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Friday, June 23, 2017

Fathers Day With Family At The Black Bear Lodge In The Appalachian Mountains

Paul Askew - Max - Me - 2 Grandfathers
just happy to be there on Fathers Day

Black Bear Lodge - 4 cars from 4 different states -
Florida - Washington DC - Virginia - North Carolina
The Cornwall flag hangs proudly -
Lulu's great grandfather (James Cox) emigrated from Cornwall
When three big events - like Fathers Day - your youngest grandson's 1st birthday - and you oldest grandson's 9th birthday all line up - it is a special occasion. So - last weekend we rented the Black Bear Lodge in Wintergreen VA as a place for all the Everharts to meet and spend 4 days celebrating our good fortune.

I never met my grandfathers - both were dead before I was even a thought. One died in 1942 - the other in 1945 - and I was born in 1948. I always wondered what they were like - William J Quick and Roy S Everhart. I wanted to make sure the newest Everhart - Max - knew his grandfathers - and also knew they were good friends. Max's first year seems to have flown by - but when you approach 70 - they all fly by. My oldest grandson - Jack - is now 9 - and my only granddaughter Kate is 6. They are all such joys to us. The worst part of living in Florida - is being 800 miles away from the kids.

Lulu and I left Tallahassee in our Honda on Thursday. We spent a night in Charlotte NC on the way up and Columbia SC on the way home - 750 miles each way. The van was marvelous on the road getting 28 MPG - traffic was light - but we got lots of rain.

Paul and Evelyn Askew drove from North Carolina to share Max's 1st birthday. Max is Paul's first and only grandchild. Also we found out Paul and Jack are both born on June 20th.

On the way home we also stopped in Augusta to see Jack and Lottie Robinson - Robin's grandparents. You may remember Jack as the 1948 London Olympic Gold Medalist. I wish they were at the Black Bear Lodge with us. I showed them the pictures. I wish I got a picture of them too.

We rented Black Bear Lodge for $300 a night. It had 5 bedrooms and 5 baths. Everyone had a master suite. We enjoyed the fireplace and a big back deck overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. We hiked - cooked - ate - played games - and swam. Just a great time together.

See the lodge here - Black Bear Lodge

As you get older - you can count the number of Fathers Days on your fingers - and if you are lucky on your toes. Also when you are senile - the last one is always the best one.

The Everhart 9

Max opening up his new bike with Liz

We could see for miles - I swear almost back
to Andreas PA where I was born on the side of
these Appalachian Mts

Paul and Evelyn Askew - Max's grandfather and step grandmother.

Three Everhart boys and a lady

5 Everhart Men

The whole clan

Lulu and Michigan Rummy with her boys

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Going To Virginia Tomorrow To Visit Kids and Grandkids at Black Bear Lodge

Friday we are heading north to see the kids. We will be driving the Honda van with something new inside. We are taking along our electric bikes for the first time. Of course - I am always concerned about bike theft. We had one stolen from our camper in Washington DC a long time ago. Ever since then we lock them up.

Lulu was concerned about scratching the van up inside - I was worried about hurting the bikes. I built this little garage that protects the bikes - prevents rattling noises - and keeps the van clean. It reminds me of those trailers with horse stalls in them. There is also plenty of foam rubber from an old camper mattress.

I took the van for a test ride and it is nice and quiet. It is about 800 miles up and 800 miles back. 

It is supposed to rain for the weekend - we might not get to ride the bikes. But we will get to celebrate   grandson Max's 1st birthday and grandson Jack's 9th. 

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

We Got New Electric Bikes

The company is Rad Electric Bikes. They build the bikes in Seattle.  Our model is the Rad Mini.

It is a folding bike that can be carried inside our Honda Van. It has a 750 watt motor in the rear hub. It has a Panasonic 11.6 amp hour lithium battery in the frame under the seat.

It goes 20 MPH for 40 miles on battery power. You can extend that by pedaling along. It has 2 disk brakes. The 20 inch wheels have 4 inch wide tires for riding on the beach or off road.

The bike folds in half in the middle. The handlebars fold down. The pedals fold inward. The seat and handlebars slide up and down.

On our first trip to campus - Lulu and I got caught in the rain. We spent 10 minutes under a bridge waiting for the storm to pass.

The bike has plenty of power - it goes easily up hills without pedaling. Pedal along to extend your range.

It has a LED headlight and flashing tail light. It has a computer that reads out battery strength - miles - speed - trip odometer - and light controls.

The bikes cost $1400 each - that included tax and shipping. Some assembly was required. I installed the front wheel - the pedals - and the headlight.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

We Took The Long Way Home - From Palma Maria - We Toured Custom Coach Creations

This was our route home Altamont Springs - DeLand -
Ocala Forest - Palatka - Starke -
Lake City - Tallahassee - 285 miles
On Friday we drove from the Palma Maria back home the long way. We wanted to visit a few places we never were - and also wanted to visit Custom Coach Creations. We like touring in camper vans and this place in DeLand makes them from scratch. You tell them what you want - and they fit it altogether. They start out mostly with Mercedes Sprinter or Dodge Promaster vans. Then they add bathrooms - beds - kitchens - batteries - generators - and anything else you want.

DeLand's pretty downtown and
Stetson College surprised us
Our first stop was DeLand - a beautiful small city that is the home of Stetson University and also the county seat. It has a wonderful walking downtown - an old working theatre - and an opera house. It reminds you of Tallahassee a bit but with much better developed downtown. 

CCC builds great van campers from scratch
Custom Coach Creations is about 10 miles west of DeLand on a 5 acre ranchette. The owners are Robert and Lois Murphy - they live on site. It looked like they had about 10 workers and they produced about 3 vans a month. The vans we saw are very plain on the outside like I prefer. Inside they had the latest electrical technology. Wade handles most of the electrical work - and he gave us an outstanding tour. If we ever do get another camper - this might be the best way to go. 

This old home sits on the banks of
the superwide St Johns River
Our last stop was Palatka. We visited there before when we traveled from Philadelphia to Kissimmee on Amtrak Trains - when we took several groups to Disneyworld. Palatka sits on the St Johns River which is one mile wide at this point. We crossed the bridge to the east side to visit Corky Bell's - a famous seafood place. They had an extensive menu - thankfully it included ribs. 

St Johns River at one time was the major highway to Florida starting at Jacksonville - one could sail all the way to near Orlando. Large paddle wheel steamers brought the first snowbirds to this orange blossom paradise. This is the largest USA river flowing true north. 

Between DeLand and Palatka is the Ocala National Forest. Florida recently passed New York to be the 3rd largest state by population - but there are still places in this state where you can drive 40 miles and not see a house or get a cell phone signal. The Ocala National Forest is one of them. We passed right through it south to north. This area is Gator Country - both from real alligators - and the blue and orange football fans. 

We got home before sundown - UPS delivered our electric bikes from Seattle while we were away. On to the next adventure. Oh yes - Sunday morning we had the greatest French Toast made from Italian bread from the Palma Maria. 

Building a camper kitchen
Giant battery pack and inverter
turn 12 volt DC to 120 volts AC
That area will be a queen size bed
¾ inch plywood floors - foam insulation 
This one was going to be a mobile office
Plywood floor to be covered with laminate
Refrigerator and Freezer 
Cutting area for plywood - carpet - lining 
The whole shop was out in the middle of
Gator Country
Our Honda van did not miss a beat
the whole trip - got 28 MPG
Downtown DeLand Athens Theatre

Friday, June 02, 2017

5 Hours To the Palma Maria

Carl - Marylou - Lulu - Me
Pete Rosinola Sr - on wall
Parm and Anna were our servers

It all started with an email from Marylou Zimmerman. She said they were snowbirding home this week from Tampa to Tamaqua - and wanted to get together. We both had visited Dick and Jan Davis out west in May - and wanted to share stories. Nothing is better than a Honda van trip with the 6 Amigos going up the road 2-2-2. But we could not pass up a trip to the Palma Maria to share the good times.

Everybody thinks because we live in Florida and the Palma is in Florida - we can drop by every day for lunch. It is 5 hours from our house to our favorite restaurant! It is so far - and we are old - Lulu had to get us an Embassy Suite to veg out after our wonderful meal. 

We left Tallahassee at 10 AM and by 3 PM we were in our suite. A half hour later - Carl and Marylou rolled in. We got a suite - just in case they wanted to stay - we were lucky they stayed until 11 PM. The time flew by. 

The Palma is just 4 miles down the road from our hotel - after the 3 of them shared a bottle of wine - I chauffeured them to the restaurant. The absolute best part of the Palma - besides the food - is the special treatment you get for sitting at the Tamaqua Table. Lulu has been calling it that for decades. Eating a splendid dinner under the gaze of Pete's picture - is spiritual for Tamaqua people. Imagine having a place like home - from 40 years ago - that is special. 

The Palma existed on Broad Street in Tamaqua from 1950 to 1980. Everyone has stories of eating - working - hanging out there. In 1980 - the whole family moved south - and now they have been in the same spot in Casselberry (30 miles north of Disneyworld) for the last 37 years. Anna - Parm - MaryAnn - and Pete Jr serve up the same wonderful food - bake fresh bread daily - and their pies that are out of this world. When they wanted to invent the term - time warp - they picked this place. Even the prices are surprisingly low - for fine dining. All 4 of us had something different - mine was Sausage Parmesan. Email me if you want prices. 

Carl and Marylou are a trip. They just came back from a month on the Left Coast to visit their son and Dick and Jan Davis. Now next week they will drive to Tamaqua for 5 months. They keep a home in Hometown PA mainly because they have nowhere to put their stuff. 

After dinner - we retreated to our hotel where we gabbed and gabbed until 11 PM. Lulu and Marylou shared a hot tub with other hotel guests - and Carl and I played with gadgets - always a fun past time. 
We wanted them to stay - but it is only an hour to their winter home near Tampa. 

Out hotel is next to Altamont Springs Mall - it beckons Lulu. After that - there is a firm that builds camper vans from scratch in DeLand FL - which is about 20 miles away. I would like to see them in action before we go home. 

Before we drove down - Dick Davis called to video chat. I said 5 hours is far to go for dinner. He said - is there any doubt at all that you are going to do this? Never a doubt Dick - and you were there the whole night. 

Sorry Pete - it is blurred - but you look more like your Dad
this way 

Palma Maria momentos

Pete and Dolly 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Honda 600 - The First Honda Car produced For USA Import - We Had One

1972 Honda 600 at
Proctor Honda - I am typing from the showroom

1100 pounds and 36 horsepower - this car is tiny

I am sitting in the showroom at Proctor Honda in Tallahassee - waiting for the service on our 2016 Honda Odyssey Van. We bought it one year ago and it has 12000 miles on it. I am in a pretty good mood because the service tech just told me that there is no charge for the 12000 mile service.

Another reason I like coming here is because sitting right in front of me in the showroom is a 1972 Honda 600. This was the first car Honda imported into the USA - a few year before the Civic. It is also the first brand new car that Lulu and I bought together.

1972 was a big year for us. We were married a year and Lulu graduated from THS. We bought a little travel trailer to live in while we started building our new home by the Bungalow in Tamaqua. Lulu also started commuting from Tamaqua to Kutztown State College - 40 miles each way.

In those days - my employer used to pay teachers their summer play in a lump sum to save postage stamps. We got a big check and proceeded to buy a new car. It was a new Honda 600 for $1525. It barely sat 4 people. It had a 2 cylinder engine - 4 speed - no AC - and no options were available but a radio.

The car weighed 1100 pounds. It had 36 horsepower. It was one of the first ones to have front wheel drive. It had 10 inch tires and disk brakes. It went from 0 to 60 MPH in 19 seconds. It topped out at 77 MPH and got 36 miles per gallon. We loved that little car - by today's standards it was not very safe.

The first thing we did when we got it was to drive it to Miami. It took us 2 days and $8 of gasoline to get there. When we got there - we rented a tiny apartment for $70 a month. It was really just a bedroom and bathroom on an enclosed veranda - but we loved it. We both got jobs right away - Lulu worked the service desk at K-Mart and announced the Bluelight Specials. I ended up selling cars for Honda. It was a romantic life for both of us - and we considered staying there. But at the end of August we drove back to Tamaqua and I went back to teaching and Lulu became a Kutztown Coed - where she majored in library science.

Life went on - we bought almost 80 cars since then. But that little Honda holds a special spot in our hearts. We visited Disneyworld for the first time in that car on the way home to Pennsylvania. To save money on that trip home - we stayed in the little Honda - on that humid mosquito filled night.

Tomorrow we will drive our new Honda van to Orlando to meet our good buddies Carl and Marylou at the Palma Maria for supper. Things have changed a bit - we rented an Embassy Suite in Orlando to relax after our dinner - and then drive home the next day.

Back on our first visit to Florida in 1971 - when we eloped - Lulu vowed to one day live in Florida. Little did we know back then - one day she would be a professor at Florida State University. And I would be carrying her bags.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Panama City Trip - Campers - Beach - Hofbrau House - Tiny Homes

Lulu liked this little lightweight trailer.
This diesel Freightliner was nice at $49k. 

Over the weekend we went to Panama City Beach for the holiday. It was sort of a bribe though. I wanted to see 4 campers I was interested in that were listed on Craigslist. Getting Lulu to co-operate - simply bribe her with the beach. We made the stops early and by 1 PM she was in the sand. 

The campers were all nice - but the motor homes were overpriced for their age and miles. The trailer was only two years old and well kept - it looked like new. The 3 motor homes were all about 9 years old and had on about 100,000 miles. They were priced from $49000 to $53000. 

The trailer is a 2016 Rpod by Forest River. they list at $16000 new. This guy wanted $10,500 for his - I offered $9000. We liked them all - but our hearts not into any one of them.

Let me explain our situation. We like having a camper to travel in - sleep in - use the bathroom. We are not big "sit around the campsite" people. We like to visit cities - museums - historical things - shop. We like to camp at parking meters. 

Also - Lulu is really good at getting top grade hotels at low prices. He FSU card gets her government rates - which are usually half price. She also shops the internet. When holiday hotel rooms at the beach were going for $300 - she got us a Hampton Inn for ⅓ of that.  Make no mistake about it - staying in a 5 star hotel room is ALWAYS better than a camper.

Finally - Lulu has me all over the world -and you can't drive a camper over the ocean - yet. For example - we will be in London the whole month of July. We just spent March in Spain - and last year we spent Feb-Mar-Apr in Germany. She has been named a Fulbright Specialist - which means we will be having 2 extended stays in 2 foreign countries in the next 3 years. Nothing worse than having a camper sit out front as a lawn ornament. So I am guessing - unless the perfect bargain comes along - no more campers for a while. 

This 2008 Pleasureway was $53k.
This 2009 Mercedes was $49k.

There bed in the Mercedes was electric.
This Freightliner was clean with 60k miles.

I loved the Freightliner cab.
On the way home we stopped at a Tiny House development just west of Tallahassee. They remind me of cabins at the state park. They have full bathrooms - little bedrooms - kitchenettes in the living room.  They are cute - but are like living in a camper that does not move. You better build them in the right place.

I would like to have my builder Gary put a couple in our back yard. There is a big market here for AirBnB cottages - with the sporting events - etc. Lulu says I can have 2 but they must include a pool. Shot down again. 

Tiny Houses
They remind me of cabins in the Poconos

A Danger to the World It's Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump

A DER SPIEGEL Editorial by 

U.S President Donald Trump
Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn't read. He doesn't bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees.
He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media's tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.
Trump is a miserable politician. He fired the FBI director simply because he could. James Comey had gotten under his skin with his investigation into Trump's confidants. Comey had also refused to swear loyalty and fealty to Trump and to abandon the investigation. He had to go.
Witnessing an American Tragedy
Trump is also a miserable boss. His people invent excuses for him and lie on his behalf because they have to, but then Trump wakes up and posts tweets that contradict what they have said. He doesn't care that his spokesman, his secretary of state and his national security adviser had just denied that the president had handed Russia (of all countries) sensitive intelligence gleaned from Israel (of all countries). Trump tweeted: Yes, yes, I did, because I can. I'm president after all.

Nothing is as it should be in this White House. Everyone working there has been compromised multiple times and now they all despise each other - and everyone except for Trump despises Trump. Because of all that, after just 120 days of the Trump administration, we are witness to an American tragedy for which there are five theoretical solutions.

The first is Trump's resignation, which won't happen. The second is that Republicans in the House and Senate support impeachment, which would be justified by the president's proven obstruction of justice, but won't happen because of the Republicans' thirst for power, which they won't willingly give up. The third possible solution is the invocation of the 25th Amendment, which would require the cabinet to declare Trump unfit to discharge the powers of the presidency. That isn't particularly likely either. Fourth: The Democrats get ready to fight and win back majorities in the House and Senate in midterm elections, which are 18 months away, before they then pursue option two, impeachment. Fifth: the international community wakes up and finds a way to circumvent the White House and free itself of its dependence on the U.S. Unlike the preceding four options, the fifth doesn't directly solve the Trump problem, but it is nevertheless necessary - and possible.
No Goals and No Strategy
Not quite two weeks ago, a number of experts and politicians focused on foreign policy met in Washington at the invitation of the Munich Security Conference. It wasn't difficult to sense the atmosphere of chaos and agony that has descended upon the city.
The U.S. elected a laughing stock to the presidency and has now made itself dependent on a joke of a man. The country is, as David Brooks wrote recently in the New York Times, dependent on a child. The Trump administration has no foreign policy because Trump has consistently promised American withdrawal while invoking America's strength. He has promised both no wars and more wars. He makes decisions according to his mood, with no strategic coherence or tactical logic. Moscow and Beijing are laughing at America. Elsewhere, people are worried.
In the Pacific, warships - American and Chinese - circle each other in close proximity. The conflict with North Korea is escalating. Who can be certain that Donald Trump won't risk nuclear war simply to save his own skin? Efforts to stop climate change are in trouble and many expect the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because Trump is wary of legally binding measures. Crises, including those in Syria and Libya, are escalating, but no longer being discussed. And who should they be discussed with? Phone calls and emails to the U.S. State Department go unanswered. Nothing is regulated, nothing is stable and the trans-Atlantic relationship hardly exists anymore. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Norbert Röttgen fly back and forth, but Germany and the U.S. no longer understand each other. Hardly any real communication takes place, there are no joint foreign policy goals and there is no strategy.
In "Game of Thrones," the Mad King was murdered (and the child that later took his place was no better). In real life, an immature boy sits on the throne of the most important country in the world. He could, at any time, issue a catastrophic order that would immediately be carried out. That is why the parents cannot afford to take their eyes off him even for a second. They cannot succumb to exhaustion because he is so taxing. They ultimately have to send him to his room - and return power to the grownups.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Morning At Panama City Beach - Don't Tell Me To Suck In My Gut - It Is Already At Full Alert

Names are confusing - This is Panama City Beach - FLORIDA.
It is a separate place from Panama City - FLORIDA -
and Panama City - PANAMA.

It is a pretty day at the pier. Lulu loves the beach. I carry her bags - and her tent. This time we parked at the mall and walked across the street. We will enjoy two hours here then return to our hotel to clean up - then go home. 

Lulu is already in the water. Where are the cousins when you need them?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jim Fogarty and Paul Gimbel - A Visit With My Two High School And College Buddies

Two Tamaqua deejays spun a few tunes for me.
Note the custom mechanical jukebox.
Two Coal Cracker Corvette owners.
One time Jim said to me -
Can your imagine me in a van?
I drive a Honda van.
I was sitting in the Tamaqua Train Station with Lulu and her aunt Dolores. Suddenly I got a message from Paul Gimbel. He said he would pick me up and we would go to lunch. Perfect. When he arrived - he announced we were going to Jim Fogarty's house for lunch. Jim's wife Mary Beth offered up a great lunch and we accepted.

Paul and Jim are legends in Tamaqua. The 50s - 60s - and 70s - belonged to them. They were some of the brilliant people that chose to live and die in the Tamaqua Area. They paid their dues.

Jim Fogarty sat behind me in many of my high school classes. Paul Gimbel took over that role at Kutztown State Teachers College. They were a big part of my life. Some of you may re-call - they also entertained Tamaqua on weekend as DJ's at WSVB-FM in Dutch Hill. They were full time colleges students but came home to Tamaqua on weekends to provide 12 hours of live programming every Saturday and Sunday. The skills they gained served them both well as educators. Paul was an Communications teacher at Lehighton. Jim was a principal at Schuylkill Haven and eventually the director of the Schuylkill County School System.

Jim has a beautiful home. We sat in his basement man cave for a few hours and just relived the past. We played records - talked cars - and reviewed our lives. Everything picked up right where we left off almost 50 years ago. We talked about our kids - and even some grandkids. There was no agenda - just stream of consciousness - from three 70ish old school marms.

Everyone has a success icon. To Lulu - it is a cement pond in the back yard. To coal cracker guys - it is a Corvette in the garage. Jim has a beautiful 1966 Corvette roadster in his basement. It is in better than showroom condition. Not be outdone - Paul showed me a phone picture of his 1964 red Corvette. Jim graduated from THS in 1966 - Paul in 1964.

Jim and Mary Beth's home is beautiful. But things that impress me would not get a second look from others. What impressed me most was Jim's heating system. He has a tiny furnace that runs on propane gas. The are 10 pumps and copper manifolds that send hot water to different places. Each room has a 3 inch concrete floor with copper tubes in it. Each room has its own thermostat. But the best part is zones running under the outside sidewalks and driveways. The heat melts the snow and ice of a Pennsylvania winter. No need to break your back shoveling snow or falling on an icy sidewalk. Jim always did/does a thorough job.

At our ages - you never know which visit is your last one. But you know - this one was a perfect ending. I love seeing these guys and hearing how things turned out.

Paul - my chair - Jim
He who has the most toys wins.
Can you imagine me in a Corvette?