Saturday, November 17, 2012

No more hidey holes?


Cats are not good travelers. They don’t like to be in a moving vehicle. Dogs, on the other hand, love to travel. I remember saying to my dog, “Wanna go bye-bye?” and he would be lapping at me, excited to get into the car. I have no reason to believe he wouldn’t be just as excited to travel in a motorhome.

When we left on this two-week trip, we decided to pack the car, not bring the RV home to load with clothes, groceries and the cats. So, to take Charlie and Xena to Baby, we managed to hunt them down in the house (they have a knack for hiding under the bed or in a closet to avoid traveling) and put them in kennel boxes.

Oh, how they hated that 20-minute trip! They cried all the way. As soon as we let them out in Baby, they found their usual hiding place—behind the kitchen cabinets.

Charlie was a better traveler than Xena this trip. He came out of hiding within a few minutes, and he stayed out. Xena, on the other hand, stayed in her hole as long as she could—for at least 30 minutes after we arrived at our destination. With the slide out (and the kitchen drawers in), she had no place to hide, but she tried to find a way into the hidey hole many times, mewing to us that she didn’t like this RVing bit. (I think she is the true Reluctant RoVer.)

When we considered purchasing Junior, with its three slides and two extra feet in length (40 feet), we looked for cat accommodations. We would not buy anything unless we could put the litter box in a spot other than the living area, and place the cats’ food and water dishes out of the way. Junior met these requirements.

But, as we were considering the purchase, I observed to Jim, “No hidey holes.” It appeared to be true. The way Baby’s slide was built, there was an empty space behind one of the kitchen cabinets when the slide was in. That’s how the cats found their hiding place; they jumped into that empty space.

But in Junior, the slides are designed differently. When they are in, there are no hidey holes. Or so we thought.

Last night, we thought we were coming home. We pulled in the slides in preparation for our departure. Then we encountered some (shall we say) challenges. Jim hooked up the hitch and plugged the lights into their sockets, but we had no power to the car’s lights. He thought this might happen and was prepared to rewire the lights so they would go on. However, it was dark and late. 
So we decided to spend another night in Wekiva Spring KOA. (He fixed the lights this morning, and we are now home.)

Once we decided to spend the night, we put the slides back out.

Xena came walking out of the bedroom closet, where she was hiding. But we had no sign of Charlie. Where could he be? After a couple of hours, I thought I heard a mewing. Jim checked in the bedroom and found the little vagabond. Charlie had discovered that when the slide is in, there is a hidey hole under the bed. The only trouble was that when the slide went out, he had no escape route! The bed has two under-bed drawers, however, so Jim removed one, and Charlie finally joined us for a quiet evening.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVers—

Linda, Charlie, and Xena

Friday, November 16, 2012

Meet Junior


You knew it was going to happen--especially after our mishap on I4 last week. We bought a new(er) RV. For the time being, we are calling it Junior.

Junior is a 2005 Country Coach Inspire. Country Coach is a company that made high-end RVs. Unfortunately, it went out of the manufacturing business in, I believe 2010, due to mismanagement by a company that had bought out the founder. The founder, however, repurchased the name and all the intellectual property of the company and is back in business, providing service and parts. He intends to begin manufacturing again.
Junior has three slides. It has full-body teal-colored paint.



The motorhome we purchased is beautiful. It is 40 feet long (two feet more than Baby) and has three slides, which give it a lot of living space. It also has a lot more storage capacity. Like Baby, it has a washer/dryer, only this is a combo model, not a stacked unit. I prefer the stacked unit, but, that takes up a lot of space and adds more weight to the motorhome.

As you can see from the pictures, the cabinetry is cherry wood. The ceilings are higher, giving a feeling of spaciousness. The floors, we discovered, are a high-end vinyl planking, similar (but nicer quality) than the flooring Jim installed in Baby.
Kitchen area. Counters are corian. Cabinets are cherrywood.

A comfortable and stylish leather sleeper sofa

Living area, looking from back to front. You can see the desk area on left in front of the recliner.



The bathroom is a split design. The walk-through area has a large vanity and a big shower with seat in it. It will be nice to be able to sit and shave my legs! This larger bathroom also gives up the opportunity to put the litter box in a more appropriate area than the living room.
View from bathroom, with separate toilet area 
Bathroom vanity. Lots of storage space with a big medicine cabinet.


The living room has a desk area, which I am finding not especially convenient, because of the seating. I am presently writing this with the laptop on my lap, sitting in the oversized recliner. (Why do they put such big recliners in motorhomes? Don’t the designers have a sense of perspective?)
Bedroom with Sleep Number bed (normal-sized, not RV-sized). The regular sized bed makes it a bit tight to walk around, but gives more options for bedding.

Dining area. We have two additional chairs. That oversized recliner is comfortable but too big! Someday it will be replaced.


The kitchen has more counter space than we had before. It also has Corian countertops. Nice. We also have a four-door refrigerator, much larger than the one in Baby. (More about the fridge later.)
A really nice feature is an upgrade the original owner purchased--an electrically operated footrest for the passenger seat. I like to ride with my feet elevated. This will make it easy!

The motorhome also has new tires, which is important, since tires (which we were going to have to buy for Baby) cost around $3,000.

Of course, this picture-perfect “home” isn’t quite perfect. We purchased it “as is”, which meant that the dealer only fixed safety issues. We went through it pretty closely, but we were still surprised.

The floor was one. Even the sales staff thought it was wood, not vinyl planking. The refrigerator was another surprise. The freezer worked, but the fridge didn’t. Our service technician thought it might be a computer board, and he was willing to swap it out with another from a similar refrigerator that was going to auction. When he looked at it, however, he discovered that a fuse was blown. A new fuse, and we should be back in business.

We also discovered that the LP gas detector didn’t work. Jim accidentally turned on a gas valve to the stove, and the motorhome filled up with gas, but the detector did not come on. (We’re fine.) The dealer is replacing the detector with a new one; it’s obviously a safety issue.

We talked with the service technician who assessed the motorhome’s needs. He said that the big awning (automatic, not manual) did not work. However, he told Jim how to fix it. Not such good news for a small awning over the door. It will have to be replaced. Fortunately, that awning is not critical.

You might be wondering about the cats and how they are adjusting to their new home. Well, yesterday when we introduced them to their new surroundings, they didn’t like it too much. They immediately searched for a hiding place. The only place they could find was the 8-foot wide closet in our bedroom (another nice feature). So, they hid in it for awhile. Charlie came out first; Xena finally followed.

Tonight, though, we wondered where Charlie was. Well, he found another hiding place, an opening under our bed. And he got stuck there! When the slide is open, there is no way to come out. Fortunately, we finally found him, removed one of the under-bed storage drawers, and let him out.

Oh, one more thing. We decided not to trade Baby. We are selling it on our own. I have to say, it looks impeccable, and once Jim gets the roof done and shines up the outside, we hope it will make someone else (an entry-level RVer) very happy. Know anyone who wants a good motorhome? It will be priced very reasonably.

Until later,

A very tired Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Art? If you say so

It's true. Art is in the eye of the beholder. Today, my eye did not see too much beholding, although I appreciated the opportunity to view "masterpieces" firsthand.

We decided to spend the day in Tampa/St. Petersburg, less than two hours from where we are staying. Jim acted as our researcher on what to do (an appropriate role, I think, for a former travel agent). His agenda consisted on three items: the Dali Gallery, the St. Petersburg pier, and Ybor City in Tampa.

I'll be honest: I was familiar with the name Salvador Dali, and I probably had seen pictures of some of his work at some time in my life, but I really did not know what to expect. The gallery contains more than 2,000 pieces of his work, most donated by one family, who was friends of Dali and knew him well.

The gallery documents Dali's artistic progress--if you could call it that. Dali, who was born into a highly dysfunctional family (he was a replacement son, also called Salvador, who died at a very early age), started painting when he was a boy. To me, his work as a teenager was his best. His was influenced by the impressionists and the cubists. Then something happened...he started to create what he called "anti-art."


And anti-art it was. He was a member of the surrealism movement. Surrealism is hardly adequate to describe the weirdness he created, mostly as a painter, but also as a sculptor.

Now, I will give you this: He was very gifted. The details on his paintings were very precise. He also was able to paint illusions. In one painting, a very large one, his wife (a frequent model) was standing in front of a window nude. But when the picture is viewed at 20 meters, a picture of Abraham Lincoln can be seen (if you look carefully).

We were not allowed to take pictures in the gallery. The one I have posted is from Wikipedia. The gallery, however, is a tribute to Dali.
The museum has glass walls. Every pane is unique. This is looking out toward Tampa Bay.

Spirals were important to Dali. The staircase in the museum is a spiral.

I know Dali's paintings are worth a lot of money, but if I were given one, I would sell it for the cash.

Like I said, art is in the eye of the beholder.

We spent several hours at the gallery, first with a docent, then walking around with an audio guide. After finishing our tour of Dali's works, we headed to the unique pier in St. Petersburg.

The pier is unique because it is built like an inverted pyramid. We intended to browse, but it was about a half-mile walk from the parking lot, and by this time, my feet were aching! I saw the uniqueness of the edifice, however, and that was what Jim wanted to share with me.

Our last stop was Ybor City, an old area of Tampa settled by Cuban immigrants who brought their cigar-making skills with them.

The main drag is Seventh Street, where many hand-rolled cigars are still made. I think the street probably comes alive after dark, since it had many, many night clubs as well as restaurants.

By the time we got to Ybor City, it was too late to visit the state-run museum. We had not eaten all day, so after a walk down Seventh Street, we found a Cuban restaurant. Or, we thought it was supposed to be a Cuban restaurant.

We made a bad choice. We really like Cuban food. We ordered the day's special, picadillo, which we have eaten many times, in many different Cuban restaurants, both in Jacksonville and in West Palm Beach.

What we got was terrible. It was like spaghetti sauce on rice. Terrible. The only thing we could taste was the tomato sauce, which tasted like it came out of a can. The name of this restaurant we will never return to? Gaspar's Grotto.

To make up for the disappointment, on the way home, we went out of way to go back to Webb's Citrus Candy Shop, where we had stopped last night on the way back from yesterday's adventures. Yesterday we bought some candy. Tonight we treated ourselves to some very, very fine ice cream. Yum!

It was a long day; tomorrow will be even longer. I'll tell you about it in another blog.

Until later,
Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda
Seventh St. in Ybor City.





Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A bit of Old Florida


Sometimes it's nice to explore things in your own backyard. That's what we did today.

Florida is a big state, when you go from north to south (and back again). But when you travel from east to west, it's only about 150 miles across at the widest point on the peninsula. We are staying in a resort that is located between Kissimmee and Clermont. It is located on Lake Magic, a 160-acre lake, which supposedly has fish. (We tried fishing yesterday. Jim caught a little one and threw it back. I didn't even get a bite.)
Jim caught a little fish. I didn't catch anything!


The nice thing about this location is that it is very central. Today we decided to see some architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, listen to a concert at Bok Towers and Gardens, and see the eclectic Chalet Suzanne bed and breakfast.

Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed many beautiful buildings in Oak Park, Ill. (which I've never seen!), apparently designed a number of buildings on the campus of Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Fla.   I say "apparently" because I think we only glimpsed them. We drove around the campus looking for the information center. It was not readily apparent to visitors.

I tried finding it on my handy-dandy smartphone. Unfortunately, the phone wasn't fast enough to satisfy Jim, so we drove off without getting out of the car. Lakeland is a nice little town, however. And, as its name suggests, is situated on a huge, beautiful lake. Florida has a lot of lakes, especially in its center.

After leaving Lakeland, we headed to Bok Towers and Gardens. Jim had told me about the gardens, and I'd read about them over the years. I had never visited them, however.

The tower and gardens are located in an area that once was entirely filled with orange groves. Sadly, few remain today. A number of years ago, this part of Florida began to be troubled with occasional killer freezes. That drove orange growing farther south, and the land that once was acres upon acres of orange and lemon trees have been turned into housing developments. Some groves remain, however, including a number around Bok Tower and Gardens.
Bok Tower, which houses a carillon. 


Bok Tower and Gardens was the gift of Pulitzer Prize-winning author and world peace advocate Edward Bok. He owned land on the highest point in Florida, Iron Mountain (elevation 298 feet). He took such pleasure in the area that he decided to build a nature preserve/garden and a singing tower, for everyone to enjoy.

The tower is home to a 60-bell carillon, which plays a bit every 30 minutes. Garden visitors can enjoy a 30-minute concert at 1 and 3 p.m. each day. We caught the 3 p.m. concert, which (unfortunately) was not live, but was prerecorded.

Jim is standing at the highest elevation in Florda, 298 feet above sea level.

A koi pond encircles the tower. Jim captured a picture of this large koi just as it moved through a reflection of the tower.

This statue was gift to honor Edward Bok. It made a good prop was a picture. 

To listen to a sample of the carillon, click here. (You'll be sent to the carillon page and can click on several different songs.)

After the concert, we headed home, but detoured when Jim was a sign for Chalet Suzanne. He had visited this eclectic bed and breakfast many years ago, long before the area was built up as it is today. We went into the restaurant building to get a taste of the architecture. I didn’t take pictures, but the word eclectic doesn’t do the buildings justice.

Both the B and B as well as the restaurant, erected in 1931, look roughly like a chalet. However, they are built on many different levels. It is as if the owner built one room, then decided to add on another, and another, etc.

Apparently in its day, it was quite a place. The restaurant has a huge book of photographs of celebrities who has eaten and/or stayed at Chalet Suzanne.

It was a long day. Tomorrow may be even longer, since we are tentatively planning to go to St. Petersburg and see the sights there.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The long, long day


Have you ever seen the 1953 Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz film, “The Long, Long Trailer?” 

It’s a hilarious slap-stick comedy in which newlyweds Nicki and Tacy buy a 36-foot trailer and travel over the Sierra Nevada mountains. Tacy (Lucy) collects rocks as souvenirs. Of course, the rocks weigh down the trailer. Disaster after disaster strikes the couple—. Tacy tries to cook in a moving trailer; the couple pulls the trailer over a logging road and nearly sends it down the mountain; Nicki tries to level the trailer in a muddy quagmire during a raging rainstorm; and Nicki backs the trailer into a porch.

When I saw this movie years ago, I laughed out loud. I want to see it again; it’s that funny.

Of course, when those disasters happen to you, they lack the humor of the movie.
Yesterday, we didn’t experience any of the classic "Long, Long Trailer" disasters, but we did have one nevertheless. And it resulted in a long, long day.

We stayed at the Lazy Days campground outside of Tampa for two nights. We didn’t do anything special—just relaxed and worked on some projects in the motorhome. (Jim started to clean the water stains on the ceiling, using a formula we learned about in one of the seminars at Daytona. It really works—better than Oxiclean. The ceiling is looking good.) Jim also went to some of the free seminars Lazy Days offers to campers.

We left Lazy Days Wednesday morning about 10:30, enroute to an Encore resort in Claremont, Fla. At mile marker 43 on I4, Jim shut off the radio and concentrated very hard on his driving. What happened? The power steering stopped working. Jim had to manhandle our 38-foot rig off the road onto the grassy area. Thank goodness he was driving in the right lane.

A quick look at the engine told the story: A hose to the power steering broke, spewing oily fluid all over Toad (our car) and rendering the motorhome undriveable.

We immediately called the Good Sam road service. Because of where we were stranded, it took almost two hours for the mechanic to get to us. After he figured out which hose had to be replaced, he had to go into Orlando to have it made, then returned and put it on. The total time? Around seven hours.

We were quite comfortable, of course, since we have all the comforts of home with us. What wasn’t so nice, though, was the bill for this emergency service: $950. Ouch!

When the mechanic finally finished, we continued on our way. By this time, it was dark, and Jim didn’t want to try to hook up in the dark at the resort. We discovered that the local Walmarts did not allow boondocking. However, we finally found a Cracker Barrel that allowed us to park overnight. Of course, we enjoyed a nice dinner at the restaurant.

So, we had a long, long day, in some ways reminiscent of “The Long, Long Trailer.” Only it wasn’t too funny.

One thing is for sure: There is never a dull moment when we travel. Maybe that’s why we do it.
Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Smart Good Sam

Yesterday I was walking across a courtyard at the Daytona Speedway, enroute to meet Jim, who was attending a seminar on electrical systems. At the time I was passing by, Marcus Lemonis, the dynamic young (under 50) CEO of Good Sam/Camping World was addressing a group of RVers gathered in the courtyard. I think this was a meet-and-greet of some sort. I didn't stop to listen to his talk, but I did hear him say something interesting...that these Good Sam Rallies would be offered free of charge to people who were customers of Camping World.

I didn't linger to hear any qualifiers...like how much someone would have to spend to be admitted free. I did hear him say that he wanted to continue promoting the RV way of life, and he felt that a $200 fee, plus the cost of driving an RV, stopped a lot of people from participating in the rallies.

Me? Well, you know me well enough to know that I don't give a hoot about the rallies and all the "camaraderie" that they are supposed to engender. I agreed to come to this one because (a) it was a national rally; (b) it featured name entertainers; (c) it promised to have a lot of useful information through seminars; (d) it would have a large exhibition; and (e) it was free.

Yep, free was the clincher. If it hadn't been free, I probably would have nixed the idea. (I did say OK to going to the national FMCA--Family Motor Coach Association--meeting last August, but only because it was in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, we had to cancel because of Jim's recovery from hand surgery.)

Everything was free--even the evening meet-and-greet especially for life-time members. (It was a Candyland theme. Except for a few chocolate bars, we had to look and lust after the gluten-filled desserts that were available--cherry cobbler, various types of brownies, cakes, and cheesecake.) Although everything was free, Good Sam was smart: I'm sure we were like many thousands of others. We spent more than $400 on RV stuff, specifically a water softener and some microfiber cleaning components.

If that's not enough, now Jim is drooling over later-model motorhomes. Our friend Ed, who sold us Baby, was at the show. He'd love to upgrade us to a newer model with more room. Well, we'll see.

Probably half of the people who were camping here at the rally left sometime today. We are leaving in the morning. I'm glad we stayed the evening. The rally ended with a spectacular fireworks display. My camera wasn't good enough to capture the spectacle; it was one of the best fireworks displays we've ever seen!

So, Good Sam is smart. It gives away a lot of stuff--from merchandise (like the in-motion satellite dish and the Fantastic Fan that we won last spring), to dessert receptions, to name entertainment, to a spectacular fireworks extravaganza. But it gets back a lot, in return.

Will we go to another national rally? Well, if it is free, there is a good chance we will. But we will bring our credit card anyway.

There is no such thing as a free rally.

Until later,


Your Reluctant Rover, Linda

After 7 months, on the road again—for a short trip



It’s been a long (and short) seven months since we returned from our extended winter trip out West. The delay in getting out on the road was caused by a combination of events: Jim had hand surgery. It took eight weeks before he felt he could do any work on the RV. Then, just as he got started tearing out the carpet, he experienced troubles with his shoulder, which required more therapy (both PT and chiropractic). Finally, he recovered enough to (almost) finish the floor and inside.

I say almost, because there is a small area around the driver’s seat that remains to be done. He found some dry rot when he pulled up the carpet. He wants to find out where the chassis is leaking and repair it before putting the floor down. Probably a smart move.
New flooring, looking toward front.

New flooring, looking toward bedroom.


But, it looks great! More than great—it looks brand new, especially with the addition of the desk/storage area. This gives us a lot more room and the layout looks very pleasing.
The kitchen table sits between two new cabinets, with the desk under the window.

This is the new desk/storage area. It adds a lot. We can add a leaf to the table to make it bigger.


On the opposite site of the room, where the sofa had originally been, we are considering putting in another sofa. The original was very uncomfortable and, frankly, ugly. So, we took it out. One reason it was so uncomfortable was because it fit into the 28” area of the slide, allowing for a very small seat pan (depth of the seat). Yesterday, we learned how we could put a deeper sofa in that space. The secret? Allow its front legs to sit on the floor in the front, and shorten the legs in the back! We learned this trick from a sofa maker, who has a booth here at the 2012 Good Sam Rally. (More about that later.)

We have found that time is not kind of RVs. We’ve had Baby stored in a lot behind a business on the south side of Jacksonville. Except for starting the generator, it hasn’t been moved several months, since we took it there in July. We didn’t expect any problems when we hitched up to start on our current trip. But, of course, we had some.

Minor ones, though. We experienced a dead battery. Jim found the cause—a fuse that didn’t look bad but tested bad. Problem solved. Then the generator didn’t want to start. He fiddled for a while (I don’t know what he did), and we haven’t had any other problems with it. (We needed the generator; we are dry camping.) Finally, when we hooked up the brake lights, we found they didn’t work. My job, when we hitch the car, is to give a thumbs up when he checks all the lights.

Every one of them was a thumbs down.

About 20 minutes later, after much head-scratching, deep thought, and experimentation, Jim got them to work. I think the contacts were dirty. Anyway, we finally got on the road with everything working.
You might be wondering about Charlie and Xena. They hated the trip to the RV. Because the RV is stored on the south side of the city and we were traveling south to Daytona, we decided to packs suitcases and take our groceries and cats by car instead of loading at home. This actually worked out well, except that the cats do not like to travel. They cried in their carriers the entire 20-minute trip to the RV.

As soon as we let them out of their carriers, they jumped into their “hidey hole” behind the kitchen cabinets. It has taken Xena until today to stop asking to go back into her hiding place. Charlie has been better. He even came out and wandered about while we were driving. 

This will be a relatively short trip. We don’t have it completely planned (the nice thing about being retired!). We started by going to Daytona Beach (about 90 miles from Jacksonville), and we will head over to Tampa tomorrow, for a couple of nights. Then?

A view of Daytona Speedway Good Sam Rally, taken from the bleachers at the concert.

Another view of the rally taken from the bleachers at the concern. Thousands attended.
We were invited to the 2012 East Coast Good Sam Rally in Daytona, free of all charges, so we decided to attend. It’s been OK, not hokey like that little rally we went to in Eustis last winter. This one had many seminars, a big exhibit hall, and lots of RVs to drool over. It also had Kenny Rogers and Reba McIntyre for entertainment.

I enjoyed Kenny on Friday night more than Reba last night, because I knew his music, not hers. Kenny’s voice is about gone, though, while Reba can still belt the tunes out. They both related to the audience well. I wouldn’t pay to see either one, but this was included in our admission (which was free!).

We ran into Ed, the fellow who sold us our motorhome. He’s coming to dinner tonight, after the show closes. He asked me if I was still the Reluctant Rover. I said yes. I still don’t understand why people like to get together at rallies, join clubs, or do this full time. I find RVing an enjoyable way to travel from one place to another: I don’t have to drive; I can get up whenever I want to get a snack or use the bathroom; and I sleep in my own clean bed each night. But, to me, it is a means to an end—a comfortable way to travel, nothing more. I would not want to do this full-time.

So, with that, I remain your Reluctant Rover.


Linda

Friday, September 7, 2012

Making progress

We arrived home on March 12, anticipating that we would remain home for a couple of months. Jim had to have hand surgery, and that would require some recovery time. But surely, we thought, we would be on the road again by mid summer--after we did some remodeling to the inside of our RV.

Well, summer has come and gone, and we are still home. Jim's hand healed, but then he "pinched" a nerve, which debilitated him. Several weeks of physical therapy (and now chiropractic care) later, he is mostly healed and can continue on the remodeling project that he had begun the first week of July.
The "hardwood" tiling project is going along very nicely. It's going to look great!


The end seems to be in sight. He has most of the tile laid down and hopefully will finish this weekend. Then he needs to put a waterproof coating on the roof, with the help of his son and grandson. (Marshall and his family have come back to Jacksonville from Japan, where Jim's daughter-in-law, a warrant officer, was stationed. Jacksonville is her last assignment and they plan to stay here.)

Once that is done, we should be on the road again.

I am still a Reluctant RoVer; I don't want to do this full-time. But I am getting "antsy" to go on a vacation again. I think it is because I am really retired now! All summer I've been busy working as a freelance writer/editor for Reed Elsvier, a large HR publisher. Work has slowed down, and although I anticipate continuing to do projects for the company, I am now a lady of leisure, so to speak. (I even finished reupholstering my dining room chairs this week.)

 So, cross your fingers that Jim will finish the remodeling soon. It's looking good; he's done a good job (as usual).

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda

Friday, July 27, 2012

Another time, Indy

Alas, we won't be going to Indianapolis at the end of August.

I really didn't care about the FMCA (Family Motor Coach Assn) national gathering at the State Fairgrounds, but it was a way to go back "home" to Indiana. I was hoping we would be able to get up to Chicagoland, do the city and see the grandkids.

Not this summer.

Jim somehow did some damage to his right arm/shoulder. The MD thought it was a torn rotator cuff; the physical therapist thinks it is a "pinched nerve." Whatever it is, he is undergoing PT and is slowly recovering, but not enough to be able get the work done on our motorhome before we dispatch on another vacation.

So, we're taking it easy, concentrating on his getting better. Once that happens, he'll finish replacing the flooring, get the roof redone, and have someone fix a couple of the other nagging relatively minor problems we have in the electrical system.

We also have stuff to do here at home...like replacing our bedroom carpeting, getting plantation shutters for our BR windows, and replacing the countertop in our bathroom.

In the meantime, I think we'll just continue to enjoy the sun and the swim/spa--and Jim's family! Marshall, Theresa, and their kids are returning to Jacksonville next week after having spent a couple of years in Japan. Theresa (career Navy) has been transferred to the Jacksonville Naval Station. Although they probably will not move real close to us, they will be nearby, and that will be nice. We'll get to "know" them again before we take off--and we will take off on another trip once Jim is healed. Where to? Depends on the season and the weather.

We know we want to do some traveling within Florida yet. We'd also like to go up to the Carolinas, Georgia, and maybe even Tennessee. Or, perhaps we'll go down to the southern part of Texas when it gets cold here in north Florida. Time will tell.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda

Friday, June 29, 2012

'Baby' gets a facelift

It's the end of June. We thought we would be traveling by this time, at least within Florida, but Jim's hand surgery delayed our vacation plans by at least three months. He could have driven "Baby," but he needed to do some work, and that required the use of both hands.

Jim has a long punch list of things to do, but the four main projects are:
Here you can see most of the carpeting and tile are torn up. The dining area is currently on the left; it will be placed directly across the aisle, behind the passenger's captain's chair.

  • Remodeling the inside;
  • Resurfacing the roof; 
  • Getting an annoying electrical problem fixed; and
  • Repairing the air conditioner vent control in the dash.
Jim has started the remodeling project. He's torn out the carpeting and pulled up the linoleum in the bathroom and the tile in the kitchen area. Next week he's going to level the flooring and begin laying the vinyl "wood" planks we bought some time ago. We settled on the vinyl tiling because of its good looks (looks just like wood) and because of its light weight. (Real wood was too thick and heavy, and we didn't like the looks of laminate flooring.)

After pulling up all the flooring and removing the filing cabinet that was behind the passenger chair, we   brainstormed a number of different ideas on how to provide an office area and accommodate the cats' food bowls and litter box(es). We had seen cabinetry that we liked and would meet our needs (at least for an office area) in some of the newer RVs. I found some furniture online just like what we had seen. The price tag, though, was a put off. So, I began to think...

And I came up with a solution we're confident will look great!

We are going to move the dining area across the room, under the window behind the passenger seat. (This is just north of where it was to begin with.) We purchased 18" and and 24" oak wall cabinets (12" deep) that are an excellent match to our interior cabinetry. They will be on either side of the table, but will be about 1" taller. We will put a shelf "topper" across the entire length. That's where we will place the all-in-one machine as well as my laptop. When I want to work, I can easily move the laptop from the shelf to the table. As an added bonus, we'll have more storage in the new cabinets.

Yes, we'll lose 12" of the table, but that's not a problem. Our table has a leaf we can put in when we eat, if we need it.

As soon as we get this done, I'll take a picture and post it.

We haven't quite decided what else we'll be doing to the interior. We'd like to get rid of the big recliner chair. Perhaps we'll buy a new couch and put it where the old one was. Or, maybe will get a wall hugger recliner (or two).

Jim's next project is roof repair. We knew we had a leak; it was exasperated with the torrential downfall we experienced for the last couple of weeks. (Thank goodness it is again sunny! And hot--97 today.) Then we'll take Baby into an RV repairer who will work on the electrical and air conditioner problem.

It'll all get done, sooner or later. We know, though, that by the end of August we'll be on the road to Indianapolis. Where else? We don't know. I imagine we'll be gone a couple of months.

I'll keep you apprised.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda

Friday, June 8, 2012

Good Sam is very good!

If there is one thing I can count on, it is entering a contest and not winning. I can't tell you how many times I have completed entry forms and purchased raffle tickets only to leave the event disappointed after the last prize was given out.

I never win anything.

That all changed a couple of weeks ago.

Jim and I are members of Good Sam Club; we are also members of Camping World's President's Club. Turns out that Good Sam is now in a close partnership with Camping World. Camping World bought out an RV dealership in Jacksonville last summer, and it finally celebrated its grand opening and its collaboration with Good Sam Club with an open house on a Friday evening.

We received an invitation and decided to go. We didn't know there would be prizes. We did know there would be food (some of which was GF) and probably some items we needed on sale. So, we decided to brave the rainy weather and the rush-hour traffic (both of which Jim complained about on the way to the event) to make the drive down to Camping World on Beach Blvd., about a 20-minute drive from our house.

When we got there, we were told there would be a drawing at 6 p.m. Jim put his invitation in the box and we went back to try to chocolate-covered strawberries, melon, and lettuce chicken wraps. We also found a Fantastic Fan we needed to buy to replace the one that had died in our RV kitchen. It was the only one in stock, so Jim started lugging it around.

Around 5:45 we thought about leaving, but then decided that maybe (if we were lucky) we might win a gift certificate that could knock off a few dollars on the fan. So we decided to wait for the drawing.

Imagine our surprise when the CEO of Good Sam and Camping World, Marcus Lemonis, started drawing names and giving out very generous prizes--like $500 shopping sprees. He also asked winners what they were shopping for--and then gave them their wish-list!

Jim and I looked at each other and decided that if (and it was a really big if) our name were called we would ask for the fan and a satellite dish, something we have been drooling over for a while.

About 10 minutes later, our name was called! (Actually, Jim's name, but I went up to get the prize.) Marcus asked what we wanted, teased me when I told him "a Fantastic Fan and a satellite dish" and then asked, "A high-end dish? An in-motion dish?" I had no idea what that was, but I looked at Jim, who was grinning ear-to-ear and nodding so hard his head almost fell off. I responded, "Sounds good to me!"

And with that, he gave us both items--top of the line--with installation included. Our prize was valued at more than $2,900.

Wow.

I guess I can't say that I've never won anything anymore. But what I can say is, "Thank you, Marcus. We really do appreciate your generosity!"

That little trip in the rain really paid off. I guess the moral is: Always go to a retailer's open house. You never know what will happen.

Until next time,

Your (not quite as) Reluctant RoVer,
Linda

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Long live Garmina

March 25, 2012—I think we gave Garmina a nervous breakdown. At least, that's one explanation for why she has "died."

Throughout our journeys, we relied on Garmina, our Garmin GPS system, to get us from point A to point B or C. She did a fine job—for the most part. At times, though, she was exasperating and she would get confused.

Texas especially was trying for Garmina.

In Texas, at least in the metropolitan areas around San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas, Texas builds its interstates with a series of usually one-way access roads that run parallel to the main road. These roads are not called access roads, however. They usually have another name. And they usually run next to the limited-access highway for miles.

Despite the economy (or maybe in spite of it or even because of it), Texas has continued to build and "improve" its highways. So there was always construction, and that caused Garmina further confusion. Garmina would tell us to get on the highway (which we would do), then a few minutes later, she would "recalculate," believing that we were still on an access road!

Driving in Texas was tough on her.

Sometimes, too, we would deliberately change our mind about a destination, sometimes because we decided on the spur of the moment to go another way, or sometimes because we just needed to stop at a store we had seen. Again, she would "recalculate" until we shut her off.

There were a few times that she sent us in the wrong direction, like the time in Mississippi when we were looking for a specific RV park. She took us down a dirt road around an oxbow lake. I wasn't too keen on that trek, because there was no place to turn around. Fortunately, we came out on a highway and were able to get back to where we wanted to go.

On our last day of traveling, we noticed that Garmina wasn't feeling well. Although she was plugged in, she kept beeping at us, telling us that she was unplugged and that her battery was low. We initially thought perhaps the connection was just loose. Not so.

Yesterday while we were in the car, she just plain refused to work. She finally died. Cause of death: her battery.

I've ordered a battery to recharge her, but we've decided that Garmina would be relegated to local traveling only. We've ordered a new Garmina, which comes with live traffic updates and free map updates for as long as we own it. We'll get the new only next week.

Thank you, Garmina, for getting us around so well. We'll try to be kinder to your sister.

Until next time,

Linda

Friday, March 16, 2012

Re-entry into the real world

March 16, 2012—My good friend Amy was wondering what’s it’s like to re-enter the real world after spending two months in a tin can. I’ll try to fill you in…

First, let me assure you: Living in a motorhome is definitely not living in the real world. In my real world, every morning I get up, read my paper, do my crosswords, go to Curves, clean, cook, and write and edit.
Not so, in the motorhome. I get up, try to read the paper online (if I have access), do a crossword, then either get ready to be a tourist or to travel to another destination.

And everything in a motorhome is compressed into a very small space, which surprisingly can hide items very well. You’d be amazed! For example, we hunted high and low for our Wii games, and we finally decided we had left them home. Not so. We finally found them buried beneath something else in an overhead cupboard.

So, getting back to the real world—my very nice house with its view of a very nice pond—felt a little strange. The first thing I did was to check to make sure we hadn’t been burgled. We hadn’t been—at least not by people. A raccoon apparently had managed to get onto the porch and ate some food we had left over from the baby squirrel. He made a small mess, but not too bad.

After unpacking the motor home, we opened two months’ worth of mail. (My hand still cramped for two days from opening all of those envelopes.)

After a couple of hours, we began to try to settle down. We found we had to think about little things, like where do we keep the paper towels and how do you use the TV remote? I found myself standing up before flushing the john. (You have to do that in the motorhome because of where the flusher is and how the toilet operates.) I luxuriated in my first shower; I was able to shower front and back without bumping into the wall. And it enjoyed going to bed—and getting out of it! In the motorhome I had to walk sideways to go around it and get in. Here? I have plenty of room.

Tuesday morning, after enjoying a good night’s rest in my king sized bed, I got up early to have my coffee and read the paper. It felt really odd to read a “paper” paper. For the previous two months I had been accessing the newspaper online—a slow and often tedious process.

It wasn’t until yesterday afternoon that I was able to enjoy a swim in the swim/spa. Nice! The night before we took time to soak in it and look at the stars; we missed that a lot.

It was fun to watch the cats readjust. Jim had to pry Xena from her hiding place in the motorhome, but once he put her down in the house, she went about exploring every room, to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be. Charlie was more circumspect. He immediately ran and hid under the bed. We’ve found that although the cats can now outside to go potty, they are using the litter box!

Re-entry also means taking care of “Baby.” From the day we bought her until we left on this trip, we had been storing the motorhome rent-free at the dealership where we purchased it. However, when we left we knew we would have to find a new storage area for her; the dealership went out of business. Monday morning, I called a place advertised on Craigslist, on Leon Street, not too far from the dealership. The place where we now have her stored is on acreage owned by a local company. Not only is she safe and secure behind industrial fencing equipped with security cameras, she is also on property where the owner and his son have homes next to their place of business.  

Jim has a long list of to-do’s for the motorhome. I’m sure that one of those things is an oil change and lube job prior to our going out again. He hired a kid to wash most of the dirt off the RV when we were in Arkansas (I think)…or maybe it was Mississippi? He wants to give it a good wash job, then apply a special cleaner to remove the oxidation and shine it up “pretty.” He also bought some type of roof-repair material that will be delivered in a week or two. It’s time to recoat the roof, since we had a leak.

Jim’s to-do list also includes taking up the carpeting and putting down the flooring we purchased some time ago. We also want to build some type of desk area for me, and probably get new chairs. One of ours is OK; the recliner is very big, however. I would like something with a smaller footprint—possible a wall-hugger to give us more room…

We got home Monday. Today is Friday. I still have catching up to do, but slowly it’s getting done. I wonder how long I can put off moving that inch of dust around—another few days?

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Thursday, March 15, 2012

5,479 miles later…

March 12, 2012—We are home again! Yea!

I started anticipating getting home as soon as we crossed over the Florida border. At the sight of the first sign saying “Jacksonville” my heart started to beat a little faster. It’s not that I’m in love with Florida or with Jacksonville. It’s just that it is currently home. And home is where I wanted to be.


We spent two more nights traveling in Florida—the first (March 10) in Carrabelle, a Gulf Coast town, and the second (last night) in Green Cove Springs, about 30 miles southwest of here. (We did not have a place to park and store “Baby” so we stayed that in the RV park so we could find a safe storage place the next morning.)

Incidentally, most people lost only one hour’s sleep when they turned their clocks forward on Sunday morning. We lost two. Carrabelle is just over the time zone change (Central to Eastern time), so we lost one hour by changing time zones, and another because of daylight savings time. I’m still tired!)

I’m happy we’re home. Jim is not. He would rather be out on the road yet. I don’t think he has the “homing gene” in him. Instead, he has the “roaming gene.”

Some observations about our very lengthy trip:

  • We left on January 8 and returned today, March 12, for a total of 64 nights on the road. We spent time wandering around Texas, Arizona, a bit of southern California (not much), New Mexico, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida for a total of 5,479 miles. We took in a lot of sites. We had a good time.
  • Not including food or restaurant meals, we spent approximately $2,600 on RV resorts (not including the membership we bought) and diesel. That comes to roughly $40 a day traveling expenses for the two of us. I didn’t track food costs; we brought a lot of food with us, supplementing whenever we needed to. We probably ate out a little more often than we do at home, but not that much more, so the cost of food (home-prepared and restaurant) was about the same as if we had stayed home.
  • I also did not add up miscellaneous expenses, but I remember most of them: entrance to Sonora Caverns ($40), two coffee mugs ($16), tee shirts from Roswell, Carlsbad Caverns, and Quartzsite (probably about $60), a sweater from the space museum in Las Cruces ($20); sightseeing in San Antonio (about $60); ride up the “space needle” in San Antonio (about $10); admission to B.B. King Museum in Biloxi ($10), and a ride in a flight simulator in Biloxi ($8). We obviously don’t go overboard on souvenirs and mementos.
  • We learned that the adage “the best things in life are free” is true. Thanks to Jim’s Golden Passport (a national parks pass for seniors), we did not have to pay admission to many of the places we enjoyed the most, such as Carlsbad Caverns, Fort Pickens, and other places.
  • The cats finally became travelers—Charlie especially. After a week or so of traveling, he would come out of his hiding place behind the kitchen cabinets and would usually go into the bedroom. He had a favorite place to sleep, curled up under the back cabinet. Xena usually came out of hiding a few minutes after “take off,” and curled up in the living room. The last few days I was especially proud of Charlie. He would jump up and sit in my lap (or Jim’s) for long periods of time while we were traveling.
  • I’m going to have to figure out some way to fix up an office area in the motorhome. Working with the laptop on my lap is fine for writing a blog, but I have been commissioned to write a book within the next six months as well as to edit for about 15 hours a week for the next few months. I need a decent workspace. We’ll figure something out.
  • We’ll probably shop for a larger towable vehicle. We miss our Murano; it was the perfect size and a comfortable car. Our HHR is comfortable, but it is small. Jim wanted to park the motorhome somewhere in Arkansas, drive home, and then return in a few weeks. Since we want to go back to Arkansas and explore it more fully (as well as other states), that would have been a good idea—except that our current car is much too small to pack up food, clothes, cats, and golf clubs. So, we’re toying with the idea of trading it in for a bigger vehicle.
  • We are still married! (And plan to keep it that way.) It can be trying for two strong-willed people to be together 24/7 in what is essentially a tin can, but we survived. We had a good time (98% of the time)!

I call this blog the Reluctant RoVer. Am I still reluctant? Yep, but not as much as before. This is still Jim's dream, not mine (can't say I have any!). I wouldn't be RVing if it weren't for him. I still see RVs as hotels on wheels. I really would not want to live in a tin can full time. And I don’t understand people who just go out and camp. What do they do? Why do they do it? I prefer to have the small luxuries my house provides me, which include space, my swim spa, more space… you get it.

Everywhere we go, though, we meet people who do this full-time. Jim would like to; I want a house. If we sell our house, I’m willing to go full-time only until we find a new place to live…but only until that time. So, I guess you can say I am still …

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Thursday, March 8, 2012

In Florida...

March 8, 2012—I can almost see home. Well, not really. We’re outside of Pensacola, in the Fort Pickens Camping area of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Home is clear across the state—I would guess probably 375 miles to go. That’s a drop in the bucket, compared to the thousands of miles we have traveled since leaving Jacksonville January 8.
Gulf seashore at Fort Pickens


We left Biloxi around 9:30 yesterday and decided to take the scenic route (US 98), which runs along the gulf. (We may continue that route, in which case we probably won’t get home for a few more days.) Jim stopped at the Florida visitors’ center to get brochures on the gulf shores area. One of the things he wanted to see was the National Aviation Museum in Pensacola.

We searched our various directories for an RV park, and almost went to one about 15 miles from Pensacola. Before we headed out, however, I checked for camping areas in state and national parks. That’s how we found Fort Pickens, a really neat campground, where we were lucky (as walk-ins) to get a camping space for two nights. The price was right, too--only $10 a night for us old foagies. The campground is nearly full.

The Gulf Islands National Seashore actually includes barrier islands in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. The sanctuary where we are was built on a fortified barrier island, Santa Rosa Island. Fort Pickens was built in 1829 and was “relieved of duty” after World War II, in 1947. It was the largest of four forts built to defend the Pensacola Bay and its navy yard. Sadly (for our history), it was built by slave labor brought in from New Orleans. The slaves laid 21.5 million bricks to build the fort—most of which were made locally and barraged to the island.

Throughout the island you find batteries that housed cannon and big guns.
Jim walking toward the main part of  Fort Pickens

Jim standing on top of a battery

That's me, walking around a battery

One of the big guns, actually a cannon turned into a rifle, left on the property


Although the fort was built to defend against intruders, the only action it saw was during the Civil War. Fort Pickens was a Union fort; Fort Barrancas, situated across the bay in what is now the Naval Air Station, was held by the Confederates. They barraged each other in October and November of 1861, until the Confederates abandoned Pensacola in order to boost sagging defenses in north Mississippi and west 
Tennessee. As a side note, the fort also incarcerated Geronimo, the famous Indian warrior.

The National Air Museum is housed on the Pensacola Naval Air Station Base. It was built by donations and is run by volunteers, although the Navy provides maintenance on the facilities. With one exception, all displays of aircraft in the two hangars, which comprise 55,000 square feet, are original. Most are restored (by volunteers) to near-running capacity. They are truly beautiful to look at, even if you aren’t very interested in naval history and war (like me). Jim, of course, loved the museum.
Those are actual planes once flown by the Blue Angles

Jim loved the airplanes

I'm sitting in an ejection seat


Tomorrow we are off again. My personal wish is to head directly home so that I can begin writing the book I am commissioned to do and to begin working editing some articles I agreed to do for Reed Elsevier, a big publisher—and to do my taxes. But then, again, I am not driving.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

GIGO

March 6, 2012—Most people who do data processing are familiar with the acronym GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. How true.

The other day, when we were traveling from Arkansas to Mississippi, we decided to spend the night in an RV resort called Pecan Grove in Lake Village, Ark., a small town just shy of the Mississippi River (and the Mississippi border). According to the map insert in the directory we were using, the park was situated on the state’s largest oxbow lake. (By definition, an oxbow lake is formed when the u-shaped meandering of a river—in this case, the Mississippi—is cut off and a lake is then created.)

The address of the park was given as an intersection—something that Garmina (our GPS) does not understand too well. However, the ad also gave longitude and latitude coordinates—something we could enter manually to find our way.

Well…we entered the coordinates (very carefully). And then we began to follow Garmina’s directions. When she told us to turn down a very lonely looking country road, I instinctively felt that something was wrong. But Jim wanted to continue going where she told us to.

I wish I had taken pictures. It was pretty lonely out there.

The two lane country road turned into a single lane dirt road that followed the banks of another oxbow lake (Lake Wallace, if I remember correctly). We saw a number of fishermen. A truck came toward us and passed us. And we continued on.

Actually, we didn’t have much choice, because we had no place to turn around. This little trek on the dirt road along the banks of a lake formed by the Mighty Mississippi was reminiscent of our journey along the levee last August. We had virtually no choice but to continue, slowly, bumping our way to wherever the road would lead us.

The trek had a good ending. The dirt road came out on a fish camp. It also intersected with a paved state or county road. Unsure of which way to turn, Jim at first turned into the fish camp, which had a large parking lot. When he saw there was no exit, he managed (with some skill to avoid hitting a flag pole) to do a u-turn and head on out to the intersection. That road eventually led us to the main highway.

We didn’t know exactly where we were, but we kept following the highway, until we finally saw a sign that pointed to Lake Village. And we eventually found the RV park.

Why did the misadventure happen? No, we did not enter the coordinates incorrectly. We were very meticulous about entering those numbers. But, remember what I said about GIGO? Well, the published coordinates were wrong. Garbage in, garbage out.

Today was sort of a GIGO day, too. It was much too windy to go shrimping (something we wanted o do, but sea sickness does not appeal to me), so we programmed Garmina to take us to a number of local attractions.

We were able to find the first one, the Seabees Museum, with little trouble. However, we found out it is located within a Naval Station, and in order to get in required getting a background clearance and that would require a wait of almost an hour. We opted not to wait to see a museum that might interest us for 10 minutes.
Then we went to what was called the “Sentinel Museum.” Turns out it was a museum dedicated to rail history in the area. Only problem: It was closed for renovation.

Next we drove to a museum dedicated to area firefighters. It was closed—only open on Saturdays.
Garmina then led us to a local maritime museum. Apparently it had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina; they were rebuilding. (Incidentally, as we drove along Highway 90, called Beach Blvd., we saw many, many prime building lots empty, most of them with vestiges of foundations showing—all victim to Hurricane Katrina.)

For the most part, Garmina was accurate, although she often had trouble “recalculating.” I think we have challenged her too much (especially while we were in Texas, which is not GPS-friendly) and her brains have become scrambled.

Days like today and the day we went meandering along the banks of an oxbow lake are frustrating when they happen, but funny when you look back at them.

I’m laughing now.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hard knots

March 4, 2012—Anyone who has traveled to Arizona and visited the Painted Desert has heard of (and probably visited) the Petrified Forest. That’s the only petrified forest I had ever heard of, so we were surprised when we discovered the Mississippi Petrified Forest outside of Jackson, Miss.

We’ve been taking scenic routes instead of interstate highways. As we pass from one state to another, we stop at the visitor’s center and glean it of information on the state’s attractions. Some we won’t see this trip; we catalog them. But others are on our way home. That’s how we found out about the Mississippi Petrified Forest. Although it is privately owned, it was not “commercial.” The admission charge was only $7 per person ($6 for us old farts), which gave us access to a six-block walking trail that showed off many examples of petrified wood, including giant sequoias as well as other trees, some of which are now extinct.

As we started our walk (we were the only visitors at the time), we were greeted by a small calico cat. Jim can’t pass by a friendly cat. He bent over to pet her, and she turned over onto her back for a good belly rub. That did it! She kept us company for our entire little trek. She’d be a pace behind us, then hop up onto the fence and walk for a while. At one point, as we looped around the lane, she lagged behind. Jim stopped and called to her. We wondered if she would follow the path or cut across. She took the shortcut to join us as we finished our walk.





The petrified forest was really interesting, especially when we learned some of the history. This area was known as the bad lands for years. We saw a picture of it as it appeared in the 1960s; it truly was badlands—huge rocks sticking out of the ground. Nothing would grow on this land, which was formed when a raging river tore through the area and formed gullies and ravines.

But we didn’t see badlands. We walked through a forested area. The owners of the land allowed the land to reclaim itself, and within 40 years, most of the ravines have disappeared; tall trees have grown; and the area is serenely wooded. It is remarkable what nature can do when left alone.

We are now in Biloxi for a couple of days. We picked up literature on the local attractions. Stay tuned to find out what we discover on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Friday, March 2, 2012

Extreme recycling

March 2, 2012—I’m not a tree-hugger, but I believe in recycling whenever it is reasonable and possible. At home we recycle our newspapers and aluminum cans, and glassware, faithfully putting them out in their blue bins by the curb.

As we were driving down the highway yesterday, we saw recycling done to the extreme: An entrepreneur apparently bought a number of old railroad box cars and turned them into apartments! The name of his venture: Railcar Apartments.

We had to take a picture of them.


Our RV resort is in a very rural area, near a huge lake where fishing and water sports abound. I’d love to fish in that lake, but it didn’t make sense to buy a license for a couple hours of fishing. Instead, we opted to try our luck in the small lake and the pond on the resort property, where we don’t need a license.

We stopped at a local convenience store/tool store/barbecue hut/bait shop called Smokey Joe’s to buy some bait. A local woman told us what was biting down by the dam. When we told her we would only be fishing in the RV park’s ponds, she laughed. “There ain’t no fish in those ponds…except maybe some catfish.”
We decided to try anyway. Catfish would be good.

The nightcrawler I pulled out of the bait box at first did not want to cooperate. It seemed to sense it was going to go for a swim. I prevailed, though, and got it on the hook and cast into the pond.
Something took most of my bait within a couple of minutes. The excitement of that nibble quickly ebbed, though. We think the “fish” might actually have been a turtle.

After drowning a few more worms (and having no more nibbles), we decided that local lady was probably right: There aren’t any fish in these ponds. No wonder you don’t need a license!


Ah, well.

We’ll be home in a few days. Maybe we’ll finally do some fishing there.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Diamond Jim

March 1, 2012—Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, or so they say. Me? The only diamonds I have (and want) are those on my engagement and wedding rings. I’ve never been “into” jewelry. Nevertheless, the opportunity to dig for diamonds was too good to pass up.

Arkansas’ Crater of Diamonds State Park is dedicated to public diamond mining. The diamond-mining area is 37 1/2acres, which are plowed periodically to help bring the diamonds to the surface. The diamonds themselves were formed about 100 million years ago; they lie on the surface of an ancient volcanic crater.

Three colors of diamonds are found in the park: white, brown, and yellow, in that order. Along with diamonds rock hounds find semi-precious stones, such as lamproite, amethyst, banded agate, jasper, pendot, garnet, quartz, calcite, barite, and hematite.

The first diamonds were found by a local farmer who owned the land, which is near Mufreesboro, Ark. Although there were some commercial ventures to mine the gems, they were not profitable. The site became an Arkansas state park in 1972.

Driving to the park took about an hour down winding two-lane highways and through gorgeous scenery. (Every day more flowers appear.) We brought our own shovel and bucket, but we rented screens to sift the dirt.

There are three ways to find diamonds:

  • Walking up and down the rows of plowed fields. If the field is newly plowed or if a heavy rain just occurred, this is apparently a good way to find them.
  • Dry sifting. You can dig up areas, put the dirt into a sifter, and see what kinds of gems might be left behind.
  • Wet sifting. In this method, you use two sifters (one finer than the other). You put dirt in the larger-meshed sifter and dissolve it in water. Then you put the remains in the smaller sifter, get rid of the rest of the dirt, and spread it out to dry. Once it is dry, you may find something valuable.

Jim opted for the wet sifting. I opted to walk up and down the plowed fields. I also sat on the ground and played in the dirt, breaking apart clumps to see if I could find anything.


I didn’t. At least, not any diamonds. I found some pretty agate, but that’s not really what I wanted.
Diamond Jim didn’t find anything either, at least at first blush. The park allows you to take home up to five gallons of dirt. We took home the washings. We’ll spread them out to dry thoroughly and then try to identify the pebbles.


A man and woman who are veteran rock hounds were helping novices like us use the equipment and identify the stones. The lady especially was good at this; she did not espy anything worthwhile in our cache. (Although her hunt didn’t turn up anything worthwhile, in the years she has gone to the park, she has found 11 diamonds.)

It’s a lot of work, mining diamonds. We would do it again, though. It was a lot of fun. However, I think I’ll keep writing to earn extra cash. I wouldn’t count on a mining venture to pay off.


Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda