Sunday, January 27, 2013

Reconnecting with friends

Panama City Beach, FL

Another nice benefit of fulltime RVing is the ability to reconnect with friends and relatives who may live too far from a "sticks and bricks" home to visit very often.  Having wheels under our home allows us to catch up with those we have not seen in a while.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

New Friends, New Adventures

Panama City Beach, FL

Seems as though we're finally getting into the swing of things here at our current "home" (at least for the next 3 weeks). On Thursday night a group of approximately 25 from the campground went out for dinner at a nearby themed restaurant.

Real motorcycles used at the bar (photo courtesy of The Wicked
Wheel website)
 I say themed because the restaurant named The Wicked Wheel uses real motorcycles, older cars, and accessories to "decorate" the interior.

1923 Ford T-Bucket
 I'm not really into motorcycles, but the place was pretty interesting to look at.  Better yet, the food was good, and the service excellent. Karen, who is not a big seafood eater, had catfish (hey they come out of water, too) and I had a chicken Philly sandwich. I have eaten Philly steak sandwiches before, but it was a first for me to have a chicken filled one.  Very tasty.

Today we got a chance to visit St. Andrews State Park. It is located on the eastern end of the island from Panama City Beach.

We rode our fold-up bikes on the paved roads and did a bit of GeoCaching on a few of the trails in the park.

We were looking for one of the GeoCaches off a trail near Gator Lake and had hoped to spot a gator or two, but this was about as close as we got to a gator sighting today.

The State Park also has a very nice campground containing 176 sites with water and electric hookups.  There is a dump station and several bath houses in the campground.  We saw everything in smaller sites from tents to 40' motorhomes in some of the larger sites.  The weather was gorgeous with a high of 70 degrees and very low humidity.  A perfect day for riding and walking through the park.

There is an area for the little ones to swim and play in the water called the Kiddie Pool.  It's actually the shallow area between the West Jetty and the beach adjacent to the Grand Lagoon which leads into the Gulf of Mexico.

Relatively new fishing pier
The water was definitely too cold for swimming at this time of the year (without some type of dry suit), but we did relax for a bit on the beach.  The sand is so white and sugary soft in this part of the state.

Soft white sand and turquoise water

                                                    Hey, just another day in paradise!

                                                            Thanks for stopping by and taking a look.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Turning into "Golden Girls (People)"?

                                     Remember the series "The Golden Girls"?

We feel like we have become "Golden People".  After years of stressing in our careers, it hasn't taken us long to get into a more relaxing pace of life.  We have been here in Florida for 3 weeks now, and have settled into a nice daily routine:  We get up fairly early (7:30 or so), walk/run (Steve runs, I walk) 3 miles daily, soak up some sun by the pool (weather permitting), and then tend to the chores of the day.

Even Willey, our 12-year-old cat is enjoying life as a "retiree".  When we lived in Virginia, he went outside as he pleased.  Now, in an unfamiliar "backyard", he is a little more skittish.  We have taken him out a time or two on a leash and harness, but after "getting all Houdini on us", he now enjoys the fresh air riding in his stroller.

We still have a few boxes of items that need to be "absorbed" into the motorhome, or gotten rid of.  We are scanning the THOUSANDS of photographs we have taken over the years, and keeping just a digital copy of them.  We still have a few items that we are selling on eBay, and make occasional trips to the local post office to get those packages in the mail.

This area of Florida is a little unusual, as it seems to be the "cooler" part of the state.  We have had some nights where the temperatures have flirted with the freezing mark, and some days that only get into the 40s. Many restaurants and shops nearby are marked with "Closed for the Season" signs, and reopen in late February/early March for Spring Break (I didn't know that ANY place in Florida was "closed for the season".)  We have talked to some locals who say Panama City Beach is a zoo in the late Spring and early summer, and that many residents of this area flock to the Keys during the winter to get to the warmer weather.

We do find time to explore the area, however.  On Tuesday, after dropping a package off at the local post office, we drove up to Panama City (Panama City is on the "mainland" of Florida, and is separated from Panama City Beach by a bay, and does have frontage on the Gulf of Mexico).  We stopped at the Panama City Marina and walked around a bit.  There was a nice (and unexpected) monument to September 11 near the water.....

....and LOTS of boats, of varying size.  It was a beautiful day, and very relaxing to be near the water.  Afterward, we hopped in the car, and drove along the coast, admiring the million-dollar homes in the area.

Way before Bingo was to begin
Yesterday, our day was similar to other days in the,post office and going to the pool.  In the evening we joined some of our campground neighbors for Bingo (I was told to arrive about 30 minutes before the game's a very popular activity here.) Steve even won a little money, but he had to share the pot with 2 other winners for that game.

We have 3 more weeks here in Panama City Beach, and have more to see.  We are very spoiled here!

Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Blogs and Friends

One of the nicest things about fulltime RVing is making new friends.  Often, we are introduced to our new friends through their blogs.  Interestingly, many of our new RV friends are from our old home state of Virginia.

We first met Pam and Randy Warner at Life on Wheels, an educational RV program taught at several locations throughout the country.  They were looking for a motorhome at about the same time we were, and we would run into them at local RV shows. They were able to find a gently used Allegro Bus and leave Virginia to live in their RV fulltime in 2009.(We were sooooo envious!)  They have an interesting blog  The Roadrunner Chronicles. We continue to see them on occasion in our travels.

In reading other RVers' blogs, I happened to stumble upon Paul and Marti Dahl's blog, RSanityRVTravels.  They were preparing for fulltime RV living, and we enjoyed following them in their joys and trials of selling their sticks and bricks home, and hitting the road in December of 2011.  We keep in touch with them while on the road, and they were even kind enough to alter their travel plans a bit last Fall so that they could meet up with us at a rally in Arkansas, as they were staying not too far away in Branson.  It's nice that as fulltimers, our plans are "written in jello" (or,as Paul would say, we can be "semper gumby".....always flexible!) and can easily be changed.

Yesterday, we had the distinct pleasure of meeting with Erin and Mui for lunch.  They have an interesting blog filled with lots of info and Erin's beautiful photography: 2toTravelPhaeton.  They left Virginia as fulltime RVers a month before we did, and we were glad we could meet them in person.  Our campground in Panama City Beach is about 2 hours away from where they are staying near Pensacola, and we drove to Gulf Breeze, Florida for a wonderful lunch at Niki's Restaurant.  The food was very good, and the conversation even better, and over two hours had passed in the blink of an eye.  We look forward to keeping up with their travel adventures as well, and to meeting up again with them in the future.

Sorry, Erin, we truly didn't copy your blog picture.

On the way home from lunch, we stopped at Camping World in Gulf Breeze.  We were looking specifically to replace our heavier camping chairs with folding aluminum-framed ones, but did not find anything that we really liked.  We also looked at cleaning supplies there, but our only purchase was a new 2013 campground directory.  We stopped at Publix grocery store (waaaayyyy overpriced!) for a few items, and then came back to the coach for the night.

The weather is definitely changing.  When we left Panama City Beach yesterday morning to meet up with Erin and Mui, it was sunny and 73 degrees.  We passed through a rain storm on the drive to Gulf Breeze, indicative of the front that was coming through the area.  By the time we got to the restaurant, it was raining and 58!  Once we got home last evening, the temperature continued to drop, and the rain began.  We see that Virginia is due to get a little snow today.......we sure don't miss that! :-)

Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Some Sun, but Mostly Cloudy

Panama City Beach, FL

That's about how you can describe the last few days here.  Not that we're complaining, because many other areas of the country are having some nasty weather right now.

The mornings are usually cloudy, followed by a bit of midday sun, then it clouds up again in the afternoon. It's been a bit on the humid side the past few days, so we decided to go out and take a look around the area.

One of the best ways we've found to explore an unfamiliar area is thru the "sport or adventure" of GeoCaching.  For those not familiar with this activity it can be described as a scavenger type of hunt for both young and old.  It used to require a handheld GPS receiver to search for the many "treasures" scattered throughout the world, but now "caches" (as they're called) can be located using apps on Smart Phones as well.  A quick search for geocaching apps for either Iphones or Android phones will turn up many applications to enable your phone to be able to locate these caches.  I usually use a dedicated hand held GPS receiver (GPSR), but also use the app c:geo on my android-based phone because it works well and because it's FREE.  I like free.

We selected a few caches located within a couple of miles of our location and went searching.  We've found that the real excitement when GeoCaching is in the hunt, usually not in the cache's contents itself.  Many caches are very small and only contain a "log" book which enables the finder to sign in that they have indeed located the cache.  Many larger caches contain "trinkets" such as children's small toys, coins, GeoCoins, or Travel Bugs.  For more information on the latter items, please visit the GeoCaching site mentioned earlier. The entire game is explained very well on the "official" site of GeoCaching.

                               Here's a picture of one of the sites we visited today. 

See, probably a location I would have never visited. Seriously, we've found GeoCaching to be a lot of fun and it has taken us to many places which we otherwise would never have found.

                                        Oh yes, it does turn nice at the end of the day.

View from our campsite

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Not Always Fun and Games

The fulltiming lifestyle is not always venturing out to see new things and take pretty pictures.  Sometimes we have to stay put and get a few routine chores and maintenance items taken care of.  That was the case today.  We've been spending the day emailing and making phone calls to get all of our insurance requirements for the Fit and the MH squared away.

We had been with Progressive Insurance for the MH since it was purchased in April, 2010.  Our other vehicles (and S&B) were with State Farm.  The Fit's insurance was due for renewal in January, so after doing some insurance shopping we've decided to place all of our vehicles with Progressive.  I thought "how hard could that be"? Well, as it turned out, a bit more than I thought.  Because we had recently switched all of our vehicle's registrations (and our driver's licenses) to South Dakota, the MH part of the insurance was almost like starting over. 

Well, with the help of our agent Farm and City Insurance Services in Forest City, IA we were able to get thru the paperwork.  As FTers, we wanted to have personal liability coverage as well. For anyone not familiar with this type of coverage it is similar to coverage you would need if you still lived in a S&B house and the neighbor broke his foot climbing your steps. The additional coverage is relatively inexpensive and might be worth considering if you do not currently have this in place.

Maintenance items on the rig will always be ongoing. (At least if we'd like to keep our rig for any length of time.)  Today I finally got around to doing some cleaning of the awning metal covers which the awning covers are housed in when the slides are in. Over time, when the awnings are rolled in and out a lot fine twigs and small leaves get wedged under the metal covers and will eventually cause problems for the rolling of the awning covers.

The cleaning process, fortunately, is not too difficult.  Obtain the proper allen wrench and loosen the top bolt while loosening the lower bolt enough to allow the can to swing upward on each end of the metal awning "cans".

On our longer slideouts the awning "cans" have a bracket in the center of the roller which must be released. Again, simple after you do it the first time.  Since this was my first time, however, it took me a few minutes to figure out how it was secured.  It's actually very simple to release.  The lower part is spring loaded and a screwdriver pushing to the left will free that bracket so that the entire cover can be rotated upward.

Once the covers were raised it's a simple matter of blowing or brooming off all of the debris under the metal covers.  To re-attach, just do the reverse as stated above.

Pretty mundane stuff today, but hey, no one said that fulltiming was all fun and games.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Our Home for January

We finally arrived at our January destination in Panama City Beach, FL at the Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort.

It rained pretty much the entire trip from Jacksonville to Panama City Beach.  We were very glad to finally arrive to settle down for the next month.  The car and MH were a mess from the rain and road grime.

We've found that most CGs won't allow the washing of cars and RVs, but this one allows the washing of cars and trucks for $1 and RVs for $3.  Since I believe that I can do a better job than the local car wash, the Fit got a bath today.

I guess we've hit the high temperature for today (only 57 degrees), but that's still better than the cold of Virginia.  We got a chance to take a stroll around the campground and take a look at a few of the amenities.
One of several laundries

Our Site #6

One of the heated pools

Pet Wash
             .....and Paul here's one especially for you.  This alone would make your trip worthwhile.

The staff and neighbors we've spoken with all seem very friendly.  I'm thinking that we might come to like this new Fulltiming lifestyle!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

1st Real Trip as Fulltimers

We left Dumfries, VA on 1/1/13 en route to our first monthly destination in Panama City Beach, FL.  It was in the high 30's when we left.  We had one prior "adventure" the night before which christened us into this new lifestyle.

We had been at the CG in Dumfries, VA since the end of October without any electrical problems, although electrical management was called for as we only had a 30 amp hookup.  We arrived back to the rig and turned on the electric auxilliary heater we had used many times before in the past months.

Immediately, our Progressive Industries surge protector killed the power to the rig.  This unit also gives you an "error" code to give you a clue as to what the problem was that caused the shutdown.  The unit indicated "low voltage".   Actually 88 volts.   I went out to the pedestal and could smell a burning electrical smell (although the 30 amp breaker had not tripped).  I flipped the breaker to OFF and disconnected our line.  We are using a 30 to 50 amp pigtail because of the 30 amp availability.

You can see how badly burned the neutral was in the pictures below.

Well, it was going to be too darn cold to go without heat for the evening, so we decided it was time for our monthly exercising of the generator.  We notified the campground office of the problem and they gave us the OK to use the generator for the night.  Out of courtesy, we notified our neighbors on each side who were very accommodating and sympathetic to our plight.

We pulled out bright and early at 10:00 AM (hey, we're fulltimers now).  No PDD here (Sorry Paul, but I had to throw that one in). 
Topping off with propane
Ready to Roll

We drove to our anticipated destination for the night at Dillon, SC only to find that the CG was full.  Imagine that on a holiday!  Our stupid mistake for not making a reservation.  No problem.  Onward we drove to Swamp Fox Campground near Florence, SC.  We used our newly acquired Passport America to obtain an overnight rate of $22.40 including taxes.  Not a bad place to stay the night, not sure about longer term.

On 1/2/13 we got off to a much earlier start.  Left shortly after 9:00 AM and drove for 5 hours to just north of Jacksonville, FL.  We're spending the night at Pecan Park RV Resort.  It's now 67 degrees, but a light rain. Again, using PA, we're paying a total of $23.73.  This is a nice park with all pull thru sites on concrete pads.  Seems to be a lot of longer term stays here, but enough room for overnight folks as well.

Us at Pecan Park RV Resort

Neighbor (Prevost) at Pecan Park RV Resort

                      Hey, can you really see the $1.25 million difference in those rigs above.

Tomorrow we have approximately five more hours of driving to our home for January at Emerald Coast RV Beach Resort in Panama City Beach, FL.