Archive for March, 2011


Spring Break

March 18, 2011

3/5/11 – Our first stop was Booker T. Washington NM outside of Roanoke VA.  It is located on the farm where he was born a slave in 1856.  He was a leading black educator and founder of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.  We did the Plantation and Jack-O-Lantern Branch Heritage trails.

Guilford Courthouse National Military Park is located just north of Greensboro NC.  On March 15, 1781, Maj. Gen. Nathanael Greene and about 4,400 men contested the invasion of NC by 1,900 redcoats commanded by Cornwallis.  Fierce fighting resulted in about 250 rebels and 500 redcoats dying before Greene withdrew resulting in a British victory.  However, the battle left Cornwallis’s troops weak an unable to fulfill their role as an occupying force.  Seven months later he would surrender at Yorktown.

3/6/11 – The Charles Pinckney National Historic Site is located on a farm (plantation) he once owned just east of Charleston SC.  Charles was a founding father of the U.S. and a major contributor to the Constitution.  He devoted 42 years to public service and the Visitors Center (house circa 1828) tells/displays his story.

Fort Moultrie is part of the Fort Sumter NM and is located on Sullivan’s Island just across Charleston Harbor.  A palmetto log fort was built here in 1776 and that year Colonel William Moultrie prevented the British Navy from entering Charleston Harbor.  On December 26, 1860, six days after SC withdrew from the Union, the small Federal garrison abandoned the fort and moved to Fort Sumter.  Cannon from Fort Moultrie, now occupied by SC militia, participated in the firing on Fort Sumter that began the Civil War.  The Fort was part of our coastal defenses from 1776 to 1947.  Different parts of the Fort are now laid out to illustrate the periods 1776-1793, 1794-1808, 1809-1860, 1861-1872, 1873-1897, 1898-1939 and 1940-1947.

We stopped in Savannah GA to visit our friends Ali and Carol whom we met in Iran.  This is a picture of one part of their “Persian Room.”

3/7/11 – We visited downtown Savannah, drove to St Marys, GA and stayed ay the Spencer House B & B.

3/8/11 – Took the 9am Cumberland Queen ferry to Cumberland Island National Seashore.

Upon arriving we visited the small Ice House Museum and then took the hour long ranger tour to the ruins of the Thomas and Lucy Carnegie “summer mansion.”  This was the playground of the rich and famous in the 1920’s.

We then hiked through the sand dunes and about two miles along the beach to the southern tip of the island called the Pelican Banks (lots of pelicans and shore birds).  We filled a couple of bags with interesting shells.

This is a sperm whale carcass that washed up five days before.  The rangers tested it and then cut off its head so that if it washed out to sea and then returned again they would know they had already analyzed it.

It was supposed to be 70 today but it didn’t make it beyond the low 50’s.  In addition, there was a stiff breeze.  We had optimistically worn our bathing suits but did not venture in the water – hiked about 8 miles today. 

Cumberland is GA’s largest and southernmost barrier island and among other things is noted for its oaks.   

3/9/11 – Castillo de San Marcos was built by the Spanish and is located in St. Augustine FL, the oldest permanent European settlement in the U.S. (1565).  It was originally constructed to defend FL against pirates hunting the Spanish treasure fleets traveling along the Gulf Steam.  It was finished in 1695 and was involved in wars between Spain and France and between Spain and Great Britain.  Spain ceded FL to the U.S. in 1821. 

Fort Matanzas was finished in 1742 to protect the southern approach to St. Augustine


Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge borders the Kennedy Space Center.  After touring the visitor center and doing the nature trail, we did both the Oak Hammock and Palm Hammock trails.  Also, drove the Bio Lab Rd but had to turn around and return along the same one lane dirt track when we found they had locked the opposite gate entrance/exit at 5pm.  Proceeded to the Peacocks Pocket Rd and drove through the marshes on some dykes while watching the sunset.

We reluctantly stayed the night at the Casa Coquina B & B in Titusville.  It was dark when we arrived and there were no cars or people around.  We had to call to gain entry to this 1927 eclectic mansion?  An old woman, who emphasized that she would not be staying the night first showed us the unique bar.  We were offered some free decanted red wine but the thought of spiked spirits crossed our minds.  We were then shown the doll wedding chapel and rooms full of flea market items for sale, before going upstairs to our gaudy suite.  Helen was afraid to stay but didn’t tell me until after the credit card transaction – maybe it was the life size horse with armored conquistador and the mannequins everywhere.  We had dinner at the Cuban restaurant across the street and asked the waiter and manager about the place.  They said it was probably OK because no one had died there recently.  Helen had visions of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller! 

What a difference the dawn.  With the morning light our view changed from scary to weird but interesting.  It was dirty and we had to serve ourselves the breakfast of coffee, a hard boiled egg with a few pieces of fruit and stale croissants but Helen’s mood changed to one of tolerance.  Maybe it was the two crystal dishes she bought (left the money on the counter) or perhaps we were just glad to get out of there!?       

It only took about a half hour to drive to Playalinda Beach at the south end of Cape Canaveral National Seashore.  We walked about two miles (more shells!) south to the fence and guard tower of the Kennedy Space Center.  I believe it is as close as you can get to the launch pads.

Next drove to the end of the road and discovered an “unofficial” nudist beach.

The shuttle Discovery made its last landing today at 11:57am.  We drove about 30 miles to the north end of the seashore and parked on a bridge to try to see the descent.  Unfortunately for us, the shuttle landed from the south instead of the north.  The following picture was taken from the top of Turtle Mound.  It is one of the largest middens along the east coast of FL.  A midden is an area where discarded food and other unwanted items were thrown in large quantities.  This mound, built primarily from oyster shells, was shown as a navigational point on Spanish maps but has eroded to about 40 feet in elevation.  

The State House at Eldora is representative of a bygone era.  In the late 1800’s a small town here was served by flat bottom steamboat.  The house now serves as the Eldora History Interpretive Center.

Fort Caroline National Memorial is located east of Jacksonville FL.  It was built by the French in 1564 to get a toe hold on the east coast.  The Spanish attacked the next year and slaughtered about 140 settlers and a bit later killed another 350 who were ship wrecked trying to escape.  In 1568 a French force took revenge by slaughtering all Spanish at the fort and then sailed for home never to return to the east coast.  Fort Caroline is now part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

We took a loop hike in the preserve and then the St Johns River Ferry from Mayport to Fort George Island.

It was about a 16 mile drive north on A1A, crossing the Little and Big Talbot Island State Parks, to reach Amelia Island, Fernadina Beach and our B & B.  We stayed at the Florida House (1857) which is the oldest operating hotel in FL.

3/11/11 – It was raining, so we took it slow, toured Fernadina Beach, shopped and went to an estate sale.  Also, we liked the area enough to spend an hour and a half with a realtor inquiring about houses in the area.  In the afternoon we drove back to St George Island to tour the Kingsley Plantation (sea island cotton), which is now run by the National Park Service; there were only a hand full of people there, so we were able to get a personal ranger tour.  Kingsley’s wife, who he had bought as a slave in Cuba, ran the plantation as a freed black under Spanish rule.  In 1837, when the Spanish ceded Florida to the U.S., she escaped to Haiti because by law there was no longer a “free” black designation.     

3/12/11 – We stopped to see Fort Frederica NM on St Simons Island GA.  The fort was built in 1734 to protect the British colonies from Spain.  We spent the night with Irmi and Harold in SC and then drove home the next day.