One of our pre-rally field trips was to Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI). It's a pretty decent science center. We had a good time except for my terrible decision to let my hair down in the hurricane simulator; it was so remarkably exciting that it turned me Amish.
I had heard stories that you could get a good Cuban Sandwich in Tampa. Using TripAdvisor as my guide, we found a little place named La Cuanita Cafe in Brandon. It was great sandwich, though I can't say that the whole family overly enjoyed their meals.
Grandma June happened to be in Florida at the same time and drove up to visit. First up, we headed over to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to see Winter and Hope. Truthfully, it's a pretty nice facility- but the idea of seeing Winter with her prosthetic tail wasn't quite what we expected. As it turns out, the prosthetic is only for rehab purposes and she doesn't actually need it to swim. Who knew?! Otherwise, we checked out the sea turtles, otters, and touch tanks. We then made our way over to the Winter's Dolphin Tale Adventure building to learn about the movie a bit.
While in Clearwater, we drove around and checked out the Scientology stronghold on the area. I had heard a few stories and if you're looking, it's pretty noticeable.
We hurried back from dinner in Clearwater for our first of many meals at Mellow Mushroom pizza. While they didn't handle a group size of 30 that well (even with advanced warning), the pizza was easily the second best pizza I've ever eaten (only trumped by Mancini's Brick Oven Pizzeria in Fenwick Island, DE). Even more fun was sitting at the kids table and watching the bunch of them entertain themselves and each other. Watching them play the Telephone Game was a riot.
The next day, we made our way to the #BayArea Renaissance Festival. It's always hard to judge other renaissance festivals after seeing Pennsylvania's, but we had a good time. This one just felt small. The joust had fake spurts of blood, so that was good! However, there were next to no crowds. So much so, that when we go to the mud show, we sat and chatted with the performers and then they put on a very abbreviated show. Pretty neat to talk to the guys, but not quite what we expected.
That evening was Super Bowl Sunday and it was also a day that many more friends filled into the campground for the rally. When we got back, the Rally Center was abuzz with the Super Bowl and the kids fell right into hanging out with friends.
I had some camper electric work by a friend. No pictures as I was working on my own thing as he was doing his. But, he offered to take some pictures of a rats nest of wires above my fridge and came away with these:
And, after chasing leaks due to cold weather- I arrived in Tampa with a new one. I was putting it off as it seemed to be coming from the inaccessible area behind the basement. It meant that I had to empty it out and crawl my fat behind in there. Much to my dismay, I wasn't dealing with a simple hose clamp issue, it seemed that my water heater itself was leaking. The good news is that it was just a one-way check valve. The bad news is, it broke in 1/2 as soon as I put the wrench on it. The rally love was in full force with this one- I think we had 4 or 5 different people offering to help. Chris showed up with torch in hand. Jason T ended up climbing into the camper basement without me knowing it (until I went outside and saw legs). And then it was a team effort (plus an audience and bet makers (cough) Dustin (cough)). Ultimately, they convinced me to agree to them pulling the water heater out. Once it was out and on a table, I was able to use Jason T's torch and little prick to melt and dig out the plastic from the broken check valve enough that we were able to screw the new metal one in. I thank Chris Travaglino a ton for pushing me along and helping guide me through this. I wouldn't have had the nerve to pull the water heater or keep digging at the problem without his urging.
That evening, there was a rally Happy Hour on the cul de sac (affectionately named The Sac). Pretty impressive to see the number of folks and all of the kids playing.
Each pre-rally day brought more friends- new and old.
Thursday night, Audrey and Paige organized and hosted a talent show. There were something like 15 different acts and everyone did an amazing job. The kids all performed wonderfully and there was a neat range of acts- from singing to hoola hooping to twirling to itsy bitsy spider. I'm super proud of the work that Paige and Audrey put into it. Logan even did his music video re-enactment of Stitches by Shawn Mendes. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos or videos as I was manning the computer for sound + video. A special thanks to Jason of the Simpson Six for helping with the audio controls and to all of the parents who watched and were so supportive of the kids.
Friday, most everyone went to Legoland. We participated in our first Flash Mob! And, we became good friends with another family who hitched a ride with us.
That evening, we participated in an rally hangout in The Sac. Picture a 1/2 dozen tables lined with food with people and kids literally filling the cul de sac. I believe there were something like 60+ families and a couple of hundred people. It was beautiful chaos! Again, though, I failed at taking pictures.
What I can tell you is that there is a story of Logan and his sampling of the food. Apparently a few parents watched as my little bundle of hilarity dipped chips and what not into each snack. Things he liked, he ate. Things he didn't like, he often put back. But the coup de grâce came with The Spoon. The Spoon was in some kind of dip... which Logan put the whole spoon into his mouth, cleaned off, and then promptly put back into whatever savoriness it came out of. Much laughter was had by the parents watching this. I'd be more mortified if I didn't chuckle at the vision of it. Sharing is caring, right?
Saturday was our big rally day. It was filled to the brim with everything:
- a parade of homes
- a "free" table of excess stuff from everyone's houses
- the kid's entrepreneur tables
- hungry-hungry hippos with ping pong balls and parents on creepers
- and culminated in an awards presentation and dance at the end of the night.
In the Chinese Auction, we hit the jackpot and won 2 sets of beachfront RVing at Camp Gulf, a keyless RV lock, a new Oxygenics Fury showerhead, and a smattering of other goodies. We were also gifted a vinyl states map by the Travaglinos (made by Amanda Bush/Bush Creative).
By Sunday, the rally started to wind down and our new friends started going home. We were hanging out until Tuesday, so we took the time to go eat some free hotdogs from LazyDays and tour RVs on their humongous sales lot with the Simpson Six.
On Monday, it was time to start the sad process of stuffing everything back into my basement. While I had it empty, I took the chance and hung our few decorations on the wall.
Before we knew it, we were on the road and headed for Disney. But like usual, that's a blog for another day.
As usual, their are more pictures on Flickr. Not many more as I went a little nutty up above. But there are some.