Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Observations From the Road....

Next week marks the beginning of our 6th year on the road! Five years ago we had no idea what to expect as we left Spring Valley Wisconsin on our great adventure. Over the years we have been from Alaska to Mexico and California to Florida, discovering and exploring along the way.

Some things were as we had expected, others not so much…..

Our favorite state - Alaska. Not only the scenery, the fishing, the hunting, the hikes but the people. We met some great people up there who we hope to go up there and see again.
Daisy overlooking the Salmon Glacier in Alaska
Our favorite National Park - Zion. Again for the scenery and hikes, we have yet to find another park that tops Zion.
Zion Campground
Our favorite fishing spot - It’s a secret and we cannot tell you. Actually it is Onaman Lake in Ontario. The numbers and size of the walleyes in that lake are second to none. We have made several videos while fishing this lake. If you have not seen any you can click here to see this years.
Although salmon fishing in Alaska is a close second!
Kenai River Salmon!
Our favorite friends - Any friends with cold beer!
The Jordan's are buying!
Beer and friends, does it get any better?
What was not expected? The great people we met along the way. We knew we were going to meet people but did not expect to make lifelong friends. The thing about fulltime RV’ers is that they are always happy, I mean who wouldn’t be?
Good friends out for a beer at the Desert Bar in Parker, AZ
It does not matter what state or country you are from, it does not matter if you were a multimillionaire or dirt poor, your political and religious beliefs matter not……., everyone seems to get along. No judgements, no drama, no expectations, just have a good time. Only once have we had someone try to push their political views on us and the nice thing about being in an RV……it has wheels!

With each of our kids on opposite sides of the U.S. it has been a little more challenging to see them as much as we would like but being able to spend weeks with them at a time is a definite bonus! We still have hopes that they will one day live closer together so we can see them more often!

Forrest, Somer and Lily at Crater Lake NP
Jessica, Shane, Dylan and Kendall picking out their Christmas tree
The other unexpected thing is that we bought land. We had no intention or timeline but we fell in love with the Black Hills and just knew we wanted to call it home someday.

What’s in store for the next 5 years? We have absolutely no idea. We will undoubtedly travel less as we build the house but we also want to get back to Alaska, tour the far east of Canada including Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland and the upper east coast of the U.S. The past 5 years has just flown by and by all accounts the next 5 years will as well!

In the meantime we are enjoying our journey from Florida back to South Dakota. Our journey from Fort Myers to Junction Texas took 5 days with a 2 day layover in Gulf Shores. We had heard of the hurricane damage in northern Florida and the Alabama coast but you cannot really understand the damage and force of the hurricane until you see it first-hand. Mile after mile of downed trees, road signs and destroyed structures. For the most part the trees fell to the north, inland. Then a few miles down the road they fell to the south. You could follow the rotation of the storm as you went down I-10.

Arriving at Gulf Shores State Park we found our site and got tucked in. We had booked two nights here at a little over $100 with taxes and fees. Unfortunately it was either misting, raining, or foggy our entire time there but all was not lost. We managed to get out for a long walk on the boardwalk and took the dogs to the dog park.

But our real reason for the layover here was to see my old boss. We both left the company about the same time in 2013 and had not seen each other since. Brian and his wife Kaiva have a beautiful home in nearby Orange Beach. There are few things I miss from my working days but Brian is one of them. Brian picked us up at our rig and took us back to his place on Ono Island and then to dinner at Cobalt. Unfortunately Kaiva was out of town so she was not able to join us. After a great dinner (Thanks Brian!) he dropped us back off at our rig for some much needed rest before another long travel day.
Barb, Brian and I on the beach
 I say long as our plan was to drive from Gulf Shores to Winnie Texas; 8 hours, 460 miles. What makes it even longer is the ungodly excuse of an interstate that is I-10. There are sections through Louisiana that would rival some of the worst sections we encountered in Alaska!

The city park in Winnie allows RV’ers to stay for free (I think it was 3 days), no hook ups but a nice place to spend the night. The next day we traveled another 360 miles to Junction Texas. Junction also has a great city park that allows RV’ers to stay 3 days for free but we were staying at the Beer’s Ranch (or what Barb and I refer to as “Camp Cinchzasup”) about 30 minutes outside of town. This 100+ acre ranch is owned by the brother of one of the lifelong friends mentioned above Red and Pam. We had stayed here for a few days last year with Red and Pam, this year they were in Arizona but Red’s brother Greg was nice enough to let us stay with him for a few days.
Our spot at Camp Cinchzasup
Not only that, he let me hunt for Axis deer that are running wild on his property. Although a license is required, you can hunt Axis year round as they are considered an invasive species in the area. I saw a few Axis but no shooters.
Whitetail season was not open but I saw some nice deer!

Two Axis and a Whitetail
When I was not hunting (and Barb when I was hunting) we were helping Greg with various projects around the place. It was nice getting to know Greg better and had a great 3 days at his place.
Barb helped Greg build a bench like this while we were there
From there we drove 4 hours north to Slaton Texas where they too have a city park that allows RV’er to stay for 3 days for free. If you stop by this town the Slaton Bakery is a must stop!
Not bad for free!
Our original plan was to stay 2 days in Palo Duro Canyon State Park and head north arriving in South Dakota on March 1st but after looking at the revised weather forecast and talking to our friend Kevin we are delaying our arrival to March 5th when the lows are at least above 0. Even that will be sketchy but we can handle single digits, below 0, no thanks.

So we are going to lay up in Palo Duro Canyon State Park for 6 days and wait for the cold front up north to blow through, there are certainly worse places we could be laid up!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Visiting in Fort Myers!

This was our second trip to the Fort Myers area. Holy people batman! People and traffic everywhere! So why go there? We love my sister Judy and wanted to visit her! The beauty of this area is not lost on us. The sandy beaches, the waterways, the islands in the area. All very, very beautiful.

Beautiful Beaches and Sunsets!
Arriving on Valentine’s Day we found a heart shaped box of chocolates on our pillow! Besides seeing my sister the highlight of our visit was an airboat ride she treated us to down in Everglades City. She had been on one before and she knew it was just the kind of adventure we would enjoy and enjoy it we did!

We did the Mangrove tour which winds through the narrow mangrove tunnels that wind through the area.
Judy, Barb and I ready for our ride!

One of the many mangrove tunnels

This guy was looking for a handout!
This guy was looking for a racoon!
 It was a great ride and a first for us. Thanks Judy!

We also spent an afternoon at the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound track to see these magnificent animals race around the track. Of course we had to bet on the races, we did not make any money but Barb had the hot tickets and lost the least out of everyone.
Chasing "Sparky" (on the right)

Of course no visit to this area would be complete without a stop at a brewery! We stopped by Point Ybel Brewery. Oh great, another one of those words that starts with a “Y”! I suppose the readers are going to say it is pronounced "e-bel" but in this case I am going to stick with "pointy bell"!

Judy's friend Pam joined us on this adventure!
We hit a number of other bars and restaurants including Shuckers, Zushi Zushi, SOB's (Smokin Oyster Brewery), The Bubble Room on Captiva Island, City Seafood in Everglades City, Yucatan Bar & Grill and Rondaos Pizzeria.
Marvin, Barb and I along with Judy, Mike and Pam 

The Yucatan has swings for bar stools!

The Bubble Room on Captiva
We also got new tires for the rig while in the area. Well actually we had them shipped down from Ohio as we ordered them from Trailer Tires and Wheels. Our existing tires are 5 years old and about a year ago we noticed that our existing tires were wearing weird but when I looked at them this last time I did not want to drive them any further.

Thank goodness for fast shipping! Any ideas on what would make them wear this way? We have had people say it could be air pressure related, wheel bearings sticking, bad suspension or improper breaking. I know the bearings and suspension are good and have never locked up the brakes so we are thinking it is air pressure related as we were not very diligent with watching our air pressure early on in our travels.

We left Fort Myers exhausted and full. Our plans over the next two weeks are changing by the minute. Kevin has some free time and would like to start building his house in South Dakota on March 1st and we promised to be there to help him. So we are heading back a little earlier than we originally expected!

Our travel route over the next 10 days looks something like this.....
And the weather forecast in South Dakota looks something like this.....

Time to winterize the rig!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Crazy Days in Tampa!

Lithia Springs State Park
Leaving Yankeetown we had no idea where we were going. This was a first for us. I mean who leaves a campground without knowing their next destination? We knew where wanted to be; Lithia Springs State Park but it is a first come first serve park and was full. We had an ace in the hole though, actually two of them as we had two sets of friends (Bill and Kelly and David and Sharon) staying at the park that were looking for openings for us so we headed that way in the hopes something would open up.

In the meantime Barb was making phone calls trying to find a spot within the area. A couple hours later it became evident that we were out of luck and pulled into Sumter Oaks RV Park in Bushnell, paid our $13 for dry camping and got all set up. It was about then that we received a message from Kelly that someone had left and that she had snagged us a site! With that we packed up and were on the road again!

We arrived at Lithia Springs an hour later and were set up in our new spot. Thanks Kelly! The only downside is that Kelly is so young she had to pay the full rate of $24 for the night and not the reduced 55 and over rate of $18. We need to get older friends! That night we got together with Bill and Kelly and finally got to meet David and Sharon, fellow RV’ers who were working in the park. We had been following each other’s blogs for years and although we felt we had known each other the entire time we had yet to meet in person. They were just as cool as we imagined and we hit it off right away.
The next day Kelly had organized an RV Dreamers get together for anyone in the area. Over 20 couples attended including good friends Jim and Diana who had visited us in South Dakota last year. We also got to finally meet Gene and Eileen and several other great couples. Once again, thanks Kelly!

Barb, Diana, Jim and Kelly
Monday was another big day for us as we were headed up to Tampa to visit Dino and Lisa who were working at the state fair!  Arriving, we parked the truck, paid the 55 and older entry fee of $9 and went in search of Dino and Lisa’s rig among all the other carnie rigs. We knew we were in the right spot when we found this! 
Found their rig!
 Dino had to work but we were able to walk the fair with Lisa then we went back to their rig and I drank all Dino’s beer while waiting for him to get off work.

Tarpon Springs
Tuesday Dino and Lisa had the day off so they drove down and took us to Tarpon Springs. This area is known for its sponges and Greek culture. Very interesting town, a bit touristy but interesting nonetheless.
Sponges fresh off the boat!

 We had lunch at Hella’s. Gyros of course, they were delicious! We also stopped by one of the many tourist shops and bought a sponge.

 Exhausted from our busy day we headed back to our place for a night of burgers and beer.
The girls with their Dark & Stormy's

Dino with his happy face!

Any guesses where Dino was sitting?
 A Day in Ybor City!
The next day we were off to Ybor City! Barb and I think we are the only ones pronouncing it correctly as “why-bor”, while everyone else pronounced it as “e-bor”. I mean it has a Y not an E at the beginning so why would you even think it is pronounced “e-bor”? We met Dino and Lisa at the Ikea parking lot and jumped in with them for a tour. Although it was cool and rainy we made the most of the day. This town is known for its Cuban culture.  First stop was Cuba. Did you know that a piece of the U.S. was deeded over to Cuba in 1956?
We are in Cuba!
Just a couple blocks down the road is La Segunda Central Bakery famous throughout the city for having the best baked goods. It was very crowded but worth the wait as each of us  got a pastry for the next day.
Grandma and Grandpa trying to read the map
Then it was on to lunch at the Columbia restaurant. On the way there we passed what seemed like dozens of cigar shops. Ybor is also known as Cigar City and now we know why!
Cigar making station
These guys were fast making a cigar every minute or so!
Living life on the edge Barb and I had the 1905 salad and a Cuban sandwich.  The restaurant was very busy, the atmosphere and food was excellent.
Two cool things about the city is that they have chickens loose throughout the city and a streetcar system that connect Ybor to Tampa and as a bonus it was free the month of February! 

 We rode the streetcar to the end of the line in Tampa and walked the Riverwalk. Certainly not as nice as San Antonio Riverwalk but still nice. 

Riding the streetcar back into Ybor we made our way to The Tampa Bay Rum Company where we had a tour and a tasting of several varieties of their rum.

Returning to Ikea to retreive our truck, what do we see across the street? A brewery! Taking it as a sign from above we knew we had better stop in for a flight!

If that was not enough, we ended the day with a fire and BBQ back at our place and this time we were joined by David and Sharon. It was great to sit down with them in this small setting and get to know them better. Hopefully we will run into each other more in the future!

That brings us to the end of a very busy few days in the area. Next up is Fort Myers where we will be visiting my sister which promises be as equally as busy!