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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ready in S.C. for the sun to darken

August 20, 2017—Tomorrow is the day that earth stands still. No, wait. It won’t stand still, but it will get dark in the middle of the day when the earth experiences a total eclipse.

We are in Eutawville, S.C., on Lake Marion near Santee. The RV park is in line of the total eclipse. Our hope is that the clouds will disappear and we will be able to get the full experience of this once-in-a-lifetime happening. After the eclipse, we intend to launch our kayaks on this large lake and seek out some unsuspecting bass, pan fish, or catfish. We don’t care what, just so long as the beasties take a bite of our bait.

It wouldn’t  be an RV trip without  misadventure or two, would it? (I guess we made an exception to that rule the last trip that we took, but all good things have to come to an end.)

Several months ago we had a new cooling unit installed in our refrigerator. It worked OK the last couple of trips we took. But when we turned the fridge on Friday (it takes a long time to cool down adequately), we discovered that it was not cooling. Not good.

The unit itself is under warranty, but that doesn’t help keep our food cold on this trip. So, we took down a couple of ice coolers and are camping the old-fashioned way, at least with respect to keeping our food stuffs cold.

Our other misadventure is relatively minor—a dead battery in our tow car. Fords are notorious for this malady. Jim had installed a trickle charge, but for the last two trips, we have suffered a dead battery. Thank goodness for those portable battery charges. At less than $50 on eBay, our charger has saved the day for us. (I highly recommend having one on-hand. You never know when you will need a jump-start.)

I am writing this on Sunday evening, but I don’t know when I will have it posted. My mifi connection is weak; I may have to wait until I get home.

Until later,

Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Suwannee River, an armadillo, and a black eye

When most people (at least, we northerners) think of Florida, they picture sunny skies, palm trees, and a deep blue ocean (or gulf). But there is another Florida, much different from the Yankee version. It exists in the north central area, where palm trees do not grow naturally and the ocean is a long way off. We visited here a few weeks ago, when we stayed at two different RV parks on the Suwannee River. Seeking somewhere to get away and try our new kayaks, we again sought out the river, but this time we are staying at the Suwannee River State Park outside of Live Oak, Florida.

After we finished parking Junior, we were greeted by a baby armadillo burrowing for grubs in a nearby open space. Armadillos are quite myopic, so we were able to get pretty close before it ran away from us. They are also usually not seen during the day, and when they are spotted, it is usually as road kill.



This state park (and all Florida state parks) is a real bargain for us old RVers. We get a 50% discount. I believe staying here for three nights cost us about $40--and that includes water, 50 amp electric service, and even sewer! We are nestled under the shade of live oak trees, only a few hundred yards from the boat ramp, where we launched our kayaks yesterday.

Late last year, Jim and I purchased a number of different kayaks. The first two were 10 footers. Nice kayaks, but they were sit-ins. They were not as stable as sit-on-tops, and they were much, much more difficult to get into and out of, especially for me.

We sold one of those kayaks and gave the other to Jim's granddaughter. We then decided to purchase two pre-owned 12.5-foot fishing kayaks. Lots of storage and rod holders. Pretty stable, and they were sit-on-tops. We bought them for a good price. The problem, though, was that each weighed about 60 pounds. Jim made dollies to transport them from the car to a launch site, so weight was not a problem in land transport. But putting them on top of the car to carry them was another story. They were just too much for the two of us.

We sold them. I don't think we lost any money on them, either.

A few weeks ago, Dick's Sporting Goods had some 8-foot sit-on-top kayaks on sale. They only weighed 39 pounds. We decided to get two.

I practiced paddling in our pond, and I also put a kayak in our pool to practice getting on and off in water (should I roll off). If I were in deep water, I would be in trouble, but as long as I can step off the bottom, I can get on and off all right. The kayaks are also surprisingly stable, very hard to roll. That is a good thing!

So, yesterday, we did our official first kayaking jaunt up and down the Suwannee River. We also fished (did not catch anything). We were out on the river for several hours.

Our biggest challenge (Jim's really) was getting the kayaks back on top of the car. I am sure practice will make perfect, and maybe he will learn a better technique, but it is still a struggle to strap those babies down. Jim is currently wearing a badge of honor--a black eye, which happened when the strap's ratchet swung back and hit him under his right eye.
My kayak warrior and his black eye.


Ouch.

I am not sure if we will go fishing or kayaking again this afternoon. Tomorrow we go home, where more palm trees grow, the sun shines, and the ocean is only 10 minutes away. But, we have enjoyed our getaway.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Any (mis)adventures this trip? Well...

We are home. It was a great vacation, even though it rained a lot and we didn't catch any fish. And, it was almost uneventful. A Segall-Cullipher trip wouldn't be complete without a little (mis)adventure, would it?

With rain definitely in the forecast for early evening yesterday (the forecaster did not lie), we decided to head into Live Oak, to find an auto parts store for a light bulb and to go to dinner.

The first two auto parts stores did not have the bulb, but the third one did. He came out of the NAPA store with his 69 cent light bulb, happy as a lark. He started the car, put it into reverse, and...backed into a post! At least it wasn't a palm tree.

I suppose we could blame the ding on the backup camera. The Ford Edge's camera has been screwy for some time now but currently works--sort of. Its images are in clear color but are upside down! Neither of us has quite mastered the upside-down pictures, so we do look over our shoulder and in the rearview mirror as we back up. I guess Jim didn't look closely enough. And he didn't pay attention to those annoying warning bells either. Oh, well. It's just a little owie.

Just a little ding...

We had a second (mis)adventure just as we got onto I95 in Jacksonville. All of a sudden, the engine lurched a bit and then quit working. Jim, as usual, was driving in the right-hand lane and managed to coast to a stop safely on the side of the road.

The problem? We ran out of fuel.

A couple of years ago the fuel gauge in the RV stopped working. Jim had worked on it, and it seemed to give a read out, but he didn't trust the sensors. Instead, he uses mileage to gauge when we should get more diesel. Unfortunately, we had been running the generator quite a bit since our last fill-up, and it must have used more fuel than he realized. (The generator uses the same fuel as the engine.)

Good Sam came to the rescue, however, thanks to our roadside assistance insurance. So did the Florida Road Ranger. We called our emergency road service number and told them we ran out of fuel. While we waited for the road service to come to our aid, a Florida Road Ranger pulled up and asked how he could help us. When we told him we were waiting for roadside assistance, he said he would wait until they came. He put out traffic cones to help ensure safety and even offered us water!

Roadside assistance came, provided us with five gallons of diesel, primed the fuel injector, and even made sure we made it to a filling station.
Filling up an empty Junior
The nearest filling station we could get into had a very slow diesel pump. I think it took us nearly an hour to put in 100 gallons.

So, we did have our little (mis)adventures this trip. Thank goodness they were small.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Monday, June 19, 2017

Way down upon the Suwanee River...

We spent two nights at the Suwanee River Rendezvous RV Park, a great place for, well, rendezvous--meet ups--of RV groups. The new part of the park was rather run-of-the-mill, with average RV sites, few trees, and little shade.

The older part of the park, directly situated on the Suwanee River, was wooded. It would be difficult to get any big rigs in there, but there was an abundance of shade from the live oaks throughout the area.

We were disappointed, however, with the fishing facilities. The park promised fishing. Technically, there were areas to fish from the shore, but they were difficult to reach. The banks were steep, with little actual shoreline. No pier. No benches. We managed to climb over tree roots without falling into the water and find some areas to fish, but we did not catch anything. We were also disappointed that the park did not offer anything else other than the natural springs and a heated swimming pool for amenities. No pool table. No library. Nada.

In the heat of the afternoon yesterday, we became very, very bored. Too hot to fish; no desire to go to the pool. Our stay was a BOGO--buy one night, get one night free. When our BOGO deal was done this morning, we packed up and drove about 30 miles up the highway to another Suwanee River RV resort--this one called the Spirit of the Suwanee Music Park. It claims to be world class. It is not. But it is unique.
That is Jim, taking a look at the river flowing below the deck.

Peeking out among the live oaks is the Suwanee River.
 
The light area in the center of the photo is the Suwanee River meandering along the park's border. Huge live oak trees with gossamer Spanish moss grace the RV park, which approximates the size of a small state park.

This place is a private park, but has acreage to rival a small state park. It boasts more than 800 camping spots that can accommodate every type of camping from tents with no hookups to big rigs such as ours, tohorse camping. Unfortunately, although it has some full hookups, it has very few 50 amp service sites, which puts a crimp in using two air conditioners. The park, however, has hiking trails, canoeing and kayaking availability, a swimming pool and playgrounds. No community center, though, and no pool tables.

It took us more than an hour to drive through the campground to see all it offers, it is that big. Its call to fame is music, as it hosts music festivals throughout the year. Some of these festivals attract upwards of 5,000 people, and music is played in many different venues throughout the park. Most of the festivals are in the spring and fall, although there is a small one scheduled for this weekend.

Like the other park, this one is also on the Suwanee River, albeit farther north than where we were yesterday and closer to a real town (historic Live Oak) that has a number of restaurants. (The first park was near a town called Mayo, which only had two or three restaurants that were not open on Sunday.)

The river banks in this park are quite steep and sheltered by live oaks, but we found a man-made beach area where we can easily reach the river to fish.

However...it is raining. And it will probably rain tomorrow also. (There is a threat of a tropical storm, and the outlook looks very wet for the next week.) So, we probably will not be able to fish here. One nice thing: this park has excellent fast, free wifi. And, because no major festival is scheduled for this week, the park is virtually empty. And, I forgot to mention, our two days here are free.

I don't think we would return to either of these parks. The fishing is not good, and there is really nothing else to do, unless you want to hike in the woods.

Originally we had considered going up to the Panhandle to stay at Ho-Hum RV Park, directly on the Gulf of Mexico. However, because of the weather threat, we will be heading home. But, you know what? Rain or not, blistering temperatures or not, we have had a wonderful time. We spent time with family; we got away from our usual routine; we relaxed.

Until later,


Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Feeding the fish

One thing is for sure: When we go fishing, the fish don't go hungry.

Last night and then again this morning, we fished in the Intracoastal at Gamble Rogers State Park in Flagler Beach. The park is very nice, and we intend to go back, when we can get a spot directly on the beach. That is when we will do some surf fishing there. Because of the heavy rain yesterday afternoon, we did not surf fish, but we put our lines in the Intracoastal.
Jim feeding the fish at Gamble Rogers State Park


I caught a couple of oysters. (Don't ask me how. I don't know. They were on my hook when I pulled the line out of the water.) And both of us fed a lot of fish, which were especially fond of the dead shrimp we were using as bait.

After an hour of fishing this a.m., we headed to the Suwanee River, located a little west of Gainesville. Yes, this is the Suwanee River of folklore song. I didn't know it was a real river until I moved to Florida. It is real; it is wide; and it is beautiful.



It is a slow-moving river, one on which I would have no hesitancy to launch our small boat.

We are staying two nights at one RV park, then two nights at another, both on the river.

Our neighbor gave us some skinny worms, leftover from her fishing foray. I drowned a few, and I fed the fish quite a few. We'll try again tomorrow morning. (Afternoons are out; it has been raining like clockwork at 2:30 to 3:00, with heavy downpours drowning any ideas of outdoor activity.)

Although we did not catch any fish, we did see some really big sturgeon jumping in the river. The sturgeon are protected, but they are something to see as they sport in the water.

It really doesn't matter if we catch fish or not. We are having a good time, and isn't that what it is all about?

Until next time,


Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Friday, June 16, 2017

Family, turkeys, and camping


On the road again…it’s so nice to be on the road again.

Yes, we are planning to sell Junior, our 40-foot Country Coach. But, until we do, we are planning to use it and do some traveling.  Even if we were to stay in Florida, we would have plenty to see and do.
We left Wednesday (June 14). Our first stop was Wekiva State Park, just a couple of miles from my brother Mike’s house in the Orlando area. We could only get two nights there (state parks fill up rapidly during the summer, especially on weekends), but we made the most of the two nights we were there by relaxing and visiting Mike and Susan and Judy and Paul. My older sister Judy actually arranged the meet-up. She and Paul had driven to Florida to help settle her daughter into her new home in Fort Lauderdale. So, on the way back to Texas, why not stop and see siblings? Good decision, Jude!



The two days were filled with talk and laughter and dining together. Our family is spread out across the country, and it is difficult to get to see everyone, so  two days were special.

Rain beat down on our campsite both days (typical in central Florida this time of year). So, we did not get to do much in the way of “recreating.” Park rangers had warned us about the presence of black bears. (Mike also told us stories of fending off bears in his back yard.) We had no bear encounters, but on the way to Mike’s house yesterday, we stopped to watch a gaggle of wild turkeys on the roadside. The group included a mama and her newborns. Unfortunately, by the time we got the camera out, the babies hid themselves within the brush. Mama wasn’t so shy; we got a picture of her.


Wekiva camping came with full hookups under a canopy of large trees. We decided to backtrack a bit and drive up to Flagler Beach on the east coast (just above Daytona) to stay a night at Gamble Rogers State Park, situated on both the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean.

Right now Jim is preparing some fishing lines, and after the afternoon storms pass, we intend to try some surf fishing and/or fishing in the Intracoastal.

Tomorrow we will head over to the Suwanee River area, about three hours from here. We will be staying at two different RV parks for four nights. We intend to do some fresh water fishing there.
Whatever we do, it will be fun and relaxing, something we are in need of. Retired people (at least this retired couple) work too hard!

Oh, before I forget…knock on wood, so far this trip has had no misadventures. Nice, for a change.
Until next time,

Your Reluctant Rover,

Linda


Sunday, April 9, 2017

An annoying beep

If you have followed this blog throughout the years, you know that most of my travel journals lament the woes of something going wrong in our RV, especially our second (and current) RV, "Junior." Many of the woes I have written about concern electrical problems, which can be particularly nagging in a motorhome because manufacturers do not conform to a standard method of running wires. Each motorhome is laid out differently.

I am happy to report that on this trip, we had no unexpected problems. (We did have one, which Jim will fix, that occurred whenever we started the engine after its being idle for several days. But, we knew about that one, so it doesn't count!)

Well, my statement about no unexpected problems isn't exactly accurate. We had one--an annoying one--which we eventually solved.

The annoyance was a very quiet, intermittent beeping, similar to the sound a microwave makes when it announces your food is done. The sound was three beeps, often (but not always) followed by five short beeps.

I Googled this type of beeping. Articles on the web said that it could be caused by a detector's batteries that are dying--or it could be caused if the detector was ending its life cycle, generally five years. Those theories sounded reasonable. So we started listening.

We stood under the carbon monoxide detector attached to the overhead cabinets in the kitchen. Nope, not that one. We listened at the smoke detector. Not that one either. We put our ears down near the floorside LP gas detector. It wasn't  that detector either. And we had run out of detectors.

What could it be?

Jim thought it sounded like it was coming from under the refrigerator, so he went outside, opened the basement door, and listened. And he heard it.

It turns out the beeping was from dying batteries--in the safe he had installed when we bought Junior four years ago. Actually, the safe with its original batteries predated Junior; Jim had originally installed it in our first RV, "Baby."

Jim changed the batteries, but that, unfortunately, was not the end of the beeping. Finally, after another 24 hours of this annoyance, he looked at the safe again and decided to reprogram the entry code to the one he had originally inputted. That solved the problem. It turned out that the fresh batteries were needed, but the safe did not like the new longer code Jim had programmed.

Problem solved.

We are home again, after a great vacation in south central Florida. And we did not have any real problems to plague us.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda


Friday, April 7, 2017

Cool parks and Echo Farm

We moved from our Arcadia, Fl., "residence" Thursday, after our week's free stay was up. Our next (and last) stop for this vacation is in North Fort Myers, at another winter "haven" for snowbirds. Like the Arcadia RV park, this one is also very big. A co-op type of "resort," it also has a combination of park trailers and RVs, along with a heated pool, a library, and a multi-purpose building. No billiards, though, which is too bad. I was starting to get the hang of putting those ceramic balls into their holes.

The "cool parks" in my headline does not refer to this RV park. (Like the one in Arcadia, it is, to us, just a safe and inexpensive place to stay.) No, the cool parks refer to the parks around Fort Myers.

Because our move to this RV park took less than an hour, we had plenty of time yesterday afternoon to explore. Much better than Arcadia, which was really inconvenient to everything. Here we are minutes away from restaurants and "civilization."

We had asked the local tourist information center attendant where we could fish. She told us to go across the bridge and we would find fishing piers. The piers, it turns out, are local, on the river which exits to the gulf. And unlike the fishing piers in the Jacksonville area, these piers are free and open to the public. Nice.

No one was catching anything, though, so we continued our explorations.

We found another park, named after the conquistador Hernando DeSoto. It had two piers, as well as a boat dock. We dipped our lines for a bit (no bites) before visiting a local tourist attraction, Fisherman's Village, a marina offering restaurants and local shops.


Personal flotation devices are available free to keep kids safe on the water.

What struck both of us was how Fort Myers has taken advantage of its waterways with offerings for both locals and tourists. It even had a kiosk of children's life jackets, free for the lending, to encourage safe boating!

Why can't Jacksonville make its waterfronts this friendly to its residences?
Now on to today...

Jim follows a natural gardener on YouTube. This fellow recently visited Echo Farms in North Fort Myer.


What is so special about this farm? Well, it is about 55 acres of sustainable farming, featuring all edible plants that can feed the world. Echo is actual a Christian ministry, which has as its mission to reduce hunger and improve lives worldwide. Instead of donating food to starving people, Echo teaches these people how to farm, using the resources available to them. It uses creative methods to get more out of the soil. In its own words:

"ECHO exists to reduce hunger and improve the lives of small-scale farmers worldwide. We provide agricultural and appropriate technology training and resources to development workers in more than 165 countries.  ECHO resources include a large knowledge base of specialized information, technical support based on years of experience, and an extensive seed bank focused on highly beneficial, underutilized plants.  We work to identify, validate, document and disseminate best practices in sustainable agriculture and appropriate technology. ECHO creates opportunities for community leaders to network with one another to share experiences, ideas and solutions."


We took two tours: The Echo Global Farm Tour, which showed us how the organization makes the most out of small-scale farming, by growing appropriate edibles and raising the right livestock for the climate of an area (tropical, monsoon, rain forest, etc.). The second tour featured using appropriate technology. Echo teaches farmers how to use resources at hand to make the most of their efforts."

Jim wanted to tour Echo because in the videos he had seen he discovered there were a number of plants we can raise that are nutrient heavy. We bought moringa seeds, which will grow into a hedge. The moringa tree is a miracle tree. Virtually every part of it is edible. We intend to find out.

We also bought a katuk plant, chaya, and papaya. Katuk can be planted as a hedge. Its leaves have a peanut-like flavor when eaten raw, but are usually cooked like any other green.


Chaya is known as tree spinach. It can be harvested continuosly, as long as 50% of the leaves remain on the plant. It should be cooked, however, because its leaves contain cyanide. 


So, we will be experimenting with new greens. 


Tomorrow, our last day here, I hope we can catch our dinner,.


Until later,


Your Reluctant RoVer,


Linda



Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The greatest show on earth!

I can't remember ever going to the circus when I was a little girl. I don't think my parents could afford to take us. But I remember taking my kids to the circus at least once. There was no big top; the three rings were performed indoors in an arena. Even as an adult, I recall the exhilaration and excitement of the costumes, the music, and the daring performances.

Sarasota, Florida, is the winter headquarters of the soon-to-be defunct Ringling Brothers Circus. In the 1920s, the founder of the circus, John Ringling, adopted Sarasota as his hometown and brought the circus headquarters to Sarasota, after previous winter headquarters in Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Peru, Indiana. (I had forgotten that factoid!)

He and his wife Mable became art connoisseurs after they were married in 1905.  They showed off their collections in their mansion, built on the waters of Sarasota Bay. In 1925, he commissioned the building of  an art museum on the grounds of their Sarasota mansion.

Ringling lost his fortune during the Great Depression, and had only $311 to his name when he died. He refused to sell off his art collection. Instead, he  bequeathed the mansion as well as the art museum to the State of Florida, owned today by Florida State University.

The art museum is free to visitors on Mondays, we discovered. The circus museum, however, is never free, and the cost of admission ($23 for seniors) is the same on Mondays as it is any other day.

I have never studied art, and I admit that given a choice between visiting a circus museum and an art museum, I would opt for the circus. I only appreciate art museums for the historical aspects of the arts, and I like to see how art technique has changed over the centuries (the artist's development of perspective, for example). But, I did not have to choose between visiting one museum over the other, and we were able to tour both museums.

Probably the most interesting exhibit at the art museum was one consisting of thousands of thin, colored ribbons hanging from the ceiling in a dark room. In this interactive exhibit, visitors were invited to walk through the forest of ribbons. It was an amazing experience.
Riding bareback!

The greatest show on earth....in miniature


In addition to the art museum, the estate also has a circus museum, which houses the world's largest miniature circus, as well as circus memorabilia, including circus cars, a calliope, and the luxurious private train car used by Ringling and his wife.

The miniature circus is a work that has taken its creator more than 50 years to put together. It contains thousands of pieces, and gives viewers insight into the behind the scenes operations of the circus. When you see the miniatures, you can appreciate the logistics of moving a circus around the country. About 1,500 people were involved in the circus operations. In addition to the performers, there were cooks, servers, tailors, metal workers, mechanics, animal trainers, and more. The circus was a traveling city that stayed in one place usually only one night at a time.

Back in its day, the circus was the only place most people were able to see exotic animals. Giraffes, lions, elephants, tigers, zebras, apes...they were all part of the menagerie. Back then, keeping animals in cages and training them to do unnatural tricks were not considered inhuman. Today, such activity is considered cruel, and that is a contributing reason why Ringling Brothers Circus is going out of business. No animals, no business.

The circus has changed. Today, Cirque du Soleil is much more to my liking, but I am glad that I was able to take my kids to the "real" circus many years ago. And I am glad I was able to visit the Ringling Museums in Sarasota.

Until later,


Your Reluctant RoVer,
Linda




Saturday, April 1, 2017

Horses and hiking near Arcadia, Florida

When we went to the Tampa RV Supershow in January, we were given several free stays at RV parks. The longest was one week at Cross Creek RV Resort in Arcadia, Fl.

Depending on your definition of "nice," this is a nice RV resort. It is huge--around 600 spots, a combination of park model homes and RV spots. It has a beautiful office, workout facility (haven't seen it yet), billiards room (haven't seen it either), huge swimming pool, activity courts (tennis, pickle ball, shuffleboard), and a big community room. It is very clean and neat. It is not, however, my ideal of a place to stay. Not many trees, though. This was most likely farmland. No picnic table, either, although there is ample room on the concrete patio.

"Junior" at Cross Creek RV Resort.


Arcadia is a small southwestern central Florida town, about an hour to two hours to everything--the gulf coast, Orlando, Tampa, etc. It is essentially a farming-turned-RV community, one of many around here. Snowbirds flock to this area during the winter, probably because it is pretty inexpensive, much less expensive than, say, renting in The Villages or nearer to prime tourist areas.

That said, it is a free week (can't beat the price!), and it will serve our purpose fine, which is to get away for a week and relax from household chores.

Jim did some research into area attractions. Yesterday, we went to see the Royal Lippizzan Stallions at Ottomar Hermann Training facility. These are the famous dancing horses from Austria. These horses are so beautiful!


The training facility opens its doors to the public three days a week during the winter. For a $5 donation, you can watch the horses and their riders/trainers practice their performances. On April 29 they will have a full dress rehearsal. Too bad we won't be here then.

Here is a link to one of the videos I took of the prancing horses. (I hope you will be able to view it.)
https://goo.gl/photos/Ds6SXDia21zMHdH68



Today, we ventured out to another area attraction, the Crowley Museum and Nature Center. This is a little-known Florida cracker museum and buildings, with cracker cattle, nature trails, organic garden, and various other animals. We had a pleasant afternoon walking the trails.

Afterward, we wanted to see a nearby Indian mound. On the map, it appeared to be just outside a nearby state park, but when we inquired at the park, the attendant did not know anything about the Indian mound. We drove about 20 miles to the main entrance and asked another attendant. Same answer. So, we went home without seeing an Indian mound.

Both Indiana and Illinois are famous for their Indian mounds. I, however, have never seen them. Apparently the Coloosa Indians (also Colusa) built mounds around here and at the west coast of Florida. We will see them at another time.

I believe we will drive over to Sarasota tomorrow or the next day and tour the circus attractions there.

In the meantime, it feels nice just to relax.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book signing success!

This last weekend local recreational vehicle dealers held their annual Jacksonville RV Show at the Jacksonville Equestrian Center. I was invited to sign and sell copies of Don't Back into the Palm Tree! Real Life Lessons for New and Wannabe RVers.

I didn't know what to expect; I had not done any other book signings. A deep-down fear was that I would sit at the table and no one would stop or buy a book! It turned out that my fear of sitting in solitude was in vain, thanks to the Florida RV Trade Association (FRVTA), publicist Ronald Whittington of Whittington PR Marketing and Public Relations, the Florida Times-Union book editor, Brandy Hilboldt-Allport, and the Times-Union Drive Section editor, Joe DeSalvo.

It all started late last summer when the book editor ran a favorable review of my book. (I have to admit that seeing that positive book review created a warm feeling in me!)

After that article was published, the Drive Section editor, Joe DeSalvo called me and asked if I would write an article on RVing for the paper to help promote the St. John's County RV Show, set for October. He also put me in touch with Ron Whittington, who then arranged for me to do a book signing for that fall show.

Ron promoted the show and the book signing. And Joe published my article, "RVing by the Book," on the front page of the Drive Section on September 30. Unfortunately, both the book signing and the RV show had to be canceled because of Hurricane Matthew, which blew through the area. That RV show could not be rescheduled.

The Jacksonville show was scheduled for Feb. 9-12, and Ron again arranged for me to sign and sell books at the show. This time, the weather cooperated. The sunny skies, low humidity, and mild temperature attracted record crowds. The day that I signed books, about 4,000 people showed up.

Thanks to FRVTA's Patty Flanagan, who coordinated the Jacksonville event, the table I was assigned at the show was placed so that everyone who entered the show passed by it. And they had to pass by it again on the way out. I could not have asked for better exposure.

My husband, Jim Cullipher, helped me with the book signing by setting up a tripod with a poster of the book on it and by being my cashier. Nearly everyone who walked by the table read the sign and chuckled, especially experienced RVers. A few remarks were:
  • "I didn't back into the palm tree; I backed into the house!"
  • "We backed into a water spigot once. Water all over!" and 
  • "I bought your book, and I felt your pain when you backed into the palm tree."
Several people stopped to shake my hand, saying they had already bought my book after reading about it in the paper. They said it made them smile while giving them good information.

And people did buy the book. One couple came back to our table after touring RVs and said, "We had to come back to get the book. We talked to three different couples who bought it and they said we absolutely had to have it." That was, perhaps, the most gratifying sale of the day.

In two weeks, I get to sign books again as a finale to presentations I will be making at the Stratton & Company Retirement Summit, to be held at the University of North Florida, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., February 25. The free event is open to the public, but reservations are required, since lunch will be served.

Don't Back into the Palm Tree! is available on Amazon.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda





Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Reluctant Boater?

When we bought our first RV at the end of 2010, I became the Reluctant Rover. Will I now become the Reluctant Boater? I hope not; I really do want to go out in our little bass boat and catch dinner.

We bought a little (10') bass boat about six months ago from a local Craigslist seller. We really got a great deal; the year-old boat itself was $100 less than a new one (exact model) from Academy, plus the seller gave us the trailer, two outboard motors (a very old but sort-of working 6 hp and 3.5 hp) and a trolling motor. (The flatbed trailer alone is worth what we paid for the boat; we can use it to haul many objects.)

In between other projects around the house, Jim has worked on the boat--wiring it for lights, putting in accessories, etc. Then he tackled the motors. The larger motor is ancient: It was built in 1972 and sold under the Montgomery Ward brand! But would you believe? It starts on the first pull, every time. One little problem...it only goes in reverse.

So, Jim decided to use the smaller motor. He had to replace the gas line and filter, but he got it to work. So, yesterday afternoon we took the boat down to a public boat ramp and put it in the water.
Our little bass boat. (The seats are stored away.)
That's when I started having doubts about become a boater. I mean, I really want to go fishing, but...
We managed to get the boat into the water without any trouble. Jim hooked up the trolling motor and then started up the outboard. That's when I had to step into the boat. And that's when I started to get nervous. Stepping down into that little boat rocking on the water is like stepping onto a big puddle of jello. I envisioned falling into the river. But I didn't. I successfully got in; I sat down; I held onto the sides of the seat.

Jim powered up the motor and aimed for the river proper--the river that was choppy.

Although I was in a life jacket and I am a good swimmer, I was very uncomfortable as every little wake or wave came at us. I wasn't worried about getting a queasy stomach; I was concerned that the boat might swamp! The chop was mostly caused by the tide coming in, but the waves made me anxious.

After about 20 minutes or so, Jim turned around and we made our way back to the boat ramp. That's when the "fun" began.

I'm not sure how other people get their boats onto the trailer. I think someone backs the trailer down the ramp, and then someone else stays in the boat and drives/floats it up onto the trailer.

Jim and I did it differently. Since this is a little boat, he told me to hold onto the rope and pull it up onto the trailer. Fine, except that the rope is tied to one side of the boat, and the current kept turning the little tyke around! However...we persevered. After Jim backed the trailer into the water, I (and then he) finally got the boat mostly onto the trailer. Unfortunately, when he put the car in gear and pulled up the ramp, the boat slipped off. 

We tried again. Same result. He thought I should pull and hold better. Finally, I told him to do it, and I took over the backing-up responsibility.

I've never backed the SUV with a trailer attached to it. I don't think I did too badly, except that it was hard to see where I was, especially since our backup camera doesn't work.

Two more attempts (and an offer from a stranger for help, which Jim declined, saying that I "needed the practice," and we finally succeeded.

Only after we got home did we realize that once the boat had floated onto the trailer we should have used the winch hook to keep it on the trailer as we pulled it out of the water!

I guess that is what is called a learning experience.

We are still married, and we still plan to use the boat. I suspect I will get over my unease, with time, especially if we find a ramp that is on a creek, not the river, where the water is calm and we remain close to shore at all times.

And I also suspect we will become adept at putting the boat both into and out of the water, on the first try.

In the meantime, Jim decided that the 3.5 hp motor would be OK to use if only one person were in the boat, but with two of us, it is under-powered. So he is working on the Monkey Ward motor to see if he can make it go forward as well as in reverse. 

I have faith that my Mr. Fixit will find and fix the engine in short order.

Until next time,

Your Reluctant RoVer,

Linda