Saturday, January 12, 2019

Warmer Weather Explorations

We left Wichita Falls with snow melting off of us and headed east towards our final destination. The warm and tropical Tampa Bay area. This is the first long journey for Gandolf pulling our home behind it. It handled beautifully. Our first stop was in Marshall, Texas at the Laguna Vista RV Park.

It is a Passport America park and for $17.50 a night with full hookups, it worked just fine. Passport America is a club you can join and stay at these parks for half price. Many have restrictions and limitations so you have to read the fine print when you book them. But for us they work fine and we only use it when we are traveling from one point to the other. We don't like to Wallydock at all, but that is just us.

The next day we drove to Buccaneer State Park in Waveland, Mississippi. This is the third time we have been to this area and we really like it. It was hit hard by hurricane Katrina and is slowly recovering from that after many years. The beaches are beautiful and empty. Although it is January and the temps where in the mid to upper 60's. Fine for us because we just left the negative 20's. Our plan was to enjoy the sun at the beach for the day and then eat at Shaggy's, a beach bar in Pass Christian. I brought my metal detector so that I could strike it rich.
Gulf of Mexico

Waveland Mississippi


Lisa happy

Lisa enjoyed the sun on the beach and I went right to work to strike it rich. With no traffic on the beach, I could set up a classic grid pattern and combed a large area of sand.

Back and forth I went until finally "beep, beep, beep"! PIRATE TREASURE! So I dug and dug and then I struck treasure. I really don't know when pirates started using pennies, but during that day, I found 3 of them. That was it. I keep in mind that a bad day beach combing is still better than a good day at work.
Time for Shaggy's!

Our next stop brought us to Daphne, Alabama at Meaher State park. It was a nice park on the bay. Our site backed up to the water for a great view.
The sites are large and spread out. It looks perfect and I know for many people it would be. Here is the but, that black line on the horizon is I-10. The noise from the highway carries across the water and can be noisy if you are not used to it. We lived on the interstate (I-94) and are used to the noise. We chose this area for 2 reasons. One is that the USS Alabama is right there and the second is, we have friends at Gulf Shores we wanted to visit with.

We have traveled on I-10 for years now and have never stopped to see that battleship. Everytime we would drive buy I would say "someday we are stopping." So we finally did. So here are some photos of the Uss Alabama.
I was greeted by Captain Lisa. "Permission to come aboard, Maam!" "Permission granted." It is a self guided tour which we like. There is so much to read and after awhile we tend to start skipping over things.
I was right at home blasting imaginary "Zekes" out of the sky. Now if only Lisa would let me add one of those 20mm machine guns to my little collection. Lisa said that it looked like so much fun that she wanted to try.
To out do me though, she chose the 40mm anti-aircraft guns. "BOOM, BOOM, BOOM!" is all I could hear her yell. Then out of the blue I hear "SPLASH ONE M****RF****R!" Damn, I need to keep her away from guns. I quickly ushered her inside and away from the guns.

What a very cool piece of history and if you are passing by this way, take a few hours to learn what our sailors endured. With the cost of the battleship tour, you also get to tour a WWII submarine. The USS Drum. There is no way that I could have lived and worked on a sub. I thought maybe the battleship with it's crew of nearly 2500 men but the sub is tiny.

After that we went to Gulf Shores where our friends Bob and Deb are wintering. We got caught up with what's been going on the last couple of years since we had seen them last. Lots of stories and laughs. We met them at our first tour of Amazon and have stayed in touch. That's what I like about this lifestyle. The people we meet. We then went to dinner at Lambert's so that they could throw some rolls at us. I completely forgot to take a photo of us. But if I had it would have looked something like this.
Bob, Deb, Lisa and I.
I am always bad about taking group photos. We said our goodbyes and then headed to the Tampa Fairgrounds. 

Next up is the Tampa RV Supershow.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Gandolf Chronicles

We took Gandolf on its maiden voyage up to Minnesota for the holidays. The weather was good so we left in the wee hours of the mourn. I have to tell you that the truck was awesome. So much more comfortable. In fact we drove until 5 pm and made it to our planned stop. When we googled how much farther we had left in our trip Google said we were 5 hours from our destination so we just went for it. 1000 miles in 15 hours. We don't normally drive like that because my butt is usually sore after about 3 hours. Butt it wasn't bad. 

I did overlook one item when I purchased this new truck. Something that I said I would always have in a vehicle when we lived up north. That was an autostart. Luckily, I am willing to get bundled up in 20 below weather to get out there and warm it up for the princess. It did start on those cold days. I made sure to always use a diesel additive and to make sure that it was plugged in at night.

We ended up using the 4 wheel drive a lot, thanks to the terrible road conditions. I will never not have 4 wheel drive in a vehicle. We always need it in case we get stuck in somebody's yard or something like that. Gandolf actually has a shifter for the 4 wheel drive so that makes it more manly. The Beast had a little knob to turn. And speaking of The Beast it is all shined up and ready to sell in Texas. If anybody wants a well maintained 1 ton truck.

Our return trip to Texas was cold. We left at -21 below the doughnut as some of the weather people say up north. Roads where good until we got to South Dakota. They turned to shit pretty fast. South Dakota got rain, then snow and then rain on top of the snow.
Snow packed and ice.

Solid ice.

More solid ice.
The normal speed limit is 80, but with all of that ice it slowed us down to 55. I used to drive for a living and learned that roads like that are only slippery when you want to stop, so we don't stop.

The sun reflecting off of the ice on top of the snow.
Usually when we travel across the mid section of the country we really have to watch the weather. We waited for a storm up north to pass by and then we had to get to Wichita Falls, Texas before a winter storm hit there. So it is all about timing. We got to Wichita Falls hours before the storm hit and just hunkered down for a day. The weekend brought a big warm up so we pulled in the slides and said our goodbyes to Mike and Robin and headed south to warmer weather. We have a few days to play around with before we need to be in Tampa.

Gandolf handled like a charm pulling our 16,000 pound fifthwheel. So much different than The Beast. I could hardly tell the fifthwheel was back there. In fact I had to keep an eye on my speed because I could have easily been going 80 and not even know it. The ride is so much smoother. I don't feel all beat up from traveling like I did in The Beast. What a difference between the two trucks. Rams have come a long way.
Gandolf on the Gulf.
All in all, we are very happy with our new truck. Let the adventures begin.

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Wrap Up

As I sit here thinking about 2018 and looking out across a frozen lake covered with 13 inches of virgin white snow, it makes me wonder at the silent beauty before me. Until I step outside and the 30 mph wind hits you in the face and you start to shiver from deep down inside you. Your nose freezes up and a tear starts at the corner of your eye and freezes there. Then another gust of wind picks up some snow and immediately it goes down your jacket. I cough and sneeze and think about warmer times. When we leave Minnesota in the morning it will be -21 degrees. BRRRR!

I also think of how 2018 has ended for us. In the last 2 to 3 months, we have never had so many sickness'. Not only the  normal colds and flu's but many other sickness' that have literally knocked us on our butts. The Thanksgiving day flu that I had was a wonderful weight loss program for me. One that I really don't want to repeat.

We have been on the road now for over 4 years so we don't keep a budget anymore. We kind of know where we need to be financially and just try to keep a tab on expenses. Although this year would have blown the budget out of the water because we had three major purchases and many repairs to the truck and camper. Not to mention the amount of money we put into clearing our land in Minnesota.

It has been a busy year. We had the birth of our first grand baby. He is such a sweet little boy and as he grows up, I think that he will be a handful. We will definitely miss him until we get back in May.

Here are some photos of Lisa's year.

Lisa at the beach.

Lisa buying the Hobbit House.

Lisa hiking the great sand dunes.

Lisa drinking with Barb.

Lisa biking with Barb.

Lisa with baby Virgo.

And now some pictures of my year.
Dino working. Fixing the brush mower.

Dino working. Clearing brush.

Dino working. Fixing a flat.

Dino working. Sanding a tug.

Dino working. Pouring concrete.

Dino working. Fixing the water tank.

Dino Working. Cutting steel.

Dino working. Driving a tram.

With that we would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. We think next year will be a good one with many adventures that I hope won't lead to divorce.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Christmas in Wichita Falls

Christmas is upon us once again.

When we got to Wichita Falls, we had the hardest time figuring out this town. Usually we get our bearings pretty fast. Not here. For example. We needed to go to the Flying J Truck Stop. Mike gave us directions and to double check that we used Lisa's  phone to help us along. We would travel along and all of a sudden the phone would tell us that the GPS signal was lost. That's not good. That means I have to then rely on my navigator, who is Lisa. Needless to say we almost ended up in Amarillo when we figured it out. Another example. I would say that I am going to such and such a place. Easy peasy right? I would get back an hour or two later and someone would ask what took so long. I would then say sheepishly "I got lost". Things finally clicked and we could get around easily.

We have been running the Polar Express since Thanksgiving. It has been fun and the community really likes it. In fact it is becoming a local tradition for them.

Another tradition here in Wichita Falls is the Festival of Lights. It is on the campus of Midwestern State University.
All of the University buildings are decorated.

The Festival of Lights is a collection of little dioramas lit up with sound and lights. You can walk around them. That also is very popular here.

It has a small town feel about everything here. It is a nice community and we really enjoyed our time there. 

Now we are up north spending time with family before we have to spend another winter in hot and sunny Florida. So Merry Christmas everyone.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Ode to "The Beast"

When we decided to do this fulltiming life, we knew we wanted a fifthwheel camper.  That meant that we needed a big truck to pull it. Enter "The Beast". It was a 2009 Dodge Ram 3500 pick up. More than enough power to pull our camper. We purchased it in 2011 so it was used but in great shape.

2011 on the Icelandic Highway in Canada.
When I bought the truck it was owned by a contractor so it had an aluminum topper and a ladder rack on it. I had to take those off so that we could put a fifthwheel hitch in it and I even had a snowplow for it. That thing would go thru some snow like it wasn't even there. It has taken us on many adventures over the years.
We found our first fifthwheel and it had no problem pulling that around the country for us.
Then we found a bigger fifthwheel and again it had no problem pulling that around.
Then we added a 4,000 pound pick up camper and again it was no problem.

Next year it will be 10 years old. So we decided to retire "The Beast". Put it out to pasture to make lots of little "Beasts". 

Enter our new "Beast of Burden".

Now we have to decide on a new name for it. I like "Gandolf", after Gandolf the Gray. Lisa wants to call it after a book that really has inspired her life. She wants to call it "Fifty Shades" after Fifty Shades of Grey. Her mind is always in the gutter.

We will see what kind of adventures this new truck will take us on.

Sunday, November 25, 2018


Retired-being so tired that you have circled around from being tired, to being awake, back to being tired.

Retired-to continuously replace tire after tire.

Retired-adjective-withdrawn from ones position or occupation: having concluded ones working or professional career.*Merriam-Webster

When I think of being retired, I think of myself sitting on a secluded beach, being served fruity little drinks with umbrellas by women in coconut bras and grass skirts. (I would have said Lisa but I know she won't wear a coconut bra and a grass skirt. Or serve me drinks. "Get your own damn drink and while your up get me one!" is what she would say.)
Anyways, the only thing  to worry about is if I will have a tan line or not(think about that). Even though that may sound like paradise, too much of it is boring.

"Shut your pie hole!" my inner voice is yelling at me.

"Calm down!" I tell  it. For some reason there is an uncontrollable flinch, but I get over it. Don't get me wrong. I like idle time. I like it alot. Lisa says I may like it too much. When she sees me in a coconut bra and grass skirt, she knows that it is time to do something.

Which brings me to our current situation. We committed to driving for the Polar Express after many months of not really working at any paying gigs. In fact the last paying gig was in 2017 when we worked in Fargo and then Lisa's father passed away and we then had to handle his estate. So that is behind us and we can carry on. As bad luck would have it we lost our water tank(The Great River Road from Hell Part Deux) and headed to Texas earlier than we had planned but it worked out for the better.

We have been here a month already and that month has flown by because of being so busy. We have been doing so many things that I just could not blog about everything. You know about Working for Santa and also Tanks-giving. At least I hope you do. For those that don't (everyone in my family) I shared the links again. The only reason I say that is because I called everyone at Thanksgiving and they all say "What have you been up too?" Really?

So instead of boring you with all of the boring details I will just post some pictures of the things that have gone on.

Pouring the brick ledge in front of the shop for a stone wall.

Residing the front of the shop while working on trams. Here the stone is being put up but not finished yet along with the trim.
Working on the front end of a tram. Replacing tie rods, steering boxes, tightening bearings.
Cutting steal to make a golf simulator in the shop.

Driving the trams for staging at the Polar Express.

 Doing the final prep for the big night.
This is just one house. I hope to do a video later when there are more lights up.

That's just stuff that we happened to remember to take photos for. My body aches tell me that I have done so much more than that. 

I trust that everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Mine was horrible if anyone wants to know. I woke up that morning with the flu. My most favorite meal of the whole year wasted. I couldn't eat a thing and I really didn't. I had to remain within eyesight of the toilet or something was going to hit the fan. Literally. Butt I am finally over the worst part. My stomach feels like it was used as a punching bag for Chuck Norris. One good thing about this Thanksgiving is that instead of gaining 10 pounds, I lost 10 pounds. That has never happened before. 

I wanted to add that a bucket list item has been crossed off. Never in the whole wide world would I have thought that I would know so much about Trams.

November is quickly coming to an end and then December. I wonder what will happen then?