Tuesday, November 30, 2010

We're in Florida!

Well, we had a nice couple of days at Reed Bingham but were really anxious to get the last leg of our traveling behind us. We got up at a decent time on Monday and began to get ready to leave. I was putting stuff away inside and came outside to put the heater in one of the basement compartments (being optimistic, I'm assuming we won't need it in Florida!). While I was outside I thought I'd just grab Brandi, who was on her line, and put her inside. I didn't have her leash so I just hooked my finger through her collar and began to pull her toward the motor home - BIG MISTAKE! She pulled away from me and took off at a FULL GALLOP. And, BOY, can that dog run! I called her and tried to chase her down but she ran all over the campground area with me behind her. I bet I chased her around for a good 20 minutes - and then, all of a sudden, she found a bone (we think it was a big old turkey breast) and simply came back to our site and laid down and started eating the bone. I came right up to her and she went right into the RV - AARGGHH! While I was chasing the dog around, Dave had pulled the RV out of the site onto the road and had started hooking up the car. When I got Brandi inside I came around and Dave had this kind of horrified look on his face - he had backed the car up to position it behind the RV and he backed right into a big old pine tree! (I think he was so distracted by the whole thing with Brandi that he literally paid no attention to where he was...) Anyway - he totally destroyed his bike - the frame was bent, the sprocket was bent, it was a MESS. And he's had that bike for 27 (yes, 27!) years - so he was just SICK about it. I, on the other hand, was thinking "gee, finally I can get him to buy a new bike!". Well, I wasn't thinking that exactly, because I know he felt so bad, but on the other hand, I was REALLY glad it wasn't the bumper of the car - that would be a LOT more money than getting him a new bike.

So - after all the excitement of getting out of the park, the trip down to Cedar Key turned out to be very uneventful - thank God! We didn't need anything else to happen to us! We got down here at about noon or so and... well, it's an interesting place. It is very quaint, very old and it's going to be just fine for us for one month. Most of the sites are really small and narrow, including site #9 which was ours. But our neighbors came over and told us that the managers were pretty good about letting you try to switch to a different site if there was one available. (They assured us that they were NOT trying to get rid of us, but they could tell our rig was going to be a pretty snug fit!) So I went up to the office and the manager, who is just a SWEETHEART, was able to move us to a bigger site until December 30. At that time, we'll either just move to an overflow spot for two days or even just head out - we'll worry about that later. So, anyway, the park is on the water, which is really nice, and there are a lot of little rickety old docks jutting out into the water that you can sit out on and watch the sunset - very nice! There is a CUTE little "clubhouse" and every Friday night there is a potluck and live "Dixie" music. Oh boy! But everyone that we've met has been super nice and we're sure it's going to be fun to be here. We're within walking distance of the really old, quaint downtown area - maybe a mile or slightly more. I've attached a few pictures just to give my "readers" a little preliminary flavor of the island - there will be many more as we begin to do things here. So - eat your hearts out! - yesterday afternoon when we pulled in it was in the mid-70's and sunny with just a slight breeze - absolutely beautiful weather.

Today was also gorgeous - mid-80's!!! - but we had a mission! We needed a new bike for Dave! So we drove into Gainesville and started going down the list of bike shops that I had pulled off the internet. The first two were busts, but the third place was a winner. Dave found a bike he really liked, plus they replaced one of my rims (which also got bent in the "incident") and we also bought a new bike rack (yep-another casualty!). However, we walked out only about $700 poorer, which is still cheap compared to the price of a new bumper - plus Dave has a NEW BIKE! When we got home he took it for a "break-in" ride and came home very happy with it - whew!

So overall we're beginning to feel pretty settled in. I took Brandi for two long walks today, Dave got in a bike ride and is getting ready to cook fish for dinner as we speak, and I've got my little "office" all set up in the front of the RV. I'll attach a picture later, but it's working out GREAT! We took an old card table and cut the legs to fit so I have a nice little desktop surface in the front passenger area. I've got my nice big monitor and keyboard set up, with my printer sitting behind me on top of a cheap plastic rolling file cabinet filled with work stuff, but everything is working just fine. I've been putting in a couple of hours a day, but tomorrow is the first of the month so I'll begin doing month end work and putting in a few more hours for the next couple weeks. But I think this whole remote working arrangement is going to work out just great. So - right now - sitting here with all the doors and windows open and the breeze coming in from the Gulf - I'm a pretty happy camper!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What a Long Drive

Well, we made it down here - well, almost all the way. We left Buck Creek Friday morning - in freezing cold weather - BOY, did it get cold overnight! When we lifted the jacks on the motor home, the rear jacks were basically frozen to the ground and brought up a big "divot" of grass and dirt along with the jacks - different! But we got on the road with no problems at all, nor did we have any problems along the way (which has NOT necessarily been true of previous years, so we're always relieved when we have uneventful traveling days). We pulled over into a Walmart just south of Knoxville and stayed there for the night. We actually found I-75 to be a pretty good route - we're thinking we actually prefer it to our normal southbound route which goes through Indianapolis, Louisville and Nashville (so, Brenda, I guess you should plan on us for Thanksgiving every year from now on!). And, as usual, when we got into southern Kentucky and started seeing the mountains, we were amazed at how pretty the scenary is. So, anyway, we spent the night at the Walmart and slept surprisingly well - we're getting pretty good at this sleeping-in-a-huge-parking-lot thing.

Saturday morning we got up really early - like 6:00! - and hit the road. After we gassed up and got coffee (for me) and hooked up, we were back on I-75 by 7:00. And we were glad we did, because we got in a number of hours of easy driving - we even got through Atlanta without any problems at all. In fact, the traffic was amazingly light at about 11:00 on Saturday morning. But, BOY, as soon as we got through Atlanta and hit the stretch of road between Atlanta and Macon, did we hit traffic! We basically crawled between the two cities and we never did figure out why - we really never passed an accident - but the traffic was so backed up that even after it started moving south of Macon, we never really got back out of a heavy flow for the rest of the day. Fortunately, we had planned all along to pull into Reed Bingham State Park, which is about 40 miles north of the Georgia-Florida state line, so we got off the highway about 3:30 and breathed a huge collective sigh of relief!

Since our reservation at Cedar Key starts on Wednesday, December 1, our initial plan was to stay here until Wednesday morning. But we got to thinking, and called them this morning to see if we could just come in a couple of days early, which was fine with them. So we'll be leaving first thing tomorrow (i.e. Monday) morning and we should arrive at our December home by early afternoon. And then we are PARKED for a whole month- VERY cool! But in the meanwhile, we've had a great day here at Reed Bingham. This is one of our favorite "layover" parks along the Michigan-to-Florida route. It has maybe 70 or 80 campsites and is situated on the side of a pretty little lake formed by a dam on the Little River (yes, that is it's real name). And the hiking trails are great. I went out this morning for about an hour-long walk around the lake with Brandi and then went again about 4:00 and hiked the trail along the river (which is one of my favorite hour-long hikes). Brandi did really well although she just about pulled my arm out of shoulder taking off after her first armadillo! God, is she STRONG! It was a little emotional hiking with her because I've done this many, many times in the past with Foster. But she's a good little companion and it was fun to see her excitement, curiousity and enthusiasm at all the new sights, sounds and smells. Dave went on a long bike ride this morning and then spent some time fishing in the afternoon. The temp was in the low 60's so it was really, really pleasant - and we were really, really happy to be here! Plus - we made a KILLING in firewood - there was a group camping together and when they left this morning, they left a huge pile of really good firewood behind - oak, I think Dave said. Anyway - the SECOND they pulled out we jumped into the car and drove over and snagged the firewood. And it's a good thing we did because 10 minutes later the camphosts headed over there and got the measly leftovers that we didn't take. It's a man-eat-man battle in these campgrounds over leftover firewood, believe me! So - we had our first campfire tonight, which was terrific!

So - our camping trip has now offically begun! We've had our first campfire, our first hot dogs, our first hiking/biking/fishing experiences - and tomorrow we head out on the last leg of our drive into Florida. Hallelujah! Life is good...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, we had a great Thanksgiving - hope all of you did too. We spent the day with Brenda and Arnie and the girls. Brenda prepared a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving dinner - her first one at home in all these years! - with all the traditional food... turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits, deviled eggs.... Plus, if you know Brenda AT ALL, you know she also had fantastic desserts - her wonderful cheesecake, adorable homemade cookies, Dutch apple pie and pumpkin pie. We stuffed ourselves with dinner first, then made a run over to Chelsey's apartment, and then back to the house for dessert. We're home now - laying around STUFFED - and tomorrow morning we pack up and head for parts south. We had a great time here but are ready to head to warmer climes.

So - to back track - we left home on Monday, right on schedule, and made good time getting down here. We arrived about 6:30 - in the dark, which we HATE - and got set up. Brenda and Arnie brought pizza out to us, which we really appreciated. After they left we took a walk - in the dark, obviously - but at least we got to move around. It was really pleasant out - probably close to 60 - so it was nice to get out. We are at Buck Creek State Park, which is about halfway between Columbus and Dayton, so it's the perfect location for us. When we got here, there was one other little trailer in the whole park, so we have lots of privacy. The nice thing about that is we were able to let Brandi run free, which is SO good for her - she has a strong "need for speed" and desperately needs to RUN! The only bad thing about the park is there is NO WATER - AT ALL! The bathrooms are closed, as is the dump station, and there are no water outlets anyplace. Since we didn't put water in our tanks when we left, we now have no water at all. Not the end of the world, for sure, but we're having to use bottled water to flush the toilet (so, obviously, Dave is using the great outdoors for HIS bathroom!). No big deal, but we learned another valuable lesson - NEVER assume there'll be water at your destination point.

So anyway - on Tuesday Brenda came over about noon and the three of us went into Yellow Springs to do an AVA walk (with Dave biking on his own, just like last year). Before we did that, though, we went a few miles beyond Yellow Springs and visited Tessa at her apartment. It's really cute, but she has a roommate that is in the process of moving out, so she hasn't been able to put "her" touches on it yet - but it'll come around. But she seems really happy and seems to be doing really well on her own. After a visit with her we went back to Yellow Springs and Brenda and I did the AVA walk, which was a VERY nice one (remember - those are usually 10K or 6.6 miles). I haven't actually done an AVA walk since August so I expected to be really tired afterwards (which I was) and really sore the next day (which I wasn't! YAY!). Yellow Springs is SO cute - it's like a quaint "hippy" town with "green" shops and yoga shops and art galleries - just a fun place to walk around. While we did the walk, Dave rode his bike around and then we all met at this nice little bar/restaurant named Peaches and had a meal. Very nice day!

Tuesday was quite pleasant weather, but by Wednesday it was really, REALLY cold so we ended up just going over to Brenda's house for a few hours and taking showers (which felt GREAT!).

So then Thursday - THANKSGIVING. I already talked about our dinner, but also wanted to mention Chelsey's apartment. VERY cute! It's only a studio apartment but she and Ashley have it fixed up so cute and so homey. Chelsey already has all kinds of Christmas decorations up and I can tell she is VERY happy to be on her own and have her own place. Then we drive into Hilliards and looked at the building where Brenda and Arnie are thinking about opening another bakery, but this time with retail also (i.e. they plan to have a customer walk-up counter where they can sell Brenda's cookies, cheesecake, cupcakes, etc., etc.). It is a really cute house in a historic area where the whole main street area is older houses that have been made over into shops and stuff. I think Brenda will do a GREAT business here and I can't wait to see how this unfolds.

So - now that we've done our layover in Columbus, seen the kids and grandkids (which was SO great - look how cute we all look!), and had our Thanksgiving dinner, we are anxious to get started south. Our plan is to leave in the morning, get through Ohio and Kentucky by Friday night, almost as far as Atlanta by Saturday night, and then drive around Atlanta Sunday morning. Since we don't check into our December reservation until the 1st, which is Wednesday, we're planning on spending a few days at Reed Bingham State Park in Adele, Georgia, just north of the Florida state line. Hopefully by our next blog we'll be camped at Reed Bingham enjoying 75 degree weather!

Hope everyone reading this had a great Thanksgiving.

PS - Thank you, Tessa, for taking care of my final exams at ITT so we could get on the road on Monday instead of Tuesday - I really appreciate it!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Getting Ready to Leave

Well, tomorrow is our last full day at home - and then we take off on our sixth winter vacation in the RV. Sometimes it feels surreal to think we've been fortunate enough to do this wonderful thing six years in a row. We're so excited about this year, but it's going to be a little different. Why? Well...

  1. We're leaving before Thanksgiving instead of after. That means we won't have Thanksgiving with my mom, but she was great about it and didn't "guilt" me at all (...thanks, Mom!). We're excited about going to Brenda's for Thanksgiving instead - this will be the first time they've stayed home and had their "own" celebration (instead of driving up to G.R.) so we're thrilled to be able to share it with them. Also, we're excited to see the girls' apartments and get a chance to spend a few days in Columbus with all of them before we head south.

  2. We're taking our new puppy with us. For those of you who followed us last year, you know we lost Foster last January, which was heartbreaking and horrible. In June we got a new puppy - Brandi. She is a rescue dog out of Guatemala. Dr Bader is a local vet who makes trips down there periodically and, while he is there, he rescues few puppies - maybe two or three times a year??? Anyway, Brandi is an absolute sweet heart (...look at those eye!) - but she IS a puppy! We've kind of spoiled her - she went through obedience training but we haven't been very good (... AT ALL!) about working with her, so she still jumps up on people, doesn't come when she's called, etc. Plus, of course, every time we leave her we don't know EXACTLY what she's going to do in our absence - sometimes she's very good, sometimes she's very naughty and gets into things she's not supposed to. Plus she LOVES the cats and they do NOT love her. So she's constantly chasing them around and we're constantly yelling at her to "LEAVE THE CATS ALONE!". So it'll be extremely interesting (...is that the right word) to see how everything works out. And, of course, it'll be sad for us that we don't have Foster with us - but, actually, we DO have him with us. We had him created last year and Dave put him into the RV today - there's no way we're leaving him home alone. (And, YES, I do realize that he is gone and these are just ashes, but it makes US feel better to say we're taking him along with us - SO THERE!)

  3. We're also staying places for longer periods this year; in fact, our first stop is to spend the entire month of December on Cedar Key, off the coast north of Tampa, kind of straight west of Gainesville. This is actually where we had to put Foster to sleep last year so it'll be sort of sad to go back there. But we loved Cedar Key and found what appears to be a really nice campground right on the island, so we made reservations for the whole month - hope we end up liking it for that long!!! It's kind of a "science experiment" - by the end of the month we'll certainly know whether or not we want to do anything like that again!

  4. The biggest change: I'll be working on the road. I worked for Kerkstra all summer, just like last year, but in July was given the opportunity to take over the accounting manager's functions - I'm NOT the accounting manager (...I'm DONE with managing!) but I pretty much took over all her responsibilities. And I LOVE it. But what's REALLY cool is that Scott (who is "JUST" the IT guy!) set me up with the technology to be able to sign onto my work computer remotely and basically do everything that I could do if I were literally sitting at my desk. My plan is to work about 20 hours per week, and it's great because I'll have total flexibility in what hours I work during the day - which means I'll probably do the majority of my work late at night, since I tend to be a night owl. It kind of amazes me that I can actually be sitting 1200 miles away and still keep up on my work - and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity to do this. Even though I thought I'd be completely retired by now, it's great to have landed in a situation where I can still keep myself occupied, use my brain, and earn a few dollars at the same time. The biggest challenge, I THINK, will be to manage my time wisely so I can juggle "play time" and work time appropriately.

So - we finish packing tomorrow and we leave early Monday morning. And just in time - they are predicting fairly heavy snow over Thanksgiving. Next blog: Columbus Ohio!