JAX

We are now in the largest city in the US… measured by square miles.  Far fewer people than in the Denver area, but Jacksonville spreads out quite a ways.  I guess the cool people just call it JAX.

Went to a nice church last week, and we were invited to stay for a potluck dinner afterwards.  Cherryl’s favorite thing to do is steal babies, so she was very happy.

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Our little trailer has terribly oxidized paint, so I’m trying to polish it out and make it a bit more presentable…

We are working on getting the vehicles registered in Florida, and having our official home base here.  I’ve heard that is where retired people are supposed to go…

I’ve seen some pretty weird looking people in Walmarts around the country, but this is the first 7 foot tall robot.  Like a strange giant tromping around in ski boots.

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Saw this statue in a shopping center parking lot.  A topless gal with a Donald Trump hairdo.  What a combo!

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Friday we moved from a campsite near the JAX airport to the Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park.  This is a much more natural site, and we are close to both the ocean and a nice little lake.

This area was formerly called Manhattan Beach, and was Florida’s first beach for blacks.  It started in the early 1900’s when they were working on the Florida East Coast Railway.  In its heyday it had cabins as well as day use facilities, and even an amusement park.  By the 1940’s it had fallen into decline and people went elsewhere.  In 1967 it was purchased and donated to Jacksonville with the provision that the rebuilt park would be named for Kathryn Abbey Hanna.  She was a Florida historian and environmentalist, who had just died that year.  She was also chair of the board of State Parks for years, so now she has one named after her.

Jacksonville has a few noteworthy old theaters.  Florida Theater was built in 1927, and set up for both movies and plays.  We haven’t gotten there yet, but we did take in a movie at the San Marco Theater.  It was built by the same architect, in 1938.  It was a departure from his previous designs, done in Art Deco, rather than the Spanish or Moorish styles.  It was touched up several years ago, and now does a few movies and real food (Pizza and more!) We actually saw a movie there… (We see one or two a year usually)  “The Upside” was a very good film – parts were so funny the whole audience was lol-ing.

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Fleeing the Ice

It has been freezing in Virginia!  The heater in our little trailer has mostly kept up with the cold, but has been drinking up the propane far faster than I’d imagined possible.  Saturday night it started getting cold inside, and we realized we were completely out of propane.  I was afraid it would be hard to get bottles filled on a Sat night, dark and cold, in the middle of nowhere… no problem – the first gas station we came to had bottles to exchange, so we gave up our brand new (but empty) ones for older (but fine) bottles that had the promise of warmth inside!  That night was forecast for snow, but instead we got an ice storm.  In the morning, everything had a slick coating of ice, and with the wind blowing it really felt cold!

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We spent most of our time this week inside Grace. It was slightly warmer in the boat, which is in the shed, than it is outside, but still really cold. At least we were out of the wind!  We packed up things, organized what would be left on board, and cleaned everything up.  She is looking very nice inside… the outside is still dusty from the work going on in the shed.  Tuesday afternoon we picked up a small U-haul truck, and loaded up all the stuff that will not fit in our little trailer, but that we will want later.  Wednesday we started driving south – we are tired of the cold, and want to store our stuff in a warmer place!  So we drove a long time Thursday as well, and quit driving in Jacksonville, Florida.  We checked into an RV Park, and unloaded the truck into a storage unit. (I made sure this storage unit did not obstruct the view of any awesome dental practices!)

This is me trying to look as tired as I felt after stowing all our junk!

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Castaway Island

So just as I thought I’d have nothing of beauty to post pictures of, we found the Castaway Island Preservation Project.  It is a little area of salt marsh that has been set aside for preservation, right outside of Jacksonville.  The nice walking trail had animal prints tattooed on the walkway, so you could try to figure out what animal was represented before you’d get to the interpretive sign and read all about it.  Many were surprising!

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Know what this animal is?

 

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An opossum!  I might have guessed a raccoon if we hadn’t just seen his prints earlier.

 

Topless in the Marsh

Another rather interesting feature was the abundance of topless trees!  The trunks of palm trees stuck up out of the marsh all over, looking a bit forlorn with out their tops! Many of them were repurposed as bird houses, giving some opportunistic birds great rooms with a view!

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So now we have our stuff pretty much sorted out, and are reveling in the 70 something degree weather instead of ice!

News from Noccalula

Noccalula Falls Park

Near the entrance to the Park, there is a nice monument to all veterans – those who have served, are currently serving, or will in the future.

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Of course the main attraction is the waterfall itself.  The story is that a beautiful Indian girl, Noccalula, was ordered to marry someone other than her true love, so she jumped to her death in these falls.

 

Perhaps easier to document is the fact that there was a tavern and dance hall behind the falls in the mid to late 1800’s.   The owners decided to enlarge the dance floor with some creative dynamite usage, and creatively caved the whole thing in.  I have no photos of what it looked like before the cave in, but here it is now…

 

Refocusing the Dream

Well, I am now announcing a major shift in our plans… We are still adventuring, still “Nomads”, but we are going to try doing it on land.

We love our beautiful boat!  We have had tons of fun on her, and learned a lot.  The sad thing is that we feel we have too much of our net worth tied up in the boat. That makes it feel riskier and less fun.

Our original plan was to live on the boat “as long as it’s fun”, then move to an RV and do the US on the ground.  The only “change” in our plan is that I figured the transition would be further down the road.  So with a great deal of sadness, we will be selling our beautiful boat! We’ve done a ton of work on her, and some nice upgrades, so her new owners will have a great yacht to fulfill their dreams on too.

We have purchased a small travel trailer that we will travel in till the boat is sold.  At that time we will probably upgrade to a motorhome. There is also a chance we will do some dental relief work overseas.  Stay tuned to see if that works out!

Here is a little overview of the boatyard where Grace is getting finished up.

 

The Cove Campground

Gadsden, Alabama is where we bought the trailer, and we spent a few nights there making sure all was working well.  It isn’t too exciting of a campground, but there was a lake with some nice reflections.

We loved the way the clouds reflected in the ripples…

 

So I hope you will stay with us on our adventures, as we try to see America from Ground Level!

 

Tiffin Time

Christmas and New Year’s Celebrations at Silver Dollar City

We had a great time with Kevin, Becky, Dayna and Peter at Silver Dollar City.  I’ll admit that with all of us in the little cabin it was a bit crowded at times, but it was really a great time. I think we’ll come back here when it’s a little warmer!

Taking a brake in Tupelo

So on New Year’s Day, as we were working our way (slowly) back to the boat, we started hearing a graunchy sound from the brakes.  The next town of any size was Tupelo, Mississippi, so we got a place to stay and I drove to a repair place at 7am on the second.  Yes, they could get us fixed up, but no loaner car or ride available.  It had been cold and rainy, so I punched up the Uber app.  It was going to take 20 mins for an Uber driver to get there, and I noticed the rain had stopped. It was only a couple of miles back to the hotel, so I decided to skip the Uber and get some exercise. Siri had me walking through all sorts of areas in that short walk… some rather sad, and some very nice residential areas.

 

The Rev. Thomas Stuart came to this area in 1821 as a missionary to the Chickasaw.  He founded three congregations, this one in 1867.  They built a church here in 1905, watched a tornado destroy it in 1936, and built this building in 1938.  It was significantly damaged by fire in 1951, but reopened in 1952.  I didn’t linger too long in case it was time for a flood…

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Tiffin Time

We had planned to take in a tour of the Tiffin plant on our way to Virginia. I love most any kind of manufacturing tour, and am sad that for liability or other reasons few plants offer public tours anymore. Tiffin is an exception, in many ways.  They have tours every day, and you walk right through work areas.  The tour guides were very friendly, and everyone you meet seems a model of Southern Hospitality.  And the workers seem to take pride in their workmanship and the beautiful final product.

So maybe some of you are wondering what Tiffin makes…  in the 70’s, Bob Tiffin decided he could make a higher quality motorhome than what was available at the time.  He builds beautiful coaches now, at a much larger facility and with about a thousand employees.  So since I love motorhomes and manufacturing tours, I had a great time!

If you’re not into either, you might as well skip the rest of this missive. I had decided I wasn’t going to take a lot of pictures, but I forgot and took a bunch!

Bob and company turn a bare chassis like this:

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Into a finished motorhome like this:

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They have a huge cabinet shop, and we saw wood as it’s imported in raw planks.  Most of the wood used is cherry.  They trim and plane it, getting it ready for use.  They have a cool gluing gadget where individual boards are glued on the ends and clamped together to make wider stock, and the clamped pieces rotate like huge Rolodex cards through what I assume is a heater/dryer.  Computers program cuts in large sheets of wood, deciding how to best use the entire piece, and then send the routers to follow the pattern.   All pieces cut are assigned a number, which ties it to a specific coach.  Somehow all the pieces are moved into the correct order to be ready at the right time for installation as the coach moves down the assembly line.

The cabinet shop is not dusty, thanks to a vacuum system throughout the plant with inputs at each power tool.

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It was kind of funny seeing bare chassis being driven around!  Some chassis are Freightliners, built elsewhere and trucked in.  Some of the larger coaches use a chassis they call Powerglide, which they build here.

 

Once in one of the four lines, a coach moves a few times a day, with components adding up quickly.  The chassis move under their own power down the line.  The floors are placed first, some with radiant heating wires underneath.

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Cabinetry, kitchens and baths are installed.

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Entire walls are created, with computers again cutting the insulation to fit against framing and wiring.  Top left shows the computer routing out the walls for windows and other cutouts, with a stack of uncut walls waiting their turn.

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Eventually the walls are attached, the roof is placed, then the end caps.

 

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The slide outs have been built on another line, and are now slid into place, using unique forklifts or cranes.

 

Outside storage doors are added, and the coach looks like a huge silver alien craft.  It drives that way to another facility in nearby Mississippi to be painted, and then back here for final touch up and testing.  The actual time to create each motorhome is a little over three weeks, but 13 per day roll out of the plant.  If you order one (which I didn’t) you can plan on about 4 months for the planning, getting a place in the sequence, and actual construction and testing.

I was impressed with the openness and honesty of the whole process.  I came away with a greater respect for all the people who make this happen!

Thank you Bob Tiffin and sons, for your beautiful craft, your integrity, and great work ethic!