Thursday, February 14, 2013

South to Orlando

Normal road, giant mailbox.
On the way south I took a little detour to "Love Street."  But don't worry, that's not a metaphor, it really was "Love Street."

  I headed south from South Carolina.  Camping was done in the Osceola National Forest.  I finally got to find out what it’s like to camp 9 feet in the air (surprisingly similar to camping 8 feet in the air).

The area where I was camping had obviously seen a forest fire recently.  How long ago was not clear.  There was no firefighting equipment anywhere, which suggested it had been a while.  But there was very little new growth which suggested it hadn’t been all that long.  

The first morning in the woods, I looked out of my tent and could see a small column of smoke rising about 100 yards from my camp.  Grabbing a shovel, hatchet, and a bottle of water, I set off to find the source.  It ended up being a log that was smoldering.  A few minutes work and I’d put out the fire so well they were calling me “Chad” all day.  Further inspection showed that the log was actually a tree that had fallen, but about 30 feet of it was just ash.  It appeared as though it had been smoldering for so long that the few feet of log I dealt with was all that was left.  This led me to look up when the fire had happened in that area.  Turns out it was April.  The log had been smoldering for almost 10 months.
the shadow in the middle is actually where the log smoldered for the past ten months.

On to Orlando to hang out with my brother Tim.  I also got to see some of the greatest nephews ever!  Not as much as I would have hoped, but skipping school to hang out with the coolest uncle ever is apparently frowned upon by the parents….
Manatee.  For future reference, do not ask for Manatee BBQ when dinning at Sea World.

"Incredible Hulk" roller coaster.  Lines were short, I rode it twice. 

Hogwarts.  You may have seen in in a movie.  Harold Potter or some such.

Wicker roller coaster.  

Another pic of the Hogwarts School.  

Going up.

I had a great time here, highly recommend a visit if you're in the area!

Friday, February 1, 2013

It occurred to me that the lack of space in my van was the major source of stress in my life.  It was getting pretty bad:  there was no chance of a passenger…  things would fall out when I opened a door…  And despite my efforts, I couldn’t find enough things to get rid of to really make a difference.  A bigger van was always in the back of my mind as a potential solution and in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, I stopped at a dealer to look at bigger vans.  I ended up with the smallest one they had, but really increased the available space.  As a bonus, I should see a big improvement in gas mileage thanks to the small diesel engine.  
Too much stuff or too little space?

Peaceful North Carolina camping.

So long sticker collection.  The other half went away when I accidentally broke the window....

Of course, there was the very awkward transition between vans.  And for that I must thank my brother Jim for his incredible assistance and patients.  Many generous people have hosted me on my travels and in doing so have seen me carry in a big bag full of my clothes.  “Big bag.  How long were you planning to stay?” accompanied by a raised eyebrow….  But Jim didn’t even (visibly) flinch as I unloaded the ENTIRE CONTENTS OF THE VAN into his garage.  Every single thing came out and waited for the new van.  

Additionally, he provided critical assistance installing the tracks that the motorcycles get tied down to and knew someone with a forklift that was the only way were going to be able to get the Autohome camper on the nearly 9 foot high roof.  I quite literally couldn’t have done it without his help and I am very grateful for his assistance and patients.  

I didn't spend all my time working on the van though.  I took a short motorcycle trip from Charleston to Madison, Georgia, to visit the Micro Car museum.  Getting there was almost an ordeal.  Dead battery, failing clutch, 220 miles in with the temp dropping from mid-40s at the start to 29 at the end…  But the museum was pretty cool.  The cars on display were from all over the world and were great examples of simple and economical transportation.  And small!  The modern Smart Car on display was probably the largest car there.  I spent a couple hours looking around before getting back on the bike, thankfully with the clutch and battery working fine and the temps in the mid-50s.

        It was one of the coolest museums you'll never see because the day I was there was their last day.  They closed for good and in February the place goes to auction.

I also got to tour a federal law enforcement training facility in Charleston (without having to get arrested).  Neat stuff and like some sort of reunion, the place was full of old friends and co-workers. 

South Carolina has been quite an adventure but now I’m back on the road in the new and improved big-white-van-full-of-stuff.  Still south-bound, finally getting to where the weather is consistently nice instead of just occasionally.  And when the next adventure happens, you can read about that one here, too.