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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Historic Building in Smokey Hollow

Metal roof and lap wooden siding.
This one has a front and back door
A pretty setting along Cascades Park

Smokey Hollow was a historic black neighborhood just east of the Capitol in Tallahassee. It was mowed down during development. They are trying to re-create/re-store parts of it along the perimeter of the Cascades Park. This one may have been a barber shop.

A couple of these in my backyard would make excellent guest houses. One improvement would be indoor plumbing and electricity.

This morning is was down to 50 degrees - Lulu and I like to walk 2 miles in the park. I got these pictures on our morning walk.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

New Home Being Built Two Lots Away

New Home on Old Fort Drive

This home is shaping up about 2 properties away from us. Old Fort Drive - parallels Seminole Drive to the west. We can see it from our back porch. It is being built of pre-fabricated panels. The insulation is sandwiched between layers of OSB - oriented strand board.

The home site was actually a street at one time. The famous Old Plank Road used to run through that area. It crossed over from Seminole Drive - down our neighbor's driveway - and to the coast. It is hard to believe that at one time they paved roads with pine planks.

There was never a home on this lot.

Devin Demyanovich and Our Trip to Duke University

PV Grad Devin Demyanovich -
athletic trainer at Duke

Devin and Lulu -
Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke
Last weekend we took our camper to the FSU at Duke game. The kids and grandkids came down from Washington and Richmond. We had a blast together.

When we posted on Facebook that we were visiting Duke - one of my former students Devin Demyanovich - contacted us and offered to give us a tour of the Duke Athletic Department. We love behind the scenes tours - and enthusiastically accepted.

Devin was my student at Panther Valley. She went to college at Penn State. Then got her masters at UNC Greensboro. When a job opened at Duke - she applied and got the job. She is a trainer for varsity athletes. It was fun seeing all the students interact with her. She has a great job in a great place. Again - as a teacher - I love to see our kids succeed.

We enjoyed the game - spending time with the Everhart 9 - and exploring 1400 miles in our camper.  We stayed in the camper 4 nights.

Our next adventure is Germany and England - Nov 1 to 17. We will visit one of Lulu's students that lives in a castle in Germany. She is a librarian in a Department of Defense school in Germany. Lulu also will make a presentation in Scotland.

We stopped in Jacksonville FL for supper
Typing in my office at 65 MPH
Camping in Florence SC
Enjoying FSU beating Duke in
volleyball at Cameron
Not a big crowd at Duke volleyball
Our second night at Duke -
in front of the JB Duke Hotel
Duke food court was fantastic
The kids stayed in the hotel
First night camping at Duke
Oktoberfest at Duke
Kids enjoying German food
Duke Chapel
JB Duke - founder
Cameron Indoor Stadium
FSU Athletic Director - Stan Wilcox
Duke Basketball Museum
Duke training facility
Stadium from the whirlpool
Jacksonville - named after Andrew Jackson -
the first territory governor of Florida

Monday, October 23, 2017

Peter Spinelli - One of My First and Best Students

Peter Spinelli - PVHS 1972
Pete in his chopper on his trailer launcher pad.

Peter Spinelli - Mexico Beach - 2017
Pete - in traction - in the hospital.

47 years ago in 1970 - I was a rookie teacher at Panther Valley. I was 22 and so full of confidence. The American Space Program was going full bore and I was an Earth and Space Science teacher. In my first class was Peter Spinelli. He seemed to be interested in what I was doing - he ended up taking 3 of my courses.  He graduated in 1972 - the same year as Lulu and we never heard from him again.

Peter was an electronics whiz even then. We built an analog computer together in 1970. He explained to me what a diode was when most of our radios had tubes.

Peter was from one of the best families in Nesquehoning. When I say best - I mean - they did everything together. I marveled about what an excellent house painter Peter was. He could do delicate lines and shapes without the aid of masking tape. I remember his striped walls with perfect edges - the hearts and flowers in his mother's bedroom were works of art. Besides being a star wrestler - Peter held an almost full time job as a house painter - specializing in working high up on a ladder.

On Facebook - one time - I saw the name Spinelli - so I wrote to the person that had it. I asked them about Peter. To my surprise - the person wrote back and said Peter lived in Alabama. Peter was their cousin - and soon I received an email from Peter.

Peter wrote and said he owned a beach front home in Mexico Beach - Florida. He said he seldom visited it - but had to make a visit to repair some wires from hurricane damage. Since Mexico Beach was only 100 miles from my house - and Lulu was in Cocoa Beach with her cousins - I decided to crank up the camper and pay Pete a visit.

The road from Tallahassee to Mexico Beach is a two lane road to nowhere - through the bayous of Florida. It just seemed like a perfect setting for a mystery movie. I wondered what Peter would look like after 47 years. I wondered what I would remember - what he would recall.

His beach home was easy to find. He said it was the only one with a flat roof. This feature would be very important later on in this story. I had to cross back in time from Eastern Time to Central Time Zone - but for me it was a leap of 47 years!

To my surprise - Peter lived the dream life and job to me. He went to college to study electronics and ended up working on projects for NASA - yes that NASA - his stuff was launched on rockets from Cape Canaveral. When the space program died down a bit - Peter started working for the Department of Defense and he built and tested guidance for "smart bombs." His life story was not unlike the story of Homer Hickam on the movie "October Sky."

Around 1998 - Peter bought a helicopter! That is a dream of many scientists - motor heads - and yes dreamers. Choppers are a very expensive toys with limited use. Peter took lessons and flew it for about 8 years. He could cruise at about 100 MPH and land almost anywhere. This right away led me back to the shape of the beach house. I said to Peter - I'll bet you planned to land on the roof. He blushed a little put it was on is mind.

But something happened in 2006 that altered and nearly ended Pete's life. His helicopter had engine trouble and when he tried to land - a power line caught his skid and Peter experienced a near life ending crash. For 2 months he struggled in a hospital with major burns and a broken back and pelvis. He tried returning to work but could not do the intricate design work again. He survived 2  years and then retired.

Peter is 63 now. He worked in Huntsville where they designed the rocket engines to the moon. Now he lives in Birmingham. His wife Wendy is a former school teacher. They enjoy raising rescue animals.

Peter has fond memories of Nesquehoning - Panther Valley Schools - old friends - and my classroom. He went on to do many of the things I have dreamed about. We talked for hours about our travels - and all the different toys we have had. If you mention some electronic device - a twinkle glows in his eye. We are both Coal Crackers - the Valley has left a special layer of values on us. We don't mince words. We finish each other's sentences - we skip from topic to topic like we are following a game program.

After our visit - I pointed the camper east and took the long way home. I took Route 98 that hugs the coasts and crosses through many town along the Forgotten Coast. I wondered if I would ever see Pete again. I wondered what it was like flying and owning a helicopter. I wondered how cool it must be to have something you built and tested zooming around on the International Space Station. I felt proud that a little part of me helped to make that possible.

I zoomed through - St Joes - Apalachicola - Carabelle Beach - Panacea - and Crawfordville. I stopped to see the beach where they practiced for the Normandy Invasion. I went through Apalachicola which at one time was the Oyster Capital of the World.

As I crossed over that line that separated Central and Eastern Time - I had to leave the past behind.
One of the biggest joys of a teacher is to hear how your students are doing. It is so much fun when they remember a quote that you long forgot. It is fun to hear them espouse your values even better than you do. It is fun living a period of your life that has gotten away.

Peter's beach house - Mexico Beach FL

Back row - third from left - Pete Spinelli - star wrestler
Go anywhere you want in a helicopter.

Pete examined my camper - I spent the night in
his carport - I plugged into his house.

South light from the beach enters the living room.

My camper at Carabelle Beach where they
practiced for the Normandy Invasion.
The Dixie Theatre at Apalachicola.

They trained for the Normandy Invasion
 on Carabelle Beach.
A 1961 Helicopter - $40000 - in 1998. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Lulu is at Cocoa Beach - To Watch the Space Launch

The cousins are enjoying their refuge week.

They are all focused on Cape Canaveral.

It will be a great launch because they are in the"dark" and the rocket will be in the "sunlight."

The first stage is supposed to return to earth for a soft landing.

After the launch.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Cousins Appearing At The Cocoa Beach Theatre

The Cousins are at the Cocoa Beach Theatre. I am surprised they are up and dressed. they will be enjoying each other's company of the  next 5 days.

Lulu - Kathy - Ruthann

Filming Doc Martin in Portwenn in Cornwall - then Watching It on TV at Home in Florida

Bert Large was sitting in front of our hotel.
I had the captions on - because I could hardly
understand the Cornwall accent.
Here is a picture I took at the scene.

Lulu and I spent July in London. Originally when we planned our trip - we were going to spend time with Jan and Dick Davis in Cornwall. Dick had family that owned a cottage near there and we planned a good time in Lulu's family homeland - hoping maybe to catch a view of Martin Clune - the man that plays Doc Martin.

Doc Martin is the number one television show in England. It is filmed in a small fishing town called Port Isaac in Cornwall. The town itself is one of the big stars of the show. The show was filming its 8th season this summer. You can see it on Netflix or Acorn TV.

On the spur of the moment - Lulu booked a couple airline tickets out of London - and she got us a couple nights at The Slip Hotel. We had no idea if we would see anything - we took the chance.

When we got to Port Isaac (Portwenn) - we were surprised to see they were filming right in front of our hotel. In a few scenes we actually are in the background. We got to meet Doc Martin. We saw PC Penhill - Burt Large - and Aunt Ruth Ellingham (played by Dame Eileen Atkins).

See my original story here -

Doc Martin Story

You can imagine our surprise when we watched yesterday's episode and saw one of the scenes that we watched them shoot in July.

We were sitting in the restaurant under the awning
during some scenes. 

That is our hotel window in the top left

I took this picture of the scene from
our hotel window.
Martin Clune - as Doc Martin - Lulu and me.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Tallahassee Yard Debris

One of the nice things about Tallahassee - they remove any debris you put at the curb. We took down three trees and a lot of brush. The city came by and took away three trucks loads.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Kumquats - In Our Back Yard

In our backyard - we have oranges - lemons - limes - tangerines - grapefruits. On Christmas the kids were here and we planted a kumquat tree. It was very tiny - only about 2 feet high. We did not expect fruit for a while - but here we are 9 months later - and we have a couple kumquats.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Installed An Inverter In Our Camper

1100 Watt Inverter

The TV on its moving mount

When camping it is nice to have both 12 volt DC power and 120 volt AC power. The lights in our camper are all LED bulbs that run on 12 volt DC current from the coach batteries which sit in a cabinet under the king bed. If you want to run 120 volt AC appliances - normally you would just turn on the generator and you have 2800 watts of power. But many times you want to use 120-volt power but you want it quiet.

I just installed an inverter in our Dodge Roadtrek. Now we can operate all sorts of small appliances - television - vacuum cleaner - phone chargers - etc. I chose the inverter on Amazon because it offered a 3-year full replacement warranty. It also only cost $60. It produces 1100 watts continuous - 2200 watts peak. It is not enough power to run the air conditioner - but would run a large fan if you wanted.

A nice feature of this inverter is the digital readout on the front. It tells you what the battery voltage level is. It also tells you how many watts are being used. On the front of the inverter - there are two standard 110-volt outlets. There are also two USB outlets to charge cellphones. There is an on/off switch on the front and an optional remote switch.

The hardest part of installing the inverter was running the cables safely from the coach battery to the inverter. Because of high amperage -  I had to use 4-gauge cables. I installed the included 150 amp fuse in the line.

I use the inverter mainly to power our 24-inch flat screen TV. The TV uses only 35 watts of power - and the inverter produces 1100 watts continuously. The cellphone use very little too. A hair dryer uses over 700 watts. Since the air conditioner draws over 1100 watts - I can only power it with the main generator running.

It is a simple installation - just two thick cables to the battery - and a ground. It is not tied to the camper's regular electrical system or battery charger. It is completely independent. The cables are routed under the king bed - then behind the wall paneling. They enter the TV cabinet through a hole in the bottom that was drilled at the factory. You have to remove a few screws to gain access.

Cost of installation -
Inverter - $60
Long Battery Cables - $30
Television - $110
TV Mount - $13
Total - $213

The TV tucked into the cabinet - rolltop covers it.
Inverter fits under and behind TV

Cables fished inside the wall - thru hole

Cables attached to coach batteries

Cables fished under king bed
Three cables - red - black - to the battery.
Green ground to coach.