Thursday, March 20, 2008


Wow, while we were at the Rally, Atlanta got hit with a tornado! They showed some pictures on local TV of windows blown out of hotels in the downtown area. Estimates for repairs were in the millions. Typically on the news you see rural towns flattened, but usually not big urban areas.

Today (Thursday I think) we left our campground on the south side of Atlanta, appropriately named Atlanta South RV Park, and headed into Atlanta to tour CNN. After parking, we headed across the street, only to find that CNN was not open for tours, due to tornado damage! OK, we thought, scrap that idea and head over to Coca Cola for a tour. The Garmin was put to the test, as street after street was barricaded off. The damage in the downtown area is extensive. Unfortunately, I left the camera back in the rig, so we couldn't record what we saw. After winding our way through the maze, and getting over to the Coca Cola Experience and the Aquarium, we decided not to go in. We are definitely not city-goers anymore - the traffic and volume of people was too much for us! We decided to head slightly north and check out a quilt shop on Donna's must-see list, and ended up in Murietta. It was worth the visit, and after a quick lunch, we headed over to see the Gone with the Wind Museum. Another money pit...we passed, and headed back to camp for a little R&R.

Tomorrow (Friday?) we will have dinner with some friends from my working days. This weekend, Donna's sister and hubby fly in to visit his mother, brother and his wife. We'll all meet up on Easter for a mini-reunion.

The Rally at Perry

For 3 days before the rally, we were at a park in Unadilla, GA. Nothing to exciting there, except when I decided to leave the park and fill up the rig, hoping to save a few dollars on the rising diesel prices. I slowly drove out the front gate, past the office, and drove 1 mile to the station. Upon my return, I stopped at the entrance, but did not go inside to say "I'm back...". The golf-cart police took off after me with lights flashing and caught up with me right before I pulled back into our spot. He was trying to make a case for me bypassing the office to get a free spot. Like someone in a 43' motor home is going to sneak in anywhere!

We had early registration for the rally, which was 7:00am - noon. Of course, someone (I'm not say who!) was very anxious to get there, so, on Wednesday morning, we arrived at the Georgia State Fairgrounds about 6:40am. That put us about 20 rigs back from the entrance gate. By 7:30am we were parked and set up...and the sun was just coming up. The volunteers told us that electricity would be on at 1:00pm, but at about 7:45am, someone flicked the switch. We were ready! All of the RV exhibits would not be open until Friday; however, a motor home preview would open at 3:00pm on Thursday. Of course, we headed off to the Country Coach display promptly at 3:00pm, to see if anything new was out there. After seeing all of the new coaches, we were still very happy with our choice. We also looked at several other brands that we had missed at our last rally.

One fun thing at a rally is the evening entertainment. At our first rally, we only went to one show, and it was great. This time, we planned on going to most of the shows. Night one was an oldies group, the Vogues, who had several hits, including "You're the One". They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for vocal groups in 2001. For us, they were forgettable. They had to do a long medley of Beach Boy songs to fill in for their lack of recognizable songs. Night two was supposed to be Frankie Valli from the Four Seasons; however, he ended up in the hospital, and, on very short notice, the Rally got Bobby Vinton to sub. We can say we really enjoyed this show. Bobby has a venue in Branson, and he has a very Vegas-like performance. He recorded many "colorful" songs: Blue on Blue, Roses are Red, and Blue Velvet to name a few. Night three was themed prom-night, with a big band. All of the activities at the rally had us beat, so we passed on this night. We were very excited to see the Sunday night entertainer, who was Ricky Skaggs. We knew him as a country-western singer, but I guess we were stuck in the 90's. In the mid-90's Ricky turned to Bluegrass. We had met up with some friends, John and Pat, for the Vinton show, and again for this show. About 5 songs in, while I was dozing off, Donna turned to Pat and asked her how she liked the music. The response was "we don't play this kind of music in our home!". That sealed it: the four of us bailed out. Us and many others, I might add. I would think that the Rally organizers would try and maximize the entertainment to the largest segment of the rally-goers. Bluegrass doesn't fit into that category. Oh well, better luck next rally. They announced that the next rally will be in Albuquerque next April. We'll have to see if that fits into our plans.

The rally afforded us the opportunity to attend several seminars that we missed last time - if you recall we were looking at motor homes at that one! We learned much, and had a great time looking at all of the RV goodies for sale at the exhibit hall. Abbey really enjoyed the fairgrounds, and she really pulled me around on our walks. All in all, it was a great experience for all of us.

On Monday, we took one last walk through the exhibits, and then headed out to lunch with John and Pat, to say our goodbyes until the next time. We had met them while staying at our "home" in Livingston, TX. At that time, they told us they were heading over to another Escapees park in Summerdale, Alabama. A few days later we headed over there, and met up with them. We told them about our plans for the rally, and they decided to go. It's great how we meet people and click, and then we end up meeting up again as we continue our journey.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Peachy Keen

After 2+ months in Florida, we headed north, to Georgia. Our first stop was at Blythe Island, where we stayed at a regional campground. It was nice and quiet, but heavily treed so we could not get satellite TV. The park did have cable, so we were able to keep up with local news. Abbey met a 14 week old Yorkie named Oliver, that was owned by one of the employees there. She couldn't quite figure out that it was a baby version of her. While setting up the rig, I noticed that there were a lot of gnats buzzing me. I kept swatting, only to realize that they were BITING gnats. There were also smaller versions - no-see-ums. We didn't encounter anything like this in Florida, just mosquitoes at dusk. These bugs loved me, and my arms got bitten up real quick. Donna got one or two bites, but I was the main target. The bites were very very itchy.

Our campground put us in proximity to Jekyll Island. Some people we met at the pool at TGO told us they go there every year on their way south for the winter, so we thought we'd check it out. Jekyll Island used to be a playground for the very wealthy. The Vanderbilts had a "cottage" here, as did the Goodyears. A group of wealthy investors bought the island, constructed a "clubhouse", and then built their cottages in the surrounding area. The clubhouse has now been converted to a five-star hotel, so you get the picture. Clubhouse = mega-hotel, and Cottage = mansion.

Ah, cottage life!

Another cottage

Churches too!
The next island to the north is St. Simon Island. We liked this island a lot more, as it's less remote feeling, and has more varied things to see. We stopped at the Visitor's Center and got some maps and tips from the volunteers. They suggested that we look for tree spirits. Supposedly there are 5 of them carved on trees on the island. We found 2. As we were searching for one, we stopped at a Farmers Market, where only 1 stand was operating. We asked the proprietor if she knew where the tree was, and she told us that it had been cut down...a small detail the visitors center forgot to pass that along to us!

Lighthouse on St. Simon

Is it an elusive tree spirit?




After 3 nights we headed north, this time to Skidaway Island, to stay at our first Georgia State Park. This park lies just south of Savannah. Like Blythe Island, this park is heavily wooded. The park rangers told us not to worry, as they too had cable TV. Well, it's kind of a cable system, but it's very old, with very poor reception. ABC is just fuzzy static with moving shadows. The audio plays the background music loud and the voices soft. And when commercials come on, the audio doubles in volume! There are gnats and no-see-ums here too. Lucky for me, they like Donna better than me here. Now she is enduring the itchy bites. These bugs have given us the heebie-geebies. We feel them even when they aren't on us.

We have spent 2 days exploring Savannah. For those of you who follow the Food Network, you probably recognize the name Paula Deen. She has a restaurant in Savannah called The Lady and Sons. We had decided a long time ago, that if we were in the Savannah area, we would eat at this restaurant. I did some investigating, and found that they don't take reservations by phone. You have to go there and wait in line to get a reservation. The host arrives at 9:30am and starts taking lunch reservations...we got there about 9:35am to find a line about 100' long. Donna got in line while I parked the Jeep. The line moved quickly, and we got a lunch reservation for 11:00am. Our instructions were to be back at the restaurant at 10:45am and wait across the street. At 11:00am, they started calling names, and we got in shortly thereafter. Tour bus parties got priority over those of us commoners. We felt that this was a very odd way to operate, but it seemed to work OK. Once inside, we took the elevator to the 3rd floor, and were seated. I had read that if you hadn't been there before, do the buffet, as you get a lot of choices. We checked it out, and went for it! Fried chicken, BBQ chicken, Swiss steak (pork), rice, mashed potatoes, gravy, collard greens, Lima beans, string beans, sweet potatoes, and black-eyed peas were heaped on my plate. Not the best food for watching your calorie or cholesterol intake, but mighty tasty for a one-time event.

Paula Deen's restaurant
We decided that to best see all of the historical sites of Savannah, we would leave the driving to someone else. We signed up for a 3-hour extended tour with one of the local tour companies. It was great, and we learned about the history of Georgia, as well as seeing all of the squares, churches, synagogues, and historic houses. We could not have accomplished this on our own, one person driving, and not knowing what we were looking at.

A couple of Victorians

Another historical house

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Lazy Days

OK, that's what many of you think retirement is...but I'm talking about a place. Over on the west coast of Florida, just east of Tampa, is the town of Seffner. It is home to the world's largest RV Dealer, Lazy Days. They sell everything from trailers to motorhomes, and have a huge inventory. To give you an idea of how much they sell, over 200 units were sold over one weekend! They also have an on site RV park, a Camping World, Cracker Barrel, and Flying J, all on the same complex. We stayed at the park for 3 days and 2 nights. They really cater to RV'ers there. You get a newspaper delivered to your site every morning, and they provide breakfast and lunch at their cafe. They also serve Starbucks coffee.

After we checked in, Donna was backing me into our site. She struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was watching the operation from a golf cart. Turns out he was a salesman for Lazy Days. As it was 12:45pm, and Donna asked him if they were still serving lunch. He told her they did right up to 1:00pm, so we quickly hurried over to the cafe. The food was, well, passable, but barely. After all, it is a "free" lunch. We got back to the park, and decided to go check out the Tampa Hard Rock Cafe/Casino. As usual, there was a ton of memorabilia to look at.

The next day, we headed off to breakfast, which was also just so-so. From there, we walked to the Country Coach motorhome area, and walked through all of the new coaches. As we were finishing, the salesman from the day before pulled up, and we began talking to him. Donna asked for a card, and then he asked us if we wanted to see their exclusive club (for those who purchased luxury motorhomes from Lazy Days). Of course we said yes, so he took us to the Coach Club, and got us a 1 day pass. If you buy a luxury coach from Lazy Days, you get into this club, which has it's own RV park, and it's own restaurant. Essentially, you stay there for free, and they give you gourmet meals. This treatment ensures that you will continue to purchase from them in the future. We were just a tad late for breakfast (made-to-order omelets, fresh fruit, etc.), but did go back for a very nice lunch and then a cocktail hour with appetizers. Makes you want to buy another coach (no, not really, but it's a nice perk for those who do!).

Abbey took us for a walk when we got back, and she managed to meet 2 little Yorkies. Shortly thereafter, nasty weather set in that included torrential rains, wind, and lightning. So much for socializing! Tornado warnings were issued for the county north of us, but none, thank goodness, materialized.

Farewell to TGO

It seems like yesterday when we pulled into The Great Outdoors. Actually, it was Christmas Eve Day. We knew no one, hadn't a clue about what was where, and we barely got checked in before the offices closed for the holiday. We went to a pot luck on Christmas Day, and met some very nice people. And that was the start. During our time there:
  • We went on nature walks
  • We walked a whole lot
  • I rode my bike a lot
  • We explored the Orlando area
  • Abbey learned to ride in a basket on the bike
  • We bought fresh oranges for $7 a half bushel (that's about 50 oranges)
  • I took up golf again, after 11 years (thanks Tom!)
  • Donna joined the quilt group on site
  • We toured the Kennedy Space Center and had lunch with an astronaut
  • We saw a space shuttle launch
  • We made new friends
  • We tried to learn to deal with humidity
  • We tried to learn to block out "pool noise"
  • We saw a few movies
  • We ate a local delicacy - rock shrimp (tastes like lobster)
  • Abbey met every Yorkie in the park (Cody was her favorite, but Minnie & Mickey, or Samson & Delilia were right up there too)
  • We discovered new restaurants
  • We went to the Art Fair in Titusville
  • I went shrimping
  • Our motorhome's windshield got replaced, and the seal was redone twice after the initial install
  • Donna went shopping at quilt stores with new friends
  • I waxed the motorhome (BIG job!)
  • The price of diesel went up from $2.84 to $3.62
  • We rode on an airboat and saw big gators up close
  • We saw many exotic birds including sandhill cranes, great blue herons, and ibis
  • Donna saw her first armadillo
  • I got a never-to-be-repeated haircut at "The Bent Pole" barbershop

Two months went by so quickly...but we had a great time!!