Category Archives: Photography

Posts that have something to do with our interest in photography, including technology, techniques, locations, and images.

BP20160321-23-m-w-v1-webster-cape-canaveral-jetty-park-recovery

2016/03/21 (M) Webster to Cape Canaveral

I was up sometime before 8 AM after a less than completely restful night’s sleep.  Yesterday was our last full day at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR) in Webster, Florida and today was departure day.  I am always a bit anxious when the time comes to move the bus after sitting for a while, and even though we have only been here for two weeks it has been a lovely, comfortable place to base camp.  Although we only had about 100 miles to travel today, I was more anxious than usual because of a combination of factors.

At the top of the list was the tag axle brake issue.  While I was hopeful that Joe had taken care of it, at least for now, we would not know for sure until we moved the bus.  Another big factor was that Linda has been very ill for the last few days and was still not well this morning.  That meant I would have to do more of the work of preparing the bus for travel.  I didn’t mind, of course, I just did not want to overlook something that was normally part of her portion of the departure routine.  The third, forth, and fifth factors were:  3) using our new SunPass transponder for the first time; 4) taking the bus on the Florida Turnpike and Toll Road system for the first time, and; 5) traveling a route that came into the Orlando area from the northwest and swung around the southern edge before heading straight east towards the Atlantic ocean.  The sixth and last factor was our destination, which was not a motorcoach resort with wide, straight roads and big sites, but rather a county park with narrow, twisty roads, closer sites, and lots of trees.  Charming, but not necessarily “big rig” friendly.  I knew, because I had visited Pat and Vickie Lintner here two years ago.

We had a reservation at Jetty Park Campground on Cape Canaveral where our GLCC friends, Pat and Vickie Lintner, have been since mid-February.  We had reservations starting today and running through the 28th, with departure on the 29th unless we decide to extend our stay and there was a site available.  Check-in time was 2 PM and our mapping app indicated 104 miles and a little over two hours for our preferred route.  Based on that we wanted to pull out of FGMCR sometime between 11 AM and noon.  That gave us most of the morning to prepare the bus for travel, and that was comfortable even with Linda being ill and not able to do as much as usual.

I did not have coffee this morning—I never do on travel days—and we just had a couple of pieces of toast early for breakfast.  In spite of not feeling well Linda got most of the inside of the bus ready to travel and even swept the floor.  I packed up our computers and iPads and then prepared the outside stuff.

The biggest, most time consuming job, and my least favorite, is checking and adjusting tire pressures.  I had plugged in the TireTrakker TPMS repeater last night and I turned on the receiver/monitor this morning after letting it recharge overnight.  It eventually acquired temperatures and pressures from all 13 tires.  The temperatures were all in the 60’s so I knew the pressure readings were current rather than left over from our previous trip.  The sensors are not accurate enough, however (in my opinion), so I checked all of the tires with my tire gauge except the mini-spare in the car.  The passenger side steer tire on the bus needed an extra 2 PSI, but all four tires on the car were low and needed to be increased.  So did the car spare, but I was not about to empty out the back of the car to get to it.  I should have taken care of this sometime during the last two weeks as the pressure was low enough to keep triggering an alarm on the monitor, and was not at the correct pressure for use should we need it.

By 10:30 AM we were ready to go except for disconnecting the shorepower and hooking up the car.  I was going to reposition the coach so we could hookup the car at the site and then exit to the left but a landscaping crew showed up, parked along the other side of the road to our left, and unhooked their trailer.  I was not going to ask them to move, and I doubt that they would have even if I did.  It was easier to just exit to the right anyway and hook up the car at the staging area by the clubhouse where we unhooked when we came in, so that’s what we decided to do.

At 11:20 AM I disconnected the shorepower and stowed the cord.  Chassis batteries ON; engine accessory air supply ON; inverter operating; main engine start; no problem.  I let the suspension and brakes air up on low idle as Joe had suggested and then pulled up the tag axle.  Linda moved the car to the empty pad across the street to the right and watched as I pulled out.  Once I cleared the turn I put the tag axle back down and Linda followed me counterclockwise around the front “pond” to the staging area where I shut off the engine and she pulled the car up behind the bus.  Many (most) RV parks have “no engine idle” rules.  There isn’t one posted here, and the staging area is far enough from the clubhouse and the closest sites that our engine would not have bothered anyone, but since we would be hooking up the car directly behind the engine we did not want to listen to it while working.

No less than three people stopped to chat with us while we were hooking up the car for towing.  That actually violates good RVing manners (unwritten rules) but they were just curious, being friendly, and/or wishing us safe travels.  The problem is that you are engaged in a critical process and anything that distracts you can result in overlooking something with potentially serious, even disastrous, consequences.  We are experienced enough at this point, however, to double check everything before we drive away, especially if we have been interrupted.  This time we backed the car up until the tow bar arms locked in place and then secured the air line and electrical cables so they would not pull loose.  Linda remained outside to do the light check while I started the bus engine and operated the controls.  Everything checked out and once Linda was back on board we were ready to go.  She had entered our destination into the GPS unit before we pulled out of our site.

Pat & Vickie Lintner’s site at the Jetty Park Campground, Cape Canaveral, FL.

As I pulled around to the exit gate the gatehouse attendants saw or heard us and opened it.  We got big smiles, waves, and “safe travels” from them as we left.  It was 11:50 AM.

The GPS routed us the same way we had determined using our iPad mapping apps.  We turned left out of the resort onto CR-478 headed east.  The road curved around to the north about four miles later and ran up to the town of Center Hill where we picked up CR-48 eastbound.  A half mile later the road turned northeast and a couple miles up the road the GPS told us to turn onto CR-704 (FL-?).  I had just started the turn when I saw the weight restriction sign; nothing over 28,000 pounds GVWR permitted! What the?!!!

I stopped soon enough that I was able to turn back onto CR-48 without having to back up, after traffic cleared, so we caught a break there but were both a bit unnerved by the failure of our Rand-McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS to route us correctly.  It then occurred to me that the very small update I Installed last night might have reset the vehicle configuration as I vaguely recalled this happening once before.  Why R-M would design their GPS unit so it loses configuration data as a result of an update is beyond me, but there are several things about this unit that defy common sense.

Linda used her cell phone to try to figure out where we were now headed and determined that we could still get to where we needed to be.  She then opened the preferences screen on the GPS unit and found the configuration screens.  Sure enough, it thought we only weighed 20,000 pounds (we are closer to 42,000) and were only 12’6″ tall (we are probably 13’1″).  I really fault R-M for this as it creates a potentially dangerous situation.  Anytime the settings are changed, certainly if they are reset as part of an update, the unit should display a message to that effect and not allow the unit to be used until it is acknowledged.  Better yet, I don’t understand why the configuration should be changed as part of the update process.

At some point we turned left onto US-33, which seemed wrong, but Linda verified it was correct.  We ended going south on US-27 all the way back to Clermont and then getting on the Florida Turnpike (FL-91) headed south towards Miami.  We made it through the first Toll Plaza with an “OK to Proceed” sign, so we knew that the new transponder was working, which was a big relief.  The lane guidance feature of the GPS unit worked well and we did not have any difficulty negotiating the interchanges.  Linda kept an eye on the tire sensors throughout the trip.  All of the tires indicated temperatures in the 60’s except the driver side tag, which was 90 to 102.  It was definitely elevated, but not enough to be an immediate problem.  This was not unexpected as I knew that the new pads were dragging more than on the passenger side.  Interestingly, the pressure in that tire had not risen disproportionately higher than any of the other tires, indicating to me that it was probably the valve stem that was warmer due to its direct contact with the wheel, rather than the rubber of the tire, which was getting plenty of cool air blowing around it.

We arrived at Jetty Park at 2:15 PM, only 10 minutes later than our original ETA before we had to detour around the weight-restricted road.  Our name was not on the list (sigh) at the entrance gate but we were given the gate code and directed to the campground.  I found a place to pull up and shut off the engine while I went in to register us, as Linda had effectively lost her voice.  We were not on the list (double sigh) there either (same list, I suspect) but they found us in the computer.  I had confirmation e-mails, if needed, but had not brought them in with me.  We unhooked the car and parked it at the office.  We drove the bus around through the narrow, curvy gravel roads but I was able to make all the turns, even with cars parked near the edges, so the road system here is laid out better than it appears.

Jetty Park is a county-owned and operated public park and beach with a campground that has been turned over to the Cape Canaveral Port Authority to manage.  It is in a premium location in Cape Canaveral, Florida just north of Cocoa Beach and just south of the Kennedy Spaceflight Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  It is on the south side of the shipping channel that connects Port Canaveral to the Atlantic Ocean.  Cargo ships use this port/channel, but the main attractions are the Disney and other cruise ships and the U.S. Navy Trident submarines.  In addition to all of its other charms, it is one of the best places from which to watch rocket launches, and there is one scheduled for tomorrow night!  I think this is the first time we have stayed in a county park with the motorcoach.  It is more like a state park than the private RV parks and resorts where we usually stay.  It’s probably closest in appearance and feeling to a nice KOA.

Pat and Vickie saw us drive by and walked down to watch while Linda helped me back into site #343, a full hookup, 50 Amp site with nice trees around it.  I could not back far enough into the site to get the front tires onto the concrete pad due to low branches at the rear of the site.  As a result we were slightly low in front.  That would not normally be a problem but the Level Low system would not adjust the front end.  I have a spare air leveling solenoid and might have to work on this while we are here.  Ugh.  I took a picture on my phone and e-mailed it to our son and daughter.

Site #343, our first (of many) sites at JPCG (on right, beyond the trailer. Cape Canaveral, FL.]

I did not plug in the shorepower cord as I wanted to let the house batteries discharge to 24 VDC (50% SOC).  Linda and Vickie searched online for medical clinics.  Linda selected one about three miles away in Cocoa Beach and I drove her there.  It took about two hours from the time we arrived until she had her prescriptions.  We went to the CVS Pharmacy across the street to have them filled.  They would not be ready for 2 to 2.5 hours so we went back to the campground so Linda could rest as comfortably as possible.

Back at our rig I got our Wi-Fi Ranger connected to the park’s public Wi-Fi system and got our iPads and my computer online.  I did not set up Linda’s computer as it will likely be a few days before she is in the humor to use it.  I checked e-mail and the throughput appeared to be usable, if somewhat slow.  I suspect it will be better between midnight and 8 AM, but that is not when I tend to be up.  If we have updates, however, or I need to upload or download are files to/from BCM, I might adjust my schedule.  The RV life requires agility.

I left at 6:30 PM and drove back to Cocoa Beach to pick up Linda’s prescription medications.  I stopped at a Publix supermarket first and bought various groceries before going to the CVS Pharmacy.  On the way back I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for a coffee for me and finally got back to our coach at 7:45 PM.  Linda helped get the groceries inside and then took her first dose of meds.

I turned the front TV antenna towards Orlando and rescanned for channels.  The TV found at least 60, including CBS and two different PBS affiliates.  I pointed the rear antenna in the same direction and rescanned the rear/bedroom TV but the scan would not compete successfully.  I tried it a couple of times with the same result each time.  Arrrgh.  When in doubt, do a power-off power-on reset, right?  I unplugged the power from the antenna controller and the TV set, waited long enough for any power capacitors to bleed down, and plugged them back in.  I pointed the antenna again and then scanned for channels.  Eureka, this time they were all there!  I should have tried that while we were at FGMCR.  Doh!

We watched our usual Monday night TV shows on CBS plus a few minutes of news and weather and then went to bed.  Given how Linda felt and was still coughing I figured neither of us was going to get a good night’s sleep, but we were both tired and there wasn’t anything else to do except try.  An overnight low of about 50 degrees F was expected so I had closed the roof vents and left the windows open just a crack.  We were still operating off the house batteries and inverter so I did not turn on the usual night lights.

2016/03/22 (T) Jetty Park Atlas

Linda had a really bad night last night, maybe the worst yet since she took ill, with persistent extended episodes of painful coughing.  She was obviously uncomfortable, and no doubt also frustrated, as she was finally able to start taking medication last night at 8 PM.  She was already wrung out and very tired, and I was a bit spent myself after the day we had yesterday, but neither of us got a good night’s sleep.  Today will need to be an easy day, of necessity, and we will need to rest so we can be up and alert late this evening for the rocket launch.  An Atlas V (5) launch is scheduled from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 11:05 PM this evening.  It is a resupply mission for the International Space Station.

I got out of bed at 7:15 AM and fed the cats.  I was not well-rested, and would like to have gotten back under the nice warm covers, but I was also uncomfortable and had spent as much time supine as I cared to for one night.  The outside air temperature overnight got down to 51 degrees F but we closed the roof vents, and only left the windows open a crack, before going to bed last night so the inside temperature only dropped to 65.  I did not plug in the shorepower cord when we got here yesterday so I could not use the electric heater pad on the bed, but we had plenty of covers (and cats) to keep us warm and I did not need the extra heat.  I put on my sweats this morning, and was very comfortable.

Linda got up around 7:45 AM to take her medications.  She needed to heat a cup of water to make a salt water gargle mixture but the house batteries were down to 24.0 VDC.  That is roughly a 50% SOC (State Of Charge).  Lead acid batteries, including AGMs, can be discharged a bit more than that but it shortens the number of times they can be cycled so I do not like to let them go much below that level.  I took a few minutes to plug in the shorepower cord and soon enough we had 240/120 VAC power to the coach.  After Linda prepared her gargle mixture I rearranged the kitchen counter and then made coffee and got our vitamins and juice ready.

Linda tried to play a few games on her iPad while I worked on the drafts of my blog posts for the last two days and started the one for today.  Pat and Vickie were out walking and stopped by to see how Linda was doing.  I walked over to the office at 11 to register/pay for the next 7 nights of camping and walked past site #352 on the way.  It was still occupied, but the current occupants were clearly in the final stages of vacating the site.  I walked past the site again on my way back from the office and the current occupants were just pulling out.  When I got back to our coach I let Linda know it was time to move.

We walked over to the new site to scope out where to put the car and how to approach getting the coach backed in and then walked back to our current site.  Linda closed the front windows and secured a few loose items, but mostly left everything sitting right where it was as we were only going for a short, easy ride.  I turned off the Aqua-Hot electric heating element and then took care of the outside stuff.  I shut off the shorepower, disconnected the cord, and stowed it away, once again wishing that I had a cord reel.  I turned on the chassis batteries and engine accessory air supply, and started the engine.  While the engine idled and the chassis aired up Linda drove the car to the new site, parked it, and awaited my arrival.

Moving the coach from site #343 to site #352 was a simple matter of driving counterclockwise almost all the way around Red Knot Circle, the easternmost loop of the campground, and pulling into Siskin Drive headed east.  The location of trees and a light pole made for a tricky spot to get into.  The guy in the site to our east (driver’s side) offered to move his truck but I determined that it was not really in the way.

I lifted the tag axle to shorten the turning radius of the bus while maneuvering through the campground.  The drive was easy but it took a little bit of back and forth for Linda to get me backed in and centered on the concrete pad.  The trees at the back of the site were trimmed up high enough that I could back the coach in far enough to just get the steer tires onto the pad.  That was important as the pad was level enough that I did not need to adjust the leveling of the coach, which was a good thing because yesterday the front end portion of the Level Low system would not work.  I got out of the coach a couple of times to check the location of the tires and tree limbs and was pleased to see that the tag axle tires were actually off the ground.

I shut the engine down and we went through a modified arrival routine.  As usual, I shut off the chassis batteries, closed the air supply valve for the engine accessories, plugged in the shorepower cord, and put power to the coach.  The Magnum 4024 inverter/charger worked fine yesterday and it worked fine again today.  I do not know what caused the fault on the drive up from Arcadia to Webster, but resetting the unit seems to have restored it to proper operation.

The beach at Jetty Park & Campground looking south at Cocoa Beach, FL.

Linda got out the door mat, patio mat, our two bag chairs, and our plastic side table.  She also got the tire covers out of the car and put them on the bus.  I got out the windshield covers and the Little Giant step/extension ladder and set it up.  I retrieved the rivets to hold the lower windshield wipers off the glass and then Linda handed me the windshield wiper covers.  I wanted to put these on first to protect the windshield cover from getting snagged on the metal edges of the arms and wiper blade inserts.

This was the first time we have put the new windshield covers on since we got them two weeks ago so we had to figure out the easiest way to do it, or at least a way that worked. We positioned the large one-piece windshield cover behind the lower wipers and above their drive shafts.  That supported the fabric while I pulled it up under the upper wipers and attached the upper center snap and the lower driver side corner snap.  I repositioned the ladder to the driver side front corner of the bus, pulled the fabric up, and attached the driver side upper corner snap.  I moved the ladder to the passenger side front corner of the bus, pulled the fabric up, attached the upper corner snap, and then the lower corner snap.  I had to stretch to reach the upper snaps, so next time I will make the step ladder a little taller.

There are three covers for the passenger side: one for the door, one for the window above the door, and one for the window behind the door.  These are all small enough that there was no particular difficulty attaching them.  The trick was to start at the top and attach as many snaps as possible before climbing down and repositioning the ladder.  For the one large driver side cover I started with the upper center snap, then attached the upper rear snap.  I moved the ladder forward and attached the upper front snap and then did the three bottom snaps. When we were done with that we were finally free to relax.  Vickie and Linda discussed walking the park and Linda suggested starting between 3 and 3:30 PM.  I gathered she was finally feeling a little better, or was just sick and tired of being sick and tired.

At 2 PM Linda asked me get her some more tissues and sore throat spray.  I headed for the CVS pharmacy but ended up at the Publix supermarket, which is closer by a mile or so.  Besides liking Publix, that meant less traffic to deal with.  Somewhat like the Florida Keys, but not as extreme, we are on a long, skinny island with one main road running along its spine.  Unlike the Keys, there are more side roads and an occasional causeway that goes over to Merritt Island and on to the mainland.  I found what I needed at Publix and was back at the park in due course.

At 3:30 PM we went for a stroll around the campground and park with Vickie as tour guide.  After our stroll Linda was hungry and heated up some Amy’s Tomato Bisque Soup (vegan).  I was really tired and laid down in bed to take a nap that lasted over two hours.  When I got up I had the rest of the soup and a large green salad.  We then watched out usual Tuesday evening CBS TV programs but did not get to see the last 15 minutes of Limitless as Vickie texted to jet me know they were on their way over to fetch us and walk to the shipping channel to watch the rocket launch.

The Atlas V resupply mission for the International Space Station lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station right on schedule at 11:05 PM.  The launch pad was much farther away from our position than the one used for the military satellite launch two years ago, but was illuminated by multiple light sources producing beams and shadows projecting up and highlighted by the clouds.  For all the launches Pat and Vickie have seen from this park, this was the first time they recalled seeing these lights.

Even though the Atlas V was a much larger rocket than one I saw two years ago, it was not as loud or as visually impressive as the other one.  There were scattered clouds at liftoff, which made for interesting viewing, but the rocket was fairly quickly above them and then disappeared from sight.  I tried to take a few photos, but I did not bother bringing the tripod or spend any time ahead of time figuring out appropriate camera settings.  I did, however, spend a few minutes playing with manual adjustment of the ISO setting.

A man sitting next to me was monitoring mission control on a radio so we knew what was going on before, during, and after the launch.  Only minutes after liftoff the rocket had burned enough fuel to reduce its weight by 75%, was 120 miles above the surface of the earth, was 338 miles downrange, and was traveling just under 10,000 miles per hour!  It’s time to orbit was projected to be 21 minutes and I believe the orbital velocity would be approximately 18,000 MPH.  (The actual orbital velocity would obviously be a very exact number.)

When it was all over we carried our chairs back to our rig and then walked to Pat and Vickie’s coach so she could drop her’s off.  Pat went in for the evening but the three of us went for a leisurely midnight stroll around the entire campground.  In spite of the event that had just occurred the campground was quiet.  There is some general purpose street lighting here, but not too much.  It’s a nice campground and I could see why Pat and Vickie like to come here.

Back at our coach Linda decided to sleep in the living room.  More specifically, she decided to sleep in the two captain’s chairs by locking them in position facing one another, reclining the backs, and putting the hassock between them.  She thought she might sleep better in a partially upright position.  I finished a few e-mails and retired to the bedroom where I was joined by the cats.  I was too tired to write but too awake to go right to sleep so I turned on the TV.  After flipping through the channels I settled on an old movie, The Battle of Britain.  By 2 AM it was still on, owing to too much time for commercials and not enough time for the movie, so I turned it off and went to sleep.

The “Jetty” and pier at Jetty Park. Cape Canaveral, FL.

2016/03/23 (W) On The Road To Recovery

Linda slept seven hours last night with very little coughing, at least that I heard.  She slept in the living room (her choice) and left the bedroom to me.  I had a long early evening nap and did not fall asleep until 2 AM.  Even then I did not sleep that well and got up at 8 AM.  Linda was still asleep but woke up not long after.  She wanted coffee so rather than grind up beans and deal with the whole do-it-yourself process we walked up to the campground office with our two Tervis mugs/caps and filled them there.  Free coffee all day, every day, is a nice campground amenity and not one we have found anywhere else.

Pat and Vickie decided to go to Epcot Center at Disney World today for the annual flower and garden show.  Vickie texted me to see how Linda was doing and if we wanted to go.  Linda was definitely not well enough yet to go anywhere or do anything, so we stayed behind and had an easy day at our home on wheels, starting with toast and jam for our breakfast.  Linda read a little and checked our banking.  I talked to my sister about our dad for a bit, but spent most of the morning completing draft blog posts for the last three days.  We both got showers, which brought our fresh water level down to ~1/6th tank (20 gallons).

I copied the photos I’ve taken during the last week, including the rocket launch last night, to my computer.  I selected one of the rocket launch for this week’s post card, processed it, and e-mailed it to Linda’s iPad.  While she created a post card for grand-daughter Madeline, I connected the fresh water hose and water softener, tested the harness of the water supply, (7 to 10 gpg), filled the fresh water tank (100 gallons), and connected the waste water drain hose.

With my outside chores done I selected two photos from my article on replacing the bearings in a Webasto diesel burner and e-mailed the image numbers to Gary and Jorge at BCM.  They will be used on the “Coming in June” page of the May issue, one for my articles and one for Lloyd DeGerald’s multi-step maintenance list.

The nighttime launch of a rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as seen from Jetty Park. Note: This was a long-exposure handheld shot. I was braced against a sign to take it.

I heated a can of Amy’s Golden Lentil “Indian Dal” soup and washed some black grapes for our lunch.  There was a cool breeze outside but a bit of heat gain in the coach so we sat outside, doodled on our iPads, and dozed in our folding bag chairs.  A little before 5 PM Linda decided she wanted to go for a walk on the beach.  The wind was strong out of the east with 3 to 4 foot waves breaking just off shore, but the late afternoon sun was warm enough to make for a pleasant stroll south towards Cocoa Beach.  As the sun dropped lower in the sky and was filtered by thin clouds it turned slightly chilly so we turned around and headed back to Jetty Park.  We continued our walk through the picnic and playground area and walked along the channel to the boat ramps and then to the campground office.  We got a couple of cups of coffee and sat down to watch the news but the TV was tuned to FOX News, so we left and walked back to our site, noting that Pat and Vickie’s car was back at their site.

We discussed what to do for dinner and decided on cooking the vegan Italian sausage and using it to top a salad.  I texted Vickie to ask how the garden and flower show was, and let her know that Linda was feeling slightly better.  We gave the cats their monthly dose of Cheristin flea medication, which they were due for yesterday.

Vickie came over at 7:15 PM with her iPad and we looked at all of the pictures she took at the Epcot Center Flower and Garden show.  It was clearly a spectacular exhibition and since we could not attend we were glad to see it through Vickie’s photographs.  By the time Vickie returned to her coach it was almost 9 PM so Linda suggested that we just have granola for dinner.  That sounded quick and easy to me, besides which I love her granola, so I did not need any convincing.

On Wednesday evenings we like to watch nature, science, and technology programs on PBS.  We have two PBS stations potentially available to us here at Jetty Park Campground but neither of them have 100% reliable signals.  I experimented with a range of antenna directions and selected the one that seemed to offer the most reliable signal for the 24.n channels.  NOVA was on the recreation of Noah’s Ark and Secrets of the Dead was on the discovery of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in Ninevah, 250 miles north of Babylon and built by King Sennacherib.

Linda once again set up the captain’s chairs as a bed so she could sleep sitting up.  I could not tune in channel 24 in the bedroom so I finished watching the show in the living room.  At 11 PM I tuned off the lights in the front of the coach and left Linda to sleep while I retired to the bedroom to write, play a few games, and watch a little more TV before going to sleep.

 

2016/03/08 Custom Window Covers for the Bus

Bill and Brenda Phelan, of RV Windshield Covers of Florida, operate a mobile business based out of Lakeland, Florida.  This is a photo gallery of the 1-day process they went through to make and install a set of five mesh covers for the windshield and front side windows of our 1991/92 Prevost H3-40 VIP Royale Coach (Monaco) converted coach.  We were at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida, at the time.  Their mobile workshop is a converted EMS truck and is also an RV suitable for business trips of up to three weeks.  The photos are not captioned.  Click on any image to open the gallery view.

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.

 

2016/02/25-29 (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.

 

2016/02/12-15 (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.

 

2016/02/10 (W) Everglades NP, FL

An American Crocodile at Flamingo, Everglades NP, FL.  The Everglades is the only place in the U. S. where you can see both alligators and crocodiles in the wild.

An American Crocodile at Flamingo, Everglades NP, FL. The Everglades is the only place in the U. S. where you can see both alligators and crocodiles in the wild.

We were up at 7 AM and took long, hot showers; a real luxury for folks currently living in a motorhome.  We had breakfast in the hotel as it was included in the price of the room.  We then headed back to Everglades National Park.  We wanted to spend the early part of the day deeper in the par so we drove straight through to Flamingo.

 

It was a little warmer and sunnier today, which would be nice for going on the Backcountry Tour.  We thought we would take the 11 AM boat until we found out that it’s a one hour and forty-five minute excursion with no access to a restroom.  That was, unfortunately, a non-starter for me.  We were both disappointed, as the only way to really see the Everglades is by boat or air.  Driving, biking, and hiking is very limited.

 

An Osprey surveys its territory near the Flamingo Visitor Center.  Everglades NP, FL.

An Osprey surveys its territory near the Flamingo Visitor Center. Everglades NP, FL.

Our trip to the Flamingo service center area was not wasted.  I photographed a pair of Osprey in a nest on the communications tower atop the Flamingo Visitor Center and photographed two adult birds in another Osprey nest in a tree by the marina.  We joined a walking tour led by a Park Ranger.  Just in the area near the visitor center we saw manatees in the marina, an American Crocodile by the canal, and lots of birds, especially Pelicans and gulls.  I took lots of pictures.

 

This large alligator was at Nine Mile Pond in Everglades NP, FL.  I estimated it to be 12 feet long.  It had its eyes open but was very still.  The kayakers in the back are at least 30 feet away.

This large alligator was at Nine Mile Pond in Everglades NP, FL. I estimated it to be 12 feet long. It had its eyes open but was very still. The kayakers in the back are at least 30 feet away.

 

Eventually we left Flamingo and started working our way back towards the park entrance, stopping at several places along the way to walk some of the available boardwalks and trails.  At Nine Mile Pond we spent quite a while observing and photographing a very large alligator.  Presumably a bull (male) I estimated his length at 12 feet.  These large adults weight approximately 100 pounds per foot, so I estimated his weight at 1,100 pounds.  I took lots of photos.

 

There is flora everywhere in the Everglades, but these palms have beautiful patterns when the light is right.  Everglades NP, FL.

There is flora everywhere in the Everglades, but these palms have beautiful patterns when the light is right. Everglades NP, FL.

We also stopped at Mahogany Hammock and hiked the trail and close to the park entrance we revisited the Royal Palm area and ventured part way out on the Anhinga Trail.  It was late afternoon and the sun was low enough to give us some nice color, the first we have had for the last two days.  I took a few landscape photos and then Linda spotted a turtle so I concentrated on it for a while.

I noticed the water lily pads moving and caught a glimpse of what looked like a large fish.  The Lilly pad disturbance was moving and something was clearly underwater causing it.  I was standing there watching the Lilly pads move when an alligator surfaced, revealing its head from behind its eyes to the tip of its snout.  It stayed there quite a while and I took pictures while a small crowd gathered.  It remained motionless except for its right eye, which was wide open and studying us carefully.  It eventually moved over by the boardwalk and we were able to look straight down at it through clear water that allowed us to see its entire length clearly.  It finally swam under the boardwalk and did not reappear.

 

Much of the Everglades is what appears to be grassland but is actually wet.  These “water prairies” are broken up by areas of slightly higher ground that support trees and bushes.  The highest point on the main road that goes to the Flamingo area is four (4) above mean sea level, and I seem to recall that it is the highest natural point in the whole national park.  Everglades NP, FL.

Much of the Everglades is what appears to be grassland but is actually wet. This vast “water prairie” is broken up by areas of slightly higher ground that support trees and bushes. The highest point on the main road that goes to the Flamingo area is four (4) above mean sea level, and I seem to recall that it is the highest natural point in the whole national park. Everglades NP, FL.

By this time the light was fading and the temperature had cooled to 60 degrees F.   We returned to our car and put the address of the Panera near our hotel in the GPS navigation system.  We headed there directly, only stopping at the park entrance to photograph the park boundary sign.

 

This alligator surfaced about eight feet from the edge of the Anhinga Trail.  The length of an alligator, in feet, is roughly equal to the number of inches from its eyes to its nostrils, something you want to estimate rather than try to measure.  Everglades NP, FL.

This alligator surfaced about eight feet from the edge of the Anhinga Trail. The length of an alligator, in feet, is roughly equal to the number of inches from its eyes to its nostrils, something you want to estimate rather than try to measure. Everglades NP, FL.

At Panera we had vegetable soup and the new couscous salad.  Linda had done all of the driving today but I drove us back to the hotel after dinner.  We settled in for the evening and watched Nature and Nova on PBS before going to sleep.

 

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.

 

2016/01/16 (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.

 

2016/01/01 (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.

 

2015/12/19 (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.

 

2015/12/18 (F) MEF3 @ 3

It rained off and on all night with a heavy downpour around 5:30 AM.  Once again we did not close up the coach and run the air-conditioners so the bedding was a bit damp, but we slept through the night and did not get up until after 8 AM.

I took care of the cat chores and then made a full pot of coffee.  We used our iPads, as we do almost every morning, while we enjoyed our morning brew and finally had half of a grapefruit (each) for breakfast around 9:30.  It was in the upper 60’s when I got up but was forecast to drop to 55 degrees F by dinner time and into the upper 30’s overnight.  Burrr.

I took a few pictures yesterday at the Breezy Oaks Music Jam so my first task today was to copy those to my computer and back them up to the NAS.  I then continued working on selecting and processing photos for blog posts and spent most of the rest of the day doing just that except for some time out for lunch, a mid-afternoon stroll, and dinner.

Today was our younger grand-daughter’s third birthday.  Our daughter and son-in-law went to our son and daughter-in-law’s house this evening for Madeline’s birthday and Linda arranged for us to Facetime while they were all there.  We initiated the call at 6:35 PM and Facetimed for almost 30 minutes.  We got to see Madeline open the gifts we bought for her and interact with her and everyone else.

We had closed up the windows and changed into warmer clothes for the fire circle before we made the Facetime call so as soon as we were done with “happy birthday” we got our sweatshirts and wine supplies and headed for the firepit.  There were already folks there but there were also empty seats, the cooler weather keeping some folks away (which made no sense to us; it’s a FIREpit after all).  John was tending the fire but Ali was not there yet.  Tom and Cindy were there and I took the open chair next to Tom.

We were at the campfire until 10 PM when John had to go lock up and Ali was ready to go in for the night.  I spread out the remaining fire logs and then we walked back to our bus in the cool night air.  The temperature in the coach was 74 when we left and had dropped to 70 by the time we returned.  We both changed into our warmer lounging clothes (sweats), turned on the TV, and nibbled on pretzels and hummus.  Linda trundled off to bed around 11:30 PM but I stayed up a bit longer.

I checked e-mail and had one from Technomadia about their latest Mobile Internet Aficionados report on mobile cellular boosters.  I logged in to read it and discovered that our MIA membership had expired in August so I renewed it online.  I read the report and then went to bed where I wrote briefly on my iPad.

The outside temperature had already dropped to 45 degrees F but Linda had turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed before going to sleep so it was nice and toasty.  The overnight low was forecast to drop to 36 degrees which meant the inside temperature would drop to around 60; not freezing cold, but chilly enough that we would need the furnace for a while in the morning.  I went to sleep around 12:30 AM.

 

2015/12/07 (M) Not on Vacation

I set my iPad alarm clock last night for 5:30 AM.  As soon as the alarm went off Jasper got up next to me on the outside edge of my side of the bed, snuggled in by chest, and wanted to be petted at great length.  I obliged him for as long as I could and was rewarded with his loud, resonant purring, which I could feel as much as hear.  I still managed to get out of bed by 5:45, feed the cats, get dressed, and be on my way by 6:08.

It’s only 75 miles from Williston to Suncoast Designers in Hudson, but the first few miles were a slow roll through the RV resort to the front gate followed by the short trip through downtown with a 35 MPH speed limit and several stop lights.  After a short distance on US-41 south I picked up FL-115 heading west.  A few miles past the airport it made a large sweeping turn to the south and continued on that heading for about 17 miles at 60 MPH until it joined up with to US-19.  I continued south on US-19 at 65 MPH for another 20 miles.  At that point it felt like I was making good time but I knew what was ahead as I had driven this route several times when we were here in 2014.

US-19 gets closer to the Gulf of Mexico the farther south you go, and with that closeness comes an increasing presence of people.  The first population center I came to was the charming little “Suncoast” town of Crystal River, followed by Ingless, Homosassa Springs, Weeki Wachi, and then finally Hudson.  These towns all have much lower speed limits and stop lights, and they get larger and closer together the farther south you go.  The side of the road changes from forest and farm to intermittent small businesses, then continuous shall businesses, and then suburban commerce that extends back from the main road until you reach Hudson which is a far northern suburb in the greater Tampa / St. Petersburg metropolitan area.  From Weeki Wachi on south US-19 is six lanes with a median, is lined with commercial properties, and has lots of traffic.

I arrived at Suncoast Designers a little before 8 AM so the trip took about an hour and 45 minutes.  I checked in at the office and they had someone meet me at the factory door to take the window and label it with my name.  We had this thermopane window repaired in April 2014 but the new seal did not hold.  Getting it repaired was one of our reasons for returning to Florida this winter.  Not the main reason, of course, but a factor in our decision.  I was back in my car and on the way home by 8:20 AM.  I will have to come back tomorrow to pick it up.

On the drive down I spotted a Dunkin Donuts about 10 miles north of Hudson on the west side of US-19 so I stopped there on the way back for a large coffee.  I had also seen quite a few filling stations between Crystal River and Hudson, many of them Shell stations, so I picked one that had easy access and regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) for $2.03 per gallon, cash or credit.

I remembered seeing an Office Max and pulled in when I spotted it.  By now it was well after 9 AM and businesses were open.  They had several different weights of expensive color laser photo paper but nothing like that in 8.5×14 (legal) size.  I did not need to have the paper today so I did not buy any.  I really do not want to redo our Holiday Letter for 8.5×11 paper so I will check online and see what I can get.  There was a Rural King at the same mall complex as the Office Max so I bought two bags of Spectracide Fire Ant Killer.  I also got a bag of free popcorn, which is available at all Rural King stores.  More places should do that, I think.

It was going on 11 AM by the time I got back to the coach.  Linda had been up since 7 AM and was ready to set her cross-stitch project aside and go for a walk.  I had been sitting for the better part of five hours so that sounded good to me.  We went for a vigorous stroll through the resort and arrived back at our coach ready for lunch.  Linda heated up a couple of vegan hot dogs and served them on the large whole wheat buns with mustard and relish.

After lunch I installed updates on the FMCA Freethinkers chapter website, the FMCA GLCC chapter website, and our personal website.  I then took snapshots in Adobe Reader CC of the covers of the BCM issues for July through December 2015, post-processed the covers, and uploaded them to the BCM page on our website along with brief descriptions of my articles that appeared in each issue.  I finished inserting photos into the OASIS Combi article I’ve been working on for BCM and will upload it to our Dropbox and e-mail Butch this evening.

It was a gorgeous day so we sat outside for a while and I worked on this post.  That is one of the things I really like about my iPad.  An earlier e-mail from Gary indicated that my package was out for delivery today.  I was about to get in my car and drive to the office when Joe and Teresa from Brighton, Michigan stopped in their golf cart to chat.  When they went on their way I dropped off the recyclables on my way to the office, picked up the box of magazines (which was heavy), and returned to the coach.

I worked some more on this post on my iPad but by 5:30 PM I had been up for 12 hours on too little sleep so I took a nap until 6:15 PM when Linda woke me up to have dinner.  For dinner Linda made a green salad with fresh blueberries and strawberries and made black bean smothered sweet potatoes.  Besides the black beans, the topping had tomatoes, scallions, cumin, and coriander and was finished off with a dollop of vegan sour cream.  Yum, yum, yum.

We watched the PBS NewsHour, another thing we typically never do, but then we do a lot of things differently when we are away from home.  We then watched our usual Monday night TV programs on CBS.  Even when we are away some things don’t change.  We are not “on vacation” after all.  We don’t go on vacation to get bus windows repaired.  In fact, we no longer go on vacation, we simply blend new experiences into our everyday lives.  Such is the nature of retirement as extended-time RVers in a converted bus.

 

2015/12/05 (S) Saturday Night Fire Circle

I was awake at 6:30 AM and finally got up at 7:15.  I fed the cats and cleaned their litter tray, both of which are chores but I don’t mind doing them.  I sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my lower right back and finished yesterday’s blog post draft.  Linda got up at 8 AM having been awake since I got up.  At 8:20 I was going to make coffee but Juniper climbed in my lap so Linda took care of that chore, which is certainly one of our more pleasurable.

Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project and I worked on our Holiday Letter all morning.  I had a finished draft by lunch time and Linda read through it.  I have it set up for 8.5×14 inch legal size paper, but printing it that way will depend on whether we can get high quality glossy color laser paper in that size.

Linda reheated the last of the red beans and rice for lunch after which I washed some grapes.  After lunch Linda continued to work on her project and I turned my attention to another article for Bus Conversion Magazine.

I had some correspondence with the publisher, Gary, yesterday regarding my article on servicing the Webasto burner bearings and decided to finish my article on Butch Williams’ installation of an International Thermal Research OASIS Combi in their MCI MC-9 NJT bus conversion.  The work was done in October and November 2014 and the article was basically written in January 2015 but I had not selected or processed any of the photos.

I read through the article, highlighted several places with missing information, and rewrote some things.  I then selected 36 photos and started processing them.  The processing involved various adjustments such as alignment, lighting, and color followed by resizing and sharpening in two different sizes.  The larger size is typically 1900 x 1272 pixels as that will fill the screen of a 17 inch monitor and I don’t feel a larger size is needed or supported by the level of detail in the images.  The smaller size is typically 300×200 pixels.  I embed the smaller images at the end of the Word document with the image number and a caption.  I used to embed them into the article but the editor and layout person need the ability to fit them into the layout and I ultimately developed enough confidence in them to do that.  This is always subject to change, however, as is everything connected with this magazine.

We had dinner at 5 PM, earlier than usual.  Linda made a nice green salad, sautéed and lightly glazed some baby carrots, and heated some Amy’s vegan macaroni and cheese.  The reason for the early dinner was the holiday parade down Main Street in Williston at 6 PM.  We left at 5:30 and walked to the corner of NE 5th Street and Main Street.  NE 5th Street is the street that leads back to the front entrance of the resort and is towards the end of the parade route, which comes down Main Street from west to east.  There were already people there, all from the RV Resort as near as we could tell, but we were early enough to get seats on the low brick wall that borders the parking lot for the funeral home.

Main Street is also US-27 but the police closed it down at 5:45 PM.  The parade started at the west end of Main Street by the high school so the lead police motorcycles did not reach us until 6:20 and the front of the main parade did not get to us until 6:30.  There were cars with beauty queens, simple floats with seasonal themes, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, politicians, fire trucks, horses, and an elephant with Santa Claus riding on top.  It was a classic small town holiday parade.  It was all over by 7 PM and we walked briskly back to the firepit.

The firepit at WCRVR is about eight feet in diameter, surrounded by a concrete floor ring about six feet wide and covered by an inverted conical roof about 24 feet wide at the lower eaves.  A massive 8 foot diameter inverted conical hood is suspended over the firepit and the 12″ diameter flue pipe runs out the center top of the roof.  The outside perimeter of the floor has large wooden rocking chairs (think Cracker Barrel restaurant), a bench, and a few other chairs and there is a little bit of lighting up in the ceiling.  It’s a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the fire, visit, and listen to people play their guitars and sing.  The flue does not draft correctly so it tends to be smokey, but that is the only downside.  If not for that it would be perfect.

John was there with a couple of other people and had a nice fire going.  Even though it was in the mid-to-upper 60s there was a strong north breeze and the fire felt good.  Lots of other people eventually showed up and filled almost all of the seats so John got his guitar and started playing and singing.  Linda walked back to our rig to fetch our plastic wine glasses and opened a bottle of Egri Merlot.  It’s a good life.

I got a call from my sister and stepped away from the firepit.  She called to let me know that our dad was back in the hospital.  When I returned to the fire circle John was busy playing and singing and some folks had left so I tended the fire.  By 9 PM everyone had left except for John, Ali, and us.  I continued to tend the fire while the four of us talked.  Just before 10 PM I spread out the last embers of the fire and we all returned to our rigs for the night except John, who does the closing rounds on weekends.

Back at our motorcoach Linda put on the Michigan State vs Iowa Big 10 Championship football game.  Though not particularly interested in football I was too tired to work so after sending an e-mail to our son I laid down on the sofa; the first time I have done that since we built it into the coach.  By the time the game was over it was 11:45 PM.  We watched a few minutes of Cook’s Country on Create and went to bed.  I turned the TV on in the bedroom then turned it off.  I turned down the brightness of my iPad display and with only the dim light of the ceiling vista, and whatever light could get in around the window shades, worked on my blog post until 1 AM.

 

2015/12/03 (R) 2015 Year in Review 

It cooled off overnight and was 60 degrees F outside when I got up at 8 AM.  We left the windows open a bit when we went to bed last night but it only dropped to 71 in the coach.  The forecast high for today was only 73 with partly to mostly cloudy skies, so the coach was going to be comfortable all day with just fresh air and perhaps the bathroom exhaust fan running.  I made a pot of coffee and then Linda got up and made oatmeal for our breakfast.

Linda’s goal for the next couple of weeks is to finish the counted cross-stitch needlepoint Christmas stocking she is making for grand-daughter Madeline.  She has to keep very careful count of her stitches, so I am not allowed to talk to her, or myself, while she is working.  It should be a very quiet two weeks.

The new pull-out pantry shown in nice light.

The new pull-out pantry shown in nice light.

My first goal today was to finish the BCM article on servicing the Webasto WDB2010 burner in our Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system.  This was work I did back in January while we were in Quartzsite, AZ.  I post-processed the last 10 photos, inserted them into the Word docx, added captions, and then rearranged them according to print edition and digital edition bonus content section.

I had an e-mail back from Chuck about the Prevost Community AITA NAPA discount card.  I followed his directions and completed the online application.  He called mid-morning and we talked about the chassis batteries.

I finished the Webasto article but did not upload it right away.  I had an e-mail from Gaye Young, FMCA National Secretary and chair of the Education Committee, with the preliminary results of the survey that went out this fall.  After looking through the data I wrote an e-mail to the committee with some observations.

Today was pretty much a stay-at-home day except for an early afternoon walk.  We had black bean soup and vegan grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and then walked up to the office to make copies of the chapter certification paperwork for our FMCA Freethinkers group.  I will mail the forms to FMCA HA in Cincinnati, Ohio tomorrow.

We talked briefly with Janet Rawley in the office and checked out the activities center across the street.  They have moved the library and game tables from the office to the AC and are going to redo at least part of the space as offices.  Given the number of additional park models and RV sites they should expand the mailboxes as well.  There was a basket of tomatoes at the AC, free for the taking, so Linda selected a few.  On our way back to our rig we stopped to chat with Jim Rawley (Sonny Fox on XM) at their 5th wheel.  Jim and Janet were part of our circle of friends two years ago and their rig is just a few sites down from John and Ali’s.  We dropped off the tomatoes and paperwork and continued on our walk around the newer section of the park.

A panoramic view looking north into part of Williston Crossings RV Resort from the passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

A panoramic view looking north into part of Williston Crossings RV Resort from the passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

Back at our coach I started working on our 2015 Year-in-Review Holiday Letter.  I was working on my ASUS laptop when the file manager suddenly would not respond to mouse clicks or let me close it.  I tried clicking a few other things and windows popped open that I could not then close.  This was strange behavior indeed, and something I had not seen before.  I was able to click the shutdown icon in the tray and forced the machine to close programs and turn off.  I restarted my computer and ran a complete scan with the ESET Smart Security program.  Complete scans take quite a while so I used my iPad to play a few games and work on this post.  When the scan was finally done I reviewed the findings and got back to work.

I uploaded the Webasto service article to Gary at BCM and then got back to work on our 2015 Year-in-Review Holiday Letter.  Linda can only count so many cross stitches per day before she gets cross-eyed.  She also needs very strong light, so when the sun gets low in the afternoon sky she quits for the day.

Dinner was salad and reheated red beans and rice, a dish that holds up well over multiple servings.  After dinner I got back to work on our holiday letter and worked on it until bedtime.  I selected about 50 photos and will try to do captioned pictures instead of extensive narrative.  The local CBS affiliate had the Lions–Packers game on instead of our usual Thursday evening programs so Linda flipped between the game and whatever was on PBS.  My computer worked fine for the rest of the evening.

 

2015/11/26 (R) Thanksgiving (T-1 Days)

I got up before 7:30 AM, took some Ibuprofen, and sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my back.  Linda got up at 7:45, took a shower, and made tea for us.  She checked the weather forecasts and it looked like it would start to rain around 9 AM, and become steady by 10, so she decided to load the food bags and other things onto the bus that she had ready.  The Ibuprofen and heat were doing their job so I put on some work clothes and helped load things.

We had a lot of stuff on board by 9:30 so we took a break.  Linda cut my hair and beard after which I shaved and took a shower.  I got dressed for Thanksgiving and then gathered up the towels and last few laundry items and loaded them into the washer.  I then selected all of the clothes I wanted and Linda picked out a couple more items.  We moved them to the bus and got them put away in closets and drawers.  We then stored magazines and camera gear under the bed.  Finally we decided what coats to take.  Except for shoes, manuals, music CDs, computing equipment, and a few miscellaneous things we were done loading the bus.  It felt good to be at this point but we vowed to plan better and allow a little more time next time.

The laundry took longer than the initial 42 minutes on the display so we used the time to load the Thanksgiving stuff into the car and check e-mail.  I finally transferred the laundry to the dryer at 11:20 AM and we were on our way to our daughter and son-in-law’s house at 11:28.  We had planned to be there at noon but generally allow an hour to get there.  We pulled up to the house at 12:10 PM, so apparently it’s a 45 minute trip.

Like mother, like daughter; Shawna takes care of some work tasks on her laptop while Madeline shows equal attention to detail on the iPad.

Like mother, like daughter; Shawna takes care of some work tasks on her laptop while Madeline shows equal attention to detail on the iPad.

Our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter showed up around 1 PM and our step-granddaughter showed up around 2 PM.  Our daughter’s house has a wonderful open floor plan with a large central island in the kitchen that allows many people to stand or sit and be part of a conversation while food is being prepared.

We ate at 4:30 PM and it was quite a meal.  Everything was vegan except for a real turkey with gravy (we had Tofurkey) and the dinner rolls, which had an egg wash.  Everything was made from scratch and all of it was good.  We had a nice long visit and everyone left at 7 PM.  We stopped to top of the tank in Linda’s car and got home around 8:15.

Thanksgiving dinner at Chris and Meghan’s house.  L-to-R: Katie, Meghan, Brendan, Chris, Linda, and Madeline in Shawna’s arms.

Thanksgiving dinner at Chris and Meghan’s house. L-to-R: Katie, Meghan, Brendan, Chris, Linda, and Madeline in Shawna’s arms.

When we got home I made sure some of the (important?) files on my laptop were backed up to the old NAS unit.  Rather than take the time to transfer those files to the newer NAS unit I decided to bring the newer one with us.  I then shut down all of the computers in my office and brought the NAS device and my computer upstairs.  We put them onboard along with Linda’s computer, our iPads, and the cameras.  I selected the bus manuals I wanted to take, moved them to the bus, and put them under the bed.  We decided what music CDs we wanted to take and put those on board as well.

Our final preparation tasks were to shut off the well, close the main water valve, unplug the water softener and sanitizer, and remove the batteries.  We added potable antifreeze to all of the waste traps and opened all of the cabinets that had plumbing in them, including the sump pump closet.  I shut off the natural gas to all of the appliances except the furnace and Linda drew all of the vertical blinds and checked the light timers.

When we were finally done loading things on board and buttoning up the house we put the cats in their carriers, put them on the bus, and locked up the house.  It was 10 PM.  I tried to tune in a couple of TV stations, one from Detroit and one from Lansing, but could not hold the digital signals.  Our Wi-Fi Ranger was connected to our AT&T gateway so we used our iPads for a while and I put the finishing touches on this post.  I had to make a few quick trips back inside for last minute things we forgot.

The forecast for overnight is for a low of 51 degrees F with steady rain moving into the area by early tomorrow.  The probability of rain in Berea, Kentucky, however, is only 10%.  We hope to be on the road sometime between first light and sunrise, which is 7:39 AM, and get ahead of the rain.  We also do not expect to see freezing temperatures again this winter.

 

2015/10/29 (R) A Setback

Linda turned off her alarm and slept a few extra minutes before getting up at 6 AM.  I watched the weather on TV while she got ready to go to the bakery.  She left at 6:25, about 10 minutes later than usual.  I am always amazed at how quickly she can get showered, dressed, and out the door.

The temperature across our area was 37 degrees F, more or less, and the wind was blowing, which we could see just by looking at our trees.  The winds were forecast at 15 – 25 MPH out of the SW gusting to 40 and strengthening into the morning hours as they shifted out of the west in advance of a second cold front.

Last night I shut off the color laser printer, the two NAS units, and the Linux box as a precaution against losing power but left my laptop on since it runs on its own internal battery.  Even though all of our devices with hard disk drives are plugged into uninterruptible power supplies, and we have an auto-start whole house generator with an automatic transfer switch, I decided to leave all of these computing devices turned off until the wind subsided later today.  Morning showers were forecast as likely, with the possibility of a few snowflakes, but never materialized.  Overnight lows tonight are forecast in the mid-to-lower 30’s.  The bus is not winterized, and I have been working in it almost every day, so I have had the heat turned on in the bus for most of October.  I do, however, set the thermostats back to approximately 55 degrees F when I am done working for the day.

I got up, put on my robe, fed the cats, and made a half pot of coffee (Sweet Seattle Dreams).  While the coffee was brewing I heated up a banana-nut muffin, poured a small glass of orange-grapefruit juice, washed the last of the blueberries, and fixed a bowl of granola.  I was done with breakfast by 7:15, took my coffee to the living room, and enjoyed it by the warm glow of the fireplace as I worked on my iPad with Juniper on my lap and watched the night yield to the orange glow of sunrise.

New photo accessories from B&H Photo Video in New York, NY.

New photo accessories from B&H Photo Video in New York, NY., photographed with the new Sony a99v-DSLT camera.

My main focus today was the cockpit of the bus, specifically the floor/wall tile, but first I got dressed, turned up the heat in the bus and the garage, and then opened the boxes that arrived yesterday from B&H Photo.  I managed to do that at 8:30 AM; well ahead of my usual getting started time of 10 to 10:30 AM.  Most of the items were in one large box but two small items were in a separate box that must have been shipped from a different location.  The shipping boxes were in good shape and the B&H sealing tape was intact.  I removed everything from the shipping boxes and then checked them off on the packing slip.  Again, all of the individual product boxes and other packaging were undamaged.  I opened each item, carefully removing all of the pieces and manuals/paperwork.  I arranged everything on the dining room table and took a few photos to document what was there.

I had been pondering the damaged plywood under the driver’s seat ever since I removed the old vinyl tile.  The exposed plywood was screwed down in lots of places so I figured it was not the original floor of the bus.  I could also see many additional plywood layers in the holes for the seat mounting bolts.  Closer inspection revealed that the top layer of plywood in the driver’s area was in two pieces, fore and aft, and that only the aft piece was damaged.  Based on all of that information I decided to try removing the aft piece.

All of the screws came out except for two and they just spun in their holes so I figured the wood around them was bad.  It took a little prying but the piece popped loose.  I pushed the two power wires for the motorized seat back through a hole and the board was free.  What I found made my heart sink.

First look at the water damage in the aft portion of the driver’s floor area.

First look at the water damage in the aft portion of the driver’s floor area.

The underside of the plywood was much more damaged than the top side and it was moist.  The original bus floor was even worse.  Part of it was missing and I was able to crumble much of what was still there from the rear mounting holes back.  It was obvious that there had been considerable long-term exposure to water but it was not obvious how this had occurred and was, apparently, still occurring.  I texted Linda and Chuck with a photo of the damage and heard back from both of them fairly quickly.  This was clearly an unanticipated setback but long term it was better that I discovered it, and had a chance to fix it, rather than having covered it up.

Speaking of covering things up, the top layer of plywood must have already been damaged when we bought the coach in late 2009.  One of the things we had Creative Mobile Interiors (CMI) do to the coach between September 2009 and April 2010 was pull the carpet out of the entry and cockpit and replace it with the gray vinyl tile that I just removed.  The tile was under the swivel pedestal base of the driver’s seat so whoever installed the tile must have removed the base and must have seen the obvious signs of damage.  They should have stopped right there and let someone know and CMI should have contacted us to discuss a course of action.  The obvious course of action would have been to pull up the top layer of plywood and see what was going on.  We would not have been happy about it at the time as we were already spending more money on fixing things than we anticipated, but we could have discovered and fixed this six years ago.

The floor directly under the base of the seat is the ceiling of the first bay on the driver’s side of the bus.  It was very chilly outside so I put on my hooded sweatshirt and had a look from below.  I could see that the four threaded holes for the seat mounting bolts were part of two large steel angles running fore and aft that were welded to two square tubular steel cross members.  From that observation I decided on how to proceed.

My plan was to cut out the bad plywood by cutting between the centers of the holes.  That would leave half of each angle to support a new piece of filler plywood.  I got the Porter-Cable oscillating saw and started cutting out the really rotten wood aft of the rear seat mounting holes.  I was not prepared for what I found when I finally got that piece out.

The damaged bus sub-floor cut away.  I could see through into the bay below the driver’s seat.  The blue to the left is paper shop towels soaking up the water and rotted plywood in a small tray area.

The damaged bus sub-floor cut away. I could see through into the bay below the driver’s seat. The blue to the left is paper shop towels soaking up the water and rotted plywood in a small tray area.

What I found was water; not dampness, but standing water.  And debris, lots of mucky debris.  We had a lot rain starting late Tuesday evening, all through the day yesterday, and overnight into early this morning so I suspected that this water might be “fresh” as in recently arrived in this location.

The cross member aft of the rear pair of seat mounting holes is the top of the rear wall of the compartment under the driver’s seat.  All of the water was in the area aft of the cross member in what appeared to be a kind of tray about two inches deep below the level of the driver’s floor.  It was almost full of disintegrated plywood, and other stuff, and obviously did not have a natural drain.  I sent a second  text message to Linda and Chuck with a photo of the water/debris-filled pan aft of the rear mounting holes for the driver seat pedestal.  Some things you just have to share, and some things you just have to see to believe.

It took me a little longer to realize what was going on as my immediate concern was cleaning up the mess.  I put on a disposable glove to pick up all the detritus in the tray and put it in a trash bag.  The tray extended under the floor towards the outside of the coach so I reached back in there and just kept pulling out more and more wet junk.  At this point I started to analyze what was in front of me.

It was now obvious to me that the damage to the floor under the driver’s seat was caused by water filling this tray and coming in contact with the bottom of the plywood bus floor.  With nowhere for the water to drain it was able to stay in contact with the plywood for very long periods of time allowing it to penetrate the plies, soften them, and destroy the (water soluble) glue between them.

Clearly I needed to figure out where this water is coming from and stop it, but that was not going to happen today.  I did, however, go back outside and check the front electrical bay.  Sure enough, there was a little water on the floor of that compartment, so it was possible that the water might be coming from there somehow.  If so, I need to find the breach and seal it.  That, however, just pushes the problem down the road as I will still need to figure out how water is getting into the electrical bay in the first place and stop that.

The more I studied the way the bus was built the clearer it became that the original plywood bus floor extends under the left console into the first bay and separates the small upper compartment from the larger one below.  But this tray-like area was below the floor and farther back which meant it was under the front electrical bay and above the driver side steer tire.  I will have to check again but it appeared that this piece of plywood must be the floor of the electrical bay.

With a better, but still incomplete, understanding of the situation I resumed cutting out plywood.  My oscillating saw went through the rotten wood like a hot knife through butter, but did not cut the undamaged plywood very well.  I figured the blade was dull so I opened the Bosch replacement blade I had on hand only to discover that it did not fit my Porter-Cable tool.  Arrrgh.

It was probably a good time for a break anyway, so I went to Lowe’s to get a couple of extra blades.  I had good QSOs with Mike (W8XH) going to and from the store.  The weather is supposed to be very pleasant all next week, with afternoon highs in the upper 60’s, so we are going to try to find a day to work on my antennas and the small tower next to the house.  Bus or no bus, I also have to make time for our amateur radio hobby.  When I got home I made popcorn for lunch and then got back to work.  It’s a good thing I don’t have to fix most of my meals.

Linda called at 3:15 PM to see if she needed to come home and pick me up before going to Ann Arbor.  Given what I was dealing with I was tempted to say ‘yes’ but I knew that this was a situation where I needed to stay on task until it was fixed.  Brendan and Shawna both had work-related obligations this evening and asked Linda if she could watch Madeline for a while.  Rather than have her cut her work day short to come home she left the bakery and drove directly to Ann Arbor while I continued to work on repairing the floor.

I called Chuck to see if he had time to consult with me about all of this.  He called me back and we talked it through.  He thinks the entry point for the water could be the frame on the large piece of fixed glass just aft of the driver’s position.  I know we have a leak near the front of the large window assembly just aft of that one and the forward edge of the window panel may also be above the front electrical bay.

As soon as I was done talking with Chuck I removed the reading light on the vertical walnut chase by the driver’s left shoulder and then removed the nine screws that hold the cover in place and took it off.  I have known for a long time that there was a lot of stuff running through that chase but I had never removed the cover to look inside.  It is crammed full of AC and DC wires, coaxial cables, air lines, and residential air-conditioning refrigerant lines.  My immediate interest was evidence of water, and I did find the same stains that were similar to ones we have found elsewhere in the coach, but I did not see anything that looked or felt wet.

With the new blade for my oscillating saw I managed to cut out the piece of plywood between the four mounting holes but it wasn’t easy.  With that piece out, however, I could use my inspection mirror to see the underside of the floor and reach into the space below to determine distances to various structural members with my carpenter’s tape measure.

I still had more wood to cut out but by 4:15 PM I’d had enough for today.  I set the top layer of plywood back in place and covered all of the larger holes with painter’s tape in a feeble effort to keep critters and cold air out of the coach overnight.  I also used two pieces of felt and painter’s tape to seal the hole where the steering column goes through the floor.  I took a few more photos, which I had been doing all along today.  Tomorrow I think I will use the circular saw and/or the cutoff tool and try to make quicker work of this.

Before quitting for real I decided to unscrew the 3-sided bump out from the passenger side HVAC duct cover and measure the left desk base and pedestal to see what the correct distance needs to be.  The bump out protrudes about four inches but it should only be three inches.  As I suspected it is too big by the width of the wood, but I will take more careful measurements before I take it to Jarel to have it cut down.  I also discovered, however, that the filter material we used to cover the hole where the heater hoses previously came out of the HVAC duct was interfering with the fit of the duct cover, including the bump out.  While I was thinking about it I pulled out the two filler strips that go on either end of the plywood sofa seat.  Jarel is going to remake them longer and out of solid walnut.  Since we moved the seat board out almost five inches one side of each strip is now exposed and visible and the stained plywood edge is just not the look we want.

We had a heavy overcast most of the day and by 5 PM the light was fading.  I dialed back the thermostats, grabbed the camera and the house phone, locked up the bus and went inside.  I changed into my robe and then fixed dinner.  I did not want to spend a lot of time preparing and eating a meal by myself so I had a can of Amy’s Chili with Vegetables.  I added crackers, Smoked Tabasco Sauce, and shredded Daiya mozzarella vegan cheese.  Some strawberry preserves on crackers added a touch of sweetness and Stash Raspberry Pomegranate Green Tea added its own warmth.  Given a little more time I can make a better meal for myself but ever since Linda retired and took over preparing our whole-food plant-based (vegan) cuisine I am no longer as comfortable/confident in the kitchen as I once was.  This way of eating involves ingredients and techniques with which I am simply not familiar.

After dinner I sat on the living room couch in the same spot, and in the same robe, as I did at the beginning of the day and worked on this post.  I like the sense of things coming full circle, but mostly it is a comfortable place to sit and use my iPad.  Linda and I texted for a while after she had put Madeline to bed.  At 9:07 PM she indicated that she was leaving Ann Arbor and heading home.  She got home a little before 10 and we sat in the living room for a while and finally turned in at 11.  It had been a long day for both of us.

 

2015/10/25 (N) Bus Dinner

It was 44 degrees outside when we got up this morning but cozy in the house.  We were out of Linda’s homemade granola so we had oatmeal for breakfast.  It’s a nice change of pace on occasion and was a hot, hardy start on a chilly day.  I made a pot of Sweet Seattle Dreams coffee and we had a quiet morning in the living room.  We talked about going to the Howell Farmers Market, as today is the last day of the 2015 outdoor season, but did not need anything and given the temperatures decided not to go.  I changed into my work clothes at 10:30, went out to the bus, and turned up the thermostats to raise the interior temperature.

My focus in the bus today was tasks that I could not do alone.  I got my 15/16ths closed-end ratcheting wrench and removed the main retaining nut from the driver’s seat and from the front passenger seat.  Each of these nuts threads over a vertical stud that is fixed to the pedestal/riser which is in turn bolted to the floor.  In between the top of the riser and the bottom of the 6-way power base is a ball-bearing swivel plate which is centered on the mounting stud.  To get to these nuts I had to move the seats forward using the motorized bases and reach in from behind but I had good access and the nuts were not hard to loosen and remove.  I bought this closed end ratcheting wrench specifically for removing/installing these seat mounting nuts and it was worth every penny I paid for it.

With the nuts removed I unplugged the 12V DC power supply wires to each seat.  Linda and I were then able to lift the seats off of the pedestals without too much difficulty, carry them back into the kitchen (of the bus), and lay them down on their backs on the floor, which was protected with blankets.

The reason for removing the seats was two-fold:

  1. We were going to hang wallpaper on the living room walls where they merged into the cockpit and needed better access to those areas, and
  2. I plan to tile the floor and walls in the cockpit and entry this coming week and needed these seats out of the way in order to be able to do that.

Our next task, preparatory to hanging wallpaper, was to remove the walnut cover (half box) from the front eight feet of the passenger side OTR HVAC duct and wiring chase.  We set it across the two seats we had just removed to get it out of the way.

Bruce marks a piece of wallpaper on the dining room table in the house before cutting it.

Bruce marks a piece of wallpaper on the dining room table in the house before cutting it.

When we were finally ready to start wallpapering we needed three relatively short pieces; two to finish the driver side and one to finish the passenger side, at least as far as we intended to go.  I made a sketch for the shape of each piece, took measurements, and added them to the sketches.  The wallpaper is 26.5″ wide on the roll and the longest piece we needed was only 24″.  I got the 3′ and 6′ rulers from the shop while Linda got the roll of wallpaper.  We used the dining room table in the house to measure, mark, and cut each piece.  Although relatively small these pieces took some additional, careful, attention because they had to fit over, under, and around cabinets and window trim.  To make the installation easier I trimmed away as much of the waste material as possible before hanging the piece.

Linda partially filled two 5-gallon buckets with water, added soap to one of them, and brought them out to the bus while I retrieved the paint tray and liner and the 6″ pasting brush.  We laid out all of the wallpaper tools, put a towel on the floor, and set the paint tray/liner on the towel.  I poured the amount of wallpaper paste I thought we would need into the tray and started with the piece of wallpaper at the right end of the built-in sofa (towards the front of the bus).

As we had done previously everywhere else in the bus I applied the paste to the wall rather than to the back of the wallpaper.  The wall behind the sofa had been primed but the small strip above/behind the end cabinet and around into the cockpit had not been, so I used more paste in the unprinted areas.  This first piece required a lot of trimming so it took a while to hang but it looked good when we were done.  As I got each piece installed, with Linda’s help, she rolled the seams and then washed off the excess paste with a large sponge using the soapy water followed by a second sponge with clean water.

We continued along that wall towards the front of the bus with the second piece.  It did not require as much trimming as the first piece and went in a little faster and easier.  I overlapped the thin strip above/behind the cabinet with the first piece and cut through both of them to create a clean, tight seam.  When we hung wallpaper in our house many years ago all of the seams were done by overlapping adjacent panels and cutting through both pieces.  The paper we are using in the bus, which is actually vinyl, is installed by butting the factory edges together.  This certainly simplifies installation, and speeds it up a bit, but it is harder to get a perfect seam.  Still, it was the right choice for our motorcoach as it is washable and scrubbable and goes very well with the interior.

On the passenger side of the coach I pasted up the last section of the living room wall and part of the small section of wall under the trim on the window next to the front passenger seat.  I ended up cutting off a small part of this piece and installing in separately as the trimming required was intricate and awkward to do.

After installing the two parts of this third piece we decided to go ahead and paper a small triangular section of wall above the bottom window trim.  I got a scrap of wallpaper from the house that was big enough to cover the right triangle shape and cut it approximately to size.  I pasted the wall, set the bottom edge flush to the sill, pressed the back edge into its vertical corner, and trimmed off the excess.  This little section of wall was capped by a piece of walnut that ran at an angle along the bottom edge of the glass.  I trimmed off the paper at the bottom edge of the wood trimmed and tucked the paper in under the walnut.

The reason we did not wallpaper all of the small wall section below the window is that part of the plywood wall is severely water damaged and a piece of it rotted and is missing.  There is no practical way to replace the plywood and the only practical way to repair this area is to panel over it.  We could use thin plywood and wallpaper it but we have enough of the 1/4″ walnut veneered plywood that we salvaged from the old refrigerator to panel this area.

We were done with the wallpapering by 2:30 PM.  Linda cleaned off most of the tools and then took the two buckets of water out of the bus to pour them out and clean them.  I took the paint tray/liner, pasting brush, and some of the tools to the laundry room and cleaned them.  There was very little paste left in the tray liner so I had estimated quite closely on the amount I needed for today’s work.

The swivel mechanisms for the two front seats consist of two rings separated by ball bearings and interlocked around the inside edge.  They have an ‘A’ side and a ‘B’ side and one of them was installed ‘A’ side up and the other ‘B’ side up.  They also have a large washer.  The driver seat was installed with the washer between the swivel bearing and the power base.  The passenger seat had the washer directly beneath the retaining nut inside the power base.  Given these differences I could not tell the correct orientation and order of assembly by casual inspection of the pieces involved.  It is possible that the swivel plates are, in fact, symmetrical and thus can go in either way, but one of the washers had to be in the wrong place.

My interest in all of this was motivated, in part, by the fact that both of these seats have always wobbled since we bought the coach.  The new seats are firmly attached to the power bases which seem tight but may have some play.  I was suspicious of the swivels, however, as the main source of the play.  I studied the design for a while and came to some tentative conclusions.

When the swivel plates are installed the ring on the bottom (that sits on the pedestal) is not going to move as the pedestal is bolted to the floor.  The top ring, which will be in contact with the power base, is going to move relative to the fixed bottom ring when the seat is tuned.  I decided that the larger ring, which wraps around the inside edge of the smaller ring, should go on the bottom.  With regards to the washer it seemed to me that it should go directly under the retaining nut, allowing the power base to swivel relative to the nut without loosening it.  Further, placing it between the swivel plates and the power base would potentially prevent the base from fully resting on the swivel plate and allow the whole seat to wobble.

I will examine all of this again more carefully when we are ready to reinstall the seats.  For now, I took the two swivel bearings to the garage to clean and lubricate them.  After wiping them off I sprayed them with WD-40, worked them around, and wiped them off again.  I then sprayed them with garage door lubricant, worked then around again, and wiped them off.  Finally, I worked Red Tack ‘grease’ into the ball bearing race, spun the rings to distribute it evenly, and the wiped the outer surfaces clean.  After cleaning the grease off of my hands I took the swivel plates back to the bus, wiped the pedestal plates clean, and set them back in place.

We quit working around 3 PM so Linda could cut my hair and beard.  I then shaved, showered, and got dressed for dinner.  Linda showered after me but was dressed and ready to go before I was.  We made plans yesterday to meet Bruce (W8RA) and Linda (K4YL) at Carrabba’s in Novi at 5 PM for dinner.  We left at 4:30 and arrived in Carrabba’s parking lot just after 5.

The parking lot was not full so we knew there would not be a wait for a table.  Bruce and Linda were already there and had opted for a booth.  The booths will seat six adults so they have more table space than a table for four. They also offer a bit more privacy for conversation in an otherwise not very private setting.

Carrabba’s had changed its menu since we were last here.  The one dish they had before, Tag Pic Pak (seriously), was no longer on the menu.  It was Linda’s favorite dish and one of only two that we could eat.  They had something with a different name that the waitress said was the same but it included chicken.  She said they could leave the chicken out but the price would still be $14.95.  The Tag Pik Pak was $10.95 as I recall.  We have come to resent paying for animal products that we don’t eat.  Linda ended up getting whole grain spaghetti with Pomodoro sauce and I got whole grain spaghetti with olive oil and garlic.  Linda said the sauce lacked flavor.  My dish was “off menu” and was unimpressive.  Our salads, dressed with vinegar and oil, were OK and the bread was very tasty.  Linda had a glass of wine and I had blackberry sangria.  Sangria is Spanish, not Italian, but it was good.  The meal overall was disappointing but we had a great time chatting with Bruce and Linda over dinner.  The manager stopped by to ask how our meal was (as a courtesy) and ended up having to talk to us for 20 minutes.

Back home Linda made vegan banana nut muffins.  The organic bananas we bought at Meijer’s two days ago must have been bruised because they were going bad very quickly.  Banana bread or muffins was a great way to salvage what we could.  While she made the muffins I went to my office, checked e-mail, and off-loaded the photos we took today.

At 8 PM I turned on the Yaesu FTM-400 ham radio and participated in the SLAARC Info Net.  When the net was over I came back upstairs, reviewed the items in my B&H Photo shopping cart, and placed the order.  I then spent a little time researching DC distribution panels on the DX Engineering website and doing a Google search for cantilevered table supports and legs.  We each had a muffin for dessert and went to bed at 10 PM.  I put on the Detroit PBS Create channel, turned down the volume, and worked on this post for a while before finally going to sleep.

 

2015/10/24 (S) Meghan and Chris

We drove separately to our SLAARC breakfast in South Lyon as Linda had plans to walk with Diane at Kensington Metropark after breakfast.  We drove through some heavy rain after which I chatted a bit with Tom (W8TAF) and Mike (W8XH).  As always, we enjoyed the breakfast conversation with our fellow amateur radio operators.  Linda left at 9:15 and I lingered until 9:30 enjoying my last cup of coffee.  I paid our check and had just headed for home when Mike (W8XH) called me on the radio.  We had a good chat about my Hi-Q 6-80 mobile HF antenna and will try to find a time to test it using his newer VNWA.  Mike has learned a lot about how to use it in the last couple of years and is always willing to put that knowledge to use to help his fellow ham.  I would love to figure out a way to mount this antenna so we can take it with us this winter and use it, but I doubt that will happen.  We just have too much else that has to get done in the next month that is more important than this.

At home I pulled up the DX Engineering website on my iPad.  I found their Mix 31 snap-on ferrite chokes and put them in my cart.  If I can find a few other small things to buy the order will qualify for free shipping.  I suspect that will not be a problem.

Next I pulled up the Sony alpha app and researched the acronyms they use for various features of their cameras and lenses.  The model numbers for their A-mount lenses all begin with SAL (Sony “A” Lens) and their E-mount lenses all begin with SEL (Sony “E” Lens) so that helps sort those out right up front.  However, they make both 35mm full frame (36mm x 24mm) and APS-C (24mm x 16mm) lenses in both mounting systems.  The FF lenses can be used on APS-C bodies, such as our Sony a100, but the APS-C lenses, which always include the letters “DT” in the product name, cannot generally be used on FF bodies.  Our new Sony SLT-a99v DSLT camera body, however, can detect a DT lens and automatically limits the active portion of the sensor to an APS-C size area.

SAM stands for “Smooth Action Motor” and SSM stands for “SuperSonic wave Motor” both of which are used with certain lenses, especially large telephoto ones, that have their own internal focusing motor.  OSS stands for “Optical Steady Shot.”  Even though the alpha series cameras have image stabilization built into the body some Sony lenses also have image stabilization built into them.

One of the things I was trying to find out is which lenses have distance encoders so they will work with the ADI (Advanced Distance Integration) feature of the a99 body and compatible Sony flash units.  The lens specification table in the alpha app was not really clear on this point.  Some lenses were marked with a small circle for this feature and others with a dash.  If their nomenclature is consistent with other entries the dash means “no”.  Logically then the circle means “yes” but I did not pursue this further.  I will have to experiment with the 18-70mm APS-C format lens that came with the a100 and see if it supports ADI.

I opened the B&H Photo Video app and revisited the reviews on the Sony HVL-60m flash.  Although more expensive than the HVL-43m I added it to my cart.  Besides being more powerful it has an available external battery pack which I found and also put in the cart.  Finally, I added the Cotton Carrier dual camera harness to the cart.  I found my Minolta electric shutter releases and checked to see if they worked with the alpha 99.  They did!, so I did not need to order new ones.  B&H was closed for online order processing until 7:30 PM this evening so I did not submit the order right away.  The Cotton Carrier is on sale until the 26th so I will submit the order tomorrow while the sale price is still valid.

Linda got home at 12:30 PM and we had the last two vegan hotdogs for lunch.  She then started preparing dinner and I went to my office.  I did a load of laundry, dealt with e-mail, checked in with RVillage, and copied photos from both the Sony a100 and the Sony a99 to my computer.  I updated my BCM article spreadsheet and then moved article folders to the proper directories and deleted them from my BCM Dropbox folder.  I added 80 pounds of solar salt to the water softener and then brought the laundry upstairs and hung it up.  By 4:30 PM I was feeling very tired and took a short nap until Meghan and Chris showed up at 5 PM.

We showed them the driveway and bus projects and then went inside the house just as it started to sprinkle.  Everyone selected a beer and we were standing around the kitchen when a brief, but very intense, line of storms moved through our area with heavy rain and strong winds.

For dinner Linda made a salad of dark leafy greens with tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and raisins dressed with a raspberry vinaigrette.  The main course was a Farro pilaf with dried cranberries, onions, garlic, broccoli leaves, and slivered almonds.  Yes, broccoli leaves.  The whole broccoli plant is edible but until recently only the flowerets were available in stores.  The side dish was Brussels sprouts cut in half and oven-roasted with salt, pepper, and a little olive oil.  Dessert was pears in wine.  She used the Witch’s Brew, a spiced red wine that was perfect for this dish and this time of year.  After poaching the pears she reduced the wine to a sauce and chilled everything in the refrigerator for hours.  (The pears were made ahead of time as was the Farro, with the main dish being finished just before serving.)

We sat in the living room with the fireplace on and chatted about houses, pets, travel, sports, and the upcoming holidays.  Meghan and Chris stayed until 8:30 PM and then headed home.  It was a nice visit during which both cats actually came out of hiding and allowed themselves to be petted, a rare treat in Jasper’s case.

We were both tired, partly the residual effect of our altered schedule on Wednesday and Thursday, so we finished clearing the table and went to bed.  The Detroit PBS Create channel was featuring vegetarian (including vegan) episodes of various cooking shows so we watched a few of those before turning off the TV and going to sleep.

 

2015/10/21 (W) Electrifying

In spite of being out later than usual last night Linda was up early and off to the bakery at 6:15 AM.  I got up at the same time and made coffee so Linda could take some with her.  Neither of us slept well as we had larger meals, with richer food, and later at night than usual.  I wasn’t hungry but I like to start my day with coffee and it seems to help keep me regular.  TMI, perhaps, but there it is.  I had to get up anyway to prepare the garage so the electricians from Bratcher Electric could get to the areas they needed to work on.  But first I put a load of laundry in the washing machine.

We had a light but steady rain last night starting around midnight.  Phil was hoping for rain over the next few days as the sand base for the driveway will compact much better if the sand is moist.  We have a 70% chance of more rain during the day today and into the evening but by tomorrow a cold front is supposed to push through with much cooler and drier conditions behind it.  I hope the sand gets wet enough to stay moist until Saturday when Phil returns.

Jeremy and Pete from Bratcher Electric showed up at 9 AM.  I walked them through the job and then left them alone to work except for the occasional photograph and questions.  The questions were for my own understanding of the work.

I needed to mix the “GoLightly” prescription for Linda and get it in the refrigerator to chill.  The instructions said to use lukewarm drinking water.  I drew a large pot of our RO water, heated it on the stove, let it cool to what I judged to be lukewarm, added it to the jug, shook it well to mix, and put it in the fridge.  It should be plenty cold by the time she gets home this afternoon.

I was not going to get involved in my own construction projects while Jeremy and Pete were here.  At some point towards the end of their work they were going to have to turn off the whole house generator and disconnect the main service coming in from the utility pole so they could safely tie in the new disconnect that feeds the panel in the garage.  I went ahead and turned off the HP Color LaserJet printer, the two NAS units, and all of the computers except one that was installing updates, and I shut it down when it was done.

While the electricians worked I did some more photo product research.  Based on what I found on the Quantum Instruments, Inc. website they do not make anything that works with the Sony alpha camera bodies, including the SLT-a99v.  Thus it appears that there is no point in repairing (replacing) one or both of my Quantum Turbo battery packs.  I tested my Sunpak DX-8R ring flash the other day so I know I can trigger it but I do not know if I can control it.  My Metz 45CT-4 can operate off of AA batteries but I have not had time to test it with the a99.  Like the ring flash I expect that the a99 will be able to trigger it but I doubt it can control it through the lens (TTL).  If it can then I would have a reason to repair/replace at least one of my Quantum Turbo battery packs.

What all of this means in the short term is that I am going to have to buy a Sony “on-camera flash” designed specifically to work in an integrated way with the a99 body.  Further research revealed that there are only three choices: the HVL-60AM, the HVL-43M, and the HVL-20 (?)  I downloaded the manuals for the 60 and the 43 models and glanced at them, but they are as long as the manual for the camera body.  The 60 has an optional battery pack, but it just holds six AA batteries in addition to the four in the flash unit.  I looked at reviews on the B&H website and they were mixed for both the 60 and the 43.  The 60 is more powerful but is very large.  The 43 is smaller but less powerful and lacks the connector for an auxiliary battery pack.  The biggest knock on both were the mechanical attachment to the camera and an over temp feature that seems to erroneously shut the unit down after just a few quick flashes.

The small box upper left is the new 100 A main disconnect for the electrical panel in the garage.  The large box upper right is the automatic transfer switch and the large box below it is the 200 A service entrance disconnect.

The small box upper left is the new 100 A main disconnect for the electrical panel in the garage. The large box upper right is the automatic transfer switch and the large box below it is the 200 A service entrance disconnect.

After the electricians were gone I heated up a can of Amy’s Red Lentil soup and had some hummus and pretzel nibblers.  I put another load of laundry in the washer and then went in search of an RV outlet box.

Lowe’s had an Eaton box with either a 30 A or 50 Amp single plug and no disconnect or circuit breaker.  The 50 A version is what I installed three years ago for the pull-through drive in front of the house.  What I had forgotten, apparently, was that the largest opening on the bottom of this box was smaller than 2″ but I could not determine if it was 1-1/4″ or 1-1/2″.  Lowe’s did not have the adapters I needed so I went to The Home Depot.  They did not seem to have what I needed either so I went to City Electric Supply.  CES had a better selection of adapters and also had RV panels with circuit breakers.  The panels were much more expensive so I did not buy one but I had them set up the pieces to adapt from 2″ conduit to 1-1/2″ pipe thread.  I then went back to Lowe’s and bought the 50 A outlet box.

Back at the house I spent some more time in the bus fiddling with the remote temperature sensors in the refrigerator but otherwise did not accomplish much.  Linda got home late in the afternoon but was not able to eat anything because of her colonoscopy tomorrow morning.  I was on my own for dinner but do not recall what I had as I am finishing this post a couple of days later.  Linda had to consume half of the GoLightly (1/2 gallon!) between 6 and 8 PM.  I worked in the garage for a while removing the knockouts from the bottom of the RV box.  That was when I confirmed that the hole was sized for 1-1/4″ conduit, not 1-1/2″.  I worked in my office at my computer for the rest of the evening.  We both went to bed before 10 PM as Linda had to get up at 3 AM and drink the other half gallon of GoLightly between then and 5 AM and I had to be up at 5:45 AM so I could get her to HFHS Columbus Center in Novi by 7:15 AM.  Sometimes the scheduling of medical procedures just leaves me shaking my head.

 

2015/10/19 (M) Flashless

Linda was up at 5:45 AM and out the door by 6:15.  I woke up but went back to sleep and finally got up at 7:30 and got dressed.  I turned on the furnace in the garage and turned up the thermostats in the bus and then had breakfast.  Rather than grind up a small quantity of coffee beans and get the coffee maker dirty I had a cup of tea.  I retrieved Butch’s e-mail and called Clyde in Canton to arrange pickup of the antique Sun distributor tester that Butch bought from him last night on Ebay.  I will drive down Friday to pick it up.

Phil showed up around 8:30 AM, unloaded his front loader, and got to work on the French drain.  I went out around 10 AM and talked to him briefly.  I then walked through the southwest corner of our property looking for a corner marker.  I did not find one but I did discover some REALLY big trees with REALLY BIG vines woven through them.  The base of the vines was as big as one of the trees, about 30″ in diameter.  I had never seen a vine root that size.

Back at the house I called John Palmer, of Palmer Energy Systems in Florida, to update him on my recent call to Magnum Energy technical support.  He said he would talk to Tom in the next couple of days and try to get me the connector (terminal block) I need.  We agreed I will call him back on Friday.

Next I called A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart, Indiana and talked to Terry.  I ordered a bolster cushion to fill in the space behind the sofa seat cushions and below the sofa back cushions.  It will be 6″ high x 4-3/4″ deep x 78″ long and will be one density of firm foam rather than a firm center layer with softer outer layers on top and bottom (like the seat cushions).  She will use a plain beige fabric as it will not be visible and so it does not have to match the other sofa cushions.  She said it would be ready in early November, which is plenty of time for us to drive down and get it.  The price was $125, which sounded like a fair price to me.

I got out my old Sunpak DX-8R ring flash and connected it to one of my Quantum high voltage battery packs but the battery pack appeared to be dead.  The two battery packs I have are almost unused but have apparently self-discharged and are now dead.  This also happened to my original battery packs.  The only flash equipment I have is set up to run off these packs but I am not inclined to replace them again as I do not use them enough to keep them charged which makes it hard to justify the cost as they are expensive.  Unfortunately that leaves me, for the moment, without any flash capability for the new Sony SLT-A99V DSLT camera.  Buggers.

I sent a TXT message to Joe to let him know that I did not see any indication of axle/hub seal leaks on the inside of the bus wheels.  I then called Bill in Mexico, Indiana and left him a message regarding the antique Sun distributor tester.  I will drive it at least as far as Elkhart, Indiana when I pick up the bolster from A-1 Upholstery and transfer it to Bill if he can meet me there.  There is also the possibility that I will drive it all the way to Bill’s place in Mexico, Indiana and stop by Jarel Beatty’s cabinetry shop in Logansport to have him cut down the connector on the passenger side HVAC duct cover.  If I do I will also pick up the drawings for the desk, sofa, and pull-out pantry as long as I am there.

Phil checks the grade of the new driveway extension.  The laser level is set up by the utility pole.

Phil checks the grade of the new driveway extension. The laser level is set up by the utility pole.

I went back outside and walked through the layout of the driveway extension with Phil.  He then set up his laser level, took elevation measurements at various points, and made an annotated sketch.  He needed to think about the data and figure out what we could actually do given the change in grade from the existing concrete driveway to the road at the third culvert and the need to flatten out before reaching the culvert to tie in with where the barn will (might) eventually go.

Keith, from Kish Lawn Care, showed up around 11 AM to mow the grass.  I got out our leaf blower and let Phil know that I would be occupied for a little while with yard work.  I blew the leaves off of the rear decks, out from under/around various bushes, and off of the two boulder retaining walls into the yard where Keith could mulch them with his riding lawn mower.

About the time I was done blowing leaves Phil had a plan to discuss.  The elevation drops 7-1/2 feet from the concrete driveway (that goes from the street to the garage) to the street at the third culvert some 200 feet away.  Phil thought that our best bet was to slope down from the driveway over a distance of 40 feet, level out for 40 feet, and then gently slope down for 70 feet to the area in front of the future barn location.  That would leave another 50 feet with a slight drop to get to the street.  Some of the area down there will be close to level, however, so another RV could park down there.

We also discussed running power and agreed that I would buy about 40 feet of plastic conduit to get under the level area and headed towards the southwest corner of the garage.  We would need the conduit first thing tomorrow morning so I decided I would go to Lowe’s this evening.

I finally got to work in the bus around 1:30 PM.  I positioned the sofa seat, secured the piano hinge to the stationary backboard with four screws and then drilled all of the other screw holes using my smallest VIX bit.  I installed all of the little screws, dialed back the thermostats, and closed up the bus.  My time-on-task was short but it was a big item to check off of my “list.”

The Sunpak DX-8R ring flash can operate on four AA batteries so I put a set in and connected it to the hot shoe on top of the camera.  The camera was able to trigger the flash (more than once) but the shots were seriously overexposed.  I did not take the time to try and figure out if the flash can be controlled by the camera based on light coming through the lens.  If not it won’t be usable in most situations.

It was a mild day with blue skies and white puffy clouds so I took the new camera outside to capture some images of the work Phil is doing.  I shot a few frames of the more colorful trees in our yard while I was at it.

Linda texted me at 3:40 PM to let me know she was leaving the bakery and stopping at the store on the way home.  Phil continued to find rock, concrete, and brick debris as he dug out the driveway extension.  He used the 30″ toothed bucket on his excavator to sift out the larger pieces and pull them into a pile and then used his front loader to put all of it into his dump truck.  I got a metal tine rake and raked out some of the smaller stuff, not because it needed to be removed but because I needed to do something physical and wanted to smooth it out to get a better idea of how it will look when finished.

Phil started securing his equipment at 5 PM and we were wrapping up our last discussion of the project for the day when Linda got home at 5:30.  After unloading a few groceries she started fixing dinner.  Phil took off and I continued raking for another half hour until dinner was ready.  Linda served the rest of the polenta with puttanesca sauce and steamed sliced parsnips.  I thought we finished the Cupcake Black Forest wine last night but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we still had enough for our meal this evening.

After dinner I went to The Home Depot looking for a fuel filter for our Cub Cadet lawn tractor.  THD sells Cub Cadet equipment but only had generic fuel filters so I did not buy one.  I went to Lowe’s, where we get a 5% discount on everything we buy! and bought the following:  four 10-foot pieces of 2″ PVC non-conductive conduit, a 90 degree elbow, a coupler, two end caps, 1″ and 1-1/4″ self-drilling screws, an 8′ long pressure treated 4×4′, and a clamp on saw guide.  The saw guide was an impulse purchase but I had a $10 Off card for a total purchase of $50 of more.  We have struggled with makeshift saw guides all summer and fall and I still have more careful cutting to do.  I already have a saw guide but could not find it and should have bought a new one at the beginning of the bus remodeling project.

Phil called the house while I was out so I called him back.  He had figured out that extending the driveway to within 10 feet of the front of the proposed bus barn would add 25% to the cost of the project.  That was more than I was prepared to spend at this time so we will defer that work until we build the barn, probably in summer 2017.  We watched Scorpion and NCIS Los Angeles and then went to bed.

 

2015/10/17 (S) First Snow

Last night we removed the dining table from the back of my car and put it on the bed in the bus.  We then removed the two rear seats and put them in the garage.  We wanted the back of the Honda Element empty when we got up this morning as we do not usually have time to spare in the morning before driving to South Lyon for breakfast with the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club.

It’s always good to see our fellow hams and today was no exception.  We arrived just before 8 AM and stayed for over an hour.  We left around 9:15 and drove to Chuck’s shop in Novi to get the box with the two remaining lower windshields for our bus.  Chuck was already there and helped us load the box into the car.  The box was sized to hold five windshields but only had two in it so it was light enough for us to move by hand.  I knew it would fit in my car as we had measured it on a previous visit and I had checked the dimensions against the car.  We set one end on the tailgate, lifted the other end, and slid it in.  We chatted for a while, and looked at a project Chuck is working in for new front window shades, before heading home.

Phil was not at our house when we got home but he had obviously been there.  All of the concrete, and many of the rocks and boulders, were gone from the driveway extension area so I presumed he had loaded them in his truck and hauled them away.

The Converted Coach Owners (CCO) Halloween Rally was going on this weekend and today was the main day for activities.  We had intended/hoped to go to the rally but the progress on our bus remodeling has slowed over the last couple of weeks for various reasons, all legitimate, and it was not in a condition to travel or be used.  It’s not that things are not getting done; they are, just not as fast as we would like or need them to.  Among other things I have not yet secured the refrigerator and pantry.  We thought about driving over in the car but it was over two hours one way and we needed to spend what time we had available working on the bus and could not justify being gone.  Thanksgiving does not look/feel that far away anymore.  It also seemed ill-advised to be gone while Phil is here digging up the yard.

My main bus focus for today was completing the installation of the built-in sofa.  We had already set the plywood seat board on a blanket on the bus kitchen floor so I had access to the inside of the base/storage box.  I did not need Linda’s assistance for a while so she worked on her counted cross-stitch project.  Before starting on the sofa, however, I took care of a few other minor things.

First I replaced the alkaline batteries in the TempMinder thermometers with Lithium ones.  I then reset the minimum and maximum temperatures for the two remote sensors.  Sensor #1 monitors the freezer and sensor #2 monitors the fresh food compartment of the bus refrigerator.  The directions for the TempMinder suggest using Lithium batteries if the remote sensors will be in cold environments.

Next I got a piece of scrap SurePly underlayment to see how it would fit in the rabbited wood trim on the lower outside wall of the hallway.  I inserted it fully into a corner and marked the edges with a pencil.  It is approximately 3/16″ thick and fit nicely without being too tight.  With a layer of veneer it should be just right.  When I removed it the depth of the rabbits appeared to be 5/16″ to 3/8″.  I think the underlayment will make a nice base for hardwood veneer.  I will cut the panels 1/2″ wider (22-1/2″) and 1/2″ longer (28″) than the 22″ X 27-1/2″ dimensions of the framed opening and allow them to “float” just like a frame and panel door.

My last mini-task was locating the 1/4″ walnut veneered plywood we removed from the old refrigerator and measuring it to see if we had pieces big enough to panel the damaged area on the wall by the co-pilot seat.  I was pleased to find that the remaining pieces are large enough for this application.

By now it was 12:30 PM and my phone reminded me that we had an RVillage Ambassadors webinar/meeting at 1 PM.  Linda heated up some Amy’s Vegetable Bean Soup and made hot lentil loaf sandwiches with ketchup.  Yum.  We got our first snow flurries of the 2015-16 winter season during lunch and they continued off and on through the afternoon.  We moved to Michigan in May 1976.  It snowed on October 15th that year and we had snow on the ground every day until early April 1977.  While that has not held up over the years as a “typical” southeast Michigan winter it was very different from what we grew up with in Missouri and formed our first and most lasting impression of our adopted state.

I retrieved the link for the Go To Meeting from the RVillage website and put it in my web browser.  1 PM came and went with no meeting.  The meeting notice said “Saturday, October 17 at 10 AM PST” but they had clarified that was actually 10 AM PDT, which is 1 PM EDT.  We decided that perhaps they really meant PST, which would be 2 PM our time.  We tried again an hour later, but no meeting ever commenced.

When I finally got to work in the bus on the sofa I removed six screws, three each from two angle brackets, and pulled the entire base assembly out from the wall, giving me complete access to the HVAC duct and wiring chase.  Much of the final installation of the sofa involved this duct.

Powered and manual sheet metal nibblers with the opening Bruce just cut in the OTR HVAC duct and the piece of sheet metal that was removed.

Powered and manual sheet metal nibblers with the opening Bruce just cut in the OTR HVAC duct and the piece of sheet metal that was removed.

The ends of the plywood seat rest on two boxes with open ends that also serve as plenums for air from the OTR HVAC system ducts.  I needed to cut out rectangular openings in the vertical face of the duct to allow air into the back end of these boxes.  I used a 1/2″ drill to create starter holes at the corners of the openings and then used a manual sheet metal nibbler and a drill-powered reciprocating nibbler, both of which I borrowed from Chuck a few weeks ago, to cut out the sheet metal.  The two tools work differently but they both worked well and I was glad I had both of them for this task.  The powered nibbler created a lot of small metal debris so I vacuumed the whole work area very thoroughly when I was done nibbling.

The right (forward) end of the duct also had an extra hole in it where I did not need or want one.  I removed an old sheet metal patch plate and cut a new one to cover the area I needed to close off.  I ended up having to pre-drill holes as I spun the heads off two of my cheap sheet metal screws.  I had a heck of a time getting the shafts out, but I got it done.  This was just one more example of why seemingly simple projects always take longer than they should.

Phil returned while I was working on the sofa and continued trenching in the French drain.  I stopped to chat with him briefly and Linda came out to let me know she was headed to the grocery store.  I then got back to my own tasks and let Phil get back to his.

The left support/plenum box with the circular register hole cut in the face plate.

The left support/plenum box with the circular register hole cut in the face plate.

The open fronts of the two plenum boxes are attached to the inside of the vertical front support, which is 3/4″ walnut veneered plywood.  To get the air out of the boxes and into the coach my design called for brown plastic 4″ round louvered diffusers.  They are considered “four inch” because the two inch long cylindrical pipe on the back will just fit through a 4″ diameter circular hole.  (A 4″ flexible duct, like dryer duct, will also just fit over the pipe.)  The visible part of the diffuser is actually 5-1/2″ in diameter.

The inside width of the plenum boxes is 4-1/4″ by design.  I needed to center a 4″ hole within that space so I had to locate the center point for my 4″ hole saw very accurately side-to-side.  I also wanted the hole centered vertically.  Using my small square I marked the vertical midpoint on the edge of the front plywood at each end.  I then measured in 2-13/16″ from the midpoint mark and used my spring-loaded center punch to mark the center of the hole.   [The 2-13/16″ dimension came from half the inside width, or 2-1/8″, plus the thickness of the plywood used to make the plenums, or 11/16″.]

A close up view of the nylon mesh screen material used to cover the opening in the HVAC duct to keep critters that might get into the duct from getting into the support/plenum box.

A close up view of the nylon mesh screen material used to cover the opening in the HVAC duct to keep critters that might get into the duct from getting into the support/plenum box.

I stood the boxes on their back ends so the front board was horizontal.  I straddled the front board with my legs to hold it and drilled starter holes with a #6 countersink bit.  I then drilled the 4″ holes with a 4″ hole saw using my 1/2″ Craftsman corded drill, being careful to have the pilot bit in the starter holes and drill perpendicular to the face of the plywood.  I have had this drill for 37 years.  It is very powerful and has several ways it can be gripped quite securely.  It is large, heavy, and lacks the convenience of a cordless drill but when I need to use a bit with a 1/2″ shaft and/or need the torque, this is still the drill for the job.  The hole saw created some sawdust so I vacuumed the whole area thoroughly when I was done drilling.

I was just finishing this work when Linda got back from the grocery store.  She put the groceries away and came out to see if I needed any assistance.  I already had the roll of plastic screen in the bus and she got the Gorilla Tape from the garage.  I cut pieces of the screen large enough to cover the two rectangular openings in the HVAC duct and used lengths of Gorilla Tape to secure them.  We then slid the base/storage assembly back into position, pushed it tight to the HVAC duct, and reattached it to the wood wire chase on top of the duct.  The two support boxes and the return air box have foam weather stripping on the back edges to seal against the duct.

We picked the plywood seat up off of the kitchen floor and set it back in place but did not secure it.  We left it out several inches from its original position and got a seat and back cushion from the bedroom.  We experimented with different spacings and finally agreed that we need to have the seat out 4-3/4″ farther than originally designed.  The current hinge board is 11/16″ plywood, 2-3/4″ wide by just under 78″ long.  This board is screwed to the top of the wiring chase and to one side of the 72″ piano hinge.  I will replace it with a piece that is 7-1/2″ wide by the same length.  I will also have to provide some additional support for the seat side of the piano hinge as in the original design had both sides of the hinge resting on top of the wiring chase on top of the HVAC duct.

The Tulip Tree behind our house in its full fall glory.  This is the first photo to be posted in this blog taken with the new Sony a99v DSLT camera.

The Tulip Tree behind our house in its full fall glory. This is the first photo to be posted in this blog taken with the new Sony a99v DSLT camera.

That was the end of the interior bus work for today.  By the time we were done Phil had driven his front-loader onto his flat-bed trailer and secured it so it appeared he was wrapping up for the day.  I chatted with him about the project for 30 minutes before he left.  Earlier in the afternoon I had found my site plan drawings for the bus barn and agreed to stake out the driveway tomorrow so we could review it first thing Monday morning.

Linda had invited Meghan and Chris for brunch tomorrow but it was not a good weekend for them as the Michigan vs Michigan State football game was taking place in Ann Arbor.  Chris manages the Pizza House restaurant, and being away on football Saturday is not an option.  They will come next Sunday (31st) instead.

For dinner Linda made a nice salad of mixed greens with dried cranberries, sliced almonds, and diced onions dressed with raspberry vinaigrette.  The main course was pan-fried polenta with vegan puttanesca sauce.  It held its heat to the last bite and was very satisfying on a cold evening.  I opened a bottle of Cupcake Black Forest red wine.  We have had it before and, although drier than I prefer, it went well with the meal.

After dinner I got my flashlight and checked the bus for axle/hub seal leaks by looking under the bus from the opposite side to see the inside of the wheels.  I did not see anything to suggest a problem on any of the six positions and will text that information to Joe tomorrow for planning purposes as he would require a second day to work on the seals if that was needed.

We spent the last couple of hours of the day in the living room, with the fireplace turned on, reading, writing, and playing games while enjoying some red grapes for dessert.  Linda got a text from her sister-in-law, Mary, with a photo of her and Ron “standing on ‘the’ corner in Winslow, Arizona.”  Ron has been retired for many years but Mary only recently retired and they are on their first extended camping trip in their A-liner trailer and their first trip to the southwest U.S.

We went to bed around 10 PM.  Linda fell asleep quickly while I divided my attention between cooking shows on the Detroit PBS Create channel, a concert by Eric Clapton on PBS, and working on this post.

 

2015/10/16 (F) Desk Installation

We were up at 8 AM, fed the cats, made coffee, and had breakfast.  Phil showed up around 8:30 AM, unloaded his front loader, dropped his flatbed trailer, and left in his dump truck.  I turned on the fireplace and we enjoyed our coffee while iPading until 10:15 AM.

Our first task today was to cut up several large limbs that I pulled out of the woods last evening to get them out of Phil’s way.  I cut them up with the chain saw and then we stacked them on the disposal pile for Phil to haul away.

Phil returned at 10:30 and moved his Caterpillar 305C excavator into the woods across the street by the culvert.  I went down to chat with him briefly to make sure I understood what he was going to work on.  There were a lot of small trees (3″ diameter), saplings, and bushes scattered around the site.  Some of them had been dead for years and some had just been knocked over by Phil.  I decided to work in that area with my chain saw cutting everything up into five foot lengths so Phil could use his front loader to get them into his dump truck.  I worked at this until 11:30 AM and then turned my attention to the bus.  Linda worked on her needlepoint while I cut wood.

Before getting started on construction tasks I took two pieces of filter material and set them on the wire shelf in the freezer compartment of the new refrigerator, one on top of the other.  I then set the two remote thermometer sensors on the filter material.  Butch had suggested the other night that I set the sensor on a sponge to get it off of the floor of the freezer compartment as it was likely responding to the automatic defroster heat strips when they come on.  I figured the filter material would work just as well and that placing the sensors on the shelf would definitely get them away from the floor.

Linda brought out a bag of ice from the house fridge and put it in the bus freezer.  She also filled several 1/2 gallon juice and milk cartons with water, put the caps on, and put them in the fresh food compartment.  The purpose of all of this was to add thermal mass to the compartments to cause the refrigerator to run less often and reduce large swings in temperature.

Inside the bus our first sub-project was installing the desk, which included putting the front passenger side HVAC duct cover in place even though it is not finished.  It took us quite a while to get everything positioned just right.  With Linda holding things in position I screwed the right pedestal to the wall, adjusted the position of the base and screwed the pedestal to the base.  We then repeated that process for the left pedestal and base.

Linda removes the backing from the double-sided tape on the back side of the air grate in the center connector/cover for the desk.

Linda removes the backing from the double-sided tape on the back side of the air grate in the center connector/cover for the desk.

At this point we had several things to do with, and under, the center connector/cover so I removed it and took it into the garage/shop.  We cut a piece of the decorative brass colored metal grate and secured it to the back of the air opening with small screws every few inches.  Next we cut a piece of black plastic mesh to fit over the grate.  We then cut pieces of 3M Extreme Mounting Tape (double-sided) and attached them to the back side of the grate in between the screws.  Linda peeled off the protective layer and we carefully placed the plastic mesh.  Using one of the scrap pieces of the protective layer I rolled the plastic into the take with our wallpaper seam roller.  Finally, we had a piece of filter material already cut to cover this air intake opening so we set that on top of the mesh, pressed it down to take advantage of the tape, and then secured it with Gorilla Tape on all four edges, rolling it with the seam roller to get good bonding.

A detailed view of one of the homebrewed tongue and groove alignment assemblies made from flat mending plates.

A detailed view of one of the homebrewed tongue and groove alignment assemblies made from flat mending plates.

Back in the coach I had to tie in the outlet strip to the 120VAC power feed.  I shut off the breaker for this circuit and checked with my tester to make sure it was not live.  The hot and neutral wires were accessible but the ground wires were back under the left pedestal where they were not easy to reach and manipulate.  It took a while, certainly longer than it should have, but I got the three ground wires tied together with a grounding clamp.  I connected the hot and neutral wires (three each) relatively easily using wire nuts.  I turned the circuit breaker back on and checked that the outlet strip had power between the correct terminals and did have power between any other terminal pairs.

I went to the garage to get a four foot long piece of 1″X1″ aluminum angle that I bought weeks ago to use as a support bracket for the upper rear edge of the center connector/cover.  I was going to cut off a 26″ long piece and then drill countersunk holes but I noticed a piece of 1/2″X1/2″ light gage angle that was about 26″ long and already had holes in it.  It was long enough to span the space between the pedestals and go under each one about an inch.  That was sufficient to position it correctly so Linda held it there while I secured it to the wall with four round (pan) head screws.  I then put the center connector/cover back in place.

Phil has cleared all of the organic debris from the area where the driveway extension and RV pad will be located.

Phil has cleared all of the organic debris from the area where the driveway extension and RV pad will be located.

Phil starts trenching and placing the plastic drain tile tubing for the French drain.

Phil starts trenching and placing the plastic drain tile tubing for the French drain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phil had long since left in his truck to dump all of the wood debris.  We had a light lunch of Amy’s Lentil Vegetable soup and fresh organic grapes.  While we were eating a group of three deer came to our back yard and eventually ended up eating apples that had fallen from our tree onto the ground.  These same deer, along with two others, were here yesterday at twilight and were very frisky.  We saw them later in our neighbor’s yard across the street.

Another view of Phil’s smaller excavator with the 12” bucket being used to trench the French drain in the southwest portion of our property.

Another view of Phil’s smaller excavator with the 12” bucket being used to trench the French drain in the southwest portion of our property.

Phil returned around 3 PM and started working on the French drain.  He replaced the 30″ wide toothed bucket with the 12″ one and started at the high end if the culvert on this side of the road.

The grand finale was the installation of the Corian desktop, which has been sitting on a blanket in the middle of the living area floor since Tuesday.  I drilled countersunk holes through the four corner plates in each desk pedestal from underneath.  I then inserted 1-1/4″ #8 self-drilling outdoor wood screws into each hole, again from underneath, until they just protruded above the corner blocks and then backed them off until the tips were just below the surface.  We set the desktop across the pedestals and pushed it as tight to the back and right end wall as we could.  Linda put her weight on it and I ran the screws home, pulling the top tight to the pedestals.  We reinstalled the four drawers in the right pedestal, finally getting them off the floor in the hallway where they have been since Tuesday.  We stepped back to admire the desk and agreed it was a thing of beauty and a joy to behold.  Linda also marveled, once again, at how much space she now has to work in the kitchen.

A wider shot showing the excavator and drain tile.  The laser level is at the left edge of the frame.  The main arm of the excavator (with the bucket attached) has a laser sensor on it that tells Phil exactly where the lower edge of the bucket is relative to the laser level.

A wider shot showing the excavator and drain tile. The laser level is at the left edge of the frame. The main arm of the excavator (with the bucket attached) has a laser sensor on it that tells Phil exactly where the lower edge of the bucket is relative to the laser level.

The “denouement” was mounting the outlet strip and adding felt pads to the two fake drawer fronts on the left pedestal and then adjusting the magnetic catches.  I originally had the outlet strip (temporarily) mounted to the wall between the two pedestals with two screws a few inches below the cord notch in the center of the back edge of the desktop.  Rather than put it back there I decided to mount it on the underside of the desktop just in front of the cord notch.

The underside location will work just as well as the wall mount location for regular 2- and 3-prong plugs but probably not as well for small AC adapters.  The added pluses of this location, however, are: 1) it will not interfere with cords coming through the notch, 2) it will be up out of the way of the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) that will sit on the shelf at the top of the center connector/cover, and 3) if liquids are accidentally spilled and run over through the notch they will not run into the outlet strip.  Besides, devices with an AC adapter will probably be plugged into the UPS so this was a better overall approach.

Our next task was to adjust the sofa seat until it was deep enough to be comfortable.  We slide the plywood seat out a couple of inches and then got the seat and back cushions (three each) from the house where they have been stored since September 21st.  We put the cushions in place and sat down.  We pulled the cushions out and pulled the seat board out until it was five inches farther out than originally designed and put the cushions back in.

The front edge of the seat cushions were out farther than I liked but we both agreed the sofa was now comfortable to sit on.  The distance from the bottom front edge of the back cushions to the front edge of the seat cushions was originally only 16 inches and that turned out to just be too short.  With the seat board moved out it will now be 21 inches.

In order for the sofa to work correctly, both as a sofa and as a bed, we will need a cushion that is 5″ wide by 6″ high, by ~76″ long to fill in the space behind the seat cushions and below the back cushions.  The height and foam makeup will be such that it is level with the tops of the seat cushions and have the same firmness and feel.  Would that I had designed the sofa for this depth to begin with and had the seat cushions made accordingly, but we were trying to open up the living room by not having the sofa protrude into the aisle any more than absolutely necessary.

Next up was reinstalling the wood trim in hallway.  We have an interesting plan for the lower half of the hallway but in case we do not get it finished before we leave for the winter we wanted the trim off the bed and back on the wall.

The lower outside hallway wall.  There were originally three framed panels of vertical strip mirrors here.  We will replace them with wood panels, probably in a lighter color to contrast with the walnut trim.

The lower outside hallway wall. There were originally three framed panels of vertical strip mirrors here. We will replace them with wood panels, probably in a lighter color to contrast with the walnut trim.

This trim originally framed three panels of vertical strip mirrors.  We were able to remove the mirrors as they were glued to wallpaper.  In the process we discovered that the left and right panels were the same width but the center panel was wider.  The trim consisted of six pieces of wood; a long upper and lower horizontal piece and four vertical pieces.  The six pieces were screwed to the lower half of the outer wall but not attached to each other.  The left and right vertical pieces were tight to adjacent woodwork, but the two intermediate pieces were free to be repositioned.

We reattached the upper horizontal piece first making sure the mounting screws went back in the same holes.  Next we pushed the lower horizontal piece into place but did not screw it to the wall.  We then attached the left and right verticals.  The horizontal distance between the inside edges of the left and right verticals was 75 inches.  The two intermediate verticals were each 4-1/2″ wide so the distance between verticals needed to be 22″ (75 minus 9 = 66 divided by 3 = 22).  We carefully positioned and secured the two intermediate verticals to achieve this spacing.

The trim boards all have rabbited edges on the back side.  I need to measure them carefully, but they are ~3/16″ deep by 3/8″ wide.  Our current plan is to use 3/16″ underlayment or other 3/16″ high quality plywood to make three panels that will fit within these rabbits with a little room to spare.  The panels will either have a hardwood face or we will cover them with a hardwood veneer of a wood that contrasts with the walnut trim.  We can get the veneer from Rockler once we decide what we want.

Linda spread out several towels on the new desktop and we moved tools and supplies from the A-V cabinet, behind the driver’s seat, to the new desk.  I then removed the Corian top of the A-V cabinet and put in on the bed.  We still have a small amount of wallpaper to install in the front of the living room and into the cockpit on the driver side, but it will not be easy to do.

These areas, such as the one behind the A-V cabinet, are small with limited access so most of my sanders cannot be used.  The only one that might work is the Porter-Cable oscillating tool but I did not get it out today.  I got some sanding sponges instead and tried those on the wall under the passenger side window trim next to the co-pilot seat.  When I sanded a dark area about 6″ long by 3″ wide the wood in the center crumbled and I ended up with a hole 3″ long by an inch and a half wide.  I could see one of the stainless steel structural members through the hole.  Given what was obviously water damage I was glad we bought a bus with welded stainless steel as the main structural material.

Based on what I could see, the walls in the bus appear to be 1/2″ plywood although I did not measure the thickness.  This area had obviously gotten very wet over a long period of time and some of the wood has rotted.  It is the only spot we have discovered that is this damaged and we immediately realized that we will not be able to wallpaper this area.  We will probably panel over it, similar to what we plan to do with the veneered panels in the hallway, but today was not the day to figure that out.

It was going on 5 PM and we decided we were done for the day.  I turned off all of the electric heaters, turned on the Aqua-Hot, turned on all three thermostats, and set the temperature to 20 degrees C.  The refrigerator was also indicating much colder freezer temperatures than it had been before I moved/isolated the remote sensors so I reset the freezer and fresh food controls to their “normal” center positions.  Tomorrow we will replace the alkaline batteries with the Lithium batteries we bought specifically for the TempMinder thermometer system, reset the min/max data, and monitor it for a few days.

I walked down to see what Phil was doing.  He was making good progress with the French drain but did not have enough of the plastic drain tile to finish it today.  He plans to work tomorrow and will have the additional tile he needs to finish the drain.  I left him to his work and took photos of the fall colors in our yard as I worked my way back to the house.

I spent an hour at my computer dealing with e-mail and transferring photos from the Sony a100 to my laptop.  Linda called me to dinner at 7 PM.  It was a simple meal of vegan Coney dogs with mustard, onion, and beans served open-faced on a whole wheat hotdog bun.  As a side dish Linda steamed Opo squash.  It was the first time either of us had this particular squash.  It was very mild with a hint of cucumber.  It is available all over the world and widely consumed as it is relatively inexpensive.  It was OK, but I thought it might work better as an ingredient rather than a stand-alone side dish.

I exchanged a couple of text messages with Chuck and confirmed that we would be at his shop tomorrow after breakfast to retrieve our two bus windshields.  The rest of the evening was spent in the living room by the fireplace reading and writing on our iPads before turning in and watching episodes of Rick Steeves’ Europe and Joseph Rezendo’s Travelscope on Detroit PBS (WTVS).

 

2015/10/14 (W) Frankenmuth Friends

The forecast for today was for cloudy conditions in the morning changing to partly sunny in the afternoon with seasonally cool temperatures; a perfect fall day for our afternoon visit with Bill, Karen, Mike, and Catherine at the Jellystone Park Campground Resort in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

After our usual morning routine of feeding the cats, eating breakfast, and drinking our coffee while reading and writing, we showered and dressed for the day.  We were going to work in the bus on the installation of the desk but decided we did not have enough time and did not want to feel rushed.  We want the installation to be just right the first/only time.

I used some of the morning to continue studying the manual for the new Sony a99v DSLT camera and some of it to put the finishing touches on the FMCA Freethinkers chapter roster and e-mail it to the other officers and members of the nominating committee.  I also got a text message from Chuck inquiring about local service options for the Cruise-Air air-conditioners we have in our buses.  I replied that ours have only been serviced by Butch Williams who is five hours away in Twelve Mile, Indiana when he and Fonda are not in the desert southwest.

We left at 11:15 for Frankenmuth.  We took Linda’s car so she drove.  We stopped at the new Meijer’s in Birch Run for bottled water, grapes, and pretzels.  M-83 was down to one lane and we had a bit of a wait at the temporary traffic signal.  I called Bill to let him know we were there and he was waiting for us out by the road when we arrived at the park at 12:15 PM.

Bill and Karen Gerrie’s 1965 GMC transit bus conversion.  They estimate that it will turn 1,000,000 miles in 2015.

Bill and Karen Gerrie’s 1965 GMC transit bus conversion. They estimate that it will turn 1,000,000 miles in 2015.

Karen had found peanut butter pretzels and had a nice platter of fresh fruit that included sliced kiwi, strawberries, orange segments, and grapes.  She made tea for both of us and we settled in to chat.  Bill and I took up stations at the dinette while Linda and Karen sat on the “Chesterfield.”  We chatted away until 2:30 PM, and somewhere in there Karen made cups of hot coffee.  It was a cool day outside but warm and cozy in their rig.  Bill and Karen have a mid-60s GM transit bus that they acquired and converted in the mid-80s.  They have been coming to the Frankenmuth Jellystone Park from their home in Ontario, Canada for as long as they have had the bus.  It is 50 years old this year and Bill figures it has traveled a million miles between its commercial service and life as a motorhome.  Bill did a nice job with the conversion and it has held up very well over the years

The River Place shopping complex in Frankenmuth, Michigan.  It’s built to look like a small Bavarian village center.

The River Place shopping complex in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It’s built to look like a small Bavarian village center.

At 2:30 PM we drove over to the River Place outdoor mall and walked around”.  River Place is one of the newer developments in Frankenmuth but stayed with the “fantasy Bavarian village” theme of the town in a really nice way.  It is compact complex of buildings arranged with narrow, winding pedestrian corridors that occasionally open up into small plazas.  The façades are all faux Bavarian with the appearance of being two or three stories tall, increasing the sense of being “in” the village.

After checking out River Place, and buying a small bag of jalapeño flavored popcorn, we ambled all the way to the other end of the Main Street shopping district and back.  Along the way we stopped in lots of stores and bought a few things at the health food store that we cannot usually find locally.  The light was wonderful and I captured a few images with my old Sony a100.  I did not bring the new Sony a99v as I was not ready to use it.

This paddleboat travels a short ways up the river and back.  The cascading waterfall is man-made.  The covered bridge in the background handle automobile traffic going to the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn on the other side of the river from Main Street.

This paddleboat travels a short ways up the river and back. The cascading waterfall is man-made. The covered bridge in the background handle automobile traffic going to the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn on the other side of the river from Main Street.

We got back to Bill and Karen’s bus at 5:15 PM and sat for a while before going to dinner at 6 PM.  Mike and Catherine joined us for dinner and we walked next door to the Black Forest restaurant.  Our dinner choices were very limited but they had a flatbread pizza on the menu so we tried that with mushrooms and onions, hold the cheese.  The tomato sauce was surprisingly spicy and it made for a decent vegan pizza.  Our side salads were simple but the ingredients were fresh and the whole meal was quite acceptable, made better by the company of friends.

By the time we walked back to Jellystone Park it was 8 PM.  We visited with Bill and Karen until 9 PM and then took our leave.  We probably won’t see them again until the 2016 GLAMARAMA Rally in Goshen, Indiana.  We stopped at the Meijer’s in Birch Run to fill the fuel tank and were still home by 10 PM.  Although I would normally handle night driving I was sleepy so Linda drove us home.

 

 

Bill and Karen pose for their “dancing Bavarians” photo op.

Bill and Karen pose for their “dancing Bavarians” photo op.

When we entered the house we were not greeted by our two cats.  We called but they did not come.  This is unusual behavior for them and usually means they are up to something, with the odds highly in favor of something having to do with a mouse.  We found Juniper in the basement “guarding” the folded up corner of one of the throw rugs and I spotted a small, motionless mouse partially concealed by the rug.  It was dead, which is why she wasn’t carrying it around in her mouth playing keep-away with me.  Linda got a small plastic zip lock sandwich bag and I used it to pick up the mouse and seal it inside before putting it in the garbage.

Jasper was nowhere to be found.  In looking around the basement a second time Linda noticed that one of the boxes we keep on the window sills behind the sofa in the recreation room had fallen on the couch.  That was a sure sign that Jasper was up in the suspended ceiling.  He has gotten up there before via that window sill and the boxes were there to keep him from gaining access to that space.  Apparently they were not the deterrent we thought/hoped they were.  We called for him and eventually he responded verbally.  He then stuck his head around the edge of the ceiling and looked at us upside down.  He eventually decided it was safe to come down but seemed unsure of how to accomplish that.  I moved the other box on that window sill, stepped up onto the arm if the sofa, and helped him down onto the sill, into my arms, and then onto the sofa.  In some was he is just a big baby.

We had no way of determining whether he stayed up there because he wanted to or because he wasn’t sure how to get down but regardless was rather insistent on getting attention from us.  That desire for contact and comfort followed us into bed until he finally gave himself a bath and then curled up next to me to go to sleep.  I worked on this post for a while and then turned the lights out.