Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Manatees and Monkeys

It was a beautiful day today. The sun was shining with highs expected in the upper 60’s. By the afternoon it was in the low 70’s. Perfect weather for capris and flip flops. Our friends knew I really wanted to see manatees and Donna knew just where to go to get a good view, Three Sisters Island in Crystal River. They took us to breakfast first at a place called Oysters. It has been so long since I’ve had some good grits and biscuits and gravy. Then we drove to Crystal River. The only way to access Three Sisters island is by boat, which we didn’t have, so we parked on the side of the road by a bridge. By this time it was already noon and the manatees were very active. We saw mama’s with their babies swimming by their side, groups of manatees swimming down the river. It was so peaceful there. There were many boats going up and down the river as well. These gentle giants looked so carefree. After taking numerous pictures, we left and continued our drive to the Gulf of Mexico. It was wonderful to feel the sand between my toes. There were many birds flying around and standing in the Gulf. I really wanted to put my feet in the water, but at this one local beach there was a sign posted that the bacterial levels were high, so I guess I’ll have to wait. After all my health issues, I didn’t want to take any chances. Besides, the water there was pretty cold. We walked along a boardwalk path out to a fishing pier. From here we had a birds eye view of the nuclear plant as well as the beach. After soaking up some rays, Donna and Pete took us to Monkey Island in Homosassa. I wasn’t sure what to expect except to see an island with monkeys running around. Well, that’s what I saw. It was really cool and while one of the monkeys just sat in a tree and slept, two others were climbing and swinging away. We got into a little monkey business ourselves. On our way back, we stopped at the remains of a sugar mill. I’ve taken so many pictures today that I’m putting them into a slideshow for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy the pics and thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas’ Trails. Till next time…

Monday, January 24, 2011

Where's Waldo?

We had a nice easy drive yesterday from Jacksonville to Hernando to spend a week with a high school friend that I haven't seen in over 20 years. We have been warned that coming down 301 South in Florida is a major speed trap. Yes, they even have signs. We left Jacksonville around 9:30 headed SW on 295 to 10W to 301 S. And that is where we found him. Yup, we found Waldo. So the next time someone asks you Where's Waldo, tell them on 301 S in Florida. He even has a flea market there. There is no direct route across the state of Florida, so we were on quiet a few smaller highways and local roads. It almost reminded me of RT 46 back north with all the traffic lights but not as much congestion. We stopped for lunch in the parking lot of a Super Walmart. We arrived at my friend, Donna's, around 2:30. Her and her husband, Pete are great people. They have a nice long, level driveway that we are parked in for the week. The best thing about friends is that no matter how long it's been, you can pick up where you left off without skipping a beat. Kind of like a soap opera. Things around here of different from back up north. We asked what day was garbage day and Donna said whenever Pete takes it to the dump. Apparantly, it's a lot cheaper to take your garbage then to have it picked up. They took us to nice Italian restaurant for dinner. Outside of the NY area, they are hard to find. I am very appreciative of the hospitality of friends. Tomorrow they will take us sightseeing. I can't wait. We are not too far from the Gulf of Mexico and want to get my feet wet there. It should warm up to about 70 degrees, but I have to tell you...they do have a freeze warning for tonight. Not much more to write, but tomorrow's blog should be good with all we're planning on doing. Have a great day and thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas' Trails. Till next time...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tires and troubles

Five days into our full-timing adventure and we're having a blast. We've had no problems, just inconveniences like the ice in Virginia on our second day. That is until we reached Florida. We had stopped at the Florida Visitors Center to pick up some brochures since we'll be here for awhile. We were going to be staying with a friend outside of Jacksonville but she had to work so we had some time to kill. We had a brochure for the Pecan Park Flea Market, just off I-95. So off we go. Oh well, they are only open on the weekends, but we parked anyway since it was almost lunchtime. Lenny did a walk around and noticed one of the tires on the coach looked low, so he gets his tire gauge to check it. That tire was OK, but the inside dually was FLAT! Absolutely no air. Great, did we pick up a nail or something? Are we overweight? These are the questions that go through your mind. I called our road service company, Coachnet. This is like the AAA for RVers only better. Unfortunately, it would be a three hour wait for a truck to come with a new tire (if one was needed). Thank God it was only the valve stem which they fixed on the spot. Friends, I cannot express enough the importance of good reliable tires. Ours are only a few years old. Do you know there is a birthdate on them? Do you know they are only good for about six years? The last four digits of the DOT code on the tire will tell you when they were manufactured. We learned this information at a Life on Wheels conference years ago. Recently it was reported on 20/20. We had the unfortunate experience of a blow out on our coach shortly after we purchased it. Something we will never forget or want to experience again. Our daughter had to purchase tires for her car this past week. This is the first time she has done this and we were not around to help her, so over the phone, I told her the questions to ask at the tire shop. They were going to sell her four year old tires! I told her to be forceful and demand newer tires. Then I got on the phone with the manager and told him in no uncertain terms that we will not pay $100 per tire for tires manufactured prior to 2010. He found tires that fit the bill and installed those. A good lesson learned for our young adult. One that all should heed. We were lucky this time and plan to purchase a tire monitoring system in the near future. Not much else happened yesterday, just some laundry and re-organization of cabinets while we waited for road service. We still have to use the heat at night, as it seems the cold weather has followed us south, for that I am truly sorry to my southern family and friends, but at least I left the snow back in Jersey! You all have a good weekend. Thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas' Trails...till next time.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Georgia On My Mind

Today was the longest driving day we’ve had so far. We left South of the Border shortly after 9am and put over 300 miles behind us. As we finally neared the end of South Carolina we had to drive through a dense fog that had set in over a river. South Carolina is a very long state to drive thru. I-95 can be a very boring highway, but I managed to take a few interesting pictures. Our little cat is finally getting used to traveling. Back home she would curl up on Lenny’s lap every night, well she finally is curling up with him again. As usual we also passed road construction where everyone else was standing around while one person did the work. We had seen a small camper van with a European license plate. Too small for a full-timer to live in though. We had a long day on the road and the animals made sure they let us know, especially Sammy, our older cat. When we finally arrived at the campground and let them out of their crates, he found a way to get behind the cabinets on the upper bunk and down into the cab over piece! It took us an hour to get him out. The other campers must have thought Len was crazy, banging on the outside of the RV while I’m inside shaking treats and such. That is the first thing Lenny will have to work on so it doesn’t happen again. Once that was done, I actually cooked dinner. I know, for those of you who know me, you know I don’t do well in the kitchen. Well, I made an easy dish that I used to make as a child. And that was the last time I made it. I had fried up some cube steaks, topped with hash browns and cheddar cheese. Not bad since I hadn’t made it in over 30 years. This cooking business has to stop though. I’m retired now, oh wait, so is Lenny and on our budget someone has to cook. Can’t afford to eat out everyday. Tomorrow will be an easier day on the cats. We’re going to spend the weekend at a friends house just southwest of Jacksonville, FL., a little over 60 miles from where we are now. We had met Bernie when she was full-timing with her companion. She has since settled back down and invited us to stop and visit. We’re looking forward to our “Weekend at Bernies”. Since we’ll be there a few days, I’m not sure how much I’ll write. I’ll try and keep everyone updated but it seems I’m making a lot of my northern family and friends jealous when I tell them I’m in shorts and a t-shirt while they are bracing for yet another snow storm. Thanks for traveling with us on The Thomas’ Trails…till next time.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

South of the Border

Today was an easy drive from Cary, North Carolina to South of the Border. While checking the radar this morning, I noticed some nasty rain moving east over I-95 so we weren’t anxious to leave too early. We must have timed it perfectly. It was cloudy and overcast the entire drive, but no rain. Being from Northeast New Jersey I am used to I-95 being a congested mess of a highway. I was pleasantly surprised when we picked it up in NC. There are two lanes in each direction and hardly any traffic compared to what it’s like near NYC. We arrived at the South of the Border campground around noontime. After checking in and getting to our site, we discovered the electric was not working, so we had to change sites. The cats were already out of their crates so this was going to be fun. Sammy, our older cat hates when the motor home moves, so he ran and hid. Munchkin, our little girl, just kept sleeping on our bed. Shiloh, our guard beagle, stayed right by my side. After we finished setting up at our second site, we finished our lunch and went to explore the largest tourist trap on I-95. We wanted to ride to the top of the Sombrero Tower but the elevator was not working and I was not about to walk to the top. We did some window shopping at the Mexico Shop, Pedro’s Leather Shop, and Fort Pedro before stopping for an ice cream. The sun had finally come out from behind the clouds and the temperature was almost 60 degrees. It felt so nice to sit outside in the sun enjoying each others company and an ice cream before dinner. After that we crossed to the other side of the highway to check out the Myrtle Beach Shop and Pedro’s Pantry. I was a little disappointed in Pedro’s Pantry. We needed some eggs and cream for coffee and they had neither. Basically, it was another gift shop that also sold snacks, drinks and alcohol. We went back to the coach to walk the dog and chill before heading to the Waffle House for dinner. At dinner, we asked about a grocery store. They directed us to go three miles down the road and turn left at the traffic light. Only one light? I used to drive two miles to work and had six lights. They assured me there was only one traffic light in town. Wow, now I know I’m in the country. We found the grocery store, but they were out of half and half and the eggs were expensive so we decided on a box of cereal and left. Sitting back at the coach, we’re watching a DVD and just relaxing. Boy, I can really get used to this life. Thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas’ Trails. Till next time…

To Mrs. C’s class and Mrs. Whiting’s class at School #1...Mr. Lenny says hi and hope you enjoy the pictures and stories of his life on the road of retirement. Miss you guys, enjoy your snow and I’ll enjoy the sunny warm sandy beaches. PS - don’t tell your parents I eat ice cream before dinner. It’s not a good idea to do that.

Old Man Winter

Well, I wish I could say that our third day into our new adventure was as uneventful as the day before, but for those who know me, well, you know I just can’t pass on excitement. When we left New Jersey it was covered in white…when we woke up yesterday it was covered in clear. Yup, ICE. A nice thick coating of clear, painted on the RV, the car, the trees, bushes oh and don’t forget, the steps, the rocks and the door handles. That’s when it happened…o’dark thirty in the morning. We had just woken up and like all good dog owners Lenny was getting ready to take Shiloh for his morning walk. Len knew it was a little icy out, but Shiloh gets so excited. As he bounded down the steps he hit that last one (the outside step) and went down hard. I felt so bad for my little boy. Now he was limping. I knew he wasn’t hurt to bad because he managed to beg for a treat when they came back in. I gave him extra out of pity. After the sun came up, Lenny decided to go to the bathhouse for a shower. Upon his return, he tells me to be careful if I go up there because he fell on the ice and went down on his shoulder. Thank God, nothing was dislocated or broken. Here we thought we had left all that wintry mess behind, but as a friend said, “You didn’t drive far enough south”. I guess not. We listened to the weather report and checked the radar on line. Then a little later, Lenny took a drive out to the main roads to see what condition they were in. We knew if we could get out of there and continue heading south, we would be out of the woods. He came back and said things were fine. Time to stow away all breakables and moveable items, get the cats in their crates and get out of dodge! We got the car hooked up and then slowly made our departure from the campground. As we drove south we saw the ice covered trees. Traffic was moving at a nice rate and we were careful on the bridges in case of black ice. It wasn’t until we were south of Richmond that there was no more ice on the trees. Now I was sure that we would see Mrs. Klein today. The Klein’s and my family go way back. I used to babysit for them, their daughter, Julie, babysat our daughter. Julie was in our wedding and Christina was in hers. It had been years since they had all moved to North Carolina and while we planning on spending a few days at the state park near them, Old Man Winter had delayed our arrival. Now we would only have one evening to spend catching up on old times and new. That’s ok, because we’ll be back in the spring and stay a few days. We decided to meet at the Golden Corral in Cary, NC for dinner. We arrived around 6pm. It was a wonderful evening and it’s always nice to see friends along the way. Lenny asked the manager if we could stay in the parking lot overnight and he said no problem. So here we sit till tomorrow when we have a nice easy drive to South of the Border. Thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas’ Trails…till next time enjoy the sights along the way.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day Two

Day Two -

Yesterday was pretty uneventful…we drove from Mt Holly, NJ to Fredericksburg, VA. It was overcast the entire drive, but at least there was no snow, except for what we saw on the top of a tractor trailer. Going around Washington, DC was smooth going mainly due to the Federal Holiday. Today we will finally make it to North Carolina to visit with a long time family friend. When we first talked about full time living in our RV, we decided that there was no need to rush. Len and I both thought it would be best to travel between 9am and 4pm, with a few stops along the way. So far, our dog Shiloh, has left his mark in almost every state we’ve been through with the exception of Delaware. Hey, we drove through it in less than an hour. We pulled into a KOA around 4:30. They even had biscuits for our “4-legged child”. Now that’s southern hospitality. After we got settled in, Lenny went to the grocery store to pick up something for dinner. We may not get out of here this morning because they had freezing rain thru the night. Just when I thought we were getting away from this wintry weather. After two days of traveling in the RV, our cats, Sammy and Munchkin are getting used to it. They don’t cry as much in their carriers unless we hit some bumpy roads, and when we’re parked, they are busy exploring every nook and cranny of the motor home. Lenny will be taking the car to see how the roads are later before we disconnect the motor home and drive to NC. I really want to get out of here today but I don’t want to risk any accidents or sitting on the road burning fuel. We shall see what the day brings. In the meantime enjoy the sights along the way that we saw. Have a great day and thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas’ Trails…

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day One - Off Without A Hitch

Day One - Off Without A Hitch

NOT!!! As usual, Lenny and I were up early. This was our final day in our sticks and bricks house. I thought we would be done in just a few hours, was I ever wrong! There really wasn’t much to pack, or was there? It was like putting together a 3-D puzzle. Everything needed a place and everything needed to be in its place. Folks, we only have a 32 foot class C motor home. There’s not a whole lot of storage in this home on wheels. We threw out stuff, we gave stuff away to friends and to charities, and we still had SO MUCH STUFF! So we packed and cleaned and packed some more, finishing one room at a time. My husband is great at packing, so good in fact that he can pack 5 lbs in a 2 ½ lb bag, so I left that job to him. The landlord came around 11:30 to do a final walk thru but we were far from ready. Alex is a very understanding gentleman. Basically, he told us, no problem if we needed to stay an extra night. “Nope, we’re getting out of Jersey today” I told him. OK, call me a liar if you will…tonight we sit off Exit 5 of the NJ Turnpike at a Cracker Barrel. We are both utterly exhausted. We finally left Clifton about 4:00 pm, then had to stop at a large parking lot to hook up our “toad”, our Saturn station wagon which, by the way, had all the overflow of stuff, crammed into the backseat and car topper. We have both decided that when we are parked for a few days here and there, we will continue to bless others with our worldly possessions by giving more of our stuff away. After all, how much does one really need in this world? It’s not late, but we are both very tired and have a 440 mile trip to our next destination. We are stopping off in NC to visit family friends. We were originally supposed to get out of Clifton yesterday but are running a day late, but who’s counting…we’re retired now and no one is punching a clock so maybe we’ll get there Tuesday morning and meet for breakfast. We are now traveling the slow lane of life, no pressure, no worries. Thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas’ Trails…