After retiring (for the 2nd and last time) in December 2021, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time with my Dad. One of his and my favorite past times is to go fishing. He has 2 boats (a smaller creek boat and a larger lake boat).
He lives in South Georgia and is only 5 minutes from Spring Creek. We either fish off the bank or float down the creek in the creek boat. Sometimes we go to Lake Seminole for lake fishing.
I love the outdoors, nature and spending time with my Dad. My favorite part of any fishing trip is when we get into the boat and start moseying down the creek or lake — my Dad at the helm and me taking in the views.
As you cruise the lakes and creeks, you get glimpses of nature at its best — like this eagles nest.
But nothing is more fun than reeling them in and cheering each other on.
My Dad and I started following this expert fisherman on Youtube — his name is Richard Gene the Fishing Machine and he is incredible. He ends every video the same — with these words of wisdom:
Just over a mile from our home is Camp Helen State Park where in the early 1950’s a fishing pier (referred to as the Inlet Beach Pier) was constructed. Families gathered to fish, swim, collect shells and find shade from the brutal Florida sun.
In 1975, the pier took a hit from Hurricane Eloise, a CAT 4 storm that punished it with 120 mph winds. Most of the pier was lost but what remained became an icon for the Inlet Beach area.
Locals and tourists staying in Inlet Beach, Rosemary Beach, Seacrest, Alys Beach, and towns further down Scenic 30a made it a habit to walk to the pier along the crystal emerald shores. The pier was a great turnaround point where people could hang out, swim, or just rest before returning home.
When heading west from Panama City Beach, each time I crossed the Lake Powell bridge of Phillips Inlet, I would look south to spot the decaying pier. It was visible just in the distance and it became a habit to glance that way. A few weeks ago I glanced over and no longer saw the pier. I thought my eyes were deceiving me but later learned that it had been taken down.
Sadly, here is how it looks today. Other than a few pilings barely visible under the water, it’s completely gone.
In 2014, a sailboat washed ashore adjacent to the pier. It was loaded with all kinds of goodies (a kid’s bike, solar panels, sonar and more). We figured the owner would have it towed soon.
The sailboat sat there for 5 months until the county removed it. By the time they did, it had been swept from the original location to the back of the pier and was submerged in the sand.
Here are a few more pictures I’ve taken over the years. RIP Inlet Beach Pier!
If you want to learn more about Inlet Beach and the Inlet Beach Pier, MarineMax put together a phenomenal video:
A short 1 hour and 15 minute drive from our place in Arundel Maine is a sleepy fishing village called Bailey Island. It’s a dog friendly spot that’s perfect for a day-trip.
With a population of 400, this small island is located in Casco Bay, a part of the town of Harpswell, Maine. Legend has it that in 1742, Timothy Bailey purchased this island for a pound of tobacco and a gallon of rum from William Black who moved to an adjoining town, Orr’s Island.
Bailey Island is home to the only known cribstone bridge in the world made up of rocks, sand and gravel. The unique design allows tides to flow freely through it and boats to easily navigate its narrow passage.
As you enter Bailey Island, you see “Morse Lobster”. A stone’s throw away from it is “The Nubble”, a bait shack used by Lobster fishermen.
Our aim was to view “The Giant’s Steps”, a rock formation on the edge of the island that looks like a large flight of stairs. On our way there, we stopped at Mackerel Cove, a quaint cove filled with boats, fishermen, and small shops.
A short drive later we reached “The Giant’s Stairs”. Our dog Ziggi enjoyed the short hike to the ocean’s edge.
Our final stop was “Land’s End”, a rocky beach at the tip of the island. From there you can faintly see a lighthouse in the distance.
It was early March and we were narrowing down our international travel plans for 2020. China and Tibet seem interesting. We were visualizing the Great Wall and visits to Tibet monasteries. Then the pandemic hit. China and Tibet will have to wait.
Fast forward 4 months and we are living in a new normal. Never thought we would wear masks, avoid hugging friends, stop eating in restaurants, or generally avoid others.
After things calmed down (before the flare up in July), we decided to travel domestically to see more of the Northeast. We started in Maine where our oldest son lives. We traveled responsibly — vigilant in wearing our masks, keeping our distance from others and ordering take out. Here’s what we saw…
Maine is a beautiful state with awesome foliage, mountains, lakes, streams and access to the Atlantic Ocean. Beautiful light houses protect its rocky shores.
Our son and daughter-in-law have an amazing farm on 11 acres, complete with a barn, horse, goat, barn cat, and lots of flowering plants.
We had plenty of time to work on projects together. One of our fun projects was building a table together — very rewarding.
I also got a chance to work on my handicap with some nice golf courses around this area. They allow you to ride a single cart, golfers don’t shake or high five and we kept our distance. The new normal I guess.
Upstate New York
We’ve spent lots of time in New York City but never Upstate New York. Looking at the map, we spotted 11 elongated lakes resembling fingers — appropriately named the Finger Lakes. We had never heard much about them and was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful this area of the country is.
Many of the Finger Lakes are lined with a scenic drive along its shores with lots of wineries (great Rieslings) and craft breweries.
Astonishingly, this area has a large Amish population and you will invariably see them in horse and buggy along the roads.
The Hamptons (Long Island)
This was our first time visiting the Hamptons — New York City’s playground for the rich and famous. It was a bit different than I had visualized. It is densely populated with trees and the few roads in and out don’t provide a view of the beautiful beaches. It does not feel like a tropical area but has lots of shopping and upscale restaurants.
Once you get to the beaches, they are wonderful. Being from Inlet Beach, we are used to sugar sand beaches — these have a similar consistency with a yellow hue.
But this area has a lot of charm and I can see why it’s a relaxation spot for New Yorkers.
Apparently, it’s also legal to be chauffeured around by your 4 legged friends.
New York City
Our final stop was our beloved New York City. Things have really changed since our last visit. There are almost no tourists, so there are no crowded streets, few sirens blaring and almost no horns honking. Imagine that. No museums are open, restaurants are order out or outside seating only and Broadway shows are closed. Everyone wears masks and are diligent about social distancing. Andrew Como did a great job managing the pandemic and we feel as comfortable here as we do back home.
With everything closed, we’ve spent a lot of time walking every inch of Central Park.
Black Lives Matter. They always have.
I am often asked what type of camera I use to capture my photos. I mostly use my iPhone XR and a Nikon D500 if I need a long distance lens (but I rarely use it anymore). I’ve learned a lot about photography and it is more about your approach than what camera you choose to use. Once you learn the basics of composition and post-processing techniques, you can create stunning pictures that tell a story.
A year or so ago, I learned about an online photography class offered by Emil Pakarklis and it took my photography to the next level. If you want to hone your camera skills, it’s invaluable. Check it out here: https://iphonephotographyschool.com/author/emil/.
All of the pictures in this blog post were taken with my iPhone XR.
A few years ago, we enjoyed a slow ride down the Rhine River to take in the small German villages and hillside castles. The Rhine starts in Switzerland and flows North through Germany and Netherlands before dumping into the North Sea.
If you haven’t cruised the Rhine, it’s something you will want to do.
I didn’t notice this until we reviewed our photos, but the one below is funny. Check out the kid at the bottom right of the picture. We had just passed the castle from the photo above and he is snoozing away as we drift. His Dad is getting it all on video for later ribbing.
As you drift down the river, you see castle after castle. It’s fun to speculate about who built and lived in the castles over the years.
If you do a bit of research, its not nearly as romantic as you might imagine. The castles were equipped with thick-walls and fortifications and were used mostly as customs control over trade. At the time, the Rhine was a major trade route for the Romans. During the 14th century, cannons pillaged the castles and were eventually abandoned.
Among the castles are vineyards. If you have the time, you can stop in and sample the famous German Rieslings.
There are numerous quaint German Villages along this route.
Germany is a leading maker of Cuckoo clocks. After our Rhine cruise, we traveled into the Black Forest to see where they’re made. A lot of workmanship goes into each clock.
The store that sold these clocks had a Cuckoo clock built into the top deck. At the top of the hour, it chimes and you get to see a couple dancing on the deck.
Ask most Americans if they would like to visit Slovenia and they would probably look at you funny. I’m well traveled but knew nothing about Slovenia until it happened to be along our path from Austria to Croatia — 2 countries we wanted to see.
Our first stop in Slovenia was Ljubljana, What an amazing surprise, this place is absolutely fantastic. After spending 3 days here, I would highly recommend a visit.
Ljubljana is the capital and largest city in Slovenia with a population of about 270,000. It is a very walkable city with well kept buildings, churches, and a river running through the middle.
On our first night, we dropped into the restaurant in the picture below. It was a river side restaurant and the food smelled great. We were shown to our table and the waiter (a Frank Zappa looking gentleman) says “let me guess: 2 wines and 2 beers!”. We broke up laughing, he thought he had us sized up (and he did). He was typical of the people we met in Slovenia. Warm, friendly and ready to clown around.
We liked that restaurant so much, we ate there 2 of the 3 nights. The town has lots of interesting art installations around town.
Notice the bumps in the street behind us. That is actually an art installation that are alien-like heads, check it out by looking closer:
They also have a bridge aptly named”Dragon Bridge”.
They also have a bridge of locks (similar to Paris).
At the highest point of the city lies a castle that dates back to medieval times (notice the castle at the top of this picture):
You can ride to the top of the castle or you can walk it. We rode up and walked down.
You are rewarded with beautiful views from the top of the castle.
Just a short drive from Ljubljana is Bled, a glacier lake set in an idyllic location.
There is a castle at the top of Lake Bled, complete with a small museum.
In the middle of the lake is a church that dates back to 1655, check out the island from the window of the castle (top right window pane).
To get to the island, you must take a gondola, as you would in Venice.
The owners of these boats are families who have passed it down from generation to generation for hundreds of years.
As you get closer to the church, you appreciate the effort it took for church goers to get there.
The view from the island is breath taking.
I’ll leave you with a final picture I took returning from the boat. Shouldn’t Slovenia be on your bucket list?
While in Austria, we had a chance to visit Hungary’s capital city, Budapest. Budapest was previously 2 cities (Buda and Pest), separated by the Danube River. One of the most iconic landmarks is the Hungarian Parliament building (red-top building in the background of the picture below) — I will include a closer image of that at the end of this blog.
We first stopped at City Park, a place where locals ice skate in the winter and hangout in the summer.
Imagine this entire lake being frozen during winter.
The castle across the lake takes you back in time. You can climb the tower for a better lookout.
As we drove around the city, you catch glimpses of haunting statues. These are not statues of nobility but of suffering.
If you visit, be sure to spend some time walking around the Buda Castle district (Budai Varnegyed) — there is so much to experience here.
From the Buda side, you get a peek at the Hungarian Parliament building.
Our friends had just finished up a vigorous (and rainy) 200 mile cycling trip in Austria and met us in Vienna to start a trip that would span 3 countries and thousands of miles in the coming weeks. You would think they would’ve had enough of cycling but not so — we saw Vienna Austria via bike — what a great way to see the city!
Vienna is one of the largest cities in Europe with over 1.9 million residents. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so there’s lots to see. The State Opera house is a big attraction — you can enjoy opera or just take an inside tour.
We saw an Opera while there but not in the State Opera House. Opera is so plentiful in Vienna, it is easy to catch a show.
If you’re into horses, check out the Spanish Riding School. Here you can watch professional riders training for upcoming events.
As you cycle through town, you will catch glimpses of many churches. One of the most iconic is St. Stephen’s Cathedral with its Gothic architecture.
Another beautiful building is the Hofburg Palace.
If you have a flair for oddities, Hundertwasserhaus checks that box. Its creator Friendenserich Hundertwasser hated straight lines and angles, he was an ecologist and the buildings he designed are a combination of architecture and nature. It reminded us of some of the Guadi buildings we saw in Barcelona Spain.
One of my favorite areas we cycled through was Vienna University of Economics and Business. The architecture of the buildings is amazing. It was a collaboration of architectural firms from Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Austria.
If you have an extra day to spend in Vienna, be sure to visit Wurstelprater amusement park. It’s about like going to Six Flags in America — it has rides for every age.
Continuing our journey from Split to Dubrovnik, our next stop was Korcula, my second favorite city in Croatia. It is an old city surrounded by a fortress. Streets and buildings were designed in a maze to keep invaders from quickly exiting the city.
I love this city because of the unique castles and walls and the fact that Marco Polo spent a lot of time here. Some say he was born here (there is a Marco Polo house you can visit) but others say he was born in Venice.
Our next stop was Mljet, Croatia – a sleepy little fishing town with great seafood restaurants.
Next to it was a national park in an area called Pomena. Here you can cycle, swim or visit a local monastery. The waters are glacial so the colors are amazingly emerald.
A short boat drive takes you to the monastery and the surrounding area is astonishingly beautiful.
We ended our evening enjoying a sunset in a local restaurant.
The waiter’s fiance’s mother owned the restaurant and he introduced us to her and his fiance. Everyone we met in Croatia were so warm and welcoming. The waiter also looks a little like our oldest son, Cameron.
Ston is a walled city located at the south of isthmus of the Pelješac. Before visiting Ston, we stopped into an adjoining fishing village called Mali Ston.
From here, we took a boat to a local family’s oyster farm, where we tasted fresh oysters.
They explained how they raise the oysters before they gave us a taste.
This was the first time I’ve ever eaten oysters. I didn’t think I would like them but they were quite good.
After eating our fill of oysters, we made our way to the walled city of Ston. No, you’re not in China but they do have a great wall.
We needed to get more steps in for the day so we walked along the wall.
As you reach the top, you are rewarded with a nice view.
Prior to reaching Dubrovnik, we were offered a couple of swims — I took advantage of each opportunity. Living in the Gulf of Mexico, we are used to 80 to 85 degree water. This water was more like 60 degrees — pretty cold! But it was refreshing.
If you haven’t visited Dubrovnik, you’re in for a treat. You can take a walk along the city walls, I highly recommend that — you can take great pictures from there.
This walled city is where Kings Landing (Game of Thrones) was shot. This is the perfect setting for the quest for the Iron Throne.
One of the funnest things we did was to take a Game of Thrones tour. They took us around Kings Landing and showed us where they shot certain scenes and how they pieced scenes together. They also shared funny stories about how locals encountered the stars of Game of Thrones and the cost and intensity of shooting the episodes. Check out the pictures below — I am sure you will recognize some of the scenes (Red Keep, etc.).
I can’t say enough about how we enjoyed our trip to Croatia and our favorite city Dubrovnik. We also enjoyed the company of our 2 great friends, Kathy and Greg Tawes.
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite pictures of Kings Landing (Dubrovnik), shot from the Red Keep:
We started our Croatian journey in Rovinj, a medieval seaside town in the northern section of Croatia. Rovinj looks imposing but only about 14,000 people live there today.
Inside this idyllic city, you stride along cobblestone streets and you can hear the locals chatting and going about their day. Fishermen unload their day’s catch. Markets are buzzing. Clothes are hung up for drying along the balconies.
We stayed in Rovinj for about 3 days in this impressive hotel (Spirito Santo Palazzo Sterico). It was recently converted from a set of decrepit homes and they did an amazing job with the design and construction (we highly suggest staying there if you visit).
We hired a private tour guide for 2 days who showed us the entire Istria area (the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea) — Rovinj (along with many other cities) are in this area. We had wine tastings, olive oil tastings and visited Pula — a city just south of Rovinj.
When you roll into Pula, you may think you are in Rome, check out the arena.
Split to Debrovnik
After visiting Rovinj and the surrounding areas, we hopped on a small yacht with 36 other people to island hop from Split to Dubrovnik.
Split is a beautiful seaside city where many of the Game of Thrones scenes were shot.
They used the Palace of Diocletian as the place where Daenerys Targaryen’s dragons were raised.
The palace is huge and incredibly interesting — it has lots of shops and restaurants. It also has a Game of Thrones museum that I highly recommend visiting. They will tell you where each of the scenes were shot within the palace.
Bol, Hvar, Croatia
When you first sail into Bol, you will see the beautiful beach that lies just outside the city. Seas were rough and we had rain, so we did not get to swim here but it would be great to do if you get the chance.
We strolled a pretty empty city, visiting shops, a local church, and a winery.
Jelsa and Stari Grad, Croatia
We continued our journey to Jelsa and Stari Grad, seaside cities in route to Dubrovnik.
All of these medieval cities have squares and churches. I can only imagine what it was like to live here in older times — probably lots of community and plenty of gossip!
We capped off our day with a local dish called Gregada. Fish and potatoes cooked in the oven for about 45 minutes, it was the best fish I’ve ever tasted.
In an upcoming blog post, I will talk about our continuing journey to Dubrovnik, where we visit Korcula, Mljet, Ston and then Dubrovnik.
I will leave you with a lonely lighthouse we saw during our journey towards Dubrovnik.