Compared to all the traveling we've done this year, we’re staying put the next couple of months in Palm Bay, Florida, helping Lucille’s parents downsize their belongings. In August, they’ll be moving to Magnolia Manor, an independent living facility in Richmond Hill, Georgia. During this time, we won’t bore you with the details and will only write on sightseeing we do or interesting things that have happened to us.
On our way to Florida, we stopped for a couple of days in Summerdale, Alabama, to visit with longtime friend Norlando who lives nearby in Mobile. Our home base for the few days we spent there was the Escapees’ park, Rainbow Plantation – you’ll always find friendly faces at any of the Escapees’ campgrounds.
Norlando came by our place on Saturday and offered to be our tour guide and chauffeur – wotta deal! We hopped in her car and visited Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores. The zoo was featured on Animal Planet after Hurricane Ivan (2004) did over $500,000 in damages. Zoo director Patti Hall and her dedicated staff evacuated all 260 animals (lions, tigers, bears, oh my! and other critters) to her home 20 miles inland, not just once for Ivan, but twice more, for Hurricanes Dennis and Katrina (2005). The 13-part series, “The Little Zoo that Could”, followed the zoo’s trials and tribulations as it rebuilt, reopening 14 months after Ivan’s destruction. (Land has recently been donated that will move the zoo more inland and not as close to the Gulf should hurricanes hit that area again.)
While it is a small zoo, it is nicely laid out. The animals are clearly well cared for and their living areas are clean. We enjoyed a program where several of the zoo’s critters were introduced to the audience. Among other things, we learned about their environment, their eating habits, and their country of origin. One of the attendants then walked through the audience allowing us to carefully pet or touch the animal – we saw a bearded dragon, an albino king snake, a chinchilla and a few other critters. On the premises are also a petting zoo, reptile house and aviary.
After we left Gulf Coast Zoo, we enjoyed lunch at Doc’s Seafood – the lunch buffet is a great value. We then went back to the rig and visited for a bit before Norlando headed back home. Her visit meant even more to us when we realized she had driven almost 70 miles from home to see us. Next time we are in the area, we’ll try to find a campground closer to her home.
Pensacola, Florida, is home to the Blue Angels during the summertime. They practice Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, weather permitting. We still had a few days before getting to Palm Bay so we decided to spend a couple of days in Pensacola, staying at the Naval Air Station’s campground less than a mile from the Naval Air Museum. Although we’ve visited the museum several times over the past several years, it’s been close to 20 years since we stayed at this campground – where has the time gone! Granted, it’s noisy during the daytime because the campground is located at the end of the runway but that’s a small price to pay for being a few minutes’ walk to the beach and the museum.
We toured the museum one afternoon – there are always new displays to be seen. We learned that the Blue Angels would perform the next morning at 8:30. Bleachers seating 800 are available at the end of the runway behind the museum and folks are welcome to bring their own chairs if they’d prefer. We opted to watch the ‘show’ from our own location, setting up our chairs on the beach by the campground. Armed with a camera and binoculars, we watched as they swooped overhead, performing their maneuvers with up to six jets. It was an awesome performance that kept us on our feet the entire time, searching the skies to see from which direction they’d be coming.
Life presented us several challenges over the next couple of days. First we had a truck tire blow out due to a freaky problem – that meant having to get two new tires because we have a dually truck. Vannoy Tires in Pensacola did a great job of getting us back on the road in record time – they played musical tires while they swapped all six tires, making sure the two new tires ended up installed up front. Next the RV lost power, not due to any campground problems, but due to a glitch within our 2000-watt Xantrex inverter. It took Larry several hours of troubleshooting to figure out what was wrong. Luckily, the inverter was still under warranty. Lastly, while he spent several hours troubleshooting the electrical problem, we switched the fridge over to propane only to discover the propane part of the fridge wasn’t working – yow! What else was going to go wrong! The fridge’s igniter wasn’t igniting, but after some coaxing, Larry got it running. Life is never boring.
We are now parked at Camelot RV Park in Malabar, Florida, just a few miles from Palm Bay where Lucille’s parents live. We’ve been to several RV parks where you are guided to your site but never have we been to a place that actually talked you into backing into your site expertly, inch by inch, till the rig ended up exactly where the guide wants it. Lucille asked John, one of the campground ‘s owners who did this expert guiding, if we could kidnap him for help in backing up in future campgrounds, or at least find out his method. Lucille never even got out of the truck to help Larry back in and Larry probably could have closed his eyes and hit his mark just based on John’s excellent instructions. Amazing!
The highlight of our first day back in the Palm Bay area was watching the shuttle take off from nearby Cape Canaveral. The other spectators with us here at Camelot declared it was one of the most impressive daytime launches they had ever seen. A memorable wow moment.
The work begins now for the future move. Lucille’s parents will be moving to a really nice independent living apartment located in Richmond Hill, Georgia, not too far from her sister Yvette. Most of June was spent in arranging for a Uhaul truck, making last minute medical appointments, talking to a realtor about listing the house when it’s available, deciding which furniture to take, and going through years of paperwork and stuff that has accumulated since her parents moved to Florida in 1988.
We made a quick day trip to Tamarac, where Lucille’s mother’s sisters (Lorraine and Florence) live. Florence came back with us and has been helping her sister wade through the paperwork, deciding what to keep. Several items they’ve uncovered have tickled their funny bones – even though the move is work, they’re having fun. The following weekend, we made an overnight trip back to Tamarac so Larry could help Lorraine with a couple of new computer programs. We enjoyed breakfast at her subdivision's clubhouse on Sunday morning, meeting several of Lorraine’s neighbors.
Coming up: Camelot RV Park will be our home till at the end of September at the latest. All of Lucille’s siblings, their spouses and some of their children and grandchildren will be here the first week of July to help celebrate their parents’ 60th anniversary – we’re looking forward to having fun the entire week. After we get the folks moved to Georgia the first of August and get settled in, we’ll return back to Palm Bay to start working on preparing the house for sale. The summer will be busy.