A Great Weekend With Friends

As I noted in my last post, I had a really tough week last week. Fortunately, I had made plans to meet up with my Largo friend on Saturday, so I had something to look forward to after work. Turns out, I was ambushed in the best way for a birthday celebration with all of my friends in Largo!

The Surprise

I was supposed to meet my friend at her place in Largo at 10:00 am, so I headed out at 9:15 thinking that would be enough time. . . Well. . . my geographically challenged status ensured I would get lost, and I did. I ended up in Tampa, where I called my friend to tell her I would be late. Since we were going to Tampa (she had told me that much), I guess I was the advance guard or something. I passed MLK Boulevard 3 times, I think, so I was probably going in a circle (story of my life). Finally, I put her address into my GPS and I was on my way in the right direction this time. Of course, I was at least half an hour late, but I made it.

When I got to her place, my other two friends were there, as well, along with Sponge Bob  (he’s the birthday mascot for this year, so I knew he’d be going back home with me). We were all headed to Tampa, except for Sponge Bob. I got to open my birthday card from my friends, which was a dancing pickle (no idea)! I love pickles, so this was certainly appropriate. Along with the card was a small box, which I was not allowed to open just yet. We headed out, with one friend saying, “you should be worried, but you know we love you.” Okay, so I was worried. One gift had been an hour on a flyboard, while another gift was a hot air balloon ride. At this point, I had no idea what they had dreamt up for me!

By the time we got to Busch Boulevard in Tampa, I was allowed to open my gift, which was a Fun Pass to Busch Gardens! I was really excited about it, since I’d been wanting to go but couldn’t justify the $60-$80 cost for a day. Now I could go as much as I want until December 31 — the gift that keeps on giving! We parked in the lot and got on a shuttle to the park.

Busch Gardens is awesome, divided into different areas, including Morocco, Nairobi, Pantopia, Congo, Jungala, Serengeti Plain, Egypt, Bird Gardens, Stanleyville, and the Sesame Street Safari of Fun (for kids). All of these areas have their own theme, and of the ones we visited, I loved the Morocco area (as the pictures will show). It is so big, though, that we didn’t make it to even half of the areas. We didn’t ride any rides, but we did see lots of animals and drink lots of iced tea (it was a very hot day). My friend wouldn’t let me spend any money myself, so she bought me a drink that included free refills all day on the day of purchase, and .99 refills every other day. I also indulged myself by having an apple funnel cake — I mean a huge apple funnel cake — and I couldn’t even come close to finishing it. I ended up begging my friends to help me finish it, but even with their help I threw half of it away. (Note to self: unless you’re starving to death, do not get a funnel cake! Even then, think twice about it).

We were on our way to the water rides at the opposite end of the park when we were waylaid by a thunderstorm. All the rides were closed down during the storm and the crowds piled into any area with a roof to wait it out. We ended up at a carousel, so I got a couple of pictures of that. It amazed me how tortured the horses on this carousel looked, and I wondered if they had always looked that way. Spooky!

Carousel 2 Carousel 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the pictures from the rest of the park (the carousel horses kinda creeped me out. . .).

Travel Pic

 

 

 

 

 

Toward Something

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Mosaic

 

 

 

 

 

Baskets in the window

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottle Display Blue Door

Bush Lodge at the Lake

We left around 4:30 because we had had two thunderstorms come through, and my friends had already decided to take me to Olive Garden to continue the day — yum! Despite the funnel cake, I wanted some real food, Olive Garden style. Back to Largo we went (and, of course, I’d already been this way that day), to Olive Garden, where there was no wait!

I’m not sure what happened, but we turned into those people you don’t want to sit next to at a restaurant — laughing, talking a lot, and just being generally obnoxious. Well, it wasn’t that bad, but I would’ve hated sitting next to us. And we had a ball! It might have had something to do with the drinks (although we only had one each), but we were on a giggling roll. . . It was the perfect ending to a perfect day (if you don’t count my getting lost, that is). So we’re going to do it again this Saturday — yay! I want to ride rides and see the rest of the park.

On the Home Front

So back to work on Sunday. . . It wasn’t too bad, but I realized I had to get a wireless headset; I had just destroyed my third wired one, so I had no music — again. I think there were around 30 sites to do that day per team (I’m my own team), so I didn’t finish up until 2:30 or so — again. When I walked in my RV after my shift, I nearly fell back through the door as Sponge Bob rose up to greet me and I had forgotten he was even there. I can imagine how my birds feel about him hanging around in the living room.

SAMSUNG
On his last legs — teehee!

So our plan now is to let Sponge Bob go to his demise. He’s helium-filled, so we thought it would be great to let him go over the Skyline Bridge. I was going to drive across, roll down my window and push him out, and then film him floating away. However, it occurred to me that I could actually cause accidents by doing that, as drivers might crane their necks to see what was floating above the bridge and end up falling off of it. So I think I might just let him go in the park. I don’t think Mylar balloons are nearly as dangerous as regular balloons to the wildlife. And who knows? Someone might find his deflated body, refill him, and take him home with them.

One observation: I’ve determined there’s a disorder that camp hosts develop (aside from ADD), which involves being able to spot trash and cigarette butts from a mile away, and feeling the urge to pick them up; I realized this when I went to Walmart, actually (no surprise, I’m sure — what a filthy place!). Palm fronds lying on the ground is another red flag, and I find myself thinking about bringing the golf cart around to get them — outside the park! Hopefully, I’ll get over this, but if not, I guess it’s another possibility for future employment.

Spent the day — my 56th birthday — at the beach. It was a perfect day, and the water was just cool enough to be somewhat refreshing so I popped in and out when I felt the need. I also watched a crew set up to film a commercial. I heard it was a deodorant commercial, or an underwear commercial, but whatever it was, I finally asked them if they were setting up for a sunset shot — and they were! So much for the deodorant commercial, since the heat on the beach would have been the perfect environment to test it, but a sunset doesn’t have any association at all with deodorant. If it was an underwear commercial, that really doesn’t make sense, either. So I guess I’ll just wait to see what comes out of it (fat chance, since I never watch TV). I kept waiting for the ‘talent’ to come out, but they never did — divas! While the crew sweated in the hot sun, the talent must have been in the air-conditioned RV I saw as I walked to the beach. Rank hath its privilege, I guess. . .

Have a good week, all!

Dog Days of Summer

Well, I have about as much energy as a slug right now. It was my first day off this week, and I’ve spent it in my RV working on my jigsaw puzzle.

SAMSUNG
What a bear this has been!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a really difficult puzzle, but I’m making good progress on it. Once it’s done, I won’t allow myself to start another one until winter (or maybe in October . . .). It takes up a lot of my time that would be better spent doing something more productive. Beats the heck out of video games, though!

New Companions

Here are my new kids, Bert and Chloe, which I picked up at, of all places, the flea market! From the looks of my sofa, over which their cage hangs, they already feel right at home. I put them there so they could look out the window and at least feel like they were outside. Bert’s been singing a lot, while Chloe just talks to herself (a bird after my own heart). They still get agitated when I approach their cage, but I expect them to get more comfortable with me as time passes.

SAMSUNG
Chloe and Bert

 

Continuing Ant Wars

As predicted, the ants are back. I am so sick of ants! This time, they are attacking from the rear primarily, although I’m not sure why (no food in my bedroom, which is in the rear of the RV). I tried spraying ant killer back there, but then realized that I could end up poisoning my birds, so I’m trying to come up with another solution. There are no ant trails, so I have no idea where the problem area is.

The last straw came yesterday, when I finished my shift and came back home, stripped off my clothes (which are always filthy!), and laid down on my bed for a quick nap before my shower. I woke up half an hour later to find an ant walking across my bare butt! (For those of you for whom this is TMI — sorry!) (For those of you with prurient interests, get your minds out of the gutter!). I’m now freaked out and I’ve decided to get some sort of perimeter defense to put around the outside of my RV. Suggestions would be welcome!

It’s Official!

Tomorrow, I will be going to get my Florida driver’s license and registration for my car. So I guess I am officially a Florida resident. Now I guess I’ll have to get a job next. I told the rangers I won’t be able to come back to work here by myself, for the reasons I mentioned in my last post. They didn’t realize I was taking the same number of sites to clean as the couples here, and it’s really just too much work for one person in this heat. On the other hand, my work here is making it possible for me to stay in Dunedin — the high-rent district — for the winter. And if I can work at Amazon for 5 weeks I feel like I can do anything for a period of time.

I have been weighing my options for a job, though. I have thought about becoming a park ranger, given my love of the outdoors, but it sounds like a very competitive process here. The test is only given every six months or so, and I’m not sure how many people are hired per test. But the work is varied, which I prefer, and it’s a career field I think I would enjoy. I’m sure a master’s degree might be overkill for the job, but the couple I work with and I were laughing about the fact that we have master’s degrees and we’re picking up trash. What a bargain for the park, because we definitely do a master’s-level job of it!

Here’s a few pics I’ve taken this week, for your enjoyment.

Even Better Sunset
An even better sunset, I think
SAMSUNG
Night heron drying itself at the dump station
SAMSUNG
A scene that appealed to me

SAMSUNG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last shot is a rose that was left on a picnic table at a site I cleaned, and I hoped it was from an appreciative guest. Have a good week, all . . .

 

Random doings and the downside

Another week in paradise — almost. . . While I believed I’d finally adjusted to my schedule and the heat, this past week was a set-back. I’m not sure if I was fighting off a virus or what, but I was wiped out nearly every day I worked. I’m hoping for a better week next week.

Beach Time

I finally made it to the beach last week. It was my first time there, since I can’t get in the sun after working, so I save sun time for when I’m off. One of the other camp hosts had picked up some abandoned beach things from a site they had cleaned, so I ended up with a beach umbrella and a couple of boogie boards. I took the umbrella with me, along with my water, my Ipod and headphones, a notebook and pen, my beach towel, and sunscreen (always).

I went to the North Beach at Ft. De Soto, which is a really nice beach, and laid out my stuff. The beach umbrella was difficult to secure (probably why it was abandoned), so I just stuck it in the sand and hoped for the best. It was a nice day, but I was a bit concerned about the clouds around.

SAMSUNG

I checked my cell phone for the weather, and it showed a sunny day, so I didn’t worry too much about it. I was enjoying laying in the sun finally, listening to my Ipod and periodically writing in my notebook. I was still watching the weather, and saw this in the distance:

SAMSUNG

Well, so much for a sunny day. As the wind picked up and I felt the rain come in, I saw my umbrella laying behind me — inside out — and decided to start gathering up my things. Below was the view from the beach as I walked to the snack bar for shelter from the rain.

SAMSUNG

I waited it out, and finally the rain stopped and I went back to the beach, along with the other intrepid souls who knew that the rain doesn’t usually last long here. When the sun became too hot for me, I waded out into the ocean (flesh-eating bacteria be damned!) up to my neck and then waded back to my spot on the beach, refreshed. At that point, I was ready for a nap, so I packed up my stuff and headed back to camp.

Another Day, Another Dollar

It’s interesting what you can pick up while cleaning sites here. The other day, I bagged nearly a 12-pack of Yuengling Beer that was unopened. I picked it up and put it in the back of the cart, where it promptly was buried under a big pile of brush that I picked up from other sites. As I bounced along, I noticed the distinct scent of beer, so the next site I stopped at, I checked to see how the Yuengling was doing. Unfortunately, there were a couple of cans that had holes in them and were leaking, so I put those in the trash. I came to another site, where someone had left beer pong balls. Awesome, now I could play beer pong with myself! Actually, those went in the trash. . . I was now down to 6 beers, having lost more to the bumpy roads and brush punctures.

By the time I got back to the dumpster to get rid of the brush and trash I’d picked up, I was down to 3 beers, and the back of my cart smelled like a brewery. I had hoped to have a stash of beer for visitors, since I don’t drink beer myself generally, but I suppose I should feel lucky that I had a few to store at least. I had also picked up a citronella candle someone had left, which was fortunate since I needed one but hadn’t remembered to buy one yet.

The Downside

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I want to accomplish and, to be honest, I’m not sure. I am still enjoying my adventure, but I do have concerns. One of the issues I’m having as a single camp host here is doing everything alone. When I was staying at RV parks, I had people around who were, often, long-term and I often met people to chat with. Because this is a county park, there is a two-week limit per month on stays, so campers here are generally here only a few days — just here to enjoy a vacation with the family and sometimes with their local friends, and not interested in meeting other campers.

The camp hosts I work with are very friendly, but there is no socializing. I heard they are more social in the winter months, but I suppose the heat is not conducive to get-togethers in the summer. So I end up bugging the rangers in the camp office when I have the opportunity. Fortunately, they are a friendly bunch, and very funny. Still, this job would be much more enjoyable if I had someone to work with. My friend from Largo came to visit one weekend, and she stayed overnight on Saturday and went to work with me on Sunday. That day flew by, and was so much more enjoyable than previous days.

Now, at the suggestion of a friend, I just listen to my Ipod while working, which helps to keep my mind occupied and helps me feel less lonely. This job is very physical and dirty, so I destroyed one of my earbuds when it fell into the dirt and I stepped on it. The second set isn’t faring much better, getting caught up in my equipment and in the limbs I pick up, etc. My next step is to get a wireless headset. . .

In any event, I’ll work through this like I have through everything else. I am nothing if not adaptable (as I am finding out about myself).

Supermoon

I did manage to get out to take shots of the supermoon on Sunday. One of the rangers had suggested I go to the Bay Pier at Fort De Soto to get it rising over the bridge, but I determined I probably should have gone to the Bayway to get it from that angle. As it was, I caught it over a shrimp boat out in the Bay, which was a nice touch, I think.

IMG_8002

While I was trying to get the perfect shot of the supermoon, I turned around to observe the sunset for the evening, and this is what I saw. . .

IMG_7991-Edit

I realized I should have stayed to get the sunset instead of the supermoon, darn it! Well, aside from the numerous no-see-um bites, it was an enjoyable outing. Until next time. . .

No Sewer Hook-ups??? and Other Considerations

It’s really nice at Ft. De Soto, and I’m finally settling into my routine. That is, I don’t feel like I’m half-dead when I get off work anymore — whew! I still get a nap in almost daily, but I don’t actually have to. There are some things, though, that are not so nice, although they’re not deal breakers. Alligators running free in the park would be deal breakers, but these are not.

Inconveniences, Sorta

I was here before, for 3 nights, and it was a really good experience. Staying for several months is a bit different. There are no sewer hookups here, which is a small price to pay for paradise (albeit a steamy one), but I didn’t know how difficult it is to use as little water as  possible. I like using water — for everything! And I didn’t realize how much I used, for just a couple of quick showers, dishes on a regular basis, tooth-brushing, hand washing, etc. I always watch my gauges for my holding tanks — both of which are 35 gallons — even though I hear from other RVers how notoriously unreliable they are.

So when my gray water gauge showed the tank was full, I assumed it wasn’t really — until the water backed up halfway into my bathtub/shower. . . (Note to self: when the gauge shows a full tank, believe it!) Fortunately, a couple of camp hosts generously offered to let me use their portable dumper (can’t remember what they’re actually called at the moment), which keeps me from having to retract my awning and slide, secure everything, and drive to the dump station to empty my tanks (not to mention backing back into the site).

SAMSUNG
Portable dumper . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, this portable tank holds 35 gallons and requires the user (i.e., me) to empty the tanks in my RV into it and then pull the portable tank to the dump station to get rid of its contents. Yes, it is just as messy as it sounds (at least when I do it). Remember, it holds 35 gallons, which means it’s extremely heavy when full. I wrestled with it for 30 minutes to get it filled, pulled to the golf cart and hooked up, and then driven to the dump station to dump it. The other issue is that my tanks are each 35 gallons, which means I can only empty half at a time of each. . . Well, the last time I dumped them, I tried to get them both emptied into the portable tank to save myself a trip, with disastrous consequences. Suffice it to say, that’s a chore that will take me some time to get used to (or not, as the case may be).

I now rarely take a shower in the RV, and I try to do dishes in a dishpan, which I sometimes empty into the bushes when I’m done. The restrooms here are fairly nice — not necessarily as clean as I would like, but nice. The showers are decent, with great water pressure, but sometimes you’re not alone in there. . . I took a shower once in the park restroom and after I got soaped up I happened to look behind me and there was a snake — not a big one, mind you, but a snake nonetheless. I think it was a baby. It was curled in the corner and I had just completely missed seeing it when I got into the shower. After my initial shock, since I was already soaped up I figured I’d just finish my shower and then report the snake to the rangers. Unfortunately, I also discovered that the shower was filling up with water, and the snake was now floating in my soap. Okay, shower over! I got out and dried off as quickly as I could, dressed, and went to the camp station to report the snake — along with the clogged drain in the shower. The next day, when I went back, the snake was gone, but the drain was still clogged.

Ants!

The other issue I’m having is a problem with ants. Given the sandy nature of this park, it’s not really a surprise that there would be lots of ants. I started seeing them about a week after I got here, and they started getting progressively worse in the RV. I went to buy some ant poison, which didn’t appear to work fast enough, so I started spraying them with tub and tile cleaner (the spray variety, not the foaming kind). It worked just as well as the bleach counter top spray I used to use at my house, but the ants kept increasing in number. So I got out the heavy-duty ant and roach spray and started shooting them on the cabinets and the ceiling.

Finally, in desperation, I soaked a couple of cotton balls in tea tree oil and put them in the cabinets where the ants were concentrated. That actually worked, and I haven’t seen ants in my cabinets since. I consider it winning the battle, not necessarily the war. I am ever-vigilant for the next attack. Every once in a while one will show up in my bedroom — either on the wall, or on my arm (no idea how that happens). That has so far led to a couple of sleepless nights wherein I kept feeling things crawling on me and assumed they were ants. They weren’t (I turned the light on a couple of times to check). Unfortunately, this is either a sign of my overactive imagination, or encroaching paranoid schizophrenia (just kidding!). What a shame I can’t convert that into a career, huh?

The Good Stuff

Lest anyone think I only grouse, I wanted to include some pictures I’ve taken from time to time to show what the place is really like. This is only in the campground. There are two beaches, an old fort, and (I hear) a lighthouse on Fort De Soto proper, which is on the Gulf of Mexico, as well as on Tampa Bay.

Fish Thieves
Fish thieves!

This guy was laughing because the birds kept stealing the bait from his bucket. You rarely see a fisherman around here without a sidekick — either an egret or a heron — and the birds always get fed. This was on the Mullet Bay Bayou, where most of my pictures are taken, actually.

2014-08-03 12.59.04-1
Lone tree on the Bayou

I just liked the shape of this tree, which is also on Mullet Bay Bayou. The views here are really spectacular. I was just cleaning a site one day and thought this would make a good picture.

Another Morning Shot
Another morning shot from a different perspective

This was taken from the entrance to the campground (around the camp store), and I loved the clouds that day. In fact, the clouds most days are amazing . . .

Great tree
Very old tree

I have no idea what kind of tree this is, but I loved its filigreed look. This is also at the entrance to the campground.

Morning in the Bayou
Another beautiful morning on the bayou

This is another shot of morning on the Bayou. Love it! This is what I see before I head out for work. . .

A Bigger Sunset
A really big sunset

I liked the clouds in this one, but I have to say that I like the look of the mornings around here better than the evenings. I’ll keep trying to get the quintessential sunset shot, and then I guess I’ll have to put them up for a vote. In the meantime, there’s another one out there right now! Gotta go!