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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I Got the Camper Home from Sarasota with a Little Help from My Friends

My friends Carl and Marylou picked me up at the airport in Tampa and took me to Bradenton where the camper waited.

It was a long day but I got the camper home safely thanks to a lot of help. 

It started out at 9 AM when my buddy George Dawson took me to the Tallahassee airport in his van. Lulu had purchased a ticket for me on Silver Airways - a carrier I was not even aware that they existed. 

A one way non-stop ticket with Silver on a Saab 340 was $190. It was either flying with them for that price or flying with Delta from Tallahassee to Atlanta to Sarasota for $640. The other alternative was driving a rental car down for 5 hours - then hopping in the camper and driving another 5 hours home. I like to drive - but not as much as I used to. :-)

At the Tampa Airport - my friends Carl and Marylou Zimmerman were waiting for me. When I came out of the terminal I saw a silver Cadillac passing by and I took off after it - arms waving in the air. They did not stop for me. Then I got a call from Marylou saying they were almost there - and not driving the silver Cadillac. I guess that driver thought I was a crazy man. He came around again - I just smiled and waved. Good thing he was not in the Mafia. Minutes later - Carl and Marylou came by in their brown Blazer. No ride in the Caddy today. 

The Saab 340 is fuel efficient. It says that it uses 60% less fuel than a 70 seat jet.
The Saab 340 has 12 rows of seats - 3 across for a total of 36.  Most of the passengers seemed to be day trippers on business.  Imagine a commute like that every day. Inside it reminded me of the old Concord supersonic jet - long and skinny - with a pointed nose.

We had lunch at the grayhead McDonalds - better known as Cracker Barrel. Then we stopped for a tour at a factory that build swim spas - more on that later. 

Finally - we reached the Dodge dealer in Bradenton. The camper was waiting in the front row. I paid the $1000 bill - and they gave me the keys. After giving my friends a little tour of the camper - I started it up and following them up I-75 about 60 miles to the exit to their home in Zephyr Hills. The camper was doing well - they peeled off - and I was on my own. 

The camper was full of gasoline - I had had a late lunch - I had a bathroom on board - I was ready for the last leg of my trip. I was about 3 PM - bright and sunny when I started. The camper performed flawlessly. But not taking any chances - I drove the 314 miles home non-stop in about 5 hours. I set the cruise control at 65 MPH and did not budge from the right lane. After Tampa - there was very little traffic. By the time I hit Gainesville it was dark. I was entertaining myself by listened first to the Jeff Cameron sport show - then Howard Stern - on Sirius radio over my iPhone. I marveled at all the neat things we have thanks to computer technology. Even though my breakdown of the camper was because of computer failure - I love all the conveniences that computers have brought to us. Just a few years ago - we did not have satellite radio - cellphones in the car - TV on the road - or GPS's to guide us safely and efficiently. We did not have pictures developed instantly like we get today from digital cameras. We did not have the Internet where we could send messages and post stories and pictures in seconds.

The Saab 340 turboprop is used by Silver Airlines. It made our 250 miles trip in about 45 minutes. The Saab was built from 1983 to 1999. Silver flies as far north as New York and south to the Virgin Islands and Key West. There are 450 Saab 340s still in service. At both Tallahassee and Tampa - you board via a small set of steps. A very interesting sensation is the short landing distance required. When you hit the ground - the pilot can reverse the the pitch on the blades off the propellers - just like putting the plane in reverse. They stop quickly and taxi to the gate quickly. I swear they could land on an aircraft carrier at sea. They also turn off one  engine and taxi with just one prop.
As I made the big turn from I-75 north to I-10 west - it started to rain hard. For the next 100 miles - traffic was very light - but the rain and fog slowed me down a bit. I got home at about 8 PM. I shut down the camper - I did not have to unpack because all I took on the plane was my cellphone and camera. Lulu had a late supper for me - by 9 PM we went to bed. 

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