1/25/10 - I spent an hour in the Dog Club so that Diesel could say his goodbyes to his many Sugarloaf friends then we unhooked and drove to the location of the dolly so that we could attach it to the RV and load the Chevy-Woo. Then we drove north on US-1 for about three hours to connect to FL-997 in Homestead. There we made a late brunch stop at the Cracker Barrel and drove north to the intersection with US-41 to begin a very long traverse of the peninsula through Naples and Ft. Myers and then across the Caloosahatchee River to North Ft. Myers where we turned west on Lee County 78 to cross a bridge into Matlacha. Matlacha seems to be a sort of brightly painted artist colony with many interesting seafood restaurants; neat as a pin in contrast to the loosely strewn anomalies of the keys. We then drove across another bridge to Little Pine Island and then another onto Pine Island and its only intersection.
There we took Lee County 767 south for about five miles along a corridor of very tall palm trees flanked by a cement bikeway that runs the length of the island toward St. James City where we came upon KOA's Pine Island Resort. After a few difficulties with our hook-ups, I took Diesel for a quick walk and we then drove back north to Matlacha to find a restaurant that was still open and serving dinner at 9:00 PM. After several abortive efforts we found Moretti's Restaurant and spent the next hour raving about Linda's broiled salmon filet with lemon dill and capers while she was snatching samples of the best tempura battered shrimp and calamari that anyone in the world has ever tasted. Both will be the standards for all such foods in the future. We met birthday girl Mrs. Moretti, several sons, and a daughter who spoke to us of their migration from Buffalo, NY to Matlacha and the establishment of the restaurant. It will be hard to keep from eating all of our meals here during our stay.
1/26/10 - We drove back along our yesterday route to shop at the Cape Coral Wal-Mart for some necessary things. We then meandered back through Matlacha for a closer look at the village before returning to the KOA for a bicycle ride exploration of our new community. The Pine Island KOA does a very good job of providing two lake front communities for seasonal residents that are somewhat separated from the four parallel rows of about 25 concrete slabs each which serve the needs of the more transient RV types with each community served by a separate clubhouse. In addition to a large modern swimming pool with a diving end depth of 8.5' and a quite massive hot tub with powerful Jacuzzi jets, the front clubhouse offers very ample showers, laundry facilities, a stage, ample seating, and kitchen facilities. The second clubhouse located in the center of the park boasts an exercise room and other facilities more suited to longer term residents. Because the KOA is from 3 to 10 miles from local towns, there are two "Big Red Buses" making daily trips to area beaches, shopping malls, specialty shops, and points of interest. Diesel is especially appreciative of the huge dog walking area with its thick mulch that can be kicked about in celebration of a good movement or a Nobel prize.
Late in the afternoon we drove about 12 miles to the northern end of Pine Island to explore the town of Bokeelia and watch the sunset..
1/27/10 - We laid a 40 mile course back through Little Pine Island and Matlacha to Cape Coral where we turned south on FL-884 and traveled across the Caloosahatchee River to continue south on McGregor Boulevard and pay $6.00 to cross the causeway to Sanibel Island. Upon arriving in Sanibel we were famished for breakfast so we drove toward the south end of the island to the Lighthouse Cafe to test their claim of having the "World's Best Breakfast." After eating we felt that we had not compiled enough evidence to file a counter-claim so I bought a T-shirt to flaunt in front of Linda's brother who had introduced us to the Lighthouse Cafe back in the days of our relative youth. Leaving the cafe, we drove to the north end of Sanibel and across the causeway to Captiva where we circled the Mucky Duck parking lot several times before coming to a landing just short of dehydration. I checked inside for dog-friendlyness and then we found a table where the boy could rest in the shade while we drank margaritas.
1/28/10 - I took a long morning walk with Diesel and, upon returning, met Hans who was hitting tennis balls to his two German Shepherd dogs named Selly and Caesar. In talking with Hans, I learned that he had been born in a small town in East Prussia in 1941 and grew up without malice toward the Soviets who drove his family out at the end of WWII. He had then made his way first to East Switzerland n 1965 and then to Buffalo in 1970 from where he had journeyed to Toronto where he had been issued a green card and established a successful business in Ontario with several offices in the northern US.
After breakfast I headed for the pool and then the Jacuzzi before Linda and I mounted our trusty bicycles to ride about three miles to St. James City at the southern tip of Pine Island. First we stood and looked across at the center of Sanibel Island and then we rode along the canals wih their waterfront homes and speculated about selling our home in Maryland and moving here where nice waterfront homes are still available for $250,000 and basic 2 bedroom, two bath ranchers near the water are available for less than $125,000. It's hard to resist establishing a winter home here and traveling to the north during the hot summer.We rehydrated at rhe Waterfront Restarant while peeling and eating some gulf shrimp.
1/29/10 -On my late baby brother's birthday we drove back ti Cape Coral in search of cute little outfits and while Linda had no success at all, I was able to score some classically handsome Sperry sandals from a store that was failing and its remaining items at half price. Crowing my success we returned to Matlacha for lunch at Moretti's Restaurant where I again depleted much of the world's remaining reservoir of gulf shrimp. On my evening walk with Diesel he exhausted himself by hanging from a low tree branch and then sought the soothing refuge of a nearby mud puddle to cool himself. The pudle also made him deaf so that I had to remove my shoes and wade in to carry him out of the muck. Upon our return to the RV he was not at all well received by his normally calm mother. Much to his dismay he had to be sprayed with cold water to remove some layers of soil before he was allowed back inside.
1/30/10 - I encountered Hans again during my morning Diesel walk and we talked some more about his boyhood life in occupied Germany. He also showed off Selly and Caesar doing a synchronized paw offering for my camera. We walked past a patiently waiting spaniel on our way to breakfast in the KOA Clubhouse where we heard from a Pine Island resident that the best real estate opportunities were on the Bokeelia end of the island; so we drove there to look at them and to check the schedule for the ferry to Cabbage Island and Cayo Costa. After deciding that we did not want to devote an entire day to this activity, we drove back to St. James City at the other end of the island to have lunch at Woody's Restaurant.
1/31/10 - It's a day of preparation for our return trip home with boring domestic tasks like vacuuming, storage bin reallocations, and carpet shampooing so that these tasks don't need to be done in the sub-freezing temperatures of Maryland that we don't look forward to returning to. Tomorrow we will leave early for a 150 mile drive to Lazy Days where we will examine the latest offerings in motorhome candy before traveling on to St. Augustine's North Beach for the night. Next day we will hurry on toward Maryland in the hope of arriving there at a decent hour on Thursday (2/4) so that I can meet my students on Friday morning at 9:00 AM.
5/1/10 - It was so nice to get home to Easton for a record breaking "Snowmageddon." Due to school closings, we were not able to return to warmer climes until early May after I was honored to serve as the official photographer for the nuptuals of Jack and Trish's son as the ring that had once united Jack's mother with his father now passed to the hand of his son's bride.
5/3/10 - 5/8/10 We departed Easton at about 4:00 AM on Monday 5/3/10 and drove to I-95 Exit 33 in South Carolina where we spent a rainy night and then purchased windshield wipers to replace those that we had shredded during the first day of driving. We then drove on to a KOA west of Orlando where we spent the evening of 5/4 (May the fourth be with us) before rousing tired travel bodies for the final leg into Pine Island on 5/5. As we celebrated our arrival with a dinner of shrimp scampi, Linda stumbled to avoid stepping on Diesel and bruised her ribs in a fall to the floor. She screamed a lot on 5/6 when we met the Bailor's at Iguana Mia's for dinner and the next day we enjoyed an introduction to the local medical facilities as we visited an urgent care center on the island and an emergency room at a hospital in Cape Coral, where Linda was found to be intact but requiring sedation. As a result we have been doing most of our real estate research from the RV so that Linda doesn't need to walk up any steps or sit and stand very much.
5/9/10 - We have now isolated our search to St. James City where it seems quite easy to get a nearly new waterfront place with a lanai and swimming pool for $250,000. My favorite is the tile roofed house on a corner lot at the end of a canal that is pictured in the first two images below and is being sold with all furnishings and the boat, but doesn't yet have a pool.. We are still trying to achieve that combination for about $200,000 and we have seen one such unit for an asking price of $179,000. The second set of two pictures has an asking price of $284,000, has a boat lift and as much floor space as our current home but was built in 1977. The third set of images has no pool, 1,080 sq ft, but has an asking price of $179,000 as does the rancher in the last set of images.
5/20/10 - After much deliberation we have decided not to buy property in St. James City and have instead applied for an annual site in the Pine Island KOA. Yesterday we returned to Lazy Days near Tampa where our salesperson had made provision for a two day complimentary stay in the luxurious Lazy Days Campground while we reviewed something like 155 acres of RV eye candy. We are hopeful of trading our Four Winds for a Class A motor home with a couple of slide outs so that Linda will have more room to walk around Diesel when he hogs the aisle space.
Over complimentary breakfast, we were met by Tom Tannert who has evolved from being our designated salesman in January to being a now trusted friend. We laugh a lot and make sport of one another as he explains our leisurely itinerary for the day as we make our final selection from among three "RV Idols" that we have chosen to meet our size and price requirements. All have features that are bedazzling, but Linda and I are fully united in opting for a 26' 2010 Winnebago Vista that is four feet shorter than our Four Winds but will be nicely comfortable for six month stays in Pine Island.
5/21/10 - Waking from what we imagine will be our last night in Rocinante II before moving on to Rocinante III, we unload bicycles and Diesel's kennel from the Chevy-Woo, place them in the Four Winds, and sort of anxiously wait for Tom to arrive with instructions as to where we should park the old unit while we return to Easton in the Aveo to retrieve the Four Winds title and arrange to pay for our new investment. I unhitch our umbilicals and drive out of our site to keep cool while we wait and Linda idles the engine of the Aveo to air condition the dog. When Tom arrives he announces that the Four Winds needs to be hooked up to electricity so that its functions can be reviewed by the specialists charged with reviewing a trade-in to insure that it is worth the value assessed on paper by the salesperson. As I hook up the electricity Tom calls my attention to a bulge in the driver's side of the Four Winds which he says probably indicates the start of "de lamination". Delamination is the RV equivalent to terminal cancer in a human. Next he points out that a fist sized chunk is missing from the rear passenger side tire and now the bile begins to rise in my throat and a I am starting to feel dizzy because I am convinced that I now am discovering the "Catch 22" of the sales process. "Good guy" salesman pre assigns a high trade-in value to the potential customer, and then the "bad guy" trade-in assessor declares the trade-in to be essentially toxic waste which they must pay to dispose of. I ask Tom for the worst case scenario, and he lowers his eyes to tell me that he hopes that there will not be a horrifying increase in the price difference and directs us to go to lunch while he tries to work out the differences with the trade-in assessor. After Linda and I try to keep our lunch from coming up on us, Tom returns with a sort of hang-dog expression and I ask him to come forward with what I expect to be a deal stopping addition, and he sadistically shows me a zero change in the price and I could hug him like a brother, but settle for a warm handshake of my gratitude. We run for the doors before he changes his mind and stop only for human and Diesel fuel over the next 18 hours to Easton.
5/22 - 5/26/10 Days of frantically looking for the checkbook associated with our home equity fund, the sale of a mutual fund, insurance transfer arrangements, mowing of a 2 1/2 week hay field that had replaced my lawn, ebay purchase of a receiving banket to cover our newborn, followed by purchase of airline tickets to Tampa where Tom Tannert is to pick us up at the airport and return us to Lazydays for our driving lessons before we transfer our belongings to the new rig and head north again.
5/27/10 - We wake at 3:00 AM and after searching in frantic failure for my wallet, we grab my passport to use as identification at the airport and leave Easton at 4:15 AM to leave the Chevy-Woo in long term parking and fly smoothly to Tampa. Tom meets us at 9:15 at the Tampa Airport and drives us to Lazydays where we meet with the Lazydays financial Dude, pass him various forms of checks and transferred funds, and are driven to site #20 where our new ride sits door-to- door with our old ride so that we can transfer our possessions.
5/28/10 - Rising from our first night in the new coach, we discover that power is no longer being supplied to the TVs and raise the issue with Tiffany who makes arrangements for the new ride to be examined while we break our fast. With all the repair bays occupied by other coaches, the repair people run the generator on the coach while they debug the electical problem only to discover that the generator has failed after only five hours of usage and must be swapped out and replaced with a generator from another new coach. We then use the afternoon repair time to visit the Camping World store where we purchase a bike rack to hang our bicycles from the ladder of the new rig. When the repairs and replacments have been completed we carefully drive the new ride to the Lazydays campsite where we swim and shake off the new owner jitters.
5/29/10 - After an early departure from Lazydays we drive across central Florida toward Orlando on I-4. I am somewhat ill at ease to discover that steering from this cab-over position slightly in advance of the front wheels and having no hood in front of me to guide me along the lane is not at all intuitive. I learned to drive with a car that had a hood ornament which I could guide by steering wheels which were somewhere out there under the hood. Now I am sitting somewhat forward of my wheels and making adjustments to my own recent history in preparation for the near future spread out everywhere in front of me on a huge, three dimensional screen a few inches in front of my face. Only by lining up a small square structural hole on the right end of the driver's windshield wiper with the white line marking the right side of my driving lane can I achieve any pointing consistency and reduce the "Danger Will Robinson" warnings being shouted by my distraught, arm-waving co-pilot. I am still fine tuning my efforts when we arrive toward the end of the day at our campsight near the southern border of South Carolina.