McCue) Graham was born on June 10, 1920 in Qingjiang, Jiangsu, China to parents who were serving as medical missionaries. She spent the majority of her formative years in China and Korea, finishing high school in Montreat, North Carolina while her parents were there on furlough.  She furthered her education at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois where she graduated and met Billy Graham, whom she married in the summer of 1943.  Ruth bore five children during her marriage and became known as a Philanthropist, Poet, Author and Painter.

The consistent theme that I noticed throughout the time that I spent at the Billy Graham Library was that Rev Graham never took any accolades or praise for the work that he has accomplished during his ministry. He simply considered it his life’s work to tell history’s most powerful story.  The love that he felt for his wife, Ruth, was quite evident as well as he often turned to Ruth for her advice and input about many ministry decisions and praised her for the raising of their children, often which she did alone,  as Rev Graham was away quite a bit running his crusades.

Walking away from the Library, I had a greater understanding and a deeper respect for the work that Rev Graham has accomplished.

The house that Billy Graham grew up in was a two-story brick Colonial located on the outskirts of Charlotte, NC.  The house was disassembled, board-by-board, brick-by-brick, numbered, and reassembled on the site of the Billy Graham Library which is four miles from the original homestead.  The grounds that the house was originally built now serves as a shopping center.

This is the entryway to the home that Billy Graham grew up in from the age of 9 until he left for college
This is the entryway to the home that Billy Graham grew up in from the age of 9 until he left for college
This is a view of the living room.
This is a view of the living room.
Additional view of living room.
Additional view of living room.
The dining room.
The dining room.
The kitchen.
The kitchen.
Check out the refrigerator!  Pretty neat.  And I love the cupboards.
Check out the refrigerator! Pretty neat. And I love the cupboards.
This is the office that Rev Graham's parents used.
This is the office that Rev Graham’s parents used.