Thursday, January 31, 2013

Red Tide...Or Not?

Sarasota, FL        High:  81    Low:  59

We're still coughing now and then...Can't be red tide, can it? We're too far from the ocean! About 30 minutes. Offshore winds should be keeping any red tide respiratory distress at bay and out at the ocean beaches..But we've been to Longboat Key Beach yesterday and the red tide bloom, as they call it, has been responsible for the collection of 12.4 TONS of dead fish washed up on the south end of the Key to the 4000 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive, right where we biked yesterday. That fish collection occurred in the past few weeks.

In case you wanted to know and missed the previous blog on red tide, here's a little info about it...Red tide is a higher than normal concentration of a microscopic plant like organism. It can cause respiratory distress in SOME individuals, if you are susceptible to respiratory ailments--coughs, cold, have sensitive lungs, etc. If you are sensitive to red tide, you might have trouble with sneezing, watery eyes, scratchy, itchy throat and COUGHING. The most common species that causes the fish to die off and respiratory distress in humans and pets is Karenia Brevis or K. Brevis. 
Mote's "Waldo"

The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium here in Sarasota continuously monitors and reports red tide  conditions updated twice a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year through a daily sampling of water from 26 Gulf Coast beaches. Water samples are taken from the beaches, from boats near shore and offshore, and with the help of local resources like the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation.  It's quite a sophisticated operation. Mote Marine Laboratory even has an underwater vehicle called an AUV--which is an underwater robot or autonomous underwater vehicle. Theirs is named "Waldo". (Too bad it's not called Eldo! Wouldn't that be cool? asks E.) The AUV's have special red tide detectors called BreveBusters. Clever name, eh?

Mote Marine Laboratory developed the Beach Condition Reports that give you the red tide, fish kill, rip current information (for lifeguarded beaches) for 26 Gulf Coast Florida beaches. In Sarasota County, the beach information is listed for: Lido Key, Siesta Key, Nokomis, Venice North Jetty, Venice Beach, and Manasota Beach. You can also call 941-BEACHES to get a report over the phone.

If you look online, the Beach Condition Report shows a Google map with little balloon pins for beach destinations. Click on the gulf coast beach of your choice, and up pops a report!  Things reported are: dead fish, respiratory problems, water color, wind direction, location of red drift, red tide present or not, rip currents, and color of the beach flag flying. Green is great-low hazard, yellow is moderate surf, red is high surf, strong currents, purple is dangerous marine life. Surf conditions and surf height are also listed. Good to know....We've heard of beach goers having trouble with coughing and their dogs coughing as well over at Casperson Beach south of Venice, FL last week. it red tide? Nope! No red tide present this week, it's the coughin' crud that still hangs on, our third week into it...But it's only a very occasional tickle and a certain something eaten that sets off a coughing attack. Like when Sparky went to the grocery store a couple of days ago, and sampled a piece of peppered salami....The pepper INSTANTLY set off a severe coughing jag, like the kind where you think you are going to cough your insides to the outside. Sparky practically ran to the rear of the store trying to find a drinking fountain amidst stares from other customers.."What is WRONG with THAT woman?" Water found, coughing subsided, and Sparky left the store as quickly as possible!

Not much else happening lately...A trip to Millie's Restaurant for breakfast one morning...WONDERFUL food, seniors love it, it's one of the best breakfast places in Sarasota, get there early on a Sunday morning, before 9:00 to get a table right away..Very classy decor, like eating in the dining room of a nice, country style decorated home..We've eaten there several times, it's highly rated on YELP...Sparky loves the breakfast burrito, Eldo loves the biscuits and gravy....YUM!
And the weather just keeps on staying sunny and warm....Guess the tourism industry in Florida is booming this year with rentals of vacation units both here in the park and in Sarasota County way up this year. Record numbers of Amish and Mennonite populations are coming down to the Sarasota area as well. Sounds like a great year for the realtors!  Until next time......

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Cute Story....Enjoy!

Sarasota, FL      High:  81    Low:  61

A friend of Eldy's sent him this cute that anybody who RV's and/or has spent time in an RV park model/RV community can relate to....Thanks, Mike!

Written by a third-grader , on what his grandparents do.

After Christmas, a teacher asked her young pupils how they spent their holiday away from school. One child wrote the following:

We always used to spend the holidays with Grandma and Grandpa. They used to live in a big brick house, but Grandpa got retarded and they moved to Florida . Now they live in a tin box that has wheels, but its strapped to the ground. They ride around on their bicycles , and wear name tags because they don't know who they are anymore.
They go to a building called a wreck center, but they must have got it fixed because it is all okay now, they do exercises there , but they don't do them very well. There is a swimming pool too, but they all just jump up and down in it with hats on. (In Sparky's swim exercise class, everybody wears hats and sunglasses!)  At their gate, there is a doll house with a little old man sitting in it. He watches all day so nobody can escape.
Sometimes they sneak out, and go cruising in their golf carts. Nobody there cooks, they just eat out. And, they eat the same thing every night - early birds. Some of the people can't get out past the man in the doll house. The ones who do get out, bring food back to the wrecked center for pot luck. My Grandma says that Grandpa worked all his life to earn his retardment and says I should work hard so I can be retarded someday, too. When I earn my retardment, I want to be the man in the doll house. Then I will let people out, so they can visit their grandchildren

Sun 'n' Fun residents love to have "state" functions....A group will organize something for any and all residents from a certain state. We've seen pizza parties for New York, pot lucks for Illinois, and today, there was a buffet luncheon for Hoosiers! Good ole Indiana residents got together at the Boondocks Restaurant, the on site restaurant at Sun 'n' Fun. There were about 70 in attendance...a great turnout! A little trash talk on I.U. vs. Purdue erupted momentarily, but everyone behaved themselves and took to ribbing each other a bit more before settling down to lunch. Sparky and Eldo won a checkered flag fleece lap robe as a door prize...That will come in handy in the next day or two as temperatures plummet to the sixties for a day time high, but only for a day.

Sun 'n' Fun residents love to have fun. The hula hoop class that Sparky so miserably failed was held outside today in the 80 degree temperatures. Sparky is not so sure she'd be as courageous as these gals were to go outside where everyone could see how well they were doing with their hoops--or NOT!

And that's it for today....We didn't do anything else but take it easy, do laundry and Sparky crafted the rest of the day.....We've got some things coming up, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Afraid of Heights? Nik Wallenda Isn't!

Sarasota, FL      High:    83     Low:   62

Sparky's not afraid of heights, at least as long as it's not the high diving board in a swimming pool. Hard to find THOSE any more, but when Sparky was a kid, the local high school where she learned to swim and eventually became a lifeguard/swim teacher, had one. Sparky's dad offered her 100.00 to JUMP off the high dive, not DIVE off the high dive. "Just jump for God's sake!" and Sparky said NO WAY! Her dad knew she wouldn't take the bait, so that's why he offered such a high reward. Her dad was disgusted with Sparky's lack of courage, but Sparky didn't care.

Sparky has been in some VERY high places, and as long as there's a railing, she's ok, but she doesn't stay up high for a really long time. A quick look around at the scenery, and she's ready to come back down......Bouncing around in a ski lift gondola going up a mountain makes her a little nervous--what if it gets stuck halfway up the mountain? Ditto for big Ferris wheels....And if something sways or moves while she's on it, uh, let's just say she'll endure for long enough to get some photos, then back down she comes. She never lets on that heights COULD be a problem.....Gotta get that photo for the blog! (Hm-m-m-mmmm...I never knew that! exclaims E.)

Nik, in the yellow shirt
Nik Wallenda, 33 years old, is not afraid of heights, either. He's the Sarasota native who is 7th generation of the famous circus Flying Wallendas family. His ancestors and family have been in the business for over 200 years. He's known for his high wire performances without a safety net or harness. He walked over Niagra Falls in June, 2012, on a tightrope, but they made him wear a tether, much to his disappointment. The Sarasota council had to approve the wire walking without the harness. They said, "It's the circus capital of the world. Let's let him do it the way the Wallendas do things." Why did he choose Sarasota? Nik wanted to do something to give back to the city that has supported him.

He's a pretty interesting guy as far as being a risk taker...In 2001, he was the part of the first eight person pyramid on a high wire. In 2011, he and his mom high wire walked between two hotel towers in Puerto Rico, duplicating the walk that killed his great grandfather, Karl Wallenda. At the point where his great grandfather fell, he stopped and kissed the wire. In June, he plans to highwire walk the Grand Canyon! He's married, has a beautiful wife who also walks the wire, they have three kids, and his Christian faith is very central to his life.

This week we had heard that he was going to do a 200 foot high wire walk in downtown Sarasota with a total stroll of 600 feet, so of COURSE we had to go see that! He was going to walk over highway 41 from the huge statue of "Unconditional Surrender" or THE KISS, as the locals call it, over to a tower across the highway. Sparky got her camera ready and this is what transpired....

The crew, Wallenda's bucket brigade, was on the scene from about 10:00 PM last night till 4:00 AM this morning, setting up the wire. The steel cable is the width of a nickel and is about 3/4 of an INCH thick. Highway 41 was allowed to be closed for an hour. The crew had only 15 minutes to get the guide wires adjusted.

There were 32 guide wires, 16 on each side. Sparky thought this was going to be a cakewalk for Nik, but that was not to be the case. Normally, he's about 150 feet off the ground but today it had to be 200 feet because of the start and finish height. The guide wires were altered and lengthened for the additional height of the walk. There was WIND today, and they had trouble getting the pole up to him at the top of the bucket.

Nik was raised up in a bucket to the beginning of the wire walk by the downtown Sarasota KISS statue. He was wired into his crew and his dad, and was talking to his dad the whole time he walked across the wire, according to a newscaster that we talked to later and who overheard some of the conversation. Here he is, taking his first step up onto the wire.
And he's on totally!

After he got going, he was complaining about the movement of the wire and was heard by the newscaster, to say, "HOLY CRAP! C'mon, guys, it's too sloppy up here!"....The wire guide men down on the ground could feel every step that he took through the guide wires they were holding. In an interview, Nik said he wanted to stop at the halfway point, but couldn't. No safety net below.

Later, Nik thought that the looseness of the wire might have been due to the altered guide wire configuration they used today. You could see the gusts of wind rippling the back of his shirt as he walked the wire. The crowd became totally silent.

The wind picked up..Stronger than expected winds.....Nik paused a couple of times....

At one point, he was talking to his dad, and his dad told him to call it off and stop. Nik replied, "That's easy for you to say!" He was already half way across! He was joking with his father while walking, "Who do I need to spank when I get down?" Apparently, the wind was so bad that he revealed in an interview later that he wanted to stop halfway through, but had no choice, he had to keep going....We saw him bend down and stop for a moment a little further on. What he was doing was blowing a kiss to the crowd. The crowd let out a little cheer.

He got back up and on he continued......

Sparky saw some big pelicans flying around and a great blue heron. She worried that the birds could be a serious obstacle and distraction. They didn't get too close...Whew!

It was an exciting 9 minutes!   It was nerve wracking! The crowd was tense! All eyes were skyward....

Almost to the other end.....

We couldn't believe it as he hopped/ran across the last five or six steps before he reached the top of the tower.

He made it! The crowd cheered. Nik pumped his fist! Wish we had a different vantage point from above to show the Sarasota skyline even with his wire...You really get a different perspective of how high he was and how amazing the walk was. We watched it on the local news later, and you truly could see how difficult something like that is when you are looking across the high wire.

We waited around for him to come down....

After all the guide wires had come down and been stowed, Nik was back down safely on the ground and had an interview where he graciously answered questions from the crowd....When are you going to retire? He hopes "at age 50, but my great grandfather was still walking the wire at 73"....Do you hope your children follow in your footsteps?" "Not really, would YOU want YOUR children to do what I do?"  He also told his father that he couldn't have done the walk today without the experience of having the Niagara Falls walk because of the winds and air currents. That Niagara walk must have really been something. He trained in 90 m.p.h. winds to be ready for the Niagara Falls walk this past summer. He used a 30 foot pole balanced across his belly button, the pole is used to counteract sway. The weight of the poles vary, depending on what kind of walk he is going to do. Eldy heard on a news station that he had CAMERAS in the ends of his poles, so if you caught the newscast, you would have seen a bird's eye view of his walk today!

It was really exciting to see this today...We're so glad we were here to see this wonderful event. Nik did it to thank his hometown of Sarasota and to celebrate the opening of Circus Sarasota, where his wife will be wire walking with him.....Handsome guy, handsome family, charming, and gracious. He answered lots of questions from the Sarasota crowd, and posed for photos with lots of people. He seemed like a really wonderful guy, very down to earth. That's the kind of performer/entertainer we're talking about! Nik, you ARE King of the Wire!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Bikin' to Longboat Key

Sarasota, FL      High:  79    Low:  57

We WERE going to go to the Gasparilla Pirate Festival 2013 in downtown Tampa, but decided too much traffic, too crowded with over 300,000 people expected to attend, too much standing around in the hot sun and not enough knowledge about best places to park, best times to go, and how to get around the city (despite a lot of research) so we talked ourselves out of it. Sounded like fun, though. A pirate ship lands at 11:30 this morning, and the pirates "take" the city after the mayor is "forced" to hand over the keys to the city. A big parade at 2:00 PM this afternoon, it's THE event of the year in Tampa, and has been since 1904. What a tradition! BUT, for the aforementioned reasons, Sparky and Eldo decided let's go bike ridin' instead! So we did!

We recreated the bike ride Sparky did a week ago with the Rusty Spokes bike group from Sun 'n' Fun . Parked the car at Mote Aquarium, turned right towards the bridge, headed over the bridge and 7.5 miles down the road until the Lazy Lobster Restaurant. AHA! You KNEW there had to be a food payoff in there somewhere, didn't you? :-)  Yep, Sparky talked that restaurant up so much to Eldo, that we just had to stop and have lunch to see if it was just as good as last week! But first, the views....Beautiful golf courses,  fantastic azaleas, flowering bushes and bougainvilleas in bloom, AND the palms, too!
And we stopped at the Longboat Key Beach once again to rest and enjoy the beautiful sunshine and low seventies weather. Not a cloud in the sky today....

The first time out the route to the Lazy Lobster, Sparky missed the historical marker about the WWII bombing ranges that were in this area on Longboat Key. In the 1940's, bombing targets were set up along Longboat Key. Later, skip bombing was tried. This is where the bombers would fly at low altitudes and slow speeds, drop a couple of bombs set with delay fuses, and when they hit the water, they would skip and skim the surface like when kids try to skip stones. The bombs would bounce off the side of the ship and detonate, or bounce over the target and miss. A lot of pilots were lost in the Gulf of Mexico on these skip bombing training missions because they didn't pull up their planes in time.
Once in a great while a 50 calibre shell casing turns up on Longboat Key beaches from these training missions.

Well, lunch at Lazy Lobster was fantastic again...Sparky had the burger with mushroom glace sauce, potatoes au gratin and green beans, and Eldo had the fish and chips which was excellent, he said. And we had dessert--a homemade cheesecake that we split. Yum! This restaurant is HIGHLY recommended!

Spark just LOVES the patio atmosphere with the beautiful water fountains, the palm trees framing the patio and the colorful umbrellas adding some shade at Lazy Lobster!
After lunch we wandered through the little shopping center and saw a small Italian restaurant with outdoor seating....
And a gift shop with some wonderful stained glass incorporating large seashells in the designs...Beautiful!

A lovely day in paradise....They just keep coming and coming.. No rain in sight till next week possibly......Until next time.....

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Sauce Boss!

Sarasota, FL      High:  75    Low:   54

If you thought Eldy was cooking something up, you'd be WRONG! Sparky cooked up a trip to Myakka River State Park for us last night to see the Sauce Boss--Florida's one and only blues/slide guitar player and chef, Bill "Sauce Boss" Wharton. Bill plays the blues and cooks up gumbo at every show!  How fun is THAT?

Tickets were 15.00 a person, and worth it!  There was a nice crowd in attendance, and many people have attended Myakka's events before and seen the "Sauce Boss".  Bill is a fun guy, and performs mostly his own songs, singing the blues in a gravelly voice, playing the slide guitar with all kinds of emotion that only a great blues player can do. He's a one man show complete with switching out of cool guitars, jokes, playing a washboard vest, providing his own drum beat and of course, cooking and serving the chicken gumbo! He mixes it and cooks it right on the stage. This concert was a benefit put on by the Friends of Myakka to help the park with their budget.

Sparky fixed a simple picnic supper. Apparently, gourmet suppers were more the norm for attendees who have been to Myakka's entertainment venues before. Chocolate covered strawberries, wine, cheese, chafing dishes, chili, hors d'ouvres, even buffet tables were in evidence! There were all kinds of cool picnics going on....and BIG FIRES...Evidence that the night was going to get a LOT cooler!

It did, and Sparky froze despite a flannel shirt, jeans, a fleece jacket and a little blanket!  However, we enjoyed the show this evening and look forward to seeing what other events will be at the park in the future.

Tomorrow, the pirates are taking over Tampa! But we've decided to pass on the Gasparilla Pirate Festival--too much traffic, too much congestion, and hours and hours of standing around waiting for something to happen, like the ship docking at 11:30 AM, and the parade at 2:30 PM. At 8:00 this morning, the lines for adults to get a pirate's face painted on them were at least 50 people long. It's gonna get CRAZY downtown! With all the heavy emphasis on drinking responsibly repeatedly shown on the local news channel, we have a feeling there is a LOT of drinking going on. One giant party! We decided to pass this year. Maybe next year, when we know more about how to get around Tampa.  See you later!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Where Did the Day Go?

Sarasota, FL      High:  74     Low:   53

Eldy went to visit old school chums this morning, and Sparky stayed home to have a day to herself to get lots accomplished. HA! Good intentions, anyway....She was hoping to start her tee shirt quilt.....But lots of stuff got in the way that needed attention....A pine needle basket with damp needles that needed to be used up today before mold gets a hold and starts growing in the next day or so.....Here is the start of her third one....

Pickleball lesson and practice for a couple of hours, more sitting and watching than playing, but that's ok, Sparky is still trying to learn how to keep score.....Came home and worked on the pine needle basket for awhile...Concentrating hard, when Sparky heard, "GO NOTRE DAME!" She looked up, saw a couple in a red truck, gave them a thumbs up, and called out, "Where are you guys from?" as she noticed they had a Notre Dame license plate on the front of their truck. We had been wanting to catch these guys in the red truck since they had a Notre Dame plate on the front. The guy says, "That's our hometown. We're from South Bend/Mishawaka." Sparky starts to walk towards the truck, saying, "Me, too!" when the guy takes off his sunglasses.

"RUSS?????? Is that you???????" It was Russ Kintzele and his wife, Barb. Russ taught at the same elementary school that Sparky did, North Side Elementary School in Mishawaka, IN, before it was torn down and a new school built on the old site. Russ has been retired for about ten years, his wife about five, and they are at  Sun 'n' Fun for the rest of this month and February! They are from Mishawaka, IN. It was like coming home and seeing a long lost family member. North Side Elementary was a tiny little school, the staff very close knit and like family. It was really really great to see them today. They stopped and chatted for about an hour and finally, it was time for them to go. They were headed to Venice Beach to look for shark's teeth. :-)  They have found a LOT of them on their last visit, like EIGHTY! The secret is to use a special little basket/shovel for sifting through the wet sand. It's called the Florida snow shovel.   :-)

You can find them at Walmart in Sarasota for about 18.00, he said. But you could use a colander, or just your bare hands, we just thought the Florida snow shovel was a great idea. We're going to get together again with the Kintzeles when Eldy can be here to meet them. They are terrific people!

Eldy met HIS school friends in North Fort Myers today...They chatted up a storm for over three hours, catching up on everything! Bob and Sue Jimison are from Colorado, about 30 miles northeast of Denver. Sparky REALLY wants to go to Colorado this summer, and Bob and Sue want us to come. We were going to go last summer, but the wildfires kept us from heading that way. Apparently, they are not getting the snow this winter, and are worried it's going to be another very hot summer with wildfire prone conditions. We hope not!

For supper, we checked out Sarasota Ale House located off the Bee Ridge Road exit. It was delicious and very reasonably priced. How about a 12 ounce prime rib special for 12.99--including coleslaw and potato?  Sparky had 35 shrimp, cole slaw and baked potato for 9.99.  It's a sports bar and noisy, with LOTS of TV's. It's a chain...But the food is good! So recommended if you like places like that......

It was a wonderful, happy day for the both of us to be able to connect with old friends again....See you tomorrow!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sparky Slows Down!

Sarasota, FL     High:  72    Low:  49

Can you believe it? Eldo can't---Sparky hasn't done much in two days! Holy Cow! What's gotten into her? She's not sick any more....She's just taking it easy, it's a new experience! Does she like it? Well, yes and no....after a couple hours this morning of reading blogs and checking out crafts online, Sparky started getting antsy.  So we biked over to an Open House for a two bedroom park model with raised lanai selling for 54,000.  We liked it a lot, but we're NOT buying anything. We're just researching....Sparky could EASILY spend the winters in Sun 'n' Fun with everything there is to do...but on top of paying for a park model, you have to lease the land/lot it sits on, and that's $7,000 a year. There are other fees, sewer costs, insurance, etc. etc. So it was just something to do to get Sparky out of the house for awhile.....

Cotton Patch Quilt Shop--lots of examples made up!
Then we headed over to University Center, one exit north of us off I-75. That's where the major shopping is. Sparky headed over to the local quilt shop to find out information about how to make a tee shirt quilt. She's going to make a quilt out of a BUNCH of Kelly's running races tee shirts. She bought a book on how to do it. It was a very nice quilt shop with tons of beautifully made examples hanging all around. It was called the Cotton Patch, located across the street from B.J.'s Wholesale Club. Even though she made a tee shirt quilt last year, she was really winging it on how to do it, and it just wasn't as professional looking as she wanted it to turn out, so this time, she's gonna do it right!  The quilt shop was full of "eye candy", color, models of patterns made up, Sparky LOVES eye candy and had to really hold onto her wallet not to be tempted to head in a major sewing direction as far as collecting supplies for projects besides the tee shirt quilt. While Sparky checked out the quilt shop, Eldo got a nice haircut.
He's so serious here because he's researching Medicare prescription drug plans...and there's a LOT of stuff to research out there about it. Sparky is glad Eldo is two years older than she, so he will have done all the homework for her, heh, heh, heh..... Neither one of us takes ANY medication for ANYTHING at the moment, so we are truly blessed. This is why Sparky hounds Eldy into riding his bike, using the fitness center, because we've got to keep moving to stay healthy in addition to trying to eat right! (That's a losing battle about eating right, says E.) Sigh! That's all Sparky has to say about THAT. Even though she hates to cook, Sparky still gets on Eldo about too much salt in his diet--he salts his PIZZA--EWWWWWW!  (And Sparky likes her peanut M & M's,  red meat, and pasta with Asiago cheese on it, so let's be fair here, warns E.) Yep, we have a long way to go on the diet end of things.....

This afternoon, Sparky went to the fitness center and used the rowing machine for about twenty minutes....
The fitness center at Sun 'n' Fun is about a six million dollar center and has the latest and greatest fitness equipment on everything! There's a large downstairs room devoted almost totally to free weights, bar bells and more fitness equipment as well as the upstairs room which has about ten or twelve treadmills overlooking the indoor swimming pool down below. WoW! What a place! After she got done with the rowing machine, she went and used the Chi machine...They have about six of these placed in a dark, quiet area of the center. You lay on a mat, put your feet in the ankle rests, and a variable speed control that you control, makes the machine perform elliptical moves with your legs, moving your spine as you lie there. It supposedly moves lymphatic fluid more efficiently through your body as you use it.
Here are some pretty crazy claims about the chi machine from the web:
Chi Machine 4 U manufactures its Sun Ancon Chi Machine in China and distributes it in the United States and many other countries. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, regulates this machine as a medical device, and the FDA has classified it as a Class 1 therapeutic massager. This machine is an oxygenator and Chi Machine 4 U makes several claims about its health benefits.

Read more:

There apparently are SOME health benefits to using it, but not quite to the extent the original manufacturer of the device claims. However, it feels wonderful just laying there and having something "shake, shake, shake----shake, shake, shake--shake your booty"....  :-) And it's FREE.....

Tomorrow, Eldo heads over to Fort Myers to meet some old school chums, and Sparky is going to have a day to herself to catch up on LOTS of things that need to get done!  See you tomorrow......

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Choices, Choices--Roadside Assistance Programs for RVers

Sarasota, FL     High:  71    Low:   47

A little side blog from the daily doings of which we haven't been doing too much other than Sparky has been swimming, spin cycling, making pine needle baskets, and figuring out more activities to join and  try!

WARNING: Today's blog might be a little boring, OK, REALLY boring for those of you who already know this stuff, but coming forthwith is a handy dandy little guide to roadside assistance for some who might want to know....roadside assistance is SEPARATE from your vehicle insurance. It's for emergencies of all types of problems you might occur on the road OR while sitting at your site.....If you still own a home, then your homeowner's insurance might cover you while traveling. We don't have a home, so we need more coverage as the RV IS our home. We learned the hard way not to be underinsured on the contents of our motorhome when our first one was vandalized and burglarized the first year we had it. But that's another issue---liability and theft coverages on a motorhome insurance policy. You need roadside assistance when driving a large motorhome as opposed to driving a car because anything that happens with an RV is going to be a lot bigger and a lot more expensive if something happen while driving.

We've been on the road almost three years and we wouldn't be out on the road if we didn't have a roadside assistance program. Many major RV companies offer a one year roadside assistance package when you purchase a new RV. After the first year, you need to find your own. We wanted ours to be tailored to our RV lifestyle and travel mode...Every RVer needs SOME kind of specific roadside assistance to deal with the travails of having a honkin' big motorhome if you have one, or a fifth wheel. And believe us, stuff is gonna happen. We pulled into a site our first year, and the cable broke on one of our slides. We had another instance another time when Eldo went to fill up a low tire, the valve stem pulled out and the tire went flat in 10 seconds! Those are just a couple of examples of things we've run into.

So what program do you pick and how do you know WHICH one is the best one?  It's hard to say! You have to just delve in and do your homework, try one, and if you don't like it, sign up for a different one the next year!  You can use your regular car insurance company, but we feel that's risky. We want a qualified EXPERT tow service sent out that knows what the requirements are for towing the many different types of RV's. We want a service that can advise some technical assistance to possible problems inside the coach before we panic and call an RV repair service.

Sparky will do her best to describe them but the little tiny details of what they cover and what they don't are hard to find between the lines of small print. We suggest reading forums on RV roadside assistance. We learn things all the time from those forums, and from personal blogger experience. Today we learned that Coach Net will come and help only if you are less than 100 feet from a maintained road, according to the Good Luck Ducks who boondock a lot. We didn't know that little fact!  Sparky has read a lot of forums and done a little bit of homework, not a lot. Sparky doesn't like doing homework, having been a former teacher and done plenty of it herself over the years. Every RVer has a slightly different situation depending on what insurance company they have for their coverage, and what and how they want to be covered. Here's what's out there, what we have, and what Sparky has read. Note: the links are usually to comparison charts so you know what different price plans offer for each service.

Coach Net: We had this program our first year and used it at least four times. We were VERY satisfied with it. We had three separate issues with our tires, and one time it was a problem with our slide out.  Each time Coach Net (comparison chart on this link) was very professional on the phone, service always came very promptly, the technicians that they had come out were terrific and we had ZERO problems with the service. Coach Net offers a one year plan for $139.50. If you own a fifth wheel, a pop up, a trailer, or don't have a vehicle you are towing, Coach Net offers a slightly cheaper plan called Coach Net Gold. Here's what you get for the motorhome plan (Platinum Plus) with a tow car:


Coverage includes Member, spouse and dependent children ages 24 and under,
for one RV and all other personal vehicles owned, rented, borrowed or leased.
Staffed with certified technicians and factory trained reps, available 24/7, who
help troubleshoot technical and operational matters and resolve any issues quickly.

Good Sam's: There are three different plans if you go with Good Sam's...The cost ranges from a basic roadside assistance for 79.95 for first time buyers, mid plan (Platinum) for  112.95, and Platinum Plus for 159.95. All 3 plans cover your RV and tow, unlimited distance and dollar towing to the NEAREST  SERVICE CENTER, protection in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and Mexico, vehicle locksmith service, battery jumpstart and service, flat tire service, emergency fluids and fuel delivery, and roadside RV mechanical repairs.  The basic plan does NOT cover sport utility trailers, protection for leased, rented, or borrowed vehicles, coverage for member owned vehicles loaned to family members, and you don't get to pick where you want your vehicle towed. The most expensive plan gives you free towing up to 100 miles from disablement and help arranging transportation for pets (dogs and cats) and covers you if you loan your vehicle to a family member. All three plans offer emergency medical referral service, trip interruption assistance, RV concierge, and AAMCO disounts. the mid price and the most expensive plan offer theft reward, home locksmith service, lodging and rental discounts. If you are not a Good Sam member, you pay an additional 10.00. We currently have Good Sam's as we signed up for cheaper insurance last year at a rally, and decided to go with their roadside assistance plan as well. We haven't had any claims on it, so we can't speak as to any problems......If you aren't happy with them, you can cancel any time during your membership and a refund is prorated.

Family Motorcoach Association (FMCA): FMCA partners with Coach Net to offer a roadside assistance program. Here is a comparison chart for the FMCA offerings. Under the FMCA banner, you can get Coach Net GOLD for 99.50, or Coach Net PLATINUM PLUS for 119.50. The chart lists very basic services--both plans offer emergency roadside assistance, RV technical assistance hotline, RV service appointment service, emergency trip interruption, nationwide trip routing, nationwide tire delivery service, and only the Platinum plan covers utility trailers and tow dollies, worldwide travel assistance, emergency medical assistance, and emergency travel assistance.  Now what exactly constitutes "emergency roadside assistance" is spelled out in membership brochures, I'm sure. The website says "special pricing for FMCA Members" but it doesn't say how much.

There are other programs out there as well... AAA Motorclub has some kind of assistance for RVers, but we couldn't track down any single place to read about it. You have to sign up in your state for AAA and then go from there. Not all regions for AAA offer RV coverage.

We have not heard of this company, but they offer RV roadside assistance...RV Rhino, $16.95 a month....This is an RVing group that has put together five basic packages that they think RVers need and bundled them together at an affordable price. One service they offer that the others don't is a computer support benefit...They will assist you with computer and connectivity issues....Nice touch...

If you are interested in finding out more about RV roadside assistance programs, you can check out the following forums.....links are provided.....
Escapees.....roadside assistance program suggestions....
RVnet forum....type in roadside assistance in the search line and a lot comes up about Good Sam's but we're sure there's more discussions to be found...

If you have anything to add about your personal experiences, we'd love for you to comment!

This has been a public service announcement...Back to our regularly scheduled programming and activities tomorrow.....  :-)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sparky's Definitely Feeling Better!

Sarasota, FL      High:  71    Low:   45

Sparky was feeling pretty sparky today....Off to swim exercise class this morning...working with styrofoam bar bells, stretches in the water, stomach crunches, twists, "moguls", "tantrums", "uppercuts", etc.  The volunteer(s) that run the class each morning have cute ways of calling out the exercises. It's a very good workout and deceptive as to how hard you are working your muscles. Sparky really enjoys it. She didn't even let a light rain discourage her from going, although all the way down to the pool on her bike, she was hoping there wasn't going to be a class. It was the kind of dreary gray morning that makes you just want to stay in your jammies and read a book.

Later this morning we headed over to Lakewood Ranch in Sarasota. Lakewood Ranch is an 8500 acre residential/shopping community with lots of housing choices loosely similar to the Villages in Florida, near Wildwood. Lakewood Ranch is a master planned community of seven villages started in 1995, and it is one of the largest certified green communities in the U.S. Over half of the land is devoted to trails, parks and recreational fun. Golf and tennis are big there, they have polo and cricket as well. Since there is a LOT of arts and culture in the Sarasota/Bradenton area, this community attracts lots of interest from all ages of people looking for a home in a better climate--young families, young professionals and of course, retirees.

We really enjoyed walking around the Main Street today. It was very quiet, not at all congested like the Villages are, but plenty of people were enjoying the balmy outdoor air and partly sunny skies today, with the high of 77...Sorry, northern folks, family and friends! You have our sympathy struggling with that ole jet stream dipping down farther than normal! The longer we stay in Florida, the more we forget what winter is like and how cold it must feel back home in Indiana! Eldo loves to tease his daughter in Milford, IN, about the "cold spell" that hit Florida recently...For one day, we had temps in the low sixties. Br-r-r--rr.......LOL! :-)  Not so funny up north.....heh, heh, heh.....

There are cool shops of all kinds around Main Street in Lakewood Ranch, from an artsy bead shop that offers classes, to make- your- own pottery-c'mon in and play shop, to clothing, to just about everything you can think of.
Naples Soap store--loofahs with glycerin soap in them, wonderful scents!
Sparky's bike needed fixing, the gears were out of whack and Eldy had seen a small bike shop on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch. Main Street is loaded with boutiques, all kinds of artsy craft and bead shops, fashion, restaurants and other stuff. We found Village Bikes to be a great bike shop for the repairs we needed to get Sparky rollin' again on her bike. We brought her bike in, asked how much a gear adjustment would cost, and they said about 10-12 dollars depending on what needed to be done. We said, great...and were ready to leave it. BUT--one of the repair guys said, let me take a quick look at it. (They were about two weeks out on repairs). He put it up on the bike stand, worked the gears, fixed the gear cable, tightened it, and at NO CHARGE. WOW! Thanks, guys! He said if Sparky had any more problems, bring it back in and they would get it right once again. A tuneup costs about 55.00 and the service for that was including EVERYTHING--taking the wheels off, truing the tires, lubing, etc. etc. We thought this was a GREAT bike shop and we'd definitely go back whenever we are in the Sarasota area. Good line of accessories, Specialized, Cannondale bikes and more......

After the bike repair and exploring Main Street a bit, we headed to MacAllister's Grill and Tavern for lunch...Lots of Scottish influence in the pub as to decor-it's a "genuine Scottish golf themed restaurant"-lots of golf stuff on the walls, plaid bench seating, Scottish foods on the menu. The people who started this restaurant came from Scotland so there's a little history behind the restaurant...Eldo had fish and chips, Sparky had bang bang chicken and portobello mushrooms, not so Scottish. Delish! Highly recommended.....

This afternoon, Sparky was on a roll....She headed over to the Spin Cycle class offered at Sun 'n' Fun and about died of exhaustion.... (I tried to dissuade her, I truly did, says E.) Sparky is fine, just plumb wore out! Legs are like Jello...It's been two weeks since she last hit spin cycle class....Time for an early bedtime...See you tomorrow.....

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Drum Circle Debacle and Decorum

Sarasota, FL     High:  74    Low:  55

Sparky said she wasn't going to talk about drum circle any more, we've shared a BUNCH of times that we've gone....But yesterday was the PITS!  It was a debacle, (Sparky just wanted to use a big words that had the "d-d-d" sound to it, explains Eldo.) It was a debacle-a sudden collapse and downfall- of what could have been another great experience for the TONS of people that were there as observers. But it wasn't, and here's why.....

The snowbirds are now here....The beach was busier, there were LOTS more people coming to the drum circle that have never heard of it before....We sat next to two sets of couples on each side of us that have been coming to Sarasota for YEARS and this was their first time to see it. There's so much to see and it's so fun to people watch! Kids have a great time....

Adults have a great time "letting it all hang out".....This gal had THE MOVES!
This gal had the spirit! She was passing out flowers to wear in your hair...

What people don't know is, there is a lot of significance to the drum circle participants. It's a way of bringing rhythm to a community of observers and performers..There are artistic dances that are done that mean a lot to the regular performers.

The performers work very hard to artistically present themselves to the public, these being both the drummers, the hoop dancers, and other performers. There's usually a gentleman with a bowler style hat that chants, uses feathers and does his "thing" before the drumming really gets going. We think he is performing some words and actions in honor of bringing the drumming community together with the public, or he's celebrating and thanking Mother Nature for yet another beautiful day in paradise. We're not sure exactly what that's all about, but he's a central figure in the whole event.

About an hour before sunset, the preparations begin. There is a lady who makes a special "altar" each time before the drumming starts.

A very big circle is drawn around which the performers and drummers hope the public will sit OUTSIDE the circle and leave the inner circle for the regular artistic dancers and ANYBODY who wants to move to the beat.

What's been happening the last three times we've gone, is people who don't know any better are not respecting the circle. It's pretty obvious when you first get there that observers are sitting all around the OUTSIDE of the circle. And when you see some of the wonderful hoop dancing, and regular dancing and understand that there is something special going on in the inner circle, you would think that people would stay on the outside and watch, 'cuz there's so much to see! And if you were a good observer, you'd see that if people want to dance, that it's OK to get inside the circle and do your thing! But it's not ok to just stand around and gawk inside the circle.

Lately, the last three times we've been there, the circle has started deteriorating very rapidly. Mothers come inside the circle and plop their little kids down to play, dump trucks and all. Adults come inside the circle to get a close up photo of the drummers, then just stand around and talk inside the circle to their friends. They start blocking the view of the people behind them who have patiently arrived an hour earlier to be able to sit around the circle. (Guess who that is?) We think the circle crashers just think it's a bunch of drummers on the beach since many of them probably haven't experienced the whole thing before and just come into the circle, not realizing it's something special.

There are some general, unspoken rules of drum circle decorum, and here they are:
1) Respect the inner circle. It's for performers and dancers of all ages.
2) Respect the performers' need for space. Hoops are large, swords are sharp!

3) If you want to drum, know that the regular drummers have the honorary central positions at the back ring of the circle. They WELCOME drummers with little or no experience, but it's probably not a good idea to park yourself in front of them, like these two fellas did. They were not in rhythm with the regulars and were not experienced. And they didn't have a clue, either!
4.) Spread the word about respecting the inner circle!

Sparky couldn't help it, but she started to get annoyed and frustrated about the crowds moving in. Here it's just starting....

And when she gets annoyed/frustrated with other people's behavior, teacher mode takes over, much to Eldo's chagrin and embarrassment. Sparky didn't think, she just acted. Up she jumped and went over to a bunch of thirty-something young guys and tried to explain that it was a performance circle. The guys just thought she was being a B****, and weren't very conducive to hearing anything Sparky had to say. Sparky went and sat down.  Later, a group of people came and stood right in front of us and didn't have a clue that they were blocking our view. Sparky asked them to move, politely. They did...But it was hopeless. The crowd continued to move in....They didn't even pay attention to the sunset, and that's an integral part of the whole drumming circle thing with the blowing of the conch shell heralding the beautiful sunset.

And finally, after yet another couple came and stood in front of us, and parked themselves there, we left, discouraged.......We're not sure we'll go back to Siesta Key Beach again this year...It's gotten too big and with no means of crowd control, it's just not the same any more....Best time to go is in December and early January, before the crowds get so big, we guess.......