Saturday, March 26, 2011

Life Back Home in PA

It is amazing how quickly you can get back into the swing of things when you return from several months of RVing.  It is so good to see our daughters and their families, my parents, and special friends.  But there is something about the RVing lifestyle that has you wanting to be on the road whenever possible.  Our daughter asked me when we returned if we were happy to be back home.  I told her that is a hard question to answer.  We definitely miss seeing our 2 daughters, our 3 granddaughters who just turned 4, 2, and 2, and their husbands.  But, the fun times we have on the road, the wonderful people we meet, and the new things we see and experience are just hard to explain to a non RVer!  Then she said, but that life really isn't reality.  Again, that is hard to explain.  When we are on the road we meet many people who travel more than we do and I think that is their reality.  We all have a choice as to our reality.  I prefer the "travel reality" where there is less stress, relaxing days, and new adventures around every corner.  So, that is what we are trying to balance at this stage of our lives. 

We just came back from a combined birthday party for our 2 year old and our 4 year old granddaughters.  Wouldn't want to miss that special event!  Being a PaPa and Grandma has so many special rewards.  So we continue to divide our time between home and being in "Willie".  We are looking forward to numerous camping trips this summer with our camping friends - mostly 4 day weekends plus a 2 week trip in July to the upper peninsula of Michigan.  Also plan to be at Linda and Howard"s RV Dreams Rally in Hershey PA in Sept.  Then hopefully head to Jekyll Island GA  in mid October.  We will remain at home most of the month of April and May as we are expecting another grandchild, probably a granddaughter since we don't do boys, the end of April.  Wouldn't want to miss that special event!  It will probably be our last grandchild.

But I must say, I miss our time on the road.  For some reason, it really gets in your blood!!!!!

Our Trip Back to PA

We were on our way back to Lancaster County PA by 8:30 on Tuesday, March 15th.  Hook-up went well, but we weren't looking forward to the long drive.  The 1st day went very well.  The truck was finally working properly, and the weather was perfect.  We went as far as           South Carolina arriving at the Campground around 6:15.  We had a level pull-through site, so we didn't have to disconnect.  The campground is a great stop for it is conveniently located to Route 95 and most of the sites are pull throughs.

We were on our way again by 8:00 on Wednesday morning but this day was not as uneventful as the previous one.  When we stopped for gas at a Flying J in North Carolina, we were disappointed to discover the way the pumps were set up for RVer's.  It was not at the same location as the tractor trailers.  We waited awhile and then decided to go around to enter the pumps.  At first we were concerned about the height of the roof over the pumps, but we were fine!  Ken made a wide swing for the pumps and thought he was far from pumps.  Wrong!!!!  I tried to get there to warn him, but I was too late.  My heart skipped a beat when I heard the crunch and felt so bad for Ken.  He is always so careful and tried to be one step ahead.  But, that is why these things are called accidents.  Fortunately we both handled the situation as well as possible.  The service station people were wonderful!  The 5th wheel was wedged between the pump and the upside U that is at the end of each island so people can't hit the pumps!  ( I guess they don't always do the job!!!)   We were lucky, for we only struck the pump nozzle and not the pump.  No leaking gas. 

 And, we only did cosmetic damage to the rig, not to the frame or to the gas lines, etc.   We talked to Good Sam and our RV insurance company.  It was decided that we should get a tow truck to come and hopefully be able to move us alittle to the right so we could just pull out.  After 2 hours the tow truck arrived, but since our 5th wheel did not have a bumper, there was not way to hook it to the truck.  The driver was such a help.  He said he thought he could direct us out of the spot with minimal extra damage.  He was exactly right!  There was no more damage and we were on our way home after 2 1/2 hours.  We felt fortunate, but somewhat stressed.  Our next gas stop was abit frightening, but went well.  Hallelujah!

We stopped that night at a campground in VA, again conveniently located to Route 95 with level, pull through sites.  Another good stop!  On the road again by 8:30 Thursday morning and it was an uneventful, pleasant day.  We did decide that driving on 95 around DC is something we will probably try to avoid in the future.  We are getting too old for some white knuckle driving.  Not only is the trafffic terrible, but there is so much road construction in the area.  Not fun driving!

We were in our driveway by 2:30 Thursday afternoon and it was 65 degrees.  I guess we brought the warm weather with us.  Wow!!!  We were almost totally unloaded by the time we went to have dinner at our daughter's house at 5:30.  (Our 4 year old granddaughter Bria had invited us to dinner at her house on Wednesday night when we talked to her from the Campground.  I told her she had better ask her Mommy.  Jamie said that would be great, since we probably didn't have any food at our house.  Bria got back on the phone and said she would see us tomorrow night!)  Good to see our daughter and her family.  It had been 7 1/2 weeks.  

Our trip to Florida had been fantastic even though we had some cliches along the way.  I will talk about them in our next post. 

The Cliches On Our Trip to Florida!

If you have numerous trying cliches on the way to your destination, some while you are there, and a big one on your way home and still say it was a trip way beyond your expectations, either you are crazy or you have learned how to handle adversity.  I'd like to think it is the latter! 

Here is a summary of our eventful 1st trip with our new Open Range 5th Wheel.  We were having some engine trouble with our "new" 2005 Ford Diesel before we left.  The mechnical work that was done on it was finished at 6 PM on Monday night and we left at 4 AM on Tuesday morning.  Only 200 miles into our trip to Florida, the wrench light reappeared indicating a Limp Home Mode.  Before we had lost power whenever it came on, but that appeared to be corrected.  We talked to the garage that had done the work before we left and they said it should be fine, just don't push it.  Needless to say, Ken was a bit "anxious" during the drive to Florida.  We didn't have any additional problems, but it did keep us abit on edge.  That was cliche #1.  Then at 280 miles, the bracket we had the dealership put on our 5th wheel before we left home came loose and our bikes were dragging on Route 95.  So, we had to put the damaged bikes in the bed of the truck as well as the bike rack.  We just felt fortunate that the bikes didn't come loose and hit any car.  That was cliche #2.

Cliche #3, was getting the bikes evaluated when we got to Florida and discovering that they were beyond repair.  The search began for new ones.  We do love our new bikes!!!!!

Cliche #4 was taking the truck to a Ford Dealer in Nokomis who told us what they thought it needed.  We didn't like the high estimate nor the way they thought the problem should be solved.  After numerous calls to back home, we found a diesel repair shop in Sarasota from a referral from our mechanic back home.  The owner and his mechanics were wonderful and did a great job for us at a fraction of the cost the Ford Dealer had given us.  We had to go back there for some fine tuning, but it did the job.  The truck handled well on the way home.  So much for Cliche #4.

Cliche #5 was the big one.  The "connection" to a gas pump.  Again, that one had a better ending then what it could have been.  Felt "sick" to see damage to a brand new rig, but again, that is why they are called accidents.

So, when we got home and told some of our RVing friends about the "cliches" we encountered on our trip and what a wonderful trip it was, we realized we must have handled the whole thing pretty well!!!  Warm weather, making new friends, bike riding, great beaches, etc., far outshine the troubles  we had along the way.  We would do it all again!!!

Now "Willie", our 5th wheel is at the dealer awaiting a few parts and repairs.  We will be a lot more selective where we get gas in the future!!!  There are defintely new things to learn when changing from a Class C to a 5th Wheel.

Our Final Day in Florida

Well, I haven't posted for over a week!  It has been tough re-adjusting to being back in the COLD!

Our last day full day in Florida, Monday, March 14 was a fun-filled day.  We decided to go to our favorite places, downtown Venice for our Blueberry Scone and a few gifts for our daughters and granddaughters, a bike ride from Venice to Caspersen to find a few sharks teeth, ride back to Venice and then spend several hours on Nokomis Beach.  A busy schedule but all the things we really like to do.  Once we got back to Winter Quarters Manatee there was plenty to do to get ready for our early departure on Tuesday.  By 7:00 we were finished preparing for tomorrow, so we went to one of my favorite places to eat pulled pork - Sonny's.  It was a 4th time there during our stay and just as good as the 1st time.  Our waitress was Hailey everytime and she is a sweetheart.

Of the 3 Encore campgrounds we stayed at during our time in Florida, each one offered something unique.  Pine Island had the friendliest staff and Rver's, and a clubhouse that offers so many special events.  Had trouble saying goodbye to all the special people there.  Royal Coachman offers location, location, location!!!!  Close to Venice, Caspersen and Nokomis Beaches, the Legacy Bike Trail, and the Venetian Waterway Bike Trail.  Winter Quarters Manatee is probably the most pictureque of the 3 with larger sites and a unique lay-out around the lake.  Great clubhouse and activities and friendly people.  But, Ken and I are beach people, and it takes at least 30 minutes to get to any of the nearby beaches.  But, I would return to any of them!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hang out at Campground Day!

We felt like we have been on the go so much recently, that we decided to spend today, Sunday, at the campground after a trip to the Red Barn for produce and to Wal-Mart for some additional groceries.

We were back to Willie by 12:15 and I headed to the clubhouse to check our e-mails and do some posting on our blog.  It is challenging when you do not have internet at your campsite, especially when I like to blog in the evening.  Ken stayed at our campsite and did some "prep" work for our trip home.  He also checked the pressure in all the tires and was prepared to tighten the lugs but all of them were fine!!

We got to the pool around 2:15 and enjoyed reading and resting.  We also played a game of shuffleboard which Ken won again.  I was so far ahead and he still managed to "just" beat me.  (I did win a game yesterday)

A couple in the campground that we met the first day we arrived, Norman and Cheryl Deffibaugh, stopped by Willie to visit.  They actually only live about 3 miles from our home in Akron.  They live along Rothsville Road.  So nice to get to know them.   We will keep in touch when we return to PA.  They are in Florida till the end of the month.

We talked to family at home after grilling our dinner.  Can't believe tomorrow is our last day in Florida.  We are looking forward to going to Venice to enjoy the bike riding and the beach in that area.  Then we will have to get "packed up" for our return to PA.  So sad!!!!!

An overview of the Campground from the bridge on the
road outside of it!

The large pool overlooking the lake!  Beautiful!

Another Day at the Beach!

Well, I have really begun my "whining" realizing our time in Florida has almost ended.  So sad, for it has been a phenomenal time with unbelievable weather!

On Saturday we decided to spend most of the day at Holmes Beach and Anna Maria Island.  Last year we had attended the Springfest at Anna Maria Island, which is a craft and art show, and it was held again this year on this day.  So we decided we would enjoy going there again.  It is a juried show with very talented craftspeople.  So we parked at Holmes Beach and rode our bikes about 1 mile to the site of the Springfest.  This year was just as good as last year.  Ken was excited to purchase something he was sorry he didn't take advantage of last year - smoked mullet.  This was his 1st time eating mullet and he said it was a treat. 

After attending the show, we rode bike down to Bradenton Beach so I could get some homemade ice cream.  It was further to the Ice Cream Shop than I anticipated - about 7 miles round trip, but the treat was worth it.  Along our ride we passed this very colorful motel right on the beach.

The remainder of the day was rather uneventful.  We returned to Willie, played some more shuffleboard, made dinner, and then relaxed, after all, it was a tough day! 

Special Day at Tarpon Springs with Special Friends!

On Friday, Ken and I left the campground at 8:15 to head to Tarpon Springs to spend the day with Barry and Deb, friends we learned to know at Pine Island.  They planned an exciting full day for us in the area.  Stopped at their Campground and got an overview of the day.

Deb became our chauffer and tour guide around the area.  First we took a driving tour of downtown Tarpon Springs and then drove to 2 beautiful State Parks, both having beach areas.  At Fred Howard Park we watched a kite surfer flying over a ramp and then doing acrobatics.  Fascinating!!  Someone had taken the time to make a heart and cupid in the sand from sea weed.  So, it just had to be a Kodak moment!!

After our driving tour, we parked in downtown Tarpoon Springs to walk around and have lunch at a Greek Restaurant.  The area was founded by the Greeks and they are mostly the folks who do the diving for the sponges.  Deb had a gyro, I had a pork "gyro", and Ken and Barry went for the fried grouper.  (1st time Ken had "fried" grouper on this trip, but certainly not his 1st grouper sandwich). 

We watched a movie about the sponge diving and just a info on sponges in general.  Very interesting!!  Again, there were some Kodak moments.  While we were there we met up with Ron and Kathy from the Keystone Winnies in PA.  What a small world!!!!

After our time in Tarpon Springs, we headed back to their Airstream to load up our bikes and take a short ride on the Rails to Trails in the area.  Passed the Sunshine Primate Sanctuary and saw some of our family (Ken's - just kidding!) and then on the another State Park that had some very interesting history.  Check out the photos!  The Florida State Parks are amazing - so well maintained, massive, and lots of wooden bridges and even lookouts.  Great places to visit!

Back to their CG where we had an enjoyable evening chatting and a delicious dinner of tasty chef's salads with Deb's grilled chicken.  This was truly a special day and we were so appreciative of the planning Barry and Deb had done to make the day so memorable.  Only got back to our campground at 10:15.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Very Breezy but Sunny and Warm Day!

Today was another very nice day in the Bradenton Area.  I mentioned this before but it is worth mentioning again.  We are staying at an Encore Park, Manatee Winter Quarters.  This is a really nice park with larger sites, a beautiful clubhouse with a view of the lake from the 86 degree pool, well maintained shuffleboard courts, and friendly people.  The lay-out of the sites is exceptional.  The only negative is the proximity to Route 75.  Road noise is a definite.

Yesterday we spent time on our computers, but have to go to the clubhouse or office to connect to the internet.  Tengo is available at our site for a fee, but if you have ever experienced Tengo, it is "spotty" at best.  We had used it the last 4 weeks and had good reception at Pine Island, but spotty at Royal Coachman.  Ken tried to subscribe here, but after 1 1/2 hours of frustration, he cancelled it.  By next year we need to have our own way of connecting to the internet.  Not sure what that will be!

Then we decided to head to Bradenton Beach for the afternoon.  It is a nice beach area with places that are fairly remote and quiet.  We enjoyed 4 1/2 hours relaxing.

We decided to try the Cortez Kitchen for an early light supper.  Ken was ready for another grouper sandwich.  It is a nice setting outside at the dock, but we did not enjoy the food as much as the Star Fish Company.  It was a nicer setting too!

Spent the evening in Willie after taking a walk around the park.  Second one for the day!  Had walked 1st thing this morning.  The park is larger than you think, but has a "small feel".

Watched American Idol.  Amazed at all the wonderfull talent this year.  It will be hard seeing contestants leave the program.

Ken took some photos last evening of the cloud formations at the campground.  Looked like huge balls of cotton with a pink tint.  Beautiful!!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cindy and John Leave Us for Home in PA

Cindy and John arrive in Florida!  Happy to see them!

Cindy and John leaving Florida.  Time went so quickly!
 Cindy and John stayed in Willie with us on Monday night, their last night in Florida.  We were all up at 5:30 so everyone had some time in the bathroom.  We were on our way to Sarasota Airport at 6:30 for their 8:15 flight home to Lanc. County PA.  We had so much fun together going to many different beaches and having shuffleboard and game "tournaments" of men vs. women.  We were more victorious at the games, but the men were strong winners in shuffleboard.

After dropping them off at the airport, we did some computer updating at Panera Bread before heading to the diesel garage in Sarasota for some adjustments for our truck.  Nothing major, just some jerking whenever it shifted gears.  What an improvement after they did some adjusting!  Drives so much better!

We decided to take it easy today and played some shuffleboard and relaxed by the pool at the campground.  Both of us were tired from lack of sleep and so much activity over the last 6 days.  Needed some down time.

Grilled our dinner and played some cards.  A relaxing early to bed evening.

Can't believe Cindy and John were really here for 6 days.  There are definitely more hours in a day at home compared to when you are on vacation.  Not sure how that works!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Our Last Day in Florida with Cindy and John!

Monday was a perfect beach day in Florida.  We packed lunches for the four of us and picked up Cindy and John around 10:15.  We asked them to choose what they would like to do for their last day in Florida.  They wanted to spend the day at the beach and the weather cooperated beautifully.  We headed to Holmes Beach and spent about 4 1/2 hours enjoying the day.  Around 72 with very low humidity. 

 Ken and I took an hour bike ride around the area, especially Anna Maria area.  We stopped at two fishing piers to enjoy the scenery!

We left the beach around 4:15 and went back to the campground.  Decided it was time to continue the shuffleboard tournament.  Unfortunately, the men were victorious again, but Ken and I did beat Cindy and John for our last game of their trip.  (If we would have been good hosts I guess we would have left them win!  NOT!!!) 

But, we were all winners, getting to experience a beautiful sunset!!

The only thing that could possibly beat this gorgeous sunset was another trip to Sonny's for a pulled pork sandwich!  Imagine this - it wasn't even my idea.  The group decided it was where they wanted to have their LAST SUPPER in Florida!  Thanks Cindy and John!!  Then back to Willie to play a game of Up the River!  They had checked out of the Holiday Inn Express this morning and spent the night sleeping on an air mattress in Willie before their flight back home at 8:15 Tuesday morning!

Fun with Cindy and John Continues!

Sunday was a relaxing and uneventful day for our foursome!  We decided to stay at the campground most of the day since it was overcast a good portion of the day.  We picked up Cindy and John around 10 and headed to one of Sarasota's favorite destinations - the Red Barn.  For you Lanc. County folks it's Florida's version of Green Dragon.  So many interesting stands plus great fruit and produce.  We actually bought Plant City Florida strawberries for $1.00 a quart!  Wow!!!!  The men tired of the place long before the women, so we headed back to our campground to sit by the pool and continue our shuffleboard tournament.  Today we split the wins.  Horray for the women!!!!

The pool at the campground is large and heated to 86 degrees.  Not bad!  But, the breeze was abit cool, so none of us ventured in.  Cindy and John did enjoy the hot tub.

We enjoyed cooking dinner and it was delicious - steaks on the grill, salads, oven roasted potatoes (the oven in Willie was used for the 1st time!) and fresh asparagus.  Fresh strawberries and ice cream for dessert.  We are living LARGE!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Still Loving Florida!

Yesterday the fun continued.  Picked up Cindy and John at 10 and headed to our favorite area - Venice.

Showed them the Royal Coachman RV park where we stayed prior and why it is such an unbelievable campground - Location, Location, Location (Actually it is a very nice park too!)  Then we drove into the square in Venice and a wonderful art and craft show was underway!  We enjoyed walking along the main street seeing all the vendors.  Of course, we had to stop at the Upper Crust for another blueberry scone! 

From there we drove down the only road that leads to Caspersen Beach to show them the Venetian Waterway Trail and to walk along the shoreline at Caspersen Beach looking for sharks teeth.  Only found a few pieces.

Then we headed to our favorite beach - Nokomis and spent 4 1/2 hours soaking in the sun, finding sharks teeth and shells, and reading.  Ate our packed lunch on the beach. 

We stayed until about 6 so we could have Cindy and John experience the drum circle.  Boy, it is amazing how many people show up every Wed. and Saturday evening for the drum circle "Event". 

This gentleman is quite the body builder
and has a special "ritual" he does at
every drum circle.  Looks like a sun or
just thankful for the day form of worship!

Then back to Willie to change and play another shuffleboard competition and it was a great night for the ladies.  We actually won 2 out of 3.  Yes!!!!  Then we headed to one of my favorite places for dinner, Sonny's for their pulled pork sandwich and baked sweet potato with cinnamon butter.  What could be better!!!  Everyone thought their food was delicious.  We called it a night at 9:30 after another very busy day in Paradise!!!!!  These days are flying!!!!!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Let the Good Times Continue!

Yesterday was another exciting day in the Bradonton area.  We picked up Cindy and John at their hotel at 9:30 and started on our drive to the beaches along the Gulf Coast near the Bradenton area.  Our 1st stop was Coquino Beach, which was a favorite of Ken's mother.  We had sat on the beach with Richard and his mother numerous times when we visited them in Florida. 

From there we drove through Lido Beach, St. Armand's Circle, Longboat Key, and Seista Key Beach.  It was a beautiful drive!  We ate lunch at Seista Key Village at an outside cafe, and then spent most of the afternoon on the beach at Seista Key, famous for their white sand that feels like talcum powder!

Back to the Campground for more men vs. women shuffleboard.  If you ask me, the guys are so lucky!!!  They won all 3 games, but we gave them a run for their money!!!  Cindy and I just have to get our act together and come up with a new strategy.

We had a late hamburg dinner in the 5th wheel.  (Ken had grilled outside in the dark!).  Then we played 3 games of Pinochle of which the women won 2 out of 3.  Redemption!!!!!

Today we are taking them to see one of our favorite areas in Florida - Venice!  Anxious to show them the center of town, Caspersen Beach, Nokomis Beach, and then the drive along Casey Key Road.

Looks like another beautiful, warm day in Paradise!

Food is prepared and then placed on the shelf at the window at the
outside cafe in Seista Key Village!
Clubhouse at our Campground!  Shuffleboard and
pool are there too!