Sunday, January 31, 2010

Ordered our Recliners

We went to Tallahassee yesterday to order the new recliners for the motor home.  They are smaller chairs and hopefully will fit nicely in the RV. The standard sleeper couch that came with it was pretty…but not comfortable.  The new chairs recline, swivel and glide.  We ordered  the microfiber fabric.  We found it repels dirt and cat hair.  When we camp, we hike, kayak and just plain get dirty, so we need an easy care fabric.  The recliners are supposed to take 6 weeks for delivery.
We also intend to replace our carpet with Allure Flooring. It’s a vinyl floating type floor.  It comes in a tile or wood look.  A lot of people with RV’s are using it and it appears to be fairly easy to install.  I’m not looking forward to removing the old carpet…from what I have heard they use a LOT of staples to hold down the pad.  I believe we have the kitchen and bathroom vinyl under all the carpet, which will help to make all the floors the same level.  Otherwise if the carpet was just in the kitchen and bath area, we will have to put something down in the living areas to make it the same level.
You aren’t supposed to install the Allure flooring until the temperature is 65 degrees, so we will wait a few more weeks for more consistent temperatures.  We could start ripping out the old carpet, but frankly, I am a little nervous.  Once we start, we are committed!  There are a lot of things to consider, like removing the carpet underneath the 2 slides.  We won’t be able to get the carpet out from under them completely unless we removed the slides and we are NOT going to attempt that.  Also in our Class A, we have a “Dog house” cover on the engine compartment. It is also carpeted and will remain so.  Underneath the Captain’s chairs there is carpet on a mounting pad. It’s not level so I don’t think we could install the Allure right on top of it.  The stair’s are also a concern.  We have the heavy rubber to step on but the sides are carpeted.  I think we can glue the Allure to the sides and will have to come up with some kind of trim pieces.  My biggest concern is with the slides, but other people have done it and have made it work…. One of these days, we will get the nerve to start removing the old carpet…
Once we get the chairs and new flooring, we think we will be very comfortable living there.  We are a little short on counter space but we have a lot of storage and a huge pantry.  Al bought a small freezer a few years ago.  It fits in the kitchen right beside the sink.  It’s nice to have some spare room for frozen stuff and also is a good place for a bag of ice.
Another project is removing the old 19 inch TV’s and replacing them with LCD’s.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cherry Blossom Festival

Every year, they have a 10 day Cherry Blossom Festival   in Macon, Georgia.  They have concerts, balls, games, fireworks, street parties, air balloons, parades, tour of homes and much more.  The star of the show though, is the Cherry Blossoms.

This year, it will be from March 19th through the 28th.  They have some 300,000 flowering Yoshino Cherry trees.  I have heard it rivals the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC.

Unfortunately, since we have been living in Georgia, it seems something comes up each year that keeps us from getting there.  One year, Al had just had his 2nd or 3rd (I forget) rotator cuff surgery.  One year, we had company.  One year, with my work schedule and the weather, we never quite made it.  I am determined to get there this year! 

We’ll see what happens…. I’m hopeful! 

Macon Georgia is straight up I-75, south of Atlanta.  It’s far enough we would need to spend the night.  We probably won’t bring the motor home though.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Batteries - Recliners

Our house batteries for the motor home were 5 years old, and not holding a charge very well,  so we finally got down to Sam’s Club and bought 2 new 6 volt Golf cart Batteries.
We cleaned up the compartment the batteries go in and put in the new ones.  Those were heavy buggers and Al had trouble getting them in the compartment with his 2 bad shoulders.  We got it done though, and the generator started right up.  We had been trying to start the generator but it wouldn’t start.  We thought it should have started if the RV was plugged in, but it didn’t.  We were concerned we had a problem with the generator and we needed to find out before our warranty ran out.  Fortunately, the new batteries corrected the problem and we started the generator and ran it to give it, it’s monthly exercise.  You are supposed to run it under load, so I turned on all the lights.  There are 28 lights inside that motor home.  Don’t think we will need any lamps!
While we were in Tallahassee yesterday getting the batteries, we made a trip to Haverty’s Furniture.  We found the small recliners we had been looking for.  They are in the micro suede fabric and had a choice of quite a few colors.  We brought a color sample home and decided the color  “Alpine” would be the best. They are having a sale in early February, so we will wait until then to order the 2 chairs.  I’m anxious to get them because our RV sofa is not comfortable.  I guess I’ll put it on Craig's List to sell.
We’re trying to get the motor home fixed up so that we can live in it full time…hopefully sometime this year.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another Work Camping call

I got a call today from Larry at Lafayette Blue Springs State Park, near Mayo Florida.  He was looking for camp host volunteers in May for their day use park.   Hmmm....might be a possibility.  We were at the springs back in October when we were camping at O'Leno State Park.  We visited several springs that day and I'm trying to remember this particular park.  I went back to my blog post and pictures that day to refresh my memory.  It's tough getting old!  The park is on Suwanee River, which is one of our favorite rivers for kayaking. 

Larry noted on our volunteer application that we were Scuba divers and mentioned that people come from all over to dive in the springs at Layafette Springs State Park. Might have to get out the wetsuit!

In our quest to look into full timing, I also signed up to Work Kamper News.  This is a site where you can find Work Camping jobs, where you can work for a free site, or for a site plus wages, depending on the situation.

We have dove in the springs at Crystal River when the Manatee were there, but prefer the ocean.  In the springs once you're in there a few minutes you have seen all the wildlife there is.  When you are in the ocean, you NEVER know what will come swimming up next...Tiger Shark, Loggerhead Turtle, Angel Fish, or Barracuda!  Springs are beautiful though mostly because of they crystal clear water.  It's any easy dive unless you do a cave dive.  You have to be a certified cave diver if you want to enter the underwater caves. Many people die each year after running out of air deep inside an underwater cave. We never had the interest in getting certified for cave diving.  Again, once you are in a cave, the formations are different but basically nothing changes as far as wildlife.  I like nothing better than being underwater and looking up to see a school of fish, a person, or a boat swimming overhead with the sun shining brightly behind them.  That's quite a beautiful view and one that you would not get in a cave.  I need to look through some of my photographs and post some of those  shots.  It's really quite amazing!

Work Camping Offers

First of all, I would like to welcome my latest "follower".  I don't have a name but he is evidently a Florida, Georgia Kayak fisherman.  You may have some good pointers for us as far as good places to go?  I couldn't find a website for you, but would like to see if you have some favorite places we don't know about :)

Well, as I previously posted, we are thinking of selling the house this year and moving into our RV.  We have been working on donating things to Good Will, trashing and selling some stuff.  We haven't been working too hard though cause we always seem to find other more fun things to do.  I put a few things on Craigs List and did sell an old air compressor.  I went through our closet and trashed some stuff and got another box for Good Will.  I also made some progress in our office.  I'm waiting for Al to get home to help me with the computer, printer, and monitor I'm giving to my kitty sitter Debbie.

We were thinking of doing some short term work camping if we could find something.  I filled out the volunteer form from Florida State Parks, thinking it would take some time to get through the system and them maybe we could try it out.  Well surprise, surprise...we already got two calls from a ranger at Big Shoals SP and Madison Blue Springs SP.  Both of these parks are day use parks but have and RV site for work campers.  We were thinking of waiting until around April, but we may be able to actually do some short term  work camping.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Wakulla Springs State Park

Wakulla, Florida
The full name of the park is actually Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park.  It is located in the Northwest Region of Florida, south of Tallahassee.
Map picture
It is one of the largest and deepest springs in Florida and used to be crystal clear.  They have been struggling for years with water clarity.  Sometimes the water is murky and sometimes it is clear. It is not like most Florida springs with crystal clear blue water, but today it was fairly clear and we could see plenty of manatee that come to the “warm” water during the winter months.  The water is consistently around 70 degrees which is considerably warmer than the Gulf of Mexico.  Manatee’s are mammals and depend on finding warmer waters during the cold winter months.
There is a dive tower you can go on.  In the summer months people jump and dive off of it. There are no manatee floating there during the warmer months.
It’s a great place to get a good view of the area.
Notice the white mark on the baby?  It’s a scar from being hit by a boat propeller. Most all the Manatee you see have similar scars. 
Here is a Manatee nose coming up for a breath of air.
There is no camping here but they have a large lodge priced at $95-105 nightly. They have a restaurant, gift shop, snack bar,  lobby with TV and roaring large fireplace!  It’s quite nice.
It is a great place for a day visit. It cost $6.00 per car and $8.00 per adult for a boat tour (recommended) and $5.00 for children. There is a nice little swimming beach.
We did find out that they use Work Campers and have a little work camper village where you can stay for free with your RV in exchange for working at the park.

Here is a little campground near Wakulla and St. Marks.  It’s sometimes used by hunters (not our favorite) but is in a good location.  It’s not the prettiest campground we’ve ever seen but it adequate. We intend to stay there sometime to be closer to the coast and to St Marks.
phone: 850-925-4530.
8046 Coastal Highway, Crawfordville, FL 32327.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Apollo Beach Preserve - Apollo Beach, Florida

Map picture
While at Big Bend Power Plant Manatee Sanctuary, we could see people on a white sandy beach area straight down the canal from the plant.
We drove down until we found a nice little park with beach and kayak/canoe access.  It was quite a nice little park and a great place to kayak in the Mangroves.
Big Bend Power Plant Jan 15, 2009033
There were a lot of people fishing and would be a great place to kayak.  The water was clear, there was a lot of wildlife and you would have a great chance to see the occasional Manatee swimming by.
We’ll go back with our kayaks  some day soon.
After we left there we made a few stops looking for some RV furniture.  We’re wanting to replace the RV fold out couch with 2 smaller recliners.  The problem is finding small recliners.  We had initially been looking for 2 of the Euro style recliners with foot stools but decided that foot stool would take up too much valuable space in the motorhome.  We found some Micro Suede recliners at Kane's Furniture in Tampa and also Ocala.  We haven’t found anything the right size and fabric since, so we will probably have to end up getting them in Tampa.  Our plan is to remove the existing carpet in the RV and replace it with the vinyl Allure Flooring. Once we remove the couch, we don’t want to have to put it back so we will need the recliners.

Manatees of Big Bend

Big Bend Power Plant  is a power plant in Apollo Beach on Tampa Bay, that is a winter haven for the Florida Manatee. It’s southeast of Tampa.
Map picture

It is a State and Federally designated Manatee Sanctuary. They try to educate people about the plight of the endangered Manatee and its habitat. During the center’s open season from November 1 to April 15, they have films, displays and other materials  to educate all the visitors. Center volunteers and staff,  answer questions and provide additional educational information.

“In addition to the manatee observation platforms, the center features a tidal walkway that takes visitors deep into a mangrove habitat. Hundreds of varieties of birds, fish and other animals thrive here.”

They have a  manatee museum where there are films about the manatee, Big Bend Power Station and the history of Tampa Electric. The center also features a gift shop, the South Shore CafĂ©, and a Web camera that is operation during the center’s open season.

“When Big Bend Power Station began producing power in 1970, it was a surprise to workers at the plant to see the manatees swimming into the canal in large numbers. Tampa Electric officials quickly realized the value the canal afforded the mammals, and, by 1986, the Florida legislature awarded the area official manatee sanctuary status. Federal status followed 16 years later. Since its inception, it has grown from a collection of observation platforms into its current 50-acre facility that has attracted more than 2.7 million visitors since it opened.”

When you drive up to the plant the first thing you notice is the big stacks spewing smoke and it seems like an environmental disaster.  The plant runs off coal, but has done a lot to limit their emissions and has gone through a lot of expense to make it safe for the Manatee to congregate there.  It’s a nice story about a big power plant making the effort to be a better neighbor to the people of Tampa and the environment.  There were stories years ago about Manatee getting caught in the warm water discharge of different power plants.  They have taken precautions so that they are safe and can’t get stuck in these areas.
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This is a distance shot of the area. The darker spots you see are manatee.
This guy just kept his nose out of the water instead of staying down except to breathe like they normally do.
There are a lot of other fish, birds, and sharks swimming in these warm waters.
There were large spinner sharks jumping completely out of the water.  They were too fast for me though!

This is a spotted Ray, there were a lot of them and they frequently jumped completely out of the water.  I couldn’t quite catch them out of the water though!
They built a nice walkway through the Mangroves so you can get right up to the water.
It’s a pretty area and a great place to boat, fish, and kayak.
From the power plant we could see a lot of boats and some beach area. We decided to explore that.
more later…

When in the Tampa Bay area this is a great place to go and well worth the time.  There are not too many places that are completely free.  You could easily spend a few hours here.  We did it on a day where there were clear blue skies and temps in the mid 70’s.  Perfect weather!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tampa Rv Supershow

After we left St Marks for the Whooping Crane flyover, we headed south to Tampa for the RV show.
The Tampa RV show is supposed to be the largest and best show in the country.
Howard and Linda Payne who write the blog,  RV-Dreams made arrangements for a get-together Thursday morning with some other people who follow their blog.  We had been following their blog a while and were anxious to meet them. 
We also met Margie and Roger.  I have also been following Margie's blog since she was trying to sell her house and prepare to hit the road.  It’s been interesting following them as they learn about this new lifestyle.
This is Al, Margie, and Roger.
Another fulltiming couple we met was Bob and Molly, they were talking about all the great places to to go in Texas.  Another place we should put on our list.
We wandered around the show a few more hours but mostly concentrated on the vendors.  Al bought some special tape that you can put on hoses, pipes and such that is heat resistant.  We also bought some Poli Glow to give the motorhome a nice shine.  We looked at some Class A’s and really didn’t see anything we loved. We didn’t even look at the very high end coach’s this year as they are mostly too bright and glitzy for our tastes, plus I hate having to take my shoes off!  We looked at several RV’s and we thought some  the new floor plans were kind of odd.  They had no overhead cabinets and very little storage place.  Where would you put all your stuff?   Nothing we found made us want to trade, thankfully!
It was a beautiful sunny day with the temperature about 75.  It was the first warm day in about 10 days and everyone seemed to be enjoying it.
The crowds were getting way too heavy so we decided to head out to seem some sights where it was less crowded.
We went to the power plant to see the Manatees and then over to Apollo Beach.  It was fun and I took lots of pictures.  More later.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Whooping Cranes

P1130144  The folks at Operation Migration put up signs on the route to let people know whether or not the Cranes would be flying.  This was our first indication that indeed the birds would be arriving today!  Now if we could just get to St Marks before the birds!
We got to St Marks around 8:00 and were afraid we had missed them.  There were a lot of cars so we had to park a good ways away and walk and it was COLD at  22 degrees! Everyone was bundled up including one Doberman wrapped in a sweatshirt and still shivering! 
One pilot from Operation Migration was there giving us updates on the flight status and answering questions.
There is a whole crew involved in this project, several aircraft, several RV’s and numerous vehicles and many very dedicated people.
The pilot told a story about how his daughter Alex was born into this life and when she was 4 years old, asked her friend “what kind of bird does your dad fly with?” I guess she thought everyone’s father flew airplanes with birds!
They spent the night in a field about 26 miles away.  The birds are kept in pens at night in a large field, and in the morning they have to motivate them to come along with the aircraft and fly along.  He explained that the birds are being “gently released” and would be on their own, but in a very safe environment.  The Wildlife Refuge at St Marks has closed off a  creek to fishing, they filled up a pond with Oyster shells so that it is just the correct depth for the Cranes.  They are in a large open topped pen in the middle of a preserve where no hunting is allowed.  People are not allowed in the area where they are at and it is a very large preserve.  Hopefully they will do well.  I remember on year when the whole group was killed by a Bobcat.     
Apparently it is not an easy job to get the birds rounded up and in the air,  and this morning it was even harder because they were taking half of the birds to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge  and half are being left St. Marks. He explained that when they are ready to fly, they have what they call the “rodeo” where the birds are rounded up and lead away. The pilot flies low and makes sounds that cue the birds to “come on.”  Some days  it’s easier than others. The birds have a mind of their own and don’t always realize what is expected of them. It was a lot more involved than I realized. Anyway, this morning they had some trouble getting the right birds in the air but they finally arrived.
The first thing we saw was one ultra light flyover with no birds.
A few minutes later we saw the second aircraft and 10 birds following.
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They were flying at a pretty high altitude due to the winds aloft, so it was hard to get close up shots of the birds but here are a few.
It’s hard to explain what an incredible feeling it was to see these birds.  These are endangered birds that were hatched in incubators and have been trained to migrate.  They keep them away from humans and put on “Crane outfits” when they interact with the birds.  The pilots even fly in a crane suit!  It is a group of very dedicated people that have spent 3 months getting these birds the best chance they can give them.
It was very cold, we had to get up very early and drive on dark country roads to be there, but it was WORTH IT!

The Whooping Cranes landed!

We were up at 4:30 again for a cold ride down to St Marks.  It was 22 degrees when we got there.  There were a LOT of people 200-400 maybe?  Also a large bus loaded with people.

We were fortunate the cranes made their flyover and we got to see them.  I will upload some photos later.  It was INCREDIBLE1

more later...we're on the way to Tampa and are in Fanning Springs now.  We want to see if any manatee are there.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

St Marks National Wildlife Refuge

St Marks
St. Marks NWR, is located 25 miles south of Tallahassee along the Gulf Coast of Florida. It has a lot of salt marshes, freshwater swamps, pine forests and lakes, and is a wildlife haven. There is a nice boat launch area and miles of trails.  It’s a great place to bird watch and in the fall there are thousands of migrating Monarch Butterfly’s.
Today we were supposed to be watching the Whooping Cranes and the ultra lights make a pass over St Marks, but they couldn’t fly this morning due to the wind and as it turned out,we were in the wrong spot anyway.
After we realized we wouldn’t be seeing them we decided to spend some time at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  It’s a huge park with a lot of wildlife. It was very cold this morning and the ponds were frozen over.
There were a lot of birds.
Pretty scenery
St Marks Lighthouse
It was cold and we were bundled up good!
After we left St Marks we went over to Wakulla Springs State Park to watch the Manatees. I took a lot of pictures and will get them posted soon.  It was beautiful there too.