May 2023

Tune Up Trip

Knowing that we would be going away for a couple of months later in the summer, I decided that a tune up trip was in order. A simple trip, just an hour away at the Escapees Park in Bushnell. This used to be our winter home when we first started our full-time life on the road.

While here we would also be able to visit our good friends, Dennis and Pam. We met them our first winter in Florida, here at this RV park. They now live in Ocala, Florida.

OK, as for the trip itself. It was a short drive with no unexpected surprises. Ah, but this was the only part of the trip that went well. This, and the trip home I might add. Which came rather quickly. The rest of our short stay, well what fun indeed!

First, regarding set up. I quickly discovered I’m a bit out of practice. Suffice to day, if it could go wrong it did. First, I hooked up our water hoses, turned the water on and watched the outside faucets sort of blow up! What’s the old saying water, water everywhere. I did what I could to staunch the flow temporarily since we needed water inside. Eventually I would have to run to True Value to purchase a new set of faucets.

Moving on to the sewer set up. I was so proud off myself, I made all the connections in a jiffy. So, I pulled the gray water valve open but no water flowed. Then I realized that I had left the caps on each section of hose in place. Oh boy. Closed the valve, pulled the sections of hose apart, took a bath in gray water, corrected the problem and now all was well.

It was then I got to spend a few contemplative minutes regarding the whole situation. I started backing up, tripped on something and found myself flat on my back starring up at the clouds. Ah, such lovely clouds. Wait, not lovely but evil looking. For months we’ve had nothing but ideal weather. That was about to end real quick.

In short order those evil clouds opened up and we had buckets of water raining down upon us. But not to worry, we were safe and dry inside. For the moment. But it was not going to last.

Come now to Tuesday. We had a wonderful visit with our friends. It was the highlight of the day. And about the only good thing that happened that Tuesday.

Tuesday, the thunder, the lightening, and the rain came again. However, all seemed well. Then we heard it. Drip, drip, drip. What! We had a leak, in front right over the passenger seat. We quickly put a bowel under that and tried to get back to playing cards. Wait, what was that? Drip, drip, drip. Now coming from behind us in the area of the shower. Oh my goodness we had another leak. The skylight in the shower was leaking as well. Thankfully, the rain ended before we turned in for the night. But the decision had been made. We were running for cover, going home the following day, getting Elvira in out of the rain under the port.

So, our week long tune up trip turned into a two day tune up trip. And were we ever glad to get home. We no more than got here and the rain came again. Ha! who cares Elvira is now safe and dry under the port.

Was the trip a success? You bet. It showed me a number of items I had to address before we leave in July. I’ve already begun to repair the leaks we discovered. And a number of other issues which came up in our short two days. Ah yes, RV life is always interesting. But come on, houses are no different. There is always it seems that needs to be addressed.

So, to all who own an RV – Go and RV boldly! The rewards are worth the issues that do crop up.


April, 2023

Skimming Across Lake Kissimmee

One of our neighbors once said to us If you want a truly unique experience, then you need to take a ride on an air boat on Lake Kissimmee.

Well, based on their recommendation we picked a date and made reservations.

Come our given day we awoke to beautiful blue skies and seasonable temperatures. So, off we went. It took a little over an hour to get to Grape Hammock Air Boat Rides located on the south end of Lake Kissimmee.

Now, about the name – Grape Hammock. A bit of research and I discovered – according to local legend – that the name came from the large number of wild grapes in the area and from the groups of trees called hammocks that dot the shoreline.

Regarding Lake Kissimmee, some more research and I learned that it is the third largest lake in Florida and lies at the headwaters of the Everglades. As for how deep it is. . .

Let’s just say it isn’t very deep at all. On average the majority of the lake is only 5 feet deep, with a few spots around 12 feet. This guy no doubt wandered out into the water from Brahma Island. Brahma Island is a privately owned island near the lake’s southwestern shore. The state reached an agreement with its current owners that the island would never be commercial developed so it appears today much as it did say 30 years ago.

Okay, let’s go for a ride and see what we can discover.

This would be our ticket to getting out on the lake and around Brahma Island. Our guide and operator was a young man who purchased his first air boat when he was thirteen. He grew up in the area and on the waters of Lake Kissimmee. In so many words, he knows the lake.

And he proved it when he took us on an hour plus ride that wove in and out of small canals and in so many different directions that I lost all sense of direction.

Okay, the lake awaits us.

And this is the canal leading to it.

It’s amazing where an air boat can go. Through fields of lily pads and at times we were actually skimming over sand bars. Most of the time, according to our guide, we were in water that was only 2 inches deep – the type of water he prefers.

The area we were told is rich with wildlife so we were anxious to see what we could spot.

We first discovered a bald eagle. We were told that the land around Lake Kissimmee has one of the highest concentrations of bald eagles in Florida.

Of course there were alligators galore.

There were any number of little ones. This one we were told is probably a year old.

There’s also quite a few of the much larger size. Definitely makes you think twice about taking a swim in the lake. Actually, more like a wade.

Remember Brahma Island? Currently it is a wild life sanctuary where you are apt to find almost anything. For instance, though we never saw them, there are several zebra on the island.

But we did spot several

bison in the waters near the island and on the island itself. And to think we went all the way to Custer State Park to find these critters!

There were birds aplenty. This is a flock of Roseate Spoonbills. They are usually found in small flocks and usually feed in shallow, murky waters.

Various types of deer also call the island home.

All in all, though the ride was only a bit over an hour the time flew by quickly. It proved a delightful way to spend an afternoon in Florida. The air boat allowed us to skim through the shallows and dance across the wider part of the lake. At one point our guide had the boat spinning like a top. It was an absolutely thrilling ride. My advice, if you are ever in this area make the time to take an air boat ride out of Grape Hammock Fish Camp. You’ll be glad you did.

Moffitt Cancer Center

February 14,2023

Ms. Barbara’s Turn

This will be a Valentine’s Day we will forever remember. Today we’re gathering clothes, and other odds and ends and making final preparations for Barb’s kidney surgery tomorrow.

Today we’ll move to a Choice Hotel in Tampa since we have to be at Moffitt Cancer Center tomorrow by 5 am. We thought it would be best to be only 15 minutes from the hospital rather than an hour. Hence, to Tampa we go today.

Several months back a mass was discovered in Barb’s left kidney. Though they will not say until it is out whether it is cancer or not, all indications are that it is. Thankfully, it is small and appears to be completely contained in the one area of the kidney.

Her surgery tomorrow is scheduled for 7am and is expected to take between 3 and 4 hours. We’re both nervous but very confident that the outcome will be positive. There is no better team to deal with something like this than the team at Moffitt.

If you are reading this we ask for your prayers especially during the next couple of days. Our faith is strong and we are confident that God will carry us through.

God’s best and blessings to you.

Feeding The Hungry

Auburndale Food Bank, Auburndale, Florida

February 9, 2023

The hungry in America are all around us. We may not see them nor are they usually easy to find. However, open a food pantry and offer quality food items to those suffering from food insecurity and you’ll see them by the hundreds.

Barb and I discovered back in late 2022 that our lives lacked purpose. There was no driving reason to get up in the morning. We were retired. Off the road. Just taking up space. We were literally beginning to rust in place. Perhaps some of you know what I mean. To grow old and rust away is to becoming increasingly inactive. You start sleeping later in the morning. You wander aimlessly through the day. You have no mission that moves and motivates you. We knew we needed to do something. We just didn’t know what that something would be.

My first instinct was to find a museum where I could volunteer. To that end I made several phone calls and one told me very enthusiastically do we ever need new volunteers. I was encouraged to fill out an application and was assured you’ll hear from us by next week. Weeks went by, I made follow up phone calls and here we are five months later and I’ve never heard from them. Oh well.

About the same time Ms. Barbara said, more to herself, do you think we can find a food panty that we could volunteer at? She made several phone calls but only one seemed interested. That one was The Auburndale Food Pantry which we paid a visit to that very day, and here we are four months later serving there two, sometimes three or four days a week.

There are several sections inside where all the work is done. This is known as The Packing Plant. In this room we make up bags of staples for distribution. Depending on what has been donated by the various supermarkets in the area the bag will sometimes contain the following: a bag of rice, a bag of walnuts, a can of beans, a can of fruit, a can of soup and maybe a couple of bags of chips.

The bags then go into boxes – five bags to a box – and they are then taken out to the

distribution room where they will be handed out to our clients. This is the room on a typical day prior to distribution. On average we need to make up 400 to 500 bags or more per week. Our doors are open on Tuesday and Thursday for distribution.

Along with the staples we also distribute

packages of meat. This is The Meat Locker just after we received a donation from several of the local supermarkets. This was a really good day but unfortunately not all days are like this. We then unbox all of this meat and make up bags of 2 to 3 pounds for distribution with the staple bags.

We also distribute

baked goods. This is the Bakery Room. When I took this picture our shelves were a bit bare. As with the staples and the meat so with the bakery we never know week to week what we are going to have.

For instance this past week we received 2,300 pounds of canned fruit from the USDA. We also received 7,526 pounds of staples and meat from the USDA. In the past we received about 3,000 pounds of fish. Another week we received cartons and cartons of eggs. We’re grateful for everything we receive.

Now, as to how much we distribute – this past Thursday we were able to provide for 863 people. Which is about 4,200 pounds of staples and meat and bakery out the door. And, yes, this is a typical day of distribution. Our food pantry is the third largest in Polk County.

So that people is where we are overcoming the rust in our lives. We donate our time to unload trucks, make up bags of staples and meat, move boxes from room to room and do whatever else needs to be done. It is truly a most gratifying way to spend one’s time.

In closing let me end with this, a brief poem that I’ve come to embrace as my goal in life:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

(by Hunter S. Thompson)

God’s best and blessings to you.