Lake Mead N.R.A.

Lake Mead N.R.A.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Some photos of Historic Old Saint Augustine

I thought I would share some pictures of Historic Old Saint Augustine and some excepts from Wikepedia:
St. Augustine (SpanishSan Agustín) is a city in the northeastern region of the U.S. state of Florida, and the county seat of St. Johns County.[4] Founded in September 1565 by Spanish explorer and admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, it is the oldest continuously occupied European-established city and port in the continental United States.[5] St. Augustine lies in a region of Florida known as "The First Coast", which extends from Amelia Island in the north to Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Palm Coastin the south. According to the 2010 census, the city population was 12,975.[3] St. Augustine is the headquarters for the Florida National Guard.

Tourist Carriage Ride
The vicinity of St. Augustine was first explored in 1513 by Spanish explorer and governor ofPuerto RicoJuan Ponce de León, who claimed the region for the Spanish crown.[6] Prior to the founding of St. Augustine in 1565, several earlier attempts at European colonization in what is now Florida were made by both Spain and France, but all failed
The Bridge of Lions
The Bridge of Lions is a bascule bridge that spans the Intracoastal Waterway in St. Augustine, Florida. A part of State Road A1A, it connects downtown St. Augustine to Anastasia Island.
Boats tied off in Matanzas Bay by the Bridge of Lions
A pair of Medici lions made of marble guard the bridge, begun in 1925 and completed in 1927 across Matanzas Bay. The lions were removed in February 2005 and returned in March 2011.

The man considered the "Father of the Bridge of Lions" was Henry Rodenbaugh, the vice president and bridge expert for Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway. In the early 1920s he organized the bond issue to finance the new bridge, selected engineer J. E. Greiner to design it—and had his young daughter Jean pour the first bucket of concrete when the work began in 1925. Its construction came at the height of the extravagant Florida Land Boom of the 1920s, and the bridge is one of its greatest landmarks. It was designed not merely to carry cars, but to be a work of art, and it cost ten times as much as more prosaic bridges constructed nearby at the same time. It was completed after the land boom busted, and the 1927 dedication ceremony had to be paired with the annual Ponce de Leon Celebration in cash-strapped St. Augustine
Traffic waiting for the draw bridge to go down
The Bridge of Lions is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was included by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) on its list of the "11 Most Endangered Historic Sites" in the nation for 1997. The Bridge of Lions was later featured on the cover of the Trust's 1999 engagement calendar.
From its earliest days, it was hailed as "The Most Beautiful Bridge in Dixie."[3] It has long been a symbol of the nation's oldest city.
It gets its name from two Carrara marble Medici lions statues that are copies of those found in the Loggia dei Lanzi in FlorenceItaly. The statues were a gift of Dr. Andrew Anderson (1839–1924), the builder of the Markland House, who spent the last decade of his life putting works of art in public places in the Ancient City. The statues were his last gift, and he did not live long enough to see them installed. He had them made by the Romanelli Studios in Florence, Italy, which a decade earlier had provided him with smaller versions which he displayed on the front steps at Markland. Lions are a symbol of the Spanish royal family, harkening back to St. Augustine's past as a Spanish colony
Renovation work was completed on March 17, 2010 when it reopened for use.[8] Following the removal of the temporary bridge (to an offshore reef), and landscaping, the restored Lion statures were returned after a 6 year absence, early in the morning of March 15, 2011,[9] principally completing the bridge renovation project.
The tallest Building in Saint Augustine, the Cathedral Place Office Building standing next to the Cathedral Basilica.

Our trusty Jeep Ruby

A row of restaurants where we had breakfast

Inside the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine is a historic cathedral in St. AugustineFlorida and the seat of the Catholic Bishop of St. Augustine. It is located at Cathedral Street between Charlotte and St. George Streets. Constructed over five years (1793–1797),[3][4]it was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark on April 15, 1970.
Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine Tower

Cathedral Place Office Building tower

Historic Aviles Street
Sixteenth-century Aviles Street, is billed as the nation's oldest public street. The street is listed on the city's town plan of 1573.

The street is full of restaurants and shops and is the host to many festivals, the most notable being the Fiesta de Aviles.

Aviles Street Shops

Flagler College
Flagler College is a private four-year liberal arts college in St. Augustine, FloridaUnited States. It celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2008.[2]
The Princeton Review ranks Flagler in the top tier of southeastern colleges,[7] and its campus as one of the most beautiful in theUnited States.[8] It is currently included in The Princeton Review's Best 366 Colleges Rankings.[9]
The college has been named in recent years by US News & World Report as one of the southeast region's best comprehensive liberal arts colleges,[3] and is included on its list of "America's Best Colleges".[4] 
The school is located on 19 acres (77,000 m2), the centerpiece of which is the Ponce de Leon Hall, built in 1888 as a luxury hotel. The architects were John Carrere and Thomas Hastings, working for Henry Morrison Flagler, the industrialist, oil magnate and railroad pioneer. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

I hoped you enjoyed this brief yet incomplete history of Saint Augustine. I wanted to just focus on some of the pictures that I had captured during a late morning stroll after breakfast on Joyce's Birthday. Saint Augustine, is rich in beauty and history that spans centuries. There is so much to see and do in this magnificent city on the First Coast. It is well worth a visit.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jacksonville Sea and Sky Spectacular

October 20, 2012 Stage Coach RV Park, St. Augustine

We are starting to see some real progress on our house. More to come on the house in a later blog. We've been in this campground 5 months excluding the month we spent on the West coast.  I gotta admit that 5 months in the same location sure makes the rig feel small!  This is the longest we've spent sitting in one spot. Our longest volunteer gig was 4 months. We can't wait for the house to be finished. The snow birds are starting to trickle into the campground and the temps have really cooled. We've had the air conditioner off for several days now and it's been much more enjoyable outside.

Saturday, October 20th, we attended The Jacksonville Sea and Sky Spectacular with our daughter, Ashley. The FREE event featured a dynamic over-the-ocean sky show highlighted by the world-famous United States Navy Blue Angels along with other military and civilian flight teams, live entertainment, a street festival featuring static displays of aircraft and military vehicles, simulators, recruitment booths, a kids area and a Meet The Performers Autograph session. 

We have been to air shows in the past but couldn't pass this one up as they are always a good time. This one was unusual for us as it was held on Jacksonville Beach and the spectators were encouraged to watch the show from the beach. Other shows we had seen were either held off a runway or on a military base.
"Fat Albert" passing over the Jacksonville Beach Pier
It seems we got there late so we missed the earlier shows leading up to the headliner, The Blue Angels.
The show started with "Fat Albert" a C-130 transport for the Blue Angels warming up the crowd with some slow and low manuevers.

As soon as "Fat Albert" lumbered off the Blue Angels F-18s made a dramatic entrance from Mayport Naval Station across the bay!

The sky erupted with the sounds of aircraft and jet engines. Each time the jets disappeared the crowd began searching the sky for the elusive number 5 and 6 jets which often performed their own stunts.

This is how our daughter, Ashley enjoyed the show.  Flat on her back on the beach watching the planes pass overhead!

The show was amazing and we really enjoyed watching it. It made us proud of our soldiers and military aviators and the freedoms we enjoy because of their sacrifice.

Afterwards we wondered about the concessions and the tourist district of Jacksonville Beach.

We had taken a shuttle bus from St. Johns and had paid $20 for parking so we didn't have to fight the traffic and crowds getting to and from. It was a fun time and we will likely be back for this annual event.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A New Home in Saint Augustine

Okay, so some of our readers have been wondering why we are spending so much time in Saint Augustine, Fl in the middle of the summer months. First, we’ve been helping our daughter and Son-In-Law (SIL) make custom touches to their home. Shortly after they bought the new construction home, our SIL went on a 6 month Navy deployment to Asia. So we’ve been there to support our daughter and help her get the house decorated before his return. 
Secondly, we like it here. We’ve been Floridians for 35+ years and Florida just feels like home. We’ve lived in West Central Florida for most of that time but spent a couple years in the military stationed in the panhandle and a few months volunteering in North Florida when we started this adventure at Big Shoals State Park near Lake City. 
We like North Florida so much, we decided to build a house about 10 miles from our daughter’s and perhaps 20 plus miles North and West of the historic district of Saint Augustine. 
Our "Preserve" Lot
We don’t intend to stop traveling. We plan to just change from a full time adventure to part time. October will be three years on the road for us. Now a lot of factors went into our decision to slow down:
  1. Surprisingly, I was ready for a house and Joyce was more reluctant.  We’ve been checking out the housing market in several areas of the country that we’ve visited to kinda get a feel for what was out there. More out of curiosity than with a real purpose. 
  2. Interest rates. It’s a buyer’s market and it sure is hard to overlook the historically low interest rates. Especially since we both knew we wouldn’t be full time RV’ers for more than a few years. My concern has been that the interest rates could suddenly start to rise. We have saved enough money over the years and with the sale of our previous home to purchase a small home when we decided to come off the road. However with interest rates what they are, we have the opportunity to purchase a larger home without having to dip so far into our savings. We also have to furnish our home as we will be starting from scratch!
  3. Fuel Prices. The uncertainty with fuel prices is certainly a factor. Actually there is no uncertainty...fuel prices keep rising. Keeping diesel in the truck and gas in the Jeep while traveling across the country is very expensive. I’m sure there are more economical options but not for us at this stage. When we first started out fuel prices were just over $2 a gallon. I originally budgeted for $3. Obviously we’ve surpassed that and still climbing. I hated to see so much of our budget going to such an expendable commodity. The price we pay for open road traveling!  
  4. Living in a RV. It hasn’t been that bad for us. We’ve been very comfortable in our Carriage F35SB3. It would be a lot more comfortable if we didn’t have two Boxers underfoot all the time! We love Maggie and Rico and they've been excellent travelers but they do limit what we are able to do. We have plenty of storage space, in fact we just have to be careful not to overload the rig. The rig weighed 15,500 lbs fully loaded this time last year. The kitchen is small but Joyce has done a wonderful job with it. It is truly a “one butt” kitchen. I’m sure it’s hard to get motivated into cooking up culinary master pieces in such a small space! And of course without proper use of ventilation, the whole rig may smell for some time like your last meal!
  5. Entertaining. For us one of the biggest downsides to the RV is the inability to properly entertain guests. Most entertaining has to be done outside which is dependent of course on the weather conditions and coexisting with insects and nature. We can comfortably seat four inside the rig but pretty much all you can do is stay seated. We did have one guest sleep over and that went well.  But, it is generally not feasible for two. We miss entertaining our friends and that is something better suited for a house. We hope we will have many friends and family come stay with us in our new home which will have two guest rooms.
  6. Stress. As much as we like to think of the full time RV lifestyle as being stress free and care free. It really isn’t, at least not for me. It’s stress full knowing that you are pulling your home and everything you own down the highway at 60 mph (not wanting to keep pace with the traffic traveling at 80 mph). Mechanical issues and potential catastrophic repairs coupled with finding reliable service and the inconvenience of being homeless due to repairs can be costly not to mention difficult with two large dogs. We've been fortunate so far. I will feel much better regarding these potential issues when we’ve established a permanent home (house) again. And of course, any mobile lifestyle will accumulate related maintenance and repair expenses for the vehicles. In fact we just put a new set of tires on our two year old Jeep. We promised ourselves that we would not use our savings for this lifestyle and we haven’t. However, potential repairs and replacement costs down the road could have eventually forced our hand. 
We’ve made a lot of good friends and met a lot of people on the road. We hope many of them will take the opportunity to visit us in our new home. It’s not expected to be finished until November. It will be about a 5-6 month process before construction will have concluded. 
Our most enjoyable adventure, was last summer traveling and later volunteering through the winter with Paul and Paula. There was less stress knowing that we were traveling with good and reliable friends. 
RV’ing and in fact full time RV’ing has given us the opportunity to do so many things that we would never have done such as:
Volunteering at Big Shoals State Park on the Suwanee River, Volunteering at the Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge on Lake Havasu and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area outside Las Vegas.
Visiting and enjoying many National and State Parks out West. Kayaking on the Colorado River, hiking in Glacier National Park,Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons National Park, kayaking near Moose in Idaho, climbing, hiking and driving over many beautiful Rocky Mountain passes. Off-road driving in the deserts and in the Rocky Mountains. Seeing all sorts of western wildlife. Spending Spring time in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Exploring the Sonoran and Mohave Deserts. But perhaps most of all re-connecting with friends and family that we haven’t seen or weren’t able to visit prior to embarking on our full time RV adventure. 
Ours should be similar to this sales model
We still have a few months till the house is completed so stay tuned. Oh, and you can be sure that I insisted the garage was large enough to park our long bed Dodge 3500 DRW. When the house is complete we plan to store the RV. Until then we will continue to be Full Time Rv’ers but just not moving down the road for a spell!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Air Conditioning and Good Friends

Stage Coach RV Park, St. Augustine, Fl.
Sandhill Crane
Okay, so we've been here in Florida now for the better part of 3 months. We can only live in Florida under one condition and that's...air condition(ing).  You may recall that in February this year we had our main air conditioner replaced in anticipation of our return to Florida. We replaced the ailing Carrier (for which we could no longer get parts) with a Coleman Mach 3.
Since perhaps June we've run the a/c continuously. However about 4-5 times a month it would trip the 20 amp breaker for the a/c. It wasn't a problem since we were always home when it happened and it was usually in the morning or evening when the unit was repeatedly cycling on and off.
My remedy had been to run the fan on low and set the thermostat to 75 to keep the system running longer and thus not cycling off as much.
That last few days have been exceptionally humid, I'm talking 90+ degrees and 90 percent plus humidity. Lows have been in the mid 70's with high humidity. Under these conditions, the a/c was tripping the breaker 3-4 times a day over the last few days. Not good! Again it was tripping after the system shut off and cycled back on in the evening and early morning.
I had exhausted my diagnostic ability with regard to this issue and had changed the filter, changed the circuit breaker, checked connections and made sure the condenser on the roof was clean, etc. It was time to call a professional. So we called in Tom's Mobile RV repair. 
Tom checked the amperage draw of the air conditioner and checked all the capacitors and everything checked out fine. So he called the Service Tech hotline to Coleman and explained the situation to include how we operate the system (Low Fan in auto setting, set at 75 in 90 plus degrees with 90 percent plus humidity).
The response was basically "operator error" on our part. 
According to Coleman under our current weather conditions and operating mode, the coil is icing up at which time it shuts off the compressor. However, the thermostat tells it to come back on and thus it trips the breaker. In order to operate properly under our humid conditions, we need to run the fan on hi and preferably in the on (not auto) position to keep more air moving through the coils and prevent the coils from icing up. Also we should set the thermostat to a setting that would allow it to cycle on and off on occasion. So, we paid $165 to the mobile tech for that lesson!
It's good to be back in Florida under the right condition...air condition.

Some good friends of ours, Joe and Leah from the West coast of Florida drove over to spend a weekend with us. So we spent some time in Historic St. Augustine.
Horse drawn carriage for tourists.
There are many historic sites and museums as well as shopping opportunities in St. Augustine.
Historic Church in St. Augustine
We enjoyed the free tour and wine tasting at the San Sebastian Winery in town. Joe and I didn't drink, but the girls had a good time! Of course, it's hard to leave without making a purchase!

Joyce with Joe and Leah at San Sebastian Winery
We were glad that Joe and Leah could take the time to visit and we hope they return soon. We had a great time!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Brief Return to Where we Started and Tropical Storm Debbie

June 4 thru June 26, 2012 Palm Harbor, Florida.
So, after spending a month in St. Augustine, Fl at Stage Coach RV Park, we made a trip back to Pinellas County and Palm Harbor where we had lived and worked for the past 30 years. It was not a trip I wanted to make as I had no desire to return, at least not with the fifth wheel in tow. But, we had to go back to assist a relative with a medical issue. This was something that we had known about for the past 6 months and it was time to get it done.
Although our first choice in campgrounds was Dunedin RV Resort, we decided on Sherwood Forest RV Park as the advertised rates were much lower. So after traveling the 200 miles, we got set up on the pond with some modest shade. The weather was cloudy and threatening to rain.
We paid $475 for a month not including electric. Well, we discovered that not only did Sherwood Forest have lower advertised rates but they had lower voltage. After plugging in and cranking up the air-conditioner, it was apparent that the voltage was low! We contacted the office and they sent out the resident electrician who readily advised that, "yea there's a low voltage problem in the park". 
Time to pull the plug!
The electrician checked the voltage at our power pole and read 108 and 112 on the two legs connected to the 50 amp outlet but declared it acceptable and advising that no one else has had a reported problem. Again at the time he checked it was relatively cool and cloudy. Not everyone was running their air-conditioners.
Fortunately the next two days were wet and cloudy and I only ran one air-conditioner.  However after some research and constant concern, I decided that we were going to have to move as my attention was constantly on that voltmeter and I was concerned over the possible damage to appliances including the main air-conditioner from the low voltage. Our Progressive Industries Surge Protector was at the verge of shutting off power to the rig as it is designed to do that when the voltage drops to 102 volts.
I drove over to Dunedin RV Resort to check availability and was prepared to pay the advertised $699 plus electric for a standard back in site. While getting a tour of the campground, I was told they had a special of $299 for the month and was shown the sites available for that rate in the back portion of the park.  I didn't care for those sites as they were backed in back to back with just a slab and crushed shell. I was surprised when they then offered us a premium back-in fully concrete site for the same price. I jumped on it and picked a shady site 24. It appeared that the park wasn't busy and most of the traveling RV'ers chose the premium pull-thru sites so I had my pick of almost any of the back-ins. Because it's a "resort" it had a nice club house and a beautiful pool which would be nice when my nephews came to visit.
After getting settled at Dunedin RV Resort and realizing they had strong voltage we were better prepared to take care of the family business and also enjoy our former stomping grounds to include Clearwater Beach. Sherwood Forest provided us with a refund and charged us $70 for the two nights we stayed.
Clearwater Memorial Causeway

Descending the Sand Key Bridge
Sand Key Bridge

Clearwater Beach
We enjoyed catching up with some friends and going out to dinner at almost all of our favorite restaurants. One of our friends invited us over for dinner several times and I enjoyed it each time as they are both fabulous cooks.
While we were in Pinellas County we got an un-welcomed visit by Tropical Storm Debbie that lingered for several days off the coast.
Slowly drifting North, Tropical Storm Debbie dumped over 10 inches of rain on us over the course of a few days. As the rain continued to fall, I moved our vehicles to higher ground near the club house.
The heavy constant rains resulted in flooding throughout the County and including our park. These shots were taken out our front door. We were on an elevated concrete slab and only had about 4 inches outside our door. However off the slab and into the street it was a solid 14 inches.  You can only imagine how much fun it was to walk two full size Boxers to higher ground and get them in and out of the rig! Of course they enjoyed splashing and getting as wet as possible! After a couple of days of flooding many of the few remaining guests had departed opening up a few sites that were like islands surrounded by the water. I moved our rig to one of those sites until the water finally receded after several days.
But it wasn't over yet! We still had to get back to the Jacksonville/ St. Augustine area and T.S. Debbie also decided to head that way depositing 15 inches of rain in Jacksonville. We stayed a day longer than we had planned as we waited out the storm before traveling back. The campground staff was very helpful and in fact most live in the campground and experienced the same issues. Upon checking out we were not charged for our electric use. We will be back at this campground if and when we return to the area.
Currently we are back in site 7 at Stage Coach RV Park. Prepared to continue working on improvements at our daughter and Son-in-Law's new home (i.e. painting, shelves, dimmers, yard work, etc.)  while he is deployed.
Site 7, Stage Coach RV Park