In the April newsletter, I asked for opinions on what the travel log needs more of and what it needs less of. Exactly 50% of the responders said that they wanted more anecdotes and fewer pictures! That was quite a surprise to me, since I thought the pictures made the travel log and the words were supportive of the pictures. Of course, the other guy that responded to the newsletter survey didn't say anything, so I'll assume that means that he liked it as it is. With 50% going each way, I guess I have the latitude to do as I like .. hohoho. I guess maybe I'll include more anecdotal information (i.e., chatter) and let those who like pictures just skip thru the words.
Topics for April are really disjointed, so I'll just present each with a title and you can choose to read whatever you like.
Took the RV down to Jonathan Dickinson State Park and went fishing in the Atlantic off of Jupiter Inlet, Florida. Same campground we stayed at in Chapter 28 and Chapter 45. We were there 4 days: Tuesday) We got a late start and only brought home 3 Dolphin (that's the same as Mahi-Mahi) . Ate all that we kept. Wednesday) Caught a few more Dolphin, a Ramura, and a Barracuda. Carefully threw the Barracuda back and ate all the Dolphin. Thursday) The day of the big storm. Friday) Best fishing day -- caught about 15 Skip-Jack Tuna and a couple of Dolphin. Had enough to eat that night and to wrap a goodly amount to take home.
That's the basics -- here are the details.
The Crew - Same crew as in Chapter 45. Buckner, boat owner and therefore the captain. Bruce, cleaned most of the fish and cooked them all -- great cook! Brought his own hush-puppy mix and does fantastic French Fries and Onion Rings. Me, supplied the RV and did most of the cleanup after meals. Also provided the entertainment, in the form of fish songs (we determined that we caught different fish depending upon what I was singing) during the day and jokes at night. Below are pictures of Buckner (left), Bruce (center), and Hoffman (right). If you really want to see the faces, you'll have to click on them to get a larger view -- I keep the smaller view here to speed up opening of the page.
Well, so much for the fish stories. As usual we had a great time and ate alot of great food. I highly recommend Jonathan Dickinson State Park to anyone staying in the area, but try to make it during the week if possible. It was really nice and peaceful all week, but got extremely busy and noisy on Friday evening. Seems that the park is a popular family spot on weekends.
Like the previous tale, this one has little to do with RVs or retirement or whatever. Just an interesting experience that I decided to document, hopefully for someones' entertainment. One weekend in April, we decided to drive over to Satellite Beach to visit a friend. As we started across the causeway to the beach, we began to notice people parked all along the side of the highway, sitting around in lawn chairs and on blankets, with coolers and all the extras. We stopped and asked -- it turned out that the Navy Blue Angels were about to put on an airshow over the Indian River. We took a few pictures of the watchers, then a few of the Angels, then went on to our destination. Later, I learned that the Air Force Thunderbirds also put on a show later in the day. As it turns out, the Thunderbirds were scheduled, then the Angels had a cancellation on another engagement, so Patrick Air Force Base was lucky enough to host both the same day. If you've never seen them and you have a chance to, don't miss the show. They both put on an amazing display.
In the first three pictures below: 1) They came to watch from boats, 2) They came by car (notice the pedestrian -- he passed us and we passed him about 3 times during the next few minutes), 3) They came by RV.
In the bottom two, first is one Angel heading to the stratosphere and the second is three of them zooming by. It's fairly difficult to get good photos of either the Angels or the Thunderbirds, since they come and go so quickly.
Thursday - The day of the big storm. Weatherman had predicted storms in the morning, clearing after noon, so we slept in and started getting ready to go out around 10 AM. As it turned out, the weatherman was totally wrong! It didn't rain much at all in the morning. We went on out around 11 and had little success between then and 1:00. Caught a couple of small Dolphin, but didn't get nearly the bites we'd expected, based upon the choppy seas and intermittent rain. About 1, we decided the storms looked threatening enough, so wrapped things up and started in. We were about 2 miles out when we really got hit! Had a couple of umbrellas up in front of the windshield to try to keep off some of the rain, but they kept turning inside out and coming loose from the umbrella spokes. I could see out the side and it looked like we were pretty well standing still, even though the engine was turning some fairly high RPMs. This had to be the worst storm I've ever "boated" through! Somewhere during that stressful time, I thought about the bilge pump. Although breaking it yesterday seemed like a minor inconvenience, today it was quite a bit more worrisome. Well, it took us about an hour of fighting the wind, rain, and surf, but we finally got back to shore. At that point, we all looked at each other, realizing that nobody had made any jokes for the last hour! Mighty unusual with this crew. Thanks to a good captain and a great boat, it turned out to be just another adventure and not nearly as frightening as it could have been.
Barracuda - Now there's a mean-looking fish. Getting the hooks out without losing a finger required a pliers and alot of care. That's the first time I've seen one of those up close!
Ramura - Didn't get a picture, but I've got a story. The Ramura is that little fish that you see clamped on the side of whales. They've got a sucker pad about 6 inches long on the bottom of their head. When we pulled this one in, he managed to thrash around the deck a little until he attached himself to a deck panel near the stern. When I picked him up by the tail, the panel came up with him. I then dropped him, he went into the compartment under the panel, and managed to knock the bilge pump loose. Didn't worry about that too much -- not until the big storm the next day! Read about it below.
Friday - The best fishing day of the week. Strangely, it seems that the final day is always the best of the trip. Maybe it takes us that long to get back into the "fishing mode." We started bringing in Skip-Jack Tuna early and continued most of the day. They ran about 8-12 pounds and each put up a great battle! The best battle of the day was one that Bruce caught on a long line we had trolling a couple of hundred feet out. The fish hit and immediately ran the line out another hundred or so feet. Bruce was working hard, trying to bring it back toward the boat, then it suddenly got easier. When he finally landed it, we found it to be about the largest we'd caught yet. But, in addition to it being larger than usual, we also noticed tooth-marks all around the back end of the fish. We concluded that some much larger fish must have initially grabbed the Tuna and that's what Bruce had been fighting. Too bad we didn't bring in the predator -- he must have been a really big one!
On the right, there's a shot of a bunch of the Tuna stacking up in the fish box. In the Bruce photo above, he's holding up two of the larger Tuna.
FPLAncient Truck - On the way back from the fishing trip, we stopped at a service station in Hobe Sound. There, we saw a 1929 truck with a Florida Power & Light symbol on the door. This truck was so old, it had a chain drive on the right rear wheel. I took a few pictures (below), since I have friends who work at FPL and I figured they'd get a kick out of seeing this ancient vehicle. Never did find out any details on it -- was just fascinated by it. You'll need to enlarge the photos to get a good view.
Related Anecdote - When I was in the Air Force, stationed at Homestead Air Force Base (around 1965), I drove what's called a "Follow-Me" truck. That was a little yellow pickup truck with a large sign on the back saying Follow Me in large letters. There was an arrow on each side and I had switches inside to turn the sign on and either of the arrows. When a transient aircraft (an out-of-towner) flew in, we'd drive the Follow-Me truck out to the runway and lead the plane into a parking spot, order fuel for them, etc. One day, the Thunderbirds arrived at Homestead Air Force Base and I was lucky enough to be on duty that day. In they came and out I went. I was happily driving down the taxiway, leading all 6 of the Thunderbirds, pushing the truck to about 40 MPH to stay in front of them. Then they suddenly turned off. They didn't really feel they had to follow me to get parked where they wanted to be. I decided not to argue with the Thunderbirds and just parked and watched while they found their spots and came to a stop. I guess they pretty much do what they want to, when they want to, and where they want to. It was a thrill for me to be leading them around for awhile, and I certainly wasn't going to make any fuss about them not following me.
On our last RV trip, Joyce talked me into stopping at one of those little roadside antique, etc. shops. While there, she looked at everything, then ended up buying a little birdhouse. When we got back to Florida, we hung it in a tree out back, not really knowing if any birds would make their home there or not. Well, we were in for a great surprise! One day, we heard a bird pecking out in the yard. We went to look and found that a Red-Headed Woodpecker was pecking on the birdhouse. Later, his mate joined in, pecking from the inside while he pecked on the outside. In a short while, they had widened the entry hole from about a two-inch round hole to one that was about 4 inches horizontally and was elliptical instead of round. I'll have to say, I've never heard of remodelling a birdhouse! Now they're out there with several junior Woodpeckers inside, making loud noises whenever we or any of the dogs get within 10 feet. We're hoping to be present when the little ones get large enough to fly the coop -- time will tell. Below is a closeup photo of the remodelled birdhouse -- in my opinion a real phenomenon! Click on it to get a larger view.
49. Fish, FPL, Angels, Birdhouse, Saddam, and a Studebaker
My Travel Log
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Something else of minor importance that happened in April 2003 was the downfall of the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. As the coalition troops entered Baghdad, the TV news was showing them taking down of various Saddam pictures, flags, etc. Then the crowd started trying to pull down a huge statue, using ropes and people-power. After an hour or so of little progress, the U. S. Army came by with a vehicle that had a towline that could pull it down. As it came down, I got the same feeling I had remembered having when the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. I took 17 photos in all, as the statue was finally brought to the ground. Click on the photo to the right to go to the page with the whole series of statue pictures.
So what's the deal on the Studebaker? Well, my first car was a 1951 Studebaker Champion two-door coupe. My mother bought it new, for about $1300 I think. She sold it to my older brother about 1954, then my brother sold it to me for $100 in 1956. I traded it for a 1956 Ford in about 1958, but put many miles on it the two years that I had it. I had a newspaper route that I used it on -- the newspapers also paid for my gas and auto upkeep. I drove it to many parties, raced it (although I don't recall ever winning a race), slept in it off and on, drank beer in it ... my, my .. did all kinds of things in that old Studebaker. Now .. the rest of the story. On U. S. Highway 231 South in Alabama, just North of the Florida state line, there's an antique shop with .. guess what out front? A 1951 Studebaker! I've gone by it many, many times and have always thought about stopping to take a photo. This time I did. I guess this picture is really here for me, but maybe there are other oldsters out there who might enjoy it. I thought it was interesting to see my first car labelled an antique -- does that make me one?
Just a little add-on without any photos. Recall in Chapter 47, I donated some money to the Casino Ship. Then, in Chapter 48, I won some back on my visit to Tunica. Well, in early May, I had to take my RV up to the shop to be fixed and, coincidentally, the RV shop is only a short distance from the Casino Ship. And .. add to that the fact that it was the day after my birthday and I hadn't yet given myself a gift ... need I say more? I tried the ship one more time. I was planning to play Baccarat, but watched it for awhile and decided it was too boring. I like a game where there are a few choices to make and you at least feel like it's a game and that you have some control over the outcome. So, I went back down to the Blackjack table. Now, they've added a new twist. Their dealing shoe is now a black box that they simply feed the cards into and it continuously shuffles and there's never a re-deal. Phooey! No more card-counting or point-checking or anything. In fact, there's no evidence that they even have full decks in the machine. The players never get to see the decks, just the individual cards as they're pulled from the shoe. That's my last time to the ships, except to take visitors there if we ever have any who are so inclined. I'll save my playing for the real casinos.