Friday, November 29, 2013

At Cedar Key with our own Tangerine Tree

We've settled into our home for the month of December at Sunset Isle RV Park.  This is a delightfully funky park on an island (Key in local lingo) in the Gulf of Mexico.  We are surrounded by palm trees and tropical plants.  We even have our own citrus tree behind the bus.  There is an interesting community of travelers here, with music at night in the clubhouse and a communal Thanksgiving dinner yesterday featuring smoked turkey from the owners' smokehouse.

Back where we left off with our previous post... Our stay at Huntington Beach State Park continued with Lucie and I working every day from our RV, Lucie on her three online graduate courses and me on Google and Haiku accounts for the K-2nd graders at St Albans City School.  We took time on Friday to walk from the campground to Brookgreen Gardens, a beautiful outdoor sculpture museum situated among formal gardens in what used to be a S. Carolina rice plantation.


There were many pools with blooming water flowers.

On the walk in we saw wildlife. 
 Can you see the Alligator?

Every day we were at Huntington Beach we would take a walk.  Sometimes on nature trails,

and sometimes on the beach.

Finally on Monday it was time to go.  We headed south through Georgia stopping for the night at a Flying J truck stop just before the Florida border.

Lucie's office while we are driving down the road.

Tuesday we crossed to the west coast of Florida in the rain.  About 8 miles from our destination we had to pull over because a tire on the car dolly had self destructed.

We ended up meeting two very nice locals as we determined that there was no replacement tire to be had in Cedar Key and we found a place to stash the dolly while we completed our journey  with Lucie driving the car while I drove the RV into the campground at dusk.

I had heard about Sunset Isle RV Park on line from a group who call themselves Nu Rvers, people who are working from the road.  So far is has proven to be a good choice.

Yesterday, Thanksgiving, we enjoyed a wonderful feast where the campers here all brought dishes to share and the owners smoked a turkey in the smokehouse that is visible out the front window of the RV.  In the evening people gathered in the club house where the musically talented among us played their instruments and we all sang along.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Working Living Learning Mobile

What an incredible day! Today life went from proof of concept to we're doing this!

During our sunset walk along the beach, Craig rescued a horseshoe crab and I immediately wished my grandson, Simon, had been part of the experience and thanks to AT&T and FaceTime,  he was.   "Awesome", he exclaimed as I used my iPhone to zoom in.  Cedar, his little brother, wasn't so sure what was happening,  but Grandma's heart was warm to be able to pipe them into the walk on the beach. 

As we continued our walk, Craig and I debriefed about our day and marveled at the fact that today's technology makes it possible for us to do what we are doing, and this time it was our turn to say "Awesome!". We seemed to have moved from a "proof of concept" stage to "we're doing it stage". 

Craig spent most of the day setting up all the Google Apps for Education accounts necessary  for 400 K-3 Vermont students to start creating their ePortfolios.  His goal for his schools to go serverless and move to the cloud is paying off.  Since the days when he set up the first student run BBS on 300 baud modems, Craig has been paving the way in education.  His commitment to education and willingness to blaze new trails has been on of the things that has attracted me to him (first as a respected colleague and more recently as an amazing life partner). 

My day was spent connecting with Vermont educators using a combination of technology tools.  In the morning,  I used Google's Hangout on Air to allow Vermont educator, Mr. Bill Holiday, to share his expertise of the Kennedy assassination with schools in Vermont and Nebraska as he walked the motorcade route in Dallas, Texas. Watching Mr. Holiday,on his cell phone, show us each location as he described the events of 50 years ago, alongside with the  the City of Dallas preparing for tomorrows events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination was, was yet another reminder that of the amazing power of technology to bridge the distance gap. 

I continued the day  by making plans with other Vermont educators on how we will engage students from Kindergarten to high school in  the upcoming "Hour of Code" events as part of the Connected Voices project I launched earlier in the month called Think About It Thursday. 

I also continued to use Google Chat, Google Docs, and Google Hangous to start planning next summer's offerings for Google Tools For Schools. I've learned how to conserve bandwidth by  switching My Google Hangout meetings to audio only, when appropriate. Google Hangout allows for the  personal touch of smiling faces to set the tone and for multiple parties to be part of the conversation, and it doesn't seem to detract when I switch to audio only, as my profile picture continues to represent me. This helps me preserve my data plan allowance to use for collaborations that require the full features of Google Hangouts. 

I decided I had used enough bandwidth for the day and switched to the task of working on some screencast using Camtasia software--one of my favorite pieces of tech.  I left for our walk on the beach  with the satisfied feeling of a productive work day, made possible by the  power of today's technology tools to support anywhere, anytime collaboration. 

Within minutes of turning off our computers, Craig and I were enjoying watching the sunset as we walked along the ocean -  that sure beats the daily commute home we use to have after a day's work.

After the sunset, Craig cooked  chicken sheshkabob,  while I  pulled out a tablecloth, uncorked a bottle of Cabernet,  lit  a candle and set the table outside the bus.  I even added my new fun high-tech wireless Phillips HUE light to the mood setting.  We raised our wineglasses to today's technology that made today possible and later that evening I went online and purchased the domain name "". 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Alligators and Palm Trees

A lot of miles have passed since Lucie last wrote here.  We left the Washington DC area on November 15th, waiting until mid morning so as to avoid the notorious DC traffic.  We had a little incident on the way out of the campground.  I had pulled out of our campsite onto the campground road and left the Wanderlodge idling while I loaded the Saturn onto its dolly.  When I was done I did a walk around and was alarmed to see coolant dripping off the radiator at the front of the bus.  I remembered when I was checking the coolant level the day before finding a small valve above the radiator and thinking it must be for the windshield washer, which has never worked.  I opened the valve and promptly forgot about it.  Apparently it was a coolant system bleed line to let air out.  I guess we have no air bubbles in our cooling system now.  Lucie was not reassured by the steam rising in front of the windshield from the hot radiator as we pulled out of town.

We took the circumferential highway around the city, much to the chagrin of our new RV navigation software from Rand McNally.  I had decided on this app for our iPads because it was specifically written for RVs and I had hoped that it would at least give us an alternative route other than the straightest route through the center of DC.  When I overrode that it kept trying to route us along surface streets to reconnect to the inner city route.  Later as we were approaching the bridge over the Potomac it routed me on the local branch of 495, instead of taking the express with many fewer exits.  Our 30 year old RV is not fast.  As we've been migrating south I have been going 55mph on the Interstate, where the speed limit is often 70mph.  Being 56 feet long I'm often trapped in the slow lane by passing traffic when people want to merge onto the highway.  So, a barely passing grade for the Rand McNally RV navigation app, I hope they will improve it as time goes along.

We stopped in Virginia to get diesel, the first fuel stop since Massachusetts.  I was pleasantly surprised that the Wanderlodge got 7.4 MPG.  This is an improvement over the 5 to 6 MPG we got taking short trips around Vermont.

It was a pleasant day of traveling, I navigated our bus up and down the hills, going 55 in the right lane of I95 and Lucie sat next to me correcting on line projects that her grad students had done.  As it got dark we looked ahead using an iPad app called Allstays that listed truck stops, Walmarts and Cracker Barrel restaurants that allowed RVs to park overnight.  A Walmart a little south of Fayettville N. Carolina looked promising and Lucie called ahead and confirmed that they allowed RVs to park over night.  After checking in with the parking lot security we settled in for a good night's sleep between an 18 wheeler and several other RVs.
Our RV has good curtains so it stays dark inside and it is very easy to be lazy and sleep in, which is what we did the next morning.  After we got up we went into the Walmart and stocked up on groceries, finally hitting the road just before lunch time.  We got to our current campground, Huntington Beach Stat Park, just south of Myrtle Beach S. Carolina in the early afternoon, picked out our site and settled in.  Then as the sun was going down we went for a walk on the beach and watched the full moon rise over the Atlantic Ocean.

Huntington Beach is a lovely park with large campsites under live oak trees just behind the dunes.  We can hear the ocean waves crashing in the distance.  There are palm trees and a family of alligators in the marsh that you drive through to reach the campground.  Birds are singing, the sun is out and today it is in the 70's.

We've decided that we will hang out here for a week then take a couple of days to complete our journey to Cedar Key in Florida where we have a campground reservation for most of the month of December.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Another Year Older

As usual, my husband spoiled me for my birthday.  When he asked me what I wanted,  I asked if we could stay somewhere with a hot tub. He came through -  We left New York, spent a quick overnight in  a Walmart in Shrewsbury, PA, and waited for the morning traffic to clear before driving toward Washington DC.  My birthday wish tipped the scales towards Cherry Hill Park  (we'll have to do the more affordable Greenbelt Park a different time).  So on my birthday, I got to experience my first RV park with a hot tub, ample wifi, and public transportation to the city.  The cool weather put a chill on traveling into the city, and made me  double appreciate that we were parked almost directly across from the hot tub.   

The wifi wasn't too shabby either and I went on a download frenzy, updating all my devices, and adding a few open source programs to my Windows machine. I also got to play with a couple GEEK gifts.  A bright red skin for my Macbook Air and the starter kit set of HUE (wireless) lights.  I've already thought of lots of ways to use this in our travels ranging from mood lighting controlled with my phone  for outside the bus, to improving the lighting when I video conference, to fun effects with green screen movie making. 

I even got to have a birthday dinner with friends - one of my favorite things to do on my birthday.  It had been 5 years since I had last seen Kurt, and got to meet his wife Anne while enjoying a super healthy meal  at the Silver Diner - a unique diner that features healthy local foods    My only regret is that we wimped out and did not tackle the hour drive to go see my son, Adam,  and Dan Mills play music only an hour away.  We chose to turn in early over super traffic in an unfamiliar city  on dark night.  Sorry Adam and Dan ;-( 

Today we moved the bus towards Myrtle Beach, but didn't make it all the way. Craig drove the bus 370 miles while I corrected projects from my online grad students. We did stop to add fuel up.  I learned that you  can only put in $100 worth of gas at a time on a credit card and cannot resuse the same credit card subsequent times.  Thankfully the tank topped off after $300 worth of diesel.  We drove a few more hours but stopped an hour shy of the ocean in a Walmart parking lot  and are nestled in for the night between an 18 wheeler and an RV.   The ocean awaits us tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Family Time En Route

Croton Point Park - Croton-On-Hudson, NY

We had heard  that  Croton Point Park was a great place to park for those who wanted easy access to New York City.  We were not disappointed.  The three days we spent there felt like a big family reunion. Our bus was greeted by another Wanderlodge - (a slightly newer sibling - 1987 Bluebird) whose owner was the park host.  Not only could we see a glimpse of  the Hudson river from our kitchen,  but walking down to the point offered us a beautiful  view of the sun setting over the river. 

On Sunday my twin boys (Adam and Matthew)  and their ladies (Giuliana and Sarah)   drove up from Brooklyn for  Mom's famous meatloaf and a rich  Quebecois dessert - La Pouding au Chomeur. (sort of a Maple upside down cake) .  But the real treat is that we offered them the "couch"  and the "table that turns into a bed" for lodging if they wanted to spend the night and they said "YES!".  We've never had 6 people overnight in the bus before.  Needless to say it was cozy.   

Anyone who has spent anytime with these 4 accomplished  musicians  will not be surpassed that this turned into a night of real family fun.  Once they discovered that the doorbell of the bus that 160 ringtones,  the evening turned into a fun round of "Name that Tune" with the doorbell and a boys vs girls round of "Taboo"  interspersed with song and laughter.  Note to anyone:  don't ever let "twins"  be on the same team in Taboo -- all they have to do is smile and wink at each other to guess the correct word.  We now know the names of each of our doorbell tones! ;)  

After breakfast at the Croton Diner, the kids drove back to Brooklyn, and Craig and I put in a few hours work, when we were treated to a FACETIME call from my two grandchildren Simon (8) and Cedar (2).  Simon was excited to tell me  about all the snow they got last night and the ski club he wants to join.  Cedar looked a little puzzled  at first then cracked a smile. Wondering if he taught , Grandma was trapped in the computer. Seeing  my  oldest son (Ryan) and his lady (Sarah) waving  in the background warmed my heart.  

A few hours later, we took Metro North into NYC and met up Craig's daughter and son in law (Maggie and Peter) for soup filled dumplings at Joe Shanghais in Chinatown. Incredible to touch base with so much family - only a week into our trip.  If your kids don't come home enough, just take your home to them (or close enough--which the campground at Croton Point proved to be).

I would definitely recommend this campground for anyone who wants to add a little bit of New York City without driving in city traffic.  We chose to take the train in ($9 parking at the train station) and $16 round trip ticket.  After a packed day filled with family fun, it was great to kick back and let the train bring us back from Grand Central Station to the Croton-on-Hudson for our last night in the Northeast.