Secondary Roads

My life on the road, exploring, adventuring and experiencing. Part journal, part travel guide, part history lesson, part stream of consciousness. The world is my bucket and the list is endless!


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New And Improved

I’ve started off the new year with some changes and updates.  I’ve added a map of the US National Parks and identify which of them I’ve visited.

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You may notice that I had to add White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico.  I visited a few years ago while it was still a National Monument.  On December 20th, 2019 President Trump signed its designation as America’s newest National Park.

You can always find this map, updated as I get to new parks, in the drop down menus at the top of the webpage, under “Bucket Lists.”

Happy 2020 everyone!


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Let’s Review

As 2020 approaches it’s time to take a quick gander back at the year that was.

First off, let’s finish up the year’s monthly trek with my December Florida ramblings.  The month started and is ending near Orlando.  In fact, I’ll be here till the verge of Spring.

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December 2019 RV Trek

I ended up covering quite a bit of the same territory in 2019 as I did in 2018, although that wasn’t really the plan at the start.  It just kind of worked out that way given some commitments I had and how best to meet them from where I would be at the time.

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2019 RV Trek

The stats, in a nutshell:

  • 9665 miles travelled. Those are RV miles.  Some places I drove my car quite a bit, and some places nearly none.
  • 14 States visited.  That is states I stayed in, not just passed through.
  • 9 States new states visited in the Motorhome.  This brings my total up to 25.
  • 1295 gallons of fuel purchased, costing $3552.  That’s an average of 7.4 miles per gallon.
  • 0 state bike rides completed.  Hmm, not so good there for my 50 Rides In 50 States goal.  I had a few planned, actually showed up for a couple, got rained out of one and winded out of the other.  Not giving up though.  
  • 10 National Parks.  That doesn’t include the plethora of other NPS units I visited which have designations other than a National Park, such as Monument, Memorial, Battlefields, Historic place, etc.
  • 3 State High Points. 15 reached, 34 more to go.  Yes, I’m aware that is only 49.  I have no intention of risking my life to climb Denali, in Alaska.

When you add the two years I’ve been living on the road together, it looks like this…

Lifetime RV Trek

Red = 2018 Blue = 2019

and this….

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Looking forward to my 2020 adventures!


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The Everglades

Last week I took a break from my winter-over location near Orlando  and headed back to the heat and humidity of south Florida to spend some time in the Everglades and check another National Park off the list.

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Now I don’t know about you, but for 50 years, whenever I thought of the Everglades, which admittedly has been almost never, I’ve imagined miles upon miles of swamp, stagnant, critter infested waters and Cypress Trees.  Like in that movie Swamp Thing.  So,

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I was way down at the end of the road in the Flamingo area

the water and critter infestation part was correct, but I was way off on the Cypress thing.  In fact I was shocked to find the Everglades has nine distinct ecosystems, none of which are Cypress swamps.  To be fair, I did go through a small section that was labeled Dwarf Cypress Forest, but you’d never have known it without that sign and it was certainly no Swamp Thing kind of place.  Lotsa Mangrove, no real Cypress.  At least not where I was.

 

I was in the Flamingo area, which has the only campground with electrical power and is 40 miles from the park entrance on that only road.  No water at the individual sites, no K2aWSlLGShK8uVsJN+VzRwsewer hookups and you can forget about any connectivity.  I spent the week using my more than adequate onboard fresh water tank, and using water like a Fremen (read Frank Herbert’s Dune and that’ll make sense) to avoid filling my grey tank and having to break camp to go to the dump station.  Not that it was any big deal to do so, but using the campground showers a few times got me through the week.   If you want to be connected to the outside world you’ll have to get nearly out of the park.  The Long Pine Key and Royal Palm areas, about 10 or so miles in, have some cell reception.

 

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A Mahogany tree.  I didn’t know they were tropical.

In truth a week was too long and 5 days would have been sufficient because surprise #2 was not too much to do really, unless you are an avid paddler, or want to spend money on boat trips.  I expected there to me more accessible areas to explore and perhaps some hikes available.  There are two “hiking” trails in the Flamingo area, but one is completely unmaintained.  Read that as mostly overgrown and probably not easy to follow in spots.  The other “trails” are mostly short .2 – .4 mile long boardwalks just to give you a flavor of their environment.  Interesting, but not really a hike.

I did a couple of good rides, including more than half of the park road, spent a half day paddling, one day exploring a good portion of the boardwalk trails and areas and a lot of reading.  If you’re a bird-watcher this is a good place for you.  Tons of birds all over of many, many differing varieties.  And this is supposedly the less populated season for them.  I can’t imagine suffering the heat and humidity of summer here, but apparently the bird population then is far greater, which is hard to believe.  So, not the place for you Jody Bennett.

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9 Mile Pond Canoe Trail.  I know, it looks like land but I assure you it’s all water.

The best thing I did all week was rent a kayak and paddle the 9 Mile Pond Canoe Trail.  The kayak rental itself was reasonable, but if you plan to do real paddling here I highly suggest you bring your own boat as they charged me an additional $35 to transport the boat from the marina to 9 Mile Pond.  But the paddle was fabulous.

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Starting off on 9 Mile Pond

 

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Making my way through mangroves

Once you get across 9 Mile Pond itself you’re off into the mangroves and such.  The trail is marked by white poles which are easy to follow except in one or two spots where you may have to look a bit.

At some points in the mangroves it’s so dense and closed in that you can’t even paddle.  You’re just better off grabbing the mangrove branches and pulling yourself along.  Except for 9 Mile Pond at the start and the two smaller lakes at the end, the water is never more than a couple of feet and usually, at this time of year, only a few inches deep.  I never scraped a solid bottom and as you’ll see, I certainly dragged my way through plenty of reeds and growth, but there was always water under the keel.

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I’ll take my swamp without whipped cream please

And who knew that the Everglades comes with its own whipped cream???  It’s phyto… something or other.  Super nutrient rich, super slimy algae which grows throughout.  Makes perfect breeding and feeding grounds for fish, birds, frogs, turtles, etc.  Also makes for a bit of a slimy, muck-covered paddle in the dry season with water levels so low.  You’ll notice my feet get muckier and muckier as I go. There’s no paddling through this without throwing it around from your paddle blades.

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This wasn’t the easiest place to paddle either

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Nor was this

Ok, I might as well have been paddling across a cow pasture here.  Yeah, there’s water underneath me, but these reeds just act like a brake, and every paddle stroke was throwing gobs of swamp shit and mangrove muck everywhere, but mostly on me.  It was fullsizeoutput_1ceeA LOT of work.  I laughed A LOT.  Do not let this discourage you from adventuring here.  First of all, as I said, it’s winter, so the dry season.  I’m also out in the late morning and early afternoon which happed to be just past low tide.  In fact a Full Moon low tide so the water level was EXTREMELY low.

Despite it being the dry season and the weather looking sunny and beautiful ahead, if I’d taken a picture behind me you’d have thought the world was about to end.  Nasty looking rain bearing down on me with a couple of miles yet to go.  The good news was I had made the turn back toward the west, with the wind (storm winds to boot) and the incoming tide, there was no lightning or thunder and it was quite warm so the shower was quite refreshing.  Actually, there was no bad news.

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Gatorzilla.  15 feet of prehistoric eating machine!

The last mile and a half is back in to mangroves and much more open water so much easier, normal paddling also resumed.  Prior to starting out, the ranger who transported my canoe gave me a heads up to look for Gatorzilla, the local famous denizen of the ponds near the very end of the trail.  As I made my way back through the mangroves approaching the ponds in the subsiding drizzle I came across a 6-8 ft alligator resting in the reeds along the waterway.  It was sort of a stream through mangroves so I passed by within about 10 feet, happy to have come across him.  If you look back to the overhead shot of the trail you’ll notice the two ponds separated by a thin shrub/land-ish barrier.  By then all the rain had stopped and it was completely still and

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Yet another turtle-crossing-the-road rescue

right as I paddled through the very narrow (like maybe 4 ft wide) gap that joins the two ponds I glanced up to see the gargantuan back of a gator not 20 yds in front of me.  I believe I exclaimed “Holy Shit” aloud and threw on the brakes.  More startled that he was actually there than afraid of him I was still quite glad for the heads-up at that point.  He was slowly swimming across the pond in the same direction I needed to go.  Once through the gap I veered a bit off to his port side (see, I still got a bit o’ that Navy jargon in me) to pass him by.  He could not have cared less.  I, on the other hand was all giddy.  What an adventure!

+1zol6k3Ro+bE8FAauYg4AI bet you didn’t know the Everglades was once home to a Nike Hercules Air Defense Missile Battery.  Actually, you may not have even known that the US ever had Air Defense Missile Batteries.  Well, through the 1950’s, ’60s and 70’s we did.  In fact, this was the last Air Defense Missile Battery decommissioned, shockingly, in 1979.  That Cold War thing was real, for you kids out there.

 

 

 

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There’s a tour daily.  They’ll take you in to one of the barns where you can see a missile and launcher, but I wasn’t sticking around.  It was time to be done with my ride and besides it was getting ready to rain, again.  It rained at some point nearly every day.  Dry Season, you knowfullsizeoutput_1cf4

It was a great week, even with the extra days.  But hey, what in the world do I have to rush for???

Back to Orlando till March…………


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Coastal GA

There is nothing quite like the charm of southern coastal towns.  Yes, I realize they evoke the evil shadow of slavery, et. al., but moving beyond that, they are lovely and relaxing.  St Marys, Georgia is no exception.

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Center of historic downtown St Marys

The St Marys river is the border between Georgia and Florida and was, in fact, the international border between the United States and Spain.  The historic downtown area is filled with oak lined streets and well preserved houses from darn near the town’s 18th Century founding all the way up through today.

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St Marys River and the coastal marshes

St Marys houses

fullsizeoutput_1cddThe riverfront offers several restaurants and bars, a beautiful park and promenade area, ferry access to Cumberland Island National Seashore (the only way to get there is by this ferry, or to paddle the 7 miles on your own) and an interesting little “history walk” detailing the ebbs and flows of the town life and industry through the centuries. tEPMWFxETF+WBEtBDcsl+g

 

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I, of course was camped a few miles north in Crooked River State Park, but there are several quaint Bed and Breakfast establishments in the historic district as well.  Crooked River State Park, by the way, has a fabulous campground if you’re so inclined.  It also has direct access to many miles of “river trails” if paddling is your thing.

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Between the historic district and Crooked River State Park lies Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay.  Home to a large portion of America’s strategic defense.

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Yes, that’s a submarine.  Ok, well, it’s the sail of a submarine, on top of a concrete reproduction of a submarine hull.

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Quite the mix of history and modernity.

And now I’ve returned to Florida for the winter.  There may be postings……there may not.    We’ll see how things go…….

 


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Congaree and “Fore!”

So, you may have noticed, I’ve been away for a while, which is a strange thing to say, since living on the road means I’m always away from somewhere.  No great tragedies or catastrophes to speak of.  I just kinda took a break from posting.  Not too much to post about after I left Nashville as I’ve been somewhat winding down for the winter.

From the Music City I made my way to Florida and a family event.  Spent another couple of weeks in the horrendous heat and humidity before making my way up through Georgia to South Carolina and Congaree National Park. MqoB9b1RSaOPs7vwLL5DDQ

What??? Where????  I’m guessing you’ve never heard of it.  Not one of the more popular National Parks.  About 20 miles outside of Columbia, SC it has been protected land for 0JBWgT8ASKuQSed1iYzK6gquite a long time, but only became a National Park in 2003.  It is perhaps the last, “old growth bottomland hardwood forest” left in the eastern United States.  Which really means…….it’s mostly a great big swamp.  Most of the park is flood plain of the Congaree River.  When it’s dry enough, which I gather is a good part of  the year, there are several dozen miles of hiking trails and paddling available on Cedar Creek in the park’s interior.   However, make sure you plan your trip well because apparently in the rainy season, the river can overflow it’s banks by 10 feet or so, completely submerging even the raised wooden walkways.  It was pretty rainy during my stay in the area which meant some squishy trails, but nothing so bad as flooded over.  Not really the most exciting or spectacular of National Parks, but my day there was a beautiful day of hiking around for several hours.  Scenically beautiful, that is.  Weather wise it was mostly cloudy, hot and humid.SupLBu6bRBa1R8NAfQs3Xg

One more National Park off the list.

g1v%oYdySM+x5HrVKsRZ5AFrom here I went to the Ocean, where the weather improved greatly, to play golf, of course.  Myrtle Beach, SC is one of America’s premier golf destinations with well over 100 courses stretching across a 50-ish mile swath from the very southern part of North Carolina down to Pawley’s Island.  Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the nefarious details of my rounds, but photographic proof is surely in order….

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A fine way to ring in November.

 


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Amused In Music City (and RV Trek)

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September 2019 RV Trek

I’m in the process of jaunting across the country, north to south, not literally across.  Enroute I pulled off the road for a few days with good friends Danny and Karen in Nashville.  Now, as a country music tolerator (vice “fan) Music City is not quite the pilgrimage destination for me as it is for many others.  But it certainly does hold interest as one of America’s great cities.  And as a foodie………well, enough said.

Ridiculous heat notwithstanding I can’t possibly thank my friends for the amazing visit they treated me to.  A Nashville Predators preseason game along with some good ole Nashville BBQ, watching from their incredible season seats.  Only a few rows up and right at center ice.  Then three challenging but fantastically fun rounds at their beautiful golf club.

Thank you so much Dugans!

 

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I had to wear my Rangers jersey, even though the game was Preds vs Hurricanes

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First tee of the South Course as Vanderbilt Legends Club

Onwards to Florida!


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Fabulous Pinkie Finger

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The Michigan “mitten”

Look at map of Michigan.  The lower portion of Michigan. Oh, OK, here’s a map for you.  Looks like a hand, doesn’t it?  Well, really more like a mitten, but imagine the hand inside the mitten.  The “pinkie” and ring finger part of the state is just fabulously beautiful.  In particular, Leelanau county on the Leelanau peninsula, that part west of Grand Traverse Bay which would be the “pinkie” fingertip, but really that entire northwest and west coast of the state.  I’m going to need to return and spend an entire season just playing and exploring here.

It is all rolling farmland and lakeshore, with countless acres of apple and cherry orchards, super charming little towns and villages, a bunch more exceptional golf than I imagined, incredibly friendly (almost Canadian friendly) folks, a surprisingly vibrant and quality wine, cider and craft beer culture and some of the best biking of anywhere I’ve been.  I mean GREAT biking.

Having said all that….yesterday I visited Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, though not on my bike.

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Glen Lake, near Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore

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Yeah, so that’s a pretty horrible story, but at least I now know why it’s named as it is.  And there actually is a sleeping bear… fullsizeoutput_1ccf

The dunes all along the west coast of Michigan are nothing to scoff at, but especially here.  Immediately along the lakeshore at this point the dune tops out more than 600 ft above the lake.  It was a beautiful sunny day, but winds 15-30 mph which kept me off my bike.  That’s just no fun to ride in.

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Atop the dunes towering over Lake Michigan

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Today was a much calmer day so, of course, I took off on my bike around the northern part of Leelanau county.  You can see, it’s NOT flat. Screenshot 2019-09-15 17.10.13

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This was the second bison ranch I’ve seen here in Michigan.  Who’d a thunk?

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