Category Archives: Culture & Entertainment

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2016/03/31 (R) Historic Cocoa Village

I got up briefly at 6:30 AM to close the roof vents as a stray rain shower drifted over Jetty Park (JP).  I got up again around 7 to put some fresh food in the cats’ bowls so they would stop trying to get us up and then went back to bed.  Linda was up around 7:30 AM to take her last steroid pill and I finally got up to stay at 8:30.  I walked over to the office around 9:15 but it was closed until noon for store inventory.  I knew that from yesterday but had forgotten.  I walked back to our coach and brewed a pot of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe coffee, which was much better than the office coffee anyway.

It was sunny but humid this morning and by 10 AM it was up into the 80’s in the coach so we closed up and turned on the air-conditioners.  Linda has been doing accounting work for the bakery but was waiting on a document from the controller so she walked over to use the shower facilities.  I worked on filling in yesterday’s blog post until she returned and then I walked over to get my shower.  Back at the coach I exchanged text messages and phone calls with Vickie regarding plans for today while Linda exchanged text messages with Mara regarding a possible meetup next week.

A small part of downtown Historic Cocoa Village, Florida.

Pat and Vickie picked us up at noon and drove to Historic Cocoa Village on the mainland.  It was all boutique shopping and restaurants but still quaint and interesting enough.  Linda located The Garden of Eden Cafe and Bakery on Happy Cow but it was no longer in business and we ended up driving back to a Steak ‘n Shake on Merritt Island for lunch.  It was right on the 520 Causeway so it was very convenient.  Linda, Vickie, and I had garden salads and Pat had a hamburger.  I also ordered onion rings.  The salads were good but the onion rings were some of the worst I’ve ever had.  They were very greasy which was probably due to the fry oil not being hot enough.

We stopped at the Ron Jon Surf Shop (RJSS) in Cocoa Beach on the way back.  In the six years that Pat and Vickie have been coming to JP they had never visited the RJSS.  Linda wandered away from the group so I followed her, after which we could not find Pat and Vickie.  It turned out that they also got separated.  The store is big, with two floors, but not THAT big.  It is, however, crammed full of merchandise and the layout made it hard to see most of the store from any given vantage point.  It was also packed with people, which further obscured my view, but through text messages and phone calls we eventually all ended up in the same place and finally drove back to JPCG.

A little piece of Florida charm in Historic Cocoa Village, Florida.

It turned out to be a very warm, humid, partly cloudy day and we were glad we had closed up our coaches and turned on the air-conditioners before we left.  Jasper and Juniper were glad too, and also glad to see us.  I walked over to the office to see if any full hookup sites had opened up, but they had not.  There wasn’t anyone else in the lounge area so I switched the TV to The Weather Channel to get a sense of the national and local weather situation.  A line of strong to severe storms was draped from Michigan’s thumb all the way to the Gulf of Mexico at the Texas/Louisiana border.  It was moving east across the continent with numerous severe thunderstorm watches and warnings, and a few tornado watches and warnings, ahead of it.  The northern tip looked like it would pass through our hometown but be below severe intensity.

Back at the coach Linda had resumed working on accounting for the bakery.  I checked e-mail, replied to one from Gary at BCM, and then logged into RVillage to deal with another one.  Scott and Tami had requested to join the CCO group, which is private, so I had to approve their request.   I also updated our checkout date at JP to Wednesday, April 6.  I updated the Excel spreadsheet that I use to track water/tank/softener usage and was just finishing up when I spotted the Carnival Victory cruise ship coming down the shipping channel from its dock at Port Canaveral.  I grabbed the camera and hurried over while Linda locked the bus and followed me.

It was hazy due to the heat and humidity but I clicked off a few photos anyway.  We knew that one of the Disney cruise ships would also be setting sail shortly so we stuck around the channel and walked down towards the pier looking for a better/different vantage point.  These ships always leave between 5 and 5:30 PM heading east down the channel so it is not an ideal time of day to photograph them as we are looking northwest if we want to see the bow.  Once they pass us we are looking northeast with the sun over our left shoulder so the lighting is much better.  I might do better driving up to the Exploration Tower area of the Port and trying to photograph the Disney ships as the leave the dock.  There’s a lot more ‘stuff’ up there (boats buildings, cranes, etc.) to provide foreground and framing, but it might also just obscure the view.  I won’t know which it is unless I investigate it, which I probably will not do on this visit.

At 5:30 PM I spotted the Disney Magic coming out of its terminal basin into the main channel.  It took a while to get into position for the photographs I wanted to take.  After it cleared the shoreline and another set of buoys it turned southeast.  Linda checked the schedule latter and found out it was headed for the Bahamas on a three night cruise.  She also learned that the Magic and the Dream are the only Disney Cruise Line ships that sail from Port Canaveral, which explained why we saw them as often as we did.

A Little Blue Heron by the jetty and shipping channel. Jetty Park, Cape Canaveral, FL.

We headed back up the channel towards the west and stopped when I spotted the dorsal fin of a dolphin breaking the surface of the water by the entrance to the submarine turning basin.  We saw it three or four times as it headed back towards the ocean but then it disappeared.  While we were standing there chatting with a local resident a Little Blue Heron flew over and landed about five feet away from me.  It was looking for a handout, which we did not have, but I was able to walk around it and photograph it from different directions for a few minutes before it flew off in search of better prospects.

Back at our coach I worked on this post while Linda started preparing dinner.  She decided to make angel hair pasta with garlic, mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes.  It’s a favorite “go to” meal that is relatively quick and easy to prepare but absolutely delicious.  Because of our late lunch, eaten between 2 and 3 PM, we did not have dinner until 7:30 PM.

After dinner we turned on the TV and put on our usual Thursday evening comedy programs.  I needed to proofread and edit a short article that someone else wrote for BCM but did not feel like doing it this evening.  I also needed to off-load today’s photos from my camera to my computer and Vickie wanted a picture of the manatees from the Merritt Island NWR, but I deferred all of that to tomorrow.  I did, however, fill in today’s activities in my blog post.  That is something I can comfortably do on my iPad while watching TV.

Around 9 PM it was still 76 degrees F outside but we turned off the air-conditioners and opened up the coach anyway.  The temperature was forecast to only drop to about 70 but we figured we would be comfortable enough, preferring fresh air and roof vent fan noise to recirculated air and the roar of the air-conditioner evaporator fans.

Around 10 PM Linda started the update of her iPad to iOS 9.3.  That took over an hour and when it finally rebooted her tablet she went to bed.  I watched channel 6.1 (CBS) long enough to see the weather forecast and then switched to 24.1 (PBS) to watch Charlie Rose.  At midnight I tuned in The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for a few minutes and then went to bed and fell asleep.

 

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2016/03/24 (R) Cocoa Beach Historic District

I got up at 8:15 AM, put on my swim trunks that I use as a pair of casual shorts, and walked over to the campground office to get a couple of cups of coffee.  The coffee is not that good, but it’s hot and I don’t have to make it or clean it up.  While I was there I inquired about extending our stay.  Robert assisted me and found two full hookup sites in the same part of the campground where we are now that were available for three nights starting on the 29th and marked them on a campground map.

Linda was asleep when I left and still asleep when I got back so I gently woke her up to have some coffee.  She was feeling a little better.  Her sore throat was almost gone and she had regained a little of her hearing and speaking.  We checked the long-range weather forecast and it looked like next week’s weather should be good with moderate temperatures and low probability of rain.  We discussed the available sites and agreed that #358 looked like a great choice.  It is directly behind the site we are currently on (#352) and is large with good access.  It also faces northeast which is a plus.  We will have to remove the windshield covers in order to move the coach and the northeast orientation means we will not have to put them back on while we are here.

I walked back to the campground office and reserved site #358 for March 29, 30, and 31, with departure on April 1 by noon.  All things being equal (which they never are) we would rather not be driving on April 1st as there is, apparently, a mass exodus of snowbirds from Florida on that date and the northbound highways are bumper-to-bumper and very slow.  I can check with the office each day to see if there have been cancelations that would allow us to stay longer on one site.  We also discussed making a reservation for a few nights back at Williston Crossings and cooling our heels there before heading north.

I texted Vickie to let her know about our modified plan.  She and Pat were headed to the beach for a walk and Linda decided she wanted to go along.  While we waited for them I texted our children to let them know we had extended out stay at Jetty Park and that their mom was doing better.  Oops; apparently no one ever told them Linda was sick and my text message prompted a quick phone call from our daughter.

We walked along the ocean towards Cocoa Beach for 1.5 to 2 miles.  (We had three pedometers between us but each one recorded a different distance.)  Pat and I headed back while Linda and Vickie went a little farther before turning back.  The girls walk faster than we do and wanted to give us a head start.  They caught up with us just as we reached the boardwalk back into Jetty Park.

We were back at our coach at 11:45 AM and agreed to get back together mid-afternoon and drive to Cocoa Beach to see the Historic District.  None of us had eaten breakfast and Linda clearly needed a nap before doing anything else today.  I made a sandwich with mock deli slices, Daiya non-dairy cheese, raw onions, lettuce, and mustard and cut it in half for us to share.  I had a few pretzels with hummus and washed off the rest of the grapes and set them out.

I noticed yesterday that I had a critical update for Windows 10 but when I checked today it was no longer there.  My presumption is that it got downloaded and installed.  Linda had the same update still pending, along with the Visual C++ update that keeps trying to install but apparently does not do so correctly.

There was a magnificent full moon rising last night but we did not notice it until it was well above the horizon.  I tried to take a few pictures from in front of our coach but I spent most of the time messing with the camera’s controls and settings.  I suspected that I failed to capture the beauty of the moment and after I copied them to my computer to examine them my suspicion was confirmed.

Linda takes a minute to pose while watching one of the Disney cruise ships (Magic?) leave Port Canaveral and head out of the channel into the Atlantic Ocean.

We both took naps but by 4 PM had not heard from Pat and Vickie.  I called Vickie but got Pat.  Vickie had a sore neck and they had decided not to venture back out today.  Linda’s sore throat has largely abated, and her voice has improved a little, but her hearing is still very impaired.  This afternoon she got very concerned about it and had me try to contact a local ENT.  The office was closed until Monday morning and the call was routed to an answering service.  The answering service gave me the number for another ENT in Titusville.  I called them and got their answering service.  They took my name, number, and some information and said the office would call me at 8 AM when they opened.

The weather forecast from 5 PM on was for an increasing probability of thunderstorms headed towards 100% by 11 PM.  The weather was moving from southwest to northeast along a front that appeared to be drifting slowly from west to east.  As a result air temperatures were hanging in the 70’s and the humidity was very high.  Rather than sit around the coach we decided to drive down N. Atlantic Ave. (FL-A1A) to/through Cocoa Beach just to have a look.  First, however, we closed up the coach and turned on the air-conditioners.

We had a nice, leisurely drive south through Cape Canaveral and then Cocoa Beach; first through the main business section and then through a more residential part.  In spite of the high-rise residential and resort buildings that dominate the ocean shore along the eastern edge of the Cape, the main avenue still has some of the look and feel of “old” Cocoa Beach, with the Ron Jon Surf Shop as a centerpiece.  Many of the beach houses are charming without being massive and lavish, like the ones we saw on Captiva Island on the Gulf Coast.

By the time I turned around to head back dark storm clouds had moved in and it had started raining intermittently.  We stopped at the CVS Pharmacy to see if they had an OTC medication that might help Linda’s right ear.  The pharmacist said the only thing he had was a pill that would promote drainage which might help remove infection and pressure but was certainly not a substitute for a prescription medication.  We bought a pack as it seemed like a better option than doing nothing.

We got back into the northbound flow of traffic, which was bumper-to-bumper and slow because the right hand lane was closed for construction.  Heavy rain had moved in, with reduced visibility and minor road flooding, which did not improve the traffic situation.  We weren’t in a rush, and it would not have mattered if we were, so we just took our place in the parade until I got to a traffic signal where I turned left and went into the Publix parking lot.  Linda stayed in the car while I went in to buy a few grocery items.  It was raining lightly when I came out of the supermarket.  I loaded the grocery bags in the back of the car and returned the cart to the front of the store.  In that short time torrential rains fell and I had to wait for it to abate before I could return to our car.  (In spite of the forecast we left the coach without our raincoats or umbrellas.)

Back at our coach we got the groceries inside and put away.  Linda felt like fixing dinner so she heated the vegan Italian sausage with sautéed onions and peppers and served it next to an arugula salad.  I cut up some of the strawberries we just bought and served those for dessert.

Our usual Thursday evening CBS TV programs were preempted by the NCAA basketball tournament but I found an interesting series of talks about “American Generations” on PBS.  The three hours covered, in order, Boomers (us), Gen-X (both of our children), and Millennials (both of our grand-daughters).  The basic point of the lectures was an updated and expanded version of the central concept of a presentation by a sociologist that I saw in the late 1970’s titled “What you are is where you were when…”

Our TV viewing was occasionally interrupted by severe weather alerts and a tornado warning, although the warning was not for our specific location.  We spent some time with our iPads trying to understand the implications for us and our rig and decided we were not in any imminent danger.  Lightning activity increased around 11 PM accompanied by some thunder and then rain.  The rain and lightning intensified as midnight approached and the leak around the bedroom vent fan reappeared but did reach severe levels and the winds were not an issue.  At midnight the channel 9.3 radar showed one cluster of storms pushing out to sea by us but another fast moving line sweeping across the Gulf of Mexico and stretching across Florida from north of Jacksonville to north of Tampa and moving our way.  It was all too obvious by this point that we had miscalculated the intensity and duration of the storm when deciding to leave our awnings out.  I finally tried to go to sleep not knowing if they would be OK in the morning.  The ENT office was supposed to call at 8 AM and we wanted to be up, dressed, and ready to go in case they could see Linda right away.

2016/03/25 (F) Orlando ENT Visit

With the thunderstorms last night I did not get a good night’s sleep.  The cats were nervous and wanted my attention but would not settle down and sleep.  When Juniper did finally settle down she curled up on my pillow. The roof vent/fan in the bedroom leaked on the foot of the bed so I had to deal with that.  I was also concerned about the two awnings we left out.  And last, but not least, I was concerned about Linda’s hearing loss.  Nonetheless, I was up at 7:30 AM and got dressed.  Linda was up shortly after me and got dressed.  She also did not sleep well for most of the same reasons.  We each had a quick bite for breakfast in case we had to leave on short notice.

I had not heard from Dr. Patel’s office in Titusville by 8:10 so I called them.  They were the backup for Dr. Widick’s office in Cocoa Beach which was closed until Monday morning.  Dr. Patel was not available today and would not be until Monday.  Some backup.  The receptionist was not able to refer us anywhere else.  Linda’s initial annoyance at not being able to hear had become a serious concern and melted briefly into a panic.  We both got online and started searching for ENTs in the Orlando area.

There were several dozen with no meaningful way to call all of them to find one that was open with an available appointment slot.  We were starting to think about going to a hospital ER when I spotted a listing for ENT services at Florida Hospital in Orlando.  I called the number and the operator wasn’t quite sure what to do with my call but then transferred me to the hospital’s physician referral service where Tim took the call.

Tim gave me the name of Dr. Lehman at Ear, Nose, Throat Plastic Surgery Associates P.A.  http://www.ENTOrlando.com/Portal 407.644.4883.  I called them and they were not going to be able to get Linda in to see Dr. Lehman, or any other ENT, until Tuesday.  I pleaded the desperation of our situation and they finally said we could see a P.A. in their Orlando clinic office at 1 PM.  The receptionist took some basic insurance information over the phone and told us to be there by 12:30 PM to take care of paperwork.  She also gave me the address and phone number of the clinic.

Our mapping apps indicated a 52 mile trip (one-way) that would take about one hour.  We decided to leave at 10:30 AM to allow plenty of time and still arrive early.  It was only 9 AM so rather than sit around I texted Vickie to let her know our plans for the day and that we were headed over to the office to get some coffee and kill a little time.  She and Pat met us there and provided a much needed distraction for Linda.

We knew that another round of thunderstorms was forecast to move through the Cape Canaveral area sometime during the afternoon so at 10:15 we headed back to our coach and retracted the patio awning and large driver side awning.  By the time we gathered up all of our stuff, which included our SunPass transponder, and pulled out of our site it was almost 10:45.  I headed south on N. Atlantic Ave. and stopped at the Shell station to top off the fuel tank.  A half mile later I headed west on Central Blvd. and then turned onto westbound Astronaut Blvd (FL-A1A).

The clinic was located at 44 W. Michigan St. southeast of downtown Orlando, Florida.  Approximately 40 miles of the 52 mile trip were on FL-A1A and FL-528 and somewhere between 30 and 40 of those miles were toll road.  The only traffic congestion we encountered was after exiting FL-528 near Orlando International Airport onto FL-428.  We arrived at the clinic before noon.

While Linda was filling out all of the paperwork I got a call from Butch.  They were on the move traveling north on I-25 in New Mexico and hoping to make it to Amarillo, Texas before dark.  I brought him up to date on Linda’s situation and we then discussed travel plans.  He thought they would be home by the end of next week, which is when we plan to pull out of Jetty Park.  Butch is willing to help me disassemble and rebuild the driver side tag axle caliper, if that’s what is needed, and I really appreciate that.  I am inclined, however, to get Linda and the cats back to the house and then take the bus to Butch and Fonda’s place.  I also need to have him work on the three CruiseAir air-conditioners and I cannot have the cats onboard while that work is taking place.  All of this might also depend on if/when Joe is in Michigan and available/willing to work on the bus.

At 1:15 PM someone came out and called for Linda.  It was the audiologist.  She took us back to a room with an anechoic chamber and tested Linda’s hearing.  We went to an interior waiting room while she complied the test results and were then taken to an examine room by a nurse who went over the information Linda had provided and filled in some details.  A few minutes later the Physician’s Assistant, Bibi Farida Hussain, PA-C came in with a nurse.

We immediately liked her.  She was friendly and upbeat but very professional; exuding a confident competence.  She went over Linda’s history, symptoms, and audiological test results.  Linda’s test results showed that her hearing in her right ear was well below normal and that her eardrum was showing limited movement.  Farida’s examination of Linda’s right ear revealed some wax build up that was obscuring her ability to see anything else, so she cleaned it.  She was then able to clearly see the inflammation and the presence of fluid in the middle ear.  The fluid was preventing the movement of the eardrum and Bibi was fairly certain that was responsible for the greatly diminished hearing.

Farida had Linda pinch her nose and blow gently to force a little air up the eustachian tubes to help displace some of the fluid.  She recommended that Linda do this about 10 times per day.  She also suggested that Linda continue to use the OTC 12 hour nasal decongestant pills as they were helping drain the eustachian tubes and middle ear.  She prescribed a six day course of steroids and sent the prescription electronically to the CVS Pharmacy in Cocoa Beach.  She also recommended OTC Flonase nasal spray and gave us a $5 off coupon for the 120 dose size.  Finally, she gave Linda a copy of the audiological test results and suggested that she follow up with her ENT back home (Dr. Michael Sideman) in two to three weeks.  We paid the estimated co-pay and were on our way by 2:15 PM with Linda feeling relieved and reassured that her hearing should recover substantially within a week with no long-term damage.

We did not have much for breakfast and decided to get some lunch before driving back to the Cape.  A POI search using our Garmin 465T GPS unit revealed that there was a Panera just 0.3 miles east of the clinic on Michigan St.  Perfect!  It was cold inside and pleasant outside so we ate outside.  As we were finishing our lunch around 2:45 PM, very dark and foreboding clouds blew in quickly from the west and we got a few rain drops.  We made it back to the car before the skies opened up, which they did shortly thereafter.

The entire drive back to Cocoa Beach was through a hellacious rain storm with strong winds, very limited visibility, water ponding on the roads, and generally reduced speeds.  We did not have to be anywhere by any particular time so I tried to move along at whatever speeds felt comfortable to me while not going so slow as to get rear-ended.  It was about 4:30 PM by the time we made it to the CVS Pharmacy in Cocoa Beach and picked up Linda’s Rx and OTC medications.

The northbound traffic on FL-A1A (Astronaut Blvd.) was bumper-to-bumper as we drove through Cape Canaveral into Cocoa Beach so I took side streets back to Jetty Park.  I know I’ve been someplace for a while when I can start to find alternate driving routes.  The rain had moved through and out to sea by this time and we had a nice drive through yet another pleasant part of the Cape.  We were back at our coach by 5:15 PM.  I texted Vickie to let her know and we agreed to meet around 6:30 PM to go for a walk around the campground and park.  I then texted Butch and Chuck with status updates while Linda texted both of our children with the same information.  People really do care, and were concerned, and it would be thoughtless to not let them know.

Having had a late, filling lunch we were not hungry so Linda doodled on her iPad while I took a short nap.  We met Pat and Vickie and walked out to a beach access/overlook where we saw the Victory casino ship heading out to sea.  I took a few pictures because, well … I had my camera and that’s what I do.  We then walked along the shipping canal where I took a few more pictures.  We stopped at the office for coffee and then walked to the laundry room closest to our site to check it out.  Linda was tired by this point so we said “good night” and headed back to our coach.

It was 7:45 PM and we both were finally a little hungry so we each had a sandwich.  We turned on the TV and flipped channels.  There wasn’t much on that we wanted to see until Linda noticed that Foyle’s War was on one of the PBS stations.  That was an excellent show that we really enjoyed when it originally aired.  The signal was intermittent but we watched it anyway.  I then tuned in the NCAA basketball tournament for Linda on CBS 6.1 (solid, steady signal) as she made ready to sleep in the captain’s chairs again tonight.  I went to bed, put on the TV, and wrote for a while before going to sleep around 11:30 PM.

2016/03/26 (S) Let’s Talk Dirty

I woke up around 7:15 AM and was out of bed by 7:30.  Linda was still sleeping soundly, so I quietly got something to eat for breakfast and took my vitamins but did not make coffee, which involves using the coffee bean grinder and is fairly noisy.  Linda woke up around 8:30 and started taking her steroids.  After reading the package more carefully she realized she could have taken all six of the first day’s pills last night at one time.  That annoyed/frustrated her as she is anxious to get her hearing back ASAP, but there was no turning back the clock.

I needed to do laundry today and I also needed to mail two envelopes to my sister with various tax returns in them.  I searched online for laundromats in Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach and found several, but one in particular caught my attention; a full service laundry on N. Atlantic in Cocoa Beach named Let’s Talk Dirty.

The shower/laundry buildings at Jetty Park Campground only have three washers and dryers each, but their main drawback is that you cannot drive your car and park near the buildings; the only way to get your laundry there is to carry it.  We have seen quite a few people using rolling carts to get their stuff to the beach and I suspect the long-term, regular campers also use them to get their laundry to/from the building.  We do not have such a cart and since I had to drive to the Cape Canaveral Post Office anyway I decided I would treat myself and let someone else wash, dry, and fold our laundry today.  It might cost as much as going out for a moderate dinner, but it’s been a hard week for me as well as Linda and I figured I deserved a break.

I gathered up the laundry, put it in the car, and took off, leaving Linda to rest.  I found the Post Office easily enough and got the two envelopes mailed Priority Mail with tracking.  I then drove another four miles south on FL-A1A (Atlantic Ave.) to the laundry service.  It was in a little strip mall just before Atlantic Ave. splits at the beginning of Downtown Cocoa Beach.  It was around 10:30 when I got there.  I had 29 pounds of laundry at a $1.05 per pound.  I had Jill wash everything “cold” but there was an extra $5 charge for splitting it into two loads, lights and darks.  I had to pay in advance, but that was OK.  Jill said it might not be ready until after 3 PM and let me know she was closing today at 5 PM.  No problem.

I enjoyed my drive back to Jetty Park and stopped at the Dunkin Donuts for a couple of coffees to go.  The place has always been empty when we have stopped there before but it was mobbed this morning!  But then, I guess that’s not really surprising for a Saturday morning on Easter weekend on the Cape.

Vickie texted me around 1 PM to see how Linda was doing and to let us know she was headed out to do some shopping and see if we needed anything.  She did not specify groceries but I presume that what she meant.  Linda was sleeping and we really did not need anything as we/I have been to Publix two or three times since we arrived at Jetty Park.  I was working on this post when Jill called around 1:30 PM to let me know our laundry was ready for pickup.  By this time Linda had a short grocery list from the last couple of days so we brainstormed a few additional items and I took it with me.

Atlantic Ave. was busy and congested near the Merritt Island Causeway. The “cause” of the backup was a large group of protesters at the intersection. As best I could determine their “cause” was saving the Indian River Lagoon, from which I gathered something was going on that the protesters believed threatened said lagoon in some way.  Their signs directed passersby to the group’s Facebook page for more information.  Once I was clear of that intersection the next congested section was by the public park farther south on the east side of the avenue.  It was closed to public use for a special function and there were a half dozen police cars there with their lights flashing.  The police had also placed cones along the lane markings and were directing traffic.  Everyone had to slow way down, of course, and occasionally stop.  Once I was clear of that obstacle it was easy sailing the rest of the way to the laundry.

It only took a few minutes to retrieve our laundry which was folded and bagged as advertised.  There was no way to avoid the traffic congestion at the park but once I was clear of that I kept an eye on my GPS unit for the first available opportunity to get off of Atlantic Avenue and over one street to the east.  That street begins/ends south of the causeway so I used it to bypass the congestion and demonstrators at that intersection.  I have nothing against protests and demonstrations; they are a sign of the health of our democracy, but I was already aware of their cause and not in the humor to sit in traffic.  Although there is an occasional stop sign and a 25 MPH speed limit, the side street is a lightly used, pleasant road that runs through a residential area.  When I was sufficiently far from the causeway intersection I returned to Atlantic Avenue and continued north to the Publix supermarket.

It was sometime between 2:30 and 3 PM by the time I was parked and headed inside the supermarket.  There have always been shoppers (and their cars) here on previous visits, but nothing like today.  The parking lot was 75% full, the aisles were crowded, and some of the shoppers seemed frantic.  Saturdays are busy at most supermarkets and other shopping venues but I could not discern to what extent these shoppers were residents with jobs doing their weekend chores, snowbirds doing their weekly grocery runs, or vacationers just arrived on the Cape and stocking up for the week.  It was also the Saturday before Easter Sunday and I only found out later that Publix would be closed tomorrow.  It was a perfect shopping storm.

I was back in my car with the groceries by 4 PM.  There’s a side street with access to the Publix parking lot that has a traffic signal on N. Atlantic Avenue so I always use it to make the left heading northbound.  Although Atlantic Avenue is four lanes with a center turn lane the speed limit is typically 35 MPH and it is lined with businesses on both sides.  Traffic moves slowly, and is frequently interrupted by vehicles leaving/entering the traffic flow, which causes it to be bumper-to-bumper and makes left turns across lanes especially difficult.

Back at the campground I got the clean laundry and groceries into our coach.  I put the clothes bags on the bed and then unpacked the groceries and put them away.  Linda was hungry and feeling well enough to make a salad with arugula, dried cranberries, slivered almonds, and Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion Dressing.  Yum.  I heated a can of Amy’s Vegetable Barely Soup, washed off some black grapes, and sliced up part of the baguette that was left over from our lunch yesterday at Panera.  It seemed like it was the first meal we have sat down and eaten at home in a while.

I thought it would be good for Linda to get out of the bus and go for an easy walk.  She was still experiencing some dizziness and nausea but agreed to go.  We walked over to Pat and Vickie’s coach, which we can see from ours’, and found them at home.  They had just finished dinner and we were all going to go for an easy stroll when I noticed dark clouds moving in from the west.  Pat pulled up the radar on his phone and, sure enough, a storm cell appeared to be headed our way.  Linda was tired anyway so the stroll was called off and we walked back to our rig.

In spite of being surrounded by some 60 TV channels there are only a few that we can receive strongly enough to lock in the digital signal and they do not generally include the two PBS affiliates.  Saturday evening TV programming tends to be a bit of a wasteland anyway and we ended up watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  I eventually tuned it in on the bedroom TV as well just to have something on while I unpacked the clean laundry, put it away, and made the bed.  Linda set up the living room captain’s chairs for sleeping, took her evening medications, and snuggled in for the night.  Sleeping in a sitting position minimizes the amount of coughing during the night, which leads to better rest.  I turned off the lights in the front of the coach and retired to the bedroom for the evening.

 

BP20160318-20-f-n-r-v-detailing-brakes-fgmcr-finale

2016/03/18 (F) R. V. Detailing

I was up at 7:30 AM, fed the cats, and made coffee.  Linda got up at 7:45 and got dressed even though she was obviously not feeling well and probably did not get a good night’s sleep.  I cleaned the cats’ litter tray and then got dressed.  We were expecting Nick’s R.V. Detailing sometime between 8 and 9 AM so we wanted to be up, dressed, and done with breakfast before they arrived.  Nick called at 8:20 to let me know he was running late and expected to be here around 10 AM.

We woke to overcast skies but by 8:45 the clouds had thinned considerably and we had direct sunlight on the driver side of our motorcoach.  A couple of days ago the forecast was for a 100% chance of rain today, not good for washing and waxing an RV outdoors, but that changed to 0% with overcast skies, which was perfect for the task at hand.  Either way, the high temperature was forecast to be 87, which is probably warmer than ideal for Nick, but it will be what it will be.

The delay in Nick’s arrival gave me time to finish my coffee and doodle on my iPad for a while before getting to work.  Linda went back to bed while I finished getting the outside of the bus ready for detailing.  I was able to unsnap all of the new windshield covers using the Zip Dee Awning rod except for one snap and the entry step stool got me up high enough for that.  I needed the 3-step stool, however, to get the covers off of the upper windshield wipers.  Linda came out in time to help me roll up the windshield covers, put them in their mesh storage bag, and store them in the front bay.  I moved the two Coleman bag chairs and the folding plastic side table to the pad area behind the coach house.  We went back inside to await Nick’s arrival and worked at our computers.  Linda eventually went back to bed.

Our Verizon billing cycle ends at midnight tomorrow night and as of 8:30 this morning we had 1.7 GB of data remaining out of 12.  We have done well managing our limited data plan this winter by taking advantage of free Wi-Fi connections to the Internet at Williston Crossings RV Resort (WCRVR), Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR), and now Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR).

The Internet connection at WCRVR was outstanding; fast and usable from our coach.  The Wi-Fi at BTCRVR and FGMCR was only available at the clubhouse buildings, but at least we had that.  The speed at BTCRVR was slow but usable while the speed at FGMCR has been pretty very good.  (Our Verizon cellular data speed at Florida Grande has also been the best we’ve seen this winter.)  We added 2 GB to our data plan in mid-January for three billing cycles by downloading and activating Verizon’s Go90 app.  We have not used the app, and don’t intend to, but the extra 2 GB of data certainly has helped and will get us through the remainder of this winter season.

We don’t stream videos so for us the main data management trick has been to defer as many updates as possible for our phones, iPads, and computers until we are connected to the Internet via a park Wi-Fi system.  We were forced into this tactic when needed to upgrade our computers to Windows 10 while we were at BTCRVR in January.  While that has meant taking our devices to a clubhouse, we have often combined this with doing the laundry.  Both BTCRVR and FGMCR also have libraries (FGMCR’s was especially nice) which provided comfortable/quiet places to sit and read or use another device while one updated.

Nick’s Detailing cleaning up our coach at FGMCR in Webster, FL.

Nick and his helper showed up around 10 AM as promised and got to work detailing our bus.  The trailer that Nick tows behind his F-250 has a pressure pump, a water heater, a pair of tanks for de-ionizing water, and a large plastic tank for holding the de-ionized water.  It also has large reels for long hoses and the various spray wands and other tools needed for their work.  They even carry a large rotary brush for cleaning concrete, which is one of their other services.

Linda spent most of the day in bed.  She rarely gets sick but this is the second time this winter, and both times it has hit her hard.  I took a few pictures of the Nick’s equipment, and of the two of them working, and then retreated inside the bus to work at my computer.  Other than an occasional e-mail my focus was on editing and uploading blog posts.  I uploaded the ones for December 1 through 6 to our website and edited the ones for the 7th through the 14th.

UPS delivered my Prevost parts order around 2 PM so I took time out to check it.  I had four packages with tags whose Prevost part numbers matched the packing slip which matched what I ordered.  I did not, however, open the individual boxes.  I also took a few minutes to upload the February and March 2016 issues of BCM to our Dropbox and e-mailed the link to Steven Gullette.  Steve was out team leader on the July 2016 Habitat For Humanity build in Sheridan, Wyoming and my 2-part article was about that experience.  I got a text from Joe letting me know that he was headed our way and found a place to stay.  He was going to check in and get a shower and would see us first thing in the morning.  I texted back to confirm and let him know that the parts had arrived from Prevost.  Linda got up around 4:15 PM and had me send a text message to Mara letting her know that we would not be able to make it to the water skiing show tomorrow in Winter Haven.

Nick and Jesse finished up at 5 PM.  They had also pressure washed the car for an extra $10 so the total was $310.  That was 12 man hours of work plus equipment and product and seemed fair to me.  (I knew the price in advance.)  They used Turtle Wax Platinum automotive wax, and it looked good.  They applied it with a buffer and rubbed it out by hand.  I’ve cleaned and waxed our coach by hand, so I know how much work it is.

I was putting the water softener, pre-filter, and bag chairs away when René and Ruth stopped in their golf cart.  They are long-term renters here.  This is their 4th season at Florida Grande MCR and they rented a site for an entire year but do not plan to be here all of that time.  They noticed that we had a vendor here last week (Bill and Brenda Phelan) making our windshield covers and wanted to know where we got the tire covers.  I chatted with René for quite a while before we walked back to the golf cart and included Ruth in the conversation.  They have rented a site for a month at one of the luxury motorcoach resorts in Petoskey and wanted to know more about the State of Michigan.  I agree to e-mail some information to them later this evening.

Linda was still under the weather and wasn’t hungry but I convinced her that it might be good for her, physically and mentally, to go for a walk around the resort.  She agreed and we took a slow stroll around the front/main loop.  Back at the rig I had a bowl of granola for dinner and got a call from Pat (& Vickie) Lintner to check on the progress of our brake repair.  They also wanted to know if we would be interested in going to Epcot for a flower show sometime while we are at Jetty Park.  They would drive as they already have a season parking pass.  They also have season passes to the Disney World complex but we would have to buy day passes for $100 each.  We said we would consider it when Linda was feeling better, but I doubt that we will shell out $200 just to spend seven hours looking at flowers no matter how spectacular they are.

We have had some expenses this winter that we had not planned on, but we were glad to be able to get tire and windshield covers from Bill and Brenda Phelan while in south-central Florida and consider them a necessary investment.  They are well made and they work, and Bill and Brenda are fellow converted bus people running a small business that we wanted to support.  We were also glad to be able to get our motorcoach washed on January 1st in Arcadia and then get it washed and waxed today at FGMCR.  We have a lot invested in our home on wheels and taking care of the paint is just one of many necessary maintenance expenses.

The problem with the driver side tag axle brake, however, was something we just did not see coming.  As of this evening it is not yet resolved and thus the final cost is still unknown and unpredictable.  It’s hard to consider spending $200 to look at flowers right now but our view of that may change if/when the brake problem is resolved and the final cost is known.  What this brake failure has raised, however, is the necessity of also rebuilding the passenger side tag axle disc brake caliper and both of the steer axle disc brake calipers.  The cost just for parts is approximately $500 per hub plus $280 per axle for brake pads, if needed.  In round numbers that is $2,500 for the four disc brakes not including labor.  I expect Joe will be working on this for 4 to 8 hours tomorrow just to keep us on the road, so that’s more cost.

I don’t begrudge Joe his pay, he earns it and deserves it, and parts cost what they cost; it’s all part of owning a bus.  What I don’t like is having this happen on the road where ready solutions might not be at hand or we might be forced into a solution that is more costly than it should be.  But most of all I don’t like how it unexpectedly interrupts our winter and planned activities.  Perhaps that indicates that I do not have the necessary “roll with the punches” mindset for the converted bus lifestyle, although I think I have handled it reasonably well in the 6-1/2 years we have owned this bus.  Linda pointed out that our two prior winters were relatively trouble free but the fact is that we had issues with the bus both seasons.  At this point I do not have as much confidence in it as I want and need to have in order to fully enjoy it, but I will keep working towards that goal.

Linda went to bed at 10 PM and I continued to work on this draft blog post.  I found a PBS fundraiser concert on WUSF channel 16.1 featuring The Smothers Brothers, the Kingston Trio, and many other folk groups and musicians of the late 50’s and 60’s.  When it ended at 11 PM I switched to channel 16.4, which is the Create sub-channel, and watched an episode of GlobeTrekker before going off to what would probably be a less than completely restful sleep.

2016/03/19 (S) Braking News

I was up shortly after 7 AM, anticipating Joe’s arrival at 8 AM, and made coffee.  He texted at 7:30 that he would not be here until closer to 9.  That gave me time to enjoy my coffee and put the finishing touches on yesterday’s rather lengthy blog post.  When I tried to upload the Word file to our Dropbox I discovered that my iPad was not connected to any of our Wi-Fi networks.  It asked me for the password for each one I tried, even after restarting it twice, and when I finally entered them it would still not connect.  My computer was still online via its usual Wi-Fi connection, so I knew that our network was functioning.  I will probably have to shut everything down and restart it, but I wasn’t about to get into that this morning.

Linda got up at 8:30 still looking and feeling like death warmed over.  I poured her some coffee and then went out a few minutes later to remove the hub cap and lug nut covers.  I noticed that the sky to the north, northwest, and west was a solid mass of very dark clouds so Linda pulled up The Weather Channel radar on her iPad.  We knew that the probability of rain at our location today was forecast at 100% with the possibility of thunderstorms, but we were not happy about what we saw in the radar image.  There was a large band of rain stretching from north of us southwest into the Gulf of Mexico well south of our latitude.  The band included larger clusters with cores of strong rain indicated.  Linda put the summary in motion and the entire band was drifting due east with movement along the front from SW to NE.  There was no doubt that we would get rained on this morning, it was just a matter of when it would start, how intense it would be, and how long it would last.

At 8:50 I drive up to the trash dumpster and then drove to the clubhouse.  There was a car parked by the gatehouse so I walked over there.  The gate attendants were there so I gave them my name and site number as well as Joe’s name and explained why he was coming to visit us.  Joe arrived at 9:10 AM and a few minutes later drove right past our site.  I quickly phoned him and told him to turn around.  He did not have his “camper” (bumper-tow trailer) with him so he pulled onto the pad and drove to the very back to get his tools as close as possible to the rear of the bus where he would be working.  He had his dog, Gracie, with him.  Gracie is at least part Pit Bull Terrier with perhaps some boxer.  She has a dark brown, slightly brindled, coat and is a pretty dog.  More importantly, she is very sweet, very well-behaved, and very mindful of Joe, who has trained her well and gently.  As Joe got ready to work I grabbed my camera.

Joe got right to work on the driver side (LS) tag axle wheel and did not need any power tools.  He loosened the lug nuts using a 12x torque multiplier and a standard torque wrench.  The torque multiplier is a special tool designed just for this purpose.  It has an arm that fits over an adjacent lug nut to keep the tool from turning, thus forcing the torque to be applied to the target lug nut in the socket.  We also have one of these tools along with a 3′ long torque wrench, both of which I bought from Butch last year.

Once Joe had the lug nuts broken loose he had me start the bus engine and raise the tag axle.  As happened to the other day it did not lift the tires clear of the pad.  He had me switch the suspension to Level Low mode and raise the rear end so he could position his chassis stands under it.  He then had me lower the rear of the bus until it was resting on the stands.  Finally, he had me raise the tag axle and this time the tires lifted clear of the pad.

Joe checked to see if he could turn the tire.  He could, although he indicated that it had a lot more drag than it should.  I told him that had not been able to turn it at all yesterday.  He loosened and then removed all of the lug nuts and then removed the wheel/tire and rolled it behind the bus out of the way.  It’s a big thing; 42″ in diameter, 12″ wide, and 100 pounds.  Working on buses is not for sissies and weaklings, although as an owner the two most important and powerful tools needed are a cell phone and credit card.

Mobile mechanic Joe Cannarozzi removes the DS tag tire/wheel to get access to the brake.

With the tire/wheel out of the way Joe removed the dynamic wheel balancer and was finally able to access the disc brake assembly.  The assembly includes the caliper, the automatic slack adjuster, and the pneumatic brake actuator.  The entire assembly is mounted to a bracket (torque plate, or “spider”) that is part of the fixed portion of the axle via two large steel mounting pins that allow the caliper to move (slide) when actuated.  When facing the axle hub from the outside end the mounting points are at approximately 9 o’clock and 4 o’clock with the caliper and brake pads to the lower left towards the front of the vehicle.  (On the passenger side the caliper is to the lower right, again towards the front of the vehicle.)  The only other connection to the disc brake assembly is the air line that attaches to the brake canister.  The tag axle brakes are deactivated when the tag axle is raised so there was no air pressure in the line and Joe disconnected it.

The mounting pins are locked in by what Joe calls “wedges” which are metal pins with a partial circular notch machined out at roughly the midpoint.  The mounting pins have a slightly reduced diameter at their midpoint.  The notch in the locking pin engages the reduced diameter and locks the mounting pin in place.  The locking pin, in turn, is pulled up snug by a castle nut which is then secured by a cotter pin so that nothing can vibrate loose.  With the locking pins removed Joe was able to tap the mounting pins out and wiggle the assembly to get it loose from the rotor and then lower it to the ground.  Easier said than done; the disc brake assembly is very heavy, awkwardly shaped, and not balanced.

The first thing we both noticed was how the brake pads were worn.  The front and back faces of each pad were not parallel and the change in thickness was mirrored.  That is to say, the thinner end of one pad was opposed by the thicker edge of the other pad.  This suggested to us that the entire disc brake assembly was not square to the rotor and that over time the pads had become worn to match this misalignment.  That, in turn, suggested that the wear pattern on the pads could be forcing the caliper out of alignment on the slide pins and that this might finally have gotten to the point that that caliper got bound up on the slide pins and could not retract.

The fixed mounting holes have pressed in bushings so Joe inspected those and said they looked and felt OK.  We also inspected the mounting/slide pins and said they appeared to be alright.  I fetched all of the parts that I ordered from Prevost and opened the box with the new slide pins.  Joe compared the fit of the new pins and the old pins in the existing sleeve bearings and said that he could not detect any difference.  He had about a dozen replacement sleeves and checked the old and new pins in one of the new sleeves.  Again, he could not detect any difference.  The sleeve bearings are pressed in and pressed out.  Joe did not have the specialized tools needed to do this but also thought it was unnecessary work.

When Joe went to remove the larger inside brake pad he had a very difficult time getting it out.  Part of the pad holder is supposed to slide between two machined faces causing it to move straight in and out, but it was wedged tight.  Joe thought this was another possible reason why the brakes were dragging.  Once he got it out and removed the other (outer/fixed) pad he tried using a hand file to ease the fit.  I suggested that we try one of the new brake pads instead and he agreed.

The DS tag axle air disc brake caliper.

Before installing the new brake pads Joe used a wire brush to thoroughly clean the parts of the caliper that involved moving pieces and got a considerable amount of rust, brake dust, and general fine debris to come loose.  He also backed off the automatic slack adjuster and was of the opinion that the main actuator mechanism was moving freely and probably not what had cause the brakes to bind.  At that point Joe thought that disassembling the caliper and trying to rebuild it on site was a bad idea and I was inclined agreed.  The kit has a lot of parts and doing this outside in the rain did not seem like a good idea.  The new inner pad was a better fit than the old one so he installed it along with the new outer pad.  He then reconnected the air line to the brake canister.

Now came the moment of truth; could the disc brake assembly be reinstalled (at all), and if so, without causing excessive drag on the rotor discs.  As I mentioned before, the assembly is bulky and heavy, but the answer to the first part was ‘yes.’  The answer to the second part was ‘sort of’, but ‘sort of’ is a much better answer than ‘no.’  Joe was a able to turn the hub by hand but it was harder to turn than he wanted.  He decided to have me start the engine and slowly pump the brakes.  Each time I released them I paused while he turned the hub 1/8 to 1/4 turn.  What he was trying to do was get the new brake pads to seat and get the caliper to move straight in and out.  After several times around he was satisfied with the way the wheel felt as he turned it.  It still had a bit more drag than he wanted but he thought it would be OK.  Short of driving to a shop like American Frame & Axle in Tampa or Prevost in Jacksonville, this was the best we were going to do as a roadside repair.

A light drizzle had started around 10 AM at which point I put my camera away, got out my raincoat, and got out an umbrella which I held over Joe as best I could while he worked.  By the time Joe had the brake assembly reinstalled it was raining harder; not a downpour or thunderstorm, but a steady rain, and I had already put all of the new parts away in the front bay.  Joe reinstalled the dynamic wheel balancer and then got the tire/wheel back onto the mounting studs.  He put all of the lug nuts back on finger tight and then used the torque wrench to snug them up and pull the wheel flat against the hub.  He then had me lower the tag axle, which did not require me to start the engine, and tightened the lug nuts to 650 pound-feet using the 12x torque multiplier with the torque wrench set to 65 lb.-ft.  Why 65?  There is some loss in the gearing of the torque multiplier and Joe has found that treating it as a 10x device seems to be perfect.

Joe gave me a dollar amount for the service call and Linda wrote him a check.  I feel that he has always been fair with us and provided technically competent service with good value, so I have never argued with him about what he charged me or tried to negotiate a slightly better “deal.”  That kind of negotiating, over what amounts to pennies in the larger view, just indicates to someone that I don’t value their work or that I think they are trying to take advantage of me or even cheat me.  In the end all that does is create ill will, which is ultimately not in my best interest.  When Joe, or anyone else, works on our bus I want them to be glad to do the work and happy that we are their customer; there’s too much riding on it to have it any other way.

Joe got all of bus tools packed up and then we chatted for a while before he took off.  His timetable from this point on is a little loose but he thinks he is going to be in Williamston, Michigan, sometime in early April.  That’s only 30 miles from our house, so we discussed the possibility of him coming to our place at that time to at least service the other three disc brakes.  That would require us to get home, of course, but with the mild winter up north that might be possible.  We do not have any plans beyond our scheduled departure from Jetty Park on March 29th.

After Joe left I explained to Linda what he found, what he did, and why he thought the brake was fixed and would probably work properly now.  I then sent a short text message to Butch Williams, Chuck Spera, Pat Lintner, and Ed Roelle updating them on the status of the situation.  These are four of my five “go-to” bus guys, the fifth being Bill Gerrie from Ontario.

Pat called me right away.  He and Vickie we’re glad to hear that the problem was probably resolved and we would be arriving at Jetty Park on Monday as scheduled.  Linda had looked at the website for the home and garden show at Epcot Center and had me indicate to Pat that we would like to go assuming she is sufficiently recovered from her illness and we can find a nice weather day.

Not long after I got off the phone with Pat I got a call from Chuck.  Chuck’s interest in our brake situation is based on more than just the concern of one friend for another.  He and Barbara have an H3-40 VIP Liberty Conversion that is only one year newer than ours.  That means he likely has the same exact brake components as we do and is potentially facing the same failure/repair/maintenance issues as us.

While I was on the phone with Chuck Linda checked the Livingston County Road Commission website and found that the Spring Seasonal Size and Weight Restrictions had been lifted from all of the roads.  That meant we were clear to return home at any time.  We have had a good winter in Florida, and are looking forward to our week at Jetty Park, but we are not feeling the need to linger here to avoid freezing temperature back home.  Indeed, the last week here has been hot and if that continues we will definitely be ready to leave.

After the phone calls I made vegan cold cut sandwiches for lunch and got out our vitamins.  After lunch Linda went back to bed and I started working on the draft of this blog post.  Linda got back up around 3 PM.  By 5 PM I had finally captured the details of today’s events.  Linda spent part of the afternoon researching and purchasing Easter holiday gifts online for our children and grand-daughters.  She was out of tissues, so I drove to the Dollar Store in Webster to buy more.  When I got back I sat at the desk and edited another week’s worth of blog posts from mid-late December 2015.

As I was wrapping up my work to have dinner Adobe CC notified me that two updates were available.  That meant Lightroom and Photoshop, and we have them installed on both of our computers.  Our Verizon billing cycle was due to reset at midnight tonight and as of dinnertime we had used 10.927 GB out of 12.0.  This a bit of a game with us, and we like to use as much data as we can without exceeding our plan.

Around 6:30 PM Linda started fixing dinner in spite of still feeling pretty lousy.  She improvised an Udon noodle dish with broccoli, carrots, onions, and mushrooms and a citrus soy sauce which really gave it a spark.  She is taking OTC medications for her “cold” so she had water to drink while I had a glass of Arbor Mist Mango Moscato.  It’s growing on me.

I felt the need to get up and move around a bit after dinner while Linda felt the need to rest.  I took both of our iPads and my smartphone and walked up to the library in the FGMCR clubhouse to use the resort Wi-Fi to update them.  I had 10 app updates on my phone (estimated at 150 MB) and three on my iPad (200+ MB) while Linda had four on her iPad (200+ MB).  Rather than compete with myself I updated my phone first and then Linda’s iPad while I worked on this blog post on my iPad.  I then updated my iPad.  Even though we had 1/12 of our monthly data plan remaining at 7 PM these updates would have used over half of that.

When I was done updating our devices I walked back to our rig.  PBS out of Tampa / St. Petersburg was fundraising (again), this time featuring folk/rock/pop musical performances from yesteryear, so we left that on for background entertainment.  I uploaded one blog post from December 7, 2015 but was not in the humor to do more this evening.  I was monitoring our data usage closely and decided to update Adobe Lightroom on my computer.  It was 300 MB so I decided to defer the other three Adobe updates until tomorrow when I can take our computers to the resort library and do them there.

By this point Linda had long since gone to bed so I upgraded her laptop to ESET Smart Security 9 (SS9) which then required activation.  That was not the case on my computer and I had to go through a process of converting a username and password to a license activation key and then using that to activate the product.  While the upgrade was downloading and installing I installed the My Verizon Mobile app on my iPad.  I had to look up our account credentials but it would not let me log in.  It was getting close to midnight when our billing cycle would end and was telling me to “try again later.”  With that done I started following the procedure on ESET’s support website for updating drivers that Windows 10 is unable, or unwilling, to handle.

The ESET SS9 program was reporting that 16 or 17 driver updates were needed but I had to write them down on a sheet of paper.  These are manual, one-at-a-time, updates made by using the Device Manager to select a device, select “update driver,” and then select “search the computer and Internet for a more up-to-date version.”  If it finds one it installs it, which might then require a restart of the computer; a tedious and time consuming process for even one update.  I did 4 or 5 of these updates successfully but was too tired to do them all.  As it approached midnight we had used 11.6 of our 12.0 GB data plan and at the stroke of midnight the usage reset to zero (0).  Having successfully managed our meager 12 GB data plan (per monthly billing cycle) for the second month, squeezing out as much data as possible without incurring overage charges, I went to bed.

2016/03/20 (N) FGMCR Finale

Linda got up at 6 AM to take more medication and then went back to sleep on the sofa.  I was unaware of that at the time and found out when I got up at 7:45 AM.  I sat in one of the captain’s chairs with Juniper on my lap finishing yesterday’s blog post draft and then started today’s.  I finally got up at 9 and made coffee.

I worked most of the morning and early afternoon uploading blog posts from December 2015 to our website, taking time out for a few chores, and managed to upload the posts through December 20th.  I got a loaf of bread out of the freezer around 10 AM to let it thaw.  I made toast at noon for an easy meal.  With lots of nice puffy white clouds around, and a forecasted high temp of 79 degrees F, I put out the awnings on the driver (southeast-facing) side of the coach, turned off the residential air-conditioners, opened the windows and roof vents, and turned on the ceiling exhaust fans.  I grabbed my Tilley hat and walked the trash down to the dumpster.  I love my Tilley hat.

At 1:30 PM I powered down my computer and took it to the library at the resort clubhouse along with my iPad.  The music jam was taking place in the main room at 2 PM so I closed the connecting door.  That made the volume just about right and I enjoyed the background entertainment while I updated and blogged.  The musical genre was “country and gospel” (of course).  Not my kind of music, but the musicianship was high enough to be pleasant and the participants were obviously enjoying themselves.

When I first powered up my computer the disk drive light sputtered for a long time and the screen remained blank as though it was having trouble starting.  I powered it off, let it sit a minute, and then powered it back on.  This time the HDD light came on and stayed on, flickering slightly, which is what it normally does on startup.  It took a long time for the startup screen to appear, but it eventually did.  This behavior is, unfortunately, not unusual following updates, but the failure to start up could indicate a developing problem with the HDD.  I installed a number of updates last night, but had restarted the computer several times without difficulty.  Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) notified me that there was an update available for Photoshop CC (2015) but I already knew that; it was my main reason for going to the library to use the resort Wi-Fi connection to the Internet.

With Photoshop updated I turned my attention to updating device drivers.  As I described yesterday, this is a manual, one-at-time, process.  I got five drivers updated without needing to reboot the computer but the 6th one required a restart.  This time the start screen came up fairly quickly and I was able to connect to the resort Wi-Fi and log in without difficulty.  I then continued updating drivers.  There were two drivers for printers that we do not own, and a driver for the Intel WatchDog Timer (Intel WDT).  Try as I might, I could not locate the Intel WDT within the device manager and thus could not update it.

It’s possible the WDT is not enabled in the BIOS of my computer; from what I saw on the web not all manufacturers utilize it.  I restarted the computer to make sure things were fully installed and configured, and just to make sure it would (start up).  When the HDD light finally went out I checked for Windows 10 updates.  It reported that my device was up-to-date but ESET SS9 was still indicating an update to a driver I updated last night.  I updated it again and then restarted the machine once again.  I let it start up fully and then powered it down and went back to our coach.  I will go back later and update Linda’s computer.  I will also try to update our Rand-McNally RVND 7710 GPS navigation system, and perhaps our Garmin 465T GPS navigation system as well.  There’s a Wi-Fi Room at the west end of the clubhouse and I think I will try working there.

Back at our coach the bed was clear so I got out the computer cases.  I also needed the USB tether cables for the two GPS navigation systems.  I thought the cables were stored inside the sofa so we had to remove all of the cushions to get access to them.  As long as they were off, we rotated them.  The cables were not there so I looked in several other places before finally looking under the bed and finding one there.  Fortunately it fit both GPS units.  I packed up both of our computers, including the power supplies, my iPad, and put the two GPS units in my computer case.  I piled everything in the front seat of the car and drove back to the clubhouse, but this time I went to the Wi-Fi room.

The Wi-Fi room has four small desk tables set against the walls and a slightly larger round table in the center of the room.  Each desk table has a comfortable office type chair on casters and an outlet strip to supply AC power to portable devices.  I was the only person there and picked the desk table in the darkest corner to set up my equipment.  I got both computers plugged in to AC power and started them up.  There was a wireless access point visible in the room, so I connected to it instead of the SSID I normally use at the other end of the building.  I figured the stronger signal would provide a more reliable, and perhaps faster, connection.  I then connected the Rand-McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS navigation unit to my computer with an appropriate USB cable and turned it on.  Once it connected with my laptop the Rand-McNally Dock software opened automatically and informed me that there was an OS/firmware update available for the device and also a map update.

I did the device update first and it took about 10 seconds.  I then started the map update.  At one point it told me the download would take 13 hours to complete, and that was after it had been downloading for an hour.  The R-M map update process is almost 4 GB of data and often does not complete successful.  When that happens everything is lost and you have to start over.  Basically, you can’t do the update on a limited/metered data plan, which is why I was sitting in the FGMCR Wi-Fi room trying to do it using the resort’s Internet connection.

With the map download under way I opened ESET SS9 on Linda’s computer to see what updates it thought were available.  I tried yet again to install the update for the Microsoft Visual C++ 2012 Redistributable, and once again it did if not seem to work correctly.  Windows 10 Update said it was available, said it downloaded it, and flashed the screen about six times that it was installing, before finally indicating that everything was up-to-date.  I tried to repeat what the ESET technician did on my machine by locating and repairing the update, but unlike my computer it did not appear in the list.  It really looks like I will have to get online with ESET again and gave them work some more of their remote magic.

Next I decided to update some of the indicated drivers on Linda’s computer.  I opened ESET SS9 again, went to available OS updates screen, and wrote them down.  I was able to update four of the 11 but could not find the other devices in Device Manager.  On my computer there was only one driver of any importance that I could not locate, but Samsung and ASUS obviously do not do things the same way.  What was surprising is that ESET SS9 is identifying updates for device drivers that do not appear to exist.  I restarted Linda’s machine to make are sure everything was OK and it appeared to be.

Two other people showed up (a couple) and were web-surfing and streaming some videos on separate devices.  All of which was fine; they had as much right to do that as I had to do what I was doing, perhaps more if they are owners, but I doubt that any of us were getting great data speed.  I started the update for Adobe Lightroom CC (2105) on Linda’s computer anyway, knowing that it was approximately 300 MB and would likely take a while.  Linda has lost her voice so I texted her the status of my work and suggested that she get out a folding chair and sit outside for a while in the lovely fresh spring air and sunshine.

Another couple came in to Skype with someone but decided to set up their tablet in the Billiards Room so as not to disturb the rest of us (or keep their conversation private, or both).  A short time later the first couple left and my map download, coincidentally, speeded up quite a bit.  I initiated the update of Adobe Photoshop CC (2015) on Linda’s computer and the map download on my machine, not coincidentally, slowed way down.

I had a brief chat with Butch Williams between 8 and 9 PM EDT.  He and Fonda were also preparing to move on tomorrow from their RV Park in Huahauca, Arizona. Their next waypoint was Deming, New Mexico but he did not know if they would make it in one day.  I was finally finished with my computer and GPS unit updates by 9 PM (except for our Garmin 465T) and returned to the coach.  Linda had held dinner, which I appreciated.  We did not have to be up at the crack of dawn so we stayed up a while and watched TV before turning in for the night

 

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2016/03/16 (T) Clermont & Orlando

We had coffee, grapefruit, and cinnamon raisin English muffins for breakfast and orange juice to wash down our vitamins.  We had not made any specific plans for today but Linda still had her list of six places to visit in Clermont.  We decided we would head that way after taking care of several important chores with the bus.

The first chore was checking the water level in the fresh water tank.  We still had 1/4 tank so I deferred filling it until tomorrow.  The next chore was checking the driver side tag axle/brake.  In order to do this I had to start the bus engine, air up the suspension, and lift the tag axles.  With the tag tires off the concrete pad (and the tire covers removed) I was able to freely spin the passenger side wheel but the driver side wheel would not budge.  I removed the other four tire covers, put the tag axles back down, and moved the coach back and forth about 12 inches a couple of times before returning it to its starting position.  I then lifted the tag axles and rechecked the wheel spin.  My hope, of course, was that the driver side tag would break free but it didn’t.  That strongly suggested that the disc brake was locked up although I won’t know for sure until the wheel is removed and the brake can be inspected.  I put the tag axles back down and shut the engine off.  After turning off the chassis batteries and engine accessory air supply I put the tire covers back on.  I then texted Joe, our mobile mechanic, to let him know what I found and ask him to call me as soon as it was convenient.  Joe has been in the Florida Keys for the last month and was planning to move to Ft. Lauderdale today and then move in our direction towards the end of this week, so we were lucky to have him in the area.

The third and last chore was to check the drain lines for the bedroom air-conditioner.  I unscrewed the discharge register and removed it, giving me access to the front of the evaporator.  The evaporator has an integral drain pan and Royale Coach installed a second one under the unit.  The drain line for the integral pan comes straight out the center of the bottom, makes a quick 90 degree bend to the rear, and a couple inches beyond the rear of the extra pan makes another 90 degree bend down.  At that point the drain line from the extra pan, which runs out the center rear of the pan, T’s into the down drain, which runs straight down through the cabinet into the driver side of the engine compartment.  Just after entering the engine compartment the line turns 90 degrees to the rear until it is close to the rear hatch and then turns down 90 degrees and runs down close to the rear bumper where it ends.  If the line is not clogged, condensate from the evaporator drips into the integral pan, flies through the drain lines, and eventually drips onto the ground near the driver side rear corner of the bus.

We grabbed the Kenwood HT ham radios and went outside to open the rear engine hatch so we could inspect the drain line and Linda could observe it.  I went back in and poured a little water into the extra pan and noticed that there was some loose debris in the pan.  Linda radioed that water was trickling out so I cleaned out the pan and then poured in a larger quantity of water.  It came out onto the ground, so I knew the drain line was open at least from the T down.  I poured water into the integral pan and Linda reported that it also came out on the ground.  Well, alrighty then.  I replaced a piece of foam that seals the bottom of the opening and reinstalled the register.  I then closed the rear hatch.

The reason for all of this was that we have been running the rear A-C but not seeing any condensate on the ground.  I checked the temperature of the evaporator yesterday and it was 10 to 15 degrees below the ambient air temperature so I know the evaporator had to be producing condensate and I was curious about where it was going.  Of particular concern was any water overflowing the pans and dripping inside the cabinet as the main AC electrical panel is just below the evaporator and there are AC power relays, DC control switches, and lots of wiring just below that.

With all that taken care of we loaded the camera gear into the car and headed out of the resort and back west on CR-478 towards Webster where we picked up FL-471 south to FL-50 and headed east to Clermont.  At US-27 we went north one exit to Citrus Tower Blvd. where the Florida Citrus Tower is located.  The Tower was opened in 1956 as a monument (and tourist attraction) to the Florida Citrus industry, which was centered in this area at the time.  The citrus groves were decimated by three hard freezes in the 1980’s and the industry in this area never recovered.  We rode the elevator to the observation platform which is over 200 feet AGL, and just over 500 feet ASL.  It was quite a view even if it wasn’t of citrus groves.  The area has, in fact, “recovered” as there are at least 1,442 lakes within view of this tower and the area has become a Mecca for development with Orlando just 15 miles due east and Disney World  about 23 miles southeast.

We stopped at Publix across the street for lunch snacks/beverages.  Returning to FL-50, we continued east to Orlando to check out the route for Monday.  Traffic congestion has us rethinking how we should get to Jetty Park on Cape Canaveral.  We stopped at Bed-Bath-&-Beyond, but they do not carry the InstantPot.  We picked up FL-408 (Toll Road) back to FL-50 and headed west through Clermont.  On the way back to Webster we stopped at the Publix in Groveland.  We then continued west on FL-50 to CR-471.  I filled the fuel tank at the Shell station, which advertised $1.859 for Regular but had the pump set to $1.999.  Arrrgh.

I called Chuck while Linda fixed dinner and we discussed the tag axle brake problem.  I then called Butch but did not get an answer.  Dinner was salad and open-faced pan-seared BBQ tofu slices with caramelized onions.  We had fresh strawberries later for dessert.  We eat well regardless of bus problems.

We tried to watch NCIS, NCISNOLA, and Limitless but TV reception was spotty all night.  Butch called me back and we chatted about the brakes and battery charging.  I needed to be up early to call Prevost and then text Joe the names and phone numbers of RV parks in Webster and Bushnell where he might be able to stay.  As the name says, Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort does not accept pull-behinds.  For that matter, it does not accept anything other than “Class A” motorhomes.  Many of the units here are Prevost conversions, but certainly not all.

Linda checked the weather forecast for overnight and saw that there would be a period of about five hours with 100% humidity so we left the A-C units on all night.  We don’t care for the noise but we like high relative humidity even less, especially when it comes to sleeping.

HC View of Minneola Lake from the Florida Citrus Tower looking west.

2016/03/16 (W) Braking News

I did not sleep well last night knowing that I had to be up early to research the parts I needed to order and then call Prevost’s U. S. Parts office in Elgin, Illinois to place the order.  I got up at 5:30 AM and opened the Prevost CatBase Viewer software and found the diagrams and parts lists for the tag axles on our bus.  I also researched RV parks for Joe.  I found two in Webster, less than three miles away, and two in Bushnell, about nine miles away.

I ate one of the apricot bear claws and then called Prevost U. S. Parts and got connected to Gary.  He spent an hour and 15 minutes working with me trying to figure out what tag axle we actually had.  He also informed me that the disc brake calipers were no longer available; Prevost did not have any in stock and could not get any more as Meritor had discontinued production.  That was not what I expected when I got up this morning and set the stage and tone for the rest of the day.  I ended up ordering a “Left Side” major rebuild kit, a slide pin kit, and a set of brake pads, but not with complete confidence that they were the correct parts or that we would be able to use them.

I was on the phone when Linda got up so she made our morning coffee.  A little while later she blended frozen strawberries, bananas, oatmeal, flax seeds, vanilla almond milk creamer,  and a couple of other things into very thick smoothies and put them in the refrigerator.

In the course of the day I spent time online researching possible alternate sources and made phone calls to ABC Bus Co. in Oakland, Florida and American Frame and Axle in Tampa.  It was not a positive experience and by late morning decided to shift my attention and effort to other tasks.

First up was filling the fresh water tank.  The level appeared to be about 1/8th (15 gallons) and I decided to drain the tank before refilling it.  The last time I drained the tank was in November just before we left for the winter.  I have usually waited to refill the tank until it was down below the 1/3rd level, and usually down between 1/6th and 1/8th, but that means (hypothetically) that some of the water from the original fill up in November remained in the tank.  Being a hot, sunny day, and being parked on a concrete pad, I figured it was a good time/place to dump the tank.

I refilled the fresh water tank to the top with 120 gallons of softened water and checked the hardness of the water coming out of the softener at the end.  As best I could read the test strip it was somewhere between 1.5 and 3.0 gpg.  That meant it was probably time to recharge the softener.  I entered the data into my spreadsheet and it confirmed that I have removed about 8,500 grains on the current charge.  The tank claims to be a 10,000 grain device.

Speaking of water softening, Mark Schumaker (from A-1 water Conditioning), was at the Webster Flea Market on Monday.  We bought our current portable water softener from him in Gillette, Wyoming in the summer of 2013.  I have always found this unit difficult/awkward to recharge, but he now has a newer system that involves a special valve assembly for the softening tank and uses a separate brine tank.  That is exactly what I am looking for, so I may have to give Mark a second chance.

My next task was doing the laundry.  As long as I had to go to the laundry room we decided to use the showers at the clubhouse.  I put in a call to Chuck but caught him on the golf course and we agreed to talk later.  I started two loads while Linda showered and then she kept an eye on the machines while I showered.  When I returned to the laundry room Linda was using the resort Wi-Fi to Facetime on her iPad with our daughter.  I added the towels to a third load of laundry and joined the conversation.  When we were done talking Linda walked back to our rig while I stayed to finish drying the laundry.  I called Pat Lintner to discuss the best route to get to Jetty Park.  He and Vickie suggested FL-91 to FL-528.  Both are tollroads, but it’s the easy/breezy route.  Joe called me in response to my earlier text messages.  He was wondering if the rebuild kit required any special tools and asked me to check on it.

When I got back to our coach I called Prevost Parts again and was connected to Eduardo.  He took my number, did some digging around, sent me a couple of e-mails, and then called me back.  Yes, it appeared that I might need a couple of specialized tools, and no, Prevost did not have them in stock anywhere.  He did, however, give me the name of the manufacturer (Kent-Moore) and manufacturer’s part numbers (J-34064-51 & J-34064-52) of the two tools.

I searched online for these tools but mostly found listings for the Kent-Moore J-34064-B Rockwell-Meritor Dura-Master Brake Tool Set – Complete.”  Many of the listings were on Ebay, were very used, and prices were all over the map.  By this time I was wishing it was Wednesday last week rather than Wednesday this week.  I had hoped to upload more blog posts today but that was clearly not going to happen.

I took a break for lunch, which was hummus, pretzels, and carrot slices.  We opened the caramelized onion hummus.  It reminds me of California Dip made from Lipton’s Onion Soup mix.  Yum.

I had a reply from ESET a couple of days ago with some additional suggestions about how to get Smart Security 9 to properly synchronize with Windows 10 Update.  We fiddled with ESET Windows 10 update notifications on Linda’s computer and realized that her machine is still running Smart Security 8 and needs to be upgraded.

Joe called back and I brought him up-to-date on what I had (not) accomplished today vis-a-vis the tag axle brake.  Chuck called back as well and we spent quite a bit of time going over the brake situation.  We did not necessarily resolve anything, but there is great comfort in being able to discuss such issues with friends who are fellow converted bus owners.  They get it, and their empathy is genuine and informed.

Around 4 PM I logged in to the FMCA website and went through the registration process for the FMCA GLAMARAMA 2016 rally.  At the very end the website said an error had occurred and to call the office.  So I did.  Bridgett took all of our info and passed it over to accounting for processing.  Linda noted a short time later that the credit card charge appeared to be pending twice.  Linda won’t know if that is actually the case until it posts to our account.  FMCA is a big enough organization that they should not be having these kinds of eCommerce issues with their website.

We got a couple of Yuengling beers out of the refrigerator and went outside to sit in the shade.  The midday sun was brutal today but as soon as it got lower in the western sky it was lovely outside with moderate breezes and comfortable humidity.  We were just getting ready to relax and enjoy our brew when Joan stopped by with her dog Toby.  Toby is a very friendly miniature Schnauzer and we appear to be his new best friends.  Joan had barely continued on her walk when a couple stopped at the end of the pad (by the street) and the man held up his right hand, Palm facing us, and pointed to it.  That is the universal sign of greeting between Michiganders (or Michiganians) and we was pointing to where they were from in the Lower Peninsula.  It took me a moment to realize that I recognized them from Williston Crossings where we were parked next to each other in December.  It was Ken and Pam from Grand Rapids.  They arrived yesterday after spending the winter at Williston Crossings.  We chatted for a while and then they continued their walk.  We got the impression from a distance that they were not very friendly and so we did not interact with them much at WCRVR.  Our loss; they were perfectly wonderful people.  I think Pam was just shy.  Shame on us for not reaching out; we certainly know better.

The light was fading and we were not hungry for dinner yet so we drove to the CVS store in Bushnell.  We bought a Florida SunPass transponder to use with the bus as our only good route from Webster to Cape Canaveral is via the Florida a Turnpike and another tollroad.  The transponder can be moved between vehicles and used with the car in tow behind the bus.

When we got back Linda made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches with deli slices for dinner along with fresh strawberries.  We watched a PBS program on WW II British military intelligence.  Linda went to bed at 11 PM and I stayed up to watch Charlie Rose.  I then went to bed and worked on this blog for a short while before turning out the lights at 12:30 AM.  It had not been an easy day and I went to sleep tired and discouraged at the turn of events regarding our rag axle brakes.

The Florida Citrus Tower in Clermont, FL.

2016/03/17 (R) Linner at Papa Joe’s

The last few days have been hot with daytime high temperatures in the mid-to-upper 80’s.  The relative humidity has been moderate, leading to clear skies and intense sunshine, but there has been a persistent breeze which has helped keep things comfortable, especially in the shade.  The coach is not in the shade, however, and we have kept the awnings in because of the wind, so we have been running our air-conditioners all day.  By late afternoon, with the sun lower in the sky, the air temperature moderates just enough, without a significant rise in relative humidity, to be very pleasant; the kind of weather conditions that are perfect for just sitting outside with a cold beverage and relaxing.  As the temperature drops after sunset the relative humidity rises and approaches 100% for some period of hours before and during sunrise.  That does not make for good sleeping so we have also been keeping the air-conditioners on all night.

With the day I had yesterday I needed a good night’s sleep.  Still, I went to bed discouraged and frustrated and did not sleep that well even though I was very tired and fell asleep quickly.  I was up this morning at 7:30 AM and made coffee.  Linda was up by 8 AM.  We had cinnamon raisin English muffins for breakfast.  Linda’s focus this morning was tax returns.  I had a long list of things I wanted to get done and knew before I started that I would not accomplish all of them.

I started by putting a call in to Billy at American Frame and Axle regarding the brake caliper rebuild but had to leave my name and number.  I got a text from Joe and replied to it.  I heard back from Billy a short time later.  He does not have a mechanic working on Saturday mornings so the earliest he could rebuild the tag axle brake calipers would be Monday morning.  He seemed to think, however, that we would not have a problem doing the work ourselves.  I texted that information to Joe and then turned my attention to other things.

Linda texted Linda Whitney (K4YL) regarding getting together for dinner.  Linda W suggested we meet for linner (a late lunch / early dinner) at Papa Joe’s which is in between their house and our resort.  They agreed on 2:30 PM as the time, which avoids the lunch and dinner crowds.

The wind was light-to-calm today so we deployed the awnings on the coach to shade the windows.  We configured the water softener for a brief backflush and then set it up for recharging.  With that process underway, Linda went into work on tax returns while I dumped the waste tanks.  Once the waste tanks were drained I added TechRx to the toilet and sinks and updated the spreadsheet I use to track water usage and softener capacity.  I then settled in to work on updating the MS Outlook 2013 address book entries for our FMCA GLCC chapter.

Updating records like that is slow, tedious work.  I set a timer on my phone for 20 minutes to check on the water softening process.  I did that repeatedly over a two hour period, so that further slowed my updating work.  The softening process was all done by 1:15 PM and I checked the hardness coming out of the softener.  It was higher than 1.5 gpg but closer to that number than to 3.0 gpg which is the next color patch on the scale.  That reading was both annoying and discouraging as it was essentially the same reading I had before I started the regeneration.  That is not the first time this has happened and it may be the case that the salt brine was not completely flushed out of the softener.  I will check it again after the next fresh water tank fill.

At 1:30 PM we started getting ready to go to linner at Papa Joe’s in Brooksville.  It was an easy 30 mile drive to the restaurant, which is just north of FL-50 (Cortez Blvd) on Spring Hill Highway.  We were there at 2:20 PM and got a table.  Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (K4YL) Whitney arrived a few minutes later.  The food was good and we all ate too much.  We lingered past 4:30 and finally went our separate ways.

We were back by 5:15 PM and decided to go for a walk.  It turned out to be a long one as we followed the paved road that runs through the Phase 2 part of the property to the maintenance and construction building way back in the woods. In sight of the building we followed a wide path to the left that had been mowed through the grass.  It turned out to follow the road system for Phase 2 with all of the infrastructure clearly visible.  We were almost around the last dry “pond” when the mowed path ended.  Since we were wearing shorts and sandals we chose not to hike through the brush and had to turn around and walk back the way we came.

A fairly dense cloud cover had developed and the wind had come up from the NNW so when we got back to our coach we put all of the awnings back in.  Nick’s R.V. Detailing is supposed to be here tomorrow so Linda pulled all of the tire covers off, folded them up, and stored them in the car.  We will remove the new windshield covers tomorrow morning.

I had hoped to update my e-mail addresses for current GLCC members and create a set of new, smaller e-mail groups but I did not get that far.  (I also need to investigate creating an e-mail group in QTH cPanel.)  I need to have an efficient and accurate way to send information to the chapter members and my immediate need is to notify GLCC members to register through FMCA for GLAMARAMA16 and then let me know if they want to park with the chapter.

I had also hoped to take care of some computer update issues today but did not get them done.  These included upgrading ESET SS8 to SS9 on Linda’s computer and resolving update notification synchronization issues between ESET SS and the Windows 10 Update service on both of our laptops.  It’s also possible that we might have to manually update drivers on both computers.  I did manage to edit another blog post from December 2015 but did not get any posts uploaded.

Linda thinks she is coming down with a cold and but is running a fever and developed chills.  That did not sound like a cold to me.  She put on her denim shirt/jacket and got Juniper on her lap.  I put on the PBS NewsHour but she fell asleep before it ended.  She woke up later and stayed up until 10 PM to take more Tylenol and then went to bed.  I stayed up and watched a program on PBS about the Battle of Gettysburg followed by Charlie Rose and then went to bed.  I did not have any more communication with Joe this afternoon or evening so I presume he will not be here first thing in the morning.  Nick’s R.V. Detailing and Pressure Washing is scheduled to be here tomorrow, however, so we will have to be up and ready to go before they arrive.

 

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2016/03/09 (W) Groveland, Publix, Updates

I was busy interacting with Bill and Brenda, and photographing their work, for much of the morning yesterday as well as diagnosing/fixing the problem with the charger section of the Magnum 4024.  The charger problem took me past lunchtime and a return call to John Palmer to let him know that it was resolved, at least for now.  We were sitting during the afternoon when Joan and Bill (from Boston) stopped by with their miniature schnauzer, Toby, and sat awhile to visit.  As a result I did not start working on yesterday’s blog post until after we had eaten dinner and gone for a walk.  I was up until The Late Show with Stephen Colbert ended at 12:30 AM (on Wednesday) but did not quite finish the post.

For the record, the Magnum 4024 appears to be working again (for now) and the house batteries were back up to full charge by last evening.  After much consternation yesterday the “fix” turned out to just be a reset of the unit.  The “trick” was following the directions in the manual.  Easy enough to do, and it doesn’t require very many words to describe, but it took a lot of time to get to that point and rule out other possible problems.

We were both feeling tired this morning, and perhaps a bit lazy, and did not get up until 8 AM.  While Linda made oatmeal from scratch with raisins, dates, and walnuts I fiddled with the rear TV and antenna trying to tune in stations.  I tried using the www.antennapoint.com website to locate TV transmitter towers but it said there weren’t any within 60 miles.  I knew that wasn’t true and I have had problems with this website the last few times I have tried to use it, so I’m done with it and used the TVFool.com website instead.  It found four dozen towers within 60 miles, but none closer than 53 miles.  Most of the stations were in three clusters, generally corresponding to Tampa (195 degrees), Ocala (350 degrees), and Orlando (90 degrees).

We have the front antenna at position ‘8’ which is approximate the 2 o’clock direction relative to the nose of the bus, which is the 12 o’clock position, and is currently pointing south of due west at 255 degrees.  That means the antenna is pointed in the general direction of the Ocala area stations, but we seem to only be picking up the Tampa area stations with signals that are strong enough to lock onto.

The rear TV/antenna is finding signals from both Tampa and Ocala but is unable to lock on to any of them.  I turned it to position ’14’, which is approximately the 6:30 orientation on the bus and corresponded to east, towards Orlando.  When I rescanned I was finally able to pick up some stations that the TV could lock onto.  The rear TV antenna, however, has been defective since the day I installed it which was, unfortunately, over a year after I purchased it.  Thus, it was out of warranty before I ever applied power to it.

When I was done playing with the TV I made our morning coffee and we sat down to breakfast while the coffee brewed.  After breakfast Linda played her morning word games while I finished yesterday’s blog post and started today’s post.  Linda made a grocery list and then got dressed and went for a walk while I continued to write.

Linda located a Publix supermarket on FL-50 in Groveland approximately 3/4 of the way to Clermont.  The city of Clermont is about 23 miles east of Webster and a few miles west of US-27.  It is the historic center of the Florida citrus industry and a place we plan to visit at least once while we are staying at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR).

US-27 is the highway we used to go to South Florida several times last month.  It runs northwest from Miami and then turns north, more or less paralleling the Atlantic coast of Florida some distance inland.  It passes along the west edge of Lake Okeechobee and passes near a string of towns that include Sebring, Frostproof, and Winter Haven before reaching the Clermont area.  From there it turns northwest and runs through Ocala and Williston, eventually reaching Branford where it turns more westerly towards Mayo and the Florida panhandle.  Having spent winter 2014 in Williston, traveled home by way of the panhandle, and then returned to Williston by way of Mayo for Dec 2015, we have probably traveled as many miles on US-27 in Florida as we have on I-75 or any other particular road.

We left at 10:15 AM to drive to the Publix.  We headed west back into Webster, dropped south on FL-471 about 5 miles to FL-50, and headed east.  It was a nice drive on FL-50 eastbound and the terrain became slightly hilly as we passed through Mascotte just before reaching the supermarket on the west side of Groveland.  We were back at our coach around 12:30 PM and split an apple for lunch.

We both had multiple updates pending for our iPad and smartphone apps, and numerous updates for the Windows 10 OS on our laptop computers, so we wanted to use the resort Wi-Fi to download and install the updates.  I shut down and packed up our computers and iPads and we drove over to the library room in the clubhouse.  I checked the Wi-Fi signal strength with my phone and it was strong enough to use so we set up all of our devices.

I did not count them all, but I estimated that we had between 60 and 70 updates across our six devices, requiring somewhere between 1.5 and 2.0 GB of data.  Linda’s updates completed smoothly and more quickly than mine as my ASUS laptop appeared to hang up on the download of the OS update.  I ultimately shut down and restarted my computer to get things moving along again.

As we were getting near the end of the process the Internet connection went out.  We were still connected to the Wi-Fi but had no Internet access so I walked around to the office to see if they knew about it and needed to reset the gateway.  They did know about it because it affected them too, and Joann said it happens with some regularity, often around mid-afternoon.  By the time I returned to the library the connection had been restored.  Linda walked back to our coach at 3:30 PM but it took me until 4:30 PM to complete my computer updates.

After I got back to our coach and set up my computer we went for a walk around the resort.  Back at our coach I off-loaded the photos I took on Monday and Tuesday from my camera to my computer.  I processed one of Mara, Michael, Linda, and me (that was taken by someone at the RV park) and e-mailed it to Mara.  I processed three photos of our bus at our site at Florida Grande and five photos of the window covers that Bill and Brenda Phelan made for use yesterday.  I uploaded the photos to a couple of Dropbox folders and e-mailed the links to Brenda, Chuck Spera, and Ed Roelle.

For dinner Linda made a salad with a kale and arugula base, tomatoes, almonds, dried cranberries, and firm teriyaki tofu, and used an Asian sesame dressing.  So good.  Dessert was fresh strawberries, blueberries, and bananas.  After dinner we poured a couple of small glasses of white wine and sat outside enjoying the cool night breeze and looking at the stars.  We agreed that it was the first night since we arrived in Florida on December 1st that the weather conditions seemed perfect for just sitting outside after sunset.  We also agreed that our initial experience of FGMCR is very positive.

I texted Al Hesselbart to see if he is still at Breezy Oaks near Bushnell.  If he is we will probably drive over there tomorrow for the 2 PM music jam and then go to dinner.  I checked my e-mail and had replies from Ed Roelle and Brenda Phelan.  I also had one from Christy Budai letting me known that the chapter certification paperwork for our FMCA GLCC chapter had finally been submitted.

We do not have the same TV stations here that we had in Arcadia and the PBS stations we can get do not carry the same programming.  That left us without our usual Wednesday evening science and nature shows.  Linda is tired most nights by 10 PM and headed off to bed before 10:30.  I stayed up working on this post and caught some news, weather, and the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

2016/03/10 (R) Coyote Rojo Redux

I was up at 7:15 AM and Linda got up a few minutes later.  I did not start recharging the Verizon Mi-Fi soon enough last night, and did not leave it plugged in overnight, so the battery died and it went offline sometime before I got up.  I plugged the charger back in, got our network back online, and then made coffee.

Sometimes it takes a while but I eventually think of things.  It occurred to me this morning that I can cycle the charge on the house batteries while the coach is plugged in to an external source of AC power.  All I have to do to draw down the charge is turn off the charger section and let the DC loads run off the batteries.  Why this had never occurred to me before, and why it finally did this morning, I have no idea.  Perhaps it was because I finally had a problem in need of a solution.  I am not 100% confident about the charger section of the Magnum 4024 at this point and noticed yesterday that at Full Charge the indicated voltage was a bit higher than 25.2 VDC.  The weather forecast for today, however, is SE winds at 10-to-20 MPH with gusts to 30 and a high temperature of 87 degrees F; probably not the day to be playing with the house DC power system.

I had not gotten a reply to the text message I sent Al Hesselbart last night so I called him.  He picked up right away and reminded me that he does not send or receive text messages.  He was out fishing with a friend on Lake Panasoffkee and did not expect to be back in time for the 2 PM music jam.  He was open to having dinner and thought they would be back by 5 PM.  He agreed to call me when they were leaving the Lake and we would agree on a time to meet at the Mexican restaurant near Bushnell.

Al was the executive director of the RV&MH Museum and Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana for many years and then served as the museum’s historian for quite a while before retiring.  He full time RVs in a 1977 Newell that he moves back and forth between Breezy Oaks and Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, Indiana.

Linda moved the cats’ litter tray out of the shower and then went for a walk.  I took a shower, got dressed, and started processing more of the photos of Bill and Brenda Phelans’ RV Windshield Covers of Florida mobile workshop and the process they went through to measure, make, and install the external mesh window covers for the cockpit of our bus a few days ago.

The residents across the street and to the left had low decorative stone flower bed borders installed on Tuesday.  The five man crew was here all day so we had dust and noise from the saw, but they finished in one day and the result was very nice.  The husband, Pete, was out front this morning so I walked over to compliment him on how nice they looked and ended up chatting about the park.  He invited me to see their “villa’ (casita, coach house, etc.) so I went back to our rig and got Linda.  The wife, Eleanor, arrived a few minutes later in their golf cart.  We got a nice tour of their lovely villa and had a nice chat about the resort.

I was working on photos and Linda was reading when we decided that the wind was strong enough to warrant stowing the awnings.  In spite of the wind they were easy enough to roll up and it only took a few minutes.  We were concerned about heat gain through the uncovered windows on the south facing driver side of the coach so we pulled the opaque white MCD night shades down half way.  We opened all of the awning-style Windows wider than usual and turned on the roof vent exhaust fans.

Linda made teriyaki tofu and arugula pocket sandwiches for lunch, after which I continued to work on the photos.  I finally uploaded 40 image files to the Dropbox folder I created yesterday for this purpose and e-mailed Brenda to let her know they were there.

I also sent the folder link to Gary, at Bus Conversion Magazine, to see if he would be interested in an article about their converted EMS/ambulance that serves as a live-aboard mobile workshop for their business.  Bill and Brenda had converted a couple of buses before buying a Super C motorhome.  They also ran the Arcadia Bus Rally for the last five years, after assisting Jack and Paula Conrad for the first 11 years, so they know their way around conversions.  They are well known to the magazine and the bus conversion community and I think it would make a good article as Gary transitions BCM from being strictly bus conversions to encompass the broader concept of mobile dwelling conversions.

In spite of the 85 degree afternoon high temperature our rig stayed acceptably comfortable even with the awnings rolled up.  The wind was steady at 15 to 20 MPH out of the south with lots of puffy clouds and the relative humidity was 45%.  As a result we had good airflow through wide open windows and out the three roof vent exhaust fans, which I had running on speed 2 of 3.  The cockpit was still warm, but not like it was before we got the custom windshield and cockpit side window covers.

Juniper (our female cat) likes the heat and slept up on the co-pilot/navigator seat like she always has while Jasper slept on my swivel chair, then in his carrier on the floor, then on our bed, and finally tucked himself away on the tile floor on my side of the bed at the rear of the living area, which is the coolest place in the bus in the afternoon when we are parked facing west.  In the late afternoon we sat outside in the shade reading and it was incredibly pleasant.  Even though it is almost spring, this is why people go to Florida in the winter.

I called Al at 5:25 PM and they had just gotten back to the dock.  They needed to drive back to Breezy Oaks so Al could shower, change clothes, and get his car.  He said he would call when he was ready to head to the restaurant as we are approximately the same driving time away.  We agreed to meet at Coyote Roho, just west of Bushnell.

We decided to leave at 6 PM without waiting for Al to call so we could check out downtown Bushnell.  The restaurant was only a 9.6 mile drive, which our iPad Map app said would take 19 minutes, and Bushnell was a couple of miles short of that.  Driving north through Webster we found the Farmer’s and Flea Market site and farther up the road the site of the county fair.  The parking lot was full and the amusement rides lit up the area like it was Times Square.  There wasn’t much to Bushnell so we drove through to the Walmart parking lot to await Al’s call.  We were only there a short time and decided to go on to the restaurant and get a table and have a drink while we waited.  As we arrived at the restaurant Linda realized that I had two missed calls and a voice message from Al indicating that he was leaving at 6:15 PM.  I called him back and he answered as he was pulling into the parking lot.

We have only eaten at Coyote Rojo one other time, and that was back in December when we drove down from Williston to visit Al at Breezy Oaks and listen to the Thursday afternoon music jam.  Our recollection was that the food was good, so we were looking forward to dinner as well as conversation with Al.  Linda and I ordered the vegetarian fajitas and a vegetarian burrito and split them.  We were underwhelmed by our food but the server was attentive and we enjoyed spending time with Al.  We stayed at the restaurant talking long after we had finished our meals but all good things come to an end, or at least have to take a hiatus, and it been a long day for all of us.  Al is headed to the FMCA rally in Perry, Georgia all next week so we probably will not cross paths with him again for a while.

On the drive back to our resort the clouds had cleared off and the low humidity resulted in very bright stars.  This was the first time we had entered FGMCR at night and it was understated but grand with the street lights lining the curving entrance road and the main level of the clubhouse subtly illuminated.

Linda prepared fresh strawberries and blueberries for dessert and we watched our usual Thursday evening TV programs on CBS.  I put the finishing touches on today’s blog post and then went to bed.

2016/03/11 (F) FGMCR Happy Hour

I was up at 7:30 AM, fed the cats, made coffee, and cleaned the bean grinder.  Linda was up shortly thereafter and we had orange juice with our vitamins.  Breakfast was Publix Premium brand cinnamon raisin English Muffins, which are not really muffins at all.  Muffins are small cakes whereas English Muffins are bread.  We had them with vegan cream cheese and jam.

Linda went for a walk after breakfast.  I checked e-mail and corresponded with Brenda Phelan and Gary Hatt regarding a possible article for BCM on Bill and Brenda’s EMT/ambulance mobile workshop truck conversion.  I then settled in to upload blog posts for mid-November, starting with the one for the 13th, and worked on that task until time lunchtime.

For lunch Linda used whole wheat pita pockets to make sandwiches with vegan deli slices, vegan cheese, and lots of arugula.  We had red grapes and sweet-hot-garlic pickle slices to go with our sandwiches.  After lunch we went for a short walk.  Linda had a letter to mail and while we were at the mail room we took pictures of the cards listing sites for sale.

Back at our rig, Linda marked the sites on our resort map so we could check them out on one of our future walks.  I continued uploading blog posts and Linda decided to go swimming.  I was going to walk over at 3 PM to join her but I got a phone call from Bill Gerrie at 2:45 PM and was on the phone with him for about an hour.

Bill and Karen live in Limehouse, Ontario and are members of our FMCA GLCC chapter and the CCO group.  We talked about buses and rallies, of course, and a little bit about politics and food/health.  He and Karen are planning on attending the FMCA GLAMA rally (GLAMARAMA) in June along with Joe and Mia Temples and another couple who live near them.  Mike and Kathy will not be coming, however, as Mike is not well.

Linda called to see if I was coming to the pool but it was too late in the day by that point.  I finished uploading the blog post for November 17 and then got ready for the official resort happy hour.

Friday’s at 5 PM is FGMCR Happy Hour at the clubhouse; BYOB and a dish to share.  Linda uncorked and then stoppered our bottle of Moscato and packed it along with two of our polycarbonate wine glasses, a container of caramelized onion hummus, and our container of Snyder’s sourdough pretzel nibblers.  We put on our FMCA National Education Committee name badges and I grabbed my RVillage Ambassador hat and we started walking to the clubhouse.  We got as far as Bill and Joan’s rig just as they were backing out.  They offered us a lift and we accepted.

The happy hour turned out to be more of a “carry in” (pot luck) and the only thing we could eat, besides the stuff we brought, was fruit salad.  Even so, we had our fill.  We had not tried the caramelized onion hummus before.  It was very good and reminded me of the California dip we used to make with Lipton onion soup mix.  We sat with Bill and Joan and two other couples; Artie and Carol from Rochester Hills, Michigan, and Bob and Sandy from Valparaiso, Indiana.  After we were done eating one of the residents provided some comic entertainment.  Apparently entertainment is not usually part of the happy hour event.  We would not be regulars if it was.

Like the Wednesday morning “coffee” at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, the happy hour was not what I was expecting and did not give us a chance to mingle and meet people other than the folks at our table.  Happy hour was over by 6:15 PM and many of us returned to our coaches while some stuck around to play poker or hand-in-foot.

Back at our rig I checked the inside of the driver side tag axle wheel for signs of an oil leak by looking under the coach between the passenger side drive axle and tag axle tires with a flashlight.  The wheel appeared to me to be dry and there was no sign of oil on the concrete.

Since we did not have a lot to eat at happy hour Linda made a simple mixed fruit salad for us.  There wasn’t anything on TV that interested us, at least not on the stations we could receive at FGMCR.  We ended up watching a fundraiser presentation on PBS/Create about heart health that included food and fitness.  Most of the doctor’s advice about food was already known to us and some of it we disagreed with, based on what we have learned from Dr. Michael Greger at NutritionFacts.org, but we did find the five markers of metabolic syndrome interesting.  We were also reminded (confirmed) about the role of “white carbs” (simple sugars and highly processed carbohydrates like flours) in elevating triglycerides and cholesterol and contributing to the formation of plaque in the blood.  I was going to make popcorn, but after watching this program it did not feel right, somehow, and we went to bed popcornless.

 

2016/03/04-06 (F–N) BTCRVR Conclusion

2016/03/04 (F) Pre-departure Prep

I was up much later than normal last night trying to write my blog post for yesterday, get our network back online, and get my computer usable again.  I managed to do all of that, and was finally able to check my e-mail and off-load the photos I took earlier in the day to my computer and back them up to our NAS.  I saw some late night TV programs along the way and it was 2 AM when I finally got to bed.  On the plus side, I was tired, fell asleep right away, and slept well until 6 AM when the rain and the cats woke me up.  I got up, closed the roof vents, put a scoop of food in their bowls, and went back to bed.

Linda walks a lot but finds it difficult to just stand, and we did a lot of standing yesterday, both at the Edison Ford Estates and on the drive through the Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, so she was a bit sore and tired from yesterday’s outing.  She got up around 7 AM this morning and I got up to stay an hour later.  I made coffee and she toasted bagels, which we enjoyed with some of the vegan cream cheese she picked up the other day at Publix.

We only have three nights left for this winter season at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) and we have been trying to prepare for our departure on Monday in small increments.  Chores that we accomplished before lunch included:

  • (B) Checking the bus tire pressures. I had to add 2.5 PSI to the passenger side steer tire.  That required me to get the air compressor out, along with the hose and air-chuck, and then put it all away; a lot of work for 2.5 PSI, but it had to be done.  It  reminded me, however, of how much I would like to have a built-in high pressure air-compressor and tank with distribution lines running to the four corners of the bus and terminating in air hose fittings.  That would allow me to just use a short (curly) air-hose that is easily moved to each position and takes very little space to store.
  • (B) Checking the windshield caulk. It was a mess and had water behind it that apparently kept it from setting up (curing) correctly.  I tried to fix it by pressing the water out but that just made a bigger mess.  I was going to test it for leaks with a hose but changed my mind after seeing the mess that was already there.
  • (B) E-mailing Pat and Vickie about the March 11 rocket launch at Cape Canaveral.
  • (L) Vacuuming the interior of the bus and mopping the floor.
  • (L) Cutting my hair.
  • (B) Calling Butch. He and Fonda were still in Quartzsite but planned to leave tomorrow or Sunday and take 3 to 4 weeks to get home.  Butch was actually in Phoenix with a ham radio buddy on their way to the Ham Radio Outlet (HRO) store when I called but was able to chat for a while.

Lunch was vegan hot dogs and sliced apples.  After lunch Linda got a text from her sister, Sr. Marilyn, informing us that her 50th Jubilee is scheduled for August 6 (this year).  That immediately changed our plans for the second half of this coming summer and the first half of the fall.  Our plan was to attend two RV rallies in the northeast U.S. and then visit the Prevost Car Inc. factory in Quebec enroute to the Canadian Maritimes, from which we would work our way back through New England in the early fall, arriving home by mid-October in time for Nickolas Guy-Erickson’s wedding on the 21st.  I was going to call FMCA today and register for the national rally in Springfield, Massachusetts, but the dates are August 3 – 6, so that clearly was not going to work.

We are committed to attending the Escapees RV Club 56th Escapade in Essex Junction, Vermont, which starts Sunday, July 24th, as we are both working the event as staff.  We will have to be there sooner, but do not know the exact date yet.  Departure will be on Friday the 29th, which gives us plenty of time to make it to St. Louis, Missouri before the Jubilee.  Still, the news suddenly left us with a whole lot of new decisions to make.  It will also allow us to attend the August CCO/GLCC Back-to-the-Bricks Rally in Clio, Michigan, and the September GLCC Surplus & Salvage Rally in Elkhart, Indiana.  Indeed, it opens up the possibility of building the barn this summer and/or having Daryl Mech, from DCM Heating and Cooling, install a new air-conditioning system for the house.  The one thing we knew for sure was that we were not going to travel from Vermont all the way to Missouri and then turn around and head to Quebec or the Maritimes.  That will have to wait for some other year.

Our afternoon chores included doing the laundry and updating my iPad, which I did while waiting for the laundry.  But first I loaded up a few additional recyclables and drove over to the Turner Center to drop them off.  There was some sort of problem at the NW corner of FL-70 and Turner Avenue that involved police, fire, and EMS vehicles and personnel, and had traffic tied up in every direction.  I managed to make the turn from westbound FL-70 onto Turner (which only goes north from there) but decided not to return by that route.  I headed east from the Turner Center but was not able to cut through Arcadia Village as the north (rear) entrance is gated.  The first available north-south road that went through to FL-70 was many miles farther east, but it made for a nice drive in the country.  I stopped at Walmart for grapes and bananas before returning to our RV resort.

We had planned to go swimming in the late afternoon and then take showers but it did not work out that way.  I would normally dump the two holding tanks before we travel, but I did not want to this time as I want to slosh the ingredients around on the drive from Arcadia to Webster.  As such, I am trying to get them reasonably full, but not so full that I have to dump them.

For dinner Linda made nice, large salads.  After dinner Linda went down to Mara’s motorhome to take care of her cats.  I called Chuck but he did not pick up so I left him a message.  Friday night TV is a bit of a wasteland so I edited the last few blog posts for November 2015.   I then selected a photo that Linda took of me standing in front of a Mysore Fig tree at the Edison Ford Estates to use in her next PhotoPostCard for Madeline.  She also made a post card for our grandniece, Lilly, using the photo of the baby alligators from Everglades National Park.  I found a photo of Lilly that her mom, my niece Amanda, had taken and set that to Linda to use to make a “sticker” to put on the photo post card.  I decided to purchase a license (lifetime) for the Faststone Image Viewer software and took care of that.

When Linda returned from her cat sitting duties we made the bed, had a few grapes and a small glass of wine (Barefoot Riesling), and turned in for the night.

2016/03/05 (S) Mara & Michael Return

It was pleasantly cool last night, with temperatures in the 60’s at bedtime and headed towards an overnight low in the upper 50’s; in other words, perfect sleeping weather.  And sleep we did.  Linda got a text message from Mara letting us know that she and Michael were waiting to disembark from the cruise ship and indicating that they had a wonderful time.  They were planning on stopping at a Whole Foods Market and wanted to know if Linda needed anything.  Linda requested plum vinegar, seitan, and vegan ricotta cheese, items we cannot find in Arcadia.

Linda got up around 8:15 AM and showered.  I got up at 8:30 AM, made our coffee, and then took my shower.  As a result of these showers, which we were going to take at the shower house, I am going to have to make some decisions today or tomorrow relative to dumping our holding tanks and adding fresh water.  We don’t need very much fresh water in the on-board tank for the trip to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster on Monday and I would like to dispense with that weight in favor of keeping the black- and gray-water tanks mostly full.  The idea is that the motion of the coach will create an agitation effect which will help clean the tanks.  (I don’t really expect that it to happen, but it’s worth a shot.)

We had a slow leisurely morning as we lingered over our coffee and had granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast.  Linda and Mara arranged for the four of us to have dinner together this evening so she made a grocery list.  I downloaded a new game named Wood Puzzle and tried it.  It’s a little bit like Tetris, but without constantly moving pieces, so it was somewhat fun.  I was never a big fan of Tetris.

Linda left at 10:30 AM to tend to Mara’s cats and then walk to the Winn-Dixie supermarket.  I got dressed, checked my e-mail, got the registration code for Faststone Image Viewer, and entered it into the software.  I checked the notifications in RVillage and visited the RVillage Stakeholders Group.  Curtis had posted a link to an “explainer video” so I e-mailed the link to our iPads.  I then gathered up the bedspread and large bath towels and headed to the laundry room.

While I was waiting for the laundry I finished yesterday’s blog post, uploaded it to our Dropbox, started today’s post, and played a few games.  The laundry was finally dry at 1:30 PM and I returned to our coach.  Linda had already returned, done some prep work for dinner, and was out walking around the resort when I returned.  She wanted to shop at Joshua Citrus one more time before we left so she drove there while I settled in to work on uploading blog posts!  My goal was to upload the remaining posts for October 2015, starting with the one for the 21st.  I accomplished that goal just before 6 PM.

Mara and Michael got back to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort mid-late afternoon and arrived at our coach for dinner at 6:30 PM.  Linda found a recipe for vegan Parmesan cheese and made some earlier in the day.  She used it to make a kale salad with almonds and a lemon dressing.  It was outstanding.  The main course was a quinoa and black beans dish that she has made before.  It was served hot and was a good choice for a cool evening.  She bought an Alamos Malbec wine (Argentina) and a bottle of Barefoot Moscato, but I was the only one drinking white wine so I finished the Barefoot Riesling we opened earlier this week.  Dessert was non-dairy chocolate ice cream with fresh sliced strawberries.

We had a good chat about Mara and Michael’s experience on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.  There were a few speakers that we heard on the two cruises we went on, but an equal number of new speakers that we have not had the opportunity to hear in person.  Mara bought four cookbooks and left them for Linda to peruse.  It was very satisfying for us that that they had such a good experience since we were the ones that got Mara interested in the cruise and she got Michael to come along.

They left a little before 9 PM and walked back to Mara’s rig.  We watched an episode of Lucifer and then parts of two different fundraiser concerts on PBS; Brit Floyd and The BeeGees One Night Only.

2016/03/06 (N) Last Day Here

The cats were prowling by 6 AM so I got up, added food to their bowls, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and went back to bed.  It was already getting light and the birds were starting to chirp as if their calls were somehow responsible for the rising of the sun.  Squirrels and rabbits were, no doubt, scurrying about on the ground around our rig, as Juniper was taking it all in with her usual morning intensity.  Juniper got under the covers between us for a while and we drifted in and out of sleep in rhythm with the cats activities until 7:30 AM when we finally got out of bed to stay.

It was a bit chilly in our motorcoach, so I put on my sweats and slippers.  I made our morning coffee and then settled in on the sofa with my iPad and monogrammed throw.  I was joined by Jasper and later by Juniper as we listened to the Mockingbirds and Crows and watched the Vultures soar just above the trees as they headed out on their daily search for food.  Linda perused the cookbooks that Mara left, looking for recipes, while I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s blog post and started on today’s.

Today was our last full day at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) in Arcadia, Florida and we did not have any big plans other than a trip to one of the local supermarkets and dinner with our friends, Mara and Michael.  Mara and Linda definitely wanted to use the swimming pool one last time.  We leave tomorrow morning and Mara and Michael are pulling out on Tuesday.  We are headed north about 100 miles to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida.  Mara and Michael are headed north a much shorter distance to the Thousand Trails Preserve in Wauchula on the Peace River.  We plan to meet up with them again in Winter Haven for a quintessentially “old Florida” water skiing show.  They might also drive over to Jetty Park while we are there to see a rocket launch, assuming it actually lifts off as scheduled on the 22nd.  It is an Atlas 5 resupply mission for the International Space Station, so it would be quite an experience.

BTCRVR has been a nice, comfortable place to spend a couple of months this winter and has provided the base of operations we hoped it would for exploring south and southwest Florida.  The resort is a bit older with approximately 80% park model trailers, and I estimate that more than 90% of the units here never move.  It is a 55+ community, but most of the residents are quite a bit older than that.  It is a clean, well-kept, and attractive park, however, with nice facilities and very friendly people.

Big Tree is also an active park, with regularly scheduled events every day (morning, afternoon, and evening) as well as special events like concerts, dinners, and dances.  These activities are well attended from what we saw, and lots of folks walk, ride their bicycles (and tricycles) every day, and use the swimming pool.  Many permanent residents have their own washer and dryer so I never had a problem getting our laundry done in the laundry room.  Although the park did not have a distributed Wi-Fi system, it did have free Wi-Fi available at the office/activity building and we made use of it for downloading updates for our smartphones, iPads, and notebook computers.  Given that we updated both of our computers from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 while we were here, the Wi-Fi was very much appreciated, allowing us to use our 12 GB Verizon data plan for routine tasks such as e-mail, banking, visiting websites, browsing for information, and transferring files, all of which we prefer to do in the comfort of our coach.

I took care of sending an e-mail to a dozen friends and family members and then settled in to upload blog posts starting with November 1, 2015.  Linda went to the swimming pool at 12:30 PM and I joined her there at 3 PM.  Mara and Linda were sun bathing when I arrived but joined me in the shallow end of the pool where we sloshed around and chatted about the whole-food plant-based approach to human nutrition and our travel plans for the next year or so.  We were soaking in the hot tub / whirlpool when Michael arrived and pulled up a chair.  We all chatted briefly and then Linda and I took showers and returned to our coach.  We called our son-in-law, Chris, to wish him a happy birthday.  I then resumed uploading blog posts.  By 5:30 PM I had uploaded the posts through November 12, 2105 and stopped.  We were due at Mara’s rig at 6:30 PM for dinner so I took a short nap.

Linda gathered up Mara’s WFPB cookbooks and we walked over to her rig at 6:25 PM.  Michael served the wine and we chatted for an hour while Mara pulled dinner together.  She made a salad of julienned vegetables with a sesame seed dressing.  The main dish was quinoa, lentils, sweet potatoes, and broccoli.  Dessert was a chocolate mousse made with avocado, banana, and cocoa and served with fresh raspberries and a piece of dark chocolate.  Seriously, with food like that why wouldn’t you be a vegan?

It was going on 9 PM by the time we finished dinner so we stayed and watched the final episode of Downton Abbey.  All’s well that ends well, I suppose, and the final two hours of the series did, indeed, end well.  It was one of the most popular (most viewed?) programs ever to air on PBS, and deservedly so.  Fortunately there is a lot of quality programming available on the PBS channels and Masterpiece Theatre, along with Masterpiece Mysteries, will no doubt continue to draw large numbers of viewers in the years to come.

When we walked back to our motorcoach at 10:50 PM the night air was very crisp, the sky dark and clear, and the stars very bright.  Orion hung high in the southwest sky and the Big Dipper claimed the northeast quadrant.  If not for the light pollution of the RV resort it was the kind of night where we might have seen the Milky Way.  Back at the coach we put on a PBS program about the WW II WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) and one women in particular who went on to continue flying into her late 80’s and logged over 40,000 hours of flight time before she stopped recording it.  We are moving to a new RV resort tomorrow so I had the lights out before midnight and quickly drifted off to sleep.

 

2016/03/03 (R) Edison Ford Estates

Our plan for today was to visit two places in southwest Florida that we had not gotten to yet; the Edison Ford Estates in Fort Myers, and Sanibel/Captiva Islands.  As usual when we plan to leave early and be away from the coach for the day we did not make coffee or eat breakfast.  Linda walked down to Mara’s motorhome to tend to her cats while I took care of ours.  I then loaded the camera gear and a few other things in the car and drove down to Mara’s rig to pick up Linda.  We stopped at the local Bank of America ATM and then at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a bagel for Linda.  (I had my vegan apricot bearclaw pastries from Publix.)  Suitably provisioned we headed down FL-31 to Fort Myers.

Linda stands by one of the many magnificent trees at the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Estates.  Fort Myers, FL.

Linda stands by one of the many magnificent trees at the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Estates. Fort Myers, FL.

The southern terminus of FL-31 is at FL-80.  From there it was about five miles (west) to the city limit of Ft. Myers.  We continued on FL-80 through downtown, which is an attractive and very upscale part of the city, to where it ends and turns into McGregor Boulevard.  Shortly after turning onto McGregor we pulled into the parking lot for the Edison Ford Estates complex at 9:30 AM.

The Edison & Ford Estates abound in botanical delights.  Fort Myers, FL.

The Edison & Ford Estates abound in botanical delights. Fort Myers, FL.

The Edison Ford Estates is a historical complex that preserves the winter estates of Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford on the east bank of the Caloosahatchee River in Fort Myers, Florida.  The Edison estate was named Seminole and the adjacent Ford Estate was named The Mangoes.  There are two identical houses on the Edison Estate and a more modest house on the Ford Estate.  Other buildings and structures include caretaker quarters, garages, a small office for Edison, a swimming pool, a cistern and water system, gardens, and lots of exotic trees.  When it was originally developed the Edison Estate included a pier that extended 1,500 feet out into the Caloosahatchee River.  It had trains and transport cars and was initially used to bring in all of the materials to build and landscape the Estate as these had to get to the site by ship.

Both men were workaholics and although they only used these estates for a few weeks in the winter they worked as well as socialized while here.  Indeed, Edison had a lab on the property where extensive work was done on trying to find a plant source of latex, the key material needed to make rubber, which could be quickly and easily grown in the U.S.  Edison and Ford, along with Harvey Firestone, formed a biological research company to finance this research, and presumably profit from any positive outcome.  Some 17,000 plants were tested and the one that emerged as most viable was Goldenrod.  Ford and Edison had almost 1,300 patents between them, and Edison is still the only person to have been awarded at least one U.S. patent every year for 65 contiguous years.  His greatest invention, however, could not be patented; the modern research and development laboratory.

Bruce poses by one of the large trees at the Edison Ford Estates.  Linda used this image for one of the weekly postcards she made and had sent to grand-daughter Madeline.  Fort Myers, FL.

Bruce poses by one of the large trees at the Edison Ford Estates. Linda used this image for one of the weekly postcards she made and had sent to grand-daughter Madeline. Fort Myers, FL.

We wrapped up our visit to the Edison and Ford winter estates at 2 PM and headed on down McGregor Boulevard, the boulevard of Royal Palms, towards Sanibel Island.  Our initial destination on the island was an organic vegan cafe named Sanibel Sprouts.  We did not have any trouble getting onto the island or getting to the restaurant but the traffic backed up to exit the island reminded us of our recent experience in the Florida Keys and was more than a bit concerning.

For lunch we split the Mexican salad.  The salad used a base of arugula, a dark leafy green with its own unique, slightly peppery taste that was very well suited to the dish.  A vegan “taco meat” mixed with ground walnuts added depth and texture, and a dressing with cumin tied it all together.  We then split an order of waffles which consisted of two waffles topped with strawberries and bananas and served with real maple syrup.  Both dishes were excellent and I asked the cook how the waffles were made.  She indicated that they used the King Arthur brand gluten-free general purpose baking flour (rice flour based), Earth Balance soy-based vegan butter substitute (5 scoops), almond milk, and vanilla flavored Stevia sweetener.  They were fluffy, light, crispy on the outside, and very tasty.  Yum.

The two Edison winter homes are mirror images of each other and joined by a covered walkway.  Edison Ford Estates, Fort Myers, FL.

The two Edison winter homes are mirror images of each other and joined by a covered walkway. Edison Ford Estates, Fort Myers, FL.

After lunch we continued deeper into Sanibel Island.  We saw a sign for the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and pulled in.  There was a one-way road through a section of the Refuge but it was a “U. S. Fee Area” ($6 per car).  We checked to see if Linda’s Golden Access Pass was valid for entry.  It was, so we went in.  Although the skies had become overcast the drive through the Refuge was an unplanned event and an unanticipated treat.  We got see a variety of birds but the highlight included two different opportunities to see White Pelicans, one of which also included Roseate Spoonbills and other birds.  White Pelicans are the second largest bird in the continental U. S. (Behind the California Condor) with a wingspan of nine (9) feet.  We also saw a couple of alligators which surprised us as the water here is connected to the Gulf of Mexico.  Indeed, the tide was coming in while we were there.

The Edison-Ford-Firestone partnership maintained an active, working laboratory on the Fort Myers estate that had year-round staff.  Edison and Ford only spent a few weeks each year at their winter homes, but worked whenever they were here.  Fort Myers, FL.

The Edison-Ford-Firestone partnership maintained an active, working laboratory on the Fort Myers estate that had year-round staff. Edison and Ford only spent a few weeks each year at their winter homes, but worked whenever they were here. Fort Myers, FL.

From the end of the drive through the NWR we continued on to the north end of Sanibel Island and drove over the short bridge to Captiva Island.  We drove to the end of the road, turned around, and drove back.  There is a lot of “island commerce” on Sanibel Island.  Captiva Island, by comparison, is mostly residential, vacation rental, and resort properties.  Many of the homes were massive, elaborately landscaped costal properties.  I estimated that houses of 3,000 to 4,000 square feet were common, 5,000 to 6,000 square feet were numerous, and some of them had to be 10,000 to 15,000 square feet.  We tend to think of the really expensive real estate in Florida being in places like Naples, Marco Island, Miami Beach, and West Palm Beach, but it’s hard to imagine that any of them are more expensive than the island mansions we saw on Captiva Island.

Rare White Pelicans at the J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary on Sanibel Island in Florida.  The White Pelicans are the second largest birds in North America, and the largest members of the pelican family.  This photograph does not do justice to their size, which includes a nine foot wingspan.  The pink birds (lower right) are Roseate Spoonbills.

Rare White Pelicans at the J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary on Sanibel Island in Florida. The White Pelicans are the second largest birds in North America, and the largest members of the pelican family. This photograph does not do justice to their size, which includes a nine foot wingspan. The pink birds (lower right) are Roseate Spoonbills.

The drive back down Captiva and Sanibel was smooth and flowed right along as far as the restaurant.  At that point we encountered the traffic backup we had seen coming in.  Traffic was not moving at all and people were pulling out of line and turning around.  Our map showed that there was an alternate way to get back to the causeway.  We suspected that the turn-arounds were locals who were headed that way so we decided to do that as well.  The traffic could not be worse and we would get to see a different part of the island.

That proved to be the case and we were only in a stop-and-go back up for about 10 minutes instead of the one-to-two hours I figured it would take if we stayed on Periwinkle Way.  We were off the island by 6:45 PM and headed back to the mainland on FL-867.  Fairly quickly we were on FL-865 headed more easterly but on a faster road.  We eventually got to US-41 (the Tamiami Trail) and headed north.  Not too far along I spotted a Panera and we stopped to get coffee.  We continued north as far as Colonial where we headed east to I-75.  From there it was five miles north to FL-80, three miles east to FL-31, and 36 miles north to our RV resort in Arcadia.

An alligator just shows its head (left center).  J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary, Sanibel Island, FL

An alligator just shows its head (left center). J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary, Sanibel Island, FL

We got back to our coach at 8:10 PM.  Linda grabbed a flashlight and the keys for Mara’s rig and walked down to take care of her cats.  I unloaded the car and then took care of our cats.  I planned to check my e-mail and then settle in to watch our usual Thursday evening TV programs, but my computer and the scheduled programs altered my plan.

This Ibis was a little farther behind this alligator than the photos makes it appear, but not that much.  Being behind an alligator is not necessarily any safer than being in front of one.  J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary, Sanibel Island, FL.

This Ibis was a little farther behind this alligator than the photos makes it appear, but not that much. Being behind an alligator is not necessarily any safer than being in front of one. J. N. “Ding Darling” National Wildlife Refuge & Bird Sanctuary, Sanibel Island, FL.

Our e-mail servers were not responding so I shut down my computer and all of our network/comm equipment and restarted everything in a specific order.  Disaster!  My computer would not log in and claimed to have missing authentication components.  This is the second time my ASUS laptop has crapped out since I upgraded it to Windows 10, and I was pretty unhappy about it.  At this point I do not have any confidence its stability, especially its update process, and think it was clearly not ready for release.  Unfortunately not upgrading really wasn’t an option.

I watched Charlie Rose on PBS followed by Tavis Smiley and a program on Black artists.  That was followed by This Old House and Ask TOH.  I think I restarted my computer several times before it finally “healed” itself and allowed me to log in.  With all of those TV programs as background I finished most of this post, off-loaded photos, and backed them up to the NAS.  I tried my e-mail again and was finally able to access it.  It was 2 AM when I finally went to bed, which had not been my plan when I got up this morning.

 

2016/03/01–02 (T–W) Politics and Nutpods

2016/03/01 (T) Super Tuesday Nutpods

Today was officially our fifth month away from home this winter; not full months, of course, but the fifth month by name nonetheless.  I got up briefly at 6:45 AM to add food to the cats’ bowls and went back to bed.  With less pestering from the cats we slept in longer than usual and did not get up until just before 8 AM.

The shelf-stable Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer that we ordered online.  We had high hopes for this product based on the reviews, but it disappointed us.

The shelf-stable Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer that we ordered online. We had high hopes for this product based on the reviews, but it disappointed us.

I made coffee and tried the new Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer that arrived yesterday.  To our mutual disappointment, it separated almost immediately.  I was able to blend it back in by stirring, but it would just separate again if I let it sit.  We were both disappointed.  The reviews of this product sang its praises and made special note of it not separating like other non-dairy creamers.  We bought four containers of it for $3.50 each, so I will use them up, but we won’t be buying any more of them.  What we both find odd is that we do not recall having this problem at home where I have used unflavored soy-based creamers for a long time.  The only obvious difference between the bus and the house is that we have a dishwasher (machine) at home, but neither of us think this is related to the mugs not being clean on the bus as they are washed in soapy hot water.

Breakfast was granola with fresh blueberries and a small glass of juice to wash down our vitamins.  After breakfast Linda went to Mara’s motorhome to take care of the morning cat chores and I settled in to work at my computer.  I dealt with BCM- and SLAARC-related e-mails and investigated why the ES|ET Smart Security 8 software on my ASUS notebook computer was apparently not synchronizing with the Windows 10 update function.  I discovered in the process that there was a Smart Security 9 upgrade available so before requesting technical support I installed the upgrade.

While the upgrade was downloading and installing I called Ed and Betty Burns and arranged to meet them for linner at Sweet Tomatoes on University Parkway in Sarasota at 3 PM.  We needed to drive to Petco for cat food anyway and the restaurant is just across the street.  Since they now live in Florida, no longer work at the Middleton’s berry farm north of Detroit during the summer, and have given up RVing (at least for now), we probably will not see them again any time soon and wanted to visit with them one more time before we left south(west) Florida for the season.

When Linda got back I turned off the outside water and tested the fresh water pump.  It appeared to be working normally, so I left the outside water off and we resumed using the pump.

I proofread yet another draft of the April issue of Bus Conversion Magazine and marked up a few final corrections to my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle conversion.  Soon enough it was 1 PM and time to leave.

We stopped at the Shell station on FL-70 in Lakewood Ranch and filled up the tank.  Regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) was $1.79 per gallon.  A week ago I bought fuel at this same station for $1.56 per gallon.  We arrived at the Petco, in the massive University Town Center shopping district, at 2:20 PM.  They were out of the exact food we needed (Royal Canin Sensitive Digest Thin Slices) but had the loaf form of the same food so we bought all nine cans of that.  That will be enough to get us past Mara and Michael’s return from the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.

We were at Sweet Tomatoes by 2:50 PM and had just started to go for a walk when Ed and Betty drove by, so we turned around and met them at the front door.  We were at the restaurant for almost two hours and had a good meal and a nice chat.  We talked about our upcoming travel plans and Ed and Betty, who have taken care of some important medical issues, indicated that they are thinking about getting a Class B or B+ motorhome or possibly a pull-behind RV.  There is an outside possibility that we might cross paths with them in the Canadian Maritime provinces over the summer.  Towards the end of our meal Ed and Janet Roelle showed up with Nathan.  We chatted briefly with them, said “fair well for now” to everyone, and headed back to Arcadia.

We stopped at the Publix supermarket on FL-70 in Lakewood Ranch for a few grocery items we cannot get in Arcadia.  (It should be noted, however, that Publix is building a supermarket in Arcadia.)  We got back to our coach just before 6 PM and spent a few minutes with our cats, both of whom were very glad to see us and wanted our attention.  At 6:20 Linda walked down to take care of Mara’s cats and I walked down about 30 minutes later.  Linda had the TV on and “Super Tuesday,” with 11 states holding presidential primary elections, dominated the news cycle.  We walked back to our rig at 7:45 PM under dark, clear skies and bright stars.

We watched NCIS and NCISNOLA but Limitless was preempted by Super Tuesday election coverage so we found a documentary on PBS about the Statue of Liberty and watched that.  Linda fell asleep before it was over but it was followed by an equally interesting documentary on the public health hospital on Ellis Island that operated for nearly 30 years in the early 20th Century.

2016/03/02 (W) Windshield Caulk

Our day started, as it usually does, with coffee, breakfast, and iPads.  While Linda tended to Mara’s cats I made a few changes to the ES|ET Smart Security 9 settings on my computer.  I then selected and processed three possible post card photos from last week and e-mailed them to Linda’s iPad.

When Linda got back from tending to Mara’s cats and motorhome she worked on creating this week’s photo post card for Madeline and uploaded it to the PhotoCardApp service in San Diego, California.  She then got to work on tax returns.  I finalized the bonus photo captions for the BCM featured bus article on Dave Aungier’s 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion, uploaded everything to my Dropbox, and e-mailed the magazine staff to let them know it was there.

The motorhome that was next to us on the passenger side for most of the winter pulled out on Sunday.  On Monday the resort put another rig in that site.  It stayed for two nights and pulled out this morning.  We never even met the people.  Early this afternoon the resort brought in another rig, a 42 foot 5th-wheel being pulled by a suitably large pickup truck.  Phil, from the resort office, was the escort and parking attendant.  I popped out to see if I should move my car and Phil said it would help, so I backed deeper into our site and well out of the way.  It took some doing but Phil managed to get the rig backed into the site.

As long as I was outside I had several chores to take care of before we pull out of here on Monday and today seemed like a good day to take care of a couple of them.  I found some silicon spray lubricant and managed to pull the emergency breakaway key out of the lock on the front bumper of the car just far enough to spray some in.  I let it sit a minute and then wrapped what was left of the tethered cable around my hands and pulled hard enough to finally get it to come out.  With the key out I sprayed the inside of the lock and on the key and then inserted and removed the key several times.  I sprayed a bit more, put the key back in, and let it sit.

Our new neighbor was outside setting up their rig so we got to meet him.  His name was also Phil and his wife’s name was Marylou.  Phil was retired from the U. S. Army and they recently became full-time RVers.  We chatted briefly and met their two adorable Dachshunds.  We let them get back to the task of setting up camp and moved on to my second chore, which required Linda’s assistance.

The other day I pulled the caulking out from between the new passenger side lower windshield and the new windshield gasket.  I let it sit a couple days to see if the gasket would reform to the glass as a result of warm temperatures and hot sunshine.  It didn’t, so I got the tube of black caulk I found the other day and got it ready to use.  I used the small 3-step stool to get high enough to work and Linda prepared several wet paper shop towels.  I applied the caulk, which is designed for window trimming and should work with glass, to the gap between the windshield and the gasket.  Linda held the windshield wiper out of the way while I worked and handed me the wet paper towels as needed.  I did not do a very good job but hopefully it was good enough to keep the windshield from leaking water and prevent wind noise.  The caulk was water cleanup, so that made it easy to take care of putting everything away.

By 4 PM the outside air temperature was about 80 degrees F with a nice breeze, scattered clouds, and a hot sun.  That made for very pleasant conditions outside in the shade, but inside it was 85 in spite of having the windows open and the exhaust fans running.  Linda went outside to read and I was having a problem getting my laptop to connect to the NAS so I shut off my computer and the NAS and went outside to join her.

As we move towards spring we have the sun on our windshields for more of the day and are now getting the late afternoon sun on the passenger side of our motorcoach.  Linda commented that if we ever buy an RV lot somewhere she wants it oriented and/or landscaped so the passenger side of the coach is always in shade.  Duly noted and agreed.

I worked on this blog post for a while using the new MobiSystems OfficeSuites app.  Now that I have figured out how to use it with Dropbox, and have learned how to create folders and move files, I am satisfied with how it works and might go ahead and spend the $19.99 for the full-featured “Premium” version.  Not that I am using most of the features of the free version, but why limit myself.

We skipped lunch today and by 4:30 PM Linda was hungry so she went inside to prepare our dinner.  I played a few games on my iPad and when the sun dropped below our patio awning and obscured my screen I went inside.  Linda had just set our salads on the table so it was good timing.  She made large salads with a kale and spinach base and lots of yummy toppings including sliced fresh apples.  She put our monthly dose of four Brazil Nuts on the side and served still water with half of a Meyer lemon squeezed into each glass.  I eat faster than Linda does so I packed up our computers and iPads and loaded them in the car while she finished her dinner.

When Linda was done eating we grabbed our smartphones and drove over to the activity building.  Dominoes and pinochle are scheduled on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM in the main room, but the library was not scheduled for use so we set up our technology in there.  We got both computers, both iPads, and both smartphones connected to the resort Wi-Fi system and then connected through to the Internet.  I had ~300 MB of app updates for my iPad and Linda had ~425 MB of app updates for hers.  I had six app updates on my phone and Linda had three.  Those tend to be smaller than the iPad updates but probably totaled another 200 MB combined.  We both had critical updates for Windows 10 and have no idea how many MB they were since Windows 10 does not think that is information the end user needs to know.  People using limited data plans, however, probably differ with Microsoft on this point.

Folks started showing up for the games at 6 PM and they were underway by 6:30.  Linda’s devices were all up-to-date by then so she walked over to Mara’s motorhome for her evening cat chores.  I finished up with my updates by 6:45, packed up our tech toys (tools), and drove back to our rig.

Wednesday night is PBS nature and science night for us and the theme this evening was space exploration.  But first we had to get tuned in to the results of yesterday’s Super Tuesday primary elections.  After three hours of space exploration documentaries Linda went to bed while I watched Charlie Rose.  He had four guests, two from each end of the political spectrum, and they provided their analysis of the current presidential candidate race, to the extent that anyone understands what is going on.  Reassured that the world really is in chaos, and that the American electorate has crossed the boundary into collective insanity, I went to sleep.

 

2016/02/25-29 (R – M) Sand Castle Stallions Port

2016/02/25 (R) Siesta Key

We were up at 6:30 AM this morning and did not have coffee or breakfast.  We picked up Mara and Michael at 7 AM and headed west on FL-70 towards Bradenton.  Our destination was an endodontic office in Lakewood Ranch were Mara had an 8 AM appointment for a root canal procedure.  As we were coming into town Michael spotted a Dunkin Donuts.  Location duly noted.  I pulled up to the office building at 7:55 and we all went in.

The endodontist said the procedure would take about an hour.  Michael stayed to wait for Mara while Linda and I drove back to the DD for coffee and something to eat.  The DD was in a small shopping plaza next to a Shell station so I topped off the car’s fuel tank before we topped off ours’.  I bought regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) for $1.56 per gallon.  We were getting ready to leave DD when Mara texted Linda that she would be longer than originally thought.  The tooth needed a filling and the dental practice next door just had a cancellation and could take her right away.  That was fortunate for Mara as she and Michael are leaving on Saturday for a week long cruise.  She also wasn’t sure she could get in to see her dentist before July, which was much too long of a time to rely on the temporary filling the endodontist had put in place.

With Mara’s dental needs taken care of we headed west on FL-70 to I-75 south to Exit 207 and then west to US-41.  A short jog to the right (north) and back to the left and we were on Siesta Key Drive headed west to the island of Siesta Key.  We drove through the town, which was very quaint (upscale trendy, actually) and found a place to park with public access to the beach.  The Siesta Key beach is very fine white sands, reputed to be the finest and whitest of any beach in Florida.  We walked quite a ways south from our entry point past the main public entrance and numerous lifeguard stands, all of which were staffed.  The wind was strong and the waves were high and I took a few photos.

A group of Royal Terns face into the wind on Siesta Key Beach.  Siesta Key, FL.

A group of Royal Terns face into the wind on Siesta Key Beach. Siesta Key, FL.

When we got back to the car we exited the island via the southern bridge and drove down US-41 to Venice.  We found a parking spot, which is not easy in Venice, and walked around the historic downtown area, which is now a mix of quaint and upscale shopping and lots of places to eat.  It is a very attractive area but there were a lot of people there.

We were just window shopping when we walked past the TableTop store.  As the name suggests, they sell a wide variety of products used to set a dining table.  We looked around to see if they had plastic wine glasses but did not see any.  We were just about to leave when we spotted one.  It was smaller than we wanted so we asked if they had others.  They did, we just did not see them!  They were not plastic, however, but were made of polycarbonate.  That’s the same material used for contact lens blanks and motorcycle visors.  It felt heavy duty and had a slight bluish cast.  The sales associate assured us that they could be cleaned in a dishwasher and would not discolor, craze, or crack, and will not break even if dropped on concrete (although we do not intend to test that claim).  We bought four of them at $15 each.

Mara and Linda play in the fountain in Venice, FL.

Mara and Linda play in the fountain in Venice, FL.

When we had seen enough of Venice we returned to the car and drove a short distance to Cafe Evergreen in Nokomis for linner.  I had the veggie (vegan) burger and Linda had the vegan beet Rueben.  Mara had the stir-fry noodle dish, which both of us have had before, and Michael had the Chana Masala.  Our waiter, by his own admission, was having an off day but the food was good and we took our time enjoying it.

When we were done with our meal we were also done exploring for the day and I drove us back to Arcadia.  On the drive back we discussed plans for tomorrow, which included Solomon’s Castle in the late morning, Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in the mid-afternoon, some before and after errands, and a picnic lunch.  Back at the RV Resort we dropped Michael and Mara at her RV and then returned to ours.  We watched our Thursday night CBS TV programs and had some popcorn later in the evening.  We headed to bed at 11 PM, watched a few minutes of Charlie Rose, and then went to sleep.

2016/02/26 (F) Castle Stallions

Our two main attractions today were Solomon’s Castle, near Ono, Florida and Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions near Myakka City, Florida.  Both locations were within 25 miles of Arcadia and each other, so we did not have to endure an excessive amount of car travel.

We picked up Mara and Michael at 10:15 AM, stopped at the local Wells Fargo bank branch, and then headed west out of town.  At the edge of town we headed north on FL-661 towards Ono.  We turned onto CR-665 and five miles later turned off onto Salomon Road to the parking lot of Solomon’s Castle.  We had the address in the GPS, but there were occasional old hand-painted signs confirming the route.  We arrived just before 11 AM, when the “castle” opens for tours, but the parking lot was already crowded.  We bought our tickets for the 11:30 tour and then strolled around the part of the grounds between the parking lot and the castle while we waited.  Horse Creek runs through the property, much of which was wet.

Michael and Mara by the horse statute near the entrance to Solomon’s Castle.  Ono, FL.

Michael and Mara by the horse statute near the entrance to Solomon’s Castle. Ono, FL.

Solomon’s Castle was built by, and is still the home of, Henry Solomon and his wife.  Henry, who is about to turn 81, is an artist who has been creating art objects for 76 years.  Much of the main floor of the castle is an art museum, although the walking tour includes the living room and kitchen.  Other living spaces are on the second floor and were not part of the tour.  There is also a guest bedroom available to rent for $125 per night but I do not recall if an overnight stay included breakfast.  There is, however, a scale “replica” of the Santa Maria that houses part of the onsite cafe and is run by Solomon’s daughter and her husband, who live in a separate house on the property.

Solomon’s Castle and his art are quirky.  Although we did not get to meet him, we came away with an image of his sense of humor, and caught a glimpse of him in his workshop while we were walking the grounds after the tour.  Solomon works in a variety of materials but mostly metal and wood, and mostly with discarded scrap materials including food cans, beer cans, and parts/pieces of automobiles.  I took quite a few photos while we were there.  I don’t know what our son’s professional opinion of Solomon’s corpus would be, but some of his pieces were interesting and we had to respect the sheer quantity of work he has produced.  He seemed to have a particular interest in Picasso, copying several of the master’s works in wood montage.

Mara, Michael, and Linda on the grounds of Solomon’s Castle.  Ono, FL.

Mara, Michael, and Linda on the grounds of Solomon’s Castle. Ono, FL.

From the castle we continued north on CR-665 up to FL-64, the Florida Cracker Trail, and then west about five miles to Wauchula Road where we headed south to Myakka City.  At FL-70 in Myakka City we headed east about 1/2 mile and pulled in to a local park on the north side of the road that affronted the west bank of the Myakka River.  The picnic tables were all bolted to the concrete slabs that served as the floors of the open-sided shelters so we ate our lunch in the shade.  The air temperature was in the mid-60’s, and there was a breeze, so we ate with our jackets on.

After lunch we headed west on FL-70 to the other side of Myakka City were we turned south on Singletary Road.  About seven miles down we found the entrance to the Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School complex.  Hermann’s is the home of a group of Lipizzaner horses that tour North America.  The original horses were part of the 500 Austrian Royal Lipizzaner horses rescued by General George Patton at the end of World War II.  Gabby Hermann is the matriarch of the current operation and the original horses were brought to the USA by her father.  The Lipizzaner horse was first bred in Austria in 1565 from Arabian and Andalusian stock.  Six lines were produced and new Arabian and Andalusian stock have been included in the breeding since that time to avoid the negative effects of inbreeding.

Gabby Herman exercises one of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in training.  Myakka City, FL.

Gabby Herman exercises one of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in training. Myakka City, FL.

Hermann’s has open rehearsals (performances) every Thursday and Friday at 3 PM and Saturday at 10 AM when they are not touring, weather permitting.  These are not “dress rehearsals” as the houses and riders are not fully costumed the way they would be for a show while on tour.  They do, however, put the horses through all of their maneuvers.  The rehearsals take place in an open air arena connected to the nearby stables with a pair of gated fences.  There are bleachers on the two long sides of the arena and visitors also bring lawn chairs and set them up on three sides of the arena.  We arrived around 2:15 PM and there were already people there.  Admission was a $5 “donation” per person, but it was not optional.  It was well worth the price, however, and we made an extra contribution at the end of the show.

We secured good seats in the last row of the one of the bleachers at the top of the stairs with our backs to the sun.  That allowed us an unobstructed view for photography with light from a good direction.  It was a good thing we got there early.  Six fully-loaded tour buses showed up after we got there along with lots of passenger cars.  The bleachers were packed and the lawn chairs were at least two deep around the fence.  After the show we walked over to see the 17 day old colt and walk through the stables.  I took photos and also snapped a few shots of the tour buses after chatting with the driver of a 2016 Prevost H3-45 with a beautiful deep purple paint scheme.  I would sure like to have one of those to convert.

Five stallions work in formation at Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School.  Myakka City, FL.

Five stallions work in formation at Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School. Myakka City, FL.

When we were done at Hermann’s we drove back to Arcadia and stopped at Walgreens before returning to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort.  We spent a little time at Mara’s motorhome so she could walk Linda through the various cat and RV chores that needed to be taken care off during the next week.  With that done we stopped at the mail room.  We had a slip in our mail slot that there was a package for us in the office but it was after 5 PM and the office was closed.  We figured it was the shipment of Nutpods vegan coffee creamer but we would not be able to pick it up until Monday as we would not be around during office hours on Saturday and the office is closed on Sundays.

For dinner Linda made lentil potato burritos using various leftover ingredients that we wanted/needed to use up.  I opened the bottle of Barefoot Moscato wine, using the cork puller that Mara gave us the other night, and we had some for dessert.  We were both tired so we watched some TV, including the first of three episodes of a new Masterpiece Mystery series named Silk about barristers in England.  We did not watch the second episode as we had to be up early in the morning and it was going to end too late.

2016/02/27 (S) Port Miami

We were up at 6:30 AM and left at 7 AM for Dunkin Donuts where we got something to eat and a couple of large half-caffe coffees.  As planned, we were back at Mara’s motorhome at 7:30 AM.  By 7:45 we had Michael, Mara, and their luggage onboard and were on our way to the cruise ship terminals at the Port of Miami some three plus hours distant.

The GPS wanted us to go south on FL-31 but we had already decided we would take FL-70 east to US-27 and then take that south/southeast as far as I-75.  We stopped at a Marathon station in South Bay to use the restrooms and let Mara and Michael get some coffee.  We headed east on I-75 to its end point at MM 0 and then followed whatever roads the GPS told us to use to get to Port Miami.  When we were almost to the Port we deviated from the GPS and took the tunnel under the water to get to the cruise ship terminals rather than exit the highway and use the bridge.  There was some temporary confusion, and minor tension, surrounding this but soon enough we ended up at Terminal F where the MSC Divina was docked.

Traffic was heavy and chaotic, but we found a spot at the curb and got them unloaded.  A quick handshake and a hug and we were on our way.  I never cease to be appalled at the incredibly pour traffic engineering we encounter at major transportation terminals.  We did get a stunning view of the skyscrapers that dominate the downtown Miami skyline, but after a bit of driving around we managed to escape the island via the bridge and I was glad to be clear of the area.

Linda had researched vegan friendly eateries last night and selected one called The Kitchen.  It was near Miami International Airport, not too far from Port Miami, and basically in the direction we needed to travel to return to Arcadia.  She put the address in the GPS and we enjoyed a slow, late Saturday morning, drive through downtown Miami.  We arrived around 11:30 and there were only a couple of other diners there.  As is often the case, it was a slightly funky little place, but it had an entirely vegan menu with lots of interesting options.

The Kitchen is, in fact, the prep facility for a chain of local eateries, and plenty of other customers showed up while we were there.  We had the tacos, which included plantains, and the nachos.  The tacos were good, especially the plantains, but the nachos were outstanding.  Both were made with vegan chorizo sausage.  The nachos had a base of blue corn chips with beans, tomatoes, salsa, and cashew cream.  It was also a big serving.  For dessert we each had a coconut date ball and a gobi berry chocolate brownie.  Yum.  The Kitchen was a bit pricey but most of the ingredients were organic and the food was fresh and very tasty so we felt it was good value for the money.

We left at 12:30 PM and I turned the wrong way leaving the parking lot.  It turned out we were on US-27 headed north so we stayed with that choice.  The GPS wanted to put us on the Interstate/Tollroads but we knew that eventually it would put us back on US-27.  There was a lot of traffic and frequent traffic signals, but we eventually got clear of the developed urban area.  Not too far out we stopped at a roadside park with an airboat operation and switched drivers.  Linda told me later that I napped for about an hour but my experience of the situation was that I nodded off and woke up repeatedly because of neck discomfort.

We got back to our RV resort around 3:45 PM and stopped at the mail room on the way in where I retrieved a box of magazines from BCM.  The 3 PM Mardi Gras parade had just ended but some of the decorated golf carts and masked participants were still hanging around the activity building.  I made a mental note that the Mardi Gras dinner started at 7:30 PM and we returned to our rig.

We turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and got our local network online.  I opened the box of magazines to see what was inside and e-mailed Gary to let him know what I received.  Linda needed to attend to Mara’s cats, Maui and Sabra, and we both had several updates pending on our iPads and smartphones.  We packed up the iPads and walked to the activity building where I set up our technology in the library while Linda went on to Mara’s Bounder to tend to her cats.

I got both iPads and both smartphones connected to the Internet via the resort Wi-Fi system, which can only be picked up at/near the activity building (which includes the office, lanai, library, dining room/kitchen, card room, and laundry room).  The best reception is outside in front of the building, as the antenna is on the peak of the roof ridge at the front gable, but the reception in the lanai and library is very usable.  There was one other person there using the Wi-Fi but she left shortly after I arrived.

The updates for our iPads took 500 MB and the smartphone updates took at least another 250 MB, so it was at least a 0.75 GB update session.  Our 12 GB monthly Verizon data plan works out to about 0.4 GB per day, on average, so we are trying to do our updates using the park Wi-Fi and save our data plan for web searches, document/photo uploads/downloads, and other work we want and/or need to do from our motorcoach.

While I was updating our devices Linda got a text message from Mara and I was able to watch the latest OK Go video and play a few games.  Kate sent me the link a week ago and I was waiting for a chance to use the resort Wi-Fi when there were few, if any, other users.  I also downloaded the latest issue of The Gypsy Journal digital edition.

When I was done I packed up and walked over to Mara’s rig.  Linda exchanged text messages with Mara.  She and Michael are on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise for the first time.  They had finished the opening session with Jessica Porter and Neal Barnhard, M.D. and enjoyed it very much.  They had just sat down to dinner and we’re excited about that too.  We enjoyed their enthusiasm and recalled what it was like for us the first time we went on this cruise.  Linda packed up a few things to bring back to our coach.  Mara made Broccoli salad last night and there was a lot left over that she wanted us to eat.

It cooled off quickly after the sun set and the overnight low was forecast to be 42 degrees F.  We closed up the coach and then had some of Mara’s broccoli salad along with vegan Italian “sausage” for dinner.  We finished the Barefoot Moscato wine, had a few grapes for dessert, and settled in to watch some TV programs on the local PBS channels before going to bed.  We had spent 7 hours driving/riding in the car today and we were tired.

2016/02/28 (N) Cat Care

It was cool in the coach this morning and I stayed in bed, under the covers, with the electric heating pad on, until after 7:30 AM.  The cats were persistent, however, and I finally got up and took care of their needs.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and the zone control thermostats for the bathroom and the kitchen/living area and the electric toe-kick heater for the front of the bus.  Linda got up at 8 AM as I was making coffee.

We had granola for breakfast, after which Linda packed up her laptop computer and gathered up papers related to work she needed to do.  She took the car and drove to Mara’s motorhome to tend to the cats and then work there.  She did not need to be online and figured the cats would appreciate the company, or at least get more accepting her presence and attention if she spent some quiet, extended time there.  I stayed at our rig to catch up on draft blog posts and attend to our cats.

Last week I downloaded the free version of an app called “OfficeSuite (Free) Mobile + PDF” and have been using it to write the drafts of my recent blog posts.  It works at least as well as the native iPad Notes app, better in my opinion (so far), and creates a native docx format Word document.  It also works with various cloud services.  Hypothetically that should save me the steps of e-mailing it to myself, selecting/copying the text from the e-mail, pasting it into a blank Word doc, and then cleaning up all of the junk caused by the Note app, which is considerable (numerous calendar hyperlinks).  I say hypothetically because I have not yet set up or tested the cloud sync feature.  That was on my “to do” list for today.

Around 11:30 AM it was getting warm in the coach under mostly sunny skies.  I opened windows and roof vents and then put out all of the awnings. I continued working on my blog posts from the last four days and was finally ready to upload one of them via a cloud service.  We have a Dropbox account but we also have OneDrive accounts as part of the Windows 10 OS on our notebook computers.  I don’t normally use OneDrive but I thought this would be a good opportunity to try it.

I set up the credentials to allow the app to connect to the OneDrive account attached to my OS login.  I then tried to move or copy the Word docx file for Wednesday’s blog post from “current files” to the OneDrive under Network locations but the OfficeSuites app would not give me the OneDrive account as an option.  I checked the Help screens for information to assist me but could not find anything pertaining to this specific problem.  The app has Pro and Premium upgrades available ($ and $$) but the feature chart indicated that interfacing to all five of the different cloud services was included in the Free version.  Rather than waste time on this I called David Aungier to let him know there was an updated version of his featured bus article in a folder in my Dropbox and then kept working on draft blog posts.

At 1 PM I was getting ready to walk over to Mara’s rig to get the shower supplies from Linda when she returned in the car.  We have been able to avoid removing the cats’ litter box from our shower by using the showers at the building by the swimming pool.  That also keeps the shower water out of our grey water tank, allowing us to go more days between dumps.  I got my towel and the soap from Linda and walked over to the shower house.

When I got back from my shower I trimmed my beard and shaved.  It had probably been at least a month since my last beard trim and I was starting to look a bit scruffy.  All cleaned up and feeling refreshed I dealt with a couple of e-mails and then returned to the issue of getting the OfficeSuites app to sync with one of my cloud services.  It appeared that Dropbox might be the best choice so I established the connection to that account.  Voilà!  I was finally able to copy a local Word file to the folder I had previously set up in my Dropbox for blog post documents.

I proceeded to finish each post in turn and copied it to the Dropbox folder which immediately uploaded it to the cloud server.  I checked my ASUS notebook computer to make sure the document had made it to the local hard drive.  It had, which meant I could move it to where I keep the draft posts and start editing it directly.  This was a big deal for me as I expect it to streamline the blogging process.

As I was working on all of this I realized that I had told Gary at BCM that I would review and comment on an article he had received from Lloyd DeGerald and would try to get it back to him by Sunday evening.  Lloyd is a highly experienced, factory-trained, Webasto / Aqua-Hot service and repair technician and has worked on our Aqua-Hot in the past.  His article was basically a terse service procedure consisting of a numbered list of steps.  There were some things that I was not clear about so I added comments and highlighted them in yellow.  I got the document e-mailed back to Gary, with answers to several questions he had asked, just as Linda was putting dinner on the table.

Dinner was an improvised dish of red beans and rice with onions, garlic, tomatoes, turmeric, and kale.  I added a little extra Tabasco hot sauce to mine and it was a very good dish.  After dinner Linda did the dishes and then we walked over to Mara’s motorhome, by way of the garbage trailer, to tend to the evening cat and rig chores.  Maui stayed out long enough to get up on the hassock and show some interest in me.  I let her smell my hand but when I tried to pet her head she swatted at me.  Too much, too soon.  She played with a cat toy that Linda shook around, ate her dinner, and disappeared into the bedroom.  Sabra stayed out the whole time we were there, ate her dinner, and chased feathers that Linda moved around.

We walked back to our rig before 8 PM and watched a special about the Manners of Downton Abby on PBS.  The overnight low was forecast at 54 degrees F so we closed the roof vents but did not close the coach windows all the way before turning in for the night.

2016/02/29 (M) Bonus Day

Last night was the Academy Awards but we did not watch the show.  We had not seen any of the films and were more interested in a pair of specials on the Manners of Downton Abby about the role of the show’s historical consultant whose job it has been to make sure all of the actors were as authentic as possible in their speech and mannerisms.

We got up this morning between 7:30 and 8 AM, which seems to have become our norm of late unless we have an outing planned that requires an early departure.  We had our usual coffee followed by granola with blueberries for breakfast.  We doodled on our iPads for a bit and I finished my blog post for yesterday and uploaded it to our Dropbox.  Linda noted that today was February 29th.  In a month that is usually two to three days shorter than all the others it was like having a bonus day.  I also enjoy the relative rarity of the event.

At 9:30 AM Linda packed up her computer and papers and walked over to Mara’s motorhome to tend to the cats.  She planned to stay and work a while and was expecting a call from Dave at the bakery around 10 AM.  I finished my coffee, got dressed, and settled in to work at my computer.

When Linda returned we walked to Walmart for a few grocery items before it got too warm outside.  When we got back and had the groceries put away, we reconfigured the back of the car.  After Mara’s arrival, but prior Michael’s arrival, we had reconfigured the back of the car.  We had removed one of the rear seats and put the other rear seat down so Mara could go places with us.  Most of the stuff went back in the car but in order to store the removed seat in the front bay of the bus and make room for some of the stuff from the car we had moved the air compressor and two of the four chassis stands to the passenger side engine bay.

Just prior to Michael’s arrival we reconfigured the back of the car again as we now needed four seats.  To keep our stuff out of sight and protect it from the weather we bought a small tent, set it up behind the bus, and put everything in it.

When Mara and Michael return from the Holistic Holiday at Sea Cruise on Saturday Michael is going to rent a car to and get them back to Arcadia from Miami.  He will be sticking around for another four weeks and they will need a car for most of that time as we are leaving Big Tree Carefree RV Resort a week from today.  So today we put both rear seats back up, emptied out the storage tent, reloaded the car, and repacked the front bay of the bus.

As long as we were working outside I stripped out the bad silicone caulk between the new passenger side lower windshield and the gasket.  I found a different product in one of our parts and supplies tubs and got it out.  I did not apply it, however, as I wanted to let the rubber gasket relax and hopefully reform to the glass.  In retrospect, it is painfully obvious that the Safelite installers did not know what they were doing.

It was a sunny day and by early afternoon the air temperature was 80 degrees F, so we put on our swimming suits and walked over to the pool.  We stopped at the office to retrieve our package of Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer and put it in the mail room until later.  After a nice soak and vitamin D treatment we showered, changed into dry clothes, and walked back to the mail room to retrieve our Nutpods package and other mail.  Being the last day of the month our electric bill was there along with an invitation to the Michigan reunion lunch scheduled for July 14 in Concord, Michigan.  The Resort does have a strong sense of community, and people take that back to their home states/provinces when the leave.

I had a text message from Kerry Fear requesting payment for snowplowing services for February.  Linda wrote a check and got it ready to mail.

For dinner Linda made stuffed poblano peppers and pan-grilled them.  (We do not travel with an outdoor grill, either propane or charcoal.)  The stuffing was rice, black beans, tomatoes, scallions, vegan sour cream, cumin seeds, and Daiya vegan cheddar cheese.  So good.  We had some Barefoot Riesling wine after dinner and fresh mixed fruit salad (bananas, strawberries, and blueberries) for dessert.  I really like the way we eat.

After dinner we watched our usual PBS news programs followed by our usual CBS entertainment shows.  I stayed up to watch Charlie Rose’s interview with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc.  I was getting ready for bed and turned on the fresh water pump.  It normally runs briefly to build up pressure and then shuts off.  This time it just kept running.  That meant one of two things: either there was an opening in the system (faucet or leak), or the demand pressure sensor was not working.  I shut it off, put my sweats and Crocs back on, grabbed a flashlight, and went outside to investigate.

It was almost midnight but there was plenty of light from the resort street lamps.  I checked both sides of the utility bay and did not see any sign of a leak other than the small drip from the fill valve packing nut.  I turned on the shore water supply and opened the valves to allow it to flow through the softener to the coach.  Once the lines and softener were filled and pressurized I did not hear any further water flow, so I was somewhat confident that we did not have a leak in the system.  I left the outside water turned on so we could flush the toilet and run water to wash our hands.

Back inside I wrote a sticky note not to turn on the water pump and stuck it on the toilet seat.  Linda woke up right after I finally got to bed so I was able to tell her in person, but the note was still a good reminder.  I watched Tavis Smiley’s interview with Tom Waters of Pink Floyd and then went to sleep. February 2016 had been a very busy, but very satisfying month for us.

 

2016/02/22-24 (M–W) 1 SP, 2 S-A-H

2016/02/22 (M) Myakka River State Park

Our destination today was Myakka River State Park (MRSP).  We agreed yesterday to pick up Mara and Michael at 10 AM.  That allowed us to sleep until 8 AM, have coffee and breakfast at our rig, and take showers before leaving for the day.

MRSP is only 25 miles from Arcadia so we did not stop for fuel or coffee.  We stopped at the visitor center near the main entrance to study the maps and displays before heading deeper into the park.  As on previous visits, our first stop was the bridge over the stretch of the Myakka River that runs south from Upper Myakka Lake to Lower Myakka Lake.  We hiked south along the east edge of the river for quite some distance.  Unlike previous visits we did not see the quantity or diversity of wildlife that we expected.  Absent from our visit today were Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills.  We saw alligators, but only one somewhat up close.

We stopped at the Forest Canopy towers and suspension bridge which is one of the special treats of this park.  After that stop we drove to the vendor area on the southeast shore of the Upper Lake to have our picnic lunch.  The parking lot was full but our timing was lucky and we waited as someone backed out and then took that spot.  This area has a boat launch, restaurant, pontoon boat tour, wheeled vehicle train, gift shop, and restrooms.  After lunch we walked out to the weir across the outflow of the Upper Lake, which maintains it at a slightly higher level.  We saw a few more alligators and birds there.

We drove to the end of the road at the north gate and checked out the other picnic area that someone at lunch told us was there.  On the way back we stopped at the Birdwalk, a boardwalk that goes out through a marsh to a point near the eastern edge of the Upper Lake.  We saw a few more alligators from a distance and got a close up view of a couple of birds.

By the time we were done at the Birdwalk it was approaching 4 PM.  We drove slowly back to the Visitor Center to use the restrooms and then exited the park and headed back to Arcadia.  On the way back Linda and Mara decided that, in spite of a nice weather forecast, we would stick around the RV Resort tomorrow and have dinner together.  Not only will that give them time to plan/prepare the meal, it will give us time to do laundry and relax at the swimming pool.  It will also allow me to finish proofreading and correcting articles for BCM.  The forecast for Wednesday has an 80% chance of rain so that was already planned as a stay-at-home day.    My hope is that I will be able to upload the rest of my blog posts for October 2015.  I do not like being this far behind.

For dinner Linda made a dish with vegan Italian sausage on a bed of angel hair pasta with onion, garlic, and broccoli sautéed in EVOO.  Yum, yum.  After dinner I off-loaded the photos I took today.  We then watched the Nightly Business Report and NewsHour on PBS followed by the X-Files and Lucifer on FOX, NCIS Los Angeles on CBS, a few minutes of news and weather, and then Charlie Rose’s interview with Bill Gates on PBS.

So many shades of green.  A view to the south from the observation platform atop the north tower of the Forest Canopy Skywalk.  Myakka River SP, FL.

So many shades of green. A view to the south from the observation platform atop the north tower of the Forest Canopy Skywalk. Myakka River SP, FL.

2016/02/23 (T) Green Taco Wraps

It rained briefly last evening and more rain was forecast starting later this afternoon and extending through-tomorrow.  Today and-tomorrow were planned as stay-at-home (S-A-H) days so we got up just before 8-AM and had coffee, juice, and granola with bananas.  My plan was to take care of our fresh- and waste-water tanks and do the laundry before settling in to work on computer-based tasks.  Linda received a package yesterday of year-end accounting documents from the bakery and planned to work on those today.

The skies had clouded up late yesterday and gotten darker and thicker by sunset.  We had dark clouds to our west this morning and had just finished breakfast (granola, bananas, fruit juice) when it started to rain lightly.  I had no sooner closed the bathroom vent/fan when the rain came down hard.  I closed down the awning style windows until they were only open about an inch at the bottom.  We planned to roll up the patio awning before the rain came today but now had to wait for it to dry off, assuming the rains let up and the sun came out for a while.

We dropped below 1/3rd tank of fresh water yesterday.  When the rain stopped I went out to check the level visually.  It was barely below the 1/3rd sensor so I decided to forego dumping and filling for a couple of more days.  I might even run off the city water for a day or so to push the whole dump/fill/recharge routine off until the weekend.

I moved my laptop computer to the dining table so Linda could on work at hers on the desk.  The accounting work she had to do for the bakery required space to spread out the paperwork she got from Dave (the controller) yesterday.  I decided to just keep editing blog posts from November 2015 in preparation for eventually uploading them.

At 12:45 PM I started sorting the soiled clothes and linens.  Linda quite working on the accounting and made sandwiches for our lunch.  She made a grocery list and then walked to the supermarket.  At 1:30 I loaded the laundry and my iPad into the car and drove over to the laundry room.  By 1:45 I had four washing machines in operation.

I connected my iPad to the Resort’s public Wi-Fi signal at the activity building and connected through to the Internet, which always takes some doing.  The problem is that the various browsers load cached versions of the tabs that are open and I have to go to a new webpage in other to trigger the filter and connect to the Internet.  Until I have done that successfully I cannot check e-mail or update apps.

By 2:25 I had transferred all of the wash to three dryers and started them.  I had six apps with updates available totaling just over 400 MB (0.4 GB) and initiated those.  On our 12 GB Verizon data plan that is more than a whole day’s average data usage for a typical month (0.4 x 30 = 12.0).  I also noticed that I had two new updates for apps on my phone but when I looked more carefully I discovered that I had 22 app updates pending.  I had been deferring them until I could use the resort (or other) free Wi-Fi.  When the last iPad app update downloaded and installed I connected my phone to the Resort Wi-Fi and initiated the app updates.

I worked on the draft of today’s blog post and played a few games until the laundry was dry and then folded it and put it in the car.  It was 4 PM at that point and only 10 of the 22 apps had updated, so I pulled the car around in front of the activity building with a clear, short path to the antenna on the roof.  I had a much stronger signal in that location and the updates progressed much more quickly.  23 apps were updated and the process finished at 4:18 PM.  I noticed that my phone had somehow gotten set to show Homestead, Florida as my “home” location so I enabled Location Services, changed it to Arcadia, Florida, and then disabled Location Services.  I checked to see if we had any snail mail and then drove back to our coach and put the clean laundry away.

When I got back to our coach Linda was cooking her part of this evening’s meal.  We would be dining with Mara and Michael at Mara’s rig having “green taco wraps.”  Linda made a crumbled meat substitute from brown lentils, walnuts, sautéed onions, and peppers.  She also supplied the tortillas, lettuce, and vegan sour cream.  Mara made salsa and avocado cream and a side salad with cauliflower, tomatoes, and lemon juice.  We brought a bottle of Chardonnay and Mara had a bottle of Spanish Rioja, a very dry red wine.

We walked over with our contributions just before 6 PM and were greeted by Michael.  Mara had walked to Walmart for some tomatoes and other last minute items and returned not long after we arrived.  Good wine, good food, and good friends made for a great meal.  We were still there at 8 PM and it turned out that we like to watch the same TV programs, so we all watched NCIS.  Linda and I walked back to our coach when the show ended and watched NCISNOLA and Limitless before going to bed.  I watched most of Charlie Rose before falling asleep.

An Egret tries to swallow a fish that it caught near the Myakka River.  Myakka River SP, FL.

An Egret tries to swallow a fish that it caught near the Myakka River. Myakka River SP, FL.

2016/02/24 (W) Another Tornado Warning

Today was planned as a stay-at-home day.  The forecast was for wind and rain with a marginal risk of severe weather.  I was up a little before 7:30 AM and thought about going to the Wednesday coffee “social” but decided against it.  I began preparing our morning coffee but waited until Linda was awake to grind the beans and finish the process.  Linda got our Verizon Mi-Fi and Wi-Fi Ranger online and checked the current weather, which we compared to what was being reported on the local TV news.  Wind and rain were expected in our part of southwest Florida by 10 AM and the Wundermap app radar showed a large storm front drooped from southwest to northeast in advance of a cold front and moving our way.

I finished my first cup of coffee and then went outside and put up the two window awnings on the driver side of our coach.  While I was out there I drained the auxiliary air filter / water separator and stored the two folding bag chairs in the front bay.

We had granola and blueberries for breakfast and it started raining while we finished our coffee.  We both had computer-based work to do today but Linda needed to update some things first.  The rain stopped, at least temporarily, so we packed up our mobile technology and drove over to the activity building to use the RV resort’s public Wi-Fi system.

We set up our tech toys in the library and connected them to the resort’s public Wi-Fi system; two laptop computers, two iPads, and two smartphones.  I had three app updates on my phone and Linda had 14.  She had eight app updates on her iPad and I had one OS-related update on my computer.  Linda downloaded a new audio book.  I downloaded/installed the OfficeSuites Free – Mobile + PDF app on my iPad and the 2016 U. S. RVers Edition (PDF) of The Mobile Internet Handbook by Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard from the Mobile Internet Aficionados membership website.  We also checked our e-mail while we were there.  Between our six devices we greatly exceeded our average daily data allocation of 0.4 GB that our 10+2 GB Verizon data plan provides.  Our normal 10 GB plan averages out to about 0.3 GB per day, and it is not sufficient for our needs when traveling in the motorcoach.

As we were packing up at 1:30 PM to return to our coach the skies opened up and heavy rains poured forth.  Moments later both of our phones notified us that a tornado warning was in effect for our location until 2 PM.  Our car was parked near the front door of the activity building so we decided not to wait for a lull in the rain.  It was raining even harder by the time we got back to our coach but we had our technology in ballistic nylon travel bags and got them inside without getting them wet.

Linda set up her computer on the desk and I set up mine on the dining room table.  We did not need to be online so we left the Verizon Mi-Fi turned off.  Linda worked on accounting for the bakery while I proofread and annotated corrections for two BCM articles.  When she was done for today I moved my computer to the desk, plugged in the power supply, and spent some time reading and responding to e-mails.

By 3 PM the severe weather threat had passed but densely overcast skies continued with occasional lighter rain.  All of this was, once again, in advance of a cold front that will bring high temperatures only in the upper 60’s for the next four to five days.

For dinner Linda improvised a sauté of onion, garlic, kale, and turmeric with boiled red potatoes.  It was a hardy dish; perfect for a cool, dreary evening.  We watched a PBS Nature episode on Emperor Penguins, a Nova episode on rescue robots, and another program on Big Data.  We then went to bed as we had to be up early in the morning.

 

2016/02/21 (N) Punta Gorda

Our destination today was Punta Gorda.  We arranged last night to pick up Mara and Michael at 9 AM and stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and something to eat.  As a result we slept in a bit and did not make coffee or have breakfast.  I stopped at the Shell Station to top off the fuel tank and then pulled into the DD next door.  Coffee and food in hand we headed to downtown Arcadia on FL-70 and then headed south on US-17 to Punta Gorda.

Michael, Mara, and Linda at the historic 1928 train station in Punta Gorda, FL.

Michael, Mara, and Linda at the historic 1928 train station in Punta Gorda, FL.

Mara had researched things to see and do and entered them into the “Map My Plans” app on her iPad.  The app can arrange them in the best order (shortest driving distance) to visit.  Our first stop was an historic train station from 1928 that is now a local history museum.  It was closed on Sunday’s, but we got to see the outside.  Our next stop was an open air arts and crafts market near the Convention Center.  We saw this market last month, when we visited the Woodcarvers Expo at the Convention Center, and it was there again today so we stopped.  Mara bought some earrings and Linda bought an apron.  There was also a husband-wife guitar group playing some very interesting original music that seemed to be of derivative Spanish influence.  They were selling CDs, and I am always tempted to buy one from groups like this as I would likely never find them anywhere else again.  But I didn’t.

This is the front of the historic 1928 train station.  Punta Gorda, FL.

This is the front of the historic 1928 train station. Punta Gorda, FL.

From the arts and crafts market we drove to the farmers’ market.  We also visited this market in January and really liked it.  The same vendors were there so we were able to buy some more Miatake mushrooms and some Sweet Hot pickles.  Linda also bought a selection of fruits and vegetables.

Linda looks over the fruits and vegetables at the Punta Gorda farmers market.

Linda looks over the fruits and vegetables at the Punta Gorda farmers market.

From the farmers market we drove to Ponce de Leon Park and visited the Peace River Wildlife Refuge.  This was also our second visit to this facility, which has an interesting collection of injured birds who are at least living out their lives in comfort and safety.

The front end of a vintage Lincoln at the Muscle Car Museum in Punta Gorda, FL.  Most of the cars were General Motors products.

The front end of a vintage Lincoln at the Muscle Car Museum in Punta Gorda, FL. Most of the cars were General Motors products.

After our visit to the refuge we drove to an alligator preserve but it was closed.  We back-tracked a short distance to the Muscle Car Museum.  Though not free, we paid the nominal admission charge and spent a couple hours examining a very large and very nice collection of Chevy cars and trucks.  Among others they had a couple of 1957 Belairs and a couple of 1967 Cameros.

 

 

 Bruce standing by a red 1957 Chevy Belair.  He had one very similar to this when he was in high school.  Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

Bruce standing by a red 1957 Chevy Belair. He had one very similar to this when he was in high school. Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

Neither of us are particularly nostalgic about our youth, or any other part of our past for that matter, but I had a 1957 Belair my last three years in high school (in the late 60s) that I customized.  It was not a muscle car but it was candy apple red and it was mine.  Linda’s first car after she graduated from high school and started working was a 1967 Camero.  It was a white convertible with a red interior and a 327 cubic inch V8 under the hood.  It had an automatic transmission, and was not a muscle car, but it was powerful and we took it to from St. Louis, Missouri to Colorado and back on our two-week camping honeymoon right after we got married.

Linda standing by a white 1967 Chevy Camero.  It was similar to the one she owned except that hers was a convertible and had a red interior.  Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

Linda standing by a white 1967 Chevy Camero. It was similar to the one she owned except that hers was a convertible and had a red interior. Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

We discussed finding a restaurant in Punta Gorda for linner but Mara and Linda did not turn up anything promising.  I set the GPS and started back to our RV resort.  In less than an hour we were back and dropped Mara and Michael at her rig before returning to ours.

Back at the coach we turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and checked our e-mail.  Gary had sent the first draft of the April 2016 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine for me to proofread.  I went through my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle conversion and started annotating corrections.  I will need to go through it again with the original open for comparison but I was too tired to do that today.

For dinner Linda sautéed the Miatake mushrooms in EVOO with garlic, onion, and Egri Merlot.  She also cooked a spaghetti squash, set out some black grapes, and poured out the remainder of the Merlot, which was left over from last night’s dinner.  This was only the second time we have had Miatake mushrooms and it is difficult to describe in words how exquisitely good they are in terms of taste, texture, sight, and smell.  We agreed that they were the best mushrooms we have ever had.

After dinner I connected the Sony a99v-DSLT to my computer and off-loaded the 105 pictures I took today.  I looked through them quickly but did not see anything that I thought would make a good postcard for Madeline.  My computer seemed to be working again so I backed up photos, blog posts, BCM files, and other files to our NAS.  I tried to access the Backup and Security components in Windows 10 and it appeared they had been restored to proper operation.  I checked for updates and the system said it was up-to-date.  ES|ET Smart Security is still telling me I have 17 updates and most of them appear to be drivers related to the computer hardware and low level system functions.  I need to contact ES|ET and ask them about what this actually means and how to resolve it.

We were going to walk over after dinner and visit with Mara and Michael but all four of us were tired and took a pass.  We watched Father Brown on PBS, the Simpsons and something else on FOX, and then Downton Abbey on PBS.  Linda headed off to bed after Downton Abbey and I watched the end of CSI: Cyber.

 

2016/02/16–20 (T–S) Friends, Food, and Good Times

[ Note:  There are no photos as part of this post. ]

2016/03/16 (T) Girls Day Out

Mara needed to get to a medical appointment in the Miami area today and stop at the veterinary clinic where Maui was being treated a few weeks ago.  We were going to let her borrow our car but Linda offered to accompany her on the rather long round trip and Mara gladly accepted.  She was not going to ask us to go along and thereby possibly inconvenience us, but she was glad to not have to make the trip by herself.  They worked out the arrangements yesterday and Linda was up, dressed, and gone this morning before I got up at 7:45 AM.

I made a smaller pot of coffee, had a glass of orange juice to wash down my vitamins, and had toast with apricot preserves for breakfast.  I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and e-mailed the postcard photo to Linda’s Gmail account and responded to an e-mail from Butch.  I also had a couple of e-mails back from Scott Neader at QTH.com in response to my support requests yesterday for the SLAARC account and WordPress website.  I then turned off the Mi-Fi.

Having to manage a limited data plan is a pain but the overage charges are worse.  The upside is that it allows (forces) me to do something else.  In this instance, I worked the rest of the morning on my iPad catching up on blog posts.  Linda texted me relative to the timing of their travels and asked me to send the postcard photo.  I already had, but it had obviously not gotten to her yet.  She expected to be back around 6 PM and we agreed to go out to dinner once she returned.

I had some hummus, sourdough pretzel nibblers, and grapes around 1:30 PM and then settled in to edit blog posts from the end of October and started working on the ones for November.  Linda texted me around 2 PM to let me know they were leaving and would be home around 5 PM.  I turned the Mi-Fi on and checked e-mail.  Mara had sent me a photo of Linda sitting in front of a very tasty looking plate of food but did not mention what restaurant they were at.

I continued editing blog posts and got a couple days into November (2015) by 4 PM.  I quit working and walked over to the swimming pool to use the showers.  There are only two stalls and they were both occupied so I had to wait.  Even so, I was done, back at the coach, and changed into nicer dinner clothes before Linda arrived.  We waited until 5:30 PM to drive to the Magnolia Street Seafood and Grill restaurant in downtown Arcadia.

We arrived at the restaurant early enough to get a good parking place and not have to wait for a table but late enough to be hungry.  We both had a large salad, minus the blue cheese crumbles, and shared a basket of French fries.  On the way back to our coach we stopped at the mail room and Linda connected her iPad to the resort Wi-Fi system to download e-mail.  The e-mail I sent her at 9 this morning had still not arrived.

We were back at our coach by 7 PM and turned on the PBS NewsHour.  I sent the post card photo again and it still did not arrive in her inbox.  We knew that both e-mails were sent because I cc:d one of our other accounts and received them there.  Linda finally checked her Junk folder and found it; twice.  She then created a post card for Madeline using the PostCardApp on her iPad.

We watched our usual Tuesday evening CBS TV programs while working puzzles on our iPads.  Linda had a long day of driving and riding in the car and was tired.  With overnight lows forecast for the mid-50s and no rain (but some early morning fog) we left the windows and bathroom roof vent open.  We watched Limitless in bed, caught a little local news and weather, and then went to sleep.

2016/02/17 (W) FMCA NEC Meeting

We did not get up until 8 AM this morning so, once again, we did not go to the weekly coffee/donut meeting at the activity building; not that we usually go anyway.  I made coffee and we wiled away the morning playing games and solving puzzles on our iPads.  I turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi long enough to check e-mail and send a few replies.  We eventually had toast and preserves for breakfast.

Bill and Brenda Phelan’s availability did not coincide with ours so I e-mailed her our shipping address here at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort and then called her with our credit card number.  I also arranged for us to meet Ed and Janet Roelle tomorrow afternoon at their winter home in Sarasota and then go to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner.

The weather pattern for the next week was forecast to be dry and sunny with overnight lows in the mid-to-upper 50s and highs in the mid-to-upper 70s F.  That’s what I’m talking about! and that is why snowbirds come here in the winter.

Linda went for a morning walk and dropped off the trash.  She returned in time for lunch and made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches.  We also had some orange juice to wash down our vitamins, which we had not taken at breakfast.

Linda made arrangements to meet Mara at the pool today at 1 PM and then spend time with her afterwards showing her how to set up and use Quicken for her personal financial records.  I spent the first half of the afternoon editing blog posts from early November (2015).  Just before 3:30 PM I dialed in to the meeting of the FMCA National Education Committee.  I was still engaged in that when Linda returned around 4:15 PM.  My meeting wrapped up around 4:45 after which Linda and I went for a walk.

We stopped by the activity building where Mara was in the library trying to get her computer online via the resort Wi-Fi and we were able to get her connected.  Linda and Mara had agreed to meet at 5:30 PM for a power walk but it was already 5:25 so they pushed the time out to 5:45 and we finished our stroll.

Dinner was an improvisation based on ingredients Linda had on hand.  Basically it was a sauté of onions, garlic, mushrooms, bell pepper, and kale, salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano in EVOO and finished with some Egri Merlot.  Dessert was fresh strawberries and blueberries.  We drank the rest of the bottle of wine before/during/after dinner.  Yummy.

Wednesday evening is PBS nature/science night, after which we were quickly to sleep.

2016/02/18 (R) Ed, Janet, & Nathan

We left the coach windows open last night and slept well until around 5:30 AM.  By then it was cool enough to need the extra blanket and the cats were fully awake and engaged in their usual morning routine dividing their attention between the sights, sounds, and smells of the outside world and their persistent attempts to get us out of bed to feed them.  Our neighbors were also up early to take Ron’s mom to the airport for her flight back to Portage, Indiana.  Since the head of our bed is on their side of our coach we were aware of their departure conversation and preparations.  Even so, Linda was asleep last night before 11 PM and I was asleep by 11:15 so we got plenty of sleep.

I made our morning coffee while Linda turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and got us connected.  We had used 11.2 GB of our 12.0 GB data plan with two days to go in our billing cycle.  We will get through the end of the cycle tomorrow at midnight without any overage charges, but the monitoring/management of our data usage for the last couple of weeks has been an unwelcome limitation and nuisance.  In particular I have been editing blog posts but not uploading them, which I very much need to do.

I did check my e-mail and respond to ones from Brenda Phelan and Ed Roelle.  We are going to Ed and Janet’s winter home in Sarasota this afternoon.  It turns out they are just down the road from our friends, Ed and Betty Burns.  Brenda had e-mailed us the UPS tracking number for our tire cover shipment.  She indicated that they could make/install our windshield covers the morning of March 8th at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster and we accepted the appointment.

I had an automated e-mail indicating that one of the websites I manage had been updated to WordPress version 4.4.2.  That meant all four websites had been updated and probably had plug-in updates available that needed to be processed.  As long as we were online I logged in to each site and initiated the updates.  The actual update process occurs between the web server and the WordPress server, so the only data usage for me is sending the update request and receiving back the status messages.

We eventually had our standard breakfast of granola with fresh blueberries and orange/grapefruit juice to wash down our vitamins.  I have been having problems with my coffee “creamer.”  I know this is not a really big problem in the context of larger world events, but it is a problem nonetheless that is impacting my quality of life.  The problem is that my soy creamer has been curdling, and that just does not make for good eats.  To make matters worse, it does not happen all the time nor does it happen in a consistent way, at least not that I have been able to figure out.

For my first cup of the day I always add the creamer to the cup first and then swirl in the coffee as I pour.  This almost always results in the creamer blending smoothly with the coffee; almost, but not always.  Adding more coffee to the cup before it is empty, however, often produces the curdling; often, but not always.  Sometimes I can get the creamer to re-blend by adding a little more; sometimes, but not always.

Linda did some quick online research and found information suggesting that I am not the only person suffering this situation and that it might be related to some combination of acidity, temperature (of the creamer and coffee), and procedure.  We have two different coffee blends that I alternate between.  The one I made this morning, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe, is the one that is generally less inclined to curdle and is a slightly “smoother” single bean coffee compared to the Sweet Seattle Dreams half-caffe blend.  She suggested I try a different creamer that is not soy-based.  I will probably do that, but I have used other creamers in the past and they had a more distinct taste that I did not care for (in my coffee), such as almond or coconut.

We finally got dressed around 10 AM.  Linda bundled up the daily bag of kitchen trash and took it with her on her morning walk.  I had six iPad apps with updates available so I walked over to the activity building and downloaded/installed them.  That took quite a while, but I got to sit outside on the dock in clear view of the Wi-Fi antenna and soak up some rays before returning to our coach.

When Linda returned from her walk we gathered up the plastic recyclables, added them to the ones already in the car, and drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop them off.  As long as we were out, and in that part of town, we drove west on E. Gibson Street to check out the Shell Station on northbound US-17.  As Jack Conrad had told us the station has one diesel pump, with a large nozzle, positioned so that a large vehicle can get into position to use it without pulling under the canopy.  We will need fuel for the bus when we leave here on March 7 and this is where we will get it.  We will then hook up the car here before heading north on US-17.

We stopped at Walmart on our way back to the RV resort to buy a tarp and a few grocery items.  We ended up buying a small, inexpensive tent instead of a tarp.  The tent has a floor and will provide a rainproof enclosure where we can store all of the stuff that is currently in the car.  That will allow us to lower the 4th seat and have room for luggage and other stuff.

Since we would be having dinner earlier than usual today we had a light lunch of hummus, pretzels, and grapes.  It was a beautiful day so Linda went outside to read while I worked at my computer editing blog ousts from mid-November (2016).

We picked Mara up at 2:15 PM and headed for Sarasota.  The route to Ed and Janet’s place was familiar as it was the same route we take to get to Ed and Betty’s place; FL-70 west past I-75 to Lockwood Ridge Road and then south (which is the only direction Lockwood Ridge goes from there).  Ed and Betty live just south of FL-70 while Ed and Janet are about five miles on down the road.  We arrived right on time at 3:30 PM.

Ed and Janet bought a house that needed a lot of work but is located on an acre of Iand in a very nice subdivision.  They are repairing and remodeling it extensively, both inside and outside, and we got the grand tour.  I love seeing projects that are in-process as they are so full of possibilities.  Ed and Janet are both very handy, have done this kind of work before, and enjoy it, so the work is both an investment in their future and a labor of love.  Janet is also very artistic, so the design and choice of materials and color pallet will be very nice.

At 4:15 PM they got Nathan up and into his wheelchair, out to their car, and strapped in.  Nathan is the last of 11 children that Ed and Janet have adopted over the years, all with serious disabilities, in addition to rearing three boys of their own.  Their Prevost XL Royale Coach bus conversion is specially modified to accommodate Nathan’s wheelchair and bed and he goes where they go.  Although I had seen the modifications to their bus at GLCC rallies we had somehow never met Nathan.  He is a sweet young man who was severely brain damaged at birth so he does not really interact with strangers in a meaningful way, but he is clearly responsive to Ed and Janet’s presence and care.  They adopted him when he was 3 months old and he is now 14 years of age.

At 4:30 PM we drove to Sweet Tomatoes restaurant for dinner.  Sweet Tomatoes is a chain, but we do not have one anywhere near our house back in Michigan.  Janet also follows a mostly vegan diet and they selected this restaurant because of its convenient location, excellent salad bar, and ability to accommodate Nathan in his wheelchair.  It’s a buffet style (all you can eat) restaurant and the price for seniors, including beverages, was only $8.  We were able to stick to vegan choices and still eat too much.  We had never really spent any time with Janet prior to today and had a long, wonderful visit.  It was after 6:30 PM by the time we left the restaurant.

We headed east on University Boulevard a short distance to one of the countless mega shopping complexes that stretch from St. Petersburg to Naples and found a Petco.  Mara needed some special cat food and the Petco had it so she stocked up.  We then headed back to Arcadia by way of I-75 north and FL-70 east, stopping at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch to do some more grocery shopping.  We finally arrived back at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort just before 9 PM.

When we opened the door to our coach Juniper was waiting for us on the entry steps.  Instead of turning around and moving back into the coach, like she has always done, she made a break for it and got out.  Fortunately she did not run off and eventually crawled under the back of the bus on the driver side.  Linda was able to coax her out far enough to get hold of her and return her to the bus but it took at least half an hour from the time she escaped to get her safely back inside and she gave us quite a scare.  Having your black inside cat escape at night in a strange place is not something you want to have happen.

We missed most of our usual Thursday evening CBS comedy programs but settled in watch Elementary before going to bed.

2016/02/19 (W) Michael Arrives

We got up sometime between 7 and 8 AM.  I made coffee and used the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla non-dairy coffee creamer we bought last night at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch.  It did not separate (curdle), like the soy creamer has been doing, but I did not care for the way it tastes.  Besides a strong, but very artificial, vanilla flavor I think it may contain sweetener, which I do not care for in my coffee.

I bought a couple of apricot filled bear claw pastry treats at Publix last night and had them for breakfast.  They are not necessarily the healthiest treat, but they are vegan.  After breakfast I finished up yesterday’s blog post while Linda dealt with some bakery related business.  With our inside tasks finished we got dressed and went outside.  I drove to the office to get our package with our tire and windshield covers and Linda started unpacking the small tent we bought yesterday at Walmart.  Once we had the tent set up behind the motorhome we unloaded all of the stuff from the car and stored it in the tent.

The tent will keep our stuff dry and out of sight for the next week while we use the car to shuttle four people around.  With the car emptied out we reinstalled the fourth seat, which has been in the front bay of the bus, and latched both rear seats in the up position.  I removed the ham radio antenna from the roof and stored it in the front bay of the bus.  We drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off some recyclables and stopped at the self-serve car wash on the way back.  We washed the outside of the car and then vacuumed out the inside, a task that was long overdue.

Before returning to our RV resort we stopped at the Shell station to top off the tank and then at Dunkin Donuts next door for some frozen coffee.  Back at our coach we scrubbed the floor of the car, wiped out and dusted the interior, and cleaned all of the glass.  We then returned the seats to their normal “full upright and locked” passenger position.  It was nice to finally have the car clean on the inside.

With the car taken care of we brushed off the six tires on the bus that are exposed to direct sunlight and put the new tire covers on.  They are very nice; a milk chocolate brown nylon mesh that is similar in color to the brown paint on the upper portion of our coach.  They will block a lot of sunlight, reducing UV degradation of the rubber while parked, but will breath, preventing condensation.  We also got four windshield wiper covers.  I was able to put on the two for the bottom windshield wipers from the ground, or using the small step ladder, but the upper two will require the big ladder and I did feel like getting it out.

With our outside tasks completed I went back inside and updated our passwords program with some information for the SLAARC website.  I e-mailed Scott at QTH with an additional support question and then settled in to edit blog posts from mid-late November (2016).

We knew today would be a long day that would extend late into the evening so Linda suggested that we take naps.  I set the alarm on my iPad for 4:30 PM and finally laid down on the sofa around 3:30 PM.  We were both up by 4:30 and got ready to leave.  We picked Mara up at 4:45 and headed for Tampa International Airport to pick up Mara’s friend, Michael Crowley, who was flying in from Phoenix, Arizona by way of Houston, Texas.

Our GPS unit routed us west on FL-70 to I-75 where we went north as far as I-275.  The GPS wanted us to stay on I-75 but we chose to take I-275 over Tampa Bay and through St. Petersburg.  This stretch of I-275 is part of the Florida Tollroad system but our SunPass let us fly right through the toll plazas.  The GPS took us off the Interstate highway before it should have and we had to find our way back on.

We eventually arrived at the airport and found our way to the cell phone parking lot.  It was perhaps the nicest cell phone lot any of us had ever seen.  It was spacious, with lots of parking spaces, had actual restrooms (not porta-potties), and had two large electronic display boards announcing all of the arriving flights.  It was a bit like being at a drive-in movie theater, which all of us were old enough to remember.

About the time the board announced the arrival of Michael’s flight at 6:56 PM he called Mara to let her know they were on the ground and taxiing.  He called again 15 minutes later to let us know he was ready to be picked up and a short time later we retrieved him from the arriving flights section of the Blue Terminal.

Linda had researched possible vegan-friendly places to eat near the airport and we collectively settled on an Indian restaurant named Curry Leaves.  Linda had me put the address in the GPS and I tried to follow the directions while also watching the road signs but missed the last exit and had to make a short detour to get back to where we needed to be.  In my own defense it was dark and the road systems leading in and out of major airports are the most complex ever built and, in my opinion, not always well designed.  The road system for Tampa International was as bad as any I had ever encountered.

We found ourselves driving through a district of very upscale hotels and restaurants and finally found the one we were looking for right where the GPS said it should be.  We were surprised to find that it was co-located in a building with a BP filling station but on entering the restaurant portion of the building it looked and smelled very nice.  We also noticed that the staff was Indian and so were many of the patrons.  That has generally been a good sign in our experience where ethnic dining is concerned.

We were seated in a corner booth and the waitstaff was charming and attentive.  There was a bit of a language barrier but our waiter understood that Linda was trying to find out which dishes were vegan (no dairy, no meat) and pointed them out.  We ordered Samosas and spring rolls as appetizers and two dishes to start for the main course.  Mara and Michael had a frozen mango dessert while Linda and I had flour balls in honey sauce.  The food was very good and the meal was wonderful in the company of our friends.

We were back in the car with the GPS set for home by about 8:30 PM.  We took I-275 to I-4 east to I-275 south to FL-70 and headed east to Arcadia.  We dropped Michael and Mara at her motorhome sometime after 10 PM.  Back at our coach we stayed up for awhile and interacted with our kitties.  We went to bed at 11 PM and turned on the TV to watch Charlie Rose on PBS.  It had been a long day with the round trip to/from the airport being almost 200 miles.

2016/02/20 (S) Peace River Woodcarvers

Linda got up first today and I slept in until 8:20 AM.  I had used up all but a few scoops of our current batch of coffee beans so I had to wipe out the storage containers, open new bags, and refill them.  It was after 9 AM by the time I got the coffee brewed.  I definitely do not like the Silk brand Almond/Vanilla coffee creamer but I have a large container of it, as that was all that Publix had, and I will finish it, because I do not like to throw things out that are usable.

Our Verizon billing cycle ended at midnight which meant our data plan had reset.  Linda already had our Mi-Fi online and our local network connected.  I reattached my computer to our network, updated my ES|ET Smart Security anti-virus software, and downloaded my e-mail.  My Dropbox app also started syncing with the cloud server.  It was dinging every time a notification popped up, which was bugging Linda, so I turned off the sound.

The tiny ants that have recently appeared in the kitchen had found their way into my last package of apricot-filled bear claw pastries (vegan).  I got rid of them and ate the pastries for breakfast.  Linda went for a walk but returned more quickly than usual.  Mike (W8XH) from our SLAARC ham radio group had called and needed some information.  I finished up yesterday’s blog post and e-mailed it to myself.  I had an e-mail from Kate with links to YouTube videos of the group “OK Go.”  I replied to that and bcc:d our iPads so we could watch them using the Wi-Fi at the resort office.

Linda vacuumed and mopped the floor in the rig.  She does not do this very often as it scares the cats, but it has to be done occasionally.  It scares the cats at the house, too, but they have a much larger space in which to escape the dreaded mop menace and find a safe place to hide.  Juniper hunkered down on the bottom step of the entry, no doubt with thoughts of escape on her mind, while Jasper headed to the bedroom and tried to find a corner to hide in.  Both cats like to get in the rear closet so I opened one of the doors and Jasper accepted the invitation.

I logged in to my computer and tried to check for updates but the Windows 10 Updates & Security function was completely non-functional.  I fussed with it a bit but to no avail, and decided to deal with it later as everything else appeared to be working.  I have had more issues with the Windows 10 upgrade on my ASUS laptop computer than Linda has had on her Samsung computer, but we have no idea why.

Today was the Peace River Woodcarvers show at the Turner Agri-Civic Center.  We picked up Mara and Michael at 12:15 PM and drove over.  Like the woodcarvers expo we attended in Punta Gorda early last month it was a mix of woodworkers and vendors.  The vendors did not interest us as we are not involved in woodcarving or woodburning.  Some of the work on display, however, was outstanding.

Our two favorite pieces were on the same table but the artist was not around.  One was a knarly, twisted piece of wood that rose up vertically and became a beautifully carved head of a Great Blue Heron.  The other piece was a Little Blue Heron carving that was so exquisitely done it looked real.  We would have been glad to have either or both in our house, but they did not have price tags and the carver was not around to ask.  There were undoubtedly going to be very expensive anyway which would have precluded us buying them.

As we were leaving the show a man was carving a bear out of a large tree trunk using chain saws.  We watched him for a while and then left.  We stopped at Winn-Dixie for a few grocery items and then drove to Joshua Citrus Company for some oranges, tangelos, and grapefruit.  When we got back to the RV Resort we gave Michael a driving tour to orient him to the place and then dropped him and Mara at her motorhome.

I returned to the problem of the non-functional Windows 10 Updates & Security components on my laptop computer.  I found a troubleshooter specifically for this problem and ran it.  It said it found and repaired problems so I tried checking for Windows Updates but it still did not work.  The more I fussed with it the more things seemed to quit working.  I restarted it and things got even worse to the point where I could not even shut it down and had to power it off.  I then powered it back on and was letting it do its thing when Butch called.  We had not talked in a while so I left the computer for later and talked to him.  Sometimes it’s better to just step away from a problem, so this was a welcome diversion.

He and Fonda have had a wonderful winter in Quartzsite, Arizona.  Besides the rock club (Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club) they discovered that there is a very active group of amateur radio operators who spend extended winters in Q and the surrounding area.  The local hams are involved in a county wide “ham radio for kids” project.  Other than Parker, Quartzsite, and Yuma, the population here is sparse and widely spaced.  Homes do not have landline telephones and cell service can be spotty depending on where you are relative to the cell towers, which tend to be on top of mountains.  The local hams are teaching technician license classes to school age children so they can get their FCC ARO Technician licenses.  They are also supply radios that the kids can use to contact their friends and help each other with homework.

Butch and Fonda had also had a job interview for positions as BLM LTVA hosts.  Butch said that work on their new house was coming along in their absence, at least that’s what the contractor was telling him.  He had to finish rebuilding a Crosley engine when they get home and still had work to do on the interior of their bus.  Etc.  We may stop at their house on the way home to have Butch look at our house air conditioners, especially the center one, which was not cooling well last month when we used it.

Once we wrapped up our conversation at 5:15 PM I logged in to my computer.  It seemed to start up correctly and I opened Outlook 2013 to check my e-mail.  It opened correctly and downloaded my e-mails so I closed it.  Mara and Bill were due at our coach at 5:30 PM so I did not have the time to check anything else.

Linda was just finishing the main dinner dish, Farro with almonds and dried cranberries, when Bill and Mara arrived.  Mara made a kale salad with a soy sauce based dressing and a variety of interesting spices.  I put the plastic table cloth on the picnic table and we set the table for dinner.  We opened a bottle of the 2013 Egri Merlot and had a wonderful early evening dinner accompanied by a beautiful sunset in the company of good friends.

After dinner we cleared the table and took everything back inside.  Mara brought the seminar schedule from the upcoming Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise and went over it with Linda.  We finalized plans for visiting Punta Gorda tomorrow and visited until 9 PM when Bill and Mara took their leave and walked back to her rig.  After they left Linda put on a 2-part Masterpiece Mystery program and we watched that and then went to bed.

 

2016/02/12-15 (F–M) Everglades Update

2016/02/12 (F) Full Circle

We got up, showered, got dressed, and went down to breakfast around 8 AM.  We were packed, checked out, and had the car loaded by 9 AM.  We headed north on the Ronald Reagan Turnpike, exited at some miles later, and headed west.  FL-94 ended at FL-997 where we headed north.  In looking at a map later, we would probably have been better off to get on FL-997 right from the hotel.  There was major road construction on FL-997 all the way to US-41, but traffic moved along at the 50 MPH posted speed limit.

At US-41 we headed west.  This is Miccosukee Indian territory, as indicated by the Miccosukee Resort and Gaming facility (Casino) at the NW corner of Fl-997 and US-41.  A short way to the west this stretch of US-41 (the Tamiami Highway between Tampa and Miami) is bordered by Everglades National Park on the south and the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area on the north.  It eventually leaves both of these and runs through the heart of the Big Cypress National Preserve.

We pulled in to the ENP entrance for the Shark Valley Visitor Center and immediately and got stuck in the line of cars waiting to get in.  The parking lot had filled a few cars ahead of us and it was now a one car out, one car in situation.

Once we were in we checked out the tram ride to the Shark Valley Observatory Tower seven miles one way due south into the Everglades.  It was a two (2) hour narrated round-trip and cost $24 per person ($19 for seniors).  You can hike or bike out to the tower for free (after gaining admission to the NP).  We did not have that much time so we walked part way down the road along an open channel of water about 15 feet wide and found lots of wildlife photo opportunities, including birds, a large turtle, and alligators.  The most interesting thing we saw was a cluster of at least a dozen young alligators, ranging from one to two feet in length, piled up on top of one another.

A little farther west we left US-41 and drove a small 2-lane road for 38 miles.  The first half was paved and the second half was good gravel.  It was a lovely, slow drive with a maximum speed limit of 30 MPH and a few nature photo opportunities along the way.

A Black Vulture near the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Everglades NP, FL.

A Black Vulture near the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Everglades NP, FL.

After rejoining US-41 we continued west through the Big Cypress National Preserve as far as FL-29 with Everglades NP once again on our left.  We then headed south through Everglades City and re-entered the park.  The Gulf Coast Visitor Center was very small and did not have the ENP shirts we had seen at the Flamingo Visitor Center and were now hoping to buy.  The vendor operated gift store did not have them either.  The only things you can do from this point in the park are explore the NW coastal portions by canoe, kayak, or pontoon boat.  We did not have time for any of that on this quick visit so we pulled up the address for our RV park in the GPS unit and pushed on.

We had a better look at Everglades City on the way out of town and decided that it was an interesting looking little place.  A traveling carnival of some considerable size was setting up in the middle of town, literally.

Back at US-41 we continued west as we were still somewhat east of the north-south line through Arcadia.  The only other route home from here would take us north on FL-29 and then back east on I-75 and eventually back through LaBelle and up the west side of Lake Okeechobee.  That would be a much longer trip and it was already starting to feel like it had been a long day.

We left US-41 at Collier Blvd. and traveled north about seven miles to I-75 north.  Traffic was heavy, congested, and stop-n-go initially but eventually freed up.  We traveled about 39 miles to exit 141 at Ft. Myers and headed east a few miles to FL-31.  Our final 38 miles were straight north to Arcadia where FL-31 ends at FL-70 just west of our RV resort.

From the Shell station in Arcadia on Tuesday morning to our coach at 5:45 PM today we put 919.4 miles on the car’s trip odometer.  The speedometer on the car reads slightly high, probably because the tires are not factory original specifications, so our actual mileage may have been slightly less by about one mile for every 60 miles traveled.  That would be approximately 15 miles for our trip, making the actual mileage perhaps 905 for the four days, for an average of 225 to 230 miles per day.  That’s a lot of driving, but the purpose of our trip was to get a first glimpse at a lot of south Florida that we had not seen before.

We brought a few things in from the car, spent some time with our cats, and then visited with Ron and Vera (who did not even realize we were gone), before walking over to Mara’ rig for dinner.  Mara made a pot of vegan chili and a wonderful salad which we enjoyed with a glass of her favorite Malbec.  We talked about our trip, how the kitties did in our absence, and discussed the logistics of Michael’s upcoming visit.  We returned to our coach around 9:15 PM, finished unloading the car, unpacked a few things, adored our cats, and relaxed with our iPads for an hour before going to bed.

2016/02/13 (S) Yard Sale

I was up at 7:30 AM, partially prepped the coffee, and then unpacked clothes and hung them up or put them in the laundry hamper.  Linda got up sometime after, after which I ground the coffee beans and finished making our morning coffee.

We noticed last night that a few folks had things sitting out in their front yards suggestive of a garage sale.  This morning there was quite a bit of commotion outside and we noticed several yards just from our rig with lots of stuff sitting out on tables and/or the ground.  Clearly Big Tree Carefree RV Resort was having an official yard sale event today.

We had granola for breakfast and then strolled through the resort.  Based on one comment we overheard we got the impression that the yard sale might have started yesterday but there was still lots of stuff available.  We are not yard sale people, as a rule, and our real destination was the laundry room.  Most of the parking spaces were taken but the room was empty and none of the machines were in use.  We walked back to our coach, loaded our laundry, computers, and iPads in the car, and drove over to the laundry room.

I got the laundry into a washing machine while Linda got her computer going and connected to the park Wi-Fi system.  I then started my computer and got online.  Her computer screen came up dark.  It has done this many times in the past, but not recently.  We think it may be related to the battery, but we are not sure.

Our main reason for bringing our computers over was to download our e-mails from the last four days.  BCM, in particular, has a habit of sending me large files as e-mail attachments or links to large files in a Dropbox, which I prefer.  I had at least 118 e-mails but no large attachments.  I did not get a count from Linda.  Both of our computers are also set up to automatically sync our Dropbox account, and one of the things it does is automatically backup four WordPress websites.  We only had 2.5 GB of data left on our Verizon account to get us through February 19th, so we wanted to transfer as much data as possible via the park Wi-Fi system.

Once the laundry was dry, folded, and hung, we returned to our coach where Linda put on her swimsuit and then joined Mara at the pool.  After putting the clean clothes away I rebooted and reconnected our computers and iPads to our local network and turned on the NAS.  Once everything was up and running I connected the camera and off-loaded all of the photos from the last four days; just over 400 total.  I got a bite to eat and then put on my swimsuit, gathered up my towel and a pair of dry shorts, and went over to the pool to join the ladies.

BP20160212_01732_400x300

A Purple Gallinule near the Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

When I arrived Linda and Mara were sunbathing.  The pool was cool even though it is heated but once I was in and swimming gently I generated enough heat from muscle activity to be comfortable.  I swam for about 1/2 hour and then sat in the hot tub with the whirlpool turned on and positioned myself to vigorously message my lower back.  Linda had taken the soap when she went so I took that along with my towel and shorts and used to shower to rinse off the chlorine and get cleaned up.  I returned the soap to Linda and walked back to our coach.

I doodled on my iPad while Linda read a book when she returned to the coach.  She left at 4 PM to walk to the grocery store with Mara while I laid down on the sofa to take a nap and Jasper curled up next to me.  I was aware of Linda’s return, gradually woke up, and finally got up.

Linda invited Mara to come for dinner.  While she busied herself with the preparations, I went through all of the photos from our trip to Everglades National Park and Key West and backed them up to our NAS.

While I was looking at photos ESET Smart Security kept popping up messages letting me know that it needed my attention.  I opened it and it presented me with a loooong list of critical and recommended updates.  Given our data situation this month I deferred those until I can take my computer back to the office/laundry/activity building and use the resort Wi-Fi system.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and a “pasta” dish using an edamame and mung bean fettuccine style noodle.  Mara came to our coach around 6:45 PM and brought a vegan chocolate mousse for dessert.  It was based on blended avocados and it was a delicious finale to a scrumptious meal.  There was a nice orange glow in the western sky but it was too dark by then to eat outside.  It was also getting chilly following sunset so we ate inside and polished off a bottle of Barefoot Pinot Grigio between the three of us.

Mara left a little before 9 PM and we turned on the TV to see if anything interesting was on.  One of the PBS stations was showing a three part drama titled Arthur & George based on a true life event in the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and starting Martin Clunes (Doc Martin) as Doyle.  Linda went to bed part way through the third episode but I stayed up to watch it as it was very well done.  I flipped channels for a while after that but nothing else held my attention and I finally went to bed sometime after midnight.

2016/02/14 (N) Valentine’s Day

We were still tired from out whirlwind trip to south Florida and slept in this morning.  When we finally got up Linda made pancakes for breakfast, this being Sunday and all.

It’s a good thing we have our 2 GB of bonus data for the next couple of billing cycles.  Between the Windows 10 upgrade on two computers (most of which we did using the RV resort Wi-Fi), the upgrades to the iOS on both iPads, the inevitable updates to applications on all four devices, and quite a bit of work on BCM articles as well as our personal website/blog, we have had to monitor/manage our data usage very carefully for the January 20 through February 19 billing cycle.  Even with being gone for four days to the Everglades and Keys, and taking our devices to the activity building to use the Wi-Fi, we will be very close to our limit by this Friday, which is the 19th.

There are at least eight alligators in this image and several more outside the frame.  Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

There are at least eight alligators in this image and several more outside the frame. Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

My computer was indicating that I had 22 updates available which meant that Linda’s computer probably had a similar number.  One of them was a Windows 10 cumulative update which I knew would be large so I took both computers to the library and did the updates there.  I then spent part of the day processing and backing up photos before turning my attention to blog posts.  Even with our data situation I uploaded several from mid-October and prepared several more.

We had a relatively easy day otherwise and I did not record all of the details which are now mostly lost to me.  Brenda Phelan called around 5:15 PM to let me know our tire and windshield covers were ready but she and Bill were headed out for a couple of days on windshield cover appointments.  They would be back on Wednesday and we deferred dealing with delivery until then.

For dinner Linda made a mushroom bourginione with macaroni.  She used a Lindeman’s 2014 Shiraz to make it and we also drank some before/with our meal.  She bought a pint of Soy Delicious Cookie Dough non-dairy “ice cream” the other day and we had that for dessert.  After dinner we settled in to watch our Sunday evening TV programs, including Downton Abby.

2016/02/15 (M) Ready, Set, No

We had our usual morning of coffee, juice, and granola for breakfast.  Our fresh water tank had dropped below the 1/3 level yesterday or the day before.  The monitor only indicates Empty, 1/3, 2/3, and Full so once it drops below 1/3rd I have to check it visually.  Fortunately the tank is translucent polyethylene and is located behind a door such that I can see the water level when the lighting is right.  Given how we are parked, facing southwest, the light is best in the morning as access to the tank is from the driver side of the bay.

The tank was down to the 1/8th level, which is about 15 gallons.  We might have gotten one more day’s use but there was no reason to run the tank dry and the pump works better with a full tank.  I dumped both waste tanks and refilled the fresh water tank.  I checked the hardness of the water coming out of the softener after the tank was full and it was indicating somewhere between 0 and 1.5 gpg.  I updated my Excel spreadsheet accordingly.

An Anhinga that just caught something to eat.  Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

An Anhinga that just caught something to eat. Shark Valley Visitors Center, Everglades NP, FL.

Linda had work to do today on family tax returns and set up her computer on the temporary dining table while I continued to work at my computer on the desk.  I selected and processed a couple of photos from our visit to Everglades National Park for Linda’s weekly postcard to Madeline.  I then selected and processed photos to include in the blog posts for the dates of our visit to the Everglades and Keys.

Brenda Phelan had also sent us an e-mail yesterday regarding our tire covers.  I replied to that and indicated that we might pick them up on Wednesday when she and Bill are back at their shop in Lakeland.  With that done I started preparing for a 3:30 PM telecom meeting of the FMCA National Education Committee.  I printed off six documents:  meeting notice, agenda/notes, short survey results and sampling information, and the long survey results and sampling information.  All told it was 55 sheets of paper, but I wanted/needed to see the survey results printed out.

At 3:29 I dialed in and was the first caller, which I though was odd.  I doubled checked the meeting notice and realized the meeting was Wednesday the 17th.  I knew that, but historically we have always met on Monday afternoons and I just had it in my head that we were meeting today.  The upside us that I have more time to digest the data and think about how I want to handle the fact that the sample/response was too small (in my expert opinion) for the results to be considered representative of the FMCA population.

We had leftovers for dinner, after which we settled in to watch the X-Files and Lucifer on FOX as our usual Monday evening programs on CBS were preempted by the Grammy Awards, which did not interest us.  At 10 PM we switched to PBS and watched a documentary on Stephen Hawking, followed Charlie Rose.  Rose’s show was focused on Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scilia, who passed away over the weekend.

 

2016/02/11 (R) Key West and Back

We were up at 7 AM, showered, dressed, and went down to breakfast, which consisted of fruit and potatoes.  We went back to our room and gathered up the stuff we would need for the day.  We loaded the car and headed south on the Florida Toll Road to its terminus at US-1.  We headed south on US-1 and stopped at the Shell station to top off the tank before continuing our trip to the Florida Keys.  We stopped at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center on the north end of Key Largo where we got a map of the Florida Keys and a few suggestions on what to see and do.  We continued south and found ourselves in a massive traffic jam.  The problem turned out to be construction work on the drawbridge.  Most of US-1 is a 2-lane road from the mainland all the way to Key West, and there are a few drawbridges along the way.  Anything that impedes traffic, be it a drawbridge, construction, or traffic accidents, can create huge traffic jams.

We stopped on Big Pine Key and found the National Key Deer Refugee Visitor Center.  We drove down Key Deer Lane and stopped at a small lake where we talked to a volunteer naturalist but did see any deer.  We decided to return to this spot on our way back north in the late afternoon and then drive out to No Name Key in the hope of seeing some of the small, unique deer.

We eventually got through the traffic congestion, continued south, and finally reached Key West, albeit a bit later than we had planned.  We drove along S. Roosevelt to the southernmost point in the Continental United States.  There was a long line of people waiting to go to the actual point, and no obvious place to park so we kept driving.  We finally found free street parking on Turner Avenue near the Catholic Church.

A rare photo of me taken by Linda.  Even rarer is that I am smiling.  But then, why not?  I’m at The Cafe in Key West, Florida with my bride of almost 45 years about to enjoy a wonderful vegan meal.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

A rare photo of me taken by Linda. Even rarer is that I am smiling. But then, why not? I’m at The Cafe in Key West, Florida with my bride of almost 45 years about to enjoy a wonderful vegan meal. It doesn’t get much better than that.

We walked part of Duval Street, found Southard St., went the wrong way, turned around, and walked the other way, and finally found The Café restaurant.  Linda had located The Café when looking for vegan dining options on Happy Cow.   Linda had the Udon noodle bowl and I had the Kung Pao Tofu.  Both were excellent vegan fare and the servings were huge.

We spent a couple more hours walking the historic part of town, walking past the Hemingway house, the lighthouse, and the Truman Community that includes The Little White House.  We did not pay admission fees and go in anything as we did not have enough time to really see them.

Linda at The Café in Key West, Florida right after our meals had come to the table.  The Café has the Key West look and feel, but was nicer than most of the vegan restaurants we find.  Vegan eateries tend to be near colleges and universities and cater to that clientele, so they do not waste a lot of money on fancy decor.

Linda at The Café in Key West, Florida right after our meals had come to the table. The Café has the Key West look and feel, but was nicer than most of the vegan restaurants we find. Vegan eateries tend to be near colleges and universities and cater to that clientele, so they do not waste a lot of money on fancy decor.

We were back in our car around 4 PM planning to return to Big Pine Key to see the Key Deer.  Traffic was very heavy getting out of Key West and did not get any better once we were headed north on US-1.  It turned out that there was an accident on US-1 about five miles before our turn on Big Key, which was 18 miles from where we first encountered stopped traffic.  It took us two hours to finally clear the reported accident location and be able to resume driving at posted speeds.

By the time we reached the Key Deer Habitat it was too dark to see anything and we kept on driving.  We stopped at a filling station in Florida City before returning to the hotel just before 9 PM.  Our round trip today put about 260 miles on the car.  It was a hard day, but we were glad we made the trip.  Even on our brief drive-through visit we found the Keys to be attractive and charming and someplace we would probably enjoy spending the month of January or February some year.  It is a very expensive place to stay, with nicer (not luxurious) RV parks running $100 per day, but the Keys are a unique place with unique things to see and do, and a very agreeable climate in January.  We will save our pennies and perhaps plan a month in the Keys into our winter 2017-18 travels.  As of now we plan to return to the southwest U. S. for winter 2016-17.

 

2016/02/05–09 (F–T) Super Windows Roadtrip

2016/02/05 (F) Windows 10 Upgrade

We had a long day yesterday and even though we were in bed before 11 PM we still slept in until 8 AM this morning.  I did not make coffee and we did not have breakfast as we were picking up Mara at 8:50.  We shut down our computers and iPads and packed them for travel.  We set the windows in the bus so the cats would be comfortable.  At 8:45 AM we loaded the car and drove over to get Mara.  We stopped at the Dunkin Donuts in Arcadia for coffee and bagels and then headed west on FL-70 for Ed and Betty Burns’ place in Bradenton.

Everglades National Park entrance sign on the road from Homestead and Florida City, FL.

Everglades National Park entrance sign on the road from Homestead and Florida City, FL.

The main purpose of our visit today was to upgrade Linda’s Samsung laptop computer and my ASUS notebook computer to Windows 10 using Ed and Betty’s unlimited broadband data.  A secondary objective was for Linda to purchase/download the latest version of Turbo Tax.  Our tertiary goal was to update iPad and smartphone apps.

We got to Ed and Betty’s a little after 10 AM, introduced them to Mara, and got busy setting up our computers.  We had a bit of a false start but finally had the Windows 10 installation process launched by 11 AM.  After quite a bit of conversation, Linda and Betty busied themselves making lunch and Mara settled in to go through her mail.  Once the files for Windows 10 appeared to be downloaded I initiated the update process for eight apps on my iPad2.  Betty washed off a bag of red grapes and set them out for all of us to enjoy.

At 12:30 PM we moved our technology to a coffee table in the living room to clear the dining room table for lunch.  Betty made a large pot of vegan chili mac and we had sliced avocado, tortillas, and potato chips to go with it, along with grapes and slices of Meyer lemons for our water.  Florida really is a good place to be if you want to “eat fresh.”

The ladies left around 1:45 PM to go for a walk while Ed and I stayed behind.  I connected my phone to their Wi-Fi and updated a dozen apps.  My computer was finally ready to configure Windows 10 at 2 PM and I went through the customized personalization rather than accepting the Express Setup defaults.  My iPad was up-to-date so I started working on this post while I waited for the Windows 10 process to finally finish.

It took until 2:30 PM for my computer to be fully booted up and usable.  About that same time Linda’s computer was finally ready to configure.  I wanted Linda here for the configuration choices so I waited for her return.  The ladies got back at 2:45 PM and Linda resumed configuring her machine.  We had originally planned to go see the 3 PM practice session of the Royal Lipizzan Stallions in Myakka City, but we would have had to leave at 2 PM to get there.  We will definitely go seem them, but for now this was, once again, deferred to a future day.

Linda purchased, downloaded, and installed the latest version of TurboTax and was done installing updates by 4:20 PM.  Her update process went smoothly, if slowly, and without any apparent hitches.  When the initial Windows 10 upgrade finished on my machine I did not have any of the quick start or system tray icons which concerned me greatly.  After rebooting my computer, more than once, the icons eventually returned.  I installed an undated driver for the NVIDIA GeForce graphics processing unit (GPU).  I also had a problem with the sound but was able to resolve it using the audio troubleshooter.

I rebooted my machine for what I hoped was the last time at 4:45 PM.  It took 15 minutes to fully boot up and I made one more check for updates.  It appeared that the operating system updates were all done but there were still updates to install for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, both of which are large and tend to take a long time to download.

By this point Betty had opened a couple of bottles of wine and convinced all of us that the collect best option for dinner was to order pizza and eat at their house.  Linda coordinated the pizzas and ordered them from Vertoris’ where we ate last night and which was only seven miles away.  While she and Ed were in transit to get the pizza and salad I updated Photoshop and Lightroom.  I started each program and Photoshop indicated that it had a problem with the video card driver and had disabled some of its enhancement features.  That was not an immediate problem as I do not presently make any use of Photoshop, but the incompatibility was distressing nonetheless.

I had done what I could in the way of updates for today so I shut down my computer and packed it away to clear the table for dinner.  Betty set the table and Linda and Ed returned a short time later with the food.  We sat down to a wonderful meal with friends that finally concluded around 7:30 PM.  It had been a wonderful day with friends and we had gotten a lot accomplished thanks to the use of their technology, but by 7:45 PM we were all tired and the three of us were on our way back to Arcadia.  We dropped Mara back at her motorhome at 8:45 PM and were back at our coach by 8:50 PM.  We watched the end of an episode of Endeavor and then watched another complete episode.  By then we were sleepy tired and went to bed.

2016/02/06 (S) Article Uploads

We slept in this morning until after 8 AM and so did the cats.  We lounged around in our sweats drinking coffee and eventually had granola for breakfast.  It was cloudy with rain coming and we considered spending the day in the bus in our sweats when we remembered that it was the first Saturday of the month.

The Everglades is vast and low, but is not a swamp.  Swamps involve stagnant water.  The Everglades is almost entirely shallow, but constantly flowing, water like a river.  Everglades NP, FL.

The Everglades is vast and low, but is not a swamp. Swamps involve stagnant water. The Everglades is almost entirely shallow, but constantly flowing, water like a river. Everglades NP, FL.

The Arcadia Farmers Market takes place on the first and third Saturday of each month so Linda texted Mara to see if she wanted to go.  She did, so we got dressed, picked her up in the car, and drove downtown.  To our disappointment there were only four vendors there and only two of them were selling food.  One was a local farm that had freshly picked Napa cabbage and locally produced honey.  Linda bought a head of the cabbage and Mara bought a cabbage and a jar of honey.  We took a short walk around downtown and then drove to Joshua Citrus Co.

At Joshua Citrus we bought a few Ruby Red grapefruit and a few Honeybelle tangelos.  Mara also bought a variety of citrus including Meyer lemons.  We stopped at Walmart on the way back to our RV resort for cat litter and a few sundry items while Mara picked up some groceries.  We dropped her at her motorhome and took a minute to meet another couple from Howell, Michigan who were just getting ready to pull out.  We then returned to our rig around 1 PM.

Linda made rollup sandwiches with soft tortillas, Napa cabbage, dark greens, and hummus.  At 1:30 PM she phoned Mara to see if she wanted to go for a walk and headed over to rendezvous with her.  I had a call earlier from Dave Aungier and called him back.  He had downloaded his BCM article from my Dropbox and reviewed it.  We went over a few minor changes, which I made to the Word doc, and discussed the process of submitting it to the magazine and working it through to publication.

Dave and I were done talking by 2 PM and it had started to rain lightly.  Linda had worn her raincoat but returned around 2:30.  By that time I had turned my attention to the three articles that Stacy had finished proofreading and returned to me.  I went through each one and accepted most of the changes.  I then went through each one and made sure I had all of the image files properly identified and organized.  I backed up all of the files, moved them to the READY folder, and then uploaded them to my Dropbox.  Once everything had transferred I e-mailed Gary (BCM publisher) and Jorge (layout) and let them know the files were there.  I had a few more e-mails back and forth with Gary and had to redo a panoramic photo that had discontinuities in it that I had not noticed.

Mara came to our rig to discuss some logistics related to the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise that she and her friend, Michael, are going on at the end of the month.  As it turns out we will take them to Miami and pick them up when they return and take care of Mara’s two cats while they are away.  Mara waited for a lull in the rain and returned to her rig a little before 6 PM.  For dinner Linda prepared a salad with diced Napa cabbage and honey roasted peanuts and a homemade dressing made with rice wine vinegar, sesame and vegetable oils, Dijon mustard, fresh grated ginger, salt, and pepper.  It was very good.  She then reheated the leftover pizza from the last two nights.  The pizza was exceptional when it was fresh and, although it lost its crisp crust on reheating, it was still tasty as leftovers.

While Mara was visiting the leak around the bedroom ceiling vent/fan reappeared.  The lower outside corner of the lower passenger side windshield also leaked, but we expect that to happen every time until we do something to fix it.

After dinner we watched a couple episodes of Endeavor and then a couple of episodes of As Time Goes By.  After that we watched a PBS documentary on Jason Blair, the discredited New York Times reporter.  We caught a few minutes of news and weather and went to bed.

2016/02/07 (N) Super Sunday

Today was just one of those days.  It also happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, but that’s another story.  As we do most days we started our morning with coffee.”  As she often does on Sunday mornings, Linda made vegan pancakes for breakfast.  We split a ruby red grapefruit as well.

Though much of the Everglades is open, there are stands of trees throughout.  This one had a “face.”  Everglades NP, FL.

Though much of the Everglades is open, there are stands of trees throughout. This one had a “face.” Everglades NP, FL.

Linda walked to Winn-Dixie with Mara while I settled in to work at my computer.  My plan was to edit and upload blog posts but in the end I only got two more posts ready to go and did not get them uploaded.  Not that I was goofing off; I was busy all day but ended up taking care of other things.

For starters, I downloaded an updated version of the Logitech SetPoint software for my Logitech UltraThin Touch Mouse and then reconfigured the settings.  The mouse is capable of a variety of things with just subtle movements but seemed to be less stable than before the Windows 10 upgrade.  I was also having problems with my cursor jumping around while typing.  I initially noticed it while typing e-mails but noticed it later while working in Word.  Linda had the presence of mind to suggest that it might be the touchpad.  Sure enough, the touchpad was active.  That had not occurred to me because it wasn’t active under Windows 8.1.  Apparently the upgrade to Windows 10 activated it.  So much for maintaining my existing settings.

I had additional e-mails back and forth with Gary and Jorge at BCM, as result of which I updated the BCM page on our website.  I also e-mailed Brenda Phelan to check on the status of our tire covers.  When I finally got to work on blog posts I selected and processed several photos from our visit on Thursday to the Ringling Estate.  I then edited the two posts mentioned previously.

When Linda got back from Winn-Dixie she made rollup sandwiches for lunch with dark leafy greens and garlic hummus in soft tortillas.  We had red grapes to go with the sandwiches.  After lunch she walked up to the mail room.  I got a happy birthday card from our daughter and son-in-law, which was nice.  The eight pounds of coffee we ordered from Teeko’s back home had also arrived.  I checked the order to make sure it was correct.  It was, so I stored the box as we won’t need it for another couple of weeks.  I exchanged a couple of text messages with my daughter and decided it would be easier to just call her.  We had a nice chat.

Mara walked down to our coach mid-late afternoon and the three of us went for a vigorous walk through the entire RV resort.  We all returned to our bus and visited long enough for me to demonstrate the mapped location history feature in RVillage.  Mara headed back to her rig around 5:30 PM and Linda started fixing our dinner.  She made vegan Sloppy Joe’s with TVP and baked sweet potato fries.  Yum.

Eventually it was time for Super Bowl L (50).  I had intended to continue working at my computer all evening but my enthusiasm had waned and I found the game distracting.  We kept the volume down and played games until 9 PM and then switched the TV to PBS and watched Downton Abbey.  When it was over we switched back to the game.  It looked like the Denver Broncos were going to beat the Carolina Panthers so we watched a documentary on PBS/World about a family in Japan.  Linda went to bed when it was over but I switched to PBS/Create and watched a tribute concert to American film composer John Williams.  Jasper curled up with me for a while and then indicated it was time to go to bed.

2016/02/08 (M) Travel Prep

It got down to 40 degrees F outside last night and dropped into the upper 50’s in the coach.  Juniper stayed close to us for most of the night and snuggled up next to my head around 4:30 AM.  The cats must have eaten most of their food during the night as by 7 AM Juniper was most insistent that I get up.  I finally did at 7:15 AM, fed them, turned on the furnace, and made our morning coffee.  Linda was up by 7:30, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and was playing word games by the time the coffee was ready.  That girl really likes her word games

An Anhinga pruning its feathers.  Everglades NP, FL.

An Anhinga pruning its feathers. Everglades NP, FL.

Linda checked our Verizon account via her iPad and we had used 7.03 of our 10 GB of monthly data plus the 2 GB of extra allocation we got for downloading and installing the Verizon go90 app on our phones.  The data usage function on the Mi-Fi device (Novatel 5510L) showed 9.03 out of 12 GB as it combines all available data, so they were in agreement.  It’s a good thing we have the extra 2 GB each month for the next few billing cycles.  This current cycle (January 20 through February 19) has included iOS and app updates for both of our iPads, app updates for our Android phones, uploading of four BCM articles to our Dropbox (with lots of photos), numerous e-mails with large attachments, and upgrades from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 on both of our computers.  Even though we made some use of the resort Wi-Fi while at the laundry room, and did the Windows OS and some iPad/smartphone upgrades at Ed and Betty Burns’ place using their unlimited broadband connection, it has been a heavy period of data usage for our Verizon account.  Twelve gigabytes is not enough data to get us through a typical month while we are away from home.

We had granola for breakfast with fresh fruit and juice and then settled in to finish our coffee and doodle on our iPads.  I e-mailed my blog posts for the last five days to myself and then download/installed the Gmail app on my iPad2.  We took showers, got dressed, straightened up the bathroom, and got on with our chores.  I turned on the electric block heater for the engine to warm it up for a maintenance start later today.

We are headed to Homestead and the Florida Keys tomorrow for four days so today was, in part, a travel preparation day.  Linda’s first task was a trip to the post office to mail the book she bought at The Ringling estate for Madeline’s Valentine’s Day present.

We are taking the car and leaving the cats behind in Mara’s care so Linda wanted to clean up the bus a bit.  We also both needed haircuts.  Linda made a 1 PM appointment at a place near the Winn-Dixie.  One of my tasks was doing laundry which I took care of at 11 AM.  Linda finally got hold of a real, live person at the Florida Toll Road Sunpass system but the account is in my name and they would not talk to her.  She found me in the laundry room and worked her way through the phone menu until she got back to an actual person and then put me on the phone.  The woman was very nice and very efficient and it only took about 10 minutes to get our account reconfigured so we could access it.  We logged in and confirmed that we still have a credit balance and updated our credit card information.

When I was done with the laundry I turned on the Aqua-Hot engine preheat loop.  When Linda got back from her appointment she cut my hair.  Another task was giving Mara a key to our coach and going over the care and feeding of our feline friends.  Linda took care of that.

A few days ago our Progressive Industries EMS threw another PE2 error code, which indicates an open ground.  The current error code is 0 (zero), indicating that everything is OK, so it is/was obviously a momentary problem.  Presumably the problem is in the resort wiring as that is what the PI EMS is designed to monitor and protect against.  I wanted to do done things with the bus chassis today so I took care of this at the same time.  Unlike last time, I shut off the circuit breaker at the power pole, unplugged the shorepower cable, cycled the breaker a couple of times to wipe the contacts, cleaned the contacts on the plug, inserted and removed it several times to clean the contacts in the outlet, plugged it back in, and turned the breaker back on.  All of that was designed to clean electrical contacts and remove a possible marginal connection.

Another thing I did today was start the bus engine, let it warm up, moved the bus aft and for slightly to make sure the brakes were not frozen, and re-leveled the coach before shutting the engine down.  I shut of the block heater and Aqua-Hot burner before starting the engine.  We are a little over half way through our stay here at Big Tree RV Resort and given the often humid, rainy conditions I wanted to make sure the brakes were not rusted closed.  I also wanted to check the fuel gauge as we have been running the Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system on cold mornings and it uses about 1/4 gallon of diesel fuel per hour when operating.  When I was done with this process I turned on the fuel polishing pump so it could run while we were away.

We still had enough gallons of fresh water on board that I decided not to dump and fill the tanks today.  With the engine/chassis stuff taken care of my main focus today, when not preparing for our trip, doing laundry, eating meals, going for walks, and dealing with e-mails, was working on my blog.  It may be the thing I want to do, but it is often not the thing I need to do, or in some cases, the thing I have to do.

I failed to record what we had for dinner but I’m sure it was tasty.  We watched TV for a while and then went to bed.

2016/02/09 (T) Road Trip

My night was interrupted around 1:30 AM by very strong wind gusts.  All of the awnings were out except the large patio awning and were perfectly capable of being damaged by the gusts.  I put on my sweats, slipped into my Crocs, and went outside to stow the awnings.  The two bedroom window awnings and the driver side living room awning are held open by straps with a loop on the end that slips over a hook mounted on the side of the coach.  The roller tubes are spring loaded and self-retract when the straps are released.  While retracting they have to be controlled, using a long metal rod with a right angle bend on one end and a semi-circle handle on the other, but are otherwise easy to deploy and stow.  Besides the possibility of the fabric tearing where it mounts to the body or the roller tube, we had the front end of the driver side front awning flipped up by a strong wind gust in Sheridan, Wyoming.  I would not have believed that was possible unless I had seen it happen, but we were not about to risk having it happen again.

An Egret stalks its prey.  Everglades NP, FL.

An Egret stalks its prey. Everglades NP, FL.

I spite of my sleep being interrupted I was up at 7 AM.  As we do every morning, we fed the cats, refreshed their water, and cleaned their litter tray.  We finished packing, adjusted the windows, loaded the car, pulled out as of our site a little before 8 AM, and stopped at the dumpster to drop off a bag of kitchen trash.  We drove to the local Shell station to fill the fuel tank and stopped next door at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and something to eat.  We then headed east on FL-70.

Our destination was Homestead, Florida and Everglades National Park.  Our route was FL-70 east to US-27 south to FL-821 south (which is part of the Florida Toll Road system) to its terminus at US-1 in Florida City just south of Homestead.  From there we headed west through Florida City and on to Everglades National Park.  This part of Florida is very flat but it was still an interesting drive.  It was cloudy and cool for the whole drive down.

We stopped at the Visitor Center to get a map and stamp our National Parks “Passport.”  We entered the park using Linda’s Senior Access Pass and a few miles in stopped at the Anhinga and Limbo Gumbo trails area.  We walked both trails, each about 1/2 mile in length, and I took quite a few photos.  By the time we got back to our car it was 1:30 PM.  We were hungry and wanted to get more information about boat tours so we drove the 34 miles to Flamingo.  We had lunch at the Buttonwood Cafe and went over to the Marina to check on buying fuel.  They wanted over $5 per gallon so I passed.

We also checked on the pontoon boat tours.  Two different tours were available, one into Florida Bay and the other into the Mangroves.  Both tours left on the hour starting at 9 AM with the last one departing at 4 PM.  The tours lasted just under two hours, and cost $35.  They did not take reservations and tickets could only be purchased the same day.  We decided to return to the park tomorrow and deferred any decision about the boats until then.

By this time, it was late enough in the day that we decided to start back towards the entrance 34 miles away.  We stopped at Pa-Hay-Okee and hiked the boardwalk before leaving the park for the day.  On the way back to our hotel we stopped at a Shell station in Florida City and filled the fuel tank for a more reasonable price per gallon.  We found the hotel, a Hampton Inn just off exit #2 of the Florida Toll Road between Florida City and Homestead, and checked in.  We had lunch rather later and were undecided about what to do for dinner, or when.  We drove across the street to the Publix supermarket, bought snacks for tomorrow, and bought red grapes, hummus, and sourdough pretzel nibblers to have for dinner in our room.

We had Direct TV in our room but eventually found PBS and CBS and watched our usual Tuesday night programs.  We also found The Weather Channel and Weather Nation and checked the current weather and forecast for the next few days with great interest.  Some of the coldest weather of the year was dropping down through the upper Midwest and Great Lakes, affecting the Northeast, mid-South, mid-Atlantic, and Deep South past our location and all the way to Key West. We had brought a variety of clothing, so we were prepared.

 

2016/02/01 (M) – 2016/02/04 (R) Southwest Florida

2016/02/01 (M) Tabbed

We had coffee and then granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast.  After breakfast we gave Jasper his nose drops.  Linda then went for a walk that took her to Walmart where she picked up a few grocery items.  I continued working on photos for Dave Aungier’s BCM article.

When Linda got back I decided to put the new tabs on the license plates (car and bus).  We were able to renew the registration/tabs online and have them mailed directly to the RV resort.  Putting the new tabs on was a bit more work than just peel and stick as I keep protective plastic covers over the license plates and secure them with “tamper proof” bolts and Nylok nuts.  That required special tools which I had to get out.

Once I got the plates off the vehicles and separated from the covers I washed them and stood them up to dry.  While they were drying I washed off the areas of the vehicles where the plates mount.  I peeled four layers of old tabs off of each plate so I could put the new tabs directly on the plates.  I reassembled the protective covers on the plates, mounted them back on the vehicles, and put the tools away.  The final step was to remove the expired registrations from our wallets and replace them with the new ones.  The whole process took about an hour but it felt good to have it done.

While I was outside I drained the auxiliary air system water separator (which I do every few days).  I also opened the drain on the auxiliary air tank but it was dry.  That was good, and meant the water separator is doing its job.

Linda made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  She read for a half hour and I continued working on photos while we digested our lunch before changing into our swim suits and walking over to the pool.  There were quite a few people in the pool so we stayed in the shallow end, walking and swimming from side to side.  When we were done exercising we spent a few minutes in the spa (hot tub / whirlpool) and then showered and changed into dry clothes that we brought with us.

We stopped at the mail room and found our electric bill for January in our mailbox.  Linda walked back later and paid the bill and also our rental fee for February but realized later that they did not charge us enough.  She thought they might have charged us for someone else’s campsite.  When I checked my e-mail I had one from Gary at BCM.  He forwarded one from Jorge with a Dropbox link to a draft of the March 2016 issue and a request to proofread both of my articles and provide any needed corrections ASAP.  I finished the task before dinner, uploaded the PDF file, and e-mailed them back.

For dinner Linda made Farro with dried cranberries, onions, garlic, greens, and hot pepper flakes.  We finally finished the Franzia Crisp White boxed wine, which went well enough with the dish.  After dinner I washed some of the grapes that Linda bought today and we settled in to watch the PBS Newshour, the X-Files, Lucifer, and NCIS Los Angeles.  We went to bed and tuned in PBS for coverage of the Iowa Caucuses before going to sleep.  I don’t recommend political coverage as a way to fall asleep peacefully.

A small piece of the enormous Tibbels miniatures circus model at the Ringling Museum complex, Sarasota, FL.

A small piece of the enormous Tibbels miniatures circus model at the Ringling Museum complex, Sarasota, FL.

2016/02/02 (T) Mara Arrives

The humidity rose sharply as the temperature dropped last night.  That made for cool, but sticky, conditions at bedtime; the one combination that we do not have a way to counteract.  We woke around 7:30 AM to dense fog and were less than fully rested, but a nice pot of coffee at least cleared away the cobwebs.  The fog disappeared soon enough to reveal partly cloudy skies.  The sun was bright and hot but there was a mild breeze, making the morning feel somewhat tropical.  We had toast and jam for breakfast with our usual orange-grapefruit juice.

Linda went for a walk after breakfast and stopped at the office to correct our rental payment for February.  While she was walking I resumed my work on Dave Aungier’s article for Bus Conversion Magazine.  I finished selecting, processing, and inserting photos for the print version of the article and then set it aside.  It had been nine days since I dumped the waste tanks and filled the fresh water tank and we were down to 1/6th of a tank of fresh water.  That’s about 20 gallons so we could have gone one more day, but we are not boondocking and do not have any reason to run the tank all the way to empty.  Besides, the water pump works a lot better when the tank is full.

Linda stopped at Walmart on her walk and returned carrying four small bags of groceries while I was servicing the tanks.  She also got a text from Mara indicating that she was about to pull out and head our way.  Once the fresh water tank was full I left the water hose turned on and added the tank treatment to the toilet and sinks while Linda did the dishes.  Once we were done I shut off the shore water and we returned to operating off of the fresh water tank using the onboard pump.

As long as I was doing chores I cut the power to the coach, waited 30 seconds, and turned it back on to reset the Progressive Industries EMS Previous Error (PE) Code 2 (open ground).  This error occurred during the last storm while we’re away from the coach.

With our chores done Linda thought we should go for a swim so we changed into our suits and walked over to the pool.  Some of the Quebec residents were playing Petanque (pronounced “p’tunk”) and there was a shuffleboard tournament about to commence.  I gathered from the instructions being given to the teams that Big Tree Carefree RV Resort was hosting teams from another RV park.  There was no one else at the pool when we arrived and we had it to ourselves for about 10 minutes.  A woman showed up and asked if it was OK with us if she put on her water aerobics music and did her exercises.  Sure!  Why not.  Linda joined in and eventually a third woman joined them.  I went to the deeper end of the pool and swam back and forth from side to side.

I got out of the pool while the ladies were still exercising, took a quick dip in the hot tub, and then showered.  I changed into my other pair of swim trunks (XXL) and cinched them tight.  They make a very comfortable pair of shorts for warm days and it doesn’t matter if they get wet

Massive Banyan Trees at Ca’ D’Zan, John and Mabel Ringling’s former winter estate on Sarasota Bay, now part of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

Massive Banyan Trees at Ca’ D’Zan, John and Mabel Ringling’s former winter estate on Sarasota Bay, now part of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

We were back at our coach by 2:30 PM and Barb, across the street, invited us to hang our suits and towels on their clothesline, which we did.  Linda made roll up sandwiches with garlic hummus, onion, and lots of dark, leafy greens for a later-than-usual lunch.  After lunch she sat outside and read while I updated my water usage spreadsheet.  Linda got another text from Mara that she had arrived so we moseyed over to her site behind the swimming pool.  Mara passed us in her motorhome going the other way as she was being led away from the office to her site.  We stopped at the office on the way to make sure they had cleared up our February billing correctly and to check our mailbox.  They had; no mail.  The Québécois were done playing Petanque for the day but the shuffleboard tournament was in full swing.  The parking volunteer was just getting Mara backed in as we arrived at her site.  We left her alone while she blocked and leveled her motorhome, extended the slides, shut down the engine, plugged in the shorepower cord, and deployed the awnings and windshield sunshades.  Good RV etiquette is to not bother people while they make/break camp.

We visited briefly but did not stay.  Mara had stopped at the Walmart for groceries before entering the resort and needed to put them away and then have something to eat.  Linda invited her to come down for dinner and she accepted.

When we got back to our coach the inside thermometer read 89 degrees F.  That was just a bit too hot for my comfort, and for the cats too.  I turned off the electric heating element for the domestic hot water.  We closed up the coach and turned on the front and center air-conditioners, but not the one in the bedroom.  The front and center units are on separate legs of the 240/120 VAC system.  Even before I turned the units on the voltage was 115 VAC on L1 and 112 VAC on L2 with very little current draw.  With A-C units on these voltages dropped to 112 and 109 respectively.  That is very marginal for our PI EMS, especially the L2 voltage.  This was the first situation we have been in where I wished I had a Hughes Autoformer boosting transformer.

I opened the bottle of Beringer Red Moscato that we have had in the refrigerator for a while and Linda and I had a glass while we waited for Mara.  Linda called Mara at 7 PM and she was not sure how to find our coach in the dark so I walked over to the activity building at 7 PM to meet her and we walked back together.  We gave Mara the grand tour of our remodeling efforts and then poured some more wine.  Both cats allowed Mara to interact with them, which was unusual and perhaps a sign that Jasper’s health was finally improving.

For dinner Linda made a salad, seitan stroganoff, and fresh strawberries for dessert.  We chatted before, during, and after dinner about where we had each been and what we had been doing since we last crossed paths in July and what our plans were for 2016 and beyond.  By 8:45 PM we had covered a lot of ground but had not been for our after dinner walk.

It had been a long day for Mara and she was ready to get back to her cats so we walked back to her rig with her and extended our walk through the Resort before returning to our coach.  We watched a fascinating program on the assassination of President James Garfield and then turned off the air-conditioners, opened a couple of bedroom windows, opened the roof vent-fan in the bathroom, and turned the fan on in exhaust mode.  We went to bed and watched Charlie Rose before finally turning out the lights and going to sleep.

2016/02/03 (W) Laundry Swimming

 

Jasper woke me up early with his sniffles and sneezing and I had trouble falling back asleep.  Our little guy is obviously uncomfortable with whatever it is that he has and I stroked his back and scratched his chin for quite a while.  I finally got up a little after 7 AM and walked over to the Wednesday morning coffee, as much out of curiosity and to have something to do as anything else.  I noticed as I was leaving that the gasket in the rear vertical edge of the entry door window was coming out at the top again and made a mental note to fix it later today.

The living room at Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

The living room at Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

While I was gone Linda got up, got dressed, stripped the bed, and decided to go for an early morning walk.  I know, because I met her about half way back to our coach.  I ground the coffee beans and prepped the coffee pot.  When I saw her walking down Front Street towards our site I started brewing the coffee so it would be ready shortly after she arrived.  We had granola with blueberries for breakfast but did not have fruit juice or take our pills.  Later.

It was already 72 degrees F outside and anywhere from 75 to 79 degrees F inside, depending on which thermometer or thermostat I looked at.  I don’t believe any of them anymore but I figured collectively it was somewhere between 74 and 80 degrees F in the coach.  The forecasted high for today was 86 degrees F and based on the low level clouds streaming in from the south looked to be a humid day as well.  It’s always better to keep a space cool and dry than it is to try to cool it off and dehumidify it after the fact.  I turned off the bathroom ceiling exhaust fan and closed the roof vent and closed the two open windows in the bedroom.  I noticed that the bottom horizontal gaskets on these windows are not staying in their mounting grooves.  Ugh.  I love our old bus, but there are some aspects of it that I seem to have to keep fixing, which is not my most favorite thing to do.  Oh well, at this point we are definitely “in for a dime, in for a dollar.”

We doodled on our iPads until it was time for Linda to walk to the swimming pool for the 10 AM water aerobics class.  While she was exercising I selected and processed a couple of photos for her to use with her weekly postcard to Madeline.  She normally takes care of this on Tuesday.

We will be away from the coach and Resort the next two days so I needed to do laundry today.  While I was gathering up the soiled clothes and linens I got a call from Dave Aungier.  He was following up to see that I got the draft of his article from Bonnie.  I brought him up to date on the status of the work, which I hope to have finished before I go to bed this evening.

I also had an e-mail from Jorge with the correct Dropbox link for the final version of the March 2016 issue of BCM.  I needed to do a final proofread on my two articles and get back to him by the end of the day.

Linda got back from exercising and swimming just as I was getting ready to leave for the laundry room.  The washers and dryers were all in use and I had to wait a while for washing machines to open up.  Linda texted to see if I needed help and walked over to assist.  I brought my computer and continued working on Dave Aungier’s BCM article while our clothes were being washed and dried.  I got all of the digital edition bonus photos selected and processed, so I should be able to wrap the article up tonight and make it available for Dave to proofread.  I also got two small Windows 8.1 updates downloaded and installed, but the Internet connection was not fast so that’s all I was able to do.

 Exterior detail of Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

Exterior detail of Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

We folded and hung all the dry clothes and loaded them in the car, which I drove back while Linda walked (no room to ride).  We were back at our coach by 2:45 PM, three hours and 15 minutes after I left to take care of this chore.  After putting the clean clothes away Linda walked back to the pool to look for her Tilley hat.  While she was gone I checked the level of the kitchen counter.  It was level, so starting the engine and re-leveling the coach was not something I had to do today.  Linda returned, hat on head, so we avoided the inevitable sadness of a lost Tilley hat.

The two front air conditioners were not able to keep up with the heat, in large part because the middle unit is not working very well.  Presumably it needs to be charged, but Butch has done that before so the root cause has to be something that needs to be repaired, such as a refrigerant leak and/or a bad seal that is reducing the pumping effectiveness of the compressor.  A secondary problem is that we cannot run the bedroom A-C unit at the same time as the front one since they are on the same leg (L1) and the voltage at our coach is already too low with just the one unit running.

At 4 PM we walked to the pool for an afternoon swim.  When we returned to our coach I retrieved the latest, and hopefully final, draft of the March 2016 issue of BCM and proofread my two articles.  I had one minor correction for each article and e-mailed them back to the publisher and layout person.  While I was working on this I got an e-mail from Kristine Gullen with a question for Linda which resulted in a group text message conversation.  We received a “hold the date” notice at our house, which our daughter let us know about, for the October 22 wedding of Kristine’s son Nickolas.  We will make a point of being back by October 15 from our trip to the Canadian Maritimes and New England.

For dinner we had a salad and the left over Farro with cranberries and seitan stroganoff.  After dinner we retracted the large patio awning as a precaution in advance of rain and possible thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow in association with a cold front approaching from the northwest.  We then emptied out the back of the car and removed the passenger side rear seat and the wooden storage structure to allow the driver side rear seat to be lowered into position and secured.  We rearranged the things stored in the front bay of the bus to make room for the car seat, and several other things that were stored in the car, moving a few things to the passenger side engine bay.  We should have done this earlier in the day when it was light but doing it in the morning would have been a disaster.  We should have done this as soon as we got settled at Big Tree RV Resort but it wasn’t pressing then and we got busy with other things.

We went for a stroll around the resort and dropped off the trash along the way.  Back at our coach we had a glass of Beringer Red Moscato wine and watched Nova on PBS.  Mara sent Linda a text indicating that Sabra (one of her cats) was still having issues and she had decided not to go with us tomorrow to the Ringling Brothers museum in Sarasota.

After Nova we put the linens back on the bed.  I then converted Dave Aungier’s article from Word to PDF, uploaded it to a folder in our Dropbox, and sent him an e-mail with the link.  I caught some news, weather, and Charlie Rose and then went to sleep.

2016/02/04 (R) A Ringling Birthday

We were up by 7:15 AM this morning but I did not make coffee and we did not have breakfast.  We got dressed for a day away from our coach and I repacked the camera bag.  We left at 8:30 AM and stopped at the local Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a bite to eat.  We were on our way to Sarasota a little before 9 AM.  We took FL-70 west to I-75 and headed south to the University Blvd. exit.  We headed west to the end of the road at Bayshore Drive, and arrived at the John and Mabel Ringling Estate at 10 AM.  Steve and Karen arrived just ahead of us and we parked right next to them.NOko

Linda and Karen rest on the patio of Ca’ D’Zan and study the map of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

Linda and Karen rest on the patio of Ca’ D’Zan and study the map of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

The 66 acre estate was the location of John and Mabel Ringlings’ winter home, Ca’ D’Zan, starting in 1926 when it was finished.  Mabel died three years later and John continued to use the house until 1936 when he passed away.  John was one of the seven Ringling brothers of circus fame.  In addition to their 36,000 square foot home the estate includes an amazing art museum to house their extensive collection.  There is also a circus museum and a building that houses the Tibbels scale model circus that Howard Tibbels spent 60 years creating.  John and Mabel did not have any children and the entire estate was left to the people (State) of Florida when John died.  The entire estate is now part of The Florida State University and the Ringling Art Museum is the official art museum of the State of Florida.

Ca’ D’Zan sits on Sarasota Bay and is a wonderful home in the Venetian Gothic style.  We went on one of the longer, guided tours, so we got to see more of the house than we would have on a self-guided tour but not as much as the even longer (and more expensive) “behind-the-scenes” tour.

The Tibbels circus model is 1/16th scale, i.e., 3/4″ to the foot.  The model covers a large area and illustrates every facet of an early 20th century major circus of the type that traveled from town to town by rail.  Not only is the model an amazing thing to see, and an amazing thing for one man to have created, but it gave us an understanding of how a major circus of this period functioned.  The logistics involved were impressive to say the least.

We finished our day at the Ringling Museums complex around 4:30 PM with a visit to the gift shop where Linda bought a book for Madeline for Valentine’s Day.  Back at our cars we drove north on US-41 (Tamiami Trail) about three miles to Vertoris’ Pizzeria for my birthday dinner.  Vertoris’ turned out to be a small, unassuming place with seating for maybe 24 people.  They offered quite a variety of pizzas, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free, but had lots of other Italian dishes.  I had vegan butternut squash ravioli, Linda had a vegan pizza, Karen had baked ziti, and Steve had the largest piece of lasagna I have ever seen.  Karen and I had a glass of Chianti, and Linda had a different Italian red (but did not recall the name when we got home).  The restaurant had vegan cupcakes so Linda, Karen, and I each had one while Steve had a cannoli.

 Detail view of one exterior wall of the modern addition to the Ringling Art Museum, Sarasota, FL.

Detail view of one exterior wall of the modern addition to the Ringling Art Museum, Sarasota, FL.

Our son called last night to wish me happy birthday and our daughter texted me at 3:40 PM today to do the same.  I saw the text at 5 PM after we were at the restaurant and texted her back.  My phone battery was depleted, which is unusual for my phone, so I turned it off.

We were done with our meal by 6:30 PM, made arrangements for our next get-together, and went our separate ways.  Steve and Karen headed south on Tamiami Trail 28 miles back to Nokomis and we headed north three miles to FL-70.  Three tenths of a mile shy of FL-70 we encountered a serious traffic backup and I could see a large assemblage of emergency vehicles up ahead.  We were already in the right hand lane and eventually got to FL-70 (53rd St.) and made the turn.  US-41 beyond the intersection was blocked by the police.  We did not slow down to gawk, which I find really annoying, and all we saw were emergency vehicles; lots of emergency vehicles.

It was raining when we left Vertoris’ and it got a lot heavier as we traveled east on FL-70.  Somewhere east of Myakka City we drove out of the rain and did not encounter any more the rest of the way home.  We arrived around 7:45 PM to find the grass at our RV site was wet, so we knew it had rained at some point.  After bringing our stuff in from the car we started our Verizon Mi-Fi, started up our various technology devices, and I plugged in my phone to charge.  Linda texted Mara to see if she wanted to go with us to Ed and Betty’s tomorrow morning.  Mara replied that she did so Linda communicated the plans and timing for the morning.

Linda checked the weather and the rain was moving our way from whence we had just come.  It was forecast to arrive around 9 PM, which it did, and be done by 11, which it was.  In between in oscillated between heavy and light.

 

2016/01/26-31 (T-N) Coming Off The Road

2016/01/26 (T) Filter Me This

The low temperature overnight was forecast to be 50 degrees F.  That’s good sleeping weather for us, so we left several windows open and did not need the furnace and I did not turn on the heater pad on the bed.

As I have written the last couple of days I have not been feeling quite right.  This morning I had a productive cough.  That is never a good thing but it is better than having stuff in my lungs that won’t come out.  I was feeling better today so perhaps I am finally kicking out whatever it is that got hold of me.

I made our morning coffee and used up the last of the current batch of coffee beans.  We have used six pounds of coffee in the last 60 days; a pound every 10 days on average.  We left home with eight pounds of coffee from Teeko’s; two pounds each of four different beans/blends packaged in 1/2 pound vacuum sealed bags.  I blend pairs of beans in equal proportion when I grind them to make our daily half-caffe morning coffee.  We have four 1/2 pound bags left, which will carry us for about 20 more days at our current rate of consumption.  We have been vacillating about whether to order more beans from Teeko`s but decided today that we probably should, and do so relatively soon.

The entrance to Gold Tree MH community in Bradenton, Florida where our friends, Ed and Betty Burns, bought a place after they came of the road as full time RVers of many years.

The entrance to Gold Tree MH community in Bradenton, Florida where our friends, Ed and Betty Burns, bought a place after they came of the road as full time RVers of many years.

Breakfast was our usual, but always scrumptious, granola and fresh blueberries with orange/grapefruit juice.  After breakfast Linda spent some time trying to get in touch with someone from the Florida Sunpass (toll road) system but was unable to ever speak to an actual human being.  We have a Sunpass transponder in our Honda Element from two years ago and have a Sunpass account to go with it.  Unfortunately, we did not record the details of that account in our password app and have been unable to access the account to see if it is still active, has a credit balance, or to add money.  Up to this point we have not needed to use the Florida toll roads, but eventually we will.  She finally got frustrated, sent an e-mail to their contact address, and then went for a walk

When she returned from her stroll, Linda busied herself with her counted crisis-stitch project.  Last night she made arrangements for us to visit SE Florida and the Florida Keys.  She zeroed in on February 9, 10, and 11 and confirmed that Mara was willing/able to take care of our cats while we were away.  After looking at various options we decided that we wanted to use Homestead, Florida as a base from which to explore the area.  One reason was that the prices for lodging in Marathon were $200+ per night and in Key West $400+ per night.  We are not late night party animals, so we did not need to spend that kind of money just to have a place we could stumble home to in the middle of the night.

 

The best price she found for a hotel was a well-rated Travel Lodge in Homestead for $109 per night but Trivago would not let her specify a non-smoking room.  The Travel Lodge website clearly showed both smoking and non-smoking rooms so we were not about to risk ending up in a smoking room.  The next best deal was for a non-smoking room in a Hampton Inn for $160 per night, which includes breakfast.  We have always liked Hampton Inns and as a bonus they did not have a reservation cancellation fee.  She booked us for the three nights.

Our plan is to leave early on the 9th and visit Everglades National Park via the Homestead entrance.  We will then check in to the Inn late in the afternoon.  On the 10th we will leave early and drive through the Keys, seeing what there is to see along the way, and eventually arriving in Key West.  We will get a taste of the Conch Republic but leave in time to get back to the Inn in Homestead at a reasonable hour.  On the 11th we might return to Everglades National Park and/explore other things in the area.  We will probably sleep in on the 12th, enjoy the complimentary breakfast (as much of it as we can eat), and then check out and head back to Arcadia.

While Linda was walking and working on her project I edited seven more blog posts.  Late morning I took a break to finish the regeneration of the water softener.  I removed the clear housing from the pre-filter housing attached to the inlet on the water softener, removed the diverter tube and flat washer, and returned them to the plastic zip lock bag I store them in.  I put the opaque blue housing back on without a filter element inside and ran water through the tank to flush out any remaining salt brine.  I tested the water coming out of softener and it was at 1.5 gpg.  That was a very discouraging result given that I just used almost 52 ounces of table salt to regenerate it.  In the 3-1/2 years we have owned this water softener I have only once successfully regenerated the softener back to zero (0) grains per gallon.  Overall it has been a disappointing purchase.

It was time to replace the sediment filter ahead of the softener and the carbon filter going into the fresh water tank but we did not bring spare cartridges with us.  I took a minute to take several pictures of the caulk that is peeling loose from our new passenger side lower windshield and attached one to a text message to Chuck Spera which resulted in a brief exchange.  I then took the car and went on an errand run.

My first stop was Walmart where I found a pair of 5 micron 10″ sediment filter cartridges, a pair of 10″ charcoal wrapped taste and odor whole house filter cartridges, two 48 ounce boxes of coarse Kosher salt for future regenerations, and a bag of animal crackers.  (I checked the label and they did not contain animal products)

My next stop was the local NAPA Auto Parts Store.  They had small tubes of silicone adhesive caulk, both black and clear, but I did not buy any at this time.  My next stop was the local Shell station where I topped up the fuel tank.  I then moved the car next door to the Dunkin Donuts and got a frozen mocha latte made with almond milk.  It was warm today and I wanted a treat.

Back at our coach I measured our windshield wipers and then e-mailed Brenda Phelan the dimensions so she can send us the correct sun covers along with the tire covers we ordered from her and Bill at the Tampa RV Supershow.  With that done I contacted Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida to see if we could take advantage of their 2-for-1 special and stay two weeks for the weekly rate.

Our current departure date from Big Tree RV Resort in Arcadia is March 7th.  Florida Grande was able to take us starting on that date for two weeks so I made the reservation.  The resort is south of Ocala and The Villages, north of Bushnell, northeast of Brooksville, northwest of Lakeland, and west of Orlando, so it is centrally situated to a part of the state where we can easily spend two weeks exploring and touching base with some friends in the area.

With Florida Grande in hand I pulled up the website for Jetty Park Beach and Campground at Port Canaveral on Cape Canaveral.  We were hoping that we could get in there when we left Florida Grande.  Our GLCC friends, Pat and Vickie Lintner, moved to Jetty Park when they left Fort Wilderness at Disney World in mid-February.  They have done this every year for at least the last six years.  I visited them there two years ago after dropping Linda at the Orlando airport, so I know it’s a nice little park in a unique location and an ideal place to explore Florida’s Space Coast.

The Jetty Park online reservation system indicated that no sites of the type we wanted (full hookup) were available starting on March 21st but said to call or e-mail the office.  I knew from my conversations with Pat and Vickie that the park campground was extremely popular with repeat visitors who book their reservations a year in advance.  They had also told me that folks occasionally cancel reservations but if I called and checked repeatedly we might be able to get in.

I got an answering machine and left my name, cell phone number, and the dates we were interested in.  I got a call back a short time later from Scott.  He was able to put us on a site for one night on March 21st at the daily rate, and a different sight for seven nights starting on the 22nd, which qualified for the weekly rate.  Sold.

Jetty Park is a bit more expensive than what we normally like to spend for camping but it is on the Atlantic Ocean between the Kennedy Spaceflight Center and Cocoa Beach.  It is also on the south shore of the channel that separates the park from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Spaceflight facility as well as and a U. S. Navy submarine base.  If you are there at the right time submarines can be viewed as they are going into or out of the base.  The Port/channel is used heavily by cruise ships, including the Disney Cruise Lines.  If the timing is right, rocket launches can also be viewed from there, up close and personal.  I was lucky enough to see a military satellite launch when I was there two years ago.  My recollection is that it was me and about 10,000 other people, not only in the park but lining the access roads for miles to the west.  I remember thinking then that it would be much better to be camped at Jetty Park Campground than fighting this traffic after the launch.  Indeed, I crashed (no pun intended) on Pat and Vickie’s sofa for 90 minutes until the traffic dissipated and then drove back to Williston Crossings.

I e-mailed Pat and Vickie to let them know we got into Jetty Park Campground and give them the dates.  We hope they will still be there for at least part of our stay but even if they have already moved on there is way more to do in the area than we can experience in one week.  I then e-mailed Ed Roelle and Bruce/Linda Whitney to update them on our travel plans.

With all of that accomplished I returned to working on our water system.  I use a sediment filter cartridge in the first housing, which I removed and replaced with the 5 micron cartridge I bought earlier at Walmart.  I then unscrewed the housing that is mounted inside the water bay.  I had to use my large slip pliers since the filter wrench could not be positioned properly to turn it far enough to loosen the housing.  The element that was in there was a specialized cartridge that I bought it in Quartzsite, Arizona this past winter.  It was more expensive than most and my recollection is that it contained some silver and had a very small micron rating.  We have a 0.5 micron drinking water filter that filters for five different things including cysts, lead, and VOCs, so a whole house carbon wrapped filter on the water input to the coach fresh water tank should be more than adequate.

We went for a walk and stopped at the activity building.  We were expecting a package from Amazon tomorrow but Pat, one of the resort managers, flagged us down to let us know it arrived today.  We picked it up from the office and carried it back to the coach.  It was 15 pounds of the Science Diet Sensitive Skin and Stomach cat food, which we could not find locally.

For dinner Linda made sautéed kale with garlic and turmeric and vegan quesadillas with Daiya cheddar cheese.  Red grapes rounded out the meal, which was simple but delicious.  We went for another walk after dinner and then settled in to watch our Tuesday evening TV shows.  All of the shows were repeats that did not require our full attention, so Linda worked on puzzles and I worked on this post.

2016/01/27 (W) Rained In

The rain started around 2 this morning and intensified through the 4 AM hour before tapering off and ending, temporarily, around 7 AM.  We awoke at 7:45 AM and realized it was Wednesday.  The weekly coffee at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) is Wednesday at 8 AM so we got dressed quickly, grabbed our complimentary coupon, and walked over.  As with the last time we went, the place was packed with no seats available as the “regulars” had all arrived at 7:30 AM.  They were out of regular coffee so we both filled our travel mugs with what was left of the decaf.  We decided not to stay for the announcements and door prize drawings and walked back to our coach.

The weather forecast was for the rain to resume late morning and continue until dinner time tomorrow so Linda decided to get a long walk in before the rain returned.  While she was out I used my computer to upload two more blog posts.  My goal is to get 5 to 7 of them uploaded each day, but after doing two I tired of the task.  I don’t feel sick, but I am still coughing stuff up occasionally and I feel a little tired, which I attribute to fighting off whatever ailment I have developed.  Jasper, our 11 year old male mackerel tabby cat, started sneezing yesterday and the sneezing became more frequent today.  He is eating and drinking, and does otherwise appear to be out of sorts, but we will have to keep an eye on him.

Mid-morning I phoned Teeko’s Coffee and Teas back home and ordered eight (8) pounds of custom roasted coffee beans, two pounds each of four different things, to be vacuum packed in 1/2 pound bags.  I ordered Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, both regular and decaffeinated, Seattle Blend (caffeinated), and Sweet Dreams, a decaffeinated blend.  When I grind the beans just before making our coffee I mix the Yirgacheffe beans 50/50 or I mix the Seattle Blend and Sweet Dreams 50/50 to make Sweet Seattle Dreams.  The Yirgacheffe is a single bean coffee, smooth and pure, whereas the Sweet Seattle Dreams is a blend of many beans and is slightly more complex in flavor.  We like both so I usually alternate between them from day to day.

We left home the day after Thanksgiving Day with eight pounds of the same assortment of beans.  At our current rate of consumption of one pound every 10 days our current supply of beans should get us to mid-February, approximately 80 days from when we left to head south for the winter.  The new beans will be shipped USPS and should be here in 7 to 10 days.

That was the last thing I did of any note for the rest of the day.  We were socked in by the weather since we chose not to walk in the rain.  Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project and I took a nap.  I eventually got up and played games on my iPad while she took a nap.  I laid down a second time and flipped through the various local OTA TV news and weather stations but did not fall asleep.  Rainy days are good for that, especially when there isn’t anything else I feel like doing.  Eventually Linda made dinner which was a bit of work.  She made mujadara, a brown lentil and basmati rice dish with cumin, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon, topped with caramelized onions.  It was very good.

After dinner we watched the PBS Newshour, which is providing reasonably intelligent coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign and the upcoming Iowa Caucuses.  We then watched our usual Wednesday evening PBS nature and science programs.  Linda went to bed at 10 PM but I stayed up until midnight to watch Charlie Rose, which I consider to be one of the most intelligent shows on television.  I went to bed to the pitter-patter sound of rain lightly falling on the roof of our coach and drifted off to sleep.

2016/01/28 (R) Bloody Nose

The rain continued overnight into this morning and intensified between 4 and 6 AM.  I was awake off and on starting at 3 but awake to stay by 7.  We both got up at 7:30.

Jasper, our make cat, started sneezing occasionally a couple of days ago and was sneezing more frequently yesterday and into the evening.  We awoke this morning to find blood spattered on the living room floor and a couple of spots on the captain’s chair nearest to the desk.  It appeared that Jasper was probably sleeping in that chair when he had to sneeze.  We were able to clean all of the blood off of the tile and get the spots out of the chair fabric.

Before I could make our morning coffee I had to open the last four vacuum-packed bags of coffee beans and transfer them to the airtight stainless steel storage canisters.  While I did that, and then ground the beans and prepared the brewer, Linda researched sneezing and bloody noses in cats.  (She is our Google queen.)  Based on what she found, he almost certainly has an upper respiratory infection, but beyond that it’s hard to say.  He is eating and drinking, which is good, and his behavior has not changed as far as we can tell, which is also good. (He’s an 11 year old cat and normally sleeps more than he is awake.)

The rain quit by 8 AM but it was solidly overcast.  The chance of precipitation through lunch time was only 15% but jumped back up to 30% at 1 PM.  Juniper, our 7-1/2 year old female cat, seems to be just fine and climbed up in Linda’s lap where she likes to be whenever possible.  While we drank our coffee Linda used her iPad to check in on the world and play a few games, while I used mine to finish up yesterday’s blog post and start on today’s post.

I decided to call the veterinarian’s office at 9 AM and see if we needed to bring Jasper in.  They said we probably should and scheduled an appointment for 12:30 PM.

We had granola for breakfast and then got dressed.  I settled in at the desk and worked on blog posts for the rest of the morning.  The rain was forecast to continue through the day and into the evening before finally clearing out of the area by midnight.  There was a bit of a lull during the morning, during which Linda walked over to the dumpster with our small daily bag of kitchen trash and then got in a long walk before returning to our coach.  Once she got back Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project.

We put Jasper in his carrier at 12:15 PM and drove the short distance to Desoto Veterinary Services where Dr. McNulty checked him over.  His lungs were clear and his heart was strong and normal, but his temperature was elevated slightly.  Doc gave him a shot of a multi-acting antibiotic and antibacterial nasal drops.  The drops were actually ophthalmological, but he pointed out that anything designed to work in the eyes will also work in the nasal/sinus area as that is where fluids from the eyes end up via the drainage tubes.

As long as Jasper was there Dr. McNulty scarped some tartar off of his teeth.  I had never seen this done on a cat that had not been anesthetized but Jasper tolerated it quite well.  Linda said she had seen our vet back home, Dr. Carron, do this before.  In addition to the bill for today’s services we purchased six more doses of Cheristin flea medication.  That will cover both cats for February, March, and April until we get home.  We will switch them back to Revolution as we still have quite a supply of it and it also protects against heartworm.

Before returning to the RV resort we drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off our plastic recyclables.  By the time we got back to the coach it was starting to rain again.  Jasper was glad to be back in the coach and out of his carrier and we glad to be snug in our home-on-wheels and out of the rain.

We had a bite of lunch and I resumed editing blog posts but was struggling to maintain my concentration and interest, so I took a nap.  When I got up I checked e-mail and had a reply from Pat and Vickie Lintner.  They will be at Jetty Park Beach and Campground at least through the end of March so we will get to hang out with them while we are there.

Late afternoon I had a call from Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint.  We chat occasionally but this call was promoted by a visit to our website where she noticed that my latest blog post was from early October 2015.  She was wondering if I had stopped blogging or if we had, perhaps, stopped traveling.  The answers were ‘no’ and ‘no’, of course, but that was just an opening to a conversation, not the end of one.

For dinner Linda made tortilla wraps with BBQ pan-seared tofu and caramelized onion and served a side of corn and edamame.  I really like this way of preparing tofu but it is messy.  I have come to the conclusion that my favorite way to have it is wrapped in a soft, warm tortilla.  It’s tasty, and helps contain the mess.

After dinner we tuned in the PBS Newshour for our daily dose of presidential campaign nonsense and analysis.  We then watched our usual Thursday night CBS TV programs for a brief escape from the bizarre reality of American politics.

Ed & Betty’s place at Gold Tree MH community in Bradenton, Florida with our car in the driveway.

Ed & Betty’s place at Gold Tree MH community in Bradenton, Florida with our car in the driveway.

The rainfall over southwest Florida in the 48 hours from late Tuesday evening through late this evening has been epic, and the rainfall totals for the month of January have been historic.  Some places closer to the Gulf Coast to our west, southwest, and south received almost 13 inches of rain and most locations received 5 to 10 times their normal rainfall for the entire month.  Fortunately Arcadia, in general, and Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, in particular, seem to drain well and we did not have any issues with flooding.  Our coach continues to have leaks, however, and while that is frustrating enough by itself, they seem to appear in new places and not reappear in previous locations.

This time around the carpet runners on the entry stairs were soaking wet.  Besides the leak around the new, and newly installed, passenger side lower windshield, it appears that water has gotten under the new landing platform as the passenger side rear lower corner is water stained and wet.  My guess is that water ran down into the stepwell from there but how it got there in the first place is a mystery.  Given the problems I discovered with water under the pilot and navigator seats, my guess is that water somehow got to the landing from there, but that only begs the question of where the water gained entry and how it got that far in the first place.

2016/01/29 (N) Ed and Betty

Jasper had a difficult night, sneezing often and usually multiple times when he did.  As a result I did not get the best night’s sleep.  The weather cleared out overnight and in spite of Jasper’s difficulties I did get some rest.  I woke around 7 AM to a beautiful sunrise lighting scattered clouds to the southwest.  We had coffee, toast, and juice for breakfast, showered, and got dressed.

We pulled out of our site at 10 AM and stopped at the Resort dumpster on our way out.  We left the Resort about 10:10 and headed west on FL-70 towards Bradenton.  We stopped at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch, just east of I-75, and Linda bought flowers.  We arrived at Ed and Betty Burns’ home, just east of I-75 and south of Fl-70, around 11:15 AM.

It was great to finally see Ed and Betty again.  Since the last time we saw them they have sold their motorhome and bought a manufactured house (double wide) in a nice development in Bradenton, Florida.

For lunch Betty had baked a loaf of German Rye Bread and made a pot of vegan vegetable soup from a mix she found.  She also had grape tomatoes and orange segments.  It was an excellent lunch of good food shared with good friends and we very much appreciated her accommodating the way we eat.

After lunch we went for a walk around their gated community and I took a few pictures along the way.  We stopped at the clubhouse and pool to check it out.  Like the rest of the park they were large, excellent facilities.  Back at their house we sat outside chatting and enjoyed some hot tea.  It eventually cooled off to where we started to get cold and went inside to continue talking.  Rather than go out for dinner we decided to have dinner at Ed and Betty’s.  That led Linda and Betty to drive to the Publix supermarket about a half mile from their house to gather ingredients while Ed and I stayed home a opened a couple of bottles of wine.  We chatted into the late afternoon enjoying wine and tortilla chips with peach salsa.

Linda and Betty started preparing our evening meal at 5 PM.  We had a nice salad that included non-dairy Daiya mozzarella style “cheese.”  Slices from an Italian baguette with non-dairy spread accompanied the main dish of angel hair pasta with a slightly sweet Ragu pasta sauce.  We waited a while and then had dessert of Marie Callander’s Peach Cobbler served hot with  Almond Dream non-dairy ice cream on the side.  Once again it was a wonderful meal and we were stuffed.

We finally left at 8:30 PM and drove back to Arcadia.  We stopped to check our mailbox and were back in our coach by 9:45 PM.  An episode of Endeavour had started at 9:30 PM and we picked it up in progress.  When the episode was over at 11 PM Linda headed to bed and I tuned in Charlie Rose.

2016/01/30 (S) Blog Swimming

The temperature dropped back into the 50s last night so we had good sleeping conditions and the coach was only slightly chilly when we woke up this morning.  I ran the heating system just long enough to bring the temperature inside up to 70 degrees F and chase away the chill.  We had a beautiful day on tap with high, scattered clouds, sunshine, light winds, and temperatures climbing into the 70s.  This is why people come to Florida in the winter.

After coffee and a light breakfast of grapefruit and toast, Linda went for a walk and I settled in to work on blog posts.  She ended up at Walmart looking at swimming suits for me and called me to see what my waist size was.  I did not know, and did not want to dig out a tape measure at the moment, so I told her I would go to the store later and find something.  The swimming pool here is heated and there is also a hot tub with a whirlpool feature.  Both of them are used regularly but we had not been in them yet as the weather has been too cool and/or too wet.  I thought it was still too cool today, but Linda was determined to get in the water.

When Linda returned from her walk I took the car and drove over as I wanted to top off the fuel tank while I was out.  I had measured my waist so I had a rough idea of what size swimming suit I needed.  Walmart only had one style that I liked so I bought one, along with a new pop-up nylon mesh laundry basket.  When I got back to our coach I tried the swimming suit on.  It was huge and needed to be returned.  I wanted this swimsuit crisis dealt with now.  Linda had bought something that she wanted to return so I took both items and their receipts back to the store.

It seems that there are often long lines at Walmart Customer Service counters, but that is just a matter of timing.  I did not have to wait very long and the returns were easily accomplished.  The problem with the swimming suits at Wally World is that there are gaps in the waist sizes.  They had the same style I had previously purchased but the next smaller size looked like it would be too small.  Given how much too large the supposedly correct size one was I decided to buy it.  I did not have much in the way of options at that point.

I tried it on when I got home and it seemed to fit OK.  At my urging Linda had already gone over to the pool.  I wore a shirt with my swimsuit, put on my Crocs, and walked over to join her.  I found her in the pool hanging on to a foam swim noodle and floating around with a smile on her face to match that of any kid.  We were both good swimmers when we were kids, but that was a long time ago.  I no longer regard water that is deeper than my shoulders as a friendly place.

The pool was cool on first contact but I could tell that the temperature would be OK after I had been in for a few minutes.  I eventually got all the way in and got my exercise by walking around in water up to my neck while moving my arms back and forth through the water.  All movements under water are done against considerable resistance and provide good exercise.  When I first got there the sun was still bright and warm but eventually thin clouds started to obscure it.

When we were done in the pool we moved to the hot tub, which was quite warm, and Linda turned on the whirlpool pump, which was quite invigorating.  When we were done in the hot tub Linda rinsed off in one of the showers to get the chlorinated water out of her hair.  I had not gotten my head wet, so I did not bother rinsing off.  I had the slight shell of chlorine about me the rest of the day and evening, but it was OK; kind of like a perfume for men.

I resumed uploading blog posts until dinnertime.  For dinner Linda prepared large salads with mock cold cut slices, garbanzo beans, fresh blueberries, grape tomatoes, and Daiya shredded non-dairy cheese.  She finished up the balsamic vinaigrette and dressed my salad with an Asian soy-ginger vinaigrette.  We had a couple slices each of the Italian baguette she bought yesterday and it made for a large, tasty, and satisfying meal.

After dinner we took our iPads and smartphones to the activity building and used the Resort Wi-Fi to download and install all of our app updates.  Linda also downloadable and installed the latest update to the iPad operating system (iOS 9.0.2 I think).  Once the updates were done we walked back to our coach and watched another episode of Endeavor, which tells the story of the beginning of Endeavor Morse’ career with the Oxford, England city police department and how he became Inspector Morse.  Like most BBC dramas, it is extremely well done.  We stayed up and watched an episode of “As Time Goes By”, a delightful British comedy starring Judy Dench.  There wasn’t much else on that interested us after that and we turned in earlier than usual.  I had the lights out before 11 PM.

2016/01/31 (N) Bus Article Photos

Today was another pleasant day, weather wise, with light winds and a high temperature in the mid-70s, but more cloud cover than yesterday.  Whatever I caught a few days ago is still with me and Jasper is still sneezing, so the boys on the bus are both still a little under the weather.

I met Dave Aungier at the Arcadia Rally 2016 and photographed his 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion.  Dave wrote an article about his bus for Bus Conversion Magazine (long hand) and had his friend Bonnie put it into MS Word.  She e-mailed the file to Dave and to me.  Other than breaks for lunch and to go for a walk with Linda, I spent most of the day reformatting the article in two columns, doing some minor editing, and then selecting, processing, and inserting photos into the article.  I did not finish the work by dinner time and figured I would finish it tomorrow.

Linda and Betty strolling down one of the interior roads at the Gold Tree MH community.

Linda and Betty strolling down one of the interior roads at the Gold Tree MH community.  Gold Tree is a clean, well-kept, and attractive gated manuactured housing community with nice amenities.

Our friend Mara was scheduled to be at Horizon Coach tomorrow for repairs on a slide out seal and then check into our RV Resort.  Her cat, Sabra, has been ill and she decided to push everything out by a day so she can take Sabra back to the veterinarian where she is staying near Ft. Lauderdale.

Lunch was roasted red pepper hummus with onion on the dark German rye bread that Betty Burns baked for us last Friday.  Double yum.  On our first joint walk of the day we found a small group of musicians playing at the gazebo to an equally small audience.  The Petanque (p’tunk) and shuffleboard courts were also in full use and there were folks in the swimming pool.  Petanque is a form of Bocce Ball that is favored by the Resort residents from Quebec.  Linda went swimming later in the afternoon.  We had baked potatoes for dinner topped with a sauté of onions, mushrooms, broccoli, and kale.  A dollop of Tofutti vegan sour cream added a bit of creaminess.  We went for another walk after dinner and stopped by the activity building.  The library was full of folks playing dominoes and other folks were gathering for the 7 PM karaoke session.

I was done working for the day and settled in with Linda to watch Downton Abbey and whatever else might be on TV this evening.

 

2016/01/21 (R) – 2016/01-25 (M) East and South

2016/01/21 (R) Lake Okeechobee

The weather forecast for today was for very nice conditions and we thought it would be a nice day to go for a ride in the car and explore the area of the state to our east, specifically Lake Okeechobee.  We were up a bit earlier than has been typical for us lately and did not make breakfast or coffee in favor of getting an early start.

The Defraggler disk defragmenter had finally completed its task.  I restarted my computer but it was not behaving correctly.  Besides the disk check and defrag I had also updated the NVIDIA graphics card driver, installed operating system updates, and updated Skype, which configured itself to auto-start on initial boot up.  I had to restart my machine again and suggested to Linda that we drive to the Shell station to top up the rank and then get coffee and bagels at the Dunkin Donuts next door.  I stopped back at our coach to check my e-mail and then shut my computer down.  I was looking for an e-mail from Herb, a member of the FMCA National Education Committee, about his visit to Lakeland, Florida today but he had not replied.  It was a long shot whether we would get to Lakeland today anyway.

We headed east on FL-70 as far as US-27 and then headed south towards Moore Haven and Clewiston.  Most of the drive was through the citrus groves, ranch lands, and fields of crops that make up most of this part of Florida.  The citrus groves eventually gave way to a tall plant with a wheat-like top that we did not recognize but thought might be wheat.  We passed a couple of fields that had been cleared and the organic matter mounded into burn piles.  When we saw large plumes of smoke later in our drive we assumed it was related to more land clearing.  Only later did Linda determine that the plants were sugar cane and the smoke was most likely from controlled burns of the cane fields which is the first step in harvesting the sugar cane.

We had not done a lot of research on Lake Okeechobee and the surrounding area.  What we did know was that it is the largest fresh water lake in the U. S. contained entirely within the borders of a single state.  What we did not know until we saw it was that the entire lake is surrounded by the Herbert Hoover Dike, a massive levy some 50 feet high with flood control gates and canals leading from it.  Construction was begun late in Herbert Hoover’s presidency as a result of a hurricane that pushed an enormous amount of water out of the lake to the southeast and killed thousands of people.

The first place on our drive where we were near the lakeshore was in Moore Haven but as a consequence of the dike there are only a few places where you can actually see the lake.  From Moore Haven to Clewiston US-27 ran right along the levy and we could see nesting boxes on top of tall poles.  All of them had nests and most of them had large birds roosting on them.  I presumed they were probably Osprey or possibly Eagles.

The first place we stopped was a county campground at South Bay, a small community at the southwest tip of the lake.  We were able to drive over the levy to a boat launch area, but the western and southwestern portions of the lake have extensive marshes and we could not see open water even from the top of the levy.  We also drove through the campground, which impressed us as a nice place to spend a couple of weeks to a month, depending on what else there was to do in the area.

We continued around the south end of the lake to Belle Grade, picking up US-441 to Pahokee where we drove over the dike to a marina that was part of a state park with an RV campground.  Before us was the lake and, like looking at a Great Lake or an ocean, it was indeed an endless expanse of water to the horizon.  Okeechobee is a big lake.

From Pahokee we continued up US-441 through Canal Point and along the edge of the levy up to the town of Okeechobee.  This stretch of highway was lined with RV parks, most of them small and not very nice looking.  We weren’t counting but I estimated somewhere between 18 and 24 “parks,” one right after another.  Many of them were full of old, closely spaced, rigs that appeared to be in very poor condition that was matched by the run down, trashy appearance of the properties themselves.

There were a few parks that looked OK and one of them was a park that Linda had called to inquire about openings and rates.  We always check out websites, Google Maps, and Google Earth, but they don’t always reveal the true appearance of a place or surrounding area.  Now that we were seeing this area first hand we were glad (relieved?) that we did not book a spot here.  At the risk of appearing snobbish, the east side of Lake Okeechobee did not impress us as a place we would stay or even need to visit again.  That said, we understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and folks do the best they can.

Yes, we own a Prevost bus conversion, but we bought it very used and we do not think of ourselves as “those” kind of people; you know, snobbish towards those who own SOBs (some other brand).  But we are aware that we have a fairly negative reaction to places that are trashy.  Trashy and old are not the same thing; we have nothing against old.  We are old ourselves, and hope to get a lot older before our time is up.  Trashy suggests a lack of self-respect and a lack of respect for others.  We will take a pass on that.

By the time we reached the town of Okeechobee it was 2 PM and we were hungry.  Rather than continue on to Sebring we headed west on FL-70 where we found a Subway just before reaching the edge of town and stopped to have lunch.  After our meal we headed back to Arcadia 63 miles away on FL-70.  Along the way we saw more Osprey near the Kissimmee River and later on a group of Wood Storks and a few Sandhill Cranes along with the usual Egrets, Vultures, a Kingfisher, and other local birds.  Florida really is a great state for seeing birds.

Once we got back to our coach we relaxed for a while and then decided to go to the jam session at 7 PM.  The jam sessions here are different from what we have experienced other places.  We found out from talking to the attendees sitting around us that the four musicians (two guitars, bass guitar, and drums) are not from the park and are brought in (hired) for the jams.  People from the park took turns singing but no other musicians joined in during the hour we were there.  There were also a lot of people dancing, including singles and couples line dancing.  We left just before 8 PM and returned to our coach to watch our Thursday evening TV programs.

Another major storm was winding up across the south and taking aim on the mid-Atlantic and New England.  The worst effects of this storm were forecast to be ice and snow accumulations of 12″ to 36″ from northern Georgia north and east to the Canadian Maritimes.  As with the last few storms the impact on Florida was forecast to be strong storms associated a quickly moving cold front draped off of the low pressure system and extending far into the Gulf of Mexico.  Rain was expected in Arcadia starting around 4:30 AM.  Several bands were expected, with the strongest from late morning to early afternoon.  Behind the front would be strong winds and much cooler temperatures.  We left the awning style windows open an inch, closed the roof vents, and went to bed.

Linda at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

Linda at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

2016/01/22 (F) Desoto Veterinary Clinic

Heavy rain moved through our location starting at 4:30 AM, exactly when the weather forecasts said it would.  It arrived along with some wind and woke me up but it was not severe and I eventually fell back asleep.  The cats had their usual morning crazies starting around 5:30 AM so that woke me up again, and probably woke Linda up too, but they eventually calmed down and we all went back to sleep.

We finally got up at 8:15 AM and Linda got dressed right away.  It was cool enough that I put on my sweats but not cold enough to run the toe-kick heaters or the hydronic heating system.  I made our morning coffee and we had Linda’s yummy homemade granola with fresh blueberries for breakfast.  I got dressed after breakfast and at 9:45 AM we put Jasper in his carrier and drove to the Desoto Veterinary Clinic for his 10 AM appointment.  There was a lull in the rain with the heaviest, potentially severe, weather expected between late morning and early afternoon so we got to the clinic and back without getting rained on.

We only had to wait a few minutes while Dr. McNulty finished up with another patient.  Jasper rarely goes in his carrier at the house or on the bus, even though we leave it out and accessible, but tends to stay in it at the vet’s office.  Dr. McNulty was a bit of an eccentric character but we liked him.  He spent as much time talking to Jasper as he did to us and checked him over to make sure he did not have other undetected health issues.  His diagnosis of Jasper’s fur loss was that he had been bitten by a flea.  He recommended a small corticosteroid injection to help relieve the itching and reduce Jasper’s need to scratch.  He also suggested that we discontinue the use of the Revolution medication while we are in Florida and switch both cats to Cheristin.  We agreed to all of his recommendations.

Unlike Revolution, which also prevents heartworm, Cheristin is a flea medication only.  Even though Florida is the flea and mosquito capitol of the U. S. Dr. McNulty said that heartworm, acquired from infected mosquitos, is extremely rare here while cats being affected by fleas is quite common.  His concern with Revolution is that the fleas have become resistant to it.  He quit prescribing Frontline and Advantage years ago and has now stopped prescribing Revolution for the same reason.  Jasper and Juniper are strictly inside cats so their exposure to mosquitos, fleas, and ticks is minimal as those critters can only gain entry to the coach via the front door when it’s open or hitch a ride in with one of us.  Still, they do not live in a hermetically sealed environment.

The rains resumed around 11 AM.  Linda complied a grocery list while I worked at my computer on some e-mails and did a little additional work on photos for my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  We had hummus and onion sandwiches for lunch around 12:30.  Linda waited for the rain to subside and finally headed to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket around 1:15 PM.

I had not worked on blog posts yesterday so I finished up the one from the 20th and worked on the ones for yesterday and today.  When Linda got back I helped get the groceries up into the coach.  I off-loaded the photos I took yesterday but was tired and did not feel like getting deeply into any computer-based work.  I laid down on the sofa instead and took a nap.  I like naps; naps are good.  While I was napping Linda went for a long walk.  I finally woke up as she was starting to prepare dinner.  The preparations were going to take a while so I went for a walk.

Dinner was butternut squash burritos and Mexican rice and was very tasty.  After dinner Linda applied the Cheristin to both cats.

PBS had back-to-back episodes of Endeavour, the series detailing the beginning of the career of the Inspector Morse character.  Linda slept through most of the second episode and went to bed as soon as it was over.  I stayed up and watched a show about the Neon Sign Museum in Las Vegas and two companies that are each restoring a sign for the museum.  I watched the weather for a few minutes and then went to bed.

An Anhinga dries its wings along the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

An Anhinga dries its wings along the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

2016/01/23 (S) Pelican Lake

It was a wild day today, wind wise.  Sustained winds of 25 to 35 MPH, with gusts 10 to 15 MPH higher than that, swept across southwest Florida behind the cold front that brought yesterday’s rain.  And it was a cold air mass, with temperatures this morning in the low 40’s F.  After getting up and putting on our sweats, which is what we do on chilly mornings, I made a pot of coffee, which is what I do almost every morning.  Linda decided it was a good morning for pancakes.  Vegan baking can be a bit tricky, but they turned out really well.

We did not have any plans for today.  We had thought about attending the Fort Myers RV Show, at the Lee County Expo Center on FL-31, but decided there would not be anything new to see after having been to the Tampa RV Supershow the previous weekend.

After breakfast I called Chuck to catch up on things generally, discuss leaky windshields in particular, and see if we could arrange a time to visit.  While we were talking a gust of wind opened our patio awning about 12″ and then let it slam shut.  I realized immediately that I had not latched the roller tube at either end when we retracted it a few days ago in advance of the latest round of storms.  I told Chuck I would call him right back and went outside to latch the tubes.  We always latch the roller tube when stowing it prior to moving the coach so I found it to be an interesting oversight on our part that we had not done this when stowing it while stationary.  We were lucky that we were home when this happened and that I was seated where I could see exactly what had happened and quickly figure out why.  You can be sure we will latch the roller tube from now on whenever it is retracted.

With yet another problem diagnosed and fixed I called Chuck back.  As it turned out there was also an RV show taking place at their motorcoach resort this weekend; mostly new and used Prevost conversions from Millennium, Marathon, Liberty, and Featherlight, with a few others and some high end motorhomes thrown in for good measure.  The show was open until 4 PM and Chuck was doing volunteer shuttle service with his golf cart from 2 – 4 PM.  It was a nice day, except for the wind, and we decided to drive down for a visit, look at some of the coaches, and then go out to dinner.

We left around 11:30 AM and stopped at the Shell station to top up the fuel tank.  We then headed down FL-31 to its terminus at FL-80 and headed west for a few miles where we picked up I-75 southbound.  We exited I-75 at exit 101 and drove another nine miles on Collier Blvd, finally crossing Tamiami Trail (US-41) before arriving at Pelican Lake Luxury Motorcoach Resort.  While we were stopped at the light at Tamiami Trail Linda called Chuck as requested.  When we got to the resort entrance he and Barbara were waiting for us in their golf cart.  Rather than parking with the other RV show attendees they led us back to their site and let us park there.  By the time we got to their site it was approaching 1:30 PM.  They gave us a tour and we sat outside in the sun chatting, their extensive landscaping sheltering us from most of the wind, which had blown us around on the drive down and was still blowing strongly.

At 2 PM Barbara took their car and headed to the grocery store and Chuck drove us to the coach display area in his golf cart.  While he performed his volunteer service we looked at all of the Prevost conversions but did not bother with the motorhomes other than the Newells.  The only coach we saw that would have tempted us to trade in our Royale Coach was a Featherlight that was done in walnut laminate (not real wood) with light wall and ceiling treatments and no mirrors on the ceiling.  It had a light, clean, modern feeling that appealed to us.  Being new, it was in better condition than ours and had a much newer technology Volvo 4-cycle engine.  It was also way out our price range, even if they gave us what we had invested in our coach in trade-in value.  New Prevost conversions are very expensive toys.

We did pay attention, however, to the induction cooktops that most of the coaches had and took pictures of the name plates for future reference.  Replacing our Gaggenau halogen cooktop with an induction unit is high on our list of future upgrades.  Ideally it will be a 120 VAC unit so we can use it on a 120 VAC / 30 Amp electrical service.  At least now we have some things to check out.

A few minutes before 4 PM we walked back to Chuck and Barbara’s site.  I paused long the way to take a few pictures as the resort really is visually stunning.  We sat at their patio table and enjoyed the setting in the late afternoon sun.  Chuck eventually called me on my cell phone to let me know he was done with his volunteer service and find out where we were so he could drive us back.  He was surprised we had walked, but then we are always amazed that people use their golf carts for short trips.

When Chuck returned we went inside to chat and he opened a bottle of Santos Sparkling Moscato (white).  Wow, that was a nice cocktail wine!  The buy it at Costco so that may finally be the reason we need to join.  Barbara returned with the groceries and after putting them away we had a second glass of wine.  After some research and discussion we determined that The Loving Hut restaurant, on the north side of downtown Naples, was, in fact, still open for business and was acceptable to all four of us.  The restaurant is just off of Tamiami Trail, so easy enough to find, but traffic in the Naples area is heavy all the time and it took a while to get there.  Once we arrived we settled in for a long meal with good conversation.

There are three things we like about The Loving Hut restaurants, not in any particular order.  For one, the menu is essentially Chinese and SE Asian cuisine.  Second, the menu is extensive with page after page of dishes to choose from.  Third, the entire menu is vegan; we can, literally, pick dishes at random and know that we can eat them and that we will like them.  As a bonus, they also have a nice assortment of European style vegan desserts.  It’s a chain, and we really wish we had one of these near our house, but it’s probably just as well that we do not.

We drove separate cars to the restaurant since it was in the direction we needed to go and neither of us had a car that would seat more than two people.  We said “farewell until next time” in the parking lot at 8:15 PM and headed our separate ways.  We only had a few miles to travel to the east to get back to I-75.  From there we retraced our route and finally arrived back at our coach around 9:40 PM.

We had left the windows cracked so it did not too hot inside for the cats but by the time we returned it was 66 degrees inside.  Not freezing cold, to be sure, but just chilly enough to warrant the application of heat for a while.  We changed into our sweats and watched some old British comedy programs on PBS/Create as there was nothing else on that looked interesting and I was too tired to start working on anything, including this post (which I deferred until Sunday).  I shut off the hydronic heating system and the electric toe-kick heaters, and turned on the electric heating pad on my side of the bed, before turning in for the night.  Juniper (our female cat) very quickly got under the covers between us and spent the rest of the night there.  Jasper (our male cat) alternated between our pillows and the foot of the bed but never got under the covers.  Juniper likes the warmth and security but I think it’s too hot for Jasper and makes him feel trapped.

Barb and Chuck’s site and coach at Pelican Lake, Naples, FL.

Barb and Chuck’s site and coach at Pelican Lake, Naples, FL.

2016/01/24 (N) Snowmagedon Exchange Rate

We woke to an outside air temperature of 38 degrees F, our coldest morning yet since we arrived in Florida, but we were not complaining.  We closed all of the windows before going to bed last night and the temperature only dropped to 59 degrees F in the coach, which is actually a nice temperature for sleeping.  We put on our sweats and turned on the three thermostats that control the zone pumps and fan-coil heat exchangers for the Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system, along with the front electric toe-kick heater.  The Aqua-Hot diesel burner was still “on” from yesterday when we showered but the electric heating element kept it from running so I turned the element off.

The strong, sustained winds yesterday had caused no more damage than a temporary power outage while we away from the coach, for which our house battery/inverter system took over as it is supposed to do.  Our weather related problems were few by comparison to what others’ experienced.  Just 200 miles north of us it was 28 degrees F in Williston and colder still Nashville, Tennessee with a low in the mid-teens.  Temperatures back home where around 20 degrees F, but that’s typical for SE Michigan this time of year, perhaps even a bit on the warm side of normal.

By far the worst weather, however, was the major snow/ice/wind storm that affected a large area from NW Mississippi up to Ohio and east across Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania to the eastern seaboard from Georgia, through the Carolinas, Washington D. C., Philadelphia, New York City, and on into New England.  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just west of Hershey and Annville, where Ron and Mary live, got 28″ of snow, and a small town in West Virginia got 40.5″, while places along the coast experienced significant flooding.  Thousands of flights were cancelled and transportation in D. C. and New York was at a standstill.  All things considered we felt like Arcadia was a really good choice for our winter base this year.

Linda checked in with Ron and Mary and they reported 30″ of snow at their house which they were in the process of clearing from their driveway.  Linda also checked in with Meghan, who reported no serious weather back home.  More importantly their male cat, Inches, had finished his round of medication and was doing much better.

Having visited Pelican Lake yesterday we were thinking about where we might go when we leave Big Tree RV Resort at the end of the first week in March.  Our thoughts drifted back to the conversation we had at the Tampa RV Supershow with the representatives from Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort.  Like Pelican Lake, Florida Grande is an ownership park.  It’s located near Webster, Florida about 100 miles north of Arcadia and a similar distance southeast of Williston.  The prices for lots there are more in our price range than Pelican Lake but we are a long way from buying an RV site anywhere.

Linda checked the website and saw that Florida Grande was offering a 2-for-1 special at the moment; pay for one week at the regular price (~$267) and get a second week free.  It also appeared that they had openings for the second and third week of March.  We were thinking of stopping there for a few days to check it out on our way to the FMCA national rally the third week of March in Perry, Georgia.  We have been reconsidering our attendance at that rally, however, as we really do not want to be that far north that early in March.  The 2-for-1 deal now has us thinking that Florida Grande might be a good place to spend the second and third weeks of March and then try to get into Jetty Park at Cape Canaveral for the last week of the month.

Linda took over the desk to work on some things for the bakery so I spent the late morning writing my blog post for yesterday and starting today’s post.  The high temperature today only reached 59 degrees but that was plenty warm enough to dump the holding tanks and refill the fresh water tank, which are on the sunny, southeast facing side of the coach.  Before I even got started, however, I ended up in a conversation with Dave whose 5th wheel trailer is across the street from us.  He and Barb are from New Hampshire and this is their 8th season at Big Tree RV Resort.

Dave said that the resort residents used to be about 60% from Quebec Province but the number has dropped to about 30% in recent years.  Most people “age out” of this lifestyle, whether mobile or stationary, due to declining health, strain on their financial resources, or loss of interest.  In the case of the folks from Quebec (and Ontario) the exchange rate to the U. S. dollar, which is currently 60%, is making it prohibitively expense for them to come south of the border for the winter.  When they exchange $1,000 CA they get $600 US.  That makes it really tough to come here and is one of the reasons our friends, Bill and Karen Gerrie, did not return to Florida, or anywhere else in the U. S., this winter.

All of the park models and permanent trailers here at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort are owned by individuals, not the park, so beyond the nice climate and social connections the owners have a real monetary investment here.  Dave said that 17 to 24 units are typically for sale each year but so far people are buying them.  The largest contingent in the park now appears to be Michiganders (aka Michiganians). One of the couples we were talking to at the jam session on Thursday was from Jackson, Michigan and told me that in recent years they have been getting 75 attendees at the Michigan dinner, and that is probably not everyone in the park who calls Michigan home.

While I was out talking to Dave and tending to our tanks I took a closer look at our new windshield and discovered that the caulk the Safelite installers used was coming loose from everything, i.e., it was not adhering to the glass, the rubber gasket, or the body.  Chuck has had the same issue with his two windshields and has a “claim” in progress with Safelite.  He had e-mailed me all of his correspondence with the company so I e-mailed him back to let him know what I had just found.

When I tested the water coming out of the softener after filling the tank it indicated somewhere between 7 and 15 grains per gallon.  When I tested the water coming out of the park supply faucet on our arrival I estimated the hardness at 11 gpg.  If that was accurate, the water had not changed, and today’s test was accurate, it meant our 8,000 to 10,000 grain water softener was exhausted in less than 5,000 grains by my calculations.  That did not seem reasonable to me so I plan to retest the water and the output of the softener, but today’s reading suggested that the water might be harder than I thought and that the softener was exhausted and needed to be recharged.

My main focus today, however, was laundry.  For Linda’s part she wanted to clean the inside of the coach, take care of something for our FMCA GLCC chapter, and then work on something for the bakery.  I decided to take my laptop computer to the laundry room and try to download Windows 10.  It’s a 3 GB download so there was no way we were going to do this using our Verizon data plan.  I did not know, however, if the resort Wi-Fi system would allow me to download that much data or have a fast enough data rate to complete the download in a reasonable amount of time.  What I discovered was that the public Wi-Fi only downloaded 2.65 MB in 45 minutes and ultimately disconnected me from the Internet.  I turned off the Wi-Fi radio in my computer and looked to see if there was some way to cancel the download.  Unfortunately I did not find one.  Not good.  Shame on you, Microsoft (once again).  Stuff like that is an advertisement for Linux.

Linda put the NFL AFC championship game on our living room TV and Ron, on our driver side, set up one on a table under his patio awning, so I got to listen to the game in surround sound.  Yippee.  I was going to take a nap (in the bedroom) but decided to stay up and continue working on today’s blog post, which was getting quite lengthy.

Around 4 PM we had sourdough pretzel nibblers and hummus for lunch.  It’s going to be another week before Gary can have Stacy proofread the three articles I have in the queue for Bus Conversion Magazine so I decided so spend the later part of the afternoon editing my blog posts for October 2015 and get them ready to upload.  I only got a few of them done and decided to take a nap after all.  I was not feeling well, which made it hard to concentrate and made this work an unpleasant chore rather than something I enjoyed doing.

I napped for a couple of hours, which I really needed, but I still did not feel right when I got up.  The late afternoon and early evening disappeared without accomplishing much of anything and we finally had granola for dinner around 8 PM.  We watched Downton Abbey from 9 to 10 PM on PBS and then watched the first of six episodes of The X-Files on FOX once the NFL NFC championship game ended and the talking heads ran out of things to say afterwards.  In truth, they ran out of things to say before they ever got started.

We were in bed with the lights out by 11:45 PM.  I set the heater pad on my side of the bed to 4 (out of 10) and was toasty warm in spite of the dropping temperature outside and inside the coach.  Juniper (our female cat) immediately climbed under the covers between us with her head between our pillows and settled in for the night.

2016/01/25 (M) TV Dilemma

The forecasted low temperature for last night was 37 degrees F.  The low temperature usually occurs just before sunrise; around 7 AM this time of year in Arcadia.  We woke up around then and checked the current weather on our phones which reported the temperature as 40 degrees F.  The temperature inside our coach was 56, three degrees colder than I have seen so far this winter, so I suspected the outside temperature dropped down into the upper 30s overnight.

I was feeling a little “off” last evening and did not sleep well last night, but not for lack of warmth.  I set the heater pad on my side of the bed to 4 (out of 10) and I was comfortable enough that way.  I had taken a nap during the afternoon, so I wasn’t really tired at midnight, but mostly I was unable to find a comfortable position.  Juniper (our female cat) got under the covers between our heads as soon as we went to bed, so that constrained somewhat my ability to change positions, which I did almost constantly; at least that was my perception.

We got up and put on our sweats, which is our standard routine for cold mornings unless we are leaving early to go somewhere.  I turned the Aqua-Hot on, turned on the three zone controllers, and set the thermostats to 70 degrees.  I then made our morning coffee and checked my e-mail while it was brewing.  The FMCA National Education Committee meeting that was tentatively set for today or next Monday (February 1st) was being rescheduled for February 8th or 15th.  That was fine with me; I have other things to work on right now and I am not looking forward to our committee’s discussion of meaningless survey data.  It’s not that I enjoy bring a nay-sayer, but there’s a science (and art) to doing surveys and as best I can tell the survey was not distributed in a way that allows us to treat the responses as representative of the larger population of FMCA members.

While we were enjoying our first cup-a-Joe a crow landed on the power pole just north of our rig (two sites away except that there is only one more site north of us).  Juniper spied it right away and began chattering the way she does when she sees birds and gets excited.  The crow eventually left and was replaced by our resident Pileated Woodpecker.  The woodpecker was clinging to the side of the pole, rather than sitting on the wires, where the pole has been pecked away and reduced in diameter for a length of some 10 inches (estimated) all the way around.  Pileated Woodpeckers are large, magnificent birds and are always a treat to see.  It eventually left and was replaced by a smaller woodpecker or Flicker but I was not able to see it well enough to be sure which one it was.

We like something hot and substantial on a cold morning, and oatmeal is our go to choice, so that was what Linda made for breakfast.  We did not have plans to travel today so we stayed in our sweats for most of the morning.  I finished my blog post for yesterday, started on this one, and then settled in at my computer to edit posts for October 2015.

I took a break and tested the water from the tap and softener.  Both readings were once again between 7 and 15 gpg so the hardness of the tap water had not changed since my original test and the softener was definitely depleted.  I checked to see if the clear filter housings I bought at the Arcadia rally would fit the pre-filter.  They did, so I cleaned them and substituted one for the opaque housing.  I configured the pre-filter housing with the flow constrictor tube, added 26 ounces of table salt, and started the water flow, allowing the discharge to drain on the ground.

After a couple of hours most of the salt was still in the bottom of the housing and I could see the top of the flow diverter tube so I knew there was a problem and had a good idea what it was.  The tube was not sealed at the top allowing water to enter the filter housing and go right back out without being forced down through the salt and into the slots at the bottom of the flow diverter tube.  I added an O-ring under the bottom of the tube and a rubber flat washer at the top.  I recovered the washer from one of the old filter elements.

I added another 26 ounces of table salt to the housing and reassembled it.  When I turned on the water pressure it pushed about half of the salt into the softener even with the outlet valve closed.  This was probably the first time since I made the diverter tube that my regeneration system actually worked as intended and, because of the clear housing, the first time I was able to visually observe it.  Because so much salt got pushed into the softener I ran just a little more water and then shut it off to let the brine develop and exchange ions with the resin.

For dinner Linda made a couscous dish with grape tomatoes and other yummy ingredients.  I was still not feeling 100% right but this dish was light enough and tasty enough to be appetizing.

We had a TV dilemma this evening; X-Files vs. Supergirl.  After many years absence FOX brought back a 6-episode season of The X-Files.  Episode 1 was Sunday evening after the NFL NFC Championship game but episode 2 was this evening at 8 PM, placing it opposite Supergirl on CBS.  Episodes 3 through 6 will also air on Mondays at 8 PM.  Buggers.  Our other Monday evening shows were all repeats but we watched them anyway.

The low temperature for overnight was forecast to be 50 degrees F with no storms.  That meant we could leave the windows open and the furnace/heaters off and get a good night’s sleep.

 

2016/01/16 (S) – 2016/01/20 (W) A Capitol Experience

2016/01/16 (S) Fort Myers Beach Marilyn

I got up at 8:15 AM, cleaned the cats’ food bowls, fed them, and then made coffee.  I replied to an e-mail from BCM publisher Gary Hatt regarding which article he planned to run in March and which one in April.  I then downloaded my photos from the last two days from my camera to my computer.  Linda slept in and did not get up until 9:10.  We both felt like we have had too much less-than-ideal food to eat the last few days and split a grapefruit for breakfast.

Our plans for the day revolved around meeting Linda’s sister, Sr. Marilyn, at noon at the Diamond Head Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Myers Beach where she is attending an educational conference and taking CPE courses to maintain her counseling license.  The conference was being put on by her religious community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondelet.  Marilyn told us the resort parking was outside but the entrance had a relatively low bar over it so I took the ham radio antenna off of our car before we left at 10 AM for the drive to Fort Myers Beach.

Two hours should have been plenty of time to get there but we finally discovered the downstate traffic congestion that many fellow RV/snowbirds have mentioned to us.  The trip down FL-31 south was an easy, pleasant drive through citrus groves and ranches.  It ended at FL-80 where we headed west towards Ft. Myers.  We had the GPS set for “shortest route” so it took us through town instead of putting us on I-75 but it was an interesting route and we got to see different parts of the city including downtown and McGreger Avenue, which is lined with large Royal Palms.  It was also the location of the adjacent Henry Ford and Thomas Edison estates.  In spite of the traffic we will probably venture back there at some point to see the estates.

Apparently everyone was headed to Ft. Myers Beach today as the last few miles to get onto the island took one hour.  It was the worst traffic I seen in years.  There is only one bridge connecting the north end of the island to the mainland and there are two lanes of traffic that funnel down into one.  The lanes have a divider between them and are controlled by separate stop lights.  We had never seen anything like it before.  Linda texted Marilyn with a revised ETA.

Marilyn and Linda at the Diamond Head Beach Resort & Spa, Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

Marilyn and Linda at the Diamond Head Beach Resort & Spa, Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

When we finally pulled into the parking lot of the hotel at 12:30 PM Marilyn was waiting for us.  We paid for parking ($10), parked the car, and went directly to Cabana’s, the hotel’s beachfront bar/restaurant.  Linda had a margarita and I had a frozen strawberry daiquiri.  What can I say?  I like fruit drinks.

For lunch Linda and I both had veggie burgers and Marilyn had the Portobello mushroom burger.  The veggie burgers were mushy, as they often are, but the French fries were coated with something before being fried, probably flour, and were excellent.  After we were done eating Linda and Marilyn walked out onto the beach where Linda took her shoes off and walked in the ocean.  Our $10 parking fee got us a voucher for the same amount which we applied to the lunch bill.

We spent the next 90 minutes strolling a portion of Estero Boulevard, the main/only street that runs the length of the island.  I took a few photographs and we wandered into a few shops but did not buy anything.  We also walked out on the pier where we got a close up look at two Pelicans and a great view of the very crowded beach to the north and south.  This place definitely had that upscale but slightly funky, seaside resort, winter getaway vibe that is one of the reasons people flock to such places.

The Beach at Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

The Beach at Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

We were back at the hotel at 3:30 PM.  Marilyn had something to do at 4 PM so we took our leave and got back into the bumper-to-bumper traffic that was now moving slowly towards the bridge and off the island.  But at least it was moving, and once we cleared the bridge traffic moved along much better.  I changed the GPS to “fastest route” and it took us over different roads to I-75 and then north five miles to FL-80 where we retraced our earlier route (in reverse) to get back to Arcadia.  At the intersection of FL-80 and FL-31 we stopped at a Publix supermarket and bought a couple of bottled drinks.

It had been a long day and I did not feel like working at my computer.  We tuned in a program on PBS at 8 PM and doodled on our iPads.  Linda was checking the weather and the forecast for overnight was starting to look ominous.  When the program ended at 9:30 we went outside to retract our awnings and put our folding chairs and table away.  We stowed the big patio awning last and it started to rain lightly as we completed that task.  We left the TV on and watched the weather situation closely.  I finally went to bed at midnight knowing that we would not got a full, restful night’s sleep.

2016/01/17 (N) Bad Weather

The cold front that swept across the Florida peninsula overnight was draped off of an intense low pressure system that moved from Texas along the Gulf coast shore into the Florida panhandle and eventually along the Florida/Georgia border and off into the Atlantic.  The front, combined with a low level jetstream, raced across the area at 50 to 60 miles per hour triggering numerous thunderstorms and spawning a few tornados.

We had followed the development of the system closely before going to bed at midnight as both channel 11 and 20 had continuous storm team coverage.  At 4:30 AM we received severe weather alerts on our phones.  Linda’s phone has a loud klaxon warning sound associated with these alerts and we were instantly wide awake.  We put on our sweats, so that we would at least be dressed in case we had to leave the rig, and turned on the TV.

Arcadia, including our Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, was in the northeast corner of a tornado warning box.  It had started raining, off and on, well before midnight but as the storm front moved into our area thunderstorms came with it, one with Doppler radar indicated rotation.  There was lightning and thunder, of course, and the rain became steady and very heavy.  The wind really picked up but never became tornadic.  We stayed up until 5:30 AM by which time the main storm front had passed.  There were a few lingering cells behind it but the meteorologists gave the “all clear” for our area and we went back to bed.

The temperature was in the upper 60’s when we got up at 8:30 AM, rose slightly to about 70, and then dropped throughout the day as the front that triggered the storms raced off into the Atlantic opening the door for much colder air to flow in behind it, courtesy of the Polar Vortex that was plunging most of the Eastern U. S. and Canada into a deep freeze.

The rest of the day was uneventful with pleasant weather.  My focus was selecting and processing photos from the recent Arcadia Rally 2016 for the bonus content section of the digital edition of the March 2016 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.  Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project and went for several walks.  I joined her for brief strolls after lunch and dinner.  For dinner Linda made vegan chili from scratch.  It was very good.  We watched Downton Abbey on PBS after which Linda went to bed while I continued to work on photos.

2016/01/18 (M) The Capitol Steps

The air mass behind the cold front that swept out of the Gulf of Mexico, across Florida, and out into the Atlantic Ocean yesterday was noticeably colder and drier than normal for southwest Florida.  The temperature overnight dropped to 47 degrees, so we slept well and woke to clear skies and crisp air.

Our day revolved around the 3 PM performance at the Venice Theater of the political comedy musical group The Capitol Steps.  Venice is over an hour’s drive from Arcadia so we arranged with Steve and Karen Limkemann to make a day of it that would include lunch, photography at the Venice Rookery, the show, and dinner.

We skipped breakfast, showered, and dressed up enough to be presentable for the theater.  We gathered up several layers of outerwear and I put the 100-300 mm zoom lens on the Sony a99v.  We left at 10 AM and stopped at the Shell station in Arcadia to top up the fuel tank. Dunkin Donuts was right next door so we each got coffee and a blueberry bagel to split.  I got a frozen coffee drink made with almond milk and mocha.  I had never had one of these from DD and it was pretty good.

I had the GPS set for fastest route.  It took us out FL-72 towards Myakka State Park, which I expected, but then took us south on County Road 769.  Along the way we saw the usual assortment of citrus groves, ranches, and birds but also saw a Bald Eagle.  CR-769 turned southwest and eventually intersected I-75 where we headed “north.”  Although it was another 25 miles to the Nokomis exit, I-75 ran mostly east-west for this stretch so this route actually made a lot of sense.  It was only a couple of miles from the exit to Steve and Karen’s place and there was a Publix supermarket along the way, so we stopped and bought them a bag of M&M’s to replace ones we had eaten on our last visit and were going to eat on this one.  Not vegan, but a small indulgence.

We got to Steve and Karen’s place at Bay Lake Estates at 11:30 AM.  At 11:45 we walked to Cafe Evergreen about 1.5 miles away, an easy walk on a sidewalk without having to cross any major streets.  Cafe Evergreen is a small, all organic, restaurant with a good selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes.  We both had salads for lunch and they were very good.  Everything we have had to eat here has been excellent and the service has always been on a par with the quality of the food.

We walked back to Steve and Karen’s and visited until we left at 2:15 PM to drive to the Venice Theatre.  Parking can be a problem in downtown Venice but Steve found a parking space on a side street near the theatre.  We have enjoyed The Capitol Steps every time we have seen them and this show was as good as any.  Laughter really is the best medicine.

Herons and Egrets at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

Herons and Egrets at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The show was done around 5 PM.  By the time we made our way to the restrooms and out of the theatre it was 5:15 PM.  Steve drove us to the Venice Rookery where we bundled up against the chilly air and Steve and I got out our cameras.  The sky was clear except for some thin clouds to the west and I took quite a few photos in the quickly changing light.  Sunset was just before 6 PM and we stayed until 6:30 to watch bats emerge from their purpose-built houses atop tall, slender poles.  We headed back to Cafe Evergreen where we had 7 PM dinner reservations.

Linda, Karen, and I drank lots of coffee, which was smooth and warm.  Linda and I had stir-fried kelp noodles with vegetables served over a bed of couscous with an Asian style sauce.  It was delicious and had a wonderful texture.  We each had a vegan indulgence for dessert; cranberry pecan for me and chocolate peanut butter for Linda.  It was a very satisfying meal.

We got back to Steve and Karen’s at 8:45 PM and decided to head for home.  We reversed our earlier route and were back at our coach before 10 PM.  We watched NCIS Los Angeles and went to bed, tired from a long, but very satisfying day.

2016/01/19 (T) VZW Data Usage

We left the windows open about inch yesterday, along with the kitchen ceiling vent (but no fan), so it would not get too warm inside from the sun while we were away.  It was cool inside when we got home at 10 PM and we closed up the coach in anticipation of the outside temperature overnight dropping into the low 40’s.  Last night was another cool one, literally.

Herons and Cranes at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

Herons and Cranes at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

There are only a few hot dishes that Linda makes for breakfast and most of them are a lot of work.  The one dish that is relatively easy is oatmeal, and it is a great choice for a cool/cold morning.  It stays warm long enough to eat it before it gets cold, is a hearty (and heart healthy) dish, and stays with you for quite a while.

Linda stopped at the resort office yesterday to see if they could cut the grass around our site while we were gone for the day.  The awnings were up and our chairs/table were still put away from the weekend storms, so the site was clear.  The office said they probably would not get to it on Monday as the ground and grass was too wet but when we finally left the coach today we saw that they had, in fact, mowed the area.

We have been on the go more than sitting still for the last week and needed some time at the coach to do things.  I needed to wrap up work on two articles for BCM and settled in today to do that.  Today (the 19th of the month) is also the end of our Verizon Wireless billing cycle.  We do not have park Wi-Fi at our site in Big Tree Carefree RV Resort and have been leaving our Verizon Mi-Fi on continuously.  We managed to use almost all of our 11 GB of data during the current billing cycle so I wanted to spend today working on photos for the articles and defer uploading them until tomorrow.

Before getting back into my BCM rally article I copied all of the photos that I took yesterday at the Venice Rookery from the camera to my computer.  Linda tries to create a new postcard for Madeline every Tuesday and wanted a picture from the Rookery.  My best photos were of individual birds or small groups but she wanted something that would give Madeline a better visual understanding of just what a rookery is.

 

I finally selected a photo with lots of different birds in lots of different positions, including some in flight.  Linda logged into the PhotoCardApp on her iPad and determined that the post cards the company creates and mails out are 8.25″ by 5.5″, which is a 3:2 aspect ratio.  That is also the native format of my Sony SLT-a99v.  Using Faststone Image Viewer (FIV) I was able to resize the image to the exact size of the postcard.  I then e-mailed it to Linda’s Gmail account which, in spite of our local area network in the bus, is the easy (only?) way to get it from my computer to her iPad.

While I was processing the image Linda looked up the term “rookery” and discovered that its meaning is more specific than we thought.  While it is, indeed, a place where birds roost and build nests (typically in trees) it is actually specific to rooks, which are a crow-like bird.  It has, however, become the generic term for a place where one or more species of bird roost, breed, nest, and raise their young.

Besides the main post card photo the PhotoCardApp allows you to create your own stamps.  Creating a stamp costs two credits but once it’s created you can use it over and over for just the cost of the postage.  (You get 30 credits for $25 and each card costs 2 credits to create, produce, and mail.)  We do not have a lot of photos of the two of us together as one of us (usually me) is typically behind the camera.  We have a nice head and shoulders photo that our son took that I use at the end of my BCM articles.  I e-mailed that to Linda and she used it to create a personalized stamp.  I found a second photo of us that someone took at the 2014 GLAMARAMA Rally so I processed it and e-mailed it to Linda to use for a second stamp if she wanted.  We are both wearing our bright yellow GLCC dress shirts, so it is very RV specific.

We tried Facetiming with Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline Sunday evening but the connection was too slow so we talked on the phone.  They were in Washington D. C. for a conference related to Shawna’s research and Madeline got to visit the Natural History Museum and see dinosaur skeletons.  The PhotoCardApp also has a large collection of “stickers” that can be added to a post card, so Linda added an electronic dinosaur “sticker” to the one she was working on.

A Great Blue Heron at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

A Great Blue Heron at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The last couple of days there was some confusion between BCM owner/publisher Gary Hatt, the layout person (Jorge Escobar, in Columbia), and myself regarding which article they were running in the March 2016 issue.  Gary cleared that up in favor of my article on the Arcadia Rally 2016.  That, in turn, allowed me to move ahead with finishing that article today, which I finally did around dinner time.  My only breaks were to eat lunch and go for short walks.

Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project but took time out to go on several longer walks, including one to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket.  She planned to make a bean soup for dinner and needed a few ingredients.  The soup was based on a package of mixed beans and lentils she bought at a health food store in Frankenmuth, Michigan back in October.  She added water, tomato sauce, garlic, onion, greens, chili powder, and turmeric.  By the time we sat down to dinner the sun had set and the temperature was dropping so the hot soup was not only delicious but really hit the spot.

We walked over to the mail room after dinner.  My new driver’s license had arrived.  The registrations and tabs for the bus and car arrived a few days ago so as of now we are not expecting any more mail.

Back at the coach I turned on the electric toe-kick heaters and plugged in the Broan portable cube heater rather than run the Aqua-Hot.  We put on our Tuesday evening TV programs but I was in a groove and turned my attention to selecting and processing photos to go with blog posts.  I got through my images for November and December and the first few days of January by 11 PM when the last show ended and Linda headed off to bed.

We still had 1.5 GB of data left in our current billing cycle, which ended at midnight, although I was not sure in what time zone.  I knew the data for my BCM Arcadia rally article was not more than 0.5 GB so I uploaded it before our data allocation reset.  It’s expensive to exceed our allocation but there is also a “cost” associated with not using what we have paid for.

I turned the thermostats on the toe-kick heaters back and turned off the Broan cube heater.  I turned on the electric heating pad on my side of the bed, set it to 4, and activated the pre-heat function.  I finally got to bed around 12:30 AM and snuggled in under the blankets.

2016/01/20 (W) Cellular Options

I don’t know if the outside temperature got into the upper 30’s last night but even with the coach closed up the temperature inside dropped to 59 degrees F.  Linda got up first this morning and turned up the thermostats on the electric toe-kick heaters.  I got up a few minutes later and turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and the three thermostats that control the zone pumps and fans on the heat exchangers in the house portion of the bus.

We had slept in a bit and were sitting around in our sweats while the coach warmed up when we realized at 7:55 that the Wednesday coffee was starting in five minutes.  We did not feel like going over in our sweats or changing clothes so I made coffee in our coach like I do almost every morning.  The problems (for us) with the Wednesday morning coffee, based on having been one time, is that there is no opportunity to socialize and it takes too long.  It was well attended the one time we went so it apparently serves the needs of the resort management and most of the residents.

Linda used her iPad2 to check in on the world and I used mine to finish up my blog posts for the last few days.  We eventually had granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast, which is always a treat.  Linda walked our kitchen trash over to the dumpster and then continued walking the park for her first walk of the day.

My original objective for today was to upload image and document files for my Arcadia Rally 2016 article to my BCM Dropbox folder, but I got that done before I went to bed last night.  Although I have a lot work to do on several websites, including ours, I wanted to put the finishing touches on my featured bus article about Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion and move two technical articles from “proofreading” to “ready” status.  Gary has not had Kathy proofread/edit any of them yet so that had to wait for another day.  I also wanted to continue selecting/processing photos for my January blog posts but got distracted with system updates for my ASUS laptop computer.

I ran the CCleaner program and then ran the Windows 8.1 disk check utility.  I ran it because MS Outlook keeps “encountering a problem and has to close” or stops responding.  The check disk utility did not find any errors so I downloaded a new version of Defraggler and started it.  I probably should have run it overnight as it ran all day and through the evening.  I think I could have worked while it was running but I have always preferred to let disk defragmenters run without anything else tasking the system.

With my computer tied up and my blog post drafts up-to-date I had a little time on my hands.  Linda is always up for another walk so we walked over to the CellularSales store, an Authorized Verizon Retailer located on an out lot of the Walmart shopping center.  The shopping center is on the other side of Highway 70 so we used the crosswalk at the traffic signal for the shopping center entrance.  This stoplight also serves the entrance to the 55+ community immediately to the east of our RV resort and is where we make our U-turn when headed east to head back west to the entrance to our resort.

The reason for our visit was that we became eligible for device upgrades back in April and wanted to check out what was available in smartphones and data plans.  We were also looking for a new Mi-Fi device that Chris and Cherie (Technomadia) reported on in their Mobile Internet Aficionados (MIA) site.  We usually work with Verizon corporate stores but there isn’t one in Arcadia.  The store was large, spacious, very nice, and not busy so Toby was able to spend some relaxed time answering our questions.

The Mi-Fi device we wanted to see was the new Netgear AC791L but CellularSales did not have one and Toby was not familiar with it.  They did not even have the Novatel 6620L and were still selling the Novatel 5510L which is what we have now and want to replace.  We got our 5510L in June 2013 from a Verizon retailer in Gillette, Wyoming and our friends at the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center (MIA) consider it obsolete and no longer even report on it.

We also looked at new phones and learned that the Samsung Note 4 and Note 5, along with the Galaxy VI smartphone, do not have removable batteries.  Toby viewed that as a negative and we agreed.  The Galaxy V smartphone, which does have a removable battery, would still be an upgrade over our Galaxy III phones.  It has a larger screen but not as large as the Note devices, which are almost too large to hold up to your ear.  Toby also showed us the new LG phone which was very nice but again did not have a removable battery.  It’s the newest competitor to the Samsung Galaxy S VI.  We will do more research before deciding what, if anything, to do.  The AC791L, in particular, appears to be available online without a contract and at a better price than in a retail outlet.

As long as we were on the other side of the highway we stopped at Walmart and bought a loaf of Italian bread to go with our soup for dinner.  When we got back to our coach the disk defragmenter on my computer was still only part way through the disk and indicating the time remaining as “> 1 day.”  The temperature outside was near perfect, not too warm or cool, so Linda got out one of our chairs and sat outside reading while I stayed inside and took a nap.

I got up a couple of hours later and wiled away what was left of the afternoon.  We have been keeping an eye on our male cat, Jasper, who has lost little patches of fur from several spots on his back, and finally decided that we should get him in to see a vet.  The closest one is on FL-31 less than a mile from our RV resort and is the one that folks in the resort recommended.  Linda was looking for reviews online but could not find the clinic so she drove over in the car to get the name and phone number.  It turned out that she had found the veterinarian’s name but he used to work out of his house at a different location.  We plan to drive out towards Lake Okeechobee tomorrow but will call the veterinary clinic first and make an appointment for Friday.

The Venice Rookery at sunset, Venice, FL.

The Venice Rookery at sunset, Venice, FL.

As the sun sank in the western sky the temperature cooled off quickly and we closed up the coach.  Linda heated the rest of the soup she made yesterday and we sat down at 7 PM to a simple but delicious dinner of soup and bread.  We turned on the TV after dinner, watched Jeopardy, and then switched to PBS to watch the Wednesday night nature/science programs.

The last 10 days have been very busy and somewhat intense for us.  We had been to the woodcarvers expo in Punta Gorda, visited with Steve and Karen, met Ron and Mary at Myakka State Park, visited with them again at our RV resort, attended the Tampa RV Supershow in conjunction with strong weather, visited Marilyn in Fort Myers Beach, dealt with severe weather again, followed by a long day of working on photos for my BCM rally article, had a long day visiting Steve and Karen in Nokomis again and seeing The Capitol Steps at the Venice Theatre, eating at Cafe Evergreen twice and then visiting the Venice Rookery to take photographs before returning home, had finally had another really long day yesterday selecting/processing photos and placing them in my BCM article.  Looking back at all of that we were probably due for an easy, low activity day, and one of the nice things about retirement is that we can usually have “do nothing” days whenever we want.

When I checked my computer it was still showing 17 hours to complete the defragmentation so I went to bed.

 

2016/01/11 (M) – 15 (F) Family and Friends

2016/01/11 (M) Jack and Paula

Linda was up at 7:30 AM and read quietly.  I got up at 8:15 AM and made coffee.  We had granola for breakfast with fresh strawberries which finished the current batch of cereal.  Linda got another batch out of the freezer to thaw.  We have five batches remaining.

Linda was checking e-mail and noticed that we had been billed yesterday for almost $500 by iPage for web-hosting services.  I originally signed up with iPage in January 2013 for three years.  I transferred everything over to QTH in August 2013 but did not cancel the iPage account.  I did not realize that the account was set up for automatic renewal.  I logged in to see if I could close the account and cancel the transaction or initiate a refund but the website just gave me a number to call.  I did and finally got to talk to Scott in billing.  He was obviously a native English speaker and was able to take care of everything quickly and efficiently and provide a confirmation number.  If iPage’s technical/customer support had been that good I might never have switched to a different web-hosting service.  I am, none-the-less, very glad that three of the four websites I work with are on QTH.com‘s web-servers and wish that all four of them were.  The technical and customer support there is second-to-none.

Linda wanted to send another postcard to grand-daughter Madeline so I downloaded the photos I took yesterday and selected one of a heron to use.  I post-processed it at several different sizes and copied it to the NAS.  She needed it on her iPad, however, so I e-mailed it to her.  Even though our iPads (and phones) can connect to our secure Wi-Fi network they are not able to access the network resources such as the NAS and printer.  I really should take the time to figure out if there is a way to do that.

On the drive home last night the Honda Element started displaying a message to “Check Gas Cap.”  I pulled off the road and checked but it was on tight.  The message, however, did not clear.  When we got home Linda Googled the message and found several sites that indicated it was a periodic system check and would clear the next time around, assuming the cap was not, in fact, loose.  That could take days, however, depending on how much we drove the car.  The answer for most of this week will be “not much.”

Linda went for a late morning walk.  The Element needed fuel so I drove to the Shell station on FL-70 to fill up the tank.  Linda had walked to Winn-Dixie and was just returning as I was pulling out so she rode along to the filling station.  She ran into Claudine Elbisser at the produce market and found out that she and Paul were still at Jack and Paula Conrad’s place south of town.  Jack and Paula started the Arcadia Bussin Rally and ran it for the first 10 years before turning it over to Bill and Brenda Phelan.

Back at the coach Linda heated some Amy’s vegan chili for lunch.  She opened a new (sealed) pack of saltine crackers as we like to crumble them in our chili and have a few on the side with vegan butter spread.  They did not taste quite right but we were not sure just why.  They were not spoiled but it seemed as if they were slightly stale (not crisp) and the flavor was also “off.”  They were Publix branded and all of the grocery items we have ever gotten from there have been good quality but we decided to throw the crackers away.

A Green Heron at Myakka State Park, FL.

A Green Heron at Myakka State Park, FL.

We went for a walk after lunch during which Linda got a call from her sister-in-law, Mary.  They agreed that we might do something together tomorrow if Spence and Nancy had not made other plans for them.  It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon but cool with highs in the upper 60’s.  Rather than sit around the coach I called Jack to see if we could stop by for a visit.  He and Paula did not have anything specific going on so we drove to their place about 10 miles south of Arcadia.

When we arrived we were greeted by Jack and Paula but found out that Paul and Claudine had pulled out this morning, so we did not get to visit with them.  We then realized that when Claudine told Linda she had to run “because Paul was waiting for her at Walmart” he was waiting in the bus.  John and Lois Vickrey were there, however, and the six of us had a nice visit.  There were two other converted buses at the Conrad’s but the owners were not around.  We did not recognize their names but both coaches were at the Arcadia Rally 2016 and we would probably have recognized them on sight.

By 4:45 PM the sun was low in the sky and the temperature had dropped into the low 60’s.  We were getting cold so we excused ourselves and left.  We stopped at Walmart on the way back to our RV resort for a box of angel hair pasta and a box of Nabisco saltine crackers.  Back at our coach I closed the two roof vents and we closed all of the windows.  I checked e-mail and Linda started working on dinner.

She started with a nice salad of baby kale, scallions, olives, and pumpkin seeds dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.  The main course was angel hair pasta with a vegan mushroom cream sauce.  She used the Miatake mushrooms we bought yesterday at the Farmers Market in Punta Gorda.  It was outstanding and we really liked the taste and texture of the mushrooms, which were a new culinary experience for us.

We went for our usual after-dinner stroll around the resort and stopped by the activity building where lots of residents were playing bingo and smaller groups were playing cards and games.  In another building a dozen men were playing pool.  It was a beautiful clear night with the constellation Orion rising in the eastern sky.  Although the air temperature was crisp folks were out walking, just like us.

Back at our coach we settled in to watch our usual Monday night TV programs (CBS).  They were all re-runs, which we thought was odd, but we watched them anyway.  We were off to bed at 11 PM and straight away to sleep.  I turned on the electric heater pad and set it on 3.  Toasty.

2016/01/12 (T) Myakka River State Park (FL)

The overnight low temperature was 47 degrees F; not cold enough to warrant turning the heat on in the coach but cold enough to cool off the interior by morning.  We pulled up the blankets when we went to bed and I turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed; a more efficient use of energy than heating the whole coach.  As a bonus, the cooler the coach the less the refrigerator runs, although the new one is much more efficient than the old one.  When it gets cool enough in the coach Juniper (the cat) gets under the covers between us and puts her head between our pillows.  She is such a princess.

A pair of alligators in the Myakka River, Myakka SP, FL.

A pair of alligators in the Myakka River, Myakka SP, FL.

We finally got out of bed at 8:15 AM and slipped into out sweats.  I made coffee while Linda talked to Kathi at the bakery back in Michigan.  We doodled on our iPads while we drank our coffee and let the coach warm up.  By 9:30 it was 72 inside.  I turned off the heaters and we sat down to a breakfast of homemade granola with blueberries and bananas and a small glass of orange juice.  We doodled for another half hour after breakfast and then got dressed.  In preparation for meeting Linda’s brother, Ron, and his wife, Mary, at Myakka State Park at 11 AM Linda made a picnic lunch and I got the camera gear ready to go.

We had planned to be on the road by 10:30 AM but actually left at 10:39.  The 29 miles to the park entrance was not all 60 MPH, so we did not get to the visitor center until 11:20 AM.  Ron and Mary were already there waiting for us.  We looked at maps and discussed what we wanted to do.  Ron and Mary wanted to see alligators in the wild, so they had come to the right place.  The main park road crosses the Myakka River about a mile into the park from the entrance / visitor center with parking at both ends of the bridge.  We knew from our visit two years ago that this was an excellent place to see alligators, as well as a variety of birds and so it was again today.  After spending some time on the bridge we walked along the south/east bank of the river and found two more alligators sunning themselves on the opposite bank.

A little farther down the road was the parking area for the Canopy Walk and Nature Trail.  We climbed the tower, walked across the suspension bridge, and then climbed to observation deck at the top of the second tower.  The suspension bridge goes through the forest canopy about 35 feet in the air and affords a view of the forest that most of us rarely see.  At 76.1 feet AGL the observation level put us well above the top of the trees with a commanding 360 degree view of the park and beyond.  I shot a nine frame panorama from west through north to east.

By the time we got back to our cars we were all ready for lunch so we drove to the developed area on the south shore of Upper Myakka Lake.  This area has one of the two campgrounds, a boat ramp, air boat tour concession, restaurant, restrooms, picnic tables, and a trail that leads out to a platform where the lake flows out and becomes the river.  We found a picnic table in the sun near the shore and had our PB&J sandwiches, oranges, pretzels, and water.  After lunch we walked out to the platform and were rewarded with more views of wildlife.

Ron, Linda, & Mary atop the 76.1 foot observation tower, Myakka SP, FL.

Ron, Linda, & Mary atop the 76.1 foot observation tower, Myakka SP, FL.

Our next stop was the “Birdwalk,” an elevated boardwalk near the northeast corner of the lake that goes out into an open harsh and gets people close to the shore.  There was lots of wildlife out there but most of it was some distance away.  A sign indicated that the donation box was to raise money to build an observation tower at end of the boardwalk above the existing viewing platform.

Our final stop for the day was the parking area for a trailhead in the northeast corner of the park.  The main trail led to primitive campsites as much as 10 miles away.  We did a loop of about 2.5 miles (by my estimate).  Although the entire trail (park) was level terrain the footing was rough or soggy in places.  Portions of our hike were through the forest and the rest was through prairie.  It was our most vigorous hike of the day and I did not take any photos even though I carried the camera along.

By the time we got back to our cars it was 4:45 PM.  The sun was low in the sky and the temperature had dropped.  We discussed our plans for Thursday and then headed our separate ways.  We had just left the park entrance and headed east on FL-72 when I spotted a group of 6 to 8 feral hogs on the north side of the road by a stream about 100 feet from the road.  Linda did not spot them in time so I turned around and went back.  As I slowed down they took off but Linda got to see them.  I turned around again and headed towards Arcadia.  Less than a mile down the road I saw four more in the ditch just off the north side of road.  They were very large adult animals.

We were back at our coach by 6 PM and had left over Asian salad for dinner.   It had been a slightly more physical day than normal so after dinner we settled in to watch our Tuesday evening TV programs on CBS.

2016/01/13 (W) Coffee Clutch

Today was our second Wednesday at Big Tree RV Resort.  The only significance to that factoid is that Wednesday morning is the weekly resort coffee.  As new arrivals in the resort we received a coupon for free coffee but forgot to go last week so we made a point of getting up and going this morning.  The coffee starts at 8 AM but we had been “advised” by folks to arrive early if we wanted a seat.  We got there around 7:50 AM and the place was packed.  We got in line to get our coffee and found out that today’s gathering was sponsored by an insurance agency and was free of charge. We found seats and made the acquaintance of the people sitting near us.

Ron, Mary and Me atop the 76.1 foot observation tower, Myakka SP, FL. (Photo by Linda)

Ron, Mary and Me atop the 76.1 foot observation tower, Myakka SP, FL. (Photo by Linda)

This was not a coffee clutch where folks stand around, mingle, and chat.  There are somewhere between 700 and 800 people in this park and I estimated that at least 400 of them were present at the coffee.  Everyone was seated on both sides of long tables for the entire duration of the coffee, which lasted until 9:15 AM.  It was very organized and consisted of introductions, lots of announcements, lots of door prizes, and a 50/50 drawing.  For the seasonal and permanent residents the information is probably useful, but it was not that interesting or useful to us.  We might go one more time just to take advantage of our free coffee coupon but the nature of the gathering won’t afford us any opportunity to meet people and talk to them over coffee so we probably won’t make a priority of going.

Today was laundry day for us.  Linda needed a few things from Winn-Dixie, including a few Powerball lottery tickets, and walked down to get them.  I gathered up the laundry, sorted it by color and temperature into three batches, and drove over to the laundry room in the activity building.  The washing machines only took about 25 minutes so I stuck around until they were done.  After getting those loads into dryers I went back and got the bedding, returned to the laundry room, and put it in a washing machine.  I took my iPad with me but ended up in a conversation with a few folks.  By the time I was done with the laundry and back at our coach it was 2 PM.

A flock of birds takes flight at the north end of Upper Myakka Lake, Myakka SP, FL.

A flock of birds takes flight at the north end of Upper Myakka Lake, Myakka SP, FL.

I took a long a long nap during which Linda went for a long walk, prepared ingredients for tomorrow’s lunch, and worked on her counted cross-stitch project.  I finally got up just in time for dinner.  After dinner we watched a fascinating documentary titled “Autism in Love” as a result of which we did not watch Nature.  We did, however, watch NOVA. It was also a fascinating program exploring new discoveries and understandings about the role and relationship of minerals in the origin and evolution of life on earth.

I watched some of the evening news on channel 11-1 and also checked the weather on channel 11-2.  A strong low pressure system was moving east from New Orleans across the Florida panhandle with strong storms coming ashore in that area.  A long, comma-shaped cold front extended from the low far down into the Gulf and was advancing on the peninsula.  It was forecast to come ashore starting north of Cedar Key after midnight and then progressively affect all of the shore communities south to Marco Island with strong thunderstorms along the front and a low possibility that some of them might become severe.  Rain, possibly heavy, was due in Arcadia starting around 4 AM and getting heavy by 5 AM.  Knowing this obviously doesn’t change whatever is going to happen, but knowing what is expected allows us configure the coach properly and to be prepared and react appropriately to events as they unfold if needed.

2016/02/14 (R) Ron and Mary

We were up by 7:30 AM this morning, had showers, got dressed, and had breakfast.  Linda finished food preparations for lunch today and then straightened up the inside of the coach while I dumped the holding tanks and filled the fresh water tank.

I was outside a little later in the morning and learned from a neighbor that the sewer line that services row K (where we are parked) had developed a blockage and sewage had “backed up into a couple of rigs.”  No one, however, was able/willing to be more specific than that.  A plumber was called and I chatted with him briefly when he arrived.  He confirmed that the sewer line ran from our end of row K south towards the front of the park by Hwy 70.  He determined quickly that there was indeed a blockage and I learned from him later that it extended along a considerable length of the sewer pipe.  This was not the first time he was called to deal with this and was able to get the drain line opened up.

Piecing together the available information I figured it was entirely possible that the sewage that backed up was from our tanks but that the blockage was not something we caused.  Linda, however, was of the opinion that the plumber had been summoned before I dumped.  Regardless, I’m sure it was unpleasant for those who were affected and I hope we do not have a repeat of this situation while we are here.  While in no way our fault, we would hate to have contributed to the situation in any way, however inadvertently.

My reasoning was that we are the second rig from the far end of the drain line and the tops of our waste tanks are almost 4 to 5 feet above ground level.  The tanks are large and if they were near full would release a considerable volume of effluent with a significant head pressure.  If the drain line was mostly constricted (reducing its  available volume), and the blockage was not very far down stream (also reducing its available volume), the weight of the contents of our waste tanks could cause the drain line to quickly fill and then force the effluent up through any available path, such as another rig’s dump hose.  This would continue until the levels reached equilibrium.

In a trailer with its floor not that far off the ground sewage could, hypothetically, back up into waste tank(s) and then into the toilet and/or sinks. None of that would happen, of course, unless the dump valves on the other RV(s) had been left open.  We have always been told that leaving the dump valves open on an RV is a very bad idea but the reason is that getting a good, thorough, dump requires a nearly full tank.  Today’s events have given us additional reason to keep the valves closed except to dump.

 Now that’s what I’m talking about!  We have got to get one of these.  A 4-wheel drive, Sprinter-based Class B conversion from Sportsmobile as seen at the Tampa RV Supershow, Tampa State Fairgrounds, Tampa, FL.

Now that’s what I’m talking about! We have got to get one of these. A 4-wheel drive, Sprinter-based Class B conversion from Sportsmobile as seen at the Tampa RV Supershow, Tampa State Fairgrounds, Tampa, FL.

Ron and Mary arrived a little after 11 AM.  We gave them a tour of the interior remodeling work we have done and then sat and visited.  Eventually we were hungry and spread the tablecloth on the outside picnic table and had lunch out there.

After lunch Ron drove us to Joshua Citrus a couple of miles south of our resort where we bought a variety of citrus fruit.  We then drove to downtown, parked, and walked around poking our heads into some of the antique shops.  Mary was looking for a pair of clear glass lamp chimneys with a 2″ diameter base.  The closest she came was a pair with a 2-1/4″ base.  Apparently 3” diameter bases are common, 2” diameter bases, not so much.

We returned to the coach for a while and then took two cars and went to El Pirata for dinner.  It was our first time there although friends had told us it was OK and it was the #4 rated restaurant in Arcadia.  Linda did not care for her margarita and also did not care for the veggie fajitas or any of the sides that came with the dish.  I had Dos Equis Amber in a bottle, so it was fine.  I thought the food was OK; not outstanding but not disagreeable, so perhaps she just wasn’t in the mood for Mexican food tonight.

The restaurant wasn’t full so we lingered and chatted for quite a while but eventually it was time to leave.  We were only a few minutes from home but Ron and Mary had an hour’s drive to get back to Spence and Nancy’s place.  Back at our coach we settled in to watch our usual Thursday evening CBS TV programs and then headed off to bed as we planned an early departure tomorrow morning to get to the Tampa RV Supershow.

2016/01/15 (F) Tampa RV Supershow

As forecast, the rain started around 4 AM and by 5 AM was fairly heavy.  I was not, however, aware of any lightning, thunder, or strong winds.  We got up at 7:30 AM, got dressed, and had some of the Honeybelle tangelos we bought yesterday.  Honeybelles are only available for about a month starting this time of year and are highly touted so we bought a quarter-Bushnell bag.  We were, however, quite disappointed in their taste and texture.  We will eat them anyway, of course, but they will not be the treat we were counting on.

We planned to leave at 8:30 AM to drive to the Florida State Fairgrounds for the Tampa RV Supershow.  It was still raining and was forecast to continue through the morning.  I took the vertical grip off of the Sony SLT-a99v to lighten it and make it easier to carry in the Cotton Carrier camera harness/holster.  I packed a couple of extra batteries, we took our raincoats, and headed out.

We encountered very heavy rain between Arcadia and Tampa, especially along FL-70 between Arcadia and I-75.  We arrived at the fairgrounds around 10:15 AM, got our tickets, and made it into the Expo hall just as another heavy band of rain moved through.

A Prevost H3-45 VIP conversion shell on display at the Tampa RV Supershow.  The driver side of the coach is elevated on ramps and mirrors on the floor allow show attendees to see the underside of the bus.

A Prevost H3-45 VIP conversion shell on display at the Tampa RV Supershow. The driver side of the coach is elevated on ramps and mirrors on the floor allow show attendees to see the underside of the bus.

Just inside the door to the right was the major display of Prevost bus conversions and to the left was a major display of Airstream trailers and Class B motorhomes.  We crossed paths with Steve Zigler, Prevost Sales Manager for conversion shells and chatted briefly.  We met Giesle from the home office in St. Claire, Quebec and also met Melanie from Millennium Coach.  We found out from Melanie that Millennium is now the primary corporate support for the Royale Coach Club.  Apparently Liberty Coach took over sponsorship when Royale Coach folded around 2005 and Millennium took over from Liberty some time more recently.  We were members at one time but have not paid dues in several years.

The Prevost coaches were one of the main things we came to see and meeting people from the company was a bonus.  Our other objective was to check out all of the parts and accessories vendors, of which there were many, and RV Parks and Resorts, of which there where an equal number.  We mostly picked up literature until we found Bill and Brenda Phelan’s booth.  One of their products is tire covers made from heavy nylon mesh material.  It blocks most of the sunlight while allowing moisture to escape.  We have meant to get tire covers for years but never have so we ordered six in a dark brown material.  They are a significant purchase, but not compared to the tires they are designed to protect.  They will make the covers based on our tire size and ship them to us.  They also make nylon mesh windshield wiper covers but I need to measure the length of our lower wiper blades and send Brenda the measurement.  Another product of theirs are windshield and side window covers.  These, however, are custom made on site.

 The interior of the Prevost H3-45 VIP motorcoach conversion shell. This coach was actually in the process of being converted by Millennium for a customer.  Note the interior layout marked out on the floor.

The interior of the Prevost H3-45 VIP motorcoach conversion shell. This coach was actually in the process of being converted by Millennium for a customer. Note the interior layout marked out on the floor.

In the other vendor building we stopped at the booth for Williston Crossings and Belle Parc RV Resorts.  Alan, who is the managing partner for both properties, was staffing the booth so we chatted with him briefly.  We also stopped at the booth for Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort in Webster, Florida.  This was the other RV Resort that our friend, Ed Roelle, suggested we check out two years ago.  Unlike Williston Crossings, where we ended up, the lots in Florida Grande are all for sale as deeded properties with a fractional ownership in the common grounds and structures.  At least that was our understanding.

The sites at Florida Grande sell for about $48K and a coach house can be added for about $31K.  HOA fees currently run about $550 per quarter but we did not inquire about how the level is set or what limits might exist on them being raised.  Lots can be placed in a rental pool when unused but we did not ask if owners can arrange their own sublets.  We heard from someone later than only about half the lots are sold.  That means lots are still available for purchase, but also makes such a purchase potentially risky.  It means plenty of unsold lots are available to rent and if the rest of the lots do not eventually sell in a reasonable amount of time the future of the whole development would be in doubt.

We are not planning on purchasing a lot anytime soon, in Florida or elsewhere, but it is an idea that interests us longer-term.  We might drive up in the car to check it out or, more likely, stop there for a few days in the bus when we finally leave Big Tree RV Resort in March.

We eventually found our friend, Al Hesselbart, manning his Antique RV booth at the far end of the fairgrounds.  He was asked by the RV Show organizers to put together an antique RV display but relegated him to a remote corner of the show.  He had commitments from the owners of eight antique RVs, plus his own 1978 Newell, but four of them backed out at the last minute and the other four simply did not show up.  Whatever their reasons it was disappointing and inconsiderate.  Al had a large TV monitor with a slide show of about 500 images running automatically in a loop.  He had them in a shelter to protect them, and him, from the worst of the rain.

It was almost 5 PM by the time we got back to our car.  We discussed calling Ed and Betty Burns, who live near Bradenton, to see if they were up for a visit but we were at least an hour away and decided it was too short a notice, too late in the day, and we were too tired.  We fought our way through Friday rush hour traffic across US-301 to I-75 and headed south to exit 217, which is FL-70 to Bradenton (west) and Arcadia (east).  We stopped at the Speedway for gasoline and bought two coffees to scare away the cobwebs.  It had been a long day.

As we continued east on FL-70 Linda got a call from her sister, Marilyn, to finalize plans for tomorrow.  We got back to our coach around 6:45 PM and had a light dinner of garbanzo bean salad sandwiches and a small glass of wine.  We then watched a program about Agatha Christy on PBS/Create followed by two episodes of Miss Marple.  Linda headed off to bed before the second episode was over while I remained up to continue working on my blog posts from today and the previous two days.

I stayed up to watch the WINK evening news (channel 11-1).  They reported that the storms this morning included a confirmed EF-1 tornado in south Fort Meyers and wind damaged property in Lehigh Acres.  The meteorologists made it clear that the January tornados from today and last weekend would normally be quite rare for this time of year but were not unusual in an El Niño year like this one.  We are headed to Fort Meyers tomorrow for the first time to visit with Marilyn and the weather forecast looks fine if a bit cool.  Another round of strong storms is forecast for Sunday morning in connection with the passage of yet another cold front trailing from a strong low pressure center moving east across the Florida panhandle.  We plan to stay home Sunday but Marilyn is flying back to St. Louis, Missouri, weather permitting.

 

2016/01/06 (W) -10 (N) Websites, Woodwork, and Wildlife

2016/01/06 (W) Filtered Article 

The temperature dropped into the mid-50s last night and made for excellent sleeping conditions.  Never-the-less, Linda was up at 6:30 AM and read quietly until I got up at 8 AM.  I used the last of the current batch of coffee beans yesterday so I opened four fresh bags this morning, a half-pound each of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (regular and decaffeinated), Seattle Blend (regular), and Sweet Dreams Blend (decaffeinated).  Teeko’s Coffee and Teas back home roasted and vacuum packed the beans for us in 1/2 pound amounts so they would stay fresh through the winter.  I made a full pot of the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (half-caffe) and Linda prepared toast and grapefruit for breakfast.  One of the things we bought yesterday at Joshua Citrus was orange marmalade so Linda opened it and we had some on our toast.  It was not as bitter as most orange marmalades I have tried and I liked it.

Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, Punta Gorda, FL.

Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, Punta Gorda, FL.

Tonight was the weekly Powerball lottery drawing and the amount was approaching 400 million dollars so we agreed that we should buy a few tickets.  Since there was a possibility of rain this afternoon Linda wanted to get her walk in early so she walked to the Winn-Dixie supermarket in search of lottery tickets.  The Winn- Dixie is in a shopping plaza with other stores on the same (south) side of US-70 as the Carefree Big Tree RV Resort about 1/2 mile west towards downtown.  There is a very wide sidewalk along the south side of US-70 that is used by walkers, bicyclists, and folks in golf carts, from our resort and the much larger adult community just to our east, to get to the shopping area just west of us.  The Walmart is immediately across the street, with a stop light and crosswalk, but golf carts cannot go there as far as we know.

I’ve needed to change the water filter under the kitchen sink for a while so today I finally did.  I installed the GX1S01R GE Drinking Water Filter housing in fall 2014 to replace the Everpure unit that gave me no end of difficulty whenever I tried to change the filter cartridge.  It turned out that neither of our two filter wrenches fit the housing and I had to get my large slip pliers out to get it off.  The inside of the housing was dirty so I boiled some water in the microwave, added a small amount of dish soap, cleaned it thoroughly, and rinsed it out.

The GE drinking water filter element is a Class I media (0.5 – 1.0 micron) that reduces or removes more things than most filters, including:  MTBE, VOCs, Chlorine (taste and odor), Lead, Cysts, Mercury, Turbidity, and Asbestos.  The capacity of the element is listed as 500 gallons* (*depending on water conditions) and the useful life is listed as 6 months.  The filter feeds a special drinking water faucet in the kitchen sink that is only used for cleaning food and cooking so I doubt that we run anywhere near 500 gallons of water through it in 6 months, or even in a year.  Given how we use our motorcoach, and the cost of the filter elements, I will probably change the filter once a year.  To that end I wrote the date on a piece of Frog Tape and attached it to the housing.

I continued to focus on my article for BCM about Ronnie and Diann Mewbourns’ 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  I thought I might get it done by lunch but I did not get back to work on it until after 11 AM.  I worked on it most of the rest of the day and into the evening and still did not get it finished.  By 9 PM I had the photos selected and processed but deferred integrating them into the article until tomorrow.  I will then upload it to our Dropbox and e-mail Diann that it is available for review.

Lunch was left over black-eyed peas, fresh fruit, and hummus with sourdough pretzels for dipping.  Dinner was salad and pan-seared tofu with caramelized onions in BBQ sauce with fresh strawberries for dessert.  We went for walks after both meals and Linda got in 10 miles today.

If we watch TV at all on Wednesday evening it is usually PBS and so it was tonight.  Nature was on cross-species animal bonding, Nova was on an archeological investigation of WWI trenches and tunnels, followed by a two hour program on the CERN LHC (Large Hadron Collider) and the search for the Higgs bozon particle and other, possibly more elementary ones.  It was after midnight by the time I got bed.

2016/01/07 (R) Jam Session

We were both awake around 7 AM.  Linda read for a while and got up around 7:45.  I drifted back to a light sleep and finally got up at 8:15.  By the time the coffee was ready to drink it was 8:45 AM.  Linda washed off some blueberries and poured our cups of Joe.

Linda bought 10 tickets yesterday for the Powerball lottery.  Our $20 investment returned $4.  The good news was that no one won and Saturday’s drawing will likely approach $700 million.  I know the odds of winning are astronomically small, but any non-zero chance to win even a piece of that pot seems worth another $20.  After all, you can’t win if you don’t play.

Linda by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

Linda by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

We had granola with fresh berries for breakfast.  I then e-mailed the Geeks on Tour to see if we could arrange a meetup.  That’s the name of Jim and Chris Guld’s business and they are currently just up the road at the Thousand Trails Preserve (RV park) in Zolfo Springs.  They are full-time RVers who do seminars and in-depth training classes on a wide range of technologies at RV rallies, parks, and other venues.  You can find them here:  http://www.geeksontour.com.  They also do a weekly podcast and have an extensive catalog of video tutorials.

I spent the morning and early afternoon finishing my BCM article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  I uploaded it to a folder in our Dropbox for them e-mailed them the link and some instructions.  I also sent the link to BCM publisher Gary Hatt.

We had hummus with sourdough pretzel nibblers and fresh fruit for lunch around 1 PM.  Our plan for the afternoon was to go watch a practice session of the Royal Lipizzan Stallions.  The U.S.-based stallions’ facility is just up the road in Myakka City and they have practice sessions open to the public at 3 PM on Thursdays and Fridays, and 10 AM on Saturdays.  They ask (charge) a $5 donation per person.  The facility has bleachers but you can bring your own chair.  We had planned to go today because the forecast for this afternoon was pleasant.

We want to order some fresh citrus fruit from Joshua Citrus here in Arcadia and have it shipped to our children in Michigan.  It will be much more economical for us to have it shipped to one place and Meghan agreed to receive it and distribute it.  We were going to stop there on our way to see the Lipizzaners but at 1:15 PM it was still overcast.  I wanted to take photographs so we decided not to go and will visit the facility another time.

With the change in our plans we took a long walk around the resort.  I then had to figure out something else to do.  I was tired and decided to take a nap.  The sofa was not available as Linda was working on her counted cross-stitch project so I curled up on the bed next to Jasper (the cat) and dozed for a couple of hours.

For dinner Linda fixed a side of mixed grains, steamed some broccoli, and sautéed a package of Gardein Orange “Chicken.”  The orange chicken is a soy-based dish and it is very tasty.

After dinner we turned on the TV and I worked on the bonus content photographs for my article on the recent Arcadia converted bus rally.  Perhaps because of the distraction from the boob tube, was trying to clean up a slightly complicated situation I had created for myself, was just not in the humor, or some combination of the three, I found the work a bit tedious.  I stuck with it long enough to get it better organized and then stopped at a somewhat logical point and watched TV.

2016/01/08 (F) Touring Geeks

There was rain in the forecast for overnight and I heard the first few drops before I went to bed just before midnight.  The rains came in earnest sometime between 4 and 5 AM and it rained hard around 7 AM.  I was awake at that point and decided to get up and check for leaks.  Fortunately there was no sign of the leaks we had during the last rain event.  I fed the cats, plugged in the charger for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and made the coffee.

Bruce by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

Bruce by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

After checking the user manual we determined that it is OK for the Mi-Fi to be plugged in and charging while it is turned on and operating.  The issue with the device is that it really wants to be unplugged from the charger once the battery is fully charged and can overheat if left connected.  Since we do not have a usable RV park Wi-Fi signal at our site it simplifies our online life if we can just leave the Mi-Fi on with the Wi-Fi Ranger connected to it.  The Mi-Fi battery is very slow to charge, especially when the device is turned on, but it eventually reaches full charge.  The battery will not even operate the device for 12 hours but it will operate long enough to get through the night.  What I am still trying to figure out is when to plug it in during the evening so that it is fully charged just before we go to bed.  That is a trial and process.  Once I have it figured out I need to make a habit of plugging it in when I get up in the morning and again at the right time during the evening.

After a little more discussion I e-mailed Jim Guld to confirm plans for a visit and dinner this afternoon.  We settled in with our coffee and iPads for a while and finally had breakfast at 9 AM.  Linda had two frozen toaster waffles she wanted to use up so we had those with peanut butter.  I also add a little apricot preserves on mine.  We split one of the Ruby Red grapefruits we bought at Joshua Citrus the other day.  Yum.

With company coming later today we took showers.   While Linda was getting her shower I copied recent photos from the Sony SLT- a99v to my ASUS laptop.  An updated version of the Play Memories Home software was available, so I downloaded and installed it.  After I showered, shaved, and got dressed Linda cut my hair.  We then cleaned the coach, putting away things that did not need to be out and sweeping/mopping the floor.

With the cleaning of ourselves and the coach completed, we went on an errand run.  After dropping off a small bag of trash our first stop was the Winn-Dixie supermarket.  We then drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off recyclable plastic.  We swung by El Pirata Mexican restaurant to check out the menu and then drove to Joshua Citrus Company.  While I picked out some Sugarbelle oranges and Ruby Red grapefruit Linda ordered a three tray box of mixed citrus fruit that included Honeybelle tangelos, Meyer lemons, Navel oranges, and Ruby Red grapefruit.  The box will be shipped to our daughter and she will divide up the fruit with our son.  That arrangement allowed us to send more fruit at a lower cost than shipping to two addresses.  Our final stop was at Walmart for a few food items we did not find at Winn-Dixie.

Back at our coach I spent some time updating the Participants Database for our FMCA Freethinkers chapter (FTH) website.  I also spent some more time trying to recall just how I set up the WP-Members plugin for the SLAARC website so I can recreate it for the FTH website.  I was not able to do that in the time I had available and I think that might be due, in part, to changes that have been made in newer versions of the plugin.  I set up a WordPress User for Linda using the WP-Members registration form and it did not work the way I remembered it in the SLAARC website.  Apparently I am going to have study the user manual in detail.

Christine Guld called at 2:30 PM to let me know that she and Jim were on their way to our resort.  They arrived around 3 PM and we quickly settled into an easy conversation covering a wide range of topics.  Jim and Chris are the “Geeks on Tour” and do technology training (edutainment) at RV rallies and other venues.  They have seen and done a lot of things and are interesting, fun folks with whom to share time.

At 4:30 PM Jim drove us to dinner at Magnolia Seafood and Grill in downtown Arcadia.  The restaurant was almost empty when we arrived and we got a nice corner table by the front picture windows.  Today was Jim’s birthday and we enjoyed sharing it with him and Chris.  We lingered over dinner for almost two hours and by the time we left people were waiting in the lobby for a table.  I don’t like to wait for tables, but it’s usually a good sign when a restaurant is that popular.  Everyone said their meal was excellent.  Jim drove us back to our coach and dropped us off.  There was a music jam back at the Thousand Trails Peace River Preserve in Zolfo Springs starting at 7 PM. They wanted to cap off their evening there and we certainly understood.

We walked over to the resort office and picked up our mail.  My driver license renewal paperwork was there but nothing else.  Back at our coach we turned on the TV.  PBS/Create was airing the Las Vegas BeeGees concert from 20 years ago (again). With that as background we doodled on our iPads and eventually went to bed.

2016/01/09 (S) FTH Website Work

Our plan for today was once again to go watch the Royal Lipizzan Stallions practice session at their facility in Myakka City.  Fog moved in last night and was still thick by the time we finished breakfast at 9 AM.  That was when we needed to leave in order to get there and set up our chairs in time for the start of the session at 10 AM.  For the second time this week we decided to defer this event to a future date with better weather.

Black Crested Night Heron at the Peace River Wildlife Center, south of Punta Gorda, FL.

Black Crested Night Heron at the Peace River Wildlife Center, south of Punta Gorda, FL.

Linda resumed work on her counted cross-stitch project and I worked for a while on photos for the BCM article on the Arcadia Rally 2016.  No one won the Powerball lottery on Wednesday and by this morning the top prize had exceeded 800 million dollars, an all-time record for any lottery in the U. S.  Linda needed a few grocery items for our dinner and we wanted to buy a few more lottery tickets so we walked to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket to take care of those errands.  It was approximately a one mile round trip and on the walk back the cloud cover broke up into partly sunny skies.  Back at the coach we opened all three roof vents, turned on the exhaust fans, and opened the windows wider.

Linda settled back into her counted cross-stitch project and I turned my attention to our FMCA Freethinkers website.  I checked the SLAARC website (WordPress) to see how I set up the quick registration page through the WP-Members plug-in and then set up a similar (hidden) page for the FTH website.  I cleaned up a lot of other things on the website as well, including the member directory.  This work occupied the rest of the afternoon except for a lunch break and a brief walk.

Lunch was grilled “cheese” (non-dairy) and tomato sandwiches–very messy but very good–with grapes and orange slices.  The walk was brief because we stopped to visit with a couple from Ithaca, Michigan.  While we were chatting we watched low, thick white clouds moving towards us from the southwest against a dense, dark gray sky.  A couple of drops of rain was our early warning to return to the coach.

We got back before the rain started but once it did we closed the roof vents and reduced the window openings.  The forecast a few hours earlier had a chance of a thunderstorm at 9:15 PM but by 2 PM it was raining hard and an old leak around the bedroom exhaust vent/fan reappeared.  I also found a small leak at the lower outside corner of the new lower passenger side windshield.  We were both pretty discouraged at these continued leaks having hired people to fix them.  The heavy rain continued off and on for hours prompting Linda to track it in her iPad and eventually turn on the TV.  Lee County, which includes Fort Meyers about 45 miles due south of us, was under a tornado warning.  Arcadia is in Desoto County, which is the next one north, but the weather here was not severe, just wet.

While Linda was preparing dinner I e-mailed the members of our FMCA Freethinkers chapter to let them know that the public portions of the chapter website were now open for viewing and that I would be e-mailing each of them a unique username and password for the Members Only area in the near future.

For dinner Linda made a quinoa dish with julienned carrots, diced green onions, grated ginger, edamame, diced cucumber, and diced bell pepper.  She served it at room temperature and it was another fabulous dish.

After dinner Linda put on the Bengals-Steelers NFL playoff game while I started generating the usernames and passwords for the Freethinkers website.  I finished that work in about 90 minutes with the process of creating users automatically sending an e-mail to each member with their login information.  With that done I settled on the sofa with my iPad to finish up blog posts while we continued to track the weather.  The frontal system responsible for the wet/severe weather stretched from out in the Gulf of Mexico ENE across the Florida peninsula and was drifting to the east as storm cells raced along it.  Fort Meyers got 3″ of rain and sustained some wind damage from a rare January tornado.  The system was due to pass over Naples between 9 and 9:30 PM.  Our friends, Barb and Chuck, are there so hopefully they will just get rain like we did.

We did not have any more rain after dinner so we opened the roof vents and turned the exhaust fans on.  The forecast for Arcadia kept changing through the evening with the probability of rain around midnight bouncing up and down.  By the time we went to bed it looked like we might be done with precipitation for the night.

2016/01/10 (N) Wood Art

We made it through the night without any further rain or threatening storms and got up around 7:30 AM this morning.  We got dressed right away but I did not make coffee.  Our main objective for today was a visit to the Florida Winter National Wood Art Expo and Competition (FWNWAEC) in Punta Gorda.  We gathered up raincoats, camera gear, and a list of addresses for places we might visit, and headed out around 8:15 AM.  We stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Arcadia for coffee and bagels and then continued west into downtown where we picked up US-17 and headed south to Punta Gorda.

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

We had a pleasant drive down and arrived at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center in Punta Gorda just after 9 AM.  The FWNWAEC opened at 9 AM so our timing was good.  The parking lot was mostly empty so I got a spot near the building and we finished our coffee before going inside.  Admission was $7 each and we got wristbands that allowed us to come and go all day if we wanted to.

We spent a couple of hours looking at all of the wood carvings on display and I photographed a few of them.  There were also lots of vendors selling tools, materials, supplies, and finished products.  At one of those tables we met John, who heads the woodcarving group at our RV resort, and learned that there will be woodcarving classes at the Turner Center February 8-11 and another exhibition there on February 20.  He invited us to stop by when the woodcarving group meets at the resort on Thursday mornings.

By 11 AM we had seen everything we wanted to see.  On our way out of the building the ladies at the entrance table were explaining to someone else some of the other things to do nearby and I heard mention of a Farmers Market.  I asked about its location and got directions.  Before leaving the event center area we walked the grounds around the Convention Center and Tiki Bar that is part of the Sheraton Four Points hotel next door.  We then headed south on Retta Esplanade through a nice area of wonderful homes on our left and waterfront parklands on our right.  There was a very large craft fair in progress but we passed it by in favor of finding the Farmers Market.

The market was inland a few blocks and was located in a smaller, but lovely, park where the vendor canopies were spread out along a winding pathway that led to a historic house which was open for visitors.  There was also a group of about eight musicians with guitars, fiddles, and such.  Linda bought a large Miatake mushroom after we sampled some and decided it was one of the best mushrooms we had ever tasted.  We found another vendor selling turmeric in root form.  She said it would keep for months so Linda bought a large piece.  At another vendor she bought sesame seeds and flax seeds, so the market turned out to be a good stop.

From the market we continued south in search of the Peace River Wildlife Center.  It was a small, private facility but had quite a collection of animals, mostly birds, that were being rehabilitated (if possible) for release back into the wild or living out their lives’ (if release was not possible).  A small donation was requested on entrance and willingly paid.  Most of the birds were in enclosures that made them difficult to photograph but the pelican area was open, and wild birds came and went, so I was able to get a few photos there.

From the Wildlife Center we drove back north into downtown Punta Gorda and the headed northwest on the Tamiami Trail across Charlotte Harbor towards Port Charlotte.  Our destination was the Earth Origins market in Port Charlotte which was, conveniently, located on the east side of the Tamiami Trail.  I say conveniently because the Trail was basically a 20 mile long strip mall.  It was six lanes divided plus left and right turn lanes, and choked with cars, so having the store on the side of the road we were already on was definitely convenient.

We were done with our shopping by 2:30 PM and realized that we were only 36 miles from Steve and Karen Limkemanns’ place in Nokomis (near Venice).  We called and got Karen on the phone.  Steve was out riding his bike but was due back soon.  They had no plans for the rest of the day so we headed their way.  We had been to their mobile home park (Bay Lake Estates) two years ago but had not been there since they bought their own place this past March.  It took about 45 minutes to get there, by which time Steve had returned from his bike ride.  We got a tour of their new place, which was one of the newer units in the complex and very nice.  We also walked up to see a unit that had caught fire and completely burned.  It was stunning to see how little of it was left.  The unit next door did not burn but the vinyl siding facing the fire melted and sagged.  Most RVs are built much the same way as mobile homes and park model trailers and they do not do well in fire situations.

Before going to dinner we decided to drive to the Venice Rookery.  We saw a sign for it driving up and wondered just what it was.  It turned out to be a large pond with an island that was a favorite resting and nesting area for egrets, herons, Anhingas, and other birds.  The island provide natural protection from land-based predators and locals told us that a large alligator protected them from any threat that might try to swim across.  I took what photos I could but had not planned on doing wildlife photography and did not have the correct lens(es) with me.

The temperature had been moderate during the day and our shorts had been appropriate clothing.  The best time to view the birds is apparently at sunset when large numbers of them return to the rookery.  As the sun sank towards the tree tops it got decidedly chilly and we finally had to call it a day.  We will be back on the 18th to see The Capitol Steps at the Venice Theater and made plans to return to the rookery with appropriate clothing and photo equipment.

From the Rookery we drove directly to Cafe Evergreen for dinner, an organic restaurant not far from Steve and Karen’s winter home.  The Café is not specifically vegan but always has some nice vegan selections.  Linda and I both had roasted beet Reuben sandwiches.  She had an edamame salad as a side and I had baked sweet potato “fries.”  We both had lots of decaffeinated coffee but no dessert as we were quite full by the time we finished our meals.

We went back to Steve and Karen’s place and visited a while longer before finally leaving a little before 8 PM.  Linda wanted to see Downton Abbey at 9 PM and we figured we had an hour drive to get back to our RV park in Arcadia.  The GPS wanted to take us south on I-75 but we went north 10 miles and took FL-70 due east through Myakka River State Park.  About half way to Arcadia we encountered an accident scene and had to wait for 15 minutes before we could continue our trip.  We got home a few minutes after 9 PM so we were still able to watch the show.  The Abominable Bride episode of Sherlock was rebroadcast following Downton Abbey so we watched it again.

The weather had cleared out behind the strong cold front that pushed through the area yesterday and temperatures overnight were forecast to drop into the upper 40’s.  We closed down all the windows before we went to bed.  I turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed before climbing in.  It had been a long day and neither of us felt like reading or writing so I turned off the lights and we went to sleep.

 

2016/01/01 (F) – 2016/01/05 (T)

2016/01/01 (F) A Short Move

We got to back to our coach around 1 AM last night but I did not go to sleep until almost 2 AM so we slept in a bit longer than usual this morning.  The rally ended at midnight so there was no breakfast or organized activities this morning.  I wandered around the rally venue taking pictures of buses as they pulled out or were now easier to photograph because adjacent buses had moved out of the way.  The departure of rigs from a rally is always interesting.  It is an asynchronous, unmanaged event that is none-the-less generally very orderly.  There is never a rush for the exit as RVs leave one-by-one except for occasional groups that are traveling together.

 Linda strolls along one of the rows of converted buses at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

Linda strolls along one of the rows of converted buses at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

My wandering eventually took me to the north end of the venue where Dave Aungier’s 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion was parked.  As I had expected the local NAPA store was not open today so David was unable to get the new oil pressure gauge he needed.  He did not plan on sticking around until tomorrow to get the part and was basically ready to leave as soon as I photographed his coach.  After a brief discussion we agreed that he would pull it out onto the main exit road facing south so I could photograph it in good light and without a lot of clutter around it.  I went back to my coach to get my wide angle lens and additional batteries while he moved the bus.  After shooting the exterior, bays, and interior we exchanged contact information and Dave was on his way back to his home RV park in Zephyrhills, Florida.

Departure day at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

Departure day at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

After I was done with Dave’s bus I captured a few exterior images of Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle that I was not able to get yesterday.  I sat and chatted with them for a bit and gave them my contact information.  Although they were not leaving until tomorrow they were getting ready to go explore the area and check out several options for where to camp next.  At this point I had taken all of the rally photos I was going to take and went back to our coach to help Linda prepare it for our departure.

A late 1940’s GMC bus, with some of its original Greyhound markings, preparing to leave the Arcadia Rally 2016.

A late 1940’s GMC bus, with some of its original Greyhound markings, preparing to leave the Arcadia Rally 2016.

After having a light lunch we finished prepping our coach to travel and pulled out at 1 PM for the short trip to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) in Arcadia.  Linda drove the car and followed me over.  Once we were in the resort she went ahead of me to find the office and get us registered.  While she was doing that two guys showed up in a golf cart.  They made a phone call and then had me follow them to the office.  From there they escorted me to site #K-2 and got me parked.  It was a somewhat narrow back-in site but they got me positioned just right.

Linda went back to the office to finish our registration and extended our stay until March 7th.  The Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise returns to the Port of Miami on March 5th and we have to pick up Michael and Mara and then get him back to the Tampa airport and get her back to the resort.  We will have the 6th to visit with Mara and then be on the move.

While Linda was taking care of our registration I leveled the bus and shut it down.  I got the shorepower connected but was surprised that the no load voltage on L1 was only 115 VAC and that L2 was even lower at 111 VAC.  It was warm and humid but running our air-conditioners with those voltages might be a problem as our Progressive Industries EMS might cut off the shorepower if it dropped any lower.

When Linda got back we deployed all of the awnings.  A frog dropped from the driver side forward awning onto the grass when we opened it.  It was unharmed and hopped off somewhere.  While we were setting up we met Ron and Vera, who have the site just south of ours, as they were out washing their trailer.

With the voltage at our site lower than I liked I decided not to run the air conditioners.  We opened all the windows and roof vents and turned on all three exhaust fans plus an inside fan.  We endured a rather warm/humid afternoon with just the natural ventilation, helped a little by a southwesterly breeze coming in the driver side windows.  Our coach is parked facing southwest, so we are getting the afternoon sun.

Lots of residents walked or rode their bikes past our site.  Most waved and/or said “hello” and a few stopped to chat.  Conrad and Bonnie visited for quite a while and shared a lot of information with us about the resort and especially its activities, which are apparently numerous.  Big Tree RV Resort is a Carefree Resorts property and promotes itself as an active adult community.  Early evidence suggested that this might, indeed, be the case.

By late afternoon I was tired and uncomfortable so I took a nap.  Once the sun dropped below the trees it cooled off enough that we took a leisurely stroll around the resort to get a sense of the layout and the people.  We almost always do this when we arrive at any new campground, even if we are only going to be there for one night.  Lots of folks were out walking or riding their bicycles.  More than a few had strong French accents and we noticed quite a few license plates from Quebec Province in Canada.

Back at our rig Linda made vegan pancakes for dinner and served them with fresh blueberries and real maple syrup.  We had pineapple later for dessert and a small glass of wine while we watched the first episode of the new season of Sherlock on PBS.  Linda went to bed as soon as the program was over.  Since I took a nap earlier I stayed up for a while, checked us into the resort on RVillage, and tried to fill in missing information for my blog posts from December 30th and 31st.  Eventually I was unable to keep my eyes open and went to sleep.

2016/02/02 (S) Big Tree Carefree RV Resort

It was very foggy last night by the time I went to bed but had dissipated somewhat by dawn.  We slept in and got up at 8:30 AM.  Linda got a shower while I made coffee and then I got my shower and trimmed my beard shorter than usual.  We had coffee, juice, and granola with blueberries for breakfast and split a banana.

After breakfast we drove to downtown Arcadia to visit the farmers market.  Although rain was not forecast for today it was misting when we left so we took our rain coats.  It was a good thing that we did as the mist got heavier as we got to downtown.  There were only a few vendors in the square and none of them were selling fresh produce so we did not buy anything.  There was a vendor with lots of pickled products that looked interesting so we may buy something from him at the next farmers market in two weeks.  We walked around the block and back to our car and then drove back to the resort on the east edge of town about two miles from downtown.

We lost a decorative lug nut cover off of the passenger side of the coach yesterday just after I turned onto eastbound FL-70.  Linda looked for it as we drove by but did not spot it.

Back at the coach Linda vacuumed the interior, wet mopped the floor, and then went for a walk.  I decided to get a short article written about the Arcadia Rally 2016 for Bus Conversion Magazine while it was still fresh in my mind and before we got busy exploring this part of Florida.  First, I transferred my photos from the last few days to my computer and organized them.  Next, I set up the folder and sub-folders for the article, opened my article template (Word), and wrote a page of text.  I then started selecting and processing photographs and, except for a few breaks, that is what I did for most of the day.

When Linda returned from her walk she made a grocery list and then took the car to Walmart.  The Walmart is directly opposite the entrance to the resort on the south side of FL-70, which is the main east-west highway through Arcadia.  FL-70 is a divided road at this point so to get to the Walmart we have turn right and go west on FL-70 and then make a U-turn, which is legal here, or make a left onto southbound US-31 and then go in the west entrance.  To get back to the resort we can exit the Walmart at a traffic light and turn left onto westbound FL-70 and then immediately turn right into the resort entrance.  If we are coming east from west of the resort entrance we must make a U-turn at the traffic light in front of the Walmart of a little farther to the east.  The traffic signal also serves a much larger residential development just east of the resort and there is a crosswalk, so we can walk to Walmart if we do not expect to have a lot to carry back.

When Linda got back and had the groceries put away we had chickpea salad on greens for lunch.  During the afternoon I took a break from working on my article to hook up the water softener.  Back inside I wanted to back up my most recent photos but my computer could not “see” the NAS.  I ended up shutting down everything and restarting it a particular order: WFR, A|W router, NAS, and lastly computer.  That reset the connections (IP addresses) and I was able to get back to work.

I had been sitting most of the day so we went for an evening stroll before dinner.  Back at the coach Linda made a zoodles “pasta” with mushrooms, onions, garlic, broccoli, turmeric, and flax seed.  After dinner we decided to do our laundry so we gathered up clothes and bedding, loaded the laundry into the car, and drove it to the resort laundromat, which is located in the same building as the office, library, and activities/meeting room.  We loaded four washers and then four dryers.  We took our iPads with us and doodled while we waited.  There was a good, free Wi-Fi signal at the building so we may take advantage of that while we are here.

After the laundry was done, folded, and hung up we watched America Reframed: A Will To The Woods on PBS/2.  It was a program about the “green burial” movement and one man’s determination to have a green burial if/when he succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  He did and got his wish.  It was a well done documentary.

2016/01/03 (N) Another Article

A cold front drifted southeast through our location yesterday afternoon bringing with it cooler temperatures and an increased probability of rain.  We left the windows open just an inch but I closed all three roof vents before we went to bed.  We slept in this morning because we did not have any pressing reason to get up.  When we did arise I made coffee and Linda eventually fixed toast and grapefruit for our breakfast.

Linda needed something that she forgot to buy at Walmart yesterday so she walked there to get it.  When she got back she headed out to continue her walk in the resort but the rain finally came and she quickly returned to our coach.  Once it started it was persistent and heavy at times.  We eventually discovered that the skylight in the hallway was leaking which did not make either of us very happy.

I settled in early and spent the whole day working on projects related to the Arcadia Rally.  I processed all of the photos of Dave Aungier’s 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion and inserted a few of them into a Word doc to serve as an example.  I uploaded the photos and the Word document to a folder in my Dropbox and e-mailed Dave the read-only link.  I selected and processed a few photos for rally organizers Bill and Brenda Phelan, uploaded those to another Dropbox folder, and e-mailed them the read-only link.  I then focused on my article about the rally for Bus Conversion Magazine (BCM), finishing the draft of the print version around 9 PM.  I uploaded it to the BCM folder in my Dropbox and e-mailed the publisher, editor, and layout technician.  I still need to upload cover and centerfold photos and then select, process, and upload photos for the bonus content section of the digital edition.

During the course of the day I took breaks for lunch and dinner.  Lunch was a really tasty cannelloni bean salad with capers, olives, lemon zest, raw garlic, and other tasty ingredients.  Dinner was a salad of power greens with couscous, cooked beets, blueberries, and orange segments.

I also e-mailed Pat Lintner and texted Chuck Spera to see if they had arrived at the Florida destinations.  Linda was playing online word games with her sister (Sr. Marilyn) and with Karen Limkemann, and thereby learned that Karen and Steve had arrived at their new place near Venice, Florida where they were busy assembling furniture they just purchased at IKEA.  She also exchanged text messages with both of our children regarding our mailing address while we are at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) and a few items we needed them to forward on to us.  When we checked out the mail room yesterday we discovered that every site at the resort has a cubby and management had already placed a tag on ours with our last name on it.  That was a nice touch and made us feel just that much more welcome even though we will only be here for a little over two months.

After dinner we turned on the TV and tuned in Part 1 of Ken Burns’ film on Prohibition on PBS/World.  We switched to PBS/main and watched the first episode of the sixth and final season of Downton Abby.  At the conclusion of the episode we switched back to Prohibition.  There was still a chance for rain through tonight, and overnight low temperatures were forecast to drop to around 50 degrees F for the next few nights, so we left the roof vents closed and the windows barely open and went to bed.

2016/01/04 (M) Unblocked

The overnight low dropped into the upper 40’s last night and made for nice sleeping conditions.  As sometimes happens with me when I do not have a clock-regulated schedule to keep, my awake/sleep cycle slowly shifts as I stay up a little later each night and get up a little later each morning.  I did not go to sleep last night until after 1 AM and we both got up this morning between 8:30 and 9 to pleasantly cool temperatures in the coach and bright, sunny skies outside.

As we were getting dressed we discovered that an old leak in the bedroom was still leaking.  The wall just below the front corner of the passenger side window was wet.  Linda’s house slippers were stored on top of the OTR HVAC duct cover and also got wet.  That’s how we discovered that we still have a problem.  Like the other leaks around windows I am convinced that the problem is the way the awnings were originally installed by Royale Coach.  They were mounted to the hinged body panels that hold the windows and I think the gaskets for these panels were damaged in the process.  Whatever the reason it is very discouraging that we still have leaks in the coach.  The other possibility was that the water was getting in around the Fan-Tastic roof vent/fan and then running through the ceiling to the side wall and down.

I got our Verizon Mi-Fi/WiFi-Ranger combo online and then made coffee while Linda cooked oatmeal for our breakfast.  We doodled on our iPads for a while and I renewed my subscription to the RFinder World Wide Repeater Directory.  It was only $9.99/year and they had a holiday renewal special extending it to 18 months.  I have this app on my Android-based Samsung Galaxy III Smartphone.

My focus for today was to work on the FMCA Freethinkers Chapter website and then unlock the public pages.  I received an e-mail from chapter president Bob Pelc recently that prompted me to take care of this and it took most of the day except for beaks to eat and go for a couple of walks, one after lunch and one after dinner.

It was a beautiful, sunny day with lower humidity, a light breeze, and a high of 69 degrees F.  While walking, we met Gary and Pat a few sites down from us.  They came in yesterday and have a house back in Michigan about three miles from ours.  It’s a small world.

We stopped in the office so I could see it and Pat greeted me by name.  Since we had never met that caught me by surprise.  She recognized/remembered Linda from when she registered us and made the assumption about who I was.  She and her husband, Jim, manage the park.  Jim was one of the two guys who led me to the site and got us parked.  Pat said she wanted to see our bus and we invited her to stop by anytime.  We have overheard a couple of comments and had a few conversations that suggest folks are curious about our bus and word of its presence has spread through the resort.

Lunch was hummus and dark leafy greens sandwiches with oranges and grapes.  Dinner was pan-seared tofu slices on a bed of dark leafy greens with Asian peanut sauce and apple slices.  Both meals were very tasty.

I got an unexpected call from Kathy Dewsbury-White, executive director of the Michigan Assessment Consortium.  We had not spoken it quite some time so it was a pleasant surprise.  After our evening walk we settled in to watch our usual Monday evening TV programs.  Having worked all day at my computer I was not in the humor to even doodle on my iPad.  We watched the 11 PM news long enough to known the world is falling apart, and switched to the local weather channel (same station) which forecast sunny days ahead.  There wasn’t anything on any of the PBS channels we wanted to see so we were in bed and asleep by 11:30 PM.

2016/01/05 (T) 1969 Model 07 Eagle

We were up at 7:30 AM this morning.  The temperature overnight fell into the upper 40’s and it was 64 degrees F in the coach so we put on our sweats.  I made coffee and turned on the Aqua-Hot long enough to raise the temperature to 69 degrees and take the chill off of the interior.  We had granola, blueberries, and a banana for breakfast, along with juice, and then doodled on our iPads while we finished our coffee.  I renewed my subscription the RFinder World Wide Repeater Directory yesterday and reset my password this morning so I could use the website and Android app on my phone.  I searched for repeaters within 20 miles of our location.  There appeared to be two in Arcadia but many more west and south of us in Punta Gorda, Murdock, Venice, and Port Charlotte.  At 10 AM we took showers, got dressed, and then got to work.

Our bus in its winter 2016 home on site K2 at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, FL.

Our bus in its winter 2016 home on site K2 at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, FL.

Linda was checking e-mail and noticed that the PayPal receipt for the RFinder annual subscription had been processed as a monthly payment.  It’s only $9.99, but yikes! just the same.  I e-mailed the folks at RFinder (Suffolk Systems) and also filed a complaint with PayPal.  I knew the folks at RFinder would straighten it out but my complaint was really with PayPal.  Their e-mail had instructions for dealing with this that did not correspond to their website.  Not helpful.

The first order of business for me was dumping the holding tanks and filling the fresh water tank.  Once that was done my main focus today was roughing out a featured bus article for Bus Conversions Magazine on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  They had their bus at the Arcadia Rally last week and I was able to interview them and photograph it.  They were there two years ago but I was not able to do an article on their bus at that time.

“K” row at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL.

“K” row at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL.

Linda took her exercise walk in the morning.  When she got back we had mock deli sandwiches for lunch and then went for a stroll around the resort.  After our stroll we drove to the Joshua Citrus Company location a couple of miles south of the RV resort.  We bought a few things for ourselves and picked up a brochure describing the assortments of fruit they package and ship.  We want to ship some fresh citrus fruit to our family members back in Michigan while we are here.

While we were at Joshua Citrus I got a call from Bob Greenberg, W2CYK, at RFinder regarding my e-mail and PayPal complaint.  He explained what I needed to do to correct the error.  When we got back to our rig I canceled the PayPal complaint and then cancelled the subscription (recurring payment).  RFinder will e-mail me in June 2017 to remind me that I need to renew.  I can set up an annual subscription at that time if I want to.

Self-portrait in a wide angle traffic mirror.  (Big Tree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL)

Self-portrait in a wide angle traffic mirror. (Big Tree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL)

For dinner Linda made black-eyed peas with celery, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and hot pepper flakes.  She served it with open-faced Boca “burgers” (vegan) and corn.  We went for another stroll after dinner.  The high temperature today only reached the lower 70’s, and cooled off quickly after the sun set, so we each bundled up a bit (me more than her) to avoid getting chilled.  When we got back to our rig I was done with computer-based work for the day and settled in to watch our Tuesday evening TV programs.  After catching a little bit of the local news and weather we both went to sleep.

 

2015/12/31 (R) Arcadia Rally Day 3

Today was the third and final day of the converted bus rally in Arcadia, Florida.  Like the last two mornings we walked over to the activities building at the Turner Agri-Civic Center for bagels and coffee.  We went over at 7:30 AM so we would have time to eat and visit and still get back to our coach before 8:30 AM.  We arranged yesterday for Hotties Detailing to wash our coach and polish the Alcoa aluminum wheels this morning.  They expected to be on site around 8:30 AM and were actually a few minutes early.

Not a bus conversion, but certainly a very nice Airstream trailer.

Not a bus conversion, but certainly a very nice Airstream trailer (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL).

I stayed around the coach to get them started and then wandered off with my camera to take photos of all the rigs in the east row.  Most of them were backed in facing east so I wanted to take advantage of the morning light.  We had fog again overnight and into the morning but it dissipated by 9 AM.  I returned to our coach before Hotties finished to check on the work.  They did a nice job at a fair price.

I went to Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s coach to interview them for a featured bus article in Bus Conversion Magazine about their 1969 Model 07 Eagle conversion.  By the time I was done with the interview it was time for their lunch so I returned to our coach.  I went back in the afternoon and photographed the interior and bays of their bus.

The east-facing row looking north from the south end.  (Arcadia Bus Rally)

The east-facing row looking north from the south end. (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

As it was last night, dinner was served at 5 PM.  The food for everyone else was different from the night before but included bread and baked potatoes so we were able to have that in addition to our salads.

Starting at 7 PM Master of Ceremonies John Vickery handled the door prizes with help from rally organizers/hosts Bill and Brenda Phelan.  The recipient of the third boxed set of Bus Conversion Magazines was Dan and Sandy Cerrato.  I was getting their information after the door prizes concluded and they invited me back to see their converted bus, a 1953 GM PD4104 that they have had for 37 years.  I got the grand tour and had a long chat with both of them.

The east-facing row looking south from the north end.  (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

The east-facing row looking south from the north end. (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

This was Dan and Sandy’s first rally of any kind ever and I got the feeling that they really enjoyed it.  They are very proud of their bus, and obviously still very fond of it after all those years.  They had started subscribing to BCM in early 2015 and Dan had read all of my 2015 articles.  BCM was also where they found out about the Arcadia rally.  They live near Ocala, Florida, so it was an easy trip for them.  Dan was interested in writing an article for BCM about their bus and their experiences with it, so we talked about that at length and I offered to assist him if he wanted.

Buses in the infield, including some from the later 1940’s. (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

Buses in the infield, including some from the later 1940’s. (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

The entertainment for New Year’s Eve was Kenny Flint and the Rough Diamond Band.  We sat with Paul/Claudine Elbisser and Dan/Kathy Rory and their son James.  James is a young man with Down’s Syndrome but he had the time of his life dancing with the ladies.  Kenny even let him sing/play with the band for a couple of songs.  We had snacks and a little bit to drink, but not much, and stayed until midnight to welcome in the New Year.  We did not have champagne this year, the first time I can remember that we skipped that part of the New Year’s celebration.  With the playing/singing of Auld Lang Syne at midnight the band wrapped up the entertainment for the evening and the small crowd drifted out and headed back to their rigs.

The west-facing row looking north from the south end.  The nose of our coach is just visible, 4th from the right.  (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

The west-facing row looking north from the south end. The nose of our coach is just visible, 4th from the right. (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

On the way back to our coach we stopped at Dan and Sandy’s bus and sat around a small campfire for a while.  Scott Crosby was there and David Evans joined us for a while.  Although it was not cool enough to require, or even justify, a campfire everyone enjoyed it.  It’s just not camping without a campfire.  Both Scott and David have GM Silverside buses from the late 1940’s.  Scott does video production and some still photography professionally and owns/operates the BusGreaseMonkey.com website/forum.  He mounted his small camera on a tripod and made time exposure “light paintings” of several buses, including ours, which he e-mailed to me.

By 1 AM we were tired, thanked Dan and Sandy for the campfire, and headed home.  Linda was to bed and asleep right away but it took me until 1:45 AM to finally turn out the lights and go to sleep.

 

2015/12/30 (W) Arcadia Rally (Day 2 of 3)

Although I went to bed late last night I was awake at 7 AM this morning and got up at 7:30 to find the rally venue shrouded in dense fog.  Linda was still sleeping at 8 AM so I put some of my non-dairy soy coffee creamer in one of our FMCA insulated flip top travel mugs and walked over to the activities building. There are 82 rigs at the rally with close to 160 people and I estimated that 50 of them were at breakfast when I arrived.  Some folks had probably been there at 7 AM when breakfast started and left before I got there.  Others, including Linda, showed up after me but before breakfast ended at 9 AM.  Breakfast was a simple, self-serve, affair at this rally:  donuts, bagels, cream cheese, orange juice, and coffee, both regular and decaf.  Coffee and a toasted bagel, dry, works for us.

We chatted with Frank Noehl and Jim Seagraves, both members of our FMCA GLCC chapter, and were eventually joined by Jerry and Rose Mary Campbell.  Jerry and his parents (Jack and ?) have MCI 102C3 motorcoaches that they converted to Detroit Diesel Series 50 engines from the 2-cycle engines that were original to them.  There are two other MCI coaches here with the same engine conversion, and Jack was the driving force behind all four of these repowers.  The four buses are parked together and I was interested in hearing more about this process.

The DD Series 50 is basically the same engine as the Series 60 but with four inline cylinders rather than six.  I chatted with Jerry yesterday and had a look at his engine bay at that time.  It’s a nice installation; a bit tight in spots but it fits.  The 50 Series engine was used in transit buses and local delivery trucks but not in long-haul trucks or motorcoaches.  Jerry’s engine is rated at 350 HP and 1200 lb-ft of torque.  That’s essentially the same torque we get from our DD 8v92TA but 100 less horsepower.  I seriously doubt that this would be an adequate engine for our Prevost H3-40 VIP conversion, but it is an intriguing idea should we ever need to replace our 8v92.  The Series 50 and Series 60 engines are 4-cycle, inline configurations and develop their torque at lower RPMs than the 2-cycle 92 Series engines and cruise at highway speeds at lower RPMs.  They are also designed to work with the newer Allison “World” transmissions.

We were back at our coach by 9:30 AM.  The temperature was still in the 70s, if not by much, and there was a stiff breeze so it was actually pleasant sitting in the shade under our patio awning.  We had PB&J sandwiches for lunch with Halo orange segments and Snyder Sourdough Pretzel Nibblers.  The day eventually heated up, however, and I went inside to work at my computer while Linda went for a walk.  I edited the blog posts for September 26 through 30, 2015, turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi, and uploaded them to our WordPress site.  Linda got back and stayed inside to read while I took the camera and went out to photograph the buses and other RVs at the rally.

Even with partly cloudy skies the sun was very hot and many of the rigs were not in good light.  And even though they were parked with a generous amount of space between them they were still close enough together to make good photos a challenge.  Folks also tend to have their toads parked in front of their rigs, making good photo vantage points just that much more difficult to find.

As I was photographing I was approached by someone who introduced himself as Dave Aungier.  He said he had read all of my BCM articles and enjoyed them and wanted to write one about his bus but needed help with the photos.  That is a much easier situation for me than actually writing an article about someone else’s bus.  His 1977 MCI MC-5C was parked between two open-sided buildings where I could not get good exterior photos.  Like most of the attendees he plans to leave Friday but will not be in a hurry to do so and is willing to pull his bus out into the open grassy boondock area so I can photograph it.  With any luck this will be an easy collaboration.

I got pictures of most of the rigs except the back/east row.  On my way over there I stopped to chat with Jimmy Clay and his brother-in-law Ronnie Mewbourn and Ronnie’s wife Diann.  They were here two years ago when I photographed Jimmy and Sadie’s Iron Horse Eagle conversion, which ran as the featured bus in the April 2014 issue.  After chatting a while we agreed that I would come back tomorrow with a notepad to get Ronnie and Diann’s “story” and possibly some interior photos of their 1968 Model 07 Eagle conversion.  They also plan to leave on Friday but will not be in a hurry to pull out and agreed to move their bus out into the grassy boondock area if needed so I can photograph it.

By the time I got to the eastern most row of buses, most of which are facing east, it was almost 4 PM and the sun was behind them and in my face eliminating the possibility of good photos.  I will try to shot them early tomorrow morning, weather permitting.

Dinner was at 5 PM.  Bill and Brenda included a mini salad bar as I had suggested so we were able to have a large plate of shredded lettuce with sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, and garbanzo beans.  They also had a bottle of balsamic vinaigrette dressing just for us.

Master of Ceremonies John Vickery handed out the door prizes and the recipient of the second set of Bus Conversion Magazines was Ken Siems.  The entertainment for the evening was the karaoke trio, Shake, Rattle, and Soul, doing oldies.  They were OK and given the typical age of the rally attendees, which was older than us, those who stuck around knew the tunes and enjoyed hearing them again.  They performed from 8 to 11 PM and I presume they were much less expensive than an actual live band.

As of this evening no one had stepped forward to take over the rally from Bill and Brenda.  It occurred to me that not only is it a lot of work to organize a rally, there is financial risk involved.  Live entertainment, or even a DJ, require non-refundable commitments far in advance, especially for dates like New Year’s Eve.  You also have to book a venue and put a deposit on it, and you have to incur these expenses without knowing how many people, if any, will actually show up.  Most bus nut are not in a position to incur that kind of financial risk, and the upside potential is small to non-existent.  Nick and Terry Russell, of The Gypsy Journal, are very savvy business people but gave up doing The Gypsy Journal Rallies because they were losing money on them even with the assistance of a small army of dedicated volunteers.  Sad, but true.

Although they are not the same kind of experience, one of the things that is emerging in place of these larger, organized, fee-based, rallies are “non-rally rallies.”  RVillage calls them “Get-Togethers.”  Someone picks a time and place and sends out word.  Everyone is responsible for their own camping fees, if any, and there are no planned meals, entertainment, or seminars.  Entertainment and seminars, if any, are strictly impromptu participant-driven events.  There might be some “pot-luck” (carry-in) community meals, but not necessarily, and they are typically not prearranged.  Basically, the event is not really hosted or sponsored by anyone, there’s no organizing that takes place, and there is no group, couple, or individual that has any liability for what happens.

 

2015/12/29 (T) Arcadia Rally (Day 1 of 3)

Although sleeping conditions were not as comfortable as they should have been with the air-conditioners running we apparently slept OK.  Linda was up at 7 AM and I got up around 7:30 to dense fog.  Yes, the RH outside was 100%.

The rally officially started today with breakfast from 7 to 9 AM so we got dressed and walked over to have coffee and a bagel.  We ended up talking to Scott Crosby, Jim Seagraves (another GLCC guy), Paul and Claudine Elbisser (also from GLCC), and a couple of other guys, one of whom was from British Columbia.  Bus conversions are a tiny fraction of all RVs, but folks who own them have a strong affinity for the company of other folks who have them, and will travel considerable distances to get together with them.  We lingered quite a while before returning to our rig.

There was a nice breeze that made for comfortable conditions under our patio awning so I sat out there and wrote the draft of my blog post for yesterday and then started on today’s post.  Linda went for a walk with her iPod and then returned to sit outside and read.  We went inside around noon and Linda made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches with sliced tomatoes, greens, and onions.  Vegan comfort food.

Linda went back outside after lunch but I stayed inside and reviewed Part 1 of my 2-part article on Habitat For Humanity for RVers in the draft copy of the February 2016 issue.  I annotated the PDF using the Acrobat Reader Sticky Notes feature and e-mailed it back to Gary and Jorge.  I then joined Linda outside and studied the manual for our Sony flash unit.  I needed to use it tonight but had not put batteries in it, mounted it on the camera, or otherwise had a chance to use it since I bought it from B&H Photo back in October.

Tom Mason came by on his bicycle around 1:45 PM reminding folks that the ice cream social was at 2 PM.  Although we were certainly not going to have ice cream we walked over just to be sociable.  When we got back from the social I got the first boxed set of Bus Conversion Magazines out from under the bed.  I then gathered my camera, flash unit, and external battery pack and sat on the sofa with them, and the manuals, and figured how to connect and set everything.  Linda was working in the kitchen making her chickpea salad for our dinner and it was darker than usual in the coach as we have the skylights blocked, the awnings out, and the shades down to block the sun.  I took a few test shots with the flash and it seemed to work well so I called it good for now.

Linda makes Chickpea (Garbanzo bean) salad while I test the new Sony flash unit with the a99v camera body.

Linda makes Chickpea (Garbanzo bean) salad while I test the new Sony flash unit with the a99v camera body.

We eventually had chickpea salad on greens for dinner with a slice of bread on the side (with vegan buttery spread).  We left at 6:30 PM and walked to the event building.  I carried the camera/flash combo and Linda carried the box of magazines.  I found Bill and Brenda at the back of the room going over the opening ceremonies with master of ceremonies John Vickery.  Part of the discussion was about the door prizes and we gave them the box of magazines (1 of 3).  I started to explain what was in the box and John asked if I would just stand up and explain that when the time came, which I agreed to do.

Announcements and door prizes started at 7 PM.  There were a lot of door prizes and David Evans won the first boxed set of Bus Conversion Magazines.  I got a few photos of him accepting the box and got his name later.  He was a subscriber in the past but has not subscribed since Gary Hatt acquired the magazine in 2012.  David is here in a 1948 GM PD3703 which, along with Scott Crosby’s 1948 Silversides and Don and Sandra Moyer’s 1948 Spartan, has to be one of the oldest converted buses on the road in North America.

The entertainment for the evening was a 4-piece bluegrass band.  They were very good, and played until 11 PM with only two short breaks.  There was only a small audience left by the time they finished but it was an appreciative group.  After the evening entertainment was concluded we wandered back to our rig and tuned in the WINK weather sub-channel (11.2) which covers southwest Florida.  Linda was up until midnight, very late for her, and I finally went to bed at 12:30 AM and turned the lights out just before 1 AM.

 

2015/12/27 (N) An Easy Last Day

I was up before 7:30 AM, got dressed, and gathered up the clothes that I forgot to launder yesterday.  Linda got up too so I prepared a pot of coffee and while it brewed I took the laundry to the laundry room and put it in a washing machine.  I returned to the coach and enjoyed my first cup of coffee before returning to the laundry room to transfer it to a dryer.  The dryers run for 45 minutes so I returned to our coach and had breakfast.

This was our last full day at Williston Crossings RV Resort, at least for now, but you would not have guessed it by observing us unless you saw one of the park volunteers reading our electric meter.  Other than checking and adjusting some tire pressures right after breakfast our day was spent doing the same things we have been doing since we arrived on December 1st; Linda read and walked while I edited and uploaded blog posts.

Linda made hummus sandwiches with onions and greens for lunch and washed off some sweet cherries.  It was another warm/humid day and we finally closed up the coach and turned on the air-conditioners during the afternoon.  Dinner was left over potato curry.

Linda watched Downton Abbey reruns after dinner and I edited/uploaded a few more blog posts.  It had cooled off outside so we turned the air-conditioning off and opened up the coach.  By the time I quit working at 10 PM I had uploaded 12 posts covering September 14 through 25.  Since Linda was still watching TV I took my phone outside and called Butch.  We chatted for over an hour before calling it a night.

 

2015/12/23 (W) Satchel’s Trifecta

We were up by 8 AM and sat around drinking our coffee until 9 AM.  For breakfast we had fresh blueberries, bananas, oranges, and toast along with orange/grapefruit juice.  I had apricot preserves on my toast.  I like all kinds of fruit preserves, but apricot is my favorite.

We are here at Williston Crossings until the 28th but that means we only have five more days and are starting to think about leaving and what we have to do to be ready.  Today’s chores potentially included:

  • Recharging the water softener;
  • Tightening the toilet paper holder in the bathroom;
  • Adjusting the pressure in the tires;
  • Removing and reinstalling the screen material for the entry door awning window.

It’s always something.

Fixing the toilet paper holder requires an Allen wrench which means I would have to get out my tool boxes.  Fixing the screen requires a special tool for inserting the retaining rib, which I do not have, and thus requires a trip to the local ACE Hardware store.  Adjusting tire pressures requires me to get out the air compressor and air hose, which is a nuisance.  And recharging the water softener requires the installation of the plastic flow restriction tube in the pre-filter housing and the addition of table salt plus a couple of hours of fooling around with the whole setup.  All of which suggests that I was probably not in the mood to do chores today.

On my personal “to do” list was uploading more blog posts, editing the ITR Oasis Combi Installation article for Bus Conversion Magazine, and uploading it to my BCM Dropbox folder for proofreading.  Linda wanted to organize and store the music CDs we brought with us, and I wanted to get out the various accessories for my Sony a99v DSLT camera and get them working.  Those things were under the bed.

I want to refill our fresh water tank as close to our departure as possible so even though we still had over 1/3rd of a tank (40+ gallons) we decided to take showers at the laundry/bathroom building which includes shower stalls.  Linda walked down at 10:15 AM and I walked down at 10:40 AM when she got back.

The only bus chore I got done today was recharging the water softener, but that was an important one to get out of the way.  I started at 11:15 AM by fitting the filter holder with the flow restrictor tube and partially filling it with 26 oz. of table salt.  I connected a short hose to the output of the softener to direct the discharge water, ran a strong flow of water for 15 seconds to stir up and saturate the salt, and then reduced it to a trickle.  I tested it for saltiness and it seemed salty so I let it run for 90 minutes.

We had baby carrot slices, orange pepper slices, and apple slices with hummus for lunch around 12:45 PM.  At 1 PM I again ran a strong flow of water through the softener for 15 seconds and then returned it to a trickle for another 90 minutes.  At the end of that time I ran a strong flow for 30 seconds and then let it trickle for one more hour.  By 3:30 PM the discharge was no longer salty so I tested it and it indicated 1.5 grains per gallon, which is as low as I can usually get it.  (Only once did I get it down to zero.)  I probably let the water run longer than necessary but the only sure way to know the salt is used up is to remove the filter housing and check.  A clear housing would make it much easier to do this, and I intend to get one.

In the time it took to recharge the water softener I uploaded 13 blog posts for August 19th through August 31st, 2015.  That meant I had finally gained some small ground, having uploaded more posts (29) in December than I had written (22) up through yesterday.  I also spent a few minutes going through Butch’s edits of the draft BCM article on the installation of an ITR Oasis Combi diesel-fired hydronic heating system in their MCI MC-9 NJT motorcoach and incorporating changes.  I did not, however, have/take the time to move the photos inline with text and reformat it in two columns.  I plan to do that tomorrow and then upload it to my BCM Dropbox folder for proofreading.

We arranged to go to Satchel’s with John and Ali for dinner this evening and meet them there at 5 PM.  We left at 4 PM for the drive into Gainesville and stopped at the Walmart near the restaurant.  Linda needed a rolling pin and pastry mat and found both.  On the way back to our car we crossed paths with John and Ali in the parking lot.  It’s just far enough into town from the RV resort that we all try to be efficient by making trips multi-purpose.

It was our third visit to Satchel’s since we arrived in Williston and probably our final one for this winter unless we decide to return to this area for a while in March.  Ali does not care for Satchel’s pizza, specifically their sauce, but agreed to go anyway for our sake.  We had the same meal we always get; small salad, medium hand-tossed pizza with Daiya non-dairy mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes, and a vegan oatmeal raisin cookie for dessert plus a ginger soda for me, made in-house.

For our money it is one of the three or four best pizzas we have ever had, vegan or not, and clearly the best vegan pizza we have ever tasted.  We lingered and talked but eventually paid the bill and left.  In our case we needed to stop at the Publix supermarket on the way back to Williston for an assortment of things Linda needed for our Christmas day meals.

It was almost 8 PM when we got home.  We put the groceries away, turned on the TV, and watched several programs on PBS before going to bed.

 

2015/12/20 (N) Brooksville Hams

I was up at 7:15 AM and Linda was up shortly thereafter.  I left all three thermostats on last night but had them dialed back so I turned them up to approximately 70 degrees F.  I say approximately because the dials are marked in Celsius every five degrees.  I fed the cats, washed a few dishes, and made our morning coffee.  We lingered with our iPads longer than normal and delayed breakfast as we would be leaving before noon, skipping lunch, and having an early dinner.  Breakfast was granola with fresh blueberries and orange/grapefruit juice.

After breakfast we both took showers and got dressed.  Linda went for a long walk with her iPod (she listens to audiobooks).  I worked at my computer, taking a break to empty the catch bowl in the utility bay and spread some more Spectracide Fire Ant Killer on mounds around our coach.  Linda got back from her walk at 11:15 and we got ready to leave.

We left at 11:30 AM for Bruce and Linda Whitney’s new place southeast of Brooksville, Florida.  We drove down US-41 through Dunnellon, Hernando, and Inverness, stopping at a Publix in Inverness for house warming flowers and the adjacent Panera for a bagel and coffee.  We continued on US-41 to Brooksville at which point we let the GPS take over and route us through a series of back roads to their place.  We got there a little after 1:30 PM.

Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (K4YL) are fellow “hams” (amateur radio operators) from our South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club (SLAARC) back home.  Linda retired around the same time I did and although Bruce is still working they have, like many of us, grown weary of winter in the north.  They found a 24 acre place southeast of Brooksville with five good size towers already in place—a dream location for a serious ham—and decided to buy it.  (Three of the towers are 200 feet tall.)  Bruce successfully got his employer to agree to let him change his work location to Florida and work from home.  That’s a good deal if your employer considers you valuable enough to let you do it.  Bruce has deep knowledge of power transmission technology along with his equally deep knowledge of RF phenomena.  He also has a deep understanding of the power utility industry, and his employer (ITC) clearly recognizes that unique combination of knowledge sets.

We got a tour of the house and property and I got a thorough tour of the antenna farm and ham shack.  Bruce has plans to add on to the ham shack at the southeast corner of the house and to add a covered pool to the east side of the house.  He also plans to build a barn and put in an RV pad next to it with a 50 Amp electrical service.

The house was very nice and located in the center of the property, which is rectangular but close to being a square.  Except for the house, which is surrounded with plants, there are no trees or other plants, just a grass that can be harvested for hay.  Bruce has arranged with a neighbor to harvest the grass.  The neighbor will maintain the field in exchange for the harvested material.  It will be a good deal for both of them; Bruce won’t have to mow it and neighbor will clear at least $7K from each harvest, typically getting at least two per year.

We sat in the living room and chatted for a while.  Linda (K8LMF) wanted to see the various plants around the house so the ladies went outside to look at them.  Bruce (W8RA) and I went to the ham shack, which is a far cry from the setup he has back in Michigan, to operate.  Using his spotting software he noticed a station operating from Swaziland and decided to try contacting them.  He turned the stacked 40 M beam to 104 degrees and tuned in the station.  There was a huge pileup trying to work this guy and we noticed in his QRZ.com listing that he was one of only four licensed amateur radio operators in Swaziland.  That does not automatically mean that Swaziland is a rare contact—it depends on how active these four hams are—but it does mean that opportunities are more limited than with most countries where thousands of hams are active and dozens to hundreds might be on the air at any one time.

We wrapped up what we were doing at 4 PM and drove to Papa Joe’s for dinner.  Papa Joe’s was six miles NNE of their house, closer to I-75 and Williston, so we drove separately.  That worked out well as we left from there after dinner and headed back via Cortez Blvd to I-75 and they had to drive to the grocery store at Cortez and I-75.

We took our time with dinner and left the restaurant at 6:30 PM.  We arrived back at our rig about 7:45 PM, completing the 76 mile trip in 75 minutes.  We did not turn on the TV and spent the rest of the evening reading.  I did not feel like working on this post so I read the January-February 2016 issue of The Gypsy Journal.  Linda headed off to bed around 11 PM and I turned in at 11:15.  I went right to sleep while she continued to read, a reversal of our normal pattern, but she was deeply engaged in a book.

 

2015/12/19 (S) A Gypsy Journal Milestone

We were up a bit later than usual last night and did not get out of bed until 8:15 AM this morning.  The temperature outside had dropped to 36 degrees F overnight and it was cool in the coach which was one of the reasons we slept well and lingered under the covers (where I had my heater pad turned on).  I put my sweatpants and sweatshirt under the covers to warm them up before getting up and putting them on.  Linda just braved the chill and put on her sweats without warming them first.  She’s tougher than I am.

We like to keep track of the weather back home and in other places where we have friends, like Quartzsite, AZ, and the weather apps on our iPads and smartphones make that very easy to do.  At 10 AM EST it was 25 at home going up to 28 with an overnight low of 23.  Here in Williston it was 48 going up to 62 with an overnight low of 39.  Arcadia, where we will be in January and February, was presently 58 going up to 73 and dropping to 55 overnight.  Four hours farther south actually matters in Florida, which has four somewhat distinct climate zones.  Quartzsite, 2,000 miles west of us, was 38 (at 8 AM local time) going up to 67 and dropping back to 39 overnight.  All things considered Williston was a pretty nice place to be this time of year.

Once I was up I fed the cats, who always insist that their needs are met first, and then turned on the three thermostats for the Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system, set the temperature controls, and turned on the diesel burner.  I made a pot of coffee and Linda started cooking oatmeal for our breakfast.

A view of our coach looking north at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

A view of our coach looking north at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

We were done with breakfast by 9:30 and Linda had the dishes cleaned shortly thereafter.  We doodled on our iPads while we enjoyed the rest of our coffee.  Nick Russell sent out the link for the January-February 2016 issue of The Gypsy Journal yesterday.  I forwarded it on to our iPads last night and we downloaded it to our devices this morning.  It is the 100th issue that Nick has published and the last one he will produce on newsprint.  Starting with the March-April 2016 issue the Journal will only be available in digital form.  That will not be a problem for us as we switched to the digital version only several years ago, but it is sad that smaller specialty publications cannot survive in printed form.  I think it is inevitable that Bus Conversion Magazine will also go digital only, if it survives long enough to make that switch and then survives the transition.

Nick has had a small army of friends take bundles of newspapers and leave them in RV park offices on their travels and has picked up new subscribers that way, but the newspaper is well enough positioned at this point, with a large enough subscriber base, that he should continue to do very well.  Even if the number of subscribers levels off, or even shrinks slightly, his profitability should increase nicely now that he is rid of the printing and mailing costs.

Nick and Terry will also have what we called “found time” at the education agency when some task, meeting, or other commitment on our time evaporated and we suddenly, and unexpectedly, “found” time to work on other things.  As highly mobile full-timers Nick and Terry were always arranging for printers in different parts of the country, picking up the newspapers, folding and stuffing them in envelopes, printing address labels and putting them on the envelopes, and taking them to a post office, as well as carting around the extras and leaving them in campground offices or giving them to friends to distribute.  All of that took a lot of time; time they can now use for other things.

Williston Crossings RV Resort has lovely, mature landscaping including large, majestic Live Oak trees draped in Spanish moss.

Williston Crossings RV Resort has lovely, mature landscaping including large, majestic Live Oak trees draped in Spanish moss.

Yesterday Linda was looking at the website for Big Tree RV Resort in Arcadia, Florida where we will be in January, February, and early March.  She ended up looking at the AllStays Camp and RV listing for the resort and discovered a photo of OUR bus that I took two years ago in our site here at Williston Crossings RV Resort!  The information attached to the image pointed back to our website as the source and said “…the image may be copyrighted.”  I have looked at ways to add a copyright notice to all of the images on our website/blog but never implemented one.  I guess I really should.

After breakfast we opened the packet of felt chair leg caps and put four of them on the folding card table chair we use at the desk.  It looked like they would do just what we needed them to do so we removed the towel we had been using to protect the floor.  My focus today was working on our blog but first I spent a little time updating my spreadsheet for our spring/summer 2016 water bay project.  I uploaded seven blog posts a few days ago but have been concentrating on selecting and processing photos since then.  This morning I decided to resume working on posts.  My goal was to finish editing the posts for the remainder of August (2015), select the spots to insert the selected photos, clean up the writing, and start uploading them to the server.

We took a lunch break at 12:45 PM and had mock deli slice sandwiches on flatbread and split a fresh apple.  Linda started to work on her counted cross-stitch project for grand-daughter Katie but realized the larger grid base material she bought was too small.  She found something on Amazon that would work and ordered it for delivery on Tuesday.  She then searched online for someplace in the area to buy a Tofurkey vegan mock turkey roll.  It looked like Earth Origins in Gainesville sold them so she decided to drive into town and get one rather than wait until next week and risk not having any available.  I stayed behind and continued working on my blog posts.

Some of the grass on the other side of the road from our site was spectacular.  Ahhh, December in north central Florida.  This is why people come here in the winter.

Some of the grass on the other side of the road from our site was spectacular. Ahhh, December in north central Florida. This is why people come here in the winter.

With the outside temperature only rising into the low 60’s we kept the motorcoach closed up today.  By 2 PM the temperature in the front half of the coach was a very pleasant 76 degrees F.  It was cooler in the back as most of the window area is in the front half of the bus, including the large southwest facing windshields.

Linda returned from her trip to Gainesville with more than just a vegan mock turkey roll.  Besides the Tofurkey brand products Earth Origins also had Gardeine brand products.  We have had other Gardeine products that were very good so she decided to try their mock stuffed turkey roll.  As long as she was there she picked up a half dozen other frozen entrees to try.

I had just finished editing the posts for August when Linda suggested we go for a walk.  It was 4 PM and the late afternoon light was nice so I took the camera.  We only made it a couple of sites up the road and stopped to talk to the new arrivals from Alaska.  We had no sooner resumed our walk when Linda got a call from Diane.  John had surgery recently, and will be off work until after the holidays, but is recovering nicely.  We strolled along slowly while they talked and I took a few pictures.  I wore my sweater but the sun was already behind the trees and I was pretty quickly uncomfortably cool in the shade.

We crossed paths with John and Ali and stopped to chat for a while.  We learned last night at the campfire that Jeff and Kathy’s dog Teddy had succumbed to his lymphoma this past Sunday.  Teddy was very sweet and we know how difficult it is when a pet dies.  We also learned that Jeff had been taken to the hospital in Ocala and was scheduled to have a colonoscopy earlier today.  The report back from Kathy was that he might have colitis.

When we got back to our rig Linda made hot hibiscus tea.  I had planned to upload some blog posts today but I had spent enough time in front of my computer for one day and sat on the couch with my iPad for a while instead.  I rarely take naps but I am not opposed to the idea.  I laid down at 5:15 PM and dozed until Linda got me up at 6 for dinner.

Linda on the phone with Diane Rauch as we head into the older south section of the resort.  That’s one happy girl.

Linda on the phone with Diane Rauch as we head into the older south section of the resort. That’s one happy girl.

After dinner we both changed into warmer clothes and Linda packed our wine to take to the fire circle.  We got there a little before 7 PM, later than usual, but the only people there were John, Big Mike, Jim (Sonny Fox), and Tom (from Hilton Head, SC).  Another couple, who have the site just east of John and Ali, showed up just after us but that was it for the evening and John did not get his guitar and perform.  Besides the much cooler weather there was a dinner/dance at the clubhouse this evening, so John had anticipated a smaller than usual crowd.  That was nice in a way, both for him and us, as we got to talk more than usual.

The temperature had already dropped into the lower 50’s at 7 PM.  In spite of our best efforts we were not able to get the fire really hot, and did want to build it too large, so by 9 PM it had dropped into the mid-40’s and everyone had left except for me and John.  I spread out the fire and put the implements in the shed and John locked it.  He joined Ali at Jeff at Kathy’s fifth wheel trailer, where Ali was visiting with Kathy, and I walked back to our rig.

Linda was in her sweats with her blanket over her legs reading her latest e-book with a cat on her lap.  I changed into my sweats but did not feel like doing much of anything.  I flipped through TV channels but did not find anything that caught my interest.  PBS was running a Peter, Paul, and Mary 50th anniversary special, which would normally have been very interesting to me, but it was a fund raiser made up of old clips, interviews, and pleas for money and I just was not in the humor.

The temperature in the coach had dropped to 68 but we both felt a little chilled so I turned on the front thermostat and Aqua-Hot diesel burner.  I made a cup of hot decaf chai tea, played a few games on my iPad, and worked on this post before finally going to bed at 11:30 PM and going to sleep.

 

2015/12/17 (R) Breezy Oaks

Today must be upside down day.  Linda got up first this morning, before 7 AM, and I slept until almost 8:30.  Yesterday I used up the last of our first batch of coffee beans so before I could make coffee this morning I opened four 1/2 pound packs and refilled our four coffee canisters.

We had breakfast of English muffins and grapefruit around 9:30.  I had still not heard back from Al regarding a visit to his campground in Bushnell today.  We checked the Breezy Oaks website and the Music Jam was scheduled from 2 – 4 PM today.  Our plan was to take our folding chairs, get there around 1 PM, visit with Al for an hour, take our chairs to the jam session and continue visiting there until it ended, and then go to dinner.  When we visited Al two years ago we did not come on a Thursday for the music went to a Chinese Buffet in Brooksville.  Linda found a Mexican Restaurant in Bushnell with some vegetarian items and 4.5 stars based on 49 reviews, so we wanted to try it.

I called Al at 10 AM and got his voice mail.  I left him a message and asked for a return call and/or a reply to my e-mail to confirm his availability before we drove to Breezy Oaks as it is over an hour away from us.  I worked at my computer selecting and processing photos for my September blog posts and had just about decided that we were not going to visit Al today when he called just before noon.  Linda had walked up to the recycling bins but as soon as she returned we made quick preparations to leave.  We took our two “bag chairs” (they fold up like a tent and go in carry bags) and the good camera.

We pulled out of our site at 12:24 PM and worked our way slowly out of the RV resort via the front entrance.  We headed southeast on US-27 towards Ocala past its familiar ranches and equestrian centers; our first time this season traveling down this road that we used frequently two years ago.  We took I-75 south to exit 309, headed east on CR-673 a short distance, and then turned north on CR-671 and followed it for about a mile until it ended at the entrance to Breezy Oaks RV Park.

Per Al’s suggestion we followed the signs to the office building and parked there as the music pavilion is adjacent to the office.  Al was already there with his chair set up so we got our chairs out of the car and set them next to his.  We chatted for about 15 minutes before the Music Jam started at 2 PM.

Linda and Al waiting for the music jam to start at Breezy Oaks RV Park.

Linda and Al waiting for the music jam to start at Breezy Oaks RV Park.

About 18 people participated in the jam session and about two dozen more, including us, provided an audience.  Each participant got to lead two songs of their choice and pick the key while everyone else backed them up.  Country and bluegrass seemed to be what most of them knew.  They played and sang for an hour and then took a 30 minute break during which ice cream was available in the office, three scoops for $1.25.  That’s a good price, if you eat ice cream.  The jam session resumed at 3:30 and went for another hour.

The musicians gather on stage for the Thursday afternoon jam session.

The musicians gather on stage for the Thursday afternoon jam session.

When the jam session was done we went back to Al’s motorhome and decided to go to Coyote Rojo Mexican Restaurant in Bushnell for dinner.  It was on FL-48 just east of I-75 right off exit 316 which put us that much closer to home after dinner.  We talked about going to the Chinese buffet near Brooksville, where we went two years ago, but it was 20 miles away to the west of the RV park and would not have positioned as well for the drive home.

Al Hesselbart takes the stage as part of a duet.  Al mostly does musical recitations as opposed to singing.

Al Hesselbart takes the stage as part of a duet. Al mostly does musical recitations as opposed to singing.

We had a tasty meal that included a salad and a veggie burrito, both of which we shared, and Al had shrimp fajitas.  We lingered at the restaurant way past the end of our meal chatting about what we had been up to since we had last crossed paths.  Al will be running a booth at the Tampa RV Supershow for the Florida RV Dealers Association so we might see him again at the show.  We did not go to the show two years ago but from our base in Arcadia it will be a reasonable distance away.

Al and his “singing” partner front and center at the jam session.

Al and his “singing” partner front and center at the jam session.

We returned to Williston via the same route we came and encountered intermittent light rain the farther north we drove.  About half way up US-27 we finally drove into a heavy, steady rain.  By the time we got to Williston the rain had abated, at least temporarily, but it had obviously rained before we got there.  We stopped at the Kangaroo/Citgo Station and I filled the gas tank.

We were back at our rig by 7:30 PM.  Linda checked the weather on her iPad and showed me the radar.  A long narrow line of thunderstorms was stretching from far out in the Gulf of Mexico to the northeast into Florida west of Williston.  The storms were moving along the line as it drifted slowly east and the forecast said we might get an inch of rain.  I closed the roof vents in the bathroom and kitchen and closed the awning-style windows to where they were only open an inch or so at the bottom.  We turned on the TV and settled in to watch our Thursday evening programs.

The heavy rain eventually started and around 9:10 PM the lights in the RV resort flickered several times and then the electricity failed.  Our inverter immediately switched over to batteries and kept everything running, which was comforting.  For as much money and time as we’ve spent upgrading these systems it nice when they actually work as intended.  I turned off a few lights and the laser printer to conserve energy just in case it turned out to be a long outage.  The Amped Wireless router and the NAS are both plugged into a backup power supply so they will not suffer any loss of power even if the inverter does not come on.  The Wi-Fi Ranger, however, is not on the UPS and this event reminded me that I need to do something about that.  From one point of view it didn’t matter, as the resort Wi-Fi went out with the loss of power, but the WFR is also the main router for the coach and as such is the DHCP server for our private network.

We continued watching our TV programs and I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and connected the WFR to it so we could continue doodling on our iPads.  Linda felt she had eaten too much for dinner and was a bit uncomfortable so she went to bed a little after 10 PM.  I stayed up and watched the local evening news at 11 PM, something I almost never do, and then went to bed.

 

2015/12/16 (W) More Blog Stuff

I was awake before 7 AM but did not get up until 7:15.  I removed and cleaned my nighttime bite guard, as I do every morning.  I then cleaned the cats’ food bowls and filled them with fresh food.  Linda was still sound asleep so I worked at my computer for a while selecting and processing photographs for blog posts.  I finished my selections for August and was part way through September when Linda got up so I put that work aside and made our morning coffee.

We both worked on our iPads for an hour doing our usual morning things.  Linda texted John (Smitty) regarding going to Satchel’s this evening for dinner and I messaged our daughter regarding Facetiming with everyone on Friday, which is grand-daughter Madeline’s 3rd birthday.  Linda proofread our 2015 Year in Review holiday letter and found a few things that needed to be corrected.

For breakfast we had granola with fresh blueberries, orange/grapefruit juice, and split a banana.  After breakfast Linda got dressed and I took a quick shower (she took one yesterday.)  I was going to use the bathhouse but decided to shower in our coach to use up more of the remaining fresh water and get it into our gray tank.  The fresh water level dropped below 1/3rd yesterday which meant we still had 40 gallons, easily enough for two more days with a little reserve.  I got dressed and we dealt with a few chores.  Linda vacuumed the inside of the coach, which she had not done since we left Michigan.  I dumped our holding tanks and filled our fresh water tank and updated our water usage spreadsheet.

I calculated our fresh water usage and waste water generation for this past winter.  Over 128 days we averaged just over 13 gallons of fresh water per day and over 120 days generated an average of just over 15 gallons per day of waste.  Those numbers suggest that a 130 gallon fresh water tank and a single 150 gallon waste tank would be well balanced and allow us to boondock for 10 days with some reserve.  That’s only 280 gallons total, 40 gallons less than the 320 gallons (approximately) of the three tanks currently in the bus, so tanks that size would create the space I need in the bay for a water softener, filters, and fresh hose reel, and possibly a shorepower cord reel.  When we pay more careful attention to water management and conservation we can reduce our fresh water usage to 10 gallons per day with a corresponding reduction in waste generation.  That would allow us to boondock for 13 days.  With slightly larger tanks we could stay out 14 days and still have room for the things I want to get into the bay.  Final decisions will depend on more precise calculations and the actual dimensions of possible equipment.

With the chores done (for now) Linda started addressing envelopes and putting postage on them while I made final changes to our holiday letter and started printing copies.  She folded the letters, stuffed them into the envelopes, and sealed them.  It took about two hours to get 34 letters ready to mail.  We skipped lunch and just had a few pretzels.  We wanted to stop at Walmart on our way to Satchel’s so we left at 2:45 PM and drove to the Williston post office, sent the letters on their way, and headed to Gainesville.  John and Ali followed later in their own car.

At Walmart we found Christmas cards for mailing checks to immediate family members.  I got two pairs of shorts, as I forgot to pack mine when we left home, and we picked up two bags of Snyder`s sourdough pretzel nibblers.  I also got a call from Pat Lintner.  We chatted briefly and I said I would call him back when we got hone after dinner.

We were at Satchel’s by 5 PM and sat inside.  We had the same selections as last time: small salad and medium pizza with Daiya mozzarella cheese, onions, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes.  We only ate half the pizza and brought the rest home. This pizza is soooo good.  It’s one of the best we have ever had, including all of the non-vegan pizzas we have eaten over our lifetime.  Only the original Luigi’s Pizza from St. Louis in the 1960’s stands taller in our memories, although the current Imo’s chain makes a similar and very good pizza.

We were back at our coach by 6:45 PM and went for an evening stroll to help settle our dinner.  It was cool but humid and the clouds had cleared out so a pleasant enough evening for a walk.  When we got back to our coach I called Pat and we talked for about 40 minutes with Vickie occasionally joining in on the other end of the call.  They are not leaving Indiana until after Christmas and will spend New Year’s Eve at an RV park near Ocala, Florida as they have every year for many years.  They will be less than 40 miles from Williston at that point but we will already be in Arcadia by then.  Timing is everything.

Some nights I just do not feel like working at my computer, or iPad, or reading, and tonight was one of those nights.  Unfortunately Wednesday evening is a bit of a TV wasteland, even on PBS, which is to say there wasn’t anything on that interested me.  The best thing on was a Big Band retrospective on PBS but it was also part of the 24/7 fundraising that has become the network’s defining characteristic.  Whatever the reason, the music did not grab me the way it normally would.  CBS had a 3-hour Survivor finale.  Nope, not going to watch that.  Linda read and I scrolled through channels hoping something interesting would pop up but eventually I zoned out.  Even Ask This Old House (AskTOH) was less interesting than usual.  I guess I just wasn’t in the mood.  It happens sometimes.