Sunday, January 31, 2016

My haven

One of the secrets to keeping me happy while on the road is to allow me to escape from shopping. I love coffee shops and everyone has more fun when I can visit a local shop as an alternative. Today's visit was to Amavida Coffee. A plaque on the counter declared them winner of the Reader's Choice award (coffee category) in Saint Andrews, FL, for 2015. What you see here is my usual (when available) - Cafe au lait (pretty much regular coffee with steamed milk). 

There do not seem to be as many coffee shops in Florida as I usually encounter, but there are some different items on the menu. I decided to try an Espresso Cubano in addition to my regular drink. This turned out to be a double shot espresso pull over raw sugar. Very good. Several of their espresso drinks have a "southern influence". I am about at my caffeine limit for the next several hours so I will wait to try something else until another day.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Stereotypical old folks

Why does being called a snowbird annoy me? I went to barbershop today and the barber made some comment about the cold weather. I explained that I was from Minnesota and I did not think 50s and 60s were that bad. The barber then said that I must be a snowbird.

I guess I do not think of myself as a snowbird. I know this is one of those terms that describe older folks from the north who come down to the south for the winter. I guess we are doing that but we are not spending the time in a rental or parking our rig in one place until it warms up in the northland. In contrast, we are taking a winter vacation. We intend to move from place to place exploring whatever we can find.

What would we be called if we did the same thing in the summer? I was visiting this exact location last summer (we took our extended family to the theme parks). Who can live with that heat and humidity? If winter visitors are called snowbirds, summer visitors should be called idiots.

Having said all of this about stereotypes, I must also admit that I have some stereotypes. However, my stereotype regarding snowbirds (those who move into one location for several months) is that they play golf (using carts) and shuffle board. Sure enough. Most of the sites around us sport a golf cart in addition to whatever car, bus, or truck moved the snowbirds here. We have had rain for several days, but today was a nice day. Again, just as the stereotype would suggest when I headed off for my morning shower the shuffle board courts (if that is what they are called) were already packed.

I wonder how much skill is required to be good at shuffle board. Do you have to spend time in the minor leagues to prove yourself before you can move up to participate with the serious players? Do they always heckle each other like that and are they placing side bets or are the league standings sufficient to maintain their intensity?

I have many questions about retirement.

[Panama City, FL]

Friday, January 29, 2016

Not a role model

Lots of rain in Florida so plenty of time to sit and write.

Charles Barkley (a pretty decent basketball player in his day and now a television personality) once responded to criticism of his behavior by arguing that he was not a role model. He was not trying to excuse his behavior but pretty much trying to argue that he should not both be criticized for his behavior and also failing to be a good public model for others. The push back kind of suggested that the dual criticism comes with the territory. If you are in a field that requires public observation to exist (no fans, no money), you must accept the expectation that you present a positive public image

In this time of great attention to political figures, I was thinking about the Charles Barkley argument as it might apply to political candidates. Are the behaviors of these public figures the behaviors we admire and want imitated by our children? Who do we assume should be allowed to behave in this manner - our clergy, physicians, teachers, store owners, neighbors?

Consider the difficult job of educators in an election year. Educators are expected (required) to develop in their students certain characteristics - tolerance and acceptance of differences, honesty, a sense of responsibility for those who are less fortunate, and effective communication skills. While political correctness has probably gone too far in many settings, what has become common political rhetoric would be far beyond the pale in most classrooms.
John - make sure you study your spelling tonight. Remember we have a spelling bee tomorrow. We want to be ready to kick those students in Mrs. Smith’s class asses.  
Sue - could you get your mother to come to see me, She needs to know what a loser you have become.  
Sam - I know you are a sophomore and all, but could you try to use shorter sentences and avoid any word longer than 6 letters. You need to learn to avoid acting like you know something.  
I cannot think of a scenario in which “carpet bomb them into oblivion” would be used in a school situation and I apologize for this. There are just some situations in which my creativity fails me. 

Anyone ever happen upon a "pro wrestling" channel? You know the guys who yell into the microphone about how they have been wronged and what they are about to do to their opponent. Much political rhetoric reminds me of pro wrasslin. I guess these pretenders do draw crowds. Wait - I do remember a "pro" did become governor of Minnesota.

How might we place a label of “I am definitely not a role model” on some political behavior? What might encourage us to step back and try to imagine how certain behaviors might be viewed by others? Who welcomes many of the behaviors being exhibited as predictive of being an effective learner?

I sometimes think people with money or who have long been in a position of power confuse what they themselves can do with what they can use their authority to have done. The physical braggadocio of some of these characters strikes me as humorous, but a little bit scary as it might be interpreted by others. Are we really willing to support bullying?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Introversion is not a character flaw

I appreciate all who have contacted us to indicate that you have followed our trip and enjoyed this blog. At first, I was concerned by this praise and felt some pressure. I have a three-hour class on Thursday evenings (tonight) and it takes me a good amount of time to prepare. Should I keep working on my class notes or work on a blog post. I decided to treat the decision like a vote. How many contact me with positive things to say about the class versus how many contact me with positive things to say about the blog? You can see that I generated a post and you can guess at the vote totals for the week.

I have a reputation in the family for my wedding reception speeches. I have two daughters and I was allowed to say something on the occasion of their weddings. Let's just say that I have a little different style than most and folks seemed to enjoy my comments. Part of their reaction, I think, was that many had never watched me function in this type of situation. After hearing the comments offered at the wedding of my oldest daughter, my mother-in-law approached me, said she really enjoyed my speech, and added that this was the most she had ever heard me talk. She had a way of saying things like this - things that at first seem like a compliment and then when you think about it a little more, you are not sure. My first reaction was - you have known me for 25 years and you must know I speak weekly to hundreds of people at a time. What is it you think I do for a living? Then, I understood. People have different ways of evaluating people and form opinions about them from circumstances familiar to them. My mother-in-law mostly knew me from family gatherings. I rarely play games. Therefore, I did not sit around playing Scrabble and chit chatting about this or that with the relatives. On her turf, doing the things that were common there, I suppose I seemed a bit peculiar. I might sit in a room with other people and read a book or look at my computer. Introversion is not a character flaw. It is just another of those characteristics that make each of us unique.

I do enjoy sharing stories and this is what I try to do with a couple of my blogs. If one of my stories seems funny, it is because the things I observe and comment on have captured something that we both find to be amusing.

Time to work on the content for tonight's class.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Tight Fit

We have made it a point to try out all features of the camper so we become more confident. The camper has all of the conveniences, but on a smaller scale than one might expect. I think there is a television program about these people who live in very small houses. Imagine that show, but the houses are on wheels.

There is a point at which miniaturization becomes an issue. Here you see me in our combination toilet/shower. I admit I could drop a pound or 30, but I can do nothing about my height. Other folks with more hair would have to be careful to remember not to turn on the exhaust fan. That might qualify for a law suit. I have been taking showers in the pool dressing room. Really, how is this supposed to work. Yes, I suppose I could use the toilet and take a shower at the same time. Efficient, but just because my imagination is capable of such images does not mean I should act accordingly.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Double double

We finally have set up the gpod (Grabe rPod) and can look forward to staying in one place tomorrow. No real problems with the assembly except figuring out how to light things that depend on the propane. It turns out the stove you light with a lighter and the hot water heater starts when you throw a switch. This was not logical to me. I assumed I would test the stove so I knew the propane was filled and open and then start the hot water heater. I assumed both would work in the same way.

Here is an inside view sitting on the bed and looking toward the other end. Big enough for us as long as we are in pleasant moods.

One thing I noticed about driving long days is that I get very little exercise. There are probably some folks who would get up at 6 and run a couple miles, have breakfast, and then hit the road. There was never a time in my life when this was possible. And, after 500 miles on the road I am usually too tired to do anything in the evening. Tomorrow there will be no excuses.

I was thinking about what a great combination of driving and exercise would look like. Basketball has this thing called a double double. It means a player has generated double digits in two categories. Usually, this would be points and rebounds. For a point guard, it might be points and assists. I suppose blocks might also qualify, but a double digit block game would be very rare.

So a double double on the road might be 10,000 steps and 500 miles. This would be a very special accomplishment for anyone over 65.

I think achieving my newly designated distance double double within two days should be my immediate goal. 500 miles today, 10,000 steps tomorrow.

[Clermont, FL]

Monday, January 25, 2016

... and idiots

At first I thought the bystanders who pointed at our rig and smiled were impressed. I should have known better. Cindy posted a picture of the trailer on Facebook and brother Bill made some comment about a "drop hitch".

I did know something was not right with the way the hitch connected to the trailer. We had the hitch installed on the minivan  before we sold it so we could purchase an SUV capable of pulling more weight. This was likely the cause of our issue. The trailer was not level and the stabilizers in the back were too close to the ground. I was concerned that if I had to drive over a speed bump I might knocked one off.

We have tried a couple of auto repair places to see if they could lower the hitch. By looking at the hitch it appeared you could take out the two large bolts and move everything down about two inches. I thought I might be able to do it myself, but it would take a couple of large wrenches and then it could be the case that the nuts had been tightened down so well I would not be able to get them loose. It turns out that working on a hitch is not a task that interests auto repair shops. We did find a camper supply store and Paducah and they could get us in immediately.

Contrary to what I had to say in my previous post we actually had a great time talking with the owner. He turned the fix over to a son and spent time talking with us. The owner spent time in the Orlando area (our first stop) and had specific suggestions for us. As far as the hitch goes, he explained that the entire assembly holding the hitch ball can be flipped over and this allows everything to be lowered quite a bit. I would not have figured this out.

We were quite open about our lack of experience with this style of camper and explained we were still learning. His response was:
God looks out for children and idiots.
Cindy turned to me and said - We are not that young.

I think he meant we would be fine.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Travel with audio

When you drive 8-10 hours a day listening to some audio helps pass the time. Driving through many parts of the country is just not that interesting.

In the old days, we listened to music when we drove. I remember one trip it was "John Denver" and another "Blues Traveller". Alabama and Abba were other foci. Using the radio was not a priority, it was tapes or CDs.

Times have changed. Lately, we spend a lot of time listening to podcasts. Both Cindy and I listen to technology and educational technology content. There are several weekly presentations from the TWIT network we follow. The weekly shows probably we consume probably total hours 8 hours we and we mostly listen while in the car so we had several week's worth to catch up on. We try several education podcasts, but they just do not have the professional approach or new information of the TWIT shows. One of teacher chats a day is about the limit.

I listen to audible books daily, but Cindy is not generally a fan of my taste. She is not as interested in politics, spy novels or the works of Thomas Friedman. I did introduce her to a travel book I have enjoyed and I think she is hooked. My favorite "on the road" book is Philip Caputo's "The longest road". Caputo and his wife drive from Key West to the arctic circle in a small air stream. I have read the classic Kerouac's "On the road" and found it acceptable. I liked Least Heat-Moon's "Blue highways" better. The longest road is my favorite

I wonder just how great writers do what they do. I write a lot, but I don't usually work to find the details to draw the reader in. Caputo's writing is very descriptive and he offers great imagery and detailed conversations with interesting people. I can't say I have met anyone interesting yet, but everyone probably has a great story or two if you know how to draw them out. I marvel at how he remembers the details of their discussion. He makes no mention of recording conversations. These are not described as staged interviews so how does he generate the detail. Is it fair to recreate or must you have a tremendous memory.

It might be the same way with photography. Cindy and others like my pictures but complain that my images contain few people. Nice pictures, but not enough people. Nice prose, but not enough conversation. Maybe I am just not a people person.

[Paducah, Kentucky]

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Driving in Circles

Today, the time for me to do battle with the Giant Hill of Ice finally came. I have been dreading this day for weeks. Last night I awoke at 2 and kept going through options for attacking the hill. How fast could I go and not risk losing control? What if I made it half way up and then had to try to back down? What if my backing skills failed me and I backed the trailer into the ditch?

It took about two hours to get everything packed for departure. Cindy became annoyed with my heavy breathing and constant comments about "the hill". She even accused me finding work to do as a way to avoid getting on with things. First time I have been criticized for emptying the dish washer.

The hill was nothing. What you see here is the view from the top. It was so much fun I even did it twice. And that, as Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story.

Our departure was somehow hurried. I was worried and Cindy was annoyed with me. This may have led to some other issues.

As we drove, Cindy realized that we had left several documents on the kitchen counter. Included were our "Good Sam" identification cards and insurance card. She called and they provided an identified number we could use. First problem resolved.

We were about 70 miles down the road when Cindy discovered something else. We had brought one set of keys for the camper. Having only one set of keys on a long trip is not ideal but we could probably get by. However, the set of keys we brought did not have the key for our hitch lock. We had purchased a lock for our hitch that made it difficult to separate the car and trailer with a bolt cutter. You don't want someone unhooking your trailer during the night when you are staying in a motel and driving off or removing the trailer from an unattended camp site. This was a problem.

We turned around and started back for the cabin. One hundred and fifty miles of practice driving the trailer.  Down the big icy hill. Then we had to turn the rig around in our parking area. Maneuvering car and trailer in tight spaces is not easy.  It was a smoother process in the Fall when we could drive onto the grass and did not have to stay within the snow banks. We were eventually successful and we faced the second attack on the hill without concern. Everything went smoothly from then on.

Son Todd sent us a word of wisdom as we took off. I have no idea what he would be reading that would have brought up this observation, but he quoted Lewis Carroll.

If you don't know where you are going,
any road will take you there.

He said that the Carroll statement reminded him of us. I think Carroll had it right, but I have no idea if this was intended to be a positive observation. I think Steve Jobs offered a similar sentiment that I know was intended as positive.

The journey is its own reward.

[Rockford, IL]

Actually, Jobs was quoting Homer, but there was no citation.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Day One - 20 Feet

This blog will chronicle Mark and Cindy's southern trip of 2016. Today marks the beginning and we made 20 feet. We did move the trailer. The short trip was planned because we needed to get the trailer out of the snow and connect it to the car. I am pleased to announce that the first task was successfully accomplished. We also cannot travel too far south because of the ice storm presently in progress. This is the same storm forecast to shut down DC. We must travel through the middle US and are hoping our delay will allow conditions to improve.

This is our first trip with this equipment and I have been dreading several challenges. The first was connecting the trailer on our own. This may sound simple, but the system we use is equipped with what are called sway bars to help keep the trailer under control. The sway bars must operate under tension so the process is a little tricky until you understand the techniques. I think I have it figured out. You make use of a tool that is strange looking, but quite functional. I will have to add a photo of the tool when I use it again.

Tomorrow's challenge will be making the first mile to reach the highway. Our lake place is about 1/2 mile from a main road and the connection has one large hill. In winter, the hill often becomes slick. We have watched a UPS trucks take 3 runs at the hill to make it to the road. With our older car I had to back down one time and take a second run at the hill. Backing our camping rig down a big would be much more difficult. We purchased our SUV because it was better suited than our minivan to pulling heavier loads and because it has all wheel drive. We will see how things go.

Anyway, the adventure has begun.