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Travels with Grama

St. Augustine, Florida

Road Trip -2011

Unlike 2010, we actually have a destination - Savannah. Whether we get there or not, remains to be seen. Due to the forest fires, horrific tornados and major flooding this year, we've had a bit of trouble firming up plans.

We've moved our dates and destinations around a couple of times and I actually changed my flight.

Originally, the idea was that I would fly to Ontario to visit my family first. Doreen would drive there to pick me up and we'd continue on down the eastern seaboard. Now the plan is to do go south and then east below the storms and end up in Ontario at the end of our trip, where I'll visit and fly home from Kitchener. Hopefully, the floods and tornados will let up by the time we are in the area.

We've been joking that in 2003 we had a destination of Nova Scotia and we ended up in Memphis, Tennessee. You never know with us. This year we might end up in Nova Scotia.

However, June 12th, 2011 is upon us and we are scheduled to hit the road around noon tomorrow.

2011 St. Augustine Photo Album
To Page 1 - Calgary to St. Augustine

Thursday, June 23rd - St. Augustine to Savannah

The Atlantic Ocean

From St. Augustine we took the coast highway because I wanted to finally put my toes in the Atlantic Ocean. There were several public beaches along the way so "mission accomplished".

Kingsley Plantation State Park

Kingsley Plantation is the site of a former estate in Jacksonville, Florida that was named for an early owner, Zephaniah Kingsley, who spent 25 years there. It is located at the northern tip of Fort George Island at Fort George Inlet, and is part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve managed by the U.S. National Park Service.

The plantation was originally 1,000 acres, most of which has been taken over by forest. The structures and grounds of the park now comprise approximately 60 acres.

Free blacks and several private owners lived at the plantation until it was transferred to the State of Florida in 1955. It was acquired by the National Park Service in 1991.

The most prominent features of Kingsley Plantation are the owner's house—a structure of architectural significance built probably between 1797 and 1798 that is cited as being the oldest surviving plantation house in the state and an attached kitchen house, barn, and remains of 25 anthropologically valuable slave cabins that endured beyond the U.S. Civil War (1861–1865). The foundations of the house, kitchen, barn and the slave quarters were constructed of cement tabby, making them notably durable. Archeological evidence found in and around the slave cabins has given researchers insight into African traditions among slaves who had recently arrived in North America.

\We may not have seen any ghosts on our Ghosts and Graveyards tour the night before, but we certainly made up for it on this lonely road into the Kingsley Plantation. We took two pictures back to back and within seconds of each other. One shows orbs - one does not. Where did they go? And the lens was NOT dirty.

Photo 1 - Showing Orbs
Photo 2 - Orbs Gone

We didn't spend much time at the actual plantation because a very nasty storm was rolling in and we wanted to be back on the main road before it hit - not somewhere down a swamp back road on an island.

We stopped about 15-20 miles before Savannah for the night to get out of bad weather.

Friday, June 24th - Savannah to Myrtle Beach

We must have looked confused and lost (which we were) because as soon as we drove into the area we were jumped on by the Trolley Tour salesman who just happened to have a parking space for us. Good enough for us - sign us up.

Red Sonya

This tour turned out to be one of the highlights our our trip. Our tour guide was Red Sonya and she was so interesting we did the entire loop with her instead of getting off along the way.

Her whole presentation was exceptional. Her personal comments and humor kept us hanging on her every word. The way she remembered where everyone was from was remarkable. (Even the fact that she took the time to ask where people were from was amazing).

We had to switch trolleys and start the tour over to get ourselves back to stop 5 where we wanted to have lunch. This tour guide just about put us to sleep.

However, much to our delight - it was Red Sonya who picked us up after lunch. We just about leveled a family of three in our haste to get on her trolley. Butt in?? Yep. Did we care? Nope.

The Squares

The city of Savannah, was laid out in 1733 around four open squares. The plan anticipated growth of the city and thus expansion of the grid. Additional squares were added during the 18th and 19th centuries, and by 1851 there were twenty-four squares in the city.

In the 20th century three of the squares were demolished or altered beyond recognition, leaving twenty-one.

The city of Savannah was founded in 1733 by General James Oglethorpe. The first squares were originally intended to provide colonists space for military exercises. The original plan resembles the layout of contemporary military camps, which were likely quite familiar to General Oglethorpe. The layout was also a reaction against the cramped conditions that fueled the Great Fire of London in 1666, and there is speculation that Oglethorpe's military studies had made him familiar with the similar layout of Beijing (or "Peking," as it was formerly spelled).

A square was established for each ward of the new city. The first four were Johnson, Percival (now Wright), Ellis, and St. James (now Telfair) Squares,

In 2010, one of the three "lost" squares, Ellis, was reclaimed.

Most of Savannah's squares are named in honor or in memory of a person, persons or historical event, and many contain monuments, markers, memorials, statues, plaques, and other tributes.

Pirates House

We stopped here for a late lunch. Once we finished lunch we visited the gift shop then took the Trolley back to our car. It was nearly 4:30 pm before we got out of town.


We travelled the scenic route hwy 17 from Savannah to Charleston. The visitor's centre gave us an easy auto tour through historic Charleston.

As it was nearly sunset, most tours and and tourists were done for the day and we were able to stop and go at will. We parked and strolled the boardwalk.

Oleander Flower

Final pictures of the day were of a very beautifully but totally poisonous plant called Oleander. A thumbnail leaf of the oleander plant can kill a horse.

Note the clean shiny car. With the heavy rains, we have not even had to hit a car wash.

My Afternoon Delight

Another bridge to end the day and give me one more thrill. This is the bridge from Charleston to Mt. Pleasant.

McD's Sunset

A great sunset tonight but not a great location. This was taken from the parking lot of a McDonalds.

Saturday, June 25th - Myrtle Beach to Arlington

We left the congested ocean highway and hit the interstate - non stop to Arlington. Other than beautiful greenery and tourist stops we did no sight seeing along this route.

GPS to the Rescue

Once reaching Arlington and trying desperately to avoid Washington we got lost and ended up on a one way road over the bridge to Washington. This seems to be a pattern with us. However, the GPS rescued us and took us back over another one way bridge and straight to our hotel. We only got off track once and had to reset the GPS.

Once we were checked into the hotel, we promptly booked a Washington tour to the White House and Arlington Cemetery for the morning. By now it was 10:00 pm and with nothing else to do, we called a cab and went shopping at Target. This was really necessary as I needed to buy another suitcase for all my purchases that were flapping around the car.

Cooked to Perfection

Everything seemed to be OK. It looked like we would be able to enjoy our time in Washington until we got back to the hotel and found out that our room had no air conditioning. Two old menopausal broads did not make for a pleasant night. With no other rooms available and no maintenance until 8:00 am, things started to go downhill.

Sunday, June 26th - Arlington to Harrisburg
Our alarm was set for 7 am as we had to be ready for the bus at 8:20 am sharp. We were there - the bus wasn't. We sat at the curb, in the heat, for 20 minutes. It was not getting any better. The greyhound style bus finally showed up. (We were expecting a trolley). Not only did it have filthy windows we were told the bathroom on it wasn't "safe" to use. Maybe there was a natural gas leak in there?

Grin and Bear It

Off to the next pick up stop where the driver spent 15 minutes outside the bus smoking and chatting while he waited for the money collector to arrive. Not only did we have to wait from him to show up 15 minutes late, we had to watch him run each individual credit card through manually. Why we didn't pay for the whole amount of the tour when we booked it is beyond us. Then he gave a 10 minute speech none of which we understood because of his thick east indian accent. Finally, three quarters of an hour after scheduled departure time - we were off on the tour.

Warp Speed and Ice Cubes

Now lets back up. Remember the filthy windows? I was unable to take any pictures through the dirt - not that it would have mattered anyway as we were whizzing by everything at warp speed. In addition the air conditioning was blasting so high that our feet and hands were freezing rendering clicking the camera impossible.

We should have known this wasn't going to work when our tour guide started out saying: "The USA is the most powerful country in the world and Washington is the most powerful City in the world". I don't even want to repeat what I thought about that comment.

Easily (un) Impressed

Finally we were at the White House stop where we could get off the bus, walk three blocks, and peek at it through a wrought iron fence half a mile away.

That was ....... interesting? Notice my big happy smile! I tried. Well at least we thawed out.

Grin and Hold It

The good news was that there were washrooms at the tourist center. The bad news was the center was closed. Why? No idea. Back to the natural gas leaking bus.


On returning to the bus we both said "to hell with this" and decided to ditch the tour. We did have the courtesy though to let the driver know we were aborting the tour. He very kindly gave us directions to the metro or hotels where we could catch a cab.

The Washington Hotel

We took a leisurely stroll to the Washington Hotel and happily photographed the gardens. This picture of the hibiscus is probably the nicest thing about the whole day.

Bumper Cars

The hotel staff graciously hailed us a cab but things slid again. As I was gently closing my door the cabby promptly drove into the car in front of us barely missing a pedestrian. As they exchanged information, we watched our meter ticking! I DON'T THINK SO!!

The Great Escape

We exited the cab un-noticed and once again the hotel staff graciously hailed us a cab. We were on our way to the Arlington Cemetery.

Arlington Cemetery

The grounds at the Cemetery are very beautiful. It leaves you with a sense of awe. If you were not patriotic before you got there, you would be by the time you left.

Cattle Drive

Tourists are herded onto trolley buses through a cattle chute method - and - don't you dare talk while in line or the tour guide will reprimand you for not listening to her. You have to fill the seats whether you are sitting with your group or not or the tour guide will tell you that you must sit where she puts you - or walk. There must be five seated to a row whether that includes a 40 lb child or a 400 lb sumo wrestler. The reason? Everyone is waiting to get onto the trolleys at the next stop and in the end not everyone will get on. Meanwhile there are three or more empty trolleys sitting unused while people stand in the heat waiting.

No Exaggeration

We are not exaggerating here. The first tour guide setting up the cattle chute said to some people who were not attentively listening to her: "Excuse me, I am only one person here and I am trying to give you instructions."

The second tour guide pointed at a young girl that was not wanting to be separated from her family and said: "You have to sit where I put you or you will end up walking."

One would think that after their years of experience they would be able to figure out how to shuttle people effectively and without being rude. They could take a lesson from "Old Town Trolley" but of course, since there is no competition for the Cemetery Tour - they don't have to worry about pleasing anyone.

We decided not to spend time being herded like cattle and treated like toddlers. We skipped the rest of the tour, continued back to the entrance, took a few pictures, and left.

Mexican Stand Off

We hailed a cab just outside the gates. I watched as the driver punched in $2.50 for extras. When I asked him what the extras were, he seemed to have an explanation but we weren't sure just what it was. We asked him why the extras were $1.00 to drive us here and $2.50 to drive us back. After some negotiation the driver told us he would take us back to the hotel for the same price it cost to get us here - $9.50. He turned off the meter altogether and talked on his cell phone in a foreign language the rest of our trip. We paid the $9.50 and gave him a tip. I think we thanked him but I couldn't swear by it.

The Three H's

We came back to Washington because our first experience was so bad we felt we owed it an honest effort - a chance for redemption. In 2003 we summed up our Washington experience as The Three H's - Hell, Hate, Horrible. Unfortunately this trip has not raised that rating and we still have those other two "H's". "Hasty and Humourous" for our exit. I guess we can add "Happy" that we finally saw Arlington Cemetery and will never want to go to Washington again.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Our route took us up hwy 15 through Gettysburg. Gettysburg turned out to have everything we were hoping to find in Washington. We toured through the College, Town Square and several streets and stopped for an ice cream cone.

We were able to wander through the cemetery at our leisure, read the inscriptions and take pictures beside the monuments instead of between fence rails.

Soldiers' National Cemetery

Soldiers' National Cemetery contains the graves of more than 6,000 United States servicemen, including 3,580 Union soldiers killed in the Civil War. Nearly half the Civil War burials are unknown soldiers.

A few days after the battle, Andrew Curtin, Governor of Pennsylvania, visited Gettysburg and was deeply moved by what he saw. Bodies of soldiers had been hurriedly buried on the battlefield, and some had not been buried at all. Curtin and representatives of Northern states took steps to create a national cemetery. Beginning in October, 1863, bodies were carefully removed from the field and re-interred here. The work took five moths.

On November 19, 1863, before the burials were completed, government officials, battle veterans, and citizens assembled to dedicate the cemetery. Near the end of the ceremonies, the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, offered a few remarks - his Gettysburg Address.

The Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg, fought July 1–3, 1863, had the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War. It is often described as the war's turning point. Union Major General George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac defeated attacks by Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, ending Lee's invasion of the North.

Between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers from both armies were casualties in the three-day battle.

We continued north on hwy 15 with a sense of satisfaction and the disappointments of earlier in the day faded away. We stopped early just north of Harrisburg, had a swim and went to McD's in our jammies (drive through of course).

Monday June 27th - Harrisburg to Niagara Falls

Green Lawn Memorial Park

Today was an easy drive through secondary highways. We could take our time.

Memorial Day has just passed. The cemeteries still had the flags and flowers - an impressive site. We drove through this cemetery. One thing we noticed was that there were no upright headstones at all.

Blue Star Memorial Highway

Blue Star Memorial Highways are highways that are marked to pay tribute to the U.S. Armed Forces. The National Council of State Garden Clubs, now known as National Garden Clubs, Inc., started the program in 1945 after World War II.

The blue star was used on service flags to denote a service member fighting in the war.

The program has since been expanded to include Memorial Markers and since 1994 Memorial By-ways. These markers are used in National Cemeteries, parks, veterans facilities, and gardens. This scenic overview gave a breathtaking view of the valley.

Corning, New York

We made sure our route included Corning. We passed through here in 2003 and wanted to visit again. We strolled the main street and browsed through the novelty stores and then the Corning store. I finally found a replacement for the pot I broke years ago.

As long as I can remember there has been Corning Ware in the kitchen - first my mom's and then mine. It is fascinating to put a City to the name. For me, it was like finding out there was a City named Tupperware!!

The city is the headquarters of Fortune 500 company Corning Incorporated, formerly Corning Glass Works, a manufacturer of glass and ceramic products for industrial, scientific and technical uses.

Corning Ware was originally a brand name for a unique pyroceramic glass cookware resistant to thermal shock, that was first introduced in 1958 by Corning Glass Works. Corning Ware is notable for the fact that it can be used directly on the stovetop.

Timmies - Yeah

As we approached the Canadian border we came upon a Timmies!! Of course we had to stop.

Welcome home. The flowers were smiling too. This sunset was taken just outside of Lockport, USA.

Canadian Border

Without much delay we passed through customs into Canada. I had to pay $21.00 duty for my purchases. After a couple of weeks in the States, it felt good to be back in Canada.

We stopped at Niagara Falls for the night.

Tuesday June 28th - Niagara Falls to Hanover

We were only a few hours from Hanover so once again we were able to take our time on the road. Good thing as I couldn't remember how to get us through the maze of highways around Toronto to St. Jacobs!!

I pride myself in being a fearless navigator who can get us through 5000 unfamiliar miles through a dozen or so States and huge cities without a hitch. Getting lost in my own stomping grounds was a slight embarrassment.

St Jacobs

Eventually, we arrived at St. Jacobs, parked and made a beeline for the quilt store - Doreen's real" reason for wanting to stop here. This was her third time to St. Jacobs and she knew exactly where she wanted to go.

Three quilts later, we were on our way. The back of the car was so full she could not see out the rear view mirror!! A repacking was definitely going to be needed.

Hanover, Ontario

We arrived at my mom's just in time to get whisked off to Bingo. I won $250.00. Mom won $7.50. Doreen got a migraine and spent the second half napping in the car!!

Wednesday June 29th - Hanover

Sherry and Jim dropped in for a quick visit the next morning. One of their kids had put these blow up dolls on their bed.

We spent the rest of the day doing our laundry, touring around Hanover, and repacking the car.

Doreen have decided to go through Thunder Bay on the way home. There is a store there that has Strawberry Hill pottery. She wants to visit it.

Also, as she now has all my purchases to haul home in addition to her own - she needs to avoid going through customs again.

Doreen would be leaving me tomorrow so even though we were still a couple thousand miles from home, it felt like our trip was over. I would be flying home.

We called the Tobermory Ferry to make a reservation for Doreen but were unable to. The reservations were full and without one there would be a long, long wait in line. She decided to just drive around the lake and take in the scenery. It would probably end up being shorter time wise.

It Remains A Mystery

It may look a bit strange that this page abruptly ends with me dangling in Hanover. It might leave one to wonder if I did anything while I was there visiting with my mother. Did I actually get on a plane and did I ever go home?

Without Doreen nagging me in the background to put in "words words words", the rest of my trip shall remain a total mystery. Maybe someday I'll pull out my memory hat and put in those "words-words-words".

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