Punta Gorda


Punta Gorda Florida is a beautiful place, even after the  vast devastation during Hurricane Charley in 2004. There are still empty lots where houses once stood, but those have been cleaned up and now appear as just green space.

The area where my sister lives is called Punta Gorda Isles. It features a number of canals running through the “back yards” of the lovely homes, and converging to run into the Peace River at Charlotte Harbour. Most homes have boat lifts and some impressive boats hoisted on them,  out of the destruction of the salt water when they aren’t in use.

The scene from my sister’s sun room

Another View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a photographer’s paradise, with the various types of Palms and other trees showing off their blooms, sparkling calm water ways and pink sunsets. Although I’ve yet to experience it, I’m told that dolphins can sometimes be seen playing in the canals too.

Flowering Palm

This time of year the temperatures climb a little higher than is really comfortable for us non-residents, but there is always the pool to cool us off, and every home, store and restaurant is well air-conditioned. Speaking of stores and restaurants, there are enough here to meet everyone’s needs.

The Pool

One thing to remember though, if you happen to be visiting someone here and are coming by motor home or pulling a trailer, you can’t park either one in the driveway or on an empty lot. We moved the motor home on Wednesday; when we got back we found a ticket on the door saying that we could not leave the little motorcycle trailer where it was, pulled up close to the house, nearly hidden by the bike!  My sister had to remove her car from the garage so we could put the trailer in there.  Just to be safe, we put the bike in too. 🙂 That turned out just as well; we had a thunder storm last night.

If the weather stays clear tonight, we will probably go to listen to the music in the park.

Mini-Pity Party (Sunday, May 20)


Sunday dawned sunny and bright. However, we were not to get through the day without a few more challenges and these didn’t involve golf.

When I opened the fridge to get out food for breakfast, I noticed that things just didn’t seem to be very cold.  I checked the freezer; everything was thawed! Great! For some reason the electricity to the fridge wasn’t working, and we still had no propane so couldn’t even switch it over.  Jim flicked some switches and miraculously got it going, but we had only a couple of hours for things to cool down again before we’d have to unplug it. Should I throw everything out? I decided to leave it for then and deal with the food as we needed it.

So we unhooked everything else, locked everything down and hooked the bike trailer up. Some neighbours came running to help with the loading of the bike, which was appreciated, but unnecessary. Finally, we were off. The plan was to go back to Costco to fill up the RV gas tank, since they had the best price around, and grab a hotdog there (it was already nearing lunch time). Then we would look for the nearest Camping World to get the propane tank filled.  Jim thought that he’d read on the website that they did that. It sounded like a good plan, but we hadn’t gotten very far down the highway when we began to smell something hot. Soon Jim noticed that the brakes weren’t working as well as they should! He pumped them and we crept along to Costco, filled up with gas and then pulled over to check things out.  The brake fluid drum was full, so that wasn’t the problem.  After sitting awhile, and pumping the brakes many more time, and creeping around the parking lot, Jim figured it was safe enough to get us to Camping World which was only five minutes away. I was still feeling calm and positive. But when we got to Camping World and found out that they neither fill propane tanks, nor do brake repairs, I was suddenly overcome and had to give in to a pity party, that took away my interest in looking through the store. I allowed it only ten minutes, though.  We got back into the RV and started down Hwy 17 south, keeping an eye out for somewhere to fill the propane tank. The brakes seemed to be alright again. We came across a small machinery rental shop that had a propane tank outside.  The sign said “closed” but there were a couple of men outside so we took a chance.  They were closed, but took pity on us and filled the tank for us. The day turned around after that. Jim concluded that as long as he didn’t do any hard braking, the brakes worked fine, so he just had to keep an eye open so he wouldn’t have to make any sudden stops. I had probably caused the problem by pushing down too hard on the brake pedal when Jim was checking the lights before we left the campsite. The sun was shining hot. We made one more stop, to eat lunch at a Bob Evans’, and then didn’t look back. We crossed into Georgia at about 7:30. We parked at a Walmart in Savannah at 8:30.

Making the Most of our Last Day in Myrtle Beach (Sat. May 19)


The day started out cool and cloudy, but we had no rain. We took the bike back to Barefoot Landing one more time, this time to the Kite Store to sort out a problem with the payment for a pin wheel that we’d bought the day before. From there we searched out the local Costco to sample some of the different items that aren’t available in Canadian stores.  We had lunch, but bought only one item – a new GPS; yes the old one bit the dust. ): Walmart was in the same area, so we went in there too, to pick up an electric skillet, before we headed back towards the campground. It was three o’clock by then, and we had tickets for the Carolina Oprey at 7:00 pm, but we had time to stop at Mt. Atlanticus to play a round of miniature golf. It was a close game, but Jim crept past me on the last hole to win. By the time we were done, we had time to only rush back to the RV, unload the bike, brush our teeth and head off again to the Oprey.

Atlanticus Mini-Golf

Must have made the shot!

Atlanticus Mini-Golf

Yes, we played to the top!

Atlanticus Mini-Golf

Beautiful Course

 

 

 

 

 

Atlanticus Mini-Golf

Now who’s smiling?

 

 

The Carolina Oprey isn’t quite what I’d expected it to be – all country type of music.  It was, however, another excellent music and comedy variety show, featuring many former American Idol top contenders. A nice end to our visit.

Lessons Learned


Friday, May 18, 2012

Today we were reminded of two things that we’d forgotten – conserve propane gas, and conserve internet data!

Yesterday we were also reminded that in older vehicles, things wear out, when, after we had our showers I wondered why the water pump didn’t seem to come on as often as usual, and Jim noticed that the lights seemed rather dimmed. Jim checked the battery levels and found that every one of the three new batteries we’d just installed before we left were dead! It seemed that for some reason they had not been recharging as they should when we are hooked up to hydro.  The problem was, Jim concluded, with the inverter, but he couldn’t figure out exactly what. We were given the number for Coast RV and they were here by 1:00 pm. Half an hour later the problem was solved (a broken ground wire) and we were able to get on with our day.

We had lunch at the restaurant on the Pier before taking another brisk walk up the beach for a mile or so and back, splashing through the waves as the tide rolled in. Another trip to the post office (why are they so hard to find?) and a wander around the Harley Store pretty much completed that day. The bikers have arrived at last; even our campground is nearly full with more very large motor homes and bike trailers.

Today’s Lesson #1:  This morning I prepared eggs and cheese to make an omelet for breakfast. Then I attempted to light the propane stove.  Nothing. Check the gauge – tank is empty!  The only way to get it filled is to unhook the hydro and sewer pipe, hoist up the leveling jacks and take the RV up to the store. I think we can get along without the stove and hot water until we’re ready to leave on Sunday. Our site is just across the road from the bath house, and the microwave works.  Perhaps the purchase of a small electric frying pan might be a good idea. Off to the restaurant on the pier again, for breakfast.

Lesson #2: Back home, we both logged onto the internet to take care of business.  I had one graphic to download. I sent one email in response to that and replied.  But when I tried to send another email, nothing happened. Jim got a message that he was disconnected because we had used up our monthly allotment of one giga-byte of data on our Verizon internet card. Lesson number two–from now on I will not be adding pictures to the blog until we are using someone else’s WiFi.:)

This afternoon and evening were spent cruising up and down Hwy 17 in search of another Post Office located in the direction that we wanted to go, and a Verizon store where we could make a payment that would allow us back on the internet.  It took a good half hour to find the Post Office; it took five hours to find a Verizon store, and many miles in the opposite direction from the Post Office. Mind you, we did take care of a few other things while we were looking. We went back to Barefoot Landing to check once more at the Lost and Found for my missing Tilley, to no avail. We did learn that if I contact Tilley directly, they will send me a new one for half price. We had to tour the Harbor Freight store, and stop into a couple more motorcycle equipment tents; and we enjoyed an exquisite meal at The Olive Garden.

At The Olive Garden we had an interesting conversation with the waiter about health care and wages, that made us realize again how lucky we are to live in Canada, despite sometimes getting frustrated with taxes and wait-times.

Tomorrow is our last day here, before we leave for Florida.

Sounding Off: Travelling On


While I stood waiting for my hands to dry under one of those wonderful blow dryers in a Welcome Centre restroom, I noticed a small sign that had been printed from a computer and taped to the concrete wall:

Please don’t flush diapers, Depends, or any clothing down the toilets. Our sewer system will get clogged and stop working.  Thanks for your consideration.”

I can’t help wonder why such a sign would even be necessary.  Are there really people out there who lack that much common sense? Are they the same ones who, here in the US right now, are protesting the possible lifting of the Income Tax Reduction put into place by George Bush, while in the same breath demanding more funding for job creation, social assistance and general economic stimulus from the government.  Do they ever ask themselves where the money would come from, if not taxes?

******

On Friday our “side-trip” through the Badlands of South Dakota took all day, there was so much to see! The rock formations are amazing and around each corner the colours and shapes change. At our first viewing area stop we met a couple who were on a motorcycle. Like us, they had recently retired and taken off, pulling a toy hauler.  They’d left that in Rapid City to do some day touring on the bike.

Two stops later, we noticed some people who were having trouble with their car.  Jim asked if he could help, and we spent an hour there. I chatted with the women and invited them into the motor home to keep warm, as the wind was getting cold. The men eventually came up with a temporary solution so they could limp back to Rapid City to a mechanic. We carried on to the next viewing spot, an area where fossils have been found and put on display. After having some lunch we took a walk through the trails and climbed some mounds.  We didn’t find any new fossils though. Five or six hours and two hundred pictures later, we found our way out of the Badlands. We stopped for the night at the Belvidere KOA. It got very cold and the wind whistled most of the night.

Saturday was a long drive through acres of rolling farm land, under cloudy skies.  We stopped at the town of Kimball, South Dakota, looking for some bread and other sandwich ingredients.  It was mid-day, yet the streets were all but deserted. Some of the buildings appeared to have been there, unchanged, since the 1800s.  We did find a well-stocked grocery store, got our supplies and made lunch while parked on the street. We didn’t think anyone would mind that we were taking up four parking spaces.

Mid-afternoon we arrived at the Minnesota Information Centre. The very helpful woman there gave us a list of available RV parks in the state and suggested that if we were looking to drive for another couple of hours we could get free camping at the Blue Earth Fair Grounds. That sounded great!  We made it our destination for that night. As indicated on the signs, there were “full” hook-ups”. The only problem was, septic and water taps were in one spot; electricity hook-up was in another, requiring a very long extension cord, which we didn’t have.  We chose electricity, but it seemed all of the reasonably level spots near the outlets were already occupied, and the ground looked pretty soft around the others.  We finally returned to the grassy area closer to the gate, where only one other RV had parked, and set up. Even there, the ground was squishy and not at all level. Like our neighbours, we had to do a lot of jacking, but it seemed pretty good when we were done. We had dinner and then took a stroll through the grounds, over to see the Jolly Green Giant. It’s a huge replica of the one-and-only Green Giant, but we could find nothing to tell us why he’s in the park in Blue Earth, Minnesota. We took some photos before walking across the street to Walmart to pick up a few more supplies.

By bedtime the RV seemed to be leaning a little, so Jim gave the jacks another turn or two. When we woke up in the morning I found that I was crowding Jim to the wall, and walking down the hall felt a bit like I’d had too much wine. When Jim, preparing to leave after breakfast, pulled up the jacks and went to pick up the three blocks of wood he’d placed under one of them, he discovered one block buried so deep into the ground that he had to get out a crowbar to remove it!

Today, Sunday, we just drove. The day was cloudy and damp. My arthritis was acting up so I slept a lot. We had a bit of a stretch and a walk when we stopped to eat lunch at a Rest Area near Lewiston, and decided that we’d attempt to get as close as possible to Chicago tonight. That’s where we are, in a very pretty KOA about fifty miles north-west of Chicago. It would be nice to be able to stay put for a couple of days.  I know Jim is getting tired of driving every day, but, tomorrow we will stop at the Chicago Museum of Science and Technology before starting the last leg of our trip. We should be pulling into our driveway sometime on Wednesday.

Making Our Way Back Home


Monday

With some sadness this morning we said goodbye to daughter Sarah, son-in-law Kendrick, and sweet, almost-three year old grandson Callum. They left before us actually, on their way to hike up Jumbo Mountain with three other adults and three other young children! I wish them well.  I’m sure it will be challenging, but exciting. I wish I could be there upon their return to hear Callum’s version of the event.

The weather had started to clear by the time we got away, around nine-thirty. It had been raining for a couple of days, but despite that, we enjoyed several hours at the New Denver Garlic Festival yesterday. We swayed to the music of a local group of musicians, whose name I should have written down because my aging brain has forgotten! Their repertoire included a variety of tunes from many countries and cultures, including many Jewish traditional ones. The brass instruments, accordion and well-blended voices created an amazing and interesting sound. Callum watched intently, before finally joining his mother and others who danced in front of the stage. We were amazed by the number of stalls and the types of garlic, and other products that were available.  It was hard to make a selection for lunch from the many unique and wonderful cuisines being offered.  We settled on homemade crepes that turned out to be an excellent choice. On the way back to the car we stopped to check out the salmon being peddled from the back of a pick-up truck and came away with five or six pounds of fresh Pacific Salmon to put into the freezer.

Today the sun broke through the clouds and the temperature gradually rose. After an hour the extra sweater was discarded; by mid-afternoon, the long-sleeves had to be replaced with short – one of the advantages of travelling in a motor home. When we stopped in Spirit Lake Idaho to get gas, one sign told us it was 80 degrees Fahrenheit; another said 90. Whichever, it was hot.

Our first stop was in Nelson, BC to say hello to Kendrick’s cousin Julia, who was working at a fruit stand there.  We wanted to buy some fruit to take with us, but after our last two experiences crossing the borders we were unsure what we could take.  We settled on some cherries and a couple of pears, which we figured we could eat before reaching the border.

We stopped in Salmo, BC at the Firefly Cafe and stuffed ourselves with yummy grilled Panini then finished the fruit before crossing into Washington State at about 12:45. I figured we were safe with the few fresh fruits and vegetables that remained in our crispers, because they’d all been purchased in the US; but the border-guard came aboard, searched some cupboards and the bathroom and confiscated a green pepper and a tomato! I guess the rule of thumb is: make sure you have used up all of your fresh fruits and vegetables before you reach the borders, because you never know what will pass and what won’t. We had to stock up again in Spirit Lake.

Tonight we are camped at a small RV Park in Cataldo Idaho, just off the highway, but looking onto Latour Creek and another beautiful sunset.

Everyday’s a Holiday


Saturday, Day 31

As I begin this blog, we’re driving through some very twisty parts of Hwy 101. The speed limit is between 30 and 35 mph. The road is lined on both sides by towering redwood trees, except for the occasional turn when we find ourselves looking across massive sand dunes along the ocean on our left.  We have just left Eureka, California and will be somewhere in Oregon before we stop for the night. From there I’ll try to finish this and post it. Road signs tell us to watch for Elk.  There is an Elk Reserve in the vicinity.

We found the Elk, at least a couple of them, in a meadow at a National Park. Signs posted also warned us of bear and cougars who inhabited the woods as well. We didn’t venture too far off the boardwalk, but I did pick a few wild black berries. Yumm!

We had our lunch in the park before continuing on. Hwy 101 is a much better road and for most of it the speed limit is 65 mph, so we made much better time. When we reached Crescent City the GPS directed us to turn onto Hwy 199, which would take us easterly to Hwy 5, the fasted route to Kaslo, BC.  However, we hadn’t spent a night at a State Park by the ocean yet, and we’d been seeing so many enticing ones along the way, we decided to stay on 101 for another day. We crossed the border into Oregon around 3:00 and stopped at the Welcome Centre to ask about camping at any nearby State Park.  We were reminded that this was the last long weekend of the summer! We’d forgotten, since we’ve been on one very long, long weekend for a month now! All the State Park sites were fully booked. The attendants at the Welcome Centre made some phone calls and found us a site at a private RV Park, within view of the ocean and a short walk to it. The price isn’t much more than that of the State Parks, and we have all the amenities so we’re happy. We took a walk down to the beach before dinner, and had an interesting conversation with a crab fisher, who explained the process and the regulations. The air is still a little bit cool and refreshing.

Wait for it!

Fog, Redwoods and a Long Day


Friday, Day 30

After we spent time visiting with our next door neighbours at the campsite this morning it was nearly eleven o’clock before we got away. The ocean was barely visible through the fog and for many hours fog drifted just above the road and through the trees.  It was another slow drive, up, down and around mountain peaks, but this time much more of it was through the Redwood Forests. The highway was even narrower and steep in many places, until we reached the junction at Hwy 101.  Before continuing on along 101, we stopped at Leggett to see the drive-thru Chandelier Tree, a 315 foot redwood with a diameter of 21 feet and believed to be 2400 years old.  The motor home wouldn’t fit through the opening, but I got a picture of Jim pretending to try.

That was our only stop except for taking the occasional picture and eating lunch along the side of the road.  We were determined to get to a full-service campsite tonight. We were running out of clean clothes and we weren’t sure how much propane we had left, since the gauge quit working a long time ago. We also needed a bank and a grocery store! We finally made it to Eureka just before dark. A fine mist was beginning to coat the windshield. We did our banking and a bit of grocery shopping, but by that time I was too tired and hungry to decide what we needed.  We got only the bare necessities. We were lucky to find a space at the nearby KOA.  This was a very long day.

Nope, it won't quite fit!

Searching for Family and Cool Air


Thursday, Day 29

Tonight we’re camped at Ocean Cove, California. It’s a site with neither hook-ups nor levelled lots. We can’t use internet, or empty our holding tanks or fill the propane tank.  But we’re right beside the Pacific Ocean, watching the sun go down, and the cool, crisp air is a welcome relief from the 105 degree temps this afternoon.  What could be better?

We didn’t travel very far today, but it was a slow drive.  Our first stop was in Sonoma where we began a search for a family who was very close to Jim’s Uncle Peter and with whom he and Jim had spent time during Jim’s visit. We had names and an address, but hadn’t been able to track them down after Jim and his family last visited them in 1964. It wasn’t too difficult to find the house, and it too was listed for sale. No offers of a tour were forthcoming this time though. There appeared to be no one home. A chat with neighbours on either side provided us with only one small piece to the puzzle. One neighbour had been there since 1968 and he didn’t recognize the name, so we could conclude that the family had left the neighbourhood sometime between 1964 and 1968.

We checked for records at City Hall and found nothing. We continued on to Santa Rosa, the County Seat, and at the Office of the Registrar were able to find a few more details about Peter’s death – he’d been cremated, which could account for the lack of burial records. There was nothing about the other family.  While we were parking the motor home in the parking lot, we’d been chatted up by a friendly fellow who talked about his motor home experiences and shared much of his life story with us. Once, when he was telling us about how he’d prayed for a good outcome to some financial situation, he asked if we were believers. We braced ourselves for a sermon, but our positive response seemed to suffice. He eventually let us go on our way and he went on his.

Disappointed with our meagre findings, we returned to the motor home to  find a book on my seat, obviously tossed through the open window,  National Sunday Law – forces unite amid stupendous crisis. Might make some interesting reading!

We left the cities, and the exhausting heat behind. Even the fans in the cab of the rv were of no use in that temperature.  The air was so warm it felt more like hair dryers blowing on us.

We soon began our journey through some rather narrow, always twisty roads that eventually led us to US Hwy 1 and the ocean.  We’d planned to stop at the next available KOA, in Manchester, so we could catch up on laundry, fill up with water and propane and empty the holding tanks, because we’d hoped to find

Sunset behind Jim, over Ocean Cove

a nice camping spot in a State Park the next night, where we knew there would be none of these amenities available. But the winding,steep roads reduced travel speeds to between 35 and 45 mph. The scenery was glorious, yet some of the turns caused us to hold our breath as the road appeared to drop away over a cliff. As I photographed one turn, I was stunned to see three cows on the narrow inside shoulder!

By 6:30 the all-day upper-body workout had Jim badly in need of a rest. That’s when we pulled into this very relaxing spot for the night. The laundry will have to wait for tomorrow.

We didn’t see Yogi Bear, but we Did See Old Faithful


Day 14 – Wed

I didn’t think I’d take any more pictures until we got to Yellowstone, but the scenery through the hills of Wyoming were impossible to ignore!

We left the campground at 9:30 am and arrived at the gate to Yellowstone National Park about an hour later. The scenery through the park is impossible to describe. Probably the many pictures we took won’t really convey the magnificence either. The one “black” spot on the beauty was the massive area where forest fires of past years have left nothing but naked tree trunks standing.  There is evidence of new growth beginning, though.

We knew we wouldn’t be able to see even a fraction of the 2.2 million acres of park, so we took the lower half of the circle, catching some of the highlights. Our first stop was at West Thumb Geyser Basin, an area that percolates with geysers, hot springs and mudpots. The steam coming off of one geyser created a sauna effect and steamed up our glasses as we stood over it, on the wooden path. We stopped to photograph a herd of buffalo; we ate lunch beside beautiful Lake Yellowstone. We reached Old Faithful just in time to catch the end of an eruption. We enjoyed ice cream (I think this is becoming a bad habit!) while we waited the fifty minutes for the next one.  This time we had front row seats. It was exciting to see, but we also enjoyed just as much the many smaller geysers and ponds that surround the area. This was our last stop and we made our way out the west side of the park at about 7:30 pm. Along the way we crossed The Great Divide, and the border into Montana.

We stopped at the city of West Yellowstone, just outside the gate, for information. We hoped to find a campsite in the city so we could catch the IMAX film. There were no RV Parks that could accommodate us,  so we continued west for about eight miles to Lion Head RV Park. It was nine o’clock by the time we had dinner, but we had a great day. Tomorrow we’ll continue south-west.