Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pizza Was....

Great! I never imagined that pizza would generate so many comments! I'm guessing pizza is a fan favorite out there :-). This week we had used real pizza dough rather than the Pillsbury crust, and it tasted like real pizza, rather than the sort of biscuity-taste of the Pillsbury. We sauteed some onions, scrambled some sweet Italian sausage, and threw a couple of stray bacon slices on for good measure. We watched it very closely, and had a great pizza that was perfectly browned on the bottom this time. The only issue we had was we had trouble stretching out the pizza dough to fit the baking sheet. It kept shrinking down on us. There must be a secret to it.  We will investigate ;-).

Yesterday was transition day. Every Monday we load up the truck and drive down to Sugarmill, and every Thursday we head back up to the campground. We're getting used to the routine now. We did take our time, as it was pouring rain outside for several hours. The springs are looking much better after a solid 24 hours of rain. Much much more is needed though, its been so dry down here for so many months.

The rain had stopped just as we arrived. After unloading the truck, it was time to relax on the lanai for a while and catch up with the family. I then needed some oranges, so we drove down to the fruit and veggie stand before they closed up, and then went for a short exploration to find a new place to walk the dogs. We didn't find a trail, but we headed down West Ozello Trail and ended up in this cute little village and boat launch area.  It was really pretty, and would make a wonderful place to launch the kayaks from for a day of exploring. There's also a seafood restaurant down here, Pecks Old Port Cove, with a beautiful location for water and sunset views that we will have to try out. We figure it must be pretty good to be able to stay in business, as you do have a bit of a drive to get there!

This heron was squawking away, announcing his arrival, so I was able to position the camera ahead of his flight path and capture a picture of him flying.

I heard this mockingbird singing away and had to find him....I did, way up at the top of the tree.

Today, Al goes to the wildlife park to begin "shadowing" as a boat driver. I have errands to do with my mom this afternoon, so I may start my "shadowing" tomorrow, or possibly next week. The rain has finally let up, and it's suppose to get quite warm, maybe even the upper 80's by the weekend. It doesn't look good for log splitting if it's that hot ;-).

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Camphost Life

It was the busiest weekend we've had so far this winter here at Otter Springs. We had several check-ins, a few in the primitive area and a group of boy scouts. It was also the busiest weekend for use of the bath houses :-). We actually had to clean bath houses that looked they were being used, not already clean ones. Nothing major, but definitely used.

We're also acquiring a new skill set....splitting wood. There's a huge pile of wood out at the maintenance garage, from dead trees and limbs across the property. One of our tasks is to split and bundle firewood for the office to sell. So we've set as one of our missions to split the whole pile and have it neatly corded, and to have the woodshed by the office filled with bundled firewood before we leave in April. Hey, everyone needs a mission, right?

I don't know if I mentioned it, but the campground is pretty far away from any shopping. I know far away is a relative thing, especially when you get out west, but it's about a 15 minute drive from here to get a pizza...not a necessity for most folks, but we all have our vices. In these high fuel price times ($3.95 for diesel last week) it's not feasible to drive a half hour round-trip for pizza. So, we've been experimenting with making our own. Now, I've had a terrible time with baking in my rv oven...roasting is ok, but baking hasn't been going so well. I've been told that a pizza stone placed  on the shelf in the oven would help even out the heat for baking, so I've been looking for one that would fit. Finally, today, I think it happened....we received a phone call from Patti and Ginny, who were at the flea market in Homosassa, that they found a 13" stone that will fit. Great! Now we can try a pizza next week and hopefully not have a burned crust :-). If that works, on to cookies :-).

We're having quite a bit of rain today. It's needed very badly, but it's not so good for the Daytona 500 today. We'll see if it gets going, but things are not looking very promising.

I took a couple of pictures down at the springs yesterday. The bird is a limpkin, found only in Florida in the United States. They are known as the "wailing" or "crying" bird because of their loud, mournful call, usually issued at night by territorial males. Florida has placed them on their list of "special concern" due to loss of habitat.

Don't forget, you can click on a picture to make it larger for viewing :-).

Also saw some turtles sunning themselves. Which reminds me, when we were cleaning around 
the campsites today, we found a complete, empty turtle shell...like the inhabitant had just crawled out and left the shell behind. It was very strange, but I don't know much about turtles...how would that have happened?

Well, it's time to go make some pizza :-), and get ready to watch "The Amazing Race" tonight...love that show! 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Work News

Not very much happened yesterday. Just our normal routine of work here at our volunteer job at Otter Springs Campground. This weekend will be the busiest we've had since we arrived...quite a few arrivals coming so we had plenty of site checks to do. This consists of making sure each site has a table and firepit, and that the firepits are cleaned out. It has also been very windy, and a lot of the trees have been shedding dead branches and palm fronds. So we spent the afternoon moving the debris out of the campground and over to the burn pile.

We are officially returning to Amazon in October. Our personnel manager Kelly had called on Wednesday to re-interview us, and has sent the paperwork we need. It's interesting, in the interview this year they must read you the physical requirements of the job and you must answer a series of questions relating to these requirements. We suspect that is because last year the paper was among the job proposal paperwork that they sent us, but based on many people's attitudes towards the job once we got there, they must not have  read this sheet, or at the very least, didn't believe it :-). The most wearing part of the job is standing on your feet for the entire shift, but if you're reasonably healthy and in decent shape, most folks will survive. It's not forever, only a few weeks and then you're done. There's always light at the end of the tunnel :-).

Our other job news is about Colorado. Joan, the owner of Chalk Creek Campground, called yesterday and gave us the news that they have sold the campgound. Now, we didn't know that it had been up for sale, and there was a brief moment of concern, but she was calling to assure us that the new owners were wonderful people, leaving everything exactly the way it is, and were honoring the work contracts in place, and looking forward to having us come in for the summer. Whew! I thought for a few minutes there that I would have to go on the job hunt again! We also were able to speak with the new owner, Tamara, and she did sound happy to hear from us and glad we were coming in for the summer. So we are still on track for departure from Florida right after Easter, westerward-ho.

That's about it for today. I'm trying to write more frequently again, but the reports will most likely be a bit shorter :-). That's probably good news for readers :-). Have a great day!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Visits and Volunteers

We had a good couple of days while down in Homosassa this week. Most of our "stuff" is unpacked and out of boxes. We must remember to give the recycling collector a nice tip this Christmas! It's all organized, and mostly set in place. Just the little decorative stuff, and collectibles, that we kept that need to be cleaned and put away in the cabinets. It was so strange, going through everything we packed up. Some things we looked at and said to ourselves, why did we keep this? Other things were true unexpected finds....like a set of dishes we had received as a wedding gift 31 years ago, and had never used...brand new dishes now! Al's mom and sister love the house, and will be very happy living here year round, as will we in the winter months. I have to remember to take some pictures and post them.
Wednesday I had many errands to run with my mom, so we set out early to get those done. I did bring her back to the house for lunch, as we had friends from New York visiting us. It's wonderful to see folks that you haven't seen in quite awhile, and Missy and Ricky were no exception. Ricky has family in the area as well, and they have been looking to buy a house down here as well. This week turned out to be the week :-). They contracted on a house right there in Sugarmill, about 5 minutes drive from us. We're so happy for them. We had a nice lunch, and it was wonderful to relax around the pool on the lanai, chatting with good friends. Late in the afternoon, we had our first good storm of the season, thunder, lightning and torrential rains....this has been the first real good rain since we've arrived at Christmas. It is needed badly down here.

Thursday we embarked upon a new adventure...becoming volunteers at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park. This does not bring us an RV site, as there is no campground at this park. It does bring satisfaction in helping a wonderful attraction stay open. It depends on volunteers very much to help in all facets of park operation, and they just ask for a minimum of four hours a week per volunteer. This week we attended volunteer orientation, where we learned a bit about the park and were taken on a tour of all the facilities and shown the various jobs that they are looking to fill. Next week we will start training for these jobs. Al is starting as a boat driver....they have boats that ferry passengers from the Highway 19 entrance to the main entrance of the park on Fishbowl Drive, about a 15 minute ride down the Homosassa River. He will also have an informative talk to give while ferrying the guests along, so he is going to have to learn that :-). I have chosen to start as an interpretive cart host. These are carts that are set up with information and exhibits relating to several different animals in the park. These carts are set up on the boardwalks at the individual animal habitats, and we are there to talk about the animals and answer questions. It sounds very interesting to me, and a neat way to learn about the animals and also to interact with them and the guests. As I learn more about the park, next year I may move onto a "park host", who walks around the park and interacts with guests and answering questions. I think it will be fun, and give us new experiences.

Thursday afternoon we headed back north to Otter Springs, but made a detour over to Rainbow Springs State Park Campground. We had received an email from folks we met at the RV Dreams rally in April, Nancy and Neil Savage. They were staying at Rainbow Springs and invited us to stop by for a nice chat and dinner. This is one of the nicest parts of the RV lifestyle, is the great people you meet and become friends with that you most likely would have never met at all! We had a lovely time, and the talk just never stopped. I was so glad to hear that their plans for getting out here on the road are coming together, although more slowly than they would have liked. But that goes for most of us, doesn't it. Again, like us, they have to find the best way to work things out for themselves, as each couple has different circumstances and responsibilities. The important thing is to not give up, get out there and follow your dreams as best you can. It was so great to meet up with them, we so appreciate the time people spend keeping up with our travels, and knowing that my love of this beautiful park, and writing about it, has brought the same love to it from more folks. If anyone ever has questions about anywhere we've been, or places we've worked, don't hesitate to write to me, or comment; I love hearing from you and will be happy to elaborate on anything.

Thanks for all the comments and support out there. We are back in Otter Springs this weekend for our work "week", some stormy weather is supposedly on tap, but I'll try to get out and take some pictures to liven things up. have a great day out there!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Passing Time

Or, is time passing? At any rate, I do apologize for the lag in posting. I haven't felt that anything I've been doing is worth passing on. I've also been doing a lot of thinking, and that always gets me in trouble :-).

Its been definitely odd, balancing our full-timer life with also buying a home down here in Florida. Maybe because we haven't been on the road for very long...it'll be a year on March 27. So on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays I'm still a workamping full-timer, but Mondays through Thursdays I'm down in Sugarmill attending to the variety of things that need to be done when moving a household and residency from one state to another. It's a dichotomy that I'm having difficulty dealing with. I've also found that I'm letting myself get stressed out just like I was before in my business life, without realizing that I was doing this, and now I have to get myself back on track. Just breathe deep, realize everything is going well, and it is ok. Things could be very much worse.

We have also made a few decisions the past couple of weeks. Our families down here are very important to us, and we wish to spend as much time as possible with them while we are in Florida for the winter months. Also, sites are rather expensive here in the winter, even with the monthly rates. Paying workamper jobs in this area seem to be on the scarce side...I have sent out dozens of inquiries the past 6 weeks for next winter, and of the handful that have bothered to respond, while polite, say they don't have any pay positions, and that they want folks to work during the summer in order to be considered for the winter. I can understand that, but our objective is to see different areas of the country during the summer months. They also seem to want A LOT of hours worked in exchange for a site. So, we are most likely going to be "3/4" timers: we'll leave the trailer in storage for January through March, live in the house, and  take a few camping trips during those months. As we've been told many times, there is no single "right" way to full-time, and I think for the next few winters that this will work for us.

Another decision we've made, that in order to "finance" the 3 months in Florida without paying jobs, we're going to try working the sugar beet harvest in October. We have the time to do it in between our job in Colorado and our return to Amazon. I thought about goofing off for that month in between, but instead of spending money being a tourist, we can make enough in those three weeks so I can relax in Florida. I may have different thoughts AFTER doing it this year, but we're game to try almost anything :-).

So: the game plan: less stress, more fun, work hard, play hard. Life is too short to do otherwise. The house is beautiful, it will be a wonderful place to live in during the winters, and a very good "exit plan" for when we come off the road. We are looking forward to our summer jobs in Colorado, and exploring a new area of the country. Life is very good.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Time to Catch Up!

Time just seems to fly by lately. I didn't think I would be this busy over the winter, yet there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day for everything.

We have settled into our work schedule here at Otter Springs. Friday Saturday and Sundays we clean the bath houses, check sites and firepits, do trash patrol throughout the campground and trails, and anything else that needs to be done. Its a very relaxed atmosphere here, and we're enjoying it very much. Last Saturday another blogger, Janna and her husband Michael (Tin Teepee/Log Cabin) arrived and are, staying at least for the week. They too are enjoying the quiet life here, and I hope they extend their stay a bit longer! They have explored the area more than we have at this point, and found a lovely craft center in the town of Trenton. I would like to explore the stain glass studio myself, and possibly learn how to do this.

Last Monday, 1/30, we hooked up the fiver and headed down to Disney's Fort Wilderness Campground for four nights. We were meeting up with several members of Al's family, and had a great time! His sister Susie flew in from Texas for a visit, and his cousins Bill and Denise, Kathy, and Fred were also along. Al's mom, sister Ginny and Aunt Rita rounded out the group of ten. We had a great time chatting with everyone and catching up what's been going on. I have to laugh, because everyone is most interested in our experiences at Amazon.com this past fall :-).
What a beautiful day we had at the Magic Kingdom. The weather was the most awesome we've ever experienced. Sunny and warm, but not hot. 

Al's sister Sue, and cousins Fred (who visited us in Michigan this past summer) on the left and cousin Bill (one of our first on-the-road visitors while we were at Hunting Island SC in March) on the right.

Six intrepid cousins on Splash Mountain...I'll wait to experience my mountains in Colorado :-).

The wet aftermath :-).

The whole group enjoyed the ride on the Jungle Cruise. I was quite impressed with the handicap service in place for the elderly and disabled. Al's Aunt Rita would not have been able to go if they had not had the boat set up for wheelchairs and scooters to drive onto. She's 93 now, and quite a hardy soul, but there was no way she could have stepped down into the boat and gotten back out. Its really nice to see how they take care of these folks.

Wednesday we enjoyed strolling around Sea World. Its been many many years since we visited Sea World, and it has changed a lot. The orcas are always amazing, and just makes me long even more to head up to Alaska and see them in the wild. My favorite show there was actually a pet show, where dogs and cats performed a really cute skit on stage with very little assistance from trainers. What I really liked about it was that every dog and cat in the program was rescued from a local shelter or rescue society. They were amazing, and I can't imagine how difficult it must be especially to train a cat! My cat would look at me and say "yeah, right...you want me to do what?" :-). 

A trip to EPCOT rounded out our all too brief visit on Thursday. We were leaving early Friday morning so we could get back to Otter Springs for our Friday shift. Very sad, but hey, we are a lot closer to Disney than we were back in New York :-)! I know, yes, we love our quiet campsites, close to nature, hiking alone in the forests, kayaking silently along the rivers. But, we have always loved Disney World, and make no excuses for it! I can't explain it, it is just one of our favorite places, and we always, always have a great time there. Its extremely touristy, crowded a lot of the time, but we love it. One is not mutually exclusive of the other, right? Its what we are learning as we go along. There is no one right way to live this RV style, and its up to us to decide what combination of things is what makes us happy.

Lastly, this week we are back in Sugarmill Woods. After our work weekend, and meeting Janna and Michael, it was time Monday to head back south. All the furniture and stuff that was in storage waiting for the house to be bought arrived early Tuesday morning. Since then it's been a whirlwind of activity, opening boxes, arranging furniture and cabinets, and discovering what we had packed up last year! But at least everything is going according to schedule, and we should have Al's mom and sister all settled in the new house before we leave in April to head for Colorado.

I guess that's enough for one post. I have some random musings and thoughts, but will save them for next time! Thanks for reading, and let me know if there are any other Mouse fans out there ;-)!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Isn't it Nice?

The weather down here, that is. I can't believe how wonderful the winter weather has been this year. In fact, most Floridians are telling us don't get used to it, it's just plain weird how great it's been. The goldenrod is in full bloom down by the Suwanee River (I know, bad for a lot of folks), the azaleas are starting to pop, even the bees are already out.

We've been busy busy busy. We finished another weekend of camphosting at Otter Springs. We really are enjoying the campground, how quiet and peaceful it is. The folks we work with are very nice, and the few winter seasonal people we have are nice folks as well. There has been a potluck one night, and card games set up, but as we've been spending the weekdays down in Homosassa we haven't joined in those yet. We're hoping within a couple of weeks that the bulk of the work will be behind us and we'll be able to proceed at a more relaxed pace!

Last week we took care of getting mom to a couple of doctor appointments and shopping. The "to do" list of paperwork and phone calls are getting done bit by bit. We're also installing a LifeStation alert in the house since she will be living alone now, but we are having some issues getting it to work. Now we are waiting for a "dsl filter" to arrive as it seems like it won't work because of the dsl internet line my dad had for his internet.

We also took care of registering our vehicles here in Florida, and registering for the right to vote here...now if I could only figure out who to vote for LOL!! Anyway, people may be interested in hearing how we made out doing this, as many try to decide where to set up residency once they are going on the road. It actually wasn't that difficult for us, mainly because we do have a physical address to use here. THAT is the prime ingredient. And it seems as if it is happening in every state, slowly but surely, and is due to Homeland Security regulations. My sister-in-law witnessed a poor woman in the driver's licensing office who is a full-timer trying to get licensed in Florida using her mail forwarding service address, and they will NOT accept that address any longer. It must be a physical address, and the computers DO recognize the mail forwarding services and will kick it out. She was very upset, and I don't know how she is resolving it. My best advise is to have relative or friend in Florida be your mail forwarding service, and get their affidavit that you are "residing" there. It will be much easier!

In Florida, there are two separate offices for driver's licenses and then for registering your vehicles. You must go to the websites and make sure you have ALL of the proper documentation for proving who you are. Otherwise, its a wasted trip. Here is where to go for license requirements and here for titles and tags. We also found that when we called Geico (we had them in NY) to switch the insurance to Florida, that the insurance rate went up...wow, I thought NY was one of the highest priced states! But we shopped around down here, and ended up getting insurance with identical coverage for less. I always forget, you have to keep looking around every few years as the rates do creep up after a while. If anyone wants further information about setting up in Florida, just let me know, I'll be happy to help out.

We also set up for the Homesteading Exemption since we were in the county offices. I must say, everyone we spoke to was most pleasant and helpful, a much different experience from the DMV and officials back in NY. I think all the utilities for the house are now set up, and the pest control as well..lots of bugs down here :-).

We had planned on heading back to Otter Springs early on Thursday, but it turned out to be SO beautiful a day we decided to try out our new kayaks we had bought from Nick and Miss Terry (Gypsy Journal). We got them secured to the roof of the Trailblazer, and headed down to Crystal River Kayak Company to launch. We were headed to the Three Sisters Springs to see some manatees!

Vies of the canals as we paddled towards to springs. Its an easy 15 minutes to the springs.

Right outside the canal to the springs is a roped off area for the manatees. You are not allowed to cross into this area, its a protected area for them to retreat to when they've had enough of the visitors.

Al is waiting for the snorkelers as the head up the canal to the springs. It was quite a strong current through here and made for slow going as a snorkeler!

Inside the springs area

One lone tagged manatee was hanging out in the springs. We watched for a while, taking care to stay well away from him.

Back out of the springs, we continued paddling up the canals past the beautiful homes on the water, and out into King's Bay. It was terrible windy, though, and I didn't feel confident enough in my paddling skills to tough it out, so we called it a day and headed back. King's Bay will wait for a calmer day!

Nice looking kayak Al's got himself, isn't it! Thanks for the great deal, Nick! We're going to have a blast with these.

One last view of the manatees

After hauling out and packing up, we headed back to the house to clean up and have some lunch. A round of grocery shopping, and we were off to Otter Springs for our weekend of keeping the place all spiffy looking! have I mentioned that we do enjoy this campground :-)?

This week we are down in Fort Wilderness at Disney World.That will be the next story, so stay tuned :-)!