No Direction Home

This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

September 27, 2018


Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

The second stop on our trip home from Winston-Salem to Key West was a place that I had never been, but sort of pulled out of hat so to speak after looking at the road map of what possible stops that Jack and I might enjoy as we traveled home. The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is located along the South Carolina/ Georgia border, just to the North of Savannah, Georgia. 


While I have been to Savannah and the Lowcountry of South Carolina before, I had never really stopped to check out the natural areas that the refuge represents. Known for its rich flora during the humid summer months, the region also supports a diverse wildlife population. The variety of birdlife within the Lowcountry is enhanced by its location on the Atlantic Flyway. During the winter months, thousands of mallards, pintails, teal and as many as ten other species of ducks migrate into the area, joining resident wood ducks on the refuge. In the spring and fall, transient songbirds stop briefly on their journey to and from northern nesting grounds.

The refuge is home to a large variety of wildlife including: ducks, geese, wading birds, and shorebirds. Several threatened and endangered species are protected on the refuge, including the American alligator, flatwoods salamander, bald eagle, wood stork, shortnose sturgeon and Florida manatee. The refuge also provides nesting areas for wood ducks, great horned owls, osprey and swallow-tailed kites.

There is a great meandering 4.5 mile wildlife viewing drive, which is basically a dirt road that winds through the various habitats in the refuge. Much of it is former civil-war era rice fields that have become swamp-like habitats for the many various types of wildlife. Taking the drive was great as it allowed easy viewing of the park and allowed Jack to remain in the car so not to disturb any of the wildlife.

The drive was wonderful as many of the creatures that call the place home were on display. There were all sorts of cool waterfowl. I saw the largest concentration of beautiful Rosette Spoonbills that I have ever seen, they seemed to be everywhere. We also saw a number of alligators, lizards and cool insects as well.

The refuge is riddled with canals and impoundment dikes left over from the water management system from the former rice plantations and they provide excellent habitat for the array of wildlife that calls the refuge home. The weather was spectacular during our visit and it was a great break in the drive to stop at such a beautiful location.

Our next stop was a brief stop at Daytona International Speedway, which just happened to be located at one of the gas stops along our route. We drove down and looked at the famed oval from the road and the visitor center and checked out the statue of the late Dale Earnhardt and the Speedway’s walk of fame where each Daytona 500 winner puts their hand and footprints in cement.

Camel City

September 26, 2018


Dakota, Kathy and Sloane 


Camel City

Winston-Salem has long been known as Camel City due to their strong connection with the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company and Camel cigarettes. The Reynolds name can be found in almost every aspect of life in the city and the family estate as well as the company itself are located there. But the city is much more than just a tobacco town and has seen in recent years an increased focus on the arts and other cultural growth that has greatly widened the appeal to visitors.

During my last couple of days there, I was able to enjoy the city and spending time with my mother, Marta before I had to head back home to Key West. Marta and I enjoyed going to see a number of movies including the wonderful film, “Crazy Rich Asians” as well as “A Simple Favor”. I think attending movies is one of my mother’s favorite activities and it is certainly one that we share.


We also had the opportunity to get out and enjoy some wonderful meals together, having fun and enjoyable meals at Katharine Brasserie and our Mexican favorite Senor Bravo, which is located just up the street from her home. There is a reason that the city was recently named as having the second most livable downtown in the United States by the New York Times as there are many fun restaurants and bars and entertainment options all located in the ever expanding and improving downtown.


I managed to check out a couple of my favorite breweries while in town including Wiseman Brewing, the Fiddlin’ Fish and the old stand-by Foothills Brewing which are all located with-in a short walk of each other downtown. Fiddlin’ Fish was celebrating their annual Oktoberfest and the special brew they created for the occasion.


One of the cooler things that I did was walk down with our dog Jack from Marta’s condo to the Fiesta celebration that was being held downtown by the Winston-Salem Hispanic league. I was surprised first that a city in the South would be hosting an event like this and even more astounded at the size and scope of the party. It was awesome, an estimated 20,000 people show up each year to eat Latin food, enjoy music and entertainment, vendors and basically just a beautiful party to celebrate the Latin community. It was so cool. It felt more like I was in Miami than in North Carolina.


Sadly our short visit to Winston-Salem had to end at some point and soon Jack and I said our farewells and were back on the road heading south towards Key West. As on the trip up, I opted to take it slow and make as many stops as time allowed to break up the monotony of driving and to get a chance to see some of the interesting places along the route.


Our first stop was at the beautiful Congaree National Park in central South Carolina. This relatively new (2003) National Park includes the largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the United States. The lush trees growing in its floodplain forest are some of the tallest in the eastern United States, forming one of the highest temperate deciduous forest canopies remaining in the world.

The park combines beautiful hardwood forests, swamp land and has the Congaree River running through its heart. Jack and I took in the visitor center and took a hike on one of the many beautiful trails through the wood. It was fun, except that there were more and larger mosquitos than I have ever encountered anywhere. They were massive and swarming and hastened the conclusion of our hike.

Of course while Jack and I were on the road home, Kathy was continuing her visit with our friend Dakota and her new daughter Sloane in Clovis, New Mexico. Adorable, jealousy-inducing photos continued to arrive with regularity on my phone. It certainly seemed as if they were having a pretty amazing time themselves and as much fun as Jack and I were experiencing, it sure would have been great to make it out to Clovis to meet the newest arrival to their family.