Saturday, May 24, 2008

Trip to Orlando

Well we set out yesterday for Orlando. This is Memorial Day weekend and the traditional weekend of the Florida Clogging Council State Convention. The venue this year is bein' held at the Central Florida Fairgrounds as it was last year. We used to come here every year for convention, then we changed to the Kissimmee Civic Center, but there were too many issues there. They had issues with young mothers bringing strollers, right I'm gonna hold my infant while I'm doing Cloggin' routines all day. There were other issues and some of their rules were just ridiculous.

We started the weekend out by helping with the setup on Friday. Then Linda demonstrated for Margaret, our Coordinating Instructor while she taught a routine for a class. Since I'm not dancin' anymore, I worked at the door, checking in folks who pre-registered for classes. I was also tryin' to snap some shots of all the folks havin' a good time.

See Friday starts out with two or three 'teaches', intermixed with song requests for dancin', with some fun thrown in too. This year we had a Sock Hop on Friday, so there were Hula Hoop, Twist and bubble blowin' contests for everyone. Then Saturday bright an early we had a Jazzercise class to get everyone limbered up at 8:15-9:00. Following that they do a short preview of all routines that will be taught during the morning hours till we break fer lunch. Routines are taught in two different classrooms at 45 minute intervals, thus 8 routines of varying skill levels in the morning. After lunch the same schedule applies until we break for Supper. After Supper there is a show where dancin' groups, clubs, organizations or what ever they call themselves, put on exhibitions. I seen this show go on until nigh on 11:00 at night. As I said our group, the Kickin' Country Cloggers, are not exhibitionin' this year, but Linda is dancin' a routine with all the instructors. This is sort of a surprise that Margaret sprung on all the instructors when they arrived and received their Instructors package, it should be interestin' at least, and I know it'll be fun. On Sunday we'll have a yearly election of officers and some breakfast then we will part company and head for Kissimmee to our friends house for the rest of the weekend.

Camping is available onsite here at the Fairgrounds, W&E with a dump station, but it's located on one of central Florida's beautiful lakes.

FCC camp 1

This is us parked next to friends at the Fairgrounds

FCC camp 2

This is a better shot of the lake that's just

visible in the center right of the previous pic.

Well I got to get back to the fun and festivities, so that's all I'll post for now.

Hope to see ya as were "Dancin' on the Wind"

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Cost Cuttin' on the RV Trail

In our last trip to North Carolina and back we’ve seen a disturbing trend start. In traveling the ‘back roads’, we see more and more RV’s for sale. We always see an RV here and there, but lately they seem to be coming in bunches, 2,3,4, in little groups, in towns, along the roads, in shopping centers. The higher cost of fuel must be spurring some people to give up this wonderful form of travel. What I don't understand is that everyone out there on the road seems to be zippin' along as fast or faster than ever. At every fuel stop, the first topic of conversation, the price of fuel! The last time we, in this country had a fuel problem the feds' reduced all the speed limits to 55MPH and if the states didn't comply they were to cut of their federal highway funding for maintenance and new construction. Now I see the State of Utah talking of raising the speed limit on parts of the interstate to 85MPH, at a way guys, that's how we can cut back on skyrocketin' fuel costs. But alas it seems we don't have a shortage problem this time around, from the White House to the oil fields of the middle East, we have a greed problem. do you know how much it costs to fill an automobile tank in Saudi Arabia? About $8, I think around 70 cents a gallon!! OK maybe they are a leader in oil production and don't have to charge their people what their charging the rest of the world. Do you here of Mexico being a world leader in oil production? Last time I checked was 3-4 weeks ago but Unleaded gas was $2.43 a gallon deep in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Last night I saw Unleaded gas posted for $3.99 at one of the traditionally cheaper convenience store chains here in extra sunny, (this time o' the year), Florida. When will it all stop, when the American public finally says they've had enough. I could go on but I'm gettin' off my soapbox now. If you want to save some on your fuel costs, just try what they been spoutin' fer years, slow down a little.

I have mentioned on occasion that we do belong to Passport America and that is for one reason, “SAVINGS”. In these times of continually rising fuel prices if we can offset our RVing costs somewhere, it makes sense. We have been members of Passport America for over 5 years and just renewed for another 5 years. Our first trip out using Passport America we stayed in a park in Nashville, Tennessee for three days. The nightly rate was $36.50, with Passport America we paid $18.25; we saved $54.75. With our first stop on our trip we saved more than the cost of the entire year’s membership, we were sold.

Passport America is one of many ½ price camping organizations out there, but we feel it offers the most bang for your buck. PA has been around for over 15 years and maintains a campground membership at around 1500 parks across the US, Canada & Mexico. That’s more than Happy Camper and three times as many as Camp Club. It comparably is also quite affordable at $44 a year. PA also offers 2, 3, 5 year and lifetime memberships at good prices. As I mentioned we just renewed our membership for 5 years for $179, which figures out to be $35.80 per year. So for the cost of one nights stay in an RV park, we stay all year, all over the country for 50% of the current rate at each participating park. Your membership includes an annually updated directory, a subscription to RV America magazine, free trip routing and a free email address. If you were to compare the three organizations directories you would see lots of duplication, so why not get the most for your money and go with those that have the most RV Parks.

Another route we take to reduce costs is 'Boondockin', Dry campin', camping without the amenities of an RV park or campground. Campin' like it used to be, sort of. I still have my luxuries with me, my Rv with all it comforts, water, bathroom, kitchen, TV, lights etc. We just adjust not having a unending water and electric source.

Electric is supplied by battery, as much of your RV today is still 12v, for other things we use an inverter to power AC appliances. We have a small, 2000W inverter generator that will recharge the battery in as little as one hour, as it has a built-in battery charger and uses very little fuel to do it. Now I'll admit Florida in the summer is not the time to try out boondockin' cause I like my A/C when it's 94 degrees out and that would mean runnin' that little genny all the time, but there are lots of places here in the east that you can still dry camp in the summer cause their night time temps drop to a comfortable range.

Water is supplied by our on board tank and is normally easy to replenish, but water is still used conservatively, ie: 'Navy Showers'. By being conservative in our water use we don't fill our waste tanks to fast. A practice I use is to use a little 'gray' water at night to drown our fire if we have had one.

As for places to stay, there are National Forests in every state, some have campgrounds, at minimal costs. Most have 'dispersed camping' policies, meaning they have areas in the forest that you can pick you out a spot and park an' camp away from any campground. Just a nice spot out in the forest by a lake where it's just you and yours maybe. Also there are probably state forests that allow camping in your area for little or nothing. Most states have Wildlife Management areas with camping areas that are free. As you migrate towards the midwest, you'll find many small cities have campgrounds for free, some with water, some with electric, some with both, lots o' times fer' free. If you look, you will find.

Just some ways to cut RVin' costs so's you can put it in your fuel tank. Till next time.

Hope to see ya down the road as we're Dancin' on the Wind

Sunday, May 11, 2008

FInal Travel Day to Home

First off I like to say "Happy Birthday" to my mom. Yesterday was her day and I intended to extend our wishes in yesterdays entry, but my grey matter must be gettin' slow.

Well we got our usual early 9:30AM start and headed south. Took some country roads to hook up with US 301 south for about 100 miles. When we came into Callahan, FL we stopped for lunch. We have passed the Cedar River Seafood Company restaurant for years going to and from the mountains and it has always been packed with customers. Today it was 11:35 and not to crowded so we decided to try it. We both order a 'triple special', mine was shrimp, scallops & crab cake, Linda had shrimp, scallops & clam strips. When our order came our food was just barely warm, so we summoned our waitress and she reordered everything. All in all the food was delicious and hot the second time around. The restaurant is a small chain located in FL & GA. If your lookin' for seafood we would recommend Cedar River Seafood.

We ventured south and eventually picked up I95, 'yech', I dislike traveling I-95 & I-75 in the sunshine state, just too many people going somewhere too fast. Since we're not on a schedule and I'm trying to keep mileage up we travel 55mph, 60 tops. Pokin' along like that on the interstate I'm always afraid someone's gonna run right over us, so it's best to stay off the big blue roads.

Stopped to get some liquid gold at a Flying J and then headed for Fort Mantanzas National Monument. Another of those sites in our own state that we have never visited before. It's amazing how one ignores the sites around them, but will travel 500 miles to see some mundane attraction. Example - No secret that many, many residents of Florida came from up north somewhere where the season change in the fall just meant the drudgery of raking mountains of leaves. Now when October rolls round, we rush up the road 700 mile to "See the pretty leaves". Maybe the appreciation of the beauty of our surroundings comes with age, then again maybe the appreciation comes in the fact that we don't have to rake!

Fort Mantanzas was built in 1740 to reinforce Spain’s hold on Florida and ward off British encroachment on the military town of St. Augustine. St Augustine founded 1565, lies 14 miles north up the Manatnzas River and was protected by the heavy fortification of Castillo de San Marcos from the sea. Mantanzas was built to prevent British ships from sailing up the Mantanzas River and attacking St. Augustine from a position her forts cannon could not defend. Even though the fort was engaged several times, it is the only fort to claim nary a solder ever lost his life at Mantanzas. Though the fort was small at 50' x 50' and manned by only six or seven men, the 5 cannon were able to turn around any ships trying to enter Manatnzas Inlet. The fort lies on a island and the park service has a free ferry over and free tour once reaching the fort. Costumed interpreters staff the fort and were extremely knowledgeable about period history. An excellent stop if your near St. Augustine and have a few hours.

Here's the fort from the north

And from the south

Kevin, Infantryman for her Majesty the Queen, for today anyway

Soldiers Quarters

After we left Mantanzas we settled in at Faver Dykes State Park for the night. The park has been left almost completely natural and claims "The way Florida used to be", complete with undeveloped roads throughout. The park sports 30 campsites with W&E and a dump station. All in all for $14 a night not bad at all, nice and rustic. The only problem here is the temp is 100 degrees today, unusually hot, and not at all like the cool mountains. Oh well we'll go back as soon as we can, right now it's time to see the grandbaby's here.Well that's it for now.

See ya down the road as were Dancin' on the Wind

Friday, May 9, 2008

Another Day Closer

Today we had to leave Calhoun State Park on Lake Russell in South Carolina, but we will return again. We have decided that we can spend at least a month touring down the South Carolina side of this Savanna river area of lakes and reservoirs, then swing around to tour up the Georgia side. There are probably thousands of campsites along the lakes, Corp of Engineers, State, County and more local, not even considering private parks. There is much to see and do as we have discovered in the last few days. I promised some more pics of the park from last nights stay and I can't say enough about it.

This is a typical back-in site

Here's one that's terraced

There are also many pull throughs but our preference would still be a back-in.

Here's a shot from the fishing pier. You can see our camper

through the trees, in the right of the picture.

Down the road it was time to leave South Carolina and crossover to the Georgia side. The route we chose took us accross the J. Strom Thurmond Dam and lake. This is the largest Corp of Engineers man made lake east of the Mississippi and there are over 1100 campsites on this lake alone.

Here's the Dam

Along our travels today we came upon an unknown, to us, treasure. When we saw the sign I knew I just had to stop as this was a childhood memory. Question, Why would there be a Laurel & Hardy Museum in Harlem, GA? We started to speculate. Could one of the famed comedy duo from the first half of the 20th century hail from GA? Naaa..... It aint possible.

Well Oliver Norvell Hardy was born January 18th 1892 in Harlem, Georgia, spent most of his juvenile life in Milledgville, GA, attended Georgia Military Academy, Atlanta Conservatory of Music and the University of Georgia. He started his film career at the age of 21 in Jacksonville, FL then moved to Hollywood, CA in 1918. We were both amazed at this discovery and it just goes to show that you can't find these gems travelin' down the I95 and such.

Here's the front of the Museum

A Perfect Day for A Drive

Tonite we're stayin' at a Passport America park in Odum, GA and doin' the full hookup thing. We'll see what treasure tommorrow brings.

Maybe I'll change the name of the blog to "Travelin' the Back Roads".

See ya down the road as we're Dancin' on the Wind

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Travel Day Towards Home

Got most of what work we had planned, done at the Smoky Mountain homestead and it's time to head towards home. Some of the jobs we had planned to do got postponed to a later trip so's we can accomplish them in less time and more efficiently. We are going to repaint the shed and the block foundation next trip so we will bring my sprayer from home, which will make much better work o' the job. Okay, got an early start around 9:30AM on the road. We had decided to take a new route towards FL, cause we want to see some new country, travelin' the same path starts makin' a fella seem like your backtrail's out in front of ya. So it was up US 64 to Highlands, then down 28 into the Peach State and then on to South Carolina. They's got some mighty purrty waterfalls along that route.

Here's Linda at 'Bridal Veil Falls' 120 feet high

Stopped for lunch at Stump House Tunnel & Issaqueena Falls in SC. The falls were a nice cascading waterfall where you walk about a hundred yards to an overlook, easy walkin'. The tunnel was awesome", built in the mid 19th century for the Blue Ridge Railroad which was hoping to connect Charleston, SC to Cincinatti, OH. The mountain proved to be to much for those drilling and blasting the tunnel. Seems the granite in the mountain was so hard the 1600 miners could only make 200' of progress a month, working 12 hour shifts, 6 days a week. The mountain defeated the railroaders and the Blue Ridge Railroad was never to be.

The tunnel entrance

Inside the tunnel

We contiunued south on 28 and stopped for the night at a most beautiful SC state park, Calhoun Falls. This park is located on Lake Russell, has 86 sites in two loops and a separate tenting area. Most sites are waterfront, all are paved pads with sand patio areas , some terraced. There is good separation of sites and plenty of privacy. All in all this campground has seen some excellent planning prior to construction and extensively uses plastic lumber and timbers in the site amenities.

Here's what our site looks like #64

One of the "Top 10 Campsites"

Well it's time for a campfire so I'll sign off for now. I'll include some more pictures of Calhoun Falls next post.

Hope to see ya down the road as we're "Dancin' on the Wind"