Motoring Across America

With James "Alex" Alexander

with James "Alex" Alexander



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Blog 284: Deep in the Heart of Texas

Davis Bayou Campground to Cranes Mill Park

From our Ocean Springs campground, we once again strode on to I-10 West and traveled across Mississippi and most all of Louisiana, stopping close to the Texas border at Vinton RV in Vinton, LA. This was just an easy-on, easy-off location for the night—just a place to rest up, and then go.

Vinton RV Sign

The next morning, we again pointed the coach west on I-10, scooting through the very light traffic of Houston, and then to exit 604 in Segun, Texas. After about an hour of taking Texas 46 to 2722 East to 2673 North, we arrived at our campground on Canyon Lake, Texas. Canyon Lake is strategically located, about 35 miles NE of San Antonio and 45 miles SW of Austin. It is a big, manmade lake created and managed by the Army Corp of Engineers.

Cranes Mill Park Sign

This place is our kind of park…small (just 30 sites), big sites, covered picnic tables, scrub country behind us, and lake views up front. Deer everywhere and lots of birds.

Corn Flowers

Bull Thistle

Oh Deer 2

Western Kingbird

For many hours over our stay, we stalked the scissor-tailed flycatcher (also known as the Texas bird-of-paradise or the swallow-tailed flycatcher) and were fortunate to get a photo or two (in reality, I probably shot 400 or more).

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher

Our RV-really-good-friends from Oregon were in the area visiting family, and we spent time with this crew doing a little sightseeing, and then they took us out boating on the Caribbean-hued waters of the lake. Here are a couple of hot chicks on the boat.

Boating Babes

Old Trucks
Here is one old well-digging truck from the Texas heartland.

Old Well-Digging Truck

See you next time.

Blog 283: Tarzan, Moonshine, and Shrimp Boil Buddies

Punta Gorda to Ocean Springs

Adios, South Florida
As South Florida temperatures kept nudging upward and starting to set new highs, we departed Punta Gorda a couple of days earlier than originally planned.

After fueling up at the nearby Pilot, we headed north on I-75N, took I-275 around St. Pete, and crossed over the Skybridge, taking in the great Gulf views that tall structure provides. From there we took FL589 north until it merged into FL98N. Although the weather was in the mid-90s, cloud cover much of the trip helped keep the edge off the heat. Traffic was light (for Florida) and most of the roads were in decent to good condition—great traveling conditions.

We ended our travels four miles east of Perry, Florida, at Rocky’s Convenience Store and Campground…right off the highway, large sites, nice setting—good overnighter.

Rocky's Sign

While walking Jack on a backroad the next morning, I came across a sign designating the site of a past hotel. We walked back to camp, got Mitzy and Jan, and came back to explore.

Hampton Springs Hotel Sign

The Hampton Springs Hotel was the “must go to” Florida Panhandle destination of the rich and infamous. The hotel was visited by Theodore Roosevelt, and even royalty from the Far East. The sulphur springs and baths at the resort became known for their healing powers. The luxury hotel resort eventually included elaborate fountains and gardens, a covered pool, golf and tennis courts, stables, a casino, ballroom, an outdoor dance pavilion, and a railroad depot. The hotel also had a bottling plant, which bottled and shipped water from the springs to customers around the nation, and a private hunting and fishing lodge. The hotel burned down in 1954 and the area was largely abandoned.

River by Hotel

Johnny Weissmuller
While exploring the ruins of the hotel grounds, we came across a local walking his good-looking dog.

Hotel Dog and Master

He was kind enough to share some insights about the hotel and the grounds, along with some information not readily found in the historical files. Much of the underwater filming of several Tarzan movies took place at Wakulla Springs, located about 14 miles south of Tallahassee, and some of the filming took place on the grounds of the hotel. According to the local word-of-mouth journal, Johnny Weissmuller stayed at the hotel several times, always accompanied by an entourage of several young ladies, all known for their bold and bawdy ways. Interesting stop.

Georgia on My Mind
We headed west on US98 with almost zero traffic. Five miles past Newport we headed north on FL363, then at the outskirts of Tallahassee we took the Capital Circle bypass that connected us to I-10 West. After heading northwest for close to 30 miles, we went north on 269 to the town of Chattahoochee. We then continued north three mile into Georgia to our next destination along the shores of Lake Seminole.

Eastbank Sign

We stayed five nights at the East Bank Campground, a Corps of Engineers campground on Lake Seminole, bordering Georgia and Florida. Great big campsites, grounds as neat as a pin, and all sites with views of the water.

Lake Seminole from Eastbank

Campfire

Tuscany at Lake Seminole

Mississippi Meet Up
We got an early start leaving the campground, headed west on 90, south on FL286, then west on I-10 across the Florida panhandle, a stretch of Alabama, then into SE Mississippi, where we took MS 57 south to Ocean Springs Road. That took us to our Davis Bayou COE campground, just east of Ocean Springs. After several warm days, the light-jacket weather was welcomed like an old friend you haven’t seen in ages.

Davis Bayou Sign

Davis Bayou Campground is another COE campground and part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The campground is on the east edge of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and Ocean Springs is just a few miles east of Biloxi. Our campground was home to hoards of squirrels and vast numbers of birds. We spent a lot of time sitting outside watching the action, and Jack had the Squirrel Channel on from dawn to dusk.

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Brown Thrasher

Squirrel Close Up

Turtles and Gators

One of the campers towed a travel trailer with his classic car. Here is a shot of his rig and one of him standing proudly by his car with his chauffeur smiling at the camera.

Classic Car and R Pod

Classic Car Pose

Beach Walks
Another great benefit of our campground location was the short time it took to get to the beach. Most mornings we took the Pups for early morning walks alongside the Gulf.

Shrimp Boil Buddies
The campground was awash with friendly people from Alabama and Mississippi. Within a few hours of our stay we had a squadron of new friends. Before long we were all telling stories and passing life histories like we’d known each other for years. Jimmy, our neighbor, is a talented fellow and one of his capabilities is making moonshine. Not wanting to offend, Jan agreed to sample his surprisingly excellent wares (of course I was polite as well :’). The kind soul gave us a sample to go to stave off the stress of traveling!

Jan and Jimmy

Later in our stay, Jimmy and several of his lifelong friends invited us over to a shrimp boil. Jimmy cooked and everyone ate the traditional boiled shrimp with sides of sausage, sweet corn, bread, deep fried gator, and blueberry cobbler. Just wonderful. Here is a pic of that interesting crew.

Shrimp Boil Buddies

Shrimp Boil Sides

Old Trucks
Here are two old fire trucks taken in Biloxi.

Old Fire Trucks

A really fun few days! See you next time.

Travel Blog 282: The Pig Hunters

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from my Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

Lake Apopka Loop
It is getting late in the season, and the youngsters are growing up! Here is a pic of an immature Little Blue Heron and Flying Tri-Color Heron taken on the Lake Apopka Loop.

Immature Little Blue Heron  II

Flying Tri-Color Heron

Campsite Bow-Tailed Grackles
Those who know me understand that I am easily entertained. Sitting outside in the afternoon the Bow-Tailed Grackles flitter here and there looking for old chips, stale crackers, or chunks of anything edible. Here are a couple pics of these avian comics.

Bow-Tail Grackle

Bow-Tail Grackle II

Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center (CHEP)
The CHEP is a state park just one mile from our campground. It has five trails, ranging from a mile and a half to two miles. All trails are interconnected so you can go for a short stroll or a several-mile hike.

Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center

I have mentioned it before in earlier blogs, but until very recently I was unable to take photos, as I had dog leashes in both hands. Now that Jan, my hiking buddy is back in action, she takes Mitzy and I take Jack’s leash in my left hand while holding my camera in my right hand. We have seen lots of wildlife and were rewarded by seeing a couple of immature eagles on a recent visit. And as always, vultures are everywhere, eyeing all living things with lustful looks.

Immature Bald Eagle

Vultures

The Pig Hunters
The big excitement at the state park, though, is wild pig hunting. Our schnauzer, Mitzy, is a Sweet Polly Purebred, a gentle little princess that loves laps and lives for pets (and chunks of cheese).

Sweet Mitzy

However, take her on the trail amidst the scent of wild pigs and a magical transformation occurs--her feminine curls thicken, her dainty muscles tighten, and her angelic face hardens as she turns into Thunder Dog, Huntress of Hogs. Her mild feminine bark turns into a wild savage howl as her eyes burn into the woods seeking her prey. Every fiber of this Hell Hound lusts for her porcine pleasure.

Thunder Dog

Urged on by Mitzy, Jack joins the frenzied attack, leaping, yipping, and straining on his leash like the lead dog at the Iditarod. Dragged forward, it is all I can do to keep him under control.

Pig-Hunting Jack

I think you can imagine the challenge of trying to photograph fast-moving pigs through dense woods with one hand on a shaking camera--crazy difficult you say? For sure. Almost impossible? You bet. Hah! Here are some pigs I caught in action.

Running Wild Boar

Wild Piglets

Wild Pig

What other family do you know that hunts wild pigs before breakfast?...ham and eggs of course!

Travel Blog 281: Loop de Loop

We had a chance to escape SW Florida paradise and head for Central Florida paradise.

Apopka Wildlife Loop
Back to one of our favorite places on the planet, we (Jan, Mitzy, Jack, and Alex) had the chance to twice take the 11-mile pilgrimage. We were rewarded by lot of birds and several alligators.

Anhinga

Barn Swallow

Bow Tail Grackle

Female Cardinal

Male Cardinal

Hunting Osprey

King Rail

Limpkin

Red-Winged Black Bird

Savannah Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from my Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.

Travel Blog 280: On to Venice (Florida, That Is)

Except for business trips to Atlanta, Orlando, and Boston, we have been hanging out in the beautiful Florida weather.

Venice Rookery
One morning with cloudy skies good for photography, we loaded up the Jeep and headed to the Venice Rookery. We had been there several weeks back, but the eggs and small chicks have been replaced by big babies with really big appetites. Take a look at the great blue heron family and the big baby cormorant challenging for a snack. Also, here is a shot of a great egret bringing in nesting material and another great egret fanning.

Feeding Time

Feeding Big Baby

Cormorant

Nesting Time

Fanning Great Egret

We added to this very nice day by having a picnic in the Myakka State Forest. Life is good.

Old Trucks
Here are three old trucks from my Old Truck Reserve.

Old Truck 1

Old Truck 2

Old Truck 3

See you next time.