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Parrottrek Journal 2013

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A little shopping at Ron Jon Surf Company

A walk down the beach with friends on a beautiful day

We spent a day in Tampa showing off all the perks of owning at The Great Outdoors

A whole line of new and pre-owned Prevosts

January 2013 - Frank's Dad Visits for Two Weeks of Florida Fun -
How many fun and touristy things can you pack into two weeks for someone who's never been to Florida? Well leave it to Frank and I and we'll do our darndest. A few months back Frank's dad (also named Frank) called to tell us he was going to take a two week vacation, something he hadn't done in a very long time. We were thrilled to hear this and even more thrilled to hear that he was planning on coming out to see us.
The Great Outdoors, our fun and friendly resort here in Florida is the perfect place to spend your vacation and since we did have a whole two weeks, we decided to plan and fit into his 2 weeks of freedom from work as much as possible. We introduced him to all of our friends here, so when Frank and I were working he would have other people to hang out with. It took no time at all for our friends to become his friends and his time here to fill up. We took him camping at Jetty Park, for walks down the beach, we spent one day at Cocoa beach with some shopping at Ron Jon's and lunch overlooking the Indian River. He came with Frank and I over to Tampa one day and helped us in the TGO Realty booth at the RV show to show off The Great Outdoors and all we have to offer. Another day we went to a Prevost show where they had rows and rows of new and used Prevosts (the type of coach we have) and since Frank's dad used to drive buses for a living both he and Frank were in heaven checking out all the bells and whistles on the new ones.

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Frank and Frank pose at one of the return pods

Standing behind an actual Apollo rocket

A stop off at one of the launch pads

In the rocket garden at Kennedy Space Center

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A shot of one of the launch pads and all the missions that left from there

Inside the Vehicle Assembly Building. It is taller than the Space Shuttle

Lunch at NASA with views of the water

Mission Control

Our adventures continues over the next 10 days or so with a trip to Kennedy Space Center where we toured the Vehicle Assembly Building, since the Space Shuttle program has been cancelled NASA's need for the vehicle assembly building has been put on hold. When you stand outside the building in doesn't look as though it is taller than a Space Shuttle, or an Apollo rocket for that matter. in fact it is taller than the empire state building, but since it is just as wide as is it tall it merely looks like an average building, until you notice that the doors that people walk into looks like a mouse hole from a distance. We walked through mission control, had lunch overlooking the water and drove by both of the launch pads and read all about all the missions that were launched at each.
We spent many nights enjoying the screen room of friends and neighbors with 20 or so of us congregating as the sun would set. I'm pretty sure at this point in Frank's vacation he wouldn't mind staying a few weeks longer, and I know we would love to have him stay as well, but as his vacation came to an end ... ...

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A dinner party with about 20 friends

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Shopping at Downtown Disney

Dad poses outside our dinner destination on Lake Disney

A cocktail to celebrate our fun times while we waited for a table

We walked all through Downtown Disney after dinner

We decided no Florida vacation can possibly be complete without a trip to Disney. Not quite knowing what park would be the best, and running out of days that Frank and I were both off, we decided that the three of us would hit Downtown Disney and explore all the shops, lakes, entertainment and dinning that we could fit into a night. We listened to some amazing music played by the stringed assemble of La Nouba, which is the newest Cirque De Soleil Performance at Disney. We had dinner at Fulton's Crab House, which resembled a huge paddle boat and had food to die for and we shopped in the Disney store that is pretty much the size of your average entire mall. it went on forever and had everything Disney imaginable. I think this store itself was about as big as the entire Magic Kingdom. We almost got lost a couple times trying to find the various departments. We finished our evening off checking out all the life size statues that the creative minds of Disney and Lego made of all the various Disney characters and then around midnight or so headed home since the next morning we all had to head to the airport around 5am to take Frank to the airport, say goodbye and send him back to California, where he might just need another week off to recuperate from all the fun.

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Our bibs for the marathon

Enjoying pre race festivities at 4 am

5:30 am we start our run

Running into Magic Kingdom

February 24th - Happy Feet - Disney World's Half Marathon -
Over the last few months Frank and I have been training to run a half marathon. Years back, 10 in fact, myself and two good friends ran the full Honolulu Marathon on the Island of Oahu, so running isn't completely new to me, but in Frank's case this would be the first race he would run. And boy did he do a great job. He went from a total non runner to being a competitor, which makes me laugh a bit since he used to tease me about running, telling me I was crazy to run that far and he couldn't see himself ever doing it, and now look at him. We are so glad we chose this particular marathon, since the time of year was perfect with our schedule, Disney is always a fun place to have to visit, and since they are such pros at routing thousands of people around in a very organized fashion, you'd never know that you were running with 23,496 other people. The times you did know there were so many others was at the pre race festivities, which made it so much fun to have the crowd amped up and made us completely forget that we were awake at 4:00 in the morning. Well, technically we woke up at 2:30, showered and walked from our campsite at Fort Wilderness to the bus stop just around the corner where runners would be transported to the start zone starting at 3:30.

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And through Cinderella's Castle

A couple stops to pose with characters

Minnie Mouse at the finish line

Hooorayyy! We finished!!! Can you find Suzy crossing the finish line?

We were the first ones on the first bus and didn't have to wait long at all for the fun to begin. Once at the start area there were dozens of photographers taking pictures, all sorts of live music, shops to buy any sort of marathon memorabilia you could think of, fruit stands with free bananas and apples and Gu. The weather was absolutely perfect. It was about 70 degrees which meant we didn't have to wear any extra clothing other than our running gear. At around 4:30 they opened the running corals, which determine where you start in the marathon. Considering there were 24,496 other runners involved in the half marathon it's smart to not have them all stampede the start line at one time. We were in corral C since we wanted to run together and since it is the Princess Half Marathon, they do allow men to participate, but they don't allow men to win the race, so the men have to start long after the fastest group of women start. As we hung out in our corral before the race we met all sorts of other runners from literally all over the country. We were having a blast and the race hadn't even started yet... ...

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We spent the evening in the jacuzzi and enjoying the pool and sunshine

An amazing sunset with Magic Kingdom in the background

Celebrating with a glass of champagne

Back at Fort Wilderness after the run

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A view of the water from inside. The currently calm water.

Purple clouds start to roll in - YIKES! We start to bring in tables

We can't see out the front window and boy are we rockin'

Minutes after the storm all the little birds bathe in the fresh water puddles

March 25th - Tornado Watch 2013 - Jetty Park -
Murphy's Law! We get a group of 10 couples to all go camping at the same time to the same place and the weather forecast is a bit sketchy. One moment we are all sitting outside in the nice warm Florida weather on the beach enjoying the sunshine and the next minute a couple of our phones are screaming out loud sirens warning us of a tornado looming just miles away. We all packed up and headed back to the coaches in the nick of time. Literally just moments after we were all safely tucked in our motorhomes purple clouds began to roll in at the fastest rate of rolling clouds I've ever seen. The wind started, the rain came and we could no longer see out ur front windshield. We did get a bit nervous for a moment as trash cans flew by us about 4 feet in the air, our neighbors awning was ripped off his roof and the motorhome was ricking back and forth so hard it felt as though we were at a 45 degree angle. 10 minutes later the wind calmed down, the rain diminished and the sun began to peek out of the now light gray clouds. WE SURVIVED!!! HOORAY!! However the warm day was now a very cold afternoon and our evening outdoor bar-b-que including most of us digging out our winter wear since being acclimated to Florida causes one to freeze to death if the temperature drops below 65. The next morning I awoke to a beautiful sunrise and took a nice long jog down the beach where the only other inhabitants were a handful of fisherman/women and the very persistant and hungry pelicans that stood by their fishing poles hoping to catch the fish before the hook did.

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An hour after the storm the cruise ships leave, right on schedule

The next morning I jogged on the beach. A gorgeous sunrise and a hungry pelican

Later that day, a long walk in the cool crystal clear weather

The wind made the sand dance over itself. A very pretty site

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All eight of us, ready to go Zip Lining

A very steep, high wobbly bridge - YIKES!

Weeeeeeee!!!!! SO. MUCH. FUN!

Debbie and Donna land safely

Zip Lining With the Neighbors - Brevard Zoo -
One of the best parts of living in The Great Outdoors (nicknamed TGO), is that 90% of our friends and neighbors are either early retirees, or work seasonally elsewhere and come here for a long vacation in the warm winters of Florida. This translates to them having wide open schedules which makes it easy for them to adapt to our schedule. Today's play date took us to the Brevard Zoo where we experienced Tree Top Trek, a bunch of zip lines and other thrill seeking activities. Since it is part of the zoo I thought that it would just have one or two lines that were 100 feet or so and be child friendly (code for boring and easy) Boy, was I wrong! It was awesome!!

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Don't let go, there is an alligator pit below

Hooray!!! We finished!!!!!

It is definitely not a children's playground, unless they enjoy dangling from suspended stair cases as they walk step to step on swing steps, cross wiggling suspended bridges above lakes of alligators, scaling wooden ladders over 40 feet above the ground and rappelling down 700 foot zip lines where your only break is your left hand. Yes, you are in complete control of how fast you go and how fast you stop, and yes, they do supply you with a handy set of gloves so you don't even feel the rope slide across your palm as you tighten your grip in order to slow yourself down but let me tell you, one can gain ALOT of speed across a 700 foot drop. Have no fear, if you don't put your breaks on at the end of the zip line the padded tree will definitely stop you. It might ring your bell a bit, but you'll stop. Oh yeah, and the kiddos have to be over 54 inches tall, so it isn't for those short on guts, or height. Lucky for us, we all made it safely through the obstacle courses and lived to tell. Remember when you were little and you'd slide down a grassy hill or a snowy slope with your friends and you'd laugh so hard you almost couldn't see straight because you were a little scared and having a lot of fun? That was kind of day we all had today. And the best part? Since it was a weekday, there was only one chaperone and he was at the very back of our group, so those of us that finished first and ran ahead to see what was around the next corner had the whole place to ourselves, without supervision! FUN!!!

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It seems like yesterday they were this little

Always such happy and good little girls

So grown up now

And never too cool for their parents love

April Birthdays - Our Two Favorite Girls in the Whole Wide World -
Boy does time fly! As Frank and I celebrate 16 years of happily ever after this month, I only half realize how quickly time passes us by. To me we really don't look any different. Sure Frank has a few more laugh lines and a couple gray hairs, but then again I always knew I'd grow old and gray with him, so that didn't surprise me. I look in the mirror today and see pretty much the same face I remember seeing in the mirror as my mom placed my veil in my hair moments before walking down the aisle to the love of my life. And then I remember two little faces I saw on that day that are amazingly different. Our two sweet, beautiful, fabulous nieces. Hayley was my flower girl on that day in April, 16 years ago, and she was two years old. People told me I was crazy to have a two year old walk down the aisle before me because she would either A) take all the attention away from me because she is so darn cute or B) throw a big fat temper tantrum, not throw any rose petals and walk the wrong way. I told all of the doubting Thomases to jump off a cliff because I knew A) she'd do a great job of tossing her petals and never throw a temper tantrum on such a fun day and B) if she stole the show that would make me happy, because she was so darn cute, and still is today, well, beautiful in fact, inside and out. This month she turned 18! She's graduating from high school in a couple weeks (which is one of our main reason for headed west) and she's about to head off to college! How the heck did that happen? I swear I don't feel a day older than I did in April of 1997, so how can she be so grown up?
And Torrie? Sweet Torrie! She was the thorn in my dressmakers side (and I sort of enjoyed it, but don't tell her that) Renee (my sister-in-law and mother of these two beauties) was my Matron of Honor, and was supposed to be nine months pregnant on the day Frank and I exchanged vows. Since baby #1 (aka Hayley) came about 6 weeks early, and baby #2 (aka Torrie) was due 3 weeks after our wedding date, we weren't sure if Renee would need a maternity dress or a non-maternity dress, so we waited until the very very last minute to finish her dress off. Good thing we waited. Little miss Torrie did in fact come early and very healthy (YAY!!!!) Torrie was 12 days old on our wedding day and Renee did need a much smaller dress. Well, Torrie is now 16, and a licensed driver (I'm a little worried about my safety as we drive around California this summer, but don't tell her that. Kidding Torrie, totally kidding) I love them both so much words can't describe it. In a couple weeks we will be leaving Florida and heading to California and I. Can't. Wait. to see these precious ladies that we have watched grow up.

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The hotel didn't look too grand as I walked up to it

But the views from my room were outstanding and I listened to crashing waves all night

I took a nice long walk on the beach that night and the next morning

Enjoying another beautiful Florida sunset. I never tire of these

April 15th - 16th - Continuing Education - Daytona Beach -
I love being a massage therapist. I mean, really love it. I love being self employed, I love setting my own schedule, I LOVE helping people with their aches and pains and needs for body realignment, relief from stress, stiff joints and tight muscles. I love giving them complete relaxation. Here in Florida my business is completely mobile. I pack up my golf cart with my massage table and go. Within the gates of our resort there are about 1600 home sites and everybody knows somebody, so the word of mouth and the familiarity of all my clients is great.
In order to keep my license current I am forced to take massage continuing education classes. This means I must spend two or three days every so often with fellow massage therapists learning new techniques and spend hours relaxing myself on a massage table learning how these new techniques feel. It's torture I tell you, absolute torture. And to make matters worse this continuing ed class was located right on the waters of Daytona Beach. Daytona is about 70 miles from us and since the class was two days, I decided to stay at the hotel that was hosting the class instead of driving to and from. Since the class started around 9am and ended a bit after 6, this worked out well. What worked out even better is that the hotel was nice enough to give me a room overlooking the ocean for 60 bucks a night. WOW! I took full advantage of my close proximity to the ocean and took a long walk both last night and this morning. The class, Table Top Thai, is one I have wanted to take for years and am so glad it worked perfectly into my schedule. Another great perk of taking these classes is that lots of times after the class is over you'll exchange phone numbers with classmates and meet up later to practice on each other some more. There is nothing better than to receive a 90 minute free massage from a fellow classmate and learn hands on what your new talents feel like for your own clients.

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Our campsite at Fort Wilderness

We hopped on a boat and headed to Artist Pointe for dinner

The scenic restaurant tucked in the lush forest of Wilderness Lodge

A champagne toast to celebrate 16 years

April 27th - 29th - Our Sweet 16th Anniversary - Fort Wilderness - Walt Disney World -
Well, actually our anniversary was the 26th, but since we weren't able to clear our schedule yesterday, we decided to clear them for the next three days and take a long relaxing weekend to celebrate. Fort Wilderness, located within the vast property of Disney World is the perfect place to do just that. Day 1 - We lounged all day, read, caught up on bird hang-out time, took long walks throughout the pretty wooded trails and hit the pool. Disney World has every type of transportation imaginable, so that evening we took their free watertaxi over to Wilderness Lodge for an amazing dinner with views of the lake at Artist Pointe, located inside Wilderness Lodge. I do believe it was the yummiest dinner I've ever had in my life and highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves in Mickeyland. After dinner we took the boat back just in time to watch the fireworks show from the sandy beach of the campground where they pipe in the same music that is played in Magic Kingdom, another great vantage point to watch the sky light up. Day 2 - We rented a little miniature power boat from the same beach we sat at last night. It was about 12 feet long, sat just two, barely, and hit a top speed of about 15 mph. However with a bit of chop in the water and the wake from surrounding boats 15 felt like 50 most of the time, not to mention the high speed doughnuts Frank enjoyed doing, which made me laugh so hard I could barely hang on. No worries, we had our handy and safe bright green Disney lifejackets to save us if he had catapulted us out of our craft. We drove under the monorail and over a road, yes Disney build a water bridge in order to connect all their waterways, very cool. This evening we pulled out the bar-b-que and and the guitar and relaxed with all 5 of us. We couldn't have asked for better weather. Day 3 - Pretty much like day 2, minus the delish dinner, plus lots more chillin' time. I finished an entire book over the last three days. One of those laugh out loud at some parts, phenomenal reads where you can't put it down because you get so pulled into it. I can't think of the last time I read all the way through a book in three days. It's crazy how busy life gets, wonderful, but crazy. However this summer, on our 4 month long cross-country trip, I plan to indulge in this pleasure many, many more times.

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Toes in the sand on the beach where we watched the fireworks show. Disney does everything with first class style

We rented our own little boat on day 2. Aren't the life preservers sexy?

Driving under the Monorail. Our boat was too small to move around much for a full boat photo

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The vivid color setting

Focus on color of subject option

Focus on color of background option

Fishbowl setting. Abbey looks like a little ball

May 5th - Playing with Color - Our Backyard -
For my anniversary, and our up and coming trip across the country, my darling husband bought me a new fancy camera. My other one has been used in so many types of weather and for so many years that the buttons are jumpy and the lens has a funky blur line down it. I love this new one and have been playing with all the different settings all day long. Good thing for digital and the fact that I can delete the 497 pictures I didn't want to keep, and for rechargeable batteries as well. Cody's favorite part of the camera is that the vivid color setting has a picture of a parrot on the screen when you choose that mode, and it came that way from Cannon! None of these were retouched by photoshop one bit, just the camera! Love it! And make sure to look for new pictures to pop up on here all across the country soon.

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An eagle fishes for breakfast (our neighbor actually took this photo)

Hmmm, I wonder where this alligator is going

Apparently to his golf cart

On the last morning before we left these 3 deer stopped by to say good bye

May 17th - Our Own Private Zoo - Titusville, Florida -
Now that the season is winding down and the snowbirds are heading back home, we are beginning to see a lot more nature since all the animals become much braver when the people population is low, just like we did last summer. Last week we saw an itty bitty spotted fawn being tucked into a grassy burm by his mama to stay safe an out of the way of predators, and this week we saw alligators walking the streets and deer enjoying breakfast. However, since we ourselves are heading out of Florida soon we will miss seeing the new litters of alligators floating in the water behind our place and all the little mockingbirds and baby doves in the trees around us.

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A fun end of the season party with friends who are scattering all across the U.S

One last hang out with friends staying within the gates of TGO for the summer

Cody makes sure the windshields are clean

And we're off! California here we come!!

May 19th - Hitting the Road - A Happy Day -
We are officially on the road!! Yaaahooo! This summer we have all sorts of fun things going on in California including graduations and birthdays along with a few family issues, nothing bad mind you, so we decided to take a nice long road trip and stay long enough to fit them all in. We'll be in California over two months and then take a nice long slow traveling trek back to Florida, arriving sometime in September. Over the last couple weeks we have had so much fun with all the going way parties and end of the season bar-b-ques. We've said goodbye to all our friends here and just literally pulled out of the driveway. Look for us on the highways and byways as we head west. We do get to see a handful of you on our travels, which will be great. Check back soon for our traveling entries. This will be just like the old days of parrottrek.com. We can't wait!

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Off with the old and on with the new rubber

Next stop, up in the air for an oil change and all new filters

Glug glug glug. In go 10 gallons of fresh oil for our cross country trek

In the garage, ready for 8 new tires

May 20th - Get Your Motor Running... Get Out On the Highway... -
Steppenwolf would be proud. We are in fact about to get out on the highways of the grand ol' U.S.A. again, looking for adventure and whatever comes our way. But first, we must make sure our mighty steed is ready for the adventure as well. Last week we put all new rubber on him, which is man talk for 8 brand spankin' new tires. Today, we are at Prevost getting an oil change, new air filters and the whole underside of the coach looked at to make sure nothing else needs attention before we head west. There is nothing quite as impressive as seeing this big boy up in the air and watching Frank and a mechanic walk underneath it step by step, analyzing everything. Lucky for us our faithful house on wheels needed no extra attention aside from what we came for, which was new fresh oil, transmission fluid and all preventative things that boys are good at keeping up with.
Since Prevost can fill up pretty quick in the early part of the week, we decided to get here early, so we rolled in on Saturday and set up camp in the free campground they provide for their clientele (that's a fancy name for people who think they are getting free camping when in reality all the money they pay for things such as oil changes and 100 point inspections more than pays for said free campground, snicker snicker) Sunday afternoon we drove to Jacksonville Beach with our friends Fred and Judy, also among the clientele of Prevost, to explore a bit, have lunch, walk on the sand and enjoy a day in the sun. As we drove back home to Prevost, we noticed we had new neighbors and quickly introduced ourselves. Mark and Marianne were great. We all sat outside this evening, enjoying appetizers and a bit of wine. The men started talking about what was needing to be looked at on their coaches and Marianne and I started talking about how boring it could be to sit around all day waiting for the service technicians to finish. "Well I'm going to go to a 90 Bikram Yoga class tomorrow morning and not sit around here, you should come with me. " Marianne states. So I tell her, "Hmmm, I've always wanted to try a Bikram class... ..." And my newest workout addiction is born. For those of you non yogis, Bikram is a 90 minute yoga class where the temperature in the room is 105 degrees. Yes you sweat a bit, okay so a whole lot, but by the end of the class I felt so alive, my porse were flushed out and every muscle in my body felt 3 inches longer and great. I plan on attending the Bikram studio in Santa Barbara as often as possible once we hit town. Namaste.

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Welcome to Jacksonville Beach

The quaint boardwalk parallel with the beach

Walking out to the Atlantic

A perfect day for a walk on the beach

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The giant Pensacola beach ball in the sky

Meeting up with good friends

Lunch at Hemingway's overlooking the ocean

A walk down the white sandy beach.

May 21st - Life's A Beach When You're with the Treicks - Pensacola Beach, Florida -
Our first official non motorhome prepping stop! Kate and Joel Treick are dear friends of ours that always seem to be right on the path of our travels no matter where their lives have taken them over the last 8 years. Kate and I have been friends since we were four years old, so staying close to her is a priceless friendship to keep. We parked our big house in the parking lot of their church and then were swept away for a fabulous tour of Pensacola Beach. We drove through the charming downtown area, by white sandy beaches that included The Sound which is located on the inside of the Barrier Islands. We stopped off here for lunch at Hemingway's and sat out on the back deck enjoying today's perfect weather. After lunch our tour continued with stops at the shores of The Gulf of Mexico to put our toes in the clear blue-green warm water. It's amazing to see the difference between the sand at each location and compare it to the sand at our home beaches on the The Atlantic side of Florida, which has nice sand, but not as bright white as it is here. We had to part ways in the late afternoon since Frank and I want to be in California before next Friday, but this is definitely a location we will return to, in fact we even spotted the perfect RV park to stay on right on The Sound, and nice and close to Kate, Joel and their little ones.

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Yikes, I wonder what kind of bird left this footprint

A walk through the RV Park

Enjoying a sunset with the birds

There is something so tranquil about the wooden walkways to the beaches here in Georgia

May 22nd - Addicted to Sand - Orange Beach, Georgia -
The ocean seems to keep pulling us to it. Every time we drive over a bridge where the waters below are connected to a salty body of water the Jeep seems to veer off and find a parking space. Luckily the motorhome doesn't have the same magnetism to waves or we'd be in big trouble trying to find a turn around in the sand. Today's stop is Orange Beach, Georgia and since the day has gifted us picture perfect weather we drove 7 short miles so our feet could meet the beach. Once back at our home for the night Frank, Cody and I took a long walk around the resort, enjoyed the sunset, threw in a couple loads of laundry and hit the pool and jacuzzi.

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The outside of the unpainted shell. No windows

The inside of the motorhome all wood and wires

Frank and I are sitting in what will be the master bathroom

For all you engineer junkies, here are the schematics... Yep, a bunch of mumbo jumbo

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May 23rd - Newell Country - Miami, Oklahoma -
Don't hold it against us, but yes we are in fact in Newell country. Why you ask? Well, good friends of ours are having a new Newell built and we wanted to see its progression first hand. It's quite impressive seeing these motorhomes being built from the ground up. Perhaps someday we'll get to Quebec and see how they build Prevost shells like ours.
After our tour through the many steps it takes to take a pile of steel and wood and turn it into a piece of drivable/livable road worthy luxury, we took a nice long walk along old Historic Route 66. There isn't mush traffic on it these days so it is safe to walk down, but since there is no traffic all the shops and stations are sadly closed.

We took a long walk down historic Route 66

This quick stop used to be a thriving business

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Sitting outside Sam Walton's very first 5 & 10

Sam Walton's office, just as he left it when he left this earth

The infamous red Ford truck he drove.

At the end of the museum was an ice cream shop with .99 cones. YUM!

May 23rd - An American Dream is Born - Bentonville, Arkansas - The Birthplace of Wal-Mart -
I rarely get political here of parrottrek.com, but the story of Sam Walton is quite impressive, and quite controversial to some people who are very against Wal-Mart. Whether you're a fan of Wal-Mart or hate it with a passion, when you stand in front of Walton's first five and dime you realize just what this man accomplished and the humble beginnings he came from. I myself (a die hard capitalist and proud of it) am thankful for Wal-Marts. Not only can you get anything and everything in one stop almost anywhere in the country, you can crash in their very big, open, flat and welcoming parking lots just about anywhere in the entire country. Take it from someone who has traveling over 200,000 miles around the great of U.S of A, there are times when a Wal-Mart in the not so far off distance is as rewarding as a desert traveler realizing the oasis he sees on the horizon isn't an optical allusion and not only does it have water, but shade trees and a hammock in which to nap in. Sam Walton had a dream which he put into action and brought to fruition by opening the first actual Wal-Mart store just a few miles away from the five and dime in the city of Rogers and then logistically opened store after store after store, well you know the rest of the tale.
Bentonville, Arkansas is a very small town in pretty much the middle of nowhere. It has a quaint little town square, a rustic city hall and a very proud community that is thankful Mr. Walton started in their hometown. The five and dime is now much smaller, because 80% of the building has been turned into a museum chronicling his life and the story of Wal-Mart. They have his office just as he left it when he passed away in 1992. The 1979 red Ford truck he drove and loved is also in the museum along with a very yummy little ice cream shop at the exit where you can still get ice cream for a buck a scoop.

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The proud sign of Moore, Oklahoma

You could see clothing in trees and houses turned inside out

Worker crew were already beginning to clean up the mess

What used to be a billboard. It was all so sad to see in person

May 24th - Destruction All Around - Moore, Oklahoma -
Making our way back to I-40 we had to take a bit of I-35 which took us right over the path that the tornado had taken just days before us. We literally drove over the same part of the highway where its furry crossed the interstate. Houses were turned into rubble, cars look like tin cans after a human has stepped on them. Billboards were so twisted up that they were almost flat and the trees that did have any branches left on them had debris and clothing all caught up in them. It was one thing to see photos on the news and Internet, but it was beyond heartbreaking to see the destruction in person. We've seen our fair share of Mother Nature's wrath on our travels. We drove through Louisiana just weeks after Katrina hit back in 2005. We stayed in Nashville to help out Hands On Nashville in the days after the devastating flood hit that beautiful city in 2010, and while we've driven back through both these cities since the cleanup and rebuild has taken place and know that this town too will one day be okay, you just can't get used to seeing the devastation in the days immediately following the impact of weather. God be with these people now.

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Camping at Elks Lodge #201 - Austin, Texas under a huge shady oak tree

6th street and all the architecture it holds

We found a great acoustic guitarist to listen to

Sushi and drinks off 2nd street and a short walk home

May 25th - The Perks of Being an Elk - Austin, Texas -
A few months back Frank and a couple friends of ours joined the Elks Lodge in our little town in Florida. We mainly joined because our local Elks Lodge throws lots of fun parties, they have some great charities they give to and your membership at one Lodge allows you to visit other Lodges around the country. Coincidentally there are a handful of Elks Lodges across the U.S.A that have free RV camping, or at least big open parking lots that they let their camping members spend a few nights. As luck would have it, we discovered that the Elks Lodge in Austin had a huge parking lot, was just steps to downtown and had many festivities planned for the long Memorial Day weekend. They even have a pool that's open from 10am till midnight, YAY!! Initially we thought this was all too good to be true, there had to be a flaw... and then we discovered the flaw. Their parking lot was pretty much on a mountain top and not for the faint of heart RVers to pull into. Again, as luck would have it, I have a very brave driver inside my coach who looked at the hill, figured out how to conquer it and safely got us to the top of the mountain. Once we were settled in we went into the Lodge where they were serving dinner and handing out door prizes. We got to talking with a few of the locals and quickly were informed on all the fun things to do just steps from our door. Tonight we walked to 6th street which is their main downtown area full of restaurants, bars and lots of live music. Not only did we have a fun night, but we discovered a new city to put on our 'must revisit' list.

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Walking across the bridge to the trails below

We thought we had died and gone to runners heaven

Rivers and swans were just part of our scenic jog

A close-up of the swans. Don't get too close, they'll hiss at you

May 26th - 27th - A Runner's Paradise - Austin, Texas Days Two and Three -
As we laced up our tennis shoes Sunday morning and descended our private mountain in hopes of taking a jog somewhere close, we had no idea what we were about to discover. We knew there was a river throughout the city since we walked over it last night on our way into town but the immense trees below the bridge hid the treasure it held. We soon discovered this treasure when Frank had the idea to walk down a stairway at the end of the bridge instead of heading into the city. WOW! As we looked to our right and to our left we noticed a wide, flat, open trail of red dirt that spanned beyond our sight and was sprinkled with other runners. Frank turned on his mile counter and we were off. We jogged and jogged and jogged. We kept thinking surely this trail would end round the next bend but it never did. After about 5 miles we stumbled upon a map of the trail and found that it was actually a 10 mile loop with all sorts of entrances and exits all throughout the city and bridges that would take us from one side of the trail to the other if we wanted to cut it shorter than the whole 10 miles. Since we had already gone 5, we mapped it out so by the time we would be back home our total milage would be around 9. We jogged past ponds with swans and rivers full of kayakers, another activity we'll have to hit next time we're here. The temperature outside was about 85 degrees, but with the shade of all the trees and the breeze tat crossed the water it felt more like a very comfortable 75 degrees. It was heaven. Our plan is to head out tomorrow, but first we are going to set our alarms for about 7am and hit this great trail for another 5 miles. If only we could bring this path with us all around the country our marathon training would be even more enjoyable. T minus 20 days until our next half-marathon.

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One last tire issue resolved

Hello Pacific Ocean

Settled in our cozy yet huge campsite

Dinner with Frank's dad and grandparents in the motorhome

May 29th - California, Here We Come! Right Back Where We Started From -
Yes, we see the Pacific! After a brief stop off in Los Angeles to get a defective tire replaced we continued on the last leg of our cross country trek. As we rounded a curve just north of Santa Barbara I pulled out my camera and opened the window to get a perfect shot of the ocean and the coach I was reminded of something, it's cold here!! Brrrrr, grab my parka! Perhaps a contributing factor was that we were traveling about 70 mph, but still you should give a girl some heads up about the wind chill factor, after all it is May and one would expect to be welcomed by a warm breeze when gazing at the sea. After I shook the ice from my lashes and captured my shot, I closed the window and put on an extra layer of clothing in anticipation of having to soon exit the warm confines of my house. You may laugh at me, but it never ceases to amaze me how much we have acclimated to Florida and how cold blooded I have become since rolling into California. However, I'm happy to announce that once we headed away from the coastline and into the Santa Ynez Valley both the mercury and my core temperature began to rise. Once we were settled into our posh campsite we cooked up some tacos, invited family over for dinner and cranked up the heater. It feels great to be back on this coast for awhile, even if we have to break out our long underwear.

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