Category Archives: Roadtrip

Georgia on My Mind – Macon and Stone Mountain

Today I am releasing the first detailed video of our recent solar eclipse road trip. During the first 3 days we visited two main sites in the state of Georgia. First we explored historic Macon, and then we spent some family time east of Atlanta, at Stone Mountain Park.

This video is sponsored by Rad Power Bikes
www.radpowerbikes.com (800) 939-0310

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Macon, Georgia

This city was completely off our radar until we drove through it on our way to Atlanta last year. I didn’t realize how important and wealthy it was in past. We visited a palatial mansion from the 19th century called the Hay House, named after the first family who lived there. We also toured the Rose Hill Cemetery, which is the final resting place to over a thousand confederate soldiers, several prominent political figures, and the Allman Brothers. The cemetery is the largest and oldest in the city, and one of the most picturesque I’ve ever seen. We also visited the Ocmulgee National Monument, which consists of several ancient indian mounds, but the scorching heat and numerous insects greatly diminished our enjoyment of the site.

We decided to cool off at the Ocmulgee Brewpub. This trip was one of the few times that we didn’t get a chance to sample the typical local cuisine, but the brewpub made a pretty substantial burger, so we left satisfied.

As a conclusion I recommend at least one day in this charming antebellum city, however, not in the middle of August.

Stone Mountain Park

The other main attraction we visited in Georgia was Stone Mountain Park. We stayed at the campground, and while it was perhaps a bit pricey at $58 per night, we had a beautiful site by the lake. We spent some time with the family, particularly with my brother in law Pepe, who lives in the area. He even has an annual pass. Among the things we did, we saw the old covered bridge, the Grist Mill, the Quarry Exhibit, but our favorite was the Historic Square, which features a collection of old original Georgia buildings. We also visited the Stone Mountain Village and discovered a German brewpub called Village Corner, also the Stone Mountain Brewing Company. Check out the video below for more detailed information about our time in Georgia.

Video
https://youtu.be/kCARv87SO6s
Links

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My CAMERAS and OTHER GEAR

Main camera: Sony FDR-AX33 
Action camera: Sony FDR X3000 
Additional action camera: GoPro Hero 3 White Edition 
Field Audio Recorder: Zoom H1 
Drone: DJI Mavic Pro

CONVENIENCES and UPGRADES

TireMinder TM55c-B Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
Fit System 3891 Deluxe Universal Clip-on Trailer Towing Mirror 
Fantastic Vent 
Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Solar Starter Kit Champion Power Equipment 75537i 3100 Watt RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator with Wireless Remote Start 

IN MY BASEMENT

Weber 51010001 Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill, Black 
Weber 6557 Q Portable Cart for Grilling 
Coleman Outdoor Compact Table 
Coleman 333264 Propane Fuel Pressurized Cylinder, 16.4 Oz 
Quik Chair Folding Quad Mesh Camp Chair – Blue 
Camco Mfg Inc 44543 Large Stabilizer Jack Pad with Handle, 2 Pack 
Bulls Eye Level RV Appliance and Game Table Leveler Motorhome Level (Mini Level)
Tri-Lynx 00015 Lynx Levelers, (Pack of 10) by Tri-Lynx
Camco 39755 RhinoFLEX 6-in-1 Sewer Cleanout Plug Wrench
Cartman 14″ Cross Wrench, Lug Wrench
Rubbermaid Cooler, 10 qt., Red (FG2A1104MODRD) 
Trailer Aid Tandem Tire Changing Ramp 
Camco 40043 TastePURE Water Filter with Flexible Hose Protector 
Progressive Industries EMS-PT30C Portable EMS RV Surge Protector – 30 Amp

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The Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve


In this weeks video and blog post we are going back to the Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve to do a couple of things we haven’t done before.

We are staying at Monument Lake which is one of the few places this time of the year with any site available. We’re visiting in February at the peak of snowbird season.

In the video and blog post I use Everglades and Big Cypress interchangeably because they are very similar ecosystems. Big Cypress my favorite of the two areas is, as the name suggests a lot more wooded. The first activity we attempt is to walk a short section of the Florida trail. In South Florida, besides alligators, pythons, panthers, great blue herons, and anhingas, the most abundant member of the animal kingdom is the mosquito. The mosquitos are relentless on the Florida trail. I was under the impression that the winter was the non mosquito season. I was obviously greatly misinformed. It has also been an unusually hot and humid winter.

After our epic fail at the Florida Trail, we decide to the next best thing, which is a loop road that goes pretty deep into the Big Cypress National Preserve. This is truly the highlight of the trip, and the highlight of the loop road is the Sweetwater Strand. In the strand, which is like a river crossing the swamp, we can see all kinds of different birds and the heavy vegetation provided by the taller Cypress tress, makes it feel a lot cooler than the rest of the area. We see all kinds of different birds, and plenty of gators, some of them perhaps too close for comfort.

On the next day we visit Shark Valley, which is one of the most popular and famous places on the Everglades National Park. The is a loop trail where you can ride a bicycle and if you are lazy like us, there is also a tram. The tram is noisy and uncomfortable, and very much overdue for an upgrade. There is an observation tower at the far end of the road. The views are fine, but I guess my expectations were so high that I end up a little underwhelmed. We plenty of wildlife as well. The tour is presented by an elderly couple, and it is full of anecdotes and valuable information.

The culinary highlight of the trip is Joanie’s Café, in which the swamp platter which includes gator bites and frog legs is a winner.

Stay tuned for another compilation video coming soon about the 3 or 4 mail things to do in The Everglades National Park, and the Big acupressure National Preserve.

Winnebago Micro Minnie 1706FB After Two Years

It is once again that time of the year in which we celebrate our second RVing anniversary, and Minitini the Trailer’s second birthday, belated this time. We signed on the dotted line on August 30th, 2014 and barely a week later in September 5th 2014 we took delivery. Owning this small travel trailer has literally changed our lives. We have discovered so many new places around South Florida and the rest of the State, and the rest of the USA. It has also brought us a step closer to the nomadic lifestyle we want to have in the not so distant future.

minitini-2-yrs-thumb

I order to accommodate our needs I have made several upgrades over the past two years. I am going to enumerate the most important ones.

 Although we don’t really watch TV all that much, it is good to have ir just in case. We have found decent TV reception virtually everywhere, except for, oddly enough, Marathon, Florida.

  • Oxygenic shower and dispenser

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00F5MU5YY/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000FGCW0K/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

OK, these are two in one but they serve the same purpose: having a nicer shower. If only the water heater would cooperate. The Oxygenic shower provides great water pressure, and the dispenser makes our shower gel, conditioner, and shampoo readily available

  • Power inverters

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004MDXS0U/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ATXEPQI/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ATXERNO/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I know I should have spent the money and bought a good pure sine wave inverter and hardwire it to the electrical system. Instead I have bought a couple of smaller inverters and wired them across the camper and they are great to charge our phone, computer, and camera batteries when off the grid

  • Fantastic Vent

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HQZASRW/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

This one has been a life changer. Before having this the RV was way too hot even for a pit stop along the road. We have used it while boondocking and it keeps the camper fresh and cool at night.

  • Solar Panels

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00BFCNFRM/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

It is great to have peace of mind knowing your battery will remain charged using the power of the sun. It has proven indispensable for boondocking more than one night.

  • Knife rack

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000EDUUFS/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1

This one isn’t earth shattering, but it frees up space in the drawers for other stuff

There are many other little things we have done to make our lives easier, such as a mirror on the bathroom door, and a small rack and hooks to hang clothes.

We have many upgrades planned for the future, and this year I intend to make a few of them.

  • Hardwired 3000W pure sine wave inverter
  • 5 gallon or more water heater to replace the on demand one we have now
  • Battery upgrade when our current one dies
  • Dinette replacement for an office style desk

Do you have any upgrade suggestions? We look forward to your comments.

Memphis, Tennessee: Elvis is Alive!

It is running of fumes that we arrive at Memphis, Tennessee; and I’m not talking about old Kia. It is us. It has been an intense whirlwind road trip for almost two weeks now, and we are really ready for a break that won’t come for another two days. I, however, am ecstatic to be staying here right next to the west bank of the Mississippi. I have always been fascinated by this river mainly because of Mark Twain’s stories. I can almost imagine Jim and Huck’s raft coming downstream.

memphis-thumb-play

We ignore our fatigue and decide to explore downtown a little bit. We walk along the bank of the river enjoying a spectacular sunset. Then we walk towards historic Beale Street, which is lined up with bars, most of them featuring live music. It is a real shame we are not really in the mood for partying.

On the next day we go to the main tourist attraction in this town: Graceland. This was Elvis Presley’s home all the way from the 1950’s until the time of his death in 1977. Some of the rooms were redecorated for the tour, reflecting different eras in the life of the King of Rock and Roll. There’s also a whole building dedicated to the many awards he received as well as costumes and memorabilia. There is a meditation garden where Elvis, and well as other family members are laid to rest. Across the street there are two main attractions. One of them is the two jet planes Elvis Presley acquired in 1975. The other is the automobile museum, showcasing his extensive car collection.

After the museum we go to one of the most famous barbecue restaurants in Memphis: Central BBQ. While it is a tough comparison, I do believe the one in St. Louis was a little more tasty, but I could have taste bud fatigue at this point so don’t quote me on that.

Our last point of interest in the city is the Memphis Pyramid. It was originally conceived as an sports facility, but something about the dimensions prevented it from becoming an NBA arena. After much financial distress, the property was leased by Bass Pro Shops, where they have built the largest over the top store. The highest freestanding elevator in the United States takes you to the top of the pyramid, where they have a restaurant and an observation deck.

We depart at sunset and spend the night in Tupelo, Mississippi, very close to Elvis Presley’s birthplace. In the morning, we briefly visit the site, and then spend most of the day driving south towards the Florida panhandle.

Homestead, Florida

After a long three month long hiatus we are on the road again. This time we are not traveling very far, just south, to the sHomestead Thumbsouthernmost part of the South Florida metropolitan area which is comprised of the the cities of Homestead and Florida City. Florida City in particular, is considered the gateway to the Florida keys because if its proximity to the island chain.

We spent a weekend visiting the main landmarks and tourist attractions, historic downtown, the Alligator Farm, Robert is Here, Knaus Berry Farm (well not really), Schnebly Winery, Miami Brewing Company, Alabama Jack’s (we sort of), Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo, and the most famous local tourist attraction, The Coral Castle.

After we arrive at the Southern Comfort RV Resort, we decide to visit the Schnebly Winery and its neighbor the Miami Brewing Company. The winery turns out to be a little of a disappointment but the brewery is great. I particularly enjoyed their Torpedo IPA, and the house made sausage sandwich. Then we decide to check out the Cauley Square historic village, which is a picturesque area with restaurants, gardens and quaint shops. Unfortunately we arrive to late and everything was closing down for the day.

In the morning we went to the Alligator Farm which is definitely worth a visit. They have Alligator and Snake shows and many exotic animals on display, but the highlight of the visit is definitely the air boat ride. The we go to Robert Is Hear, a legendary fruit stand for so refreshing tropical fruit smoothies.

A visit to homestead would not be complete without a visit to the Coral Castle, built by Latvian immigrant Ed Leedskalnin as the Rock Gate Park, it was dedicated to his fiancée who left him the day before their wedding. The construction of the place is not without conspiracy theories. It seemed unlikely that five-foot-tall Ed could be able to haul all this heavy coral rock to this location all by himself and then transform them into the mesmerizing rock formations that comprise the castle.

In the evening we head down to Key Largo for dinner at the Gilbert’s Resort with some friends.

All this is available in much more detail in the video below.

Old Florida Scenic Drive

This is the conclusion to our Mount Dora/Orlando trip from back in December. We returned back south down the east coast, exploring a little bit of Ft. Pierce, Jensen Beach, and Stuart.

Click on the image below to watch video.

Old Florida Scenic Drive

Florida Rambler article mentioned and used as reference
http://www.floridarambler.com/historic-florida-getaways/fort-pierce-to-jensen-beach-scenic-road/

We stayed at:
Ft. Pierce KOA

We ate at:
The Original Tiki Bar

Conchy Joe’s Seafood

Action Camera: GoPro Hero 3 White

Additional video camera: LG V10 Android phone

Large Diaphragm Studio Microphone: Audio Technica AT3525

Video edited on Final Cut Pro X

Graphics created in Motion 5

Additional audio and voice over recorded in Pro Tools 11

Original music composed in Logic Pro, performed by Robert Morales

Original soundtrack available at https://play.google.com/music/m/A7kg7lpb5njuminyla3y62n6d2u?t=Robert_Morales

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Mount Dora: Central Florida Charm

During the break between Christmas and New Year’s we visited Mount Dora. Founded in 1880 on the northern shore of Lake Dora, along the rolling hills of Central Florida, the 12,000-inhabitant enclave retains its small town charm. We spend one night admiring the intricate and over the top Christmas decorations. On the next day we take a package that includes a boat tour along Lake Dora and the Dora Canal, dubbed “the most beautiful mile of water in the world”. We also take a short yet exhilarating seaplane ride around the Lake County area, and return to Mount Dora aboard the Orange Blossom Cannonball, also known as the movie train. On the next day we move a few miles south to Kissimmee, catch a blockbuster movie and enjoy some of the Orlando nightlife.

Click on the image below for the video.

image

Florida RV Supershow 2016 – Class B and B+ Motorhomes

On January 16th and 17th 2016 we visited the Florida RV Supershow, which takes place in Tampa every January. It is allegedly the largest RV show in the United States, although the Hershey Show in Pennsylvania also claims that title. Regardless of who wins, if you want to see a particular brand, model or floor plan this is the show for you.

This year we decided to concentrate in class B and B+ motorhomes although we did visit some of our current trailer’s cousins, and uncles, the other Winnebago travel trailers to see where they are innovating, or not.

The B+ motorhomes, as I explain in the video, are more closely related to the C class than the B. They are built on a cutaway chassis, and our favorite is still the Leisure Travel Vans, by Triple E, particularly the Serenity model. They are made in Canada and they just feel right inside. Yeah, there’s a subjective quality to Rving, which is very much intuition and what feels right. You are in reality buying a home after all, so it has to feel “homy”, whatever that is. We also liked the Phoenix Cruisers, which are sold directly from the factory. The Coach House is another high quality product with a lot of storage for the size but it fell into that subjective category of “just didn’t feel right”.

Enter the pure class B’s. We started with the Roadtreks and Pleasure Way’s. We really wanted to like those, because they are innovating in many ways, mainly battery technology. But one place where they don’t seem to be innovating much is in the floor plans. They all have a sofa bed in the back, some bigger some smaller, but the same concept. On either side there’s the galley, fridge, wet bath, closet, pantry, etcetera, and a very narrow hallway in the middle. In the front, two or four non movable chairs with a removable table. That is most of them in a nut shell.

Enter the Grand Canyon and the Travato, in my opinion the two winners this time around. They are both built on Ram Promaster Van, recently introduced in North America. It is our version of the European motorhome favorite Fiat Ducato. The Grand Canyon by Hymer is a mere 19.5 feet long, which means it will fit into almost any parking space. It does have an expandable dinette in the front, a wet bath with a folding sink and movable toilet which makes it feel larger than it really is and a compressor based refrigerator, which is very small. You sleep transversally on a bed you have to make every day if you want access to some of the storage. It is equipped with a Truma heater, which packs the latest on demand technology.

Then there is the Travato by Winnebago, a little longer than the Hymer at 21 feet, but substantially shorter than most of the other class B’s. The 59G was out favorite floor plan, which comes with a corner bed, collapsible almost like a murphy bed. There is also another floor plan, the 59K, which offers dual twin beds and a rear bath. The Travato feels sporty, agile, and practical, even though it lacks in counter space, but I hope they will address that in the future. The wet bath feels spacious because of its rectangular shape on the rear passenger side corner. And the set up at the front can sit up to 5 people at the dinner table. It also comes with a Truma heater and other innovations such as a power control center. By the way, most of the units I’ve mentioned come with the optional solar panel system, a must if you plan of boondocking like us.

As a conclusion I have come to the epiphany that everything in RVing is a compromise. The B+ may be relative comfortable to live in but you will have to look for that oversized parking or eventually get a second vehicle, which is what we are trying to avoid. The longer traditional B’s, I feel could have more innovative floor plans, but the ones that do have the potential of reaching that fragile balance between comfort and urban practicality.

Enjoy the video. Click on the image below to watch.

Supershow 2016 Thumb

Good bye 2015, Hello 2016

As the year 2015 comes to and end, I reminisce on all the travels we did in the past year, our first full year as RV owners. We kicked off the year at the Tampa RV Supershow, made some RV repairs and enhancements, and got a drone to further improve my videos. We visited the Florida Keys several times and went to Epcot in Orlando twice, for the Flower and Garden and for the Food and Wine Festivals. I also got to see Lake Okeechobee for the first time. The main trip was not with the RV but overseas. We visited London and Paris, two of my favorite cities in the world. Finally, I also made some videos here in my backyard, in Downtown Miami, Miami Beach, and the Zoo.

Next year we’ll travel some more, but I am going to take a break during the month of January. Meanwhile I have made a nifty playlist with all our 2015 trips. Enjoy and Happy New Year! Thank you for watching and see you on the road!