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Friday, January 13, 2017

Back to Dupuis but with solar power!

After our 2 weeks at Peace River we once again had to be out of the Thousand Trails system for 7 days so we decided to go back to Dupuis Equestrian Center Campground as it is close to the beach and we wanted to go back. We got a great spot where we could just drive right in without any backing up. Got to love those sites! We are getting so good at setting up! Goes like a charm!

If you remember Dupuis doesn't have electricity but does have potable water and a dump station. We vowed we would not have to dump for the whole week as dumping the tanks means hooking up and moving the trailer which entails securing or putting away anything that can fall or break. It's not such an ordeal but we're getting lazy.

At first we didn't see anyone we knew. It didn't matter as everyone is really nice here. We explored the area a little more and found that the road that leads to the small lake is full of wildlife. We saw alligators, baby alligators, herons, egrets, hawks, falcons, a large lizard, snakes and more.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Fire Lizard

Fairly large alligator by the edge of a pond.

Cute baby alligator - Look how fat he is!

Ibises and egrets together.

Glen showing me something interesting.

Female Anhinga

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Southern Black Racer

This was the approach of a male wanting to copulate with the female.

And this is it! It was very quick.

Was it good for you?

Sandhill Cranes - they look like ostriches from a distance.

Little Blue Heron

Common Gallinule

Green Heron

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Glen saw some raccoons on one of his bike rides and I saw a bald eagle when Glen was "busy" inside the trailer. But I think the greatest find was that a Great Horned Owl was sitting on a nest in a large pine just on the other side of the road from our site. We could hear a couple hooting at dusk and dawn every day. Then one day I just happened to look up and I saw an adult (most probably the male) in the adjacent tree. I snapped some pictures even though it was quite dark but they turned out pretty good despite the bad light. I also took pictures of the female in the nest but could only see the top of her head and her "ears" which are not ears as such but feathers. When they turn their face away from you they look like cats. It was fun to keep checking on the nest and even though I looked often, I never saw the male again.

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl female in nest

We decided to take Cheeka to Juno Beach which I had read was a dog beach. It turns out that quite a long strip of beach between Jupiter Beach and Juno Beach has no restrictions for dogs. It was so great! It's truly like we see in movies with owners arriving at the beach and just letting their dog off leash for him/her to go play with the others. Some dogs were really having fun jumping right into the waves and then running around the beach in crazy circles. Others were little princesses walking along their owner and not even looking at the other dogs. Cheeka was a bit shy at first but gradually attempted to run with other dogs. It was really cute to see her run suddenly towards playing dogs, then stop and watch for a while only to turn and come back to us where she would sit like a little soldier ready to defend her masters. One time she really got interested in the crazy dogs running in circles but watched from between the chairs of a couple just sitting on the beach. I told them that she probably felt safer watching the action from that location to which the lady responded: "Well she's sitting beside the biggest man on the beach!" I then realized that her husband was quite chunky. At least he could have taken on any of those dogs if needed!

Cheeka: Look Mom, good-looking guys.

Happy girl.

The beach is endless.

Trying to make a friend.

Friends and dogs meet.

Those two were running like the wind.

Finally Cheeka makes a friend!

A few days later one of the men we had met on our first visit to Dupuis parked his van across from our trailer. Marc was really happy to see us and I was glad to get to talk with him since he is also a French Canadian. Then another man, Jean-Paul, who is 79 years old and travels alone in an old motorhome, also made his appearance. It's fun to meet people you know. We also got to see Becky whom we had first met at Hickory Hammock. She also travels alone in a small pickup truck - no tent, no trailer. She lives in her car with her dog. She's a real sweetheart but very private so we rarely get to talk to her. On the night before last, it was getting quite cold so I invited her to join us in the trailer during the evening. She didn't come.

This time we had a solar panel to provide us with power. We had bought it from Amazon and had it delivered to the Peace River campground just before we left there. We were really anxious to get it up and running but soon realized that even though it was being sold as a complete kit, it was missing some parts to get it hooked up. So the next morning we went to Stuart to get the parts we needed. It was fairly easy to make all the connections and we had it set up in no time. What a difference from the last time we were there! Our battery remained charged the whole time. We were even able to use some lights and to fire the furnace in the morning if it was too chilly (the last two days were quite cold). We also did really well with our tanks not having to dump until we were leaving. We are getting really good at this!

Our 100 W solar panel

The controller showing the energy flowing from the panel to the battery. Yeah!

There were quite a few horses when we first arrived and it's always a pleasure to watch the riders ride out of the campground to the many trails that this park offers. The equestrian camping offers stabling and large paddocks completely free of charge. Some just come for the day and ride the trails but others camp for several days. I still can't believe that these facilities exist and are totally free to use. Why don't we have anything like this in Canada?

Tacking up!

One of the smaller barns - open air style.

The big barn

Did they forget me here in the paddock?
The paddocks are large and beautiful and all have shade.

Leaving for a ride.

The paddocks and the large barn in the distance.

Now we are going back to Peace River for two weeks of full hook-ups and civilization (TV and good internet). What will the river have to offer us this time? Some images of what we see on our hikes.

This tree was HUGE! The picture really doesn't do it justice.

A lot of trees have vines growing on their exterior creating these intricate patterns.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

Here we are, December 31st 2016. Time flies when you're having fun! I still can't believe the huge change in our life since we took the plunge into full-time RV living. Glen's health has improved, my health has improved and we are generally happier and more loving toward each other.

We learned a lot in the 5 months we've been living this life. The first lesson is: whatever life throws at you there is always a solution. It might not be what you expected but you will never know if you don't give it a try. When we became more and more stressed financially and less capable of working because of our health we went through a time of desperation even thinking the only solution would be for one of us to die in order for the other one to live comfortably with the insurance money or the inheritance. Pretty drastic! So by researching different ways of living cheaply I came across a multitude of blogs and vlogs of happy people living in RVs which got me thinking. What if we could do that? Wouldn't it be nice (for me especially) to be able to escape winter weather every year while staying in our own home? Wouldn't that be more affordable than going on a 1 week holiday trying to get some warmth and sun but having to return to the reality of winter in Canada? My health always deteriorated during the winter and I was afraid it would rush my demise eventually. Now here I am, feeling great, healthy and strong and it's December 31st!

The other lesson: Not all black tank treatments are good. That's right. As much as they all claim to do the same thing, they don't. When we first purchased the trailer I had already bought something for the black tank. I bought it from and it was called RV Digest-It. A liquid, it came in a gallon container that I found room for under the bed. After that was done we were at Walmart and I bought some already pre-measured packets that claimed to dissolve everything and take care of the smell. Well, I ended up having to use 2 packets per treatment as it didn't quite do the job on the smell. It wasn't atrocious but it wasn't good either. So I ordered the same RV Digest-It from Amazon as it is by far the best in my opinion.

Lesson number three: No matter if it's sunny or cloudy or even rains, it's all better in Florida.

Still working on: Reducing our grocery bill. How can two people who don't eat like kings spend that much on grocery? I must admit that Glen does eat a lot through the day but still! So in the next year I have to plan more so we can keep it under budget. We don't throw out much food and I have the wine as an entity by itself. And yes! We can buy wine and beer at the grocery store here! So convenient! And the wine is so cheap! It will be a shocker once we get back home! I might have to give it up for the summer. We'll see.

It was a radical move for us and especially for Glen who still has a 17-year-old son who he misses terribly and he feels really bad about leaving his ex-wife to take care of him. On the other hand, at 17 his son is getting more independent and we would rarely interact with him when he was spending the week with us. For me, I've been far away from my son and my brother for quite a long time so it didn't make as much difference except for Christmas when I would always go to my son's home and spend Christmas with them and have the pleasure of seeing the kids' excitement in the morning when they saw all the gifts. I missed that terribly but we'll replace that with more time with them during the summer. For us, it's been such a great life compared to the options we had if we had stayed that I don't regret anything. Life is too short to just go through it enduring day after day with no joy.

On the eve of a new year, I ask you to examine your life and count your blessings. If you are not happy and feel like you are just existing instead of truly living, please take a stand and make a change. It doesn't have to be anything drastic but sometimes you have to take a big leap into the unknown and take a chance. I've now done it twice in my life and it's been good. Trust the universe to direct you in the best direction. And if all else fails, sell everything, get an RV and start traveling!

All the best to you and your families in this coming new year.