Tag Archives: Florida

Adventures in Cooking

This blog is about my adventures in cooking…in an RV… in Florida… in 90 degree weather. Ah, the stories I’ll be able to tell my grandchildren!

The Cooking Backstory

I used to be a very adventuresome cook, pulling interesting, complex recipes from magazines and cookbooks to try out on whatever unsuspecting diner was around — usually my husband and kids. Through the years, though, I cooked less and less because I had more and more to do (working fulltime, going to school). I no longer had the time to spend searching for recipes and preparing lavish meals for a family who may or may not be there at dinnertime.

Still, I remember spending a day making ravioli from scratch, rolling out the dough, cutting each piece individually, filling it with cheese, and crimping each edge with a fork. The dish turned out really well; the ravioli was topped with a meat sauce also made from scratch and finished with bubbly cheese. It was, to my husband and me, delicious, but when I asked the kids what they thought of it, they informed me they liked the canned ravioli (i.e. Chef Boyardee) better. That was the last time I bothered making anything from scratch.

After my divorce (completely unrelated to my cooking), I determined that cereal was a perfectly acceptable meal, when supplemented with vitamins and other alternate forms of nutrition, and it became the mainstay of my diet (along with takeout Chinese). Interestingly, I found other single women who felt the same way. For us, eating is either a social activity or a purely utilitarian one, so if there’s no one there to share a meal, why bother with anything that takes time and effort? I suppose, on some level, I didn’t feel important enough to warrant a prepared meal, but, in fact, I wasn’t interested enough in food to even feel hungry most of the time.

Fast forward to 2014: I had become friends with a Canadian snowbird in the neighborhood when he decided I wasn’t going to eat unless he fed me (probably a valid observation) and we began having dinner together on a regular basis. He was an excellent cook and seemed to enjoy preparing the meals, so when my awkward attempts to reciprocate resulted in less-than-appetizing dishes on a couple of occasions, he determined that he would continue to cook and we would continue to eat well. I was enjoying being taken care of and, with my assertions that I really was a decent cook unconfirmed, I just went with it.

The Cooking Challenge

Fast forward to this past snowbird season: The economy was worse, the weather was worse, and my Canadian friend was in no mood for incessant meal preparation. My first order of business was to prepare a traditional American Thanksgiving meal for my Canadian friends, with turkey and all the fixings. Of course, as I later found out, Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving themselves, just on a different date (who knew?). Still, I was going to fix the dinner that I considered the quintessential Thanksgiving: turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, corn casserole (aka spoon bread), candied yams, cranberry sauce, and both pumpkin and pecan pies.

Despite having to farm out some of the dishes for cooking, and carrying the food to another place for dining since mine was too small, the meal turned out well and we all had a wonderful time together. Unfortunately, in the middle of cooking my convection microwave stopped working and I ended up having to replace it. Apparently, the microwave turntable was unable to turn due to the size of the turkey, which — aside from resulting in one side of the turkey being seriously overcooked — fried the circuitry in the oven. [Note to self: skip the turkey and buy a large chicken next time].

Still, undeterred by my $300 screw-up at Thanksgiving, I was determined to share the cooking load this season, so I got on Pinterest (having just discovered that most fascinating of time-wasters) and began pinning recipes I thought my friend and I would enjoy. He had mentioned that he loved lasagna, so I pinned Italian dishes, then Mexican dishes, Chinese dishes, even French and the occasional Thai dish. It had been years since I had immersed myself in cooking, and I was excited about the possibilities.

Now, I should point out to those who haven’t been following my blog that I am currently living in a 31′ RV, my counter space is exactly 13″ (I measured it), and I have a small 3-burner propane stovetop and a convection microwave oven that requires me to turn off my air conditioning whenever I use it to prevent tripping the breaker.  Cooking in my RV — particularly more complex meals — is akin to riding a tricycle in 90 degrees through an obstacle course while balancing a stack of dishes on one hand. In local parlance, it ain’t easy.

The cross I bear. . .
The cross I bear. . .

 

 

 

 

 

Nevertheless, I managed to make lasagna, eggplant Parmesan, boeuf bourgignon, and chicken enchiladas that even Julia Child would have envied, despite balancing the dishes on the edge of my sink and chopping vegetables on top of my computer. Whenever my friend would mention something he loved to eat, I’d pin the recipe, buy the ingredients, and make it! If I thought of something that sounded good to me, I’d pin the recipe, buy the ingredients, and make it! I was thoroughly enjoying myself, except when I had to do the mound of dishes in my sink, sometimes in two loads. The other issue I forgot to mention, though, is storage…

I have the typical RV refrigerator/freezer and less-than-adequate storage bins, and — I’ll admit it — way too much stuff, which means that I have to be very careful what I buy, and even when I buy it. So purchasing the ingredients for a dish right before I make it is almost a necessity. Otherwise, I have to cram them in wherever I can find room, and, as is obvious below, that’s easier said than done.

In addition to working in a kitchen the size of a phone booth, with appliances just slightly larger than my grandchildrens’ play kitchens (a good friend and fellow RVer lovingly referred to it as a “Barbie kitchen”), I realized that everything I’d ever learned as a cook was unsuitable for this lifestyle. For example, it is impossible to have frequently-used items on hand, with the exception of salt and pepper, so you have to go to the grocery store frequently — and I hate going to the grocery store. Also, it is highly inadvisable to make anything in batch form, unless you’re cooking for a dinner party (if you happen to have room for a dinner party and know enough people to invite to a dinner party  — no and no). There is very little space to store leftovers, and I don’t know how to cook for just one or two, which does create a dilemma.

So one day, when my Canadian friend and I were  tired of cooking, we went to a Chinese buffet and treated it as a fine dining experience, putting small amounts on our plates at a time and enjoying each plate as if each were a gourmet meal prepared just for us. We were there for two hours, and I thought at the time, ‘I wish I could empty my fridge and just fill it with Chinese leftovers…’ The photograph at the top of this blog is of one of my plates from that day.

Update

Now that my friend has gone back to Canada, and I’m having to cook for myself again, I have to say it’s gotten easier, somewhat… The idea for this blog occurred to me as I was picking rice off the floor, where it landed (among other places) when I dropped the dish as I was taking it out of the microwave, having no place to set it quickly. I was making stuffed peppers, and this was my third attempt at making rice — ultimately successfully, I might add.

 

 

In Search of New Directions

I’ve been working on a few things, which I’ll talk about, but mostly I’ve been trying to figure out what I want/need to do at this point. Despite still enjoying myself immensely, I realize that I need to do more in terms of generating an income. Unfortunately, I have developed an aversion to working for someone else, and my creativity is screaming for an outlet (not literally, of course. . . I’m not hearing voices — yet). So my internet research has been ramped up in my quest for the next big thing in my life.

The New Addiction

I’m exploring my options, and having a darned good time doing it, but I have a confession to make first: I’ve become a Pinterest addict! The major problem with that addiction is that it takes hours out of my day that I could be doing something more productive [?]. I’m looking into making my own cleaning and beauty supplies, new ways of creating artwork, new recipes to try, and things to do to make my RV more liveable — none of which can be used immediately to generate an income.

Pinterest Email
My newest addiction!

My rationalization is that I’m working toward an epiphany (can you actually ‘work toward’ that, or is it something that just hits you like a lightening bolt?). At the very least, I’ll end up with new blog topics. . .

 

 

 

 

A Direction Without Chemicals, the DIY way

My first foray into the world of DIY stuff was body wash. It’s what I was getting low on, and I wanted to try out something that might make a visible difference in me. I couldn’t find a recipe for body wash that contained what I had, so I winged it (first mistake). I had heard about putting Ivory soap in a microwave and watching it blow up, so I stuck a couple of bars in the microwave on a paper towel (in lieu of grating them). They didn’t blow up, but they did do some very interesting lava-like things, and I was then able to put them into water to start my body wash.

I had a recipe for basic body wash, but I decided to jazz it up a bit, like adding different types of oils (coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil, Vitamin E oil, etc.), and of course some essential oils (lavender, tea tree).  There was a reason for adding everything (better lather, more moisturizing capabilities, antibacterial properties), but I think my ratios were off, because I ended up with what I would term a ‘snotty mess.’ Definitely not something you want to put on your body! So I began trying to fix the mess, which involved adding copious amounts of water.

A snotty mess. . .
A snotty mess. . .

Now, I should mention here that I ended up with a gallon and a half of body wash initially. I gave my neighbor the half gallon to try, with a request that she share her impressions with me after she used the body wash. Two days later, she told me that she had tried the body wash the night before, with less than desirable results. First of all, she told me, the body wash wouldn’t come out of the bottle. Major problem, to my mind. She described squeezing the bottle to put some on her shower puff, only to have it retreat back into the bottle  when she stopped squeezing it. And, she added, it didn’t lather — at all! So I asked her whether she liked the scent, at least, to which she replied, “not so much.” And the ‘snottiness’ had grossed out her husband.

Back to the drawing board. . . I took my gallon of body wash and made a gallon and a half by adding water. This resulting in it being so thin it just slid off my hands in the shower, and there was no evidence of soap in the mixture at all! Okay, so I added glycerin, which I’ve heard both gives the body wash actual body, and contributes to lather (which it completely lacks). Still no go, and I’m now using my shampoo for washing everything in the shower! It would have been better just to buy body wash, even with chemicals. . .

So my next foray will be into making my own body wash using lye, from scratch! Maybe I’ll be able to turn this new direction into revenue at some point. I suspect I need to make the acquaintance of a chemist, to help me with the formulation of my concoctions; at the very least, I need to research the properties of the various oils and other ingredients so I can create something better than what’s out there. Something that actually lathers (without using harmful chemicals) would be nice, for example. New learning experience — yippee!

The best thing I found in my research, though, was something called Detox Deodorant, and it is great! Here’s the link to the recipe — and I highly recommend it: http://bodyunburdened.com/diy-all-natural-detoxifying-deodorant/. It passed the sniff test even after a day, and you’ll notice if you take in too many toxins that it really does detoxify (not so nice after overindulging one night, I noticed. . .).

Detoxifying deodorant
Detoxifying deodorant looks worse than it is

The biggest problem with it — particularly in Florida — is that it is made from coconut oil, which provides its thickness, and when it gets over 75 degrees or so, it becomes a liquid. So I actually have to pay attention to the temperature after my shower to keep from spilling my deodorant — how many people can say that? It got high marks from my neighbor, by the way.

In addition to the detox deo, I’ve also started trying things to get my mouth in shape. Besides the brushing and flossing, I’ve added oil pulling, a practice begun in India. It’s apparently experiencing a resurgence in popularity (since I discovered it I see blogs about it everywhere) and I have to say, with no dental insurance in sight, it’s something I can afford to do that gets high marks among adherents. I can’t honestly say I’ve noticed the ‘incredible’ results others have, but my teeth do look whiter, and my mouth feels cleaner (except when I have a spoonful of coconut oil in it). . . I guess it can’t hurt.

The other ‘product’ I’ve started using is a remineralizing mouthwash, which has calcium and trace minerals in it. This is a recent addition to my routine, so I can’t really comment on its effectiveness. I use it after the oil pulling, and it does help to get the coconut slime out of my mouth after oil pulling. This sounds a lot grosser than it really is, and no, I haven’t stopped shaving or anything (for those of you who think I’ve gone completely au naturel). If anyone would like to try out the remineralizing mouthwash, I found it on Pinterest, but here is the actual URL for it: http://www.livingthenourishedlife.com/2013/09/homemade-mouthwash-recipe-for-whitening-and-remineralizing.

Remineralizing mouthwash
Remineralizing mouthwash — hope it works!

Lots Going On

Lately, I’ve had a ridiculous amount of things going on in my life, so I haven’t felt I could take the time to blog (a friend’s website to build, a fuel pump to get replaced, an RV to wash, a book to write). With my list of to-dos dwindling, I hope to get back to blogging soon — there’s so much to write about!

To my friends and family in the north, stay safe and warm! And feel free to get away from it all by coming to visit — you’re always welcome, you know.

The featured picture is a local band I saw down the street from my RV.

 

 

 

 

Observations On My First Year In My RV

I just realized I missed my one-year anniversary! I’ve actually been living in my RV for a full year now, and I thought I should commemorate that milestone with a post. So here it is. . .

What I’ve learned over the year

When I first started out on this journey, I was ecstatic — about everything! I was in love with Florida, with the idea of living and traveling in an RV, and with my life in general. I remember vividly the day I picked up my new (to me) class C. I had to wait for the techs to install the tow package on my car so I could tow it behind the RV, and I just sat at the dinette inside the unit with the sun shining in through the window, feeling so completely at home.

I now recognize that my excitement at the beginning of my adventure was as much due to naivety as to the incredible freedom I felt. For example, I’m not so in love with Florida now; although it does feel like  home, it’s not the paradise I felt it was when I first arrived. There is probably no such thing as paradise, and it’s about time I learned that! I have since discovered that in Florida there’s too much traffic, food prices are too high, and I probably can’t get health insurance. Still, I live less than a mile from the coast, I can go to the ocean (gulf) anytime I want, and the weather is a definite improvement over what I left. There’s a lot to be said for that. . .

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Can’t beat the view. . .

As for living in the RV, I have loved it! It’s my little house on wheels, and it suits me. There are negatives, of course: I have a chronically-overfilled refrigerator, storage areas that are bulging at the seams, and important items that I still can’t locate quickly (if at all). It’s not for everyone, but it works for me. I will probably end up in a stix and brix again someday, but for now, I’m working on making over my RV and thoroughly enjoying myself. It has become my home, and I’m completely comfortable living in it.

And I still love my life. I wake up in the mornings and feel excitement about the day, as I have from the beginning of this year in my RV. It helps that I’ve developed a bit of ADD; there’s no predicting where the day will end up when I flit from thought to thought, project to project, goal to goal, so the uncertainty adds to the fun. On the other hand, sometimes the uncertainty contributes to a bit of depression, which I rarely experience these days but it does happen. Since I’ve been here, I’ve tried to live in the moment, but I recognize that an uncertain future doesn’t lend itself to such a carefree attitude. So when I start feeling lost and depressed, I stick my head back in the sand (figuratively, although I could literally do that!) and I’m good again.

Observations about RVers

I was initially apprehensive about having to drive the RV, but I knew I could do it; confidence is everything! After I picked up my RV from the dealer, I headed out to an RV park I had found that was fairly close to the dealership, in case anything went wrong the first week or so. Because of a couple of wrong turns (which are a bigger deal in a 40′ vehicle — including the tow car — than in a car or truck), I arrived at the park as it was getting dark, so I had to back into my site for the first time in less-than-ideal circumstances.

Fortunately, as I discovered that night, RVers are a very helpful bunch, and my neighbors helped me get situated (i.e., properly oriented to the amenities: sewer, electric, and water). I have found this to be the case wherever I go. As I’m backing in to a site, invariably someone comes over to help, probably, in part, because I’m solo and female, but also because everyone likes to help a newbie. It’s comforting to know that I’m never out here alone, and the rest of the population could take a lesson from RVers.

I like to compare RVers to pioneers. They tend to be a hardier, more self-sufficient bunch, and they are not content to just sit back and watch the world go by.  This lifestyle (fulltime RVing, that is) requires constant resourcefulness, adaptation and learning, which I am convinced is the key to longevity — or, at least, the key to keeping one’s brainpower intact for the duration.

What’s been accomplished this year

Well. . . I have managed for the past year to live fulltime in an RV. That in itself feels like quite an accomplishment, but wait — there’s more!

I worked as a camp host at Fort De Soto for four months, which demonstrated that I could still get up for work in the morning, put in my hours, and come home and die afterwards — just like I used to! It was a fantastic experience, though, and I met a lot of great people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I got to enjoy an extended stay at a beautiful park which I actually could not have afforded for more than a weekend, and I learned I could amuse myself for four months without having someone else there with me.

I have also been making improvements to my ‘home,’ including installing new vent covers on all four vents/fans on the roof, replacing all the 12-volt lights in the RV with LED bulbs (for greater energy efficiency), and pulling out all of the carpet and putting down vinyl planks. I just (today) installed the quarter round with my new brad nailer to finish it off. It looks great, and I love the new floor. I feel like I might have a new career in carpentry (and I know my brother is shaking his head at that prospect)! I’ve also begun reupholstering my dinette seating with vinyl (easier to clean), without a sewing machine [see reference above to resourcefulness]. The dinette is still a work in progress.

Finished floor!
Finished floor!

 

 

 

 

 

Dinette before...
Dinette before…
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Dinette after

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The accomplishments are as important for what I learned from them as they are for the improvements made. Most importantly, I have learned to rely on myself more, and consequently I have renewed confidence in my ability to figure things out and get things done. This leads me to the most important thing I’ve learned this year, which is to feel grateful for what I have and what I am able to do. I would venture to say it is the single most important thing anyone can do to improve their outlook on life. Slowing down and [literally and figuratively] smelling the roses is the best way to recognize what there is to be grateful for.

What about the second year?

I am not as confident about this year as I was the last, having learned that RVing is not necessarily a cheaper way to live. So I have a home on wheels that is paid for. . . I still have to pay to park it somewhere! And it is much more expensive to stay connected on the road — a cell phone with good reception and reliable internet connectivity are required for most RVers who have left their family/support systems behind. Still, I have no intention of giving up this lifestyle just yet.

So, my next task is to generate some income. I have a few irons in the fire (well, maybe a couple), but I’m particularly interested in location-independent employment. I would love to be able to actually travel in my RV, which was my first reason for wanting to live in one. So far, I’ve traveled within a 40-mile radius on Florida’s Gulf coast, which does not exactly qualify me to call myself a traveler. . .  My first big trip will be this summer, when I head back north for a few months to spend time with my family and be available to welcome my twin grandchildren into the world!

In short, it’s been a magical first year in my RV, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the second year brings — new directions, new experiences, and new growth! Hopefully, I’ll get back to posting more often, since I have a lot of interesting creativity going on that I’d like to talk about . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Backstory and the Island Trip

I’m backtracking a bit here, since I really wanted to show off my new floor in the previous post. . . But the two months I did not post were pretty busy ones! So here’s a synopsis of my last couple of months.

Sanibel/Captiva

My friend and I were supposed to go to South Beach the week before I left Ft. DeSoto and she had made reservations at a hotel there for two nights. We had planned to take this trip for a couple of months and were really looking forward to it, but then we heard there was a storm predicted for the Miami area when we were scheduled to be there. We decided to head to Sanibel/Captiva Island instead, staying in Ft. Myers (the Island is prohibitively expensive to stay on) and driving over during the day for sightseeing (i.e., photography).

My friend had found a nice motel on the internet and made reservations for one night, but when we got there and saw that we could get a little cottage-like room with a covered porch right on the lake for $10 more, we took it — and even added two more nights! The only problem was that I hadn’t planned to be there for so long, so I hadn’t packed enough for three days. However, a trip to Big Lots for two new pairs of underwear was all I needed.

Rocklake Resort Ft Myers
Our room was a bungalow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to Sanibel/Captiva all three days we were in Ft. Myers, with varying degrees of success. In short, the island is not particularly tourist-friendly, from our perspective. We wanted to park, walk around, and take photographs; unfortunately, parking is not cheap in Captiva, in particular. I was shocked to discover that at most beaches, there was a charge of $2-3 per hour to park! And many of the beaches are inaccessible to people just coming in for the day.

So we ended up driving a lot, searching for photo-ops. We were very impressed with the restaurant we ate at the first day — the Island Cow — for its reasonable prices, very good, friendly wait staff, and its ambience — very island-y. Here are some pictures from our trip:

Island Cow
The front of the Island Cow
On the beach
The beach we went back to for dolphin sightings (no luck)
Reach
Driftwood on the beach near the lighthouse
Roseate Spoonbills Showing Off
Roseate Spoonbills showing off their beautiful pink wings in the nature preserve
Sanibel Lighthouse Framed
Sanibel Lighthouse in the daytime
Sanibel Lighthouse-Edit
Sanibel Lighthouse at night
Shadows and light
Loved the look of this driftwood — shadows and light
Shore bird
Shorebird on Turtle Beach — beautiful beach!
Stationary Driftwood
More of Turtle Beach
Wading Night Heron
Wading Night Heron in the nature preserve

 

 

 

 My Last Move

I had started packing up a couple of days before I left Ft. DeSoto, putting away my chairs and table, my various bug sprays and the shells I’ve accumulated on forays from Fort DeSoto. I said my goodbyes the day before I left at the camp office, and even ordered a pizza from the camp store so I could say goodbye to the manager there. I signed up to work in May, and possibly June, so I’d be back in six months, and some of the camp hosts I’d worked with would be back then, too.

I had had to move sites the week before, so I’d already replaced the battery in my RV (it had decided to die on me, probably because I hadn’t started the RV in the four months I’d been at the camp). The tires looked okay; I tried to check the tire pressure, but apparently I have the wrong gauge because I was unable to check the one that had previously gone flat. I’d have to trust to Providence that it could hold up for the 30-mile trip to Dunedin.

I pulled out shortly before 8:00am, having remembered to retrieve my bike from the tree it was chained to and throwing my blue boy (mobile tank) into the back of my car. Fortunately, I didn’t have to secure my birds, since they were at my friend’s in Largo, where they’d been staying since our trip to Sanibel/Captiva the previous weekend. They ordinarily ride in the front seat of my car in their cage, secured with a seatbelt. I was picking them up after our trip to the St. Pete Folk Fair, so I had to get moved and set up, then meet my friends back in St. Pete for the festival — whew!

The trip was relatively uneventful — no curbs hit, no awkward turns to make — for which I am always grateful. I got to Dunedin around 9:00, and pulled up to the office when I heard a crash. My vent cover had come flying off, breaking into pieces on the pavement in front of me. Okay, so the trip wasn’t completely uneventful. Fortunately, I had planned to replace the covers anyway; I’d just have to do it sooner now. In the office, I was told my site was still occupied — damn! Check-out is 11:00, so I just drove to the street and parked and waited. In the meantime, I saw that my friends had arrived from Ottawa, so I went to say ‘hello,’ and ended up meeting a couple of other couples on my street. The occupant of my site was, unfortunately, not showing any signs of leaving. . .

An hour later, I decided to start up my generator (which is supposed to be run every month for about a half-hour — oops!). Since I had electric from the generator, I made a cup of coffee to help pass the time. It’s so nice to have your home with you wherever you go. By 11:00, the vagrant in my site was still there — and still not packing up. I couldn’t even give him dirty looks, since he hadn’t come outside the RV yet!

So I stood around, getting increasingly agitated, and talked to the maintenance guys who were out getting sites ready for their occupants. They ended up calling the office to see whether they could find out what was going on with my site, and I think they even knocked on the door to hurry the guy along. Apparently, the family was moving to another site in the park, so when the guy finally came outside, he just started loading up his truck with the stuff piled outside the RV.

After 3 loads in the truck (the RV was still there!), the bum finally moved the RV so the maintenance crew could ready the site for me to move in. Sheesh! It was about noon by then, and I was supposed to meet my friends in St. Pete ASAP. I had to maneuver the RV between trees to get into the site, and with the help of the maintenance crew, I managed it with one try — I’m really getting good at this! The guys helped me get leveled, then I hooked up and headed to the office to pay up (ouch). My phone was, as usual, dying by then, and I remembered I had left my charger in the RV, so I started back to retrieve it.

I looked in my rearview mirror, and there was my special friend from Montreal! I hadn’t expected to see him that day, since he was just arriving after a three-day trip and wanted to get set up, and I was supposed to be in St. Pete for the day. What a treat! So I got a hug (or two), and we planned to get together the next day. I retrieved my charger and finally headed to Largo to pick up my friend to get to the festival.

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I think this egret was interested in my pink flamingo. . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was a long post — sorry! — so I’ll keep the next one short. . . In the meantime, I’ll post more pictures from the trip in the gallery.

More RV Doings

While I have written several drafts over the past couple of months, I haven’t posted any. Sorry for my absence from the blog for so long. It seems I can’t manage to write anything after a trip away from here (the last being my trip to Sedona to see my dad in September!).

After four months in Fort De Soto as a camp host, I was ready for a break from the heat and the dramatic increase in socialization that I get in a place with lots of friends surrounding me.

My Current Status

So I am now in Dunedin, which is my favorite place to be, and I’ve been very busy, as you’ll see. There have been issues, including the second flat tire on my car, even though I put on all new tires in the past year. And the latest was the demise of my convection microwave after cooking an 11-pound turkey in it! Those problems were solved, fortunately, but it’s getting more difficult (i.e., expensive) to solve problems easily. Which brings me to the dilemma I’m facing: how to sustain my lifestyle while having a lifestyle to sustain.

I’ve looked into several options for working online, which I could do anywhere. The most promising of those is doing transcription, but it’s difficult to break into that field if you haven’t done it for a while; the last time I did transcription was medical transcription in the early 2000s. Another option is writing — whether copywriting, proofing, editing, etc. The most obvious problem with that option is that I’m just now writing a new blog two months after the previous one.

My friend in Largo and I are discussing starting a photography business, in which we photograph anything that can be photographed (with the exception of large weddings — neither of us is interested in that headache). We also want to sell our photographs as artwork, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. So, how to begin? Clearly, I’ll need something else to make money with while the business gets established.

Home Improvement!

In the meantime, I’ve been busy changing things out in the RV. I’ve hated my carpet from the time I moved in. It was 12 years old, and I couldn’t even tell what color it had been (although I could tell that I wouldn’t have liked it in any shade!). So I decided to take care of it by ripping it all out — the carpet and the old vinyl — and replacing it with flooring I’d heard about through several other RVer blogs. I started ripping it out a few weeks ago, shortly after I arrived in Dunedin, and I did it fairly quickly so I couldn’t change my mind. No turning back now!

Bad pic of my living room with carpet and vinyl
Bad pic of my living room with carpet and vinyl
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Can’t take the carpet out of everywhere, so leaving it!
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Near the front of the RV, a work in progress
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A better view of the mess I’m living with
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My stairwell — still not quite sure what to do with it
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My new toilet, and haven’t pulled up the vinyl yet
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The mess in my bedroom, but no more carpet!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I noticed immediately that I preferred the particle board floors to the carpeted ones, so I was on the right track. . . I purchased the flooring — Allure, in bamboo — and put it on the floor in the RV to acclimate (it needs 24-48 hours for this, at 65 degrees or above, so I had to run my furnace since the temperature had dropped to nearly 25 degrees overnight). While I waited, I kept pulling carpeting and staples out (seemingly an unending chore).

As soon as I could, I started laying the flooring, and immediately ran into a problem: my floors weren’t straight, nor were the walls, my bedframe, or anything else in the RV. I spent a full day trying to get the planks lined up properly next to my bed, afraid to move beyond that area for fear I’d have a crooked floor throughout the RV. (Note to self: use a chalk line if you ever decide to do something like this again).

On the second day, I moved beyond the bedroom and into the hallway — progress! Unfortunately, again, I had difficult cuts to make and some tricky piecing-together to do. Another day down, and I had laid flooring only around the shower area — just a foot from the foot of my bed. . . By the third day, I worked exclusively on a single area — just under my refrigerator — on a single board to fit the weird jogs in the floor while trying to make it look seamless.

I realized that I was being way too picky about the floor, and at this rate I’d finish sometime in January, having to live with a mess for a couple of months. My desire to ensure everything lined up perfectly was making me physically ill (I ended up with debilitating headaches a couple of nights in a row), so I got online to see if there was something to fill the cracks that were cropping up between the planks in the floor to make them less obvious. I found a product that was ostensibly sold at Home Depot, called a seam filler, and I gave myself permission to just forge ahead — perfectly-aligned seams be damned!

Once I decided the floor didn’t have to be perfect, it went much faster. I was still running into areas that had weird cuts to be made, but I was getting much better at trimming and fitting them in. In fact, I was getting really good at it! Buoyed by my progress, I went to Home Depot to get the seam filler and pick up the quarter round I’ll need to finish off the floor, but I found out that the seam filler doesn’t exist, apparently. I’m not sure who propagated the rumor that it did, but Home Depot hadn’t heard of it, and there’s not even any evidence of it on the manufacturer’s website. So much for the internet’s reliability (uh-huh) . . . And I didn’t get the quarter round because what I wanted was $32 per 94″ board — ouch! I have to think about that some more. . . I came home with a little saw-like took to cut out the trim for the floor to fit underneath and several tubes of silicone caulk that I plan to use to seal the perimeter of the floor — oh, and a new hammer, since I can’t find mine anymore.

A week later, I’m nearly finished (or so I tell myself), with just the area under the slide and the stairwell to go. I attempted to caulk around the shower, and what a disaster that was. I can’t use a caulk gun to save my life, so I ended up with caulk everywhere except where I wanted it (might have to hire that one out). . . I’ve also been searching for things online to finish off the floor — quarter round, transition strips, etc. — but haven’t found exactly what I’m looking for (and the budget took a hit with the $300 convection microwave replacement).  My biggest fear at this point is that I’ll leave the floor unfinished, knowing my tendency to put uncomfortable things off indefinitely.

Here’s where I’ve left off for the time being (with Thanksgiving cropping up at such an inconvenient time):

Bedroom and hallway
Bedroom and hallway
Living room (messy!)
Living room (messy!)
Throne room
Throne room (still need to figure out what to do with the platform)
Living room close-up
Living room close-up
By the cabinets
By the cabinets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the look so far! I really hated that carpet, and this looks and feels so much cleaner (even with the gaps). My work is cut out for me, but I’m confident I’ll get it done . . . someday.

I hope to be able to write about some trips I’ve made since September in upcoming blogs, including a trip with my friend to Sanibel/Captiva Island, and a solo trip to Egmont Key on a ferry from Fort De Soto. Hopefully next week?

 

Good Times, Mostly

An Aside

I became aware recently that I still tend to focus on the wrong things, which prevents me from fully enjoying ‘the moment.’ For example, while sitting in my cart beside the dumpster, having unloaded my 3rd load of palm fronds and tree limbs, I was thinking only about having to dump my tanks when I finished up with my sites. I had 3 sites to clean that day (the smallest workload since I’ve been here), which meant I could focus on what I really liked to do — making the park look cleaner and neater. And it was a much cooler day than usual — hallelujah! But there I was thinking about something I hated instead. . . Why?

That’s something I’m going to have to figure out in order to work on it, but I think it stems from my goal-oriented conditioning (whether I was conditioned by life or did the conditioning myself). In order to get done what I had to get done in the past — while raising kids, going to school, working, and managing the finances — I had to focus on specific tasks to ensure they got done and nothing slipped through the cracks. It worked for me then (not that nothing slipped through the cracks, and lists would have made my life much easier), but my life now doesn’t lend itself to goals so much. Things get done when they get done (my brakes, for example). I like the lack of stress resulting from this attitude, but I can’t quite manage to fully let go of the old ways. Despite the eight months I’ve been in Florida in my RV, I still have many unwanted remnants of the old me left.

Gecko Fest in Gulfport

The previous weekend included a trip to the Gecko Fest in Gulfport, Florida, which is a small town right next to St. Petersburg. It’s a really cute little place, with lots of diversity and quirky characters. There are artistic types here, primarily, and many interesting shops and places to eat. The Gecko Fest is in its 12th year, and this year’s theme was the Roaring 20s. While we did see people decked out in sequins, long necklaces and boas, we also saw a fairy and lots of pirates, and, of course, a guy dressed up like a gecko. My friend and I took our cameras and photographed pretty much everything, from the street performers to the architecture. I was a very enjoyable day, but extremely hot. We were sweating profusely within half an hour, and kept ducking in and out of air conditioned shops and restaurants to cool down.

Dead Pirate
My friend used to date him

Pirates More pirates Fairy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We ended up having lunch at an Italian restaurant — Pia’s — which was a very nice place in midtown, right beside the festival. We got a couple of shots of the outside, which had a rustic charm that we both like to photograph:

Vignette Outside of Pias Pias Window

Al Fresco Dining Candlestick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then there were the street performers — magicians, musicians, dancers, and artisans:

Swallowing Fire

Street Musician Jimmy Buffett Not Glass blowing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Break Dancing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saw a French restaurant and went inside to see it, and we were bowled over! It was the most romantic restaurant I had ever seen (although the menu had something of an identity crisis), so we took some pictures and, after we met the owner and she gave us a couple of buy one dinner get one free coupons, we decided to make a reservation and come back later. Turns out, the menu was somewhat mixed up (German and French, with some Italian thrown in for good measure) because the owner came from Swiss parentage and had lived abroad for quite some time — obviously in different parts of Europe. Here’s what the restaurant looked like inside:

The sitting room The Fireplace The dining room Dining Room 2 Dining Room 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we went back for our dinner, it was around 6:00, and we were some of the first people there for that evening. We both decided on veal (which turned out to be very thinly sliced — not a good thing for me). The meals were good (including bread, a salad, a couple of vegetables, and some kind of rice). When we finished, we decided to split a dessert and I ordered a coffee. Before our dessert and coffee came out, though, a huge storm that had been threatening finally broke.

The dinner rush was fully underway, and the dining room was filling up around us, when there was a huge peal of thunder and the electric went out. Cell phones lit up the room as people found they were unable to study the menus with nothing but candlelight. Our dessert came out about that time, so we ate that in the dark, basically, and I had my coffee. By the time we finished, it was getting warm in the restaurant — the air conditioning was no longer working, of course — so we passed the fans we had picked up at the festival to the couples at the adjacent table on our way out.

I was parked close by, but the rain and lightening was unrelenting, so we were soaked by the time we got to my car. I drove my friend to her car and then headed home. I have to say the light show was spectacular on the way — it was apparently over the Gulf — and I still had electric when I got back so I just enjoyed the storm from the comfort of my RV.

Sister Time

This past week my sister came down for a visit, flying in after I got off work on Wednesday and flying back out on Sunday morning before I went back to work. We didn’t stop running the whole time she was here, which is very typical of her life and of mine when I’m with her. She wanted to share her latest accomplishment with me — making fermented food — so we headed to the store to pick up the ingredients and supplies for that. I had a surprise for her later that evening, having made reservations at an Indian restaurant. I had decided a long time ago that I was not a fan of Indian food so I had previously refused to go with her, but my Montreal friend had made chicken curry for dinner one night and I was hooked!

Well, she was very pleasantly surprised when we pulled into the restaurant parking lot, but the surprise was on me because she ended up buying my dinner for my birthday. We weren’t as pleased as we should have been with the restaurant (as raved about in the reviews); the atmosphere was wonderful, but the sauces were too sweet for our tastes. We decided we’d have to try another Indian restaurant before she left to see if we could find one we liked. . .

My sister loved my birds, but she decided they needed a bigger cage (after all, they had two little birds on the way, as evidenced by the two eggs in the nest basket). So the next day, we started searching for thrift stores for used birdcages. We must have hit 7 thrift stores that day — with no luck — and were finally saved by our aunt’s invitation for us to join her and our cousin’s wife for dinner (along with the new baby). We met at Leverock’s, a seafood restaurant in Pasadena, and I had fish and chips. It was good and, more importantly, reasonably priced (I’m trying to disavow myself of the notion I’m independently wealthy). We had a very nice visit with the ladies and got back in time to have a drink (or two) and chat under the awning.

The next day saw more thrift shops, with no birdcages, although we did pick up some things we needed (and some we didn’t — oops!). My car had been making a noise like I was dragging something, and I knew it was the brakes, so we headed to Pep Boys to get it checked. Sure enough, it needed new rotors (of course — don’t they all?), so we left the car there and went down to the drug store to kill time. As we were walking back to Pep Boys for the bad news, we spotted an Indian restaurant just down the street in the other direction. So I told the mechanics to go ahead and do the brakes — and threw in an oil change for good measure (I had neglected to get one after my return from Kentucky several months ago).

The buffet at the restaurant was pretty sparse, but we had already decided to eat there, so we sat down with our plates, trying pretty much all the dishes. At one point, my sister wondered how much the buffet cost and determined it couldn’t be more than $8 or so, right? The food was decent, but there was really only one dish with meat — butter chicken — so that was a disappointment. When the check came, it was actually something of a shock: $10.99 per person! My sister paid — again — for our meal and we headed back to the shop to wait, and wait, for the car.  It was finally done nearly an hour later and we drove off with me marveling at how the brakes actually worked now! I hadn’t realized how bad they’d gotten, obviously.

Since we hadn’t had any luck finding a birdcage at the thrift shops, I broke down and went to the pet store where my sister had found on the previous day the bird equivalent of the Hilton for $30. It is four times bigger than the birds’ first cage, complete with a pool (found at a thrift shop), and they love it! Unfortunately, they don’t seem inclined to hatch any chicks (birdlings?), so I guess they’ll just enjoy the cage themselves until they figure out this parenting thing, like sitting on the eggs until they hatch, etc. I really don’t think they were ready to be parents anyway. . .

The next day, we were invited to go out on our aunt and uncle’s boat, and our cousin and his wife would be joining us. Since this was to be after lunch, we ran down to Fort Desoto to actually see the fort (my sister hadn’t been there before). Again, it was a hot day (doesn’t seem to be anything else in Florida in the summer time), but I had a mission on my mind, as well. Remember Sponge Bob? He was going on a journey, and I knew just the place from which to launch him. We drove down a road to the picnic area (also a hiking path) until we saw no other people or power lines, and Sponge Bob was released into the stratosphere. He had been a fabulous birthday mascot for the year, but I was getting a little tired of his happy face all the time — give it a rest, guy! Here’s a picture of his ascent — still grinning, with arms and legs dangling:

Bye Bye Sponge Bob
Sponge Bob in the stratosphere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have no idea why I find this so funny, but I do. If you zoom in, you can see his grin. . .

After visiting the fort, it was time for our boat ride. I only snapped a few pictures on the ride, but here they are:

Largest speedboat I've ever seen
Largest speedboat I’ve ever seen
St. Pete bridge
St. Pete bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So

 

 

 

 

More Lifestyles That's it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Osprey at home
Osprey at home

 

 

 

A Goodbye

I got a call from an old friend last week. I hadn’t heard from her in years, so when I realized who she was, I knew why she was calling. An old friend — actually, an ex-boyfriend — had died. I was in shock, so I only half heard what she was telling me. He died of lung and bone cancer, which they didn’t even know he had until he went to the emergency room with breathing difficulties. He never came back out of the hospital. He was a character, and I will miss him, but I hope he is finally at peace. RIP, Brad. . .

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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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Night heron drying itself at the dump station
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A scene that appealed to me

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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. . .

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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).

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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.

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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!