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I Love to Travel Part 2

4 Aug

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

So now, this is an example of how I plan one of my road trips.   I select a specific Aviation Museum (the target museum), from the Guide Book to visit.  I preferably like it to be in an area of the country where I haven’t been before.  Using the guide book, I research the other Aviation Museums in the states surrounding the target museum.  Then I use Wikipedia (“Museums in Colorado”) to find all the different types of museums in the target state and the states surrounding the target state, that interest me.  I locate the museums, using MapQuest, to establish a route, in those states, and that becomes my itinerary.  I find a major city, nearest my route, with the best airline rates, and my itinerary starts there.  I usually fly Southwest Airlines because I can fly free with my Reward Miles with them.

Photo: https://www.fool.com/investing/2020/08/19/southwest-airlines-says-it-wont-take-coronavirus-g/

My direction of travel does not depend on moving clockwise or counterclockwise, as long as the big two-week itinerary circle brings me back to the same airport.  That way I can pick-up and return my rental car at the same location without any additional drop-off charges.  The rental car costs, gas, food, and the museum admissions are usually my only our-of-pocket expenses I have (unless there are tour fees or special tickets. etc.) for one of these two-week trips.  I have my own Accident Insurance, but I’m not always sure if my Auto Insurance will cover everything on the rental car, so I usually purchase Travel Insurance that covers anything that could happen to me or the rental car during the trip.

Photo: https://aloharents.com/

I figure a day’s travel miles (as close as possible) where my itinerary will place me at a location where I can get good motel rates (larger cities generally have more motels to choose from, and their rates are usually lower).  I make advanced motel reservations (usually free with credit card points), so I don’t have to do that on the road.  All of this planning can sometimes take me weeks to arrange, but once it’s all arranged, and I have conformations for everything, I’m ready to go.  

Photo: https://www.qualityinnsarasotafl.com/

I like to print out a copy of all my conformation notices for airline, rental car, and motels.  Then I Google each museum and make a copy of the description of it, which includes name, address, phone number and days & hours of operation.  I arrange the museum sheets in the order I have decided on for my itinerary, so I will have them at hand in the car as I go.  That way, all I have to do is plug-in the address on my Garmin (Greta), and off I go.  This also gives me a record of everything I might need in case Greta or I get lost, or any other type of problem I might run into.  Sometimes Greta, will take me to the wrong address, or not be able to locate the address.  If that happens, I can refer to the information sheet, for the place I’m heading, and call to ask for directions.  Those sorts of things have happened more than once on my trips in the past.

Photo: https://www.bestbuy.com/site/garmin-drive-52-5-gps-black

At the end of each day’s travels, while relaxing at the motel, I record the hi-lights of the day’s activities on my cell phone and email it to my computer at home.  When I get home I use the emails, and the internet, to thoroughly research each museum for any special or historical data I can find.  It’s amazing how much more interesting my blogs can become with that expanded information.  I arrange the museum’s information in sequence, for that day, and that becomes a short blog (500-700 words).  Then I post one blog per week on the “Old Things R New” website.  This allows others to enjoy my trips (vicariously) if they like that sort of thing, and maybe learn a little something new at the same time.  Writing up these blogs also allows me to re-live the fun memories of the trip again.

Image: https://www.kissclipart.com/computer-working-png-clipart-computer-web-browser-4tl976/

I hope you have enjoyed this quick look at the reason “I Love to Travel” and how I go about choosing, researching, arranging, and reporting a two-week “Bucket List” road trip.  These trips are so relaxing, enjoyable and freeing for me.  I can really recommend travel.  Just getting away from the every-day mundane things of life, and hitting the road to somewhere.  It doesn’t have to be a BIG trip.  Just get out and go.

  We have a big country out there, and there is a large variety of very interesting and beautiful places and things to see.  So enjoy it.  If you are ever interested in some of the places and things I’ve encountered on my past trips, you can find my travel blogs at www.oldthingsrnew.com.  Enter the Title & Part # (if any) of the blog you would like to read in the search box, at the top of the opening screen.  Press “Search” and that should take you to the blog you are looking for (by Bill Lites).  I wish each and every one of you Happy Traveling and enjoyable reading.

Image: https://www.pinclipart.com/pindetail/ibJbmim_ltv-driver-jobs-in-pakistansrc-https-cartoons-driving/

—–The End—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

I Love to Travel Part 1

28 Jul

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

I guess I must have gotten my “Travel Genes” from my father as he was on the road a lot, for his work, when I was growing up.  Then as a teenager I worried my parents when I made several long trips on my motorcycle.  When I joined the U.S. Navy they took me all over the world, and by the time I got out, I was hooked on travel.  After my wife, DiVoran, and I were married, and I was going to college in California, it didn’t bother me a bit to travel across the “Great American Desert” to visit my parents living in Albuquerque, NM or to drive to northern California to visit DiVoran’s parents in Livermore, CA.

After I finished college we moved to Florida for my work on the Apollo Manned Space program.  Over the years I ended up working for several of the major aerospace companies and traveled quite a lot for those jobs.  I had been shuffled around various areas of the country during all that time and I was ready for a change.  I was working for Lockheed (LSOC), in Florida, when NASA decided to change their Space Shuttle processing contractor.  I was going to have to change who I was working for again, and that was the last straw for me.  I retired from the Manned Space program in 1996, after 35-years, as what I called myself, “An Aerospace Nomad.”   I was just 58 years-old when I retired, and  I felt like the “Aerospace Hassle” had made an old man of me before my time.  I was ready for a rest from the fast pace and constant pressure from the NASA schedulers.

Image: https://favpng.com/png_view/design-cartoon-computer-download-png/Wr40rMyb

I’m sure my first year of retirement was like a lot of men; wondering if I could adjust to all that time with nothing in particular to do.  I also wondered if I would be called back to the job like many men I knew had been.  If that happened, what would I do?  I would just have to wait and see how I felt about that, if and when I was called back.  As it turned out, I was able to adjust fairly well.  It took a while to take care of all the repairs around the house (Honey Do’s), but I managed.  A couple of years later I started volunteering, one morning a week, to help at the Car Care Ministry at our church.

Image: https://www.pinclipart.com/pindetail/iTmRm_clip-royalty-free-download-car-repair-shop-clipart/

A year or so after that, a friend talked me into volunteering, as a Tour Guide, at the Warbird Air Museum here in Titusville one morning a week (that wasn’t hard).  I am interested in all kinds of airplanes, and this allows me to keep up with the warbird community as well as the on-going evolution of the aviation industry.  I love the time and the comradery I get to spent with the friends, I have made over the years, at both of these weekly volunteer occasions.

Photo: Bill Lites

Then in 2012, in addition to the volunteer work, I took up a new hobby – Travel (one of my favorite things to do) and blog writing.  While browsing thru the gift shop at our Warbird Air Museum, one volunteer day, I happened upon a book titled “GUIDE TO OVER 900 AIRCRAFT MUSEUMS.”  This guide book covers museums in the U.S. and Canada.  I thought, “WOW!  This is just what I need to help me find aviation museums to visit.”  As you might have guessed, I have developed a love of going to museums.  All kinds of museums.  Airplane Museums, Auto Museum, Train Museums, Maritime Museums, or any other kinds of museums I happen to come across.

Photo: http://www.aircraftmuseums.com/28book/pasteditions.htm

Using that guide book, I have established a method for my travel plans.  I usually try to make one (two week) trip in the spring and one (two week) trip in the fall of each year.  My 2020 and 2021 trips have been interrupted by a hernia surgery and a shoulder replacement surgery and Covid-19.  I have had to postpone one of this year’s trips, because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, but I am determined to get at least one two-week trip in before the end of the year, in spite of the ridiculous, ongoing national phrase of….

—– To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

Our Trip to St. Kitts Part 2

21 Jul

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

On the next day of our trip to St. Kitts we took a long stroll along the beach, picked up a few shells, and did some exploring of some of the old ruins not too far from the hotel.  We learned that St. Kitts has the oldest written history of any island in the Caribbean, and that Sir Christopher Columbus was the first European to see the islands and the Island Caribs (natives) during his second voyage (1493) to this area.  He named St. Kitts San Jorge (Saint George) and Nevis San Martin (St. Martin) and claimed the islands for Spain (see Wikipedia for island name changes).  We stopped to take a picture beside a small submersible of some kind that was just sitting there on the beach.  There was no one around, to ask what it was used for and why it was just sitting there.  Later that day we visited the hotel’s garden area and ran into some of the other folks from our group and went to dinner with them.

Photo by DiVoran Lites

The next day we rented a car and took a drive around the island.  It only took us about two hours to do the whole island, and we were amazed at the difference between the resort area where we were staying, and the way the island people lived.  At the time, the majority of the island was devoted to the raising and processing of sugar cane.  There were cane fields everywhere we looked, and the method for harvesting all that sugar cane seemed very primitive.  

Photo by Bill Lites

The road was very narrow and cluttered with all manner of animals, children, and trash.  We saw open communal toilets alongside the road, and people carrying water jugs to collect (what we assumed was) drinking water running from a pipe that came out of the side of the hill, right there on the side of the road.

Photo by Bill Lites

Once we left town, we were not sure we had made the right choice to drive around the island by ourselves.  We didn’t have a map and were concerned about what we might run into if we got off the main road.  However, all the locals we encountered during our little trip were friendly and willing to help us whenever we took a wrong turn.  

Photo by DiVoran Lites

Back at the hotel we had a nap and then walked the hotel property, collecting a few more souvenirs, before heading back to the hotel for dinner.  I’m sure we did more relaxing and pleasurable things on that trip, but the details escape me now.  Overall, we enjoyed the restful atmosphere, and it was a memorable trip.  The flight back to Orlando was uneventful and after we got home and unpacking we were ready to head back to work on Monday. That trip to St. Kitts was one of the most enjoyable adventures we had experienced in some time, and it left us with some wonderful lifelong memories. 

Photo by DiVoran Lites

Epilog:  My creative artist wife, DiVoran, took many of the souvenirs we collected, during our trip to St. Kitts, and arranged them in a beautiful collage that hangs in our studio to continually remind us of our one and only ‘Caribbean Island Adventure’ all those many years ago.

Collage & paintings by DiVoran Lites

—–The End—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

Our trip to St. Kitts Part 1

14 Jul

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

As I remember, the year was 1987 and my wife, DiVoran, and I signed up with a group from work for an ‘All-Inclusive’ vacation week to the resort island of St. Kitts, located southeast of Puerto Rico between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.  We had only been on cruise ship vacations in the Caribbean, and I was not sure what to expect.  However, my friends told me not to worry, and assured me that we would have a great time.  When the day of departure arrived, we were excited about the prospects of our ‘Caribbean Island Adventure’ as we packed our bags and waited for our daughter and son-in-law to drive us to the airport.

Image: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/maps/caribbean/saint-kitts-and-nevis 

The trip started with a three-hour chartered flight, on a Boeing 727, that flew us non-stop from Orlando, FL directly to what was then called the Golden Rock Airport on St. Kitts.  This was a pleasant flight and we landed in the afternoon in time to be transported to a luxurious hotel where we could relax some before our evening meal.  The local weather on the island was similar to our Central Florida weather, with warm humid days and a steady breeze off the ocean.

Photo by Bill Lites

One of the best things of this trip, for me, was the food.  It was much like being on a cruise ship, with your choice of delicious ‘all you could eat’ entrees and desserts three times each day.  The days were filled with a myriad of activities including golf, archery, hiking, swimming, boating, snorkeling, scuba diving, and exploring, all included as part of our package.  The other thing that was nice was being treated like royalty everywhere we went.  The staff couldn’t do enough for us, and we really enjoyed the special around-the-clock treatment.

Photo by DiVoran Lites

We spent some of the first morning swimming and snorkeling in the beautiful clear waters near the hotel.  The abundance of colorful fish was amazing.  I had always wanted to learn to scuba dive, so we signed up for the lessons for the next morning.  After lunch and a nap, we spent a restful time strolling the hotel grounds, where we found all kinds of colorful parrot feathers.  Then we moved on to the courtyard where we met some friends and spent some time talking about what all we were going to do while there.  

Photo By DiVoran Lites

The next morning, we spent several hours in the hotel pool with the local dive instructors learning what we needed to know about scuba diving.  That was a fairly intense time, and we were ready for some lunch and a nap for sure.  We met our dining friends for dinner that evening and had a wonderful time discussing our activities.

Photo by Bill Lites

The next morning, we took the dive instructor’s boat to a ship wreck site and began our first guided dive.  The instructors ran thru all the safety rules with us and helped us into our equipment.  By the time they got DiVoran’s equipment on her, and with the rocking of the boat, she could hardly walk.  Finally, two men helped her to the side of the boat and dropped her into the water.  She remembers, “I told them there was too much weight, but they said I needed all of it.  I sank to the bottom, and it was all I could do to keep from getting cut on the coral.”

Image: https://www.canstockphoto.com/illustration/scuba.html

There was an instructor with the two of us, guiding and helping us to and around the wreck.  I was having a good time, but DiVoran was having trouble with her mask fogging up and trying to stay upright.  She finally indicated to the instructor that she wanted to go up.  The instructor went up to the boat with DiVoran, while I looked around the wreck.  We weren’t that deep, so I could see that DiVoran was at the boat and okay.  I enjoyed the dive and was ready to do it again the next day, but DiVoran said she had had enough.  Needless to say we were ready for a rest and a delicious meal by the end of that day.  Looking back now on that whole scuba diving activity and the way it was handled, I’m not sure how adequate the pool instructions were, and if the dive itself was the safest.   But hey, we all had a good time (except maybe for DiVoran) and we all survive. 

Photo by Bill Lites

—–To Be Continued—-

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

The Engine Overhaul Part 2

7 Jul

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

The Engine Overhaul Part 2

By Bill Lites

Note: 

 At this point I need to remind you that this story takes place around 1972, and I was working on an original 1960 Chevy 6-cylinder 235 CID engine.  With my memory what it is today, I may stray with some of the exact details from time to time, so please bear with me. 

Photo: http://topclassiccarsforsale.com/chevrolet/171302-beautiful-1960-chevy-bel-air-4dr-two-tone-biscayne-impala.html

That said, and with my car in my garage, I researched my handy Chilton’s Auto Repair Manual, and discovered that this engine had a ‘timing gear’ instead of a ‘timing chain’.  So, when I removed the timing gear cover, I saw that some of the teeth on the phenolic timing gear had sheared off (why would anyone design a phenolic gear to mesh with a metal gear?)  The timing gear was pressed onto the end of the cam shaft, and the only way to remove the cam shaft was to remove the engine; or to disassemble the grill and remove the radiator to provide straight-on access to the cam shaft.  I had no provisions in my garage for removing the engine, so the latter option was really the only way I could go. 

Photo: https://www.amazon.com/Chiltons-Auto-Repair-Manual-1968/dp/B000JZUKFG

However, in order to remove the cam shaft, I would also need to disassemble the top-end of the engine for access to the pushrods and hydraulic lifters. Then there was always the possibility that when the timing gear teeth sheared, with the engine running at high RPM (the loud clattering noise I heard) for the instant before I could get my foot on the clutch, there might have been some damage to internal parts of the engine.  If so, I would need to remove the oil pan to check for metal particles.  That normally simple task, on this car, required raising the front of the engine enough for the oil pan to clear the cross member under the front of the pan.  Are you beginning to get an idea of where this story is headed?  It seems that most of my simple ‘Do It Yourself’ (DIY) projects turn out to be major undertakings before they are over. 

Photo: http://victorylibrary.com/235BK.htm

So, I bit the bullet, and waded into the project with both hands.  It took time but I finally got everything disassembled without too much trouble.  Then I removed the camshaft, with the help of my wife, DiVoran, (that extra pair of hands).  I had to take the cam shaft to a friend who had a press to remove the damaged timing gear and install a new one for me.  When I got the oil pan off and checked, there were no signs of damaged engine parts in the bottom of the pan.  That was a big relief!  I have always found that it is a lot easier to disassemble something, than it is to reassemble that same something.  This timing gear replacement project was no different.

Image: https://www.facebook.com/ShadeTreeMobileMechanic/

After cleaning and inspecting all the removed parts, I reassembled the engine, again, with a lot of help from Mr. Chilton’s wonderful book and from DiVoran, who didn’t like handling car parts, especially when leaning over the fender of the car.  Then I reinstalled the radiator and reassembled the grill, and topped off the water and oil.  I held my breath as I turned the engine over for the first time, but there was no hesitation.  The engine fired right up and settled into a quiet purr.  The car was ready for the road again.  As amazing as it might sound, that 1960 Chevy served us and others for many years after that incident.

I’m sorry to have to say, they don’t build cars like that anymore.

Photo by Bill Lites

—–The End—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

The Engine Overhaul Part 1

30 Jun

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

In a recent post about camping, I mentioned our first small tent camper and the following story takes place around 1972, not long after we bought that camper.  It all started with what was supposed to be a family camping trip, with friends, for a fun weekend in the Everglades National Park, located at the southern tip of Florida.  On the first day, as we were heading south on I-95 from Titusville, FL we were all excited about the little four-day ‘mini-vacation’ we had planned.  We had both cars packed full of all the food and camping equipment we thought we would need, to ‘rough-it’ for the trip, along with our canoes and our tent camper.  

Photo by Bill Lites

As we approached the exit for Melbourne, FL (only 35 miles from home) our 1960 Chevrolet Biscayne sedan suddenly made a loud rattling sound from the engine, and the car began to slow down.  I immediately put the car in neutral, and coasted onto the emergency lane, where the car came to  a stop.  There was no indication on the dashboard instruments that there was anything wrong, but the car would not run.  My friend Dwayne pulled in behind me, and we tried to assess the situation.  The starter would turn the engine over, but it would not run.  We finally decided it was probably something to do with the timing and we needed to get my car off I-95.  

Luckily, I had an emergency tow-strap and Dwayne was able to tow my car and camper off I-95.  There just happened to be a campground next to I-95, where we could hold up long enough to make some new plans.  We decided to transfer the camper to Dwayne’s car, but he didn’t have a trailer hitch on his car.  It was a holiday weekend, and we had no idea where to go for a trailer hitch.  We borrowed a phone book (no cellphones) from the campground owner and finally found an auto parts store that was not too far from us.  By the time we found the store, bought a trailer hitch, and got it installed on Dwayne’s car, we were all tired, and realized it was too late to make it all the way to the Everglades Park (200 miles)  before they closed for the night.  So, we paid for and spent the night there at the friendly campground and were glad to be able to take a shower after all the day’s hectic activities.

After the campground owner heard our story, he was kind enough to let me leave our car parked there until we got back from our trip.  We packed everything up and headed out early the next morning with four adults and five children in Dwayne’s car (no air conditioning), and with him pulling my camper and both canoes on top of his car.  We finally made it to the park and had a great, if short, ‘Everglades Adventure.’  You can read all about the camping trip in the three-part referenced blogs on this same website (Ref. Bill Lites blog titles “An Everglades Adventure Part 1, 2, & 3 dated 09/24/2014-10/08/2014”) if you care to.  Now, as Paul Harvey would say; for the rest of the story.  After we got home and got everything unloaded, Dwayne drove me back to the campground, in Melbourne, to get my car.  He towed me home and helped me get the car into my garage where I could work on it.

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

Camping Can be Fun Part 2

23 Jun

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Our first family camping trip, with our new/used equipment, was to another one of the nearby Florida freshwater springs.  Now it was wonderful to be able to close up the tent to keep the insects out and have screened windows to let the breeze cool the inside.  The cots allowed us to sleep off the ground, and the awning helped keep the rain out of the tent.  We made many weekend family camping trips to several of the other Florida freshwater springs that year.  On vacation to the Blue Ridge Mountains that summer we were not ready for the colder weather.  We discovered that we needed something between us and the canvas cot to keep us warm.  And, in Florida, when it rains the water just soaked into the sand.  But in the mountains of North Carolina the water doesn’t soak in, and we woke up with two inches of water on the floor of our tent.  We never did discover where the water got into the tent.  That trip was when we decided we wanted a tent camper that would keep us warm and dry.

Photo: https://wildernesstoday.com/best-family-tent/

A friend a work sold us his small pop-up tent camper that was just what we were looking for.  This was an older basic house shaped camper with a 2-burner propane stove, but no electricity. We had to use Coleman lanterns for our lighting and we had a small two-burner Coleman stove in case we wanted to cook outside. The camper had a small freshwater tank, which required a hand-pump to get water into the sink.

Photo by Bill Lites

Everything had to fit within the camper footprint as the tent portion opened straight up to a peak running fore and aft.  The small stove, sink and countertop were on one side, with an office size “ice box” (remember, no electricity) under the counter.  On the other side was a small fold-down table with bench seats for four people.   DiVoran slept on the twin bed that ran across the front with storage under it, and I slept in the other twin bed that ran across the rear with more storage underneath.  A swing-away bunk bed was located over each twin bed, and was pinned into each of the fore and aft upright tent supports and that was where our children slept.  It was a very compact efficient and arrangement.  When folded down, everything was flush with the top sides of the camper, with a canvas cover over the top.  This did not allow for anything to be carried on top of the camper.

Photo by Bill Lites

We continued to enjoy camping at the Florida freshwater springs and spent several summer vacations with that camper in the Blue Ridge Mountains, at the same campground we enjoyed that first year in a tent.  We even managed a to get in a wonderful six-week ‘Across America’ (Florida to California and return) family camping trip one summer.  I was between jobs, and it was an opportunity to show our kids some of the wonders of our beautiful nation, and to visit friends and relatives along the way.

Photo by Bill Lites

Over the years we pretty much ran the wheels off that small camper.  We tried a 6-person Starcraft pop-up camper for a while, but we were looking for something with a little more room and comfort.  We finally sprang for a new Colman Fleetwood 8-person pull-out tent camper with all the bells and whistles.  We now had all the comforts of home (with the exception of toilet and shower).  Running water, lights, four-burner propane stove, refrigerator, electric heater, and air-conditioning.  We were ready for anything with this rig!  Our camping experiences took on a whole new prospective after that.  That camper gave us total year-around comfortable camping no matter where we decided to go.

Photo by Bill Lites

A few years later, after some major surgeries, the rigors of camper setup and teardown began to tell me it was time to leave the camping to the younger generation.  Our son and his family were ready to enjoy some quality camping experiences, so they inherited the Fleetwood.  It gave them several years of wonderful Florida camping, and then they also passed the camper to others to enjoy.  And that my friends, is the short version of our camping experiences.  It was great while it lasted, and I can recommend family camping, anywhere anytime, for quality relaxation and fun.  I had some of my most memorable camping times as a kid in the backyard of my home.  So, it doesn’t have to be fancy, just a weekend away with the family.  Try it.  I think you will like it.

—–The End—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

Camping Can Be Fun Part 1

9 Jun

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

My wife, DiVoran, and I were born and raised in the desert southwest and were used to clear and dry type weather.  When we first moved to Florida in 1965 for me to work on America’s Manned Lunar Landing Mission, we would never have imagined ever going camping anywhere in the jungle that surrounded us.  It was hot and humid all the time and we were inundated with frogs, lizards, spiders and mosquitos day and night.  It was all I could manage was to go from my air-conditioned house to my air-conditioned car and drive to my air-conditioned office.  Did I mention that my air-conditioned office in the Vertical Assembly Building (VAB) was located in the middle of a National Wildlife Refuge, which was full of all manner of slithering things, such as alligators and snakes?  

Photo credit https://fas.org/irp/imint/10061385.htm

I had camped with my family as a teenager in New Mexico on deer hunting trips, and DiVoran had camped with her dad on fishing trips in Colorado when she was younger.  But the climate and weather experiences of those camping trips, during our youths, were so much different.  When some friends from church and work suggested a weekend family camping trip to one of the Central Florida freshwater springs, we were skeptical, but our friends assured us that it would be a lot of fun.  They painted a ‘Florida Paradise’ picture for us.  

Photo: https://www.visitflorida.com/en-us/things-to-do/arts-history/native-american-heritage-alexander-springs.html

Our friends furnished the small two-man pup-tents (open on the bottom and no way to secure the front opening) and mosquito netting that we thought would protect us from the insects.  Well, as it turned out, the blankets we were sleeping on (no air mattresses) did not keep us from being poked by rocks and sticks.  But worst of all, we had no way to support the mosquito netting above us, so as it lay on top of us the  mosquitos jabbed us right thru the mesh.  The fact that this trip was happening in the middle of the summer was aggravated by the Florida heat and humidity.  All in all, it was a couple of miserable nights.

Photo: https://www.pinterest.de/pin/97249673187141267/

I must admit the swimming and tubing was great.  The water was clear and cool, and in spite of the problems, we were hooked on spending time at the Florida freshwater springs.  We discovered that there were other freshwater springs down the middle of the state, and we set our sights on visiting as many of them as we could.  But the first thing we needed to do was get some decent camping equipment.  I called my mother, at home, in Albuquerque, NM and asked her if she still had the family camping equipment.  She said she did, and she was not using any of it.  She packed up the four-man tent, army cots, propane stove and lantern and shipped them by Greyhound bus to us.  I was amazed that everything was in perfect condition after all those years in that dry desert climate.

Photo: https://wildernesstoday.com/best-family-tent/

—–To Be Continued—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

A Balloon Ride for Ivan

2 Jun

A Slice of Life

Bill LItes

For those of you who have followed my most recent blogs, you will be familiar with the major players in my wife, DiVoran’s family.  For those of you who are just joining me, her father is Ivan and her mother is Dora.  Her younger brother, David, rounds out the family members.  I became a member of this wonderful family when I married their daughter, DiVoran, and have enjoyed the pleasure of their company for over 60 years now.  I would like to share with you one of the more delightful times we had with this family. 

Sometime in early June of 1985 DiVoran and I flew to California to take part in this family’s celebration of Ivan’s 70th birthday.  DiVoran’s father, Ivan, her mother, Dora, as well as her brother, David, and his wife, Susan, all lived in Vista, CA at the time, so that turned out to be the gathering place for the major celebration activities.  As part of the celebration, on one of the days, David had made arrangements for us all to take a balloon ride.  None of us had ever been up in a balloon, and the southern California area is one of the many locations where the weather is favorable for flying balloons; cool clear mornings with little or no wind.  

Photo by Susan Bowers  (No, we didn’t dress like this to go ballooning)

We were all up early that day, rushing around in order to have our breakfast and still have time to drive north some 50 miles to the launch site in Paris, CA.  We met our pilot, Steve, and he asked us to help him unload his balloon from its trailer.  It was a beautiful clear crisp morning and the unfolding of the balloon was very interesting.  Steve was very particular about how we handled every part of the balloon and its hardware.  He had us position each part of the balloon, basket, guy ropes and burner in a systematic way so he could assemble everything quickly and correctly.  Once everything was ready to begin the inflation process, he had us hold the bottom to the balloon open and he used a large fan to start filling the balloon with air.  In the photo below, you can see Ivan supervising the initial inflation operation.

Photo by Dora Bowers

At some point Steve fired up the burner, pointed it toward the partially inflated balloon and blasted hot air into the balloon, and it began to rotate off the ground and rise to an upright positon.  Once the balloon was vertical, we each had to hold onto a rope, attached to the basket, to keep it from ascending before Steve was ready.  He climbed into the basket and asked us who was going to be first.  We all pointed at Ivan and said, “The Birthday Boy!”

We helped Ivan climb into the basket.  Steve went over the operation and safety rules for Ivan, loud enough for all of us on the ground to hear.  I was amazed how Steve was able to keep applying the burner just enough to keep the balloon upright and still keep the basket sitting there on the ground.  When Steve was ready, he told Ivan to hold on, and he applied a long blast from the burner; they slowly lifted off the ground, and they began their ascent.

Note:  I forgot to mention this was one of the smaller balloons and the basket was only large enough to carry Steve, the pilot, and one other person.  And because there were several of us that wanted to take a ride, the duration of the flights were a little shorter than usual.

Photo by Dora Bowers

Steve had instructed us that they wouldn’t be flying more than 1000 feet high, and for us to follow their flight path, so we would be there when they landed, to hold the ropes.  This would allow the passenger to exit the basket and the next passenger to climb aboard (a quick and easy transfer).  If it looked like the wind wasn’t going to carry the balloon far, we would all run to the next landing spot.  DiVoran said, “There goes my 70 year-old white haired mother running after a balloon!”  Dora told DiVoran later that the running was fun, as she hadn’t done that in years.  When the wind picked up, we would all jump into Ivan’s pickup truck and follow the balloon to the next landing spot for the next passenger exchange.  When it was my turn, I couldn’t believe how quiet it was when the burner was off.  I love to fly, but I had never had the opportunity to fly that low in all my flying experiences.  I could just imagine how thrilled the two French brothers, Joseph Michel & Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier, known as the aviation pioneers who launched the first confirmed piloted ascent by man with their hot air balloon, Annonay, in France on June 4, 1783 must have felt.  It was a really wonderful experience!

DiVoran remembers, “During my ride we flew over a junk yard, and when Steve applied a blast from the burner, to keep us high enough to clear an obstacle, I saw hundreds of rabbits running from their hiding places in all directions!”  When everyone had a turn, we helped Steve deflate, disassemble, fold and load his balloon onto his trailer.  We thanked him for an exciting morning of sight-seeing and headed back to Vista, where we each had something to share that was special to us that morning.  That was a wonderful ‘Birthday Gift’ that we were all able to enjoy.  It didn’t dawn on me until years later; that I had scratched off another item from my Bucket List and hadn’t even realized it at the time!

—–The End—–

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

A Wonderful Serendipity

26 May

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

For those of you who have followed my most recent ‘Fishing With Ivan’ blog series, you will be familiar with the major players in my wife, DiVoran’s family.  For those of you who are just joining me, her father is Ivan and her mother is Dora.  Her younger brother, David, rounds out the family members.  I have had the privilege of being a part of this wonderful family (by marriage to DiVoran) for over 60 years and would like to share with you one of the more delightful stories about this family.  

Photo: https://www.gograph.com/vector-clip-art/group-older-adults_4.html

The ‘Fishing with Ivan’ series of blogs described several of the more interesting trips DiVoran and I had taken when visiting Ivan and Dora over the years.  However, the family trips were not all made by us.  Ivan and Dora made several trips to Florida to see us after we moved here for my work in 1965.  By the time this story took place, DiVoran’s brother, David, had become an airline pilot and Ivan and Dora were able to fly to Florida on family passes.  They enjoyed spending time with us and their grandchildren. 

Photo by DiVoran Lites

Photo by DiV

David’s wife, Susan, was a ticket agent for the airline David flew for, and she made all of the flight arrangements (space available) for Ivan and Dora when they flew.  Sometimes they had to make connections as far north as Cincinnati, OH or as far south to San Juan, Puerto Rico in order to make it to Orlando, FL when they wanted to get there.  If I remember right on this particular trip, for some reason, Ivan and Dora had to make connections in Guatemala in order to get to Orlando, FL.  I believe that was the worst hassle they ever had with a trip to Florida to see us.  DiVoran and I were surprised that they agreed to come see us again after that incident, but lucky for us they did.  

Photo: https://www.canstockphoto.com/vector-clipart/ticket-counter.html

We had a wonderful visit with Ivan and Dora on that trip. Our son, Billy, and his family (the grandchildren) live in Orange City, FL which is near the beautiful Blue Springs State Park.  On the weekend, our daughter, Charlene, and her husband, Ron, joined us for a trip to Blue Springs where we met Billy and his family.  Everyone enjoyed a great time visiting and watching the Manatees.  There were many other very enjoyable times with Ivan and Dora before they had to head home.

Photo: https://thatadventurelife.com/2020/01/21/blue-spring-state-park-orange-city-fl/

On the day we took Ivan and Dora to the airport for their flight home, we had no idea David had a surprise for us.  He met us at Security and we were all speechless.  DiVoran couldn’t believe her eyes!  She asked him, “What are you doing here?”  He said, “I’m going to fly Ivan and Dora home.”  DiVoran asked, “How in the world did you manage that?”

His short story was that he had arranged a swap with another pilot.  I’m sure it was a lot more complicated than that.  So now he was going be the Captain of the Boeing 777 flight for their return trip to Los Angeles, CA.

  

Photo by Bill Lites

Of course DiVoran was concerned about her entire immediate family being on the same flight.  She told me later, “As we rode the tram out to take my parents to the gate for their flight, I prayed that they would have a safe trip all the way home.  Then DiVoran said, “That’s when I saw this angle hovering over my parents and my brother.  That assured me that they would be safe and I felt so much better.”

Photo Credit: https://naturalhealthcourses.com/2015/12/be-someones-incognito-angel-this-christmas/angel-in-the-sky/

DiVoran and I not only had a wonderful visit with Ivan and Dora, but we were wonderfully surprised to see her brother, David, and to be able to visit with him, even if it was only for a short time before their flight left.  What ‘A Wonderful Serendipity’ that was.

Photo: https://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/woman-goodbye-airport.html

—–The End—-

Bill is a retired Mechanical engineer living with his wonderful artist/writer wife, DiVoran, of 63 years in Titusville, Florida. He was born and raised in the Southwest, did a tour of duty with the U.S. Navy, attended Northrop University in Southern California and ended up working on America’s Manned Space Program for 35 years. He currently is retired and spends most of his time building and flying R/C model airplanes, traveling, writing blogs about his travels for Word Press and supporting his wife’s hobbies with framing, editing and marketing.  He also volunteers with a local church Car Care Ministry and as a tour guide at the Valiant Air Command Warbird Museum there in Titusville.  Bill has two wonderful children, two outstanding grandchildren, and a loving sister and her husband, all of whom also live in Central Florida, so he and DiVoran are rewarded by having family close to spend lots of quality time with.

One of Bill’s favorite Scriptures is:  John 10:10

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