Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust


There is nothing left….all gone, just dust and useless bits of steel.  The steering wheel in the picture is from the Class A which we were parked next to.  Both of us parked front in, rear facing out. There was nothing in front of me, I think there was a boat in front of my neighbor.


Our spot was that first one on the left.  You can see the total destruction of the entire building which I think had 20 parking places on each side, with probably 30-35 motorhomes, the rest being boats or antique cars.  Nothing survived…..


This is the other side….not any better.  All gone.  Amazingly, the RV’s on the side storage areas were not harmed….could not even see any blistering of paint, but I’ll bet it was so hot that each of those are going to need some work done to them, let alone the smoke damage that is surely inside each unit.


As I was taking the first photo above, I walked over to this view point…and this man and lady drive up and come up to the fence….and point.  “Did you have a unit in there?” I asked, “No, but we did last year, how about you?”  “Yes, I was in this first one on the left,” I said.  “That is where we were…” she mutters, “I am so sorry for you.”  I guess I muttered that we were headed to Alaska in just 33 days…”were”' being the operative word there.  And I got in the car and drove away….

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Man Plans, God Laughs


Awoke this morning to a text from brother-in-law Mike, “Saw fire at RV storage in Palm Harbor on news….”.  Heart skips a beat…


I immediately get on the internet, type in palm harbor rv storage fire, and I quickly see this picture, knowing that it was where we stored our RV.  I don’t say anything to Marcia as I go out to the car and get the Storage Agreement, verify the name, and I break the news to her.


Above, in the first storage bin, is where we were parked.  “Was” parked….


I think they said there were some 30+ RVs, cars and boats….all gone.   I call Blue Mountain, and the lady says they already had three phones calls this morning.  Adjuster will call us within 24 hours.


Goodbye sweet girl… .thanks for the safe travels you provided, the warm memories, we thought we had more memories to share with you… .but we are just not in control, and our plans have been drastically changed. 

note:  we know "God" is not laughing at our loss, our heartache, just the fact that "his" children think that "they" are in charge....we know now, and already knew, that "HE" is and always will be in charge.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Game Picks, A Couple of Birds, More Condo Antics


So the first 48 games of the NCAA tournament are in the bag now.  Ryan, my youngest son, is leading our bracket with 34 wins and 364 points.  I too have 34 wins, but being more conservative, I did not pick very many long shots, and I only have 314 points.  Stephanie is in second, but her championship pick of Duke has already bitten the dust.  Michael is at the end, but still has the ability to score more points than the rest of us.  After the first night, he was looking real good…not so much now.


Next year I am going to figure out how I can have Skruffy pick some of the games….I figure she can probably pick some of them better than any of us if I can figure out how to get her to make a selection.


We can’t forget that Arkansas “was” in the NIT tournament …. until last night when UC Berkley knocked them out.  ESPN2 captured my oldest son (pictured above), a student at UC Berkley and graduate from Arkansas, showing his friends (and unbeknownst to him, anyone watching ESPN2) how high of an IQ they have, or, as they say, “giving them a double birdie”.  I could provide a link….but I will leave it to your imagination….3 seconds of fame saved on my hard drive.Be right back

Here he is, probably before the game, standing next to Corliss Williamson, who played on four NBA teams, and led the Arkansas Razorbacks to its only NCAA Championship in 1994.


Speaking of Skruffy earlier, on Friday we got our letter of notification that they recognize Marcia’s need for a service dog, and that Skruffy can fulfill that need.  HOWEVER, in a fashion that only this evil board could think of, they have decided that “we” need to sign a waiver….a policy they formed for any association member to use if they have a service dog.  But it has problems…..
  • All service dogs have to be on a leash.  That will be fun for any “blind people” who have a “seeing eye dog”, they will be tripping over the dog leash with every other step.  Now we keep Skruffy on a leash, and intend to continue to do so…but these rules are for all, and they just aren’t thinking that way.

  • They '”grant” permission for a dog, and if that dog has to be replaced, you have to go through the process all over again.  I can only hope that they don’t make the person get recertified too.

  • The “animal” cannot make noise which disturbs the peace and tranquility of other residents.  It is so very quiet around here, we never hear any noise…except for the sometimes constant sirens, motorcycles off in the distance, and the Saturday music coming from the Moose Club next door.  Not to speak of the fact that our little Service Dog, Skruffy, is expected to bark if someone knocks at the front door, or the door bell rings so that Marcia can be alerted if I am not here.  Now we agree that loud, continuous barking is not acceptable….but “cannot make a noise” is not.

  • Of course, there is the “clean up animal waste immediately … limit the odor thereof from creating an unreasonable nuisance.”  Of course, we do pick up after Skruffy…but what about the three garbage bin areas which seem to be so full many times that the lid won’t shut?  These are very close to some of the units, not ours thank goodness, and I am sure during the heat and humidity of the summer put off a very pleasant odor….way more than a little dog would do.

  • Then there are the final two, which really got under our skin.  They expect us to “indemnify and hold the association harmless for any damages or personal injury caused by the “animal” and that “we” shall promptly reimburse the association for any cost incurred by the association to make repairs as a result of or arise out of the animal being on the premises. “  Lots of scenarios with this one, such as walking down to the swimming pool, with Skruffy on a leash, and have a car come around the corner real fast, see the dog, freak out and plow into the carport area.  They “can” say, “the wreck happened because of your dog, so pay for the repairs.” 

  • Finally, in the event of any legal action, we would have to pay all attorney fees and costs incurred by the association.  Ya, right…..
So we have filed a HUD complaint.  This first step, which we hope is the only step we need to take, should produce a response from a housing specialist which will bring some common sense, and the law, back into the life of the Association Leaders.  Remember, I am a Librarian, retired.  I research EVERYTHING.  I found a HUD notice issued last year which pretty much says that this agreement they want us to sign is against the Fair Housing Act.

We feel that most of these items are in violation of HUD's Notice: FHEO-2013-01, especially where the notice states, in part:  “Conditions and restrictions that housing providers apply to pets may not be applied to assistance animals....” and “A request for a reasonable accommodation may not be unreasonably denied, or conditioned on payment of a fee or deposit or other terms and conditions ....”

A representative from HUD called me yesterday, and she said that a housing specialist should be in touch with us within 10 days.  Now the Association wants our signature within 15 days of last Friday…but the representative told me not to sign anything.


Thank you son, but that is twice the level of these Condo Association leaders  IQs.  PS:  You still look good in RED!  Go Hogs!!!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A Weak Week


Has it really been a week already since my last post?  YUP, it has.  And to think, it was just a few days ago I emailed Mary-Pat, writer of Butterflies and Heart Songs blog asking her if she was ok because she had not posted for a week or more.  The difference, of course, is that she travels alone, and she is currently on the road… I got a bit worried.  Ask my mom, it is just my nature to worry about stuff like that.  As a young child my questions would be, “Are we going to be late?”, “Are you sure we are going the right way?”, “Where are we going to stay at?”, and, of course, the ever famous questions while our VW Bus is at a red light near the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco around 1967, “Are those hippies over there?”  Of course the list can go on and on and on….  Then Lynn, who write the "Life with Lynnie" blog posted on our blog a remark about not seeing anything for awhile.  I thought, hey, can't a guy have a few days off....and then I looked and say it had been 8 days.  Well, here you go...

Before I talk about the “Weak Week”, how about explaining the picture above first.  That is a WONDERFUL dog park in Tarpon Springs, not far from the sponge docks (which is currently our blog header picture).  The dog park opened less than a year ago, includes two very large fenced in areas, one for small dogs and one for large dogs.  It is around a ten minute drive from the condo, and it is on the way to where Bubba stays.

1b     1c 
As you can see, the dogs love it…except there is just one slight problem….that is NOT Bubba in the picture above with Skruffy.  Bubba was still over at Mike’s house….this was a four month old Cocker that is a splitting image of Bubba, although slightly smaller for now….just give it another month and it will be Bubba’s size…another month or two and it will be bigger than Bubba. 

As new dogs arrive, there is always the ritual of the “sniff”.  In the far back, other side of the fence, you can see the Bubba look-a-like coming toward the gate.


You can see what a nice park it is for the furry kids.  This was taken on Tuesday, just after a heavy rain that we had on Sunday/Monday.  What a great day to get out…and since Skruffy was stuck inside most of Sunday and all day Monday, well I felt she deserved a quick run over to the park.  Marcia was a good girl, she stayed glued to her computer while we were gone….


….although the washer was running when we got back, and I can sware it was off when we left!
Speaking of “washer”, it has been acting up ever since we moved to the condo, and probably even when we got back from our 2012 trip.  It just was not rinsing right, and some items, dark shirts and pants especially, were coming out blotchy.  Then last Thursday, the dryer just would not turn on…nothing at all except a slight tone and quick flash of lights when it was plugged back into the electrical outlet.  Monday the appliance repair guy came by.  Now I have fixed many a washer and dryer before, but these are Fisher Paykel brand….the dryer being a top loader.  They are made in Australia, and I just did not feel comfortable about opening them up, and Marcia did not feel comfortable about that either.  The bottom line is that the dryer had a loose circuit board…so when you pushed the “on” button, it would not engage the electrical switch.  That was an easy fix.  The washer we (repair guy and I) thought was going to be a control board….which run about $175 just for the board.  The repair guy went out to his van and he was out there for a long time….and then comes in talking on his phone.  He did not feel good about the diagnostics, and called Fisher and Paykel in Australia to talk to a tech person there.  Bottom line, it is such a sophisticated washer that it can be programed to have a deep cycle rinse, which we wanted, or a light spray rinse, which is needed in areas where water is scarce.  So he showed me how to program it, and we are good to go now.


Now don’t get me wrong, it was not a “bad week” or even a “hard week”….it was just a “weak week”.  Did not get as much done as I wanted, didn’t do anything outside of the dog park visit to take pictures of, just not a strong week.  Of course, when my parents see the title of Weak Week, their first thoughts are going to be, “That boy just did not know how to spell the proper “week” to represent a part of a month again.”  Yep, this “X-Librarian” flunked spelling. Never one to read fiction books very much, heck, mom would say I hardly read at all.  But I would devour the Readers Digest when it arrived, and I did enjoy some good non-fiction books, especially if they were about the “Old West” or “World War II”.  And if it was about the American Civil War, well, that was typically a real winner.

But this past week we enjoyed some quiet time, thought about looking at the taxes (and that is as far as it got), had a guy come over to give us an estimate on doing our enclosed patio with real glass (still awaiting the bid figures, but it cannot be done before we left since they are scheduling jobs for May as of now), learned a lot about the washer and dryer…and next time I might just tackle it myself, went to church on Sunday where Marcia’s Granddaughter Alisa dropped in for church and we all went to dinner and came back to the condo for a visit (she actually took the picture of Marcia with my camera), attended church Wednesday night, and had dinner with Marcia’s cousins Polly and Goldie (actually her first husbands cousins).  Polly actually owns a condo here too, lives in Chicago most of the year but gets away from the cold for January-March each year, and Goldie lives here in Florida, but comes over and stays with Polly when Polly is in town.  Well, I guess I “could have” taken some more pictures….but to do that, you have to pick up the darn camera and push a button or two.  Winking smile   And just in case anyone was wondering…no, it was not us that won the Mega Millions Lottery, to win, you have to play, which we don’t do with that lottery (and rarely with others).


I would be remiss if I did not mention RVillage, the new website for RV’ers who want to keep in touch with other people who love to travel in an RV.  I am not a fan of Facebook, but I do like RVillage and feel that it will be a great asset as a fellow traveler.  It is still in beta form, which means all the bugs are not worked out, and they are very open to suggestions on how to make it better.  I know some have worried about putting out there the parks they are currently staying in…but it looks like there will be some privacy options available soon which will deal with those concerns.

And finally, every year for the past few years I play a NCAA bracket game with my kids.  This year I have Florida taking it all…and this year we each have a different winner.  Not sure how it will turn out, since the games are just beginning today, but at last check, my daughter Stephanie was leading the “boys” (dad is one of the boys), so I am sure she is on cloud nine, even if it is just for a day.  Oh, and why Florida?  Well, Alisa is from Florida, and of course, my heart is with Arkansas who just missed out of the tournament this year.  On Sunday Alisa showed me a picture she took while at a sports store recently….it was a trash can…with the Arkansas Hog on it.  She said, “I just had to take a picture because it seemed so appropriate.”  So now it is my turn for revenge…I am betting that my picking Florida will jinx them out of the tournament….. not today, because they did win today, but perhaps in the higher rounds when the pressure is really on.  Devil

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Countdown Adjustment


May 1st has now become April 28th, a Monday.  To be honest, May 1st was just a “goal”, which a few weeks ago I realized that we were going to leave just a little before that.  But first, I wanted to be sure we had everything done here, especially Doctor Appointments.  


Yesterday Marcia met her new primary care doctor, her fourth or fifth one in the past six years.  Seems like every time she gets use to a doctor, they up and leave the area, their practice, or no longer take her insurance.  With one doctor a few years ago with us it was like, “we are glad you no longer take our insurance, we were not coming back to you anyways.”  She tried to get Marcia interested in “healing crystals”, and I am sure would have been more than happy to sell us some, through another person of course.  I think Marcia said something like, “Jesus needs no crystals to heal….”, just to let her know that she could take her voodoo somewhere else.  Upon our return in 2012 we got the notice that they no longer took her insurance.  So last year we broke in another doctor…who while we were gone in 2013 decided to stop her private practice and go to work for the County, at least that is the latest story we were told.  Who knows what the truth was on that.  So before we got back to Florida she had lined up another doctor within the same network….and when we got back in January she made an appointment, with the earliest date being March 11th.  When we got there yesterday, we found out that the other lady in the practice, we will call her Brooke, was going to be her new doctor.  Well, sometimes we play the lottery….and in this case our “lottery doctor” came through!  Dr. Brooke was very nice, very accommodating, and assured us she had no plans to “go away” anytime soon.  We hope we don’t go “bust” on this lottery win…

We have also been tackling the various items on our “to do lists”.  We have a list of items for the condo, and list of items for the RV/Car.  Some of these are easy, some will need to be done by “experts”.  So far, we have conquered most of the “to do ourselves” items, outside of giving the RV a good shine and packing it up to go.

Monday I flushed out our hot water tank, something that looked like it had not been done for a decade or two.  We are lucky that it is so close to the walk-in shower, and the sand and sediment was pretty thick, that’s for sure.  At first water would not come out except for a slight dribble.  So I turned the water valve, and I opened the pressure valve…both a big mistake.  Finally, after opening and closing the drain valve a few times, water and gunk pour out with a flurry.  After letting it flush out for a good 5 minutes, I closed it up, turned on the hot water power again, and walked away.  About an hour later Marcia goes, “got a leak in here”.  First the high pressure valve, now that the water was hot, was allowing water to flow down to the drain pan, which was full.  A few knocks with my fist fixed that…but the cold water valve was dripping too.  Grrrr….   So I turned off the water, turned off the electricity, and the next day we asked her brother Mike (who is watching Bubba) to look at it.  It turned out to be an easy fix…one I could have done had I thought of it.  Luckily he was in the area doing a house inspection, so he did not care.


Before we leave, we are thinking of having our “patio” enclosed with glass windows instead of the vinyl windows above.  By doing this, the patio can be turned into more living space when we return.  We will get a bid for this on Monday.  We have seen other condos around here that have done this change, and we really like the results.


As for the car and the RV….  Due to the age of the RV, I am going to have all of the heater hoses changed out, and have them look at the transmission fluid/filter and the radiator fluid.  I doubt anything besides the hoses will need to changed, but I’d rather find out now than half way up to or from Alaska.  I also want to seal around the back tire wells and gas cap area where there are some signs of paint cracking.  Then I want to give the entire vehicle a good clean/polish.  I also got some RainX to do the outside windows….from everything I read, the trip up to Alaska and back will be a dirty one, any protection before the dirt and grime will just make it easier when we do find places to wash it down.  As for the car, I am going to have the breaks done.  It went over the 100,000 mark this last year, and the breaks seem to be the only thing which is wrong with it right now.


And now you know what I have been doing for the past hour.  Winking smile

Friday, March 7, 2014

Bubba Shave – Seafood Dive


It was “that time” again, the time to give Bubba another buzz job.  Since it had been a good 6 weeks, it was a long and hard process....but Bubba did not whine about it, but is his patience sure had a good test.  Here he is all decked out in his bed, and no, I did not buzz his eyes out, guess he just does not like the camera flash either.

2a     2b

Come on Bubba, don’t hide….there you go, show off how fast you can shake your head now that most of the weight is gone from your big floppy ears.


Yes, momma thinks you look so nice now too.


Of course, the little one had enough of all the attention given to her older brother…At least she did not need one since I cut her last week after she moved into the condo.


For dinner we left the dogs in the motorhome and we drove the 8 miles over to Apollo where Kaz’s Seafood Dive had, just two weeks ago, moved from their Sun City location to Apollo.  There are three locations, this one is a “Restaurant and a Bar”, but it is not a very big bar, and the d├ęcor is very comfortable and eye appealing.  We also found the staff to be very nice and efficient…..which was good since it was a full house.  The food was very good.  I had the Seafood Combo, white fish, shrimp, clams and scallops with a crab cake, fries and green beans.  Marcia had the broiled Salmon with salad and broccoli.  We both had a cup of New England Clam Chowder soup too.  It was all good, except for the green beans…but the portions were so big, I did not mind leaving the beans.  In fact, Marcia finished her plate, I brought some of the white fish and fries home….the rest was history.  This new location is right on the corner of highway 41 and Apollo Beach Blvd.  There is indoor and outdoor seating, and the bar is more like a beer and wine bar, with seating at those high bar-type tables and chairs for those who like that type of thing.


I guess it was cold today.  At the restaurant as we were waiting at the door many of the “Northerners” were complaining about how cold it was.  Folks from Michigan were complaining about the below 60 degree weather, while their friends and family are up in Michigan were the temps are in the 30’s.  Marcia was a bit cold, I was just fine…but I did get the oil-filled radiant heater out for the night since it is suppose to drop into the 40’s again.  Tomorrow we head back home….but it has been a nice two day break.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Quick Escape -- Rain Delayed Visit


Wednesday we had a “last minute” desire to get away….this was at 3:30.  So I packed up some dry food, some clothes, went and got Bubba while the Service Dog performed her service with Marcia, and got the motorhome.  By the time we got back to the condo with the motorhome and packed, we had time to get over to the church for Wednesday night bible study, and then off we went. 


Our target was these rest areas just south of Tampa along I-75 for the night, so that we were close and within easy early hunting for a spot at the E.G. Simmons County Park, part of the Hillsborough County Parks System.   We pulled into the southbound rest area around 10 pm, and found that they had truck parking, car parking, and “truck & RV” parking.  W-T-Heck? Truck and RV parking!!!!  I drove right through and went 8 miles to the next exit, did a U-turn to head us North (on the northern bound lane, of course) and pulled into the northbound rest area.  Truck parking, car parking and RV parking!!!!  YES, RV’s get their own area to park in…although a few quiet trucks joined in with the three RVs that stayed the night.  And, we were now headed in the right direction because once on the Interstate in the morning, we take the first exit for EG Simmons, which was 10 miles away. 


Oops, someone forgot the check the weather, because it started to rain and rain early in the morning.  Now they do not take reservations at EG Simmons, so you have to be there “early”.  We got there at 9:15, and we were told we were the 5th ones in line for the known three spots that had to open up due to the 14 day limit….but others had paid up through today, but with the rain, and yes there was lots of rain, many of those were extending for a day because they were still under their 14 day allotment.  We drove down the large parking lot at the beach area, and got online.  I found the Hide-A-Way RV Resort, a Passport America park where we can stay for two nights for $52.  EG Simmons would have cost $36 for two nights with the senior citizen discount, so what’s another $16?  And this park has sewer and Internet…but no views and privacy.

2a   2b

As we left EG Simmons, I asked when the best time to come in is….they said Sunday, Monday and even on Tuesday…but you need to be early.  So we will try again…this time we will check the weather first.  However, there are advantages to raining days…..


Boy, that Bubba sure can snore….it is nice having Skruffy and Bubba together with us again.


And a special happy birthday to my oldest, Michael.  Hope UC Berkley is treating you ok….nearly have the first year behind you son….sure proud of ya.  (don’t forget to call you mom)