April 30, 2017


“War is a poor chisel to carve out tomorrow.”  Martin Luther King Jr.

Carol writes:  In terms of total casualties, our Civil War was the deadliest of any war we have ever fought.  It is all the more horrific when one considers that throughout this awful grisly war we were killing each other.  Although the South ended up on the losing side of this horrendous conflict, there was a fierce desire—and rightly so—to hang onto their culture and historic heritage.

And so it was at Biloxi's beloved Beauvoir

the historic post-Civil War home of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.  After two years of imprisonment at Fortress Monroe in Virginia, Jefferson Davis was released and lived the last 12 years of his life at Beauvoir, where he wrote his memoir Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government on the porch of Beauvoir’s library cottage.

(Internet photo)
Musing to himself in a rocker on the porch of that same cottage, Al wondered:  Should I add that book to my reading list?

Hurricane Katrina inflicted enormous destruction on Biloxi’s Beauvoir.  Now fully recovered from severe storm damage, present-day Beauvoir was a jewel with all the grace and elegance of her antebellum days.   

Just like in its heyday, as seen in this painting from 1883,

present-day Beauvoir still had that incredible front porch panorama of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Inside, the main floor-plan was simple—four rooms, two on each side of a central entryway 

that has been restored post-Katrina to its past elegance with walls and ceilings hand-painted in the design of the original wallpaper.

The library showcased the actual “partners desk” that was used by Jefferson Davis and his wife, Varina.

From 1902 to 1953, Beauvoir functioned as a home for Confederate veterans.  Many of these veterans and their wives were buried on the grounds of a good-sized Confederate veterans cemetery, 

complete with the tomb of an unknown Confederate soldier.

The most interesting artifact in the museum was the newly restored catafalque that carried the body of Jefferson Davis during his funeral procession in 1889.


On August 29, 2005, the monstrous eye of Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, bringing with it a storm surge of 28 feet.  While much of the nation fixated on the damage caused by levee failure in New Orleans, equally catastrophic devastation had tragically unfolded in every town along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  

To our eyes, the ensuing nearly 12 years of recovery has been remarkable—admittedly more so in some communities than in others.  

During our two weeks along the Mississippi Gulf Coast at the Seabee base in Gulfport, Mississippi,

we looked forward to reconnecting with Mike and Mary, friends of ours dating back almost 40 years ago when we moved to Slidell, Louisiana, as a newly married couple.

We had a delightful outdoor evening dinner with Mike and Mary in their town’s trendy restaurant and retail area.  Tiny Bay St. Louis seemed to have healed its scars better than most,

and now sported a lovely new marina awash with pricey yachts.

We noticed that every new house and business along the Mississippi Gulf Coast was designed in compliance with new building codes that had conspicuous height requirements.  Even the iconic Gulfport lighthouse had been relocated atop massive concrete piles.

Yet sadly, to the careful eye, we noticed many, many vacant lots with only concrete stairs or faint remnants of driveways that bordered grassy fields where homes and businesses once stood.  Truth be told, it will take many more years to recover fully…  


During this visit to the Gulf Coast, we decided it might be interesting to take a tour of Stennis Space Center, where Al hoped to go down memory lane and revisit the Navy days when he worked there as a part of the Navy’s oceanographic research command.  To our complete surprise, it turned out that memory lane had no memories!  Over the past four decades at Stennis, there had been so many changes with new or redesigned buildings that it was impossible, with any certainty, to identify the building where Al worked…

Over the decades, one of the missions at Stennis that hadn’t changed was its role as NASA’s largest rocket engine test facility.  Stennis was the site where testing was performed on the Saturn V rockets 

that took U.S. astronauts to the moon.  Our bus tour from Infinity Science Center

took us past sites of the rocket test complex.  

So… all in all we had an interesting afternoon checking out the ole workplace… only to find out that memory lane had been redesigned.


On our last weekend in Gulfport, Mike and Mary graciously invited us to Sunday dinner along with several members of their large extended family.  Two of Mike and Mary’s children plus their wives and their five children made for a lively meal around a very large table.  Food was scrumptious, and laughter abounded…

… couldn’t think of a better way to conclude a relaxing visit along a familiar part of the Gulf coast than to spend it having dinner in the home of cherished friends.

At the close of our two-week stay, the southern way of life had started to come back to us—those aspects which encompassed a long historic heritage, good food, fun times, and taking it slow—and that suited us just fine.

Good friends never say goodbye.  They simply say "See You Soon."


April 22, 2017


Carol writes:   There’s a saying in the full-time RV community that “home is where the slides are out.”  Our next “home” was at a ritzy campground called Bella Terra, just outside of Foley, Alabama.  More than one fellow RVer had recommended Bella Terra to us when we were new at the full-time lifestyle, so we had carefully filed that information away for a potential stop at some future date.  When we pulled into our enticing lakefront campsite, we were suitably impressed… you could say... quite delighted that for the next week this neighborhood would be our "Sweet Home Alabama."

Family and friends living along the Gulf coast were the reason we had selected Foley for our next stop.  We had seen my Cousin Jeanette and her husband Al as we passed through Kentucky last October.  Fast forward 6 months to the Gulf Coast… where we knew that they were in Foley for their yearly winter getaway.  

Al was game to test his latent tennis skills, so Jeanette graciously invited him to participate in her weekly tennis round robin at the local city recreational facility.  In spite of rusty tennis skills, Al had lots of fun with a great bunch of physically fit senior citizens.

Thanks, Jeanette, for a fun morning with the tennis gang!

Later that day, we enjoyed great casual southern dining with Jeanette and husband Al at “Jesse’s Restaurant.” 

As is our habit when we are traveling along  the Gulf coast, we met up with Al’s Naval Academy classmate Jim and his wife, Anne, who graciously treated us to Sunday brunch at the timeless Grand Hotel near Fairhope, Alabama.  The dining room had a breathtaking view of Mobile Bay, and the Grand Hotel certainly lived up to its well-known reputation for a fabulous Sunday brunch.  As always, over great food and lots of laughter, it was such fun catching up with Anne and Captain Jim!

A walk along the beach of the Fort Morgan peninsula made it quite obvious to us why cousin Jeanette and hubby Al chose Foley, Alabama, as their annual winter destination.  The pure white sand along 'America's Rivera'

was remarkable for its natural pristine condition,

and the vacation homes along the shoreline were sweet indeed…

A short stroll through nearby Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge awarded us with some interesting wildlife sightings… like our favorite bird—the great blue heron.

Thanks to the generosity of a fellow hiker, we had the opportunity to observe this very large great horned owl nest through a set of binoculars.  With heads just visible over the edge of the nest, we saw chicks who had not yet left the nest and were waiting for their meal from mom. 

So…that was our little taste of “Sweet Home Alabama.”  Time to head west to Mississippi for two weeks on the coast in Gulfport, where we planned to meet up with some dear Mississippi friends and sample a bit of the southern lifestyle we came to appreciate during the first three years of our married life.

"You cannot fly like an eagle with the wings of a wren."  William Henry Hudson

April 2, 2017


“… not all days are the same length, not all time has the same weight.”  Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rijka Brunt

Carol writes:  The last of six stops in our Florida winter trek was in a tiny town named Eastpoint, smack-dab on the northern Florida coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  This section of the Florida panhandle has become known as “Florida’s Forgotten Coast.” 
For residents of nearby small-town Apalachicola, “forgotten” is a good thing because the simple old Florida way of life is just how they like it.  Here, the passage of time has slowed…  There are no multistory hotels on the beach, no high-rise condos, just a simple southern way of life focused pretty much around modest tourism and harvesting their century-old claim to fame—those celebrated oysters found on the shallow sea floor of Apalachicola Bay.

For us, this was a golden opportunity to experience a superlative campsite with a view of the Gulf of Mexico spanning our entire front windshield.

No two days out in the bay were ever exactly the same with the exception of constant sea breezes blowing onshore.  This campground provided us a great opportunity to take advantage of our southern vantage point to view a flyby of the International Space Station (ISS).  With only the nearly flat horizon of the offshore islands in the distance, just after sunset three nights in a row we were able to catch a brief flyover of the ISS.   Moving in the same direction as the rotation of the earth, the ISS appeared as a very bright sphere of light moving silently, smoothly, and very fast (compared to airliner traffic) across our unimpeded view of the sky.

On another day in camp, we were entertained by the appearance of a pair of bald eagles that were fighting over a fish one had caught and was refusing to share.  The incessant squawking brought campers scurrying with cameras in hand.  For Al, his 50-zoom camera did a mighty fine job of capturing one of the bald eagles sitting high up in a native Florida pine.

Just down the road, we spent a few hours at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR), where we gained a better understanding of the vast watershed that drains into Apalachicola Bay.  That’s quite an impressive name but basically indicates that these folks are the stewards who study this area’s local estuary—the place where the river meets the sea.  The work at ANERR is essential because maintaining the health of the waters that flow into shallow Apalachicola Bay is vital to the local seafood industry.

Our visit to ANERR was a novel way to celebrate my birthday.  My birthday pic ended up being one of me sitting in a rocker in front of an oyster boat… It was just one of those unusual circumstances we find ourselves in on the road…

For a more traditional celebration, we had dinner at a local seafood restaurant that had a back porch on the Apalachicola River.


The barrier island of St. George

is one of the chief draws of the Forgotten Coast, or what St. George Island bills itself as:  “Uncommon Florida.”  There is star quality on St. George Island for bikers, campers, fishermen,

and beach walkers.

The last 5 miles on the extreme eastern end of St. George has permit-only access limited to 20 cars at a time in an effort to protect bird and turtle nesting areas, while at the same time preserving the delicate pristine landscape.  It was our best decision of the day to acquire one of those enviable permits. 

Our beach and shell-hunting walk was outstanding, and we were all by ourselves for much of it!

The western end of the island was an extensive residential section, where the view on the beach was pristine old Florida

with stupendous rolling dunes fronting mini-mansions which clearly said 21st century millionaire.


An article in a Family Motor Coaching magazine caught my eye one day when it mentioned a place called Wakulla Springs.  Now part of a state park, Wakulla Springs is a very ancient geologic feature that has numerous discoveries of mastodon bones in the deep part of one of the world’s deepest fresh water springs, where the flow rate can be over 400,000 gallons of water a day.

The park boasts of an elegant Mediterranean-style lodge that dates back to the late 1930s.

The painted beams of the lobby ceiling evoked similar ceilings we have seen in Europe, except that the theme of this one was historic Florida motifs.

From our point of view, there was no better way to appreciate Wakulla Springs than a 3-mile boat ride downriver.

The wildlife in that short one-hour ride was phenomenal, as was the sparkling clear water itself!

Mature adult alligators and their young were plentiful.

Turtles and the very strange anhinga bird posed midstream for us on a log.

Periodically, we have seen anhinga birds during our travels in Florida.  They are strange birds indeed, with a black furry body and feathers for wings!  Thus, they are often seen sunning themselves with wings spread wide to dry fur and feathers.  It would seem like Nature’s adaptations have just not caught up with the anhinga. 

The vulture, common mud hen, blue heron, and a snowy egret rounded out our best Wakulla Springs wildlife photos.


Any state capital within easy driving distance always lands that city on our must-visit list; therefore, Tallahassee made the list.  This time, however, we didn’t even take a picture of Tallahassee’s relatively new 22-story State Capitol building because, frankly, it wasn’t all that interesting or inspiring, and so I have resorted to an Internet photo.
Internet photo
Fortunately, the central portion of the Old State Capitol has been preserved and sits right in front of its less appealing cousin.  The historic red and white striped window awnings

gave the Old Capitol building a southern curb-appeal which was complimented by the plaster relief pediment featuring what was clearly an all-Florida theme.

Inside the Old Capitol, restoration of the house chamber

had ho-hum appeal which was not helped at all by a jarring set of televisions, but the restoration was probably historically accurate and so likely didn’t have much of a wow factor even when completed in 1845.

The more intimate old Supreme Court chamber

was a little more “history cozy.”

Constructed in the 1970s, the best thing the architects of the New Capitol did was to make a 22nd floor observatory from which visitors could enjoy panoramic views of Tallahassee.  Our destination for the afternoon was nicely laid out for us in the north-facing view—the campus of Florida State University.



Not knowing much else about the Florida Seminoles, we were aware that their athletic teams have long been powerhouses in college sports, so we began our visit at awesome Doak Campbell Stadium, a sporting complex that far outshined any other collegiate stadium we have ever seen.

Naturally, the trophy room spotlighted FSU’s three Heisman Trophy winners, a not-so-subtle accomplishment that validates the success of its football program.

Since we prefer NFL games and are not college football fans, the tradition of Oceola and Renegade was interesting to learn about.  At the start of every home football game, a student portraying Seminole Chief Osceola gallops in on his horse Renegade and plants a flaming spear midfield, undoubtedly one of the most spectacular traditions in all of college sports.  Oceola and Renegade are indeed the 12th player on the team.

The campus was huge, and the Legacy Walk loop that was recommended to us would likely have been about 5 miles of walking.  With temps in the high 80s, we had to pace ourselves and ended up shortening the route a bit.  With access to numerous air-conditioned campus buildings, and eventually more treed areas, along with a cold lemonade, we covered quite a bit of ground.
Campus-wide there was a pleasing unifying architectural style using red brick that carried through even to newer buildings.

The hammocks on the green were a unique way to study, and very southern...

The oldest building on campus, dating back to 1851, was a classic beauty.

Our overall impression of FSU was that it is a university that takes its collegiate sports very seriously.  From talking to some of the students, it was obvious they were quite satisfied and excited about their education choice.  The university also seems to turn out some pretty friendly and polite students.  For two seniors who were determined to complete much of the Legacy Walk, more than once we were offered help with directions from students when we were trying to interpret our campus map.

Our visit to Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” completes the sixth and final stop in our 3-month winter odyssey through Florida.  The touristy, beachy areas were world-class and quite gorgeous… much like we imagined.  

However, for us it was…

the wildlife…

the unexpected, low-key discoveries on the water…

in the small towns…

and in undeveloped natural areas of prairies and swamps

that fulfilled us the most.  We felt very fortunate that we had the luxury of time to appreciate what was beyond the shore. 

“Unusual travel suggestions are dancing lessons from the gods.”  Kurt Vonnegut