Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Keepin' It Real version2

Wel-l-l-l...we made it to the Panhandle our first trip out. What a day it was! We made some mistakes, nothing major, but boy, do we need practice and adjusted checklists!

Sparky made checklists, but they quickly went out the window for a variety of good reasons...we got hitched up ok, but had trouble getting the water pump to work once we turned off the park electric. It turned out that we had to switch over from city water to rig water by turning a configuration of knobs in the wet bay which are very well labeled inside the wet bay. Problem #1 solved...and we set out. Problem #2...our first diesel fuel stop at a LOVE'S truck stop. We pulled up in trucker lane, which we now need to use because we are so big. The pump had a previous purchase on it which wouldn't clear. Sparky kept going back and forth between the office about three times. They thought we were doing the sequencing of the pump handles wrong. FORTY-FIVE MINUTES later, they determined the pump was faulty.  Around we went to another pump. Success! We got our fuel and DEF fuel, which is a cleaner to clean our exhaust to make it more environmentally friendly. By the way, for any traveling RVers, DEF fluid is very corrosive and comes out FAST from the pump, so a word of caution when you are pumping it. If you spill any, you have to wash it off immediately.

Problem #3--we carefully had planned our route and campground stops along the way. Tonight we were supposed to stay at a park called A Stone's Throw RV park, just off of I-10, in Lamont, FL. We use a travel app called Trip Wizard which is excellent. The reviews did not mention any problems, and the park description said "big rig friendly". HA! It should have said, "smaller big rig friendly"! We weren't going to fit, it was too tight for us to maneuver through the small park, the sites were very uneven gravel sites, so we left. This was at 5:00PM. The great thing about technology is you can find RV parks and call them while driving down the road, that is, if you have a well charged up phone. 

Problem #4--Sparky is used to a motorhome. She forgot that some essentials were needed to be moved from the 5th wheel to the truck, because once you close up all the slides, you can't get back to access parts of the fifth wheel when the slides are all in. Guess what Sparky and Eldo forgot put in the truck? Phone charging cables....Sparky's phone was dying fast, and we had to find another RV park Sparky was starting to panic because Eldo was relying on her to find another place to stay. Eldo was being SUPER patient about it, but Sparky was about ready to cry. (I didn't know that! says Eldo) So he pulls into rest stop, and by the time Sparky got back from the restroom, he had another park lined up and it was a terrific solution! FOUR hundred miles later, much more than we had planned driving, we landed at the Hitching Post, a delightful, charming little park in Cottondale, FL.

We found this park using the RV Life app....it has discounts for all military, first responders, seniors, and summer rates. Free firewood! The owners are wonderful and super friendly. The sites are level gravel, and it's a small park with the old campground feel we knew as kids. There are pull thru sites up to 110 feet long. 24 sites, that's it, but full hookups, 30-50 amps on every site. Some sites have fire rings. The sites are spaced nicely.

There is a little lake with two little paddleboats for use, along with two dog parks with comfortable swings to watch your fur babies play. You can fish in the pond/lake for big mouth bass, catfish, and more, no license needed. They have a horse and donkey as well.....Who like to be fed.

The whole park is very charming...no amenities but Love's Truck Stop and McDonald's is right outside the park, along with highway 231, which will make for a little noise at night, but we didn't hear it with the AC's running.

Prices are very reasonable...Passport America accepted, Escapees, veterans, and RV washing is allowed! (That's a rarity).

We loved this little park, and would definitely stay here again....Today we leave for Alabama, for a Corps of Engineer park....off we go!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Sparky Has Fun at Sun 'n' Fun

We've been laying low at Sun 'n' Fun....trying to clean out the storage shed. We are not getting very far...there's just too much stuff! (You mean, too much crap! explains Eldo.) Well, you can't just empty out an entire 8X10 ft. craft room and manage to get it all into an RV. (Well, I COULD if I just had some more bays. Some really tough decisions have been going on the past couple of days. Give away? Donate? Sell? Trash? We've also been shopping...not the most fun shopping, shopping for things like a 30 amp adaptor for the electric service at RV parks in case you can't get 50 amp service, buying potty deodorizer, etc. 

                                                                                                                                                                      In between sweltering heat and humidity, Sparky has been taking a lit
tle time down at the beautiful pool. There's a waterslide there, so she just HAD to try it! It's been so long she had to ask a little girl there,"What's the best way to go down?" And that little girl just happened to be a former student of Sparky's subbing days! She yells excitedly, "MRS. SPARKS!" and came running to give Sparky a really big hug! 

We had fun going down the slide. Sparky made the mistake of laying down on her back the very first time down. That makes you slide and ricochet like a BULLET and go really really fast, which scared the crap out of Sparky. The rest of the time, she sat up and leaned forward, which was not quite as fast. Whew! Eldo got a few photos. This is probably the best one to the right.

It's our last day here at Sun 'n' Fun. We are trying to get the bicycle hitch secure behind the fifth wheel, (we lost the main bolt in moving), finish up purchasing odds and ends, and getting laundry done, but now it's time to say our goodbyes....Goodbye to Holly's Quarter Cup Cafe, our favorite place to eat breakfast that's VERY reasonable, who the owner tries very very hard to keep her customers safe and healthy while eating there. She has a great personality, good food, and her daughters help out, too...This is her cart she made to serve her customers condiments.
IMPORTANT PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Blogger has changed their program MAJORLY. Sparky is having all kinds of trouble with the new one. So for awhile, please excuse any funkiness with the blog.  It's really being problematic and very difficult to use. Thank you for hanging in there. Not only that, but Sparky's space bar is not working right. It's taking two hits to make a space. Sparky will be prattling along only to realize, the space bar isn't spacing. Phooey! And the Apple stores are closed, many of them.

More goodbyes...to our friends, Larry and Suzette Kurfis, who we met years ago when we were first full timing and who love Sun 'n' Fun so much, they are here pretty much year round. Goodbye to all the wonderful teachers at FRUITVILLE ELEMENTARY, who have sustained me, shown me love and support, and asked for me to sub. Please keep reading and stay in touch, you guys! Love you all! Love to all the wonderful students who gave me so much love and affection the SEVEN years I was there. Wow, what a wonderful school!

Goodbye to the Sage Biscuit Cafe...they finally got their act together and got the mask thing going...we LOVE their breakfasts! It was a Sunday morning regular habit. Sparky loves the egg croissant sandwich with bacon and Swiss cheese, and Eldo loved the sausage biscuits and gravy.

Goodbye to my friend and confidante on Stone River Road, Stephanie Norden. She's great! and her husband, Brian, with his great wit, who keeps everyone on their toes. Stay in touch, friends!

Goodbye to Anna Maria Island...for now....many posts on Facebook with the fantastic view of the Gulf on Sunday mornings. Gulf Gate Cafe, we will miss you, too!

Goodbye to Celery Fields, the heart and soul of many birders. Sparky hiked the Big Hill for three straight months, once school closed. Almost every day, up and down that big hill and round and round. Home to many beautiful bird species and spoonbills, Sparky's favorite Florida bird.

There are so many more goodbyes to places and memories and friends...it makes Sparky a little sad to try and remember them all. So in order to not be sad, we will say, whomever we forgot, we didn't forget you, we won't forget you, and we will be back!

So...the big question..."Where are you headed to next?" We are going to work our way north, towards Tennessee, to see Eldy's daughter and family, then to Indiana, to see Eldy's son and his family, then after that...maybe the Dakotas! Or Michigan! or the Plains states which we have not visited yet. We shall see!  Bye for now.....

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sun 'n' Fun, One of Our Favorite Places!

It is so great to be back at Sun 'n' Fun! We stayed 8 months last time, until we were ready to buy a house in Sarasota. We loved it so much. It's a first class resort with tons of amenities. Beautiful humongous pool, first class workout facilities, all kinds of classes in the winter months, weekly live music, bar and restaurant poolside, etc., etc. It's a little heavy on the park models, and we keep saying, eventually, it will be mostly park models, we think.

We have a pull thru site...gravel parking lot, narrow paved curving road leading to our site, but we got in just fine in our big rig and truck. Sites are VERY close to each other. Passport America current rate is 43.00 a night...that changes according to the time of year, of course.We are in the middle of summer, almost August, and it's HOT. 90's every day...sigh...but--there's this....That structure in the upper left corner is a climbing wall. Sparky wants to climb it. Eldo says she's too old. Sounds like a challenge!
And here's a poolside bar.....(there's a restaurant on the same side and a walk up window where you can order food.) Social distancing says you can't sit at the bar, but you can carry your drink to one of the spaced out sets of tables and chairs.
There's a water slide...Sparky might do that....(Hmmmmm...says Eldo, maybe that one's ok....)
The park is for families, of course, and Sparky is so happy to see young children riding their bikes around, and squealing with laughter and having a great time with their families. She's missed that environment. 

Eldo keeps reminding her that we are here to clear out the storage shed, but we've already extended our stay, because 1.) it's too hot to rush moving boxes and unpacking, 2.) we have to take things a little more easy with our age . So....here we go....Time to relax in the evening! The pool is heavily chlorinated. (Gee, I wonder why?)  Bring your goggles! Sparky has to find hers!

This really is a jewel of an RV park and
a wonderful place to start our travels...We are going to the Dodge dealer this week to find out more information about our truck, and every day will be sorting, unpacking and moving....sigh.....good exercise! Keep your chin up, Sparky! You can do it! Minimalism is good! 

Bye for now....this is the life.....This is what we were hoping to be able to do once again, and here we are, "on the road again..."

Keepin' It Real

We left Lazy Days after taking possession of our Dodge Ram truck and Pinnacle fifth wheel, on Thursday. Our first camping spot was going to be at Sun 'n' Fun in Sarasota. Sun 'n' Fun is a Passport America park, so we have a good daily rate for the moment. We stayed for several months over the winter 8 years ago, and we absolutely loved it. After getting some advice and how to's from a Lazy Days service team member (who had such a heavy Spanish accent, we had a hard time understanding him), we were on our way. Eldo and Sparky are newbies at fifth wheeling, real green horns! We were both nervous, as we got our instructions in the rain. Sparky tried writing things down, that didn't work, and it was too hard to get photos on the phone. We were both trying to decipher what he was saying! But we thought we had enough knowledge to get rolling, so off we drove, and promptly drove over a curb on the way out of Lazy Days. 

It rained all the way from Seffner to Sarasota, and when we pulled into our pull through site, (it's gonna be pull throughs for awhile till we get some practice backing in, says Eldo) it started raining harder. Great! We got 3/4 unhitched, and then we got stuck. Both of us were trying to say that the other person was supposed to have been listening! You know, like, "I thought you were watching what he did." "You were the one watching him, I was busy...." blah, blah, blah. We couldn't get the hitch bar (whatever you call the thingamagingy) pulled all the way out. Sparky, being the more agile one, climbed up on the tire, trying to reach inside to pull it out the rest of the way, but just didn't have enough strength. Of course we didn't have our rain gear, it's packed in a box somewhere! What box, we don't know. We eventually had to call maintenance from the park. A young man came out and with one strong pull, he got it to release! Whew! Soaking wet, we hooked up everything else and got dried off....stay tuned for photos from Sun 'n' Fun! We have a long hard week ahead, trying to find places for things in the fifth wheel, and trying to give away or pitch things that we really don't need. (like Sparky's craft supplies that took up an entire room at our old house, explains Eldo)....haha, very funny! But hey, Sparky will change what crafts she does on the road, and it's a good thing to become a minimalist, right, Sparky? Right? (sniff, sniff)

Bye for now......

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

On the Road Again!!!!!

Wha-a-a-a-a-t??? Sparky and Eldo are going back out on the road again???  In WHAT? :-).  Well it's a long story, but here it is...We've been dying in the Florida summer heat for the past few years now. Just like everywhere else, it's getting hotter and hotter. The almost daily afternoon rain/cooling off pattern has not been happening. So, we decided if we could do it and could sell our house, we would get back out on the road.

The process was a long one. We put our house on the market last January, and had our first offer come in shortly thereafter. It fell through. We cleaned and cleaned and waited for more buyers. They came--all the way through the pandemic. Another offer came in, right as the pandemic was getting started. The deal fell through with a buyer from New York whose business was now in jeopardy from the pandemic. He balked and walked  Interest was still very high, and all during that time, we were looking for the right RV. We started with fifth wheels and moved over to motorhomes, then back to fifth wheels. We decided that a fifth wheel, although more difficult to park and unhook, was the right way to go as the main part of the whole trailer component-the truck- was easier to take to a dealership for problems than having to sit in a motorhome in a repair place for days at a time and maybe having to sit in a hotel which would be worse.

June 25th...the house sells! That was an interesting story in itself. Buyers were checking out our backyard and lanai while we were home. They thought we were gone. Sparky went out and said, "May I help you? Did you lose a golf ball?" and we started talking. It turns out they had made an offer and were waiting to hear back from us! Sparky added, while talking, "Hey, we even threw in the furniture!" Well that sealed the deal!  They accepted!

It's crunch time and time to make a decision. After many trips back and forth to different dealers, we fell in love with a packaged deal of a fifth wheel AND the truck, all together. And here it is! A 2019 Pinnacle 36 foot FTBS...about 40 feet, and a Dodge Ram Longhorn Laramie dually. It will tow ANYTHING! They are even color coordinated with each other!
The inside is quite dark but Sparky plans on adding some lively pillows and throws to brighten things up a bit. It has a "fireplace" /space heater that looks very realistic! There is even a large, walk in cedar lined closet!
Where are we going first, you ask? We don't know yet! We still have a storage shed unit in Bradenton that we have to get rid of, and Sparky is a little worried that more crafts are going to have to be donated to Goodwill... But we  WILL be headed north for sure. There is a tropical storm developing and it's that "H" season, ya know, so north is good. We'll keep you posted! Stay tuned for a thorough review of the Pinnacle as we get living in it full time. Sparky says, the storage is very funky in it! (Geesh! we just got it and already she's complaining, says Eldo.)

It's good to be back on the road again......bye for now.....

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Days Go Slowly By.....

It's been really difficult these past couple of months, being away from the kids at school. Subbing kept Sparky filled with a purpose and out of Eldo's hair for a bit. Sparky is not sure if schools will ever return to the same model, if subs are even going to be needed, or what that whole scenario is going to look like, when school resumes. BUT---we have our house on the market here in Bradenton, FL, and we are hoping, hoping, hoping, that the house will eventually sell, and we can get back to traveling full time in a motorhome, because we really, really miss it!

Last week was Teacher's Appreciation Week, a poignant time for many regular teachers missing their students, who are attempting to keep things going with the educational process at home with distance learning under great duress and exceptional circumstances...You wouldn't expect substitutes to be given a shout out, but Sparky's school honored their substitutes with a ding dong dash--a great sign and a little gift bag placed on the sidewalk...Awwww...one reason she loves her school she subs at so much!

In the meantime, we have worked hard at staying home with minimal trips to the grocery, wearing masks, washing our hands a bazillion times a day, and working on yard work and inside little jobs. Sparky has been crafting up a storm making cards for her shop, JeanBeanGifts on Etsy.
Card in a box

Eldy is researching, researching, researching motor homes, costs, and RV travel videos on YouTube. We'll be ready if the times comes! Things are looking better and better as campgrounds open back up. It will be awhile anyway, till we might be able to do anything, so fingers crossed!

We'll see if cards make a comeback now that people have to stay apart more and can't visit as much. Sparky has also been walking Celery Fields and "the Hill" in Sarasota, (the Audubon nature preserve) almost every day for three weeks, and has lost some weight, due to not eating out. Celery Fields gets a LOT of walkers and runners due to the challenging "Hill", 85 high, the highest point in Sarasota County. The high schoolers cross country teams come out and train there several times a week.

Gaillardia-blanket flower
Celery Fields, besides the acreage and many marshes where many migratory species and native Floridian birds hang out, has a nice little butterfly garden that attracts painted buntings, sparrows, cardinals and many other little birds to its bubbling bird bath and plant oasis garden where you can sit in a gazebo and bird watch. Lots of beautiful flowers planted there to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Now that the beaches are open...they first opened last week for a defined two hour stay only, then one week later, it's now back to regular times. Sparky and Eldo headed to Coquina Beach, to break up our daily stay at home routine, a welcome break for sure! 

Today, Thursday, the picnic areas under the shade of the pines were mostly empty, the beach--definitely not. There were quite a few sun worshippers, but they were spaced out and were following social distance guidelines. 
Sparky walked the beach for a bit.....

We stayed in the shade for about two hours, then headed back
home. It was a beautiful day! But LOTS of wind.....We always tell ourselves, "We need to come here more often!" And we will....

Bye for now......

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

It's Hamsterkäufe Time!

What a great word--Hamsterkaufe--a German word for a hoarding, panic shopper. I'm sure you have seen plenty of that all over the country as of late. I wanted to do a blog about this time in our lives, because it changed so fast, it was mind blowing.

We put our house on the market around January 10 of this year, and immediately had LOTS of interest. We had 19 showings in less than 6 weeks. We had an offer the first week. Wifey overruled her hubby. He wanted a house on the golf course, she wanted a newer one. Wifey won. Round 2, off and running again with the sale. We were planning on buying an RV and hitting the road again once we got a sale and closed. As the showings increased, we got more excited and started RV shopping--just looking. The buyer wanted a closing date within 3 weeks. We said yes. It was getting closer and closer to closing, and then--coronavirus hit and the stock market dropped like a rock. The buyer backed out. 

Corona virus, or Covid-19 first came on the radar around December. The first case has been traced back to an elderly man in Wuhan, China in November. Come to think of it, we weren't even aware of the virus at the time we put our house on the market in January. But as February came and went, the virus exploded with all its ramifications. And here we are now, with everyone else, wondering when the lockdown is going to happen, if there is going to be a lockdown nationwide, and Sparky is wondering if she will ever get back to subbing this year before June. Schools here in southwest Florida are currently closed for three weeks, but some in other states, they are closed for the rest of the school year. Schools are going to provide drive up meals here in Sarasota, and restaurants are being forced to shift their focus from inside dining to carry out. The fall out is going to be huge. Many small businesses won't make it. Parents will lose their jobs because they have no day care for their school age kids. My grandson's school sent extensive emailed daily instruction plans to his mom for instructing him at home. Some schools have shifted to "E-learning". Some schools are just in a holding pattern, lacking the resources to provide learning at home. There are many fabulous sources for school age kids having to stay at home on extended break on the Internet right now...virtual field trips, great reading lists, great activities--(many we used to do when we boomers were little kids--imagine that!) Here's a link to start the ball rolling...

And now, we have "social distancing". It was already bad enough that society is extremely fragmented and fragile right now with the current political scene, and cellphones have overtaken eye to eye contact and the ancient art of conversation and listening skills, but now we have to socially distance ourselves from each other. No groups of more than 10 should congregate anywhere, and when in the presence of another person, stay 6 feet apart.  So sad...but necessary to stem and level off the curve of the rapidly expanding virus.

mid day at Costco on a Monday
Back to Hamsterkäufe time.....As the virus escalated, we decided along with everyone else, that maybe we should stock up a bit on groceries and necessities like toilet paper and paper towels, just in case we were going to be housebound for a bit. And that's where the panic buying started....We just wanted to find a pack of toilet paper, and there was none to be found. Why is toilet paper to be in such short supply? Hand sanitizer is understandable. Chlorox wipes are understandable. Buying multiple packs of toilet paper to stock up for 8 months is NOT understandable. It's not like it's a diarrhea virus going around or that there is a truckers' strike. At our local Costco, the line for toilet paper and paper towels was over a 100 people, being tightly controlled by employees and there were so many people coming into the store, they had to shut the doors for awhile during the day, having reached total allowable capacity. We encountered empty shelves devoid of not only toilet paper, and paper goods, but the also meat and canned goods everywhere we looked. As fast as stores could restock, they were emptied out again and again. And this continues to be the case, day after day after day. We are into only the first week of social distancing and the strong recommendation to STAY HOME, but if you have to shop, as fast as the stores restock, they continue to run out unless you get lucky and get there at the right time.

Why are so many people panic buying?  Sparky culled some of the theories out there, and here they are....
1. When people are stressed, their reasoning is stressed. They look around to see what other people are doing, and it's the "herd" mentality that kicks in, with a snowballing effect. When we don't know what to do, we look to others to see what to do.
2.  This is a virus we know nothing about. When there's a flood or hurricane, people know what supplies to buy. When it's the unknown, people panic and become a little neurotic, so they gravitate towards larger objects to make them feel more in control. Large toilet paper packages make people feel more secure. (BWAHAHAHAHAHA....Eldo is rolling on the floor, laughing his you-know-what off. Hey, Sparky is just reporting generalities here, nothing very scientific.)
3. People are having an overabundance of fear, so in order to rationalize that, the need to affirm they are doing the right thing by stocking up, overwhelms the thought that they don't need to be doing that. Or something like that....lol.

Therefore....All that = a shortage of toilet paper (and hand sanitizer).  Maybe it's because there's a lady in Australia (true story, not fake news) that accidentally bought 48 boxes of toilet paper instead of a 48 rolls online.  She failed to notice the massive credit card bill until the pallets started arriving to her home in Queensland. The name of the supplier?  "Who Gives a Crap?"   And Sparky is going to end with that.....

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

It's Been a LONG Time, How the Heck Are Ya?

We're doing great....Sparky and Eldo are getting the hitch itch...so it's off to the Tampa RV show tomorrow (Thursday). Sparky has been super busy subbing, Eldo has been super busy golfing. Today, Sparky went off to Matlacha to see her sister, who is down there for a few weeks. Sparky is just like her sister, we both love Matlacha.
It's a little ocean town full of quirky shops and equally quirky paint colors for the many, many home rentals there. It's a very SMALL town with one main drag, and parking is at a premium. That being said, you can walk all over town to get to restaurants and shops if you have the legs for it. People are very polite and friendly about letting you out onto the main drag after coming out of a restaurant parking lot. AND, they actually stop for pedestrians crossing the street! (A Florida law, but not all the tourists are aware of that.)
One of the shops
We decided to go kayaking, and we picked the perfect day to go. Sparky's sister is 77 and still loves to kayak and do stuff! Sparky hopes she will be that energetic in about 8 years from now! It couldn't have been a better day. Waters were calm, not a cloud in the sky, a slight breeze blowing.

We didn't see any wildlife...wrong time of day, we thought, for dolphins, which are usually hanging out around the main bridge.
Correction...we did see one pink flamingo....haha. Looked pretty real, until you got up close.

We were out for about two hours, exploring and talking up a storm. 
My sis has been through a lot...breast cancer three times, and a heart attack. She's doing better than ever and I'm so proud of her! She works hard to take care of herself and has a wonderful sense of humor and a wonderful, funny husband who looks out for her, too. We had a terrific time....we got back and decided to go for lunch on the water....
a nod to Florida's Spanish heritage
We ate at the Yucatan, which is a newly named restaurant in the old Sandy Hook (?) building on the island. It was delicious. Sparky highly recommends the Yucatan bread which is like the local "beach bread" that many of the restaurants serve--sort of a cheesy garlic bread with chopped tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and some delicious seasonings. Sparky also had clam chowder which was good, but not fantastic (a little too "gummy" for her taste)...and a nice house salad. Sis had clams in wine sauce which she really liked.
one of many murals--this one as you pass by on the water

Soon, it was time to head back to Sarasota/Bradenton....If you have never visited Matlacha and like quirky little artist colony/towns with lots of little shops to browse in and lots of choices for on the water dining, you will love Matlacha. (pronounced Mat-la-shay). 

Sparky and Eldo are headed to the Tampa RV show tomorrow. We are just looking....But we do miss RVing very much so we want to go see the latest and greatest at the show...

Bye for now!