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Matt Silver

Wednesday, 31 July 2019 19:54

Sanitizing an RV Fresh Water System

When we think of dirty tanks, it’s easy to think of black and gray. But nothing can make you sick faster than an unsanitary fresh water tank. After all, you’re drinking that water, and bathing in it, however briefly.

And although you see the connection at the fresh water station in a camp, you really have no exact answer to the question, “Where does that water come from?” Sure, it’s from a well or a city water system, but you don’t know what shape they’re in.

So let’s review how to clean the fresh water tank and lines in your RV.

Frequency of Cleaning

You should sanitize the fresh water system:

  • At least twice a year.
  • Before storing your RV.
  • After removing your RV from storage.
  • If you find out the source of your water was cited for a health risk.
  • If an accident would splash unsanitary water against the fresh water intake.
  • If the water filling the tank exhibits signs of uncleanliness, such as sediment or a bad odor. You may want to sanitize it after driving through highly dusty areas.
  • After buying and before camping in a used RV.
  • After lending out your RV.

What You Need

clorox bleachSanitizing the fresh water system isn’t particularly difficult. It is a bit tedious. You need only a handful of items:

  • Chlorine bleach—bleach only, never a cleaner that contains bleach and/or other chemicals.
  • 1-cup measuring cup.
  • 1-gallon pitcher.
  • Funnel—one you don’t use for anything else and bag to keep clean.
  • White hose with which to fill the tank from a water source you know is safe.

A plastic cup and pitcher are ideal here; nothing will break. If you have a pitcher that catches shower water before it heats, use that. You’ll waiting between some steps, sometimes for hours. Plan accordingly.

Where To Do It

If you drain your tank onto the ground after sanitizing, don’t let water pool in areas of vegetative growth, even though the solution is weak enough that damage should not occur. Bleach in strong concentrations can harm plants.

What To Clean

First, decide whether to sanitize the cold water lines only, along with the tank, or the hot water system as well. Some folks sanitize the cold water lines only, reasoning that the hot water will discourage the growth of germs, and to keep chlorine from the water heater. It’s up to you.

What To Do

Here’s how to sanitize your RV fresh water system:

  1. Put on old clothes and shoes. (Even tiny splashes will spot clothing.)
  2. Refer to your owner’s manual to find out how many gallons your fresh water tank holds.
  3. Turn off the water pump.
  4. Turn off the ice maker if so equipped.
  5. If you don’t want to sanitize the hot water lines, turn off the water heater.
  6. Drain the fresh water tank by opening the drain valve, then tighten the valve again.
  7. Using the measuring cup and pitcher, add a quarter-cup of household bleach for each 15 gallons of tank capacity. Fill the rest of the pitcher with clean, potable water. (Take care: Too much bleach can damage the tank and seals.)  
  8. Hook up a hose to a source of clan water and fill your tank until you see overflow beneath the tank. Turn off the fill line.
  9. Open the gray water tank drain valve. (As an alternative, you can start with an empty grey tank, drain the bleach solution into it, then empty it at a grey water dumping station.)
  10. If you have a water filter, bypass it so bleach doesn’t run through.
  11. If you are cleaning the hot water system, bypass the heater, too.
  12. Turn the water pump back on. One at a time, open each faucet and your shower (don’t forget exterior faucets or showers!) until you smell bleach at each, then turn each off. (Open cold faucets only if you’re cleansing only the cold-water lines; turn the heater back on and open the hot water faucets too if you’re also cleansing the hot water system.)
  13. Allow the bleach solution to sit in the lines and tank for at least 4 and up to 12 hours. If you fill late in the day, you’ll be ready to drain in the morning.
  14. Optional: Drive your RV a few miles to get the solution to splash around and reach every part of the tank, or simply drive to your next RV park, emptying and refilling there.
  15. After the solution sits, open each faucet and let the water drain.
  16. Refill your fresh water tank.
  17. Turn on each faucet again and run water until you don’t smell bleach.
  18. If the bleach odor persists, refill the tank and drain again until the bleach smell is gone, then refill.
  19. Turn the heater lines and filter lines back on.
  20. Tighten the drain on your gray water tank, or dump it at a fill station.

Sanitize your tank again if you smell an odor or store your RV.

Image Credits: Stikeseff (Wikimedia Commons), Jose Manuel Suarez (Wikimedia Commons)

You’re on the road, in the middle of your long-awaited vacation, and it happens: Your motorhome won’t start. Or the refrigerator breaks. Or a window shatters and the forecast is for a week of rain. When you’re RVing and not near home, you’ve got to find someone to make repairs—ASAP.

Where do you begin when trouble crops up on the road? Do you try to find an RV dealer/repair center to do the work? Or do you call a mobile RV repair service to come to you?

Starting Point

The place to start actually is at home, long before you turn the key on the first day of vacation. In other words, follow maintenance requirements.

Like most RV owners, you’ll do what you can yourself. If you know how—or you can learn if given reliable how-to information and have the time to get it done—that’s always a money-saving proposition.

What you can’t do yourself, have your local dealer/repair center do routinely. It’s much better to have someone you know and trust work on your RV than to have a stranger work on it while you travel. Know what maintenance your RV requires and stick to the schedule. To make sure you know the schedule, read the owner’s manual; find one for your model and year online if you don’t have one. Properly maintaining an RV, and a tow vehicle if you use one, doesn’t guarantee that you’ll have no problems on the road, but it certainly increases the odds.

In addition to maintaining the engine and transmission, you must maintain the suspension, brakes and tires. Replace tires that are worn or old.

Buy Roadside Assistance

Roadside assistance is, in essence, a form of insurance, and it’s one you really should have. At $100 to $150 a year, it’s a lot cheaper than having to pay for a tow—especially a long-distance tow, and even more so if you have a bigger motorhome.

Get Recommendations

If you do need repairs while traveling, get recommendations on a shop. If the problem is not an emergency, ask about repair shops close to your campsite. Call and make an appointment, and drive there. The camp operator and your camping neighbors may have experience with a shop that they would recommend—or that they would avoid.

It’s a good idea to join online forums. A good-sized forum is bound to have members from all over who can recommend a shop wherever you are.

Check out the reputation of any shop you consider. See if there are unresolved complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Facebook also often has reviews of businesses.

Mobile Repair Services

You’ll probably pay more if a repairman comes to you. A mobile repair service is likely to charge a fee just to make the visit—not unreasonable. If picking up and driving to a service center is too inconvenient, a mobile service may be worth the extra fee. Make sure the park where you’re camping allows repair visits.

It’s wise to be a little more cautious about hiring a mobile repair service. To find out if businesses must be licensed in the state where you need a repair, go to the Small Business Administration website and look for “State By State Information.” If the state requires a business license, ask the mobile repair service for its license number. There’s no bricks-and-mortar location, which is normally something that’s advisable before hiring any business, so make sure a mobile service at least has a web presence.

Ask for recommendations, same as you would for a service center, from an RV park operator and/or your park neighbors. Definitely check for a BBB rating and unresolved complaints. Also do an Internet search for the name of the mobile service and the word court to see if any lawsuits involved him.

Ask up front how much the service call fee is, and get the fee, cost estimates and conditions in writing. It’s always possible by email. Ask whether he has experience fixing the problem you’re experiencing. When paying, use a credit card, which gives you recourse if a dispute arises. If the mobile repair service says cash only, continue your search.

Friday, 31 May 2019 18:30

When Your Dog Is Your Co-pilot

If you take Rover along for the ride when you go RVing, you’re not alone. The RVIA estimates that more than 60 percent of RVers travel with their dog. Why not? Dogs are great company, entertaining and unwaveringly loyal.

But RVing isn’t always conducive to treating your pet responsibly—or lovingly.

Start with RV parks and RV resorts. Not all of them like dogs as much as Cypress Trail does. Here your dog will enjoy either of two leash-free, fenced dog parks—one for small dogs, one for big guys. Each has a doggy wading pool for cooling off. That’s a big deal in sunny Florida. There’s room to play ball, sniff and frolic with other dogs.

Some parks also have trails open to dogs. A few have fenced-in yards at campsites for canine exercise. You can find recommended dog-friendly RV parks online, but it’s a good idea to check online for dog facilities and dog rules at any campsite you plan to visit. If you’re still unsure, just call the park and ask.

Here are other things you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy while RVing:

Help your dog acclimate

Dogs are creatures of habit; a change to their routine can be upsetting. If your dog loves hitting the road in your car, he’ll probably love riding in the motorhome or tow vehicle, too. Don’t transport a dog in a trailer. Before taking him on a long trip, let him ride on a short RV jaunt or two, and spend time in the motorhome or trailer. Give him space of his own—a dog bed or a crate if he spends time in one at home. (Dogs often grow to find their crate a safe, secure place.)

Use a safety harness

Harnesses keep dogs safe. Humans aren’t strong enough to grab a dog and protect it in an emergency stop. A harness distributes the forces generated by a quick stop or crash and keeps the dog from flying into a windshield, the front seat or you. A harness even for a big dog from Kurgo.com costs just $42.

Cool it

You wouldn’t leave your dog locked in a hot car. Don’t leave her in a hot camper, either. When she can’t go with you, set thermostat-controlled roof vents to open and fans to run before temperatures reach 76 degrees. If your van lacks one, install a powered rain-hooded vent that won’t automatically close with precipitation. Make sure she has water.

Choose appropriate flooring

If your dog is a shedder, carpeting might not be as desirable as nonslip vinyl flooring. Think twice about laminate flooring or ceramic tile, which can be slippery.

Find a pet sitter

If you plan extended time away from your dog, look for a reliable pet sitter, just as you would at home, to provide companionship, food, fresh water and exercise. You’ll have to provide a door key or temporary security system password, but if the sitter is reputable, that shouldn’t be a problem. For an extra fee, some sitters will sleep in your RV if that makes you—and your dog—feel better.

Find vet care

Occasionally an RVing dog—even one with up-to-date care—needs unexpected veterinary care. Ask for recommendations at any campground or animal shelter. Search online for veterinary care in the locale you’re visiting. Take your pet’s medical records on a thumb drive for an unfamiliar veterinarian to see.

Stop for exercise

If your dog is accustomed to multiple daily walks, stop more often than you might otherwise to let him walk, sniff and relieve himself. The walk will do you good, too. And don’t forget to clean up.

Photo Credit: Kurgo.com

It’s not unusual to see an RV towing a dinghy, usually a small car or SUV. A motorcycle or two on a small trailer is also common. And people almost expect to see bicycles on a trailer- or motorhome-mounted rack.

Bicycles had been less about transportation, though, and more about exercise and fun. Advances in battery and motor technology are making electric-assist bicycles—or e-bikes—into real transportation alternatives.

E-Bike Classes Dictate Use

In Florida, as in many states, electric-assist bicycles with a top speed of 20 miles per hour and no throttle require no registration and no driver’s license with motorcycle endorsement. Florida e-bike operators must be 16, but they do not need a license—unless the bike is a Class 2 or a Class 3.

Here’s the breakdown on e-bike classes:

  • Class 1. The most common e-bike, it can be pedaled alone but has an electric motor that assists pedaling. It cannot have a battery more powerful than 750 watts or a top speed higher than 20 mph. A passenger is allowed. No helmet is required.
  • Class 2. A throttle can propel this e-bike without pedaling. Florida requires a Class 2 to be registered and an operator to have a driver’s license with a motorcycle endorsement
  • Class 3. This is serious transportation, with some models having a top speed approaching 30 mph. Florida and most states consider a Class 3 a motorcycle requiring registration and a licensed operator with a motorcycle endorsement.

Using an e-bike on a trail or sidewalk is not allowed in Florida. Use in parks is often governed by local law or the agency overseeing the facility. A Class 2 or 3 might be restricted to areas open to motor vehicles. You’ll have to check before using these sites.

For regulations by state, check out People for Bikes.

Big Boost

Peopleforbikes.org, which promotes bicycle riding, endorses e-bike use. It says e-bikes will help people ride when they might not be able to use a traditional pedal-only bike “due to limited physical fitness, age, disability or convenience.”

You might not want to ride a pedal-only bike to a restaurant or work, or even to visit a friend, if doing so would soak you in sweat. E-bikes reduce or eliminate sweating. And if pedaling is too stressful physically, electric-assisted pedaling may let you ride a bicycle again. (Don’t take our word for it, though. Consult your physician.)

Range varies, but it’s not unusual to get up to 40 miles per charge from a sub-$1,500 e-bike that is also pedaled, and up to 100 miles on a $2,500 e-bike. That will get you to places that might be too far from your campsite to pedal comfortably without an electric assist.

All Sorts of e-Bikes

There’s not one kind of e-bike. There are single-speed boulevard cruisers with pedal-assist only; fat-tired e-bikes for sand or snow; road bikes with multiple gear sets, which ease pedal-only travel; and e-assist mountain bikes (eMTB), also with multiple gear sets.

Some e-bikes have big hubs containing a lithium-ion battery, motor and gearing (think Copenhagen Wheel). Copenhagen wheels can be fitted to an existing bike or bought mounted to a new frame. Many new e-bikes have batteries that mount on the frame and a motor that clips onto the pedal-driven sprocket (as with the FLX Bike).

To Learn More

Check out the e-bike section of Bicycling.com, produced by Hearst’s Bicycling magazine, which has a reputation for solid reporting on and testing of bicycles. It has evaluated less-expensive e-bikes as well as higher-end models.

Features To Look For

If you’re not handy, make sure your bike comes mostly assembled.

The following features make an e-bike more enjoyable:

  • Battery as close as possible to 700 watts, without exceeding that if you want to avoid registration.
  • Available extra battery.
  • 40-100 mile range.
  • Gear sets 7 speeds or higher, to ease pedal-only biking and to preserve battery power.
  • A motor that disengages when not needed, also preserving power.
  • Front suspension (for off-road use).
  • Fat tires (for use in sand or snow).
  • Handlebar-mounted digital readout of speed, distance, battery reserve, navigation.
  • Smartphone mount and app for readout of speed, distance, battery reserve and navigation.
  • Removable battery, or lockable battery and motor to deter theft.
  • Sprocket-mounted motor and removable battery for balance on your RV bike rack.
  • Bright lights front and rear for better visibility, and to see after dark, and brake light.
  • Cargo rack or predrilled attachment points.
  • Comfort seat for long rides.

Image Credits: wikipedia.com

Monday, 07 January 2019 10:23

Florida State Fair, Garlic Fest

The best of Florida agriculture is on display at the 2019 Florida State Fair on the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa from Feb. 7 to Feb. 18. With Florida’s mild winters, the Florida’s is the nation’s earliest state fair.

Of course, a state fair has a whole lot more than farming on display. Food, as at almost any state fair, is varied but heavy on fried dishes and anything you can eat on the move. But there are also banana-covered funnel cakes, ribs, pulled pork, catfish and other Southern fare.

As entertainment, any decent state fair deserves a blue ribbon, and the Florida version is a good one, billing its midway as the biggest in the U.S. Adults and youths compete for prizes in everything from baking to raising and showing market steers and hogs, dairy cattle, goats and sheep. It’s a fun sight when a steer is led into the judging ring by a youngster who’s a foot shorter than the animal. (Those steers become meat, and yes, there are tears when some are sold.)

There are fun things to do and see, including more than 100 rides, including the country’s tallest traveling Ferris wheel. Other attractions include works of art, crafts, pig races, the Budweiser Clydesdales, onstage musical acts, acrobats, a tractor pull, a demolition derby, a daily science show, and a two-day rodeo. Some of the more pleasing displays star draft horses, equal parts beauty and beast. Kids who’ve never set foot outside the city or suburbs can even sign up to work on a model farm.

Most events, including much but not all of the music, are covered by your admission ticket, with grandstand seating free.

Check online for entertainment times and livestock judging schedules. More information is at floridastatefair.com or at 1-800-345-FAIR.

  • Dates: Feb. 7-18, 2019
  • Times: Monday-Thursday: gates, 10 a.m.-9p.m.; midway, 1-10:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Presidents Day: gates, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; midway 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
  • Cost: Armbands for rides must be purchased in addition to  gate pass. Gate: Adults, $9; children, $5; Senior Day, Feb. 11-15, $7; Senior 5-day pass, Feb. 7 and Feb 11-15, $13. Rides: Any day ride armband, $30; weekday ride armband, $20.
  • Place: The Florida State Fairgrounds, Tampa
  • RV parking: $12 per RV on the open lots, plus $20 per overnight dry camping stay; first come, first served. Cash only, pay as you enter the lot.
  • Directions: Plan on about a 2-hour drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

A Stinkin’ Great Trip

Here’s a tasty idea: Drive over to Lake Worth for the South Florida Garlic Festival, Feb. 9 and 10.

garlicIt’s billed as “The Best Stinkin’ Party in South Florida,” and no wonder. For two days, you can wander Gourmet Alley and experience meals that prominently feature the fragrant seasoning.  

Garlic is a mainstay in many a recipe, and at the Garlic Festival, in every recipe. Try some Garlic Festival favorites: flaming chicken or shrimp scampi, garlic crab cakes, garlic bruschetta, garlic pizza, garlic Argentine BBQ with garlic black beans and rice, and garlic Portobello sandwiches. For dessert, there’s garlic ice cream—seriously. A complete menu will be released closer to the festival.

You can even tell yourself this trip will be good for your health. Besides tasting great, garlic is loaded with antioxidants and helps to rid the body of toxins. It is not true that the toxins leave your body just to flee the smell.

Date: Feb. 9-10, 2019
Times: Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Place: John Prince Park, 4759 South Congress Ave., Lake Worth, FL
Cost: $12 in advance, plus $2.85 taxes and fees, tickets online; at the gate, $12 before 6 p.m. Saturday, $20 after 6 p.m.; Sunday, $12 all day; children 12 and under, free. NOTE: The ticket gets you into Garlic Fest, but you must pay individual vendors for the food you eat. Prices vary by vendor and dish.
Directions: John Prince Park is about a 2¼-hour drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.  
Parking: Parking for passenger vehicles is free at the Department of Motor Vehicles lot at 501 S. Congress Ave. in Delray Beach, with roundabout buses running every 45 minutes. The last bus returns to the lot at 11:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Parking within the park is $20. Parking at Palm Beach State College is $10 with a free shuttle. Parking details online. RV parking is no longer available.

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 07 January 2019 09:54

Pirates Invade Tampa!

Aarrgh! Pirates are about to conquer Tampa. Hoist anchor on your land yacht. Fun is on the horizon, and it’s only about a 2-hour drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Official Gasparilla Pirate Fest events begin each January and extend into March.

Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, which sanctions the series of events, was formed more than 100 years ago to promote economic vitality in Tampa and nearby communities. It’s worked. Hundreds of thousands of people gather in Tampa yearly to attend some of the biggest attractions of their type in the country. The organization and related agencies help charities throughout southwest Florida.

The group’s name invokes the legend of 18th and early 19th century Spanish pirate Jose Gaspar, known as Gasparilla and considered the last of the buccaneers. From his base in western Florida, the pirate and his crews plundered shipping along the Spanish Main in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. He is said to have secreted a treasure in Gulf Coast Florida that has never been found.

Here are some highlights of Gasparilla season:

Gasparilla Children’s Parade and Fireworks Extravaganza

  • Date: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019
  • Time: 3:30-6 p.m.
  • Place: Forms at Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard; proceeds north along Bayshore and ends at Edison Avenue
  • Cost: The event itself is free, but there’s charge if you want to reserve bleacher seats along the parade route. Advance tickets for bleacher seating, $40, available until Jan. 11; will-call, $50. Details online, including related events.

If you like your pirates pint-sized, or if you’re taking your children or grandkids, this is the parade for you. The alcohol-free celebration is billed as the largest children’s parade in the U.S.  Thousands of kids are pushed in strollers before the children’s parade, where thousands more march. Participants add a Mardi Gras touch by tossing beads to the hordes who watch and cheer. Participants include those sponsored by businesses, community organizations, neighborhood groups, schools and dance academies. And, of course, there are plenty of marching bands. Other events include a jazzfest brunch and VIP events.

pirate floatGasparilla Invasion and Parade

  • Date: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019
  • Time: Invasion, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; parade, 2-5:30 p.m.
  • Place: Invasion: The pirate ship casts off from the south end of Hillsborough Bay at 11:30 a.m., sails north to Seddon Channel, and docks at the Tampa Convention Center at 1 p.m. Parade: Forms at Bay to Bay Boulevard and Bayshore Boulevard, then continues along Bayshore to Brorein Street, east on Brorein, and north on Ashley Drive, ending at Cass Street.
  • Cost: The events themselves are free, but there’s a charge if you want to reserve bleacher seats along the parade route. Advance tickets, $50; will-call tickets, $60. Details online for tickets to the parade and other events, including jazz brunch and VIP tent.

Re-creating Gaspar’s conquest of old Tampa, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla “invades” each January aboard its tall ship. The ship Jose Gasparilla looks like a wooden 18th century sailing vessel but in fact is a modern steel-hulled, custom-made craft. Invasion by 750 pirates is at 11 a.m.—not, coincidentally, when the sun hits the yardarm. On the high seas, that meant the first rum of the day. The marauders, as they do annually, capture the key to the city.

The Pirate Fest Parade makes the children’s version look like—well, child’s play. It’s bigger—the third-biggest parade in America—longer, and a whole lot rowdier, with lots a beads for attendees. The parade features more than 100 floats, about 50 organizations, and marching bands. It travels 4.5 miles into downtown Tampa.

Krewe of the Knights of Sant ’Yago Illuminated Knight Parade

  • Date: Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019
  • Time: 4-8:30 p.m.; illuminated floats, 6:30 p.m.
  • Place: 7th Avenue, Ybor City Historic District; parade travels along Seventh Avenue from Nuccio Parkway to 22nd Street.
  • Cost: Free (reserved bleacher seating is sold out). Lawn chairs allowed along free viewing stretches of parade route.

This February event through Ybor City, a historically Cuban section of Tampa, is festively lighted. The parade is free if you stand in one of the many free viewing areas or watch from your on lawn chair. Floats are illuminated after sundown. It’s quite a sight. There are pirates on parade, beads flung out to attendees, floats, bands and community organizations marching. Ybor City has many Latino eateries and cafes. Details online.

Gasparilla Outward Bound Voyage

Only in Tampa would the entire city party when pirates arrive, and party again when they leave. It’s your last chance to see the Jose Gasparilla pirate ship as it sails from a dock outside the Tampa Convention Center. The afternoon features free live music, festivities and food. The pirates return the key to the city before boarding their ship, heading out to sea and firing their cannons in salute as they sail off.  The party rolls on into the evening. Details online.

  • Date: Saturday, March 16, 2019
  • Time: Festivities, 2-10 p.m.; castoff, 4:30 p.m.
  • Place: Downtown Tampa, around the convention center
  • Cost: Free\

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, 27 November 2018 23:13

Downton Abbey Exhibition

RV downton abbey absfreepic dot comThe RV life is pretty good. You have a great place to live—a comfortable place, with all the amenities you could possibly want. You have plenty of space—enough that, at times, you feel it’s downright palatial. You can pick up and travel whenever you want, wherever you want, so the view is not only great, but continually refreshed. And you gladly entertain at the drop of a hat.

But admit it: it’s not that good. It’s not Downton Abbey good.

But then, what is?

Try this: Downton Abbey, The Exhibition. This traveling exhibition features clothing, room mockups, clips from the PBS TV show running on a loop, and even a hologram of  Mrs. Carson, the housekeeper and the former Mrs. Hughes. It’s appearing in West Palm Beach through April 22, 2019. That’s a lot closer than Highclere Castle, in Newbury, United Kingdom, where much of the show was filmed. Since that’s on the other side of The Pond, West Palm Beach is—shall we say?— far more drivable, even if you don’t have a Rolls.

The Rooms

See Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen—the copper pots and pans, the cutting boards, the wooden bowls, the utensils, the long wooden table.

The dining room is set for dinner, as elegantly as ever. No, you do not have to wear evening clothes. On the wall are the bells summoning the servants.

Relax—but not too much, now—in Mr. Carson’s pantry. Carson, of course, was a bit stiff on the outside but a real M&M, with a soft center. You’ll see Carson’s desk, his bookshelves, the keys behind closed glass and his easy chair.

Then there’s Lady Mary’s bedroom, right down to her brush and mirror, photos in frames and candlesticks. Missing is the body of Kemal Pamuk, the Turkish diplomat who, in hopes of a late-night tryst, perished there. The bed, however, is on full display.

The Clothes

In the kitchen you’ll see mannequins dressed in the servant outfits Mrs. Patmore and Daisy wore. Carson’s room includes replicas of his three-piece suit, replete with watch and chain, and Mrs. Carson’s dress.

There are wedding gowns—one for Mary, two for Edith. And you’ll see Mary’s smart felt hat.

Lord Grantham’s hunting jacket and breeches are there, as are Sybil’s harem pants.
And, of course, there are dresses of the irrepressible dowager countess, Violet.

Tickets and Admission

Event: Downton Abbey Exhibition
Venue: CityPlace, 575 S. Rosemary Ave, West Palm Beach, FL
Directions: CityPlace in Palm Beach is about a 2-hour and 15-minute drive from Cypress Trail RV Park. WARNING: Construction is in progress around CityPlace, so give yourself extra time, just as Tom Branson would.
Admission: Touring Downton Abbey sets may make you feel like a million bucks—or pounds, perhaps—but it’s surprisingly affordable. Adult admission is $35 per person; age 65 and older, $33; and visitors 14 and under who are accompanied by a paying adult, free of charge. VIP Tickets, $49, include an audio guide that is picked up upon entry.
Dates: Daily through April 22, 2019
Times: Choose your own entry time for your ticket, every half hour from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. There’s a catch: You must enter within half an hour of your ticket time, so you better move as if Carson were looking over your shoulder. If you miss the window, you will have to wait—on busy days, possibly hours—until crowd flow can accommodate latecomers. VIP ticketholders may enter at any time the day of their scheduled tour.
Duration: Most visitors spend about 90 minutes on the tour, but you may stay as long as you like—well past the giggles thinking about the Turk who died wooing Lady Mary.
Photography: Shoot snapshots to your heart’s content. Video, however, is not allowed.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018 22:41

Upcoming Florida RV Shows To Attend

Florida RV Supershow

florida rv supershow logo 2018Billed as the country’s best and biggest of its type, the 2019 Florida RV Supershow is coming to the Florida State Fairgrounds on Jan. 16-20. The fairgrounds are in Tampa, not far from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

It’s hard to dispute the size of the Florida RV Supershow. The show fills more than 26 acres at the fairgrounds with motorhomes and trailers of every size and type. There are also hundreds of outdoor and indoor displays of accessories and RV-related products and services.

If the Supershow is too big for your tastes, the smaller and closer Fort Myers RV Show is scheduled a few days later, Jan. 24-27, at the Lee Civic Center.

Getting Around the Supershow

Wear comfortable footwear. You’ll walk miles between and through RVs and displays and go up and down plenty of steps, if only three at a time. Trams are available to help you save your feet and knees.

Visitors with disabilities can rent wheelchairs for $20 a day or electric scooters for $55 a day. Visit the Scootaround.com website for reservations.

What To Do

You won’t be bored at an RV show, especially one as big as the Supershow. Here’s what you can do:

  • Learn. Attend seminars, some sponsored by manufacturers of RVs and accessories, or taught by a recognized expert. You’ll find tips on everything from driving safely to maintenance, and several on extended or full-time RV living.
  • Comparison shop. Thinking about a new awning? A recliner or sofa? A more powerful generator? A foldout grill? Maybe you’re in the market for a new RV or considering a switch from a trailer to a motorhome. Here’s a chance to find many brands and all types in one place. Comparing brands and models is super easy.
  • Dream. OK, so maybe you can’t afford a $350,000 Class A. Maybe you can. Either way, you can walk through any RV on display, from popups to luxury motorhomes, and everything in between: truck campers, Class B’s and C’s, fifth wheels, destination RVs, and luxury motorhomes. If you’re considering the lifestyle and buying your first RV, a show is a great place to start.
  • Get ideas. With so many RVs and accessories to see, you’l see all the latest trends. Gather ideas on how to improve your own RV, both outside and inside.
  • Negotiate a great deal. Dealers bring quite literally tons of merchandise to the show. It costs time and money to take it all back to the dealership. That means bargains abound. It’s not unusual to find $50,000 discounts or more on Class A motorhomes, and tens of thousands off a trailer, a Class C or Class B. Bring your checkbook and the title to your current RV, because dealers often will appraise your RV and close a deal onsite.

florida rv supershow photo

Overnight RV Parking

You can stay overnight in your RV on the grounds—not a bad idea, since your ticket to the show will admit you for two days. RV parking is $14 per day, plus $20 per each overnight stay. Overnight permits must be displayed in a window. Parking passes are available at the gate, cash only.

NO SERVICES are offered, but that shouldn’t be a particular hardship. You’re bound to have plenty of company. It’s an RV show, after all, and quite a few of the more than 73,000 visitors—that’s the 2018 figure—arrive in campers.

The campers Super Rally event is sold out.

For overnight parking, enter off Highway 301, South Parking Gate.

Event: Florida RV Supershow
Venue: Florida State Fairgrounds
4800 US Highway 301 North
Tampa, FL 33610
Cost: $10 per person, includes readmission on a second day; children under 16, free.
Tickets: At the gate.
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Parking: $14 per RV, plus $20 per overnight stay; $8 per car.
Directions: The Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa are about a 2-hour drive from Cypress Trail, give or take 15 minutes, depending on your route.

Fort Myers RV Show

If you don’t believe bigger is better, you can opt to wait a few days more and visit the Fort Myers RV Show. It’s practically next door to Cypress Trail, at the Lee Civic Center. About 11,000 people attended last year—no drop in the bucket but only about 14 percent of the attendance at the Supershow.

The Fort Myers show will be staged Jan. 24-27, 2019.

Ticket and camper information were not yet available when we wrote this, but the Fort Myers RV Show website indicates that parking is free. We’ll update information on the show as it becomes available.

Event: Fort Myers RV Show
Venue: Lee Civic Center
11831 Bayshore Road
Fort Myers, FL 33917
Dates:  Jan. 24-27, 2019.
Hours: To be Announced
Cost: To Be Announced
Tickets: To be Announced. Check the show website.
Parking: Free
Directions: The Lee Civic Center is less than 15 minutes from Cypress Trail via Routes 31 and 80, or Routes 78 and 93.

Photo Credits: Florida RV Trade Association

It’s time for some holiday happenings. Places along the Suncoast of Florida—and other communities in the state—have lots going on from now through New Year’s Day. Here are some highlights.

Edison & Ford Holiday Nights

One of the area’s premier holiday events is the Edison and Ford Winter Estates Holiday Nights. Except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the Holiday Nights run from Nov. 23 to Dec. 30, from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

The estates open daily for tours at 9 a.m., apart from the Holiday Nights. Although there is not a Holiday Nights event on Christmas Eve, the estates are open for tours that day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Inventor Thomas Edison and industrialist Henry Ford were friends, and they built winter getaways next door to each other in Fort Myers in the early 20th century. Being neighbors fit two of the men with America’s most fertile minds to a (Model) T. Edison’s laboratory, where he conducted botanical research, including a quest for a domestic source of rubber, was funded them and tire magnate Harvey Firestone, a frequent visitor. The properties, which are well preserved, host events year-round. Perhaps none is as anticipated as the Holiday Nights.

The lush gardens and homes are lighted for the Christmas season. That’s only appropriate, with Edison having given us the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb. His breakthrough was so ahead of its time that it and later versions only now are being pushed aside by more efficient electronic technologies.

In addition to thousands of lights, hundreds of historic decorations put visitors in a holiday mood.

Entertainment, Food, Libations

Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive on Nov. 23. Nina Rose Events, named after Mrs. Edison, will feature baked goods, beer, wine and cocktails at the Ford Cottage Shoppe. Victorian carolers will entertain.

Sundays and Mondays are Lee County Resident Nights, with $5 off adult admission.

Other nights feature live piano or hammered dulcimer music. On family nights, Santa and sometimes Mrs. Claus will return. A few Holiday Nights will feature craft beers from Millennial Brewing.

Waltzing Waters will make the estate’s fountains dance this year.

Go online to find a complete Holiday Nights events schedule.

Multiple Tours

Give yourself time to tour the Edison Ford Museum and Edison’s Botanic Research Laboratory, both open until 9 p.m. on Holiday Nights. Also open until 9 are the Ford Cottage Shoppe, Museum Store and Garden Shoppe.

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Holiday Nights
Venue: Edison and Ford Winter Estates
Address: 2350 McGregor Blvd.
Fort Myers, FL 33901
Cost: Holiday Nights: $20, age 20 and older; $10, ages 13-19; $2, ages 6-12; free, Edison Ford members. Holiday Tradition Tour: $30, age 20 and older; $25, ages 13-19; $18, ages 6-12; $10, Edison Ford members. Inside-the-Homes Holiday Tours: $50.
Refreshments: For sale at each event.
Tickets/Information: EdisonFordWinterEstates.org
Directions: The Edison Ford Winter Estates are just over a 20–minute drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Festival of Lights at Fishermen’s Village, Punta Gorda

If you’d enjoy Christmas shopping in stores amid a million holiday lights—quite literally—try Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda. The annual Lighting of the Village will be Nov. 15, from 5:30 to 9 p.m.

Fishermen’s Village has a mall, a waterfront with restaurants, and a harbor with tours. The lights stay on through New Year’s. There’s Santa, of course, who’s available for photos, and a team of elves to make everyone feel festive. An angel tree in the mall offers an opportunity to contribute gifts to folks who might not otherwise have much of a Christmas.

The waterfront offers private surrey rides, charter cruises, and harbor and lighted canal tours. A Pearl Harbor ceremony is scheduled Dec. 7.

New Year’s Eve features celebratory cruises and family-oriented onshore festivities.

Music of many varieties, from high school bands to chorales and regional rock musicians, is presented over the 48 days of the festival.   

Festival of Lights
Venue: Fishermen’s Village
Address: 1200 W. Retta Esplanade, Suite 57A
Punta Gorda, FL 33950
Events: Lighting of the Village, Nov. 15, 5:30-9 p.m.; New Year’s Eve Family Celebration, 5 p.m.-midnight.
Cost: Free for events; tour and ride prices vary.
Directions: Fishermen’s Village is about a 35-minute drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Snow in Florida

If you moved from a snowy climate and miss a white Christmas, or you’ve always wished you could experience one, try the Glitter, Glisten and Snow event in Lake Eva Park, Haines City. Machines make snow so you slip and glide your way to fun on the snow slide. Sip on free cider or hot chocolate and munch on cookies, or try some roasted chestnuts—made on an open fire, we hope.

Local school children will entertain.

Glitter, Glisten and Snow
Venue: Lake Eva Park
Address: 555 Ledwith Ave.
Haines City, FL 33844
Date: Dec. 1, 2018
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Directions: Haines City is about a 2-hour, 20-minute drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Monday, 22 October 2018 19:10

Winter Is Craft Show Time in Florida

Craft shows abound in Florida during the winter months.

You’ll find crafts and art of many types—ceramics, blown glass, jewelry, furniture, decorations, paintings, clothes, handbags—and created with varying levels of skill.

Small community shows often charge no fee. Larger juried shows—those that require artisans to apply for a space on the show floor—usually charge admission.

Here are a few that are coming up, some close to Cypress Trail RV Resort, and some a few hours away. Take your pick: There’s plenty to see, buy and treasure.

Sarasota Art & Handmade Home Show

This is the first year under the new name, which was changed from Sarasota Craft Show, the title for nine years. The Sarasota Art & Handmade Home Show is billed as “The Suncoast’s Premiere Indoor Fine Art and Craft Show,” and that’s not difficult for promoter American Art Marketing to justify. Many items on display and for sale are of premium quality and tastefully crafted.

Sarasota is a national show, with artisans from multiple states showcasing their skills. It is a curated or juried show: Not just anybody can participate. Work must be submitted and reviewed for artisans and their work to be accepted. About 120 artisans participate yearly.

The show is open to the general public and charges admission. Attendees are homeowners, interior decorators, and collectors. Don’t let that frighten you; you’ll find desirable items on many price levels.

Exhibits appear outside and mostly inside the air-conditioned Robarts Arena, this year on the last day of November and the first two days of December.

Sarasota Art and Handmade Home Show
Venue: Robarts Arena
Address: 300 Ringling Blvd.
Sarasota, FL 34237
Dates: Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2018
Hours: Friday, Nov. 30, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 1, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Cost per day: $12, adults; $11, age 65+; $6, students; free, age 10 and under; $13, full weekend pass
Directions: Robarts Arena in Sarasota is a 1¼ to a 1¾ hours’ drive from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival

In its 26th year, the Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival is a juried show, accepting only applicants whose crafts meet its standards. All products are made in America, from a number of states.

More than 100 artisans display and sell ceramics, decorative and functional pottery, jewelry, clothing for all ages, hair accessories, paintings, woodworking and more. The craft show is an outdoor event. Displays line Main Street in downtown Dunedin, so there are plenty of places to dine.

Unlike many indoor venues, downtown Dunedin uses the craft show to attract visitors, so there is no admission fee.

In addition to having a vibrant business district, Dunedin has four miles of white-sand beaches that are highly rated.

Dunedin Downtown Craft Festival
Venue: 271 Main St.
Dunedin, FL
Dates: Nov. 17 and 18, 2018
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Free
Directions: Downtown Dunedin is about 2 hours and 10 minutes from Cypress Trail RV Resort.

Christmas Made in the South, Jacksonville

If you’re interested in a craft show that has only Christmas items, consider Christmas Made in the South. This series includes a Thanksgiving weekend event in Jacksonville.

A juried show, Christmas Made in the South invites only crafters and artisans who live and work in Southern states. Juries differ by location, so the Jacksonville show is likely to have a Florida flavor. The Jacksonville show typically has more than 300 artisans.

Crafts, which must be handmade, include ceramics, jewelry, clothing, decorations, ornaments, cane furniture and paintings, among others. The Christmas Made in the South shows involve a lot of give-and-take between crafters and visitors, so they’re a good place to learn new techniques or consider a new craft.  

Venue: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center
Address: 1000 Water St.
Jacksonville, FL 32204
Dates: Nov. 23-25, 2018
Times: Friday, 9 a.m. -6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Parking: $5-10
Directions: The Prime Osborn III Convention Center is just under a five-hour drive from Crossing Creeks RV Resort.

Photo credit: artfestival.com

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