70 Degrees in FL

With apologies to our Northern friends who are experiencing the coldest winter in recent memory, I must say we are enjoying central Florida.  Everett and I are not so far south as to be in tropical territory, but not so far north as to be cold.  As a matter of fact, Monday was a balmy 70 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun was shining brightly.  I decided to run a couple of errands in town while Everett was out golfing.  I pulled on a pair of capri slacks, a short-sleeved top, and my flip flops, gave Tyler Dog his “you’ve got to stay in the RV” cookie, and headed to the local Winn Dixie for some groceries.

After finding what I needed – there’s a level of compromise when hunting for familiar ingredients in regions of the country that aren’t “home” – I headed for the checkout.  As the friendly cashier scanned my items, I noticed the woman in line behind me.  She was a few years younger than I am and dressed completely different.  SHE was wearing a vest over a thermal, waffle weave, long-sleeved Henley-style shirt, heavy sweatpants and sneakers with thick socks.  She looked me up and down a couple of times.  She smiled.  And said, “Y’all one of them snowbirds, ain’t ya?”  She then proceeded to try to sell me a couple of acres of swamp land along the Withlacoochee River that had been in her family “for generations without doing us much good.”  I believe I was lucky enough to experience the rare sighting of a native Floridian!

Post Disney

I know, I know, I’m a HORRIBLE blogger.  We didn’t take pictures at Disney.  We didn’t post any “during the experience” information.  We simply had a wonderful time visiting the four parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios) plus the “Downtown Disney” shopping extravaganza.  We rode bikes, busses, trains, and boats to get around almost 50 square miles of Disney property.  Did you know there’s an actual gated community of HOMES that people buy so they can LIVE in Disney?!?!?  It makes The Villages look natural!  Yes, the rides and shows were fun, but you can read about them on someone else’s blog.

I was really impressed with the “small” details.  There were NO LINES at any ladies’ room I used.  And I could always find one when I wanted one, within just a few steps.  Now THAT’s important!  We didn’t see a single piece of litter the whole week.  Well, except for that bloody tissue at the foot of the escalator in the Contemporary Resort one evening around 9pm . . . but I’m sure there was a perfectly reasonable bit of drama behind THAT.  Every staff member (or in Disney-speak “cast member”) was cheerful, helpful, and sincere.  Most we spoke with admitted they even came to the parks on their days off to shop, meet friends at restaurants, and see shows . . . just like a “real” city!  Well, except for the cranky old man at the 1st gate into Fort Wilderness who acted like we were potentially illegal immigrants to his domain . . .  was I SUPPOSED to know exactly how the check-in procedure worked before I’d ever done it?  It was fascinating to see the engineering involved in moving thousands of people in tightly planned ways without them noticing.  The place is mind boggling!

There was one incident at the campground where a guest checking out with his 38′ motorcoach cut the corner of his site too close.  His site was one of those with a 55-gallon trash can near the front.  There was a can every 3 or 4 sites for the convenience of guests, and they were partially buried to prevent being moved by wind or people — or 38′ motorcoaches.  The can did NOT move, but it was caved-in and badly scratched .  We saw this as we left our site for breakfast around 8:30am.  By the time we got back from breakfast around 10am, a brand new trash can was in place and no evidence remained of the damage.  Scary efficient!

So, we’re back at our winter home base, ready for family holiday visits, and working part-time at the local flea market for cigar money.  We hope you and yours will have a lovely holiday and leave you with our single Disney photo.  That’s Donald (according to Disney the original angry bird) and it cost us $14.95 to buy the JPEG (can’t you just hear Donald spluttering!?!?)

Disney Holiday 2013

The Art of Public Peeing

Public Bathroom StandardOne of the reasons given by many motorhome owners for being motorhome owners is the ability to pee in private even on the road.  Taking your own bathroom with you is, indeed, one of the reasons we wanted to RV.  Your own bathroom, your own bedroom, your own kitchen – just a different backyard whenever you like.  Great!  But popping back for a pee while doing 70 on a 4-lane highway surrounded by 18-wheeled tractor trailers just doesn’t appeal to me.  Especially when every state I’ve been in so far has been kind enough to provide many rest areas with perfectly stationary facilities.  This is one reason we tow a 5th wheel instead of driving a motorhome.

There are (or certainly should be) certain rules for peeing in public.  I recently posted “Men’s Room Mayhem – Number Two” (a re-blog from “Flying Here in the Middle of Somewhere”) and promised a follow up regarding us ladies.  Here ’tis:

The number one rule for number one on the road is DON’T WAIT TOO LONG!  Regardless of how many miles or hours your dear driver wishes to complete before day’s end, you must take a pee break while you still have the time to get out of the truck, walk to the restroom, and get those knickers down before the urge becomes the purge.  You can compromise with your dear driver by minimizing the amount of coffee, juice, water, etc. you consume on travel days.

Secondly, always CHECK THAT THERE’S A GOOD SUPPLY OF T.P. before taking a seat!  There are few things as awful as being stuck in a stall waiting for another lady to enter so you can beg her to pass some paper under the door.  Some of you may say, “well this one’s easy as I must line said seat WITH T.P. before going further,” but I’m afraid the rest of us must remember to check.  Just to be safe, I try to always carry one of those tissue purse packs you can find in any grocery store (note to Santa: they make great stocking stuffers!).

Kleenex Purse PacksThird – and this is an important one that greatly affects the rest of us – TAKE A SEAT!  I’ve seen the results of you one-leg-leaners and hoverers, so afraid of potential germs that you will not commit your skin to the plastic rim.  If you cannot overcome your fears or  take the time to become a seat liner (see paragraph above), at least have the decency to clean up your own splashes, drops, and puddles before you leave.

Next is NOISE.  Thou shalt minimize noise.  I realize many of you have never been to a public bathroom without a posse of your girlfriends, but that only works for restaurants and bars.  In travel rest stops we are each alone with our bladders and our thoughts.  This is not a place for conversation (which is part of why the T.P.-supply-begging situation noted in Rule 2 is so awful!).  Getting in, done, and out quickly and quietly is expected.

Lastly is LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAVE!  Be sure the flush completed its job, that your seat liners have been fully cleared, and the little corners of T.P. that ripped off before you could get a good, long, strip, have been flushed or put in the trash.  Have you zipped up?  Checked for a T.P. “tail”?  Gathered your purse, sunglasses, keys, and anything else you brought in with you?  Don’t forget to wash your hands.  Okay, now you may leave.

Interstate Two-Step Part 3

“Everett,” I said.

“Uh huh?”

“I just saw a camel in that field.”

“Uh huh.”

First let me explain that Everett has been de-sensitized to my “sightings” as I’ve been known to mistake a wild turkey for a dinosaur, and many of the bears, moose and gargantuan hawks I’ve “seen” have definitely been products of my imagination.  Brought on by the boredom of perpetually being the passenger in Everett’s domination of the driver’s seat, no doubt.  THIS however, was different.

“Everett, you’ve got to turn around!  I’m SURE I saw a camel!”

We were on a back road – a winding, narrow back road through rolling farm country – taking us from our camp site in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania  to the Cabella’s retail store in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.  Being proud holders of the Cabela’s Club Credit Card we had earned enough points through fuel and grocery purchases that we had several hundred dollars’ worth to spend at this, their largest store in the country.  A mecca of outdoor sports and camping equipment and good country-style clothing, Cabella’s has everything Everett and I could ever need or want.  Plus a museum quality exhibit of taxidermy (stuffed animals from prairie dogs to polar bears), a walk-through fresh water aquarium, a shooting gallery, and a restaurant.  We might stay for days.  With all that to look forward to, Everett nonetheless turned the truck around in somebody’s driveway and headed back to my camel field.  He’s a saint.

He was not surprised when we arrived at the whitewashed paddock to see a couple of ponies and four or five horses – but no camel.  I spotted a man tinkering underneath an old pick-up and hollered, “Excuse me . . . do you have a camel in that field?”

“Matter of fact, I do,” the man said as he rolled out from under the truck and wiped his hands on his jeans.  “Want to see her?”  He walked up to the paddock and shouted, “Hey, Matilda!  You’ve got visitors.”

The man, who never offered his name, said that Matilda likes dog kibble as a treat.  We happened to have some in the truck (what dog owner doesn’t?) and offered her a palm full.  Everett didn’t get a picture of Matilda’s giant flexible lips engulfing my entire hand while gently sucking kibble from it, ’cause he was laughing too hard.

Matilda Coming to Greet Visitors

Matilda Coming to Greet Visitors

Hello!

Hello!

Giant Lips Flying

Giant Lips Flying

Thanx for the kibble.

Thanx for the kibble.

Interstate Two-Step Part 2

After finally leaving NH, we headed south through the diesel desert of Massachusetts. Have you EVER tried to find a diesel fueling station on Route 495?!?!?!  We drove our no-more-than-250-miles-a-day allotment and stopped at the Brook Bend Campground in Thomaston, Connecticut, where only two tenths of a mile away, a gas station sold diesel – yay!  Thomaston does not look like a town that would have a campground.  It’s an old mill town, having been the home of the Seth Thomas Tower Clock Manufacturing Plant and many other large factories during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  It LOOKS like an old mill town.  But tucked away between the sewage treatment plant and a large brook, an old horse farm was converted into RV and tent sites.  No need to enforce the 5 mph rule here – the road in (between an ancient oak tree and the original farmhouse) is so narrow and curves in so many places that cars and campers just naturally go slow.  Once you’re “down in the field”, it’s an amazingly lovely little place filled with friendly seasonal campers, dogs – lots of dogs – and one African Gray Parrot who sits in the front window of his owners’ Class A and curses the dogs.

Passenger train service from Thomaston was shut down in 1963, but the station has been restored and is operated by the Railroad Museum of New England.  Their billboard on the highway drew our attention.  Their website informed us of the Saturday Pumpkin Train.  We HAD to stay.  The depot building is an incredible example of architecture from a time when making public places beautiful was an art and craftsmen took great pride in their work.  Look at these roof joists!

Thomaston Station Supports Thomaston Station

Thomaston Station Pumpkin TrainThe train ride itself was an hour and a half of gorgeous views, happy families, and a well-narrated history of the area.  The only flaw in the entire day was when Everett learned the pumpkin patch stop was for CHILDREN ONLY.  He complained his adult ticket had cost more than a kid’s ticket, so he ought to get a pumpkin too!

Seth Thomas Tower Clock Manufacturing Plant

Seth Thomas Tower Clock Manufacturing Plant

Thomaston Pumpkin Field 6

only the KIDS could take pumpkins!

Thomaston Train Views 2

Thomaston Station Caboose 2

Our 2-day Thomaston adventure was topped off by discovering a great little cigar bar in the next town over (The SmokeEasy, Watertown, CT).  The hosts and some regular customers made us feel right at home by sharing a good smoke, friendly conversation, and some of the owner’s delicious homemade sausage and cheese.

Coming soon:  Part 3 – Shartlesville, PA (Cabela’s, Roadside America, and Matilda)

Interstate Two-Step Part 1

Everett and I retired to full-time RV-ing with the intent of taking our time and traveling slowly.  However, this policy causes great aggravation for all those family and friends who stress the virtues of “making time” and traveling “efficiently”.  These are the folks who plan carefully to minimize bathroom breaks and fuel stops.  The ones who consider it just plain lazy not to get from the Maine border down to central Florida within 4 days.  We drive them crazy.

First, we’re the type that plan to leave on Wednesday, but get invited out to dinner Tuesday night.  Obviously if we’re going to stay up late Tuesday, we’re going to sleep in on Wednesday, so let’s make plans for Wednesday evening and head out on Thursday morning.  Of course after sitting for 5 months at a workamping gig in NH, the brake problem we thought we’d fixed in May turned out NOT to be fixed.  A frantic phone call to a dear (and mechanically inclined) friend, several hours and much labor later, we were deciding to spend one more night in NH.  I’m not going to even go into the electrical problems we had that night.  Suffice it to say that we learned an RV’s electrical cable can be connected to the shore power outlet but partially disconnected from the internal RV connection.  And it makes quite a show.  (Thank you for the lesson, Tom!)

Which means we left around 10am on Friday, TWO DAYS later than originally planned, but rested, relaxed and confident that our equipment was in good shape.

“When are you getting here?”  asked our dear Aunt.  “When should we expect you?” asked our Florida RV Park owner.  “You’re still in WHAT state?!?” asked a friend.

Which made it hard to explain that we were going to spend two nights in Thomaston, Connecticut (barely 200 miles from Conway, NH) so we could ride the pumpkin train.

Naugatuck Pumpkin Train

Naugatuck Pumpkin Train