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Sept 29th: We adjusted our body clocks to encourage an early bedtime Saturday night (8:00 pm) and have our wakeup naturally to be 2:00 am Sunday. It worked. Everything was previously packed and ready except toiletries. Home was closed and locked and we were on our way at 2:15 am. About 4 hours later we arrived at Amelia Island for sunrise photos and pier shots. (Note: all based on Jeff Stamer Photography recommendations). Many early birds were already on the beach by the pier and I took the time to share 'camera and photography talk' with two fellow photographers. Two take-aways for future shoots 1) wear Crocs so I can enter the water for better composition and 2) become more acquainted with Sony Memories Camera Remote to allow camera control direct from the iPhone. With the light still golden, we quickly located the island's lighthouse on the Coast Guard property (open gate this time) and several bracketed pics were taken. Of course we had to shoot the Palace Saloon in historic Fernadina Beach - the oldest bar in Florida. (some pics may be out of order but who cares lol)
Sept 29th: From Amelia Island it was 8 hours to North Carolina and our cabin on the mountain. Arriving at about 4:45 pm and knowing we had dinner planned at the cabin with Eddie and Linda Alcorne, we quickly unpacked and prepared the grill and food for dinner. The cabin was small with a bedroom, kitchen/dining/living area and bathroom, with a wrap-around deck and amazing views. These accommodations were more than adequate for the times we plan to actually be in the cabin. Our plan was to have all dinners outdoors, during the day we will be on the road, visiting historic areas or hiking Stone Mountain. Since this was a special date - Alcorne's Anniversary, Ginger planned a nice dinner of grilled shrimp, salad and lentil/rice. Celebration 'brownies' topped off the meal. After a full 20 hour day and 750 miles of travel, we called it a night at 7:45 pm.
Sept 30th: Stone Mountain and Widow's Falls was our first planned hike. This 'rock' was HUGE. We walked the base and viewed the 12 climbing trails on the side of the mountain. We learned that Eddie - in his youth, actually climbed the face of the mountain using ropes, hands and feet on all 12 trails. After viewing the face, we hiked the lower trails (both prepared trails and gravel paths). A short drive away, we came upon Widow's Falls, a beautiful, hidden water fall and wading pool.
Oct 1st: This is our day away from Stone Mountain. First is historic Mabry Mill - a water-powered mill in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, one of the most photographed places in the United States (you know we can NOT miss this opportunity). Not only was the Mill a beautiful site, but several out buildings and workshops highlighted what was begun in the early 1800's. Next, it's off to Mayberry RFD (Mt Airy - home of Andy Griffith) and lunch at Barney's Cafe. (Note: very funny ordering process ... their special was chicken pot pie and 2 side (I selected sides of beets and boiled potatoes). However, I soon found out my selection was not acceptable! Immediately, Linda interjected "you don't want beets" and Ginger added "don't get potatoes, get something else". So as Ginger and Linda were deciding options for me while the waitress patiently waited until there was a pause and she asked the ladies and asked "so what is he allowed to order?" It was funny and we all laughed. (a little exaggeration but you can call Eddie and he will confirm)
Oct. 2nd: Up at sunrise and another full day ... a 5 mile hike to the top of Stone Mountain (the easy trail). The hike was very comfortable and we met other hikers with two dogs. On the way down, Ginger decided our company was 'boring' and she joined them in the return - with ongoing conversations about Andy Griffith, Mt Airy and the history of the area. Next: Elkin, to a local winery that Linda had purchased on a previous visit the BEST blackberry wine. What's Elkin, it is a small town with unique shops and lots of antique boutiques. One shop/store we especially enjoyed walking was Kennedy Auto Inc. - a place that has everything - hardware, china, bicycles, tools, glassware, mannequins, guns and ammo. After touring Kennedy's we needed some light beverages and we were directed to an old movie house - the Reeves Theater and Cafe. The lobby was converted into a restaurant and bar and was clearly popular to locals and visitors . We ate outdoors and had the best grilled cheese sandwiches and a Yuengling. It was 'lovely'.
Vacations do come to an end ... our fall get-a-way was terrific - great friends, great location and great sights, with lots to do. I especially enjoyed the photo opportunities the area made available ... see below for some of my top memories captured in pics.
Day One: Sunday Depart Redington Beach at 5:45 via I-275 to I-75 to I-10 (I thought). As we are tooling for hours - no traffic, good roads and Ginger asleep. I was fixated on Scott Adams audio podcast, I suddenly saw "Welcome to Georgia" WHAT? Although Ginger was asleep, I found a way to blame her for the mistake (lol). Travel time added was 40 minutes and 30 miles but captured the steam engine photo below (all was not lost). Phew. Two stops: Falling Waters State Park (pouring rain - minor water fall) and then Old Towns Milton and Bagdad ... St Mary's Church, old Bagdad Post Office and Old Town Milton. Arrived Scarlet Pearl at 4:15 pm Central Time, Dinner at 5:30 pm.
Day Two: We departed for San Antonio at 5:30 am, going directly to San Antonio and night photography (the Alamo, the Riverwalk and dinner.) No surprises, bug free windshield, but do those Texans travel fast on the Interstate and backroads! Our lodging for the evening was near downtown San Antonio. We were able to walk to the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk was beautiful, brightly lit with pubs and dining all throughout the walk. Photos at the Alamo required long pauses in order to capture the Alamo alone ... but we did. One hiccup with the camera settings but resolved. We (I) did get disoriented on the walk after shooting the Cathedral, but with a marked location in Apple Maps all was good. 10,000 steps for each of us.
Day Three: Today was a multi-stop photo journey with our end destination being Austin. Stops included: Gruene Historic District for shopping and pics, Caverns and Kyle Texas. Great little historic town of Gruene with shops and eats (just avoid feeling the baby cactus growing from the cactus leaves !!!) We are still removing needles from our fingers after 2 days. Kyle Texas was the highlight (so far) of the trip. Upon arrival I went to City Hall and asked to speak to the City Manager and/or City Hall Manager in Charge with a request to 'recognize' our Kyle Visit. After being rejected by the receptionist ... "they don't use the phone you have to send an email and schedule a meeting", I sent an email and voice message requesting contact. To our surprise 30 minutes later (while at lunch at the Texas Pie Company), I received an email from the Kyle City Chief of Staff with a "hey, Y'all come on by". When we returned to the Town Hall, the Chief of Staff, the City Manager, and the Executive Assistant were available for photos, an award certificate and Kyle T-Shirts ... They were soooooo nice and asked for permission to recognize that the Kyle's from Florida drove all the way to visit Kyle Texas ... Woo Hoo! PS: they also invited us to the Kyle Balloon Festival in September (ha ha). Next Stop - Austin.
Day Three (cont.) Austin: We arrived in Austin after Kyle Texas, still a little excited about the Kyle ceremony. Our accommodations in Austin - in a word were perfect. We checked into the Beverly - a luxury apartment complex located only a few blocks from center city. The suite was spotless with a kitchen, refrigerator, washer, dryer, (overkill since we were staying a couple of days and weren't cooking or doing laundry!) living room with master bath, parking garage and top security. We decided that we would push ourselves and photograph the State Capital Building (interior and exterior) at night so that the next day we could return in case we missed anything. Timing the sunset, building closure and timing for photos, we found a nice Italian restaurant know for Gourmet Pizza - perfect! and just 5 minutes from the Capital Square. (Ginger's note: it was good pizza, but Bob's is better)
Day 4: Wednesday We call this a mixed-multi day and night. Our morning started with a nice uphill walk to the Capitol to have breakfast at their Capitol Grill (in-house cafeteria in the Capitol building open to the public). Everything we heard was it had great food and good value ($$). They were on point. We had breakfast (after breakneck walk to be there before 10:00 am breakfast close. Made it - worth it. We next spent time touring the halls and taking photos both on the inside and on the grounds. Returning about 1:00 pm - we decided "chill" and since the TV didn't have FOX News, we (no Ginger) watched the old Match Game. BORING! After a short 30 minute siesta we planned our evening activities: Dinner, Mount Bonnell, Cityscapes from the Lamar Street Bridge and then a visit to the 6th Street Pub walk.
Day 5 and more: Austin to Biloxi (really D'Iberville MS.) to the Scarlet Pearl. Table play, people watching, great dining, photo processing, blogging and a night photos. Oh, you ask 'How di we do at the tables' Let me just share this Bob: "How are you doing Gin?" ... Ginger: "having fun". ... Bob: "No really, are we winning or losing?" ... Ginger: "I am having a great time". End of questions.
Closing Comments (keywords to remember events) before heading home;
Kyle City Hall Welcome to the Kyle's / Texans Drive FAST / the Capitol Building at Night / Meeting and Talking to Folks at the Capitol Square and on Mount Bonnell / Pizza near The Capital / "Shaking in My Boots" / Lamar Street Bridge Austin Cityscape Photo / Crazy Millennials on Electric Scooters at 20 mph / Gruene really is pronounced Green / Sony Camera Settings Failed CRISIS - then Fixed / Losing Way in the Dark on Riverwalk / Welcome to Georgia - What? / What Day is It? / the Beverly was awesome BUT TV Sucks / Mount Bonnell Hike and "they aren't breathing hard" / Mosquitoes on Mount Bonnell / the old Iversville Mill and 1853 Church Photo Ops / ~ 2750 miles 33 mpg / Great!
See Trip Itinerary Plan
Our inventory of grape leaves was low, photo shoots in interesting local areas did not happen for months, so it was off to Tarpon Springs. Very interesting stop in downtown Tarpon (not the sponge docks) was a visit to the Historic Train Depot Museum. We met Tom, the 'curator' who brought to light so !!! many interesting facts about Tarpon Springs history we could never imagine.
Did you know Tarpon Springs was the first 'hub' of development a future Pinellas County, it is part of the largest land purchase (4 million areas for $1.0 million) just behind the Louisiana Purchase and Alaska (wow!). The year ... somewhere around 1880 when Florida was in financial trouble and the investors said "hey, open land, sand, a good place for real estate development". It wasn't until 1920 when a Greek entrepreneur found this to be a great place for the sponge industry and called home (Greece) and enticed 25 families to come to America.
We walked the sponge docks (nothing really changed, just low end (cheap) novelty stores, but before the photo walk we found an out of the way Greek diner - next to an auto repair shop. Two Gyros for $8.99!
Cedar Key is one our Florida trips 'list'... It is "old Florida". Narrow streets lined with shops, locals and tourists, neat cafes and dining at a slower pace. Cedar Key is a clamming, fishing, and an artist village with a tourist trade. The tourism is seasonal and most visitors are looking for a low key sort of vacation. Richard and Sharleen were looking to get together, and we thought this would be a good full day trip. Travel was a little over 2 hours and we all caught up with each other during the drive. Once we turned off Rt19 north onto Rt 24 west ... well 24 miles later we entered Cedar Key. As we parked, we saw marine police at the small marina (and came to learn, they were extracting one of the three bodies from a small place crash into the Gulf reported two days earlier. We walked the street and found a General Store that served freshly ground coffee - delicious!
Finishing coffee we proceeded walking the main street (but were somewhat disappointed) and realized much had changed as a result of the major tropical storm that saw major storm water destroying much of the businesses. Getting close to noon, and feeling hungry, I had found a popular eating establishment a few blocks away - Tony's that was well know for Cedar Key clam chowder - a must try!. We ordered Poo Boys, Shrimp sandwiches (both to split) and clam chowder. Oh, our 'professional' server did not have a clue what fish was part of the Poo Boy, delivered the sandwiches BEFORE the soup, never brought drinks and never served condiments we requested. As Ginger and I waited for dressings and soup, our food (after 15 minutes) got cold, I walked up to the kitchen and politely shared "our food is cold, we do not have condiments, we did not recive our ordered soup or all the drinks. (they apologized, removed what was served, re-ordered hot food and all turned out fine - oh, the Potvin's had finaished their meal and were served a second!
After Cedar key we headed home and made a stop at the Yullie Sugar Cane Ruins for a photo shoot (me).
Hurricane Michael hits the Gulf and travels N-NE on October 10th, 2018. Fast forward to today, Ginger and I drove through the Panhandle through Mexico Beach this week to see first-hand the wrath of Hurricane Michael. The Category 4 Hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle region, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 155 mph and a minimum pressure 919 mb. The storm caused catastrophic damage from wind and storm surge, particularly in the Panama City Beach to Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas areas.
Essentially, every home and business was destroyed, the area as we saw it looks like the storm hit yesterday, large (expensive) homes being rebuilt (here and there), but nothing - NOTHING being rebuilt one block in and further. The only human activity we saw were contractors and crews operating cleanup equipment. No local grocery stores were standing let alone open. So sad. Keep everyone in your prayers ... it will be a long time before the area comes back.
On the road with Eddie and Linda to capture sunrise and sunsets in West Palm, Coral Cove and more. Starting out from Redington Beach, the rain and clouds initially put a damper on our expectations. Frankly, we really didn't notice the rain since we rotated our conversations and had fun with '... pick on Bob ... pick on Eddie ... pick on Bob, etc.’ About halfway there, the sky cleared and things looked brighter. We spotted an 'old' barn on the route and the girls yelled "turn around, turn around!". We got out and click, click, click - Eddie and I grabbed several bracketed shots. We noticed as we travelled, Eddie was randomly squirming and fidgeting in the seat when we heard "Linda, do you have Aleve?". We learned he twisted his back and although not complaining, will be dealing with it for the balance of the trip. Upon arriving in West Palm Beach area, we spent the afternoon touring and stopping at the beautiful Coral Cove Park and Blowing Rock Park for photos ... and then checked in at at our 'hotel' an AirBnB in West Palm Beach. (Note to file 'don't forget to bring light libations for before dinner'.)
Dinner that evening was at a great restaurant - the U Tiki ... buzzing with activity, it was located overlooking the 'in operation' Jupiter Lighthouse. We shot multiple nighttime lighthouse photos. However, after checking the dozen or so images on each camera, we were disappointed, and decided to take one more opportunity to get a shot of the lighthouse from another angle. We did - just 10 minutes away, we pulled into a nice park and found a great cityscape angle with the light beam of the lighthouse rotating and clearly visible. "almost, wait, TAKE THE SHOT" were the instructions from Linda and Ginger as they helped Eddie and I time our shots so we avoided shooting directly into the rotating bright light beacon.
Getting back to the AirBnB, the laptops came out and post-processing of images started. It started well and then we heard mumbling and cursing as Eddie hit delete, delete, delete (removing most of the nighttime shots). The second day we woke up to rain and clouds with no opportunity for sunrise photos, but (after a great breakfast at the Lazy Loggerhead Cafe where we found another art-sie opportunity of painted fronds) we returned to the park visited the previous night and captured a few daytime lighthouse photos. Okay - it's time to head east and home ... but first a rainy detour to Hobe Sound for one last set of Pics (covered roadway.
Manatee Village Historic Park located in Manatee, FL. was a destination on the way to a AAII Chapter meeting in Sarasota. The village collection of restored buildings from Manatee County’s settlement history and experience life in Manatee County before the arrival of modern conveniences such as automobiles and electricity. We were delighted that the county created and maintains this historic site and offers visitors a look back in time. The Courthouse we came to learn was the first courthouse built specifically for that purpose in the country! We spent almost two hours exploring the village in addition to the general store and were offered keys to the cemetery across the street for a walk around. (Note: the cemetery was created back in 1850 as a resting place for the town that was hit with yellow fever. See Manatee album here.
We then went on to the AAII chapter meeting where we 'separated' ways - Mom to the reception room of the Realtor offices with iPad in tow ... and me to the conference room to learn about Delta's Financial Economic Sentiment Indicator and the the Treasury's 10 Year Yield Curve used to predict upcoming recessions.
Following the meeting, we went to dinner at JR's Old Packinghouse Cafe for great Cubans and family style conversation with Larry and his wife.
One of our Christmas 2018 special events (of course, besides the day with the family) included a visit to St Augustine to see the entire city in lights. The 'Night of Lights' shows off the best of St Augustine. St Augustine is always a favorite place to visit and so we were looking forward to seeing the city at night - under lights and catching more memories we missed in times gone by. So, after check-in at The Ponce (by the way a great value inn), we decided to 'rest up' in our room and attack the city in one swoop - dinner, touring, sight-seeing and photos.
Upon arriving in Old Town ... early evening, we noticed that the crowds and traffic were less than we expected, possibly due to the low 39 degree weather. (Ginger owes me one by my insisting we bring our leather jackets). Dinner at the Scarlett O'Hara (a dining recommendation from the true St Augustine traveling natives Trevor and Gail Swan) was excellent, especially the crab cake. it was off to the Old Town sites - Constitution Park, Lion's Bridge, side streets, Flagler College and more ... the scenes were wonderful, the lighting was great, and after 3-4 hours and 6 miles of walking ... it was time to head back to the Ponce.
Waking early the next morning, I grabbed my photo gear and took the opportunity for sunrise photos. As planned, the sun came up, but the clouds were not participating and the desired cloud reflections were not available in the clear morning sky. Hotel checkout and breakfast and we are on our way back to Redington Beach. In order to travel 'backroads of Florida and avoid the Interstates, we 'aimed' the car southwest and selected backroads. It turned out the travel was very pleasant with winding roads, scenery, horse country and an opportunity to visit a National Historical Site - the Evinston General Store and Post Office aka the Wood and Swink.
Nashville has been on Ginger's bucket list for some time. We planned on exploring one or two state parks on the way to Mt. Juliet where we rented a great little cottage on a farm named Rockhaven Cabins. This was our home base, and from there we mapped out our sight-seeing and travels.
Daytime and nighttime sight-seeing was in order (along with one or two photos along the way - lol). The Grand Ole Opry did not have any shows planned but we did have an opportunity to sneak a peek inside and outside. No indoor pics allowed. Nighttime was reserved for city photos and walking Broadway 'in the lights'. We were surprised how busy Nashville was and very pleased the overall city was clean (not like New Orleans).
During the day we identified nighttime photo ops and found the TV show store Antique Archeology. Buses lined up to have visitors see the old stuff. We walked and it was a good 3+ miles round trip (Ginger's shins are still sore!).
To remind each other of the shared memories and talking points for this trip, I captured each others 'take-aways' so we can reminisce some day when we are old. They are: chilly mornings; cozy shower (I almost fit); mountains and not speed bumps; a fully equipped and comfortable cabin; horses right next to cabin, steep climbs for seeing waterfalls; beautiful sky and nighttime lighting for photos; ROKU and Google TV with all channels; very comfortable bed; rolling interstate roads; cars travel at 75-80 mph on interstate; Bar B Q dinner; beautiful trails in state parks; and most importantly - not rushed and we set our own pace.
See Nashville, TN for additional photos.