The Beginning of our Permanent Vacation

We began this adventure on March 16, 2014 by attending our first Heartland rally which was held at Southern Palms RV Resort in Eustis, FL.  We met up with our long time friends Brad, Tammy and their adorable son, Jacob and went to Kiku’s for dinner.  Kiku’s is like Benihana and we had a real fun time and a great meal.  When we got back from dinner, we were talking to one of our neighbors and they mentioned meeting a couple who had a unique motorcycle carrier on the back of their unit.  They described the carrier and their unit.  I became curious and inquired a little more about the couple.  Come to find out, we had also met this couple last year in Carabelle, Florida.  I mentioned their names, LuAnne and KC Cox, and sure enough, it was them.   This is truly a very small world.

The rally started with a bang.  The leaders Linda and Walter West from Homestead are great people and made sure that everyone had a great time, especially the newcomers.  We had pot luck dinners, breakfasts, and lots of conversation and boy did we learn new things.

We met very nice people and amongst them a couple, Linda and  Tommy Sexton from Beaufort, SC who had a 12 week old female beagle, named Abby.  She and Jackson got along really well and boy did he become submissive to her.

When the rally ended we returned back to Palm City to make sure the house would be ready for our new renters.  Did I say we rented the house for two years and sold ALL of our furniture?  We kept important memorabilia like pictures, school work from the kids, etc., some special art work which we didn’t think we could easily replace, put everything in a small storage unit and said goodbye.

We then traveled to Tampa to get some work done on the unit and once done on to Ft. Myers to meet some friends, Bill and Sue Lillie, who recently retired in Cape Coral relocating from Chicago.  We drove south to Broward County where we made sure to see the family, said our goodbyes and then traveled north to Inverness to visit John’s mom.  While we were there, we met up with a couple, Bonnie and Rich Waltman, whom we had recently met at the rally in Eustis.  They happened to be staying near Inverness and it was a great opportunity to spend time together.

From Inverness we went to Cedar Key, Florida.  I had never been and always wanted to.  This is a small fishing village with a severe drinking problem.  It is very quaint.  We ate at Tony’s Restaurant, whose claim to fame is that they participated in a conch chowder competition with many others in the Northeast and won three years in a row.  Actually, the conch chowder was excellent!  You could actually order their chowder online if you want.

We then continued our trip and traveled to Pensacola Beach, Florida.  We stayed at a great campground, Pensacola Beach RV Resort, which is relatively new, and our site was right on the water.  We met up with Krissy and Mark, daughter and son-in-law of good friends we have known for many, many years back in Miami and went to Peg Leg Pete’s for dinner.  We also met a really nice Canadian couple, Laurie and Gordon Sheppard, with whom we connected really well and spontaneously enjoyed a wonderful time at Flounders, a neighboring restaurant, whose claim to fame is a drink called diesel fuel.  If you have to guess why, you obviously have never had one.  One is enough!  It is served in a huge mason-like jar and has all kinds of alcohol in it.  So if one diesel fuel doesn’t get you drunk, you are not human.

We left Pensacola Beach and headed to Gulf Shores, Alabama to join the AlaMissiBamaSippi rally.  The name is funny but it’s a combination chapter for Alabama and Mississippi.  The rally was held at the Gulf State Park right along the beach road in Gulf Shores.  It is a humongous park and it is really nice.  We arrived one week before the rally because we really wanted to explore the area.  However, mother nature had other plans.  It rained, and rained and rained so much during the first week, we thought we might need a canoe to get to the truck.  So, since we were stuck indoors it seemed like the perfect opportunity for John to work on some indoor honey do’s.  He totally redid the unit’s pantry and now it is totally workable.  I can buy food and actually store it.  What a concept!

The weather was much better during the second week, which was the week of the rally.  Jackson had a ball.  There were more rabbits than he could chase most of the time.  He actually “escaped” twice from the unit.  The first time, he only went several units away and I was able to get him back with relative ease.  The second time not so much.  He literally squeezed out the door while I was exiting.  Honest to goodness, he only had about 6 inches.  He bolted right into the brush following a rabbit and it actually took 5 people and a good 45 minutes to try to locate him.  As all beagles do,  they bay while on the chase, but when the scent is lost, they no longer need to bark.  Well, without him barking we couldn’t hear him and we had lost sight of him just as soon as he ran into the brush.  We were searching blindly.  All I can say is thank goodness for the GPS tracker I have around his neck.  I followed the tracker on my phone until it took me to within 10 feet of where Jackson should have been, except the brush was so thick, I could not see him.  I kept calling and calling him and he would not come to me, nor make any noise.  Right about then is when you start thinking all the worse thoughts.  i.e. I’m going to find the tracker collar loose on the ground and an alligator got him.  So for about 10 minutes, which felt like forever, I walked around the brush, getting really upset, and then suddenly, I heard his tags cling.  I still couldn’t see him so I lowered myself almost to the ground and finally saw his socks.  I called him but he wouldn’t come to me, so I had no choice but to crawl through the brush to go get him.  I really didn’t think about creepy crawlies, or alligators, or snakes until later that night.  He was all tangled, and boy was he scared.  When I finally got him in the unit after cleaning him up, he jumped on the bed and didn’t come out till the following morning.  I wonder if he learned anything?  Fat chance.

The rally ended and we got ready to drive north to Louisville, Kentucky to participate in the Derby events and for John to attend the Kentucky Pipe Trades Conference held immediately after the Derby.  Again, mother nature was not going to make it easy.  We had to drive in the outskirts of a terrible storm all the way paying close attention to tornado warnings all around us.  We spent the night in Athens, Alabama and continued early the next day, April  28, 2014, at the Kentucky Exposition Center, where we were assigned a parking spot.  Fortunately for us, because the spots are assigned on a first come, first served basis, we were successful in securing electric, water but most importantly, sewer.  The back end of the storm, as expected, came through overnight, and though very windy and rainy, thank God there were no tornados.  

We took a drive to Churchill Downs on Thursday, May 1st just to experience the place without the crowds, as the following day would be Oaks Day. Oaks Day used to be the day the locals went to the races.  However, since it was so widely publicized, the locals are not able to come to the track that day so just this year was the first year that Thursday is the locals’ day and it is now known as Thurby Day.  Unaware of this, no wonder we saw people dressed regularly in jeans and t-shirts and others just totally dressed up, ladies with beautiful dresses and awesome hats. 

On Friday, May 2, 2014 we picked up our neighbors, Louis and Vivian DeFelice from the airport.  We didn’t have tickets to go to the track that night so we went to dinner at a great place in the Highlands District.  We had a fabulous meal, enjoyed a selection of bourbons and then returned to visit and prepare ourselves for the Derby the following day.

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