March 2009 Archives

Awake: 6:55am Temp 62 sleep 7+05 low dark clouds overnight @ Montgomery, AL.

I made a call to my young friend, Jack, in Memphis & left a message. Later, Jack returned the call & we updated each other on our respective activities.

Mid morning, more intermittent rain; we decided to have another day of casual reading/crossword puzzle/computer time, etc day; we would rather be touring but we both feel comfortable spending some catch-up time in the comfort of our dry home-on-wheels.

Around 3:40, K & I motored about (4) miles south & attended the 4:00pm vigil Mass @ Our Lady Queen of Mercy Catholic Church; a small, pleasingly simple church.

Dinner: Hamburger, fresh mango, & 4-bean salad.

Evening movie: "Hot Millions" with Peter Ustinov, Maggie Smith, Karl Malden, Bob Newhart, Cesar Romero. Wry piece of fluff about Ustinov using a computer to siphon off big bucks from huge American conglomerate; good performers aid pleasant romp, which became one of the biggest sleepers of its year. 1968. Thoroughly enjoyable entertainment.

Lights out: 11:57pm

Awake: 6:34am Temp 62 sleep 6+12 heavy rain all night again fortunately I slept well but Kathy did not overnight @ Montgomery, Alabama.

Kathy called the Hyundai Corp again & left a message.

In between the sheets of rain, I puddle jumped my way to the office & signed up for another (2) nights stay in this campground.

By late morning, the rain had subsided with patches of blue above, so we motored downtown to the visitor's center again. We watched the (20) min movie that we missed seeing on Wednesday relating to: what's to do & see in Montgomery & then we rode the trolley to the State Capitol (for $.10 cents each...we learned our lesson) where we joined a group of 4th graders for a tour of the 1st, 2nd & 3rd floors of the Capitol.

Our tour guide, a retired teacher, was a master @ handling the school children & pointing out decorative touches like the painting for the original Governor's Suite that creates an illusion that the room is paneled; this type of painting is called trompe l'oeil (French for "fool the eye"). And architectural building methods like the pair of (3) story spiral stairways that dominate the entrance hall & are cantilevered. The Rotunda with its stained glass skylight, dating back to 1906 & large murals depicting the history of Alabama is stunning. He fascinated all of us with his minute attention to detail

Our tour lasted an hr & was well received by the students, their teachers that assisted them &, of course, us. We were a little surprised to learn that the legislative branch of government is in a totally separate building as is the judicial branch. The old senate & house chambers are preserved in the Capitol mostly as historical references.

Next, with patches of sunshine showing through, we walked back to the visitor center where our Suzuki was parked & then explored the River Walk Amphitheater.

When returning to our motorhome, we realized.... still no return call from Hyundai.

Dinner: tuna steak smothered with garlic & balsamic vinegar, brown rice & a mixed salad.

Evening movie: "They Won't Believe Me" with Susan Hayward, Robert Young, Jane Greer, Rita Johnson, Tom Powers, Don Beddoe, etc. Fine James Cain-type melodrama about a philanderer who gets involved with (3) women, leading to tragedy (and a terrific twist ending). 1947. Kept Kathy awake & she was even partly surprised by the ending!

Lights out: 11:50pm

Awake: 6:19am Temp 62 sleep 6+39 heavy rain & TRWs (thunderstorms) most of the night overnight @ Montgomery, AL.

Neither of us slept very well during the night; the loud pounding on our metal roof from heavy rain & TRWs had us up & awake several times.

As daylight came to pass, this campground resembled a small lake save for a few patches of grass & gravel; & so, we both agreed to stay indoors this day.

Perusing books, magazines, & information from the Montgomery visitors' center & researching our next touring city further north along with computer use & other reading material, made the day slide by quickly.

Mid afternoon, daughter Melissa called: we haven't talked for awhile so it was very nice hearing from her. The Footes are doing fine.

Dinner: Italian style hamburger with penne pasta & salad.

Evening movie: "The Hoodlum Priest" with Don Murray, Larry Gates, Keir Dullea, Logan Ramsey, Cindi Wood. Based on real-life clergyman who devoted himself to trying to help would-be criminals, focusing on Murray's efforts to rehabilitate delinquent Dullea (in film debut). 1961. Good story & true; backed up by Google.

Lights out: 12:12am

Awake: 6:22am Temp 64 sleep 5+36 cloudy, then rain most of day overnight @ Montgomery, AL.

After 9:00am, Kathy made a call to the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Company in Montgomery & left a message that we would like to tour their automobile production plant.

Before we left to go downtown, Kathy's call was returned from Hyundai; the girl told her that their tour schedule is completely full until April 1st. Kathy asked for us to be put on a list in the event someone should cancel.

Early afternoon, we motored to downtown Montgomery to the Visitors Center & took the narrated trolley on (2) different tours: the gold route & then the green route. We paid $1.00 each which allowed us to get off & on @ various stops, walk around & get picked up @ another stop, but today's rain discouraged our main touring plan. We should have used the senior plan (over 65); for a mere 10 cents each we could have ridden one of the round trip routes &, for 20 cents each, both of the routes with no on/off privileges. We're going to have to watch these money saving choices more closely in the future!

We saw plenty of sights going a brisk 6mph (no kidding); if the driver went faster than that speed, the programmed GPS would literally skip describing the next point of interest.

Montgomery is the State Capitol of Alabama & thusly, there are many large & beautiful white buildings all around town. However, like so many cities around the U.S.A. these days, the downtown area does not look so good; empty display windows, business buildings for sale or rent, very little pedestrian traffic, in fact, not much vehicular traffic at all.

Montgomery is the city where Martin Luther King, in 1954, became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. Always a strong worker for civil rights for members of his race, King was, by this time, a member of the executive committee of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the leading organization of its kind in the nation. On our trolley tour, I took pictures of his home & the Baptist Church where he continued to preach for equality.

And I took a picture of where Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus when she was asked to give her seat to a white fellow.

I took a picture of the Hank Williams Museum & his 1952 Cadillac in which he made his final journey & we rode around Old Alabama Town, a recreated town of yesteryear for the tourists & school kids.

We were, however, very impressed with the Montgomery Union Station & train shed which was built in 1898. Erected of brick and limestone on a high bluff along the Alabama River, the station had six tracks under a 600 foot shed, with a coach yard on the south end of the station as well as a Railway Express Agency facility on the other end.

The number of passenger trains using Union Station declined during the 1950s and 1960s & in 1979, the Union Station was closed.

After a period of disuse, the Union Station was renovated for commercial tenants & the main area for the visitors' center. The train shed still stands, although tracks under it have been replaced by asphalt parking. After touring the inside of Union Station with its stained glass windows, high ceilings & beautiful wood, we ended our touring for today.

Dinner: Bass fish, wild rice with golden raisins & a mixed salad.

Evening movie: "Hollywood without Makeup." A documentary of the 30" & 40's of Hollywood actors being casual & themselves. It was most enjoyable.

Lights out: 11:40pm

Awake: 5:45am Temp 56 sleep 5+26 overcast overnight @ Opelika, Alabama.

Mid morning, I climbed up on the roof & cleaned off the slide tops of that yellow pollen.

We say our goodbyes to the few people we've talked to on both sides of our campsite & then leave the Lakeside RV Park @ 9:37am following US-280 to I-85 to I-65, arriving @ the "Woods RV Park & Campground" in Montgomery, Alabama @ 10:50am.

Today's travel: 71 miles 1+23 time 11gal used 6.7 mpg 50 mph avg speed.

As cluttered as the last campground was, the Woods is just the opposite; very clean, organized with fairly well manicured sites.

It's been quite awhile since I've had the time to simply read magazines & the collected paraphernalia from the Perry Georgia rally, so I spent the afternoon doing just that while Kathy went grocery shopping @ a nearby Wal-Mart & card shopping at the Dollar Tree.

Dinner: lamb chops with mint jelly, brown & wild rice with golden raisins, stewed tomatoes & a mixed salad.

Evening movie: "I'll Cry Tomorrow" with Susan Hayward, Richard Conte, Jo Van Fleet, Ray Danton, Eddie Albert, etc. Superlative portrayal by Hayward of star Lillian Roth, her assorted marriages & alcoholic problems; everything a movie biography should be. 1955.
Based on a true story, which was sometimes difficult to watch.

Lights out: 12:48am

Awake: 7:02am Temp 44 sleep 6+51 sunny overnight @ Opelika, Alabama.

Mid morning I walked to the office & signed up for another night's stay. While Kathy did (2) more loads of laundry & ironed clothes during her TV watching time, I used my time on the computer.

Mid afternoon, we took the suggestion from the campground owner & walked the campground & trail thru the woods. Not wanting to sound cruel & unkind, without a doubt, this is the most unkempt, junky, machinery cluttered, broken down automobile mess of a campground we've ever visited. But you know what? Surprise! We would probably visit this place again because once you're inside the middle of the campground & you don't look outside, it's nice & comfortable being on white gravel with good amperage & water.

Dinner: Bass fish, brown & wild rice, stewed tomatoes & a mixed salad.

Evening movie: "Sounder" with Cicely Tyson, Paul Winfield, Kevin Hooks, Carmen Mathews, Taj Mahal, etc. Beautiful film, romanticizing in a positive sense experiences of black sharecropper family in 1930's ....& the maturation of young Hooks. Full of fine performances that make characters utterly real. Mahal also composed the score. 1972. A classic& it is heartwarming.

Lights out: 12:19am

Awake: 6:40am Temp 38 sleep 6+18 sunny overnight @ Macon, Georgia.

Looking out our front window, I see a vast & empty field with only tire tracks as a witness to yesterday's excitement! Looking out our passenger side window, campfire smoke fills the air as the boy scouts & their friends & families begin their awakening process, breakfast preparation, & packing up to move out.

We have a small breakfast while watching those tents collapse with the help of the scouts & their leaders & then we leave the Al Sihah Shrine RV Park @ 12:02pm, following US-80 to Phenix City, Alabama, then US-280 & arrive @ the Lakeside RV Park in Opelika, AL @ 2:31pm.

Today's travel: 119 miles 2+33 time 21 gal used 5.7 mpg 47 mph avg speed.

Our 1st impression as we pulled in & parked close to the office: "what have we done?" This place resembles an antique vehicle drop-off junkyard; no kidding, there are many old & rough looking, cars, trucks, & worn out equipment scattered everywhere. Our only guess is the owner is still expanding his RV Park. Then the owner greets us with a smile & says: "follow me."

After parking & paying the daily fee, we were quite content with our pull-thru level campsite sitting on white gravel with 50amps & good tasting water. Later, Kathy does (2) loads of laundry while I use my share of time on the computer.

Dinner: left over Italian sausage with mushrooms, peppers & onion & salad.

Mid evening, we finish watching the movie: "Watch on the Rhine" with Bette Davis, Paul Lukas, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Lucile Watson, Beulah Bondi, etc. Fine filmization of Lillian Hellman's timely WWII play of German Lukas & his wife Davis pursued & harried by Nazi agents in Washington. 1943. Very interesting & with an edge of your seat ending.

The above movie finished quickly, little left from last evening. So we brought up another movie for the evening: "Movie Crazy" with Harold Lloyd, Constance Cummings, Kenneth Thomson, Sydney Jarvis, etc. Lloyd's best talkie recaptures the spirit of his silent-comedy hits, telling story of small-town boy who goes to Hollywood with stars in his eyes, gets rude awakening but finally makes good.1932. No joke; I have never laughed more from all the movies we've watched so far during our RVing to date. Move this flick up to 1st place.

Lights out: 12:11am

Awake: 6:12am Temp 37 sleep 6+02 sunny overnight @ Macon, Georgia.

A little history: Macon's Cherry Blossom Festival was first organized in 1983 to celebrate the city's Yoshino cherry trees & the March 23rd birthday of William A. Fickling Sr. who discovered the first such tree in Macon. In 1983, there were 30,000 trees, today they range in number from 275,000 to 300,000. Unfortunately, the trees' blooms don't always coincide with the festival & this was perhaps one of those years, although many trees were in bloom.

Today we motored to downtown Macon & help support the Cherry Blossom Festival events in the Central City Park. It's a free event except parking, that costs $5.00, but we discovered a free parking area with a few empty spaces very close to the park entrance.

We followed the crowd up ahead as we sauntered toward the main events area; what we didn't know: free soft drinks from Cocoa-Cola, Cherries & Cream ice cream from Dairy land, Complimentary horse-drawn carriage rides, free lunch break, etc, etc. The Cherry Blossom Festival began on Friday for a week with some good events scheduled every single day & evening.

Our 1st field of amusement was watching some of the dogs from around the country vying for the Dixie Disc Dog Championship title. Some of these dogs were even better than their masters. Our 2nd showground of curiosity was the (100 +) motorcycles on display; they apparently rode into the park after finishing a scavenger hunt earlier.

Then we approached the carnival rides for the tots, kids, teens & adults; little tots Bee Ride, little tots ride the Clatter Pillar, Seattle Wheel Farris wheel ride, bungee jumping, little tots boat ride, big red pendulum ride, ride the Ion, full circle ride, a real helicopter ride, etc. So much to see & do, we had to limit our time @ the park due to our plan on touring the prominent Hay mansion near St. Joseph Church.

After parking our Suzuki near the church, we walked over to the Hay house for the 3:00pm tour. This mansion is now owned by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation & offers a (1) hr tour of (3) floors out of (7). If you want to see more floors, you pay more bucks.

Originally called: "The Palace of the South," the 18,000 square ft, 24 room Hay House was the most opulent of the mansions built in Macon before the Civil War. It included indoor bathrooms, hot and cold running water, central heat and many other features that were only then becoming popular. The four story mansion, which has a three story cupola on top, is built in the Italian Renaissance Revival style.

K & I have seen many lavish & magnificent mansions in our travels...especially in Florida; this grand structure was somewhat different. I couldn't get over the size & height of the doors; were these prehistoric people giants or what! Some of those doors were curved & moved on tracks. Although this mansion is very popular, admired & called: "the palace of the south" etc, the floor plans to me were cold; the men's parlor room was much too small, the main dinning room, not large enough & so on. Really, I thought the place looked more eloquent & impressive from the outside then on the inside. Maybe I was just a little taken back when finding out: no picture taking & no touching anything.

As we were leaving, well dressed groups of dignified people were arriving because there is a wedding & reception scheduled for this evening @ the Hay House.

K & I walked back to our Suzuki where I unloaded my camera, hat, cell phone & then we attended the 4:30pm vigil Mass @ the more opulent & magnificent: St. Joseph Catholic house of prayer.

En route to our campground, we encountered a massive traffic tie-up about (2-3) miles before making the 1st left turn off the main road leading to our motorhome; I had no idea what was happening. Then K & I started thinking that all these cars just might be heading to the same place we are: that spacious field that can accommodate (2500) vehicles. So, I choose not to get in the line-up & continued passing on the right of all those autos & trucks; when closing in on that left turn up ahead, I slowed enough to yell @ the driver of a truck in line: "I'm from Alaska & I have a motorhome parked @ the Shrine RV park; could you let us in?" And he did.

The secret word was: Alaska? Motorhome? I believe the people in the truck caught on fast as I realized that @ each check-point we went thru, their truck quickly passed thru as well, probably telling the checkers that they have a motorhome also.

It took us another (15) min to arrive @ our coach due to police road blocks on the route we used before this event started. Fortunately, the enormous amounts of vehicles were parked in rows so we were able to wind our way around the big field to our home on wheels.

"Tunes & Balloons" is the name of this festival. Gates opened @ 4:00pm; balloons glow @ dusk. They advertise: enjoy hot air balloon tether rides, children's activities & live music. Bring your blankets, lawn chairs & picnic baskets for an afternoon of fantastic family entertainment.

With camera in hand, K & I walk the premises in awe. So many people with kids everywhere, & we thought just having the boy scouts nearby was a crowd!

Dinner: pork chops, fried noodles, apple sauce & a mixed salad. We watched the flickering & glowing hot air balloons ascend & descend throughout the evening ... & then, the masses of vehicles began their departure; it took over (2) hrs for those tail lights to disappear from our front window. "Wow, a camping experience like no other!"

We watch ½ of the movie: "Watch on the Rhine."

Lights out: 12:22am

Awake: 5:20am Temp 57 sleep 6+04 sunny overnight @ Perry, GA.

The FMCA volunteers have told us: leaving the fairgrounds after the rally is on your own. We have a 9:30am slot to get our Newell weighed so we aim to pull out of our parking space @ 9:00am. These last (3) days of good sunshine have certainly strengthened up the ground again & ought to allow a casual departure.

In the organized style of FMCA, our coach was weighed @ 9:32am & the actual weight recorded for each wheel position was given to us; we are close to max specifications. Hmmm, Imelda & her shoes?

After hooking up our Suzuki, we continue heading northbound on I-75, exit-160 & about a mile later, enter the Al Sihah Shriner RV Park in Macon, Georgia arriving @ 10:32am.

Today's travel: 30 miles 2+00 hrs 6.8 gal used 4.4 mpg 15 mph avg speed.

This travel data comes from my digital readout from the Silver Leaf source & records all engine running time, fuel used, mpg, etc, etc. When entering this campground, we see a vast open field where they advertise space to park (2500) automobiles & some of the big rigs, but only (1) waste water dump station. Not realizing there was only (1) dump station which we passed up as we followed the golf cart guy leading us to the RV parking spots, we had to backtrack, wait in line for another motorhome to empty his waste water, then took our turn & re-parked; thus the exaggerated travel time with numbers.

After lunch, we motored in the Suzuki & visited a Kinko's in Macon to FedEx our tax prep info to Jeff in Alaska. En route to downtown, Jeff called & talked with Kathy as I was driving; Jeff will work up our taxes & call us to find out where to send them.

The Visitor's Center is our target & we dutifully followed the signs & arrows for a good (10) city blocks; then the info ended? So we find a parking spot, walk to the Wachovia business building & ask for more directions. (3) of the workers had no clue even though they live in the town where the Visitors Center is; ah, but (1) young lady who obviously was quite familiar with the downtown area, gave us detailed directions; just a few blocks away.

@ the Visitors Center, we watched a (20) min movie of an updated Macon City & all the activities one might wish to enjoy. We were expecting a documented movie on the history of Macon but that was found in a display of annotated pictures against the far wall.

Macon, Georgia in many ways is similar to St. Augustine, Florida. Both specialized in the cotton business & both were near the river traffic for shipping their goods. Like St. Augustine, there were many wealthy business men also in Macon who built unparallel & extraordinary mansions.

We started our exploration by doing a self-guided walking tour in the vicinity of the unique & famous business structures on Cherry St. downtown. Kathy read the facts from the walking tour map & guide while I captured on camera what we were admiring. Our target today is the legendary St. Joseph Church, about (5) city blocks away. Our lucky day....volunteers are giving tours of the church this afternoon & we join the crowd. There is much history to learn about this church, of Romanesque, Neo-Gothic architecture; the building of which began in 1889 & was completed in 1903 under the direction of Jesuit priests. It sits on the crown of a hill overlooking the city & practically in the business section. Its twin 200 foot cross topped spires can be seen from every part of the city. There are 60 stained glass windows from Bavaria, Germany and many white marble carvings, statues, & altars from the Carrara quarries in Italy. There is much more that could be said, but enough is enough.

After a meaningful hr of learning some history & hearing some stories about this beautiful place of worship, we continued our walking tour on Mulberry St. & witnessed more extraordinary & inimitable mansions & business structures; as is true of St. Augustine, most of these buildings & mansions have been well cared for & a few are open for touring $.

We returned to our campground to find many cars parked in rows about (500) ft to the front of our motorhome with tents being set up by boy scouts & their families in the large field to our passenger side. Porta-potties have been brought in by truck & strategically placed while other areas of this vast property are being taped off to permit more rows for parking vehicles. We are not alone tonight; about a dozen motorhomes have parked behind us & to the driver's side on this side of the lake and far to the other side of the lake about ½ dozen more motorhomes.

Dinner: Fresh Tuna steak, brown rice with golden raisins & a mixed salad.

We finish watching: "Downstairs" with John Gilbert, Paul Lukas, Virginia Bruce, Hedda Hopper, etc. Crackling, adult drama about a heel who sleeps & cajoles his way from one wealthy household to another---using both the mistresses of the houses upstairs & the servants downstairs. 1932. Quite amusing & for mature adults; especially during the early 30's.

No generator necessary tonight; we have (2) legs of (30) amp each.

Lights out: 11:50pm

Awake: 5:52am Temp 49 sleep 6+38 sunny overnight @ Perry, Georgia.

This is the last day of our rally &, I have to admit, I like doing this & so does Kathy. That's encouraging because I would enjoy doing this again, but in another state.

Meanwhile, I attend the 8:00 am seminar on: "Driving with the Allison World Transmission" which was extremely well attended. Questions from the audience on a one @ a time basis by microphone were also quite interesting; so engrossing it was that I had to go against my principles & leave before absorbing all the down to earth data that I could.

Kathy attends her 8:00am seminar on: "Women's Health issues & Beyond." She arrived a little late so missed getting the handouts; again, she left before the seminar ended as she felt she wasn't learning anything new. More time to peruse the exhibitors.

Before joining Kathy to attend the next seminar, I sought out the FMCA desk in the exhibits building & turned in our max weight statistics form copied from the Newell placard in prep for getting our coach weighted tomorrow @ 9:30am.

Our next seminar @ 9:45am: "Meet the Family; (Family Motor Coach Association)". We have been FMCA members since 2001 but have not concentrated on the many benefits that are available, especially the Medex Plus program, which was well presented by the executive director Don Eversmann.

Next, K & I take a seat @ 11:30am & attend the: "Full-Timing" seminar. Not that we know all there is about full timing, but the speakers on this subject & with all due respect, were so slow & dare I say....boring, that we felt our precious time was being shattered. Again, we slip out from the masses without much ado.

None of the remaining seminars this afternoon provoked our enthusiasm, so with extra time, we sauntered over to the "Big Rigs for Sale" area & talked with Sam some more.
Our timing was not the best due to Sam working with a camera guy in filming all the details of the latest Newell 2010 Show coach.

From here, we visited the Prevost guys, who I might add, had quite the elaborate display & offered (3) choices of ice cream in several places. Ok, so it's on the house but we did reveal that our preference was a Newell & they gave us ice cream anyway.

We found some shade across the street & sat down under the big umbrella to enjoy more ice cream & who did Kathy spot riding their bikes: Gary & Barbara. Barbara also enjoyed a free ice cream as she & Gary joined us. It's been interesting getting to know them. They drive a Monaco, Signature, live & work in southern Indiana where they have their own business arranging world wide Catholic pilgrimage tours. This is a second marriage for each of them & Barbara has (3) grown sons from her first marriage.

We chat for a good (45) min & then I excuse myself, return to our coach & start our generator for more of today's battery bank charging. I also call our tax accountant Jeff in Alaska & leave a message, & then walk up to the Sheep Barn # 2 for 5:00 pm Mass.

After Mass, we say our goodbyes to Barbara & Gary & plan to keep in touch; then start seeking out some healthy food to avoid going back to our coach & snacking. Most of the venders & food sources are closing up now, as we walk around avoiding the busy clean-up & packing process + dodging many electric carts & mini-trucks zipping by.
Finally, behind the Clock Tower, we spot a small open-air food vendor who is still serving, so we both have a pulled pork sandwich which was extra large due to their wanting to clean out, clean up & move out.

Then we head for the evening entertainment @ the Reaves Arena where the comedian Jerry Farber will perform. Jerry was very funny & had a style like none other.

Evening movie; we watch ½ of: "Downstairs." Since I had already seen the "Big Chill" & Kathy didn't seem that interested, we nixed watching the rest of it & moved on to a new movie.

Generator run time: 7.1 hrs.

Lights out: 11:16pm

Awake: 7:00am Temp 57 sleep 7+50 sunny overnight @ Perry, Georgia.

Kathy has no seminars scheduled for the 8:00 am time frame so she decides to visit the RV venders once again; I also have no seminars of interest during this time period so, in lieu of joining her, I stay with our coach & use our computer for over an hr.

@ 9:30 am, Kathy attended the seminar: "Inside Tips for Cleaning Coaches; Professional Secrets Revealed!" She really enjoyed this class & took a few notes; now let's see her get into action!

@ 11:30am, I attended the seminar to learn more about: "Every RVer Needs a Blog." And a lot of talk was focused on adding pictures to a blog & using Picasa; had I listened to my buddy Ray....about a yr ago, I'd be an expert by now.

K & I meet around 1:00pm & witness (6) really long lines leading to the famous "Ice Cream Social" tables. Our 1st thoughts were: not interested, it's not worth the time, the ice cream will be melted before we get there, etc. Well, like everything else these FMCA people do: the skillfulness, organization, dexterity, etc works magic. Those (6) lines moved like, Wow! And, without being greedy, we & many others went back for seconds.

From here, both K & I join the 1:30 pm seminar titled: "The Biggest Mistake Made by Full-timers. We lasted about (15) min & then snuck out; it was not what we anticipated. Then just across the street, we snuck into another seminar titled: "Frustration-Free RVing." We held out for a good (10) min & then quietly walked away from this one also. Don't get me wrong, there are many seminar choices & many interesting ones... that's why they have these rallies. One chooses what one is interested in but, sometimes, even though the title & description sound good, the content doesn't connect with the individual's interests.

Later, after roaming with Kathy thru the vender booths & making a few not too expensive purchases, we attended 5:00pm Mass @ the Sheep Barn # 2.

Yesterday, the Catholic members agreed to each bring a pot-luck item for tonight's dinner to supplement the main meal of pulled pork & Brunswick stew furnished by the Roamin' Catholic Chapter. Kathy contributed a bowl of 4-bean salad.

Over (60) humble & hungry people attended this afternoon's Mass &, afterward, joined in the pot-luck dinner. As usual There was plenty of food.We join Barbara & Gary during our meal time; and we (4) decide to sit together @ the Reaves Arena & enjoy the: "Restless Heart Performers" starting @ 7:00pm

Well, the Restless Heart Performers made K & me more restless; their music was ultra Country Western music & didn't fit our musical scales. I think Barbara enjoyed the band immensely but, she's the youngest; we hung in there & didn't try to sneak out.

The best part: Harry & Rosalyn, also Newell owners, were sitting over & (1) row down. We walked out with them & gabbed part of the way to our respective coaches. It's been awhile since we've updated each other on our respective activities. .

Tonight's movie: "The Big Chill." We watch (20) min.

Generator run time: 5.3 hrs.

Lights out: 11:14pm

Awake: 5:51am Temp 59 sleep 6+26 mostly sunny overnight @ Perry, GA.

This morning we each wore a splash of green in celebration of St. Patrick's Day... & it is so good to see the sunshine again.

I was (15) min late for my 8:00am seminar on "The Caterpillar Engine" & therefore was not present in time to get a nice manual; they passed out (200) of these manuals & then ran out. However, I made sure to pick up a complimentary DVD covering the same subject midway thru the seminar.
I forgot to mention that on Monday, early afternoon, we signed up with FMCA to have our motorhome weighed when leaving the fairgrounds on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, Kathy was attending the 8:00am seminar: "Make your RV Tax Deductible" which she didn't care for & so walked out & scrutinized the exhibits some more.

@ 9:30am I attended the seminar on "RV batteries," which I thoroughly enjoyed & learned a bit more on being kinder to our AGM batteries.

Kathy really enjoyed her 9:45am seminar on: Green cleaning the motorhome with Micro fiber.

The 11:30am "RV Electrical Circuits" seminar was equally as engrossing for me as the
instructor was well versed on electrical engineering.

Kathy's 11:30am seminar on: "Managing Digital Photos with Picasa" was the best of the day I believe. We do have our bundle of digital photos not well organized that's for sure.

Then K & I meet & walk to our motorhome for a quick lunch before spending a few hrs looking @ some of the (500) motorhomes on display for sale. The Newell Company had (2) of their coaches displayed: a pre-owned 2007 & a new 2010. Sam, our sales manager, was also there & we gabbed quite awhile about the RV industry & the economy.

Next, we walked over to the so called: Sheep Barn # 2 for 5:00pm Mass which is being celebrated each day by Fathers John & Al Gallant, brothers who are both retired but are active in a motorhome ministry, bringing the Catholic faith to rallies, conventions, etc. They are sponsored here by a group from FMCA known as the "Roamin' Catholic" chapter.

Dinner in the fairground restaurant called: "Concessions by Cox." Kathy has a chicken salad sandwich & I have an Italian sausage sandwich.

At 7:00 pm we attended: "Tony Kenny's Ireland" @ Reaves Arena with the other thousands of RV'ers. This Irish variety show featured singing, comedy, fiddling, & dancing & kept us entertained for a good (90) min.

Back in our coach, we finish watching: "Heaven Can Wait" with Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Jack Warden, Dyan Cannon, Charles Grodin, James Mason, etc. Also know as: "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" with Beatty as good-natured football player who is taken to heaven ahead of schedule & has to return to "life" in another man's body. 1978. Of course this was a little far fetched but still....quite entertaining.

Generator run time: 6.1 hrs.

Lights out: 11:10pm

Awake: 5:02am Temp 60 sleep 5+47 rain, heavy @ times...all day overnight@ Perry, GA.

After a quick & light breakfast & using our umbrellas, K & I walk about ¾ mile & attend our 1st seminar together starting @ 8:00am: "Orientation for 1st time attendees." We were surprised to learn that there are 23 % 1st timers like us @ this rally of (27,272) motorhomes + (500) motorhomes for touring, test driving, & purchase.

Then @ 9:45am, I attend the "Digital Diesel" seminar, covering the Silver Leaf digital electronics system. Off to a terrific start! We have this digital arrangement in our coach & I love it. Although I've read some of the manual, Dale, the speaker, enlightened me as to many other systems the Silver Leaf monitoring unit can do.

While I attended the Digital Diesel seminar, Kathy in another building, was attending a seminar on "Joint Health & living with Arthritis." This is one gathering where our Motorola Talk-About's come in handy; the class times are usually 1hr +15 min, so we synchronized our watches & @ a certain time, talk with each other to either announce our next seminar location or meet for lunch, etc.

My next seminar, "Understanding, monitoring & protecting the RV electrical system," was another one of my favorite tech talks.

Meanwhile, Kathy sat thru the "Enhance your RV lifestyle" seminar which she did not find that enhancing. The presenter was mostly promoting the items he had for sale.

Then, using our Talk-Abouts & umbrellas, we rendezvous under the big tent & watch the German dancers do some synchronous moves.

@ 1:00pm, the Exhibits Preview opened & what a crowd there was! K & I went our separate ways with a time set for meeting later.

@ 5:00pm, we attended Mass with about (50) other Catholics.

Dinner: Leftover meat loaf, mashed potatoes, gravy, Triscuits & a 4-bean salad.

We watch ½ of the movie: "Heaven Can Wait."

Generator run time: 8.6 hrs.

Lights out: 11:25pm

Awake: 6:28 Temp 58 sleep 7+11 intermittent rain overnight @ Perry, GA.

Kathy makes sourdough pancakes with all the trimmings for breakfast.

Katrina calls en route to her church in Denver; she & Kathy talked about 20 min. Karina has been taken out of her foster home & transferred to a lockdown facility in CO Springs; Katrina will visit when she gets the OK from the social worker. Katrina is now in the market to buy a street bike as she likes to go with a group of riders who reject mountain bikes & she also wants to do a triathlon.

Late morning & early afternoon, K & I walk the fair grounds for exercise & to familiarize ourselves with the various buildings & fairground layout; about (2) hrs later, heavy rain chased us to a nearby tram & we rode that back to our motorhome.

Using our umbrellas, K & I walk to the Sheep Barn # 2 & attend 5:00pm Mass; this large building has a metal roof without any inside insulation & before Mass began, the rain came down so heavy, it was impossible to hear the priest using his microphone. So Mass was delayed for a good (20) min until the rain subsided.

Dinner: tuna casserole & a spinach salad.

We finish the movie: "Hunchback of Notre Dame" with Charles Laughton, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell, Maureen O'Hara, Edmond O'Brien, Alan Marshal, etc. Superb remake of Lon Chaney silent is even better than the original. Laughton as Victor Hugo's misshapen bell-ringer Quasimodo, is haunting & unforgettable. Magnificently atmospheric studio recreation of 15th-century Paris also a big plus. 1939. Fantastic story; engrossing throughout even for Kathy.

Generator run time - 6.1 hrs.

Lights out: 11:15pm.

Awake: 7:20am Temp 51 sleep 7+05 cloudy with drizzle overnight @ Perry, GA.

Diesel powered motorhomes leaving the campground woke me up as they passed our camp porch. I slept fairly well until around 4:30am, then had trouble finding a comfortable position.

Dee was up & in the office early this morning; she told me the next time we come this way, be sure & call early & she'll have a good (50) amp full hookup site for us. She also came up with a good idea for dumping our black water; "on your way out of the park, just park on the opposite lane & use one of the campsites that are vacated now to empty your tank," she tells me. That was a great idea as we are attending FMCA's 81st International Convention @ the Perry Fairgrounds & will be dry camping for 5-6 days; it is imperative that our pure water holding tank be full & our black water tank be empty before we arrive. We thank Dee for working with us to be so close to the fairgrounds.

We leave the Crossroads Campground @ 9:20 with Kathy following me in the Suzuki ... heading to the Perry Fairgrounds.

Today's travel: 5 miles 38 min 1.4 gal used 3.3 mpg 6.9 avg speed.

Acres & acres of parking space available @ the Fairgrounds; during the past few yrs, it was normal to have 5000 or more motorhomes attending these rallies; most likely due to the economic downturn, this time, only 2700 + are registered.

These guys have a well organized pattern for parking a few thousand units per day; yesterday we picked up our registration credentials for our motorhome & tow car, placed them in the appropriate spots & today that's the signal for the parking volunteers to direct our coach to where we will be parking. It worked well as I spent little time idling in line. And yes, we will be parking on grass.

Today is cool & windy with an almost constant drizzle so we stay inside & read our "Great Georgia Getaway Convention Program book" to select what seminars, entertainment and special events we might want to see & attend next week.

Dinner: meat loaf, mashed potatoes, gravy, broccoli & 4-bean salad.

We finish watching: "The Good Earth" with Paul Muni, Luise Rainer, Walter Connolly, Charley Grapewin, Jessie Ralph, Tilly Losch, etc. Mammoth Pearl Buck novel recreated in detail, telling story of greed ruining lives of simple Chinese farming couple. Rainer won Oscar as the ever-patient wife of Muni, as did Karl Freund for his cinematography. The special effects are outstanding. 1937. Unbelievable film for its time, with a worthy message; you don't want to miss seeing this eye opening story.

Lights out: 11:17pm

Awake: 7:10am Temp 58 sleep 7+15 cloudy overnight @ Savannah, GA.

My 1st job this morning was to get up on the roof again & clean off the yellow dust from the rear (2) slide tops. In fact, yesterday & today, I not only cleaned off the slide tops but also the sides & windows of the slide itself....because those slides get retracted & we don't want any of that yellow dust getting into our home.

After our breakfast of a healthy Kathy muffin, we leave the Savannah Oaks RV Resort @ 9:09am following I-16 to S-R 358, S-R 96 to I-75 to Perry Georgia & the Crossroads Campground....arriving @ 12:05pm.

Today's travel: 161 miles 3+06 driving time 26 gal used 6.3 mpg 52. 2 avg speed.

When I made this reservation, Dee admitted that every site in the campground was already taken or reserved....but she will accommodate renting a parking space next to the office that has only (30) amps with water but no sewer. I was getting a little desperate so I signed up for that special parking spot.

Sure enough, when we arrived, that special spot was outlined perfectly to fit our (45) ft length didn't allow enough width for us to open our slides due to the porch on the driver's side & other motorhomes driving past us on the passenger side. That was OK with us until I realized the (30) amp service could not give me (2) legs of electrical power & the Newell coaches are designed to have power for both legs.

I talked Dee into letting me use an outside porch outlet to provide the other leg with (20) amps which would satisfy the electrical equation; she aims to please & agreed to the idea until....a critical circuit breaker tripped & shut down the credit card unit in the office & several other little things like lights in the building. I had used another receptacle that was next to the Coca Cola machine & probably that was too much draw from that (20) amp outlet. Dee did keep her cool though & we both started looking for the suspect breaker box to reset.

In the meantime, the office phone was ringing, more motorhomes were arriving that had reserved parking sites & she couldn't use her credit card machine; it was a busy time for Dee. Without exaggerating, the entire office building is a wiring nightmare; there are receptacles & wires running everywhere; we found (3) breaker boxes but no tripped breaker. Finally Dee called her son-in-law who works for an air conditioning & heating company; Woody solved the problem within minutes; he had to take the inside panel off a breaker box to get to the tripped breaker. He knows the office wiring nightmare & truly tried to help me get the other electrical leg I was after, to no avail. And so, I ran our generator to charge our batteries & then used the (1) leg of that 30 amps to power the refrigerator & freezer for the rest of the night.

Aside from that adventure, we drove the Suzuki to the Perry Fairgrounds & picked up our "will call" rally package. En route to our camp porch, we visited a flea market on Main Street where Kathy made a big $1.00 purchase.

Dinner: Tuna casserole, mixed fruit & a spinach salad.

We watched our usual TV programs & about (45) min more of: "The Good Earth."

Then it was time to shut down the generator & go to sleep; me on the living room floor & Kathy on the bedroom couch. The living room couch for me is too short.

Lights out: 12:15am

Awake: 7:00am Temp 58 sleep 7+04 sunny overnight @ Savannah, GA.

After breakfast, I spend most of the morning & some of the afternoon preparing our 2008 tax portfolio. Then later, I call our motorhome insurance company & pay the premium for the 2009 yr.Meanwhile, early afternoon, Kathy gets some light shopping done @ the nearby stores.

Before dinner, I get out the telescoping ladder & clean the front (2) slide tops of yellow dust residue (pollen); I think that dust is coming from the evergreen trees in this campground; it's time to move away from the trees.

Dinner: garlic curry chicken with spinach & fresh fruit salad.

We watch ½ of the movie: "The Good Earth."

Lights out: 11:55pm

Friday 13 March 2009

Awake: 5:58am Temp 57 sleep 5+20 sunny overnight @ Savannah, GA

Mid morning, I make a few calls to secure a campground in Perry, GA for Fri & Sat.

Then K & I drive (4.5) miles to the Bamboo Farm & Coastal Gardens. After talking with Jeff, the manager, we do a self-guided walking tour of nearly all (28) small gardens and/or test sites. We've learned more about bamboo than we expected too, ie a bamboo plant grows to its full height in (1) year & grows no more except to put out smaller shoots which follow the same growth pattern. These (46) areas have been used for research & education for over (100) yrs; there is much to see & learn regarding plants & trees.

Now the University of Georgia College of Agriculture & Environmental Sciences Cooperative Extension is heavily involved with the planting & testing. Savannah is apparently an ideal spot for plant exploration & a bamboo grove.

Dinner: Bass fish, asparagus, brown rice & spinach salad.

Finish the movie: "Picnic" with William Holden, Rosalind Russell, Kim Novak, Betty Field, Cliff Robertson, etc. Excellent film of William Inge's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about drifter (Holden) who stops over in Kansas, stealing alluring Novak from his old buddy Robertson (making his film debut). 1955. Good show; Kathy was wide awake.

Lights out: 11:56pm

Awake: 7:14am Temp 60 sleep 7+17 mostly sunny overnight @ Savannah, GA.

After breakfast, I visit the campground office for more info on a trolley tour of downtown Savannah; then we motor east (15) miles, find the Oglethorpe Trolley Tours building & sigh up for a (1.5) hr non-stop tour of downtown Savannah. This tour includes unlimited on/off until 5:30pm; one must take the (1.5) hr non-stop tour 1st however.

This non-stop tour was great; our driver had some (13) yrs experience & knew her history of this historic town plus several interesting stories whose authenticity might be questioned.

The city is organized into some (21) squares & our driver covered them all, many times circling a square to point out different buildings & landmarks or to obey the one way streets. We thought it would take us (3) days to redo this tour on our own, as the city seemed so big & we had much difficulty keeping track of where we were on the map.

Afterward, I suggested to Kathy that we should do a walking tour in lieu of the on/off bus program that I felt might be too time consuming & she agreed; but 1st, we visited the visitor's
center & picked up a more detailed map.

Turns out, the city wasn't as huge as we expected; after 3.5 hrs of walking, taking pictures, reading significant plaques, etc, I am guessing that we covered a good 90% of the same area the bus tour gave us. For picture taking & reading the plaques, walking was the best.

En route to the campground, we made a grocery stop @ a Super Wal-Mart & load up our refrigerator once again.

Dinner: leftover chili & corn chips.

Nick calls while walking home from work; he tells me that Jerry's cough is subsiding a little. The doctor did give them an antibiotic but to use it for Jerry only if he continues to get worse. So far, he appears to be making some healthy progress.

We watch ½ of the movie: "Picnic."

Lights out: 12:33am

Awake: 6:28am Temp 56 sleep 6+11 mostly sunny overnight @ Jacksonville, FL.

After looking over our info on what to see & do in Jacksonville, we decided to skip the city & proceed north on I-95 to Savannah, GA. I haven't been able to find a campground in Savannah or very close to downtown; Kathy suggests we peel out & stop @ the GA welcome center where they might have more info on campgrounds.

After having coffee, we leave the Pecan RV Resort @ 9:30am; about (40) miles further north, we stop @ the Georgia Welcome Center where Kathy loads up on brochures & pamphlets on what to see & do in Savannah. Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds in or close to downtown Savannah; the nearest campground is the one I called yesterday while Kathy was @ the Flea Market (about 15 miles one way). I call Tanya again; she remembers my name & tells me the best she can do is (2) days, but she will work on switching a few reservations around & maybe come up with a few more days by the time we arrive. Then K & I have breakfast while parked in the truck lane @ the Welcome Center.

We arrive @ the Savannah Oaks RV Resort @ 12:28pm.

Today's travel: 114 miles 18 gal used 2+15 travel time 6.5 mpg 51 mph avg.

There are many trees in this campground so, when parking, I had to maneuver the coach so as to be able to receive satellite signals for our TV. Now we scrutinize the brochures & pamphlets & plan our tour schedule for tomorrow.

Before dinner, K & I walk the campground for (20) min of exercise & curiosity.

Dinner: Italian sausage, peppers, onion stoup with whole wheat pasta & broccoli.

Nick calls from Seattle; Jerry is sick, coughing to the point of vomiting twice during the night, & Nick wants to talk with Nurse Mom. They took Jerry to the Dr. today but, without an appointment, they were only able to see an assistant who advised shower steam for the cough or an over the counter cough expectorant. Nick & Eriko are concerned about a rash that Jerry has developed behind his knees & on his feet. After some discussion & in the absence of a fever & no rash on Jerry's torso, Kathy was not sure what caused the rash but felt it was not serious. They have an appointment for Jerry at the Dr tomorrow.

Tonight's movie: "The Devil & Miss Jones" with Jean Arthur, Robert Cummings, Charles Coburn, Spring Byington, Edmund Gwenn, etc. Delightful social comedy by Norman Krasna; millionaire Coburn masquerades as clerk in his own department store to investigate employee complaints; a must see. 1941. Great story; we loved it & Kathy stayed awake!

Lights out: 11:57pm

Awake: 8:07am Temp 52 sleep 6+42 sunny overnight @ St. Augustine, FL.

After a good & healthy (2) egg omelet from Kathy, we say our goodbyes to our near RV neighbors & leave the Indian Forest Campground @ 11:50am; following I-95 northbound to Jacksonville, FL & arrive @ the Pecan Park RV Resort @ 1:29pm.

Today's travel: 58 miles 1+20 time 9 gal used 6.3 mpg 43 mph avg speed.

When checking in I questioned the host about the park name & are there Pecans in the area? He told me I could have every one I found in the park @ no charge; (539) campsites on this property with very few small trees & so much for a pecan hunt.

This RV Park is directly affiliated with the Flea Market adjacent to the campground & it's open Sat. & Sun. from 8:00am to 5:00pm. Can you guess where Kathy spent the next (2) hrs? Meanwhile, during her absence, I spend some time on our computer + start searching for the next campground.

The good news: she was tough & only purchased a jar of mint jelly for tonight's dinner.

Before & during the setting sun, we walked every asphalt road in this campground for curiosity & exercise, which amounted to (1) hr. Also, this was the 1st time I've witnessed a motorhome that has a full side slide-out on one side & (2) slides on the opposite side.
Several yrs ago, on a Friday, October 20, 2006, the owner & President of the HWH Company, Paul, showed Kathy & me the initial start-up for making a full side-slide for motorhomes.

Dinner: lamb chops with mint jelly, asparagus, brown rice & a mixed salad.

Finish watching movie: "Bombshell" with Jean Harlow, Lee Tracy, Frank Morgan, Franchot Tone, Una Merkel, etc. Devastating satire of 1930's Hollywood, with Harlow a much-abused star, Tracy an incredibly unscrupulous publicity director making her life hell. No holds barred. 1933. This movie was a little too rowdy for Kathy but I rather enjoyed it.

Lights out: 12:17am

Awake: 6:51am Temp 47 sleep 6+38 sunny overnight @ St. Augustine, FL.

This morning we have a large breakfast since we'll be spending another day with Ed & Mary Ann; not that we won't be eating....we're just not sure when we will eat.

Meanwhile, Kathy does (1) load of laundry while I spend time on our computer.

Then we visit M.A. & Ed @ 2:30 & find much more to talk about as we wait for the time to arrive for (3) of us to leave for church; Mary Ann is getting ready to perform tonight with the St. Augustine Community Chorus @ 7:30 & we are invited. Meanwhile, K & I plus Ed attend 4:00pm Mass @ the BIG St. Anastasia Catholic Church which was very crowded; the homily lasted only (5) min but the time it would have taken to vacate the huge parking lot would have been (30) + min had not Ed suggested that I park very close to the only exit; only took (15) min.

The St Augustine High School auditorium was literally packed for the occasion & I could easily see why; these volunteers are good: (29) Sopranos; (9) Tenors; (27) Altos & (19) Bass. And their high-quality voices were accompanied by first-class: woodwinds, guitar, bass, trumpet, trombone & drums.

Their production had a theme: "Saints & Sinners" & their music was selected accordingly; "Don't Walk Wit' de Devil," "Devils on Broadway," "Mack the Knife," etc.

Then.... "On Being Just a Little Bit Naughty": "Everybody Has the Right to be Wrong!" "Sweet Georgia Brown," "The Lady is a Tramp," etc.

And.... "On Being a Saint": "Stouthearted Men," "My Special Angel," "Ain't Bisbehavin'," & "When The Saints Go Marching In." It was great! It really was; Mary Ann was well pleased as were we.

This is where we say our goodbye & thank you to Mary Ann & Ed for now; we almost caught up on the yrs gone by but, by golly, we sure had fun doing other stuff too. Ed & Mary Ann will be returning to Long Island @ the end of this month. As they have family in PA & will certainly come to visit them, we really hope they'll include us in their visit.

Back @ our coach, we are wide awake or so we thought & start another movie with popcorn & mixed nuts called: "Bombshell." We watch ½.

Lights out: 1:25am.

Awake: 6:04am Temp 45 sleep 5+50 sunny overnight @ St. Augustine, FL.

Small breakfast for us again this morning; then we visit Mary Ann & Ed @ their rented condo before riding with them to the nearby Beach Comer Restaurant for lunch. Very popular restaurant but we did beat the bikers from Canada & thus, our waiting time was a mere (20) min. Kathy had a fish taco & I had a fresh tuna steak with salad plus we each have an Amber Bock beer. I can see why this place is so popular; our meals were excellent.

During our lunch we discussed a few choices of what to do today; Ed was prepared to drive on the beach & hang out there all afternoon until, (2) people we didn't know, sitting across from us, started talking about the Ravine Gardens State Park in Palatka, FL, a (30) mile drive one way. Just yesterday they had walked the trails & toured the Ravine & marveled how wonderful the azaleas are looking. Well, that sparked a strong interest for Mary Ann & Kathy so away we Palatka.

The Ravine Gardens were developed by the City of Palatka, the Federal Civil Works Administration (CWA) & the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression from (1933-39) in an effort to spur the economic recovery of the city of Palatka. Gosh, there could easily be a deja vu for other cities coming up any day now funded by our government stimulus plan.

This place was amazing; not only were there many Azaleas in full bloom but also the trails & (2) suspension bridges that we crossed in good condition plus the different plants & trees: live oaks, hickory, sweet gum, longleaf pines, cabbage palm & many more filled in the spaces around the very deep ravine. We read that in 1934, over 95,000 azaleas were planted by Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) workers. We figure we went up & down the Ravine trails for a good (2) hrs.

Before we left town, we each had an ice cream cone from Dairy Queen as a reward to ourselves that nobody fell off the cliffs or got bruised.

It was dark when we got back to Ed & MA's place so we just said our thanks for another swell day & we'll see you guys tomorrow.

K & I finish the movie: "Dinner at Eight" with Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore, Lee Tracy, etc. Vintage MGM constellation of stars portray various strata of society in N.Y.C., invited to dine & shine; Harlow in fine comedy form. 1933. Kathy wasn't that impressed, but being born & raised on the farm, I paid strict attention.

Lights out: 12:13am

Awake: 7:04am Temp 42 sleep 7+21 sunny overnight @ St. Augustine, FL.

My brother called last night but it was too late to return his call. This morning, he was working with a client & will call later this evening.

K & I motor to the Grumman aircraft facilities in St. Augustine & ask about a tour schedule; "there are no tours" the gate guard told me.

Next, we decided to check out "The Fountain of Youth" just down the road from Grumman. After carefully reading the advertisements of what we would see & do in this Archaeological Park, we changed our minds; I could be wrong but it seemed more like a "tourist trap."

Then we drove downtown & parked in Flagler's parking lot for $5.00 per day. We self toured the Memorial Presbyterian Church that Flagler had built in 1890 to the glory of his daughter, Jennie Louise who passed away as a result of childbirth in1889. The pews & lighting fixtures along with the hand carved doors, etc are all original. After the church was dedicated, it took the artist (12) yrs to complete all the stained glass windows. More recent, the stained glass windows have been restored as a project of the Trustees of Memorial Presbyterian Church. Every window, all (92) of them, were removed, cleaned, repaired, releaded & reinstalled from 2002--2005. We looked closely @ these windows & found that, reading from left to right, they contain passages from the Apostle's Creed.

One room contained pictures & more information about a Flagler home which I didn't know about; just west of the church he had built "Kirkside", another large large mansion.

Next, we find the Cathedral Basilica & join the tour group in this Catholic Church. The tour guide told us that Flagler had a role in rebuilding this church as well after a fire did damage to the coquina stone walls in 1887, (17) yrs after it became a Cathedral; Flagler had the walls covered over & built a beautiful Spanish Renaissance style bell tower, topped by a steeple & gold cross. This Catholic Church was certainly not as beautiful, deluxe, lavish, or ornate, as the Presbyterian Church we just saw.

Then we join the outside crowd of tourists who are walking the historic pedestrian Mall, St. George Street, that includes: bikers from many states who are having a Rally in this city this week, & the snowbirds who like us, are touring places of interest. So many stores, cafés, bars, places of interest, etc, etc; the last thing on our might-do list for today is the unconquerable "Castillo de San Marcos" which took (23) yrs to complete.

After spending a good (1.5) hrs cautiously looking the fort over, room by room, with its bombproof storerooms, thick coquina walls, mounted sea coast artillery pieces along the seawall, the bastions on each of the four corners, a moat with drawbridge, etc, we find this fort amazingly well preserved & tough for its yrs.

The Spanish kept the moat dry &, during sieges, used it as pen for domestic animals. Whenever under land attack, the moat could be filled with sea water by opening flood gates on the seawall. Without a doubt, these early Spanish solders had planned extremely well & designed their fort even better.

Dinner: leftover stuffed peppers with broccoli.

My brother calls: we run the gamut; Don answers my 2nd question explaining that he & Josie are not doing the West Coast bike trek down hwy (1) & 101 from Washington State to San Diego this yr. He tells me there are just too many lose strings yet to tie up.

Late movie: ½ of "Dinner at Eight."

Lights out: 12:14am

Awake: 6:22am Temp 36 sleep 6+12 cool & windy overnight @ St. Augustine, FL

We each have a small breakfast this morning with the intentions of having lunch with Ed & Mary Ann around noon time. M & E arrive promptly @ 11:30am &, after a quick tour of our MH, Ed drives us to one of their favorite Italian cafés, Napoli, for lunch. Ed just finished his tennis games & is ready to chow down. We all share an order of fried ravioli & a large pizza plus K & I share a dark beer.

From here, we head south on A1A to the Fort Matanzas National Park; 1st we watch a movie on historical Fort Matanzas, on the local wild life & other frequent creatures that one can expect to see in the area. Even though it's cool & windy, we don our jackets & walk the nature trail seeing only a few birds & no wild life. There appeared to be a nesting area in a clump of trees where many egrets & pelicans were flying in & settling.

Then we walk down to the Matanzas River, climb aboard a Nat'l Park Service motor boat & take a short ride across the river to Fort Matanzas. Here we listen to the history of this rebuilt fort from a history buff fellow outfitted in a Spanish military uniform who, not only entertained us with his sense of humor, but also educated us with stories of this military outpost fearing attacks from England during the early era of 1586 thru 1763. The fort's primary mission was to maintain control of Matanzas inlet. After thwarting British attempts to gain the inlet in 1742, the fort never again fired its guns in battle.

Next Ed motors us further south to Washington Oaks Gardens State Park where we walk the scenic trails & admire the many species of exotic plants from around the world. From here, we return to Ed & Mary Ann's rental condo, & call it a day. Our next rendezvous with E & M A will be on Friday.

Dinner: New England clam chowder with Triscuits.

Late movie: Documentary called: "That's entertainment." Great production Musicals from the 30's thru the 60's & it was entertaining.

Lights out: 11:47pm

Awake: 6:44am Temp 35 sleep 7+08 sunny-cool & windy overnight @ St. Augustine, FL.

After breakfast, K & I motor downtown & join the crowd for a guided tour of the 1st & 2nd floors of the Flagler College building, formerly the luxurious Ponce de Leon Hotel.

A little Florida history: This hotel was the first large scale building constructed entirely of poured concrete. The popularity of "the Ponce" and its style strongly influenced the architecture of southern Florida for the next fifty years. Flagler vowed to spare no expense in building the hotel. And he didn't. When the Ponce de Leon opened in January 1888, its guests lavished in the newest and the best. Although electricity was not widespread, guests enjoyed electric lights powered by four of Thomas Edison's direct current dynamos. It even had steam heat, which was seldom seen in Florida.

Louis Comfort Tiffany decorated the building's interior with stained glass, mosaics and several commissioned murals. The success of the Hotel Ponce de Leon was episodic, immediately contending with a yellow fever epidemic and the worst freeze in state history in 1895. St. Augustine's weather proved not to be as warm and sunny as other resort areas that were developed further south along the peninsula, and the town never boomed as a winter resort. However, tourists did come during the first decades of the 20th century, and the Ponce de Leon was one of only three Flagler Hotels to survive the Great Depression.

Following a lull in tourism during World War II, the hotel attracted large crowds for several years after, but decline resumed and, in 1967, the hotel closed and was sold to become Flagler College in 1968. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places & serves as a residence hall & centerpiece of the college, retaining much of its original presence.

Our tour began in the courtyard with a detailed account of the building & the grounds. We toured the dining hall, which features (79) Tiffany glass windows, (8) Tiffany crystal chandeliers, artwork & Flagler family portraits which adorn the Flagler room, formerly the grand parlor. Our last stop was the ladies lounge; formerly a grand waiting room for the wealthy female guests as their husbands checked in & took care of financial matters.

How lucky these current students are to be housed in such a historic building with a luxurious atmosphere. From our careful observations, the building appears to be well cared for with some areas on the first floor off limits for the student body, except on special occasions. Our tour, given by a sophomore student, lasted over an hr.

Next, we do a self tour of the Lightner Museum, the former Alcazar Hotel also built by Henry Flagler in 1888. The Ponce de Leon, designed to accommodate and impress the "super" wealthy, was just the beginning for Flagler. Across the street, he built the Alcazar Hotel to put up the "merely" rich who traveled there on his train & to serve as the playground for the "Ponce." The hotel boasted a steam room, massage parlor, gymnasium, sulfur baths, a bowling alley, tennis courts & ballroom as well as the world's largest indoor swimming pool- (120) ft long & (50) ft wide. The bottom sloped along from (3) ft to (12) ft.

The four-story Alcazar, costing about half what the Ponce de Leon did, was smaller and the rooms a bit less lavish. Nonetheless it was still a grand hotel. Flagler called it superior. The Alcazar, though, now houses the Lightner Museum ....where we spent a good (3) hrs of our time.

In (1948) Otto C. Lightner, the Chicago publisher & editor of Hobbies magazine converted the empty hotel into a museum to contain his vast collection of art, antiques & other items. (3) floors display furnishings, costumes, Victorian art glass & natural history specimens. (1) room is dedicated to a collection of Tiffany stained glass. Other highlights include Oriental art, art nouveau-works & a Victorian village

You can still see the place of the once world's-largest indoor swimming pool. But its days of glory are gone, so you won't need your swim suit. A mini-mall of antique shops sits -- literally -- on the basin's sides. You reach these shops via concrete stairs at each corner -- the same stairs that once led bathers into the water. The floor has been leveled off & a small cafe occupies the main part of the once swimming pool. The Russian steam baths still exist on the 2nd floor

We stayed long enough to witness the nineteenth-century mechanical musical instruments demonstrated @ 2:00pm...which, if your ears can handle quite a lot of "needing tuned up equipment" was a blast from the past. Seeing this museum was well worth our time & $. I must admit: some of these words are from Bob Martin: Author-Writer-Researcher from the Inquisitive Traveler.

Next, just across the street is yet another Flagler deluxe hotel called: "Casa Monica." In 1887, Henry Flagler sold a parcel of land to Bostonian architect Franklin W. Smith on which Smith built the Casa Monica Hotel, naming the hotel after St. Monica, the mother of revered St. Augustine and namesake of the city.

The hotel opened on January 1, 1888 with only three guests registered & was later sold to Henry Flagler a few short months later. Flagler renamed the property to Hotel Cordova and caused it to thrive, filling the hotel with many return guests and grand affairs. He later connected Hotel Cordova as an annex to The Alcazar, a neighboring hotel also owned by Flagler.

The Hotel Cordova closed its doors in 1932 and was purchased 30 years later in 1962 by St. John's County to be turned into a county courthouse. The structure served as the courthouse for another 30 years before being purchased by The Kessler Collection in 1997.

Opening on December 10, 1999, the Casa Monica Hotel was restored to its original name and grandeur, operating once more as a luxurious hotel. Now celebrating 120 years in existence, the Casa Monica Hotel exemplifies the same splendor and service as it did in 1888, maintaining the original historic and majestic style while uniting it to modern luxury. Our self tour of the Casa Monica Hotel was rather short, but still interesting & impressive.

From here, we walk about (15) min in the cool & windy 50's temp to tour the Presbyterian Church that Flagler had built. Unfortunately, we were a mere (5) mins late & missed the last tour of the day. We don't give up easily so like Arnold would say: "We'll be back!"

Dinner: leftover crab cakes, fresh almond encrusted Bass fish, asparagus & mixed salad.

No movie again tonight.

Lights out: 12:10am

Awake: 6:33am Temp 43 sleep 6+36 sunny overnight @ St. Augustine, FL.

To spend more time with Ed & Mary Ann & more touring in the area, I sign up for (5) more nights of camping. Our next gathering with M & E will be Wednesday.

Today K & I decided to stay @ the campground & casually catch up on a few procrastinated projects.

I finally take the time & finish the job of organizing my things from the basement bays into the (3) tubs I purchased from Costco ....some time ago; then dispose of the unnecessary stuff in a nearby dumpster. Then I talk Kathy into walking the campground for curiosity & (20) min of exercise.

Katrina calls: She & Kathy talk about a particular meal preparation of chili for a group of (8) of her friends whom she invited to her place tonight.

Dinner: Coincidentally, we had Kathy's delicious chili with Triscuits.

During the evening, Nick sends us at least (35) Skype pictures of him & Jerry in different poses & different shades of color & different expressions while wearing different so called...hats? Plus, a few good respectable shots of Nick & Eriko & then the family shots; very entertaining. No movie tonight.

Lights out: 11:36pm

Awake: 6:48am Temp 63 sleep 7+13 cloudy, later rain overnight @ Cocoa, FL.

After coffee & cleaning the dew from the rear (2) slides, we leave the Son Rise Palms RV Park @ 8:44am, following I-95 north. Patches of blue sky as we merrily roll along are always welcome, but we are fully aware of St. Augustine's forecast for rain later this morning & thus the earlier start for a rather short drive.

After (70) some miles, a little drizzle shows on our windshield; my plan was to pull into the next rest stop, about (20) miles further north, have breakfast & sit out the storm, thus avoiding getting our house messed up. Darn! We were short by a mere (5) miles; the sky opened up with heavy rain, wind & some mystified mist from those tractor trailer tires. We did follow through with the rest stop however, ate breakfast & waited out the remainder of the fast moving storm.

We arrived about an hr later (12:20pm) @ the Indian Forest Campground in St. Augustine, FL.
Today's travel: 114 miles 2+32 time 18 gal used 6.5 mpg 44 mph avg speed.

Since we are less than (5) miles to downtown, we make haste hooking up & extending (2) slides for now so we can go into town & see some of the sights before dark. Just before walking out the door, I thought I'd better check our e-mail. In doing so, I found an e-mail from my ole buddy from Brookhaven Laboratory, Ed; he & his wife, Mary Ann will be leaving April 1st & they give an address nearby here in St. Augustine.

I make a quick call. Ed answers & realizes we are parked not far from where they are staying. "Can you visit us today?" he asks. "We can be there within (30) min," I tell him.

Ed & Mary Ann have been wintering in St. Augustine for (14) straight yrs now; some of the yrs, their kids join them, but not this winter. Kathy had not seen Ed or Mary Ann since 1977; just by chance, Ed had visited me in Nicktown last September for about (30) min.

We spent the rest of the day with Ed & Mary Ann; touring 1st the rented condo, then a drive down to the beach for a quick look-see. They allow driving on the beach with a 4-wheel drive vehicle & so we did.
Then Ed suggests that we should see Anastasia State Park where we might be able to park our motorhome; upon entering the state park, the ranger told us up front that the campsites were not big rig friendly, but we cruised around some of the campsites anyway & sure enough, she was right. We did exit the Ford Explorer for a little exercise while walking the boardwalk to see the beach again with good waves coming off the Atlantic Ocean. The wind was cool & powerful so not much time was spent admiring the scenery.

From here, Ed takes us further north on Anastasia Island, past the famous St. Augustine Lighthouse & over the bridge of the Lions, which crosses over the Matanzas River. Built in 1927, the bascule drawbridge opens to allow the passage of commercial and recreational boats & has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1982. Ed drives over the temporary bridge the city built while the historic Bridge of the Lions is being completely restored.

Now in the downtown area of St. Augustine, we see the Castillo de san Marcos Fort on our right; it took twenty-three years to build, being completed in 1695. This fort is on our list to tour....on a warmer day.

Ed continues motoring until reaching the Mission of Nombre de Dios where we do some more walking around; the Mission origins go far back to the founding of the City of St. Augustine, America's oldest city. It was on these grounds that Fr. Lopez would celebrate the first parish Mass & the Spanish settlers would begin the devotion to Our Lady of La Leche (Blessed Virgin nursing the infant Jesus) that continues into the present.

Further walking brings us to the Great Cross. This massive structure, made of stainless steel and rising two hundred & eight feet above the marshes of the Matanzas River, stands as a sentinel over the Mission and a "Beacon of Faith" for all who pass this way.

Back in the car, we continue touring & drive past the Flagler Memorial Church that Flagler had built; then we see the Flagler College, which when 1st built, served as an upscale Gilded winter luxury hotel built in1888. There is much to see in the downtown area but for now, Ed decides to show us the church he & Mary Ann frequent, so we head south on the A1A S.R. to Saint Anastasia Church.

Now this is my idea of how a church should be designed; it is not only beautiful with many stained glass windows but also designed so that the altar & tabernacle are the focal point.

From here, Ed motors a short distance to have dinner @ the "Salt Water Cowboy's" Café. Very rustic & with a fish camp setting; K & I each have a crab stuffed Tilapia fish dinner, but we should have shared a meal as their portions were large.

After dinner, Ed is curious about close campgrounds so we make (2) stops & check availability & cost. The 1st had no vacancy until next week & was twice the price we are now paying; the 2nd could only handle RVs up to (40) ft.

Then Ed & Mary Ann return us to their rented condo where we thank them profusely for the grand tour, good talk & call it a night. Future rendezvous plans are yet to be determined.

Late movie: "Rocking Horse Winner" with Valerie Hobson, John Howard Davies, John Mills, Ronald Squire, Hugh Sinclair, etc. Truly unique, fascinating drama based on D.H. Lawrence story; small boy has knack for picking racetrack winners but complications set in before long. 1949. Different & fascinating.

Lights out: 11:57pm

Awake: 7:01am Temp 56 sleep 6+22 partly sunny overnight @ Cocoa, FL.

Katrina calls early morning; Kathy takes the call which focuses on: how long do can goods last? Seems Katrina who intended to do much more home cooking than she has, bought several canned goods when first moving to Denver which are now well beyond the "best if used by" date. She wants to bring them to the condo & cook for Z & KT but does not want to find the contents spoiled. Kathy gave her a "thumbs up" on using them.

Mid morning, I clean the front windshield, outside mirrors & the front (2) slide tops, in prep for traveling tomorrow. Meanwhile Kathy does (2) loads of laundry & cleans the inside of our home. Before touring Cocoa Beach, I retract the (2) front slides to avoid having to clean dew off in the morning.

Cocoa Beach was a surprise to us; we forgot about spring break for the college kids & they were everywhere. The places we intended to park & walk were all crammed & our time allotted was too short for the long walk we intended. Then we make a short stop @ the ABC store & Wal-Mart. @ W-M, my 1st cousin Florentz returns my earlier call; our topics included family, geothermal heat & cooling, weather & repair jobs he was involved in.

Next, we cross over the Indian River Bridge & attend 5:00pm vigil Mass @ Saint Mary's Church in Rockledge, FL. This church was a little too ultra-modern for us; half of the congregation was seated directly across from & looking @ the other half of the congregation. A long aisle separated the (2) sides with the altar at one end & the pulpit & place for the priest & altar boys to sit at the other end. It was so distracting; I had trouble concentrating on my purpose for being there. Kathy told me she had the same dilemma.

Dinner: leftover Paprika chicken, fried whole wheat noodles & pork slices with portabella mushrooms & fresh asparagus.

We finish the movie: "The Pelican Brief" with Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, Sam Shepard, John Heard, Tony Goldwyn, etc. Entertaining thriller based on John Grisham's best-selling book about a law student whose theory (or brief) about the conspiracy behind the assassination of (2) Supreme Court justices places her in jeopardy. The only person who can help her: investigative reporter Washington. 1993. No doubt about it: it's a real thriller.

Lights out: 11:35pm

Awake: 6:56am Temp 55 sleep 6+44 sunny overnight @ Cocoa, FL.

Casual day for us; we share computer time in the morning & I spend time identifying more bird pictures of yesterday.

Mid afternoon, we cut each other's hair; Kathy's comment: "pretty good!"

We watch our usual TV programs before & during our dinner of: crab cakes, broccoli, brown rice laced with golden raisins & spinach salad with homemade dressing.

Katrina calls while driving to the Denver Airport to pick up Zack & KT; Z & KT are visiting Kat for the weekend, snowshoeing, snowboarding, etc.

We watch ½ of the movie: "The Pelican Brief."

Lights out: 12:39am


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