Friday, January 30, 2015

Citrus Sunshine!

We've been just "kicking back" in Florida these past few weeks...just enjoying the beautiful blue skies, sunshine and lazy days.  Ah, isn't the "retired life" great?  Yup!  I just keep reminding myself of this whenever I start to feel even a little bit guilty!  Working steady since I was 14, raising 3 beautiful's time for me to just sit back and enjoy life!  So...I am!  We met a lovely couple at the campground the other day, who are doing this in their 50's, wow, good for them!  I think more and more folks are figuring out that life can be short, and putting off retirement/fun, etc. may not be the smartest thing to do!  So, "downsizing" and living a much simpler life allows you to retire earlier and have a bit more fun than continuing to work longer just to have that great big house and all those cars, etc.  Different things for different folks...

After the cruise, we decided Ft Lauderdale was just to crowded for us, and headed north to Ft Pierce where it was so much more quiet and peaceful.  We found a beautiful of the loveliest one's we've ever stayed in actually.  Nice big sites and a big pond in the middle where some of the guys have remote control sailboats that they race in it, that's fun to watch.

Not to much to do around here, and that was fine by us, as we just really wanted to just "sit back and relax" a little, take some nice walks, drive around and see the town, walk the beaches, etc.  We did discover that they have one of the best Farmer's Markets we've ever been to on Saturdays tho!  So much so, that it was part of the reason we stayed a few extra days here!  Fantastic veggies, bakery items, spices, spaghetti sauce, coffee, so many food items to name, and the crafts were of such great quality and uniqueness!  What a joy it was to shop there...we spent almost all day, just soaking it all in...and buying, of course!

Ft Pierce does have a couple of unique places though, one being the Manatee Observation & Education Center.  It's a small place, but they take the time to walk around with you and show you various sea life and talk about the manatees around the world.  They also shared where we might be able to observe them.  We drove over to the spots, but no luck.  Darn.  Jack really loves those big sea cows.  I must admit, they are pretty cute. 

The other thing unique about Ft Pierce, is that they have a citrus packing plant.  Now, your thinking, "hey, it's Florida, how unique can that be?"  Well, in our tour, we found out that 90% of the citrus grown here is made into juice - so, actually, that leaves only 10% that is used for "fruit" - so out of that 10% some of it must go to stores, then that doesn't leave a whole lot for the "speciality packing", and of that, this packing company is the only one giving public tours!  So, pretty special, huh?  ;-)

So, we went to Al's Family Farms for a tour, and had a great time!  Coming from California, where we really do grow a lot of citrus, I was surprised at how much I did learn!  Like, the California fruit is "pretty" on the outside with it's bright, thick orange, perfect peel, while the inside is nice...sweet and a little juicy.  While the Florida, specifically the Indian River area oranges have a thin skin, scarred (due to the wind brushing the leaves and branches), very, very full juicy (twice the weight), sweet fruit.  This is the reason that they are used for juice vs the California ones!  Ha!

They had several different types we got to taste - Navel & Honeybells - Oranges and Red Ruby & Pummelos Grapefruit.  All delicious!  They said it had a lot to do with the Indian River and the way it runs through the ground they have there - unique.

The fruit has to all be picked by hand, some sniped with clippers so that the tops don't get torn off.  Then they are brought to the wet-line, hand inspected three separate times before going through the polishing (which is really just drying blowers).  We then went into the packing house where we got to see how carefully they hand pack the fruit for shipping.  They pack as they get an order and not before, so it's always fresh. 

I placed an order for my son in New York...I thought he could use a little "citrus sunshine" right about now...

...kicking back in Florida,  Marie

Friday, January 23, 2015


Yes, even full-time RV'ers need a vacation!  So, where and how do we vacation?  Well, "we", take a cruise!  At least this year we did!  How it came about is actually kind of a funny story...

Like most folks on the road, we charge everything.  So, as you can imagine, it really adds up too.  I had watched my friends over the years have credit cards that gave them "points" towards flights, or hotels, etc. and had been bugging Jack for years for us to "get one of those".  So, one day he turns to me and says, "Marie, we DO have one!"  I said, "We do?"  I thought the Credit Union was just a regular Visa?"  "No, it gathers points, I just never paid any attention to them, give them a call and see what we have and what their good for".  So, I got our statement, and gave them a call.  Well...after all these years, and all the mileage etc that we've accumulated...we sure had a lot of points!  So, I asked the nice lady if I could use the points for a cruise and she said "yes, where would I like to go?"  I told her the Caribbean.  She asked me for how long, I told her not less than 10 days, she said one was going out of Ft Lauderdale in January for 11 days - "perfect!"  I asked her if I had enough points for a balcony room, she said "oh yes, no problem".  ;-)   So, folks, that's the story of how our trip got started!  It seems that we still have plenty of points left over too!  Guess it pays off not knowing when you have something storing up for you!  ;-)

Our itinerary was this:  Two days at sea (which was a nice way to get settled in), then Philipsburg St Maarten; Castries, St Lucia; Bridgetown, Barbados; Fort-de-France, St Martinique; Basseterre, St Kitts; Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas; at sea; with the last day on their private island Half Moon Cay, Bahamas, then back to Ft Lauderdale.  The weather was exquisite the whole time.  It did rain a couple of times, maybe 10 minutes each time - then gone.  We lucked out each time as we were in shops at the time, so no big deal.  Our room was great and the balcony was on the port side so we got to watch us dock each time and see the ports as we came in, which I loved - made for great picture taking!  I will say tho, that Jack never really got used to the rocking of the ship and didn't really enjoy when he had to walk from one area to another "holding on" to the railings!  I thought it was kind of funny, myself.

We had great shore excursions too.  In St Maarten we went with about 20 others all around the island and met 5 local artists in their homes and galleries.  We saw their work and got to talk with them.  Each was very different from the other.  A young woman, an old one, another not so old, a daughter of a man who had passed on so she was carrying on his work, and a gentleman.  Each offered us refreshments and shared their "visions" with us.  It was such a delightful way to not only see the island, but to "see it through someone else eyes".
Akinom's Gallery showing, St Maarten (French side)

Jack with the artist Monika (Akinom), St Maarten (French side)

(Artist in white) Dolphin Home Gallery, St Maarten (Dutch side)

A chattel house, Barbados

Bathsheba Beach, Barbados

Entrance to Strong Hope sugar plantation, Bridgetown, Barbados

In Barbados I went with a local professional photographer, Ronnie Carrington, and about 20 others for a tour around the island to shoot some areas that "tourist" might not see.  He was a wonderful guide.  Full of stories and information.  We got to see so many great areas, including a fun stop at a "rum shop" where I learned the difference in rums...10 yr old, 5 yr old and "clear"...big difference!  ...and the difference in the punch! Yum!

In St Kitts we took a train trip that turned into "an adventure" we hadn't counted on!  We had really been looking forward to this trip since we love train trips.  The St Kitts Scenic Railway is a 1912 narrow gauge railway that (normally) runs 3 hours for a 30 mile circle around the island.  Well...ours made it about 3/4 of the way and stopped.  Luckily it happened after it had crossed over the (last) bridge.  We ended up sitting there for two hours!  They first had to call and wait for the mechanic to come and see if he could fix it, then wait while he tried to do so, then when it was determined that he couldn't they had to call for the buses to come and get us, which were at least 45 min. away.  At least there were plenty of beverages aboard and the singers did their best to entertain us!  We did get a full refund, which I was really surprised at, I must say.  So kudos to the ship and the tour company for that!  The tour was great up to that point tho!

Our last fun tour was snorkeling with the turtles!  That was so much fun!  We went to Turtle Cove in St Thomas on the Castaway Girl Catamaran.  What a great team they were too!  We saw a number of turtles,  a couple we could almost touch!  Then we moved over to Shipwreck Cove and got to see a couple of shipwrecks too.  All and all, a pretty cool day.

Oldest Lighthouse, Charlotte Amalie, St Thomas

Turtle Cove, St Thomas

The last stop at Half Moon Cay was a lovely way to end the cruise.  Their island was absolutely beautiful.  The water was a color almost to hard to describe - between a blue and a turquoise and completely clear.  The sand so soft it was like baby powder.  They had a ton of lounge chairs that you could choose from in the sun, in the shade, half in half, what ever!  Great food, great drinks, nice music...nice day...nice ending.

All good things much come to an end...but we were ready, and the rest of Florida is waiting for us to explore...

...kicking back in Florida,  Marie

If you wish to view the rest of the photos from this trip, you can at my Flickr account at:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Looking back...

It's already mid-January and I'm just now "finishing up" with 2014!  Where did it go?  December always seems to just fly by so fast, I just can't seem to keep up with it, and before I have a chance to blog about it, January is here!  This year, it's even, sorry for the delay...I have a lot of catching up to do!  ;-)

It never ceases to amaze me that we are "still doing this"...traveling, but we are, and still enjoying it!  I love looking back over the year, seeing where we've been, what we've seen & done. 

We camped at 78 campgrounds this year, staying longer than we have in the past...but not as long as I want to do this year.  Slowing down and staying longer is my goal this year.  We spent $8941.70 in campground fees this year, up a little from previous years, as the economy has gotten better, we've seen a change in the increase in people camping.  Two years ago it was common to see campgrounds half empty, now, not so much.  This was also the very first time I nearly found myself without a place to stay over one of the holidays because I forgot about it until the week before!  We traveled 19,172 miles, (and just turned 60,000 miles on our coach!)

The highlight of our trip this year was the Great Lakes area of Michigan.  It had been our "goal", as we had never been to that region of the US before, and we weren't disappointed.  What a lovely area!  We pretty much stayed in their state parks for most the trip which was delightful as well as economical. 

We also did something "unusual" this year, in that we flew to Hawaii and visited with friends on both the Big Island and Oahu.  What a treat that was!  Nice to have friends in far away places to invite you to come and play with them!  ;-)  We also were able to catch up with some of our RV'ing friends this year as well.  We've made some wonderful friendships along the way, and we've managed to maintain them, seeing them from time to time.  All of them have "sticks 'n bricks" homes besides their RVs so we can often find them there, if not on the road!  Several of them have made plans to travel with us this year, so we are really looking forward to that!

What will this year bring?  Another trip back east, that we know for sure.  We have a wedding in September to attend...and I really miss seeing my east coast grandchildren.  The route and the states in between are yet to be planned...and that's half the fun!  As I write this we are in Florida, just returning from a wonderful Caribbean Cruise (a great way to start the year, don't you think?), but that's another blog...

I just read a great little ditty from a fellow RV'er (J Dwag) that I thought really summed up "our life" perfectly, so wanted to share it here: 

It's titled:  "I'm not a camper, I'm an RVer"
  • I don't sleep on the ground under the stars. I sleep in a bed under the AC.
  • I don't cook on an open fire. I cook on a stove or in the microwave.
  • I don't watch the stars.  I watch TV.
  • I don't set up camp.  I park the RV and plug in.
  • I don't bathe in a river or take a cold bucket show.  I wash in my shower.
  • I don't look at the sky for the weather.  I check my smartphone.
  • I don't swat flies.  I surf the web.
  • I don't sit on a log. I sit on a leather couch or recliner.
I still get to see many of the same great natural views and see many beautiful places.  I still take hikes, sit by lakes, and enjoy the outside.  I just do it with an RV near by.  Is this all bad?  I don't think so.  I've been in both worlds.  I liked camping and I like RVing.  Its just a different way of doing the same thing.  I suppose you could be both.  But for me, things changed and now I'm an RVer. the new year begins, thanks for follow along with us!  Marie