10/31/05: Mary Esther, FL: Happy Halloween! You can tell by the above expenses for the month, it wasn't a cheap month! The constant drive from New York to Florida, with gas prices around $2.90/gal wasn't of much help. Currently, gas is down to $2.42. We can only hope it stays this low, or goes lower by the time we start moving again (slowly). Also, since we're not workamping for a free site, we had to actually pay for a campsite! Guess we got used to having a free site. But we still have a full hookup site for around $11 a night. That sure beats the $25 - $40 prices the commercial RV parks are charging around here. This is the main reason we'll be working for Hickory Farms here. A seasonal job with Hickory Farms isn't a true workamping position. We're responsible for our own RV site. We asked for a kiosk in Florida that was located near military bases so we could enjoy the affordable family campgrounds opened to the military (active and retired). Here, at the Santa Rosa Mall in Mary Esther, we had 2 USAF bases within 10 miles that we could stay at.
Boomer friends Bill Joyce and Diane Melde were coming into Florida and changed their route slightly to come visit with us. We've enjoyed a couple evenings of visiting and (of course) eating. One of the thrills of belonging to the Boomers group is we're constantly meeting friends somewhere in the country. You never know when, or where you'll run into friends on the road.
We've completed our Hickory Farms training and are completely confused. Well, not completely. We have 1 more week of freedom before we open the kiosk at the Santa Rosa mall in Mary Esther, FL. We desperately need employees - let us know if you want a holiday job! We've moved again to the USAF campground at Hurlburt Field. It's a pretty quiet park, full hookups, and large sites for only $11 a night. We were a bit worried if we would be able to get a site, as it's first come - first served. Luckily, there were 3 sites available. We can only stay here 30 days. We'll need to be here for about 67 days. Once our 30 days are up, if anyone is waiting to get in, we'll have to move out and go on the waiting list. We'll worry about that next month.
Yesterday, we purchased an external hard drive to use for backups of our computer systems. Connie's laptop is also used as our GPS navigation system when driving, so it's left on while driving. It gets punished on rough roads and the hard drive recently crashed. $100 for a new hard drive, and a day of re-installing programs, and her system was in full operation again. Except ... Connie got pretty upset that I lost all of her saved email and addresses. If it was my laptop that crashed, I would have been a bit more than upset. But I had DVD-RW backups of my system, but not Connie's. The external hard drive is much faster and easier to use than DVD's, and is now setup for weekly, automatic backups. If you can't afford to loose anything on your hard drive - back it up! We paid $120 for a complete external USB 160GB hard drive with backup software. A small price to pay for data insurance.
10/24: Pensacola, FL: We're finally starting training for Hickory Farms today. Yesterday, we toured some more attractions within a mile of where we're staying. Fort Barrancas was one of 4 forts built to protect the Pensacola harbor. Different countries built forts at this site from the mid 1700's to the Civil War. It was interesting to learn how the fort was designed, with strong defenses for a land and ocean based attack. Dirt slopes protected the fort from land artillery, a dry moat with crossfire stations protected it from an infantry attack, and the 4' walls protected it from an ocean attack. Fort McRee and Fort Pickens were also built nearby on other sides of the channel. The triad of forts worked to protect each other.
Also nearby was the Pensacola lighthouse. We got lucky, as today was the only day this week it was open for tours. This lighthouse was built in 1858, replacing a poor quality lighthouse located only 1600 feet away. It's 160 feet from the base to the Fresnel lense. It's the 4th highest brick lighthouse in the nation. We climbed all 177 steps to the top for a wonderful view of Pensacola. The lighthouse is still in operation today. There's plenty of stories of the lighthouse being haunted. While I'm typing this, we're watching a show on the Travel Channel on haunted lighthouses in America. The Pensacola lighthouse is included in the show.
10/23: Pensacola, FL: When we stayed in the Pensacola area last March, we made the BIG mistake of not visiting the National Navy Aviation Museum. Yesterday, we made up for this oversight. We spent over 5 hours touring the museum and enjoying almost all the exhibits. We could have easily spent a few more hours there, if we had chosen to view the IMAX movies and ride the jet simulator. Also, there's normally a bus tour of the larger aircraft on the flight line. But it wasn't running for us. The hundreds of restored aircraft almost covers the entire Navy fleet of planes. From the Navy's first plane, to historical aircraft. Aircraft from every era was there. It was pretty amazing to see how much technological advances were made in aerospace in such a short time. It was less than 66 years from when the Wright brothers made the first recorded powered aircraft flight (1903) to when the first man walked on the moon (1969). We especially enjoyed the display on "lighter than air" flight. We learned a lot about the Blimps and Dirigibles used around WWI and WWII. We enjoyed an affordable lunch in the Cubi Bar, which was originally located in the Philippines. It was dismantled and re-assembled exactly the same here.
We're experiencing something new to us at this RV park. We're parked under an oak tree and are periodically bombed with acorns! We'll be sitting here and all of a sudden - BANG! We'll hear the acorn hit the roof, bounce around, and maybe roll of the side. There's a bunch of squirrels here also. There's a pair of them in this oak tree and they're fun to watch. Especially when they play (or are courting) and chase each other around the tree. We've joked with each other that it's the squirrels that are bombing us with the acorns.
10/20: Pensacola, FL: This past week has been very relaxing. Training for Hickory Farms has been postponed until next week. They're short many people to work the various kiosk's along the coast. Want a holiday job? We wished they would have told us training was delayed BEFORE we arrived here. We rushed to get here and would rather have spent this past week in Tennessee. Oh well, we're here and ready to start. Since we were free for the week, we mostly relaxed and caught up on some minor chores. We're going to move today to the Pensacola Naval Air Station family campground, which is about 10 miles away. It's a nicer campground and close to some museums and historical sites. Our main concern now is Hurricane/Tropical Storm Wilma. The storm is "expected" to hit Florida in a few days, but down south on the keys. We're hoping the predicted route is correct. Otherwise, the weather has been fantastic here. Sunny and in the mid 80's.
10/14: Pensacola, FL: We arrived in Florida yesterday afternoon, after 4 days of almost constant driving. We enjoyed meeting Bill and Karen Payne for lunch outside of Atlanta. Boomers are so friendly and we have so much in common. We made it past Atlanta before the evening rush hour. From our prior experience here before, this was one place we didn't want to be in traffic! We don't usually make campground reservations, as we don't want to be pinned down to a specific location for a specific date. Freedom is one of the reason's we love this lifestyle. After getting past Atlanta, we did our usual check to see where we might spend the night. We found West Point Lake, Ringer campground located outside of La Grange, GA. This is a free, no hookup, Corp of Engineers campground on the lake. WOW! It's a beautiful campground and almost nobody was there during our short stay. Our site was larger, better maintained, and free compared to commercial campgrounds charging over $20 for a basic tent site. Another relaxing location we wished we could have stayed at for a week or more.
We continued our drive through Alabama and noticed the return of ivy on the trees. As we entered Florida, the ivy was replaced with moss hanging in the trees. We also noticed the weather is back to warm and humid again. We left New York in rain in the mid-60's. Now it's bright sunshine, in the mid-80's. Time to turn the A/C back on to get relief from the humidity. We'll be staying the next week or so at the Blue Angel Naval Recreation Area. We stayed here last March and knew there were some spaces we could get where the satellite dish would work. We were surprised to see that part of the campground is closed and being improved. Lucky for us, we searched the other half of the campground and found a site that had a hole in the trees for our satellite to look through. We plan to stay here for about a week while we go through Hickory Farms training. Then we plan to get a spot at Hulburt Field (USAF) campground, which is only 2 miles from where we'll be working for the holidays. They don't take reservations, so we hope we can get in. We also talked to our potential Mt. Rushmore workamper employer for next summer and there's still a chance they can use us starting in July. That would be great! We would be with our daughters for the birth of our first grandchild, then move to SD for these summer jobs. We're hoping it all works out.
<p">10/12: Knoxville, TN Escapee Park: We've been driving about 250 - 300 miles per day for the past few days. At today's high gas prices, this is costing about $180 a day! Only a couple days left until we stop for awhile again. We start training for our holiday jobs in 5 days. Although we're driving a lot, the view from the road has been great. We're seeing fall colors all along our route. A couple nights ago, we stopped for the night at the Elks club in Roanoke, VA. It was a quite evening. While driving along the interstate, we're also enjoying the changes of plants. Up in Virginia, there is some type of large ivy that is taking over the forest edges. It's pretty, in that the ivy is like a blanket covering everything. I'm sure it's considered a weed, as it is also killing all the other plant life. As we entered into Tennessee, the ivy disappeared and the trees changed to individual Arborvitae type trees. This trip has also taken us through a few states that we've never been in before. We cut through the corner of New Jersey, drove across a small portion of Maryland, and have entered into Tennessee. Last night, we stayed at the Raccoon Valley Escapee park just outside of Knoxville, TN. Some Boomer friends are staying near Atlanta, which wasn't far from our travel path. So we slightly changed our path to visit with them. We'll move to Altoona Lake in Georgia today and visit with Bill and Karen Payne this afternoon or evening.
We also received good news from our eldest daughter, Leslie, that she's pregnant! She and her husband Andy are expecting our first grandchild in early June, 2006. We're excited for them! We'll re-plan our spring travel plans to return to Arizona in late May. This also might mean we may have to turn down our summer workamping jobs at Mt. Rushmore, since we couldn't start until July. We hope to find something else for mid Summer and early Fall. But that's one of the advantages of this great lifestyle, we have the freedom to change plans at any time.
10/9: Reading, PA Elks Club: Yippee! After staying at Lake George, NY for almost 23 weeks, we're finally on the move again. At least for the next few days while we rush down to Pensacola, Florida. We finished our first workamping position and will miss all of our new friends. I'll soon write an article reflecting on this first workamper experience. We're currently in the Elks Lodge parking lot in Reading, PA. When we volunteered to stay an extra month at Lake George Escape, we kind of goofed. After committing ourselves, we learned we would be starting training for our Hickory Farms holiday job only 6 days after we finished with Lake George. So we have 6 days to travel over 1400 miles. It's "doable", but we don't care to be rushed. Oh well, another lesson learned. The drive today wasn't bad. We enjoyed seeing more fall colors along the way and stopped at the Cabella's Sporting Goods headquarters store in Hamburg, PA. WOW! This was one large sporting goods shop full of everything imaginable for the fisherman, hunter and camper. We especially enjoyed the many taxidermy animal dioramas. We joked why we don't ever see a Moose or Elk. They're all on display at Cabella's!
10/6: Lake George Escape Camping Resort: This was our last full week here before we move on. We waited as long as we could for the fall colors, but the color change is being late this year. Last Monday, we headed out for a 4-day driving trip. We went through the northern part of Vermont in search of the fall colors. We tent camped in the White Mountains of Vermont, which ended up being a fun experience. It would have been better if we hadn't forgot the lantern, a flashlight, or matches to start a fire. Luckily, the store was nearby. There were also warning signs everywhere for Moose, and we've been wanting to see a Moose in the wild. But it wasn't meant to be on this trip. We then cut across the northern part of New Hampshire and headed into Maine. We stopped for lunch in Bangor, Maine. Throughout these New England states, we really enjoyed driving through the small rural towns. It was hard to miss the architecture of the area and the numerous small farms. We arrived in Bar Harbor, Maine in the late afternoon. Once there we knew we'd have to come back and spend a few weeks (months) in this area. We didn't have time to go into Arcadia National Park, or go over to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, or any of the many other area nearby places we would love to explore. We were even too late in the year to see the Puffin's. BUT.... Connie did get to have some fresh Maine Lobster. While in the area, we learned about Lobster Pounds. These are places where you buy cooked lobster by the pound. Connie picked out her lobster and watched as they boiled it fresh, the old style method in salt-water over a wood fire. We later walked around Bar Harbor. Yes - we'll definitely be back and spend more time here, someday.
The third day found us driving south through Maine and stopping in Kennebunkport for lunch. Then continuing along the entire 12-mile coast of New Hampshire, and into Massachusetts. We stopped to visit Connie's sister, Michelle, and her family in Stow, MA, before we left the area. They treated us to a WONDERFUL clam bake and lobster dinner. Connie was honored to receive a monster 7+ pound lobster! We had all the fixing's to go along with it. A truly unforgettable meal. The last day was heading back to home in Lake George, NY. It was a whirlwind driving trip covering a lot of ground. We may have missed the peak of the color change, but it was a fun, exploratory trip to see what else is out there.