Thursday, December 30, 2010

Destructo-Cat

A couple of nights ago I awoke to a loud crash from the front of the motorhome.  I checked it out and found my notebook computer at the bottom of the stairwell making (not so) funny noises.  I picked it up and checked it out only to get "Hard Drive not Detected" - the hard drive took physical damage.  It fell because a certain small cat was trying to stand on it to see what was going on up near the ceiling.  I had to have a new drive FedEx'd in to get back up and running.

This evening I heard another crash from the front of the motorhome and saw a black streak heading away from the area.  I found my cell phone and the signal booster that we use to get service in low service areas on the floor.  The plug on the signal booster was completely snapped off and is rattling around in the case.  It's toast.  A few hours later I tried to check a text message on my cell phone and found that the touchscreen and buttons on the front no longer work.  After fiddling with it for a while I've declared it toast as well, oh well, Melissa says that I yelled at it at least once a day for not working anyway.  Going to order a Droid tonight and finally get rid of Windows Mobile forever.

Happy's been an expensive kitten this week...

The dead equipment
A tired kitten passed out on me after today's destruction

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Christmas Tree!

Last year's Christmas celebration was a little dull. We were boondocking in the Arizona desert and we were dirt poor. We didn't have any friends in the area so for Christmas we had a campfire and burnt some chestnuts, listened to some other boondockers scream at each other, and I tried to play Christmas tunes on a harmonica.

This year I'm very excited to say I have decorated for the season and we even have a Christmas tree! Well, not a real, smelly, pine needles everywhere kind of tree. This one is much better! Its in lights!

I'm making gumbo for all the park rangers and volunteers and inviting everyone over to celebrate! Chris and I even have Christmas presents for each other! I love this time of year!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Here's your sign...


Near American Falls, Idaho
Is pantslessness such a problem that they had to add this extra line?


Oregon coast
I don't think the guy is going to make it.


The Everglades, Florida
We've seen various wildlife crossing signs. But a PANTHER crossing....
that's different.


Highway One entering Big Sur, California.
Not RV friendly.


Sun City, Arizona
Don't feed the strippers. Ever.


Near Mt St Helens, Washington
Strung out sasquatch proves too much coffee is bad for you.


San Marcos Pass, California
Does this look like a place where people would congregate and loiter?


I forgot which mountains in California this was from.
But I think the bears are following the deer.


Grantsville, Utah
Apparently the best reason to slow down for a yield sign is so you can aim better.


Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Out to Sea With a Paddle

Yesterday afternoon we decided to go fishing from the boat.  Melissa's parents are in town and they decided to come along.  Fred & Cindy here at the park have been nice enough to let us borrow their 16' boat while we've been in the Keys and I got the boat and fishing gear together while everyone got ready.

The boat's motor has been having a little difficulty lately but started right up and away we went.  The plan was to anchor on the down-current side of the new Bahia Honda bridge in the middle of the channel and drop our lines.  We got to our spot and realized that the only anchor in the boat had a rope that was too short for the current.  Change of plans, we'll cut the engine and drift in the 3 knot current until we near the old Bahia Honda bridge about 1/4 mile away.  We did this a couple of times and on the last restart the starter took a couple of tries to catch and turn the engine.  We motored over to the new bridge and started another float.  When I went to start the engine this time, the starter would whir but wouldn't engage the motor flywheel (which turns the engine to start it.)  We tried to restart several times while quickly floating toward the old bridge with no luck.  Thankfully we were pushed through in the middle of a span and didn't have to worry about hitting the bridge.

So we're being pushed out into the Atlantic Ocean without a motor, next stop Cuba.  After a bit of indecisiveness and discussion the plan is to not try to use the trolling motor battery to start the engine, it would take too long to set up and Melissa's dad pointed out that the lights weren't dimming when we tried to start the engine - it might not be a dead battery but something else wrong.  After a couple of attempts to unlock and drop the trolling motor we got it down and running and started to cut across the current with the trolling motor and a paddle providing power.  The original plan was to do a sunset fishing outing, so by this time the sun has set, it's dark, and we're about a mile from where we started.  We finally got out of the current on the back side of the island and then started our run up against the shore to try to get back under the old bridge to the marina.  With the trolling motor on its highest setting and the paddle pushing we barely made it up-current through the bridge into more protected waters.

The trip back to the marina took over an hour but we all made it back safe and sound.  While Melissa got a bite from a critter big enough to take all of the line from her reel and snap it at the end we ended up not landing any fish.  C'est la vie.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Making some changes

We're very excited about some redecorating we're doing in the motorhome! Our rig is a 93 model so it's a little outdated in fashion and is showing some wear and tear. We've been talking about some changes for a while but it always seems there's something more critical to do. Well finally today Chris removed the jump seat which is an armchair that only the cat sat in. Getting rid of that thing opened up a lot of space! Now Chris can add a real desk to his office area.

I also re-covered some cabinets. They used to be a dull blue color but now its been changed to a more colorful and cheerful pattern. Luckily I met a new friend at the park, Suzanne, who was absolutely fantastic at this and helped me get it done fast and it looks great!

Next on the renovation list: I'm going to get rid of the peeling old wallpaper and do some painting! I'll post pictures as the projects get done.

Here's a photo of the cabinet makeover!

Before



After

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Beauty of the Keys



The Florida Keys are treating us well!  We're both working hard and having a lot of fun.  Our new motto seems to be "Work Hard, Play Hard!"  I've been volunteering at both Bahia Honda State Park and the Dolphin Research Center.  Chris spends 5 days a week on his regular (paying) job and they've had a lot for him to take care of lately.  When he has a chance he will cover one of my shifts at the state park for me.  We love the work and we love the setting!

In our spare time we love to ride bikes around the island, kayak or snorkel the crystal clear water, or go out on a dive charter to the reef!  We've gone lobstering and fishing for yummy dinner!  We love the other volunteers here.  We've had some great happy hours and potluck dinners with our new friends! 


Dolphin Research Center has brand new baby dolphins that were born last week!  Aren't they adorable?!


We love our bikes!

Our friends Fred and Cindy let us take their boat out!  Whee!

Mmm,,, dinner!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fantasy Fest was fantastic!

I dressed up as a spider queen!


Chris calls his costume "Key West Camo"

For Halloween we visited Key West for Fantasy Fest. This is a world-famous festival on par with Carnivale or Mardi Gras. The costumes and body painting were fabulous!
There were plenty of people in regular costumes and some extraordinary ones! We saw GI Joes, Avatars, construction fairies, birdcage heads, and my personal favorite - the YipYip Monsters! The creativity involved is outstanding!

They looked even more "real" in person!


Apparently the Na'vi had their own float in the parade.


"Yip-yip-yip-yip-yip!" (they were on Sesame Street)

Some people may be shocked by the nude painted bodies wandering around on Duval Street but if you haven't seen this amazing art don't be too quick to judge! Yes, many people were topless and some are even completely nude but the painting is professionally done and the human body becomes a canvas for these beautiful creations. Some are painted to look like they are wearing clothes. Some are painted as animals or in animal print. Flower designs were also very popular.

Since I know Mom is reading I'll keep the body painting pictures clean!

That's just paint!

I know, Mom. They're naked. But isn't it pretty art?

It seemed like the later we stayed the more fabulous the costumes became! I'm very sorry we couldn't stay for the biggest event, the parade on Saturday! I have no doubt the costumes get even better than this...

Fantasy Fest is also known for fabulous drag queens. Isn't she amazing?

We had a great time and loved it so much we plan to return next year. This year we went on Friday night and Chris had to play designated driver for the hour-long drive back to Bahia Honda. Next year we are getting a hotel room so we can see the big parade instead of having to drive home and work the next day (yeah, that part wasn't as much fun!) We can all look forward to more pictures of Fantasy Fest next year!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dolphins!


Besides volunteering 4 days a week at the state park here in the Florida Keys I am also volunteering 1-2 days a week at the Dolphin Research Center on nearby Grassy Key. I haven't put in 50 hour weeks in a very looong time! I'm hoping that all this great experience will eventually help me get a paying job doing something super fun! Unfortunately that leaves very little time for blogging but here are a couple of pictures I have taken of the dolphins that I wanted to share with my readers! If you ever get out this way I do highly recommend visiting the Dolphin Research Center, its a great learning experience!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hurricane Paula, go away!

It looks like we might have to evacuate again! This time it's Hurricane Paula. When we evacuated a couple weeks ago, tropical storm Nicole totally petered out while we enjoyed a mini vacation. But this storm is already a category 2 hurricane and the computer models show it will either turn south at Cuba or cruise straight up the keys! We'll know within 12-24 hours if we need to evacuate. And this time we are NOT heading south!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Today was my first day to volunteer at Dolphin Research Center (DRC) in Grassy Key, FL. What a great experience! My work will mostly be eight hours on my feet doing glamorous things like collecting trash, cleaning bird cages, and working in the "Fish House" (whooeee! what a smell!). But at the end of the day I was rewarded by getting to participate in the dolphin's after-hours play time. We fed them treats and they squealed with joy! This is going to be a blast!


I'm also still volunteering at Bahia Honda State Park 4 days a week to "pay the rent." Of course they don't actually pay me but I do get a free campsite in paradise!

The weather has finally cooled off. At first the days were sweltering here but now it's just perfect. The water has gotten a little chilly too! It's not too cold for swimming and snorkeling yet, but it is not as warm as bathwater like it was when we first arrived!

This place is simply gorgeous. Here are some more great pics of Home Sweet Home!

View from the Old Bahia Honda Bridge


Chris is soaking up some sun on Sandspur Beach


All the birds seem to hang out in the same area every day! We have pelicans, gulls, egrets, herons, ibis, and lots of littler birds that I'm still learning to identify.


Calusa beach is so pretty!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Running from the Storm


The state park where we're volunteering has called an emergency evacuation from Tropical Storm Nicole; they told us yesterday at 1 pm to pack up and move out by sunset. We were on the road by 3. We've been through many hurricanes in Texas so this isn't too scary for us. Since this is a very minimal sized tropical storm we're not too worried about it. We actually didn't run too far; in fact we broke all the rules and headed south! We moved to Sugar Loaf Key which is only about 10 miles south of where we were. The other volunteers are here too.


This KOA gets 5 stars because they were so nice to give us FREE camping because we're refugees! They have a beautiful pool, a hot tub, a poolside bar, a marina and fishing area, and a beach with a water trampoline, rock climbing float, and jungle gym! So far this evacuation has been like a vacation!


We love silly signs... Luckily our cats don't smoke!


The storm is expected to hit tonight. The weather service predicts it will cruise by to the east of us and actually make landfall on the mainland/Miami area. We're keeping a close eye on the weather channel and keeping the awning rolled up till then!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Having too much fun to blog!


Bahia Honda Key in Florida is a very small island but there's plenty to do! This week we've been swimming, snorkeling, lobstering, biking, and generally having a great time living in paradise! We have miles of beautiful beaches within easy walking or biking distance! If you're ever in the area its a great place to camp; they have several tent and RV sites that are right on the water! The volunteer workers are a very close community and everyone is very friendly. Well, I can't write much because we're getting up early to hop over to Key West and go scuba diving!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Keys!

If you take a look at our Datastorm map on the right side of this page you'll see that it looks like we're in the middle of the ocean! Well, almost.... we're in the Florida Keys! We've settled into Bahia Honda State Park and will be volunteering here for the next 3 months! We're living on a small island which is about 4 miles long and less than a quarter mile wide. When not working for the park we'll be swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and fishing! This place seems real nice and I think we'll love it here! We haven't taken any pictures yet but we'll post some as soon as we can!

Everglades NP

The Everglades .... it just sounds so... Primal. Wild. Unfenced. On your way into this huge National Park you will see this unusual road warning sign - a Panther Crossing!


The park pretty much covers the entire southern tip of Florida, excluding the Keys. It is so massive that it has FIVE visitor centers! We entered the park from Homestead, FL. This side showcased endless miles of swamps. Grassy swamps, forested swamps, and jungle-y swamps. Being from Southeast Texas and familiar with South Louisiana, we found the scenery to be very familiar.


We attempted to hike on a boardwalk through the jungle-y area but we were chased off by hoards of blood-thirsty mosquitos darkening the skies. Well, at least back home they spray poison to kill those tiny flying monsters!


One of the most interesting things we learned while we were there is that the Everglades are FAKE! Because of agricultural and residential water use, the park now has to pump thousands of gallons of water into it to keep it swampy! Millions of gallons of water devoted to the alligators, crocodiles, and mosquitoes! We only stayed there one night and were ready to move on to the Keys!