From FLL to MIA

During our last few days at Yacht Haven, John gave the RV a good wash (by hand, a 4-day process), and we went to Butterfly World, which may sound boring, but was actually pretty and pretty fun.  The tour only took about an hour, but we learned so much, and got a few nice shots.

 

 

 

On Fri Nov 30, we checked in at Larry & Penny Thompson Campground It’s built on a former avocado farm, and is just great!  Long, flat bike paths, and built-in exercise equipment on the walking trail – with a scary warning!

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One morning we chatted with Jim, who’s been RV’ing for 30 years!  He knew so much, and shared stories from his days with the Coast Guard. His stories were fascinating, and his wife is still on the move at 90!  We’ll see if Jim’s suggestion for the best milkshake in Florida holds true! (Added later:  I think it did!)

Next up is Everglades park, and while John researched, he’s sharing a great recommendation for lap desk/ lap warmer!

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It’s Getting Hot In Here

After 5 days at Cape Canaveral, FL it was time for Ft. Lauderdale.  Our park is called Yacht Haven, and we are parked across the road from a small portion of Marina Mile – WOW!!  Our first day here was so hot we had to wait until around 6 pm to take a walk – – and GAWK. John has some solid knowledge about boating in general, from a lifetime of cottaging and also from his last 10 years of work – he estimated some of them are worth between $40M – $100M.  WHAT?!

IMG_2278These views from our “front yard” were amazing!

 

This is the first time on this trip we’ve stayed 2 full weeks.  We met a few people, dropped into the clubhouse for coffee & treats twice so far, and attacked the bookshelf/library.

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They asked us to please NOT return the books we’ve borrowed, so we’ll use them at future parks where “take one/leave one” is a bit stricter.

John went kayaking, and on 3 bike rides, but I’m more of an indoor and A/C cat, so my knitting is coming along.

We enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Nov. 22, with our friends of 25+ years, who have a condo about an hour away. It was the first time we’d properly entertained guests, we had a blast – and we realized we have NO serving dishes! Think of a buffet for four, with 2 cereal bowls of mashed potatoes!

The next Sunday we went on a 2 hour (honest!!) kayak ride. We saw so many yachts and fancy homes, I sometimes forgot to paddle!!

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Funny enough, it was the iguanas that I really fussed over. They’re so cute!!

 

Heading South Quickly

This year we made a different plan than last year.  In order to escape the chill of late October, we zipped south like classic Snowbirds do.  One night each in Cortland, NY, Winchester, VA, Raleigh, NC and finally 6 nights in Jekyll Island, GA. Jekyll Island is a historic and gorgeous place, where we did some sight-seeing and I rode my bike twice – and received a few hilarious wise-cracks on Instagram, haha!

Staying one night in one place isn’t as great as settling in for a few days/weeks, and a bit confusing.  Once John asked me to take out the garbage, and I headed straight across the street.  Shaking his head slowly, he said,  “um, it’s behind us?”..

Next was Cape Canaveral, FL, where we saw huge cruise ships coming in and and out which was very exciting since we are going on our first cruise this December! We went to a great little waterside restaurant, where charter fishing boats docked, and we could taste the freshness in our meals!

This is where we also had sunshine during rain, and Romo helped with mapping for our next leg. Apparently, it tired him out!

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Hi! It’s 8 Months Later…

When I last posted in February, our son and his fiancee had just visited us in San Antonio, TX.  Between running out of steam/wifi, this blog just faded away – – pfffft….

** This year the blog is NEW & IMPROVED, with MORE PHOTOS, LESS WORDS, along with my Instagram account: @stephanie.reid152** 

We left on Wed, Oct 31, and this update for family and friends who may still be interested in how RV Trip #1 ended.  Apparently, I can be “wordy” – I’m talking to you, TS!

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Galveston Pleasure Pier with Emily & Gary

In late February, Emily and her fiancé Gary, visited us in Galveston, TX. We enjoyed pirate-themed mini golf, the Historic Pleasure Pier, the midway, and the artwork near the seawall and under the pier.

 

We made a few hundred trips to Ulta, Target, CVS because Emily is just as excited about all the crazy US-only products and snacks as I am. One morning we had a yogurt taste-test, including wierd flavours like salted caramel, S’mores, and toasted marshmallow!

 

We killed ’em at shuffleboard at the RV park (thanks to Canadian curling for 7 years?), had rooftop patio drinks, and relaxed in the sun.

 

After the kids left, we met a wonderful couple, which was truly a fortunate blessing, We had a sad family emergency, and they took care of our cats & rig while we flew home for 8 days. We still keep in touch and hope to meet up with these kind folks in Florida this winter.

In early April, we went to Graceland.  Neither of us is a serious Elvis fan, but after the trip we’d both answer “GRACELAND!” when asked for a highlight.  I took 358 photographs (those are the good ones) in the 5 hours we were on the grounds.  The house tour is one part, and the exhibits are a whole other world.  It is SO interesting, and well done!

 

Our last US stop was another fascinating one – unplanned, and last-minute. In  Williamstown, KY, there is an amazing life-size replica of Noah’s Ark! We spent 4 hours looking around – again, we were amazed (woodwork!). This was another ‘must see’!

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The life-size Noah’s Ark replica

Our wonderful house-sitting friend had started to pack up his homemade kombucha, as we spent the last few days of April in Milton, ON (not far from Emily). On May 1, we pulled into our driveway.

Summer 2018 came and went and John went on a few fishing/boys’ cottage trips. I enjoyed seeing friends and family we’d missed, and catching up with my pal, Monsieur Netflix  :o)

Around mid-October this year, someone (who is not me) started to fling maps around the spare room, download satellite imagery (which look like ultrasounds to me), and the adventure began for a second year…

Stay tuned :o)

 

 

San Antonio – Superbowl & A Visit From Our Son

On Super Bowl Sunday, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.  Someone was in a big hurry to get set up and get those marinated ribs on the smoker before the pre-game.  Beer was cooling, and we were relaxing just in time. As a bonus, the mild weather meant John was able to watch some pre-game on the outside TV (a form of tailgating, I suppose).  I busied myself with my many new pamphlets and started to get excited that our son and his girlfriend were coming for a visit this month. 

On our own we enjoyed a Texican restaurant, where were given free dessert simply because we didn’t know what sopapillas were (the Texican version of New Orleans’ beignets, with a bit of honey drizzled on top.  So simple but delicious!). We then got an in-depth historical lesson as we toured San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, and the one actual mission nearby, the San Jose Mission (we’d heard of the Alamo, of course, but didn’t know how many of these missions there were, nor the depth of the history). It was educational and explained the multitude of Catholic churches we’d been seeing lately.

IMG_6994We had planned with our son and his girlfriend to go to the San Antonio Rodeo while they were visiting and we’d bought the tickets online and were very excited.  The day we met them, I did tear up a bit at the airport, as we hadn’t seen them since October, and soon we were off to their requested spot, the Olive Garden (Fun Fact: The last time John and I had lunch at Olive Garden in Pickering, ON, Christian was born that evening, almost 2 weeks early).

After a nice dinner and an evening of chatting and games and catching up, the next day was Rodeo day!  We got there early, as the indoor show started at 1 pm, and started with the petting zoo, and collected some free samples.  Then at the show we learned about and watched competitions in calf roping, hog tying, mutton bustin’, bucking broncos, barrel riding and more!  It was such a spectacle, and so professionally organized, and we even saw a Canadian on the leader-board! Next we wandered the fairground, had some snacks, and then took in the flea market. 

By then, it was time to head to the Riverwalk, which is another very interesting part of the town.  The river meanders through a downtown San Antonio, just metres away from outdoor tables of cafes, craft shops, a hotel and convention centre (another very old and interesting story).  There was a celebration for Chinese New Year and colourful paper lanterns with LED votive candles were for sale. Folks decorated them, some with a message of good wishes for the future, some with memories of loved ones, and at 6:30 pm everyone set them afloat.  It was a beautiful scene. Afterwards, it was so crowded and busy that the wait time for tables at about 3 restaurants was 90 minutes. So much for a fancy meal out – instead, we picked up a pizza and had more quality visiting time in the RV. That was a near-record day for steps logged into phones and Fitbits!

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On this touristy weekend, Sunday continued with a visit to the San Antonio Zoo.  It was interesting to see animals we don’t have at our local home-zoo, and also to see the animals arranged very close to the visitors.  One more restaurant dinner at a place the kids had never tried (why is that still so fun?), and an early night, as they were heading home Monday morning. We were so glad to have them visit us, and had a really fun time with Christian and Caitlyn! Note: After the writing of this post, these two lovebirds were engaged in April – Congratulations! 

Next up, Galveston, Texas and a visit from our daughter and her fiancé (THAT engagement happened in December!!)

 

Portland, TX: Our First Month-long Reservation!

After our rustic Hill Country experience, we headed south to the Gulf Coast. We chose a park in Portland, Texas, just 8 miles from Corpus Christi, which was on our list for over a year, since we’d always been curious about that corner of the world.

The park was very nice looking, with many amenities and nice folks (and stray cats) we came across during our walks. The location was convenient and the office staff were friendly. What was unfortunate was that as new folks we were assigned a site in a “worker” area – and here’s where we learned the biggest lesson for reservations so far.

For the first 2 days or so, we had no idea we’d been placed in a “worker” area, but we pieced it together by day 4 (geniuses that we are, haha) – – we’d gone all that time, and neither seen nor spoken to anyone. However, we DID hear about 6 departing diesel engines in the land of the Huge Pickup Truck, every morning around 5:50 – 6:10 am (eventually we could identify who was departing for work from which site, without ever meeting them), and their returns every evening between 5:20 and 6:50 pm. These were all men who were hard-working, making a living, either as high-rise crane operators or at oil refineries – NOT vacationers. They have to live somewhere during their temporary assignments, of course, but at the start, we were so curious when no one was out and about.

It isn’t fun to feel lonely! Sure, we waved to anyone who walked by and had arms, and we knew the names of all the dogs who happened to pass by even though their owners sped up after a cursory “howdy”. I even asked John if I smell and people were staying away! Plus we didn’t have wifi, so we went to Starbucks every other day, in part to see other humans.

Eventually, although feeling shy, we went to the “other side”- retirees, full-timers, 6-monthers.

We finally did join weekly events such as card bingo one evening a week (cue memory of grade 9, entering the cafeteria on a lunch hour none of your friends shared), ladies’ crafts and men’s woodworking the first three weeks, but we were unable to shake this feeling of not belonging to the large group of regulars/snow birds, simply due to our location.

Week 1, 2 and 3 we tried as best we knew to slip into activities and even made some nice connections with nice folks, always during a pre-planned activity on the calendar. I’ve said this before but we learn something new each day about this RV thing.

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During the first week, we had poked around and saw a Texas-shaped hot tub, Activity Centre, $4 breakfast on Saturdays, and the previously mentioned crafts and wood-carving activities. We also learned there was weekly bid euchre, poker games, chair-yoga/stretching, bible study, and a weekly potluck. Since we were in the worker area, we used the first (shy) week to explore the area, when we weren’t relaxing (with hobbies, reading, cooking and baking). Looking back, we should have gone to more activities during the first 3 weeks.

A few days in, John tricked took me on a long walk along the Indian Cove Park (a famous spot for birders due to rare migratory and resident shorebirds). It is very scenic, and we walked over a mile looking at the waterfront.

When we stopped to read the plaque, we learned so much about the area in just a few minutes.

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The 4th and final week at the RV park was the best. We were moved to a spot about 30 metres from the Clubhouse! We met about 5 new couples per day, and so many from various corners of Ontario. We could see folks wandering onto the porch of the Activity Centre for 4 pm Happy Hour, ladies on one side and men on the other. Yes, we HAD to join them each day! When John bought a table-top smoker, at least twice I looked outside to see a group of 4 or 5 men standing around discussing it, or offering to help him taste the meat, haha. One night a stranger knocked on our door, introduced himself and said ‘his thing’ was meeting new people, so he invited us to join him and his wife at the next day’s potluck – he wanted to save us a seat! It was so much more fun and laughter with others than we’d known on this trip so far. Who knew about worker-spots? We do, now!

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During this last week we also went to tour the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier, which was very interesting. John took a turn on the flight simulator, landing “his plane” on the carrier, and once again, we spent hours learning and looking at history.

We also took in their famous aquarium where in the ‘tropical zone’ I found my spirit animal – the sloth.

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Fun Fact: You could play three football games or 14 basketballs at the same time on the USS Lexington’s flight deck? It’s that big! 

Catching Up in Texas: Thousand Trails Medina Lake RV Campground

On December 27, we left the bright lights and big city of Arlington and headed on to what is known as Hill Country. This area is for the cowboy-wannabes, as you can visit a dude ranch, enjoy a real chuck wagon dinner nearby, or like us – ride your very first horse at the age of 51.

The campsites are similar to a provincial park, large and well-kept, but we did have to drive a good 20 minutes to attractions. We did find that True Value Hardware, a relic from our childhoods, was just around the corner, as was a JR’s liquor and beer, and an “interesting” looking café (in this case, “interesting” might not mean what you’re thinking!)

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As usual, we registered and got settled, but were distracted – by the DEER! We must have seen over 100 of them in the first hour we arrived. They were tame and friendly, and could be hand-fed (if you’re wondering, they eat nacho chips and cat food, sorry deer).

Unfortunately the pictures aren’t great at all (this was when I realized I must get my camera out and no longer rely on my phone) – but it was like a Disney film came to life.

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I think Cali is getting jealous of John showing somebody else some attention!

The closest town was Bandera, and we booked our horse-riding adventure at the Flying L Hill Country Resort. Horses aside, we learned so much about the area, and we both mentioned that we wished we’d known about the town earlier. Bandera is the town where the original Cattle Drives of the 1860s started, and Dale Evans lived nearby. Roy Rodgers actually invested in the park we stayed at, we learned.

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Bandera still has cowboy parades and stages pretend shootouts for cowboy fans. On the day we wandered around the short Main Street (lunch at the Chikin Coop), I felt like we were on a movie set for Little House on the Prairie.

At our horse-riding activity, the wranglers who ran the tour were very professional, and very fun. Our group was as follows: Family (mom, dad, 2 boys under 12 and gramma) family (mom, dad and 2 teenage girls), and us. Guess who had NO EXPERIENCE on a horse? Yup, just us. The wranglers were very witty, and at one point, while taking us all out to the stables in a wagon, one of them turned and confirmed “so you two will probably be getting Thunder and Trigger, ok?”. Everyone laughed.

It was so fun! I can see why they need your height and weight (ahem!) beforehand, as each horse matched each person’s needs. Not at all a straight or slow ride, we went up hills (lean forward), down small but rugged mountains (lean back and almost stand in stirrups), through 2 feet of water twice (got wet legs and wetter legs), and by the time we were done in about an hour, I had leaned over and hugged my horse quite a few times. I can’t wait to ride again! By the way, John got Gunsmoke and I got Trotter.

img-3103.jpgThe actual RV park we were at didn’t have a lot of activities, and was very large and spread out. It was nice, and once again, quite rustic. We used the time to read, cook, relax and enjoy our hobbies – one of them new. John is now the proud owner of a Remote Control Race Car. At first I thought nothing of this, just a guy thing, right? One day when he was out there, I could hear kids and another dad, and a buzzy flying sound (RC Helicopter!) – – this is a thing, and I was laughing out loud when John whizzed his car up and down the road! We took a few trips to the local hobby shop, and soon we had all kinds of ideas around customization (Cowboys!) and I will admit, I thought about getting some old Ken dolls and dressing them up like Bo and Luke Duke – just for photos!!

Our next planned stop was also our very first month-long stay. We were heading to Portland, TX (not far from Corpus Christi).

Cowboys Game Day

On December 24, we both were super-excited to go the the Dallas/Seattle game (my first live game, John’s second). We parked almost one mile from the stadium, and took a very brisk and chilly walk to the stadium. It was so cold I had a scarf around my face, a touque and a hoodie, plus I was wearing leggings under jeans (like long-johns!).

Once we got to the stadium parking lot, the chill was easier to forget. There were tailgaters everywhere, and barbeques, beer, blankets and music all over. I had no idea that some folks have a full-day tailgate party at their trailer/food truck/tent, and then just watch the game on their little tv or listen on radios – – the roar of the live crowd must be enough excitement. Plus, they had heaters.

As we got closer to the building, we could see a crowd had built up near and around the barricades put up near a certain entrance – the players’ entrance! It looked like what I’ve seen on entertainment news, where people scream the players’ names, clap and hoot, and hold out their hands for a touch from the famous. Of course I didn’t know anyone, but John knew who everyone was the moment they stepped out of their cars. In fact, sometimes the car gave them away. As they walked a non-existent carpet through a barricade alley, the screams would start each time. Players were dressed in jackets, sometimes parted with hugs to their children and wives, or parents, who were whisked away to another door, and then either ignored the crowd, or hugged their fans.


We had a few good laughs when we heard, “Hey, Taco, where’s your brother, Burrito?”, and “Taco, your jacket inspires me”. The photos I got are not great, but they may convey the excitement of the crowd, even when the player is not easy to ID at first glance. Football fans will likely be able to name everyone, no matter how poor the picture.


When we finally entered the stadium, I must have looked like a kid at Disneyland. It was so huge, so bright, so fun, so loud – but in a party/excitement way. The vibe was addictive, and I’m not even a proper NFL fan!
After gawking at the food and beverage prices (one drink for $13, anyone?), we found our seats and then wandered a bit more. It was so bright and loud, and full of excitement and anticipation.

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Back in our seats, the game began. Since I’m not a major fan, but wasn’t about to ruin John’s fun, I made sure to make friends with our seat mates. There were 3 boys in front of us, around 13 years old, a couple behind us (whose best friend plays on the Seahawks!), and a cute girl of 6 and her dad next to me. She was fully dressed in a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader costume, white boots included. I learned her mama used to be a cheerleader! Her little 3-yr old brother knew when to yell “get himmmmmmm”, and “nooooooo”, and was amazingly paying attention to the game like a little adult!

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Well, the Cowboys lost the game, but it really didn’t matter. The experience was once-in-a-lifetime for me (let’s not spend that much money on a non-fan again, ok?), and I could easily see what was so thrilling for true fans.

Arlington and the Dallas Cowboys

Since we are spending the holiday away from our families we had decided to make this year a Dallas Cowboys Christmas!

On December 21, we finally made it into Arlington, which has the most amazing Walmart on Earth. This is because it is a stone’s throw from the Dallas Cowboys’ home stadium, the AT&T Stadium. We both were amazed at how much Cowboys fan gear there was, and this was likely the longest we’ve both browsed. In branded glassware alone, there must have been 50 different styles, and shelves with hundreds to choose from. We were laughing, but one poor man in a Minnesota Vikings jersey said “I’m in Cowboy hell, just shopping for my family..” HA!

After spending a few dollars on stuff that we greatly needed (Cowboys gear), we headed home to relax in the sun for a couple of hours, with John excited about his upcoming tour of the Star of Frisco, the Cowboys’ practice facility.

The next day John returned from the tour very happy and more informed than I expected (no pictures of cheerleaders, too bad). We started to get really excited for the game on December 24, me more for the experience, but also looking forward to seeing John so happy, watching his team.

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Dallas Cowboys Meeting Room
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Dallas Cowboys Draft Room
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Uniforms from the beginning

Willis, TX (Lake Conroe RV Park)

On December 14, we moved on from Beaumont to Willis, TX, which had a park with a lot to offer. Lake Conroe RV Park had all the amenities, and the pool area looked like a resort in Cuba!

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Cali is really enjoying Texas!

We tried disc golf once more, and this time, we had some tips from YouTube, but were only slightly better. On the way back to the bus we wanted to find some ‘down home BBQ’ so why not check out ‘Texans BBQ & Catering’?

The very limited menu and very friendly folks made it so famous, they only opened from 11 am to 3 pm. The owner told us he smokes 200 lbs of meat a day, and always sells out. He took 2 catering orders while we ate our ribs and various sides, then he chatted with John about the little old lady in her 90s, just down the road, who gets a new car delivered to her every two years. It turned out that she’s the mama of the WWF-owner, Vince McMahon! Not my sport, but another very interesting chat with another kind stranger.

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Two days later, John was busy puttering around the bus, so I thought I’d try Bingo again. Not being sure if they all work the same way, I brought some cash, but didn’t need it. The fun and games at Lake Conroe were all free, and the prizes were fun-sized snacks and chocolates. I tried to choose only those that we don’t have at home whenever I won (everyone won multiple times)! As usual, a lovely older couple beside me chatted and advised on the RV lifestyle.

Later during our walk, we saw a sign on an RV that said “Debi’s RV Cookin – look us up on the web”, so out of curiosity, I did. John found a recipe for a crawfish dip and I found a fun one for sticky buns, and, after our next grocery trip, we made and enjoyed both. We also used the gym at the park (ok, John did and I just stretched for a half hour) and then shared a grilled cheese at the café, and were back at the bus for dinner and to plan the COWBOYS excitement that awaited!!