Category Archives: Florida

We Have Liftoff!…Sort Of

With the arrival of spring, our ambitious year of travel found us poised on the launch pad, awaiting the go for liftoff.  In the lead up to that moment, we spent a good two weeks finalizing both our trip west and our UK trip in the fall.  I also helped our friends Ron and Nancy with their kitchen project, offering my cabinet layout and installation skills I had acquired throughout my career.  In fact, my 5-year retirement anniversary occurred during the course of the project on March 21st.

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Not bad for a couple of old guys, huh? Once the last cabinet was mounted, Diana and I proceeded to shift from our lazy beach lifestyle to travel mode. Thursday, March 28 found us packed up and ready to roll.

After hugs goodbye with our friends, we were off!

Being stationary for over 5 months, our first travel day was not overly ambitious. As we normally like to do, we headed north up I-95 to visit our mail forwarding service in Green Cove Springs. After an uneventful journey, we quickly set up camp at the local marina.

Not too many campgrounds can boast that they have a space shuttle external tank on the property. 😉 We grabbed our mail, renewed our tags on our vehicles, stopped at General RV for a few supplies, and finished up with pizza at Mellow Mushroom. After getting our library cards renewed the next morning, we were all hooked up and ready to head west.

Well, our truck Henry had other plans….

As we headed out of Green Cove Springs, we passed Garber Auto Mall. Diana and I make an effort to patronize the businesses in town as we are appreciative of their graciousness to domicile not only RVer’s, but also marine cruisers and military personnel. I literally looked at the Ford blue oval at Garber and thought, “We should buy our next truck from them.” I think Henry heard my thoughts rattling around in my brain, as we were but a few miles past the dealership when the Check Engine light came on, along with the dreaded “wrench” symbol on the truck’s information center. Things seemed amiss under the hood, so we pulled over and called Garber’s service department. It was Friday and they were not going to be able to service the truck until Monday. We called to check for availability and were able to limp back to our previous night’s camp. Within a half hour, we were back on the campsite we had just left and disconnected.

During the trip back, I reviewed the money we had poured into Henry over the past couple of years. I came to the conclusion that we were attempting to put a shiny new saddle on an old horse. He had served us well, but as I thought about our journey ahead, I felt Hank was better served to retire to the green pastures of Clay County.

Diana can more accurately attest that I was a man possessed, as I unloaded the contents of the vehicle to the inside and underside of our fifth wheel.

This is my ‘let’s go truck shopping’ look. Not long after, we were at Garber, weighing our options. Our sales associate, Tom Perkins, located a vehicle for us in Charlotte, NC that fit our needs perfectly. Mr. Perkins has the distinct honor of being the fourth Tom we’ve bought a truck from, with Toms Campbell, Tasker, and Elliott before him.  🙂   After negotiating the terms of the deal, it was determined the new truck would be in our hands by the middle of the next week. Luckily, we had built some time into our trip that would allow us to catch up. The delay also allowed us to explore Green Cove Springs, Fleming Island, and Jacksonville a bit more. While we found the latter to be a bit too crowded for our taste, our love for our adopted domicile did nothing but grow. Green Cove Springs is a great little town. Did you know that Frank J. Canova, Jr., is from here? You may not know his name, but I’ll bet you use his invention…the smartphone….each and every day.   🙂    Another interesting tidbit has to do with the former naval air station that was located here. Now transformed into a deep water port and air park, the station was once home to Marine Corps aviator and eventual Tonight Show announcer Ed McMahon.   Heeeere’s Johnny!  Also, if you’ve ever wondered where the name of the town came from…

…over 1300 gallons a minute of 77 degree water flows from a spring in a park in the center of town into…

…and out of a swimming pool…

…and down into a beautiful green cove along the St. John’s River. Now you know!

A couple of other things we needed to consider in this transition were the fact we had a folding tonneau on Henry, and we were going to be needing the hitch installed in the new vehicle. Ford has come up with a new feature called the ‘puck’ system that wasn’t going to work with our current hitch. On the surface, it appeared that the new truck didn’t have it, but there was a chance that the hardware for it was under the bed. That would have interfered with the installation of industry-standard bed rails. Kudos to sales manager Darren Mathews for getting the North Carolina dealer to snap some photos to confirm that was not the case. Also, seeing that the tonneau cover /storage box I had was not readily available in Jacksonville (it’s made in Grand Rapids), I was going to need a different method to store stuff and support the front wheels of Diana’s TerraTrike.

This is how the Fold-a-Cover stacked on Henry. There is a large storage bin below it that is part of the system. We quickly determined that a behind-the-cab toolbox would (at least temporarily) foot the bill for our journey, providing both storage and a platform for the trike. We can deal with the tonneau when we get to Grand Rapids in June. As far as the hitch, Tom suggested we talk to Rick Baker, owner of Rick Baker’s RV Center in Green Cove Springs. After explaining our situation, Rick ordered our parts and agreed to have the hitch put on as soon as we could get the truck to him.

Tuesday evening rolled around and we headed to the dealer. The truck had arrived from Charlotte and the gentleman who brought it down to Florida raved at how well it ran for him. From what we could see in the evening light, it was absolutely beautiful.

Wednesday found us at Garber bright and early. After a test drive, some paperwork and a license plate change, we were pretty much good to go. The only thing left to do was get the truck to Rick Baker for the hitch installation. Tom sent a driver in Henry, so as to drop off the old hitch. Tom also set up our Ford Pass in the truck and synced my phone with it. In the process, he asked if I wanted to give the truck a nickname. I replied quickly with a spirited “Oh YES!” With that, I introduce to you our new truck…

Hank the Deuce! That’s a tip-of-the-hat to Henry Ford II, grandson of Henry Ford, who succeeded the founder as the president of Ford Motor Company. Here we are with Tom Perkins, who is as happy as we are that this all worked out so well. It was a pleasure working with him, Darren Mathews, and the crew at Garber, and also with Rick Baker and his crew at Baker’s RV. If you find yourself in Green Cove Springs, be sure to pay either of them a visit with your automotive or RV needs.

Hank the Deuce, Clara, Edsel 2, Ketchup and Mustard are all loaded up and ready to go. We hope to catch up with you this travel season, so be sure to give us a shout if you see we are in your area. Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

2019 Spring and Summer Plans

In our last post, we jumped ahead to what we were planning for in September and October of this year with our trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland.  After quite a bit of trip routing, we are ready to reveal our spring and summer plans!

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Like these pelicans along the shore, we will soon line up with everyone else and fly northward.  Once we get to Jacksonville, we are turning westward for a journey to the Grand Canyon and the surrounding area.  It will be a very busy slate. Look for a spring full of posts about that trip.  We have three months before we have to be back in Michigan to start our volunteer gigs at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  We will be there for two months before heading overseas for a month.  And after that???

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Well, the fact that I installed a flagpole sleeve in the ground at our site in Florida, I guess that’s a pretty good indication of where we will be next winter!  We’ve really come to love it here.  Good friends, good weather and…

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…rocket launches!  This particular launch was the Crew Dragon demonstration mission that SpaceX sent to the International Space Station last week.  The capsule safely returned on Friday about 200 miles off the coast.  Future splashdowns will be within 25 miles of shore, so we should be able to get some photos of them parachuting down.

And an update on our genealogy work:  Diana is finding a plethora of information on her roots that will ensure that we have plenty of places to visit when we get overseas.  She has been able to go way, way back in her lineage.  On my search, I’m currently working between my sixth and tenth great grandparents on my dad’s side.  To let you know how involved that is, every one of us have 256 sixth great-grandparents.  By the time you get to your tenth great-grandparents, that number balloons to 4096 people!  Thanks to the Catholic church records in Canada, there is a record of most every one of mine.  And I know that there are several hints waiting to take me beyond that level.  Time will tell what I find on my mom’s German side.

We’ve also found time to have fun with our friends in the area.

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We checked out the St Katherine’s Greek Festival one day with Fred and Bonnie.  It was fun to see the dancers doing traditional Greek dances in their costumes.

We also met our friends Jim and Sue, who were down from Alton, Illinois to see their son Jake pitch for Fontbonne University.

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He didn’t end up pitching that afternoon, but he did start today.  He got the win, and the team is 10-0 on the year so far.

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The four of us rented a nice home on Airbnb which worked out extremely well.  What a great time!

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So as our time winds down for the year in Melbourne Beach, be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming posts as we head west.  Until next time, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

Hanging Out on the Space Coast

Hmmmm….where have Jim and Diana been?  No, we haven’t been eaten by sharks or drifted northeast on the Gulf Stream with the sea turtles.  It’s January, which means it is time to catch up on our annual chores and to plan our travels for the year ahead.  We’ve also been hanging out with our friends here in Melbourne Beach, which is always fun.  🙂  The only thing that has been missing is the parade of rockets flying by from Cape Canaveral, as a slew of missions have been pushed into February.  So, without further adieu…

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On New Years Day, the Melbourne Beach Historical Society held a walking tour of the town’s historic district.  Fred, Bonnie, Diana and I tagged along, as we all wanted to know more about the area’s past.  While the area is rich with history, our presenter failed to deliver the story in the riveting manner it deserved.  We also picked up on the fact that impartiality was not his forte.  He is handing over the reigns to a new historian next year, so we will be sure to check that presentation out.

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And remember Cuki the sailboat?  Hurricane Irma ripped her loose from her mooring in Key West and sent her on a 350 mile journey to our beach back in 2017.  Time, vandals, and the ocean had not been kind to her, with her masts and fittings disappearing in that period.

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With the ship being buried in sand to its’ inland gunwale, the decision was made to haul it away in a couple of refuse roll-offs.  It was a mess, to say the least.

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Speaking of fiberglass; our rig was ready for it’s annual wax job.

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Look at that shine!  I can’t say enough about that three-part Meguiar’s restoration system I use.

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We get it through Amazon, but I’m pretty sure West Marine carries it also.  We also want to give a shout out to whoever manufactured the decals for our 2007 Colorado fifth wheel.  Twelve years of sitting outside and they look practically new.  They are proof that it IS possible to make decals that stay put and look good.

While I was waxing, Diana was deep into her genealogy. We both signed up for Ancestry DNA when the kits were on sale on Black Friday.  She has been building her family tree, which has been very fun!  I am starting my tree this weekend, as I delayed the start to allow time to finish my UPS job and the annual rig maintenance.  We have to say that Ancestry.com is very good at what they do, and they have been very helpful to Diana on her journey to discover her family’s origins.  The amount of information contained in their database is mind boggling.  We’ve also become huge fans of the PBS show Finding Your Roots, which is hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.   Check your local listings and give it a look.  It is fascinating!

We also have an update on the powered parachute pilot who got tangled in the utility lines near us.  Dima had been in an induced coma since the middle of November until recently, while the doctors in Orlando worked to repair his broken spine and graft his burns.  It was a tough few months.

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Needless to say, we were thrilled to see this photo that his wife Katya posted the other day.  🙂  He is one lucky man.

Midway through my waxing duties, Jerry and Ron invited me to tag along on a trip to the Mecum Auction in Kissimmee.

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We went on a Tuesday, which was not an active auction day.  That meant there were less crowds!

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Here is a predecessor to my truck, Henry.  Those front fenders are wide enough to land a plane on!

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And here is a salmon Edsel convertible.  Diana’s Escape, Edsel 2, would be proud.

While the auction was mostly cars…close to three thousand of them… there were a few boats sprinkled in.

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This Gar Wood boat was built in Detroit.

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My paternal grandfather had a boat similar to this.  Top speed on this beauty was in excess of 70 miles an hour!

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If there is one car that has consistently taken my breath away, it is a Candy Apple Red 1969 Boss Mustang.  My dad once acted as an agent for a guy who wanted his sold.  Mom wasn’t too thrilled when Dad took her to church in it one Sunday…although I detected a twinkle in his eye. 🙂

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Looks like the value of these things have gone up a bit.  Talk about taking your breath away!  We all agreed that we’ve never seen so many near-perfect cars in one place, and the three of us have seen our share of vehicles in our time.  The cool thing about the auction is that you are allowed to sit in most of the vehicles.  Being able to do that brought back a lot of memories for us.

January has seen a group of us checking out the local music venues.

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Here is Libby, Linda, Jerry, Nancy, Ron and us at Summer Crush Winery in Fort Pierce a few weeks ago.  The venue was hosting a Corvette show, so us guys got another dose of nice cars.  🙂

So until next time…

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we will be watching the sunsets…

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and the moonrises.  We’ll be back with an update on our 2019 travel plans in early February, as we should have everything in place by then.  It is going to be an exciting year, to say the least!  Until then, safe and happy travels to all!

 

 

 

 

The Past Beneath Your Feet

As most of you know, I have spent the last two Christmas seasons delivering packages for UPS on a golf cart.  Last year I had a great route in a gated community that was, unfortunately, an hour away from our rig.  That cut heavily into the profits I was making, so I pushed management this year to give me a closer route.  After working a route about 15 minutes away for a few weeks, the neighborhood I wanted that was 3 miles from home opened up in the town of Indialantic-by-the-Sea.  In the photo below, the area I was responsible for is outlined in red.  The pod I worked from was where the yellow dot is across from Wendy’s. More on that light blue circle in a minute…

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A typical day would be somewhere in the vicinity of 90 stops and 120 packages, topping out one day at 156 stops and 210 packages.

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Here is my pod on one of the busiest days.  It was also one of my rainiest days, and I had to tarp my 3rd, 4th and 5th loads.

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Here is my cart with the first load ready to go.  Somebody is having Omaha steaks for Christmas!

The lot where my pod was located was about a hundred yards from the beach…meaning it was mostly comprised of sand.

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Several of the drivers bringing us our freight had issues with their 26 foot U-Hauls.  Fortunately, I own a 4 wheel drive Ford and a tow strap.  After the third time, I left the holes so future drivers would avoid this area.  That worked.

So back to the map and that light blue circle.  On my first day, not yet being familiar with the route, I loaded up my packages in order of the numbered streets: 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th and so on.  When I headed down 9th Street, I realized that the name had changed to Tradewinds Terrace, and that it interrupted the east/west flow of my deliveries.  Hmmmm…how did we go from a grid with streets and avenues to an oddball street named Tradewinds Terrace cutting across the checkerboard???  Well, I continued on my way, adjusting the method I used to deliver the packages.  I put the odd little street in the back of my mind and continued on.

Next thing I noticed is that most of the houses were built in the early 1960’s.  That is consistent with the need for housing when Kennedy Space Center was in its’ heyday of sending men to the moon.  Some of those homes have since been torn down and larger homes have been put in their place.  But every so often, there would be an old Spanish style home sprinkled in.  Looking at them, I figured they were from the 1920’s.  Couple that with the fact that the streets were only a car and a half wide, I began to wonder just when the neighborhood was originally developed.  A quick Google search led me down a very interesting path.  I’ve always said that it does not matter how common a place seems, something interesting probably happened there at one time.  Indialantic-by-the-Sea tuned out to be just such a place.

In the late 1800’s, the area north of Melbourne Beach and south of what is now Cocoa Beach was a series of pineapple plantations.  Hard freezes in 1894 and 1895 wiped out the pineapple industry, and the land remained uninhabited for a number of years.  The only way to get to the barrier island was by boat.  In 1915, a man named Ernest Kouwen-Hoven brought his family to Melbourne from Chicago for health reasons.  Staying at the Carelton Hotel, he was intrigued by the land he could see in the distance across the Indian River.  The following year, he began buying up that land and laying out streets.  Before too long, he had a wooden bridge built from the mainland to the barrier island, which opened up the area for development.  The current causeway is named after him.

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By the mid 1920’s, the streets that would become my UPS route were mostly in place, except for a large parcel in the middle of it that contained a hotel and a golf course.  At first, the hotel was named the Indialantic Hotel after the development of the same name.  Indialantic is a combination of Indian River and Atlantic Ocean, the two bodies of water that the town lies between.  The hotel’s shadow can be seen just to the right of the number ’14’ on the photo above.

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The  hotel saw many famous guests, the likes of Charles Lindbergh, Jack Benny and Werner von Braun, to name a few.

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As seen in the photo above, the accommodations were quite luxurious for that time.  The Great Depression put a crimp on the development in the area, and the smattering of 1920’s era homes sat without many neighbors.

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By the early 1950’s, development began to increase again, and the golf course was sold off.  The hotel itself remained, renamed the Trade Winds Club.  Ahhhh…. now that street name is starting to make sense!  By the mid 1980’s, time had taken it’s toll on the structure, and the salty sand used in the concrete during construction compromised the steel beams to a point that the hotel had to be demolished.  A north/south street named Tradewinds Terrace was put in, running right through the location of the former lobby in the interior photo above.

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This spot, as close as I can tell, is the same spot where that lobby photo was taken.  Who would’ve known that this common subdivision had such an uncommon past?  The clues were there; all I had to do was follow them.

As a bonus, I was fortunate to be able to deliver packages to many of the older homes in the area.

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This one is owned by the famous undersea explorer, Robert Marx.  It is fabulous.

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There is also a photo online of an old apartment building from 1926 called The Palms.

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Here it is today, virtually unchanged.

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I had to run a package upstairs to one of the residents, which revealed this lovely common area.  The stairs creaked like an old Woolworth store.  🙂

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And to keep me on my toes, I delivered to this beauty a few times.  Walking through the ornate iron gate to the gigantic front door, I was sure this was one of those grand old Indialantic homes.  That was until I pulled it up on Google Street View to show Diana:

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This is the same corner not too long ago.  The house is brand new, and all that established-looking landscaping is also!  The homeowners are the nicest people, leaving Ghirardelli chocolates and San Pellegrino water out for the delivery guys.

I really enjoyed the new route.  With the houses all being different, it kept things interesting.

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The Christmas decorations were great, including Snoopy on his Zamboni.  They must’ve known this old ice rink rat was going to be delivering for them.

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I even looked up while driving north one day to see SpaceX sending a Falcon 9 towards the ISS.  This is the one where the booster landed in the ocean and was floated back to port.  All in all, it was a fun neighborhood to deliver packages in!

So wherever you are, stop and think for a minute what may have happened there in the past.  Look for the clues that point the way.  No matter how mundane the place may seem now, the history beneath it may surprise you. 🙂

 

 

 

 

The Adventurer in All of Us

At some point in our lives, something comes along that catches our eye and draws us off on a trail of adventure.  It may be something like hiking across the country, taking up surfing or as simple as riding a zip line.  Some of these activities are quite safe, while others involve personal risk.  I know that I’ve experienced a few risky endeavors in my life, and I’ve been fortunate to live to see another day.  The older I got and the more responsibilities I took on caused me to scale back on the risk I was willing to take.  I will say though that there was a lag time in the common sense aspect of my decision to be cautious.  We can probably chalk that up to me being a guy.  🙂

That brings me around to an unfortunate indecent that happened by us on November 17.  We were hanging out with our friends Linda, Jerry and Ron, discussing some landscaping that Linda and Jerry were going to be doing at their new mobile home they had bought last year.  As we were talking, a powered parachute flew over us a few hundred feet up.

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We see these craft flying up and down the beach all the time.  On one hand, they look to be great fun.  Ron even mentioned how much fun it be would to give one a whirl.  On the flip side, they appear to be somewhat dangerous.  The whole thing is nothing more than a parachute, motor, propeller, tank of gas and a pilot.  This particular evening saw a steady breeze coming in off the ocean, and the pilot seemed to be struggling with controlling the craft.  The throttle was up and down, causing us to wonder if he was having engine trouble.  And breaking from what we normally see, he was flying inland over residential areas quite a ways, instead of staying out over the beach.  Before long, we heard the engine slow down and we watched the paraglider descend  towards the county beach park to our north.  Next thing we heard was the sickening sound of electricity arcing, similar to when a transformer on a power pole explodes.  We could see the sparks flying from a 1/4 mile away.  There is a line of power poles extending along A1A that are a good 30 to 50 feet in the air, and we could see the fabric from the chute draped over the lines.  Diana, Ron and I jumped on Ron’s golf cart and Jerry and Linda jumped on theirs and headed over to see what had happened.

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From what we were told, the pilot cleared the wires, only to have the breeze blow him back into them.  His gas tank caught on fire at some point and he fell 30 feet to the ground…landing next to the bike path.  The young man with the grey shirt in the photo above stopped and smothered the flames with the only thing he had available; his truck mat.  Fortunately, there is a Brevard County Fire and Rescue between us and the crash site, and they were there almost immediately.  Jerry (blue shirt above) is a retired firefighter and Linda (yellow shorts) is a retired nurse.  They noticed a young woman pacing around with a tiny baby.  That person was the pilot’s wife.  They ended up pulling up their golf cart so she could sit down, as she was distraught.  They spent a good hour and a half with her, helping to calm her down.

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Before long, a helicopter arrived from Orlando…landing on the 3rd green of the adjoining golf course.  It took awhile to transfer the victim to the Life Flight, but soon he was on his way.

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This is the Brevard County Rescue photo of the remains of the craft.  Not a pretty picture, to say the least.

So, who was this person?  Well, it turns out he was a young man from Ukraine who was living and working in Miami with his wife and 3 month old baby.

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Dima was self employed, while his wife stayed home to care for their child.  He received 3rd degree burns over 20% of his body, along with broken vertebrae and ribs and a punctured lung.  He is lucky to be alive, but has a very difficult road ahead of him.  Turns out it was the first time he flew his craft. Should he have been attempting this with a young family to care for?  Most definitely not…but I’ll refer you to that lag time in common sense I spoke of earlier.  The adventurer inside of him was most likely gnawing at him, and he gave the sport of powered paragliding a try.  Unfortunately, it did not end well.

I think back to the times I took risks that could have ended this way.  One time in particular stands out to me.  I wiped out while slalom water skiing in one foot deep water while going 30 miles an hour.  I jammed my shoulder hard into the sandy lake bottom, but ended up hurting only my pride.  I could have easily broken my neck.  Was that stupid of me?  You bet it was.  That doesn’t change the fact that Diana would have had a very difficult life caring for me, had I been severely injured…much like Dima’s wife is going to have for the foreseeable future.  It’s that lucky-to-be-alive adventurer in us that is going to send them a little help via the Go Fund Me website that has been set up in their name.  If this story touches your heart and you wish to donate, the page can be accessed by clicking HERE.  If you are unable to donate, please send some good vibes or prayers their way, as this family is certainly going to need them.

Positive comments are appreciated and will be approved for publication.  Until next time; please be safe out there, fellow adventurers.

Wild About Florida

October 16 – November 4, 2018

Melbourne Beach, Florida

Changing things up a bit this year, we arrived in Florida a full two weeks early.  Our motivation was to see if I could get a UPS golf cart route closer to where we live.  Last year, I had to drive 24 miles just to get to my pod and golf cart.  It didn’t make a lot of sense, as our truck is fairly expensive to operate.

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So far, I am on a route that is only 12 miles away.  As the Melbourne Beach pods are put in place, I’m hoping to secure one of those.  It’s fun to be back behind the wheel of the golf cart, delivering those smiles that Amazon used to tell us about.  🙂

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We are back on our site at Melbourne Beach Mobile Park.  The vegetation grew like crazy over the summer, so we had a bit of landscaping to do.  Nothing as difficult as last year though.  It definitely feels like home!

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Our first morning back brought us a beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic.  Unfortunately for us…

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…the next week saw blooms of red tide work their way north on the Gulf Stream, kicked loose from the Gulf of Mexico by Hurricane Michael.  We had thousands of dead fish along the shores of Brevard County, and we ended up having to wear surgical masks to go outdoors, due to the smell from the red tide itself. We were concerned to say the least, as no one knew how long it would last.  Fortunately, it continued north and left our area within a week.

Slowly, our friends at the park started showing up.  Jerry and Linda who we visited in Rhode Island were already here, as they have bought a mobile home and are in the process of fixing it up.  We also had other friends roll into the area, so it was great to see them!  Bob and Pat (Michigan Traveler) are in the area until December, so we met them for dinner one evening.  We forgot to get a photo, but we will get one sometime here in the next month.  After that, we were paid a visit by Tessa (aka Fluffy Dog)!

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She brought her mom and dad, Jodee and Bill (On the Road Abode), so the five of us made plans to search for the wild side of Florida.

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They brought us a gift to keep us busy this winter: a Junior Ranger puzzle.  211 tiny pieces…

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…and detailed instructions on how to put it all together!  Hopefully we get a Junior Ranger badge if we complete it.  🙂

We had two different natural spaces in mind to visit with them.  The first was Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.  Nestled along the northern border of the Kennedy Space Center, this refuge if filled with all sorts of wild animals.

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We saw multiple alligators…

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…and birds of all different kinds.

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We even saw a wild pig!

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The Great Blue Heron were out in force.

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This beauty was twice as pretty as the rest.  🙂

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Its remarkable how large this preserve is.  The views seemed to go on forever.

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To the south, the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center looms in the distance.  Every Apollo rocket and space shuttle that ever flew was put together in this building.  At 129,428,000 cubic feet, it is one of the largest buildings on Earth by volume.

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And this is how a row of mangroves looks in infancy.  Some of the ones along the Indian River are so expansive, a kayaker could easily get lost in them.

The next day, we went to Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge to visit the Barrier Island Education Center.  There we learned about the sea turtle nesting efforts along the east coast of Florida.  We followed that up with a visit to Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.  This particular wild place is special in that it was the first wildlife refuge ever established in the United States.

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They have a unique boardwalk that has slats inscribed for every one of the over 500 refuges across the country.

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And there at the top of the walk is Pelican Island, a small 6 acre piece of land set aside by Teddy Roosevelt in 1903.  What started out as a 6 acre preserve has grown to a national system of natural spaces  covering over 150 million acres.  Pretty cool to think you don’t have to go far to find a wild place in the United States.  Thank you Teddy! 🙂

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It was great to see Jodee and Bill (and Tessa) again!  It’s also great to be back in Florida, our adopted home state.  Stay tuned to see what other adventures we embark on over the winter. If you are in the area, give us a shout!  Until next time, safe and happy travels to all.  🙂

 

 

Timucuan Preserve and Jacksonville

On Tuesday, March 27th, we packed up and began our journey towards Maine and then Michigan.

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It took a little bit, as we had so many ‘see you in the fall’ goodbyes!   We will miss seeing everyone and look forward to next winter. We did manage to hit the road before noon.  🙂

Our first stop was Jacksonville, Florida, to take care of some errands and to do a little sightseeing. Diana tried out her new Moose membership to get us a nice little camping spot for two nights.  Wait…what?  Moose membership???  Let’s back up a step.  On Sunday, we met Diana’s sister Cheryl and her hubby Doug for lunch at the Beach House at Patrick Air Force Base.

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They are also fulltime RVers. Cheryl mentioned to us that she was a Moose member and how Moose International was not only a great fraternal organization, it also allowed RV parking.  We decided to have Diana join first to see if the membership is something we will use.  We met them next night at a local Moose lodge and with Cheryl as a sponsor and $35, she signed up!

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Long story short, we ended up with a last minute overflow spot at a lodge in Jacksonville.  For $15 a night we has access to electricity, water, and a dump station….perfect!

First order of business was to get our mail in Green Cove Springs and head over to the DMV to renew our Escape and trailer plates.  We have always been impressed with our adopted hometown, in that they embrace having thousands of their residents be fulltime RVers, marine cruisers, and military.  Many of those folks never see the town after the first initial contact, but we like making an appearance at least once a year.  Tuesday was our second time through this season, and I have to say they outdid themselves.  We pulled into the parking lot at our mail forwarding service at 4:30 PM and grabbed the mail.  We then drove two miles to the DMV and were in and out by 4:45 PM.  That’s 15 minutes to take care of both items. Impressive, to say the least!

So that left Wednesday free for us to explore the area around Jacksonville. Looking for anything that fell under the National Park Service auspices, Diana found Timucuan  Ecological and Historic Preserve (pronounced tee-moo-kwan). This vast area encompasses several national and state sites, not far from a major city.  It was donated in the 1960’s by a man named Willie Brown.  He was offered millions of dollars by developers, but he wanted it saved as an unspoiled wilderness for future generations. On this particular day, we chose three locations.

First up was Fort Caroline National Memorial.

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This is where the main visitor center for the entire preserve is located. Inside, the story is told of  this place where the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and St. Johns River meet.  There is evidence of over 5000 years of human habitation that has been unearthed in the area.  The first people here were the Timucua, a broad group of several tribes of natives. Sustained by the marine life found in the salt marshes, and also by plants and animals of the land, these people thrived here for centuries.

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This wooden owl was found in the preserve and is estimated to have been carved in the 1400’s.  It is the largest wooden effigy ever discovered from an archaeological site in the Americas.

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This yellow pine dugout was also unearthed here.  These canoes were the mode of transportation used on the St Johns waters by the Timucua.

In 1562, a French expedition, led by Jean Ribault, landed here and claimed the land for France.  Ribault left 50 settlers to establish an outpost and returned to France.  In 1564, the French built a triangular fort and named it ‘le Caroline’.

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The French did not do well in this new land and were facing starvation when Ribault arrived with help from their homeland. The relief increased the population, and also caught the attention of Spain.  The Spaniards soon established a claim to the south at St Augustine, with the intention of dislodging the French to their north.  Ribault sailed south to attack the Spanish post, only to encounter a hurricane that disrupted his ships and he beached too far south.  Admiral Pedro Menendez seized the opportunity and marched north to Fort Caroline.  His men massacred 140 French people, sparing women and children. 40 to 50 French escaped and were able to sail back to France. He then marched south and found the shipwrecked men.  The French pleaded for mercy to no avail.  Menendez killed 350 of them…all but those professing to be Catholics or musicians. That site became known as Matanzas, a Spanish word meaning ‘slaughter‘.  After driving out the French, the Spaniards took over Fort Caroline and renamed it San Mateo.  In 1568, the French returned for the sole purpose of seeking revenge. They killed most of the Spanish at the former French outpost, except for a few who escaped to St Augustine.  After burning the fort, the force returned to France.

From Fort Caroline, we drove northeast to  Kingsley Plantation.

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Along the way, Edsel 2 took his first ferry ride!  As you can see, Diana is sporting her Fort Caroline Junior Ranger badge.  🙂

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Kingsley Plantation was built in 1798 and is the oldest surviving plantation house in Florida.  No small feat, considering it’s exposure to hurricanes, termites, fire, and humidity.  The story is told here of plantation life, with the owners fortunes amassed at the expense of slaves’ labor and freedom.

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Located on the St Johns River, the farm was perfectly situated to transport its goods via water.  Cotton was king here, as was indigo, and sugar cane.

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Near the entrance to the property were the remains of the slave quarters, laid out in a semi-circle.  These 23 structures housed 60 to 80 men, women, and children.  They are made of tabby. This construction material is oyster shells cooked with water and lime, and then mixed with sand to form cement. The horrors of slavery were well portrayed here, serving as a reminder of this disturbing time in American history.

Our last stop was Ribault Club.

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This was a millionaires resort built in the 1920’s.  During the depression, membership declined and the building fell into disrepair.

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The State of Florida acquired the property in 1989, and through a partnership with the National Park Service and the City of Jacksonville, restored the club in 2003.

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The building is used mostly for weddings and events, and is open for the public to view at other times.

We really enjoyed discovering Timucuan Preserve on what turned out to be a beautiful day.  We left several sites to explore at a future time, making sure we thoroughly soaked in the beauty and history the areas we visited.  Be sure to follow along to see our next adventure as we head north along the eastern coast.

March Wrap-up and Spring Plans

The month of March has ended up being extremely busy for us, as we finished up our ‘to-do‘ list, socialized, and planned our spring and summer travels.  We started out the month with a day trip to Lakeland to watch our friend’s (Jim and Sue) son play baseball.

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Jake pitches for Fontbonne University, and their team was playing at the Central Florida Invitational Tournament. I played catch with him back in 2012 when he was only about 12 years old. Catching his fastball gave me a swollen and numb index finger on my left hand for a long time afterwards. My mitt would crack when the ball hit it; unfortunately, my finger probably cracked also. 🙂 As a college freshman, his pitching arm has only improved since that time.

We also were invited by our new friends Nick and Betty to join in on their weekly lunch get-togethers with other folks in the park.

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From right: Jerry, Linda, Betty, Nick, Ron, Nancy, Diana and me.

 

Here we are at our favorite pizza joint, Oceanside Pizza.  Over the course of time, we got to know several people in the park, which has been really fun!  During one of the meals, I discovered that Nick used to work for the same company in Louisville as our friend and fellow fulltime RVer Bill Murray  Small world.

Our ‘to do’ list is whittled down to a few small items, but not before a couple of things were tacked onto it.  Edsel 2, our new Escape, had an issue to where the clutches in the rear wheels weren’t releasing when we cornered, so our local dealer (Kelly Ford) took care of that.  They found that there was a technical service bulletin issued by Ford for the problem.  We can’t say enough about how great our experience was with Derek, our service adviser.  We also had our RV air conditioner quit on us the other morning, so we have a mobile tech coming tomorrow to replace that.  The general consensus in the park is that we did well by getting 11 years out of our current unit, especially since we exposed it to salt air the past three winters.

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We also were able to attend this years St. Patrick’s Day potluck in our park.  You may recall that we skipped it last year, as I had found out our good friend and my long time colleague Richie had passed the night before.  I wrote a post about it called Reflections in the Rear View Mirror.  Although we miss Richie, we were able to enjoy this year’s party.  After everyone ate, someone broke out their karaoke machine and we all ended up making a day of it!

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Here’s Bonnie and Ted taking their turn.  A few drinks later, I even joined in!  🙂

Our time this year in Melbourne Beach is quickly coming to a close.

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It will be just a few more sunrises and sunsets before we head out on our next adventure. Where will that take us?  Our plans are to head up the East Coast to arrive in Maine by the beginning of June, and then back over to Michigan for a bit.  The trip from here to Michigan is spread over a four month period, so we have a lot planned along the way.  Be sure to stay tuned for that, as well as our new work camping position in Michigan for the months of August and September.  Our plans are to come back to Florida next winter.  As always, we would love to meet up with you, should our paths converge. Feel free to contact us privately at explorvistas@gmail.com, if you would like to try for a get together. Until next time, safe travels!

The ‘To Do’ List

Every fulltime RVer accumulates a list of things that need to be done around their rigs, in hopes of finding a place that they are sitting still long enough to do them.  For us, Florida ends up being our place where we are able to get things done.  The weather in Melbourne Beach is favorable from November through March, and we have plenty of stores in the area to pick up needed supplies.  We usually write our items that need to be done on a 5″ x 8″ lined notepad as we travel, but it quickly became apparent last year that we needed to transfer that to a legal pad.  Granted, the list included clerical items like taxes and budget, most were little things that had either cropped up, were general maintenance,  or that we wanted to upgrade.  The ‘to do’ list grew to 61 items by the time I finished up at UPS after New Years Day.  Clearly, it was time to focus!

A couple of the items on the list were to have the transmission filters and fluid changed in both vehicles.  After we had the truck serviced, we scratched 4 items off the list by simply buying Edsel 2, our new Escape.  (Wash, Wax, Transmission filter, Oil)  Wow…that was easy!  Other items were small jobs like giving our bearing buddies on our new axles a couple shots of grease and replacing the batteries in our tire pressure monitors on our valve stems.  Most jobs were small enough that we were able to do more than one a day.  With that being said, there were two exceptions to that this year.

The biggest job was waxing the rig.  This is an annual job that I prefer to do myself, as the Fiberglas on our 2007 fifth wheel requires the use of oxidation remover before waxing. If it isn’t done carefully, it can leave swirl marks and end up looking worse than if it had been left untouched.  Go ahead, call me persnickety….I will own that.

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As you can see in the photo above, there is a big difference in the part that is done and not done.  That is only the oxidation remover in that photo…no wax had been applied yet.

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Here it is after waxing.  Our neighbors needed sunglasses after that step was completed!  Needless to say, the waxing process was tackled over several days….

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…with trips to the beach interspersed in between.

The other major project we completed was something our neighbors Mark and Val had done two years ago. As you can well imagine, several months at the beach means several months of salt air wreaking havoc on any exposed metal.  Mark and Val leave their rig here year-round, so they really noticed the wear and tear.  They replaced every screw on their rig with stainless steel, and dabbed a shot of clear silicone in the hole before driving the new screw in.

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The white painted screw heads were rusting, and even the threads were beginning to rust on some of them.

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Six hundred screws and three days later, we finished that job!

Back before we went on the road, we had noticed that our black tank would leave an odor in the rig after we had driven all day.  We found a product at Camping World called  Cyclone RV Plumbing Vent, which swivels with the wind and draws the odors out through the vent on the roof.  It worked wonders on the black tank.  We had also noticed a similar problem with our bathroom grey tank, so we purchased an additional Cyclone for that vent also.

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Even sitting still, we’ve noticed a big difference.

Another little upgrade we did was to replace our CH751 locks on our compartments.  Most every rig before the advent of slam latches used the same lock, meaning anyone that wanted to could get into our trunks with their CH751 key.

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A few years ago, Howard and Linda Payne from RV-Dreams replaced theirs with uniquely keyed locks.

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I contacted Howard and asked if they were still happy with them and who the supplier was.  He told me the company was called Industrial Lock and Hardware and that they were very satisfied with their locks.  We purchased enough of them from ILH to secure our big compartments.  While not making the door completely theft-proof, the new locks at least keep the honest thieves honest. 🙂

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‘Who are you talking about ….ME???’

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‘Well, he certainly wasn’t referring to me!’

We are currently at 42 of 61 items complete.  Most things will be finished before we leave at the end of the month, but a couple of them can wait until later.  It never hurts to have a few items on there to give the pad of paper a purpose.  😉

When is it that you find the time to tackle your ‘to do’ list?  Any cool upgrades that you’ve done this past year? We would love to hear about it!

 

Rockets and Red Cars

This season is shaping up to be the winter of rockets and red cars for us.  Living on the Space Coast of Florida, we’ve been fortunate to see several launches this winter, as SpaceX and United Launch Alliance have been very busy.  As you probably have seen by now, the biggest rocket contained a red Tesla roadster.  While that was beyond cool, it wasn’t the only red vehicle launch for us.  More on that in a bit…

On January 29th, our friends Phyllis and Bernie came up from Fort Pierce for a visit.

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Diana and Phyllis worked together back in West Michigan.  They checked out our park and then we went to Sebastian Beach Inn for a late lunch.  It was great to see them again!

On January 31, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket with a communications satellite.

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The mission required a full thrust to a high orbit, so the booster wasn’t able to return to the Cape.  I was fortunate to get our Nikon focused enough to get this shot as the spacecraft flew by us.  This is zoomed all the way, plus cropped to make it even bigger.

A mere 7 days later, SpaceX launched their Falcon Heavy rocket for the very first time.  Luckily, this coincided with a visit by my sister Judy and her hubby Dale!

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It was a perfect day for a show!

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There were a lot of people watching up and down the beach.

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And it’s liftoff, as viewed from Melbourne Beach!  The Cape is just far enough away that it’s over the horizon.

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This is my best photo of it.  We were viewing it from the side, so it’s hard to see the side boosters.  There is a Tesla in that nose cone!  We did see the boosters separate, then fire side-by-side to begin their return to the Cape.  A minute or so later, they relit and landed in almost perfect unison.

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My cousin Mary was much closer up at Cocoa Beach and posted this photo on Facebook of the boosters coming in. Beyond cool!

After the launch, the four of us went to dinner at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort.

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What a fun day!

So what else have we been doing?  Well, between substitute teaching assignments, Diana and I decided to go for a drive in Edsel the Escape yesterday up to Jacksonville.

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Before Edsel knew what happened, his license plate was off and Diana was shaking hands with William the car salesman.  Meet Edsel 2 on the left, our new 2018 Ford Escape!  Now all we need to do is to make sure Elon Musk doesn’t launch it into space. 🙂

We’ve also been planning our summer trip, which we will talk about in a future post.  It’s also maintenance season for our rig and vehicles….uhhhh, well one vehicle.  We sort of took care of any maintenance that needed to be done on the Escape!

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The biggest job of all is waxing the fifth wheel.  It takes me a few weeks to complete the job, as I only tackle a section each morning.  That strategy to be much easier on my body than trying to knock it out in a couple of days.  And that leaves the afternoons free for the beach and the next rocket launch!