Sunday, February 27, 2011

Friends, Stuckys, and Discovery

“Mabel, put the coffee on, company’s coming.” We were on our way back from getting some groceries when Lenny’s cell phone rang. He was driving so I answered it. It was friends from NC. We knew they were visiting her daughter in the Orlando area and we were planning on getting together with them in the next two weeks when we were back in that area. What we didn’t know was that they were passing right by the campground we are currently at on their way to Venice, Fl. Not having seen any of our “northern” friends for six weeks, it was a pleasant surprise to visit with Barb and Jim. Barb and Lenny go way back to when they both worked at Burger King, long before I had met him. They live on the coast in NC during the winter and have a summer place in Maine where we have been invited to spend some time. On their way back and forth, they usually spend a day or two at my mother-in-laws house back in Clifton. We chatted about the weather, bugs, our kids, and how Lenny is adjusting to his “retirement”. I say it that way because, while he is retired from the Board of Education, he is much too young to never work again. I told Barb it was a good thing they stopped by on Wednesday, because the following day  we had plans to go see the Discovery lift off for the last time.

Thursday was a long day. Most of those who know us, know that we get up with the roosters still. I’ve been getting better, some days sleeping in till 7, but for the most part we’re up at 6am or earlier. We were both excited to be in Florida during a shuttle launch. Never having seen a live launch, we made plans to get as close to Cocoa Beach as possible. I plugged in the GPS and we headed east. Do you know how much I greatly dislike my GPS! Today was no different. First it wanted to take us on some toll road, then I blocked that option so we ended up on Rt 60. Now, to give you an idea of this highway, we traveled on it for well over 100 miles. At least it seemed like it. Along the way we saw farm land, orange groves, more farms, more orange groves. Good thing we started out with a full tank of gas! We finally came to a town called Yeehaw Junction. Lenny was beginning to wonder if we were near Petticoat Junction. It is located near the Florida Turnpike. They have a Pilot gas station and a Stuckeys. Len had not seen a Stuckeys in a long time, so we pulled in and looked around. He just had to get a pecan roll. We still had another 30 miles to drive, so back on this two lane highway that has absolutely nothing except farms and oranges, at least until we got closer to Vero Beach. Finally civilization.

We found a State Recreation Area to park in and walked out to the beach. There were a few people there with their chairs facing north. We started talking to one couple and found out they moved here from New Jersey about 20 years ago. As the time got closer to the launch, the beach really started filling up. There were people everywhere with video cameras and regular cameras. All of sudden everyone started counting down and then a minute later we saw it. The flame from the rocket booster. What an awesome sight. There were a lot of clouds, so we didn’t get to see too much, but it was still an exciting afternoon. We’ll still be in the area when it lands, so I’ve put it on my phone as a reminder. If we’re not too busy, we just might drive over to the east coast again to see it land. Only this time, we’ll take a different highway.

Friday was an easy drive from Wauchula back to Clermont where we will spend the next two weeks. Our daughter, Chrissy, will arrive on Monday to spend a week with us. It will be good to see her again. I can’t believe we’ve already been on the road for six weeks. Thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas’ Trails…until next time.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wauchula...Here we come!

It was an easy drive today from my cousins in Myakka City, Fl to the Thousand Trails campground in Wauchula, Fl along the Peace River. We had a great time at Stacey & Levi’s Dairy farm, but it was time to move on. Our tanks were filling up and needed to be dumped, Stacey & Levi both work and you know the saying that “after three days, fish and family both begin to stink” or something like that. We didn’t want to wear out our welcome. They are wonderful hosts and we appreciated our stay as brief as it was. We will definitely return later this year and hope to spend the Christmas holidays with them. Being able to be there for Levi Jr’s third birthday was a treat. It’s always fun watching little ones open gifts and blow out their candles.

We decided to enjoy a breakfast from Suzy Q’s down the road. Len brought back a ½ camo for me which was a homemade biscuit layered with sausage gravy, eggs over easy, home fries and cheese with a side of homemade southern grits. It was delicious! Lenny had the chicken fried steak and biscuits with gravy. Neither one of us finished our breakfast and I think it added a few pounds to the scale.

After we were packed up and ready to leave, Levi was gracious enough to let us get on the scale they use for their trucks and we weighed in at a whopping 15,660 pounds. Our Saturn weighed in at 4,000 pounds. Our unit is rated to carry 15,250 pounds which means we have to shed some weight. About 410 pounds. Oh well, no clothes shopping for me. :o( On a lighter note (pun fully intended), we left Stacey’s around 10:30 this morning and pulled into Peace River just before noon, dumped our tanks and picked out a nice water/electric sight on Alligator Alley. We may put the a/c on this afternoon as it’s already in the low 80’s, but for now there is a nice breeze blowing. They have a cute little ice cream shop on the property where I enjoyed a root beer float and Len enjoyed a sundae. It’s decorated to look like the 50’s with that era music playing on the stereo. Out front you could sit and swing on the porch or sit and chat awhile with other campers. They have a very active schedule here with things to do all day and night. We’ll be here until the end of the week when we return to the Thousand Trails in Orlando, Fl. Thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas’ Trails…till next time.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gators and Babies

Another beautiful day in southern Florida. Today, my cousin, her father-in-law, husband, son, and step-daughter took me on a tour of the dairy farm. Let me tell you...this is one BIG FARM! Our first stop was to see the baby alligators in the stream on their property. I didn't get to see the mama gator, but that's ok. It was enough to see the small ones. I only saw three and they were only a couple of feet long. They taste very good when fried, but I'll tell you more about that later. After seeing the baby gators, we continued on our tour up to the milking barn. They milk three times a day, seven days a week. They have about 3000 Holstein cows on their farm, but only milk 1500 a day. They move the cows from their feeding area to the milking area where they walk up the corridor and into their milking stall, where the workers attach the milking device. When they are done, the utters are "dipped" with an antibacterial solution to prevent disease and infection. After that a bar in the front of the stalls drops and the cows exit the milking station. The bar is then raised and the process starts again with the next group of cows. From there we went to the "nursery" where the youngest calf was about an hour old to the oldest which was about nine weeks old. Babies are always cute and I would love to have one, but they grow up and my motorhome is not large enough for a full size heifer. We then went past the corral where the pregnant cows are kept and there it was. I couldn't believe my eyes. A newborn calf, not even ten minutes old. The mama was licking her baby clean and then she started to stand. What a sight to experience. Seeing something like this is so much better than being trapped by a mouse in Orlando.
After our tour of the dairy farm, we were meeting my aunt for dinner at "The Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar" on the Phillippi Creek in Sarasota. I told my aunt I wanted some good gator and seafood and she said that this was the place. It was without a doubt. I ordered the gator appetizer and combo platter for dinner. Even Len tried the gator and liked it. They sat us at a table overlooking the creek. It was a lovely ending to a beautiful day. To see more pictures taken today click here. Thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas' Trails...till next time.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Down on the Farm

When we first started planning our full-timing adventure we knew the first state we would spend any time in would be Florida. Not just because it's could hardly tell from the days we've been here, but because it's been so long since I've seen some of my family and some high school friends. Today, we are in Myakka City, FL parked at my cousins dairy farm. Let me try and paint the picture... Back in Clifton, when I was a child my great-grandparents had a farm in town. They had chickens, horses, cows. They grew all sorts of vegetables and they lived in a lovely two story brick farm house. There was one large barn and a corral for the shetland ponies. So when I told my cousin I was coming to Florida, she invited us to stay at her farm. So what was I expecting? A large barn, a farm house, some cows. What was I not expecting??? THOUSANDS of cows, calves (which are so cute) and a five mile ride down a bumpy dirt road in my motor home towing my car. Oh yea, there's also alligators here. I looked but couldn't find any yet. Stacey tells me they are in the pond and swampy area that we drove through. She is going to take me down tomorrow to show me. She also told me about the alligator that crawled under her house! I better not wake up to one under my motor home.While Stacey doesn't live in a huge two story farm house like my great grandparents did, she does have a modest two bedroom ranch. There are a few other modular homes peppered on the property for other family members and some migrant workers. I'm sure we will explore more tomorrow before Levi's (her son) birthday. He was bashful tonight when he first met us but I'm sure he'll warm up to us by the time we leave. I'll be posting pics tomorrow after our "adventures" on the farm. I'm hoping to get some sleep tonight, but dairy trucks keep going up and down the road all night long and Stacey tells me there are coyotes. This should prove to be an interesting experience. Thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas' Trails...till next time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Balloons and Bagels

Me, Sandy & Donna
 We've had a busy couple of days. Saturday we drove to Altamonte Springs to visit an old high school friend, Sandy and her family. Donna and Pete were there as well with their son, Hunter. Sandy, Donna and I hadn't been together since high school and next year is our 30th reunion. We had a lot of fun and a lot of food. Sandy couldn't get to Donna's while we were staying there earlier this month because she raises cocker spaniels and was expecting a litter. Well, we got to see the puppies and they were so cute. I sent a picture to my daughter and right away she wanted one. To see her puppies, click here.
Sunday morning we slept in, if you call 7:30am sleeping in, which for us is late. We still have that internal alarm clock going off. Anyway, I heard a whooshing noise and wasn't sure what it was until we saw it. The most beautiful hot air balloon gracefully floating in the sky. Lenny quickly grabbed the camera, went outside and took some great pictures. There must have been about a dozen of them. They were so graceful and so close. We even exchanged "Good Mornings" with one.

Monday, after enjoying a Valentine's dinner of Bar-b-qued chicken, broccoli and rice we decided to go for a ride. We plugged in our GPS and searched for a Dairy Queen.  There was one a few miles down the highway, so off we went. We could not find it for anything and asking several people, we found out it had closed. They must have been tourists as well. You would think I could tell by their accents! What we did find was "A Roll With A Hole Bagels and Ice Cream" in Kissimmee. Yup, where DQ used to be. The funny thing was that they touted NEW JERSEY STYLE BAGELS! Well, everywhere I've been it's hard to find NY style pizza and bagels like they make back home. They were getting ready to close so all their bagel bins were empty. Being from NJ, I questioned the NJ style and the owner said they were from NJ. I wanted to see the bagels because if I looked at them, I would be able to tell if it was the real deal. The owner was nice enough to give us three to take home. Having them for breakfast this morning I can honestly say, I've found a place to get "real back home tasting" bagels. One thing I have missed has been my morning bagel, toasted with cream cheese. Well, for now, I don't have to miss it anymore. ;o)

To see more photos click here.Thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas' Trails...till next time.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Contact Bingo

Lenny and I are not big gamblers. Once in a while we buy a lottery ticket and dream, when we're at a campground we go and play bingo. It's usually an inexpensive evening and a lot of fun. So when we saw that there was Bingo in the rec hall tonight, we though, great. We'll go play a few games, meet some people and have a good time. Yea right! Folks, this is not your typical campground bingo. Let me tell you, first of all, we were used to smaller campgrounds where there might be 50-75 people who show up. There were 250 people there, no kidding. Yes, this is a larger campground with 600+ sites, and yes, we are in snowbird country. So now we have all these people who are SERIOUS about winning. I'm just here for some fun and if I win great. There were some issues with a previous manager at this campground and the bingo games had stopped for awhile. This was their second week and the caller was new at this. His voice was not loud and the mic was not that strong so a lot of people had trouble hearing. OK, mainly due to the fact that there were plenty of people talking at the same time. Well, about half way through, some senior citizen got ticked off and decided to speak his mind...very LOUDLY! Basically, he was telling everyone to shut up and listen so we can play bingo. The next thing I know, one of the managers of the campground gets up and states that just as quickly as they started the bingo games back up she can shut them down again if people don't start treating each other nicer and with respect. I felt like I was back in kindergarten being scolded. After a short break, they started up again, but I was bored and it wasn't as much fun, so we decided to take our bingo cards and go home. You hear all the stories about Grandma and her bingo games...they're true! Especially down here in snowbird country...the sunshine state...good ole Florida. I wonder if I'll go back again next week. We'll see. Thanks for travelling along with us on The Thomas' Trails...till next time.

Monument of States

Being all settled in at our campsite in Clermont, we decided to do a little sightseeing. We've been to the Orlando area before and seen Walt Disney World, Seaworld and Universal Studios. Plus, they are so expensive these days to get in so we chose to go off the beaten path and see other things. We picked up a guide book on the area (free one of course) and plugged in an address to our GPS to see the Monument of States in Kissimmee.
Originally built in 1943, it was given a face lift a few years ago. They also have a time capsule buried there that will be opened in 2043. I wonder what is in their and if I'll still be around when it is opened. It was interesting to see this 40 foot high monument built from stones furnished by tourists, govenors, a prime minister and a President of U.S. We also saw stones from other countries. Two blocks away was a beautiful lake with park benches on the shore line. So peaceful considering that just a few miles away is the largest human trap run by a mouse! On our way to the next stop we decided to stop at DQ for a mid-afternoon snack. Hey, life is dessert first! Right? Gotta love life. We then drove to N. Bass Rd in Kissimmee to see the Osceola County Historical Society & Pioneer Museum. While we could see it from the road, it was Monday and it was closed, so we couldn't get in. Oh well, we will see it another day. Rt 192 on Kissimmee is full of cheesy gift shops and we had to check one out, even if it was just for a few postcards to mail back home. We decided to head back to the campground because the sky was getting darker by the minute and the temperature was dropping rapidly. Little did know that there were tornado warnings in the area. We had a high of 85 degrees and by the time we got back to the motorhome, it was in the 60's. Better get long pants on, it was getting chilly. Sure enough, as we were getting home, so were the birds. This place is full of cranes and they just strut right through the campsites looking at you like they own the place. They kind of remind me of something out of Jurassic Park only smaller. I must say that when Shiloh and the cats see them...they don't like them. He goes crazy barking and the cats have even growled at them. Have you ever heard a cat growl? It sounds very mean. And that look in their eyes is downright frightening! You can view more pictures at
  That's all for today. Thanks for travelling along with us on The Thomas' Trails...till next time.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I'm Sorry

First, let me apologize for not writing sooner. I can't believe it's been two weeks since I last blogged. We enjoyed staying at Donna & Pete's for a week. They took us around to different places, but it was a pretty laid back week. We had a leak in our shower that Lenny had to fix. Nothing that duct tape couldn't take care of...actually, he used awning tape. It's clear, thick, and waterproof. Donna took me over to her mom's where we picked fresh grapefruit. Yummy. She also had found another high school friend on facebook who happened to be doing a karaoke show at a pub in Brooksville, where we were headed. We were leaving that Saturday morning for Brooksville, so we decided to meet at the bar for the show. Len and Pete were not too thrilled about going but they went anyway and the four of us had a great time. The following week is a blur...we were so busy volunteering at the FMCA (Family Motor Coach Assn) Rally. This was our first time attending the Southeast Area Rally in Brooksville, Fl. We volunteered to help with handicapped transportation. Golf carts are a lot of fun to drive. Len drove from 6:45 am to 9am and we both drove from 5pm till the evening entertainment was over, which was usually around 9-9:30 each night. During the day we attended various seminars. We learned from Mac the Fire Guy that you have 15-20 seconds to get out of your RV when there is a fire. That was a very informative seminar and fun. At the end, Mac took us outside and lit some fires. Then he handed four of us women different fire extinguishers and we had to put out the fires. Nobody told him I was crazy so I got to play with the extinguisher and fire! That made my day. Another fun and educational seminar was given by Jim and Chris Guld of Geeks on Tour. They had four different seminars that week. Unfortunately, I only had the opportunity to attend one of them. There's always next time. There's always time for fun at rallies like these. They had an ice cream social and a parade that I got to participate in. Sunday after the devotional service, Len and I made the short drive to Clermont, Fl where we will spend the next two weeks or so. I will not be posting blogs everyday because I'm sure you are not interested in how early or late I got up, how many cups of coffee I drank before I got going and all the boring stuff, but I promise that I will post again soon with pictures. Thanks for traveling along with us on The Thomas' Trails...till next time.