Monday, December 9, 2013

Savannah, GA. St Augustine FL & California

Having departed Charleston we stopped for a couple of days outside of Savannah and went into the city about 12 miles away and walked the now familiar streets; had afternoon tea in the Gryphon Restaurant which is run by the students of SCAD and is housed what was a pharmacy in a restored building originally the meeting place for a Scottish branch of the Mason’s. The sun was warm in the middle of the day but there was a very cold wind and in the shade it was cold. Once the sun went down it got very cold and keeping warm in an RV takes some planning; we covered all options electric blanket, central heating, a little electric heater, winter duvet or lots of blankets and bed socks. As we are both tall and the bed was probably 6ft so a cold breeze could get to our feet during the night.

From Savannah we drove to St Augustine about 130 miles south where the weather was a lot warmer. Before leaving Savannah Tom had, after listing the Tow Dolly on Craig's List sold it to a most interesting man by the name of Jonathan White who is British by birth. Jonathan aka Cap’n Jon wrote a book called “Everyone Said I Should Write a Book” narrating in short story form some of his life’s world adventures including those undertaken with his wife Joell; the book is available on Amazon and is a fantastic read. They were heading to Half-moon Bay, CA we had hoped to meet for coffee but our respective schedules did not synchronize. We are beginning to feel very familiar with St Augustine which will once again be home for 6 months; before leaving for California for Thanksgiving we did some serious Christmas shopping in an outlet Mall about 10 miles outside St Augustine.  
We packed our suitcases and departed for San Francisco where our big job was to empty our storage unit after 3 years; we determined that the cost of storing and the cost of replacing the furniture won't pan out in the end. We found homes for some and consigned the rest. We stayed with Sairsha, Cearull and Leslie at the weekends, baby sat Sairsha on two Mondays which was a delight for the two of us. She is a very easy to love little girl, now has 3 teeth, ate all her meals and went for her rest without fuss when put into her crib. When awake she runs around the house…she is so fast on her feet! We also resumed a 15 year tradition by once more celebrating Thanksgiving with Leslie’s parents where we were fed and entertained in style; including Sairsha there were 6 Horgan (Tony joined us) around a table of 10.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving we met Kilian, Melissa and their two boys Cian and Caleb at Oakland Zoo together with Tony, Cearull, Leslie and Sairsha. The boys have grown so much in the year since we saw them; they will be 7 and 5 later this month and are fine strong and healthy boys. As Kilian and family were heading to Tahoe for a Thanksgiving break this turned out to be our only opportunity to see one another. While in Los Gatos we stayed with our friends Judy and Chuck and house sat for them during Thanksgiving week; we met our neighbors Sue and Bob and friends Amit and Anjali, Valeria and David, SaAn and Tadao and Ros and John. We had another wonderful meal at Maky and Mark’s; it was lovely to see Mark recovering so well from his recent chemotherapy treatment. The day before we left we took the Bart into San Francisco and had brunch with Tony and Stella (we had not seen Stella over Thanksgiving) we had a gourmet Brunch at the Ferry Building.

Monday December 2nd we headed back to Florida just ahead of a very cold and wet front coming in over the US. Meanwhile back in St Augustine we are having record high temperatures as the cold front passed just north of Florida. We moved into the Condo we’ve rented, emptied our RV “Rover” and delivered her to Oceangrove RV who will sell her for us.
So ends our 3 year adventure/odyssey and exploration of the US which all started and was motivated by an array of American Souvenir Plates that Adele’s parents brought back to Ireland in 1950 after their own odyssey; the plates hung on our walls in Los Gatos. It’s not, however the end of our rambling…we have a Plan A and Plan B in mind from June next and will post our next travel adventures on the blog.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Charleston Photographs

Hibernian Society Hall

Edmondston-Alston House

Adele remembering Granny Boyce

Angel Oak Tree

Bernie, Eva and Tom under Angel Oak Tree

Bernie and Tom crossing the suspension bridge
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Charleston SC

Charleston is one of our most favorite places to visit; it is so vibrant and busy with tourism as one of its biggest revenue generators, as well it should be - it has such a beautiful setting, lots of history and, we get to visit with our friends Eva and Bernie.

We checked into what was arguably the best RV camp of our three year trip "James Island County Park" – since having had recommended to him last year and now that we are almost finished our odyssey Tom has selected some great parks to stay at. As we drive in – almost a mile to the check-in registration – we pass through Christmas lights all along the roadway. That weekend marked the beginning of the annual "Festival of Lights" what luck? Adele pulls her bike off the back of the RV and heads off for a cycle around the many paths in the park passing workers busy putting the finishing touches to their designs.
The weather forecast for the next day was for 20% rain so we set the alarm to take the 9am (yes 9am!) shuttle bus to the Charleston Visitor Center, as we were walking around town we happened across the "Dixie Supply Bakery and Café” off the beaten track on State Street. There was a long line of people waiting to order but as the weather was getting cold and we were hungry we decided to wait our turn. As we were discussing what we would order the owner Allen Holmes heard our “accents” and came over to chat with us. His family history fascinated us; the Holmes have been in America since the 1600’s, Allen knew that they came in someplace up north and ended up in Charleston in 1698. The Café is situated about 100 feet from the original family business location, first called Holmes & Calder Leadworks, then William E. Holmes Paint Company and eventually Dixie Supply Hardware.  There was a photograph of Allen’s father and his brother outside the hardware store, the back door to the hardware store is now the back door to the café. Allen’s grandfather opened the Holmes & Calder Leadworks. Allen and his wife Kris owned Terrible Tom's Bakery & Café in the historic Charleston's City Market for nine years then in 1993 they sold the bakery and traveled throughout Europe and all around the United States until July 2007. Then it was time to return home to Charleston and the Dixie Supply Bakery & Café was born. Later on in the day Tom was asked by two ladies if he knew where the café was located and he was delighted to assist them; seemingly it’s a famous tourist spot.

Afterwards we toured the Edmondston-Alston House on the Battery which was built in 1825 by Edmondston; after the panic of 1837 (there was a depression in the 1820s and 1830s) he had to sell the house. Charles Alston who hailed from one of the successful rice plantation dynasties bought the house; his descendants still own and live in the house. By the time the tour ended the 20% rain had turned to 100% drizzle accompanied by a bitterly cold wind, so after a long and cold wait for the free bus that transports tourists around Charleston we returned to take the park shuttle back to RamblingRover.
That night we stayed with Eva and Bernie so that we could be up early the following day to start on the very full day they had planned. The sun was shining and it was hot outside as we drove to a bakery where we had the most delicious chocolate croissants for breakfast. Afterwards we walked across the new Arthur Ravenel Jr. suspension bridge and then drove out of town to see the Angel Oak Tree; a 2000 year-old oak tree which is enormous and quite impossible to describe its size, turns and twists of its branches - the trunk tells a story by itself. We then went to the Charleston County Fair where we just walked around trying to keep out of the hot sun. Rabbits and chickens were mostly the animals being shown, there were lots of rides and even more food stalls; we didn't stay long.

That evening James Island County Park was hosting a 2mile run/walk preview through the holiday lights so having earlier secured tickets for the four of us we bought dinner on our way back to the park and dined in the RV. At dusk 6.30 we joined several hundreds of people in the park and walked the 2 miles around the park marveling at the massive Festival of Lights – well over 700 displays and more than 2 million lights - it was spectacular and very enjoyable. From there we went to the cinema to see the Rolling Stones “Sweet Summer Sun” concert filmed in London’s Hyde Park London in the summer; one long enjoyable day for 4 seniors!
When we returned to the park even the Christmas Lights had been turned off!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Concord NC & Columbia SC

Trick or treaters in Concord Mall

Adele at the entrance to the Reed gold mine

250ft below ground

South Carolina State Capitol

Historic downtown Columbia

Wall graffiti in Columbia
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord NC and Columbia SC

Once again Tom surprised Adele with his choice of RV Park…at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. Adele could not believe it we were right in the middle of things; Drag Car Track in front of us, Dirt Track off to the side of the same complex and the absolutely huge NASCAR stadium just across the road. On arrival we learned from neighbors that the only reason we could get a reservation was that there was no racing that week, in fact the couple were real NASCAR fans and regular visitors from Illinois yet could not remain on for the following weeks racing as they were too late reserving; they did find a nearby RV Park. Most definitely the largest RV Park we’ve stayed at; they are set up to cater for big numbers and the facilities were excellent. Concord has lots of shops and restaurants so we went shopping and got the best deal ever in the Olive Garden; we ate two dinners and brought two dinners home all for $12.99 each.

We spent Halloween at the Speedway RV Park where Adele displayed her witch on the dashboard together with a few other new Halloween purchases; our neighbors got the prize as they had far more decorations. While talking to them we discovered that there was nothing in the area 15 years ago; amazing the growth that the NASCAR Stadium has spurred. As we had spent the better part of a day visiting and exploring the historic Reed Gold mine – believe it or not the first gold rush in North America was in North Carolina, we did not see Charlotte other than as we passed by on our way to Columbia.
Lexington, South Carolina was where we had reserved an RV site for a few nights this turned out another surprise when after breakfast as we were doing our chores we discovered a Flea Market in full swing on the neighboring property; we walked through some trees and had an enjoyable morning walking through massive warehouses while browsing hundreds of stalls. On almost every corner it seemed that those stalls were selling the new steam-inhaler cigarettes and of course we stopped and watched a demo. One can have all sorts of flavors, lilac, peppermint, citrus more like a perfume counter than a smoker’s paradise. Now you may wonder who puffs on these things as it is certainly not smoking as we know it; yet we did see a fisherman puffing on one as he cast his line into the river, but then he also had pink and purple hair.

We visited Columbia the Capitol City of South Carolina. Not a big city but it certainly is striving to gentrify the downtown area; it’s a very safe place to walk around. The Capitol building is in the center of town with all roads radiating from it; the Capitol is also the center of a very nice historical district which includes one of its old railway stations (in the time of segregation this was the whites only railway station) the platform is about a half a mile long and is now populated with pubs and eateries. We had a very good lunch in the refurbished station house, in its heyday Columbia had three different railway lines passing through it. One of its major industries is the historical Adluh Flour – Allen Brothers Milling Company which has been in continuous operation since 1900.

Friday, November 8, 2013


Awaiting additions

With some additions

An early model

A wagon in the sky

Spot the guitarist

Mr. Simpson's last big piece

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Adele had her mind set on seeing these Whirligigs ever since her California British friends gave her a present of an “Off the beaten path” book. On our way north in June we missed seeing them due to a communications snafu. After researching the Lucama, North Carolina area for an RV Park Tom fixed on Wilson and what a great selection that turned out to be.

The morning after we arrived we headed into Wilson to visit the Visitors Center to obtain more information on where to find Lucama and the whirligigs. As our luck would once more have it the town of Wilson was busy setting up the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park (Mr. Simpson died in June of this year in his mid-nineties) for a weekend " whirligig festival " event; over we trotted and watched workmen busily hanging pieces onto an enormous whirligig, there were four other whirligigs already erected with another sixteen to follow. A multimillion dollar project, the park will be landscaped to become the focal point of the town. The whirligigs are in different sizes with some as high as street lamps with enormous additions, sometimes as wide as 25ft hanging vertically and horizontally from them; when the wind blows the different components turn in opposite directions. At the park we learned that a refurbishment facility was a couple of blocks away so we walked over and started chatting to a gentleman named Mel who invited us in and gave us a personal grand tour explaining how difficult it was, due to age and corrosion, to dismantle the whirligigs, the challenge of sourcing the correct paint and how they replaced some very rusty moving pieces with newly fabricated pieces. He had photos of what the whirligigs looked like when Vollis Simpson originally made them. The town is also opening a museum to display and archive the smaller pieces that are beyond repair.
The next day we drove out to Lucama a farming community about 15 miles from Wilson and where Vollis Simpson had his home and workshop. On arrival at the farm we parked beside a gate to a field where four geese set up an almighty racket – particularly the male, the other three were female. They made so much noise that their owner came by; he happened to be Michael Simpson one of Vollis’ sons. He told us some interesting anecdotes about his Dad Vollis who went to his workshop every day right up to a few weeks before he passed. The field the geese were in had several enormous Whirligigs (Vollis called them Windmills) as Michael was feeding the geese he invited us to admire them and then gave us a tour of the workshop; it was like a scrap metal barn full of all sorts of knick-knacks, small, big and gigantic, there were lots of little Whirligigs dotted around on every surface. Vollis made these when he got too old to climb up the enormous poles; this was his pastime hobby, to make his living Vollis farmed and moved houses and barns.

Four whirligigs commissioned from him for the Atlanta Olympics are still on display in Atlanta with other pieces in Baltimore, Raleigh and Greensboro. The US Embassy in Moscow has a whirligig in its lobby.
This was a very enjoyable stop made all the more so as everyone was so welcoming.