Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Surroundings - (Old Town, FL)

We moved today to Suwanee River Hideaway Campground about 5 miles south of Old Town, FL. Old Town is not a very big town, and is located northwest of Ocala. Drove through the Ocala National Forest on our way here. Drove about 170 miles today. This is a Passport America park, so the price is right. It is off the beaten path and VERY quiet.

Not sure if I mentioned that the last campground was about 1/10 mile off I-95 so the truck noise was terrible. Since we were doing so much sightseeing and it was so well located for all we wanted to do, we didn't mind too much. But forget about sitting outside and reading a book.

We arrived here about 3:00pm, set up and walked down the 1500 foot boardwalk to the Suwanee River. The boardwalk crosses natural wetlands, so we'll see what kind of wild life we encounter. There are manatees in the river, but we didn't see any today. Met some nice people on our walk, but haven't decided how long we'll stay here. There are two state parks close by, and we plan to check them out. I wasn't able to get much information from the Florida State Parks website, so we'll just go see for ourselves.

The beauty of this lifestyle is just moving on whenever the mood strikes. It takes us about one hour to break camp and get on our way, and about 30 minutes to set up at a new site.

Had a call from Paul Stivers, our friend from church. He and Candy are checking on our house while we are gone. Paul is going to take care of Dan's snow removal jobs and it sounds like he'll get his chance tonight and tomorrow. Ten inches of snow is expected for Springfield.

No pictures today. Just thoughts about how much we are enjoying this trip.

More later.......

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Kennedy Space Center & Cape Canaveral - (Scottsmoor, FL)

Just an explanation of my titles to these posts. Since we'll be moving around I'm posting the name of the closest town to where we are staying in parentheses after the post title. So in today's title, Kennedy Space Center is not at Scottsmoor, but is located east of Titusville. We are staying near Scottsmoor.

Now on to yesterday. We spent the day at the Kennedy Space Center, also known as KSC by the people who work there. Lots to see at the Space Center and I think we saw it all.

This is the shuttle Explorer.
And this is the main fuel tank and 2 rockets to propel it into space. It is huge.

We decided to take the guided tour, The Cape, Then & Now. I mentioned in a previous post that Dan was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base which is south of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Cape Canaveral is a military base and is NOT part of Kennedy Space Center. Dan punched a time clock for Boeing Company, who had a contract at Cape Canaveral with the military to build Bomarc missiles. Boeing used military personnel from Patrick AFB as support for the project.

Our tour took us to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and to the Air Force Space & Missile Museum. The museum highlights the Air Force as a major participant in America's space program beginning in early 1950 through today.

The museum includes the original blockhouse, with two-foot thick walls, situated 400 feet from twin launch pads. After passing through the outer blast doors, visitors enter the firing rooms furnished with original computers, consoles and launch support equipment. At one time this was state-of-the-art, but of course, is now obsolete. The area around the museum is now called "Rocket Garden" and you can walk among the various rockets that were launched from here.

One wall of computers in the blockhouse. Remember, this was the 1950's and 60's.
I thought this sign was pretty clever.

As Dan looked out one of the windows, he said, "That's a Bomarc out there." Of course, we had to go look at it. Just like the Link Trainer story, I've heard stories of his time at The Cape working on the Bomarc, but never knew what a Bomarc missile looked like. But I soon found out. Sixty-seven Bomarcs were launched from Cape Canaveral between September 10, 1952 and April 16, 1960. Dan worked on the refrigeration portion of this missile.

Our guide pointed out this mural of Alan Shephard on the side of the blockhouse. He was the first American in Space, May 5, 1961. Check out the expression on his face and his eyes. This picture was taken after he had been in the capsule for four hours prior to launch. I can't even imagine what he must have been thinking.

Our tour of Cape Canaveral ended at Launch Complex 34 where Astronauts, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee lost their lives on January 27, 1967 as they were doing a test run on the pad for Apollo 1. From the time the fire broke out until they died, was 17 seconds. 100% oxygen is pumped into the capsule, so when the fire started they didn't have a chance to get out.

Our guide talked about the many rocket and missile launches from the Cape which never made it off the ground and the years of research and training that go into each launch. And the changes that are made based on each previous experience. Dan has also spoken of the various missile launches that were attempted and never made it off the ground, but until you've stood where these men died, you don't really appreciate what has gone into our space program.

On a lighter note, this lighthouse has been on Cape Canaveral since the 1800's. Dan remembers comments from the servicemen wondering if the lighthouse had been launched. But it was still there. Our guide also commented that people still ask when the lighthouse will be launched. :)

And an explanation of Cape Canaveral and Cape Kennedy, in case you wondered. The Kennedy Space Center is owned and operated by NASA. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was renamed Cape Kennedy after President Kennedy's death. The name change caused such confusion that the Air Force Station name was changed back to Cape Canaveral about 10 years later in the early 70's. People still ask to see Cape Kennedy. :)

We're beginning to get "hitch-itch" so we'll probably be moving on in a couple of days. We'll be starting back toward Illinois, but will take 2-3 weeks to get there, so hopefully the ice and snow will be gone. Stay tuned for where we land next.

We'd like to know what you think of our blog, so feel free to click on "Comment" at the end of each post and give us your opinion and read what others have written.

More later......

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Monday, January 28, 2008

It's a VERY Small World - (Scottsmoor, FL)

On Sunday we talked with Sarah, our youngest daughter, and her fiance, Chad. They told us that while reading our blog Chad realized that his uncle, his mother's brother, lives in Titusville, just south of us. He last saw his uncle about 7 years ago when Chad's grandmother passed away. We said we would like to meet him, so Chad called him to sort of introduce us to him and see if he would like to meet us.

We met Butch this morning at Kim's Donut & Deli (Dan's favorite local coffee shop) and spent 3 hours visiting with him. We had planned to go on to the Kennedy Space Center after visiting with Butch, but after spending the whole morning talking, we decided to postpone the Space Center until tomorrow. Butch is retired from Lockheed where he worked as a machinist supporting the space program.

We'll probably see Butch one more time before we leave this area. I'm sure we'll enjoy that as much as we did this morning's visit.

As we were all chatting, a man came into the coffee shop and sat down across from us at the counter for coffee and a donut. He heard one of us mention Illinois and asked if we were from Illinois. Turns out, he worked as an ironworker in Springfield and Peoria in the 70's. He remembered the old Fleetwood restaurant on Dirksen Parkway and even mentioned Chatham and Buckhart. Didn't ask him how he knew where Buckhart was, but I suspect he may have frequented the tavern at Buckhart. Buckhart is a very small town, one tavern and a dozen houses, about 5 miles east of Rochester. His last name was Siddens AND his uncle lives about a mile from our house in Rochester. Such a small world.

Just think, we are about 1100 miles away from our sticks & brick home and we've met our soon-to-be son-in-law's uncle and someone else who's been to Buckhart, Illinois and his uncle lives in our neighborhood.

Better watch out for all these uncles.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Patrick AFB, Chilly Beach, Antique Car, Peaceful Lake - (Scottsmoor, FL)

On Saturday, we went to Cocoa Beach to check out Patrick Air Force Base, where Dan was stationed from 1957 to 1959. He worked at Cape Canaveral on the Bomarc Missile. He was in the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron.

We were not able to get on the base, but he did notice how much has changed since 50 years ago. The old barracks housing is gone as are the above ground steam heating pipes. He said the base looks like it had been torn down and rebuilt.
So we went across the street to the beach. Notice the long pants and jacket and then check out the little girl in the next picture. :)

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Checked out the cruise ships at Port Canaveral.

Goofy hanging on the front of the Disney ship

As we started back home we saw this restored customized 1941 Lincoln Continental. It has been shown in several antique car shows and is for sale for $75,000.

Then we headed on home and Kasey and I took a walk around this lake in our campground.

Nice finish to another day on the this journey.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cleaning, Roadtrips, Pelicans and Armadillos (Scottsmoor, FL)

I woke up yesterday with a mission. Just had to clean up the sand and dog hair which seems to take over the motorhome. After breakfast, Dan left in pursuit of a coffee shop and some conversation. He found Kim's Donut Deli in Titusville. Visited with a man who had been on the Titusville police force when Dan was stationed at Patrick Air Force Base, 1957-59. What a small world. No, Dan had not met the police officer professionally. :)

After lunch, we went for a drive with no definite destination in mind. We found Riverbreeze Park at Oak Hill just south of where we are staying. Very nice little city park on the edge of Mosquito Lagoon. The park has paved trails, and handicapped accessible fishing dock.

Hope they caught something.

This guy posed for us

Isn't this tree neat as it bends over the sidewalk?

Then it was on to Merritt Island, where technology meets wildlife.

This is the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center viewed from the road through the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
We crossed over some rusty railroad tracks as we approached the entrance booth. Dan commented to the ranger that it didn't look like those tracks had been used in along time. She said the tracks are only used to transport shuttle parts back into the complex. She said that had only been done one time since she has worked there. She said the main responsibility the National Wildlife Refuge has with the tracks is to rescue turtles from the center of the tracks. They crawl over the metal track and then can't get back out.

The only buildings in the refuge are restrooms which are very low profile and placed periodically along the drive through the refuge. People are not allowed to walk on the sand dune which separates the land from the Atlantic Ocean. There are handicapped accessible walkways that cross the dune so you can get to the other side.

Playalinda Beach on the ocean side of the dune

This guy had 5 or 6 poles. Hope he had a good fishing day. :)

Not sure what these boys are waiting for on top of the restroom..... They are the only buildings in the refuge and none are taller than this.

Down on Their Luck

Saw lots of blue herons, white egrets and ducks on the water, but this little guy was a real treat. He was alongside the road. He let me walk next to him for several feet as he foraged for lunch.

Most people think of space exploration when Merritt Island and Canaveral are mentioned. But the miles of primitive beach are where endangered sea turtles lay their eggs and the marshy wetlands are home to numerous waterfowl, alligators, otters, snowy egrets, white ibises, and great blue herons. The barrier island and its waterways are home to 1,045 species of plants and 310 species of birds . Then there are the ancients oaks draped with Spanish moss and sand dunes covered with palmetto and sea oats. The area supports 14 wildlife species federally listed as endangered or threatened, including sea turtles, West Indian manatees, southern bald eagles, wood storks, peregrine falcons, eastern indigo snakes and Florida scrub jays.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

We'e Moved to Warmer Weather - Scottsmoor, FL

As you can see by our location, we have moved further south. Larry & Phyllis left us Tuesday morning to head back home to Illinois.

Soooo, since we wanted more sunshine than we have had and Dan wanted to walk on a beach in the sunshine; we spent a lot of time on the looking for just such a place. Wednesday morning we left Fountain, FL for Crystal Lake RV Park at Scottsmoor, FL. Now there's not a lot to see or do in Scottsmoor, but the RV Park is about halfway between Daytona International Speedway and the Kennedy Space Center.

We really prefer to stay in state parks and Corps of Engineer parks, but Florida State Parks are a little pricey unless you are a Florida resident with senior citizen status. This park is another Passport America park with no restrictions as to how long we can just pay half price for our campsite. Some PA parks restrict the rate to 2 days; some only Monday through Thursday; etc.
And, as most of you know, we like Nascar racing, so we would have to visit Daytona Speedway. :)

And we lucked out as far as racing. The 46th Rolex 24 at Daytona is being run this week. This race is a Who's Who of motorsports names with many of the top drivers from NASCAR, open wheel racing and sports cars. There are teams of drivers for each car and the drivers trade off driving for the 24 hours. There are 67 cars with drivers of all experiences driving around a 12 turn 3.56 road course that includes the high banked 3rd & 4th turns of the Daytona NASCAR track.

There are activities all this week leading up to the race start on Saturday. And the really neat part - we could buy a ticket that included admission all 4 days, parking in the infield, and garage access. Since Gail's NASCAR driver and 2 time NASCAR champion (Jimmie Johnson) is on the 99 Gainsco team, we just had to check this out. We spent the afternoon watching practice and strolling through the garage area. REALLY NEAT. And we spotted Jimmie Johnson. :) Didn't get close enough to get an autograph as he was walking away from us.

This is the car Jimmie will be helping to drive. It's called a Daytona Prototype (DP)

Left the race track and did a little grocery shopping and bought a small gooseneck lamp to better light my counted cross stitch fabric I'm working on. Drove back to the campground. Kasey was sitting in the front window of the motorhome to welcome us back. He is such a good traveler. He slept all stretched out on the couch nearly all the way here yesterday. And he sleeps most of the time while we are gone. There are several dogs in this campground and he's met them all on our walks.

Probably won't go back to the track tomorrow. May check out the beaches, but will go back on Saturday for the start of the race. And then, we just may not do much of anything. We are really trying to duplicate the kind of lifestyle we hope to begin this summer with this trip; trying to slow down and just enjoy life without feeling like we have to DO something everyday like we did when we went on vacations. Of course, we do have things that have to be done; walk the dog, wash dishes, walk the dog, vacuum, walk the dog, fix a meal, walk the dog (eat the meal before walking the dog). You get the picture.

More later........

Saturday, January 19, 2008

More Navy Stuff and the Newest Blue Angel (wannabee) and a Link Trainer

January 19, 2008

Getting ready to leave involves considerable discussion. The guy talking to Dan is Ivan Williams, a friend of Larry and Phyllis. He and his wife, Grace, are spending several months on Dauphin Island.

Kasey in his favorite spot in the motorhome, overseeing the "getting ready to go" process. "Are they ready yet?"

Entering Florida

Since we stopped to visit the Pensacola Naval Air Museum on our way to our next campsite, we arrived after dark at Pine Lake RV Park. We don't like to do this, since it seems to be a setup for parking and hookup problems, but all went well. This is a Passport America park, so our Full Hookup (FHU) rate is $15. All sites are pull through. We have plenty of room for the truck in front of the motorhome.

We have a lifetime membership with Passport America; so after paying $300 two years ago, no more annual fees. We stayed in several PA parks since then and have probably saved about half of the $300 so far. When we start fulltiming, we stay in even more PA parks. Many PA parks are off the beaten path, but that's OK with us as we plan to avoid Interstates as much as possible. We also really like Corps of Engineer parks and with our federal Golden Age Passport, COE fees are half price for us. And, some state parks offer senior citizen rates.

The National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola, Florida is huge. Admission is free, so that fits our budget. There is so much to see; we could have spent a whole day there.

The latest Blue Angel Pilot (wannabee). Notice there are no wings or engines and the rear of the plane is missing. I think we are pretty safe.

We did fly the F-14 Tomcat flight simulator. Since the F-14 has been retired, the museum uses the REAL F-14 flight simulators that the pilots trained on. Dan was the pilot and I was the munitions officer. This was just like sitting in a real F-14. Look out, Top Gun Tom Cruise.

Dan really did pretty well with 3 successful airstrip landings in a row. BUT, we never did land on the aircraft carrier. Guess he's not quite ready for the big leagues yet. But, I must clarify -- the control stick was not as responsive as it would have been when the pilots were learning because people have played with them a lot and they are pretty loose.

Link Trainer

I was especially interested to see this Link Trainer. My aunt, Hazel Rishel, was in the WAC (Women's Army Corps) during World War II. She was stationed in Japan, California, Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and other places that I've forgotten. My mother always said that Aunt Hazel was a "Link Trainer" and trained pilots to fly. I never knew for sure what that involved, so I'll share what I learned about that.

Aunt Hazel was not actually the Link Trainer, but must have been an instructor or operator teaching cadets to fly by instruments. The Link Trainer was used to teach the pilots to learn how to rely on their instruments. Most of the Link Trainer operators were females, part of the Women Accepted for Voluntary Service (Waves), in the case of naval aviation.

The seat in the Link Trainer is about 3 feet off the floor, but once the pilot was strapped in and the top closed, they felt like they were in a real plane. The trainer was designed by a former organ manufacturer, turned pilot, named Edwin C. Link. The trainer could simulate various conditions that might be encountered in real flight, including wind drift, turbulence and radio static. The trainer could also put the aircraft in various flight orientations, including spins that required the student to right his "airplane". Air nozzles even produced the sound effect of the slipstream.

The goal of the Link Trainer was to force the student pilot to rely on his instruments or follow the instructions given by the operator to get his plane back safely to base. The Link Trainer was very cost effective. In 1945 each hour of flight in a training aircraft cost $10; it cost only 4 cents for an hour in the Link Trainer. But most importantly, no cadet could lose his life in a Link Trainer if he made a mistake, or crash an airplane. HOWEVER, an army Air Forces cadet found himself lost and low on fuel during his simulation. Following standard procedure, he threw open the hood, and bailed out, breaking his ankle when he hit the floor 3 feet below. :)

The Link Trainers used at Pensacola Naval Air Station were placed in storage in 1950 in a rodent infested, leaky hangar. In 1990 they were recovered by the museum. They were dirty and many of the wooden components were rotten. But, when plugged into a wall outlet and connected to a vacuum cleaner to provide power to the bellows, they still worked, except for a couple of instruments.

I hope you enjoyed the story of the Link Trainer. Whenever my mother talked about her sister, she always said with a lot of pride, "Hazel was a Link Trainer during the war. She taught pilots to fly." I never asked her to explain to me what a Link Trainer was and I'm not sure she really understood what Aunt Hazel did.

So as we continue our travels maybe we'll come across something else that provides a link to our past and helps us understand it better.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

USS Alabama (BB-60)

January 18, 2008

USS Alabama (BB-60), Mobile
The ship was commissioned 16 August, 1942 and is 680 feet in length. She weighs 35,000 tons, but under battle conditions, weighed in at over 45,000 tons. She normally had a crew of 2500 men aboard. She earned 9 Battle Stars, and shot down 22 enemy airplanes during World War II.

A recipe for Beef Stew to serve 2500 hungry sailors.
(click on picture to enlarge and see quantities)

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Dan's Birthday and Habitat Visits

(Dauphin Island Campground, AL)

Yesterday was Dan's birthday. We drove to Gautier, MS and Biloxi, MS to visit the places he and Candy & Paul Stivers volunteered to help Habitat for Humanity efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. The first trip in February 2006 they stayed in dorms in Yankie Stadium which is a large athletic field not far from the Gulf Coast in Biloxi. They volunteered through the American Baptist Churches, USA, of which our church is a member. American Baptist Churches had an agreement with Habitat to provide volunteers. The Salvation Army also was set up at Yankie Stadium to provide meals and other resources for the workers, and they are still there. We saw 3 groups of volunteers on lunch breaks. Wish we had stopped and talked with them and taken their pictures.

The following pictures are of the houses in Gautier that Dan & the Stivers worked on during their first trip.

We shared Dan's birthday ribeye steak dinner with Larry & Phyllis back at our motorhome. He had phone calls from our kids all day, and especially enjoyed Elijah and Lucy wishing "PaPa" Happy Birthday.
Two houses in Gautier, MS
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These are pictures of the park and playground built across the street from the houses. I loved the bright colors.
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This is the RV lot behind Yankie stadium in Biloxi. When Candy, Paul & Dan returned to Biloxi in March of 2007, they parked our motorhome in this lot right alongside the fence. There was no room for them in the dorm area because so many college kids were there helping over spring break.

They put siding on this house, but it was not finished when they left. It was good to see how it looks now.

A whole street of Habitat homes. Don't they look nice?
We hope to continue helping Habitat when we start fulltiming, and hope that Paul & Candy (and anyone else) will join us.
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Rain, Rain, Rain

January 16, 2008

(Dauphin Island Campground, AL)

Rain seemed to be the order of the day. Took advantage of being inside and did a good cleaning. Takes about 1 1/2 - 2 hours to clean the whole motorhome. LOVE IT :)

Rain let up in the afternoon, so Dan & I drove to Summerdale, Florida to visit Rainbow Plantation. This RV park is an Escapee Park. Escapees is an organization based in Livingston, TX, for fulltime RVers. RV parks who are member parks of Escapees (SKP) give a discount to Escapee members. We met a fellow Mandalay owner and exchanged experiences with him. He is from Billings, MT where we spent time at Rocky Mountain Cummins having a fuel line repaired in 2006 when Lucy was born. Seems anyone who owns a traveling box with multiple systems has a story to tell.

Not much else to tell about today. Hopefully we'll have sunshine tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dauphin Island Campground

Dauphin Island, AL

We arrived here about 4:00pm yesterday. Temp was about 58, sunny and no wind. We are parked right across the road from the ferry which goes across the bay to Fort Warren and the mainland. We have excellent satellite and cell phone service, so I'm finally able to get this blog up to date.

The sun is shining this morning. Kasey and I walked to the beach on Mobile bay on the other side of the campground and then back to the ferry, about 1/2 hour walk. He enjoyed the walk and all the new smells, but doesn't like the sound of the surf. We stayed about 15 feet from the water. And of course, I forgot to take the camera. Will get pictures later today.

I did take pictures of the bridge that connects the south end of Alabama to Dauphin Island as we were crossing it yesterday.

Bridge to Dauphin Island & road to campground

Bridge pix were taken while driving, so they are
as clear as they should be.

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