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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The St John's River, Florida

We rented a cottage on the St John's River which is just south of a little town of Welaka, Florida for two of the weeks we were there.

 The descriptions of this area all describe it as old Florida and I concur. (Although only in my imagination do I have any idea what Florida looked like years ago!)

This post is just about the river.

It was odd. If we didn't think about it, we felt like we were in northern Ontario and then our eyes would fall upon a palm tree and schwing! Well, it was just bizarre!

The river runs from Orlando to Jacksonville and has several lakes here and there. This particular part is brackish water, (rusty - brown,) but many of the lakes are crystal clear. 
The countryside on the east bank is forest and cottages and homes. On the west side is the Ocala National Forest.

Although there are many trailer parks, campgrounds and resorts, it is still quiet and lovely. Fish abound in the river including perch, bass, what the locals call a blue gill and catfish. Several other species too!

We sat out on the long dock and watched the water go by.
We watched the birds and turtles and gators.

This is what one of the sunsets looked like...

One night there was a fire over in the Ocala National forest!

We've both agreed this is one of our favorite areas!

All of these photos were again shot and loaded directly from my Nikon P90 and then posted without alteration of any kind.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


A Florida Eagle.

We stayed in a little house on the St John's river just south of Welaka, Florida and there was an eagle and his mate who hunted our section of the river daily. I took a million shots!

Here's some of them.

The first day we saw him. He was so beautiful! It's hard to imagine this black beauty and the ones at home are likely related due to the work done to re-introduce them to the wild a few years ago.
(Remember they were almost extinct?)

 We heard him squawking long before we saw him.  The trees were so beautiful and thick. We searched the banks of the river for perhaps a half hour before I spotted him! There!

I ran back to the house to get my little camera.

 I am thrilled with these shots! We were a couple hundred feet away from him. I held my camera steady by propping it up against one of the posts of the dock's roof and held my breath. 

I had planned on shopping for a tri-pod when we were in Florida.. Hadn't yet.. Vowed to buy one the very next day!

Every Day we waited to catch sight of him. One day, ( I couldn't get the camera out quick enough,) we saw him dive for a fish! What a sight!

I would heartily recommend the river for anyone who loves birds and wildlife. We could not get enough of just sitting at the end of the dock watching. 

They advertise this area as what Florida used to be like and it is quiet, tranquil and gorgeous!

Old Florida indeed!

All of these photos were again shot and loaded directly from my Nikon P90 and then posted without alteration of any kind.

Monday, March 29, 2010

'Til niagara Falls Freezes Over

During the night of March 29th, 1848, the residents of Niagara Falls woke up with the feeling that something was wrong.
They finally realized that it was the lack of noise. They had all become so used to the roar of the water rushing over the falls that the silence they were hearing was deafening!

Many of the townsfolk dressed for the chill and gathered at the river to watch. 

The flow of water was stopped completely over both falls on March 29th, 1848 due to an ice jam in the upper river for several hours. This is the only known time to have occurred. The Falls did not actually freeze over, but the flow was stopped to the point where people actually walked out and recovered artifacts from the riverbed! 

Enjoy these vintage photos from a freeze in 1911! The reports are that it also froze in 1932. A small trickle of water always found it's way past the jam, so it was never frozen solid.


If you've never been to see this natural wonder, it is so worth the trip! 
Now they regulate the flows and ice jams so this won't likely ever happen again.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


A few Days In St Augstine

Oh! St Augustine! One of our most favorite cities! 

The countries' oldest city. Full of history and tradition. Full of restaurants and boutique shops and ancient buildings! We have had the good fortune to visit the city several times and so this trip only afforded a few pictures. 

I'll just post them here. 
No order or right or reason.
Just what took my fancy!

They have been rebuilding the Bridge of Lions for several years. It was due to be done before we arrived, but just like any other enormous project, it had fallen behind. These workmen were welding.
 The sparks caught my eye!

Many of the buildings are so old and the architecture is eye candy for us. 

New restaurants, new food. 
It's part of what traveling is all about for us.

 The Santa Maria is one of the oldest places and sits out on piers right across the street from one of our favorite old motels. The food is good, with an expected selection of seafood and steak dishes and hush puppies.
Opened on Sept. 15, 1954 by Louis and Marguerite Connell, they built a successful business with very little money and lots of hard work. In 1964, Hurricane Dora hit and the building was closed for nine months. Over the years, several renovations and additions were completed to accommodate the increase in diners.
 For me, the main attraction of this place is that you can feed the fish and birds through portholes around the bases of the windows. Lift a wooden flap and you've got a straight, open shot to the water. Your waitress will bring a basket of day old bread and buns to your table for you to beak up and slide through the slot. It's hilarious to see how the birds and fish jump on it! You'll see mullet, catfish, pan fish, trout and needle fish from March through September. In the winter months the birds will arrive to enjoy the buffet! Of course there's always a good chance to see a Manatee or Dolphins!
Mr Connell passed Dec. 31, 1970 and this landmark is now run by his son and daughter-in-law, Carl and Sylvia Connell.

 Now to Salt Water Cowboys!
I do not know for the life of me how we've never found this place before, but it's true!
If you are anywhere within driving distance to St Augustine, you really MUST go there and eat.
I know... it's just an old Fish Camp in the swamp, but this place makes heavenly food and the atmosphere is awesome! A vintage building, just whitewashed as it was and someone slapped a tin roof on it to keep the rain out. I am sorry I did not take my camera inside, but who knew? There's pictures posted on their website, link below.

This is the side of the building. They had a lineup before the doors opened and still when we left. They have a little Dutch Door there to serve drinks to those in the lineup. No-one seemed to be impatient or ornery and when you taste the food, you'll understand why.

Here's the link: Salt Water Cowboys.

I had a full rack of wood smoked ribs and Dick had Jambalaya. Beers and a half pound of peel and eat shrimp and our bill was only $45.00 with tip! In and out in an hour and a half! 

Ok! So all this talk is making me miss St Augustine already! Several trips and many days spent there and I can hardly wait to go back! That's the sign of a good destination, isn't it?

All of these photos were again shot and loaded directly from my Nikon P90 and then posted without alteration of any kind.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


The Joe Weatherly Gallery

 On our way across North and South Carolina, we stumbled into Darlington, a city known to us as the home of Darlington Raceway, a Nascar track. We didn't mean to go that way, but it was raining and we haven't bought a Road Atlas in fifteen years. We discovered that many of the highways have had their numbers changed and so...

We drove through Darlington, South Carolina!

 Good mistake though, because we drove right past the track and wow! Saw the sign, both of us pointing and going: "Look!" And Dick did a U-EE and schwing! 

We parked the Magnum, went in and toured the museum!

Originally, the facility was called the Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum; the name was changed following a major renovation and expansion project in 2003.  Just as Darlington Raceway had originally been constructed in 1950 to give stock car racing a platform to rival that of the Indianapolis 500, the Museum was intended to do the same for the history of the still fledgling sport. 

The sign inside tells the story:

We were in the place for at least an hour and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Of course, being Stock Cars fans, the cars and faces in the pictures and posters were familiar and well, we just had a ball!

It's so cool to see some of these old girls because so many of them were cut up and parted out for other cars or just buried as junk. There's a story about several race cars being buried in the back fields of one of the most well known driver's farm.  You have to remember that way back when, it cost money to take a junk car to a wrecker and would be more trouble than it was worth!

There's a nicely rounded out selection of both newer and older things.

The history goes that: 

After a visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Musuem, Weatherly suggested to his good friend Bob Colvin, then president of Darlington Raceway, that he consider building a stock car museum in South Carolina. Colvin not only liked the idea, but followed through with it; following his friend's death, Colvin brought plans for the Joe Weatherly Stock Car Museum before the Raceway's Board of Directors, where they were unanimously approved. The facility was officially dedicated on May 2, 1965, and still stands as a testament to the greatness of the sport of stock car racing and those who compete in it. 

 What I like is that they have displayed many of the 'famous' engines and have placards explaining what they are, so you don't have to be an expert to enjoy the history.

Cases of trophies and paraphernalia line the walls, telling folks who owned what.

 This chap, (for my non race fan readers, ) is known as The King of Nascar: Richard Petty. He is famous for these hats and sunglasses!
It's his son and wife; Kyle and Patty who have the Camp in North Carolina for children: 
The Victory Junction Camp. 
(Been there on one of our previous trips!)

And sure enough, they've got one of Richards' cars with its trademark blue and the number 43. A 1967 Plymouth that won 10 races in 1965, the year they opened this museum. 

We love going to museums and especially automotive ones so this was an unexpected treat! 

 I took some other photos as well, but I'm going to follow up with some "Beauty" posts with those because you know how I love cars!

 Thanks for tagging along! Follow the link at the top for Darlington to see the full history of this museum. You won't be sorry.

And if you find yourself using an old map, just remember there's a silver lining in every cloud: We wouldn't have gone here if we'd bought a new map and gone the roads we'd planned!

All of these photos were again shot and loaded directly from my Nikon P90 and then posted without alteration of any kind.

Friday, March 26, 2010


 An Ohio Barn
Taken in February.
We always go to Florida by cutting over and by going down highway 250, through the state of Ohio. This is a magnificent barn that we always pass and I just had to get Dick to pull over and take pictures. He does a good job too!

 Just absolutely Gi-Normous and so white! We have noticed that most of the barns in Ohio seem to be painted white with black roofs. Most of them are this shape, but not so many so big!

The roof style is called 'hip" and I always marvel at all the windows with the muttons. To add those dormer windows would have cost a nickel or two!

Something we don't often have up here in Ontario is this style of foundation. I think it's red clay blocks.
The other difference is that the boards are horizontal and not vertical like ours are.

So Perfectly framed in the Magnum's window!

All of these photos were again shot and loaded directly from my Nikon P90 and then posted without alteration of any kind.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


A Myrtle Beach, South Carolina Squirrel

 I couldn't help but add this old childhood song we used to sing to the tune of Clemmentine. This is a roadtrip song and we'd drive the adults nuts on a school bus trip.

Did you sing these verses or a slightly different version?
Found a peanut, found a peanut,
Found a peanut last night,
Last night I found a peanut,
Found a peanut last night.

Cracked it open, cracked it open,

Cracked it open last night,
Last night I cracked it open,
Cracked it open last night.

It was rotten, it was rotten,
It was rotten last night,
Last night it was rotten,
It was rotten last night.

Ate it anyway, ate it anyway,
Ate it anyway last night,
Last night I ate it anyway,
Ate it anyway last night.

Got a tummy ache, got a tummy ache,
Got a tummy ache last night,
Last night I got a tummy ache,
Got a tummy ache last night.

Called the doctor, called the doctor,
Called the doctor last night,
Last night I called the doctor,
Called the doctor last night.

Pumped my stomach, pumped my stomach,
Pumped my stomach last night,
Last night they pumped my stomach, 
Pumped my stomach last night.

Died anyway, died anyway,

Died anyway last night,
Last night I died anyway,
Died anyway last night.

Went to heaven, went to heaven,

Went to heaven last night,
Last night I went to heaven,
Went to heaven last night.

Wouldn't take me, wouldn't take me,
Wouldn't take me last night,
Last night they wouldn't take me,
Wouldn't take me last night.

Sent me back down, sent me back down,
Sent me back down last night,
Last night they sent me back down, 
Sent me back down last night.
Felt better, felt better,Felt better last night,
Last night I felt better, 
Felt better last night.

Found a peanut, found a peanut.....

Thanks for again humoring me!

This little sweetie lives on a Five Star Golf Resort Course where friends of ours' have a timeshare. We are lucky they let us hang around them and invited us to visit on our way to Florida!

All of my photos on this post are shot with my digital camera, a Nikon P-90, downloaded and posted without alteration of any kind. Sorry for the blurred second last one, but it is an action shot....

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I'd like to introduce you to Clarice and Cornelius Canada-Goose and Blake Heron.

Gawk! Gawk! Clarice!

What Cornelius! I'm eating.... Can't you see?

Gawk! There's some more *&%# tourists coming and she's got a camera! 

Oh! Do my hips look fat in these feathers?

Blake interjects: "You're giving them your best side dearie!"

Here we are in North Carolina and this pair of Canada geese beat us to it! 

This pond is in the middle of a new build subdivision in Mooresville behind the famous barn. The high end homes that encroach on the south side of the pond can barely be seen in the top left hand corner of this upper photo.

I'm always glad when I see a pair of geese, seeing as they mate for life. There's nothing more sad than spotting just one goose. I know humans sometimes get way carried away, but if we still mated for life as convention dictated not that many years ago, then this world we live in today would be a different place.

Considering my first two choices of mates, that world would NOT be a better one!

All of these photos were again shot and loaded directly from my Nikon P90 and then posted without alteration of any kind.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Mountain Tunnel

There are two awesome tunnels that we go through by going down 77. 

This is The East River Mountain Tunnel 

We headed into it from the north, going south on our way to Florida!

 It is 5,412 feet in length (or 1,649 meters for my Canadian and European readers.) 
 It goes through and under the East River Mountain between the communities of Bluefield, West Virginia and Rocky Gap, Virginia. It is Interstate Highway 77 and US 52 .
 The tunnel is 1,077 feet below the mountain top!

OOOh! We enter the mouth of the giant! And no... You can't see the end from the entrance!

It's always so spooky when some of the interior lights are burnt out.

Yes... This is this color inside!

The rock that is the bed of this highway was formed between 265 to 300 million years ago. 
The engineers had to cut through 12 different layers of rock.

 Also, when you're inside the tunnel you are surrounded by 5,600 tons of concrete and they used 313,000 square feet of ceramic tiles.

This puppy cost $40 million and (at the time,) was the most expensive construction project undertaken by the West Virginia Division of Highway. 

It took five years to complete and the workmen worked six days a week, eight hours a day.  It was a union job.

The Engineer was Michael Baker of Pittsburgh and Ball and Healey as construction Contractors. Truman Corporations was responsible for electricity work. Court Construction built the buildings on each side at the openings.

The tunnel is reinforced with concrete. Behind the walls of the tunnel are steel supports, concrete, steel arches and the rock mountain. 

Approximately 30,000 feet of lumber was used to support the tunnel.

The ventilation system, consists of exhaust and clean air fans and the electrical systems are above the ceiling of the tunnel. There are 24 fans in the tunnel consisting of the 12 exhaust fans and 12 fresh air fans. The fans can totally change the air in the tunnel in 2 minutes. The Temperature in the tunnel is about the same as it is outside due to the ventilation fans.

At the time it was built it was the seventh longest tunnel in the U.S.

Groundbreaking began on the tunnel on August 12, 1969 and it was opened to the public at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on December 20, 1974 with Governor Mills Godwin of Virginia and Governor Aaron Moore of West Virginia.

Because the northern end of the tunnel is in West Virginia, and the southern end is in Virginia, both states shared in covering the cost of the project. The state line falls almost exactly across the midpoint of the tunnel, with 51% of the tunnel residing in West Virginia and the remaining 49% on the Virginia side.

Before the cut this tunnel through, to get over the mountain, you had to drive up and over a narrow, treacherous road that could turn out to be be closed due to fog or snow. I understand however, it was quite a pretty drive, with a gift shop at the very top.

See the truck way up in front of us? You can just barely make out a glimmer of the opening?

Much more light now... 
This is where you can truly understand the saying:
                    "There's light at the end of the tunnel?"

After all that dull yellow, the sunlight is blinding!

Yaay! Virginia!

The tunnel is located about 20 miles (32 km) north of its shorter cousin, the Big Walker Mountain Tunnel which we also drive through, but after this long one it pales in comparison.

When both tunnels opened, they allowed you to make lane changes, but in 2009, that was stopped and a single solid line was painted down the middle.
Trust me! Having driven through both, the world just sort of stops until you get out the other side! I can't imagine actually passing someone while you're inside!

We both love the next bend in the road and the next adventure!
I hope you've enjoyed ridin' along!

All of these photos were again shot and loaded directly from my Nikon P90 and then posted without alteration of any kind.