Roadside Oddities – Corn Snake Overlook, Gainesville FL

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Seth and I were traveling south of Gainesville. At a southbound I-75 reststop is an overlook in the shape of a snake. You walk up its curvy back to its head that is pointing toward Payne’s Prairie State Park (which is a savannah).

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Somebody has a sense of humor. The last parking space has a sign warning of poisonous snakes. That really tickles me.

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Picture of a beautiful sky while driving home.

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Downsizing – 5X6 and 32

We are making adjustments to our storage unit. Moving out of smaller ones and consolidating into a larger one.  We have dived up the space (furniture, educational/homeschool, kids, wife, and mine).

My space (which is equal to wife’s, but she also has homeschool stuff in hers) is a 5X6 space.  It has bookshelves on ones side, to store books and “stuff” I may need in the future and space for 32 plastic tote containers.

At first I can’t believe that my life is reducing to a 5X6 space, but then when you consider 32 containers, that just sounds like a lot.  I do know that I have been getting rid of a lot of junk/stuff.  Currently I seem to be keeping – hobby stuff (wood carving, electronics, BSA), Books (southern cooking, BBQ, and crock-pot (RV cooking?), and sentimental/keepsakes.  When I’m finally done I’ll post the final inventory by category.

Problem with the numbers: (Geek Alert)

5×6 and 32…….

Moving or downsizing might be making my brain punchy.  I keep thinking about the numbers.  5X6 – the only thing I can think of is the size of a prison cell – wrong, looked it up (average size US prison cell is 6X8).

And then 32.  Everyone knows the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42 (reference)

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Put a pin in the map, now it serious…..

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For my birthday MJ and the kids, gave me a framed map of the US to place map pins (where we are going, where we have been, where we would like to go).  Included is a blue flag for destination.

Its official, I have stuck the blue flag on……  drum roll…….  Voyageurs National Park (International Falls, MN)

This wasn’t a hard choice as Seth will be going there during the summer of 2013 to do a “boundary waters” canoe trip with his Troop.  MJ has also “talked” the troop scoutmaster (Fuzzy) into “allowing” a family canoe contingent (think MJ, Brooke, and Scout) to also go on this high adventure trip.

NOTE: This weekend the “girls” will be taking a canoeing merit badge course with the rest of the Troop!  (way to go girl team)

So it really wasn’t a hard choice at all.  We will “winter” here in Fort Myers, then sometime in April/May we will start to mosey up to Minnesota.  That’s the plan.

Now *if* we were really cool (which we are), I would try to go down to Everglades National Park (Flamingo, FL), then go to Voyageurs NP.

That’s extreme!  The tip of South Florida to the tip of North Minnesota.  (2051 miles)

Yep, sounds like a plan.

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BOLO – “Williams Family” ALASKA 2014

BOLO – Police slang for Be On the Lookout

We put a BOLO out for a suspicious character
 

So my Alaskan pal (native Alaskan by the way) Lonny called and left a voice message concerned that we had wind storms here in south Florida (Tropical Storm Issac) and if we were ok.  We did have some wind, and rain squalls, but all was fine on the home front.  Nice that he called checking in on us.

Camp Shot

We met Lonny and his family while camping this summer outside of Fairbanks, Alaska (Seth and me, with Johnny “Eagle Scout” and his family).  A friendship was struck, he invited us over to his house for a moose roast.  Come to find out his children are homeschooled (like ours), wife is their teacher (like ours), christian household (like ours), love being outdoors (like us), and so on and so on……

Group Shot

Lonny tells great stories about living in Alaska.  Fishing, hunting, camping, all the best kinds of stories, alaskan-style.  Seth loved hearing him tell about how to catch King Salmon (with down riggers on the ocean).  My favorite were his moose stories, shooting, gutting, quartering, watching out for bears…..  The best storyline was this “you know the easiest part of hunting a moose is pulling the trigger….  after that its all hard work”.

Alaskan Moose Roast !!!!!

His wife was great.  She had seven “guests” show up and didn’t miss a beat.  Their kids are wonderful (smart, polite, active), and did I mention homeschooled!!!  It truly was wonderful, and a blessing being with them.

Eating moose, being with an Alaskan homeschooled family, hearing great Alaskan stories, it was perfect.  Lonny even got me to try canned/jarred salmon.

Canned/Jared Salmon

I have gone my whole life without eating fish from a can.  I don’t eat tuna fish from a can, I don’t eat SPAM (not fish, but a meat product) from a can.  There seems something  wrong and unnatural about eating “pickled fish” from a jar.  And in Alaska you see it everywhere.  Wal-Mart, roadsides, gift shops, speciality stores….. not me.  Not even while in Alaska am I eating canned fish.  Nothing good will come from that……

So Lonny talked me into it……  He tells me how its carefully hand-crafted by a friend.  That the guy somehow packs the fish in tight, that its firm, smoked, great flavor, “the best that you will ever have”.  How can you resist that?  Lonny, a descendant from Eskimos is asking me, while in his home, at his table, to try something new *and* he is certifying that it will be the best that I will ever have…..  Ok, color me there.  I’m in.  (hope I don’t have to visit a hospital during the night, hope I don’t have to get medevac from Alaska to Florida, hope Karma isn’t against me on this one).

So I tried it.  Canned fish (of all things).  It…. was… awesome….  ummm, it was so good.  Smokey, spicy, firm texture….  It was everything I was hoping it would be and much, much more.  Thats the good part, the bad part is I am sure I had just the best, its all downhill from here, everything else will be a sad imitation.  (unless I go back to Alaska for more (if Lonny is willing to share)).  By-the-way, Lonny didn’t send me home with any.  Whats up with that?

Being with Lonny and his family was one of the highlights of our trip.  I can’t wait to go back during the season and being able to spend more time with him and his family.  I know the wives and children will get along great, and hope to have some grand outdoor adventures with them (they truly are a great family).

Now, here is the part of the story that I have left out (until now).  Lonny is a high-ranking official in the Alaskan State Troopers!!!  He’s the Fuzz, Po-Po, the Five-Oh.  He’s the dude you want covering your back (knowing he’s the dude that will run in front).  He’s the man (and I mean the M-A-N).

Geeze, I’m hoping come the season of 2014 there isn’t a BOLO (or warrant) out for the Williams Family!!!!  “Sir, can you please step out of the RV, seems like your wanted in Fairbanks for questioning”…..

I can tell you its nice to have friends in high places (especially Alaska).  Can’t wait to get up there for our adventures.  Stay tuned……

UPDATE:

So Alaska had some high wind storms that cause flooding and knocked out power for a few days (this is during the summer, not winter).  So I got to call Lonny to so if he was “ok”.  Hows that for a twist, a turn, and a laugh.

I got a text back from him.

“We are fine.  Spent the last three days hunting a moose.  Saw a bug bull – just a little too far to get to it.  Just spent the day cleaning the RV and ATV, will plan another hunt next week”

– – – – –

Man, I can’t wait to get back to Alaska.

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Roadside Oddities – Big John, Cape Coral FL

We haven’t left for the road, (not even close yet) so why am I posting a roadside oddity? I just realized there are some oddities nearby that need visiting. Take “Big John” in Cape Coral. He has been in Cape Coral ever since I can remember.  Sometimes with grocery bags and sometimes without. Currently he is sporting a pair of converse.

We like that he is wearing his “retro” converse shoes (along with his acid washed jeans).  Big John is a Cool-Kat

Memories:

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Downsizing – Books

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Letting go of my books, more specifically letting go of my cookbooks, almost did me in.

Have you seen the Discovery Channel’s show “Horders”, where people have amassed large amounts of stuff (that’s putting it nicely). Almost every show highlights their attachment, and they usually get mentally/physically sick at giving their junk away.

I had that same feeling when it came to my cookbooks. I felt a little sick, a bit light headed, and something in me was resisting letting go.

There was no problem giving away my R/C plane stuff, beekeeping supplies, and other items. But my cookbooks, they were something entirely different.

Each representing a different time/phase in my life. Some I used frequently, others there “just in case”. Was I a book horder? (looking at the years of book storage I would have to say yes). But the feeling of a book in hand, or having one when in need, there is nothing like it. On the other hand, the weight, the bulk, and storage. It’s time to let go.

So far the southern foods and BBQ books are remaining, non-interesting ones going, going, gone. I am averaging 70% rate of letting go but it’s still not high enough.

Maybe sleeping on it and revisiting will help. Plus I can keep digital recipes and there is always AllRecipes.com.

I can do this, yes I can!

Update:

Found out about Overdrive which allows digital media check/check-out through libraries.  I’m going to test that out.

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Have you ever thought about living in……

A self-built log cabin, yurt, cargo container, straw-bale house, earthship, cob house, cordwood house, tumbleweed or tepee?

Any guesses of which structures/houses we have thought about living in? (cabin, yurt, cargo container, straw-bale house, earthship, cob house, cordwood house, tumbleweed or tepee)?

If you guessed all of them you would be wrong…. we never once considered living in a tepee.

Note: The above is an Alaskan’s Tepee (John and Heather Pearsons, owner-operators of Kenai River Floats, Cooper Landing, AK) who lived in it for three years, summers *and* winters.

John told me the key to the structure was to have the shorter second layered wall inside the tepee.  He said it would cause an updraft so you could have a roaring fire without getting smoked out.  Smart.

Back to our story.

No to Tepee, but yes to the rest of the structures.  Why?  We have discussed living off the grid, no mortgage, small footprint, live in nature, disconnect, downsize, stop having so much stuff.

We have talked about, and considered, each structure.  Most are self-made, all smaller, all somehow connected to nature.  Some are good ideas, others not so good, and others that could be make to work.  Yet we never pulled the trigger.  We continued to collect our “stuff”, we certainly have not downsized, and we are getting older, not younger.

Basically our home is where we store all our stuff, get a bigger house, get more stuff.

We so want to change that.

Structures Considered (not tepee):

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What are these boxes doing here?

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Moving Boxes???

I’m back from Alaska and our house is covered in moving boxes.

Wow, MJ must have been really upset at being left at home (and not getting to go to Alaska)……  or maybe we were planning to move and MJ was getting stuff pre-packed  (ya, lets go with that!)

As our marriage history goes (or at least the way MJ tells it), I always “happen” to be out of town when we move to a new place.  In my best straight face defense, being in Alaska was purely coincidental, thats my story and I’m sticking to it.  I maintain all plausible deniability.

Anyway imagine my surprise coming home and finding unmoved moving boxes. (I still don’t know who was more surprised, me finding moving boxes, or MJ when I told her I would be out of town during the move).  I digress….

So unmoved moving boxes (in my “old” house).  What is up with that?  Moving boxes in my “old” house, which is now my “current” house and not my “old” house, because my “new” house is not ready.  Follow that?

I hate when a good plan falls apart.  I was suppose to come home to find myself auto-magically moved into a “new” house.  Well, not really, but kinda.

Here’s the story…..

We have talked about moving, and would try to do so over the summer.  MJ wanted our next move to have a pool and maybe be on/near water so the kids could entertain themselves (we live in Florida right!).

Well the rental market is tight here because of the economic *and* real-estate downturn.  It’s not a buyers or sellers market.  It’s a rental market, and finding one can be tough.  Most of the time you find something, call, only to find it has been rented.  There are quite a few houses in foreclosure so you have to be very careful who you rent from, whats the story, and that’s even if you can find a rental at all (it’s that tight).

It so happened that we did find a beautiful rental, with a pool, on salt-water.  Huge house in an awesome neighborhood. In fact I had taken MJ through it before we got married saying “wouldn’t this be nice”?

However, there was a story with this one (told you they all have “stories”, this was two stories, ha, I crack myself up), but yes this one did have a story.  It was foreclosed along with three others that an investor had.  The title was purchased, it was cleaned up, and ready to move into.  They said they might sell it in a year or three, but we could rent for at least one year (maybe more).  Perfect!  We would love to move up to North Carolina, but have family we need to visit here.  Having something short term (for a year) would not be a bad thing, plus on the water, has pool.  This was seven days before my leaving for Alaska.  I put down a deposit and MJ was relieved that we had a house to “slow move” into over the summer.  She would pack some boxes, would clean the house, and we would do the big move when I came back (or when she had movers 😉 ), which ever came first.

Off to Alaska I went, we just needed approval from the HOA (20 day turnaround at the most), a few days for cleaning, I would be back, and then the real move.

So none of that happened.  MJ had been calling me, we have been calling the Realtor, and the HOA seems to be taking their full 20 days, plus some, to get their act together.  No house to move to, boxes packed, clock is ticking.

My seed of thought continues to grow…..

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Alaska – the tipping point…..

I’m sure my family members will have their own unique story and experiences about getting to the point of full-time RV’ing.  Mine was Alaska……  and Alaska left fingerprints on my soul.

Alaska 2012

So for the Summer of 2012 my friend Jonny “Eagle Scout” decided to “drive” his sons and elderly father, to Alaska to go to a Boy Scout summer camp.  Last year he went to Hawaii (which included camping for a month, driving into a cone of a volcano, snorkeling, and roasting a pig in the ground (with the locals)).  After missing out on that, I decided when Seth crossed over to Boy Scouts we would go on Jonny’s next summer time adventure.  The destination was Alaska (color me there).

Driving 10,000 miles, crammed in a pickup truck, with three adults, four kids, and gear for a month, was not my idea of fun (especially the part about spending a week in Dakota shooting prairie dogs and working as ranch hands castrating bulls (always an adventure with Jonny)).  So I cashed in my frequent flyer miles and flew to Anchorage with Seth.  The plan was to have a week of adventure before camp, then a week of boy scout camp, and then a week of more adventure.  Three weeks in Alaska (yea!!!)……   Major trip to the wild frontier  without my wife and girls – for three weeks – and having fun (Boo!!) – more on that later.

Alaska, the daylight, all the time.  Sure I’ve heard about it, but to really experience it!  We got into Anchorage at 1am, to the hotel at 3am.  It was still light out!  I love that.  Now the adventure begins.  We went fishing during Salmon runs, deep-sea halibut fishing, geocaching in the snow (during summer), rainbow trout fishing, camped in Denali National Park, watched fireworks (midnight 3rd of July), did a 3,000 runner “midnight sun” marathon (during the summer solstice), saw moose, bear, caribou, panned for gold and camped (we camped everywhere we went).

We met great people along the way (a fishing tour guide family, wonderful boy scout counselors, an Alaskan home school family, a lovely christian couple running their own popcorn/motorcycle rental business, and a retired dog sledder).  Of the 23 days there, we camped for 20.  Seth and I traveled from Anchorage to Cooper Landing to Homer to Anchorage to Denali to Fairbanks.  Then from Fairbanks back down to Seward to Homer to Anchorage to Denali to Fairbanks (and we only saw a fraction of Alaska)!

So there you go, that was our cool “guy” adventure, we did it, we did it all!  When you think of Alaska, thats what we did.  However, I kept having this nagging feeling about MJ (hey, no nagging wife jokes, she doesn’t nag, she “suggests”) and the girls being left at home.  Them not being with us, them not experiencing this.  How do you underplay how awesome Alaska is (because you can’t), its just that wonderful!  How do you share and tell stories?  “When we were doing x,y,z” – you know, when you girls were left home.   I hate that…..

Getting back to Alaska

I now want to go back.  I want to go back badly.  I want to go back with the whole family.  I want to go back to the land of midnight sun, salmon runs, bear, moose, and people.  I want to go back to the true “last frontier”, and I want to meet Sarah Palins dad (I’ll blog about that one day).

Seth was asked to volunteer next summer at the Lost Lake Boy Scout camp.  I bet Brooke could do it too (her being in venturing and on a rifle team).  I want MJ and the kids to see the wildlife, pan for gold, go fishing.  I want them to experience Alaska as I did.

Plus, I would like to go for the entire season (May – Sept.).  Not just vacation weeks, but to spend the entire season (in the never-ending sun, living life) – while working, homeschooling, keeping a family unit, and experiencing all that is Alaska.

So how do you do that?

Travel:  Could fly (4-5k for family tickets).  Could drive (90hrs, 5K miles – one way)

Shelter:  Staying at hotels (expensive – seasonal hotel rates are around $200/night).  Could rent vacation home (again, seasonal rates, lots of money, high cost for four months of stay).  Could camp (cheaper, but cannot maintain work and homeschool life).  Could rent an RV (I saw more RV rentals in Alaska than anywhere else in my life).  Looking into RV rentals, gulp, wow, they are expensive.  Renting an RV might make sense to avoid an RV purchase and transportation to Alaska, but wow, the rental, with mileage, with gas.

Conclusion:  A multi-month trip to Alaska (for a family of five) could cost in the 10’s of thousands.  Going again for just a few weeks (no frequent flyer or hotel points), again the costs are up there too.  I certainly do not want to permanently move to Alaska.  The lack of light alone during the winter would do me in, and the coldness would do MJ in.

How can I ease my way up there, and ease my way back down (migrate)?  What about seeing more than just Alaska?  How about the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone?  The great redwood trees (I want to drive through one) or standing on the foursquare.  Sliding down the sand dunes, or white water rafting in the Colorado?  All the lakes, beaches, woods, and mountains?  What about being a true snowbird?

a seed of an idea……..

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