Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bye-Bye 09

Christmas eve day and we're packed up and heading south to Estero, we had a lot of fun with the kids down for the week but there is no way we could keep up with them, right now we just want to get set up in the warm weather and relax for the holidays. We have a lot of friends in this area so I think we're going to be pretty busy during our month here.

The day after Christmas (Saturday)and we decided to drive over to the Conservancy of SW Florida Nature Center, they're doing a remodel of the place so it was kind of a mess ans the boat rides are closed until sometime in January, the good news is that it's free until they finish the construction. To tour the Discovery Center and walk two short nature trails was a little over an hour, our favorite part was the baby sea turtle they have there. She's about a year old and was swimming like crazy when the ranger came into the room because she thought that it was feeding time, since she will be released back into the wild when she's about 4 years old they make her catch her food so that she;ll know how to do it in the ocean. They do this by putting live items in the aquarium and making her hunt them down, they told us that she was getting pretty good at it and that just last week she caught a spider crab and ate it one leg at a time, the only problem was that the crab was a room mate and not for eating.

Today (Monday) we figured we would kill some time touring the Edison-Ford Winter homes and estates, about a twenty minute drive to find out that everybody in the state is there today, we keep forgetting about holidays, looks like everybody that has visitors over the holiday decided to bring them here. Their were only a few parking spaces open in the second overflow lot and the line at the ticket window had to be at least a 30 minute wait, time for plan B. Drove out to Manatee Park to watch the manatee swimming in the canal, not gonna happen, there were no parking spots open here and the people were standing should to should, time for Plan C. We ended up taking the long way home and did a bunch of stops to do some junking but didn't find anything worth while.

Wednesday we drove down to Everglade City, thought that we might take a boat tour at the National Park, but like everything else the place was packed and they were booked for the next two tours, no problem our real reason for this road trip was to stop at the Old Depot Inn for their crab cakes. It was a little crowded but not two bad, a nice table out on the dock and an order for two crab cake lunches. We've been coming here when ever we're in the area for about ten years now and have never been disappointed until today, it appears that there are new owners and a new kitchen staff, a fast food place wouldn't serve stuff like this at least it came with a side order of coleslaw and fries. The coleslaw was in a little plastic throw away cup and 14 fries, I counted them, and another one bites the dust.

New Years Eve day, we did a little hiking at the scrub over at Estero Bay State Buffer Preserve, about three miles and all we saw was four Gopher Turtles and a lady with a french poodle that was having a ball chasing his Frisbee into the river and bringing it back, think was he would only bring it to Cathy, who would then hand it to the owner.

We decided to go big time for New Years Eve this year, we drove out to Barefoot Beach and watched the sunset on 2009 and then stopped at the local Five Guys Burger and Fries for dinner.

Happy New Year and Welcome to Twenty-Ten.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Disney Birthday

Today was birthday day at Disney, for Florida residents if you sign up on line you get free admission to the park of your choice on your birthday.
It's my birthday so we went to Epcot with the kids, it was cold and windy today but at least the sun was out most of the time. We spent the better part of the day doing the touristy type things then we went back to their motel with the grand kids so that the folks could do an adult dinner by themselves.

Nick and I went out for pizza, now I know things are a little more expensive in and around Disney but look at this bill and tell me it's not a little bit ridiculous.

Back to the motel to grab the kids, jump on the bus for the Magic Kingdom to hook the kids back up with the folks and to say good night cause Cathy and I are beat and are calling it a day.

Cathy and I sat out a few of the rides and just sat on a bench doing some people watching while waiting for the kids and after watching thousands of people we made this discovery. The only difference between Disney and Walmart is the prices,

Friday, December 18, 2009

Busy at Disney & Relaxing at the Discovery Gardens

A slow relaxing day today to make up for the run around busy, busy day yesterday.
The kids got into Disney at 8:30 in the morning after driving 18 hours straight through and surprise their room was ready and they could move right in. We let them get a couple hour nap before we started banging on their door.
We killed a few hours walking around Downtown Disney spending money and watched a small stage show, a young married couple that did Yo-Yo tricks, they were really great and had everybody on the floor laughing. He was the 2008 Duncan Yo-Yo world champ, .

So today we decided to go walk through one of our favorite little gardens, The Discovery Gardens, it's a little hard to find but worth the effort, it's located at the Lake County Agriculture Center at 1951 Woodlea Rd, Tavares. It covers about 3 acres and has something like 20 themed gardens containing more then 700 different plants, things are constantly changing here since it's part of a teaching garden. So we just wandered around talking with the some of the gardeners and taking pictures of the gardens.

So come on, lets take a little walk through the gardens. (as always Click to enlarge)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Junking in Florida

After the fantastic Christmas light display at DeFuniak Springs we drove across the panhandle to Lake City for two days, no special reason, just needed a place to break up the long drive, so we wandered around there for a bit. The only thing that happened was the weather alert radio going off letting us know that some really bad storms were heading our way, we just can't seem to get away from the bad weather this year. The storm was going to hit this area around noon so we did what we normally do, we packed up early and made a run south to get set up before the storms.

We got into Wildwood around 11AM and the temperature was pushing 80. We had one day of great weather and did a day's worth of junking (driving around and hitting all the thrift stores in the area). I found a gem, actually a radio, years ago I gave my GE SuperRadio to my son-in-law Don, because I thought that I had bought a better one, WRONG and I've regretted it ever since. Well today at one of the thrift stores, right as they were announcing that they were closing in ten minutes I looked down on the bottom shelf and there it was, an original GE SuperRadio. Two more people were approaching this area looking at other radios on the shelves so with disregard for my own personal safety I flung myself through the air and tackled the prize before anyone else knew what was going on. Lying on the dusty floor I rolled over and forced my swollen eye open (think I hit the handle of a hedge trimmer in my flying leap) and saw the price tag, $4.50. Don't tell me there's no heaven because I'm there right now. Back home I cleaned it up and other than a little problem with the on/off switch (which I fixed) it's just like new.

Now I can still out under the stars tonight and listen to all the long distance radio stations and see how far out I can reach with this thing, that is I could if it wasn't raining cats and dogs and the temperature wasn't dropping down into the 40's tonight.
Now normally I would take the blame for bringing this weather with us since it's been following us all season. All of our Florida friends would agree that it was definitely our fault, but at least ten other units pulled into camp the day after we did so it had to be one of them. We're going to go out and walk around to see if we can figure out who to blame for this.
To quote Governor Huckabee, “I didn't do it, Don't blame me.”

Time to batten down the hatches and lock ourselves inside for a weekend of great college football and so-so Pro ball.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Reflections - DeFuniak Springs

We're at the Sunset King Resort in DeFuniak Springs for the week, hope everybody had a good Turkey Day, we didn't, we had a Happy Ham Day instead, we decided to let Honey Baked ham do all the work this year. We may not have a ton of left overs but the good news is that this little town is the home of the PUB Burger so that will beat four days of turkey sandwiches.

The best part of Thanksgiving is that it's one of the few times that the Lions make it to national TV, so we get to watch them win or lose, it's a long standing tradition with Detroiter's. When I was a little kid my dad had season tickets (back when they were hard to get) and we would go to the game while mom put together the turkey feast. It was Briggs Stadium back then and it always was cold and snowing, we would be wrapped up in surplus army blankets with three thermos's one with hot chocolate for me, one with coffee for dad and the third one was a wide mouth filled with steaming hot dogs. I couldn't tell you if the Lions won any of those game or not but I can tell you it was always a great day. Oops, seems like my mind took a little side trip here.

Last night (Saturday) we decided to brave the 52 degree weather and head over to the Christmas Reflections, this is the reason that you have to come through this area during the holiday season. There is a nice park around Lake Defuniak, which is said to be one of two perfectly round spring fed lakes in the world, there is a walking path around the shore line of the lake which is in a type of crater about thirty feet deep and then there is a sidewalk at street level. The shoreline walk is just under a mile and the street level is just over a mile so we walker counterclockwise on the shoreline and then came back on the street level, this allowed us to be sure and see everything. They make the street one way every night and charge $3.00 per person to drive around the lake, we always park and hoof it.

They claim to have something like 6 million light in the display, I can't verify that since I lost count at 2,345,652 we hit a flashing display and I just got confused and couldn't remember if I counter the red light twice or not so I gave up. Maybe next time.

My tripod broke a few months ago and I forgot to replace it so I didn't get a lot of the timed exposures that I wanted but the following pictures will give you an idea of what it's like.

Christmas Reflections runs from Thanksgiving through December 31st and if you ever find yourself in the area during this time it's well worth your time to see it.

Entrance to Christmas Reflections

My Favorite area, I've named it "The Ghost Cemetery"

Dancer,Dasher,Comet,Vixen, Harry,Joe Fred and someone else.

The Flying dolphins

Military Tribute

A typical Christmas living room

One of the few non-light displays

Christmas FLORIDA style

The best part of this display is while walking around you look across the lake which is so smooth it's like a mirror and see all the reflection of the lights in the water. It's to hard to capture in a picture because of the distance so I guess you'll just have to go see it for yourself.

If you love Christmas lights then you're going to love DeFuniak Springs.

Note: it took about two hours to do this blog today instead of the 20 minutes that it should have, GOOGLE was just putting the pictures and text where ever it felt like it today, so much for what you see is what you get.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Gulf Shores Area

Our two weeks in the Gulf Shores area is over and we really didn't do to much this year, our first two days were filled with rain and wind from Ida. Our first day out was to the Croc's store at the Foley Outlet Mall, last year we cleaned up here, this year they didn't have any sales that you couldn't get at any regular Croc's store so we left empty handed or I guess you could say bare footed.

We're camped at Azalia Acres which is right off of I-10 at exit 53, this puts us half way between Mobile and Pensacola, this park is only about three years old, it has a nice club house, laundry and bathrooms plus huge open sites.

We got one trip to Burris Farm Market in Loxley, this year the produce didn't look very good and was over priced, but the little deli in the back of the store still has the best desserts around, Cathy went with the strawberry cobbler and I had the bread pudding with a scoop of vanilla, better then lunch.

I did read about a great restaurant on the web and a lot of people were really talking it up, saying they had a great burger, Big Daddy's. It took a while to find it but it was worth the effort, just south of Summerdale take Hwy32 west a little over six miles, than as soon as you cross over the Fish River get ready to make a left turn onto Ferry Rd, about a half mile and it's on your left. It's right on the river with indoor and outdoor dining, I tried the Big Daddy Burger and Cathy went with the Blacken Shrimp Po-Boy, the burger was good but I wouldn't get it again, Cathy said that the blacked shrimp was fantastic and that this moved Big Daddy's into second place for her list of favorite seafood places. The couple at the table next to us ordered the Fried Clam Po-Boy and the Fried oyster Po-Boy, when they brought there plates out they were piled so high you could not see the buns. The lady ate half of the clams with her fingers before she was able to pick up the sandwich without having everything fall out, you also get your choice of fries onion rings or 50/50 which was nice. Next year I'll stick with seafood at a seafood restaurant.

Now onward to my favorite place for Christmas light displays, Defuniak Springs, Florida.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

IDA 1 - US 0

OK you're hearing from us again so we made it through Ida, but just barely and I mean just barely. A monstrous gust of wind came along and blew our dish over breaking the weld on the arm so that it could not be fixed until daylight. And all this happened right before Monday Night Football so we missed the game. It was terrible I tell you, just terrible.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Racing the Weather............and Losing

Southern Louisiana ,We finally found some warm dry weather in southern Louisiana, we did a long drive for us when we left Little Rock and made it down to Vicksburg,MS. We didn't even bother to unhook the car, just laid back and watched some football, when we checked in at the Ameristar Casino RV Park they gave us two vouchers for a buffet breakfast at the casino right across the street. So the next morning we were up early to get across the street and stuff ourselves, we had to take the shuttle back to the RV Park, it was that or climb about 500 steps back up the hill.

We drove across Mississippi into Louisiana to the city of Roberts, which is half way between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. When we got into camp they were just finishing a Halloween Weekend, and the park was packed, every site was full (over 350 sites) so we had to park off on the side and watch some more football until the people started checking out. Finally around 4 o'clock we got into our site and got set up, the next morning when we went out we were the only ones in our area and there were only about 10 units in the entire park.

This close to Baton Rouge there is only one thing on our minds, Mike Anderson's Seafood Restaurant, this is our favorite restaurant of all time and anytime we are near here this is where we have lunch, and it was only an hour drive each way, but worth it, so much so that we made the trip again Thursday.

Now it's onto Biloxi, my big challenge there will be getting Cathy out of the casinos.

We're in Biloxi for four days, it's Saturday so we're going to relax and watch some college football, a beautiful sunny day with the temperature's pushing 80, we're suppose to get some rain Monday and Tuesday so we're planning on hitting the outlet malls and the casino's on those days, because tomorrow is Football Sunday.

Remember how we cut things short up north to get away from all the rain and bad weather, well things don't always work out the way you want, while checking the weather tonight to see when the rain is going to start tomorrow and we found out about IDA, Hurricane IDA that is.
Since we are camped about 2 miles from the coast we both had nightmares about Hugo last night, so it's up early and on the road running like the yellow cowards that we are. Where we're going we'll still get part of the storm but we'll be about 32 miles back from the shoreline.

We're the little yellow dot on the shoreline right above the eye of the hurricane.

Got into camp early and got everything set up before the rain started, we should be OK in this park, I parked the car right next to the tripod with the satellite dish to try and block any big winds that might come up, can't have the wind blowing it over tonight, it's Monday Night Football.

If you never hear from us again then I guess we didn't run far enough.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Little RAINY Rock

We packed up and pulled out of Springfield, in the rain of course and started heading for Little Rock, Arkansas, pretty much just follow US 65 all the way. If it hadn't been raining this would have been a spectacular drive, through the Ozarks with all the fall color, but since it was rainy, overcast and this is an older narrower road with a lot of traffic since it's the main drag between the two cities I didn't get to enjoy it as much as I would have liked.

We're staying at the new North Little Rock City RV park, River View Park, this is right on the banks of the Arkansas River right across from Downtown Little Rock. Both cities have riverfront parks opposite each other and have two foot bridges that cross the river to join them, there is also a trolley system that runs you back and forth for two dollars a day. Of course when we pulled in here to set up it was raining.

View of Little Rock from our camp site.

Clinton Library right across the river from the park

When we were in this area last year we had lunch at the restaurant at the Clinton Library and it was great, so we decided to try it again today, oh yeah it's still raining, well this year lunch was crap, we ordered the same thing that we did last year and this time it was terrible. It's still a downpour outside so we figured that we might as well tour the library, we've done the Truman and Hoover Libraries this month so we might as well add this one to our list. We're really glad that we stayed, the library and displays are done very nice, they're set up so it's never very crowded at any one area and was informative. They have a lot of video's, most with President Clinton explaining some thing on them or some type of comment and I don't care what your politics are he is a funny likable guy. Last year we missed him by two days and this year we were two weeks early, he's coming for the fifth anniversary of the opening of the library.

It's not raining today, in fact the sun is out and it's getting warm so we decided to go about a half mile down the river shore to see the North Little Rock Navy, at least that's what they call it. The World War Two submarine “Razorback” is docked here, the first thing they tell you is that the Razorback is the second largest species of whale and that it was not named for the Arkansas hog.

When we got their we found out that they were into their winter hours and were closed today, as we were standing in the parking lot one of the maintenance guys saw our problem and asked if we were from out of town, when we told him we were he told us that their were a few people in the museum doing paper work and that they wouldn't mind us looking around the museum but we wouldn't be able to get a tour of the submarine, he then took us in the back way to the museum, talk about nice. The curator and his assistant were doing some computer work, but they stopped to set up the 15 minute video for us to watch, Cathy asked them who we should pay and they said don't worry about it. After the video we started to look at the items in the museum when the assistant said, Hey I got time, lets go for a tour of the sub.

Most Naval vessels that you get to tour are totally stripped and would never been sea worthy again but this one is 95% sea worthy, the Navy made them remove the props, which are on display on shore.

The sub has a great history, starting with WW II, the shipyard where she was built launched three subs on the same day, the only time that has happen, she had an impressive career during the war and was invited to be present at Tokyo bay for the signing of the Surrender papers. She then was involved in some classified operations during Korea and Vietnam. When she was decommissioned she was sold to the Turkish Navy for a dollar and served there for thirty years, sinking two Greece ships during their war before being returned to the US and the North Little Rock Navy.

Mothball Certificate from the US Navy

Transfer Certificate from the Turkish Navy back to the North Little Rock Navy.

Since the sub is all original the only way into it is down the hatch, very narrow and deep Cathy decided that she would pass and go back to the museum, I'm not passing up a private tour of the sub so down I went, and I might mention that another 20 pounds and I don't think I would have made it. Since this was a one person tour he pretty much took me everywhere on the ship, the only place that we couldn't go was the conning tower because they were rebuilding the hydraulics on the periscope and they had parts everywhere on the deck. We ended up spending over an hour inside the sub and I have to say it was one of the most interesting hours I can remember.

One of the stories that he told me about the ship was that when it was refitted one time they removed one of the diesel engines which was no longer needed, when they took it out for it's first test they were to do a dive to 400 feet, the limit on this class sub is 600 feet, when they started the dive they lost control of the sub and it just kept diving, by the time they managed to regain control and level it off they were at a depth of 900 feet. They had forgot to recalculate the center of gravity with the engine removed. He had a ton of stories but to hear more you're going to have to tour the sub and hear them from him.

OK, one more story, when they managed to get on of the six inch deck guns for display the city sent over a crane to take it off the truck and put it on display up by the parking lot. The guy running the crane told them that they better get it right the first time because the thing was so heavy that the crane could just barely handle the weight, they got it off the truck and onto the mounts and fastened down. A few hour later they were in the office when they notice 4 blacked out SUV fly into the parking lot, he said a bunch of MEN IN BLACK got out and started gathering around the gun, a couple had binoculars and others were talking into their wrist and mulling around. No one came into the office to say anything and after about twenty minutes they all jumped back in their SUV's and disappeared. Being curious they went up to the guns location and started looking around trying to figure out what was going on when one of them noticed that their brand new 6 inch gun was pointed directly at the brand new Clinton Library across the river.

So once again we end up getting a private tour of a place that is closed, this is probably the 4th or 5th time that this has happened to us, so we must be doing something right or we just look pitiful and they feel sorry for us.

Another day, another rain storm, this is starting to get ridiculous , we haven't had two days straight without rain since we left Michigan. It let up to a regular rain around 1PM so we ran to the car for a little road trip, I told Cathy that I found a great little burger joint just outside of town in Scott Arkansas.

Now just look at this place, doesn't it look like to type of place that you would drive out of your way for. It may not look like much, built in 1912 as a general store for the local plantation, then a military commissary, jail and courthouse, then in 1984 they put a small eating area which was soon discovered by Governor Clinton and the rest is history, everybody knows that Bill knew all the good eating spots and the small area eventually took up the whole store. Famous for their Hubcap Burger which is about as big as a small hubcap, we decided to pass on that and get the daily special which of course was southern fried chicken. The food was great but I don't think we would have stopped here if it wasn't for Bubba blazing the trail, I don't think Hillary ever went here with him.

Back to camp just before the cloud burst, according to the weather there are flash flood warnings out and we're camped between the Arkansas river (right on the bank) and the 12 foot tall flood wall that protects the city. Just saw that we got over 5 inches of rain so far today, buts its starting to let up. Prediction for tomorrow more rain.

We cut our stay here short by three days and cut out a 5 day stop next week so we can just shoot right through to the gulf when we leave here.

Got up this morning to post the blog and guess what, it's RAINING!!!!