grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Monday, December 31, 2007

30/31DEC07 - Navarre, FL (happy new year!)

The next stop on our itinerary was just down the beach highway, US 98, in Navarre, FL. There we were to join up with our old friends Anneke and Chuck Guldenschuh, who also recently became full time RV’ers.

We all first met way back in the late 70s early 80s when we were all in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, together (Chuck was Dan’s boss the first time he was stationed overseas). Our paths have continually crossed as both men pursued their Coast Guard careers. In fact, when the CG reopened the Rotterdam office in 1995, Chuck was the first Commanding Officer assigned, and Dan was his first Executive Officer!

As we proceeded from Panama City to Navarre, we could begin to see the remaining after effects of hurricane Ivan over four to five years ago. Since Navarre is very close to Pensacola, it was heavily impacted. Many small business, smaller condominiums, and some houses are still damaged and empty. In fact, we heard on the news that one of the major insurance companies will cancel all their Florida hurricane insurance 01 JAN 08 – Happy New Year?

We made it safely to the RV park and immediately met up with the Guldenschuhs. After a little time socializing, we all headed over to the nearby Army Base, Hurlburt Field, to do a little shopping. Then it was back to the RV park where Dan BBQ’d some lamb and a delicious meal was had by all. The rest of the evening was spent telling sea stories and playing cards. The next morning the Guldenschuhs took us to a local restaurant known for its baked goods (the cinnamon rolls are excellent!) and large omelets on Santa Rosa Island. A quick driving tour of the Island shows about 90% of the homes completely gone because of hurricane Ivan.

That evening being New Years Eve, we all planned on gathering at the Guldenschuh’s daughter, Heather, and her husband, Ryan Baxter, house to bring in the New Year. Ryan and Heather live down the beach in Mary Esther. It turns out that the “party” was evenly split between four “oldies” in their fifties; and four “young pups” in their twenties. First we had a traditional "dutch" New Year's Eve dinner of ertwensoep (dutch split pea soup w/ham & sausage), and ollie ballen (think donut holes on steroids); followed by more card games. Since we were able to watch the Time Square celebration real time (ie East Coast time), we were able to make our good-byes and get back to the RV before midnight local time (ie Central time). Remember every party needs a pooper. Anyway – GELUKKIG NIEUWJAAR!!! De beste wensen voor 2008!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

27-29DEC07 - Panama City, FL

On Thursday, 27DEC, we arrived at the Family Camp run by Tyndall AFB in Panama City, FL. Upon arrival we immediately noted that everyone seemed to know everyone else and had been coming here for years. And full calendar of activities was already scheduled by the many “volunteers”. In fact we were informed that tonight was penny bingo and Friday was fish fry potluck dinner. We passed on the bingo but signed up for the fish fry. We also noted one of the largest wood piles we had ever seen. Turns out that there is a structure enclosed with vinyl sheeting that has a fire pit in the middle that pretty much burns all day and night. Apparently it takes the place of the office water cooler for spreading rumors. It is the only fire pit structure we have ever seen with window air conditioners?

The next morning we took the toad and back tracked on the route we had driven in on, to explore the town of Apalachicola. Apalachicola was one of the top five seaports within the USA prior to the Civil War. Although it never regained prominence as a seaport, Apalachicola was number one in natural sponges before that market went bust. Today the town is known for its fresh seafood, especially oysters. We wandered around the town to build up our appetites before tackling the famous Apalachicola Oysters. At noon time it was off to Boss Oysters for lunch. Of course we had to start with half dozen raw oysters. Corrie then went with the oyster po-boy that was definitely overloaded with fried oysters. Dan went with a dish supposedly “invented” in Charleston, cheese grits with shrimp; very good, but not heart healthy!

After some more exploring of Apalachicola, it was off to a state museum devoted to John Gorrie who is credited as the inventor of the ice machine. As with most inventors Gorrie built his machine for one purpose, at which it failed, and others saw the potential and made fortunes off it. Gorrie designed his machine to cool the rooms of TB patients in Apalachicola. He reasoned that since TB was more prevalent in warm climates, that if he lowered the temperature of their rooms, those afflicted with TB would get better. Obviously it didn’t work. But others took his patents and perfected the first ice machines. Anyway the entire museum was smaller than our RV and only cost one dollar.

After returning to the Family Camp spent the afternoon washing half of the RV. Then it was off to the fish fry potluck we had signed up for at the community center. Everyone, including us, brought one small dish to share. The fried fish was Grouper, which the local waters of the Gulf of Mexico are famous for. Very enjoyable evening.

The next morning we finished off the other half of washing the RV. Of course rain is forecasted for the afternoon. That evening we headed over to our friends, Brad and Debbie Black. Brad and Dan were classmates at the Coast Guard Academy, but ran in different circles. But the last three years of their CG careers (2001 to 2004) they worked and socialized together at the Eighth Coast Guard District in New Orleans. Anyway, after CG retirement Brad started a second career in Panama City. Turns out Brad has become an accomplished raiser of Koi in pond he has constructed in his backyard. For those that don’t know Koi are very large brightly colored fish that are members of the carp family (ie they are not large goldfish like many people think). Debbie prepared an excellent meal and we spent hours talking about the various CG couples we had known and where were they now? The evening was far too short and we promise to return.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

26DEC07 - Crawfordville, FL

As we drove from Kings Bay, GA, to the beach area of Fort Walton, FL, we decided to try something a lot of RV’ers do, but we haven’t to date. That is “dry camping” in the parking lot of your friendly super Wal-Mart. We don’t know if you have noticed, but every now and then you might see RVs parked on the outer fringes of Wal-Mart; usually over night or for a few days at most. Wal-Mart doesn’t encourage this, but they don’t discourage it either. The RV’er gets the security of a 24hr facility with security cameras, and Wal-Mart gets a few extra bucks if you decide to do a little shopping.

Spending the night in a traditional RV park has its benefits, but sometimes the services provided are not the worth the money spent for an overnight stay. In reality with the generator running, we have everything we need except cable no matter where we are. And the fuel cost for running the generator all night is much less than the average fee at a RV park. So south of Tallahassee we pulled into the parking lot of the super Wally Mart in Crawfordville, FL, to spend the night and minimizes our expenses.

Bottom line, it wasn’t so bad; except for when the young punk was showing off his new car stereo he got for xmas to his buddies at max volume. Thankfully it was over in fifteen minutes, and we were not disturbed the rest of the night.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

22-25DEC07 - Kings Bay, GA (merry xmas)

Saturday 22DEC, we arrived at the military RV park on board the US Navy’s east coast Trident Submarine Base at Kings Bay, GA. We have heard very good things about this facility from several military retirees, and we agree that this is one of the best military recreational facilities we have stayed at. But this being a nuclear submarine and missile facility the security is much higher than other military bases. Two examples – security cars continually come through the campground all night, and every now and then we hear a taped warning played over loud speakers warning that you have entered a restricted area and the use of deadly force is authorized (we think warning is set off when animals set off sensors). To learn more, check out:

On Sunday morning we headed into the small town of St Marys, Ga, across the river Mayport, FL. St Marys claims it is the second oldest city in the USA. But as in sports, being second gets you nothing and tourists go to St Augustine, FL, the oldest city in the USA. St Marys is also the National Parks access point to Cumberland Island, which was once a private get away for Thomas Carnegie and family. The last Carnegie family members donated their properties to the Park Service in 1971. We toured the visitor center and would have taken the ferry to the island, but they wanted thirty eight dollars for four hours on the island. Plus the best way to tour the island is by bicycle, but you can’t take your bikes because they don’t want competition for the bike concession on the island.

That evening we headed up I-95 to a hole in the wall BBQ place Dan read it about called the GA. Pig (ie the Georgia Pig). The establishment is a nondescript wooden building set way back from the road. In fact if you are not looking for the sign with a pig playing a fiddle, you’ll never find it. One thing this restaurant does differently, is to keep spraying the wood fire with water is to produce lots of smoke. The water spray also tends to fill the whole building with smoke. Regardless, it was great BBQ.

Monday morning we drove south to Florida Beach Highway A1A to see the Atlantic Ocean. First we stopped in the town of Fernandina Beach. The historic section of Fernandina has been beautifully restored; unfortunately all the stores are geared toward “beach” tourists. However, the drive along the beach and then through the inland marshes is very beautiful, and it was a beautiful, sunny day.

Christmas eve we went to the RV park recreation room for hors devoirs that we had previously signed up for, to meet fellow RV’ers. While there we made the acquaintance of Lambert and Sandra Elboeck, and Jim and Ursula Wilson. We had an excellent evening of conversation, and it turns out that all three couples have an “European connection”. As most of you know Corrie was born in the Netherlands, not to mention the fact that we lived there for years as a couple. Well turns out that Lambert was born and raised in Austria before immigrating to USA when he was eleven, and when he joined the US military his first assignment was three years in Munich. Jim met and married Ursula while stationed in Germany. So our conversations were punctuated with bits and pieces of German and Dutch. Did we mention the fact that Ursula brought a bottle of champagne and we were the envy of everyone else drinking sodas or coffee?

Christmas Day was definitely a different one for us. There were no gifts to be unwrapped, or big meal to prepare. In fact we spent the day doing laundry and cleaning the RV. Then that afternoon we headed over to the base galley with our new friends, the Elboeck’s and Wilson’s, for Xmas dinner. A very nice and quiet Xmas as we fell asleep with full bellies, listening to the warnings about deadly force (look out Santa and Rudolph!).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

21DEC07 - Albany, GA (semper fi)

After some discussion and time spent looking at maps of southeastern USA, we decide that we would head to the military RV park at Kings Bay Naval Base outside of St Marys, GA, for Xmas. We also considered going to Savannah, but decided that we just wanted a quiet location and didn’t need a big city for Xmas. And Kings Bay would put right on the Florida border and thereby shorten our driving distance to meet with our friends the Guldenschuhs near Fort Walton Beach, FL, for New Years.

Not wanting to drive the entire distance in one day, we decided to stay overnight at the Marine Corps Logistics Base (MCLB) in Albany, GA. After our disappointment at the Air Force facilities at Lake Martin, this campsite was four stars. In fact, someone even delivered a local paper to our RV door in the morning. It was such a pleasant relaxing location, that we didn’t even bother with our usual trip into town for a walkabout. We are not sure what the MCLB does, but you can check out their website at:

Monday, December 24, 2007

19/20DEC07 - Dadeville, AL (happy anniversary)

After leaving the Tiffin factory we weren’t sure which way to head or where we wanted to spend Xmas; knowing only that we had to be close to Fort Walton, FL, before New Years. So Dan picked a military recreational facility on Lake Martin run by Maxwell Air Force Base. By his figuring this would put with easy driving distance of Savannah, GA; the north Atlantic coast of Florida; or Pensacola, FL, on the Gulf of Mexico. And the day we left Red Bay was also our 26th Anniversary.

We’re not sure where, but somewhere we saw something that rated this recreational facility as one of the best in the military system. While the facility is beautiful located, it is showing its age and is pretty rundown. In addition the roads are quite narrow and not really made for today’s bigger RVs. Thankfully, we had disconnected our toad before driving to our campsite, otherwise we might not have made it. The nicest thing about the facility, was that we were the only ones in it and it was quiet and peaceful!

Lake Martin was the largest man made lake in the world in the 1920s. But because of the severe drought in the southeast USA, it is almost empty today. The lake level is down twenty feet and all the marinas are closed until the lake level raises. Although the RV facility was not the best we decided to stay two nights to just relax and rest. So on Thursday morning, 20DEC, we went into the adjacent town of Dadeville for a walkabout. We noted nothing remarkable or unremarkable about Dadeville. We did happen to catch the county museum during the one day a week that it is open. By checking the “guest book” at the museum we can see the average time to tour the museum is twenty minutes.

Friday, December 21, 2007

16-18DEC07 - Red Bay, AL

As we stated last time, the day after Rebecca and Raymond’s wedding we headed to Red Bay, AL, and the Tiffin factory (builder of our current RV). Why the RV factory you ask? Because unlike autos, most RV manufacturers have facilities on site for working on their RVs. In most cases they can fix anything on the RV (except transmissions, engines and chassis), including major accident repair. Imagine if you could take your car to the factory that built your vehicle with all their in house expertise, and ask them to look into a leaking window, strange noise from the suspension, non working CD player, etc, etc. And while you waited for service you could talk to the engineers and designers of your vehicle. In addition, you get to talk directly to the mechanic/technician who will work on your vehicle. In fact you can actually watch the entire repair as long as you don’t interfere. Well you can do that at Tiffin, and even tour the factory if you have time.

So on Sunday, 16DEC, we drove for seven hours to the little town of Red Bay. Tiffin prefers that you make an appointment, but getting an appointment is very hard because many Tiffin owners make a yearly appointment even if nothing needs fixing on their RV! But we were hoping that we could get one of the three hour service slots that don’t require appointment. Sometimes there is even a line of RVs waiting for one of the three hour slots. When you check into the Tiffin RV park you fill out work list of what you want fixed/looked at, which we did Sunday night. Monday morning Norris was knocking on our door to go over the list. Turns out Norris reviews all work lists with the owners to make sure it is clear what exactly is needed. Interestingly Norris will often tell you how to do the repair cheaper than they will, or to “live with it” because the repair cost will be very high for benefit gained.

Another nice thing about factory work, is that the hourly rates are less than at RV dealerships and they bill in 15 minute increments. Lastly, when one of the young mechanics (ie 30/40 years old) gets stumped, they will call over one of the older mechanics for help (or even consult one of the in house engineers), and you don’t get doubled billed for time. We were fortunate that after lunch on Monday they got us into a service bay (there are over fifty bays), and had 90% of the work done.

The next day we participated in the morning factory tour. Dan felt that the organization on the assembly line left a little to be desired. Although self drive RVs are very expensive items, all RV owners live with the fact that there will several problems (hopefully minor ones) in a brand new RV no matter the brand. Probably a good thing the Japanese haven’t gotten into the RV market. Turns out that the company was providing a free BBQ lunch to the employees. Our tour guide got us a free lunch. Upon our return to the Tiffin RV park, we discovered that everything was done on our work list. In fact, while the mechanic was working on our last item, the electric motor on our hydraulic levelers burned out and they replaced it. Even with the cost of the motor, our bill was probably half of what it would have been at a RV dealership.

All-in-all we are very happy with our trip to the Tiffin RV factory and will try for an appointment next year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

14NOV-15DEC - Houma, LA (turkey day & wedding bells)

Tomorrow, 16DEC, we get back on the road for a couple of weeks after more than a month back in Houma. We have been parked in our driveway for most of the time. Every now and then we have paid to park at the Civic Center so that we can dump our sewage tanks. It has been nice to be back and visit our Louisiana friends, but even being parked in your own driveway and not being able to use the house gets old after awhile. Although we will miss our friends and the kids, we will be glad when the house sells and we have one less thing to worry about.

Anyway, our days have been filled with lots, and lots, of little errands that seem important but really aren’t; catching up on medical appointments; etc. Since the RV can only comfortably entertain six people, our daughter Rebecca decided she would take care of the family Thanksgiving meal. This was ok by us but Corrie still did most of the work/cooking. This is because Rebecca’s oven was broken, only two burners on the stove worked, the microwave was only big enough for one bag of popcorn, and her selection of pots of pans was limited. So Corrie prepared most of the meal the day before in the RV and we hauled it to Rebecca’s and Raymond’s. Everything came together and the food was excellent. Our son Joe was there with his fiancĂ© Ashley and her daughter Allison; along with one of Raymond’s co-workers.

As we stated in our last blog entry Rebecca was engaged and discussing wedding plans with her fiancĂ© Raymond Pitre. Neither of them wanted a big wedding and would have been happy to go to City Hall with small number of friends and just do it. The end result was because of us RV’ing, Raymond’s upcoming National Guard commitments, and other factors, that they would get married on 15DEC!!! Once again most of the arranging fell to Corrie. We arranged for a Saturday afternoon ceremony at a Bed and Breakfast owned by Judge Ellender (guess who presided over the ceremony?). Turns out the Judge owns an antebellum home called Grand Bayou Noir on Bayou Black (get it?) and he also rents the property for parties and events.

Actually having only three weeks to plan and execute a wedding was for us a lot less stressful than what we have seen of people having months or a year to plan it. And since our expenses for the entire thing were less than average cost of an American wedding, we have agreed to pay for the honeymoon (ski trip to Utah in January) and contribute to down payment on their first house.

Since Dan has a business trip 21JAN and we have another round of medical appointments at the end of JAN, we decided to get on the road tomorrow. Our first stop will be the Tiffin RV factory in Red Bay, Alabama; eventually meeting our friends the Guldenschuhs in Florida for New Years. We have no idea where we will be for X-mas, but aren’t really concerned about it. In fact, we aren’t buying any gifts and we probably won’t even have any type of decorations at all in the RV.