August - October Blog Entries
The adventure begins
Hurricane Charley hit the Florida gulf coast on Friday the 13th of August. Charley was supposed to hit Tampa dead on, but turned at the last towards Port Charlotte. We spent most of Friday morning getting ready for the hurricane. We drained the pool down to the skimmers, we brought in plants, outdoor furniture, boarded windows, went for food, etc. We even parked the car across the garage so that the winds wouldnít rip the door and blow through ripping the roof off. We spent Saturday getting all the stuff put back outside like normal.
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8/18/04 - 8/27/04
The House is Sold!
We had a real estate agent over about selling our house and what we would need to have done preparing to sell it. She was a great agent, and she knew the community very well. She told us we didnít need to do anything to the house, not even painting the bedrooms which we had planned to do.
After she left we discussed when we would like to go ahead and sell and decided to list with her exclusively for 2 weeks. She was the only real estate agent showing our house to her clients. We signed with her on approximately the 5th of August. On August 18 it was listed on the MLS which we didnít know ahead of time but figured it out when all of a sudden we had about 7 appointments to show the house that day. Thursday was the same way. But there was a family who saw the house and made an offer for more than we were asking but they needed us to move out before the end of the month. That night when we sat down with the offers we had 3 offers to consider and decided to take the highest offer and move out as quickly as we could. We were out in 11 days.
But let me tell you about that moving out, it was an adventure in itself. We had lots of furniture to get rid of that Nicole and Tina (our daughters) said they wanted. We had a large antique china hutch, dining room table and chairs and an antique sideboard or buffet also a service for 12 of china in the hutch. This was all from Macís mom and we all wanted to keep it in the family. Mac checked into having movers come and move the stuff up to Tina in Illinois and it was around $1.50 a pound to ship the stuff. He also checked into renting a U-Haul truck one-way and the cost of the U-Haul, her one-way airfare down here, gas to drive back to Illinois and even staying overnight in a hotel was cheaper and she could take more stuff in the U-Haul. So, we reserved a U-Haul truck for Friday the 27th of August.
Adventures with U-Haul
Well you guessed it, the U-Haul didnít arrive. Because of the relief effort for Hurricane Charley the truck we reserved never got here. We rented a smaller truck for local moving stuff to Nicoleís and to storage. We had the help of 2 strong young men for the day. We moved all the ďlocalĒ stuff and went to return the local truck and the big truck still had not arrived. We talked it over and decided to not depend on the U-Haul truck showing up in time and we started moving everything to the storage. We rented 3 different storage units to move stuff into. We had the use of another local U-Haul truck until that evening and we were moving the big stuff as fast as possible into the units before the storage closed for the night. Then we had a U-Haul pick-up truck, which we had to turn back in Sunday morning by 9:00. We also were under the time restraint of the storage building closes and locks down at about 8:00 at night on Saturday. We were loading the pick-up with stuff and taking it down to the Goodwill truck and putting it under their truck to donate it. We still unfortunately wound up throwing away a lot of good stuff because of the time constraints.
Sharing a Garage
The new owners also were under the gun moving out of their house. They called Mac and asked if it was possible if they could put stuff into the garage on Saturday night. We still werenít done moving out but we totally understood. They had a U-Haul truck that they also had to return by Sunday morning. All the carpets in the house had been cleaned and were still wet and we were working out of the kitchen and the garage, which is where we had moved everything to when the carpet cleaners came. So we said yes and we moved all of our stuff over to one side in the garage and they moved their stuff into the other side of the garage.
Sunday morning we got up and moved all the last bits out and made sure the bathroom was clean and the kitchen was swept and mopped. We wound up leaving stuff but it couldnít be helped. Tina then took a flight back to Illinois on Sunday afternoon. If she hadnít been here to help I donít know how we would have gotten it done. There was just way too much stuff and not enough time to go through it all in such a short amount of time and work a regular job, but we got it done.
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Friday 8-27-04 through Saturday, 9-3-04
Free at Last!
We rented a room at an extended stay motel starting on Friday the 27th knowing that the beds would all be gone and we would need a place to sleep. We stayed there until Saturday the 4th of September.
Getting the RV
When our house sold so quickly we needed to find a RV and find it quick; one that we could live with for a few years at least. We had been looking for quite some time so we already had a very good idea of what we wanted. We bought a 1996 Southwind 37 and Ĺ footer. We got it on ebay.
Mac had called the seller and asked all the questions that he needed to ask before we bid on it. So after winning the auction, and moving, and closing on the house, Mac flew to Maryland to pick up our new home on the 1st of September. We already knew that Hurricane Frances was brewing out there but really had no idea if it was actually coming this way. Mac came back as quickly as possible and arrived back late Thursday night. Hurricane Frances was going to cover all of Florida and I would not get back to work on Tuesday if we moved out and went away to Biloxi. One of the predictions for its path would take it over the panhandle late Monday evening and we wouldnít get back to Tampa in a timely manner. (It sucks having a regular job that keeps you tied down to one location).
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Buying an RV on EBay
I know we're leaving out details of the EBay purchase, but you can read about that in an article soon to be published in our Technical Issues and Projects pages.
Hey, You're Going the Wrong Way
That's what it seemed everyone was thinking about me as I drove South on I-95. I had picked up the RV in Maryland on Wednesday, September 1st, and my first day was slow going, and a little nerve-wracking. Although I've driven dump trucks, U-Haul trucks, motor homes, and trucks with trailers, It's been a few years since I'd driven anything this large. Consider the fact that my first trip was in DC Metro area traffic and you get the picture.
That first afternoon I just drove down through Virginia, and stopped in North Carolina, driving about 55mph on the highway. I stayed the night at a truck stop, and started back out the next day. Still taking it slow, but going about 60 now I stopped frequently to rest. It had been a tiring few weeks leading up to this, and driving the RV isn't like driving a car, you have to "drive" it constantly, you can't just sit there and hold the wheel straight! I talked with Chris about what to do. We still weren't certain what to do about hurricane Frances; whether to stay in Tampa, run North for safety, or avoid the path by moving South of Tampa as the hurricane went North of us. On Friday we decided to stay in Tampa, and here's where Chris picks the story back up...
At that time there was still no danger for the Tampa area. Mac came down and on Friday he went to the storage and loaded lots of boxes into the RV that we would need. He found us a park to stay at since we couldn't get into MacDill AFB, they had told all RVs to evacuate because their park sits right on the water. We moved more boxes from the extended stay room into the RV on Friday evening and stayed in the hotel room and finished moving out of it on Saturday. Still at this time there was no problem announced for mobile homes, RVs, etc. in Hillsborough county. We were a little nervous about the park because it is very close to the water and low lying.
We went shopping at Wal-Mart Saturday afternoon and on the way back to the RV we heard the mandatory evacuation for our area of the county. Now what were we to do? We thought about going south but decided not to. The track of the hurricane was still not definite and it could still turn. Also there was a lot of damage down to the south from Hurricane Charley and we would have to drive a long way to find a place we felt safe from flying debris. We decided to go to the hospital where I work and park in the back on the South side (to protect us from the North winds).
So we went there and parked the RV on Saturday late afternoon. We started putting stuff away and took a nap because we were just tired from all the running around that weíve been doing. I wanted some more clothes hangers, so we ran over to Wal-Mart and got there about 9:45 and they told us they were closing at 10:00. So we went in and looked quickly, they didnít have the hangers that I wanted at this Wal-Mart but we did buy a small rug to put down at the entrance of the RV; need to keep down that dirt.
We drove around to my favorite gas station to get a fountain drink and load up on snack food. They were also going to close at 11:00 that night and wouldnít open again till itís all over; probably Monday. We came back and watched a little news and then went to bed. It was a little breezy but not too bad (yet).
Sunday we got up and watched the weather forecast and sure enough now Tampa is going to get some of the storm. We stayed in the RV and later when the storm was at its worst we went into the hospital to keep safe. It really isnít too bad in the RV, it does wobble a little with the gusts and feels a little scary but we felt pretty safe in it. We also had lunch in the hospital. Several employees have spent the night or are planning on spending the night. I donít even want to think about Hurricane Ivan which is brewing out there and MIGHT be a problem for Florida next week-end.
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What a way to spend a holiday weekendÖhiding from a hurricane.
Back to work on Tuesday September 7. Mac left this morning from the hospital and finally settled at Wal-mart for the evening when I got off work. We are tired from all the stress of the weekend so itís an early night for us.
Any home, brand new or used, has itís own unique problems. We had bought a brand new mobile home back in the 80ís and the hot water heater leaked all over the floor while we were away getting a load of items to move in. So you can expect some problems with a used home also, especially one that has only been used occasionally on the week-ends, which our ďnewĒ used RV was.
One item that I noticed and had a problem with right off the bat was the hot water heater wasnít working. Mac had no problem taking cold showers (must be a guy thing LOL). I canít take a cold shower. I can do cold sponge baths but not showers. So, during our first few days of having the RV and hiding from a hurricane I had no hot water. I finally took a nice warm shower at the hospital where I work Tuesday morning before going back to work. We didnít get hot water for several days. It wasnít high on the priority list of items needing repaired, maintenance required, etc.
Wednesday, 9-8-04 thru Tuesday, 9-30-04
We got to stay at the campground on MacDill AFB on Sep. 8. Finally, a place to stay! We enjoyed a few days of not moving around. But as luck would have it another hurricane is on the way. Friday evening the security police came around with a mandatory immediate evacuation from the base campground. Where to go on a Friday night after 7:00? Why, Wal-Mart of course.
So back up to Wal-Mart we go. We spend Friday night at Wal-Mart. On Saturday I decide to go to work just in case we have to leave Florida running from Hurricane Ivan. On Saturday night we again spend the night at Wal-Mart. We are not going to spend money again on a campground and be told to evacuate because itís low lying. Mac checks around and gets us into a campground over near Sun City Center.
We leave the car at my work and I get to take off on Monday because I had worked on Saturday. This is my first trip in the RV. Mac has been to several places getting things done on the RV but I havenít got to ride in it till now. Wow! Is this totally different than a car, pickup or van. It is BIG! We still donít have hot water so I get to take a hot shower at the shower house at the camp. Fortunately for Tampa Hurricane Ivan bypasses us and on Tuesday Mac drives me back to work in the RV.
We get to go back to MacDill AFB campground Tuesday night. Again we get to stay in one place and have hook ups. What is thisÖ.a week-end without running from a hurricane? Yes, we get to stay in place over a week-end, but not for long. Yes, you guessed it, another hurricane is coming.
During all this time we are trying to get things done on the RV. We have a hitch ordered to tow the car. Mac has been taking the RV to various places to get needed work done. Iím still working till the 1st of October, and we have to run from hurricanes!
Hurricane Jeanne is now bearing down on Florida and is predicted to come across the state somewhere. Again we have mandatory evacuation from the base campground. Where to go, where is the hurricane going to come across, how strong will it be, are we in danger here in Tampa? I go to work to check out the spot we had rode out hurricane Frances. There is a vehicle parked there and we canít stay there for this hurricane. The company who owns it said they wouldnít pick it up until Tuesday. I worked some just in case we had to leave again.
I meet Mac at Loweís and we discuss what we are going to do. We decide to stay in Tampa and ďride it outĒ. We decide we might be able to hide behind a Wal-Mart after they close for the storm. We need a location that we can hide behind and our RV would be on the south side of the building, because the winds will be mostly from the North. It needs to be high enough also so there isnít any danger from flooding.
We head out for a Wal-Mart that is perfect for this. On the way we each try to find gas to fill up. Thereís been such a rush for gas from the different storms that there has been a shortage of gas. The officials keep saying there is no shortage but it is very hard to find any gas pumps that arenít empty. We finally find some gas and fill up. We go to Wal-Mart and park in the parking lot to wait till they close down. They finally close around somewhere between 10-12 at night in preparation for the storm. After the parking lot clears out we drive around to the back of the store and pull up right next to the building. Whatís this? There are still people working! We feel the need to hide in the RV, watching the employeeís bringing in all the stuff that would be dangerous in high winds, pallets, etc. After they get it all in and no more activity outside we finally feel that we can go to bed in peace.
This was a great place to ride out the storm. We donít feel anything with the building blocking us. We can see by the trees that the wind is blowing hard but we donít feel any of it. This is an even better location than riding it out at my work behind the hospital. Wal-Martís building is much larger and blocks all the wind from hitting us. We spend the day checking the news, working on various computer tasks and ride out the storm. After the storm turns and the winds start coming from the west the front of the RV is facing that direction, so there is no scary feel to the gusts of wind. Later that night after the storm has passed we move back out to the main parking lot. Then of course itís back to work the next day, which is Monday the 27th of September.
Last week of work! Yea! October the first is my last day and our ďrealĒ adventure can begin.
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Work is now over (not)! Iím going to be working with Mac in his business. I just donít have to rush around and drive to work now and work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Mac has his own business, he is a recruiter and owns Best Fit Recruiting. I will be helping him in administrative areas, doing internet searches, updating databases, etc.
Mac wanted to leave immediately on Saturday October 2nd so that I donít have to start working immediately and can take a break. What a guy! I donít mind working right away since it will be totally different than what Iíve done before. Weíve planned to go to Mississippi to see my parents as a ďshakedownĒ trip. We leave out for Mississippi on Wednesday October the 6th.
Wednesday, 10-6-04 thru Tuesday, 10-12-04
We decide to go up the Suncoast Parkway and then up Highway 19 and then Highway 27 to Tallahassee and spend the night. We spend the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Itís tilted quite a bit and I feel like Lucille Ball in the movie The Long Trailer. Iím cracking up at myself trying to walk around at an angle. When we go to bed I warn Mac that I might roll right over him because of the slant. We had a good chuckle about it. Morning comes, first thing that we discover that we want for our journeys is a coffee pot for the stove. It feels terrible to have to crank up the generator to use the electric drip coffee pot. We work just a little and head out again. We reach 5 Star Resort in Pass Christian Mississippi Thursday evening. Weather is great the first day, donít need to use any air conditioning. Then it went down hill. We left Florida and came to Mississippi and what's there for the weekend? You guessed it, another named storm. This one is Tropical storm Matthew. Lots and lots of rain for the weekend. There was an antique car show there for the weekend. Itís an annual event called ďCruisiní the CoastĒ. We saw lots of neat looking cars driving around that weekend. Wish the weather could have been better for them though.
We went to Treasure Bay Casino on Friday. We love their buffet! They have great, tasty sugar free desserts. Why do most restaurants not have tasty sugar free desserts? We had a good time playing there at Treasure Bay Casino.
On Saturday, my mother and I went shopping at the various thrift stores that she doesnít get to go to very often. We decided to go to the Copa Casino for lunch. It took a long time to drive there down the beach on Highway 90. There were several accidents, either from the rain, or people gawking at the antique cars driving up and down the beach. We finally got to the Copa Casino and had lunch. You canít go to a casino without playing, so of course we played for a while. We had a great time playing video poker. I am up for the trip so far. I want to hit a royal flush! We went back to 5 Star Resort.
Sunday morning we are so tired of rain, being stuck inside and Mac and I decide to go for a drive. We wind up driving down the beach towards Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis. The highway has so much sand blown up onto it that it reminds us of snow. We decided to check out Casino Magic and see if we want to make it ďourĒ casino. When we go to the Copa or Treasure Bay we play on my parents cards. We donít want to go back to Beau Rivage or the Imperial Palace which were our casinos.
Guess I'll jump in and explain why we don't want to go back to the Beau or the IP. One big reason is that neither of them have an RV park. That by itself wouldn't keep us away, but there's more. We've only stayed at the Beau Rivage once in the past 2 years. Four or five years ago it was the only place we stayed, but we were on the lower end of their comp structure, just barely qualifying for a room, a few buffets, and $50 or $100 free play mailing. Over the years their comp standards have gone up faster than our bankroll, so we started looking for a casino that would value our level of play. We found the Imperial Palace Biloxi. The hotel isn't the best, food is just fair, video poker is fair too, but they would give us full RFB (Room, Food and Beverage -- a totally free stay). That's all good, but the negatives are; too far from Chris' parents in Pass Christian, and the restaurants are only so-so.
We need a new casino where we will be playing at for our own comps. We like the Grand in Gulfport, but it is always real busy in there. They have a very good buffet, no great sugar free desserts though. So, we went to Casino Magic and got players cards. They have a great offer for new players. As you earn points on your card you are eligible for several nice comps. We got a free night in their RV park and also earned free buffets and free one hour massages!
We moved into their RV park. It's very nice. The spaces are easy to back into and have cement pads to park on. Each site has a BBQ grill and picnic table. There are lots of trees around and itís very peaceful and we really liked it. There is a shuttle that comes around the park about every 5 minutes.
We went to dinner at the casino and had the buffet and went to play. We didnít care that much for the buffet. We played in the casino for a while. I was having a good time playing. Mac went back to the RV on the shuttle and I wound up staying at the casino playing until 5:30 in the morning! I couldnít believe it was so late, or is it early? Mac let me sleep till about 8:30 that morning. As Iíve said before, What a guy! We went back to the casino and had the breakfast buffet. We then went to the spa to set up appointments for our massages.
The appointments for that day for massages was quite full. They said that usually on Monday it wasnít that busy but there were several conventions staying at the casino right then. We decided to split one hour and each of us just get our back massaged since there were not enough appointments for each of us to get a full hour. Our appointment was for 5 in the afternoon. We decided to try and stay at the RV park another night and maybe get some meals comped. We got another night at the RV park comped and a $50 meal comp for their restaurant, instead of the buffet. We had a great time that evening getting a massage a fine meal and then on to the video poker machines. We managed to win enough that night so that we broke even for the whole gambling trip and didnít lose any money. We went to bed at a reasonable time since I was beat from the night before.
I don't think Chris has mentioned that Jack, her father, is the camp host at 5 Star and has been there for about 10 years. Here's a photo of our coach parked next to them. Chris' parents have been fulltimers since 1985, and they traveled the whole country for many years before starting to settle down in the south, and finally landed at 5 Star to stay. We've learned a lot from them, and it's helped us in planning for our own adventures.
On Tuesday, we went back to 5 Star and spent the night. Went to the Laundromat and did the washing. Worked some and visited with my parents. We left Wednesday late in the day and headed back towards Tampa. We were expecting a shipment with the roofing that Mac talks about in the technical section. We spent Wednesday night in Pensacola Florida at a Wal-Mart. Internet connection was very good.
Thursday we headed out and took our time driving back. We stopped for 3-4 hours in a rest area so that we could get some work done. We spent Thursday night at the Mariana exit Highway 71. Thereís a Wal-Mart there right next to a truck stop. It was really nice, easy access into the Wal-Mart and back to the interstate.
Friday we continued on stopping several times. We spent the night in Perry Florida at another Wal-Mart. No internet access there. Mac covers this in the technical section about using an air card and the carrier coverage in the area that you might be in. We decided that the air card is too slow for our needs with having a business on the road and we really need something better.
On Saturday we got back to MacDill AFB campground. We now had a list of items that we need to buy and get done to the RV so that we can boondock comfortably.
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OK, here it is October 25, 2004 and Iím just starting to transfer this blog to the web. Weíve been fulltiming since September 1st and we've been keeping some notes so we don't forget things.
What prompted me to start today you ask? I just read (or tried to read) someoneís blog on one of those blog sites and it was impossible to read it chronologically! I started at ďThe BeginningĒ and the next thing I know Iím lost in the future and can't find my way back. What a disorganized mess (trust me, it was worse than ours!).
Want to see a GREAT blog? Iíve been a follower of the Tioga & George team ever since the first months of their adventure. Now thereís a blog you can read!
So, here we go. I'll fill in earlier dates as soon as possible. Going forward I don't expect that we'll have an entry every day. Most likely we'll average an entry every 3 to 7 days.
I again had a hard time sleeping last night. Went to bed at 9:30, woke up at 11:30, stayed up until 2:30, then Chris wakes me up at 6:30AM! Iím just too excited about each day to sleep! 55 Days as full-timers and it keeps getting better!
This morning Chris worked on business stuff, and I did too. I wonít describe the business activity in detail. Wouldnít want to bore folks. If you want to know more about our business click on one of the links to Best Fit Recruiting at the top of the main pages.
Afternoon, Chris was a little bored and said letís take a walk on the beach. We did, and recharged our batteries. Lots of birds to watch, egrets, sand pipers, gulls, etc., sea life like jellyfish, mullet, ocean snails, and so on. Nice warm sun and a nice breeze. Dinner was light; cheese, grapes, apples, crackers, and a little wine (for me, Chris doesn't drink the stuff).
Rubber Roof Project. Click here
Solar System Planning Click here
Testing out our Washer / Dryer Click Here
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And so October ends... Click here to continue with November