Charlotte, North Carolina to St. Augustine, Florida

Charlotte, North Carolina to St. Augustine, Florida

This was our third day of travel south and was a rather uneventful day of driving along interstate highways – first I-77 and then I-95. The interstate highways bypass the major cities and other points of interest so,if you are not leaving the interstate, you primarily get to see what is immediately ahead of you on the highway. There is significant traffic on these interstate highways so just trying to keep an eye on what is ahead of you on the highway can be sufficiently tiring. Today’s drive was, for the most part, no exception.

Along the way, I had commented on the number of trucks on the highway and also the amount of debris (primarily bits of truck retread tires) along some of the stretches of highway. When travelling on major highways, such as this, it is not unusual to see chucks of retread tire, but today, one large piece of rubber in the passing lane led to a car, a distance ahead of us ending up in the center ditch as it tried to avoid hitting the chunk of rubber. We didn’t see the actual accident event but were not far behind when it happened.

By chance, as we passed one semi-trailer, I noted that the retread hon one of its rear tires looked to be on its last legs. What an observation that ended up being. Many miles further down the road, and after a few tourist stops, we found ourselves driving behind this same semi-trailer when that retread decided it was time to separate and hurl chunks of rubber back at us. Thankfully, none of the numerous pieces hit our car but it did lead to a few anxious moments.

As we travelled along these busy highways, there were times when our view ahead and to the sides was sometimes rather limited and we just hoped that the truck drivers didn’t have to come to any quick stops.

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More photos will be added to this blog entry at a later date.

Escaping the Ottawa winter of 2014

Escaping the Ottawa winter of 2014 With cries of “ENOUGH ALREADY”, I found myself finishing off the month of March with a snow shovel in my hand, once again valiantly heaving shovelful after shovelful of that darned white stuff (SNOW!!!) of to the side of the driveway. image Only days earlier, another blast of winter had deposited a fresh white coating a few inches thick over our front yard and everything else. Looked really pretty, but meant more shovelling and I was getting tired of winter clothing and shovelling. Now, it was finally time to head off on that winter vacation to Florida that had been postponed many times for various reasons.

Our plan was simple, drive south on the 416 to Ogdensburg, cross the border at that point, slant over to Interstate 81 and then head south on I-81 as far as it would take us. Plan worked great. By the time that we crossed the St. Lawrence River, the amount of snow beside the highway had diminished and we knew instinctively that it wouldn’t be too long before snow would be just a memory. Every winter, Canadians head south for relaxation and to get a bit of winter warmth. Collectively, they are known as “snowbirds” but, since we were driving, not flying, “snowbirds” wasn’t a perfect fit but, this trip, we had no objections to that concept.

The last time that I crossed the Canada/US border was in February when I was hauling three kayaks back to Vancouver from the Grand Canyon. Usually, I don’t get slowed down at the border. A few questions get asked, I provide simple answers and off I go. The February crossing was a bit more dramatic as the border agents decided that they would like to pull me aside to “inspect” what I was carrying in the truck. This time around, we were driving our Volvo C70 convertible with its limited trunk space completely filled with luggage, two golf bags, my camera equipment and, as an added feature, my Martin Backpacker guitar. My wife was driving when we reached the border so she got to answer the questions. “Where are you from?”, “Where are you going?”, “How long?”, etc. Then there was that moment of silence before “Pop the trunk”. After the February truck search incident, that delayed that trip by an hour, all I could envision was the task ahead of taking everything out of that tightly packed Volvo trunk space so that the Customs agent could check to see that nothing untoward was packed in the golf bags squeezed tightly into the furthermost depth of that trunk. The trunk was opened, the agent took a quick look and closed the trunk. A sigh of relief from my side of the car. Then, the agent asked my wife to open the trunk again. “Oh no, what now?”, I thought. Just wanted to check that it had closed properly the first time! That was a relief. No long process of unpacking and repacking would be needed. A few minutes more and we were on our way again.

Temperature about 0C (+32F).

As we drove along, we could see many birch trees bent over from the experience of being heavily laden with ice from a freezing rain storm that had passed through the area only days earlier. Many trees had the far worse fate of breaking rather than bending and broken tree branches littered the ditches in some locations. The roads were clear though as we drove to our first night’s destination and indulged in some MacDonald’s fries. Not a gourmet meal LOL) but the two large fries for $3.33 special was the perfect treat, especially since it was the only eating establishment in easy walking distance from our hotel.

The next morning, we crossed over into Pennsylvania with me doing the driving. At almost precisely 9:30AM, we switched drivers just as it began to rain. When driving in winter months and early Spring, rain is always better than snow or freezing rain so we weren’t complaining.
image As the day progressed, the temperature slowly rose. By the time that we stopped for a break we were enjoying more pleasant +50F temperatures and wife enjoyed her pot of tea. (Bigelow’s spiced orange tea in Carlisle, Pennsylvania at Kimberley’s cafe – a nice place to stop for a quick bite to eat)
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Our destination for the day’s travels was Charlotte, North Carolina so once we had stopped for our lunch break in Carlisle, PA, we were on our way again. Our travels would take us briefly into Maryland and West Virginia, though Virginia and then into North Carolina. Our trip options for this leg of the trip were I-81 or I-95 and we chose to follow I-81 to avoid the heavy traffic loads of the Washington area. As we travelled south along I-81, the temperatures continued to rise, the grass continued to get greener and by the time that we got into the valleys of Virginia and West Virginia, Spring flowers were beginning to appear and flowering fruit trees dotted the landscape and the edges of the roadway forests. Temperatures were in the low 80’s by the time that we turned south onto I-77. image image image image We left the I-81 near and headed south along the I-77. This section of the road took us to higher elevations and as we climbed the temperature dropped into the low 70’s. Definitely not unpleasant, but Spring was not as far advanced in these areas and the trees hadn’t begun to flower yet. We reached our destination of Charlotte, NC that evening and we were able to walk outside in high 70’s temperatures surrounded by green grass and flowering fruit trees. Definitely different than the snow-covered lawns we had left behind only a day and a half ago. image

St. Augustine, Florida

After spending some time in Castillo de San Marcos, I cycled around the adjacent streets of St. Augustine looking at some of the unique architecture of the area. The Spanish influence on architectural style of the older structures was evident at every turn. Very interesting urban landscape.


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Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine, Florida

Built in 1672, the Castillo de San Marcos was the center of quite a few skirmishes over the years, first as the Old World fought colonial wars around the world and later as Confederate and Union forces battled over their issues in the various American skirmishes. It was named Fort Marion from 1821 to 1942 and for a period of British rule was named Fort St. Mark from 1763 until 1784. (Location)

St Augustine is one of only three walled cities constructed in North America. I have now visited two of them – Quebec City in Canada and now St. Augustine in Florida. Because Florida is so flat, standing upon the walls of the fort provided any defenders excellent sight-lines in all directions to warn of the approach of any attacking forces.
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Lyonia Preserve, Deltona, Florida

The Lyonia Preserve is a relatively new wildlife ecological preserve established to develop a restored scrub preserve in Volusia County north of Orlando, Florida. I first learned of the preserve when visiting the Marine Science Center at Ponce Inlet a few days earlier.

My main reason for visiting the Lyonia Preserve today was to photograph some of the many Florida Scrub Jays that now call the preserve their home. I wasn’t disappointed. The county and school groups have re-established a wonderful scrub habitat and ecosystem. An interesting series of three looped trails allows individuals to walk through the preserve without disturbing the environment. The trails are wide and obvious so no problem with losing one’s way although one signpost caught my attention and made me smile. The footing is a soft fine grained sand but footing is generally stable but not solid enough for wheelchairs. Strategically located benches provide spots to sit and watch the world unfold. There are only limited areas with any sort of shade so, on a hot day, taking a bottle of water along would be advisable. Since I was short on time, I did all three trails at a very brisk pace but a more leisurely pace would be highly recommended.

Trail in Lyonia Preserve, Deltona, Florida
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Blue Springs State Park – Manatee Come Back

A severe winter storm had moved though the northern US into Ontario and the Maritime Regions shutting down or disrupting air and road traffic from Chicago to New York City and points in between so we were happy to have decided to spend an extra night in Florida but had to head north today. The Manatee, which were hard to find the night before, were back in the warm spring waters in numbers when we went for another look in the morning and, with lighting coming from a different direction, they were a lot easier to see.   (Location)


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Cycling in Florida – Blue Springs State Park

A severe storm was moving across the upper US states so rather than drive into bad conditions, we opted to spend an extra day in Florida. That gave us time to visit the Marine Science Center at Ponce Inlet just south of Daytona Beach. While there, the staff told us that there was a large congregation of Manatee at Blue Springs State Park north of Orlando so that became our afternoon destination. As soon as we got there we unloaded the truck, set up tents and headed out in search of the Manatee. (Location)


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Cycling in Florida – Ponce Inlet – Marine Science Center

The Marine Science Center at Ponce Inlet is closed on Mondays so, since we had decided to delay our northward travels due to a severe winter storm crossing the northern US, we were able to return to Ponce Inlet on Tuesday for a bit more cycling and a visit to the Marine Science Center.

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Cycling in Florida – Daytona Beach Shores – Gulls & More Gulls

When we were at Merritt Island, an avid birder told me that, if we wanted to see gulls, the the place to be at 3PM was the beach at Frank Rendon Park at 2705 S. Atlantic Ave in Daytona Beach Shores.

Monday, January 31st – We found the park and were there at 3PM and the gulls were arriving from every direction. Thousands and thousands of gulls. Quite the spectacle!

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Cycling in Florida – Ponce Inlet

Started the day out with a trip to Ponce Inlet which is about 10 miles south of Daytona Beach. Attractions of Ponce Inlet include Florida’s tallest lighthouse and a long jetty stretching out into the Atlantic Ocean and a number of boardwalks and trails as well as a Marine Science Center.


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