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December 2004 Blog

Wednesday, Dec 1

Mac installs the new Sun Blocker and we are quite pleased with it.  Now with our flamingo lights, shading, picnic table, chairs, etc. itís starting to feel like a patio area.  Now if the mosquitoes would just stay away so that we could enjoy it without having to use the DEET.   


Sun-Blocker photo taken in January 05



December 2 Ė 4

I decided to stop using the nicotine patches and quit smoking cold turkey.  So for these 3 days Iím not doing much, trying to stay out of sight and not be too grumpy. 


Sunday Dec 5


WOW  We found a great bargain on window awnings!  Camping World is usually known for having a very good selection, but some of the highest prices around.  However, you can sometimes find a bargain there, and we did!  They have a big stack of window awnings outside the front door marked "CLEARANCE, 1/2 Price, free hardware with awning purchase."  We bought two 54 inch awnings in "burgundy fade" color which we believed would match our existing large awning.  They would have been $225 each, $450 for the set, but we got them for $98 each, $196 for the pair!  Brought them home, installed them over  the bedroom windows, and they look GREAT. 


Also a fringe benefit.  The awning arms attach to the side of the motorhome with pop rivets which are supplied.  Well, I didn't have a pop rivet gun, so you guys know what that means! :-)  Yes, I had an excuse to buy a NEW TOOL!  Nice little pop rivet gun at Home Depot was $16.95.  Worked great.


Monday, Dec 6

The 2 awnings that we got and Mac installed look great.  We decide to get another one for the front window over the couch.  So back to Camping World we go.  (That will be $294 paid for $575 worth of awnings! -Mac)


In these 2 photos you can see the three awnings we installed.  Don't they match our large awning very nicely!?  Photos taken in January 05 at Sigsbee NAS RV park


Tuesday, Dec 7

Itís been a whole week now that Iíve quit smoking.  There are times that it is very hard and other times when it doesnít enter my head.  I think the going cold turkey worked very good for me this time.  Using the patch I still was fighting the nicotine withdrawals every time that I stepped down in patch size.  It takes several months of fighting the urges before you can even feel that you have actually quit smoking.  I just have a few hard times when I really would like a cigarette every day.  The mental battle gets easier every day.  Yea me!

Thursday, Dec 9

Worked until about 11:00 AM, then took a walk on the beach.  Chris enjoys walking in the water's edge. See pic below:


Went back and had lunch.  Then put in another couple of hours at our "day job" before taking a nature walk around some small lakes (or big ponds) on the base.  Saw a few storks, and a spoonbill -- one of our favorite birds!  A spoonbill is pink, like a flamingo, but has a long, flat, spoon-shaped bill.  Very pretty, but too far away to take a good picture.  However, we did see some beautiful water flowers.  Does anyone know what these are called?

Monday, Dec 13

Late in the afternoon, about sunset, I saw another cruise ship leaving port, and this time I had my camera with me.  Some day I'll talk Chris into taking a cruise.  She and I seem to have curiously reversed roles at times.  Isn't it normally the wife that can't get her husband to take a cruise!

Also got another great photo of sunset over St. Pete!


Thursday, Dec 16

A few weeks ago we blew a seal on one of our hydraulic leveling jacks.  I do a lot of our maintenance and repair, but I've never rebuilt a large hydraulic cylinder, and didn't want to start now. 

We located a small shop in Lakeland, FL that would do the job.  Really nice folks there at Crystal Lake RV.  Dave and Jim run the place.  If you go there tell them I sent you.  They won't remember me at first, but tell Dave that I sent you to buy a very large rooster, then he'll know who I am.

These guys are very good at what they do, and they have a good time all day joking with each other and with customers.  Expect to get your leg pulled!  They work on anything that's part of the coach or added by the coach builder.  They don't work on chassis items (engine, brakes, etc) but will recommend someone local.  You can usually get in to see them with a week notice, maybe sooner if it's an emergency.

We finish up with the hydraulic repair in Lakeland and go to Wauchula FL to the SKP Park.  Itís very nice.  We decided to have a full hook up instead of dry camping since there were plenty of spaces available.  Weíll be dry camping soon enough when we get to Key West.  We ran down to Wal-Mart to pick up some milk, etc.  While we were shopping I was surprised to see so much Mexican food.  In Tampa we would see food stuff for Cuban and Puerto Rican meals but not Mexican.  There are also several businesses around that cater to the Mexican population.  I havenít seen this much authentic Mexican foods since I lived in New Mexico.

Our campsite at the SKP park in Zolfo Springs (Wauchula) Florida.  See broken trees in the background, damage from Hurricanes this year.

Friday Dec 17

We drive around Wauchula looking at the sights.  Itís still recovering from the hurricanes around here.  Some buildings are still very damaged and others are repaired and opened for business.  There was a laundromat that the roof was completely ripped off of and you could see the tables and chairs inside.  Down the road a ways there is a car wash, and the last stall of the car wash has been converted into a laundromat.  One side has about eight dryers and the other side has several washers. 

We went to Highlands Hammock State Park.  We wanted to check out the cost of RV sites in the state parks, the yearly fees, etc.  We donít think weíll be staying in the state parks.  Theyíre a little pricey to us, over $19 a night!  So, we will probably just pay the $4 daily fee whenever we want to go to one of the state parks.  While at the Highlands Hammock SP we went in and toured the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) Museum.  It was quite interesting to see.  My dad was in the CCC as a young man, before WWII started when he then joined the Navy Seabees.  The CCC did lots of work around the US improving roads, building bridges, etc. 

Saturday Dec 18

I don't think we've mentioned our Mascot yet.  Check her out in this pic:


If you can't read it, the last line on her sign says "Florida Bound!".  This was a Christmas present to Chris from our youngest daughter Nikki.  When we lived in the frigid lands of the north (LOL) Chris often talked about moving to Florida.  We moved in 2000, and a couple years later Nikki found this Boyd's figurine in a hallmark shop.  It's one of Chris' all-time favorite gifts.  It sat on the mantle in our last house.  A few weeks ago we put Velcro tabs under it and affixed it prominently to the center of our RV dashboard.

Chris is still "Smoke Free"!

Yes, it's been almost 3 weeks now and Chris is still smoke free.  She's really doing great.  It's been a fight, but she says it's getting a little easier.

Now for a serious topic...

Chris and I had a serious discussion the other day.  Most of you have heard about funeral pre-planning.  Well, we decided it wasn't fair to leave some tasks for our kids to accomplish after our demise.  So, we've pre-purchased our own headstone, engraved with an epitaph of our choosing.  This way our kids won't have to come up with anything to say about us during their time of bereavement.   Scroll down the page for a look.  What do you think?










Sunday, Dec 19

We decide to go to Lake Placid today and look around.  We saw a sign at the SKP park office that said Lake Placid has over 20 murals painted on sides of buildings.  We drove over there and had lunch at Woodyís BBQ.  Great place to eat, the prices were quite reasonable and the BBQ tasted very good to us.  It was funny though that we said we were NOT going to eat at any ďchainĒ restaurant and it turns out that Woodyís is a chain. 

We drove around down town Lake Placid and would park and get out and look at the murals on some of the buildings.  Then get back in the car and drive down to some more.  We had a great time!  Each mural had a different theme, several even had sound with them.  There was one on the side of the Winn Dixie grocery store that was about cattle, cowboys, and the trail drives, etc. it had sound of cows mooing.  There were even ďthemedĒ trash cans.  Itís a very artistic and creative area.  Not much was open downtown since today is Sunday.  We would like to come back here and see the museum and all the other sites to see someday.

The town of Lake Placid is known as the Caladium Capital of the country.  Not sure why that is, but we'll explore that aspect of its history the next time we visit -- maybe in the spring when the caladium's are blooming.  Chris LOVES caladiums!  And I like them too.

Lake Placid was originally named Lake Stearns, but it's name was changed because it was the winter residence of the Lake Placid Club of New York.  It's located right in the middle of the citrus industry.  We drove past mile after mile of orange trees!  You can see this history in some of the murals.  I've included a slideshow of photos.  There are 9 photos in all.  As you click each one it displays in the gallery below along with a description.


First of 3 pics of a very long mural depicting local settlement and the start of citrus industry

Thursday, Dec 23:

Mac has done a lot of research and decided on the batteries that we will need for boon docking.  We go to Tampa to get them because they are $85 cheaper each there than where we are.  We are getting 4 so that is a lot of money to save on them.  While there I get to go to my favorite thrift stores.  Mac will probably have details in the technical section regarding his choice of batteries. 

We finally solved the coffee making problem for while we are boon docking.  We went to several hardware stores looking around for ideas on what we could use.  At the thrift store I found a glass coffee pot with a detachable basket on top of it for making drip coffee.  I also found an insulated carafe that was in great condition.  Now for coffee we use the percolator to boil water in, pour the water through the basket into the glass coffee pot.  Then the coffee is poured into the insulated carafe to stay warm.  Now we have great drip coffee while boon docking! 

 December 24:

We left Wauchula, FL and drove over to Tampa to spend Christmas with family there.  We stopped in Bartow for lunch at the Bartow Family Restaurant located on the corner of Hwy 17 and Main Street, also known as Business Hwy 60.  The food was really good and the prices are great!  I had the special of 2 stuffed pork chops which came with 2 sides and bread for only $6.95.  Mac had the special of Beef Tips with 2 sides and bread also for only $6.95.  I couldnít eat all my food so Mac helped me.  Our waiter was recently from Brooklyn NY and told us that the restaurant was under new management, recently opened about 10 weeks and had been closed for about 2 years.  The food was quite tasty and we hope to go there again when we are in the area.  We drive on to Tampa and arrive after dark as planned.  We boon dock in a parking lot near Macs motherís apartment for the next 2 nights. 

December 25:

We spend Christmas with family and it was great.  We hope all of you had a very merry Christmas.



December 26:

We had planned on leaving to go to Key West on this date but we are staying in the Tampa area so that Mac can help his mom find a new car.  She had wrecked her car and the insurance company declared it a total loss, so now she needs a new car.  Mac did some looking on the internet and found a car in Clearwater that they are going to look at today. 

We drove to an Encore Park East of Tampa to stay.  Itís a nice park but a bit pricey to us at $36 per night.   But we need a place to park and all the other parks we checked are full. 

December 29:

We leave Tampa today.  Macís mom had decided on a car to buy and all paperwork, etc. has been taken care of.  We are now free of family duties and we are heading to Key West. 

We stop at the Flying J Truck Stop north of Tampa on I-4 to get the propane tank filled up.  It was so busy there, we were 3rd in line for propane and it was taking so long, and we wanted to get going and we had between 1/2 and  3/4 tank of gas, so we got propane, but didnít get in line for gasoline.  Hereís a tip from Chris: Get gas when you can, donít wait till you need it.  We drove on down I-75 and stop at the Punta Gorda exit for lunch.  This is where Hurricane Charley in August went through.  Some businessí are open and others are still closed.  We saw the FEMA trailers from the interstate.  There is still much to be done in the area.  The gas station there is not a good fit for our RV to get gas so we continue on down the road. 

We love to get off the main road and decide to go on Hwy 41 across Florida instead of staying on I-75.  The Everglades is an interesting area.  We saw so much wildlife on our drive across.  We stopped at a gas station but couldnít reach the tank from the pumps and then we couldnít get out of there going forward.  So, we had to unhook the car.  Mac told me to drive down the road to find a gas station and heíd bring the RV down the road behind me.  Several miles down the road I found a gas station and we hooked back up.  We only bought about $20 worth of gas because the prices were very high (about $2.50/gallon for regular).  Remember my tip, get gas when you can. 

We decide to spend the night in the Everglades at Monument Lake.  Itís a dry camp around a lake named Monument Lake.  There were a few alligators in the lake.  That was too cool seeing the alligator laying on the rock sunning itself.  We walk around the lake and enjoy the sun setting.  The Everglades are definitely an area we want to return to and explore further.

Photo Gallery of our Everglades Campsite

Slide Show of five photos


Chris sees a gator in the wild!


December 30:

We get up and head out early.  We continue through the Everglades on US-41 and then get on FL-997 heading south.  We finally found a gas station that we can get into and the hose from the pump reaches our RV at a Tom Thumb north of Homestead.  We fill up with gas.  I donít think weíll let that happen again now.  I definitely have learned my lesson.  I donít enjoy the nagging worry about getting gas, it detracts from the enjoyment of the trip.  We can go a long ways on a tank of gas so we might as well fill it up when convenient. 

Homestead still has not fully recovered from Hurricane Andrew that went through there many years ago.  There are several farms that we see in the area.  Some are for various trees, some are tomatoes, some strawberries, etc.  It was very interesting to see the different fields of crops growing. 

We finally hit the Keys and the water is beautiful.  I have never seen water such a beautiful aquamarine color before.  All the way down to Key West we admire the color of the water.  Driving over the bridges you can see the bottom thatís how clear the water is.  Itís just too pretty here. 

Isn't the water beautiful?  Pardon the utility poles, I was too busy looking to take many photos and this is the only one that shows the water color that Chris is talking about  -Mac

We get to Key West and go to Sigsbee Naval Air Station.  We are now here at the RV Park dry camping.  Itís weird to see the water on the north.  We are facing the east which also has water but we canít see it because of trees.  Through our windows we can see the water.  There is a very nice breeze here too.  I thought it would start getting too hot in the RV with the temps in the 80ís but the breeze is so nice from the water that it is very enjoyable in the RV.  There is no ďbeachĒ here.  The shoreline is covered in rocks of coral, I donít know if itís natural or manmade.  We quickly run over to the commissary before it closes since it will be closed tomorrow for a long holiday weekend.  We get everything set up and explore the area a little.

Our first site at Sigsbee.  We can see the ocean!  Look above the car and beyond the palm trees :-)


View from our "back yard" at Sigsbee.

December 31:

We drive around Key West some but want to be back on the base before the partying begins.  We go to K-mart, Home Depot, and a few other stores that are still open today.  We are looking for outdoor stuff now, chaise lounges, camp stove, a table that folds up small and lightweight yet is big enough to eat and cook at.  We had looked at this stuff in Tampa way back in October or November but it was too warm there and we never bought it.  I wasnít sure if we would ever be able to cook outside.  The weather there was just too hot.  Now when weíd really like the stuff itís hard to find.  Kmart does have the stove but  I donít want to get it until we find a table.  Iím not cooking on the ground! 

A short explanation of the camp we are staying in.  There are full hook up sites here but there are more RVs than sites so you have to park on a site that has no amenities while you wait your turn to a site that has full hook ups.  You can stay on a site with full hook ups for 2 weeks and then you go back to a site without hook ups and wait until your turn rolls around again.  That is why we have been preparing so much with solar panels, batteries, etc.  Weíll also be very conservative on water usage.  There are shower facilities and restrooms to use.  There is a dump station here and a place to get potable water.  The one thing I really donít like is the size of the laundry facility.  There are only 6 washers and 6 dryers and one table for folding.  We are on site 399 so that tells you that there are lots of people here.  So my complaint is too few washers and dryers. 

The adventure continues... Click here for January 2005 blog

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