2016/03/12-14 (S-M) Middle of Nowhere Close to Everywhere

2016/03/12 (S) J.A.P.

The temperature had only dropped into the mid-60’s last night and it was foggy when we got up this morning, but we knew the humidity was up because we could feel the dampness.  Speaking of dampness, the sprinklers came on last night around 3 AM.  We must have both been partly awake as we both heard the sound, which was unusual enough to get our attention.  The cats heard it too and were at the driver side bedroom window to check it out.  It got my attention because it sounded like rain and we had all three roof vents open, along with most of the windows.  Anything that sounds like water will wake me up.

Webster Flea Market and Sumter Co, Florida Farmers Market.

There was a breakfast in the clubhouse at 8 AM this morning, with food being served at 9, but we did not go.  It was $5 per person, but that’s a lot to pay for coffee.  Speaking of which, I opened new packs of our four coffee beans this morning, transferred them to the metal storage containers, and then brewed a pot of Sweet Seattle Dreams.

We talked over coffee about what to do today while we doodled on our iPads.  Linda had a list of six things we could do in Clermont and noted that there was a Farmers’ Market in Webster from 8 AM to 3 PM today.  We also had updates pending for our iPads and smartphones so she checked our Verizon data usage.  We had used 8 of our 12 GB with eight days left in our billing cycle, so we were on track to stay within our data plan as long as we used the resort Wi-Fi system to do our updates.

Linda served homemade granola with fresh blueberries for breakfast.  After breakfast she went for her morning walk and I dealt with a few e-mails.  When she returned from her walk we drove to the Walmart in/near Bushnell for a few things.  We were going to stop at the Farmers Market in Webster on the way back but there was only one small vendor there.  A little farther north on CR-471 we passed the Sumter County Fairgrounds.  None of the rides were operating, so we did not know if the fair was open.  We were thinking about driving over this evening to see everything lit up at night.

Back at FGMCR Linda made very nice salads for lunch which included asparagus and Cremini mushroom pieces that she cooked briefly.  Very tasty. After lunch we packed up our technology and went to the library in the clubhouse to download/install updates.

We each had four phone app updates, four iPad app updates, and one Windows 10 update.  I also had an update for the NVIDIA GPU in my computer so that made a total of 19 updates.  That was actually a small number compared to the 60+ we installed the other day.  Even so, at an average file size of 30 MB that was over 500 MB of data, so I figured we were over 0.5 GB but probably under 1.0 GB.  After the updates were done we spent a little time trying to configure our Windows 10 Start Menus.  We were annoyed to find that the Start menu configuration tab is missing from the “Task Bar and Start Menu Properties” dialog screen on both of our computers.  Arrrrgh.  I did, however, get a couple of icons to show up where I wanted them and we learned how to “turn off” the “live tiles” in the metro interface.  We wrapped up around 2:45 PM and went back to our rig.

After getting our tech tools peered up and connected to our network I took a nap while Linda stayed up and read.  Jasper (the cat) curled up with me on the bed and took a cat nap.  I got up at 4:30 PM and joined Linda outside where another beautiful day was in progress with cool breezes and perfect temperatures (in the shade).

For dinner, Linda made a salad with an arugula base, vegan Italian sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, garbanzo beans, onions, and yellow peppers.  After dinner we went for our evening stroll around the resort.  When we got back to our coach we each had a small glass of Moscato (Barefoot) and fresh strawberries for dessert.

A mobile ATM machine at the famous Webster Flea Market. Webster, FL.

The title of today’s post is not an ethnic slur or reference, it’s just an acknowledgment of our status here at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR); “Just Another Prevost.”  Unlike our minor celebrity status at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, where we were T.O.P. (“The Only Prevost”), there are quite a few Prevost motorcoach conversions at FGMCR, and most of them are newer, bigger, and nicer than ours.  And that is fine with us.

TV stations continued to be a challenge.  I moved the antennas to position 16, which is approximately the 8 o’clock position relative to the nose of the bus, and rescanned.  The front TV found over 70 signals and the rear TV found 56.  As with previous experiments, however, many of the signals were unusable and others were for stations from other directions that we should not even have been detecting.

What we need to do is to move both antennas to each of their 16 positions, rescan, and then check to see which channels are usable and write them down.  Signal patterns can be different at night than during the day, so we should repeat this procedure in the evening.  That would be 64 separate scans, but in an area such as where we are now, with stations in multiple, opposing directions, it would be the only sure fire way to know what stations are available and where point the antennas to tune them in.

2016/03/13 (N) Saving Daylight

We were being lazier than usual this morning and did get up until 8 o’clock.  During the overnight hours the nation switched from ‘standard’ to ‘daylight’ (savings) time.  There are a few places, most notably the State of Arizona, that do not change their clocks, but for the rest of us it was an hour later when we got up this morning than our clocks indicated.  Unless, of course, they happened to adjust automatically, like our smartphones, iPads, computers, Linda’s FitBit, or our GPS navigation devices.  These devices adjust the time based on an internal program, Internet connection, or GPS signal.

As much as I wanted to reset the other clocks in the rig (we have six that do not adjust automatically) Linda insisted that I make the coffee first.  I enjoyed most of my first cup while finishing yesterday’s blog post and then reset the manual clocks.  We have an analog RV clock (with hour, minute, and second hands) in the living room, the clock in the microwave oven, a digital alarm click in the house systems panel by the refrigerator, and an identical one in the systems panel on my side of the bed.  The Magnum 4024 ME-ARC remote has a clock in it, and there is a small digital clock/thermometer stuck on the dashboard.  (Which reminds me that I would like to install a round, gauge-style clock in the dashboard someday.)

Linda made a tofu scramble for breakfast with onions, mushrooms, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, asparagus pieces, and turmeric.  She does not make this dish very often but it always a treat when she does.

Linda went for a walk after breakfast while I checked our driver side tag axle hub.  I called our mobile mechanic, Joe Cannarozzi, this past Thursday to discuss the high temperature alarm we got on the bus’s driver side tag tire while driving to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR) from Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) on Monday.  He suggested I check the back side of the wheel for oil leaks and pull the hub cap off to check the oil level of the axle hub.  I checked the back of the wheel the other night after it got dark but did not see any oil residue.  Pulling the hub cap was a daytime job, so I finally did that today.  What I found was that the oil level was just below the bottom of the fill hole, so the hub was properly lubricated and almost certainly not leaking.

As long as I was at it, I removed the TireTracker temperature/pressure sensor and checked the pressure in the tire with my gauge.  It was 85.0 PSI, which was reasonable, given that it was sitting in the sun (with the tire cover on) and I had set it a week ago to 82.5 PSI while it was cooler and in the shade.  It’s possible that the battery is almost depleted or that the sensor has malfunctioned, but I doubt it.  Since it is easier and cheaper to replace the battery we bought a couple of CR1632 3V batteries at Walmart the other day.  I unscrewed the cover, slid the old battery out, slid the new one in, and replaced the cover.  I put the sensor back on the valve stem and turned on the receiver but it did not pick up the sensor right away.  I will have to check the manual to see if I have to re-associate the sensor with the receiver.  I put the tire cover back on, put my tool boxes away, closed up the bays, and went inside to upload posts to the blog.

This guy was actually making ice cream with this old John Deere contraption. Webster Flea Market. Webster, FL.

While I was working, Linda returned part way through her walk to let me know that Nick’s R.V. Detailing & Pressure Washing was in the resort cleaning someone’s rig.  We agreed that we should hire them and she continued her walk in that direction.  When she returned she said that Nick had us on his schedule for Friday, March 18.  He has a regular job on Mondays through Thursdays and only works on RVs on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  We got a business card from him yesterday so I sent him an e-mail confirming the date and giving him our site number and my cell phone number.

Rather than rearrange our shower we went to the clubhouse and used the shower facilities there.  A music jam session was scheduled to start at 2 PM but there was also rain in the forecast for that same time.  We did not want to close up the coach so we decided to pass on the music jam for this week.

Back at our coach we had some orange and grapefruit segments, a few nuts, and a few pretzels with hummus for a lunch snack.  I was checking RVillage and saw that Curtis had posted several items to the RVillage Ambassadors group.  I commented on a couple of them and then private messaged him.  He and the team are very busy so I try not to bother him, but as often happens my message prompted a phone call.  Strangely, my phone did not ring and went straight to voice mail.  Perhaps it was because I had the Wi-Fi turned on, but I’m not sure.  I called him back and put the call on speaker so Linda could also participate.  There are a lot of interesting and exciting things happening with RVillage and we had a nice, long chat.

I had a text message back from Joe with instructions on how to check the driver side tag wheel for a dragging brake.  The procedure was simple and easily carried out because the tag axle is:  a) free wheeling, and b) can be lifted clear of the ground.  That means that all I have to do is start the engine, lift the tag axle, spin the wheels, and compared the drag on the two sides.  If the driver side does not spin as freely it means the brakes are rubbing more than they should.  (The disc brake pads are always lightly in touch with the surface of the brake rotor which keeps detritus from getting between the rotor and the pads, preheats the pads/rotor for more effective breaking, and shortens the reaction time before braking takes place once it is requested.)

The possibility of rain started rising at 1 PM as the clouds thickened and darkened.  It spritzed occasionally throughout the afternoon and into the early evening but never really rained.  I managed to upload blog posts for November 18 through 22.

For dinner, Linda made brown rice and broccoli with Dijon mustard.  It was simple but slightly creamy, which gave it a subtle quality.  It was very yummy.  After dinner we went for a walk around the resort.  The weather continued overcast with dramatic clouds to the north but all we got was a few raindrops and the temperature was very pleasant if a bit humid.  I suggested that we sit outside and have a small glass of wine but Linda informed me that the only wine we had onboard was a bottle of ice wine that we brought along for a special occasion.  Ice wines are very sweet and usually served as a dessert wine.  Every day is special for us, but this did not seem like the occasion to open a bottle of ice wine.  We doodled on our iPads while we watched reruns of a couple of TV programs and then went to bed.  There was a small chance of scattered rain showers overnight, but we left the roof vents open and two of the exhaust fans running.

2016/03/14 (M) Webster Flea & Farmers Markets

Linda was up early this morning (6AM) and decided to go for a walk at 7.  I got up closer to 8 AM and got dressed.  I did not make coffee and we did not eat breakfast.  On Friday Linda was reading about the Webster Flea Market and Sumter County Farmers’ Market.  The Flea Market is the oldest and largest in Florida which, along with the Farmers Market, occupies a 40 acre site on the west side of CR-471 in downtown Webster.  The website said it was one of the “top 10 attractions” in Florida.  They are only open on Mondays and they draw a large number of vendors and a very large number of shoppers.  Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR) is only a few miles from downtown Webster, and today was the only Monday we would be in the area, so of course we went to check out.

When we arrived at the market site around 8:30 AM there were already a lot of cars and people there.  We drove past numerous places selling parking space but we were able to find free parking on the flea market grounds not far from where the food vendors were set up at the Sumter County Farmers Market.  I strapped on my camera harness and Linda carried the small camera bag as we ventured forth into the crowd.

The sites on our side of the street looking south from our site at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, FL.

We walked through the Farmers Market area first so Linda could get a sense of what was there.  The markets open at 5 AM and close at 3 PM so we were surprised that a lot of vendors were just setting up as we walked through.  I took a few pictures, but really interesting photos were few and far between.  We wandered through the grounds trying to get a sense of the layout of the place, the stuff for sale, and the people selling/buying it.  The Farmers Market was in the northeast corner.  Just south of that was a fenced area with vendors under long, open-sided pavilions.  Just south of that were long concrete block buildings with stalls secured by overhead garage doors.  A sign indicated that this was the area with stores selling antiques, and that there were 66 stalls.

To the west of all of this was the West Webster Market area on the other side of a fence with open gates.  This area had a few open-sided pavilions but it was mostly “trunk sales”, at least that’s what we call it at ham radio swap meets.  Vendors had a designated area in which to park their vehicle and sell their stuff, some of which was still in the trunk of a car or side door of a van.  Some was displayed on tables that the vendors brought, and some was laid out on the ground.  Throughout the venue there were lots of food vendors and occasional live music performers.

We are not flea market people and we did not see anything that we had to have.  We found a piece of Pyrex that we thought Meghan would like and Linda sent her a picture.  It was a 1959 Golden Branch Promotional Hospitality Round Casserole.  We did not hear back right away and decided to go ahead and buy it for $20.  We found out later that she thought it was worth $5.  That is just one of the many reasons we do not shop at flea markets.

We returned to the Farmers Market where Linda bought 1/2 flat of strawberries for $5 along with kale, Swiss chard, green beans, onions, mushrooms, and scallions, all for very good prices.  We like farmers markets.  We remembered how bad the traffic heading south out of Webster was last Monday at 2 PM as we were coming north so we returned to the car and left the grounds a little before noon.

We took one of the streets through town to have a look at the place.  Webster is a small, impoverished town where people appear to live with little or no self-respect or consideration for their neighbors.  It is one of the saddest looking places we have ever seen.  FGMCR is not actually in the city limits of Webster but has a Webster mailing address.  It is far enough away from the actual town, and surrounded by cattle fields, to be a quiet, peaceful place isolated from the poverty of Webster.  What makes it an acceptable location for an RV resort is that it is only 10 miles from the Walmart at I-75 in Bushnell, 17 miles to the Publix supermarket in Groveland, 23 miles to Clermont (lots of shopping and a few attractions), 25 miles to The Villages (lots of shopping, restaurants, and medical services), and 50 miles to Brooksville, Ocala, and Orlando.  A 90 to 100 mile radius takes in everyplace from Arcadia to Tampa St. Petersburg, up the “Sun Coast” through Weeki Wachi, Homosassa, and Crystal River, and then inland to Gainesville (including Williston) and over to Daytona, Cape Canaveral, and on down the Atlantic coast.  FGMCR’s motto is “…in the middle of nowhere, but close to everywhere” and it is a fitting one.

The forecast for the rest of the week is for daily high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80’s with party cloudy skies and some humidity.  A good breeze was blowing from the south today but we judged it to be mild enough that we could deploy our awnings.  Linda closed all of the windows and I closed the roof vents and turned on the air-conditioners.  Linda got the three silver bubble wrap insulating panels out from under the bed and I installed them in the skylights.

Linda prepared some oranges and strawberries for lunch after which she settled in to work on taxes while I worked on this post.  The wind intensified, and less than hour after we put out the awnings we put them back in.  I spent the rest of the afternoon uploading the posts for November 23 through 30 (2015) to our blog.  That meant I was caught up to the point in time when we left Michigan and arrived in Florida for the winter and was now only 3-1/2 months behind on uploading my posts.

Linda took a short nap from 4:45 to 5 PM, and then started preparing dinner.  She made a nice collard greens salad with homemade croutons, homemade vegan “Parmesan” cheese, and a homemade lemon-juice dressing.  It was crisp, light, delicious, and ample along with a side of sautéed green beans and carrot rounds.  A glass of white wine would have been a nice accompaniment, but we still do not have any on board.

We ate dinner a little earlier than normal and, with the change to daylight savings time, there was still a couple of hours of daylight left before subset.  Large, puffy clouds, in shades from bright white to dark gray, dominated the sky and the low angle, early evening sunlight was brilliant, dramatic, and colorful.  We went for a walk around the resort and I took the camera along.  I paused often to capture images and we stopped occasionally to chat briefly with folks.  We were almost back to our coach when we stopped to talk to Dennis.

Dennis and his wife are part of the group of 59 property owners who have a free and clear title to their lot.  He knew quite a bit about the history, current status, and future development of the resort.  We had heard bits and pieces, so he filled in a few details and clarified a few others.

The hedges that separate and define the lots were all planted as part of the original development, as were the flower beds.  Each site has palm trees and they are planted in the very the same locations on each site except at corners and curves in the road where adjustments had to be made.  Owners have personalized their choice of flowers over time but the locations of the beds are tightly regulated by the deed restrictions and controlled by the POA architectural review board.

The villas are all identical on the outside and have to stay that way.  They are constructed in a large building at the back of the property, trucked to the site on a flatbed trailer, and set in place on their pad with a crane.  Once they are strapped down (hurricane code) and the utilities are connected the owners can finish the interiors however they want.

Linda sitting in the corner of the library in the clubhouse at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, FL.

Only recently have owners been allowed to add a pergola at the rear of their villa to shade the portion of the parking pad that wraps around behind the building.  The addition of the low stone border walls around the hedges and planting beds is also a recent change.  Each layout is unique but must use the same exact stones and the layout must be submitted to the POA architectural committee for approval.  Personally, I like the uniformity of materials but appreciate the uniqueness of each design.  There are only nine pergolas at this point (according to Dennis) and I estimate no more three dozen sites with stone walls (out of 249 sites) but they look very nice and the resort will look more and more “finished” and interesting as more owners add these personal touches.

As for future development, Dennis said that all of the problems from the past have been taken care of and the current developer (Mr. Smith) has told property owners that he has brought the park out of bankruptcy.  The reason that the “group of 99” property owners are going to have to pay $22K (each) to get their free/clear deeds is that they had liens on their lots when the project went into bankruptcy and Mr. Smith had to buy the liens as part of resolving the bankruptcy.  He has also told the current owners that he expects fully developing the resort to take 10 more years and that he plans to finish Phase 2 in sections rather than all at once.  Dennis seemed to think that was prudent and that Mr. Smith was both an honest and competent businessman.

The water and sewage systems are part of the 400 acre resort property and are sized to handle the eventual 499 sites.  Most of the infrastructure is in place for Phase 2 but not the sewage lift pumps or paved roads.  He will have the road paved, and the pumps installed and made operational, as he opens each section.  The water system is also sized to handle the irrigation and fire suppression needs of the park.  Every site has in-ground sprinklers that are activated on a rotating basis over the course of a week.  Indeed, all of the grounds maintenance is handled by the resort as part of the currently very modest $500/quarter POA fee, including grass mowing and hedge trimming.  The infrastructure here is very impressive.

Dennis was of the opinion that the risks of investing in this park, going forward, were minimal.  He also clarified that Mr. Smith’s stated plan is to commence with work on Phase 2 when 90% of the lots in Phase 1 are sold and that the resort is close to that point now.  He wasn’t trying to sell us anything, but thought that a few bargains remained if someone wanted to buy out one of the 99 properties, many of which have been for sale.  That group of (would be) owners apparently got hurt financially.  He also told us the same thing we have heard from others, that they like the quiet and solitude that comes with the resort’s relatively isolated location but access to a great deal within a one hour drive, and access to almost everything within a two hour driving radius.  (What he did not say, and no one else has either, is that this would not be a good location in which to have a serious medical emergency.)

Back at our rig we turned off the air-conditioners, opened up the coach, and settled in to watch our Monday evening TV programs on CBS.  I off-loaded the photos I took today to my computer and backed them up to the NAS.  Linda headed off to bed at 11 PM.  I stayed up to watch the news and weather and caught part of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert before turning in.

 

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