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.