It is no small thing to be invited to stay at the home of friends you’ve only physically met once over two years ago, and yet that is exactly what our next adventure is all about. We met Laurel and Eric of Raven & Chickadee, another pair of full-time RVers, only three months into our first year of traveling. (I will refer to them collectively as LE for the rest of this post.) If you click on that link, it will take you to Laurel’s blog post all about that spontaneous epic holiday meet-up which spawned our continued, albeit virtual, friendship. Our travels since then have been in opposite directions, our two planned intersections in 2020 were sidelined, but we were finally able to find them at her folks’ house in Eastpoint, Florida where they have been for over a year now and where they had agreed to tolerate our moochdocking for twelve days.
Although that seems like plenty of time to get really sick of one another, it flew by, I took scant notes, not enough pictures, and I’m not completely thrilled with the ones we did take. That probably also seems like plenty of time to do all of the things we’d planned together via text and phone calls, but I assure you, we left more than a few activities undone and several conversations unfinished. That’s what’s supposed to happen when you’re busy having a such a good time, though, right? Right! Let’s find out what kept us so happily occupied.
The day finally arrived on which we finally arrived, and stepping out to get the car unhitched, I heard a call then spotted E waving from across the block.
Our premium site at Bayshore RV Resort came complete with water hookup, 30A service, extra fridge space, laundry facilities, and trash pickup! It also came with a great view out our windshield.
Beyond the tree line is Apalachicola Bay, and we could see slices of it from the rig as well as all the birds that came to the feeder and the holly tree every day.
Our first afternoon passed in a flurry of excited conversation, a nice ~3 mile walk on the paved neighborhood trail, and E’s delicious jambalaya enjoyed around the propane fire pit on their large, screened porch. That night, all was quiet except for what I thought was the sound of a heron. I didn’t look out, and now I regret that because E informed us it was really the family of foxes that lives in and around their house. We’d hear them a few more times, but never get a glimpse of them.
In the morning, we opened TBGrille Food Truck, and folks lined up quick for TBG’s signature breakfast!
It was too cold and windy for us to enjoy our breakfasts together on the porch, but, as usual, TBG’s tasty specialty was a huge hit with the customers.
We waited for the day to warm a bit before setting out for a little adventuring on St. George Island. St. George is a long, skinny barrier island, north of which is Apalachicola Bay and south of which is the Gulf of Mexico. The eastern end is a state park, and that’s where we were headed for one of LE’s favorite short hikes. To get there requires a drive over a long causeway and then through the residential side of the island which is packed with houses on stilts. Imagine any town full of many-storied homes with a mix of architectural styles, then imagine them all raised onto 10’+ stilts, and that will give you the visual.
LE are avid birders, especially E, and their excitement and appreciation are contagious. I couldn’t tell you all the birds we saw along the trail, but I do remember there were a lot of yellow-rumped warblers because E told us that they are affectionately known to bird enthusiasts as “butterbutts.” Now, that’s my kind of critter-namin’!
The sun was warm, but the wind was still chilly, so we didn’t stay long at the beachy part of the trail. Back at the homestead, we later reconvened around the fire pit on the porch for warm bowls of my Zuppa Toscana and continued conversation. The wind was still whipping, making for chilly outdoor conditions, but Eric helped mitigate that by placing pieces of plywood all along the bottom screens. Some of the pictures I mysteriously didn’t take include any of us on the porch enjoying our fabulous dinners together, but most evenings were spent that way.
On our second full day, I availed myself of the laundry facilities, TBG spent the day replacing the hot water anode and one of the rear brake lights and installing my new bike seat. I also accompanied L on her daily fast walk, part of which I was going to run, testing out my new road-running shoes. Due to a miscommunication, I lost her, and when I doubled back to re-connect, she was nowhere to be found. I didn’t have my cell phone because I was relying on her with hers. I ended up running all the way back to the house, stopping occasionally, frantically calling out for her. When I got back home, I grabbed my cell phone, and TBG drove me back. She answered my text immediately saying she was on the trail. WTH?! Obviously, we caught up with her, TBG dropped me off, and we finished our walk. Turns out, she’d taken a side cul-de-sac (or two) to add distance to her walk and hadn’t been snatched by pitbulls, panthers, or predators like I’d feared. The new shoes, by the way, got more of a break-in run than originally intended and performed wonderfully. That evening’s feast was L’s chicken tagine. It was so delicious, I forgave her for scaring the shit out of me.
It was back to St. George the next day for a long beach walk on the Gulf.
It was a beautiful day of deep blue sky, white sandy beach, snowy plovers, and seashells. LE taught us about some of the shells, and E and TBG each found at least one delicate white baby’s ear. On our return, another beach-goer pointed out a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins hunting offshore.
Just before we reached the parking lot, while we were on the boardwalk, I turned to say something to L, and looking back over her shoulder, saw the dolphins really jumping. We both watched as one leaped straight up completely out of the water! We shouted to the guys, who were already at the car, to come back and see the fantastic show. It was so exciting, I couldn’t help from yelling “Wheeeee!” every time one jumped really high. There could not have been a better ending to our beautiful seashell walk.
For our next outing, our local guides wanted to show us around the town of Apalachicola. You may have noticed that I titled this post “Apalachicola” and not “Eastpoint,” which is where LE’s house actually is. The two towns lie across the bay from one another, and while the house is, indeed, in Eastpoint, L’s family is originally from Apalachicola, and that is the name she most often uses when referring to their time spent in the area. Besides, Apalachicola is much more fun to say.
“Apalach” is a true mix of new and dilapidated homes and businesses, many that way due to prior storm damage. Several of the residential blocks are beautiful and reminded us of Savannah. We wound our way through the neighborhoods, and into the charming downtown area where we ordered a takeout lunch from Tamara’s Cafe. We took our food down the block to the public picnic tables on the pier, where the grackles and gulls made repeated requests for a taste of TBG’s lunch of Grouper Cheeks, LE’s of Fish Tacos, and mine of Shrimp & Grits. Their pleas went unanswered.
Next we continued along the water to the boat yard, where E said there are almost always Black-crowned Night Herons perching on the boats. Sure enough, there were!
We walked through the town’s small but nicely-kept botanical garden and then took a short jaunt along Woody’s Trail.
The town, while not large in a city sense, was much bigger than TBG and I had thought, and we really liked it. If it wasn’t in Florida where all too soon the heat, humidity, and bugs will make it nearly unbearable, we’d consider living there. It was a great way to spend the day, and by far, our favorite sighting was that of a pair of Apalach Lovebirds.
We went our separate ways the next day, TBG and I taking a five-mile bike ride on the neighborhood trail so that I could test out my new bike seat. I’ll talk more about it later in subsequent posts, but it’s a keeper.
That evening, we had a happy hour gathering around the outdoor fire pit with another pair of full-time RVers who we’ve come to know virtually over the past few years. Inexplicably, I have no photos of it. LE have been able to spend actual time with them this last year, while Shannon and Ken, aka Zamia Ventures, have been hard at work building their new home on St. George Island. Our visit was much too short, but we thought at the time that we’d be able to get together at least once more before we left the area and get an up-close look at their new digs. I guess that spoils the fact that we didn’t, but I’ll surprise you later with why.
I also have no photos of our scrumptious dinner, but I will brag about what we had anyhow. I, using my consummate Instant Pot skillz, brought potato salad and braised red cabbage to the table, while Grill Master E made delectable chicken thighs.
TBGrille opened again the next morning, and after filling our bellies with another Big Breakfast, TBG stayed home to work on some more RV maintenance while I followed LE to Carrabelle (McKissack) Beach. This is a place E visits a few times a week for birdwatching, and it’s a pretty beach to walk along birds or no.
You can see E has his spotting scope and tripod, and as we walked we encountered a man walking towards us with the exact same equipment. Turns out, it was another birder whom E “knew” from their postings on eBird, an internet birdwatching tracking database. We chatted with him and his wife, and he gave us some local bird sighting tips.
On his previous trip out, E had spotted some Piping Plovers, a near-endangered species. We were encouraged to spot these little cuties again on this trip, along with more Snowy and Semi-palmated Plovers. It was a plover-rich environment and a fun beach walk for us and them. We did not make that sandy seastar, but I wouldn’t put it past those crafty plovers.
That night’s supper was my Pollo en Mole and L’s corn tortillas and coleslaw. Delish! The following day was another mostly down day. I accompanied L on her daily walk, TBG washed the car, and I don’t have the data on E’s whereabouts for that day. There was another mouth-watering dinner of L’s fish chowder, and he did show up for that. Hee!
Following the tips from the birder on the beach and wanting to visit the Farmers Market, TBG and I followed E across the bridge again into Apalach. We were hoping to pick up some Tupelo honey, and we were all wanting some fresh produce.
It may have been the overcast chilly weather, but there were only a handful of vendors, none of whom had any produce and just one who had the honey, but it was only in very small bottles. E and I each bought our sweethearts a special chocolate bar, then we moved on to try to find the two birds we were seeking.
The first was a Peregrine Falcon that was said to be nesting underneath the causeway. All we located, however, was part of a rainbow and what we think may have been the falcon’s nest.
The second bird required a walk into the residential area of town, and we had to pass through a BBQ festival we didn’t know ahead of time was happening. Had we known, we may have delayed our outing in order to load up on some takeout BBQ. The aroma of all the cooking meats drove us crazy as we walked.
We were looking for a female Painted Bunting, which compared to the artist’s palette colors of the male, isn’t much to look at but would have been a fun bird to locate this time of year. I also reasoned that where there are lady birds, gentlemen birds are sure to follow. We persisted through some rainy sprinkles, but came up empty. No honey, no peregrine, no bunting, no BBQ. Boooooo! We warmed ourselves that night with a big pot of my black bean soup and L’s cornbread.
LE had a exclusive outing planned the next day with an Audubon worker to see a special place not normally open to the public. I’m not explaining that well at all, but suffice it to say they had an exciting day out planned, and we were holding down the fort. TBG washed the RV while I did laundry and cheffed up my special yellow curry, kale salad, and special chocolate pie.
TBG announced our black tank was leaking. What?! EW. “We have to leave!” I cried, “We can’t leak that all over their property!” It wasn’t quite as dire as that since it wasn’t actively leaking directly out onto the ground, but it did, unfortunately, mean that we’d have to leave in order to get to a place with sewer hookups and buy a new valve. This was not news we wanted to deliver.
When LE got home, we had dinner all set up on the porch, and we made sure to have them recount the details of their special day first. Then we had to break the bad news. L cried, I cried, the fellas looked seriously glum. We ate chocolate pie, which helped a little. We didn’t need to leave early at all, so TBG served one last Big Breakfast from the food truck, and L and I had one last walk in the warm sun. I didn’t lose her this time, and we’ll never lose the memories of such a lovely time with our dear, dear friends.