Savannah–Like a Box of Chocolates

Today our tires are driving straight for Savannah! A place that has, for me, always evoked much intrigue and fascination.

I mean, did you know that General Sherman way back when, was so awed by the beauty and charm of this place, that instead of burning it to the ground during the American Civil War, he gave it to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift! Bless his heart!

Reading books back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I knew that over yonder lay a magical place. And I would imagine what Savannah might be like. I felt it would be humid hot so I could not only hear but could almost feel the cool waters bubbling forth from decorative fountains in large picturesque gardens. In my mind’s eye, I would imagine standing in the shade of the tall oak trees with their large gnarled twisted branches almost hidden with hanging drapes of Spanish moss. I could easily imagine historic Victorian type homes with their antebellum architecture. It would be a place filled with haunting mansions, fiery history fraught wars, cotton fields and slaves. But nothing could ever seem to rival good old-fashioned Southern hospitality. Being a foodie, don’t the word Savannah just conjure up smells of fried green tomatoes? As in the food, not the movie. And saucy shrimp and grits, and well…  for those with a sweet tooth? There might even exist a sweet box of chocolates?

Because, all y’all, here in Chippewa Park is where filming took place of the iconic bench where Forrest Gump sat, right? 

Not the bench and not Chippewa Park

For those who may not know, Tom Hanks plays “Forrest Gump” in the same-titled movie released in 1994. And as he sits on a park bench, somewhat like the one in the photo above, he relates the story of how his life was “like a Box of Chocolates.” **

Have you ever opened a Box of Chocolates? You know what I mean, don’t you? A decorated box that once opened allows you to instantly inhale the sweet goodness inside. Perhaps there’s a laminated piece of paper laying on top, providing a detailed description of each and every bite-sized piece of sweet goodness. Or not, and you’re left guessing until you take that first bite. Don’t your mouth start to water in anticipation?

And being all comparative and all, isn’t driving around visiting new places and adventuring on the roads, somewhat like opening a Box of Chocolates?  You might have a general idea of what there is to see and do where it is that you’re going, but you never really know what you’ll get, until you get there, and have a bite.

So here we were, our tires pointed straight towards Savannah, Georgia. With a quick glance at two of our most used RV Apps: AllStays and RV Parky, we quickly confirmed that we could park overnight at the Visitor Center for the surprisingly very affordable price of $8 per night. (Note: The Visitor Center does not allow overnight parking anymore.)

The heavy construction traffic, watching for touristy pedestrians walking helter-skelter, combined with a lack of street signage had us going around in circles until, stopped at a traffic light right by the Thunderbird Inn, we rolled down our window and asked the traffic director for some help.

Off like a herd of turtles we drove, and shortly thereafter we finally entered the parking lot by the big red-bricked building that was the Visitor Center. Suffering from a slight case of the hangries.

“Let’s have lunch before we head out?” I suggested, knowing we wouldn’t get very far with empty bellies. One of the pleasures with this lifestyle is that we can have a quick bite at any moment’s notice. Re-heated leftovers satisfied us just fine, and it wasn’t long that the dishes were cleared away, our comfy sneakers laced on and we were ready to go.

The man at the Visitor Center welcomed us with a friendly hello, circled a few must-sees on the map, and once we paid for our overnight stay, we were on our way out the door. Before we could grab the handle, familiar faces pushed the door in, and be bumped into each other. Why I do declare it’s friends from back home! We made plans  Lord willing and the Creek don’t rise to get together later in the evening to catch up.

As we walked about getting our bearings, I inhaled the hot humid air. Somewhat like I had imagined, the live Oak trees created beautiful shadows as we walked underneath the shade of their gnarled and twisted branches.

We meandered in the gardens, and saw ourselves some fountains,

and everywhere we looked, dangling Spanish Moss swayed in the breezes.

“Did you know that Spanish moss isn’t really moss?” I said to Dave.
“Oh, no? What is it, then?” He replied. 
“It’s actually an Epiphyte, which means it gets its nutrients from the air. And it’s a relative to the pineapple!”

We explored so many of the 22 squares that connected the various neighbourhoods that we lost count and were pretty soon Worn Slap Out.  The city was originally developed with a specific grid-like pattern as a fire prevention method, a way of allowing every house in the neighbourhood, no matter which street you lived on, to have an equidistant chance of being saved from flames.

Then we found ourselves exploring the Colonial Park Cemetery, a place where, under the detailed guidelines of the Code Duello, “pistols for two and a coffin for one” resulted in a staggering 11,000 people being buried here. Why are there only 600 tombstones? Ahh, If only those gloves could tell their tales of what honour they were defending.

That evening we enjoyed a wonderful reunion with our friends but it was pretty soon time to stifle our yawns and catch some serious zzz’s. Comfy cozy in our beds parked in the Savannah Visitor Center parking lot, which contrary to the day’s hub-bub of activity was now very quiet, we spent some time catching up on social media.

“Look… “ I said, rather incredulously, “at this post from our (other) friends! It says here that they’ve just checked into the Thunderbird Inn!”

Hold your Horses!” said  Dave, “It can’t be that hotel we drove by earlier today, can it?”  Thanks to the power of instant messages, they quickly confirmed that they were indeed just down the street from us, but had pre-bought tickets for the Trolley Tour the next day, and did we want to join them? Can’t never could, so in the spur of the moment, we said “Sure, we’ll stay an extra day, see you tomorrow Lord willing and the Creek don’t Rise.

The departure point was conveniently located at the Visitor Center, so we had nowhere to go in the morning but right to the booth to buy our tickets, and then inside the Visitor Center to pay an additional $8 for the second night.

Having explored so much by foot the day before, we thoroughly enjoyed the more restful, Hop-On/Hop-Off Trolley Tour, which was, thanks to our driver,  extremely informative, and Funny as all Get Out. The Trolley stops at roughly 16 places of interest, and you can get off, explore, and get back at your leisure. Or you can enjoy the drive from start to finish before deciding anything, which would probably only take two hours of your time.

We listened to the historical anecdotes about the places we’d seen the day before, saw places that our feet never took us to, like the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, Girl Scouts founder. Touring the many rooms of the oldest standing building in GA–Pirate’s House. And stood quite in awe at the most incredible Cathedral of St John the Baptist, an incredible sight both inside and out.

The many unique mansions too beautiful to describe, all of them adorned with cast-iron balconies and stair railings and window guards, not to mention the grillwork adorning the fountains and entryways.

A sign of wealth, back in those days. And the ones with two sets of staircases? His and hers. Really! Men and women had to walk up different steps, something to do with men not being allowed to see women’s petticoats.

Down by the waterfront, the trolley dropped us off and the driver cautioned us to watch our steps. Sure enough, the uneven footwork of the colourful cobble and quarried stone, originally ballast on ships of old, was repurposed and resulted as this uneven road, needing our attention as we made our way towards the water and shops.

Perhaps history would tell of a meeting between General Oglethorpe and his crew of 114 men, women and children, aboard the galley ship Anne.  They landed somewhere along the River and Oglethorpe named the area Georgia, and Savannah became her first city.  On his arrival, he was greeted by Chief Tomo-Chi-Chi and his wife, Senauki. A friendship between the two developed and the rest, I reckon, is now part of the sweet southern Savannah history.

All that exploring sure made us hungry, so we headed for a restaurant with a view, our table on the rooftop patio overlooking the Savannah River. On the menu? We chose dishes we hadn’t ever tried before, ones that evoked full Southern tastebuds, because, well… that’s what we’re here for.

Fried green tomatoes: Unripened green tomatoes are seasoned, coated with cornmeal and flour or a derivative thereof, and fried! Oh my, why have we not tried these before?

You just can’t go wrong with fried shrimp, can you?

We were in what’s often referred to as the “Grits Belt” and so we just had to have shrimp and grits.

Heavens to Betsy, it was Oh My Delicious, and we left there Full as a Tick. And if a ship goes by while you’re feasting? They’ll pour you a shot!

We meandered along the waterfront, and found ourselves at the gate to board the (free) Savannah Belles Ferry,

a ride that takes you across the river to Hutchinson Island, where you can disembark if you wish, walk around, and at your leisure, grab the next ferry back.

This time the ferry deposited us a little further upstream than where we had initially boarded, and that is how we came face to face with Florence,

the Statue of the Waving Girl. A long time ago, Florence, pretty as a peach, met and fell in love with a sailor. His ship was soon set to leave and Florence bid him adieu, waving goodbye on the shore as he sailed away.  Day after day she would come back to the waterfront, waving at the ships, hoping he would be on the next one. Some days she would wave a white handkerchief, and sometimes, in the dusky darkness, she would carry a lantern. She sure had Gumption! As with some dramatic love stories, this one doesn’t end well. History notes he never did come back, and rumour has it that she died of a broken heart.   

Well, I do declare! After a crushing love story like that, I think I need something sweet.  As we walked the waterfront, we were multiple times offered free samples of pralines. Made with pecans, cream, sugar and butter … they are an incredible melt in your mouth morsel of goodness. And a sure-fire cure for what ails those achy feet, we were worn Slap-out. 

And that’s how our time in Savannah was just like a box of chocolates, plenty full of unknown yet deliciously sweet surprises. We highly recommend it, all y’all.

** The bench that Tom Hanks/Forrest Gump sat on, in Chippewa Square, was a movie prop and is now on location in the Savannah Historical Museum.

Adventure On On!

One of the puzzling moments that we sometimes experience as we’re out Adventuring, is waking up in the morning quite in a fuzzy state of *I haven’t had my coffee yet* mind, and not being sure, exactly, where we are waking up at. Have you ever woken up with that moment of perplexed uncertainty?

Why, you might be hearing the distant noise of traffic, as you’ve overnighted in a Wal-Mart, Flying-J or a nearby Casino?

Or perhaps you’re a member of Harvest Hosts or Boondockers Welcome and your surroundings are a little more peaceful.

Perhaps you’re at some spot you’ve found near the local lake, that’s just plum peaceful.

Or you’re in a campground, with all its amenities: Laundry? Showers? Water, dump and power? A firepit! WITH firewood!  And SCORE! Campfires are allowed that day.

Or you’re on some Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, with access to none of the above. **

That particular morning in question, as the outside world connected with the inside mind, we knew we were waking up in our comfy cosy beds in our UnityIB, on BLM land. Quite literally on the edge of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. WOW!

BLM Lands @ North Rim of Grand Canyon

And sometimes on those unclear mornings, as the mind collects its random musings into focus, you realize EXACTLY where you are, and that there may just be an Adventure ahead. The excitement is the fuel that will literally jump you out of bed. Possibly even more potent than coffee?

Morning Coffee when Boondocking

Adventures are a funny thing, aren’t they? “Unusual or daring experiences” as defined by the dictionary, or perhaps, “a bold, usually exciting undertaking with uncertain outcomes”. I remember once reading: “Go on Adventures to find out who you are”. Isn’t that Spot On? Doing something new (not necessarily unusual or daring) certainly provide for the building blocks of confidence and empowerment in the becoming of you.

We didn’t set out to be Adventurers. With research came knowledge, with time came to experience and confidence. And as we met folks along the way and exchanged tales of “Oh, places we’ve been…”, and “Wow, the things they’ve seen…” Well, we got inspired, and then motivated, and then we kind of just… Became.

We often get asked:

Well, aren’t you scared?”

Doing something different can certainly bring feelings of fear. And it’s certainly all about perspective. But we answer with a shake of the head:

“Not usually, no.”

I remember the first time we moved to a new house in a new province and walked the streets of our new neighbourhood. It was kind of scary, as we didn’t know anything or anyone. With time, the *fear* dissolved. Even then, when days of routine had set in, I always strived to seek new ways of expanding my horizons. Like taking a different route to work some mornings, *just for fun!* Adventure could be as simple as putting on your sneakers and going for a walk somewhere new to you. When was the last time you did something for the first time?

I remember the first time we stopped to overnight at a Wal-Mart. I have to confess that as both of us sat there, feeling totally weirded out. I mean, who sleeps in a parking lot? At Wal-Mart? Turns out, plenty of people do. As the evening sunset, dusk descended and filled the inside of the van with a bit of anxiety. Our overactive imaginations envisioned the worst of the worst as we peeked out our windows. There were dark shadows behind every person walking around, every moving car, and every noise we heard!

We always spend a few minutes sitting in our seats, feeling the vibe of the area. And if our views and our guts tell us that we’re uncomfortable? We move on! For example, there was this one time we were well parked, feeling comfortable and just settling down for the night when we heard noises just outside our bedroom window. OhOh! A truck had parked right beside us, the loud sounds of upbeat music had permeated our space and were shaking our walls.  Shortly thereafter, a car joined the truck, there was a quick exchange of hands, and the car drove off. And then another one. And then a third one. We quickly moved to another area of the parking lot before we could see if there would be any more cars to count. And spent a perfectly comfortable night.

This Season we experienced firsthand the availability of BLM lands. Areas, that somehow, if but for a moment and certainly the first time we tried them, felt in their remoteness somewhat even scarier than the busyness of the box stores and truck stops we’d allowed ourselves to get accustomed to. Because sometimes, there feels a comfort in noise and numbers.

This time the intense sounds of silence, and the shadows of the trees felt just a little spooky.

But with time, that too became the new normal. And so we Adventure On.

It isn’t always all about having an Adventure, and certainly not to any unhealthy limits of your own tolerance. Our Adventures are not your Path to Follow. But we hope, in writing this, that they might inspire you to Adventure on your own Path.

We met fellow travellers on their way to bungee-jump off a bridge. Kudos to them, certainly not something either one of us would do, although we certainly feel the thrill when we helped them toast their achievements, what fun!

We went on what we thought would be a short walk three miles down the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. As we navigated the switchbacks, walking straight downwards, we got hotter and sweatier, knowing full well that when we turned around? We’d have to come straight back up! What a challenge lay ahead of us.

And that’s when we crossed paths with a group of ladies who were on their way up, looking just as hot and sweaty, and just as exhausted, if not more.

As our Paths crossed for a moment, we exchanged stories. Once a year the group of them get together for An Adventure, something they’ve been doing for years. This year? They were on their last legs (pardon the pun) of hiking the Rim-to-Rim Trail of the Grand Canyon. These ladies had started at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, descended down to the depths below, and were now emerging on the South Side. What an accomplishment! And who knew *that* was even a thing?  Being avid hikers, we were certainly intrigued.  With further research and planning, not to mention some training, *that* might just end up on our Bucket List!

Whenever we’re about to head out to do something new and different,  we feel the familiar twinges of butterfly wings in our tummies. And although those twinges can be a little unnerving at first, they’re a great reminder that you’re alive. Heading out on an Adventure!

And as you go, you might notice that your breathing quickens. Sure it’s uncomfortable, you don’t know where things are, you’re not sure if you can do it. But your senses wake up!! Your muscles might be tense at first, but then somehow, they relax and you know what? That flutter of butterfly twinges? They’ve disappeared.  As your eyes settle on what they’re seeing, you might notice that things seem brighter, more colourful? And perhaps later, at the end of it all, in the telling of tales and ensuing conversations with family and friends and fellow travellers? Why they might notice something different about you. They might just comment how you have a jig in your step, a hint of a song in your voice, an enthusiasm that is catchy!

Adventure is a Passion that’s Contagious.

One of the items we received from Leisure Travel Vans for writing our story was an LTV JournalBook.

And as I held the black-bound hardcover book in my hands, the empty lined pages stared solemnly back at me, I wondered just what I would do with it.

As boat owners & cruisers, one of the tasks of our Passages is to keep a LogBook. Mine happens to be a digitalized columnized record of departures and arrivals, miles travelled, places stayed. Engine hours, issues dealt with, and such. And that’s when I knew!  I would do the same for our Adventures on Land!

I keep my JournalBook readily available on the Dash and I note the date we left, and where we stop. I record the Fuel Cost, and if I’m industrious enough, I’ll note the financials of that day. I note the cost of the campground. Or a Big Fat Zero with a smiley face gets jotted down if we’ve been Wally-Marting or BoonDocking. All of which will *someday* allow me to input those numbers and calculate just how much we’ve spent in a day, month, year or trip.

I also keep a record of maintenance *stuff*: for example, when we topped up with propane. And will highlight the day/place we crossed borders into the USA / Canada to make it all easier to find when need be.

But the best and my most favourite part of my JournalBook? When we’re spending time with folks, perhaps around the campfire sharing stories of respective Adventures, and I inevitably hand them my book and a pen, asking them to write a little something-something.

Sometimes they simply write their names and the date. And sometimes I get paragraphs full of words of times shared.

Inevitably sometime later, as I’m perusing the pages of my well used, dog-eared JournalBook? I find myself stopping to read those words… what great memories of great times, meeting great people, all of us out here living Adventures.

We look forward to crossing paths with you. And if we do, you can rest assured that we might just ask you to sign our Journal Book. And perhaps, you might just ask us to sign yours?

Adventure OnOn!

** Note: Some of the BLM lands we’ve been in, actually have allocated spaces and fire pits!

Break(ing) in the Bad(Lands)

Travel Tales, On On! Brake(ing) ~in the~ Bad(lands)

* Break Bad * is a term with many meanings. One of them relates to adapting to a new lifestyle. One that is totally different from the one you had. Or it can mean someone who is *good*, or *follows rules & regulations * but who then adopts behaviours which deviate from that, behaviours that could be seen as *bad*. Rest assured that while we are certainly adapting to a new-to-us lifestyle (from sailboat cruising to highway driving), there were no rules broken during today’s Adventures. Other than (perhaps) braking when we shouldn’t have, or (perhaps) braking a little too often to the chagrin of anyone who might’ve been stuck behind us. And of course (perhaps) this pun of a play on words.

We’re somewhere on the road again, this time driving along an inconspicuous two lane state highway. It’s sunny and hot and dry, the skies bluer than blue and the landscape that surrounds us quite blah and nondescript. The green prairie grasses are billowing in the wind, showing no promise of what was to come.

Dave braked suddenly and hard when I yelled “Stop the Car!”, and I instantly focused my camera lens on the brown wooden “Badlands Loop State Scenic Byway” sign. “In here” I exclaimed, pointing my finger along the stretch of highway that disappeared over yonder horizon.

The Badlands Loop, or South Dakota Highway 240, is a breathtaking Journey through some intensely dramatic Lands, that were way back when (geologically speaking) the bottom of a very wet streambed. With time and extreme temperatures the streams evaporated, the winds gusted and eroded, and the lack of rainfall certainly didn’t help. The landscape spiralled out of control, emerging from the horizon dry and rugged and jagged.

Would you believe that the Badlands didn’t exist until 500,000 years ago? And with each passing day the formations are eroding and changing, growing and disappearing. Who knows what it will look like tomorrow, or if they’ll even exist 500,000 years from now?

The Visitor Centre informs us it takes about 1 hour to navigate the approx 35 miles of the Badlands Loop Road. “If you don’t brake too often” continued the Park Ranger, with a smile. Back in our MoHo, a sudden brake at the Stop Sign, a Left out of the Parking Lot, and we were on our way. What happens next was a true episode of Brake(ing) ~in the~ Bad(Lands).

We drove along the road ahead of us revealing nothing. And then, almost out of nowhere, a rock formation appeared. A little small, a little grey, a little jagged on top. We kept driving the curvy road and the rock formations exploded exponentially, bigger and bolder with each passing twist in the road.

The Lakota people named this place Mako Sica, or “Lands Bad” . The French-Canadian fur trappers travelling through here also called this place “les mauvaises terres” (bad lands). Today, in the comfort of our MoHo, we found ourselves braking every few minutes (thank Goodness there was no traffic behind us!) as we stopped at every turn and corner, scenic overlook or not, for that picture perfect Photo Op.

We spent the day getting in and out of the MoHo as we hiked the numerous trails. Driving through the passes where we were left gasping at the majestic height of rugged walls of sediment and rock that surrounded us, marvelling at the sharply eroded buttes, and mouths agape at the jaw dropping views of colourful and indescribable pinnacles and spires.

There are two designated campgrounds at the park (Cedar Pass and Sage Creek) for those interested in staying and exploring for longer periods of time (reservations recommended). We hadn’t planned for either, so no braking here! But we did stop for Lunch at the conveniently placed and well shaded picnic table, hot soup and sandwiches courtesy of MoHo’s well stocked galley cupboards.

That afternoon we just *had to* brake for some wildlife snaps, and for a scramble up some dusty hilly terrains to capture this splendid shot of our amazing LTV Unity IB.

And then just as it had all dramatically appeared out of nowhere, it all disappeared away into nothingess. We were back on the two lane state highway. It was still sunny and hot and dry. The skies were still bluer than blue and the landscape that surrounded us was once again blah and nondescript. The green prairie grasses were still billowing in the wind, except this time we knew exactly what secrets they were hiding.

Two hours later I yelled “Stop the Car” as I eagerly pointed at the brown wooden sign, and read out loud “Horse Thief Lake Campground”. Dave braked, suddenly and hard, turning left and heading towards the campground office, enquiring about any openings for the night.

Moments later we were backed into our non serviced cement pad of a lot, instantly level with no overhead branches to worry about. A hard pull up on the Emergency Brake, and we were home.

The next morning, we grinned as we grabbed our hot coffee and settled in our comfy seats, this time releasing the Brake and shifting into Drive, wondering what new Adventures waited for us over yonder horizons.

On On !!