Saturday, January 17, 2015

Becoming Floridians

In the fall of 2012 we opted to make South Dakota our official state of residency, becoming "Paper South Dakotans."  There were a whole host of reasons for choosing South Dakota, not the least of which is that it's easy for full-time RV'ers to become residents -- there's no income tax and a bunch of financially benefiting factors that I won't go into here.

We were happy as paper South Dakotans. I even posted about it in September 2012 where I included an image of the state flag and map, a photo of our paper residence and our single paper employee.

But alas...the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as "Obamacare" changed everything for us.

Here's what happened. Wayne is over age 65 and therefore, a recipient of Medicare with a supplement. Not much change for him when Obamacare was passed.  It was my problem.  Not age 65, I must buy private health care which, while expensive, was not hard to obtain in September 2012.  With the change in the healthcare law, though, the residency loopholes available for full-time RV'ers were closed and the insurance companies were required to obtain proof of actual residency in the state. Some companies opted to leave the state, including the one I used.  I spent countless hours researching, telephoning and shopping. If I managed to find a company willing to write my coverage, any claims I might have could very well be denied because we didn't really LIVE in South Dakota.

We looked at our options and restudied the choices, finally choosing to become Floridians. That means a new mail agent which, in turn, meant change of addresses on everything, right down to the cute little personal cards we hand out to people we meet.  We got new Florida drivers licenses, new license plates for the car and the coach, had the insurance changed on both vehicles, changed Wayne insurance and prescription drug addresses, which meant at least one change in company.  It wasn't cheap or easy, but we did it.

Welcome to Florida.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

DJ and Tom Visit for Christmas at Seminole

In December 2014, of our usual Seminole Campground troop, just Charlie and Joyce and Linda and Dale, and Wayne and I were here. That's plenty of folks to have a good time though and we enjoyed being together immensely -- eating, visiting, nesting, planning to eat and then eating all over again. 

Joyce, Linda and I walked lots mornings and enjoyed having the campground's newly created lake beach walking area added to our route.  It was on one of these morning walks through a nearby neighborhood that we found a home for the kittens I wrote about earlier.  Added benefit of walking! 

The lake at Seminole Campground Beach.
No swimming, no fishing and feeding the alligators.
I was ready with the camera to snap
a campground Christmas tree decorating moment with Linda. 

The winter was fraught with unusual happenings in addition to the kitten adoptions to keep us busy. Linda had a couple of sick days, certainly out of the ordinary for her, including a week of flu which none of us caught, I'm happy to say. She made several trips home to take care of family matters and I missed her something awful when she was gone.  She is my hairdresser, after all.. Ha ha.

Wayne and I took our time settling in at our campsite, unloading the car and storing our bicycles, dog wagon, grooming table and other stuffs in the little shed we're renting from the campground. Life here was good, even though the weather was nasty hot and humid for a long while.  I suffer in humidity. I'm from the deep south and never, ever, could stand high humidity.

Wayne resting at the campsite on a hot December afternoon. 
Our friends DJ and Tom, who live in Panama City, Florida, finally found a 2004 Dutch Star that met their lengthy list of criteria and made arrangements to buy it from a dealer somewhere in Texas.

Tom and DJ
Their new Dutch Star in the background.
The purchase of the coach seemed to have taken a really long time but I think it just felt that way because I was excited they were coming to North Fort Myers to join us for Christmas.

DJ trying, again, to steal Lexie. No such luck, DJ. 
DJ and Tom arrived the week before Christmas and the banquet hall got into full swing with DJ's delicious shrimp linguine, venison spaghetti and fried fish dinners. Banquet hall breakfasts became another meal to look forward to and love, with bacon, sausage, gravy, pancakes and bacon.

"The Banquet Hall" is a name given to the large
area at the back of our campsite where
we string two or three picnic tables together.

Dale the bacon-ater

There's a huge Fleamasters flea market in North Fort Myers where we visited several times, buying odds and ends -- some of which we needed and some we didn't.  It's another great place for us because we can take the dogs in their stroller.
DJ found lots of stuff she liked.
Christmas decorations were in place at the campground and we anxiously awaited the Christmas activities that included food.

Me with Lexie and Ozzie 

DJ belongs to an international walking association, One day, she walked a route at Sanibel Island. Joyce and I tagged along to shop while she walked. Afterward, we reconvened to enjoy a delicious, albeit long awaited, lunch at Island Cow.
A tired and hungry DJ peruses the Island Cow menu while we wait, and wait, and wait to be seated. 

Island Cow Christmas decorations 

DJ, Joyce, Lexie and Ozzie at our Island Cow patio table. 
On Christmas Eve, DJ and I endured high temperatures and sweltering humidity to walk the slough at Six Mile Cypress Preserve in Fort Myers where we took a couple of hundred pictures. These are my favorites.

DJ shooting a Mother Alligator 

One of the alligator babies 

A very well hidden cotton mouth.
I zoomed in real close but he was only about 2 foot below and 2 foot out from the boardwalk.

Diane is an AVA walk pal of Diane's. We met her in November at our Panama City stop to see Tom and DJ. She's a retiree living full-time in a 17' Casita with her cat Houtie. She is in our area, camping at a nearby Corp of Engineer Campground. She joined us for several outings, campground meals and activities.

Left to right: Charlie, DJ, Joyce, Tom and Wayne.
Notice the fish frying in the skillet in the lower right... Yum. 

Diane, Tom and DJ, whose new coach is parked behind them. 

Diane and DJ in the foreground. Background is Tom, Joyce, Wayne and Charlie.
Just after that scrumptious fried fish feast. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Campground Cat Crisis!

The original two rescued kittens with their captor, Tammi
 and their new protector, Linda.

It happens. Campgrounds have cats and cats have kittens. Kittens grow quickly and reproduce. Homeless pets are multiplying and that's a problem.

I am a cat lover and I have lots of cat loving friends and we found ourselves in the midst of a campground cat crisis in the early days of last winter.

Meet Tammi (red jacket) and Linda (pink jacket). Tammi works at Seminole Campground where we've spent the past three winters. Linda is my crazy cat lady friend and co-camper at Seminole Campground. Linda is just as obsessive over cats as I am over dogs. We compliment one another quite well.

To make a long story a little shorter...  one of the campground's ferrel-like cats (really one that was dumped here a few years ago) had a litter of kittens. Originally there were four kittens but something has already happened to one of them.  Tammi has been feeding the cat and now she's feeding the kittens but something must be done as they are all tortoise shell females and it's just a matter of time until the kittens begin to multiply. It's not a good situation. The campground's animals lovers ban together and spring into action.

As our official Cat Rescue Queen, Linda assumes responsibility of the kittens if Tammi will capture them -- two at first. The third is quite wild and will take some special cat corralling by Tammi.

Another of our group cat lovers, Joyce, along with Linda and yes, even Dale and I, become surrogate mothers to the first two kittens. They are appropriately named "Dot" and "Chin" -- you can figure out which is which and why. The kittens are kept inside Linda's "cat tent" and easily conquered once they've been tucked into the warmth of Dale's shirt a few times on the coolest mornings.

The reluctant, but willing, cat comforter, Dale.
Finally Tammi captured the third kitten but none of us was prepared for the fear this little girl felt. She hissed and spit and bit and scratched. The first few days we called her "Hissy" but quickly abandoned the name as it would certainly hamper her adoptability. After all, nobody wants to cuddle up to a mad cat.  We tried out new names... let's see, Dot and Chin, and, and, an....Annie became her name.

The week before Christmas, Linda was called to Ohio on a family matter and kitten care fell to Joyce and me. We were thrilled to take our daily "kitten therapy" but had to follow through with our leader's instruction to have the kittens spayed and made available for adoption.  Socializing had worked out well for Dot and Chin but not so much for Annie, who got me with a deep bite puncture and some scratch as I tried to collect her one day when the campground lawnmower noise got too loud. I visited a local doctor for my tetanus shot.

On December 22, Joyce and her husband, Charlie, along with Wayne and I took the kittens to Lee County Animal Shelter for their complimentary spay as part of the TNR (Trap Neuter and Release) Program. We turned them over for possible adoption with the understanding they would be returned to us for release or re-homing (instead of euthanizing) if they were not adopted. Less than a week later, we were called to retrieve the kittens as they were just not adoption material...

The "Cat House" is secure as Ozzie stands guard. 
Linda returned in January. Weeks went by as we contemplated what we'd do about the kittens. Seminole Campground is not overly accommodating to cats and was not eager to have them released, even in the storage area in the rear of the property. We made posters but we had very little interest in the wild kittens.

Our flyer. No success.

Mary, Fran, Ernie and Pam came for an afternoon visit from West Palm Beach (where they're camping this month). Joyce, Linda and I tried hard to convince Pam to take one of the kittens as a companion for the the rescued kitten she'd taken from here less than a year ago. No dice. Pam just wasn't smitten by the kittens.  Our search for homes continued.

Linda, Joyce, holding Dot, Mary, holding Chin and Pam, not holding any kittens at all! 
Finally, we happened to see a young man on one of the close by horse farm properties. We asked about rehoming the kittens there. Fortunately, even though they had enough cats, these nice people asked among their horse farm friends and all three kittens were placed in a nice, big horse barn where they will live their lives virtually "people free" --- except for the good feeding and watering they will receive.

"What happened", you may ask, "to the mother of the kittens?" Well, Momma kitty was also captured, socialized, neutered in the Lee County TNR Program and returned to the campground.  Tammi and her boyfriend Rob, who live and work at the campground, call her their own.

Another happy ending for homeless kitties.  Awwww.