Monday, December 23, 2013

Some final thoughts from this trip

December 23, 2013--It's a long, hard drive from the Florida Keys to Jacksonville. Round trip, we put 973 miles on Junior. Aside from the miles, the traffic is horrendous in south Florida. For those reasons, we decided to overnight in Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound, just north of West Palm Beach. That park is where we always stay when we head south.

The state part is where I had another "first"--a shower in the campground bath house.

On our final night in the Keys, after a day of fishing and being out in the sun, we discovered that we had no hot water. In a motorhome you have two choices for heating water: electric or gas. Jim turned the burner from electric to gas, but still we had no hot water.

I took a very quick cold shower. Jim researched the problem, which he deduced is probably a faulty thermostat. We bought a new part at an RV place in Key Largo, on our way home Saturday. When we arrived at Jonathan Dickinson, Jim tried to put it in. He wasn't successful. Replacing the part is not difficult, but the part (despite the correct number) does not match what he took out.

That's when I took my first campground shower.

The hot water heater will be fixed before we take our next trip.

Another word about the cats.

They were both excellent travelers until the last day, when Xena decided she didn't like the litter box. (I think it did not have enough litter in it for her taste.) That was the only time she was naughty.

When we arrived home, Jim and I carried each of the cats into the house and placed them on the porch, where they like to spend most of their time. We then proceeded to unpack the RV. Suddenly, we saw Charlie in the front yard watching us. Charlie almost never goes in the front yard.

Then Charlie went up to the RV and sat on its steps. He wanted to go back in.

Because we needed to take Junior back down to our storage area. I picked Charlie up and put him in the house. But as soon as I released him, he ran back out the front door to the RV. He wanted to go with us!

So, Charlie the Traveling Cat made another trip in the RV, and then in the car (where we was equally good). I think he is confused; maybe he has a little dementia (he is almost 16 years old), but hopefully the memory of where he lives will come back quickly.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer

Linda

Friday, December 20, 2013

Here fishie, here fishie!

December 20, 2013--I know there are fish in the ocean. And I know there are BIG fish in the ocean. They just weren't where we went fishing.

Actually, yesterday, Jim caught perhaps eight fish; I caught one, if you want to count the one that bit onto Jim's bait while I was holding his pole. I pulled it in. Unfortunately, none of the fish was big enough to keep. Most seemed to be some type of snapper. I think there was a trigger fish or two as well as a hogfish.

Today, I caught the first fish, and eight more after that. One time I caught two at once! (We were using two leads on each rig.) Jim caught just about as many as I did. (He didn't keep count.) Alas! None were keepers. So, we are leaving the Keys without a good homemade fish dinner fresh out of the ocean.

The fish off the pier will miss us. We fed them a total of two pounds of squid. They ate it up like crazy. I don't think anybody went to bed hungry yesterday or today.

The resort had a holiday pool party this afternoon. We rode our bicycles down and sat around drinking some sort of punch. We couldn't snack on the crackers and dips, but later they had a mashed potato bar--sort of like a baked potato bar where you load up with all kinds of fixings--only this was a cup of mashed potatoes.

After the party we decided to try our hand at lure fishing. It seems, however, that the fish around here are no dummies. We didn't even get a little bite.

Tomorrow we leave here. We'll go as far as Hobe Sound (half way), about five hours. Then we'll be home Sunday.

It has been an excellent vacation.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Thursday, December 19, 2013

An afternoon in Key West

Our destination for the afternoon and evening, after fishing for an hour or so yesterday morning, was Key West.

Although it is only 39 miles, because of speed restrictions, especially through the Big Pine area, it takes about an hour to get the there. (Big Pine Key restricts speed to 45 during the day and 35 at night, as a way to protect the Key Deer, a species of deer that stand only about two feet tall.)

Key West is a zoo—at least this time of year. Traffic was as bad as in a big city; people were crammed into grocery store aisles. Our destination was the Truman Museum, the place where Harry Truman vacationed, I believe, 175 times while he was in office.

Our faith GPS Garmina led us near the museum, but where was it? A sign said, “Truman Annex.” There was a gate, houses, a guardhouse, a brochure describing a walking tour of the community, and a sales office. This looked like a housing development, not a museum property. A map showed we were in the vicinity, so we walked. And walked. Finally we came upon the building, right in the middle of the Truman Annex.

It turns out that this area had originally been a Naval Base. After Truman died, it was renamed the Truman Annex. When the base was closed, the land and buildings were sold. A developer traded the Little White House and several other buildings to the State in return for some permits, and the Museum eventually opened.

The house, originally built as a duplex in the late 1890s, was turned into a single-family home and furnished for the Trumans after his election. Today it is furnished in original pieces as well as period pieces. The furnishings reminded me of my grandmother’s furniture as well as of the furniture in a condo I rented for a couple of months in Palm Beach Gardens. It was an interesting tour.
Harry Truman was an unpretentious man, and the house was a reflection of him. Incidentally, he refused to let the Navy build a house especially for him.

Our tour ended just in time for us to meander toward Mallory Square, which, to me, is like Jackson Square in New Orleans. Street entertainers, from folk singers to fire jugglers, draw in crowds, entertain, and pass the hat. Shoulder-to-shoulder crowds jam the waterfront, buying vendors’ wares, drinking beer (almost a Key West mandate, it would seem), and waiting for the sunset.

Street entertainer with his pig
No, these aren't real women! Key West has an Art Museum. Outside are full-size sculptures of these nudes, an artist, two lovers. Very realistic.


We strolled away from the main crowd and found an open spot along a rail farther down the waterfront. The sunset didn’t disappoint us. What disappointed us was the fact that Jim had forgotten the camera in the car—and my phone camera (which had about 1% of battery left) does not take very good pictures.

So, as you look at this posted photo, picture in your mind, the glowing yellow sun, slowly descending toward the sea, and with its descent, turning more pink and red as it approaches the blue water. Just as the last sliver of the sun was disappearing, a thin veil of clouds stained themselves as they covered the remaining bit of sun.


I said that Key West reminded me of New Orleans. Mallory Square is like Jackson Square, and Duval Street (at least the section closest to Mallory Square) is like Bourbon Street. The main theme: bars. It was early, so we didn’t see a lot of drunks, but I’m sure they abound later in the night.
We walked past shops, and decided to eat closer to home, instead of fighting the crowds at dinner time in Key West.

Our dinner was at a seafood restaurant/bar and grill, which also sold organic cheese, milk, and eggs. The waitress knew what gluten-free was and the restaurant actually had a choice of GF beers for Jim! He had one we had never heard of before—a Spanish beer made with a process that removes the gluten to 3 ppm, well within the legal definition of gluten-free. Because the bottle was not labeled gluten-free, we took it home for research. It turns out that this particular beer has won awards for its taste and process. It is not labeled gluten-free because it extracts the gluten rather than using gluten-free ingredients.

So there you have it. Another day in what some would call paradise. I don’t go that far. I wouldn’t want to live down here. Everything is too far away; you are too vulnerable to hurricanes; and it is very expensive. But the weather is great, and for a relaxing time of doing nothing and fishing, it can’t be beat.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,


Linda

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fishing

December 17, 2013--We were at this same resort--Sunshine RV Resort--near Big Pine Key in the Florida Keys exactly two years ago. And the spot where we camped was almost exactly the same one as the one we are in now.

We can see the ocean from our camp site, and the fishing pier is within walking distance.


Last time we were here, I caught our only fish. It was some type of jack, a bloody fish that most people don't eat. But we found a recipe that called for soaking it in milk for several hours to draw out the blood. It was delicious.

Yesterday afternoon, Jim and I made our first fishing excursion to the pier. We were told that the fish were biting on squid, so that was the bait we bought.

Biting they did! Several schools of fish went to bed last night well fed.

For all our fish feeding, however, we caught three fish within about an hour or so. The first one was way too small to keep. It was striped and may have been a sheepshead. The second one, which I caught, may have been a pompano. It was bluish and very pretty. Unfortunately, it, too, was too small to keep. The third one we kept. I don't know what kind it was, but it offered us two delicious bites each! Good thing I had a contingency plan for dinner (shrimp diablo, improvised from the ingredients I had on hand).

We intend to do more fishing this week. I just hope we catch some more. Fresh fish straight out of the ocean can't be beat!

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer

Linda

Monday, December 16, 2013

A cool day in the Keys

December 16, 2013--The balmy weather that greeted us when we arrived on Saturday is less balmy now, but also less humid. We considered going to Key West today, but nixed that idea when the weather forecast said it would be mostly cloudy. You can't see a good sunset in overcast skies!

What to do? Well, just take it easy.

I received my next two assignments from my editor at Reed Elsvier (for the project I am helping with), but she said she was not in a hurry because of other more pressing deadlines on her end. I worked a bit, anyway, but then turned to a book I had downloaded before leaving home.

Jim decided it would be a good day to hook up all the stereo/blue ray/satellite components. Now we're in business. The resort has cable tv, but we brought our satellite receiver and hard drive. Good thing; there is little on TV tonight, so we can watch some of the movies we've been saving for a "rainy day."

This resort is by no means 5 stars. It would be begging to get 2 stars, probably. Since we were here (I think three years ago) they did improve the fitness room. And they have WIFI throughout the park. Only trouble is that sometimes I can't connect. Frustrating.

What is more frustrating is that I cannot connect with my T-Mobile hotspot. I purchased a month's worth of time (2 gigbytes of data) on the supposition that I would be able to use the device here. I even checked out the availability of 4G service in this area! Yeah, I occasionally get 4G, but with only 1 bar--not enough to connect to the Internet. I am going to complain to T-Mobile. When the hotspot works, it works well. But when it doesn't, well, it is frustrating. Yesterday, because of its failure to work and because I couldn't connect via the resort's WIFI, I went to the office. There I could connect easily. It's a pain, though, to trek over there for connectivity.

One of the projects that is quickly moving up on Jim's to-do list is to enhance our WIFI connectivity ability. We've been reading about using an external antenna booster and a router to create a hotspot, using the resort's WIFI. Everything we've researched indicates that this improves capacity considerably. You only need line-of-sight. I can't wait until he gets that done.

The cats are doing great. They traveled well; have behaved; and are even starting to take an interest in going outside. Of course, their greatest interest is when they don't have a leash on. They still don't like the leash. Last night, though, they did stay outside for a while and even walked around a bit.

No great (mis)adventures to report. Just a nice day in the almost sunny Florida Keys.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Saturday, December 14, 2013

We could have danced all night!

December 14, 2013--Jim lived in West Palm Beach for about 26 years, and for many of them he worked as a travel agent. One of the clubs he was active in was Bon Vivants, a group involved in the travel industry. He has maintained his membership in the group, and occasionally we get together with the group. Last night was one of those occasions.

The Bon Vivants host a holiday party. Most everybody dresses up. Jim cleaned his tux, and I pulled out one of my long dresses, and we partied!

We had a great time. The live band was great, and they played the right kind of music--oldies, especially from the '60s. (I guess they knew the audience!)

I kicked off my shoes, and Jim and I danced--fast ones as well as slow ones. We really had a great time. We could have danced all night, but the band stopped playing at 11.

Our visit to West Palm had a dual purpose: The dance was one. Visiting with Bo (Jim III) and his family was the other. Bowen will turn 7 in February. He's getting to be a big boy! He didn't want to wait until Christmas to open the gift we brought him, but, mom and dad said he had to, so wait he will.




Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda

Friday, December 13, 2013

Finally...the sparks fly!

December 13, 2013--We arrived at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound, Fla., late yesterday afternoon. We leveled the rig, put out the slides, hooked up the water, sewer, and finally the electricity. And we waited for the electrical power to kick in.

No such luck.

Every time we have traveled in this "new" motorhome, we have had an electrical problem. And every time, Jim has sleuthed until he thought he found the source of the problem. Apparently not, however, because again we had no electricity coming into the RV.

Jim tested everything, including (this time) the electrical chord. One "leg" of the chord was not conducting electricity, so he concluded the chord was faulty. It happens. Chords get yanked on every time they are used, and wires can break.

It was about 4:30. I started calling RV parts stores in the area. We found one that was still open, and the clerk said he could have a chord for us in the morning. Cost: $217, with tax. He would call us in the a.m. when it was delivered.

Jim managed to get us limited electricity for the evening. In the morning he said he had to test one more thing: the reel to which the chord is attached.

Lo and behold! When he took apart the reel, he found the source of the problem. Two of the contact points (similar to brushes in an electrical motor) were worn down. He managed to clean them up and get electricity restored. (Have I mentioned that my husband can fix anything?)

The fix he made was temporary. He'll make a permanent fix once we return home. But in the meantime, we are back in business.

The chord we ordered? Well, it was special-ordered. The dealer was super nice; we gladly paid a $25 restocking fee.

Such is the life of the Reluctant RoVer.

Until later,

Linda

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Home again, after a 'tasty' down-home stop

December 1, 2013--North Carolina is known for its barbecue and its sausage. ( I guess they raise a lot of hogs in the Carolinas.) Whenever we go up to see Jim's uncle in the northeastern part of the state, we stop at a little country butcher shop to buy freshly made pork sausage. The store is well known to the people around the countryside--so well known, in fact, that it doesn't even have a sign out front! And the sausage is out of this world--so fresh that the proprietor won't even sell sausage leftover in the case from the day before!

This trip we didn't have the opportunity to go up to see his uncle, but we did want to get some Carolina sausage. So, we decided to take a scenic route across country, driving through some little towns that might have a butcher shop similar to the one we were used to visiting.

As we were driving down a two-lane highway, Jim stopped at a gas station and asked if anyone knew of a good local butcher shop. Someone gave him directions to a shop in Angiers, a small town about five miles down the road.

When we got to the town, we passed one store, but Jim didn't think that was the one the fellow recommended. So, we kept driving. We came up to another store. He went in and inquired. No luck; no sausage. So we decided to go back to the one we passed.

Turns out that this little butcher shop, aptly called The Country Store, just opened about two weeks ago.The proprietors, a black family, had plenty of experience in meat cutting. They told us they wanted to go back to the "old ways" of cutting good meat to the customer's specifications, not just give them prepackaged stuff found in groceries.  This little store wasn't the one that had been recommended, and that was probably a good thing. The butcher told us that the one we had been looking for was actually an IGA, and not all the meat and sausage were prepared on site.

When we asked about sausage, the butcher said he didn't have any, but if we would wait, he would mix some up for us. Talk about service! He ground the pork in front of us and added all the herbs and spices as we chatted with him. The cost? Well, it wasn't $3.98/pound like the Bob Evans sausage I buy at Publix. This freshly ground, very lean sausage was only $2.39/pound! I can't emphasize the fact that we saw exactly what was put into the sausage. No scraps; no mystery meat. We bought 10 pounds.

Waiting for the sausage cost us about an hour of time, but it was worth it. We ate some this morning with pancakes and eggs. Mmmm, mmmm, good. So lean there were no drippings in the fry pan.

Because we started out around 10 a.m. yesterday, and because we stopped for the sausage, then lunch, then diesel fill up (plus E85 for our car--only $2.59/gallon, thank you flex-fuel), we had a l-o-n-g day driving home. Several cups of strong black coffee kept Jim alert (I dozed), and we finally pulled into our storage home at about 11 p.m., after driving a total of 952 miles to and from Raleigh.

It was a great trip. Both of the cats behaved themselves (no fighting, no recalcitrant behavior). Charlie slept in my lap most of the way home; Xena slept in the front window for several hours. I miss my family already. I wish I could see them more often.

Our next trip? We will be going to a holiday party in West Palm in a couple of weeks, then we will spend a week in the Keys. We just plan to relax and fish and hopefully snorkel, if the weather is good and the water is warm. We will probably also go down to Key West, have a nice dinner, and visit the Truman White House, something we missed last trip down there.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda