Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Riding on the Cart Paths in The Villages

We had heard of the extensive golf cart road system that was in The Villages and we were eager to check them out. Here, Orinda is ready to go for a ride after getting some coffee at the nearby McDonald's, where it is not uncommon at all to see golf carts go through the drive through.

 The cart paths are really amazing and cover literally hundreds of miles. As a result, even thought there are over 50,000 carts in the Villages, the traffic on the paths is not bad at all. Of course, The Villages covers over 30 square miles, so these carts are spread out over quite a bit of territory. This is a typical stretch and is well over two cart widths wide, so it is easy to travel on them.

 We enjoy tooling around and enjoying the scenery, such as this view of one of the Executive golf courses. Everything is always neat, clean and beautiful. The speed limit for golf carts is 19.9 mph, which is pretty fast for a golf cart.

 Here is our "self portrait" in shadow form as we travel by some of the many flowers that line the paths. These flowers are changed several times a year and always look great. Adds a great touch to our travels in the golf cart.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Bonifay Golf Club in the Villages - and the Village of Fernandina

The Villages is home to many, many golf courses, which really interested Rick and sure enough, less than a 5 minute golf cart ride from our new house is the Bonifay Country Club. As a resident, we are automatically members in all the the country clubs (I think there are now 12 total) in The Villages, with 3 or four in our direct area. This is one of our favorites and is a beautiful spot to visit. The club consists of a nice (but casual restaurant on the right side and then a very complete golf pro shop on the left. 

 One thing that has impressed us the first time we visited The Villages and continues to impress us after moving here, is the cleanliness and beauty of the entire area. This simple entry sign is typical with the beautiful flowers surrounding it and the manicured lawn area. We have learned this is not unusual -- but is the norm for the area with the flowers being replaced several times a year.

 This is Rick's favorite part of Bonifay and that is the huge, covered porch area in the rear. Facing the golf course, this is a wonderful place to have a couple "adult beverages" and re-hash the golf round. Rick is now playing several times a week (we rotate between all the country clubs) with a couple groups of guys and having a great time. Fortunately, greens fees are quite reasonably priced for residents and their guests. Of course, there are also over 50 "executive" courses that are available at no charge to residents and are quite challenging.

Rick especially likes the great practice facilities at each club. Here is a typical putting green which is very large. While you can't really see it, directly behind this green is another, even larger green dedicated to chipping and short shots. While there seems to be no good excuse with all these practice opportunities, Rick still has challenges with putting, but is improving! He often hops in the golf cart, runs up to the club and practices for a short time. 

 Finally, near the club is the entrance to our "village" of Fernandina. Again, everything is beautifully landscaped and behind the sign is one of the swimming pools in our direct area. This one if for adult residents only -- there are other pools, just as nice for families, and special excise pools for swimming laps and the like.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

We're Back -- after some big changes!

Our last post was almost one year ago and to say the last year was full of changes would be a great understatement. We had just settled into our winter RV park in Umatilla as noted in our last post when our parents, who live close by and are the reason we spend the winter in Central Florida, ran into some serious health concerns. After a couple months of treatment and rehabilitation, it was clear that they would need to move into a residence offering more support than their current home. As a result, Rick and Orinda made the decision to come off the road and purchase a house near their new independent living facility which was located in the amazing retirement destination called The Villages in central Florida. I guess that during all the changes, the blog got lost in the shuffle (and no, contrary to the comments of a couple readers, we did not enter the Witness Protection Program - lol)

We ended up selling the motorhome (and came out OK financially since we had negotiated diligently when we bought it) and purchasing this home in The Villages:

Wow -- the room! Rick needed a GPS transponder to find out where he was for the first few days as the 2,000 sq. ft. home was about 5 times the size of the coach. Since we had virtually no furniture, our first order of business was to furnish the house, which was a lot of fun. We were very glad we had not tried to keep all the old furnishings from our South Dakota home -- they would really have been out of place in our new home. 

Moving to The Villages was a big change for us, but an exciting one!  One of our first purchases was a golf cart since everyone seems to get around the entire community by cart. This place is huge - about 30 square miles of area. We wondered if it would be a problem with that many "older folks" as you need to be over 55 years old to live here, but it has turned out great -- everyone is very friendly and happy to be here. 

There are many, many places to explore, including beautiful Lake Sumter seen here in the sunset. We learned that there are three central "town centers" offering theaters, shopping, and free entertainment -- every night. Rick and Orinda have enjoyed these which offer a fun, relaxed way to spend an evening. 

The other thing we have already learned about living here is that folks LOVE to come visit. We are an hour away from Disney and The Villages offers all kinds of things for the guests to do, including swimming, golf, shopping, etc. Oh, and grand kids and family are welcome (they don't have to be 55!). As a result, we have really enjoyed having company several times already!

Rick promises to get back to the blog and update our experiences in The Villages and with our new, much smaller, RV! 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Back to Florida and the Old Mill Stream RV Park

 We had a great time in the Branson area, but found it was time to head back to Florida for the winter season. We will be staying again at the Old Mill Stream RV Park in Umatilla, FL, which is located in the central part of the state.

 We had a great time here last year and look forward to another great season this year. The park has many great amenities, including this wonderful pool as well as the large lake seen directly behind.

Our site was all set for us and Rick got the patio furniture out of our small shed and was ready to go. We will take you on a tour of the RV park soon, but for now, we are glad to be "home" again (of course, with the coach, I guess we are always home).

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sedalia's Wild Railroad History

While we attended the Escapees RV Rally in Sedalia, MO, we also took time to explore around the town and learned that the city owed much of its growth to the railroad.
 The first railroad line reached Sedalia in 1861, shortly after the city's founding in the late 1850's. Soon after, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad (also known as the KATY) also entered the city (in about 1870) and ended up building this fabulous depot in 1896. Today, the depot serves as a museum featuring the railroad history of the area.

 Rick visited the depot with friends Denise and Butch, who also were attending the Escapees Rally (I guess that makes us all escapers).

 We really enjoyed the museum's exhibits and information on the past. Here, Rick checks out some of the typical railroad items that were so common not so long ago.

 Due to Sedalia's central location, both the KATY and Missouri Pacific Railroads established large locomotive repair and construction shops. Here, an aerial view of the Missouri Pacific lines large facility in downtown Sedalia in the 1920s shows the size of this installation.

 Imagine the capacity of this crane that could easily lift a large steam engine, weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds, and move it around the shop.

These shops, employing hundreds of machinists and other workers like these men, could literally build a locomotive from scratch. They could also totally rebuild one if needed. Here, they are working on the rods that connect the driving wheels together. 
This locomotive is typical of the large engines that roamed the rails around Sedalia. Now displayed at the Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Rick was able to see this one every day at the Rally since it was right next to the free coffee stand!

Sedalia grew rapidly with the two railroads running through the city as this picture of downtown in 1890 shows. The railroad also provided a target for large cattle drives from Texas in the late 1800's. The combination of railroad workers, cowboys and the like also caused Sedalia to have a thriving "red light" district with the city being referred to as the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Nineteenth Century. 

The city was quite the active spot not only for railroads, but also for livestock, such as these mules that Missouri (and Sedalia) was famous for. These four sold for over $7,300 in 1909 -- a huge sum of money for the time!

 Finally, Sedalia as a cattle drive headquarters, was firmly established by none other than Clint Eastwood while starring in Rawhide. Here Rowdy (Clint Eastwood) and Gil Favor (Eric Fleming) have a quick draw contest (in the KATY Depot) with the winner of a Sedalia contest. Bet that kid was pretty excited, although they would likely all get arrested today!

Today, Sedalia still offers many things to see, although the railroad has a very small presence. The locomotive shops are all gone and Main Street is pretty much deserted. In fact, as we drove down it, we saw this collapsed building that may have been built back in the city's heyday. Bet it would have had some great stories to tell if it could have talked. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Escapees Rally in Sedalia, MO

I must confess that I have been a bit slack in posting to the blog over the last few days and that is because I have been attending the Escapees Rally in Sedalia, MO. The Escapees RV Club focuses on fulltime RVers (although you do not have to be a fulltimer to join!) and offers a number of benefits for their members. 

Each year, they hold an Escapade Rally featuring entertainment, seminars, and of course, vendors. Rick attended the rally and parked in the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, MO, as shown here. 

 There were close to 600 RVs at the rally and lots of experiences that attendees shared over coffee and snacks!

 The Escapees organization is based in Texas and does a great job in hosting a rally. As you can see, they have some serious equipment in use for the rally.

 Rick was interested in updating his Electrical Surge System with one from the Progressive Industries organization. They had a great booth in the vendor area and are well know in the RV arena for excellent customer service.

 Rick found exactly what he wanted and at a very good price at the show, so quickly snapped it up. He was also able to install that, but that will be another blog post.

 There were quite a few vendors offering RV items that are hard to find anywhere else. Indeed, these vendors almost make the rally worth attending by themselves.

 We were also very impressed by the Sedalia Fairgrounds, which are huge. Every RV was able to have full hookups and the many nice buildings provided a great setting for seminars and entertainment. This beautiful, brick building actually houses the Swine exhibits -- pretty nice facility for pigs.

Indeed, we were treated to some great in-person entertainment by outstanding stars, such as Yakov Smirnoff, the well know comedian now based in Branson, MO. He gave a super show and we had a great time. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Sioux Falls Courthouse Museum

 Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, but was not settled until 1856. This stone tower was erected in 1949 to commemorate the pioneers who settled the area. The memorial is located on a hill near the Falls of the Big Sioux River.

Downtown is the original Courthouse of Sioux Falls, now serving as a great museum. We have been to the museum before, but learned that they change the displays frequently, so we decided to take a look -- and glad we did!

 When first entering, it seems appropriate to see this buffalo standing in greeting (he is stuffed, fortunately). The displays all around it show the many uses of the buffalo and its parts by native tribes and pioneers.

 Most folks may not realize that Sioux Falls is the spot where the modern hot air balloon was invented back in the early 1960's. Since then, the industry has expanded and there is a vibrate ballooning group in Sioux Falls which is reflected in some great exhibits here at the museum.

Here, Rick is trying out a balloon basket for size. He had a chance to fly in a hot air balloon a few years ago and loved it. 

 There are a number of great exhibits on the early balloons including this pre-cursor to the balloon basket -- a simple aluminum chair. Imagine sitting in this light chair while you cruised a couple thousand feet in the air -- wow!

 This is what the early balloon system looked like -- the small chair and a couple of propane tanks to fuel the balloon. Pretty basic!

 Another major display focused on the American Flag which provided some remarkable insights on the flag and its history.

 Since we are from South Dakota, Rick thought this flag was pretty interesting. This 43 star flag was created when five states, including South Dakota, were admitted to the union.

 We learned that there were many different arrangements for the stars included in the flag, including this "Great Star" flag design flown after California was added tot he Union.

 Of course, this great shot of Buzz Aldrin taken by Neil Armstrong shows the flag on the moon when they landed in 1969. We remember this clearly -- and it sure seems a long time ago now!

 South Dakota also experiences some wild weather, including tornadoes.  On July 9, 1932 a strong twister hit Sioux Falls, destroyed a steel bridge and drove a beam right through this tree.

 Want proof of this tornado hit? How about this -- the real tree and beam from the picture above. Wow -- this must have been some heavy wind to do this.

 A display that Rick got a kick out of dealt with bicycling. Back in the later 1800's, cycling became popular, but not everyone was pleased. Indeed, medical professionals advertised against cycling since it caused injuries caused by crashes, various "nerve" problems, as well as vague biking maladies. The answer? See your doctor, of course!

 Finally, Rick loved this vintage Schwinn cruiser. Now that is a bike! This is a great museum and is sure worth the visit.