Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Totally Uneventful Day...

Activities for Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I have absolutely no news to share today. This entry is going to be so boring I can hardly stay awake to write it.

The weather was glorious. Comfortable temps, sunshine and no wind. It's amazing how much we can enjoy cleaning bathrooms, for crying out loud!

It is because we are doing it together.  There is no stress.  Our surroundings are incredible. We're greeted each morning by a herd of deer in the playground.

Travel Plans...
Just as an FYI - we have our plans in place for the next year and beyond.

We will be here at McKinney Falls State Park until the end of April.

We have six weeks to get to Yellowstone by June 14. We will spend that time visiting with family and playing tourist between Texas and Wyoming.

We have been hired to work at the Grant Village Gift Shop from June 15 through September 24. That is going to be interesting. I’ve never worked retail sales before. I am really looking forward to meeting all the tourists!

We then have October and November off to travel and play. We will be in North Carolina for a family get together at Thanksgiving.

We return to Texas the first of December. We will be volunteering at Seminole Canyon State Park from December to April of 2013.

Then we head to Alaska for the Summer of 2013.

We have some lines for potential work up there. One place in particular is just outside of Fairbanks. It is campground work. The schedule is 8 days on and 6 days off. We could do a lot of exploring with 6 days off!

We don't have that one locked down yet. It is a bit early.

Alaska is the main reason we have decided to keep the camper. We do not want to drive the motorhome up there. Its size limits where it can go. The truck and camper can go just about anywhere.

We are talking about a cross country bicycle trip when we return from Alaska. That is just in the talk phase. Nothing is remotely certain yet. We have talked and dreamed of it for years. We outfitted ourselves for bike touring last summer. We are ready, just haven't made the jump. We'll see what happens.

We certainly enjoy our life. We rarely have any issues; certainly nothing like the invisible man. Seems he needed to go to the doctor. When he tried to make an appointment the doctor told him he couldn't see him today. (Thanks, Michelle!!)

A Normal Evening...
We had a pleasant evening watching TV and grilling steaks. A friend stopped by for an enjoyable visit.

Sounds like a 'normal' evening doesn't it. Our lives are just like yours, we just change our view every once in a while! On slow days we spend time planning for "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Quiet Day of Friends and Cards...

Activities for Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy President's Day!  -  Did you hit that mattress sale?

Friends Drop By...
I was finishing up installing some screens at the group shelter this afternoon when Robin phoned to say we had visitors. Two of my old co-workers, Karen and Paula, dropped by.

I rushed home to see them. We had a fun visit while we caught up on the happenings at the Attorney General's Office since I left. Things are always changing. People come; People go. With our area being the IT Department, there are ongoing projects that require a lot of talking about.

I realized after they left that I had not gotten a photo. Rats!!

Just a Normal Day...
Other than that, this was another one of those kinda' quiet days. We've had a lot of rain lately so anyone visiting the park does so in mud. That means the restrooms needed a thorough cleaning. That equated to a full morning's work.

One way the park makes money that they can keep in their local coffers is selling firewood. They contract with a local firewood guy. He brings in about 2 cords when needed.

There is a large box at the park entrance. It is our responsibility to keep it full during the week. The wood sells for $1 per piece. They have a captive audience because gathering wood from the park is prohibited. Consequently sales are good.

They sold a BUNCH of wood this weekend. The box was almost empty this morning. We made four trips with the Mule to get it full again.

Each morning we do our basic chores and then return to the camper for breakfast. After that, Robin remains there and I do my non-standard work. I've mentioned in an earlier post that I have been building and repairing window screens for the group shelters.

Anyway, I spend a couple hours per day on extra projects. I hope to have the screens project wrapped up this week. Then on to other stuff.

We'll Never Grow Up...
We have the TV on while we take our break. This morning we were flipping through the channels when we bounced past one of those cooking shows on PBS. We were there just long enough to hear the host say "I need to cut one..." and then we were gone.

WHAT DID SHE SAY!!!????  It was too late to flip back.  We laughed so hard it was a good thing we weren't drinking milk  It would have been ugly. I guess some juvenile humor never gets old!

Contact Cards...
Yay! We finally got our contact cards. You know, business cards that are about fun, not business. Take a look:


I really like the picture. Remember when I was talking about our Florida pictures and I showed one I took on our Christmas Day bike ride? We get to share it with everyone on our cards!

Don't forget to ask for one if I don't offer it!

Well, as I've said before, some days are pretty unexciting.  Most all of our days are diamonds. We rarely have stones. Each one finds us "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Amazing Woman on the Flying Trapeze

  
Update for Sunday, February 19, 2012

This afternoon we walked around the park. It's fun to see the different people, their unique camping setups and what not.

An Unusual Rig...
We saw a fellow with a neat setup.  The car is a Japanese Kei van.  I have never seen one.  It is a left hand drive.  I don't know if the sign in the back window is required for left hand drives in the US.  He is from Canada, touring the US.


Trapeze????
Later, we came upon a couple on bicycles stopped on the side of the road. They appeared to be discussing something. I asked if they had questions about riding in the park. They replied that all was fine. We started visiting with Alisha and Ludwig. After a few minutes Alisha mentioned something about the circus and the trapeze.

WAIT - Hold on. What did you say? Circus?? - Trapeze??

Come to find out, they are trapeze enthusiasts. They travel around in their motorhome with a collapsible trapeze apparatus. How neat is that?

Alisha is also a tight wire (tight rope) walker. They have a portable setup for that too.

They offered to get out their equipment and give us a demonstration. Who were we to refuse??

I got to help erect the apparatus. Hopefully, I was more help than hindrance.

Here it is going up:


We learned that besides "flying" trapeze which is when one person swings and another flies through the air, there is "static" trapeze. This is when a performer does a solo routine.

Also, have you seen the silk acrobats on Cirque du Soleil? You know, it's usually women doing beautiful gymnastic moves on a trapeze using huge silk ribbons rather than ropes.  Well, Alisha does that too.

Once the gear was in place she gave us a demonstration:



Wow!  I got sore just watching.  On a side note, Alisha is over 50 years old!

Ludwig is more the engineer and builder than acrobat:


In all fairness, Ludwig was a flying trapeze performer years ago.

Alisha showed off her tight wire prowess:


After a short time she was exhausted. I understand. Seeing it up close gave us a new appreciation for the talent and physical conditioning aerial work requires.

Here's an interesting note. Alisha shared that the aerialists we see on TV or stage are fooling us. When they stop, wave and smile, they are not taking time to appreciate our attention, they are resting!! My bubble was burst.

Alisha and Ludwig are not professional aerialists. They are active with the Imperial Flyers, an amateur aerialist club in Denver, Colorado.

Uh Oh...
Later, when we returned to our camper we saw a small motorhome on the side of the road. There were four orange cones behind it to alert traffic. Uh-Oh. Someone is having mechanical problems.

Sure enough, come to find out, when the owner was leaving her campsite early this afternoon she had gone only a short distance when she heard a horrible squeal from the engine. It quit running.

She started it again and got the same squeal.

Passersby told her it sounded like she lost her oil pump and she may have been spinning bearings. Ouch!

She was pretty upset while she was trying to get a towing company to come get her rig. After literally hours to no avail with her Road Side Service (Road Side No-Service???) she decided to leave it in the park and pursue getting it towed tomorrow.

Louis, the on-duty Ranger, and I helped back the rig into a nearby slot so as to be safe and no-longer a road hazard. I hope things are not too bad for her.

Can We Get a Rain Check On That?
Fellow Park Hosts Rich and Pat  invited us over to cook out this evening. We asked for a rain check until Wednesday.

Pat is training to become a docent at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. They invited us on a tour so she can practice her newly gained expertise. We gratefully accepted to go on Wednesday, followed by our rain check for dinner.

The Rest Of The Evening...
I grilled hamburger steaks for dinner. We had some ground sausage that needed to be eaten. I mixed it into the hamburger. Yum - Yum. That was soooo much better than the fish last night!!

Robin, as usual, did a great job on the brussels sprouts.

We are so stuffed we are tempted to do our Templeton act by rolling on the floor with our feet in the air.  That would be quite a site given our small space!!

Robin watched her favorite program "Once Upon A Time" while I worked on the blog.

Robin and I were talking this evening about all the amazing things we are seeing and experiencing. We learn so much when we step outside our comfort zone, ask a few questions and break the ice with strangers. It all contributes so much to the life we live while "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

It's Cool to be a Veteran!

  
Activities for Saturday, February 18, 2012
We had quite a bit of rain overnight. Somewhere around an inch. Per a lesson learned in an older post, I unplugged us from the pedestal when we started hearing thunder. Worked great. No problems with lightning!

This morning we went to the falls to see how they looked. Not a flood but there was pretty good flow.


The Jedi kids were out training while it was raining. We drove by and there must have been 30 kids outside the dining hall, all mock battling with their light sabers. Looked like they were having fun. The rain had not dampened their spirits. The Force was with them.

I was going to take a picture but our 12+ year old camera is not waterproof.

Got the laundry done! Always feels good to get back into clean clothes.  Robin can't wait to have her washer and dryer back in the motorhome.

While waiting for the clothes I set up our cell phone to work with our hands-off system in the truck. That is neat. It knows when the cell phone enters the truck and it gets itself ready to communicate. We can have it dial any number via voice commands. The conversation is heard over the stereo system.

I can see how this is much safer than dealing with the physical phone while driving. Also, with it havng a cab microphone and using the speakers, Robin and I can both participate in calls.

We almost always share calls so if you ever phone us, be careful what you say about Robin...

It is so easy and fun to call everyone. Our friends and family will be putting our number on their blocked list so we won't drive them crazy. Although, with the cost of diesel fuel going up, we may have to make shorter calls.

We visited with Robin's parents, Richard and Norma, who we spent so much time with in North Carolina. We always have a ball talking with them.

Bringing the Motorhome to Texas...
I am flying to Southbend, IN next week to get the motorhome and bring it back to Texas. Richard and Norma are heading to Indiana at the same time for a brief visit and to check on Louis, Richard's brother who broke his hip.

Our daughters, Michelle and Jessica, are going to meet all of us in Muncie for an evening of food and fun. I sure wish Robin was going but we decided that she will stay here so our commitment to the park will not be broken.

We also called my sister, Demity, in Cody, Wyoming. We look forward to our calls with her. We are anxious to get back up there in June. BTW – if you have visited the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Demity works there. Pretty neat, huh!

Laundry complete, we went to REI to look at some rain pants. We have good rain coats. I have been interested in rain pants for some time. I think it would be fun to be able to weather any storm. We sure enjoyed our hikes in the rain in Georgia. We stayed dry from our waists up!

We did not buy any pants but we are better educated in case we decide to take the plunge.

Our friends, Kristine and Bob, met us for lunch at Marie Callendar's.


We had never eaten a meal there. The food was pretty good. The pies looked great. I was proud of us for resisting the temptation.

We recently decided to change our eating regimen to as low carbohydrate consumption as we can. We got serious beginning February 1. So far, we are both seeing positive results. We have a ways to go but we are happy with what we see.

Proud to have served...
A really neat thing happened when we were leaving the restaurant.

Bob was wearing his Vietnam Veterans cap. You've all seen them.

A guy walked up, grabbed his hand and said "Thanks for serving."
He asked if I am a vet, to which I replied "Oh, yeah!"
He grabbed my hand and offered his thanks to me, too.  He said he served there himself.

I was taken a bit back with his abrupt and forceful approach but it sure felt good.  Kristine said this happens all the time when Bob wears the cap.

Later I saw something on TV about our modern-day Vets and it got me to thinking.

I am so touched by how the country now reveres our soldiers past and present. It heartens me to see them being appreciated and their war-related issues being taken so positively and seriously.

I did not go to Vietnam. I enlisted in the Marines in 1972.  I knew many men who did go. Robin had a friend who lost both his legs from a land mine.

I cannot begin to imagine how it felt to go to war, suffer horrendous physical and mental injuries, and then return to your homeland and be hated. To be a pariah in the country that you offered your life for...

I remember walking through the airport in Denver in uniform. Someone shouted "Baby Killer!" and spit at me. I did not assault them, but I was sure tempted. I hope they eventually matured and repented.

Nowadays it is wonderful to be a Veteran.

Thank you America for thanking us!!!

Other Stuff...
We received a shipment from our mail forwarding service in South Dakota. We have all our income tax forms now. I worked on our return this evening. Looks like we will be getting a refund. With us retiring this year, I was not quite sure what to expect. Refund = Fuel = Good!

We bought some fish fillets. I've never heard of Swai??? Sounds like Kwai.

My first foray into fish did not go well. It tasted pretty bad. Thankfully, Robin's stir-fried collard greens with garlic and bacon were a huge hit! Yummm.

Strange thing about that Swai/Kwai stuff. I had a curious reaction; felt like whistling and building a bridge.

The rest of the evening was spent watching TV and relaxing. Cannot wait to be doing it in our motorhome where we will have 350 square feet rather than our current 85.  It will feel positively HUGE!

Folks are wondering what we plan for the camper after getting the motorhome back.

For the present we are keeping everything. The motorhome will be moved infrequently. The camper will be our exploring rig  (Alaska???). The camper provides us way more flexibility for travel than the bigger motorhome.

Between the two we have no barriers to us "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Friday, February 17, 2012

Wet Jedi Devotees

This was an 'interesting' day.  It rained off and on all night.  The Hill Country sure needs it.  It did impact our daily routine tho.

We did our normal cleaning but did not get into the park for litter patrol or fire pit service.  We're glad we completely covered our territory yesterday.  This being a three day weekend, the park is booked solid.

The Park Manager, Janie, asked if we would be available to assist a visiting group move their gear to the area they will be using this weekend.  We were going to help them move their portable generators to the primitive day-use area that does not allow vehicles.  We planned to use an ATV to transport the generators.

The group is sponsored by a local eclectic book store, Book People.  They are doing a weekend long Jedi Training camp for kids???

I looked it up but due to my severe lack of Star Wars knowledge, I am clueless what they are doing.  After perusing their website I am still not sure what is going on.  The Force completely passed me by.

Anyway, we waited most of the afternoon but never got the call for our help so I returned the park's mule and called it a day.  The Mule is a Kawasaki ATV that we use to move about the park while we do our chores.

Janie said they never contacted her for our help.  She suspected that due to the rain, the group changed their plans.

I actually took our camera with us as today but there was nothing of note to photograph.

I did talk with the camper with the hammock I talked about yesterday.  He said he had a great night's sleep.  I don't know if that is something we will ever experience but I do find it interesting.

We had to wait for a 'deer jam' this morning.  For some reason a large herd of deer was hanging out on the road to the maintenance shop.  We had to wait until they decided to clear the road before we could proceed.  I bet there were at least 12 does and yearlings.  There were also three young bucks.

We went to the laundromat in the late afternoon but it was too crowded so we decided to wait until tomorrow.  We did get our weekly shopping done at Walmart and Sam's.

We came home and grilled some steaks.  Robin sautéed brussel sprouts and we watched TV.  Another ho-hum day but it did have it's highlights.

I'll sign off with a hearty "Na-nu Na-nu!" as I wrap up today's episode of us "Chasin' Our Dreams."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yawn....

Not much to report today.

We worked a bit longer than normal.  The weekend is coming and we needed to get our section of the park ready for visitors.  We are responsible for the day-use areas, the group shelters, the primitive camping section and the large youth campfire area.

Our tasks were to clean the restrooms, patrol for litter and check each cooking grille and fire pit to ensure all was clean and ready for visitors.

We also were asked to clean the restrooms and outside area of the large dining hall.

This took us until mid afternoon but it was fun walking through the park as we spruced up everything.

The primitive area is for tent campers and backpackers.  There is no electricity or water at each site.  Also, primitive campers must carry their gear a couple hundred yards as there is no close vehicle parking.  There is water available but not at each site.

While doing the primitive area I encountered a fellow who was setting up his hammock tent.  I have been intrigued by these.  My only experience with hammocks is the one most of you are familiar with:  the one suspended by its own framework and used for lounging in the sun on the patio.

This one was different.  It is a fully enclosed cocoon that protects the user from bugs and rain.  Here is a pic I grabbed off the internet:


Not an especially good picture but it was the best I could find.  Guess I need to carry my camera even at work!

Pretty neat setup.  Hope he stays dry.  Rain is predicted for late tonight/early tomorrow.

We got an email from Robin's mom tonight.  She said Robin's uncle is doing as best as can be expected.  He still has not had the surgery to fix his broken hip.  I guess they are waiting on more tests of some sort.  At least they are keeping the pain away.

The evening was nothing special. I grilled some hamburger steaks that turned out pretty good if I may say so myself!!  We really like our new Weber Q100 grill!

Other than that, we watched TV and played on the internet.

It is kind of funny how we think every day should be something special given our circumstances.  For all intents and purposes were are on an extended camping trip.  Then we stop and think "This is just our life.  Our days can be exciting or mundane."  Oh well.  Every day is fun no matter how un-exciting as we continue "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Blogs - Motorcycles - Partying - Bad Hip - Another Routine Day

I stayed up late last night working on the blog. I got us all caught up. Now I can concentrate on daily updates.

This weekend I met some motorcyclists who are headed to Argentina. I spent some time reading the two blogs they are keeping:
http://becandthebeast.com/
http://flypetefly.com/

What an adventure lies ahead for them.

I went over and caught them before they left and got a picture. Three neat people.

Matt (aka "pete"),  Bec (aka "coco"), Bob (aka "rufio")

We were supposed to get some rain this morning.  Did not happen, but this was one of the muggiest days I recall.  Fortunately the sun burnt off the clouds this afternoon.  That allowed the moist air to lift.  The day ended very comfortable.  The temp soared to 80!  Whew!

The day was pretty routine. We did our daily restroom clean. Then I built 5 new window screens. Tomorrow I'll install all that I have pre-built.

This afternoon we had an impromptu get together with the other Park Hosts. Lots of laughs and lies were shared. We'll have to consider making this a regular occurrence.

We talked to Robin's parents this evening. Robin's uncle, Louis, broke his hip. It is unsure whether he fell and broke it or if it broke and caused a fall.  Regardless, he is in the hospital in Muncie, IN waiting for a repair.

He is in remarkable shape for 94 years old, but his age does make surgery a bit riskier. If there is anyone who has the wherewithal to come through it, Louis is him.

We also discussed plans for my upcoming trip to Indiana to retrieve our motorhome. We have decided that the camper is great for camping, but for long term parked situations, we REALLY miss our motorhome.

I fly to Southbend, IN on Feb 26 and drive it back. It has been in storage since last July. We did not plan on storing it so long. Hopefully all I will need to do is re-connect the batteries and start her up. We'll see...

That's it for our day. Not a lot happening but it all moves us forward as we continue "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Texas Catch-Up...

   

We arrived at McKinney Falls State Park in Austin on December 31. It sure felt good to get here. We have been daydreaming of Park Hosting at McKinney Falls for over 5 years.

Now it is a reality. Woo Hoo!

We are happy to be volunteering. The Texas state parks are in dire straits given the current economy. Anything we can do to help out is greatly appreciated.

We spend every morning, Monday thru Friday, cleaning up the facilities, picking up litter and patrolling campsites to make sure the fire pits are clean and all is in order for the next visitors.

It has been a common occurrence for us to be pleasantly surprised at how responsible campers are in cleaning up after themselves and preserving this beautiful park.

Thanks to all who use them.

The park is also in the midst of a project to update the six group shelters. They are doing significant repairs to the woodwork that has been in place since the 1970s. Each is getting a new coat of paint on the interior.

I am building and repairing window screens as fast as I can.

There are also ongoing maintenance issues to be addressed. I have been able to utilize my Handy-Man skills with minor plumbing repairs and discussions on some vehicle maintenance.

Volunteer Park Hosts come from varied backgrounds. Each brings a skill that is useful to the park. One of the great things is that each day the permanent employees make sure they voice their appreciation for our help. Their gratitude is appreciated by us Hosts in return.

We've gotten to visit with many of our friends. Many more to come.

We re-visited our grueling exercise walk route with our friend Alan one day. A few days later I got to help him do a repair on his pin-ball machine. That was fun.  I've never seen the insides of one.

Alan later reported that the repair was a success! Yay!

There have been some incredible weather events since we got here.

Miracle Storm...
On January 25 we had an incredible rain storm. We got over 5 1/2 inches of rain. The falls in the park were flooding.

This set off another of those crazy encounters we seem to fall into.

"It was a dark and stormy night..."
 It had been storming all night. We knew the falls would be flooding so we went over to take a look prior to going to work the next morning.

Thi is what the "nomal" flow looks like.

Here is a shot of the same tree in the flood.

While we walked toward the falls I thought I heard a dog "Woof!" over near the Visitor Center which overlooks the falls. The falls were roaring so it was difficult to discern exactly what the noise was, but I was certain something was not right.

I heard it a second time but it did not sound quite like a dog woofing, so I started walking toward the Center.

As I approached I realized it was a woman sobbing loudly and in great distress.

I started running and yelling "I'm coming. Help is on the way!"

When I rounded the corner I was shocked to see....

A woman standing behind the trash can and man crouched in a corner - both were completely naked!!!

What the heck???

The woman was sobbing hysterically.  The man did not say anything or acknowledge me.

Understand that it was quite chilly, this being the end of January following a major rain event.

I immediately took off my jacket and handed it to the woman. I told them I was going to get help and to stay there. I called to Robin to come and give them her coat, too.

Robin and I took off to get help.

There was a meeting scheduled for that morning in the Visitor's Center and the Rangers were arriving to set things up. I told them what had happened, where the victims were and that we were going to rush to our camper to get blankets and spare clothes.

We returned a few minutes later and found the EMS on site offering aid. The couple were still partially clad so I gave them the clothes we had gathered at our camper.

Fortunately, they were fine. No injuries, no hypothermia. EMS declared them "OK". One of the Rangers took them home.

What with all the commotion, I did not get a chance to talk to them but they did relate their story to the Rangers.

They were camping along the creek, outside the park, when the storm hit.  They woke up to find themselves floating down the flooding creek inside their tent. Apparently they had slept in their birthday suits. (We learned that indeed it was her birthday!) They were not able to get dressed before being swept away.

This happened just as dawn was breaking so they could see where they were being swept. They recognized the Visitor Center and somehow scrambled out of the tent and worked their way to shore.

Needless to say, they were scared to death (have you read that phrase in any of my earlier posts???)

They were miraculously unscathed.

After the Ranger took them home they returned the clothing we had provided. All ended well.

A few days later some park employees found remnants of a tent and a duffle-bag full of their belongings. All of the staff agree it was nothing short of a miracle that they survived, much less suffered no injuries.

I hope they bought a lottery ticket that night!!!

This is what they floated though - INSIDE THEIR TENT!!!

Another Storm????
Hey - Isn't Texas in a drought????...

A week later we had another major storm. We got another almost 2 inches of rain. Yay!!

This was one of the most incredible lightning storms we have ever experienced. I am not knowledgeable about lightning but it sure seemed that this storm was much lower in altitude than others. Lightning was flashing all over the place with amazing frequency.

We were laying there listening when there was an blinding flash accompanied simultaneously with a horrendous thunder. We nearly jumped out of bed.

I started to shout "I'm sorry..."

Our power went out.

We lay there wondering if we had been struck.

We looked at the lights at the nearby bathroom building. They were on. Power 50 feet away but we are dark.  Did we get hit?

We did not smell anything burning. We did not smell any of the ozone odor associated with lightning strikes.

I got up and flipped the circuit breakers inside the camper that serve our 120v system. No luck.

Our 12v system, which runs on batteries when there is no 120v, worked fine.

We were still not sure we had not been struck.

We waited until the storm abated and then I checked the breakers on the outside power pedestal where our power cord is plugged in.

They were in the "ON" position. "Rats! That does not look good."

I flipped them off. Then on.

The power came back on to our camper. Yay! Everything looked good.

I had unplugged the computers and TV earlier. I wish I had gone ahead and unplugged the camper itself.

Note to self - "Self - Unplug the shore power when a storm starts or is imminent!"

Anyway, long story short - All was fine.

The next day we did discover that a couple of the pedestals (the things campers plug into to get power) were dead. Breakers seemed OK so there must be problems deeper in the system.

We escaped what could have been a huge bit of damage. But wait.....

Someone reported that they had pinpointed where the lightning had struck.

About 150 feet away was a 10 foot trench where the lightning had blown away all the soil along the roots of a tree.



The lightning had so much force that it exploded some boulders that were approximately a foot in diameter.



Amazing power.

Fortunately, we did not encounter any naked people!!!!

That's it for excitement since our arrival.

Dutch Oven Cooking...
The "Lone Star Dutch Oven Society" had a demonstration/gathering in the park on Saturday, Jan 21.


After tasting Dutch Oven cooking in Georgia, Robin was hooked. She had gotten a new "black pot" but had not used it yet. We were excited to learn that the society, aka LSDOS, had scheduled a demonstration/gathering. We took our pot over (no comments on my pot, thank you!) and joined in.

They taught Robin a bunch of techniques.


She cooked her first meatloaf in her Dutch Over. It was great!


There was a lot of food:

Ginger Bread



Stuffed Mushrooms


Cornbread,
Breaded Chicken,
Pot pie,
Baked Beans,
Meatloaf (the best thing there!)

Desert was a cobbler "dump" pie.  I was so busy pushing and shoving to get to the front of the line I did not get a pic!

Needless to say, none of us left hungry.

Robin is chomping at the bit to do some more DO cooking.  I'm sure there are some camp fires and charcoal in our future - as long as it doesn't rain!!

Our days are busy even though we are not moving about. So goes our life while we are "Chasin' Our Dreams!"

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Georgia - Florida - and a Surprise

Georgia On My Mind...
We left North Carolina on December 6 and headed south, originally planning on a few months in Florida.

Atlanta...
We visited the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. What a neat place. The porpoises brought back memories of when I volunteered at Sea Life Park in Hawaii while I was stationed there in the Marines.

I do wish we had opted for a "behind the scenes" tour. I would have been more interested in the operations and logistics of the place than the exhibits themselves. Having said that, the aquarium exhibits are fantastic.

Savannah...
What a wonderful Southern city.  We took a trolley tour of the historical district.  We saw where Forrest Gump mouthed "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."  An interesting tidbit is that the actual bench he sat on is in the Smithsonian.  Now there is just a marker on the spot.  Also, the bench was originally bought as a prop from Home Depot.

We had planned to eat at Paula Deen's restaurant but the crowds were so large we did not feel like waiting. Oh well.

We stayed at Skidaway Island State Park, a short drive south of the Savannah proper. What a wonderful park. We had so much fun we kept extending our departure until before we knew it we had exhausted the 14 day limit.

We met all the Park Hosts and had a handful of fun get-togethers.  We had our first experience with dutch oven cooking.  One of the Park Hosts, Vi, invited us over.  The roast and all the fixin's were yummy.


The park held their annual Christmas fund raising event on Saturday before Christmas. Santa visited and sat for pictures with the kiddies and pets. There were hayrides around the park and LOTS of hot chocolate and cookies.

A couple days before the event, Santa was injured and rendered unable to help out. Another elf was recruited to fill the gap. The replacement elf REALLY did not want to do it sooo, I called upon my Santa experience from over 40 years ago and volunteered to sit in.


Everyone had a lot of fun!

We took a couple hikes through the forest.  The weather was rainy when we arrived.  Our hikes in the rain were more fun than we expected.  The colors were spectacular.  We were all alone.



We visited an old Civil War fort on Tybee Island, Fort Pulaski.

We had never toured a fort before. Very interesting.  We found the fort when we were looking for a Rails-to-Trails trail to ride our bikes on. The fort is at one end of the trail.


We were in heaven. We had a six mile trail plus the entire National Park setting to ride on. Yay!

There was an interesting place at the end of the trail.  Nestled in the wood was an eclectic art collection that consisted primarily of items found along the shores of the river.


The fort was cool, too.




After having been thoroughly impressed with Georgia, we reluctantly left and headed south...

Florida...
We planned to spend a couple months in Florida.  Guess what - all those freezing northerners are in Florida this time of the year. If you do not make reservations early (can you say many months?) in advance, places to camp are few and far between, unless you want to part with some serious cash.

Gainesville...
After a few nights at Walmart in Gainesville we snagged an opening at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. We chose this area for its 20 mile Gainesville to Hawthorne Rails-to-Trails trail.

Come to find out, the trail passes through the park but the road to the trail head is 10 miles OUTSIDE the park. And, the road is a busy logging truck thoroughfare.

Hey, I've watched episodes of American Loggers on the Discovery Channel. We do not want to have anything to do with routing ourselves on one of their roads. We also did not want to load up the bikes and truck them to the trailhead. Plus, we were both psyched for a long ride.

Here's and idea: let's do it on Christmas Day. I bet all those tough log-truck drivers will be at home in their jammies opening presents. The road will be ours.

Christmas morning came. Guess what - NO TRAFFIC!!!

We rode 10 miles to the trailhead. Interestingly, this trailhead was right at the halfway point on the 20 mile trail. 10 miles one way to Gainesville or 10 miles the other way to Hawthorn. We did the 10 miles to Gainesville. What a nice trail.


We encountered a number of folks out enjoying the day. I have no idea how many times we were wished a "Merry Christmas!"

We saw some beautiful countryside. The Spanish moss covered trees were beautiful.


I especially like this pic.  I am going to use it on our contact/business cards.


Unfortunately, Paynes Prairie State Park was completely reserved for the upcoming week so we had to leave the next day. We were perplexed with the difficulty of finding our next campsite.

We decided to head south toward the Keys and take what comes.

The Keys, or...
Soooo, we left Gainesville, headed for Jimmy Buffet land.

40 miles south of Gainesville is Ocala. There we refilled our propane tank and grabbed a sandwich at Firehouse subs. The phone rang just as we climbed into the truck after leaving the restaurant.

Surprise, Surprise!!!
It was McKinney Falls State Park in Austin!

We were scheduled for a Park Host stint during March and April. They were calling to see if we could come early.

"When do you need us?"

"Right now - can you be here by January first?"

"Heck yeah. We're on our way!!"

We literally left the parking lot, turned north and headed to Texas. Campsite problems solved and we were returning to our favorite park.  Doesn't get better than that!

We arrived back in Austin on December 31. Due to the New Year's holiday we were scheduled to begin on January 2.

Man, it feels good to be back.  We have wanted to Park Host at McKinney Falls for years. Now we are doing it as we continue "Chasin' our Dreams"