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

Friday, February 22, 2013

Better Days

Yes, we are seeing better days, or at least it feels that way! Problem updates:
1. The truck has been diagnosed, valve lifter and camshaft need repairs, Ford warranty has approved the work, and the repairs are underway. Langdale Ford in Valdosta GA has been great to work with, and gone the extra mile for us so far. The warranty only approved replacing the one bad valve lifter and the camshaft, and we opted at our expense, while the engine is torn down, to have the other valve lifters replaced as well. We figured it made sense.
2. The transport company delivered the Cougar to the Keystone factory Thursday, before the snow and ice started up there. They've already taken it into the repair shop, ordered the new wall, and have talked to us about a few other items. So far, I am very pleased with the customer service at Keystone :-).
3. The antibiotics are clearing up the infection in my mouth, and I should be ready for my cavities to be filled on Wednesday...not fun, but neither is achy teeth!

I finally went through the few pictures I had taken at Walt Disney World (oh, yes, I sent my Coolpix camera to Nikon to see if it can be repaired, and yes, it can, yay!) and thought I would show you a couple pictures of the new Fantasyland area, and the Beast's Castle where we had our marvelous French dinner.

The entrance to The Beast's castle, across the moat, with the castle turrets above

Entering the massive front doors

Beautiful mosaics reminiscent of the mosaics at Cinderella's Castle

The napkins were roses, naturally! No pictures of dinner, it was just too dark while dining, and the food was so yummy I simply forgot :-).

The statue of Gaston and LeFou at the entrance to Gaston's Tavern, a quick service eatery. Must try the giant warm cinnamon rolls next time we're there!

Prince Eric's castle, from The Little Mermaid, which houses an Ariel ride...line was too long, so we'll try that one a different trip.

Our last day was spent at Fort Wilderness with the remaining family members...

playing Marbles and Cards, of course! I love the large square picnic tables at Fort Wilderness, perfect for large family gatherings. The sites here in the 1200 loop are so large and roomy, I just love them.

Back home in Homosassa, after our aborted attempt to take the Cougar to Indiana, and straightening out the myriad of issues we had, we had several errands and chores to be done. We did make a little time for some fun stuff,  visiting with friends from back in New York one day at Downtown Disney, and finally went geocaching two different times, receiving our Florida "badge" for our first find in Florida. We collected 8 out of 30 caches that form a cross pattern in the Withlacoochee State Forest, and will return another day to collect more. No pictures from that hike, though, as there was a "prescribed burn" going on somewhere to the south of us, and it was kind of hazy...not too much scenery there anyway. We were doing a bit of "bushwacking" through the forest, so I didn't take the camera out!

We also did a "kayak geocache"; all the caches are along a waterway and you can only get to them via kayak or canoe. We thought that sounded like fun, and got us out kayaking for the afternoon.

Directly across the Homosassa River from the boat launch we saw this funky little fish market...local color!

Ospreys are nesting everywhere in the area

Pelicans and cormorants chilling out on a little rocky island

We turned into Price's Creek heading to our first set of co-ordinates. I found the "shoreline" interesting...its old oysterbeds!

Close-up of oysterbeds, pretty neat

Do you know what he's doing?

Yep, there's a cache hanging in the tree!

Continuing on up Price's Creek...there's a total of 5 caches along the creek. Once we got off the Homosassa River, it was extremely quiet and peaceful, not a soul around...

except this dude...

and this dude...it took me awhile to spot him, but I could definitely hear him drumming away

The scenery back here is very pretty...not jungly, but wide open.There were also several manatees cruising the area, but I was never fast enough to catch a picture of their snouts breaking the water's surface.

After finding all our caches for the afternoon, we headed back to the Homosassa River, and passed this small fleet of boats.

More cormorants striking poses for me

An osprey with his "catch of the day" flew right over us!

Back to the launching ramp, where I will not amuse you with pictures of disembarking the kayaks...is there any graceful way to do that??

That's pretty much all the news from this part of the world at the moment. next week are more appointments and errands, hopefully the truck will be ready to be picked up, a card game is in the works one afternoon, and we continue to do our volunteer thing at the Wildlife Park. Hope everyone out there has a good weekend!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Little Black Cloud...

Our second week at Fort Wilderness was just as much fun as the first...imagine that :-)! We were so fortunate that the weather this year was sunny and warm while we were there. There have been winters that we've gone that have been quite chilly!

Highlights of our second week included checking out the new French bakery in the France pavilion at EPCOT...not just once, but a total of three times...dare I even say, TWICE in one day!! Oh, we're so bad. The consensus is that the refurb is very nice, and the food and pastries delicious! One afternoon we had a wonderful lunch with dear old friends from Sag Harbor NY (our original hometown) who were visiting WDW the same week. It was great to catch up with their lives, and hopefully it will become and annual event...yes, we have already booked our reservations at The Fort for next year...any and all are welcome to join us :-)!

We were also lucky enough to have scored reservations at the newest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, Be Our Guest in the new Fantasyland. The restaurant is set in the Beast's castle, and there are three separate dining rooms: The Main Ballroom, the West Wing, and the Rose Gallery. You really feel as if you are entering the castle straight out of the movie. The detail is that authentic...except there are no singing and dancing candelabras, clocks, or teapots! We did, however, receive a visit from The Beast twice during dinner :-). Food was French, naturallement, and we all thoroughly enjoyed our meals, right down to the assortment of cupcakes and cream puffs for dessert. Highly recommended for anyone going to WDW, but be sure to jump on the reservation bandwagon as early as possible, it books up quite quickly!

Our last day at The Fort we had another cookout with all the family, played Marbles and Cards, and made our reservations for next year :-). It had been so much fun, not just to spend time at Disney but to share it with family. It doesn't get better.
Casey is going to miss his Uncle Billy :-)!!

Now, you're probably wondering with such a glowingly good time, where does "the little black cloud" in the title fit in? Well, as most of you know, or have heard, now we have to deal with our trailer issues. Specifically, getting it back up to Keystone, where the necessary repairs can take place. Upon packing up at The Fort, we left for our short journey home to Homosassa, where we parked the trailer in front of the house and proceeded to empty its contents into our garage. Its only been two years since we started our journey, but wow, the "stuff" does accumulate, doesn't it?! I had hoped to be able to leave my stuff in it at least on the side that wasn't in need of repair, but upon requesting clarification I was asked to have it completely empty, as "while replacing the passenger side wall of the trailer, they may need to remove the other side of the trailer as well"...yes, you read that right. The are anticipating replacing the entire wall on the passenger side of the trailer. The also anticipate needing "several weeks", which is why we need to get it up there pronto so that we can get to Bar Harbor by the first of May.

So, we emptied all our possessions, boxed it all up and commandeered the back corner of the garage. At this time we plan on renting a u-haul trailer in April, picking the trailer up in Indiana and heading on to Maine from there. Ugh. At least we did "purge" quite a few items, figuring if we hadn't used them in two years, it most likely wasn't needed.

Early Monday morning, we headed out on the open road, headed towards Indiana. The pups were staying in Florida with their aunties, so we could travel faster. We had hoped to make it to Louisville, KY before stopping, arriving at Goshen Tuesday early afternoon. Well, we made it as far as Valdosta Georgia when the "little black cloud" descended again. I think I had written that starting back in October, while in North Dakota at the beets (I REALLY have no fond memories of that state at this time!), the truck started making a "tick tick tick" sound on and off. Unfortunately, never when it was at a dealer :-. Al, having worked on diesel engines in his boat, was fairly sure it was a valve lifter problem, but unfortunately, no-one was going to tear apart the engine, under warranty, on his saying so. Well, as we pulled out of the first rest area on I75 just south of Valdosta, the truck started running very rough, and making all kinds of racket. I really couldn't believe it. Long story short, we found a large Ford dealer with diesel service 11 miles away, we were able to get there under our own power, they heard the issue and agreed with it being the valve lifters, and (Thank the Lord) we have the extended warranty through Ford so the repairs are covered. The folks there have been great, so far, letting us store the trailer in their secure lot, and arranging for a rental car while the repairs are taking place (also covered under the extended warranty).

The bad part, at this point, is that the trailer has not made it to Keystone factory yet! As of Friday afternoon, they still hadn't finished getting into the engine to ascertain the exact problem, then they have to contact Ford to see exactly what they will cover having done. Then they can finally start fixing it. So we are looking at it being most likely another week before getting it back. So, I did some research, and at this time, we decided our best course was to hire a transport company to take the rig up to Indiana for us so we don't lose our spot in the repair cycle there. I was surprised, it isn't actually going to cost much more than what I would have spent on fuel round-trip, hotels and eating out while on the road. I think it is our best option at this point. We do have to make the trip back up to Valdosta tomorrow, though, as we didn't think to leave the keys to the trailer there, and the truck company needs to get into the bay to turn the battery on so the brakes will work! Always a good thing :-). Plus we left Al's toolbox in the basement as he wouldn't travel without his tools, so we need to collect that. I also need to call Keystone in the morning and apprise them that this is what is going on and they can expect the trailer Thursday or Friday. I really wanted to personally speak to the service department and go over the trailer with them, but I'll do the best I can on the phone.

So, that's our story. I'll keep everyone apprised of the situation as it unfolds, and ask for continued well wishes from everyone!

Monday, February 4, 2013

What in the WORLD Have We Been Up To?

It's been way too long since I posted, but that seems to happen when several folks get together and head on down to Walt Disney World for some fun family time!

A week ago Sunday we piled into our vehicles and headed down to fabulous Walt Disney World for a stay of two wonderful weeks this winter. Al's mom and sisters are staying in an apartment about five minutes from the maingate entrance, and we are staying at the Fort Wilderness campground on Disney property. Along with us at The Fort is Al's cousin Bill and Denise in their beautiful Allegro bus, and Fred and Kathy in their Navion motorhome. Our three sites arrived on Sunday, the rest of the group arrived on Monday. Al's aunt and uncle were staying in the same complex as his sisters, another cousin Rocky and his wife Lucia in the site next to us, and cousins from another branch of the family in one of Disney's resort, Rosemary and George. All total, 16!! Disney is awesome, as always, and had us all in sites together in the same loop :-).

Sunday, our arrival day, was a beautiful sunny day, and we arrived around 3PM. Its a long two hour drive from the house :-). A very nice cast member assisted us in checking in, suffered through our jokes and requests, even waived the pet fee for us (nice!) and gave us the annual passholder discount rate (even nicer!). As we turned into our loop, who did we see but Nancy, Gin, and Tricia! I knew there was a group of fellow blogger Dreamers here, but it was so fun to see them as soon as we arrived :-). A quick wave and we set about getting situated in our site. We had an early dinner reserved at Disney's Trail's End Restaurant here in the campground, a buffet meal that is quite good and one of the best deals for dinner here at the resort, in my opinion :-). While having dinner, we received a text from Nancy that they would be down at the marina at 8PM to watch the fireworks. So of course we went down and had a nice chat with Nancy and Bill, and also Bruce and Laura Raber, whom we haven't seen since we met at the 2011 RV-Dreams rally in Tennessee. It's so nice to re-connect with friends from on the road :-). This was their last night here, so we bid them all safe journeys and a big "see you down the road".

Monday we continued to settle in and await the arrival for the rest of the family. We had a great pot-luck dinner with everyone, and many laughs. We had many compliments on our Mickey light as well.
No Christmas hat this time of year though :-).

Tuesday we ventured into the Magic Kingdom for a few hours. I'm finding as I'm getting older, I don't like to deal with the crowds for as long a period of time anymore. So a few hours in the park is fine. We did several of our favorite rides and attractions, and had a lovely lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, The Plaza Restaurant on Main Street. We also don't like to leave the pups alone in the trailer for too long, so we head back to relax at the campground and take them for a nice walk. It's a mile and a half loop around, so Chelsea goes around once, and Casey goes a second time. Poor Chelsea has some arthritis settling in, but we do like to keep her moving, just not as much.

I have to apologize for the lack of photos, but I just haven't felt like dragging my big Nikon around the parks, and my small camera I bought last year to go hiking with became damaged as we drove to Florida at Christmas. I have always kept them in an overhead cabinet, and for the first time in 2 years the door came open during transit and it tumbled to the floor. Grrr! I'm hoping Nikon might be able to do something with it, but I'm not counting on it, and am now storing them in my closet for travel!

We have also spent time in the other three parks, had a GREAT time at the Wishes Dessert Party ( if you have a sweet tooth you should definitely do this at least once), had breakfast with Chef Mickey and his friends at Chef Mickey's breakfast buffett, and the whole group of 16 met up for a lively dinner at Carrabba's Italian Grill out on Hwy. 192. 

Sunday we had a lovely day. The weather was beautiful, but we did need to decide what to do, as we weren't able to visit the parks. You see, when we became Florida residents, a whole new set of passes to Disney became available to us. We have chosen the Weekday Select pass, which allows us to visit the parks Monday through Friday, but not weekends, or select blackout periods, such as holiday weeks or mid-summer. So as the customer service representative is telling us this, Al says, 'so, we can't visit the parks when 100 thousand people are here, or when its 110 degrees out, oh that's a bummer". She laughs and we purchased the passes, which cost us $211.00 for a year. I think that's a great deal! 

Anyway, so its Sunday, and we decided to have lunch at another of our favorite restaurants, Olivia's at the Old Key West Resort.

Old Key West is one of Disney's vacation Club properties, which we used to be members of until we hit the road. 

Conch Fritters, isn't the serving dish neat?

Onion rings as well

Shrimp Po'boy sandwich

Club sandwich...yummm!

After filling our tummies, we decided to take a pontoon boat ride down the canals to Downtown Disney.

A tethered hot air balloon ride at The Marketplace

The Marketplace shoreline, with one of my favorite places...Ghiradelli's Soda Fountain :-)!!

Treehouse Villas, unique accommodations in the Vacation Club...we stayed in one of these back in the 1980's, really neat.

Saratoga Springs Resort

Port Orleans Resort

The Riverside Resort

Back to Old Key West Resort. Its so nice and quiet there, it was our favorite place to stay when we vacationed here.

That night of course was Superbowl Sunday, so 10 of us gathered at the apartment to have pizza, play games and watch the Superbowl. No winners in any football pools for our group, although we came close in one...darn safety in the closing minutes spoiled our win ;-)!! We did play a rousing game of Marbles, Cards and Jokers....

which we learned out in Colorado from our good friends Sandi and Joe. In fact, we enjoyed it so much that another workamper with us, Jack, built this beautiful set for us to take with us and teach others how to play. Its a lot of fun and we look forward to sharing it with new friends :-).

So, that's what we've been up to, and we still have 5 more days before we check out. We have our fingers crossed for good weather in the midwest at that time, as we'll be heading to Indiana to drop off the trailer at Keystone for the needed repairs. In the meantime, we'll keep doing our best to have fun here in the "World" with the "Mouse".