Monday, August 14, 2017

FLORIDA’S NATURAL GROWERS VISITOR CENTER, LAKE WALES FL



Learning how things are grown, manufactured and delivered is interesting to us.  When we learned that the Florida’s Natural Juice Company had a visitor center that covered these topics we were more than ready to go see this free exhibit.

From Winter Garden it was a little bit of a drive, but not too bad.  It let us see an area of Florida we hadn’t really visited before and gave us an outing.

The brochure had said we could see a citrus grove and learn various things.  There were of course free samples as well.

So when we pulled up and saw that the “grove” was just a few trees near the citrus center with big signs telling us to leave the fruit for the workers to harvest we were a little disappointed.  Not to mention the fruit didn’t look all that good that was on them.  Definitely not what you purchased in the grocery and definitely not what they show as the “grove” on their television commercials. But then “home grown” produce is never that pretty anyway.

The tour starts in the gift shop with the free samples of their juices to drink.  From there you go through a doorway where there are several exhibits, videos and narratives to view.  It was interesting to us, but a much smaller set up than the similar one we had seen on Bush Beans.  The movie that was shown in a small separate theater was interesting.  Seeing how commercial citrus growers planted and cared for their trees was educational.


One of the things I learned is citrus does not continue to ripen once it has left the tree.  It simple gets old.  The flavor does not get better or sweeter like it does on so many fruits.

I also learned it takes over a year to produce a single crop of citrus fruit from pollination to ripe.  That might explain part of the cost of citrus fruit.  It definitely explains why one really bad frost or freeze can ruin crops for more than a year.

There were displays on canning and equipment that make you realize how far we have came in food preservation and samples of War World II rations that included Donald Duck orange juice.

All in all the drive was well worth the effort.


151

GALVESTON ISLAND STATE PARK, GALVESTON, TX-Camp 33


After all that had gone on while we were in Gonzales, TX and since then we were very content to just sit and relax through the weekend.  We didn’t even go walking on the beach.

We did research on where we could get a tire for the fifth wheel and Gary took apart the landing gear on the camper to determine what was wrong with it.  Luckily appeared to be just the leg, but it would have to be ordered. 

We checked, via telephone and online with rv dealerships and soon found it was far less expensive to order it from amazon.com and have it shipped to us.  Only we had to be out of our campsite by Monday due to reservations.

After much discussion we decided to head straight for Stage Stop Campground back in Winter Garden, Florida and not chance any disconnection from the trailer, for fear the leg would fail completely, until we got there and got the part. 

But we still needed a tire for the trailer.  I refuse to travel any distance on a spare, especially one as old as the four tires that had already gone bad on us.

We made arrangements with Wal-Mart to have the right size tire there on Monday and went straight there when we left the campground.

By the time they got it on and the proper air in it.  Luckily Gary checked the air when setting the tire minder despite the fact it was raining, they hadn't put near enough air in it.  

By the time we got to the Point Bolivar Ferry, with the trailer in tow it was raining so hard we had trouble even seeing to get on the ferry.  The rain continued with extreme low visibility  for several miles after we got off the ferry.

So much for relaxing, our nerves were super tight again.  We drove short distances each day and boondocked every night all the way back to what we felt would be a good place to lick our wounds.

We made it safe and sound back to Florida, where we stayed for two months relaxing and celebrating the fact that Murphy had apparently given up. 

We enjoy our new truck, but not the payments.  We had gotten very use to being debt free and are now working fast and furious to be debt free again.  We hate debt.

But as always we see the silver lining.  There should be no break downs with this truck, or if there are they will be covered by warranty.  The trailer has all new tires on it, we are budgeting for a brand new spare too, I really don't want to trust the one we have. 

Another bright spot is Gary and I are learning to do the mechanical repairs on the fiver  ourselves. 

Our health is good and we are still free to travel.


Up next, more on Florida.

PALMETTO STATE PARK, GONZALES, TEXAS-Camp 32



My brag rag from this campground is a glow in the dark Swamp Thing t-shirt.  I fell in love with the thing when I first saw the campground, with its low hanging Spanish Moth, walking trails and beautiful laid back atmosphere.  It is a good thing we liked the campground, because we ended up staying there much longer than planned because Murphy called in recruits for his next bit of mischief.  More on this in a bit.


Our first day there we popped into the truck and headed to the Alamo 55 miles away in San Antonio, Texas.  If we had known how the day would turn out, we would have never gone.  As it was we will always “remember the Alamo” for certain.

We had found a city parking lot on the web within a decent walking distance of the Alamo and River Walk, our plans for the day, and at a reasonable parking price.  When we arrived there it was a clean, well lit parking lot under an underpass with a self pay box.

Something about the place didn’t feel quite right to me and we should have listened to my instincts, but hey, it was a city lot right?  I mentioned to Gary a pickup and white car whose occupants were watching us as we left, saying they made me uneasy.

At the last minute he took our camper keys out of the truck and stuck them in his pocket jokingly saying “Just in case the truck gets stolen”.

We had been to the Alamo once nearly 30 years earlier, but we both wanted to see it again.  The story of the Alamo is still very moving and the historic spot reminds us of how our ancestors fought so hard to gain freedom in all areas.






We wandered the grounds for about an hour then went over to the River Walk, ate a good meal at Waxy O'Connors then rode the boat through the river before going back to the truck.











It had been a very pleasant day, but it was starting to get dark and we wanted out of town and back to the campground as early as possible.

Only there was no truck.  Our feelings had been right, we should have listened to them.  But it was a good clean well lit parking lot.  Besides who would take a 12 year old truck with nearly 250,000 miles on it?

According to the officer dispatched to help us all it had to be was a diesel dually, or simply even a dually.  We had been gone less than three hours and were told it was probably already in Mexico (In fact that is where it was found 4 months later, in a river). 

I am certain Murphy was having a pain in his side from laughing so hard at us at this point.  It was now full blown dark, we were 55 miles from our camper in a strange city, with no transportation and to say I was not amused would be an understatement and neither was Gary.

I called both AAA and our insurance agent immediately.   While we have AAA RV that supposedly has trip continuance insurance on it a rental car was not included.  Remind me to discuss this contradiction of terms on trip continuance insurance if a rental isn’t included with my local office.

Nor did our truck insurance have rental car insurance on it, we both thought it did under our complete coverage umbrella, but noooooo.

This meant we needed to pay for a rental, only how to get a rental.  The wonderful police officer volunteered to take us to the airport where all the rental car companies were.  Bless him.

No where on my bucket list did it ever list “ride in the back of a police car”, but there I was scrunched up in the back of one as Gary rode up front with the officer.  Trust me they do NOT make it comfortable for “passengers” in the back of police vehicles.  I am only 5’1” tall and the leg room was too short for me.  Having the “cage” around me was also a bit unnerving.

Luckily it wasn’t that far to the airport.  The officer walked us in told the clerk behind the desk what we needed and why then left.  

Murphy started laughing right away.

You see we don’t use credit cards, haven’t for years.  National Car rental will not accept debit cards.  So now we were further away from the campground, still no transportation.  One of the clerks suggested we take their shuttle to the main airport and try Dollar Car Rental.  Bless them.

As we approached the Dollar desk the first thing we saw was a big sign that both them and Hertz take debit cards!  Take that Murphy!

The clerk was very helpful and apologized for what the thieves of San Antonio had done to us.  She upgraded us from the cheapest car possible to a full size for free and sent us on our way.  We finally got back to the campground about midnight.

We stayed up until nearly dawn searching for used trucks on the web, as well as dealerships for used ones.  We had to be out of the campground by Friday and this was Wednesday, I swear I heard Murphy snicker.

We soon found there were ZERO trucks within a 200 mile radius of where we were at that could handle the fifth wheel to be purchased for used.  One place even joked they had all been stolen.

In fact EVERYONE we talked with were some body, or knew somebody that had their truck stolen in San Antonio.  The bigger the truck, the faster it disappeared and they all went straight across the border.

We finally found a single one ton dually truck in Luling, TX at the GMC dealership and it was brand new with far more whistles and bells than we ever wanted in a truck.  We ended up buying that truck and I have to say the Luling Chevy and GMC dealership went above and beyond the call of duty working with us and our insurance company to get us back on the road.  After all we not only needed a truck, we needed a hitch. 

Then there was the matter of registration, insurance and on and on.  Every roadblock Murphy through up we climbed over.  Some were harder than others, but all were surmounted. The dealership even had us return our rental car early and gave us a brand new loaner for free for the 10 days it took to get all the details worked out.

The folks at Palmetto State Park came to our rescue.  When our time was up at the campground the first time the volunteers moved our fifth wheel from the state campground to the Elks campground nearby and then back on Monday for us. 

The rangers honored our state park pass free nights not once, but twice so of the ten nights we were there two of them were free instead of just one, even though the free nights were suppose to be at different parks.  They said it was the least they could do to help make up for the theft.

When we finally got our truck, paperwork, and hitch all taken care of on that final Friday it was well past check out time.  The camp host told us they had a cancellation and we would not have to move back to the Elks campground but could stay that final night.  It was such a relief.

The next morning we paid our fee and then discovered that Murphy was not waving the white flag yet.  One of our landing gear legs on the fifth wheel would not retract.

Gary, finally hammered it into submission and we pulled out around noon.

We headed back toward Galveston because we had both lost the desire to travel the southern border anywhere near Mexico.  We were headed back to Florida.

Murphy went out with a bang, just as we crossed the Galveston bridge AGAIN—I was beginning to hate that bridge.  This time it was our final trailer tire and this time there was no warning.  The tire minder went off at the same time the tire did.

By the time we found a parking lot to pull off into safely the tire pieces had fully wedged themselves in the brakes and done minor damage to the trailer fender.

As Gary worked to change the tire himself an angel of mercy and his son appeared.  The gentleman took over changing the tire, sawed and tugged with more strength than Gary and I would have had together to get the jammed pieces loose.  Checked the brakes for us and absolutely refused to let us pay him anything.  All he ask was that we would pray for him.  And we did. 

Once we were back to the Bay campground at the state park there at Galveston we were seriously in need of some down time.  We had the spare on the trailer and knew we needed a new tire.  We couldn’t disconnect because of the landing gear being broken and the tornado sirens were going off.


We walked over to the shower house and waited to see if Murphy would take the brand spanking new truck and limping fifth wheel.  Luckily Murphy was done for. To be continued on the Galveston post for campground #32

BISHOP’S PALACE/GRESHAM’S PALACE, GALVESTON, TX



One of the few surviving buildings of the 1900 hurricane was Gresham’s Palace, later to become known as the Bishop’s Palace. 

The Gresham’s took in hundreds of survivors of the hurricane in the lavish four stories of the ornate stone house.

Now a museum that you can tour for $12 each.  A bit high by shoestring standards, but so worth it. The $12 includes the use of a hand held recording that leads you on yur self guided tour.

You start your tour in the sub-basement of the home in the gift shop, from there you climb the stairs to the upper three levels of the home. 

There are many of the original furnishings still in the home, some very unique including a postcard box storage box.




I think it would be best just to let the pictures speak for this beautiful home.










































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