Monday, September 14, 2015

2015 3 week road trip: S Florida - Daytona - Edisto - Knoxville - St. Louis - Knoxville - Edisto - S. Florida!

When Ken agreed to rent an apartment in S. Florida for the year, he also claimed he was going to go back to St. Louis every 4-6 weeks.  So it came as a bit of a surprise to me when it was almost 3 months before he decided to head back for the first time.  His good buddy and x-work contact was going to be in St. Louis the beginning of September and had rented party rooms at 2 Cardinal baseball games and invited us to one.  That was enough incentive to even get me to come back to St. Louis for a "vacation"!  So on Aug. 19th, we jumped in our car and started our long trek back.  

So long Coral Springs---
 Since we had a lot of Wyndham vacation resort points left for this year, we decided to make a few stops along the way.  First stop---Daytona Beach at the Wyndham Ocean Walk Resort.  We hadn't been to Daytona for about 30 years.  Even then it was just for a night and not in a resort.  It was nice checking out another Wyndham resort.  I was very impressed.  We were able to use our VIP status and get a 2 bedroom presidential unit for half the points of a 1 bedroom.  I was very impressed with the condo.
We were on the 10th floor and had quite a view of the ocean.  Even though we were looking East over the ocean, sunset was still pretty impressive.
The resort is huge with at least 5 pools.  After dining at Forest Gumps in the plaza adjoining the resort, we hung out in one of the 3 outdoor pools.  It's nice that they're open really late.

The next morning we attended the "owner update breakfast" and got our $125 Visa gift card.  Breakfast was pretty sad---instant oatmeal and muffins.  Then loaded up our stuff and took one last look at the ocean from our room and headed off to Edisto, South Carolina.
 One of my favorite pastimes while traveling long distances in a car is to take pictures along the way.  So when I saw this interesting bridge in Jacksonville, Florida, I snapped one of it.

 Some 350 miles or so from Daytona we came to this interesting bridge over to Edisto Island.
I managed to get another Presidential unit at the Wyndham King Cotton Resort in Edisto.  This time a 3 bedroom 3 story villa complete with our own elevator.  Possibly the nicest Wyndham resort we've stayed in.
The livingroom area.
 master bedroom complete with boxes of chocolates.
 Assortment of goodies.
 The huge kitchen and diningroom.
 Our elevator to the 3 levels of our unit for when we didn't feel like walking up all the steps.
 After checking out the resort, it was time to check out the beach and then find some dinner. 
One of the many walkways to the beach. 
 We ended up here at Finns for dinner.  Dinner was good and the views were great. 

I had been to Edisto a couple times with Angie when she lived in Atlanta, so I knew there could be some awesome sunsets there.  Tonight's was no exception.

 Next day we were up early and back on the road for another 400 miles to Knoxville.  I especially love the drive through the Smokey Mountains to Tennessee.
 Loved seeing all the flowers along the highway, too.
Our son and daughter-in-law moved to Knoxville in June, so it was nice seeing them again.  We spent 3 nights with them.  It really is a neat little city.  
They took us to Tupelo Honey Cafe for breakfast the next day.  Here Faith's enjoying a Bloody Mary while I enjoyed a Mimosa.  Our meals were excellent, too! 
 The mall downtown turns into a marketplace on Sat.s, so we wandered around the mall a bit.
 Some of the many local items.
 There are even performers there.
 Tim and Faith heading down the marketplace with the Federal courthouse Tim works at in the distance.
 Tomato jam!
 A look back at Tupelo Honey Cafe on our way back through the "mall".
 The World's Fair was held in Knoxville in 1982 so we walked to the area where most of it took place.  The Sunsphere was the symbol of the fair.  After the fair, it closed to the public.  It was used for short periods of time until 2005 when it was scheduled for renovation.  The 4th level is the observation floor, 5th level is a restaurant, and other levels are businesses.  Best of all, it's free!
 View towards downtown from the observation floor.
From there we walked towards the Worlds Fair park passing another water feature along the way.
 and a Chocolate store, but for $15/lb, I passed on buying any.
 Another city sign.
Now it was time to find a little nature.  So many parks to check out around Knoxville!!!  This time we went to Ijams Park and hiked around a bit.  

 even saw some snakes

 love all the wild flowers growing throughout the park

 down to the Tennessee River.

 House with quite a view.
 more wild flowers
 walkway along the river
male eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly
female eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly missing part of it's tail.

hoping to someday be a butterfly, but these fall webworms will end up as moths.  I believe the big webs we saw all over the trees along the highway were webs caused by colonies of webworms.
Back at Tim and Faith's place, I even saw more colorful wildlife in their back yard.  They even have hummingbirds, but I never was able get a good picture of any of them.
 That night we headed back to Gatlinburg to dinner at a brewery on our way up to Clingman's Dome for sunset.  Had a good laugh at this mobile home!
 Dinner was great, as was the company.
 Sunset, though, was not so great.  It clouded over by the time we got up there.

 Coming back down we did see this bear, but I had my settings all wrong on my camera.  He didn't stick around for me to correct them.
 Back in Gatlinburg we got a kick out of this boat/car.
Next day we drove around a bit looking at locations they hope to buy a house in when their lease is up.  Now that both of them have good jobs and their house in St. Louis sold, they can't wait to buy a home.  Along the way, we stopped at another park.  This one actually had people swimming in the lake.  I put my foot in the water and was surprised to find it wasn't cold.
 Tim even became the Pied Piper of ducks.
Next day both "kids" took off to work---first day for Faith at her new job.  So we jumped in the car and continued our trip to St. Louis.  This portion was about 550 miles.  Got to drive through more mountains.
  Another thing I like to take pictures of while we're riding along is old barns.  Certainly have a lot of them in the midwest.

Usually we take the northern route from Knoxville to St. Louis.  But it's suppose to be quicker going through Nashville.  So we decided to go that way this time.  We were making great time---no delays at all in Nashville---then came across the first of the truck accidents in our way.  This one had happened about 5 hours earlier and had a fatality, but traffic was slowly getting by here.
 Shortly after we got past that wreck, we saw smoke in the distance.  We tried to get a radio update or internet update from my phone of what was going on, but didn't find it until it was too late.   3 or 4 miles of highway were shut down because of another semi accident.  After sitting in the car so long, I decided to walk down with the hordes of other people to see what was going on.
 2 hours later and still a lot of work to do to get things going.  So when I got back to the car, we did what most of the other cars did and drove across the median to the other side and took the detour around.
Made for an already long trip even longer.  We did stop about 100 miles from St. Louis and had dinner and visited with my brother and sister-in-law in southern Illinois.  We ended up leaving there around 10 pm.  
Got into St. Louis after 11pm.  Assessed the house.  We had the ac shut off (later I was reminded the ac doesn't work---we had to have Freon added to it the last 2 summers, but we didn't need it our first week so we didn't bother have more added for 1 week).  Apparently our family room floors didn't like not having ac and buckled pretty badly.  I figure they'll go back down in the winter, but for now we walked up and down mountains in the family room.
Now was the start of a busy 2 weeks in St. Louis.
Day 1- I met up with a photography friend and she and I went to the Missouri Botanical Gardens and shot pictures of everything.  They were still set up for the Chinese Lanterns exhibit, so we got to see it by daylight.  This is made up of bottles of different colored water.
 found some more butterflies--Monarch, I believe.
 and lush beautiful plants.
 even found the reflections in the Japanese Garden pond interesting.
 colorful dragonfly
 More of the Japanese Garden.
 zig zag bridge in the Japanese Garden
 in the Italian Garden.

 The St. Louis symbol Flore de li made up of tiny plants.
 Karen getting a macro shot in the patchwork garden.
 more of the Chinese lantern decorations.  They light up at night.
 more Chinese Lantern lights.
 and, yes, more.
 close up of a hybiscus flower.
 cone flower
 bee checking out the garden, too.
 flowers with the Linean House in the back ground.
 some of the many roses.
 some of the many Chinese Lanterns.
 lastly, a water lily.  We spent 5 hours there catching up and exploring.  It was a fun time.
The next few days we caught up with friends and family---dinner with the Schneiderjans-twice; breakfast with Josh's folks; dinner with FAith's Dad and fiance; lunch with friends from swimming; dinner with friends from volleyball; Ken saw friends he use to work with; dinner at his sister-in-law's and brother's restaurant (Stefanina's--great as always); lunch with some friends from Illinois from my childhood; and a couple more visits with my brother and sister-in-law.  Took my brother and sister-in-law to a park we use to ride bikes at--Confluence park where the Missouri and the Mississippi meet--and wandered around a bit.
 meeting of the rivers.
I even went bowling with a friend.  We were doing pretty good until they shut the lights off and a bunch of little kids came in and started running wild all over the lanes.  We packed it up and headed to lunch then.
When we lived here full time, I always thought about going to the zoo or Arch or butterfly garden, or many other places, but it would be decades between trips to most.  So as a tourist, I went to as many as I could fit in.  First to the Botanical Gardens, then to the zoo.  I've always been impressed with our zoo and everytime I go they've added more to it.  It is quite large and beautifully landscaped.  The newest thing there now is the Polar bear enclosure.
 some of the many flowers in the zoo.
 viewing into the pond in the rhino area.
 another baby elephant at the St. Louis zoo.  Raja, the first one born here now has 4 or 5 calves.
 a little climatron butterfly house is relatively new here, too.

 the penguin house---felt really good in there since the weather in St. Louis turned really hot the 2nd week we were there! 
 Don't know where they got the boxes from, but 2 of the gorillas were wandering around with boxes that said Latex gloves on them.  I only know that's what the box said because I zoomed into it with my 200 zoom lens.  Wonder if anything was in the boxes?  The day after I was there one of the gorillas died.  Supposedly of a heart condition. 
 a lesser antelope
 a wanna be giraffe and a real one.

a smart lion.
one of the big cats
 more of the beautiful flowers landscaping the zoo. 
Like I mentioned, it got hot!  Temps in the mid 90s with heat indexes well over 100.  People are always commenting isn't it hot in South Florida.  I always say never as bad as the days like we have in St. Louis when they have heat waves---and there usually are some in July and August in St. Louis.  Maybe it's because S. Florida gets almost nightly thunderstorms and lots of clouds to cool it down and St. Louis doesn't.

One day Angie texted and said their house from when they lived in Ferguson was going up on the auction block starting at $35,000!  To the unknowing, that's probably status quo for a house in Ferguson since the riots and continued unrest, but we know that it had burnt down about 7 years ago and she used her K-State architecture schooling to rebuild it with a lot of top of the line stuff!  We were shocked to hear it was going to auction.  I was tempted to go to the auction, but was afraid I might buy it.  We already have 2 houses in north county and an apartment in Florida.  But I still can't imagine this going for $35,000---complete with finished basement. 

 One hot day I decided to see how much hotter I could get and went to the Butterfly House.  It was about 95 outside.  Not sure what it was in the "greenhouse" where the butterflies live, but it made our house feel not so bad for a little while.
 entrance to the butterfly house.
 love all the colors of the butterflies!

 I guess this one could read and was trying to go home.

On our final full day there, we headed downtown to the Cardinal game.  It was great seeing our friends from Oregon!  The air conditioned party room for the afternoon game was welcoming, too!  The Cardinals even won for us!  
 We hadn't even seen Ball Park Village before now!
 Our Oregonian friends. 
 He even had an ice cream dessert cart come in.

 Ken getting in the spirit.
That pretty well filled up 2 weeks in St. Louis.  Next day we were invited to go to the final Boomsday celebration in Knoxville with Tim and Faith.  So we loaded up the car and got an early start.  Made it without delays.  WEnt to dinner in downtown Knoxville.  Did a bit of walking before we found a place without a 2 hour wait!  For watching the fireworks we ended up in the parking lot Tim parks in for work.  There we saw a spectacular fireworks display!

 It'll be a shame if this really is the last Boomsday!
After spending that Sunday and Labor DAy with them, we were on our way to Edisto again.   Again I enjoyed the ride through the mountains.  ONly had one scarey moment when someone entered our side of the highway going the wrong direction.
 Since we were driving right by Asheville, we decided to see if we could drive through the Biltmore estate. 
 Found out we would have to buy tickets at $80@ just to drive through.  So we passed.  I had been there a couple times before for a wedding I shot there, but the bride had handled all my tickets and lodging.  That was definately a fun wedding and reception!
 on the highway again and admiring the flowers along the way.

 and the mountains.
 and the old barns.
 Finally we reached the turn off for Edisto.  Decided to stop for dinner here at Dimitrios.  Very good pizza and great service!
 Originally we were only going to stay in Edisto 1 night again on the way back, but it would have been in an older unit.  Ordinarily that would have been ok, but when Angie and I stayed there on our first trip to Edisto, we did find it pretty bug infested.  Their excuse is it's a tropical region and to expect that.  Yet we've never had a problem like that in Florida, St. Thomas, Hawaii, or anywhere.  Even in the presidential units we saw a couple "palmetto" bugs, but they were dead or dying. If we wanted to stay in a unit like what we had on the way out, we needed to spend 2 nights or throw away the points for the 2nd night.  Ken agreed to the extra night and it worked out great.
Loved all the big old oak trees with the moss hanging all over them.
 from one of our back porches.
 another view from our porch.  Note the stand with bottles of water stacked in it.
 another part of the resort.
We headed to the beach again.
 Didn't know if we'd get much of a sunset.
 The typical house along the beach!
 Even had interesting wild flowers growing along the beach pathways.

I knew where to go for sunset and where the dolphins like to hang out.   We were treated to quite the dolphin show.
Lots of tail slapping.
 Even a few breeches.

 lots of "porpoising".
 The sunset even turned out to be quite pretty.
 Next day we did another "owner's update breakfast" for another $50.  Figured the $175 in Wyndham money pretty well paid for our gas to/from St. Louis.   Breakfast was actually very good---biscuits and sausage gravy; eggs; muffins, and other assorted stuff.  When you're VIP Platinum, the owner's updates are pretty low key.  I guess they don't expect you to buy any more points and often send you on your way quickly. 
By 11 we were on our way to Botany BAy.  I had been here with Angie twice, but at different surf stages.  The one constant is the tree skeletons in or near the water.  This time we were there right at low tide.  Once before it was high tide and the other time it was somewhere in between.  I would have loved to go there for sunset, but it was closed the day we got to Edisto and we made plans to go on a sunset cruise tonight.  But I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around taking a bunch of pictures.  Even the ride into the park is neat.  First through the tunnel of oak trees.
 Then onto the plantation grounds where there are bird feeders by the sign in area.
 I love Cardinals.
 and big old oak trees.
 The walk from the parking lot to the ocean was about 1/2 mile @ way.  It was an interesting walk.  Lots of these little crabs.
 Lots of marsh land.  As we were walking across the marsh trail, we kept hearing load pops.  Thought it might be what looked like oyster shells popping.  But after doing a little research, it sounds like it's Bigclaw Snapping Shrimp.  Apparently at low tide they snap their one large claw in the water making a large bubble that pops.  Researchers assume the pop is to stun smaller critters so the shrimp can eat them or to scare away larger critters that want to eat them.
 Even saw a lot of huge spiders.
 Then come the knarly trees all over the beach.
 some still standing and still in the water even at low tide.
 the clouds even cooperated for making beautiful pictures.
 Bird on the shell studded beach
 about a 1/2 mile down the beach.
 heading back.
 looking inland.
 Ken on his perch waiting for me to get back from taking pictures.
 There are a ton of shells here, but it's illegal to take them off the beach, so people hang them all over the trees.
 or leave them laying where they washed up.

After spending a couple hours on the beach, we headed back across the marshland.  This was just off the beach.
 a lizard hiding in the shade.
 Ken leaving me in his dust while I'm take yet more pictures.
 There are a couple clumps of trees along the way.  One clump is suppose to be home to a little red bunting.  Didn't see any of them, but did find this cute little guy.
 more of the walkway
 coming in for a landing in the marsh
 some of the wierd plants along the way.
 and more pretty butterflies.
 To drive out of the area, there's a self driving tour of the remains of a plantation.  We didn't stop much this trip --- Angie and I had checked it out more thoroughly on a previous trip.  But we did stop at this pond covered with - pollen or algae?  Probably a mistake stopping here.  Even though I had sprayed insect repellent before going to the beach, I forgot to spray again and at one point I looked down to see at least 10 mosquitos feasting on one of my legs.  After a quick swat, I hurried back to the car and have been itching every since!
 on one of the ponds we even saw this alligator.
saw a few more butterflies which I took pictures of from inside the car.
Another pretty butterfly. 
 Back at the entrance we sat and watched the bird feeders some more hoping the little red buntings would show up there.  Not a bunting, but this guy deserves another picture.
 Wonder what these big-eyed little birds are?
 "Artwork" just off the main highway into Edisto across from the turn off to Botany Bay.
 We did some more driving around and found this fancy fishing dock out in the middle of nowhere.
 a view from the above dock.
We watched some of these guys dive for fish near the dock

 Ken talking to some people who showed up to fish and crab for blue crab.
 getting artsy with the flora of Edisto.
 At 5:40 we showed up at the marina for our sunset tour.  I wish we had been on that boat!  Angie and I had gone on a tour before and had a great time.  This time the boat driver would stop then drive like a bat out of hell to the next spot.  I was soaked!  Managed to keep my dslr dry, but it wasn't an easy task!  Even when we were by the dolphins he kept going around them in the same direction.  I, of course, was on the other side of the boat.  Finally I got up and stood on the other side for a few minutes.
 At least we did get a pretty nice sunset.
 looking East.
 another to the west as we flew through the water.
 He did stop for a little while when he noticed the sun came out of the clouds.
When we were done there, we hit the resort pool, as we did all 3 nights we were there.  Then we decided to pick up some stuff from the store and cook dinner: pork chops; mashed potatoes; and corn on the cob.  It was quite yummy, even though we didn't eat it until about 10 pm.
Next morning, we were back on the road for our last travel day. 
It turned out to be a fun 3 week trip.  Even though at times I felt like we were back in the dark ages---no cable tv, just digital antennae; no computers, just a phone; no ac for the hottest part of the trip!  Was great seeing Tim and FAith and all our friends and family in St. Louis.  Am I ready to move back there---not hardly!!!


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