Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Think That I Shall Never See... many different things up in a tree. With apologies to Joyce Kilmer.

Pretty lights which have yet to be lit because no one has been at the rv on the site yet this week.

A nail driven too deeply to be of use and off center enough to bother me.

No crabbiness going on here as the owners of this little guy are in absentia also.

Instead of stuff on cats, cats in trees. "I think I can, I think I can..."

Prosthetic leg. Seriously.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Not a Fan

I'm not a big fan of country western music, but I was reading the Wagonteamster's blog yesterday and he talked about one of his favorite songs there. Since I'm always curious to hear what other people's taste in music is, I clicked the link to People Are Crazy by Billy Currington. And you know what? Darned if I didn't like the video. Perhaps because I've spent evenings in bars talking to total strangers about shoes and ships and sealing wax so I could relate. Perhaps it's because he has a winsome smile, crinkly eyes and curly hair. Whatever the reason, I'm sharing it with you.

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Wandering the Soggy, Boggy Campground

Patches and I have had to tip toe around the grounds and roadways of the campground ever since we arrived Monday due to all the rain this area has had recently. It means we don't get too far off the edges of the roadway but I have managed to grab a few photos here and there.

The Beast is nestled in a patch of live oaks. So far it's been too cold to sit outside and enjoy our camp site.

As the cat and I wandered up the road I saw what appeared to be a brace of ducks hanging from a tree and I thought the hunter had gone WAY over his limit. Then as we got closer, I realized these were groups of duck decoys. Duh.

A sparkle caught my eye in the early morning light and I discovered a square dew covered spider's web on top of the weedy grass.
Picking our way across the soggy grounds Patches and I looked for roseate spoonbills which have been known to stop here to feed. There are two nice sized ponds on the property and the campers avoid feeding the ducks and geese so they don't become a nuisance when you walk the periphery of the pond.

So far all I've seen on the pond are coots (the black ducks with white bills) and canvas back ducks (gray with a brown head.)
There are turtles that were sunning themselves on the bank of the pond until we walked by, then they moved to the water where they peeked out at us.
The heron wasn't too disturbed by us, although he kept a wary eye out in case we wandered too close.
Later in the day I dragged Denny out for a walk where we discovered these black bellied whistling ducks standing on the dock all facing in one direction. We have no idea what they were watching because there was nothing in the direction they were facing.
Here's their perch. If you click on the photo (which you can do to enlarge any of them at any time) you can read the warning sign about the alligator. When we were last here five years ago, the alligator was a huge one and management had hired a professional alligator remover to catch the big guy and move him out. It didn't happen. I guess there's a reason big alligators get to grow so big--they are wily.
There are a lot of strange and unfamiliar bird calls that I hear coming from the thickets near us so I'm looking forward to seeing some new birds before we leave here. Southern and coastal Texas is known to be a good migratory path for birds so I'm hoping to get lucky with some nice photos before we get out of the state.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Me? Controversial?

In June of last year we attended the Cody, Wyoming nightly rodeo. Denny and I had a new camcorder that we had purchased to take with us to Alaska for our land tour/cruise and we wanted to practice using it so we took it along to the rodeo with us. I posted a video of a cute young lady riding a miniature horse in the barrel racing competition and seven months later I am still getting comments on a video clip that I innocently posted as something cute.

So what do you think?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Deep In The Heart Of Texas--Kinda

We have arrived in Beaumont, Texas for the night. Last night our water lines almost froze, allowing just a trickle of water through for some scary moments before the water started running more freely. We're tired of the cold, but had to wait for a couple of special deliveries to the campground after a few things fried when we had the electrical problem in Robertsdale, Alabama. Tomorrow we'll head to Rockport, Texas for two weeks and we're hoping for slightly warmer temperatures and getting in a couple of trips to the Big Fisherman restaurant for their chicken fried steak and margarita specials and also getting a couple of things straightened out with our tires. We had a flat tire on the trailer this morning before we left and we're hoping it's a misplaced washer on our tire pressure monitor and not a nail or bad valve. Replacing the tire was an hour's delay to our departure, but that was an annoyance, not a disaster. And that's kind of a nice change of pace for us.

I'll probably whine about the wind once we arrive in Rockport, but we arrive in Texas knowing that it is going to be windy here. Very, very windy. It will be windier still in Harlingen, but Don, Vicki, Dan and Dee are already at the campground we've chosen so there will be dinners and happy hours and campfires and talking and golf and fun. It will be Myrtle Beach without the beach. And I'm ready for some fun after all the cold and rain and dreariness and stupid stuff going wrong with The Beast. Because isn't that the whole point to all of this--to have fun? As Denny and I like to say; "we deserve it." Heh.

So here's hoping for some more upbeat posts in the next few weeks. It's about time, don'cha think?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Abita Springs Golf Club

There aren't a lot of choices to play golf near Abita Springs, Louisiana but fortunately the one course near our campground is a fun one.

Mondays and Wednesdays are Seniors and Ladies Day at the golf course so you can play a round of golf for $25 with a riding cart. When Denny and I arrived for our tee time there was a crowd of men ready to tee off who I'm sure were locals taking advantage of the good price and the fact that Wednesday was the warmest day that we had had for a week, although that wasn't saying much. It was overcast, cold and breezy and I was prepared for a miserable day with my tight muscles and sore back.

Indeed both Denny and I started off playing poorly (it was COLD!) but eventually the wind died down and the sun started trying to peek out of the clouds and the two of us settled down to hit a few good shots. This was the first golf course I've ever played where the green were brown; whatever grass they use for their greens apparently goes into hibernation and changes color. Very strange and hard to find the greens when you are playing a strange golf course for the first time. The course itself is a bit short with the yardage on the hole markers and score cards in no way matching where the grounds crews have set the tee markers. So picking a club to hit was a guessing game off the tee although there are the standard yardage markers along the sides of the fairways after you hit your tee shot. Denny played the white tees at 6065 yards with a slope/rating of 124/69.3 while I played the red tees at 4645 yards with a slope/rating of 112/66.8. We were surprised to see that all of the men playing in front of us were playing from the "senior" tees at what we thought was a relatively short golf course.

I have to say Denny and I will need to return to this course to play it again due to the cold weather, the fact that we had torrential rains the night before which made the golf course very boggy (it was cart-path only that day) and the greens were "dead". The course was actually in good condition otherwise and it was obvious the players fixed their ball marks on the greens and their divots in the fairways, which can be rare. The two of us managed to stay out of the sand traps which was good because all the sand traps were mini-ponds due to the rain. There are a lot of ponds and lakes and creeks on this course so you should be prepared to lose a ball or two when you play here.

Once the sun finally came out Denny and I settled down to play some better golf so we'll put this course on our "we'll be back" list.
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A Fun Nine Holes

This post is a tad late. Denny and I played the Suwannee Country Club golf course on January 3. We waited until late in the afternoon since we had had four days of miserably cold weather for the Florida panhandle and we weren't sure if the afternoon was going to warm up enough for comfortable play. Fortunately, this is only a nine hole golf course, although the manager was kind enough to offer us a discount ($14 each to play which included the riding cart) for arriving at 3PM plus he told us he'd discount another nine even more should we chose to continue after our first nine holes. Nice people here.

The course is in hibernation and they had just fertilized the greens so it was a bit rough putting. However, while the golf course itself is a bit short at 3087 yards for the men's tees and 2395 yards for the women's tees it plays a lot harder than that. If you play eighteen holes, there is a second set of tees and therefore the men's yardage on the back nine is 3024 for a total of 6111 yards and the women's yardage is 2440 for a total yardage of 4835 yards. I don't have the slope/ratings for this course. There are multiple sand traps placed right in front of your shot to the greens and the greens themselves have slopes and slants that you misread so it is a challenge indeed.

Since we started so late, Denny and I rushed our shots a bit, trying to make sure we finished before dark and therefore we didn't play as well as we could have and we didn't give the golf course the chance it deserved to be played well. While short, the course is fun and certainly it wasn't busy at twilight on a winter's day. We would definitely give this little course another chance on another day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oops, We Did It Again

Yep, it's deju vu all over again, as Yogi would say. Arrived in Robertsdale to spend one night en route to Louisiana; plugged in our 50 amp power cord, had power briefly, heard our voltage meter alarm go off, saw that it read "HI!!! as in TOO HIGH!!!!!" and the power went out. Called the campground manager, turned on the ceiling fan (battery operated) because of the horrible smell of burning wire/rubber/plastic coming from the area of the bathroom. The manager come over, checked the 50 amp outlet at the power box; all okay. He plugged in our cord directly to the power box, bypassing our surge protector and we had electric but when he tested the voltage in one of our outlets it read 220 volts. Not good in a 110 volt system. We immediately went outside and turned off the circuit breaker but the damage had been done; burned out--the bedroom DVR (again), the projector alarm clock (again), the Wii game console (again) and something new--the motor to Denny's electric powered recliner (yes, he's spoiled and maybe a little lazy.) Knock on wood, this time the central vac, the washer, the microwave and the TV made it through unscathed. We called in a professional who arrived within 30 minutes (thank goodness because it was cold outside and I didn't want to try to run the furnace on battery power until I knew what was going on with the rig.) After listening to our explanation of what happened, he went outside to the power box and checked our plug to our 50 amp power cord (the one that had been replaced when we had our power outage/loss of appliances in September of 2010). After taking it apart he showed us what he found; the copper wires had pulled away from the contacts they were supposed to be screwed into and while loose had made contact with each other, thus created a 220 volt charge. Wow! And did I mention that with the burning smell there was no smoke and therefore no alarm from the smoke detector? But there was obviously hot stuff going on inside? Yeowch! We watch the service tech reconnect the wires, tightening them down firmly and he warned Denny to be careful using the electric hose reel for the power cord as that can pull on the plug causing it to loosen the wires also. Great. But now we know. So, more money out of pocket from not-so-good workmanship by a Heartland dealer. More tension in the RV Vagabonds household. And quite frankly, I left messages with the kids letting them know where we were parked just in case we burned up in the rig overnight. This is not a fun way to live.

A day later and we're in Louisiana. Today our new DVR arrived (pretty impressive on the part of DISH network) and we picked up another Wii game console. The Amish folk that built our recliner will be sending a new transformer to see if that works, to be followed by a new motor if it doesn't. Another alarm clock has been ordered, there's no smell of burning wires and we haven't noticed any other problems with the electricity or appliances yet, although I haven't actually tried to do a load of clothes yet in the washing machine or dryer. Perhaps it's time for a betting pool on what will go wrong next with The Beast. What do you think?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Off to a Roaring Start

It's my fault. I did it. I responded to the comment of a friend on F*cebook, saying that all was well with The Beast. Yep, jinxed myself for the new year.

It started simply enough; it was time to change the water filter to the ice maker/water dispenser in the refrigerator. That sounds relatively easy, but it entails removing half the contents of our basement storage bin (very large space indeed), removing a large panel and then Denny has to crawl inside the bin to access the water filter (which is actually a whole house type filter.) He finished that job, turned the water back on and realized he had a sizable leak in the compartment. Not from the water filter, but from somewhere along the water lines. After a couple of minutes, Denny discovered the leak was coming from the water heater bypass valve. Taking it apart, he discovered that one hose nib had been glued/screwed in, leading us to believe that the factory installers over tightened the piece when screwing it in and instead of taking the entire piece out, they just glued it. We weren't sure that it wasn't the brass water bypass valve itself, so I called the nearest RV parts dealer which was 35 miles away in Panama City. The lady wasn't sure she had our part, but thought they did. Of course, once we drove all the way down there we discovered they didn't have the bypass valve, but they did have the plastic hose nib, so we bought that. The service techs were kind enough to dig out the old plastic part for us since Denny didn't have the taps to do it and back we went. Fifteen minutes later the water bypass valve was back in place and psshhhh! Water everywhere. It seems one of the other plastic nibs had a crack. By now it was too late to go back to Panama City so we went waterless for the evening. And before you ask, yes, we have a water pump and water in the fresh water tank but using the water pump was the same as using fresh water from the hose; it sent water gushing out of the leaking plastic part all over the storage bin, soaking the floor and who knows what underneath the flooring. So it was buckets and water heated on the stove for the rest of the evening and this morning. Roughing it.

This morning entailed yet another 60+ mile round trip to Panama City to the hardware store to buy the plastic parts (several, this time) and return home to install them. Denny put it all together, I turned on the water, we held our breath. No leak. Yay! I crawled into the bin, sopped up all the water from last night, Denny put all our "stuff" back into the storage bin and we came inside where we crossed our fingers that this would be the last of the "what nows?" for a while. Because that was the fourth leak in the fourth different place in this rig so far. Not that I'm counting. *sigh*

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Panama City Beach Redux

Yep, that was our pride and joy, our first motorhome. A 1993 Winnebago Vectra and for our maiden voyage we shanghaied our youngest, Darby, and took off for Panama City Beach the first week of April, 1993. We had no tow dolly so we couldn't tow my little Mazda truck behind the Vectra so we just drove the motorhome down, figuring we could walk to the beach and tourist attractions. We were such innocents then. Luckily our campground was only a block north of the beach. It was there that Denny and I met our first sets of "full timers" who introduced us to the concept of the 4 o'clock happy hour and who managed to plant the seed of our eventual choice to go fulltiming ourselves. This on our very first trip out in our shiny new motorhome.

Of course Denny and I drove down to the beach not realizing it was spring break and that at the time, Panama City was one of the hottest places to go. Also I did not stop to think that a soon-to-be 16 year old would NOT want to be seen with his parents, as evidenced by him walking 30 feet behind us wherever we went that week. Yeah.

We did drag him out to dinner at the Sunset Restaurant on the beach where the manager came up with a little birthday cake for Darb and embarrassed him with a souvenir photograph of the event. Which was a keyring that has shattered a bit over the years so the picture is a little tough to see. I'm almost afraid to break open the keyring for fear it would destroy the picture. So here it is in its fuzzy, cracked glory.
Today, just three months short of eighteen years later, Denny and I drove down to Panama City Beach just to see what changes have occurred. The Sunset Restaurant is now something else, some of the tacky tee shirt shops are gone, replaced by soaring condominiums. What surprised us was the fact that the streets were empty and all the restaurants were closed. It seems the tourist season for this area doesn't start until almost the beginning of March when the Canadians and the spring breakers arrive. The beach was nearly deserted, but I think that was also because it was cold and blustery today even though the sun was shining brightly. The water is still clear, the sands are still white, but the town is a little more tired and worn. But then so are we.

These seagulls were hunkered down in the sand looking for warmth. They barely moved when I walked within four feet of them.

I hate these take-your-own-picture pictures but I forgot to grab the tripod from the truck. Excuse the hair, I said it was windy! And did I mention cold?
It was fun wandering the beach, although it would have been nicer to have the kiddo with us. The nicest part is that now he'd walk along side of us once more.
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Tuesday, January 04, 2011


Perspective: Middle English perspectyf, from Medieval Latin perspectivum, from neuter of perspectivus of sight, optical, from Latin perspectus, past participle of perspicere to look through, see clearly, from per- through + specere to look

Each week or so Denny and I pack up and move to a new or different campground. When we first started our journey I based my location decisions on whether or not the campground was a member of Passport America (an organization that offers camping at half the normal price) and if the campground was located close to golf courses that honored the Golf Card, which offered greens fees at half off or free with the rental of a riding cart. As our health care costs started rising those type of campgrounds became more important to us. After the two of us joined a couple of membership campground organizations our camping was "free" after our initial buy in and the annual dues so we moved around a little more and experienced many different types of campgrounds; restricted to 55 and over, snowbird filled, family oriented, nature preserves, destination campgrounds, fish camps, etc. Sometimes our expectations of a campground are high based on their ads or brochures, sometimes they are low due to the reviews of other campers. I myself have posted reviews on an online campground website but I have backed off doing that simply because I realized what was important in a campground to Denny and me might not necessarily matter to someone else and vice versa. This was brought home to me today when we parked next to a person who is going to follow the exact itinerary that we're going to be following over the next five weeks and who just left the same campground we did. The difference in us is that the couple next to us left the campground early after moving to three different camp sites within the campground and were still unhappy so they cut their stay short. This particular campground has a store, a professional arts and crafts area, a pool, karaoke, a cafe, a horse stable, nature trails and is located on a peaceful river on several acres of land thickly treed with live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. There is a Walmart within 4 miles, several good restaurants, 2 golf courses, it's about 4 miles from 2 major interstate highways and is known for its musical concerts at various times of the year. Granted, Denny gets aggravated by the trees because they can block his satellite signal but we have gotten our TV and Internet all three times we've been to this campground (which is free to us.) I like this campground, Denny hates the trees, our neighbors hated it period. They have already told us that another member campground we have reservations at has changed ownership and is the pits. Don and Vicki were there a year ago, said it had gone downhill but had just changed ownership and it appeared they were going to be working to get the campground back in shape. So do we go, hoping for the best, or avoid it on the recommendation of a person who hated the campground I liked? Since it was Denny who had spoken to our neighbor I don't know why he hated the last campground or what his priorities are for a campground. He seems to like the campground we are in now, but we wouldn't come back to it because the golf courses are 24-30 miles away as are any grocery stores or shopping, plus there is no swimming pool here, no lending library and no activities. However, the sites here are long, level 50 amp pull throughs with few trees and ample distance between campers. It is not a free campground for us, although we're staying here at a discounted price, but when you add the cost of fuel we'll have to pay to get to the store then it's not really a saving with our large fuel guzzling truck. Since diesel prices (and gas prices) have slowly crossed over the $3 a gallon mark down here I'm going to have to start considering a campground's closeness to shopping now (or get a Vespa.) We don't have to be by restaurants or movies or big lights but we would like it to be a little easier to run out for a forgotten quart of milk. And as soon as I write that I remember that one of my favorite campgrounds outside of Benson, Arizona is a good ten miles from town but it has a great heated pool for water aerobics and the sunsets can be fantastic.

All of that makes me think that perhaps I should forget writing campground reviews because I can fall in love with a skyline and overlook unmowed grass but can't forgive places that allow campers to let their large dogs romp through the campground unleashed. Priorities and perspective--it's different for us all.

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