Friends, Good Times and a Little Exploring

Before we get too far along on our Florida adventures, we wanted to acknowledge the effort so many of our friends and family made in being with us during Diana’s mother’s funeral.  Many of you came to Ortonville from great distances, many sent cards and flowers, and a lot of you sent condolences through this blog and Facebook.  One really nice thing occoured after we were back in Grand Rapids, preparing to get south for the winter.  Our friends from college, Paul and Sheryl, called us up and wanted to take us to dinner before we left.

  

We met halfway between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo and had a nice evening.  It was very sweet of them to do that.  :). Thanks again to everyone; you all are treasures in our lives!

On the way down to Florida, Lois and Dave (fellow work campers from Wild Cherry Resort) contacted us about getting together.  They were in the Melbourne area, as one of their sons lives here. We decided to host a happy hour.  Rod and Mary (who also work camped with us) live a mile from our current location, so we all spent an evening together.  They also had Diana and I over Christmas Eve for a yummy ham and shrimp dinner.  🙂

  

We had a good time at the happy hour catching up on what everyone is doing.

Monday morning, Diana was finishing up the thank you notes from the funeral, so I tagged along with Rod and Mary on a 10 mile bike ride to the top of the Melbourne Causeway and back.  They wanted to show me the way to get through the neighborhoods to avoid traffic, as there isn’t a bike path the entire way in that direction.  If you want to get your heart pumping, try riding a bike up one of those causeway bridges!  :). Of special interest is the sports complex we passed by.  Former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie is from Melbourne Beach, and the complex is named after him.

On Tuesday, Diana and I went for a sunrise walk down the beach.

  

We really are enjoying being able to go for these morning strolls.

  

The Great Blue Herons were out for their morning walks also.

  

They sure are beautiful to look at.  We’ve noticed that they aren’t afraid of beach strollers. They also like to hang around the surf fishermen, as they sometimes get a free meal from them.

  

For such a large bird, they leave a delicate footprint.

  

The crabs were busy popping in and out of the holes they had burrowed in the sand.

  

Definitely a great way to start the day!

We then went for a bike ride down A1A and stopped into Outdoor Resorts on the way back.  The property is one of a chain of resorts in Florida and Virginia.  People purchase their lots and sometimes rent them out, if they aren’t there. Nice place with three seperate pools.  We toured up and down the streets on our trikes, scouting for future reference.  One thing is for certain: with properties such as this one and the one we are staying at spanning from the ocean to the intercoastal, it’s possible to put on some decent mileage without leaving the resort!

After that, we decided to drive down to Vero Beach and see what was there.  On the way back Diana spotted the Disney Vero Beach Resort, so we pulled in and asked the gate guard if the restaurant was open to the public.  It was, so we decided to have lunch and look around.

  

We ate at the bar on the second floor, and our table was on the deck overlooking the Atlantic. Pretty nice!  I have to give a shout out to Disney on this:  if you have a food allergy (which I do) and you alert the server to it, the chef makes a personal visit to your table to discuss what they can do for you.  First class treatment, without a doubt.  This happens at every Disney food establishment throughout the company.

After lunch, we strolled the grounds to check out what was there.

  

Diana is standing in front of their main building, and the deck where we had just eaten lunch.

  

The pool area was very crowded, as there weren’t the usual theme parks to draw the families away from the resort.  They sure were having fun, though!

  

The Christmas tree in the soaring lobby was beautiful.

  

Upon closer inspection, the tree sported a sea turtle theme, as turtles are king along this coast.

  

The compass rose in the center of the lobby has an inlaid turtle in it, and the surrounding wooden floor has divots carved in it that mimic the tracks that the giant reptiles leave on the beach when they come onshore to lay their eggs.  Mary and Rod had loaned us a DVD called Turtle: The Incredible Journey, which really explains about these magnificent creatures.  We are looking forward to learning more about them during our time here.

Today we went north on A1A.  The road heads up to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.  That will be another adventure in the near future, but today’s destination was Cocoa Beach.

  

No, we weren’t looking for a genie in a bottle, but Diana did spot a reference to the 60’s sitcom ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ along the side of the road.  The show was supposedly set in Cocoa Beach, as one of the show’s principal characters, Major Nelson, was a NASA astronaut.

  

Our destination was the iconic Ron Jon Surf Shop.

  

If it has to do with the beach, Ron Jon probably has it.  They even had a live band playing!  This was the second time we’ve been there, the first time being after watching the space shuttle Columbia being launched in the 1990’s.  It is definitely a fun place to check out.  🙂

Until next time, safe travels!

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Melbourne Beach, Florida

Back in August, Diana’s mom was doing well enough that we thought we could possibly spend the winter in Florida.  We put a deposit down on a campground in Malabar, Florida. We also purchased two round trip tickets for Diana to fly back and tend to her mom every few weeks. As time wore on, we realized that Mom’s deteriorating condition would require us to stay, so we planned on spending the winter in Michigan. A special thank you to Southwest Airlines for refunding those non-refundable tickets!  When her mom passed December 1, there was no longer a need to remain in Michigan.  Our friends from Wild Cherry, Rod and Mary, have a home in Melbourne Beach, just across the Indian River from Malabar.  Rod had spotted a place he thought we would like better, right on the beach.  Problem was, they didn’t take reservations!  Well, knowing we had a place in Malabar definitely helped, so we made a dash to get here, in hopes that they still had a spot for us.  They did indeed, and our new home for the next few months is Melbourne Beach Mobile Park!

  

Our first morning was greeted with a beautiful sunrise.  The previous 4 days was all driving, so we were ready to sit still.  🙂

  

Our site is big enough for both of our vehicles; something that is fairly hard to find in Florida…especially near the beach.

  

The park spans the entire barrier island, from the Atlantic Ocean…

  

……to the intercoastal waterway known as the Indian River.  There is good fishing to be had off of their dock.  A1A, the famous coastal highway, divides the beach side of the park from the main portion of the property.

  

There are plenty of pelicans, cormorants, egrets and heron that frequent this side of the island.  It is also a great place to watch a sunset.

  

We took a walk to the ocean side of the park this morning and strolled the beach.  The gentle slope of the sand reminded me a lot of Daytona.

  

There was a sea bird convention going on along this portion of the beach.

  

A good portion of these birds were Royal Terns.  Diana also took a video of a group of Sanderlings that you can view here. They were very entertaining to watch!

  
There were a few Turkey Vultures feeding on dead fish.

  
This Atlantic Ghost Crab popped out of its hole to pay us a visit.

  
We saw several Portugese Man o’ War on the beach.  Good reason to stay out of the water…and be very careful where you are walking!

  

  ,
This Great Blue Heron was fishing in an eddy.  We were able to walk within a few yards of it when we passed by.

  
While Melbourne Beach Mobile Park may not be the newest or fanciest park in the area, it appears to be fairly well maintained.  We are looking forward to being able to just relax and enjoy the area, along with visiting friends and relatives.  Cape Canaveral is just a little ways north of us.  The Keys are just a few hours south of here.  It is just perfect for what we need right now.  🙂
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Brakes and Breaks

Sometimes life sends a lemon or two your way.  Best thing to do, of course, is to make lemonade!

We started our trip south on Tuesday.  Our destination was not too far; my aunt’s place in Donaldson, Indiana.  If you recall our post from last year, Paradise in a Corn Field, my 91 year old aunt is a nun who lives at one of the most unique places you would ever expect to find in the middle of northern Indiana’s farmland.  Her brother, (my 89 year old uncle), lives in their independent living facility.  We hadn’t seen them in awhile, so we thought it would be wise to check in with them before we headed south.  The sisters allowed us to park our rig at their transportation facility.  

 

Pretty nice campsite, if I don’t say so myself!  Water and electric included.  Plenty of room for Diana’s Escape, also!  🙂

So not long after I took this photo, we headed out.  Diana left ahead of me, and my plan was to stop and get fuel at the Pilot station on US-30, just east of US-31 at Plymouth, Indiana.  As I pulled up to the pump, I hit the brakes and heard the low rumble and grind of metal-to-metal coming from the front brakes.  I fueled up, pulled around back to the truck parking area, grabbed my flashlight and started inspecting the calipers.   Sure enough, the inside pad on the left front brake was bad.  I had just had these brakes done in Florida a little over a year ago, so this should not have happened.  On top of that, I had just had The Works done at my longtime Ford dealer on Thursday in Grand Rapids…a service that includes a brake inspection.  I was not told there was an issue.  Needless to say, after voicing my displeasure to them,  I have a refund coming for that work.  :). Anyway, there I was in Plymouth, trying to find someone to work on the truck.  No one was able to get me in, so I called the good folks at NAPA  Pilgrim Auto Parts and located a set of brake pads.  I limped over there by downshifting and using the trailer brakes only (Diana was already 1/2 hour south and sitting tight by the time I had realized what was going on) and the woman at the parts counter had my pads waiting for me.  I bought a heavy duty set of jack stands and a bottle jack, and she directed me to an empty former Kmart parking lot.  I put my high school auto shop skills to use, installed the new brake pads and was back on the road within two hours!  Fortunately I had all the tools I needed, short of the jack and the stands.

With a fresh batch of lemonade in the fridge (so to speak), we were rolling.  Previous to our departure, I had been emailing the destination we had planned to stop at that night; Singing Hills RV Park and Campground in Cave City, Kentucky.  The owner, Eldon, came across in his emails as being a very nice gentleman.  I really wanted to push hard and make it there, so we both navigated around Indianapolis and Louisville and made it to Singing Hills at dusk.  We were not disappointed. Eldon was a very kind man, and he was very proud of his small campground. It was quiet and peaceful, except for the rooster that woke us at sunrise.  :). We decided to stay for two nights, so Diana could work on thank you notes for her mom’s funeral….and so we could catch our breath.

  

Eldon and his wife had decorated the campground for Christmas, which was a nice touch after a long day.  🙂

 

Thursday revealed the inviting rural setting. Later in the morning, we tried to make arrangements to meet up with Kelly and Bill from bkamericanodyssey, after she saw a post I had made on Facebook about being in the area. They are working over at Amazon in Campbellsville, about an hour from where we were.  We also wanted to see Peg and Michele, who we had met at the RV-Dreams rally last year.  Scheduling didn’t work out, so we opted to make the effort to meet up in Florida.

After Diana had finished up what she wanted to do for the day on the thank you notes, we did a little exploring in the area.  Singing Hills is a couple of miles from the entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park.  We had been in the cave in the early 1980’s.  Quite frankly, caves aren’t exactly my thing, so I wasn’t in a hurry to go back down there.  Diana had scoped out a couple of places for us to visit.  The first was Chaser’s Kentucky Chocolates, which specializes in bourbon balls and other liquor-infused delights.  We had an interesting conversation with the owner about how they got their start in South Bend, Indiana, selling bootleg bourbon chocolate to Notre Dame students.  :). Indiana liquor laws ended up forcing them out, and they decided to move their business to Kentucky. We both came away with some fudge. Next up was an Amish store that was on the opposite side of the park, so we drove through to get there.  Along the way, we were surprised at the beauty of the Mammoth Cave NP above the ground!  The hills and the trees were amazing….even without leaves on the trees.  We also noticed that they have a crushed limestone bike path throughout the park.  We will keep that in mind for the future.

Along the route, we came to the Green River ferry.

  

  

This free of charge gem takes vehicles back and forth across the river in less than five minutes.  The vessel rides along cables that are strung high above to keep the boat from floating down the river.

  

In the image above, you can see the cable system.  The low winter sun on the trees was something to see. Now knowing how beautiful this area is in the winter, we will be sure to stop again in warmer weather.

We arrived at Detweiler’s Country Store and spent 1/2 hour checking the place out.  I kept my camera stowed, out of respect for the Amish not wanting their photos taken.  We enjoy perusing the multitude of goods available in these types of stores.  Living off the grid, they are usually lit by gas lights, and this establishment was no different.  But I did notice that they also were using LED lights, which are powered by a diesel generator.  We find it fascinating to see the Amish and Mennonite communities in action, as they are so self sufficient.  We also notice that their interpretation of which modern convinces are acceptable varies between communities.  Some allow indoor plumbing and some don’t.  A few will use cell phones, and others will use a landline telephone mounted on a pole by the road.  Horses and buggies are the mode of transportation…unless a non-Amish neighbor is driving them somewhere in a 15 passenger Ford Econoline van.  Whatever the case, it all seems to work well for them.  And while I am grateful for the modern convinces that make our lives what they are, the Amish always cause me to reflect on how technology can tend to overtake us.  In leading their lives the way they do, they provide a reality check for those of us who prefer to embrace modern ways.

Friday morning, we woke up to snow flurries.  Our plan was to only drive 200 miles to northern Alabama, but we ended up going 300 miles to Birmingham, so as to try to find some warmer temperatures.  That last 50 miles is turning out to be too much for us, so we are going to try to put our upper limit at 250 miles per day in the future.  On the subject of driving in two separate vehicles, it is working well for us.  Diana is able to drive ahead and scout accessibility for the rig.  Once at the campgrounds, we are able to keep the truck and trailer hooked up and run our errands in the Escape.  That is a huge deal.  The walkie talkies work well when we are within a mile of each other, but a quick phone call seems to work better overall.

That’s it for the first part of our journey to Florida.  We will reveal our winter destination, once we reach it.  While we have been to the Sunshine State countless times, this will be the first time we will have spent an extended period there.  Stay tuned and safe travels!  🙂
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Preparing to Head South!

C’mon baby, drive south…with the one you love…

Suzy Bogguss

Before we go any further in this post, Diana and I want to thank all of you who sent your thoughts and wishes our way after her mom’s passing.  Our family is very appreciative of the outpouring of love and good will that was wrapped around us. We are fortunate to be surrounded by such wonderful friends and family. Again, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

So here we are, well prepared to face another winter in Michigan.  The fifth wheel is skirted and El Niño is keeping Michigan’s temperatures in the low 40’s and snow free.  Should we just stay here or should we find our way south?  That question can be swiftly answered with a statement Diana’s mom used to use on me:  “Boy, you are nuts in the head.”  Time to open the tool box, grab my utility knife and get that skirting off the rig!

When Diana’s parents retired, and they were able to spend winters in Florida, her dad called and advised us not to wait until we retired but rather to move to Florida right then. We responded that we had jobs and were working toward retirement. He still thought we should just pull up roots and not spend one more winter in the cold. We are sure he is very pleased that he gets to be with mom again, and we are finally escaping the snow!

The time since returning to Grand Rapids from the funeral has been spent wrapping up loose ends and preparing to make the trip south.  While we have technically been fulltime RVers for over a year now, this is really our official launch of being able to head out and see where the wind takes us.  That prospect still hasn’t totally sunk into our minds yet.  As one can well imagine, this is a bittersweet time for the two of us…as we grieve losing Mom.  Fortunately she had a stellar sense of humor, and we don’t have to dig too deep to bring a smile to our faces with one of her quips.  🙂

Part of our preparation for heading out has been to get both vehicles ready to go.  Yes, we’ve decided to keep our Ford Escape.  That vehicle was the biggest item on our ‘pros and cons’ list.  This very subject came up at the RV-Dreams rally in September, 2014.  Howard and Linda travel this way, with Howard driving the truck/fifth wheel and Linda in their Jeep Liberty.  One would think that the economics of having two vehicles would be cost prohibitive.  That actually is not the case, as the fuel and maintenance savings of driving a much smaller vehicle at our destinations makes the money aspect a ‘wash’.  Howard has crunched those numbers for 10 years now and has proven that to be a fact.  Fulltime RVers travel an average of 5000 miles a year between destinations. If we limit the truck travel to that and some short travel to lakes and bicycle trails (the kayaks and trikes ride on the truck), we will save a bunch on gas and maintenance, while extending the useful life of our much more expensive truck.  Plus, the Escape is much easier to park.  This makes it more fun in resort towns, beaches, and even going to the grocery store. Our biggest con is not getting to ride together between destinations.  Some might see that as a pro, but we really do like riding together. :).  Part of the fulltime lifestyle is limiting our travel to about 200 miles a day, so we won’t be having the long driving days of past vacations. When we went to dinner with Howard and Linda in October, they reminded us that they use walkie talkies to stay in touch.  As a result, we have purchased a set of Midland two-way radios to accomplish that.  We will see how it works out.  The one point that Linda made that struck home was this:  We own the Escape.  She suggested to try traveling with two vehicles and see if we like it.  If not, we can sell the Escape at a later date.  Linda has a knack for seeing the forest through the trees.  🙂

So the past week for me has been oil changes, new Goodyear Wranglers for the Escape, new RV compatible Garmin GPS units, and finishing up our drawer and door lock projects.  Diana has been busy with wrapping up her mom’s personal business.  We hope to pull out of Grand Rapids by the middle of next week.  We are donating our skirting to our next door neighbor in the campground.  In a rare moment of regret….something I just don’t do very often… I lamented to Peter at Life Unscripted that I should have waited on skirting the trailer.  He reminded me that I made the best decision with the information available to me at the time.  That meant a lot, Peter…thanks!  Although Mom was having a rough go of it, her track record of fortitude gave us every reason to believe that she was going to be with us for awhile.  Quite frankly, I wish we still needed the skirting.

So there you have it.  We will reveal our destinations as we reach them, as fulltime RVers have a motto : Our plans are set in Jello.  For now, all we are saying is: stay tuned and…..
C’mon baby, drive south!


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