Welcome to our travels and adventures

Welcome to our travels and adventures

An Escapee Kinda Christmas

It is a whirl wind of activity here before Christmas. Saturday was the annual Fish River Christmas Boast Parade! This year they had record 26 boats decorated. It was very impressive as the flotilla sailed past our viewing point. We went down early to ensure we were able to secure a perfect spot to watch. We car pooled with Pat & Carolyn and arrived at the boat launch area about 4:30PM. After a short wait, we had the opportunity to talk to one of the participants as he was getting ready to launch his decorated boat for the parade. There was a judging for best decorated and they received a gift certificate from Big Daddy’s Grill located on the Fish River. The parade was to start at dusk or 6ish – it drifted by us at about 7:30! I think 3 hours was a little too anxious! Oh well, besides being a little cool, it was a good time and the boats were beautiful! Since we came early, the four of us were a tad hungry so off to Foley for dinner. None of us had been to the Mellow Mushroom so why not go there! It was a good spot and they heard we were coming and had a special on – coffee with Bailey’s – right up our alley after a cool evening watching the parade!

Sunday we went to the ice cream social and stayed for a small concert given by a couple of escapees. It was really enjoyable and we hope to have more entertainment like this.

On Monday, Barb learned a new craft that we’ll see more of later. I worked on the outdoor electric outlets – one was cut off where the other shed used to be. I have to re-route the system so we will have electricity on our shed.

Tuesday, the quilting ladies had their annual Christmas ‘mug mat’ gift exchange and of course, snacks and beverages! Apparently, they had a great time – Dan Lopes played Santa making the day extra special for them all. So, the wind down to Christmas begins. We had a last minute shopping trip into Foley and on our way; we passed this sign advertising a local BBQ. We found it hilarious, check out the wording and spelling! While we were in Foley, Barb & I did our Christmas card exchange – we pick the card we want to give and give it while standing there and take pictures! I know, it may seem cheap to you but we don’t have to recycle the cards, we don’t have to worry about keeping them on board – the pictures go into our computers for later!

Friday night, a group of us wandered through the campground caroling – it was voted that I keep the duck tape over my lips! Anyway, a great time regardless of the singing!

Saturday night was our Christmas Eve ‘Secret Santa’ event with – yes, more caroling, then of course food! Everyone was to bring finger food to share and we had a ‘royal’ spread of tasty tidbits to savor! After we all ‘grazed’ past the tables of delectable morsels, we all formed a circle and Joan read a story. Whenever she said the words right (write) or left, we were to pass our gifts in that direction! It was a fun time!

It was a difficult decision this year on our own gift lists since we really don’t need or want anything and we always are aware of trailer weight. So this year we decided that we would exchange a gourmet meal, complete with menus and recipes of what we would like the other to buy and cook! Barb has been all secretive with her shopping and wrapping – I think I missed something here. Anyway, it’s Christmas morning and now the moment of truth has come! I open mine – it’s in a liquor box so now I know I missed something – and there is a menu, recipes complete with pictures, martini glasses, a jar of sand to suggest we are going on a picnic to the beach and candles! I really missed the boat on this gift exchange; all I gave Barb was a menu and the recipes! After we enjoyed our gift opening, we had Pat & Carolyn over for Christmas breakfast then we went to the clubhouse to decorate our table for dinner. Our Grinch Tree was the table centre piece and looked great. Most everyone else had already been and gone so I guess I shouldn’t have had that extra eggnog!

Well, Santa was felt throughout the campground as we all ascended once again upon the clubhouse to enjoy each others company and a Christmas feast with about 180 Escapee friends! Too much food and not enough will power or sense to back away! When the meal was over, Barb had to back the truck up to the doors and ‘roll’ me into the truck bed to bring me home! We had a great day; we spoke with our kids, grandkids and had a fabulous meal with friends. The late afternoon brought us being lazy and kicking back to revel in the warm glow of the day.

We’re hoping you had a nice Christmas too and all the best throughout 2012.

T’is the Season

As you may recall, we were missing some hardware from our garden shed kit, well, I contacted the manufacturer and they are sending us more parts by the end of the week! Barb went out with a ladies group for a luncheon and met a few new ladies and renewed many friendships from last year. I was left to my own devices and managed to get caught up on our blog. That evening, we attended the BaldwinPops Christmas concert at the Foley Civic Centre. It was fantastic! We car pooled with Pat & Carolyn and on the way home, Pat drove by one of the more magnificent home Christmas decoration that we have seen in a long time. Another busy day and I’m sure more to come!

Almost every Tuesday and Thursday, the club provides dinner at a cost that makes impossible not to go! It is also a fun social time with friends. This Tuesday was no acceptation – it was the baked potato feast! You get a baked potato and can put any or all the toppings on you want from onions, peppers, jalapenos, cheese, chili etc. I can’t think of all the toppings provided but it was a feast! Whoa, I’m supposed to be losing some weight but it didn’t happen tonight! Time to get the walking shoes out and put some miles on!

Wednesday, we received a shipment from the shed manufacturer but the contents were not what we ordered! What, where did they get this info? I ordered the exact part numbers that were in the instructions! See, working with the instruction manual is never good!

Thursday I called the manufacturer again about the parts and they assured us another package was coming today with the correct parts. After our morning sessions at the clubhouse (Barb at quilting and me at computers) we took a road trip to Pensacola to Jo-ann’s fabrics for supplies, banking and shopping. When we arrived back home, a neighbor brought us a UPS package containing the rest of our shed hardware! This time, they sent more than necessary but now we can complete the shed!

Friday, we completed the shed; placed the windows in the doors, put on the door hardware and hung them! Done! Oh, not quite, I have to lag screw the floor to the plywood deck so off to HD again! In all this action, we managed to turn a couple of gardens, trim the Wisteria bush a little and Barb managed to work on a couple of craft and sewing projects to be sent back to Canada eh! What a week!

Saturday was cool here so we hung out and worked on stuff inside. Barb of course being her crafty self while I hung more Christmas decorations but this time we had some rum and eggnog and it made the job easier! I got the shed fastened down to the deck and moved a bunch of stuff inside, including the chairs I brought to cane. It was warm enough in the shed to work on my chairs but trying, enlightened me that I will need some sort of work bench to work from! Anyway, I had to take off the old cane and as I did, one side of the seat fell off! It was broken right along the caning holes, from the front to the back. Oppssss, now I know why this chair was only a few bucks to buy! So, a little more work than planned but I guess that’s what it’s all about when restoring old furniture!

Sunday, Barb once again was motivated by her creativity and crafted a ‘Grinch' Christmas tree!  It looks great, what do you think? Maybe she’s telling me something! Later in the afternoon we attended the flatulence fest at the club house! Various chefs made lots of good tasting recipes that have some sort of beans in it! We had, of course chili, soups, salads, stews and cupcakes with a jelly bean on top! It was great fun and of course, followed up with the ice cream social that is every Sunday evening! I ate so much that Barb suggested we take a longer way home so I could walk off some of my over eating! Again, I was over served – this seems to be a common thread with me! Hummmm….. Probably a hint this should be my first hurdle to loosing weight!

Here we are on Tuesday and Barb is off to learn a new beading project while I start picking up some patio stones so we can move the deck to fit the rig better. Well, the grass here must grow crazy in the summer as I uncovered and pulled up 90+ 6x12 patio stones! Holy broken back, these were not visible when I started but pulling up one and then the next, it was like following a trail of bread crumbs or maybe a trail of John’s lost golf balls after one of his rounds! Barb returned with another beautiful hand crafted jewelry piece while I had created a bunch of craters where the stones had been hidden!

In the afternoon, we decided to tackle one of the two Sago Palm trees that are encroaching on the deck. The palm leaves were very dense on the ground so we trimmed off the lower leaves and uncovered several ‘offsets’ or ‘pups’ (new palm plants) around the base of the palm trunk. These ‘pups’ can be separated from the ‘host plant’ easily and then if dried and potted properly, can be replanted for future palm trees! I wore a long sleeved shirt or my arms would have been torn up by the thorns on the palm leaves! We disturbed many large creepies that y’all know Barb is not friendly with so she was forced to keep her distance but still managed the workman end of the shovel to help separate some of the larger ‘pups’. In all, we ‘harvested’ a dozen ‘pups’ that can be potted. After we finished, the palm tree looked better so now we feel more confident to do the other tree!

Wednesday was our very own Santa Claus parade here in the park. It wasn’t an earth shattering display but the fact that a small community like the Rainbow Plantation participated is fantastic! I think most of the residents and campers were in the parade! At 75 degrees, it just didn’t seem like a Santa Parade! After, we all went back to the clubhouse for hot chocolate and cookies – hot chocolate!  You can see most of us are from the North where you have hot chocolate after a Santa Claus Parade.

Friday, Barb painted the parts of the wood deck that showed from under the shed. After, we dove under the second Sago Palm and trimmed and harvested again more ‘pups’. Now, we have close to 30 ‘pups’ from very small to quite large specimens. We have to let them dry for about a week or so to let the cut portion ‘heal’ over so it will be ready to pot. We spoke to a nursery about the Sagos and did some additional research online to learn more on how to trim, harvest and grow the trees. Of course, being in the yard gardening, brings several neighbors around to see what we’re up to and of course, provide additional support and suggestions! But wait, we gotta stop and clean up! It’s getting time to head on over to the clubhouse for our second Christmas festivity – the Christmas dinner and dance!
We had signed up to help out on the kitchen but due to the large number that signed up for dinner, Larry (the cook) decided to serve differently and only wanted Barb to help so I was sent packing! We were at a fun table of 12 and had a nice meal with lots of talk and laughs! I even treated Barb to a dance before we hiked for home!

Well, this is a good place to whoa up for a bit and wish y’all a Merry Christmas and the best to you throughout 2012!

Sweet Home Alabama

Tuesday, we wake to see snow falling and sticking to the tress! Quick, someone get me out of here – SNOW, yikes! Are we back in Ontario?

We are underway by 10:30 AM EST and by noon, we are clear of Atlanta and the snow & rain. Unbeknown to us, we will break 2 of our golden rules today! As we near Montgomery, AL, Barb fires up James (the GPS) to find us a Walmart to stay and we realize that with the time zone change, we could make it all the way to the Rainbow Plantation if we didn’t stop for lunch. This is one of those rules – we generally don’t drive more than 6 hours! Soooo on we go and arrive just at 5PM CST and the sun is just dipping below the trees but we manage to get the rig parked before too much darkness descends. This is another one of those rules – don’t park after dark! We can’t open the driver’s side slide as the shrubs need some trimming and we’re not sure just what we can do. So, set up best we can and in the morning go to the office to see what we can and cannot do to the plantings around us. We’ll finish set up in the morning! Since we could not bring any food over the border and we stayed with Jim & Lydia, the cupboards are bare so off to the grocery store! Before we got parked, George & Dottie spied us ‘sneaking’ in and came over to welcome us home! This was a wonderful welcome for us.
The morning brings sunshine and warm temps, we’re lov’n it! We check in at the park office and find no restrictions on our dos and no don’ts! Barb’s eyes light up – landscaping and site planning running through her head like the sugar plum verse! T’is the season! We pick up our activity/social calendar and go back to finish setting up the rig. We thought we might move it back but with some trimming, we are fine where we parked it last night, so out come the shears and chop chop! Many people came over to welcome us and to introduce themselves; other Canadians, Pat & Carolyn stop by to welcome us back too. Wow, this makes us feel great! As we are finishing up and leveling the rig, Pat & Carolyn came by to invite us to lunch with a bunch – hey, why not jump in with both feet, after all, we are LEOs (lets eat out) so let’s go! And so the social life here begins!

Thursday, we’re off to see what kind if a deal we can find for a garden shed. Our first stop was Lowes but they were too busy so we crossed the street to Home Depot. We were only looking for a smallish shed about 3’X7’, we don’t plan to store very much and we just need room for our Christmas decorations and a BBQ! The sales associate showed us where the sheds were and pointed out one that was clearance priced at ½ off! I’m sure you can imagine which one we bought! It is a little bigger – 7X7 and now the challenge is to not fill it!
It’s a little different down here when planning a small project like this. They do have a little wind from time to time so we don’t want to come back next fall and find our shed down a few sites! Hummmm, how to anchor it without making it impossible to move when we’re done with the site! Of course Home Depot has all the necessary hardware to do what we want; some PT 2X4’s, a couple sheets of plywood, 4 screw type anchors and 4 - 3” lag screws should set us up! All I needed to do was to use my usual confused look on my face and ask an apparently dumb question! Ahhh, sawing and hammering – actually used screws instead of nails but all the same, more construction!

Friday, we had lunch out at the Road Kill CafĂ© with a bigger group and then onto Home Depot to pick up our shed and deck supplies to put it on. They used a fork lift to load it and refused to follow us back to the campground to unload it! Oh well, Barb & I unloaded the smaller stuff and 1 box and thought that we would tackle the big one when we needed to – why can’t we store it in the truck? We decided where to put the shed and started laying out the 2X4’s and made a cutting plan for Saturday. That evening, we put up the Christmas decorations. It was made more difficult without the customary rum and eggnog!

Saturday, Barb and I had to go back to HD to exchange a pair of anchors and pick up a few other items to start the deck floor. Soon, we were motoring along and had the frame built and square! We ‘screwed’ the anchors in and used lag screws to attach the frame to the anchors. Next we put down the plywood and had lunch. George came by to help so we unloaded the big box (why don’t these things come with handles?) and started to open them to find the shed floor and of course the instructions – I know, it’s unusual for men to look for instructions but Barb insisted we get it right! The three of us got the finicky stuff and window assembly done. We still have 2 windows to put together but no more gaskets or screws! I wonder what else is missing. I’m sure we’ll find out as we move forward. Once we placed the shed floor, we quit for the day and it’s a good thing too as rigor was starting to set in and I couldn’t move much more! George & Dottie came over for dinner and best of all, Dottie cooked it and brought it with them – they must have heard about my cooking skills!

Sunday, Barb & I started with the walls etc. so we moved quickly through assembly. Before long the walls were up and the roof on. Now lets look at the doors – what, no screws or nuts and bolts to attach the hinges! Only some of the hardware was packed! I’ll have to contact the manufacturer Monday for replacements but now the shed construction is on hold until we receive more hardware!
Where are the doors?

I think this is a good place to end until next time. Keep well and wishing you all a Merry Christmas and the best though 2012.

On the Road Again…..

We departed Ontario with the usual fanfare at the border with the usual questions – any meat or fruit and vegetables on board? This is not our first crossing so we know not to tempt fate and take food stuffs across so I say “no sir”! The CBP guard looked in the rig and to my embarrassment, we comes out with a tomato, a green pepper and a hand full of blue berries! Oppsss, we forgot about those few things. The guard did leave us with a baggie of celery and an egg! I guess he didn’t feel that we could feed America on that! No other issues so we were on our way – our target was a Walmart 8 miles north of Cincinnati, Ohio for the night. The weather was great and the traffic fairly light until we got to Dayton. The rain started and didn’t stop until the next day and the traffic was heavier but moving well. We arrived at our destination for the night just after dark. We went inside and bought dinner and followed the Escapee Good Neighbor Policy and asked permission to stay the night – we stayed here last year and it was great. This year, not so much as we were informed that due to a city ordinance, no overnight parking allowed! What? We were more than a little tired but the Flying J in Kentucky was only 45 minutes away so off we go! Driving through Cincinnati in the pouring rain at night was not our favorite adventure! I guess Ohio doesn’t want our business any more!

After breakfast the next day, we’re back on the road again. This time our target destination is a Walmart in Calhoun GA (about 70 miles north of Atlanta). It is still raining as we approach Lexington, KY and a little car cut in front of us, I had to stand on the brakes to avoid running over it! As I did this, the ABS and the Parking brake lights come on! We have been having an ABS sensor problem for a while and the auto techs were unable to see the problem let alone find it so I thought it was back – we still had brakes! The rain kept up until we entered Tennessee. We stopped in Knoxville for fuel and the rains came down. It rained extremely hard when we were passing through Chattanooga TN., and the traffic had slowed to 60Kms/hr. There is another long steep hill to descend and we were quickly catching up to the traffic in front of us and I had my foot on the brakes to the floor! Holy crap, Huston, we’ve got problems! By manually operating the trailer brakes and down shifting and I could change lanes, we avoided a serious mishap! I slowed us down enough to catch my breath and decided to safely make our way to Calhoun for the night! Once we were set up and approval to stay obtained, we had a very stiff beverage to celebrate our arrival! BTW, it was still raining when we settled for the night!

The next day, we call Jim & Lydia and inform them that we had arrived and asked Jim to set up an appointment to get the brakes fixed. We limped our way from Calhoun to Jasper (about 40 miles) to meet up with Jim & Lydia at the Home Depot in Jasper. The road over (Hwy 53) is not the flattest or straightest road but using the trailer brakes, we got there. Jim says he made an appointment for 1PM but not sure there is room at the shop for our rig! Hello Home Depot, when asked, they did not mind us leaving the rig there while we determined what the problems are. Jim and I took off to the repair centre while Barb & Lydia went to their villa in the mountains of Bent Tree. The repair folks determined that we had ‘blown’ a brake line to the back and lost almost all the brake fluid. Unfortunately, the brake line runs between the fuel tank and the frame and they need to drop the tank to do the repairs! The other bad news is that they could not possibly get it done today (Wednesday, Nov 23rd) and they are closed for their Thanksgiving holidays until Monday, Nov 28th! We inform Jim that we have to extend our stay a couple of days and with some trepidation, actually Barb started crying, he surrenders! Let’s hope the pineapple doesn’t get cut up!

The next day, American Thanksgiving, we go with Jim & Lydia to Cumming GA for dinner with their son Todd and his family & extended family. It was a great time; football of course, was the main event with dinner thrown in between games! Seriously, it was wonderful that they included us with their family and we had a great time meeting them all. The meal was another feast with something for everybody. Whew, someone get the wheel barrow to get me to the car!

The next few days are a blur! Jim & Lydia made sure we didn’t want for anything. And, when time was slack, we went to one of their friend’s home for dinner. Chris and John’s son-in-law, Alvero from Venezuela, cooked one of his favorite beef meals, complete with a Guasacaca dip with grilled sausage for dipping! Wow! He served a Balsamic-Rosemary Butter sauce/gravy for the beef and it was spectacular. Again, I needed a wheel barrow! As Jim would say, we were over served– it’s not our fault that we couldn’t move after the evening ended. After dinner, more of their posse appeared and soon the party was in full swing. We met lots of interesting people which brings lots of interesting stories!

We're looking down from the screened sunroom, watching the wildlife

Saturday and Sunday, we hung out and helped Jim & Lydia get themselves ready to go full timing! They are packing up some stuff for the Store and Lock, moved more stuff into the trailer, completed some electrical work and discovered how the satellite hook up worked with the TV. This is a pre-owned trailer so the Coax labeling is not as it appears!

The new brake line is in!
On Monday, the truck is finally done and we plan to leave on Tuesday which is probably a relief for Jim & Lydia. We are very thankful for such good friends keeping us longer and entertained even as they are packing up to move. To celebrate Jim & Lydia’s new adventure and our departure, we went out for dinner to a little bistro called 61 Main in downtown Jasper. Another friend, Nancy, joined us for dinner and we all had a great time bringing a fun end to our visit. It has been raining off an on for the past couple of days and the weather forecast is calling for snow on Monday night. Oh no, don’t snow yet, we’re here in the south!
I’m sure you are exhausted trying to get through this meandering so wishing you well out there and hopefully you will come back for more soon.

T’was the Night Before…..

We can not believe how quick time zips by. It seems that we were gearing up for our Christmas in November with our kids and grandkids! Speaking of which, we all had a great time. Barb & I arrived early to help Terri & Mark with food prep, decorate the tree and to taste test the rum and eggnog! Everything was great but we had to cut down on the ice in the eggnog! Our other kids, Dawn and her family arrived and Corrie and hers, arrived with our grandkids and everyone quickly got into the swing of having a fun time. Soon, the tree was over flowing with gifts and the Christmas fever was soon in full speed with the little ones. I’m sure even the older kids were a little excited but of course, a teenager doesn’t want to show it!

The bird was carved and 15 of us sat down to a feast. The older grand kids complete their verse and light their candle on our Advent wreath then we snap the crackers, laugh at the little gifts inside and some of us revelers donned our paper hats while the noise level decreased as we were all focused on the bounty in front of us! What a meal! If anyone left hungry, it was their own fault. As for me, I could hear the alarm – beep beep beep – sound as I backed away from the table! Christmas is a time for family traditions. Besides the feasting and the Advent wreath, we also have a personal ornament that we each hang on the tree and say a little something about our past year. Some are as simple as wishing us all a Merry Christmas and others maybe are too long! This year, we were surprised by the detail even the smaller kids had in their fulfillment of ‘public speaking’! It was great!

With dinner over and the family traditions done, you know where the kids were – sitting in front of the tree, patiently waiting – oh, okay not so patient but still waiting for someone to assume the roll of Santa! Since we were at Terri & Mark’s, Alex is Santa and soon the paper is flying and squeals of delight and excitement fills the air! All the kids are surprised and happy with the gifts.

All too quickly, the pile of gifts is reduced to a pile of ripped and shredded paper but everyone is happy. The older grand kids soon retire to the TV downstairs but the little ones want batteries installed, see how things work and settle in to play. The older ones (read adults) settle in for another beverage and some chit chat. It was another great family time and the memories help to send us on our way south.

We planned a week for some rest and calm before hitting the road but this week is less than restful. I was just recovering from a cold but was generous to give it to Barb! Our cousin in London came for a visit and delivered a stained glass window. We sent her a design we would like and she did an excellent job recreating what we wanted. We visited with John & Kay again and dropped off Barb’s bears to sell at a craft show in their complex.

Since we have HD TVs and now a HD Satellite receiver, we needed some other equipment to make all the pieces work together so we needed to make a run to get the necessary stuff. Well, that took half a day and more windshield time! We’re into the countdown and started packing stuff away.

We will add more after we cross the border. Hope you have been well and come back soon for another update – we are so far behind – so busy!