Posts Tagged ‘museum’

Road-trip 2017, Days 27 – 30

In the home stretch of our month long road trip, we headed into familiar-to-us territory in the Florida panhandle, but not before checking out a new-to-both-of-us area, Pensacola, Florida.  Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida panhandle, nearly 832 miles by road from Key West, or 524 miles by water.  Pensacola’s big claim to fame is Naval Air Station Pensacola, the first naval air station commissioned by the US government back in 1914 and home of the Blue Angels.  We spent the entire day exploring the area, including the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum, the National Naval Aviation Museum and Fort Barracas, all on base at NAS Pensacola.

The Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum was quite interesting.  My favorite source for all things lighthouse, LighthouseFriends.com, has some history.  It is one of few that was actually occupied by both the Union and the Confederacy during the Civil War.  The tower and the Keeper’s Cottage nearly became casualties again in the early 70’s when there was talk of it being an obstacle for the nearby jet traffic on the naval base.  Preservation-minded folks prevailed, and today the lighthouse complex as well as the nearby forts are protected as part of the Gulf Shores National Seashore.  A most pleasant surprise during our visit was the “Women Who Kept the Light” exhibit, showcasing not just the women keepers at Pensacola but across the country.  It was an exceptionally well done exhibit and in my humble opinion, too much of a well kept secret, even on the lighthouse’s own website.


P1050771 Jeremiah Pelican Lighthouse Keeper

Jeremiah Pelican Lighthouse Keeper

Outside I was captivated by yet another creatures-as-public-art-project, this one entitled Pelicans in Paradise.  This was one of a flock of 41 5 ft tall 70 lb birds, hatched in 2004-2005 and scattered about Pensacola as a fundraiser for the local newspaper’s Newspapers in Education literacy program.  I’m not certain how many of them remain (though I was tempted to seek a few more out), but Jeremiah seemed to be in fine shape, obviously a well tended to bird.

The nearby National Naval Aviation Museum was at the same time impressive and a bit overwhelming.  With 350,000 square feet of exhibit space on a 37-acre campus, they obviously covered some history.  The chock-full space and the shear volume of exhibits made photography more than a bit challenging, at least for yours truly, but I couldn’t resist a shot of a few Blue Angels.  I loved that so many of the aircraft were shown suspended.

P1050777 Blue Angels, Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola FL

Blue Angels, Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola

Having spent way more time at the museum than we’d anticipated, we had only a short time to explored Fort Barrancas and none at all for nearby Fort Pickens.   Still, I was able to grab a few photos and Mike was recruited to help the onsite park ranger take the flag down at days end.


LS_20170424_140846 Hamaknockers BBQ, Crawfordville FL (so of Tallahassee)

Hamaknockers BBQ, Crawfordsville FL

Leaving Pensacola, we opted for the scenic route which took us through the Florida portion of Gulf Shores National Seashore. We spent a couple of nights at (Lori’s) Mom’s place in Panama City Beach, catching our breath, doing some laundry, generally slowing down a bit.  Mike’s nose found some good eats at Hamaknockers BBQ one afternoon on our way to Gainesville where we visited with friends for a bit.


On our last stretch from Gainesville to our Cheshire in St Augustine, we decided to stop and check out our new hometown so to speak.  We’d recently signed up for a mail handling service, officially known as St Brendan’s Isle, who handle mail for literally thousands of cruisers, RVers and others who travel.  They grew so much over the years that they outgrew their storefront (see Mike in photo below), but the post office (wisely) didn’t want to change their street address.  The little vertical bit between the windowed storefronts below is technically where we live.  We stopped by their new facility just outside of town to pick up our mail, along with that of a number of our friends, which saved us all some forwarding charges.  While we were in town, we also picked up library cards for our new city of residence.  Truth be told though, I’m not excited about Clay County Library’s e-book collection… it’s just not that big a population, but thankfully we’re also able to keep our cards for the Gainesville/Alachua Co Library which is awesome.

And thus ends another successful road trip.


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Road-trip 2017, Days 11 – 17

LS_20170410_073226 view from patio at D&D's

view from Duncan & Daniela’s

Finally we reached our western-most destination for this road trip, Los Angeles, CA.  Our week would be a combination of hanging out and sight-seeing with family and doing some exploring on our own.  What follows are some of the highlights.

A day spent in nearby Pasadena included a tour of the Gamble House, an American Arts and Crafts style home built in 1908 for the Gambles of Procter & Gamble fame.  It’s now a National Historic Landmark.  Indoor photography was not permitted on our tour, but the Gamble House website has extensive photos as well as information about the restoration.

A completely unexpected bonus to our trip to California was that it coincided with what’s referred to as a super bloom.  An unusually wet winter resulted in a spectacular explosion of wildflowers across much of the California deserts.  We would catch the tail end of the show.  Below are a few shots from our hike about Point Mugu State Park near the coast.  I couldn’t even begin to identify all of the wildflowers, so I didn’t even try.

Mike and I again braved the traffic of LA for a drive over to Venice, FL for a walk about the canals.  We enjoyed a leisurely stroll around the canal district, along waterways lined with small but beautiful homes fronted by meticulously tended gardens and a few unusual watercraft.  After lunch a bite of lunch of course we had to dip our feet into the Pacific Ocean.  A building at the south end of the Venice boardwalk sported a most unusual mural, the Luminaries of Pantheism (photo below).  Turns out the building is headquarters to a nonprofit organization called the Paradise Project.  I quote from their website regarding the mural: “The mural was completed in March 2015, and features famous scientists, philosophers and poets who have espoused pantheistic views of the world — views that everything that exists consititutes a unity, and that this all-inclusive unity is divine (frequently described as “Everything is God”). Put simply, these great thinkers saw beauty in the connection of the universe. The Paradise Project, an organization dedicated to this ideal, is proud to honor these wise men and women for their contributions to human evolution and culture.”  An awesome bit of public art!

One of the things we love about visiting major metropolitan areas is the multi-cultural vibe.  It won’t be a surprise to those that have know us for a while that we decided to take a day to explore LA’s Little Tokyo.  We love opportunities to be reminded of our time in Japan and this day was no exception.  Appropriately, we opted to take advantage of the metro system which was quite handy.  We spent several hours exploring the Japanese American National Museum.  In addition to their permanent collection, we caught a couple of temporary exhibits that were particularly compelling and relevant in our current times.  “Instructions to All Persons: Reflections of Executive Order 9066” reflected on the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII.  “Only the Oaks Remain: The Story of Tuna Canyon Detention Station” featured bits of reconstructed buildings from a detention camp along with the personal stories of some who held there.   On a bit lighter note, the final exhibit exploring the life and career of George Takei was also quite good.

Our brains full from the museum, we enjoyed a wander about the Little Tokyo neighborhood. We slurped a couple of bowls of ramen from Ramen Maruya, reminisced our way through a department store that could have been lifted from our neighborhood in Japan and last but not least, I was successful in my quest for a favorite but hard to find Japanese treat, black sesame ice cream, which tasted exactly as I’d remembered it!

Our last full day in LA found us on an urban hike in Griffith Park, a metro park sometimes referred to as the Central Park of LA. It was nice to stretch our legs and to catch a glimpse (though not a good photo of) the infamous Hollywood sign, the view of the LA skyline frankly made me want to hold my breath for a very long time.  Still, nice that they managed to carve out some 4300 acres for a public park instead of more buildings.

Having gotten our fill of the big city, we head back into the natural world, well kind of.  Next stop: the Grand Canyon.

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Road-trip 2017 Day 9

Although much of this road trip is about exploring some new-to-us places, we made an exception passing through Arizona, opting for a repeat visit to an amazing place we’d first experienced almost exactly two decades ago while on a motorcycle trip.

LS_20170404_085337 breakfast at Baja Cafe, Tuscon

breakfast at Baja Cafe, Tuscon

Of course we started with breakfast, braving the traffic of Tucson to check out Baja Cafe. It was definitely worth a bit of a detour.  Portions were so generous we took leftovers home for another meal.  To our credit, we planned better, but they comped us a Snickerdoodle Pancake when they found out it was our first visit.  Every bite was delicious.

Fueled for the day, we headed on to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum where we spent the better part of the rest of the day.  It was every bit as wonderful as we’d remembered.  It’s hard to think of this place as a museum exactly.  Their website describes it as a “98 acre… fusion experience: zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium” which in my opinion is a spot on description.  Some of the creatures were quite captivating.  The big horn sheep  wee one was only a couple of weeks old at our visit.  The otter was also quite entertaining, but challenging to capture in a photo… it never stopped moving!  Of course prairie dogs always make me smile.  By contrast, the mountain lion was very very serious.

Of course there were lizards.

…and an aviary of birds, a couple of which were cooperative with my photographing them.  ID help welcome.

Our timing for this visit was most fortunate as the cacti were blooming riots of color. I’ll not even begin to be able to identify all of them, or even capture photos that do them justice, but it was a delight to spend an afternoon in their midst.

Having soaked up all we could of this place, we found a scenic bypass around the not-so-scenic Phoenix area and headed for the California border.

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Although we love our life aboard our Cheshire, we also love a good road trip now and then.  With our engine issues last fall, our late start on moving south, we’d opted not to get too far flung this year… at least by water.  Instead, at some point during our month + in Vero Beach, we decided we’d take a month long road trip to Los Angeles where Mike’s son and daughter-in-law are living currently. We made arrangements to leave Cheshire in St Augustine, booked a rental car and started researching.

Road-trip 2017 Days 1 – 8

Our first couple of days on the road were mostly making tracks.  We spent a night with my (Lori’s) Mom and sister in Panama City Beach, FL (with a plan for a longer visit on the return leg), then on to a HoJo’s (yes, they still exist) in Lafayette, LA the following night.  Days 3-4 found us in Texas where we found a great little ethnic enclave just outside of Houston where we lunched at Little V Vietnamese in Katy TX.  That afternoon we arrived  in Warda, TX for a stay at the Garrett Ranch and a visit with Mike’s Uncle Bob and his wife Altha.  We enjoyed a couple of days of catching up, touristing about LaGrange (yes, of ZZ Top fame, but we didn’t visit the Chicken Ranch).  We did stop into the Texas Quilt Museum  one day;  the Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry exhibit that we saw was quite beautiful, and much different than the more traditional quilts I’m familiar with from our time in central Ohio and Amish country.  We also took daily spins about the ranch on Bob’s Kubota 4×4 to check on the cattle.  The boys also enjoyed talking about the rolling stock and reminiscing.



Mike getting his groove on with SRV,

From Warda we headed a short distance to Austin.  We’d originally thought we’d spend a bit of time here, but decided instead we wanted to get up into the nearby Texas Hill Country explore a bit.  We did pause in Austin long enough to visit the Bullock Texas State History Museum.  It was a nicely done museum, but a bit overrun with school kids at our visit.  The Stevie Ray Vaughn exhibit was a highlight.  On our way out of town, we checked out a public art spot known as Graffiti Park at Castle Hill aka HOPE Outdoor Gallery, then headed out of town to stage for an early morning start into Hill Country.




Lark Sparrow


Day 6, we grabbed a quick bite of breakfast and headed out for a morning hike at Balcones Canyonlands NWR.  This refuge exists in part to protect the nesting habitat of a couple of birds, specifically the golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo.  The warbler in particular nests only in Texas.  Alas, I was unsuccessful in spotting either of them, but we did enjoy the hike and saw plenty of another bird I’ve been unsuccessful in identifying.  (ID help welcome.) Wildflowers were also plentiful, but I for some reason was having issues with trying to photograph them.

We were on to Stonewall TX for the afternoon to explore the Lyndon B Johnson National Historic Park.  It was a fascinating walk through history and the life of a man I was previously not terribly familiar with.  No doubt it was in part his humble beginnings in this Hill Country of Texas that shaped the kind of president he would become, at least in terms of his Great Society legislation, although it seems for some these actions were overshadowed by his handling of Vietnam.  We were able to tour the residence, the Texas White House.  No photography was allowed inside, so you’ll just have to trust me when I say it was like stepping back into the mid-60’s.  No gold plated anything here.  LBJ’s indulgence however was to have numerous sets of televisions scattered about this Texas Whitehouse, in groupings of three, one for each of the channels available at the time.

I was also previously unaware that LBJ had been such a friend of the environment… read more about his accomplishments here.  I can’t help but wonder what he would think of our current state of affairs.  I found it interesting in reading the document linked to see that Florida’s Mar-A-Lago had been declared a National Historic Site during LBJ’s tenure. I had to dig a little deeper and found this bit of history.  It turns out Marjorie Merriweather Post (a quite wealthy heiress in her day), upon her death in 1973, turned her outrageously expensive private estate over to the federal government for use as a presidential retreat… except that a few years later they gave it back, having decided that it was too expensive to maintain and provide presidential-grade security for such a place.  Most interesting…


The following day was mostly spent on the road, though we did spend the afternoon/evening in Marfa TX to check out some art/sculpture at the Chinati Foundation and later had a most tasty dinner at the Hotel Paisano.

From Marfa, we were positioned for an early visit the following day to Fort Davis National Historic Site, an old frontier military post that protected west Texas and travel along the San Antonio – El Paso Road.  It’s an impressive collection of preserved and restored buildings with some hiking trails in the surrounding hills, another great opportunity to stretch our legs.

It was pretty desolate in terms of wildlife, but I did see a hawk and another small bird I’ve yet to identify, and was most entertained by my first Greater Roadrunner.  Beep Beep…

LS_20170403_130848 Greater Roadrunner

Greater Roadrunner, Fort Davis National Historic Site, TX, side view


We finished out this day with a drive on into Arizona.  More exploring to come.

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We were in St Augustine when we learned that several of our dirt-dwelling friends from Ohio would be visiting the central Florida area this winter.  As we had no other definite plans, we decided a return visit to Vero Beach was in order.  This would be our third visit to Vero, and as it turned out, also our longest.

One weekend we rented a car and headed inland to catch up with some friends Bob & Donna and Dave & Teresa who were camping in Kissimmee State Park.  We enjoyed some hikes, some shared meals, and comparing notes on living in our respective small spaces, their tow-behind campers vs our Cheshire.  32143751324_55a5583d30_o

Meanwhile back in Vero, we were once again successful in clearing out the guest cabin to accommodate overnight guests aboard.  Mark & Pam were in the area for a short stretch.  It seems they always visit when we’re on a mooring ball/away from the dock, so they had the full dinghy back-and-forth experience to boot.  They were the first brave souls, not counting Mike himself, to test out the newly fashioned sling seat that hangs off our transom.  Depending on the time of day, our ginormous solar panels even offer a bit of shade.

We made a drive down to Ft Pierce to check out the Navy SEAL Museum which was well worth the trip.  The boys especially enjoyed the training “playground”.

Interestingly it was on the nearby beaches that those who preceded the SEALs would train for  their assault on the beaches of Normandy and Southern France in Europe and numerous islands throughout the Pacific.  We found it to be a much more peaceful place today; the terns seemed to agree.

Back in Vero Beach, we made a return visit (1st for Mark & Pam) to McKee Botanical Garden.  In addition to the usual plants and sculptures, they had a couple of special exhibitions.  The “Nature Connects: Art with Lego Bricks” exhibit was something we had seen before at a garden in Naples FL a few years back.  It’s almost impossible to appreciate these pieces via photos, but I’ve included a few below anyway.  Patrick Dougherty’s Stickwork was also a familiar sight, as I’d watch him construct a few of these pieces on the grounds at the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus OH a number of years ago.  The link above is to the Garden’s write up on the exhibit, and includes some additional photos and an interesting description of the process.


Former cruising friends/currently CLODs (Cruisers Living On Dirt) Stew & Diana drove up from Stuart for a visit one day, and we were pleased to find a few other cruising friends wintering in Vero Beach as well.  The weekly Thursday Happy Hour gathering continues and was good for meeting some new folk.  On a couple of Mondays we joined the group that frequents Mr Manatee’s for $5 Burger night.  Mike bravely tackled the Colossal Woodrow Burger (a double stacked (a full pound)/pork roll/bacon egg/onion rings/mozzarella sticks) challenge,,, eat the whole thing, including the fries, and get a free t-shirt.  One guy in the group does the challenge weekly;  apparently everyone he knows now has a t-shirt.

The remainder of our time was spent revisiting familiar places… the Vero Beach Museum of Art never disappoints.  Larry Kagan’s Object/Shadow exhibit was amazing.  (See Che Guevara image below and check out the link above for more info.)  Deborah Butterfield’s Horses were also breathtaking.  We were frequent visitors to the Saturday Farmers’ Market Oceanside, often walking over early for coffee and a bite of breakfast on the beach before doing our shopping.  We also dug a little deeper and found some new things.  Taking advantage of the free/donation bus service, we found some new hiking spots, a couple of new-to-us restaurants and a fish/seafood market that had just opened at our last visit, now doing quite well (see carry out stone crabs pictured below… quite yummy).  Our stay also overlapped with the Vero Beach Art Club’s Under the Oaks Fine Arts and Crafts show which was nicely done; we were tempted by a couple of pieces, but alas, we have little remaining room for art.  All in all, it was a fine stay.

Vero Beach is definitely one of our favorite stops along Florida’s east coast.  As usual, our month long stay stretched a bit longer… no surprise.  For now though, we’ll head back north.

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During the late 19th century, many wealthy industrialists and bankers, many of whom made small fortunes during the second industrial revolution, built lavish homes on this northern coast of Long Island, their own private escapes from NYC.  Hence the nickname, the Gold Coast.  I’ve read that over 500 mansions were built during the early 20th century, though less than half of those survive.  Many fell into ruin during the years of the Great Depression.  A few are now open to the public.  So, when in Rome…

On our way to Oyster Bay, we of course passed a couple more lighthouses, though both at some distance.  Eaton’s Neck Light is now an active Coast Guard station and closed to the public.  It’s claim-to-fame is it’s 3rd order Fresnel lens, the only Fresnel lens in active use today on Long Island.  The nearby Cold Springs Harbor Light‘s distinction is being the only Long Island light to have been moved from its original location.  Apparently in about 1965, the tower was removed from its caisson base and replaced with a skeleton tower.  A local woman purchased the old wooden tower for a dollar and made arrangements to have it towed by barge to her shoreside property… except that enroute it got stuck on a sandbar, for more than a year, waiting for a high enough tide to float it off.  Today it stands very near the water, not much of an aid to navigation, but with an interesting story.

Meanwhile, back to the mansions… We anchored for a night in Oyster Bay, then ended up moving to a mooring ball for a couple of more nights in order to have shore access… Oyster Bay is not quite as accommodating as some other places; no free dinghy docks here.  This place in particular, the Oyster Bay Marine Center, was also pretty disorganized, in that they couldn’t manage to keep track our payments for said mooring ball.  In fact shortly before our departure, one of the staff came rushing back out to our boat again, claiming to have “no record of your payment”; again, we produced receipts, though it was quite off-putting to be wrongly treated as if we were trying get away with something.

OK, really, back to the mansions.  Again, we shuttled our bikes ashore for a pedal out to Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park.  Planting Fields is a former Gold Coast estate, which boasts 400+ acres of arboretum, greenhouses, formal gardens and less formal wooded paths, along with Coe Hall, a Tudor Revival mansion. William Robertson Coe was an English immigrant who made his fortune in the insurance business.  It didn’t hurt either that one of his three wives was a Standard Oil heiress.  In any event, upon his death, he donated his estate to the State of New York for use as a horticultural school.  The mansion was quite impressive. No interior photography was allowed, but those with interest can find many of them on this page of the park’s website. The temporary Great Ocean Liners exhibit was also intriguing; Coe was big into marine insurance, including some connection with the Titanic.

The following day we pedaled out Cove Neck to check out the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site.  This was Teddy Roosevelt’s home.  He apparently hated being called Teddy by the way.  Although not as opulent as other Gold Coast mansions, it was impressive in its own right.  What was truly amazing was how much of the home and its contents have been preserved.  TR died at Sagamore in 1919, but his last wife continued to reside there until her death in 1948.  Family members apparently  removed for safekeeping much of the home’s contents at that time, but the structure itself remained unoccupied.  It was turned over to a non-profit, then to the Park Service, and only last year reopened following a $10 million renovation.  For more on its story, check out this NYT article about its reopening.

The Old Orchard House, also on property, was built by one of Teddy’s sons when it became apparent that Mom wasn’t giving up the big house.  Today it houses a nicely done museum of Teddy Roosevelt’s life.  We also enjoyed a hike about the grounds, including a trail out to Oyster Bay.  Again, interior photography was prohibited, but the park’s website and NYT link above both have some great photos.


Back in town, Oyster Bay Brewing Company was a fun find.  The Taby’s Burger House… good fries, otherwise not noteworthy. Photos credit to Mike.


Next stop: Port Washington.


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Having completed our circumnavigation (sounds impressive, huh?), it’s time to start thinking about heading south.  Or at least west to start with.  Having checked our tides and currents carefully, we headed out around Orient Point, the most eastern tip of the north fork .  While Mike managed the vessel traffic (several others, including a few ferries, had apparently also planned carefully), I gave my best try at photographing lighthouses from a distance from aboard a rolling boat.  Always a challenge.  Orient Point Light aka “Coffee Pot” and Plum Island Light stand sentinel on either side of the passage called Plum Gut.

A bit further west we passed Horton Point Light;  we’d visited by land a bit earlier in the month, but it’s always nice to get a shot from the water as well, albeit from a distance.

LS_20160823_112300 Horton Point Light, from LI Sound

Horton Point Light, from Long Island Sound

Our first stop on this north shore would be Mattituck, a sleepy little town, but quite welcoming of cruisers.  The Captain got his Chinese food fix, groceries were purchased.  In town we found an excellent though pricy cheese shop, not surprising as we’re still in North Fork wine country.  We shuttled provisions back to the mothership, then came back in for a wander about town and a tasting at Roanoke Vineyards tasting room in town.  Love Lane Kitchen made for a fine breakfast the next morning.  We might  have stayed here for a bit longer, but a weather check indicated it would be quite a while before the forecast would be favorable again.  We decided to move on a bit.

Our next stop was Port Jefferson, which is actually quite a sizable harbor.  It’s mostly full of private mooring balls which seem to empty during the week, and fill up on the weekends.  We spent a few days on the hook behind Old Field Point and found shore access at a dock at the south end of Setauket Harbor. It was a long dinghy ride, but gave us good access for shuttling our bikes ashore.

A long pedal into Stony Brook took us to the Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages which was quite a place.  It’s quite an eclectic place, with several relocated historic buildings, a variety of outdoor sculpture, and several more contemporary buildings housing permanent collections and a few rotating exhibits.  Crocheted trees was a new one for me, but has apparently been a quite popular participatory installation with all kinds of folks crocheting bits and pieces, and the artist herself combining them for the installation.  I was also captivated by the work of Connecticut sculptor Drew Klotz who creates wind-driven sculpture in motion.  Hard to appreciate in still photographs.

In the center of the property was an interesting fountain that from 1880, lived at the intersection of Madison ave and 23rd St in NYC and served as a source of drinking water for both people and horses.  Obsolete by the mid 50’s, it was dismantled and eventually moved to this location. Mike was intrigued by the old blacksmith shop.

One temporary exhibit offered a look back to Long Island in the 60’s; another complementary exhibit titled  “Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience” was also fun.  The real highlight of this museum though is the Carriage Museum.  There must be hundreds of carriages, beautifully restored and displayed in this space.  Flash photography is prohibited, but this New York Times piece on the museum includes some photos.

We pedaled about Stony Brook a bit, and were successful in our search for the Hercules Pavillion.  Featured on the quirky Roadside America.com site, Hercules is carved from a single piece of cedar.  It started life as the figurehead on the U.S.S. Ohio launched in 1820.  The anchor from the same ship is also on display at the pavilion, as is the Polaris whaleboat,  said to be the only surviving bit of the 1870 Arctic expedition.

Food highlights for this area include the SE Port Deli where we shared a ginormous sandwich.  A few days later the Captain got his wings fix at an East Setauket dive bar  called the Country Corner, who in addition to great wings have some great craft beer options, and one of the best juke boxes we’ve seen in a while.

One of our last days in the area, we beached the dinghy on the back side of a sand spit and walked out to Old Field Point.  My goal was to get some photos of Old Field Point Light, but a clear shot from the beach was not to be had.  A couple of days later though, I had another opportunity from the water.

Next up: the Gold Coast.





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