Thursday, January 31, 2013

St. Augustine Farmer’s Markets

I’ve said it before: just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you should eat poorly.  If you’re going to camp, you should be eating well. What else is there to do?

There are two weekly Farmers Markets in St. Augustine that have a wide variety of local foods.  For us, grocery stores are for things like sugar, salt, pasta and beer.

Both of these markets have a healthy dose of touristy items like carved coconuts, shell trinkets, and shark tooth necklaces.  I must guiltily admit, I like the shark tooth necklaces.

The Old City Farmers Market is every Saturday in the Amphitheatre parking lot.  It’s a five-minute walk from the campground, two-minutes by bike.  I highly recommend the seafood truck.  Ask some seafood questions while you’re there because these people know their stuff and are a wealth of knowledge. We bought scallops, citrus, and vegetables both times we went. 

The St. Augustine Beach Farmers Market is every Wednesday at, you guessed it, St. Augustine Beach. Don’t try to park there; it will irritate you. Do yourself a favor and park behind the motel in the beach parking lot and walk across the volleyball fields. You’ll thank me.  Trying to navigate through a bunch of lemmings in an overly full lot is just not conducive to vacation fun.  Avoid it.  Better yet, avoid the parking lunacy, and ride your bicycles like we did.

There’s an excellent produce stand there.  You can’t miss it.  It’s the largest stand with the most people, for good reason: there’s great selection and prices there.

Afterward, take your dog for a walk on the beach and watch the pelicans nose-dive into the ocean.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Surfing at St. Augustine Beach

Surfing has been on my to-do list for a long, long time.  Well, I finally got to do it, and it was awesome.

We took a lesson at The Surf Station, two hours for $60 each. Money very, very well spent.  Surfing isn’t something you try to do on your own. Getting a few lesson sets you up on a solid foundation. And Alex, our instructor, was fantastic. He was patient, encouraging, thorough, and had great passion for the sport.

Paddling into the ocean gave me the first sign that I’d love it.  Sounds disappeared.  It’s just you and the ocean.  Silence is hard to come by, something I seek out regularly, and here it was thirty yards from the shore, a place I’d been hundreds of times.

Standing on a surfboard and giving in to where a wave takes you is simply exhilarating.  For a few moments, time just stops.  I’m floating, and weightless, and riding a wave. The whole time there was a part of me saying, “How the hell is this happening?!”

I don’t really know how, but I stood up on the very first wave and many waves after.  I think the reason I was so comfortable on the board was that I wanted very badly to stay the hell out of the water. I needed to stay far, far away from any giant-toothed creature that was waiting to devour me. Motivation coupled with paranoia, two of my favorite states of mind.

Amelia, on the other hand felt like she was tethered to a torpedo so she wasn’t so good at making friends with her surfboard.  But she’s the girl who wants to be “in” the ocean so it makes sense. She’s comfortable wrapping the ocean around her like a poncho and floating there.  I broke out into a mini-sweat just typing that.  She’s in the ocean, I’m on the ocean.

The waves beat the living hell out of us most of the time, but in a good way. You really have to work to get back out to take another wave which makes riding the wave all the more satisfying.  My arms ached after two hours of paddling myself after the waves.

Once thing is for sure, I’ll be doing this again.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Feather on the Teardrop

A man on a bicycle stopped by the campsite today.  He was enamored with the simplicity of the Teardrop. 

In the hour he spent visiting, he told many stories about his life: from being pierced through the neck with bamboo, to navigating a 55’ boat during a storm while the Captain retreated to the cabin to sob, to how to trap a rabbit or bird with no tools.

He came to the campground searching for someone he met recently, but found us.  He had a bag of fresh Red Cedar shavings that smelled amazing.  We didn’t have to ask a lot of questions. Put the cedar under your pillow, he told us.

“If you’re sleeping on the ground here, you want something between you and our ancestors who were killed here.”

He told stories about his daughter, his grandson, war, travels to China, and trying to become invisible. 

“Man’s world is over; it needs to be a woman’s world now.” 

He was adorned with shiny silver cuffs and rings, things he made and carved himself.  His bicycle had a rear rack that was made out of cedar branches that was perfect: light weight and held together with strips of copper and rope.

This man has been around. He referred to his bicycle as his horse.  He is a true nomad, a true American, the original American. He was a Marine who received a Purple Heart.  He went to war for a country that stole from him and every Native American.

He thought his grandson would love a Teardrop and asked about the thickness of the aluminum skin. He said he would want to etch the entire Teardrop if he had one. He pulled a small knife from his wrist cuff and as he carved a feather onto the side of our Teardrop, he told the story of each stroke. I don’t remember the exact words, but what I got out of it was: the whole, the part, the journey, the heart, the soul, the struggle.  The outline of the feather was the line representing our life and death. And when he finished he said, “You realize it is one feather you have lost, but you have many, many more feathers.” 

Now if someone came up to the Teardrop and starting carving it, we would normally read them the riot act.  But this was a moment to shut up and listen and be. 

I am tactile, and I immediately touched the feather when he has done. He smiled and said, “Thank you, that is what you should do.” He also told me to rub the red fruit of a cactus onto the etching to make it  pop out.  “Eat the cactus fruit and seeds, too,” he said and then “deposit the seeds the next day in the woods so that a new cactus grows.”  When I asked what do you call that kind of cactus, he said, “you don’t call it, let it call you.”

“The sky is about to open”, he said as a rain cloud approached.  He gave us the bag of cedar shavings, hopped on his bike and rode off.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Nalu's Tropical Takeout

Nalu’s Tropical Take Out

A couple of New York transplants started this great taco truck business, and goddamn, it’s good. Nothing is over ten bucks, portions are the perfect size, they’re charming as hell, and they make everything themselves.

Located right at the entrance of Anastasia State Park in a cute, little trailer. Awesomeness 9000.

Highly addictive, and highly delicious. Do not miss out. Check them out when you’re here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Dogs and St. Augustine Beach

Dogs aren’t allowed on many beaches in Florida, but they are allowed at St. Augustine beach.  Very cool.

This is thrilling to Eesah because he loves all forms of water.  His natural instinct is to charge right into it no matter if it’s a swamp, a roaring river or the ocean.  No danger sign pops up in this little walnut-sized brain; that’s our jobs.  When we’re hiking and hear a river in the distance, we immediately leash him until we assess it. The last thing you want is your dog barreling into a class 3 rapid and going downstream. The horror.

I’m constantly reminded what a truly amazing dog we have.  He comes when he’s called, has never growled, nipped, or threatened anyone, ever (and I mean ever), can be off leash at a camp site and not wander once we show him the boundaries, hasn’t destroyed anything other than half a book when he was a pup, doesn’t beg for people food. Oh, the list goes on and on. He’s near perfect. Truly.  Of course, his behavior is a result of both us and him. We trained him well and consistently.  And, his brain is a walnut, but ours is a cantaloupe, so it’s really not that hard to train him.

Now, for the bad part. I’m sorry, here comes my judgment again:

Once again, there is dog poop everywhere. These pet owners ruin it for the rest of us once again.
There’s a reason dogs aren’t allowed in most areas of the beach. That reason is lazy ass dog owners who do not pick up after their dogs. This is a beach, where people of all ages are in bare feet, and there is dog poop all over the place. Unacceptable, especially since there are poop bags and trash cans right at the entrances to the beach.

I just don’t get it. You make a mess, you clean it up. Don’t be the bad apple for the rest of us.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A1A Cycle Works bicycle shop, St. Augustine

We went on a nice bike ride through St. Augustine Beach today.

We stopped at the Farmer’s Market which kicked ass. Lots of fresh produce there.  Then we wound up at A1A Cycle Works in the Anastasia Publix Shopping Plaza.

What a great little shop!

I’ve found that I frequently buy cycling gear when I’m on vacation. Things I don’t necessarily think about when I’m at home. Or maybe things I buy because, well, I’m on vacation.  You know how that goes, vacation mindset.

We bought some lights, a bike bell (for Amelia - I just like to yell at people), and some handlebar tape.

Frog lights rock.  They’re a great price at under $20.  This tiny led light packs a serious punch. It has two settings; a constant light and a blinking light. I prefer the constant light to the seizure-inducing blinking light.  This thing can mount to virtually anything; a seat post, handlebar, bag.  We even attach them to our kayaks when we’re night kayaking.  Handy dandy, I say.

This is one of those stores you feel right at home in.  It doesn’t matter who you are, or what your calves look like.  Although, my calves are huge.  Really, really huge.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Aluminum and salt

I need a lesson in chemistry to understand the reaction salt has on aluminum, if it has any reaction at all. I’m not sure.

There’s so much conflicting information out there.  Is it a form of rust? Is it some protective coating that’s being formed? Do I let it do its thing? Do I use acid to get rid of it?

Isn’t using acid on aluminum like sanding a wood floor? You can only do that so many times.

What to do, what to do.

Fred, what do you think?


Editor note:  Dr. Fred is a chemist, and you've probably used a thing or two that he patented. Here is his response.

Aluminum is lucky to be here. It is an extremely reactive metal and the only reason it does not quickly disappear is that it forms a protective layer of aluminum oxide when exposed to air. Normally the coating is too thin too see. Salt catalyses the formation of the layer and allows oxygen to get deeper into the aluminum and make lots of the oxide. That's the grey crud.
Acid will dissolve it but also attacks aluminum very rapidly. I would not use it. Just brush, sand, scrape the crud off. Rinse well with fresh water once you get away from the salt air. Then a light sanding or steel wooling (did I invent a word?) will restore a nice look. You could go berserk and use a buffer and polishes.


Monday, January 14, 2013

St. Augustine camping

I think I love St. Augustine. 

There are a lot of places where you feel like an outsider. That’s because you ARE an outsider.  You’re invading a kind of private club, and the locals have no qualms about letting you know that.  I grew up in a touristy area, and I gave that vibe out to many a tourist.  But, here everyone feels like the common denominator, and we’re all on the run.

It’s a mish mash of people from all over escaping something; winter, day to day life, jobs, family, to do lists, pressure, expectations. All of those things fall away when you’re on vacation, when you give in to vacation.

That’s the key isn’t it? Giving in. It takes me a week to give in.  Now I’m here and it’s good.

Cocktail time.


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Piles of dog doo and abandoned cats and judgment, oh my

Hi. I judge you.  Don’t worry too much, because I judge myself in ways that would destroy most mortals.

Let’s talk about bringing your pets on vacation, shall we? I’m not even going to talk about hearing a goat bleating in the site next to us last night. Not talking about it.

Fido and Spot are awesome, aren’t they?  Yes, yes they are awesome. OWNERS are the problem.  When Fido takes a dump and you don’t pick it up, you are the problem. When Fido barks and barks and barks, you are the problem. I hear you barking, not Fido. I want to put you in a crate, not Fido.

What brought about this rant is that our site in Anastasia State Park has dog crap everywhere on the outskirts of the site.  And I mean everywhere. Lazy, lazy people do this, annnnnd I judge you.

Ok, first of all let’s face it: There are going to be times when we don’t pick up after our dogs.  It happens. No one is perfect. There is no ‘always.’ Always simply does not exist. Shit happens, literally.

But, it’s careless and disgusting that people think it’s ok to leave dog crap in public areas for someone else to step in, smell, and deal with. There is no excuse for not cleaning it up.  You shouldn’t have a dog if you can’t pick up after it.  And, please don’t have the follower mentality of, “Well, someone else left it, so I can, too.”  You are not a robot.  Think for yourself and take responsibility. 

Now let’s talk about cats. There are abandoned cats here at Anastasia. We’ve seen two so far, and it’s sad and infuriating.  Cats should not be allowed at campgrounds.  I think it’s silly and selfish of any owner to think otherwise. Your cat doesn’t want to vacation with you; it probably wants a vacation from you. Get a cat sitter.

We named this abandoned cat Curio. 

Here’s the scenario: Fluffy the Cat escapes. Then you pack up and drive home?! I hope you don’t have children.  Would you leave your child at the campground too?  I assume you would since it’s kind of the same thing.

Pets are members of our family. We all say it, but who means it?  You don’t leave your pet behind.  I don’t care what deadline you have waiting for you at home.  Responsible people don’t abandon their family members hundreds or thousands of miles from home.  Figure it out.

Wait a second. Let’s negotiate.  You really, really, really want to bring Fluffy, because Fluffy IS a totally great cat.  Best. Cat. Ever. I propose the following: the campground takes a picture of Fluffy to have on file. You pay a refundable $200 security deposit, which you get back when the campground confirms that Fluffy leaves with you. Yes, I like it.  In fact, I’m going to write it up and send it out to some campgrounds.  Or, better yet, leave your cat at home.

Hey, don’t get all defensive on me, because when you do you’re just confirming that my judgment is indeed correct.  If it pushes a button, there’s some hard truth under it.


A note from Amelia:  Even though our sunny campsite smells like dog poop roasting in an Easy Bake Oven, Anastasia State Park is pretty amazing overall. It’s peaceful and quiet and the bathrooms are clean, and there’s an absence of children here. Or at least if there are children here, we don’t hear them, so they are being pretty quiet in their crates.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Your car is on fire

I like to ride my bike as much as possible when on vacation. I ride it to go to the restroom, to recycle, to the beach, to wifi spots, to Nalu’s Taco Truck. The bike is a fantastic mode of transportation. It’s even better when you’re somewhere that’s relatively flat and destinations are within a three mile radius.  It’s triple good when there are bike lanes, which there are plenty of here.

This past summer we bought a bike trailer. My thought was twofold: it’s great for hauling things, and gosh, won’t the dog love it? No, the dog doesn’t love it. He turns into a little freak show when I put him in it.  Just as well, because I don’t really want to be that person who puts Toto in a basket and cycles around. I am much more the utility type person, so utility trailer it is.

Today we made a pilgrimage via bicycle for the basics; firewood, ice, beer. It was quite warm out, probably about 75 sticky degrees.  Hills are pretty nonexistent here except for bridges and sand dunes.  We went over a bridge, therefore a hill. Yay!

All was well until a car pulled into a parking lot in front of us. It was on fire. Yes, the car was on fire. The guy turned off the engine, jumped out looking completely panicked, and started running away from the car.  Not good.

I guess the following story describes who I am in a nutshell.

I bicycled toward his car as another car pulled in.  The driver had seen what was happening and tossed him a water bottle. He frantically crawled under his car (brave man) and doused the fire. I tossed him my water bottle. He doused some more.  I ran and grabbed Amelia’s water bottle.  She cautiously stayed 100 feet away (smart woman).  He doused some more. Amelia called the Fire Department. The guy finally got the fire to go out.  Success!

Yes, I am that person who will run towards the fire. That is me.

After the excitement we filled up my bike trailer with 20 pounds of fire wood, 20 pounds of ice and a six pack of beer. The ride back to the site was a little bit harder.

Amelia says this was my punishment for my dangerous nature.  Hrmph!


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Learn Something With Leah

This is what I imagine the conversation with the people who left this wood at the fire pit would be. Oh, and it was at the next site too. Wtf?

Innocent Person: Look someone left some firewood at the site. What kind of wood is this?

Me: It’s pressure treated lumber.

Innocent Person: So we can throw it on the campfire then?

Me: Um, don’t be stupid! I just said it’s pressure treated wood. Wood that’s chemically treated.  You don’t burn pressure treated wood, you build things like decks with it.

Innocent Person : But it looks so dry, it’s not like I’m eating it. I’m just burning it.

Me:  Really? What’s wrong with you? Wait, that’s what’s wrong with you. You’ve burned one too many pieces of pressure treated lumber.

Innocent Person: But, I don’t breathe in the smoke, I don’t understand.

Me:  Oh, so you didn’t inhale? One of those are you? By burning PT wood you’re releasing all the chemicals into the air. This wood basically has been embalmed. You’re burning a dead wooden body full of chemicals. Have fun with that.

Don't burn pressure treated lumber. Don't be stupid. 

That is all.


Bread baking while camping

I have wanted to try baking a loaf of bread while camping for a while now, and how can I not with a fantastic little Coleman collapsible oven?!

I’m a sourdough fan, so I brought my sourdough starter with me.

One problem I could foresee was cold weather. The temperatures were not going above 65 degrees in the day, 54 degrees at night. 

So, the best place to rise the starter dough would be in the cab of the truck. To increase the temperature, I put the dough in the Coleman oven and set it on the front seat. 

And what do you know? It worked like a charm!  The temperature got up to 90 degrees. I had to open the door of the oven to cool it down slightly.

The next day I made the final dough and put it back in the truck inside the oven.  The weather was colder and rainy, high of 61 degrees and completely overcast with not a spot of sun.  The temperature got up to 75 degrees in the oven. Pretty good.  

After about 5 hours of rising time I set the oven on the camp stove, and within 5 minutes it was up to 400 degrees.  So in the dough went.  The top browned too quickly, in under 5 minutes. I turned the heat down to 350 degrees for the remainder of the bake time, probably around 15 minutes.

As I expected, the sides and bottom got too much heat too soon and got a bit too dark, but not burned. Next time I will bake at 325-350 degrees. 

 Nonetheless, this is a success. Delicious, fresh bread!

 I don’t have a recipe for this.  I just make it to feel. Working dough is very satisfying and different for everyone so get yourself and camp oven and start making bread.



IF I based my opinion of a state on what I see while driving on a major Interstate, I would think that Pennsylvania doesn’t care about how it looks. Every large tree is gone. All that is left are these pathetic-looking tiny stick-figure trees.

I often forget how simple-minded and short-sighted we as humans are. We don’t seem to learn fast enough. We’ve clear cut most of the country at one time or another, not just one time either.  Some places have been clear cut three or four times.  Rather sad and disturbing.  Except that some people read that and think that, "well, it’s ok, cuz it just grows back, so what’s the problem?" Bio-diveristy, my friend, or lack thereof, that’s what the problem is.  

Unfortunately, utter stupidity has been passed down through the generations, usually from fat wallet to fat wallet.