Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Oh, my goodness, Thanksgiving has already come and gone!
I hate it that this favorite time of mine is going so fast, actually, faster each year I think ..

And despite all our troubles, we had so much to be thankful for!
Yes, the truck is toast and it's going to wipe out all our savings, and than some, but our wonderful family stepped in once again to help us out. 
And how amazing is it that one of our neighbors towed us to our new spot, and that another one has lend us one of his trucks to use and a third one offered James a job for as long as we're here!?
You see? I cannot for the world complain or whine a lot. Don't you hate it when that happens?
(Oh, and thank goodness we weren't hooked up while it happened, or on the freeway, or worse ..)

Any-who .. thanks to all this wonderful help we were able to spend Thanksgiving pretty much in our traditional way, watching Macy's Parade followed by the Purina National Dog Show, which was won by Whiskey the Whippet!
We'd been able to get the turkey and all the trimmings and we got a delicious pumpkin mousse pie. (I swear I'll never bake another pumpkin pie myself anymore, it was that good!)


 And guess who OD'd on turkey .. again ..

The weather has been a little weird, going from too hot for the time of the year (85F) to way too cold (41F!) and back again!
It's nice enough though to get some morning walks in. This park is huge and has quite a few great nature hiking trails ...


Spanish moss, (Palmetto) Saw Palm trees .. I guess we're not in Kansas anymore!
And there's these guys: Gopher Tortoises!

Interesting animals, these turtles. They dig deep burrows that provide shelter for at least 360 other animal species. They're all over this campground, I see a few each day.

Merl' is 'not amused' ...

Florida is apparently a birders paradise. Lots of species either migrate here for the winter or fly 'through' to South America and some just live here permanently .. good choice guys!
I haven't seen too many exiting ones so far but did find these:


On the left just an 'ordinary' little Flycatcher, but on the right a bird that only lives on the Florida Peninsula, the Florida Scrub Jay.

I really love these Loggerhead Shrikes. See the little hook at the end of his bill?
Oh, and of course there's some snakes in this 'paradise' State:


This is a Southern Black Racer. Not a venomous one, but he's feisty and has a painful bite when challenged.
He's protected by the way.

In the meantime, we're just waiting for the new engine to arrive. The garage has been working at removing the old one. It looks quite dramatic, doesn't it?

For the warranty of the new engine the old injectors also had to be removed and tested. We've send them to BK diesel repairs in Dubuque, IA, where they were installed last year. If they're OK, they go back in the new one.

And James has been working for Shaun all week, he's mostly been painting and is making some good, and badly needed, money.
Well, that's about it for this week, I think. Here's a few more shots of the beautiful park ...


And of the Thanksgiving Full Moon ... spooky ...


Let's hope we have good news next time .. like the new engine being here and being installed.
We'll see .. I'll keep myself busy finishing up the blogs of our travels down south. I've done 2 so far, only 4 more to go!

Monday, November 19, 2018

After a couple of very nice days in beautiful St Augustine, we were ready to move a little further down the coast and so we headed for Melbourne, Florida that is, not Australia .. ha, ha.
We'd booked a site in Wickham Park, a large city park just a couple of miles from down-town Melbourne.

We ended up in a nice site, on the very outskirts of the campground, which bordered the 'primitive' sites, so there was pretty much nothing but nature behind us.

There were several things we wanted to see while we we were here, but the most exiting one had to be Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center!

We both were only young kids when the Apollo 11 landed on the moon in 1969, but we still remember where we were and how exiting it all was, so to go and see where the shuttle was launched was a real thrill.
We went early in an effort to beat the crowds (1.5 million/year) and we did pretty good. 
After parking ($10!) and admission ($50!!!), we were advised to immediately head for the buses that bring you out to the launch pad and to the building where the Apollo and anything astronaut and moon-landing is exhibited.

James among the rockets in the open rocket park

The KSC is an immense complex with an area measuring 34 miles (55 km) long and roughly 6 miles (10 km) wide, covering 219 square miles (570 km2).
Because much of the installation is a restricted area and only nine percent of the land is developed, the site also serves as an important wildlife sanctuary; Mosquito Lagoon Indian River, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore are other features of the area.

One of its most notable and iconic attractions is the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), which is the fourth-largest structure in the world by volume!
You drive right by it during the bus tour:

You also drive all around Launch Complex 39, the now-legendary launch pad from where the Apollo 11 took off.
It has been the launch site for every U.S. manned space flight since 1968.

The bus eventually takes you to the Saturn 5 building, where after arriving you first get to see a movie presentation, and than you enter the enormous hall where a real size Saturn V rocket is on display. 
Walking underneath and all around this enormous rocket is nothing but awe-inspiring...


We had some lunch in the cafe and continued walking through the building which has lots of very interesting and often interactive exhibits .. I even touched a moon-rock!


After being herded into a small auditorium we were shown yet  another (interactive) movie about the launch of the Apollo and the landing on the moon..


After seeing almost everything there was to see, we boarded another bus that brought us back to the main visitor area, where we lined up to enter the building that contains the space shuttle 'Atlantis' in it. 
Upon entering a small theater, another beautiful movie presentation sets the stage for the dramatic opening of the doors that than lead you into the hall where the Atlantis is on display

The whole 'show' is so well done that it's hard not to gasp when the doors open, and this huge space shuttle that's been to space and back 33 times, appears right in front of you!
It just blew me away seeing it in person, and I felt rather emotional I have to say.

It is displayed at an angle, with its cargo bay doors open and robotic arm outstretched, and it seems to be just barely out of reach.

Just for facts: Atlantis has orbited the Earth a total of 4,848 times, traveling nearly 126,000,000 mi (203,000,000 km) or more than 525 times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. 

Again, you can walk all around and underneath it and there are lots of interactive kiosks where you can have some hands-on experience, like simulations for maneuvering the space controls for equipment fixes on board the shuttle.. or even do your only little space walk ..

By now, we were pretty much overwhelmed with everything we'd seen, but the last thing we did was walking over to the IMAX theater for the 3D Journey to Space movie.

This very nice movie, with some astonishing images from space, tells the story of the past and current value of NASA, it's commercial space program, and the plans for the future of space exploration for the next couple of decades, including landing astronauts on Mars.

All in all, it took us a whole day to see what we wanted to see, there was so much to see and do, but we had a great time and thought it was well worth the price of admission.
Another one crossed off the bucket-list!

Next on our list was, of course, to take a better look at the Florida beaches!
We already saw our first glimpse at St Augustine, but we wanted to see some more ..
It was a little bit of a gloomy day, still nice and comfortable though, but the sky was a little cloudy and hazy ..

Surfing is the biggest thing to do here at Melbourne Beach, and there were lots of surfers out trying to catch those elusive bigger waves ..

We had brought our thermoses with coffee and enjoyed watching the 'beach-scene' for a while ..

I snapped some pictures of the wildlife, although there weren't too many around, just a few Sand pipers and the sporadic

Driving south on the A1a, which is located on the long Barrier Island that stretches in front of part of the Atlantic coast, we came across the Barrier Island Conservation Center which houses the Sea Turtle Conservancy.

We went for a short (free) visit and learned a little more about sea turtles, and other creatures, that call the Atlantic home.

On November the 12th (And why do I know it was that exact day? Well, Read and weep) we drove to the Turkey Creek Sanctuary, about 10 miles south of Melbourne.
Established in 1981, this small nature reserve offers a 1.85 mile boardwalk passing through hydric (wet) hammock, mesic (moist) hammock, and sand pine scrub communities.
Much of it overlooks Turkey Creek where the giant Live Oak trees  have Spanish moss swaying softly in the breeze. It is like an enchanted forest. 


Observation points overlooking the creek allow you to observe wildlife of all kinds and a boardwalk let's you enjoy the swamp beneath without getting wet ..

          Soft shell turtle

There were lots of Florida cooters (turtles) in the creek, also some large Soft shells and several Gar fish.
Fishing from his perch of a dead palm-tree leaf was this Green Heron ...

What a pretty little sanctuary!

And now I'll be getting to that part of the story where I'm telling you why I know so well what date this was ... 
Back at the parking lot we tried to start the truck and ... nothing! Well, just some sort of thud, and than nothing ..
We only tried two times because James felt right away this was not good at all, so he stopped before he might do any further damage.
Great! Well ... not, of course!
Some googling on the phone showed no medium truck repair shops in the neighborhood, so we decided to have ourselves towed to the campground to do further research. Fortunately we had road side assistance who found us a heavy tow truck service and fortunately it didn't cost us anything.


The tow truck showed up pretty fast and towing it back to the campground went very smoothly. Thank goodness we were only 10 miles away!
The guys who were towing us gave us the number of the shop where they had their trucks in maintenance, and after a call they agreed to take a look at it.

This time the towing was of course out of our own pocket ...
To make a long story short, it was quickly established that the engine was 'water-locked' and therefore completely ruined!
"This usually requires replacement of the engine or a substantial rebuild of its major components." 
And so there was nothing else to do than starting to look for a new, or refurbished, engine ... and so we did.
We went on-line, and after a day of searching we found a company 'US-Engines Productions', that had one for sale for $4200. Yeah ... yikes, but they were the cheapest!

Next followed a mad scramble to get some finances lined up, and 'with a little help' from Doug and my Mom, who once again came to our rescue, we were able to place the order.
It's going to take a week or so and since it's Thanksgiving next week we're probably looking at the last week of November for it to arrive ... oh, well .. nothing to do but wait ..

Now, for a bit of good news, or luck, or a small miracle maybe, it turns out that one of our close-by neighbors in the park has a truck he's not using, and upon hearing of our 'plight' he offered to lend it to us for as long as we need it.
Wow, how nice is that? James has offered to help him in return to do a little work on another truck of his, that needs some welding and other repairs done. Cool!
Also, even more good luck, since we'd only booked for a couple of nights we had to extend our stay at the campground and, although they were full, we were able to snatch up their 'emergency' site that they keep for situations like this!


So, we had to move to another site, which was a problem since we didn't have a truck.
But, as luck would have it (again .. ha!), we'd spotted people with a large truck a little further down the loop, and when we asked they were totally fine to help us out and tow us over!
A couple of days later we were moved and it didn't take us long to set up camp again.
Actually, this spot is even nicer than the previous one, it's huge!

And, believe it or not, but our luck still had not run out because our next-door neighbor at the previous spot, Shaun, offered James a job as a painter at his (house)painting business!
Doesn't that just take the cake? A truck, a place to stay and a job!
I guess it's really hard to call us un-lucky when we're also so very lucky at the same time, can we?

So, now we wait ...