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Friday, September 23, 2011

And the days keep getting shorter.....

We have been enjoying family and the St. Augustine area  for nearly 4 weeks but it only seems like a few days have gone by. Evenings are already coming sooner in the day and we have only touched on a few of the many things we  had hoped to be a part of before we moved on to our next planned destination.

It seems like we have barely gotten started here and already our departure is looming up in front of us. Well, that can be fixed and we have done so by extending our stay another month. Boy! Do I feel better!  Just a little tweak in the plans and we are good, again. Love this lifestyle!

However, this does make me think a bit about what has gotten us to this point over so many years.  A lot has certainly been about our own directed efforts to see this lifestyle realized but many things have slipped, skewed and bubbled up in front of our planning and have all had to become a part of making this happen.

I understand that there are laws of physics which say things like, you can't be in two different places at the same time and water flows downhill. But there are other laws which we all experience but no one ever explains. These include;

  1. The more fun you are having the less time you have left to enjoy it.
  2. When you are feeling poorly is when mechanical things will break.
  3. Wifi will be great as long as you don't really need it.
I think Murphy touched on the notion of these "other" laws with his "If something can go wrong, it will." Over my life, I have seen plenty of anecdotal evidences of their existence in painfully humorous sayings and jokes.  They are like the sandspurs of reality in the calmly soft flesh of relaxation and enjoyment.  They cannot be ignored but we don’t really want to experience them, either. Trying to be ready to deal with them is more like planning your own funeral arrangements decades (hopefully) in advance of your actual demise….it is something that few are even willing to talk about much less invest their time into the preparations.
 
Angus MacGyver
So I really think that MacGyver had it right.... Be Prepared and always bring your A game, first.... you may not get any do-overs.  Making the future turn out to be something like you have imagined is a clear win, in my book.
 
Ten-plus years of working towards a full-timing lifestyle has passed and we are now there.  I cannot say  with any certainty that there was any particular time or event that made it happen because it seems like we were always working towards this state with our long term planning and our spontaneous daily choices.
 
It has not played out like we thought we had been planning it. Economics, family and political circumstances and personal preferences have all worked sideways to our desires but we have still pressed on and become that which we desired.. Full time Rvers.
 
Along the way, we have learned that this is not a turn-key lifestyle change.  Just to purchase the equipment and fund the excursions does not make the lifestyle. One must be invested in its process and envision its rewards, complications and costs before it can be meaningfully experienced. A lack of emotional investment in it may rob the life of its savor and it will just pass as all other time does, with some memories and some pictures relating a long vacation.... somewhere else.
 
It is worth doing well if you really want to do it at all and this means making it a long term goal and focus.  Just thinking that one can “try it out” for a little while may be the very thing that ruins it for them.
 
Yoda was right!  "Do or Do Not.  There is no Try!"

As one reader pointed out... I never got to the point of this blog.... senior moment or just tired, maybe, so I have reworked it a bit for clarity.
 
To be clear, for sure we are enjoying this RV life. Though it has not played out as we foresaw, it has probably turned out better than we ever imagined.

I feel that this is because we have kept moving towards it for the past 10 years despite all the "life junk" strewn in our path.  We have been invested in its success all along the way so that now, we truly own it and relish each day in it. What we dreamed and worked for is now our life and we are blessed to be here.
 
ttfn
Budd
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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Salt Springs, Florida and RV Ports

Yesterday’s blog was about how we happened to pass through Salt Springs, Florida. Today’s will be about what we found there and why it really appealed to us.

First, the $50 really did make it into our new savings account at Woodforest National Bank.  Hooray for that!

Mer’s brother, Bob, has spent most of his life in this area of Florida and when he heard we were going over to Ocala his enthusiasm was almost out of control.  I have been to Ocala… it is not that much to get excited about but he was insistent that we go through the beautiful Ocala National Forest.  Honestly, from St. Augustine, you can’t get to Ocala without going through it unless you want to nearly double the miles to get there.

Anyway, he was going on and on about checking out the various springs along the way, like Salt Springs, Juniper Springs, Silver Glen Springs and Silver Springs.

He also knew we have been interested in RV parks with RV Ports, which are shelters that you can park an RV under while you live there. He mentioned that there are a couple of RV Parks in Salt Springs  that he and Bette had visited that had RV ports.  Of course, we were interested, too.

Salt Springs is about half the trip to Ocala from St. Augustine.

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The roads are excellent and the trip is through a lot of national forest so it was not unpleasant to go this way. But when we reached Salt Springs, we were already feeling behind our expected timeline and did not want to dawdle too much so we sort of skimmed through the RV parks.

Actually, the first park we visited is a development of deeded RV properties. It is nice, compact (a little too much so for our tastes) and has spaces available to rent or buy. Some rentals are brokered through the developer, Elite Estates, but many are rented directly by the owners. A list is available in the guard house at the entrance. Prices are negotiated directly with the owners so there are no prices printed on this list, just phone numbers.

We did not take the time to visit the offices of Elite Estates to see what they had for rental information.  Overall, it is a nice place, gated, free wifi through out the park and borders a big lake. Perhaps on a longer visit to this resort we could find a few spots that we could fit completely into while hooked to the truck but only a few even looked close to being a fit.  Some decent space between lots was the norm but often, they backed up to each other pretty closely.

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2011-09-12 15.37.08.jpg
From there, we moved onto the other RV resort, Salt Springs Village, which borders the western side of Elite Estates. This is a 55+ retirement community so a lot more park models and manufactured homes are in this area. On average,  the lots are significantly larger and there are a fair number of them with real RV ports attached.  Also a full facility resort, it borders a lake, has swimming pools, club house and the usual things one finds at a real resort.
2011-09-12 15.35.32.jpg
2011-09-12 15.35.32.jpg

We really liked the atmosphere in Salt Springs Village a bit better than Elite Estates.  It seemed more like a place we would be comfortable living for extended periods.

So, you may ask, where is the other shoe?  Actually, Salt Springs is out in the boonies and in a real cell phone dead zone.  Elite Estates does have Wifi but I don’t know about the Salt Springs Village area since my cell battery died trying to get GPS and online maps while on the way to Salt Springs. Boy! When it can’t connect to anything it really eats batteries.

Now, the other shoe….

We had to hurry on to Ocala before the bank closed. Yes, they are open everyday of the year but not 24/7, so we did not want to get there late and still not get our $50 (remember that little incentive for this trip?)

When we finished our banking business in Ocala, we decided to go back the way we had come. On the way into Ocala we had passed an RV Resort called

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2011-09-12 17.35.40.jpg
Wilderness RV Park Estates which looked pretty inviting from the highway.  We stopped in there as we headed home and really liked what we saw… to a point.

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Again, this resort is a bunch of deeded lots, some are available as rentals and some for sale. Some are really spiffy with obviously a lot of $$$$ put into the landscaping but a very large percentage of them can easily handle our 65’ overall length and there is a whole area of very long pull-through spaces, too. The office was closed so we did not get any further information about the place but they do have rates posted on their website and honor Passport America and Good Sam memberships. $445/month is not a terrible rate.

The newest section of this park has lots that are even larger and range up to 7000 sq ft/lot. Lacking a map or any other info at the time we were there, we did not even discover there was this newer section until we were back home and could look it up on their website. The property is located along the Florida Greenway with access to the Ocklawaha River and just a mile or so from the entrant to the Ocala National Forest.

The overall atmosphere is of a pretty new resort with good paved roads and facilities but a great big sign out by the highway that says “Foreclosure Auction” which is scheduled for 9/21/2011. I don’t know what that might mean to owners or RV renters in the future but I just know that I like the feel of the park… and I did have good cell service (I finally found my car charger).

ttfn

Budd

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chasing the Wild Goose

An ongoing banking concern we have had in planning for our travels has been branch availability wherever we might be. Yes, I do bank online, Yes, I do have national banks but have you ever tried to make a cash deposit in a town where your bank has no branches?

Also, if there is a problem, it usually crops up on Friday evening or a holiday weekend and trying to get it settled out of your mind is impossible until the next “banking” business day… whenever that might be.   I don’t do well with angst on my mind.

We do shop at Wal-Mart, a lot. We get the value we demand and the convenience we need and never have a hassle, other than their being out of a product that we want to refresh in our pantry.  Therefore, Woodforest National Bank seemed to be the perfect merger of the WalMart convenience and my banking availability that I want.  They are open every day but Christmas and that is the kind of access window I really expect from anyone standing between me and my money.

So, before leaving NC we opened an account at Woodforest National Bank. Along with waaayyyy too much paperwork, we received instructions on how to get $50 for free by going online and participating in a little training session about how banks work for you.

The tutorial was actually informative and at the end, we each got a certificate to print out and take to a branch to receive our $50. Actually, it was $25 for each of us and to be credited into a sweep savings account (which is newbank speak for a savings account that backs up your checking account if the latter tries to go overdrawn). The money in the savings is “swept” over into your checking to prevent an overdraft and they get to charge you $2 for doing it.

But I digress. The point was to get the $50 that lay at the end of this rainbow.  The manager at the WFB where we opened the accounts told us (erroneously) that we could go to any WFB within 30 days of opening our checking account, present the certificates and get our savings account opened with the $50 in it.  The “ANY” is the important part. The 30 days is the deadly pendulum.

As all this happened 6 days before we had planned to leave for Florida, we figured we had plenty of time to get ‘er done before departure.  As usual, I missed the catch-22 in this…. We had to participate in the tutorial and THEN print out the certificates before we could get the $50…. and Hurricane Irene decided to brush by us a couple of days later, drop a tree across our bow (actually, across 2 cars) and leave us dangling between insurance talk (sorry, not available on weekends) and the truck’s windshield wiper motor dying just as we pulled out of the driveway to escape Irene (sorry, parts department is closed until Monday).

The back burner the $50 performance piece got put on was in the next county but we confirmed with the WFB branch that we could do it “at any Woodforest National Bank branch”. …

Days later, after finally getting settled down in St Augustine, Florida, we found that Florida only has 3 WF banks and the nearest is in Ocala, 80 miles away! 

We stewed and fumed about this for two weeks then decided to go ahead, take the Smart car over there (cheaper on gas) and get our free $50 (which would now cost us the price of the gas and our time… but I am trying to not be negative.

There were a few stops along the way (another story, another time) and we arrived there about an hour before closing, presented our certificates and the confused look we got in exchange said “Uh-Oh!”.

Turns out, you can’t do that from here. They have to be turned in at the bank branch that opened the account!  Ok, so red is not a favorite color of mine but that was about all I could see in a flash!

Mer quietly put her hand on my thigh as the flustered bank employee got up to seek the branch manager.  Eventually, he came over, extended his hand, his name and a big smile and said “We can’t do that from here”.  “You have to go back to the branch where you opened the account.”….. Clearly, his gasoline was not helping my fire one bit.

The short end of this is that he saw our plight, contacted the branch manager back in Raleigh and arranged for our signing of the signature cards that they needed and faxed them back to Raleigh.  Apparently, the forms were different than what the Ocala branch uses and it took a second call to the Raleigh branch manager to get them properly filled out.

Finally, we had it done, our $50 would be in our account the next day (today, and it is!) and we could drive the 80 miles back to St Augustine knowing that we had scored a juicy deal (hear the sarcasm?)  The trip cost about $19 in gas and had there been a psychiatrist available, I am sure his bill would have been a lot more.

You will have to read tomorrow’s blog to see why we ended the day knowing that this had been a good thing to do, today.

ttfn

Budd

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Just another day at the beach – St Augustine, FL ( 81°/62°)

Friday…. let’s see… what to do, what to do?   Oh yeah, WalMart!  Gotta go for groceries and beat the weekend crush!

Dawdling…. dawdling….. dawdling… what?  It’s already 2:30 pm and we haven’t eaten anything, yet?  Ok, OK…  we will stop for something on the way to WalMart.

Leaving…leaving…leaving… What’s that smell?… oh yeah, shrimp shells and “parts” in the garbage from dinner last evening…. gotta get it out of here before we go.  Yep, I will just tie it up and put it in the back of the $prite and drop it off at the dumpster on the way out of the park.

BANG!   CRASH! SQUEEK!… crappy dumpster doors! 

Driving, Driving, Driving….. oh yeah, Sonny’s Barbeque on US 1.  Gotta have that….kinda on the way… if we go out of the way… just a little…

uh… what’s that flashing on the dash?  … looks like a gas pump.  Hmm where are all my bars to show me how much gasoline I have.. er…rather, don’t have.   Pit Stop!  Pronto!  Guess I will have to only imagine the smell of BBQ over the lingering rank shrimp stink in the car and the stinky Shell Gasoline tinkling into its tank.  Ding!, Pay!,  now, Driving…..Driving… Driving….

Sonny’s BBQ!

What’s that squealing racket coming from the music system?.. Jimi Hendrix, you say? More like a tank being drug sideways across a concrete slab coated with broken glass and ball bearings. .. yeah, I know he was an acclaimed guitarist… he also invented obnoxious white noise. How useful has that turned out to be?

Excellent!  Shared a half baked chicken ( no, it really was a half chicken) lunch with 2 sides (make those 2 baked sweet potatoes, please.). Sure, I will have a gallon of iced tea to drink….

Waiting….waiting… waiting….

Drooling….drooling…. drooling  … (I did mention we had not eaten yet, today)

Diet is over!  Food is here! Gimme a drumstick while you sort the parts.  Mmmmmm, nice yams  … (sweet potatoes, you dirty old man) Butter, cinnimon, melting hot. 5 different BBQ sauces you say? decisions… decisions… decision!

Eating… eating…. eating….

Apple cobbler ala-mode?  of course! It’s the exclamation point at the end of the meal. It is absolutely necessary to complete the meal and say “I’m ready for a nap.”

What?… oh yeah, we still need to go to WalMart…. sans nap… it’s just across the street.

Driving…. driving….driving… parking… walking…shopping… shopping…. shopping.  What?  No Joe’s Crabshack Salmon filets?… or any other of “the shack’s” products.  Rats!  I’ll have to make do with a can of starkist!

Checkout time!……. still checkout time….. still checkout time……still checkout time…..   Hey! don’t these people know that today is not Saturday?… and what’s with trying to use a bunch of coupons in the self service checkout lane?  That’s just not fair.   I am on a fastpath to a nap! MoveIt!

Push cart, squeeky wheel, load $prite, close doors.

Driving…. driving….driving …  Home!   Unloading.. unloading…putting away… yeah, that’s frozen… ok, Put away…. put away…. pu away…. done!

Naptime!…. RING…. RING….RING!… grrrr  NOT nap time…. Hello. No, we were not doing anything, what’s up?…..

 

……… All this is our day and now, it’s my blog.  If there is anything you don’t understand, just ask.

ttfn

Budd

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stagecoach RV Park–St Augustine, FL ( 83°/67°)

pano

Stagecoach RV Park:   RVParkReviews  :    Heavy Haulers CG Directory

This is a nice park but not a resort.  It is mostly large pull-thru spaces. Some with concrete patios (for a few $$$ more). 2011-09-07%252015.30.20 No pool, no kids play area, no off leash pet area but it is clean, kept up, mostly open level sites on gravel/grass/packed sand and nicely treed but not dark.

Sprint 4G works in the east end of the park (not where I am, though). 

Wifi is limited at 750kbps/ 170kbps

It is TengoInternet delivered through Bellsouth.net and has been pretty solid most of the time but there is a lot of variability based on time of day a lot more than the number of RVs in the campground. I suspect it is due to the two huge outlet malls a couple of blocks away that soak up bandwidth big time during business hours.

The actual local wifi signal strength throughout the park is excellent but with the speed limited delivery, even small included youtube pics on a web page stutter some.  Forget about getting any smooth HQ quality delivery any time of the day or night.

There is no CableTV but I pick up about 20 Digital channels over the air but few of these have I any interest in watching.  If their bandwidth delivery was better, then the lack of cable would not be such a bother.

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The main roads are paved and the intermediate roads are packed gravel and kept up pretty well.

 

The layout is comfortable and nice for long walks.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Getting Acclimated to “retired!”

St Augustine, FL - Iso T-Storms 93° / 77°

We spent the day just settling in to what will be daily fare for us for hopefully, a very long time to come.

Merrily’s brother bob came by about 5pm and took us on a mini tour of the St Augustine area.  He showed us where important stuff is, like good seafood restaurants, good beach accesses and more good restaurants.  To bad we are now on the cash and carry plan which does not include much eating out.

Still, a great day. After the tour we went to his house for a great dinner of pulled pork, Bob Evans mashed potatoes, homemade Cole slaw and apple pie. Seriously yummy!

Katie came along and was terrific.  A little curious but no obnoxiously so and she got to meet their dog, Skitch, which is a foot long hairy black 12 volt dog someone put a 36 volt battery into.  Talk about wired! He does not just run from place to place, he teleports! Katie was a little overwhelmed and finally climbed up on the back of the couch behind my head to escape him. I have never seen her retreat quite like that.

I think it spooked her.

Anyway, all is fine, now. We just got back home and are chilling for the evening.  Maybe tomorrow I can find the Digital TV converter so we can watch some over the air broadcast TV since there is no cable in this campground.  So far, Merrily has read books in our down moments and I am still happy with what I can do with the Wi-Fi…. or nap a little, which is something I have not had time for in many moons.

I know this does not sound all that exciting but at this age exciting is less important than regular.

ttfn

Budd

Friday, September 2, 2011

Settled into a spot and had a great evening with our relatives.

(St. Augustine, FL Stagecoach RV)

These are nice accommodations at Stagecoach. We settled on this amenities-sparse park due to no monthly rates at the other parks we were interested in. Wi-Fi is very powerful here but the backhaul limits us to about 700kbps down /  200kbps up best case:

 

Compare that to what I was getting on my Sprint Epic phone 2 days ago:

 

and it can be a little “laggy” sometimes despite only a 15ms ping time.

Right now, at 8:23am on Friday, I can only get:

Slow Wifi Coupled with the lack of cabletv and the digital TV converter for over the air reception has fallen down behind the TV and can’t get out, means we are going to be sans- media for bit.

Still a nice park, though and all too convenient to two outlet malls at this I-95 exit including a Camping World. There goes my upgrade budget for the next year.

We had dinner with Mer’s brother and SIL, Bob and Bette, last night. Excellent pseudo-Mexican fare with a pitcher of lip smacking margaritas for the table. Best Pollo Loco I have ever had and huge portions, too.  We will eat there again before we go.

It was really super to finally get to hug them and just be with them. As usual when we get together, we all talk at once and do a lot of laughing until we are exhausted.

I will say that it is very nice to finally be with them and know that we don’t have to leave next Thursday or …. any particular date or time. We can visit in a much less frenetic mode and really savor the time together for whatever it is.  It always seems that our visits are too short and we all have lists of things to share and do and never can quite get through all that before parting. This time, we are just here until we leave, period.  It is wonderful!

ttfn

Budd