The Villages. ‘Golf Cart City’

Florida2018-0359
Spanish Spring Town Square

Or more correctly known as ‘The Villages’, but I’ll just call it Golf Cart City as it seems more appropriate. It is a 55+ active retirement community not far from where I am staying.  I made another trip here today to explore a bit more and grab some lunch. Last visit was for groceries, I didn’t have much time to explore.

 

Florida2018-0372
Nightly entertainment offered every night.

Spanish Springs Town Square, where these pictures were taken, is part of ‘The Villages’. There are a multiple town squares, no shortage of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment all centered around the many town squares. Overall the Villages have 48 golf courses, multiple lakes, 11 parks, tennis, bocci, pickle ball, and on and on. The population is around 100,000, and the Villages cover 38 square miles. All the services needed to support a population of that size seems to be present.

 

Florida2018-0357
I think the golf cart to vehicle ratio was about 1:1, seriously.

The golf carts are not for golfing, although some did have a set of golf clubs on the back. Most are for transportation around the Villages, between the town squares, shopping, post office, community centers, activities, and so on. There are even tunnels to allow the golf carts to cross under highways and major roads, so you can explore the entire community via golf cart.

 

Florida2018-0367
A sitting area around the springs in the town square

There was always something happening somewhere, and the town squares have nightly entertainment. Its a pretty interesting place. If I have time I’m going to pick an evening and see what the entertainment is all about. People were lining up chairs to save their spaces as early as 2pm, so it must be popular.

 

Florida2018-0362
Shops and restaurants lined the streets, much like an outdoor mall.

 

Florida2018-0381
Spanish Springs Town Square, hmmm. Ok, I guess it fits.

 

Florida2018-0375
Another view of the entertainment area.
Florida2018-0371
The ‘springs’ from another viewpoint
Florida2018-0370
I think this is one of the outdoor bars for the nightly entertainment. There were a several spread around the square.

 

Florida2018-0358
Looking back into the square.

 

Advertisements

Ruther Glen, VA

I made it though New Jersey alive. I know, unforeseen knowing my past luck and reputation with New Jersey. Not sure if I was lucky, or just because I passed through as fast as possible without stopping. But I did get to experience the industrial mess and smell of the Newark area.

I decided I wanted to try and make VA to outrun the storm, by charging head first into it. Reminds me of the scene in Hunt For Red October, turning the sub directly toward the torpedo to impact with it before it has a chance to arm itself. If I get to warmer temperatures before I run into the storm, I get rain and not sleet and snow. Sitting in Ruther Glen VA at the moment, that is assured. Forecast for tomorrow morning is rain, where 1.5 hours north of me a mix of sleet, freezing rain, and snow. Charging head first into the storm disarmed it before it could snow on me.

I arrived at the Flying J in Ruther Glen about an hour ago. Had dinner at Denny’s. Turning in for the night. Van ran perfectly without issue. She continues to be a real workhorse for us. She just runs, and runs, and runs. Thinking of trying for Savannah GA tomorrow, or divert along the coast to get off the Rte95 truck caravan.

Some photos from today. It felt like a black and white kind of day seeing all the city grit I was exposed to.

Florida2018-0146
The Bronx
Florida2018-0156
Maybe its just me, but I felt like this overhead mess was going to collapse at any moment.
Florida2018-0164
I have a thing for bridges. I wish I could stop, get out, and take some nice shots of this bridge.
Florida2018-0193
Yup, looks like New Jersey, smells like New Jersey, must be New jersey!
Florida2018-0228
Another bridge, but with a spot of color.
Florida2018-0246
Another Roadtrek, a 170P, parked next to me for the night. Flying J travel center.

Flying J got nearly all of my $250+ in fuel costs because of their RV friendly policies, allowing overnight parking at their travel centers, and also providing dump stations and propane. For my appreciation, I always search out the next Flying J for gas stops along my routes. I’m sure that policy is paying off for them, as I hear similar stories from other RV travelers.

Moving Southbound

Finally on the road. Snow storm ahead of me, but by the time we meet the temperatures will be warm enough to only deliver rain. I expect that meeting will occur tomorrow morning as I am ready to leave for day two. Watching the weather closely to see if I need to make Pennsylvania, Maryland or Virginia as my first overnight due to the changing rain/snow line. Once past that, I can slow down and take my time.

My ‘no plan’ travel plans are simple. I have favorited truck stops, rest areas, 24hr restaurants, Walmarts, apartment complexes, hospital parking, and on street overnight parking areas in google maps over the years. Most are within 30 to 60 minutes of each other. I am always within a short drive of someplace safe to catch up on sleep. While I have no set plans, I’m not exactly leaving everything to fate.

I cut and pasted a few favorites into a crib sheet I can reference while en-route. When I start feeling like I’ve driven my share for the day, I check the list for the closest stop and head for it. All the stops have restaurants, groceries, and fuel nearby, as well as alternate places to park if the primary is unavailable. Makes travel pretty easy. On every trip using that route, I update the list and make changes for future trips.

Nova Scotia-Camping on the Border

Heading to Canada, Nova Scotia to be exact, rain was a constant during the drive. Seems to be a constant theme in all my travels this season. I’m always driving through rain storms, and high winds. Makes a long drive seem much longer, more tiring after such long periods of intense concentration trying to peer through the rain drops looking for hidden dangers down the road.

NovaScotia2017-2749
Walmart, Calias ME. Our first stop on the way to Nova Scotia.

After 5 hours of driving, we arrived in Calias ME. Our goal was to spend the night on the US side, and cross the border in the morning. That would give us a fresh start for the next 5-6 hours to the Bay of Fundy the next day. Basically, breaking a 12 hour drive in half over two days.

NovaScotia2017-2744
We parked in the far corner next to a stand of trees.

It made no sense to go through the call, make reservation, check-in, plug-in, sleep, unplug, and check-out process of a campground. So we spent the night in a Walmart parking lot. Pulled in, turned off the ignition, and went to sleep. In the morning, made coffee, bought supplies, then turned on the ignition and left. Simple, easy, fast.

I always appreciate Walmarts policy to allow travelers to overnight in their parking lot. Walmart is not a store I frequent when not traveling, but to return the favor, I leave the area I parked in cleaner than when I arrived and I stock up on supplies while there. Seems only fair. I do the same for truck stops and other over night parking areas.

 

NovaScotia2017-2747
With the side doors open, looking in the dense trees, you would be hard pressed to know we were in a Walmart parking lot.

It was a quiet night, peaceful, no road or traffic noise. Other than the sound of rain drops on the roof, it was uneventful. The night was cool and we had a nice cool breeze flowing through the camper all night with the overhead fan on and windows open. Perfect sleeping weather.

NovaScotia2017-2738
The morning started in what would become another constant theme during the trip. Gorgeous sunrises and sunsets!

In the morning after packing our supplies, we jumped into the front seats and headed to the border. Still raining, we drove the 10 minutes to the border crossing. Not much traffic, but a short line of about 8 or 9 cars in front of us.

NovaScotia2017-5148

At the border station, we were asked to pull over and wait. When a border agent appeared wearing latex gloves, I was unsure if I was at the doctors office or a police station. Either way, I knew it wasn’t good. She had me open everything up on the camper and asked me to step aside. 30 minutes later, we were on our way.

They have a job to do, and I understand that, so I wasn’t upset. That is until I turned a corner and a cabinet she forget to close spilled it’s contents all over the back of the camper.

NovaScotia2017-5150
We finally made it in. What have they done! What have they unleashed on their citizens!

It did take an hour or so of driving and adjusting things to get rid of all the rattles. When packed properly, nothing rattles or squeaks inside while driving. After the search, I had to spend time to figure out what she touched and then repack it to eliminate the rattles. Coffee cups banging together, pots and pans rattling, cans rolling in the cabinets, DVD’s sliding around. She touched everything! After an hour or so, we had everything quiet again.

 

 

The Stars and Planets Aligned – Part 4

Return Trip, Warbirds over Westover.

The return trip started off normally, then took a turn for the worse. On the trip down to South Carolina, I noticed a noise from the Roadtrek that I attributed to something in the suspension, frame, or front end.  I stopped at a mechanic in Pennsylvania, but everything looked safe and secure, so I continued on to Triple Tree. During that leg of the trip, it eventually stopped altogether.

2017-Eclipse-2597
WWI and WWII both represented in this image

Shortly after leaving Triple Tree on the return trip however, the noise returned. As the miles ticked on, it got worse, went away, and then returned. I couldn’t correlate it to anything specific, such as suspension sway, bumps, steering position, and it was not reproducible. It would just come and go as it seemed fit.

Feeling uneasy again, I decided to cut this leg short and stop at a local campground while I sort this out. I was in the Natural Bridge area in VA, strangely enough, the same exact area I stopped early in May (Joe Nall) when drenched in a torrential rain storm and had to pull over. Jinxed? 10 hrs to Westport will be a long drive the next day.

2017-Eclipse-2599
A small sampling of the aircraft at the event. This was the left half of the runway, and the right side was nearly a duplicate.

My decision was to stay for the night, then in the morning do another inspection under the chassis and see if I can’t find something. If nothing was found, and the noise persisted as I departed, I’d seek out a mechanic and motel room, and not leave until it was resolved.

The morning inspection, an hour of poking and prodding, I found nothing. I departed and listened. Quiet as a mouse. I kept driving willing to invoke plan B if it returned. I was not going to spend 9 hours driving with the anxiety that the font end is about to fall off. But it was silent all morning, and all afternoon.

Then around 8pm, about 45 minutes from Westport, after all the mechanics have closed up shop and went home, it was dark and I was in the middle of nowhere, it resurfaced. Argh! Occasional thumps, but building. I decided to continue on to Wesport unless it got really bad. Luckily it didn’t and I made it safe and sound around 9pm.

2017-Eclipse-2607
Evening around the campfire is always a great time after a day of flying

I arrived late and tired, I usually plan for no more than 6 hours driving in a day. This was nearly 10 hours including a stop of two to check the van. It was a very peaceful night, windows open, nice breeze, night lows in the mid 50’s. Perfect sleeping weather.

With this problem looming in the back of my mine, I focused on the event. It was well attended by pilots from Canada, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, and New York, and growing each year. Beautiful field, unlimited overfly area, great view of the Adirondacks as the flying backdrop. I love flying at this site. I try to never miss an event held here.

2017-Eclipse-2608
And lets not forget the master fire making skills of Kenny

I’ll attempt the trip home, all back roads, low speeds, and see what develops. Then its off to the mechanic and won’t be picked up until the problem is resolved.

The Stars and Planets Aligned – Part 3

Solar Eclipse Day – Awesome doesn’t do it justice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Eclipse day, just after ‘first contact’
It was an experience that I’ll always remember, and worth every mile of the 2,000 miles round trip to see it. It was a suspension of reality, turning your world upside down and dropping you into a fantasy science fiction movie. Where a ring in the sky emits darkness, light glows up from the ground all around you, temperature drops, and wildlife freaks out. It was surreal.

It started with another wave of airplanes arriving all morning.  A constant stream of airplanes taxiing to the day parking and camping areas. One needed to be very careful walking around with spinning props everywhere. But it was a rush sitting on the hill mid-runway looking at the string of airplanes entering the pattern and then landing. One after another, every few minutes, all morning long.

2017-Eclipse--2
Crossing lines of aircraft taxiing to parking or camping is a challenge
As the eclipse started, many converged around the main gazebo, while others remained in their group camping compounds. Lots of chatter, people peering skywards through plastic spectacles, others with boxes over their heads, still others placing their glasses over phone cameras for a quick social media post.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
My playful side so wanted to go over and ‘knock’ on their front door!
As the eclipse progressed, light levels started to drop, it got noticeably cooler to the point the hair on my arms and neck stood up and goosebumps appeared. I’m not sure if it was the cold, or the event causing it. Either way, gladly accepted as the temps were in the mid-90’s and humid. People started to converge into small groups across the open areas.

The descending darkness was eerily unusual. Glow along the horizon as if the sun had just set but in all directions, with darkness and stars above. Something you have known your entire life to be true, gets turned completely upside down in a matter of minutes.

seconds before totality
Just before totality, darkness descending upon us
Then the corona at third contact, lots of cheers, everyone was ecstatic. What a vibe that reverberated throughout the crowd. People were commenting on the events to anyone nearby, as if talking with long time best friends. Everyone was upbeat and on a high.  If only we could bottle that the world would be a better place. The comments overhead confirmed that everyone was awestruck.

So, I can hear it now, “You’re a photographer, where are your eclipse photos?”.

I didn’t take any!

total eclipse
Video still frame of the total eclipse taken from my iPhone video clip.
It was a once in a lifetime event, lasting only a few minutes. I didn’t want my eyes and brain engrossed in f-stops, shutter speeds, ND filters, and ISO settings. I wanted to enjoy the eclipse. To soak up the event as it unfolded in front of me and not behind a lens, and let it just create a lasting memory.  I had left my camera in my van, unencumbered from the tedious aspects of capturing the spectacle. I only used my iPhone for a few quick video clips before and after. Instead, I just sat there and stared at the sky in awe.

And it was worth it. Every second of it.

And then, sadly, it was gone.

Within the hour after the eclipse, an endless stream of airplanes were crowding taxiways Alpha and Bravo to depart. Chatter on the tower frequency suggested wait times of 30 to 45 minutes to get airborne.

Two days later, and I was again alone at Triple Tree. I departed en-route for a quick overnight in Virginia on my way to the Warbirds over Westport event in NY.

 

The Stars and Planets Aligned – Part 2

Solar Eclipse Fly-in, 1 day till Eclipse

2017-Eclipse-2434
3D Flight area gazebo empty and quiet prior to the non-stop arrivals to start shortly

I arrived early morning two days before the event. It was weird being at the Joe Nall airshow site while completely empty. I’m used to seeing it full with an overload of activity and airplane noise non-stop. And I do mean non-stop. Leave your camper at 3am, and you’ll find plenty of people around to talk with.

When planning the trip, I knew it was going to be hot and muggy and I would want to run my air conditioner. So I called early and managed to snag a premium camping spot. They are considered ‘premium’ only because they have water and electric, where the rest of the facility is dry camping only. Triple Tree has 38 premium sites, but can accommodate nearly a thousand campers and motorhomes. In that respect, premium seems to fit, as they are few and valued.

2017-Eclipse-2390
Camping area is mostly dry camping, but a few premium water and electric sites are available.

Aside from the electric and water, the premium sites are also in a very nice setting. Small walking bridges, streams and small ponds, lots of shade trees, and easy access to the the flight line. Every bit as nice as some resort campgrounds. No pool, recreation building, morning buffet breakfast, or playground, just a very nice setting in very cool airport.

2017-Eclipse-2391
The camping area empty. You would never see this a few days before Joe Nall starts.

Even before getting settled in, the buyer for the Decathlon showed up and we spent an hour or so doing the exchange. We exchanged the transmitter program between radios, checked that all functions and switches worked as programmed, and test started the engine. I went over the controls and setup for the new buyer, and they were on their way. Being a day early for the event and with the facility being empty, I spent a lazy day alternating between flying and working.

The next morning, you could tell the day was near as the air traffic picked up considerably. Aircraft are now arriving every few minutes. The ramp and camping area are filling up. Chatter about tomorrow is everywhere. I listened to the controllers on the tower and ground frequencies, and they were pretty busy. A nice done job getting everyone in and out during the event.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
One of my favorite airplanes. Aero Commander 500B twin. This couple was from Pureto Rico on a month long flying trip in their Aero Commander.

Some very cool aircraft have shown up, as well as some of my favorites. Aero Commander, Swift, Cheeta, Maule, V-tail Bonanza, DC-3, and many more. Lots to look at and admire, talk with the owners, and immerse myself in aviation. It was an interesting mix of motorhomes, trailers, aircraft, and tents. It looks like a cross between a campground and an airport. Hmmm. With a 7000’ runway, hangars, hundreds of campsites. I guess technically it is.

But the event we are all here for is the eclipse. In the mean time, here are some very nice airplanes from the fly in. I was told by Tom Hartness that about 600 aircraft flew in for the event. I would have guessed more.

2017-Eclipse-2481
Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing. Designed and built in the early 1930’s as a large, powerful, and fast cabin biplane built specifically for the business executive.
2017-Eclipse-2490
Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing. Designed and built in the early 1930’s as a large, powerful, and fast cabin biplane built specifically for the business executive.
2017-Eclipse-2482
Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing. Designed and built in the early 1930’s as a large, powerful, and fast cabin biplane built specifically for the business executive.

 

2017-Eclipse-2509
de Havilland DHC-1 Super Chipmunk is a tandem, two-seat, single-engine trainer aircraft from the post World War II era. Often used for sport and basic aerobatic training present day.
2017-Eclipse-2516
de Havilland DHC-1 Super Chipmunk
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Globe Swift, a two-seat sport airplane from the post-World War II Period. Designed and introduced in 1942, over 1,500 were built before production ceased in 1951.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Globe Swift cockpit
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Globe Swift wing detail
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Aircraft parked along the 3D pond
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Camping, airplane style.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Even the ‘Grateful Dead’ flew in for the event. And sporting safety solar eclipse viewing shades! 🙂
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
I believe this is an RV4, as is the one on the left.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A gear malfunctioned on this twin while they were moving it. The wing was lifted by a group of people and the gear extended. It couldn’t be flown out until inspected and repaired by a certified mechanic. Not a good day for the pilot.
2017-Eclipse-2494
The ‘parking lot’ for non-campers at 1/4 full. It was full by 11am on eclipse day.
2017-Eclipse-2446
Camping area nearly full. Planes still arriving.
2017-Eclipse-2383-2
For those that made it this far on this post, and little aviation humor! Posted in the mens room by the urinal.