Monday, 14 March 2016
St. Augustine to Charleston and Nashville
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We completed the Florida-Charleston Loop on Thursday, March 10th.

Jacksonville Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park

Better known as Hanna Park, it is a large park on the Atlantic about 15 miles from downtown Jacksonville. The park is in a Florida jungle. The 300 campsites are large and an easy walk to the 1.5 mile long public beach. I spent the day planning the final days of our trip and walking to and on the beach. I discovered a there was a ferry crossing of the St Johns River very close to Hanna Park. Never turning down a chance to ride on a boat we arrived the next morning only to discover the ferry wasn't running. The website said the ferry would be closed for 2 months from the January 1 which I interpreted that it would be running starting March 1. They need to keep their website up to date. Now I find you have to download an app to get the latest information but the app won't download.

Savannah

Our next stop was Red Gate Farms close to Savannah. This is a small park with 30 good level full service sites. There is a large horse farm with one horse and a pony outside. There may have been more animals inside the barn. I took a trail that wrapped around a small lake and then headed down a long driveway to the gate for the Mackey House. Later I learned this is a facility for weddings. The park had two of the largest Live Oak trees I have ever seen. The photo only shows half of the tree. We had a very pleasant and quiet stay.  In the morning we planned to tour Savannah a city we had not been to for 10 years or so. Unfortunately we got lost trying to find the city and wound up on the interstate.  We decided to skip Savannah and spend more time in Charleston. That worked out really well. I called a Great Loop boating friend, Jerry, and he said he would be free for lunch. He chose the Fleet Landing because although the food was just OK there would be restaurant parking in downtown Charleston and a great view of the harbor. We had a decent lunch and got caught up with Jerry's boating adventures. Rather than do the loop again he took the reverse direction up the Tenn-Tom waterway and left his boat for the winter at Joe Wheeler State Park Marina on the Tennessee River. I am hoping we can get together on our boats this summer.

Charleston

Our primary reason to go home to Nashville this way was to visit friends that recently moved to Isle of Palms and we hadn't seen since the 80s. Brian worked at Apple Computer back then and we became good friends. We attended his wedding to Susan in Marion SC and have swapped Christmas cards ever since. The home on Isle of Palms was spectacular with 5 stories. The view from the top floor looked out over the Atlantic on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other. They have views of the sunrise and sunset every day (see photo). The house had been a rental and had electronic door locks on entry doors and even some inside doors. The locks all have batteries which have to be changed. Susan found instructions on YouTube and we changed out the batteries in one very important lock that was constantly letting us know with annoying beeps that they needed changing. We had dinner that night at a Mexican restaurant on Sullivan Island called Taco Mamacita.  Dinner was very good and it turns out there is a Taco Mamacita in Nashville we will have to visit. Next morning we walked a couple of blocks to the beach and headed for Nashville, with stops at Piedmont and Chattanooga. We stayed at Ivy Acres RV Park in Piedmont which was very good with a large field, fish pond and woods for walking around. At some point the hills had been terraced like a vineyard but there was nothing but grass when we were there. Our last stop was McDonald TN at a KOA. We needed an oil change so I decided to stop at a Dodge dealer in Antioch which was on our way home.  I went their "Express Lane Oil Change" for a "fast oil changes & more" only to be advised there would be a 2.5 hour wait. Not exactly according to their website claim "We know your time is important and we've set up our facilities to provide quick convenient service for changing your oil …" I was also unimpressed with the enormous number of trucks and cars parked chaotically everywhere around the dealership with only narrow lanes to get to the service entrance. We skipped the 10,000 mile oil change and arrived at the house at 1:00PM. I will look for another Dodge dealer.

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Posted on 03/14/2016 4:51 PM by Bob Duthie
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Saturday, 5 March 2016
Key Biscayne to St Augustine
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The big event this week was the loft bed died. There was a big snap yesterday and today I rolled over in the loft bed and there was another great snap. Both drive shafts had broken clearly away from the motor. I found I could raise the bed manually and we put a cushion under it so it wouldn't drop down on our 280 mile trip from Fort Lauderdale to St Augustine.  I put together a short video here which shows how we can continue to use the loft bed with broken drive shafts.

Key Biscayne

We left the Skunk-Ape Research Headquarters and drove xx miles to Key Biscayne where boating friends have a home and a beautiful boat. We stayed three nights and took it easy. Dinner the first night was at the Yacht Club. Next morning Greg and I went to the Yacht Club for breakfast beside the pool in 50 degree weather. Then we all loaded into Greg's new BMW X1 Crossover. He took delivery in Germany and toured for several weeks. It was then shipped back to his dealer in Miami. It had some very nifty gadgets that increase safety. The most impressive was the ability to self-drive. Greg could go for miles in heavy traffic without ever touching the brake or accelerator. Even when someone cut in front of us it braked hard but didn't cause a collision. We drove out to the Redland Tropic Trail area visited an orchid green house, had lunch in the Fruit & Spice Park, took the tram ride and learned about trees from all over the world, and wound up at Robert Is Here fruit store.  The most interesting tree at the Fruit & Spice Park was the Moringa tree which grows quickly to 15-30 ft, and has nutritious, healing leaves and pods. We all got samples to eat. This tree could save the world so get the details here. Lunch was in the park's Mango Café with Mango milkshakes. Tip: Order one sandwich and split it. The following day we were to go on a cruise on Greg and Sue's Krogen Whaleback trawler but it was leaking water under the engine from a cracked sea strainer so that was as far as we got. We ate our lunches in the pilot house.

Fort Lauderdale

It is just 30 miles from Miami to Fort Lauderdale. We did laundry on the way and got a fix at Costco. We always stay at Yacht Haven RV Park and Marina where many of the RV sites are beside the mostly large boats that stay there.  Walking around I spotted an Ontario license on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis. I asked the owner, Robert, what brand of motorhome he had? He said, "It's home made." He had bought a Sprinter van and converted it to a Class B motorhome. It has a double bed over the cab with sleeping length wise since the sides don't bulge out like Class C motorhomes. It has a composting toilet so there is no holding tank. It does have a water tank and he heats water with a hose loop through the engine like many large boats. He has two large solar panels on the roof with an elaborate panel with charger, solar panel control, and invertor. It is mounted where everything is easy to get to.  The unit we saw is Robert's second. The first one was stolen and not recovered during a European trip. The robbers smashed the big sliding glass door and found the spare key hidden inside.

We spent the best part of the day with Nashville friends on a Water Taxi Boat that goes all around the harbor . Our friends come each year for 8 weeks and own 8 one week time shares in one building and move each Sunday. This way they get all kind of different views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the beach. It is also a much less riskly investment than a condo. The most interesting yacht we saw was "Infinity" a $200M yacht owned by Eric Smidt co-founder of Harbor Freight Tools. Note the cabin cruiser tucked into the side.

St. Augustine

We drove 300 miles north and camped at Ocean Grove RV Resort. It was nothing to write about and very expensive. The next day we spend several hours in the city to see what had changed since our visit by boat in 2004. This city is the closest to New Orleans that you can find. It must have at least as many restaurants as New Orleans in the core.  We stopped at the Lightner Museum and St Augustine City Hall that surround a beautiful garden. We had the best lunch panini sandwich and coffee at the Reflections Bistro beside the garden. It's owned by a young couple that were were happy to split the sandwich.  After lunch we walked along St. George St. which is for walkers only. We are now at Jacksonville's Katherine Abbey Hanna Park which is nicer than Ocean Grove and cost about 1/3rd as much.
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Posted on 03/05/2016 3:59 PM by Bob Duthie
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