Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 in Review

What a year!

We call this being "semi-retired" and yet we did more this year than ever. By trading in our big RV for the little one, we acknowledged that we are no longer "fulltime" RVers. We do have a stick & Brick home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but as you can see from the map, we weren't there much.

You might notice that there's not much in this blog for the end of the year ... I'm tired! But, I still hope to go back and fill in some of the blanks. Meanwhile, if you click on the menu above for our Photo Albums, I have been keeping up with that. (because it's so easy with Google Photos :-)

And, here's the 3.5 minute movie I put together of the full year.

Happy New Year everyone! Let's see just how good we can make 2018.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

The Geeks go to Kansas City to see Victor and Penny

This is the way we travel. We book speaking engagements (gigs) and travel from one to the next. When we finish one gig, we look at the calendar, then we look at the map. If there's time, we find someplace in between this gig and the next where we can play a little. We were very excited about visiting Kansas City to see Victor and Penny, but we had no idea what other goodies lay in store.
Kansas City is cool!
First of all, we found a Casino parking lot that allowed overnight parking. It was right on the banks of the Missouri river and easy walking distance to downtown.

We walked a little ways to the City Market, then we caught the free city trolley up to the Union Station and the WWI Memorial. We had a gorgeous day!

View of Kansas City from the WWI Memorial park

Just by luck, we decided to step inside Union Station and we read the first billboard about "Living History." It's an app that adds Augmented Reality to your phone, you see people and things from history and you can even take a picture. One story was about how people danced the Charleston, and Jim even got in the action.

After all that fun, it got even better as we made our way to the Knuckleheads Saloon where Victor and Penny were playing that night.

In this video you can see the whole story, and hear them play!

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Farm and Barn

Traveling thru the midwest, you see a lot of farmhouses and barns. Every one is an artist's dream. I can just imagine a painter setting up her easel and spending hours in the golden light capturing the faded glory of a rundown barn. All I have is a fleeting second speeding by on the highway, but my phone's camera is ready and I snap a hasty photo thru the bug-splattered windshield.

Looking at this mess, you wonder, "Was it even worth the effort of holding the phone and tapping the shutter button? Well, with the photo editing tools at our disposal now - I think you'll be surprised.
First, just using the basic tools of Google Photos, I can crop, color correct and enhance the photo I took.

That's a lot more attractive than the original picture I snapped. In fact, I kinda like it! I like it so much that I wonder what another app can do. It's called Prisma and it is pure magic. It uses different artists styles and somehow takes your photograph and converts it to artwork in various styles. Just one tap on my phone's screen creates each of these images.

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Ozark Country

We had a full week in between the Workamper Rendezvous and our next gig about 600 miles away. We looked at the map and saw that Kansas City wasn't that far off the route. Our musical friends - Victor and Penny are based in Kansas City and we knew from Facebook that they would be performing in town the next weekend. "Sounds like we have a plan!" I told Jim. So we headed northwest from Arkansas to Kansas City. This map shows our route. Then our next destination is the black dot by Davenport.

Between Heber Springs, Arkansas and Kansas City is a National Park called Buffalo National River. It was right on our route, so we stopped over and took a look at the Visitor Center, then took a walk down by the river. This area is generally known as the Ozarks. It's a high plateau covering parts of Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. The plateau is broken up by canyons, cliffs and caves, making for some remarkable scenery. But the area is probably best known for all the shows in Branson!
In the parking lot at Buffalo River National Park

Just about a half hour further up the road was an Escapees RV park where we've stayed before. It's called Turkey Creek RV just south of Branson, MO. The Verizon signal was even good enough that we could do our Button Show from there: Episode 127 How about a $59 Smartphone?

The view out our window on a rainy morning 

Studio "R" for Roadtrek!

After leaving Turkey Creek, we needed lunch and I knew we would be passing by the famous place where they throw rolls at you ...

On Thursday, we had an appointment at an RV repair place Transwest Truck and Trailer. You see, our awning blew down while we were camped in Heber Springs (did I forget to mention this?) and we were hoping they could re-attach it. They did!
We stayed one night just parked in the parking lot at the repair shop, then, when the job was done, we found an Elks Lodge nearby. Very comfortable. Very secluded. Very nice. We are so at home wherever we are!

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Monday, October 23, 2017

Workamper Rendezvous - a great week in Arkansas

We were booked to give our seminars at the workamper Rendezvous event in Heber springs, Arkansas for the dates of October 16-20. It's nearly 1200 from home. In our old, big rig, we would have allowed 5 days: 4 days driving, 1 day to spare. In our Roadtrek we allowed 4: 3+1. As it turned out it only took 2.5. This event was a little different from most on that it was held at a community center and we parked a few miles away at a corps of engineers campground. We usually park right at the event, and we like the convenience of living where we work. But this was such a nice campground! We really appreciated beauty, and since we were there a couple days early, we enjoyed it for a whole week.

The downside of traveling in our Roadtrek is that we only have the one vehicle, so we have to break camp, unplug, stow everything inside, and drive our motorhome to the event. It's not that bad though, since there are no slides and no stabilizing jacks. There's not that much stuff inside, and we're learning how to keep it stowed all the time. We got a lot of practice this week!

It was a larger crowd than we expected for our seminars. There were over 200 people and they all attended every seminar because there was only one series instead of 2 and 3 choices like at most rallies. We taught them how to make a blog, how to stay connected to internet whole traveling, and what apps we like to use. Then we had 2 special sessions after the event where we taught smart phone photography in small, hands on groups.

As usual, we also learned new stuff ourselves as we taught, but this time not all of it was good. After showing our favorite app for finding campground and other places too park - Allstays Camp and RV - we were told that they couldn't find it in the Google Play Store. Sure enough, we verified that it has been removed. It's still available in the iPhone. We're looking for suggestions for a replacement app on Android

The best part about this beautiful campsite? It also has really good Verizon service, so we were able to do a Facebook live session one day.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

World War II Museums

We decided not to go back home before our New Orleans gig, so we had a week to play. I opened TripAdvisor  on my iPhone to see if there was something we should do in the Mobile area before heading to New Orleans. Trip Advisor always has something good to suggest in their things to do section. The one that struck our interest this time was the GulfQuest Maritime museum. In reading thru the reviews, someone mentioned how it was a perfect match for the book she was reading called "The Matthews Men." We are always looking for good books to read - so we looked up Matthews Men on Kindle and downloaded it along with the Audible companion - and Jim and I started listening to it when we drove. What a story! Did you know that the merchant marines had the highest WWII casualty rate of any american group, yet, because they weren't a branch of the military they got NO compensation or recognition for their sacrifices. The book follows one family with 7 brothers, 2 of whom were killed in torpedo attacks on their ships. The others were also torpedoed several times by German U-Boats, but they survived. When they returned, they had no GI bill to go to school, no help with mortgages to buy a house, no VA hospital to treat their ailments.

The museum was great! It also gave us another reason to love our little Roadtrek. No problem parking in the lot that only had regular car-size spaces.

The museum was all about the Gulf of Mexico, Merchant Marines during WWII, and just about anything that had to do with the sea. I think my favorite exhibit was a huge, high-tech globe, suspended in the middle of a room. A docent was there with a tablet. From the tablet, she could control the globe and display different data sets on its face. For example, you could see the ocean currents displayed as arrows and different colors to represent temperature. The photo below is showing all the commercial air flights that are in the sky at a given time. The most memorable data set was hurricanes. Seeing them all displayed on a globe made it so clear how there are no hurricanes around the middle. You're safe if you're near the equator!

So, this museum was not really about WWII, but since the Mobile area played such an important ship-building role during the war, there was a lot of info on it.

The main focus was the history of the Gulf region. Here was a piece of history I found particularly compelling, how one ship, one storm, one shipwreck played a major part in shaping the world as we know it.

The museum was right on the water at the cruise ship dock. We were lucky to be there at just the right time to see a big cruise ship cast off and start their cruise.

National WWII Museum in New Orleans

A few days later, in New Orleans, we also checked Trip Advisor and saw the National World War II Museum. We were now further along in our book and were learning all sorts of things about WWII, German U-Boats, Ship building to support the war, and Merchant mariners supporting troops. We had to go to this museum.
As good as the GulfQuest museum was, this one was even better. It started with a movie by Tom Hanks that summarized the entire war in 60 minutes. Very well done.
At the beginning of your tour of the museum you are issued a card with a magnetic strip - you activate the card at one of the exhibits and are given the identity of a soldier. Throughout the other exhibits, you can swipe your card and see how your soldier is doing. It really made the history come alive.

The museum made extensive use of videos. Each exhibit was an immersive experience.

If you're in New Orleans, this is a Must See museum.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

Hurricane Irma: Evacuation Parties

After you've traveled by RV for a few years, you make friends and see them at various places all over the country. In evacuating Florida, we knew that some fellow RVers and Hurricane Irma refugees, were safely parked in Alabama. We pull into Rainbow Plantation Escapees RV park in Summerdale, Alabama and Chris and Cherie of Technomadia came out to greet us. We also had a text message from Chris Yust to come over for happy hour!

Our parking spot at Rainbow Plantation with the Technomadia bus in the background
We're all breathing sighs of relief for our own safety, yet glued to our phone screens for news of friends and family still in the path. For Chris and Cherie, they are fearing the worst, yet hoping for good news of their boat that they left tied up in Marathon - Florida keys.

Hurricane Party #1

The first night (Sunday) we gathered at Chris and Charles motorhome. I was able to get my mini-poodle fix as we all drank wine, felt grateful for being out of harms way, and continued to search for news about those still in Florida. The second night was Monday 9/11. That was the worst day for the hurricane in mainland Florida - we didn't do any partying that day.

Hurricane Party #2 - aka Apple viewing party

Tuesday, Sep 12 was the day for the big Annual Apple Event where they announce all their new products. Chris and Cherie offered to host a viewing party in their motorhome where they can project the event onto a big screen. They know a lot more about the Apple world than we do, so this was a geek's dream to get their commentary as well as watching the event together.

It has to be one of the very coolest parts of RVing that you form temporary neighborhoods where your friends are right next door and you can visit each others' homes and party.

We hosted dinner at our place that night ... which meant sitting on the ground outside our tiny motorhome. Hey! It was beautiful weather. We had dinner then went for a nice walk.

Hurricane Party #3

We had decided to stay just one more night, Wednesday. Chris and Cherie would also leave the next day, so we had to have another party! Everybody but us seemed to know about this great restaurant nearby called Big Daddy's grill. A beautiful setting, good food, and great company.
The CH and J group! Three people named Chris, 2 more start with CH - Charles and Cherie, then there's Jim and Joe.
Chris Dunphy, Cherie Ve Ard, Jim, Chris, Chris Yust, Charles Yust, Joe "ComputerGuy"

Good News

Jim's son, Devon lives close to our townhouse in Fort Lauderdale. His home came thru the storm unscathed, not even losing electricity. He checked on our place and said all was well, but we had no electricity. Charles and Chris had their home with them and they got reports that their RV lot in Ft. Meyers looks good. Chris and Cherie still don't have a first hand confirmation, but they did see an aerial photo that showed their boat is still tied up to the slip where they left it. It's still afloat.
My Mom's assisted living facility was spared any damage during the hurricane, but they lost power. It was quite disturbing when I tried to call and could not get an answer, but it didn't take long before Kathy - the manager in the memory care wing - called me on her cell to let me know that Mom was fine. The worst part was no air conditioning, so they were taking all the residents out to the Coral Springs center (a mall?) for the day where they could stay cool and get something to eat. I heard from her Hospice care aid, Kerrie, that the power was back on by Wednesday evening. Both Kathy and Kerrie are wonderful. They pay close attention and take very good care of Mom - I rested easy Wednesday night.

Next Decision

Once again, we are faced with a decision of which way to go. If it had been a short evacuation to Gainesville, we would clearly have just gone home. But, as it is, we are now 2 days away from home and it's nearly a week later. Our next gig is Sep 24 in New Orleans for the Carriage Travel Club rally. We are only a couple of hours from New Orleans. We have 10 days to work with. We had fully expected to go home, but, being the lazy people we are, and enjoying RVing as much as we do, we decided against the trip back to South Florida. Another fly in the ointment is we had planned to continue on from New Orleans and take our time getting to our next gig at the Workamper Rendezvous in Heber Springs, Arkansas. After that we go to Illinois, and we would not be back in Florida until November.
Choice 1: from our current position at #1, go home right now, then back to New Orleans and on ...

Choice 2: from our current position at #1,  go to New Orleans, then home before heading on to Heber Springs and beyond

We picked choice 2. So, we have a week in this area. Then the rally in New Orleans. Then it will be decision time again - do we really need to go home? Or can we just head to Arkansas? We have two weeks in between, plenty of time.

Life was so much simpler when we were fulltime RVers! There was no "going home" we were always home. Then we just moved on to the next place and we were "home" there. I love Fort Lauderdale and the townhouse, but it does complicate things sometimes.

Let the good times roll!
Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane Irma - Evacuation Indecision

A screen shot from my phone. The blue dot is our current location
Let me begin at the end ... we are #SafeAndSound in Summerdale, Alabama at the Escapees RV park called Rainbow Plantation. We got here about 5pm on Sunday, 9/10/17 after a 400 mile drive from Gainesville.
Our parking spot at Alex's near Gainesville. She was hosting several friends from around the state who were hiding from the hurricane. It became a party she referred to as "Irma Palooza"
 But, it wasn't always clear what to do. As we sat, comfortably, in Gainesville, the eye of the hurricane was still between Cuba and Key West, heading west. The hurricane trackers showed that it was going to come north - but it kept heading west. We knew that other RV friends Chris and Charles Yust, as well as Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard (Technomadia) had escaped Florida and settled at the Alabama Escapees park. Chris Yust even called us on Saturday, essentially to say - "Get your butt over here NOW"

Don't Cross the Streams!

Looking at the image above, it seems clear that we should follow our friend's advice and head west, right? But it wasn't that clear on Saturday. We needed to leave, but it wasn't clear which direction to go. We actually said good-bye to our wonderful hosts, Alex and Jim, pulled the electric plug and put the key in the ignition.

Then we started studying this image:

It just didn't seem right to get on the western side of this thing when it could still be headed that way. If you've ever watched the movie Ghostbusters, you know:

So we sat there and looked at more maps and more options. It appeared that our home in Fort Lauderdale was going to be spared. Could we just go back now? If it did continue west, then heading east - and up into Georgia would be good. But, if it did go straight up, Georgia would be on the more dangerous side of the storm. We had a full tank of gas, but we didn't want to squander any of it because most gas stations were empty.
So we sat there.
and we sat there.
and we stayed there.

We told Alex to make the dinner reservations for 10 instead of 8 and we enjoyed another evening of the "Irma Palooza" party.

Sunday morning was rainy and a little windy. It didn't have anything to do with Irma - but it gave us a bit of a kick-in-the-pants anyway. Not to mention the squealing alarms coming from our phones since the night before:

The storm had taken its predicted turn to the north, so we said our goodbyes - again - and hit the road. There was no traffic at all, and we found a Flying J gas station near Tallahassee where we topped of the gas tank. We were heartened to see all the electrical bucket trucks and other emergency vehicles in caravans heading to south Florida.