Category Archives: Florida

Posts related to our travels in Florida.

2016/04/11–15 (M–F) Water Pumps on the Road Again

2016/04/11 (M) Parts Run

I was up at 7:30 AM, so I slept over seven hours last night, and felt like I had slept well enough to take on the day I had ahead of me.  I fed the cars, put fresh water in their bowl, and cleaned their litter tray.  I also cleaned part of the shower as one of them has developed loose stools in the last couple of days and has not always made it to the tray in time.  I moved the SunPass transponder, Garmin GPS, and my sunglasses to the car in preparation for my trip today.  By the time I had done all those chores Linda was up and both used our iPads for a while.  I was not going to make coffee this morning since I had a long drive ahead of me sometime today, but Linda wanted some so I made it and had some myself.  We eventually had bagels for breakfast.

I called Action Mobile around 9 AM and talked to Service Manager John Provo.  He expected my three brake calipers to be delivered between 10 AM and noon but that was just a guess on his part.  Rather than make an issue of getting a more accurate ETA I decided I would leave at 10 AM for the two hour drive from Williston to Orlando.  I went out after breakfast and unloaded most of the stuff in the back of the car and stored it on the picnic table.  I then walked to the resort office to let them know we were expecting a package from Amazon today.

Just before 10 AM I wrote out a short grocery list as I planned to stop on my way back from Orlando at The Publix supermarket on US-27 by the Ocala exit (#354) of I-75.  I took my iPad in case I needed to kill some time at Action Mobile, and actually left a little after 10 AM.

The trip down was smooth, with no traffic issues, and it was uneventful except for a text message from my sister asking me to call our broker and transfer funds for our dad.  Based on when I received it the best I could do was pull into one the Florida Turnpike Service Areas closest to Orlando’s northwest corner and call the brokerage.  The person I needed to speak to (Maggie) was on another call and I did not want to deal with a return call while driving so I left a message that I would call again when I got to my destination, which was still 20 minutes away barring any unforeseen traffic problems.

Traffic was thicker and a little slower as I neared Orlando but it moved along well enough and I reached Action Mobile just after noon.  I called Maggie again and got her this time as she is in the Central Time Zone.  Maggie is our broker’s office manager and is also a registered agent.  We have an extremely good relationship with her and our broker, John, so we chatted briefly before I gave her the transaction details.  I then texted my sister back to let her know I had taken care of her request.

I went inside and found John P. (the Service Manager).  The parts were not there yet so he called Rex at Rush Trucking to check on them.  Rex said they should have been there and made a call.  Not too long after that a white can showed up and the driver unloaded three Meritor boxes of the right size, shape, and apparent weight, and took off.

It occurred to me that I should check the parts before paying the balance and taking off myself so I opened all three boxes.  I was expecting one of the castings to have an “L” in the casting number and the other two to have an “R” in the casting number, but all three had “L”s and that caused me some concern.  I also noticed that one of the calipers had both grease fittings broken.  John P. called Rex back and Rex explained the Left and Right calipers used the same (“L”) casting.  The difference was in the helical drive shaft and gear inside, and difference was reflected in the part number on the box label.  The left side caliper part number began with “A 1” while the right side caliper began with “A 2.”   (The shaft for the calipers on the left side of the bus rotate clockwise, as viewed from the end where the slack adjuster attaches, while the calipers for the right side rotate counterclockwise.)

Rather than have Action Mobile remove and replace the damaged grease fittings Rex had a different left caliper sent over as he did not want to risk a small piece of debris falling inside the mechanism.  When the driver dropped it off I checked the label and the grease fittings.  There were OK, so he put the damaged one in his van and left.

While I was waiting I called Butch and gave him the information on how the left and right calipers were labeled.  He is working with someone at ABC Bus in Muncie, Indiana, who is working with someone at Rockwell-Meritor, who says we can still get these parts with a 45 to 60 day lead time.  I’m guessing that these are also rebuilt/remanufactured calipers, not new ones, but at this point in time we don’t really know.  He was quoted a price that was $200 less per caliper than I paid, but I have mine now, not two months from now; if in fact I could get them.

Bill, the mechanic who fixed our left tag axle brake last week, was taking his lunch break so we got to chat a bit.  John D. (the owner) was also around so we also got to chat for a little while.  I was running behind the schedule I had hoped to keep, so I loaded the three boxes into my car and went inside to pay the balance of the bill.  A quick chat with the billing clerk, Lisa, and I was on my way back to Williston.  It was 1:30 PM and I figured I would be back by 4 PM, including my stop at Publix.

I stopped at the Florida’s Turnpike Turkey Lake Service Area for some lunch but just ended up getting a frozen coffee thing at Dunkin Donuts.  Traffic moved along nicely all the way onto northbound I-75.  I had just passed exit 341 and was just 13 miles short of exit 354, when traffic came to a complete standstill.  The backup stretched as far as I could see in front of me and the flurry of emergency response vehicles driving up both shoulders meant there had been a serious accident somewhere up ahead.

It took at least an hour to reach the accident scene, where police had closed all three lanes of the highway.  All of that of traffic, which included two lanes of nose-to-tail tractor-trailers, had to funnel onto the right shoulder to get around the blockage.  The accident looked really bad and appeared to have involved at least a motorcycle, a large Suburban-like vehicle, and a utility trailer.  There may have been other vehicles involved that I did not see as I drove past or that had already been moved, although I doubted that.  There was no sign of the people involved and I presume they had already been transported from the scene by ambulances or helicopters.

Once I was past the accident I had clear sailing the rest of the way, but from the accident scene north the southbound lanes of I-75 were also completely stopped.  There were also emergency vehicles on the southbound side of the highway, but it did not appear that any of the accident was over there.  I exited I-75 at exit 354 (Ocala, Williston), made a left onto US-27, and pulled into the strip mall on the right where the Publix supermarket is located.

I took my short list of grocery items and went in.  In an unusual move for me I found everything on my list except for one item and did not buy anything that wasn’t on my list.  The only thing I could not get was fresh blueberries, which is odd because just today I had seen billboards advertising the Florida Blueberry Festival as running from April 11 – 16 in a town nearby.  Maybe all of the available blueberries were being routed to the festival?

I was back at our rig around 5:10 PM.  After getting the groceries inside, I turned my attention to reloading the car.  My first task was to transfer the new (to me) A1/Left caliper to the box the DS tag axle caliper came in last week as the box the new caliper came in was in very bad condition.  Linda found our roll of bubble wrap under the bed and I used pieces to protect the grease fittings on the top of each of the three new (to me) calipers.  (I say “new (to me)” because I believe the four calipers I have purchased are all rebuilt, and possibly even remanufactured.)

With that taken care of, I moved a couple of low boxes from the picnic table to the car and put them on the floor behind the two calipers that were behind the driver’s seat.  I then moved the tire covers from the front passenger seat and put them on top of the boxes.  The covers are a soft nylon mesh material which I figured would provide additional protection for the grease fittings.

We disassembled the damaged box to get flat cardboard pieces to use as a cushioning layer on top of the two caliper boxes that I had put inside the wooden storage structure.  The reason for all of this was that I had to store other boxes on top of the caliper boxes and, having received one that had damaged grease fittings, wanted to make sure I was not responsible for causing similar damage.  I had already taken the precaution yesterday of moving heavier items to the front bay of the bus, leaving lighter items for the car.

With the car repacked I opened the box from Amazon, which Linda said arrived around 10:30 AM, to verify that it was the correct Shur-Flo 4048 fresh water pump.  It was the correct box so I left it at that and we went for a long, slow walk around the resort.  When we concluded our walk we sat outside for a while and doodled on our iPads.  John and Ali returned around 6:30 PM.  As we suspected, they had gone out to dinner.  We presumed they had gone to The Blue Highway, but they had gone to The Olive Garden in Gainesville instead.

For dinner Linda made sandwiches with vegan deli slices and lots of greens, kind of like a salad on a bun, and sliced up a Honey Crisp apple.  It was a simple, easy meal, but it was all good.  As the hour approached 8 PM and the light faded we went next door to visit with John and Ali.  Earlier in the day John had taken one of his propane tanks over to be refilled but the person responsible for that task had not taken care of it.  When he tried to light the propane firepit it would not ignite.  We could smell the gas, and hear the spark, but if the tank was near empty it probably did not have enough pressure to make it work.  No problem; the conversation, if not the “mood,” was just as good without the fire.

It was a warm, still evening and there were more bugs out than the last few nights.  Everyone was tired by 10 PM and we all retired to our own rigs.  We watched the end of NCIS-LA and the beginning of the news and then went to bed.  I watched the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to see Steve Martin and Edie Brickel, and then went to sleep.  Although I had not really done very much it had been another long, and somewhat stressful, day.

2016/04/12 (T) Water Pump Up

I got up at 7:30 AM and quietly took care of the cats’ food, water, and litter tray.  I measured out the beans for our morning coffee but waited to grind them until Linda was up.  I updated my spreadsheet for GLCC parking at the upcoming FMCA GLAMARAMA16 rally in June and then continued working on my blog post for yesterday.  When Linda got up at 8 AM I finished making the coffee.  We then spent a couple of hours engaged in our usual morning routine of using our iPads while enjoying our coffee and having granola with fresh strawberries for breakfast.

By 10 AM we were dressed and I got to work replacing the fresh water pump.  The pump is a Shur-Flo 4048-153-E75.  It is a 4 GPM (max), 55 PSI (max), self-priming, 12 VDC pump with thermal overload protection and the ability to run dry without damage (although our friends, Butch and Fonda, discovered that it cannot do this for an extended period of time).  Shurflo also makes this pump in 24 VDC and 120 VAC versions.  I am seriously considering adding a 120 VAC pump to the water system when I redo the utility bay, but I would like something a bit more robust.  I seem to recall that Chuck has a Paragon AC powered pump in their Liberty conversion and it impressed me as a very serious piece of equipment.

Since the new water pump was an exact replacement for the failed one installation was very straightforward.  I shut off the incoming fresh water line as a precaution and had Linda make sure the pump power was switched off.  I then disconnected the two power leads which I had wired using mating insulated spade connectors.  There are two fresh water supply lines, each of which gas a 1/4 turn shutoff valve, so I closed those.  (The conversion had two domestic water pumps plumbed in parallel when we first bought it.  I replaced them with a single 4048 and removed the surge tank at that time as Shur-Flo recommended not using one with the 4048 pump.)  The threaded water line connections to the pump are plastic and only hand tightened, so were dealt with easily.  Before removing them I got a towel to absorb the water that was inevitably going to drain out of the lines.  Once the lines were off I removed the four screws that secured the unit to the floor through the rubber shock mounts.  The unit was now completely disconnected and I was able to remove it.

The new and old water pumps along with tool boxes and other stuff needed to make the repair.

Installing the new unit was basically a matter of reversing the steps just described, more or less.  I  needed to attach the proper insulated spade connectors to the power wires on the new pump.  I found my spade lug kit and even though I had a variety of connectors I did not have the ones I needed.  Fortunately there is a NAPA Auto Parts Store very close to Williston Crossings RV Resort and auto parts stores are an excellent place to find a large variety of spade connectors.  It’s walking distance to the store, but I drove there to save time.  I bought several different packs to make sure I had what I needed.

Back at the bus I prepared the power leads and set the new unit in place.  I connected the water lines first as it was easier with the unit loose.  I connected the power leads and then screwed the unit to the floor.  The new pump came with a strainer and adapter fittings.  I used the new strainer bowl to replace the old one, in which I found little curly queues of plastic.  I opened the two shutoff valves and then had Linda turn on the power to the pump and open the kitchen faucet so that both the hot and cold lines were open.  The unit came to life and water flowed, albeit with a sputter until all of the air was out of the lines.  With that, the water pump problem was fixed and I cleaned up the work area and put my tools away.

Next on my task list was checking tire pressures.  I really did not want to check all 12 tires with the digital gauge so I turned on the TireTraker TT-400 TPMS and waited 20 minutes for the readings to update.  Although the sensors are not “dead on” accurate they are close enough to let me know if a tire has lost enough air to require topping up.  They all appeared to be OK so I did not have to get out the air-compressor and air hose.

Barring any further unforeseen circumstances this was our last planned night in Florida for the 2015-16 winter season.  We wanted to go to Satchel’s in Gainesville for pizza one last time.  We decided to have an early dinner and take care of a couple of errands so we left at 2 PM.  Our first stop was at the Kangaroo filling station for gasoline.  Our next stop was Pet Supplies Plus in the Archer Road mega strip mall shopping complex.  We also stopped at the CVS pharmacy in the same complex and then drove to Satchel’s on the east side of town.

Although it was a lovely afternoon, weather wise, we chose to sit inside.  At Satchel’s we had our usual meal; an excellent salad and a pizza with mushroom, onion, sun-dried tomato, and Daiya non-dairy cheese.  It is, quite simply, one of the three or four best pizzas we have ever had, and it is vegan!  We got their largest pie and brought most of it home.

When we got back to Williston Crossings John and Ali were not around and we figured they had gone out to dinner again.  Happy hour usually takes place at Jeff and Kathy’s 5th wheel so we walked down there to visit for a while.  John and Ali eventually returned and as evening fell over the resort we went next door to sit around their propane campfire and visit.  Smitty made a large bowl of popcorn popped in peanut oil and lightly salted with Hawaiian sea salt.  Yum. Note for T 20160412 blog post.  Jim and Janet Rawley came over to John and Ali’s site to visit and John played his guitar and sang for a while.  Jim’s professional name is “Sonny Fox” and he was a big time rock ‘n roll D. J. during the ear when radio stations started playing “album rock.”  Jim quizzed me about my musical background and the first record (45 or LP) that I bought but I had no recollection of that.

We returned to our rig just before 10 PM and were in bed, with the lights out, by 10:30 as we planned to pull out of our site around 7 AM in the morning.  Tomorrow we head north and leave Florida.

2016/04/13 (W) Unbalanced Travel

I set an alarm for 6:20 AM and we got up at 6:30 and got dressed.  Today was a travel day so we did not have coffee or breakfast.  While we prepared the interior of the coach for travel I encountered a problem with the 12 VDC charging plug for the Rand McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS unit.  A small threaded plastic insert, which holds the spring-loaded +12V center contact, had broken and could not be repaired on short notice (if at all).  The two lower 12 VDC “cigarette lighter” outlets were dead again and it occurred to me that the failed plug might have been responsible for shorting the outlet and blowing the supply fuse last Wednesday.  Not realizing this at the time, and desperate to get the GPS back into service, I vaguely recall having plugged it into one of the upper outlets and probably shorted it out too.  I replaced all of the blown fuses last Wednesday but did not realize at that time what the root cause was and was rather perplexed by the failure, which reoccurred on the lower pair of outlets.

I removed the R-M GPS from its usual mounting position (on the driver side lower windshield next to the center pillar and resting on the top of the dashboard cover) and set it aside and I installed the Garmin 465T GPS unit in its place.  I took care of the remaining outside tasks of disconnecting/storing the shorepower cord, connecting the chassis batteries, and opening the auxiliary air supply valve for the engine accessories.  Linda moved the car to another site so it was out of the way as I started the bus motor and aired up the chassis (brakes and suspension).  She then spotted for clearance from obstructions as I slowly and carefully pulled out of our site.

We wanted to be on the road at 7 AM but it was about 10 minutes past the hour when I finally pulled out of the site.  Our friend and neighbor, John (Smitty) Smith, was up and outside to wave goodbye, which was nice.  I proceeded north through the resort on Covered Bridge Road and Linda followed in the car.  We drove through the covered bridge, for which the road is named, and stopped just short of the north bath/laundry building to hook up the car for towing.  There are no park model trailers or RV sites close to this location, so we knew we could hookup here without bothering anyone.  With the car attached we double checked the settings and then did our light check.  Everything was OK so Linda got into the coach and we set our destination in the Garmin GPS unit.

We finished our slow roll through the RV resort, out the back/northwest gate, and pulled out onto FL-121 headed northeast towards Gainesville.  About two miles from I-75 we encountered stop-n-go traffic.  The morning rush hour in Gainesville was underway and was something we had not previously experienced.

Linda kept a close eye on our tire pressures and temperatures, especially the driver side tag axle, as we rolled along.  We stopped at the Pilot station at Exit 460 and took on 60 gallons of diesel fuel.  That was our last stop until we got to the end of our trip for the day.  I would have liked to note here that the trip was uneventful but, alas, that was not the case.

The drive up I-75 through northern Florida and southern Georgia is generally an easy one, without any serious grades to climb or descend, attractive enough scenery, and reasonable traffic volumes except during the April 1st northward snowboard migration.  As we got to the Macon, Georgia area and then on up to Atlanta, traffic was heavier but moved along.  Somewhere along the way the Battery Balance (BAL) light came on, flickering at first but then staying on.  Not good.

The Battery Balance light is controlled by a Vanner Battery Monitor Module and is supposed to indicate that the “12V” center tap on the battery bank is not within +/- 0.75 VDC of 1/2 of the voltage between the “24V” terminal and ground.  The relationship of these voltages is supposed to be regulated by a pair of Vanner Voltmaster Battery Equalizers.  It is normal for this light to come on occasionally, especially when starting the motor, but it is not normal for it to come on and stay on.  Assuming the monitor module is not defective, it means the 12V center tap is out of tolerance with respect to the 24V terminal and implies that the Vanner equalizers are not doing their job.  Ugh.

Having the yellow Battery Balance (caution) light come on immediately added stress to the trip but when the red Hi/Low Battery (warning) light came on the stress level went way up.  This light is also controlled by the Vanner Battery Monitor Module and is (supposed to be) activated if the voltage at the “24V” terminal (relative to ground) is less than 24V or more than 30V.  Voltages outside the 24 – 30 VDC range could indicate a malfunction of the voltage regulator and/or engine-mounted alternator.  Either one would be a problem that could put the bus on the side of the road as the engine is controlled by a computer that is powered by the chassis battery 12 V center tap.

The normal full-charge resting voltage of a “24V” lead-acid battery is 25.2 VDC (12 cells in series at 2.1 volts per cell) and the normal voltage at the 24V terminal with the motor running is around 28 VDC, so the 24 – 30 VDC range is a reasonable one. I also have 24V and 12V analog battery voltage gauges in the dashboard that are connected to the batteries independent of the Vanner Battery Voltage Monitor Module.  While they would also show high or low voltage conditions, and, by comparison, a battery imbalance condition, it is appropriate to have warning lights to get your immediate attention as you might not notice the gauges for a while.  What was odd about this situation was that the 24V gauge was sitting at about the 29V position and the 12V gauge was sitting at about the 14V position.  I knew these gauges worked because they do not always show these readings, but I did not know if the readings were accurate.  They are, however, close to what I normally see, and they do not usually result in caution or warning lights.

We left I-75 (GA) at exit 296, Cassville-White Road, drove 0.2 miles east to the Pilot truck stop, and got in a long to wait for a pump.  When it was finally our turn I added 92 gallons of diesel fuel.  From the truck stop we drove west back towards I-75 and continued 0.5 miles on the other side of the highway before turning left into the Cartersville Castle-White KOA.  Linda was hearing and speaking well enough by now to be able to register us, which is normally her job.  We were escorted to a water/electric pull-through site in the center of the park with less than ideal access but I was able to get in and park the bus.  We leveled as best we could, shut off the engine, batteries, and air and then plugged in the shorepower and turned it on.

Linda made a really good salad for dinner and we each had a piece of leftover pizza, slightly warmed.  Yum.  After dinner I made calls to Joe Cannarozzi, Ed Roelle, and Butch Williams and sent a text to Pat and Vickie Lintner.  Joe was working on a coach in Williamston, Michigan and was looking for a local facility that could service the over-the-road air-conditioning system.  Ed has been around converted buses in Michigan for a long time so I contacted him to see if he had any suggestions for Joe.  We went for a long walk around the campground during which I had a long chat with my sister.  When we got back to our coach I exchanged text messages with Smitty back at Willison Crossings RV Resort.

Our TV options were limited but we were able to get PBS, so we watched whatever was on.  We planned to pullout out of our site at 7 AM, which meant we had to be up around 6:15.  Not that we have that much to do, but we do not like to rush through our morning routine.  We were in bed with the lights out by 11 PM.

2016/04/14 (R) A Relatively Smooth Run

There was a possibility of rain last night so we closed all of the roof vents and narrowed the window openings before we went to bed.  I set the alarm on my phone last night for 6:15 AM this morning, but I was aware of the rain, and woke up around 4 AM when I heard one of the cats making a strange noise.  I wanted to turn on the electric engine block heater anyway so I got up and did that, checked on the cats (they were fine), and went back to bed.  I tried to go back to sleep without complete success.

We finally got up to stay at 6:30 AM and got dressed.  I had an e-mail from Gary at BCM that needed a reply and cc:d Dave Aungier.  I also texted Dave as he was who Gary needed to contact.  I shut down all of the technology and packed up my computer while Linda cleaned off counters and secured windows.  The car was already connected for towing so we just had to go through the towing procedure and double check it.  I disconnected and stowed the shorepower cable, connected the chassis batteries, and opened the air valves in the engine bay.  I started the engine and we did the light check while the chassis aired up.  Since it was 7 AM we tried to avoid idling any longer than necessary before pulling out.

We were in an angled water/electric site in the middle of the campground with fairly tight ingress and egress.  I raised the tag axle so shorten the turning radius and pulled out while Linda kept an eye on the driver side front corner.  I had to get the driver side nose of our coach fairly close the passenger side rear corner of the 5th wheel trailer directly in front of our site in order to get our passenger side rear end and toad to clear a tree on our site and a post near the road on the next site to our passenger side.  I also had to avoid the rear end of the next 5th wheel trailer and the picnic table in-between them.  Fun.

Without being over-confident, I think I have gotten a lot better at maneuvering the bus in tight situations.  That skill has come with some good teaching, some practice, and at the expense of two mistakes that caused some damage, but it certainly paid off this morning.  Once I was cleanly out of our site and into the road I stopped and put the tag axle down.  Linda got on board and we rolled slowly out of the center of the campground and headed for the exit.  We stopped before exiting so Linda could find Juniper.  We knew she was onboard, but we wanted visual confirmation before pulling out.  Linda found her under one of the living room captain’s chairs, and we were on our way.

We recharged the Rand-McNally GPS last night using a 12 V car outlet splitter with USB ports and a compatible USB cable that I borrowed from the Sony a99v DSLT camera.  Linda turned it on and entered the address of today’s destination to verify that the unit was working.  It was, so I set it up on the dashboard by the windshield center pillar so it was ready to go this morning.

Our route took us north on the final 70 miles of I-75 in Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee where we headed northwest on I-24.  I-24 was mostly in Tennessee, but dipped back into Georgia briefly as it swung around the southern side of a mountain.  Unless you head far to the west on I-10 before turning north, there isn’t a practical way to get back to Michigan from Florida without crossing mountains.

As you head north from Florida on I-75 the ground rises steadily.  As you approach Atlanta it starts to get hilly, and that continues north of town all the way to Tennessee.  As soon as you head west on I-24 you are perpendicular to mountain ridges running SW to NE.  The highway winds around these ranges, sticking to valleys as much as possible, but inevitably there comes a point where it simply has to go over the top.  And so it did.  I think the grade was at least five miles long, perhaps seven, with lots of turns but nothing I would call a switchback.  The road surface was excellent with wide lanes and truck lanes.  The grade was just steep enough that I had to climb it in 4th gear doing around 50 MPH at 2000 RPM with 14 to 15 PSI of turbo boost.  With cool outside air the engine coolant temperature never rose above 195 degrees F, which is its normal operating temperature (on the gauge) and I was very pleased with the way the bus ran.  Replacing the turbo boost sensor tube last year was no doubt partly responsible for this performance.

The temperature was in the low 50’s when we left the Cartersville Castle-White KOA around 7:15 AM and we ran through cool temperatures under overcast skies, with intermittent drizzle and fog, all the way over the mountains in southwest Tennessee.  Once we were on the northwest side of the mountains the cloud cover started to break up and reveal patches of blue sky.  Somewhere southeast of Nashville we encountered our last raindrops and by the time we merged onto northbound I-65 we had clear, blue skies.  Traveling “north” from late morning to early afternoon we had the sun at our backs, making for a comfortable cockpit without using the air-conditioning.

I was concerned about the issue we had yesterday with the Battery Balance (BAL) telltale caution light and the Hi/Low Battery (Voltage) telltale warning light and presumed it would reoccur today.  In order to reduce the chance of that happening again today I tried to minimize the power draw from the +12 VDC center tap of the chassis batteries and perhaps cause an imbalance between the upper and lower halves of the battery bank.   To that end I did not use the cockpit HVAC fan and kept the headlights off as much as possible.

We had a pretty smooth run all the way to and through Nashville.  Pat and Vickie had alerted us to “construction on I-65” but were not more specific.  North of Nashville we encountered a major construction project that lasted for at least 20 miles.  Traffic flow, however, was very smooth if a bit slower than normal posted speeds.  As we approached Louisville we saw signs announcing major construction ahead and advising I-283W as an alternate route.  We were less than 15 miles from our destination and needed to take the second exit just after the bridge so we rejected the alternate route suggestion and stayed on I-65.  The construction was, indeed, major—the reconstruction of a bridge over the Ohio River—but we made it through without having to stop.  The campground website had very specific and detailed directions on how to exit I-65 and we followed them instead of the GPS.  We were momentarily confused after exiting, never a good thing when driving a bus in an urban area, but we were in the right place and made the last couple of turns to get to the Clarksville KOA campground without difficulty.

Linda checked in at the office and the woman at the desk lead us to a pull-through site that was very easy to get into but might be challenging to exit in the morning.  We were sitting level without having to adjust anything so I shut off the engine and we went through our usual arrival routines.  Linda then walked over to the office and finished registering us.

We walked the park, which was not large, and scoped out our departure route and any possible problems.  The sites here are closely spaced, the roads are a little narrow, and some campers are parked with their vehicles sticking part way out into the road.  Some of the people camped here appeared to be younger men who were itinerant workers.  As such, we suspected they might be gone in their cars before we pulled out in the morning.  If so, we will probably get out OK without having to unhook the car, but I doubt that we will ever return here.  While the location is convenient to I-65 and Louisville, the park itself is not worth the $50 a night they charge.  If not for the location, it wouldn’t be worth half of that.

We did not plan to unhook the car to explore the area and there did not appear to be anywhere to walk although Vickie had texted us that we were only a half mile from the river and there was, in fact, a nice walk down to there.  Even so, we were tired and perfectly content to retire to our coach, have dinner, and watch our favorite Thursday evening CBS comedy shows.  We went to bed at 11 PM as we planned to be on the road at 7 AM so we could be at Butch and Fonda’s home in Twelve Mile, Indiana before noon.

2016/04/15 (F) Back In Twelve Mile Again

I set the alarm on my smartphone last night for 6:30 AM this morning.  Like last night, I woke up around 4 AM, turned on the engine block heater (electrical), and tried to go back to sleep.  I was awake again before 6:30 and the alarm was just my signal to actually get out of bed and get dressed.  Linda woke up with the alarm and was also up and dressed fairly quickly.

As usual for a travel day, we did not make coffee or have breakfast and instead set about preparing the coach for travel.  I had turned off my computer last night so all I had to do was pack it up.   We also left the car and bus connected together, so all we had do was check the connections and go through the towing procedure.  I turned the block heater and Aqua-Hot electric heating element off, disconnected the shorepower cord and stowed it, opened the auxiliary air supply valves, and started the main engine.  We did a light check while the chassis aired up and then Linda climbed aboard.

I was concerned about getting our rig out of the small, tight site and through the narrow interior gravel roads of the campground, but our neighbor’s to the left moved their truck before they went to bed last night and the guy directly in front of us on the other side of the street left in his car just before 7 AM, presumably to go to work.  That meant I had plenty of space to pull forward and to turn to the left, which is the direction the site was angled.  By 7:25 AM we were exiting the park and on our way to Twelve Mile, Indiana.

Although we had less than 200 miles to travel today, I-65 continued to be one long construction zone with lots of very rough surfaces which made for more difficult and tiring driving.  In-between Clarksville and Twelve Mile was Indianapolis, so that meant major urban traffic.  “Indy” is a major shipping hub with a good, but extensive highway system.  I-465 circles the metro area while I-65, I-69, I-70, and I-74 all tie into it, along with several U.S. highways.  The speed limit is 55 MPH and most drivers seemed to obey it, which made for easier urban driving, but there was still a LOT of traffic.

As we got on the north side of town headed west we were looking to exit onto US-31 north.  The GPS told me to exit at Keystone Avenue and turn right onto the relatively new Keystone Parkway, which bypasses the initial stretch of US-31 before joining it some miles farther north.  Fortunately I spotted a sign before exiting the highway that said vehicles over 19,000 pounds GVW were not allowed on the Parkway.  Also fortunate was that I knew the exit for US-31 was only a couple of more miles ahead and was a perfectly acceptable place for us to get off of I-465.  I had not been this way in a while and discovered, to our pleasant surprise, that it is a completely new, limited-access highway heading northbound.  Sweet.

We handled the situation smoothly and without too much consternation, but it was concerning that our GPS tried to direct us onto a road for which we were too heavy by more than double.  That had us wondering if the RV characteristics parameters were not set correctly, and perhaps got reset when I updated the unit while we were at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort, but now was not the time to check all of that.  This is a relatively recently rebuilt roadway, and it was been my experience with both GPS units that the map updates do not include these newer roads.

Another possibility was that the Indiana Highway Department has not updated the state road database as that is where Rand-McNally (and other mapping companies) get the information for their road maps.  I encountered this a while back when traveling US-24 from Peru, Indiana to Defiance, Ohio.  Even though my GPS database was up to date, it had no knowledge of the new construction between Ft. Wayne, Indiana and Defiance.  The same us still true of the new stretch of US-31 running south from US-20 for many miles even though it has been open for quite a while.  The State highway departments are responsible for updating the database that the GPS/mapping companies use.  If they do not update the database there isn’t much the GPS/mapping companies can do.

Indiana has made major improvements to US-31 over the last 3 to 4 years, building whole new limited access sections.  Besides the section coming south from US-20 and the section going north out of Indianapolis, there is one that now bypasses Kokomo.  The older sections are four lane divided but have grade crossings and occasional traffic signals.  They are posted at 60 MPH and traffic is usually light and moves along well.

All-in-all we had an easy final leg from Indy up to State Road 16 and west into Twelve Mile.  At 11 AM, just 3-1/2 hours after we pulled out of the Clarksville KOA we were back in Twelve Mile again.  We pulled into the gravel driveway for the grain elevator, which is not in use this time of year, to unhook the car.  The driveway is exactly opposite where I park the bus when it is here and positions me to basically back across SR-16 into our spot next to Butch and Fonda’s bus.  Linda spotted for me as I backed across SR-16 and into our spot.  I leveled the coach, shut off the engine, and took care of the exterior arrival tasks while Linda took care of the interior ones.

Butch and Fonda did not come out of the house and we were not sure they were home.  We usually have a very poor Verizon signal when the bus is parked in this spot, and today was no exception, but I was able to get our Verizon Mi-Fi online.  About that time Butch and Fonda came out to check on us and we visited for a while.  We had not knocked on the door because we knew there was a possibility they might not be home when we arrived.

Butch needed to be at a local county fairgrounds at 5 PM to help set up a large room for a hamfest tomorrow.  Fonda was reviewing for the General Class license exam, so Linda studied her Amateur Extra Class flash cards with Fonda while Butch and I went to the do the set up.  The hamfest was an annual joint event put on by four county amateur radio clubs.  After the tables were all set I helped Butch carry in all of the stuff from his truck and arrange it on three adjacent tables.  When we were done, and there was nothing else to do, we returned to Twelve Mile.

It was 6:30 PM by the time we got back and we decided to go out for dinner even though the options for us are very limited.  We drove to Rochester hoping to eat at a Mexican restaurant but it was closed (permanently).  We ended up at Tweedle Dee’s instead, mostly because they have a salad bar.  We were the last diners to leave and only then because they needed to run the vacuum cleaner which cut off any chance of Linda hearing any further conversation.  We stopped at Butch and Fonda’s new (to them) house on IN-25 in Metea but Butch did not have the key with him so we did not get to go inside.

By the time we got back to Twelve Mile we were all tired.  Butch and Fonda had to be up very early to go to the hamfest so they signed their tax returns, got them ready to mail, and brought them to our bus for Linda to mail in the morning.  I planned to go to the hamfest too, but not first thing in the morning.  I also wanted to take our car so I could come back to Twelve Mile before the hamfest ended at 1 PM.

Our series of equipment failures seems to be continuing as I was unable to get the Amped|Wireless SR20000G router/network-extender to recognize any hard wired devices.  I tried plugging in both my computer and our NAS to all five of the ports but none of them responded to either device.  It’s unlikely that the wired networking had failed on both the computer and the NAS so the failure of the SR20000G is the more likely cause.  The SR20000G’s wireless networks are still working but the loss of the wired ports means I cannot access the NAS.  Fortunately we will be home in a few days and I can try to sort this out in the comfort of my office.

Being tired, and with no TV reception, we were in bed by 10:30 PM and I was asleep by 11 with no alarm set for the morning.

 

2016/04/06-10 (W-N) Close Call All’s Well

2016/04/06 (W) Near Disaster

We were up by 7 AM, anticipating our departure from Jetty Park and the Cape Canaveral / Cocoa Beach area of Florida.  Around 9:30 AM we started straightening up the interior of our motorcoach.  At 10:15 I moved the car over by the office and walked back to our site.  Around 10:30 I disconnected the shorepower cord and stored it for travel.  With the chassis batteries connected, and the engine compartment accessory air supply open, the engine started right up.  After the chassis aired up I raised the tag axle and Linda served as spotter while I eased out of site #357.  I thought I might need to back up to get clear of vehicles and trees but I was able to exit the site in one smooth forward motion.  Linda got onboard and we drove clockwise around Red Knot Circle and over to the dump station by the office.  There is a large paved area around the dump station with room to temporarily park the bus, without blocking any of the vehicles parked there, while we connected the car for towing.  We checked the lights, which were OK, and Linda got onboard.  We pulled out of the campground just after 11 AM and once I cleared the turn out of the campground exit I lowered the tag axle.  I felt a sudden jerk but thought the transmission had shifted.

We headed west on George J. King Blvd. and merged onto FL-A1A westbound.  FL-A1A quickly crossed the Banana River, leaving Cape Canaveral for Merritt Island.  We eventually crossed the Indian River and were back on the mainland.  Somewhere along the way FL-A1A became FL-528 which eventually became FL-528 Toll Road.  Linda was keeping tabs on the temperatures and pressures of all the wheels/tires.  The driver side tag seemed to be running consistent with the others and we settled in for our trip.

FL-528 traverses a large swath of undeveloped land with lots of water and birds.  Traffic was light and the driving was easy so it came as quite a jolt when we got a high temperature alarm on the driver side tag axle tire sensor.  The temperature was in the 160’s and climbing and I started looking for a safe place to pull off the road.  Before I could do that I checked the driver side rear view mirror, and saw smoke coming from the tag axle wheel well.  NOT GOOD!  I pulled off at an entrance ramp to get farther away from the traffic lanes.  I told Linda to get our cats into their carriers and grab our computers from the bed in case we had to abandon ship. While she did that I grabbed the fire extinguisher from behind the driver’s seat and ran back to the smoking tag axle.  I discharged the extinguisher through the small holes in the wheel in an attempt to cool off the disc brake caliper and rotor.  I got the wheel to quit smoking and went back inside to get the other fire extinguisher, just in case.

I left the engine running and started trying to figure out what to do.  My first call was to the Prevost Service Center in Jacksonville, Florida.  They could not help me directly, and their mobile service guy was off today, but the service manager gave me the name of someone to call in the Orlando area.  Long-story-short, I ended up getting passed off to a whole string of people, none of whom could help me but each of whom tried to connect me to someone who could.  No one could provide assistance in-situ and most places would not be able to help us for 1 to 2 weeks, if at all.

I talked to a guy in Cocoa, about 20 miles back the wrong way, who sounded like he could help in a week if we could get the bus there.  I eventually talked to our mobile mechanic, Joe Cannarozzi, who was in Michigan working on a coach near Lansing about 30 miles from our house.  I also called the Prevost Action Service System (PASS).  The Jacksonville service manager was not willing to tell me it was OK to lift the tag axle and drive on six tires but the P.A.S.S. technician thought it would OK as long as I did not drive too far and kept my speed down.  I eventually talked to Barry at JOSAM in Orlando, who could not help us directly but seemed genuinely concerned about our situation.  Barry ultimately put me in touch with John at Action Mobile Service on the south side of Orlando.  Both business were located near the intersection of the FL-528 Toll Road and FL-91 (Florida’s Turnpike).  That intersection was about 15 miles from where we were sitting on the side of the road.  The consensus opinion was that I should be able to complete the relatively short trip of 15 miles by lifting the tag axle and limiting my speed.  By the time I pulled back into the flow of traffic we had been on the side of the road for two hours and were more than a little bit rattled and frustrated.

Limiting my speed on a limited access highway posted at 70 MPH was not without its own risks, but it was (apparently) our only alternative unless we wanted to be put on a “low boy” and towed.  The sooner we got off FL-528 and into someone’s service yard the better.  Traffic was now thicker as it was 1:30 PM but I finally had an opening that was long enough to allow me to get up to 45 MPH without cutting someone off and give other vehicles plenty of time and distance to move over and go around me.  I kept my speed at 45 to 50 MPH, except where posted lower in a construction zone, of course, and kept my emergency flashers on the whole way.

We exited FL-528 at Exit 4.  When I started driving I was headed for JOSAM and Barry had given me a ‘heads up’ about how to navigate Exit 4 as this exit serves a dual purpose.  Staying to the right it immediately becomes an entrance ramp to FL-91 (Florida’s Turnpike) whereas staying left and going straight to the stop sign gets you to a side street that leads to FL-441 / Orange Blossom Trail to the right or to JOSAM to the left.  We were nearing Exit 4 when Barry called back and told us to go to Action Mobile Service.  Exit 4 was also the correct exit for Action Mobile but in the opposite direction from JOSAM.  It was at this point that we had a bit of confusion.

We were both already pretty frazzled by the events of the last few hours and the last minute change in directions did not make things better, especially with Linda handling the phone call and unable to hear well.  We had JOSAM’s address programmed into the Rand-McNally TripMaker RVND 7710 GPS, but that was no longer our destination.  Linda tried to enter the address of Action Mobile Service into the unit but it had become non-responsive.  I checked the power adapter and saw that the light was out so I knew the unit was not getting 12 VDC power and the battery had probably run down.  The adapter often works loose so I plugged it back in but it did not restore the power.  The two bottom outlets share a circuit and the two upper outlets share a different circuit so I plugged the adapter into one of the upper outlets.  I quickly determined that all four of the 12 VDC accessory outlets appeared to be dead and told Linda to stop trying to use the GPS.  She put the address in her phone instead but was having trouble with that as well and was slightly disoriented by this point.

I knew we had turn right at the stop sign because Action Mobile was “in the opposite direction from JOSAM.”  I also knew I needed to get onto Orange Blossom Trail, but was unclear as to just where that was or which way we needed to turn when I found it.  As it turned out I could see a street sign that indicated OBT was the cross street at the traffic signal immediately after we turned right at the stop sign.  We were where we needed to be, but now which way to go?  On a hunch, when the light turned green, I turned right and headed south.  Linda got oriented relative to the GPS/mapping information on her phone and eventually confirmed that we were closing the distance between our current location and destination and thus going in the correct direction on the correct road.  I turned left onto the Central Florida Parkway and then a short distance later turned right onto Satellite Blvd.  Action Mobile was the second business on the right but I pulled up along the curb, making sure I did block any driveways, and walked in to confirm that we were in the right place and find out where they wanted me to put the bus.

We were met by the Service Manager, John Provo, who pointed me to an open area where I could back the bus in and be out of the way.  We unhooked the car and Linda drove it into the yard and parked it near where the bus would end up.  I then swung the bus out into the oncoming traffic lane and made a hard right turn through the gate and into the yard.  (The tag axle was already up, of course.)  I pulled forward and then backed in towards the passenger side with Linda spotting for me.  I put the tag axle down so the drive axle would not have to support the entire weight of the rear end and checked for level.  We were level enough for comfort so I did not bother with leveling.  Once we were parked I went in to talk to John (the service manager, the owner’s name is also John).  He and I looked at the driver side tag wheel/tire and I described what had happened.  Other than the yellow powder from the fire extinguisher there was no visible evidence of what had transpired.

Owner John Douglass was outside talking to someone and Linda ended up talking to him.  In the course of their conversation she found out that his parents owned a house on Runnymeade in the same subdivision where we lived for 35 years.  Not only that, they were there when we were, and John lived with them for a while after trade school (diesel mechanics).  He eventually bought the house from them, again, all while we were there but we did not recall ever meeting.  It really is a small world, after all!

John D. (the owner) introduced us to Bill (the mechanic) who would be handling our repair first thing tomorrow morning.  There wasn’t much else to do at that point except to get comfortable, have a late lunch snack, and check in with “Smitty” (John Smith) at Williston Crossings, Pat/Vickie, Butch, and Chuck while Linda updated our children on the status of our situation.

The last employees left around 5 PM and closed/chained the gate.  We had the code for the lock but the lock was on the outside of the fence.  An employee returned around 6 PM so when he left I went out and put the lock on the inside.  It did not occur to me at the time that employees might have to get in at all hours for emergency road service calls, but I was willing to get up and unlock at whatever hour if needed.

It would be a while until our evening TV programs came on, and we still had plenty of daylight, so I got out my multi-meter to try and diagnose what had happened with the power supply to the four 12 VDC accessory outlets I wired up for powering portable accessories in the cockpit.  The 12 VDC distribution/fuse panel seemed like the obvious place to start.

The 12 VDC distribution/fuse panel is above the entry stairs from the cockpit landing up to the main floor.  It’s an enclosure that is installed against the ceiling and is about 10″ high.  It is in-between the TV box (DS) and the front A-C box (PS) and is about 28″ wide.  It has a door that is 7″ tall by 24″ wide and hinged at the top, opening out from the bottom.  When the door is open the actual opening is, of course, a bit smaller.  The hinges on the door do not hold the door open against the ceiling, so one of the challenges working in this space is keeping the door up and out of the way.  When working alone I usually prop it open but with Linda helping me she was able to hold it open with one hand and hold the multi-meter with the other hand while I handled the probes.  The other challenge is that it is above the stairs and just high enough that I cannot reach it easily without standing on a stool, which is what I did while Linda stood with her right foot on the navigator seat and her left foot on the main floor.  It was probably a strange sight if anyone noticed.

Each circuit has have a number tag on the wire where it connects to the fuse block terminal.  We are fortunate that one of the pieces of documentation we got with the coach lists all of these circuits in numerical order with a description of what it feeds.  I recalled (vaguely?) that I had disabled and/removed some devices a while ago and repurposed the circuits to supply power to the auxiliary outlets.  I found the circuit numbers and checked those and they did not have power.  I traced the problem back to a relay that did not seem to be operating correctly.

I carry spare relays and was going to replace it but discovered, after great difficulty removing the relay from its socket, that my spare relays were slightly different (4-pin instead of 5-pin).  I spent some time considering whether I could use a 4-pin relay, or perhaps just install a jumper wire to bypass it, when I realized that there were a few duplicate wire numbers, and that those duplicates were the very numbers with which I was working.  I checked for 12 VDC on those duplicate circuits and guess what?  No voltage there either.  I pulled one of the automotive style blade fuses and it was open.

I got the parts box with the spare fuses from the car and found a correct replacement.    I checked the other two fuses and they were also open.  They were very small, 2 and 3 A respectively, and I replaced them with 5 A fuses.  After reconnecting a wire (that I had already forgotten I disconnected at the beginning of this process) we finally had power restored to all four outlets, which, as I mentioned earlier, get their power from two different circuits, one for the upper pair and a different one for the lower pair.

We spent the night in Action Mobile’s yard.  Located in a light industrial area just off a major commercial thoroughfare, it was certainly not an RV park, but it was fenced, with barbed wire on top, had a locked gate (for which we had the code), and lots of security cameras.  Satellite Blvd. was surprisingly busy for a side street, with lots of trucks of all sizes and some hot rodders with booming car audio systems.  There was a large food processing plant directly across the street that was brightly illuminated and obviously in production 24 hours a day as there were lots of cars/trucks that left around 7 PM and a larger number that showed up at the same time and parked all along the building.

We had been running on inverters all day and I wanted to make sure the batteries were close to fully charged before we went to bed so I turned on the genset around 7 PM while we watched TV and tried to relax.  I used TVFool.com to locate OTA TV transmitter antennas.  Given that we were on the south edge of Orlando the towers were, not surprisingly, in all directions.  Most of the strongest stations, however, were lined up to our northeast so I pointed the front TV antenna in that direction.  We were able to pick up one of the PBS affiliates and watched a fascinating program of the Vikings; their journeys and reach, and the use of satellite imaging technology to identify possible archeological sites in what is now the Canadian Maritimes.

We had to be up at 5 AM so we were dressed and ready to go at 6 AM which is the time I was told Bill would be arriving.  I set two alarms and we went to bed around 11 PM.

2016/04/07 (R) Crisis Averted

It rained overnight and continued, off and on, this morning.  We were up around 5:15 AM, got dressed, and had bagels and orange juice for breakfast but I did not make any coffee.  Bill (our mechanic) was the first to show up at 6:45 AM.  Since the lock was on the inside of the gate I walked over to make sure he could get it open.  Just before 7 AM an ALSCO truck pulled in.  There were two other ALSCO trucks in service bays and the driver walked over there, came back a short time later, and then drove away.  Bill unlocked the office and then settled in at the outside picnic table.  I realized pretty quickly that nothing was going to happen with our bus until John P. (Service Manager) showed up, but that was OK.  It was a great comfort to be off the road in a safe place where we could sit for quite a while if needed and to know that there was a guy who had the skills and resources to fix our bus sitting were I could see him.  We also had a good feeling about John D. (the owner).

At 7:45 AM I received clearance to move the bus to the last service bay (farthest from the street) and by 8 AM had the engine running and the tag axle up.  Action Mobile Service has seven service bays, only one of which (#1) is inside.  The other six are under a large roof with open sides.  (It’s a Florida thing; you won’t see that in Michigan.)  They wanted me to back into the bay so I had to reposition the bus toward the passenger side, swing the nose to the left and into the entrance gate, straighten out, back down to the bay, and then swing the back end in on the passenger side.  Linda spotted for me, as she always does, and Bill signaled the final positioning.

Our coach at Action Mobile Service in Orlando, FL. awaiting the start of the driver side tag axle brake repair.

We were told yesterday that we would not be able to stay in the coach while Bill worked on it, but Bill said we could.  The difference was that because the tag axle can be lifted they did not need to jack up the bus.  That made for a more comfortable day, both for us and for the cats, and allowed us to be more productive than if we had been confined to the customer lounge.  I spent part of the morning in the customer lounge anyway as I was on the phone with Prevost Parts US in Elgin, Illinois.  I spent most of the rest of the day interacting with Bill and the two Johns.  Linda, however, was able to use her computer in the bus and work on tax returns.

The brake was locked up to where Bill could not turn it by hand but he got the caliper off somehow and then removed the hub and rotor.  I am always interested in how these things are done but figured that Bill, who did not know me, did not need me staring over his shoulder while he worked.  When he finally got everything apart he determined that the brake pads and rotor needed to be replaced, as did the wheel bearings, races, and seals.  The major problem, however, was going to be the disc brake caliper.

This is what a Prevost H3-40 tag axle looks like when it is completely disassembled.

Action Mobile called in Rex from Rush Trucking, a huge national trucking company.  Rex had a heavy duty truck parts business at one time but sold it and went to work for Rush.  He had been in the heavy truck industry for over 30 years and had a lot of expertise and contacts.  He looked at the situation and determined the part numbers for all of the parts Bill needed.  A couple of hours later he showed up with everything, including a rebuilt/remanufactured caliper.  The only thing he could not get was a new torque plate (spider).

We could not determine if a new torque plate was needed but it was a possible cause of brake misalignment.  If we were going to replace it, now was the time as it was completely accessible with the brake and axle hub removed.  Gary at Prevost Parts had spent a lot of time with me during the morning and been especially helpful but I ended up talking to Wes to order the spider.  It’s a phone bank and you usually have to take who you get as you cannot dial a specific person.  You can leave a message and request a callback, but that can take a lot longer than waiting on hold for “…the next available representative.”  They had a left hand spider in New Jersey and I ordered it for overnight delivery to Action Mobile.  It is supposed to be here by 10:30 AM tomorrow morning.

Without the spider Bill could not wrap up the job but he was able to spend the afternoon putting new seals and bearings into the axle hub and mounting the rotor to the hub.  Once the spider arrives, and assuming it is the correct part, he figured it would take 90 minutes to put everything back together.

The new rotor mounted on the hub (just behind the red stool, and the new caliper (upper right behind the cardboard box).

John D. (the owner) said we could leave the bus in the bay overnight.  We got to chatting and I gave him a tour of the inside.  He noticed that we were not running a generator and asked if we were on an inverter.  I confirmed that we were and he offered us the use of a 50 Amp RV outlet that was located by the passenger side rear of the service bay.  It turned out that there was also potable water available if we needed it.

I waited until Bill was done working at 3:30 PM, so as not to interfere with his work, and then got out the shorepower cord and plugged it in.  We do OK on the inverter, and can use everything with the genset running, but the coach is definitely most comfortable and useful when plugged in to shorepower, especially “50 Amp” (240/120 VAC) service.  Although it was warm today, the coach was partly shaded by the bay and we decided not to run the air-conditioners.  With the windows and roof vents open, and the exhaust fans on, our small Duracraft portable fan was sufficient to keep Linda comfortable.

By 5 PM everyone was done for the day and left, locking the gates on the way out.  We had the lock code in case we needed to get out, or let emergency services in, but decided when we first arrived that we would not come and go unless absolutely necessary.

I had a lengthy conversation with Chuck about the status of our brake repair and what I was finding out about Prevost and parts availability in the process.  I also texted some part numbers to Butch so he could pursue possible sources in northern Indiana and southern Michigan.  While I took care of those communications, Linda made salads and a potato lentil curry for dinner.  After dinner I talked to Pat and Vickie for a while and then called Butch and had a long chat with him.  Linda was watching (reading, CC)  our Thursday evening CBS TV programs and when I concluded my call with Butch I settled in to watch TV with her and work on my blog posts for the last several days.

2016/04/08 (F) Brake Away to WCRVR

I set alarms last night for 6:45 AM since Bill starts work at 7 AM and I told him yesterday we would be up and dressed by then and to not hesitate to work in/around our coach.  I made a small pot of coffee and we had orange juice and bagels for breakfast which was made easier by the 50A RV electrical service that John D. had offered us late yesterday.  There wasn’t much of anything Bill could do on our coach until the torque plate (disc brake caliper mounting spider) showed up.  Linda worked at her computer while I worked on blog posts on my iPad.

I eventually put aside my blog work and gathered up some of the boxes the new caliper and other parts were in.  I texted Butch with various part numbers I had been given by Prevost, gotten off of used parts, or copied from labels on boxes.  He called me just before 10 AM to let me know the number on the box label appeared to be the one we needed.  He was in contact with someone at ABC Bus Parts in Muncie, Indiana who was in contact with someone at Meritor.  The information he was getting was that the caliper was not available in stock but I could get it for $1,200 with a 45 – 60 day lead time.  While I was glad to hear that might be the case, it certainly contradicted everything I had been told by Prevost, which I found a bit disturbing.

The UPS truck showed up at 10 AM so I walked up to the office, retrieved the box, and took it back and set it by the driver side tag axle.  I had just talked to Bill at little earlier but he wasn’t around at the moment.  He still wasn’t around at 11 AM so I went to the office to see what was going on.  As I suspected, Bill had to go out on a mobile service call.  John D. (the owner) called Bill and then let me know that he would be back in about 10 minutes.  I made sure everyone knew that I wasn’t trying to create an unnecessary since of urgency or priority for our coach, I just wanted to know what the status was.

The new torque plate (spider) installed on the driver side tag axle. The new caliper is visible lower right. Action Mobile Service, Orlando, FL.

When Bill returned he got right to work and in short order had the new spider mounted.  He then installed the hub, the outer bearing, and axle seal.  The hub gasket and cap were last, after which he added hub oil through the hole in the sight glass portion of the hub.  It takes time for the oil to penetrate the bearings and settle so some patience is required to get the correct oil level.

With the hub installed Bill now had to get the caliper in place.  It’s both heavy and awkward to handle.  It has to be lifted into place, lowered around the rotor, and secured with a pair of large steel slide pins.  The problem is how to hold the caliper in place while getting the upper pin in place.  In order to accomplish that he had another mechanic help him.  He then adjusted the automatic slack adjuster and finally reconnected the air line to the brake “can” (actuator).

I left him alone until he was done and it was a relief to finally see that everything appeared to fit together.  The hub spun with the minimum required drag, but we still had to test the installation.   (The brake pads are always in contact with the rotor.)   To do that I needed to apply and release the brakes but the tag axle was up (lifted) which cuts off the air supply to the brake chambers.

Lowering the tag axle releases the air from the brake chamber that powers the lifting mechanism and at the same time allows air into the air springs that support the weight of the coach on the axle.  It also changes one of the air valves so that application of the brake pedal allows air into the tag axle brake chambers.  I could lower the tag axle, and probably apply the brakes once or twice, with the air stored in the system, but raising the axle back up, and/or additional application of the brakes, would require me to start the engine.  That required a few minutes of my time so Bill decided to take his lunch break.

The hub and rotor reinstalled along with the new caliper, ready for testing. Action Mobile Service, Orland, FL.

While Bill was eating lunch I checked with the two Johns to see if Rex could supply me with another left (DS) caliper and two right (PS) calipers.  They checked with him and he said he could have two of them this afternoon but could not get the third one until Monday.

When Bill was done with lunch I started the engine and lowered the tag axle which caused the driver side rear to drop as the tag wheel/tire was not yet on the hub.  When I applied the brakes Bill was not able to turn the hub and when I released the brake pedal he was able to turn the hub once again.  That was the best test we could do with the bus sitting still and Bill was satisfied that the problem was properly repaired.  Before Bill put the wheel/tire back on he climbed under the bus and greased the passenger side tag axle disc brake caliper.  When he went to put the wheel back on the hub was too low.  With the engine running I tried to raise the driver side rear using the Level Low system but it would not come up high enough.  I tried lowering the front to pivot the tag higher but that did not work either.

Bill found a length of 4″x4″ timber, put it in front of the outside driver side drive tire and had me move the bus forward just enough to roll the tire up onto it.  That raised the tag axle hub enough that he could get the wheel onto the studs and secure it.  As soon as it was on I moved the bus forward a little more until the drive tire was off of the 4×4.  The tag axle brake problem was fixed.  Bill greased the two front/steer disc brake calipers and then checked the oil level in both of those hubs and the passenger side tag axle hub.

Now that I knew the disc brake caliper and spider fit and worked properly I let John D. know that I wanted the three additional calipers.  He let Rex (Rush Trucking) know.  We did not want to hang around Action Mobile in the bus until Monday and given that I would have to come back Monday in the car anyway I indicated that I would pick all three of them up then.

I settled the bill for the repair work.  The amount was substantial but I knew what it was going to be so it wasn’t a surprise.  I also considered it fair and had no problem paying it.  A little over 48 hours before we come dangerously close to having our bus catch on fire and if it had it would have been completely consumed.  In the hours that followed we were faced with the very real prospect that we might not be able to get our bus repaired, effectively rendering it useless as a motorhome.  We even half joked about buying a lot in an RV resort, moving the bus there (towing it if necessary), and becoming Florida residents.  It was a real low point from which Action Mobile restored our plans and dream for a long, adventurous retirement using our motorcoach.

As a separate transaction I paid a 50% deposit on the three brake calipers.  At that point there was nothing left to do except say ‘thank you,’ hook up the car for towing, and leave, but not before calling Williston Crossings and making a reservation.

Linda usually handles the reservation/registration process but with her hearing and voice issues that has become my job, at least temporarily, but hopefully not long-term.  Sometimes we have to Ieave a message and get a callback, but Joann answered the phone this time.  We had decided that we wanted to stay through Tuesday evening and depart on Wednesday morning April 13.  To our surprise there was no pull-through site available for that set of dates.  Site #439 was available, however, and was actually our 1st choice anyway as it is next door to our friends, John (Smiity) and Ali, and is the same site we were on for our entire winter here in 2014.  I made the reservation, which was very easy as the resort still had our information on file.

With our camping arrangements made Linda texted Smitty to let him know we were getting ready to head his way.  I started the bus and pulled it out of the bay and around to the passenger side while Linda spotted for clearance to obstructions.  I pulled up by the office, lined up with the gate, and shut off the engine.  Meanwhile Linda brought the car up behind the bus and we connected it for towing.  We checked that all the lights were working and were ready to go.  We worked our way back the short distance to US-441 / Orange Blossom Trail via Satellite Blvd and the Central Florida Parkway.  From there it was only a little over a mile north to get back to the entrance to FL-91 (Florida’s Turnpike).  We had already studied the route on our iPad Maps app so we knew it was an easy interchange, with all turns to the right.  As long as we stayed to the right we would end up northbound on the Turnpike towards I-75 and Ocala.

Because I wanted to make sure I stayed to the right I ended up going through a manned tollbooth rather than the usual SunPass Only lanes.  The staffed lane was also marked for wide vehicles and was also a SunPass Lane, so it was not a problem.  It only caused a brief moment of confusion as the attendant started counting axles.  I pointed to our transponder but he did not see me and I pulled on through as soon as the electronic sign said “SunPass Accepted.”

Traffic on the Turnpike was not too bad but we did see an electronic information sign shortly after getting on advising of traffic congestion between the FL-301 exit and the I-75 merge.  No surprise there, especially on a Friday afternoon.  I rolled along initially at 62 MPH while Linda kept a close eye on the temperatures of the four wheels/tires that have disc brakes (steer and tag axles).  The DS tag was running hotter than the other wheels by at least 10 degrees F, including the PS tag; not enough to indicate a problem, but given our recent experience and with no meaningful miles on the repair work, we were understandably nervous.  I decided to error on the side of caution and travel at 55 MPH.

Linda checked the temperatures every few minutes for the entire trip.  The steer tires/wheels and the drive tires/wheels eventually settled in to temperatures in the mid-90 degree F range, plus or minus, while the tag tires settled in around 105 degrees F while free-wheeling and got as high as 120 after braking.  The temperatures came back down, however, which was important, and the passenger side was sometimes higher than the driver side, which either meant the driver side was working or the passenger side was starting to fail.  I preferred the former possibility to the later but it wasn’t like I had a choice.

As we were warned, the traffic on the Turnpike slowed to stop-n-go conditions starting at the exit for FL-301.  It remained congested, very slow, and often completely stopped all the way to the merge with I-75 northbound, where it got even worse (if that was possible).  The volume of traffic trying to move north was as astounding as its lack of movement and remained heavy all the way to exit 354 at Ocala where we finally left I-75 and headed northwest on US-27 towards Williston.

Linda had texted several status updates to Smitty and at 5:05 PM texted him again as we turned off of US-27 / Main Street onto NE 5th Street.  I stopped at the turn into the resort and lifted the tag axle before proceeding around the corner.  As I came around and pulled up to the gate Smitty was coming the other way in his golf cart.  We said a quick ‘hello’ and he opened the gate.  I pulled up by the office, which had closed just minutes before, so our bus/car combination was not blocking the incoming traffic lane and shut off the engine.  We unhooked the car and Linda moved it to a temporary parking spot.  John and I discussed how best to get me into the site.  I expressed my preferred approach and he agreed to try it.  I then followed him to the site where Linda was waiting for us.

I learned a lot about how to maneuver this bus two years ago from ‘Big Bill’ Cowick when we were parked next to him and Nancy  at Suncoast Designers in Hudson, Florida.  Smitty got me positioned correctly to start backing up and watched the front end while Linda watched the rear end.  I was able to back it up around the corner of an intersection and angle it towards the site, coming very close to a recently added street sign on the passenger side without hitting it.  Once the right front corner was able to clear the sign I turned the steer tires to the left, tightening the turn as I went, while watching John, Linda, and the concrete pad in my mirrors and rearview camera.  I backed the bus around smoothly onto the pad and then pulled forward once to make sure I was straight and the distance I wanted to be from the driver side edge of the pad.  I then backed up to where the tag axle tires were still fully on the concrete pad with only a foot or so to spare.  That positioned the bus conveniently for utility hookups while leaving plenty of space to open bay doors and lots of room on the passenger side where the patio area is located.  It also created plenty of space in front of the bus for the car, getting it well clear of the road.

Ali and John were already at Jeff and Kathy’s when John drove up to let us in.  With the engine still running and the tag axles still up I checked that both tag axle tires spun freely.  They did, which was very good news, so I lowered the tag axle, leveled the coach, and shut off the engine.  I disconnected the chassis batteries, turned off the auxiliary air to the engine accessories, plugged in the shorepower cord, and made sure the auxiliary air-compressor was turned on.  While I was taking care of all that Linda prepared a few things on the interior, opened windows and ceiling vents, and got a Yuengling lager out of the refrigerator and put it in an insulated cozy for me.  It was time to relax and go be sociable at Jeff and Kathy’s 5th wheel.

Everyone wanted to hear about our recent “adventure,” of course, and the telling of the tale fell to me.  At some point my beer was gone so I walked back to our coach and opened our bottle of Nutura Carmenere, a red wine I picked up at Publix in Cocoa Beach along with a Nutura Merlot.  It was not a brand we had tried before, and I had never heard of a Carmenere, but they were $11.99 per bottle wines on sale 2 for 1.  We are always on the lookout for red wines that I like (not dry, no tannins) and are willing to risk $5 to $8 to try one.  Not surprisingly, the Carmenere was drier than I like, but I was able to drink it and I got to show everyone one of our polycarbonate wine glasses.

We stayed and chatted until 7 PM when everyone was finally hungry and we all returned to our coaches to have dinner.  After dinner I sent a brief text message to four people just to let them know that we made it to Williston without any difficulties and that I would fill them in on details tomorrow.  We were planning to go next door to John and Ali’s 5th wheel after dinner and sit around a campfire but we did not see them outside and we were very tired.  I aimed the front TV antenna towards Gainesville and we found something to watch.  Linda was off to bed before 10 PM and I was in bed by 11.   It had been a long day and we were glad to have it behind us and be back at WCRVR.

2016/04/09 (S) Water Pump Down

In spite of being very tired I stayed up late last night watching back-to-back episodes of Ken Burns’ JAZZ.  Linda went to bed around 10 PM and I turned in at 12:45 AM.  She was up at 7 AM and walked to the bath/laundry building to take a shower while I slept in until 8:30 AM.  I was going to walk over and get a shower as well but Linda informed me that the water never got more than lukewarm.  No thanks.  I decided to hang out in my sweats for a while, made a pot of coffee, and worked on my blog posts for the past week.  With all that has happened I have had quite a bit to write about.

I plugged our WiFiRanger in last night and it did not have any difficulty connecting to the resort Wi-Fi system.  The problem we seemed to be having this morning was that our devices will not stay connected to the WiFiRanger.  Nuts.

Linda needed to continue working on taxes and set her computer up on the desk.  I have not taken my computer out of its case since I packed it up on Wednesday morning but I will have to get it out sometime soon.  Our fresh water level finally dropped below 1/3 tank so I will need to hook up the water softener fairly soon but decided I would do the laundry and get a shower first.  I gathered up all of the soiled clothes, towels, and some of the bedding, along with the tote bag of laundry supplies and the tote bag of shower supplies.  I loaded everything into the car and drove to the north laundry/shower building, which is better equipped than the one near our site.  It was noon.

No one else was using the laundry so I used three of the washing machines closest to the dryers.  These washing machines take about 25 minutes to run through their cycle so it was just over half an hour before all three loads were done.  The dryers run for about 45 minutes, so once I had the laundry transferred to the dryers I took a shower.  I then drove back to our coach, dropped off the shower supply bag, and we stripped the bed.  I returned to the laundry building, washed the sheets, and transferred them to a dryer.  As each dryer load finished I moved it to a large table and folded or hung it up.  By 3 PM I had everything neatly packed back into the nylon mesh laundry bags and returned to our bus.

Linda helped me get the laundry inside and put away.  I then turned my attention to refilling our fresh water tank.  That is a bit of a process as I have to get out the pre-filter, with hoses and pressure regulator attached, and the water softener, again with hoses attached.  Heavy, bulky, awkward, etc.; it’s my second least favorite RV chore, right behind checking tire pressures. I got everything connected and turned on the water supply.  The connection at the supply faucet and the connection at the coach inlet both leaked badly.  I snugged up the coach inlet connection so it didn’t spray water.  It was still dripping quite a bit but it was good enough for filling the tank.  I opened the fill valve, heard the water flowing into the tank, and opened the door to have a look.

The remote gauge had dropped below the 1/3 tank level a day or so ago so all we could tell from the house systems panel was that we had less than 40 gallons in the tank.  I had noticed this morning that we were not getting the usual flow of water to the toilet and Linda tried to use the kitchen faucet late this morning and got no water.  Although I did not think we had used that much water we both made the (naïve) presumption that we had run the tank dry.  To my surprise (not really), the tank was at the 1/4 level, which meant it still glad about 30 gallons of water in it.  That seemed to suggest rather strongly that the problem was something connected to the water pump.  Not good.

I shut off the water and started grousing, because I find that it makes me feel better and is part of my problem-solving process.  So does swearing a bit, so I did some of that too.  Not like a sailor, of course; I was a USAF ROTC cadet years ago, after all.  There were a few obvious things to check, after which I figured I would call Butch if they didn’t pan out.

I got out my multi-meter and then looked up the circuit numbers for the water pump and switch circuits.  I checked those circuits in the 12 VDC distribution panel and they all had +12.7 VDC which meant the fuses were OK.  The power to the pump is switched through a relay so that the pump can be turned on/off from multiple locations using momentary contact switches.  The easiest way to check the proper operation of the relay and confirm/deny the presence of power at the pump, was to disconnect the + 12 VDC and return wires from the pump and check for voltage on the supply wires.  With the relay “off” there was no voltage present (a very small mV reading).  With the relay “on” I had 12.7 VDC.  Relay off, no voltage.  That pretty much meant the water pump was down.

While not a crisis situation, this failure, at this time, and on the heels of all of our other recent problems, was certainly unwelcome news (not that any failure at any time is ever welcomed).  The only upside was that we were at a nice RV resort with full hookups, in a familiar location with relatively convenient access to resources, and in the company of friends.  We had city water available, so we could use all of the systems on the coach that required fresh water, and we were scheduled to be here for four more nights, which meant I had time to deal with the problem, including getting parts shipped here if needed.

My first instinct, however, was to try to get this fixed RIGHT NOW!  I called Smitty to see if there was any place in town that sold RV parts.  As I expected, he directed me to the local ACE Hardware store.  I knew from previous visits that they carried some RV parts but were unlikely to have 12 VDC water pumps, and even less likely to have the exact model I wanted/needed.

Linda did a Google search and located a Camping World store in Summerfield, Florida south of Ocala.  Not that I was eager to go to Camping World, the home is “list price plus,” but if they had the right pump (or any pump) in stock I was feeling like it would be worth paying the premium to get it and have the problem resolved quickly.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), it was already 4 PM and the store closed at 5 PM.  There was no way I would make it in time, so I returned my attention to making the coach usable from the city water supply.

In order to operate off of the city water supply we would need to leave the water turned on, and in order to do that I needed to get the connections to not leak.  While I probably had replacement washers in one of my parts boxes, I decided to go to ACE Hardware for washers just on the chance that they might have an appropriate water pump.

The only pump at ACE that would have worked was a 120 VAC unit and I was tempted to buy it.  In fact, when I redo the water bay I will install redundant water pumps and I am seriously considering keeping the 12 VDC pump and making the second one a 120 VAC model.  For now though, replacing the DC pump with an AC pump would involve more work than I wanted to get involved in.  I did find what I was really looking for, however; garden hose washers.  I bought two different kinds of flat washers, vinyl and rubber, and a pack of vinyl strainer washers.  I should have also bought a roll of Teflon tape, but I did not think of it at the time.  Back at our rig I realized that I was probably going to need Teflon tape.  I was sure that I had some but it was not in any of my four tool boxes.  Linda helped me empty out the car until we finally found the correct parts box.

I replaced the strainer washer in the pressure regulator fitting that attaches to the water supply as the existing one was damaged and badly deformed.  I also wrapped the supply faucet threads with Teflon tape before attaching the regulator to the faucet.  With the output of the regulator valved off I turned on the water supply.  Voilà; no leaks!

The strainer is the first line of defense against particulate matter getting into the regulator and clogging it.  When I redo the water bay, plan to set up the plumbing so that the supply water goes through a particle filter before going through a backflow preventer (check valve), an adjustable regulator, a water softener, and additional filters, all of which will be installed in the bay but easily accessed and serviced.  I might even install an inline UV sanitizer.  The only thing I will need to do to connect the coach to a water supply will be to connect a hose at both ends.  Priceless.

The other leak was at the fitting in the bay where the hose gets connected.  These garden hose fittings are cheap, easily deformed, and prone to leak, and I think they are one of the other “weak links” in the materials and systems used to make RVs.  (Sewer hoses and connectors are probably the worst, but that problem has been solved by Lippert Systems and I will be using their technology when I redo the utility bay.)  Replacing the flat washer periodically is necessary routine maintenance but easily overlooked until a problem develops.

I replaced the existing flat washer with one of the vinyl ones and then taped the threads on the (male) end of the hose with Teflon tape.  I carefully threaded the two pieces together finger tight and then just a little tighter with a pair of slip pliers.  (Over tightening actually deforms the washer and causes it to eventually leak.)  I opened all of the intermediate shutoff valves and Voilà; again, no leaks!  Our coach was now usable and we could leave the water on unless we were both going to be away from the coach for an extended time, when even a small leak could quickly become a big disaster.

Time to relax.  John and Ali were already down at Jeff and Kathy’s and Linda already had a Yuengling lager in an insulated cozy ready for me.  We took some peanuts along and walked the short distance to their site to sit a spell and visit.  Earlier in the day Jeff and Kathy had gotten a new dog and Kathy was out walking it.  They lost their Yorkie, Teddy, to cancer back in December and were not really planning on getting another dog so soon but an elderly gentleman, who lives alone in the resort, had a 3-year old dog that he was no longer able to car for and needed to find a home for it.  The dog’s name is “Mandy” and she is an 8 pound Dachshund / Miniature Poodle mix.  She has a Dachshund body size/shape and face but a silver gray, slightly wiry coat unlike any Dachshund I have ever seen.  She was friendly and sweet tempered and from all appearances she will settle in with Jeff and Kathy very easily.  While dogs get strongly attached to their owners, they also respond quickly to the kindness of strangers.

I think we were there for at least 90 minutes, perhaps two hours, before everyone got hungry and returned to their rigs for dinner.  By that time it was already 7 PM and we were headed to John and Ali’s 5th wheel once we ate, so Linda made a quick, easy dinner consisting of a nice greens salad and Amy’s Asian Noodle frozen/microwaved entrées.

After dinner I called Butch and brought him up to speed on our disc brake situation and told him about the water pump.  He and I shared the opinion that it seemed like something might have happened with the +12 VDC power supply to the coach.  Most of the house DC power circuits and systems, however, appeared to still be OK.  He reminded me that we have an Amazon Prime account and could probably get a new pump delivered to the resort by Tuesday for a much better price than at Camping World.  Roger that.  I let him know that our current plan was to leave WCRVR Wednesday morning and arrive at their place in Twelve Mile, Indiana on Friday.  He said we should go ahead and park and plug into the electrical power if they were not there as they would be setting up for a local hamfest that evening over at the county fairgrounds across the road from Bill Tharpe’s place in Mexico, Indiana.  Been there, know how to find it.

We walked next door to John and Ali’s around 8 PM and I took another Yuengling with me.  It’s been that kind of week, I guess.  They have an elevated propane firepit, conveniently located under their patio awning, and had chairs arranged around it in a conversational grouping.  We sat and talked until 10 PM, when John had to make the rounds to close up certain buildings and check the gates.  We continued to chat with Ali while John took care of his chores and he was back within 30 minutes.  By 11 PM Linda was finally too tired to be sociable, went back to our coach, and went to bed.  I stayed until almost midnight and finally left when I was yawning more than talking.  I went to bed fairly directly and went right to sleep.

2016/04/10 (N) Water Pump Prime

We got up this morning when we were ready and not a minute sooner.  I made coffee using the two new bags we bought at the Sunseed Co-op in Cocoa Beach.  I requested pancakes for breakfast and Linda obliged by making some very good ones.

Last night I was thinking about driving to Camping World in Summerfield, south of Ocala, today to buy a new water pump.  The store opened at 11 AM and I figured I would find a pet supply store and buy some cat food while I was out.  After Butch suggested last night that I could probably find the exact pump I needed through Amazon, I searched for it and he was right.  I ordered it with four hours to spare to qualify for next day delivery with an $8 upcharge so I would have it on Monday.  Standard Amazon Prime 2-day free delivery would have had it here on Tuesday, but I did not want to risk having it show up late in the day or worse, having the delivery truck get here after the office closed or not get here at all.

I had hoped to spend some time at my computer working on the blog but the best I was able to do was get it turned on, connect it to the Internet, and download my e-mail, which I had not done since Wednesday morning.  I was more than a bit surprised that I had over 80 MB of attachments!  The bulk of that was several very large photo files from our daughter having to do with some recent projects our grand-daughter Katie was involved in.

I called Chuck around 1 PM and caught him standing in line at a Cracker Barrel restaurant.  We chatted briefly while he and Barb waited to be seated and I filled him in on the latest developments in the Prevost air disc brake saga.

We had an early dinner after which we emptied out the car and the passenger side of the front bus bay to rearrange where things were stored and make room for the three new air disc brake calipers and the old one.  Linda brought the bathroom scale out and we weighed the old one as best we could.  I would have sworn it was 100 pounds but the scale said it was only 63 pounds.  That was good as four of them would only put 250 pounds in the car instead of 300 to 400 pounds.

We were able to repack the bus bay better and more quickly than I expected.  We put smaller, lighter boxes back in the car, got our beverages, and walked down to Jeff and Kathy’s 5th wheel for happy hour.  Jeff’s brother, Mark, was there and we learned that he lives in an apartment over by the Williston airport.  Jeff made hamburgers for everyone (except us, of course) and we stuck around while they ate dinner.  Jean showed up not long after everyone was done eating and joined the conversation.

Smitty had to lock all of the gates at 5 PM so I rode along while he made his rounds.  Linda and I left around 7:30 PM, as the light was just starting to fade, and went back to our coach.  We had a light dinner/snack of pretzels and hummus and shared a very delicious orange.  I called Butch and chatted briefly with him about the water pump and brakes and our revised travel plans.  As things now stand we plan to leave here Wednesday morning and get to their place in Twelve Mile, Indiana sometime on Friday.

At 8:15 PM we walked next door to John and Ali’s 5th wheel and sat around their propane firepit.  Smitty had made popcorn with peanut oil and Hawaiian sea salt.  Yum.  John had to lock up the resort buildings at 10 PM.  Linda and Ali were both tired and ready to go in for the night so I rode along with John.  Once we were back we retired to our respective rigs for the evening.  Linda was watching Elementary on TV so I picked up the story line in progress.  When it was over at 11 PM we went to bed and went right to sleep.

 

2016/04/01-05 (F-T) J-P-Shuffle CCAFS Farewell Celebration

2016/04/01 (F) The J. P. Shuffle

Linda was up before me and got to see one of the cruise ships come in at 6:20 AM.  She said it was all lit up and quite a sight.  I got out of bed at 8:20 AM and made coffee.  Linda prepared toast and jam for breakfast and gave each of us half of an orange.

I finished up my post for yesterday, worked on this one, and then noticed that an iOS 9.3.1 update was available for the Apple iOS 9.3 update that I installed Wednesday evening and Linda installed last night.  It was only 18 MB but still took a long time to download and install.

Today was April Fool’s Day and time for us to once again do “the Jetty Park shuffle.”  I have checked at least once, and often twice, each day to see if an appropriate full hookup site had become available through cancellation for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, but it had not.  Around 10 AM I walked to the office to check one last time.  Scott Ward was the JP staff person on duty and was very helpful but a site was just not available.  He was able, however, to put us on site #357 for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night’s.  I shortened our stay on site #3 to two nights and paid the balance for the one night.

Site #3 is a water only site, no electricity and no sewer connection, and the rules say that NO pets are allowed in that section, which is right along the channel and outside the regular fenced campground.  The staff was aware, however, that we have two cats onboard and let us have the site anyway.  We do not ever want them to escape, but especially here.

Our generator can produce more power than we can get from a “50 Amp” RV electrical connection, so not having electricity is not really a problem.  The only real downsides, other than having to move, are that we can feel, hear, and sometimes smell the generator.  We also had a problem with a circuit breaker for its cooling fan last winter.  I made a temporary fix to it but have never fixed it permanently.  We also do not like to leave the genset running when we are away from the coach, such as will be the case on Saturday morning.

I selected/processed three photos of the manatees we saw on Tuesday at Merritt Island National Wildlife a Refuge and e-mailed them to Pat and Vickie.  I then replied to a couple of e-mails from Gary at Bus Conversion Magazine.  By this time it was 11 AM so we prepared the bus, inside and out, to be moved.  With all of the Windows and roof vents closed it warmed up quickly inside even with a lot of the coach in the shade.  When I turned the ignition key the engine turned over but would not catch and my heart just sank.

I really like this bus, but I have grown weary of the uncertainty of whether things will work when needed.  I turned the ignition key off and rechecked the transmission selector and parking brake settings.  I also switched the suspension out of Level Low to drive mode although that should not have mattered.  With the ignition key turned to the ‘ON’ position the 12 V chassis battery seemed a little low and a red light flashed a few times on the transmission selector, so I turned the key off, went to the outside battery disconnect switches, and turned both the 12V and 24V disconnects off and then back on.

Back in the driver’s seat I tried again.  Normally the engine only turns over a few times before it fires.  This time I let it turn for four or five seconds and it finally started.  If I had any sense I would have driven it to the W. W. Williams Detroit Diesel service center in Orlando, but I moved it to site #3 at J. P. instead.

Our coach in Site #3 at Jetty Park & Campground, Cape Canaveral, FL. This is the “water only” camping by the shipping channel. All of these rigs are parked facing north towards the channel. It’s a great spot to watch the ships come and go.

To get from site #358 to site #3 I had to exit the fenced campground and drive around the east end of the park past the beach parking, concession building, and playground and then west along the edge of the shipping channel and around to the back row of the water only sites, all of which face the shipping channel.  As such it was a long drive to get to a site we could see from the one we just vacated.

We left the car at site #358 temporarily and Linda rode along in the bus.  I made the whole trip in 1st gear, to keep the RPMs up, and turned on the OTR A-C, both to cool the interior of the coach and to put more load on the engine and help get it up temperature.  I did not pull the tag axle up as we had walked the park/campground enough to know that I did not need to make any really tight turns.  When I was mostly into position on site #3 Linda got out and spotted the final position of the rear end.  These channel-side sites slope down towards the channel (facing north) and the back row sites get steeper the farther off the back off the site you go.  I wanted to pull forward just enough to get our tow bar clear of the access road behind the site and Linda accomplished that with an inch or two to spare.

I left the engine running and switched it to high idle to run the OTR air-conditioning.  While Linda went back to get our car I got out the step stool and awning pole and deployed all four awnings.  I then started the Genset to make sure it was going to run and produce electricity.  I also thought we might run the residential air-conditioners.  When Linda returned with our car she wanted to open up the coach so I shut off the OTR bus A-C, dropped the engine idle to low, and let it idle for a couple of minutes before shutting off the engine.  I left the genset on for the time being.

Both of our systems had been reacting to what we had eaten the last few days so we passed on lunch and just hung around our new site which was, in fact, very pleasant with a view of the water in the channel and the high ground of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the opposite bank.

Our driver side neighbors stopped to chat on their way to the beach and let us know that they had just spotted dolphins in the channel.  I walked over and caught a glimpse of several arching repeatedly out of the water but by the time Linda got there they had submerged and not resurfaced.  Given where we are parked we should have a good chance to see dolphins and view cruise ships coming and going from the Port.

Linda made a cold garbanzo bean salad for dinner last night.  After dinner I was trying to get us connected to the park Wi-Fi system but could not maintain the connection or get us logged in.  I tried using our Verizon Mi-Fi but could not get the WiFi Ranger to work with it.  I tried to reconfigure the Amped|Wireless router to work directly with the Mi-Fi but there were problems with that as well.  At one point my ASUS notebook computer decided that it could not detect any Wi-Fi networks even thought it had two of them sitting within a couple feet of it.  I got disgusted with the whole situation, shut everything off, and we went for a walk.

Linda waves to the Disney “Magic” cruise ship as it heads out to sea from Port Canaveral, FL. There is always a crowd along the channel to wave the cruise ships in and out.

We walked over to Pat and Vickie’s coach and Vickie joined us.  We headed to the beach where we enjoyed a very brisk breeze until lightning to the southwest signaled that it was time to return to the safety of our rigs or one of the park buildings.  We headed back past the playground area towards our coach and Vickie split off for the gate in the campground fence that provided the most direct access to her site.

Back at our site we closed up the coach against the humidity and coming storm.  I then started the auxiliary powerplant (genset) and turned on the air conditioners.  Not long after that it started to rain, lightly at first, but it eventually became very heavy for a while before finally moving offshore.

With the A-C’s running I was reminded that I need to change some of the AC circuits in the main panel.  The front and middle air-conditioners are on different legs of the AC power system, front on L1 and middle on L2.  That makes sense as we would normally want to run both of them at the same time to cool the front half of the bus (living, cooking, office space) when we are awake and using the bus.  The 3rd/bedroom A-C has to go on one of the two legs and either one could create load balancing issues.  Unfortunately, the middle A-C unit is not currently producing any cooling.

To make matters worse, the charger section of our Magnum 4024 inverter/charger also draws its power from L1.  Again, it had to go somewhere, but the current configuration tends to put too much load on L1 and not enough on L2.  Even though the genset is oversized for our electrical needs an imbalance between L1 and L2 is still a problem because it is set up as a 240 VAC unit with a 240 VAC voltage regulator.  Although it has an active neutral, allowing it to supply 120 VAC to both L1 and L2 (180 degrees out of phase) the regulator is only concerned with maintaining the 240 VAC between the two legs, not the 120 VAC between each leg to neutral.

If the loads on the two legs are not reasonably balanced, the 240 VAC will “drift” off center from neutral with the voltage on the high load leg dropping and the voltage on the low load leg rising.  That, in turn, can/does cause havoc with some of the devices onboard, especially the microwave oven, APC uninterruptible power supply that powers the Amped|Wireless router, and the APC line voltage stabilizer that powers the laser printer.

We were, however, able to watch TV and found Ken Burns’ JAZZ documentary on channel 24.1.  By 11 PM we needed to get to bed as we had to be up and ready to go by 7:45 AM tomorrow morning.  I turned the genset off around 11:30 PM and let the house electrical system switch to the inverter.  I tried to watch the end of JAZZ on the TV in the bedroom but the TV and antenna controller kept losing power.  That, in turn, caused the TV to shut off and the controller to reset to position 8.  My phone and iPad chargers, both of which were plugged into AC outlets, also kept cutting in and out.

I encountered this same issue when we were boondocking at John Palmer’s place in Mayo, Florida at the end of November 2015.  At that time I turned off the SEARCH WATTS feature thinking that it was causing the problem.  Apparently that was not the problem.  My best guess is that under very low load conditions the inverter is either:  a) not inverting at all, or b) producing a voltage and/or current that is not well regulated.  In either case, it would play havoc with our entertainment and communications electronics.

Rather than screw around with this anymore tonight I gave up , turned off the TV, unplugged the antenna controller, resolved to ignore the device chargers, figuring they would work when the refrigerator or air compressor ran, and tried to fall asleep.  I could have turned on the AC lights in the living room, or our small portable fan, to draw enough AC current to keep the inverter working, but that’s really contrary to the whole notion of minimizing your energy usage to only those things that are absolutely necessary when running on batteries.

2016/04/02 (S) Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Tour

I was awake at 6 AM and we were both up and dressed by 7 AM.  I did not make coffee or have breakfast and Linda just had a piece of bread as making toast would have required me to start the genset.  The batteries were at roughly 24.6 VDC (and showing 72% SOC) with no load being drawn by the inverter so there was no need to recharge them this morning.  We were due at Pat and Vickie’s coach at 8 AM so I gathered up my camera, holster, and extra batteries.  We left at 7:40 and took our time walking over to their site.

Pat and Vickie have seating for four in their Jeep Grand Cherokee and have been providing transportation for our group outings.  We left just after 8 AM for the short drive to the Exploration Tower at the west end of Port Canaveral.  We signed up for a tour of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse that departed from the Tower at 8:30 AM and included admission to the Tower when we returned.

There were only twelve of us on the small tour bus plus a driver (Mike) and two tour guides.  The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is located on the grounds of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS).  One of the tour guides (Jim) had worked at the Station and was our main guide for information about the Station and the various launch sites we visited; and we visited a number of them.  One of the things we learned was that CCAFS is a Station rather than a Base because no one lives there.  All of the Air Force personnel working at CCAFS are from Patrick Air Force Base, which is located south of Cocoa Beach.  The U. S. Navy also has a presence here with facilities that service ICBM and attack submarines.

The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse located within the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

The Lighthouse had its own cadre of docents, and was very interesting to see and learn about, but only accounted for a little less than an hour of a 3-1/2 hour tour.  The other tour guide was Ron and he provided most of the information about Port Canaveral.  Just after exiting CCAFS we visited a small museum devoted to the history of the Station.  It was located next to the building that now houses the launch control facility for SpaceX, the commercial spaceflight venture of Elon Musk of PayPal.  There are other private/commercial companies operating at CCAFS besides SpaceX .  One of the largest is United Launch Alliance (ULA), an independent company that was formed by merging the space operations of Boeing (which absorbed McDonnell-Douglass years ago) and Lockheed-Martin.

All that remains of one of the launch pads at CCAFS, FL.

We did not really understand ahead of time what we were going to see and we were surprised by the dilapidated condition of the old launch sites.  All that remains at most of them are concrete and brick works.  Metal superstructures that were subject to rusting were long ago removed and control centers that were once stuffed full of equipment are now “abandoned in place” or used for storage.  It was like visiting an ancient historic site, which in fact it is; the first rocket launched from this site was a German V-2 in 1950 and the Mercury missions occurred in the early 1960’s over 50 years ago.

A continuation of the previous image, this is the command bunker and tunnel. CCAFS, FL.

Back at the Exploration Tower, which is owned and operated by the Canaveral Port Authority (CPA), we got wrist bands good for admission through closing time today.  The weather had been overcast all day and a check of the radar on our smartphones showed heavy rain moving our way.  Even though we were hungry we decided to experience the Tower before the rain moved in.

This is all that is left of what was once a heavily reinforced HVAC building at the launch pad. The superstructure in the distance is in active use by SpaceX and ULA. CCAFS, FL.

The Exploration Tower has seven floors plus additional structure at the top.  We took the elevator to the top floor which features an outdoor observation platform oriented to give a commanding view of Port Canaveral, CCAFS, and the John F. Kennedy Space Center to the north, as well as the Banana River to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  There are also views to the south of the cities of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach.  We took the stairs down to each floor in turn.  Each floor has a theme with related exhibits and we stopped at each one.  The 3rd floor is a small theater that shows a 20 minute film about Port Canaveral and the surrounding area; past, present, and future.  The film starts on the hour and half hour so we caught the 1 PM show.  The second floor is a balcony that affords a view of art hanging above the 1st floor lobby and gift shop.

The Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, FL. The top floor includes an outdoor observation deck.

Back on the 1st floor I bought two coffees while Linda and Vickie shopped for gifts.  Linda found a stuffed toy of a manatee for our grand-daughter Madeline.  When we finally got back to Jetty Park at 2 PM Linda made sandwiches for lunch and I washed off some grapes.  I checked the house battery bank voltage and it was still OK.  The temperature had cooled off under cloudy skies with a strong southerly breeze, so I did not need to run the air-conditioners.

I took a nap for an hour.  Not long after I got up we noticed activity in the shipping channel so I took the camera and we went out to see what was going on.  We set up two chairs in front of the bus to watch the action.  The blue tug boat was hanging around the entrance to the Trident Turning Basin, which we had not seen it do before.  The Brevard County Sheriff boat came out along with one of the harbor pilot boats.  A U. S. Coast Guard boat, with a large caliper machine gun on the bow that was manned, headed out the channel towards the ocean at high speed.  We thought perhaps we were going to get to see a submarine arrival, which are always unannounced, but the reason for all this activity turned out to be the Carnival Cruise Ship “Valor” coming into port.  It was delayed from its scheduled arrival by almost 12 hours but that worked to my advantage as the cloud cover had thinned and provided nice lighting on the bow of the ship as it traveled west into the channel.

A 180 degree panorama, from west through north to east, from the observation deck of the Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral, FL.

A little while later the Norwegian Cruise Line “Spirit” left its dock and headed for the Atlantic Ocean accompanied by the police, Coast Guard, and harbor pilot boats.  About 20 minutes behind the NCL Spirit, the Disney “Fantasy” left its dock and started its slow trip down the channel.  Vickie showed up before it got to our position and had her iPad with her.  As the boat came abreast of our position, Vickie spotted dolphins swimming just in front of the bow.

I got out another chair and we sat in front of the bus and chatted for a while.  Vickie eventually returned to her coach to fix dinner and we went inside.  I transferred today’s photos to my computer and selected two to process and send to Vickie.

A dolphin swims in front of one of the Disney cruise ships as it heads down the channel from Port Canaveral, FL. towards the sea.

For dinner Linda improvised a potato and broccoli dish with onion, garlic, and couscous.  It was light and very tasty.  After we were done eating I texted Vickie.  They were also done with dinner so we met her at the office and went for a walk.  Back at our coach Linda checked online and found a news story about the Carnival Valor.  The Valor was delayed due to a medical situation that required them to return to the Turks and Cacos.  According to CruiseTimeTables.com, passengers were being advised to embark starting at 9 PM and to be onboard by 11 PM, with departure shortly thereafter.

Back at our coach we watched some TV and waited up for the Carnival Valor to leave as the nighttime departures are rather something to see with the ships all lit up.  Linda waited until midnight and then turned in for the night.  I stayed up until 1:30 AM but it was still docked at the west end of the port so I gave up and went to bed.

2016/04/03 (N) Bon Voyage

I was waiting for the Carnival Valor to leave Port Canaveral last night but by 1:30 AM it was still at its terminal.  It was all lit up but going nowhere, so I finally went to bed.    By midnight the skies had begun to clear and the wind, which had been steady all day, became stronger and started shifting around to the northwest and becoming noticeably cooler.

The cruise ships are particularly magical at night and I had hoped to capture some images of them, having set my camera to SCeNe selection mode (SCN) and selected “Night.”  In spite of being up late I did not sleep soundly and was aware of headlights around 5 AM.  Someone had apparently driven over from the campground to watch ships, or perhaps driven into the park, which opens at 5 AM, for this purpose.  I then noticed a ship in the shipping lane heading for the mouth of the channel.  Around 5:30 AM another cruise ship came in.  I got up, put on my robe, and tried to photograph it from the cockpit of the bus.

The nighttime arrival of the Carnival “Victory” cruise ship at Port Canaveral, FL.

I got up to stay a little after 8 AM and started the genset so I could make coffee and heat water.  Linda got up shortly thereafter and prepared our breakfast cereal.  We could see cruise ships docked at the west end of Port Canaveral so Linda checked the CruiseTimeTables.com website, and found that there were four cruise ships scheduled to depart today; three at 4 PM (the Carnival Sunshine and Victory, and the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas) and one at 4:30 PM (the Disney Magic).

The Magnum ME-ARC indicated the house battery bank was at 24.6 VDC and 69% SOC.  I turned on the genset and the charger started in Bulk Charging mode drawing 110A at 24VDC, or just over 2,600 Watts, on L1.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot electric heating element, which is on L2, to balance the load on the genset a bit.  When the battery charger had backed off a bit and switched to Absorption mode I turned on the block heater for the main engine, which is currently on the same leg (L1) as the charger.  Balanced loads lead to balanced voltages, but it is also better for the genset mechanically to run under a somewhat heavier load than a light one.

Around 10 AM I walked over to check site #357.  It was already vacant so I went to the office to confirm that we still had it reserved for tonight through Tuesday night.  We did, so I told the office clerk that I was going to go ahead and move, if I could get the engine started, and would then come in and register.  If I couldn’t get it started I would extend our stay on site #3 until we could get the problem resolved or get it towed.  The clerk was not particularly sympathetic, but then he was the one who would have to deal with an irate customer who could not have their reserved site, and the people who camp here have very particular preferences about their sites.  Fortunately, site #3 was open so we could have stayed there until we needed to dump our holding tanks.  We could minimize water usage by using the campground bathrooms, so we could have stretched our dry camping if needed.

Back at our rig we started preparing to move it.  I moved the car over near the pedestrian gate that is very close to site #357 and walked back to the coach.  Linda had secured the inside enough for the short, slow trip.  I checked the maintenance chargers for the chassis batteries and they indicated 100% charge levels.  I opened the air supply valve for the engine accessories, engaged the 12 and 24 volt chassis battery disconnect switches, pulled the wheel chocks, and put the entry step stool away.  I put the Level Low system in Drive mode, just in case that mattered, and turned the ignition key.  The bus motor cranked quickly and fired right up!  That was a relief.

The Centurion Battalion of the United States Navy Sea Cadet Corps had arrived at the picnic area sometime before 8 AM with a large contingent of cadets and their adult leaders/chaperones.  And they had arrived in a large number of cars that filled the available parking spaces just on the other side of the road that ran behind the back row of RV sites where we were parked.  There was still plenty of room to back out, but Linda positioned herself outside to keep an eye on the back end of the rig.

The motorhome on our passenger side was also ready to leave and backed out before I did.  I don’t think he would have presented an obstacle, but having him gone was one less thing to have to keep an eye on.  I pulled up the tag axle and then pulled forward to the right to position the coach at an angle to the road behind it.  I then backed up and cut the steer tires hard left to swing the nose around to the passenger side and guide the rear end cleanly into the road well clear of any other vehicles.  Linda climbed on board and I turned on the OTR A-C, partly for comfort and partly to put more load on the engine.

We made the 5 MPH trip around the east end of the park and campground back to the campground entrance on the south side where Linda got out to open the gate.  Once I was clear of the gate she got back onboard.  We wound our way through the campground, familiar now with the road system.  When I got to the 2nd to last turn I saw that the last turn was blocked by a pickup truck pulling a 5th wheel trailer out of its site so I continued straight ahead and went clockwise around Red Knot Circle.  By the time I got back to the same intersection the pickup truck and 5th wheel were out of the way and I was able to proceed to site #357.

Linda hopped out to act as spotter.  Using what I learned two years ago from Big Bill while getting parked at Suncoast Designers in Hudson, Florida I moved to the right edge of the road as the back-in site was on that side.  As I pulled past the site and the rear wheels were by the front of the site I cut the steer tires to the left, positioning the coach at an angle to the site, all the while avoiding trees, RVs, cars, and other obstacles.  I backed straight, keeping an eye on Linda in the driver side rear view mirror, and started swinging the nose to the driver side while keeping an eye on the car parked on the other side of the road.

As soon as I was clear of that car I swung the nose hard to the driver side.  We were well clear of the Sea Grape trees on the passenger side so I straightened the steer tires and pulled forward until I had a good view of the concrete pad on one side.  I backed in following Linda’s hand signals until I could see the pad on both sides, got the rig straight and centered, and backed up until Linda gave me the stop signal (arms crossed at the wrist above her head).  We ended up parking with the front tires just off the front edge of the concrete pad as the coach was close to level and we wanted to avoid lower branches at the rear of the site.  As it was, I still had to lower the front slightly, but at least the Level Low system worked this time.  I also had to adjust the rear on one side, which worked a lot better after I lowered the tag axle.

With the coach neatly tucked in to its site and sitting level Linda walked the short distance back to where the car was parked and drove it around to our site.  Once the car was parked I walked to the office and took care of the registration.  When I got back I tried to get our network up and running but encountered all sorts of problems.  I wasted most of the rest of the afternoon trying to resolve them, to no avail.

While we were camped on site #3 I had to reconfigure the Amped|Wireless router/range-extender to work directly with our Verizon Mi-Fi.  That configuration worked OK out there, but was not working here.  The Wi-Fi ranger was seeing a number of campground Wi-Fi signals with adequate to very good signal strength, but was having a very difficult time connecting to them.  When it did, the connection would drop after a very short time.  The Amped|Wireless router/range-extender was having an equally difficult time connecting to the Wi-Fi Ranger and staying connected when it did.  I tried connecting the Wi-Ranger to our Verizon Mi-Fi but that did seem to work either.  I also noticed that the cellular signal was not as strong as usual.  Linda commented that her phone was having trouble connecting.  I finally got disgusted with the whole thing and set it aside.  Sometimes the best solution is to “just walk away.”

There were four cruise ships starting down the shipping channel roughly on time and in the order specified and Vickie joined us for the ship parade.  We were out there waiting for them, camera at the ready, and by the time the last ship was headed out to sea I had shot about 200 images.  Vickie had already eaten, and we were not ready for dinner yet, so we walked the campground and park, including the pier.

It was chilly all day yesterday with a high temperature in the low 70’s and a steady breeze from the north that resulted in a hazardous conditions warning for the beach.  As the light faded it got colder and we returned to our motorhomes.

Dinner was a nice salad and Amy’s enchiladas.  Simple, easy, tasty.  It turned colder after sunset under clear skies and a stiff northerly breeze.  It was very refreshing, initially, but eventually the coach was a bit too cool so I closed the roof vents and Linda narrowed the window openings to just an inch.  We were a little tired, not particularly captivated by what was on TV, and had to be up earlier than usual in the morning, so we were in bed before 11 PM.

2016/04/04 (M) Farewell For Now

It turned chilly after sunset last night under clear skies and a stiff northerly breeze.  It was very refreshing, actually, but eventually the coach felt chilly and we closed it up, mostly, and were in bed a bit earlier than usual.

We were up at 7 AM this morning and got dressed right away.  I made coffee, which used up our supply of Sweet Seattle Dreams beans, and we headed over to site #303 at 7:30 to see Pat and Vickie off.  They have been here since mid-February and today was departure day.  The bus motor was already running when we got there and we just watched while they got ready to pull out.  We learned long ago not to “chat” with RVers during their final departure preparations.  They drove around by the office to hook up their car and we walked over to watch.  I took a couple of pictures with my phone and used the “dawn” setting for the first time.  Soon enough they were ready to go, so we said our final “farewells for now,” and, just like that, they drove off and were gone.  Assuming no mechanical or weather issues they will be home in northern Indiana Wednesday evening.

A group of five brown pelicans coming up the channel just above the water. Jetty Park at Port Canaveral, FL.

We always find that leaving an encampment after we have been there for an extended period of time has a strange feeling and we experienced that vicariously as Pat and Vickie drove away.  The strangeness, as best I can describe it, is a combination of a sense of loss—the giving up of a familiar place and the people there—and anticipation of the journey ahead, both positive and negative.  The anticipation is positive in the sense of the possibilities of new experiences that come with the adventure of the road while the negative anticipation stems from the potential for mechanical, weather, traffic, or health problems.

With Pat and Vickie out of sight we returned to our coach and had a light breakfast of toast and jam and finished our coffee.  Linda then worked on a grocery list while I tackled out networking problems.  I gave up in disgust around 10 AM and we drove to Cocoa Beach to do some grocery shopping.  We went to the Publix supermarket first and found most of what we needed there.  A quick stop at Sunseed Food CO-OP filled in our list with blueberries, coffee, and vegan mayonnaise.  I stopped at one of the Shell stations on the way back to J. P. and topped off the fuel in the car so we would not have to deal with that tomorrow morning.

Back at our coach we got the groceries unloaded and put away.  Linda then heated some leftovers for lunch and washed some grapes.  After lunch I put in a call to Chris Yust, our National General Insurance Agent, to ask her about the letter/form we received regarding Coordination of Medical benefits.  She called back a short time later and we discussed it.  She logged into her agent support system but there was no indication of the letter/form.  Normally she can see anything the insurance company has sent to her customers.  She confirmed that we really did need to send the form in with the requested documentation.

Linda had already photographed the fronts and backs of our MPSERS/BCBS cards.  When she tried to print them the printer was “offline”.  We had this same problem at the beginning of our winter travels and it turned out to be NETWORK related.  The fix back then was to use the Advanced IP Scanner to determine what IP address was assigned to the printer and then manually reconfigure the printer to that address.  That was under Windows 8.1.  Under Windows 10 the IP Scanner didn’t work the same way and the manual reconfiguration didn’t work either.  What is particularly puzzling and annoying is that the printer does not appear to be responding correctly when set as a DHCP client.  If it was, we would not be having a problem communicating with it.

I seem to have spent a lot of time this past week dealing with network and wireless communications malfunctions, so I did what I often do and we went for a walk at 2:30 PM.  We went out on the pier and were just starting back when someone spotted a manatee between the pier and the jetty swimming towards the ocean.  The water was clear and we got a good look at it for quite a while.  It was large and presumably a full-size adult.  They really are gentle giants and it was a thrill to see it.

We walked back to the office for coffee before returning to our rig.  As soon as we went in Scott Ward handed Linda a card.  She has not been in the office that much but I have, and have often interacted with Scott while checking on, or registering for, sites.  Still, I was impressed that he remembered my last name and made the connection to the card.  The card was from our younger grand-daughter, Madeline.  It was a ‘thank you’ card for Linda for all of the custom photo postcards she has created using the PhotoPostCard app and had printed and mailed to Madeline by the PhotoPostCard service out of San Diego, California.  Linda took a picture of the card, texted it to our son, and asked him to tell Madeline “thanks” in return.  He texted back a photo of Madeline looking at the most recent postcard, which was a photo of Linda by the channel with one of the Disney cruise ships heading out to sea.

The Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas was due to sail at 3:45 PM followed closely by      the Disney Dream at 4 PM.  We walked over to the shipping channel at 3:40 PM and by the time we got there the Enchantment was starting to move away from its dock.  Something did not look right and then I realized we were looking at the stern of the ship.  The cruise ships usually dock facing the ocean, so it needed to turn around to get out of Port Canaveral.

One of the amazing things about these amazing machines is their ability to maneuver in close quarters.  When in port, they can independently push the bow and stern to either side, which means they can move sideways or turn the ship around its center (or any other point).  In this case they pushed the stern out from the dock on the south side of the channel and into the opening of the middle turning basin on the north side of the channel opposite the dock.  They then backed it up slightly into the turning basin, brought the bow around into the channel, pushed the stern out into the channel, and then started moving forward down the channel towards the ocean.  It was quite a skillful maneuver and the first time we have seen this in the two weeks we have been here.

Not long after the Enchantment cleared the Jetty and turned southeast to stay in the channel, the Disney Dream started moving slowly forward and away from its dock.  The Disney terminal/dock is in an alcove (basin) on the north side of the west end of the Port so it has to turn into the straight portion of the channel.  Of all the cruise ships we have seen come and go the Disney ships appear to be in the best condition, not that any of them look bad.

We returned to our coach and I transferred photos to my computer from the camera and from my cell phone while Linda started preparing dinner.  Dinner consisted of a kale salad followed by a brown rice and kale dish with sautéed carrots, onions, and garlic.  Linda has not had any wine in a couple of weeks because of the medications she’s been taking, but I had a glass of the Arbor Mist Raspberry.  I find “flavored” wines a questionable choice, although I like Sangria and hot mulled or spiced wine.

We went for a walk after dinner that included some time on the beach.  The park and beach were a beehive of activity yesterday but things were quiet all day today and there were only a handful of people on the beach this evening.  Both conditions are nice, in their own way.  There was, however, some activity in the Trident submarine turning basin today.  The big crane was moving and a Coast Guard cutter was in and out of the basin.  An attack helicopter from Patrick AFB also made repeated passes over the area and up/down the beach.  Our friends told us that when things start getting active around the basin it usually means a submarine is coming in but that did not happen while we were watching.

Back at our coach we turned on the TV but all of the CBS programs were repeats because the NCAA Basketball final game was on cable.  I reconfigured the Amped|Wireless router to work directly with our Verizon Mi-Fi and was able to get my computer connected to the Internet and to our NAS, which is critical for backing up photos and documents.  I did not, however, mess around further with the printer.  My plan is to move it back into my office at home and leave it there.  I will find a newer one, with better networking functionality, to put in the bus.

We planned to be on the road in the morning between 8 and 8:30 AM so we went to bed before 11 PM.  Linda fell asleep before NCIS-LA ended but I watched the channel 6 news/weather before turning out the lights.  The Cleveland Indians baseball home opener was postponed because of snow on the field and the TV weatherman reported that the average last date for snow in Cleveland is April 18, and for Detroit, April 22.  In spite of a mild winter and early spring, I knew there was a reason we were not in a hurry to return home.  The low at our house was forecast to be 18 degrees F overnight.

2016/04/05 (M) Celebration

We were up at 7 AM, showered, and got dressed.  We tended to our cats and prepared the motorcoach for them to be comfortable while we were away for part of the day.  We each had a banana, and a little orange juice to wash down our vitamins, but did not have a full breakfast or our usual morning coffee.  We gathered up all of the things Linda needed for her doctor’s appointment and were in the car and on our way at 8:10 AM.

Our destination was the office of Dr. Michael Seidman in Celebration, Florida, a trip of 60 to 65 miles from Jetty Park that would take about as many minutes.  Most of the route was Toll Road (FL-528 and FL-417) and we did not have to slow down for the toll booths because we have a Florida SunPass transponder that we can move between the bus and the car.  We put the address of the clinic, which is attached to Florida Hospital, into the GPS.  It accepted Celebration as the city, but the routing showed the destination as Kissimmee.  I didn’t care what it called the place as long as it got us to the correct location.

We left earlier than needed in order to arrive earlier than required and allow for traffic and navigational contingencies.  Less than a mile from the medical center we spotted a Panera Bread Company store and stopped to have bagels and coffee.  While we were there we made use of the free Wi-Fi to update apps on our iPads and smartphones.  We left at 10:15 and finished the short trip to the Florida Hospital complex.  We found a parking spot, found the clinic building, and found the suite for the Head & Neck Surgery Center of Florida (H&NSCF).  Linda had already completed much of the required new patient paperwork so we were there with time to spare.

Sheila, one of the office assistants, got Linda checked in and wanted to know if we had brought copies of her records from Henry Ford Health System, where Dr. Seidman worked for 30 years and treated Linda for the last 20 of those.  I had e-mailed Sheila the day after she asked me to get those records to let her know that HFHS would not send them to another hospital or clinic at Linda’s request and that the H&NSCF would have to request them.  Sheila said she did not receive that e-mail, even though I replied to one she sent Linda.  Oh well, there was nothing to be done at that point.

It was a great relief to Linda to be able to get in to see Dr. Seidman.  Dr. S and his PA, Katherine, carefully went over the history of Linda’s illness and treatment of the last three weeks.  He indicated that the treatment was what he would have prescribed, which was comforting to know.  His routine ENT examination did not reveal any indication of infection or fluid in her “good” (right) ear, which was also good to know.  He really wanted to compare the recent audiological results with her last tests from HFHS so he made a call to someone at the HFHS ENT clinic and was able to get them to fax the test results.  He chaired the ENT department for much of his time at Henry Ford, and that was apparently still worth something with former colleagues.

Dr. S also inserted a scope through Linda’s right nostril and into her throat to exam the areas that cannot be seen any other way.  The scope is a thin, flexible cable with a camera and LED light source at the tip.  The image is fed to a monitor, where I got to see it in real time, but was also recorded so Linda got to see it afterwards.  Her vocal cords did not close completely and were slightly bowed, which Dr. S thought probably accounted for her weak, slightly horse, voice but there was no sign of infection or other pathology, such as tumors.  He noticed that the Eustachian tube opening was “bubbling” which he thought was a good sign.  He also examined the left nostril and did not see anything unusual there either.

All of that was good news, of course, but we were both a bit let down that there wasn’t any additional treatment he could provide at this time.  Direct injection of steroids into the middle ear was still a possibility but he wanted Linda to wait at least four weeks to see if she improved on her own before going down that path.  Equally frustrating was that her hearing, while marginal, was too good for a cochlear implant.  Not that she is eager to have one of those, of course, what she wants is the hearing in her right ear restored to what it was before she got sick a month ago.

Our friend, Mara, was moving her motorhome today from Clermont to Winter Haven and her friend, Michael, was driving to Orlando International Airport to drop off a rental car and fly back to Phoenix, Arizona.  They had hoped to do all of that by way of Celebration and have lunch, with or without us, at Ari, a Japanese sushi restaurant.  We had indicated that it was very doubtful we would make it to lunch, given the timing of Linda’s appointment, but called Mara when we got back to our car to update her.  It turned out that when she got ready to leave her motorhome slideout would not slide in.  (I think that’s why they are called slide “outs.”)  Michael returned home as planned while Mara arranged for a technician to fix her non-sliding slideout.

We needed to fax a few documents to National General Insurance Company, so we went in search of a Staples with a copy center.  Having taken care of that we wanted to have lunch before heading back to Cape Canaveral so as not to be eating dinner too late in the day.  We found another Panera near FL-417 and Orange Blossom Trail and ate there.  The kale-romaine-couscous-almond salad was excellent and the black bean soup was as good as usual.  Well fed, we got on the FL-417 Toll Road and headed back towards the FL-528 Toll Road, which we took back to Cape Canaveral.

We were back at Jetty Park before 2:30 PM and just relaxed for a while.  Around 4 PM we went outside to take care of a few things in preparation for our departure tomorrow.  I got out the waste drain hoses and connected two of them together to reach from the utility bay connection to the sewer connection, which was inconveniently located directly behind the RV pad.  We drained the waste tanks, rinsed out the hoses, and returned everything to their storage tub.  Using the 3-step stool, I retracted the two awnings on the driver side, which I had previously deployed to shade the Windows from the mid-afternoon sun.

We then emptied out the back of the car so I could add air to the temporary spare, which gave us a low pressure alarm on the drive from Webster to Cape Canaveral.  I had turned on the TireTraker TPMS earlier and most of the readings looked OK, but as long as I had the portable air compressor, hose, air chuck, and pressure gauge out I checked the front right (curb, PS) tire as a check on the TPMS. The tire gauge pressure was several pounds lower than the TPMS indicated pressure and was fairly close to where I wanted it so I left it alone.

Our destination tomorrow was Williston Crossings RV Resort in Williston, Florida, a trip of about 140 miles.  We had about a half tank of fresh water so I did not get out the softener and add any.  Somewhere in the middle of all this work we chatted with several neighbors, but eventually we got the car and bus repacked, including the patio mat and the two bag chairs.  At that point we only had the entry mat, entry stool, and power cord to deal with and the outside would be ready for travel.

Before dinner we went for a walk out by the shipping channel, the pier, and the beach.  There were people out and about but the park did not feel crowded and was quiet and calm, unlike the festive energy of the weekend with its day visitors, picnickers, and family campers with younger children.  It’s as if J. P. has moods, and one has to spend enough time here and experience them to begin to get a sense of the place.  We could understand why Pat and Vickie like to come here every year, even if that is not what we would choose to do.

I could not recall what Linda made for dinner because I am trying to finish this post a week later.  What I do recall is that the Norwegian Breakaway was scheduled to set sail at 9 PM, well after sunset.  It had been a pleasantly cool day with clear skies but turned chilly with the setting of the sun and a noticeable breeze, especially outside the campground by the water.  Linda was tired and a little chilled and chose not to walk out and watch the ship leave.  At 8:45 PM I got my camera, walked over to the channel, and positioned myself by the “Minimum Wake” sign.  I had a good view of the Port to the west and could lean on one of the posts for support if needed.  I put my camera in SCN (scene selection) mode, selected the “Night” setting, and waited.

I had not noticed that the ship was docked with its stern facing the ocean until it started to move.  Its position at the dock meant it would have to do a 180 degree turn before moving down the channel and into the ocean.  And that meant it was going to take longer to exit the port and give me more opportunity to photograph it.

The Norwegian Cruise Lines “Breakaway” doing a 180 degree maneuver in the turning basin. Port Canaveral, FL.

The cruise ships are always brightly illuminated when coming and going in the dark and are quite pretty to see as they glide almost silently by.  They are also challenging to photograph as they are often very high contrast (high dynamic range) subjects, especially at night.  Ideally I would shoot multiple bracket exposures and combine them using HDR software, but I would have to get the camera on a tripod and even then the exposures would be just long enough that the ship would change position slightly between frames.  I did the best I could with single frame, hand-held exposures braced against the sign post.  By the time the Breakaway was in open water I was getting chilled and headed back to the warmth of our bus.  I transferred the images to my computer and took a quick look at them before settling in to watch a few minutes of TV and then go to bed.

 

2016/03/31 (R) Historic Cocoa Village

2016/03/31 (R) Historic Cocoa Village

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

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

A small part of downtown Historic Cocoa Village, Florida.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/03/29-30 (T-W) Merritt-Island Grills Lionfish

2016/03/29 (T) Merritt Island NWR

Our day had four distinct parts.  Part one was our usual early morning routine which involved coffee, orange juice, homemade granola with fresh blueberries, and iPads.  Part 2 involved a trip to the office by me around 10:30 AM to pay the balance (2 nights) of our next three nights at Jetty Park.  The reason for this was that we had to move our bus from site #352 to site #358 at noon.

The current occupants of site #358 were packing up as I left for the office and pulled out by a little after 11 AM.  We shook out the patio and entry mats and laid them back on the ground.  We then removed all of the window/windshield covers and laid them on the patio mat.  Once they were stacked Linda rolled them up and put them away in the front bay.  While she did that I disconnected the fresh water connections from the supply faucet and coach inlet.  I then dumped the back water and gray water waste tanks.

Site #358 is a full hookup site but the waste drain is on the “wrong” (passenger) side of the coach at the back edge of the concrete pad.  In that location it would be almost impossible to use, but that would not be a problem as long as I dumped the tanks before we moved.  We can go 9 to 10 days before we have to dump but after today’s move we will be moving again in three days and again three days after that.  The next move is to a water only site (#3) by the shipping channel but we can stop at the dump station on the way if needed.  The last move we will be to site #303 with a sewer connection in the correct location.  What this comes down to is that waste management is not going to be a problem as long as the waste tanks are empty before we leave site #352 today.

Site #358 is directly behind site #352 so rather than load everything into the bays, I carried the water softener, fresh water filter, and hoses to the new site and then transferred the waste drain hose and support accordion while Linda carried the patio and entry mats and the entry step stool to the new site.  Linda also tidied up the interior enough that I could move the coach without anything getting broken.

At this point we were basically ready to move.  I shut off the air-conditioners and electric heating element for the Aqua-Hot, shut the main AC circuit breaker in the utility bay, and disconnected the shorepower cord.  I coiled the cord and carried it to the new site.  I then turned on the air valve for the engine accessories, connected the chassis batteries, and started the engine.

It took a couple of minutes for the chassis to air up during which time I lifted and dropped the tag axle a couple of times because I wasn’t sure it was responding to the control lever.  The people next door to us on the left were away so their pickup truck wasn’t there to impede our departure.  Linda moved a bicycle on their site just enough to make sure it was also out of my way.   The site was much easier to get out of than it was to get into, in part because there was a pickup truck parked next door when I backed in.

I slowly drove clockwise around Red Knot Circle to enter the northern branch of the loop going the correct direction (east) to be able to back into site #358.  There were no obstructions to impede backing into the site and I was able to maneuver the coach using the side mirrors and rear view camera while Linda spotted the rear end.  With no obstacles at the rear of the concrete pad we were able to center the tires side-to-side with a few inches to spare and front-to-rear with about a foot to spare fore and aft.  I dropped the tag axle and checked the level of the kitchen counter.  It looked good so I let the system air up until the air-dryer purged and then shut the engine off.

The back end of the coach was only about 40 feet from where it was 15 minutes earlier but we had to go through the whole departure/arrival process.  I disconnected the chassis batteries, closed the engine accessories air valve, connected the shorepower cord, and put AC power to the coach.  I then stored the sewer hose as we would not be needing it right away, and put the water softener in the front bay temporarily.  While I did that, Linda spread out the patio and entrance mats and set up the entrance step stool.  Pat and I were sitting at the picnic table enjoying the shade and the breeze when Vickie called to see if we were ready to go on our afternoon outing.  Pat walked back to their site to get the car (and Vickie) and so began Part 3 of our day.

Linda packed a light picnic lunch and I grabbed my small camera bag.  Pat and Vickie arrived at our site a few minutes later, picked us up, and we headed out.  Our destination was the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge just north of the John F. Kennedy Space Center.  The route was FL-A1A/FL-528 west to US-1 north to Titusville and then east on 403 to the NWR Visitor Center.

Linda needed to eat before she could take her next steroid pill so our first order of business was lunch on one of the picnic tables.  Once we had eaten we checked out the displays inside and then walked the boardwalk.  Vickie had her Senior Access pass and got a holder to hang it from the rearview mirror before we headed deeper into the refuge.

There is a channel that connects the Mosquito Lagoon to the Indian River Lagoon.  The channel is part of the Intercostal Waterway and is crossed by a drawbridge on Route 3.  The north bank of the channel east of the bridge is a regular hangout for West Indian Manatees and the refuge has a parking lot and viewing platform to safely accommodate visitors.  Pat and Vickie had been here before and not always seen manatees but today was our lucky day.

West Indian Manatees in the channel that connects Indian River Lagoon and Mosquito Lagoon. Merritt Island NWR, Florida.  The channel is part of the Intercoastal Waterway.

As best we could estimate there were at least a dozen manatees feeding and frolicking along the bank, including at least two juveniles.  We spent 30 minutes there, maybe longer, during which time I took about 50 photos.  The weather was heavily overcast and the water was a little murky, neither of which was ideal for photography.  The added challenge was that manatees usually only bring a small amount of their body out of the water at any one time, typically just their nostrils or tail and only for a short time.  The juveniles, however, seemed to be trying to climb onto the backs of what we presumed were their mothers and occasionally were sufficiently above the surface to have a good look at them.  Even so, getting a good photo was going be a matter of timing (anticipation) and luck, especially given the limitations on where I could position myself.

We saw a Wild Boar as we pulled out.  We still had plenty of hours of daylight and decided to drive the Wildlife Loop Road.  We saw lots of birds, a couple of alligators, and a Flamingo on the wing.  We then headed back to Titusville where we stopped at a CVS Pharmacy so Linda could restock her OTC medications.  Before we got out of Titusville the weather moved in with thunder and lightning.  We saw a pair of Flamingos on the wing on the way back to Jetty Park.

We got back to Jetty Park about 5 PM where Part 4 of our day was a quiet evening at home.  In spite of somewhat elevated humidity, and the possibility of rain in the forecast, we turned off the air-conditioners and opened the windows and roof vents/fans.  Linda was tired and did not want to go for a walk but felt well enough to make nice salads and heat some Amy’s Pad Thai for dinner.  We watched NCIS and NCISLA, both of which were reruns, and the James Corden “Car Pool Karaoke” special that was on instead of Limitless.  We are rarely up late enough to watch The Late Late Show but I had to admit that Corden is a very funny guy; hyperactive crazy, but very funny.  Since Linda could not hear the singing or banter, she did not really experience what was going on.

Once again Linda tried sleeping in bed but lying down was still causing increased pressure in her ears so she moved to the makeshift bed using the two facing captain’s chairs in the living room.  I watched the news/weather on the Orlando CBS affiliate and then watched part of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert before going to sleep at midnight.

2016/03/30 (T) GRILLS Lionfish

We had some light rain last evening that forced me to close the roof vents.  It appeared to be done by bedtime so I opened the vent in the bathroom and set the fan to exhaust on speed 2.  By the time we both got up this morning I did not feel like making coffee so we got dressed and walked to the office with our coffee mugs.  We watched the Bloomberg financial channel and The Weather Channel on cable/satellite TV in the lounge area and then checked to see if any full hookup sites had opened up for the weekend.  They had not, so we walked back to our rig.

I finished up yesterday’s blog post and then checked with Vickie about activities for today.  The John F. Kennedy Space Center is now an expensive “entertainment experience” run by a private company.  After checking our options we decided to pass.  The normal senior adult price for a 1-day pass is $46, $75 for a multi-day pass.  Two optional extended tours were $25 per adult per tour, so this would be a $100 to $125 per person, and probably require at least two days to do, if we wanted the full experience.  CocoaBeach4Less.com has a special for the general admission of two adults for $19.99 total.  The catch?  Sitting through a 1-hour presentation on the travel agency’s extensive services.  No obligation to buy, of course, but “no thanks” just the same.  We got to visit the Space Center as USAF ROTC cadets when it was in active use for the space shuttle program in the late 1970’s, so visiting it as an expensive entertainment experience did not hold much interest for us.

Vickie checked on the Exploration Tower and Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Tour.  It was $27 per person and only operated on Fridays and Saturdays.  (The Tower is open 7 days a week.)  We could not go on Friday because we have to move the bus again (our third Jetty Park Shuffle since we arrived on March 21st).  The tour was tentative for Saturday based on insufficient bookings.  Vickie explained that there would be four of us and was asked to call back at noon.  She did, and the tour was a ‘go’ so they signed up and then I called and signed us up.  They needed our full names, driver’s license numbers, and dates of birth as the historic Cape Canaveral Lighthouse is in the USAF Cape Canaveral Air Force Station which is restricted access property that is not open to the public.

I have had a really nice Logitech UltraThin Bluetooth Touch Mouse for a while and it has worked well.  It started acting up yesterday, which is to say it quit responding even though Windows 10 indicated it was connected.  I restarted my computer and recharged the mouse even though I did not think it needed it and it worked again until today, when it quit responding again.  I was not in the humor to waste time with it, and Linda needed some additional medications, so I drove to Cocoa Beach.  My first stop was the CVS Pharmacy and my second stop was at Radio Shack, both very conveniently on the right hand (west) side of N. Atlantic Avenue when heading south.  When I returned I moved my computer to the portable dining table so Linda could use the desk.  She worked on accounting for the bakery while I started editing blog posts from early January 2016.

We checked with Vickie around 1 PM but they were having lunch so we went for a long walk to the beach and pier without her.  Back at our coach Linda made nice salads for lunch, which we ate around 2 PM.  I then took a nap while she researched restaurant possibilities for dinner tonight.  She suggested GRILLS on the shipping channel and Vickie agreed to a 6 PM dinnertime.

When I got up Linda handed me a Livingston County Court Jury Summons for April 4 through 15.  Our daughter was checking our mail, saw it, scanned it, and e-mailed it to us.  That was obviously not going to work, so I called the phone number in the letter and got rescheduled to the last two weeks of June.  It was just dumb luck that the timing worked out as our children only check our mail every other week.

GRILLS is located towards the west end of the shipping channel on the south side near the Exploration Tower, deep sea fishing charters marina, and a number of other restaurants, bars, and shopping.  There were a lot of cars and people in the area and when we checked in with the hostess we were told it would be 45 minutes to an hour wait for a table.  Ugh.  Waiting for a table at a restaurant is not on my “favorite things to do” list.

We walked around a bit and browsed the shop across the street where we looked at Lion Fish in an aquarium and learned about them.  They are a highly invasive species with no natural predators in this part of the world.  Their spines are extremely venomous but their meat is not.  It is apparently incredibly tender and delicious and GRILLS features it on their menu.  It only took 30 minutes to get a table and the time passed quickly enough as we had something to occupy us.  The restaurant was crowded and noisy with spring break vacationers but Linda did OK.  She and I had black bean ‘burgers’ with salsa, Pat had a ‘real’ hamburger, and Vickie had fish tacos.  We walked down to the Weyland Gallery after dinner but it was closed.  We were all very full and returned to Jetty Park.  It was 8 PM when we got back to our rig.  For whatever reason we were picking up a lot more OTA TV stations tonight which gave us two PBS affiliate options.

As I wrote in yesterday’s post, we vacated site #352 just before noon and moved to site #358.  A smaller class C motorhome occupied site #352 last night but left this morning.  As of 5 PM site #352 was still unoccupied, so the park staff could have left us there and put the class C on site #358 last night.  As nice as Jetty Park is, and it is a nice place with generally friendly and helpful staff, it is owned and operated by the Canaveral Port Authority.  The CPA is a public/government entity and one gets the sense that the policies and procedures here have been developed more for the convenience of the operators than the comfort and convenience of the paying guests.  To be fair, we were probably still going to have to move before Friday, but if the park had a 1-night reservation for Tuesday, nothing for Wednesday, and a 1-night reservation for Thursday they could have left us on #352 until Friday when we move to site #3.

I had an iOS update available for my iPad2 and waited until 10 PM to initiate it using the Jetty Park Wi-Fi.  It took 30 – 45 minutes to download and install.  Once my tablet restarted I immediately had 10 app updates. The smallest was 27 MB and all the others were over 50 MB with the largest being 103 MB.  I did the updates one-at-a-time while I watched the news and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.  Linda went to bed at 11 PM and I finally climbed in at 1 AM after starting the last update.  Being on the road with a limited cellular data plan is not like being at home with a DSL connection so we do what we have to do to manage our data usage.

 

2016/03/27-28 (N-M) Squirrel-Nuts ENT Markets

2016/03/27 (N) Squirrel Nuts

Jasper started trying to get my attention around 7:15 AM.  He comes up close to my head on either side to get his head “scritched” and goes eyeball-to-eyeball with me from just a few inches away.  I finally got up at 7:30 AM and Linda got up around the same time.  She took her morning medications and returned to her seat bed while I tended to the cats’ food, water, and litter tray.  Linda was hungry and wanted breakfast so I cut the grapefruit in half only to find out that she cannot have grapefruit while taking the steroids.  No problem, it needed to be eaten and I can certainly eat an entire small grapefruit all by myself.

I did not feel like getting dressed right away to walk over to the office and get a couple of cups of free, but not very tasty, coffee so I ground up some of our beans and made a pot.  I have not done that since we got to Jetty Park and it was nice to have our own, special coffee again.  Once the coffee was brewed I plugged in the toaster and heated a couple of cinnamon raisin bagels for breakfast.  Linda went back to sleep after breakfast while I lingered on the sofa, enjoying my coffee, working on my blog post drafts, and playing a few games.  I eventually got a shower, got dressed, and took the trash to the dumpster.

The long range forecast was for afternoon high temperatures in the mid-80’s, plus or minus, with high humidity and rain chances.  The TV weather people have been describing the current whether as “summer like” which simply confirms for me that Florida is not someplace I want to be in the summer.  (Overnight low temperatures at home, however, are still dropping below freezing, so we are OK with where we are.)  I am tired of listening to our air-conditioners but this was going to be a mostly stay-at-home day given the weather conditions, the fact that Linda is not up for going anywhere or doing anything, and that today is Easter Sunday and many businesses are closed, even in Cocoa Beach.  At least the air-conditioners are keeping the humidity in the coach at a comfortable level, it’s the evaporator fan noise that is irritating.

A stay-at-home day is usually a good opportunity to upload some more posts to our blog and update the BCM page on our website.  The posts for the last third of December 2015 still needed to be edited before uploading so I started working on them.  I had just finished the ones for the 21st and 22nd when Linda wanted to go for a walk.  We walked over to the dumpsters to throw away our daily bag of trash and then walked to Pat and Vickie’s site where we found them sitting outside in the shade but without any breeze.  They decided to join us on our walk and we headed to the beach.  There was a steady offshore breeze but the sun was hot so we headed back to the campground in search of shade and a breeze.

We found both on the other side of the street from our site.  We got out our four folding chairs and set them up over there along with our little plastic folding table.  Yes, we own an old Prevost, but in many other ways are RVing lives are simple.  Vickie went back to their coach and returned with a beer (Leinenkugel’s Cranberry Ginger Shandy) and a bag of pretzels.  At the same time I brought out pretzel nibblers, peanuts, and almonds along with water for Linda and a beer for me (Yuengling Traditional Lager).

The air temperature was in the lower 80’s with somewhat elevated humidity, but we sat in the shade with the cool, pleasant breeze enjoying our snacks and beverages.  The squirrels here are used to people and one approached quite close to us looking for a handout.  For whatever reason I decided to share the remaining peanuts with it, which immediately attracted a couple more squirrels.  When I ran out I went inside and got more and washed off some grapes.  When the squirrels started having a territorial dispute over the peanuts I decided to quit feeding them.  About that same time we were all feeling a bit tired (relaxed?) and decided to go take naps.  Naps are good; I like naps.

At 5 PM we walked over to the shipping channel to see if one of the Disney Cruise Line ships was departing.  We got to watch The Disney Magic come all the way down the channel, led by the harbor pilot boat and followed by the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas.  As the Magic was just rounding the bend from its dock into the straight portion of the channel someone spotted a pair of dolphins swimming up the channel.  We saw their dorsal fins but I was not able to get a photo of them.  After the two cruise ships were clear of the channel we walked to the pier.  Along the way the tugboat American Champion pulled in a barge with Scow 6 stenciled on the side.  A small derrick boat then came in from the ocean and a little while later chugged back out again.

By 6:30 PM Linda was thinking about her next steroid pill, which she had to take after dinner, so we walked back to our coach.  A can of Amy’s Chili with some Soup & Oyster Crackers made for a quick, easy, tasty meal along with some black grapes.  After dinner I was able to tune in one of the PBS affiliates.  We watched a documentary on Harry Gordon Selfridge and Selfridge’s Department Store in London, England.  That was followed by an episode of Grantchester, another of the BBC Masterpiece Mystery series.  We split an apple for a late night snack.  At 10 PM we switched to CBS and watched an episode of Elementary followed by the evening news, during which Linda converted the living room captain’s chairs into her nighttime convalescence bed.

The only part of the news that interested yes was the weather as a significant front was draped from northeast to southwest and pushing east out of the Gulf of Mexico across central and northern Florida with heavy rain and lots of lightening.  The TV weatherman said it would impact Orlando between midnight and 3 AM before finally moving out into the Atlantic Ocean.  I figured that meant any impact on us wouldn’t start until at least 1 AM and peak between 3 and 4.  Once I had a sense of the weather I turned off the lights in the front of the coach and retired to the bedroom for the evening.  I did not feel like writing or playing games so I flipped channels for a while.  I could not tune in either of the PBS affiliates, and nothing else caught my interest, so I turned off the TV and the lights and went to sleep.

2016/03/28 (M) ENT Markets

I was up at 7 AM and discovered that Linda had also just gotten up to take her morning steroids.  I put on my robe, put away the clean dishes from last night, fed the cats, cleaned the litter tray, and made a pot of coffee.  Once the coffee was brewed I toasted the last two cinnamon raisin bagels and we had those for breakfast.  After breakfast Linda played word games and I finished up yesterday’s blog post draft.

After two days of steroids Linda’s voice and hearing were slightly improved, but not much, and she continues to be tired, even listless, and sleep off and on through the day.  Today, however, she got dressed and settled in to work at her computer reconciling our charge receipts and bank balances.

We had decided that we would leave Jetty Park on Friday and were discussing where we might go next.  We knew that Linda needed a follow up appointment with her ENT back home so I called to arrange that.  We were surprised to find out that Linda’s ENT, Dr. Michael Seidman, was no longer at Henry Ford.  I was able to get an appointment with a different ENT for late April, but in the course of doing that I found out that Dr. Seidman had moved his practice to Celebration, Florida.  That’s the home of Disney World and is only about 50 miles from where we are camped!

By searching online we located the practice Dr. Seidman has joined, the Head and Neck Surgery Center of Florida (HNSCF), which is affiliated with Florida Hospital, a 7th Day Adventist facility.  I called and was informed that Tuesday, April 5 was the first day he would be seeing patients, so apparently his relocation was in-process.  We got an appointment for 11 AM.  The clinic asked me to contact HFHS and request a copy of Linda’s medical records which I decided to take care of later.  For now our immediate concern was figuring out where we were going to be camped between now and then.

At about this time Vickie called to let me know they had decided to leave on Monday, April 4 and that we could have their site starting that day if we wanted.  The trick was that we needed to go to the office together so she could cancel their reservation starting that day and I could immediately pick it up.  That prompted me to meet her and Pat at the office where I signed up for site #303 for Monday and Tuesday evenings with departure on Wednesday, April 6.

We were already set to move to site #358 tomorrow at noon for three nights so I needed a site for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.  The only sites that were big enough to accommodate our bus and available for all three nights were in the boondocking area by the shipping channel.  I preferred that to having to move one or two extra times, and trying to squeeze into sites that were marginal in size, so Pat, Vickie, and I walked out to look at the available sites.  I selected site #3 and went back in to complete the registration process.  Vickie thought we would enjoy being parked with a view of the channel and Pat noted that the lack of trees was offset by a constant breeze.  We would also be parked facing north, so we would not have the sun on our windshields.  It came up later that we might have tried Sherwood Forest RV Park near Celebration, but at this point I did not want to move the bus very far prior to Linda’s appointment and risk having a problem which I would then have to deal with.

With all of the reservations taken care of I returned to our coach and explained the arrangements to Linda and then settled in at my computer to edit the blog posts for the last nine days of December 2015.  Around 2 PM I called the Henry Ford Hospital West Bloomfield ENT clinic to request a copy of Linda’s medical records be faxed to the Head and Neck Surgery Center of Florida.  I was transferred to the medical records department, where I was informed that they could not send records to a hospital or clinic based on a patient request and that the request would have to come directly from the receiving clinic.  The medical records clerk provided me with a phone number for the clinic to use.  We had exchanged a couple of e-mails with Sylvia at HNSCF so I replied to one of them with the relevant information.

Mid-afternoon Vickie called again to see if we wanted to ride to town with them.  Linda was feeling up to it so we agreed to go.  Our first stop was at the Sunseed Food CO-OP on N. Atlantic Avenue.  We bought a few things that did not need refrigeration and Linda made note of their extensive selections of Amy’s frozen entrees and pizzas as well as the Coconut Bliss non-dairy ice cream.  Out next stop was the small Coastal Produce market in downtown Cocoa Beach where Linda and Vickie bought some fresh produce.  We stopped at Sunseed Food CO-OP again on the way back to the campground and stocked up on Amy’s frozen entrees, got a couple of pizzas, two pints of non-dairy ice cream, and some nutritional yeast.  Vickie also bought some nutritional yeast as she had seen several recipes that called for it but was not familiar with it.

On the way back to Jetty Park Pat detoured through the western end of Port Canaveral on the south side of the shipping channel to show us the various dining options (restaurants, bars, and grills) located there.  The Disney Cruise Line terminals are a bit farther west and on the other side of the channel but we did not drive over there as we had fresh and frozen food that needed to get into our refrigerators and freezers.

With the food put away I resumed editing my blog posts from late December and managed to finish the one for December 31st just as Linda was putting dinner on the table.  I pushed the wrong button on the convection microwave oven and screwed up the sequence but the pizza still came out OK.  The fact that she felt like fixing dinner at all was one of the first good signs we have had in two weeks regarding her health.  Dinner wasn’t fancy, just a nice salad and vegan pizza, but it was tasty and it was nice to sit at the table and eat it.

After dinner we met up with Vickie and went for a long, slow walk.  Linda got to see site #3 and thought it would be nice for three nights.  We also walked the entire length of the paved sidewalk that meanders through the southern edge of the park property and saw lots of the feral cats that live here.  The cats are fed by official volunteers and we spotted numerous plastic bowls at several locations with cats hanging about nearby.  (My understanding is that feral cats and not “wild” cats; they are domestic cats that have returned to the wild.)  When we eventually made it to the beach the ocean was just an hour past low tide so there was more beach exposed than we had yet seen.  There were dark clouds visible from southwest to northwest moving slowly east so we walked north along the beach and the over the dunes to the concession building.  Linda spotted the sun just setting and it was enormous and orange-red.  We scurried up to the observation deck to get a better look and tried to take a few photos with our smartphones.  They generally capture good images with proper exposure, but the correct exposure for sunsets and sunrises can be very tricky.

With the sun out of sight we walked back along the channel to the campground office where Vickie and I each got a cup of coffee.  We then headed back towards our coach and finally went our separate ways at the fork in the road.  We were back at our coach at 8 PM and turned on the TV to watch our Monday night CBS shows.  Almost all of our TV viewing this winter has been CBS and PBS and we have been fortunate to be able to receive these signals almost everywhere.  Linda decided to try sleeping in bed for the first time in a week.  I watched the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert but turned the TV off at midnight and went to sleep.

 

2016/03/24-26 (R-S) Cocoa-Beach-Historic-District ENT Dirty-Talk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/25 (F) Orlando ENT Visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/26 (S) Let’s Talk Dirty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/03/21-23 (M-W) 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.

 

2016/03/18-20 (F-N) Detailing Brakes FGMCR Finale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/19 (S) Braking News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The DS tag axle air disc brake caliper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/20 (N) FGMCR Finale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/03/15-17 (T-F) Clermont Orlando Brakes Linner

2016/03/16 (T) Clermont & Orlando

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/16 (W) Braking News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Florida Citrus Tower in Clermont, FL.

2016/03/17 (R) Linner at Papa Joe’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Webster Flea Market and Sumter Co, Florida Farmers Market.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/13 (N) Saving Daylight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/03/09-11 (W-F) Shop Eat Be Happy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/10 (R) Coyote Rojo Redux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/11 (F) FGMCR Happy Hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/03/08 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.

2016/03/08 (T) Coverup Reset

I was awake at 7 AM having only slept for six hours, and not slept well at that.  The Magnum remote showed the house batteries at 23.9 VDC and 44% SOC.  The Fault light was also still on, and 24.0 VDC was my target voltage, so I put on my sweats, went outside, and turned on the AC power to the coach.  The charger section of the Magnum 4024 inverter/charger did not activate, which was very concerning, and I was not getting any current on L1.  Figuring out what was wrong, and fixing it if possible, was not what I planned to do today but suddenly became my first/highest priority task.  I was reminded, once again, that the RV lifestyle has a lot of unexpected twists and turns and successful enjoyment requires a willingness and ability to deal with whatever comes up.

In order to get on with our day I shut off the Magnum inverter and then shut off the AC shorepower.  I unplugged the AC cables into and out of the inverter and plugged the AC subpanel directly into the external AC feed.  I turned off the 12 VDC master switch, disabling all of our 12 VDC devices, including our water pump and the control circuitry for the auxiliary air-compressor, and disconnected the positive 24V battery cable from the Magnum 4024, removing power from the unit.  I turned on the shore water and at that point we were able to use the coach, at least as long as the auxiliary air pressure remained high enough to operate the air-flush toilet.  Worst case was that we might have to use the small portable air compressor and/or start the main engine occasionally to pressurize the system.

There wasn’t a medical emergency at our coach.  This is Bill and Brenda Phelan’s mobile workshop RV on our site (#230) at Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort in Webster, FL.

There wasn’t a medical emergency at our coach. This is Bill and Brenda Phelan’s mobile workshop RV on our site (#230) at Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort in Webster, FL.

My next priority was making coffee and having breakfast.  Bill and Brenda Phelan were due to arrive at 9 AM so we needed to be up, dressed, and ready for them.  I called Brenda at 8:20 AM and she said they were on the way and would arrive on time.  I drove up to the main gate at 8:45 and waited for them.  When they arrived I directed them to our site and then drove back myself.

Bill and Brenda Phelan have several businesses, but this sign on the door of their mobile workshop RV says it all.

Bill and Brenda Phelan have several businesses, but this sign on the door of their mobile workshop RV says it all.

The first time we met Bill and Brenda was when we attended the Arcadia Rally 2014 (at the end of December 2013).  They took over the operation of the rally starting with the 2012 gathering at the end of 2011, and ran it for five years, but it was not their main business.  They had several businesses including a food concession trailer (The Fry’in Saucer) that they just sold.  Their main business is making windshield covers, tire covers, windshield wiper and mirror covers, and patio mats.  We ordered tire covers and windshield wiper covers from them at the Tampa RV Supershow in January and they shipped those to use at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia a few weeks ago.

Brenda and Bill test fit the main windshield cover before installing the corner snaps on our Prevost H3-40 motorcoach.  Site #230, Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort, Webster, FL.

Brenda and Bill test fit the main windshield cover before installing the corner snaps on our Prevost H3-40 motorcoach. Site #230, Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort, Webster, FL.

They were here today to make external covers for our bus windshields and the glass on both the driver and passenger sides of the cockpit.  They operate RV Windshield Covers of Florida as a mobile business out of a very unique vehicle.  Having converted a couple of buses into motorhomes they bought a used EMS truck (ambulance) and reconfigured it as a small motorhome with an industrial sewing machine and storage for all of their tools, materials, and supplies.  The window covers are custom made on site, so the mobile workshop is a necessity.

After looking at our coach and discussing the job with us, we decided to have one large cover for the windshield, on large cover for the driver side fixed windows, and three covers for the passenger side.  The reason for three covers on the passenger side was that the door has a window that opens and we wanted to be able to cover it independently.  That required the fixed windows above it and to the rear of it to each have their own cover.  Basically, the work went as follows:

  • Measure the window to be covered.
  • Roll out a large enough piece of fabric on the ground.
  • Cut the fabric to that require shape and dimensions, but a bit larger all the way around.
  • Hem the edges and reinforce them, adding loops to the four corners and the company label to one of the hems.
  • Attached 1/2 of a snap fitting to each corner to start, and in the center of the upper edge of wider pieces.
  • Hold the fabric up and get it temporarily in position and mark the location on the body of one of the upper corner snaps. Drill and hole and screw the mating park of the snap into the body.
  • Attach the fabric to the snap and then stretch it to the other upper corner and mark the location of that snap.
  • Drill a hole and screw in the mating part of the snap.
  • Attach the fabric to the second snap. Repeat this for the lower corners and any additional snaps that are needed to get the fabric to stretch tight and lay flat.
  • Repeat for each window cover.
Windshield and driver side covers finished and installed and looking good in the late afternoon glow of the late afternoon sun.

Windshield and driver side covers finished and installed and looking good in the late afternoon glow of the late afternoon sun.

While Bill and Brenda worked I called John Palmer to get his opinion about the Magnum 4024 problem.  He suggested that I reset the unit and see if that cleared the fault.  If not, he suggested I call tech support.  He confirmed that he had a couple of units in stock if I needed one, and also had high end standalone chargers.

 

 

The front cover goes under all four wipers and covers all four windshields with one large piece of fabric.  We were very impressed with the way Bill and Brenda made these covers, and very pleased with the way they turned out.

The front cover goes under all four wipers and covers all four windshields with one large piece of fabric. We were very impressed with the way Bill and Brenda made these covers, and very pleased with the way they turned out.

I wanted to go through a careful diagnostic procedure before calling Magnum T/S.  I found the manual on my iPad and looked at the diagnostic and routine maintenance procedures.  The wiring appeared to be good and power was making it through the Progressive Industries EMS unit.  I thought I had reset the unit earlier but according to the manual I had not done it correctly, which is to say, I had not actually reset the unit.  Followed the directions and voilà!  I called John back to update him.

 

The three passenger side covers are clearly visible here along with the windshield cover.

The three passenger side covers are clearly visible here along with the windshield cover.

When Bill and Brenda were done working we got out four chairs, visited for a while, and gave them a tour of the interior remodeling work.  We were impressed with their on-site fabricating and installation process and very pleased with the way the covers turned out.  The chocolate brown mesh fabric is the same one we chose for our tire covers and complements the paint colors on the bus, including the chocolate brown upper body.

Once Bill and Brenda left Linda changed into her swimsuit and went to the pool while I took a nap.  Linda eventually returned from her swim, I eventually woke up from my nap, and we eventually had dinner.  At least I presume that we did as I did not finish this post at the time and am editing it for upload to our website many months later.  I did, however, record that Joan and Bill, whom we met at the welcome party yesterday, stopped to chat, and that another couple also stopped.

 

2016/03/07 (M) Arcadia to Webster

The outside air temperature dropped into the upper 50’s last night but we were toasty in our mobile dwelling.  Before turning in we closed the roof vents and windows and put the freshly laundered bedspread back on the bed.  I turned on the electric heating pad on my side of the bed and snuggled in.

Linda was up at 7 AM and I got up at 7:30.  The temperature in the rig (on the kitchen counter) was 67, which felt slightly cool so I put on my sweats.  I ground up six scoops of coffee beans instead of the usual eight and Linda toasted our last bagel, which we split for breakfast.  We downloaded e-mails onto phones, iPads, and computers, and settled in to doodle for a while before making our final departure preparations.  I saw Ron and Vera getting ready to walk somewhere and popped outside to remind them that we planned to pull out between 10 and 11 AM this morning.  Their pickup truck is parked crossways in front of their trailer and they agreed to move it to make it easier for me to pull out.  We did not get to know them very well, but they were good, pleasant neighbors the whole time we were here.

We finished our coffee around 9 AM, got dressed, and made the bed.  We then got busy getting ready to leave.  I turned on the block heater and Aqua-Hot engine preheat pump and then shut down our computer technologies and put them away.   Linda took a picture of the electric meter with her phone and walked over to the office to take care of our final electric bill while I started prepping the outside of the bus for travel.

There wasn’t a lot to do; stow the awnings, disconnect and stow the water and sewer hoses, stow the water softener, and put away the two bag chairs and folding plastic table, and fold up entry step and stow it in the front bay.  I checked the tire pressures on Friday and the engine oil yesterday.  No preparation was needed for the car.  I checked that the electrical and safety cables for the tow bar were secured for the trip to the filling station as Linda will drive the car separately and we will hook it up after fueling the bus.

When Linda got back from the office she straightened up the interior.  I shut off the engine block heater, Aqua-Hot engine preheat pump, Aqua-Hot electric heating element, and all other AC loads that do not run off of the inverter.  I then shut off the shorepower to the coach and stowed the shorepower cable.

Me, Linda, Mara, and Michael in front of our Prevost H3-40 at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL.

Me, Linda, Mara, and Michael in front of our Prevost H3-40 at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL.

Mara and Michael came to visit, get a group photo (which a passerby took for us), and say “farewell for now.”  I fired up the bus at 10:30 AM and we did a check of the buses lights.  Linda guided me out of the site and then followed in the car as Mara and Michael waved us on our way.

Our initial destination was the Shell station on US-17 just north of where FL-70 crosses through downtown Arcadia.  We needed to fuel the bus and had previously scoped out this station (on the advice of Jack Conrad, who lives in the area) as the only viable place in town.  We did not want to have the car attached to make it easier to maneuver the bus, especially in case we had to back it up to get into position by the diesel pump.

The station has a good sized lot and I was able to pull in and get clear of US-17 without any difficulty.  The diesel pump was at the outside edge of a canopy with an 11 foot clearance so I needed to be beyond the end of canopy but as close to it as possible.  There was a vehicle in that location when I arrived so I had to wait, but it moved soon enough and I was able to pull up while Linda watched the passenger side clearance.  I usually fill the fuel tank from the driver side, as that is the way truck stops are set up, but in this situation I had to fill from the passenger side as that had us pointed in the right direction to leave headed north on US-17 . It’s nice to have that choice.

Another nice thing about this station is that the diesel pumps have the large nozzles, so we can fill our tank in a reasonable amount of time.  Still, it takes a while to pump over 100 gallons of fuel, so while the tank was filling Linda pulled the car around behind the bus and we hooked it up for towing.  Once the tank was full Linda went in and paid the bill.  We then did a light check on the car and bus and were finally ready to roll.  We pulled out at 11:20 AM and headed north on US-17.

 View looking northeast at our H3-40 in site #230 at Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort, Webster, FL.

View looking northeast at our H3-40 in site #230 at Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort, Webster, FL.

We had a relatively short drive of about 100 miles and the GPS said we would arrive at 1:36 PM.  I knew that was optimistic as our route would take us through Lakeland, but we were not in any hurry.  There was a welcome reception at 4 PM so our only concern was getting there in time for that.

Somewhere between Arcadia and Bartow US-98 joins US-17.  They split again at Bartow, with US-17 heading northeast, and US-98 heading northwest.  We took US-98 through Lakeland as far as FL-471 where we headed straight north to Webster.  We pulled off there, however, to investigate an over temperature alarm on our driver side tag tire.  The reported temperature climbed as high as 190 degrees F but the pressure was still showing 85 PSI.  The cold tire pressure was at 82.5 PSI on Friday, so a 2.5 PSI pressure increase did not seem consistent with the indicated temperature.  My concern was that we might have a brake dragging, but if so I wasn’t aware of it while driving.

I pulled safely off the road on a wide shoulder that was also being used by several tractor-trailer rigs.  I checked the temperature of the tires with our infrared non-contact thermometer.  Most of the tires indicated around 125 degrees F and the driver side tag indicated 138.  Higher, for sure, but not 190 degrees.  I pointed the thermometer through a couple of the holes in the wheel and got temperatures around 390 degrees F.  When I checked the front wheels they were at 250 degrees.  The steer and tag tires/wheels have disk brakes but the tag tires are located next to the transmission, and close to the rear of the engine, so it was not unreasonable that they would be a little hotter, but not 140 degrees hotter.  One of my problems at this point was that I knew brakes rub slightly all the time and can get quite hot in operation, but had no idea what sort of temperatures were normal and what was excessive by comparison.

At FL-50 there was a three mile traffic backup headed southbound.  It took us a minute but we eventually realized that it was probably the traffic leaving the Webster Flea Market.  Since the traffic was trying to get out of Webster, not in, it did not affect our travels.  In Webster we headed due east on SE 1st Ave (FL-478) and a few miles later turned north into the entrance to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort.

The resort is set way back from the road and the entrance winds between two cattle fields demarcated by very nice white fences and lined with attractive street lamps.  It leads up to the gate house with the large clubhouse building just beyond.  It is reputed to be the largest clubhouse building of any RV resort in Florida, and the entrance to the resort makes quite an impression.  The gate attendant had us on a list of today’s arrivals and directed us to a large staging lot with enough room for four motorhomes to unhitch towed vehicles or trailers at the same time.

The view looking south from the in front of site #230 at Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort, Webster, FL.

The view looking south from the in front of site #230 at Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort, Webster, FL.

Linda checked in at the office while I unhooked the car.  I was escorted to site #230 by a volunteer in a golf cart and Linda followed in the car.  The streets here are very wide, wide enough for two-way motorhome traffic with room to spare.  The sites all have concrete pads that are wide enough to park two motorhomes side-by-side, and long enough for a 45 foot motorhome and a full-size pickup truck to be parked end-to-end with space to spare.  The point being that I was able to get parked easily with a little help from Linda and our escort.

I checked the level of the coach and it was spot on so I switched the control to one of the level-low positions and shut down the engine.  I deployed the awnings first and then got out the water softener and water hoses and hooked them up.  I got the shorepower cord out and connected it but did not turn the power on right away as I wanted to let the coach run off of the house batteries for a while.

The welcoming cocktail party was not until 4 PM in the clubhouse Billiards Room, so we had a little time before we had to leave.  I used the time to fill the fresh water tank with about 80 gallons of water and dump the black- and gray-water tanks.

I got our network technology up and running and got us online with our Verizon Mi-Fi.  Linda checked for TV stations via our ZIP code and found that our location is considered part of the Orlando/Daytona market.  We are parked facing slightly south of west and Linda was able to pick up CBS and PBS signals out of Tampa on the front TV.  I was not able to pick up the same signals on the rear TV so I turned the antenna west towards Orlando.  I scanned for stations and found 14, but most of them were too weak to lock onto.  The rear antenna has given us problems and needs to be replaced, but it has always been the case that the front and rear antennas do not respond equally unless we are in area of relatively strong signals.

View looking north from in front of site #230 at Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort, Webster, FL.

View looking north from in front of site #230 at Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort, Webster, FL.

There were about 24 people at the welcoming party including the resort activity director and a few “ambassadors,” people who own lots here and like the place enough to represent it to visitors like us.  We had a little wine and a few snacks, met some nice people, and had some good conversations.  This resort has a checkered ownership and financial history but the property owners we met were very open and forthcoming about the past and present, and realistically optimistic about the future.

The original developer is in prison (for fraud, I believe).  The people currently developing the resort are the forth group involved with the property, but everyone we talked to thinks they have done a good job.  They are bringing the resort out of foreclosure and it looks like a large group of residents will finally get their deeds.  Further, the long-term expectation is that the 249 sites in Phase 1 will finally all be sold and the developers will finish the 250 sites in Phase 2.  Our first impression of Florida Grande is that is already an attractive, upscale (luxury?), well-maintained, Class A motorcoach resort and that it probably has a promising future but that investing here stills carries a significant degree of risk.

Back at our coach we had a light dinner and watched some TV.  CBS had rearranged what shows were on and everything was repeats.  I also dealt with a GLCC issue but the thing that really preoccupied me was the inverter.  It was operating, but the Fault light on the remote was illuminated and the LCD screen was indicating a high AC input voltage.  That made no sense given that there was no AC power applied to the coach.

The house batteries seemed to be discharging at a reasonable rate, so I was not concerned about letting the coach run on batteries overnight.  The main problem we had was that the voltage into the UPS and line conditioner was apparently varying, causing the relays in the conditioner and the UPS circuitry to switch to batteries and then quickly back.  The regulator relays make an audible clicking noise when switching and the UPS emits a repeated warning beep while inverting from its internal battery.  I suspected the problem was the very low current draw on the house batteries and inverter under a very low load condition.  The best solution would have been to shut off all of the technology and then shut off the power to the UPS and voltage regulator but I did not want to do that.  That was probably a mistake as I found it difficult to ignore the noises after I went to bed.

 

2016/03/04-06 (F–N) BTCRVR Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/06 (N) Last Day Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/03/03 (R) Edison Ford Estates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

2016/03/01 (T) Super Tuesday Nutpods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/02 (W) Windshield Caulk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

2016/02/25 (R) Siesta Key

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/26 (F) Castle Stallions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/27 (S) Port Miami

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/28 (N) Cat Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/29 (M) Bonus Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/02/22-24 (M–W) 1 SP, 2 S-A-H

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/23 (T) Green Taco Wraps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/24 (W) Another Tornado Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/02/21 (N) Punta Gorda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

2016/03/16 (T) Girls Day Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/17 (W) FMCA NEC Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/19 (W) Michael Arrives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/20 (S) Peace River Woodcarvers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/02/12-15 (F–M) Everglades Update

2016/02/12 (F) Full Circle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/13 (S) Yard Sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

BP20160212_01732_400x300

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/14 (N) Valentine’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/02/10 (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.

 

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

2016/01/26 (T) Filter Me This

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/27 (W) Rained In

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/28 (R) Bloody Nose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/29 (N) Ed and Betty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/30 (S) Blog Swimming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/31 (N) Bus Article Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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