Monday, February 26, 2007

Mission Possible!

But we screwed it up anyway

Today we had a plan. Leave Point A; buy Alpaca yarn; reach Point B; return to former catatonic condition. We made an early start and, since we have not yet learned to live outside, breaking camp was quick and easy - nothing to put away! By noon we were on the road.
The GPS reported 111 miles to go - that's got to be almost halfway to the moon for crying out loud. Feeling ready for a challenge, we decided to give it a shot and hunkered down. The first objective was reached by 3:30pm and by 4:00pm we were stuffed to the gunnels with yards of yarn and ready for our final assault.
That's when things started going pear shaped. An irascible Park Warden balled us out for not phoning ahead, screeched hysterically about the late hour, declared she only had a couple of sites big enough for that thing, pointing a derisive finger at Black Bess and generally stomped around exercising her disagreeable nature. Feeling suitably tongue-lashed, we set off as directed to find our site. Find it we did, following winding, soft sand pathways, often requiring 7 point shunts to navigate the corners, we came to site #30. Unfortunately, without significant deforestation, it would have been difficult to have got White Rabbit situated, let alone that thing. Never fear, a few more hair-raising corners and we regained the parking lot where we are now captive until 8:00am in the morning since Frau Hitler locked the park and left!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Central Florida Kitsch

Twenty years ago, when we lived in Florida, Mount Dora was just another dusty and impoverished central Florida backwater. What a transformation!
It seems as if the City hired a slick Public Relations company, rented a sign-writer for a week or two and hired some movie extras to walk around town looking interested.
Whatever the strategy, it worked. Four or five of the downtown cross streets (that's most of them) are lined with the most kitschy antique stores, furniture emporia, sandwich shops, lunch rooms, wine tasting joints, ice cream parlors, tea shoppes, stores dedicated to candles, aroma therapy, Mount Dora memorabilia - yikes - there is even a Segway store where $5,000.00 will get you one of those fancy electric scooter thingies! Why, for just $14.00 you can climb up on a horse and cart and experience traffic fumes firsthand for twenty-five minutes, as the driver struggles to cover the short trip around town in the dense and ever circulating traffic.
The clever part of this scam seems to be, that having established a critical mass of people, all blundering around muttering "What is everyone looking at?", the phenomenon is self perpetuating since every would be passer-by feels compelled to stop and get in on the action. It certainly worked for us!

SWMBO Rebounds

Hot on the heels of parting from her last fantasy (the Prevost), SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) went on the rebound with the latest love of her life - a house on the lake. Accordingly, on a recent morning we traipsed around several prospective properties.
Here are some pics of one agreeable edifice on Lake Minneola, complete with space for a couple of RVs. Time for some more understanding "Yes Dears" with further liberal doses of duplicity and misdirection. Stay tuned for new information...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Clermont Capers

In the 2000 Census, the population of Clermont is noted as 9,333. Last year, 2006, this figure had increased to a staggering 22,097 and there are lots of signs of growing pains. Located in the heart of the Florida Hill Country (??) the area was a significant producer of oranges. In 1956, the City Management built the Citrus Tower, shown here, although no one seems to know why. The observation deck, at 226 feet, permits the overview of 20,000 square miles in eight different counties and, when it was built, an estimated 17 million orange trees.
When we first traveled this part of highway US 27 a dozen years ago, it was a two lane concrete road and Clermont was one of the traffic lights on the way to Disneyworld. Now it is a four lane divided highway with a fully fledged overpass at the highway 50 crossing. Construction is everywhere and there is scarcely an orange tree to be found. Wal-Mart and many other majors have come to town in the last five years and the Historic Downtown District is fast becoming derelict. Serving as a bedroom community for Orlando, most of the incorporated area consists of typical Florida subdivisions, not too much for visitors to get excited about.
In the observation deck of the Tower there are four (poor quality) photographs of views from the tower at some time in the past (no date indicated). Following are copies of these pictures along with a current view of the same area. Although the old downtown area has fallen on hard times, there is a very nice picnic area a couple of blocks north on the south shore of Lake Minneola. We ate our jam sandwiches there and dreamed of the Crown Club. The Elks Lodge is in this same general area.
Sadly, the crime index for Clermont has climbed to around 500 versus the national average of 352 while, shockingly, Orlando's index is currently over 1,000.
On a lighter note, to win back my Sweeties favor following our Marathon debacle, I suggested that we should consider a new RV along the lines of this one. She was not amused.
Incidentally, Clerbrook, the recently purchased Encore Golf and RV Resort 5 miles north of Clermont, has spacious sites, casual golf for those so inclined and, at this time, remarkably negotiable rates :-)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

EPA to investigate the Crown Club

Observers have recently studied the effects of Crown Club feeding on Baby Boomers. A correlation has been discovered between extended use of these facilities and the Boomers subsequent athletic abilities. The pictures here, taken three weeks apart, show the effect on one sorry subject who was compelled to feed there three times every day. To alleviate this nutritional nightmare and keep his spirits up, the subject did sneak away a dozen or so times and snatch a few quarts of ice cream and strawberries but clearly, this was not enough to save the day.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Another Marathon Day...

Continuing our Prevost Preview, we spent most of Wednesday morning learning some of the secrets known only to a chosen few, interesting answers to questions like "Where do Prevosts go at night?"

Marian, being vertically challenged, was especially impressed by this, her first view of her heart's desire, and kept muttering "It's so big!" as her eyes slowly glazed over. Observations concerning poor fuel economy, no Smart Wheel, manual leveling system, no Aladdin, poor visibility and so on, were powerless in breaking the spell

Moving round the coach things got even worse. "It's so long and so pretty!" I heard her murmur and, for a brief moment, feared she would have to be sedated before an indictable offense was committed

Thankfully, the wily salesman, Fred, who had seen such behavior before, quickly opened the door and ushered her inside. Like magic, the lush and inviting interior worked it's charm and relaxed her almost to unconsciousness. Wonderful, thought I, with any luck she'll remember nothing when she comes round again

The bedroom only served to deepen this state of stupor as she absently fondled the bed cover, cooed about the lovely nightstands and gazed longingly at the manly array of AV equipment glowing eerily in the wardrobe
Then , disaster. That scheming Fred gently steered her to the cockpit and sat her in the drivers seat. Off we went again - "Oh, it's so comfortable" she cried and instantly regained full animation. Things were looking bad

Imagine then, her complete ecstasy when she discovered that she would have her own room. Without more ado, she scampered inside and demanded a cup of tea. The time for action had arrived. Administering a sharp rap up the side of the head, I dispatched her to the Monaco, explained to the hapless Fred that she had to be back at the clinic by noon and promptly fled
So, for a while at least, we will continue enjoying Black Bess, the little coach that could.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Girl, that was easy!

Used to be that having kids was a big deal, sometimes amounting to days of inconvenience while momma got her act together and caught up with the socks and shorts duty.
Then came grandkids - so much less intrusive - rather like grocery shopping compared to farming. A bunch of flowers, a bit of blubbering and life is back on track with scarcely a bump. Even better are grand nephews and nieces, especially when they are three thousand miles away. Technology has streamlined their arrival to a quick email from a smitten parent or grandparent and that's all she wrote. No anxious pacing, no required visits, no diaper danger - in short, no responsibility whatsoever. Feels just right.
So it was last Sunday. One of Marians nieces popped her first one, about which we are jubilant but otherwise wonderfully uncommitted. We may get to see the little varmint in a month or two by which time it will be cleaned and partly trained. Better yet, a few Oohs and Aahs later, we can take our leave and proceed on our hedonistic way. Of course, the backward Brits haven't yet figured out how to send a picture so we'll just have to imagine that small detail for the time being!
By the way, ever wondered how the stork got involved in this birthing thing? Turns out that there are numerous "authentic" sources of the various myths, including Ancient Egypt, the Hebrew language, Greek Mythology, Early Christianity and Norse Mythology. However, the one I like best is the Victorian English version. Here, the fabrication that newborn deliveries are made by a stork avoids potentially awkward questions connecting birthing with begetting. Pretty clever, eh?
Check out this paranoid stork family found on the net. They have cunningly turned technology to their advantage in protecting this oversize nest with a 32,000 volt, industrial strength, electric fence.

Monday, February 19, 2007

RV attacked by gang of thieves or Why RVers should stay in doors

Some RVers cling to the notion that RVing is about the outdoor life, back to nature and all that, without a care for the dangers of natures ravages. A case in point. The folk in this story were of this mind and routinely set up tons of stuff on their patio without a second thought. Keeping close to nature, they liked to cook over an open fire but, when fire-lighting time came around they realized they were fresh out of napalm. Unphased, they jumped into their SUV and ran to the store to get some more.
That was when the crooks moved in.

First, a scout looked over the possible spoils and identified a getaway vehicleNext, a lookout was posted The cracksman got busy breaking into various containers
Once the the loot was safely stowed the leader leaped onto the escape vehicle
And the driver took off
All over in a flash and the RVers never new what hit them. The moral of this story? Never put stuff on your patio, stay in doors and the crooks will think you are on vacation.

More than you ever wanted to know... - corrected

A while back, while enjoying the hospitality of Camp Monaco, Vicki Leith posted this picture, snapped in the Monaco Nature Reserve while looking out for the unwelcome attention of alligators. The hanging material is Spanish moss, sometimes call Florida moss with the official name of Tillandsia usneoides.
But wait - there's more! This plant is harvested, packed and sold in those epicenters of excitement like Joannes Fabrics and Hancock Fabrics. Current uses include floral arrangements, mulch and packaging. In the past, this scintillating epiphyte had even more exciting applications. Click here for the full story!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Crystal River with my Sweetheart

Today was bright and sunny with a cloudless sky - perfect except for an overnight hard frost and a daytime high of 55! Undaunted, we courageously set off to find out what makes Crystal River tick.
The Suncoast Highway runs through Crystal River giving it the appearance of a busy and bustling city while, in fact, there are only about 3,500 inhabitants - a pretty small city by most standards. However, being that Florida is the state of the Newly Weds and Nearly Deads, there is both a Walgreens pharmacy and a CVS pharmacy doling out drugs to the Wrinklies. An important statistic proudly promoted by the city is that the number of resident manatees averages 43.
West of town is West Fort Island. With such a romantic name this had to be worth a visit and indeed it was, even though there is no evidence that a fort ever existed there and no sign of an island either. Nonetheless, being a brisk winter day it was close to deserted and offered a boat ramp, some parking, a view of the Crystal River Nuclear Power Station and a couple of observation decks - plenty of things for nitwits like us to gawk at including Porpoises, Herring Gulls and Black Skimmers.

Next, a brilliant get rich quick scheme was born and died within a few hours of our arrival. The plan was for Marian, disguised as a mermaid, to sing her siren song and lure a treasure laden ship to founder on the rocks, at which we could make off with salvaged jewels and things. No ships came by and then Marian got cramp in her butt so we decided to eat our marmalade sandwiches instead.

On the road to the phantom fort is the Crystal River Shrimp Company with a small fleet of shrimp boats and a similar fleet of refrigerated trucks. There are also several bird watching trails leading off into the swampy land either side of the road. Anyway, we stomped around the area for a while, took a few pictures and pretty soon it was sunset. Could anyone ask for a better day?

Friday, February 16, 2007

A Prevost Prelude?

Gee, I hope not, but we are going back on Tuesday =:o(
If you are familiar with the children's story called Toad of Toad Hall you will know what happened to Mr. Toad every time he saw a new toy. He just had to have it!
Well, Marian has seen a couple of Prevosts which, as yet I have failed to discredit sufficiently. Like the three bears story, the settees are "just right" as is the bed, the kitchen and even the color schemes.
Here she is plotting against me with the scheming salesman, forewarning him of every thrust and parry but, perhaps most serious of all, in the final picture she has that vacant Mr. Toad look on her face...
I have to come up with something really BIG before Tuesday!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What a massacre!

A true Valentine's Day Massacre in fact.
Rod Bahnson, Mr. Largesse himself, arranged this Valentines Day dinner, comprising filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli flowers followed by vanilla mousse and fresh strawberries for these two lovely ladies. With an additional flourish, he also purloined two roses which he graciously presented to the adoring ladies during their meal. What a guy!
Just hope the girls never discover that this whole affair was leveraged on the princely sum of $1.00! No wonder he seems so gleeful, this has to be his cheapest triumph since he bought me a donut at the rally last week.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

We're a strange lot

Here, courtesy of Rick Stone, one of the MCOA rally sub-group, is an aerial view of last week's FMCA rally. Check out the scale of the layout by clicking on the picture. Now, the point of the post is that it seems RV'ers will go to almost any length to save a dollar or obtain anything that could loosely be described as "free food". Some examples from the rally.
Every morning, a thousand or so otherwise rational campers rose early, dressed warmly for 35 degree temperatures, left the comfort of their RVs, trudged half a mile each way to the Calorie Court by the Vendor Tent or waited mindlessly for one of the trams to loom out of the fog and ferry them there, and for what? To stand in line for a further twenty minutes to collect a utility style donut and a cup of fluid from a canteen style urn. Yummy - but it was free!
Even stranger is the case of the Ice Cream Social. Most of the time, our normally thoughtful camper can be expected to guard personal information, such as email addresses, phone numbers and so on, quite carefully. But, mention "free ice cream" and the combined impact of gastric turmoil and SFNS (Something For Nothing Syndrome) causes all caution to be thrown to the wind. Like lemmings, 1500 or so rally attendees immediately scribbled all of their personal information on a strip of paper, journeyed again to Cholesterol Canyon and practically climbed over one another to trade these sensitive details for a cheesy ice cream cookie. Is that strange, or what?
The ultimate parsimony however, was reserved for the last day of the rally. With SNFS apparently firmly in control, a group of creative campers came up with an incredible scheme involving the local Golden Trough. The scheme, like all great ideas, was deceptively simple. By going to dinner at 3:30 in the afternoon and eating salad for an hour and a half, it would be possible to claim a senior discount and save an entire dollar! An entire dollar for just the cost of an afternoon! It's outrageous out-of-the-box thinking like this that makes this country so great!

Monday, February 12, 2007

The effluent society

We finally decided to take the plunge and attempt to join the effluent society. Thus it was we found ourselves in Camping World amid the bewildering array of Rhinos, Self-clamping, Clamp Free, Heavy Duty, Super Heavy Duty, Plug-n-Play and Ultimate accessories for effluents. There are aisles of fun for the discerning camper to revel in.
It can be difficult for the newcomer to determine whether this is a science or an art, however. With the plethora of plastic plumbing parts displayed in primary colors and soft pastels it is hard for a guy to know which color is best and why? There are left hand hoses, right hand hoses, red, blue, green, fluorescent orange and black hoses, Standard ("For occasional camping"), Heavy Duty, Ultimate and Lifetime Warranty hoses in 5ft, 10ft, 12ft, 15ft, 20ft and 25ft lengths.
For the sophisticates, there are support systems in various colors that, sadly, are not well co-ordinated with hose colors but are triumphs of technology for the mechanically inclined or the erector set deprived amongst us.
In our view, the fact that there are already specialist events such as Freightliner Rallies and FMCA Red Hat Chapters, we believe that the time has come for a Sewer Hose International Training rally. Such an event would provide formal recognition of the importance of those that deal with these issues on an ongoing basis with special awards for Most Colorful or Most Ingenious for example. There would also be a Technology Prize for the first person to successfully join two hoses of different manufacture together, without a serious leak.
Finally, a little known technical breakthrough that occurred recently, offers a whole new gamut of thrills for the more adventurous effluent care givers. It is now possible to witness, first hand, the result of all of the effort lovingly put into these systems. Transparent plumbing parts are now available at your local camping store - see picture - offering entirely new insights into the world of effluents. Trust me, this is not for the faint of heart and children should be kept from the area whenever these devices are in use!
Now, having debunked the whole effluent thing, I'm working on additional storage to house the hundreds of feet of hose now cluttering the coach. Any ideas?