Saturday, April 22, 2017

Around the Panhandle

In fact it's amazing they can fit it in in so short a time. But alas we had but one day, and that lasted from 10am to 9pm just at the show.

We hit the road again and took the Interstate! I know practice what you preach! But we have a deadline to meet in Pensacola which is 500+ miles away so we broke our own rule and “super slabbed” it to Tallahassee. 

We stayed at the Elks for the night, got a tremendous welcome and horned in on dinner with the Lady Elks who were having their meeting. Meeting with and talking to the local members soon made the evening fly by, and we will have to come back again to see all the sights they told us we must see in the city.

Next stop Pensacola, renowned for being the training center for Naval Aviators. We were here to meet up with Wayne and Lynne from San Diego, fellow member of the the “Shanty Shakers” RV club with whom we've had several enjoyable rallies. Wayne and Lynne are heading to visit relatives around Naples FL and we worked out that we would all be around Pensacola about the same time so we arranged to meet at the Elks there.

Wayne and Lynne, always smiling!
Apart from just getting together there was another reason to meet up. Wayne owns a DeLorean car and I've been making a painting of it based on a photograph he sent me. He was very pleased with the result.

The finished painting.
Wayne and I also wanted to visit the Naval Aviation Museum here. The girls didn't seem too interested so we went without them!
The Blue Angels team hanging from the roof!
All the excitement at Fun n Sun set me up for a big disappointment when we got to Pensacola and the Naval Aviation Museum. I'd been there before some 30 years ago and had fond memories of it. Back then, if I remember, most of the exhibits were outside. For the sake of preservation they have mainly been moved inside, but now they are so jammed in it's almost impossible to take photographs, and it can get confusing too. The tram ride around the flight line was canceled due to a vehicle breakdown so that probably didn't help. Wayne wanted to see a particular airplane that was pulled out of a lake in San Diego and that is apparently waiting to be restored and it can only be viewed from the tram ride.
Camped side by side at the Pensacola Elks Lodge
Wayne enjoyed it and even put up with me jabbering on about engines, pilots, airplanes the way I do when I get an audience in an airplane museum. We all went to the local Irish Pub for dinner after and if you happen to be in Pensacola I'd recommend McGuire's. But expect a ½ hr wait, it's very popular.

Wayne and Lynne headed south while we stayed for the rest of the week and explored the “Panhandle”, which is as the name suggests, the western part of Florida that is shaped like – a pan handle! 

30+ years ago when we first came to the states, we drove across to this area from New Orleans. We had happy memories of Fort Walton Beach and Destin, which were sleepy little beach resorts when we visited them around Thanksgiving in 1983.

Not any more! The beach can't be seen for tower blocks and vacation homes. A blight of brightly colored boxes on stilts has spread around the whole of Florida's coastline. I hope we find some unspoiled areas somewhere. We are getting tired of the sprawl.
Indian Gap Campground near Port St Joe
We did find some less developed beach down in Port St Joe and Indian Gap but there were “For Sale" signs everywhere so it can't last. Being Easter Weekend it was busy despite it not being a public holiday in the US. In Europe it's a 4 day weekend and everyone usually heads out hoping for good weather on the first camp-out of the year. We actually had snow one Easter in Holland!
Fresh Shrimp for dinner.
Probably a lot of our discontent has to do with our trip to Europe which is looming on the horizon. It's less than a month away now and we have to do a few chores before we leave. We sketched out where we're going too be, and when, so we can organize a few last minute doctors visits and the cleaning and storage of the car and rig.

We had to get back to Tallahassee after the list of places to see we got from the Elks, so we're going to spend at least 3 nights camping at the Lodge again. I tried my favorite phone app. Which finds local Micro Breweries and it found 5 within 5 miles! After a couple of false starts due to the addresses not being up to date in the app. We found the Proof Brewery where they had several dark beers for us. We even filled our growler for the first time in ages so we could continue to enjoy their Brown Ale back at the rig.

Proof Brewery Tallahassee
Our first night at the Lodge was quiet as they weren't open! The second night however was quite amazing. We were welcomed with open arms, the people we met the first time we stayed all came by and said “HI welcome back”. Then we were invited to join in on their monthly “Beer, Blues and Burgers” evening. As the name suggests there were made to order burgers, a live blues band and Yingling beer. Can't beat that for $5!

We explored and found 2 dartboards in the adjacent room, so I grabbed our darts from the rig and we played a couple of practice games while listening to the music across the bar. Several people wandered by and remarked how good it was to see somebody using the dart boards. How they used to play but stopped for some reason. How much fun it would be to play again etc, and the next thing we knew we were being told we couldn't leave Wednesday but had to be there on Thursday because they were all going to bring their darts and we all were going to play!You just can't beat an Elks welcome!
One Hundred and Eighty!
So we ended up staying until Sunday and explored.

Goodwood is a local home, it would be a “Stately Home” in UK probably. The family founded a charitable trust to preserve it and left it fully furnished down to the cutlery and even left their clothes in the closets!

Super shadows and reflections at the swimming pool.
The Tallahassee Auto museum provided many subjects for drawing and painting. The collection included MUCH more than cars. There were motorcycles, outboard motors, guns, knives, pedal cars, fishing equipment, boats, it just went on and on.

We had a side trip up to Georgia, which is only 25 miles north of here, to visit Thomasville and the Pebble Hill Plantation. Another charitable trust left with the entire contents, the house was the center of a horse and hunting dynasty that included thoroughbreds, show jumping horses, polo ponies and hunting dogs of all shapes and sizes. Beautiful both inside and out but unfortunately they don't allow photography inside.
Believe it or not this was the CATTLE BARN!

Pebble Hill Plantation main house

The Appalachie Indian meeting house at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee.

This could be a still life painting one of these days
All in all a very busy couple of weeks.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Look out more airplanes!

Barbara gets sworn in at the Eagles Lodge on Saturday, and we decided to stay at Holiday Travel one extra day, which gives us an extra day to get packed up!!

The winter is officially over, we left our “Winter Quarters”. Barbara is now an official Eagle and my initiation is set for April 28th so we'll have to be back around Leesburg for that. 

Our first stop for the 2017 travel year was the Thousand Trails in Orlando. It's free, there is lots of room and there's an AIRSHOW!!

Home built airplanes
This particular Airshow is called Sun 'n Fun and it's a Fly In, which for our motorcycle friends is like a Rally except instead of riding your motorcycle and camping you fly your airplane and camp! Like the Goldwing Motorcycle Rallies there are lots of seminars on subjects from safety to how to build your own plane! The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) are the big organization here and on top of all the above they have a week long airshow going on!

De Havilland Chipmunk, we used to get bored flying in these in my ATC (AIr Cadet) days!

My favorites are the “Warbirds” World War 2 era airplanes, all privately owned and performing aerobatics for the crowd.

Bring your tent and camp next to your airplane!
In case that gets boring there are aerobatic solo displays, team displays, private jet displays and fly by's from the various light airplanes and kit manufacturers of their products. Oh yes and the Blue Angels perform 3 times during the course of the event. Talk about airplane heaven! I was in it.

Microlights everywhere
To help Barbara keep her sanity we decided to spend an extra $20 each for preferred seating which turned out to be a bargain! Once in the shaded area with seating provided we discovered air conditioned bathrooms, free bottled water, and Barb's favorite – free massages!! We more than made up for our $20 with bottles of water.

P51 fighter fro WW2
This event is unlike the Airshows elsewhere. Instead of fences between the public and the static and operational areas to keep people out, they have a wagon to drive you around the whole flightline so you can get up close to the aircraft! As you ride around there are all kinds of things taxing around you. A wonderful idea! Then when you get finished with the ride you get off and you can WALK around the airplanes and talk to the pilots and crews, They trust everyone to be responsible and safe, and everybody is! Amazing.
How close would you like to get?

Walk right up and get a perfect photo!

Talk with the pilot? No problem

Warbirds in formation aerobatics? Oh yeah!

This airshow had something else too. NIGHT FLYING. Normally the show is over and everyone is leaving for home long before the sun goes down. Not here. The show stops for a couple of hours then as the sun sets the show starts again with aerobatics IN THE DARK! The aircraft have multicolored lights and pyrotechnics so you can follow them thru the air. One act had a powered hang glider with flares on the wings, shooting fireworks sideways out of the plane as it buzzed around. The commentator did mention that the pilot had taken some care in developing the act due to the fact that the nylon wing of the aircraft tended to catch fire if the flares or the fireworks came into contact with it!! And as a postscript he mentioned that the pilot was handicapped having lost the use of his legs some years ago in a hang gliding accident!

OK not a good picture, but did YOU ever try taking a shot of a powered hang glider in the DARK??

With all the static displays of aircraft, manufacturers displays of engines, instruments, parts and materials for building airplanes, the various associations for particular makes and models of airplanes, vintage, home-built, kit-built, warplanes, jets, the seminars, dinners, movies and talks by famous aviators it's no wonder this even lasts a week. In fact it's amazing they can fit it in in so short a time. But alas we had but one day, and that lasted from 10am to 9pm just at the show.

Friday, March 31, 2017

It's the end, the end I tell you....

As compensation we found out more friends Steve and Mary are in Florida, heading this way and after a quick e-mail they arrive for a few days in the park the same day everyone else is leaving!!

Me, Mary, Steve and Barbara.
Mike and Lynn called to tell us of their first week RV'ing. They've been to Cape Canaveral and the Keys and now are heading towards either New Orleans or Memphis! They sound like they are getting the hang of not planning, I'm not certain their plan to be in Canada before too long is going to leave them much time for more side trips though!
Happy Wife, Happy Life!
The taxes are finally getting done after we waited a month for AARP only to be told “Oh we can't do yours" when we showed up for the appointment. A little frustrating but I managed to find another tax preparer who could turn it around quickly, and quick they were too. A couple of days.

Barbara got a call from the Eagles about her swearing in but I didn't. Puzzled I called the contact person only to be told he'd suddenly passed away. A sad time for his family. I'll figure it out for myself.

Harold's son Don and Zach Don's son are in the park helping Harold and Wanda pack up. Unfortunately Harold's Mom who he was so worried about when his brother passed away has been admitted to the hospital. Our thoughts and prayers are for her and the whole family.

My commissioned painting of a friends car has finally got some work done on it. It's amazing what only having a week left before you move on can do for your motivation!! I sent Wayne a photo of it 95% complete and he likes it, so that's a big relief. We're going to meet them in Pensacola and hand over the painting.

Play Ball! I see a painting there somewhere.
We had a side trip to Sarasota with a free hotel stay so we could see some Spring Training Baseball. We got in 2 Baltimore Orioles games and watched them beat the Twins then the Blue Jays. A good weekend and a very picturesque beach area.

Sarasota Beach right outside our hotel.
 I was contacted by a legal firm who are starting a “Mass Action” law suit against Ford to try and recover some money for Fiesta owners with all the transmission problems. It sounded good at first as they say it won't cost the client anything because the action requires Ford to pay legal expenses. Reading the fine print (really a lawyer has fine print in the contract?). Reveals that Ford may chose to include lawyers fees in a settlement check, in which case the lawyer will collect his fees from the client, EVEN IF THAT FEE EXCEEDS THE COST OF THE SETTLEMENT!. Lawyers!

That darned Fiesta.
The week is rushing by. We decided to go to the Fun 'N Sun Fly In at Lakeland FL after leaving here. It's one of the most famous air shows in the US and so close we have to go look. I lashed out for preferred seating on the day we go because it has seats, shade, drinks nearby and on the day we are going there is something I've never seen before NIGHT FLYING DISPLAYS! Apparently the aircraft have light shows and pyrotechnics as they fly in the dark. We'll stay at the Thousand Trails Park near Orlando for a couple of nights then head up to Pensacola where we'll stay at the Elks Lodge for about a week. They have full hookups so it should work out great.

In a spare moment we made our reservations for NEXT winter! If you want particular parks it's best to get in early.

Now we have to get some papers shredded, find a shipper to take my Grandfather's trunk to Fred our son, tidy the rig, check all the tires and the air bags, put away all the chairs, mats etc outside, organize the storage bays, stow the grill, check the car and RV engine fluids, put the bikes back on the bike rack. Phew that's a LOT!

One last Leesburg Art Assoc. friday meeting before we'll be on our way.

Barbara gets sworn in at the Eagles Lodge on Saturday, and we decided to stay at Holiday Travel one extra day, which gives us an extra day to get packed up!!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Life is flashing past!

My Grand Fathers army foot locker finally got removed from the trunk of the Fiesta after almost a year! We really need to empty it and decide what we're going to do with the locker itself. I'd hate to sell it rather than keep it in the family but it sounds like it's going to cost thousands to ship back to UK.

Lynn is here from Australia at last but she picked up a nasty cold crossing the planet, Fred and Judy are back and the daily parties have started again. Harold and Wanda are back but they are kind of quiet after their sudden trip to Virginia for a funeral.

We've been getting our annual physicals, and running around getting blood work done is taking up some time. I have to go see the Dermatologist to look at some skin blemishes too.

We finally got the rear view camera installation finished using the new telescoping ladder (Which is a cool piece of equipment). Most of the previous week was taken up by the “Sungators RV Rally” in Bushnell where I taught a painting class, and now I have a commission to paint a friends car!!

Happy artists at the Sungator Rally
Apart from that we haven't done much at all!!

Not doing much at an Antique RV Show and Flea Market
April is rushing up fast, and we WILL be out of here on April 1st but it sounds like we'll be just around the corner camping at the “Eagles” Lodge because we are to initiated as members soon. I'm going in on March 28th and Barbara on April 1st. Luckily they have 10 acres (YES 10 ACRES!!) of camping in the back of the Lodge so we'll stay there for the night after Barb gets initiated and set off on our next adventure on the 2nd.

Why the Eagles? Well they are very similar to the Elks and it will give us many more resources for camping and socializing in our future travels. We're looking forward to the experience.

Not doing much at a watercolor class
All other kinds of fun things have been happening too, Al and Jackie were back in Florida for Bike Week in Daytona and they have Dave along with them, an old friend from our motorcycle days. Fred, Judy, Mike and Lynn together with Barbara and I drove down to Daytona and we all went for lunch at Destination Daytona surrounded by lots of shiny custom motorcycle. 

The expression "Like herding cats" comes to mind

Wild custom bike at "Daytona Experience"
Then down to Main Street Daytona which is the place to be during bike week, with lots of bars, stores full of motorcycle related stuff and a continuous stream of motorcycles day and night riding by for everyone's entertainment. A great day out.

The gang at the famous "Boot Hill Saloon" Main Street Daytona

Just a custom V8 powered motorcycle on Main Street
Mike had introduced us to a dice game named “Farkle” and every evening has us all sitting around the table in Fred and Judy's rig playing Farkle or a dominoes game named “Mexican Train?
It's going to be SO quiet when they have all left!

Judy and Fred and Mexican Train
Tax time has reared it's ugly head and fortunately AARP has a free tax clinic at the local library so we had an appointment set to get our returns filed. I don't remember signing up for an “Income Tax Club” at anytime so I'm wondering why we pay dues every year? We do get camping discounts at National Parks though, maybe we did sign up?? It turned out to be a bust however as AARP wouldn't do our returns because we have to file a Maryland return for the rental house and they don't allow you to do that for their free service. Now we have to find an alternative and/or file an extension.

Plans for our Europe trip need to be refined, and paying for the trip is primary! We spent some quality time at the bank and arranged for new credit cards with no foreign currency charges and auto pay so we won't have to be online all the time transferring money. We have the details for storing the rig and the car sorted out (We hope) and we'll get a cab or airport shuttle booked from the storage site to the airport once we get the rig set.

The day came when Fred, Judy, Mike and Lynn left. Sad but happy. Sad they are leaving but happy for them that they are off on their own individual adventures.

As compensation we found out more friends Steve and Mary are in Florida, heading this way, and after a quick e-mail they arrived for a few days in the park the same day everyone else is leaving!!

And the BIG NEWS!!
Our little blog passed 20,000 total views this week!!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The end is near!

It's always one step forward and 2 back! A trip to the local RV store Camper Inn got the part we needed, I put it in now have move on to the next one, though I will probably leave the bathroom floor until last.

It got me first. Then Barbara caught it from me. It's highly contagious. We are both looking forward to being on the road again.

Maybe that will motivate me to get the maintenance tasks done? I made a start. I got the calendar out and wrote the tasks to be done on it so I will be reminded before April gets here. I finally changed the engine oil and filter on the rig, replaced the water filter and installed a new awning strap on one of the bedroom window awnings. Mike had a broken day/night shade in his rig so I gave him a lesson on repairing those. They are quite simple to do and I have no idea why some places charge $100 for a 15 minute job like that.

Meanwhile we've been sampling some more local events.
One went with a bang – a WW2 reenactment with real TANKS! They fired everything from handguns to the tank canons during the show. Very impressive. They had a big vendor area too where you could buy uniforms, weapons, WW2 radios and parts for your WW2 vehicles.
In the heat of battle

Time for a family picture with the victors.
Some time was spent at a Native American Pow-Wow in nearby Mount Dora. We expected great things and had filled Mike's head with stories of the one in Yuma last year. Unfortunately this one wasn't as big although the costumes were very picturesque. It was spoiled by a whole lot of pointless speeches by the various participants and a very officious organizer who insisted on walking across the dance circle during the performances to correct what he perceived to be deficiencies.
The Aztec Dancers

Great costumes

This one might get painted!
To make room in the RV when we leave here I donated the last of my motorcycle painting to the Leesburg Center for the Arts as a thank you for all the fun I've had drawing and painting there. I have a commission as a result of posting my paintings on Facebook! More later.
Some of the paintings I donated to the Leesburg Center for the Arts
I also had to do the painting for the art class at the RV Rally coming up and buy all the supplies so the new students have something to paint on. Sometimes it's hard to think up a painting that's easy for first timers but visually attractive enough for them to take a pride in their work. I get real satisfaction teaching these classes so it's worth the effort.

Mike our Australian friend had some good/bad luck with his “New” RV. He drove it down to the store and on the way back, as he turned the last corner into the park the serpentine belt snapped leaving him with no power steering! He struggled and got it back to his site then called a mobile repair place. The good luck was that they were close by finishing another job and Mike had found a spare belt in the storage bin under the rig. The repair guy was there in minutes and the belt replace shortly after. If he'd been out in the Arizona desert on a back road when it broke it might have been a much different story!

We took him to his first SKP event at the Chapter 57 monthly meeting where his Aussie accent attracted lots of attention. Lynn, Mike's wife should be arriving soon too, so we will have to drag them to the Rally the chapter is having in Bushnell. Rather than move the rig up there and pay for camping twice (we paid for a whole month here whether we stay or not) we decided to commute the 30 minutes each way each day.

My Grand Fathers army foot locker finally got removed from the trunk of the Fiesta after almost a year! We really need to empty it and decide what we're going to do with the locker itself. I'd hate to sell it rather than keep it in the family but it sounds like it's going to cost thousands to ship back to UK.

Finally we made rough plans for the rest of our time in Florida. We bought tickets for 2 Baltimore Orioles baseball spring training games near Sarasota and got a free hotel stay using the last of my many thousands of Holiday Inn Club points from when I was still working and travelling. That will feel strange, sleeping in a building!!