"HAMcation Orlando 2017"
Thursday, February 9, 2017
This day did not start off too good. Both Al and I were up a couple of times during the night with some kind of stomach distress. There is something going around, but we were lucky we only had a touch of it. We managed to get back to sleep, but both slept past the time we were supposed to get up for a class we have been taking. Oh,well… We spent the rest of the morning getting ready to leave on a slower pace than usual, but we did it.
I had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon. The temperature was about 73° and the sky was blue with just a few wispy clouds when we hitched up the toad and headed to the doctor’s office – we had previously checked out the parking situation and knew there was enough room for the Roo.
The woman at the office window asked if it was our rig outside and then told us she and her husband had just finished building a Teardrop RV. Wow. I had never met anyone who actually built one. Teardrops are small camper trailers that slope down in back to form the shape of a teardrop. They are about 12’ long, one step up from tent-camping and plans sell for as low as $10.00. Or you can buy a kit. She told us it cost them about $800 to build.
Two other young women in the office were also interested but had never been in any RV. Later as we were leaving the office, they asked to see the inside of the Roo. We gave them the “grand tour” and they seemed amazed at everything from the full-sized shower to the queen-sized bed. I am very sorry I did not get all their names, but I’m sure we will see them again.
Since we are getting such a late start – 3:00 p.m. -- we decided to leave the secondary roads for another day and just take I-75 and the Florida Turnpike to today’s destination. It was boring as all get-out but we certainly made good time. The Interstate is lined with cattle, horses and billboards: Zaxby’s; Alliance Coach; Russell Stover chocolates; Subway; Victory Casino; Wild Bill’s Airboat Tours; McDonald’s. Ron Jon’s Surf Shop has a billboard about every 4-6 miles (literally) all the way from the Georgia border to Cocoa Beach. If you are into such things, Ron Jon’s is the mother of all surf shops and the flagship store in Cocoa Beach operates 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. It has over 52,000 square feet of retail space. Al and I have never been there.
We finally arrived at the Stage Stop Campground in Winter Garden, just west of Orlando. We have been coming here for years for HamCation each February. Over the years, we have seen a lot of campground upgrades: permanent sites that looked like they were here since it opened in 1974 have been removed; leaky water connections and broken electrical hookups have been corrected. We don’t use the bathhouses, but I am sure they have been improved also. This is a large campground and in the past we could pick our site from 30-50 empty sites. So we were surprised today when we were told only eight sites were available. We unhitched the toad and went to pick a site. The first thing we noticed was that all the horribly rough roads inside the campground have been repaved.
The site we picked is a bit small. They are all back-ins but this one is so small we can’t back in far enough for our door to open up onto the patio (cement slab). It is also about half the width of all the other sites, but that is okay with us. We don’t bother to put up our awning when we are only staying a couple of nights.
It is really funny to see how happy Maddy gets when the sliders go out.
Total miles for the day: 65.1.
Friday, February 10, 2017
The temperature was in the 40s when Al left about 6:30 this morning. The HamCation is held at the Central Florida Fairgrounds each year, mostly for those interested in Amateur Radio (hams) and electronics. This HamCation is one of the largest fairs of its kind in the country. There are over 150 commercial vendors and 400 swap table vendors with the largest Tailgate Area in the southeast. They show and sell amateur radios, parts, computer hardware and software and other interesting items for radio and computer enthusiasts who come from all over the world. Organizations such as ARRL (American Radio Relay League); MARS (Military Affiliate Radio System); Florida Weak Signal Society and QCWA (Quarter Century Wireless Association) will have membership meetings this weekend. Al has had his ham radio license since 1955.
Maddy and I stay home in the Roo and that suits us perfectly. I only attended one ham fair but I was clueless about what all the widgets, thingies and whatchamacallits were. Give me a good book any day! I had hoped to go for a walk but although the sun was shining brightly and the sky was clear, there was a strong wind that was quite chilly. That’s not a complaint! I’d rather have this weather than all the Snow in New England right now.
I enjoy this peace and quiet immensely. Pure white egrets strut between the rigs on impossibly thin legs ignoring the yapping coming from behind closed doors. There seem to be a lot more young women here with small children this year. I can hear a baby cry and watch a little girl go by on a faded Big Wheel. Retirement-age couples stroll by, hand-in-hand.
Al came home, exhausted from all the walking. The fair is bigger than ever this year and he says it is a madhouse. The hams that run it think the numbers might pass 25,000 attendees this year.
There is no cable here but the antenna can pick up all three major stations and dozens of oddball old ones. A 1954 movie: It Should Happen to You with Judy Holliday, Peter Lawford and Jack Lemmon. Have Gun Will Travel, 1957-1963. Circus Boy, 1956-1958. Interestingly, the star of Circus Boy, Micky Dolenz, grew up to star in The Monkees, 1966-1968. Judy Holliday died of breast cancer in 1965, at age 43.
Al came home tired but happy and took a long nap. It was an early night.
Saturday, February 11, 2017
Al left early again, and planned on meeting up with some ham friends for lunch. The weather is beautiful. We would love for this to continue all year. Al had talked to the man next to us and he told Al he was here to work on the pipeline. There are about thirty pipeline workers here. AHA! That explains why there are so few sites available. He said they will probably be here until sometime in July. Good for the campground and the community. However…The $3.2 billion Sabal Trail Transmission Pipeline is extremely controversial.
Sabal Trail is an approximately 515-mile interstate natural gas pipeline for power generation to Florida Power and Light ("FPL"), and Duke Energy of Florida ("DEF"), by the end of June 2017. Environmentalists are horrified and protest regularly. Either thousands of tanker trucks full of natural gas (potential firebombs) driving from Alabama, through Georgia all the way to south Florida, or cut down tens of thousands of old-growth trees and dig up land through dozens of private properties along the way. I could write pages and pages about this subject, but I won’t waste my time. I can see both sides and have my own ideas about what should be done, but I won’t put them into this blog. The issues are similar to the Dakota Access Pipeline issues now going on in South Dakota. Nuf said.
There is a small, older travel trailer that looks like it has been here for quite a while. Two men have been working on it all weekend. They worked on the roof, the jacks and who knows what they worked on inside. It is about 24’-26’ long with no slide-outs. Today they started to frame out an addition at least the same size as the trailer. They look like brothers and are very hard workers. It is not at all unusual for additions to be built on RVs that will remain in one place permanently – especially older rigs. The Stage Stop has several other such permanent sites. There are also a few permanent mobile homes and park models (PMRVs).
“PMRVs are most often used in recreational vehicle campgrounds. They may be owned by the campground and rented to guests or they may be brought in and used exclusively by their owners on a site rented or leased from the campground. They can also be placed by their owners on private property. These units are designed and built to be used for recreational/camping purposes only. They are not meant to be affixed to the property in any way, they do not improve property values in any way, and they are neither designed nor intended by their manufacturers to be used as permanent residences. Park model RVs are titled as motor vehicles by the various states just like other RV types.” However, most sites here at Stage Stop are for transient RVs.
The Wifi here is very poor so this will have to wait to be posted when we get home.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
Today was another beautiful cloudless morning. It was 70° when we hitched up the toad and left the campground a little after 11:00 a.m. We headed east on SR-50 and drove through the City of Oakland, established in 1887. It is small in area – 2.10 square miles. But from the 2000 census the population grew 171% -- from 936 to 2,538. Who knows what the population is now? We passed the Big Toy Storage with motor boats, RVs, air boats, etc.
We soon turned north on Rte 27 and stopped in Clermont at the Crooked Spoon, across the side street and the Citrus Tower. We parked the Roo next door at the PNC Bank parking lot. The bank was closed for Sunday.
The Crooked Spoon is a VERY nice restaurant and – according to Al, it has the BEST meatloaf in the whole wide world. We were seated early and Al ordered the meatloaf. Sadly, for some reason they were out of meatloaf today. A party of four were seated near us and three ordered meatloaf and groaned when they learned the restaurant was out. The same with a party of two near us. All I know about the meatloaf is that it is made with their house-made BBQ sauce, wrapped in bacon and cooked in the smoker. It is their best seller.
Some of their specials for the day were Portuguese Clams and Lobster Tacos. The special dessert was Raspberry Crème Brulee and we just couldn’t resist. We shared one and it was absolutely delicious.
Back on the road…There once were orange trees where it is now barren.
Some kind of festival was going on at Lakeridge Winery. We could see several canopies set up and what appeared to be a thousand cars parked all around them. We passed goats, cattle and a large grove of unattended orange trees. We saw swamps, cattle grazing under and around high tension wires, acres and acres of pastureland and 2,325 acres for sale. We have passed Magic Metal Creations before but today there are different butterflies in the yard.
We picked up the Florida Turnpike and headed north. It was very windy. We arrived home and Maddy did her usual jump from the top of the Roo’s steps to the driveway. She walked up the walkway and insisted on entering the house by the front door.
Total miles for the day: 70.0.
Total miles for the trip: 135.0.