Nuttin’ Much Goin’ On

The title says it all but I figured ya’ll might be wondering if we were surviving down here. Seems like everywhere north of say Jacksonville is pretty much frozen…got some pics from Neil’s sister MJ up i Knoxville and they even had snow up there. However…it’s been in the upper 80s down here the past 3 days and we’re closed up with the A/C running…bummer as we would actually prefer the windows open for the breeze but with the heat and humidity it’s almost like midsummer this week.

Our door lock is still broken but at least the parts are or order…Gordon finally figured out what to buy and the repair status page has gone from nothing to awaiting parts. It’s more of a pain than anything else as we have to keep locking the deadbolt to keep the door shut.

We ordered and received a new bed cover for BAT…it’s a Truxedo Lo Pro QT and while not entirely secure as it’s a soft roll up type cover…it won’t damage the bottom of the bedroom and will keep honest people honest at best and at worst whatever is in the bed of the truck will be out of sight/out of mind. One big reason to have it is that it will keep the bed mostly dry…this will prevent having a lake in the back of the truck every time it rains. It also will improve the fuel mileage about 10% which will be a big improvement over the summer as we will have BAT as our only vehicle from the time we leave Midlothian in late May through September when we arrive back on the east coast after our Alaska sojourn. Being dry it will allow us to toss whatever we have stored in the back seat into the bed when we want to double up and only drive one vehicle with our friends Bill and Linda on the trip north. I’ll post a couple shots of it once Neil gets it installed tomorrow…he’s got that to handle as well as replacing the zinc anode in our water heater and vacuuming all of the old zinc anode pieces out of the bottom of it…he borrowed a wet vac from the park to help with this.

We also got in a replacement check valve for our leaking water pump…Neil’s gotta figure out how much of a pain in the tush that will be to install…hopefully he can just install the parts in place and not have to remove and reinstall the pump completely.

Other than that it’s been work/bingo/campfire/potluck/etc…the typical RV park for the winter stuff. Connie is really going to be glad when this class of phlebotomists finishes up…they have been such a pain to her with not doing paperwork, making special requests and the last minute and other things that toss a wrench into her plans that both she and Neil will be glad when they’re done.

I ran across this on one of our forums the other day…it’s entitled “The Top 10 List of Things That Might Indicate You Live in and RV Full Time”…even though there are way more than 10 of them.

1) Your GPS is your best friend!

2) You NEVER know where items are in the grocery store. (except in Wal-Mart that is mostly always laid out the same way)

3) You dump your own sewage and it is no big deal.

4) Your family has to ask you where you are when they call.

5) You keep both winter and summer wardrobes because you don’t know where you will end up. (our solution…what are winter clothes?)

6) You know what snowbirds are and have seen them in their natural habitat.

7) Your HOME has wheels.

8) You blog so that YOU will remember where you have been!

9) You look in your pantry and see that you have cereal from New Jersey, pasta from Texas, canned goods from Alabama and crackers from California.

10) You are always the new guy in town

11) You know where to find the best, most reliable internet.

12) You own very little and are proud of that!

13) You follow the warm weather.

14) You hang pictures and decoration on the wall with velcro.

15) You don’t own any figurines or other cutesy stuff that sits on countertops.

16) You have slept in a Wal-Mart parking lot

17) You meet up with a family in Virginia that you met in California!

18) Your kids remember friends by what state they met them in!

19) You grocery shop every three days because your refrigerator is so small. 

20) You have been to more museums, aquariums, national parks, monuments and zoos than you can remember.

21) You have ever “pulled chocks”.

22) You look confused when someone asks you “where are you from?” (Connie only…Neil knows he’s from Alabama and will always be from there…Connie thinks she’s from Virginia or sometin’)

23) You get your mail 2-3 months late regularly from your mail forwarding service.

24) You have witnessed your toilet “burping” at you.

25) You crave adventure and can not wait to see what is around the next corner!

26) Gas Buddy is one of your favorite apps.

27) You feel joy when you walk into a really “clean” Laundromat

28) You’re newly updated list of your top 5 restaurants are in 5 different states

29) Yelp is your “go to” app for finding restaurants, grocery stores, hair stylists etc. in each new location

30) You’ve forgotten how to use any yard tools!!

31) You try to use a foot pedal on a normal toilet.

32) You see a trash container in front of a house and realize that you don’t have to remember when “trash day” is anymore!

34) When you can’t remember which state you got that great bacon double cheeseburger, but you know it was about 1247 miles ago (it was actually in Astoria, OR…best cheezeburga evah).

36) You wake up and have to hunt for the receipt from the park office to figure out where you are.

37) You know what a slave pump is and how to start it.

38) You found the greatest storage space for that small item you won’t need until you’ve forgotten where the storage space is!

 

On careful count…we meet 30 out of 38 of these.

I also ran across this photo on the web the other day…have you ever wondered what a cashew in the wild looks like? It’s the little cashew shaped thing that is sticking out of each of the little cashew fruits in the photo.

Cashew in the Wild

Kinda weird that they live outside the fruit and basically have no shell around them…ain’t it.

That’s about it for now…Neil did computer club with Tom today and we’re off to Bingo and Beer as soon as Connie gets home from choir practice.

And a couple of funny bar signs I snagged from the Internet as well.

No great story

Alcohol and Calculus

Perfect Martini

Todays Special 1 for 2

Numb your problems

DrinkTripleSeeDouble

Cyas.

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Rum Distillery and Camera Testing

We didn’t do much so far this week as we spent the first couple of days resting from all the rally activities last week. We did head off to Bingo at the Elks on Tuesday and Neil paid his dues for the next year…they’re not due until April 1 but the secretary is collecting them and processing them as she goes rather than leave a big pile for the end.

The weather this week has been pretty windy and only in the upper 60s to low 70s all week with lows in the 40’s and tonight it’s getting down to the mid 30s. I don’t know who ordered the arctic blast down here to Florida…but it needs to go away. Granted…it ain’t as bad as it is a little farther north…pretty much anything north of say Jacksonville is frozen into a bit sheet of ice and snow.

Today we went down to the clubhouse at 1000 for donuts and coffee…and are meeting up there at noon for a rum distillery tour combined with lunch. After that we’ll have leftover venison from what Neil grilled Monday night then Connie will have to bundle up like Nanook of the North to go down to Bingo. I’ll post some pictures of the rum tour later.

Neil also got some new software this week…he’s been using an application from Apple named Aperture to process his photographs…it was their professional level editing and management program. It competed with the other big kid on the block…Adobe Lightroom from the same folks that publish Photoshop. Aperture has been getting further and further behind in Lightroom in features (we’re still at version 3 after almost 3 years while Lightroom went from 3 to 4 to 5 and now up to 5.7) and a few months back Apple announced end of life and support for Aperture…in favor of a brand new application to be named Photos. We were guardedly hopeful that it would be a decent replacement…but the beta version is out and it’s been really dumbed down with almost none of the features that serious shooters want. The new app integrates really well with the iOS versions that run on iPhones and iPads…but the advanced amateur/professional market isn’t that significant numbers wise and Apple made a business decision to aim the new product at the Facebook/Instagram/Twitter crowd rather than people that really wanted to have good photos.

So…this week we bit the bullet and went for the Adobe Photographer’s bundle which combines Lightroom and the latest version of Photoshop (we are about 3 or 4 version back there as well) for 9.99 a month. We’re going to keep Aperture around for working with our older already processed photos but will do all new ones in Lightroom…with a decision to be made later on whether to import all the old stuff or not.

All this of course…means a whole new learning curve to perfect a workflow for going from raw photos out of the camera to finished output ready for the blog…nothing hard about any of that but Neil has an awful lot of muscle memory and memorized key equivalents to rapidly select tools and such that he’ll have to reproduce.

In our last post I put up a photo of a Snowy Egret with partially grown in breeding plumage…and happened to come across this shot on Ugly Hedgehog (a photo forum Neil frequents) that shows what breeding plumage looks like when it’s fully grown in. It’s a Great Egret instead of a Snowy…but the plumage is pretty similar for both. He borrowed this photo from there and credit goes to the original photographer whose name he didn’t get and he couldn’t find it again to get the name…apologies to the original owner. It’s a beautiful sight…isn’t it…and one can easily see why hundreds of thousands of these birds were killed back in the 1800s and early 1900s to provide decoration for ladies hats.

Great Egret Breeding

He’s also been testing out some new settings on his camera to improve the ability to get tack sharp focus on bird photos…mostly a matter of adjusting how the auto focus mechanism works and getting the new steps impressed on his muscle memory again. Here’s a shot of an immature anhinga that was swimming over at the beach the other day about 30 yards away.

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Here’s a shot of the same bird as he flew towards this feeding spot…Neil deliberately slowed this one down and panned the camera to get a sense of motion in it.

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Here’s his first test edit using Lightroom instead of Aperture…it’s two different edits of the same photo. The first one was previously published and was processed with Aperture; the second one is from Lightroom. The third one is just posted as a test at a 900 pixel wide dimension to see how it looks. I think the Lightroom processed one is better than the Aperture one is…

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After coffee and donuts we headed off to the local rum distillery…Wicked Dolphin Rum. They use sugar and molasses from Florida; all their ingredients are grown out by Lake Okeechobee. The distillery itself is pretty small…as is it’s annual output and barrel storage areas. They’re not trying for mass production but make the rum in 500 gallon batches of mash so they end up with about 180 or so gallons of 180 proof of rum per week. Everything is aged in once used bourbon barrels and most of their output is sold after aging one year as white rum…although it’s actually got a little brownish tinge to it. They’re aging some for 3 years that will be sold as dark rum but the first production batches of that won’t be ready for another 3 or 4 months.

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The distillery itself…this is about 2/3 of the floor area of the entire distillery end of the operation. Behind the camera is the ingredient storage area and to the right is the bottling line.

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Our guide Chris in the barrel storage room where we tasted some rum that was aged in once used bourbon barrels that were reused for whiskey then reused again for the rum. Pretty tasty stuff.

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Once in the tasting room proper…the emcee took our picture for their Facebook page so we took her picture for our blog:-)

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We came home with what they call their Rumshine…it’s packaged in mason jars like Moonshine would be and we got some that is flavored with blueberries.

We had lunch on the way home from the tour…stopped at Bubbas on the bus (well, a class A RV used for a bus by the park)…the distillery gave us coupons for a free Wicked Dolphin drink but all the restaurant would honor it for was this punch concoction that had no flavor at all and practically no rum. We also had pretty lousy food…Bubba’s has gone down considerably in quality since we ate there a couple years back so we won’t be going back again.

Lunch wasn’t over until 1530 and the bus driver broke just about every traffic law on the books either on the way there or the way back…so we skipped dinner and just had a snack then Connie headed off to Bingo. She got home about 2030 and by that time it was down to about 40 degrees…and she couldn’t get the door open. She was stuck outside and Neil was inside taking the door apart trying to figure out how to get her in. After an hour or so of tinkering she had to go back into the employee section of the park to hunt up Gordon the RV tech…her favorite thing to do. He was down at the office so then she had to drive down there and eventually about 2200 we got Gordon here and after crawling in the emergency escape window he got the door open. The latching mechanism is broke…which is what Neil suspected…and Gordon has parts on order to fix it. Connie was really unhappy about it…cold and having to make phone calls and bang on doors to find Gordon’s RV back in the employee area.

Friday Neil got the emergency window correctly reinstalled with her help then after she worked awhile we headed off to Sarasota for a concert. We got stuck in traffic that we weren’t expecting and got to our restaurant reservation about 30 minutes late…but we had called ahead and let them know so they held our table. After a great dinner at Duval’s Fresh. Local. Seafood.…served up by our waiter Misha who was excellent, gave us great advice on the various menu selections, and went above and beyond to not only fix us up a box for Connie’s leftover Lobsta Mac’n’Cheese but also fixed us up with ice so it would keep in the cooler until we got home…we headed off to the concert hall. We had a single Jameson (that was actually about a quadruple shot) that we shared in the lobby beforehand while talking to the bassoonist who was out for show and tell…then had a great concert of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony followed by Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique. After that we picked up bottle of water for the drive home and got home and to bed a little after midnight. Great dinner, great concert…but a little far for our taste for a post concert drive home.

Over the week we got a few more pictures of the little guy Alex…here’s a few but more are on our site at http://laubenthal.smugmug.com…the little guy is really starting to get some personality.

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Finally…a funny one for ya.

Auburn Greatest team

Cold wipes

Cyas.

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Even More RV Dreams Boon Docking Rally and Fun Stuff and More

Warning…this one is really picture intensive…

After my last post Connie got back from choir practice just in time for dinner and the campfire…Neil made mini sliders with 2 different kinds of burgers, 2 bun types, with and without cheese, and with and without sauce. He made a total of about 3 dozen of them and when he got to the potluck people asked him which ones were which. He answered that you had to pick your burger and take your chances as he didn’t mark any of them.

We all ate until we were full and still had leftovers…then we sat by the campfire and talked with friends, discussed more aspects of boon docking, gave some rig tours of our New Horizons, and just generally hung around. Looking around we saw that it was a 3 planet night…we could see Venus and Mars in the west and Jupiter in the east. Uranus was also above the horizon above Mars according to our star app…but with the light pollution from Punta Gorda to the west and the low magnitude of Uranus it just was not visible. Still seeing other planets showed everyone where the ecliptic (the plane that all of the planets except Pluto the wannabe planet are in) was so it was pretty cool. 

The weather was pretty nice…not too cool…at least on Tuesday night; it got way, way cooler later in the week. By Thursday and Friday nights the attendance at the campfire waned pretty quickly once the sun went down and people were finished eating as it was right chilly. In fact it was down into the 30’s by early Saturday morning so at the last campfire Friday night we were all huddled pretty close to the 3 fire pits we had going.

Here’s a shot of our campfire Tuesday evening taken a bit before sunset.

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Wednesday morning we had scheduled a trip over to Myakka State Park for some birding with our friends Lynn and Ed…who also invited Howard to go along with us. Linda was still in her jammies according to Howard and wasn’t interested in getting up at what she and Lynn called the ‘crack of dawn’ just to go look at birds. The rest of us thought leaving the park at 0830 was way past the ‘crack of dawn’ and thought that a lot of the really superior bird shots would be harder to get once the sun got higher. By the time we got over to the park and parked at the trailhead it was just about 1000…but although we didn’t see as many birds as we usually do at Myakka it wasn’t the lateness of the hour that was the problem, it was the high water. The river was pretty high which meant that most of the waders were elsewhere where they could get into the water without their head going under.

Connie grabbed this shot out the front window of BAT on the way over and after seeing 3 hawks, 2 Crested Cara Caras, 2 Kingfishers and an American Kestrel on the way over we figured it would be a pretty good day.

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Our first captures of the day right at the bridge off the parking lot were a Great Blue Heron, a couple of gators across the way and an Osprey flying by.

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After these we headed down the path alongside the river to see what we could scare up. We saw several more gators and then another Great Blue Heron with a huge fish. We watched it struggle for 5 or 10 minutes and it never was actually to get it swallowed down…although it looked like it would eventually figure it out.

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Continuing on down the river we spotted a Snowy Egret…Neil thinks this is one of the most striking waders down here in Florida…particularly in the breeding season when the snowy gossamer like breeding plumage that gives the bird it’s name is fully present. It spooked just before Neil clicked the shutter but he did get a very nice flight sequence of it from takeoff to landing across the river…showing it’s bright yellow feet that it shuffles through the mud to stir up fish and other stuff to eat.

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We spotted another couple of adult gators along the way and a cormorant swimming. The latter is also known as a snake bird locally because it swims with it’s body underwater and just the head and neck protruding…it looks a lot like a miniature version of a lot of the supposed pictures you’ve seen of Nessie the Loch Ness Monster.

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Next up was a Kingfisher across the river…it’s a not a very clear shot because it was a long way over there and it’s a small bird…but you so rarely see them perched out in the sunlight and they tend to not perch very long so getting any picture of one is a worthwhile get.

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Continuing on we came across a Black Crowned Night Heron and an American Phoebe…Howard spotted the latter off in the meadow away from the river.

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By this time it was after 1100 and we had to head back…we were about at the limit of our hiking anyway due to the high water and Howard had to get back for the afternoon golf match so we headed back towards the car. On the way we spotted the same Snowy Egret (we think) as before on the little point of land it was on before…but conveniently the point was now out in the sun so we got another nice couple of shots. Notice the breeding plumage coming in…this is probably a male based on that…and also the rather unique way it’s fishing due to the high water. Typically Snowy’s stand in the water and shuffle their bright feet to stir up fish…this one is standing on the bank due to the water depth and dipping for fish as they pass…this is very common hunting behavior for other waders but is atypical for the Snowy. I like the shot of it reaching out…it’s actually coming back from an strike attempt on a fish (it missed) and you can see the water splash from the strike.

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On the way back we spotted another gator…this one is clearly a female since it has 3 babies sitting on it’s back. The only other way to tell the sex of a gator is to get several strong friends to help you roll it over and hold it down and then examine the vent area to see if it has male or female organs.

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Another Great Blue Heron flying by, a Palm Warbler, a view through the Spanish Moss and this little beetle finished up our walk back to the car.

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We lazed around for the afternoon and then grilled some chicken for dinner.

Thursday was kayaking day…about 20 couples headed off for an 1100 launch for what was billed as an easy paddle. It was easy in that there wasn’t much paddling as it was 9 miles all downriver on the Peace River…but as with the Myakka River yesterday the water level was way up out of it’s banks. We saw many large trees that were 60-80 feet from the bank. As a result…there wasn’t much wildlife to see and the current ran between 3 and 5 knots all the way so our planned 4 hour paddle turned into just about 3 hours due to the speed. Of the 20 or so couples 11 rented and most of those were rookies and the other 10 had their own inflatable or hard sided kayaks. We did get some pictures of the group and our friends on the river.

Our friends Ed and Lynn…this was before what will forevermore be known as the Kayak Incident.

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Connie assuming the Linda paddling position…legs up and paddle not in the water.

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A shot of us taken by our friend Paul.

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And returning the favor a shot of Paul and his bride.

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And finally a shot of our hosts for the week Howard and Linda. They have 3 inflatables…one like we do, the smaller and better tracking FastTrack, and the larger catamaran like model with high seats and a trolling motor so you can fish from it.

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Our friends Greg and Cori have what we think will be our next boat. It’s another inflatable but it’s from Hobie (makers of the Hobie Cat sailboat) but has a real rudder with a steering tiller on the side and most importantly incorporates the Hobie bicycle pedal fin propulsion system. This is a pair of pedals for each passenger that connect to a pair of what look like dolphin fins underneath. The pedals swish them back and forth so you don’t have to paddle so much and the fins fold up against the hull when you’re in shallow water for each passage of obstacles. It’s a lot more expensive than the Sea Eagle models…but it looks to be built better and has the great advantages of better tracking and propulsion via feet.

So…the Kayak Incident. At almost the end of the paddle there was one final right hand bend and a passage underneath a railroad trestle before the landing…with the trestle piers being just about 5 feet apart all the way across the river. Normally you don’t get very much backwash as you round a bend and it’s just a matter of cutting close to the inside apex of the bend then straightening out. Today…what with the high water and current…that wouldn’t work. On every bend you had to cut the apex then paddle like mad a couple dozen strokes to get you past the eddies formed by the downstream current bouncing off the far bank around the bend. The problem with this bend was that the bridge was not far enough around the bend to be out of the backwash so the boat was getting pushed sideways towards the outside bank still (another 50 feet or so downstream and it would have been no problem as the backwash eddies would be behind the boat. For experienced paddlers it was still a pretty simple maneuver; simply pick an opening and get into the center of it then crab the boat sideways to hold position in the center of the narrow opening. Right before the bridge the backwash eddy died out so it was a simple matter of the rear paddler swinging the boat perpendicular to the bridge to pass through. The only problem is that this whole line up/crab/wait until the right moment/swing straight thing happens in about 15 seconds.

Lynn and Ed were one of our rookie paddlers…never been in a kayak before so didn’t know all of the stuff in the above paragraph. In addition; they ended up paddling at cross purposes to each other so the boat actually swung parallel to the bridge and both ends came up against the pilings.

Did I mention that neither were wearing the life jackets issued by the kayak renters. So…the boat rolled over…they went into the drink and came up. Ed couldn’t see Lynn because she came up under the kayak, figured that was a bad idea and pushed down and off, through the bridge then surfaced downstream. Ed was upstream and couldn’t find her initially. Luckily there were a bunch of experienced folks around them to pull them out, pick up the kayak and backpack and all got to the landing another hundred yards downstream just fine. The only damage was to Lynn’s phone which died from the submersion.

Neil told them yesterday morning that even though they went into the drink it was still better than a day in the office and they both agreed…and have not sworn off paddling. They’re still considering whether they want to invest in a kayak or not.

We all headed home then ate leftovers for dinner.

Friday was another couple of seminars, do nothing, hang around, kinda day except for the appetizer potluck in the evening. Neil made chili and bean dip with some tortilla chips and soft tortillas to go along with it and (again) we all ate too much then sat around the campfire huddling up.

We did learn to make something called Fire Pies. They’re essentially bread buttered on the outside, filled with something good and toasted over the fire. We made Cream Cheese and Apple Pie filling and Cream Cheese and Blueberry Pie filling ones but they’re supposed to be equally as good making Tuna Melts or Patty Melts or Pizza Melts out of them. Here are a couple of shots Connie got of the iron you make them in, the filling and construction, and sticking it into the fire to get hot and toasty and yummy.

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We’re gonna have to get us a couple of those I think.

We gave up and went in about 2030 or so as it was getting pretty cold…watched TV and then curled up under our down comforter while it got down to 39 degrees Friday night. Saturday morning we got up, packed and hitched and hit the road after saying our ‘see ya laters’ to all of our friends…we’ll see Howard and Linda again at the Reunion Rally in Marion NC in May but won’t likely see Lynn and Ed until the fall as it looks like our paths will sorta cross in September or so.

We got back home around 1300 and got backed in and the power hooked up. After lunch we finished all the setup and dumped/flushed our waste tanks then had leftover chicken for dinner followed by a Valentines Day Dessert thing up at the clubhouse. It was pretty cool last night as well so again we came home early as we were pretty tired by the week.

Connie has some doctors appointments this week but other than that we have nothing really planned except a trip to Sarasota for a concert on Friday evening.

Cyas.

Posted in RV, Travel | Leave a comment

RV Dreams Boon Docking Rally

So…after last week’s post we essentially did not much the rest of the week. We did have Taco Night at the Elks Lodge, Bingo in the park and at the Elks, and a pot luck dinner at the park on Friday evening. Following that on Saturday Neil got all the outside stuff packed up for our short jaunt away from Seminole up to a rally put on by our friends Howard and Linda Payne of RV-Dreams…the purpose of the rally is to learn about and practice boon docking or parking without hookups.

So…what is boon docking and why might and RVer want to do it? Boon docking is parking without utility hookups. It can range from being in a regular RV campsite that only has partial hookups to being out in the uncharted countryside in the west. There are many RV parks…particularly in state or national parks…that have developed campgrounds but just don’t have full hookups of electric, water, and sewer at each campsite. Most frequently is one that has water and electric only and no sewer hookup (although usually there’s a dump station so you can dump on the way out) but there are also parks that have water only or electric only or nothing. Again; usually if there is no water there is a spigot somewhere in then campground to fill your fresh water tank but not a spigot at each site. Other facilities range from full shower and bathroom buildings to pit toilets only to nothing. On the far end of boon docking…particularly out west is you just park out in nature someplace. Once you are west of the Mississippi…all federally owned land is open for camping unless it is specifically noted as a no camping area. This means that there are many spots out in the sand dunes and cacti that you just pick a spot and stop.

So…what’s the attraction? Twofold mainly…for a lot of RVers for whom budget is a primary concern the vast majority of boon docking sites are either free or very low cost to park; and the second major reason is (as in real estate) location, location, location.

For example…our friends Bill and Linda got the shot below at Devils Tower National Monument a couple of years back…we’ll be in this park on the way back east after our Alaska sojourn. On the plus side…you can’t beat that view. On the minus side…there’s a water spigot in the campground but no power and no sewer connections at all. Also on the plus side…it’s like 20 bucks a night to stay there.

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Boon docking requires a whole different set of additional skills in addition to the normal RV ones…because you have no utility hookups you have to manage your power generation and consumption, fresh water storage capacity, and waste water tank capacity so you don’t run out of one of them before you area ready to leave. After all…who wants to find the perfect parking spot with a great view and the “It Factor” we like to look for in campgrounds and then have to leave after 3 days because your waste tank is full.

So…the RV Dreams Boon Docking Educational Seminar. Howard and Linda have been full timing for almost 10 years and boon dock a lot…so they’ve developed tips for how to maximize things and also realized that they have knowledge (a lot of their stories begin with “Ask us how we know.”) that they can share.

So Sunday after Mass we hitched up, disconnected our utilities and headed 45 miles up the road from Seminole to the town of Arcadia FL where we are parked in the back grounds of the Turner Agri Civic Center. We were originally going to be in an open field behind the center but last week’s rain turned it into a lake. So instead of having to call a tow truck to get 30 rigs out of the mud Howard and Linda relocated it about 500 yards to the campground located at the center. There are hookups available but none of us are using them.

We arrived and got setup next to our friends Ed and Lynn and 2 rigs away from Howard and Linda (since we got here early) and by 1700 all 30 rigs arrived and were parked. We had a hot dog dinner and campfire that evening and got some basic planing done for the rally. Essentially there are about 3 hours of seminars that they wanted to present and the rest of the time is talking to like minded people, helping solve each other’s problems, swapping knowledge and tips with the rest of the group and a whole dose of Fun Stuff©.

Yesterday’s seminars got cancelled as it rained all day but we did them this morning (Tuesday) instead after breakfast.  We hit up a local Mexican joint with Ed and Lynn for dinner last night and had an outstanding meal.We’ve got a pot luck and campground this evening, are going to Myakka State Park with Ed and Lynn tomorrow and on a group float trip in our kayaks on Thursday. Friday is still up in the air except for the Happy Hour with Heavy Poo Poos (Hawaiian for hors d’oeuvres) in the evening.

Neil went out and got a couple of shots for ya; first is the educational seminar this morning and then a series of shots showing all the rigs parked here for the rally.

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Connie headed off to choir practice this afternoon and Neil will get ready for the pot luck later on…it starts at 1700 which is before she gets back so Neil will save her a plate.

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Grand baby, Shopping, Eagles and More

Well; it’s been an uneventful but fairly busy week.

Connie worked of course and Neil did a bunch of work on campgrounds for our summer travels. She was pretty busy so rather than the usual Connie picks out the campsite contenders, they discuss them while looking at reviews and satellite photos, and Neil makes the reservations…he did the first part for the next series we are working on. He called and got reservations at Camp Lejeune NC and Dam Neck VA for our travel up to Fairfax VA and has to call March 1 for the one at Parris Island SC as they only take them 30 days out.

After that he got reservations in Madison WI and Minneapolis MN for our stops there as well as one in Saskatoon SA and Acheson (near Edmonton) AB for the Canadian portion of our pre-Alaska trip. He also got them for our stop to see his sister in Knoxville at Heiskell TN and scored a weekend reservation at the Elks Lodge in Tuscaloosa AL for the weekend when the Tide is playing Arkansas…and the folks at the Elks Lodge there are hunting for tickets for him. After that he got a week at the Elks Lodge in Foley AL near Gulf Shores for a visit to the Mobile area…we’ll stop over and visit the cemetery where his parents are buried and probably meet his brother Ron for dinner or something.

We’re all caught up now on reservations until Connie picks some more campgrounds…she still needs to get one in Indianapolis, Smokey Mountains National Park, and Coffeeville AL…the Laubenthal Land and Timber Company land is at Sunflower nearby Coffeeville and she’s never been there so that’s a nice stop between Tuscaloosa and Foley as we’ll have the Mazda back by then and while we could make that trip in 1 day easily we’re not in any rush at that point so a stop to see some stuff in south central AL will be nice.

In between all of that…we spent a bunch-o-money at Amazon…mostly spares for the house and BAT for the trip to Alaska and some other stuff we wanted to get.

Yesterday we had it on our list to run down to the CVS and get Shingles vaccinations since we’re not both over 60 and hence Tricare will pay for them…Shingles is caused by the Chicken Pox virus and the shot is basically a booster to make sure you don’t get them again…Shingles are way worse than Chicken Pox. Anyway…they were out of the vaccine so we rescheduled that for tomorrow morning and headed home. On the way it was a nice sunny afternoon so we stopped by for about 30 minutes at the home of Ozzie and Harriet to check in on them and the eaglet…one of the two that hatched died so they are only feeding a single one now.

Harriet was sitting above the nest while Ozzie was out hunting.

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I don’t think I ever posted a shot of how close the nest tree is to the road…here’s a shot of the tree and the 4 lane Bayshore Road/Pine Island Road in the background. Seminole is about 3 miles east (to the left) on Bayshore.

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He got this shot of one of the horses in the field during this time as well…then got a couple of pictures of Ozzie returning to the nest from the northeast with some sort of edible…although we can’t decide what it is from the photo…definitely not a fish but beyond that we aren’t sure.

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Harriet left shortly thereafter…first to the nearby dead tree…then over to the pond for a drink…then heading off northwest; there are some open farming/ranching areas out that way so she’s probably hunting something to eat for herself.

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At the pond which is about 250 years north of the nesting tree almost in the back yard of the office of Dick Pritchett Realty who owns the property that the nest is located on.

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Ozzie was left on nest duty…he was tearing whatever he brought back apart and alternately feeding the eaglet (well, giving him pieces rather than directly feeding it, but that was not visible from the west/northwest side of the nest).

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With that we headed home as Harriet would be gone for at least an hour before returning and it would have been dark (and likely raining as a storm was coming in from the ocean to the west) by then.

We’ve also gotten some more pics and news of Alex this week…he was baptized this last weekend and we got a great shot of him yawning with his dad as well as smiling up at his mom. There’s also one with his mom, grandma, and great grandma from the Jen’s side of the family.

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Connie likes this one the best.

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That’s about it. It’s Tuesday…so that means choir practice for Connie and Computer Club for Neil this afternoon followed by Beer and Bingo at the Elks. The rest of the week we’ll do groceries, continue working on campsites for the summer (although we’re into fall places now), do the laundry then on Friday and/or Saturday we’ll get packed up for our trip about 50 miles north. We’re going to a boon docking rally put on by our friends Howard and Linda Payne of RV-Dreams…sort of a training wheels scenario for them to teach the rest of us how to manage power, water, and tanks while parking without hookups. We’ll be in Arcadia for the week…and we’ll leave the Mazda and some of our outside stuff here at Seminole since we won’t need it…that way nobody can park in our site:-). Our friends Lynn and Ed will be there as well as a bunch of our other RV-Dreams friends who we’ll recognize by sight but a lot of them we still have trouble matching names and faces.

We head out on Sunday and will be back on Saturday afternoon.

We had a nice visit with our friends Bill Joyce and Diane Melde the night before they left…they’r also RV-Dreamers. We headed out to the Ragged Ass Saloon one night last week with them and saw them last Saturday before they left on Sunday with another “see ya down the road somewhere”. We’ll say the same to Connie’s friend Jeff who is in the park with us before we head out to the boon docking rally as he’s headed for his next stop before our return. He’s about decided to spend the whole winter next year here at Seminole as he likes the people here…but said he’s towing his car down with him next year as depending on the bike and rides from friends is too hard for months at a time.

Cyas.

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Eagles and More

Neil got up early today and headed down for some eagle pics while Connie started looking for campsites on our way north…they figured a division of duties would help get both things done. We had done some basic route planning and figured out more or less where our stops were going to be as I discussed in the last post on 2015 plans…but with generic destinations like near Charleston SC, Wilmington NC, and Virginia Beach VA she had to look around at the various campground choices and pick out some nice ones to stay at.

As it turned out; we’ll be staying at 3 military base fam camps on the way north after Jacksonville (well, actually 4 if you count Jacksonville)…Parris Island SC, Camp Lejeune NC, and Dam Neck Annex VA before our arrival in Fairfax. All 3 have nice fam camps with Camp Lejeune’s being on the ocean so hopefully we’ll be able to get reservations at all of them.

When he got there a little after 0800 there was one other fella hanging around and Neil found out that one of the eaglets had died so there was only one remaining baby being brought up. Ozzie had gone off to the south about a half hour before he got there looking for food so we just hung around and watched the nest waiting on something to happen. Over the next half hour Harriet did take a brief flight and brought a branch back to the nest which she spent the next hour or so working into the structure.

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Once she was back on the nest Neil noticed a Red Headed Woodpecker over on another tree and got a couple of shots of it.

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As well as one of the group of horses in the field below the eagles nest.

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Ozzie came bake from his hunt over near the river…and as you can see from his empty talons was unsuccessful…

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so after a brief conversation with the Misses he headed off again this time to the west…guess he decided to go hunt some mammal instead of a fish. Sure enough…a half hour or so later he got back and this time was toting something for the baby to eat…although we couldn’t really decide what it is.

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He delivered it to the baby who started eating it down in the nest and shortly afterwards Harriet left to hunt for herself I guess.

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Neil thought she would be gone for awhile so got one last shot of one of the horses…this one is actually a stack of two different photos blended together so that all portions of it are in focus.

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As he was headed back to the car…Harriet returned and Ozzie then left flying almost directly over his head about 30 feet up but he wasn’t quick enough on the draw to get a shot of either of them. Oh well got one of her on the nest after he flew off. He got a couple that you can just barely see the top of the eaglet’s head but they weren’t decent enough to post…have to wait on it to grow up a bit I guess.

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With that he headed home and they spent another hour or two looking at campgrounds and made some decisions…Parris Island SC, Camp Lejeune NC, and Dam Neck VA will be their three stops (assuming we can get reservations) on the way north. All three are fam camps on military bases (2 Marine and 1 Navy) with attractive prices so we’ll look forward to all 3 of them. Once we leave Dam Neck in early May we’re set for campground through to early June so she’s working on our stops in Minneapolis MN and Medora ND for the Theodore Roosevelt National Park stop.

We’re off to dinner at the Elks tonight…went there for taco salads and beer last night and will be there for fried fish today…then tomorrow we’ve invited Connie’s friend Jeff up to have some venison with us…he provided us with 2 big packages of venison steaks so the least we can do is feed him one of them. We’ll have a campfire after dinner probably.

Cyas.

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2015 Plans

Well, we have our travel plans for this year pretty much set so I thought I would pass them along to ya’ll…that way you’ll have some idea ahead of time of what kind of pictures you will likely see.

We’ve moved our departure date from Seminole from April 1 to April 6…this will let Connie sing with the choir at Mass on Easter Sunday before we leave. We leave here on Monday for Jacksonville where we’ll stay a week at the Pelican Roost Campground on the Naval Station where we stayed last year…but we lucked into a pull through site with a view instead of the back in with a lesser view. After Jacksonville we’ll head north with 3 stops before we get to Fairfax VA in early May for Connie to meet with her students and boss and to get dental and financial appointments done. These 3 stops are somewhat in flux as Connie hasn’t picked the exact area yet…but will be in the vicinity of Savannah GA, Wilmington NC, and Virginia Beach VA for a week each.

After a week in Fairfax we’ll head south again to visit the human kids in Midlothian, drop off some stuff we don’t need for the summer, and leave our Mazda behind with the kids when we leave. Leaving Midlothian we’ll head to Marion NC for a week for the RV Dreams Reunion Rally…this is almost exclusively a social rally with no seminars scheduled. We’ll meet up with our friends Howard and Linda, Bill and Linda, Bill and Nancy, Gin and Syl and many others for a week of fun, hiking, campfires, and general merriment.

From Marion we’ll head north to Elkhart IN to get the brakes and bearings on the house checked at the MorRYDE facility there then head west for a week in Minneapolis MN then another week at Theodore Roosevelt National Park (the third national park established) and the Little Missouri National Grassland near Medora ND. We’re looking forward to that one as our long time travel buddy Gary Arndt believes it to be an undiscovered gem and one of the best national parks in the NPS system. 

Heading north after Medora we’ll enter Saskatchewan CA with brief stops in Regina and Saskatoon before turning westward to Edmonton AB for a few days where we’ll meet up with Bill and Linda then on to Dawson Creek BC where we’ll arrive in late June for our 60 day Alaska caravan which starts on June 29 with RV Adventure Treks along with our friends Bill and Linda.

From Dawson Creek we’ll spend the next 60 days towing 4800 miles through BC Canada, Northwest Territories Canada and Alaska…along with probably another 1500 miles of non towing fun stuff. We’ll be moving about 30 days out of the 60 but most of the moves are short so as to allow plenty of time to see stuff. We have side trips scheduled on the caravan up to Anaktuvuk Pass and the Gateway to the Arctic National Park as well as (Neil only, Connie ain’t interested in bears) down to Katmai National Park for bear viewing. We’ll also hit up Anchorage, Denali, Talkeetna, Juneau, Fairbanks, Haines, Chicken, Valdez and Seward in Alaska and the towns and cities in the Northwest Territories including Dawson City where we’ll participate in the tradition of the Sour Toe Cocktail.

We end up the caravan in Prince George BC northwest of Jasper National Park the end of August and after a weekend to rest we’ll head east to Jasper National Park for a week stop. The highlights of that stop will be the mountain top finish of one of the stages of the Tour of Alberta bike race, some more hiking in Jasper where there were a lot of closed trails due to elk calving season when we were there last, and most surely some fall colors as by early September the leaves there will be changing rapidly.

From Jasper we’ll head down the Icefields Parkway…one of the great drives we have ever been on for more views of glaciers, rivers, and fall colors…proceeding through Banff and Calgary AB then down to Great Falls and Billings MT and on over to Devils Tower WY…Devils Tower is the monolith that was the scene of most of the action in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We’ll boondock there within sight of the monolith and will have some views like this (pictures by our friends Bill and Linda).

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From Devils Tower we’ll head east to Indianapolis or 4 days then back to Midlothian where we’ll stay (again) in Pocahontas State Park campground. We’ll attend the 2015 World Bike Racing Championships, pick up the Mazda, see Alex and the kids and reload the stuff we dropped off before from our storage bin.

From Midlothian we’ll head to southwest Virginia somewhere for a few days then over to Knoxville TN to see Neil’s sister MJ. We’ll then visit Smokey Mountains National Park where we should get some more fall color as it will be early October by then then head southwest to Tuscaloosa AL…the home of the Crimson Tide. We were originally going to get tickets to the Arkansas game…but found out they’re almost 500 bucks so we’ll just hang out on campus, go to the various tailgates, eat some barbecue and maybe pickup some tickets from a scalper if they are cheap enough to be worth it. We’ll then head south for a stop in Coffeeville AL which is right near the Laubenthal Land and Timber Company property in Sunflower AL. Connie’s never seen the property and Neil hasn’t been there since high school. We’ll then head further south for a stop at either the Escapees Campground in Summerdale AL or Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores for a few days. We’ll then head east to the Low Key Hideaway in Cedar Key FL for a rest and recuperation week then arrive back in North Fort Myers on November 1 for our winter stay.

Sounds like a pretty full travel season to me…we’ll be hitting 14,000 miles towing plus another 1,500 or so for sightseeing on the Canada/Alaska portion of the trip…about 50% more than our previous high mileage year and a lot more travel days than we’re used to due to the caravan and the two relatively quick cross country trips to get to British Columbia and back. We’re looking forward to it though and will be having some great pictures, stories, and adventures to tell ya’ll about.

Speaking of adventures…we wandered down to the beach here in Seminole Campground yesterday and got a couple of shots of the sunset. The first one is what it looked like straight out of the camera, the second and third are after Neil’s photo magic with the computer, and the last is an Osprey that was flying around looking for dinner. We also heard but did not see the frogs in the lake and saw one of the gators way across the way but he was just a shadow like a log on the surface and it was too dark (and we didn’t have the long lens) to get a picture of it. We wanted to give ya’ll a taste of what you’re missing by staying in the cold, frozen hinterlands during the winter…it’s soooo much nicer down here. We were in shorts and flip flops walking over there.

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Afterwards we came home and had a great dinner…well, we actually had great dinners two nights in a row. Connie suggested panic coated fried chicken breasts the day before and we had some of them on a bed of lettuce the first day…then had the leftovers with lemon garlic spaghetti last night. Both were really great. We also had a dessert pot luck Friday night…60 or so people there and a whole table filled with nothing but desserts. The Key Lime pie our friend Diane made and the Blondies were the hit of the evening, along with a performance by a magician who gave us an adult magic show.

Our current long range plans for 2016 are another caravan with the same company but this time up to the Canadian Maritime provinces. We’ll stop by Midlothian (since all roads now lead to Midlothian rather than Junction City) and meander up to Boston for another week stay before heading up to Maine and New Brunswick for a 39 day trek. After that we’ll probably head back south through upstate New York again although at this pint the only thing we have any confidence in is the Canadian trip and stopping by Boston.

That’s about it. Connie’s working today and Neil did laundry…he’ll probably go on a bike ride later but ya never know.

Cyas.

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