Saturday, December 24, 2011

Key West Christmas Greetings - 2011

We want to wish you all a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year !!

Key West - December 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Roadrunner Reflections: First 20 Days in Florida

We are in Florida for the winter.  We crossed the border and have been in the state since December 2.  We love it here and some things have impressed me about the state:

  1. They are glad to see us.  Florida loves visitors.  At the first Welcome Center and everywhere else we have felt nothing but a friendly response.
  2. It is warm here.  Unseasonably warm at the moment.  Which is completely fine with us.  We hoped it would be nice and it is.
  3. The breezes are nice.  Everyday we have a little wind and the gentle breezes are great.  One of life's pleasures - a warm day and a gentle breeze.
  4. The oranges are cheap here.  Yeah - no surprise there but the oranges and grapefruit are great and they don't cost much.  At the Welcome Center, the OJ was free!
  5. They have good flea markets here.  We visited the one in Dade City and another a few days ago in Hialeah and thought they were both very good.
  6. The highways are great.  The roads we have traveled from Jacksonville to Tampa to Miami have been quite impressive.  They maintain them well.
  7. The mow the aprons along the highways.  This tells me that the state budget is holding up pretty well since they mow along the highways and dividers.  Some states we have visited in the last couple of years have quit doing that.
  8. Rest areas are nice.  In fact, in some stretches of highway, they are building huge, new, nice rest stops.  Again, the state is doing some things to attract more visitors.
  9. There are a lot of snow birds here.  Yeah - no surprise there.  It is crowded most every where so we will avoid Walmart at mid day and yesterday we got caught in commuter traffic from Miami.  
  10. The campgrounds have been good.  We are in Miami now at a City Park (Larry and Penny Thompson) and it is not yet full.  It is $32 a night and one that we definitely will come back to.
The kids flew in yesterday from BWI and we are going to spend a couple of days here before we head down to the Keys for Christmas.  Hope you all are enjoying friends and family and this time of the year.

Thanks for dropping us a note / comment.  And thanks for viewing the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wrapping it Up in Dade City

We finished our one-week build with the Care-A-Vanners yesterday.  In addition to the fun work on the two homes, we went out to dinner as a group at a local place in nearby Zephyrhills:  Maine-ly New England.
The food was excellent and the price was great.

Since it was our last day yesterday, the affiliate provide lunch for us at the work site.  Then I got some pictures of our group.  Moving along clockwise, we have Scotty and Lynn, Mary Ann and Art, John and Janie and Diane and Greg.
Also Steven and Janet, Lois and Stuart, Peggy and Dale with Donna and Ken.
A couple of single ladies were one the team:  Laurie and Arlien.  Then we had a couple of longer term snow birds who spend the winter here working with the local Habitat group, Jerry Ernie and then Pam and I.
 The work crew was great.  Jerry was the construction supervisor and has that exceptional ability to teach and give everyone productive work according to their experience and ability.  It was really great to work with these guys.
And a group shot:
Later in the afternoon, we went to another Habitat home for a dedication.  They had a very nice ceremony and agenda prepared.
A TV station from Tampa interviewed the new home owner and she also received a quilt from some ladies in the area.
There was a good turnout from the local area  and it was a real treat to get to see a dedication ceremony.

It was another great week with Habitat  and now we head south to Miami for a few days.  Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles.  And thanks for the nice comments.  Keep them coming!  Until next time...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Care-A-Vanner Habitat for Humanity, Dade City, FL

We are in Dade City, FL for a week-long Habitat for Humanity Build.
We are here with nine other couples and two single ladies.  The area where they parked us is called "Volunteer Camp".  It has full hookups and as you can see, it is a bit crowded.  But we are not here for the amenities or scenery this time.  It is completely adequate.
The work has been great.  Jerry and John and the other leaders keep us moving and explain things and let us do alot.  This has been the biggest Care-A-Vanner groups (20 people) so it takes some planning to keep us productive throughout the day.
Stuart and John laid out the floor and made marks where the walls go.  And others put felt on the roof and put nails in the outside walls.
And we started framing the walls and setting them upright out of the way until we were ready for them. And others put the house wrap up on the outside.  On this house they secure rods the full length of the walls and bolt them into top and bottom for hurricane protection.
 Once the walls were in place, we square it and secure it, then make some more walls.
And we have our breaks-- one at 10:00 for about 20 minutes and another for lunch at 12:00 for about 35 minutes.  Then we wrap it up about 2:00 or 2:30 which is fine with us.  The heat and hard work take their toll.  Then there is that aging thing…we run out of gas about then, so it all works out.
Yesterday, right after lunch about eight of us went over to a warehouse and loaded some pre-made walls onto a trailer for the house next door.  These walls were made by a church in Tampa and sent over to Dade City.  It is impressive that there is such good coordination with other communities and churches in the area.
It has been a good build and we recommend it.  The group here is a hard working bunch and the work has been fun.

Tomorrow is a bonus-- we have a house dedication at 4 PM and will see Dedication Ceremony for a new homeowner and many of the folks in the Habitat Office who made their house possible.  This affiliate is going to finish their 100th home sometime later this summer!

That is all for this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles.  Thanks for joining us.  Until next time…

Monday, December 12, 2011

From Tampa to Dade City FL

After our stay at Mayport NS outside of Jacksonville FL, we drove over to the Tampa area and stayed three nights at the MacDill AFB FamCamp.  MacDill Outdoor Recreation does a good job of making the hundreds of snowbirds and RV campers feel welcome.

We were impressed with a robust calendar of events for campers.  The very large campground has hundreds of campsites and is organized by temporary/overnighters and longer term guests.  The campground is near the beach which is where I took the sunset photo for the blog header.

They also have a cafe near the campground that caters to campers and has some specials during the week and some $5 dinner promotions going.  While we were there they had a 'camper welcome' potluck luncheon where the base commander and campground staff welcomed the campers.  They also had live music and it was a nice touch.  They like the winter campers here.

From Tampa/MacDill AFB, we headed over to Dade City where we are now.  We are ready to roll with the local affiliate of the Habitat for Humanity group.  We are part of the Care-A-Vanners group for a week long stay here.

Dade City has a lot for campers where we have full hookups, laundry and restroom facilities. We are packed in pretty tightly with the 17 RV's, but it is fine and completely adequate.

We had a little 'meet and greet' session last evening and got some information and were introduced to the other 20 Care-A-Vanners here.

This morning we start our work week.  Some have already been here for a couple of weeks and said they have a lot of good work for us to do so we are looking forward to it.

Hope everyone has a good week.  Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!
Until next time...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Five Star Campground

We have not found many RV campgrounds we would consider "Five Stars" in our 2 1/2 years of Full-Timing.  But Pelican Roost Campground at Mayport NS, FL is one that fits that category.  We don't stay at  expensive leisure resorts so our stay at Mayport was great.

It was great for a lot of reasons.

  1. The view from our campsite was great.  I was really cool to be 50 feet from the water and watch military and commercial ships go by. We saw destroyers and cruise ships, tug boats and autoliners and big cargo carrying ships.
  2. The campsite was on a concrete pad with full hookups and the spacing between rigs was fine.  
  3. The $20 fee/night was good.  (We had to pay all of $2.00 extra to be on the front row near the water!)  We have paid $20 a night for a lot less.
  4. Laundry at the campsite was free!  That was a big surprise and the facilities are new and well kept.
  5. The campground was clean and well maintained.
  6. Allowed to wash the RV at your campsite.
  7. Entry/exit on/off the base is easy.
  8. Staff is friendly.  No hassles or close 'over the shoulder scrutiny' of campers which is nice.
  9. Only a short 10 minute walk to a big beach.
  10. Within walking distance to shopette and post office.
  11. People are friendly.  For some reason (maybe it is Florida in the winter time?) people there were friendly.  Seemed like we got into a friendly conversation with folks 3-4 times a day.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures while there:
The view from our campsite (before we got set up):
The beach:
The beach at sunrise:
Washing the RV:
And trawlers:
And Navy ships:

We got to see a lot and we enjoyed our time at Mayport.  We intend to visit again and stay longer than three days!

So that is one place we would call a 'Five Star' campground.  

What is one campground you have been that you really like?

Hope you are having a good week.  Thanks for joining us on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Please stop by again!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Roadrunner Financials - November 2011

Roadrunner Recap
In November, we were in Virginia Beach at the Sea Mist RV Campground which is on the Oceana NAS complex.  We are right on the beach (100 yards from it to be exact) but this campground we have visited before.  It is well maintained and we entertained some of Kelly's friends for her birthday party in the middle of the month.

Pam's birthday follows Kelly's by two days and so we usually combine the celebrations and festivities.  This time, we had a group of Kelly's friends over for ball ladder toss and kickball, and then hung out near the campsite.

During the month, we traveled from Virginia Beach to Columbia South Carolina:
  • Sea Mist RV Campground, Dam Neck/Oceana NAS, Virginia Beach VA      
  • Shaw AFB FamCamp, Columbia SC
Here's an interactive map that shows where we traveled.  You can click on the letters and it will tell you the location.  
And a static map of the route:

Good News Areas We Are Under Budget

At almost $1000 over budget, we didn't do too well this month.
However, we were under budget in two categories:  RV Maintenance and Campground fees.

Biggest Expenses
Medical was definitely a cost driver this month, and we were also over budget in a couple of other areas -- eating out and driving around putting gas in our car.

Large One Time Cost Item

Our biggest cost this month was for dental:  we paid $371 for a Humana Dental Plan and another $899 for some dental work.  Yikes!  Crowns are not cheap!

Monthly Average

We started off the 'fiscal year' over budget and were doing pretty well until another spike in September when we had a lot of RV repairs and got a residential refrigerator installed.  At this rate, it will be hard to get back to our target level averages but we will see.

I have often said this is more of a tracking tool and an estimate than a budget -- this month's spending proves it.  That's what our spending looked like for the month.  Thanks for taking a peek.  Hopefully they provide help or entertainment of some sort...  If you'd like a free copy of the spreadsheet I use, drop me a note and I will be glad to send it along.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Friday, December 2, 2011

On to Florida

We broke camp just after the sun came up on Tuesday when we left Virginia Beach.  We drove down to Shaw AFB (in Sumter SC not far from Columbia)and stayed a couple of nights at the FamCamp.  The drive was 384 miles and took us about 7 hours.
From Shaw AFB, we are en route to Mayport, FL near Jacksonville where we will stay for a few days.  It has been good weather and looks like it will even get better.

While at Shaw AFB, we played golf on Wednesday.  It was a beautiful day and a very nice golf course.  And the price at $12 each included greens fees and an electric cart.

The course was very well maintained and in great shape.  It wasn't very crowded and we made it around in about 3 1/2 hours.

Yesterday, we went to the base gym which has been renovated and expanded.  It has  a lot of new equipment so we got on the elliptical, rowing and bike machines.  It was a great hour of cardio work.

This is the time of the month that I do my online work, so Pam is driving while I get this out and then log some  work hours.  I am very thankful for the work.  And Pam is a great driver so I expect to get a lot done while we motor down the highway to Mayport.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Big Thanksgiving Weekend

We thoroughly enjoyed the weekend.  Adam rode the train down from DC and stayed with Kelly in Norfolk, and we were in Virginia Beach ~ so we were all nearby.

It was a beautiful weekend and I was able to take a couple of bike rides.  The Virginia Beach boardwalk is about 6.5 miles from our campground which makes it a good distance for a ride.
 Thanksgiving day, 'we' got down to business and prepared some food.
Since Adam is a vegan, he put together a granola-squash-honey thing that was delicious.  Pam cooked some potatoes mashed potatoes we took to the group pot luck.

At the pot luck, I got to carve a turkey and everyone put their dishes out for a big spread.
 Meanwhile, Ryan was deep frying three other turkeys in the back yard.
They turned out great and was one of the favorites of the day.

One Friday, quite a few of the same group got together to do some decorating at the church.
 Along with the new curtains, we made a wire mesh Christmas tree for Angel Tree tags.
Up front, NOEL  was placed on the wall.
 I wish I had taken more pictures of all the help that was there...
While we were doing that, Adam was back at the RV studying.  Then we all went over to Kelly's and then out to eat at Razzo's which is a really good restaurant in Oceanview.
Razzo's is an Italian place with great atmosphere in the Oceanview area near Kelly's house.  After dinner we went back to Kelly's house and hung out for a while.  Adam was getting on the train heading back up to DC the next day and was spending his last night at Kellys.  I thought it would be a good time to get a family group photo for Christmas.  
But alas, it was not to be.  My attempts were thwarted…I quickly lost control and never got it done...

On Sunday, after church, a group went out to lunch and had a good time.

Yesterday, Pam and cleaned up, ran errands, packed up and got the coach all ready to travel.  We leave in a couple of hours for parts south and Florida in the next few days.

Our 7 weeks in Virginia has been great.  We especially enjoyed getting to see Kelly and Adam and our friends in Fairfax.  And seeing Adam and Melissa run the Marine Corps Marathon.  And getting involved here in Habitat for Humanity again.  And the beach and nice weather. And the golf and the…

Thanks for checking in again on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Hope you have a great week.  Until next time...  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Best Time of the Year

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
Every year the few days around Thanksgiving seem to kick off the "Let's be nice to everybody" season.  I really like that and wonder why we can't be like that all year…

This time of the year makes me a little nostalgic and reflective.  This year is no different.
I am very blessed and thankful for the family I have.  I am keenly aware that everybody can't say that.  Pam is simply the best.  And I would not change one iota about our kids.  Adam and Kelly are two wonderful, great kids.  They are no longer kids --but you get the idea.  They bless us every day.  Thank goodness for cell phones and other technology that keeps us close when we are miles away.

I am  especially thankful for this life we are able to live.  Over the past 2 1/2 years we have had the chance to meet new people and reacquaint ourselves with some old friends and experience Americana from coast to coast and border to border.  In many ways I feel like we are just getting started.

We didn't know how this lifestyle would work out for the holidays when we started out.  But it has been great.  This year we are in Virginia Beach and Adam rode the train from D.C. to Norfolk last night.  He is a Kelly's place in Norfolk and they will be coming over later today.

We will join with Kelly's fellowship group from church and have a big Thanksgiving meal together later in the afternoon.  And I am looking forward to taking a picture of the turkey like I do every Thanksgiving.  It is part of the tradition.

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving Day traditions?

I don't know why we did that but my dad always took a picture of the Thanksgiving Day turkey (and Christmas too) while the rest of the food was getting cold and being put on the table….

Here's one I took years ago of the Thanksgiving Day turkey on the table:

I want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that you are with your family and/or friends at this time of the year.

Thank you for being part of our great adventure and taking the time to view The Roadrunner Chronicles and especially drop a note.  A very special 'thank you' to all of those of you that have 'Followed' or signed up as 'Friends' on the Roadrunner Chronicles ~ it is a big deal to know that you are out there….

Until next time...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Habitat Groupon Golf and Birthdays

Not knowing exactly what to call today's edition, I decided to 'focus' on four items:

Habitat for Humanity -
As you may know, we love working with local affiliates and are glad to be back in the South Hampton Roads area to work with some of the same group who befriended us here last year.  

Our latest assignment is an old house in nearby Portsmith that is being refurbished and redone.  
Our effort has been concentrated on the small back porch and deck.
What I loved about this project was that we got to learn about the whole thing from the beginning.  Joe measured out where the 4x4 foot posts went, we dug the holes, poured in cement, then we worked off that to attach the support runner from the house.   
It took us a couple of days and we are still not done, but we got the deck on and now are working on the steps, support posts and railing.

Pam and I also love to play golf and we have done that a few times while the weather has been good here.  I found a city course deal on Groupon.  $14 covered greens fees and carts so it was a bargain.
Also, we played three city courses in the area we normally would not have played:  Bow Creek,  Kempsville and Red Wing.
They are all on the rebound and the new management company that is managing them for the city is really doing a great job.  Apparently six months ago, they were in bad shape, but the new crew is really getting them in shape.

I loved them all but my favorite was the last one we played at Red Wing.  Pam enjoyed them also.  The thing I noticed is that they are not really long courses and they give the woman a 50-80 yard advantage off the tee box.  Their teeing area is well out in front of the men's but that makes it more fun and competitive for everyone.

We have seen some great deals lately on Groupon - Have you?  Do you use Groupon?

In addition to the Habitat and Golf, we have celebrated birthdays in the last couple of weeks.  

Kelly's friends from church usually get together during the week a couple of times and we joined up for a Sunday afternoon cookout and kickball time at the RV campground.  These 'kids' (late twenties are a great bunch and very welcoming to us.
In addition to Kelly and Pam's birthdays in the last few days, I think there must have been 5 or 6 other peoples as well.
It was a bit windy but we were able to eat and hangout and they even had a rousing game of kickball.  Some really got into it and it was fun.
Afterwards, we chatted some.
It was coolish so that didn't last long before everyone headed out.

We are thoroughly enjoying our time here in Virginia Beach and will be here two more weeks.  I love this time of the year and it is great to be near our kids!  Adam will be joining us next week for Thanksgiving and we are looking forward to it.

I hope you and yours are well and looking forward to the holidays also.  Thanks for joining on this edition of the Roadrunner Chronicles!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Our Flag and Thank You Veteran's!

I know it isn't officially flag day, but every day is flag day for me... And Veterans Day seems like a good day for a post about the flag we fly outside our RV.  

I have always been an enthusiastic supporter of showing our flag.  I don't know why that is ~ maybe because my dad would put the flag out on special occasions when I was growing up.  I have been 'patriotic' ever since I can remember.  My dad spent a career in the Army Air Corps/US Air Force so I was always around flags and ceremony and have great respect and love for our Country.

My brother Marty was in the Navy during the Viet Nam war off the gulf of Tonkin.  Also, my brother Brad served in the Air Force and flew KC-135 tankers.  My brother-in-law Mike served in the Army in Viet Nam bull dozing air strips.  And I met Pam in the Air Force.  She worked on ECCM gear on AC-130/Spectre Gunships, MC-130/Combat Talon, and F-4/Phantom aircraft.  And I served 20 years, retiring from the Air Force in 1995.

And I know many of you have served or are serving.  I think it is a wonderful thing to support our military.  And I think it is due in a large part to George H.W. Bush.  He made it a priority to have parades and publicly thank our returning military members returning from Gulf War I.  Before that happened, I don't remember it being 'in fashion' to thank the military.  Now everybody does it.

I have always loved our flag.  I remember getting choked up at baseball games at college and high school baseball games in the 1970's. When we would rise to hear our national anthem being played to start things off, I remember saying to myself, "This is the best part of being here ~ being able to hear the national anthem being played".  Other than that ...I can't explain it.

Pam remembers getting the flag duty in grade school the day President Kennedy died.  She and some friends then had to go back out in the middle of the day and lower it to half staff.

When we moved to Virginia and bought our house in 1995, I bought a flag and decided to hang it out every day.  We had the All-American dream:  2.0 kids, a house with a two car garage, white picket fence, dog --- and a flag flying every day.

When we started full-timing in May 2009, we saw people who had flags flying outside their RVs.  Our favorite was Frank's.  We talked and he gave us some instructions and a build list to make our own.  Thank you Frank Cason.  He gave us some great plans which we modified a bit.

We had the plans for a few months before Pam finally took them and built our flag pole that we use almost daily.  And Kelly made the plans and diagrams that hopefully you will find helpful if you want to make one like this.
So here are the plans Kelly created from our notes/modifications and Frank's original drawings:  

The pole(s) come apart for easy storage.  And there are a few other things.
I picked up a 2' piece of rebar (from Lowe's) that I pound into the ground.  Then I put two 1" washers over the top of the rebar that slides down to the ground.  This helps the PVC pole swivel. 
Then I slide the assembled pole over the rebar.  As you can see here, I have an extra 3' of 1/2 " PVC leaning against the rebar.  That goes over the rebar (for a little strength) and inside the 1" pole.  
Note: The build list does not include the 1/2" pipe 3' long, 3' of rebar, washers, and eye screws.  You will also need a very small carbiner hook to fasten the flag to the eyelet screw.

The whole thing assembled looks like this:
Then the flags - the large US flag and smaller state flags and Canada flags:
The small flags needed a 'sleeve' that Pam sewed along the edge so that we can hang it sideways.  We pull out the bottom bar, slide it through the sleeve of the flag, and replace it into the T-joint.

If you can not enlarge the picture above or would like me to send you the .pdf file, let me know:
Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chrnoicles!  And thank you veterans!