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Parrottrek Journal 2008

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Heading out on a ride in the sand cars

Greg pops a wheelie

The sand dunes almost to ourselves

Our very own fireworks show

February 14th - Valentine's Day at Glamis -
We joined up with a group of friends here at the sand dunes of Glamis just about 150 miles outside of Phoenix, Arizona which, handy for Frank and I, just happens to be our next stop. With two sand cars and 8 quads we all have a vehicle to drive around the dunes, or ride with someone else. Yesterday, we ladies took a long ride all around, which was perfect since it hasn't gotten too busy, and all the sand dunes don't have any tracks on them since the wind shifted the night before and smoothed them out. We were out for about 2 hours, and had a great time. Eventually the guys met up with us, and we all went a little further into the dunes and hit the bigger ones. One dune, which was incredibly steep made Stephanie and I a bit nervous, so we stopped for a moment at the top, noticing Greg and Frank behind us Stephanie quickly turned her quad around. Not knowing what Greg was planning, I crept forward on my quad slowly hoping by just leaving the brake off, the quad would slowly get enough momentum down the tip of the hill. Just as I thought I might chicken out, Greg pushed the back of the quad and down the hill I went. All I heard was "use your back brake" off in the distance. It turned out to be quite an exhilarating ride, and I only had to use the brake a bit. By the end of the day we all went up and down that same hill about a dozen times and then headed back to camp. It was just about dusk, so we lit an enormous campfire and hung out outside until the winds picked up and the sand started blowing.

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Ooops, something broke on John's car

The guys go out, buy the parts and repair it themselves. Such a handy group of boys!

It's all ready to go again

February 15th - Lots of Sand Fun and a Little Repair Job -
Today was full of wild rides. John and Greg both took their sand cars out so Frank and I went with John. Apparently John's transmission wasn't built as well as it should have been, because half way up a fairly good sized hill that shouldn't stress the car at all, the transmission went out. Of course we were turned at an angle so it took the three guys from John's car and the two guys in Greg's car to turn the car around, get it pointed straight down the hill and tied to Greg's sand car for the tow home. Once back at camp John, Frank and Greg drove over to the parts store near by, haggled down the price of a new transmission, took it back to camp, and with the help of Julio, Steve and Rick, the five of them took the old engine and transmission out, replaced it with the new one, put back the old engine back in and took it for a test drive. The first time out John only had one gear, so back in the shop it went. The "shop" was the sand car backed into Greg's trailer as far as it would go with the front wheels of the car lifted up on the back tires that were removed and replaced with smaller tires for the time being. By the end of the evening John's car was back to it's old self, and actually better than before since the new transmission was a step or two above the old one.

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The dunes are getting busier

Pretty wildflowers all around

We went out to watch the Sand Drags

There were a few crazy drivers out there

February 16th -
This afternoon we ladies took another ride to the "smaller dunes" on the other side of the road. From a distance the other side of the road looks like a bunch of little trees and green bushes, but the closer you get the more the  purple and pink start to show. By the time you get over to that side you are surrounded by these beautiful bright pink and purple fragrant wildflowers. It's amazing that these flowers can bloom in the dessert with virtually no water all year long. Soon after we left, a couple of the guys found us and we all headed back into the big dunes to explore. Funny how that seems to happen each time we girls go out on our own. We ended up going down a few big dunes, but today I was much more confident, and Stephanie and I each had a radio in our helmets, so we could talk each other over the next hill, or up the following dune. About two hours before sunset we all drove over to watch what they call The Sand Drags. Coming from the very organized and regulated Drag Races of the National Hot Rod Association, we figured there would be some rhyme or reason to these drag races, but no, hmmmm imagine that! It is pretty much a free for all where all the different sand cars race down a long and mostly flat area of the sand. There is one area that has a bit of a bump, and this is where we parked the cars and watched since this is the spot was where all the cars and quads got air. Before we parked John did drive his car down the drag strip, and it was exhilarating! When the car lifts in the air and comes back down it is the softest landing you can imagine and yet the greatest roller coaster feeling ever. Greg went down the drag strip about a dozen times in his car and got quite a bit of air, as you can see in the last picture. We used John's car as tiered seating so we all had a good view above the strip. After sunset The Sand Drags end, so we drove back to camp and John made carne asada tacos that we all enjoyed by the campfire again. Tonight the wind was completely still so it made for a nice late evening with good friends.

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We set the camera to auto...

and set it take a bunch of photos

We had so much fun with so many friends

Our campground for the week in the sand

February 18th - One Last Night in the Desert -
This evening was the perfect finale to the weekend. Frank and I took a ride with John and Andrea, since the four of us hadn't been out together in one vehicle all weekend. We found a really great jump out in the dunes that was the perfect drop where we stayed airborne and weightless for about 3-6 seconds. We tried to find the same jump on our way back home, but since all the sand  looks the same it is quite hard to find a certain location unless you mark it on your GPS, which we failed to do. We had a potluck dinner with Rick cooking the meat, which included shrimp, tri-tip and bratwurst, with each of the other couples bringing a side dish. We had a very fun group photo session with the crazy guys posing all sorts of ways with a new face for each shot. The first few shots everyone smiled, but with our guys, we knew the nice smiles wouldn't last, and we were right. One sequence we took from a bit of a distance, and the other a little closer. Some are not quite family friendly so they have been left off the web page, however a few of our weekend attendees wanted them posted. Earlier today, after most of our neighbors vacated, I got a great shot of our campsite from the down slope of the dune that we were all camped on. Yes the picture looks as though we were parked in the middle of the sand, but we are all actually on very secure pavement with a light layer of sand between our wheels and the pavement below, or at least it appears that way, we will let you know in the morning if it's as easy as it looks to get back on the road. P.S. No worries, we all got out fine with no one needing any assistance.

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We're ready to ride

I look a little like the masked bandit

Apparently Philly is hoping for extra peace

Bradley and Julio hang out

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February 23rd - The San Francisco Giants stop by -

The new driver of the Monster Funny Car Team, Tommy Johnson Jr., is friends with a few of the players on the San Francisco Giants and since they are having their spring training here in Phoenix, Tommy invited them over for the day. After the last qualifying run the Budweiser team is #1 and the Monster men are #4, Yahoo! Let's hope (and pray) tomorrow  both the teams  go lots-o-rounds and pick up lots-o-points.

The Monster team has the rival Rockstar Energy Drink team first round, so we are all hoping to beat them. That way we can at least say we are the fastest energy drink out here. Arizona evenings make for some of the most gorgeous sunsets with the jagged mountains in the distance, and the bright orange and red colors in the sky.

February 25th - 2:30am - Operation "Florida or Bust!!" -
We left Phoenix before the crack of dawn this morning. I actually meant to write this when we did leave, but every ounce of my being was fighting getting out of bed at that hour, so I gave in and stayed in bed. Besides, once Frank crawled out of bed to jump behind the wheel and embark on our cross-country drive, Cody climbed onto my back and fell back to sleep. If you've ever had a groggy 3 pound bird crawl on you and fall asleep you too would know how hard it is to push off the sweet thing and climb out from under the warm covers and the comfort of a morning snuggle. He's also nice and warm to snuggle with on a cold morning or when your reading on the couch.

February 25th - 7:30 am -
Cody and I finally woke up and  joined Frank in the passenger seat. Mind you I am still in my P.J.'s, with blanket and pillow in hand. Don't feel too bad for Frank. When he signed up for this journey, he was well aware that his darling wife, although she would love to be, is not quite what one would call a morning person, nor is his bird for that matter. However Cody is a bit more of a morning person than I am since it was his idea to get out of bed, and I just followed along. He climbed to the end of the bed, tapped my leg and said "Come on!" He then climbed down off of the bed, took a couple steps toward the front of the motorhome, looked back at me and again said "Come on!" I quickly followed, figuring that if I didn't, he would find a cupboard, or something else to destroy on his journey to find his father. P.S. Frank did stop for a brief nap at about 5:30 this morning until about a half hour ago. When I noticed that the motorhome was no longer moving, I half jokingly asked Frank "Did you stop driving to take a nap?" He answered, in a very groggy voice. "No, the roads are just so smooth here in Texas you can't feel the bus moving." I laughed, but then realized, after a couple snores, that he was dead asleep and had no idea what he was saying. Sleep well sweet Frank.

February 25th - 8:00pm -
We have stopped for the night at a rest stop in San Antonio Texas, a mere 906 miles from our starting point this morning. Frank claims he will sleep until 8am or so and then start driving again, but we will see if he sleeps that long. Once the man puts his mind to something, no one can stop him. He can somehow still function all day with only 3-4 hours of sleep, unlike his wife, who is a much more pleasant person after a solid 8 hours of sleep. Trust me on this one. I have no doubt Frank would agree as well.

February 26th - 6:00am - Day Two of the Florida Mission -
Just as I predicted Frank woke up around 6:00 to start today's drive. Cody and I, on the other hand joined in on the adventure around 8:20.

February 26th - 8:00 pm - Hooray! We are in the State of Florida! -
No we aren't home yet, but very close. You never realize just how long the darn Panhandle is until you have to drive across it thinking that at any time home is just around the corner, or at the I-95 that leads you to home is just around the corner. We should be there by 6:00 or so tomorrow. I can't believe we made it this far in such a short period of time. The smell of the trees here in Florida are wonderful. It already feels as though we are home, except for the fact that it is freezing cold outside and it's supposed to be in the 80's. Hmmm! Maybe we took a wrong turn and are driving North, where it's supposed to be cold.

February 27th - 12:15pm - WE MADE IT!!!! -
Yes that's right, we pulled into our driveway at 12:15 Eastern Time! About 6 hours ahead of schedule. It is a gorgeous day, a little cold, but hopefully that will change by the weekend. Our friendly family of armadillos are still setting up house under the concrete pad on our lot, so we are headed to Home Depot to put the little buggers out of their misery, and send them to armadillo heaven! I am one of the biggest animal lovers you will find anywhere, but once they move in and destroy things on my property they've gotta go!!! We tried nicely the last two years to get rid of them, and they paid no attention to our friendly requests to leave, so now it is WAR! The birds are in heaven being out of their cages and back in the sunshine after three long boring days of lock-up! Well I gotta go we are headed out on a bike ride around the resort. Cody keeps flapping his wings which tells us he wants to go flying.

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February 28th - A Walk Through Nature -
This has got to be the most amazing place in the country, and trust us, we have seen far more of this country than the average bear! Just this morning on my jog I saw an entire flock of turkey, including a gorgeous Tom. At first he was quite sheepish as he ran from one hen to the next to see what they were doing, but as soon as he saw me, he went into protective mode. His entire head turned from a light red color to a deep blue and then to purple. After this, all of his feathers began to fluff up, his tail went straight into the air, his wings began to hit the ground and he charged at me! Doing the little bit of reading that I have done on wild birds, and having a few of them in my motorhome, I knew that if I looked bigger than he, he would back off a bit, perhaps! Yes he did back off once I raised my fluffed out and beautiful, and lead them into the forest where they would be safe from this crazy looking bird wearing a tank top and shorts. Of course the entire time this was happening I had my camera poised, and even got a bit video of him in all his grandeur! After my jog I came home and Frank and I along with Cody and Abbey walked down by our lake to visit a couple neighbors. All of a sudden Frank said, "We need to go back!" "Why is that?" I asked, and looked in front of us to see an enormous alligator sunning himself on the banks of 'Lake Charlie' as I have dubbed it. We quickly turned around, and on our way back home met some new neighbors who gave us a tour of their newly built home to get a few ideas for ours, that if we ever do tire of the road we will build in about 5 or so years. Heading home we saw a family of deer walking across the lawn and down to the lake for a drink. They must be fairly used to people being around them because they didn't run off into the woods until they all had a nice long drink. They were beautiful to watch so very graceful.

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February 29th - Happy Leap Year -
In hopes that NASA isn't leading us on, we are really excited about the Space Shuttle Endeavor launch date of March 11th. Yes we will be here and yes we will be able to watch the Space Shuttle launch from our backyard. Not only would this be an exciting thing to see on any sunny afternoon, but even more exciting since the launch time is, as of now, set for 2:31am. Our plans are to set the alarm for 2:00am, and watch the NASA channel. As soon as they call for "Go for Launch" we'll run into the backyard and watch in shoot into the air in our pajamas and so back to bed. A lot of people are driving out to the ocean to see it, which is only 5 launches are still going on. We've heard they may stop as early as 2010. Let's just hope the weather holds up and NASA doesn't 'reschedule' the date. In order to understand a little more about the history of the Space Shuttle we went to Kennedy Space Center today and read up on all the history of the various shuttle launches over the last few decades. After visiting a bit of space on land, we hit the beach where I read a great murder mystery book as Frank flew his kite.

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March 3rd - A Curious Crane -
As we drove home this afternoon, we noticed a beautiful crane walking in the road. As we past him, he began to follow us and eventually ended up in our front yard and right in front of me. Luckily I had my camera ready. He was even prettier close up. Once he saw Frank with Cody, he walked closer and closer to them. At one point Frank walked to the other side of the Jeep since the crane came so close to him and Cody and he wasn't quite sure what Mr. Crane would do once he was within reach of our Cody. The crane didn't seem too aggressive, since after he saw Frank and Cody walk away, he wandered back to me, stopped for a minute and then continued down the street. At one point he was so close to me I could have pet him, but not knowing if he would bite, I refrained.

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March 4th- Cocoa Beach -
We took a very nice drive down the coast a bit to Cocoa Beach. The beaches here have white fine sand with turquoise water, and all sorts of plants around the dunes that lead to the water. We stopped off at Satellite Beach, which is named for his spectacular views of the satellites that are launched from Kennedy Space Center, went through Ron Jon Surf Shop where we bought new bathing suits and then headed home to meet some friends for Happy Hour at the restaurant here in our resort. After dinner the weather was still great and the sun was still out, so we took another long bike ride with Cody and Abbey in tow. I sure love it here!

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March 7th - Orlando, Florida -
Today was another beautiful day, and to our happy surprise a bit humid as well, so we headed down to Orlando to visit our good friends Rick and LaVerne, who are taking a break from full-time RVing and working at a campground in Kissimmee and managing a fun leather goods shop in Old Town, Orlando. Before we stopped off to see them we went to a Log Home Show to see all the latest places to build and new layouts. They were all amazing places and the cabins themselves are beautiful, but since we are far from ready to sit still for any length of time, we will forgo the brochures for now. After the Log Cabin Show, we stopped off and had lunch at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville at Universal Walk and then headed to Rick and LaVerne's store since they both were working the night shift. The other day our 'Fun Committee" here at The Great Outdoors threw a Fun Fair in one of the rally areas on the banks of Lake Judy  with all sorts of entertainment including a somewhat off key Elvis, stilt walkers and all the different activity groups showing off their goods including the 'Hookers' who had all their crochet and knitting projects for sale and a fund raising scavenger hunt to help raise money for the soon to be built Nature Center. The people here are all great!

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March 8th - Port Canaveral -
The best part of only being here a few weeks a year is that there are always new places to explore. Today we drove to Port Canaveral, where all sorts of cruise ships that head down to the Caribbean or the Keys and out to the Bahamas load up. We had lunch at a restaurant called Fishlips, that was recommended by some friends, since it has the best view of the port and all the ships that pass through it. It reminded me of a restaurant out on the wharf in Santa Barbara called Longboards that we frequented during our years in California. In fact Longboards was the scene of our first date many moons ago. After lunch we drove over to the Canaveral Locks that are just North of the port, but since there wasn't any traffic coming in or going out of the Locks and the weather today is a bit chilly, we headed back to the warmth of the car to explore more of Port Canaveral. We found quite a few roads that led to different beaches so we will have to check these out on a day that is a bit warmer. All the locals say some of these roads lead to some of the most beautiful and private beaches. I can't wait to see them.

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March 10th - The Great Outdoors -

On this afternoon's bike ride we left the birds at home and took the nature trail around the park. Since there are so many different animals on the nature trail is it best not to bring your own with you as they might attract a few stalking animals. At the end of our street sat a baby alligator sunning himself in one of the storm drains. As we entered the nature trail we saw a grey and brown bird that blended in with the dead palm leaves on the side of the river and a lizard hanging out hunting for bugs in the tall grass. Later on the trail we saw an Osprey sitting on a telephone pole looking for anything that might be scurrying on the ground below. After a couple laps around the trail we headed home and took the birds with us on a lap were we noticed a young Heron fishing in Lake Charlie. If you look close in the picture you can see that in the first shot he has the entire fish in his beak, and in the shot below he has the entire fish in his throat. We saw a family of turkey vultures walking down the street searching for a bit of lunch, as another came in for landing right in front of us. Another feathered friend we ran into on the ride was Max,  another Severe Macaw, just like Abbey.

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They didn't seem to notice each other too much, except that Max liked to show his wings off, as Abbey just sat there and stared at him. On the other side of the park we noticed a nest in one of the tall trees, and a momma feeding the little inhabitants. We couldn't tell what kind of birds they were, but figure they were Ospreys due to their coloring and size. Note to self... always pack the binoculars in the basket of the bike... This place is better than any zoo since the animals are all in their natural habitat without any fences or cages and you never know who you might see where, eating what.

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March 11th - The Launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor -

There is almost always a Space Shuttle launch scheduled around the dates that we are here, but the last three years it has always been a few days before we arrive, or a few days after we leave. Lucky for us this visit our timing was perfect. We started the evening out watching the sunset as we had dinner outside, and ended the evening by watching what appeared to be the sun rising at 2:28am. Knowing that we might fall asleep before the launch took place, we set our alarm for 2:00am and went to bed. We didn't sleep too much though, since there is a channel here locally that shows all the goings on inside the Space Center and all the preparations that go into suiting up the Astronauts and getting them inside the Shuttle. The area that these men sit in appears to be very very tiny and the computers around them are very very many. I took a few pictures of the TV to try and show you what it looked like, but the interior Shuttle shots didn't turn out too well. Since I wanted to watch the actual launch live, and not through the lens of my camera,  I only got a few shots of the actually blast off as well.. We turned up the TV inside the house and ran outside once the countdown began. As soon as the lift off took place it got amazingly bright. We saw the Shuttle for about 10 seconds, and then the cloud layer swallowed it up. Soon after we lost sight of it, the ground began to tremble and shake and the windows rattled next to us. Once the sky went dark and the trembling stopped we went back inside and watched the camera that was attached to the side of the Endeavor that showed it leaving the earth and finally breaking away from the launch engines. It was a very impressive sight all around and well worth staying up for. Next time we will drive out to the ocean and see it.

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March 17th - Jacksonville, Florida - Happy St. Patrick's Day -

Being the lovely day it is, and since we are here in Jacksonville where we will be getting the oil changed in the motorhome tomorrow morning, we figured we would kill some time down on the Riverwalk. It's about 11/2 miles of boardwalks with restaurants and shops and marinas on each side of the St. Johns River. To get from one side of the river to the other we took a water taxi which turned out to be a lot of fun since it not only takes you from one side to the other, but if you so choose, you can stay on a little longer, and have it take you up and down the river as well. We passed by the Maxwell House factory, which is currently being revamped since it was built back in the early 1900's, and the Jacksonville Jaguars football stadium. The drawbridge that crossed over the St. Johns River was quite unique in that the entire center of the bridge lifts up and down on two tracks to accommodate the enormous sailboats and dinner cruise ships that pass under it.

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