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Silver Sands Summer Vacation - June 12-22, 2009 (this is our 22nd summer at
Silver Sands) -
We changed it up a little this year for
our annual Florida vacation. We drove Homer 2 (the motor home) and
pulled Willie B (the Jeep). We stopped in Eufaula, Alabama and camped
at Lake Point State Park the first night. The lake is beautiful, and
the stay split the drive up over two days, making it a little easier on
Daddy. From Eufaula, we cruised on to Silver Sands, Nanny's and Paw
Paw's place on the beach. The Parkers were camping nearby, so they
joined us daily at the beach. While there, the Tribe ate at Margaritaville,
Jimmy Buffet's restaurant in Panama City Beach. That was a lot of fun!
We also had the obligatory lunch at Bayou Bill's crab house, which was also
as good as usual. One morning we rode our bikes to Rosemary Beach
where the kids played in the fountain, then ate breakfast at the Donut
Truck. After the full week at Silver Sands, we migrated to Topsail
Hill Preserve State Park to camp for a couple more days.
More to come...
Summer Vacation - June 14-22, 2008 (this is our 21st summer at Silver
Every summer the Tribe heads to Silver Sands, Nanny's and Paw Paw's beach
house located between Panama City and Destin, Florida. We've been
coming here so long, it's like home for us. Last year we drove Homer
(our motor home) down for the convenience of the kitchen and bathroom.
This year, with gas being in the $4.00 neighborhood, we decided to drive
"Willy B" the Jeep. Mother Goose and Aunt Mary also came down, but
they drove Goose's car.
This year at Silver Sands was exceptional because the water was warm and
crystal clear most of the time. In recent years, the wildlife has been
very sparse on the beach. Several hurricanes had hit the coast and
eroded the beach significantly which I think depleted the crab population in
the area. That wasn't the case this year. We saw more fish in
the water and more crabs on the beach than ever before. We stayed on
the beach a lot this year and went crabbing almost every night. We ate
out only once, and that was lunch at Bayou Bills (which was very good again
We met some new friends this year too. We
met Wake, Tori, Cole, and their Mommy and Daddy. All the tribe liked
having more kids to play with. We also went on the Pirate Cruise again
this year. Cap'n Phil and the crew did a great job as usual. The
dolphins were very active during the cruise this year, and we were able to
watch them for a very long time. The cruise took us out of St Andrews
bay this time, and right down the PCB coastline in the Gulf of Mexico.
The water was clear and as smooth as a lake.
We also rode go carts one day. Heath and
Lee Thomas drove their own, and Lainey and John Micah rode with Mommy and
Daddy. It was a real blast! Having the jeep with us also allowed
us to take lots of rides with the top off. One day we rode through a
section of Washington Point State Park near Grayton Beach. It was like
traveling through time to see what the Gulf coast looked like before it was
settled. The road was sand, and I was thankful for four-wheel drive
more than once. It would have been good to have a machete to hack away
some of the low branches as well.
When we asked the kids what their favorite part
of the trip was, they responded with many different answers. I think
we all agreed that the nighttime crabbing was at the top of everyone's list.
Lainey seemed to really enjoy the boogie board a lot and John Micah thought
the Pirate Cruise was the highlight of the trip. Daddy's favorite part
was the drive down and the drive home. He liked it so much in fact,
he's considering spending the extra cash for the gas to drive Homer next
Spring Break 08 -
April 9-13, 2008:
FDR State Park and Pine Mountain, GA
Spring Break! This one was special because we
had a great PB&J Adventure planned, and Pamba, parker John, and Calbert were
to join us, staying in the pop-up camper the recently purchased for such
things. On this trip to central/West Georgia, we rode (and rode and
rode) bikes around
Callaway Gardens where the
Azaleas and Dogwoods were in full bloom. We camped at
FD Roosevelt State Park
where we fished, rode bikes (and rode and rode and rode), and watched movies
at our private outdoor theater (a sheet and projector). We once again
Wild Animal Safari, but our camera didn't work for that. The
park's walk through zoo has expanded and it's great! You can see
animals there that you won't see elsewhere. Mother Goose and Ain't
'Net joined us for a couple of days too. I think they really enjoyed
the animal park, the Little White House, Callaway Gardens, the Little
White House, our outdoor movies, and not camping. They stayed at a
Smoky Mountains Vacation- June 22-30, 2007
(see also PB&J Adventures)
June 22-25: Camping at Jellystone Park, Cherokee, NC
We arrived in Cherokee late Friday afternoon and were greeted by
two elk at the welcome center. All I can think about when I see these
horse-size deer is what it would be like to hit one on a motorcycle, or even
a car. We were excited about staying at
Jellystone Park in Cherokee.
They advertised a wooded environment with lots of activities for the kids.
When entering the campground, we drove by crumbling homes with trash and
junk in their yards. Our site had a dumpster on one side and a set of
hand-made pens housing lots of dogs and a cow on the other. The sites
were narrow so our view was of the next camper's sewer hook-up.
Luckily, we were able to move to a site on the river the
next day which was much better. The kids were able to ride their bikes
on the gravel inner roads, and they swam in the pool until we spotted a
little brown floater. It was like the scene from
Caddy Shack with
everyone piling out of the pool. Unfortunately, it wasn't a Babe Ruth
bar, so the pool was closed for the duration of that day. We played
ping pong, caught a crayfish, and fished for trout. It rained (hard)
on Sunday, but it didn't dampen our spirits. Then came the gypsies.
Two or three trucks with 15' trailers loaded to the gills with coolers and
containers. They started moving the big rocks that divided our
campsites and pitched three huge tents next to us. It took them hours
to establish their camp, but they had plenty of booming music to accompany
their efforts. The only positive was that the billowing black smoke
from their 30 or so tiki torches kept the bugs away. Although we had
paid for the fourth night, we packed-up Monday morning and headed for Maggie
Valley and Ghost Town in the Sky. I'd like to point out that
Jellystone did not offer a refund for the last night, and when asked about a
refund, they refused. I'm quite certain that they rented the site that
night, so they made double their money. Perhaps that's how they can make a little
extra cash. I know that a campground has to make a profit, but our
experience with these commercial campgrounds is that the sites are half the
size of what they should be. They try to cram as many sites into their
limited space as possible. Positives- Pool, WiFi, cable TV, good roads
for bike riding, and the river. Negatives- too crowded (we love kids,
but GEES!), poo in the pool,
sites too narrow, and a loud PA system that cranked-up first thing in the
morning blasting kids music all over the campground. We wouldn't
recommend Yogi in the Smokies, but there are attractions locally that we
would recommend. The
Oconaluftee Indian Village and the outdoor play
Hills depicting the events that led to the trail of tears.
Note: While I wouldn't recommend Yogi in the Smokies, I'd
like to point out that we didn't see anything else more appealing.
Perhaps you should visit Cherokee while en route to another camping
An added note: With no cellular access at the campground, pay phones are are
the only method of making a call. We used one for four calls totaling
about 15 minutes. The bill on my credit card was just over $91.00.
American Express worked with me and refused the charge. I called Yogi
about this and they were shocked. They'll be posting signs warning
campers of the excessive costs charged by the phone company/crooks.
June 25-27: Maggie Valley Camping and Ghost Town In The Sky - Maggie
You know, I have passed by
Maggie Valley many times in past
years, but I'd never actually visited. It's really a cool little town.
There are lots of restaurants and things to do (including skiing in the
winter). We stayed in a
quaint little RV Park called
Stone Bridge. Although the sites on
Jonathan Creek are kind of narrow, there was plenty of room behind the
camper for the kids to play. There's a pool and game room, and a very
nice clean laundry. The roads are paved and very level, so the kids
could ride their bikes a lot. My only complaint was that the site was
kind of muddy after the rain, something that could have been remedied with a
few dollars worth of gravel or mulch. Otherwise, we loved
Bridge. The people there are really friendly (there are quite a few
full-timers there). We have already booked two sites on the creek in
October, and it looks like "Super Dave", "Carly Sue", Dianna, and Carson are
joining is for the long weekend.
Our first stop in Maggie Valley was
Ghost Town in the Sky. The theme park, which
has been around for over 45 years, has been closed for several years pending
sale. This year it has reopened with a fresh coat of paint and a new
crew. Some of the rides have not opened yet, but those that were open
were very nice and clean. The shows such as the gunfight on main
street, and the Silver Dollar Saloon are very well done. The music was
great at the Red Dog Saloon, and everyone enjoyed the Indian dance and
blow-gun demonstrations. Unfortunately, it started raining hard that
afternoon, so the chair-lift closed and they had to shuttle everyone (and I
mean everyone) down the mountain in passenger vans. I heard someone
say they had six vans, but I'd say it was closer to two. It took two
hours to get out, and we were some of the last to leave. We saw Ghost
Town as a real Ghost Town. Positives, fun kiddie rides, clean, fresh,
professional shows, great view, good prices (once in the park).
Negatives- Not all rides opened, bad transportation/evacuation plans,
charged full price although some rides were unavailable. It is a bit
pricey, especially with four kids. I believe it cost us around
$140.00. Fortunately, we got a rain check and are planning to go back
in October. Hopefully they will have opened the rest of the rides by
then. Even with the negatives, we'd still recommend Ghost Town in the
Note to Ghost Town management: Don't advertise your
"thrilling roller coaster" before it's open, and you should make it clear that
not all attractions and rides are opened at the base of the mountain before
you take the customer's money. You've got a good thing, don't spoil
June 25- Biltmore House/Estate, Asheville, NC
While camping in Maggie Valley, we took a day
trip to Asheville to visit the
Biltmore Estate. We spent over seven
hours exploring the house (we plugged it as a castle to the kids), gardens,
farm, and winery. I followed the advice of the lady that sold me the
tickets, and played a game of I-Spy as we toured the house. I'd find
some object in a painting, engraving, or sculpture, then have the kids try
to find it. It kept them entertained enough to make the house tour
much more enjoyable. Once again, it decided to rain on us, but we
didn't care, we just kept on going. At the farm, the kids got to pet
some of the animals and saw a chicken lay an egg. The attendants let
the kids collect the eggs, and as you can see from one of the pictures
below, John Micah had a little accident ( I believe that boy could
break an anvil). On the way out of town we stopped and visited Dianne,
a good friend and co-teacher of Rebecca's that was visiting her mother in
the hospital. By the end of the day, we were tired and ready to head
back to camp. We did, however, stop at the
Maggie Valley Rock Shop to browse and do a little gem
grubbing. When we got back to camp, the kids rode their bikes and watched a movie before
calling it a day.
June 27: Sheffield Ruby and Sapphire Mine- Franklin, NC -
On Wednesday we went gem grubbing
Sheffield Mine in
Franklin North Carolina. Mother Goose and Aint 'Net met us there.
Although we had very little luck, we really enjoyed ourselves. Aint
'Net found a tiny ruby, and the kids found lots of other semi-
precious stones in the enriched buckets, but otherwise, it was a bust.
One thing that makes the Sheffield Mine unique is the rubies and sapphires
found there are actually from that location. The dirt you screen is
dug from that site, and it is possible to find a real valuable stone, what
they call "honkers". Although the visit was a little pricy with the number of kids we have
($10 for adults, $8 for the kids), I'd recommend this activity to others because the kids enjoyed playing in
the mud very much. Take a change of clothes!
I'd like to add that many of the rocks the kids
(mostly Lee Thomas) found in the enriched buckets are polishing-up quite
nicely. They had a good variety of rocks and crystals mixed in with the
Vogel State Park - Blairsville, GA & Helen, GA - June
Park in an awesome
place! We were very lucky to get a big creek-side spot this week because
many people reserve spots a year in advance for the 4th of July festivities.
The site was very nice an clean. The park has a lake with a beach and
peddle boats, a miniature golf course, and falls that you can hike to.
There is also a
CCC museum where you can see how the young men that built
this and many other parks across the country lived and worked (for a dollar
a day). The only negative is that the laundry room is way too small
with too few washers and old dryers that do not work well. Also, there
is no full hook-up (no sewer), but that's pretty standard for state parks.
The roads are a little too hilly for our kids to ride bikes, but older, more
experience riders would have enjoyed it. A bear visited our site early
Thursday morning, but we were sleeping late and missed it. Personally,
I think this is the nicest state park we've been to thus far. Its only
a couple of hours away, but it's really secluded. It's close enough to
attractions for day trips like Helen, Uniquoi State Park, gem
mining/grubbing, Tallulah Gorge, Dillard, Frankiln, etc. We'd give it
While camping at Vogel, we took a day trip to Helen, GA, an alpine village
(tourist trap) located in North Georgia. We didn;t spend much time
there because Lee Thomas wasn't feeling well, but I'd like to note that we
ate lunch at
Cabana, a wonderful Mexican restaurant with very good food. The
owners/management were very nice and treated the kids like their own.
It was also very reasonably priced with food and drinks totaling about $5.00
I'd also like to mention a barbeque restaurant we ate at on the way home on
Saturday. If you're ever in Blue Ridge, Georgia, stop by
Blue Ridge Mountain BBQ
for lunch. I think it was some of the best barbeque I've ever had!
The service was great too!
Every year that Rebecca and I have been
together, we have spent a week or more at Nanny's and Paw Paw's place at the beach
on Florida's panhandle. It's truly like home away
from home for us. Now that we have kids, it's even better. Also
known as the Redneck Riviera, this area is (or used to be) one of the
best-kept secrets in the south. The growth is incredible now though.
I guess someone let the cat out of the bag. Still, the panoramic view
I created by pasting shots together was taken on possibly the busiest day of
the year. We've been spared the crowds so it seems.
Silver Sands Summer Vacation
- May 25 thru June 3, 2007 (this is our 20th summer at Silver Sands)
Homer this year because, with Mother Goose,
there were seven of us. I justified the additional gas by not stopping
to eat and visit restrooms on the way. The tribe ate and pottied in
Homer which made the trip much more enjoyable. We started the week
with just the family, but the Parkers joined us on Thursday. On
Saturday, the Peels and Gibsons came down. I had to get back to work,
and Rebecca had a class to attend, so we headed for home on Sunday.
Check out the song!
from landing. This was Memorial Day, late afternoon!
The kids loved playing in the tidal pools. There was a red flag
out constantly (rip currents), so our time in the gulf was limited.
It calmed down a little bit by Friday and Saturday, the kids could play
with their boogie boards real close-in.
Bayou Bills' crab legs were exceptional this year. I honestly
don't recall having better.
Seaside Florida wasn't much more than a concept when Rebecca and I first
started coming here, but it's always been one of our stops. We
look around in the shops, especially in the book store. We usually
don't buy much more than a slushy or a paperback.
On Thursday, the Parkers moved in next door. Lee Thomas and Heath
were so excited about having Cal to play with. Over the next
couple of days those guys dug in the sand and played in the water.
On Saturday, the Peels and the Gibson's came into Silver Sands #2, and
we moved into Homer. We had reserved a camp site at Topsail State
park several days earlier, but we stayed parked at the beach house as
long as we could.
Bye bye Silver Sands.... See you next
PS. Here's a little song I wrote
about this year's vacation at Silver Sands.
The Ballad of the Richardson Tribe’s ’07 Silver Sands Vacation
Copyright 2007: the
Homer Deever Bullet Band and Small Appliance Repair LLC.
(to the tune if the Beverly Hillbillies theme - The Ballad of Jed Clampet-Lester
Flatt and Earl Scruggs)
Come and listen to the story
'bout Rebecca and John,
and four little kids with the last name Richardson.
Come one day they were headed for the sea,
With a pottie and a kitchen and some kiddie DVDs.
that is, black tires, no CD.
Well the first thing you know we’re cruisin’ down the road,
The V-10 slurpin’ fuel with a really heavy load.
We don’t have to stop for a rootin’ tootin’ thing,
‘cept to buy a lotto ticket, ding-a-ling-a-ling (sorry, couldn’t find a
Well the last thing you know the salt is in the air,
I think Mother Goose is pulling out her hair.
Over seven hours sealed up in a big tin can,
watching Herbie movies with the bug’s biggest fans.
Love bug that is, number 53.
In just a few more minutes,
we’re headed for the sand,
With chairs and toys and sun block, to the beach we ran.
In breezy little swim suits, and bare little feet,
This year’s the first that they all know that SAND IS NOT TO EAT!
Come on down, set a spell, check them pull-ups, what's that funny smell?
When the day is over, and the
sunset's come and gone,
night-time is here, so off to bed you run.
We'll place on our pillows our sleepy little heads,
And wonder how we got so much grit in our beds.
Sand that is, white as snow,
from the sea.......