Well, it's that time again, boys and girls! This year, our adventures will take us across the South to Florida. From there? Who knows? Our itinerary is wide open and so are our hearts and minds. Hope you enjoy traveling with us. Wish you were here. Please give us feedback or comments, as we love knowing that you are along for the ride. . .
Sunday, June 5, 2011
If you ever find yourselves in Titusville, Florida, make it a point to visit Leoncito’s Mexican Restaurant. You might be asking, good Mexican food in Florida?! Well, the original home of this place is Whittier, California. Got your attention now, didn’t I? Happy Hour, margaritas and nachos. Dos mas, por favor. Enough said.
We did detour south to Cocoa Beach one day. Remember Major Tony Nelson? He lived in Cocoa Beach. OK, everybody, cross your arms, nod your head. . . Boing! (sound effect). By the time we got there our truck was covered in Love Bugs!! Not a few, but thousands! After talking with locals, the bugs come out about twice a year, but have never been as prolific as they were this year. We concur. We have been here during Love Bug season before, and they were merely a nuisance. This time it seemed more like a plague!! Stopping once to walk out to the water, we had to keep our mouths closed, faces blocked and heads down. They don’t bite, they just ARE!! And this whole process is for mating. Hence the term, Love Bugs. So if you get hit in the face by one, it’s usually two, attached. Talk about a buzz kill for them!! The shoreline was a line of black along the edge of the water, composed of the casualties of wind and water. Picture the scene on the beach in “From Here to Eternity”, only Love Bugs. And that’s how far the line stretched, from here to eternity! Capped off the day with Shepherd’s Pie and Bass Ale at the Pig & Whistle English Pub. Mmmm HP Sauce. . . .
I woke up one morning with a very red eye, so I made an appointment with an ophthalmologist for an exam, got a prescription for antibiotics. While we there, we decided to have our eyes tested. Guess who needs glasses now? Normie!!!
When we got back to Orlando, we drove around inspecting different RV parks for their potential as landing sites for our LOVE SHACK. After cruising through several, we were sure that we would be driving much further out of town than we had hoped. However, we saw a KOA sign, usually not a good thought to us, not because of quality, but because of price. We drove through, fell in love and then asked, “how much?”. To our amazement, they had a monthly rate that was almost exactly half of what we pay to stay home in Newport Beach!! Cha-ching!!!$$$!! So, here we are, for at least a month, maybe more. Our stay here, including proximity and gas savings, will help offset the cost of the Premier Passes we so desperately needed. (sigh) Normie is not thrilled that we have to sit and stay at Disneyworld for at least another month just to save money. Yeah, right!!!
Over the last few years the weather has taken its toll on our roll-out awning to the point that we couldn’t use it. Being in Florida dictated the need for shade. I did a search for new awning replacements on the internet. Usually they are $200-$300. I love shopping for a bargain so was happy to see a sale for $185 online, plus shipping. Then, the Holy Grail, Craigslist. An RV wholesaler selling “2nds” for $95!!!! Yeah, but they were “2nds”, sight unseen. Oh, but wait, what?! They are 45 minutes away? We can come sift through your stock? Today? OK, you all know the rest of the story. . .
Ahh, installation. Imagine a 16ft awning roller, two fifty-something installers, one a Fraidy Cat, and one an adventurer. Got it? Well, suffice it to say, this was a generally comical, tense, funny, tense, team-building, tense, experience. Did I mention tense? Well, the tension subsided greatly when it was successfully installed to perfection with the knowledge that we had saved at least $250 because we didn’t have to pay Camping World to install it! Ahhh, Do-it-yourself projects, FUN. Did I mention tense? I love Fraidy Cat, but I’ll bet Jesus had an easier time with Doubting Thomas.
We like to keep track of events happening in and around the Walt Disney World complex. Serendipity, remember? This includes the surrounding cities and parks. We found out that we would be here for the 30th annual Gay Days celebration at the Magic Kingdom. For those of you who know us, this may sound out of character. Having many very good friends who would have attended if they were here, Normie and I decided to attend and “represent” as a sign of support. Having had firsthand experience as a child of what it’s like to live in a world where you are “different” to those around you, I have a special place in my heart for the underdog in any situation. Whatever your personal views and opinions, sometimes life is not a choice. I was crippled and on crutches for most of my childhood. As put by Lady Gaga, “I was born this way”.
The tradition is to attend the park and wear a red shirt. We, of course, wore our red shirts. Many had slogans, sayings and humor. But all were in good taste and good fun. It was amazing to see the sea of red shirts on Main Street from the train station depot overlooking the area. Many other “supporters” were in attendance as well and the day was vibrant, lively and good fun! Best shirt of the day. . .”Would Jesus discriminate?”
VIEW PHOTOS HERE
Friday, May 27, 2011
When we got to Florida, we found out that the Space Shuttle Endeavour would be launching for the last time on May 10th, while Lyss and Seth were with us. We all agreed that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity and we would ditch Disney for a day in favor of NASA. Well, due to circumstances beyond our control, the launch was cancelled. The kids were disappointed, but took it well.
We found out later in the week that launch was rescheduled for the 16th at 8:54 am. Normie and I were still scheduled to be in the area. So, we planned a stay at an RV park near the launch area in Titusville, FL. Great Outdoors Resorts is a private RV park where everyone owns their own RV site. Talk about nice!! So many greatly decorated and well-appointed sites, many with homes attached, and a parking garage for the RV. Some are for rent. That’s where we stayed. Very nice environment for a visit to the launch site, and quite large. In fact, it took longer to get to the front gate than it did to get to the area where we sat and watched the launch!
We rose at 4am in order to prep our food we were taking with us. We were told that we had to be there between 5am and 6 in order to get a decent spot. They were expecting 500-750 thousand spectators! Anyway, we made it in plenty of time, with our chorizo and egg burritos, bagels with cream cheese, cantaloupe, pineapple, cookies, water, Fresca and coffee. Did I mention we would only be gone 4-5 hours? We were ready to stay a week! We loaded the bikes up not knowing how far away we would be parking, and also packed our backpack/beach chairs and off we went.
We found a great parking spot just a block away from the water. It was still dark, so fraidy-cat, didn’t want to ride bikes, so we walked them. Yes, walked our bikes! Found a spot on the waterfront next to some very nice people. Two men from Boca Raton and two ladies and their daughter from Ireland. As many of you know, we love making new friends, so we chatted and came away with email addresses and FB info. We now look forward to visiting Ireland, so we can have a beer with Mary Kate and Johanna!! Cheers!! (no beer for little Carmen, she’s only 4!)
Four hours passed quite quickly as we awaited the lift-off. I had camera ready. Being 11 .8 miles from the launch pad seems far, but when you see it across the water, it looks like two miles. Then you see the smoke. . . and something in you just turns to jelly, you get that sense that you are experiencing something that not only cannot be described but makes you giddy and tearful at the same time. From the middle of the smoke, the lift-off begins and you see the shuttle rising, but no flame! Where is the flame? Still in the giant puff of smoke! Then. . . there it is, a brilliant, magnificent flame like you have never seen!! And you realize that you are watching history in the making. That Gabrielle Gifford’s husband is leading this final expedition in the Endeavour, and that she is watching him from the ground, just a giddy as I am, and alive!! Today, the view only lasted about 5 seconds before the ship disappeared into the low cloud cover, but the sensation of the rumble didn’t hit us for about 20 seconds. When it did hit, the cheering stopped, instantly, and we all stood in silence, feeling, sensing and absorbing the tremendous power that was pushing its way through the air, water and earth to completely overwhelm our senses and render us speechless! It was a feeling like no other. Sitting there listening to the thunderous rumble slowly dissipate and feeling that we had just been given an unexpected gift, we basked in the afterglow of the whole experience. Neither of us was in a hurry to leave this moment in time. But alas, we did. Why? Because there was too much traffic, so we had to WALK our bikes back to the truck!! (three guesses who’s idea that was!)
Thanks to all the well-wishers who shared in our joy of experiencing this incredible opportunity that was given to us. SERENDIPITY. . . (cue music, “I’m Proud To Be An American. . .) well, I am, but Normie can’t say that. (British, you know, and still no passport) Oh, it’s in the process, two years now.
VIEW PHOTOS HERE
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Our first “hotel” was Disneyworld’s Fort Wilderness RV Park. This is no ordinary campground, folks. This place is pure Disney. We had access to all of the parks through the web of transportation available to us. Buses, boats, shuttles, etc. Seth and Lyss had been given a tent for Christmas, so they opted to use it in our campsite. Hmm, newlyweds wanting to have a tent outside in the heat? Why?
As we got to the check-in booth at Fort Wilderness, there was an RV apparently “stuck”. People standing around, looking, but no activity. Anyway, turns out that two young ladies from New Zealand had purchased an RV in California and were roadtripping around the U.S. for 8 months. They were 3 months into their adventure when now they had somehow backed their RV into the gatepost and impaled the back side corner on the protruding gatepost. Suffice it to say, that going forward or backward would rip a huge hole in their rig. They were at their wits end, and on the phone to a tow service for assistance when we arrived. After a few minutes of contemplation, and assurances from me that this was not a deal-breaker to their road trip, and the assistance of a 12 thousand pound bottle jack conveniently stored for just such an occasion, we literally “jacked” the rig off the impalement, started the engine and floored it! Totally exciting when it “popped” free!! Cheers and celebration abounded! A couple of days later we came home to a bottle of wine and a “thank you” for our help. Serendipity.
Somehow helping others seems to only improve the quality of our own lives. Funny how that works. Plus, from someone else’s point of view, “That rv is blocking our access to the Disneyworld Magic! Get out there and move it!”
So, after finally setting up in our spot, we found out that there was a Triathlon scheduled for the Sunday morning in two days. We went to bed late the night before. Well, apparently setting up for a triathlon takes a team of hundreds, riding four-wheelers, and starting their setup at 3:00 am. Needless to say, from 3-7 there was much activity on the road behind our rig. Then at 7, all you could hear was, “passing on your left”! Good night’s sleep? Not in the tent!!!! It’s amazing though, how if you mention any disappointment to a Disney Manager, they will go out of their way to turn that frown into a smile. We were immediately offered a refund for the lost night of sleep amongst the mosquitoes, biting flies and lovebugs, did I mention the bugs? OMG!! (not Disney’s fault, though). They then followed it up with free passes to the waterpark for the day and a one year discount pass to “Tables of Wonderland” discount dining program. And you all wonder why we love Disney!!!
We used the passes on Mother’s Day to go to Blizzard Beach waterpark. Great waterpark with a lazy river that always gets Normie excited, since she doesn’t do the thrill rides of sliding, dropping, drenching and almost drowning. WUSSIE!! Actually, we did convince her that the family raft ride was fun, so she agreed to go, having done it once before on a previous trip. Not a good memory for Lyss, who on the previous trip, felt like she was going to die when the raft went vertical on a side wall and she was looking down at a raft and her family and her doom! We told her later that all she had to do was hold the handles and she would have been fine. To which she screamed, “THERE WERE HANDLES????!!!!”
With that experience in mind, Normie made sure she had a grip on the handles. However, having chosen the position she did, she ended up taking most of the ride in reverse, not seeing what was coming and duplicating the vert-wall of days gone by! Hilarious, fun and exhilarating. . . . for the rest of us!!! Happy Mother’s Day, Normie. Lazy river beckons.
Since we love discounts, we found that we could get a discount on our camping as well, if we had an annual pass. Well, we are California residents, why would we want an annual pass here? WHY? Because this is freaking Disneyworld!! Besides, They had just recently announced that there was a special Premier Pass being sold. What is a Premier Pass? Only the greatest thing since Steamboat Willie! This pass is a bi-coastal, all park annual pass. That’s right, all of Disneyworld at your fingertips, and then, wait for it. . . . . All of California waiting for you when you get home!! Wish we could take advantage of that! Wait, we can!!! For a price. But seeing that we can stay in Florida for as long as we like, and take advantage of the passes, it really did seem the right way to go. So far, no regrets. Considering all we spent on gas @ $4 a gallon just to get here, we have to sit still for a couple of months just to catch up! Just doing our part to help save the economy and being eco-friendly by not driving all over. Anybody out there believing this?
Seth’s first Disneyworld Park was the Animal Kingdom. He was as thrilled as a six year old meeting Mickey for the first time! Made the whole trip worth it. The best part was when we were at the Hollywood Studios Park, (formerly MGM). Seth and I volunteered to be a part of the special effects show reenacting the bombing of Pearl Harbor. We were asked if we could “ham it up”. Between the two of us, you could have served enough ham to feed the homeless on an Easter Sunday!!! Serendipity.
We spent a fun week with Lyss and Seth visiting all of the parks, some, twice, and just enjoying the “being there” experience. Magic Kingdom, monorail ride, Epcot, Mission Space, singing and dancing in the streets, and being together. Magical memories were made on this trip.
The togetherness came to an end when Lyss and Seth had to catch their flight home. They were going to Denver to visit his folks for a few days and driving home from there. We were sad to see them go, but looked forward to the adventures that lay ahead. Can you say “Shuttle Launch”?
VIEW PHOTOS HERE
Friday, May 13, 2011
From Demming, we stopped at a rest stop in Las Cruces and helped decorate a local piece of art with our personal artifacts. (see pics) This giant Roadrunner sculpture was made entirely from a myriad of items, cast-0ffs, running shoes and flip-flops and non-working junk. Way cool. Countless people have added to it, and signed their pieces. So, we followed suit with a backscratcher and a non-working remote control! We are now immortalized at the rest stop in Las Cruces, if you ever pass through eastbound, look for our trinkets under the right and left wings!
“The stars at night are big and bright” . . . .(c’mon, sing it!). We made it to the Alamo. Remember the Alamo? Well, touring the Alamo, and reading the story of the heroic efforts of those inside the fort, and then reading the story behind the battle, I have come to the conclusion that Santa Anna was completely misunderstood. He was merely a disgruntled landlord trying to get his property back from squatters! (LOL) OK, had to represent, being of Mexican descent. We toured the River Walk area, and stopped in at a great place called “Dick’s Last Resort”. This place has the rudest servers you can encounter! But that is the point. If you haven’t been to Dick’s, the goal of the waiters is to be impatient and rude from the beginning, and then bring the “fun” for the rest of your experience. Abuse is the word of the day there. (see pics)
From San Antonio, we decided to head directly to New Orleans, because we were running out of time to get to Florida. How many of you watched the Royal Wedding? Well, I was ready to get up and start driving. But nooooooo! We had to sit and watch the wedding!! William and Kate owe me a day of driving!! But it was a site to behold, having an English wife, I have to show my loyalty.
New Orleans is a great place, it has recovered, but not completely, from the Katrina disaster. We toured the St. Bernard Parish, many properties are still boarded up, torn down or just abandoned. Even though the neighbors who survived have stayed, some neighborhoods are peppered with residents. Very strange driving around these areas. Clearly there is still neglect going on in the progress department.
Touring Downtown NOLA (New Orleans, Louisiana) was a spark for great memories from the past as well. We first came here in 1989 with our kids ages 9 and 11. Now we were here with our daughter and her husband! Wow, never thought I would be out partying all night with my own kids, but what a blast!!! All I can say is, “Hand Grenade” is a very aptly named drink. “Kaboom”!!! We were dancing and singing along in a club when we heard that they had gotten Osama Bin Laden. I will always remember where we were when we heard that news.
We also rode the St. Charles streetcar from end to end. These are the ancient, yet, still running, public transportation cars that run for the benefit of the locals and tourists alike. So great to see that they survived the Katrina onslaught. Now if only the rest of Louisiana could come back to the days of yore. The beautiful view of the southern style architecture and the old houses that are still standing was a special treat. Add to that the multitude of trees lining the street adorned with beads caught in the branches, resulting from the recent Mardi Gras celebrations.
Today, though, I heard that there is a chance of the Mighty Mississippi overflowing its banks yet again! Those poor folks can’t seem to catch a break! All in all, New Orleans is a place you must all visit and spend a few days exploring. The music, the food and the ambiance are like nowhere else. Now, on to Florida. (SEE PICS HERE)
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Today we started out from Newport Beach arriving at Avondale, just outside of Phoenix, AZ. Stayed the night at Walmart. Gotta love Walmart! Seth and Lyss are with us for the trip to Orlando. They will be flying home from there sometime in May.
We have decided that we will allow Serendipity (our RV’s name) to take us where it wants. But we have agreed to do interesting, yet off the beaten path activities. So, we found where Seth lived with his family in Tempe when he was in 4th and 5th grade. It was great seeing his old house and hearing him reminisce about his old memories. Went to the park up the road from his home.
While we were at the old house, a gentleman on an electric bike rode up to us with a friendly greeting. Our huge rolling home caught his attention. Not only was his bike electric, so was his personality. Somehow I could feel Serendipity’s voice calling us. We told him why we were there, and asked if he was a neighbor. He responded jovially with, “no, I live across town, I’m just on a mission of mercy. I’m 82 years old. My wife has just had breast cancer surgery and I’m out here painting addresses on the curbs for donations so I can pay for the cost of her co-pay that wasn’t covered by insurance.” He was quite a friendly and engaging gentleman. We wished him luck and went on our way, rounding the corner. We got about a block away, when we knew that we needed to help him out even though we had no curb for him to paint. As he caught up to us, he pulled up, and I handed him our donation and wished him well. He was overly grateful and insisted that he do something in return. At which point he said that he entertains the “Old folks” at the senior center every week and could he tell us a story. Of course, we obliged, and so did he. Here is his story:
“A man is on his death bed and his wife is sitting by his side. He reaches out and takes her hand, and says, ‘do you remember when we first started dating and I bought a brand new car and I crashed it on the way home’? You were there. Then when the floods came and washed away everything we owned, I was devastated, you were there. Then, remember when our house burnt down? Complete tragedy. You were there. After 67 years of marriage, and here I am about to draw my last breath. . . and again, you are here. . . . . . . . . I’m beginning to think you’re bad luck!’ ” ahh. . . . .Serendipity.
Tombstone, Arizona. Sight of the gunfight at the OK Corral. Apparently this was a street fight that has been romanticized by Hollywood. It lasted less than 30 seconds, 32 shots fired, 3 dead. There are still questions as to who the villains were. Boot Hill is quite a sight. No more boots, but some of the markers tell quite a story! Highlight? The Ghost Tour at the Birdcage Theater. This is reputed to be one of the most haunted buildings in the U.S. Lyss and Seth felt and heard strange experiences. Normie and I did not. We all heard some unexplained “clicks”, though. The girl next to me found that her shoe was untied! She was visibly shaken, and swore that it was fine when the lights went out!!! However, I took a pic of Normie and Lyss in the lobby in front of the bar and purposely lowered my camera below bar level to avoid any flash effect on my photo. See the photo and tell me what you think. (by the way, the lens had no dust or spots on it, I checked!) Onward to Texas. . . .
Click Here for Photos
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Blog 7 Roadtrip 2010
From Seattle we drove north to Anacortes, Washington. Found an Indian Casino with an RV park. Swinomish Northern Lights Casino. Small but great RV park. And of course, the buffets!! Tuesday nights, $3.99!!! That’s right up our alley.
Anacortes is one of the islands in the Puget Sound. You can drive on over a short bridge, so you hardly know it’s an island. But it is also a gateway to taking the ferry to all of the other islands that cannot be reached quite so easily. Normie and I decided to play Bingo at the Casino one evening and she won $100!!! Which was donated back to the tribe over the next week. (sad face).
We took the ferry one day over to San Juan Island. Took our truck and our bikes. The day was beautiful both for traveling and sightseeing. We drove all over the island, had bread, cheese, artichoke dip and, of course, wine, for lunch on the cliffs whilst looking for the local pod of killer whales. We saw a couple in the distance, but not too close to shore as hoped for. Much to see on San Juan Island. English Camp, Limekiln State Park, Roche Harbor and Friday Harbor. Highly recommend to anyone with a full day in the Anacortes area. Take your car, it’s a large island. We also stopped at an outdoor sculpture garden outside of Roche Harbor that was incredible!! I saw one of the best pieces of art I have had the pleasure to view. (see pics)
It’s great to be able to cross paths with old friends who are also on the road in various stages of travel. We had the good fortune of meeting up with two friends from the Dunes, Robert and Carolyn Young. We met up for dinner one night and had a great evening of catching up and discussing our trips so far.
From the Casino park we moved on to another park at the south end of Anacortes Island at Deception Pass. It is actually a narrow opening between Anacortes Island and Whidbey Island. The tides flow through the funnel-like opening with awesome force! There is a campground, Bowman Bay, on one side of the pass with only 22 spots. Only two had hookups and we were fortunate enough to get one of them, right in front of the bay!! When I asked the camp host how much for the full hookup site, he said, “same as the others, 10 bucks.” Heaven, I’m in Heaven. . , needless to say, we stayed until they closed the park for the season! Fourteen days of crabbing, bocce, lying around, crabbing, wine, crabbing, wine, crabbing…. Did I mention crabbing? While in Anacortes we purchased the necessary equipment to catch Dungeness crab. And boy, did we! We took our boat out, dropped our pot, came back a few hours later and pulled it up, voila, crab. Sometimes 2, sometimes 4. It was a great way to be introduced to the joys of the Puget Sound!
After Labor Day, the park closed and they kicked us out, crying and begging them to let us stay. Alas, we had to move on or face the consequences of being labeled as “squatters”. They clearly did not realize that we are “professional” squatters!!
We headed south from Anacortes to Tillamook, Oregon. On the coast west of Tillamook is a little harbor named Netarts. We had been told by the campground hosts in Bowman Bay about the crabbing in this harbor. They were right! Made our efforts in Bowman Bay look like work! Here in Netarts, the crab are drawing straws to see who gets to go home with you! We would put our pot in the water and within ½ hour have at least 5 “keepers” out of 10 crabs!! (see pics). Apparently, there is a limit to how much crab one can eat in a fortnight. Didn’t know that until we tried to eat crab every day! And we found out that an RV freezer cannot accommodate all of the requests from home and family, for crab! We would have been glad to oblige, but found out the cost of shipping it would be greater than buying it at Albertsons at home.
Toured the Tillamook Cheese factory, highlight. Lowlight. Light. Touristy.
After 5 nights in Netarts, we heard that the weather was going to be turning sour overnight. So, we packed up and raced the rain to California. Needless to say, the rain caught up to us in Arcata. So we packed up again and continued trying to outrun it. We made it all the way to Port San Luis, outside of San Luis Obispo. The rain never showed up. Happily, we sat in the sun on the cliff overlooking the beach. This is one of the best camping spots ever! Don’t ask me for directions, I won’t give them to you.
There is a web cam overlooking Port San Luis. Family and friends would go to the website and we would do our antics for all the world to see. Dancing, prancing, and underpantsing! Well, only for some. While there, we celebrated our 35th year of wedded bliss. We have been married 39. Kidding, only 35. If you have to have something to celebrate, succeeding at being with the same person for that long is a worthwhile celebration!! There is a pizza place in Pismo Beach, Paisano Pizza. To die for!!! We never go through this part of the world without stopping in. Friends we found it with, also make the regular pilgrimage.
After 5 days basking in the sun on the beach, we figured it was time to get home. . . . to the beach. But not without a couple of nights en route at . . . wait for it. . . . the beach! Carpinteria State Park. Our daughter, Lyss and her husband, Seth, met us there as it has been a regular part of our family’s history for the last 40 years. It was Seth’s first time there. New tradition for them? Hope so. They were only able to stay one night, due to work obligations. This left us with one day alone to sit on the beach and reminisce about the last 40 years of coming to “Carp”, raising our kids, camping with so many friends who joined us over the years. It was a time of laughter and tears of joy over how great life has been to us. Thank you, Lord for the blessings. Perfect ending to a wonderful roadtrip!
Leaving Carpinteria was hard, but we had a deadline. We made it safely back to the Dunes. So good to reconnect with friends and neighbors. There’s no place like home, no matter where you park it!
See our pics: Roadtrip 2010 Final Blog Pics