"For Me, Another Definition of GOD
"Your life is what has happened to you
while you were busy making other plans."
to me that we all look at nature too much, and live with her too little"
"That's the thing about Mother Nature - She
"You can gauge a country's real wealth by its tree
"I like to think that one
of the best brews is the one handed to you by a new friend"
What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
"....I travel not to go anywhere, but to
go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."
A Birth Certificate shows that
Pat's June 2012 Blog
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Friday June 29th - The New Tiki Bar & A Whole New Stress Level
Sometimes I wonder what the hell is wrong with Cindy and Me? I mean why on Earth do we take on so much stuff?
We're in the middle of a Tropical Storm and we decide to remodel our Tiki Bar. While we're in the middle of remodeling the bar, we're also in the process of planning a full scale 4th of July Party which means sourcing fireworks, pulling permits, trying to find enough volunteers to handle the cooking of the food for around 400 people, finding porta-johns so we'll have enough bathrooms....etc... and do all of this while trying to run the motel and keep the marriage happy.
We pulled it off and as we were cleaning the glasses we were bringing back out to the tiki bar at 4pm on Friday afternoon just as the first patrons walked in, we both sort of looked at one another shaking our heads. We couldn't believe we had built a new bar in 3 days time and had it finished.
Now granted, the top is still just raw wood, but we're planning on putting down a epoxy surface and it takes 72 hours for the epoxy to dry, so there is no way we'll be able to do it before the 4th.
We figure we'll let the top get well worn before we epoxy it which will make it look more authentic. I want to cover the bar surface with some historic maps and I'm waiting for a few more to be found before we finish it. So waiting a week or two will give us time to get everything in order.
This morning I painted the concrete floor to try and help keep the dust down and it dried just in time.
Our good friend Levi picked up the fireworks and delivered them today and it looks like the 4th is going to be one heck of a show.
In the last week, Cindy was able to raise close to $5000 all from local donations and the party is the buzz of Facebook which is where 99% of the marketing was done. Talk about pulling a rabbit out of thin air!
The new Tiki Bar was a hit and it was properly broken in this weekend. We're talking Belly Button Shots being drank off of it, girls trying to dance on it and multiple drinks being spilled on it! All in all, it was a great weekend.
Tuesday June 26th - The Eye of the Storm & A New Tiki Bar
All the weather forecasts had us pegged for major damage today. Every channel we turned to was saying bad things about Cedar Key, but if you would have drove into town not knowing there was a storm out in the Gulf of Mexico, you'd never have even known it was Hurricane Season.
It was a beautiful day today? There were some funky clouds in the sky, and every now and then we'd get some strong gusts of wind blowing through, but for the most part, it just seemed like a typical summer day.
We went downtown first thing to see if there was any more damage that had occurred overnight, but nothing looked out of the norm except for a bunch of seaweed on the streets that had been washed up and the docks off the marina that had been damaged yesterday. Those giant waves along with salty sea spray covering everything was gone. The Gulf of Mexico out off of Cedar Key was actually calm and flat.
There would be no need for our ThinkTank Hydrophobia Rain Covers today and we could go back to shooting with just the bare camera bodies.
The city workers were busy cleaning up the debris and a few locals were helping one another sort through the wood pieces that had washed up along the beach. From what we were told, the trick to putting together a dock is to only nail it down with one short nail. This way it will break loose very easily when the storm hits.
You then find the pieces that have washed ashore and simply put them back together like some hap-hazard puzzle.
Cindy and I spent an hour or so cleaning debris off the beach and piling branches and palm fronds along the curb that had been blown down in the city park. We figured since there was no damage at our place, we might as well help the city clean up the mess of downtown.
After cleaning up the city park, we drove over to the Faraway Inn to see if they needed any help. They had been hit pretty good with the water coming over the road in front of the motel.
They were busy cleaning so Cindy and I just helped with putting some heavy railroad ties back in place that had floated across the yard and picked up piles of sticks and sea weed that had washed up.
Soon enough, it was looking like normal around Cedar Key and we headed back home to get to work on the tiki bar. For some time now we've wanted to rearrange the size of the tiki bar to make more room for patrons. The bar itself is too big and takes up way more room than it needs to.
Since all forecasts had the storm sitting over top of us for the entire week, we had cancelled all the motel guests for the rest of the week. We figured this would probably be our best opportunity to tear into this project without disturbing any guests who would be on vacation. We just needed to be able to tackle this in 3 days time as we had guests checking in on Friday and the Tiki Bar would need to be open.
Plus, in the past few days, we've found out that the City of Cedar Key and Clamerica dropped the ball and cancelled the 4th of July celebration that normally takes place here in town. This has many residents very upset, so we're trying to put something together to hold our own little party here at the Low-Key Hideaway.
Being as it was only 10am by the time we were finished with everything in town, Cindy started unloading tools out of the cargo trailer while I tore into the demolition of the existing bar.
Talk about some cuss words being thrown around. When we had rebuilt this the first time, I left much of what was there and just rearranged it somewhat. To take this apart, I was dealing with Square Head Screws, Slotted Screws, Nails of all sizes and lengths, Phillips Head Screws, Star Bit Screws of two different sizes and most of these had their heads stripped out. So the sawzall did more work than the screw gun did.
The hardest part of all of this reconstruction was moving all the beer around and still having enough room to work. Cindy spent over an hour carrying boxes of glasses, bar supplies and the moving of stools outside the bar area just to give us some working room while I was busy with the demo.
By this point of the day, the heat building up with all the water in the air made it feel like we were working inside a roasting sauna. We normally don't have a mosquito problem, but with the standing water on the grass and all around the island, I couldn't decide if I was more drenched from the bug spray or the sweat coming out my pores.
You have to remember that Cindy and I are no carpenters. We really don't know what we're doing here. Plus a husband and wife team makes for some serious arguments when it comes to building something from scratch that is basically scribbled on a few bar napkins.
There were numerous times when Cindy would throw down the tools and just walk out of the tiki bar when we'd be arguing over something that neither of us could figure out. The main problem is I don't know numbers and cant add, subtract or do anything when it comes to math. My brain is dyslexic when it comes to numbers and it just doesn't make sense to me. But I can see things and know how they should be built or how I think they should look.
This drives Cindy insane because she's a numbers girl and will rattle off a bunch of measurements, formulas and geometry while I just sit there scratching my head wondering what she's saying.
We could have probably sold tickets to this episode of the Pat & Cindy Show and had stadium seating around the tiki bar with the audience just rolling on the floor laughing. From the time I was about to smack a board with the hammer and Cindy, who is holding it isn't paying attention and moves the board just as the hammer is in the down-swing motion so I end up smacking my hand with it. As I drop the hammer cussing she looks over and says "Now why did you do that?" not knowing that she was the one who moved the board.
Or the time she's holding the screw while I'm reaching up to try and screw it in. The drill slips and I end up screwing the bit into her arm. Yeah, it was painful and comical at the same time.
Mid-way through the day, the City of Cedar Key sent out a warning that we were going to experience a tidal surge that would be 2-4' and everyone needed to be on High Alert.
Since we were in the middle of working on the tiki bar, we asked the guys who were trimming some trees in the yard if we could pay them to go fill sand bags for us. In no time they came back with 50 sand bags filled and we piled them in front of every door incase the water was to come up and over the road or the sea wall.
Better to be safe than sorry even though the water still looked calm and except for the breeze picking up, it was still a beautiful day outside. It hadn't even rained at all today which was a drastic change from the last few days.
Once the sandbags were stacked, we worked through the rest of the day and into the night till the mosquitoes drove us inside. Even with multiple fans blowing right on us, we were donating blood faster than our bodies could produce it. Plus, it was 11pm when we finally went in the house and we'd been up since Sunrise.
Oh, we never got the tidal surge. At the last minute, the storm moved just north of us and went ashore in Apalachicola causing major flooding up there. The evening news showed some serious damage to that area, but luckily we were spared this time.
Monday June 25th - Day 2 of Tropical Storm Debby
The storm had sat still all night with heavy rains and strong winds blowing almost non-stop. We woke to find the back yard looking much the same as it did yesterday. About ankle deep water, but nothing higher. Thank God we weren't flooded out!
I went out and started up the little pump to help keep the water at a controllable level. I was too worried to leave it on all night incase it had stopped raining, the motor would have burnt up as it wasn't allowed to run dry.
Cindy made some coffee and we loaded up the cameras in the truck so we could head downtown to see what the storm had done to Dock Street throughout the night.
The Flying Fish Boat Tour Dock was pretty beat up, but still standing. Tide Water Tours Boat Dock was the same way. Both were really tattered, but had survived the night.
By this point, dock street was mostly covered in seaweed and rather than just have cones out to block the road off, the Police or City Workers had actually roped it off. This was a good thing because we had seen many vehicles just drive around the cones yesterday.
After a few hours of driving around just assessing the damage, we thought that maybe it hadn't rained as hard last night as we had thought because there wasn't as much flooding as there was yesterday afternoon. I'm not kidding when I say it was one of those rains that felt like it was actual sleet because of how hard it was pelting your skin.
Today, the storm would come through in waves. The wind would start blowing, the rain would start falling and then it would just stop. It would be calm for maybe 20 minutes, sometimes up to an hour before it would come down again in buckets.
I didn't think this was a bad thing because it would allow the ground to soak up the rain rather than flood. I think over the course of today, I probably went through 4 different outfits. Yesterday I had gone through at least 6. Each time we'd be out shooting or cleaning up debris, we'd get soaked. I'd change into dry clothes only to have this happen over and over again.
I told Cindy that last night when I had taken off my Teva's, my feet were pruned from being wet the entire day.
We went home to get some rest and wait for this afternoons High Tide. That would be the kicker as it would bring the water levels up which were already at their highest we've ever seen them. When we pulled up to the motel, there was a immature Brown Pelican standing at our front door.
It had probably been blown out of the nest or separated from it's parents in the high winds. We weren't sure what to do with it, but you could tell it was really hungry. It was just sitting there shivering and if you raised your hands, it would open it's mouth like you were the parent going to feed it.
Cindy opened a can of fresh Tuna, but no matter how we tried to feed it to it, it wouldn't eat any? Of course this meant Cindy wanted to bring it in the house, but I wouldn't let her. I was worried that if we brought it in the house, it might regain strength and start trying to fly or flapping its wings and end up injuring itself even worse.
We just left the plate full of Tuna outside and it huddled in the corner by our dryer vent where heat was coming out of the wall and it was out of the rain and wind.
When the tide did start coming in, we knew it wasn't going to be good for any of the businesses on the water. The wind also picked up something fierce which was blowing the waves even harder than we had seen them yesterday.
A few businesses were flooded due to the tides and this afternoons storm would tear out the remaining docks down at the marina. The marina parking lot was filled with News Crews and locals all watching the storm come in with little to do to stop it.
The afternoon was hectic as we were worried that at any moment, a surge might come ashore or major damage might take place to the towns infrastructure. Luckily, it never happened.
The road headed towards the airport was filled with debris, and if you didn't have a truck with high clearance, you'd probably get stuck trying to get through.
The fire department had many of the towns roads blocked off so folks wouldn't be trying to get through those areas and end up getting their vehicles flooded over.
By the end of the day, we were both exhausted from all the adrenaline that had been pumping through our bodies. We both went to bed wondering what tomorrow would bring when the news forecasts were saying the storm would make landfall and pass directly over us.
Sunday June 24th - Tropical Storm Debby Approaches
The weekend was great and the tiki bar was packed both Friday and Saturday. Saturday evening, just before sunset, we had a strong storm front blow in that was pretty cool to watch from the deck behind the motel.
Sunday morning we woke to pouring rain and strong winds. It had been raining for much of the night which was a really good thing for us. I was planning on running into Chiefland to pick up some cases of Tonic Water and Soda Water along with a bunch of other supplies the tiki bar had run out of.
I had planned on leaving real early so I'd be back in time when guests started checking out and Cindy and I could both work on the rooms.
Almost anytime I get ready to leave town, I make a point of driving through Downtown Cedar Key just to see what the town looks like and how busy the marina is. Especially early in the morning like this. I think when I left the motel, it was only 7am.
This morning I was in for a Shock. The weather reports kept talking of a Tropical Storm moving up through the Gulf that was pushing some big waves with it. We never even gave it a second thought because we almost never get waves here in Cedar Key. Most joke that our bays are like giant lakes for how calm they always are.
So when I drove around Dock Street, I was shocked to see waves crashing into our sea wall and flooding over the street. There was a nice BMW sitting right along the sea wall that was covered in sea weed and the street itself was already about ankle deep in water.
I pulled over to where the boat parking was just to watch the waves. I noticed that Heath's dads truck and trailer were parked in the marina parking lot and I was worried that they were out in this storm. I called Heath right away to see if he had heard from his father.
He said "I'm sitting in my truck at the other end of the marina trying to call him right now!"
So I drove over to his truck and got in his passenger seat. We sat talking for awhile as he was explaining that due to all the rain, the Clam Farmers had a deadline to pull their clams out of the beds because the ocean water had too much fresh water mixed in with it.
This is why his dad had gone out in the storm was to pull all their clams otherwise they'd loose them. Isn't it ironic that we cant drink our water right now because it has salt intrusion, and the clam farmers have to pull their clams because the salt water has too much fresh water in it!?!?
While I was sitting in Heath's truck, I asked about the outside docks that line the boat ramp. They were getting heaved and thrashed quite a bit from the constant pounding of waves coming off the Gulf. He told me that the City has a contract with someone who is supposed to pull them, but this storm sort of snuck up on everyone, so they obviously hadn't been pulled out in advance.
Just then my phone rang as Cindy was calling to tell me to pick up something she had forgotten to put on the shopping list. I told her I was still sitting at the marina and was telling her how crazy the waves were.
She scolded me for not coming to get her and said "Come get me right now, I want to see this too!"
Just then we saw Heath's dads boat coming out of the wall of rain and fog that was just off the marina. The boat was loaded down with clams and in the big waves and high winds, it was pitching and rolling something awful. Multiple times did we watch waves come over the sides of the boat. Luckily these Bird Dog style boats have the motors in the Bow and don't have a transom like a normal boat, so taking on a wave that would normally sink a typical boat design just washes right out the back of these work boats.
It was a nail biting few minutes as we watched him ride the waves with the crew holding on for dear life. Once we saw the boat come under the bridge into the protected marina, Heath jumped out and got in his fathers truck to back it down the boat ramp. I jumped in my own truck to go pick Cindy up so she could see how crazy this storm was.
We put the cameras in our ThinkTank Hydrophobia Rain Covers so they'd be protected and we could be out shooting in the pouring rains. It was coming down in buckets and at such an angle, that you couldn't really get away from it even if you had a rain jacket on. The wind was blowing so strong, it would rip off the hood of the jacket and within seconds you'd have water running down your back, so it was easier to just put on swimming shorts and a thin shirt and get yourself soaking wet within seconds of getting out of the truck.
Cindy and I were both amazed that the floating docks had been left out. We've been in the process of pricing out floating docks to put out on the end of our dock behind the motel, and let me tell you, they're not cheap. The city docks would be lucky to survive today's waves if this kept up.
After a few hours of taking photos and just watching the storms roll through, I dropped Cindy off at home and told her to start calling guests that had made reservations for the next few days and cancel them.
There shouldn't be any reason to let a unsuspecting vacationer come into a storm like this just to put a few bucks into our pockets, and if the storm was to move up to a real Hurricane, there would be a mandatory evacuation anyways, so it would be better to just keep unnecessary visitors off the island for the rest of the week.
The worst part was the meteorologists had no idea which way the storm was heading. Depending on which channel you watched, everyone was saying it was going to go in a different direction?
My entire drive into Chiefland, it was pouring down a cats and dogs type of rain. I was having trouble seeing the front of my hood and all I could think of was I hope this lasts for a few days to try and help restock our aquifers that are so low. You'd think that with it raining this hard, the ditches would be full and the ground would be pooling in places. But the dried ground was acting like a giant sponge and just sucking it up as fast as the sky could drop it.
I spent an hour in Wal-Mart shopping for my supplies for the tiki bar and picked up a few extra things I thought might come in handy if the storm does get worse. Heavy Duty Rain Coats, some extra batteries for flashlights, some extra rope incase I need to tie Cindy to a palm tree to hold her down. You know, the essentials.
While I was shopping, Cindy called to tell me to pick up some sort of pump because the water was finally starting to pool pretty heavy in the back yard, and the latest forecast said we were expecting 3 more days of this.
I ran over to Tractor Supply and grabbed their last sump pump off the shelf and headed home as fast as the nasty weather would allow me to.
This trip was somewhat unnecessary at this point, because there was no need to get tiki bar supplies if we're going to be getting 3 solid days of Tropical Storm style rains and we've just cancelled all our guests that would be staying with us. But it was all dry goods, so none of it would perish if we lost power or didn't have any guests for the next few days.
As soon as I pulled up, Cindy told me to grab the pump and hook it up in the back yard as she'd unload the groceries. The lawn in the back has a tendency to flood because we've yet to install gutters along the back roofline. Something that will be done ASAP once this storm is over. What happens is you have the entire motel roof that is draining it's contents onto a small area of lawn.
I walked around in the shin deep water looking for the deepest section of water where I could put the pump. Once I found it, we strung the extension cord over and hooked up a piece of garden hose. We ran the hose over the sea wall and got the pump working. Since this pump I had bought wasn't considered a Trash Pump which would have no issues sucking up small pieces of debris, we put the pump on a small piece of roofing tin we had left over from the tiki bar so it wouldn't be sucking up grass and dirt into the pump.
Once that was up and running, we went around to the front of the building where the downspouts were dumping massive amounts of water onto the sidewalk. This is normally not an issue with the minimal amounts of rain we get. Problem was now the winds were blowing out of the East, so any water on the sidewalks was flowing back towards the building. We found an extra piece of PVC pipe that we had lying around which would extend the downspout out over the sidewalk and solve the standing water issue.
Believe me were taking notes this entire time about small items like this that need to be addressed for future storms. Remember this is only a minor Tropical Storm right now. Imagine if it was a full blown Hurricane with more rain and for a longer period! This was a good lesson plan for us since it's our first true storm since living here in Cedar Key.
With those issues resolved, we grabbed the cameras and headed back downtown to see what the conditions were.
Getting closer to town, we were already seeing massive street flooding with multiple roads closed off due to high water. Not that it would have been an issue with the truck, but you get someone in a small car, and they'd have been getting water inside their doors as it was close to the bottom of the truck in some areas now and we're much higher than any cars.
We spent the better part of the afternoon driving around the town just watching the amazing forces of Mother Nature at work. The wind gusts were coming in at 60mph at times and Dock Street was now closed off due to water over the road.
Talking with the employees of the Seabreeze Restaurant, they said they were taking in water through the bottom of the floors due to high water. They had shop-vac's going along with high powered fans to try and keep the standing water off the floor.
During all the commotion, those outside docks we had mentioned earlier caused a major ruckus. One of them broke loose and was headed right for the Seabreeze building as it was getting smashed to pieces along the seawall.
The Chief of Police along with the Fire Chief and a half dozen other were already on the scene. They grabbed a long rope, lassoed the dock and hooked the rope to one of their trucks. Pulling the dock back towards the boat ramp, the Fire Chief ran and got the Hardware Stores front end forklift so they could reach out and pull the dock out of the water.
They were having trouble getting the chains and ropes hooked to the dock that was thrashing around against the edge of the seawall with the force of the waves. I heard Cindy gasp when the Fire Chief jumped out over the seawall onto the dock so he could reach down and hook the chains up.
It didn't matter at this point who's fault it was the docks hadn't already been removed. I find it amazing that the Fire Chief would go to such lengths to secure and remove a dock that was ready to major damage to the local buildings.
The Seabreeze Restaurant also has a giant Propane container that sits out over the water beside their building. While much of this chaos was going on, I was in the upstairs of the Seabreeze trying to get a better angle on the action.
I saw one of the local guys, James McCain walk towards the propane tank while waves were exploding all around him. He climbed out onto the narrow walkway and opened the top to be sure the propane valve itself was shut off.
Talk about some heroic actions being put forth by locals all in the brunt of the storm. It was an exhausting day. From being soaking wet for much of the day to being on high alert the whole time we were around the seawall. You never knew when one of those waves was going to come crashing over the seawall and drench you in cold salt water.
While driving around town, we had gone out to the airport to see what the storm looked like from that side of the island. There was a little top-wing plane that was tied to the tarmac that had come in for a landing a few days ago and popped a tire.
Cindy and I were sitting there watching it as it would be hovering off the ground at times due to the strong winds. We both commented that we hoped whom ever had tied it down did so correctly, because it was going to be testing those knots on a day like today.
A few hours later, we headed back out to the airport only to find it upside down. We both wondered how long it had flipped after we left the last time because as soon as we had left was when some of the strongest gusts had come blowing through.
The rest of the afternoon was spent much of the same way. From going home to check the pump in the back yard, to driving around town watching the storm surges push through. I think the pump was a life saver as it rained in epic proportions for the majority of the day and although the backyard held water in it all day, it never got any higher than when we put the pump out.
By the end of the day, one of the docks down at the Marina had been completely washed away from the seawall and the Flying Fish Dock wasn't looking like it was going to last through the night.
The night was a flurry of messages on Facebook after we had uploaded our days worth of images. This was just a Tropical Storm! What would happen if we were to get hit by a full blown Hurricane?
We both went to bed exhausted with a lot of things on our mind. Luckily we hadn't taken on any water and we were both in really good health and physical shape incase we needed to help others or start packing up due to a storm surge. So we were going to bed counting our blessings really.
Wednesday June 20th - The Start of the Water Crisis
The past week has been crazy for Cindy and I. The last few days in New Orleans were hectic to say the least. Between spending every second with Jazper and our family, to trying to get the camper ready to roll back home, it wasn't a vacation of rest and relaxation, that's for sure.
Driving home was pretty uneventful. We had planned on spending the afternoon and evening on St. George Island at the State Park Campground. But due to a longer drive than we had anticipated, we didn't arrive till after dark, and the rumors that if the wind isn't blowing the mosquitoes will carry you away were way understated. In the 10 minutes it took us to back in while Cindy was outside guiding me into the narrow campsite, I had the windows in the truck rolled down so I could hear her directions, I swatted a hundred mosquitoes while Cindy looked like she was doing some sort of epileptic dance.
Forget putting the stabilizer jacks down or even unhooking anything. We just scurried into the camper to try and get away from the onslaught of unwanted blood donations we were giving to the local scavengers.
Driving home from New Orleans, the reason we were running behind schedule was due to taking HWY 98 across the bottom portion of the coast which was anything but the most direct route. There must have been some major construction going on with another road to cause this route to be so packed full of vehicles. We moved most of the day at about 35mph and seemed to get caught at every stop light we passed.
Hoping to get to St. George late in the afternoon and having time to walk the beautiful beaches ended with pulling up to the locked gate. There was a keypad you were supposed to enter to open the gate. I had written down our Confirmation # when I made the reservation, but never read the fine print that said "If arriving after the park closes, be sure to call the gate attendant and ask what the code will be for that night."
I thought Cindy was going to strangle me when the confirmation number and any other combination of code I tried to key in failed to open the gate.
While we were sitting there just kicking the ground wondering what to do next, we saw a truck approaching behind us. It was another camper coming into the gate who had gone out to dinner and was already staying in the campground. I asked if they knew the code, which they did, and we were finally able to enter and donate some blood to the place where Mosquitoes were invented.
To show you how simple I am when it comes to food. When we were finally in the camper and settled down, Cindy said "I'm too friggin' tired to cook dinner and I don't want to eat this late! Can you just make yourself what ever you want?"
This meant my dinner consisted of a few spoonful's of ice cream washed down with a big glass of Johnny Walker Black on the rocks. If I was a bachelor, I probably wouldn't even need a refrigerator. I could probably get by with just a good cooler and maybe an ice maker.
We pulled back into Cedar Key on Thursday evening just before Sunset. It had rained pretty much the entire way home which was a good thing because of how badly we need the rain. We both joked that it probably wasn't even raining in Cedar Key even though there were times we couldn't see past the hood of the truck due to how hard it was coming down.
Just as we had thought, within a mile of that #4 Bridge which brings you onto the islands, the rain stopped and the roads were bone dry.
As we were backing the truck and trailer into a campsite, trucks were stopping to ask if the tiki bar was going to be open tonight. We told them it wasn't, but they were more than welcome to watch the sunset with us and put back a few.
It was good to be home and back at the Low-Key Hideaway. You know you had a good vacation when you're ready to go back to work.
The following days were spent emptying the camper, getting things back to normal and settling back into our normal schedules. We had some great guests staying with us this weekend and a visit from a good friend of ours who lives in Michigan.
Once back in the house, I went to get a drink of water from our refrigerator. I normally only drink from the fridge as it's filtered water and takes out the chlorine taste our city water normally has.
I thought the water tasted funny and figured maybe Amber hadn't used the water dispenser while we were gone, so maybe the water had gone stale in the lines. I grabbed a pitcher and filled it a few times dumping it on some house plants to flush the water lines.
Nope, it still tasted funny. I went to the sink and that water even tasted worse. I went to a few different faucets in the house for some reason like it was going to taste different if it came out of a different faucet. Nope, they all tasted very salty.
Cindy noticed it too and we had both commented that when showering, it felt like we were showering with softened water. If you have a water softener, then you'll know the feeling it leaves on your skin almost like you cant wash the soap off.
We called Heath to see if there was an issue with the city water. He said he and Jolie had both noticed something, but he thought it was his cartridges they use in their water filters. Heath said he had even ordered new filters thinking his had gone bad. He said "I mean if something was wrong with the city water, surely they'd notify the residents!"
By the time we were all together and talking about this, it was Friday afternoon and the water department had already closed for the weekend. Cindy said she'd call first thing on Monday morning.
By Monday, the situation had gotten much worse. When we first got home, you could drink the water as it only had a slight salty taste to it. By Monday, it tasted like you were drinking it straight out of the ocean. The more you drank, the more thirsty it made you.
Cindy called the water department first thing to find out they did know something was wrong with their water, they just hadn't let the local citizens know yet. They told her there would be a meeting on Tuesday afternoon at the water department to explain the issue and let us know what we should do. Until then, he said the water was drinkable to their testing measurements and was clean, it was just very salty and he wouldn't recommend drinking it.
We went to this meeting yesterday to find out that due to the water drought problems much of Central Florida has been dealing with, the wells the city draws their water from are so low, they have salt water intrusion. The Suwannee River Water Management gave some statistics that the 12-month rainfall recordings ending April 30th is in the lowest one percent of all 12-month periods, and is the lowest of all May through April 12-month periods based on records beginning in 1932.
You know all the talk of 'Water is the next Oil' and is what wars will be fought over in the future? I believe we have just opened to doors to that battlefront.
There is basically no fix for this situation. You can NOT just tap new wells and fix the situation. Many of the natural springs Central Florida are known for have run dry and this isn't just a problem for Cedar Key, this is a problem for much of the United States and the world over. Much of Central Florida's cities and counties are under strict water restrictions right now. We're talking hefty fines if caught watering lawns, cars or wasting water for anything other than bathing and washing in.
I find it strange that the water department says they're going to be bringing in Mobile Reverse Osmosis Systems to use at the Water Treatment Plants so we can have fresh water again. Looking into R/O Systems, I read that they typically waste 3 to 4 gallons of water for every gallon it produces. This is like what our government is doing with our economy and the bailouts? Lets keep using something that isn't working to fix something temporarily that'll waste more of what we're out of to begin with. It's sort of like a dog chasing its own tail. Once they catch it, what have they achieved? NOTHING!
Crazy part is once we learned we couldn't drink our water, I had this un-quenchable thirst. The stores in town are already out of bottled water and we have to wait a day before the city will be bringing in bottled water by the truck load to give out to residents.
The meeting was talking about how this water will be distributed and how only local residents will be given the bottled water. Like I said, the battle is about to begin.
These next few weeks will be very interesting to see how we handle this situation. What do we tell our guests at the motel? Do we provide them all with bottled water and do we just hand out an unlimited supply or do we ration it per guest, and how do you figure that out? What happens to our water bill? Are we paying for water that we cant use? What happens to our property values if this cant be fixed quickly? What happens to the tourism industry?
So many questions to ask and so much to think about.
Here is a link to a story the local newspaper did on the meeting where they mentioned Cindy and I.
Saturday June 9th - What a Fun Day in NOLA
After last nights sleep, or lack there of, we all awoke to a cheery eyed boy this morning. What a great baby Jazper is. How many babies do you know who wake up just laughing and smiling and keeping themselves occupied without trying to crawl out of bed or wake you up from screaming or crying?
We all sat in bed for awhile just playing and laughing at Jazper's little quirks and the little things he likes to laugh about. He loves that every time you push on Luca's nose his tongue comes out, he is fascinated by Cindy's reading glasses and he loves to try and touch the glass on the front of the lens of the camera.
Once out of bed, we ate some breakfast and went to play down in the little playground the KOA has. The weather turned nasty and started to rain, so we headed over to Donielle's.
Donielle had some errands to run, so Cindy and I left Jazper with her and went downtown New Orleans for the Naked Bike Parade that was going on this afternoon.
We had called Cindy's sister Teresa who said she'd meet us downtown at the Port Of Call restaurant so we could visit and grab a bite to eat.
This place had a line out the door and is rumored to have the 'Best Burger in New Orleans'. The smells coming out of the exhaust fans had my mouth watering as we waited in line, so I was looking forward to what ever they put in front of me.
The 3 of us sat sharing stories while we ate and had some drinks. We only had a short while before the parade started, so we finished up and walked the few blocks down to where the parade route was going to pass through. If you're wondering, the burgers were awesome!!
We weren't sure of the exact parade route, so Teresa said she'd go ask a police officer who was sitting in his vehicle. While she was over there talking to the cop, we saw more police cars coming down the road and realized the Naked Parade had an actual Police Escort.
We yelled to Teresa who looked up and saw the 100's of naked bicyclists pedaling towards us and laughed telling the nice officer who was trying to help that he should probably get out of his car to watch this procession that would be passing by.
Now before you go and think we're some kind of perverts, which we totally are, know that this parade is done for a reason. The mission of the ride is to peacefully expose the vulnerability of cyclists, humanity and nature in the face of cars, aggression, consumerism and non-renewable energy. Every year, in 70 cities and 20 countries around the world, people ride bikes naked to celebrate cycling and the beautiful body. The ride demonstrates the vulnerability of cyclists on the road and is a protest against oil dependency.
I was amazed to watch as cyclists rode past ranging from young, physically fit kids in their 20's to folks that looked like they were in their 70's and wearing nothing but the birthday suit that God gave them. There were people that were smoking hot with their bodies painted to people who were just rolling along with nothing on but their big smiles. It didn't matter what you were wearing or if you were even naked. I just give anyone credit who was in the parade for being brave enough to do it. Cindy said numerous times "I don't care how good of shape I was in, you wouldn't catch me out there!"
I just looked at her and said "That all depends on how much tequila you had before the parade started!" With enough tequila, I'd guarantee she'd be the Grand Marshall of the parade and wouldn't give it a second thought.
Just as the parade route passed us, the skies opened up and let loose with a torrent of rain. We ducked into one of the local pubs and grabbed a drink while we hoped the rain would let up. It never did so we walked back to our vehicles in the pouring rain.
The website talking about the Naked Parade said there would be an Post Party at the Country Club where it started at. We decided to drive over there and see what that was all about. I mean we're all intrigued by nakedness in the pouring rain and a after-party to boot.
We pulled up to the Country Club not knowing what to expect. There were dozens upon dozens of bikes scattered around the front of this beautiful Victorian mansion with a bunch of naked and half naked people milling around outside....Only in New Orleans will this be a normal Saturday afternoon. As we walked up the front steps onto the front porch, we had a half-naked woman in front of us and a few more milling around talking like it was a typical Saturday afternoon.
This building is beautiful with a big, square bar right in the house. There were naked people all around us mixed with fully dressed people sitting at the bar. There was a back door leading out to where the pool is that apparently was clothing optional but somewhat mandatory.
When I asked about going out there, I was told it's $10 to go out on the pool deck. It's mandatory to be nude, but you can rent a towel for $6 if you don't want to be exposed and there are no cameras allowed. That last part meant I wouldn't be going out on the pool deck. If you want to see the gallery from the Naked Bike Ride in New Orleans, click that link and the Password is NOLA. Don't click on it if you're under 18 years of age or at work or you'll be in trouble.
We had one drink at the Country Club before we left to head home. I guess we're too old for our own good when we cant hang with a bunch of nudists. But we did have Grand Parenting to get back to. Something I bet you never thought you'd read in the same sentence didn't you!!
So we went back to Donielle's, picked up Jazper and went back to the camper like good ol' Grand Parents do. It was a great night with the little guy and more time we spend together, the harder and harder it's going to be to leave him!
Friday June 8th - Another Day in New Orleans
Cindy and Donielle were doing the Mother/Daughter shopping thing today, so I dropped her off and came back home to kick back and relax.
I cant remember the last book I've read since we've been in Cedar Key. When we used to travel fulltime, I read a few books each month if not more. I have a pile of unread books sitting beside my bed that I've had for sometime now, but never seem to find time to actually read any of them.
I brought one of them, a book that multiple people have told me I need to read, with us on this trip. A few days back, while sitting somewhere without a connection, I picked up Mystic River by Dennis Lehane and haven't been able to put it down.
I sat one whole day reading while Cindy was going insane because I wouldn't talk to her because of how intense the book is that I couldn't put down. So with her gone all day with Donielle, I spent my time kicking back in the camper reading the rest of the novel.
If you've never read it, it's phenomenal and highly recommended. I'd like to see the movie now that I've read the book which stars Sean Penn. Dennis Lehane also wrote the story for Shutter Island which was a pretty spooky movie if you've never seen it. That was a great movie, so I'm sure the book was even better.
Our friends Chris and Cherie from the website Technomadia do a series of interviews with fellow travelers they meet up with along the road. While they stayed with us awhile back in Cedar Key, they took the time to ask Cindy and I some questions. Here is a Link to the Interview if you're interested.
You might be able to notice how upset and fidgety Cindy was because they wouldn't let her hold onto one of her microphones....LOL Just Kidding. But it's funny to hear myself on camera and hear my own comments.
Cindy called late in the afternoon asking for me to come pick her and Jazper up. Tonight the little guy would be staying at our place. We'll actually be keeping him for the rest of the week, so it'll be interesting to see how this turns out.
I drove over and picked them up and we came back home. It started out a little rocky since we carried him into a completely new place, it was dark and there were two very excited dogs jumping around because Mama was home.
It took a few minutes for him to settle in and start playing, which is his normal routine. Before long you'd think this was his house and he was right at home.
We kept Little at a distance since he's fascinated with her and wants to keep grabbing her. She seems a bit stand-offish from him too, so we just kept them separated. Luca on the other hand loves kids, and walked right up giving him kisses all over his face.
I think Luca associates kids with food and likes that they usually act as Food Dispensers if he follows them around enough.
Sitting in a 200sqft camper with 2 adults, 2 dogs and a 1 year old child, you don't have too much playroom, so we pulled up a kids movie on YouTube and all sat around watching some movies.
There was no way we could bring his crib with us because of how small our camper is, so he'd have to sleep in bed with us with some pillows in-between to keep him from rolling around too much.
Not that the pillows helped any. I think Cindy had this serene image in her head, but around 3am when Jazper thought he was the Main Event at the Friday Night Smackdown wrestling event, the image was obviously different than she pictured it. There were elbows flying, knees kicking and Cindy and I were scrambling for cover as he slept soundly kicking and punching away.
Thursday June 7th - Finally Getting to Visit with Jazper
I was a bit nervous about today. Why? I had no idea. For some reason I always get along with kids great, but what if I meet my own Grandson and he doesn't like me? I haven't seen him since he was born other than in photos posted on Facebook and through emails our daughter posts for us. It's not like he can talk or let me know he doesn't like me, so who knows why I had butterflies.
I usually tell me sister or other friends who have young kids that I don't hang out with them too much until their kids are over 2 years of age and we can actually play. I'm not that fond of anything you just have to feed, change and try and keep from crying.
I was somewhat nervous and not knowing why, so I just sucked it up and went along for the ride. We were going to Donielle's apartment to meet her and Jazper for awhile before Cindy and I would go out and kill some time on our own.
We hung out for awhile at her place and it didn't take but a few minutes for any nervousness to wear off due to how much fun Jazper and I were having. He's a bundle of laughter and always laughing at just about anything going on. Since I'm usually doing something really stupid, it helps to keep him laughing.
After a few hours of playing around, Donielle had some stuff to tend to and Cindy and I had a few places we wanted to check out.
We planned to meet back up later in the afternoon and all go to Chucky-Cheese for some family fun.
In the meantime, Cindy and I drove down towards Central City to an Architectural Salvage place called The Bank to see if we could find anything cool to decorate the motel with.
This place is amazing with so many antique, cypress doors, shutters and cornices to lust after. It was all I could do to keep Cindy from letting me max out another credit card on decorations for the Low-Key Hideaway.
There was isle after isle of hand carved candy to drool over they've salvaged from old buildings and homes here in New Orleans. I was amazed when we left empty handed. I think I might sneak back and at least get a few things.
From the Bank, we headed over towards the Lakeshore where we were going to check out Hotel Furniture Liquidators and see what we could find. I was a bit disappointed with this place because most of his inventory comes from Chain Hotels so it all looks very generic and most was made from pressed wood.
Jarrod, the owner had a few pieces that were pretty funky, but none of them jumped out at us the way EVERYTHING did back at The Bank. We try and keep our rooms looking anything but generic, so each piece is usually hand selected to go with each room and it's decor.
We'll probably go one day next week down to Magazine Street which is lined with eclectic antique shops and see if we cant find some funkiness that'll more match our style of decorating.
Cindy did buy this funky, glass lamp and I ended up buying an entire box of the efficient, florescent light bulbs. He told us when they clear out hotels, they get everything in there, so he has cases upon cases of these light bulbs. The box I bought probably has 30 bulbs in it and I paid $25, so I got them for way under a $1 a piece, and they're something we're always needing with as many lights and lamps as we have in the motel.
From the Lakeshore, we headed back over towards Donielle's where we were going to meet them at Chucky Cheese's. I cant really decided who had more fun, Cindy or Jazper. I think I saw Cindy pushing little kids out of the way who were trying to get to a game before her. Or little brats without any adult supervision trying to disrupt a game she was playing with her grandson....WATCH OUT! I thought she was going to spank one little brat that kept getting in her way.
I just sat back and laughed at them trying to collect as many prize tickets as they could win so they could trade them in for a gumball or Sweet Tart. Here you have the most penny pinching woman I know, but she'll spend $25 in game tokens to get a .25 cent gumball.
At the end of the night, I think we were all wore out. Donielle and Jazper went home to her apartment and Cindy and I went back to the camper. Tomorrow Jazper would be staying with us, so we needed to get some rest.
Wednesday June 6th - Naw'lns
What a difference a good nights sleep makes without sweating out a few gallons of water. We found out that our thermostat doesn't work on the A/C, so it is either on, or off. I'm sure the thermostat is caked with dust or stuck from sitting for so long without being used, but that's something we'll have to fix as soon as we get home.
Right now, I don't really mind it's blowing ice cold air all night long. My body needed those dreams of ice fishing and sledding all night long. Having to pull the blankets up to my chin and snuggle up to Cindy for some extra warmth.
I wonder if you were to compare one of the campers that claim to be 4 Season rated to a normal camper that's anything but efficient in keeping the hot temps out and the cool temps in if the A/C would run like it does now. I mean if we turn the A/C off, it takes all of 10 minutes before the camper is roasting again. When it's cold outside its the same way. When you turn the heat off, you can feel the cold air coming in through the single pane windows.
My question is, if you had one of the Bigfoot Campers or Arctic Fox's or any other RV that claim to be 4 Season campers with double pane windows and a huge R-Rating when it comes to their insulation, I wonder if you'd barely have to run your A/C when it's this hot? Anyone who owns one care to chime in?
We finished up anything we had to do while we knew we had such a fast internet connection and started packing up. We only had a few hours drive today to get to another KOA just outside New Orleans. It's actually located in Kenner and they claimed to have a strong Wi-Fi signal, but we've found that many claim to have that, and most don't. So while we had it, we answered all the emails that had been piling up and made sure every gallery was uploaded that we had been unable to get to.
While Cindy was getting the inside ready to travel, I got started on my outside duties. While putting up the stabilizer jacks, I was checking out the tires, and that last tire that we had yet to change gave up on us yesterday.
Not that I would have been able to tell with the shape of I-10, heck I could have had 4 flat tires and wouldn't have been able to notice the ride. But when inspecting the tires this morning, the last old tire had a giant bubble in it right along the tread pattern. SO far, all 4 tires have had bubbles which is probably where the tire sat for so long and broke the wire casing, or just caused a flat spot in the tire. When we get home and put the camper back in storage, I'm going to jack it up and take the tires off so this doesn't happen again.
So my outside duties took a little longer than expected as I swapped out our last bad tire with our last good spare. As of now, we have no good spares to change to if we have a blow-out between Lafayette and New Orleans. Lets hope we don't!
Thank God I had just bought a bottle jack before leaving on this trip. It's made changing tires so much easier than it normally is. My next purchase might be one of those 18volt impact wrenches to turn this tire changing into a true Pit Stop Experience.
Once that was done, I went back inside, cleaned up, changed what were fresh clothes and we were ready to roll.
The drive from Lafayette to New Orleans is truly a kidney buster. I've heard people talk of the roads up in Labrador and Newfoundland and how rough they are, but I've never been to compare. I cant imagine them being worse than I-10 through Louisiana. It's truly the worst stretch of road in the United States we've ever traveled. Cindy and I both vowed that if we have to cross this route again, we'll try and go around even if it means adding a days drive to our trip. I think the camper caught air at least 4 times and all I could think is "Thank God we had changed that tire before this stretch of road!!"
This entire stretch is almost all elevated above the Atchafalaya Swamp (18.2 miles of it), so if we would have had a blow-out, I'm not sure what you'd do to change it and heaven forbid if you have one of those blow-outs that causes the trailer to go to fishtailing back and forth. More than likely it'd be a goner and it would end up in the swamp far below the freeway.
Getting closer to New Orleans, the highway is under major construction and Cindy was so freaked out with the barricades on one side and the narrow lanes having us practically touch the semi's in the other lane that she had to recline her seat back and just stare at the ceiling of the truck. She just kept saying "I'm so glad you're driving right now!" over and over.
I just looked over at her while I was text messaging updates on Facebook and said "This ain't nothing!" Just kidding! I was pretty white knuckled too due to how bad the camper was bouncing around with such narrow lanes.
A Dodge truck, which have the longest reaching mirrors of any truck on the road, came by us at one point and luckily it wasn't a 4x4 version so his mirror was lower than ours as it was almost touching our door. I told Cindy to look over and she screamed "OMG! That's only a few inches from our door!" She reminded me of Little when I put the window down and she wasn't ready she was so freaked out.
A few hours later we pulled into the KOA in Kenner and relaxed the tension in the butt cheeks a little.
We found our campsite and got everything set-up in about 10 minutes time. I actually timed myself because while we were in the KOA in Lafayette yesterday, we watched as a couple pulled into a campsite behind us and took the remainder of the afternoon to set-up camp. This wasn't an elaborate camp either. Just simply back in, unhook from the truck, put their jacks down, set up their sewer and water hoses and put their awning out.
I mean it literally took them about 3 hours to do all of this and both of them were out there the entire time working on it. We figured it must have been their first time doing it, or they were just complete idiots. I was going to go out and offer some help at one point, but Cindy told me to mind my own business and let them figure it out for themselves which is usually the best way to learn something new.
The heat here in New Orleans is pretty brutal as there was zero breeze and the temps were right around 100° with about 100% humidity. Luckily this place has a pool, so we both went and took a dip to cool off. A little while later our daughter came over to visit.
She spent the afternoon hanging out and just catching up on our past few months apart. She didn't have Jazper with her tonight as he was with Allan. Her and Cindy spent hours laughing and giggling with one another before they wore themselves out and took their ritualistic nap snuggled up like only a Mother & Daughter can. This is something they always do when ever they're together, and it reminded me of old times when we all lived together as a family unit.
When the night ended, Donielle said 'Goodbye' and we made plans to meet up tomorrow when she got Jazper and we could all see each other. I was excited to see my Grandson since the last time I had saw him was his birth over a year ago.
Tuesday June 5th - Lafayette Louisiana
We were up and rolling early this morning. Damn, you'd think I should live in Alaska as much as I hate the heat and there is no way you'd think we'd live in Florida?
Cindy was looking at the map and knew we only had a few hours to get to Lafayette and there was a KOA Campground there. She called and asked how strong their Wi-Fi signal was and the nice woman on the phone said she could put us in a campsite right beside the building that has the router in it, so we should have a really strong signal. Cindy figured we could stop, spend the day in the A/C while uploading all the galleries and finally get caught up.
It didn't take long and we were pulling into the KOA. What a really nice campground with a lake, a pool, playgrounds if you have kids or if you're an adult and you just like to play on jungle Jim's and the RV sites have full hook-ups. Plus, their Wi-Fi signal was lightning fast which is all I was really worried about.
I don't think I even put down the stabilizer jacks when we pulled in. We simply pulled in the slot, plugged in the 30amp cord and cranked up the A/C. After last nights miserable night of not sleeping due to how hot it was, I was looking forward to turning our camper into a 25' Ice Box.
Cindy took the dogs for a walk and by the time she got back, I already had a full gallery uploaded. This wasn't going to take long at all!! Cindy asked if I was ready for a beer and I said "Yep, because it'll only take about 2 and I'll be passed out and snoring away!"
The galleries went up great, and like I predicted, a little while later, I was sound asleep taking a much needed nap....with blankets on. If you want to FINALLY see the Galleries from Rock Bottom, there is the link.
After a long nap, we got up and took showers before heading out to find something to eat. If there is one thing you have to do while in the state of Louisiana, it's check out their restaurants. We've traveled all over the United States, and there isn't another state that compares to Louisiana and their mouth watering menus.
While we were driving to Lafayette today, Cindy was looking through Trip Advisor seeing which restaurants in this area were rated by customers as the best. She found the Blue Dog Cafe, which is anything but a Cafe you'd normally think of. She was reading the menu to me while we were driving and my mouth was literally watering.
So once we woke up from our nap, we loaded up in the truck and drove over to the Blue Dog for some dinner. It was literally all I could do to keep myself from ordering one of everything on the menu, and this is coming from a guy who doesn't really enjoy food all that much. I normally eat just because my body needs nourishment. Cindy on the other hand will sit and think about what she's going to make for dinner from the time she wakes up in the morning till the time it's put on the table.
The Blue Dog had this thing where you could order 4 different appetizers off the menu and they'd put it on one platter. We decided that would be a good way to try a bunch of different stuff and not gorge ourselves or waste anything. I also ordered a cup of their Sherwood Forest Brie Bisque with lump crabmeat. The menu lists it as - A medley of wild mushrooms and lump crabmeat in a rich herbed brie cheese bisque. This dish is a true culinary delight!
Ok, the soup isn't a culinary delight, it was out of this world, and the Shrimp en Brochette I told Cindy after tasting one of the heavenly wrapped nuggets "If that was the only thing I had to eat for the rest of my life, I'd be ok with that!" It was a large shrimp that was wrapped with Maplewood Smoked Bacon and stuffed with a jalapeño before they lightly fried it to crispy perfection. Gosh, my mouth is watering just typing this and thinking about it again.
Cindy asked if I wanted to go out and find some Zydeco music since it's also one of our favorite things while visiting Louisiana, but after this meal we had just sampled, I was ready to head back to the camper and try and finally get a real nights sleep.
The food was the equivalent of hitting a brick wall for my body and I was done for the night. We had accomplished what we had planned to do today and the amazing dinner was just an award.
Tomorrow we had to act like parents and grandparents and try to be normal, so we went home to get some sleep so hopefully we could live up to that title.
Monday June 4th - Leaving Arkansas for Louisiana
Our original plans were to visit some cool places in Arkansas after the Chuck Wagon event was finished. This entire week has been a complete riot hanging out with our Arkansas friends and some issues have arisen back home in Cedar Key, so we made the decision to pack up and start headed down towards Louisiana this morning so we could be closer to home.
Something tells me the 6 weeks Cindy had planned to be on the road has been cut short and it'll probably end up turning out to be closer to only 3 or 4 weeks total. But I'm not complaining, if we left to go home right now, I'd be content as we've had so much fun. I've had a total blast and it's always fun to take a break from reality if only for a short time.
Our only thing we have to do is see our daughter and grandson in New Orleans before going home, and no matter what the issue is back in Cedar Key, we'll take the time to do that.
So today consisted of driving for the entire day. We came down Route 7 which is an amazing drive if you're ever going through Arkansas. We've driven it in the past and remembered it to be a stunning drive, so we figured we might as well have some beautiful sights to see while we drove the day away.
Driving through the Ozarks is a blast, if it weren't for the 8000lb trailer behind us. This drive on a motorcycle or in a tight handling sports car would be amazing. There are some super steep climbs and Cindy was all worried because she heard that big cooling fan come on a few times when the temperature would get high, but I tried to remind her that this is what it is supposed to be doing during long, steep climbs. It's just not supposed to be doing that while just driving down a flat road like it was on our drive up from Florida.
To ease her mind, we put the windows down and turned up the heat. But the temps were only in the low 80's outside and we were in some high elevations, so the air was nice and cool flowing in the windows and it felt great having the windows down. Plus, Little was loving it.
We were following a pretty nasty storm that was a ways out in front of us. We kept seeing lightning flash in the dark clouds ahead of us, and the roads would be wet in certain areas, but for most of the day, we just followed behind the storm.
There was only about an hour that we actually caught up to the storm and drove in the pouring rain. So that washing we did to the camper back in the RV Park was useless because now it was covered in dirty road grime. But we knew when we got home, we'd be spending an entire day washing and waxing it so it wasn't a big deal.
Late in the afternoon as we came down off the mountain top and closer to normal elevations, the cool air went away fast as it heated back up. The air temps went from the low 80's to the high 90's and we were soon sweltering in the summer heat.
When it started to get dark, we decided to pull over and try and find a place to stay for the night. Cindy was looking up campgrounds while we were driving, and there were 3 in our area, but only one had Wi-Fi and it didn't allow dogs, so that was out. Cindy said she refused to pay for a place to sleep if it meant we couldn't get online which was really the only reason we were looking for campgrounds.
So she just told me to pull over and find a parking lot to camp in for the night. I saw an exit coming up that had a bunch of motels and thought "What if I go in and explain that all I needed was a Wi-Fi signal, could I pay them to park in their parking lot for the night and just use the signal?"
Cindy said she wouldn't go in and ask this, but told me she thought it was a good idea. So I pulled over and we start driving into the town. Little did we know that this area was total Crack-Town. There were dealers on the street corners waving at us trying to get us to stop so they could sell us some drugs.
Cop cars were everywhere and this whole area just gave us a bad vibe. The hotels that were right along the exit of the expressway seemed our best bet since they were more commercial and higher priced which was probably keeping the crack heads out of the area, so we turned around and headed back for one of those.
I pulled in the parking lot and pulled out my laptop. There was a really strong signal and I thought "Ok, if they say we can stay here, this might work, I just need their password."
So I went inside and asked the woman behind the front desk if I could park in the parking lot for the night. She gave me a funny look and said "Well I've never had anyone ask that question before, and if my boss comes in and you're parked there, I'll probably get in trouble."
She asked if I could park in the empty parking lot across the street and I'd probably still be able to get their Wi-Fi signal. I asked about the safety in this area and she gave me a look that said "That's up to your own recklessness if you want to risk it?" But she gave me the password and told us to have a good night.
So we pulled across into the other parking lot but the signal was pretty weak that far away. We sat there for about a half-hour both just sweating our asses off and it wouldn't let us upload any of the images because the signal was too weak. Cindy was freaking out because people were walking around everywhere and the dogs were both on edge which was giving us a bad vibe.
Nope, we packed up the camper and left figuring we'd drive for another few hours till it was late in the night and hopefully cooler in temperatures. I said I'd rather stay at a campground because I wanted to be able to run the Air Conditioner so Cindy punched one of the addresses into the GPS that was on our way.
As we were crossing into Louisiana, we saw a lit up sign that said "RV Park" We come to a stop in the road but there wasn't a single light on in the whole campground. There were a few traditional single-wide campers in there and about 8 trucks up on blocks, so we just kept going and figured we'd sleep in a truck stop.
About 2am we pull over and find a parking lot that wasn't in the middle of Crack-Ville. I parked the truck right up against the side of a building that was closed in a big strip mall so it wouldn't look conspicuous just sitting in an empty lot. We both took the dogs for a walk and came back to go to bed. The inside of the camper was about 100° and I knew there would be no way I'd be able to sleep in this heat.
I had all 3 of our exhaust fans on and both of our little fans above the bed blowing at us. The inside sounded like a jet was idling beside us, but all these fans were accomplishing was pushing hot air around.
Cindy fell right asleep as I laid there just thinking about the fact that it's been 7 days since the Rodeo ended and we still don't even have any images uploaded. We've been getting so many emails asking about them, but we cant even do anything other than reply saying "I'll let you know as soon as we find a strong enough signal."
About an hour or so later, I'm just starting to fall asleep when Luca starts running in his sleep. His legs were right up against the wall of the camper so it sounds like someone is outside banging on the camper.
While he's running, he's also huffing and barking so the combination of the two totally freaked me out. I was up and out of bed instantly thinking someone was outside the camper. I open the window looking around expecting to see someone when I notice Luca running against the wall while lying on the floor.
Cindy is up by this time and she's busting out laughing. My heart is going about a million miles an hour because I was in full defense mode and thought I was going to have to shoot someone trying to break in.
It took about a minute and Cindy is back asleep, so I just laid there sweating till the sun came up and we were ready to leave.
Sunday June 3rd - Taking the Dogs to the Ranch
I was moving slow this morning! Cindy woke me up with a handful of Ibuprofen and some Tum's and told me to go back to bed due to the way I looked.
We had talked about leaving today, but we had to go meet the Fowlers this afternoon to give them a DVD with images from the Rock Bottom Chuck Wagon Races. We knew by the time we would be finished with that, it would be late in the afternoon, so we might as well stay in the Parker RV Park for another day.
Heading up to the Ranch, I got lost on the dirt roads getting myself turned around. I have no idea how Jake knew his way around in the dark last night?
When we pulled up to the Saloon area, the whole family was out there taking down the facade that makes the entrance to the Saloon area look like a town.
While the family dismantled the town, Cindy and I grabbed some trash cans and went wandering around the property picking up trash that had been left over from the Memorial Weekend.
There were still piles of empty beer cans, water bottles and scattered rubbish everywhere. I guess when you have almost 4000 people camping and partying on your property, lots of trash gets left behind.
Little and Luca were running around the big open pastures on their own while Cindy and I were picking trash up and they were having a ball.
I cant remember the last time they had big open areas to do what ever they wanted to do, especially when there are large piles of horse and cow crap everywhere for them to roll in. Little found a few piles that she was rolling so aggressively in, we had to go grab her to get her to leave them alone.
Neither of us wanted them to do this, but once they had been in it the first time, we figured we might as well let them have their fun. We knew they'd be getting bathed as soon as they walked in the door of the camper so let them enjoy their time in Arkansas as much as we have been.
We probably spent an hour or more just wandering around the pasture while the dogs were in pure heaven. When they got too hot, we went down to the river where Luca walked right in so deep I thought he was actually going to start swimming. This is something he never does, so you know he was good and hot.
Cindy tried to wash them both off in the river to get the stink off of them, but it made no difference because as soon as they got out, they both went and found another pile of poo to roll in.
We made our way back up to the Saloon where we all sat around talking with the Fowlers. Jake got us all some Italian Ice out of the little rig they have to work the carnivals and we talked about Jake and Janice becoming full fledged Carnies!
We talked about next years event and hoped that Cindy and I will be able to get away the way we did this year. It's such an awesome time, I'd hope we can make it an annual pilgrimage.
We said our Goodbyes to the Fowlers and loaded up the Stinky dogs. Honestly it was hard to drive home due to how bad they both smelled.
Remember the little dog that was so nervous of the windows being down on the ride up here? Well she's know gained enough confidence that she was trying to push Luca out of the way so she could stick her head out the window.
Cindy was afraid she was going to fall out because the dirt roads were pretty bumpy, so she put her on her lap and held onto her harness. Here she is standing on the window sill while the truck is doing about 35mph and she's growling at the herds of cattle we're passing. Who is this dog?
When Cindy finally put up the window because it was starting to rain, she was sitting there scratching at the window wining because she wanted it back down.
There was a severe thunderstorm warning for tonight, and we were driving right into the storm. This area needs the rain really bad, so it's good to see them finally getting some. Plus, I sleep better when it's raining outside, not that I was going to need any help sleeping tonight. I was ready for bed right now and it was only 8pm.
By the time we got home, I think all the exercise had gotten the best of Luca. He could barely get out of the truck and I had to lift him up into the camper. While Cindy was giving him a bath, he was sitting up with the hot water running over him and he was already sleeping. He was literally snoring while she was bathing him...LOL It was very comical.
Little, the crazy, spunky whipper snapper was snoozing on the couch snoring away rather than bouncing off the walls like she normally is. I think both pups need more days like today.
Saturday June 2nd - Dirt Roadin' It
Christy had told us she was going to make Chocolate Biscuits for breakfast this morning last night at the BBQ. This was brought up last night when she was talking about the Grilled Cabbage and I informed her that I would not be eating any.
I do not like cabbage anyway that it could be cooked. So she asked if I had ever had Chocolate Biscuits for breakfast to which I replied "No, I've never heard of those either." But I could see myself trying biscuits before I'd ever even think about cabbage.
So we went into their house this morning for some delicious biscuits that were topped with warm chocolate pudding. I wasn't sure what to think, but I'll tell you it tastes AWESOME. I probably could have eaten a dozen or more, but I kept myself looking normal and just ate two.
Christy was leaving to go work with Jake and Janice selling Italian Ice at another fair, and Brad had to head off to work, so Cindy and I thanked them for the use of their yard and headed back towards Harrison to try and find a campground that would have a Wi-Fi signal so we could start uploading galleries.
Just before you get into downtown Harrison, there is a little RV Park called Parkers RV. Besides uploading pictures, our laundry was stacked almost to the ceiling by this point.
We figured this would be the perfect way to knock out multiple tasks. Cindy could get the laundry done while I uploaded images and worked on the galleries.
We checked in and got everything hooked up at the RV Park and thanked them for letting us check in so early. How many people check into an RV Park at 9:30 in the morning? I set the computer up planning on putting in a long day in front of the monitor.
I logged onto their Wi-Fi and started uploading a gallery right away. It seemed pretty fast and pictures were going through just fine. I went to click on a link on an email I was reading when I noticed the signal strength had dropped. I checked the signal and it had kicked me offline??
I kept trying to log back in but it just kept telling me there was no signal? I walked down to the office to see if something had happened to their connection, but the manager checked his computer and said "Nope, mine got online?"
I came back down to the camper and tried this again. Cindy turned her computer on to see if she could get logged in but hers kept saying the same thing mine was...No service available.
I thought about how this will happen every now and then at our place and we'll have to unplug the router and count to ten, then plug it back in and let it go through the paces before it'll boot back up and everything will work good.
So Cindy walked down to the office to ask the manager if he could try this. She came back and told me that he did it, but neither of us could get online.
This completely ruined the entire reason we had come to stay in an RV Park in the first place. Cindy already had a few loads of laundry in the washing machine or we probably would have just packed up and left to go find a different RV Park.
While she was going to check on the laundry, he told her that a few other campers were complaining that none of them could get online and he was having someone come out to look at it.
About a hour later, they said their router had bit the dust, and they had a new one put in, but this new one was giving us a signal about as fast as dial-up, so uploading big files was out of the question.
At least we'd get the laundry all caught up. While we were just sitting here, Cindy took out a bunch of the screens that were still covered in Red dust from the Chuck Wagon Races and washed them all out.
We're still finding dust piled up in places that you normally wouldn't expect to find a pile of it. But we're slowly cleaning the entire camper and bringing her back to normal.
By late afternoon, I was frustrated from trying endlessly to get the internet to work with no results, and Janice, Christy and Jake had called to see if we wanted to go with them to watch some Lawn Mower Races that were going on a few towns away.
We thought this would be a great excuse to get out of the camper and who can turn down Lawn Mower Races?
We all jumped in Jakes truck and headed through the labyrinth of dirt roads leading off the ranch. I honestly think I could get lost out here and be gone for days and no one would even know.
Out of no where we're driving down one of the road and we pull up to a field where about 50 cars are parked. There is a little oval track with a bunch of spectators sitting on lawn chairs watching the modified Lawn Mowers race around the track.
Jakes parents were there along with their Aunt, so it was a big family affair, even though it was a first for all of us.
The races themselves were a lot of fun as each heat there would be at least one crash where they'd go sliding off the track into the tires. One tractor lost a front tires and the driver flew off with the tractor almost running him over. This was serious fun and suddenly we were all talking about putting a Lawn Mower Race Team together.
We seriously did talk about trying to convince to the event organizers to bring them to the Rock Bottom Chuck Wagon Races for next year.
By the time the races ended, it was dark and we sat drinking beers and talking in the parking lot till they finally kicked us out and locked the gates.
We were getting back into Luke's truck when he goes to turn the ignition and it made a funky noise. Before anyone could even say anything, Luke looks at Janice and simply says "Janice, Starter"
Janice jumps out of the truck, grabs a big wrench from the bed of the truck and crawls under the truck. She's holding her cell phone to light the underside of the motor with one hand while she's tapping on the starter with the wrench in the other hand.
Jake gives it a try and it starts right up. Janice crawls out from under the truck, brushes off the grass and climbs back in the truck like all of this is no big deal.
Suddenly I'm very aroused and in love with Janice. I'm picturing myself asking Cindy to do this and shying away from the sting of the slap I'd get. I think I was still standing outside the truck in shock when Jake said "Pat, get in the truck, they're waiting to lock the gate!"
The next few hours were spent just driving down the dirt roads criss-crossing the ranch sipping on beers and good Canadian whiskey and listening to phenomenal music. Now before anyone sends me a scathing email about the dangers of drinking and driving, remember that we were basically idling along at about 10-15mph while everyone was signing and talking and laughing the night away.
If by chance we might have met another car on any of these roads, it was a full moon so we probably could have been driving with the headlights off and still seen them coming from a mile away, and second, there just aren't any other vehicles out here.
At one point Jake stops the truck in the middle of the road, he gets back in the truck with a chilled, frosty bottle of Crown Royal. I see him mixing himself a drink and I notice that he's stirring the drink with a syringe that he grabbed out of his door.
I ask him why he has a syringe in his door and he laughs saying "The door pockets are filled with them for when we're administering medicine to the cattle." He goes on to say "Don't worry, this one is clean, it doesn't have a needle in it and it hasn't been used on anything but stirring this drink."
Janice gets in the truck and says "What are you stirring your drink with!?!"
Jake says "A syringe, why do you want a shot?"
Janice laughs and says "Is it a clean syringe?"
Jake draws the vial full of Crown Royal and hands it to Janice who pushes the plunger down shooting the whiskey into her mouth. All of this is so funny to me I'm just shaking my head laughing the entire time.
We spent a few hours just driving around on these roads laughing our heads off and talking about how cool the landscape looked under the full moon. There were some funky clouds so with the full moon behind them, it was a beautiful scene to say the least.
The road finally lead us back to the Rock Bottom Saloon where we hung out listening to the radio and telling more lies. Some of Jake's friends came by which tells me this is probably a normal Saturday night for them. Go watch some Lawn Mower Races, drive around the back roads of your family's ranch, hang out at your own private saloon that's nestled in the valley of the ranch and just have serious fun!
This family is so nice to us and treat us like we're kin. Their friends they introduce us to are all very cordial and we've yet to meet anyone in Arkansas that we haven't truly enjoyed. The longer we spend time here, the harder and harder it is to leave.
By the end of the night I was in rare form and watching Cindy and Christy dance their jigs was making me laugh pretty hard. I wish I could post all the photos we take because some of them are beyond funny.
Friday June 1st - Heading Back to Rock Bottom
We were up early and on the road. Today would be the first day since getting the truck fixed that we'd be pulling the camper any distance. We were both eager to see how it performed.
We were headed down to Harrison which was about 20 miles from where we were in Lead Hill. The terrain around these parts is very hilly with lots of long climbs, so we'd see real fast whether it was going to heat up or not.
The entire drive there, the temps sat around 190° which is right where they're supposed to stay. On one particular long climb, it got up to 205°, but heck, that's no big deal and as soon as we were to the top of the climb and I let off the accelerator, it dropped right back down below 200°. The problem was fixed!! This entire time we had the A/C cranked up because of the humidity too, so we knew the problem was resolved. Thanks again to BTS for their outstanding work!
We figured if we were going to be up at the Ranch for the next few days without any hook-ups or service to stores, we might as well make a stop at Wal-Mart to stock up on supplies while passing through Harrison.
While Cindy went in shopping, I stayed in the camper parked across from McDonalds and used their Wi-Fi signal to download some emails and try to upload a gallery from the Rock Bottom Event.
They must have some sort of Upload Blocker because I could watch a video or download big pictures super fast, but nothing would go up? So that plan was foiled. Oh well, it gave me a chance to catch up on some emails and respond to some of the comments being made.
I just really wish we could find a fast enough connection to start uploading these images to our galleries.
Cindy came out and we put away all the groceries before we got back on the road.
We headed up HWY 65 North towards the Missouri border to meet Christy and Brad at their house. When I say "Near the Missouri Border", we were sitting in their front yard once we finally arrived and Brad was explaining the area to us. He says "See that white pole over in the yard? That signifies the Missouri Border. SO some of our property is in Missouri but most of it is in Arkansas."
We were planning on leaving the camper in their yard tonight and just sleeping right here, so when I backed it up and off the road, I put the back bumper right on the border.
We loaded into Brads Dodge and headed over towards the Fowlers Ranch. On the way, Brad stopped by his parents house to show us his childhood home. It must be pretty awesome to live a mile or so from your childhood home and have so many memories surrounding you at all time.
He showed us the woodwork in the house which was built with wood from the property. Imagine having 500 acres of rolling land in the Ozarks and enough wood to mill to build and finish your entire house.
I'm talking walls, paneling on the ceilings, wood floors...it was beautiful. Brad introduced us to his dad who was out working with one of the horses in the back yard. His father shared some funny stories with us about building the house and life on the farm.
They went from working angora goats to raising turkeys now and have a pretty big operation going on the acreage. The property itself is beautiful and looks like something you'd see in a Western Movie.
We said "Goodbye" to Brad's father and took dirt roads through the neighboring ranches over to the Fowlers. These dirt roads are about the width to allow one truck to drive comfortably, but if another vehicle is to come by, you both have to slow way down with one almost going off the road to allow the other to pass. Luckily, there is very little traffic out here and in the 20 minutes of driving it took us to get there, we never saw another vehicle.
We passed a few creek beds that were dry at this time due to lack of rain, but Christy and Brad were telling us stories of them flowing heavy enough to wipe cars off the road that try and forge the river when it's flowing.
We stopped at one of the homes on the Fowlers Ranch that everyone calls the Rock House. This is where brothers Luke and Jake live and is a home that was built in the early 1900's by their grandparents.
The walls are about 2 foot thick and it's all made from local rock off the property. I cant imagine living here. There is so much natural material to use for landscaping that I think Cindy and i would go insane building rock walls and funky things.
From the Rock House, we headed down to the Rock Bottom Saloon where Jake, Janice and Mrs. Fowler were waiting for us. It was drizzling rain, but we all stood around one of the BBQ grills where they had built a fire to grill some cabbage.
Christy had told us she was going to make some Grilled Cabbage for us to try. This was basically a full head of cabbage wrapped in aluminum foil that was set atop the grill and cooked slowly.
There was also about 20 burgers they had sitting out to grill up and a big cast iron pot of baked beans.
While all this cooking was going on, everyone sat around re-telling stories from the long weekend. There was so much going on and this was the first time many of us had gotten back together after the event.
We all sat around laughing most of the night just hearing all the funny stories. At one point, you heard one of the girls start screaming and see one of the dogs go scurrying away. Janice walked out of the Saloon and said "Grab some more burgers to thaw out! Frank (The Dog) just helped himself to all 20 burgers we had sitting on the bar!"
We all got a kick out of Frank gorging himself on our dinner, but luckily they had more burgers in the freezer.
After dinner, Christy brought out some cupcakes for Janice since Monday is her birthday. She knew most of us would be gone or off working somewhere else so we sang her a Happy Birthday tonight in advance of the real day.
After a few more hours of talk and fun, we headed home to sleep on the Arkansas/Missouri border. It was a good night with good friends.
Pat's May 2012 Blog
Camper Check List - A list of things we do before leaving camp. Again, this isn't gospel, but its a good start for those who might not already have a list made up.