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Friday, April 21, 2017

Nothing Better Than Old Coal Cracker Friends Visiting After Surgery. Meet Jimmy - Cathy - and Shannon Welsh

Harry - Lulu - Jimmy - Cathy - Shannon.
The Welsh's
Lulu loves to show guests Dodd Hall -
an old FSU library

On Tuesday I had a joint replaced in my index finger. There is nothing better than having two coal cracker nurses here to take care of me and keep my mind off the recovery.

Jimmy and his brother Matt lived right down the street from me on Catawissa St in Tamaqua PA. For years we prowled the streets of North Ward and the Bungalow Park together. Of course we all grew up and went our separate ways. Jim worked for Asplunt - a national tree surgeon business. He worked all over the USA. He is retired now - but when I saw him on Facebook - we had to have them over. 

Jimmy has 3 pretty daughters in their 20s now. His wife Cathy also works as a nurse administrator. When I found Jim - he was touring around Florida in a motor home. They went to the Parma Maria for supper. We invited them up to our section of Florida - they arrived Wednesday. We took them to the usual haunts - the museums - FSU stuff - and we ate at Harry's - my restaurant downtown. 

We spent 3 days at our house - going over the history of everyone from Tamaqua. we laughed and laughed - and were sad about friends that have died. 

They were in our house and helped celebrate as Lulu taught her last class before her 16 month sabbatical at FSU. This morning they pulled out in the camper as they headed west for Panama City Beach - Destin - Fort Walton - and Pensacola. They have a Ford camper made by Thor. It sleeps 6  people. They are towing a Toyota Scion - safety car - just in case. While here - they stayed in the house with us. Lulu made some coal region treats like red beet eggs -  they pleased her by making a fuss over them. 

Tomorrow - we are flying to Phoenix to see Dick and Jan Davis - two other coal cracker friends that live in Maricopa AZ. It is the start of Lulu's Grand Sabbatical Tour. 

We hope they all come back for a football game in the winter. Nothing is better than coal cracker guests!

Harry and Jimmy at Doak Campbell Stadium

Shannon just graduated with her nursing degree
Bobby Bowden was recruiting Jimmy
We went up to the top of the
Florida Capitol
Jimmy lives with 4 women. Cathy his wife
of 30 years - Shannon his daughter

At the Florida Supreme Court Jimmy
applied for a job. 
Cathy will work here as the new Judge Judy

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Flying In A 600 HP Bentley Up Monroe Street With Jim

Here is a 69 year old guy experiencing
600 horsepower up Monroe St
2012 Bentley V12 Twin turbo
Lulu's brother Jack introduced us to Jim a long time ago. Jim is an FSU alum and comes to town for football games. A long time ago - we met at the Gator Bowl for a game - Lulu catered a big party - and Jim offered us Plantation Shutters. Jim gave us some for our old house. 

When it came time to built the new house - we built it to accept 28 sets of Jim's shutters. On the web look up - "The Louvre Shoppe." Jim's firm installed the shutters for us. He even used a video of us and the house for his web page. 

Jim's business is doing well. This time - Jim arrived in a Bentley Convertible. It has 619 HP and two turbos in that V12 engine. The first owner of the car was Kobe Bryant's wife. It cost $260k new. 

Jim used to stay with us for Seminole football games - but he bought a house in town just for games. 

Big tires - big brakes - big wheels - almost 6000 pounds

The V12 is only 6 liters
As we were driving the Bentley -
the Ford Tri-Motor passed overhead.
Dale - Jim - Lulu enjoying a beautiful sunny day
I doubt a Bentley will ever live at that house

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Cruising Over Tallahassee in A Ford Tri-Motor

Today we flew in this Ford Tri-Motor

We woke up early this morning. Lulu wanted to go and visit some yard sales. I stayed home and read the morning newspaper. As I was reading - although I am hard of hearing - I heard an unmistakable sound outside. In the paper was a story about a Ford Tri-Motor visiting town for the weekend and giving rides. I ran outside just in time to catch a glimpse of this flying piece of history zooming overhead at the leisurely pace of 100 MPH.

When Lulu came home I told her about it. We called the airport and they said rides we $75 and $50 for kids. Lulu told me to take I ride - I insisted she go along. We got dressed - and in minutes we could see the plane on the ground. We went into the hangar - signed on the dotted line - and paid $150 in tens.

The planes was beautiful and there were very few people there - maybe two dozen. After a little safety talk - we hopped in with 9 passengers - 2 crew. The pilot started the 3 Pratt and Whitney 500 HP engines one at a time. They chugged to life and we taxied down to the end of runway 36.. We were going to be taking off due north. It was cool feeling the tail come up first - this is a tail dragging aircraft

The sky was a perfect dark blue dome. There may have been a 10 MPG wind from the north - buffeting the plane just a bit.

The Ford Tri-Motor was build by Henry Ford in Detroit for 1928 to 1933. 199 were made - Ford lost money on it. He copied it from the famous corrugated aluminum Junkers of Nazi fame. When Ford tried to market it in Europe he was sued and he lost to Junker from copyright infringement. The planes cruises at 105 MPH. It was the first plane used for commercial passenger service. Pan Am used this very plane to fly from Key West to Havana Cuba. This plane worked for Cubana Airlines for 20 years. As late as the 1970's the Ford Tri-Motor was used as a "school bus" to haul kids every day from an island in Lake Erie to the shore school.

Our flight took about ½ hour. We circled the town and the big windows and slow speed allowed for great picture taking. When we got back - another group was waiting. We hopped in our car and went to the FSU spring football game. When we got inside the stadium (free VIP parking - free tickets) we asked the fans if they saw the old plane go over. They said yes - and we said "that was us."

Built in 1928 - a piece of flying history
Three 450 HP engines

Rides $75
This turned into Eastern Airlines
cables moving controls on outside of aircraft
9 seats - everyone a window seat
Corrugated aluminum
Airplanes use roster
Doak Campbell Stadium
FSU red roofs
Right before spring football game
The band was there
White Florida Department of Education -
brown civic center arena where we play basketball
Stewart Pond behind our old house
Our house - the two plain black roofs

Our white driveway to Seminole Drive
More FSU pix 
Landing on North-South runway 
Tower at Tallahassee
One of three engines

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Finally The Perfect Camper For Us - Camping World's Hymer Van One

Hymer Van One
Two long single beds - cushions in middle make it a king bed

Greg Porter is our salesman at Camping World in Midway FL. For the last couple of years we have been pestering Greg to find us the perfect camper. I think he has finally found the "One."

Lulu and I have owned many campers. We even have purchased a Road Trek at this Camping World. Lulu has even used our campers as private moving hotel rooms in NYC when she was a professor at St Johns. But most of them had flaws like - the bed is too small - the battery does not run the AC - the unit was too long or too gaudy to park at a meter in disguise. 

Finally - a strange collection of happenings has led the way for the perfect van. 

In Europe - we always loved the little campers made by Hymer. Whenever we saw one it merited a picture - and a threat to buy one and bring it home. In America we owned and loved Canadian Roadtreks because they are compact - winterized - and made solidly. Like the Reese's commercial where "you got your chocolate in my peanut butter" - Hymer bought Roadtrek. One of the first campers they released is the Hymer Van One. 

The Van One is 19.5 feet long. It is 9.5 feet high. Although it won't fit in our garage because it is too tall - I should certainly be able to parallel park it at a parking meter. It has front wheel drive - automatic transmission - 4 wheel disc brakes - and reclining seats. There are only 2 seat belts in the van - so they do not want passengers riding on the beds while moving. It is basically for two old people that want big beds and a short stroll to the toilet at night. 

It is built on the Dodge Promaster chassis with a 280 HP Pentastar engine. It is a real workhorse van. Outside it has clean lines and a black no-nonsense paint job. The windows are dark tinted and have opaque shades and screens on the inside. No one can see in - unless you want them to. 

The list of features is endless - 
- 2 long single beds that can be made into a king bed
- rear bathroom with porcelain toilet - sink - shower (can be accessed from back door)
- propane furnace with thermostat
- roof air with thermostat
- plenty of cabinets - drawers - closets
- 12 volt power - 110 volt ac power - inverter - generator
- refrigerator with freezer
- gas stove 
- microwave
- hot water heater

The most innovative feature is the underhood generator. Instead of running a separate genset with a lawnmower engine - this generator runs directly off the coach engine. You can run the roof air quietly while the coach engine idles. It is the first one I saw like that. One of my biggest pet peeves was the old gensets - where you had to maintain a separate engine - that often gets gunked up from lack of use. Everyone hates the sound of a generator droning through the night.

Of course you can run the roof air when you are plugged in at a camp site - but we seldom go to a campsite. Try plugging it in at a Walmart  :-)   This AC can run off the engine. 

The Hymer is listed anywhere from $59,000 to $72,000. It is a price much higher than the $39,000 we paid for our Honda Van last year. But as you get older - the thoughts of going to the bathroom in a Honda are not pretty. 

This camper has been a dream for Lulu and I for a long time. But now finally here it is.

If we bought it - it would be our beach house - our Disney cabin - our guest house at home - our guest house when we visit Washington - Richmond - and Tamaqua. We could tailgate in it. We could go to away games and not worry about getting gouged for hotel rooms. On the road - at sunset - we would just pull over - and spend the night wherever we are. It could be a Cracker Barrel - Walmart - or a parking meter downtown. Since we have TV service through our iPhones and computers - we would always have the entertainment - sports - movies - the news. 

This month Lulu is starting a sabbatical leave that will last until Sept of 2018. So we have the time to put it to good use. We are both healthy and have places to go. 

I thought when someone took a sabbatical - they were supposed to rest and re-charge their batteries - personally and professionally. Someone better tell Lulu about that. She is planning like there is no tomorrow. But a lot of her "rest" includes projects overseas. Last week Bahrain offered her an appointment under the Fulbright Specialist program - I had to twist her arm to turn it down. We will probably spend a month each this summer in England - France - Germany. She has a gig in Winnipeg Canada in August and is planning a Disney Cruise also in August with the kids. Did I forgot the project in Pasadena CA? 

When will we ever be able to use this Van? We also have this new Honda Odyssey van collecting dust in the garage. We just took it on a 9 day 1700 mile drive up north last week. If we sold that - we would lose a bundle on depreciation. Nobody likes a crybaby - but it took us a long time to save up this kind of money - my DNA won't just let me fritter it away. After 3 years - that $70000 camper will be worth $40000 - you can get a lot of fine hotel rooms for $30000. This camper on a good day will get 15 MPG - our Honda van just delivered 28 MPG on the big trip. With the internet - you can find some great bargains on hotel rooms. 

So - as you can see - even though we found the perfect camper - we are still at the same crossroads. Do we want to travel in a motor home - with bath and kitchen - or do we want to travel in our Honda Van and stay at fancy hotels? My friends Dick and Joan both emailed to say we could do both. And we could. But if you know how tight this Coal Cracker is - it will take a big attitude adjustment to do them both. 

It boils down to - a Camper and Walmarts - versus - a Honda Van - Hiltons - and diapers :-)   We have not tried out diapers yet - but they are looking more inviting   :-)

Lulu does not like that joke.

propane furnace and water heater
19 feet long - very plain outside - 9.5 feet tall
rear door goes into bathroom
awning and roof air - blacked out windows-
screens and blackout shades
bathroom in back - shower - sink - toilet - closet
sink - shower head - mirror - curtain
They come in silver - gold - black - maybe dark red.
Maybe a Seminole head on the side will get us free parking
Hymer - German company in Bad Waldsee -
this one made in Canada