I’ve been meaning to post about my trip to Winter Park Florida last month for a few weeks now. It was one of the last times I did a sightseeing trip before the world turned a bit wonky with this horrible pandemic. I wanted to write about something fun, just to take a break from everything else that’s going on.
I set out on March 1 which was a beautiful sunny day. My destination was the Scenic Boat Tour on Lake Osceola, a one hour tour on an 18 passenger pontoon boat. I arrived 20 minutes before 12 pm, and they were super busy. I was able to squeeze onto the next tour at 12 because I was a party of one. The tour covers 3 lakes, traveling between them on man made canals. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the rich folks that have lived in the beautiful houses on the lakes. Also on waterfront property is Rollins College. Fred Rogers, yes, Mr. Rogers, is an alumni.
I would definitely recommend this tour for anyone that is in the area of Orlando/ Winter Park. They only take cash or check, no credit cards so please be prepared.
When I arrived in Winter Park I couldn’t find parking by the boat launch. I parked across town by the train station and walked. I had to cross Park Avenue which is lined with plenty of high end shops and restaurants. The street was blocked off by police and there were tons of people gathering. When I walked back that way after the boat ride I was just in time for their Saint Patrick’s Day Parade! I couldn’t believe a town was having their St. Paddy’s Day parade so early but as I look upon it now I am so glad I happened upon it. By mid March all public gatherings had been cancelled, so I was lucky to get in on the fun of a parade. Here are some photos from the parade in case you weren’t as lucky as I was.
I hope these photos will be a nice diversion from the bad news we are facing daily. I will be leaving Florida this week for East Tennessee to hunker down on some dear friends’ property. Stay safe and well my friends!
I have been on the road for almost 4 1/2 years, and I love it when friends and family visit me. I get the pleasure of seeing them, and they get to experience a place they might not have had reason to visit otherwise. My favorite visitor is my mom. She has visited me in Virginia Beach, Mount Rushmore, Newburgh NY, Hot Springs AR, and most recently here in Orlando Florida.
I went to pick her up on a Thursday afternoon at the Orlando International Airport. The airport is huge, and I could find no signs for Allegiant Air. I parked and went in. I could see no listings for any arrivals on Allegiant Air from Knoxville, or anywhere else for that matter. So I brought up her itinerary. She was flying into the Orlando Sanford International Airport, about 40 minutes farther down the road. I was at the wrong airport! I got her on the phone. She says she is waiting by the curb. I tell her to find somewhere to sit down, it’s gonna be a bit before I get there. Luckily she is a patient lady, and I finally arrived at the right airport and got her and her stuff loaded into my car. My younger brother Randy quipped to me “At least I dropped her off at the right airport”. Smart aleck!
My sister in law Norma and her daughter Shirley (who is my best friend) decided to come up to Orlando from Boca Raton during my mom’s visit. I thought it would be fun to keep it a surprise from mom. They arrived at the RV on Friday morning. My mom had just gone into the bathroom when they got there. The look on her face when she came out of the bathroom and saw the two of them in the living room was priceless! Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of that. For the next 2 days the RV was crammed but we had a lot of fun.
That night I took off from work and I cooked us a great dinner and we sat around and had some fun. Saturday morning I worked (activities crew of 4 serves breakfast. This week we had an all time record of cooking for 153 folks). They came and had a great breakfast on me. We went out for an early dinner to Crabby Bill’s, a seafood restaurant in St. Cloud with a view of the lake and a marina. The food was good and the company was better!
We then went back to the campground for a free concert by John Frenzi. He is a singer/songwriter/guitar player. It was a great evening.
Sunday morning we had a delicious breakfast at Keke’s breakfast cafe. Looking at their website, it appears they are a chain that so far is just in Florida. We then went a short distance down the road to the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge. They rescue, raise, rehabilitate and release injured and orphaned animals. You can check out their website here http://www.btnwildlife.org. For a $5 entrance fee you get to see a lot of their animals that they are taking care of, plus there are plenty of hiking trails. Shirley and I hiked a loop trail while mom and Norma relaxed on a shaded bench.
They had a couple of bobcats that were really cool to look at but I didn’t get any good shots of them. If you are in Orlando and want to do something quieter and less expensive than most of the other stuff that is here, this place makes a great outing. After this Shirley and Norma had to hit the road back to Boca Raton.
The next few days I worked some. Mom came and participated at our arts and crafts. I was teaching jewelry making. She made a really cute necklace. I recruited her to help out on our campfire and s’mores night. She helped make the s’mores for the campers, and also had some snacks herself. I think she skipped the marshmallows and just had graham crackers with chocolate.
I took Wednesday off and we went to Clermont Florida. Our destination was the Showcase of Citrus Monster Truck Tour but we first stopped in at the Citrus Tower in Clermont. The Citrus Tower opened in 1956. It was built with 5 million pounds of concrete and 149,000 pounds of reinforcing steel. It was constructed to withstand winds of more than 190 miles per hour. It is 226 feet high, with a glass enclosed observation deck. In it’s hey day it was a very popular sight seeing spot. It is not so much now, but you do get a great view from the top. They say on a clear day you can see the skyline of Orlando and Disney World. We weren’t there on a clear day.
Just down the road is the Showcase of Citrus. Check them out here https://showcaseofcitrus.com. They are a huge farm. You can purchase or pick your own citrus, and in the spring they also have blueberries. Of course they have a huge souvenir store. We booked their monster truck tour. They sell tickets on their site for $25 per person but check out groupon where we got ours for $14 each.
The tour takes you through the citrus groves and then through some back country where they have a couple of zebra and some other animals. Our guide was interesting. He was originally from Utah, but was pretty knowledgable about the area.
Mom was scheduled to leave Thursday evening so we had time for one last excursion. We went to Disney Springs which is a place with a lot of restaurants and stores. We had fun walking around. I wanted to go to the Lego Store. It had some cool Lego sculptures.
That evening I got her to the airport (the right one this time) and she is now safely home. Until next time mom!
I love that the RVing life is always full of changes, some slow and some very very fast. The year 2019 brought about several changes for me. A new car, a new RV, and some added income. I turned 60 (okay, I said it out loud) in June, which meant as a widow I could start collecting my late husband’s social security benefits. One of the stipulations with that is you can only make a certain amount of money throughout the year. By the end of September I had reached my limit so I figured I would take the next three months off. I left Hot Springs Arkansas and I arrived in Knoxville Tennessee on October 1. I stayed at the Raccoon Valley Escapees Campground in Heiskell, just north of Knoxville. My mom and younger brother and his wife live in the area, so I was there to spend some family time.
My good friends Bill and Bob are also close by in Blaine. I have known them for years. We go way back to when we all lived in Fort Lauderdale. Now they have a beautiful piece of acreage on the Holston River.
About halfway through the month my best friend Shirley flew up from Boca Raton Florida. Mom, Shirley, Bill, Bob, and Linda (a friend of theirs) took a day to go to a balloon festival near Dandridge TN.
At the end of the month Shirley and I said goodbye to everyone and headed south to Florida. I was going to be staying at Villa Margaret campground in Okeechobee. This was a no frills campground (no pool, no cable, no activities except for a weekly bingo session at 10 cents per game). My friends Chris and Diane had arrived a week earlier. I have known them from working at the Mount Rushmore KOA and the North New York City/Newburgh NY KOA. I settled in for the winter. It was nice to be less than 2 hours from Shirley and her mom Norma (my sister-in-law). We were able to have a great Thanksgiving and Christmas. With no job, I was getting a bit bored and broke. I was having to pay rent for the first time in a long time, and now with the new RV I had a house payment. I worked on crafts and tried selling them at the flea market, but I really wasn’t having much luck. I knew at the beginning of the year I was going to have to have to find work. Okeechobee is a small town but has a Walmart, Home Depot, Publix, and an Aldi’s. I would hit them up after New Year’s. On December 31 I got a phone call from my friend Kay. She asked if I was looking for work. It appears someone working on the activities crew at the Orlando SE/Lake Whippoorwill KOA had to leave. I had applied each year for a winter job at this beautiful KOA but never had any luck getting in. After another call with Denise, the manager, I eagerly accepted the job. When asked when I could come up, I said tomorrow! My rent in Okeechobee was due on the first, so this got me out of having to pay another month of rent. I said goodbye to Chris and Diane and headed to Orlando, which was an easy hour and a half drive. This was probably the fastest change I’ve had since RVing, but one of the best. I have an income coming in again and not a big chunk going out for rent. I will be here until April. And after working the front desk at 6 other KOAs and Catherine’s Landing, it is turning out to be a lot of fun working on an activities crew. I am working under the leadership of Dave and Mary Ann Nichols. I worked with these guys in 2016 at the Virginia Beach KOA. You never know when you’re going to run into folks on the road. Another thing I love about this life!
Forgive me, for I have sinned. I set out to write a steady blog and have not been too steady. New Year’s goal? Of course to be more consistent and write blogs more often than once every 5 or 6 months. My biggest news from 2019 was trading in my old vintage 1994 Winnebago Vectra class A motorhome. It was hard to drive since it was old and had suspension problems. The engine would run hot, and it had several other problems. I kept thinking it would fall apart around me as I drove it down the road. It was 36 feet long and I was pretty sure I wanted something a bit shorter too. I had been perusing online for something a little newer for quite some time. In September I spotted a 2015 31 foot Class A Itasca (also Winnebago) that had a floor plan that I really liked. When you live full time in an RV liking the floor plan is important. I drove from Hot Springs Arkansas up to Conway, which is about a one and a half hour drive to see the RV. The Moix RV folks were super nice. I had checked them out because they had held a couple of rallies at Catherine’s Landing, the RV resort where I had been working since March. They would take in my old RV as a trade in, which made me happy. Some RV dealerships won’t take in anything more than 10 years old. I really liked the RV and we made a deal. I was to return a week later to pick up my new home. You would be surprised how much stuff you can stash away in an RV. I started packing things, but really had no where to put them except outside on my site. It hadn’t rained in a few weeks, but you never know. I waited until the day before to put most of it out. Thankfully, a good friend Jane Snyder, whom I had worked with years earlier was going to be in Little Rock over the weekend. She was driving from Pennsylvania for a travel writing seminar. My move day was the next Wednesday, the 18th, and she said she could come down on Monday after the seminar and hang out and help with the move. By Wednesday morning I was so frazzled. I had started Hugo’s engine the night before to make sure he would be good to go the next morning. When I cranked the engine in the morning, nothing! I flagged down one of my coworkers that I knew to be a bit mechanical. He checked the batteries, and they were loose. Some tightening and a jump start and Hugo finally started. Of course it was 95 degrees and 95% humidity. I was sweating. I left Amos and Andy in a cabin in some animal crates, and set off for the day with Jane in the passenger seat. We made it safe, and in time for our appointment at 1 pm. The guy in finance kept me in the office going over stuff for what seemed like forever, and then there was the walk through. It was getting late in the day. I asked someone there if they thought the RV would be able to maneuver the parking lot of a burger joint down the street. He said no, but they lent us the company Jeep to go down there because we hadn’t eaten all day. Pretty nice! By the time we returned to Hot Springs it was almost dark, and rain was threatening. I was throwing anything outside that might get damaged from the rain into the new RV. A very long and tiring day, but well worth it. It’s a good thing I don’t plan on moving for a long time.
I have not posted anything in a long time and it is for good reason. I am very technically challenged and as I go along I have struggled to learn as I go with this website and blog. My biggest challenge has always been loading pictures. I thought it was challenging because my Mac was getting old so I traded it in for a new model a few months ago. I still was having issues.
So I kept busy with other things like my crafts,
and eyeglass shopping (no, I didn’t pick these!)
I took pictures of pretty sunsets,
and I finally traded in my old Nissan which had over 218000 miles on it
for a cute red Jeep Renegade Trailhawk!
So this is a practice run adding pictures to my blog. I think I have figured a few things out (thankfully) and now I should be catching you up on everything I’ve been doing since I landed in Hot Springs. Keep tuned!
I really can’t believe I’ve been in Hot Springs for 2 months. I really need a little self discipline in sitting down and writing what’s been going on more often. I’ve been fairly busy, with visiting with old friends, getting used to the new job, and doing some sightseeing. Because I am slow like a turtle, and a well practiced procrastinator, I have now fallen far behind in recording what I have been up to. I will split this up in a few posts. This first one will be on meet ups.
On the way from Mexico Beach Florida to Hot Springs Arkansas I was lucky enough to make one of my stops in Birmingham Alabama. This has been home to my niece Taylor and her husband Sean for a bit while Sean has been working on his education in medicine. The timing was good because right after my visit he finished his schoolwork and they were headed back to their roots in New England. On the night I was there they picked me up at the campground I was staying at and we enjoyed a nice dinner out. They are a beautiful couple, and I wish them all great things in life.
It is always great when you can meet up with folks you have met while workamping. I have worked with Diane and Chris twice. The first time was at the Mount Rushmore KOA in 2017. We really didn’t get to know each other very well because I worked as a supervisor in the campground reservation/store, and they worked in the Lodge. They were my neighbors, but most of the time it was just a friendly wave when we saw each other. Then last summer (2018) the three of us worked together at the New York City North/Newburgh KOA. At Mount Rushmore there were many workampers, at Newburgh the three of us were the only ones, and we were next door neighbors. The rest of the staff were local folks. So the three of us bonded. I really got to enjoy their sense of humor. For an example, one day I had my windows open and I sneezed pretty loudly. I got a text from Chris that said “Bless you!”. I had to laugh. Thankfully they made me laugh a lot last summer. So when these ladies were heading from Texas to New York, I had the opportunity to meet up with them for dinner at the Arkadelphia Cracker Barrel where they were going to spend the night. They were traveling with some family and we had a great time catching up on things.
At Mount Rushmore I also worked with Debbie and Michael Maynard. When I arrived in Hot Springs they were staying at a campground on the other side of Little Rock. They came down to Hot Springs to get their National Park stamp and we met up for a nice lunch. Then we went up to the Hot Springs Mountain tower. It was a great view from up there, even though it was too early for things to be green. I need to get up there now that everything has blossomed.
Then I got to spend an evening with Kay and Les, another couple I worked with at Mount Rushmore. They are now KOA inspectors, driving around in a big truck pulling a big fifth wheel trailer, all wrapped in KOA artwork. They go around checking in on all the KOA’s in a specific region. The Hot Springs KOA was on their list so I went over to visit on the night they were there. They love Amos so I had to bring him too. There was also another couple that were friends of Les and Kay’s that happened to be staying at the campground. We had a great night of swapping stories. I have been blessed to meet up with Kay and Les in Florida a couple of times and they came to visit me in New York on their way to Maine last year. I love these two and always have a great time with them.
So what does a picture of some rocks have to do with my next visitors? Well, I think John and Carol Miller are true gems. And I didn’t get a picture of us together while they were here. And the funny thing about that is their visit with me was the longest of all these visits. They arrived on a Monday, I had Tuesday and Wednesday off to hang with them, and they headed northward on Thursday. I worked with Carol and John at my first KOA job January through April in 2016. Thankfully it was a small campground because I had no clue what I was doing. Carol was a good teacher. And John is good at fixing all kinds of things. We did go crystal mining on one of the days they were here. We didn’t find anything too exciting, but we did take away some shiny objects. I am planning on trying another mine soon so I can compare the experience. After mining we got comfortable in outside seating at a Mexican restaurant in downtown Hot Springs. We had some cold refreshments, snacked on chips and salsa, and people watched. It had been three years since I saw these guys, and I had forgotten how much fun they are. I hope it’s not so long until our next visit.
The special meeting of friends, and running into them again, and sometimes again and again in different places, is part of what I love of this nomadic life. Of course some of the other part is seeing new things and having new experiences. My next post will be about that. Until then, take care and be kind.
Me in all my safety gear. FR shirt and pants, ankle high composite toe work boots, safety glasses, safety helmet with full face shield, electric rated rubber gloves with leather gloves on top of them. When the temps get over the mid 70’s it gets pretty hot in all this gear, and when the face shield goes down everything steams up.
Just 5 weeks ago I wrote about a new venture I was embarking on. I saw a job opportunity pop up on Workamper News for a field technician working for Southern Cross, who had a new contract starting up with Duke Energy. The job entailed exchanging older electric meters (mostly on residences) for their newer smart meters. These new smart meters relay information straight to the electric company without having to send out someone to the residence to read the meter. Also from what I understand the electric company can turn off the electric without sending someone out to the site to physically do it. On line you can find plenty of bad stuff about these meters. Duke and Southern Cross promise that these are not true. I don’t really know if any of it is or not, and that’s not really where I want to go with this. On February 18 I showed up for training. 6 RVers and 34 others based out of Tallahassee. We had 2 weeks of training at a warehouse in the Tallahassee area. Most of the second week it seemed we were just waiting on supplies for the job. As I said, this was a brand new contract. We were waiting on FR (fire resistant) clothing, a few tools, a truck for each of us, and handheld tablets that were to show us where to go and record everything about the meter exchange. So finally by the third week most of us had the equipment we needed and we started with small groups working on real meter exchanges in the Mexico Beach, Florida area. We quickly moved a little south to Port Saint Joe and Cape San Blas because Mexico Beach is still reeling from being hit so bad by Hurricane Michael last October. My first semi-solo meter exchange (an experienced person was there to check my work) was on a small lighthouse. I thought that was pretty cool.
Starting on Thursday that first week in the field we were on our own, but we could call our supervisor if we had any problems or issues. I found there were for me some challenges with this. Some of the meters were set kind of high, and being short I didn’t have much leverage in pulling them out. And between corrosion from the salt air, and other factors, some meters were a bear to get out, and that usually meant the new one would be hard to get in. And the meter boxes themselves were rusted or painted by the homeowner and that made it very hard to open and close the boxes. And once you opened the box you couldn’t just leave it unless you had it closed and a seal put on it.
I walked around this beautiful house looking for the meter. The house is on stilts, and I was looking high and low for it. I finally saw the nicely built closet with a little peep hole showing the meter display. Open the closet door and ta da there is the meter!
You don’t want to see this in a meter box. It is melted wires. I had to report this one.
These two meters had a big shrub in front of it, The meter box even had a bird’s nest in it (image on the right, bird nest on upper left). It was quite a challenge to reach through the bush and change the meters. Then I had the hardest time putting the meter box covers back on because of the rust and corrosion.
So with the physical challenges, and also with what I saw as some problems with management on the project, I decided by last Monday I needed to start looking for something else. Before this opportunity had come along, I had been focusing my job hunting to the area of Hot Springs, Arkansas. I’ve never been there but I know that within an hour of the town there are quartz mines and Crater of Diamonds State Park where you can hunt for diamonds. I had not had any luck. No one had posted any job opportunities in that area on Workamper News or on WorkatKOA.com. Well, on Monday a job posted on Workamper News for work at Catherine’s Landing in Hot Springs. They were advertising for couples so of course I just sat down and attached my resume to a cover letter written with some humor on why they would benefit on hiring a solo workamper. For those of you not in the know, a lot of campgrounds hire a couple before a solo due to the fact that they get two workers and only have to give up one site for them to stay on. And I understand the reasoning behind that, but I really wanted to work there. So on Tuesday the manager of Catherine’s Landing called, saying that the letter made him laugh. We chatted for quite awhile, and he said he needed to find out if he could hire a solo. On Wednesday he called back and offered me the job. I worked through Friday at the meter install job, and I will depart Monday for Hot Springs. This week has sure been a whirlwind of a week.
So before I depart this area, I am adding some pictures I have taken of the area. I won’t post any of the destruction in Mexico Beach, as I think it is depressing, and instead I am posting fun photos.
When we first got to Mexico Beach Amos and I went to the beach. As you can see by the second photo he does not like the water.
These three photos are taken in Port Saint Joe which is just down the road from Mexico Beach. The left photo is of the Cape San Blas Lighthouse. The image in the middle cracks me up. Someone has added eyes to this downed tree because it looks like a sea monster.
I have not seen a Piggly Wiggly grocery store in many years. There is one in Port Saint Joe, and they had some cute T-shirts. The 2 pink shots are front and back of one.
These were taken in Apalachicola. I walked around town and visited some shops. The first two were at a bicycle repair shop. The chalkboard was in front of a bar. I love the jeep. There is a sea turtle peeking through the front grill.
I also visited St. George Island. It was a bit too chilly for a beach day so I climbed the lighthouse to get a bird’s eye view. The second photo is to the south, the third is to the north, and the fourth is to the east, with the bridge to the mainland. I got rewarded with a sticker.
So, you never know how fast things can change. My next post will be from Hot Springs!
As the new year begins, and we leave the old one behind, it is of course a time when we do a lot of soul searching. Am I on the right path? Do I need to tweak my course a little or do I need a whole new map? I started this blog to chronicle my wonderful journeys that I, as a solo full time woman RVer, was sure to have all the time. I haven’t written as many blog entries as I had planned this year. Why not? I have done some pretty fun things, but I’ve also been in a search mode, and haven’t known how to express what I’m feeling, not even to myself.
I entered the RV life three and a half years ago, with a paid off 37 foot 1994 Winnebago Vectra Class A motorhome towing a 2003 very beat up Nissan on a tow dolly. I love being on the road, but truthfully this thing is too big for me. I am not comfortable driving it with my car in tow behind. I am always stressed out while I’m on the road, and that’s not what this lifestyle should be about. So New Year’s resolution (goal?) #1: Get an RV much smaller. Under 30 feet would be much better. I have already started the search. Which brings me to my next topic of what needs to be changed this year. As a single person with only 1 income, it has been increasingly hard to keep afloat financially. Currently I am working at a campground that I love, working with great people, in a warm climate which is awesome. But the campground only pays minimum wage, charges for the site (albeit a tiny fraction of what the seasonal pay), and they have cut back our hours due to being overstaffed.
So what does a girl do? Get discouraged? Honestly, yes. But then it is time for this Wonder Woman Wandering to pick herself up, dust herself off, and get a new map. It is time for me to think outside the box, and look for other avenues of income. I do have my jewelry making business, but it is not enough to pay on a slightly newer and definitely shorter RV. So I have been reading lots of self help books this year looking for new ideas and out of the box business ventures that might work for me. Wish me luck, pray for me, and send me good vibes. I want to continue down the road, I am enjoying the ride too much to quit.
Part 2- Starting a New Venture
So as I was looking for income a little outside the box (not in a campground that pays a low wage), I came upon something that might work. I am a Workamper News gold member (whoops, I think platinum member now as they have revamped their levels) and they post new jobs throughout the day every day. In the 2nd week of January they posted one from a company called Southern Cross that has in the past hired workampers to walk gas lines with meters looking for leaks. This time the job was exchanging electric meters on houses in north Florida. They have a contract with Duke Energy. There is 2 weeks of training starting the 18th of February. I had to first pass a drug and background check and interview. I didn’t want to announce anything until all was final. And of course I had to give notice at the beautiful KOA I am at. They have been a bit overstaffed this winter so all is good with me leaving. I will be making almost twice the hourly wage I was making at the KOA, plus a per diem that will definitely pay for my campground stays in north Florida. Am I nervous? Yes, this is definitely outside the box. Since it is not customer service I am a bit afraid I will get lonely, not really working with a bunch of people or knowing anyone at the campground. But it will help me gather some money to upgrade my RV. The contract is for at least 4 or 5 months, then who knows where I will go from there. So on Friday the 15th I will be heading from St. Pete to Tallahassee for my training. Wish me luck!
I haven’t added a blog in so long and I am feeling a bit guilty. I have just been pretty busy. I left New York in mid October, traveling down to my mom’s in Knoxville Tennessee for a short layover. It was just a few days of wonderful family fun. My younger brother lives in the area, my older brother came down from New Hampshire, my uncle came down from Quebec, and my older brother’s oldest daughter and her new husband showed up from Alabama. Wow, you just have to treasure great times like that.
After that I headed to my winter destination, the Saint Petersburg/Madeira Beach KOA. I have been settling in, meeting my new coworkers, and learning my way around the area. On top of that I have worked on my camper earring inventory. I love making jewelry, and I have designed some camping themed earrings. They are on the jewelry page here on the website. If you need some stocking stuffers or something for yourself, just check out the page. I am very excited about them.
The other fun thing I’ve been working on this month is a 30 day challenge by Dean Graziosi. He is an awesome motivator, and each day you get a little 1 – 2 minute video and an action to take. It is all very positive and it has just made a very positive impact on my life. Below is a link to the free challenge.