EPISODE NUMBER EIGHTEEN – GEORGIA AND NORTH FLORIDA -
REVISED WITH PHOTOS
It has been suggested that I should provide an address where some of you can write to me, or send cards, if you feel so inclined. My most permanent address (six weeks) will be at LoW Hi Ranch
1795 O’Kelly Road S.E.
Deming, New Mexico 88030
I will be at this address between December 20 through to January 31 and would be delighted to hear from you.
OCTOBER 26, 2007
I neglected to mention the maintenance crew who work at Gorilla Haven – all local men. Dave is short and burly with a multitude of tattoos on his arms (maybe elsewhere as well), but very friendly. Randy is tall and skinny. Randy Ray is also tall and skinny but has a long beard. And Mike is of medium height and helped me to rescue Ripley from some overly enthusiastic Dewar dogs when I made the mistake of taking her into the pond area without announcing our presence. They all assist in the ongoing building projects and anything else that needs to be fixed. When I left, they were digging up the driveway to put in a new water line to the cabin. Jane does a mean interpretation of their southern accent!
Having said my final farewell to Jane and Steuart Dewar, I headed Philippa south, stopping on the way to fill up on groceries and gas. After meeting Cindy Horton, I was curious about Stone Mountain Park, just east of Atlanta and decided to head there. On the way down I couldn’t help but notice all the signs exhorting the locals to vote “no” in the upcoming referendum about whether or not to allow liquor to be sold in restaurants and bars. For instance, the Baptist church in Morganton had a gigantic sign expressing such sentiments.
There is a tragedy happening in this part of north Georgia. Mountains are virtually being leveled in order to build more shopping malls. As more and more Floridians and others are moving into the area, the developers are having a heyday with the lack of legislation to restrict what can be built. I saw with my own eyes bulldozers at work slicing off the tops of mountains and just couldn’t believe that this was allowed to happen. I might be able to understand it if a hospital or other similar institution were being built on these flattened areas, but who needs yet another shopping mall? Especially if the ones that are already there are half full.
On my way south I passed a few dead deer on the highway. Two of them had been butchered and only their heads remained!
Stone Mountain Park quite literally is made of stone, with trees sprouting up
here and there through the rocky face. There is a huge lake at the base, and the campground was built around a portion of it. Unfortunately, I was unable to get one of the riverside sites and had to settle for one near the bathhouse, as this is a popular place for campers. Nevertheless, it was very pleasant for Ripley and me to take a bike ride on the camp roads.
OCTOBER 27, 2007
One thing that has disturbed me about the various campgrounds I have visited is that, by and large, there are no recycling programs and bottles, cans, paper, etc. all go into the regular garbage. I tried to return my beer bottles to the liquor store, and they refused to take them!
I wanted to visit the Antebellum Plantation at Stone Mountain, where Cindy Horton is the manager, and found that it was on the opposite side of the lake from the campgrounds, a distance of about two miles. I thought that it wouldn’t be too difficult to bike over there, so I ventured off. What I hadn’t taken into account was all the little hills in the park. In a vehicle, they seemed like nothing, but on my bike they felt like I was cycling up mountains each time! By the time I arrived at the Plantation, I was worn out and was wondering how I could possibly cycle back.
The Antebellum Plantation houses many buildings from an earlier historical period in Georgia’s history, (between 1783 and 1875). There are costumed people wandering around as you make your way around the seventeen buildings and the farmyard. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, and the vegetable garden grows many of the same vegetables that would have been found in the 18th century.
Visitors enter through Shelton’s Peanut Market, originally a general store and post office, and which was in continuous operation until it was moved to Stone Mountain Park in the early 1960’s. Here, one can buy boiled, roasted, shelled peanuts, peanut brittle, fudge, etc. etc.
The houses have all been beautifully restored, with furniture of the period, and the Dickey House in particular, demonstrates how the upper class lived.
The Powell Academy Schoolhouse was closed, but the Doctor’s Cabin was open for viewing. There were also slave cabins demonstrating the great disparity of housing between slaves and the whites.
The barn and farmyard were fun to visit as visitors are allowed to stroll amongst the sheep and goats kept there. One of the staff members spent some time with me talking about her job and how much she enjoyed working with these animals, all of whom are trained to perform in the daily show. She told me that one goat in particular truly loves to perform and gets upset when she is not
By this time, my legs were really slowing down, but I wanted to go to the Crossroads and strolled down the path from the Antebellum Plantation across the main road to the entrance. Thanks to Cindy Horton, I had a day pass to all the attractions in the Park, so didn’t have to pay for any tickets (thanks, Cindy). I decided to forego the pleasure of taking the sky ride (those of you who know me know that I hate heights), but did take the old locomotive ride around the Park. At one point we stopped in an old western town where a puppet and a snake oil salesman put on a show for the passengers before moving on around the mountain.
The ride gave me a bit of a breather from walking, and after we returned to the Crossroads (entrance fee is $25 for adults!) I decided to go shopping in the various stores that are in there, with the idea that perhaps I could find a few inexpensive items for Christmas presents. I did find one or two things, but mostly everything was very expensive. I did watch a pumpkin pie eating contest where people could not use their hands to eat, and another place where children were able to jump in amongst giant bubbles.
By this time I was exhausted and wondered how I was going to bike back the two miles to the campgrounds. I stopped a shuttle bus driver and asked if he could take my bike, and Aaron said that the shuttle does not run to the campgrounds, but that he could arrange for a courtesy bus to take me. Aaron took me to the museum to wait and stayed with me until the bus arrived. What an incredible story he has to tell! He and his wife had three children of their own, all of whom are now in either high school or college. Just recently they adopted three, one of whom is autistic, and all of whom are quite young. You can’t help but admire someone who does something like that when it would have been so easy to just sit back to take life easy, as he and his wife are not young people.
The bus driver very kindly took me right to my site and unloaded my bike for me and then went on his way after I thanked him profusely. I was greeted by an ever-enthusiastic Ripley. The longer I am away, the more her little body wiggles back and forth in her greeting!
After a rest, I took Ripley up and down the campground roads on the bike, just so that she would get some exercise. She seems to enjoy running along beside the bike. My chain is loose and I need to find out how to tighten it.
OCTOBER 28, 2007
I took Rip for another bike ride before we left Stone Mountain Park. We then headed south and ended up at Fair Harbor Campground, near Macon. I had originally thought that I would like to re-visit Calloway Gardens which I recall being very beautiful. I had also thought about visiting the Okefenokee Swamp. However, I now need to head directly south in order to get to my reserved campground in Florida, which is booked for November 1.
When I arrived at Fair Harbor, no one was on duty, so I just chose a spot at the back end. This is another pretty site, with plenty of trees and a pond in the middle. At the very far back there were nature trails, and so it was possible to let Ripley off leash for her to dash about in the underbrush. My wi fi connection did not work very well from the back end of the park, however.
OCTOBER 29, 2007
I was up early and moved to a site closer to the wi fi antenna and found that I could then get a proper connection, to complete my email. Ripley enjoyed another walk on the trails nearby. When the office opened, I paid my fee and then headed south again.
I am appalled by the enormous billboards on the sides of the highway as I get closer to the Florida border. They are not only gigantic but there are just so many of them as well! One of these billboards advertised a book store where no book was over $3.00. Of course, I couldn’t resist stopping and what a treasure trove it was! I could have bought many more books, but settled for ten hardcovers and twelve audio cassettes for the sum of $18 in total. I learned that the proceeds from the sales of this store went to the cancer department of Emory University, so it was well worth buying books (some of which had library cards in them). The books are donated to the store by publishers who receive these back as returns, as I understand it. So, I now have many audio books to listen to as I drive along the highway instead of the steady diet of country music that is prevalent on the radio stations in this neighbourhood. And I also have many books to read to help me fall asleep at night.
The grocery stores here have generally the same foods in them, but I did find the Publix has a better selection of unusual items, like 5-grain Italian bread (delicious) and Thai peanut sauce (which I have not been able to find elsewhere down here). I also stopped at Lowe’s to get the proper screws to put my bike basket on my new bike.
I was also able to buy a small bag of roasted peanuts for $2 from a vendor beside a gas station. They are really tasty and fresh.
I had been told that Flying J Truck Stops welcome RV’ers as well as professional truck drivers, and decided to give one a try. They are certainly superior to Wal Mart for a free overnight stay, as they have restaurants, a store, wi fi and, if one becomes a member for free, discounts in the store and gas. The professional truck drivers have their own video game room, and TV room and shower facilities.
The Flying J I chose had a Chinese combination dish for $6.89 which lasted for two meals. Wi fi only cost $4.95 and I was able to sit inside at a table (the reception didn’t work well at my RV). There were many RV’s in the parking lot and the neighbours on either side were both from Ontario, the one from Hanover, the other from Woodstock). The people from Woodstock had just come from a few dog shows where they showed their younger Irish Setter and were on their way to winter in Florida.
OCTOBER 30, 2007
I’ve made it to Florida! The Visitor’s Centre had palm trees and an egret on the nearby pond, and it seemed like a fitting welcome to me who has never been here before. I gathered up a huge number of brochures for attractions, etc. in Florida. I began to read about the “real” Florida and decided to get off I75 and see some of it for myself.
Passport America provides a directory for members of all the campsites that honour the 50% discount, and this has been an invaluable guide for me in choosing where to stay. I decided to try out Never Dunn’s RV Park which boasted a quiet, country setting with nature trails near Lake City. It is a tiny place with only 25 sites, and the road leading to it had huge cypress trees on both sides of the road with moss hanging down, and covering the sky over the road, just like a scene out of Gone With the Wind.
Ripley and I arrived at Never Dunn’s to find the owner busily putting up Christmas decorations! The weekend after Hallowe’en is the time to get busy getting ready for Christmas, apparently. She was a tall, sturdy woman and she led me to my site where I set up, only to find that the wifi connection did not work. The antenna was on the opposite side of the house, and I asked if I could move over there. So, in the end, I squeezed into a spot next to an unfinished swimming pool. The ground is very sandy, so the RV soon became soiled from the feet of Ripley and my shoes. Before hooking up, I did make my way back to a country store that sold gas and also acted as the local post office. The price of a stamp for mail going to Canada is 69 cents and I have found it difficult to buy this amount in one stamp rather than having to make up the amount with three stamps. I noticed that the proprietor also had a propane tank, so I asked him to fill mine up. However, I’m not sure that he really knew what he was doing, as he tried to fill mine with the wrong type of nozzle. It soon became apparent that he had the equipment only to fill up propane tanks and not my RV tank.
The “nature trails” were actually little paths amongst an evergreen farm of tiny trees, not more than 2 feet high. But at least Ripley enjoyed herself chasing what I expect were lizards, but I didn’t really see them, so can’t be certain.
Ripley is scratching her ears a lot, so I suspect that she has ear mites. Although it’s a few days early for her monthly Revolution treatment, I gave it to her anyway, and it seems to have worked in killing the mites.
Ripley must have some interesting dreams, as she often vocalizes in her sleep, giving out little peeps and whines.
OCTOBER 31, 2007
I took Ripley into the shower with me this morning. I think that I have mentioned previously that you just tell her “tubby” and she comes into the shower and sits down under the waterspray. I don’t know if she enjoys the shower, but at least she doesn’t object – and she sure smells and looks much cleaner afterwards!
On my way out of the campground, we passed a fenced in, very large white building, with the name “Meade Ministries”, that boasted a swimming pool in
the front yard, surrounded by palm trees. I suppose that this is one of the many ministries led by preachers in this area. It did look incongruous sitting on a side road surrounded by farms and modest houses.
So, in my quest to see the “real” Florida, I decided to wend my way down to my next stopover via the side roads, and we passed by many cattle ranches, with mown hayfields, and even one field containing several goats. I even passed a woman riding her appaloosa on the side of the road, and felt a twinge of envy. I haven’t been on a horse for several years now and do miss riding. One of my goals is to find a stable here in Florida where I can ride, and hopefully my back will hold up!
I have now been on the road for three months and have driven over 8,000 kms. I have to confess that, although I am enjoying seeing new sights. I am getting tired of hooking and unhooking and battening down the hatches every day. I am looking forward to arriving at my destination tomorrow, where I will be able to stay settled for two weeks.
In the meantime, I enjoyed traveling through the byways instead of the highway, and chose to spend the night at Suwannee River Hideaway Campground, boasting 108 acres and a 1500 foot boardwalk leading to the
My campsite at Suwannee River
Suwannee River. I arrived to find only six other RV’s in the entire park, so I had plenty of room around my shady spot for privacy. I was told that they celebrated Hallowe’en on the previous weekend and the park was full then.
Ripley on Boardwalk
Ripley and I took a long walk on the boardwalk down to the river where we encountered a large sign informing visitors to swim at their own risk. While the sandy beach beside the dock looked very inviting, the river with its swift current certainly did not. But what I found fascinating was finding the sphagnum moss hanging on trees – the very material that I had often used in exhibits while working at the Toronto Zoo. And here I was seeing it growing in its natural environment! On the trail nearby, I came across a small oval bird’s egg which must have dropped from a nest above in the trees.
Beach at Suwanee River
Moss on tree
The boardwalk was meant to take people through the wetlands on either side. Sad to say, the wetlands are no more – only the odd tiny pool was left after the lengthy drought that has been prevalent throughout all of the south. The pointed tree roots are still there, evidence of where the water once was, and I couldn’t help but wonder if all the little creatures such as frogs, lizards, snakes, and even fish, had perished as a result of this lack of water.
Dried up wetland
Old graveyard in Suwanee River
Back at our campsite, Ripley was fascinated by a group of at least five squirrels who were feeding on acorns in a tree nearby. I got out my binoculars and watched them for some time as they climbed out on to the edges of branches and leaped from branch to branch, reminding me so much of my monkey-watching days.
NOVEMBER 1, 2007
I continued on my route winding towards my destination at Bushnell, on the Nature Trail road which passes through some state forests on either side of the road. Unfortunately, many wildlife attempted to cross the road and didn’t make it.
My propane tank was getting quite low, and I came cross a proper propane store where I got a fill-up for $15. What a huge difference from the same fill-up in Connecticut which cost me $80!!!!
Shortly I arrived at Florilow Campground located near the small town of Bushnell, between Ocala and Orlando. I chose this place because the rate is very low and is a park for mature singles. It was originally purchased by members of Loners on Wheels (LoW), and hence, the name of the park. People now buy shares and live there either full-time or for the winter months. It has many planned activities, such as coffee, happy hour, flea markets, breakfasts, etc. and people can choose to attend or not, as they each wish. There is a camaraderie where people can meet and chat and form friendships. In fact, I ran into Mo, a woman whom I had originally met back in Cambridge at my firs outing in my new RV, long with my friend Donna.
Dog Play Yard at Florilow Oaks
Pond & sitting Area at Florilow
The one drawback with being here is that it is not close to public transportation. I have slowly been realizing that I made a mistake in not towing my car behind my RV, so that I would have transportation when I arrived at a place. To make up for this loss, I am planning to rent a car tomorrow. This will allow me the freedom to visit the various places I had planned to see and the
Florilow Oaks Drive
people I want to meet during my time in Florida.