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, March 29, 2013

Tarpon Springs

As our time here for this winter is coming to a close, we've checked our list of "desired activities", and set a date to visit the historic area of Tarpon Springs. We've heard about it from several different sources, and thought it would be an interesting day trip, being about an hour south of Homosassa. It was a bit cool and windy, but we decided to take the ride down there last Monday. We are very glad we did, it was quite interesting.

Tarpon Springs, named for the fish that frequent the area, was originally a winter resort town for wealthy Americans in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Large beds of sponges were found by turtle fisherman in 1873, commercial ventures started springing up, and by 1900 the city was the largest sponge port in the United States.

Greek immigrants began arriving, and expanded and refined the sponging industry. Other businesses, such as restaurants and grocery stores, were established to service the ever increasing Greek community. The adverse economy of Florida, following the collapse of the land boom in 1926 and a destructive hurricane, was also felt in Tarpon Springs.  By the late 1920s, Tarpon Springs felt the full effects of the Depression.  The sponge industry managed to prosper during this period, however.  Misfortune hit the industry later; in 1938 blight infested the sponge beds and many of the sponges died.  The industry continued to grow however, and reached a height of 180 sponge diving boats before a red tide in 1948 wreaked further damage.  Sponges slowly started to return in 1959, with the beds regaining full strength in the 1970s. Most of the current day sponge boats are owned and operated by the people of Greek descent.

Nowadays, tourism has replaced the sponging as the main economic activity of the town. People, including us :-)!, flock to the area to learn about the sponge industry, check out the Greek businesses that are still lining Dodecanese Blvd., and indulge in some excellent Greek cuisine! 

Almost all the shops had their wares displayed outside, lending a bazaar-type feeling to the street.

The other side of Dodecanese Blvd. had sponge boats tied up along the docks.

We could see the bags of gathered sponges in the boats. 

These sponges were sorted into different types, and strung together to finish drying out.

A memorial statue dedicated to the sponge fishermen who lost their lives while at sea.

There were several beautiful mosaics along shop walls depicting the lives of the sponge fisherman

More kitschy displays outside a shop. If you're looking to decorate in a nautical drinking theme, you can definitely find the necessary items here!

And let us not forget about lunch!! I had used TripAdvisor to get an idea of good restaurants in the area, and The Hellas Restaurant and Bakery was the #1 rated restaurant. We were able to get a table for lunch, and we were definitely NOT disappointed :-). I myself had never really had Greek food before, and I am now wondering why not?! We all tried something different, and the food was literally flying around the table as we were all trying each others' meals. The only thing I got a picture of was the Saganaki (imported flamed cheese):
Opa! Was that good! I'll be thinking about that for a long time :-).

And if you go, don't miss the bakery...OMG! We took home a fine assortment of deliciousness that was SO bad for the diet...oh well :-).

So we had an excellent day discovering Tarpon Springs, and I can easily see that we will be headed back that way each winter. But not so fast.....Al, Ginny and Patti went BACK there on Thursday to go out on a fishing boat for the afternoon. 
Ready to go...a bit cool, but sunny

Headed out to the gulf....

Al caught a nice grouper, but as the season for grouper doesn't open until Monday, back in he went.

Not to worry though, they came home with a very full string of Key West snapper, otherwise known as "grunts". That was tonight's dinner, and I was told by all the fish eaters that it was "most excellent".

That's our adventures for this week. We're sincerely hoping that we've seen our last frosty nights! Tomorrow we'll be working at the Wildlife Park, and then Easter Sunday with the whole family that is down here. May everyone out there have a wonderful holiday.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Progress and Such

I was quite astonished when I realized its been three weeks since I posted a blog entry! Sorry about that!
(I've been so lax in photos that I will post a few of the area from last year!)

Manatees at Three Sisters Spring

The first week was pretty much taken up by activities with an old friend visiting from New York. Al and Ed wore themselves out playing golf, we tried a few restaurants in the area, card games aplenty were played, and we had an overall nice week. Cooler, but sunny everyday until his last day here. We also rented a pontoon boat one afternoon and cruised up and down the Homosassa River, seeing tons of manatees all around. When it gets cooler out, the manatees come further up the river into the warmer waters of the springs. If you haven't been down to this area before, the manatees are a really big deal, and to prove it, National Geographic magazine has a feature article on the manatees of Crystal River this month that is very interesting reading. I was hoping to have some pictures of them myself, but I was not prepared and found my battery dead in my camera shortly after we cast of from the dock!
Manatees socializing in the warm spring water

Let's see, what else?? Dental visits are done for the season, yay! Doctor visits are done for the season, yay! Veterinarian visits...almost done; Casey needs his teeth cleaned, and Chelsea is having a couple of growths removed. Chelsea turned 11 years old this past week, and except for some arthritis that is slowing her down,  she is doing great for her age. I don't think we'll be able to take her along on any long hikes this summer, but there's plenty of short trails in the Acadia N.P. area for us to explore.
Ozello, Florida

Speaking of Acadia, we were notified by our boss at Mount Desert Narrows CG in Bar Harbor that our background checks have cleared, we passed, :-), and we are now "officially" hired for the season. We start May 1, and our final day will be 10/15. This is a little longer than what we've done in the past, but we're looking forward to it as the fall is a beautiful season.
Limpkins at Otter Springs

Ok, since we moved onto the starting date of May 1, we might as well update the trailer status. Friday we had a call....it's ready!....sort of. Our service tech sent me a message, asking us to call that morning. So we did, and after commiserating with her over the horrid winter they've had up there, we delved into the business at hand. Our trailer is all reassembled, the minor items all taken care of as well, and went to the "leak test" area, where it also passed. It was over in detailing when someone noticed an overlooked item from our punchlist....there was also a hairline crack starting under the bedroom slide that we had asked them to look at. Unfortunately, it had been passed over, and when the technicians were called over to look at it and determine a fix, they feel they want to replace THAT side wall as well. Unfortunately, that will necessitate a longer time at the factory than we have left. (Ok, Bill K., go ahead and call and say I told you so!!). They offered us a few different options, and long story short, a mutual agreement was reached that we'll pick up our unit next month as planned, and then we'll return it to the factory January 6, at which time we have a secure work slot scheduled, the wall will have been pre-ordered, and the work will take a few days, of which they will pay for us to stay near-by in a hotel. I am completely astonished at how much Keystone has been dealing with this issue, our service rep Robyne has been fantastic, keeping us apprised as each step has been completed. 
Cedar Key Florida

So, we are now set for an April 17th departure from Florida, headed to Indiana first. We will pick up our trailer on Friday 4/19, and then have the weekend to get everything put back in it...yes we had to empty all our "stuff" out before going to Keystone! On that Monday we have an appointment at the MorRyde factory where we are going to upgrade to the IS suspension and disc brakes. We're thinking a tire upgrade as well, we're going to discuss that with them this week. After that is done, it's off the Maine. I'm sincerely hoping the snow will be gone by then :-).

The last item of note would be a visit with Tom, Marci, Nicholas and Bryce of Roaming Free 2010, fellow RV-Dreamers we met at the rally in 2011. We took away so much from attending that rally, but by far the best has been the friends we made there and continue to see on the road. They've been spending this winter in Florida, volunteering at Lover's Key State park, and are now slowly headed west to their summer gig out in Mancos, CO. We spent a great afternoon visiting and chatting up a storm at their campsite right here in Homosassa. While there we also saw friends we had worked with last year at Otter Springs, Nancy and Bill Lee, and caught up on the gossip from there. Its a really neat life :-). 

The coming couple of weeks will find us doing some fun things with our family. Tomorrow we are headed for a day visit to Tarpon Springs, about an hour south of us. A game of Marbles, Cards and Jokers with Al's cousins is Tuesday:

Marbles, Cards and Jokers...contact me if anyone is interested in purchasing this hand-crafted board set, I know the crafter :-).

A fishing trip out of Tampa for some of the family is planned one day, a big Easter dinner is on tap as well. The following week Al is going on an overnight fishing trip out of Tampa ( he has to get his fishing fix in!), and we are also planning a day at Disney World at the Flower and Garden Festival.
Lady and the Tramp topiaries

This year they have food booths with sample size specialties of the different countries....oh it's going to be a bad day for the old diet :-)!

I also need to get busy planning my routes north! That's about it for this segment, I hope everyone has a Happy Easter holiday.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

This and That

It's been a fairly uneventful week, all in all. The weather turned much colder over the weekend, with highs in the 50's and lows in the 30's. I must be acclimating quite quickly to Florida, as I really feel cold, even though I know, deep in my northern heart, that it really isn't that bad :-).

We did get the truck back, finally! All I can say, is that I am extremely happy that we had made the decision to take the Ford extended warranty when we purchased the truck, as we are now well ahead of our investment in it! In order to do the work, they had to remove the cab of the truck from the chassis in order to get to the engine and make a diagnosis. They did discover a bad valve lifter, as well as the cam shaft damaged, and a rocker arm was broken. All in all, I'm amazed that we were able to limp our way to the dealership. Once it was all diagnosed, they also had to remove the engine itself to do the repairs. Ford only authorized replacing the known faulty valve lifter rather than all of them, and we opted to pay out of pocket to replace them all, seeing as the engine was torn down that far. So all new lifters, new cam shaft, new rocker arm, all new seals and gaskets....it was a large amount of work! She runs just beautiful now, seems even quieter and our miles per gallon has increased a bit. We're very pleased with the work done by the mechanics at Langdale Ford in Valdosta GA and all the service representatives were great as well.

Chelsea, however, didn't have such a good week. One morning she had an allergic reaction to something after our morning walk. Her face swelled up, her skin turns bright red, and she starts panting very heavily. This necessitated a quick trip to the veterinarians office for a shot of benadryl, which eased her symptoms quickly. When we go back for her vaccination updates the end of the month, I'm going to ask about carrying a shot or two with us as this is the second time this has happened, and at times, we are not near a medical facility for her! It didn't end here for her, though, although the reaction never came back. A few nights later, as we were getting ready for bed, we noticed her backside was wet and gooey. Investigation revealed that one of her fatty cysts had burst, like a boil, and we now oozing yucky stuff. Eww. We couldn't get the flow to stop, so it was off to the 24-hour facility in Spring Hill to get that taken care of. Needless to say, the "pet" portion of the monthly budget was blown for February! Anyway, they cleaned her up good, and gave us antibiotics to fight the infection. It needed to stay open though, so it wouldn't abscess, so we were following her around with paper towels for a couple of days, and had tarps covering all the carpeted areas! She's doing fine, now :-).

The only other thing of note the past week was getting together with some blog readers, Bonnie and Richard Waltman. They've been readers of ours for some time, although only in "lurking" mode :-). They are from New Jersey, and are waiting for the house to sell so they can hit the road. Being in the area at Chassa Oaks RV Resort, they sent me an email, and we got together Sunday afternoon for a good long chat session. They are also RV-Dreamers, having attended the rally at Hershey PA. It's an amazing thing to me, still, that even though we've never met, we all feel as if we know each other. It's a "like-minded" sort of thing I guess :-). So   we can add another new set of friends to our group!

We have a pretty busy week coming up, having an old friend from New York visiting us this week. It'll be a lot of golfing for Al and Ed, and we have a few outings and restaurants in the line-up. I expect to start having some pictures to go along with my dialogue again soon! Stay safe, and warm in those northern climes.