Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I’m hungry… It’s just they way I am.

Day 4: Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I’m hungry… It’s just they way I am.

After a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs made by Dad on the camp stove, we took to cruising the island streets of Tybee and ended up at the impeccably maintained Fort Pulaski. Seems that good old Fort Pulaski was built to protect the port of Savannah. The project began in 1829 under the direction of Major General Babcock, and later Second Lieutenant Robert E. Lee. These dudes were pretty sure they were going to build the baddest-ass fort of all time. Walls were eleven feet thick and thought to be invincible to enemy attack.

Occupation of the fort got kicked around from one group to another for quite a while, but eventually the Civil War came along and some Confederate peeps decided to hang out there and make the place their own. Union Troops didn't like that idea so they blew the walls up with their bigger, badder cannons. Within 30 hours, Confederate Colonel Olmstead surrendered the fort. Robert E. Lee was bummed.

Now its a tourist trap that costs $5 a head to get in, except for us. We got in for free because the guy at the gate didn't have change for a twenty. In true Southern style he simply shrugged and said, "Today is your day!"

Mark still can't figure out how it was possible that he couldn't scrape together 10 bucks, there were at least 30 people already in the fort when we got there. 30 x $5 = $0?

Andrew had other concerns - unsure of the tall “castles” and “mountains” surrounding him, Drew kept a tight hold on Dad.

As the temperature pushed above 100 degrees yet again, we hopped back in the rig and headed over the South Carolina border toward Barnwell State Park for the night. Despite April’s impeccable navigational directions that the park was still 2 miles ahead, Mark slammed on his breaks suddenly and announced “we missed it!” He performed a sharp and very bumpy three-point-turn in the parking lot of a Baptist church advertising “Man Day” on its marquee. This sent a gallon jug of apple juice flying across the RV, but Mark was able to triumphantly proclaim that he’d seen the sign which April had so clearly missed...

Most of us would perceive this as an adopt a highway sign. Mark, however, "couldn't believe that they were so cheap in South Carolina that they would put an adopt a highway sign, a sign for a state park, and a non-descript sign about "winning" all on the same post. This must be the work of Charlie Sheen. How confusing!"

After realizing he had underestimated the Department of Transportation Mark shamefully turned the RV back around towards the actual park. He did make a point of complimenting the park manager on the exceptionally clean 2 miles of roadway that lead us to the park.

The park ranger hooked us up with a little slice of heaven deep in the woods for $16 a night. Mark and Andrew pushed their luck immediately by walking right up to the lake’s Alligator warning sign. Of course, as Mark the master of sign interpretation will tell you, “there aren't really any alligators in there.”

Eagle scout Mark was in his element – setting up chairs, putting out awnings, and all but ignoring the hungry cries of his wife and child. “Don’t you want to explore first?” Mark asked. Andrew looked him square in the eye and said “I’m hungry… It’s just the way I am.”

With that – the Smokey Joe was lit and our grill master took to teaching his son the secrets of the barbecue. The key to a great steak is to “listen to the meat, it will tell you when its ready”, we all learned…

The other thing to remember is that the grill is hot. So don't go anywhere near it without Dad until you're 17. Good talk, Drew.

One massive meal later, Andrew played with his new Mickey Mouse Clubhouse RV set and watched Wheel of Fortune with Mom and Dad over the bunny ears. He is a maniac at the bonus round – especially with phrases.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Purple Pickle

Day 3: Monday, May 30, 2011
The Purple Pickle

What would one expect to find for lunch in the marshes of Darien, Georgia? According to UrbanSpoon, one should find themselves at The Purple Pickle.

Here the pickles are... you guessed it... actually purple.

The whole place is like sitting in someone's funky, albeit kinda-dirty, dining room. Andrew loved running around the different rooms of this self-titled "eclectic eatery." Then he devoured an entire grilled cheese - but passed on the purple pickle. What can we say, he's a purist when it comes to brine based foods.

After lunch we very happily crossed the street to Waterfront Wine and Gourmet - owned by the landlord of The Purple Pickle and equally as inviting. Not only was there a whole lotta wine but there was also a nice little selection of Angus Beef, which made Mark very happy!

The wine shop owner was a friendly man who had "cashed in all his chips at a corporate gig after 26 years on the job" to move to Darien, GA with an old friend and start up a wine shop. "I was burned-out and fried," he explained "but first I had to Google Darien - never heard of the place." When he found out we were looking for our next camping stop, he rustled up his girlfriend out of the back room and she set us straight on Savannah right from the start. "I reckon there isn't much to do there with a little one - I'd go to Tybee Island and the Rivers End Campground instead. You'll like it there."

So off we went...
Tybee Island or "Savannah Beach" is kind of the Sanibel Island of Georgia. It apparently also proudly hosts an annual Beach Bum parade that usually happens in May of each year. The parade boasts floats with riders armed with water guns. Of course, we missed it by a few days so we had to settle for the beaches and other cool stuff.

Andrew made a mad dash for the Atlantic Ocean and got himself all sorts of sandy.

Dinner was a stone's throw away from the beach at the "this place can't possibly be any good because it looks like a tourist trap" North Beach Bar and Grill. The food, like the random hippie outside promised, was phenomenal. Andrew even got his hands on a Strawberry Daquiri - virgin, of course (we think - but he did fall right asleep after?). Mark got his hands on a Red Stripe.

Good to be on Island Time!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Adventure is out there!

Day 2:Sunday, May 29, 2011
Adventure is out there!

Back on the road, we began making our way north on Highway 17. Though all the local hype seemed to focus around the annual Bartow Coastal State Rabbit Breeders Convention, we figured we've done enough breeding for now and elected to simply pull in to the local Shell station for a fuel stop. The whole gang, and by that we mean the biker variety, was also in attendance. As Mark filled up the RV, Andrew (and Mom) socialized with locals and admired the machinery. It wasn’t long before his dreams came true and he was invited for his first motorcycle ride. He looked like a natural behind the wheel of his “iron stallion."

Upon review of the photos we have to wonder if April’s unintentionally busty maternity shirt may have contributed to the bikers’ eagerness for conversation?

Highway 17 led us well and we found ourselves dining at the first Cracker Barrel stop of the trip. Always delicious, we enjoyed a late breakfast and afterwards Andrew tested the durability of the general store’s toy supply. Some passed the test, others did not.....

Outside, the excitement continued as some friendly Polk County firefighters invited our little guy to join their crew.

Always helpful, the firefighters gave us some great guidance for our journey North. We took their advice and pointed the Royan Vehicle toward the Salt Spring Recreational Area in Ocala National Forest. As the name would imply, the cool and refreshing Salt Spring is the main attraction. With waters at a constant 72 degrees year round, it is a popular draw on a hot summer day.

At first, Andrew wasn't sure if he was up for such a chilly adventure?

But then he quickly adjusted to the idea ….. and didn’t want to get out despite chattering teeth and blue lips. How do you explain hypothermia to a two-year-old?

Finally, shivering got the better of him and the prospect of “hot chocolate” and a bike ride back to the RV were enough to get him out of the “really big pool”.

Exhausted and ready to sleep, we climbed into bed with dreams of the Georgia State Line.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

We're back....and on the road again!

Day 1:Saturday, May 28, 2011
We're back....and on the road again!

Andrew awoke bright and early at six in the morning, jumping up and down in his crib and yelling, “RV, RV, let’s go in it!” Mom and Dad were in a somewhat different frame of mind having attended the raucous Bickel/Biggs wedding at the fabulous LaPlaya Resort in Naples the night before. We (Mark) managed to pull our(him)selves together and make the final preparations to the Royan Vehicle for its journey. As high noon approached, Mark’s hangover caught up with him just in time to get behind the wheel and start our thirty day adventure. April, pregnant and otherwise feeling just fine, settled in immediately for a nap on the couch.

First stop, the far away mystery that is Fort Myers. We needed an air filter for the generator from Camping World. Our RV supply store adventure was going nicely until Andrew rounded a corner and unexpectedly encountered an aisle full of irritable Chihuahuas. This scared the daylights out of him and created what will likely become an irrational lifelong fear of dogs in shopping carts.

Approximately three hours North, several arguments, and a hysterical breakdown into things (not Andrew) - we made an executive decision to stop for the night in Clermont, Florida.

The Thousand Trails Campground was just finishing up with their annual Memorial Day celebration as we arrived – but hundreds of American flags duct-taped to fence posts remained.

Andrew, now almost 2 ½ and talking up a storm, made no secret of it that he’d like to go “back to the house right now” as the stress of the first day on the road began to wear the family down.

The family adjourned for a relaxing soak in the pool where we struck up conversation with an friendly seventy-something bachelorette on a solo adventure in her 35 foot Class A RV with three dogs and giant Buick in tow. You could almost see the cartoon bubble form over Mark’s head with words reading “And my wife won’t even help me drive our RV”

Dinner, bath, and a few books later, “Bedtime!” was announced and the whole family fell into a deep RV slumber. Tomorrow we will head North - desperately searching for something other than 100 degree temperatures.

Snarfs and Snoozes

While driving the 1772 miles home from Bar Harbor, April looked and Mark and said... "What should we call our last blog of the summer?&...