Thursday, January 17, 2019

Time in Tampa - Jan 2019

We've been in Tampa for a few days and are getting used to the cooler weather.  It seems when we are  in Florida for the winter, we usually find warm/hot weather and then face reality when we make our way north.

We were in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park before continuing down through the Keys to Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West for three great weeks.  (More about that in future posts).  The weather was unseasonable warm and near the high 70's and low 80's for most of our time there.  I think we may have had 2-3 rainy/windy days but on balance it was terrific.

As we moved north to Bonita Springs for a few days, the weather got cooler and here in Tampa it is in the low-mid 60's.  Last night it got down to the high 30's.  But whose complaining?  Not us!  We are glad to be here and can put on another sweatshirt or jacket.

The MacDill AFB FamCamp is a large one with a lot of moving parts.  They take reservations but also have procedures for people like us who arrive and want to stay.  Similar to the process at NAS Key West campground, since they had no sites with full hookups, we stayed in dry camping.
Gladly it was only one night.

We were notified along with 4-5 other people that spots with full hookups had opened up and we moved over there and got set up.
We have a good site pointed north.  That means we get some shade for our front door and awning in the afternoon when the sun is pointing at us from the west.  Pam noticed during our final test check before we departed Bonita Springs that our tail light is out for the coach-car brake system.  She took off the taillight and tighten up some wiring connections.  We'll know if it worked when we leave here and hook up the car to tow behind the Roadrunner.

Since we are in the Tampa area for a few weeks we made sure we visited the Tampa RV show.  I think this may be the 4th time we have attended.  This time we wanted to check out Class C's and also look up friends who were manning the Habitat for Humanity booth next to Camping World.

To our surprise, friends from a long time ago contacted us and asked about our blog to pass on to a friend and mentioned they had been to the Tampa RV show earlier in the day!  Ugh.  Not surprisingly, we did not see them.  Tampa attracts about 70,000 people during the course of the show and yesterday I think half of them were there with us!

It was fun and since our tickets are good for two days, we will return later today.  We have some Freightliner Independent Front Wheel Suspension questions (asking for a friend...)

It always interesting at these huge shows and we saw a few RV setups that are new to us.  They are pricey.  I read a piece last week that said there are 500,000 new RVers each year.  That includes everything from a pop-up to a $1M Prevost but still it is a staggering number.  No wonder getting into campgrounds is getting a little tougher?

I don't remember what version of a Class B this was (Phoenix?) but it was interesting because it had a drop down bed.  And plenty of space for a pet underneath. 🙂

On a more serious note we looked at the Jayco Redhawk and thought it has some very good features.
We need to pick some brains of you folks that have downsized.  What do we need to look for?

That's it for this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Hope to see you today at the Tampa RV show!  If not, drop us a line anyway.  Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Spending Overnight in Key Largo and on to Key West - Dec 2018

We were up early and ready to roll out of our campsite at Fort DeSoto campground in St. Pete.  It was a little tight but we went slowly and negotiated the turns fine.  We had to dump tanks so that took an extra 15 -20 minutes.  It was a fairly easy drive to catch I-275 and then I-75.
We were planning on spending the night at the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming Casino parking lot that night.  We made pretty good time even though we caught the morning traffic in Tampa and found more near Fort Myers and Naples.

About mid-morning we were talking about dry camping in the casino parking lot.  We are not big fans of casinos but many have RV accommodations or allow overnight stays.  Each of the three previous visits to Key West we have stayed at this casino.  Pam wondered out loud if there might be a campsite at John Pennekamp State Park which was another 40 miles down the road.

We called and to our surprise we were able to get the only reservation they had for the night.  We made a diesel fuel stop at our favorite Tom Thumb convenience store along the way and arrived at the state park for check-in about 2:30 PM.

We had some tree issues but were able to move the Roadrunner forward in the campsite and park it to one side so our DirecTV dish somehow missed the nearby trees.
It's always a good day when we have good wifi, a level site, cell phone service and satellite TV.  All the comforts of home.

We were parked in between three couples who were all from Quebec.  We talked with Diedre and Dianne who were a real nice couple.  They had a Monaco which they purchased in Toronto.  We compared motorhome stories and could relate to different issues we've experienced.

They were off to get some time near a sandy beach while I was setting up.  When they returned we talked some more.  They asked if I wanted to learn or improve my French? and invited me to Happy Hour with their friends.  It was nice of them but it had been a long day so I declined.

We had a great night's sleep and pulled out of our spot into an open area to connect the Honda behind the Roadrunner.  Pam noticed something in the back of the motorhome engine compartment.  I opened both doors and realized some of the insulation on the engine compartment was laying on the engine.  The insulation tape (looked like regular HVAC tape to me) had come loose.

I knew I should have at the time, but the was a little disconcerting, so I didn't take a single picture.  I was more concerned with assessing the damage.  We could not reach far enough into the compartment to cut away the portions of the insulation that were hanging down and knew that we had to access the area from inside our bedroom.

We had new carpet installed last year so it made it a little more difficult to find the four screws securing the compartment access lid from the bedroom.  We were not on a schedule so that was good.  We were able take our time and remove the large trim wood board underneath the closet door and then take out the screws.  Lifting the bed, we pulled out the lid and shined a light into the engine compartment.

We cut away three pieces that were hanging down and removed them.  There were three pieces of insulation on one side of the compartment that we cut way.  I inspected it all and didn't see any more out of place and buttoned it all up.  Later, I called Brannon at Custom RV in Red Bay and asked if there was any risk and he said we'd be OK like it was until we got it all replaced.  The bedroom closet floor was likely to be hotter than usual during our travels but we should be safe.

Another noteworthy start to our driving day.  Off we went toward Key West.  We passed through Key Largo, Islamadora, Marathon and the rest of the Keys on a beautiful day.
It is one of the scenic drives in America and a favorite of ours. The water is clear and blue and just what you'd expect in a tropical place.

We looked closely for hurricane damage from Hurricane Irma that hit landfall in Sept 2017.  It was pretty amazing, but we could see very little of the hurricane's effects.  We hardly saw any debris and only a couple of buildings that were damaged.  We did some a lot of new construction since our last visit to Key West in 2016.  There obviously was major destruction going on during the hurricane.  The cleanup was a testament to the hard work and ability of the cleanup crews to get it all back to normal.

Our campground is the at the Sigsbee Naval installation at Mile Marker 3.  We checked in were able to extend our original reservation through January 8, 2019.  They have 90 sites with full hookups and 310 dry camping sites.  If all the spots are taken in full hookups, we spend time dry camping until our turn comes up.  Campers get two weeks of full hookups and then rotate again to dry camping or leave.  It is very organized.
Our first order of business after we got our site was to grab some lunch at one of our favorite places:  Sandy's Cafe:
Then we went over to Island Bicycles where I rented a seven-speed hybrid with airless tires. They are solid and work surprisingly well.

The next morning I set off on one of my most favorite things to do in all our years of full-timing.  Ride my bike around the island of Key West.  I just love it.
The 13+ mile route around the island was full of memories from our previous three visits here over the last 10 years.
I took a lot of pictures and had a nice leisurely ride.
We were able to extend our stay and intend to be here for three weeks.  We are off to a great start.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Pam and I wish everyone a Merry Christmas!  
We hope the New Year brings you the 
Best of Everything!

We appreciate the many folks who take the time to check in and see what is happening on the Roadrunner Chronicles.  It has been a great year with big things to come in the next. 

~ Randy and Pam

Friday, December 21, 2018

Time in St. Pete - Dec 2018

The St. Pete area was a good choice because Jon and Kelly and the boys were on vacation there for a few days.  We snagged a campground site at Fort Desoto/Pinellas County Park

The campsite was very level and we had room for all the slides.  The palm tree canopy prevented us from getting satellite TV but we were forewarned.  We were able to pick up a few Over the Air (OTA) channels.
We had a free evening and looked up friends Joe and Cindie and met them for dinner at PJ's Oyster Bar in St. Pete.  It was a nice evening to catch up and enjoy each others company.

The next day we met everyone at the Tampa International Airport.  The terminal was very impressive.  It was big and roomy and had all kinds of places to sit and relax and had plenty of charging stations for everyone's electronics.  I haven't used airports in a while but it was noteworthy.
They arrived on time and took the train from the airplane to the gate.  It was exciting to see them after 4 weeks.  You'd have thought it was years.  Harry was in his happy place, Grandma's arms.

The boys were on their first plane trip and it was fun for them.  They did pretty well.  Brooks was a little upset when we left the terminal to pick up a rental car because he didn't want to leave "Florida."  Mommy explained he thought the airport was Florida...

Things got a lot better when we stopped at Chic-Fil-A for lunch.  The boys were out for the drive to St. Pete and their rental house on Pass A Grill Beach.  It was perfect and everyone adjusted after a couple of nights.

We wasted little time hitting the beach.  It was a little cool but it we walked down to it and played with the boys for a while.
The rental house was in pretty good shape and had everything they needed except food and drink.
Jon and I made a quick trip to the grocery and filled the cupboards.

Jon cooked on the grill and after dinner Pam and made the 15-minute drive back to the Roadrunner.
Our campground location could not have been any more convenient and turned out to be a great choice.

The next day we met up and all drove over to the Great Explorations Children's Museum in Tampa.
It had a kids Publix grocery store,
 and a pizza place they could make cloth pizza's which were not nearly as messy as the real thing.
Another favorite for Brooks was this big netted climbing contraption.  He went all the way to the top and returned.
After the museum we went to a local pizza place for lunch and it was delicious.  We made it back to the beach house in time for naps

Another day we went to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.  It is a run by a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of some animals.  We got to see some dolphins that were made famous in the Dolphin Tale movies.
An attendant explained what was going on with five resident pelicans living there.
It was a real joy to spend time with the grandkids again and to see Kelly and Jon.

While at their beach house one afternoon, I went for a walk along the beautiful Pass A Grill Beach to the famous Don CeSar Hotel.  What an iconic relic of the past!  I told Pam it reminded me of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki.  Sure enough -- it was modeled after it.

In 1928 when it opened it was known as Florida's "Pink Palace."  It struggled during the Depression Years.  During World War II it served as a hospital for soldiers, sailors and airmen struggling from the effects of war (Sounds like PTSD, but back then it was politely called something else.)
After the war, it regained some prominence with famous people staying their including baseball greats Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig.  Joe Dimaggio honeymooned there with new wife Marilyn Monroe.  FDR and F. Scott Fitzgerald were also guests. 
I walked about a mile along the beach to the hotel, walked through it and took some pictures.  I love this kind of history.
Our stay with the kids was great.  It did our hearts good to see Brooks and Harrison again and we reminded ourselves that we'll see them again in a couple months. 

Before we left the area, we were able to connect with good RV friends Marj and George.  We had seen then in Virginia Beach in the summer, but we always jump at the chance to see them when we can.
We went out to lunch at Billy's Stone Crabs and went back to our place for a little while.
We left for the Keys the next day and loved our time with everyone in St. Pete.

Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles today!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Marg, Bill and Bok Tower

Sometimes I get a second chance on my blog posts.  In this case, I began this draft two years ago but never completed it.  Then, we were visiting Marg and Bill, we took a short day trip over to a popular tourist attraction, the famous (to folks in the area) Bok Tower Gardens.  Now (Dec 2018) that we are seeing Bill and Marg once again
I decided to complete one of my "draft" posts.  I've started and not completed a number of posts over the years.  So here is my take on an attraction worth seeing near Lakeland, FL:
Meaghan's parents Bill and Marg winter at the SanLan RV and Golf Resort in Lakeland FL.  We were very glad to be able to line up a few days together and see them.

The campground is a very large one and getting ready for snowbird guests to arrive.  We got a nice spot with plenty of space and a concrete patio.  All the acres and acres of grass is mowed and the whole campground is well maintained.
The second day here  I jumped at the chance to wash off some of the two weeks travel grime off the Roadrunner.
The roof also cleaned up pretty nicely.
Though we only have a few days together, Bill and I were able to squeeze in a couple of days of golf.  We both had some good holes mixed up with the ones we didn't score too well.
One day we went out by ourselves and the next day we played with his weekly men's group at another course and also enjoyed it.

We took the time to hang out together and have dinner each evening, splitting our time between eating out and having dinner at each others places. 

On Saturday we took a day trip to Bok Tower and Gardens near Lake Wales which were quite impressive.  It was a nice 40 minute drive from Lakeland through some back roads.
As we drove into the area, it looked as if it was a relatively new Visitor's Center, but the Bok Tower and Gardens have been around for a long time.  It was completed in 1929 and has been an attraction ever since.
The genius behind the beautiful place is Edward W. Bok.  His family emigrated from the Netherlands after the turn of the last century.  He eventually became a wildly successful publisher and Pulitizer-prize winning author and accumulated substantial wealth.
He loved visiting Florida from Pennsylvania and decided to purchase land which included Iron Mountain.  It is 298 feet above sea level and the highest plot of land for miles.  Bok wanted to recreate the area and make it into a world class garden and bird sanctuary.  He also commissioned Milton Medary (a Philadelphia architect) along with stone sculptor Lee Lawrie to build a 205' tower with a 60-bell carillon.
The sculptor's other work in on display all around the country.  He also worked on the Nebraska State Capitol which we visited late July, 2013.
The grounds are now almost 100 years old and have beautiful trees and vegetation.

A tribute in the gardens to a Japanese member of Bok's staff

Marg and Pam near the very tall tower.

We were there when a musician conducted a short recital on the bells housed within the carillon.

Bok died in 1930 and is buried near the base of the tower.

It was a beautiful day to see the garden and towers and we especially liked the short concert.  It was fun to share it with Marg and Bill.

Thanks for taking a look with us on the Roadrunner Chronicles.