Category Archives: The Southern Sojourn

These posts are from our travels around the South during the winter and spring of 2015.

One Old Fart in Five Old Forts

Milepost 3-27-15    Emerald Isle, North Carolina

A fortunate byproduct of our quest to live on southern islands and forever walk the beach this winter has been the close proximity of so many beautiful historical sites, especially old forts and lighthouses.

We spent January on Dauphin Island, Alabama, within walking distance of Fort Gaines, and five miles from Fort Morgan  just across Mobile Bay.

In February we were on Anastasia Island near the archaic Castillo de San Marcos at St. Augustine, Florida.

Heading from Florida to North Carolina we stopped for a week at Savannah, Georgia where we visited Fort Pulaski on Cockspur Island in the Savannah River.

And in March we are on Emerald Isle, North Carolina, sharing the island with Fort Macon which we visited yesterday.

We are ending our winter sojourn in early April and heading back to Michigan, and  I wanted to post a photographic review of these historical attractions that offered us so much aesthetic intrigue  while wandering around the south this winter:

1.  Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island, Alabama.  This fort was less than 1/4 mile from our campground.

Fort Gaines has long tunnels leading to the five corner bastions.  Cool.
Fort Gaines has long tunnels leading to the five corner bastions. Cool.
The bricklayers who built these forts were masters of their craft as seen in the intricately vaulted arches.
The bricklayers who built these forts were masters of their craft as seen in the intricately vaulted arches of the northeast bastion.
Though the interior buildings were burned during the Battle of Mobile Bay, the restorers have done a great job of rebuilding.
Though the interior buildings were burned during the Battle of Mobile Bay, the preservationists have done a great job of restoring and maintaining what was left..
Here's a gem I discovered hidden deep inside a chamber, a 10-seat latrine.
Here’s a gem I discovered hidden deep inside a chamber at the end of a long tunnel along the 4-foot thick outside wall, a 10-seat latrine.  Soldiers apparently didn’t have much privacy.

2.  Fort Morgan, Mobile Bay, Alabama.

I loved the endless vaulted casements of Fort Morgan and the mineral deposits built up by the chemical action of rainwater percolating through the brick and mortar.
I loved the endless vaulted casemates of Fort Morgan and the mineral deposits built up by the chemical action of rainwater percolating through the brick and mortar.
Fort Morgan is a fort within a fort.  This view is from the tunnel through the postern (outer fort) viewing the entrance of the inner fort.
Fort Morgan is a fort within a fort. This view is from the tunnel through the postern (outer fort) viewing the entrance of the inner fort.
And this view is from the entrance tunnel in the inner fort toward the postern (outer fort).
And this rear view is from the entrance tunnel in the inner fort toward the postern (outer fort).

3.  Castillo de San Marco, St. Augustine, Florida (1565).  This one is really old and was built with local stone – coquina – before bricks were manufactured in the U.S.

Castillo de San Marcos sits on the waterfront downtown.
Castillo de San Marcos sits on the waterfront at downtown St. Augustine..
I loved the graceful grand stairway above its asymmetrical arch.
I loved the graceful grand stairway above its asymmetrical arch.
This fort had a great collection of cannons, some of the oldest ones I have seen.
This fort had a great collection of cannons, some of the oldest ones I have seen.
Although most of the forts have seasonal re-enactments, this one has costumed guides on hand every day.
Although most of the forts have seasonal re-enactments, this one has costumed historians on hand every day.

4.  Fort Pulaski, Cockspur Island, Savannah, Georgia.

Though the impervious nature of fort design leaves them looking nondescript and unwelcoming on the outside, this fort had an attractive inside archway.
Though the impervious nature of fort design leaves them looking nondescript and unwelcoming on the outside, this fort had an attractive inside archway.
While many forts are restored to their pre-war condition, this one was still covered with the scars of war.  Only the corner that had been breached during the Civil War was rebuilt like the original.
While many forts are restored to their pre-war condition, this one was still covered with the scars of war.  Only the corner that had been breached by the Union Army’s rifled cannons during the Civil War was restored to its original condition.
Fort Pulaski had several cannons installed at their original stations.
Fort Pulaski had several cannons installed at their original stations.
There were five stairways, one in each of the five corners of the fort.  Three of them were circular stairs.
There were five stairways, one in each of the five corners of the fort. Three of them were circular stairs.
...and the other two had their own unique designs.
…and the other two had their own unique designs.

5.  Fort Macon, Emerald Isle, North Carolina.

My favorite feature at Fort Macon was the three identical stairways built over graceful arches.
My favorite feature at Fort Macon was the three identical stairways built over graceful arches.
The smaller rear entrance was as interesting and beautiful as the front.
The smaller rear entrance was as interesting and beautiful as the front.
The arches and hidden stairways create interesting scenes as the light plays around them.
The arches and hidden stairways create interesting scenes as the light plays around them.
The approach to Fort Macon is a study in beautiful curves.
The approach to Fort Macon is a study in graceful curves.

Kaye and I have really enjoyed our southern sojourn and the side trips that have been available to us.  I love old architecture, so this was a great place for me to explore while avoiding the hostility of the northern winter.  This is the final post to the Southern Sojourn as we are heading back to our new summer home (campground) in Michigan soon.

There are more photos of these beautiful historical sites on my Flickr photo stream here.

And they are available for purchase as prints and other great gifts at my photo galleries and web store here.

Creative People – (Kaye features local artists)

Kaye posted an account of our visit to a glass studio…

“One of the cool things about all of our wandering is that we get to meet interesting people along the way. People with fascinating stories. Everybody has a story, you know – about where they live, where they used to live, about where they’ve traveled, what they’ve experienced. About their jobs and hobbies and accomplishments. Maybe about things they are good at or things they love.

“Lauren is one of the interesting people we met in St. Augustine. A friend of ours who has lived here for a few years has formed a band with Lauren and her husband and we were able to hear them play one night. Besides being a talented musician Lauren is also a glass-blower. How cool is that?!?”

Continue reading here

Old Folks in an Old Town – St. Augustine

Milepost 2-18-15   St. Augustine, Florida

It’s the middle of the winter and we are in the middle of our sojourn at St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest town in America.  They are celebrating their 450th anniversary this year, so there is a lot going on here.  Then again, this is one of those hidden pearls where there is always a lot to enjoy, even when there’s nothing special happening.

When we pulled into town and moved into our campsite near the ocean, we were surprised to see vehicles driving on the beach.  Yes, this is one of the few places in the world that accommodates the sport.  The beach is a hundred yards wide at low tide allowing plenty of room for walkers, bikers, kite flyers and four-wheel-drivers all at the same time.

4X4's are permitted to drive on the beach for ten-mile stretch.
4X4’s are permitted to drive on the beach for a ten-mile stretch.

The historical fort is well preserved and maintained by the National Park Service.  Castillo de San Marcos was built in the 1560’s using the local coral stone (coquina) quarried from Anastasia Island near where we are camped.  This is the third of four historical forts I’m visiting this winter.  (I’m planning a post next month reviewing all the forts on my itinerary.)

Castillo de San Marcos sits on the waterfront downtown.
Castillo de San Marcos sits on the waterfront downtown.
I loved the graceful grand stairway above its asymmetrical arch.
I loved the graceful grand stairway above its asymmetrical arch.

St. Augustine is built to accommodate the thriving tourist industry and there are trolleys running tours every day throughout the historical downtown district.  Some of the old narrow streets are closed to vehicle traffic so visitors may peruse the old shops at their leisure.

St. George Street is now a shop-lined attraction for walkers only.
St. George Street is now a shop-lined attraction for walkers only.
Many of the original buildings - like the old governor's house - were built with coral stone.
Many of the original buildings – like the old governor’s house – were built with coral stone.

A great place to get an overview of the area with a bird’s-eye view is the huge old lighthouse dating back to 1861.  One of the more recently-built landmarks, it was built of brick.  In fact, it took more than a million bricks to construct this 165-foot-tall edifice, one of the tallest in the country.

St. Augustine Light lomo

Only the young and most physically fit will make quick work of the 216 steps to the top of the lighthouse.
Only the young and most physically fit will make quick work of the 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse.
The tower climb offers a rewarding view of the surrounding city and waterfront.
The tower climb offers a rewarding view of the surrounding area and nearby waterfront.

Kaye and I are engaged in an ongoing challenge of testing the local eateries.  It became apparent very early on that we will certainly run out of time before we manage a comprehensive knowledge of the plethora of amazing culinary options here.  But we’ll do our best.

Average temps here are in the 60’s during the day and the mid-40’s at night, so we are enjoying our success at finding an affordable location for missing the brutal winter weather back in Michigan.

Trombones and Troubadours – A Visit to New Orleans

Milepost 1-19-15         New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA)

Our southern wanderings landed us in New Orleans yesterday for the very first time, a day trip from our current campsite at Dauphin Island, Alabama.  The first thing that anyone needs to know about visiting the Big Easy is that one day is nowhere near enough to take it all in.  Kaye and I knew this going in and decided to dedicate our limited time to the French Quarter.

The French Quarter is known for its porch-lined buildings the reflect the traditions of the old country.
The French Quarter is known for its porch-lined buildings that reflect the traditions of the old country.

The streets are rather narrow and lined with old two and three-story  brick buildings with beautiful balconies that add a distinctive charm suggestive of Paris.  Of course.

Our tour was self-guided and on foot, so we avoided the buses and carriages and asked for directions whenever we wanted to;  there were always very talkative locals willing to help.  They were oozing with city pride, walking encyclopedias of local trivia.

There are carriages and rickshaws available and the streets are shared by cars, bikes and pedestrians as well.
Carriages and rickshaws are available and the streets are shared by cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians all at the same time.

We hadn’t wandered very far before we came upon the first of many street bands blaring Dixieland jazz with lots of horns.  It seemed there was a band on every street corner…   and in many of the restaurants as well so the visitors’ meals are always serenaded.

Our lunch and dinner were both seasoned with music at outdoor cafes, first at the Market Cafe, then the Beignet Cafe at Music Legends Park.

We were surrounded by brass statues of music legends at Beignet Cafe.
We were surrounded by brass statues of music legends at Beignet Cafe.
A 12-piece youth band was performing on the street corner across from the Market Cafe.
An 11-piece youth jazz band was performing on the street corner across from the Market Cafe.
This 12-year-old was a spirited trombonist.
This 12-year-old was a spirited trombonist who put a bit of southern soul into every note.

The French Quarter is a wonderland of street performers, and they are not all musicians.   Some were troubadours, artists and statues…  who came alive at choice moments and startled passersby.

This silver Steampunk statue came alive with whirring sounds when he moved.
This silver Steampunk statue came alive with whirring sounds when he moved.

Troubadours

There is a plethora of shops down both sides of every street between the cafes and pubs,  so the signature pralines and poboys and beignets were readily available…  and a whole lot more!

Spiritists and palm readers abound in the French Quarter.
Spiritists and palm readers abound in the French Quarter.

Pink shop

A part of the architectural extravaganza here — and not to be missed  — is the famous Saint Louis Cathedral in the middle of the French Quarter.  It is beautiful both inside and out.

Saint Louis Cathedral towers over Jackson Square.
The fairytale-looking Saint Louis Cathedral towers over Jackson Square.  It’s taller than wide.

Saint Louis interior

Anyway, I would not recommend the French Quarter of New Orleans for a quiet getaway.  It’s a loud and raucous place full of brass bands, rich cuisine and southern soul.  And that’s in the daytime.  After dark, add neon lights and a bit of decadence.

Street performing is hard work and this guy was done for the day.
Street performing is hard work and this guy was done for the day.  We could relate;  walking tours are exhausting too!

And check one more amazing place off the bucket list!

 

The Seasonal Southern Shift

Milepost 1-3-15   Dauphin Island, Alabama                              70 degrees

Call it Snowbirding or Winter Migration or whatever, the population of the nation undergoes a significant redistribution twice a year.  Kaye and I are part of the northern exodus that accompanies the onset of cold weather in Michigan.  We stayed home long enough to have Christmas with the kids and grandkids, and then we hitched up the RV and set the GPS for the Alabama coast and took off.

On the way down, we stopped at Memphis Tennessee for a New Year’s Eve dinner of catfish and ribs at B.B. King’s Blues Club.

Outside B.B. King's Blues Club the street was starting to fill with party-goers who were waiting for the midnight Guitar Drop.
Outside B.B. King’s Blues Club the street was starting to fill with party-goers who were waiting for the midnight Guitar Drop at the end of Beale Street..
BobnKaye at BB King's
A New Year’s Eve dinner at B.B. King’s Blues Club was an unexpected bonus for us.

Our first campsite of the trip and of the year was at Tom Sawyer RV Park on the west bank of the mighty Mississippi River where the tugs were shoving the barges up and down the river all night long.

A third day of driving landed us at Dauphin Island Park a few miles off the coast of Alabama at the mouth of Mobile Bay.

Dauphin Island is surrounded with white sand beaches.  Oone of them a short walk from our campsite.
Dauphin Island is fringed with white sand beaches,  one of them a short walk from our campsite.
Our campsite is under a stately old live oak tree.
Our spacious campsite is under a stately old live oak tree.

Dauphin Island is the site of the historical Fort Gaines that saw action during the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay (1864).   It’s open to the public and promises to be a great backdrop for some photography in a couple of days.  Across the bay is its counterpart,  Fort Morgan on another barrier island.

I'm looking forward to a wandering tour of Fort Gaines with the good camera.
I’m looking forward to a wandering tour of Fort Gaines with the good camera.

On the first day here I jumped on the bike and took off for a 6-mile ride.  This is one of the reasons Kaye and I like to get away from the north during the winter;  our exercise routine falls apart when the cold weather arrives.  At this southern island there are many miles of cycling trails and beaches to be explored.

All roads -- and bike trails -- lead to the beach at Dauphin Island.
All roads — and bike trails — lead from one beach to the next at Dauphin Island.

The island also is home to a nice Audubon sanctuary, although I think the terns and the pelicans may be outnumbered by snowbirds during the winter.

So this is our home for the month of January.  When we left the north it was 10 degrees.  Today it reached 70 here.  That’s what I’m talking about!  I haven’t slipped on snow or ice even once since arriving.

Bob at Dauphin Island beach 2502
I dug out my shorts and flip flops shortly after arriving and setting up camp not far from the beach..

You Say Good-bye, I Say Hello.

Milepost 12-18-14     Waterford, Michigan

After four years on the market, we have finally sold our houses and property.  We’ve been working on the downsizing for about as long, so we have said “Good-bye” to a lot of things.  We have parted with lawn mowers, construction machinery, sporting gear, household furnishings and personal keepsakes.  It’s been a monumental process.

We just hauled away the last pickup load of stuff from the Michigan cabin.
We just hauled away the last pickup load of stuff from the Michigan cabin.

But here’s the other side of it.  We are saying “Hello” to a lot of things too.

While we are saying “Good-bye” to the snow shovel  and the windshield scraper, we are saying “Hello” to flip flops and beach towels.  Not a bad trade-off, I’m thinking.

When you move in a given direction, you move away from one thing and toward the next thing, and it’s the moving toward that is the fun part for us at this juncture.  We are moving into the RV as a lifestyle now, so while we are saying farewell to a spacious kitchen and a nicely organized workshop where the tools can be laid out all the time, we will shift to outdoor living, dining outside on lawn chairs, and I’ll have only the most essential tools in the traveling toolbox.

There’s good and bad in everything, and this is no different.  But we are very nearly done with the hard part, the downsizing and parting with old favorite worn-out sweaters and no-longer-used kids toys and two wheelbarrows and three ladders.  We are not planning to  own property again while we are well and able enough to travel.  Maybe later when we are too decrepit to move and climb into the cab of the pickup.

No show shovel is needed on the southern beach.
No snow shovel is needed on the southern beach.

So I left the snow shovel and two lawn mowers for the new property owners along with rakes, shovels and weed whips.  I did keep a small chainsaw — just in case — but I don’t know if I’ll ever use it again, so  I left it in storage.

Chainsaws aren’t needed much when you’re living on the road.  And since we are heading south every winter, a snow shovel is about as useful as a comb for a bald man.

Well anyway, having said a thousand good-byes over the last four years, we are planning to say about as many hello’s for the next few.

Which road will you say "Yes" to, right or left?  This time it doesn't matter -- they both lead to the beach!
Which road will you say “Hello” to,  right or left?   Don’t worry,  this time it doesn’t matter — they both lead to the beach!

Maybe we’ll be saying “hello” to you if we cross paths while wandering across the south this winter.  Here’s the plan:

Three months of winter, three islands in the south.

Dauphin Island, Alabama for January;  Anastasis Island, Florida for February; and Emerald Island, North Carolina for March.

Then back to Clearwater Campground, Holly, Michigan for next summer and fall.

If we do come your way, don’t forget to say, “Hello”.  That’s what we’re all about these days.