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Monday, February 22, 2016

Well This Is Different

Semper Gumby (Always Flexible) is our motto for our RV life.  It applies when we travel and also when we do our workamping job here at the COE.  We started out pin hunting and got pulled off that task to take on one of higher priority.  It has to do with these boxes.

The COE purchase a bunch of new electronic cash registers to replace the old, tired and worn out units in the Visitor Center and the day use areas.

They had to be programmed and adapted to COE specific charges.  Plus the programming had to be made simple for multiple people to easily use them. 
We plunged into the job, Marti used her IT skills to not only set up the registers, but develop an easy to use set of instructions for the operators.
I used my skills as a laborer to pull the units out of the boxes, unwrap them and plug them in, then dispose of the packing.  That is what I do best, as to programing electronic things, it's best for me to keep my fat fingers far, far away.
We got them all done and then moved them to a storage building to await distributing them to the various gate houses in another month or so to get ready for the summer season.
We never know what we'll do next, but we enjoy variety because we sure get lots of it here.   :c)
Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pin Hunting, First Find Of The Year

One of the joys we have about our fulltime RV lifestyle is the ability to Workamp.  Not because we have to, we're blessed financially, but we enjoy the chance to give something back and support the wonderful parks maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers around J. Strom Thurmond Lake.

We've done a variety of jobs, some very interesting, others (like painting), not so much.  But each and every job is important.

Today we finally were able to go out on our favorite job, pin hunting.  Actually, it's correctly known as boundary line inspections, we like the name pin hunting better, because, uh, we're looking for survey marking pins around the lake delineating COE property.

After a rainy night, the sun came out and warmed things up.  Armed with maps, a metal detector, hand shovels, rakes and of course pink marking tape, we set out in a nice new Park Ranger truck.  Because distances around the lake are so large, it took us a while of driving through the picturesque countryside to get to the location of the tract of land where we'll be working for the next few weeks.

Tracking down trees marked with special orange painted bands, we found the first one.  It took a while to locate it's exact position with the metal detector, then some digging and there it was, the first pin find of the year.  The hunt is like crossing treasure hunting with geo-caching.  Either way, it's fun to dig out a pin, revealing it to the light of day, often for the first time in years.

You can see old pink tape that was wrapped around the pin from the last verification, done quite a few years ago.  We wrapped new tape around the pin and even put up a little flag marker.
The pins often get buried over time by a lot of factors, weather, erosion, leaves covering the ground in the fall.  With lots of tape on the pin, it'll help whomever comes along in the future to relocate it.
The boundary line inspections are important to ensure the COE owned property around the lake doesn't get encroached or even built on by people.  Every year we've done these inspections, we've noted violations that we report to the rangers to resolve.
Fresh air, warm, sunny skies, hiking beautiful woods and wild nature, what's not to love?  And to think this could be considered "work"!
Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

St. Thomas And A Surprise Ending

Leaving Tortolla, we cruised overnight and awakened in the port of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  I'm continually amazed at how smoothly and quietly the captain of the Fantasy was able to maneuver and dock the 1100 foot ship, you almost don't know it's happening.

We docked right behind a Princess cruise ship, shortly after we had tied up, a second Princess cruise ship docked right behind us.  We were in a cruise ship sandwich.

On every cruise we've been on, there are tours and excursions offered by the cruise line.  They are fun, but sometimes can be a little pricey.  We decided not to book any tours in St. Thomas, but just to explore the island on our own.  Shortly after leaving the ship, we found an island tour that was about half of what was offered on the ship.  We jumped on it and had a two hour ride around the island in another open bus.
St. Thomas is a little more populated that Tortolla and has many of the same stores you'd see stateside.
But there was plenty of nice wild scenery to view also.
An old castle from days gone by.
Lovely beaches for a swim, or to wade in the crystal blue water.
Many places had beautiful hedges of flowering bougainvillea.
St. Thomas is working to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels by building this huge solar farm.  The tour guide said it has helped cut the islander's electric bills by a third.
We returned to the ship after the tour and a bit of shopping.  We watched a pirate ship slide by.
We noticed some divers alongside the rear of the ship, we wondered what they were doing, and assumed it was some routine cleaning thing.  We'd find out what they were there for after we sailed.
Walking back down the pier to the ship, we again saw cleaning and painting going on, even Dumbo was flying around the stern touching up some lettering.
After about eight hours in port, we got underway again.  In another display of incredible ship handling, the captain maneuvered the Fantasy sideways from between the two Princess cruise ships using the bow and stern thrusters.  We were on our way out of the harbor and on to our last stop at Disney's private island, Castaway Cay for a beach day.  So long, St. Thomas, we'll be back again some day for a longer stay.
Shortly after we were out of port, the captain came on the loudspeaker with an announcement.  The Fantasy had suffered an engineering problem on one of the two propeller shafts and it had to be secured.  Because of the trouble, the ship could only proceed on one propeller, slowing down its speed.  That meant that the stop at Castaway Cay had been cancelled and we were heading straight back to Port Canaveral.  It was more important to get back there on time for passengers who had flight reservations and boarding of new passengers for the next trip.  Plus there were repair parts and teams there to effect repairs to enable the ship to operate at full, normal cruising speeds.  Ah ha!  That's what the divers were doing at the ship's stern, checking out the issue.

As a compensation, Disney granted each stateroom a $200 credit, plus a 20% discount on another cruise anytime in the next 24 months.  Very fair.  Even though we were slightly disappointed at missing the Castaway Cay stop, we were very happy with the compensation.  Yep, happy enough to book another cruise on the Fantasy for the same time next year.  :c)

There was still plenty to do on the ship as we headed north, more great shows, interesting things to find as we explored places we has never been to, like this Vespa sidecar.  I guess Mickey can use it to zip around the ship.

We enjoyed looking at the artistic details found all over the ship.

Some artistic details were waiting for us on our bed each night.
Not to forget the great deserts after the meals.  I had to have a traditional Mickey Bar the last night.
                           The End!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Fantasy Tour

The Disney Fantasy was the first cruise ship we had even been on, (last January 2015) and we enjoyed it so much we rebooked for another cruise on her January 2016.  Here's a few pictures to show why we enjoyed her so much.

One of the unique things Disney does on all four of its ships is Rotational Dining.  There are three major dining rooms and each night you eat dinner at one of them at a specific numbered table.  Your server comes with you every night to each dining room so you really get to know them, and they, you.
The Enchanted Garden dining room is decorated with all kinds of floral displays, as well as a Mickey fountain welcoming you in.
The lights in the ceiling are flower shaped.
As the meal goes on, the ceiling darkens, the stars come out and the flowers open up.  A nice touch.
But don't worry, there is still plenty of light to see your prime rib.
Animators Palate is another dining room, themed to reflect an artist's studio.
Our table centerpiece is a ceramic cup with artist's tools (and our table number).
Decorating the walls are various sketches of Disney characters.
Then the walls turn into a screen and Crush, the turtle from Finding Nemo comes on and talks to many of the children, even asking and remembering their names as the conversations progress.
The Royal Court dining room is themed on the Cinderella story, with amazing wall mosaics made with thousands of tiny tiles depicting scenes from the movie.
In the Cabanas Buffet, there are more tile mosaics, all beautifully done by hand.
Around the ship, maintenance was constantly being done while in port, but so quietly and  unobtrusively that you almost didn't notice it.  The crew kept the ship clean and sparkling at all times.
A few benches were re-varnished, too.
A favorite adventure on the ship is Pirates Night, where passengers and crew dress up like pirates.  A fabulous show is presented on the main deck followed by a terrific fireworks display.
Our head server, Dwayne got us ready for the show.

At many places around the ship are beverage stands where you could help yourself to soft drinks, tea and coffee, all free of charge.  There is also a self serve ice cream bar, very popular with kids and adults alike.

We enjoyed seeing the various birds that live on the ship.

But what would the cruise be without Captain Mickey?  He, other characters and princesses were found around the ship meeting with kids (and adult kids) to get pictures and autographs.

There is so much to see and do on the Fantasy.  Broadway quality shows, top drawer comedians and first run movies.  Games, activities geared to specific age groups and fabulous pools and hot tubs.  We really enjoyed the cruise and yep, we booked again for another trip on the Fantasy for next January.  I guess we're addicted to Disney cruises.
Next up, St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Island Hopping

After two glorious days at sea, we arrived in the Virgin Islands.  First stop was in the British Virgin Island of Tortolla.  We were blown away by the mountainous beauty and the stunning color of the water.

We enjoyed watching a pod of dolphins playing in the water around the ship.  Of course, they were too fast for my fumbling attempts to take their picture.
We signed up for a water and land tour of the island.  It was several hours long, starting out with the boat tour first.
The boat sailed around the many islands that make up the BVI.  One island had many caves open to the ocean.  Snorkelers were able to swim into the caves.
Some of the islands had homes on them,

others were wild and uninhabited.

One island is owned by Richard Branson, the billionaire who owns Virgin Airlines.  You can rent out his house for a mere $65,000 a night. 

The boat tour ended in a marina that had many expensive yachts, including this unusual looking one.

After a bit of perusing some of the local shops, we boarded a open bus type vehicle for a ride around the island roads.
The island's roads are really steep and twisty.  The driver was very scary, he drove like he was in a race car in the Indy 500.  We had to hang on for dear life at times, at one point he almost ran us head on into a bus when he blew through a stop sign. 
Thankfully, we did have a number of stops around the island where we could take in some of the amazing views and let our heart rates return to normal.
Hey, isn't that our ship down there in the harbor?
After our tour, we were dropped off at the pier and walked back to the ship.  When in port, there are crewmembers scrubbing down the ship non stop to keep it gleaming.  The ship has a device that moves about the sides of the ship to allow workers to reach much of the hull for washing.
The ship was in port on Tortolla for about nine hours, not a lot of time to see all of the island, but with the tour we took, it gave us a good flavor to put it in future travel plans for a revisit when we can stay several days to enjoy all the island has to offer.
Next up, a tour around the Fantasy as we sail to our next port of call on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Thomas.