Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gulf State Park

Tuesday, September 3-6.  After driving over lots and lots of water and over too many bridges, we finally arrived at Gulf Shores, Alabama.

We are finally situated in Gulf State Park, in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  We visited here a year and a half ago, in the spring and enjoyed it thoroughly.  We wanted to see how we feel about it in the hot and steamy months of August and September.  It sure IS HOT and STEAMY, LOL.
We arrived in a timely enough manner that we were able to choose the site we wanted along the main canal.  I love to be able to sit and clay and watch the water flowing by outside my window.
There were two problems with the site we ended up setting up on.  One, the view was very slight as the trees and other vegetation have grown up and only left a little space to actually see the water.
The other problem was of even more importance.  When we were here before, in the same area, we had very spotty internet, but at least we had some.  This was supposedly because they had had a fire in the State Park that destroyed their connectivity with their supplier.  "They were working on getting it up and running again".  This time, when we checked in, they told us that WiFi was spotty and was hit and miss.  We figured it would be like last time, but we were wrong, we had absolutely NO internet service at the site we were on.   We could care less if we have TV service, we don't watch TV, but Internet is important to us, for many reasons:  I continue to make canes and play with polymer clay during our vacations.  We continue to sell my canes and need internet for eBay and postal services during our vacations.  I write my blog and keep in touch with family and friends through my blog and FaceBook and email.  So we weren't very happy.  We used Mr. C's phone as a hot spot and did the least amount of internet we possibly could.  Email and polymer clay business and nothing else.  One good thing, I got about 12 canes half way done, so I'll have lots of new canes by the end of this trip.

Just a little aside here, as I made something to make my mini studio area neater and more usable.   I have shown pictures before of the small space that Mr. C put shelves in to perfectly hold new packages of Polymer Clay.  My tools, however, were just kind of shoved into plastic boxes every which lay along the shelf under the window.  This summer I took the time to make some special tool holders and organizers.  I used plastic canvas and designed boxes with dividers to match the tools I carry with me in the Fifth Wheel.  I was so pleased with them.

I was able to fit in twice as many tools as when they were just shoved in any which way and they are so easy to see and pick and choose from now and it even looks nice from either the inside the trailer or from outside, looking in the window.  I keep hoping someday somebody will see me claying away and come knock on our trailer door and introduce themselves as traveling Polymer Clay Artists, but it hasn't happened yet.

We stayed in our canal side site for 2 days.  The third day we went scouting out other sites we might want to stay at if we ever want to stay here more than 14 days.  There is a 14 day limit on all waterside sites year round.  There is also a 14 day limit from March 1 to November 1.  But for Snowbirds (which eventually we plan to become) from November 1 through March the 14 day limit is waived and they can stay as long as they want and even have a reduced monthly rate, but remember, not on waterside spaces.
As I said, we were scouting the park seeing if there were any other areas we'd be comfortable in for a longer stay.  We noticed WAY at the far end of the park there were a bunch of pull through sites (which we prefer) and there were internet thingies (not sure what they are called, antennaes/modems???) about every 3 camp sites.  Hmmm, we thought, wonder if the internet works here.  So Mr. C got out his phone (he has a kind of smart phone, I have a dumb phone, LOL) and turned off his hot spot capability and turned on WiFi and low and behold was on-line and into his Gmail account lickety-split.  Hmmm, we thought, after we take these canes to the post office (before it closes) we need to come back and get one of the lap tops and take them to those sites and see if we can get on-line with the lap tops.  So, we went to the post office, then came back, got Mr. C's laptop and drove down to those areas we were interested in.  Hardly anybody wants to come way to the end of the campground, so we had our choice of sites. There were two that were also nice and shady, so we stopped in one of them and fired up the lap top and WOW, zoomed right on-line and into Gmail and FB with no problem at all.
  We shut it all off and moved to our second choice and hit the WiFi connection button, and again, right on-line without a pause or a hiccup.  We knew they would allow us to change sites, but weren't sure just how to go about it.  From the literature, we had to pack up our Trailer, take the whole thing up to the office, do a U-Turn and re-check in for the new site.
Since we're on a weekly rate and there is a rate difference between the two sites, we weren't sure if we would lose our weekly rate or not.  So we just drove the truck to the office and told them the problem and what we wanted to do and they said no problem.  Just tear up the current site paper and put this new one on the electric box for the new site and move.  We told them we didn't care if we just traded straight across with no change in rates, but they said no, it's a less expensive site and we will refund you the difference.  They also counted the entire time at the less expensive rate, even though we had stayed 2 nights on the canal.  So, in effect, they "paid" us to move to a site with internet.  Win Win situation, in our opinion.  This new site is also better for our bike riding, as it has less traffic and leads to a no vehicle bicycle/walking trail.

Yes, I said bicycle riding.  My knee is doing better, but the Dr. agreed with me that losing some weight and getting some exercise would be beneficial.  He said swimming or biking would be the best choices.  Mr. C says, we need to get some bicycles so we can ride in the Parks we visit on our travels.
My eyes get big and I say, ummm, "I can't".  Mr. C says, "Why not?"
I have to tell a bit of a story here (actually 2 stories), which includes a warning to well meaning people to watch what they repeatedly tell children.  I am not telling this to hurt anyone or to make anybody feel bad, (it's over and done with and can't be changed, but has had a long term/lasting impact on me) but it is important to realize just what a BIG deal this is/was for me.  When I was a kid, like nearly every kid, I had a bike and I rode it a lot.  I also had a lot of bike accidents (and remember, this was before knee pads or helmets).  I actually didn't have a LOT of bike accidents, just one a year, but they were always pretty major.  When I was about 8, we lived in a subdivision in the country that had gravel roads.  I wiped out in the gravel and went over the handlebars and broke my wrist.  One year I was riding in town with 2 little friends and we got too close together and my handlebars locked with the handlebars of another little girl's and we both went over the handlebars.  I landed on her.  She ended up in the hospital and I probably should have.  My "Aunt" (Mom's best friend, where I was visiting) was walking me back to their house and asking if I was okay and I started seeing black spots all over and by the time she got me inside and laying down everything was black.  I was blind and couldn't see anything.  I NEVER told anybody (until I was an adult and it came out one day).  When they would come in and talk to me I would look toward their voice and say I was fine.  I don't to this day know why I never told anybody; maybe I thought if I admitted it, it would be there forever and if I ignored it, it would go away???  I don't know.  Fortunately, by the time my Mom came to get me, it had resolved itself and although I was taken to the Dr and diagnosed with a severe concussion (and had all the great symptoms that go with a bad concussion) but healed and that was the end of that.  When I was a young teenager, I rode my bicycle into town to visit a schoolmate and then was to ride to where my Mom worked and she would bring me and my bike home.  After visiting my friend, on the way to Mom's work, I heard something behind me.  I looked back, of course (remember, I was not used to riding with traffic etc., we lived in the country!!!).  When I looked back, I turned the handlebars and promptly crashed right into the curb of a bridge.  By the time I got to my Mom's work I could not bend or straighten my right arm all the way (severe contusions of the elbow, it wasn't broken, just jammed).  Now, here is the kicker. . . EVERY ONE of these accidents happened in August.  So my family made a joke of telling me, REPEATEDLY:  1) I was not able to ride a bike, I was too much of a klutz; and 2) that I was not ALLOWED to ride a bike in August ever again.  It was meant to be a joke, but when a child hears something over and over and over again, every time anybody mentions bicycle riding they begin to believe it.  I have not been on a bicycle since I was 14 years old.  I firmly believe I "cannot" ride a bicycle.

However, that isn't taking into account my wonderful and supportive husband who believes I can do ANYTHING. This is the same husband who, when we were first married, had a stick shift Jeep Cherokee.  He was absolutely amazed when I told him I couldn't drive a stick shift and he asked why not.  I said, "I just can't coordinate it, I can do it on a highway, start, shift, stop, but that's all".  He repeated, why not?  I told him how I had tried it a couple times and my family said, "No, there is no way you can drive a standard transmission car."  I had heard it since I started driving at 16.  I was 32 years old when I married Mr. C.  He said it wasn't that I couldn't, but that nobody had actually taken the time to teach me and encourage me, instead I tried it cold turkey (on long trips) and then believed everybody when they told me I couldn't do it.  So he started me with shifting for him, while he was driving.  At first he'd tell me when to shift, but eventually had ME tell HIM when I was going to shift.  Once I had the feel for how and when to shift we went out in the country and he spent the day having me drive:  start, stop, start, turn, up hill stop, down hill stop, start and stop over and over and over again and then made me drive that car for the next couple weeks.  He never lost his patience and never gave up on me, he kept insisting I could do it, even when I killed it over and over again.  Guess what, I CAN drive a standard transmission car.  Do I like it?  NO, but then I don't like driving at all.  I'm just one of those people that would rather sight see than drive.  Recently "my" car was in the shop (for weeks. . . they can't find the electrical problem).  It was while the grand children were here and so I had to drive something.  Since my car was out of commission, Mr. C took the Big Butt truck to work and had me drive his beloved Mustang.  When my family found out I was driving the Mustang, I immediately was besieged with "what you're driving the Mustang?"  "You're driving a stick shift?"  etc.  Even though I haven't driven it in about 4 years, I managed just fine.  I still don't like it, and still get really nervous if I end up at an uphill stop sign, but I can do it.

So, back to the bicycle; when I told Mr. C my fears about riding a bicycle again, he says, "Nonsense, you can ride a bicycle just as well as you can drive a stick shift car."  We proceeded to get bicycles. Mr. C got this bike:
 We got me a 24" bicycle, since I'm so short, just a cruising bike with coaster brakes and no gears.  We took them with us to Lake Shelbyville and rode around the campground (about a mile) every day.  Yes, I was shaky, yes, I'm horribly out of shape and too fat, but I DID it.  We've been riding them here at Gulf State Park.  But I'm having a problem.  For one thing I'm quite short (which is why we got me a 24" bicycle).  For another, I'm way too heavy for my height (part of why I need the bicycle, remember?, LOL).  For a third, with the smaller bike, it is also shorter (front to back) and I was having trouble getting my stiff legs on and off the bike.  Also, I couldn't extend my legs to pedal, which you're supposed to do, and which makes it very, very hard on any kind of hill (since there's no way I'm going to stand up to pedal, as I did when I was a kid, LOL).

So, today. . . I graduated.  We just got a new bike, a 26" (with the seat even up about an inch and a half).  It's still a cruiser, but has gears and a hand brake (I'll have to be careful with that, LOL).  After bringing it home (back to camp) Mr. C made sure all the bolts and nuts etc. were tight and correct and then had me try it.  WOW, is it ever so much easier to ride than the 24".  I'm not nearly as shaky, as it doesn't take nearly the amount of pressure to pedal as the 24".  It still takes a lot of self talk and self encouragement, but I'm really, really proud of myself.  This was truly a major event for ME, thanks for sharing it with me.

Now, on to other things.  We haven't done much here at Gulf State Park, yet, as I wanted to let the Louisiana sunburn heal before I go back out in the sun.  We've run errands and changed camp sites and ridden our bikes, and I've gotten a bunch of canes started, but that's all so far.  Until Thursday night.  I was looking through a "things to do" magazine called "Beachin'" and came across this ad:

I'm going to leave you with this cliff hanger, as this is another way too long post, as usual, so until "tomorrow", which is actually last night. . . Hope you'll come back and read along about our very interesting evening.  Smiles

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