Thursday, March 21, 2019

Casting Spells

We traveled on the next day and set up camp in Ocala at the StageStop campground. Our first day there we went to Ikea and walked through the entire store. Its so large and we enjoy looking at everything. We had coffee there and with our IKEA shopper's card, it was free!

I have wanted to visit Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I am such a big fan of the books. Fantasy and fiction, but what an imagination it took to turn out such a fabulous story.

So Wednesday was the day! We made one wrong turn, thanks to our Rand McNally GPS, but made it easily. The park opens at 9 and we were there by 9:20. I had thought we would have traffic jams and horrific crowds, but nothing like that materialized getting into the park. Later in the day, the spring break crowds were evident and it was hard to get into some shops.

We spent the day walking around. . . over five miles altogether! Wow. It was quite the workout. There are three things to remember about these parks. . . . rides, restaurants and shoppes. We didn't opt for any rides because all of them had disclaimers for people with heart problems or back problems. Haha. Course we knew that was the case and there were only a couple I would have liked to try, but I don't want to risk injuring my now "totally fixed" back. Terry was never one for carnival type rides, so he wasn't even interested. But it was fun to just take in the sets of the town of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. One of the first things we saw was the "Night Bus."It even had the talking head! We started at Diagon Alley. They are actually two parks in separate areas of Universal, so to see them both, you must purchase a "park to park" pass, which is almost a "double" park pass. Clever, eh? I know it was overpriced and a terrible expense, but I really wanted to go, so. . . . Parts of the area were dark, just like in the movie. It was really all pretty cool. There was a dragon. . . remember the dragon that guarded the vault at Gringotts? He was freed by Harry, Hermione, and Ron and sits atop the bank roof and spews fire out of his mouth periodically. You can hear it start to rumble and then it blows! Hah! There is quite a bit of heat from it, too. He is animated and moves as well.

We eventually got hungry and stepped into the Leaky Cauldron for lunch. Since it was an "English" establishment, we had English food. We had the Ploughman's Platter for two, which included salad, a Scotch egg, beet and apple salad, and bread and cheese. It was quite tasty. We had brought water with us. If you ever go, you are allowed a 20 oz. bottle of water to bring in. Do it, because water is the same price as other drinks and expensive.

The shops all had souvenirs of primarily the same stuff. You could buy wands, capes, etc., to outfit yourself as a bonafide Potter-ite. But that stuff was ALL expensive. A lot of kids were there on spring break and wearing their capes and carrying their wands. You could buy "interactive" wands which did some things when directed at specific displays. But they only worked there on those displays.

We later boarded the Hogwarts Locomotive for the journey over to Hogsmeade. You had to pass through a turnstyle and show your badge and your fingerprint. When we first entered the park, our ticket was scanned and then matched to our fingerprint, so whenever that was needed again, everything had to match. It would discourage anyone from stealing someone's ticket, because some options would not be available without the matching fingerprint.

While on the train, a landscape passed by the windows and shadows passed the door simulating real characters from the Harry Potter movies. It was as if you were on the Hogwarts train going to the castle. Once off the train, we walked out into Hogsmeade to more shops and restaurants. They were all similar in nature to the shops at Diagon Alley, but the architecture was a bit different. The Three Broomsticks was in this area. We did walk up to the "castle" which had a shop at the base of it. The castle itself incorporated a ride, so there wasn't really anything to see other than that. I'm sure the rides were pretty cool, but we weren't interested in them. We walked all around the different themed areas after we finished with Hogsmeade. There were areas named for various cartoon characters and most were geared for small children, but we did take in a snack of dippin' dots and stopped for tea once. After we made that complete circle, we were back in Hogsmeade and we boarded the train for the return trip to Diagon Alley.

Once off the train again, we exited Diagon Alley and walked the area around the other theme parks in this section. There were Transformers, Back to the Future, and Mardi Gras and several others based on movies. It was a lot of fun and we were pretty tired. We left the park around 5:30 p.m. so I think we got our walk in for the day.

Great day for the two of us! (I am having problems getting the pictures to this post, so check back again for updated pix!)

Till next time. . .


Monday, March 18, 2019

Searching, searching for a campsite!

When we left Gary and Jo's, little did we know we would have such a hard time finding a campsite, but since the weather has been so bad throughout the midwest and further up north, the snowbirds are still mostly hunkered down in Florida trying to keep warm. Can't say that I blame them, but we did want to find a place to camp.  We ended up driving longer and farther than we normally do, but we did finally end up at Alliance Hill RV Resort in Marianna, Florida, for the night.

This is really a nice little camp of just 14 spaces on a guy's farm, but it is obvious that they are planning on expanding it. The camp host who greeted us was a Brit, now a legal U.S. citizen and proud of it! He was really enjoyable to talk with and hard to get away from! You all know someone like that. I told Terry I would love to sit around a fire with him and listen to all his stories. He was a very interesting individual. It was late when we got in, however, and it was turning cold, so we got in and turned on the heat.

The area where this camp is located is south of I-10 and it is smack dab in the middle of where Hurricane Michael came through last year. Now I thought the devastation was so horrific on I-10, but even that paled to the country we drove through on the way to the camp. It was just like the landscape was wiped cleaned. Thousands of trees broken off. They are still cleaning up and rebuilding houses, roofs, etc., trying to get back to normal. Jack, the camp host said they lost 300 trees on the farm and are still working every day to get things cleaned up.

The campground has a small, but nice, rec hall, with a kitchenette, TV room, restrooms and showers. There is a pool out back. It sits high on a ridge, so if you are in the pool, you have quite the view in all directions. It was a really nice camp and we will have to visit again.

The  next evening we drove on to Ocala, Florida for a few days. Terry promised me a special treat, so I'm holding him to it.

Till next time. . .


Friday, March 15, 2019

And a fun time was had by all . . .

We visited at Cousin Gary and Jo's on Wednesday. His sister Shirley and her daughter Vikki were visiting from Mississippi, so we had a little mini-family reunion! It was good to see them.

Thursday, we girlies all left in the late morning and went shopping. We went to craft stores and I got some more yarn. . . hmmmmm imagine that! We ate out at Cowboy Chicken which was good. At least what I got I really liked. I had been wanting to try this restaurant as they have one in Mission, Texas, that we had never tried.

Today Shirley and Vikki left to go back to Mississippi and Gary and Jo drove over to our camp and picked us up. We ran a couple errands and then ended up at a restaurant called Middendorf's in Akers, Louisiana. It is between Lake Maurepas and Lake Ponchartrain. It is famous for its "thin fried catfish." It was thin and it was very good. Another case of too much food. We got the "small" plates and once again brought half of it home to eat another day. But since we are embarking on traveling for a few days, it will give us "road food" as we like to call it. After our meal, we walked out to the deck and the pier that juts out into the water.

On our way back, we went through Ponchatoula which is known as the strawberry capital of the world. I don't think they are the only place that makes that claim, but they did have fresh strawberries for sale on every street corner. So we made the guys stop and we walked to one vender and bought a flat of the biggest berries I have every seen. Jo and I split them and I did get mine all cleaned tonight and we had some fruit for a snack. Yum yum.

We eventually ended up back in Amite where they were having the 2019 Oyster Festival. Jo was excited to go since they had never been and, of course, neither had we. So we walked around a bit. It wasn't very large, but there were some food venues. Jo wanted me to try to things, so I tried the shrimp and grits. The grits were actually pretty good, but I didn't care for how the shrimp was prepared. She said different people do them different ways and I might want to try them somewhere else. She also had me try charbroiled oysters. Oh my. . . now those I really liked. And Jo seemed to think those weren't the best she has had, but they were very good.

There were two music stages and there was a young man playing when we arrived. He actually was very good. A single guitar, but very talented and didn't seem to be very old. It was an enjoyable end to a wonderful day and we enjoyed spending it with Gary and Jo.

We returned to camp and said our goodbyes. It's been a fun few days, but we will return.

Till next time. . .


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Love Louisiana!

We arrived in Louisiana after leaving the valley and spent our first night here in Breaux Bridge at Cajun Palms. This was actually our second time to visit this camp. It is a very nice camp and we enjoyed a seafood dinner at Crawfishtown, U.S.A. near our campground. I can't believe how much food they gave us. We should have gotten one meal and split it. We got the seafood platter and it came with a stuffed crab, a stuffed shrimp, oysters, a catfish filet, shrimp, french fries, coleslaw and hush puppies. We brought over half our meal home and then put them all in the freezer because we knew we wouldn't be eating any of it any time soon.

We left there on Wednesday morning and planned a relatively short day of driving to Amite, Louisiana. We wanted to visit cousin Gary and Jo and we normally stay in his yard, but they have had so much rain that Gary worries we may get our rig stuck in the yard and that would be no fun, so we stayed at a camp we have stayed at before when we visited them. It is 39 miles away and takes 55 minutes to travel, but it is a nice, clean camp and much larger lots and cheaper, albeit farther away, than the KOA over at Denham Springs. So we signed up for three nights.

We had the worst traffic we have every had coming out of Houston and across I-10 in Louisiana. There were times all the east-bound traffic stopped and there appeared to be no rhyme or reason why. No road construction, no wrecks, etc. There were even two times when road signs posted that the right lane was closing ahead, so we all dutifully got over into the left lane. The lane closure never materialized. Me thinks someone is playing head games with us! LOL When we got to Baton Rouge, the traffic stopped about five miles from the bridge. Then it was stop/go/creep all the way up to and over the bridge. I really didn't want to cross it. . . I don't like traffic stopped on bridges. I like it moving, but we stopped right at the apex. Fortunately it was a quick stop and then we proceeded on and made it over the bridge. Hope the traffic on eastbound tomorrow will be better. Should be since we have Houston, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans traffic out of the way. Another reason we decided to stay here is because we are about an hour east of Baton Rouge, so it will be a quicker and easier getaway.

Till next time. . .


Friday, March 08, 2019

T minus 3 days and counting. . .

That's right. . . we are getting things ready and going to be leaving the valley for the year on Monday. You might know. . . after a pitifully cold and wet winter, it is starting to warm up. We still don't see the sun too much though. I don't know if it's all the pollution spilling over from Mexico or what. But it sure has been a gray winter.

Yesterday we went to recycling for the last time. Got that stuff all emptied out of the shed. We got home and went for our walk. Two miles every day, but we sometimes walk the mall. We have walked the mall over one-third of our time here this winter. Some days we wait till it warms up in the afternoon, but neither of us likes waiting till so late.

After we got back from our walk, I swept out the car and cleaned the backend out. Terry loads the back with the motorhome spare tire, boots, hoses, grill, etc. So I wanted to sweep it out before he put all that stuff in. I swept out the seats too and put the dog sling back in. The sling was great for Duchess because it kept the seats clean and was protection for her to keep her from falling down into the footwells. It works now to keep things organized and the back seat clean.

This morning we went for our walk early and then came back and waited for propane to top off the motorhome tanks. Then we defrosted the motorhome freezers and brought everything from the refrigerator/freezer in the Texas room to the motorhome fridge. We have everything in it, so we won't have to eat ourselves silly getting rid of stuff.

I have started laundry for the day and I'm going to work over in the Texas room getting things cleaned and covered for the summer. It really can be a big job to do all of this, but we work at it over a two week period, so it really goes quite fast.

I just got done picking up the "bling" in the yard. Our site numbers and name placards. Put all that away. Getting ready to cover the windows in the Texas Room. Putting bubble wrap in the windows has really helped to eliminate damage from the sun during the hot summer when we aren't here.

Got all that done, ate lunch, and did the dishes. Now to go out and finish the laundry, then I will dust and sweep the Texas Room and start dragging stuff into it.

Till next time. . .


Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Wastin' away in Margaritaville. . .

Well it seems like that. Here we sit in "warm" south Texas where it was 37* yesterday and promises to be about the same today. Years ago, Mom always said they had two weeks of winter around Christmas time, but that was it. Winter has lasted here this year. . . well. . . ALL WINTER. Is that so bad? Well, yeah. We want to be warm. I suppose there have been other bad winters here,  the last 3 out of 5 winters have been bad, but this year it has lasted ALL WINTER. Yuck. We have had very few nice warm days. We finally washed the motorhome two weeks ago. . . first day nice enough for Terry to get out and play with the water. He's washed the car twice. Will it never end? I know people have it much worse further north, but for those of us who travel 2,000 south to avoid cold weather, it's still the pits! My arthritis has kicked up big time and it has made me miserable.

So, we are about to blow this popsicle stand. Actually it is time for us to leave anyway, so we are heading out next Monday and going to Florida to see Brandon. We plan a stop at cousin Gary's in Zachary, Louisiana, first to touch base with Terry's family, then heading over to the Sunshine State to see Brandon, Megan, and Brynlee and their new dog, Lily. Can't wait to see them all.

We haven't done a lot this winter because it's been too cold for Terry to get out most days, but we still have managed to get to a couple rock 'n roll jams. We enjoy the music. Last weekend our friend, Danny and his new band, Poison Ivey, played over at Sleepy. It was three hours of great, great music. . . rock, ballads, Tom Petty, Beatles, Doors, Bob Segar, Stevie Ray Vaughn, etc. They are really great musicians and did a wonderful job entertaining us all. They are just recently formed, so we are hoping for many more play dates next year.

We also accomplished a first for us this year. We haven't been to Mexico in probably ten years, safety being the obvious issue. There have been many incidences in the border towns in the last few years and we decided not to get caught up in it. But, for lack of anything else to do, we decided to head down to Progreso to maybe get some medications, etc. We left early one morning and, of course, it was overcast and misting on us, but we went anyway. Figured it wasn't raining hard and maybe there wouldn't be big crowds. We got there about 8:30 in the morning and walked across with no line at all. Everything is just as we remembered it, and if possible, it was even dirtier. The sidewalks are all taken up with vendors outside the regular stores and it is tight to maneuver your way through from one store to the next. That is more congested than we remembered it. We ducked in a few stores to buy souvenirs for the grandkids and then walked on to find the pharmacy that we always liked to do business with. It is a couple blocks down, so once we found it, we crossed the street at the corner and walked back up. We got some medications that we like to have in stock and then headed back to the bridge. It was only 10:30 in the morning, having accomplished what we went there for, and there was no line at the bridge. We showed our passports and walked back across the border to our car. It was a good time and is still an interesting event.

After leaving that area, we drove on east and headed to South Padre Island. We wanted to go to Louie's Backyard and take in their seafood and prime rib buffet. It didn't start until 4 p.m. so we had to find something to do. We drove out to the convention center as they were having Market Days, which is like a big Flea Market, but with new products. We spent a couple hours there looking around, but didn't buy anything. It was fun though. Afterwards, we drove as far north as we could drive. The road even then was getting covered with sand as the winds whipped around. It was still misting and foggy and on the bridge coming over, we couldn't see the water. Couldn't see the tops of the hotels either, but as the day wore on, vision did improve.

Eventually we made it to Louie's and we weren't disappointed. The buffet was wonderful and delicious and we both enjoyed it. After stuffing ourselves, we headed back to Mission and got back around 7 p.m. It had been a long day, but we enjoyed it and it was something different from what we usually do.

In other news, I did sell Mom's place. Took a month to get everything signed, sealed, and delivered, but it is done finally. The couple who bought it are from Illinois and they are not yet retired, so planned to spend one week here, three weeks working, etc., during the winter months. But they just this week bought another place over in Hidden right across the street from their friends. It is a bigger place, with a casita and garage. Extra living space for visitors who come down, etc. It is a larger lot and a newer park model. They bought it really cheap and I cannot blame them at all for buying it. I would have too if i had wanted to be down here with my friends. So now they have put Mom's place back up for sale. More people have been looking lately and the word is they won't have any trouble selling it. It would be nice to have someone in the place. When I look at it empty, it reminds me of Mom and Dad not being here. When people are there, it's a different mindset. So hopefully they will be able to sell it soon.

I have gotten a lot of projects done this winter. I have been doing a lot of crocheting, trying to learn more and become more skilled. I've done several blankets. I also did a shrug, a kind of modified sweater, but I didn't like it once it was completed so I just took it apart and made a throw out of it. Looks great for that. I also crocheted myself a hat and a scarf which I have actually used. LOL  I also made Jocelyn a new cape. Her first I made is about 25 years old and becoming threadbare, so I bought new fabric last year and got it made while we were down here. I also got a lot of mending done, which I hate to do, but actually finished! We've both done a lot of reading.

We miss our Duchess, for sure. I don't miss the getting out when it's so cold to take her to the dog park, but I miss the time we spent with her. She was miserable the last part of her life. Being blind and deaf would be difficult for any being and she was not happy. When she last got sick, she couldn't even stand up, so she is now in a better place. But we still love her dearly, as we do all our departed pets.

This year we have been sprucing up the park a bit. New windows replaced the old, leaking ones and the entire outside was repainted. The paint had faded so badly and had turned a pinkish color, so the new paint really looks great. Some of our very talented residents repainted the Restful Valley Ranch sign and did an outstanding job. And in the valley, they have started placing "Butterfly" statues to signify the "Butterfly Capital of the World." There are a lot of butterflies down here and this is pretty cool. 

Till next time. . .