Things that make waiting a little easier

Randy has been putting his time to good use - in the kitchen. Recently he made a 3-chocolate strawberry mousse cake.
And today for breakfast he used fresh home-made bread to make French toast, stuffed with cinnamon cream cheese filling and topped with fresh peach compote. Life is good.

Wasting time and spending money

We can't take possession of our house until some bank transfers occur, and the holiday will slow that down. We are stuck in Ruskin for a few more days and have nothing to do. No point in looking for homes - we already found one. No point in looking for RV sites - we won't need one. No point in going to Leesburg yet - we can't get access to the house to start cleaning and moving, and if we have to sit on an RV site a few days longer, well, we have already paid for this one. So we have been shopping. We've been to Hyde Park Village, International Plaza, Ellentown Premium Outlet, Bass Pro, Camping world, Sam's Club, Winn Dixie, Walmart and Sur La table. We are getting a few things we will need in the house, but we have to cram them into any space we can find until we actually get the house. We are running out of stores to visit and places to put stuff!

Mixon Farms

We visited Mixon Farms today, a local fruit farm factor where they grow lemons, persimmons, grapefruits and lots and lots of oranges. We took the "Orange Blossom Tram" tour, which goes through a couple of fields near the gift shop. In this section they keep some of the older equipment, like the smudge pots that were used to keep trees warm in freezing weather. These aren't used anymore; back in Vista they make cool yard fire-holders.
The best part of the tour was the Wildlife Rescue part. Wildlife Rescue accepts wounded wild animals which, if possible, they return to the wild. They also accept exotic pets that have been turned in, and try to find responsible homes for them. The animals that can't be released or re-homed stay here, and the Wildlife Rescue folks work hard to give them a good life. Damen, the guy who talked to our group, is very comfortable with the critters. All the animals he showed us today live here permanently and Damen obviously likes them. He patted one of the Nile crocodiles on the nose before feeding him a chicken leg. 
They also have a big pig who ate apple slices we passed to him through the fence. And an unusual blond skunk named Honey, who was bred that color for the pet trade.  
The bobcat is a little shy around crowds, but with Damen she's just a big kitty.
A dozen big turtles call this home, too. They were all pets until they grew to the size of a dinner plate, at which point their owners didn't want them anymore. 

And there are alligators here, of course. Since most folks (including me!) want to touch one, Damen brought out a little guy with a bit of electrician's tape around his mouth. He's very muscular, especially his tail. And his skin is surprisingly soft. 
After everyone held him, Damen took the tape off, and Gator was happy to show us his tiny, sharp teeth!
Next Damen brought out an umpteen-foot albino boa constrictor named Butter. She's big and heavy, so Damen carried her out draped over his shoulders and around his neck. Butter also feels amazingly soft.

Along the road

When we drive to Tampa for anything, we take 41 South to cross the bay at it's closest point. And the bridge we cross is called the Sky Bridge. They think highly of this bridge around here,  but I don't like it. Too high going up, too steep coming down!
And on 41 we pass a long train that has been parked on the tracks since we arrived. It's a Ringling Brother and Barnum and Bailey train, probably around 40 cars long. We occasionally see people in the doorways as we drive by, but don't know why the train is sitting here. It might have something to do with the fact that Gibsonton is a just few miles away. Gibsonton used to be a winter resort for many sideshow performers, but I don't know if that is still true. 


We have been full-time RVers since September of 2009, but today we bought a house! We have been feeling the need for more space, without taking on the maintenance and costs of a house as big as the one we used to have. A manufactured house in a friendly community seems like a great alternative. We will not quit RVing, but we will be part-timers instead of full-timers. 

This house is a gift from God. Before we went looking, we prayed for guidance to find the right house. While we were visiting Donna and Pete, we found one that needs a little TLC but it didn't appeal to us; the asking price was too high for the work it needed. So we looked at several homes in the same park, and since then have been looking at other homes in around Ruskin and Bradenton. Nothing felt like home. Meanwhile the price on this home dropped $10,000. We drove over Monday with a whole list of homes to looks at, including taking a second look at this one. The realtor said she is constantly getting requests to look at this place, but for some reason it hadn't sold yet. This time it looked cleaner, neater, and ready to move into. Obviously we want to repaint the walls and Randy will remodel any kitchen he buys, but it's good enough to move into and make changes at our leisure. And it meets everything on our wish-list. And suddenly the house that dropped in price and stayed on the market until we arrived, was ours!

I will have to fix the front yard, but I like doing that sort of thing.
The double carport will shelter our Jeep from Florida's sun, and we can turn part of it into a screened-in porch.
 The back deck is perfect for grilling. 
And the best part is, it comes with a boat dock!
We haven't moved in yet, but I know it won't be long afterwards before Randy has a boat parked here. We can hardly wait to start this new adventure!

Ruskin Flea Markets

This weekend we visited the two big Flea Markets around here. Saturday we went to the Red Barn near Bradenton, where adorable kids mind the store while their parents are stocking. 
Today we went to Mr. G's Flea Market. In town it's common to print signs in both English and Spanish; here they dispense with English completely. 
There is a thriving animal business here - mostly chickens, roosters, chicks and piglets. I guess it's a good ways to get fresh eggs for breakfast, but I would not be able to enjoy the fresh bacon!
They sell mattresses here, too, already broken in for your convenience.
And there are lots of fruits and vegetables available here, too. Their coconuts look different than what I see in the supermarket, but they look pretty good.
And like every Spanish/Mexican market, they offer big, big pans. Someday when we have a house, we may get one of these.
It's been a long time since I saw a circus side-show attraction, but they have one here! I was able to resist.
We found a vendor selling fresh juice drinks. I got a coconut cream drink, which was sweet and creamy, and Randy got a big glass of fermented pineapple juice, spiked with chili power and lime juice. This was our only purchase, and it was a really good one.

Dog House BBQ

We are still looking for the best places to eat around here. We went to the Dog House for a late lunch; it's a humble place - not even a building, just a little shack, like something you would find on a fair midway, and covered with matting. 
In spite of the name, their menu is mostly BBQ. We got the 4-meat plate with chicken, pulled pork, brisket and ribs, with sides of slaw and fries. One plate was big enough to split. I ate too fast but I enjoyed ever bite!

American Victory

It's too hot to be outside, we're tired of being inside, so it's time to do some sightseeing. We drove to Tampa to see the SS American Victory. This is a Merchant Marine ship, used to keep the supply lines open, which means a it's a little smaller than some of the other ships we've toured. 
She was built during WWII and served during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. In 1999 she was towed 1,200 miles, from Virginia to Tampa, to be a tour ship. But she’s unusual because she is a “living” ship, capable of getting underway - when they have enough money to fund the project. In 2003 she sailed from Tampa to the Gulf of Mexico, and currently they try to do two voyages a year in Tampa Bay.

One thing needed for a moving ship is lifeboats. Some of the display lifeboats are pretty awful,
but there are some good ones in the davits, ready to go.
So the first thing I learned is that the crane that hold lifeboats is called a davit! And I learned that during the war, lifeboat supplies included a radio. Sailors would raise its antenna, hang a wire into the water to ground it, hand-crank it and tap out morse code. Not easy, but if you needed it, you would be very, very grateful to have it. 

To get to the boat, they would sling this wood-and-chain ladder overboard. 
Today there were very few tourists on-board, but there was a big contingent of firefighters. They were doing training exercises today. In this heat. Well, that makes sense because when they have to do the real thing, it will be plenty hot. 
They were getting into gear inside the ship, then going outside to climb the rigging. Some guys were a little more comfortable than others. 
And after they climbed up, they had to come down, rappelling. 
It was fascinating to watch them, even in the heat, but we wanted to see the rest of the ship. I love ship gadgets!
The ship's 5-inch stern gun and two 3-inch deck guns are still in place. 
And they have a Gyro Compass on-board. This thing was used because ships' magnetic fields could affect regular compasses. According to the display notice: "The Gyro Compass would indicate (almost) true north, so it could be used to steer. It operates on the same principle as a child's gyro, a rapidly spinning wheel which tends to continue to rotate in the same plane when it started". I like the honesty that makes them say "almost"! 
The kitchen here is small (for a ship) but effective. 
But crew quarters are a little more spacious than on other ships. There are just four bunks in a room, and a locker for each one. 
learned that bathrooms on ships are called “the head” because in the old seafaring days, guys went to the front of the ship (i.e. the head of it) and leaned over to do their business. Eww, but at least everything went overboard.

The engine room is in a lower deck and mostly off-limits. All we can do is look down on it but since this is a working ship, that probably makes sense. 
As we got ready to leave, we stopped in the gift shop. This place has the smallest, lowest-stocked gift shop we've ever been in!
Across the bay we saw signs of ship work similar to was is done in Brownsville Port.
And outside was a much newer ship; we wished we could just walk on and sail away!
It didn't take too long to go through the ship so we had plenty of time to go to Cold Stone Creamery and cool down with ice cream, then to stroll through Ikea, planning for our future home. 

Looking for home

We are spending our days looking for a new home. With Bradenton to the south and Tampa to the north, Ruskin seemed like a good base but so far we haven't found what we are looking for. And the weather is getting a little hotter and a lot more humid - it's like a sauna outside. It will rain most of the week so maybe the weather will be nicer after that.

Yesterday was a day I thought might never come - I was able to wear cute sandals! I developed a really bad case of plantar fascitis while I was in Vista that lasted for months; I was actually afraid I would never really get better. But it finally healed!
I wore them when we went out to lunch in Bradenton. Randy found a little hot dog spot called Detroit Coney Island. Pretty good, we would definitely go back.

Shopping in Florida

I found paint here that I haven't seen elsewhere - Disney paint! Glow-in-the-dark Monster paint, Magnificent Metallic Cars paint, and Micky Mouse Chalkboard paint. Nobody markets like Disney!
And in the local Sam's club I saw a huge number of those coloring books for grown-ups. Are there so many of these here because of all the seniors here?
I know these are showing up everywhere, but I've never seen them in such quantity and variety. So far I have avoided them - I don't think I would find it relaxing to color all those tiny little spaces.

Old-fashioned fun

Randy discovered one of the perks of Ruskin - an old fashioned drive-in! And to our surprise, they show first-run movies. Tonight it's "Captain America: Civil War" and "Jungle Book". I wanted to see both of those, so we went. They even have the old speakers that sit on your car window! 
And they worked just fine, but the drive-in also broadcasts the soundtrack on an FM station and we wanted to keep bugs out of the car, so we went that route. We got a good spot with a clear view  of the old (and surely original) movie screen. 
We arrived early, which gave us plenty of time to get drive-in food: chili-cheese nachos and chili-cheese hot dogs!
I enjoyed the movie, although it wasn't quite as good as I had hoped. During the break between shows we got a small pepperoni pizza to share, then settled in to watch "Jungle Book". But it was 11 pm by then and the movie couldn't hold our attention, so we went home early. I'm just not as young as I used to be!

Orlando to Leesburg to Ruskin

Yesterday we drove to the Haines Creek RV Village in Leesburg, where we were offered a position as managers. It didn't take us long to decide this wasn't the place for us. It requires a ton of work just to maintain it at it's very "casual" state. And there are no rules for the long-term residents, who would not take kindly to changes we would want to make, such as asking them to clean up their place. So we said "thanks, but no thanks" and moved on this morning. 

We are spending a month in Ruskin. The idea is to relax and recuperate. Not sure how that's going to go yet. The chassis battery is giving us trouble, a cabinet door just fell off, and I dropped our GPS, which broke its screen. It will take a lot of work to relax.

But we need to try. Lunch was a good start. We drove through Ruskin to look for a restaurant, and the most likely one was Marian's Sub Shop. Their sign says it all: "We have one kind of sub."  
If it's not listed on this board, they don't have it! No mayo, which I would have liked. But the girl behind the counter said the place had been operating for 50 years with this menu, so we ordered one and split it. They do sell sides items: soda and chips.They put the goodies on Randy's half of the sandwich and toasted the whole thing. And it was very good. We would definitely come here again!

Odds and Ends

In a trip that lets us spend time with people who we know and love, there are bound to be a few bright spots. 

While we were in Amarillo, Nick and Christina suggested breakfast at Poblando, a Mexican restaurant with an unusually nautical decor
and excellent non-nautical food, like stuffed avocado with rice and beans. This was delicious.
We got to visit with Tina and her beautiful daughter Erica. And Lenora was there, with her four grown-up sons who tower over her, and her youngest son, who probably will, too, someday. 

We spent a couple of days with Randy's brother Tim. We went to visit Sharon, and later drove out to Swan Lake, where their parents are buried. We drove our jeep and Tim followed in his truck. He's a professional truck driver, but mercy, he drives slow! 

For lunch we went  to Emo's, aka "The Clown", where they've been serving good chili dogs since we were all kids. 
On May 4th, whoever was manning the highway signs got creative:
When we drove through the Alton area, Aaron offered us his house for a night. He has three well-mannered dogs who didn't know what to make of our little ruffians. They accepted Randy, though; Strider didn't want to get off his lap.
Meanwhile Shorty followed his usual pattern of collecting and hoarding all their toys. When little Julienne wanted to play with one, she had to try to sneak it away from him.
During those long drives, Shorty suffered. He's naturally feisty and full of energy so spending hours ever day in a car drove him nuts. He insisted on being out of the kennel, which made sense, but then he had nothing to do and nowhere to go. Sometimes he sat on Randy's lap, and sometime he just sat.
He usually ended up in the back seat, wedged in somewhere, waiting for it to end. 
Since they spent so much time in the car, we let them sleep on the bed every night. Hotel beds vary in quality, but he made do.