Saturday, January 12, 2013

"The Florida Chronicles"...Prelude

With a year's experience "under my belt", I expected the transition from Michigan to Florida to go very smooth this year. Not so fast!
It's still a major undertaking...identifying what has to go, making packing lists, packing up, etc. But the problem is not

with the's my camper. After having a wheel come off...and another wheel almost fall off, I have to get a new axle. My mistake was waiting to do this. I should have done it a soon as I got back in September. Instead, I wait until mid-October before I take it in to the dealer down in Taylor. Bad news right away...there is no "stock" axle available, they have to have one custom built by Dexter Axle down in
The dealer has assured me that the axle will be delivered and installed in about three weeks. Four weeks later, I'm starting to get real nervous. My scheduled departure date is November arrive in Florida on December 1. Everything is geared to that departure date...shutting off satellite and Internet in Michigan and starting it up in Florida...forwarding mail to Florida...address changes for magazines...and a host of other things.
Packing goes well because I am, as always, extremely organized. I have packing lists for "clothes", "electronics", "kitchen items", "camping items", etc. And...I have an "Unpacked" list. Every list gets revised daily as more and more things get packed. By the time I head down to Gretchen and Roger's for the OSU game, I am 90% packed and ready to go.
I'm in axle arrives on November 26 and I pick up the camper on the 28th.
I spend all of the 28th and 29th loading up both the camper and the Explorer. And...late on the afternoon of the 29th, I hitch up the camper at last and pull out of the garage. But...there's this grinding noise that I'm hearing. I decide to drive around the block, window down, listening. And something is wrong...very wrong. The new axle has moved the wheels much higher...and the tires are scraping against the fenders. And there's not much I can do to fix the problem...the camper is already packed full with the "lightest" cargo, and there is absolutely no room at all in the Explorer.
A feeling of panic sets in, but only for a few minutes. Then I start to think of "options"...and I call my buddy, Roger. Roger and I consider a lot of options...remove the bumpers...put the camper on a trailer and tow that to Florida...raise the bumpers. After an hour or so of discussion, Roger decides that he'll just pack up his tools and drive up to Michigan so that we can fix things ourselves.
And the next morning, bright and early, Roger is there...with jacks, tools, nuts, name it. After a few trips to Home Depot, we set to work.
Roger buys some "spacers"...flat pieces of metal about three inches long with a hole in each end. We unscrew the bumpers, attach one end of the spacer to the bumper with a bolt and nut...and screw the other end into the body of the camper. This provides just enough clearance for the tires not to rub against the bumpers. It takes us all day and into the night. Around 8:00PM, we knock off for the day, and I take Roger to "Michigan Prime" Steakhouse for bourbon, big grilled rib eyes and a large bottle of Malbec...a satisfying end to a successful day.
The next morning, Roger and I finish up and...soon...he's on his way back to Ohio. I can not thank him enough for all of his help and great friendship!
I decide to wait until Sunday to leave for Florida. And, on Sunday morning, I crate up the cats, load them into the Explorer, and set off for my winter home. Around 7:00PM, I pull in to the Days Inn in Dalton, Georgia. After letting loose four extremely cranky felines in a strange motel room, I head down the street to an Applebees for several Makers Mark on the rocks and a few appetizers.
The next morning, I'm on the road at 7:00AM. And...around 6:00PM, I pull into the driveway of my house in Palm City, Florida. I let loose the cats, pour myself a bourbon and heat up some homemade chili from the freezer. It's 65 degrees outside.

It's nice to be home again.

Fall 2012

Wow...long time, no post!
Back from my camping trip, I only have two days to unpack and get ready for the first UM home game against Air Force. I get just about everything out of the Explorer the first day, but it's going to take a week or so to sort through and put everything away. Plus...I've got three months worth of mail to go through.
The menu for the Air Force game is simple...burgers, chips, dip, some red wine and lots of beer. The game is closer than I'd prefer, as our defense has trouble with Air Force's "Veer Offense".
Next up...Massachusetts. I spend this week unpacking and doing laundry. The mail yields an unpleasant surprise...payment on my Mom's homeowner's insurance was about a dollar short. So, naturally, they cancelled the policy...and no reinstatement. My friend, Mark Freedman, is kind enough to drive up to Palm City from the Keys, find and agent, and line up a new policy within a few days. You can't have a tailgate for the Massachusetts game without lobster, do I make a batch of my famous lobster and corn chowder...throw in some freshly-baked biscuits and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and you've got a meal. As expected, we blow Massachusetts out.
I receive some great friends, Kathy and Bill Lamping, have two tickets to the UM/Notre Dame game in South Bend...and they're all mine! I do a little research and find that there's a KOA Campground just four miles from ND I'm thinking camping trip! My friend, Robin, wants to, Friday afternoon, I pick her up in Toledo, and we set off for South Bend with the "Little Guy". About ten minutes from South Bend, it starts to it would continue to do for most of the weekend. Arriving at the KOA, we set up my new Kelty "Noah's Tarp" for shelter from the rain. It's my first time setting it up, and I'm impressed. It goes up pretty easily, it's stable, and it's great protection from the rain. The temperature, however, is in the low 40's, so it's not real comfortable outside. I've brought everything for Flank Steak Fajitas for dinner, but Robin and I decide to drive a quarter mile to an Italian restaurant for much-needed cocktails...veal...pasta...Chianti...very nice. We also run into my friend, Matt Teets and his girlfriend...met up with them down in Dallas for the Alabama game. Saturday morning, it's cold and of grilled Tandoori chicken and Bombay Eggplant for our tailgate, Robin and I pick up sandwiches at Subway. The less said about the game, the better...except to say that, despite six (six!!!) turnovers, UM was in the game to the very end.
The following Saturday, we play at Purdue. I miss all of my friends after being away camping for three have a party. Lots of good friends, red and green Enchiladas, and a large quantity of beer make for a great party. Added bonus...we beat the stuffing out of Purdue.
Friends down in Tampa fly my friend, Chris, up on the next Thursday. Chris is a huge UM fan, and this will be his first game in UM Stadium. We spend Friday shopping and making things for the tailgate (Italian Beef sandwiches!). Saturday turns out to be a dreadful day...rainy with temps in the high 30's. Bill Lamping and one of his buddies join us, but it's not much fun tailgating in the rain. We trounce Illinois, but Chris and I leave after the third quarter. I'm looking at him during the "Florida buddy"...all bundled up with rain dripping off of his cap. But he was happy to be there...and he never once complained about anything...a real "trooper"!
Gretchen and Roger decide to come up for the MSU game and bring the motor home...sweet! I'd forgotten how much fun it is to "RV" at the game. We're parked near the stadium Friday night...breakfast Saturday morning...big UM victory in the game...great post-game tailgate. All in all, a great weekend.
The next two weekends are away games. At Nebraska is a disaster...Denard Robinson goes down early with an arm injury, and our backup QB is awful...a painful loss. At Minnesota is much better...they've got Devin Gardner in at QB, and he looks mighty good in a UM victory.
Gretchen and Roger come back (with the motor home!) the next two weekends. We beat Northwestern, but it's a close win in overtime. Iowa is no problem. And, as always, tailgating in the motor home is a great experience. Plus...we're joined by all of our new friends that we met down in Dallas for the Alabama game.
I travel down to Ohio to visit Gretchen and Roger for the OSU game. The game, itself, is most disappointing, but it's still a fun weekend. Gretchen and Roger always celebrate Thanksgiving on Saturday, so it's a day of great food, family and friends.