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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and....

Another two and a half weeks have passed. It seems as if you get up in the morning, and *poof* the day is gone!

The Good

We had an enjoyable week with Al's cousins Bill and Denise. After our family reunion in Disney, they come up to Homosassa and stay for a week at Chassa Oaks RV Resort. Its a very small, quiet campground only ten minutes from our house. The lots there are owned by individual people, and recent changes in the company's business have now made it necessary to book through the individual owners. Most, if not all, owners are looking to rent for a month as the shortest time period, and preferably for the whole season it seems like. So we're not sure they will make it here next winter for a week, but something may pop up. We had several dinners together, including the entire Florida family branch getting together at the China Buffet in Brooksville, Al fixing his extraordinary grilled lamb chop dinner, and Denise "borrowed" our kitchen to fix us a spaghetti and meatball dinner. We played a card game, Phase 10, that ended up taking two sessions to finish. It was a fun time, and they departed for their home in Bluffton South Carolina on the 13th. Al's sister Sue left for Melissa TX on the 15th, and our guest room is free for a couple of weeks :-).

Feb. 16 we got together with RV friends Pat and Diana Brown, and Bonnie and Richard Waltman, and went kayaking on the Rainbow River in Dunnellon. We've been on the river before, when we've stayed at Rainbow Springs State Park's campground. I thought we'd be able to launch from the campground, but was told by the ranger that this launch site was strictly for use of campground guests. She gave us a map to the public launch at KP Hole County Park on the other side of the river, and headed over there.

Bonnie and Richard had never kayak'ed before, and did not have a vessel. Since we have the hard side kayaks here in Florida and had planned on using them, I offered the use of our tandem SeaEagle to them. Richard was a bit apprehensive about using an inflatable kayak in waters where there may be alligators, but we assured him, if an alligator really wanted you it wouldn't matter what kind of watercraft he had LOL. So they put on their game faces, and off we went.

Bonnie and Richard getting instructions and a "shove off" from Al.

Looking good!

The day was partly cloudy, so we didn't get much of the shimmering clarity the water has here. Our plan was to paddle up the river to the headsprings, then easily float back down to the launch spot. It was getting pretty windy, however, so they did really good as the wind was pushing us around quite a bit.

The cloudy, cooler weather kept a few people away, I think, as it wasn't really too crowded on the river. 

It wasn't quite an "easy" float back down river, but we all made it with some healthy paddling at times. It was an enjoyable afternoon, and we made plans for the six of us to get together and have pizza the following Saturday night at Michael Anthony's in Homosassa Springs. We had a lot of talk about the upcoming summer plans ( Pat and Diana are headed to Alaska, and Bonnie and Richard are headed up to Michigan, then out west to Colorado and ending up at the Albuquerque Balloon Festival). and I do believe the staff at Michael Anthony's will remember us the next time we go back :-). It was really fun, folks and we'll see you all down the road!!

Wednesday the 18th we had late lunch plans with our Amazon pals Larry and Sue Hatton. We were to meet them at the China Buffet for a late lunch after Sue's doctor appointment. It was one of our rare (for this winter) beautiful sunny days, so in the morning we took a ride over to Fort Cooper State Park for a little walking with the dogs and find a couple of geocaches. 

There's s little over 5 miles of walking trails, divided among three trails. We walked on two of them, for about four miles total. 

I thought people would enjoy seeing the familiar view of the back of Al and the dogs as they hike down a trail! Fort Cooper was a very nice park, well groomed trails, easily followed, and not too many people walking them. We did see a very quiet wedding taking place, down on the shores of the lake. Looked like the bride and groom, their dog, someone's mom and the minister. Was all over in 10 minutes!

After dropping the dogs back home, we headed down to meet Larry and Sue. All in all, it was a short lunch for us; we only spent three hours there! They are great fun to talk to, and we always have a good time when we get together. They'll be heading up to Michigan the end of March to work their camphost job again. Hopefully, we'll meet at Amazon again :-)

Friday the 20th was a highlight of the winter. While back in Kentucky, we had been talking with our friends Kenny and Jodi (who were visiting our area just after Christmas) and Jodi wanted to swim with the manatees while here. We had a tour booked with Nature Coast Manatee Tours for the end of December, but Rose (one of the owners) called to ask if we would like to rebook as there weren't any manatees in the springs at that time. We had found them through a Groupon ad, and when they told us we could still use the Groupon voucher later in the winter, we rebooked the tour for February. Jody and Kenny were down in Tampa at the time, and Kenny was involved with the RV Inspectors course and unable to come. But Jodi came up and joined us, and we had a great time.

It was really cold, highs only in the 50's after a wicked cold front came through earlier in the week, dropping night time temperatures into the twenties on night. This actually worked to our advantage, though, in that we were pretty much the only people out on the water, except for a couple of kayakers, and no other swimmers at all!

Jody with a manatee. I neglected to get any pictures of our boat, but it was actually a houseboat, with a heated cabin. I was very happy we had booked this tour, rather than a tour on an open pontoon boat! 

Myself, Al and Jody hovering on the top, waiting to be approached by the manatees. We were given strict instruction by Rose and Jake about the interaction with the manatees. No harassing, chasing, poking, prodding, grabbing, riding, standing on of the manatees. If they elect to approach you, you should be still, and put out just one hand in front of you. It's the manatee's choice if they wish to come close enough for you to touch. 

This one came right up to Jodi, and then cruised along, allowing her to stroke him right down his side.

I had someone ask me about this when I posted it to Facebook, that the FWS regulations do not permit this. I talked to the Ranger in charge of the Manatee Watch volunteers at the Homosassa Wildlife Park, asking about the regulations. ( While we were there swimming we were being kept under close watch by the volunteers; as soon as we went in the water they came over in their kayaks to monitor the situation and make sure we were acting responsibly). She said they walk a fine line here in Citrus County. The letter of the law is just that, no harassing of the manatees. However, here, where the manatees are such a huge draw for visitors, and where they congregate in such large groups in the winter, they strictly monitor the activities of the tour groups and individuals, but feel as long as it is manatee-initiated contact, gentle touching is not a harassment, with one, out-stretched hand. It is felt that roping off the areas, not allowing any contact, denying the boat tours access, would eventually dry up interest in the manatees and the support they receive from the public for their conservation. The tour operators have strict rules they must adhere to, and are held liable for any infractions their guests may commit. So that's the story I got, from a Ranger. 

Al, face to face with a manatee.

That's me, with TWO noodles to help me float :-). I'm not a good swimmer, and needed the reassurance I wasn't going to sink, although honestly, we could stand on the bottom almost anywhere in the area. 

We had a great time, and would definitely recommend Nature Coast Manatee Tours for anyone looking for this great experience. 

The Bad

I'm starting to call the first three months of the year our "maintenance" period. Everything has appointments: car, truck, fifth wheel, dogs and us! 

Truck: Its been five thousand miles since the new engine was put in, and it was time for it to go in and be checked over, and the oil changed. Everything is fine with that, thank goodness! We were pretty sure we needed new front tires, which we did, but the surprise was when they removed the tires and checked the brakes, we also needed new front brakes! Brakes do come in handy, :-), so on they went. 

Car: time for an oil change in the TB as well. we try to be very meticulous with the oil changes, as it is a 2007 and has over 110,000 miles on her now. On the road she usually goes to Jiffylube or a Chevy dealer if there's one in the area, and always to Crystal Chevrolet while here in Florida. There was a recall about a door mechanism to be done, and they also found something with the differential seals that needed to be done, and replaced all the spark plugs. We like the flexibility having a car gives us, so fix 'er up!

Dogs: both Casey and Honey passed their annual exams with flying colors, except for Casey having a slight ear infection which is easy to fix up for him. However, on our walk yesterday morning, Honey decided it would be a wonderful thing to start chowing down on a pile of guts she found on the side of the road. I know, Eeewww!! She started acting poorly by lunchtime, not eating her breakfast, panting and restless, so rather than take any chances with anything, off to the vet I went with her. We had a slightly scary moment when initial x-rays looked as if her stomach was starting to flip ("bloat") but after monitoring and subsequent x-rays (and confirmation from a radiologist specialist) it was probably gas distending her stomach and she's much better now. She is on a bland diet, nausea meds and antibiotics (in case there was any nasty bacteria on the guts) but she's much perkier today. I told her in no uncertain terms: no more guts!
We also have an elderly cat. He doesn't travel with us, but is retired in Florida with his aunties. Sadly, at age 18, he is in kidney failure. We have been trying some treatments, but I think his time with us is limited and that is making us very sad. We adore our animals, and making the decision to let them go is always SO difficult. 

Us: finally, our colds/upper respiratory infections are on the downswing. After four weeks, we are so happy to not be feeling tired and aching from coughing. Al's initial visit to the cardiologist shows everything fine there. We've both had our annual physicals and are just waiting for the bloodwork to come back. I have a mammogram to do, dentist to still see (Al is done with the dentist) and we both have eye exams coming up next month. Al does have an upcoming procedure to be done, removing a pre-cancerous mole on his back, which is annoyingly scheduled during a visit from a good friend of ours back in NY. They love playing golf together, and at least the procedure is scheduled towards the end of his visit. It just seems as if the older we get, the more doctors there are to go see...I don't like it!

Lastly, the fifth wheel. I hate to write about this, but it is always good to put out there the problems just so everyone knows your "road life" isn't all sunshine and roses. Thank goodness, before some of you think the worst (Sherry :-)), the trailer is fine, just small irritating problems everyone has. My issue now lies with dealers and service. My rig was at Lazydays for 18 days in January. Warranty work was not finished, so after our Disney reunion we had to take it back, on Feb. 9. It's still there.  But its not even the warranty work and delay that has me most irritated. I can understand it takes time to get approvals and then get things shipped from the manufacturer. So be it. What was annoying is that we had emails back and forth with Grand Design about some of the issues and it was like they were completely ignored by the warranty department at Lazydays, and they started from scratch. At this point we wish we had told GD that were weren't taking it in for service and to ship the stuff to us directly!

What really has me upset and feeling like an idiot is that I fell for their "service package" deal hook line and sinker. We had already decided to have them check over the rig, propane system etc. Wanted them to check the brakes and see if they needed adjusting. Then I had read that some units were having problems with leaking seals and gaskets so I figured we would have them check the axles, wheels, bearings, etc. And then we fell for why not take the entire service package and they'll check and reseal the roof. Its a lot of money, but we were thinking if there's not a record of maintenance, we could have issues with the extended warranty down the road. Now I'm just feeling like a goof. When we picked it up to take to Disney, it was right at closing, the weather was drizzly, and we were kind of rushed to get it done, hitched and back on the road. The next two days as we were packing it up to go to Disney, Al was finding things that should have been done, NOT done. Simple things. Like they said they couldn't find a problem with the light fixtures. Well as soon as we turned them on, there's FIVE lights completely out. Did they turn on the light switch?? He was doing something with the water heater, and found the anode hadn't been checked, or if it had, they hadn't put new teflon tape on it. The battery got low after one day in the storage lot, and he took the battery out to bring home and put on the charger. He looked in the wells and found very low water in them...wouldn't you think the "battery service" would involve refilling the water wells? So now we feel like, did they do the big things in the service that should have been done? Of course, you tell all this to your "service representative" and he apologizes, but I don't want apologies, I want the work I paid for done right.  Its very frustrating, and we will not be taking it back to Lazydays unless its the only alternative for warranty work. He's started watching "how-to" videos from the RV Doctor, and researching how to do maintenance items himself.

So my big question for you all out there, and I really want to know: what maintenance do you do yourself? What do you feel needs to be done by a dealer? Where have you had good service? How often do you do things? Inquiring minds wish to know!

I think that's enough for now. Hopefully, my next post will show the trailer is back, everyone healthy, and more fun stuff going on. And thanks for all comments about the maintenance, it will be appreciated. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Lots of Stuff

I can't believe its been a month since I last wrote!

The week that my sister, her husband and my brother were here just flew right by. Having so many hands helping made the task of cleaning out my mother's house so much easier. The hardest part was deciding what to keep and what to let go. Looking at the myriad of pictures also took a lot of time, and brought back many childhood memories, as well as several "who is this?" questions. At any rate, once we packed up our memorabilia, sorted out the trash, there was still a lot of used but functional items. I called the local Habitat for Humanity chapter, and they sent over a truck and took everything we didn't want to keep: furniture, clothing, kitchenware, knick-knacks. It was one of my mother's favorite charities so we felt good that so many of her things would be helping other people. After having the carpets cleaned, and the house and driveway powerwashed, the house is now ready to be listed for sale. A major hurdle is jumped at this point, and I am so glad my siblings were able to take the time to come down and help out.

Our Solitude fifth wheel spent almost three weeks at Lazydays being serviced and having some warranty items fixed. Unfortunately, we had to pick it up to leave on our Disney family reunion before everything was completed, so it had to go back today. The jury is still out on how satisfied we are with Lazydays' service; we are not happy with how long it took them to deal with Grand Design, especially as we had already laid the groundwork in communicating with their customer service department the issues we have been having with the light fixtures and the theater seats. Plus there were some items on the servicing that were supposed to have been done that didn't get done. Upon our return of our rig to the service department today, we made it known that we are not at this point satisfied customers, and expect all items to be completed promptly. We shall see.

I had all intentions of writing blogs during our family reunion at Disney World; it didn't happen :-)! I also had all good intentions of taking my camera along every day; didn't happen :-)!

We always have a wonderful time getting together with Al's cousins and our friends. Jim and Judy, friends from New York who have relocated to North Carolina, have survived the 2014 reunion and are now "adopted" into the group. And this year we had RV friends, Dan and Jonell Anderson ( Liv2RV) join us for our second week. They too are now officially "adopted"! Jonell is starting to write about their experience visiting Disney World as first time visitors, and I urge you to tag along with her, she is a wonderfully entertaining writer.

Disney seems like it is a perfect place to gather. The campground at Disney, Fort Wilderness, although pricey, is the nicest campground we've ever been to. Sites are big, spacious and private. The grounds are immaculate, comfort stations squeaky clean. We have a nice, 1.7 mile loop walk with the dogs twice a day, and for those puppies that enjoy romping in dog parks, there's a really nice large one here for them. Casey is too much of a chicken to run around dog parks, so we don't take him there anymore! We all enjoy spending time at each of the four parks comprising the World, and spend many a good meal together in the myriad of restaurants on property. We also have an enjoyable Superbowl Sunday get together at the campground, having a potluck dinner and watching the game. And Disney is pretty good exercise; for those folks following along the current activity of "counting steps", we averaged between 18000 and 21000 steps a day without really trying :-)!

The cast of characters: Al's cousins: Fred, Kathy, Bill and Denise. Al's sisters Ginny and Susie. New York friends Jim, Judy and Patti. RV friends Dan and Jonell. The Beast was our host for dinner at the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. Reservations for this fine French dining experience must be made 180 days in advance as soon as the phone lines open for the day and are difficult to come by. 

We all went on rides...

saw shows like Finding Nemo

and Festival of the Lion King.

The Safari is always a favorite attraction.

We enjoyed many great meals, like this shrimp tempura dish at the Yak and Yeti restaurant.

Several of our group got their thrills on roller coasters such as Expedition Everest...not me!!

One night a few of us joined Dan and Jonell over at the Magic Kingdom for the 

Main Street Electrical Parade. This parade has always been my favorite and I love seeing it.

Fireworks over the castle, a great way to end an evening.

But, one of my favorite things of all.....Disney cupcakes!!!

This was really just a quick, random sampling of all we see and do while at the World for 12 days. As an RV traveler who enjoys getting out into the country, hiking and kayaking the solitary trails far from the maddening crowds, it may seem a little odd that we love the crowded mass that is Walt Disney World. But for sheer fantasy, fun and letting go of the "real" world, Disney does it for us, for a short while. I guess that's why we keep going back :-)