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Archive for November, 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!

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.

Tampa Emma pumpkin.jpg

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.

Tampa old TV.jpg

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!

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.

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.

Tampa flea mkt Emma rocks.jpg

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 …

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.

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.

Haines City potluck.jpg

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.

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.

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