Stephen Foster State Park

The next couple of weeks we will be camping with our good friends Carol and Ann.  Today we are headed to north central Florida to visit Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in the small quaint town of White Springs.

The park honors the memory of the American folk composer, Stephen Foster.  There is a museum that features several dioramas depicting stories from some of his most popular songs. Though most people may not know of Stephen Foster, they most-likely know many of his tunes:

Oh! Susanna
Camptown Races
Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair
Old Folks at Home – which starts out, “Way down upon the Suwannee River,” this became the Florida State Song and the Stephan Foster State Park is on the banks of the Suwannee River.

The campground was very nice, and we had a site right next to Carol and Ann.  You can see their rig on the right.  The sites were deep and spacious and there was lots of vegetation between them for privacy.

The park has a Carillion Tower that has 97 bells in it that plays Foster tunes many times a day.  The bells were installed in 1958 and at that time, it was one of the largest instruments ever produced in the Western Hemisphere and was the world’s largest tubular carillon.  Unfortunately, the bells broke last April and have been silent since then.  The park is working to get a grant to fix the bells which may range from $30,000 to $190,000 depending on how far away they want the bells to be heard.

The park celebrates Florida’s cultural traditions and has a Craft Square where demonstrating artists share their talents.  The crafts included pottery, fabric, blacksmith, stained glass and basket making.  The craft square was near a gift shop that sold the works of the craftspeople.

This blacksmith, Al gave the four of us a private demonstration.  We also learned a lot about the different types of coal.  He was very happy to share his knowledge with us and answer all of our questions.  We bought a lover’s bell that was in the gift shop that Al had made.  The folk lore is that if you ring the bell, you get a free hug!

He made a few items, one being a drive hook which he is making in the picture below.  Drive hooks were made for hanging items in workshops or barns and had a sharp point on one end for driving into a wall, and a hook on the other end.

We visited the White Sulphur Springs site which once was a popular health resort that attracted large numbers of people to drink the water and bathe in the springs.  The structure in the picture was built in 1908 and housed the springs, a concession area and clinical examination and treatment rooms.  The springs were said to cure everything from rheumatism and indigestion to dandruff and insomnia!

The spring waters empty directly into the Suwannee River and had a flow of 28,000 gallons per minute.  We didn’t think we would want to go swimming here due to the alligator warning!

This is a picture along the banks of Suwannee River.  In it’s heyday, the Suwannee carried many passengers on paddle boats and steamers.  It starts in Fargo, Georgia and flows over 270 miles southward into the Gulf of Mexico.

We were extremely lucky to be at the Stephen Foster Park during the January celebration of Stephen Foster Day.  While we were at the park, the 67th Annual Jeanie & Stephen vocal audition was going on.  We enjoyed watching the participants performing in their period costumes.  The girl below was auditioning for the Jeanie part and was the winner.

The next afternoon there was a performance given by last year’s winners that was filled with music and was a joy to watch.

We were able to listen to live music 5 days!  We got to listen to Appalachian Dulcimer, piano, and folk jams with numerous people from the community and the volunteer park staff.  Many of the park volunteers at this park work here so they can participate in the folk jams and be surrounded by music lovers.  We enjoyed talking with our camp host Ron who played banjo and guitar at the jams.

It is always fun to check out local restaurants, even though this was the only restaurant in town!  We had heard good things about Fat Belly’s whose specialty was BBQ and fried catfish.  While we didn’t leave with “fat belly’s”, we certainly had “full belly’s”!

Left to right – Carol, Ann, Linda & Kathy

Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?!?!?!?!

 

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Our Destination – Treasure Island, Fl

We spent some time with our friends and got our rig Minnie Pearl un-winterized and ready to head on some adventures.  The car and motorhome had to be thoroughly washed to get all the salt off.   It took three tries with the car, it was absolutely filthy – the salt stuck on like glue!

Getting off the grit!

Honey Bells and Ruby Reds

One thing we really wanted to do this trip in Florida was to buy some Honey Bell oranges.  A good friend in Delaware has talked about these oranges and we wanted to try them ourselves.  The Honey Bells are only available a few weeks a year!  We went to the Orange Shop in Citra FL and sampled lots of oranges and grapefruits!  

An orange farm in north central Florida

 We bought a bag of Honey Bells and a bag of Ruby Red grapefruits.  YUM!

Onto Fort Meyers and a Big Surprise!

Our destination was to the Fort Meyers area to visit some friends at an RV resort.  They are camped here for the winter and we stayed in their lanai.  They gave us a tour of the community and drove us around in a blue VW convertible beetle.  What fun!  It brought back memories of Linda’s old 77 VW beetle.  We had a great time and really enjoyed the visit.  We liked it so much that we have changed our plans for the winter and are going to rent a lot at the RV park for the month of February!  How about that?!?! It’s great being retired and being able to “go with the flow!”

Heidi’s pretty good about going with the flow as well. She chilled out on the 5 hour road trip to Fort Meyers.

Lots of Kites and White Sand Beaches

Our next destination was to Treasure Island, FL to attend the 2018 Treasure Island Sport Kite Championship.  It was sponsored by the Eastern League Sport Kite Association.  The beach at Treasure  Island was beautiful.

Plenty room to fly kites!

 

 

We have been to several sport kite competitions in Ocean City, MD; the Outer Banks and have especially enjoyed the Great Lakes Kite Festival at Grand Haven State Park in Michigan.  We saw several people we have met at the other festivals and competitions here in Treasure Island!  The kite ballets are our favorite event, where the kite flies to music and the flyer interprets the song into beautiful moves in the sky. 

We spent two full days at the festival and it was quite chilly!  One morning it was 39 degrees with the winds at 10 – 15 mph. 

Sunshine on Day Two!

The sun was out on the second day and by the afternoon the sky was filled with great big stationary kites while the competition with the stunt kites was going on.  Some of these kites are huge – there are some people in the pictures to give you some perspective.

 

We fly Revolution kites as you may remember from last years blog.  We especially enjoy seeing a large number of Revolution kites flying together to music.  This is a group called the RevRiders.

The Rev Riders – 8 kites! Look at all those lines!

They stand beside one another and fly in unison.  This is called team flying.  The Revolution kites are shaped like a bow tie and have four lines attached to two handles.  In team flying the lines are approximately 120 ft.  Multiply that times eight and that’s a lot of lines in the sky that could get tangled!  It requires quite a bit of skill and control, but they made it look easy!

The Rev Riders flying in formation to music. What a lovely site!

Our friend Lee, from Erie PA was at the festival and he had his stack of Revolution kites in the sky.

He is a master at kite flying and can make the kites dance and has extremely good control.  It is fun watching him interact with the crowd.

Lee flying his stack of 8 kites

We stayed at a nice dog friendly hotel about 5 blocks from the festival.  We had a kitchenette, so we only went out for dinner both weekend nights.

The hotel was modest but clean and extremely convenient to the festival.

We did have a view of the water and a great place to walk Heidi.   

The view from our room

Kathy was cleaning up from breakfast when she looked out the window and saw something looking at her!

This Snowy Egret was looking right at me!

I was out taking Heidi for a walk, when I captured this picture.  

Kathy made a friend and called him Sammy.

 This was a special memory and we enjoyed giving Sammy some doughnuts.  After his belly was full, he went on his way.

Treasure Island was a hoppin’ place and we enjoyed the energetic vibe. And it’s always fun when you see some interesting and unique people.  This lady pulled up beside us at a traffic light.

 We are looking forward to spending the month of February here to explore the area more and get some kite flying in!

 

 

 

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Brrr! It’s Cold Outside!

We found that packing Minnie Pearl in the bitter cold of this winter has been very challenging. Temperatures were below 10 degrees most of the time. We were afraid to put too much in the camper for fear of it freezing. So that left most of the packing to be done the last 2 days before we departed.

Hooking up the toad with bare hand – not fun!

Day 1 of Packing – not smooth sailing!

We pulled the camper out of the shed and we noticed that the tires needed air. We proceeded to put air in the tires during the bitter cold. However, when filling the third tire it was so dang cold that the air compressor hose snapped. It was very startling because it let off a loud bang. The wind chill was below zero so we decided to try to call a local service center in the nearby town to see if we could get them to put air in the tires. They said sure, bring it on in. We should have thought of that in the first place! Now all the tires were properly inflated.

 We got back home and continued our packing. About an hour later we noticed that the right front tire was extremely low and undriveable. So, we spent the next couple of hours driving around town to try to find parts to fix the air compressor.  Meanwhile, time was ticking away, and this was not how we wanted to spend the last two days of packing.  It was late afternoon and we were finally able to inflate the tire.

 We kept a close eye on the pressure but noticed it had lost about 10 pounds. We could feel air seeping out and it seemed to be near the valve stem extender. We called the shop back, but they couldn’t fit us in the next day.  So, we called a brand-new shop in our town and they said they could look at it immediately. By now it was close to getting dark!  We were happy to hear that it was just the valve stem extender that was leaking!  We were ecstatic to find out that there was nothing wrong with the tire and that all we had to do was take off the valve stem extender.  We also learned that they can service our motorhome and the garage could accommodate the 10 ft height.  So despite all the tire trouble, something good came out of it!

Southward Bound

We got on the road Friday morning around 6:45 a.m. The temperature was -3 degrees and we had had 2 inches of fresh powdery snow.

Linda shoveled a pathway to make packing a little easier.

It was still snowing for the first hour or so of our trip but the drive wasn’t bad. We had some very wet roads with lots of salt when the trucks passed us we got splashed very bad.

Minnie Pearl needs a bath!

 We were lucky to have a decent driving day.  The salt on the vehicles will wash off.

Our silver Focus is now white from all the salt.

We drove a lot through the mountains and going up and down the hills and drove about 420 miles. We stopped for the night at a campground in Elkin, North Carolina where we had made reservations. It was a very small campground with only 11 sites. It is part of a farm and there were cattle mooing at Heidi when we took her for a walk.  Since we had electric at the site we were able to use our little electric quartz space heater and keep warm overnight.

Our campsite at the Byrd Branch Campground in Elkin, NC. There was only one other camper in the campground.

 Day Two and We’re Off!

Day two started with our morning temperature being 4 degrees. It was a nice day for a drive and we enjoyed the temperatures rising throughout the day and the sun was shining! When we got into Georgia the temperature was in the low 40s. It felt like summer to us after all the bitter cold we have been living through.  We stopped at the Georgia Welcome Center to have lunch in our RV.

Heidi enjoyed going for a walk in the warmer temperatures and being able to see the grass again. Our ground had been snow-covered most of December. 

We arrived at our friend’s house in Palatka, FL and were warmly welcomed.  We will be staying here a few days before heading down the road on our next adventure.  It felt great to be in warm, sunny FL even though the temperatures are below normal. 

 

 

 

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Winter Get-a-way 2018

 Traveling with a TOAD!!???

We have been busy the last few months preparing for our winter trip.  It is so exciting to begin another journey in our motorhome, Minnie Pearl!  The biggest change this year is that we will be towing our car with us – commonly called a TOAD.  Our friends in Florida gave us their Blue Ox tow bar and Brake Buddy and we were able to use those pieces to get everything ready to go.  We had to buy a base plate to install on the front of our car so that the tow bar could attach to it.

Base Plate Installation

While we were at the RV shop, we took some pictures of the installation.

Towing installation inside Starr’s Trailer Sales

Here’s the rig in our driveway after our first trip home from the shop.

Tow bar set up

5-Star Tuning

In preparation for towing our car one thing we did was install a 5-star tuner.  This is a custom tuning to the engine chip to enhance performance.  The stock tuning for our E-350 van is for a lightweight van.  Our motorhome is around 12,000 lbs., and it dogged going up hills.  We were concerned that it wouldn’t have enough power to pull the car in mountainous areas.

The tuner was pretty easy to install.  The tuner came in the mail and I followed the instructions to obtain some information from our engine, which is the Ford Triton V-10.  I then sent the information to 5-star Tuning and within a few days we had the software program specific to our vehicle.  After installing the software onto the tuner, we took the tuner out to the motorhome and plugged it into the OBDC II port under the steering wheel.  It walked me through installing the new tune software and then backed up the original factory tune.

The test drive around the area proved that we had a little more pep and the shifting points were better.  When we towed the car home there was no lag or slowing down in the steeper hills.  We will have to see the overall performance, but so far, we are happy with it.

 Installing a New Macerator System

Minnie Pearl has a macerator system for dumping.  For those who don’t know what that is: the macerator grinds the black matter (poop!!!) and disperses it through a hose at the dump station.  We really like it.  It makes dumping effortless.  It’s all self-contained and there is no setting up, unhooking and cleaning a large hose.

  

The drawback of the macerator on Minnie Pearl is that there is a rather low ground clearance and we have damaged it twice.  Now we are extra cautious while making a left turn going up hills or when going over areas with lots of ruts.

The first time we damaged it, I installed a new macerator system.

New Macerator System

It was a bit labor intensive as the electrical wiring had to be re-configured for the new pump.  It worked great until not too long afterwards, we damaged it again.  The second time I was able to order a specific part for it under warranty and it was much easier to fix.

I asked Phoenix about this design flaw and they said that for some of the models of motorhomes, the rear placement of the bathroom necessitated the macerator being very far aft.  This causes the potential of a bump of the macerator pump when backing up or going over bumpy areas.  The suggestion to prevent some of the potential for damage is to install skid wheels on the back bumper.  We may get this done next time we visit the factory.  For now, we just intend to be super cautious when backing up or going over bumpy areas.  As a backup, we do carry the standard “stinky slinky” 4” hose and can use it without the macerator pump.

Restringing the Blinds

It’s really annoying when the blinds in the motorhome won’t stay up.  Last year towards the end of the trip, there was a large blind that would not stay up.  We used Velcro to wrap around it as a temporary fix.  We considered buying new blinds, but researched it and saw that they could be repaired, even though it could be a tedious task.

Thanks to the RV Geeks instructional video, the job wasn’t too difficult.  Now the blinds are in good working order.   We had purchased a blind repair kit at Camping World over the summer which had enough material in it to repair 5 blinds.  The key thing in repairing the blind according to the RV Geeks blind tutorial is to document how it is currently strung while you take it apart.  They suggested drawing a diagram – we did that and used color coding as the strings crisscross numerous times.

Diagram of the blinds

 

Pleated Blind Re-Stringing Installation

We had to replace the strings in a large blind, it took about one hour and was not bad!  The blind is only about 18” long and it took about 6’ of string for each of the 4 lines!  We had another blind that also needed attention, and we were able to adjust the tension on the knots on that one because the strings were not worn.  Yeah!  One repair down…. many more to go.

Reflectix Window Coverings

Last year while camping in Quartzite and the Chiricahua National Monument, there were mornings it was downright cold!  Even with our Mr.Buddy propane heater, when you wake up with an inside temperature in the 30’s, it takes a while to get the inside of the RV warm.  We talked to one of our RVing Women friends, Susan, and she showed us the inside of her rig.  She uses Reflectix panels cut to size for the windows to provide insulation over each window.  Reflectix is a foil insulation with packing bubbles inside of it!  Then  she covers the window area with a wool blanket pinned to the curtains around the sleeping area.  We have cut Reflectix panels for all our windows and added some pieces around the bottom edge of the bed on the outside walls.

Picture shows Reflectix on bedroom windows

It was not hard to cut, and we hope it will add a lot of warmth to the RV this year.

Chair Carrier

We bought new camping chairs for this year’s trip!  Believe me, it was not an easy process – you won’t believe how many chairs we tried out!  While camping with RVing Women friends this summer in Ohio and, we tried out all their chairs along with many others at stores.  We liked one chair our friends had, and it was from Camping World.  On our trek to the Camping World in Akron, OH this summer, we found the same chair and bought two of them.  They are full size, light weight (7 lbs.) folding chairs.

Another item we bought was a ladder chair rack, so we can stow the chairs on our outside ladder while driving.  We didn’t want to have the chairs exposed to the elements and get dirty during our travels so Kathy came up with the idea to create our own chair cover out of a tarp!  To escape the cold weather, we brought our folding ladder into the house, and hung the ladder rack on it.  Then we began the design process of covering our chairs.  We used industrial strength Velcro to allow us to fully enclose the chairs – like a package!  Here is a picture of the completed project:

Custom Chair Cover

Counting the Days

We are looking forward to getting out of the winter weather soon!  It is frigid here in northwest PA and the cold weather is making it difficult to pack our things for fear of freezing!  We can’t take numerous things out to the camper yet so the last day or two will be busy.  A couple of days ago we ran two space heaters in Minnie Pearl prior to going out and in a couple of hours the inside temperature rose from 11 degrees to 31 degrees!  Still to cold to stay out for very long!

We will be heading to Florida soon and seeing friends and family, enjoying some kite flying and watching, and camping with our Florida friends for 2 weeks!  Then we will be heading west to enjoy some time in Texas and New Mexico.  We will keep you posted!

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Our Journey has come to an end!

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April 5-6, 2017 The trip from Florida to Pa was a breeze.  The weather was nice and sunny and traffic was moderate.  We spent the night at a Wal-Mart, which was a first for us.  We wondered what it would … Continue reading

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We have arrived! Visiting Friends!

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March 24-April 6, 2017 We arrived at our friends, Carol and Ann’s house.  It was so great to see them again!  We parked Minnie Pearl on their concrete driveway apron and even had electric and sewer hookups!   How about that … Continue reading

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Deciding to Head Home

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March 19-23, 2017 Bluewater Lake State Park Upon leaving Canyon de Chalet we drove all day to Bluewater Lake State Park in New Mexico.  We had decided it was time to head home.  At that point we weren’t sure which … Continue reading

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Canyon De Chelly National Monument

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March 17 – 19 We arrived at the Canyon De Chelly visitor center at 3:55 pm.  It turns out that the Navajo Indian Reservation follows daylight savings time whereas the rest of Arizona does not – so we only had … Continue reading

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Petrified Forest National Park – Barren and Beautiful

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 March 16 – 17 We got to the southern entrance of the Petrified Forest National Park and pulled into the Crystal Gift Shop to ask about camping. There is no camping at all in the Petrified Forest National Park.  Our … Continue reading

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Grand Canyon – We Made it!

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March 12 – 15, 2017 We arrived early Sunday morning at the Grand Canyon entrance gates. The first thing we did was get maps and information at the Visitor Center.  Then we went to the campgrounds to see if there … Continue reading

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