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November 30, 2006

A night at the sponge docks

We had a nearly full house under Bert & Janie's awning yesterday morning. The weather's nice enough that people all over the park are socializing outside more, and the swimming pool is becoming our regular afternoon destination.

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Rich C drops in on Bert & Janie, and Emma checks it out

Last night we went to Tarpon Springs, just northeast of our location, and to the Sponge Docks area of town. In 1905 the Greek sailors began to arrive in Tarpon Springs and collect sponges from the sea bottom. They still do today, and Dodecanese Blvd is now a tourist area filled with everything related to natural sponges that you can imagine.

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We were here last April, when things are busier. Last night it was pretty quiet in town, and the shops closed up at 7:30. But that didn't matter -- we were there to meet a bunch of people at Hella's for dinner: Bert, Janie, Barry, Susan, Brett, and Lori. A reservation for nine is no problem in Tarpon Springs on a weeknight in November.

The food was great: pan-fried calamari, spanakopita (spinach pie), moussaka, gyros, lemon-egg soup, and saganaki (a flaming cheese appetizer). Then we all walked over to the adjacent bakery, picked out a pile of desserts, and sat back down at the table for another half hour. There will be awesome leftovers today.

Eleanor is trying to find the perfect microwave to go on our new countertop. So far this project has consumed three days, in which she has browsed online sites and visited local stores. Every detail has been scrutinized: weight, dimensions, wattage, color, features. I think more analysis went into this than went into the last car we bought. Of course the perfect microwave is a special order since nobody seems to stock it, but even if it has to be ordered, the good news is that we will have a microwave in the trailer, in a week or two.

November 29, 2006

Silver Joes in the morning

Our days have been consumed with work lately -- the curse of the working traveler -- so we've been spending a lot of time inside instead of out having adventures. This isn't so bad right now, because the temperatures and humidity have been slowly building all week and today it may be more comfortable inside with the A/C on.

Yesterday Eleanor found a chrome shelving unit that looks like it will suit our needs under the new countertop we installed at Barry's. We did some initial test-fitting last night and will finalize it later this week, after we borrow a hacksaw to shorten the legs. I'll post photos of the finished project.

Brett showed up last night to help with that, and also to finish up some wiring for the new LCD TV. We've now snaked the wires through the wall so that the TV installation looks nice and clean, and everything is ready for installation of an inverter in the overhead bin later. Once I find a good "pure sine wave" 300-watt inverter I'll wire it up, and this will allow us to watch the big TV when boondocking. (I want to get a pure sine wave inverter so I can also use it to power the laser printer once in a while.)

In addition to having an Official Magazine (which I am proud to say is Airstream Life), and an Official Bicycle (Birdy Bikes), I bet you didn't know that Airstream has an Official Coffee.

I found this out a few months ago when we spotted Silver Joe's Coffee giving out free samples at the International Rally last July in Salem OR. So we bought some to give it a try. (You gotta have all the Airstream "stuff", right?)

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Silver Joe's gets the Emma Seal of Approval

November 28, 2006

Smoked Fish and Key Lime Pie

In St Petersburg there's a bit of old Florida called "Ted Peter's Smoked Fish". For forty years they've been smoking fish over red oak there, and serving the fish up with platters of German potato salad, coleslaw, thick slices of onion & tomato, mustard sauce and a dill pickle. It's a pungent taste treat that's a real relief from the "same old" restaurants.

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We went there last night with Brett. Eleanor and I split a smoked mahi mahi dinner plate and Brett got the smoked mullet. The portions are very big ... Eleanor and I had leftovers from our shared dinner, but that didn't stop us from ordering the excellent Key Lime Pie to split with Emma.

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By the way, if you go to a Florida restaurant and the Key Lime Pie is green, or looks like meringue, or has the consistency of cheesecake, it's not right. The good stuff is tart, yellowish, and will absolutely amaze your tongue with its taste. Ted Peters has some of the best we've ever had. Since we are headed to the Keys next week, we'll have to see if we can top it. In fact, I could see turning this trip into a mission to sample the country's best Key Lime Pie ...

We found Ted Peters last year courtesy of "One Tank Trips" by Bill Murphy. If you come to Florida and want to find fun things to do, check Bill's book.

It looks like another beautiful day in Tampa. The temperatures have risen and we are getting nice weather in the upper 70s and low 80s now. I wish I didn't have to spend so much time working at my computer, but at least with the windows open on the Airstream, and a gentle breeze blowing through, it makes for a nice day in the office.

November 27, 2006

Egmont Key

The sun rose behind a gray-scudded sky on Sunday morning, but by the time Brett arrived to pick us up at 9 a.m., it was gorgeous and sunny and heading toward the high 70s. We loaded up the snorkel gear and drove about 45 minutes south to one of my favorite places in this area: Ft De Soto Park.

Ft De Soto is a large county park located on an island just south of St Petersburg. There's a fine campground there, every site located near the water and shaded by palm trees, which we have visited in our 1968 Caravel and the 1977 Argosy known as Vintage Thunder. Nearby is an old mortar emplacement known as Fort De Soto. The park also features two fishing piers, miles of beach, and some nice bicycling trails.

One thing we've never done before is take the ferry from the park to nearby Egmont Key, so that was our plan for today. I'd heard the snorkeling is nice, especially over the Fort Dade ruins, which have been reclaimed by the sea.

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The ferry is $15 per adult, $7.50 per child, and runs once or twice per day depending on season. This time of year the departure was 11 a.m. and the return was 2:30 p.m. It scoots out only about a mile and then around to the gulf side of Egmont Key to be beached.

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The island is virtually deserted now, except for a small collection of wood-framed houses on the bay side, where ship pilots live, waiting for giant tankers to come into Tampa Bay -- and a large number of tortoises. The island has no public services at all, not even water, so we brought a full bag of picnic stuff and drinks.

The picnic was a success, but the snorkeling was a bust. From the boat and the shore it was obvious that the water was far too murky to see anything. To make the possibility of snorkeling even less remote, it turns out that the submerged Ft Dade ruins are off a permanently closed section of shoreline, part of a bird sanctuary. You need a boat to get to them, but there was no point on this day. Our ferry captain suggested that visibility was made poorer by a "beach re-nourishment" project (sand pumping) occurring on Egmont Key's north side. He suggested trying again in spring.

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Fort Dade was once a town of about 500 people, complete with fire station, hospital, power plant, numerous houses, and much more. It's a ghost town now, only foundations and brick streets remaining. Walking the ruins of the town, the last vestiges of the fort, and the beach consumed most of the few hours we had on the island.

November 26, 2006

Jetskiing Tarpon Lake

We relocated the Airstream yesterday to a different site at Bay Bayou, and then I met up with Brett for some jetskiing on Tarpon Lake. The plan was to test the jet ski that he recently bought and fixed up, before taking it out on Sunday near Ft De Soto Park.

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Unloading the jet skis at the boat ramp

This was the first day we've been jetskiing together since our adventure on Lake Mead last May.

Things went perfectly ... for a while. There we were, zooming along the lake's surface at speeds up to 46 MPH. The sky was blue, the air was warm, the lake was mostly calm ...

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And then, about five miles from the boat ramp, Brett's ski made an expensive noise, and sputtered to a halt.

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Fortunately, we were prepared for this possibility. We tied a rope on and slowly towed the dead ski all the way back to the boat ramp. Better to find out about the ski's defects on a quiet fresh water lake, than out in the Gulf of Mexico.

While we were gone, Emma and Eleanor found a new wetsuit for Emma. That's for today's new plan. Instead of jetskiing off Ft De Soto, we're going snorkeling off Egmont Key, which is near Ft De Soto. We met up with Bert & Janie in the evening when we came over to borrow their microwave to reheat our Thanksgiving leftovers, and they are considering joining us too.

November 25, 2006

Bill & Larry's excellent Airstream

The last thing I want to do on the day after Thanksgiving is go anywhere near a shopping center, but Friday was a day for us to fix things and that meant a trip to the hardware store. I picked up a few screws and washers to finalize the bracket mount for the new TV, and some "Goo-gone" to clean up leftover adhesive.

In this model of trailer there's a built-in shelf mounted in the forward bedroom, designed to fold out and support a small conventional TV. We never needed this and I have ignored it until recently. When Brett moved the old 15" TV to the bedroom, he removed the built-in shelf, which left some screw holes and the glue residue. We filled the holes with little tan screw caps recycled from the shelf.

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You can just barely see the tan caps. Click for larger.

In the photo above there are still two divots in the wall that we will disguise or cover later. Those were made by the factory installer to accommodate rivet tails that protruded from the back of the shelf unit.
The shocker was the weight of that shelf. It's made of steel, and felt like about twenty pounds. I should have tossed it a long time ago.

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Christmas decorations started appearing a week ago

We have decided to stay in Tampa for another week. There's too much that we want to do here. But someone has a seasonal rental on our space, so today we need to move to another site in the park. We'll be parked directly across from Bert & Janie.

More blog readers have purchased a new Airstream. Bill and Larry emailed me this week to say they've finally placed the order for their 2007 Airstream Safari 23 Special Edition LS. Congratulations! We'll see you in the southern California desert this winter!

November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving wrap-up

It was in some ways an unusual Thanksgiving Day. Everyone attending except Brett, who hosted the event, is currently living in their Airstream. Barry came over with a 4x8 sheet of plywood from the house he's building, which we rested on an ottoman and covered with a giant white tablecloth. That was our table. Emma decorated the tablecloth by drawing pictures all over it with her markers, and then we all sat, cross-legged, on the floor to enjoy an enormous feast.

And it was a spectacular meal, followed up by homemade pies and ice cream. Eleanor's two days of effort in the kitchen were really appreciated by all.

The leftovers have been distributed to everyone. Bert and Janie managed to snag a lot of the apple pie, so I may be over at their trailer for breakfast. We've all got turkey, green bean casserole, onions in cream sauce, two kinds of cranberry sauce, gravy, an incredible stuffing, and pumpkin pie. (Even the plywood became a leftover of sorts: it will end up as part of the subfloor in Barry's bungalow.)

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A few weeks ago we bought a large collection of Kodachromes from an Airstream owner's estate. These slides were mostly scenic images of national parks, but a few depicted Airstreams at rallies and on a caravan to Mexico in 1958. So for a while before and after dinner, Barry and I sat down with the slide projector to review each slide.

Of 1,300 slides in the collection, we ended up with about 25 good ones. They're all unique images that have never been published before. We'll get them scanned and you will see them popping up in future issues of Airstream Life magazine.

November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Day 2006

A cold snap has descended upon us here in central Florida. Yesterday was the coldest day we've seen, barely reaching 60 with gray skies coming and going. The heat pump in the Airstream has been cycling for 16 hours a day for several days.

It was a good day to get some work done, since things are somewhat quiet in the world of US commerce. I did a bit of that, and then in the afternoon Emma and I took a four mile walk along the Upper Tampa Bay Trail with Bert and Janie. This trail follows "Channel A" a 1960s-era flood control project, which was later recognized to be an environmental mistake. It caused as many problems as it solved, so it was later modified to slow the flow of water and have some wetlands buffers as well.

Now it's a great place to spot birds, as we discovered. "Eagle eye" Emma was the bird-spotting champ, picking out three black Anhingas against dark backgrounds that the rest of us would never have seen. We also spotted a Great Blue Heron, two Little Blue Herons, Turkey Vultures, and several duck-like birds that we haven't yet identified.

Eleanor spent most of the day at Brett's apartment, preparing ... who knows what ... we'll find out today. All I know is that there seems to be enough food there to choke an elephant. Emma and I will head over later this morning and join Barry, Bert, Janie, Brett and Eleanor.

This is the second Thanksgiving we've spent on the road. If you've started reading this blog in the past few months, you might be interested in how we spent Thanksgiving last year. Last year we were in Benbow CA, which is along the Redwood Highway (Rt 101) in northern California. I like the variety of having holidays in different places around the country, but it is more fun this year with some good friends to join us.

Thanks for joining us on the blog, too. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

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No Thanksgiving for alligators, if you don't swim. Sign of the week!

November 22, 2006

Movie time

Emma and Eleanor are frantically preparing for Thanksgiving. Yesterday Emma helped by scooping out the guts of her Halloween pumpkin (painted, not carved, so it would last until now). Eleanor roasted the pumpkin with maple syrup I think, and when I got home in the evening there were also roasted pumpkin seeds to be had.

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I was out in the afternoon because I went with Bert to help him find the local Best Buy, and then we ran into Brett, and that's when the trouble started. Brett has been egging me on for months to buy a new LCD TV for our trailer. I have not been wild about the one we have been using in the trailer because the 15" screen (4:3 aspect ratio) is too small for letterboxed movies. As you probably know, we watch movies on DVD almost exclusively, and hardly ever bother with TV, so this was an issue for us.

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Well, before I knew it I was buying a new Olevia 23" LCD panel (16:9 "widescreen" aspect ratio), and a new bracket to mount it up. Wow -- what an improvement! We put "Hoodwinked" into the DVD player and the difference was just incredible. No more straining to see the picture.

The new TV bracket doesn't swivel. It doesn't need to, because the screen is so wide and viewable from anywhere in the trailer. We still need to make a few final tweaks, such as tying up excess cords, fixing the bracket so the TV can't wiggle during travel, and installing a small inverter so we can run the TV when boondocking.

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The downside of the new TV is increased power consumption. Our Sharp 15" TV consumed just 36 watts, but this monster needs 110 watts. That means we'll need to monitor our use a little more carefully when boondocking. But we kept the old TV and mounted it in the bedroom. Eventually it will be hooked up to its own DVD player so we can all pile onto the queen bed and watch it if we want to keep the power use low. I can imagine us cuddled up there with a bowl of popcorn -- sounds like fun!

November 21, 2006

Send in the Marines!

Remember the 1953 Flying Cloud I inspected a few weeks ago in Virginia? Well, I bought it and have been trying to figure out how to get it out of there ever since.

Fortunately, Rob Baker (of The VAP and also the guy who helped scam our scammer) once again stepped up to the plate. Rob is a trailer recovery expert, having successfully located and hauled away probably a dozen or more vintage trailers over the past few years.

Pulling out a vintage trailer is always an interesting challenge. If the trailer has been sitting for years, you have to be ready for anything: frozen wheel bearings, dead tires, rusted hitches, non-operable light and brakes, body parts that will fly off in the breeze, etc. Plus, you never know what "environmental hazards" there might be nearby or even in the trailer. This can include mud holes, swamps, toxic chemicals, and even ... as Rob recently discovered ... deer entrails.

Last night Rob called me about 15 minutes north of Onancock VA, where the 53 FC was sitting. I realized two bad things during that call. (1) I never sent him the key to the Yale deadbolt on the door. That alone could have doomed the mission, because if he was unable to get inside he wouldn't be able to secure some of the junk that was loosely stacked inside. (2) Rob hadn't been fully briefed for his mission. He didn't know the trailer was on blocks, that there was spare house siding materials stored underneath it, that the hitch jack and coupler were likely frozen with rust, etc.

But Rob is a Marine officer who has been to Iraq and has a "can do" attitude. So he went in and got the job done. I can't do justice to his story, so let me just point you to his blog entry from November 21 2006, entitled "Vintage Airstream Towing!"

Bert and Janie arrived yesterday afternoon, a day earlier than expected, and with them we got a little "cold" weather: upper 50s and 60s with some clouds. But we forgave them for bringing the weather in and had them and Barry over for dinner. Eleanor made pasta with scallops in a cream sauce. ... Mmmmmm....

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Emma has made a calendar to count down the days to her visit to Vermont, where she will see her grandparents Didi and Papa.

November 20, 2006

The flea market

Another characteristic of Florida is the presence of enormous flea markets everywhere. Just down the road a mile from our campground there's one. It's so huge that merely browsing it took about five hours on Sunday.

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Being in a limited space we don't buy much. Mostly we focus on consumables, which flea markets are great for. In our case, consumables means food, paperback books, and cheap Chinese LED flashlights.

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I particularly love buying fresh Florida produce. The oranges, grapefruit, and tangerines that are available change every month. In December the honeybell tangerines will arrive, and those are my favorite. Honeybells have a short season and are hard to find outside Florida, so I always get a bag or two. They make spectacular deep-orange juice. Yesterday we settled for some Plant City Strawberries.

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One of Emma's obsessions is rocks, but since they aren't compatible with trailer travel (see "The Long Long Trailer" starring Lucille Ball) our rule is that her entire collection has to fit into a small fishing tackle box and no rock can be larger than 1" in diameter. She found a piece of "snowflake obsidian" this time.

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This lovely lady ran one of the three pet shops

Last night Brett came over for dinner and Eleanor made an elaborate dinner of pepper-encrusted pork loin and garlic-roasted cauliflower and green beans. They discussed the Thanksgiving logistics. It seems she's gearing up for a major Thanksgiving dinner. The trailer is overflowing with food, as is the car. We are expecting eight for dinner but preparations are being made for about 15-20, as far as I can tell ...

November 19, 2006

Storage upgrade

Before leaving Barry's place yesterday, we did a simple upgrade that I've been planning for a while, to increase our storage.

Two-thirds of the space under the dinette seat is available as storage. But the rest of the space is sealed off. That's where some flexible ducting and the subwoofer are stored. The subwoofer made rude burps and grumbles at inappropriate times (between songs on the CD player, between menus on the DVD player) and I never liked it, so we've had it turned off for the past year. Yesterday, it got evicted.

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New storage under the lighter-colored top

After chucking the subwoofer, we had a fair amount of space. So Brett trimmed the top panel and cut two finger holes in it, and I re-attached it with some piano hinge. Voila! an extra storage compartment for little-used items.

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Plenty of space next to the furnace ducting

Our tow over to Bay Bayou was uneventful and now we are set up for the Thanksgiving week. Rich C is just down the row, and Bert & Janie are expected to arrive on Tuesday. I've also sent an invitation to our Internet friends Brad & Mary ...

Brad and Mary atop Cadillac Mtn in Acadia National Park

...who are presently coming down the Natchez Trace and heading this way, but I think they are planning Thanksgiving somewhere near Mobile.

Bay Bayou is mostly filled with seasonal visitors, so we get to see some really elaborate setups at the adjacent sites. For example, our neighbors are here in a fifth-wheel complete with masonry patio and walkway, a gazebo, a little water feature, a golf cart, a three-wheeled motorcycle, full-size barbecue grill, plantings, etc. It's a completely different style from ours.

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Parked at Bay Bayou

This morning we woke up feeling completely different. The trailer seemed different too. After some pondering Eleanor and I realized it was the air. The past week we were parked in the shade and it was a little damp at times.

At Bay Bayou we picked a sunny spot, and last night we ran the heat pump, which took the excess moisture out of everything in the trailer. When we woke up, it looked and felt like a desert morning with glorious sunshine streaming in the windows, vivid blue skies visible through the Vista View window, and dry air. Everything in the trailer felt crisp and clean. I'm looking forward to getting out to the desert again later this winter.

November 18, 2006

Organic Potluck

Wendimere and Bill invited us back to Haines City (about 50 miles east of Tampa) to one of their impromptu dinners, an "Organic Community Dinner" -- in other words, a potluck with a bunch of friends. That turned out to be enormous fun with some great people.

One fun aspect of it was that hardly anyone knew who we were, and we didn't know who they were. In the course of the evening, Wendimere invited us all to tell stories: "Steve, tell a motorcycle story!" and suddenly we'd find out that the guy sitting across the table had just traveled 6,000 miles on his bike, giving us a common interest to talk about (travel).

"Tell us a China story!" and then it would be revealed that his wife had lunch on the Great Wall of China only a few weeks ago. "Rich, tell us an Airstream story!" and so I would launch into one of my little tales from the road that you've read about here on the blog.

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Above, the women celebrate their crushing defeat of the male team in a movie-trivia game.

Today we move to Bay Bayou, but we're in no hurry so we'll probably spend half the day here at Barry's. It's another gorgeous sunny day in Tampa and we have nothing in particular to do except enjoy it, so why rush? Our good ship sits ready for our departure whenever we feel like it, which is one of the big benefits to traveling this way.

November 17, 2006

Tampa traffic

Yesterday morning I dared to tackle the relentless Tampa traffic to meet Rich C at the Mac Store by the International Mall. Tampa has some of the worst traffic in the country. An eight-mile drive can easily take 30 minutes on I-275. The traffic is like a vicious tide, with detours and "exit only" lanes that act like rip currents to carry you far from your intended path.

The city should have a warning flag system like the ones I've seen at every Florida beach: green for those rare moments when you can drive right through; yellow for the normal gelatinous ooze of traffic; red for vicious rip currents; blue for "dangerous creatures" such as stinging jellyfish or construction detours.

But yesterday I was lucky: it took just 25 minutes to go ten miles, and the Mac Store got none of my money, which is a first since I've started visiting those places. (They should come with warning labels too, like casinos: "CAN'T STOP BUYING GADGETS? CALL 1-800-. ...")

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Our parking spot at Chez Barry. Click for larger.

This evening we are going to Haines City for an "organic community dinner" with Wendimere and Bill and about ten of their friends. Eleanor had to prepare an organic dish to share, so yesterday we all went to the grocery store at the end of the working day. While Eleanor shopped for menu items, Emma and I went to the Public Library in the same strip mall to read a couple of books.

That's another Florida characteristic: everything is conveniently located in the strip mall. You can visit one strip mall and find a grocery store, hardware store, library, a fine restaurant, and a place that removes excess body hair, all right next to each other. The only thing I have never seen in a Florida strip mall is a cemetary, and it's probably just a matter of time.

Our week at Barry's is winding up. Today we will be starting to put away things that have spread out during our visit, and on Saturday we'll be moving to Bay Bayou, about 10 miles north of here through heavy traffic. With luck, the drive will only take an hour.

November 16, 2006

Bowling in Tampa

Emma loves to go bowling ... and the last time went was the last time we were in Tampa, back in March. So we were overdue. We grilled dinner here (Cajun shrimp this time, blue-cheese burgers, and salad) with Barry and then met Brett at the University Lanes.

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Emma demonstrates her "drop" technique for bowling

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Dad demonstrates his body English. Photo by Emma

A couple of readers have said to me that the 12v dimmer we are planning to install won't save us any electrical energy. For example, Jim wrote:

Some light dimmers don't reduce consumption, only output at the light bulbs. Switch consumes the other energy. I don't know about 12vdc. We are in process of switching out some of the 43 10 watt bulbs to 5 watt. Then judiciously selecting which ones to use will extend our battery capacity.

I'll verify if this is correct in our case, after we get the switch installed. The Trimetric amp-hour meter will tell us exactly what's going on. Even if we don't save power, we will like the added flexibility in lighting options.

Last night, a cold front came through with heavy rain all night. I am always nervous when it rains, because I've owned so many vintage trailers that have leaked. But as usual, the Safari had no problems. Still, the huge crashes of lightning all around and frequent downpours woke up us several times. It was a night of fireworks, sultry with humidity.

We used neither heat nor air conditioning last night, as the temperatures have hung around 72-74, but today "winter" is expected to arrive, plunging temperatures into the upper 60s for a week. I can live with that.

November 15, 2006


Being parked for a while gives us an opportunity to concentrate on maintenance items. I know some readers are interested in what it takes to keep our ship afloat, so here's what we've been doing lately on the trailer.

A few days ago Eleanor disassembled the bathroom sink drain plumbing, to resolve a slow drain. Having two females with long hair means this has to be done every few months. But Eleanor has gotten pretty quick with this job. She was half done with it before I even noticed she was in there.

The wallpaper border in our bathroom has never been to our liking, and lately it has started peeling, so Eleanor removed it. Months ago she bought a replacement border, which is a little more colorful. But before installing it, she needed to re-caulk the edge of the bathroom vanity today. She also took the opportunity to get under the vanity and tighten some screws which hold the vanity to the wall. Tomorrow, when the caulk is fully set, she'll glue up the new wallpaper border.

I've been planning a preventative maintenance stop in Texas in early January. I want to get the entire propane system checked, re-pack the wheel bearings, and basically give every system of the trailer a good safety check. We plan to visit David Tidmore at Roger Williams Airstream to get this service done, but I'll participate so I can learn more about how things work on our rolling home.

I also want to get a powered fan installed in the refrigerator's vent, so our fridge will work better in high ambient temperatures. Several times last summer (Weatherford TX, Death Valley and Salem, Oregon) we encountered temperatures over 100 degrees and the refrigerator compartment hit 60 inside, causing some food to spoil.

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Sign of the week!

November 14, 2006

A few details

Our little counter upgrade seems to have struck a nerve with our blog readers. Yesterday morning I received half a dozen emails asking questions about it.

One person asked if I have a photo of the area before the counter went in. I went through my archives and couldn't find a single decent shot of it! Sorry ...

Blog reader Dirk asked:

Will this be your corner office now? By the way, after a year on the road what parts and pieces have you found worked best with your Mac for internet connectivity? Many reading the blog may be interested in the specifics for when they run away from home!

No, the space is a little tight still for working. I'll continue to use the dinette and the master bedroom for work. I can spread out a bit more in those places. The new counter is really just temporary space, and a mechanism to mount under-counter storage, which is coming soon.

I've talked about Internet a few times in the blog and you can read my thoughts on it from last year here. This year there are more options for people to get online, especially more wifi hotspots, and cheaper cellular data cards. A lot of people are going with Verizon or Sprint cellular data cards, which work well and are often free with a 2-year contract. Unlimited access is between $59.99 and $79.99 per month.

I still use a few things to give myself an edge, including:

1) Linksys WRE54G wireless range extender (for use in campgrounds). This amplifies and re-broadcasts wireless signals so they easily penetrate the Airstream's aluminum skin.

2) Verizon data cable to connect my Mac to my Verizon phone, as a backup method of getting online. (Rarely used.)

3) An Ethernet cable for occasions when I spot an open Ethernet tap at someone's home or office.

4) The free "Airport Radar" widget (available only for Macs running Tiger 10.4.1 or above)

These days the only places we have trouble getting online now are the remote spots of the west -- and the numerous campgrounds that offer "free wifi" but don't deliver. As I've said before, it's more about knowing where to look than anything. Public libraries, strip malls, cafes, motels, etc. are all easy spots to get online.

"TMI" Department:

You might also be wondering about how we manage to dump the Airstream's holding tanks while we are courtesy parking for extended periods. Usually we're gone in a few days so we just find a place along the road (a rest area or campground). But since we are comfortable here at Barry's and don't feel like moving, we had to come up with something else.

(Warning: if you weren't wondering about this subject, you may want to skip to the next blog entry, because this gets mildly graphic, although I'll spare you the worst details.)

Barry has a septic system into which he pumps the contents of his holding tank using a macerator. A macerator is sort of a blender/pump, but it sure doesn't make daquiris. It attaches to the holding tank and chops up the effluent from the tank and pumps it through a garden hose. With this, he's able to pump his tanks 50 feet to the sewer inlet. It's a lot neater than using a blue tank.

Being a clever sort of fellow, Barry saved money by buying a marine macerator pump and making a custom attachment to connect it to his 1973 Airstream's Thetford dump valve. The problem is, newer Airstreams use Valterra dump valves, and the two are not compatible. An adapter was available through Camping World, but apparently no longer. So off we went to Home Depot to manufacture something that would do the job.

Tampa macerator.jpg

Inspired by Rube Goldberg, our custom connector uses a piece from a Shop-Vac, some silicone waterproofing tape, a hose clamp and a section of 1.5" clear plastic tubing. The clear tubing puts you up close and personal with whatever you ate in the previous week, but it has the distinct benefit of letting you know when the job is done, and when the tank has been well flushed with fresh water. Let me assure you, we tested the gizmo on some gray water (to confirm it wouldn't suddenly and catastrophically fail) before pulling the black tank handle.

It worked, but the experience reminded me of the things I don't like about macerators. At least we have a solution for the duration of our stay here at Chez Barry. This effort was way above what we normally need to do when courtesy parking, so don't get the idea that this is a normal part of traveling ... I doubt we'll ever have to go to such lengths again.

November 13, 2006

New countertop!

Our first upgrade has been installed: a countertop on the curbside of the trailer.

This is the beginning of something we've been thinking about for months. The credenza and two chairs provided in the Safari 30 aren't very useful relative to the space they take up. We have been traveling with only one of the chairs, but the open area near the door has been underutilized. Junk tends to pile up there, and we have no place for the laundry and other miscellaneous items.

Tampa first fitting.jpg
Barry test-fitting the melamine sheet before cutting

Our first plan, last winter, was an elaborate new set of cabinetry to replace what was there. When we got a $4000 estimate, we dropped the idea. Then we gradually scaled back on our grandiose expectations until we talked to Barry about it this week. He suggested a simple extended countertop, with off-the-shelf wire drawers mounted below. Perfect!

Tampa Barry cutting.jpg

So we took a trip to Home Depot for $26.99 worth of plywood with white melamine laminated to it, a few screws, and some angle brackets. Barry already had the edge strips from his days as a cabinet maker.

A few hours later, and here's the result:

Tampa new coutner.jpg

The credenza is still in place and still usable. The extra width of the counter is about the same as the width of the wheel well enclosure below, so the chair is still usable. But we are planning to replace the chair with something that folds up and can be put away. This will give us more flexibility.

The extended counter is wide enough in the corner area to allow us to install a microwave oven now, something we've never had in this trailer. I don't know if we are going to do it yet, but it's nice to have the option. It also gives me a convenient spot to put my laser printer.

I think the next upgrade will be an open wire drawer system mounted below the overhang of the counter. This will give us flexible space for laundry, shoes, anything! The frame of the drawer system will also provide support for the overhang. And because the wire drawers are see-through, they won't appear to block the sight lines as much as solid cabinetry would have. We'll be considering exactly what to mount there, over the next week.

November 12, 2006

Scam: A blog reader reports

I heard from someone about our scammer:

we also got scammed by this velecia farmer person from hampton va. there are other names involved; fred johnson of freegate delivery in hampton va., janet collar - the original emailer, and bill crush - janets landlord. they also threatened us with contacting the fbi.

also to let you and your readers know we were using a web site called we were trying to sell a boat motor. we have reported this to numorous authorities and we are hoping something is going to be done. the scammers are still emailing us but we are not replying because that is what the attorney generals office suggested. if you have any ideas they are welcome.
thank you for your attention.

The only suggestion I can make is to either ignore the email scams, as the Attorney General's office suggested, or waste the scammer's time and money by accepting their check and then just throwing it away. If enough people did that, perhaps the scammers would be discouraged.

Coquina Beach, Bradenton FL

November and March are super months to be in Florida. The weather is great and the beaches are uncrowded. So we decided to skip the crowds at "Ribfest" and go for a daytrip down to Bradenton, or more specifically, Anna Maria Island, which is about an hour drive from our parking spot in Tampa. There's a nice stretch of beach on the south end of the island called Coquina Beach. The water is shallow and warm (70s this time of year), and you can walk for miles along the powdery soft, pure white sand.

While we were at the beach, we heard from Bobby and Danine. They were driving back from Michigan to their home in Virginia. You might remember we courtesy parked with them a few weeks ago. Well, they are now the proud owners of a new Airstream Safari 30 bunk, like ours. Congratulations! Bobby, Danine, and Elise are now one step closer to their great full-timing adventure next year. We are very much looking forward to seeing them on the road.

No photos today, sorry. It was a vacation day. (But here's our Google Earth location that day.) We just chilled out all afternoon, walking, splashing in the water, and having a picnic lunch. We stayed until sunset. Hardly anyone was there all day, which continues to amaze me. We could have brought the Airstream after all -- the parking lots were mostly empty. Florida in November is a great deal for beach lovers.

November 11, 2006

Shrimp and Grits

Last April we stopped in on our friends Renee and Fred in Charleston SC for a couple of days, and they introduced us to a local specialty, "Shrimp and Grits". Ever since then, Eleanor has been wanting to try making it, and I've been wanting to eat it again.

Tampa shrimp grits prep.jpg

Since the local Sweet Bay grocery has great giant prawns, and Barry and Susan were coming over for dinner, last night became the night. It was a bit of work, but the results were terrific. (Barry and I grilled the prawns outside.) Eleanor actually combined several recipes she found online into a custom recipe of her own. We all had seconds, and even though she made a huge pot, there were no leftovers.

Tampa Emma dinette.jpg

Earlier on Friday we headed into Tampa to do an errand and go see Rich C, who is parked up at Bay Bayou. We'll be relocating up there (about 30 minutes northwest through Tampa traffic) to be closer to Brett's, on the 18th. That will make it easier to coordinate projects and Thanksgiving preparations.

Tampa E R E.jpg
Catching up with Rich C

Speaking of Thanksgiving, we are planning an all-Airstream event. It turns out that everyone who will be attending our dinner is currently living in an Airstream -- except Brett, who is supplying the apartment. That includes us, Barry, and hopefully Bert & Janie, if they can get down here soon enough. Last I heard they were exploring American history at Harper's Ferry.

November 10, 2006

Shrimp on the barbie

We wrapped up the day by running out to the local grocery for some shrimp (actually giant prawns) to grill on Barry's barbecue grill. The sun is setting early now, even here in Florida, so we ended up grilling in the dark at 7 pm, but at least the evenings are still pleasantly warm for things like this.

Tampa barbecue.jpg
Shrimp, sausage, and scallions on a skewer

This weekend there's a "Ribfest" going on in St Petersburg that might be fun. We may go tomorrow. Otherwise, it looks like a weekend of beach-hopping. It has been an intense week of work on the Spring magazine and on various business issues, so I'm ready to check out for a while. We'll pack our snorkel gear and beach toys, and see where we end up.

An Airstream is a great resource to take to the beach, but the 30-footer is too much to haul around crowded barrier islands. When we had our 17-foot Caravel, we routinely hauled it to beach parking lots and used it as a cabana. This time we'll leave the Airstream parked at Barry's and just load up the Armada with our stuff.

We've got a few projects planned for next week. I've ordered a 12v dimmer switch from American Technology Components and we'll wire it into the main ceiling light circuit. This should give us more lighting flexibility and better ability to control our power use when boondocking. ATC is the supplier to Airstream, so the dimmer is an exact match to the original equipment.

We're also considering a range of other upgrades. We won't do all these things, but on the list for consideration are: install a larger LCD TV for movies; install a deeper kitchen sink; re-caulk the kitchen countertop and stove; install a Thin-Lite fluorescent for boondocking; install a catalytic heater; remove the subwoofer under the dinette seat and convert that space to storage; increase the height of the kitchen backsplash; replace the bedroom carpet with a different floor covering. Brett will be helping if we do any of these projects.

November 09, 2006

The ants go marching ...

Once in a while, you're going to get ants. It seems to happen to us once or twice a year. One day you'll see a line of little brown "sugar" ants marching along and then they'll be appearing everywhere in the trailer.

We picked up a batch of them in Haines City. I saw the ant hills in the driveway, and within hours they were climbing our water hose and ransacking the trailer for snacks. Fortunately, these little brown ants don't sting like Fire Ants.

The best way to deal with ants is not to get them in the first place, but that's pretty tough to do. We could have taken precautions by spraying around the trailer with something that would discourage them, but not on the fresh water line. We use a woven roll-up water hose and I would expect pesticides to leach through and contaminate our water, so that's out. Bill Reilly suggested soapy water, but by the time we spotted the ants climbing the hose it was already too late.

Getting them is not the end of the world. We buy little ant traps, which probably do nothing but they make us feel better while we wait for the ants to go away on their own. Baiting outside the trailer isn't usually helpful since we move regularly. A change of season or location seems to help more.

Tampa jars.jpg
These jars are available at many home goods & kitchen ware stores

We also are sure to keep all attractive edibles in tightly sealed containers. This means foods that are opened and then stored outside the refrigerator, like cereals and cookies, get transferred from their original boxes to zip-locked bags or airtight containers. During ant season, we clean around the stove, counters, and floors extra carefully. This morning we pulled out all the previously-opened containers in the pantry to wipe them down, to eliminate crumbs and drips.

One thing we won't do is spray anything toxic inside the trailer. It's too confined a space. The ants we've gotten seem to be either self-limited (having a short season) or discouraged by our frequent movement, so drastic measures haven't been necessary. They're always gone in a week or two. But now we are in Florida and not moving as much, so we may put an outdoor perimeter spray in place later this week, just to ensure we don't pick up more of the little buggers.

By the way, you may notice we've added a little thing called a "captcha" on our Comments form. It's one of those little codes you have to type in before your comment will go through. I apologize for having to do this. The blog has been getting relentlessly spammed lately by robots, and this should help reduce the problem.

This Sign of the Week depicts the daily behavior of a lion, but I suppose you could replace lion with an average RV'er and the breakdown of time would be about the same!

Tampa sign.jpg

November 08, 2006

The end of the scam?

Sad news. I'm afraid Aunt Abel has scared off our scammer with her snippy demand for payment. The promised second check that was sent via UPS was apparently lost, and the scammer has gone silent on us. Last email from our scammer,

a.k.a. Richard Williams
a.k.a. Dr Lilian Williams
a.k.a. Velecia Farmer
a.k.a. Johnson Cole
a.k.a. John Kinsey
a.k.a. Calvary Shipping Kompany
a.k.a. COSCO Shipping
a.k.a Alvaro Mendoza

... was November 3, five days ago.

Farewell, scammer. We'll miss you. But I'm sure you'll still be out there, somewhere, trying to fleece people of their money.

Soaked in Tampa

We arrived in Tampa in the midst of an enormous rainstorm, to find our courtesy parking spot at Barry's flooded several inches deep. The rain was so heavy that merely cracking a window on the Nissan resulted in a complete soaking of the interior door.

But we were blocking the street, so Eleanor bravely put on her rain jacket and sloshed out through ankle-deep water to try to back us in somewhere on Barry's property. This was one of the tougher backing jobs we've had, since visibility was poor and I had to dodge two large trees and a dumpster with the trailer.

Barry's house is an older bungalow that he's completely rehabbing, so for now he lives in .... you got it ... his Airstream! He has a 1972 Overlander which he rehabbed a couple of years ago. We finally managed to get our Airstream tucked in next to his, and in about 10 minutes the rain ended and the small rainponds disappeared into the sandy soil of Tampa. I managed to avoid scraping trees, Eleanor changed into dry clothing, and we got on with the business of settling in.

We may be here a while. Tampa is a convenient base of operations. We have several friends here, including Barry, Brett, and Rich C (located only about 30 minutes north of here at present), I have work to do, we're close to fun places like Ft Desoto and Sarasota, and the camping is free. We're anticipating being here for Thanksgiving, although we may move out for a while to explore before then.

November 07, 2006

Haines City, FL

Haines City does not have an exciting downtown today, but Wendimere and Bill are betting it will have a renaissance. The "historic downtown" features a half dozen hair salons, a few professional offices, a handful of dejected-looking real estate offices, and many empty storefronts. As a result, nobody goes there and parking is usually plentiful.

But they may be getting in on the ground floor. This town is right off a major highway (Route 27), and adjacent to major real estate development along Rt 27 and in nearby Davenport. It could be the next Mt Dora. Someone else thinks so, because most of the downtown real estate has been bought up and is being renovated right now.

Haines City parking.jpg
Our trailer parked in front of their trailer

We discussed the future of Haines City and many other things over dinner last night at Manny's Chop House (not to be confused with the similarly named restaurant in Longwood). Manny's is a great spot for dinner, but the locals know about it and so the wait can be long. They don't take reservations. Still, it's worth it.

We also talked about our plans to do some traveling as a group next year. We're thinking about a possible caravan down to the Yucatan Peninsula, and other ideas. Last summer's group trip with Susan & Adam, Carol, and Rich C from Oregon to Wyoming was a lot of fun. Also, in our travels we've run into a lot of people who want loosely-structured caravans with few rules and obligations, and many of them have looked to us to organize something. So far I've resisted that temptation, because we like traveling without obligations ourselves (and leading a trip would limit our freedom), but perhaps in 2007 we'll take the plunge and lead a small trip.

Last night we broke out some classic games that Wendimere and Bill own, and spent the evening with Scrabble and Clue. Emma needs help with Scrabble, but I see how it helps her learn the spelling of new words, so maybe we'll get this game for ourselves, too. In any case, it was great fun.

Haines City group.jpg
Group pose in the Herb Shoppe

Maintenance item: In the past few weeks we've noted the bottom of the shower door leaking onto the bathroom floor. (We have the roll-up "Shub" door commonly found in late-model Safaris.) This water leak will cause floor rot if not fixed, so on Sunday I removed all the ugly old caulk along the bottom and cleaned the surface thoroughly. There was some trapped water under the door jamb, so I let it dry out overnight.

Yesterday I laid down blue masking tape and put in a fresh bead of GE Silicone II caulk, which is the only product I will use for this job. I've had poor results from the DAP stuff. This morning -- 24 hours later -- it should be fully cured. I'll test the new caulk before we hitch up and head to Tampa.

November 06, 2006

2nd Annual Vintage Rally, Ft Wilderness

This rally was a great find. I finally got a chance to meet some people in the vintage trailer world who I've kept missing for years, namely Eric Drugge and his crew. Emma also scored, meeting some of the many children attending the event.

Ft Wilderness Eric Drugge.jpg
Eric Drugge, Trailerworks

We also got to see a great range of spectacular and rare trailers. I think my favorite was this incredible 1956 Airfloat "Flagship", which was more or less a park model trailer made for the elite Hollywood crowd. Eric and his wife Jennifer are currently using it as their personal trailer. It is anodized gold on the exterior (with a painted gold tongue) and the interior is simply amazing.

Ft Wilderness Airfloat kitchen.jpg

I've posted many more pictures of the cool trailers I saw, and their owners, on our Flickr photo album. Some of their stories are amazing too. One fellow, 81 years old, is full-timing in the 1947 Westcraft Coronado that he bought new originally. Another is towing a beautiful red Vagabond with a slick customized black Dodge Magnum, and another is towing a modern teardrop with a convertible VW New Beetle. All the pictures are on the Flickr album.

We towed a mere 25 miles or so yesterday, ending up in downtown Haines City, FL at the shop of our friends Wendimere and Bill. Eventually they'll move into the shop (upstairs), but for now it is a conveniently located spot with a big driveway where our Airstream and theirs are parked. Being downtown, it was pretty noisy last night (boom cars driving by, a train practically in the backyard, a Mexican nightclub one block away), but we'll survive for a couple of nights. We know this area well, since we used to winter only a few miles from here.

Since we haven't seen Bill and Wendimere since we were in Colorado, we had some catching up to do ... which we did until 10 pm over tea, toast, figs, goat cheese, crackers, toasted soy nuts, and other things. Bill and Wendimere are into healthy eating and I like to try their stuff when we see them.

Today Emma is going to get more bicycle riding practice with Bill. He started teaching her last summer in Colorado, and he's anxious to get on with it. That works for Eleanor and I!

As I write this, the train is rumbling by again along the tracks that separate us from the giant orange processing facility. You can see our location on Google Earth by downloading this link.

November 05, 2006

Unexpected rally!

One of those wonderful and strange coincidences occurred today, throwing all our plans into disorder. As we were leaving Ft Wilderness with trailer in tow, we noticed a large number of Airstreams parked together in another loop of the campground. This couldn't be a coincidence, yet how could there be a rally here that we hadn't heard of?

As we pulled our Airstream slowly through the loop, I immediately spotted Norm, a fellow I'd met a year ago at a rally in St Petersburg. Seeing him confirmed it: there was a rally going on! Trailerworks, a restoration company in Beaufort SC, was sponsoring its 2nd Annual Vintage Rally, and as it turned out we knew several people who were attending, including Forrest and Jeri Bone of the Tin Can Tourists.

I had heard of this rally months ago but discounted it because we didn't originally plan to be in Florida this early. Then I just plain forgot. But it has worked out well, because the Eric Drugge of Trailerworks generously gave us one of their spare campsites. So we settled in for another day.

Why not? The weather is perfect again (mid-70s, sunny, and dry), we have no pressing obligations, and our schedule can easily slip back a day. This has to go on record as our shortest day of towing yet: less than a mile.

I got a chance to meet with the Trailerworks staff and see some of the restorations they've done. There are some spectacular vintage trailers here, which I'll document in photos soon. Among others, a Vagabond, a Boles-Aero, a Shasta, three Avions, many Airstreams, and an Airfloat.

Ft Wilderness Shasta.jpg

But today was a day to chill, so instead of wandering around taking photos and interviewing owners as I usually do, I spent the afternoon in the Airstream reading my second book from Bobby: "Over The Edge of The World," by Laurence Bergreen. This is a spectacular history of Magellan's voyage around the world. It's a riveting tale of challenge, disaster, and death aboard an armada of wooden ships attempting to find a route from Spain to the fabled Spice Islands. This one has many grisly forms of drama: political intrigue, religious conflict, mutiny, sex, and even torture, set against a background peppered with 16th century kings, aboriginal societies, and the unexplored open sea. It doesn't have much to do with travel by Airstream (fortunately!) but it sure is a heck of a travel story.

Speaking of reading, Brett gave us about a dozen "Little Golden Books" that he picked up at a garage sale. Emma read one of them to us today, "The Little Red Hen," which really psyched us. Her reading is coming right along and she is picking up new words quickly now. Eleanor has been doing flash cards with her in the car and we take every opportunity possible to get her to learn new words: signs, labels, menus, emails, and many other things.

A reader of this blog asked for more info about Ft Wilderness. If it weren't located at Disney World, it would still be a top-notch campground in its own right. The sites are generally shady, set in circular loops, and separated by 20-30 feet with scattered pine trees. All sites are full-hookup, with dead-level paved pads surrounded by gravel and sand. The area is carefully maintained -- they even send through a street sweeper. Sites are swept and raked between visitors.

Ft Wilderness site.jpg
A typical Ft Wilderness site with an atypical trailer

There are lots of little thoughtful touches. The bathrooms are exceptional (and of course, air conditioned). The trash cans are half buried into the ground to lower their visual impact. Asphalt is kept to a minimum. Recycling boxes are everywhere, which we appreciate since many campgrounds don't recycle. Internet is available via cable modem on the "preferred" loops but you have to pay to activate it. We didn't bother since we use cellular Internet from the trailer. There is also Internet service available in the reception area.

The campground is enormous, with hundreds of sites, but it never feels that way since the trees preevent you from seeing much beyond your own loop. There are multiple swimming pools, nightly sign-alongs & movies, and pretty much every other facility you can imagine. Transportation to any part of Disney is free by bus and ferryboat, and people are encouraged to rent golf carts to get around the campground (or ride their bikes) rather than drive, which keeps the campground relatively free of traffic and noise.

Rangers subtly patrol the campground, enforcing rules about parking on the narrow loop roads (one car blocking part of the street is enough to prevent most RV's from getting by) and helping out where needed. Only charcoal fires are allowed (not wood), which is perhaps not as romantic, but something we really appreciate. Most other campgrounds get horribly smoky at night due to the numerous wood fires, and we usually have to keep the windows closed after 5 pm -- or end up smelling like wood smoke in the morning. Here we can leave them open all night and enjoy the balmy late-fall Florida air.

Staying in Ft Wilderness gets you all the same privileges as guests at other Disney resorts: free parking, free transportation, extra "Magic hours" in the parks, charging privileges using your keycard, etc. There's no "second class" stigma about it at all. Overall, I can recommend it. But if you want to save a few bucks and aren't concerned about being on Disney property, you can try Tropical Palms in Kissimmee. We stayed there last April, although I didn't talk about it on the blog at that time. While it was no match for Ft Wilderness, and quite a bit more crowded, it was fine and less expensive.

November 04, 2006


The Disney park experience is different for everyone. For us, it was a nice day of riding and munching, with short lines and exotic foods.

EPCOT munching.jpg

After a few morning thrill rides, we wandered through the World Showcase sampling the treats available from each country, which run from $1.25 to $6.50 each (mostly $3). The little portions they serve at each food kiosk seem very small for the price, and I suppose they are, but after just a few we were all feeling full and thus the total expenditure was not bad. According to the express checkout invoice that appeared on our doorstep this morning, we spent about $78 for the day, to thoroughly stuff the three of us for lunch and dinner. By Disney standards, that's a cheap day.

Today's photos are by Brett.

EPCOT America.jpg

Emma participates in a ceremony at the American pavilion

We didn't get back until 10 pm, completely exhausted except for Brett (who never stops), and so this morning things will go more slowly. Brett and Lori are heading to Universal for the day, and we are going to Haines City where we will courtesy-park at the home of our friends Wendimere (The Health Chic) and Bill, who we last saw in Aurora CO and Yellowstone.

Yesterday was a splurge day financially, but not a problem for our budget given the savings afforded us by traveling in the Airstream. It really is cheaper than staying home. Thanks to the generosity of our friends who offer courtesy parking, and a little effort to seek out campground bargains, we are well below the budget we lived on last year. I'm hoping to keep it that way for the remainder of the winter.

Scam: Where's my check?

Our scammer is squirming under the pressure of Ayre's relentless Aunt Abel Avion:

From: richard williams
Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2006 07:49:07 -0800 (PST)

what do you mean by that?i am richard williams and my
accounttant sent the check so why are you asking me
all those questions,pls let me hear from Ayer and let
him tell me whats going on.


And Aunt Abel replies:

WHERE IS THE CHECK? It has not arrived. Tell your accountant to track the UPS shipment. It is lost. Send another check or I'm calling off this deal.

Abel Avion

PS: Ayres is still in the hospital and not doing well. Dr. Valterra says he needs enzyme treatments, and Dr Byam says he may have to be caravanned over to the Blooberray Regional Medical Center.

November 03, 2006

Fort Wilderness, Disney World

Yesterday we bid adieu to our new friends, Steve, Misty, and Brianna. We spent a lot of time with them in the past few days, and it was great. We had an enormous amount in common, just as we did when we met Bobby, Danine, and Elise in Virginia. We may see them again tonight if they drop in on Ft Wilderness, or maybe as we pass by their home on the Florida panhandle in December.

Ft Wilderness is one of the nicest commercial campgrounds you can visit -- it's Disney, after all. From check-in to check-out, the experience is superb and convenient. It's not overly "Disnified" with little Mickeys hanging from every tree, but there are free movies and sing-alongs every night, along with a full page of other amenities and programs.

Our friend Brett, and his sister Lori, pulled in a few hours after we did. Lori flew in from Colorado and they are parked right next to us in Brett's Argosy 28 motorhome. The plan is to spend all day together chowing down at the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival (and riding plenty of rides, as Emma has reminded us).

St Augustine Halloween dogs.jpg
Halloween dogs, from St Augustine. Click for larger

My latest bedside reading comes courtesy of Bobby (of Virginia), who gave me a couple of books he'd recently read. I just finished "The Professor and the Madman", which is a fascinating account of the life of the major contributor to the original Oxford English Dictionary -- who just happened to be insane and committed for life to a facility in England for having murdered someone. It's also an interesting account of how the Oxford English Dictionary was made. It might sound like hearing about paint drying, but actually it is quite good. The creation of the OED (the first ever comprehensive English dictionary) was a massive project that took about 80 years and was done with 19th century technology. Reading it, I am reminded of how relatively easy it is to produce an 80 page magazine using computers ...

Scam: A web of lies

Our scammer(s) are getting tangled up in their own web of lies. A couple of days ago I received another notice from another shipping company. The first one, as you may recall, was supposedly from Cosco Shipping Lines. Here's the second one:


Hello Ayers Reem,

How are you doing today..this is calvary shipping kompany.we represent Dr williams in shipping of his goods he buy in abroad..we will like to confirm if this name is you real name and your contact address.writting below..

Ayres T Reem
[address deleted]

If this is your full info kindly email us back to let us no so will can come over to your location and have the items ship to his client.

Also Dr williams said you are the one that will send us our will we also like to comfirm that from you .so will can send you the information you will use in sending the money to us via..westernunion money transfer.
will be expecting your reply soon.


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Wow, that's believable ... NOT! ("shipping kompany"?)

However, we got an interesting break. UPS managed to lose the package with the second check! As of this morning it has not been delivered and UPS cannot account for it on their tracking page. It was last seen in Louisville three days ago. Plus, our scammer is getting nervy again by threatening the Feds. So Ayre's aunt took the opportunity to push back a little:

This Ayres' Aunt Abel again ... I am very concerned. I just found out that the first check you sent him wasn't good, and today checked UPS and found that the second check you keep promising is "missing". That's what UPS said when I tracked the number you sent. Are you going to send a check or not?

And Ayre's cousin says someone has been sending him messages threatening to talk to the FBI and CIA about this. Who is Johnson Cole? Who is Velecia Farmer? Who is John Kinsey? You need to decide where the money is supposed to be sent because I can't tell from all the names you have sent, and I am supposed to help Ayres sell his car while he is in the hospital.

But first tell me where the check is. It has not been delivered and if you don't send a check right away I'm going to tell Ayres to sell his car to someone else.

Let's see if we can get the scammer to send a third check at his expense!

November 02, 2006

Campground oddities

One of the perils of living in a Florida State Park: the dreaded affliction, "Lizard Butt".

Lizard butt.jpg

Another odd thing that roamed by today: the "Cruzin' Cooler". David Young, a dealer in these things, whipped by at about 13 MPH riding atop his electric cooler, towing a trailer with his dog!

St Augustine Cruzin Cooler.jpg

I can't think of a good reason I need to go 13 MPH in a campground on my cooler, but perhaps you can. If you do, a 500-watt battery powered Cruzin Cooler will cost you $349.

For our part, we will be pulling our cooler (a Dometic refrigerator installed in the Airstream) at about 65 MPH down to Kissimmee, where we have a reservation at Fort Wilderness.

Scam: the CIA investigates?

I am getting the sense that the scammer is more than one person. The message always follows a certain format but the spelling and grammar vary dramatically. I wonder if there is a sort of team out there (similar to a customer service phone bank) handling these inquiries in a team fashion. If so, this would certainly be worthy of Federal investigation since it would cross state lines and involve large sums of money in aggregate.

Today the scammer threatens us with the FBI and CIA. We've also gotten another new name in the game, "Johnson Cole".



AM johnson the remitter to issued out payment for the items you want to sell for Dr williams...i really want to confirmed if payment have been recieve..and i want to know the update of this payment...if you have cash it ...and send the remaining balance to the mover....who are to handle the pickup of the items am paying for..kindly please get me updated of the following listed below

[usual blah blah blah deleted here]

I would be glad to read from you ....cuz there is something going on in which am asking this...and this have been in care of the FBI and the hwihc they as me to confirm this first from you before they start there own personal investigation..kindly give and update about this..

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Note to scammers: It really doesn't lend credibility (if you are pretending to be a shipping company) to have a Yahoo or Hotmail email address which puts a little ad line at the bottom of every email.

So much for Mr. Nice Guy of yesterday, who was so concerned about Ayres' health. I think his bauxitis is about to take a massive turn for the worse. Our response:

This is Ayres' aunt. My name is Abel Avion. Ayres is still in the hospital and very sick. We are worried about him. The doctors say he has more than Bauxitis, he has Monocoque too. They think he may be oxidizing. He will be in the hospital for a few more days at least while they treat him. He is on massive doses of nuvite but so far still feels dull and listless.

He told me he was expecting a check from you and asked me to watch for it, but I have not seen it yet. When it comes I will try to get it cashed for him and follow your instructions.

Abel Avion

November 01, 2006

A new name for our scammer

Our scammer is back, with a completely different attitude and some new information:


how are you and your family?Hope cool?Sorry for the
long silence,it was due to my job type and i got a
message from my courier that the check was delayed for
security reasons.My accountant contacted me today with
the tracking number of the check sent via ups
(Tracking number#1Z224R840192210258)The check should
get to you today or tomorrow,so i urge that you get
check cash and send the overpayment of $2,000 via
western union money transfer as stated earlier to my
mover who will come for the shipping/moving of the
item as soon as he gets the money.This is the
information needed to send the money via western union
money transfer

John Kinsey
302 ash dr,
TN 38544,
U.S.A .

Kindly get back to me with the senders full name and
address,MTCN#, and exact amount sent.
You are to send a Total sum of $1,800 and the $200
excess fund is to be used as western union charges
and you keep the change for the stress i mhave put you
My mover/shipper will contact you as soon as
possible.Looking forward to doing more business with
you in the nearest future.
Thanks and have a wonderful day.


"Have a wonderful day"? Concern for the family? "Keep the change for the stress ..."? Wow, such a change from "I will invite the appropriate authorities" a couple of weeks ago. Is our scammer going soft on us?

But most interesting is that the latest UPS package is coming from Cookville, TN and the funds recipient has changed to John Kinsey, also of Tennessee. Unlike Velecia Farmer of Hampton, VA (our last funds recipient), Mr. John Kinsey appears to be a real person. He has a phone number in that name at that address. But I can't say if he really sent this latest fake check or if he is just being used. I'm tempted to give him a call, but what would I say? "Are you a lying miserable scammer or just an innocent victim?"

Google Earth users can see his suburban location in Tennessee here, but unfortunately Google Earth doesn't seem to have sufficient resolution in that area to actually see the house.

So we'll wait for the latest fake check to show up, and scan it for your viewing pleasure. Then Ayres will have his chance to make mischief ...

Halloween in St Augustine

On Monday we noticed a new arrival in the state park, right next to us: an Airstream Safari 25. After our sunset beach walk we dropped in to meet Steve, Misty, and their three-year-old daughter Brianna (and a cocker spaniel pup).

St Augustine Misty Steve.jpg

As is often the case when we meet Airstreamers, we found we had a lot in common, so they became instant friends and we made plans to take the girls into town for Halloween trick-or-treating together. Last night Emma and Brianna went out as the angel and the fairy through the old Spanish quarter of St. Augustine.

St Augustine angel fairy.jpg

We wrapped up trick-or-treating by 7:15, so we hit a local seafood restaurant, and then ended up at our Airstream. Steve and Kristy have a terrific story about how they met -- "mortuary telemarketer meets surfer airbrush artist during a sales call". The next thing we knew it was well past 11 pm and we were still talking, and the girls (both night owls as it turned out) were still playing wildly on Emma's bed.

So it was a successful evening and we've decided to spend yet another day in St. Augustine. The weather continues to be absolutely perfect and there are still more things we want to do. Fortunately, the state park is half empty during the weekdays, so there's no problem with extending. But this will be our absolute last night here -- we have reservations at Ft Wilderness in Disney World starting Thursday.