Friday, April 18, 2008

Ooooooo, Another Saturday Night....

It's Friday as I write this, but can Saturday be far behind? And since there aren't any catchy tunes or quaint old traditions about bathing on a Friday night, I decided to take a bit of poetic license with the post title. It's bath time with wonder dog, Abby, as she gets presentable to visit family and friends in the area. Abby, unlike many dogs who run away from water, loves her baths- (not that you care). The coach has a warm water "shower" outside so washing up can be a year round activity. Oh, joy! But more than the bath itself, she really loves the "fluff dry cycle" and the chance to play a bit of peek-a-boo in the beach towel following the festivities. I wouldn't have included this much personal family stuff if she didn't look so darned cute in the towel! Wouldn't you say?

But this is a "working" visit to the region. So if you're checking in to see what's up with us (or to see if your picture shows up on the blog), here's the scoop. We are in Pennsylvania. Southeast Pennsylvania. The land of my childhood: Berks, Lancaster, Lebanon Counties. We have already made visits to a number of places I would like to share with you. So over the next couple weeks, we'll be taking a look at the region in general and some things that I think Pennsylvania can "model" for much of the nation in this day and age. And some things that are fascinating about the place. And some things that people the world over may wish to visit should they ever come to visit the state. And some things that I grew up with and have held in high regard throughout my life as it has unfolded, and can now share with Marilyn as we adventure to the times of my youth, which gets refreshed every time I come to this part of our land.

Future posts will explore Longwood Gardens, the mushroom capital of the world at Kennett Square, the nation's first pretzel factory in Lititz, and a very fine chocolate factory in the same town. We'll give you a look at the rolling farm lands of the Amish people and begin a discussion of what "Green" is really (and always has been) about. So check back in as I get the time to put in print and picture what we are rediscovering in the area. And in the meantime, you can just look adoringly at the cool dog in the bathrobe....

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Thar's Gold In Them Thar.........DUNES?

It's good to be on the move again. It was a great winter in Florida but we were admittedly chomping at the bit to get back on the road- as in really moving, not just living in the coach in a more or less fixed area. We finished out our time in Florida at Orlando Thousand Trails. Before they left, I gave Co(s)mic Bob (as in Cosmic Cousins Bob and Susan) a gold panning demonstration. I shaved a few small fragments off a lead pyramid sinker from my fishing tackle box, hammered them relatively flat to "mimic" gold flakes, then added them to samples of dirt, gravel, and anything else I could scoop up around the construction site for the new park models going in. Lead is a good training material to teach panning because, like gold, it is heavier (in water) than almost anything else you can put in a gold pan. It behaves like gold even though gold is again twice as heavy as lead. So if you can become proficient at panning for lead, you for sure will be good at panning for gold. And it is far less aggravating to lose a flake of lead than it is a single flake of gold at today's prices! So with pan, water trough, and materials set up and ready to go, we began our lesson. I did the first pan of "lead only" material as a demo. But much to my surprise, when I got to the bottom of the demo pan, there was not one, but two flakes of gold in the bottom of my pan.

FLASHBACK: When we knew we were to be pretty much tied to Florida for the winter for a variety of reasons, I wrote to GPAA, LDMA, and some other prospecting chat rooms on line and asked this simple question: "Where, if he MUST be in Florida for the winter, can a guy go to pan for gold with at least a possibility of success?" For days, I got no answer and that is not a usual thing for a chat room. They don't call it "chat" for nothing. Usually, them that know want to put their knowledge on display (or share their knowledge very generously, depending on your point of view). I kept checking back, less than enthusiastic about my chances of getting the kind of reply I was hoping for. But then, there it was: a direct reply from a guy in a gold prospecting club in Texas.

"Dear Greg," he wrote, "if you must spend winter in Florida and you must find some gold in that state, then I would suggest you take your metal detector to South Beach early in the morning on Saturday or Sunday morning with the idea that you might come up with a nice ring, a piece of jewelry, or a neat coin or two off a Spanish ship....cause that's about as good as it gets in Florida."

I now know that's not the way it is. In truth, at least according to the GPAA (Gold Miners' Association of America) there is gold in all 50 states if you are willing to look hard enough to find it. In fact, gold, at one time or another, was mined commercially in 48 of the 50 states. The two where it was never mined commercially? Kentucky and Hawaii. Please note, Florida was among the states where it WAS commercial viable at one time. Not in the region where I was to be sure- more along the border with Georgia which was a veritable "gold mine" at one time, but a bit of the yellow color made it via water (and/or glacier if you cotton to that theory) into Florida.

So I can't tell you where the Orlando fill dirt came from that I sampled and found a couple flakes in- but I'll take it none the less. And apparently, if you can find gold in Florida, you can find it anywhere. Memo to self: new goal - find gold in every state.

Back to Cosmic Bob. He too found gold in his pan. True, we salted it with "training gold" and black sand that we brought back from Chicken, AK. But never mind that. Gold once discovered by any means is gold fever contracted. Ain't no gettin' around it. You see, even the smallest flake of gold in the bottom of the pan, or the top of the sluice box is highly contagious. Far more addictive than caffeine or nicotine, but not nearly so harmful. In fact it's probably quite healthy as it comes with a full complement of exercise, adventure and fresh air!

But for now we are traveling north again. In the last two days, through northern Florida (the more north you go in Florida the more southern it gets), Georgia, South Carolina and tonight, near Charlotte, North Carolina. The air has cooled and freshened. Spring foliage is out at least this far north with Dogwoods and a whole host of other flowering trees coming into their own. Roadside flowers are laying out the red carpet (and the blue and purple ones) as we head into the unknown, even if it is through familiar territory. Adventure is where you seek it!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Lunch, Legos, and Singing Koi

As a follow up to the credit card fiasco that sent shock waves through our sometimes fragile on-the-road financial superstructure, I should report that calm and order have been restored now, thanks in no small part to some of our "partners." Bank of America, though we wish they would not have taken us by such surprise, did manage to get new cards out to us in an overnight fashion. Actually, they got the cards out to our mail forwarder, St. Brendan's Isle, who then went above and beyond the call of duty to get the new cards to us early the next morning, again via an overnight shipment. Any of you who may have need for the services of a mail forwarder, might wish to use the link above and check them out. They are, by some standards, a small and family owned and operated company. But they have services and capabilities far beyond the norm in the industry, even offering envelope scanning (I always know what mail they are holding for us because I can SEE it on line. And if the occasion mandates, they can securely open and scan the contents so that the normal delay that makes RV-ers crazy is virtually eliminated. They do all this, and much more, for a more-than-fair fee and when it comes to personalized customer service, I can't even imagine that anyone could do better! Thanks to Doug and Scott and all the gang at SBI!!!

With the financial house once again in order, we headed off to World of Orchids in Kissimmee. They do sell an awful lot of orchids and it is always fun to stroll through the orchid offerings, but the under glass gardens that are the large draw of the establishment were a bit run down and disappointing. As Marilyn put it, "They NEED us!" I try to steer clear of pointing out the less than stellar places we visit, but if you are ever interested in going here to see this venue, better to consider it a visit to the koi, catfish and pacu that swim freely (and look just like they are singing opera) in the garden streams. Feeding them was the highlight of our visit.




A worker in the "lab" transplants and packages "baby" orchids. You can buy a slug of them for about 10 bucks.
We stopped by Downtown Disney, a shopping, theater, and dining venue amidst the other theme parks in the family. This is a no charge stop on the Disney tour and it has a lot to offer. There is a building made of Lincoln Logs that sells retro toys of all kinds- would you believe Mr. Potato Head is making a huge comeback? But of major interest to us was the Lego pavilion. Below, this dragon, made entirely of Lego blocks, graces the lagoon. It was huge, and very cool!
There are lots of stations for "young engineers of tomorrow" to try out their creativity and hand/eye coordination. Talk about intensity!!!
This tourist family (and their pets) are all made of Legos. Can you find the real kid in the shot? The toys were so real looking, we had to take a close second look.
We'd hoped to have lunch at the famous Rain Forest Cafe, but long lines in combination with the rather high priced menu sent us nearby to The Wolfgang Puck Express cafe. It was a fun cafe featuring dining in full view of the kitchen, the wood fired oven, and the line chefs. And while it was OK, it was not great, and we still haven't come across anyone who can hold a candle to the meal Emeril offered up at Emeril Lagasse's NOLA in New Orleans

If you're reading this in a "time sensitive manner" you already know about inflation brought about at least in part by the skyrocketing prices of energy. But check out the sign below.....Is this what has become of the Dollar General???

And this one? Well, it can speak for itself....

Saturday, April 5, 2008

WARNING! WARNING!

Please read this notice as it is NOT an April Fool's joke of any kind. We know this first hand and I will explain and give you a link to get more information.

Some apparently even more clever than usual computer hackers hacked into the credit card processing division of Hannaford Brothers Grocery chain. This is a large family of stores which includes Shop N Save and Sweet Bay, just to name a couple. If you used any credit card at any of their stores between December 7, 2007 and March 10 of 2008, your credit card number MAY have been compromised and there could be trouble ahead for you- as there was for us. Depending on your card issuer there are several means for dealing with the problem- none of which are subject to your input or control.

For us, without warning late last night, both of our Bank of America cards went "off line" and were closed on the spot. This was a preemptive move on the part of the bank and we are happy they are on top of things but it poses some immediate and difficult challenges to be sure- as we apparently have only three business days to get every last arrangement changed over to the newly issued cards (which we don't even have yet!). Because we are on the road non-stop, we have automated as many payments as possible to those cards and getting in touch with everyone in short order will be difficult at best.

But this is not intended to be a post about our temporary situation- rather a warning to you if you have used a card at any of the Hannaford stores. We would urge you to call you card customer service number and see if you have been exposed, because the closing of the account may come, as ours did, right out of the blue- no warning at all. In fact, when we knowingly used a card at one of their stores after the problem had been caught, they told us we would not have a problem as a result of using the card. WRONG!

Here is a link to the Hannaford site that discusses the breach. From this site you can research the matter as deeply as you deem appropriate.

Potentially ALL Hannaford customers who used credit cards during this time period are at risk for fraudulent use of their card account numbers. Beware.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Odie's Roadie-O or Battle of the Blogs

A last minute convergence of our Google mapping put us together for a couple nights with Jim and Chris Guld (Geeks on Tour) at Thousand Trails Orlando as we prepared to break out of Florida soon and head north. So we threw together some pot stickers and smoked turkey wings for some impromptu dining with them, the Cosmic Cousins, and some new friends who are blog readers of the Geeks (although we suspect it is Odie, the Guld's doggie, they really follow). A good time was had by all. We talked travel, blogs (Chris is "The Blogmeister"), finances, and a smattering of politics, just to keep it interesting.

If you follow the link above to Geekville and click on "blog" you will see some more photos and narrative of our visit. There is also a link to their web site at the head of this blog. You'll be given an opportunity on their site to sign up for a free newsletter that we highly recommend to anyone using a computer, but especially those challenged by using it on the road. Below is a shot of the whole gang getting ready to partake in Marilyn's extra special Maine/Alaska dessert- Moose Turd Pie. Good, though!


The Gulds used to write their blog under "Jim and Chris and Odie's Wonderful Life." They rapidly became known on the net as "Odie's Roadie's." Odie is one cool character - gentle little beasty with a free ranging spirit, a mind of his own, and both brave and curious beyond his years. In this incredible action shot, which for sure wins me the photo credit award in this week's Battle of the Blogs, Odie "herds" the Armadillo while we eat dinner. It's Odie's Roadies-O Show! Git along little doggie!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

"In Concert"

"In Concert" means different things to different people, but it also is a metaphor of sorts for the lives we live. A dog, for example, laying in the shade of the coach awning, licking a giant pile of ice cubes to cool off on a hot day in the March Florida sunshine is surely "In Concert" with the world as it presents itself...Just look at that syncopation, will ya?

I find myself finally divested of the restraints and constraints and non-stop responsibilities of real estate holdings that always seemed to find a way to limit the joys of being on the road full time since we got started down that road. But with the closing of the last commercial holding in Maine, we are truly foot loose and fancy free, or at least as much as it is possible to be that way in this life and still be a responsible participant in the process. How long that feeling lasts I cannot know; but for now, with the wind at my back, the sun on the horizon and adventure tucked securely in my pocket, the feeling of being "In Concert" fully and for the first time in a long while is here to be appreciated and celebrated and shared.

And what better way to start the unbridled future than with a visit to some of the highlights of the past.

The Beach Boys in Concert!

There is, as there always is, a blank canvas, an empty stage, a diamond in the rough, an idea without a plan, a direction without a destination....
With planning and engagement comes anticipation and excitement...

until the performers come to the stage and we are all "In Concert"...
The results become clear to all. The beach balls fly through the air in celebration. The beat pulses, the rhythm moves the body and the mind and the soul and connections are made with the very essence of life.
It works for the young ones and a new generation of fans and participants comes into the world, lending credence to the quality of the here-to-fore we hold so dear.
It works for the old ones who look back at the times of their youth through whatever lens suits them best...
and it works for those frozen in time, those that never gave up or moved on from what worked for them in the first place...and maybe will for all their life and time.
For the California girls in Florida,
For the throwback rocker generation that just keeps dancing on ...
And for the startups in the concert world, high atop their man's (even if it's dear old dad's) shoulders to see if the view is any better up there in the clouds and over the heads of everyone in their way.
A day In Concert with life, with the music and rhythm of the day and the night just makes you feel right, like you are all dressed up with SOMEWHERE to go, and ready to go where-ever that may take you.
I have no idea whether this first ever (below) video clip I am trying to post to the blog will work or not after I hit the all important "Publish" button. But if it does, you will hear a clip of a Beach Boy tune that all will recognize. (And, yes, they OK'd the use of it, thank you very much.) The clip was taken with my digital still camera so it will be small and maybe a bit dark. But listen carefully, even if the image is not so great...Is that ME singing with the Beach Boys? Yes siree bob. Now all you have to figure out is if I actually got invited up on stage...or if I'm just singing along from behind the camera. Hey! I'm not tellin'.

video