Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bushnell With Friends

The bright spot in our month long stay at Alliance Coach in Wildwood would be reuniting with  friends we met last year in Bushnell.  We met Pam and Joe last year when we had side-by-side campsites. Joe and Pam have two dogs, a Tibetan Spaniel named Izzy and a Maltese named Ally. We've stayed in touch with Joe and Pam throughout the year and looked forward to reconnecting in Florida. 

Our rendezvous this year was at the Monday Flea Market at Webster, a tiny town not far from Bushnell and Wildwood.  The weather is real warm (mid-70's). It was a great reunion and we spent several hours strolling among other flea marketers, eating junk and catching up on news we hadn't already shared on Facebook.  It was great. 
Pam and Joe on the left. Wayne with Lexie and Ozzie on the right.

Another day while we were at Alliance, Joe and Pam brought Izzy and Ally over for a visit and and to try out my new dog clippers on Izzy, who desperately needed a haircut.  I'd been anxious for Joe to try them as he and I commiserate over dog grooming.   Here are some of the scenes of Izzy's haircut.

Joe is serious when he trims his girls.

That's Pam and Ally -- Wayne holding Ozzie, who's glad he's not getting another haircut!

Izzy is really relaxed.

When we finally left Alliance on Saturday, December 8th, we drove the few short miles south to Bushnell where we joined Pam and Joe at Paradise Oaks Golf and RV Resort. Other friends and familiar faces were there too.  It's a nice thing to run into friends in travel.

First order of business for our group was preparation of our "Poor Man's Dinner" on Monday afternoon.  Joe and I like mixed greens, Wayne and Pam do not. Another trip to the flea market at Webster and I had more turnip, mustard and collard greens than we'd ever eat.  I also fried potatoes while Pam made cornbread and 15 bean soup  We invited our pal Billie to join us.  All four guest dogs joined Lexie and Ozzie in the outside pen while we ate.

Only Joe would be brazen enough for this picture. 
A bottle of Beano in which everyone would partake before supper.

Izzy looking for a cool spot.

Ally looking for a lap on which to perch.

Joe is in charge of stirring the fried potatoes.
Ozzie, the only boy dog in the area, takes respite in Pop's lap.

Another day we'd return to Catfish Johnny's, a local fish house we discovered last year. We all ordered catfish and we began lunch with alligator bites and onion rings.  While Pam and I enjoyed our meal, both Joe and Wayne complained that their lunch wasn't as good as last year.

The resident Paradise Oaks turtle.

Joe telling some kind of Marine Corps lie -- Wayne isn't buying any of it.

Lexie and Ozzie got holiday baths on a warm, sunny day. Both are good dogs on bath day, Ozzie gets a little nervous so Wayne puts him on the counter to watch as Lexie gets the first scrub. 

Lexie always enjoys an "after bath" nap.  She's still damp and asleep under a dry towel.
Ozzie is getting the rub down from Pop.

As our week winds down at Paradise Oaks, we enjoyed a final evening together with Joe and Pam and Billie.  Once more all the dogs visited as we had a house full of excitement, running and play.

The view out our coach window just before the rain and wind blew through.

Joe and Pam came by with Izzy and Ally.
Billie is on her way with her pug name Zoey and Tadora, her 3 pound Yorkie.

Pop treated all the pups to his nighttime treat of baked sweet potato.
Every single dog loved 'em.

Later that evening, high winds and rain moved in followed by a terribly cold snap -- in the very low 30's.  By Friday afternoon, Billie had departed to visit family in North Florida.  On Saturday morning, Joe and Pam pulled out for a week-long visit with family in Hollywood. We moved on down to Bradenton.

We will remain in this general vicinity until mid-January when we'll take in the 2013 Tampa RV Supershow.

Friday, December 21, 2012

My Final Analysis of Alliance Coach

In the end, our stay at Alliance Coach in Wildwood would be one complete month and end rather disastrously. The Thetford toilet part was never actually ordered, I found out during the fourth week when I finally spoke to Mike Hawkins, manager of the service department.  Seems our service advisor, an idiot named Will, closed out our service order on Wednesday before Thanksgiving and never re-opened another service order when we told him the toilet was not fixed.  Hawkins never told me the truth about the part, but I realized it later in the week. 

On our 28th day at Alliance, the black tank sensor was unattached from the tank and that is the remedy we're using. Disappointing but certainly workable.  The same day we learned our replacement faucet had arrived at Alliance over two weeks ago and was being held in the parts department -- again our service advisor failed to manage the process.  We had asked to have the coach washed (at $2 per foot), but that was never done either.

The new matching faucet was installed on Thursday afternoon and we did several checks for leaks before we replaced the towels in the cabinet and retired for the night.  The next morning we awoke to a flooded bathroom and water pouring from the underside of the coach.  Wayne mistakenly thought the outside dripping was due to overflow of the fresh water tank, which he decided to disinfect while we're here.  It was not.  The water was rushing out from the underside of the faucet, down the cabinet wall and into the lower section of the coach. 

Alliance service technicians arrived on the scene within minutes of my panicked call. The leak was repaired and we were advised that we should use our propane heat to dry the coach. Bummer.... Guess who pays for that propane.  Oh yeah.  Guess Alliance Coach doesn't have a fan -- we'll use ours.

Adding insult to injury, the service manager never contacted me to see that our repairs had been made. Furthermore, after Friday morning, not a single service technician ever came back to the coach to reconnect the furnace vent, the cabinet floor, to offer to pay for the heap of towel laundry I'd do that afternoon or to acknowledge our order to have the coach washed. Seems a complimentary wash would have been in order after that anyway, but it didn't happen.  We've truly fallen between the cracks.

On Saturday morning, we pulled the coach together ourselves and left Alliance Coach.  I did ask to have a service order opened for the probable damage to the floor as a result of the flooding in case it occurs after the new coach warranty period is over.

Where, I wondered, is the trouble with this order for service? Perhaps Wayne and I are not demanding enough though we're certainly learning that service is dead almost everywhere. If it were to do over, I'd be more demanding and stay in the face of those involved every step of the way.  Our service advisor, Will, is more likely the culprit as I've concluded his work is sloppy and interest in his customers is existent only when he is threatened.  Finally, my greatest disappointment is in the service manager, Mike Hawkins, to whom I went in frustration. He never made an attempt to check to see if we had received the service we'd waited so long to receive.

Did we complain further to management?  No we didn't and maybe we should have done that but in the end we were so exhausted we just wanted to leave. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving Alliance

Wildwood, Florida - Temperature Highs: Low 70's, Lows: 50's and sunny everyday.  Yesterday marked the second full week we've been at the Alliance Coach campground in Wildwood, Florida.  We pulled in to have a few factory warranty items checked and didn't expect to be here such a long time. It's likely we'll be here a few days next week too.  Our Thanksgiving feast, here in the coach in the campground, began with boiled shrimp and champagne followed by a fabulous feast of turkey and dressing, sweet potatoes, green beans, salad and topped off with apple pie.  Lovely... thanks to Marie Calendar and her frozen dinners.  No cooking, no cleanup and no leftovers.  Gotta love it.

Alliance Coach is a what's referred to as a "Premier" Monaco dealer.  Unsure exactly what that is, I only can surmise that they are a bit like a "regional" shop for Monaco/Navistar, providing a full array of services, particularly important for those of us who are still under factory warranty but far away from the dealer through which we purchased our coach.
Alliance Coach campground.
Staying in the Alliance Coach campground is free to service customers. Sites here may be used when traveling through (without service) for a small nightly fee.
The new and used inventory is on the left in this picture.
The campground is on the opposite site.

I must confess it's been pretty enjoyable being here at Alliance Coach. The benefit of being among one's RV'ing peers is educational and we like seeing the motorhomes coming through. Our daily review of the new and used inventory is fun too.  Alliance Coach has about two dozen class A units with 2013's coming in regularly.  We've met some nice people here in the campground  -- plenty we'd enjoy seeing again along the road.

This sign is adjacent to the "Pet Walk" area. 
Inviting, eh?  This sign is about 20 yards from our site.
Our first week here, a troublesome accident did occur when someone's black tank emptied during the night/early morning hours.  The company attempted to do a cleanup, using bleach, but it caused us to stop walking Lexie and Ozzie in the area. We were forced to find another walking place.

Fortunately, Alliance has control of an adjoining property that includes a nice long stretch of concrete roadway, free of traffic, that leads to an empty building.  We put the pups into their stroller (which they love) and ride them about 100 yards to the concrete roadway for their walks.  Sometimes, we walk around the grassy lot where the motorhome inventory is parked. The grass there is cut (or mashed) close to the ground and there is no auto traffic.

The unused clean, smooth concrete roadway where we walk Lexie and Ozzie.
None of our warranty repair issues are major... just some little things that need to be completed before the factory warranty runs out in a few months.

One of the things on our list is to get a new faucet to replace the one that developed a leak, was deemed "broken beyond repair" by a Kentucky dealer and replaced with one that didn't match because that dealer didn't have the one we needed.  It will have to be ordered from Monaco.

This is the original bathroom faucet.

The temporary replacement faucet. 
Other items on our warranty list were:
  1. The "Park" light on the instrument panel doesn't always come on. The problem is intermittent.
  2. The big living room tv sometimes goes black.  An intermittent problem.
  3. The fuel gauge doesn't seem accurate sometimes. An intermittent problem.

We also needed to replace our coaches windshield wiper blades -- not a warranty item. Wayne has had no luck finding them... even through windshield wiper manufacturers.

The "devil" commode.
The problem lies in that little lighted switch mounted
on the wood just below the tissue roll.
The yellow light (in this picture) is warning...
I suppose the worst of our problems, though, is with the commode.  Our motorhome has an electric commode. 

An electric toilet is not, I repeat "not" a good idea.  There's just something about using the words "electric" and "toilet" together that seems unsafe to me.

Furthermore, a half-broken electric commode is a real drag.  I wish it would be either "fixed" or "broken" because it sometimes flushes and it does what's called a "lock out" and won't allow flushing.

For the benefit of our "non-RVing" friends, a normal camper toilet simply dumps into what's referred to as "the black water tank".   This one uses an electric pump to push the flush waste into that same "black water tank"...

The intermittent problems, of course, cannot be repaired because they can't be found until they are completely broken.  

As for the toilet, it was first thought that the problem was remedied by replacing the little lighted switch seen in the picture. I was skeptical and never thought for a second that the devil commode was fixed.  Anyway, it was Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we chose to stay put through the weekend and it's a good thing we made that choice.

Turns out I was right and the devil toilet locked us out yet again.  We're waiting for parts from the manufacturer.  They should be here early next week.  Meanwhile, our only fee payable to Alliance Coach was $2.49 for a new Blue Ox tow pin that Wayne bought.  We can't complain.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Visits to FSU, Carrabelle Beach, St. George Island And Apalachicola

Temperature High: High 60's - Low 40:  Today's post will cover two days of exploring Northcentral Florida. 

Yesterday, we took a 120 mile round trip from our campground at Carrabelle Beach to Tallahassee where we made our first visit ever to the campus of Florida State University.

The FSU campus is lovely, plenty of trees and while you're there it's easy to forget you're in a state's capitol city. 

After a bit of exploring, we found beautiful Doak Campbell Stadium where the Seminoles play football. We parked at Moore Athletic Center and strolled around, taking a few pictures.

I especially liked this "Sportsmanship" statue, so I posed Wayne and the furkids for a photo.

This larger than life statue of former Seminoles Coach, Bobby Bowden was placed here in 2004.
In 2013 a statue of Coach Bowden will be erected in Birmingham.  He and his wife are from Birmingham.  
Then this morning, we took Lexie and Ozzie across the street for a walk on the beach.  Dogs are welcomed on the beach here, though leashes are required.

Carrabelle Beach is the only Florida beach that I know of that allows dogs. Yay!

An exhausted Ozzie after running up and down the beach.

After a little while, we let Ozzie off the leash so he could run in the sand...and he did. He's such a funny little guy. He runs like an antelope and makes quick stops and starts, kicks sand and spins around.

Lexie can't be released as we're afraid she won't let us pick her up if a threat occurred. 

It is a public beach after all.

Only one person passed us on the beach during the hour we were there. An older woman strolling the beach in a heavy overcoat. 

Yep, it was a little cool. 
My hero.

From the beach we took the pups back to the coach to brush the sand from them. Both had managed to get sand all over their faces, legs and tummies.

Once the dogs were cleaned a bit and Ozzie had time to finish his breakfast leftovers, we loaded into the car for a short ride to Apalachicola for oysters.
Time to go now. 

It took about a half hour to reach Apalachicola from Carrabelle Beach.  Wayne has been waiting in happy anticipation to have oysters. Having given up raw oysters many years ago, he's reduced to eating only cooked ones these days.

We read some good reviews on Papa Joe's Oyster Bar and Grill. It is a dumpy place, right on the water.
Wayne's fried oysters and my shrimp were terrific. 
Papa Joe's is certainly not a fancy, or even a nice, restaurant.  It's a waterside "dive" for oyster eaters. Molded plastic tables and chairs, cheap paneling and dirty windows adorn the "patio" dining area. It's one of those places where you don't really want to touch anything except the food and you just try not to think of how the kitchen must look.

Wayne's is ready to jump into his basket of fried oysters.  I'll clean up that shrimp basket in short order too.
Ohhhh yes, a cholesterol-filled feast -- but it was good!

I took this Bubba Gump-ish shrimp boat picture through the very dirty window by our table.

The town of Apalachicola is as nautical as I'd dared hope it would be. Because today is Tuesday, the day after Veteran's Day, and it is cool and overcast, there are really no crowds.  We spent a couple of hours exploring the town made famous by the lowly oyster.

This is a "Three Soldiers" statue. This particular one is a detailed cast from the original molds of 
The Three Soldiers statue at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, DC, erected in 1984.
The sculptor, Frederick Hart, died in 1999. His family collaborated with the local people to create this one in 2008.

A typical house in Apalachicola
Downtown, we came upon a cute little shop called PETunia... for pets and their owners. That's where I found this terrific door mat.  There were three really funny ones. It was hard to choose...

Those are my feet... not a picture on the mat.

Returning to Carrabelle Beach we took the short detour across the bridge to St George Island where we were found the St. George Lighthouse.    

St. George Lighthouse
St George's Island was a really pleasant place.  It's a long, narrow barrier island with nice little beach houses.

I've been seeing these signs. Never thought about bears being here. Looks funny to see a "bear warning" sign alongside a beach....

These bear crossing signs look so strange along the seashore. 

Our time at Carrabelle Beach is winding down. In a few days we'll be moving along.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Carrabelle Beach: The Forgotten Coast Of Florida

Our campsite is across the road from the beach.
Carrabelle Beach, looking west.
Auburn's hideous 2011 football season prompted an early departure from the Loveliest Village this year. Two home games remain and ordinarily we would stay for both of them. We decided, after the second week at Chewacla, though, to move along to Florida -- our winter destination.

Carrabelle Beach is our first stop where we're staying at a nice RV Resort directly across US 98 from the Gulf of Mexico. 

As you can see there is but one lone sole on the beach.
This was taken at around 9:00 on Saturday morning.
This area, east of Apalachicola, southwest of Tallahassee, is known as Florida's Forgotten Coast and prides itself on being "away from the hustle and bustle" of tourist crowds.
It does look forgotten -- even a bit neglected. There are lots of dilapidated houses, boarded up businesses and buildings for sale.  We've seen plenty "bank owned" properties. Between the bad economy and the Deepwater Horizon BP Oil Spill, it's no wonder things look so bad here. 

My shadow along the sand at the beach.
You can tell it's me by that darned hat.

Shrimp boats, fishing charters, marinas and rental cottages are seen in the communities here. Long stretches of tall pines grow along the roadways and I really like the "sleepy" look of things.

I'm trying to resume my morning walks and it's easy to do here at the beach. Not surprisingly, the beaches here are near white, sugar sand.

Crooked River Lighthouse: One of Carrabelle's landmarks is the Crooked River Lighthouse. It's about a half-mile from the campground -- close enough to be a morning walk destination.

It's a nice one and tall too. 

Tupelo Honey:  Luckily, we're in Tupelo honey territory and I replenished my supply from a roadside stand yesterday.  My friend Tom introduced me to this delicious sweet nectar two years ago.

Tupelo honey is produced from the White Ogeechee Tupelo blossom  that grows around the Ogeechee, Apalachicola and Chattahoochee river basins in northwest Florida. These river valleys are the only place in the world where Tupelo Honey is produced commercially. Bee hives are placed along the river's edge and bees fan out through the surrounding Tupelo-blossom-rich swamps during April and May and return with nectar to produce their liquid treasure.

Pure Tupelo honey is amber colored with a slight green cast.  It is a choice table grade honey with a delicious flavor and delicate taste. Only honey produced from the White Tupelo will not granulate. Due to it's high laevulose, low dextrose content, doctors recommend it to some diabetic patients.
The World's Smallest Police Station: Carrabelle is the home of the "World's Smallest Police Station". In 1963, prompted by unauthorized long distance calls on the city's police phone, the booth was first installed. Eventually, to completely eliminate the costly long distance calls, the dial had to be removed from the phone inside the booth.
The Carrabelle Police Station has been featured on television shows "Real People", "Ripley's Believe It or Not", "The Today Show", "Johnny Carson".

The World's Smallest Police Station
Carrabelle, Florida
Life has not always been a barrel of laughs for the old St. Joseph Telephone and Telegraph Company phone booth. Vandals have ripped phones out of it and have shot holes through the glass. Some idiot from Tennessee (not us, I promise) tried to load it into his truck to take it home.
Monster Truck Alert! And now, for my final entry into the Carrabelle Beach post, I'll include this  truck photo.  Evidently there was some kind of mud slinging rally for such vehicles near here last weekend. This one was parked near our rig.  Ummmm. I'll report, you decide.

We're looking forward to a ride to nearby Apalachicola for oysters soon.  I'll let you know how it goes.  Wayne loves oysters -- I'll have an order of shrimp, please.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

National Infantry Museum: A Second Visit

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 - Fort Benning, Georgia - Temperature High 65 (and breezy) Low 39 - Two years ago this month we visited the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Fort Benning, Georgia. We went with friends, DJ and Tom.  Because we arrived late (a time zone difference that we forgot), our visit was cut short that day and we made a vow we'd return for a more thorough tour. 

"Remember officers and soldiers that you are
 free men fighting for the blessings of liberty"
 .... General George Washington         August 23, 1776

This visit we began outside, with a stroll down Heritage Walk, a flag-flanked concrete and "paver flanked" walkway that connects the museum to to the parade field. 

The engraved pavers, and there are thousands of them, honor soldiers and those who love them.  It's nice. 

Lexie and Ozzie walked on leash down the walkway, passed the General George Washington memorial, the early Army tanks and out to the parade grounds.

Inside the main building we went through the "Last 100 Yards" ramp again.  This is a moving display.

Pictures and video just can't do justice to this memorable introduction to the U.S. Army Infantry.

Inside the "Last 100 Yards" display. 

This is, undoubtedly, the very best military museum we've seen.

It surely makes a terrific recruiting tool for the Army Infantry. 

Makes 'ya just wanna sign up!

Who wouldn't want one of these pinned on their chest? 

The expansive museum covers all the major conflicts of the United States and includes an awe inspiring Hall of Valor....

Of course, our war is the horrific Vietnam conflict. There are several displays like this one.

We completed the inside and outside tour of the museum and recommend it to everyone who is interested in any part of military service.  If you visit, allow at least 6 hours to see everything.