We left Key West on March 10th and headed for the Tampa area. We made an overnight stop at our “go to” campground on the Tamiami Trail (US-41), Midway Campground, operated by the US Forest Service. It’s not easy to find campground vacancies in Florida for this time of year, but we were able to get a site at Sundance Lakes RV Park in New Port Richey. Pat’s brother and sister, and their spouses rented a house in the area and we wanted to spend some time with them and our niece, Robin, and her family. After a week of enjoying time with family and friends, we made an overnight stop in Titusville to take our granddaughter, Katrina, out to dinner. She is a freshman at the University of Central Florida.
One of our favorite RV parks in Florida is at the Naval Station Mayport. Pelican Roost is right on the shore of the St. Johns River and ship watching is a favorite pastime. Our morning exercise routine became a more pleasant experience with a nice beach for our walks. We watched a fleet replenishment ship leave port for a shakedown and return. It was interesting to watch the harbor tugboats maneuver the ship away from her moorings, after which it left under her own power. Another significant sighting was watching the Destroyer Orleck sail up the river to Jacksonville. The USS Orleck is a Korean War era destroyer that was moved from Lake Charles, LA to be a Naval Museum in Jacksonville.
Two of our friends, Ray and Harriet, pulled in a few days after us. They joined us for dinner at the Safe Harbor Seafood Restaurant and birthday cake at our rig to celebrate my 73rd birthday. We don’t often have the opportunity to celebrate these occasions with friends, so that made it special.
Our next stop was Joint Base Charleston. We had originally planned to stay at the RV park at Charleston Air Force Base, but it was full. We were able to get a site at the Naval Weapons Station Goose Creek. This is home to the National Nuclear Program Training Center. We had toured several Charleston sites during a previous visit but sought out some new sites.
Our first site was the Boone Plantation. Boone Hall Plantation was founded in 1681 when Englishman Major John Boone came to Charleston and established a lucrative plantation on the banks of Wampacheone Creek.
The farm passed through a series of owners and was eventually sold to Harris M. McRae and his wife Nancy in 1955. The McRaes continued to farm the land, and they opened the plantation to public tours in 1956. Boone Hall is still owned by the McRae family, which has made great efforts to preserve the original structures and gardens. Today, Elizabeth McRae operates an agricultural and historical tourism business on plantation grounds. Mount Pleasant’s Boone Hall Plantation has remained as one of our nation’s oldest and most prominent plantations. The mansion that exists on Boone Hall Plantation today was built in 1936 by Canadian ambassador Thomas Stone. We were only able to tour the first floor because the second floor is reserved for the use of the McRae family. Part of the plantation that remains are the slave quarters. These lodgings are now the site of many presentations that include the history of slavery in the South and the conditions that they endured. I was impressed that there was no attempt to romanticize or “sugar-coat” how the slaves lived and worked.
“Exploring The Gullah Culture” is a unique presentation where the lives of the slaves can be experienced firsthand. Boone Hall is the only plantation in the Charleston area to present a live presentation of this unique culture adapted by African slaves. We listened as a true descendant of the Gullah people presented the history of this culture through storytelling and song.
Next to the Boone Plantation was a small plantation owned by Charles Pinckney. He was one of the drafters of the Constitution. It is always interesting to see where history actually took place, rather than just seeing a display in a museum.
Our next trip was to visit the Summerville Azalea Festival in Summerville. This is a three-day event to raise money for the Summerville YMCA. The town of Summerville cordons off three blocks along Main Street for a wide variety of vendors and food trucks. We had a great time wandering the vendors, picking up a few items and sampling the food offerings.
On Saturday, we visited the Friends of the Hunley Museum. The CSS Hunley was the only true operational submarine in the Civil War. James McClintock, Baxter Watson, and Horace L. Hunley were the inventors and builders of the CSS Hunley. Hunley recognized the importance of breaking the Union blockade and keeping supply lines open to the South. These three developed two prototype submarines, the Pioneer and the American Diver, before creating the Hunley. The Hunley arrived in Charleston on August 12th, 1863, and the crew quickly began testing the Hunley in Charleston Harbor.
On a moonlit night in February, 1864, the crew of the CSS Hunley had the calm sea they had waited for and embarked on their ambitious attack. The target was the USS Housatonic, one of the Union’s mightiest and newest sloops-of-war. The Hunley’s approach was stealthy and by the time they were spotted, it was too late. As the Hunley approached the ship, the alarm sounded and the sailors fired their guns, the bullets pinging off the metal hull of the Hunley. Below the surface, the spar torpedo detonated and the explosion blew a hole in the Housatonic. The sloop sank in less than five minutes, causing the death of five of its 155 crewmen. However, the submarine and crew disappeared into the darkness of the sea.
After fifteen years of searching, on May 3rd, 1995, best-selling author Clive Cussler and his National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), team finally found the submarine. Using a magnetometer, the NUMA crew located a metal object about four miles off the coast of Sullivan’s Island. After diving in nearly 30 feet of water, they removed three feet of sediment to reveal one of the Hunley’s two small conning towers. Bringing the Hunley back to land proved to be an engineering challenge of unprecedented proportions. Further complicating matters was the presence of human remains within the submarine. Friends of the Hunley Chairman Warren Lasch brought together a high caliber team to recover the remains of the crew and restore the Hunley.
Our next campground was Myrtle Beach State Park. This is our favorite campground in Myrtle Beach. It is like a forested oasis in the midst of commercial RV parks. This is a place to relax and enjoy the ocean. We got to walk on the beach for miles as well as ride the multiple bike paths. There was a multitude of geocaches in the area for me to find. One day the air was warm and the waves were high – that made for a perfect day for body surfing in the ocean. What a fun time!
That’s me, body surfing in the wave.
Saturday, April 10th, we pulled out and headed to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point in North Carolina.