Feb 28, 2011

A Walk along the River

We are currently staying at the Hillsborough River State Park just northeast of Tampa.  This is our 3rd Florida State Park on this trip and each one has been distinct.  This is the largest park we have been in and has lots of trails and even canoe rental.  You definitely get the feeling that it is a popular spot for the locals since it has a large swimming pool and numerous picnic areas.

We have a four day reservation leaving on Thursday and we were hoping we might be able to extend it, but they are booked ahead and any non reservable sites available are not big enough for us.  Florida State Parks are very popular in the  winter and if you have your heart set on a specific park at a specific time it is advisable to book ahead.  We have reservations at Oleno State Park that we will be heading to next week but have 3 days to fill in between so we may decide to stop at the Escapees park in Bushnell.

Judy reminded me that it was time to put up a new header picture, so we decided to go for a walk and see if  we could come up with some new images for our blog.  We chose the Rapids Trail and were not disappointed.  The new header picture on our blog is a panorama of the Hillsborough River.  It was made by stitching 4 images together in Adobe Photoshop CS5, and further refinement in Adobe Lightroom.

I also thought I would include a few more images from our walk.  I refer to these as study prints since I may or may not do further work on them.  Some of these are blended images from 3 to 4 separate exposures.  I use several programs to accomplish this, depending on the subject matter.

It takes about 20 minutes for each image to get to the point you see here and then if I really like an image I would probably work another hour or so on it.  Hope you enjoy them.

Until later.

Feb 26, 2011

Dinner and a Movie

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at Alafia State Park but on Friday we needed to return to Camping Connection in Kissimmee to have our second Norcold recall taken care of.  I have to say I am really disappointed with Norcold.  This isn't really a recall repair.  It"s simply adding a thermal fuse to hopefully shut off the system if a poorly designed weld fails. Apparently Norcold doesn't care if the weld fails, just that it doesn't burn your coach down.

Imagine if GE or Whirlpool built a residential refrigerator that was prone to catch on fire and burn houses down.  Imagine if their solution was to send you a special fuse box to plug your fridge in that would shut it off if the compressor got too hot.  I wonder how many of us would be happy with that solution.   No wonder we've been reading of so many people switching to all electric units.  Guess what brand refrigerator won't be in our next coach.

Camping Connection did their normal great job and I highly recommend them. We had them take care of a leaky water valve on our toilet as well. We were there just a little over an hour total for both repairs.

Since we had a reservation at Hillsborough River State Park on Sunday we decided to spend Friday and Saturday in the Orlando area before heading back towards Tampa.  We stayed at the Theme World RV Park at I-4 and Rt.27 in Davenport.  If you use the Passport America  50 % off discount you can get a back in site with full hookups and 50 amp service for $22.  It appears to cater mostly to the snow bird crowd but is not bad at all for the Orlando area, and it sure beats the $60 a night at the KOA right next door. Now, we didn't have quite as many palm trees, but it more than paid for our 'date' today.

After giving Mollie her morning walk, we headed over to Downtown Disney.  We wanted to go see the movie 'The King's Speech'.

We really enjoyed the movie and we wouldn't be surprised if it wins the best picture award at Sunday's Oscar's.

We then just enjoyed the warm afternoon sun until it was time for our dinner reservation at Wolfgang Puck's Cafe.

 Good food and good service but a bit overpriced, as everything is at Disney.  But we had a great time and ended the evening with a double Cuban coffee.

Where else can you get such a wide variety of food and drink in such a small area.

After wandering through a few more shops it was time to head back and let Mollie out for her evening stretch.

A family member complained that I didn't include any pictures of a strawberry shake on my recent "Parkesdale" post so in the interest of professional journalism we will head back there this next week to complete our research.  Such is the life of a serious blogger.

Until later.

Feb 22, 2011


East of Tampa you will find the town of Plant City.  The area surrounding Plant City is filled with farms growing produce.  This time of year it is Strawberries.  If you find yourself in this area anytime between January and March you need to stop in at Parkesdale.  If you don't know where it is, just ask anyone you see over the age of 50, they will know.

We were first introduced to Parkesdale by my older sister Diane and her husband, who goes by the name Bud.  They spent many winters here in central Florida, and took us for our first visit several years ago.  On a busy day like today the line snakes around the building and outside.

You'd think you were at Disney World waiting to get on a ride.  So what are all these people in line for?  Strawberries.

Strawberry shortcake, with or without ice cream, with or without whipped topping, bowls of strawberries, strawberry sundaes, and of course strawberry milk shakes.  That's what you go to Parkesdale for.

Parkesdale also has a wonderful produce market, and we did come home with some onions, zucchini, jalapeno peppers, cabbage, and of course half a flat of strawberries.

But come on, we really went to Parkesdale for the STRAWBERRIES!!
Until later.

Feb 21, 2011

Quiet Times

On Sunday we headed west to Alafia River State Park southeast of Tampa.

We were once again reminded why we like state parks.  We have a quiet pull thru site with water and electric for only 22.00 a day. Built on the remains of an old Phosphate Mine, this park offers abundant biking and hiking trails but most of all it is quiet.  Far from the interstate, and hustle and bustle of Orlando.

Today we celebrated President's day by just hanging out.  Breakfast outside.

Mollie guarding the bird feeders.

A leisurely walk

Life is good.
Until later.

Feb 17, 2011

New Warning: Disney family pictures

I know, this is another warning.  But if you don't like family pics and Disney you may just want to check back later. 

After we left the Keys we stopped for 2 nights in Clewiston on the shores of Lake Okeechobee.  We found a nice RV park with Passport America rates.  The next morning we drove over to West Palm Beach to visit a photographic gallery that puts on photo workshops, and also to stock up at Whole Foods and Costco.  We had a nice day over there but I don't think it's high on our list of places to return to.

When we got back to the RV park the wind was blowing out of the South and there was a terrible stench in the air.  It was disgusting - kind of a cross between a pig farm and a paper mill.  Amazingly this smell comes from a local sugar mill.  Hard to imagine that making something sweet could smell so bad.

The next morning we drove over to Wachula to pick up our mail at the post office and stayed overnight at the Escapees park there.  We were parked in the overflow area next to an Orange grove with 15 amp power.  Not bad for only eleven dollars.

The next morning we headed towards Kissimmee.  We had an appointment at Camping Connection to have our washer/dryer fixed and have them check out a few other small items.  These guys are great!!  It isn't often that you find such good service. They called us while we were on our way there and said they were ready for us. When we got there we unhooked and they immediately took the coach and started working. We left to go have lunch and pick up some more food for little Mollie and while we were eating, they called to say the coach was ready.  It turns out that a connector had come loose on the drive motor of the washer/dryer, so that was an easy fix.  One of our Fan Tastic power vents had quit working, and they found that the motor was bad.  They said that there is a life time guarantee and if I called the company they would send me a new motor for free.  They also diagnosed a problem that I was having with the levelers, and the solution didn't cost me a dime.

When we had picked up our mail in Wachula we received yet another recall notice on our Norcold Fridge. As most of you know, Norcold won't stock the repair centers with the parts, they have to order each repair kit individually.  Camping Connection took care of the paper work and if the parts come in after we leave the area they will forward it to another dealer for us.  Did I mention these are great guys?  So if you are in the Orlando area and need service these are the guys to call.  They also have a well stocked store, and they will also do on-site repairs if you are in the area.

From Kissimmee it was only a fifteen minute drive over to Fort Wilderness campground.  We were there for 7 days and they finally had to kick us out.

Yes it can be expensive, but you will not find a nicer RV park..... unless you are in the Keys!!  Only at Disney will you find street sweepers cleaning the park, and some campers that take this Disney thing a little too seriously.

Our daughter Melissa, her husband Todd, and kids Emma and Ella arrived late Thursday night. The next day it was time to hit the parks.  I managed one day at Epcot and two at Animal Kingdom.

Judy did the same and added another day at Magic Kingdom.

We walked too much, ate too much, and had too much fun...but that's why we were here.  The family left early this morning and we checked out as well, moving about 20 miles to a Passport America park west of Orlando.  We will be here for three nights before moving to Alafia River State Park near Tampa.

Our only concern now is will we have to start using the AC!!

Until later.

Feb 5, 2011

Caution!! Sunset pictures....

Well our time in the keys is coming to an end.  As usual we didn't do everything we intended, but that's ok.  We'll be back.  We have so enjoyed our little hideaway.  Sadly I must tell you they don't offer a Passport America discount.

We enjoyed having our breakfast out on the dock and Mollie even enjoyed her view out the front.  They even had a wonderful dog park just across from us.

One thing we didn't want to miss was the sunset celebration at Mallory Square in down town Key West.    We made sure we got there early enough to get a good seat on the dock.

We ordered Rum Runners and some cold boiled shrimp and sat back to enjoy the show.  After one of these Judy looks happy doesn't she?  The photographer enjoyed his too.  That's why the picture is a little blurry.  Where else on earth do they cheer the Sun as it slips below the horizon?

 Mallory Square has lots of street vendors and performers.  The crowd was light compared to what it can be during spring break or Mardi Gras.  We had a great time and will definitely be back again.

On Sunday we head back up to the middle of the state for some work on our washer/dryer and Mouse World with our daughter Melissa and family.

Until later.