Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Weather Driven

 

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It has been several weeks since I blogged.  When we were at St. Andrews State Park, my camera suddenly stopped focusing.  Dust had been slowly building up inside the lense of my LUMIX and there was no way to open and clean it.  It was still under warranty so we shipped it off to Panasonic for repairs.  They promised a 7-10 day turnaround.  Two weeks later, I learned that the lens needed to be replaced for $160.00 due to the impact damage that the camera had suffered.  I have never dropped or bashed the camera.  I did once scrape it up against a brick wall and two 1mm. scratches showed.  I did point this out to the company in my covering letter.  There was no way to argue so we paid the money and waited another week for the repair to be completed.  Well, I have it back now and without a logical explanation for the cause of the original damage, I am reluctant to use it much.  We dutifully filled out the customer service form explaining our dissatisfaction as well as the reality that we would not be purchasing any more Panasonic products!

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Spring “droppings” from the trees

My camera was in the mail two days when my computer died.  It had been sending me warnings by creating what looked like an oil slick on the screen now and then.  I figured I could live with a psychedelic computer screen until we got back to Canada but I was forced to order a new laptop to store and sort my photos, file my writing and write the blog.  I am very happy with my new Asus Zenbook.

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We spent a very pleasant two weeks at the Eastbank Campground.  It is a US Army Corps of Engineers Campground.  They are great parks, always near water where the engineers created dams or various water related construction.  It is located in southern Georgia and is a five minute drive away from Florida.  I did take a few shots of sunset each night with my iPad.  We experienced windy cool weather most days but the sun triumphed often. 

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Eastbank offered great bike riding and hiking.  We have purchased another pair of booties fro Dixie.  She has been more enthusiastic on her hikes when she wears them on her front paws.  Her arthritic paws have become a real issue but the slippers help a lot.  The lake is beautiful and we feel like we are at Lake Simcoe in Ontario with the Ducks, Canada geese, Eagles and Osprey.  In Lake Seminole however, there are eight or so nine-foot alligators living nearby so Dixie can’t go for swims.

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 We experienced a High Wind and Thunderstorm Watch one evening.  We were ready to jump in the car and head for the washroom/storm shelter.  The lightening, thunder and insane winds were really scary.  We had the warning on the IPhone once again.  We pulled in a couple of the slides and waited out the storm.  Usually these types of storms are common in late spring and most RVers try to “Get out of Dodge” before they start.  This is an unusual year for weather in Canada and the US with many tornados touching down and causing death and destruction.  Everyone has seen the devastation that happens in a trailer park in a high wind situation and that is always in the back of our minds in a bad storm. 

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                                             after the storm

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Mid-February, we drove west about five hours to Alabama, just twenty minutes from the Florida border, where we settled in at Gulf Shores State Park.  We put in a few miles each day on the many great bike paths.  Sometimes we rode to the beach then walked in the powdery sand beside the Gulf for another few miles.

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             sand sculptures created by the wind over beach debris

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Wildlife was plentiful in the park.  At night the  coyote howls sent shivers down the spine, every day Cardinals, Blue jays Northern Mockingbirds and various Finches sang their little hearts out.  Before sunset thousands of blackbirds returned to the trees in the swamp.  The loud din announced their arrival in swooping cloud formations.  Perhaps they were readying to head north.  One evening at dusk we saw a huge horned owl balancing atop a tall spindly tree.  Walking Dixie in the mornings I would spot Cottontails dining on the grass and of course ‘the great black hunter’ never even noticed them. 

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The park had its resident alligators, all named and each had a story.  We regularly stopped to watch a six footer on the public trail who would lie dead still in the water or on the bank beside the pond.  One day a wee baby about 15 inches lay basking in the warm sun.  If you can call the small version of a prehistoric-like reptile cute, then he was!

An unwelcome inhabitant at the park were the ants here and there that dictated the wearing of shoes over sandals.  For me anyway, any exposed skin at ground level would be invaded and chomped on in milliseconds leaving feet burning, itching and swollen for hours, even days.

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We enjoyed the visual statements in the area; cottages balancing on their stilts along the beach, breezy palm trees and candy coloured businesses and homes.

Once again, we were on alert with a Thunderstorm Watch and we saw the angry red storm front approaching our location on the Weather Channel Map.  The announcers were explaining that all conditions were ripe for tornados and folks should prepare their safe places.  It was dark but we could hear the wind whipping by at scary speeds.  In a motorhome, there is not much separating you from the outdoors!  We saw that the storm was just 20 minutes off shore and there was notable rotation.  Folks were warned to get to safety NOW, so off we went to the washroom/storm shelter with Dixie where we met other campers and their pooches hunkering down.   The word rotation was hovering in my brain as we waited and after thirty minutes, returned to CC unharmed.  Then we learned that a tornado had touched down just 20 minutes down the road and ripped through a few apartment complexes and homes.  We watched the storm head north and continue to set down tornados in a few more places.  That was just too close for comfort!

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Windy and rainy weather continued for a couple of days and we grabbed the first sunny one to tour the USS Alabama. Battleship Memorial Park houses an Aircraft Pavilion, a few tanks, USS Drum Submarine and the USS Alabama Battleship.  Launched in 1942, the ship served in WWII in Atlantic and Pacific Theatres.

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                                     note the wooden deck

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The ship was great to tour as we could go into most rooms and up and down to all the decks.  Some of the spaces have been restored and painted and others bore the wear of salt and time.  The size of the craft was overwhelming.  It was said to have held over 2,000 men on a typical mission.  Functioning like a village at sea all provisions were available: offices, barbershop, chapel, side by side toilets with no privacy, sleeping quarters, a butcher shop, kitchens that prepared three meals a day for hundreds, recreational areas, map and strategy rooms, laundry facilities and even the brig for naughty sailors to chill out when tempers steamed.  Then there were the mind boggling engine and equipment rooms, metal shops, electrical repair rooms and the decks loaded with armory, 55 guns in total.

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                                                     soup’s on…

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After a couple of hours of prowling across, in and under the many decks and rooms, we “asked permission to go ashore”.

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We wandered through the Aircraft Pavilion where we got close to the amazing SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest plane in the world.  There were a variety of old and new planes and helicopters on display but we did not spend too long there as Dixie was back at PetSmart waiting for us to pick he up after her bath and brush-out.

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We ended our excursion crawling through the narrow passages of the USS Drum Submarine. 

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Chris celebrated his birthday the day before we headed back to Eastbank Campground on Lake Seminole in Georgia.  We drove ahead of rain clouds and as darkness fell at the camp, we experienced another crazy lightening, wind and rainstorm.  Heavy rains continued into the night but by morning, things were calm and the sun shone on the flotilla of ducks on the lake.  We will stay here until March 18.

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