Saturday, January 26, 2019

Ahh, Warmer Weather

Waking up in the morning to the sounds of birds chirping, walking outside and having the warmth of the sun caress your body, and the smell of the Florida air. All images of things that should make you sigh in contentment. For most people anyways. Not me. Do you know what warmer weather means to me? Two words. DEATH MARCHES! Yes, the death marches have begun again. Don't get me wrong. I love the warm weather, but during a death march I do miss hibernating in Beverly's basement when it is 30 below out and it is too cold to march.

Let's take a toll of everything now. Right knee has been re-built. Left knee has been re-built. Foot pain has subsided for the time being. Joint pain constant. Arthritis, ever present.
Look at these hands. How do you expect me to hold my beer with hands like that. Maybe I need one of those hard hats that hold 2 beers and have a straw.
Like this. The reason that I bring all of this backup is that now I have to wonder what else could go wrong. Aside from the ever present chance of a heart attack. One that Lisa is perfectly willing to risk I guess.

So to be proactive I started to do some research for my health. I found a great deal on Amazon and I thought that when the day comes, I may even get a discount from the hospital for bringing my own.
Just look at this beauty. What is it you might ask? It's a titanium hip. I figure that will be the next thing to wear out. I can kind of feel it going now whenever I square dance. I can hardly allemande left anymore. We walk nearly everyday around the fairgrounds. Just taking in all of the activity between shows.

Tampa Bay has a river walk along the Hillsborough River that flows into the bay. We googled it and it says that it is a 2.4 mile one way walk along the river with shops and restaurants. Finally a day without a death march. I am in. We drove downtown and parked at one end of the river walk.

It was a beautiful sunny day. The path is wide and very popular with walkers, joggers and bikers.

There are also nice views along the Riverwalk. There was one lady jogging along practically falling out of her sports bra. I looked at Lisa and said, "It's hard not to look when they have it on display like that." To which she said, "Remember your glasses aren't tinted so she can see where you are looking." Good point(or two).
Along the riverwalk they have the mileage laid out on the ground. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and so on. I am looking around and there aren't any shops and hardly any restaurants. What's going on? I said "hey look, a water taxi, maybe we could take that to the end."
"Keep walking." So I did. We got to the end and there is a natural spring that feeds into the Hillsborough River.
"Whew! I made it!" Now 2.4 miles back. On the way back I was motivated with lunch and a beer at the Sail Bar along the Riverwalk. We had peel and eat shrimp and a Cuban(sandwich) which we both split. The beer was a life saver though. 

Then if that wasn't enough we walked over to the Florida Aquarium. It was very nice and I got to touch a Stingray. They have some nice exhibits. But not 30 dollars a person nice. We weren't there to buy the fish. They had a nice shark tank.

Well we can say we did it. One and done is our motto. Tampa also has electric street cars downtown.
The other day Lisa wanted to go to an outlet mall. They have some very nice and large outlet malls here in Florida. So we are walking around and shopping. We find a few things to buy at reasonable prices. It takes us a couple of hours to get around there. My legs are tired and then it dawns on me. She planned this. She makes it sound like I am getting a day off from death marching but in reality she has just disguised it. Except now I am marching with 40 pounds of shopping bags on my arms. 

"Oh there's something at the other end I want to go back and get" she says. So around and around we go again. The Riverwalk. That also was a disguised death march. I may not be the brightest bulb in the box but eventually I will get it. I am on to her now.

On a different note. One thing nice about this lifestyle is being able to travel and try different cuisines. Although there is one thing I may never be hungry enough to eat. I wonder if that is the Lorena Bobbitt recipe?
That's it for now. I hear there is a giant flea market near here to check out. "Wait, what?!"

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Unfinished Business

As my ranting got the better of me in the last post, I completely forgot to finish the RV Super show.

We finished our last day and I will admit that everyone was very thankful for no major incidents. Just minor things like a golf cart or two hitting the trams and the trams not hitting them. We remarked about later that everything happened when we were standing still. We parked our trams and Mike treated us to dinner for our job well done. Then we started the decompressing.

I took a golf cart and drove back into the show the next day for some photos. These were taken just 18 hours after the show ended.

Utterly amazing how fast these events can get torn down. There was camping all around the fairground parking lots and by Sunday evening they were also practically empty. They were leaving like rats abandoning a sinking ship.

So now we will chill until the state fair starts in a few weeks. Already some of the carnys and rides are starting to show up. We plan on doing some exploring and preparing ourselves for a VIP visit. Activities and meals are in the preliminary stages as we speak.

Until then.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Herding Cats at the Tampa RV Super Show

Disclaimer: This is my opinion and my opinion only. If you feel offended by anything please quit reading and don't complain to me.

I have always been fascinated by what it takes to put on an event like this. I never really gave much thought to it. I would show up and think that it was here all along. Not so.

We pulled into the Tampa State Fair fairgrounds on the 10th of January. Our boss Mike has already made several trips from Texas to Florida to get his trams here so that they where on station when everyone arrived. Everyone got there within a day or two of each other and quickly got set up for the duration.
Full hookups. Not bad for free. I hear some people are paying $450 a month for this.
So we got set up and had a week before the show started. We occupied our time with going to the beach one day.

We went to Cochino Beach on Anna Maria Island. It is a beautiful beach and not very crowded. However there was a school of stingrays swimming in the water. This isn't the first time we have been at the beach with stingrays so you have to be careful walking in the water. You don't want to step on them because that is when they will sting you. If you shuffle your feet along and kick the sting ray, it will just move along. The water was kind of cold so we didn't go very deep anyways. We then had lunch at the Ugly Grouper on Anna Maria Island.
The show quickly got set up and was ready for people. This is the largest RV show in the country. There are literally hundred of RV's of all types and sizes. From nearly every manufacturer there is. It is almost overwhelming if you were in the market to buy one. With our credentials we could go in and out as much as we wanted so we took a drive around to see what was going on inside.

It was very different driving around there without people inside. Now imagine every aisle and road filled shoulder to shoulder with people. We also stopped to look at the high end campers. They are beautiful for sure.

If you happen to have a spare million in your pocket that you don't need, you could go home with one of these.

The day before the show we were getting the trams ready by putting sponsors on them.
This is tram 4. My tram. All ready for the big event. The first day of the show was called Industry Day. It wasn't open to the public. Only to people involved in the RV industry could go in that day. Since there were not large crowds, I did not have to work. Lisa did though.
Thats Lisa on the back of that tram working while I was enjoying a delicious corn dog for once. I got to enjoy the show without the crowds. Usually it is the other way around. I work while Lisa plays. The first day of the show that was open to the public was Wednesday. 
They were lined up at the gates, itching to get in.
The Crew. Darrell, Ronnie, Mike, Harold, Poney, and me.
Mike bought us all matching shirts. At the time the symbolism didn't hit me. That symbolism is this. The shirts are Salmon color. So we were like salmon swimming upstream in a river of people. 
Lisa and Harold trying to get through the crowd.

Wall to wall people.
Here comes the rant.

Where was I? I was working gate 3. I was not actually inside the show fighting those crowds. My job was to take people from gate 3 to the entrance about 200 yards away. Just back and forth all day long. When I would drop off people, they would comment to me "Well I could have walked that far." To which I thought to myself, "Why didn't you?" I heard that all day long. 

This is how my day would go. The early part of the day I would pick them up at the gate. The conversations would go like this.

"Where does this tram go?"
I say, "It goes to the entrance."
"This isn't the entrance?"
"No, it is 200 yards away."
"Okay, we will get on then."
Literally the next person behind them would say, "where does this tram go?"
"It goes to the entrance."
"This isn't the entrance?"
"No, the entrance is 200 yards away."
"We'll ride then."
Next person, "Where are you going?"
"To the entrance."
"Where's that?"
"200 yards away."
So I would announce it on the intercom. "This tram is going to the entrance folks, the entrance only."
"Where is this tram going?" Someone would ask. Inside I am screaming, "What the hell!" 5 days of this and your patience starts to wear thin.

Then on the way out I would pick them up at the entrance of the show and take them back to gate 3. 
"Where does this tram go?"
"It goes back to gate 3."
"Where's that?"
"200 yards away."
"Do you go to H parking lot?"
"No, I just go to gate 3"
"This is gate 3."
"No, this is the entrance from gate 3."
"Where's gate 3 then?"
"200 yards away."
Next person right behind them who heard the entire conversation would then ask me, "Where are you going?'
"I am going to gate 3"
"Do you go to J parking?"
"No, I just go to the gate. All parking lots are outside of the gate." Again, screaming inside.

This is why I started with the disclaimer. Dumb question I would get all day long. There are only 2 gates to get into the show. Gate 1 and gate 3. That is the only way to get in.
"Where did I park?" Really?!? How in the hell do I know. People, you need to pay attention to your surroundings when going to events like this. I would then ask "which road did you come in on?" Then I would get this. "I don't know." 

"Does this tram go to gate 1? We came in through gate 1." In my mind I am thinking that if you came in gate 1 and you know you came in gate 1, why are you going out gate 3? They are on opposite ends of the show. "No, this tram goes to gate 3."
"Where is that?" Then it starts all over again.
"How can I get to gate 1 then?"
"You have two options, go back inside and walk or ride the tram to gate 1 or go out gate 3 and catch a tram in the parking lot to gate 1." Then they would get mad at me for their dumbass mistake.

"I came in gate 2"
"Gate 2 is not open. You can only get in gate 1 or gate 3."
"No, I came in gate 2."
"No you didn't."
"Yes I did."
"Well nobody goes to gate 2. You will have to walk. Goodbye."

There are a million more examples I could give and it has been good therapy for me to just get it off of my chest. So now we have a couple of weeks before the Florida State fair before I start hating people again.

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.