Sunday, January 29, 2017

Rallying in Naples

Webster's Dictionary lists several definitions for the word rally.  Two that applied to Tim and I this past week are to recover/rebound and to join in a common cause.

Worn from our participation in the Habitat for Humanity build in Delray Beach, we needed time to recoup our energy before traveling to the next HFH construction site.  So we arrived in Naples, FL last Sunday for four days of rest prior to this weekend's Crab Fest, a gathering of Prevost RV owners at the Naples Motorcoach Resort.  This consortium of owners gave us the chance to reconnect with friends we'd made at previous Prevost rallies in Lakeland, FL and Foley, AL last spring.  Not only that, these rallies are a great venue for sharing knowledge about life on the road and even more importantly what makes our bus run.

But first, there was R & R.  Just as Frommer's travel guide to Naples promised, this sleepy, swanky city defines the meaning of R & R, since there's not much to do here besides linger on the beach, play golf, and dream.  I would add shopping (or at least, window-shopping) to that list.

Monday we made our way to Waterside Shops, an outdoor mall with posh stores such as Saks 5th Avenue, Tiffany's, Nordstrom, and luckily for us, an Apple store.  Our laptop needed a new battery.  We've drained the one it has to the point that the only way to boot the darn thing up anymore is to plug in its power cord which sports its own wrapping of tape.  However, the young--aren't they all barely out of their teens in that store?--man with whom we met informed us that a new battery had to be ordered for our old machine.  It would not arrive until after we left Naples.  That put a crimp in our plans, but later this spring we'll be near another Apple store in Tampa.  Hopefully, we can order the battery well ahead of time so it can be replaced then.

Meanwhile, we took advantage of the store's free wifi.  Tim updated our laptop's operating system while I sat on a bench outside and downloaded a dozen library books onto my Kindle.  Then, we window shopped the mall.  Living in an RV has dimmed my desire to shop.  We live by the axiom that for every item that goes into the bus, another must be discarded.  Furthermore, we seem to live in T-shirts and jeans so those strictures take the fun out of shopping.  Window shopping, however, is still allowed.

And the beach is always free!   

The pier is one of the most photographed locations in Naples. 

Another location that drew us daily was Eagle Lakes, a nearby city park.

The park's lakes surrounded by trails were the perfect place to birdwatch while walking to stay fit.

Artist Dale Chihuly's 35-foot Icicle Chandelier hangs in the lobby of the Baker Museum. 

The Baker Museum of Art has a small but impressive collection of the works, mostly by American artists.

There I found (above clockwise from upper left) Woman in a Hat, 1934 by Pablo Picasso,
Old House, East Hampton, 1917 by Childe Hassam,
Shakespearean Equation: Twelfth Night, 1948 by Man Ray,
Harlem Street Scene, 1975 by Jacob Lawrence
and Flowers, 1941 by Georgia O'Keefe.

Plus, an introduction to some American artists that I'd not known before.  Again, clockwise from upper left:
West Front of the Capitol Steps, Washington, D.C., c. 1902-04 by Colin Campbell Cooper,
Armistice Day, The New York Public Library, 1918 by Theresa Bernstein,
Wall Street, the Noon Hour, 1925 by Felicie Waldo Howell,
Building of Manhattan Bridge, 1909 by Gerrit A. Beneker, and
The Nest Egg, 1910 by Abbott Fuller Graves.

Farm on the Smokey by Birger Sandzen

To my delight, there was a painting, Farm on the Smokey, by Birger Sandzen, an artist who lived in Lindsborgh, KS not far from my hometown.

On Thursday, Prevost RVs began to fill up the resort.  Tim was in seventh heaven as he talked shop with the other owners.  Malfunctions and maintenance issues were discussed and analyzed beyond my compression.  I enjoyed hearing about everyone's journeys, places they'd been, campgrounds where they'd stayed and funny stories of mishaps along the way.


Saturday night Corey who is a professional chef as well as a Prevost owner boiled up a vat of crab legs.  

Two of the men cracked the crab shells so the diners could more easily extract the meat.

By the end of the week, our spirits and our friendships had definitely rallied in the somnolent, sumptuous city of Naples.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Hard to Beat!

Only 22 days into 2017 and already Tim and I believe we've found our favorite campground and bike trails for the year.

John Prince County Park Campground is going to be hard to beat.  

That's where the Habitat for Humanity affiliate of Delray Beach, FL negotiated a deal for us to stay while we volunteered at their build.

Our spacious campsite was right on the banks of Lake Osborne.

As we left for the build site at the crack of dawn every morning, we were treated to the sun's gathering light as it rose over the lake.  

Each day's light show seemed even more spectacular than the last.

A gift for getting up so early!

Yet another up side to our punctual arrival at work was the early quitting time.

We generally left the worksite around 3 p.m., giving us plenty of time to walk or ride John Prince County Park's five miles of trails to the far side of the lake and back again.

This trail provide ample opportunities to birdwatch.

Also along the trail was this--a Little Free Library, part of a nonprofit initiative to spur neighbors to read more.  One may take a book from the box in return for leaving a book for the next passerby.  Think of it as a little human bird feeder.

My favorite fowl was the cormorant who perched on a branch just beyond our picnic table.  

These aquatic birds dive below the surface of the water to feed on the fish they find.  After fishing, they go ashore and seem to worship the sun as they spread their wings to dry.  Why they do this is a subject for debate.  Some experts say that this behavior is due to the lack of oil on their feathers which requires them to dry their wings before submerging again.  Others believe this is instrumental in regulating their internal temperature.  Regardless, this bird was sunbathing every afternoon when we returned from work.

On Monday, our day off, we drove to a nearby portion of the Everglades National Park, our first visit to a National Park in this new year.  The area we biked is called the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge.  Loxahatchee is a Seminole Indian name which means "River of Turtles."  We missed the turtles, but we did log our first sight of an alligator in 2017, undocumented digitally because who wants to stay in close proximity to those teeth.

So, all in all we are off to a great beginning in 2017!  One that will be difficult to surpass in the coming twelve months.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Strong to the Finich!

I'm Popeye the Sailor Man.
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man.
I'm strong to the finich
'Cause I eat me spinach.
I'm Popeye the Sailor Man.

Our site supervisor for the Habitat for Humanity build in Delray Beach, FL uses the sobriquet Popeye--as in Popeye, the cartoon character.

Even after two weeks of working under Popeye's leadership, I didn't know his real name but his collection of Popeye shirts rivals the number of Habitat T-shirts we are accumulating with every build we participate in.  Unfortunately, I snapped Popeye's picture on the day he wore an incongruous New England Patriots tee, the only day he was out of character.

In every Popeye cartoon, the sailor is invariably put into what seems like an impossible situation, only to use his strength, ingenuity and oversimplified diplomatic arguments to emerge the victor.

I'm one tough Bazookas
Which hates all Palookas
Wot ain't on the up and square.
I biffs 'em and buffs 'em
And always out roughs 'em
But none of 'em gets nowhere.

When Tim and I and the six other Care-A-Vanners on our team arrived on the scene, it seemed a herculean task to take the shells of two houses and outfit them with interior walls and shingle roofs.

I was the only palooka, the one who had never done either job before, but I quickly learned.  

All it took was a willingness to swing a hammer.


Our teammates this time ran the gamut from Lee who has worked over 50 Habitat builds

Diane & Mike

to Mike and Diane who were on their very first foray.  

Marie & Ray

Ray and Marie from Maine try to volunteer at least once a year for Habitat.  


And Ralph brought a wealth of carpentry experiences to this job site.  

New friendships were made as we framed the walls in the homes of the Singletary and Cantave/Jerome families.

Laura is in the center between Mike and Tim.

Laura's house was a rehab project in another neighborhood.  We spent Saturday morning priming the exterior and in return, she fed us hamburgers and hot dogs--but no spinach--for lunch.

If anyone dares to risk my "Fisk",
It's "Boff" an' it's "Wham" un'erstan'?
So keep "Goo Be-hav-or"
That's your one life saver
With Popeye the Sailor Man.

Although Popeye didn't throw any punches like his cartoon alter ego, he did keep us, plus 60 students from Lynn University and another group of 20 volunteers from a nearby 55-and-older community on our good behavior.  

And the seemingly arduous task of roofing two houses was accomplished in just three days.

Lee, Tim, Cindy, Ralph, Marie & Ray

Plenty of time to spare for a celebratory lunch--but again no spinach--at Benny's on the Beach, a recommendation from Popeye.

Oh, and by the way, Popeye's given name is Donald which conjures up another cartoon character, Donald Duck.  Na!  Popeye is a much better fit.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

2016 By the Numbers

Just one year ago, Tim and I loaded up the Dawntreader and embarked on a new life as full-time RVers.  What a wonderful year it has been!  A look at the numbers we racked up in 2016 gives us a helpful review of where we've been and what we've learned.  So here goes!

Number of miles the Dawntreader traveled:  15,000 miles

Stafford, KS to Dallas to New Orleans to Carrabelle, FL to Fellsmere, FL to Indiantown, FL to Fort Myers to Vicksburg to San Antonio to Santa Fe and back to Stafford

Stafford, KS to Badlands to Mt. Rushmore to Devils Tower to Theodore Roosevelt Nat'l Park to Glacier Nat'l Park to Grand Tetons to Yellowstone to Sheridan, WY to Stafford, KS

Stafford, KS to Louisville to Nashville to Washington, D.C. to Key West to Fort Myers to Orlando

Humanity builds in which we participated:  7
Fellsmere, Indiantown, Fort Myers, Hobbs, Santa Fe, Sheridan and Fort Myers once again
Fellsmere, FL

Construction skills learned (in my case) and honed by Tim: Installing baseboard, cabinets, soffits, sinks, windows & doors; framing, roofing, painting & landscaping.  Almost everything!

Campgrounds where we stayed: 28

KOA at the entrance to Devil's Tower National Monument
Overnights at Walmart or Love's Country Store:  Too numerous to count since we generally stayed at a Walmart for a quick overnight while traveling to the next build or national park.  No need to unhook our towed Jeep!

National Parks visited: 10
Hot Springs, Great Smoky Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns, Badlands, Wind Cave, Theodore Roosevelt, Glacier, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain

Other NPS monuments, memorials or historic sites:  14

Mount Rushmore National Memorial

Budget for 2016:  We stayed within our budget, even though we exceeded the maintenance category for the 15-year-old Dawntreader.

Best adventure

Parasailing off the Florida Keys

Favorite beach

St. Augustine, FL

Best sunrise
Logan's Peak at the top of Going-to-the-Sun Road
Glacier National Park
Best sunset at the beach

Key Largo, FL
Best sunset at the mountains

Grand Teton National Park

Favorite restaurant
Bella on the Riverwalk, San Antonio

Best Key Lime Pie
A toss-up between Hog Heaven Bar & Grill in Islamorada, FL and Sundowers in Key Largo

Favorite National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park
Two of our favorite hikes

  The Black Hills
Mills Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

Most beautiful church
Memorial Presbyterian Church, St. Augustine
Our favorite bike trail was too close to call

Grand Teton National Park

George S. Mickelson Trail in the Black Hills

Most inspirational place:

Grand Teton National Park

It's been an amazing year and we're grateful for the wonderful people we've met and the opportunities we've had to see this magnificent country in which we live.