Saturday morning we were up with the rooster and on the road by 8 am for a long day of driving ahead. The weather cooperated with bright sunny skies and temps most of the day in the 70’s. We arrived in Grove City PA (70 miles south of Erie PA) shortly after 5 pm for our final night in the RV – in a Walmart parking lot! How romantic, eh.
Today we drove 500 miles (800 km) which was our longest driving day of the entire trip. This would make our final leg home on Sunday about 230 miles. We left Grove City by 7:30am and after a few stops for gas, Canada Customs and the Fort Erie municipal sewage dump, we arrived at Bryn’s house before 1:30 pm. We had a great reunion with Matt, Bryn, Melissa and Emily for the afternoon. Oh yes, all the dogs and cat too!
As we were pretty tired we had an early dinner of pizza, wings and caesar salad and were back at home in Burlington by around 5.
Thursday morning we continued our trek north (brrr) leaving the Charleston area around 9:30am. Wayne and Lynn had already departed earlier as they had a couple of long driving days ahead of them to get home by Friday evening.
After 225 miles, we arrived in Charlotte NC – the racing mecca for NASCAR and home for many of it’s premier drivers and team shops. We pulled into a Tom Johnson Camping Center which is just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway – a 1.5 mile track. It was a warm day with the temps in the 80’s, however this changed later in the day as the rain set in. Not a good sign for race cars! The following morning it continued to drizzle until around 10am. At that point we hiked over to the track to see if the “ride-a-long” would still go at 11:30.
Today, I was booked for a drive-a-long where I’m a passenger is strapped into 725 HP stock car, driven by a young man (Adam) 22-24 years old taking me around the track 3 times at 160 MPH (255 KPH). YES, I can’t wait. However we did for a couple of hours as they dried the track. This was OK, as it provided me with lots of time to speak with the “Petty Driving Experience” employees, drivers and get lots of track shots. This company was started by Richard Petty who is called “The King” for his dominance and presence in NASCAR.
Finally, the track was ready and so was I, so they strapped me into the car around 1:15pm. By 1:18 I was out of the car, after enjoying the rush of doing 1.5 mile laps in about 38 seconds! The banking on the turns is 24 deg (see pics) so when the driver heads into and out of those turns you want to make sure the car “sticks” to the track! And it did! The G forces and in car experience gives me an even greater appreciation of the skill, strength and endurance these drivers (and their pit crews) go through when competing at these levels during a 4 hour race. Add to that the high temps in the car when they are racing in warm temperatures, which is often. Oh, by the way, we did 160mph on the straightaways, whereas the pro’s during the race are doing 200 mph(320 kph) with 43 cars on the track. Stop and imagine rush hour at those speeds with cars all around you!
It was awesome, what a thrill!
After getting back to the RV for a quick lunch, I biked over to the Hendrick Motorsports Complex to tour some team shops and their museum. Rick Hendrick owns over 70 car dealerships and arguably is the top car owner in NASCAR. The complex is all encompassing as they make every thing in several different building – engines, chassis, bodies, seats, roll cages, tanks, etc.. I was able to tour the fabrication shops for the four teams (Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.) It was a great tour.
All in all, the weather cooperated and I had a great day.
We departed Savannah on Monday morning for a short drive up the coast to another historic US city, Charleston SC. The convoy included 3 rigs – ours, Wayne and Lynn’s and our California friends.
In 1670, Charles Town was founded by the British. Approximately 200 years later it would become Charleston when the American’s defeated the Brit’s in 1865. The city is much larger than Savannah, but still expels a significant amount of “southern charm” with it’s friendly residents (they leave their garden gates open for visitors to “look in”, but please don’t enter), architecture, religion and unique culture.
We decided on Tuesday that we would go on a 2 hour guided walking tour, with a lifelong Charlestonian while the other’s decided on a 2 hour guided bus tour. Our tour started at 10:30am and it went to about 12:45pm. Our group had 14 people in it and the guide was great and we really enjoyed it. We learned a lot and walked a lot! Our final recommendation from the guide was a recommendation on King Street for some authentic South Carolina BBQ. (they take claim to the term southern BBQ – which usually means pork). After a great meal and some cold libations (another hot and humid day touring), we decided to head to some areas of the historic area that we hadn’t seen. After a couple more of hours of walking (and sweating), we reconnected with Wayne and Lynn and headed back to camp arriving around 4:30pm. We had decided earlier to have a BBQ (burgers and salads) and a camp fire after dinner. Our California friends(Bill and Marilyn) where invited to join us and we had a nice evening (warm) chatting.
Wednesday, the four of us were up and in Wayne’s truck by 9 am heading to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. That morning, the weather was tenuous but the weather held out with pleasant temps of the high 70’s and only a couple of sprinkles around mid afternoon. Magnolia has a long and storied history just like Charleston which I won’t get into in any depth. Arriving around 9:45, we purchased the all inclusive package with 4 guided tours (45 min each)which covered the nature train, the house tour, the Nature boat and the Slavery to Freedom tour. There was also a self guided “swamp tour”.
Magnolia use to be a 2,000 acre parcel and is now approx. 500 acres. In the 1800’s it was a working rice plantation. Around 1870, the plantation was opened as a tourist attraction by one of the Drayton’s, John who was an ordained minister, who needed the money to keep and maintain the property. A beautiful property and definitely something to see. If you want more information – http://www.magnoliaplantation.com/ or take a look at a few of our pics below….
More Magnolia pics to follow once we get better internet service…
On Friday morning when we left St. Augustine, the weather was still quite warm in the mid 80’s and humid. It would be a reasonable drive of about 175 miles up the coast to Savannah (SA). We left early arriving shortly after noon. Wayne and Lynn arrived less than 1 hour later so after setting up and having some lunch, we got together and shared stories of what we had been doing since we last saw them in Ft. Myers back in mid March. The park we were in wasn’t the best, but it was shady and we had great company. The four of us discussed the plans for the next two days in Savannah and dined on Kathy’s world famous homemade lasagna that evening.
The next morning the 4 of us were out at the camp gate waiting for the trolley shuttle to take us to town. While we waited we met a nice couple from California (Bill and Marilyn) who happened to be parked beside us that told us that they had a free pet walking service at the park, so I quickly arranged this before we left.
We arrived in town before 10 am and embarked on a 90 minute trolley tour of the historic part of Savannah. SA was founded in 1733 by James Oglethorpe and is a very unique city as it was one of the first designed in a true grid pattern. Within the grid of the old historic area, there were originally 24 “Squares” that would be ½ to 1 acre in size. Twenty two still exist today. In their day, these squares would be a central meeting area for residents neighborhood. Today, not only are the parks adorned by many huge old live oak trees, but the entire historic downtown is covered in a canopy of trees, many being large oak as in the pictures. Combined with the Spanish moss hanging from the trees, the area is quite amazing.
In its day, SA had the world’s second largest Cotton Exchange. (see pic). See the attached pic about “Savannah’s Waving Girl. For 44 years she waved at every shipped that arrived or departed the Port of Savannah with a handkerchief, using a lantern at night.
After our guided tour, we grabbed some lunch (a disaster) then Kathy and I headed out on foot to retrace a bit of the tour route and then some to get a closer look. Even with the abundance of tree’s, it was a humid day to say the least. We arrived back at the camp by shuttle at around 5:30 with tired feet.
The next day, Wayne decided to drive into SA, so the 4 of us headed in around 11 and we spent the afternoon touring other areas that didn’t get covered the prior day. This would be primarily the water front with its shops and eateries. Another hot day in SA, but luckily we dodged some bad weather that was circling in the area.
Lots of interesting and historic sites had been seen over the two days. We would definitely recommend a visit to SA for its beauty and old world charm. It has lots of history, but part two coming up trumps it!
Moving on up the coast tomorrow (April 13th). Stay tuned…….
On Wednesday April 8th, we headed for our last stop in Florida – St. Augustine(SA) We left Port Orange (Daytona) around mid morning heading to the local Walmart to stock up on supplies as our fridge and freezer was looking a little baron. After that stop it was a short 1 hour (60 miles) drive up the coast to SA.
We arrived and had set up camp and had lunch by around 2 pm. Kathy was feeling a bit tired from the hot days we had the prior week and today proved to be just as hot, so she had a rest. I always seem to be a little more energetic to explore the new area and find out what I can so I looked at some local tourist maps and embarked on my bike for a tour. SA was 4.5 miles into the town limits so I decided to head in that direction to see what the route was like that we would likely take the next day. I reached the city and decided to continue over to the tourist center to pick up some additional information to help us plan the next day. I was into town and back in about 1 ½ hrs – hot and sweaty! Mission accomplished. Now I knew the lay of the land.
St. Augustine is the oldest city in the U.S. with its founding 450 years ago in 1565. SA is a very quaint, compact and walkable city. On Thursday we set the A/C in the RV for Jazz and headed off on our bikes at around 9 am getting into the town for the crowds started assembling. The day before I had witnessed heavy congestion on the narrow streets with people and traffic congestion. We arrived in around 9:30 and locked up the bikes for the day.
We wondered the streets for a few hours reading plaque after plaque at all the historic buildings and sites. During SA’s 450 years it has been controlled by 4 countries. The Spanish from 1565 when Don Pedro Menendez founded it to 1765. The British controlled it from 1765-1784. The Spanish regained control in 1784 to 1821, when the US took over control until present day.
We walked out of town a little to the famed “fountain of youth” that has been traced back to Juan Ponce de Leon who landed in this vicinity in 1513. We didn’t go into this archaeological finding as the entrance was $15 each and another $7 or 8 for a “sip” of the magical water. Back to town we went. After a few hot hours walking the streets of SA, it was time for some lunch and hydration at the Mill Top Inn under some large shady trees and a nice breeze coming off the Matanzas Bay. After lunch we toured some of the narrower streets that are only for pedestrians checking out a few shops but knowing we couldn’t really carry too much on the bikes, we didn’t buy anything.
After a few more history lessons we decided we had seen everything we wanted and headed back to camp arriving back around 3 pm. Luckily the park we were in was nicely shaded so we could chill out for a the balance of the day outside. We enjoyed a small pork roast from the BBQ that night as we prepared to break camp on Friday morning for Savannah GA., where we would meet up with Kathy’s brother Wayne (and Lynn) who we had seen back in Ft. Myers in March.
We arrived in Pt Orange just after lunch time on April Fools Day. Our plan was to spend a week in the area doing mainly nothing with a couple of side trips in between. Our campground had a lovely pool and for once, even though it was heated, it did not feel like a bath tub. The water was very refreshing and we enjoyed laying by and being in the pool all week long.
On Thursday morning we jumped on our bikes and biked down to the beach in Pt Orange. Pt Orange borders south Daytona Beach which borders Daytona Beach. The beach was absolutely great to bike on as it was packed down hard. Many cars and RV’s drove on the beach and parked for the day. We had planned to find a spot to eat lunch at on the beach but there was very little there by way of restaurants so we ended up just returning to the RV instead. In total we biked about 18 miles that morning. After lunch we spent the afternoon by the pool.
On Friday morning we set off with Jazz for a very long walk in the hot weather. By the time we got home we were soaked with sweat and decided to just take it easy for the rest of the day.
We had picked up a local bus schedule on Friday during our walk so on Saturday morning we took a bus to Daytona Beach and brought our bikes along on the bus so we could check out what it was all about as we had never been there before. As it was Easter weekend it was very busy to say the least. (see pics). We enjoyed biking around the beach strip and on the beach. We found a great beachside restaurant called Surfside Tiki Bar where we had lunch. We then biked around some more and then went back across the bridge to the mainland to try to catch a bus back to Pt Orange. Unfortunately, when the bus arrived at our stop, it already had 1 bike on its rack and the bike racks can only hold 2 bikes. So, we decided to bike back to the campground instead. It was a 10 mile bike ride and by then the temperature was in the high 80’s. But we managed to do it in 50 minutes which was only 10 minutes longer than the bus would have taken. Needless to say, we were proud of ourselves!
Easter Sunday we spent a quiet day around the campground. We spoke to Bryn and Melissa on Skype . We had spoken to Matt and Emily on Friday so it was great to catch up with our Family on Easter weekend! Sunday night we had a campfire on our campsite which was great. We hadn’t had a campfire since November we think so we really enjoyed it.
Monday morning we packed up the RV and headed 8.8 miles to the Daytona International Speedway (DIS)where we went for an All Access Tour. Needless to say, Rob was in his glory and honestly, I enjoyed it as well.
DIS is presently undergoing a $400 million renovation called Daytona Rising which will transform this raceway which was built in 1959 into a multi purpose facility possibly hosting Football games, concerts etc in addition to the regular racing schedule. There is a lot of history at this track which I won’t go into. The track was built by Bill France who was one of the Founders of Nascar. Originally car racing in Daytona was done on the beach but moved to this 2.5 mile speedway when he built it. The biggest Nascar race of the year is the Daytona 500 held at DIS.
We toured the actual track in a trolley. We saw pit row, the car garages and inspection garage. We stood on Victory Lane (see pic), watched a video in the Driver’s meeting room and had a tour of one of the renovated grandstand areas with a great view of the start/finish line and the whole track. We also got to see Joey Logano’s car that won the 2015 Daytona 500 (see pics). It was a great tour and well worth the admission price.
As we were leaving DIS, Rob spotted an Olive Garden across the street. He has been craving Olive Garden for a few weeks now (I think because of TV commercials) so since we were so close, off we went for a delicious lunch of all you can eat Soup, Salad and Bread sticks plus we added a little pasta.
We did go for a walk later on that day to walk off all of the food we had eaten.
Tuesday, we walked up to the local mall not too far away from our campground and did a little shopping at Bells and Ross. Rob had more success than I did but neither of us bought that much since we really didn’t need anything. Tuesday for dinner we went to Booth’s Bowery which was just down the street from our campground. Booth’s is the place where the locals go to enjoy the best in Buffalo Wings . It brags that its wings are “World Famous” so naturally we had to give them a try. They were very good and the place was very busy. We hadn’t had good wings in a long time so it was a great place to go for dinner.
Today, Wednesday, we packed up and after doing a big grocery shop to hopefully last us until we get home we headed to St Augustine, Fl. We will be here for the next 2 days so will let you know what we find there in a couple of days.
When I think of history, I think of something that occurred a 100 years or more ago……..
On a warm summer day, my Dad arrived home to our summer residence, a two storey log home (our cottage). My father and brother tore down the house log by log and transported it about 30 miles and rebuilt it, log by log beginning in 1967.A few years later, the rebuilding of the cottage was well underway with only floor joists on the main floor while the second floor had a full floor, 3-4 beds, a bathroom and a kitchen area – all temporary living for a while.
On that specific day, he arrived home with something we didn’t have at the cabin at that time, a 19” TV. He had rented (yes rented) one for the weekend to allow us and many of our cottage neighbors to witness one of man’s greatest accomplishments of the 20th century – landing and walking on the Moon. Apollo 11 landed on Sunday July 20, 1969 – which also happened to be my 10th birthday. This day and event will forever be etched, no carved, in my memory.
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”
One of the destinations during our RV journey was a visit to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at Cape Canaveral, Florida. We arrived at our new park on Sunday for three nights with the intention of doing very little with the exception of the NASA tour. Cape Canaveral was about 23 miles away, so on Tuesday we packed up the RV and arrived at the center just before opening at 9 am. What did we do with Jazz you ask for a whole day? The KSC has a free kennel on site, so she went a made some new friends for the day.
We left the KSC at around 5:30 that night, full of new information and facts we learned during the day. I don’t plan on trying to repeat this in the blog. We spent the full day but you could easily spend two days as we didn’t go into at least 3 of the buildings. Seeing some of the actual lunar capsules (Apollo 14 – see pic) and the Space shuttle Atlantis left me awe struck. I could have just sat and looked at the Atlantis for an hour – imagining all the ventures it went on and the astronauts taking space walks building the International Space Station (ISS). Seeing the Canada Arm (2 of them) proudly mounted and identified on the Atlantis was a good feeling.
We visited the memorial site as well reflecting on the fact that with great triumphs comes many failures and sometimes great tragedy. Apollo 1 didn’t even get off the launch pad, when a fire occurred in the command module killing all three astronauts. Apollo 11 landed on the moon with only 30 seconds of fuel remaining when it missed its planned landing site by several miles. Apollo 13 barely made it back to Earth when they had to abort their landing mission. And then there was the Shuttle program, with the loss of 14 lives on two separate occasions losing both Challenger and Columbia orbiters. Risks are very high but rewards even greater!
At the height of the Apollo program, 1961-1972 KSC employed some 21,000 people. During the shuttle program, 15,000. KSC now has approximately 8,000 people on staff, with many working on the future space program and module – the Orion which is meant for deep space travel. They are talking about Mars and 3 year missions…. 6 months to just get there!
So much information!!! It was a great day and extremely interesting. Worth going to if you are in the vicinity.
On April 1st we will be relocating to Port Orange (a suburb of Daytona Beach) for a week of R and R.