Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Friday, January 30, 2015

An Afternoon Paddle

The other day, early morning fog gave way to bright sunshine which warmed the earth and begged us to come outdoors and enjoy the beautiful day.  There was very little breeze to speak of which conjured up the idea in my head to get out on the water for a couple hours of paddling through the calm waters of a magical coastal dune lake. 

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The scenery is nothing but spectacular and my senses came alive as I slowly glided through the slightly tannic water.  I took my camera and fly rod not knowing which instrument I would feel like using.  Fly casting can be calming, unnerving, frustrating and rewarding all at the same time.  So I did a little of both.  When my casting efforts yielded nothing I turned to the camera hoping the shutter would.

A raft of coots tried to secretly hide in the cattails as I rounded the bend.  Also called “mud hens” these birds are commonly mistaken for being ducks but are in a totally different family.  In Louisiana, you may find them in gumbo or if you are in Toledo you will find them to be the mascot of your local minor league baseball team. 

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Western Lake (my paddling destination) is one of fifteen coastal dune lakes dotting the coastline of south Walton County.  According to the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, these lakes are designated as "imperiled globally because of rarity and critically imperiled in the state of Florida because of extreme rarity."  Not only do they add scenic beauty but they perform indispensable wetland functions that provide habitat for a wide variety of unique flora and fauna, reduce storm surge, filter nutrients, and exist as a natural estuarine system between the Gulf of Mexico and upland areas.

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Bald eagles routinely nest along the lake and are frequent sightings. 

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Western Lake frequently delivers some of the most stunning sunrises. 

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Boiled Peanuts

066It doesn’t get much more southern than boiled peanuts.  You can add them to the list of collared greens, black eyed peas, fried chicken, and catfish to round out the top iconic southern foods.  To find this symbol of the south look no further than the homemade sign on the side of the road directing you to the back of a pick-up truck or the steaming crockpots on a counter in the local gas station.  I am a huge fan and love slurping the peanuts out of the shell and the enjoying the final product whose flavor is soft, salty, spicy and a tinge of sweet that makes a delicious snack.

The origins of boiled peanuts are not truly known and a couple of theories exist.  Some attribute the idea to slaves who would boil the surplus peanuts after harvest and share with friends and family.  Yet others believe it was the Confederate soldiers who first took to boiling peanuts when rations were scarce and boiled peanuts were a good source of nutrition that did not spoil in their canteens if salt was added.  Boiled peanuts are not confined to the United States as you can find them as a popular street food snack in Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tampa RV Show 2015

We just got back from the Tampa RV Super Show and boy will that make your head spin like a righteous twister.  This was not just an RV “show” this was a “SUPER SHOW.”  If you have never been, you will be amazed at the mass of new RV’s assembled that represent all classes, sizes, configurations, colors, and materials ranging in price from the modest unit under $10K to those listed at an unfathomable $2.4 million!!!!!

040The show lures many tens of thousands of eager shoppers (and onlookers) to find their dream machine.  Thousands of RV wannabies, newbies, and long-time owners are on hand to peruse, and perhaps, haggle over a price that claims one as their own.  Hundreds of vendors are on-hand to sell you their rhinestone wares, funky gadgets, or draw you to their campground.  RV shows are a whirl storm of excitement for RV enthusiasts. 
That being said, we have amassed a few tips for surviving the show.


Have a Budget 


It is hard not to want to look at everything, especially the glitsy, shiny big new expensive motorhomes.  As soon as you entered the Tampa RV showroom you were hit with Prevost, Foretravel, and Airstream.  You couldn’t even get out the door to the corn dog stand before a Newell was staring you down and beckoning you to look.  Now, most of us would not even consider one of these multi-million dollar coaches but dealers bring all makes and models to tempt you.  When we looked at Newmar coaches we started with the King Aire (the top of the line $900K luxury coach) and then went down the list through the Essex, London Aire, Mountain Aire and finally to the Dutch Star (that was in the $300K range).  But guess what?  The Dutch Star didn’t look as good as the King Aire!  Hmmmm, wonder why?  So you may want to start off in your pre-determined price range (this is key) before you go looking at the budget busters.  What we’re really trying to say is don’t torture yourself.

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Have a Plan 


Time flies when you are wandering around the show so if there are RV’s you really want to see and are considering buying, make sure you fit them in sooner than later.  We were there a day and a half and were surprised how fast the time went.  It is nice to be able to go back and see units on another day with a fresh open mind.  And don’t forget to save time for going by the vendors offering cool new gadgets and great prices.

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Take Notes and/or Pictures 


A great way to remember what you like (i.e., floorplan, color scheme, brand, etc) is by taking notes and pictures.  An ideal place to write your notes is on the manufacturers brochure.  Free tote bags are plentiful and ideal for keeping your brochures so you have two free hands to feel the couch and open drawers. 

Wear Comfortable Shoes 

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In our RV world, high fashion is a new pair of sneakers.  Don’t try to be a fashionista because you are going to be doing some serious walking.  Just watch the Fitbit go off the charts.  [On this note, let me bring up the subject of food.  You might want to wear those loose fitting pants since you are surrounded by corn dogs, polish sausage, and fried dough disguised under powdered sugar.]


Talk to Owners 


Often we find the most valuable information comes from owners and not the salesperson.  Usually, owners of a particular manufacturer will be viewing the latest and greatest from the same manufacturer.  This presents a great opportunity for you to ask how they like their RV, how is the manufacturers service, what don’t they like, would they buy another, etc.  After all, these people have experience with the product and the service. 


Show Price?


rv-show-pricing-660x300Will you really get the best price at the show?  If you walk away will they never make that same deal again?  We think not.  Dealers love to show you the MSRP and put a red line through it with a tempting “show price.”  They will tell you they “don’t want to have to take the RV back home.” This is when eager buyers pull the trigger and buy on impulse.  Another problem with buying at the show is the wear and tear that RV’s suffer during the frenzy.  It is not uncommon to see units that have dings, scratches, drawers not closing, and cabinet pulls broken.  Check out nearby dealers where the craziness of the show is left behind and the pressure is less.  This is also a good way to see RV’s without so many people around.  We popped over to Lazydays where we saw a lot of coaches where there were no salespeople or other lookers. 

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Keep An Open Mind


After you have seen the RV’s that were on your list to see, wander around with an open mind and see if anything else strikes you.  You may have come looking for a small travel trailer but maybe you are more interested in a really cool vehicle roof tent that is more practical for your backcountry roughing it idea of camping.


Here are Some of the Fun Things We Saw at the Show


The Dynamax Grand Sport GT outfitted as a party bus with an MSRP of $607,500.  There is no bed, shower, kitchen, or other necessary items if you are going to live in it.  Instead there is tons of seating, multiple televisions, and a bar.  It is the ultimate party on wheels.

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The retro Winnebago Brave has everybody turning heads.  The classic style seems to intrique RV’ers looking for something with a little more character and brings back the fun-loving, free spirit of the 60’s and 70’s.  While the original carried a price tag of $4,000 this baby will set you back around $100K.

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Cascadia Vehicle Tents drew some looks from us and is a great product for those looking to the rustic side of camping.  These sturdy, waterproof tents allow you to sleep comfortably above mud, rocks, dirt, critters and (most importantly) in a pool of water.  Best of all, you can get into one of these for around a thousand and be camping in style and comfort.  Talk about glamping!

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In case you are wondering, we did not buy anything.  Looking is always fun and much cheaper than buying.  Although I really did like the Foretravel!

If you have never been to an RV Super Show, we highly recommend it. 

Happy shopping . . . or looking!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Surrounded by Tin Cans

070When Airstream after Airstream came rolling into the park we knew a rally was about to take place.  One hundred of these iconic Twinkie-shaped shining beauties invaded the campground and livened up the sleepy park.  There were three days of pot lucks, live music, bloody mary bars, open houses, and plenty of mingling about that brought tin canners out into the streets despite the chilly weather.

001Airstream first took to the street in 1929 at the hands of a young travel enthusiast by the name of Wallace (“Wally”) Merle Byam.  The first design was a tent simply set on a Model T chassis.  This design did not fair well in the rain and his wife was not a fan.  The tent was cleverly replaced with a teardrop-shaped permanent shelter that sported a stove and ice chest.  Now we are talking!  The design caught the eye of fellow travelers who asked Wally about it which sparked the idea that building travel trailers might be “a pretty good business to get into.”  The success of Wally’s Popular Mechanics guide to building a trailer showed a demand and a business was born.

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Building trailers in the front yard seemed like a pretty good idea to Wally but noise complaints from the neighbors spurred him into renting a factory and, in 1931, Airstream had its first factory in Culver City, California (which later moved to Jackson Center, Ohio).

Travel-crazed Americans enthusiastically took to the road and trailer manufacturers sprung up across the country.  By 1937, there were some 400 manufacturers – all but Airstream would succumb to the economic hardships of the Great Depression and World War II.  During imagesthe war, aluminum was hard to come by and Wally shut down the factory and found employment at various aircraft factories in California.  The knowledge would serve him well.  When the war ended, the plant he was working at (Curtiss-Wright) closed down and Wally saw the opportunity to revive his trailer business in the factory and the Curtis Wright Clipper was born – the first aircraft constructed trailer.

Eager to road test his product and the urge to travel sent Wally and a friend to war-ravaged Europe in 1948.  They traveled in . . . what else . . . but an Airstream.  This trip was the precursor to Airstream Caravans and the Wally Byam Caravan Club International which is still going strong.

So where did the name Airstream come from?  Wally’s dream was to build a travel trailer that would move like a stream of air, be light enough to be towed by a car, and create first-class accommodations anywhere.  We’d say he achieved that goal.

During the rally at our campground an “Open House” or as Airstreamers call it “Can Opener” was held.  Participants opened their doors, baked cookies, offered spiked cider, and were all too happy to talk about their trailers.  On display were vintage trailers lovingly restored, brand new 2015 units that smelled brand new, customized trailers capable of sleeping seven kids (plus two adults), and everything in between.  So we invited some friends (and potential Airstream buyers) over for the event and spent hours going through each one.

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We all like the Eddie Bauer "Base Camp" trailer that is a toy hauler.
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This 1988 motorized Airstream was all original including the mauve colored couch.
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And in case you are looking to take seven kids with you, bunks are the option of choice.
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We especially loved this restoration by a women who has great taste and had never restored one before.
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The Airstream rally was a ton of fun . . . and we don’t even own an Airstream!  During the weekend we met so many great people like Joanne and Greg - blog readers who are getting close to their dream of retiring and hitting the road full-time in an Airstream.  We also hooked up with Jim and Tim and Debbie and Jim – Airstreamers who we met on RVillage and invited over for a drink along with our good friends Nealy’s on Wheels.  Prior to the rally, we met Gone with the Wynn’s and enjoyed swapping RV’ing stories with them.

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It’s back to work for three days before heading to the Tampa RV show (just to look!)