The next day we went to Charleston which is located on the peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. On the way we crossed many rivers, waterways and wet lands. Lots of water. The first settlement was further north and called Charles Towne, but moved to its present location after the revolution and renamed Charleston to get away from any connection to King Charles. They have some beautiful flowering trees and bushes including Crape Myrtle and Oleander. Oleander is poisonous and when used in tea it causes heart attacks. It was very popular with the women during the era when they couldn't get a divorce for any reason. Charleston was originally a walled city, but over time the walls came down, mostly due to growth. It is known as the “Holy City” because of the predominance of churches (181). The art of lowcountry basket weaving from Palmetto leaves (the state tree) was brought from West Africa and is the main craft of the Carolinas. The baskets are very expensive, however, so didn't get one ($65 for a very small one). Most of the early population was made up of 2nd & 3rd generations of men from Barbados. Only the first born son could inherit the family fortune so the later sons migrated north to earn their fortune. Charleston was plagued with pirates and after Black Beard they took action and hung any they were able to capture and left them up for weeks as a deterrent to others which seemed to work.
The first thing we did was take a carriage tour of the historic section. There are 3 different tour groups and before they start out they are assigned a particular section so they aren't all at the same place at the same time. Our tour used mules and was located in an actual barn where they housed all their mules, plus various chickens. It was pretty warm and smelly while we waited for our turn. There are so many people wanting these tours and all the companies are located in the same area so have to be pretty much timed to their isn't a traffic jam. We got to see a lot of historic houses and my general impression was that they are so much closer together than in Beaufort. Later we found out the bigger ones are located in The Battery, but we didn't have time to tour that area. During the prohibition the speakeasies were called Blind Tiger Pubs under the pretext the people were there to see a fight between blind tigers and the admission price was actually the price for a drink. If they were raided they would just say the tigers weren't feeling well. There is still a bar left with that name. Charleston is the 2nd most haunted city and they also have “haunted” tours at night. That would have been fun. We noticed a lot of these houses are for sale and our guide says they start at $1M and most much higher. Charleston has money and there are a lot of high scale car dealers and as this is the port of entry for BMWs there are a lot of those around. There is a large city market (much like Pike's Place in Seattle) that was originally called the Slave Market. Supposedly this was where the slaves brought their owner's goods to be sold, but there still is a story going round that it was where slaves were sold. When the owner's sold this section to the city there was a stipulation that no human trading was allowed, plus if the city closes it down then it will revert back to the latest known decedent. I really wanted to go through the market, but we had a water tour we had to get to, plus it was very hot and humid and we were on our last legs.
Our water taxi tour took us out into the Charleston Harbor and the main destination was Fort Sumter. On the way out we got to see quit a few dolphins and pelicans. It was so hot out and no breeze even on the water no one stayed on top very long. In fact, Bob burned his arm when he leaned on a rail. We also went by the aircraft carrier Yorktown, the submarine Clamogore, the destroyer Laffey and the CG cutter Ingham. Our narrator said this was not the original Yorktown, but the guide books say differently. It was still very impressive. When SC seceded from the Union, Union forces still occupied Fort Sumter and the South demanded they it be evacuated and the North refused. Finally, on 4-12-1861, SC Confederate troops from nearby Fort Jackson fired on the fort and after a 2 day bombardment the Union troops surrendered and this was the beginning of the Civil War. The South held the fort until 1865, during which time the fort experienced one of the longest sieges in modern warfare. For almost 2 yrs 46,000 shells were fired at the fort so remains one of the most significant historic monuments in the US. Even Sherman bypassed Charleston because it was so decimated it wasn't worth his while to burn. Charleston has survived fires, hurricanes and war to still be a very pretty and impressive city and has so much history it would take days to take it all in.
Coming out of Charleston we came across the submarine HL. Hunley which was a Confederate sub that attacked and sank the USS Housatonic off the coast– the first sub to ever sink an enemy ship. She signaled shore that the mission was complete, but on the way home she vanished. Lost at sea for over a century, the Hunley was located in 1995 and was raised in 2000. It was then brought to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center to excavate and conserve the sub and try to unlock the mystery of its disappearance. The vessel is in essence a time capsule holding a wide array of artifacts from the 19th century.
We then decided to tour the original site of Charles Towne, but it was a mile and half walking tour and was way too hot to even contemplate, plus there didn't appear to be much that we really wanted to see. On the way home we had some rain and what we thought at first was fog, it was actually steam so that is how hot it was and we were ready to get home. Every time we came out of an air conditioned place it was like walking into a steam bath.
The next day was toured the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens which is listed in The National Register of Historic Places located on the Ashley River. Today it is still owned by thee 11th generation of the Drayton family. There is no other plantation still under original ownership from such an early date (1680), and even though it is now open to the public it is still under original family ownership. The original plantation was around 2,000 acres but after the civil war the family funds were decimated so all holdings and all but 500 acres had to be sold off. The original house burned down in 1811 and a new one built nearby. A fiery fate a the hands of Sherman took this house. Because of limited funds Drayton demolished his hunting lodge and rebuilt over the remaining brick structure. This house has been added to over the years and the last Drayton moved in 1995. The house has been beautifully restored and has the finest collections of Early American furniture plus, out of the original 100 place setting (600 pieces) of china, 80 pieces still remain. The plantations mostly famous for its 500 acres of informal gardens (not structured as in formal gardens) that features one of the most famous spring displays of Azaleas and Camellias (hundreds of them in among the original woodland type trees, plus an 18th century herb garden, a 16th century horicultural maze, a Biblical garden, a tower for wildlife observation and even a petting zoo has been added. This isn't like the plantations you see in the movies with sweeping lawns because the house sits on very little property among the woods and gardens. Going in you are given your choice of various tours and was a little confusing. We ended up with the house, nature boat and “From Slavery to Freedom” tours. We had a little time before we took and boat tour so start so we toured the acres of woods/gardens and ended up getting lost, as others did, but finally found our way back to the boat. The boat (more along the lines of a pontoon boat) took us out into one of the marshes and all we got to see was a bunch of birds. It was too hot in the day to see any of the many alligators and we were out only 30 min. It was rather disappointing, but we learned something I bet that most of you don't know – the only difference between a marsh and a swamp is the vegetation. A marsh only has cattails and marsh grass, while a swamp has various types. I know you always wanted to know this.
We then took a tram to the newly restored slave cabins – 4 of which were built around 1850 and the gardener's residence built around 1900. The tram parked a ways from the cabins and I had a hard time walking that distance (I left my scooter at the tram site). The guide gave us a dissertation on the African American culture and what they actually contributed to our culture. Actually, only 5% of the slave trade came to the South. Most went to Europe and other parts of the Southern Hemisphere. The main crop in early beginnings was rice. Since the English didn't know how to harvest rice, which is very complicated and time consuming, it was the slaves that brought the knowledge with them. Also, the Southern food is mostly based on African tastes. He gave a very lengthy dissertation, which I thought interesting, but Bob wasn't impressed. I only looked into a couple of the cabins because of he walk back to the trolley, but you got a good idea of how they had to live. A couple of cabins were inhabited until the 1960's and one until the early 1990's. The supervisor of the gardens is one of 13 children that lived in one and even though he is supposed to be retired he still works along with one of his sons and grandson. They plan on more extensive furnishings, exhibit materials for each cabin, an interpretive center and a genealogical research center in the near future.
The trolley dropped us off at the main mansion for our next tour and it was all I could do to move room to room. At times I would sit on the steps as long as I could still hear the guide. I have talked about the house in earlier paragraphs. Very impressive. There was still one more tour we hadn't booked, but it appeared to be the best so we bought another ticket and off we went (we didn't have to get off the trolley on this one) and it took us around the perimeter of the grounds. We saw a lot more with this tour – deer, turtles and even some alligators at got a lot more information.
As I said before, rice was the main crop along with indigo (used in England for dyes). With the end of slavery these crops became too hard to maintain. Cotton and tobacco didn't become a big crop until later. Luckily, it wasn't as hot that day, but we left at 9:00 and didn't get home until 7 pm. We could have spent another day at the plantation because we didn't get to see everything, plus there are other plantations that have tours. We had planned on going to Savannah today, but after the full last 3 days we were pooped, plus we have to leave in the morning for Screven GA.
We had a uneventful trip to Georgia. The weather was very hot, mid 90s, but the air conditioner in the rig kept us comfortable. We arrived at the campground and it is a very nice campground with trees and shrubs scattered around the campground. It has spaces for about 200 rigs but because it is spread out it doesn't appear that big.. Southern Trails RV Resort,Inc. Unadilla GA. Even though there are plenty of woods, GA looks a lot more dry and parched and didn't have that lush green look. We did have an awesome thunder storm and rain on and off other days, but it didn't seem to green it up. The park is located on a meadow so the sites were fairly long and level. It had 191 spots, since this is their off season they weren't very full. They had all the amenities and a fishing pond which I hadn't gone to, but as we were leaving I saw a sign “Don't feed the alligators” so wished I had checked it out. There isn't anything much to do or see, but the park has games and some type of cards every day, plus has potlucks quite often, which they had on the 4th. Most of the people there seemed to be regulars as they all knew each other. About all we did was go to
The campground put on a pot luck dinner in their clubhouse. They furnished the fried chicken and bar-b-cued spare ribs. Everything else was pot luck. There was some excellent food and good company. Met several others and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. They all got together to play some card games after the dinner but as we didn't know any of the games they were playing, we went back to the rig to watch the Nascar race.
Arrived at The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and Campground and as soon as we got to the office the sky opened up and poured. It was really hard to see and Bob missed the road he was supposed to turn on (it wasn't very well defined anyway) and when he went to turn around he got into a soft spot of ground the the front of the RV sunk up to the axle. When he tried to back out the front panel caught in the mud and ripped the brackets off. I just stood in the rain in shock – we just got the thing fixed from the last incident. Anyway, the park hosts showed up and decided we had to get a tow truck, which eventually came and dug us out and put down railroad ties and pulled us out. In the meantime, we gathered quite a crowd, which I wasn't in the mood for, so I thought about charging a fee for the free entertainment (I didn't). As soon as we got out it stopped raining and was able to determine that the damage wasn't that bad. We will still have to take it in, but will wait until the next park. Back to the park – this park is huge (680 acres) with a pool, cafe, country store, craft village, Boatwright Barn Museum, horse stables, canoe and kayak rentals, beauty shop, 2 music halls and an amphitheater which has had the top names in country music. Most of the people here are regulars and you have to have a golf cart to get around. There are so many of them they remind me of ants running around, but we will have to break down and rent one in order to be able to see everything. Scratch that idea – Bob just found out that it is $53 a day to rent so back to my scooter and Bob's bicycle. Besides RV spots, there are a lot of park models. It is located on the Suwannee River, plus a lake, and has a large music venue all year around along with different things going on all the time. We had dinner at the cafe, which really has an old country look, and had karaoke going on. This park isn't just a campground, it is an experience.
We took a drive around the park and it is easy to see why you need a cart – it is huge. At the back there is a nice beach on the river, further on is a nice round lake with a fountain and sculpture of 3 ducks. It is really cute with catch and release fishing. Each section of the park has a different type of camping and its own pavilion. We stopped at the country store, toured a small “country village” (the “stores” were closed) and next to the pool was a pizza/ice cream store. We had a “beer pizza” that was really good, plus they had a sugar free ice cream sundae so Bob was in 7th heaven. It had a slight taste of beer which must have been in the crust. We've never heard of it before. The horse stables are closed for rentals, but can still board horses there. If you like the Southeast this would be the place to retire – buy a cabin, still have your RV and board a horse and still have swimming, hiking, etc; however, we'd rather be in the West. We can count on a thunderstorm every night, but hot and muggy during the day.
We drove back into GA to the Okefenokee Swamp, which is one of the largest and most primitive swaps in America that covers approximately 680 sq. miles in Southeast GA. In the strictest sense of the word it isn't really a swamp for the word swamp means a low lying area with still and stagnant waters. It is 128 above seal level, which is higher than most of the surrounding land, and the water is constantly circulating and flowing in channels throughout and fed almost entirely by rainwater. The waters drain away and forms the St. Mary's River on the eastern side, which empties into the Atlantic Ocean, and the water on the western side forms the Suwannee River that empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Okefenokee means “Land of the Trembling Earth” which came from the time when the land was just floating islands before they became stationary. Through the years there has been 77 different spellings of the swamp. We took a train tour around the perimeter of the immediate park and stopped partway to walk through some old bldgs that was once part of a logging camp years ago. We then took a boat ride through 3 miles of the swamp which was pretty eerie and, of course, saw quite a few adult and baby crocodiles some up very close, along with birds and turtles. It is very beautiful and if it hadn't been so hot we would have stayed longer. How hot was it? – It fried my brains and I am going to use that as an excuse here on out. In fact, I burned my hand when I put it on the seat of the car – and we have cloth seats.
We took a drive to the Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center. He has written so many songs about this area I thought he was from here, but he was actually from Pittsburgh and the park is just a memorial to him, because he immortalized this area. The museum is housed in an antebellum style mansion. Dioramas (some with animation) depicting interpretations of scenes from Foster's best loved songs and the desk on which “Old Folks at Home” was written along with many pianos he used one time or another. The centerpiece of the park is the Stephen Foster Memorial Carillon Tower. It is the world's largest tubular bell instrument that plays concerts daily featuring the music of Foster and resounds throughout the park's beautiful gardens and grounds. They also feature art, crafts and the performing arts, but it is the “off” season so they weren't open. He wrote over 200 songs and was our first original songwriter, “America's Troubadour”. He shortened Suwannee to Swanee River to better fit the song with one syllable, and “Old Folks at Home” became Florida's State Song. “My Old Kentucky Home” became KY's state song. Because this was long before royalty fees, he died at 37, due to illness, he had only 38 cents in his pocket.
We took a drive to Madison, Florida, where there are many historic homes. At first we walked around the historic area, but the sidewalks were terrible and weren't scooter friend, plus it was very hot, so we finished driving around. There were beautiful homes, but I am much more enamored with the antebellum style homes. We weren't gone very long because we have to get ready to pull out in the am
Arrived St. John's RV Park at St. Augustine FL and just vegged the rest of the day. The park is located on a meadow with quite a few spaces, but most are permanent residents and very few transient spaces, especially with full hookups. We are in the meadow and have power and water, but no sewer. We are only going to be here 4 days so that isn't an issue.
St. Augustine, located in Northeast FL on the Atlantic side, is very rich in history and there is so much to see it would take several days. Now with its history: On Easter Sunday 1513 Ponce de Leon discovered Florida and named his discovery “Pascua de Florida” which means “Feast of the Flowers” and for the next 50 years made 6 attempts to settle in FL but were unable to tame their newly claimed territory. On a return trip in 1521 was killed by an Indian's arrow. In 1564 the French succeeded and built a fort near the mouth of St. Johns River which angered the Spanish which, in turn, sent Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles to the FL mainland and succeeded to drive out the foreign settlers. He fortified a newly created village and named it St. Augustine after the great theologian whose works and writings contributed significantly to the formation of Catholic Christianity more than 1500 yrs ago. Englishman Francis Drake burned the village and wooden fort to the ground in 1586. The town was sacked again in 1668 by pirate John Davis. Spain's Queen Regent Mariana realized St. Augustine was the keystone in the defense of the FL coast so ordered a new fort in 1672 (made of coquina, a locally quarried soft shellrock that did not become brittle and crumble under canon fire) which took 23 yrs to complete. The city gate and many homes were made of coquina which is still evident today. England defeated Spain in the 7 yrs war and FL was transferred to English control by the Treaty of Paris in 1763 which divided FL into 2 colonies and St. Augustine became the capital of East Florida. During the American Revolution St. Augustine remained loyal to the crown. The entire FL peninsula was returned to Spain as part of the negotiations ending the American Revolution in 1783. Spain ruled for another 37 yrs, but had difficulty luring settlers from the mother country and other colonies to repopulate this area. On 7-10-1821 the Americans took over from the Spanish. There is so much history here and, as you probably have figured out, St. Augustine is the oldest city in America, long before the pilgrims landed.
It is such a beautiful city and even though it was hot, I was too enthralled to hardly notice it. Being the oldest city it has the oldest house believed to have been occupied since he early 1600s and is now open to tours. The oldest wooden school house dates back to the 18th century and has been restored for tours. This is definitely a tourist town. We took a train trolley tour of the city got to see many historic bldgs. There are so many different tour groups the local people have to learn to share the roadway and this is supposed to be the “off” season.
We later went back to tour “The Fountain of Youth”. The first tour was in the Discovery Globe which traced the sailings from the old country to the new. Then we went on to the Navigators Planetarium which showed all the stars and their formations that captains had to navigate by. After that we were on own and took in a replica of the Village of Seloy, a shipwreck exhibit, Native American burial grounds, Ponce de Leon statue and Ponce de Leon landing monument, plus a Peacock nesting area. They are such a beautiful bird and we got to see one in full fan. Enough said for one day.
We took a scenic tour of the bay, which is one of many waterways, around the city. We had front row seats and had a good breeze so was a comfortable trip. We mainly got a good view of the waterfront and the main island, plus the St. Augustine Lighthouse. We could see bad weather in the distance and just as we were pulling in, it hit with thunder, lightning and heavy rain and was so bad they couldn't get the boat ramp on so we had to stay on board an extra half hour. It was still raining when we finally got off, but just a normal rain. Bob was going to have to lift my scooter down some steps (a piece at a time), but a guy came by and lifted the whole thing down. The main storm didn't last long, but came down heavy enough to cause flooding in the intersections. We learned that a month ago it rained for several days that caused them to close off downtown due to flooding, which really made some tourists upset.
I finally got into trouble with my scooter. In order to get it up a hill I have to turn it fast speed and every so often I forget to turn it back down. There is a huge outlet mall here and, of course, I just had to check it out and once I got into the store, I forgot to turn the speed down and almost took out 2 racks of clothes. I was really embarrassed, but the sales lady's husband has a scooter so she understood what I had done. What can you expect from an old, gray haired lady.
We were supposed to have left, but with no luck we wouldn't have any luck at all. We got everything put away, but the slides wouldn't come in. We called 3 RV repairmen, but only one could get out here in a reasonable time and he wasn't able to find the problem. We finally got someone to get back to us from the manufacturer of the hydraulic system and and between the two of them they finally found the problem; however, they have to manufacture the board, which will take a couple of days and a couple more for shipping, so here we still are and we are supposed to pick up my two oldest granddaughters (Ali and Syd) in Orlando the 22st. It is only a couple of hours away so it will all work out.
Wed we drove to Orlando to pick up the girls and, of course, I stayed in the pub while Bob went thru security. We haven't seen them in 2 years, so they have really grown. They are the 2 that we were very close to so am so glad to see them. Of course, they were hungry because – get this – you can't buy food or drink, other than pop, unless you pay by credit card. Not everyone has a credit card and I find this ludicrous. The living room slide was partially in when the motor went bad so it cuts down on the room, but we are making do without too many problems. Sophie is used to company, but expects them to go home. She is starting to get used to not being the center of attention however.
Since we are still in St, Augustine the girls wanted to see The Alligator Farm. It is really huge and has all the species of Alligators, Crocs and birds. I didn't know there were so many species and the best were the Albino gators. They were totally awesome. The biggest was Maximo a 15'3” and 1250 lbs. Gomek was one of the largest ever on display at 18' and 2,000 lbs but is n
The day was rainy, even poured at times, so, of course, they wanted to go shopping so we took them to one section of the outlet stores. There are 100+ stores and some of the most expensive, Gucci, ect. It kept them busy for one afternoon, which was our aim. The part we were waiting for came in, but the repairman can't get here until Mon am so we are still stuck here and looking for things for the girls to do as there isn't even a pool or playground.
There was a flea market down the road so we went and walked around there. It was hot out and, even though there were a lot of stalls, most of it was junk so we came back to the rig and the air conditioning. The girls are really liking the storms we get here which seem to be happening every afternoon, but don't last too long.
NASCAR took precedent over everything today, but we still had time to run to a few stores. Ali has been looking for a brown skirt she needs for showing her dog for a long time and we finally found one. It is really hard to find clothes for a size 0 and Syd is a size below a 0, whatever that is.*
The part came in and we got everything stowed away for moving and the repairman put it in; however, it didn't solve the problem! It seems the motor also burned out and with much prodding they said they would ship it overnight. So.... we took off for Disney World (a two hour drive). They started with one theme park with 26 attractions and 3 resort hotels in 1971 and has now expanded to 47 sq miles that hosts 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 18 themed resorts, 5 golf courses and 4 miniature courses and you better be sure of which park you want because you wander around for miles to find the right one. Their landscaping is absolutely beautiful. We parked in handicap parking so didn't have to take a tram to the monorail which takes you to whatever park you want. We got off at Magic Kingdom, which is almost the same as the one in Disneyland, that consists of 7 themed lands (Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, Mickey's Toontown and Tomorrowland all centered around the Cinderella Castle).. The place was jammed so if this is their “off” season I'd hate to be here in their “on” season. I'd say that 90% were foreigners, mainly from India, Africa, Mexico and Scandinavia, so lots of different languages. They came in different sizes, shapes and some plain weirdos. I had a lot of competition with other scooters and lots of strollers so was hard to get around. There were a lot of toddlers and babies that were getting hot, tired and cranky. I can't understand why anyone would think kids that young would have any fun in that type of environment and heat
We first had to have lunch and went to a fairly upscale Italian restaurant. I took the scooter to the table and they rode it back to the lobby and brought it back when we were done. I was very impressed. The weather was decent, then it rained for about an hour, then turned hot so everybody headed for the shady areas while waiting for their kids. What is really surprising is that the heat is affecting Bob more than me, but then all I do is sit on my scooter and he does all the walking. The girls got to go on most everything but Space Mountain (closed) and Splash Mountain (2 hour wait) and as it was we didn't get home until 9:30 so was a long day.
We got underway to Sun Resort in Apopka, FL which was only a 2 hr drive. While we were setting up the girls went to the snack bar (which they were thrilled about) for lunch and then went swimming. This place is huge (2922 sites), 90% of which is permanent residents, with lots of trees and level pull thrus. They also have a condo area and, of course, a sales office. We are a lot closer to Disney World which really helps. They have strict security here and take pictures of your license plate the first time time you come in.
Off to Disney again. From here there are 3 toll booths in the 25 miles to Disney. At least their roads are good. Just a side note – The voice on our new GPS is rather brusque so we call here Gertie and she really cracks us up with her pronunciations. Anytime there is a Dr in the street name she says doctor instead of drive, calls Walmart Wellmart, haven't figured out what she is saying for Super Center, called Statesville Statusville and totally mutilates any street name that is unique. It is quite a challenge to figure out what the street name actually is.
Animal Kingdom was our destination this time. It features animals from all over the world (Oasis, Discovery Islands, Camp Minnie-Mickey, Rafiki's Planet Watch, Asia, Africa and Dinoland). In order to ensure that the different “lands” were authentic, designers traveled to remote communities and wildlife preserves to give their park realism and authenticity. The rides take you out on safari across the African savanna to encounter freely roaming wildlife, whisk back to the Cretaceous period to save a dinosaur from extinction or travel up a Himalayan mountain to get a glimpse of the legendary yeti and the Lion King parade. Of course, most of these rides had long waiting times so we didn't get to Africa section before the skies opened up and poured. The drops are so big they really hurt when they hit your skin. It poured all the way home and visibility was almost 0. The force of the rain got into our satellite dome and rain was pouring from the TV cabinet, but luckily didn't do any damage. It also got under the slides and soaked some of the carpet so we weren't too happy. The girls are getting a little tired of the storms.
Off to Disney's Hollywood Studios that celebrates the past, present and future of show business, featuring tributes to animated and live action movies; fun, friendly television shows; high energy rock and roll thrills; and the enchantment of the Broadway stage. This is the place to meet today's hottest characters, learn how movie magic is made in stunt and special effects shows, dine in a studio commissary or at the “Brown Derby”, and view dazzling musical spectaculars. We didn't get through all of the park before the rain started again (this is getting old), but the girls were getting tired anyway.
We decided not to fight the weekend crowds at Disney so are staying home watching NASCAR and the girls are spending their time at the pool and snack bar. The snack bar has a menu, but they seem to be out of practically everything. We ordered their pizza and the only kind they had left was cheese and we got the only two they had left. It was the worst we have ever had and, along with other observations, we are not very impressed with this park to say the least.