December 24, 2015 – Christmas Firetruck

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays

Whichever you prefer.

My town, Marathon, Florida, USA has an interesting Christmas tradition that I will share with you. It started in 1970s. Every Christmas Eve the fire department folks and families ride all over town in a ladder truck covered with lights. They play loud Christmas music and toss candy canes to the children.  I don’t know if they have a specific route, but it seems they cover most streets. You can hear them coming before they are in sight.  Everyone comes out to wave to the people on the firetruck as they pass by. I always have.

Our RV park has a Christmas Eve party in the clubhouse and when the firetruck pulls up outside, we all run out to wave to the people riding it.  This year Santa climbed down from his chair at the base of the ladder and went into the clubhouse.  I think he was posing for pictures with people, but I was outside taking pictures of the truck.  It is so big that I had to take three pictures to get it all.

Note that the firetruck is a convertible. Santa’s chair was mounted on the base of the ladder. There was a large lighted “Merry Christmas” sign on the front flashing on and off, but it was off when I got this picture.

b Firetruck 1
Christmas Fire Truck

Most of the people were riding on both side of the second section of the firetruck. I hope they had seat belts or were somehow tied down.

b Firetruck 2
Christmas Revelers on Firetruck

There was another driver at the back end.   The RV park roads are so narrow so it was a good thing that huge truck can bend around corners.

b Firetruck 3
Back End of Christmas Firetruck

Our neighbor and musician, Dave Scott, entertained us with his guitar.  Many people got up to sing with him, including myself. You may remember our 98-year old trumpet player, Micky Belin, who got up and played a few tunes.

b Dave and Mickey
Dave Scott and Micky Belin

 

It was a beautiful night with a full moon. The scattered clouds were lit up by the moon and it was magical. It was so nice that, after we left the party, we walked to the waterfront. The moon was so bright that the horizon was very clear on the ocean.

  Happy, Healthy, Safe, and Peaceful New Year

November 18, 2015 – Odds n Ends

I said I was going to hunker down and get busy writing THE BOOK.  Well, I have. This past week (or more) I have been attempting to spend at least eight hours per day at the computer.  It’s a job. For the most part, I have been successful, but there are always little distractions.

I’ve been struggling with the approach.  Patricia, the editor, had encouraged me to write it as a series of essays.  She said to think about the themes in my logs and make each one a separate essay.  Many days I have sat down to do just that, but in the end I get frustrated because my stories gets fractured. I think I should stay chronological and let the themes intertwine and overlap as they do in life. The hard part about that is reducing or condensing my material into a modern (meaning short) book length. I’ve gone back and forth and not settled on either approach yet. What do you think?

We had three or four days of heavy rain and high wind, accompanied by thunder and lightning.  That was helpful for keeping me indoors. So, I’ve been reading my logs, rewriting, and augmenting so much that I wake up in the night and think I am in Big Creek.

Andy had done a good job of getting me to take breaks.  I took my camera with me when I went out to stretch my legs. Andy has started taking early morning walks and once or twice this week, I got out of bed to join him.

b Sunrise

We went to the yacht club for karaoke night.  Now, I admit that I’m a karaoke singing fool of the first order. Friend Chrissy took this picture of me singing with Dave Scott.  I guess I didn’t know the words too well; I was clearly focusing on the screen.  I did have a good time and, when I wasn’t up there singing, I was singing along with whoever else was up there.  My throat was raw the next day.

b Dinata Singing w Dave Scott

Here is the view out the front window in the RV park during one of the rainy days.

b View Out Front Window

The garden has been doing well with all the rain.  So far, everything so growing nicely. The basil is ready for some light harvesting and all the tomato plants have blossoms on them. I did pull the rotting coconut out of the square pot and plant some Hawaiian papaya seeds in there.  No sign of papaya trees yet.

b Garden is Growing

One of the reasons we bought a lot in this RV park is that we are about half a mile from the grocery store.  That gives us a good excuse to walk over a mile there and back. I took these pictures here in the RV park as we took a walk. I don’t know what kind of tree this is.  All the long skinny leaves hang straight down making a great background for a butterfly picture.

b Butterfly on Tree

Many of the palm trees have produced clusters of red fruit. Some people call them Christmas palms for the red color, but it could be an African Oil Palm.  I dunno. I do know that it is not a good idea to bite one.  Trust me.

b Palm Tree Fruit

I took the afternoon off work today and we went to Bahia Honda State Park for our walk. It was very windy, which made for surf on the beach.  That is unusual here with the reef a few miles off the islands. Our timing was impeccable and we got there a high tide, which means there was not much beach left to walk on. The high winds and high tide made it an exhilarating walk.

We always see these cone-shaped sponges on that beach, but today there were plenty of new fresh ones washed up.  If I didn’t live in a motorhome, I would figure out how to clean and dry one to turn it into a bowl, or maybe a lamp shade.

b Cone Sponges on Beach

The high winds had blown mounds of sea grass up onto the beach. A sign next to the beach entrance said not to move it because it is important to the beach ecosystem: protects the beach from erosion, has little shrimp-like critters to feed the birds, and fertilizes the shore plants.

b Grass on Beach

b Bird

This little group was hunkered down behind a mound of grass apparently trying to hide from the wind.

b Birds Hunkered Down Behind Beach Grass

An egret was fishing at the water’s edge.

b Egret on Shoal

I’m not sure why I was attracted to this dead tree.

b Log on Grass

I regularly take pictures of these two.

b Dead Trees on Beach

We went to the club again this evening for trivia night.  Our team did win one round, but with no help from me.  I surely don’t know my trivia, especially sports trivia. Tonight, the themes were sports, Thanksgiving, and veterans.  I could not even hazard a guess for most of the questions.

November 8, 2015 – Marathon, FL

We’ve been back in Marathon for a week now and are just about settled into our winter home. Here is Sao snugged into our small RV site in Key RV. It was late afternoon so I took the picture right into the sun.

b Sao in Marathon

I was pleased to see that our neighbor’s trailer had been painted during the summer.  It had been looking a bit shabby.  I love the tropical  colors.

b Neighbor's Trailer

The first morning here, we went to the Home Depot and bought three huge bags of potting soil and plants for my garden.  I like to call it my farm. I got three large tomato plants, in the largest pots, and three cherry tomato plants, in the medium sized pots next to the street, and basil, cilantro, and mint, in the smaller pots in front of Sao.  The square pot is a coconut I planted two years ago.  There are no signs of life yet so I probably need to find another coconut to grow.

 

b Garden

The ugly orange Home Depot buckets are Andy’s method to keep people from using our small space as a place to turn their cars and trucks around.  I bought some spray paint to turn the buckets tan. And, I planted a plum tomato plant in the one in  the far corner.

The Marathon Yacht Club, where we lived on our boat for five years, added a swimming pool while we were gone. I loved the garden that was in the space before and was not too sure I would like a small pool, but it looks a bit bigger in real life than it did in the drawings we saw last winter. That is the Gulf of Mexico in the background.

b Yacht Club Pool

We did not go swimming that day, but plan to make use of the pool on a regular basis. Andy said he is going to swim while I work on that book.

b Yacht Club w Pool

After a sweaty day of setting up the screen room and patio furniture, we walked to the water front here in Key RV.  This is where we sit a watch the ocean. You’ll see more of that little lighthouse, I take pictures of it just about every time we sit there.

b Key RV Waterfront

I noticed a large iguana in the mangroves on the far side of the canal.

b Iguana in Mangroves

Here is a closer look. I love my zoom!

b Iguana Close Up

Iguanas are cool in a prehistoric kind of way, but it doesn’t take long to get tired of them and learn to dislike them.  They eat the shrubbery.  AND I have already chased one away from my garden.  Didn’t even stop to take a picture of it.

I zoomed in on the coconuts across the canal too. It is interesting to me that they don’t all ripen at the same time like an apple tree.  New clusters emerge on some regular interval.  I have seen a tree with green, yellow, and brown coconut clusters on it. These two clusters were on neighboring trees

 

b Green Coconuts

b Yellow Coconuts

 

November 1, 2015 – Marathon, Florida

Midway campground is, well, about mid way across the southern tip of Florida in the everglades on US 41. I was hoping for a night sky spread with stars, but when I poked my head out the door to check, the moon had washed them all away.  Sigh.

There is not much to say about the drive, other than the road construction we encountered in the past on US 41 (the Tamiami Trail) is complete.  It is an elevated section of road to let the water and animals pass under. Also, they are widening Krome Avenue between US41 and downtown Homestead.  It is a busy and dangerous section of road.  I was saddened to see more farm fields becoming housing developments.  There is not that much land left between the urban sprawl and the Everglades.

We topped off the diesel tanks and disconnected the car at the Valero station about a mile before we got to Key RV. We had no trouble getting the RV parked in our small site on a narrow road.  We’ve finally mastered it.

This post ends the daily blog for the season.  I will continue to post when there is something of interest.  That means of interest to me. I will post Andy’s trip summary when he give it to me.

I plan to spend hours and hours per day finishing up that Big Creek book I’ve been talking about for a year or so now.

On the Road Again

Thursday, April 23, 2015 – Marathon, Florida

 

For several days, we have been preparing to leave for the summer, which mostly means taking down the screen room and stowing the patio furniture.  Here she is in the afternoon, ready to go, except for bringing in the awning and entry steps. Oh, now I see from the picture that the wheel covers and the signal booster antenna still needed to be taken off.

b Sao in Key RV

And that is when we encountered our first problem of the trip. I turned on the awning power and pressed the retract button, but the awning did not move. It has done that before, so Andy got the push-broom and pushed on the awning to get it started. That trick did not work this time. I got out the manuals. If the problem is power getting to awning rather than the motor failing, you can use a nine-volt battering with some leads to a couple spots under the awning motor cover.  The problem is that it involves a tall ladder and a nine-volt battery. I really didn’t want Andy standing at the top of a tall ladder so I called neighbor Ted to come help.

Key RV Park is the kind of place where, when one or two guys are outside messing with something, they attract the attention of other guys who come over to help out.  Before we knew it, we had a whole team with a ladder, a battery, and tools. Tom was the one who climbed the ladder and held the leads on the motor. The awning retracted. He determined that the plug on the side of the RV for the awning did not have any power coming to it.

b Tom on Ladder with Battery

They had to move the ladder a couple times as the awning retracted.  I don’t know how Tom managed to get it all the way in without mashing his fingers behind the awning frame. And, I was a little bit worried about that battery and wires being so close to his delicate parts.

b Men Working on Awning

Mabel and George are here from Boca Raton for a few days, staying in Glen and Jenn’s trailer. They came over to say good-bye and posed for a picture for me.

b Mabel and George

Friday, April 24, 2015 – Marathon, FL to Fort Pierce, Florida (248 miles in 5 hours 4 minutes)

 

The only thing left to do in the morning was to hook the car to the back of the motorhome.  I pulled the RV out into the road and went back to get the car while Andy readied the tow bar. Everything went smoothly, with a hitch. We rolled out at 0723 singing On the Road Again. Andy was expecting that we would get to Fort Pierce at 1630.  I was anxious because we just joined up with Harvest Hosts  and were supposed to arrive during business hours (1700 for Endless Summer Vineyard). Fortunately, Andy’s calculation was a bit off and we got here at 1227.

I turned into the driveway and stopped near the winery tasting room and shop.  I had not even printed out my membership card yet, but the woman did not ask for it.  We just signed the guest book and a rules agreement.  The customary courtesy is to buy something from the hosts so I got some grape-seed oil. Her husband came up in a golf cart and led us to a field behind the winery.

I could tell from the mailbox that we were in the right place.

b Vineyard Mail Box

When we turned into the driveway, there were grape vines on our left and a tree nursery on our right.

b Entrance to Endless Summer Vineyard

The building was inviting, with rocking chairs on the front porch. Note the palm tree wearing sunglasses at the left end of the building.  This is their logo. You can check them out at https://www.endlesssummerwine.com/.

b Endless Summer Winery

Here is Sao parked in our private space for the evening. It was private because we were the only ones there.

b Sao  in Vineyard Parking Spot

We were free to walk around and enjoy the grounds.  They have a large pavilion with plenty of interesting things to look at for events.

b Andy in Front of Pavilion

Andy spotted the circle of chairs at the far end of the sidewalk and asked if it was for Quaker meetings.  When we got closer, we saw that it has a fire pit in the center.  Andy posed for me in one of the chairs.  I took a quick picture before he could take a nap.

b Fire Circle

The grapes are tiny right now.

b Baby Grapes

I was shocked to see the disc golf course in the vineyard.  It seems to me that they would not want Frisbees and such bashing into their vines, but the whole course is through the vineyard. We also got a kick out of the nautical touches, such as the manatee zone markers at the base of the baskets.

b Disc Golf Basket

There are wine barrel tables inside the pavilion.

b Wine Barrel Tables

Another section has picnic tables made from surf boards.

b Surf Board Picnic Tables

We walked out onto the pier over the pond behind the pavilion and watched the fish for a bit before continuing our walk through the vines. Sao is parked in the back right.

b Pier

A surf board forms a most unusual wind vane at the far end of the pavilion.  It was actually spinning with the breeze while we watched.

b Surf Board Wind Vane

Here is another look at the pond.

b Sao Across Pond

All the vines looked rather young to me, but I really don’t remember how long it takes them to get this big. Just a couple years, I think.

b Sao in Vineyard

We continued around to the nursery side to look at the trees. Later, I re-read the rules and realized we should not have done that.  I felt badly for breaking the rules, but am glad that I got a close look.  There are cables running along each row of trees to keep them from blowing over in the wind.

b Trees in Pots

We walked back to the motorhome through a grove of palm trees.

b Road Through Palms

It was such a delight to wander around and enjoy the plants. After looking at all the pots, cables securing the trees, and the irrigation system, we were impressed with how much work it is to run a vineyard and nursery.

We took our books to the porch swing hanging in a little pavilion next to the pond and read while swinging.  We were still enough that a couple birds came very close to us while searching for supper in the pond.

b Shore Bird

The Great White Egret was getting plenty of fish.

b Great White Egret

It had the longest and skinniest neck ever when stretched out.

b Great White Egret Profile

Saturday, April 25, 2015 – Fort Pierce, Florida to Wildwood, Florida (148 miles in 5 hours 49 minutes)

We loved spending the night in the vineyard so much that neither of us really wanted to leave this morning.  Andy said that waking up there made him happy.  He took another walk around before I got out of bed. We had not opened the slides or set up anything so all we had to do this morning was get dressed and drive away.  We did that at 0708.

I don’t remember what time we stopped on the Florida Turnpike. We did not see what the problem was until we got to the scene of the accident.  By that time all the emergency vehicles were gone except two flat-bed tow trucks, one with a minivan and the other with a mangled motorcycle. We had not noted the time when we reached the backup, but estimate that we sat there for one and a half to two hours before traffic started moving.

We had not planned to stop at Alliance Coach on our way north.  Our original destination for today was Alachua, 70 miles north of here.  But the awning needs repair and here we are.

b Sao in Alliance Coach

While Andy was hooking up the power and water, I went back inside and took some pictures.

b Andy Hooking Up Water Hose

This is what the motorhome looks like when we are on the road.  We have the two little coffee tables on my sofa with books, exercise mat, and the basket where I keep my purse and camera bag on top. Andy has a few books and hats piled on his sofa on the right. The slide-out on the right is pulled in and we only have a narrow path. My cart for extra counter space is stowed behind the table and lashed with a rope.

b Sao Road Ready

I see from the picture that I had already set the coffee pot on the counter.  It rides in the sink. Here is the cockpit. The string wrapped around the steering wheel is something Andy rigged for me to attach to my keys so I will remember to turn the headlights off. The other end of it is around the light switch.  It worked when we stopped at a rest stop for fuel and lunch, but not when we got here and I left the key in the ignition.

b Sao Helm Station

These are the controls to the left of the driver’s seat.  The silver knob is the parking brake. Next is the leveling system control panel. The two rows of switches are cruise control, air dump, battery boost, exhaust brake and one to flash the lights like the truckers do. Then there is a mirror heater switch and mirror adjustment buttons. The panel on an angle has the transmission buttons. It still seems a little odd to me to change gears by pushing buttons.

b Sao Controls

We met Bill and Pam at Crispers for dinner.  They arrived in the golf cart.

Bill and Pam with Golf Cart

 

 

 

Crispers is one of my favorite places to eat. We sat outside on the patio on the left.

b Crispers

 

 

I had a superfood salad and cup of butternut squash soup, but don’t remember what everyone else ate.

b Pam, Bill, Andy