Sunday, December 30, 2007

Shimmy, Shimmy, Cocoa Beach

OK, so I plagiarized the title of a song from the late 50's...hey, at least I can still remember back that far!!

The path to Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach

We decided to take a drive down to Cocoa Beach and check out the beaches and attractions. After wandering in and out of a local beachwear place, we pulled into a city park, where we found a trail through some heavy trees and plants leading to the beach. The beach was pretty, but a recent bout with red tides had killed many fish...which had washed up on the beach at high tide. The smell of rotting fish was too much for us, so we turned around and headed down another path away from the beach. Later on the news we heard that the City was using jail prisoners to pick up and bury the dead fish. We came across a boardwalk leading through a semi-tropical rain forest. Not bad for not having a book of things to see and do in Cocoa Beach! I think the elevated boardwalk was to keep us from finding an unexpected alligator. It was a 1/4 mile loop right next to the beach, and we found it very interesting, to say the least.

The path

Twisty vines

A single bloom

A break in the thick canopy in the middle of the forest

An old oak
Berries of some kind
From there, we went to the most famous surf shop on the East Coast: Ron-Jon. You know it's a mega-store when the billboard advertisements say: Open 24 hours. It was a giant store, and we did a little shopping - I ended up with a new T-shirt, and Donna with a new sun-dress.

The Great Outdoors Resort

Looking at our site from the pool area

Yup, the HD satellite is beamed in!!

Silly squirrel - find a real tree!

Early on Christmas Eve Day, we left New Smyrna Beach and headed the 26 remaining miles to Titusville. It was lucky we left when we did (around 10:00am), because we found out when we arrived that everything at The Great Outdoors closed up at noon! The last burning question we had about NSB was how do you pronounce "Smyrna"? Donna prefers "smerna", where I slang it up a bit saying "smearna". I guess in the big picture, who cares?

The further south we get, the less pine trees, and more palm trees, we see. Our site here for the next 2 months is right next to the pool. It's a nice site, but a little noisy due to the pool. People swim and soak up to 11:30pm at night, so we're having to adjust a bit. Also, it's a little weird seeing squirrels climbing palm trees!

On Christmas Day, we attended a potluck that was held at the onsite church. I had called about a week before to reserve a spot, and found that we were #99 and #100 to attend...the last 2 spots! We met 2 couples that we hit it off with, so we now have some new friends here. On New Year's Eve, we're going to attend another potluck.

The temperatures have been in the low 80's and humid...quite a change from our time in Colorado, where we could have anything from 70's to snow and cold, with humidity levels in the teens. New Year's Day is supposed to be quite a bit cooler - down to the high 50's. For right now, we're enjoying sitting out in the patio with the tropical breezes blowing.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Last month, while staying at our son's, I related that Donna had fallen when a portable step collapsed. She's been nursing a sore spot on her back, and it progressively has been getting better. Last night, she rolled over in her sleep and felt (or dreamed?) a sharp pain accompanied by a "pop". Today she was very sore, so we headed off to the local hospital to get it checked. Amazingly, for a visit to the emergency room, it only took us 1-1/2 hours. The X-rays did reveal one broken rib, so now we know what we're dealing with. The prognosis is good, but the doctor told her it will take another 4 weeks to heal. Luckily we will be in one place for two months!

Eastward Hoooooooo

From Biloxi, we headed east, and ended up in Summerdale, Alabama, at the Escapees RV Park. We had heard that this was a great park, one of the Escapees best, from a couple we met while in Livingston. They told us they were heading that way, and would be spending some time there. We didn't get their names, and had no idea what type of RV they had, but hoped that we would see them again.
Leaving Mississippi, we were pleasantly surprised at the change in Alabama. Unlike the devastated and otherwise depressed areas we encountered there, Alabama seemed very nice - nicer roads, nicer towns, and friendlier people. Upon arriving in Summerdale, we walked around the park looking for familiar people, but didn't see anyone we knew. The next day, there was a knock on the door, and there were our new-old friends from Livingston. After proper introductions (Pat & John!), we spent some time talking, and hit it off. Turns out they were parked about 2 RV's away from us. We convinced them to meet up with us again at the Good Sam RV Rally in Perry, Georgia in March. After several days, we decided to head east, and get closer to our final winter destination.
Our next stop found us in De Funiak Springs, Florida, which is located in the Panhandle. The day's travel, while not long, was punctuated with off-and-on rain. When we got about 5 minutes from the park, the downpour began in earnest. Luckily, we had a pull-through site, and all I had to do in the rain was get the electricity and water hooked up. Pressing the satellite button inside, I found that trees were obstructing the dish, so I had to go out in the rain to get the cable plugged in. I turned the weather channel on, as the rain seemed to be getting worse. Very worse, as there were severe weather warnings for the area, including torrential rain, tornado warnings, and hail alerts. On top of that, I discovered a leak at the front of the rig, coming in through the driver's side window. So, armed with a dishcloth and bucket, I spent the next 2 hours bailing! The weather finally passed, and the next day was nice, with no after-effects of the storm.
Jacksonville was the next stop - after watching the weather patterns on the Panhandle, we decided to get to the coast. We stayed at Flamingo Lake RV Park on the north side of town. It was a nice park, and we loved that the weather was much warmer than out on the Panhandle.
Now we're heading South, as the road East has ended at the Atlantic! Our current location is New Smyrna Beach, Florida. We're enjoying the warm weather (70's), although the humidity is a bit higher that we're used to.
The park at New Smyrna Beach

A land yacht! Yes, they are RV'ing in their boat!!

Squirrels in palm tree territory?

We drove down to the beach yesterday, and found that they allow driving out on the sand. So the Jeep got it's first taste of sand.

Relaxing on the coast!

We are less than 50 miles from Titusville, where we will spend the next 2 months. On Monday, Christmas Eve Day, we'll head on in to The Great Outdoors.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Our Hard Rock Experience

As we drove through what is left of the coast highway through Biloxi, there were many sad sights, and some surprises, as detailed in my previous post. Coming around a corner, there was a surprise - a Hard Rock Resort/Cafe/Casino appeared, brand spanking new! We thought this deserved further investigation (and we were hungry, and they advertised a buffet). We have been to a few Hard Rocks, but this complex was huge. We found out that they had reopened only a few months ago.

We asked a host how they had stored this stuff with Katrina coming, and he told us that they did not expect the hurricane to hit them, so they had not stored or removed anything. When Katrina turned towards Biloxi, they simply evacuated, so nothing was saved. The picture below is some of the stuff that was salvaged from the Gulf in the aftermath. We did see some things, like the Army uniform that Elvis wore, that had been recovered, cleaned, and redisplayed; but most of what we saw was new to the facility.

Memorabilia in the foreground, and a pic of the destroyed Hard Rock in the background
These montages are huge. We thought that they were made of fabric, but, upon closer inspection, found them to be made of woven newspaper! Can you figure out who the artists are?
Who are they?

And these four?


One of Elton John's flamboyant costumes was quite impressive, as was a banner on display from Pink Floyd's movie "The Wall", and one of John Lennon's smoking jackets.

Not quite my style!
Banner from Pink Floyd's "The Wall"

John Lennon's smoking jacket

As the Hard Rock was getting ready for Christmas, their bakers had prepared two huge gingerbread houses. By huge, I mean 5-6 feet in height! To all of us amateur gingerbread house makers (T&V and R&D), these set the standard for the future!!

Now that's a gingerbread house!

This is the "small" one

This place was so impressive, and there was so much to see, that we came back a second time (the buffet was great both times, too!). Our next time through this area, we'll definitely stop here again.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Katrina vs Biloxi

Shrimp boats behind the Hard Rock

We arrived in Biloxi, MS on Sunday, hoping to see most of the city and surrounding area back in commission. It became clear to us that the cleanup efforts from Hurricane Katrina are nowhere near complete. There are entire city blocks along the ocean front that are empty. Concrete parking lots with weeds. Some of the casino owners elected not to rebuild. A friend's daughter once worked at the Casino Magic here - but that casino is no more. It was obvious where the reconstruction went; big money gets big results. The Hard Rock Casino/Cafe was recently reopened (I'll have an another post for that), as did several other casinos.

We saw churches with the lower level stained glass blown out. Apartments and condos abandoned with their lower floors gone. Gas station signs, restaurant signs were evident, with no buildings to go with them. Amazingly, there were signs posted on beachfront parking lots indicating that luxury condos would be built. Uh, huh, try getting homeowners insurance on those!

Remains of a restaurant

We had planned on visiting the Jefferson Davis museum and library in Biloxi, to get a bit of Civil War history. Unfortunately, that historical place was mostly destroyed. They are planning to reopen sometime in 2008.

Out of the destruction we did see a rebirth of sorts. Dead oak trees are being removed down the center strip of the highway, but some of the stumps are being sculpted into works of art depicting coastal life.

Oak seahorse

Oak dolphins

Our campground was about 4 miles inland, and, while it had great reviews, we found it to be about 90% occupied by long term tenants. Two nights was enough for us, and we headed for Alabama.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Lucky Thursday

Last Thursday was our last day in Livingston, TX. I took my Class B driving test at 10:45am, and passed! So now we are legal as far as Texas is concerned. We headed out about noon, eager to see new places. Both Garmin and our mapping software pointed us down highways that avoided freeways for the first part of our trip - quiet roads, but very bumpy! We arrived at Beaumont, TX and picked up was worse! It is being renovated and repaved, so we had narrow lanes to navigate...and they were bumpy! Crossing into Louisiana, we hoped for the best, but the construction continued. Our exit was 44, and at about 43.75, the construction ended.

We've been staying in Kinder, LA, at a casino RV park, and have liked it a lot. Arriving here around 3:30pm, we got checked in and headed to the casino to check things out. I sat down at a video poker table (that I thought was a quarter machine), inserted a $20, and began playing. On the third hand, I hit $160, surprising Donna to no end! She had walked around a bit after I sat down, and couldn't quite believe it that I had done so well so quick. We usually only play about $20 between us, so this was a big deal! On Friday, I went back to the same machine, put in another $20, and won $52. Of course, today I did the same thing, and didn't win anything!

Tomorrow we're heading for Biloxi, MS. The last time I was there was 1998 for a job walk. No stress this time!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

"Houston, we have a problem" (er, no we don't, I just always wanted to say that!)

The tour starts here

We're getting itchy to hit the road again. The weather here has been nice, and 2 days ago, it got up into the high 70's, with the humidity level just a little higher! Yesterday it was much cooler, and today was supposed to be just about right! We decided it was time for a little diversion, so we headed down to Houston for the day. First stop - the Space Center! We got there about 10:50am, and found out that the 90 minute tram tour started at 11:00am! Good timing...the tour was excellent!

First stop on the tour - Mission Control!
This is the actual Mission Control used to put a man on the moon. All of those terminals are just that - TV sets that provided real-time data to the engineers. These are not computers - there are no keyboards. The computer feeding the data occupied a room a few floors down (and it's capacity was 300kb!). There are now 2 other mission control rooms with updated equipment, but this is the original one.
The Apollo Building
The building in the background houses a left-over, never used Apollo spacecraft. It had been built, but never was launched, as funding for the program ended. It sat on a field for 23 years (!) before funding was allocated to preserve it as an historical landmark. Amazingly, the building was build around it at a cost of $1.5M.
The Apollo inside the building, with all stages, is 332' long
I can't remember the exact numbers, but I think they said that, during takeoff, the first stage burned 1-1/2 tons of fuel per second - and the first stage lasts 50 seconds!!
Space Shuttle simulator
This dashboard is almost as complicated as our motorhome!