Monthly Archives: August 2021

Upon the Suwannee River

Don’t know how far down it I am. Can’t see it from my camp site at the Stephen Foster Cultural Center State Park. Arrived here a little after 3 p.m. Couple of big rigs came in after me.

This is a LOT different than Three Rivers. Shade in spades.

Suwannee Camp Site
Heavily wooded
See the difference?

Undecided about putting up the tent. Would hate to do it and then have to strike it in a couple of days because of Fred. Willy Weather is predicting 90% chance of rain on Saturday. Eighty percent on Sunday, dropping to 70% on Monday. The storm center is expected to be well north of us by Monday morning. Heat index here is outrageous. Upper 90s to 103F.Just going to sleep in the SUV ’til the storm is past.

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Plan B For Storm

Right now, 4 pm on Tuesday, August 10, there’s a strong thunder storm passing through Three Rivers State Park in Sneads, FL. Tent walls flexing in and out in the gusty wind, but I’ve got the tent staked down on the corners of the base and guy ropes higher up. Glad I’ve got the “optional” rain fly installed over the top of the tent. I’m comfortable and dry, though. Love the sound of the rain. People who live in sticks and bricks don’t appreciate it like we who have lived in houses with tin roofs like in Panama, or spent time in tents and boats.

Nothing has changed much in the forecast of the tropical “disturbance” raining all over the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico right now. While it’s expected to become a tropical storm within the next 24 hours I’m unsure about what’s going to happen with my reservation at the Suwannee River State Park. Will they cancel everyone? How would be get refunds if they did? Would they give us credit for staying at a later date? I haven’t the slightest idea. But the way the predictions are now. it will just be a lot of rain and some wind for us there on the river. I sure wouldn’t want to ride it out in this tent, though. Glad I’ve got the bed in the SUV. Kind of cramped if I had to spend a couple of days in it full time, I admit. But, hey!

If, for some reason I have to abandon the park I’ve thought about an alternative. Seeing as how the projected path, for now, anyway, is thought to be out in the Gulf a bit there shouldn’t be too much effect back up around Savannah, Georgia and I’d go camp out at the Houlihan Boat Ramp as I did a week or so ago. Was a nice place and it’s only about a four hour drive away from the Stephen Foster State Park. Easy Peasy. That’s my Plan B for now.

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Storm Watch

It’s that time of year…Hurricane season. And there’s trouble brewing in the tropics as I write this. The National Hurricane Center is calling it “PotentialTropical Cyclone Six” right now since it hasn’t formed a circular pattern and reached minimum sustained winds of 39 mph of 1 minute duration to be officially categorized as a tropical storm and given a name. YET! 

Florida falls within the “Cone of Uncertainty.” It looks, now, as though the area most impacted will be to the east of the current predicted track as it moves along the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The bad news is that the worst area of winds and rain in tropical storms and hurricanes is on the north east quadrant of the system. Where I am!

I have reservations for a week at the Stephen Foster State Park on the Suwannee River starting on Thursday. According to the Hurricane Center the earliest expected arrival of tropical storm force winds around that area might be Friday night to Saturday morning. I have no idea what effect this might have on my being able to stay at the park. In any case, it certainly won’t be tent weather, that’s for sure. But I’ll have everything packed and stowed from being on the road and am able to sleep in the SUV. Cooking isn’t going to happen in the vehicle, but I’ll just get sandwich stuff and survive well enough for a couple of days.

Just have to wait and see. 

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Camping Life

I quite like this camping thing. But, like everything else in life it has its good and bad sides. The bad for me here at Three Rivers State Park in Sneads, FL, is that I seem to have chosen a site that offers very little shade. On Saturday and Sunday ,many of the campers departed. I’m writing this at the picnic table two sites away towards the water. It is gloriously shady. There’s also a slight breeze, and over by my tent it’s becoming stifling. 

I’ve been living small for quite a few years. Twenty-two foot sailboat with just sitting headroom. Now SUV, but can stand up in the tent, Then I look across the street at a guy, all by his lonesome, getting ready to hit the road in his 5th-wheel camper with slide outs. Makes no sense to me. Same as when I was driving for the airport pickups in southeast Florida. I’d take withered, elderly people to mini-mansions and it was like dropping a couple of BBs into a 55 gallon barrel.

Then he spotted me and came over and started chatting. Telling me about how the FBI, the DOJ and others were trading him. Blocking his internet service. Placing tracking devices on his truck. He wasn’t going to let anybody stick a needle in his arm with “no vaccine.” I just sat silently nodding my head and “tsk tsking” along. When I told him I’d been invaded by an army of tiny ants that bit like crazy he went over to his rig and brought me some spray as well as a six pack of Miller Lites.

Got food and drink to last me the rest of my stay here.

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Delayed two days since there was no internet connection in the woods at the Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland, FL.

Today, August 5, is the first time in about 68 years that I’ve spent a night in a tent. I LIKE it. 

I spent a very peaceful night at the Houlihan Boat Ramp on the Savannah River as noted in the previous blog post. I had arrive there in the middle of the afternoon and simply hung around reading a Kindle book. I went into the nearby town of Wentworth, South Carolina, and found a Chinese restaurant. Wanted something bland for supper because my duodenal ulcer has been acting up giving me heartburn in the middle of the night. I returned to the boat ramp after dark. No one else was around. talked to a new acquaintance of the female persuasion for about an hour on the phone and then turned in. Didn’t wake up until almost 7 which is unusual for me.

Threw a lot of stuff in the trash. When I’m on the road and munching on junk food I simply throw the wrappers on the floor between where the Bluetti lives and the fridge. I DON’T throw crap out the window. One of the things that distressed me when I lived in Panama, and there were only a couple, but the worst is that the people treat their beautiful country with it’s glorious mountains and sea coasts on the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean like one gigantic trash can. You absolutely don’t want to see how much trash, like pop bottles and those sacs that you stick straws into, cover the area around casettas…covered bus stops.

When you mention it to them, Panamanians agree it’s horrible and then get quite defensive. “Is it better in the United States?” they’ll ask. And my answer alway was, “Yes it it. But once upon a time, when I was a kid, we had a similar problem. The President Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird, got on a big tear and things changed. It didn’t happen over night. It took an entire generation to change their way of thinking about the environment they lived in. One thing that helped was there is a deposit of 5 to 10 cents on every soda bottle. You don’t see them lying around on the ground in the states. To poor people and kids they’re like money found in the street. The same thing needs to happen here. But it will be your grandchildren who benefit.”

Anyway, I left the ramp and headed in a westerly direction looking for a McDoo Doo’s. I won’t eat their meat, but I do like their pancakes and coffee for breakfast. And it gives me time to look at maps and figure out where to go next. I try and keep the distances down to a couple of hundred miles a day. About five hours driving time on the back roads. I’m not into the marathon road trips any more. I’ve been thinking about going and visiting some of the places I stopped at when I was taking my boat trip four years back. Like Panacea where I was brought in by Coast Guard-dispatch when I had total kidney shut down caused by severe dehydration. Or Suwannee. Maybe go over to Apalachicola famous for oysters and spend a couple of days pigging out on seafood. While my coffee was cooling down to a drinkable temperature, I perused an app called iOverlander. I specified both established campsites as well as free places like Cracker Barrels and Walmarts. Not having has a shower since New Jersey I’m getting a little rank so I searched for an “established” site and settled on Manatee Springs State Park in Chiefland, FL. Made a reservation on line for Thursday but since the site is reserved for Friday I grabbed the spot just across the street for the second night. The sites are $20/night with electricity and water, but with taxes and “fees” it rounds out to a hair over $25 which is still a bargain considering that a cheap, gungy motel will set you back close to $70.

While I was getting things set up for camping in the SUV I also bought camping gear, too. I bought an Coleman “Instant Tent.” It’s a “six-person” tent. Well, sitting in it as I write this they’d be six very little persons. My brother says it takes him about two minutes to set it up. This was my very first try and it took me six or seven minutes and left me seriously panting for breath. Never the less, it IS easy to set up and I’m sure with a little practice I can cut the time in half. 

I also bought a Coleman folding table at my brother Marks suggestion and a Coleman camp chair. I slept for several years on an Intex twin size air mattress and sprung for one of those, too. They’re under $10 at Wally World. I have the electric air pump to inflate it and the Bluetti takes care of the power. I have two pumps, actually. One is a 110-volter and the other is a 12 volt cigarette adapter power source. The Bluetti handles either one.

Just after throwing stuff in the dumpster and a quart of transmission fluid in the beast it started to rain. It rained from light drizzle to downpour all day long. Just as I pulled into the state park I caught a break and the rain stopped for a short time. Time for me to get mostly settled, that is. While my brother says he can get the tent erected in about two minutes, this was my first try. It took me, maybe, five minutes.

I managed to get the table, chair, Bluetti, and the USB fan into the tent just as it started to rain again. This time it poured for about an hour.

As I was sitting, looking out the tent door at the woods around me I spotted this deer, just as she spotted me.

So far I’ve avoided paying for places to sleep what with Cracker Barrels, Boat Ramps, Family and Friends. But I think I’m going to be doing more of this camping thing at places with showers. Try and do it once every 10 days or so.

Slept ’til almost 7 then dug out the Gas One single-burner stove and the 11 lb tank and made myself a steaming mug of espresso. The sun is out this morning but it sounds like there’s thunder off in the distance. Without a wifi signal I can’t check the weather. 

I have to re-register at 10. Check-out time is 1 and check-in time is 3. So I’ll use those two hours to hang around down by the manatee food concession where the map they gave me shows there’s wifi. 

Manatee Springs State Park

I have to change campsites later in the day. Right now I’m watching the couple who are occupying it break their camp down. They have a small trailer pulled by a Jeep. Not looking forward to breaking this mess down and setting it up again in a few hours and then striking it tomorrow. Will make Saturday’s run a short one. Look for a Cracker Barrel over around Apalachicola perhaps.

Heavy rain most of day. Had struck tent and decided to just sleep in the SUV instead.

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Meandering Back Roads

Spent the night at “South of the Border” in Dillon, South Carolina. Place has fallen on really hard times. First visit was back in 1964 driving to Miami from Orleans, Cape Cod. No Interstate then, just US1. Very shabby and tacky now. One lonely waitress in the restaurant serving mediocre, overpriced food.Many letters on various neon signs over the “attractions” not working giving the place an even more forlorn look. Checked with a Security dude and he said there wasn’t any problem staying overnight. There were quite a few of us doing that. At least a half dozen others that I could tell. The one thing I’ll give them is that the toilets in the stand alone building were very clean despite being very old. There was am older, black man who was the attendant overseeing the operation. Good thing I can sleep under adverse conditions because big rigs blasted by on I-95, a hundred yards away all night.

Cleared out about 7 am. Stopped at a McDooDoo’s down the road. An all black crew and the best soul music was playing in the restaurant. They all laughed and hooted when I told them the music was making it hard for me to leave.

South Carolina roads are pretty rough. You notice it the moment you cross over the state line from North Carolina. But the back roads, except when passing through a couple of small towns, had speed limits of from 45 to 60 mph which is relaxing where Interstate driving, for me, anyway, is white knuckle time. Most of the time in the five hours I drove today I saw very few cars either coming at me or behind me. A couple of times I drove through tunnels created by the boughs of live oaks meeting over the road. South Carolina, at least when driving down the back roads, seems to be a state filled with single and double-wide mobile homes.

I’m spending the night at a place called Houlihan’s Boat Ramp by the Savannah River. Look to the right and you can see the cranes in the Savannah container port. Overall the place is well tended with a couple of picnic tables and a bench seat for contemplation. Off to the side there are three Port-A-Potties. Roamed around the whole place and there are no signs prohibiting overnight parking. It’s going to be noisy here, though. There’s a draw bridge over the river with 18 wheelers humming over the grated section of the bridge. Probably quiet down later tonight, though.

Not sure where I’m going to go tomorrow. Will scope that out later.

This is what the place looks like…



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South Of The Border

Pedro’s “South of the Border” in Dillon, SC has to be one of the tackiest of all possible places. I first visited it back in 1964 when I was driving my 1956 Chevy Bel-Air down to Miami where I would work as a kind of Jimmy Olsen at the Miami Herald. That’s a copy boy for those of you unfamiliar with Superman Comics. Several months later I stopped in again on my way north back to Cape Cod where I became a “Cub” reporter for the Cape Cod Standard-Times. It’s now right on the edge of I-95, but back then there was only US-1 that runs from Key West all the way up to Fort Kent, Maine on the Canadian Border.

A few years later my brother Jeff and I were on our way south to escape the bitter winter cold of Orleans, Mass, out where the forearm of Cape Cod juts out into the frigid Atlantic Ocean and no matter from which direction the wind is blowing it’s coming off the water and it’s raw. The Cape there is only 4-1/2 miles of sand between the Atlantic and Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket Sound to the south. Naturally we made a stop at South of the Border.

Many years later my ex girlfriend and I stopped as we were wending our way back to Broward County from North Carolina. This time on I-95. The place had developed a sprawl by then but was still fabulously visited. The restaurant back then even served fried chicken livers. A favorite for both of us. Now, perhaps 17 years later they’re no longer on the menu and the menu and food pretty much suck.

It took men a bit over six hours to drive here from the Roanoke area. As I mentioned yesterday, I’d done a portion of the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway and that was enough. I choose a destination and on Google maps I choose the options “No Highways” “No Tolls.” You get some pretty weird directions. Lots of times you’re taken down roads you just don’t think are right. Little two laners with fields of tobacco, corn, and barley on either side. The twist and twirl away. Sometimes you’re sent down a road and as soon as you turn you’re told “proceed on Stupid Pucker’s Road for one half mile.” Then you’re turned on another road that resembles someone’s driveway for three quarter’s of a mile. Sometimes you drive through tiny towns and you wonder why anyone lives there. Speed limits vary from 25 mph in the towns to 55 mph out in the open. Much of the time I’ll be the only car around either ahead or in the rear view mirror.

In the afternoon I decided to give the Interstate a go. I went three exits and left and reprogrammed the program to the back road option. It was four lanes of insanity. Speed limit of 65 mph which is little more than a suggestion to the 18-wheelers making kamikaze runs to God knows where. And then it started to rain. Thankfully after I’d gotten off the Interstate. On my way north I’d been on the Interstate in South Carolina when it was pouring and it was definitely a white knuckle on the wheel drive. I’ll stick to the back roads, thank you.

Haven’t decided where I’ll head tomorrow. Will crash out here at Pedro’s SOB for the night. Already talked to Security and it’s not a problem to do it.I can sleep through a lot and with I-95 less than a hundred yards away and the sound of a train whistle not too far on the other side of the freeway, it’s a good thing.

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On The Road Again

If you’ve got to break down in Virginia make sure you do it near the Susquehanna Auto Service Center in Marionville, VA. Super nice people. I was towed in 15 minutes after they closed on Thursday. The lot was filled. They obviously couldn’t get me going the next day, but said they’d do everything they could to get me going on Monday. The let me camp out in my SUV for the weekend saving me about $250! In fact, they’re such nice people that the owner came by Sunday morning and gave me a cold bottle of Pepsi, a cold bottle of water and a big bad of cheese puffs.

The put the car into the garage around 10:30 and were done by 1:30. I dreaded what it was going to set me back, but the alternator was on warranty having been replaced recently in South Carolina. All I was supposed to pay was for labor. When the girl was totaling everything up she said they’d had to replace on of the serpentine belts as the old one disintegrated. I received another surprise when presented with the bill. JUST $193.09!!!

Took the Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway down to Roanoke. 


It would be cool if you were a passenger in the car. Sucks If you’re driving. Very narrow, twisting road. Heavily forested.Road disappears into the shadows thrown by the trees. Not going to continue on that route but going to mosey down to Florence, SC tomorrow on back roads.

Spending another night at a Cracker Barrel. This one, though a bit noisy with a highway hidden on the other side of a tall hedge.

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Needless to say I’ve felt a bit uncomfortable camping out here at the Shenandoah Auto Service yard. Not physically uncomfortable, but fearfully waiting for that knock on the window and being told I can’t do this.

Just a few minutes ago the owner of the enterprise showed up at my door. He had a plastic bag with a cold bottle of Pepsi, a cold bottle of water, and a big bag of cheese puffs. “I heard you were camping out and thought you might enjoy these,” he said, handing me the bag. I couldn’t believe it. He also said he thought they’d have me on the road tomorrow.

Sometimes good things happen when you least expect it.

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