Sunday, March 11, 2018

Tennessee Down to Florida

     We completed our job in Tennessee, and as the weather closed in a little bit, we set sail to the south in search of sunny Florida!.  Two weeks of wind, rain, and cold in Texas, and now rainy weather in Tennessee, and we were ready to get down to some serious relaxing.  We cut southeast out of Tennessee, and after hitting I-95, we had Florida in our sights. 
     On our second day of traveling, we pulled into Gainesville to visit Aunt Anita who had passed a few months ago.  Since she always told me to park "my trailer" in her driveway, we figured she and Uncle Jack would get a kick out of us pulling in through the front gate of Forest Meadows Memorial Park, and stopping for a visit.  There were some other visitors in the park who seemed quite surprised to see us meandering through the grave sites, but we had no issues and had a nice visit.  After Gainesville, we headed south on I-75 as short distance and spent the night at Grand Lakes RV Resort in Citra, Fl.  The park had been recommended to me by a former co-worker who generally spends the entire winter there. 
This year, unfortunately, he and his wife were unable to make the trip south.  Debbie gave them a call and was able to secure their last available site, and we were soon set up and enjoying the warm Florida weather.  But if you happen to be following a GPS to get there, ignore the final turn directions and look for a huge billboard on the right that points you in the right direction.
     The park itself is a combination of park models and campers, and is comfortably situated along a 9 hole golf course.  There is quite a large lake there also which looks like it should have lots of fish in it.  The lakeside restaurant had a pretty good dinner special going, so we splurged and walked on over.  The paved sites were just a little crowded, but all the people seemed quite friendly and it is definitely a park worth visiting again.
     On Tuesday the 27th, we arrived safely and checked in to our spot at Sun-N-Fun, Sarasota.  We have been here a few times before, and Dean and Joanne have been here since early January, and I'm sure were waiting on our arrival.  We eased through the front gate with very little hassle, and were escorted to our site here at Sun-N-Fun Sarasota, # 706.  We have  never camped over on this side of the park before, and we both seem to be enjoying it more than the avenues on the other side.  There's a lot less traffic, which means less noise.  You always have to tolerate the campers out walking their "kids", (dogs), but that's to be expected everywhere. 
     On 2/7, Debbie and the girls visited the Selby Botanical Gardens, over in Sarasota.  They all came home quite impressed with the floral displays they saw at this Sarasota bay-front location.        Unfortunately, the girls did not bring home any photos of the gardens, so I borrowed a few from their website.  It looks like a pretty amazing place.
     Prior to leaving, Debbie mentioned to Dean that I had a few motor home projects going down on site 706, and it didn't take Dean long to to wander down and see just what I was up to.  While we were in Red Bay last, Debbie discovered the parts department, and it didn't take her very long to discover that parts were being sold at wholesale prices!!  I think she found a new best friend over there.  Today I was replacing the screen door handle, which I completed before Dean arrived.  But when he pulled in, he found me working hard at removing the rubber treads on the front entry way. 
     Two steps had ripped and needed replacement, and Debbie had located exactly what I needed and proudly brought them home for me.  But this leads me to another story, and it has to do with carrying all the right tools to get any job done.  Years ago, at some forgotten seminar, we listened to a speaker about bringing every tool known to man on your trip.  Many people in the seminar acknowledged that they actually did bring all their tools.  Well, turns out, tools are weight, so you should really seriously consider leaving some at home.  "But", the speaker continued, if you have a project to do, just get started at it, and it won't be long before a neighbor will show up, push you out of the way, and get the project completed for you.  (Can you see where this story is going??)
      After a quick trip to Lowes for a knife and adhesive, all I had to do was step back, and watch Dean jump right in, and knock this project out.  I'll have to say Dean is a much better craftsman than I, and the project obviously went a lot smoother than if I was making the measurements and the cuts.  Before long we had the steps project completed, and I knew that Debbie would be quite pleased with me........and Dean!

     Now that Dean and I had our projects done, we were treated to a day off at the rodeo over in Acadia, Fl.  Actually, Deans sister seemed to be the wagon master, and invited Debbie and I along.  They had never been to a rodeo, and Debbie and I were veterans now, having been to the rodeo last year over in San Angelo with Randy and Retha.            The Acadia All Florida Championship Rodeo is actually 4 days of rodeo competition involving cowboys and cowgirls from all around the country.  It is always fun to attend a rodeo, as the flag is displayed proudly, and you'll never see a cowboy taking a knee during the National Anthem.  Prior to the show, all Veterans were recognized, as riders carrying flags of all the Branches of Service were brought into the arena.
     And then suddenly the action began, and we witnessed about 2 hours of saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, bareback bronc riding, calf roping, team roping, barrel racing, and finally, BULL RIDING!  There's just no way to describe the excitement in the arena as the competitors try to hang on for dear life. 

     And of course we have to include the rodeo clown who worked pretty hard at getting the crowd involved in the show. 
He really plays an important role in the rodeo, as he tries to intervene between the bull and the riders after they have been thrown.  I do believe it takes a crazy man to climb into a barrel moments before a 2 tom bull sends it flying. 

  And oddly enough, I didn't see anyone stepping up for this pony ride outside the arena???

     The weather has cooled down just a bit from when we first arrived, and we've actually had a few rainy days.  But we seem to find something to amuse us everyday.  When the warmer weather comes back, we'll be getting back out on the boats on the inter-coastal.  I made contact with the Corinth Snowbird group, but unfortunately I couldn't make the reunion this year.  I've got it on the calendar for next year though.  Take care and stay safe everyone!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tiffin at Red Bay, Tennessee, and Finally Florida!!

     Here it is February 28, 2018, and we've finally arrived for a month's rest at the Sun-N-Fun RV Resort, in Sarasota, Fla.  Yesterday it was 88 degrees and very humid.  Today a much nicer 83 with less humidity.  We've been on the road just about a month now, leaving Santee on 1/25/18.  After lots of visiting in Texas, we headed northeast to conduct a little business in Alabama and Tennessee.  We arrived in Tupelo, Ms on 2/16/18, checking in at the Tombigbee State Park for a 2 night visit. 
We spoke with the ranger hours before arriving, and he assured us that there were plenty of open sites in the campground.  February is not a popular time for camping in Mississippi.  It is located about 45 miles from Red Bay, Al, which is where we were destined to get some minor repairs completed on Big Red.  We had a nice back in site with full hookups for $24/night, and although the roads leading to the park were narrow and the signage was poor, the Garmin led us to the front gate with no problem. 
 Tupelo, Ms, of course, is the birthplace of Elvis, and all tourists are required to at least drive by the old homestead.  Tupelo has done a nice job developing around Elvis' memory without making everything too gaudy.  The downtown area seems clean and prosperous, and there seems to be lots of attractions around town to keep everyone busy and entertained.

       On Saturday we made the short drive over to Red Bay to see how operations worked over there at the Tiffin Service Center.  All rigs not under warranty are worked on, on a first come first served basis, and we had heard horror stories of people waiting weeks to get service.  But February seems to be the time to come to Red Bay.
     As we completed the paperwork registering for service, the ladies assured us that we would probably be in a bay on Monday afternoon or at the latest Tuesday morning.  Since we had additional business to conduct in Tennessee starting on Thursday, we seemed to be right on schedule.  We arrived around noontime on Sunday and were assigned a campsite on the property.  By Sunday evening, every site had been taken, and others were moving into an overflow area.  Most of the rigs appeared to be pretty new, and we hoped that not all of these guys were scheduled into the Express Bays.  What was explained to us was the Express Bays are used for non warranty work, and Tiffin provides each customer 2 mechanics and 3 hours to complete any work needed on the rig.  We had only listed 3-4 repairs on our forms, but since we had 3 hours, maybe we could get a few more cosmetic issues resolved. 
      We were told to expect a visit from the head mechanic Monday morning to go over and prioritize the list of our repairs.  Monday morning we were up and dressed and ready, when suddenly the phone rang and we were directed to bring Big Red to Bay #9.  Suddenly we weren't so prepared!  But we scrambled to get everything closed up, and within 15 minutes we were sitting in Bay #9.  The Express Bays were massive, and it was very impressive watching all the selected rigs in the campground moving in line to their appointed bay.  We were greeted by 2 mechanics, and even though they had no idea what we wanted because the paperwork, had not arrived yet, they went over our list and started ordering parts.  Our first priority was getting an electrical issue resolved, and they called for an electrician.
     Across the aisle, we could see the massive warehouse also housed an impressive parts department.  Employees on golf carts were busy making parts deliveries to all the bays, and soon parts started being dropped off in front of Big Red.  Parts were sold at wholesale prices, and our short list of repairs suddenly started growing!  By the end of 3 hours, we had replaced the gas stove, tv antenna, hot water check valve under the washing machine, and house battery rack.  Debbie was able to purchase new bathroom faucets, rubber step covers, numerous LED lights for the interior of the coach, and new glue on letters for the front of the coach which we had lost at a truck wash somewhere.  We were very impressed at the speed at which these guys repaired each item, and moved to the next.  Our decision to come to Red Bay was a good one.
     Now we found ourselves a day ahead of schedule, which provided us the opportunity to take a tour of the Tiffin factory, where all these machines are produced.  This is something that all visitors to the area, especially Tiffin owners, must do. 
     At the front gate of the factory, we found an old service station, which now serves as the Visitor Center.  The tour is free of charge, and after a short video, we headed for the production line.  And I mean the production line!!  Our first exposure to the Tiffin production process was the woodworking portion of the factory, where all the cabinetry is hand made.  Stacks of cherry, walnut and oak, were being cut, sanded, curved, and glued as the assembly of all the interior cabinetry was going on in front of us.  All the workers were extremely polite, even though we seemed to be constantly in their way. 

      Debbie could not believe the "up close and personal" exposure we were getting in the factory, as she worked her way through the various work stations. 
     After the wood shop, we headed for the assembly line, where the Tiffin magic was completed.  In the parking lot we got a close up view of  the various chassis used in the assembly of the Breeze, RED, Phaetons, and Bus.  The tour guide sometimes got a little too in depth with what we were seeing, and it was soon blah, blah blah, as he fed us statistics about each coach design. 

     Outside we were pointed toward the "Yellow Brick Road" where there are completed RV's awaiting our inspection.  Definitely a great sales trick to lure in prospective buyers.  We zipped right by them, as we are just thrilled to have Big Red, and he seems to be running just fine.  Every once in a while the urge comes to look at an upgrade, but that also includes a larger coupon book, and the feeling soon passes!  We wouldn't want to spend all the kid's inheritance, would we???
     After Red Bay, we found ourselves continuing northeast into Tennessee to meet with David and Eddie to help move Rosie over into Va and closer to her family.  Our high school buddy Tom had passed in early December, 2017 in a tragic accident at hunting camp, and Rosie needed a little help.  Many hands made light work, and her brother Jimmy, and other nephews chipped in to make easy work of it. 
RIP Tommy

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Stormy Texas and a visit to Red Bay

     Our first major visit after leaving Ca. was a 2 week stay at the Pioneer Beach Resort in Port Aransas, Tx.  Our previous excursions into South Texas took us a little further south in South Padre Island.  But we were a little tardy in getting reservations this year, and we think the destruction of Hurricane Harvey may have pushed the "winter Texans" a little further south.  Passing through Corpus Christi, any hurricane damage seemed minimal, but as we crossed ut onto Mustang Island and approached Port Aransas, the full impact of the destructive force of a Category 4 hurricane became quite evident.  The Pioneer Resort seemed to have recovered somewhat, but debris was piled all around the area.  The city was working pretty hard in keeping the beachfront sand stable and smooth, and many mornings we awoke to heavy machinery working the sand.
Few stores or restaurants were open in town, but as they opened over the 2 weeks we were visiting, we made an attempt to visit and support them.  Our favorite from last years visit,  MacDaddy's  was able to open, but the food quality wasn't what we enjoyed last year.  They did have a pretty good selection of draft beer, which Teddy and I enjoyed. 
      Our 2 week visit was soured with nasty, cold, windy weather, that just didn't want to quit.  Our Alabama friends, Teddy and Mary Anne, graciously decided to join us in our madness and met us at Pioneer Resort, and suffered right along with us, which actually provided a little comfort. Teddy brought along a bottle of sippin'  whiskey which took the edge off of the cold evenings, and I'm sure the ladies grew tired of listening to endless BP stories. 
     We did venture to the north a little and visited an area called Goose Island State Park, which is home to the oldest tree in Texas.  Amazingly, this area took a direct hit from Harvey, but the Big Oak and all the uncles, seemed to have survived in one piece.  

      Back during the Civil War, the nearby town of Lamar was an actively growing seaport, reaching out into the Port Aransas Harbor.  A Navy bombardment nearly annihilated the city, and it never really recovered as a seaport.  We also had the rare opportunity to view 8 whooping cranes, or as they are affectionately called "whoopers".  It is estimated that there are only about 600 cranes alive after being pushed to nearly extinction by hunters and loss of habitat.  They flew overhead as we were arriving at the Big Tree, and we didn't find out till sometime later, just how rare they are.  I wish I had grabbed my camera just a little quicker.

     As our 2 weeks were drawing to a close, we ventured out into the cool weather, to visit the USS Lexington Museum in Corpus Christi.  The USS Lexington, CV-16,  is an Essex Class carrier, built during WWII.  The Lexington was commissioned in 1942, and was originally going to be named The Cabot, but after the previous USS Lexington CV-2, was lost during the Battle of the Coral Sea, she was renamed. 
     The hanger deck is spotless and has several aircraft displays.  There is also a 3-D Theater showing a modern day sea power documentary, demonstrating the capabilities of a modern US Navy.  There are passageways leading to most areas of the ship, although several were closed and used only for the "ghost tour", and I found myself glancing around corners to see if I could catch a glimpse of one.  The Japanese referred to Lexington as the 'ghost ship' because there seemed to be constant rumors of her sinking.  When Lexington CV-2 was sunk, the sudden arrival of Lexington CV-16, was thought to demoralize the enemy.  Ironically, my ship, the USS Forrestal, was selected to replace Lexington as a training ship in 1990, and planning for a museum in Texas began.  

                                                                Hanger Deck photos
                                                                     Bridge photo
                                              VF-11 (1939)  World Famous Red Rippers

Watch out for those knee and head knockers!!

     We departed Port Aransas and have decided to stop at the Tiffin Factory in Red Bay, Alabama and have a few things repaired on Big Red.  Seems like a nice opportunity before heading over to Tennessee to meet David and Eddie, and move Rosie closer to family in Va.  I think Red Bay will take up an entire post, so I'll end this here.  Besides it's raining again!!!!  Stay safe everyone, and we'll visit soon.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Finishing San Diego and Eastbound thru Texas

     Our visit with Liam has ended for a few weeks, and as we sit in Port Aransas, Tx. still searching for nice warm weather, I'll take some time and try to get up to date.  Today is Feb 5, 2018, and we've been on the road for a few weeks now, working our way through visits in Texas.  We've now met up with Ted and Mary Anne from Alabama, who we talked into meeting us down here.
     We departed San Diego about 2 weeks later than originally planned.  Ben had decided to take down his Christmas lights one day, and his ladder tipped over with him about 12' off the ground.  A visit to the ER confirmed a broken bone in his wrist, and the need for a few stitches in his chin.  He was out of work and unable to drive his car, so the grandparents stepped up and drove he and Liam around for a week or so.  Great sacrifice on our part!!
     San Diego had been a little disappointing this year.  Perhaps it was the fact that we had spent a considerable amount of time there.  But more important was the fact that San Diego and California in general, has become a filthy city with homeless encampments springing up everywhere along the city streets.  The population density is having a derogatory impact on the quality of life forcing tourists like us to be off the roadway by 2:30 PM or face gridlock with the rest of the population.  Law enforcement has disappeared on the roadway, and Mario Brothers trained drivers make traveling anywhere a little hazardous.
     Of course we enjoyed staying close to Santee, and visiting with everyone almost daily.  Most of our days were spent visiting with Jamo and Liam, and making plans about the pending move back to NY!!!  Ben finally has a date of 5/28/18, when he will come under the control of the Champlain POE.  We also have a granddaughter arriving mid-April, which will make the entire move east quite interesting. 

     Christmas went quite smoothly, with Liam enjoying empty cardboard boxes as much as matchbox cars!  Ben enjoyed his "best present ever" moment, while Joanne watched nervously as Liam challenged the limits of his new trampoline!!  Grammie and Liam bonded over Christmas cookies and candy, and easily handled the complex instructions being issued in the kitchen.
 Eventually willpower broke down and there seemed to be a few moments where the directions were being ignored and the ingredients were being sampled.
     As we worked through the holidays, we made arrangements to meet with our Vermont friends who were visiting family up in Vegas.  It's only about a 4-5 hour drive up there, so we packed up and headed north on I-15. As expected traffic was pretty exciting, but we made it safely and parked across the street from Dean and Joanne.  Joanne treated us to a great dinner complete with brownies and ice cream, which I think was Dean's favorite.  He was a little disappointed though when I passed on the maple syrup!!

     Our second day was spent being tourists and wandering over to the Hoover Dam.  They have a unique foot bridge along the highway which provides you with a very unique view of the dam, and is definitely worth experiencing.  In the evening we ventured over to the Vegas Strip to check out the decorations, crowds and casinos.  Since you're there, you have to try it.  The Fountains of Bellagio in front of the Bellagio Casino put on a beautiful water show with music and is a must see.  Day 3 we said goodbye to "Dean and Deluca" but we'll see them again in Sarasota, Fl in about 7 weeks.
      On our way home we were tempted off of I-15 with numerous sign advertising Peggy Sue's 50's Diner.  It was originally built in 1951, and quickly serves a delicious burger with plenty of old fashioned rock and roll in the background.  We would strongly urge travelers to take a break and check it out if they are passing by.  After all, that's why we're out here.
Back in Santee, we worked at feeding Ben and Liam, who seemed to eat anything Debbie would put down in front of them. 

     Liam's bashfulness was disappearing and he seemed quite comfortable with us.  There was little hesitation upon entering Big Red, as he knew he was going to get something to eat and a walk over to the playground.  Ben took us up to the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, and the views from the tide pool plaza are pretty impressive.  There are lots of displays and hands on for kids, and even adults are a little impressed with the work being accomplished there.

     Before leaving Santee we had to do lunch 1 more time with "the Admiral" and Nancy.  They are always fun to step out with with, whether it's a fancy dinner at the Casino, or a quick lunch at Casa de Pico near Grossmont Center. 
The food is good and the drinks are great!  This restaurant used to be down in San Diego in Old Town, which is where we first experienced it many years ago.  Thanks Debbie for the great photo!  We'll most likely see them again this summer up in NY as they summer in the Syracuse, NY area.
     So now we're in Texas at the Pioneer Beach Resort and RV Park in Port Aransas with Teddy and Mary Anne.  But Texas is a new adventure, so I'll end this story here.  We've managed to stay away from the flu which is ravaging cities all around the country.  I've got a few little adventures to talk about, but you'll have to wait for the next edition.  Stay safe  everyone!