Monday, December 21, 2015

Florida Camping On One Of The Few Cold Days We Get

This is turning out of be one of the hottest Decembers on the the books for Florida, and yet we somehow accidentally picked the one cold weekend of the season to go camping. My brothers and I headed once more to Princess Place Preserve (near Saint Augustine) to get away from it all. We nearly had the whole park to ourselves. To have this sense of isolation in Florida seems unreal. We spent a lot of the weekend building a fire, going for long walks and talking about everything under the sun. It's a little hard to entice the women in our familes to come along, as the nearest real bathroom is a couple miles away, and as I found out, has no electricity or any kind of light at night. The only shower in the whole park is sulphur water, and cold, so we call it "primitive". But...that is what it seems to take to get away from the crowds of RVer's, the wild party groups and the big families. You get old Florida nature, and plenty of it.
We were in a spot called Moody 1, and my tent was mere feet from the salt water marsh and in the middle of the woods. I never even saw a campfire that wasn't ours, the whole weekend. Friday morning, I was in shirt and flip flops and by midnight that night I was wrapped in my mummy bag, trying to keep my nose from getting cold. The whole time, I could hear the wind howling over the marsh, enough that I wondered if my tent stakes would hold.

We took turns cooking and it was "guy" food. Lots of meat, light on the veges. I made Mulligan stew Friday night and I'm almost getting proud of my version, thanks to the help of my wife with the recipe and the input from the family. Paul brought the organic burgers and Steve brought steaks, eggs, and bacon. We had to do a lot of hiking to work off that food, and Princess Place is great for that.
Great for just walking along dirt roads through the woods, but there are a lot of historic things to see, like the old swimming pool for the hunting lodge. The park is neat as a pin and makes you feel like you want to help keep it that way. We saw some animals, and the best siting was as great horned owl just hanging out on the ground while we watched. Unfortunately, that owl blended in so well that my photos of him looked like nothing at all.
Next trip, we will bring bikes and kayaks, and continue our discussions of movies, politics, and just about everything. I will have to remember to bring a battery backup for my electronics...hey, you didn't think I would go totally unplugged, did you?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Passing Through Mailbu

The food at the Hacienda was fantastic and there was so much of it! It was one of the better meals of our whole trip. After that great dinner, we headed back to the hotel and had a good sleep. The day had ended quite differently than it started. In retrospect, the best parts of the trip were at the beginning up in the Northwest, before we got down to the crowded part of California. Even so, there were some moments worth remembering. Driving south from Salinas, we drove through a very busy Monterey and things only got busier as we headed south. Fortunately, my wife was there to make sure I took all the right turns, and to add inspiration to my driving of this little 3 cylinder commuter car in the hectic California freeway system. In spite of our best navigational efforts, we still found ourselves lost in the middle of a busy 6 lane highway and I managed to take one of the most interesting wrong turns of the whole trip. We ended up driving up and down a canyon of zillion dollar mansions, mostly hidden in the woods, me gripping the steering wheel for dear life while tractor trailers ran as close as they could behind me, and my wife oohhing and ahhing at the houses. You have to wonder who lived back in there. I still remember seeing a rickety old cafe on the side of the road in the canyon, fancy cars and fancy people all dining in a place that looked like a hippie spot. We should have stopped, but I was afraid to even slow down at that point. It was "floor it" going up hill, and "hope I don't have to use the brakes" going down. My view of Malibu was quite different than what I had seen on television!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Salinas: The Bad, The Ugly, And The Happy Ending

The booking of the seedy hotel in Montery was not the end of our adventure. To sweeten the pot, we decided to stay one more night. My wife took charge and went to the main desk only to find that our little haven was in such demand than one more night would cost more than $60 more than the first night. Rather than reward the enterprising nature of our hotel manager, my wife decided to give me one more chance to prove the superiority of a computer master in the Information Age. I promptly found that almost every room in the whole town was previously engaged, unless we wanted to try spending $500 for a $100 room. I then widened the search and came up victorious with a $150 room that was a few minutes drive into the desert. We walked the town, seeking the otters and sea lions that we had enjoyed on a previous journey, but none were to be found.  We ate lunch at Islands, and had the Mahi sandwich, which was good, not great. I finally found the surf break, but the day was gloomy and the waves weren't worth photographing, so we began the journey that turned out to be the excitement of the day.
First, to say that Salinas is a few minutes into the desert is like saying the moon is closer than Mars. We drove on and on down a highway with no features but the occasional field of some plants and groups of pickers slaving away. The good news here was we stopped at a local truck stand and got some of the best strawberries we've ever had. We were heading towards the Laurel Inn, a place I'd never heard of and I was filled with forboding about what I would have to endure if it was another rathole.
I started to get the feeling that we were heading towards the town where all of the migrant workers had to live. I expected Payday loan stores, pawn shops, and abandoned storefronts. Instead, we pulled into a beautiful, seemingly recent-built town with all kinds of nice stores and places to eat. Eveen the hotel seemed a lot nicer than the Friday night stop and I pulled in with a smile on my face and sent my wife in to do the business of checking. It was then that I pulled up my receipt and saw with dismay that I had somehow booked the only "Smoking" room in the whole hotel. Since my wife is severely allergic to smoke and many other things, I thought I might need to mention this. I ran inside the hotel, hearing words like "yes, that is the last room we have!".....and blew my gaskets.
I would say in my defense, that I only blamed myself, loudly, but somehow exactly how I needed to do it because the manager overheard, and fixed the whole thing. We ended up a good room for a great price and a reccomendation to the best restaurant of the whole trip: The Hacidenda. If only we could somehow have managed to stay up past 9pm, we would have heard a great band perform on a stage that looked like large concert stage at a venure. In fact, the waitress told us that tickets were $25 to see a Banda.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Monterey: The Town, The Park And How To Not Pick A Hotel

We pulled into Montery on Friday and ended up sticking around for two nights...which wasn't as easy as you might think. We knew the weekend might make it a bit more difficult, so I took charge and showed my wife how it is done in the modern age with a smartphone and Quicker than a wink, I had us fixed up with the most expensive and rattiest hotel of our trip. Who needs an air conditioner anyway? I forgot to mention that while California is usually cooler than Florida, there are moments of 100 degree heat and we managed to find them. My wife was kind and barely mentioned the small bed, and what passed for a full breakfast in the morning. I impressed her with the idea that we were going to try to lose some weight anyway, and the greasy guy bringing out the limp half slices of sausages only served to help us with our attempt.
Saturday was saved by a random trip to Point Lobos, while I was trying to find the local surf breaks. we came across a state park that was well worth the $7 to get in. We ended up spending a good part of the day hiking through the park, looking at the rock formations in the fog and seeing the scuba divers head out into the lagoon. We initally drove in at 7:30 in the morning and I thought, "We have finally left the crowds behind! They are all going to Jazz festivals, and walking down Cannery Row, while we brave the fog and the cold of nature at the coast!" Then we came around the corner to where the scuba divers go and found the first full parking lot...

Friday, September 18, 2015

I Finally Got Just What I Paid For

Fox Car Rentals and I usually have an understanding...I pay for the cheapest car you can rent and they end up giving me something really cool for a little bit more money at the point of sale....well, this time I ended up with the cheapest thing they had, in spite of all of my begging. I guess you can't complain about that and my wife was actually pretty cheerful about spending 10 days on the road in a car she would laugh about at home. In fact, we were sitting in this car after dinner in a parking lot and a little girl came up and kissed the hood, laughing to her mother that she wanted this little car! 
Nowhere did it seem smaller than in the Redwood Forest, which was an unexpected bonus to our Oregon coastal tour. This was a great drive and we took a hike through the woods for an hour and just spent the whole time ooohing and ahhing. The temperature was in the 60's and I was happy in jeans and t-shirt. 

It is difficult to convey in photographs just how different it is here from Florida. No bugs, no humidity, and these giant redwood trees all around. The main feeling that we had was that there might be dinosaurs around!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Santa Cruz: Waves And Whales!

We passed through a couple of Sketchy towns on the way down to Santa Cruz, the most memorable being Garberville. We were making a pit stop and we both got back in the car as fast as possible. We were in the middle of Humbolt county, which is apparently the pot-growing capital of the world and it must attract more homeless folks than nice warm Florida sun. I never actually saw anybody sitting in public smoking a joint, but we saw plenty of places to buy the stuff. Just a few miles down the road things seemed more like normal and then there was Santa Cruz. We hit Santa Cruz and suddenly there were joggers, surfers, the homeless and the filthy rich all mingling. I seemed to notice way more young twenty-somethings on vacation here than anywhere else...or it could be the students from the nearby college. We watched whales for hours and not 100 yards away was some of the best surfing I'd seen in a long time. Steamer Lane was still going off from a recent nearby hurricane and it was incredible to see the age mix in the water, from a tiny little French kid to a guy that looked older than me, they were all tearing it up in what looked to be an extremely dangerous place...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Gold Beach, Oregon And One Fantastic Drive

Finding a place to stay on the scenic Oregon coast, was a bit of fun itself. We decided to call it a day in Gold Beach and found a place that was a little bit less than what we would like to have, but the price was right and we were tired. One great thing about the Motel 6 there in Gold Beach was that it featured deer coming around our front door first thing in the morning. Then we took off in search of breakfast, stopping to look at the wreck of the Mary D. Hume on the way. Although the photo gives you an idea of what we saw, in person you are amazed that something so old still holds some of it's original shape. There is a plaque nearby that details her career as a whaler, a tugboat, and a hauler. The ship was expensive in her day, but made plenty of money for her owners. One bit of interest was a 6 year trip as a whaler up in Alaska, with crew going mad, dying and being left in ice for later burial...
 We ate in a little diner for breakfast and found food that was palatable, but not inexpensive, although the restaurant and it's staff  appeared as though it should have been one of the least expensive stops of our trip. This little fishing town of Gold Beach did little to prepare us for the natural beauty was ahead.. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Revisiting Mount Ranier

We decided to visit Mt. Rannier National Park on Labor Day and somehow managed to get there before the holiday crowd. We were warned about the chance of low clouds and the possibility that we would not be able to see the peak, but we were close by and I hadn't been there since I was a kid. It still had the power to amaze me and Pam agreed that it was well worth the trip even with the clouds.

On the wildlife side, we did see a variety of birds, but no exotic mammals. The best part was spotting a scene on the side of the road that looked like an alien landscape. It appeared to be a dried up lake that had been logged years before. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Finding The Oregon Coast

We left Mount Ranier and headed off for the first truly adventurous part of the journey. Just looking at the map, it appeared that there was nothing much on the Oregon coast and then by using the modern tools, like Google Street View, it seemed even less appealing. I wasn't absolutely certain that hotels and gas stations existed out that way. We filled up the tank in the car, grabbed some bottled water and snacks and headed down a long two lane highway to Newport, OR.
The first surprise happened as we were getting out of our car in Newport. I hadn't even locked the doors when I heard the barking of California Sea Lions.
That was the beginning of a beautiful trip down the Oregon coast. I'd say now that it is every bit as scenic as Big Sur and way less crowded.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Hitting the Pacific Northwest Right After Summer

My wife and I decided that if one trip to the Great Out West was a good idea, then it must be followed by another. This time we decided to start from Seattle and work our way down the coastline, stopping for the occasional foray into the mountains. What followed was a little bit different that what we expected...
The first part of the plan was to fly in the week after Labor Day, so the crowds would be gone and we would have our way with accomodations, negotiating with empty hotels over their prices and taking our pick of which room we would want, after checking the view from the windows.
Next time we go on a trip, I will have my wife double-check me concerning the actual day of the month that we celebrate Labor Day, since we ended up in Seattle in the middle of Labor Day weekend. My thoughts were, driving into the city on that Sunday was that every hipster in the USA had decided this was the place to be. Even the most expensive parking lots, the kind that advertise $10 a day and then in small print: if you get here on a weekday before 7am,  were full and there was not a street you could turn on that there would not be 3 more cars following you closely, hoping you knew some secret spot to stop. We finally gave up the possibility of seeing fish tossed about in the market and headed off in search of Mount Ranier.
We drove south, heading to Puyallup, a small town on the way to the national park. I tried my best to learn how to say that name, but it seemed that everyone pronounced it differently. If only we had known then what we know now....that was the nicest hotel we were to see on the entire journey..
We were excited about getting up at first light, and by the way, one great advantage of a trip to the Great West, is that with the time change, my wife and I are almost on the same page with getting up in the morning. I'm up at 5am and she is up by 5:45! We are out and on the road before most westerners are even smelling the coffee. The downside is that we are tired on our feet by 7pm and can barely drag ourselves to bed at night.
Unfortunately, the early rising was of little use for Mount Ranier. There are many days when the mountain is shrouded by fog and this was one of them. The park is beautiful and worth the trip no matter what, but I'm sure it was less crowded due to the weather forecast.
The strangest part was as we were driving, sometimes the fog would part for a moment and you would see this giant mountain almost right in your face!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Kayak Fishing In Florida: Finding the Redfish

Rick, Mike and I set out at first light this morning to find the redfish known to inhabit this area. Everything was looking good for a nice morning of fishing, except for some stormclouds to the southeast. You do not usually have stormy mornings in Florida summers, but this summer has been quite unusual, lots of wind and storms.
The water was clear, the air was cool and there was only a slight breeze at sunup, really nice conditions all around.
Rick and Mike got into the fish right away, somehow I got too busy with the camera and missed my chance on the first go around..we had bait, swirling water, fish action...I knew that my opportunity was coming up, so I took my time...
Yep...I played with the camera, getting the obligatory selfie, while not paying too much attention to the dark clouds behind me..."Hey, that storm, it's not moving NORTH is it?"

Before you know's rods stowed and let's see how fast this Hobie can go! I'll get those redfish...I'll Be Back!

Note: I love the Hobie Mirage Tandem...and the new model is way better than mine..

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Heat Can Ruin Your Paddleboard/Surfboard! a few short hours, my favorite board went from well-used to useless, and it was all from riding on top of our SUV in 100 degree Florida heat. I had the board in a sock and I have since learned that using the sock may have even helped cause the delamination problem. I am going to try to fix this, but from most of the reading I have done so far, I won't be too pleased with the results. Most of the fixes involve adding weight to the board, and weight is one thing you don't want more of on a paddleboard.
As you can see in the photos, the side of my board that was facing the sun now has a raised donut section, looking something like a crater. I spoke to the dealer and he said that the problem is with the board needing to breathe through the release valve and the valve may have blocked by the sock. For me, this came after a week of surfing all the time and I can now address the process of fixing it at leisure. The main thing that bothers me is that this could happen anytime. I did once have a smaller delamination issue on an epoxy surfboard...and it happened while hanging on the wall in my garage....I'm not sure how you can avoid that in Florida. Not too many of us can have paddleboards in the house...Next up: the repair process..

Monday, June 22, 2015

Sunglow Pier in June, Another Great Trip!

We just came off a week at South Daytona Beach and I spent almost every single morning surfing the Sunglow pier. Actually the waves don't break the best right next to the pier, but that is the hangout area. I saw a lot more paddleboarders this year, and I believe that part of it is due to a nearby massage/exercise/paddleboard shop. I saw groups going out a few times with an instructor, but there was almost always some experienced paddlesurfers in the water as well. My board served me well this trip, enabling me to catch waves in times where the waves were quite mushy. In fact, the tides were extreme the whole week, getting to the point where I was almost riding waves up on to the beach.
The only downside to the whole trip was coming home to 100 degree heat...record setting heat for Central Florida. When I finally unpacked this morning, I was looking at severe damage to my board from the heat. Next to get it fixed.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

That Day When You Finally Have Had Enough..

I'm almost glad that the waves have dropped down to 1 foot. I need to get back home and take care of the yard and many other neglected chores. It's been a great time, watching Jeff's granddaughter (my grand niece) and his dogs. You should have seen me walking a giant English Mastiff and then a fat old dachshund. It was more dangerous walking those dogs than about anything else I have done. Jeff lives on a long straight stretch of road with no sidewalks and even the cops seem to be trying out how fast they can go. The neighbor told me yesterday that he had to dive for cover when mowing the yard when a girl went by texting and almost clipped him.
Every day for two weeks, our decisions have been 'fishing or beach?'. I have surfed until I had nothing left, read books for longer than I can remember, and have been some of the last folks leaving the beach at the end of the day. NSB is a really nice place to be. Every day we drive through woods that remind me of the outskirts of Orlando back in the 1970's and then cross the bridge to the beach town we know so well. It does get too crowded. It does get traffic jams...but compared to what you get the minute you cross the St. Johns heading to Orlando, it is very easy to take. I always wanted to live at the beach and now I'm realizing that, you know what? It is close enough...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Hitting New Smyrna Beach in May

This has been a great trip, and I am getting to that point where I don't wake up anxious to get to the beach before the wind blows the waves out. Too many times it has gotten better later in the day with the tide and then there are days like today, where it is a chop-fest and the jellyfish start washing up on the beach. There is plenty of time to enjoy the parks, the walks, picking up trash on the beach and checking out cool places to eat. JB's Fish camp is a place that we love to hit, mainly because it is outside on the water, and very close to Bethune Beach. I've been surprised by how few people surf there on weekdays. In Cocoa Beach, it is a really poor surf day when no one is out at a popular spot.
We've also had a lot of fun with our Grand niece, Zoey...a good excuse to hit every ice cream place in town!

Next up? Kayak fishing in Mosquito Lagoon!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Camping During The Best Weekend Yet

The Perkins brothers went for what we thought would be the last gasp of a chance to camp together before the time of year that sends northerners back screaming to their homes. Instead, we got the best weather we could ever hope for. Early on I realized that there is no photograph that can convey what it felt like. We were in Princess Place Preserve, a large park with few amenities, and fewer campsites. Each site has it's own special charm and while in your site, it is almost possible to believe that you are totally alone in the wilderness. At twilight, I could sometimes make out the smoke or a glint of a light from our nearest neighbor.
We got Dock#2 which is a large spit of land surrounded by a weaving waterway. Most of the time I was just amazed that I was cold and realized that no matter how I prepare...there is always something I didn't take. This time it was a jacket or sweatshirt. Just earlier on Friday, I was surfing without a wetsuit, and then I was huddling next to a campfire. My new camping fan never even got used...but that is not a complaint. We all slept like babies each night. The closest I can compare it to was being on top of a mountain in North Carolina.
The only thing bad about Princess Park is that you have few latrine options. There is one shower about 2 miles away that has sorta warm water that smells like sulphur and has "non-potable" warnings...I used it anyway...

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Any Trip That Begins And Ends With Waves..Has To Be Good

This photo is from earlier today and pretty much tells you how my most recent trip ended. I don't think I could have had a better time...unless I wasn't sick during the time! I'm usually pretty good at taking Zinc at the beginning of a cold or flu and beating the bad stuff, but this time it took me down and I've spent the last 5 days trying to power through it. I'm better, but not better enough to be out in the surf today, so I was a photog...there's worse ways to spend your days, I'll have to admit. The surf looked big and rough today at Sunglow pier. Enough so, that I was surprised to see a paddleboarder our there...he was struggling in a stiff wind and current.
I'm just now unpacking and looking through the photos, but foremost, the weather was remarkable! It was almost magic, it was that good. If you had to feel less than your best, you couldn't ask for a better place to recover than under the stars in Princess Place Preseve with a full moon overhead. I was looking at my brothers in the campground and thought, "dude, it even looks greenscreened!"
Unfortunately, I still have not caught a fish on the flyrod in spite of all my casting...I did catch a crab on my spinning rod, which may have put me in the top 1% of the fisher folk in the park this weekend...more about the trip soon....

Monday, April 20, 2015

Getting A Good Look At Lake Lure

Lake Lure, North Carolina is an interesting man-made lake in a touristy part of North Carolina, but the view from a kayak or paddleboard on the lake is fantastic. We rented from Lake Lure Adventures, which I highly recommend. The water is very deep like you would expect from a valley filled with water, but I wasn't prepared for how pretty and clear the water vegetation at all. I'd have a hard time figuring out where to fish, but some reading on the subject said to fish around the docks while they were in the sunlight. The best part of the journey was viewing the mountains in the background and voting on which mansion we would pick to live in, if money was no object. Next time, I'm dragging my gear up there, because I could go on that lake every day and be okay with the time spend not riding in a car!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Next Time I'm Bringing My Fly Rod!

A Very Smart Person decided to hang a giant KEEN sign in front of his fly fishing shop. It pulled my wife into the store just like a tasty bait on the end of a fishing line. We haven't walked past too many shoe stores on any trip, and we never pass a KEEN store. However, this store also contained the most fly fishing stuff I have ever seen in my life. Bass Pro? Pfffft! The store is in Biltmore Village, NC and is one of several locations for CurtisWright Outfitters. Josh knew I was just browsing, not doing any fishing on this trip, but he was interested in my attempts to get a largemouth bass on a flyrod from my paddleboard back home in Florida. My wife skipped on the shoes, but somehow I left the store with an armload of flies and a wealth of knowledge about Flies. Next trip, I'm going to hire Josh to take me out to the coldest stream they have and go after one of those legendary 4" bream that lurk in the depths of North Carolina streams!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Cavern in North Carolina

We took a short trip to the mountains of Carolina this April and while we have been excited about Kayaking, biking and fishing, the weather has been favoring inside activities. A visit to the Caverns in Linville is well worth the expense, which is $8 a person for a guided tour. The tour goes 700 feet back into the mountain and was plenty for me. You get some history about how the cavern was discovered some science about the formations. My interest was more in how the construction inside the cavern was done.
We were told that divers came in at one point and tried to swim down into the hole and were stopped about 30 feet deep by the tight quarters. A line was dropped 250 feet and never hit bottom. Part of the tour includes a walk over that hole on a metal grate, and I was trying to imagine the first person that found that hole...
There was another part of the tour where we were told to make sure we cleaned our feet when leaving the cavern. We were to use a bleach-soaked mat at the end. I started wondering what evil algae growth would be unleashed upon the world if somebody forgot to clean their feet...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Good Waves, and the Paddle Meets the Elbow

I spent a few hours out yesterday on a Postcard-perfect Florida beach day. The sun was hot, the breeze was cool, the water clear and...there were a million vacationers there to celebrate the day with us. I realized as I stood there on the beach, that this is the Florida they know...we know it's: so hot you have to put a towel on the steering wheel of your car, and the sand is so hot that anybody seen barefoot in the dunes, must not be a local.
We went to try out this new paddle, which is wide at the bottom and thinner in the tube section. It worked great and as long as it stays in one piece, this is my new first paddle. I'm also working on my form, as I have found that my tennis elbow issues were not due to lifting weights, but my gonzo "gotta get the wave" paddling. I need to remember that with a carbon fiber's not gonna bend, and my body will. I almost kept myself from paddling like a maniac and I'm not quite as sore today...someday I will learn...

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Beautiful morning on the Lake

Leo and I hit the water this morning and enjoyed glassy, clear water and a leisurely paddle through a few of the lakes in the Winter Park chain. There were a number of other kayakers and paddleboarders about, all smiling their way through the best part of a Tuesday morning. I always enjoy launching from Dinky Dock and plan to be there again soon...join me as we get an up close and personal look at the yard men of the rich and famous homes that line the lakes. Today I realized why my yard never looks as good as these mansions I paddle by: I don't have a crew of 6 working every day on it!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

It's April And Time To Hit The Water!

You couldn't ask for a nicer morning today. Glassy water, it's warm, but not too warm, and we have enough time to have a little relaxation mixed in with exercise on the lake. Taylor and Aly are naturals on the paddleboard and I'm sure we will be back out again soon. The Winter Park chain of lakes just offers so much variety of things to see, not including the fantastic and expensive homes that line the shore.
If this looks like fun to you, I'm now available 7 days a week for tours. I can take up to 4 people at $50 per person for a two hour trip. We can do whatever you are up for from endurance to just having fun. This is the time to do it, the water is as clear as the springs and it's not toooo hot. I paddled 90 minutes today without sweating...a couple of months from now, we will be sweating walking from the car!