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Archive for March, 2006

Magic Kingdom

Wow, what a difference a day makes. Eleanor woke up this morning after 14 hours of sleep, feeling better. She was able to stop taking the heavy-duty pain meds the docs had prescribed for her. At 7 a.m. she was planning to stay in for the day and recuperate. by 7:30 a.m. she was thinking of things to do. By 8 a.m. she was insisting that there was NO WAY she was going to sit around the trailer while we had fun, and by 9 a.m. we were all out the door.

It was a fabulous day today. Florida sunshine, a happy crowd (me, Eleanor, Emma, and Brett), and lots to do. Barry hung back in his Airstream for the day to relax. The rest of us took the shuttle boat across the lake from Ft Wilderness to the Magic Kingdom and spent the day enjoying the rides, shows, parades, and all the other little things that make the park so fun to visit. Emma was, of course, having the time of her life.

Disney Magic.jpg

We made sure Eleanor had plenty of snack breaks since she has hardly eaten in the past four days, and she had to make an effort to spend the day hiking around the park, but it worked out well. I thought she’d bail out by lunchtime but she stayed with us the entire day. I told her this afternoon, “It’s nice to have you back.”

The Magic Kingdom was, well, as magical as ever. Brett and I may have gotten a bit too engrossed by the Buzz Lightyear ride, however. I don’t normally buy the post-ride souvenir photos, but this one was too good to pass up.

Buzz Lightyear.jpg

By dark we were back at the Airstream grilling chicken that Brett had marinated. Everyone piled into our trailer for dinner, since the temperatures here in Florida have dropped due to a cold front. (We’re expecting 40s tonight.) I think that the shared experience with our friends, especially little things like cooking and eating together, is the best part of this trip. Camping is what makes it possible.

At 10, Eleanor and Emma crashed in their beds. Barry, Brett, and I had a final treat (triple-chocolate Dove bars) in Brett’s motorhome, and called it a night.

Tomorrow will be another fun day, I’m sure. Our schedule includes MGM Studios in the morning, and Epcot Center in the late afternoon and early evening. We won’t try to do everything, but just take it easy and pick a few spots that we all really enjoy. With the Airstreams, we know we can come back next week if we want, and spend another night. And it doesn’t matter what we do anyway — being with good friends is the best part.

Turning the Corner

Thanks to everyone who expressed concern for Eleanor in the past few days. We were pretty spooked by her persistent and severe migraine, but she is turning the corner now.

Eleanor stayed in the trailer all last evening, taking some heavy-duty medications that had been prescribed for her. I spent some time researching migraines on the Internet, and learned about what to expect and how to help her recover. It’s a difficult thing to experience, both as patient and caregiver.

Emma and I got out of the way last night by joining some friends for bowling. Emma loved bowling. We gave her a 6-lb ball and she rolled it slowly down the lane and did fairly well. (The bumpers were up, so she couldn’t have a gutter ball.) At one point she was leading against three adults!

This morning Eleanor started to feel a tiny bit better, so we decided to proceed with our plan and head to Ft Wilderness (Disney). We met our friend Brett (with his 1978 Argosy 28 motorhome) and Barry (with his 1973 Overlander) at a local shopping center, and caravanned all the way to Disney World.

Fort Wilderness is a great place. Expensive, but very nice. Even though there are hundreds of campsites, each one feels private thanks to the extensive trees. The on-site activities are terrific (campfire sing-alongs, character visits, huge heated swimming pools, movies at night, games, etc), and of course we are only a short ride via boat or bus from all the Disney theme parks.

Eleanor crashed again this afternoon so Barry, Brett, and I took Emma out for a bike ride and later for the campfire sing-along. We grilled some steaks behind our Airstream this evening, and ate them with caesar salad and cheesecake, while listening to the crickets and talking.

If Eleanor had been with us it would have been better, but I felt good knowing she was recovering in her own bed and that I was close by at all times. We are hoping she will be feeling much better tomorrow, and able to join us at one of the theme parks later in the day. But in any case, this episode has been a reminder to us that you can’t take life (and health) for granted. Carpe diem!

Emma’s trailer

Eleanor’s headache has continued unabated, so we made a trip to the local doc. While she was being examined, Emma and I sat on the waiting room floor and practiced reading sight words.

The doctor thinks it’s a migraine, but Eleanor has never had one before, so it’s still a small mystery. One theory is that allegies triggered it, but nobody really knows. They sent her home with an injection and a prescription and she’s in bed now, hoping the pain stops. She may miss out on the Fort Wilderness fun this weekend if things don’t clear up. We’re worried but hopeful.

So I’m Mr. Mom today. Emma is helping me do the laundry and errands, and in between I try to get a bit of work done. We are coping. It’s a bummer to be stalled like this, but on the other hand a migraine for four days would be a bummer no matter where we were.

Emma's trailer.jpg

Emma has made a drawing for you, of her trailer. Drawing is one of her favorite pastimes, and I have been meaning to share some of her artwork with you for a long time. Today seemed the right day to show this five-year-old’s view of our home on wheels.

St George Island and Manatee Springs SP

As I mentioned in the last blog entry, it has been a challenge lately to keep up with the blog. Both Verizon and Sprint seem to have little cellular service anywhere in the panhandle. When “roaming”, we can’t get online.

Monday we left Port St Joe and dropped by nearby St George Island, which is a white sand strip of barrier island not far east. St George is a rare thing in Florida these days: a beautiful barrier island that is not sinking under the weight of thousands of condominiums. It seems to have somehow been bypassed by the rabid development that has ruined so many other barrier islands in Florida.

There’s still plenty of housing on St George, but large sections of the island have been left relatively undisturbed, and toward the eastern end there is a large state park which we visited. The park is mostly closed due to damage from Hurricane Dennis, so presently you can’t camp there. But when the park re-opens (scheduled for October unless another hurricane comes by), it will be well worth a visit. Eight miles of wide open, white sand, protected beach! Herons and pelicans and snowy egrets and much more. The sound of numerous birds singing in the pines, and the views in every direction. We loved it.

St George heron.jpg

We put the Airstream in the overflow lot and walked a short distance to the beach. Kids were playing in the water, surf fishermen were catching red snapper, and the air was filled with salt spray and the roar of waves. We wanted to stay longer but without a campground, we had to make the stay only a couple of hours. After lunch in the Airstream, it was time to continue east.

(This marked the first occasion we had to use the outside shower that came with our trailer. It’s handy for washing off sandy feet. )

Around this time it became clear that Eleanor had a case of whatever was affecting Emma the previous few days. Her headache intensified, giving me even more impetus to find us a place to settle down so she could catch up on sleep. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out well. Park after park was full, and we eventually ended up once again crashing at a Wal-Mart in Chiefland, FL.

Poor Eleanor. Although our parking spot was quiet, she had a miserable night with a long episode of nausea. In the morning she was still so sick that she couldn’t face riding in the car for hours, so we towed six miles over to Manatee Springs State Park and paid $4 for a day pass. There, she was able to nap in the trailer while Emma and I explored the massive spring that bubbles from the ground here.

Manatee Springs.jpg
Mantee Springs

Manatee Springs, like Blue Spring in central Florida, is a first-magnitude freshwater spring. That means over a million gallons of clear 72-degree water per day rises to the surface, forming a tributary to the Suwanee River. The manatees swim here in the winter to stay warm, but there were none in evidence when Emma and I donned our snorkel gear and paddled around in the water for 30 minutes. Still, we saw some mullet, a couple of turtles, and a school of colorful little fish about 1/2″ long.

With snorkeling, lunch, a couple of episodes of “Between The Lions” (a PBS reading program), and another walk along the river, Emma and I managed to stay out of Eleanor’s way long enough for her to get about a couple hours of sleep, which made all the difference. She awoke feeling somewhat better, so we dumped the tanks at the park’s dump station and made the final two hour drive to Tampa.

With the overloaded parks and Eleanor being sick, it has been a real pain getting here. If I hadn’t had to get online for work, we would still be back in the panhandle somewhere, waiting out the illness. That’s one of the unfortunate aspects of having to work while full-timing — sometimes we have to move even when we really don’t want to. But still the compensations are there. We managed to snatch a few good moments out of a few days that were otherwise full of disappointments, and sometimes that’s the best you can do.

Tonight Emma and I left Eleanor alone in the trailer to relax, and we joined our local friends Barry and Brett for dinner out. When we got back, we put Eleanor to bed early. I hope she will wake up tomorrow with this bug behind her.

We’ll stay in Tampa a couple of nights, catching up on work and health, and then on Thursday we have reservations to camp at Ft Wilderness (Disney). There will be a caravan of three Airstreams heading there … unless you would like to join us!

Last Night in Mystic Springs

It’s been a challenge to update the blog due to the lack of Internet anywhere near Mystic Springs, but nonetheless we are all glad we went. Saturday was a great wrap-up, eventually. It didn’t start off well. Emma woke up feeling badly again, and while we were at Panera Bread updating the blog, well, she had a bad moment which certainly didn’t do anything for the appetites of the dozen college students tapping away at their computers.

We took her home and put her back in bed, and I went to the past president’s luncheon without Eleanor and Emma. A lot of people showed up, so the park was full of Airstreams, which was great to see. By mid-afternoon, Emma was back on track and our home was full of interested passers-by who wanted to chat about what we do and what sort of Airstream, tow vehicle, hitch, and cordless drill we do it with.

Mystic Rich Hensley.jpg
Rich gives an impromptu seminar on Hensley hitches

Dinner was a hotdog campfire with everyone (Emma didn’t eat one, which told me she was still not feeling 100%), and we ended up staying up later than we should have. I left a bit early and snuck back to the Airstream to watch “Star Trek: Enterprise” on DVD … my first three episodes arrived from Netflix and I couldn’t wait.

Sunday was more showings, and talking, which meant we couldn’t leave early, but we didn’t really want to anyway. Finally we managed to get everything packed up by 11, hit the “leftover lunch” for a few minutes, and slowly pull out over the sandy roads and back down Rt 29 to Pensacola.

I will go on record as saying this, at risk of being labeled a curmudgeon: Spring Break has ruined the panhandle of Florida. When I was a student at LSU (Baton Rouge) many years ago, the panhandle was a peaceful place with large sections of wild open beach. I remember a great spring break that I spent living in a shack made of bamboo. So driving east on Rt 98 I had hoped to show Eleanor and Emma the beautiful green water and white sands that make this place so gorgeous.

But it’s spring break season, and every campground and state park was full. No chance of getting in, except at one place that was willing to let us in for $70 a night. Panama City is not what I remember, but that’s no surprise since it has been 20 years. We tried a few spots, but ultimately nothing was available (or appealing) and we kept heading east. Sometimes, that’s how it goes.

We ended up in a tiny harborside campground (Presnell’s Bayside Marina) in Port St Joe, which is near Cape San Blas. We arrived in time for a beautiful sunset, but the air was filled with tiny midges which nipped mercilessly at us, and so we spent the evening inside. At least it was quiet and warm all night. By the way, if you want to take your RV to the water and then walk to a fishing charter, this is a great spot to try.

Port St Joe.jpg
Camping in Port St Joe

I’ll post more about where we spent most of today, and where we are going, a bit later. Right now, I’m just catching a moment of Internet connectivity on a stop along the road. Cellular coverage along Rt 98 is not great. At the moment, we’re in Perry, FL, which is not where we intend to spend the night, and it’s time to get back in the saddle.

A Busy Day In Mystic Springs

Our minor flooding problem has been dealt with. Even though the floor seemed dry by Thursday night, we left the fans running all night just to be sure. Friday morning we got to replacing the floor while Emma was still sleeping. I worked on the tiles in the front storage compartment while Eleanor did the tricky curved sections in the bedroom closet.

It was blazing hot outside with the sun on me, and not too comfortable for either of us, since we had to squinch ourselves into some spaces not normally occupied by people. At one point someone who walked by to talk, but all she could see of me was my lower half hanging out of the storage compartment, draped partially over the hitch and propane bottle shelf. It got even less comfortable when I had to disconnect the power and the batteries.

Ah, but it was worth it. The new floor looks great. Because the carpet was taller than the new floor, it left a gap in places, but we sealed the gaps with flexible vinyl bathtub caulking bead.

Mystic new compartment.jpg
Dry, clean, and ready for storage!

Note the new Optimas in the photo above also. The other two are in the regular battery compartment. One thing I need to do is get some sort of cover to protect the terminals. Right now I have to take some care to ensure that nothing metallic in the storage compartment is near the batteries, or it might short the batteries.

Mystic new closet.jpg
Almost done. Still needs edging.

We were lucky to be at Mystic Springs when this happened. Many campgrounds would have prohibited us from working on our trailer in the park. We also were lucky that people were willing to keep Emma occupied, and lend us fans. And it was a nice break that the forecasted rain never came, so we could dry things out and get the new floor in place.

By 11:30, we managed to complete the job, take quick showers, get Emma dressed, and be ready to join the rally group for a catfish lunch in town. That was a nice reward after sweating in the sun for hours. Mmmmm”¦. Southern fried catfish. Love it. We went through a couple of pitchers of iced tea, too.

Hugh Riddenour and Vince Saltaformaggio joined us for lunch at our table. Hugh’s daughter follows our blog, I’m told (Hi!). Vince is the guy with the 1959 Airstream Tradewind that he restored last year. It’s a beauty. Vince is a fun guy to visit with, because he is what I regard as the quintessential New Orleanian: jovial, chatty, loves to eat, funny, and full of little vices.

Mystic Vince Saltiformaggio.jpg

After lunch it really got warm, probably mid-80s, so we ran the two Fantastic Vents to see how the trailer did. It wasn’t bad except in the front bedroom where we still have an unpowered vent. That confirms it ““ I’m going to install a third Fantastic Vent in the bedroom when we get down to Tampa. We don’t like to shut up the trailer to run the A/C unless it’s scorchingly hot, so we rely on the Fantastic Vents to keep things comfortable most of the time.

Eleanor and Emma took the opportunity to make some homemade lemonade “¦

Mystic Emma lemonade.jpg

“¦ and later Emma got to work with her sidewalk chalk by our neighbor’s trailer. (I’ll have to take a picture of her artwork today.)

After dinner in the clubhouse, I was invited to do a presentation on our trip, so I did the same slideshow that I’d done in NTAC. Everyone was still awake after 160 slides, so I guess I did OK. They even laughed in the right places.

By then it was 9 pm and we were all a bit worn down. Rally days are like that. We are always so busy talking, taking pictures, showing the trailer (people are always interested since they’ve usually never seen a two-bedroom Airstream before, and certainly not one with three people living full-time in it), and meeting new people, that each day flies by.


We woke up this morning thinking that today was going to be a quiet day. I had some work to do, but otherwise we had no plans. But when I was putting away my scanner this morning, I noticed the bottom of the carton was water-stained.

If there’s one thing you don’t want to ignore in a travel trailer, it’s unexplained water. Leaks are the enemy, and they are the one thing that surely will kill an Airstream. So I began removing things from the underbed storage area and my bedroom closet, and sure enough, the carpet was wet. Thoroughly soaked, in fact.

There’s no plumbing up there, and we haven’t had any condensation at night, so that eliminated two possibilities. The wetness was confined to the carpet (not the wall), so suggested the leak didn’t come from above. There was only one possible cause: the front storage compartment.

This actually explained a mystery we noticed a week or two ago. Once in a rare while, we’ll step into the trailer and notice a smell of exhaust fumes in the trailer. The theory has been that the front storage compartment gasket sometimes lets in a little exhaust while towing, and then the fumes work their way into the main living area.

The water confirmed our theory. We towed in heavy rain in Kentucky on Monday, the first time we’ve ever towed this trailer in the rain. Wind-driven water must have gotten past the storage compartment seal and then wicked through the carpet into the bedroom.

Mystic outside fan.jpg
Everything came out, and the fan went in

We removed everything from the front storage compartment and confirmed the diagnosis. Better yet, the pattern of the water told us what part of the gasket was leaking (the curbside section), so we have somewhere to start when we go to fix it.

With soaked carpet and pad, we had no choice but to pull up the carpet immediately and get some fans in there. Fortunately the Mystic Springs Airstream park folks pitched in to help. Bill Call eliminated an errand I had to do today, to by taking my propane tank out to be refilled. Herb Spies found us a big window fan to dry things out. And 7-year-old Hope, granddaughter of one of the visitors, befriended Emma and has kept her busy all day. Various grandmothers are watching them.

We ended up cutting out all the carpet in the storage compartment, plus a strip between the master bed and my closet, and all the carpet in my closet. This eliminated all the soaked carpet and pad, making drying out the wood subfloor much easier. We are going to replace those sections of carpet with vinyl tile, which makes more sense in closets and storage compartments anyway. If it leaks again, at least we won’t have to deal with wet carpet.

Mystic inside fan.jpg
Drying out after the carpeting was removed from the closet

So we’ve got a list of things we need (new carpet knife, carpet transition strip, tiles, etc) and we’re heading off to Lowes. As for the ultimate solution, we’ll have to think about why that gasket leaked. There’s no apparent reason I can see. But we’ll bring it to a dealer and have them fix it. It’s still under warranty. In the meantime we’ll just avoid towing in heavy rain.

And we were wondering what we’d do today “¦

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