Thursday, February 8, 2024

Winterpaloozafestathon Finale

 Thursday Feb 1st came and we picked up the truck. Totally miffed at the situation but are over it now. We left Avon Park Friday morning bright and early. But where did we go?

As often happens with us, when we are done with something, we are done. So we pointed the truck north and drove 4 days home. Back to the SSUVFL. Three of those days were long driving days for us. Usually around 8 hours. The last day was shorter and what a relief when we pulled into our beautiful property. We both got out of our vehicles and said "We may never leave again". LOL.

It has been a strange winter for sure. We got home and there is no snow at all. Normally we would have 20-30 inches on the ground and the temps would be hovering around 0 for weeks at a time. But not this year. However when we were in Florida, most people we talked to said that that is the coldest (their words) it has been down there for many many years. 

What did we learn from this little expedition? Well, we know that we are done with the full time lifestyle. Heck, we don't even consider ourselves as part timers either. We felt like we needed to take a trip just because we haven't been on the road for awhile and that RVing was just a huge part of our life back then. I guess you could say that we have moved on.

We thought we had planned well. Making many stops in places that are fun to be at. Lots of beach time at first but the cooler temps really didn't make it as enjoyable as it could have been. Remember, I only found $.06 metal detecting. 

We will have to rethink the way we travel in the future. The pickup camper got to be small after a while. We don't know how we lived in it for almost a year one time. Especially when it was cold out and you couldn't sit outside. Very few places we were at allowed fires and we didn't have the room to bring our propane fire pit.

So we are home now, deeply entrenched into our fortress of solitude. Now we can concentrate our efforts on our home expansion and the food trailer business.

Until then.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Winterpaloozafestathon. Jan-26th-Feb 1st

 As I pulled out of the campground at Ft. Wilderness and started our trek south, the car behind me felt that I cut them off or something as they drove 50 in a 35 and quickly flipped me off as they went on by. So much for the happiest place on earth.

Our next stop was going to be the Everglades National Park and to Key West. That was the plan anyways. But fate was not going to let that happen.

Ever since we stopped in Mississippi coming down here, I have been watching an oil leak from under the truck. Every stop we made I would see a little spot of oil. Gradually the spot got larger and larger. Since we still have a lot of miles to go and the truck is carrying a heavy load, I felt that maybe it should be looked at by a professional. So knowing where we were going, I made an appointment at one of the Dodge dealers on the way. 

Not camping. Sitting outside of the dealership playing tiddly winks.

Still there playing Jacks this time.

So we got to the Dodge dealer in Avon Park, Florida. Removed the camper so they could get it on the hoist and then waited for the autopsy. I was really hoping for something minor that could be fixed easily. With fingers crossed we waited for a couple of hours.
Gandolf getting probed.

Later on, I went inside since I wasn't getting a phone call and got the bad news/good news, news. The bad news was that the leak was coming from the timing cover housing. It would take a week to fix it because it is very involved. Sad face. The good news is that our extended warranty would cover the repairs. Happy face. The bad news was that we will have to cancel the Everglades and Key West.  Sad face. Our warranty went up to 100,000 miles. Our truck has 99.960 miles. If I would have waited till we got back to Minnesota to have it looked at, it would have been out of warranty. Happy face. When we went to the dealership I got this message on my phone.
That was from after I picked it up. Notice any other messages?

So we found a campground that had room for us. We called four before one had an open spot. Unloaded the camper and now we wait. It's Friday and they said it would be done Wednesday. We are at the mercy of others. We are in Avon Park, Florida. If you are looking for an affordable place to winter in Florida, check out this area. It is an hour and a half to the coast in either direction. Being on the coast is expensive just because you are on the coast. The RV park we found is an older park. I said that it was the trailer park that time forgot.

Word quickly spread throughout the park about our predicament. The people here are so friendly. The first day we had two separate people offer us their vehicles to use. Strangers mind you. We thanked them and declined because fortunately we had our Jeep with us. So many have stopped and chatted with us. Telling us what there is to do here.

Day one stranded. Saturday promised to be the nicest. So we jumped in the Jeep and drove over to Anna Maria Island. Beach day!

This is a beautiful place to visit but I would not want to live there. Lots of people packed into a small area with one main road that is usually bumper to bumper. 

Day two stranded. A neighbor said that there is a nice State Park that is not far from here. Highland Hammock State Park. Rumor has it that a "Skunk Ape" was seen  there. "Lisa! Warm up the Jeep because it is going to be in the fifties here. Lets go!" 

But first my little woman wanted to do some shopping at the local mall. You know the type of mall that was the pinnacle of 80's and 90's capitalism. Lakeshore Mall.
We have never been to a mall this empty. It was very sad to see this, remembering all of the good times as teenagers that we have spent in malls. One building that could offer so much in variety, foods and so many different friends to meet up with. With so few tenants, I was surprised that it is still open. 

On to the state park. $6.00 entrance fee. Cheaper than a Bud light at Disney. What a vast wilderness. There is an auto loop with several opportunities to hike. One such hike we wanted to do starts out as a boardwalk out into the swamp. Then it turns into a catwalk for the rest of the duration. The catwalk was a smaller/narrower boardwalk with only one railing on one side. But that part was closed to weather damage. Awww. We got some good "Skunk Ape" hunting pictures from that area.

We did a few of the hikes and then went to the CCC museum they have at the park. Very informative day.

On the way home we passed a Winn-Dixie. Winn-Dixie is one of the grocery chains they have in Florida and I love them for one reason. Wing bars. That's right, I said wing bars. Most, not all, I have found will offer a variety of wings that you can stuff in a bucket for the low, low price of $15.99. That's less than 2 Disney Bud lights. This store had plain wings, hot wings, garlic parmesan and my favorite, Teriyaki. They also had bbq ribblets. I got them all! BWAH HA HA HA!

Day three stranded. What are we going to do? There are not a lot of things to do. So we looked on the map. I found a place about 55 miles south of us called "Gatorama". To the gatormobile.

Gatorama is a roadside attraction. It has been around since the 50's. It was very clean and well kept. Lots and lots of alligators, crocodiles and caimans. There is a saltwater crocodile that is absolutely huge.

The first thing I liked about Gatorama were their warning signs.

I am pretty sure that people try to jump in there and pet the friendly 12 foot alligator. Gatorama is a working alligator farm. They raise the gators for food. Shocking, I know. They have to separate the sizes so that they don't eat each other.

Then they have large open areas with alligators and another area for crocodiles. I did not know that crocodiles were native to Florida along with alligators. The guy feeding them said that in Florida, if you see a body of water, always assume there is an alligator in it. I remember a couple of years ago a child was taken in Disney World in one of the many water holes they have around the resorts.

They also had a 20 foot Saltwater Crocodile. 
You can't see him very well but he is floating in the water there.

After that we went to find a place that served Gator. The Gator Shack was the closest so off we went. 
Deep fried gator bites! YUM, YUM!
Day four and five of being stranded wasn't very interesting except for this. 

Tuesday I stopped by the dealership to check on the progress. I said I want to be sure it is going to be done . Our service adviser said it would be done on Wednesday. She didn't give a time. Or a poop!

Wednesday came and they said it would be done on Wednesday. So we waited hoping to get the truck so we could hit the road on Thursday. Finally around four I said to Lisa that I am going over there. Now our service adviser was something else. You would think that they would have to have some people skills to maintain that job. She was the worst. I asked her about the truck. She looks at me like I just interrupted her game of bubble pop and meanders back to the shop. She came back and said it would be done Thursday by noon. Really? I can't do anything about that. She didn't give a poop.

Thursday comes and around 11 I finally get a call from some guy at the dealership. He says the truck is done and ready. My service advisor is on vacation now. Thank you for your business.

Not the best dealership experience we have had but we are glad it didn't cost an arm and a leg for that.

"Gladys! Throw the cats in the camper and lets get going to our next grand adventure!"

On a personal note. I had to tone down some of the language from my editor. Also, the cost of the repairs would have been over 77 Disney Bud lights. That would have been a weekends worth at Jethro and Bambi's.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The Magic is out there. Jan. 21st-26th

 As much as we love St. George Island, we had to leave. Vowing to one day return again. We had a commitment to keep. So we packed up and headed along the gulf coast to our next magical destination. The drive along highway 98 was beautiful. Tall long leaf pine forests. Palm trees here and there. The sun reflecting off of the gulf coast waters. A great drive until you get to I-75.

What is it with Florida drivers? They are so angry and aggressive. Everywhere we go I am getting saluted with the one finger salute. (You know what finger I am talking about). 

"I am sorry that I cannot drive 90 in a 70mph zone!"

"Pass me for cripes sake!"

 I know when the bird is about to fly because they will tailgate me for a few miles and then zoom around me. "It's an interstate butthole!"

"There are three lanes! Is that really necessary?!" 

But all of that is behind us now as we get to Disney World. The most magical place on earth.

One of the perks of being in the military is that you get discounted park tickets. Plus we are also Disney reward members. So this week at Disney was theoretically free! We stayed at the Ft. Wilderness Campground. We love it there. Free transportation to wherever you want to go in Disney. That means, nobody flips you off.

Our first night there we hopped on the bus to Disney Springs for a little shopping and dinner. We got our first taste of large crowds. I asked Lisa, "Doesn't anybody keep their kids in school anymore?" She said that I was sounding like a grumpy old person. Keep calm. We made a vow that we were not going to be on our phones and the reason why is that wherever you look, people are plastered to their phones and not enjoying the surroundings. So many times we have been here and my only view of the parks was through the view finder of the camera. But not this time.

Our first full day was at the Magic Kingdom. In all honesty I was quite worried about being here. My health has not been the best lately and I did not want to be on the national news as the grumpy old guy that dies at the Magic Kingdom. Luckily I did not die there but I feel like I could have any day. More about that later.

We enjoyed seeing all that Disney has to offer. The rides, the scenery, the food. We loved riding the old familiar rides. Checking out some new ones and a little sad at the ones that are gone. Disney is continually changing all of the time.
Lots of people milling about. Some rides had short waits, 30 minutes or less. Some rides had much longer waits, 60 minutes or more. So after a long day,we got our fill of the Magic Kingdom.
We left before the fireworks and got back to our camper very tired. This was only day one. Those that have never been to Disney don't know what I am talking about but those who know, know. There should be an exercise program developed just for the people going to Disney. It should include walking all day. Standing in one place for what seems like hours. Just mainly being on your feet for an entire day. Many parents do it by wearing 20 pound backpacks and holding small children. We have been there and done that before.

Day two. We went to Disney's Hollywood Studios. This park is always changing the most it seems. Again lots of people. Some of the most popular rides like Rockin Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror where closed. I said to Lisa "A certain percentage of their rides are closed, they should give us that percentage in a discount off of our tickets". She chuckled and told me I was sounding like a grumpy old guy again. LOL?

We rode the rides with short waits and skipped the ones with longer waits. In past visits to Disney, they always offered what they called "Fast passes". That's where you could schedule a time to ride the most popular rides, thus skipping the waits. Now they call it the "Lightning pass." It does the same thing but now you have to pay extra to use that. So as we sit in line watching these other happy idiots skip lines as we wait, a small amount of anger starts to well up inside. I said to Lisa, "Disney should get rid of the lightning pass's and make everybody wait in line like the rest of us. That would make it fair." Grumpy old guy again. I'm starting to sense a theme. It's our own fault though. Disney saw an opportunity to make more money and they took it, because so many of these idiots said that they would gladly pay even more money to Disney than they already are.

They opened a new area at Hollywood Studios themed after Star Wars. Very well done. You would think that you are on a Star Wars planet of some kind. Except for the people everywhere. It was a very popular area.

Lisa kept thinking that we have been here before. In fact she swore on it. So she was looking back at photos. I on the other hand felt like we had not been here. Finally after much deliberation we figured it out. It was Disneyland where they had a Star Wars area. Duh. We were again tired and exhausted so we went to the camper for "Happy Hour". The local turkeys were eye balling the cats as we sat outside.

"Watch out! Here comes the grumpy old guy again!" Many years ago I said that I would not pay 6 dollars for a beer at Disney. And that holds true even more so today. Now the beers are $9.50-$10.00 a beer depending on what park you are at. Those are Jim and Barb prices. Again Disney saw an opportunity and ran with it because apparently there are a lot of people that will. If you want to buy some beer at the gift shop at your hotel, $19.50 for a six pack. Knowing all of this from before, we stocked up on alcohol before we got there. Put that in your pipe Disney and smoke it. Ha!

Day three. Disney's Animal Kingdom. Same story here. Lots of long lines for the most popular rides. We went to the "It's tough to be a Bug" show in the Tree of Life. It was so funny listening to the screaming kids that were so terrified by the show. That was the best part. There is a place in the Animal Kingdom named after me. If you go there maybe you can find it.

We got through the park in a few hours and then headed back to the camper for another "Happy Hour".

Day four. Disney Epcot.

Lots of changes going on again here also. We enjoyed walking around. Did a few rides. We walked around the World Showcase and got some good food from Japan, Morocco and England. We walked back around to Mexico for a Fiesta Margarita. ($15.50). After hours of fun we went home again for another "Happy Hour". Tomorrow we leave for more fun and frolic.

4 parks in 4 days. We were beat. We kept getting worn out after just a few hours. We asked ourselves how we could have done it from park opening to park closing every day. We would go around each park 2 to 3 times. Now we can only make it once and we are done. We were younger and in better shape for one thing but how can we both feel so decrepit? 

On to our next destination. It was great getting on the road again and being flipped off by the very first driver. Not kidding about that. In hindsight, that should have been a sign for how the day was going to go.

Until the next episode.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Winterpaloozafestathon, January 16th-21st

 I know what you are thinking. Where are the Sasquatches you mentioned in the last "nail biting " episode of the "on the edge of the seat" post you promised us. There are parts of Florida that are full of trees and forests and not very populated. That's where we are. Torreya State Park on the panhandle of Florida. Did you know that the elevation here is a whopping 240 feet above sea level. We have been at sea level for so long that being at this altitude is giving us nose bleeds.

Back to Sasquatch's. I am very sorry but we will not find any Sasquatch's here in Florida. We did not know that. So back to "The Google" we went and discovered something even better. In the southeastern part of the United States they have what they call "Skunk Apes". Now we have something to look for. In fact I have heard of the term "Skunk Ape" before. I just thought it was the pet name for Jethro that Bambi would call him.

Our view out our back window. Nothing but woods as far as you can see. Very remote and very rugged.  Torreya state park is named after the Torreya tree. This area is the only place this species is found.
It is the rarest of Conniferous trees. What does it look like you ask?
Majestic for sure.

Behind this tree sits the Gregory house. It was moved up onto this bluff to preserve it and keep it from flooding. It was down on the shores of the Apalachicola River.

It was moved by the Civilian Conservation Core (CCC) board by board and then re-assembled on this site high above the river.

Well that is it for sight seeing here in this area. Lisa said to me, "What are we going to do for the next five days here?" 
"Five days !" I said. "There's not even any decent TV reception here."

As luck would have it, Lisa did some calling and booked us into a park that we have been hoping to get back to for years. St. George Island state park. 
The park is on the end of the island and the beaches are 8 miles long. It really is a beautiful place to be.
We walked for hours looking for shells, watching the birds and just enjoying the solitude of an endless beach with so very few people. The sea shells are everywhere.
During one shelling expedition I found a horseshoe crab. I put it back in the water to set it free. I also found two shells of the crabs. So I am bringing them home to try and save them.
These creatures are living dinosaurs. They have not changed in millions of years. Very cool. Everyday we went out for shells. Lisa was happy.
Lisa smiling.
A very cool sunrise this morning. 32 degrees and windy.

Our last day at St George Island was going to be cold and windy. Perfect day for a drive. So we took a drive to the St. Joseph Peninsula where there is another state park with camping and more beaches. The campground looked like it was brand new. The beaches were long and empty this time of year.
St. Joseph's beach.

Our time on St. George island has come to an end. Now we are moving onto the most magical place on earth. 

We are so excited we peed our pants!

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Winterpaloozafestathon, January 9th to January 16th.

 "I think that if we are going to find Sasquatch's in Florida, I think it will be here". A quote from Tango Allejandro said on 1/16/2024 at 8:55 pm eastern time. But wait. Where is here? That is something I will divulge later, after we have moved on to keep the paparazzi confused. Wherever, here is at the moment, it is 21 degrees when we woke up this particular morning. In the news they are closing schools, setting up warming shelters and warning the populace of the impending temperature drop below 32. As born and raised Minnesotans, we just laugh and shake our heads.

In fact I was listening to one news report and they were discussing options on how to insulate your outdoor water faucet on your house just in case you were not able to get those insulated cups built for that. One option was to just use a styro-foam cup and place it over it. That might work if it fits. LOL. The next option was to place a diaper over it. A new one I hope. LOL again. Like everyone has a diaper in their house. I should stand on the corner with a box of Pampers and sell faucet covers for $20 bucks. I would be rich.

(Gladys said I could sell Pampers and depends. I'm not selling my depends to anyone. That's just crazy talk.)

Back to the blog topic. We left Waveland a day later than we were supposed to because of a terrible cold front that had moved through. Bringing inches of rain, cooler temps and high winds. Our next stop was not far away. It was in Mobile Alabama at Meaher State Park. Nice park on the Alabama Bay.

Sunset at Maeher State Park. That string of lights is I-10. Photo by Gladys.

Off in the distance you can see I-10 crossing the bay. Did you know that sound travels over water. It does.  So that is all you hear for 24 hours a day. We have been here before so we knew that. We sight see'd while we were there.

We went to "The Original Oyster House" for dinner one night. Not to be confused with "The Carbon Copy Oyster House" down the road. I was wondering if that cold front had produced a "Sharknado" because there were sharks on the roof. One of my biggest fears about being on the coast is being in the middle of a Sharknado. I've seen all 6 Sharknado movies (something I'm not proud of) and I am well aware of how dangerous it can be with flying sharks falling from the skies.

Did you know that Mardi Gras actually started in Mobile, Alabama? It did in 1703 when at the time Mobile was the capital of Louisiana (think about that for a minute). I looked it up on "The Google". So we went and found a King cake. 

They look good and we have never in our wildest dreams ever had one before. Jim told us that at first you have to play a ring toss game with it. Jim is so weird. Our cake came with a little baby in it.

Not knowing the significance of that, we had to go back to "The Google" and find out. "The Google" says that the baby is hidden inside of the cake and whoever gets it is "King" or "Queen" for the day. This is turning into a real educational trip. The cake was okay. If you were to ask us for our opinion, (which no one ever does), we would tell you it was just a fancy cinnamon roll with sprinkles. That's just us, you should find out for yourselves.

Our next stop on this whirlwind tour of "Dorks on Parade" was going to be Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama. We are still trying to find those warm temps that will put a smile on my baby's face. The key word is "still". Here at Gulf Shores we found some people we know of who are more secretive than us. Can you believe it? They are so secretive that they actually move their Super Secret Location every 2-3 years just so that no one can sneak up on them. But we found them. 

I agreed to change their names for the blog to keep their identities secret. They are Ford Ditchmower and Svetlana Roadkillpickerupper. We went out to lunch with them one day. The picture I have is a fake but this is a perfect example of how they eat.
I was like really? Do you need to eat each others foods out of your mouths. I was hoping a roll would come flying out of the darkness and bounce off their foreheads and knock them out. We visited a couple more times while we were in the area. 

We were talking to Ford and Svetlana about where we were going next. Ford's eyes lit up like a child's at Christmas. Rumblings could be heard from his stomach. All of a sudden he started to convulse and Lisa and I started to get worried. Svetlana said "Don't worry, this happens all of the time." All of a sudden he blurts out a single word. "BUC-EE'S!!!!!!"

Buc-ee's is a travel stop on the interstate in some parts of the country. If you get the chance you have to stop. Ford began to describe the sandwiches found inside. The way he described the food was as if he was talking about a long lost lover. Now we have to stop. We stopped at one a long time ago and we don't quite remember it the way he described it. So we put it on the "to do list".

We were in Gulf Shores for a few days. So you know what that means. Beach time! Gladys shell hunted. I treasure hunted with no success. So with my casino winnings and my treasures from Waveland, I am at 11 cents. Well worth the trip if you ask me.(Which I know, no one will ever ask me).
Still off the market ladies.
One day the waves were very angry.
Another day we just walked and walked. It really amazes me that people aren't out here enjoying the beach when the temps are in the mid fifties. Like us "Dorks on Parade".
Nearly empty beaches.
Gladys with a sack full of shells.

Gladys had her bag of shells in hand. She was staking out territories and battling other women when they got too close to her shells. Have you ever seen documentaries about Penguins and their nests. If so, it was kind of like that.
She found this one day and we weren't even sure of what it was. So we left it. Later on she found a Seashell collecting guide hand book and discovered that it is actually a shell called a Stiff Pen Shell. More education. Now we wish we would have taken it.

That is it for Gulf Shores Alabama. Thanks to Ford and Svetlana for taking time out of their busy schedules to visit with us. Until our paths cross again.

We did stop at Buc-ees on our way to our next destination. It was amazing. The sandwiches were just like the way Ford and Svetlana said they were. I ended up getting two. One for lunch that day and one for lunch the next day. The first one I got was a chopped Brisket sandwich.
Chopped brisket with Beaver tots.

I love brisket as my physique is living proof of that. Pilled high right in front of you. It was like OMG! The other sandwich was even bigger than that one. It was a three meat sandwich. It was piled high with smoked turkey, brisket and smoked sausage. If you don't get the meat sweats from that you are probably already dead. Another side you could eat if you wanted to was called Beaver chips. (Insert your own beaver joke here. Then PM me with it.)

"Gladys, just roll me to our next destination!"

As far as my sasquatch comment, that will have to wait for the next blog because we are currently still here.

Did you notice the new name change for the title of the blog. It's more inclusive now and sustainable.