Breakdown #1: Pennsylvania Turnpike near Allentown

Well, it was bound to happen sometime. We were cruising along and the boys in the back said, “I smell something burning.” About that time, the warning lights came on as well…including the “STOP ENGINE NOW” light…which is never a good thing. After taking the engine cover off, it was discovered that the belt was thrown off. Not the average belt…this one was over five feet long.

We came to find out that the alternator had seized up and caused the belt to break. With our warranty and road hazard insurance (both together cost a total of $1200 for the first year and $70 for additional years) we covered two nights lodging at the hotel, two dinners, a new alternator, a new belt, labor, and a 15 mile semi-truck tow (which included an hour of roadside labor as they “dropped the axle”) all for $250.

On the third day, we were back on the road with less than two hours drive to NYC. What a blessing!

Detour #2: Indian Rocks Beach (and our Shark Story)

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The Broadband Wireless conference in Orlando ended and we spent a great (and wet) day at Seaworld.

On Thursday (Oct 13) we headed back to Tampa hoping to pick up our RV from the service department at LazyDays. Unfortunately, the warranty work wasn’t quite completed. “No problem!” says our long-time friend, Scott Welch, and pastor of Fresh Start Church in Clearwater. “I’ve got a condo on the beach that you guys can stay in til your RV is finished.”

OH MY GOODNESS!!!! We couldn’t have been blessed by a better gift. This place is wonderful. You can see the Gulf of Mexico from the deck of this third floor condo, and the sand is only 30 yards from the door. Indian Rocks Beach is just south of Clearwater, FL, and 25 miles from downtown Tampa. If you are looking for a vacation spot near the beach, this is a great value and I hope you will consider giving Scott a call.
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What a great detour this has been and the fishing has been great as well.

Day #1
On the first morning, the boys and I jumped on a party fishing boat for a 1/2 day fishing trip. Ben caught the ONLY keeper of our group (a red snapper) and both boys caught a number of small sea bass. I’d like to say that the reason I caught nothing was because I was helping them so much. But there’s no excuse for being skunked!
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Sidenote:
The deck hand cleaned our fish and handed us a plastic bag. We were excited to get home and grill it. But one thing lead to another and we just stopped for pizza. Somehow we left that bag of fish in our truck overnight…oh, my, what a terrible odor! And we didn’t get to enjoy to fresh fish! Grrrr.

Day #2
We used the castnet to get some live bait (3″ and 4″ minnows). We got lots of bites and Ben caught one whiting and one yellow tail snapper. But, while our backs were turned, a heron walked up to our bucket and enjoyed the easy catch for a tasty dinner. The sunset was wonderful as we went in late (and the second day without fresh fish!).

Day #3 – The Shark Story

After church, we fished for three hours with nothing but a bite here and there. But for a true fisherman, that just ups the challenge! With three live minnows baited on a three-hook-rigging, Ben cast out with his brand new saltwater rod and reel and set his pole against his chair to chase away a few heron from the minnow bucket. He turned just in time to see his pole bend down and the joyful glee could not be mistaken. Ben had caught two ten-inch ladyfish on a single cast.

Ladyfish aren’t good to eat, but are great for bait. I put the shark-rigging (a steel line with a VERY large hook) on my line and used one of Ben’s ladyfish for bait. I cut the ladyfish several times on each side to cause it to bleed while in the water. For over an hour, I got nothing and Ben continued to catch ladyfish. However, the sunset was beautiful as the whole family enjoyed the painted sky.

With only 10 minutes left before going in, I hooked two ladyfish heads onto the large hook and cast the last cast of the night. Five minutes later, I had a nice tug on the line and felt like I was bringing in a nice sized catfish. It was dark by this time and as I pulled the fish up onto the sand Ben yelled, “It’s a SHARK!!!!” A 20-inch black-tip shark! What a blast!!!

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Fifteen minutes after we pulled the shark out of the water, we were grilling shark fillet’s on the stove. That’s fresh!!! What a flavor!

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Day #4
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Ben and I got up really early this morning and went out before sunrise. As soon as there was light, we caught minnows in our castnet and started fishing. WOW! Mackeral were biting. We caught two nice sized Mackeral (sorry for the fuzzy photo) and took them inside for a wonderful breakfast feast!

SCORES Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
Brian 0 1 5 4
Ben 6 6 6 5
Jack 2

Bo Directs Us to Don’s Seafood & Steakhouse

We crossed over into Louisiana and our first thought was “Bo Bertholot.” For those who don’t know Bo…I’m sorry. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool-Cajun who is currently living in Southeast Missouri…which means he sticks out like a crawdad on a sushi bar.

We had to call Bo and ask where we should eat. But, really, think about the question. Hey, we are in your state…where should we eat? But Bo was up for the challenge. His answer? Drive on up to Lafayette and find Don’s Seafood and Steakhouse.

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WOW, BO!!!!! YOU ROCK!

We had the best meal: Soft-shell crab, seafood gumbo, fried crawfish, crawfish etouffe, stuffed crab, and crab cakes. Ben enjoyed the spicy stylings of cajun country and even Jack got courageous and tried the gumbo, “At first it takes bad, but then when you finish the bite…it tastes good!”

Unfortunately, we were out-of-season for fresh crawfish. But that’s okay…just one more reason to make it back to Louisiana again.

What a great meal!!!!

Now I’m sleepy. Where’s the closest Wal-Mart?

Fishing Grapevine Lake, Texas

We fished on our own a few days from the banks, but with no fishing boats to rent on the lake, we decided to hire a guide. We called Greg Stewart from GPSFishin.com and booked a Sand Bass (White Bass) fishing trip.

We met Greg at the Dove Loop Ramp and he took great care of us. Jack decided not to join us because it was going to be six hours long. We fished the banks for the first hour, then headed over to a place right in front of the dam where they are aerating the water. Thousands of minnows can be seen at the top of the water amongst large pools of air bubbles. And where there are minnows…the bass come as well. We used Lil’ George lures and cast across to the other side of the bubbles and pulled the heavy lure through the minnows. We caught over 40 sand bass and one large mouth. We kept 12 bass that were bigger than 10″ and smaller than 14″. The lake has a slot-limit that you cannot keep fish between 14 & 18 inches and only one that is bigger than 18. We didn’t land any of the big ones, but still had a wonderful time.
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At one point, all three of us had a fish on and we were so close to scoring a “Triple Play.” However, Greg was the only one of us that actually landed his fish.

Greg was a blast to be with. He did a great job of working with Ben on his casting technique and quickly realized that Ben and I taunt each other. Greg joined in and we were all laughing as we pulled in the fish. We are looking forward to grilling the bass in the next few days.
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SCORES Round 1 Round 2
Brian 15 11
Ben 13 5
Greg 5 8

Both Ben and I are confident that if he had really been trying, Greg would have kicked us pretty hard.

Naked in WalMart & Survivor at Lamberts

We arrived safely in Grapevine, Texas, after a four day journey from Wisconsin. What an interesting way to travel. The first night we stopped just north of the Wisconsin-Illinois line at a WalMart Supercenter. We pulled into their parking lot, parked over to the side and went to sleep. The next morning we awoke, had a few hours of school (and work for me) before heading on down the road. We traveled about 6 hours into St Louis where we stayed at the Eureka WalMart on Hwy 44. The next night was at a WalMart in Tulsa, Ok.

I can’t tell you the number of times we laughed out loud about living at WalMart. One morning, while taking a shower, I laughed out to the rest of the family, “I’m NAKED in a WalMart Parking Lot!!!!” This new life has experiences we just couldn’t have planned for.

Along our trip south, we met up with Elizabeth (she lived with us for six years in Poplar Bluff) for her birthday dinner in St. Louis, the Sousan’s for dinner at Lamberts in Springfield, and the Cox’s for breakfast in Tulsa. I met Chad Cox back in 1987 when I stayed with his family after a concert at Victory Christian Chapel. Chad was in high school then. He’s now married to Debbie (the granddaugher of Robert Lindsey) and they have three beautiful children. You can enter the strange and profound mind of Chad at www.ChadCox.net. He and I argue all the time! We love it.
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After dinner at Lambert’s, the Sousans (from “70s Music Show” in Branson) were getting ready to leave and I said, “Wanna come over to our house and watch Survivor?” In the Lambert’s parking lot we expanded both slides of the front of our RV, turned on the TV and settled in for the premier of Survivor: Cook Island. What a blast! As they were leaving, Jon pointed to the few cars parked closest to us and said, “So, do you like your neighbors?”

Wisconsin Maritime Museum, Manitowoc

It was hard to leave Wisconsin…much of the reason is because of the beauty of Door County. We started with 8 days in Door County, over to Shawano for 10 days and then decided to go back to Door County again for 5 more days. Next year, we might just go up for the entire month of August.

On our way out of Wisconsin we stopped in Manitowoc at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum. The drive from Door County down to Manitowoc was incredible as much of it gave a majestic view of Michigan Lake.
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In the museum, we were given a 45 minute tour of the U.S.S. Cobia, a WWII and Korean Electric Submarine. It was fascinating and both of the boys loved learning about life in a ship under water.

Shawano Lake, Wisconsin

Shawano Lake is home for some great large and small mouth bass, northern, muskee and small perch and sunfish.

The Northern
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Ben and I went out in our rented fishing boat. Using a perch-spinner bait, we bounced the jig up and down in the water about 10 feet deep. Some hungry northern came our way! We caught five in total. The first 10 seconds are fun, but after that the fish gives up and you just drag them in. Its always a surprise to see such a big fish at the end of your line.

The Bass
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Now these small and large mouth bass are fun. The most success was using a weedless jig head and 4″ Gulp bait in the lilly pads. First you have to use 20 lb braided line to keep from breaking your line. You cast into the lillies and pull the jig across the tops of the lillies and the jig will fall into the water before it is dragged back up on the next lily. WOW! When the bass hits there is no doubt in it. The strike is huge and the fun begins. Jack and I went out the last morning in Shawano and had two keepers: a 15 1/2″ & 16″ bass. It was fun!

We never got into the muskee…we’ll have to do that next time.

SCORES Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Brian 12 15 0
Ben 15 9 1
Jack 9

Our First Detour – Door County

Eight days ago, we set out on our first major excursion: a 63 day trip which includes time in Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, Georgia, & Tennessee.

Toni was born in Shawano, Wisconsin and the beautiful Shawano Lake. This time of year, its a great treat for fishing and, of course, the Shawano County Fair: a six day blast from Toni’s childhood that allows us to experience a part of her heritage.

On day two and nearing Manitowoc, Toni said we should go visit Door County some time. I smiled, got online and found a campground and we headed on our first detour. We planned on staying only three days…but that quickly grew into 8. It was magical…everything so clean and beautiful. I can’t believe more people don’t come here to visit. We stayed in Egg Harbor at the Egg Harbor Campground.
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We experienced:DairyCowTour.jpg

  • Johnson’s Cafe in Sister Bay…complete with goats living on the grass roof of the restuarant.
  • A family 10-mile bike ride through Pennisula Park.
  • 3 days of fun at ceramics painting at Hands-On-Art Studio.
  • a tour of a Land-o-Lakes dairy farm
  • a tour of the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse
  • and lots of fishing for perch off of Fish Creek Pier.

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Our first detour…was a wonderful success. Now it’s own to Shawano!

Fishing Door County: Green Bay & Lake Michigan

The perch fishing was incredible in Door County. We spent almost all our time in Fish Creek on the pier.
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We’d been told to fish off the top with bobbers and keep the bait off the bottom because of the scavenger fish. But everyone was catching small 6″ perch with bobbers off the top and I wanted bigger. Putting a large weight three foot from the end of the hook and hooking the minnow in the tail kept the minnow swimming above the bottom. Wow…what fun! Jack’s big catch was the largest…a 12″ perch.

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People came over several times each day asking how we were haved such success. We shared our minnows with many, as well as, our favorite spot. At one point a man with two kids came by in a little dingy and asked, “How are you guys catching so many?” We had seen them catch nothing for over an hour. We gave them a dozen minnows and the younger boy caught one pretty quick. Twenty minutes later the daughter was still skunked and Ben said, “Hey, bring your boat over here and toss your line right here.” The father manuevered into position, the daughter dropped her line down and 15 seconds later they were pulling a nice sized perch into the boat. As they were motoring away, the father yelled back, “You guys have made our day! Thanks!!!!”

We spent over 30 hours fishing from the pier sometimes just me and Ben and sometimes with Jack as well.JacksGobieBassCatch.jpg All in all, it was over 70 man-hours of fishing. And what did we have to show for it?

45 Yellow Perch – 7 to 12 inches
1 Smalley (Small mouth Bass) – 16 inches
3 Crappie
— we caught tons more that were just a bit smaller including two mroe smalleys

And some great fish fries!!!! All in all we’ve fed 30 mouths with the catch. Not bad!

Jackson’s Double Play
One great catch was a double play by Jackson. Fishing with a night-crawler, he caught a gobie (scavenger fish) about three inches long. As little boys do, he decided to put the gobie back in the water to watch him swim around on his line. Next thing I know I’m hearing, “Dad, it’s a bass!!!!!!” Jackson’s gobie was the perfect bait for a hungry 11-inch smalley. What fun!

SCORE
Brian 13
Ben 9
Jack 15

Our New House has Wheels

SoldOurHouse.jpgWell, the adventure is about to begin…My family has made…shall we say…an interesting decision. In July we sold our 3300 sq. ft. house and bought a 41′ diesel RV.

For the next 8 months our plans are to enjoy the U.S.A. We home school Ben and Jack (3rd & Kindergarten this year) and decided that life lessons on the road would be a wonderful classroom.

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Here’s our first “video” of the adventure: BeckerBoys.com/Video.html
(Make sure you select to play the whole video (3 minutes) rather than just the 15 second preview.)

Current plans have us back in S. E. Missouri three times over the course of the next year: Halloween, Christmas, Boys Baseball season in May-June.