January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010
Go back to 2009
1/1/10 to 1/5/10
Right now, and for the last week or so, the focus has been, “it’s cold!”
Yesterday afternoon our water system finally thawed out after having been frozen for several days — and that was with two small electric heaters running in the basement compartments where the water tanks, pump, filters, etc are located. It all froze up the night the temperature went down to 19° with 20 mile per hour winds. Since then we’ve been down to 17° another night but without the wind. We are definitely ready to get out of here, and we’re leaving tomorrow morning for Shaw AFB in Sumter SC. The problem is that this cold is all up and down the East Coast. The morning we were at 17° I checked online and it was 17° at Hanscom (Bedford MA), and only 18° at Shaw. Miami FL was 32° — almost unheard off. This global warming is really starting to get me down!
About two weeks ago it seemed that my back started to improve on its own, and during the last week the rate of improvement has has been quite substantial, to the point that as of yesterday, when I finally had my appointment with the Pain Management Center at UVA, I was probably 95% back to normal. Because of that they really didn’t do anything to/for me other than give me two prescriptions to try if it began to get worse again. They also told me that now that I was in their system, if I needed another appointment they could probably get me in within a week, rather than the month that it took this time. It was about two weeks ago that in desperation I went to a chiropractor. He did some pushing and bending, but it didn’t seem to help. In retrospect, that could have been when I started to improve. I had not made that connection until it was suggested by one of the doctors at UVA.
In any event, tomorrow morning we head south to Shaw AFB in South Carolina, one of our favorite FamCamps.
Odometer reading = 98,964
Miles for day = 0
1/6/10 to 1/14/10
As has become our normal routine when leaving Louisa and heading south, we topped off the gas tank in Short Pump where Route 288 crosses US-250. That has always been the cheapest gas price from Louisa to Sumter. When taking on 50 or 60 gallons that 10¢ per gallon difference is something to consider. As an aside, while I was pumping the gas Sharyn went into the little market where she bought a cup of coffee and a scratch off lottery ticket. As I began pulling out of the station Sharyn said I better wait as she might have a winning ticket. She was right. As she finished scratching the rest of the ticket she saw she had a $50 winner. I stopped the motorhome while she went back inside and got her $50.
We then got onto Route 288 to I-95 south. Somewhere in NC we stopped in a rest area for 13 minutes before continuing on. We arrived at Shaw just as it was getting dark—about 15 minutes after our target time. Anyway, we plugged into the electric and left the other hookups for the following morning.
Several days later my sister, on her way to Florida, stopped by to visit. The following day, Chips, who we work with at Hanscom FamCamp, finally got here. He has taken two weeks off from Hanscom and came here to escape the unrelenting cold of Bedford, Massachusetts. We were starting to worry about him when it took him three days to get here. It turned out he had snow and bad highway conditions in Connecticut which set him back considerably. As far as Chips is concerned, the sunny 40-50° days we are having here is pretty pleasant winter weather.
The other day Chips checked out another 5th wheel at Camping World in Myrtle Beach and as I type this Chips is emptying out his present unit and plans to go back to Myrtle Beach tomorrow to pick up his new unit.
In the meanwhile, we are also enjoying this weather and have signed up for another week. After that we plan on continuing south to Tampa.
Our site at Shaw FamCamp (that's Chips' 5th wheel on the other side of our motorhome)
New addition to our flagpole
Chips's 5th wheel
Odometer reading = 99,363
Miles for day = 399
1/15/10 to 1/19/10
While we have had some rain, by and large the weather has been great. For the last several days it's been bright and sunny with temps in the 50's and 60's!
Several days ago we drove up to Florence SC to have lunch with my cousin Bobby and his wife Theresa at one of our favorite Chinese buffets. After lunch the four of us went to visit Myrtle, a cousin of Bobby's and a childhood friend of my mother. Myrtle is an amazing person. Several months ago she left the apartment she had lived in for decades and moved into an assisted living facility at the age of 99. She will be celebrating her 100th birthday this October and she's still sharp as a tack. Several years ago we went to visit her but she didn't answer her phone, had not been to church the previous Sunday, and no one had heard from her. Several days later the concern was alleviated when she returned home. It was autumn and she had taken her car and driven up into the North Carolina mountains to see the fall foliage. At that time she was in her early 90's and washed her car every weekend!
One evening the three of us, Sharyn, Chips, and myself went to the Golden Corral for dinner. There are no Golden Corrals in New England so Chips has never been to one. He really liked the concept of paying $12 and then being able to eat as much as you wanted for as long as you wanted (I like that also). The only problem was that there is so much available to eat that you can't even try it all. We did quit, however, before we got sick.
For a number of days now Chips has been familiarizing himself with his new 5th wheel rig and trying to get all his stuff organized. He says this rig has so much storage space that he's going to have to buy more "stuff" to utilize all this space.
On February 17, 1864, the Confederate submarine, H. L. Hunley, attacked and sank the U.S.S. Housatonic four miles off the entrance to Charleston harbor in South Carolina, becoming the first submarine to sink an enemy ship during wartime. The Hunley signaled the Confederates on shore, via a prearranged light signal, that the mission was a success. The Hunley never returned and her disappearance remained a mystery until she was found and raised from the bottom of the Atlantic on August 8, 2000, 136 years after she disappeared. The crew's remains were still aboard along with many items of personal property belonging to the crew members. On November 16, 2001 Sharyn and I managed to view the Hunley in Charleston. At that time there was only limited public viewing available because the focus was on preservation and the prevention of further deterioration — buried in the silt at the bottom of the ocean the Hunley was remarkably preserved. Upon being raised and (for a short time) being exposed to air there was great concern for accelerated deterioration. Anyway, last night Se. Glenn McConnell, the chairman of the Hunley Commission, gave a talk in Sumter about the Hunley, it's recovery, and the work of the historical investigation and restoration. I went to the talk, and it was terriffic. I wished that Sharyn and Chips had gone with me. To find out more about the Hunley go to http://hunley.org/index.asp (you do not need to join or log in to access the site).
As it stands now we plan to leave here in the morning and head for MacDill AFB in Tampa. MacDill being about 500 miles from here, we figure on making it a two day drive, spending one night (maybe two) at King's Bay on the Georgia/Florida border.
Chips is also planning on leaving tomorrow but because
of the weather in Massachusetts (it's snowing now) he may have to
adjust his departure and arrival times to accommodate weather and
Myrtle and Sharyn after Myrtle got back from the North Carolina mountains
Chips with his new rig
Graphic from the Hunley website
Odometer reading = 99,363
Miles for day = 0
*** Something Big Happened Last Tuesday ***
With all that has
changed in Washington since last Tuesday's special election in
when independent voters sent Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate,
that election may well be remembered as the election that saved America!!
1/20/10 to 1/21/10
(Kings Bay GA)
There were substantial delays in leaving Shaw yesterday morning. Chips had planned to leave at 3:am while we had planned on a more laid back 10:am type time. When we got up around 7:am we were surprised to see that Chips was still in the adjacent campsite. It turned out that at 3:am he was all hooked up and ready to leave,but the bedroom slide on his 5th wheel would not go in. The hydraulic pump was running, and the other two slide came in properly, but the bedroom slide would not move.
Since he had only bought the rig five days earlier from Camping World in Myrtle Beach, he was waiting for Camping World to open at 8:am. When he did get hold of the people at Camping World and told them he was stuck in Sumter and couldn't move because the slide would not come in, their only response was that if he'd bring it in they'd see what they could do. For customer service or customer support that's about as bad as it gets. To make it worse, when Chips went to the FamCamp office to see if there was any RV service place nearby, the guy in the office told Chips that he was having computer problems and had no time to talk to him! Clearly the day did not begin well.
It probably took us about an hour to discover the problem. It turns out that the hydraulic cylinder the runs the slide in and out is attached to a piece of steel that, in turn, is bolted to what amounts to the floor of the slide. The problem was that the bolts holding the steel plate had pulled through the plywood so that while the piston pulled in the plate, the plate did not bring the slide along with it. With a bunch of pushing and shoving we managed to get the slide in. When he gets back to Hanscom the plate will push the slide back out and then Chips can, at his leisure, work on reattaching the plate to the plywood.
An hour or so after Chips got underway, we also, pulled out and headed for Kings Bay, a U.S. Navy submarine base just north of the Georgia/Florida state line. We arrived here just before 5:pm. and checked in for two days. The FamCamp at Kings Bay is only about 5 years old and is really a beautiful facility with a great physical plant (club house, full kitchen, TV and lounging area, WiFi throughout the entire location, free computer stations, free laundry facilities, etc., all for the use of the campers). It's in the middle of Nowheresville, but that's another story.
Today it poured down rain non-stop all day long with periodic thunderstorms throughout the day. We were also under a tornado watch for most of the day. While some tornadoes did develop, they were to the west of us.
Anyway, tomorrow morning we'll be on our way to MacDill, about 250 miles from here.
Odometer reading =
Miles for day = 265
1/22/10 to 1/23/10
Arriving at MacDill AFB FamCamp late in the afternoon we found that there were some 60+ rigs in the dry camp overflow area (no hookups), and that it would probably be a week or more before we would rotate out to a partial hookup (no sewer). We didn't ask how long we might be in a partial site before we could move up to one of the full hookup sites. That would be tough for the office to answer. Besides, you only stay in full hookups for two weeks, then you rotate back to dry camp and start all over again. Things will be better next year though. We have a reservation for a six month site, full hookups with landscaping included, starting November 15, 2010. Not sure how we handle Christmas, but we'll work on that. The dry and partial sites aren't really that much of a problem. For the most part you don't spend much of the daylight hours in the RV anyway. For the next several days the forecast is for mostly sunny weather with daytime temps in the 70's and lower 80's, with nights being in the 50's and 60's. That makes neither heating nor cooling a priority, and as far as heating goes, our catalytic propane heater gives us up to 8500 BTU's per hour if we need it.
My only problem, and it's not a small one, is that the computer is always on, and online, 24/7. That's not the case when we're dry camped. Particularly, since I just discovered that this new computer will not come on with inverter power. While our inverter does not generate a full sine wave, in the 8 or 9 years we've had it we have never had anything that would not run on it.
TV time is also much limited. While it does operate on inverter power, it draws 180 watts, and that's quite a bit of current for 4, 5, or 6 hours of TV watching (which, of course, also requires the satellite box to be on). Loss of, or limited, TV does not pose too much of a problem for me as I can listen to Fox News via satellite radio. It is somewhat more of an issue for Sharyn.
Anyway, our solar panels and flag pole are up and we're settled in.
We've had cell phone service with AT&T for twelve years except for about two years when we went to Cingular before AT&T took them over. While the service was satisfactory, it does not provide anything but an intermittent signal at this FamCamp. MacDill AFB is located on a 25 square mile peninsular attached to the southern edge of Tampa and the FamCamp is located at the southern tip of that peninsular, right on the water. Last year we stopped at an AT&T Wireless office in Tampa to inquire about the problem and were told that AT&T was aware of it. The same problem still exists this year so we just switched our service to Verizon. We use Verizon Broadband to access the Internet, and that works fine in the FamCamp (and everywhere we've been for the last several years). Since their cell phone service operates off of the same towers as their Broadband, and the people in the office said that Verizon customers had no problem with their cell phones in the FamCamp, we switched over this afternoon. The phones do work fine so we're happy with the change. Also, since most of our kids use Verizon, calls to and from them are free (our daughter is our biggest cell phone minute user upper).
By the way, we spoke to Chips and learned that when he got back to Hanscom with his new rig he could not get into his site — it was covered with snow! He had to spend the night at the Inn and the following day used the bucket loader to clear his site. That pretty much defines the question we find ourselves asking whenever we talk about "where do we want to live if we ever stop full-timing?" Wherever we are in January, we don't want to be there in August, and wherever we are in August we do not want to be there in January. The answer appears to be to take your house with you as you follow the seasons. By Golly ! That's what we're doing now!
A portion of the overflow area as seen from the roof of our motorhome
Odometer reading =
Miles for day = 245
1/24/10 to 2/1/10
Everything is going well. We spent 8 or 9 days in dry camp, but then only had to spend two days in a partial site. Yesterday, as we were about to drive over to see Aunt Phyliss and Uncle Harold at their home in Apollo Beach, we received a phone call from the office telling us there was an available full hookup site we could move to. We delayed our departure to Aunt Phyliss's and relocated to our new site which we will remain in for two weeks before rotating back to dry camp. In the meanwhile we learned that if you are staying here for an extended period of time (months rather than weeks) you can ask to be put on a list for a six month site if and when one becomes available. It is one of these six month sites that we will have beginning November 15, 2010. Since some of the people in these six month sites begin leaving here in February, and many more by March, we may well get to move into one of these sites later on this month. As it stands now we plan to probably leave here around the first week in April, taking three weeks to get back to Hanscom by May 1.
Regular readers may recall that back in December we bought two Euro style recliners to replace our couch and another chair. They were very nice and we have enjoyed them. However, the other day we saw a sign in the laundry room where someone was selling two rather plush leather chairs and reclining settee. When I mentioned the sign to Rob, a friend of ours from Southold, he told us it was his neighbor who was selling them and that they were quite nice. To shorten the story, we tried one for a day and then told the lady we'd take both chairs, which we now have. They are much nicer than the ones we bought in December (which are now for sale). Since they sell for three times what we paid for the other ones, and we paid less than we paid for the other ones, we are extremely happy (and very comfortable).
For some time now (ever since we got rid of HughesNet satellite) we have been using Verizon's Broadband for Internet access. About two weeks ago we replaced Verizon's "air card" or USB stick, with Verizon's MiFi 2200. It doubles as a modem and a router, providing a wireless hotspot, or access point, that enables both of us to be online at the same time. With a range of about 30 feet, Sharyn can, if she were so inclined, take her laptop outside and still be online. It can run off of the 120 volt power cord, a USB connection to a computer, or the self contained rechargeable battery, and basically enables us to travel around with our own wireless access point. Pretty neat.
There's not too much else to write about at this time. The sunny weather of the last week is giving way to some cooler, cloudy days, but we'll take it and be happy that we're out of the snow and extreme cold presently affecting most of the East Coast.
Our site for the next two weeks
One of our new chairs with ottoman
Verizon's MiFi 2200 modem/router
Odometer reading = 99,873
Miles for day = 0
2/2/10 to 2/17/10
We finished our two weeks with full hookups, moved to dry camp again (but for only two days), and yesterday got moved to a partial site. We are considering opting to remain here for perhaps a week (you can opt to remain in a partial site for up to 30 days). The idea being that this really isn't bad, and if we don't go into a full hookup site until the last week in February we could remain there until mid-March by which time a number of people will be leaving and we might not have to rotate back into dry camp. We're still trying to figure out how all this works.
Several weeks ago we received an email from Debbie and Russ, a couple we met at an Escapees rally in Van Wert OH back in 2006. They were on their way from Ohio to Key West and knew from this travelog that we were here in Tampa. We arranged to meet them at an RV park across the bay in St. Petersburg where we got to see their new RV, a custom built Freightliner tractor that had the sleeper and one axle removed, the chassis elongated, and living facilities built upon it. It's quite an impressive rig, but with a 13 speed manual transmission Debbie declines to drive it. After examining their rig we all went to "the Pub" for dinner and further conversation.
They are chomping at the bit to go full-time and are getting closer to doing so. We talked about some "must see" things to do, particularly talking about Alaska and Quartzsite. In talking about Quartzsite we told them how the Escapees "Boomer" group always gathered together in the desert for the occasion and that we'd send them an aerial photo of that group from January 2006. In going back through the travelog to locate the date and the picture I began reading the entry of 1/19/06 when we arrived in Quartzsite and met up with the Boomers. I then got caught up in the reading and probably read (and looked at the pictures) for an hour or so — right through our time spent boondocking just outside of Joshua Tree National Park. I just told Sharyn that when we're too old to do this any more, or no longer do this for some other reason, that I'll go back and relive it all through this travelog and the pictures in it. In reading that time period it became clear to me that there was much more interesting reading when we were constantly on the move. We seem to have fallen into a routine of working at Hanscom AFB for six months, then spending most of the winter here at MacDill. While that's not a bad life, our day-to-day activities do not lend themselves to interesting reading. That also goes along with Sharyn's often repeated statement that the first five years, when everything was new and exciting, were the best.
Onto some other things, last week there was a craft show here at the FamCamp where Sharyn had two tables set up to sell her jewelry. While it was advertised base wide, I don't think anyone came other than the people from the FamCamp so the number of people passing through was somewhat disappointing. There were, however, several people who remembered Sharyn and her jewelry from last year and were glad to see her back again. Actually there was some talk around the campground about her jewelry and how beautiful it was.
We are thoroughly enjoying our new chairs and have sold both of the ones we bought back in December.
Sharyn enjoys the sunshine and her book
Russ and Debbie's custom RV
Russ and Debbie inside their unit
Sharyn, Debbie, and Russ at The Pub
Escapees "Boomers" desert rendezvous outside Quartzsite AZ in January 2006
One of our dry camp neighbors
An unrelated picture e-mailed to us from Jordan
Odometer reading =
Miles for day = 2
2/18/10 to 2/25/10
Well we're back into full hookups again, but that's not the reason for this entry.
Today is the first day of our 11th year of full-timing — it was ten years ago today that we pulled out of the driveway in Charlottesville and headed down the highway.
Odometer reading =
Miles for day = 0
2/26/10 to 3/24/10
We received a call from Bill and Cheryl about their plans to leave Arkansas in May and spend the summer months traveling to and from and touring Alaska. Bill had questions about our Alaska trip back in 2002; places we went, routes traveled, road conditions, etc. As we were on the phone I went back to that time in the travelog to help me remember specifics. The following day I again went back to the travelog, read the entire trip and looked at all the photos, from the time we crossed into Canada on June 21, through September 8 when we crossed back into the lower 48. I told Sharyn she should do the same thing. The trip was fantastic and the memories were well worth revisiting.
In rereading all of that,
however, I was struck by two things:
1. Back then this travelog certainly made more interesting reading than it does now!
2. The pictures were, by and large, too dark and definitely too small when viewed on one of today's high resolution monitors. I can't believe that I shot all those pictures at a resolution of 640x480 (even though that was a common screen size at the time) when the camera I was using, a Sony 707, could just as well taken pictures at 2560x1920. How dumb was that? Anyway, a short time ago I began redoing the Alaska pictures in Photoshop, adding pixels to make them appear a bit larger on a monitor and lightening those that were too dark. While that all makes them better, they will never be what I wish they were. Today I shoot all my pictures at 4752x3168, the maximum resolution of my camera. Those that I post on this site I reduce to (typically) 1000x667 to reduce download time, but if the need arose, I could always go back to the high resolution original — for instance to make large prints.
Here at MacDill, about a month ago we finally got a "permanent" site, meaning we will no longer have to "rotate" and keep changing sites. When we got the call from the office the site they had for us was in the annex, about 1½ miles from the main FamCamp. While we were hesitant about going to the annex, we are now glad that we did and hope to be here again next year — actually, November this year. The downside to the annex is that it is removed from the beach, beach-club, laundry, etc. The upside is that the annex used to be where they had mobil home housing so the sites are much larger and not so crowded together. Also, there are fewer sites so it's very quiet and nice. We like it!
This year they started a program called "Fitness over 50" with trainers working once a week with older, non-active duty, people. Sharyn's been doing this for a while. I joined her more recently and now we're going to the gym 3-4 times a week. It's something neither of us has ever done before, but we're enjoying it. Now we'll have to check out the gym at Hanscom.
Once a month a group from FamCamp gets together and goes to a different nearby restaurant for dinner. Outdoor Rec provides two 16 passenger vans for transportation which is pretty cool. We don't have to know where these places are or how to get there. Also, we don't get lost. If we like the place well enough we can note the name and get directions later on. In addition to all of that, there is the social aspect. One of the places we went to last year was Tops China Buffet, about 20 miles east of here. We liked it a lot, marked it on our GPS, and returned this year with Rob and Nanci. It was as good as we remembered and we all enjoyed it. Then there was The Colonade Restaurant on Bay Shore Road, maybe three miles from the base, where the group went last week. It looks very nice from the outside and Sharyn had been wanting to go there for some time. Well, dinner cost $60 for the two of us, with no wine or drinks, and it was not particularly good. It's not a place we'll be going back to. About a week before the Colonade Sharyn and I went to Cellini's, a family owned Italian restaurant about a mile outside the base, where for (I think) $42 we had two excellent dinners, wine, cheese, bread, and dessert. We will definitely be returning there.
Looking through some old slides that I had scanned into my computer some years ago I came across a photo of an old friend sitting in my 1946 Willy's jeep that my father had gotten from the Charleston Navy Yard for $200. Bill and I had been friends from our early teenage years right on into our 20's. I probably had not seen him for 50 years — the last I knew he was living in Colorado. Anyway, I went looking for him online, got a phone number, and called him. It turns out that 10 years ago, after spending some 30 years in Colorado, he and his wife Joyce moved to Florida and now live about 75 miles north of MacDill. This past Sunday Sharyn and I drove up to have dinner with Bill and Joyce. Also at dinner were Connie and Bill (another Bill), other friends of ours that we had not seen for many years. It was a very pleasant visit, I believe enjoyed by all.
As an aside, it was raining as we drove up to Bill and Joyce's, and as traffic was moving along the Interstate we came upon something straddling the two northbound lanes with cars swerving around it on both sides. As Sharyn was saying, "Watch out for the bicycle in the road" I was pulling off onto the shoulder to get it. As soon as there was a break in the traffic I got it off to the shoulder, and with Sharyn's help put it into the Honda. The following day, on closer inspection I saw that except for a mangled handlebar and a messed up seat, the bike was basically fine. It's a 27 speed, Gary Fisher "Cobia" mountain bike with 29" wheels and a list price of $1100. I was all excited, thinking I was going to upgrade from my $300 Specialized Expedition Sport if the owner didn't/doesn't call me. There is a small sticker on the bike from a bike shop in Missouri and Sharyn said I should call them. I did call and give the store the serial number, telling them that if they knew the owner and he could tell me where he lost it he could have it back. The dealer said he doesn't sell many of those bike and he thought he could probably locate the owner. So far I have not heard anything. As for the upgrade, it turns out that I like my bike better. My bike is a "sit up straight" (Chips says like Mary Poppins) hybrid that I find to be much more comfortable. It seems like a bummer that I have an $1100 bike that I don't care for. When we get to Hanscom I'll put it on Craig's List. Right now it's the fourth bike we have which is really more than we need.
This past Saturday the Blue Angels, the Navy's precision flying team put on a demonstration here at MacDill AFB as part of the two day air show, Air Fest 2010. We were seated right at the edge of the flightline from 8:am until 4:pm watching all kinds of of aircraft perform, as well as having the opportunity to examine close up about 40 or 50 aircraft on display on the apron (some definitely more interesting than others). Other than the Blue Angels, my favorite performance remains the F-15, a rather old, but still very hot plane. The total thrust from it's two engines exceeds the loaded weight of the plane which enables it to accelerate while in a vertical climb. Part of the performance was when he made a low high speed pass just above the runway and then as he reached the viewing stand went into a vertical climb reaching an altitude of three miles in 20 seconds. The ground shakes with the roar of the afterburners and I love it. I took 225 pictures at the show, a few of which are linked to below.
Alaska Trip; June 21 to September 8, 2002
Sony 707 — a really cool camera (photo stolen from Internet)
Our site in the annex
Satellite view of FamCamp and Annex
Bill with 1946 Willys jeep (circ 1957)
Gary Fisher "Cobia" with 29" wheels
F-15 ready to taxi
F-15 and P-51 Mustang do "Heritage Flight" flyover
Special Ops team jumps from C-17
F-22 Raptor "Stealth" Fighter
Inside the bombay of the B-52
This was suspended during the show
Blue Angel aircraft on ramp prior to show
Blue Angels in tight formation
Blue Angels in inverted flight
Blue Angels in landing configuration (photo by Sharyn during previous day's practice)
Odometer reading = 99,878
Miles for day = 3
3/25/10 to 3/29/10
Towards the end of last summer our rear heat pump stopped working. All indications were that the unit had lost its refrigerant, as the compressor would run, but sounded as if it was running without a load. Camping World and several other RV repair places, both in Massachusetts and in Tampa, said that the unit had no fill connection to recharge the system and that replacement was the only option. One guy described "those units" as ""throw-a-ways." Basically they were all in agreement; for $1300 we could replace the unit.
The idea that because there is no refill fitting the system cannot be recharged sounds ludicrous on it's face. A few weeks ago I spoke to another RV repair guy who I saw in the FamCamp and told him what all the other repair people had been telling me. He said, "I repair those units all the time." He's a pretty busy guy, but several days ago he got to us. He arrived at our site with tanks, gauges, hoses, etc., evacuated the system, found and fixed the leak, installed a refill fitting, charged the system, and presto magic, for $275 our heat pump works fine! If you are ever in the Tampa area and are having trouble with your air conditioner or heat pump, call John Williams, owner of All-American Mobile RV Repair at 813-735-6119.
Anyway, we came down here back in January to go through the winter with sunshine and warmth. It didn't quite work out like that. According to the National Weather Service this has been the coldest Florida winter since 1981 — and we were here! In the last two weeks, however, the weather has changed and he have been experiencing what we came he for back in January. Now that it's nice, it's time for us to leave. We'll be leaving here in the morning to begin our slow trek back to Hanscom AFB for the opening of the FamCamp on May 1.
This afternoon we went to visit and say goodbye to Sharyn's cousin Diana in Apollo Beach. Diana and Carl's daughters and grandchildren were there as well as Diana's parents, Aunt Phyliss and Uncle Harold — four generations, including the five great grandchildren. It was quite nice to see that many generations all gathered together enjoying each other's company.
Here are four of the five (photo by Sharyn)
Here's the other guy (photo by Sharyn)
Odometer reading = 99,878
Miles for day = 0
(Patrick AFB FL)
It was 11:30 when we pulled out of MacDill and headed east towards Patrick AFB on the Atlantic Ocean. Sharyn's sister Carolyn lives only a few miles from Patrick so this gives Sharyn the opportunity to visit with her sister before we head north for the summer.
Not only was the FamCamp full, but the massive rains of the last few days flooded some areas of the campground and required the evacuation of a number of sites. Once again we find ourselves in a dry camp situation, but we would have been here even without the flooding of some of the sites. While MacDill is now perhaps 30% emptied out, Patrick, being only a few miles from I-95 gets an influx of late season RVers who stop by on their way north from Key West and other campgrounds south of here. According to the camp host, there is a launch of the space shuttle scheduled for April 5 and that always brings in a good number of additional RV as people come here to watch the launch. Patrick AFB is about 15 miles south of the launch pads at Cape Canaveral which pretty much makes this place a ringside seat for the launch.
After checking in and getting set up, we did the mandatory checking out of the BX. After returning to the FamCamp we had dinner and were watching a pair of ospreys feeding their young in a nest on the top of a tower about 50 yards from the motorhome. A short while later Sharyn noticed that the nest was on fire and that pieces of the burning nest that were falling to the ground had started a fire inside the fenced enclosure. We called 911 and in a few minutes both base security and the base fire department were on scene. By that time the fire in the nest had pretty much burned itself out and the fire department had the ground fire out in a matter of minutes. After a short while the adult osprey returned and approached the nest several times, but the nest was still smoldering so they never landed. By that time it was almost dark. We assume the babies did not survive.
The still smoldering osprey nest
One of the ospreys approaches the burned out nest numerous times but will not land on it
The ground fire burns inside the tower enclosure
It takes the fire department two minutes
Odometer reading = 100,036 (passed the 100,000 mile mark —
means this motorhome is not marketable)
Miles for day = 158
3/31/10 to 4/1/10
(Patrick AFB FL)
The morning after the fire the osprey was back again and rebuilding his nest. He had more patience than I do because while I wanted to take pictures of the rebuilding process, he would fly in with a stick and then just stand on the nest and, I guess, think about just where to put it. Anyway, after only one picture, I gave up.
Shortly thereafter the host came over and told us we could move to a partial site with water and electric. It was just about that time that Sharyn was leaving to go pick up her sister for a day of shopping fun. Rather than delay her departure, she decided to leave me to move the motorhome without her help/supervision — warning me, however, that there was water behind the new site and that I should not back it into the water. I was good — I didn't!
Anyway, Sharyn and Carolyn had a fun day together and that's good.
Today was a low profile day with nothing scheduled for either of us. Early this afternoon when I said I was going to ride my bike over to the BX and back Sharyn said that I should call her when I got to the commissary (right next to the BX) and that she'd drive over to meet me and we'd do the grocery shopping. That's what we did, and that was our afternoon activity.
Back to the ospreys, they did not have a good day. The Air Force brought in a large boom truck and totally removed all remnants of the nest and signs of the fire. Whether or not the osprey will settle for that is something we will not find out. First thing tomorrow we'll be out of here and on our way to King's Bay Submarine Base in Georgia.
The osprey just brought in that 3' long stick and is apparently trying to decide just where it should go.
This afternoon this guy walked past our site just so I could take this picture
And then he flew away
Odometer reading = 100,036
Miles for day = 0
(King's Bay GA)
We had four 6-volt Trojan T-105 golf cart batteries that we bought in Quartzsite back in January 2003. It was probably a few weeks ago that we realized that two of these four batteries had gone bad — they were completely dry, while the other two were as they should have been. Since the batteries had been equalized only a few weeks earlier and were full at that time I don't know what could have happened. We noticed this when the power at the FamCamp went out for several hours and the voltage to the inverter was barely over 12 volts when it should have been closer to 13. What was happening was that the two bad batteries (themselves connected in series, but connected to the other pair in parallel) were drawing down the good batteries. Short story; we needed four new batteries, and while we would have preferred Trojans (assuming a non-confiscatory price), they are are not as common or easy to find as other brands. I know that many RVers use the 6-volt golf cart batteries sold by Sam's Club and have good results with them, so as we were headed north on I-95 and Sharyn spotted a Sam's Club, we got off at the next exit and made our way back to the store. For $80, plus a $9 core charge each, we bought four of them. The sales guy took them out to the motorhome for us, and as we were walking across the parking lot towards the motorhome I said I had not expected them "to put them in." The guy said sure, and I happily replied that would sure save my back. Only problem was he did not mean "put them in" as "install" (not clear what he meant).
Anyway, Sharyn and I ended up swapping out the batteries. At 70 pounds each, and having to lift them up and over the top of the grill to get them in and out was not without some difficulty. In the process I bloodied my arm and tore my pants (Sharyn's much tougher than she looks). When we completed the job (and got back our $36 core charge) we noticed that the cigarette lighter into which we plug the GPS was no longer hot unless the ignition was turned. I'm not sure how we managed that. Even though there are a good number of wires that connect directly to battery terminals other than the battery cables, we have everything back as it was. Since then we have also noticed that the steps no longer work, nor do the seat adjustments, unless the ignition is on. That's really weird because even if improperly wired, that the difference would be all those things still work but require the ignition be on seems very unlikely (ideas are welcome).
We arrived at King's Bay after the office had closed, but we had called in the morning to confirm they had a site available and had made a reservation. Our reservation information was on the bulletin board waiting for us.
Odometer reading = 100,258
Miles for day = 222
4/3/10 and 4/4/10
Once again we are back at Shaw AFB, sort of our home away from home — wherever that may be!
The dashboard heater/airconditioner has been occasionally intermittent for some time now in that it would shut off but then come back on after several seconds. Now on this trip it comes on for several seconds and then shuts off, although it has not come on at all since we left King's Bay. Obviously something is loose somewhere, but for now we don't know what it is or where it is and can't access anything under the dashboard without first removing the TV (this has been going on since before the battery replacement). Because of the lack of air conditioning, and with bright sunshine and temperatures projected to be in the 80's, we were up at 6:am and on the road by 7:am, figuring we'd get to Shaw and be off the road by noontime. No such luck. First of all we had trouble get off the base. The first two gates we tried were closed and we didn't know where any other gates were, or how to get to them. It was 7:am on a very foggy Saturday morning on a military base. There is no one to be seen anywhere, and the base is giant size. Eventually we pass a fire station where there are guys out front washing the trucks. They told us how to get to an open gate. We had always thought the gate we usually come in and out of was the main gate — obviously not so.
Several hours later, as we approached Savannah on I-95, we had just pasted through a 29 mile long construction project where they had those big concrete barricades right at the edge of the traffic lanes. We had no sooner gotten past the construction when we blew the inside right rear tire. Luckily there was a paved shoulder and a flat grassy area to the right of the shoulder so that we were able to get well away from the 70 mph traffic lanes. Had that occurred in the construction zone where we could not have gotten out of the traffic lane, traffic would have backed up all the way to Jacksonville (only slight exaggeration), plus there might not have been sufficient room between the motorhome and concrete barriers to remove the tire. Because of some residual in my back from the batteries the day before, I told Sharyn I didn't think I could change the tire, and she agreed. For the first time ever we called the road assistance that is part of our RV policy. We did not show up on their computer, and since it was a weekend they could not confirm our road assist coverage. They would send a truck, but we would have to pay the driver $200. We could then submit the bill, and if road assistance coverage was confirmed, they would reimburse us. I told Sharyn that I wasn't going to pay some guy $200 to change my tire, that I'd do it myself. What I didn't tell Sharyn is that it's possible we didn't have the road assist this time around. We have never used it, changing two previous blowouts ourselves, and I seem to recall discussing the need for such coverage with the company on our latest renewal. In past years there was always a rider for that coverage as part of the policy. That rider was not on this policy (which is why we had trouble finding the phone number to call and why I think we may not have that coverage).
Anyway, three hours after we pulled off the road, we pulled back out and continued our trip. The whole thing would have taken an hour except that we could not get the inside wheel off of the axle hub. We used a two sledge hammers, a pry bar, and WD-40. As I told our daughter, picture me lying under the motorhome, swinging a long handled sledge hammer trying to loosen the wheel. Eventually we were successful. Sharyn now says we need six new tires. Initially I disagreed since we just replaced four of them a few years ago. Turns out that was in June of 2004 when we had 62,941 on the motorhome and replaced four of the original tires. Much longer ago than I realized. While those tires have only 37,000 miles on the, and still plenty of rubber, it's time to replace them based on age. The rule of thumb for RV tires is that you replace them after seven years because of deterioration from time and sun light regardless of tread wear. This is particularly true of RVs that remain parked for extended periods of time, and for the last two years that's pretty much what we've been doing: six months at Hanscon AFB, then travel to MacDill for the winter where we remain parked again. Obviously we did not get here by noon as originally planned, but rather late afternoon — arriving hot and dirty.
We've decided to stay here for the rest of the week before moving on to Virginia where we'll spend several weeks visiting the kids before going on to Hanscom to open the FamCamp on May 1.
Today, Easter Sunday, we thoroughly enjoyed just staying put with nothing to do and nothing going wrong. We had talked about going to the Easter Brunch at the Carolina Skies Club here on base, but Sharyn decided she did not have the right kind of clothes for Easter Sunday. I went for a bike ride around the base perimeter road. It's an eight mile ride that I do quite regularly when we are here. Today it was particularly nice as the base is pretty deserted and their was no traffic whatsoever.
Odometer reading = 100,519
Miles for day = 261
4/5/10 to 4/10/10
We called numerous places to get a feel for the cost of six new tires for the motorhome, including Goodyear dealers in both South Carolina and Virginia, as well as Camping World in Columbia SC. The best deal we found came from Palmetto Tire right here in Sumter. It's a small, owner operated place that we have dealt with before. Anyway, for the paltry sum of $2,421.96 (gulp!) we now have six new Goodyear G670-RV 245x70 19.5 on the motorhome. I suspect it was a good move and Sharyn certainly feels good about it.
Our neighbor here at the FamCamp was also at MacDill and Patrick while we were at those bases. They are traveling with two kayaks and two bikes and are now on their way home in Maine where they have an 18' Old Town canoe that they no longer use and would be interested in selling. We gave them our card and asked that they contact us when they decide on a price as we (I) would be interested. They are about 4 hours from Hanscom, which would be a long way to go to pick it up, but we'll see if we hear from them. I'm sorry I didn't get their information, but they said they would probably stop at Hanscom this summer as they travel.
Anyway, I did much better with my bike riding while we were here than I have done in the recent past, riding the base perimeter most days. This is one of my most "comfortable" places to ride. As far as riding goes, I going to try to get more serious about doing it on a regular basis as I had been doing up until a year or so ago.
Odometer reading = 100,541
Miles for day = 22
4/11/10 to 4/16/10
We pulled out of the FamCamp at Shaw AFB at 7:am, and after topping off our gas tank at the base gas station, we had a long, but uneventful, trip to Virginia. After our last experience we found the "uneventful" aspect of the trip to be somewhat comforting. We also feel an improved ride with these new tires although, since they are the same as the old tires, we're not sure why they should ride any differently.
Once again we are set up in Jordan's yard with full hookups and all the conveniences that go with being in your daughter's yard — think washer/dryer and large refrigerator!
Yesterday we got to examining the "how come" of why things that used to work without the key even being in the ignition now need the ignition to be on in order for them to work. Those items are the radio, electric seat controls, satellite radio that is hard wired into fuse block under the dash, cigarette lighter where we keep the GPS plugged in, and the electric door steps. With the exception of the steps, all those items run off the same fuse block that draws its power from a solenoid device mounted on the engine side of the firewall. There are two pairs of terminal lugs on this device, with each pair having one terminal that is always "hot," and one terminal that is only hot when the ignition is on. The lead to the fuse block was attached to one of the terminals that is only hot when the ignition is on. By moving that lead to the "always hot" terminal we now have everything (except for the step) working as it did before. That's fine, except it does not answer how this could have happened — how could that fuse block ever have been hot without the ignition being on? The answer would seem to be that it could not have; except it was! One unexplained possibility that Sharyn thought of is that perhaps the two pair of terminals did not work alike; two separate solenoids activated from different sources, and one (the one providing power to the fuse block) has malfunctioned. We sent a detailed e-mail to Tiffin, the motorhome manufacturer, to see if they have any ideas. As for the electric steps and the dash mounted heater/air conditioner, they remain unresolved.
Odometer reading = 100,939
Miles for day = 398
4/17/10 to 4/21/10
It was our plan to leave here this morning, but with the forecast being for rain most of the day we decided to stay over one more day and leave tomorrow when it's supposed to be sunny and nice. Since we figure we'd like to arrive at Hanscom a week from today, the delayed departure is no problem — we'll probably be at Hanscom prior to next Wednesday anyway.
Phil bought himself a bass boat several weeks ago, and he, Philip, and I tried it out on Lake Anna last Saturday, right after Philip finished his soccer game (which his team lost convincingly). Between the soccer game and the boating/fishing, last Saturday was a very enjoyable day. On the way back from Lake Anna we were going to pass through the hamlet of Louisa, so we called Sharyn, and she and Jordan met us at Roma's, an Italian restaurant right in Louisa. We have always marveled at how a tiny little place back in the woods of Central Virginia could have such a good Italian restaurant. Something must have happened, because as we were leaving the restaurant we all all agreed that if that had been our first visit, we would never go back! The crummy dinner, however, did not take away from a very nice day.
I'm doing better on my plan to ride my bike on a much more regular basis, and two days ago I undertook to ride a 15.5 mile route that has a number of tough hills with a combined vertical climb of 1182 feet. The last time I did that ride was April 14, 2008. You can view the route at http://www.mapmyride.com/ride/united-states/va/kents-store/574078489 (unfortunately MapMyRide no longer displays total vertical climb — too bad, that was a nice feature).
By the way, we did get a response from Tiffin about our strange electrical goings on. They said, understandably, that changing the batteries has nothing to do with any of it. They also said that the fuse block is wired to the "always hot" side of the solenoid (it is now that we moved it — it was not before). So . . . the mystery continues . . . .
Yesterday would have been my mother's 99th birthday, but she didn't even come close — she died of breast cancer when she was only 54.
Philip gets control of the soccer ball
Later he manages to kick it back to his teammates
This was the first fishing spot we tried
Then they tried this spot
Philip preferred his own spot
Where he caught these "fish eggs," the only catch of the day
Odometer reading = 100,939
Miles for day = 0
4/22/10 and 4/23/10
We pulled out of Jordan's driveway shortly after 7:am and headed for Harry and Irene's in Jersey. It's probably not an exaggeration to say that Sharyn hates traveling on I-95, particularly that portion between Washington and the New Jersey Turnpike. Accordingly we again traveled the greater portion of the trip on US-301. It was actually a much more "at ease" travel day than it would have been on the Interstate. As we approached Boonton I told Sharyn that I was much less fatigued than I would have been on I-95.
Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay with Harry and Irene as we always do. Sharyn and Irene got to do all the necessary shopping for the cool things they bought, while Harry and I, and later the four of us, talked and ate a lot.
Their granddaughter, Madison, spent the night and managed to get in some quality fishing time, catching better than half a dozen fish.
Madison goes for the big one . . .
. . . but gets this guy instead!
The vote was unanimous, we all liked Irene's new hair style
Sharyn and Irene enjoy the early morning sunshine
Odometer reading = 101,337
Miles for day = 397
4/24/10 and 4/25/10
Mid-morning we pulled out of Harry and Irene's driveway and stopped to fuel up at the local Hess station before getting onto I-287. It seems strange to us that while Jersey does not allow you to pump your own gas — it must be pumped by a station attendant — it also has some of the cheapest gas anywhere in the Country.
We had been on the road for almost four hours when we were approaching a rest area on I-84 in Connecticut displaying several signs inviting drivers to pull into the rest area for coffee and donuts (or whatever) compliments of the Second Congregational Church of Coventry. While anything you wanted was free, the church was accepting donations from those who chose to give. Because of the large selection of food and drinks I asked one of the ladies if their donations covered their costs. She said they absolutely did, and that most of what they were serving had been donated anyway, so that the overall operation was an excellent fund raiser for the church.
Anyway, about five hours after getting onto I-287, and having made two stops along the way, we arrived at the FamCamp here at Hanscom AFB. We were surprised at how many units were here, almost all of them having apparently spent the winter. We pulled into our site and got all of our stuff set up, pretty much for the season. That was yesterday afternoon.
Today, except for a trip to the commissary to get some groceries, we didn't do much at all. About the only other thing we did was check out the office, bathrooms, and laundry, most of which Chips had repainted during the winter. The newly painted interiors look great. Unfortunately, the rough winter here, and the damage the snow plows did to the gravel roads and adjoining grass have left the grounds looking anything but neat and manicured. Hopefully, with time, that will also improve.
We both felt very tired today and attribute it to the fact that we're settled in, don't officially begin work until May1, and it's kind of like, "whew!"
As far as I'm concerned, it's good to be back!
Church set up at the rest area
Odometer reading = 101,582
Miles for day = 245
4/26/10 to 5/26/10
It's been a month since anything was put up on this site and I'm happy to report that anyone who thought we had died was wrong. We are still alive and kicking!
I am presently reading Private Yankee Doodle, a first hand account of the day-to-day life of a Revolutionary War soldier, written by Joseph Plumb Martin, that soldier, years later when he was in his 70's. At one point, with respect to a particular six week period, he writes, " . . . many things transpired incidental to a military life, but which would be of little interest to the reader, and tedious for me to relate." That is frequently the situation with updating this travelog, while lots of things go on, most of it is not too exciting — while life is good, everyday is not an exciting adventure, and not everything we do is worth mentioning. Be that as it may, the following accounts for some of what has happened since our arrival here at Hanscom.
For Sharyn's birthday she got a new, large screen, Dell laptop. It's not that she really needed it — she had an older, smaller one — but after putting together a list of everything she needed, and seeing that there was nothing on the list, it seemed that there was no reason she should not have a really nice computer, so now she does.
Chips reached his 70th birthday and they had a surprise birthday cake for him at the Outdoor Rec office on base. Between the three of us here at the FamCamp, we have well over 200 years of life experience (not sure what that means)!
Several weeks ago the base had its annual flea market where you rent a table and set out whatever it is that you are selling. Sharyn had two tables set up with her handmade, custom designed jewelry. While she sold several pieces, it was not what she thought it would be. It was primarily young families selling used baby clothes, toys, and other children's things that had been outgrown or no longer used. While Sharyn's jewelry is very nice, the children's stuff is much more useful for the young military families stationed here.
Two weeks ago I bought a $200 canoe from Chips (who, as a side line, seems to buy and sell canoes on Craig's List). I tried it out on the Concord River which has a put-in about 3 miles from the FamCamp. Sharyn didn't go with me because she thought the river would be running fast because of all the rain we had just had, but that turned out not yo be the case. I had hoped we could go today (our day off) but the temperature reached a blistering 95°. A little too hot in the full sum. Maybe we'll try one afternoon after work, although we don't feel like doing too much at the end of the work day.
May 3-9 was "Marine Week Boston," when the Marines, among other things, display vehicles, aircraft, and equipment on the Boston Common. During the week the aircraft were kept here at Hanscom AFB, and with the flightline on the other side of the fence, we had front row seats to the coming and going of the aircraft. I particularly liked having the opportunity to see the V-22 Osprey taking off and landing. The tilt-rotor aircraft is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft. What I did not know, and had not thought about, was the fact that because of the length of the rotor blades it cannot land in conventional airplane configuration — the blades would hit the runway. It always takes off and lands in "helicopter mode."
It was just a couple of days ago that I received my update DVD for Photoshop CS5. It had been pre-ordered from Amazon several weeks ago, prior to the official release date. It's probably been five years since I updated to CS2, which I've been using since that time. Adobe only allows you to update if your current version is not more than three versions old. That means if I didn't upgrade to CS5, then I would no longer be able to buy future upgrades and would have to buy the full Photoshop. At $699 that just would not happen. Anyway, the pictures I put up for this update will be the first time I use CS5. There sure have been a lot of changes since CS2, so I'll see how it goes!
And with all of that, Sharyn got her little garden area cleaned up and re-planted (no vegetables this year).
Chips cuts his cake as Nicole and Brad look on
The "flea market" that wasn't
Canoeing up the Concord River
A V-22 Osprey taxis out from the apron . . . .
. . . . and lifts off
A CH-53 Sea Stallion (maybe Super Stallion?) comes in to land
Sharyn's garden, replanted
Odometer reading = 101,582
Miles for day = 0
5/27/10 to 7/14/10
It has been suggested to me that that from May 27 until now there must be something that I could write about. There is some truth to that, so here goes.
We no longer have the canoe that I bought from Chips. I think I used it three times — one time with Sharyn. She said that she liked her kayak better (our kayaks are two 14' Wilderness Systems Pungos), plus while I liked the canoe, there is a cumbersomeness that somewhat limits what you can do or where you can go in a given time-frame. Anyway I sold the canoe and made a $50 profit on the sale. I started looking for a kayak that would move through the water with greater ease than either the canoe or the Pungos and decided that would require a longer waterline length, which in turn directed me to touring kayaks. Looking on Craig's List I eventually came across a 17' Dagger "Atlantis" that seemed to fit what I was looking for. Sharyn bought it for me for my birthday (several days later she also bought me a set of Thule kayak roof mounts from L.L. Bean right down the road from the FamCamp).
So far I have been out with it four or five times and thus far it meets or exceeds what I hoped it would be. As I said earlier, we are only three miles from a put-in on the Concord River. There is another put-in for the Concord River in the town of Concord that is seven miles from here. A week or so ago I put in there and paddled upstream looking for the place where the Sudbury and Assabet rivers flow together to form the Concord. I thought that this confluence was some half mile or so upriver from the put-in, but I wasn't really sure of the distance. Shortening the story a little bit, I went upstream quite a ways until I came to a large broad area with lots of long underwater grass and I had no idea was I was. It turned out that was Fairhaven Bay — I had paddled upstream for some five miles, never seeing where the two rivers came together! It turns out that the much smaller Assabet flows into the larger river about 200 yards from where I put in. I had just paddled up the larger river not seeing the smaller river coming in on my right. It was not until four hours later that I got back to the put-in, somewhat tired and glad to be back.
Yesterday I paddled up the Assabet about 1½ miles which was as far as I could go. It's been a number of weeks since we've had any rain and the rivers are probably 4-5 feet below where they normally are this time of year. Even to get as far as I did, at one point I had to get out and walk the kayak for 100' so. The Assabet is even prettier than the Sudbury/Concord, in large part because it is so much narrower that you are really paddling "through the woods." Sharyn says next year she wants to bring her kayak up here (I think she should also have a kayak that moves through the water easier than the Pungo, but we'll see about that at another point in time).
As an additional add-on for my birthday, Chips took his daughter Karin, Sharyn, and me out to dinner at Bugaboo Creek where we all had good food and good "conversation."
Hanscom FamCamp sponsored two events over the last several weeks; a pot luck for Memorial Day and a barbecue for the Fourth of July. The July 4 barbecue had over 60 people, the biggest turnout we've ever had for one of our events. In addition to the hamburgers, hot dogs, and soda provided by FamCamp, there were three tables of food brought by other people. A very good time was had by everyone. We really like it when it turns out like that — makes it all worthwhile.
Every Friday, if anyone shows up, we have a group bike ride. Since it's not always the same people, we typically ride the Minuteman Bike Trail (a rail to trail) to Lexington, a distance of 3½ miles, stopping at Lexington Green where we talk about what happened there on April 19, 1775 (British troops fired on the Lexington Minutemen), and ending up at Peet's Coffee and Tea for coffee and scones before returning to the FamCamp. For the last two Fridays, however, we rode to the Old North Bridge in Concord where several hours after the shooting in Lexington, Colonial militiamen acting under direct orders, opened fire on the British troops ("the shot heard 'round the world"). That's a six mile ride, two miles on the road and four miles following the old railroad bed through the woods — this is just a narrow dirt trail, not the paved rail to trail that goes through Lexington and continues on to Cambridge. At the bridge, part of The Minuteman National Park, a ranger gives a talk every hour describing what happened at the bridge that day and how it became the first battle of the American Revolution. As he says, describing the magnitude of the event, it is not too much of an exaggeration to equate it to the Concord Police Department opening fire on the United States Army. Returning to the FamCamp, two weeks ago I said we had the option of returning via the old railroad bed, or we could take the road and come back through Minuteman Park. They opted to return through the park which was a nine mile return, mostly in the sun, and with a number of hills. This past week, I again gave the option, but described the difference between the two routes. This time they opted for the railroad bed. It's too bad those Friday rides don't get a better turnout because everyone always enjoys them, plus the more people the more fun the group has. I am not the world's most fun person!
Several weeks ago we called DirecTV and changed our program package plus added a DVR. Soon after the guy installed the DVR the volume on the TV was so low that we had to keep it turned all the way up and still could hardly hear it. When we called DirecTV about it they said it was a system wide problem and they were working on it. A week later it was still the same so we called again (working our way through a 47 step phone menu) and were told that they were still working on it. As compensation for the inconvenience they were going to give us a $10/month credit for the next year. The third time we called we asked them to suspend our service and let us know when they had it fixed. She said they won't call us, we'd have to call them. From there it rapidly went down hill when I said to just cancel our service and she said that I could not do that since we had a contract. I agreed we had a contract whereby they would provide us with TV service and we would pay them money, but since they were not providing the TV we would not pay any money. Her response was, "well you have a picture, don't you?" When I said "sue me" she went away and came back a minute later saying that they were canceling the contract due to technical difficulties. I forgot to mention that prior to the third phone call we called several people we know who have DirecTV to ask if they were having the same no volume problem (since they told us it was a system wide problem). No one else was having the problem and a DirecTV service guy who lives here had never heard of any such problem either. It seems to me that if they had just sent a service guy out here on our first call he probably would have fixed it. Anyway, now we have no television.
Two days ago our satellite radio stopped working. Figuring that without the radio there was no point in continuing the service we called Sirius and asked them to cancel our service. He asked why we were canceling and when I told him he said, "how about we just send you a new radio?" I told him that would work. Maybe DirecTV should take a look at the customer service from Sirius!
For a year or so now the driver's window on the CRV has been getting sluggish, sort of like it wasn't quite going to close. Well yesterday it got halfway up and stopped. It would go up and down, but not get more than halfway up. Today, for the considerable sum of $369.26 we had a new window regulator installed. That struck me as a lot of money, but as Sharyn and I were saying, the car is a 2000 model with over 104,000 miles on it, plus an additional 95,000 miles towed behind the motorhome, and this is the first repair we have needed. Good job Honda!
Finally, since December we have been flying a Gadsden flag along with the American flag. A number of people have asked us about it, "what is it," "what does it mean," etc. So much so that we made up a one page history of the flag to give to people who asked about it. We had another inquiry in the office the other day which gave me the idea to make that history part of the August FamCamp newsletter. Since I was focused on the history I thought I'd also put it on stringbean as a .pdf file.
First trial for kayak
First ride on new roof mounts
Paddling up the Sudbury River (where I thought it was still the Concord)
This guy didn't give me time to get ready
July 4th the grill ran none stop until we ran out of burgers (but we still had hot dogs)
Best of all, no one went away hungry!
American and Gadsden flag fly together
History of the Gadsden Flag
Odometer reading = 101,582
Miles for day = 0
7/15/2010 to 7/27/10
Since I got my kayak several weeks ago I have been looking for a touring kayak for Sharyn. We liked the Perception "Shadow" and missed out on one by several hours. Although it is still over 16' in length, it is a boat sized for women or somewhat smaller people. Fortunately, the next day we heard back from another guy who had the same boat but had not responded to my e-mails. Long story shortened, we arranged to meet him at a boating club on the Merrimack River in Lawrence MA where Sharyn could try it out. She thought it was okay (maybe), but when I told her I thought it was a perfect boat for her she said "okay." That was, I think, largely because she knew I wanted her to get it. Her apparent lack of enthusiasm did help in the price negotiation. "I'm trying to convince her to buy it, you have to make it easier with the price."
Today was our first day off since she got it so this morning we set of for the Concord River put in on Lowell Road in Concord with both kayaks. We put in and everything went well. Recent thunderstorms had caused the river to have a little more water than it did the last time I went which was good. We went upstream past where the Sudbury River becomes the Concord, but as the temperature climbed — heading for the 90's — it got too hot so we tuned around and headed back. A nice day in the 70's would be ideal, but that might not happen too soon. Anyway, Sharyn liked her kayak, but is not sure that she doesn't have a greater comfort level with her Pungo back in Virginia (last entry I said our Pungos were 14' — that was in error, they are 12' ).
Put in as seen from bridge. The Concord River begins at the top of the picture; the Sudbury is coming in from the left, and the Assabet is coming in from the right
We are just about to launch
Sharyn moves along the edge of the river
This is my favorite
Maybe this is my favorite
These rivers are beautiful places to paddle
I was there too
This guy ignored it all
Odometer reading = 101,582
Miles for day = 0
7/28/10 to 10/25/10
On August 3rd we (FamCamp) did a 5 mile paddle down the Concord River through the 3600 acre Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge. We had nine people using 3 canoes and 3 kayaks. As the river wound its way through the mostly wooded landscape everyone found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable trip. It's something we will definitely do again next year.
The next evening we went to the Colonial Inn in Concord with Ken and Gwen, friends and fellow FamCampers, for dinner and New Orleans Jazz. The Colonial Inn has been in its present location since 1715 and was a regular gathering spot for some of those who would become prominent leaders in the time leading up to and during the American Revolution. Today it remains a great place to eat, and on Wednesday nights, a place to go to listen to real New Orleans jazz. Two things that you cannot do there while the band is playing are: keep from smiling, and keep you feet still. It's really great music.
About 1,000 years ago the indians of western Greenland used a somewhat unique style of kayak paddle that has, in recent years, enjoyed a resurgence in popularity with kayakers in many parts of the world. These paddles, referred to as "Greenland paddles," are considerably narrower than the more traditional kayak paddle and therefore offer less resistance when pulled through the water, enabling a paddler to maintain a faster cadence and supposedly go further and for a longer period of time with less fatigue. At least that's what I've read. One writer described it as somewhat akin to pedaling a bike in a lower gear; because the pedaling is easier you can continue pedaling longer and therefore go further. It has never worked that way for me on a bike, and as it turns out, does not work that way for me when paddling.
Anyway, having read all that stuff, I bought an 8' 2x4 of Western Red Cedar with near perfect, fine, straight grain. I also had to buy a small block plane (I have three planes back in Virginia) and a small surform plane type tool. Three days later I had a Greenland Paddle properly sized and shaped to fit me. After another week of oiling and finishing I tried my beautiful paddle (it is a beautiful thing) in the Concord River (actually at this point I've tried it twice). Using this paddle can I paddle longer and/or go further? I don't think so. As with the bike, it does not work for me. It still looks very nice, and at the present time is mounted over the head of the bed.
Trumbo Point is one of two Navy FamCamps at Key West, both of which are part of the Key West Naval Air Station. Trumbo Point is somewhat unique as there are no hookup whatsoever. Everyone is drycamping. Also, they have never turned anyone away at Trumbo. It is an old seaplane facility with what has amounted to unlimited space for RV's. To make a long story short, there is a group from Trumbo that had their summer reunion here at Hanscom last year. They so enjoyed it here that they came back again this year. We so enjoyed them that we plan on traveling from MacDill to spend several weeks with them at Trumbo this winter.
This summer it rained almost every day during the week they were here, but that did not dampen their fun or activities in the least. They held their lobster dinner under the tent and even had two big, beautiful lobsters for me and Sharyn (they even cooked them for us when Sharyn said she could not drop them into boiling water).
Al and Margie, friends from Long Island, came to visit with us late in August. Al was interested in the history of the area (particularly the Old North Bridge in Concord*), while Margie wanted to see The Garden in the Woods, the largest landscaped collection of wildflowers in the Northeast which happens to be in Framingham MA, about 20 miles down the road. We did both, and we all had a very enjoyable weekend together.
Some time ago Sharyn's cousin Carl called from Florida to tell me that he and a friend were going to be in the Alafia Challenge, an 11 mile canoe/kayak race on the Alafia River scheduled for November 13 and he thought I might be interested. I was interested, and now I am signed up to race as well. While there is a class for those "over 50," if your kayak is over 17' you can't be in that class, and my kayak is 17' 4". In some kind of preparation for this race I have been trying to go out twice a week, but recently it has been kind of cold and/or raining so I've fallen off to not much more than once a week. Most times out I do somewhere between 5 and 8 miles, but I've also done 10 and 15 miles (including another ten miler this afternoon). Anyway, if I don't do well I can always explain that I was older than the winner's grandfather! Since we now have to be in Tampa by Nov 13 we will not have the opportunity to stop and visit along the way as we otherwise would.
This year we have a "confirmed reservation" for a full hookup site at MacDill so we will not have to be in the rotation as we were for the last two years (rotation: two weeks in full hookups, then dry camp until a partial hookup site becomes available, and then wait again for another two weeks in full hookups, then start all over again). Since our confirmed reservation is for Nov 15 the race schedule only requires we get there two days earlier than we would otherwise have to.
Anyway, next Sunday, at the end of the workday, we turn off the
lights, lock up the buildings, and the 2010 season will be officially
FamCampers load up their boats for the Concord River trip
As we get started down the river
Where we stopped for lunch along the way
Jazz group in one of Colonial Inn's pubs
The piano player is everybody's favorite
All FamCampers are not on Social Security
My Greenland paddle begins to take shape
Finished paddle with the tools it took to make it
C-17 taking off from Hanscom (maximum takeoff weight is 585,000 pounds!)
Sharyn closing out at the end of the day
A week of rain did not dampen the fun spirits the Trumbo group
Margie & Sharyn take a break at the Garden in the Woods
He was there too
Margie, Sharyn, & Al in the Colonial Inn dining room
Minuteman statue at the Old North Bridge in Concord
Friday morning bike ride group returns from Lexington
A view of the Concord River
The Assabet is a smaller, narrower river
These guys usually jump in the water before you can get to your camera
This tracks course, speed, distance, time, etc., which can be uploaded to Google Earth or other mapping programs
Sharyn planted this Montauk Daisy from a 1 gallon container on 9/16/2008
Fall foliage at Walden Pond
Took this on way back from Walden Pond
*The Old North Bridge in Concord is where the American Revolution began on April 19, 1775, when the minutemen fired upon British troops. The inscription at the base of the statue (the first stanza of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Concord Hymn) reads:
"By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Every time I stand there and read that I get goose bumps.
Odometer reading = 101,582
Miles for day = 0
10/26/10 to 11/1/10
As of yesterday afternoon we have everything here shut off, locked up, and as of now we're ready to leave. Seeing as how the temperature last night was down in the 20's and forecast to be even colder tonight, we're not leaving any too soon.
Most of the day today was spent getting everything ready to leave. Shelves, tables, and counter tops cleared off, lots of accumulated stuff put away—into travel mode, sewer and water lines disconnected and stowed, flagpole taken down, outdoor chairs, etc. loaded into the car, and kayaks loaded onto the car and tied down for a 1,000+ mile trip (that's not the same as a 4 mile drive to the Concord River).
Anyway, as of now, all that remains to be done is to bring in the slides, unplug the electric line, and drive away. The plan is to do that before 7:AM tomorrow morning.
All hooked up and ready to roll!
Odometer reading = 101,582
Miles for day = 0
11/2/10 to 11/7/10
We pulled out of Hanscom FamCamp at 7:30AM, pretty close to what we had planned. We had also planned to travel down I-81 to Virginia, but after we were underway we decided to take the Jersey Turnpike and US-301 instead. It has always been a two day trip from Hanscom to Louisa but as we drove along we just kept going, with no specific stopping point in mind. Eventually it became clear that it made more sense to just keep going. Some 15 hours and 608 miles later we arrived at Jordan's driveway. Not sure we'll ever do that again!
We had several days to visit with Jordan and Shane and Phil and his family, all of which was very nice. Our granddaughter Katlin is a high school cheerleader and we went to the "Senior Day" nighttime football game where we got to see her perform. Both she and the football team did well, but with less than a minute on the clock the other team made a two point conversion and won the game by one point.
The following day Phil used Sharyn's kayak and he and I went kayaking on the South Fork of the Rivanna River. Sharyn has been telling me that if I'd try her kayak I'd like it better than mine, and that her kayak goes faster/easier than mine (she has used both). After 5 miles up river, Phil and I switched kayaks, and we both agreed that mine is faster, easier to paddle, and more comfortable to sit in. The comfort part is probably due to the fact that Sharyn's is designed for a woman or smaller bodied person. I was surprised, however, that it did not perform better than it did. Anyway, Sharyn says when we get back to Virginia she want to get her 12' Pungo and then put this one on Craig's List.
Since we plan on flying back to Virginia for Christmas (leaving the motorhome at MacDill) Sharyn unpacked our winter clothes and left them with Jordan. As I write this it's not clear to me why full-time RVers even have winter clothes!
Anyway, we'll be leaving here in the morning to head south, hopefully to warmer weather.
Phil with Sharyn's kayak
Phil in my kayak after we switched (Sharyn's
is prettier, but I like mine better)
Odometer reading = 102,190
Miles for day = 608
We were on the road at 7:30, halfway between my 7:AM and Sharyn's 8:AM. Our target was the Walmart in Savannah where we have stopped on prior occasions. The GPS was telling us the Walmart was several miles from the I-95 exit. That sure did not match my memory as I was positive Walmart was right at the end of the exit ramp, which, in fact, is where it turned out to be.
The parking lot at Walmart was rather crowded with RV's, to the extent that they were somewhat interfering with the available parking for regular customers. I suspect that if it was like that all the time Walmart would would have to find someway to address the problem. This is prime time for RV's to be moving south and it's probably not so crowded at other times of the year. We, and other RVers, appreciate Walmart making their parking lots available for overnight parking. We always make it a point to shop at the Walmart when we spend the night, usually spending more than what we would have paid for a campsite. This time we only bought milk and bread, but that is not the norm.
We were in bed at 9 o'clock.
Odometer reading = 102,705
Miles for day = 515
11/9/10 to 11/11/10
You can only sleep so long and having gone to bed at 9 o'clock I was awake at three. Recognizing that that was too early to get up, I stayed in bed until four, at which time I got up, plugged in the coffee pot, got dressed, and eventually (at 4:40) poured Sharyn a cup of coffee and woke her up. As she came out to get her coffee she saw the time and said (I guess to me), "You've got to be kidding."
Anyway, we stayed married, and were back out on I-95 by—I think it was—5:30. We did take note of the fact that when the sun came up over the Georgia marshlands we had already gone 100 miles.
It was lunchtime when we arrived at MacDill AFB. The fact that our "confirmed reservation" was for November 15 presented no problem. We got to select our site in the annex and we like our choice a lot. Since this will be our home until next April it's nice that we were able to pick our spot.
Since we got here it has been sunny and in the upper 70's to low 80's. Quite nice, and forecast to continue that way, at least for the immediate future. Makes the drive down here worthwhile.
For several years now our Internet access has been via Verizon Broadband for $60 per month. While the service is not bad, by today's standard the speed is not so great—typically running 200-400KB/sec—sometimes a little faster or a lot slower. One thing I do not like is the limit of 5GB bandwidth per month. While that has never been a problem, several months ago we went over by about 1,200 MB and were charged $70 extra! To pay for overage is one thing, but when you are over by 25% and the overage charge exceeds the regular bill, that is punitive and a ripoff! Right now, with two more days to go in the billing cycle, we are again right up against the limit.
Anyway, there are telephone lines running to these campsites so I called the phone company (Verizon—a different company than Verizon Wireless) to see if we could get a DSL connection. To make a long story short, they will be here Monday to connect us up with a 3,000KB/sec (3MB) DSL line for $40 per month, plus a one time charge of $35 that includes a modem/router that we will own. (The $40 per month charge is because we are not getting phone service with the DSL. If we got the phone service the DSL would only be $30). We will then put the Verizon Broadband service on suspension for $6 per month. Bottom line, we will pay less money, have ten times the speed and no limit on data usage!
Our campsite and new home
Odometer reading = 103,050
Miles for day = 345
11/12/10 to 11/14/10
From the time we closed the FamCamp at Hanscom on October 31 we have been under some pressure to get here quickly as some time back I signed up to participate in the November 13 Alafia Challenge, a nine mile kayak/canoe race on the Alafia River, just across the bay from MacDill AFB.
Yesterday was the big day and we were on line as the gates to Lithia Springs Park opened at 7:AM. Lithia Springs is a natural spring that has water coming up out of the ground year round at a temperature of 72°. The water from the spring then flows into the Alafia River which some 15-17 miles later empties into Hillsborough Bay just across from MacDill AFB. The racers assembled at and around the pool or pond that sits over the spring. The starting line was in the stream whereby the pond flows into the river.
With 164 boats racing, they started two to four boats at a time at 1-2 minute intervals. Where spring water flows into the river the river is quite narrow—probably in the 20'-30' range, but quite variable along the shoreline. Over the nine mile course the river widens considerably until at the finish line where it is about 350' across. The current varies also, from nearly imperceptible at the finish line to perhaps 5-7 mph further upstream where narrow, shallow areas, or rocks, cause the flow to accelerate.
There were 17 boats in my class, "Men's Elite Kayak", basically any kayak that had a rudder, or was over 17' in length. My goal (if that's the right word) was to finish in 1hr:45min and not be in the bottom 25%. My official time was 1hr:50min:25sec. I placed 8 out of 17 in my class, and 49 out of 164 overall. Obviously I feel very good about those results.
The finish was at Riverview Park where there was what would best be described a a family fun day with food, soft drinks (including lots of water), loud music, and awards for 1st to 3rd place finishers. The whole affair was very well planned and executed. We, and everyone else, had a great time, and we plan to do it again next year.
Upon our return to the motorhome I took a one hour nap, which I never do. Not long after I got up Sharyn said she was going to go lay down also, which she did. All in all it was a very good day!
Cars lined up waiting for the gates to Lithia Springs Park to open
Don, Carl, and myself enjoy our free Continental breakfast before the race
Some of the first kayaks to get lined up at the water's edge
As the sun rose, the number of kayaks (and racers) increased
Still more kayaks
All kinds of kayaks
Soon there is no room to walk (also note the canoes in the background)
Karen Wagner (race coordinator) gives final briefing
Boats approach the start as their numbers are called
Three starters take off into the river
Me and #1409 get lined up at the start
We are in the river and on our way (Last year #1409 placed 3rd in his class and 3rd overall. This year he placed 2nd in his class and 2nd overall — obviously, he totally wiped me out)
I finally make it to the finish line!
After the race celebration party
Alfia Challenge race course as seen on Google Earth
This morning all is back to normal and
Sharyn enjoys her book and her coffee
(except for this one, all photos by Sharyn)
Odometer reading = 103,050
Miles for day = 0
11/15/10 to 12/14/10
I have been doing some fishing with the kayak. I haven't fished for years, but when I did, salt water fishing did not require a license and you could basically keep whatever you caught. Boy has that changed. The other day I caught three fish, one snook and two spotted trout. Having no place to keep them except on my lap (the kayak has a no-spare-room cockpit) I released the first two, but then kept the third by leaving him in the net and attached to the side of the kayak. I was sorry I had not kept them all as they would have been sufficient for dinner for both of us. I was also somewhat apprehensive as separate and apart from the no place to put them, they were all less than the 20" minimum size, plus I had no license. I like it better the way it used to be when there was no need for a license to fish salt water, plus if a salt water fish was big enough to eat it was big enough to keep. Lots of things change with time and it seems that where government regulation is concerned most of those changes are not for the better. Decades ago I used to say that we would get to the point where government would say how many sheets of toilet paper you could use. People thought that was silly, but for a number of years now government has limited a toilet flush to 1.6 gallons of water, so we are getting there.
Anyway, awhile ago Chips brought his 5th wheel down from Hanscom and stayed here for several weeks. He says if he had to do it again he'd join the Air Force, and if stationed at MacDill, he'd stay in forever. However he's now back at Hanscom freezing his butt off.
The guy next to us is here by himself so for Thanksgiving Sharyn invited him to join us and Chips for Thanksgiving dinner. The four of us had a great turkey dinner with all the usual trimming, etc. Not like it used to be with a dozen or more people around the table, but nice nevertheless.
Our site is in full sun all day and, as the motorhome faces south, we have the sun coming through the windshield, basically from sun up until sundown which causes considerable glare plus heat buildup in the front of the motorhome. Obviously this is not a new problem (or inconvenience) but, depending on time of year, where we are, etc., is something we have dealt with for years. Another windshield related item has been the fact that people can always see in. Of course we could close the windshield curtains to solve that, but then we can't see out. Anyway, we have solved all of that. Last week we had RV Windshield Covers of Florida install covers over the windshield and both front side windows. They are a husband and wife team who after full-timing for 14 years went into the business. They come to the site with their fully equipped van, measure the windows, cut and sew the fabric, and install the finished product. That's difficult to beat. The fabric substantially reduces heat and glare, we can see out but people outside cannot see in, etc. We should have done this years ago.
Several days ago winter came to Florida with nighttime temperatures in the 30's, some 30° below normal. A little further inland, away from the water, it has gone into the 20's on several occasions. This cold is supposed to remain here for the next two days after which it will return to the 70's, but we won't be here. That's when we are flying back to Virginia for two weeks to spend Christmas with kids and grandchildren.
We wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas—as opposed to just "happy holidays"—and we'll see you again when we wrap up "Travelog 2010."
This guy lives in the tree behind the motorhome (photo as shot at dusk)
Same photo improved with Photoshop
Inside looking out
Odometer reading = 103,050
Miles for day = 0
12/15/10 to 12/31/10
On December 16 we flew to Virginia to spend the Christmas Holidays with Jordan, and be able to spend time and visit with Phil, Kim, Katlin, Philip IV, and Shane. We did all of that. Everyone was at Jordan's house for Christmas dinner, plus we had Christmas Eve at Phil and Kim's, and it was all very nice. However, I think it will be a long time before we go on another trip without the motorhome. The convenience and familiarity of being in your own home is pretty hard to beat—besides, that's why our home has wheels—so we can take it with us wherever we go!
The day we left the FamCamp here at MacDill AFB, the cold spell broke and the temperature was in the 70's. Unfortunately, we were not here to enjoy it. We were landing in 3-4 inches of snow at Richmond International Airport with temperatures in the mid 20's. Since the snow was still coming down, the roads had not yet been plowed and Jordan (who only got to the airport five minutes before we did) said her knuckles were white from holding on to the steering wheel for so long. (For those who might be reading this at some time in the future, that was the edge of the giant blizzard that shut down the East Coast from the Mid-Atlantic all the way up through New England for almost a week).
Marlene, a friend of ours had driven us to the airport that morning. When we got to the airport I realized I did not have my camera and that I had probably left it on the picnic table back at the campsite. When Marlene got back to the FamCamp the camera was there. That was a relief, but did not yield any Christmas pictures.
We got back to MacDill FamCamp on December 30. On December 31 the year 2010, and this travelog, both came to an end.
Odometer reading = 103,050
Miles for day = 0
***Read the End
of this Eleven Year Travelog***
(NOTE: There has been a change — the Travelog is not exactly ending)
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Check the precise time
February 2000 through December 31, 2010
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