Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Quick Trip to Geneva & A Shiny Clean Truck

5/15 - 5/30

Wow, it’s Memorial Day already and I am at least a week late in updating our blog. We decided that Nancy needed to spend some time at home as she had a few routine appointments coming up and a few things to take care of there. So we headed north in the Volvo on Thursday the 20th. Pretty uneventful trip, we just took the truck and left the smart and the trailer in FL. Spent one night in a motel in TN and got home late on Friday afternoon. Had take-out dinner from Mike & Miguel’s, our favorite Mexican restaurant.

Everything was in very good shape at home, except for the big freezer in the garage. I had neglected to move it off of the GFI circuit and sure enough the breaker tripped some time over the last five months! What a mess! So Saturday while Nancy did some grocery shopping I put on a filter mask and rubber gloves and tossed all of the thawed and moldy contents of the freezer. Fortunately there was not a lot of meat in there! After dumping everything the inside was thoroughly cleaned with a Clorox and water mixture, no permanent harm done.

It was really nice to have a somewhat normal weekend at home for a change. Sunday evening Dennis headed back south alone. That truck is great for trips like this. When I got sleepy I just hit a rest area or truck stop and took a nap. One fuel stop at the Flying J in Oak Grove, KY and I was back at Sun Lake RV by 1 AM Tuesday morning. 1,230 miles in 26 hours, not bad.

My Mom is about the same, the doctor says she is “stabilized”. I have spent some time just sitting with her this week. I found a great little hand car wash place right near our campground where we have been getting the smart done and they did a fantastic job on washing the truck this week, it looks better than it ever has, particularly the wheels and the aluminum step plates. All for $65 plus tip!

The Blackhawks won the first game of the Stanley Cup finals on Saturday night - yeah Hawks. It was a great game, the series should be exciting. Sunday, in addition to being Memorial Day, is a big race day. Watched the F1 race from Turkey in the early morning, then the Indy 500, and now the NASCAR Coke 600 is on!

Still hotter than Hades here in FL, guess that will be the situation for the next couple of months. The recharged AC in the smart is working great, as is the AC in the trailer. Won't have much to report for the next couple of weeks until Nancy returns. Pretty boring here without her!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Shuttle Launch and a Beachfront Idyll

5/8 - 5/15/10

Nancy came back from her visit home on Tuesday and I was glad to have her back. My Mom is kind of up and down, mostly down and it does not look real good for the future. At this point we are just waiting things out.

We decided to go over to the east coast to watch the shuttle launch on Friday 5/14. This will be the final voyage of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, and there will be only two additional shuttle launches before the program is shut down. After doing some investigating we determined that the best place to watch from was around Titusville. We also found that traffic coming back west after the launch would be pretty bad, so we decided to find a room for Friday night - easier said than done at this late date. We decided to look farther south around Melbourne and found a small beachfront motel in Melbourne beach that had a room for Friday evening only.

The advice we found on the web suggested that we needed to be in place at our viewing spot “three to four hours” before the launch! As it turns out, that was good advice. We left Ruskin about 7:45 AM on Friday, took our usual back road route up through Plant City to I-4, then into Orlando where we headed east on FL 417 to FL 528. So far so good, started to pick up some traffic on 528, including a mile long back-up into the first toll booth. Traffic was heavy, but when we made the turn NE onto FL407 we came to a stop! We crawled along at no more that 10 miles and hour, with lengthy full stops. It took over an hour to go the four miles to I-95! Only bright spot was that this area had clouds of love bugs, but we were not going fast enough to splatter them on the car (we made up for this on Saturday!) Realizing that we were probably in the traffic actually going into the Kennedy Space Center - for which tickets were required - we hopped on I-95 north and easily made it into downtown Titusville. The best viewing was shown as “Space View Park” so we went looking for that, a pretty easy search given the crowds headed that way! We found a very convenient parking spot for $15, good thing we have a tiny car and could fit it into the last space in this particular lot. Walking into the park we found a good spot along the street in the shade of a palm tree to set up our chairs, eventually there were four of us moving along with the shade of this tree as the day wore on!

We were in place about 10:30 AM - for a 2:20 PM launch! There was a pretty sizable crowd already there, any later and we would have been hard pressed to find any shade at all! We spent the next several hours reading, chatting with our neighbors, and people watching. By the time of the launch the crowd was huge and people were even standing waist deep in the water in the bay between the arms of the park.

In the center of this picture there is a gazebo at the end of the pier, just to the left of it is a mound on the far shore, the launch pad is just to the left of that mound. As it turned out we had an excellent viewing spot and could see the launch quite clearly. We were about 15 miles from the launch pad and a little over a minute after ignition we could clearly hear the sound of the launch, just about the time I took this picture:

Afterwards we were able to get our things collected and back to the car pretty quickly. We then headed south on US 1 and of course traffic was horrendous for the first hour. Thank goodness we got the AC fixed in the smart! It performed flawlessly all the way along. It took two hours to get to Melbourne Beach, what should have been about an hour drive, but it was well worth it. The Sea View Motel was exactly as advertised, nice, clean and our king bed room was right on the beach. Here is a picture of Nancy on our patio just after we arrived:

It was a beautiful evening with a nice sea breeze and we took a long walk on the beach before dinner. This motel is on what amounts to a private beach that runs for miles with only a few houses, as well as a nature preserve and a county park, a really pretty spot.

We walked across the street to Cafe Coconut Cove, an excellent German restaurant with good German beer on draft, and had a very nice dinner as we watched the sunset across the Indian River Lagoon.

Saturday morning we were up before dawn so we could watch the sunrise from our patio.

Then we took a nice long walk on the beach and came across tracks where a sea turtle had come ashore during the night to bury her eggs. To get an idea of the scale, those are ATV tracks in the upper right corner of the picture. This was one big turtle, the tracks were about 30” wide, and we could see where she came up and turned, the mound where the eggs are buried, and a second set of tracks (top of picture) where she returned to the water.

After breakfast we sat on our patio and enjoyed the ocean view for a couple of hours before heading back to Ruskin. We drove south on the barrier islands to Vero Beach and then took highway 60 back west through Lake Wales and Bartow before dropping south in Mulberry to FL 674 west. The love bugs were out in force and when we stopped for lunch at Lake Wales Family Restaurant we washed a lot of the bugs off and hosed off the front of the car. When we got to the car wash in Sun City Center later in the afternoon the guy said “Wow, I did not think you could kill that many bugs with a smart car!”, then we told him we had already washed it once today!

Back to our home away from home by mid-afternoon after a really nice interlude on the east coast. We would heartily recommend the Sea View Motel for anyone looking for a nice beachfront location in Florida.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is the Formula One Race from Monaco, and then the Blackhawks play the first game of the Western Conference finals in the afternoon, so we know where Dennis will be!

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Private Bicycle Path (Almost)

4/29 - 5/7/10

We have been trying to find a good place to ride our bicycles around here. The roads are narrow and the traffic moves fast, so it is not real conducive to cycling. We had noted that the north golf course in Sun City Center has been closed for over a year and had though it might be a good place to walk. Friday morning we went over and walked around the front nine. It has become almost a nature preserve, lots of birds and not much else. We saw a few people walking and though it would be a good place for a bicycle ride.

When Dennis set up the bicycle rack for the back of the trailer he also welded a hitch receiver on the headache rack on the truck so we could mount the bicycle rack on the deck. A bit of overkill using a 17,000 lb. truck to carry two bicycles, but hey - it works.

So Saturday morning we took the bikes (which have suffered a bit from being exposed to the elements for four months) over to the course and rode around the entire course, probably about seven miles (Dennis’ odometer seems to have quit working). We did the same on Sunday morning. It was like having our own private bike path. Sunday morning we saw five walkers, two other bikers, and one golf cart the whole time we were there.

Made a quick trip to to the outlet shops in Ellenton and then we took another trip up to Tarpon Springs for lunch at Rusty Bellies and some fresh shrimp from Pelican Point Seafood. Nancy wanted to get one more meal in before the Gulf oil spill ruined the fishing.

On the way up to Tarpon Springs we stopped at Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary. A small place that does a wonderful job of rescuing injured seabirds, handling an incredible number of injured birds in the average year. They are already gearing up to rescue bird involved with the oil spill, signing up volunteers and asking for donations of Dawn dishwashing liquid, which seems to be the best thing for cleaning oil soaked birds.

Nancy headed home for the weekend on Thursday the 6th in order to spend Mothers Day weekend with her Mom. The weather here is miserable, 94 or 95 degrees every day and seriously humid - not where we want to be this time of year! Friday morning the low was 76 degrees!