Sopchoppy is a small back roads town in the Panhandle. Returning from Mississippi yesterday, Ginger and I made a return visit to George Griffin's Pottery. On many wooded acres, you drive down a dirt road to find the pottery shop, home and supply building - all built by George. A college graduate who chose his passion - pottery wizardry versus the corporate world, began his self-taught journey more than 3 decades ago. See https://photos.app.goo.gl/HEEZyBj9W3Sfzaba6 for tour photos.
Kissimmee (and old Kissimmee) is a Florida community that has several pronunciations and is typically by-passed in travels to Orlando and Disney World. But there is history and a community to see. Some history and background can be found on the website Florida Back Roads and is worth reading. Below are some recent observations.
The exploration of Kissimmee really was a photo opportunity for Eddie and me - visiting the town itself, shooting the Lake Toho Lighthouse and capturing interesting and historical sites. Since Kissimmee was in close vicinity of Orlando and Disney, be ready for traffic delays and extended travel times. Our primary interest was sunset and low light photography, hoping the weather would be on our side.
First up was Pioneer Village. Pioneer Village tells the story of Osceola County's early settlers where you can see original pioneer homes, a general store, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop and an original citrus packing plant. Heading to downtown a must see is the Monument of States - inspired by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The mission of the monument was to demonstrate the unity of America and it was designed to include at least one rock from each of the states in the United States of America. Next it was downtown, where one must see the oldest operating retail store in Florida. The original store establihsed in 1884 was located at what today would be Darlington Avenue and Pleasant Street. Makinson Hardware was rebuilt in 1900 at its present location, since the original structure had burned down. On the side of their building is a town mural.
In the Kissimmee Lakefront Park, there are walking and hiking trails, viewing docks, piers and fishing - all for great photo opportunities at sunrise and sunset. Lake Tohopekaliga comes from the Seminole Indians who lived nearby, and it means “we will gather together here.” The lake is one of the most famous trophy bass fishing lakes in the country and has a small lighthouse.
(On the way to Biloxi) Who would have guessed we have a town named Havana? Founded in 1906, Havana was initially driven by shade tobacco’s economic engine. Today Havana has more than 30 specialty shops that are stocked with everything from new furniture and vintage collectibles to some amazing art. Unfortunately with COVID and being right after the weekend, we found Havana to be a quiet town. We continue to enjoy finding and visiting towns over 100 years old. Havana is known as Florida's friendliest small town.
St Augustine Trip
..Google Map https://bit.ly/2HIIzE9
..St Augustine - Photo Destinations site https://www.photographicdestinations.com/st-augustine.html
..Back Roads Travel site https://bit.ly/36h7Ajn
..Tour Ideas https://www.thecrazytourist.com/15-best-things-to-do-in-st-augustine-fl/
Wednesday - Day 1
8:00 Leave Redington Beach
10:30 Mt Dora - Coffee and walk
12:30 Palatka - Brunch/Lunch At Angel’s Diner 209 Reid St, Palatka https://bit.ly/2Jnm7Rd
1:30 St Augustine - Visitor Center - maps and more - 10 S Castillo Drive
Self Walk - St Augustine Ideas
* Sebastian winery
* St Augustine Distillery 112 Riberia St, St. Augustine, FL
* Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
* St George St* Lighthouse Fee $11.00
* 1,000 Lights* Oldest School House
* Shops* Flagler College
* Lions Bridge - photo best sunrise but good at dusk
* Dinner … Harry’s Seafood Bar and GrillFood Grill
* Post dinner - St Augustine - Lights and Night Photos
* Main town and park pics
* Side Streets pics
* Flagler pics
.. Back to Motel
Thursday - Day 2
* St Augustine - Sunrise … Lions
* St Augustine - Breakfast at Motel
* Road Trip - Evanston General Store https://bit.ly/3nVa50u
* Trip Home - Cedar key (chowder) https://www.tonyschowder.com/dining-at-tonys-seafood/
The St. Marks Light is the second-oldest light station in Florida. It is located on the east side of the mouth of the St. Marks River, on Apalachee Bay.
Clicking any photo will open the photos to a larger size.
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!
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