Thursday, October 12, 2017

Pioneering

October 12, 2017--This trip was a bust, if we were counting on fishing (and catching), because the only fishing we did was yesterday in a little creek in a city park in Blountstown, Fla. But we had a great trip, nevertheless.

Today we visited the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, which was founded in 1989. Similar to Connor Prairie Farm in Fisher, Ind. (outside of Indianapolis), the Pioneer Settlement shows off buildings and crafts from life in Florida Panhandle from the 1820s to the 1940s. We had a personal guided tour.
One of the cabins in the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement
The gentleman who took us around to the 18 historical building that were originally located through the region and relocated to the village was a native to the area. He personally knew some of the families who had lived in or worked in the buildings. For instance, one of the buildings was the doctor's office. He said that his mother used to take him to the doctor who practiced in that building. Cost of a visit was $2. The doctor practiced in the building until the mid 1900s.

Next weekend, the town of Blountstown will be celebrating Goat Days. Concurrent with the goat celebrations will be Pioneer Day, when there will be demonstrations in each of the buildings. Apparently, the organization offers classes in basket weaving, blacksmithing, jelly making, woodstove and fireplace cooking, and sugarcane syrup making.

We like history and museums. Living museums like this one are especially fun.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Lazy days, little fishing

When we decided to take a short shake-down trip, we looked at the various state parks that were within a couple hours' drive of Jacksonville. Our first choice was Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler Beach. It is a unique park, with camping both on the ocean as well as on the intracoastal. Unfortunately, because of its uniqueness, it is in high demand, especially for campsites on the ocean. We were not able to secure a campsite for this week at Gamble Rogers, but we will be staying there in two weeks. We are looking forward to it.

Torreya State Park had vacancies, and that was how we were came to camp here. According to the park literature, there is supposed to be fishing and boating/kayaking. However...

Fishing apparently is available if you are willing to hike, toting all your fishing gear, down (and then back up) the bluffs to the Apalachicola River. Hiking is not my forte, especially since copperheads are very prevalent in the forests here. Warning signs about the snakes are posted throughout the camping area. I don't like any snakes, especially poisonous ones that are difficult to see in the fallen leaves.

Jim talked with the ranger this morning about kayaking. Yes, he told Jim, there is a small boat ramp, in another area of the park. However, it is very remote, is not policed by the rangers, and is known as a place where ruffians hang out. Your car, your kayaks, and your well being may not be safe. We decided to pass on kayaking/fishing there.

With park kayaking and fishing out of the question, to while away our time, we drove to the nearest civilization, which is about 12 miles from here. You first pass through Bristol, Fla., (about five miles away) which is in the eastern time zone, cross the river, and enter Blountstown, Fla., which is in the central time zone. The fact that you cross into a different time zone is significant, because when we left the campground, we thought we would drive into Blountstown and have lunch. We had to wait a while to eat; restaurants don't start serving lunch until at least 11 a.m.

As we drove around this small town, we found an unexpected gem: the M&B Locomotive and Depot Museum, free to tour (donations accepted). There we found all types of memorabilia about the town and the railroad. The real prize, however, was the volunteer docent, who gave us history and answered our questions about where we could fish.

Jim operating the last locomotive to run on the M&B RR line in Blountstown, Fla.


He told us we would be able to launch our kayaks on either the Apalachicola or the Chipola rivers. He said he fishes the Chipola, where his house is located, but he calls it the "no fish" river. "You can see the fish," he said, "but they never bite!"

After our museum trip (and with plenty of time before restaurants opened), we continued our tour of Blountstown, where we found a large city park with an area called Pioneer Village. The village wasn't open today, but we will go back tomorrow.
The fishing hole we dipped our lines in at Blountstown
Within the park we also found a creek with two fishing piers, so we decided to dip our lines. On Jim's first or second cast, he attracted the attention of what appeared to be a large bass. However, that attention was all we got for our hour's worth of fishing. It was fun, though.

There is no doubt that this is a very beautiful, rural area of Florida. It is not at all what we northerners think of Florida--nary a palm tree in sight. Lots of pines and cypress and other species, though. And rolling countryside with bluffs overlooking the rivers.

As far as this state park? We are relaxing and enjoying the time away from home, but we won't come back here. Too many parks in Florida where we can do things we want to do. Just saying, not complaining.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant Rover,
Linda


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Our shakedown trip

We bought Thor (yes, we named our Thor Axis, "Thor") a month ago, but we had not yet had the opportunity to use it because of our recent hurricane), until now. We were able to snarf a three-day stay at one of our state parks Torreya State Park, which is located about 30 miles west of Tallahassee. (It is surprisingly difficult to get into Florida's state parks. We like them, though, because as senior Florida citizens, we get a 50% discount on camping.)




This park is rather unique: It boasts high bluffs that overlook the Apalachicola River. According to the park's description, there is supposed to be a small boat access to the river, where we should be able to fish. We cannot affirm this description, because although we put into our campsite before 3 p.m. today, we have yet to see a ranger, who should be able to give us directions to the boat ramp. We have found that rangers seem to come and go; there don't seem to be any set hours when rangers are available. Hopefully we will get information tomorrow.

So...what have we learned so far about our new 2016 Thor Axis, which is only 27 feet long? 

Let me explain that Junior was a 40-foot behemoth of a motorhome, which provided us with living space equivalent to a New York apartment, plus a huge amount of "basement" storage. It took us more than a week to sort through all of the stuff we had stored in Junior. It was like downsizing from a 2,000 square foot house to a one-bedroom apartment. 

Deciding what had to "go" and what could "stay" was difficult. Finding places to stow the stuff we decided we absolutely had to have was, to say the least, challenging. 

But, we did it. And today/tonight were the first tests to our decision to downsize. 

On the whole, I would say we made the right decision. Yes, it is much more crowded. It will get some getting used to the tiny kitchen area and even the tinier 6 cubic foot refrigerator. The fridge works well, but it is small. I suspect I will rely on cooking and freezing food in advance of any planned trip in order to minimize cooking. (Of course, that presents another challenge, since the freezer is also miniscule!)

The bathroom is also very small. We will try the shower tonight, since it is raining outside and we don't want to walk down to the shower house. (This campground has electricity and water, but no sewer, so it will be navy showers tonight.) Its worst feature, however, is the toilet. It sits so high that your feet virtually dangle when you sit on the pot! Jim put a footrest in front of the toilet. It think it will work out OK. 

Jim misses driving his big rig. He says that driving this 27-foot motor coach is like driving a truck. That makes sense, since it is a truck. This RUV (recreational utility vehicle) has an F450 engine (gas). It doesn't have the pep that Junior had. It also does not have the luxuries that Junior (a 2005 Country Coach) had. For example, Junior's seats had power controls; these seats are manual. The seats are also not as comfortable--at least mine isn't. I need a footrest to sit comfortably.

We also noticed that although the seats are supposed to swivel, it is virtually impossible to turn the driver's seat all the way around. The steering wheel gets in the way of the swivel. Whoever designed the cabin certainly did not try to use the design. 

Oh...I have to tell you about the one misadventure we had today. No, it did not have anything to do with electrical problems, which were common in Junior. It has to do with getting locked out.

Yep. As we were getting set up, somehow I (it was probably me) inadvertently pushed the doorlock as I was opening the door. The deadbolt also was opened, and I could not close the door. Jim discovered that the deadbolt was tripped. He undid it then closed the door. 

Ahhh...the door locked. And of course, the keys were inside. Jim finally managed to pick the lock and we got it. The lesson we learned: Keep the extra set of keys in the car. And always use the deadbolt. It was pretty scary finding out how easy it is to pick the lock.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda




Friday, September 8, 2017

The downsizing dilemma

I have moved more than 20 times in my life, sometimes from a larger house to a smaller one. But always I had storage options. Even when I bought my co-op in Chicago, I had a storage space where I could stash boxes I had not opened in 20 years. (Yeah, I carted them all over the country. My moving costs were most always paid by my new company.)

Moving out of 40-foot motorhome that had around 400 square feet of living area and  huge "basement" storage compartments into a 26.6-foot (OK, round it to 27-foot) motor coach (RUV) is challenging, to say the least.
This is only part of the downsizing mess. I've already unpacked several boxes. We have many more in the garage. Jim has yet to sort through the tools and other "basement" items (such as chairs) we need to keep with us.

As I was boxing up our stuff from Junior, I found items we had forgotten we had and had never used. I even found a half-set of knives still in its thermo-plastic encasing!

Of course, we had to have an iron, "just in case." (I don't think we ever used it.) We had to have a pot and pan in every size, should I ever need it. We had to have several sets of sheet (even flannel ones) and several blankets, in case it got really cold or we had company stay over night. (Never happened. Well, it did get cold a couple times, but we didn't need so many blankets.) We had to have duplicate tools, again, just in case. We had to have several rain ponchos (never used).

I could go on.

We had seven or eight mid-sized boxes stowed in our attic. I filled all of them, and found other containers to fill up--all with precious "stuff" from our motorhome days. Now my dilemma is, "What do I do with all of this?"

Downsizing requires making tough decisions and getting back to basics. So, right now I am going through each of these boxes and deciding what we really need. Probably not nearly as much as we had. We just had the luxury of space in our first two RVs. Not so, now.

The other dilemma is how to stow the things we need. Our new RUV has quite a bit of storage in the cabin and bedroom areas, but it is not the same type of storage as in Junior, nor is it in the same places. I will probably forget where I put things. Oh, well. Eventually we will find them.

I'd better get back to my work.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A new generator and...

We bought a new generator yesterday. If the power should go out here when the storm from Hurricane Irma hits, the generator should be able to keep our refrigerator going, our TV on, and probably a couple of fans to cool us off.

The generator is quite mobile; it is located in our new RV, which will be parked in our driveway during the storm.


Yes, we did it again.

"Junior" was such a bratty "child." Very cantankerous. And the older he got (he was fast becoming a teenager), the worse his behavior became. It got to be that Jim was always working on something in that RV. RVing was not as pleasurable as it should be. So, we made a decision to either sell Junior or to trade him in.

When we went to the Tampa RV show last January, we saw some RVs we really liked--a new type of class A motorhome called an RUV, a recreational utility vehicle.

Junior was a motorhome, in the truest sense: At 40 feet long and with its three slides open, it offered around 400 square feet of living area, as well as a very large storage capacity in its "basement." It was truly a house on wheels, with all the comforts of home, including a washer-dryer combo.

Junior (and before him, "Baby," our 38-foot, one-slide 1998 Dutch Star) met our needs quite well. We traveled from Florida to California and back (twice), up to the Midwest, and within the Southeast. The motorhome was very comfortable for long trips, especially with pets.

Although we may still make long, extended trips, our needs have changed. We decided that if we were ever to buy another RV, it would be much smaller, one of these new RUVs.

So, last week we started looking. The particular model we really liked was hard to find, especially in pre-owned. New and used RUVs fly off the lot like hot cakes. If we did not find what we wanted (and at the price we were willing to pay), we would not buy; we would just fix and sell Junior.

But, we finally found what we wanted and bargained a price we were willing to pay.

Our new RUV (which does not have a name yet, although Tiny or Midget seem appropriate), is a 2016 Thor Axis. It is only 26.6 feet long, with one slide. That slide extends the back of the RV to accommodate a full-size queen bed. It is about 7.5 feet wide and only 11.5 feet high (compared to Junior's height of 13.5 feet). It does not have any side slides.


Our 2016 RUV is only 26.6 feet long and 11.5 feet tall. Quite diminutive, compared to Junior, which was 40 feet long and 13.5 feet tall! If you look carefully, you can see the slide-out in the back of the RV. This is the bedroom extension. 


Here is the floor plan for our RUV.

Despite its compactness, the RUV can actually sleep four people: two in the queen bed, one on the jack-knife couch, and one on the bunk that lowers from over the driving section of the coach.

Above the chairs is a drop-down bunk bed. (There is safety  netting behind the bed so that a sleeper cannot fall out.) We don't require the bed, but we will probably take the mattress out and use the space to store my printer and other items.

It took us many hot and sweaty hours to pack up and clean out Junior. We found stuff in the corners of drawers that we did not even know we had! Needless to say, we have to be selective in what we store in our newbie.

Jim just took the RUV down to fill up its gas tank (gas, not diesel), so that we are prepared in case we have to use its generator. I have to get back to sorting through boxes and provisioning the RUV with linens, kitchenware, and miscellaneous items.
You can see the full queen-sized bed with storage cabinets over the top and drawers on the bottom of the platform. On the left of this short hallway is a 6 cubic foot refrigerator as well as a good-sized closet and drawers. On the right is the bathroom with a pocket door.

The shower (not shown) is to the left of the toilet. Lot of storage here, but no drawers. We will learn to accommodate.

This view shows the cabin as I am standing in short hallways. The three-burner stove is to the right, along with the round sink. The RV also has a compact microwave. In addition to the pedestal table (which uses the couch for seating), there is a pedestal coffee table that goes between the two captain's chairs, which swivel around for conversation of TV watching. We have a TV over the doorway, one in the bedroom, and even one outside! There is also a built-in radio in the bedroom.

The comfortable jackknife couch and our kitchen tale. In front of the passenger seat is a desk area, where I can place my laptop.

The fridge is small, compared to what we had in Junior, but it works well! Note the storage over the refrigerator.

My kitchen is small, but it also has a flip-up counter to the left of the sink, for additional work area. We have a tentative plan on how to accommodate our coffee pot, coffee grinder, and toaster. We have to be creative!

We don't know when we'll be taking our first trip, but it won't be too far into the future. And I will keep you up-to-date on our hurricane situation via Facebook.

Until later,

Your (not so) Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Catchin' a few

August 23, 2017--More often than not, when we go fishing, we don't go catching. But this time, we did!

The RV park where we stayed in South Carolina, is on Lake Marion, a huge lake created by the dammed-up Santee River. We found the park through Passport America (half-price RV stays) and were grateful that they had an open spot for us so that we could watch the eclipse in its totality. The park is more like a fish camp, with probably at least a hundred permanent RVers (full-time or seasonal), and more than 600 spots for vacationers. All but three were taken for the eclipse-viewing.

The park has a long fishing pier, where we fished almost every day. That is where we had our luck, catching what locals call bream (pronounced "brim") and what we northerners call blue gills. The first one Jim caught he threw back, claiming it was too little.

It wasn't. Jim was used to needing to catch bigger fish, since we generally fish in salt water, and fish have size limits. After throwing back that first one, we kept all that we caught.

They were delicious.

The lake is famous for its catfish. We met an 11-year-old boy who was visiting his grandparents. This lad was quite a fisherman, even at his tender age. His grandma said that is all he wants to do. While we were fishing, he caught a two-pound perch (or something like that, not a bass). He showed it to his grandpa, then later released it. The next day, he fished with his grandparents on their boat and caught two catfish--an 18-pounder and a 26-pounder! He said he had to have help reeling in the larger one; it was just a bit too much for him.

We didn't have that kind of luck, but we certainly did have fun, fishing off the pier as well as in our kayaks.

We took the kayaks out yesterday for a couple of hours. We fished from them, but did not catch anything. (I believe it was too hot.) We had a good time, but I have to admit that I have not made up my mind about kayaking. Jim asked me what I thought--did I like it or should we sell the kayaks?

I told him we should try it out one more time, at least. We had put a different seat in my kayak, but unfortunately, it did not provide much lumbar support. The discomfort detracted by the possible pleasure of kayaking. Also, I was not completely comfortable riding the very small waves in the lake. Although we were near the shore, I did not feel secure. So, I think I would like to try kayaking one more time. Then we will decide if we want to keep the personal boats or sell them.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Monday, August 21, 2017

Just simply AWESOME!

August 21, 2017--It was awesome!

We arranged chairs outside of our RV and waited for the sun to disappear. Gradually, the moon did its job, and little by little, the bright orb in the sky started to darken.

We used two different types of eclipse glasses: a regular pair and a 2x binocular. Each worked equally well. Unfortunately, we could not easily mount the glasses to the camera to take pictures as the moon did its "thing." I did, however, take a photo of the actual eclipse with my cell phone.

We were lucky. Just as the eclipse approached totality, clouds started to roll in. Fortunately, they did not obscure the sight, but once totality passed, the clouds stayed. We could not watch the second "half" of the eclipse as the sun came out from behind the moon.
Totality in Eutawville, S.C., Aug. 21, 2017

I was a bit disappointed in one respect: I expected night-time darkness. It appeared more like sundown, or a twilight, not nearly as dark as I was led to believe.

Despite that minor disappointment, I am glad we traveled to South Carolina to get the full experience. It was worth it.

A selfie at the eclipse.


We have learned that the next total eclipse in the United States will be in April in seven years, starting in Texas and heading through Indianapolis. It should be total over my older sister's house in Texas as well as over my brother's in Indianapolis. Either place sounds like a good place to go to see it, assuming we are still in good health and can travel.

Until next time,


Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda