Life on the Open Road

Life on the Open Road

Friday, March 31, 2017

Revisiting Familiar Locations: Palatka, The Villages, and Bushnell 2017

Much of this Winter included revisiting familiar locations and, while the familiarity was nice to return to, I like to mix things up and keep them interesting with new experiences. Crossing back inland from the East Coast, I made a point to stop in Palatka. I like this as a stop at any point driving through. I went to a store and then to the downtown riverwalk area I’d enjoyed before. I washed dishes and ate a good meal and walked around outside, purposely going to areas I hadn't focused on previously. The fish prints on the left side of this photo are the parking lot markers for the spots! How cool.  

It was a rainy day when I got to The Villages and I thoroughly enjoyed spending an entire day in the RV. That’s something I rarely do and it was so pleasant. Rest, cat cuddles, coziness. The next day, when I returned to Lake Sumter Landing (still my favorite square in The Villages), I walked around at night. Most places had closed much earlier, I found, and the music wasn’t my style (it was cool out and not too crowded) so I just walked because I like to walk. I snapped these few pictures. Really loved this water spout. 

I made a trip South to my town of Bushnell for a few days. There, I once again enjoyed the Dixon Complex and I tried wonton egg drop soup. It was quite tasty and just what I was in the mood for. I love soup! I did note that the ice cream shop I had gotten propane at is now an antique store. The propane sales still operate in the back. 

I went back to The Villages and these photos are from parts of it. One night as I walked through Spanish Springs, I was looking at the ducks. There were ducklings asleep on rocks at the water. A couple across from me on the little bridge had been watching a frog on a rock on the other side and mentioned it to me as we passed each other. The picture in the center here is of that frog. It is not the easiest to make out since it was dark.

One of my favorite parks in The Villages is Lake Okahumpka. I like walking there because of the nature and there is a pond plus the lake. There’s a playground and picnic tables and disc golf as well. It appears you can camp there with permission, too though that may be tent camping. As I was getting ready to leave at night, I noticed something that I thought was an injured animal near the RV. I heard squeaks and saw movement so walked closer. I had just this visit paid attention to the bat house signs but didn’t make the connection right away. I had also seen some very long and impressive lines of ants marching across part of the trail. Anyhow, when I got close enough, I saw that it wasn’t an injured creature at all but bats mating on the road! Here is a picture and a video clip. This was a first and I was quite careful with how I backed out of the parking space so as to leave them. If anyone involved in the bat houses reads this, they are working and the bats are living there! 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ways to Enjoy Revisiting a Familiar Location

I love to travel! 
If you’re a seasonal traveler who chases 70s or you often visit the same location for whatever reason, you may be looking for ways to mix it up and keep things interesting. Of course, there are favorite places and people to see which can make the repetition enjoyable, but what about if you still want something new? I’ve come up with some ideas for experiencing a familiar location in a new way.

First, there are considerations like visiting at a different time than you’ve done before. Have you only visited on Spring Break or a weekend? The weekday or sometime off peak may give an entirely new impression of things. Or, maybe you’ve done the opposite and would like to find a special time like a holiday or festival when the place picks up and has a unique and focused vibe. There’s a certain excitement that builds as a community comes together in celebration and that can make for a great experience and happy memory. Something as simple as visiting in the Fall instead of Spring can also be fun as you get to see the shifts in nature, apparel, foods, activities, and so forth. If you’re really into contrast, some places have much more extreme seasons than others. For example, visiting the Upper Peninsula of Wisconsin in the Summer where boating on Lake Superior is a popular activity, is quite different than visiting in the Winter when the lake is frozen and you can try your hand at mushing or tour some ice caves.

I've been to Greenville, South Carolina once so far, during December when it was decked for the holidays. This was a fun, brief visit and is a place I'd like to explore more, in a different and warmer season. 
Next, you could meet up with someone or bring someone else along to see the place with a new set of eyes. A fellow traveler, friend, or relative will have a fresh perspective to add to the experience. Add to that stopping at a new store or eating at a new restaurant, visiting a local museum or attending a local sports event, or maybe walking at a park or even returning to the parts you’ve really liked, sharing and appreciating them once again.

While revisiting a park I like earlier this year, I spotted these bats mating right outside of my RV. You just never know who or what you may find. I've been there several times yet this encounter has only happened once... so far. :)
Using a website or app like TripAdvisor can be useful to get a feel for the area. It may surprise you what is there that you were unaware of. Asking the locals for favorite popular spots or activities, or taking a stroll or drive around and stopping when you find someplace of interest can be a lot of fun as well. Maybe the architecture or neighborhoods are diverse, perhaps the landscaping is well done, or there’s a nice downtown to discover. Many places have wonderful murals and historic markers that enhance the area. Visiting an old cemetery can also be interesting, especially reading some of the headstones.
The beach has various textures of sand to explore both visually and through touch. Taking notice of and appreciating things like this, then making connections with what you know, what you've seen, and what is new is part of the fun. No two beach walks are ever the same, yet all can be enjoyable.   
There are countless ways to create an engaging visit, even to a place you’ve frequented or know fairly well. If you can be open to a totally new and different experience, letting go of how it was before, you may discover you enjoy it all over, or find pleasure in a place you had previously been less fond of, as if it were your first time filled with satisfaction and excitement. A huge benefit of travel is the exposure to diversity, even when revisiting a familiar location, and the joy of taking interest in the experience. Being alive and exploring the world can always be seen an adventure and, if you’d like it to be, a fun one at that.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Easy Dip Recipe for On the Go

I've got a post coming up called, "Food for the Fridgeless" and today I'm sharing a simple, fast, and easy recipe for a homemade dip. I like to pair it with a bag of steamable vegetables- washed and ready to eat veggies that come in a bag for steaming but I buy to eat raw.

This recipe is great for traveling as it's quick to prepare and doesn't need to be kept in the fridge. It can be made fresh as a single serving, just stop at a grocery instead of eating take out or at a restaurant.

Raw washed and ready to be eaten fresh vegetables.

one plain Greek yogurt cup
dried parsley
your favorite seasoning
a dash of sea salt, if you like or your seasoning choice is salt free

My spices of choice. The sea salt isn't necessary with the Florida Sunshine containing salt already but when I make this with dill and parsley, I like to add sea salt, too. 

I use Florida Sunshine from The Spice and Tea Exchange (no ad, it's just a favorite!) You could also use a soup mix or bullion. Dried dill works fantastically as well. The idea is, any seasoning you like that can be kept on hand that is shelf stable.

Directions: Stir in the seasoning to taste. I suggest starting with about a teaspoon and adding more if you desire, then adding some parsley and the salt if you want to.

Tada! The finished dip. 
Since this is a single serving, you can vary it depending on your preferences. I like using yogurt because the cup is easy to dip the veggies, crackers, chips, pretzels or whatever else you like in it and I like that yogurt has probiotics, what are generally considered to be healthy bacteria, in it. A variation on this is plain kefir which I've also used when I've made it with dill. It is a bit thinner and better with a fridge because the serving size of kefir is often larger. I really like both of these options as they are just as easy as buying a ready made dip yet without fillers or other added ingredients and you can make it your own, too. Yummy!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Keeping Records and Five Suggestions for Checking Out a Previously Owned RV Before Buying

I am the second owner of my current RV and I bought this one at a dealership where the original owners, a couple, traded in and upgraded to a newer one. I am incredibly grateful that they kept such wonderful records! I have the original pouch, service manuals, warranties, and more including highlighted parts relevant to this particular RV and the Dodge chassis book filled in with what work was done and when per the recommended schedule. This couple put a lot of miles on it at around 144,000 and clearly took excellent care of it. When I bought it, people looked inside and said it appeared new and it did. Under the hood, the engine looked amazing, too. It still looks good with full-timing!

One pouch filled with all the documents for both RV and chassis.

I have continued to keep records in the booklet as well as noting what has been repaired, upgraded, and so on for myself and the next owner as well. I think this is a fantastic thing to do and it really shows how a quality vehicle can be well used and maintained to go for miles and miles. I'm at around 168,000+ miles now and there is no doubt this thing can go for so many more.

I've had routine oil changes and tire rotations every 3,000 and 6,000 or so miles respectively. Recently, I had an inspection which showed me I didn't actually need to do this quite as early as I had been so just today, at closer to but under 5,000 miles(what this service facility recommended to me as I was paying), I went to a Quick Lane for an oil change, tire rotation, brake check, and inspection. It went very well and I was told the technician was impressed with how good shape it is in at nearly 160,000 miles. Well, they had actually noted the miles incorrectly by 8,000 so just imagine how good it'd look to them had they noticed that! :) I take a lot of pride in taking good care of it. I had been simply keeping my receipts together with the pouch and the other day I went through them, updated the booklet so it was all in one place, and cleared out what I didn't feel needed to be kept.

The chassis manual has a maintenance schedule in it. It was easy to follow along the previous owner's notes and add my own.
With this I know, for example, that the previous owner did a transmission flush at however many miles. I know that I had the brake fluid flushed so even if an oil change shows it in the yellow ( I've seen that "green, yellow, red" are on the inspection sheet for "good, may need future attention, requires attention"), I am actually good to go for a long time. I know that when a free brake check told me numbers that didn't match up to the ones I had from a recent oil change, I was able to get a second opinion (another free brake check at a different shop) that confirmed they were fine. While I don't have all the service receipts from the previous owners, the sales rep told me it had relatively new brakes which I have the warranty information on as well as having recently had a few thousands of dollars worth of work with a new head gasket! The dealership I bought it from had also serviced and checked everything and had installed a brand new air conditioning before selling it.

Through RVs more than anything, I've learned a lot about vehicles, how they work, how to maintain them, and basic repairs. I personally find keeping these records reassuring and useful and know that the next owner of this RV, especially if a newbie or fulltimer, will appreciate having them, too. It's easy enough and I totally recommend it!

Tying into the above, here are five suggestions for what to check before you buy if you're buying a previously owned RV from a dealer or private seller:

1.      Check if the warranties for any work are transferable to you as the new owner. Some are and some are not.
2.      Check the age of the tires, not just the look of them.
3.  If you are buying from a private seller, you may want to pay for a general inspection at a shop you like first or bring a knowledgeable person along with you to inspect it yourself.
4.      You may also want to take it for a wash to inspect for leaks. Go to a manual wash, not a drive through car wash and be careful not to scratch it or spray water directly into the vents like the furnace or AC vents and such.
5.      Drive it. Some people and places need you to be very serious about it in order to test drive. When I sold my first RV, I asked to see a license and was surprised that one person came, looked a few minutes, and left without even asking to start it. He later made me an offer I didn't take him up on. It is totally fine to go through and make sure it sounds good, looks good, things work, etc. Any honest seller will not take issue with this and might even encourage it.

I have been surprised that some dealerships charge for showing you that all systems work. If you want to pay for that and would feel more confident with it, it is good to know how to use it properly. I think you can look a lot of things up online, in the manual, and use common sense if they won't just show you the unit and answer your questions. It's up to you to decide how comfortable you feel about this.

Free workshops at RV centers can be great, too and you usually don't need to own an RV yet. Even as a second RV owner, I have attended some of the basics and found them interesting. In one case I was the only one who showed up so we did a private walk through of my own RV, reviewing systems, talking about various care for it, and I was even given a few freebies like a new fresh tank filter and advice from the skilled technician.

RVers tend to be super friendly people who are excited to exchange information with you. There are forums online, clubs, groups of various kinds- all sorts of ways to connect, ask questions, and so on. Having an idea of what to look for both in records and pre-buying inspections is useful for the miles and miles you'll go!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Three Things on My Mind: Confidence and Knowing

"Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right." 

~ Henry Ford (I have seen slight variations of the quote and like this one.)

"She believed she could, so she did." 

~ while this quote is attributed to few or many, depending, I like to give credit to Shel Silverstein from the poem, "Melinda Mae" though the idea is there, less the precise wording. 

And also from Shel is this poem:

The Voice 

There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
"I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong."
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What's right for you- just listen to 
The voice that speaks inside. 

All of these came to mind and I thought I would share them as well as have them here for myself to refer back to. 

Sometimes action is easy and clear- "the next logical step"- and sometimes it feels like a "yes" or a "no," both of which lead us one way or another. Sometimes it's a matter of picking something when various choices would feel good. Always it's a matter of choosing how you feel regardless. 

Happy Trails to You

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Best Beach Walk EVER: in words

I began walking left of the pier, my feet in the water as I passed the crowds and headed toward the more open beach. I had music playing and was, as usual, walking in time with it. 

I saw birds. So many small birds that flew together in a way that was amazing to me, in such a big flock and moving very fast that they were almost unnoticeable. I noticed though and I watched as they swirled around. 

I kept walking and swiftly went up to dry sand as a very long turquoise colored jellyfish came up to shore. I'd been seeing a lot of them here and was just talking about them a bit sooner. It didn't surprise me that I'd then see another one and I knew I was safe. 

I continued walking then looked back to see if the couple behind me would stop to look at the jellyfish, too. They didn't, that I saw. They actually appeared to walk right by. There are so many things in the world that so many of us see and so many of us do not. 

I was enjoying the walk and kept going farther down the beach. A motorized vehicle of some sort went by and a woman on it waved to me. I took a moment then waved back, perhaps too late for her to see. Oh well. I briefly wondered if they'd want to give me a ride back. I had not walked this far down before. I was fine though and knew I could keep going. 

Flipping through my music on my phone, I suddenly looked up. A crab! It was like we were just people in passing, paying no mind until I paid attention and jumped back a bit. That immediately got the crab up on its legs, watching me. I moved, it turned to follow and keep watch. We both walked some. It went down, then back up as I got closer. I asked it how fast it can run. It was white and yellow. I was unafraid and ultimately walked onto the dry sand and went on my way. I made a mental note of how crabs are like tarantulas of the ocean. They have some similarities. 

I saw a bulldozer type vehicle and tracks from it. They are clearing land or something nearby, I suppose. It is part of the state park, as far as I know. I rolled my sleeves up onto my shoulders and kept walking more on dry sand. 

A couple of people had come to the end of the beach before a turn and I veered left to turn and see what was around the corner. I'm not sure what part of the city it is but I had a sense of it. I also noticed a pretty blue bottle or glass of some sort in pieces, partially smoothed and thought, the beginning of sea glass

I turned around and found myself running and I liked it! It was easy to run and felt good and my breath was so easy. I looked back to see the difference in my foot prints from walking and running. Earlier I was pondering if one could recognize her own footprints in the sand. There is that expression of knowing something like the back of your hand. Would I know my own footprints? I think I would, if I paid more attention. It also brought to mind leaving footprints in the sands of time and how I'd like to leave both footprints and butt prints in the sands of time. I rarely sit at the beach; I walk. 
As I returned to the corner I saw that the couple were now naked and entering the water. They had ventured far from most others and maybe it made even more sense why. I kept my distance and gave them their space. They were having fun entering the waves. I know they looked at me as I went by and I'm decidedly for skinny dipping, nude beaches, and doing whatever you like, really. They had tan lines. He in particular was quite white(she was already in the water more by the time I got back around to them) and this is actually how I first realized they were nude. I laughed and smiled as I continued on. Funny, happy moments and what an eventful walk this was! Rather different than my more common ones. I liked it! 

I ran some more and it felt good. I found myself walking on the thin center sand within the tire tracks of the bulldozer path. How fun, I thought, as I had simply begun doing it because it was fun and I was inspired to that action, then realized it. It reminded me of kids and my niece who will move so easily from one fun activity in the moment to the next. It flows. This was flow. I was flowing. 

I saw something near the water and got closer. A dead seagull. Newly dead, beautiful, not yet drenched. The water came up to it but not enough yet to take it in. I thought to it, You'll be ok/fine and then added right away, You already are. Briefly I sent out an intention and request for greater peace with something. I kept walking. 

I got a text message from someone I wasn't expecting and figured I felt good, so replied. Clarity and fun and ok ness. A recent message from a dream I had woken to a couple of mornings ago now made more sense. 

More people were around again. Many had left and tide was rising. The moon was up and the sun was setting. I looked at the color reflecting on the white of the waves and had felt like it was so beautiful, I could cry. I didn't. I just loved the beauty of it and the beholding of this moment and realization. I was smiling. I must have been. 

I smiled at a woman as we passed each other and she smiled at me. I saw some young folks who had been building something earlier now getting covered by water. They took the high flag they'd had up and were walking with it into the water, saying or singing something. I had my music playing still and mostly ignored their words. I liked the song I was listening to and the harmonies in it. So lovely. 

Someone else smiled and said hello to me as we passed by. I picked up a large feather and then a little one for my cat. As I climbed the steps to get back to the parking lot, I jumped down and think that is when one flew out of my pocket. I still had the little one and gave it to her. 

I went to wash my feet of the sand and saw young adults in the splash fountain having fun. I then saw a bird on the top of it also having fun. Which reminds me of watching a seagull scratch its head with a foot while in the water. I loved that. And I saw a dog rolling around on its back in the sand and smiled. I am a big cat lover and yet happy dogs at the beach? I still smile at that. 

Now I am back in the RV. I have pictures and video from this beach walk which I am deeming the best beach walk ever. I know the feeling of flow and this was the first time I ever felt it like this here and so easily, strongly, and purely. The lightness, in the moment, playful, easy, fun. This is what alignment feels like. This is what playing in life feels like. This is what feeling good feels like. 

It's a picture-less post intentionally. Words can paint a picture and the feelings, the feelings are the best part. Maybe it appears as if nothing changed during this time yet I know for certain a lot changed for me with it. I stepped onto the sidewalk in the parking lot from the sand to the concrete and I looked out at the big, beautiful sun setting across the way and had this feeling, the kind where I knew everything was about to change. Everything was about the change and in really good ways. I was ready. This felt so good. 

The best beach walk ever is the best beach walk yet. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Anastasia Island State Park in St. Augustine, Florida and Beaches and Sharks

I'm combining what was originally to be two separate posts here. I feel they go fine together.

We were due for a cold spell here in Florida and I decided I wanted to stay at a campground to run my space heater. I like being warm and freezing temperatures are not warm. So, a night at nearby Anastasia Island State Park was a good fit. I got a nice site, fairly private, not too far a walk to the comfort station. I specifically asked about the water and it is not well water and was not chemical-like in taste or smell. Woohoo! The dump station area is great, with three in one and rinse water. They also have a recycling area, which I really appreciated. The beaches in St. Augustine tend to have recycling and trash bins as well. Really great. 

Anyhow, the beach is the same lovely beach I’d been walking so much, just more on the other side of the pier. There’s a nice walkway, store, picnic area, water sport area, and free wifi in the beach parking lot. I decided to only spend one night here although I did eventually return to use the dump station again. For $10, you can use the dump station without being a camper there and I was also able to fill my fresh tank. 

The rangers here were super nice. The showers were all right. The laundry was down when I visited so I ended up going to a laundromat in the area instead. Campgrounds are usually cheaper and this would have been but the industrial sized machines in laundromats work really well and this place had great dryers! 

I’d stay here again and found it to be a campground with enough to do and like that I’d actually like being there, too. Mostly I’ve used campgrounds to charge, dump and fill, shower, etc. It hasn’t really been about enjoying the park beyond those amenities, but more a brief overnight to take care of these things and have electricity. There’s more at this park than I even checked out. 

Beaches and Sharks 

I went back to Jacksonville Beach where I had my first encounter with a shark. I think it was a great white, though it was a baby, maybe just a couple of feet in length. Someone had been fishing and reeled it in. I guess they tossed it out and it didn’t go far enough to not get swept back in again. I watched a man pick it up and throw it again. It came back, he tossed again and farther and I think it was out enough to go back out. I’ve mentioned, I was so impressed by the calm, confidence of people around these sharks… sharks because, I later returned to St. Augustine Beach and had the second encounter with a shark up close. This was a much bigger shark! It took a long while for it to be reeled in. I could see its fin from the distance. Briefly, I thought it might be a dolphin. I was so glad they released it because it really wanted back out. 

Again, I was impressed with how calm and confident the young man who caught it was. When I mention certain aspects of Florida wildlife to people who aren’t from here, I’m sometimes met with some responses that have me rolling my eyes a bit. Gators, sharks, snakes, whatever. They are a part of life and they are around here and for all the encounters people have with them, so few are of what might be called a dangerous nature. If you’re confident, calm, and feel safe, you are. They’re generally not interested in us anyway. When you freak out about things… I enjoy the encounters. I like knowing there is such a diverse variety of creatures out there. I like seeing the signs for gators and snakes. I like the wildness, the freedom, the realness of the REAL Florida. I’m unafraid. I’m confident and calm. And if I’m not, I’m out of sync with myself and tend to notice right away. That does happen sometimes and it’s great because I can make better choices to feel better and aligned with my secure, knowing all is well self again. 

So, yep, sharks in the ocean. Gators are in the swamp. I love Florida.

Oh, and sometimes gators do wander to ocean, too as was seen during my visit to Talbot Island State Park a month or so earlier.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Marineland, Palm Coast, and Fort Matanzas in Florida

Aside from enjoying the beach along the eastern shore, I decided to visit some nearby places south of where I was. This included Marineland, Palm Coast, and Fort Matanzas. 

In Marineland, I stopped by the River to Sea Preserve. There’s a boardwalk along the beach with some interesting tidbits. 

I actually didn’t end up crossing over to the preserve part. I had been particularly drawn to the beach and ocean thus far this year and spending less time in the swamp or woodland type areas. 
At Bing's Landing. 

Father south, I stopped by Bing's Landing in Palm Coast. I walked around, this time on a trail in the woods and by the boat ramp and dock area. I love the unexpected fun encounters and viewing Mala Compra Plantation Archaeological Site there was just that! It’s free to visit right there in the park! It was well done. Covered, with audio and visual information here and there, artifacts, plus the remains of the various structures that had been there, you can walk around the historic location for a self guided tour. While it isn’t huge, I really enjoyed it. 

After this, I drove to the beach and park across the way for another walk. The sand here was much coarser and seemed to have a higher shell content. It was also a darker and different color than the mostly soft, white sand I was getting use to. I love beach walking either way so didn’t mind. 

Coarser, shell filled sand. 

Next I visited Fort Matanzas. This could have been a post on itself except the fort itself was not reachable for visitors due to a damaged dock so I have less to share than I would have. I was still able to walk the trail, along the water, and see the fort from along the way. I watched a short video in the visitors center and enjoyed the Touch and See section. Out back, they had a booth set up with items on display and I spoke with a ranger for a while about them, life as a guard there, the fort and waterway, and so on. I love making connections to places I’ve visited and this was full of them. The fort in nearby St. Augustine plus the Timucuan National Parks in Jacksonville all came together in a new way. This park is always free and I’d like to visit it again when the ferry ride to the fort is back up and running. 
Touch and See items. Very neat and I would love to see more of these at places!

It's a short trail, yet pleasant. There are also many trees that seemed popular for climbing in the parking lot and an area to picnic, if desired. 

Along the trail by the water. Some folks were fishing  and a family was visiting and one of them was slightly freaking out that some animal prints might have been from a bobcat. Another asked me if I knew what animal they were from and I said it was from a raccoon, then added that they did look fresh! :P 

The dock where you can usually get a free ferry ride over to the fort. The fort is to the right across the water. 

And of course, I ended up back at the beach later that day. There is beach access as part of the National Park, too. I drove over to it and decided to just go back to the St. Augustine Beach Pier beach instead.