Because my work schedule is a little more flexible than my sisters, and because it was a lot more affordable for me to arrange my flight accordingly, I booked my tickets to leave out on a Tuesday, and to return on the following Tuesday. The rest of the time in the state I would travel and camp. I very much enjoy travel, especially in a vehicle that I can stop along the way and check out anything interesting. I sometimes wish my life would allow for a lot more travel . . . but the comforts of a stable home base can't be beat either.
As I sit here assembling my thoughts for this post, it is a Saturday and I am home alone, as Rich is at work. The windows are open, and a light and fresh Spring breeze cleanses the house. Our summer avian migrants have been arriving, coloring our feeders with Goldfinch yellow, Indigo Bunting blue, Cardinal red, and Northern Oriole orange, among the various browns of sparrows and blacks of Red-Winged Blackbirds and Grackles. This morning I assembled a travel canopy on my lawn, and have placed out into it my five chicken chicks, to begin to explore the outdoors in a covered and protected environment. Soon, next week, Rich and I will begin to construct a more sturdy and permanent enclosure for our future egg layers. Spring has arrived, and I am contently enjoying it.
After working the weekend of April 25th, 26th and 27th, and a Monday off to get my act together and tidy up the house for my absence, Rich drove me to the Twin Cities in the wee early morning hours of Tuesday, April 29th. My flight left at 6:30 am, with a connecting flight through Atlanta, arriving in Pensacola, Florida a little after 11:00 am. After escaping the airport and picking up my rental vehicle for the week (a Chevrolet Cruze) I plugged into my TomTom (definitely my friend for the week) the address of Joe Patti's Seafood, a fresh fish market of local fame which has an attached restaurant. The seafood basket I began my trip off with was most excellent!
It had been raining lightly when I set up my tent, and continued to do so after I laid down. I have a rain guard, and have never had any leaking, other than just a little mild condensation. My nice little tent has served me well for many years. I fell asleep rather fast, and must have slept for several hours. I woke up and became aware of the storm late in the evening, 10 or 11 PM or so. I sleepily monitored my situation. I felt along the edges of my sealed tent (the bottom is sealed to the top, and completely zips up) and didn't find anything too worrisome. There was a little mild moisture, but overall seemed to be serving the function of keeping me dry. However, I noticed the rain was starting to pick up, and the lightening was impressive. It flashed and flashed, and boomed, from a distance, but it was constant. My camp site was located under a significant canopy of trees, and placed a fair distance down a walking path from where I parked my car. I continued to rest, but was more alert in case I would need to take some action. That action came around 1 am.
The first thing that alerted me that there may be a problem was a particular frog, who had been croaking and singing in the night. I noticed he came a lot closer to my tent, almost outside it. I understood that the puddles he must have been swimming in were getting larger, and that I might have one increasing in size just outside where I was camped.
Then I started to feel cold, and wet. I reached for my little flash light, and lit up my environment. When I place my tent, I always put a tarp down first. As I touched the ground, it felt like a water bed, so much water was between the tarp and my tent floor. Time to vacate! I grabbed what I could, exited in the pouring rain, and fled to the campground's bathroom/shower facility. Here there was cover and lights. My car was parked nearby. My path there was filled with fairly deep puddles. I got quite wet. Fortunately, it was still rather warm, compared to what I had been used to in Minnesota.
I found the whole situation to be rather laughable. I faced it with good humor. I was never in any danger, though I was unsure what else the night may bring. Along the wall of the bathroom/shower facility were several other species of frogs, stuck to the walls and on the floors. Another fine fellow like the one next to my tent was singing away in a large puddle off to the side of the bathroom. A very large cicada droned on and on. During a small lull in the deluge, I got into my car, started it up, enjoyed the heated seats, and searched the radio dial for some information on the storm. I do not have a smart phone, and wasn't going to call and wake anyone else up at this point in time. No radio station was very helpful with weather information. I snoozed lightly, fretted about there being any hail to fall and damage my rental car, worried about my tablet which I had left back in my tent, although in a bag on the top of my pile of stuff with my camping gear, and waited for dawn. I was not going to risk running back to my tent for the tablet as there was just too much lightening.
As dawn approached, I texted a co-worker who had teased me about going to Florida. He provided me with comic relief over the next few hours regarding my situation. Thanks David! When it became light enough that I could see, and the storm seemed to have abated for awhile, I returned to my tent to salvage what I could. I removed all the rest of my belongings, dragging them to the bathroom one by one. Fortunately, my tablet was sitting high and dry, but just about everything else under it was soaked. Thank goodness I had left my luggage with all my clothes in the car! I wrung out all my towels and blankets and bags, packed myself up, and made my way up to the ranger station. I drove through some large flowing water doing that . . . although I would observe that the flooding got worse as the morning went on.
The rangers at Topsail Hill were quite friendly and helpful. They were at a bit of a loss themselves, as this much rain was not normal for them either . . . even during a hurricane! One observed that the rain gauge had topped out over 10 inches. Later I would learn that where I was at received about 12 inches of rain overnight. Pensacola, not far away, received over 24! One ranger offered to take me via one of their transport vehicles to retrieve my tent. While doing that, we toured around the park and saw all kinds of flooding. Topsail Hill is located along the coast, and has access to a beach. By that definition, it is downhill, so all that water was going to flow that direction. The flooding observed was only going to get worse!
Now, to demonstrate the power of water, I'm going to share some pictures I'm 'borrowing' from other locations. Here is a map of Topsail Hill.
Topsail Hill Flash Flood
Once I had retrieved my tent, wet as it was, I packed myself up and made my way into town to try and figure out what I was going to do. I was supposed to camp at another State Park that night, but my tent was unusable at this time. Also, it would prove to take me quite a large portion of the day to make it out of the area, many roads were closed and flooded. I saw more than one car off the road and floating. I was to meet my sisters for the first day of our long weekend on the following day, but fortunately, Janet's friend, and our long distance hostess was willing to let me come to her vacation home a day early. I thankfully did this, got the power on, got myself cleaned up, washed and dried my clothes, then took myself out for a pleasant dinner, then warm and safe sleep. The next day I would pick up my sisters from the airport.
I made it just in time to Florida to experience a record-breaking flash flood. I did search the Internet and found a video that gives a feel for what the area experienced. Specifically, it has satellite clips that show the amount of rain that fell. Please disregard any speculative 'fringe' thoughts on the video. The rest of the images seem to report the events rather faithfully. I did note, a week later when I left, that I did not see a whole lot of standing water as I flew over and away from the area. Again, being on the coast, all the water ran off into the sea. However, at the time of the storm, it was rather impressive!
Pensacola Flash Flood 4/30/14
Now . . . on to the rest of the trip!
The next day, Thursday, I was joined by my two sisters, Janet, the oldest who lives in Mansfield, Texas, and Jennefer, the middle sister who lives outside Peoria, Illinois. They both flew into the local airport within about a half hour of each other. After getting them settled in, we did the female sister thing . . . we went out and got a pedicure. Here are our sandy toes, taken on the beach on one of the following days.
PoFolks. The food is good and plentiful, and really affordable. It's sorta like a Florida version of Cracker Barrel, only not as famous. Our waitress took our picture. Janet is in the middle in this picture, Jennefer on the right.
The next morning Janet made breakfast, some rice pudding. We each would take turns cooking a meal, either a breakfast or a dinner. We then headed out for some shopping and site seeing. One of our first stops was at an antique store. Janet and her daughters like going antiquing. She found some books there that one of her daughters may find interesting. We made our way East, along the coast, searching for access to more remote, and thus less crowded beaches. We found several.
At one of our stops, a little town called Mexico Beach, we walked out onto a long fishing pier. I photographed this handsome fellow, who did not seem to be the least bit concerned about us. It (frankly don't know if this Great Blue Heron is a male or female, as the sexes are monomorphic) let me approach quite close to take his picture. However, with that beak, I don't think he has anything to worry about from little ole me. This is definitely a case of where the beak would be a lot more dangerous than the feet. People often ask me if I'm afraid of my hawks biting me. I inform them you have to be more careful of the feet in raptors, although some beaks can deliver a sharp pinch. This beak below is definitely the weapon with this bird. I think he was hanging out hoping either for fish scraps, or possibly even to steal a fish not carefully guarded by the angler who reeled it in.
We continued our journey along the coast, coming to a town called Port St. Joe. We checked out their downtown shopping district, looking for a place to eat lunch. There was a restaurant I had looked up on the Net, but it would not open until that evening, and we wanted to eat THEN. Jennefer had noticed a roadside Bar-B-Que stand, Paul Gant's, that seemed to be pretty busy, so we went and checked it out. Yep . . . turned out to be some mighty tasty ribs and pulled pork. We sat out back under a big umbrella, in the rain. If you happen to find yourself in this area, eat at Paul Gant's! It was fabulous!
No Name Cafe, had some coffee, and bought a few gifts for folks back home. Here is where I found the Weird Florida book for Rich, to join his Weird Texas and Weird Minnesota and Weird Wisconsin collection. I also found a very beautiful coffee mug to join my collection at home. Which, by the way, I enjoy sharing with friends who come by and visit. Pick a pretty mug from the collection and let's chat over coffee or tea.
It says on it: "Walks along the Beach" . . . which is what we did!On our route back home, we stopped at a fish market. (Actually, I think we went to the market the day before - but I'll blog about it here.) Are you sensing a trend here?? I do so love fish, especially fresh fish. This market also had live crayfish, called 'crawdads', which we played with. I teased my sister with them.
Janet does not really care for seafood of any kind. Here she expresses her disgust.
I bought a pound of them, and Jennefer and I enjoyed them that evening.
She then artfully arranged her plate to display the finished dinner.
I would eat fish several times a week if I could get it as fresh as this!
It was a tasty end to a good day, even it it had been cloudy and gloomy.
The next day the sun finally came out!
We three returned to the beach to enjoy it in the warmth and sunshine.
The surf along this portion of the Florida coast is very strong, so only the smallest shells survive, but they litter the beach. There are portions of larger shells, and occasionally the very interesting item.
Jennefer was the only one of us who found a complete sand dollar.
Again, Jennefer created a lovely display of our meal that evening.
After dropping them off at the airport, I got myself onto the road to drive the 4+ hours to get to Gainesville. After all, I still had two more days in Florida, and plans. On that note, I think I'll blog my adventures in Gainesville in a separate entry . . . for it is picture rich, and this entry is already over-long.