Wednesday, November 27, 2019

The Birding Has Been Spectacular!

At first, we saw birds we can see in NJ.
This was at a campsite in Georgia. Or maybe it was Alabama. 
The spillway for this dam in Georgia was like a smorgasbord for birds. I don't have a picture of the crowds but they were grouped on every surface. I have never seen so many blue herons, cormorants, and turkey vultures in one place. Not sure what a lot of the other birds were. 
Bob watched a blue heron catch a fish only to have it stolen by a cormorant which then was chased by two other cormorants trying to steal it from the first. The blue heron stood there serenely the whole time, like blue herons do.  
 Cormorants I think
 Bald Eagles
Just a few of the turkey vultures

When we got to the Gulf of Mexico in Florida, we started seeing some different birds:terns, pelicans, pipers, and lots of others I don't know.
These were at Saint Joseph Peninsula State Park.

 These were at our campground in Port Saint Joe.  
The heron is at the bottom right, our RV is at the top left. 
These were taken from the boat dock at the campground

This one is on the picnic table at our campground at Saint George Island
And we still see birds we see at home. This was also on the picnic table. People must feed them. 
And in honor of Thanksgiving, I am including this bird, which I saw on Facebook

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Naming Conventions for Places in the Florida Panhandle and Hurricane Preparedness

Here are the names of some of the places we have been in since Sunday:

Saint Andrews State Park - just passed through since we hadn’t made a camping reservation and there was no availability for Sunday night. 
After waiting a while in case of a cancellation, we drove 61 miles further south-east to a private campground which was just across the water from Saint Vincent Island (and Saint Vincent National Wildlife Preserve) on one side, Saint Joseph Peninsula State Park on the other, and whose mailing address is Port Saint Joe.  
Now we are in Saint George Island State Park
Do you by chance notice a pattern here? These are the names of these places because these vulnerable barrier islands and peninsulas on the Gulf of Mexico need all the divine help they can get.

In fact, this whole area was flattened by Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018 and has yet to recover.  Michael made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph, right near the Saint Andrews State Park mentioned above.  See map below. Landfall area circled in red.
Everywhere we have been these past few days sustained major damage and is either still closed, partially closed, or closed indefinitely. (For example, the lights in Florida Caverns State Park, my previous blog post, just came back on a week ago.)

The homes in the area are built on giant stilts in case of flooding.

Also, there are some weirdly shaped houses. Trying to be more aerodynamic in case of strong winds?

This sign is posted at the ranger station in our current campground, Saint George Island State Park

Monday, November 25, 2019

Sunday, Nov 24 - Fun Quiz #1, again - Florida Caverns State Park

You may or may not have read my post on Skyline Caverns,Va in which the cave received a "G" on Fun Quiz #1.

In this post, we do Fun Quiz #1 for Florida Caverns State Park. But before I go through the quiz there was one hilarious unique thing about this tour. The tour guide's father was on the tour for the first time. Here is guide Rick posing for a picture with his father, uncle, and two cousins at the end of the tour.
Fun Quiz #1   

How do you know that a cave qualifies as a Tourist Trap?
 A. Hokey names given to formations
 B. Colored lighting used
 C. Overpriced
 D. Has a huge gift shop
 E. Underground pools stocked with trout
 F. Tour guide says he is only allowed to lose one tourist per month, and he has already lost one, so please stay with the tour
 F 1/2 (new question). Tour guide has memorized a script. Any question you ask that is not on the script results in a blank expression, or a stab in the dark guess (in the dark, get it?) 
 G. Most of the above
 H. All of the above

I am happy to report that Florida Caverns gets a low score on Fun Quiz #1. Therefore, it is not a full fledged tourist trap, and I highly recommend a visit. 

Here is a breakdown of the score:
A. Hokey names given to formations - Names were given, but were not overly hokey. This one might have been the wedding cake. Or the christmas tree. But there definitely was a "wedding cake" on the tour.  

 B. Colored lighting used -Yes, the only negative. I think this was called "the Forest"

 C. Overpriced - Cost for an adult was about $11, well worth it 
 D. Has a huge gift shop - It was small 
 E. Underground pools stocked with trout - No trout. Very cool terraces, rimmed

 F. Tour guide says he is only allowed to lose one tourist per month, and he has already lost one, so please stay with the tour - No stupid jokes, but guide had a good sense of humor 
 F 1/2 (new question). Tour guide has memorized a script. Any question you ask that is not on the script results in a blank expression or a stab in the dark - 
         Guide Rick was excellent. Was able to answer any question and knew what he was talking about. 
         He was even able to answer my favorite question, "What is the stupidest question you have ever been asked?" (Stupid question was, "Is this a cave?")  
Additional info. The cave was highly decorated with stalagmites, stalactites, columns, flowstone, draperies, rimmed pools, and soda straws. It was very active with lots of dripping water. It had a very natural feel despite colored lights and cleared paths. We were able to get close to everything.

Our glassed fogged up on entry
Some more formations

Marine fossils

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Now We Are REAL Retirees! Falling Waters State Park

We have made it to Florida! Stacy points out that now we are REAL retirees!  

We entered Florida from Alabama on such a minor road that there wasn’t even a "Welcome to Florida" sign, let alone a welcome center. This was our official welcome to Florida.

We spent shabbos at Falling Waters State Park in the panhandle.

It is a park of superlatives (from the park brochure):
  • The park is on one of the highest points in Florida! (324 feet above sea level)
  • Florida’s highest waterfall! (73 feet)·         
OK, so it isn't Niagara, as Bob pointed out. 

But what was really outstanding at this park (no sarcasm now) is that the water falls into an almost perfectly cylindrical sinkhole that is 20 feet wide and 100 feet deep! Exceedingly cool. This picture doesn't do it justice.

Try this video

Fun Fact: The highest point in Florida is at Briton Hill, in the in Defuniak Springs, FL. At 334 feet above sea level, it is the lowest high point in US.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Tues Nov 19th - Santa Claus, The Tree That Owns Itself, and Manny the 12-Foot-Tall Fish

I wasn’t planning on blogging about today because it was just going to be an uninteresting catch up day, you know, grocery shopping, fill up the gas, get propane, check into a campground, etc.

But that was before we met Santa Claus, saw The Tree That Owns Itself, and visited Manny the 12-Foot-Tall Fish.

Eufaula, Alabama. Not sure how it is pronounced but we called it Afula

Grocery shopped at both Piggly Wiggly and Winn Dixie.

Getting the gas was uneventful, but when we went to the TSC Tractor Supply Store to fill up our propane tank, we just had to go check out the store. What a great place! Like if Auto Zone also sold cattle feed. Bob found and bought a wireless indoor/outdoor weather monitor that he has been looking for all over.

Along the way we checked out "The Tree That Owns Itself"

Also, "Manny the 12-Foot-Tall Fish". 
I don’t think he was really 12 feet tall, but you know how it is with fish stories,
Oh, and before we had left the campground in the morning, the guy in the next site came over for a tour of Our V. This happens all the time, more on that in a later post. Anyway, when they had pulled in, I said he looked just like Santa Claus. He gave us his business card, and what do you know!

Checking into the new campground this evening was also uneventful.