rvthereyetblog | Our adventures of living full-time on the road exploring the U.S.

Our Tampa Adventures

After our departure on January 1 from Club Naples RV Resort in Naples, Florida, we headed 2-1/2 hours north on I-75 and made Winter Quarters Pasco RV Resort in Lutz, FL our home for the months of January and February. The resort itself is an older park, consisting of approximately 256 sites that surround two small lakes, Lake Lorrie and Pine Lake, which is home to the resident alligator that navigates a chain of lakes in the area. Activities abound at this resort and there is something for everyone to do! One of our favorites there was playing Bingo. We won a lot of the games there, sometimes multiple games in one night. I think that a lot of the residents there were happy when we left so that they’d have a chance to win LOL.

As part of our Christmas gift, our good friends, Arlene & Barry, made a week long reservation at Winter Quarters Pasco so that they could spend time with us while we were in the Tampa area. We had a great time while they were there, as we played Wizard (a fun card game) and explored The Big Cat Sanctuary with them as well.

The Big Cat Sanctuary is one of the world’s largest accredited not for profit sanctuaries for exotic cats, and is a leading advocate in ending the abuse of captive big cats and saving wildcats from extinction. The facility is home to about 80 lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars, servals, and other species most of whom have been abandoned, abused, orphaned, saved from being turned into fur coats, or retired from performing acts. The tour, which is a walking tour, is pretty awesome and the cats are so majestic in their surroundings. Reservations need to be made in advance and general admission is $36.00 per person; however, all of the money paid for admission goes to the care and feedings of these animals. For more information regarding the Big Cat Sanctuary, or to donate to this worthwhile organization, go to: http://bigcatrescue.org.

Below are pictures of Reise, who was born on January 1, 1995.

This is Reise. He was born on January 1, 1995.

Cougar - Reise DOB 01-01-95 Picture 1

 

Cougar - Reise DOB 01-01-95 Picture 3

Cameron
Cameron – male lion who lost his mane.

 

Zabu
Zabu

In addition to touring The Big Cat Sanctuary, the four of us took a tour of the Yuengling Brewery in Tampa. The tour is free to take and doesn’t take that long to complete. It’s rather interesting to see the process of how beer is made, especially in such large quantities. After the tour, each person is offered four samples of their choice of beer to try. I’m not a beer drinker, so hubby got my four samples in addition to his allotment. I did sip them but, as I said, I’m not a beer drinker and didn’t find any of them to my liking. Arlene, Barry, and Dave found their favorites though. For information on touring the Yueling Brewery, go to https://www.yuengling.com/breweries/tampa.

For the past two years, Arlene, Barry, Dave and I have attended the annual Tampa RV Show which features hundreds of RV’s for touring and educational seminars. We literally hit the ground running when we arrive at the show, reviewing as many RV’s as possible and checking out the new vendor exhibits, before the show concludes at the end of the day. It’s always exciting to see what new things that the industry has come out with the new lineup of RV’s and to see if they’ve actually listened to their customers and incorporated what we’ve said that we wanted. The trend in a lot of the new RV’s now seems to be shallower overhead bins in the living area and shallower kitchen cabinets in the kitchen area. When one is a full-time RV’er, that’s not what one wants, as storage plays a significant role in one’s daily lives.

We were saddened when it came time for Arlene and Barry to leave us, as we had such a good time with them exploring the area and playing cards. After we saw them off, we then began to investigate other places to explore.

Our thought process for staying in Tampa for the winter was to purchase annual tickets to Busch Gardens and spend a lot of our time there, (as we had done the previous winter at Disney World), so that we could attend various entertainment shows, visit the animals in the park, and take in a few rides. However, after reading mixed reviews, we decided to first purchase the City Pass tickets, which allows for one day at five different attractions (Busch Gardens, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, The Florida Aquarium, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, and your choice of the Museum of Science & Industry, or the Chihuly Collection), for a flat fee of $99 per adult ($89 per child). After figuring up what it would cost to purchase tickets to each one of these attractions, the $99 per person was a deal!  (For more information on City Pass, go to: http://www.citypass.com/tampa).

We’re glad that we choose this route too, as Busch Gardens was not our cup of tea. We had been there over 20 years ago when we took our kids there, and much has changed in that timespan. The rides today are mostly stomach churning roller coasters and the entertainment, which used to be open aired seating which anyone could attend, is now an enclosed limited seating venue that one has to get tickets to the morning that the park opens. If the tickets are gone before you get there, then you don’t get to attend the show. The only portion of the park that we both really enjoyed was the animals. Given the cost of the annual tickets to Bush Gardens ($168 per person for non-Florida resident annual pass); we didn’t feel that we would be getting our monies worth, so we decided against purchasing annual passes.

Kangaroo 2 Kangaroo info

Majestic Beauty 2 Majestic Beauty 3 Majestic Beauty 4 Magestic Beauty 1 Grace 1 Grace 2

Elephant

One of the attractions that was on our City Pass, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, we felt was definitely worth getting an annual pass (an annual pass to the park for 1 member and 1 guest is $79; 2 members +1 guest is $105; 2 adults + all kids + 1 guest $149; additional add-on guests are $30). As of January 1 to current date, the zoo is offering a “Zooperpass” where one pays for entrance to the park for 1-day ($29.95 per adult/$22.95 per child ages 3-11) and one can visit the zoo for as often as one wishes (some blackout days apply) any time up until December 31, 2016. That’s an ENTIRE year for $30!! The park itself is very clean, easy to maneuver, logically laid-out, staff is awesome, and the park is so beautiful! The animals are well cared for and although I’m not a huge fan of zoo’s, as I prefer that the animals were in their own natural habitat in the wild, I’m glad that the zoos are there to protect these animals and give them sanctuary where needed. Plan on spending an entire day at this zoo as you’ll need it to see everything. For more information on Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, go to: http://www.lowryparkzoo.org.

Cheetah 2 Cheetah 3

Cheetah
Cheetah
Florida Panther
Florida Panther
Joey 2
Little Joeys

Joey 1

 

Orangutan
Orangutan
Orangutan 2
Orangutan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penguins 1
Penguins
Penguins 2
Penguins
Sloth Bear
Sloth Bear
Tortoise
Tortoise

The Florida Aquarium is a large scale 250,000 square-foot aquarium and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  Situated on two floors, the Aquarium houses, alligators, otters, free-flying birds, pythons, lemurs, chameleons, geckos, Sea Dragons, giant octopus, and so much more! In addition, guests can also add on additional adventures, such as the Wild Dolphin Adventure Cruise; take in a behind the scenes tour or the Penguins backstage pass; or swim/dive with the sharks (must be scuba certified).  I would highly suggest spending an entire day here, too. General admission to the Aquarium is $24.95 per adult; $22.95 for seniors (60+); $19.95 for children ages 3-11. If you go online and purchase your tickets, you can generally save a couple of dollars per person. Even the annual memberships to the Aquarium were reasonably priced as well. For more information on The Florida Aquarium, go to http://www.flaquarium.org.

Dory 3
Well, I found Dory!

Dory 1 Dory 2

Nemo
And there’s Nemo with his dad, Marlin.
Shark
Shark!! Don’t panic.
Upside down Jellyfish 2
Upside down jellyfish
Upside down Jellyfish 1
Upside down jellyfish
Octopus
Octopus

Anyone who has seen the movies Dolphin Tale 1 and Dolphin Tale 2 know the story of Winter the dolphin. Well, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium is home to Winter and her dolphin buddy Hope, both of whom are serving the remainder of their lives at the aquarium due to their injuries. In addition to Hope and Winter, The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is also home to Cooper and Walle, both of whom are North American river otters; Ricky, the pelican that played the part of “Rufus” in the movie Dolphin Tale; five different species of sea turtles found in the Gulf of Mexico (two of which are endangered); two sharks named Thelma and Louise; a host of cownose and southern stingrays; as well as eels, fish, seahorses, and crabs. The mission of this facility is dedicated to the preservation of marine life and the environment through education, research, rescue, rehabilitation and release. And it shows. The staff at the aquarium smile from ear to ear when asked a question and the love for their work clearly shines through. One should definitely plan on spending the majority of the day here. General admission for adults is $21.95 per adult; children, ages 3-12 are $16.95 per child; and seniors (age 60+) are $19.95 per senior. For additional information on The Clearwater Marine Aquarium, go to: http://www.seewinter.com.

I have to admit, that when faced with our last City Pass option of choosing either the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) or going to see the Chihuly Collection, I wasn’t too keen on either one, as the MOSI seemed to be more geared to children and the Chihuly Collection, although pretty, wasn’t something that would have held my attention. We chose to take in the MOSI and I’m so glad that we did! Yes, it was pretty much geared toward children, but WOW, it was SO INTERESTING! This place covered EVERYTHING and a lot of the exhibits were quite interactive. We had a great time here! Be sure to check out the educational movie in the IMAX Theater while you’re there, as it’s included in the price of admission and so worth going to see! Plan on spending the entire day here, from opening to closing time, because you will definitely need the time to see it all. General admission is $26.95 per adult; $25.95 per senior (60+); and $20.95 per child ages 3-12. This is the only place that we had to pay for parking, which was $5 per car (free for IMAX only).   For information on MOSI, go to: http://www.mosi.org.

Napping
Dave taking a nap on a bed of nails
House 2
Dave trying his hand at building a hurricane strength house.
House 1
He’s hiding his technique from me.

During the winter months in Florida, open water temperatures can get below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius), which manatees cannot survive. When the temperatures get below 60 degrees, large numbers of manatees seek refuge in the Big Bend Power Station’s (Apollo Beach, Florida) discharge canal, where saltwater, taken from Tampa Bay to cool the various cooling units, flows clean and warm back to the bay. Their natural source for warmth during winter is warm, spring-fed rivers. Our friends, Jim and Rita, met us at the Manatee Viewing Center at TECO (Tampa Electric Company), to spend the day with us and view these majestic animals, along with sting rays, sharks, tarpons, and a huge variety of fish.

Manatees, mostly herbivorous marine animals (sometimes known as sea cows), are very large, fully aquatic beasts that weigh between 800 to 1,210 lbs. (400 to 550 kilograms), and are approximately 9.2 to 9.8 feet long (2.8 to 3.0 meters). The females tend to be larger and heavier and, when born, baby manatees have an average mass of 66 lbs. (30 kilograms). They have a large, flexible upper lip and they use the lip to gather food and eat, as well as using it for social interactions and communications. The adults have no incisor or canine teeth, just a set of cheek teeth, which are continuously replaced throughout life, with new teeth growing at the rear as older teeth fall out from farther forward in the mouth. The only other mammals that this occurs in are the kangaroo and elephant. At any given time, a manatee typically has no more than six teeth in each jaw of its mouth. Wow, just think of the dollars that we’d save from dental bills if we had that kind of continual tooth system!

The only causes of death for manatees are human-related issues, such as habitat destruction and human objects, such as ingested fishing gear while feeding (hooks, monofilament line or string, metal weights, etc.) and ship strikes. Natural causes of death include adverse temperatures and disease, such as red tide. For more information on the Manatee Viewing Center at TECO, go to: http://www.tampaelectric.com/company/mvc.

Manatees 2
Manatees. They look like giant spuds.
Manatees 1
There were hundreds of Manatees in the warm water.

Although we had a wonderful time in Tampa exploring new territory, both of us felt as though Tampa was not the place for us, due to the high traffic volume and general high cost of things. We’ve come to love the Clermont area, which is close to Disney World and Orlando, and will be returning there when we venture back to Florida.

 

The Meerkat Community

If one were to look up the behavior of a Meerkat, one would find the definition of a Meerkat to be “small burrowing animals, living in large underground networks with multiple entrances which they leave only during the day, except to avoid the heat of the afternoon.” The definition also goes on to say, “They are very social, living in colonies,” and “live in very tight-knit family groupings.”

The morning that we left Key Largo, once we disconnected from shore power, our rig lost all internal electrical and generator power, which meant that anything that ran on 12-volt and 120-volt electricity (refrigerator, microwave, outlet plugs, toilet, Electrical Management System (EMS), inverter, back-up camera, and slides) would not work. The only thing we could do, basically, was drive from point A to point B. Before leaving Key Largo, Dave tried to troubleshoot what the issue was, but unable to find it, we decided to press forward and head 3 hours north-west to our destination in Naples.

While en route to Club Naples RV Resort, I phoned the front office and explained our situation, asking for information on any RV techs in the area that they could recommend. The registration woman gave us the name of one fellow, Mark Peavler who is the owner and operator of RV Support Services. I telephoned him and told him of our dilemma. He was over-booked for that afternoon, but assured me that he would be at our site the following morning between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

Once we checked into Club Naples we made our way to the site that had been assigned to us, slowly navigating the narrow roads. Upon visually seeing our site, I had grave doubts that we would be able to fit our rig into the narrow space assigned to us with rigs and cars on either side. And, trust me; I am not exaggerating the space limitations here. Dave is a very skilled driver and I had no doubts in his ability to get us in, but since we did not have a back-up camera, it was going to make his job that much more difficult. We had to have two people move their vehicles and, thankfully, an employee from the park assisted in guiding Dave with maneuvering the front of the rig, while I was in the back guiding Dave with backing up. It took us two tries, but we did manage to get the rig in. Getting out of here may be another challenge, but we’ll deal with that when the time comes.

Once we were in our site, Dave reconnected us to shore power as we were hoping that a miracle would happen and we would miraculously have interior electrical and generator power again. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Oy! Dave started opening up the basement compartments that held the miles of electrical wiring and fuses that supplied electricity for our coach to try and resolve the issue. While we were traveling I searched the internet (thankfully I always charge up our phones and computers the night before heading out) to see if there might be any suggestions/solutions as to why we were having issues and what could be done to remedy the situation. Unfortunately we didn’t find anything concrete. We even tried phoning our friend, Barry, who is a Certified RV Technician to see if he could give us any sight. He gave us some great advice as to what we should try, but there was nothing that would work.

In the interim, while Dave was doing what he could, I ran to Walmart and purchased bags of ice to pack in the refrigerator and freezer to keep our food cold, and picked dinner up at McDonald’s.

Within 30-minutes of arrival to our site, the men who owned the rigs surrounding us where all here to help, either by offering trouble shooting suggestions or, as in the case of our neighbor down two doors down (whose name also happens to be Dave), jumped right in and began testing every electrical line from the house batteries on the passenger side of the coach, around the back in the engine compartment, and all the way up the driver’s side to the front fuse panel. The guys spent HOURS outside in the dark, and often times in the light rain, trying to help us get electric to our rig. Finally, it became too dark to do anything, so everyone dissipated. Our neighbors across from us, Brenda and John, offered us an open door to their rig for anything that we might need; a cup of coffee, cold beverages, respite in their air conditioning from the heat, or food to eat.

Dave and I spent a very dark, confining night in the rig (we couldn’t open the slides) with the windows open and prayed for a light breeze to cool us down. Neither one of us slept well that night, in part due to the heat, but largely because we weren’t sure what we were dealing with in regard to the electrical issue and how it would play out. Alvin and Waddles were apprehensive as well, as they knew that something wasn’t right and they didn’t like the close confines of the coach that night.

Mark, the RV technician, arrived promptly at 8:00 a.m. the following morning and began troubleshooting. With all of the information that Dave and the other men had discovered the night prior, Mark had enough information to go on and discovered that our main 12 volt battery disconnect had fried, setting up a series of faults that the EMS system and the inverter re-acted to by shutting everything down. It was a catch 22; low battery power because the inverter couldn’t charge the battery through the faulty switch, and the inverter read low battery power, so the inverter was shutting everything down through its normal protection cycle.  He was able to restore electrical power to our rig and life, once again, was good.

Our current residence for the month of December, Club Naples RV Resort, as I noted earlier, is a very tight RV resort in regard to the physical proximity of space between each rig and the roadways within the park. After our first interaction with our neighbors, I began to jokingly refer to this resort as “The Meerkat Community” to Dave, because when one person is outside, everyone else comes out of their rigs and interacts with one another. If someone needs help with a project, or assistance with anything, everyone pitches in to help. Just taking the trash to the garbage bin the other day, which is approximately 150 yards away from our rig, I had five people speak to me on the way back. With the exception of meeting our wonderful friends last year, Arlene & Barry, we’ve never had this type of interaction with people in any of the parks that we’ve been in before. What this park lacks in physical space, the people make up for in heart.

 

 

 

 

Bumps along the road…

After departing Vermont in July, we then headed to New Hampshire and Maine, enjoying a few days at each destination as we went, visiting various beaches and, of course, Acadia National Forest. The coast line along the northeastern states is simply breathtaking! Posting pictures of it would not do it justice, as it has to be seen to be appreciated.

We decided to return to Vermont in early August and spent a few days at a campground on Lake Champlain in Burlington, VT. Dave was brave enough to go swimming in the cool water on Lake Champlain. I, however, decided to forgo swimming as I had woken up the morning before with a swollen left eye and decided not to risk getting it infected from lake water. (I think I had a piece of fine sand blow into my eye from being on the beach the day before). Turns out that the water wasn’t that cold after all, 70 degrees per the sign at the life guard station.   They have a beautiful sand beach at the city park in Burlington with a very nice camping facility.

After leaving Vermont for the second time, we then began our slow trek back to Indiana by staying at various campgrounds along our route as we drove along the southern banks of the Saint Lawrence River, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. Dave has always wanted to do that, so it was the perfect opportunity to do so, especially since we were scheduled to finally have our windshield replaced (this would be the third windshield in a year) in Elkhart, Indiana on August 17.

We made arrangements to stay at a campground in Shipshewana, Indiana once the windshield was replaced as neither one of us had ever visited Shipshewana before. The area is about 40% Amish and the countryside is just incredible. There is a large flea market that is held two days during the week and we took a day to check it out. Be forewarned, wear very comfortable walking shoes as the place is really big! There are also Amish restaurants in the area that offer home-style cooked meals that will satisfy any palate so be prepared to have your taste buds dancing. For entertainment/shopping, there are horse carriage rides that one can take, Amish cabinetry shops to spend money in, and numerous RV factory tours to take that are scattered throughout Shipshewana, Wakarusa, Goshen, Elkhart, and Nappanee. In short, a bit of something for everyone.

We thought that we were in the clear once the new windshield was in; however, we had torrential rainstorms for next two days straight and discovered a leak where the sealant around the windshield had not adhered. So, we drove back to the windshield shop once the rain had ended to have the leak issue addressed and the glass installer noticed ANOTHER crack in the brand new windshield that he had just installed, same spot as all of the other cracks had been too. At this point, I wasn’t sure if I should start laughing, crying, or find a phone number for an exorcist as I was beginning to think that the rig was cursed.

Luckily for us there was an RV repair shop right next door to the windshield shop and they suggested that we speak to them to see what the root cause of the windshields cracking could be. So we did. We drove our rig next store and spoke to one of the technicians there. He was extremely confident that he could fix our issue as he had repaired many rigs with this same exact problem. After researching the reputation of the repair shop, we made a reservation for mid-September and headed south to Bloomington, Indiana to nest until it was time to drive back to Elkhart.

On September 20 we drove back to Elkhart and first thing the following morning, the technician drove our baby into the shop and began his investigation/repair. It appears that there were two issues that caused the cracking of the windshields. One was that there was a piece of original fiberglass that hadn’t been trimmed off properly and was putting stress on the windshield. Secondly, the technician found that there had previously been a halo modification installed prior to our purchase of the rig; however, the struts were never bolted down which caused the cap of the rig to sway slightly, again putting additional stress on the windshield. Had the previous installer of the halo mod correctly installed it, we may never have had the issues that we’ve had with the previous windshields. As it is, we are now on our fourth and, hopefully, FINAL windshield.

We had a bit of excitement, if one can call it that, on our way to Indiana. We stopped at a campground in Ohio and discovered that our tow dolly had lost the inside and outside bearings on the right wheel of the dolly, and that the shaft now had a ridge worn in it from the leftovers of the bearing race wearing into it. After numerous phone calls to repair shops, we finally found one that said that they would be able to work on it. We called a tow company and had the dolly put on a flat-bed tow truck (as it was unsafe to tow on the road) and had it delivered to the repair shop. Our intent was to leave it there for it to be worked on, continue on our journey to Elkhart, and then once our windshield was repaired, we would then drive back to Ohio and pick up our dolly.  Unfortunately, the cost of the repair was way more expensive than it would be to buy a new tow dolly.

The tow dolly experience scared us though, as Dave neither saw, heard, nor felt anything different in the way the rig was handling once the bearings gave way. We still don’t know how long we had been traveling with tow dolly like that. The thought that someone could have been hurt (i.e., a wheel pop off, the car break loose, etc., causing an accident) was a bit more than we could stomach. We decided then to just drive separately until we could decide what we were going to do from that point forward. Should we trade in the car for a Jeep that we could tow four-down or keep the car and continue to drive separately? We investigated the possibility of trading in our car for a vehicle that we could tow four-down, but neither one of us could justify the additional cost (depreciation on our car, high sticker price on a new vehicle) for doing so. So we continued to drive separate, which in reality, sucked.

I began to do some investigation on the internet and discovered two companies that sold tow dollies with no maintenance sealed bearings, exactly what is like on a car, and also had some other features we desired to have at a reasonable price. I gave Dave the information and he dug deeper, finally settling on one factory in Kernersville, NC that he felt offered the best tow-dolly; sealed bearings, disc brakes, surge brakes and extra security chains. We called the factory and ordered one so that we could pick it up on our way when we headed south.

After spending six wonderful weeks in Bloomington, Indiana catching up with friends, and taking care of doctor and miscellaneous appointments, we left out on Monday, October 12 and began to make our way to Kernersville, NC. I remarked to Dave that once again, ironically, we had departed Bloomington on Columbus Day. Hmmm, does this make us explorers?

We picked up our new tow dolly on Thursday and we are now on our way to the sunny state of Florida for the winter. This winter, instead of staying mainly in one place, we will be moving around the state. We’re going to start out in Clermont so that we can finish out our Disney passes, but then we’ll be heading to Vero Beach, Key Largo, Naples, Tampa, and Destin to name just a few. Adventures await!! J

Vermont, simply amazing!

Since departing Williamsburg, VA in July, we have covered a lot of ground in the past month. Looking back, it’s amazing at the number of states we have traveled through and the number of places that we have visited. Although it’s been a whirlwind summer, Dave remarked yesterday that it’s been one of the best summers that he’s had.  Mission accomplished! Yay!!

After departing Williamsburg, VA on the 14th of July, we headed for Gettysburg, PA so that we could visit the Gettysburg National Battlefield. We spent two days canvasing the battlefield, soaking up as much knowledge as we could about one of the most important battles in our history. Simply amazing! I’ll share some of the history in a separate posting for those that are interested in history.

We left Gettysburg, PA on the 17th of July and headed for Country Hills Campground in Marathon, NY. We had been to this campground previously and decided to spend the weekend there just to relax and unwind. It’s a beautiful campground with a stocked lake, very peaceful, and the owners are simply wonderful.

After relaxing all weekend, we packed up on the 20th and headed for Vermont to spend a week at Lake Champagne Campground in Randolph Center, VT. Although I wasn’t as pumped about visiting the north-east as Dave was, I have to admit that once we got to Vermont, I was glad that we had made the trip. The scenery is beyond breathtaking!  While we were in Vermont, we did a lot of sightseeing, although as I like to joke, we ate our way across Vermont! We did the Ben and Jerry’s factory tour (sorry Tom!) to see how ice cream was made. The tour costs $4 per person was about 30-minutes long. At the end of the tour, one was treated to a delectable sample of the ice cream of the day that they were making. There is an ice cream counter outside of the facility that one could buy ice cream at as well, ranging from ice cream cones, $4.50 a cone, to ice cream buckets….yes, I said BUCKETS…..that will feed a large group of people and costs around $40. We decided to forgo the additional sugar buzz and visited the cemetery of where past Ben and Jerry’s flavors are laid to rest.

From the Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Cemetery.
From the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Cemetery.

image image image

For more information on Ben and Jerry’s Factory tour, go to http://www.benjerry.com/about-us/factory-tours.

Next, we set our sights on the Cold Hollow Cider Mill to see how cider was made. Unfortunately the mill was closed while we were there; however, they had a video playing to show the process of making cider. Pretty interesting! We had a sample of their cider, VERY TASTY, and I bought a cider flavored doughnut from their bakery for the two of us to share, also VERY tasty! They also have a luncheonette on-site, but we didn’t eat there as I was too tempted by their bakery. For more information on the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, go to http://www.coldhollow.com.

We thought we would wind up our sugar coma inducing day by visiting the Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks to see how maple syrup and other sugary delights were made. Since it was off season to see the process of how maple sugar is collected (hint, it’s collected in the fall), we were treated to an educational film on the process. I never realized before how much work actually goes into the production of making maple syrup. Wow! Very neat indeed! Inside of the store, one can taste numerous samples of maple syrup from Grade A Golden (light syrup) to Grade A Very Dark (as the name implies, very dark syrup), maple kettle corn, maple cream, various jams and jellies, and the list goes on! More information regarding the Morse Farm Maple Sugarworks can be found here at http://www.morsefarm.com.

The following day, we decided to break the sugar cycle and see something that didn’t involve foods so we set out to see the Rock of Ages quarry in Graniteville, VT. Now I’m sure that our friends in Bloomington would be questioning as to why we went to a quarry where we had to pay to tour it, when we previously lived about a half mile from a quarry and could have gone there instead for free. The answer to that question is that I have no good answer. What I will say is that if ever one is in the area, one needs to see this quarry and the factory where the sandblasting is done. Just incredible! The tour, which is about 40-minutes in length, is pretty inexpensive at $6.00 for adults, $5.50 for seniors over the age of 62, and $2.75 for children between the ages of 6 and 13. One can stay inside of the factory and watch the craftsman for hours if one wanted to, or for an additional fee, one can try their hand at sandblasting a piece of granite to take home as their own personal souvenir. We decided to forgo the sandblasting experience ourselves and instead headed to the only granite bowling alley in the world on the other side of the factory. The bowling alley was developed as a prototype in 1958, but the concept never took off.

The granite bowling alley prototype.
The granite bowling alley prototype.
The green in the water is actually algae that is caused from the run-off of the granite.
The green in the water is actually algae that is caused from the run-off of the granite.
Interior pictures of the inside of the factory at Rock of Ages.
Interior pictures of the inside of the factory at Rock of Ages.

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Go to http://www.rockofages.com/en/visitors/overview for more information on Rock of Ages.

After leaving Rock of Ages we headed to Hope Cemetery in Barre, VT, a few miles down the road from the Rock of Ages quarry to see for ourselves the numerous creations that the artisans at Rock of Ages created. Just amazing!

Just a few of the many amazing tombstones that are in Hope Cemetery.
Just a few of the many amazing tombstones that are in Hope Cemetery.

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One family's cemetery plot. Notice the rings above.
One family’s cemetery plot. Notice the rings above.
Each ring above the family plot lists the name of their children.
Each ring above the family plot lists the name of their children.
Each ring above the family plot lists the name of their children.
Each ring above the family plot lists the name of their children.
Each ring above the family plot lists the name of their children.
Each ring above the family plot lists the name of their children.

A trip to Vermont would not complete without visiting the Cabot Cheese Factory, so we jumped in the car the following day and headed to Cabot, Vermont, about 45-miles north-east of Randolph Center, VT, and a beautiful drive. Cabot is owned by 1,200 dairy farm families throughout New York and New England, operating four plants in three states, and employs over 1,000 people. All of the proceeds from the Cabot sold products are returned to the farmers.

The tour itself takes about 20-minutes and costs $3.00 per person, although children under the age of 12 are free. It’s really neat to see the actual production of cheese being made. Samples before and after the tour are highly encouraged and, oh my, the samples that they had were unbelievable! They had the usual cheeses like, sharp, extra sharp, Colby jack, and Monterrey Jack, but they also had some awesome flavors like chipotle, tomato basil, horseradish, hot habanero, white oak cheddar, garlic and herb, everything bagel cheddar cheese, Tuscan cheddar cheese, hot buffalo wing, and my personal favorite, McCadams Adirondack Wicked Sharp Cheddar Cheese, which is a deep sharp cheddar and is produced by a sister company of Cabot’s in upstate New York. OH MY GOSH!!! We bought a 2-lb brick of this one. For additional information on Cabot, please visit https://www.cabotcheese.coop/visit-us.

We decided to drive from Randolph Center, VT to Burlington, VT about 2-hours north-west of where we were staying and take a cruise along Lake Champlain. We had a beautiful day for it and the cruise, which was 90-minutes, was wonderful and the scenery was awesome. We rounded out our trip to Vermont by stopping in at the Lake Champlain Chocolate shop before leaving Burlington. Unfortunately, tours of the chocolate factory are only offered Monday through Friday, and since we were there on Saturday, we didn’t get to see how chocolate was made. We were able to take part in the chocolate sampling though and they encouraged a LOT of sampling! We sampled white, milk, dark, and semi-sweet chocolates that were so smooth that it melted in one’s mouth. Simply mouth-watering!!

First Year Anniversary

On June 5th, 2015, Dave and I celebrated our 1-year anniversary of living in our motor coach onboard the Fur Ball Express.  (Sorry, Linda, but the name of the Queen Mary had to be retired as the Fur Ball Express is much more aptly named for our rig with the two fur balls in it).  At the time we were still working our jobs and we didn’t hit the road until mid-October last year, as we wanted to have a bit of time to get acquainted with the rig and figure out how things worked before we hit the road.  A lot has changed for us within the past year.  We both retired from our jobs, sold our home and everything that we owned, and took a huge gamble on living this type of lifestyle.  As I had mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, living this type of life style was something that we both wanted to do and we both thought that we would enjoy it.  We were wrong.  WE LOVE IT!  The freedom that we have to go from place to place, whenever we want, has been most awesome.

Our travels so far have taken us to West Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Philadelphia, Ohio, Tennessee, Maryland, New York, Georgia, and Ontario, Canada. We’ve toured the Charlotte Motor Speedway and taken a couple of laps around the track; rode the rides at Walt Disney World (numerous times!); toured numerous revolutionary and civil war battlefields and learned of the history that helped shape our nation; visited NASA; and watched the Blue Angles in action, to name just a few of the highlights. Most importantly, we met some wonderful people along the way. J

There have been some challenges along the way, such as two broken windshields (more on that later), two chassis batteries that died (thankfully they died while we were at a campground and not out on the road), a couple of leaks from hard-driving rain around the slide seals (every coach and fiver inevitably has the same issues in regard to rain and slides), route logistic nightmares (refer to earlier nail biting journeys in previous blogs), our inverter appears to be not working (that’s on the task list to be looked at), the splitter on the front TV going out rendering our bedroom TV inoperable for a while, and properly learning the operating details of all the mini-systems in the coach so we don’t do things like draining the batteries to death in the future.  We persevered though and conquered each challenge that we were met with.  I remarked to Dave the other night that a year ago my priorities used to be work, taking care of the house, clothes shopping, and going to the movie theater to see a good movie for relaxation.  My priorities have changed drastically.  They now consist of level camp sites, 50-AMP electrical service, sewer connection service, and finding great campgrounds to stay at on our travels.

Dave made a very good comment the other day regarding retirement.  After I tallied up our living expenses for the past year, and the two of us spending a couple of hours trying to figure out the most efficient route(s) for our upcoming excursions, Dave said that “retirement is not for the faint of heart.”  In reality, it wasn’t that bad, as the figure for our expenses encompasses everything that we spend money on, from a bottle of water to vehicle registrations.  Our average monthly living expenses are slightly more than expected, but our entertainment expenditures have increased significantly, as that is our life now. Since neither of us had done this before, we had absolutely no benchmarks to compare to, so everything considered, we are quite happy with our first year on the road. Our travel dates thankfully are casual, but we are learning very quickly about what routes to avoid at what time of the week or day, i.e., avoid the east coast traffic AT ALL COSTS. We can’t imagine how we lived on the east coast for so long and dealt with THE TRAFFIC. Maybe we’ve just become soft from living in the Midwest for so long.

Since our departure from Indiana last October, we covered 1,960 miles in the last 2-1/2 months of 2014; we have traveled 4,062 miles so far in 2015.

Alvin and Waddie are adjusting to life on the road better with each excursion that we leave out on. When we first started traveling, we decided not to cage Alvin and Waddie during our travels as their cages stress them out. Instead, at least in the beginning, I played goalie in that I kept them away from Dave has he drove. Eventually, Waddie would hide underneath of the sofa and only come out once we had stopped at the next campground. Alvin would hide either beneath the other sofa or try to hide behind me in my seat. Sharing a seat with a 16 pound cat is not an easy feat!

Waddie now sleeps in her bucket (it’s what we call her kitty bed) and Alvin lies on the floor behind my chair. Occasionally, one of them will come up on the floor in between our seats and want to see what’s going on, but for the majority of the time, they just sleep now. Personally, I think that they’re just closing their eyes and praying for the rig to stop bumping and shaking on the road.

Alvin loves to explore each new campground that we’re in. He can’t wait for Dave to finish setting up outside so that he can get on his leash and go to explore. Alvin has become quite the ladies’ man too! Friday night, we had new neighbors pull in next door to us and they were a fairly young couple with three kids. Well the kids, around 14 years old, had to love on Alvin. He reciprocated by loving all over them as well. The kids decided to go on a walk, and as they were leaving, Alvin began running after them on his leash. Dave had to walk very fast in order to hang on to Alvin’s leash. It was quite comical to watch, as Alvin has never done anything like that before. I wish I would have had my phone with me, as I would have caught that on video.

Waddie, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with going outside. She’s very content to have me put her bucket up in the front window so she can sit there and watch people walk by, or just curl up with the sun on her and take a nap.

We realize how truly fortunate we are to be living this kind of lifestyle and we’re so glad that all of you are on this journey with us.

 

 

 

Antietam Battlefield

On September 15, 1862, a year and half into the Civil War, Union victory was far from assured.  Confederate forces were fighting successfully in the Eastern Theater (compromising operations mainly in Virginia).  After his victory at the Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee decided to move his army out of war-torn Virginia.  On September 4, 1862, he led his over 40,000 Confederates across the Potomac River and through the lush Maryland countryside to Frederick.

Lee’s Maryland Campaign, his first foray onto Union soil, was the most significant in a series of loosely coordinated Confederate incursions along a 1,000-mile front.  Lee intended to keep moving north into Pennsylvania, but his line of supply and communication into Virginia was threatened by the 12,500-man Union garrison at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia).  Lee therefore divided his army to neutralize this threat.  Part of Gen. James Longstreet’s command went to Hagerstown, MD., close to Pennsylvania.  Three columns led by Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson surrounded Harpers Ferry and held Crampton Gap on South Mountain.  A third force, Gen D.H. Hill’s command, guarded the South Mountain gaps near Boonsboro, MD.

On September 12, Union Gen. George B. McClellan led the Army of the Potomac into Frederick, MD, just as the last Confederate soldiers were departing.  Over the next few days a chain of events would draw all of these men together for the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War.

On September 13, a Union soldier found a copy of Lee’s Special Order 191, his plan of operations for the campaign.  This “Lost Order,” as it has become known, was taken to McClellan who realized that this was the time to strike Lee’s divided forces.  On September 14, Union soldier engaged Confederates guarding the gaps on South Mountain.  The day-long battle ended with the Confederates being forced from the gaps.  Lee considered returning to Virginia, but on September 15, after learning that Harpers Ferry had fallen, he reevaluated his plans.  He would make a stand at Sharpsburg, MD, a quiet, 100-year old farming community of some 1,200 residents.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee positioned his army along a ridge west of Antietam Creek.  Confederate Gen.  James Longstreet commanded the line’s center and right, and Gen.  Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson held its left.  Behind them a Potomac River ford allowed retreat to Virginia.  On September 15 and 16 Union Gen. George B. McClellan deployed his forces east of the creek.  His plan:  attack Lee’s left and when “matters looked favorably” attack the Confederate right.  Succeeding in either, he hoped to strike Lee’s center.  His plan was good but his instructions to commanders ambiguous.

The 12-hour battle began at dawn, September 17.  Three morning Union attacks struck the Confederate left, north to south.  Gen. Joseph Hooker’s First Corps made the initial assault, followed by Gen. Joseph Mansfield’s Twelfth Corps.  Part of Gen. Edwin Sumner’s Second Corps made the final attack.  McClellan’s battle plan broke down in uncoordinated advances.

From 6 am until 10 am savage combat raged.  By late morning, fighting shifted toward the Confederate center in a three-hour stalemate that left the road (Sunken Road) forever known as “Bloody Lane.”  Of nearly 100,000 soldiers engaged in battle, about 23,000 were killed, wounded, or missing.  Late on September 18, Lee forded the Potomac to Virginia.  The Union Army held the field.  With their overwhelming number of troops they could have pursued Lee’s army and trapped him at the river crossing, likely forcing a final battle or surrender, but the conservative McClellan held back his massive reserves and Lee escaped.

For the people of Sharpsburg, the battle and presence of thousands of soldiers caused sickness and death from disease, and great property damage.  For some, service to their country ended with the Civil War.  For Clara Barton, this was the beginning.  Barton, a forty year old teacher, patent clerk and patriot, was frustrated by reports of inadequate relief supplies at battlefields.  She gathered needed items and transported them to the front.  Seeing the bandages, lanterns, and food Clara Barton brought to his Antietam hospital, Surgeon Charles Dunn christened her “The Angel of the Battlefield.”

At Antietam, Miss Barton followed the sound of artillery and arrived on the battlefield.  She delivered bandages and lanterns to field hospitals.  Clara Barton and her staff of thirty men prepared gruel (meal mixed with warm water) which they carried out to feed the wounded and dying where they fell.  She worked there for three days, providing whatever assistance she could.  This is just one of the many battlefields on which Miss Barton worked.

After the war, Barton established the Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army, an organization which located the graves of missing U.S. soldiers, as immediately after the battle over 3,500 dead were buried in farm fields surrounding Sharpsburg.  Eventually Confederate soldiers were moved to three local cemeteries.  Union men were re-interred in Antietam National Cemetery, their names (if known) recorded in the cemeteries’ book.  She established the American Association of the International Red Cross in 1881, adding civilian disaster relief to its mandate of providing neutral assistance during war, and in 1904, Clara Barton established the American First Aid Association.

The Emancipation Proclamation, released January 1, 1863 reshaped the war, freeing slaves in states in rebellion and giving the Union war effort two goals:  preserve the Union and end slavery.  Slaves could flee to Union camps and freedom or even join U.S. fighting forces.  Lee’s repulse at Antietam enabled the proclamation, and the two events kept Great Britain from intervening for the Confederacy.

A monument that pays tribute to the lives lost at Antietam Battlefield.
A monument that pays tribute to the lives lost at Antietam Battlefield.
Plaque inscription:  "On permanent loan from American Legion Post 236 of Sharpsburg, MD  And dedicated in honor of those who served on her USS Antietam CVA-36 U.S. Navy
Plaque inscription: “On permanent loan from American Legion Post 236 of Sharpsburg, MD
And dedicated in honor of those who served on her
USS Antietam
CVA-36 U.S. Navy

 

Plaque inscription: "THE 27TH INDIANA INFANTRY, 3D BRIGADE, 1ST DIVISION, 12TH ARMY CORPS COLONEL SILAS COLGROVE COMMANDING, WAS ENGAGED WITH THE ENEMY 400 YARDS NORTH OF THIS MARKER, SEPTEMBER 17TH 1862. NUMBER ENGAGED 440 KILLED AND WOUNDED 209.
Plaque inscription:
“THE 27TH INDIANA INFANTRY,
3D BRIGADE, 1ST DIVISION, 12TH ARMY CORPS
COLONEL SILAS COLGROVE COMMANDING,
WAS ENGAGED WITH THE ENEMY 400 YARDS
NORTH OF THIS MARKER, SEPTEMBER 17TH 1862.
NUMBER ENGAGED 440
KILLED AND WOUNDED 209.

 

More than 23,000 were killed or wounded at Antietam, the bloodiest single-day battle in American history.  All of the people depicted here, whether military or civilian, experienced the personal tragedy of the conflict.
More than 23,000 were killed or wounded at Antietam, the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. All of the people depicted here, whether military or civilian, experienced the personal tragedy of the conflict.
View of the battlegrounds looking out from the Observation Tower.
View of the battlegrounds looking out from the Observation Tower.
View of Sunken Road (Bloody Lane) looking out from the Observation Tower.
View of Sunken Road (Bloody Lane) looking out from the Observation Tower.
A pair of rascally rabbits.
A pair of rascally rabbits.
Dawn and Rick
Dawn and Rick

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harpers Ferry

In 1734, the Quaker colonist Robert Harper was given a patent on 125-acres, currently the present location of where the town resides.  In 1761, Harper established a ferry across the Potomac, making it easy for settler to move into the Shenandoah Valley.

On October 25, 1783, Thomas Jefferson visited Harpers Ferry.  He viewed “the passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge” from a rock which is now named for him and Jefferson the site “perhaps one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.”

In 1796, the federal government purchased a 125-acre parcel of land from the heirs of Robert Harper.  In 1799, construction began on the United States Armory and Arsenal at Harpers Ferry.  This was one of two such facilities in the U.S., the other in Springfield, MA.  Between these two arsenals, they produced most of the small arms for the U.S. Army.  Between 1801 and 1861, when it was destroyed to prevent capture during the Civil War, the armory produced more than 600,000 muskets, rifles and pistols.  Inventor Captain John H. Hall pioneered the use of interchangeable parts in firearms manufactured at his rifle works at the armory between 1820 and 1840 and his M1819 Hall rifle was the first breech-loading weapon adopted by the U.S. Army.

Harpers Ferry, however, is best known by many today for John Brown’s raid on the Armory on October 16, 1859.  John Brown, a radical abolitionist, led a group of 21 men in a raid on the arsenal.  Five of the men were African American, three free African Americans, one a freed slave, and one a fugitive slave.  During this time, assisting fugitive slaves was illegal under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793.  Brown attacked and captured several buildings as he hoped to use the captured weapons to start a slave uprising through the south.  The first shot mortally wounded Hayward Shepherd, a free black man who had been a night baggage porter for the B&O Railroad running through Harpers Ferry near the armory.  The noise from that shot roused Dr. John Starry from his sleep, where he walked from his nearby home to investigate the shooting, and came face to face with Brown’s men.  Starry told the men that he was a doctor; but, it was too late to save Shepherd.  Brown’s men allowed Starry to leave.  However, instead of going home, Starry went to the livery and rode to neighboring towns and villages alerting residents to the raid.

When Starry reached nearby Charles Town, the church bells were rung to rouse the citizens from their sleep.  John Brown’s men were quickly pinned down by local citizens and militia, and forced to take refuge in the engine house adjacent to the armory.

The secretary of war asked for the assistance of the Navy Department for a unit of United States Marines, the nearest troops.  Lieutenant Israel Greene was ordered to take a force of 86 Marines to the town.  In need of an officer to lead the expedition, U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee was found on leave nearby and was assigned as commander, along with Lt J.E.B. Stuart.  Lee led the unit and the whole contingent arrived by train on October 18.  After negotiations failed with Brown, they stormed the fire house and captured most of the raiders.  Brown was tried for treason against the State of Virginia, convicted and hanged in nearby Charles Town.  The raid was a catalyst for the Civil War.

Looking across the Shenandoah River at Virginia from Harpers Ferry in West Virginia.
Looking across the Shenandoah River at Virginia from Harpers Ferry in West Virginia.
Looking across the Potomac River at Virginia on the right and Maryland on the left.
Looking across the Potomac River at Virginia on the right and Maryland on the left.
Looking back at Harpers Ferry from the Shenandoah River.
Looking back at Harpers Ferry from the Shenandoah River.
Looking down on the town of Harpers Ferry.
Looking down on the town of Harpers Ferry.
A view from Harpers Ferry Church.
A view from Harpers Ferry Church.
Harpers Ferry train tunnel that is still in use today.
Harpers Ferry train tunnel that is still in use today.

 

Rick standing near Jefferson's Rock.
Rick standing next to Jefferson’s Rock.
Dawn and Rick at Harpers Ferry.
Dawn and Rick at Harpers Ferry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bloomington, Indiana eastward

We returned to Bloomington, IN on April 23 as we had several doctor appointments and business dealings to contend with, plus we wanted to spend time with our friends enjoying their company and catching up.

I haven’t had Mexican food since I left Bloomington in October, so my first dinner out was to LaCharreda a few nights after we returned.  Oh my!!  The glorious taste of the beef chimichanga and Mexican rice were AMAZING to my taste buds.  Sitting here typing this, I still crave it!  In addition to LaCharreada, I visited Mother Bears Pizza (never been there before), Olive Garden, McAllister’s, Village Deli, and Malibu Grill (never been there before either!).  Each outing was enhanced with the company of friends, which made the dining experience that much better.  Dave and I have great peeps!!

Linda and Jeff, very good friends of ours since we moved to Indiana in 2001, were taking down a tree in their backyard so we went over to help them.  It felt good to be doing some physical activity like that and we had great fun singing the “Lumberjack” song from Monty Python while doing so.  If you’ve never heard it before, I’m sure that you can find it on YouTube.

Linda and Jeff
Linda and Jeff

As some of you may not know, I worked for the South Central Community Action Program, Inc., (SCCAP) for 10-years, and not too long after I left the agency I became a board member, as I still believe in the mission of the agency, which is to help low-income people become self-sufficient.  On May 07, SCCAP celebrated its 50th Anniversary and I was honored to have been a part of this celebration.  The staff did a tremendous job in the planning of the event and those that came out to participate, over 300 people, seemed to have a great time.  We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, musicians donated their time to play music for the event, and connections between people were either re-established or new bonds were formed.  Dave volunteered his time as well to help shuttle people to/from their vehicles and, for that, I would like to thank him.  It was an excellent event!

SCCAP's 50th Celebration
SCCAP’s 50th Celebration

We departed Bloomington on June 02 and overnighted at a friend’s place in Martinsville, IN, about 30-miles north of Bloomington, so that Dave could change the oil in the RV.  Both of us were apprehensive about it as Dave has never changed the oil in a diesel rig before.  All went well though and we breathed a sigh of relief when it was over, as the “scariest” part was pouring the new oil into the thingy-ma-bob through the hatch in our BEDROOM FLOOR!  Although we put plastic down and put Alvin in the bathroom so he wouldn’t interfere, or escape down the hatch, we both had visions of something going awry and oil flowing all over the bedroom floor.  Thankfully not a drop was spilled.  Yay!

We left Indiana the following day and headed for an overnight stop in Zanesville, Ohio at Wolfie’s Campground, about 255-miles east,  on our way to Williamsport, Maryland.  Wolfie’s Campground is a small family orientated campground that consists of approximately 53 RV-sites, three cabins, and a few tent sites.  The amenities that they offer are a playground for kids, a game room, basketball court, swimming pool, showers, convenience store (reasonably priced items) and laundry facilities.  The grounds are immaculate and the facilities are very well maintained and clean.   For those of you that know me, you know how important that is to me.  🙂  Getting to the campground is a bit tricky, as the road leading in/out of the campground is a rather narrow two-lane unlined road that goes up hill.  I would seriously hate to meet another big rig coming at me from the opposite direction.   The views from the campground are beautiful and it’s very quiet there too, no noise at all, except from the critters scampering about.

We left the following morning and began our 293-mile trek to Hagerstown, MD, arriving late in the day on June 4.  This time we thought we would try something different and stay at a Yogi Bear Campground, even though we don’t have young children.  The resort is conveniently located just a few miles near I-81 and I-70 so it’s great for anyone who is traveling the east-west and north-south corridors of the area.

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort is a HUGE resort offering approximately 160-RV sites, 63-cabins, and a smattering of primitive tent camping sites.  Each site, including cabins and tent sites, were equipped with a fire ring and picnic table, although in all honesty, I doubt that I would have used the fire ring as I felt it was too close to the rig.  As far as amenities goes, there were a lot!  Two horseshoes pits, volleyball, basketball, mini-golf, laser tag, a playing field, mini speedway, game room, jumping pillow, mini-zip, two playgrounds, a swimming pool with water slides for the kids, an adults pool, a kiddie pool, interactive splash pad, two pavilions, movie theater, and a canteen where one could buy nachos, ice cream cones, sandwiches and burgers.  However, the food at the canteen we felt was highly priced, as one scoop of ice cream was $2.  A general store was on site as well where one could buy milk or other sundries.  Laundry facilities and showers were also provided for resort guests.  Weekends were quite packed with people, although during the week it was pretty empty.

On June 05, Dave and I traveled to Shepherdstown, WV, about 20 miles south from Hagerstown, MD, to visit a very dear high school friend of mine, Dawn, and her husband, Rick, who cooked us burgers on the grill at their house and some other delectable delights.  The backyard of their home sits on the Potomac River, which is simply stunning, and there is no shortage of wildlife in the area.  We saw deer all over the place, in route to their home as well as on their property, including a cute turtle that was crossing their driveway!  🙂

Dawn and Rick at Harpers Ferry.
Dawn and Rick at Harpers Ferry.

The following day the four of us ventured to Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, which is about 45 miles from Hagerstown, MD, and lies at the junction of where the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River meet.  When looking at the junction of these two rivers, one can see the state of Maryland on one side, and Virginia on the other side.  A separate posting has been created for information regarding Harpers Ferry.

On Monday, June 08, the four of ventured to the Antietam National Battlefield which is located in Sharpsburg, Maryland, about 15 miles from Hagerstown.  The Battle of Antietam was one of the most historic battles during the Civil War, as it was noted as the bloodiest one-day battle of the American Civil War. If the union General McClellan would have made better decisions during this battle; he potentially could have ended the war then and there and saved a lot of lives and bitterness in the process. I have also created a separate posting for information regarding Antietam, as the history is rather lengthy.

We departed Hagerstown, MD on June 11 and headed for Kinzers, PA where we stayed for a week while visiting friends and family in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  I met up with a few friends while back in the area, most of whom I had not seen since high school and it was wonderful to see them all again.  Thank you Kristy, Mark, Colleen, and Debbie for taking time out of your busy schedules to meet with me; I so enjoyed seeing you all again!!    🙂

Left to right....Dave, Me, Colleen, Mark and Kristy
Left to right….Dave, Me, Colleen, Mark and Kristy

Before leaving New Jersey, Dave and I stopped at Fort Mott State Park located in Pennsville, NJ.  Fort Mott was a part of a three-fort defense system designed for the Delaware River during the post-Civil War modernization period.  The other two forts in the system were Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island and Fort DuPont in Delaware City, Delaware.

Fort Mott, along with Fort Delaware and Fort DuPont, became obsolete as the principal defensive installation on the Delaware River with the construction of Fort Saulsbury, near Milford, Delaware, shortly after World War I.

We rounded out our day in NJ by visiting with my brother, Ed, and sister-in-law, Coralea, just kicking back and catching up.   We had a great visit!  🙂

Ed and Coralea
Ed and Coralea

We left Pennsylvania on Thursday, June 18 with our eldest daughter, Lisa, and began our trek to Ontario, Canada, overnighting on the way in Pulaski, NY, and arriving the following day in Brockville, Ontario, Canada.  We spent 7 wonderful days up there visiting Dave’s parents and playing cards every night “Pankoski style.”  It has taken me almost 30 years, but I actually won my FIRST GAME EVER against this bunch!!  We were playing Hand and Foot, too, so talk about being on cloud 9!!  Woo-hoo!!!!!

The weather was perfect for the most part, warm day and cool nights, so great sleeping weather!  We stayed at the St. Lawrence Park right on the Thousand Islands River and the scenery was beautiful.  For those that have never been to Brockville, Ontario, Canada before, it is known as the “City of the Thousand Islands,” as it is located on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River opposite Morristown, NY, about half-way between Ontario’s Cornwall to the east and Kingston to the west.  It’s roughly a 50-minute drive south of the national capital of Ottawa, one of Ontario’s oldest communities, and is named after the British general Sir Isaac Brock.

Chuck, an old college friend of Dave’s, joined us for dinner one night at mom and dad’s and we had a great evening.  There was lots of laughter and great memories for Chuck and Dave to reminisce on.  Thankfully we were able to visit with Chuck a couple of more times before we left.  It was great seeing these two together again.  🙂

Chuck and Dave
Chuck and Dave

Unfortunately, Lisa had to return to work, so we returned to Kinzers, PA on June 27.  We were originally only going to stay a day or two and then hit the road again; however, we decided to stay until July 01 so we could spend some additional time with Kathleen, our youngest daughter.  We’re glad we did, too, because we had a great day on Monday exploring Valley Forge with her!  🙂

The last time I was at Valley Forge, I was in middle school on a class trip, and I remember just snippets from that excursion.  Exploring it again, especially with my husband who had never been there before, was really neat.

The road…..home?


We departed Clermont on April 01 and, instead of heading north as most snowbirds do, we headed south and spent a couple of days at the Silver Palms RV Resort in Lake Okeechobee, Florida, which is 120 miles southeast from Clermont.  If one has never been to Lake Okeechobee before, let me forewarn you beforehand that there is absolutely nothing there for non-fishing people to do, except relax.  This is exactly what we did.  The weather was hot, however, the pool was quite refreshing and we spent our afternoons swimming and talking with the locals at the resort.

The resort itself is absolutely beautiful and quite large, and although a little on the pricey side, if one is interested in a place to park their RV, I would highly recommend this place.  It’s quite peaceful and the grounds are in pristine condition.  There is a large clubhouse that offers a billiards room, a card room, and a library as well as a generous sized gathering room for various activities and dinners.  The resort is currently expanding and they are in the process of building a second clubhouse.  If one was interested, the resort has lots for sale as well.  If Dave and I were to the point of the settling down, and wanted to be some place off of the beaten path, then this would be a contender.  For more information on Silver Palms RV Resort, go to www.silverpalmsrv.com.

Club House 3 Club House 1

Interior pictures of the clubhouse.
Interior pictures of the clubhouse.

 

Billiards room.
Billiards room.
Card room.
Card room.

Pool 2

The swimming pool was so large that I couldn't get one picture of it!
The swimming pool was so large that I couldn’t get one picture of it!

 

A very friendly family of Sand Crane's that liked to visit us in the mornings.
A very friendly family of Sand Crane’s that liked to visit us in the mornings.
Our site at Silver Palms.
Our site at Silver Palms.

After leaving Lake Okeechobee we returned to Clermont, but this time we stayed at the Thousand Trails Orlando campground for 10-days as we wanted to spend a bit more time in the area.  We met up with Arlene and Barry who had returned back to the area and spent an evening with them playing Wizard (a great card game!) and getting caught up on their adventures, as they spent time in Miami and the Florida Keys.  Their adventures sounded awesome and we can’t wait to explore some of that territory this coming winter.  Oh, and if you two are reading this, you need to start your own blog site so we can keep up with you two!  🙂

 

Arlene, Barry, Dave and I the night we played Wizard.  I can't remember who won, but we had fun!
Arlene, Barry, Dave and I the night we played Wizard. I can’t remember who won, but we had fun!

On April 13, we began our trek northward and we left Clermont, FL for the Ocala Sun RV Resort in Ocala, Florida, which is about 60-miles north-west of Clermont.   We wanted to visit Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing and the RV resort is only one mile from the museum, so the location of the park couldn’t have been better.

In all honesty, the museum itself was not what I was expecting, especially when driving up the driveway to the facility.  To say I was impressed once we got inside of the museum is an understatement!  The museum is open every day between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm (closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas) and between the two buildings, they have slightly less than 300 cars on display.  The rate to get in is very reasonable as well; Adults $20, Seniors (over 60), Military/Veteran, College Students, Teenagers (13-18) $15, and children (5-12) $10.  Group rates are available as well but I’m not sure exactly how many people constitute a “group,” so I would suggest calling the museum in advance for group information.

The average tour takes about 2-3 hours to see everything or, unless one is like my husband, then it will take longer.  One building, aptly named the Antiques building, consists of antique cars and has one of the largest collections of Fords, not to mention muscle cars and rare vintage automobiles.  This was my favorite building as I love antique cars.

The second building, aptly named the Drag Racing building, has a collection of world-famous history making Dragsters, Funny Cars, motorcycles and many other exciting racing vehicles from the early days of drag racing to current day.  Between the two buildings there is an amazing collection of Hemi engines, Flathead engines, rare manifolds and carburetors that have been restored.  This was Dave’s favorite building by a long-shot.  Regardless of what type of car one is into, it’s almost guaranteed that one will find something at the museum that captures ones’ attention.

I took SOOOO many pictures of the cars that were at the museum, that there were way too many to post here.  Sorry!  😦

We departed Ocala on the 15th and stayed overnight in Tallahassee, FL on our way to Milton, Florida.  Originally we wanted to stay right in Destin, FL but, unbeknownst to us, the rates in the panhandle area increase around the first of April and continue to rise throughout the summer.  The reasoning behind this, or so we’ve been told, is that the temperatures in the panhandle area of Florida are much cooler in the summer months than central and southern Florida, so that’s where a lot of people head to for spring/summer vacation, which in turn, drives up the prices.  Who knew!?

After extensive research due to that bit of knowledge, we settled on Milton, Florida, which is home to Naval Air Station Whiting Field, and is located about 367 miles north-west of Ocala, Florida and 48 miles north-west of Destin, FL.

We found a really convenient RV Park on the outskirts of Milton called Avalon Landing RV Park and spent the next four nights there.  Avalon RV Park is located 5 miles from Pensacola and offers one of the best sceneries we’ve experienced to date, as it sits right next to the Indian Bayou.  Unfortunately it rained practically every day we were there, so taking pictures of the place would not have done it justice.

Despite the rain, we decided to make the best of our time there and headed out the next day to explore the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which offers recreation opportunities and preserves natural and historic resources along the Gulf of Mexico barrier islands of Florida and Mississippi.  The protected regions include the mainland areas and parts of seven islands, which consist of Santa Rosa Island, Perdido Key, Petit Bois Island, Horn Island, East Ship Island, West Ship Island and Cat Island.  Petit Bois, Horn, East Ship, West Ship, and Cat Islands are accessible only by boat, however.

The white quartz sandy beaches (along miles of undeveloped land) and aquamarine waters are simply stunning.   There are historic fortifications, such as Fort Pickens, and nature trails galore there, not to mention miles of beach where one can just sit and gaze out the ocean (my favorite thing to do!).

Thankfully while we were there, the rain decided to stop and it turned out to be a wonderful afternoon.  I took off my sneakers and wadded into the ocean.  Oh, the water felt fantastic!!  The beaches here were simply beautiful and I can only imagine how packed it is during the summertime.

GB 4
The beach at Gulf Breeze.

 

 

GB 2
The beach at Gulf Breeze.

 

The beach at Gulf Breeze.
The beach at Gulf Breeze.
Feeling the ocean on my feet at Escambia at Gulf Shores.  I found a little tiny seashell too!
Feeling the ocean on my feet at Escambia at Gulf Shores. I found a little tiny seashell too!
Happiness!
Happiness!

 

Navarre - Jelly fish 2
We found a lot of these on the Gulf Shores National Seashore. There are different specifies of Jellyfish that are found around the Pensacola Beach area. These particular ones are called Portuguese Man-O-War, which are the most dangerous jelly fish in Florida. It has a clear inflatable float that stays on top of the water like a balloon. The rest of the animal is purple, and the purple tentacles can dangle underneath and behind the jellyfish for 50 to 200 feet, depending on the size of the jellyfish. Apparently, the Man-O-War is common along the lower east coast of Florida during periods of east and southeast winds. They are blown onshore by the thousands.

 

Navarre - Jelly fish 1
You can easily see the “float” of the jellyfish in this picture.

Arlene and Barry were in the area (about an hour away from where we were staying) visiting family, so they came down the following day and met us for breakfast at the Scenic 90 Café in Pensacola.  The café’s décor reminds one of the old 50’s style diners and the food was really good and was very reasonably priced.  Highly recommended!

After breakfast, the four of us visited the National Naval Aviation Museum (formerly known as the National Museum of Naval Aviation and the Naval Aviation Museum) in Pensacola, which is a 350,000 square foot military and aerospace museum that sits on 37-acres at the Naval Air Station.  This is a museum that one needs to go to when visiting the Pensacola area!  It is the world’s largest Naval Aviation museum and one of the most-visited museums in the state of Florida.  They have over 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps, and the Coast Guard Aviation.  Admission is FREE!  That’s right….FREE!!

The National Air Station is also home to the Blue Angels and, on most Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (weather permitting) from March to November, one can view the Blue Angels practicing above them.  Practices typically begin at 11:30 a.m. (Central Time) and last about 75-minutes.  Admission to the practices is FREE and open to the public.

Thanks again, Arlene and Barry, for a wonderful day!  To say that we enjoyed this excursion and meeting up with you two again would be an understatement!

For more information regarding the National Air Station or watching the Blue Angels practice, go to www.navalaviationmuseum.org.

NAS 1NAS 2

NAS 3

NAS 5

NAS 6

NAS 7

A decommissioned Blue Angels plane.
A decommissioned Blue Angels plane.
Additional decommissioned Blue Angel planes.
Additional decommissioned Blue Angel planes.
Yeah, I had to get in it.  :-)
Yeah, I had to get in it. 🙂

Dave 5

Dave ready to taxi!
Dave ready to taxi!

Dave 3 Dave 2

Look at the grin on his face!  Like a little kid in the candy shop!  LOL
Look at the grin on his face! Like a little kid in the candy shop! LOL
Barry and Dave taking it all in.
Barry and Dave taking it all in.

Atom 1

A replica of the Atom Bomb.  I had Dave stand in front of it to give you an idea of how big this bomb was.
A replica of the Atom Bomb. I had Dave stand in front of it to give you an idea of how big this bomb was.
A group picture of the four of us.  Great day!!
A group picture of the four of us. Great day!!

We left Milton, FL on Monday, April 20 and overnighted in Athens, AL before arriving the next day at the KOA North Campground in Goodlettsville, TN.  Goodlettsville is located about 18 miles north of Nashville and we decided to spend two nights there.  Although we had been to Nashville many times before, we decided to take a Grayline Tour of the city as there was a tremendous amount of construction being done around, and in, downtown Nashville.  At least this way we would have someone knowledgeable driving us throughout the city and we could hit the highlights of the places that we wanted to visit, such as the Ryman Auditorium,  Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Grand Old Opry, and Opryland USA (Gaylord Hotel).  Talk about a tiring day!  Whew!  My dogs were a barkin’ before we got back to the campground!

 

Elvis's gold piano at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Elvis’s gold piano at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Gold Records gracing the walls of the County Music Hall of Fame.  There were some that you could push a button and the song from that particular album would play.
Gold Records gracing the walls of the County Music Hall of Fame. There were some that you could push a button and the song from that particular album would play.
Needs no introduction.
Needs no introduction.
Facing the stage from the back of the Grand Old Opry.
Facing the stage from the back of the Grand Old Opry.
I'm a little bit country.
I’m a little bit country.
And he's a little bit rock and roll!
And he’s a little bit rock and roll!

We left Tennessee on April 23 with the thoughts of stopping overnight in Elizabethtown, KY; however, we just kept driving and arrived at Lake Monroe Village in Bloomington, IN late that afternoon.  I think both of us were anxious to get back here and take care of medical and business related items that needed to be dealt with.  More importantly, we were looking forward to reconnecting with our friends who, in many ways, have become an extension of our family.

The reason why I titled this blog as “The road…..home?” was that I have always considered New Jersey my home, as that is where I was raised.  I left there in my early 20’s moving from state to state with my husband as we followed work contracts.  I’ve returned throughout the years to visit family, less though as I get older.  I still have a brother and sister-in-law who live in New Jersey, as well as numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins, but in all honesty, Bloomington feels more like my home now.  I’ve made so many close friends here and, more importantly, I feel comfortable here, like you get from the feeling of putting on an old, soft, comfortable sweater that fits.

So yes, Linda, I’ve arrived back home.  😉

Our Winter in Florida

This was the first year that Dave and I spent the winter away in warmer climate which, as many of you know, was mainly in the state of Florida.  Our time here in Florida has flown by and, shortly, we’ll be making our way back up north to Indiana to take care of doctor appointments and visit our friends during the month of May.

Spending Christmas and New Year’s in Florida was a first for both Dave and me as neither one of us had experienced winter holidays in shorts and short-sleeves before.  To say that it was a bit foreign to us is a bit of an understatement.  However, with the weather that Indiana and much of the north had been experiencing, we were quite happy that we were in the land of sun.  We had our Christmas dinner at the RV clubhouse and enjoyed a feast of turkey, ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, vegetables, and various desserts.  The best part though was getting to know a lot of the wonderful people that we’ve met in the park.  The park put on a New Year’s party at the clubhouse that was a lot of fun and we met up with our friends, Arlene and Barry, and the four of us danced the night away.

Dressed up as Elvis and Priscilla Presley at the NY's Eve Gala.
Arlene and Barry dressed up as Elvis and Priscilla Presley at the NY’s Eve Gala.

Our original intent when Dave agreed to coming to Florida first, was to fulfill my wish of buying annual passes to the wonderful world of Disney and spending lots of time at the various theme parks at Walt Disney World (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom), the water parks (Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach), and Disney Quest at Downtown Disney.  We have explored each park numerous times, attended various shows/concerts and, of course, we’ve ridden the various thrill rides numerous times.  Dave, however, is way more adventurous and daring than I am, as he loves the roller coasters.  My thrill of a ride is more in the way of “It’s a small world.”  Yeah, I’m a wimp when it comes to thrill rides, I freely admit that.

We’ve also explored various venues outside of Disney World, like the Webster Flea Market that is located in Webster, Florida, about 42 miles northwest of Clermont, Florida.  For those of you that have never been to the Webster Flea Market, let me just say that if you decide to go, wear some very comfortable walking shoes!  The flea market is HUGE!  It takes up 35 acres of an 80 acre compound consisting of open air markets and you can find literally anything……produce, flowers, bakery items, jewelry, plants, boutique items, furniture, musical instruments, electronics, hardware/tools, pets supplies, crafts, clothing, even seafood!  Well, you get the picture!  The flea market is open every Monday, year round, rain or shine.  There are two days during the year, Presidents Day and MLK Day that the number of vendors almost doubles.  There are two restaurants on site, as well as numerous snack vendors.  Dave and I got the best deal of the day when we went, two huge all beef hotdogs and a can of soda for $3.

Arlene, Barry, Dave and I attended a free concert in Kissimmee to dedicate the new Kissimmee Lakefront Park, which is along the shores of Lake Tohopekaliga.  The park offers a three-mile paved trail for walkers and joggers, as well as basketball courts, BBQ grills, fishing pier, horseshoe pits, picnic areas with a large pavilion, playground, volleyball court, and boating access.   . Talk about a beautiful and LARGE park!  Wow!  The evening that we attend the concert was cool, but we bundled up and enjoyed the music.  The people were pretty well behaved and the kids there had a blast.  The residents that live in the area are truly blessed to have that park.

Old Town, which is located about 10-miles east of Clermont in Kissimmee, offers an amusement park and outdoor shopping located.  The amusement park offers a bit of everything, such as kid-friendly rides, go-karts, bumper cars, lazer tag, a haunted house and an arcade.  For those that are truly brave (and I mean TRULY BRAVE!) they offer the Slingshot which catapults riders vertically at over 100 miles per hour into the sky, just over 300 feet into the sky above Kissimmee and Highway 192.

They even have a ride called The Vomatron which, believe me, if you went on it you would vomit.  According to their website, “In the 1960’s President Kennedy set NASA to a task to put the first man on the moon.  The astronauts had to undergo a vigorous training program to prepare them for the rigors of outer space.  NASA built machines which placed the astronaut’s bodies under extreme pressure.  The astronauts coped well, but the machine struck terror into their hearts.”  The Vomatron is based on the machine all of the astronauts feared at Cape Canaveral.  The ride is powered by six huge electric motors and rotates a giant 200 foot arm at speeds of up to 70 mph.  These rotations throw the capsules, located at the ends of each arm, into extreme spins putting up to 4 g’s of force upon the riders.  Then, just when you thought it was over….it goes in reverse!  The worst part is that there is a fast food restaurant at the base of the Vomatron which only offers outdoor seating complete with table umbrellas.  Um, no thanks!!  I’d prefer not to be rained down upon, if you know what I mean.  They have another death-defying ride at Old town, which unfortunately we don’t know the name of but, it too is a wild ride.  The riders essentially lay horizontally in a “basket” that they are strapped into, rappelled backward about 200 feet (or more?) into the sky, and then let go.  The “basket” then flies back and forth through the air several times.  If you would like more information on the Vomatron and the Slingshot, go to www.oldtownslingshot-vomatron.com.

For those of us that like to keep our fee on the ground, Old Town offers Car Cruises four nights of the week.  Wednesday night offers street dancing to the music of “The Dukes” which covers songs from the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Friday night, beginning at 4:00 p.m., is Muscle Car Night featuring American-Made Muscle Cars from 1964 and newer and American classics from 1988 and older.  Saturday night, (cars start arriving at 1:00 pm) is the Classic Car Cruise which features 1979 and older hot rods, street rods, and antique cars with a cruise down the center of the square around 8:00 p.m.  Sunday, beginning at 4:00 p.m. is the Shown N’ Shine featuring show quality trucks, jeeps, or SUV’s.  Live music is from 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm and the best part is that the Car Cruises are all FREE!  There is no admission at all, so it’s a great place to take the whole family too.  If you’re in the area and want to check out Old Town, or the Car Cruises, their website can be found at www.myoldtownusa.com.

 

Cars being displayed at the Old Town Car Cruisers show.
Cars being displayed at the Old Town Car Cruisers show.
Car Show 2
Cars being displayed at the Old Town Car Cruisers show.

 

In January, the four of us (Arlene, Barry, Dave and I) took a drive over to Tampa and attended the Florida RV Super Show.  Oh, my-gosh!  What a huge event!!  The weather was extremely hot that day and we spent the entire day (9:00 am – 5:00 pm) trying to see as many new RV’s as we could, as well as visit the numerous vendors that were onsite selling their wares.  Incredible!  Dave and I picked out four Class-A motor coaches that we liked the best, should the Queen Mary ever give up the ghost on us. The four that we chose were a 45-foot Monaco 45DUKE, a 40-foot Fleetwood Discovery, a 45-foot American Coach Tradition, or the 43-foot Newmar Dutch Star.  We’d definitely need to win the lottery first though.  Brand new, the Fleetwood Discovery is listed at just slightly over $300K and the Newmar Dutch Star is just slightly over $424K.  Unless, some generous soul out there would love to give us a nice monetary gift? 😉

The best part about winter is that everyone wants to escape the cold, so where do they head to?  Florida!  Our daughters, Lisa and Kathleen, came down in January to spend a few days with us.  Unfortunately for them, (but fortunately for us), their flight was affected by the Nor’easter and they were forced to extend their stay by three days.  We enjoyed going to Animal Kingdom and Epcot with them and spent some time playing cards Pankoski style.  Thankfully when it was time for them to depart Florida, the weather in Pennsylvania had quieted down.

In addition to our daughters visit, several of my former colleagues were in Florida to escape the Indiana weather, so Dave and I were able to have lunch with them while they were down here.  It was so nice to visit with Jim, Rita, Steve, Pam, Kathy, John, Margie, Robin, and Ben.  Jim even introduced Dave and me to Gator Bites!  No, not the kind where the ‘gator bites you, but where you get to bite the ‘gator in the form of a fried nugget.  And to pre-answer some of you, yes, it tastes like chicken.  J

With Dave’s birthday and Valentine’s Day being in the same month, we have always tried to celebrate both events at the same time, such as dinner out, a movie, or celebrate in some other way.  We decided this year to celebrate Disney style and we booked dinner reservations for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review at the Fort Wilderness Campground, followed by a knee-slapping sing-along around the campfire with Chip and Dale.  For those of you that don’t know it, I’m a HUGE Chip and Dale fan!  Those two rodents are the most under-rated Disney characters in my opinion.  Mickey’s got nothing on them!!

 

Yep, I'm grinning from ear to ear.  Chip and Dale are my favorites!
Yep, I’m grinning from ear to ear. Chip and Dale are my favorites!

 

Getting a hug from Dale.
Getting a hug from Dale.

 

A few weeks ago Dave and I went to the Kennedy Space Center which is located at Cape Canaveral, about 74 miles west of Clermont, and we were so glad that we did.  What a totally awesome experience we had!  We had a perfect day weather wise to go and we spend the entire day drinking it all in.  There is SO MUCH to report on that it would literally take me hours to write about.  If you are planning a trip to Florida, we highly recommend that you take a day (two if you can) and tour the Kennedy Space Center.  You won’t regret it and we bet it will be one of the highlights of your trip!  Information can be found at www.kennedyspacecenter.com.

 

This wall, with a quote from John F. Kennedy, greets visitors as they enter the Kennedy Space Station.
This wall, with a quote from John F. Kennedy, greets visitors as they enter the Kennedy Space Station.

 

One of the many buildings on the Kennedy Space Center complex.
NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building.

 

One of the rocket launch pads.
One of the rocket launch pads.

 

This barrier, and several just like this one, sits at the base of the rocket.  When the rocket is ignited, these walls deflect the flame from going outward.  The blackened area is residue from the flames.
This barrier, and several just like this one, sits at the base of the rocket. When the rocket is ignited, these walls deflect the flame from going outward. The blackened area is residue from the flames.

 

This piece of impressive machine, which is HUGE, is a pair of tracked vehicles called the "crawler," is used to transport spacecraft from NASA's Vehicle Assembly Buidling along the Crawlerway to Launch Complex 39.  They were originally used to transport the Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets during the Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs.  They were then used to transport Space Shuttles from 1981 to 2011.  Each one of these crawler's cost $14 million each .  They travel at a speed of 1 mph loaded (2 mph unloaded) and takes about 5 hours to go travel 3.5 miles.
This impressive machine, which is HUGE, is actually a pair of tracked vehicles called the “crawler,” (nicknamed “Hans” and “Franz”) that are used to transport spacecraft from NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Buidling along the Crawlerway to Launch Complex 39. They were originally used to transport the Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets during the Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs. They were then used to transport Space Shuttles from 1981 to 2011. Each one of these crawler’s cost $14 million each . They travel at a speed of 1 mph loaded (2 mph unloaded) and takes about 5 hours to go travel 3.5 miles.

 

The rockets on Atlas Spacecraft.
The rockets on Atlas Spacecraft.

 

NASA 11
The Atlas Spacecraft broken down into sections. You cannot believe the enormity of this thing. Amazing!
NASA 12
The Atlas Spacecraft broken down into sections. You cannot believe the enormity of this thing. Amazing!

 

The Atlas Spacecraft broken down into sections.  You cannot believe the enormity of this thing.  Amazing!
The Atlas Spacecraft broken down into sections. You cannot believe the enormity of this thing. Amazing!

 

The Apollo Space Capsule.
The Apollo Space Capsule.
NASA 14
The Apollo Space Capsule.

 

 

One of the Space Shuttles.  I was standing quite a ways away from it in order to get the majority of it in the picture.
The Atlantis Space Shuttle. I was standing quite a ways away from it in order to get the majority of it in the picture.

 

The Indianapolis News from July 21, 1969.
The Indianapolis News from July 21, 1969.

 

Bio of Virgil "Gus" Grissom from Mitchell, Indiana.  Sadly he lost his life in service to the nation and the space program on January 27, 1967.  He was 40 years old.
Bio of Virgil “Gus” Grissom from Mitchell, Indiana. Sadly he lost his life in service to the nation and the space program on January 27, 1967. He was 40 years old.

 

One of the many plaques and tributes to the astronauts who lost their lives.
One of the many plaques and tributes to the astronauts who lost their lives.

 

STS-107 was the 113th flight of the Space Shuttle program, and the disastrous final flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia.  It launched on January 16, 2003.  It's seven-member crew was killed on February 01, when Columbia disintegrated during reentry into the atmosphere.
STS-107 was the 113th flight of the Space Shuttle program, and the disastrous final flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia. It launched on January 16, 2003. It’s seven-member crew was killed on February 01, when Columbia disintegrated during reentry into the atmosphere.

Last week we drove to Melbourne, about 92-miles southeast of Clermont, to attend the 2015 Melbourne Air and Space Show featuring the Blue Angels.  We couldn’t have picked a hotter day to attend, let me tell you!  We were sitting out on the tarmac in 90-degree weather for about 6-hours, but we enjoyed every minute of the show.  Prior to the demonstrations, spectators were able to enter the MV-22 Osprey and the USCG SAR, which both were pretty cool.  There was a little boy with his dad in front of us as we were going through the Osprey, and that kids’ eyes were HUGE trying to take everything in.  Air demonstrations included that of the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor, F-16 Viper and the U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey.  Civilian acts included the GEICO Skytypers and Michael Goulian.  While Dave enjoyed the Skytypers, I was in awe of the F-22 Raptor, the F-16 Viper and the MV-22 Osprey.  The USAF Heritage Flight and the Blue Angels rocked as well.  The sonic booms that these aircraft put out were unreal!!  My only regret is that I didn’t take ear plugs with me as I had to stick my fingers in my ears to keep out some of the percussion as they flew over.

MV-22 Osprey that was on display.  Dave and I had the privilege of walking through this impressive machine.  Later in the afternoon, it participated in the air demonstration.  Very impressive!
MV-22 Osprey that was on display. Dave and I had the privilege of walking through this impressive machine. Later in the afternoon, it participated in the air demonstration. Very impressive!

 

One of the Navy's aircraft.
One of the Navy’s aircraft.
Amazing.
Amazing.

 

This thing was LOUD!
This thing was LOUD!
On display.  A 407MRH.
On display. A 407MRH.

 

The Blue Angels flying over.  Totally awesome!!
The Blue Angels flying over. Totally awesome!!
You can tell that our two fur balls are exhausted from our travels so far!
You can tell that our two fur balls are exhausted from our travels so far!