Category Archives: Georgia

2015/11/29 (N) Cartersville to Mayo

I got up at 6 AM, fed the cats, turned on the engine block heater and the Aqua-Hot electric heating element, and then sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my back until 7:20 when I got dressed.  Linda was awake at 6 but fell back asleep and did not get up until after 7:30 AM.  We had toast and bananas for breakfast but no coffee or tea.

We had 342 miles to travel today to get to John Palmer’s place northeast of Mayo, Florida.  He operates Palmer Energy Systems (http://palmerenergysystems.com).  We had already driven almost 700 miles, not all of it due south, of course, so we estimated that we were at least 600 miles farther south than our house.  It may not seem like that much on a planet with a 24,000 mile circumference but it’s enough to make a big difference in the climate and weather.  I was going to check/adjust all of the tires before we left this morning but the temperature was only slightly warmer than when we left home.  The TireTraker TPMS seemed to indicate that the tires were OK (although I do not trust the readings I am getting) so I just inspected them visually.

Once again we targeted an 8:30 AM departure time and actually pulled out of our site at 8:35.  As soon as we pulled onto I-75 southbound we were in heavier traffic than I expected and it only got worse the farther south we went.  It was reasonably smooth sailing all things considered, those things being:  construction zones, dense traffic, sunshine (we were driving south, more or less), and drivers who didn’t know how to use an entrance ramp to merge onto a freeway.  The last one is one of the banes of my bus driving experience.

We only stopped twice.  The first stop was around 11 AM at the rest area near MM179 (south of Atlanta) to use the bathroom and give the cats a chance to do the same.  The second stop was at the rest area near MM59 around 12:30 PM.  We stopped long enough to have a snack of sliced apples, have something to drink, and use the bathroom.  It also gave the cats a chance to eat, drink, and use the litter tray.  I called John to get final instructions on how to get into his place.  That turned out to be a useful call; he confirmed that we would not have any problem with US-129/FL-51 traffic circle in Live Oak, Florida.  He also gave a specific tip to “pull off the road into the ditch (on the right) to swing wide enough to make the turn (to the left) onto his street from the county road.”

Because we were stopping for more than a few minutes I shut off the engine.  The Battery Balance light came on as I was pulling into the rest stop.  This light does not come on very often and usually only stays on for a few seconds and then goes off and stays off.  When I first turned the ignition switch on in Berea it came on and stayed on for several minutes but then turned off and stayed off.  It did not come on this morning when I first turned the ignition switch on in Cartersville, so I thought we might be OK (although I did not really believe that).  With the engine off (alternator not running), but the ignition switch on, the 24V and 12V gauges indicated less than full charge voltages.  I did not recall having ever seen that condition before.

We were back on the road by 1 PM with the OTR A-C turned on.  As always the A-C Low Pressure warning light came on occasionally but it always went off after a relatively short time.  Of more concern was the Battery Balance light, which went on and off for the next 40 miles.  Sometimes it would flicker but other times it would stay on for a long time.  Not good.

Caution and warning lights always add an element of stress to driving the bus, but Linda experiences it too from the co-pilot/navigator seat.  She knows that it stresses me and she can see the lights from her seat, so she knows what is going on at the same time I do.  In spite of the warning light the rest of the trip was smooth and uneventful.  We had much less traffic as soon as we exited I-75 onto US-129 in Florida.  We encountered a bit more traffic and had a slow roll through Live Oak, Florida.  Once we were on FL-51 headed south towards Mayo, Florida we had almost no traffic.  We crossed the Suwannee River twice, the second time just north of Mayo, and shortly thereafter made our turn onto CR-354 and headed east parallel to the river.

We found John’s street and followed his advice on how to get the bus in.  The problem was that the County Road was not that wide and John’s street was even narrower.  It also had signs on posts on each side right at the shoulder of the County Road.  That geometry meant that a long vehicle could not cut the corners and had to pass fairly straight between the sign posts.  The grassy shoulder was wide enough, before dropping off slightly into a drainage ditch, that I was able to get the passenger side tires well off the road and the driver side tires to the edge of the pavement.  It was also firm enough that I was not concerned about the passenger side tires getting stuck in soft soil.  I stopped and lifted the tag axles, to shorten the turning radius, and then pulled forward until I was looking down the road out my side window.  I then turned the front wheels to the left all the way to the stops and slowly made the turn.  I judged it just right, something I have gotten better at doing with experience, and we made it in without difficulty.  That was good because we had the car in tow behind the bus and could not back up.  If I had not made the turn we would have blocked the County Road for at least 10 minutes while we unhooked the car.  We slowly worked our way up to the buildings at the end of the road and I left the bus running while I went to find John.

John was in his trailer but heard me calling and came out.  He drove me through the parking approach in his Kubota utility cart and dropped me back at the coach.  I got it parked in a spot that had afternoon shade, leveled it, and shut the engine off while Linda opened a couple of windows and a roof vent.  John wanted to give us a tour of the property so I did not turn off the chassis batteries or close the air valves the way I normally would on arrival, but took care of that when we got back from our tour.

John is the caretaker for 400 acres of plantation pine woodland with a 25 year lease on 70 of the acres.  The owners still live on the property but are in their 80’s and one of their three children has a house on some of the acres.  John’s son, Pat, also has a trailer here and works with his dad.  There is a third guy here named Terry who works with John and also has a trailer.

Besides taking care of the property John has a solar energy business and a canopy business, all operated out of trailers that can be moved if/when needed.  He has been here for six years.  In that time he has created over six miles of trails through the woods and along the high south bank of the Suwannee River and cleared small areas for tents and a couple larger areas for RVs.  He does not run a campground or charge fees; the space is for friends and customers to use while they are here.  It’s a pretty neat place, kind of like a private state park, with access to the Suwannee River.

Back at the coach we talked about a solar installation for the bus and then John gave me a tour of his workshop and inventory trailers.  We probably won’t do anything relative to solar while we are here but I wanted to get John’s opinion on some things, which I did.  John knows what he knows and doesn’t pull any punches.  He has lived an off-grid, solar lifestyle for over a quarter century and he thinks solar systems on bus conversions are a waste of money as buses require substantial AC electrical power from a shoreline or Genset to really function fully and properly.  I concede that he is basically correct (unless you spend a lot of time in the southwest) but his utilitarian logic does not place any value on the “I want it because it’s cool” factor.

When I was done talking to John about solar stuff I opened the tray with the battery disconnect switches and the Vanner Equalizers (the coach has two of them operating in parallel) and checked to make sure the circuit breakers had not popped.  I had no way of knowing if they were operating correctly but I ruled out their shutting off as the cause of the chassis battery balance situation.  There was some corrosion on the terminals but not enough to cause a problem.  When I finally started the generator at 4:30 PM the maintenance charger for the upper 12V strand of the 24V chassis battery bank showed 25% SOC.  That was definitely not good and suggested that one or both of the upper 12V batteries had failed.  They are 5-to-6 years old so that would not come as a surprise.

I texted Chuck, described what I had found, and indicated that I planned to go buy four batteries tomorrow.  He asked if I still had my American Independent Trucker Association (AITA) NAPA Discount Card that we got through Prevost Community.  I did, and it did not expire until the end of the month, so tomorrow I will see if there is a NAPA store nearby with batteries I need in stock.

I set up the Amped Wireless router, the NAS, and my computer AC power adapter and connected the NAS and computer to the router with network cables.  I powered all of them up, turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi, and got the WiFiRanger connected to the Mi-Fi.  The Amped Wireless router connected to the WiFiRanger and everything worked as intended.  We were online so I checked e-mail.

Linda heated up a can of Amy’s chili for dinner, which we had with Saltine crackers and a little vegan “butter.”  I sliced up an apple later for dessert.

I tried calling Butch but did not reach him so I tuned in a TV station and worked on this post.  I tried Butch again later and finally got through to him.  We had not talked in several weeks so we had a nice chat.  Butch thought our batteries should have lasted seven years, given the way I use and maintain them, but conceded that five years is a typical lifespan.  He also mentioned that Nick Russell had used the picture I sent of our bus covered in snow in his blog.  I have not had a chance to check Nick’s blog in a while so I found the post when I was done talking to Butch.

By now it was 10:30 PM and I needed to get to bed.  John was leaving for breakfast at 7:15 AM and I had indicated that I would go with him so I did not want to be up too late and risk oversleeping.

 

2015/11/28 (S) Berea to Cartersville

I did not take any Ibuprofen before I went to bed last night as I felt OK.  I was also very tired and fell asleep without difficulty around 9:30 PM.  Under the best of circumstances I was going to be awake between 4:30 and 5:30 AM and that was the case this morning.  During that hour the cats prowled around the bed, got some attention from me, and looked out the windows.  What they really wanted, however, was food.

The pickup truck / 5th wheel combination that pulled in on our passenger side last night well after sunset was making departure preparations this morning at 5:30.  The strained muscle(s) in my lower right back were nagging at me and, unable to find a comfortable position, I finally got up at 6 AM as the neighbors were pulling out.  I sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my back and worked on my iPad.

The cats still had food and water but wanted fresh kibble, as they do every morning and evening.  It was in the bathroom closet, where it always is, but took me a while to find as it was hiding in plain sight behind the lower rack of hanging clothes.  Linda finally got up at 6:30 AM.  She rarely sleeps 10 or more hours but she was very tired when she went to bed at 8 PM last night and immediately fell asleep.  She also appears to be coming down with yet another cold.  For someone who rarely gets sick she has suffered with colds this fall.

We only had 300 miles to travel today, all on I-75, between Berea, Kentucky and Cartersville, Georgia.  With a fuel stop somewhere along the way it should only be a six hour day.  We got online and checked the weather.  Rain was forecast to start in Berea around 10 AM so we targeted 8:30 to 9 AM as our departure window and decided to have coffee and breakfast.  The cold front was sitting to our west running from southwest to northeast.  It was moving slowly southeast but the precipitation (mostly rain but with some ice and snow) was along the front and sliding northeast.  Based on how it was moving we figured we would probably have rain between Berea and Knoxville and then dry conditions from there to Cartersville where the chance of rain for today was 0%.

I had the engine running at 8:30 AM.  The battery balance light came on and stayed on for quite a while but eventually turned off and did not come back on.  That may just mean the Vanner equalizer was just doing its job.  However, with the upper and lower banks of the chassis batteries on maintenance chargers since we got here yesterday that just begs the question why they were out of balance.  We may be replacing the batteries and/or the Vanner equalizer this winter.

We pulled out of our site at 8:3 AM.  I-75 through southern Kentucky and northern Tennessee was very hilly but the highway was in excellent condition and it was a scenic and pleasurable drive.  Traffic started to get heavy as we approached Knoxville, Tennessee where there was apparently a college football game being played today.  Traffic remained heavy from there to our destination, which made the driving a little more work and a little less fun, but it was still OK.

The bus ran strong all day and I was able to climb the grade at Jellico, Tennessee in 4th gear without dropping below 50 MPH or getting the engine temperature above 200 degrees F (as best I could tell from the gauge) and the exhaust manifold pyrometers not exceeding 800 degrees F.  That was a big improvement over two years ago when I recall climbing up the mountain in the right lane behind slow trucks in a lower gear and worrying about the engine temperature.

Even though I had the cruise control on for most of the drive I did well using downhill speed to go up the other side and getting on the accelerator early to get the RPMs and turbo boost up and keep them there.  I typically saw 15 PSI boost at 2000 RPM but occasionally 16 or 17 PSI.  We really need a 0-20 boost gauge for this engine but I could not find one and doubt that they exist.  Besides, the new 0-30 gauge is working for me and I have other things that need to be fixed/replaced, such as the twin pyrometer gauge.  The left needle used to stick at the bottom of the scale but now the right needle is doing that.  Tapping on the face of the gauge usually frees it up, but not always.  When the needles are both working, however, they are showing the same temperature within 50 degrees F, which is comforting.  I used to think the bus (and me) liked to run at 62 MPH but I have come to the conclusion that it likes to run 65 to 68 MPH, and I am comfortable with that.

We stopped at the rest area about 41 miles north of the Georgia border where I replied to a text from Kristine and then called John Palmer.  He answered this time, said he was glad to have us visit, and gave me the address.  He said he will have customers there but there was plenty of room and we would not have a problem getting our bus in and out.  (Note:  We are also customers, albeit from a few years ago, but this is primarily a social visit and a place to stop for two nights.)  Rather than take time to eat while sitting still we had some pretzel and peanut snacks as we finished our drive to our destination for the day.

We arrived at exit 296 in Georgia around 1:45 PM and pulled into the Pilot Travel Center just southeast of the exit with the fuel gauge sitting at 1/4.  We picked this place to refuel because it is just on the other side of I-75 from our campground for tonight and I wanted to use as much of the fuel in the tank as I could without risking sucking dirt off the bottom or running out.

I figured we would take on 150 gallons of diesel fuel so I added 2 ounces of Racor Biocide, three 16 ounce bottles of Stanadyne Performance Formula diesel fuel treatment, and three 16 ounce bottles of Stanadyne Lubricity Formula.  The PF additive treats 60 gallons of fuel per bottle and I add it to the tank before each fill up in proportion to the amount of fuel I think I will add.  The directions for the LF additive say to “use it 4 to 6 times per year” but that is presumably based on an engine operating in a tractor-trailer or other commercial / industrial use.  Still, I only added one bottle last time when I should have added three, so I added three this time.  We ended up only adding 142 gallons but the extra additive won’t hurt anything.

I reset the trip odometer before we pulled out, which I forgot to do when I filled up at home.  We used to record our mileage and fuel purchases to get an idea of our fuel efficiency in miles per gallon but have never really had an accurate figure for a couple of reasons.  One was that the speedometer/odometer was not working correctly, or at all, and only got replaced in fall 2014.  The other is that the Aqua-Hot and auxiliary power plant both burn fuel from the same tank as the main engine.  Consequently, we can get an approximate idea of fuel consumption if we fill up at the beginning of a long day’s drive and then fill up again at the end before parking for the night, or if we know for sure that we are not going to use the Aqua-Hot or Genset prior to refueling.  Since we will be boondocking from tomorrow afternoon until Tuesday morning we will definitely be running the Genset and probably using the Aqua-Hot.

Our next fill up will probably be on the drive from Williston to Arcadia in late December and the only reason for topping up then is to make sure we pull into Big Tree RV Resort in Arcadia with a nearly full tank to minimize condensation while the bus sits there until early March.  This is one of the reasons I wanted to get all of the additives in the tank today.  We will have full hookups at Big Tree and do not expect to have to run the Aqua-Hot for space heating.  Even though we will have metered electric, we will use the electric heating element in the Aqua-Hot for domestic hot water except possibly for showering.  If the resort has a bath/shower house we might use it if convenient.

From the Pilot station I drove to the KOA about 3/10ths of a mile on the other side of I-75 and pulled up to the office at 2:10 PM.  The KOA is near Cartersville, Georgia.  It is a nice enough place with easy access but the facilities are not as extensive (read that as kid/family magnet) as some KOAs.  Linda got us registered and the woman in the office used a golf cart to lead us to our site.  We got a very convenient 50A FHU pull through site so getting in was easy and getting out tomorrow morning should be equally easy.

We leveled the coach and went through our arrival routine, minus the water and sewer connections.  It was 71 degrees F outside with low afternoon sun was just warm enough in the coach that Linda opened several windows and I put the screen in the door window.  We then went for a walk around the campground.  The place was almost full and seemed to have a lot of rigs that appeared to be set up for long-term stays.  The woman in the office confirmed later that they were fully booked for this evening and that 2/3rds of the campground was in use by extended stay visitors, many of whom were doing work in the area for Georgia Power.  That was certainly not the case when we were here two years ago on December 22nd, so that may have just been a matter of timing.

Back at the coach it was warm enough that we opened two of the ceiling vents and turned the fans on to exhaust air from the coach.  I went to put on a pair of shorts and discovered that we had failed to pack any.  I did bring my two pairs of convertible hiking slacks so I unzipped the lower portion of the legs on one pair and made them into shorts.  Much more comfortable.  I will be doing some shopping once we get settled.

I sent a slightly more detailed text message to Kristine and a daily update text message to Chuck which drew a reply and another text from me.  Linda got our WiFiRanger connected to the KOA Wi-Fi and then logged-in to RVillage.  She changed our location for last night to the Oh Kentucky Campground in Berea, KY and then changed it again for today to the Cartersville KOA.  We were apparently the only RVillage members at either campground.

We were a little hungry so Linda walked to the office to see if they had any hotdog buns, as we left ours behind along with a loaf of raisin bread.  They did not have hotdog buns so she cooked a couple of vegan hotdogs and served them on bread.  We also forgot to unplug the Insta-Hot in the kitchen so she texted the kids and asked them to unplug it and remove the bread products when they were next at the house.

We will be boondocking Sunday and Monday nights so Linda availed herself of the showers at the campground.  I worked for a while on this post and then went over to get a shower.  Linda warned me that it took a while to get hot water so I let the hot water run for at least five minutes but it never got warm enough to shower comfortably.  The men’s bath/shower room was also quite chilly so I took a really quick shower, dried off, and got dressed.  The office had free coffee available so I had some to warm up and mentioned the lack of usable hot water to the woman at the desk.  She seemed surprised but then asked if I let it run a long time, so they know there is an issue.  She said she would mention it to the manager.

Around 6 PM Linda heated up a couple of Amy’s brand Vegetable Korma meals.  As with all Amy’s products they were vegan and tasty, as well as quick and easy, so the quality to efficiency ratio was fairly high.

The antennapoint.com website indicated that we should be able to pick up a few OTA TV stations.  We managed to tune in the ION and PBS affiliates whose towers were NNE of our location and watched a few shows.  Linda read for a while and I checked e-mail and played games on my iPad, which is what I do to relax and/or fill time when

I don’t feel like doing anything else.  Linda was going to make an Apple crisp but did not have enough cinnamon so she added that to her grocery list and cut up an apple to eat.  Around 8 PM she popped the last of the popcorn and added that to her grocery list too.

Around 9:30 PM I closed the ceiling vents in the bedroom and bathroom and took the screen out of the entry door window and closed it.  Linda has had a cough for a few days and has been a bit congested so she went to bed at 10 PM.  I called Butch at 10:15 PM (8:15 MST) but he did not answer.  He does not have a voice mailbox and does not respond to text messages on his phone, so I went to bed.

 

2015/07/07 (T) Field Day Photos

We did not sleep well last night, were slow to get up this morning, and slower to get going.  A cold front was pushing in from the northwest with the promise of cooler temperatures and sunny, blue skies, but first we were in for a day of overcast conditions and rain, which started around 8:30 AM.  It was a perfect morning to sit quietly in the living room, reading, writing, and drinking our coffee but too warm to turn on the gas fireplace logs.

Yesterday Linda started researching RV parks in southern Florida for this coming winter and we spent some time this morning looking at them online.  There was one in particular, Riverside RV Resort and Campground, which caught our attention.  Located on the Peace River near Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda, it is a short distance southwest of Arcadia where the annual Buss’in rally is held.  We went to the rally two years ago and had a great time so we will go again this year if we decide to winter in Florida, which is our current inclination.

One of the reasons for us to winter in Florida, at least occasionally, is our many contacts there.  Our friends, Steve and Karen, bought a mobile home near Venice; our friends, Chuck and Barbara, bought a lot at Pelican Lake in Naples; our ham radio friends, Bruce and Linda, bought a house on 25 acres near Brooksville; our GLCC fiends, Ed and Janet, bought a place that I think is near Sarasota; our FMCA Freethinker friends, John and Marian, bought a place in Dunnellon; and our other FMCA Freethinker friends, Ed and Betty, bought a place in Bradenton.  In addition to all of those folks quite a few of our RV friends, like Pat and Vicki, spend the winter in Florida, and the state has a lot of things to see and do, including one of the best state park systems in the nation.

Linda left for her appointment with the dermatologist and I got to work at my desk.  I continued to deal with e-mails related to the SLAARC domain transfer and an ongoing conversation with BCM publisher Gary Hatt.  I got a Dropbox link to some Field Day photos from Steve (N8AR) a few days ago and downloaded them.  Last night I got a similar e-mail from Mike (KE8AGY) with a Google Drive link and today I got one from Jim (N8HAM) so I downloaded all of those photos.  I spent most of the rest of the day selecting and processing the photos I took and then processed all of the ones I got from other people.

I took a break to chat with Linda when she got back from her appointment.  I then removed the defective Morgan M-302N VHF/UHF Lightning Arrestor from the cable entry box and boxed it up to ship back to Morgan.  I took another short break for dinner, which was an excellent Farro and kale dish, and then worked until 8:30 PM when we had agreed to watch a movie.  This evening’s choice was The Imitation Game, a film about Alan Touring and the concepts he invented that allowed the British to build a machine that broke the coded messages generated by the German Enigma machine during WWII.  I spent another hour at my desk after the movie before going to bed and finishing this post.  Tomorrow morning I plan to finally upload some blog posts and then get back to work on the design of the custom desk for the bus.