A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

February 18, 2020

To go or not to go

snow 32 °F
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February 17,2020
On the day we were planning to leave, the Raspberry pi would only boot when the proto board was moved closer, Eric redid the hot water connections, and the D5 finally stopped throwing errors, but went into sleep mode so testing was incomplete. Disasters averted on all fronts, but caution remains the catch phrase for the day. We may leave tomorrow, but all systems need more hardening. A little frightening to do all the systems testing without a net, but we need/want to go.

February 18, 2020

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On the next day we were planning to leave, Murphy strikes again...this time it's weather related. We woke up to a nasty mix of ice, snow and high winds. The pressure test on the water system seems fine, but the idea of slipping and sliding down to the van for final packing seems risky. And nobody slept too well cause a skunk let loose around the house and the house reeks. Darn you Murphy!! And while the original pressure test seemed ok, when I came in to pack more necessities, I found water underneath the basket of toiletries. Eric and his trusty wrench to the rescue, and one waterlogged towel later, all was fixed. The snow finally slowed down to a drizzle and we made the decision to leave this weather in the rearview mirror. Headed out around 11:30 after a hearty lunch with Josh. It was a difficult decision to leave, as we were leaving all the comforts of home and hearth, but the open road was calling.

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We didn't get too far before we discovered that we had forgotten a bed for Sera. We swung by the Watkins Glen Walmart and picked up a bed. As soon as I got the tag off, Sera was finding her comfy spot. Nothing makes you feel better than a gift well received. We were debating whether we should find a stopping point before VA or not, but the GPS had us getting into Hartwood VA around 6, so we figured we shouldn't bother. We were doing just fine until we hit traffic on 495 and got detoured a couple times. That's when we figured out that we had forgotten the E-Z Pass and just kept hitting the detour button again and again. And that's how we ended up on Hartwood Road and prayed that we didn't hear banjos. It was a pretty narrow road and full of twists and turns that may be fun in a Mini-Cooper during the day, but it is tiring when you have been traveling for 8 hours and the sun has been long gone. We sat across from Lisa's house, but we were unable to read the address so we waited until Lisa let us know that she has the red door we had been staring at before entering into their long driveway. While people are used to seeing gray delivery vans, they might not appreciate the passenger getting out and asking for BBBUUUUDDD (Lisa's nickname). Engine off around 8 and we just enjoyed being with friends, and not in DC traffic!

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 16:42 Archived in USA Comments (0)

February 19, 2020

Fredericksburg, VA

overcast 55 °F
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We slept in until 6:40. That might have had to do with the large quantities of wine consumed. The diesel D5 heater is not working so it was pretty cold in the Murphy tin can this AM. Murphy is once again living up to some high standards; the running boards sometimes work, the heater doesn't work, and the Raspberry Pi is having issues. After showers, Lisa took us to downtown Fredericksburg and we got to see the Art First Gallery. Lisa has seriously found her groove.

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It is great to see her so happy and involved. We wandered about Fredericksburg and what a picturesque village. With Lisa as tour guide, we were able to understand the role this area played in the Civil War. It would be nice to come back and explore some of the historic places, but Eric and I are anxious to travel down to a warmer place. Eric and I made a pact that when we eat out, it will be a local establishment, and we will try a local favorite. As luck would have it, we had got outdoor seating at Sammy T's so Sera could stay with us. I had the Sampler platter with falafel, Black Bean Cakes & Corn Fritters, olives, Lemon Tahini, and Chipotle Aioli. The food was amazing and the temperature was not too bad as long as we stayed in the sunshine.

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As we have not seen Charlotte (Lisa's daughter) since her wedding to Nick, Lisa brought us over to see her and her family. Charlotte is amazing; she really has her hands full, but the kids are delightful. It has been a long time since we played with kids and I am a little rusty. They were just finishing up a remodel so Nick was there finishing up some work on the kitchen island. Afterwards, we picked up some groceries and Lisa made up a super supper of pork chops and Brussels sprouts. Yummy and the company was fantastic. Eric went to plug in Murphy because it was supposed to get really cold and found out that Murphy wasn't charging. Big oh no. Dennis saved the day just before we were going to call it quits by letting us know that one of the outlets was was temperamental. All's well that ends well.

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 11:25 Archived in USA Tagged van_life Comments (0)

February 20,2020

Military Aviation Museum, Virginia Beach

snow 34 °F
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I am sitting in a nice warm van with my puppy in the seat next to me while my best bud figures out the media issues. A storm is raging outside the van while we are parked Oceanside on Roanoke Island. The van is rocking back and forth, but we are plugged in and just enjoying our comfort. The bathrooms are locked up in a shower house for $15.50 more a night. The compost toilet is going to get its initiation tonight cause we already paid $42 for the site and I am cheap.

I originally had us leaving Dennis and Lisa's around 7, but reluctance to leave had us departing around 10. We had a few "heart attack" issues with the GPS settings when our original trip to the Military Aviation Museum that was scheduled for about 3 hours was suddenly time-boxed for 6. I finally figured out that the settings had us detouring around highways. We decided a scenic drive along the Civil War Trail on Route 5 would make a nice compromise between scenic and just "get there". Made it through the Norfolk Tunnel without trouble although we did have a gas detour at Fort Eustis in which we almost had to enter the base until we found a detour at the last minute. When we finally found a gas station, the price for diesel was prohibitive and a sales associate decided to take her 15 minute break in the bathroom that I was waiting for.

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We got to the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach at 1:50. The grounds were extensive, the docents were retired military and very good, and most of the planes were air-worthy so that speaks to the dedication of the staff. The snow stated around 3 when we were taking a tour of the German Hangar and the Great War Hangar. Very nice tour, but seeing a snow covered Murphy was a little disappointing. There was an interesting Dinosaur Garden at the entrance of the Museum complete with gardens and ponds.
Sera was not as impressed as I was, but she was a little nervous about the "Big Guy" staring at her when I was taking her picture. We drove through 1.5 hour of snow/sleet before it turned to heavy rain and we got into the Refuge campground around 7. While trying to find the campground manager, I stepped in a gargantuan pile of feces which really put a damper on a rainy night setup. I tromped all over the van before figuring out that I was the one that smelled so bad. I finally ended up putting shower gel on the new carpet to try to cover the smell of poop. I even dropped a smelly footstep on Sera's bed. Poor little girl. Cleaning Merrell shoes left me soaked and convinced that all the nooks and crannies used for traction in hiking makes them miserable for cleaning. On a positive note, Eric found that the HDMI cable had come undone from the TV, so he hooked it back up and we now have movies and music...yea!!!

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 16:43 Archived in USA Tagged van_life Comments (0)

February 21,2020

Outer Banks

semi-overcast 47 °F
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The rain/sleet/wind pounded on the van all night. It was a raw morning that greeted us with ice pellets lashing us from the water we were parked in front of. Having a campsite right on the water had seemed like such a good idea when the temperatures were in the 60s. Not so great when the temperature is in the mid 30s and the wind is gusting up 50 mph. At least, it was not truly snowing.

Decided to use our compost toilet as showers/bathrooms were locked. First attempt was a failure as number 2 needs to go back as much as possible. It ended up in no mans land between holes for 1 and 2. In trying to clean up, I banged my wounded finger which decided to dribble blood all over my cleanup attempt. This whole fiasco achieved epic proportions when you throw in the fact that Eric and Sera were waiting outside in the freezing drizzle. We decided to limit our losses and headed for the Wright Brothers Memorial.

We scored entry with our park pass and enjoyed the Museum and walk up to Kill Devils Hill. The wind from the night before continued and made our walk up the hill a rather quick journey. However the same wind that pushed us up the hill, made our walk back down quite challenging. If Sera was a smaller dog, and the leash a little lighter, I think she would have given the Wright Brothers' Flyer some competition. I grabbed a JR. Ranger packet and a park badge. It brought back so many memories as we used to do this with our three boys.

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When we opened the van that was parked in the sunshine, the reek of dog poop was overwhelming so I was on a search and wash mission while we started down the Outer Banks Scenic Byway. Going onto Pea Island was wild with heavy equipment moving sand off the highway as fast as the wind was covering the road back up.

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We stopped by the Bodie Island Lighthouse; it is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and well worth a visit. It is the third Bodie Island Lighthouse, as the first had foundation issues and had to be abandoned in 1859. The second ran amok of the Civil War and was blown up by Confederate forces in 1861, and the third and final lighthouse was built in 1872 complete with a first-order Fresnel lens. We decided to make our way over the The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and stop by the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse on the way back.

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One of the things I love about Murphy is our ability to walk into the back and do whatever needs to be done, like make a quick meal, give the dog some water, or add/remove clothing as the need arises. And so we grabbed lunch on the go, hustled by Hatteras and made our way down to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum. The museum explained why Hatteras is so deadly and the history of the many wrecks; from privateers to German submarines like U140 used in WW1. The museum also had exhibits and artifacts detailing the history of scuba diving, fishing and the people involved in maintaining the lighthouses and those involved in life-saving.

On the way back, we stopped by the Hatteras lighthouse. The original lighthouse, built in 1802 was only 112 feet. The second lighthouse was built in 1871 and had the distinction of being the tallest lighthouse at 200 feet. Interestingly enough, the lighthouse had to be moved 2,900 feet to the southwest because of erosion and the encroachment of the sea. The NP visitor center was sort of shut down, but there was a Ranger in the Primary Keeper's Quarters. She explained that the lighthouse is super cold right now, and the best time to visit is in April/May, before the temperatures skyrocket and the crowds swell. Eric drove back up the OBX scenic byway so I could enjoy the scenery and he gets to deal with all the sand removal and visibility issues.

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We got to the Riverside Campground in Belhaven NC around 6 where they had nice warm showers and laundry. Luscious Potato soup and bread for supper along with a bellyful of adventure and a beautiful sunset. The owners of the campground are incredibly accommodating and pleasant.

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 16:43 Archived in USA Tagged van_life Comments (1)

February 22, 2020

Cape Lookout National Seashore

sunny 40 °F
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We woke to a frosty morning with snow still clinging to the sides of trees and some sun hidden areas. Nice and warm inside due to 30 amp service and our portable electric heater. Thank goodness for heating redundancy. I decided to do some laundry this AM with my furry friend who keeps reminding me to play. Sage advice at any age.

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We thought we had set aside ample time for travel to the NC Maritime Museum until the GPS sent us to one of the many ferries. It did not look promising as many areas looked like they were still dealing with the storm's aftermath, so we continued on and the GPS added almost an hour to our trip to the Maritime Museum. While talking to my Dad on the phone, I noticed the Cape Lookout National Seashore, but we continued onto Beaufort NC. The village was quite picturesque and we took a leisurely stroll down the main street. The Museum was nice, and had a number of exhibits aimed at children, but many were for adults as well. However,I was really curious about Cape Lookout, so back down the road we went.

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The Visitor Center for Cape Lookout is quite nice. The only way to get to the Cape Lookout lighthouse is to take the ferry which does not allow dogs, so we decided to pass on that activity. Instead we took a hike by the salt marsh and saw the man made marsh sill to help slow down erosion. The boardwalk/hike was quite nice, but parts of the boardwalk showed grim reminders of the power of the sea. We caught a film about Cape Lookout that was somewhat prejudiced against Cape Hatteras and it's development. It was an interesting point of view.

Back on the road for Carolina Beach State Park. We were worried about making it before the gate closed at 7, so I called and was told that check in must occur at the marina which closes at 6:30. Yikes! We got there at 6:05 and scored a super nice site. Bathroom is a haul, but that is ok because that gave us a chance to walk around and determine that this is one nice campground.

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 16:43 Archived in USA Tagged van_life Comments (1)

February 23, 2020

Congaree National Park

sunny 53 °F
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Another frosty morning, but with heated restrooms, life is awesome. Heading to Congaree National Park today, but Carolina Beach State Park is pretty amazing so we decided to hit the trail. Took Sera and chanced upon some pretty pictures of dewy marshes and the Cape Fear River.

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Back on the road by 9:00 and had a heated debate about US 95 versus rural routes. Decided that no one path is perfect and we can decide one day at a time. Stopped by Wal-Mart and found out that Beer is only sold in certain counties of S.C. Sadness ensued followed by a determination to find and purchase beer before end of day. Congaree is in Richland County which allows beer purchase on Sundays (incorporated areas only) Congaree National Park was a bit upsetting/disappointing because the surrounding rivers had flooded and the elevated pathways were underwater and /or washed away. We took as many trails as possible but the boardwalk was fairly busy and the trails had some flooding that made waders an attractive option. As usual, there were some super people with great dog stories about a very resilient Cocker Spaniel and another with their 3 mutts from Las Vegas. Terrific help from Kenny Boggs (volunteer), not only about the park, the tree varieties, the Jr. Ranger Program, but also about where to buy beer. National Park Volunteers are the best!!!

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We took Kenny's advice and scored some beer and soda at Food Lion and then drove over to Poinsett State Park. They don't need speed limits at this park because the roads are pretty cracked and have nature's speed bumps. But the site was nice with only 5 sites in the whole campground occupied. the restrooms were clean and warm so that is what I consider 5 star accommodations. Eric brewed up a fine Gumbo which made up for the Muddy Phiff Porter which reminds one of North Carolina swampwater. Careful what you wish for. The 16G thumb drive loaded up with music worked great for some fine after dinner ambiance. Sleep came swiftly for all.

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 16:44 Archived in USA Tagged van_life Comments (0)

February 24, 2020

Fort Pulaski National Historic Site

sunny 60 °F
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Cool start to our morning at Poinsett so to warm things up we went for a hike around Lee's Mill Pond. We started up the Coquina Trail with the understanding that the northern edge had been dismantled by previous huricanes/flooding. Up and over the hill top to a landscape covered with Loblolly pines and smaller trees draped with Spanish Moss. It was a little surreal as there were very few leaves; but whether imagined or not, the Spanish Moss seemed to turn from gray to green as the light rain persisted. I let Sera add to my locomotion going up the hills (6 wheel drive instead of 2) and let Eric enjoy her downward momentum, claiming my knee replacement as an viable excuse. A couple of picturesque spots were discovered that told a story of long forgotten mills and the water system that powered them.

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Decided to use I95 as the rain made exploration somewhat of a dreary prospect. As we headed into Savannah, we saw a sign for the Tuskegee Airmen Monument. We decided to explore and discovered that sometimes a Monument is just a Monument. We had a quick lunch at the Waltersdorf Army Air Field and learned about segregation and the POWs interned at WAAF. The 200 German POWs that lived there were allowed to learn about America and the parallels with their society. It was pretty enlightening. There was also mention of the segregation that the Airmen had to endure while serving. It had some a very interesting story about a Christmas party and the discrimination exhibited. A sad, but unfortunate part of our history. Eric discovered the National Monument at Fort Pulaski, so we made an online reservation at Skidaway Island State Park and continued onto the Fort.

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Talk about Dog Friendly...they gave out biscuits at the park entrance. We watched the overview and rambled around the Fort until the ranger talk at 3:00. Sera and I were both restless, so we let Eric attend the talk while we meandered and got enough information to fill out a Jr Ranger Packet. I am now an officially sworn in Junior Ranger of the Fort Pulaski National Park. I even got the badge. We all had a good time and getting to understand the history of the Fort was rock solid cool. I could even see the Cockspur Island Lighthouse from the edge of the Fort, although I did ask for assistance as it is rather small compared to some of the other ones we have been witness to.

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We pulled into Skidaway around 5:30 to find a nice level private site, gotta love state campgrounds!! After finding the bathrooms, we lost our campsite for a little bit, but met with a woman who was doing some solo exploration with a Pleasure Way MB and a little Dachshund. First fairly warm night, so we didnt have to unpack all the heavy blankets. We had a bit of a rainstorm and when rain hits the roof vent, it is not a quiet little twinkling sound. Just sayin'...its loud!

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 16:44 Archived in USA Tagged van_life Comments (0)

February 25, 2020

Savannah, GA

sunny 65 °F
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Slept in a bit as it was a noisy night with rain doing a tap dance on the roof vent. Nothing beats heated showers and a cup of coffee. Met a woman at the showerhouse that reminded me of what it is to be blessed. They had lost their 41 foot sailboat in one of the hurricanes down in the Bahamas. As I was expressing regret, she said that there were so many other people that lost so much more. They felt blessed with what they came away with. It was a lesson in perspective. We drove into Savannah and hopped onto the trolley and let a nice woman named Crystal tell us the history of Savannah.
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After 1.5 hours, I was happy to finish the tour and get back to Sera. Now that we were armed with a map and a much happier puppy, we set forth to discover the city for ourselves. We headed down Broughton Street and stopped at Leopolds for an ice cream. Met some fellow travelers and bonded over dog stories and doggy sundaes. The folks at Leopolds made us feel very welcome...they loved Sera so of course, they are great people. I think everyone that worked there came out to see the furry Border Collie with Beautiful Eyes from NY. We strolled down Bull Street and enjoyed the various garden squares and the surrounding houses/architecture. Eric had the 35mm and I had Sera. We both got to enjoy Savannah through different lenses. I would love to say that Forsythe Square was the best, but each square had its own charm and would appeal to the different moods of different people at different times. The Live Oaks wrapped with Spanish Moss/ French Hair was breathtaking. Not to be outdone, the ferns that grew in the branches added green adornment to the branches wrapped only in gray lace. We stopped by the Saint John the Baptist Cathedral to try and take in the majesty of the architecture. Tried to capture the beauty with a camera....no can do. Continued down to the River and the Waving Girl dock where we stopped by Woof Gang Bakery and I scored a pair of Border Collie slippers. Too cool for words!!! We found a World of Beer Bar and tried a double chocolate Stout and a Porter while chatting to another couple with a long hair Dachshund and a poodle/Australian Shepherd puppy. Nice conversation and another convert for the Junior Ranger Program. Eric thinks I should be the poster child for these programs or just committed to the nearest asylum. On our way back to Murphy, we accidentally found and investigated the city market area. It was a bit of this and that and it would have been fun to explore further, but we were getting tired and the clouds were moving in. We ended up purchasing a pork/Apple pie for supper, some quiche for a snack, and a chocolate eclair for breakfast.

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Headed back to camp for a quiet evening where Sera is collapsed behind my seat and Eric is desperately trying to find a campsite for us for tomorrow night. I think we may need to remember this morning's lesson on blessings.

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February 26, 2020

Fort Fredericka National Monument

rain 57 °F
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Drizzly morning, but once again...warm shower and coffee and all is right with the world. It was an 80/20 kind of day. We reserved a spot on Anastasia island so we had some time to spare and what better way to take up some time than with a walk on the trails of Skidaway Island. The coast of Georgia is an amazing watershed. There are salt marshes everywhere; live oaks with Spanish Moss, palm trees , palmetto, and a whole herd of egrets or white birds that look a lot like herons. They remind me of the large heron that sometimes sits on the side of our small pond, and gives all the pond critters cause for pause.

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The San Piper trail was a mud pit. That is not to say, the whole trail was muddy, but that 20% really made me question our decision to hike when we got back to the van and Sera was one mud covered dog. We actually used the back shower hose and rinsed her off. We got about 80% off, but that remaining 20% ended up all over my pants and the van. Sera is feeling a little under the weather with a case of diarrhea. She keeps looking at us for a fix, but we suspect it was the doggy sundae she had yesterday working it's way out of her system.

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We picked up fuel on Skidaway Island and headed over to I95. Needed to remember our lesson in blessings when we were in a 1 hour parking lot on the interstate. Turned out a tractor trailer lost control and burned. The trailer was almost unrecognizable and the truck was a charred ruin. We sincerely hope the driver escaped with his life and the rig was insured. My mom sent me this facebook link and the truck in the video looks vaguely similar to the one we saw on the side of the interstate. Truck fire

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Finally made to to Fort Fredericka on St. Simons Island amid yet another rainstorm. So excited for the Fort Fredericka Jr Ranger program that I forgot our previously planned trip to the Lighthouse Museum. The fort was an actual archeological dig for a 1736 English settlement. The fort and it's troops were able to strike the definitive blow for Spanish expansion north from Florida. They originally tried to raid the Spanish Fort at Castillo de San Marcos, but were pretty ineffective. The Jr Ranger Program was pretty amazing with a little haversack, map, compass, newspaper, candle, protractor...you get the idea. The child would go from one stop to another with different errands and different tasks to complete. I had as much fun as one can have with outdoor writing activities and a driving rainstorm. Submitted my soggy program and got my badge and 2 other Jr Ranger Programs. One for underwater exploration and one for archaeology. So excited!!!

Eric agreed to be the Proctor for the programs, and the badge is super cool, so I am stoked!! Traffic around Jacksonville was a little annoying but nothing compared to the earlier problem. We stopped by a Winn Dixie for milk and cream and ended up with another bottle of wine. I adore being able to purchase real wine in grocery stores. And then we stopped by a Target for a Sera towel. We use the body chamois's' and never packed a towel for her, and she is definitely the messiest of all of us. We also picked up some coolant and another 3 funnels for Dr. Eric's experiment with the cause of the diesel heater failure. While I love his desire to fix everything, sometimes I wish that he would relax and not feel the keen desire to fix everything.

Sera had diarrhea again when we got to the Fort. And when we pulled into Anastasia Island, she struggled to defecate and ended up with diarrhea again. I trimmed her fur for maximum efficiency and when I cleaned her up, I noticed some blood. She looks so pitiful...its eats at my heart. We hope that she feels better tomorrow, but otherwise we will be googling Veterinarians and letting her health dictate our journey

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February 27, 2020

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument

sunny 70 °F
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Sera continues to have diarrhea so last evening at Anastasia Island was a bit challenging because when one occupant of a small van has a problem, that problem is shared with every other occupant. She cried pitifully about every 2-3 hours and Eric would don shoes and take her out and clean up. We had a stack of poop bags when morning finally showed up. I nixed the idea of a shower when the outside temp was hovering around 50 and there was only a fan for a thermostat in the showerhouse. No one can shower that quickly without something valuable freezing off.

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We decided to walk beside the Intracoastal Waterway. There was a powerful headwind, but we got a pretty cool look at the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Anastasia Island is supposed to have some very nice beaches, so after our hike, we drove to the end of the state camp road and found a beautiful beach. Eric wandered about with the 35mm while I kept an eye on Sera and looked for a campsite for tonight. Before we left Anastasia, I wanted a better look at the Lighthouse, so we revisited the pier and snapped a few photos for old times sake. (On our first visit to the Lighthouse, Josh ended up with a drawer full of Fire Ants)

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Now for the Castillo de San Marcos National Park and yet another Jr Ranger Program. Eric pulled into the lot and it was packed, so we drove around and finally spotted a spot that challenged Eric to parallel park Murph. We threaded our way through the historical district of St. Augustine to the Fort. Once there, Eric stayed with Sera outside the Fort, while I investigated and prepared my Program. We had brought the boys to this NP many years ago, but I had a chance to look at it with a different perspective this time. The stories about the role of Fort Marion and the incarceration of Native Americans was interesting, especially the part about Richard Henry Pratt. He attempted to transform their experience from one of prisoner to that of a European American.

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To keep Eric from getting sunburnt, I finished up quickly and we headed back to the van and a possible camping spot at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park. This particular park has a policy of walk up where sites cannot be reserved online or by phone. We never really figured out the logic, but we were able to park in a lovely site that has a fantastic view of Big Lake Johnson.

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After securing our site, we drove to the grocery store to get some chicken and rice for Sera, and some broccoli for us. Voila, Eric whipped up a wonderful meal that put a smile on everyone's face. I had called our local vet clinic and they recommended a rice and chicken diet for a doggy with the poops. It was serendipitous that we enjoyed the meal as well. I grabbed a shower before temps plummeted into the 30s. I learned that lesson from this morning. Keeping my fingers crossed that Sera and by extension, the three of us, will have a better night.

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 16:45 Archived in USA Tagged van_life Comments (0)

February 28, 2020

Henderson Beach State Park

sunny 51 °F
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Sometimes it is best to look at a day through a 24 hour lens. I found that looking at yesterday was made much better with a 24 hour perspective and I think this ease in perspective comes from Sera's recovery. She is not pooping every 2-3 hours and she seems to be resting much easier. Eric gets the Hero Award for dealing gracefully with both Sera and myself. I was not my usual optimistic sunny self (????) and neither was Sera.

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Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park was amazing. They were replanting many of the native grasses and it was just a very relaxing and quiet place to reflect and enjoy. We walked to the dumpster around 9 when the bears and alligators were thinking of their next meal, but they probably decided we were too tough and left us alone. The night sky was inky with a waning crescent moon...beautiful. Sera needed to go out 3 times last night, so when 7 am came around, I let Eric sleep in and Sera and I went for a walk down to the boat launch where we came upon the alligator warning. Oh my, but no gator in sight so we continued exploring with one eye on the trail in front and one checking the back for any surprises.

Eric had picked up some coolant and a funnel, so Mr. Wizard was back in action. Unfortunately, the diesel heater shut down with the same error codes. Bummer! As we were both a little tired, we decided to forego a morning hike and hit the road for Henderson Beach State Park around 9:30. The drive down 100 was pleasant enough and US10 was also nice. The only moment of distress was when "Maps", our GPS, and my own sense of infallibility had us almost run out of fuel before exiting for 331. We made it with 25 miles of reserve, but the algorithm is not linear!!! Coming into Destin on US98 brought back a bunch of memories of being down here with Andrew. Lots of construction and a detour for Henderson Beach road had us doing 3 u-turns before we finally got it right. What a nice campground...tucked in between the multimillion dollar condos and resorts. Dogs not allowed on beach, but we had a nice walk around the park and Eric and I took turns checking out the boardwalk and the beach. The boardwalk for windy, but not wobbly, and the beach was beautiful white sand. Unfortunately, it was also rather cold and windy, so the white sand and spray were caught in a dance best enjoyed from a distance. How such a place continues to be so wonderfully elemental when it is surrounded by a concrete jungle is amazing...and much appreciated.

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It was in the low fifties with 30 mph gusts of wind, so yup, we sat outside Murphy with our cocktails, bundled in winter coats and hats. As we had a little extra time and there was a change machine, I finally did some laundry as our dirty laundry bag was no longer fitting beside the sink cabinet. It was quietly expanding and falling over every time we made a right hand turn. Dirty laundry is no longer a black and white concept. When it costs 4 bucks, a long walk with a heavy bag, and the ability/resolve to commit 2 hours for a load of clean clothes...dirty does not necessarily mean one day of wear. While I was doing the laundry, Eric fussed around with the diesel heater and was able to get it to successfully start and run, not just once, but twice. So grateful for my man of resolve. Also grateful for installation of the Raspberry Pi to the van because it provides Eric with plenty of "Mr. Wizard" opportunities and I love the entertainment value. It has been a day filled with magnificence and if tomorrow is only 1/10 as beautiful, we are indeed blessed.

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 12:11 Archived in USA Tagged van_life Comments (0)

February 29, 2020

Gulf Islands National Seashore

sunny 63 °F
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Happy Leap Year!! Sera made it through the night without a sad whimper and rushed exit out of the van which colors the day with a rose tint. When she feels good, we all feel good. I had given her a dramatic haircut after a severe bout of diarrhea left her with some especially disgusting dingleberries. She is aware of her hair cut as when a cold wind hits her nether regions, she just kind of hunkers down and uses her tail as a sort of wind shield.

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We got an early start as we know that 98 gets very crowded. We wanted to hit 399 for the trip to Fort Pickens as it goes right along the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The sand is so white because it is ground up quart from the Pensacola Watershed, or one of those monster watersheds that grind down to the Gulf Islands. The white sand against the blue of the ocean and the sky was a color palette that makes me wish I was an artist in watercolors. Fort Pickens was pretty interesting with its history of being retooled for the changes in warfare starting in 1839; being a part of the Union defense in the Civil War, and then adding bigger, and heavier guns as warfare changed. The remaining cannons were pretty impressive and the Worth Battery provided Sera with a little exercise and a chance to avoid at all costs, a baby armadillo. I completed my Jr Ranger Program and got sworn in by the lady in the gift shop. She actually got a little misty about the part of respect for all living things...it was endearing and made me think twice about the oath I had just taken.

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We got back on the road around 11:30 and headed for Gulf Islands National Seashore in Missippi. Its a long park!!!! The park ranger was pretty ADHD and gave me some of their other programs because the current Jr Ranger Park is being retooled. We decided to just hike the park and look for gators. Gator Pond had two that we saw and a couple of turtles. The next pond had an eyeball. That was enough to let us know that none of us wanted to be swimming in that area. The boat launch was full of fishermen, and the whole vibe of the place was just very relaxed. The visitor center had some really nice exhibits, but that was probably due to the reconstruction efforts from Katrina. We went down a small trail where the CCC had done some work when Sera decided that life is great and she started grabbing sticks and even one very large vine and started dancing around. She seems to be feeling better, but we are still waiting for conclusive proof.

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We left the visitor center and drove to McLeod Park Campground which is a Mississippi County Park. As we arrived after hours and I forgot to download the campsite map, we had to figure out the campsite numbering system on our own. The system may have some logic when seen on a map, but when you are driving through, it is not obvious. Our site was located at the end of the loop, but the campsite one loop away has quite a contingent and it felt like we were the American skating team and they were judging our approach, execution, and teamwork. They were pretty quiet when we finished, so the jury remains out on their scores. It was rather ironic that a car that had been driving around after dark stopped me on my way back from the restroom to ask for directions to the exit. We quickly determined that his best solution involved driving the wrong way down the road. I didn't see him again, so all's well that ends well.

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 12:11 Archived in USA Tagged van_life Comments (0)

March 1, 2020

New Orleans, LA

sunny 70 °F
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Musings from a hot shower in an ice cold bathhouse...So while I contemplate a dash out of the hot shower and the contorted yoga positions that come from trying to dry and dress on shower shoes, there are a few tidbits about Mississippi I would like to remember. Just because someone asks you if you are the manager, don't get too fluffed up. It is because you are the only person in the store over 50 that has had a haircut within the last 6 months. Also, I was worried about a county campground and all the rabble rousers that might show up. No worries, wonderful smell of campfires and laughter, but when it turned dark, things settled down briskly. Might have something to do with temps dropping into the forties. And just because you work in Mississippi does not mean you talk slowly. Clerk in Winn Dixie needed to slow down to 35mph for me to understand him.

Just drove by Stennis airport on our way to New Orleans. They had a couple of C130s that will forever remind us of Andrew.

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The drive into New Orleans was fairly uneventful, but we were surprised by the crowds already down in the French Quarter at 9:00 on a Sunday. I didn't see much of a Godly presence down there, and the primary smell was that of urine and vomit. We paid $42 for 7 hours of premium parking. I think the premium had to do with the absence of vomit. However there was a giant poop emoji as advertising for poo-pourri. I had actually bought a bottle for the composting toilet. It is either doing a good job or the aspen bedding is, cause the Nor'easter on Roanoke saw the C-head getting christened, and there has been no smell thus far.

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We wanted to visit the National Jazz Historical Trail, but the Visitor Center is closed Sunday and Mondays. So we downloaded one of the trail maps and Sera and headed to the points of interest. We toured along the Mississippi Riverfront and got to see some of the Paddlewheel river boats. We stopped by the Mint, the French Market, Decatur Street, Jackson Square. We were getting hungry and Sera was getting tired, so we swung by the van, put up a few curtains, opened the fan and let her rest in the van. We had lunch at the Gumbo Shop. Many of the buildings have courtyards behind their storefronts. In this case, we had lunch in a small courtyard that let the really nice day reach the customers within, but also the birds, but that is a story for another day. I had Anduille Gumbo and a blackened chicken po'boy. Eric had the seafood versions. It was excellent, but we had no room for dessert.???? We stopped by Jackson Square to check out the psychics, artists, and street performers that line the sidewalks. After checking on Sera who showed a decided lack of enthusiasm for going back out of the van, we left her and headed over to the Louis Armstrong Park. Nice and relaxing, but the Municipal Auditorium looked deserted and very sad. Got to see Congo Square and a number of memorials to the Fathers of Jazz. Headed back to the van via Bourbon Street. Live music everywhere and alcohol specials at every bar. I suspect this place must be nuts at night. On our walk back, we noticed that many of the houses had memorial plaques. We actually found one that stated, "On this site in 1897, nothing happened." Checked on Sera and then went out to find pralines for a special treat long after we leave this place. Found the pralines and even a little ice cream. Left just before the meter expired and found one shortcut and one u-turn before we ended at Bayou Segnette State Campground. Levees on one side of the access road and a campsite that allows us to play ball with Sera...life is good. We found that laundry is free, so we grabbed the sheets and towels and got those cleaned up. Light rain falling and the mosquitos are vicious. We picked up a scarf to act as a screen, but it is no match for these blood sucking barbarians.
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Posted by LifeWithMurphy 12:42 Archived in USA Tagged van_life Comments (0)

March 2, 2020

Jungle Gardens and Port Arthur, TX

sunny 70 °F
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We found a boardwalk to the bathroom at Bayou Segnette. It adds a little extra to the trip but the view is pretty nice in the morning. After spending a day in the French Quarter with all the psychics and voodoo whatnot, the evening stroll to the bathroom became a little more intense especially when the moon was covered with pink clouds. From now on, Eric gets to walk me to the bathroom in the evenings cause everyone knows that smart guys always know out to outwit ghouls and goblins.

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We left Bayou Segnette around 7:30 and traveled to Jungle Gardens on Avery Island. US90 through Louisiana was horrible. We bounced along for 122 miles and the TV mount finally gave up the ghost, held safely in Eric's arms. Got there a little after 10 and toured around the massive gardens. Lots of Bamboo, azaleas, camellias and some magnificent Live Oaks.

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I especially liked the Buddha garden with bridges and 7 azalea gardens, although the live oaks were my favorites. We forgot to bring water on our walk, but a pair of fellow travelers gave Sera some of their water. In looking for tonight's accommodations, we were thinking of camping at Sea Rim. They highly recommended the campground so after a quick lunch, we set course for Texas.

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After going through Port Arthur and all its petroleum based industry, we were amazed to find Sea Rim as a campground on about 5 miles of beach. After looking at their last electric site, we decided to go primitive and drove out onto the beach. We went for a nice long walk with Sera off leash as there was no one around for miles. The smell of rotting seaweed was a little strong at our first spot so we drove further down the beach. We parked, had a beer and suddenly noticed the uncontrolled burn that had started way back on our drive in, was now fairly close and threatening the maintenance building near us.

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We packed up and headed back to the office to report in, and then drove over to the other side of the beach, away from the fire. By the time we had set back up, the mosquitoes attacked with a vengeance and we decided to do without supper as cooking outside would probably require a blood transfusion. We then spent the next 30 minutes killing mosquitoes on the inside of the van. Afterwards, we looked over and saw that the fire had picked up again and we wondered if they were going to evacuate the campground. We saw a car come towards us a couple of times, but no one came this far down the beach. It finally looks like the fire is being somewhat controlled as we can no longer see flames, just lots of red hued gobs of smoke. Not sure how well any of us are going to sleep tonight. It's rather ironic that Eric and I were feeling pretty smug about camping on the beach...that is until the mosquitoes and uncontrolled brush fire had the final say in the matter. What is that song, "We make plans, and God laughs"

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 13:06 Archived in USA Comments (0)

March 3, 2020

Galveston, TX

sunny 73 °F
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We survived the night snug as bugs in a mosquito infested rug. Seriously though, we had reduced theirs numbers dramatically. Unfortunately, the van was left with bug guts and blood all over the walls and ceilings. Looked like a bad B slasher movie. We waited for the rain to pass, plastered on bug spray and ventured out. As long as we stayed close to the water, the bugs were pretty manageable, and the walk was sublime with all the muted colors of blue and grey. Cleaned up as best as possible, but as luck would have it, as I was showering out of the back the van, some older gentleman weezed by on his run down the beach. He stopped running when he was about 50 feet away so I am thinking curiosity was a big motivater. We drove to Port Arthur to see the Museum of the Gulf Coast. It was really nice, but I was somewhat restless, so after 2 hours we were back on the road to Galveston. Eric decided to play his "really want" card when he noticed that we were passing by the Space Center Houston. We were unable to secure a campsite where we originally wanted to stay, so Eric messaged his cousin Michelle for camping recommendations and she mentioned that we could stay at her home. When we mentioned it was for tonight, her response was "Seriously", but being a true southern lady, she said that anytime after 4 would be wonderful.

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We ended up driving down to Galveston and walked the Strand. It was a much nicer, much smaller version of Bourbon/Decatur street. Everything was really clean, and the architecture was pretty remarkable. We were originally going to the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum but decided that we were more interested in being outside and wandering around Galveston, than exploring inside another museum. We will have to bookmark this museum for another trip. We headed back into Seabrook and met up with Michelle and her husband Ferrell. We had wine on the patio while Sera and their Labrador Retriever, Honeybee played. It was nice to see our socially dysfunctional baby having fun. Michelle had mentioned something about going out to dinner and when she mentioned Thai, we were hooked. The meal was really spicy and delicious, and the company excellent. We grabbed an extra entree for Ferrell as he was sick and stayed home while we went to the restaurant. After another exciting day accompanied by the blessings of family, we were in bed and comatose by 9:30.

Posted by LifeWithMurphy 13:31 Archived in USA Tagged van_life Comments (0)

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