Christmas Eve – Cocoa Beach Style!

Dawn broke at the North Pole on Christmas Eve and the place was in an uproar.  Santa had issued a red alert, as it seems his Santas at malls all over Florida had deserted their posts, leaving children across the Sunshine State standing in line with their last minute lists.  We decided to join in the hunt for the wayward St. Nick stand-ins!  We drove north through the towns of Melbourne Beach, Indialantic, Satellite Beach and Indian Harbour Beach.  We even checked with the tower at Patrick Air Force Base, to see if they saw any reindeer on their radar.  Nothing.  Where could they be?

We continued on to Cocoa Beach when what to our wondering eyes did appear…

…but a bike, a surfboard and Santa in all his gear!

That was our first clue that we might have this in the bag.  We followed him until he turned onto the main drag.  As our toes hit the sand, we found those jolly men.  Every Santa in Florida was here hangin’ ten!

For the past several years, Cocoa Beach has held the Surfing Santas event on Christmas Eve to benefit two local organizations, a local cancer charity called Grind For Life and also the Florida Surf Museum.  This year’s event played host to somewhere in the vicinity of 800 surfing Santas, along with thousands of spectators!

There were even a few elves!


It looks like that one Santa just got out of bed!

Above the roar of the surf was the song Mele Kalikimaka being sung by this singer with a ukulele.  The gentleman with the red shirt between the two turquoise surfboards was the minister who delivered the invocation.

Diana spotted this good looking guy in a Ron Jon shirt trying to take photos of the festivities…

…and then she got a selfie with him.  😉

These young ladies were sporting this year’s Surfing Santas shirts.

“It’s the white button at the bottom, sweetie!”

In order to be able to drink all day, you must start in the morning…

…and bring along a few friends! 

When Santa got word up at the North Pole that we had found the Florida Santas, it didn’t take him long to decide what to do.  As we headed towards the car, we spotted him under a beach umbrella.

I guess if you can’t beat ’em…join ’em!

Merry Christmas to y’all, and to y’all a good night!

Love and peace,

Diana and Jim


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Recharging in Florida

After leaving Nashville, we headed south to Melbourne Beach, Florida to spend the next few months.  We knew that once we were done working at Amazon, we would need to recharge, relax and get warm.  On all three counts, we were correct!  In hindsight, we were glad that we left Kentucky when we did, as the weather turned much colder after we left (it is 15 degrees in Campbellsville as I write this, as compared to 72 degrees here in Melbourne Beach).  We’ve toughed out a winter in Michigan and know what it takes to do it. Even if it was just until Christmas, we really didn’t  want to do that again.  On top of that, Diana’s back is better, so we are both very happy about that.

On the way down, we logged our very first ‘Wallydocking’ experience in Cullman, Alabama. 

For those of you unfamiliar with this term, here is what it is all about:  If you’ve ever driven by a Walmart, you’ve probably seen RV’s and trucks parked out at the far end of the lot.  Where local ordinance allows, Walmart allows people to park overnight.  It’s best to check with the store manager, and it is only proper to buy your groceries from them in return.  We popped out our bedroom slide room (it only extends 21 inches) and slept just fine.  The best part for us is that we didn’t have to pay a campground fee that night, since we were just traveling through.  We had plenty of water for our showers, our furnace kept us warm, and Diana was even able to bake blueberry muffins in the oven!  Although we had overnighted off-grid at several Harvest Hosts locations in the past, this one stop really hooked us on the idea of boondocking more in the future.  Many of our fulltime RVing friends spend significant amounts of time off-grid in beautiful locations in the western U.S., and we would like the capability to be able to do that.  More on that later in the post. 

Later in the trip, we returned to Golden Acres Ranch, a Harvest Hosts location in the panhandle of Florida that we have visited twice in the past.  We loaded up on their Mayhaw and blueberry jelly, as we had run out about three months ago of our purchase from the previous visit.  While we were there, a couple of their goats gave birth…one to twins!

They were adorable…standing up to nurse and falling back down, as their wobbly legs wouldn’t support them.  😃

It’s always good to see their Great Pyrenees dogs that roam the property and protect the livestock. They remind us so much of our Golden Retriever, Dakota. We are convinced he must have had some of this breed in his bloodline.

We also used our Passport America membership and saved 50% on four nights worth of camping at two locations on our way down. Those were both full hookup sites spaced between our Walmart and Harvest Hosts sites, so our battery was able to be recharged and our tanks were able to be dumped. While staying at our last location just south of Ocala, we visited with Diana’s brother and also our niece and her family.

We arrived back at Melbourne Beach Mobile Park on December 11.  Instead of fighting Orlando traffic, we tried something a little different.  

We went north 15 miles to Silver Springs, then straight east to I-95 near Ormond Beach, then south to Melbourne Beach.  Except for a little traffic near Daytona Beach, the route was a breeze.  It definitely beat going through Orlando!

Oh, it is so good to be back in Melbourne Beach! The wild and wonderful Atlantic Ocean on the east side of the park…

…and the peaceful Indian River Lagoon on the west side.

It’s a great place to catch not only sunrises and moonrises, but also sunsets and moonsets.   😃 This was the full moon rising over the Atlantic the other evening.

So I spoke earlier about doing more boondocking (camping without being connected to electricity, water, or sewer) this year.  Let me go into a bit more detail on that.  Our rig is currently set up as it came from the factory, meaning the off-grid electrical system consists of one 12 volt deep cycle battery powering most of the lights, the water pump, and the furnace blower.  All of our light bulbs are incandescent or fluorescent. When off-grid, the refrigerator can run off propane, as can the water heater.  Our fresh and waste water tanks generally last a few days without any conservation efforts.  In essence, we wouldn’t really need to do anything different if we were alternating between boondocking and full hookups.  But, as many of our fulltime RV friends have done, we want to enable ourselves to stay off-grid a bit longer.  Our first thought was that we would be limited by our tanks as to how long we could boondock, but there is nothing saying we couldn’t go service our tanks at a dump station and head right back to our same boondocking campsite.  That makes our limiting factor electrical. First and foremost are replacing those incandescent bulbs.  We bought 10 pack of T-10 LED 12 volt bulbs for $20 at Amazon.  We also replaced the bulb in our 120 volt lamp near our recliners. On top of that, we bought a Kill-o-watt 120 volt meter and a Bayite 12 volt multimeter to allow us to do an energy audit to see just what our needs are.  Our battery is the same one that came with the rig when we purchased it in 2011, so it is definitely near the end of its lifespan.  The energy audit will allow us to figure out how big of a battery bank we want to get.  After that, we want to string some days together off the grid before we decide what future upgrades we want to make.  We would like to run our computer, charge our iPhones and iPads, and maybe watch a little TV.  Not a lot more than we currently are able to do, but enough to warrant some sort of upgrade. We also purchased an Oxygenics shower head to conserve water.

We plan on doing a bit of traveling after we leave here, so we are also using this time to do some maintenance.  I definitely want to pull all the wheels off on our vehicles and check the brakes and bearings.  The fifth wheel also hasn’t been waxed in a while, so I’ve started on that.

Look at that shine!  We use Meguiar’s Marine/RV Fiberglas Restoration System.  With our rig being a little older, the oxidation remover really does the trick on the dull, chalky look.  The secret is to work in the shade, as direct sunlight tends to leave an uneven finish.

Besides…we have other things we want to be doing in the direct sunlight.  😎

So that’s a little review of our trip to Florida and a peek into what we have planned the next few months.  Diana has been busy mailing Christmas cards, and I have put up lights and other Christmas decorations. As they say, “Home is where you hang your lights!” Wishing all of you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and an adventurous New Year! 

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Nashville, Nostalgia, and Nudie’s!

Got your attention, did I???

When we prepared to head south out of Campbellsville on Friday, we pointed Henry, Clara and Edsel towards Nashville, Tennessee.  We really didn’t have any plans, other than hang out with Jodee, Bill and their fluffy dog, Tessa. Jodee writes a blog about their travels called On the Road Abode; the link will take you to her post about this day…a must read!  We have been following them since 2014 and love reading about the cool places they find. 😃. Just before we left Kentucky, Jodee asked if we would be interested in going to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  Being country fans (along with most other types of music), we said we were in!

We arrived at Two Rivers RV Park in the afternoon and got settled in.  That night, we all went to John A’s, a restaurant just up the road.  The food and the band were good, and our waiter Jared was a hoot!  Diana’s and my alma mater…the Western Michigan Broncos…were on the TV, playing in the MAC Championship.  We ended up winning, finishing our season 13-0 and are going to the Cotton Bowl to play Wisconsin on January 2. Woohoo!!!  This has been an especially memorable season for us, as our friends Karen and Bill’s son Billy is on the team.

On Saturday, Jodee’s husband Bill wasn’t feeling well, so it was just three of us heading downtown.  Our first stop was the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Like Western’s coach, we wore every bit of WMU cotton we could find, hoping to send good vibes to the selection committee…as they were deciding what bowl our team would be playing in.  It worked…we ended up in the Cotton Bowl! 😀

Inside the building, we saw this plaque on the Ford Theater.  That’s Henry Ford, playing his fiddle.  He loved to take Model T road trips with friends and camp out,  playing his fiddle around a campfire.  Seeing as I grew up about three miles from where he did, I guess we have a lot in common.  Better take up fiddle playing!

Inside the museum, there were displays that paid tribute to the many stars of country music.  Some displays went beyond the stars, depicting the genre in American culture.

Here is a Pontiac Bonneville owned by Webb Pierce.  It was customized by Nudie Cohn.  More on him later in the post.  Yes, that’s a saddle for a console and those are real silver dollars adorning it.

This particular display was about Johnny Cash.  I found it interesting that the boots he performed in for two years were too narrow for his feet.  Bill and Jodee’s friend from high school, Bill Miller, recently opened another museum entirely devoted to Johnny Cash just a block away from the Hall of Fame.  Jodee wrote about her and Bill’s visit the day before here.

This is Dolly Parton’s original manuscript of the lyrics for the song Jolene.  I always enjoy seeing these, as there are often words crossed out that the artist decided to change. This particular one impressed me, as she virtually made no corrections.  Dolly had a very clear vision of what she wanted this song to say.

And who can forget the black Trans Am from the Smokey and the Bandit movies.  Burt Reynolds driving and Sally Fields in the passenger seat. We were all singing ‘Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin’…’

There was a huge display on when Bob Dylan came to Nashville in 1969 and recorded his album Nashville Skyline.   This was the album that gave us Lay Lady Lay, and included vocals by Johnny Cash and guitar work by Charlie Daniels.  It was fascinating that during such a turbulent time in history, Bob Dylan was writing country songs.  The album is considered to be one of his best.  I was so focused on this part of the museum, I forgot to take photos!

The actual Hall of Fame rotunda had plaques for each star that were inducted into the hall, very similar to the plaques in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  The band around the top of the room had the words Will the Circle be Unbroken  from the often recorded Christian hymn of the same name.

Once we finished up at the museum, we headed over to Nudie’s Honky Tonk.  This bar/restaurant/music venue/museum was just opened by Jodee and Bill’s friend Bill Miller…the same person who opened the Johnny Cash Museum.

So you might be wondering how Mr. Cohn got his name?  Well, he was born Nuta Kotlyarenko in Ukraine, and when he passed through Eliis Island when immigrating to the United States, the immigration official changed it to Nudie Cohn.  Nudie was a tailor, first working in New York and later in Hollywood, California.  He is the one credited with putting country music legends in rhinestones.

Here is Nudie with his custom Eldorado Cadillac; one of many cars he had customized with tooled leather, chrome pistols and rifles, silver dollars and longhorns above the grille.

Nudie’s Honky Tonk is located on Broadway, right in the heart of downtown Nashville in the building that used to house the Lawrence Brothers record store.  The three story tall structure has three performance stages.

The 100 foot bar is the longest in Nashville.  Not sure if you can make it out in the photo, but…

…it is covered with 9,465 silver dollars!  I didn’t check the rest of the bar, but this section was all 1881 Morgan silver dollars.  There is a lot of coin in those coins!  I’m sure Nudie would have been proud.  😃

All along the walls were display cases with Nudie suits that belonged to stars such as Hank Williams, Elvis, Porter Wagoner,  Merle Travis and Hank Snow, to name a few.

Above the entrance were the two bucking broncos that were on the Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors shop in North Hollywood from the 1960’s through the 1980’s.

And there, hanging above the main stage, is Nudie’s custom Eldorado.  Just fabulous!

The food and drink were outstanding, as was the music.  This is definitely a must-stop if you come to Nashville!

So here’s a toast to Nudie, some great Nostalgia, and to Nashville!

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explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!

Moving on from Kentucky

It’s often been said that a fulltime RVers plans are set in Jello…

Our packing jobs at Amazon had been going well, up to this week.  We were working four 10 hour days, followed by three days off.  The work was somewhat tedious and monotonous…no surprises there…but we were ok with our duties.  We were definitely sore, but nothing we were overly concerned about.  Things picked up with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and we were really worn out.  Still we kept pushing.  On Tuesday morning, Diana wasn’t feeling well…it turns out she hurt her back…and went home.  I worked out the day, but pretty much settled on the fact that we should move on, as it wasn’t in our best interest health wise to stay to the end.  Diana had never worked in an industrial environment before, and she was amazing.  Kelly, the CamperForce human resources director, called her a natural.  :). I spent my career in a shop setting, so I knew my way around.  All was well with our managers…they actually came to us for assistance daily…so no issues there.  We just were concerned that lugging totes with two cases of canned pet food in them while being so tired was jeopardizing our health.  We knew it was going to be hard work going in, and it definitely was.  When we let Kelly know, he offered for us to return next year, which was incredibly kind.  Amazon’s Campbellsville management team loves CamperForce, as they work so hard and are reliable.  If finances ever dictate that we need to return, it is nice to know that offer is out there.  That wasn’t our motivation this time, as we just saw Amazon as something we wanted to experience.  The money was a nice bonus, though!

So on Wednesday night, we met up with our friends Linda and Steven at Campbellsville University’s dining hall.  They treated us to dinner (thank you!!!) and we discussed the events of the week.  We have gotten together with them four times since we arrived here, and have thorouly enjoyed every minute of our time with them.  Jodee and Bill hooked us up, and the six of us…er, seven (can’t forget Fluffy Dog) spent Thanksgiving together.

 

And we can’t forget Tessa!

So…what’s next?  Well, first stop will be a weekend in Nashville, meeting up with Jodee and Bill again!  I’m sure there will be a couple of bloggers reporting on that one.  🙂    From there we will be heading back to Melbourne Beach, Florida for three months, and we are looking forward to seeing our friends Rod and Mary (and Gracie) again! 🙂   After that, we will be exploring some new territory for us, so be sure to stay tuned to what that entails.

That’s our update to what’s been happening.  We really enjoyed our time in Kentucky, and really appreciate the opportunity that Amazon afforded us.  CamperForce is a great program, and the people we worked for were thoughtful.  We definitely knew were appreciated.  This state is beautiful, the cost of living in the Campbellsville area is very reasonable and the people are warm and friendly.  We would definitely come back here, even if we weren’t working for Amazon.