Sunday, February 21, 2010

Yogi Bear at Jellystone Park

Our latest segment of the trip as of Feb 18th, 2010
(Double click on any picture for more detail)
Feb 18th
Leave Alabama Port RV Park and return to I 10. Just follow it west through Mississippi and into Louisanna until we reach Lake Charles. Find Yogi Bear Jellystone RV Park. Seems no one home so call contact number. Bill arrives shortly and we check in, He prefers cash, but I use MC. He tells me business is extremely slow, and he has laid all employees off. The park must have 100 sites, but only about 5 are filled, and those with long term people. We settle in, but find WIFI non existant other than right at the office. DAMN!! We need to get on the system and do some emailing, and do my blog, etc

We were on a flight path of a Air Force Training Facility
Feb 19th
Rest Day, Denice has ear and head ache. Try to get on WIFI at the office but unable until I call the owner and have him come over and reboot his router, then we are able to access. Do our email, and stuff that needed doing. Then just rest and take it easy all the rest of the day. Just have to do that some days. We are down here to spend the winter, so do not need to do something each and every day.

Feb 20th
Another easy day
Buy some groceries at WalMart. Then do a tour of the sights of Lake Charles. Something sticks in our mind about the significance of Lake Charles, but we are not sure what it is. It's not too big of a city (probably 25,000) situated on a lake that is an extension to Calcusieu Lake that in turn is accessable from the Gulf for large tankers and barges. So Lake Charles is in actuality a port city. Lots of Oil refineries and grain terminals on the business side of the lake.

Feb 21st
R & R, and get ready to move on. Out to Steamboat Bills for supper for some real good "Cajun" food. Bill, the park owner, said we just had to go as it was the best in all Alabama. We had Butterflied Shrimp done Cajun style and some appetizers that I failed to remember what they were called. They were crawfish and shrimp baked in some kind of a bun in a creamy sauce. They were very good, but a way too much to eat, so we had a "Doggy Bag" for lunch on the road tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Party Hardy Mardi Gras

Our latest segment of the trip as of Feb 13th, 2010
(Double click on the picture for more detail)

Say that 3 times fast. Well, we were there but the Party Hardy I'm afraid was way past these two oldies.
But on the 13th:
Bright sun today, so on the move by 8:30AM
Travel down Highway 319 to Tallahassee, Alabama and the west on Interstate 10 all the way to Mobile Alabama
Highway 319 was very interesting with the huge oaks extending right out over the highway, giving it a "Tunnel" effect, in much of the 40 miles that we were on it. Then on Interstate 10. We commented that the grass was much greener than when we passed over this same area a month prior on our way to Florida. This part of I 10 does not seem nearly as busy as sections we have been on farther to the west in Texas and Arizona. Being able to keep a steady 65 MPH (limit is 70) ate up the miles fairly quickly and it seemed in no time we were in Mobile. Turned south at exit 17 A&B and followed 193 south for 15 miles along the bay to Alabama Port RV Park where we have reservations. Checked in. It seems to be another rather "homey" Type park where no one is too concerned. I wanted to get the paperwork done, but the guy looking after the place just said, "Oh just come back when you are ready to leave and we will straighten up then"
Its a pretty basic park. All hookups except Cable TV and WIFI. Don't miss the TV, but no WIFI is a bit of a downer. The man advises us to go south 6 miles across the bridge to Dauphin Island, and at the "T" interstection, turn right and into the laundermat, and we will be able to hook up there.
Feb 14th - Valentines Day. My Sweetheart gave me a Nice Card!!!
Today drove to Dauphin Island. Route to it is over a 4 mile long bridge. Interesting, as most of the way is about 20 feet above the waves, but then the center arches up to probably 150 feet above water. One of the biggest hills on a highway that we have seen in the last month or so!! Once on the island, we turned right and went to the extreme West End. Nowhere on the island is the elevation more than about 4 feet above sea level. All dwellings are on stilts near 20 feet high. The road to the beach just reminds me of snowplowing back in Alberta, as there are "Drifts" across the road all along the way. Heavy equipment (Cats and Backhoes) are being utilized to "sandplow" the road on a regular basis.

The Beach Park is just a narrow spit of sand, only a foot or two above the ocean. Lots of sea shells!! We were treated to a great adhock Dolphin Show just off shore where at least a half dozen played for 15 or 20 minutes. From there we went to the east end, and to Fort Gaines. This was a fort that during the civil war was a site of many battles. The Bay of Mobile was an important port at the time. Fort Gaines on the west and Fort Morgan on the east guarded the Bay. Fort Gaines has been restored and is a great representation of the requirements of the times.

15th Feb
I woke up at 3:00AM this morning with a gut feeling that something was amiss in the motorhome. We have the little electric heater ( Denices favourite) to keep the chill off during the night, but it was not running. Instead the motorhome furnace was running almost not stop. I got up and went and checked the heater, and yes it was not working. No power to it. Checking found no power to any outlets in the kitchen/living section, but all OK in bathroom and bedroom. I reset the breakers. Still nothing. Even went outside and checked the Parks breakers. Nothing. No more I could do now, so went back to bed and stewed about what could be the cause the rest of the night. Circut breakers, wiring prolems, vermin chewing off wiring, RV Park problems just continued to swirl through my brain until time to get up. At 6:00AM Denice offered to get up and make coffee, as obviously I had been keeping her awake as well. I told her she would have to plug the coffee perk into the bathroom, as that was the only place we had power. She got up and went to the kitchen. Came back in about 2 minutes, and with tongue in cheek stated, "Motorhome fixed." "What do you mean" I answered. " I just fixed the problem. You know that little button on the plug in in the kitchen? Well it was out and I just pushed it in, and now everything works." I had completely forgot that in both the kitchen and the bathroom there are Ground Fault Protectors, and for what ever reason the one in the kitchen had popped out. Now of course Denice is promoting herself as the savior of the day, and requests $100 compensation for after hours call out. Super Electrician Extraordinaire!!
That little distraction behind us decided to go into Mobile today, drive through the old city on highway 90, and to the tourist info bureau at the convention center on the waterfront, and then out to the USS Alabama Battleship museum.
Arriving downtown we found it packed with people and many streets blocked off, obviously in preparation for a parade. We knew Mardi Gras was on, but what we did not know was that Mobile is actually the home of the original Mardi Gras. We stopped and asked a very nice colored lady what was happening, and she was happy to fill us in with all the details. A parade was due to pass by within 30 minutes as there are parades about 3 to 5 times every day for the total 2 weeks while Mardi Gras is on.

Tomorrow is the last day or "Fat Tuesday" as is the literal translation of Mardi Gras. Tomorrow there will be 5 parades, today 3, with the first in 30 minutes. We found a place to park and walked one block to the route with the 2 ladies who had filled us in on the history. People lined the route and soon the parade started passing. Bands and and lots of great floats with lots of hoop la. Music, whistling, cheering, and shouting was all part of the fun time and of course the main attraction was the bead strings, candies, whistles, cookies, and toys that every floats participants threw to the crowd. They must buy these by the boxcar, as there sure is no shortage!! Everybody on the route is ensured of being able to pick up all that they desire. By the time the parade had passed, everybodys neck was adorned with copious amounts of these beads as well as the ground was littered with them. It was great to take part in those festivities.
Then to USS Alabama battleship and to USS Drum Submarine as well as a Plane museum.
Walked the entire self guided tour of the interior workings of a Second World War Class Battleship.

I even climbed the the steeps stairwells to the upper 7th level of the Superstructure. There were two more above,but were restricted. Then able to do the same in a Submarine, the Drum. Now let me tell you, you would have to be a special person to live and work in one of those. She was 311 ft long, only 23 feet wide and was manned by a crew of 7 officers and 65 enlisted men. Passage ways are only a couple of feet wide, and everything is "Cramped." If you suffered from claustrophobia , this would not be for you.
Inside the Plane museum was an array of many of the early jet fighters, but the most interesting was the "Blackbird" We had seen one before in Tucson at the museum there, but still find them awe inspiring, as could flew at 3 times the speed of sound. As they explaind it, "If you could shoot a bullet across the USA, the Blackbird would beat it by 7 minutes, from LA to New York.
16th Feb
Out to Dauphin Island for WIFI - reserve RV spot in Jellystone RV park in Lake Charles for Thursday night for 3 nights
Then we go to Bellingrath Gardens for the rest of the day. This over 200 acres of flowers and walkways with lots of different landscape themes. Ponds, swampland, fountains, chinese and Japanese gardens were just a few of them.

Although this was not the optimum time of the year to be there, the flowers that were blooming were just great.The original owner was the Bellingraths who made their money as one of the biggest Coca Cola bottlers in the US. More info can be found at
17th Feb
Rest and get ready to move on to Yogi Bear Jellystone RV Park in Lake Charles, LA
Go to the local market and buy some groceries. It appeared quite small and we supposed it to be basics and nothing more, but once in found it to be large and well stocked. Many brands that we unfamiliar to us. We bought a lot more than was on the grocery list. Evan the meat selection was very good. Came home and stored away our purchases, then took a short trip down to a seaside park where we looked for birds to photograph. Found quite a few, so Denice is happy again!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Oh Suwannee, How I Love ya, How I Love ya

Moved on north today up into Georgia. Crossed the Suwannee River while on Highway 75 just prior to Florida/Georgia state line. Interesting highway sign at the river crossing. Same standard Green highway sign, but with music bar and notes of Al Jolson famed song, as part of it. Of course, traveling too fast and Denice not ready with her camera to get a shot to include here. DENICE NOT READY WITH HER CAMERA ????? Really!! Anyway, no photo to include, We just wanted to go up into Georgia, just to be able to say we have been here.

We only went 20 miles into the state before turning west on highway 84 at Valdosta. Went about 20 more miles to Thomasville and then north on 19, seven miles to Sugar Mill Plantation RV Park at Ochlocknee, GA, where we had reservations. Checked into a nice little park with a very homey atmosphere. The lady just says, "Just go find a spot, any one is OK. Your Choice." We picked #26 under some big pines. That evening we were invited to a Hot Dog get together dinner, but we were a little tired so passed on he invite. Next day (Thurs Feb 11) just veged out most of day as it is unseasonly cold here. Only got to about 45 F during the day. We had booked for only two days here, but looking at the weather it looks as a heavy rain is going to be on us for Friday, so extend our stay until Saturday. And Friday it does rain! Heavy all day from near midnight until 5:00PM. Tomorrow it is supposed to be sunshine. Hope so for our travel day to South of Mobile, Alabama, where we have reservations at the Alabama Port RV Park, on the Gulf of Mexico.

Monday, February 8, 2010

It's Time To Go Fly

On the night of the 8th of February, these were the words heard around the world from launch director Mike Leinbach who told the astronauts just before liftoff. "It's time to go fly."
"We'll see you in a couple weeks," replied commander George Zamka. "It's time to go fly."

Now our events leading up to this moment:
7th Feb, Sunday 1:00AM alarm goes off --------Ummmm, not sure, I'm sleeping soundly, Do I really want to go to see this thing. Yah, I guess we have waited a week for it. Better go.
2:00AM we pile into our neighbors, Larry and Sally's Ford F250 crew cab and head down town. Traffic heavy already, and once near the sea shore even more so. Appears no parking available, but then by some stroke of magic one appears in a Masonic Lodge Parking lot for a $10 "Donation". We take it and then it is just a short walk to the Space Park, where perfect observation is available. We take chairs, cameras, blankets, and pack them all to the small area just across a neck of water from Space Park. This area is still part of the same park, but a little less known. There were already many people there, in tents, in chairs, and in sleeping bags, but we were able get up to about the 3rd row from the front. We set up our chairs, poured a coffee, and sat down to wait out the count down.

It was rather cold, but not too windy. We had put on lots of clothes, at least, all we had. We remembered a conversation we had before we left High River. "We are not taking winter coats, We are going to Florida." Well now, "Eat those Words." However we did have enough with the blankets we took to keep us relatively warm. Time drug along slowly, clouds came and went, the moon came up, but then dissappeared behind clouds, a helicopter circled overhead, people chatted quietly, tension built slowly, but soon it was about 4:30AM. Then the discouraging word rushed through the crowd via hushed conversation. First quietly and then louder and finally with a tone of finality to it. "Launch Scrubbed tonight due to low cloud cover". The crowd dispersed quickly, and in a very controlled manner and we arrived home by 5:30AM. Had a coffee, and went to bed for a few hours sleep.
Feb 7th, Sunday Morning ----
Woke up at 9:00AM, made coffee and breakfast. Neighbors Larry and Sally, elect to return to Fort Lauderdale, and try to see some future Launch. They pack up and leave by 10:00. They were a great couple,so we will keep in contact with them in the future via email. We have wanted to go down to a restaurant called Dixie Crossroads, at the recommendation of a couple that were camped next to us at Lake Okeechobee. We went today, and it was all that they raved about! We had Hush Puppies, caesar salad, and Rock Shrimp, 4 dozen of them,

We had never experienced Rock Shrimp before, so really did not know what to expect. They are what the people recommended to us, "Like a small Lobster," only a couple of inches long, but split open, and broiled. They serve them with a small seafood fork, and it is easy to pick the flesh from the shell. Soak it in drawn butter or seafood sauce, and just taste the wonder of it all!!! Ummmmm!!!! And they do taste just like lobster!
Returned home in preparation for another Launch tonight.
8th Feb, Monday Morning 12:00AM - Denice and I head back down to Space Park. We are going earlier tonight than we did last night to try to get a front row seat. We are successful! Not nearly as many folks here tonight. I guess many have to work tomorrow and also the Super Bowl is on tonight. We took lots of blankets and all he warm clothes that we had as well as a couple of RV chairs for the long 4 hour wait until the scheduled launch at 4:14AM. Clouds passed by and at times it looked like another "Scrub," but at other times skies were relatively clear. Four hours sitting in the cold with nothing to do is a LONG time, but finally it was 4:10AM, and it looked like a "GO" We could hear the crowd starting the "Countdown" and all at once it erupted! Massive bright firelight lit up the whole world. We had organized ourselves that Denice would do a video, and I would take as many "stills" as possible. I know my hand were shaking, partially from the cold, but also in anticipation of the reality of after so many years of finally experiencing a launch. No words can describe it other than"AWESOME." Slowly at first, but with increasing acceleration we watched it climb into the heavens, and through the wispy clouds. In about 3 0r 4 minutes it was all over.
These are a series of my Pictures:

And to complete this Blog, a repeat of the quote from the Mission Commander:
"Looks like the weather came together tonight," launch director Mike Leinbach told the astronauts right before liftoff. "It's time to go fly."
"We'll see you in a couple weeks," replied commander George Zamka. He repeated: "It's time to go fly."

Here is a few Official Pictures from NASA:

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Endeavour and six astronauts rocketed into orbit Monday on what's likely the last nighttime launch for the shuttle program, hauling a new room and observation deck for the International Space Station.
The space shuttle took flight before dawn, igniting the sky with a brilliant flash seen for miles around. The weather finally cooperated: Thick, low clouds that had delayed a first launch attempt Sunday returned, but then cleared away just in time.
There are just four more missions scheduled this year before the shuttles are retired.
"For the last night launch, it treated us well
" Leinbach said.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Good Use of the Time While Waiting for Shuttle Launch

Today, the 4th of February and we are out to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Its just on the north end of the Kennedy Space Center property. In fact a lot of the area was closed in preparation for Sundays Launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavour. We were able to take a couple of trips around the general area, but the one of most interest was a 6 mile circle loop through varying types of swamp country. Some of it is salt water, while other areas are fresh.

The road acts as a low dyke to maintain exact water levels to produce and protect the varying ecosystems. Habitat and wildlife and waterfowl are varied in these divers areas to. We saw quite a few different beasts. Lots of armadillos.

Here in Florida they are called (I can't recall what it is), in Texas they are "Speed Bumps" Also lots of gators. When first in Florida it was a big deal to see a real wild gator, but now, its not even worth stopping. Just a comment, "over there on the bank is a couple more of them".

Even some Dolphins rolicking around in Handover Canal.

But water birds in the Refuge: Great Egrets, White Ibis, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, Glossy Ibis, Wood Storks, Reddish Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, and of course ducks unlimited of all colors and types, as well as thousands of coots.

Denice was in her glory!!! I think she took at least a dozen pictures (tongue in cheek reference) This was actually the first time that we saw the Roseate Spoonbill in the wild in Florida. There weren't many, but the photos are the documented proof, John Brown, that we really did see them. Now the search is on to see a Reddish Egret!! We may have already seen them, as they are rather hard to identify. End of another successful day and to end in proper style, a Florida sunset.

Today, the 5th of February, and on the road again, in the jeep 45 miles to the south along Highway 95 to the city of Melbourne, to meet some friends that between us we decided we had met way back in 2004. At that time we had our motorhome "Homer" a 29 foot class C, and Bill and Laverne Tom, had an identical Class C, but with Diesel power. We met them in Utah at Monument Valley, where we repaired computers, or at least tried. Then they left a day ahead of us and moved on to Moab. They waited there a day for us to catch up, and since we did not, at that time have a tow vehicle, and they did, we toured Arches National Park with them in their little 4 X 4. We had a great day with them. This was our introduction to the Suzuki Side Kick concept for a tow vehicle, although theirs was a GM Tracker. So that is how we came to purchasing one for ourselves, and the rest is history. The next day we parted company. They went east toward Denver and eventually to Thunder Bay, Ontario, their home, and us to the north west through Salt Lake City and on home to Calgary, Alberta. The friendship has continued, although sporadic at best, from then until today, when we found that they were at their daughters in South Florida, at Palm City, and made arrangements to meet with them again. As we were about 120 miles apart we decided to meet half way. Well not quite as we drove 45 miles, they 75. We met at the "Olive Garden Cafe" in Melbourne, and had a great meal and a lot of tongue wagging.

A lot to catch up on after 6 years! Almost overstayed our welcome at the restaurant after a couple of hours so drove down the the seashore for some more tongue wagging, but a cool wind sort of cut that short, so we parted once again. We returned to the north along A1A highway, right on the Atlantic Beaches to Cape Canaveral. Stopped at a couple of the famous Atlantic Beaches, Cocoa for one, and let Phiedeaux, our faithful old friend, get his feet wet in the Atlantic.

Then traveled #1 highway to Titusville, and 95 the rest of the way home. Had to pull over in front of a 7-11 store for 15 minutes while a severe rain storm swept past. Wipers wouldn't even start to keep up. Noticing already, many, many motorhomes parked at every open lot along the beach in preparation to watch the Shuttle Launch Sunday Morning at 4:39AM. Sure hope we are successful at finding a spot where we can see.
And on the Feb 6th, rested all day in preparation for the Space Shuttle Endeavor Launch tomorrow Morning at 4:39AM
During the day our KOA park filled to capacity. We had had an open spot next to us, but when we returned from downtown it was filled with a 5th wheel. Met our new neighbors who had driven up from Fort Lauderdale just to see the STS 130 Launch tonight. They are Larry and Sally Utz. Larry is an air conditioner contractor, owning his own business. They have asked if we would like to join them in their vehicle going down to the beach to watch Lift Off. We have accepted.