Category Archives: Florida Grande MCR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/19 (S) Braking News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The DS tag axle air disc brake caliper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/20 (N) FGMCR Finale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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2016/03/16 (T) Clermont & Orlando

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/16 (W) Braking News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Florida Citrus Tower in Clermont, FL.

2016/03/17 (R) Linner at Papa Joe’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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2016/03/12 (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.

 

2016/03/08 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.