Category Archives: Weather

2016/03/31 (R) Historic Cocoa Village

2016/03/31 (R) Historic Cocoa Village

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

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

A small part of downtown Historic Cocoa Village, Florida.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

2016/03/29 (T) Merritt Island NWR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/30 (T) GRILLS Lionfish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

2016/03/27 (N) Squirrel Nuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/28 (M) ENT Markets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/25 (F) Orlando ENT Visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/03/26 (S) Let’s Talk Dirty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2016/02/22-24 (M–W) 1 SP, 2 S-A-H

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/23 (T) Green Taco Wraps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/24 (W) Another Tornado Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

2016/02/05 (F) Windows 10 Upgrade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/06 (S) Article Uploads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/07 (N) Super Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/08 (M) Travel Prep

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

An Anhinga pruning its feathers.  Everglades NP, FL.

An Anhinga pruning its feathers. Everglades NP, FL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/02/09 (T) Road Trip

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

An Egret stalks its prey.  Everglades NP, FL.

An Egret stalks its prey. Everglades NP, FL.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

2016/01/26 (T) Filter Me This

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/27 (W) Rained In

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/28 (R) Bloody Nose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/29 (N) Ed and Betty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/30 (S) Blog Swimming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/31 (N) Bus Article Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

2016/01/21 (R) Lake Okeechobee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

Linda at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

2016/01/22 (F) Desoto Veterinary Clinic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/23 (S) Pelican Lake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/24 (N) Snowmagedon Exchange Rate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/25 (M) TV Dilemma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Beach at Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

The Beach at Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

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

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

2016/01/17 (N) Bad Weather

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/18 (M) The Capitol Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016/01/19 (T) VZW Data Usage

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

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

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

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

Linda stopped at the resort office yesterday to see if they could cut the grass around our site while we were gone for the day.  The awnings were up and our chairs/table were still put away from the weekend storms, so the site was clear.  The office said they probably would not get to it on Monday as the ground and grass was too wet but when we finally left the coach today we saw that they had, in fact, mowed the area.

We have been on the go more than sitting still for the last week and needed some time at the coach to do things.  I needed to wrap up work on two articles for BCM and settled in today to do that.  Today (the 19th of the month) is also the end of our Verizon Wireless billing cycle.  We do not have park Wi-Fi at our site in Big Tree Carefree RV Resort and have been leaving our Verizon Mi-Fi on continuously.  We managed to use almost all of our 11 GB of data during the current billing cycle so I wanted to spend today working on photos for the articles and defer uploading them until tomorrow.

Before getting back into my BCM rally article I copied all of the photos that I took yesterday at the Venice Rookery from the camera to my computer.  Linda tries to create a new postcard for Madeline every Tuesday and wanted a picture from the Rookery.  My best photos were of individual birds or small groups but she wanted something that would give Madeline a better visual understanding of just what a rookery is.

 

I finally selected a photo with lots of different birds in lots of different positions, including some in flight.  Linda logged into the PhotoCardApp on her iPad and determined that the post cards the company creates and mails out are 8.25″ by 5.5″, which is a 3:2 aspect ratio.  That is also the native format of my Sony SLT-a99v.  Using Faststone Image Viewer (FIV) I was able to resize the image to the exact size of the postcard.  I then e-mailed it to Linda’s Gmail account which, in spite of our local area network in the bus, is the easy (only?) way to get it from my computer to her iPad.

While I was processing the image Linda looked up the term “rookery” and discovered that its meaning is more specific than we thought.  While it is, indeed, a place where birds roost and build nests (typically in trees) it is actually specific to rooks, which are a crow-like bird.  It has, however, become the generic term for a place where one or more species of bird roost, breed, nest, and raise their young.

Besides the main post card photo the PhotoCardApp allows you to create your own stamps.  Creating a stamp costs two credits but once it’s created you can use it over and over for just the cost of the postage.  (You get 30 credits for $25 and each card costs 2 credits to create, produce, and mail.)  We do not have a lot of photos of the two of us together as one of us (usually me) is typically behind the camera.  We have a nice head and shoulders photo that our son took that I use at the end of my BCM articles.  I e-mailed that to Linda and she used it to create a personalized stamp.  I found a second photo of us that someone took at the 2014 GLAMARAMA Rally so I processed it and e-mailed it to Linda to use for a second stamp if she wanted.  We are both wearing our bright yellow GLCC dress shirts, so it is very RV specific.

We tried Facetiming with Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline Sunday evening but the connection was too slow so we talked on the phone.  They were in Washington D. C. for a conference related to Shawna’s research and Madeline got to visit the Natural History Museum and see dinosaur skeletons.  The PhotoCardApp also has a large collection of “stickers” that can be added to a post card, so Linda added an electronic dinosaur “sticker” to the one she was working on.

A Great Blue Heron at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

A Great Blue Heron at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The last couple of days there was some confusion between BCM owner/publisher Gary Hatt, the layout person (Jorge Escobar, in Columbia), and myself regarding which article they were running in the March 2016 issue.  Gary cleared that up in favor of my article on the Arcadia Rally 2016.  That, in turn, allowed me to move ahead with finishing that article today, which I finally did around dinner time.  My only breaks were to eat lunch and go for short walks.

Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project but took time out to go on several longer walks, including one to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket.  She planned to make a bean soup for dinner and needed a few ingredients.  The soup was based on a package of mixed beans and lentils she bought at a health food store in Frankenmuth, Michigan back in October.  She added water, tomato sauce, garlic, onion, greens, chili powder, and turmeric.  By the time we sat down to dinner the sun had set and the temperature was dropping so the hot soup was not only delicious but really hit the spot.

We walked over to the mail room after dinner.  My new driver’s license had arrived.  The registrations and tabs for the bus and car arrived a few days ago so as of now we are not expecting any more mail.

Back at the coach I turned on the electric toe-kick heaters and plugged in the Broan portable cube heater rather than run the Aqua-Hot.  We put on our Tuesday evening TV programs but I was in a groove and turned my attention to selecting and processing photos to go with blog posts.  I got through my images for November and December and the first few days of January by 11 PM when the last show ended and Linda headed off to bed.

We still had 1.5 GB of data left in our current billing cycle, which ended at midnight, although I was not sure in what time zone.  I knew the data for my BCM Arcadia rally article was not more than 0.5 GB so I uploaded it before our data allocation reset.  It’s expensive to exceed our allocation but there is also a “cost” associated with not using what we have paid for.

I turned the thermostats on the toe-kick heaters back and turned off the Broan cube heater.  I turned on the electric heating pad on my side of the bed, set it to 4, and activated the pre-heat function.  I finally got to bed around 12:30 AM and snuggled in under the blankets.

2016/01/20 (W) Cellular Options

I don’t know if the outside temperature got into the upper 30’s last night but even with the coach closed up the temperature inside dropped to 59 degrees F.  Linda got up first this morning and turned up the thermostats on the electric toe-kick heaters.  I got up a few minutes later and turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and the three thermostats that control the zone pumps and fans on the heat exchangers in the house portion of the bus.

We had slept in a bit and were sitting around in our sweats while the coach warmed up when we realized at 7:55 that the Wednesday coffee was starting in five minutes.  We did not feel like going over in our sweats or changing clothes so I made coffee in our coach like I do almost every morning.  The problems (for us) with the Wednesday morning coffee, based on having been one time, is that there is no opportunity to socialize and it takes too long.  It was well attended the one time we went so it apparently serves the needs of the resort management and most of the residents.

Linda used her iPad2 to check in on the world and I used mine to finish up my blog posts for the last few days.  We eventually had granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast, which is always a treat.  Linda walked our kitchen trash over to the dumpster and then continued walking the park for her first walk of the day.

My original objective for today was to upload image and document files for my Arcadia Rally 2016 article to my BCM Dropbox folder, but I got that done before I went to bed last night.  Although I have a lot work to do on several websites, including ours, I wanted to put the finishing touches on my featured bus article about Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion and move two technical articles from “proofreading” to “ready” status.  Gary has not had Kathy proofread/edit any of them yet so that had to wait for another day.  I also wanted to continue selecting/processing photos for my January blog posts but got distracted with system updates for my ASUS laptop computer.

I ran the CCleaner program and then ran the Windows 8.1 disk check utility.  I ran it because MS Outlook keeps “encountering a problem and has to close” or stops responding.  The check disk utility did not find any errors so I downloaded a new version of Defraggler and started it.  I probably should have run it overnight as it ran all day and through the evening.  I think I could have worked while it was running but I have always preferred to let disk defragmenters run without anything else tasking the system.

With my computer tied up and my blog post drafts up-to-date I had a little time on my hands.  Linda is always up for another walk so we walked over to the CellularSales store, an Authorized Verizon Retailer located on an out lot of the Walmart shopping center.  The shopping center is on the other side of Highway 70 so we used the crosswalk at the traffic signal for the shopping center entrance.  This stoplight also serves the entrance to the 55+ community immediately to the east of our RV resort and is where we make our U-turn when headed east to head back west to the entrance to our resort.

The reason for our visit was that we became eligible for device upgrades back in April and wanted to check out what was available in smartphones and data plans.  We were also looking for a new Mi-Fi device that Chris and Cherie (Technomadia) reported on in their Mobile Internet Aficionados (MIA) site.  We usually work with Verizon corporate stores but there isn’t one in Arcadia.  The store was large, spacious, very nice, and not busy so Toby was able to spend some relaxed time answering our questions.

The Mi-Fi device we wanted to see was the new Netgear AC791L but CellularSales did not have one and Toby was not familiar with it.  They did not even have the Novatel 6620L and were still selling the Novatel 5510L which is what we have now and want to replace.  We got our 5510L in June 2013 from a Verizon retailer in Gillette, Wyoming and our friends at the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center (MIA) consider it obsolete and no longer even report on it.

We also looked at new phones and learned that the Samsung Note 4 and Note 5, along with the Galaxy VI smartphone, do not have removable batteries.  Toby viewed that as a negative and we agreed.  The Galaxy V smartphone, which does have a removable battery, would still be an upgrade over our Galaxy III phones.  It has a larger screen but not as large as the Note devices, which are almost too large to hold up to your ear.  Toby also showed us the new LG phone which was very nice but again did not have a removable battery.  It’s the newest competitor to the Samsung Galaxy S VI.  We will do more research before deciding what, if anything, to do.  The AC791L, in particular, appears to be available online without a contract and at a better price than in a retail outlet.

As long as we were on the other side of the highway we stopped at Walmart and bought a loaf of Italian bread to go with our soup for dinner.  When we got back to our coach the disk defragmenter on my computer was still only part way through the disk and indicating the time remaining as “> 1 day.”  The temperature outside was near perfect, not too warm or cool, so Linda got out one of our chairs and sat outside reading while I stayed inside and took a nap.

I got up a couple of hours later and wiled away what was left of the afternoon.  We have been keeping an eye on our male cat, Jasper, who has lost little patches of fur from several spots on his back, and finally decided that we should get him in to see a vet.  The closest one is on FL-31 less than a mile from our RV resort and is the one that folks in the resort recommended.  Linda was looking for reviews online but could not find the clinic so she drove over in the car to get the name and phone number.  It turned out that she had found the veterinarian’s name but he used to work out of his house at a different location.  We plan to drive out towards Lake Okeechobee tomorrow but will call the veterinary clinic first and make an appointment for Friday.

The Venice Rookery at sunset, Venice, FL.

The Venice Rookery at sunset, Venice, FL.

As the sun sank in the western sky the temperature cooled off quickly and we closed up the coach.  Linda heated the rest of the soup she made yesterday and we sat down at 7 PM to a simple but delicious dinner of soup and bread.  We turned on the TV after dinner, watched Jeopardy, and then switched to PBS to watch the Wednesday night nature/science programs.

The last 10 days have been very busy and somewhat intense for us.  We had been to the woodcarvers expo in Punta Gorda, visited with Steve and Karen, met Ron and Mary at Myakka State Park, visited with them again at our RV resort, attended the Tampa RV Supershow in conjunction with strong weather, visited Marilyn in Fort Myers Beach, dealt with severe weather again, followed by a long day of working on photos for my BCM rally article, had a long day visiting Steve and Karen in Nokomis again and seeing The Capitol Steps at the Venice Theatre, eating at Cafe Evergreen twice and then visiting the Venice Rookery to take photographs before returning home, had finally had another really long day yesterday selecting/processing photos and placing them in my BCM article.  Looking back at all of that we were probably due for an easy, low activity day, and one of the nice things about retirement is that we can usually have “do nothing” days whenever we want.

When I checked my computer it was still showing 17 hours to complete the defragmentation so I went to bed.

 

2016/01/11 (M) – 15 (F) Family and Friends

2016/01/11 (M) Jack and Paula

Linda was up at 7:30 AM and read quietly.  I got up at 8:15 AM and made coffee.  We had granola for breakfast with fresh strawberries which finished the current batch of cereal.  Linda got another batch out of the freezer to thaw.  We have five batches remaining.

Linda was checking e-mail and noticed that we had been billed yesterday for almost $500 by iPage for web-hosting services.  I originally signed up with iPage in January 2013 for three years.  I transferred everything over to QTH in August 2013 but did not cancel the iPage account.  I did not realize that the account was set up for automatic renewal.  I logged in to see if I could close the account and cancel the transaction or initiate a refund but the website just gave me a number to call.  I did and finally got to talk to Scott in billing.  He was obviously a native English speaker and was able to take care of everything quickly and efficiently and provide a confirmation number.  If iPage’s technical/customer support had been that good I might never have switched to a different web-hosting service.  I am, none-the-less, very glad that three of the four websites I work with are on QTH.com‘s web-servers and wish that all four of them were.  The technical and customer support there is second-to-none.

Linda wanted to send another postcard to grand-daughter Madeline so I downloaded the photos I took yesterday and selected one of a heron to use.  I post-processed it at several different sizes and copied it to the NAS.  She needed it on her iPad, however, so I e-mailed it to her.  Even though our iPads (and phones) can connect to our secure Wi-Fi network they are not able to access the network resources such as the NAS and printer.  I really should take the time to figure out if there is a way to do that.

On the drive home last night the Honda Element started displaying a message to “Check Gas Cap.”  I pulled off the road and checked but it was on tight.  The message, however, did not clear.  When we got home Linda Googled the message and found several sites that indicated it was a periodic system check and would clear the next time around, assuming the cap was not, in fact, loose.  That could take days, however, depending on how much we drove the car.  The answer for most of this week will be “not much.”

Linda went for a late morning walk.  The Element needed fuel so I drove to the Shell station on FL-70 to fill up the tank.  Linda had walked to Winn-Dixie and was just returning as I was pulling out so she rode along to the filling station.  She ran into Claudine Elbisser at the produce market and found out that she and Paul were still at Jack and Paula Conrad’s place south of town.  Jack and Paula started the Arcadia Bussin Rally and ran it for the first 10 years before turning it over to Bill and Brenda Phelan.

Back at the coach Linda heated some Amy’s vegan chili for lunch.  She opened a new (sealed) pack of saltine crackers as we like to crumble them in our chili and have a few on the side with vegan butter spread.  They did not taste quite right but we were not sure just why.  They were not spoiled but it seemed as if they were slightly stale (not crisp) and the flavor was also “off.”  They were Publix branded and all of the grocery items we have ever gotten from there have been good quality but we decided to throw the crackers away.

A Green Heron at Myakka State Park, FL.

A Green Heron at Myakka State Park, FL.

We went for a walk after lunch during which Linda got a call from her sister-in-law, Mary.  They agreed that we might do something together tomorrow if Spence and Nancy had not made other plans for them.  It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon but cool with highs in the upper 60’s.  Rather than sit around the coach I called Jack to see if we could stop by for a visit.  He and Paula did not have anything specific going on so we drove to their place about 10 miles south of Arcadia.

When we arrived we were greeted by Jack and Paula but found out that Paul and Claudine had pulled out this morning, so we did not get to visit with them.  We then realized that when Claudine told Linda she had to run “because Paul was waiting for her at Walmart” he was waiting in the bus.  John and Lois Vickrey were there, however, and the six of us had a nice visit.  There were two other converted buses at the Conrad’s but the owners were not around.  We did not recognize their names but both coaches were at the Arcadia Rally 2016 and we would probably have recognized them on sight.

By 4:45 PM the sun was low in the sky and the temperature had dropped into the low 60’s.  We were getting cold so we excused ourselves and left.  We stopped at Walmart on the way back to our RV resort for a box of angel hair pasta and a box of Nabisco saltine crackers.  Back at our coach I closed the two roof vents and we closed all of the windows.  I checked e-mail and Linda started working on dinner.

She started with a nice salad of baby kale, scallions, olives, and pumpkin seeds dressed with balsamic vinaigrette.  The main course was angel hair pasta with a vegan mushroom cream sauce.  She used the Miatake mushrooms we bought yesterday at the Farmers Market in Punta Gorda.  It was outstanding and we really liked the taste and texture of the mushrooms, which were a new culinary experience for us.

We went for our usual after-dinner stroll around the resort and stopped by the activity building where lots of residents were playing bingo and smaller groups were playing cards and games.  In another building a dozen men were playing pool.  It was a beautiful clear night with the constellation Orion rising in the eastern sky.  Although the air temperature was crisp folks were out walking, just like us.

Back at our coach we settled in to watch our usual Monday night TV programs (CBS).  They were all re-runs, which we thought was odd, but we watched them anyway.  We were off to bed at 11 PM and straight away to sleep.  I turned on the electric heater pad and set it on 3.  Toasty.

2016/01/12 (T) Myakka River State Park (FL)

The overnight low temperature was 47 degrees F; not cold enough to warrant turning the heat on in the coach but cold enough to cool off the interior by morning.  We pulled up the blankets when we went to bed and I turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed; a more efficient use of energy than heating the whole coach.  As a bonus, the cooler the coach the less the refrigerator runs, although the new one is much more efficient than the old one.  When it gets cool enough in the coach Juniper (the cat) gets under the covers between us and puts her head between our pillows.  She is such a princess.

A pair of alligators in the Myakka River, Myakka SP, FL.

A pair of alligators in the Myakka River, Myakka SP, FL.

We finally got out of bed at 8:15 AM and slipped into out sweats.  I made coffee while Linda talked to Kathi at the bakery back in Michigan.  We doodled on our iPads while we drank our coffee and let the coach warm up.  By 9:30 it was 72 inside.  I turned off the heaters and we sat down to a breakfast of homemade granola with blueberries and bananas and a small glass of orange juice.  We doodled for another half hour after breakfast and then got dressed.  In preparation for meeting Linda’s brother, Ron, and his wife, Mary, at Myakka State Park at 11 AM Linda made a picnic lunch and I got the camera gear ready to go.

We had planned to be on the road by 10:30 AM but actually left at 10:39.  The 29 miles to the park entrance was not all 60 MPH, so we did not get to the visitor center until 11:20 AM.  Ron and Mary were already there waiting for us.  We looked at maps and discussed what we wanted to do.  Ron and Mary wanted to see alligators in the wild, so they had come to the right place.  The main park road crosses the Myakka River about a mile into the park from the entrance / visitor center with parking at both ends of the bridge.  We knew from our visit two years ago that this was an excellent place to see alligators, as well as a variety of birds and so it was again today.  After spending some time on the bridge we walked along the south/east bank of the river and found two more alligators sunning themselves on the opposite bank.

A little farther down the road was the parking area for the Canopy Walk and Nature Trail.  We climbed the tower, walked across the suspension bridge, and then climbed to observation deck at the top of the second tower.  The suspension bridge goes through the forest canopy about 35 feet in the air and affords a view of the forest that most of us rarely see.  At 76.1 feet AGL the observation level put us well above the top of the trees with a commanding 360 degree view of the park and beyond.  I shot a nine frame panorama from west through north to east.

By the time we got back to our cars we were all ready for lunch so we drove to the developed area on the south shore of Upper Myakka Lake.  This area has one of the two campgrounds, a boat ramp, air boat tour concession, restaurant, restrooms, picnic tables, and a trail that leads out to a platform where the lake flows out and becomes the river.  We found a picnic table in the sun near the shore and had our PB&J sandwiches, oranges, pretzels, and water.  After lunch we walked out to the platform and were rewarded with more views of wildlife.

Ron, Linda, & Mary atop the 76.1 foot observation tower, Myakka SP, FL.

Ron, Linda, & Mary atop the 76.1 foot observation tower, Myakka SP, FL.

Our next stop was the “Birdwalk,” an elevated boardwalk near the northeast corner of the lake that goes out into an open harsh and gets people close to the shore.  There was lots of wildlife out there but most of it was some distance away.  A sign indicated that the donation box was to raise money to build an observation tower at end of the boardwalk above the existing viewing platform.

Our final stop for the day was the parking area for a trailhead in the northeast corner of the park.  The main trail led to primitive campsites as much as 10 miles away.  We did a loop of about 2.5 miles (by my estimate).  Although the entire trail (park) was level terrain the footing was rough or soggy in places.  Portions of our hike were through the forest and the rest was through prairie.  It was our most vigorous hike of the day and I did not take any photos even though I carried the camera along.

By the time we got back to our cars it was 4:45 PM.  The sun was low in the sky and the temperature had dropped.  We discussed our plans for Thursday and then headed our separate ways.  We had just left the park entrance and headed east on FL-72 when I spotted a group of 6 to 8 feral hogs on the north side of the road by a stream about 100 feet from the road.  Linda did not spot them in time so I turned around and went back.  As I slowed down they took off but Linda got to see them.  I turned around again and headed towards Arcadia.  Less than a mile down the road I saw four more in the ditch just off the north side of road.  They were very large adult animals.

We were back at our coach by 6 PM and had left over Asian salad for dinner.   It had been a slightly more physical day than normal so after dinner we settled in to watch our Tuesday evening TV programs on CBS.

2016/01/13 (W) Coffee Clutch

Today was our second Wednesday at Big Tree RV Resort.  The only significance to that factoid is that Wednesday morning is the weekly resort coffee.  As new arrivals in the resort we received a coupon for free coffee but forgot to go last week so we made a point of getting up and going this morning.  The coffee starts at 8 AM but we had been “advised” by folks to arrive early if we wanted a seat.  We got there around 7:50 AM and the place was packed.  We got in line to get our coffee and found out that today’s gathering was sponsored by an insurance agency and was free of charge. We found seats and made the acquaintance of the people sitting near us.

Ron, Mary and Me atop the 76.1 foot observation tower, Myakka SP, FL. (Photo by Linda)

Ron, Mary and Me atop the 76.1 foot observation tower, Myakka SP, FL. (Photo by Linda)

This was not a coffee clutch where folks stand around, mingle, and chat.  There are somewhere between 700 and 800 people in this park and I estimated that at least 400 of them were present at the coffee.  Everyone was seated on both sides of long tables for the entire duration of the coffee, which lasted until 9:15 AM.  It was very organized and consisted of introductions, lots of announcements, lots of door prizes, and a 50/50 drawing.  For the seasonal and permanent residents the information is probably useful, but it was not that interesting or useful to us.  We might go one more time just to take advantage of our free coffee coupon but the nature of the gathering won’t afford us any opportunity to meet people and talk to them over coffee so we probably won’t make a priority of going.

Today was laundry day for us.  Linda needed a few things from Winn-Dixie, including a few Powerball lottery tickets, and walked down to get them.  I gathered up the laundry, sorted it by color and temperature into three batches, and drove over to the laundry room in the activity building.  The washing machines only took about 25 minutes so I stuck around until they were done.  After getting those loads into dryers I went back and got the bedding, returned to the laundry room, and put it in a washing machine.  I took my iPad with me but ended up in a conversation with a few folks.  By the time I was done with the laundry and back at our coach it was 2 PM.

A flock of birds takes flight at the north end of Upper Myakka Lake, Myakka SP, FL.

A flock of birds takes flight at the north end of Upper Myakka Lake, Myakka SP, FL.

I took a long a long nap during which Linda went for a long walk, prepared ingredients for tomorrow’s lunch, and worked on her counted cross-stitch project.  I finally got up just in time for dinner.  After dinner we watched a fascinating documentary titled “Autism in Love” as a result of which we did not watch Nature.  We did, however, watch NOVA. It was also a fascinating program exploring new discoveries and understandings about the role and relationship of minerals in the origin and evolution of life on earth.

I watched some of the evening news on channel 11-1 and also checked the weather on channel 11-2.  A strong low pressure system was moving east from New Orleans across the Florida panhandle with strong storms coming ashore in that area.  A long, comma-shaped cold front extended from the low far down into the Gulf and was advancing on the peninsula.  It was forecast to come ashore starting north of Cedar Key after midnight and then progressively affect all of the shore communities south to Marco Island with strong thunderstorms along the front and a low possibility that some of them might become severe.  Rain, possibly heavy, was due in Arcadia starting around 4 AM and getting heavy by 5 AM.  Knowing this obviously doesn’t change whatever is going to happen, but knowing what is expected allows us configure the coach properly and to be prepared and react appropriately to events as they unfold if needed.

2016/02/14 (R) Ron and Mary

We were up by 7:30 AM this morning, had showers, got dressed, and had breakfast.  Linda finished food preparations for lunch today and then straightened up the inside of the coach while I dumped the holding tanks and filled the fresh water tank.

I was outside a little later in the morning and learned from a neighbor that the sewer line that services row K (where we are parked) had developed a blockage and sewage had “backed up into a couple of rigs.”  No one, however, was able/willing to be more specific than that.  A plumber was called and I chatted with him briefly when he arrived.  He confirmed that the sewer line ran from our end of row K south towards the front of the park by Hwy 70.  He determined quickly that there was indeed a blockage and I learned from him later that it extended along a considerable length of the sewer pipe.  This was not the first time he was called to deal with this and was able to get the drain line opened up.

Piecing together the available information I figured it was entirely possible that the sewage that backed up was from our tanks but that the blockage was not something we caused.  Linda, however, was of the opinion that the plumber had been summoned before I dumped.  Regardless, I’m sure it was unpleasant for those who were affected and I hope we do not have a repeat of this situation while we are here.  While in no way our fault, we would hate to have contributed to the situation in any way, however inadvertently.

My reasoning was that we are the second rig from the far end of the drain line and the tops of our waste tanks are almost 4 to 5 feet above ground level.  The tanks are large and if they were near full would release a considerable volume of effluent with a significant head pressure.  If the drain line was mostly constricted (reducing its  available volume), and the blockage was not very far down stream (also reducing its available volume), the weight of the contents of our waste tanks could cause the drain line to quickly fill and then force the effluent up through any available path, such as another rig’s dump hose.  This would continue until the levels reached equilibrium.

In a trailer with its floor not that far off the ground sewage could, hypothetically, back up into waste tank(s) and then into the toilet and/or sinks. None of that would happen, of course, unless the dump valves on the other RV(s) had been left open.  We have always been told that leaving the dump valves open on an RV is a very bad idea but the reason is that getting a good, thorough, dump requires a nearly full tank.  Today’s events have given us additional reason to keep the valves closed except to dump.

 Now that’s what I’m talking about!  We have got to get one of these.  A 4-wheel drive, Sprinter-based Class B conversion from Sportsmobile as seen at the Tampa RV Supershow, Tampa State Fairgrounds, Tampa, FL.

Now that’s what I’m talking about! We have got to get one of these. A 4-wheel drive, Sprinter-based Class B conversion from Sportsmobile as seen at the Tampa RV Supershow, Tampa State Fairgrounds, Tampa, FL.

Ron and Mary arrived a little after 11 AM.  We gave them a tour of the interior remodeling work we have done and then sat and visited.  Eventually we were hungry and spread the tablecloth on the outside picnic table and had lunch out there.

After lunch Ron drove us to Joshua Citrus a couple of miles south of our resort where we bought a variety of citrus fruit.  We then drove to downtown, parked, and walked around poking our heads into some of the antique shops.  Mary was looking for a pair of clear glass lamp chimneys with a 2″ diameter base.  The closest she came was a pair with a 2-1/4″ base.  Apparently 3” diameter bases are common, 2” diameter bases, not so much.

We returned to the coach for a while and then took two cars and went to El Pirata for dinner.  It was our first time there although friends had told us it was OK and it was the #4 rated restaurant in Arcadia.  Linda did not care for her margarita and also did not care for the veggie fajitas or any of the sides that came with the dish.  I had Dos Equis Amber in a bottle, so it was fine.  I thought the food was OK; not outstanding but not disagreeable, so perhaps she just wasn’t in the mood for Mexican food tonight.

The restaurant wasn’t full so we lingered and chatted for quite a while but eventually it was time to leave.  We were only a few minutes from home but Ron and Mary had an hour’s drive to get back to Spence and Nancy’s place.  Back at our coach we settled in to watch our usual Thursday evening CBS TV programs and then headed off to bed as we planned an early departure tomorrow morning to get to the Tampa RV Supershow.

2016/01/15 (F) Tampa RV Supershow

As forecast, the rain started around 4 AM and by 5 AM was fairly heavy.  I was not, however, aware of any lightning, thunder, or strong winds.  We got up at 7:30 AM, got dressed, and had some of the Honeybelle tangelos we bought yesterday.  Honeybelles are only available for about a month starting this time of year and are highly touted so we bought a quarter-Bushnell bag.  We were, however, quite disappointed in their taste and texture.  We will eat them anyway, of course, but they will not be the treat we were counting on.

We planned to leave at 8:30 AM to drive to the Florida State Fairgrounds for the Tampa RV Supershow.  It was still raining and was forecast to continue through the morning.  I took the vertical grip off of the Sony SLT-a99v to lighten it and make it easier to carry in the Cotton Carrier camera harness/holster.  I packed a couple of extra batteries, we took our raincoats, and headed out.

We encountered very heavy rain between Arcadia and Tampa, especially along FL-70 between Arcadia and I-75.  We arrived at the fairgrounds around 10:15 AM, got our tickets, and made it into the Expo hall just as another heavy band of rain moved through.

A Prevost H3-45 VIP conversion shell on display at the Tampa RV Supershow.  The driver side of the coach is elevated on ramps and mirrors on the floor allow show attendees to see the underside of the bus.

A Prevost H3-45 VIP conversion shell on display at the Tampa RV Supershow. The driver side of the coach is elevated on ramps and mirrors on the floor allow show attendees to see the underside of the bus.

Just inside the door to the right was the major display of Prevost bus conversions and to the left was a major display of Airstream trailers and Class B motorhomes.  We crossed paths with Steve Zigler, Prevost Sales Manager for conversion shells and chatted briefly.  We met Giesle from the home office in St. Claire, Quebec and also met Melanie from Millennium Coach.  We found out from Melanie that Millennium is now the primary corporate support for the Royale Coach Club.  Apparently Liberty Coach took over sponsorship when Royale Coach folded around 2005 and Millennium took over from Liberty some time more recently.  We were members at one time but have not paid dues in several years.

The Prevost coaches were one of the main things we came to see and meeting people from the company was a bonus.  Our other objective was to check out all of the parts and accessories vendors, of which there were many, and RV Parks and Resorts, of which there where an equal number.  We mostly picked up literature until we found Bill and Brenda Phelan’s booth.  One of their products is tire covers made from heavy nylon mesh material.  It blocks most of the sunlight while allowing moisture to escape.  We have meant to get tire covers for years but never have so we ordered six in a dark brown material.  They are a significant purchase, but not compared to the tires they are designed to protect.  They will make the covers based on our tire size and ship them to us.  They also make nylon mesh windshield wiper covers but I need to measure the length of our lower wiper blades and send Brenda the measurement.  Another product of theirs are windshield and side window covers.  These, however, are custom made on site.

 The interior of the Prevost H3-45 VIP motorcoach conversion shell. This coach was actually in the process of being converted by Millennium for a customer.  Note the interior layout marked out on the floor.

The interior of the Prevost H3-45 VIP motorcoach conversion shell. This coach was actually in the process of being converted by Millennium for a customer. Note the interior layout marked out on the floor.

In the other vendor building we stopped at the booth for Williston Crossings and Belle Parc RV Resorts.  Alan, who is the managing partner for both properties, was staffing the booth so we chatted with him briefly.  We also stopped at the booth for Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort in Webster, Florida.  This was the other RV Resort that our friend, Ed Roelle, suggested we check out two years ago.  Unlike Williston Crossings, where we ended up, the lots in Florida Grande are all for sale as deeded properties with a fractional ownership in the common grounds and structures.  At least that was our understanding.

The sites at Florida Grande sell for about $48K and a coach house can be added for about $31K.  HOA fees currently run about $550 per quarter but we did not inquire about how the level is set or what limits might exist on them being raised.  Lots can be placed in a rental pool when unused but we did not ask if owners can arrange their own sublets.  We heard from someone later than only about half the lots are sold.  That means lots are still available for purchase, but also makes such a purchase potentially risky.  It means plenty of unsold lots are available to rent and if the rest of the lots do not eventually sell in a reasonable amount of time the future of the whole development would be in doubt.

We are not planning on purchasing a lot anytime soon, in Florida or elsewhere, but it is an idea that interests us longer-term.  We might drive up in the car to check it out or, more likely, stop there for a few days in the bus when we finally leave Big Tree RV Resort in March.

We eventually found our friend, Al Hesselbart, manning his Antique RV booth at the far end of the fairgrounds.  He was asked by the RV Show organizers to put together an antique RV display but relegated him to a remote corner of the show.  He had commitments from the owners of eight antique RVs, plus his own 1978 Newell, but four of them backed out at the last minute and the other four simply did not show up.  Whatever their reasons it was disappointing and inconsiderate.  Al had a large TV monitor with a slide show of about 500 images running automatically in a loop.  He had them in a shelter to protect them, and him, from the worst of the rain.

It was almost 5 PM by the time we got back to our car.  We discussed calling Ed and Betty Burns, who live near Bradenton, to see if they were up for a visit but we were at least an hour away and decided it was too short a notice, too late in the day, and we were too tired.  We fought our way through Friday rush hour traffic across US-301 to I-75 and headed south to exit 217, which is FL-70 to Bradenton (west) and Arcadia (east).  We stopped at the Speedway for gasoline and bought two coffees to scare away the cobwebs.  It had been a long day.

As we continued east on FL-70 Linda got a call from her sister, Marilyn, to finalize plans for tomorrow.  We got back to our coach around 6:45 PM and had a light dinner of garbanzo bean salad sandwiches and a small glass of wine.  We then watched a program about Agatha Christy on PBS/Create followed by two episodes of Miss Marple.  Linda headed off to bed before the second episode was over while I remained up to continue working on my blog posts from today and the previous two days.

I stayed up to watch the WINK evening news (channel 11-1).  They reported that the storms this morning included a confirmed EF-1 tornado in south Fort Meyers and wind damaged property in Lehigh Acres.  The meteorologists made it clear that the January tornados from today and last weekend would normally be quite rare for this time of year but were not unusual in an El Niño year like this one.  We are headed to Fort Meyers tomorrow for the first time to visit with Marilyn and the weather forecast looks fine if a bit cool.  Another round of strong storms is forecast for Sunday morning in connection with the passage of yet another cold front trailing from a strong low pressure center moving east across the Florida panhandle.  We plan to stay home Sunday but Marilyn is flying back to St. Louis, Missouri, weather permitting.

 

2016/01/06 (W) -10 (N) Websites, Woodwork, and Wildlife

2016/01/06 (W) Filtered Article 

The temperature dropped into the mid-50s last night and made for excellent sleeping conditions.  Never-the-less, Linda was up at 6:30 AM and read quietly until I got up at 8 AM.  I used the last of the current batch of coffee beans yesterday so I opened four fresh bags this morning, a half-pound each of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (regular and decaffeinated), Seattle Blend (regular), and Sweet Dreams Blend (decaffeinated).  Teeko’s Coffee and Teas back home roasted and vacuum packed the beans for us in 1/2 pound amounts so they would stay fresh through the winter.  I made a full pot of the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (half-caffe) and Linda prepared toast and grapefruit for breakfast.  One of the things we bought yesterday at Joshua Citrus was orange marmalade so Linda opened it and we had some on our toast.  It was not as bitter as most orange marmalades I have tried and I liked it.

Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, Punta Gorda, FL.

Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, Punta Gorda, FL.

Tonight was the weekly Powerball lottery drawing and the amount was approaching 400 million dollars so we agreed that we should buy a few tickets.  Since there was a possibility of rain this afternoon Linda wanted to get her walk in early so she walked to the Winn-Dixie supermarket in search of lottery tickets.  The Winn- Dixie is in a shopping plaza with other stores on the same (south) side of US-70 as the Carefree Big Tree RV Resort about 1/2 mile west towards downtown.  There is a very wide sidewalk along the south side of US-70 that is used by walkers, bicyclists, and folks in golf carts, from our resort and the much larger adult community just to our east, to get to the shopping area just west of us.  The Walmart is immediately across the street, with a stop light and crosswalk, but golf carts cannot go there as far as we know.

I’ve needed to change the water filter under the kitchen sink for a while so today I finally did.  I installed the GX1S01R GE Drinking Water Filter housing in fall 2014 to replace the Everpure unit that gave me no end of difficulty whenever I tried to change the filter cartridge.  It turned out that neither of our two filter wrenches fit the housing and I had to get my large slip pliers out to get it off.  The inside of the housing was dirty so I boiled some water in the microwave, added a small amount of dish soap, cleaned it thoroughly, and rinsed it out.

The GE drinking water filter element is a Class I media (0.5 – 1.0 micron) that reduces or removes more things than most filters, including:  MTBE, VOCs, Chlorine (taste and odor), Lead, Cysts, Mercury, Turbidity, and Asbestos.  The capacity of the element is listed as 500 gallons* (*depending on water conditions) and the useful life is listed as 6 months.  The filter feeds a special drinking water faucet in the kitchen sink that is only used for cleaning food and cooking so I doubt that we run anywhere near 500 gallons of water through it in 6 months, or even in a year.  Given how we use our motorcoach, and the cost of the filter elements, I will probably change the filter once a year.  To that end I wrote the date on a piece of Frog Tape and attached it to the housing.

I continued to focus on my article for BCM about Ronnie and Diann Mewbourns’ 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  I thought I might get it done by lunch but I did not get back to work on it until after 11 AM.  I worked on it most of the rest of the day and into the evening and still did not get it finished.  By 9 PM I had the photos selected and processed but deferred integrating them into the article until tomorrow.  I will then upload it to our Dropbox and e-mail Diann that it is available for review.

Lunch was left over black-eyed peas, fresh fruit, and hummus with sourdough pretzels for dipping.  Dinner was salad and pan-seared tofu with caramelized onions in BBQ sauce with fresh strawberries for dessert.  We went for walks after both meals and Linda got in 10 miles today.

If we watch TV at all on Wednesday evening it is usually PBS and so it was tonight.  Nature was on cross-species animal bonding, Nova was on an archeological investigation of WWI trenches and tunnels, followed by a two hour program on the CERN LHC (Large Hadron Collider) and the search for the Higgs bozon particle and other, possibly more elementary ones.  It was after midnight by the time I got bed.

2016/01/07 (R) Jam Session

We were both awake around 7 AM.  Linda read for a while and got up around 7:45.  I drifted back to a light sleep and finally got up at 8:15.  By the time the coffee was ready to drink it was 8:45 AM.  Linda washed off some blueberries and poured our cups of Joe.

Linda bought 10 tickets yesterday for the Powerball lottery.  Our $20 investment returned $4.  The good news was that no one won and Saturday’s drawing will likely approach $700 million.  I know the odds of winning are astronomically small, but any non-zero chance to win even a piece of that pot seems worth another $20.  After all, you can’t win if you don’t play.

Linda by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

Linda by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

We had granola with fresh berries for breakfast.  I then e-mailed the Geeks on Tour to see if we could arrange a meetup.  That’s the name of Jim and Chris Guld’s business and they are currently just up the road at the Thousand Trails Preserve (RV park) in Zolfo Springs.  They are full-time RVers who do seminars and in-depth training classes on a wide range of technologies at RV rallies, parks, and other venues.  You can find them here:  http://www.geeksontour.com.  They also do a weekly podcast and have an extensive catalog of video tutorials.

I spent the morning and early afternoon finishing my BCM article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  I uploaded it to a folder in our Dropbox for them e-mailed them the link and some instructions.  I also sent the link to BCM publisher Gary Hatt.

We had hummus with sourdough pretzel nibblers and fresh fruit for lunch around 1 PM.  Our plan for the afternoon was to go watch a practice session of the Royal Lipizzan Stallions.  The U.S.-based stallions’ facility is just up the road in Myakka City and they have practice sessions open to the public at 3 PM on Thursdays and Fridays, and 10 AM on Saturdays.  They ask (charge) a $5 donation per person.  The facility has bleachers but you can bring your own chair.  We had planned to go today because the forecast for this afternoon was pleasant.

We want to order some fresh citrus fruit from Joshua Citrus here in Arcadia and have it shipped to our children in Michigan.  It will be much more economical for us to have it shipped to one place and Meghan agreed to receive it and distribute it.  We were going to stop there on our way to see the Lipizzaners but at 1:15 PM it was still overcast.  I wanted to take photographs so we decided not to go and will visit the facility another time.

With the change in our plans we took a long walk around the resort.  I then had to figure out something else to do.  I was tired and decided to take a nap.  The sofa was not available as Linda was working on her counted cross-stitch project so I curled up on the bed next to Jasper (the cat) and dozed for a couple of hours.

For dinner Linda fixed a side of mixed grains, steamed some broccoli, and sautéed a package of Gardein Orange “Chicken.”  The orange chicken is a soy-based dish and it is very tasty.

After dinner we turned on the TV and I worked on the bonus content photographs for my article on the recent Arcadia converted bus rally.  Perhaps because of the distraction from the boob tube, was trying to clean up a slightly complicated situation I had created for myself, was just not in the humor, or some combination of the three, I found the work a bit tedious.  I stuck with it long enough to get it better organized and then stopped at a somewhat logical point and watched TV.

2016/01/08 (F) Touring Geeks

There was rain in the forecast for overnight and I heard the first few drops before I went to bed just before midnight.  The rains came in earnest sometime between 4 and 5 AM and it rained hard around 7 AM.  I was awake at that point and decided to get up and check for leaks.  Fortunately there was no sign of the leaks we had during the last rain event.  I fed the cats, plugged in the charger for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and made the coffee.

Bruce by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

Bruce by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

After checking the user manual we determined that it is OK for the Mi-Fi to be plugged in and charging while it is turned on and operating.  The issue with the device is that it really wants to be unplugged from the charger once the battery is fully charged and can overheat if left connected.  Since we do not have a usable RV park Wi-Fi signal at our site it simplifies our online life if we can just leave the Mi-Fi on with the Wi-Fi Ranger connected to it.  The Mi-Fi battery is very slow to charge, especially when the device is turned on, but it eventually reaches full charge.  The battery will not even operate the device for 12 hours but it will operate long enough to get through the night.  What I am still trying to figure out is when to plug it in during the evening so that it is fully charged just before we go to bed.  That is a trial and process.  Once I have it figured out I need to make a habit of plugging it in when I get up in the morning and again at the right time during the evening.

After a little more discussion I e-mailed Jim Guld to confirm plans for a visit and dinner this afternoon.  We settled in with our coffee and iPads for a while and finally had breakfast at 9 AM.  Linda had two frozen toaster waffles she wanted to use up so we had those with peanut butter.  I also add a little apricot preserves on mine.  We split one of the Ruby Red grapefruits we bought at Joshua Citrus the other day.  Yum.

With company coming later today we took showers.   While Linda was getting her shower I copied recent photos from the Sony SLT- a99v to my ASUS laptop.  An updated version of the Play Memories Home software was available, so I downloaded and installed it.  After I showered, shaved, and got dressed Linda cut my hair.  We then cleaned the coach, putting away things that did not need to be out and sweeping/mopping the floor.

With the cleaning of ourselves and the coach completed, we went on an errand run.  After dropping off a small bag of trash our first stop was the Winn-Dixie supermarket.  We then drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off recyclable plastic.  We swung by El Pirata Mexican restaurant to check out the menu and then drove to Joshua Citrus Company.  While I picked out some Sugarbelle oranges and Ruby Red grapefruit Linda ordered a three tray box of mixed citrus fruit that included Honeybelle tangelos, Meyer lemons, Navel oranges, and Ruby Red grapefruit.  The box will be shipped to our daughter and she will divide up the fruit with our son.  That arrangement allowed us to send more fruit at a lower cost than shipping to two addresses.  Our final stop was at Walmart for a few food items we did not find at Winn-Dixie.

Back at our coach I spent some time updating the Participants Database for our FMCA Freethinkers chapter (FTH) website.  I also spent some more time trying to recall just how I set up the WP-Members plugin for the SLAARC website so I can recreate it for the FTH website.  I was not able to do that in the time I had available and I think that might be due, in part, to changes that have been made in newer versions of the plugin.  I set up a WordPress User for Linda using the WP-Members registration form and it did not work the way I remembered it in the SLAARC website.  Apparently I am going to have study the user manual in detail.

Christine Guld called at 2:30 PM to let me know that she and Jim were on their way to our resort.  They arrived around 3 PM and we quickly settled into an easy conversation covering a wide range of topics.  Jim and Chris are the “Geeks on Tour” and do technology training (edutainment) at RV rallies and other venues.  They have seen and done a lot of things and are interesting, fun folks with whom to share time.

At 4:30 PM Jim drove us to dinner at Magnolia Seafood and Grill in downtown Arcadia.  The restaurant was almost empty when we arrived and we got a nice corner table by the front picture windows.  Today was Jim’s birthday and we enjoyed sharing it with him and Chris.  We lingered over dinner for almost two hours and by the time we left people were waiting in the lobby for a table.  I don’t like to wait for tables, but it’s usually a good sign when a restaurant is that popular.  Everyone said their meal was excellent.  Jim drove us back to our coach and dropped us off.  There was a music jam back at the Thousand Trails Peace River Preserve in Zolfo Springs starting at 7 PM. They wanted to cap off their evening there and we certainly understood.

We walked over to the resort office and picked up our mail.  My driver license renewal paperwork was there but nothing else.  Back at our coach we turned on the TV.  PBS/Create was airing the Las Vegas BeeGees concert from 20 years ago (again). With that as background we doodled on our iPads and eventually went to bed.

2016/01/09 (S) FTH Website Work

Our plan for today was once again to go watch the Royal Lipizzan Stallions practice session at their facility in Myakka City.  Fog moved in last night and was still thick by the time we finished breakfast at 9 AM.  That was when we needed to leave in order to get there and set up our chairs in time for the start of the session at 10 AM.  For the second time this week we decided to defer this event to a future date with better weather.

Black Crested Night Heron at the Peace River Wildlife Center, south of Punta Gorda, FL.

Black Crested Night Heron at the Peace River Wildlife Center, south of Punta Gorda, FL.

Linda resumed work on her counted cross-stitch project and I worked for a while on photos for the BCM article on the Arcadia Rally 2016.  No one won the Powerball lottery on Wednesday and by this morning the top prize had exceeded 800 million dollars, an all-time record for any lottery in the U. S.  Linda needed a few grocery items for our dinner and we wanted to buy a few more lottery tickets so we walked to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket to take care of those errands.  It was approximately a one mile round trip and on the walk back the cloud cover broke up into partly sunny skies.  Back at the coach we opened all three roof vents, turned on the exhaust fans, and opened the windows wider.

Linda settled back into her counted cross-stitch project and I turned my attention to our FMCA Freethinkers website.  I checked the SLAARC website (WordPress) to see how I set up the quick registration page through the WP-Members plug-in and then set up a similar (hidden) page for the FTH website.  I cleaned up a lot of other things on the website as well, including the member directory.  This work occupied the rest of the afternoon except for a lunch break and a brief walk.

Lunch was grilled “cheese” (non-dairy) and tomato sandwiches–very messy but very good–with grapes and orange slices.  The walk was brief because we stopped to visit with a couple from Ithaca, Michigan.  While we were chatting we watched low, thick white clouds moving towards us from the southwest against a dense, dark gray sky.  A couple of drops of rain was our early warning to return to the coach.

We got back before the rain started but once it did we closed the roof vents and reduced the window openings.  The forecast a few hours earlier had a chance of a thunderstorm at 9:15 PM but by 2 PM it was raining hard and an old leak around the bedroom exhaust vent/fan reappeared.  I also found a small leak at the lower outside corner of the new lower passenger side windshield.  We were both pretty discouraged at these continued leaks having hired people to fix them.  The heavy rain continued off and on for hours prompting Linda to track it in her iPad and eventually turn on the TV.  Lee County, which includes Fort Meyers about 45 miles due south of us, was under a tornado warning.  Arcadia is in Desoto County, which is the next one north, but the weather here was not severe, just wet.

While Linda was preparing dinner I e-mailed the members of our FMCA Freethinkers chapter to let them know that the public portions of the chapter website were now open for viewing and that I would be e-mailing each of them a unique username and password for the Members Only area in the near future.

For dinner Linda made a quinoa dish with julienned carrots, diced green onions, grated ginger, edamame, diced cucumber, and diced bell pepper.  She served it at room temperature and it was another fabulous dish.

After dinner Linda put on the Bengals-Steelers NFL playoff game while I started generating the usernames and passwords for the Freethinkers website.  I finished that work in about 90 minutes with the process of creating users automatically sending an e-mail to each member with their login information.  With that done I settled on the sofa with my iPad to finish up blog posts while we continued to track the weather.  The frontal system responsible for the wet/severe weather stretched from out in the Gulf of Mexico ENE across the Florida peninsula and was drifting to the east as storm cells raced along it.  Fort Meyers got 3″ of rain and sustained some wind damage from a rare January tornado.  The system was due to pass over Naples between 9 and 9:30 PM.  Our friends, Barb and Chuck, are there so hopefully they will just get rain like we did.

We did not have any more rain after dinner so we opened the roof vents and turned the exhaust fans on.  The forecast for Arcadia kept changing through the evening with the probability of rain around midnight bouncing up and down.  By the time we went to bed it looked like we might be done with precipitation for the night.

2016/01/10 (N) Wood Art

We made it through the night without any further rain or threatening storms and got up around 7:30 AM this morning.  We got dressed right away but I did not make coffee.  Our main objective for today was a visit to the Florida Winter National Wood Art Expo and Competition (FWNWAEC) in Punta Gorda.  We gathered up raincoats, camera gear, and a list of addresses for places we might visit, and headed out around 8:15 AM.  We stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Arcadia for coffee and bagels and then continued west into downtown where we picked up US-17 and headed south to Punta Gorda.

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

We had a pleasant drive down and arrived at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center in Punta Gorda just after 9 AM.  The FWNWAEC opened at 9 AM so our timing was good.  The parking lot was mostly empty so I got a spot near the building and we finished our coffee before going inside.  Admission was $7 each and we got wristbands that allowed us to come and go all day if we wanted to.

We spent a couple of hours looking at all of the wood carvings on display and I photographed a few of them.  There were also lots of vendors selling tools, materials, supplies, and finished products.  At one of those tables we met John, who heads the woodcarving group at our RV resort, and learned that there will be woodcarving classes at the Turner Center February 8-11 and another exhibition there on February 20.  He invited us to stop by when the woodcarving group meets at the resort on Thursday mornings.

By 11 AM we had seen everything we wanted to see.  On our way out of the building the ladies at the entrance table were explaining to someone else some of the other things to do nearby and I heard mention of a Farmers Market.  I asked about its location and got directions.  Before leaving the event center area we walked the grounds around the Convention Center and Tiki Bar that is part of the Sheraton Four Points hotel next door.  We then headed south on Retta Esplanade through a nice area of wonderful homes on our left and waterfront parklands on our right.  There was a very large craft fair in progress but we passed it by in favor of finding the Farmers Market.

The market was inland a few blocks and was located in a smaller, but lovely, park where the vendor canopies were spread out along a winding pathway that led to a historic house which was open for visitors.  There was also a group of about eight musicians with guitars, fiddles, and such.  Linda bought a large Miatake mushroom after we sampled some and decided it was one of the best mushrooms we had ever tasted.  We found another vendor selling turmeric in root form.  She said it would keep for months so Linda bought a large piece.  At another vendor she bought sesame seeds and flax seeds, so the market turned out to be a good stop.

From the market we continued south in search of the Peace River Wildlife Center.  It was a small, private facility but had quite a collection of animals, mostly birds, that were being rehabilitated (if possible) for release back into the wild or living out their lives’ (if release was not possible).  A small donation was requested on entrance and willingly paid.  Most of the birds were in enclosures that made them difficult to photograph but the pelican area was open, and wild birds came and went, so I was able to get a few photos there.

From the Wildlife Center we drove back north into downtown Punta Gorda and the headed northwest on the Tamiami Trail across Charlotte Harbor towards Port Charlotte.  Our destination was the Earth Origins market in Port Charlotte which was, conveniently, located on the east side of the Tamiami Trail.  I say conveniently because the Trail was basically a 20 mile long strip mall.  It was six lanes divided plus left and right turn lanes, and choked with cars, so having the store on the side of the road we were already on was definitely convenient.

We were done with our shopping by 2:30 PM and realized that we were only 36 miles from Steve and Karen Limkemanns’ place in Nokomis (near Venice).  We called and got Karen on the phone.  Steve was out riding his bike but was due back soon.  They had no plans for the rest of the day so we headed their way.  We had been to their mobile home park (Bay Lake Estates) two years ago but had not been there since they bought their own place this past March.  It took about 45 minutes to get there, by which time Steve had returned from his bike ride.  We got a tour of their new place, which was one of the newer units in the complex and very nice.  We also walked up to see a unit that had caught fire and completely burned.  It was stunning to see how little of it was left.  The unit next door did not burn but the vinyl siding facing the fire melted and sagged.  Most RVs are built much the same way as mobile homes and park model trailers and they do not do well in fire situations.

Before going to dinner we decided to drive to the Venice Rookery.  We saw a sign for it driving up and wondered just what it was.  It turned out to be a large pond with an island that was a favorite resting and nesting area for egrets, herons, Anhingas, and other birds.  The island provide natural protection from land-based predators and locals told us that a large alligator protected them from any threat that might try to swim across.  I took what photos I could but had not planned on doing wildlife photography and did not have the correct lens(es) with me.

The temperature had been moderate during the day and our shorts had been appropriate clothing.  The best time to view the birds is apparently at sunset when large numbers of them return to the rookery.  As the sun sank towards the tree tops it got decidedly chilly and we finally had to call it a day.  We will be back on the 18th to see The Capitol Steps at the Venice Theater and made plans to return to the rookery with appropriate clothing and photo equipment.

From the Rookery we drove directly to Cafe Evergreen for dinner, an organic restaurant not far from Steve and Karen’s winter home.  The Café is not specifically vegan but always has some nice vegan selections.  Linda and I both had roasted beet Reuben sandwiches.  She had an edamame salad as a side and I had baked sweet potato “fries.”  We both had lots of decaffeinated coffee but no dessert as we were quite full by the time we finished our meals.

We went back to Steve and Karen’s place and visited a while longer before finally leaving a little before 8 PM.  Linda wanted to see Downton Abbey at 9 PM and we figured we had an hour drive to get back to our RV park in Arcadia.  The GPS wanted to take us south on I-75 but we went north 10 miles and took FL-70 due east through Myakka River State Park.  About half way to Arcadia we encountered an accident scene and had to wait for 15 minutes before we could continue our trip.  We got home a few minutes after 9 PM so we were still able to watch the show.  The Abominable Bride episode of Sherlock was rebroadcast following Downton Abbey so we watched it again.

The weather had cleared out behind the strong cold front that pushed through the area yesterday and temperatures overnight were forecast to drop into the upper 40’s.  We closed down all the windows before we went to bed.  I turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed before climbing in.  It had been a long day and neither of us felt like reading or writing so I turned off the lights and we went to sleep.

 

2016/01/01 (F) – 2016/01/05 (T)

2016/01/01 (F) A Short Move

We got to back to our coach around 1 AM last night but I did not go to sleep until almost 2 AM so we slept in a bit longer than usual this morning.  The rally ended at midnight so there was no breakfast or organized activities this morning.  I wandered around the rally venue taking pictures of buses as they pulled out or were now easier to photograph because adjacent buses had moved out of the way.  The departure of rigs from a rally is always interesting.  It is an asynchronous, unmanaged event that is none-the-less generally very orderly.  There is never a rush for the exit as RVs leave one-by-one except for occasional groups that are traveling together.

 Linda strolls along one of the rows of converted buses at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

Linda strolls along one of the rows of converted buses at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

My wandering eventually took me to the north end of the venue where Dave Aungier’s 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion was parked.  As I had expected the local NAPA store was not open today so David was unable to get the new oil pressure gauge he needed.  He did not plan on sticking around until tomorrow to get the part and was basically ready to leave as soon as I photographed his coach.  After a brief discussion we agreed that he would pull it out onto the main exit road facing south so I could photograph it in good light and without a lot of clutter around it.  I went back to my coach to get my wide angle lens and additional batteries while he moved the bus.  After shooting the exterior, bays, and interior we exchanged contact information and Dave was on his way back to his home RV park in Zephyrhills, Florida.

Departure day at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

Departure day at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

After I was done with Dave’s bus I captured a few exterior images of Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle that I was not able to get yesterday.  I sat and chatted with them for a bit and gave them my contact information.  Although they were not leaving until tomorrow they were getting ready to go explore the area and check out several options for where to camp next.  At this point I had taken all of the rally photos I was going to take and went back to our coach to help Linda prepare it for our departure.

A late 1940’s GMC bus, with some of its original Greyhound markings, preparing to leave the Arcadia Rally 2016.

A late 1940’s GMC bus, with some of its original Greyhound markings, preparing to leave the Arcadia Rally 2016.

After having a light lunch we finished prepping our coach to travel and pulled out at 1 PM for the short trip to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) in Arcadia.  Linda drove the car and followed me over.  Once we were in the resort she went ahead of me to find the office and get us registered.  While she was doing that two guys showed up in a golf cart.  They made a phone call and then had me follow them to the office.  From there they escorted me to site #K-2 and got me parked.  It was a somewhat narrow back-in site but they got me positioned just right.

Linda went back to the office to finish our registration and extended our stay until March 7th.  The Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise returns to the Port of Miami on March 5th and we have to pick up Michael and Mara and then get him back to the Tampa airport and get her back to the resort.  We will have the 6th to visit with Mara and then be on the move.

While Linda was taking care of our registration I leveled the bus and shut it down.  I got the shorepower connected but was surprised that the no load voltage on L1 was only 115 VAC and that L2 was even lower at 111 VAC.  It was warm and humid but running our air-conditioners with those voltages might be a problem as our Progressive Industries EMS might cut off the shorepower if it dropped any lower.

When Linda got back we deployed all of the awnings.  A frog dropped from the driver side forward awning onto the grass when we opened it.  It was unharmed and hopped off somewhere.  While we were setting up we met Ron and Vera, who have the site just south of ours, as they were out washing their trailer.

With the voltage at our site lower than I liked I decided not to run the air conditioners.  We opened all the windows and roof vents and turned on all three exhaust fans plus an inside fan.  We endured a rather warm/humid afternoon with just the natural ventilation, helped a little by a southwesterly breeze coming in the driver side windows.  Our coach is parked facing southwest, so we are getting the afternoon sun.

Lots of residents walked or rode their bikes past our site.  Most waved and/or said “hello” and a few stopped to chat.  Conrad and Bonnie visited for quite a while and shared a lot of information with us about the resort and especially its activities, which are apparently numerous.  Big Tree RV Resort is a Carefree Resorts property and promotes itself as an active adult community.  Early evidence suggested that this might, indeed, be the case.

By late afternoon I was tired and uncomfortable so I took a nap.  Once the sun dropped below the trees it cooled off enough that we took a leisurely stroll around the resort to get a sense of the layout and the people.  We almost always do this when we arrive at any new campground, even if we are only going to be there for one night.  Lots of folks were out walking or riding their bicycles.  More than a few had strong French accents and we noticed quite a few license plates from Quebec Province in Canada.

Back at our rig Linda made vegan pancakes for dinner and served them with fresh blueberries and real maple syrup.  We had pineapple later for dessert and a small glass of wine while we watched the first episode of the new season of Sherlock on PBS.  Linda went to bed as soon as the program was over.  Since I took a nap earlier I stayed up for a while, checked us into the resort on RVillage, and tried to fill in missing information for my blog posts from December 30th and 31st.  Eventually I was unable to keep my eyes open and went to sleep.

2016/02/02 (S) Big Tree Carefree RV Resort

It was very foggy last night by the time I went to bed but had dissipated somewhat by dawn.  We slept in and got up at 8:30 AM.  Linda got a shower while I made coffee and then I got my shower and trimmed my beard shorter than usual.  We had coffee, juice, and granola with blueberries for breakfast and split a banana.

After breakfast we drove to downtown Arcadia to visit the farmers market.  Although rain was not forecast for today it was misting when we left so we took our rain coats.  It was a good thing that we did as the mist got heavier as we got to downtown.  There were only a few vendors in the square and none of them were selling fresh produce so we did not buy anything.  There was a vendor with lots of pickled products that looked interesting so we may buy something from him at the next farmers market in two weeks.  We walked around the block and back to our car and then drove back to the resort on the east edge of town about two miles from downtown.

We lost a decorative lug nut cover off of the passenger side of the coach yesterday just after I turned onto eastbound FL-70.  Linda looked for it as we drove by but did not spot it.

Back at the coach Linda vacuumed the interior, wet mopped the floor, and then went for a walk.  I decided to get a short article written about the Arcadia Rally 2016 for Bus Conversion Magazine while it was still fresh in my mind and before we got busy exploring this part of Florida.  First, I transferred my photos from the last few days to my computer and organized them.  Next, I set up the folder and sub-folders for the article, opened my article template (Word), and wrote a page of text.  I then started selecting and processing photographs and, except for a few breaks, that is what I did for most of the day.

When Linda returned from her walk she made a grocery list and then took the car to Walmart.  The Walmart is directly opposite the entrance to the resort on the south side of FL-70, which is the main east-west highway through Arcadia.  FL-70 is a divided road at this point so to get to the Walmart we have turn right and go west on FL-70 and then make a U-turn, which is legal here, or make a left onto southbound US-31 and then go in the west entrance.  To get back to the resort we can exit the Walmart at a traffic light and turn left onto westbound FL-70 and then immediately turn right into the resort entrance.  If we are coming east from west of the resort entrance we must make a U-turn at the traffic light in front of the Walmart of a little farther to the east.  The traffic signal also serves a much larger residential development just east of the resort and there is a crosswalk, so we can walk to Walmart if we do not expect to have a lot to carry back.

When Linda got back and had the groceries put away we had chickpea salad on greens for lunch.  During the afternoon I took a break from working on my article to hook up the water softener.  Back inside I wanted to back up my most recent photos but my computer could not “see” the NAS.  I ended up shutting down everything and restarting it a particular order: WFR, A|W router, NAS, and lastly computer.  That reset the connections (IP addresses) and I was able to get back to work.

I had been sitting most of the day so we went for an evening stroll before dinner.  Back at the coach Linda made a zoodles “pasta” with mushrooms, onions, garlic, broccoli, turmeric, and flax seed.  After dinner we decided to do our laundry so we gathered up clothes and bedding, loaded the laundry into the car, and drove it to the resort laundromat, which is located in the same building as the office, library, and activities/meeting room.  We loaded four washers and then four dryers.  We took our iPads with us and doodled while we waited.  There was a good, free Wi-Fi signal at the building so we may take advantage of that while we are here.

After the laundry was done, folded, and hung up we watched America Reframed: A Will To The Woods on PBS/2.  It was a program about the “green burial” movement and one man’s determination to have a green burial if/when he succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  He did and got his wish.  It was a well done documentary.

2016/01/03 (N) Another Article

A cold front drifted southeast through our location yesterday afternoon bringing with it cooler temperatures and an increased probability of rain.  We left the windows open just an inch but I closed all three roof vents before we went to bed.  We slept in this morning because we did not have any pressing reason to get up.  When we did arise I made coffee and Linda eventually fixed toast and grapefruit for our breakfast.

Linda needed something that she forgot to buy at Walmart yesterday so she walked there to get it.  When she got back she headed out to continue her walk in the resort but the rain finally came and she quickly returned to our coach.  Once it started it was persistent and heavy at times.  We eventually discovered that the skylight in the hallway was leaking which did not make either of us very happy.

I settled in early and spent the whole day working on projects related to the Arcadia Rally.  I processed all of the photos of Dave Aungier’s 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion and inserted a few of them into a Word doc to serve as an example.  I uploaded the photos and the Word document to a folder in my Dropbox and e-mailed Dave the read-only link.  I selected and processed a few photos for rally organizers Bill and Brenda Phelan, uploaded those to another Dropbox folder, and e-mailed them the read-only link.  I then focused on my article about the rally for Bus Conversion Magazine (BCM), finishing the draft of the print version around 9 PM.  I uploaded it to the BCM folder in my Dropbox and e-mailed the publisher, editor, and layout technician.  I still need to upload cover and centerfold photos and then select, process, and upload photos for the bonus content section of the digital edition.

During the course of the day I took breaks for lunch and dinner.  Lunch was a really tasty cannelloni bean salad with capers, olives, lemon zest, raw garlic, and other tasty ingredients.  Dinner was a salad of power greens with couscous, cooked beets, blueberries, and orange segments.

I also e-mailed Pat Lintner and texted Chuck Spera to see if they had arrived at the Florida destinations.  Linda was playing online word games with her sister (Sr. Marilyn) and with Karen Limkemann, and thereby learned that Karen and Steve had arrived at their new place near Venice, Florida where they were busy assembling furniture they just purchased at IKEA.  She also exchanged text messages with both of our children regarding our mailing address while we are at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) and a few items we needed them to forward on to us.  When we checked out the mail room yesterday we discovered that every site at the resort has a cubby and management had already placed a tag on ours with our last name on it.  That was a nice touch and made us feel just that much more welcome even though we will only be here for a little over two months.

After dinner we turned on the TV and tuned in Part 1 of Ken Burns’ film on Prohibition on PBS/World.  We switched to PBS/main and watched the first episode of the sixth and final season of Downton Abby.  At the conclusion of the episode we switched back to Prohibition.  There was still a chance for rain through tonight, and overnight low temperatures were forecast to drop to around 50 degrees F for the next few nights, so we left the roof vents closed and the windows barely open and went to bed.

2016/01/04 (M) Unblocked

The overnight low dropped into the upper 40’s last night and made for nice sleeping conditions.  As sometimes happens with me when I do not have a clock-regulated schedule to keep, my awake/sleep cycle slowly shifts as I stay up a little later each night and get up a little later each morning.  I did not go to sleep last night until after 1 AM and we both got up this morning between 8:30 and 9 to pleasantly cool temperatures in the coach and bright, sunny skies outside.

As we were getting dressed we discovered that an old leak in the bedroom was still leaking.  The wall just below the front corner of the passenger side window was wet.  Linda’s house slippers were stored on top of the OTR HVAC duct cover and also got wet.  That’s how we discovered that we still have a problem.  Like the other leaks around windows I am convinced that the problem is the way the awnings were originally installed by Royale Coach.  They were mounted to the hinged body panels that hold the windows and I think the gaskets for these panels were damaged in the process.  Whatever the reason it is very discouraging that we still have leaks in the coach.  The other possibility was that the water was getting in around the Fan-Tastic roof vent/fan and then running through the ceiling to the side wall and down.

I got our Verizon Mi-Fi/WiFi-Ranger combo online and then made coffee while Linda cooked oatmeal for our breakfast.  We doodled on our iPads for a while and I renewed my subscription to the RFinder World Wide Repeater Directory.  It was only $9.99/year and they had a holiday renewal special extending it to 18 months.  I have this app on my Android-based Samsung Galaxy III Smartphone.

My focus for today was to work on the FMCA Freethinkers Chapter website and then unlock the public pages.  I received an e-mail from chapter president Bob Pelc recently that prompted me to take care of this and it took most of the day except for beaks to eat and go for a couple of walks, one after lunch and one after dinner.

It was a beautiful, sunny day with lower humidity, a light breeze, and a high of 69 degrees F.  While walking, we met Gary and Pat a few sites down from us.  They came in yesterday and have a house back in Michigan about three miles from ours.  It’s a small world.

We stopped in the office so I could see it and Pat greeted me by name.  Since we had never met that caught me by surprise.  She recognized/remembered Linda from when she registered us and made the assumption about who I was.  She and her husband, Jim, manage the park.  Jim was one of the two guys who led me to the site and got us parked.  Pat said she wanted to see our bus and we invited her to stop by anytime.  We have overheard a couple of comments and had a few conversations that suggest folks are curious about our bus and word of its presence has spread through the resort.

Lunch was hummus and dark leafy greens sandwiches with oranges and grapes.  Dinner was pan-seared tofu slices on a bed of dark leafy greens with Asian peanut sauce and apple slices.  Both meals were very tasty.

I got an unexpected call from Kathy Dewsbury-White, executive director of the Michigan Assessment Consortium.  We had not spoken it quite some time so it was a pleasant surprise.  After our evening walk we settled in to watch our usual Monday evening TV programs.  Having worked all day at my computer I was not in the humor to even doodle on my iPad.  We watched the 11 PM news long enough to known the world is falling apart, and switched to the local weather channel (same station) which forecast sunny days ahead.  There wasn’t anything on any of the PBS channels we wanted to see so we were in bed and asleep by 11:30 PM.

2016/01/05 (T) 1969 Model 07 Eagle

We were up at 7:30 AM this morning.  The temperature overnight fell into the upper 40’s and it was 64 degrees F in the coach so we put on our sweats.  I made coffee and turned on the Aqua-Hot long enough to raise the temperature to 69 degrees and take the chill off of the interior.  We had granola, blueberries, and a banana for breakfast, along with juice, and then doodled on our iPads while we finished our coffee.  I renewed my subscription the RFinder World Wide Repeater Directory yesterday and reset my password this morning so I could use the website and Android app on my phone.  I searched for repeaters within 20 miles of our location.  There appeared to be two in Arcadia but many more west and south of us in Punta Gorda, Murdock, Venice, and Port Charlotte.  At 10 AM we took showers, got dressed, and then got to work.

Our bus in its winter 2016 home on site K2 at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, FL.

Our bus in its winter 2016 home on site K2 at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, FL.

Linda was checking e-mail and noticed that the PayPal receipt for the RFinder annual subscription had been processed as a monthly payment.  It’s only $9.99, but yikes! just the same.  I e-mailed the folks at RFinder (Suffolk Systems) and also filed a complaint with PayPal.  I knew the folks at RFinder would straighten it out but my complaint was really with PayPal.  Their e-mail had instructions for dealing with this that did not correspond to their website.  Not helpful.

The first order of business for me was dumping the holding tanks and filling the fresh water tank.  Once that was done my main focus today was roughing out a featured bus article for Bus Conversions Magazine on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  They had their bus at the Arcadia Rally last week and I was able to interview them and photograph it.  They were there two years ago but I was not able to do an article on their bus at that time.

“K” row at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL.

“K” row at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL.

Linda took her exercise walk in the morning.  When she got back we had mock deli sandwiches for lunch and then went for a stroll around the resort.  After our stroll we drove to the Joshua Citrus Company location a couple of miles south of the RV resort.  We bought a few things for ourselves and picked up a brochure describing the assortments of fruit they package and ship.  We want to ship some fresh citrus fruit to our family members back in Michigan while we are here.

While we were at Joshua Citrus I got a call from Bob Greenberg, W2CYK, at RFinder regarding my e-mail and PayPal complaint.  He explained what I needed to do to correct the error.  When we got back to our rig I canceled the PayPal complaint and then cancelled the subscription (recurring payment).  RFinder will e-mail me in June 2017 to remind me that I need to renew.  I can set up an annual subscription at that time if I want to.

Self-portrait in a wide angle traffic mirror.  (Big Tree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL)

Self-portrait in a wide angle traffic mirror. (Big Tree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL)

For dinner Linda made black-eyed peas with celery, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and hot pepper flakes.  She served it with open-faced Boca “burgers” (vegan) and corn.  We went for another stroll after dinner.  The high temperature today only reached the lower 70’s, and cooled off quickly after the sun set, so we each bundled up a bit (me more than her) to avoid getting chilled.  When we got back to our rig I was done with computer-based work for the day and settled in to watch our Tuesday evening TV programs.  After catching a little bit of the local news and weather we both went to sleep.

 

2015/12/26 (S) Departure Preparations

In spite of overnight lows in the upper 60s and plenty of humidity we left the windows open, the exhaust fans on, and the air-conditioners off last night and did not get up until 8:30 this morning.  I made our pot of morning coffee and Linda eventually warmed up the remaining cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  I finished up yesterday’s blog post while she played word games on her iPad.  I got a text message from John letting us know that he took Ali to the hospital early this morning but he did not elaborate.

Although we are not leaving until Monday morning, we wanted to start some of our departure preparations today.  For me that meant:

  • dumping the waste tanks;
  • filling the fresh water tank;
  • putting away the hoses and water softener;
  • airing up the tires; and,
  • doing the laundry, including the bedding.

Linda walked up to get a shower and I started working on these chores in roughly that order  I dumped the black tank and then checked the tank level monitor in the house systems panel.  The indicator for Tank #2 no longer showed full but still showed 2/3rds.  The indicator for Tank #1 did not change, showing 2/3rds before and after.  I back flushed the black water tank which helped clean off the floor of the tank but did not do anything for the level sensors.  I then dumped the grey water tank.  Once it was empty I checked the monitor again and the Tank #1 indicator had dropped from 2/3rds to 1/3rd.  All of this seemed to confirm that Tank #2 was plumbed into the toilet and corresponded to the bodily function of the same number.  I was reminded that I really should mark the display with ‘B’ and ‘G’.

When Linda returned from her shower I took a load of whites to the laundry room and put them in a washing machine.  When I returned to our coach I tapped on the side of the fresh water tank to determine the water level.  It was very low, below 1/6th (20 gallons) and perhaps more like 1/8 (15 gallons).  At our water usage rate we might have been able to go one more day but there wasn’t any reason to cut it that close.  Besides, the lines coming out of the tank are on the side near the bottom but are not at the very bottom so there are a few gallons in there that are not usable.  My reason for wanting to know was so I could enter the gallons in my water usage tracking spreadsheet.  I also wanted to get the tank filled so I could put the hoses and water softener away.

While the tank was filling I got out the air-compressor, air hose, air chuck, and air pressure gauge and started checking the tires.  The tires on the sunny south-facing driver’s side of the bus were a bit higher than I wanted so I adjusted them as follows (in PSI): DST=87.5, DSOD=DSID=97.5, DSS=117.5.  The passenger side tires were in the shade so I figured they were not as inflated as the driver side tires and the pressures would not drop as much overnight.  I set them as follows (in PSI): PST=86, PSOD=PSID=96.  When I checked the PSS tire it was 70 PSI.  It was supposed to be 115.  Yikes!

This tire has always had a slow leak but it sat most of the summer without losing much air.  I checked/adjusted the pressures on November 25 (the day before Thanksgiving) but did not check them again until today.  In retrospect that was probably a mistake but it is my second least favorite chore, right behind recharging the water softener.  The tire had lost 45 PSI in about 30 days, an average of 1.5 PSI per day.  That is not a fast enough leak to pose a problem for driving as long as I check it every day while driving and don’t go more than a few days while parked, but it was troubling nonetheless as it was a change in the behavior of the tire.

The small pancake air compressor we carry has a 150 PSI maximum tank pressure and will provide a regulated output almost that high, but not for very long as it does not have a lot of volume.  It’s designed to run low volume air tools, such as nailers and staplers, not high volume air tools, like sanders or impact wrenches.  It works fine for topping up a tire but is not designed to inflate a bus tire from 70 to 115 PSI.

It took a lot of cycles to finally get the pressure to 115.5 PSI and before it did the compressor stopped coming on to re-pressurize the tank.  It was warm and I thought a thermal overload protector might have opened.  Another possibility is that once the tire gets up to about 110 PSI the compressor only supplies a small amount of additional air at 130 to 140 PSI until the tank pressure drops to match what is in the tire.  At that point the compressor cannot push more air into the tire but the tank pressure is not low enough to cause the compressor to turn on.  At this point I was really regretting that we did not bring the 15 gallon DeWalt air compressor with the 200 PSI tank and 150 PSI regulated output.  Yeah, it’s big; but it works.

The front of the car was parked facing the front of the bus so the passenger side tires were in the sun.  I adjusted the PSF=33.5 PSI (32 is normal) and the PSR=35.5 PSI (34 is normal).  I set the DSF=32.5 and the DSR=34.5.  I really need to check all of the tires first thing in the morning while it is cool, and before the sun heats up one side of the vehicles, but I am usually enjoying my morning coffee and not fully dressed.  I also do not want to run the air compressor too early in the day, as it is noisy, so I have to write down the pressure adjustment needed for each tire and do it later.  All things considered it’s a slightly obnoxious process.

With the waste tanks drained and the water tank filled I tested the water coming out of the softener and it was still indicating 1.5 gpg (25 ppm).  I disconnected the water hoses from the coach, the supply faucet, and the water softener but left them connected to both sides of the separate pre-filter.  After draining them as best I could I coiled the pre-filter hoses around the filter housing and connected the ends together to prevent leaks and put it on top of a tub in the front bay on the driver’s side.  I removed the cover from the filter housing attached to the softener, which does not have a filter element in it, and dumped the water out to get rid of the weight.  I then stored the softener in the passenger side of the front bay.

With the fresh water apparatuses taken care of I disconnected the waste hose from the angle adapter, flushed it out, collapsed it, and coiled it in the tub where we store all of the waste tank related accessories.  I disconnected the backflush angle adapter, removed the backflush water hose, capped the discharge fitting, and added all of that to the waste accessories tub.

I put the air compressor back in the passenger side of the front bay, coiled up the air hose, and stored it in the driver side tray over the drive tires.  Back inside I reattached the air inlet screen for the middle air-conditioner, put the drill and driver buts away with the other tools, and closed up all the bays.  Other than rechecking the passenger side front tire all I have left to do to get the bus ready to travel is stow the bag chairs and fold up table, stow the awnings, and disconnect and stow the shorepower cord.  After that it’s the usual departure procedure.  Once we are out of our site I will back the bus up so as not to block anyone’s driveway and Linda will pull the car around behind it so we can hook it up for towing.  We will then exit the resort via the covered bridge to the main gate and out to US-27.

I sat outside for the later part of the afternoon working on this post.  Linda was out too for a while, but went in to lie down.  She said she felt OK but was very tired.  I put the second load of laundry in a washing machine around 2 PM and went back at 3 to transfer it to a dryer.  John stopped by on the way back to his rig and said the hospital was probably going to admit Ali but as of when he left she was still in the ER.  He took her in this morning because of severe abdominal pain.

I was getting ready to go back at 3:45 PM to retrieve the laundry when I got involved in a conversation with our neighbors to the south, Danny and Dorothy.  We had previously exchanged salutations and had brief chats but this was our first real conversation.  Pam, who is in the rig to our north with her husband Ken, stopped to chat briefly as she headed out for a walk.  It was also the first time we have talked.  It seems that this often happens.  Two years ago it was March before we got to be friends with more than just John and Ali and by the time we left in early April we were being sociable with a dozen people.

At 4:15 PM Linda decided we should go for an easy walk.  The sun had just dropped below the trees so the air temperature was pleasant but the humidity had not yet risen.  We strolled up to the office and checked for mail.  The holiday card from Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline was there but not the Christmas card from Marilyn.  We will be gone before the mail arrives on Monday so we will have to ask in the office tomorrow about having stuff forwarded.  We also have to let them know we are pulling out early Monday and need to have someone read the meter so we can settle the electric bill.

We had partly cloudy skies for our walk which thinned out as the evening progressed and allowed some radiational cooling.  Basically we have been going from 83 degrees and 63% relative humidity during the day to 68 degrees and 83% relative humidity overnight.  Comfortable enough in the day but muggy at night.

Back at the rig we sat outside with our iPads until Linda went in at 5:30 to prepare leftovers for dinner and I went inside at 5:45 to eat them.  We had crossed paths with John while we were walking and he said there would be a fire in the firepit tonight.  At 6:30 Linda filled our flip top insulated coffee mugs with wine and packed them in our carry bag, along with our two plastic wine glasses, and we walked up to the campfire.  There were already a half dozen people there and more showed up after us so that we almost filled the available seats.

Big Mike had built the fire and had it going.  John was there to tend to things but did not play his guitar and sing.  He is still recovering from whatever made him ill overnight Wednesday and with the high heat/humidity, and Ali in the hospital, he probably did not feel much like performing.  As much as we enjoy the entertainment we also enjoy the conversation, and there was plenty of that to go around.  We ended up talking to Peter and Giselle from Ontario, whom we had not met before.  They are not retired yet but are arranging some extended vacation time to try out the RV lifestyle.  That is really smart in our opinion if your employment situation permits it.

Peter, John, Linda, and I were the last to leave.  At 10 PM I spread out the remaining fire logs and John locked up the shed.  He took off on his golf cart to lock up the various buildings in the park and we walked back to our coach.  The skies were partly cloudy and there was a large, bright, full moon.  The temperature was pleasant and the park was still and quiet save for one person we saw walking their dog off in the distance.  This was our last campfire at WCRVR this season unless we return briefly in March on our way north.  We missed seeing Ali but even with her absence, and without music, we enjoyed it our evening sitting around the campfire.

Back at our coach we had the last of the apple strudel with Coconut Bliss non-dairy ice cream for dessert.  I flipped channels on the TV while Linda read and I played games.  We caught the tail end of a vegan cooking show that we had never seen or even heard of and caught the news/weather at 11 PM.  We were interested in the storm system moving into the Midwest but otherwise there wasn’t much on that grabbed our interest.

As we were getting ready for bed I put soiled clothes in the hamper and realized that I had not taken the clothes from there yesterday and laundered them with the second/dark load.  That meant I would be doing an unexpected load of laundry in the morning.  In spite of a forecast of possibly early morning light fog we left the windows open and two of the three exhaust fans running all night.  We do better (up to a point) with fresh, moving air, even if it is humid, than we do with the coach closed up and the noise of the air-conditioners.  Linda fell asleep quickly but I played games on my iPad and watched Cook’s Country on the PBS Create channel before turning off the lights at 12:30 AM.

 

2015/12/22 (T) Blog Chores

Linda was up at 7 AM again this morning but I did not get up until sometime between 7:30 and 8.  I made our coffee, as I do almost every morning, and we worked on our iPads, as we do almost every morning.  We had granola with fresh blueberries around 9 AM, as we do on many mornings, and then extended our leisurely morning until 10, which is also common for us.

Heavy cloud cover had moved in starting yesterday afternoon bringing higher humidity and some chance of rain.  It also minimized radiational cooling overnight and the temperature barely dropped into the upper 60’s.  All things considered it was not the kind of day that made us want to get up and go, but eventually we did as today was chore day.

First up on my list was doing laundry.  While Linda went for her solo morning walk I gathered up our laundry and sorted it on the bed.  I had what looked like three loads but we only have one collapsible laundry basket so I ended up making three trips to the laundry room.  I found an unused tote bag to carry the two containers of laundry detergent, the dryer sheets, and a large quantity of quarters, so that helped.  The laundry building is not that far from our site but the laundry and supplies are bulky and heavy so I used the car.  If I had a wheeled laundry cart I would have walked.  Depending on the situation at Big Tree RV Resort we might order one after we get there.

The washing machines run a 25 minute cycle but it takes over an hour from when I start to get to the point where I can transfer the laundry to the dryers.  During that time there isn’t much else I can do.  Once the dryers are going I have about 45 minutes before I have to empty them and fold/hang the clothes.  That’s good iPad time.

Linda got a call from our daughter (Meghan) with pictures of the armoire she is building for her niece (our grand-daughter) Madeline to hold “dress up” clothes, some of which she is getting for Christmas.  Meghan still has quite a collection of clothes from her childhood and is passing them on to Madeline, so the armoire will be fully stocked.  That will be a very nice gift for a fashion conscious three year old.

Linda went with me to the laundry room at 12:30 PM and helped sort/fold/hang our clothes and put it all away when we got back to our coach.  We will do another batch of laundry on Saturday or Sunday including all of the bedding.

For lunch, Linda made folded flat bread hummus sandwiches with onions and greens and sliced up an apple.  It was slightly cooler outside with an occasionally gusty breeze so we sat out there and used our iPads.  I finished up yesterday’s post, started on today’s, and moved a few chores to future dates.  I was reading a back issue of The Gypsy Journal when a few rain drops fell on my screen.  We immediately decided to move back inside but the full on rain came quickly.  Linda took our iPads in while I put the two bag chairs away and then scurried inside.  It rained hard for a while but eventually passed and the outside air temperature dropped 10 degrees, which was refreshing.

Inside I directed my efforts towards my blog.  When I uploaded seven posts early last week I forgot to “tag” them with keywords so my next task was to edit those posts and take care of that.  Once that was done I started uploading posts beginning with August 9th, 2016.  I worked until 5 PM and managed to upload 10 posts through August 18th.  So far I have uploaded 17 posts in the first 22 days of December which means I am still generating new ones faster than I am uploading old ones!  The flow of time is relentless that way.

Linda made a salad and a potato lentil curry for dinner.  She has been reading Dr. Michael Greger’s newest book in which he describes how he personally eats and why.  Based on his guidelines she added turmeric to the curry, which was appropriate given the Indian nature of the dish, but mostly because she is trying to figure out how to incorporate it into her menu planning on a daily basis.  Daily consumption of turmeric has been shown to have a number of health promoting effects but most notably a carcinogen blocking effect with only a teaspoon per day.

We watched our usual Tuesday evening TV shows, even though they were repeats, after which I stayed up for the 11 PM news.  Gainesville got 0.5″ of rain this afternoon and I suspect we got at least that much at the RV resort.

 

2015/12/19 (S) A Gypsy Journal Milestone

We were up a bit later than usual last night and did not get out of bed until 8:15 AM this morning.  The temperature outside had dropped to 36 degrees F overnight and it was cool in the coach which was one of the reasons we slept well and lingered under the covers (where I had my heater pad turned on).  I put my sweatpants and sweatshirt under the covers to warm them up before getting up and putting them on.  Linda just braved the chill and put on her sweats without warming them first.  She’s tougher than I am.

We like to keep track of the weather back home and in other places where we have friends, like Quartzsite, AZ, and the weather apps on our iPads and smartphones make that very easy to do.  At 10 AM EST it was 25 at home going up to 28 with an overnight low of 23.  Here in Williston it was 48 going up to 62 with an overnight low of 39.  Arcadia, where we will be in January and February, was presently 58 going up to 73 and dropping to 55 overnight.  Four hours farther south actually matters in Florida, which has four somewhat distinct climate zones.  Quartzsite, 2,000 miles west of us, was 38 (at 8 AM local time) going up to 67 and dropping back to 39 overnight.  All things considered Williston was a pretty nice place to be this time of year.

Once I was up I fed the cats, who always insist that their needs are met first, and then turned on the three thermostats for the Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system, set the temperature controls, and turned on the diesel burner.  I made a pot of coffee and Linda started cooking oatmeal for our breakfast.

A view of our coach looking north at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

A view of our coach looking north at Williston Crossings RV Resort.

We were done with breakfast by 9:30 and Linda had the dishes cleaned shortly thereafter.  We doodled on our iPads while we enjoyed the rest of our coffee.  Nick Russell sent out the link for the January-February 2016 issue of The Gypsy Journal yesterday.  I forwarded it on to our iPads last night and we downloaded it to our devices this morning.  It is the 100th issue that Nick has published and the last one he will produce on newsprint.  Starting with the March-April 2016 issue the Journal will only be available in digital form.  That will not be a problem for us as we switched to the digital version only several years ago, but it is sad that smaller specialty publications cannot survive in printed form.  I think it is inevitable that Bus Conversion Magazine will also go digital only, if it survives long enough to make that switch and then survives the transition.

Nick has had a small army of friends take bundles of newspapers and leave them in RV park offices on their travels and has picked up new subscribers that way, but the newspaper is well enough positioned at this point, with a large enough subscriber base, that he should continue to do very well.  Even if the number of subscribers levels off, or even shrinks slightly, his profitability should increase nicely now that he is rid of the printing and mailing costs.

Nick and Terry will also have what we called “found time” at the education agency when some task, meeting, or other commitment on our time evaporated and we suddenly, and unexpectedly, “found” time to work on other things.  As highly mobile full-timers Nick and Terry were always arranging for printers in different parts of the country, picking up the newspapers, folding and stuffing them in envelopes, printing address labels and putting them on the envelopes, and taking them to a post office, as well as carting around the extras and leaving them in campground offices or giving them to friends to distribute.  All of that took a lot of time; time they can now use for other things.

Williston Crossings RV Resort has lovely, mature landscaping including large, majestic Live Oak trees draped in Spanish moss.

Williston Crossings RV Resort has lovely, mature landscaping including large, majestic Live Oak trees draped in Spanish moss.

Yesterday Linda was looking at the website for Big Tree RV Resort in Arcadia, Florida where we will be in January, February, and early March.  She ended up looking at the AllStays Camp and RV listing for the resort and discovered a photo of OUR bus that I took two years ago in our site here at Williston Crossings RV Resort!  The information attached to the image pointed back to our website as the source and said “…the image may be copyrighted.”  I have looked at ways to add a copyright notice to all of the images on our website/blog but never implemented one.  I guess I really should.

After breakfast we opened the packet of felt chair leg caps and put four of them on the folding card table chair we use at the desk.  It looked like they would do just what we needed them to do so we removed the towel we had been using to protect the floor.  My focus today was working on our blog but first I spent a little time updating my spreadsheet for our spring/summer 2016 water bay project.  I uploaded seven blog posts a few days ago but have been concentrating on selecting and processing photos since then.  This morning I decided to resume working on posts.  My goal was to finish editing the posts for the remainder of August (2015), select the spots to insert the selected photos, clean up the writing, and start uploading them to the server.

We took a lunch break at 12:45 PM and had mock deli slice sandwiches on flatbread and split a fresh apple.  Linda started to work on her counted cross-stitch project for grand-daughter Katie but realized the larger grid base material she bought was too small.  She found something on Amazon that would work and ordered it for delivery on Tuesday.  She then searched online for someplace in the area to buy a Tofurkey vegan mock turkey roll.  It looked like Earth Origins in Gainesville sold them so she decided to drive into town and get one rather than wait until next week and risk not having any available.  I stayed behind and continued working on my blog posts.

Some of the grass on the other side of the road from our site was spectacular.  Ahhh, December in north central Florida.  This is why people come here in the winter.

Some of the grass on the other side of the road from our site was spectacular. Ahhh, December in north central Florida. This is why people come here in the winter.

With the outside temperature only rising into the low 60’s we kept the motorcoach closed up today.  By 2 PM the temperature in the front half of the coach was a very pleasant 76 degrees F.  It was cooler in the back as most of the window area is in the front half of the bus, including the large southwest facing windshields.

Linda returned from her trip to Gainesville with more than just a vegan mock turkey roll.  Besides the Tofurkey brand products Earth Origins also had Gardeine brand products.  We have had other Gardeine products that were very good so she decided to try their mock stuffed turkey roll.  As long as she was there she picked up a half dozen other frozen entrees to try.

I had just finished editing the posts for August when Linda suggested we go for a walk.  It was 4 PM and the late afternoon light was nice so I took the camera.  We only made it a couple of sites up the road and stopped to talk to the new arrivals from Alaska.  We had no sooner resumed our walk when Linda got a call from Diane.  John had surgery recently, and will be off work until after the holidays, but is recovering nicely.  We strolled along slowly while they talked and I took a few pictures.  I wore my sweater but the sun was already behind the trees and I was pretty quickly uncomfortably cool in the shade.

We crossed paths with John and Ali and stopped to chat for a while.  We learned last night at the campfire that Jeff and Kathy’s dog Teddy had succumbed to his lymphoma this past Sunday.  Teddy was very sweet and we know how difficult it is when a pet dies.  We also learned that Jeff had been taken to the hospital in Ocala and was scheduled to have a colonoscopy earlier today.  The report back from Kathy was that he might have colitis.

When we got back to our rig Linda made hot hibiscus tea.  I had planned to upload some blog posts today but I had spent enough time in front of my computer for one day and sat on the couch with my iPad for a while instead.  I rarely take naps but I am not opposed to the idea.  I laid down at 5:15 PM and dozed until Linda got me up at 6 for dinner.

Linda on the phone with Diane Rauch as we head into the older south section of the resort.  That’s one happy girl.

Linda on the phone with Diane Rauch as we head into the older south section of the resort. That’s one happy girl.

After dinner we both changed into warmer clothes and Linda packed our wine to take to the fire circle.  We got there a little before 7 PM, later than usual, but the only people there were John, Big Mike, Jim (Sonny Fox), and Tom (from Hilton Head, SC).  Another couple, who have the site just east of John and Ali, showed up just after us but that was it for the evening and John did not get his guitar and perform.  Besides the much cooler weather there was a dinner/dance at the clubhouse this evening, so John had anticipated a smaller than usual crowd.  That was nice in a way, both for him and us, as we got to talk more than usual.

The temperature had already dropped into the lower 50’s at 7 PM.  In spite of our best efforts we were not able to get the fire really hot, and did want to build it too large, so by 9 PM it had dropped into the mid-40’s and everyone had left except for me and John.  I spread out the fire and put the implements in the shed and John locked it.  He joined Ali at Jeff at Kathy’s fifth wheel trailer, where Ali was visiting with Kathy, and I walked back to our rig.

Linda was in her sweats with her blanket over her legs reading her latest e-book with a cat on her lap.  I changed into my sweats but did not feel like doing much of anything.  I flipped through TV channels but did not find anything that caught my interest.  PBS was running a Peter, Paul, and Mary 50th anniversary special, which would normally have been very interesting to me, but it was a fund raiser made up of old clips, interviews, and pleas for money and I just was not in the humor.

The temperature in the coach had dropped to 68 but we both felt a little chilled so I turned on the front thermostat and Aqua-Hot diesel burner.  I made a cup of hot decaf chai tea, played a few games on my iPad, and worked on this post before finally going to bed at 11:30 PM and going to sleep.

 

2015/12/18 (F) MEF3 @ 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/12/17 (R) Breezy Oaks

Today must be upside down day.  Linda got up first this morning, before 7 AM, and I slept until almost 8:30.  Yesterday I used up the last of our first batch of coffee beans so before I could make coffee this morning I opened four 1/2 pound packs and refilled our four coffee canisters.

We had breakfast of English muffins and grapefruit around 9:30.  I had still not heard back from Al regarding a visit to his campground in Bushnell today.  We checked the Breezy Oaks website and the Music Jam was scheduled from 2 – 4 PM today.  Our plan was to take our folding chairs, get there around 1 PM, visit with Al for an hour, take our chairs to the jam session and continue visiting there until it ended, and then go to dinner.  When we visited Al two years ago we did not come on a Thursday for the music went to a Chinese Buffet in Brooksville.  Linda found a Mexican Restaurant in Bushnell with some vegetarian items and 4.5 stars based on 49 reviews, so we wanted to try it.

I called Al at 10 AM and got his voice mail.  I left him a message and asked for a return call and/or a reply to my e-mail to confirm his availability before we drove to Breezy Oaks as it is over an hour away from us.  I worked at my computer selecting and processing photos for my September blog posts and had just about decided that we were not going to visit Al today when he called just before noon.  Linda had walked up to the recycling bins but as soon as she returned we made quick preparations to leave.  We took our two “bag chairs” (they fold up like a tent and go in carry bags) and the good camera.

We pulled out of our site at 12:24 PM and worked our way slowly out of the RV resort via the front entrance.  We headed southeast on US-27 towards Ocala past its familiar ranches and equestrian centers; our first time this season traveling down this road that we used frequently two years ago.  We took I-75 south to exit 309, headed east on CR-673 a short distance, and then turned north on CR-671 and followed it for about a mile until it ended at the entrance to Breezy Oaks RV Park.

Per Al’s suggestion we followed the signs to the office building and parked there as the music pavilion is adjacent to the office.  Al was already there with his chair set up so we got our chairs out of the car and set them next to his.  We chatted for about 15 minutes before the Music Jam started at 2 PM.

Linda and Al waiting for the music jam to start at Breezy Oaks RV Park.

Linda and Al waiting for the music jam to start at Breezy Oaks RV Park.

About 18 people participated in the jam session and about two dozen more, including us, provided an audience.  Each participant got to lead two songs of their choice and pick the key while everyone else backed them up.  Country and bluegrass seemed to be what most of them knew.  They played and sang for an hour and then took a 30 minute break during which ice cream was available in the office, three scoops for $1.25.  That’s a good price, if you eat ice cream.  The jam session resumed at 3:30 and went for another hour.

The musicians gather on stage for the Thursday afternoon jam session.

The musicians gather on stage for the Thursday afternoon jam session.

When the jam session was done we went back to Al’s motorhome and decided to go to Coyote Rojo Mexican Restaurant in Bushnell for dinner.  It was on FL-48 just east of I-75 right off exit 316 which put us that much closer to home after dinner.  We talked about going to the Chinese buffet near Brooksville, where we went two years ago, but it was 20 miles away to the west of the RV park and would not have positioned as well for the drive home.

Al Hesselbart takes the stage as part of a duet.  Al mostly does musical recitations as opposed to singing.

Al Hesselbart takes the stage as part of a duet. Al mostly does musical recitations as opposed to singing.

We had a tasty meal that included a salad and a veggie burrito, both of which we shared, and Al had shrimp fajitas.  We lingered at the restaurant way past the end of our meal chatting about what we had been up to since we had last crossed paths.  Al will be running a booth at the Tampa RV Supershow for the Florida RV Dealers Association so we might see him again at the show.  We did not go to the show two years ago but from our base in Arcadia it will be a reasonable distance away.

Al and his “singing” partner front and center at the jam session.

Al and his “singing” partner front and center at the jam session.

We returned to Williston via the same route we came and encountered intermittent light rain the farther north we drove.  About half way up US-27 we finally drove into a heavy, steady rain.  By the time we got to Williston the rain had abated, at least temporarily, but it had obviously rained before we got there.  We stopped at the Kangaroo/Citgo Station and I filled the gas tank.

We were back at our rig by 7:30 PM.  Linda checked the weather on her iPad and showed me the radar.  A long narrow line of thunderstorms was stretching from far out in the Gulf of Mexico to the northeast into Florida west of Williston.  The storms were moving along the line as it drifted slowly east and the forecast said we might get an inch of rain.  I closed the roof vents in the bathroom and kitchen and closed the awning-style windows to where they were only open an inch or so at the bottom.  We turned on the TV and settled in to watch our Thursday evening programs.

The heavy rain eventually started and around 9:10 PM the lights in the RV resort flickered several times and then the electricity failed.  Our inverter immediately switched over to batteries and kept everything running, which was comforting.  For as much money and time as we’ve spent upgrading these systems it nice when they actually work as intended.  I turned off a few lights and the laser printer to conserve energy just in case it turned out to be a long outage.  The Amped Wireless router and the NAS are both plugged into a backup power supply so they will not suffer any loss of power even if the inverter does not come on.  The Wi-Fi Ranger, however, is not on the UPS and this event reminded me that I need to do something about that.  From one point of view it didn’t matter, as the resort Wi-Fi went out with the loss of power, but the WFR is also the main router for the coach and as such is the DHCP server for our private network.

We continued watching our TV programs and I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and connected the WFR to it so we could continue doodling on our iPads.  Linda felt she had eaten too much for dinner and was a bit uncomfortable so she went to bed a little after 10 PM.  I stayed up and watched the local evening news at 11 PM, something I almost never do, and then went to bed.

 

2015/12/15 (T) Blog Uploads (finally)

The temperature at midnight was a little warmer than we like for sleeping but still OK.  The humidity was high, however, and everything felt slightly damp.  There was a high likelihood of rain before sunrise but we left the windows and roof vents open and all three exhaust fans running.  We have air conditioners but they are noisy and use a lot of electricity so we do not use them unless we have to.  Mostly, however, we like fresh air and tend to resist closing up the coach.

We were both asleep by 11:30 PM last night and I was up a 6:50 AM this morning.  I fed the cats and then watched a TV program on WUFT’s Create channel called Florida Crossroads.  It was on Florida’s Black Heritage Trail and featured some of the off-the-beaten-path museums and historically black communities in the state.  As the program pointed out at the beginning “If you head down I-75 to Disney World and other Florida attractions you won’t see these places.”  We do not have any plans to follow this trail but the show reminded me that every state has a history that is preserved in out-of-the-way places and it takes time and desire to seek them out.

Linda got up about half way through the programs so I watched the last 15 minutes of the show and then turned off the TV.  The rain increased from a light drizzle to a light rain and Linda pulled up the weather radar on her iPad.  Moisture was streaming northeast from the Gulf in our general direction so I closed the ceiling vent/fan in the bedroom.  It is over the foot of the bed so if water gets in the bedding gets wet.  I left the other two vent/fans open and exhausting on medium speed as no water seemed to be coming in.  They are both directly above vinyl tile flooring so if water did get in it would be easy to clean up.

I made a very full pot of coffee, using up the last of our first batch of Sweet Seattle Dreams beans (Seattle Blend and Sweet Dreams decaf blend, both from Teeko’s Coffee and Tea back home).  The Kindle edition of Dr. Michael Greger’s new book, How Not to Die, was available so Linda initiated downloading it to our various devices.  We both opened the Kindle apps on our iPads and finished downloading it to our devices.

We had English muffins and split a grapefruit for breakfast.  Once we were dressed and the kitchen was cleaned up Linda packed up Madeline’s Christmas stocking, took it to the Post Office, and mailed it.  While she was there she bought holiday stamps including the postage needed to get our Year in Review holiday letter to friends in Ontario.

With the Habitat For Humanity and Webasto Burner Service articles wrapped up (for now) I felt like taking a break from computer-based work but there was too much that still needed to be done.  At the top of the list was finalizing plans to get together with Bruce and Linda, John and Marian, and Al this week or next.  That was all being done by e-mail so it was spread out through the day but I eventually got the visits planned.

I need to work on the FMCA FTH and GLCC websites, and at some point I need to start writing, or at least outlining, new articles based on the work we did to the interior of our motorcoach this past summer and fall.  But the task rising to the top of my list is the blog, now over four months behind.  First, however, I installed the Twenty Sixteen WordPress Theme on our personal site (this one) just to have a look.  It’s a nice, clean, blog oriented theme, with features that make it more responsive with respect to sizing images on different devices but I did not switch the site over at this time.

I spent the rest of the morning copying blog post drafts from e-mails to Word docs and then editing the ones from August to get them ready to upload.  I was able to upload posts for August 3 through 8, including a gallery post of the refrigerator swap at Chuck’s shop on the 8th.  I spent the rest of the day selecting and processing photos for the rest of August.

Our storage ottoman was scheduled for delivery by 8 PM last night but the office closed at 5 PM and it wasn’t here by then.  Amazon notified us that it was delivered today so Linda retrieved it from the office when she made a quick trip to the Grocery Depot for ingredients to make polenta for dinner.

With more light rain forecast for this evening we went for a late afternoon walk.  We got to the northwest corner of the resort and were hailed by Elliot and Jamie who we met at the campfire on Saturday evening.  This is their first winter at Williston Crossings and they are enjoying it, especially the variety and frequency of available activities.  We started to get a few raindrops while we were chatting with them and headed back to the rig at a quick pace.  It was misting by the time we got there but we did not get very wet.

Linda started working on dinner by making the polenta and putting it in the refrigerator to firm up.  I turned on the TV for background noise and doodled on my iPad.  Linda set out our salads and then we had a 20 minute break before the polenta was ready.  She served it with Puttanesca sauce that included cayenne pepper and had a nice kick.  After dinner we watched our usual Tuesday evening TV programs, all of them season finales, and then went to bed.

 

2015/12/14 (M) Christmas Stocking

I was up just before 7 AM to feed the cats, who were crying rather than using their usual technique of circling the mattress, and decided to just stay up.  I tried connecting my iPad to one of the nearby RV resort Wi-Fi access points but was still unable to connect to the Internet.  I tried to connect our WiFi Ranger to the access point but it was unable to acquire an IP address.  I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi, connected the Wi-Fi Ranger to it, and started up my computer.  Linda was also up by this time and played a few word games on her iPad while I made coffee.

It was heavily overcast, but not foggy, and the sky glowed briefly with the rising sun before turning to a muted gray.  It was 71 degrees F outside, as dense cloud cover had prevented the temperature from dropping overnight, and 78 inside.  We left windows and the roof vents open last night with the bathroom exhaust fan on, so we had airflow but the humidity was higher than we like.  Still, we slept OK.

We had granola for breakfast.  After breakfast Linda drove to the Publix at the southwest corner of Gainesville to buy groceries.  I updated the other three WordPress websites that I manage and then got back to work on the HFH article for BCM which I did not finish yesterday.

I finished selecting and inserting photos for Part 2 of the article.  I then selected and organized the remaining photos for the digital edition Bonus Content sections for Part 1 and Part 2.  The penultimate step was to upload all of this to our Dropbox in a way that reflected the two-part organization of the article.  The final step was to e-mail Gary and let him know it was done.  Unfortunately this is at least the third time I have been “done” with this article so I won’t know if I am really, finally done until I see it in print.

We had a mock turkey sandwich for lunch and split an apple.  After lunch I sent e-mails to three friends who live south of our RV resort to try and arrange get-togethers before we leave at the end of the month.  I heard back from Bruce and Linda Whitney (really) right away.  They are members of our ham radio club back home and are in the process of relocating to their new home near Brooksville, Florida.  We agreed to get together this coming Sunday.  I eventually heard back from John and Marian Hogan and they were also interested in getting together.  By dinner time I had not heard back from Al Hesselbart, but I will.

Linda finished the needlepoint part of her project and walked to the sewing room by the office where she was able to use one of the sewing machines to attach the needlepoint matrix to a piece of white felt to make Madeline’s holiday stocking.  Our Verizon Mi-Fi had shut down when the battery drained so I plugged it in to recharge it.  I tried connecting our WiFi Ranger to the RV resort Wi-Fi and this time it worked.  There was obviously a problem with the system and it took until this afternoon for the office to get a technician out to fix it.

Gary Hatt at BCM had Kathy proofread the draft of my article on servicing the Webasto burner in our Aqua-Hot and sent it back to me.  I accepted all of her edits except one and then reformatted the article in two columns with the photos for the print edition inserted in-line.  I uploaded it to our Dropbox and e-mailed Gary.

We had both spent a long day mostly sitting so we went for a long stroll around the RV resort.  When we got back to the coach Linda started preparing dinner.  She added Halo orange slices to the salad, which included dried cranberries, walnuts, and sun-dried tomato dressing.  Yum.  The main course was couscous and black beans with corn, onion, and garlic.  Double yum.  We went for another walk after dinner.

When we got back we settled in to watch our usual Monday night TV programs and had a small glass of wine.

 

2015/11/27 (F) On The Road Again

We slept on the bus last night but did not sleep well, probably due to a combination of factors.  We had too much to eat for dinner, too much to do when we got home from dinner, too much anticipation of our early departure, too much anxiety about the weather, and too much awareness of it and other sounds.  The motorcoach seems, at times, like a living thing.  It makes its own unique set of sounds and motions, even when parked, and it always takes a few days and nights to get reacquainted with it after a period non-use.  It is well enough insulated but we are still in much more intimate contact with the weather when living in the coach than we are in the house.  It rained most of the night; hard at times, and woke us up when it did.  We would normally sleep through the rain if we were not thinking about oversleeping or having to get up and complete out travel preparations in the dim light of a rainy sunrise.

Sunrise was at 7:39 AM.  Normally it would be light enough to work outside 30 minutes before that but densely overcast skies and rain kept the light level very low.  I had been awake at the bottom of each hour from 4:30 on and we finally got up at 6:45 AM.  We did not have breakfast or hot beverages but did have a small glass of orange/grapefruit juice with our vitamins.  We (mostly Linda) straightened up the interior and secured the pantry and refrigerator for travel.  There was a lull in the rain at 7:30 and we used that opportunity to make our final departure preparations.

Linda shut off the circuit breaker for the engine block heater and I shut off the Aqua-Hot burner and engine pre-heat pump.  Linda got her BAHA and calendar from the house and shut off the circuit breaker that feeds power to the RV outlet while I put on my rain pants and coat and took care of the outside stuff.  I disconnected and stored the shore power cord.  I got the car ready to tow, opened the air supply valves for the various air-powered accessories, and switched on the chassis batteries.  When Linda was back on board she arranged towels around the base of her seat for the cats.  I started the main engine, let the oil pressure come up, switched it to high idle, and switched the suspension to drive mode.  After the chassis was fully aired up I did one last walk-around to check the clearance above each tire, got back on board, secured the entry door, and got out of my rain gear.

Juniper used to get behind the old passenger seat and Jasper used to get under the edge of it by the center aisle.  Juniper can still get behind the new seat but it is narrower and Jasper cannot get under it.  With the engine running he was looking for a place to hide so Linda set his carrier on the platform next to the seat, arranged the blanket inside it, and put Jasper in but did not zip it closed.  We weren’t sure he would stay in it but it apparently provided the sense of shelter and security he was seeking and he settled in.  We buckled ourselves in, I raised the rag axle, let the suspension adjust, dropped the idle to low, put the transmission in first gear, released the parking brakes, and pulled forward.  It was 8 AM and raining lightly so our local dirt roads were muddy.  We had almost 400 miles to travel today, but only the first 2.5 miles were on dirt roads.

We worked our way very slowly down the pothole riddled ribbon of dirt that serves as an excuse for the road we live on.  North Hacker Road was in somewhat better shape, but not great.  Traffic was almost nonexistent, being the Friday of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, so I kept our speed between 10 and 15 miles per hour and got passed by two cars.  Question:  How long does it take to go 2.5 miles at 10 MPH?  Answer:  One quarter (1/4, 0.25, 25%) of an hour, i.e., 15 minutes!  We did not have any trouble turning right onto eastbound M-59 where, again, there was almost no traffic.  A couple of miles later we got on southbound US-23 and I got the coach up to 65 MPH.  Except for construction zones, 55 MPH urban speed limits, interchanges, and one rest stop, I kept the bus at 65 MPH +/- 3 MPH most of the day.  I think the rest stop was near Piqua, Ohio but we honestly do not recall where we stopped as we did not leave the coach to use the rest stop facilities.

We had persistent light rain as far south as Findlay, Ohio and intermittent light rain until somewhere between Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio.  The drive through Cincinnati and over the bridge into Kentucky is always interesting.  The road twists and turns with frequent entrances and exits and occasional interchanges but I stayed in the center lane and it was fine.  As soon as you cross the Ohio River and enter Kentucky there is a long, steep uphill grade, but I handled it a lot better than I did two years ago.  That was partly because of lighter holiday traffic and not getting stuck behind a maximum weight semi in the right lane.  I stayed in the second lane from the right, dropped the tranny into 4th gear, kept the RPMs and turbo boost up, and did not drop below 50 MPH while keeping the engine temperature from exceeding 200 degrees F.  My technique was definitely better, but perhaps having a clean air filter and having fixed a faulty turbo boost pressure sensor line last December also had something to do with how the bus performed.

The drive through Kentucky was dry with high clouds to mute the sun a bit.  There was a stiff wind of around 15 MPH all day out of the south to southwest so that undoubtedly hurt our fuel mileage a bit.  We took Exit 76 onto KY-21, went west about 0.4 miles, and turned into the Oh Kentucky Campground RV Park at 2:30 PM.

Linda got us checked in and a few minutes later we pulled into our nice 50 Amp full-hookup site.  It was a straight pull into the site and will be an easy left pulling out.  We agreed that it was the same site we were in two years ago when we stopped here on our way to Florida for the first time.  We got the coach leveled and then I connected the shorepower cord, switched off the chassis batteries, and shut off the unneeded air valves.  I started the car, ran it through its gears, shut it off, removed the key, and locked it.  As I was doing all of this I observed that the coach was very dirty.

The temperature was in the lower-mid 60s and we were both feeling the need to do something besides sit.  Linda read the campground rules and they stipulated a $10 charge for washing a rig, payable in advance.  We decided to pay it and take advantage of the near ideal weather conditions:  high overcast, light breezes, temperature in the low 60s.

Linda went to the office and paid the $10 cleaning fee while I got out the cleaning supplies and the hose and nozzle.  We mixed four capfuls of McGuire’s automotive soap with a couple of gallons of water.  Linda handled the hose and I handled the soapy long-handled brush.  We washed the bus and the car, including the tires and wheels, in about 75 minutes.  Either my wax job had held up very well since I applied it in Quartzsite, Arizona last February, the water was extremely good, or the McGuire’s soap was the right thing to use, but whatever the reason some combination of the three cleaned up the bus nicely with no hard water spots.

The site in front of ours had a small 5th wheel on it and a couple about our age (or a bit older) was installing foam insulation skirting around the space under it.  We went over and chatted with them for a while and then retired to our coach for the evening.  The Wi-Fi at the RV Park was a bit flaky so I turned on our Verizon MiFi and got our Wi-Fi Ranger connected to it.  Linda connected with some of her online word game opponents and I played some of my solitaire games.  For dinner we had leftovers from yesterday’s fabulous meal.  Afterwards I exchanged text messages with Chuck and then worked on this post.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/11/21 (S) Not Quite As Planned

The weather forecast for today had snow moving into the area starting at 4 AM, increasing in intensity by 8 AM, and continuing through the day and into the evening.  The initial forecast was that we would get 4 – 6 inches of accumulation with temperatures hovering just below freezing.  We overslept this morning and did not get up until 7:30 AM but decided to go to our weekly ham radio club breakfast in South Lyon anyway.  I have had Mike’s (W8XH) climbing harness for a while and wanted to return it before we left for the winter.

There was already some accumulation on grassy areas when we left at 7:45 AM but the drive was not a problem and we arrived at 8:10.  We were the last ones there, of course, but someone had to be.  We had a nice chat with Harvey (AC8NO) and Diane, who are usually close to the last to arrive.  I called Mike, who did not make it to breakfast, and let him know I was transferring the harness to Harvey.

On the drive home we stopped at Meijer’s in Brighton so Linda could get some additional ingredients to make more granola.  By the time we got home at 10:30 the snow was starting to pile up.  I had four text messages from Kristine Gullen in quick succession which turned out to be four parts of one message.  She wanted to pin down our dinner plans for this evening.  I texted her back once I got home and after a couple of exchanges we came to the mutual conclusion that the weather was going to interfere with our get-together.  Sadly, that meant we would not see her and Jim again until May 2016 as they were probably headed to Frankenmuth for the Fall MERA conference and then on north to their cottage at Crystal Mountain for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Snow piling up around the bus less than a week before our planned departure for Florida.

Snow piling up around the bus less than a week before our planned departure for Florida.

Our original plan for today was to clean the inside of the motorcoach and then start cleaning up the garage/shop.  With the snow piling up we decided to defer cleaning the rig and concentrate on cleaning up the garage and staging things that we will eventually load on board.  I worked in the garage most of the day although that included moving things into the library and house.  Linda concentrated on making granola, preparing a billing statement for the bakery, and organizing/staging kitchen-related things for the bus.  She also came out and helped me when I needed assistance.

My objective for today was to get one of the temporary workbenches cleared off and disassembled.  I also wanted to get all of unused plywood stored flat.  By 5:30 PM we had accomplished those two goals, gotten most of the power tools put away, moved quite a few things to the library, and stored or thrown away quite a few other things.  I had also managed to strain my lower right back.  That is never a good thing, but it was especially bad given what we have to accomplish in the next three to four days.  We will continue the process tomorrow and I will try to get my tool boxes reorganized before I quit working for the day.  A critical piece of the cleanup will be getting everything that should be protected from freezing out of the garage and into the library as we do not heat the garage while we are away even though it has a furnace.  From there some of it may get moved to the laundry room in the basement, or not; it just depends on time and energy.

We need to clean up the garage enough to get the Honda Civic inside and also the (non-functioning) lawn tractor.  Optionally we can leave the tractor where it is and put a tarp over it or I can borrow Mike’s trailer and take it to Sloan’s in Linden to have it repaired and stored for the winter.  I like the last option best but I doubt that I will have the time to take it there before we leave.  It would have to be on Wednesday, assuming they are even open the day before Thanksgiving.

Snowstorm in progress.  Lots of snow on the rear deck and still coming down.

Snowstorm in progress. Lots of snow on the rear deck and still coming down.

For dinner, Linda sautéed an onion with some mushrooms and heated some frozen broccoli and peas.  She used all of that as toppings for two baked potatoes.  We watched the snow fall as we ate and estimated the accumulation on the railing of our rear deck to be at least a foot.

By 7 PM Howell had officially recorded 14.5 inches of snow and it was still coming down.  I decided to text Kerry Fear, who does our snowplowing, to let him know that I staked the driveway yesterday but we still have a mower deck, wheelbarrow, paving blocks, and plastic conduit in the northwest corner of the drive that we have not yet had a chance to remove.  He texted back that he was “up north” and would be back Sunday afternoon.

We went to bed before 9 PM, watched a few minutes of weather on TV, and caught a bit of a Cirque du Soleil holiday show on Detroit PBS.  I was going to call Butch and text Chuck but it was after 10 PM so I went to sleep instead.

 

2015/11/18 (W) Fuel Run

Linda was up at 5:45 AM and off to the bakery at 6:15.  I was up at 7:45 AM and skipped breakfast and coffee.  I put on Weather Nation and took stock of the forecast while I folded the clean laundry.  I took a shower, got dressed, made a cup of tea, and had a small glass of orange juice to wash down my pills.

My main objective for today was to get the bus fueled which would also serve as a test run.  The forecast had the chance of rain increasing through the morning and heading towards certainty by early afternoon, albeit intermittent and not very intense.  I wanted to take care of the fueling before the rain settled in but wanted to wait long enough for the temperature to rise so I set 11 AM as my target departure time.  Before I moved the bus, however, several things had to be done.

First on the list was turning on the electric block heater for the main engine.  It wasn’t cold enough for this to be necessary but having the oil warmed up a bit never hurts, especially with the straight 40 weight oil.  It helps the engine crank over and get oil to the bearings more quickly.

The living room and kitchen in the bus looking aft from the cockpit. New flooring, new seating, new desk, new refrigerator, new slide-out pantry, and new window shades (rolled up).

The living room and kitchen in the bus looking aft from the cockpit. New flooring, new seating, new desk, new refrigerator, new slide-out pantry, and new window shades (rolled up).

Next was simply cleaning up the interior so the coach could be safely moved and nothing would get broken.  I gathered up all of the tools and materials that I no longer needed and moved them into the house and garage.  I then installed the solid brass door stop on the bottom of the pull-out pantry.  Finally I mounted the two aluminum angles to the inside of the refrigerator alcove, one by the freezer door and the other by the fresh food door.

The angles were 1/2″x3/4″ with holes drilled in the 3/4″ flange for #6 SR self-drilling wood screws.  I had carefully countersunk (chamfered) each hole so the screw head would be close to flush with the surface of the flange.  The aluminum was only 1/16″ thick so I had to be careful not to overdo it.  With the freezer door open I set the 1/2″ flange against the face of the refrigerator case (on the side opposite the hinges) and held the 3/4″ flange square to the side of the alcove.  I used a #5-6 self-centering VIX drill bit to drill three holes about 3/8″ deep and installed the 5/8″ #6 screws with a manual screwdriver so as not to over torque them.  I repeated the procedure for the second angle which was longer and had five mounting holes.

The new floor in the cockpit of the bus.

The new floor in the cockpit of the bus.

I had a little spare time so I drove my car up and down the new driveway to compact the gravel.  I won’t drive the bus on this new driveway until next year but it already supports the cars very nicely and the weight of the Honda Element was sufficient to knock down some of ridges and compact the surface.

I checked all of the tire pressures and they were OK so I did not have to get out an air compressor and adjust them.  I will have to do this next week before we leave, however, as the temperatures will have cooled off significantly by then.

Around 11 AM I turned on the coach batteries and opened the auxiliary air supply valve for the engine accessories.  I turned off all of the electric heating elements and made sure the inverter was turned on and then started the main engine.  I let it run for one minute and then switched it go high idle.  While the engine was warming up and the air pressure was building I shut off the shorepower, disconnected the power cord, and stowed it.

I pulled out at 11:15 AM and headed for the Mobile Truck Stop at exit 122 on I-96, approximately 22 miles from the house.  While there are a couple of closer places I could get fuel this truck stop has very good egress and is fairly busy, which means the fuel is being turned over frequently and is thus relatively fresh.  The drive is a mix of Interstate and Michigan Highways with a few stoplights and a couple of miles of dirt road, so the bus has to run up and down through its gears.  It is also a long enough round trip to get the engine up to normal operating temperature under load.

I estimated that the tank would take on about 120 gallons of diesel fuel so I added two bottles of Stanadyne Performance Formula and one bottle of Stanadyne Lubricity Formula.  The tank started whistling at 112 gallons, which meant it was getting full.  I added the last few gallons by controlling the flow manually and stopped at 119.990 gallons, so my 120 gallon estimate was pretty good.  I paid for the fuel and got a free beverage to go with it.

I had some occasional light rain on the drive out and on the drive back but the trip was otherwise uneventful.  I was back at 12:45 PM, parked the coach, and started the auxiliary generator, which I had not done for several months.  To load the generator I turned on all three electric toe-kick heaters, the engine block heater, the Aqua-Hot electric heating element, and front bay electric heater.  I let it run for 90 minutes with an average current draw of 25 Amperes on each leg, which is about 35% of its full load capability.

I got the shorepower cord out and connected it but did not turn it on.  As long as I had water and air pressure I flushed the toilet and then ran a little water through the various faucets in the coach.  I set a rubber door mat under the drain for the fresh water tank to keep the water from drilling a hole in the driveway and then let the tank drain slowly.  While it was draining I got the long fresh water hose out and connected it to the spigot on the front of the house and the water port for the coach.  With the fresh water tank empty I checked that the outside water spigot was configured to provide filtered/softened water.  I closed the drain valve, opened the fill valve, and opened the valve at the house.  I then went in the house, set a timer, and had a bite of lunch.

I had a phone call while I was driving back from the truck stop but did not answer it.  The caller left a message so I listened to it and then called him back.  Kevin Stufflebeam, from the southwest part of Michigan, had a 1995 Marathon Prevost conversion with a non-functioning Webasto system.  It turned out that he had the system worked on by a company in that area and the guy from the company had called me during the summer.  They got my name and contact information from Josh Leach at Coach Supply Direct, with my permission.

The fresh water tank has an overflow tube so that is how I knew it was full.  I closed the fill valve on the bus, closed the spigot valve at the house, and then opened the fill valve to relieve the pressure in the hose.  Sure, it was a lot of back-n-forth, but it eliminated the spray that occurs when unscrewing a fitting on a pressurized hose.  It also makes the fitting easier to unscrew.  I removed the hose from the coach and then from the house.  The spigot is about four feet higher than the driveway so I pulled the hose up towards the spigot, allowing it to drain as I coiled it up.  Once it was coiled I connected the two ends together, put it back in its storage tub, and put the tub back in the front bay.

Linda called at 4:30 PM to say she was on her way home.  It had been raining, off and on, all afternoon so I took about 45 minutes to drive on the new driveway with my Honda Element and compact it even more.  But first I got the metal toothed rake and evened out the few remaining ridges and valleys.  Besides going up and down the driveway I drove across it at various angles at both ends.  Most of the driveway has fresh topsoil along both edges, which is soft and has grass seed and straw on top of it, so I stayed off of those areas as they definitely should not be compacted.  The end of the new driveway by the house ties into our concrete driveway and some solid, undisturbed lawn with a flare.  The far end, which ties into the street at our third culvert, is much wider (to allow the bus to make the turn), relatively flat, and ties in to solid, undisturbed lawn.  The concrete, road, and undisturbed lawn allowed me to drive beyond the edges of the driveway in these areas and go across them at various angles.

Any kind of weather always slows commuter traffic and Linda did not get home until 6 PM.  It had been a long day for both of us and she just wanted to relax for a while.  She opened a bottle of Barefoot Moscato and poured each of us a glass.  For dinner we had mock oriental orange chicken with reheated frozen broccoli and white rice with soy sauce.  It was an easy but very tasty meal.

After dinner I finally settled in at my desk to finish updating the FMCA Freethinkers Chapter roster, financial statements, and minutes from the 2014 annual meeting.  Linda reviewed the financial statements and helped me reconcile them to the bank statements.  Once we were satisfied they were accurate I saved everything as PDFs, uploaded them to our Dropbox, and sent the folder link to the members via e-mail.  We then headed to bed and watched the last episode of The Brain on Detroit PBS.  Linda went to sleep and I wrote for a while, finally turning the light out at 11:30 PM.

 

2015/11/17 (T) Drivable Again

Linda set her iPad alarm for 5:45 AM.  I heard it go off and got up shortly thereafter even though I did not turn out my light last night until 12:30 AM.  She got up at 6 AM and was showered, dressed, and out the door by 6:20.

I tuned in Weather Nation on WILX TV out of Lansing while I folded the clean laundry.  Of all the stations we can pick up this is the only one with a dedicated weather sub-channel.  The current forecast was for two more days with high temperatures near 60 degrees F but high humidity and rain as moisture races north from the Gulf in advance of a cold front.  By the weekend we are looking at highs at or barely above freezing and lows in the low 20’s.  The 10-day forecast has us back in the 40’s by Tuesday so we should not have any weather difficulties for Thanksgiving and the following day when we head south.

We planned to re-install the two front seats in the bus late this afternoon and I plan to take it on a fueling run tomorrow so I can run the Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system instead of running electric heaters.  I will also drain and refill the fresh water tank, but those are tomorrow’s tasks.  I had other things to do today, starting with the laundry.

I needed to wait until late morning to do the final cleaning of the tile in the cockpit and had several things to do that had to wait for the cleaning to be done first.  To make good use of my time I decided to measure, cut, drill, and paint the 1/2″x3/4″ aluminum angle that will serve as a retaining bracket for the refrigerator.  I will install it tomorrow after the front seats are re-installed and out of the way.

With that done I got the 3/4″ piece of walnut that Jarel cut and shaped for me to cover the front edges of the plywood under the refrigerator.  The piece sticks up a little above the top of the top layer of plywood so I wanted to install it in a way that will allow it to be easily removed.  That precluded the use of nails, even small ones.  I did not want the appearance of screw heads and wasn’t interested in drilling deep countersunk holes and using plugs.  (The woodwork in the bus was essentially assembled this way and most of the plugs have come out.  We will probably put them all back in once we are done reconditioning the wood even though I would rather not.)  That left Velcro as the only reasonable option, so I started a shopping list.

My next mini-project was to attach the 1/4″ walnut veneer plywood to the face of the pull-out pantry.  Jarel had ripped two pieces to the proper width for me but neither one was quite long enough to fully cover the front of the pull-out pantry.  Step 1 was figuring out where to have the two pieces meet and then determine how long each piece needed to be.  The next problem to solve was how to attach them.  I decided to use glue, clamp the walnut panels to the front of the pantry, and then secure them using screws from behind.  I looked for my large wood clamps but could not find them so I added face clamps to my shopping list.

The front structure of the pantry is 1/2″ thick ash and I planned to drill countersunk holes from the inside so the screw heads would be flush.  That meant I needed #6 5/8″ screws, which I did not have, as 3/4″ screws would probably puncture the veneer.  I added the screws to my shopping list.  I selected a small drill bit and drilled holes from the inside just below the top board and just below each shelf plus one just above the bottom shelf.  Because of the metal side plates these locations were easier to reach on the inside.  I then switched to my countersink bit and drilled the holes out from the inside.

Back in the garage I sprayed a second coat of black paint on the aluminum angles for the refrigerator retaining bracket, moved a load of laundry to the dryer and put another load in the washer, and then took my shopping list and went to Lowe’s.  Lowe’s had a very clever Automax self-adjusting face clamp with a 6″ reach.  It was a little pricier than the 3″ version which was a little pricier than the 3″ manual adjust version, but the size and auto adjustment feature swayed my decision.

On the drive back to house I had a nice QSO with Steve (N8AR) on the South Lyon 2m repeater.  When I got home I had some wasabi/soy almonds and sourdough pretzel nibblers with hummus for lunch.

Returning to the bus work I cleaned the tile in the cockpit using Armstrong Once ‘n Done and rinsed it with a clean sponge and warm water.  I then returned to working on attaching the walnut veneered plywood to the face of the pantry.  I decided which piece to use for the longer bottom section and which portion of the other piece to use for the top section.  In the shop I clamped each piece in turn to a 2×4, set the Boca saw guide, and trimmed them to length.

The 1/4" walnut veneered plywood clamped to the front of the pull-out pantry.

The 1/4″ walnut veneered plywood clamped to the front of the pull-out pantry.

Back in the bus I applied the bottom piece first.  It was slightly curled, lengthwise, so after applying Titebond II glue to the back I positioned it using the two Automax face clamps and then used C-clamps with scrap pieces of underlayment to hold it flat while protecting the veneer.  I then installed #6 5/8″ SR screws from the back to secure the face plywood.  I installed the upper panel using the same procedure.

We are using the same handle for the pantry that we have used throughout the bus.  Jarel made a 4-1/2″ by 8″ piece of 3/4″ walnut with coved edges to serve as a decorative base for the handle and to cover the joint between the upper and lower pieces of veneered plywood.  I marked the vertical centerline on the back and then marked two holes on 3″ centers, centered vertically.  I selected a 1/8″ drill bit, which was slightly larger in diameter than the #8-32 machine screws used to secure the handle, and drilled the holes from the back side using a block of 2×4 as a drill guide to make sure I went straight through the board.  (A drill press would obviously have been the correct way to drill these holes, and I have one, but it is buried behind other things where I cannot get to it.)

I clamped the decorative base to the front of the pantry centered horizontally and vertically on the joint between the two veneered panels.  Using the handle mounting holes I drilled all the way through the front of the pantry.  I bought special handle mounting screws the other night that are 2″ long but can be broken off at 1/4″ intervals.  I needed a 1-3/4″ length, so I inserted the screws through the holes from the back and broke off the first section with a pair of pliers.  I screwed them into the handle, temporarily securing the block.  I then drilled four countersunk holes from the inside of the pantry into the back of the decorative block and secured it with 1-1/4″ self-drilling screws.  I left all of the other clamps in place while the glue dried.

The only thing I did not get done on the pull-out pantry was attaching the door stop to the bottom of the face.  I will take care of that tomorrow.

Linda called at 3:30 PM to let me know she was on her way home.  I started working on remounting the accelerator pedal.  I got the pieces of old tile that were installed in that area and used them as templates to mark the location of the mounting holes.

Yesterday I discovered a grease fitting on the steering column.  It is located towards the center front of the bus about 8″ up from the floor.  Joe has never put grease in this fitting when he has serviced the chassis and for all I know it may not have been greased since it left the factory.  I wanted to get some grease into this fitting before I remounted the steering column shroud but I did not have a grease gun so I put that on my next shopping list.

Linda got home a little quicker than usual due to lighter than normal traffic.  After changing into her work clothes and grabbing some pretzels for a snack she came out to the bus to help.  I set the accelerator pedal upside down on top of the brake pedal to get it out of the way and drilled holes at the three points I had marked.  Linda handled the vacuum cleaner as we are trying to keep the coach clean.  I set the accelerator pedal where it belonged and started the three lag screws by hand.  Linda then held the pedal up while I tightened the three screws with a socket and ratchet.  I also drilled a small hole for a screw to secure the cable clamp on the accelerator wiring harness and installed that by hand as there was no room for the Rigid drill/driver.

I did not want to install the steering column shroud until I had greased the fitting but I went ahead and installed the base bracket.  Again using an old tile as a template I lightly marked two of the five holes.  I removed the old tile, set the bracket in place, and lined it up with the two marks.  I then marked the other three holes.  I selected a suitable drill bit, smaller than the diameter of the screws, and drilled through the tile and a little ways into the plywood below.  The screws were 5/8″ pan head Philips so I installed them by hand.

It was finally time to install the two front seats.  We got the base/pedestals from the library and checked to make sure the paint was dry.  It was, so we moved them to the bus.  I was going to install the driver’s seat first but the 3/4″ holes I had drilled in the tile when I installed it were not big enough.  Actually, they were exactly the right size if they had been in exactly the right place.  I needed to enlarge them to 1″ but did not have a 1″ drill bit.  I added that to my shopping list and we proceeded to install the passenger seat.

I set the base over the four captive mounting bolts and put a large/thick washer over each one followed by a substantial lock washer and finally a nut.  I ran the nuts down by hand as far as I could and then used a socket and ratchet to snug them down.

By now it was half past dark.  We needed dinner and stuff for the bus so we headed to Lowe’s where I bought a 1″ twist drill with a 1/2″ shank.  We then went to the new Panera, on the same property as Lowe’s and Walmart, for dinner.  This Panera had a different look and feel than the older ones, which a much smaller bakery section, but the food and coffee were the same and were good.  After dinner I drove across the street to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and bought a grease gun.

On the drive home I decided to defer greasing the steering column until tomorrow. Our priority was getting the driver’s seat installed.  I used the 1″ twist drill bit in our 1/2″ Craftsman drill to enlarge the four holes.  The base/pedestal has 1″ long alignment tubes on the underside so the holes in the tile and underlying plywood had to be big enough to allow for less than perfect positioning.  With the holes enlarged I dropped the base in place, set a large washer over each hole, and threaded the new bolts into holes in the structure of the bus.  That was the end of the bus work for today.  We retired to the basement recreation room and watched NCIS and NCISNOLA before going to bed.

 

2015/11/10 (T) A Rainy Day

I checked the TV weather station before I turned off the lights last night.  Rain covered most of Indiana and Ohio and was moving northeast.  We were going to get clipped by the western edge of the moisture but the heaviest rain was forecast to pass to our south and east.

Linda planned to go into the bakery today and had her alarm set for 5:45 AM.  It went off and I woke her up enough to shut it off and go back to sleep.  Around 6 AM we both received e-mails on our iPads and phones, a sure sign that we had lost power to the house.  I was awake at this point but stayed in bed until 6:45.  I was not falling back asleep, so I put on my robe and made coffee.  I finished up the Kenya AA, which is not decaffeinated, figuring we could both use the boost this morning.

While the coffee was brewing I cleaned the cats’ litter tray and checked my e-mail.  I had a reply from Bill Tharpe which decided for me that I would be going to Indiana on Friday.  I also had replies from the two Mitch’s who had contacted me as about articles I wrote in Bus Conversion Magazine and replied to both of those.  I edited the e-mail with the minutes of Sunday’s SLAARC meeting and forwarded it on to the club officers.  An e-mail from Gary at BCM indicated that they still needed a photo of Byron and Betty Pigg for the December featured bus article, so I replied and cc:d Byron.  Writing for BCM is sometimes a lot of work, but it’s a hobby for and I enjoy it so I do not mind.

It was wet outside and still raining lightly, a perfect day to sit by the fireplace in a robe and drink hot coffee.  Phil was hoping to return today with a load of screened topsoil and get it placed and graded along the edges of the driveway but said it would depend on the weather.  Once the topsoil is taken care of he will grade the driveway with his bulldozer and make sure the 40 foot long parking area is as flat and level as possible.

Linda finally got up at 8:30 and was starting to get dressed to go to the bakery when I suggested she stay home, rest, and get well.  She was immediately OK with that idea, put on her robe, and took her iPad to the living room to enjoy the warmth of the fireplace and some hot coffee.  I finished up my draft blog post for yesterday, e-mailed it to myself, and started this one.  I really cannot afford to lose a whole day of work on the bus but this is the kind of day where we like to just sit and do quiet things, or even nothing at all.  We finally finished our coffee, got dressed, and had a light breakfast at 10 AM.

Taking care of Madeline for three days and nights took a lot of Linda’s mental and physical energy and her cold took what was left.  She headed back to bed and I got my thoughts organized relative to working in the bus.  I talked to Jarel yesterday and found out that it would cost $50 to have a sheet of 1/4″ Baltic Birch plywood delivered to his shop because he did not have a regular delivery scheduled and the $50 cost of the 60″x 60″ sheet would not meet the minimum cost for free delivery.  I did not need the piece of plywood badly enough to pay a 100% surcharge to get it so that idea was off the table until next year.

My goal for today was to get a piece of SurePly underlayment cut and installed on the passenger seat platform.  Before I even started on the piece I had to resolve what to do about the four carriage bolts that are used to mount the base.  One of the four bolts has some messed up threads but I have a tap and die set and might be able to clean them up.  However, I am adding the thickness of the underlayment and floor tile plus a washer to what was there before so I wanted to use a longer bolt.  I already knew that Lowe’s and O’Reilly’s did not have what I needed and I presumed that The Home Depot did not either.

I finally went to Howell Hardware and had a good QSO with Steve (N8AR) on the drive there.  As I had been told they had a very good selection of hardware, by the piece, but they did not have fine thread carriage bolts in the 1/2″ size I needed.  I bought four of the 2″ long coarse thread bolts, four flat washers, four lock washers, and four nuts.  I also picked up a large washer to match the other three I already had for securing the central mounting stud along with two nylon washers.  That trip took over an hour out of my day before I even got started on my main task.

It took me several hours and many trips back and forth between the bus and the shop (in the garage) to get the piece of underlayment to fit just right.  I made one small mistake but the piece was large enough and complicated enough that I did not want to take the time or material to remake it.  Before I could install it I needed to get the outside end of the floor patch secured.  Yesterday I tried to screw that end to the material underneath it but the screw would not penetrate.  I scratched my head for quite a while until it occurred to me that I could use a small angle bracket attached to the vertical wood wiring chase in the forward outside corner.  I had limited access to that area, and it took me multiple attempts before I finally got the screw in, but I did.  Securing the bracket to the floor patch was a lot easier.

After securing the end of the patch I realized that the area between the front mounting channel and vertical front of the platform was slightly concave.  It was not a big dip but it was big enough that it needed to be patched.  Floor patching compound was the last thing I wanted to deal with today but it turned out to be just that, because once I applied it it had to dry for hours.  It was heavily overcast all day and my mood was correspondingly suppressed so I felt like I was doing everything in slow motion.  Based on the fact that I did not even get the piece of underlayment installed perhaps I was.

I try to keep an eye on the “house” batteries in the bus.  When I checked them this afternoon the reported voltage was higher than normal so I turned off the charger function on the Magnum 4024 to let the batteries rest and see where the voltage really was.  The DC draws on the battery bank were minimal.

I am finishing this post a couple of days later and no longer recall what Linda fixed for dinner but whatever it was I’m sure it was good.  After dinner we relaxed in the living room for a while, watched our Tuesday evening TV programs on the larger TV set in the basement recreation room, and then went to bed.

 

2015/11/06 (F) MEF3

Rain was forecast for overnight with the highest probability between 4 and 7 AM.  I think we had some light rain starting a little after midnight but around 6:45 AM a front moved through with intense thunderstorms.  The heavy rain lasted at most 15 minutes, but while it was coming down I could not see past the railing on our deck.  The winds were also very intense judging by the sound and movement of the Crimson King Maple Tree next to the deck.

When we finally got up Linda checked the weather.  The storm front had already pushed into Ontario, Canada and it looked like we were done with the rain.  Temperatures will drop during the day and we have some below freezing lows coming up the next few nights, but it’s November so we can’t claim to be surprised and have no basis to complain.

Linda left around 9:45 AM to go to the supermarket.  While she was gone I worked on my iPad finishing my posts from Wednesday and yesterday.  I made a few phone calls and sent several e-mails before getting to work on the bus.

One call was to SLOAN’s in Linden to see about having the lawn tractor repaired.  The service tech said the normal turnaround this time of year is about two weeks depending what is needed and whether they have the parts on hand.  He said that if I brought it in soon and they did not get it finished before Thanksgiving they would store it for us until spring.  Given the limited space in our garage and the need to get Linda’s car in there for the winter having them store it would be a real bonus but would require the better part of day to borrow Mike’s trailer, haul the lawn tractor up there, and return the trailer to Mike.

The second call was to A-1 Upholstery in Elkhart, Indiana.  Terry said the fabric was sewn for our spacer cushion and she was expecting the foam today or Monday.  Once the foam was stuffed into the fabric she would have to stitch the seam closed.  She figured it should be ready by Wednesday.

My last call was to Pat Lintner from our FMCA Great Lakes Converted Coaches (GLCC) chapter.  He and Vickie live just outside of Elkhart, Indiana and found several pieces for an old Nutone kitchen counter mounted multi-function appliance.  We have a Nutone power base in our bus that works and got a few accessories from Pat and Vickie at the GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally back in September.  They subsequently found more, and were going to bring them to Florida, but I let them know I would very likely be passing through Elkhart late next week and could pick them up.  Pat offered me the use of the guest room, as he always does, and I may take him up on it this time.  Given the number of places I have to stop it will likely be a very long day.

One of my e-mails was to our cabinet maker, Jarel Beatty, to update him on when I might be coming to Logansport and to see if he could/would get a 60″x60″ sheet of Baltic Birch plywood and cut it into four 30″x 30″ pieces for me.  I then e-mailed Bill Tharpe to let him know I would be in his part of Indiana late next week and would drop off the antique SUN Distributor Tester at his place in Mexico, Indiana.

Bus floor under the driver’s seat.  Black tray to rear (upper left) has been sprayed with rubber undercoating.  Seat mounting rails (center) are visible.  Open area is the bay below the driver’s seat.

Bus floor under the driver’s seat. Black tray to rear (upper left) has been sprayed with rubber undercoating. Seat mounting rails (center) are visible. Open area is the bay below the driver’s seat.

Linda got back around 11 AM and we finally got to work on bus-related projects at 11:15.  The POR-15 and black spray-on rubberized undercoating paint seemed to have dried adequately overnight but the wood I treated with Thompson’s Water Seal was still tacky.  The directions said it took 48 hours to dry but we don’t have that kind of time to wait.

We removed all of the painter’s plastic and painter’s tape from the cockpit of the bus and put it in a trash bag.  I then drilled a 1/4″ drain hole in the bottom of each tray area where water had accumulated.  The one under the passenger seat opened into a dark space but I was fairly certain it was outside the body behind the plastic wheel well trim.  I could see the driveway gravel through the driver side hole so I knew it was outside the body.

The next task was putting spray foam insulation in a few critical spots.  We did not need much for the bus so I sealed two holes in the floor of the bedroom in our house (under a couple of the baseboard radiators) and then added some around the back door frame of the garage.  Once I start using a can of this spray foam insulation I find it best to use it up.

Cutting and fitting the new plywood to patch the area under the driver’s seat in the bus.

Cutting and fitting the new plywood to patch the area under the driver’s seat in the bus.

Patching the floor under the passenger seat involved three pieces of wood.  The tray area under the plywood floor between the seat mounting channels is slightly raised along the inside edges of the channels.  I had cut a piece of 3/16″ SurePly to fit between the raised edges and slide under the existing floor towards the center of the bus.  I set it in place and slid it under the old floor while Linda and I help it up slightly with pry bars.  Because of the geometry of the situation I had to cut about six inches off of the end of this piece towards the outside of the bus.  I had notched this piece to fit around the drain line for the front AC evaporator, so it slipped in behind the first piece just right.  The third part of the patch was a piece of recycled 3/4″ plywood that I had cut yesterday to just fit between the mounting channels.  With that in place I screwed through the old wood into SurePly and screwed through the 3/4″ plywood into the SurePly and pulled it up tight.

By this time it was 1:15 PM and I was ready for lunch.  Linda made hummus and onion sandwiches and served them with tangerine halves.  A simple but delicious mid-day meal.

After lunch we worked on the driver side floor patch.  The driver side was trickier because the patch has to rest on and span structural members.  As with the passenger side I am trying to replace 1″ thick plywood without having access to material of that thickness.  The plywood sold as 3/4″ actually measures from 0.707″ to 0.717 inches in thickness.  As it turned out the combination of so-called 3/4″ plywood with the SurePly underlayment plywood was just thick enough to match the old 1″ stuff.

Yet another layer of plywood to fill in and even up the floor under the driver’s seat in the bus.

Yet another layer of plywood to fill in and even up the floor under the driver’s seat in the bus.

I had to trim the piece of SurePly several times and drill holes for the seat mounting bolts.  The holes were not quite in the right place but I was able to trim it to my satisfaction and it was generally a good fit.  We then used it as a template for laying out the same shape on a piece of 3/4″ oak veneered plywood.

Hardwood veneered plywood is more expensive than regular fir plywood but it has more layers and is dimensionally more stable.  I had a piece that was flat and big enough to cut out the part we needed so I used it.  After some minor trimming it fit properly and lined up with the SurePly layer.  I turned them upside down, aligned them carefully, and screwed the SurePly to the underside of the 3/4″ piece.  I then installed them back into the open area.

We now needed another piece of SurePly, but it needed to be larger and a different shape.  It would be one of two pieces that would replace the 1/2″ thick top layer of plywood.  I removed the old piece from the bus after feeding two wires back through a hole.  We used the old piece as a template to outline the new piece and mark the four holes for the mounting bolts and the one for the wires.  I cut out the new piece and drilled the holes and then put it in place.  I was surprised by how much it was off.  It needed to be wider and longer and the holes were not as well aligned with the holes in the plywood below it as they needed to be.

All of the patch pieces in place in the driver’s compartment.  The four holes are for the mounting bolts for the seat pedestal base.

All of the patch pieces in place in the driver’s compartment. The four holes are for the mounting bolts for the seat pedestal base.

SurePly is not expensive but it’s not free either.  It is relatively easy to work with, however, so making a second piece was not a big deal.  What was a big deal was the cloud cover, dropping temperature, wind, and diminishing light, all of which were making outside work more difficult and less enjoyable with each passing minute.  But we took our time and got it cut, and after some minor trimming it fit very nicely.  I did not, however, secure it, or the 1″ plywood sandwich under it, as I needed the top piece to use as a template for the final piece.  This last piece will not only cover the area under the driver’s seat, it will extend out towards the door and cover the landing.  Once I have that cut correctly I will secure the bottom sandwich and then use floor leveling compound to fill in gaps.  I will then install the last two layers of SurePly.  At that point I will need to go to Lowe’s for another sheet of SurePly to finish the passenger seat platform and will probably get two sheets just to make sure I have enough.  As much as I like going to Lowe’s and The Home Depot, each trip takes time away from actually working on the bus.

We quit working at 4:30 PM to get the tools put away before Brendan and Madeline arrived.  They got here at 5:15 PM and she was very excited to see us and be at our house.  Linda and Brendan got all of Ms. M’s stuff from the car to the house and Brendan transferred the car seat to Linda’s car.  Brendan entertained Madeline while Linda got the inflatable toddler bed set up.  Madeline went immediately for the cabinet under the sink in the hall bathroom where we keep the bandages and found one to put on.  She likes cartoon character bandages.

Brendan hung around until 6 PM and left just as Linda put dinner on the table.  He and Shawna are headed to Ajo, Arizona this weekend for a wedding.  Their flight to Phoenix leaves tomorrow morning so Madeline will be with us until Monday afternoon when Linda takes her back to her house in Ann Arbor.  Her parents’ flight is due in at 7 PM so Linda won’t be home before 9 PM that evening.

For dinner Linda made roasted potatoes and mock chicken tenders.  She and Ms. M had broccoli and peas but she was kind enough to only serve me broccoli.  I don’t think I will ever develop a taste for green peas.

By the time we finished dinner Madeline was a little tired and had a brief crying episode when I told her she could not use our bed as a trampoline.  Linda offered to let her watch an episode of Daniel Stripped Tiger and that seemed to ease her distress at having been told ‘no’ which is a very traumatic experience for her at this age.  She wanted to put on her pajamas and brush her teeth first, so Linda helped her with that.  The two of them climbed into our bed and watched the video on Shawna’s iPad while I stayed in the living room and wrote this blog post.

When the video was over Madeline wished me ‘good night’ and went quietly off to bed.  Linda and I lingered in the living room and I texted Chuck to inquire about their travels yesterday and today.  I then went to my office for a while where I updated our WordPress site, off-loaded photos from today’s work, logged in to RVillage and checked the forums of various groups, and dealt with a few e-mails.  I came back upstairs at 9:45 PM and we were in bed by 10 PM where I finished the draft of this post.

 

2015/10/29 (R) A Setback

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/28 (W) Inside Flash

Linda’s iPad alarm went off at 5:45 AM but she did not get up until after 6.  I got up at the same time she did but she was dressed and out the door by 6:15 while I was still stumbling around.  I put on my warm robe, fed the cats, made coffee, and had a banana nut muffin.  After enjoying my coffee by the fireplace I had my orange juice and granola with blueberries.

It started raining overnight and was still raining this morning as the remnants of hurricane Patricia pulled up from the lower Mississippi River and moved north between the river and the western side of the Appalachian Mountains towards the Great Lakes.  The forecast was for the rain to continue through the day and then off and on into tomorrow.  It was a good day to work in the house so that is mostly what I did.  But first I gathered up the trash from the house and rolled the large container to the street for pickup.

The first thing on my self-imposed to-do list was finalizing an order with DX Engineering.  I had already placed multi-packs of two different sized snap-on ferrite beads in my cart but needed to spend slightly more money to get free shipping.  I am not, however, one of those people who is drawn into buying something I do not need just because it is a BOGO item.

I have been planning for quite some time to install a multi-outlet fused DC distribution panel in the front of the bus to provide Anderson PowerPole connections for the various 12V DC accessories such as the GPS.  I had just never made it a priority, which is to say, never taken the time to figure out exactly which product to buy.  I had to go out to the bus to assess the size and feasibility of available areas for mounting.  After looking at all of the options I selected an 8-port unit from West Mountain Radio.  I really wanted a unit with USB charging ports but the only such model they make only has four PowerPole connections, which is not enough.

My next task was to order a couple of items from the Rockler Woodworking and Hardware website.  I have been considering their black, powder-coated shelf brackets for a while.  I made another trip to the bus to determine how much space I had on the wall where the table will go.  It looked like I will have 14 inches of wall space for mounting brackets so I selected the middle of three sizes, which is 12″ high by 18″ deep.  The brackets will support 1,000 pounds each so a pair of them will certainly support the weight of the Corian-topped dining table.  The table is 38″ long and fully supported by 3/4″ plywood underneath, but it remains to be seen if the wall is strong enough to support the table in a cantilevered installation.  If not, we will have to add a leg or an angled support.

The other thing I needed was hardwood veneer to build the three panels that will replace the strip mirrors that were on the lower portion of the outside hallway wall.  I decided to go with the Allwood 2-ply maple and put a 24″ wide by 96″ long roll in the cart.  The three panels will have a finished size of about 22-1/2″ by 28″ so the 8′ long piece should work out just right.  I placed the order and moved on the next thing which was entering account information into our password program.

Our password app is wonderful but frustrating at times as it tries to synchronize via the cloud every time you open it, edit an entry, or create a new one.  By design it keeps our passwords up-to-date on multiple devices, which is why we have it, but it is slow to sync and sometimes appears to hang up.  When it is trying to sync it won’t let me do anything else, so I sit and wait (or make another cup of tea).

Phil called around 12:15 PM, returning my phone message from yesterday, and we chatted for 20 minutes or so.  With any luck he will have stone delivered here on Friday or Saturday and get the driveway put in before Joe gets here next week with his trailer.  Phil, however, is at the mercy of Wayne County inspectors on another job and was not able to work anywhere today due to the rain.  Most of his work is weather and bureaucrat dependent.

I had the leftover squash and quinoa/lentil pilaf for lunch at 12:45 PM.  While I was eating a lone buck wandered through the back yard with what appeared to be a 6-point rack.  It is the first buck (with antlers) that I have seen this year.

I worked on this post for a while and then went to my office.  As much as I needed to work on getting posts uploaded to my blog there were other unfinished tasks weighing more heavily on my mind.  At the top of the list was an article for Bus Conversion Magazine on a 1985 Model 15 Eagle bus conversion that I saw and photographed at the Eagles International converted coach rally in Quartzsite, Arizona back in January of this year.  I met the owners at that time and subsequently interacted with them a bit but then got really busy with my own projects and had to set the article on the back burner.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the article was farther along than I remembered.  I also had a short narrative and eight photos from the owners that I had not yet incorporated into the article so that gave me additional material to work with.  With only a few short breaks to interrupt my work I pulled together a first complete draft by 6 PM and e-mailed it to the owners and the publisher of the magazine.  Gary (at BCM) wants to run this article as the feature/cover story in the January 2016 issue so the editor needs it before the end of November.  Personally, I need to be done with it at least a week before Thanksgiving.

While working on the article I had quite a few e-mails back and forth with Gary, one of which inquired about my article on The Desert Bar / Nellie E. Saloon outside of Parker, Arizona.  A draft of that article also exists but it is not even a full page of text and I have not yet selected and processed any photos.  I wrote a little bit on The Desert Bar in a March 2016 overview article about our time in Quartzsite.  For a standalone article I will need to say something more/different than I said there.  If the weather continues to be crummy tomorrow I may use that as an excuse to sequester myself in my office, hunker down at my computer, and crank this article out.

One of my afternoon breaks was in response to the doorbell.  It was UPS delivering my order from B&H Photo.  I did not open it right away as I wanted to stay on my BCM article task.  Linda texted me at 3:30 PM to let me know she was leaving the bakery and arrived home about an hour later.  Even though she left the house at 6:15 AM this morning it took her 90 minutes to get to the bakery in Hamtramck.  Wet roads with poor lane markings in marginal early morning light will do that.  Michigan does not do a good job of maintaining its roads.

For dinner Linda made a simple salad of power greens with Ken’s Sweet Vidalia Onion dressing, roasted the white asparagus we bought the other day, and reheated the leftover risotto.  The risotto held up well to being served as leftovers but the white asparagus, which was fresh, was disappointing.  It was tough and we ended up microwaving it.  Linda thought it was bitter, and did not like it, but I think that is a characteristic of asparagus.  We both agreed, however, that it did not taste like much of anything.

While we were relaxing in the living room after dinner I did a search on white asparagus.  Asparagus is a spring vegetable so the stuff we bought probably came from a long way south of the border.  It is grown “underground” by keeping dirt around the stalks; a process known as etiolation, or light deprivation.  It is supposed to be milder than regular (green) asparagus but with a tough, bitter outer skin than needs to be removed before cooking.  The classic German method of preparation is immersion in simmering water with salt and butter until tender.  Now we know.  Eating things out of season may be one of the “benefits” of being globally interconnected but there is a lot to be said for eating local in-season whenever possible.

The power flickered once during dinner and several more times during the evening.  Winds were forecast at 15 – 25 MPH out of the SW gusting to 40 and strengthening into the morning hours as the wind shifted out of the W in advance of a second cold front.  I shut off the color laser printer, the two NAS units, and the Linux box as a precaution but left my laptop on since it runs on its own internal battery.

 

2015/10/27 (T) The Pilot’s Seat

My morning started at 8 AM in its usual fashion.  I fed the cats, made coffee, started a load of laundry, made/ate breakfast (orange/grapefruit juice and granola with fresh blueberries), drank my coffee in the living room with the fireplace on and Jasper at my side, day-dreamed about high quality used Sony alpha lenses, and finally got to work on the bus a little after 10 AM.  Rain is coming tonight and forecast to stick around into Thursday so today would be a good day to do some more trimming, felling, and cutting up of dead trees.  The temperature this morning was still in the 40’s, however, and there is still much to be done in the bus.

A few days ago I installed a new AC outlet on the forward side of the cabinet behind the driver’s seat.  I wired it into the outlet on the aft side of the cabinet and then discovered that the original outlet was cracked.  I had also used an oversized cover plate on the new outlet and it interfered with the Corian cabinet top.  I finally got around to replacing the cracked outlet this morning.  I also switched the cover plates.  The regular size one still interfered slightly with the Corian top so I cut 1/8″ off of the top edge and added strips of felt on the three edges of the cabinet to raise the Corian top slightly and cushion it.  Everything fit nicely.  I turned the circuit breaker on and checked for power.  The outlets were good to go and I checked this mini-project off my (mental) project list.

I took a break and called the Escapees RV Club to register Linda and me as staff for the July 2016 Escapade.  I then called Josh at Coach Supply Direct regarding extra brackets for our MCD shades/brackets, the wiring of the passenger seat switch, and the correct orientation of the swivel bearings.  I learned that the flange, which wraps around the other piece on the inside of the ring, goes down.  (I had puzzled out that it should go the other way so I am glad I asked.)  When I was done with my phone calls I had a quick lunch of Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus and Snyder sourdough pretzel nibblers.

My next task was unbolting the driver seat pedestal base from the floor.  The pedestal is secured by four large carriage bolts that go through holes at the four corners of the base plate and thread into nuts that I presume are welded into the floor structure.  The base had to be removed in order to remove the old vinyl floor tile which was installed under the base.  To get the old tile out I also had to remove a plastic cover around the steering linkage and a floor mounted bracket that retained the bottom if it.  Last, but not least, I had to unscrew the accelerator bracket from the floor by removing three small lag screws.  The accelerator is electrical, with a cable that runs through the floor, but other than limited access it was easy to detach.

Removing the old vinyl tile from the driver’s area of the cockpit was relatively straightforward.  It’s somewhat flexible and wasn’t glued down that tightly.  When Creative Mobile Interiors installed the tile they laid it out in a way that allowed the pieces to be trimmed in reasonable ways to fit around the steering column and brake pedal.  The brake pedal is mechanically linked to a complex multi-port air valve in the compartment under the floor and any finished floor has to be installed around it.

The plywood under the driver’s seat area was depressed directly under the base.  It seemed unlikely that this was the result of the base being bolted down.  It may indicate that this area also got wet like the area under the passenger side seat base.  I plan to install SurePly underlayment on the floor under the passenger seat but not the under the driver’s seat so I will either have to replace this piece or use floor leveling compound to fill the depressed area.  Replacing the plywood is probably the correct, but more involved, solution.

I started thinking about installing the new tile so I laid out all of the old tiles on the floor in the garage, kind of like putting a simple jigsaw puzzle back together.  I plan to use them as a pattern to cut the new tiles.  With a clear view of the whole driver’s area I became intrigued by the lower sidewall counsel next to the driver’s seat.  The more I looked at it the clearer it became that Royale Coach had cut the top off of a bumped out area, removed the upper three inches of the wall of the bump out, replaced the top piece, and tried to fill in the three inch gap in the side wall.  They had also cut out an access plate and then screwed it back in.  It eventually became obvious to me that they had done this to create horizontal space for the wide Villa driver’s seat that was in the coach when we bought it.  Had Royale Coach left the ISRI seat in place these modifications would not have been needed.  They were originally hidden under carpet but once the carpet was removed the really poor quality of the workmanship in this area was all too apparent.

I probably should have applied adhesive remover to the stairs and walls around the cockpit but it has to sit for 1 to 3 hours and the timing wasn’t right.  The weather was still decent and I needed to finish working on the trees at the west end of our property.  The adhesive remover can be left on for up the 24 hours so applying it at 5 PM with the intent of removing it the next morning might be ideal.  The weather forecast for overnight, through tomorrow, and into Thursday, however, is for rain and colder temperatures, so they will not be good mornings for working with the door of the bus open.

Around 3:30 PM I had a banana nut muffin and then called Phil at Precision Grading.  I got his voice mail and left him a message.  I was getting ready to use the chainsaw to cut down a small dead tree at the west end of the property when Linda texted that she was leaving the bakery.  A few minutes later Chuck called.  He had some carpet remnants for us and was nearby so he came over.  He could not stay long but took the time to look at what I was working on in the bus before he left.  It would still be awhile before Linda got home so I took the chainsaw to the west end of the yard, cut down the tree, de-limbed it, and cut it up into manageable size pieces.  I then cut up another tree of similar size that has been on the ground for a while and cut up some of the larger branches that I trimmed off the trees yesterday.

Linda got home while I was finishing the tree work and started fixing squash and a lentil/quinoa pilaf for dinner, both of which would take some time.  After cleaning the saw and putting it away I took one of the carriage boots from the bus driver’s seat and went to Lowe’s to see if I could find slightly longer replacements.  The old ones were somewhat rusted and some of the threads were in less than ideal condition.  The new Armstrong vinyl tiles are also a bit thicker than the old ones and I wanted to make sure I had bolts that were long enough to completely thread into the retained nuts.  It turned out that the bolts are metric, specifically M12-1.75×80.  Lowe’s had Grade 8 M12-1.75×90 bolts (10 mm longer than the 80s) so I bought four.  I also bought some thick M12 fender washers that were larger than the old ones.  While I was there I picked up a role of red electrical tape.

Dinner was excellent.  The squash was baked without butter (vegan) or brown sugar but was very tasty.  The pilaf had onions, garlic, and mixed greens and was very good.  We finished the Witch’s Brew wine from Leelanau Cellars that Linda used to poach the pears on Saturday.  The squash did not look that big, but neither of us was able to finish our half so we saved it for tomorrow’s lunch.

I checked e-mail after dinner and then we settled in to watch our Tuesday night TV programs.  We caught the weather report at 11 PM and then turned off the television and lights.  I turned down the brightness on my iPad display and worked for another 30 minutes before going to sleep.  I did not hear back from Phil this evening but I already knew he would not be here on Wednesday if the rain came as forecast as he had another job to work on that was better suited to working in rainy conditions than ours.

 

2015/10/17 (S) First Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

2015/10/08 (R) A Mighty Hose

Linda was up before 6 AM to drive to the bakery ahead of the worst of the morning rush hour traffic.  I was aware of her getting up but fell back asleep.  She is very quiet as she goes about her preparations on such mornings, which I appreciate.

I got up around 8AM, fed the cats, and cleaned their litter tray.  I made half as much coffee as usual and measured out a bowl of granola, probably a little more than usual.  I took my coffee to the living room and turned on the fireplace, expecting to settle in with my cats and work on my iPad, but the iOS 9.0.2 update was available so I started the installation and read the last few pages of Number Theory and Its History by Oystein Ore.  I read from screens more than from paper these days, but I still like to curl up with a printed book.

Jasper used to sit next to me on the sofa in the morning but seems to prefer sleeping on top of one of the back cushions these days.  Juniper, who never used to pay much attention to me, has taken his place.  She has always sought out warm places to curl up but has always preferred Linda’s lap to mine.

My bus project for today was reassembling the plumbing to the two fan-coil heat exchangers that go in the bases under the two desk pedestals.  Yesterday I cut new holes for the supply and return hoses.  My first task was to remove the hoses from the bleeder valves and install barbed plastic plugs in the ends to prevent coolant from coming out.  I then pulled the hoses back and out through the new openings.

The area behind the desk where the heater hoses emerge from the passenger side OTR HVAC duct.

The area behind the desk where the heater hoses emerge from the passenger side OTR HVAC duct.

I worked on the hose for the right hand (rear most) heat exchanger first.  I positioned the base, routed the hose to the lower fitting, and marked where to cut it.  I put a plastic paint tray liner under the hose before I cut it but more coolant came out than I expected.  I got as much of it in the liner as I could and grabbed a bunch of paper shop towels.  I got the liner outside without spilling any antifreeze and poured the used antifreeze in a one gallon jug that I keep for just this purpose.  I used a funnel that is also reserved for use with antifreeze.

I took the cut off piece of heater hose outside, plugged end down, and set the open end in the tray liner.  We already had a bucket of soapy water in the bus as we had planned on hanging wallpaper yesterday.  I wrung out the sponge and then squeezed some of the soapy water on the floor and cleaned it up with paper shop towels.

The left and right desk bases and center cover/spacer set in place.  The heater hoses are not yet connected.

The left and right desk bases and center cover/spacer set in place. The heater hoses are not yet connected.

With the mess cleaned up I slipped two hose clamps over the end of the hose and worked it onto the lower fitting on the heat exchanger.  If only it had been as easy to do as that description!  The 3/4″ i.d. rubber heater hose did not just “slip” over the 3/4″ o.d. copper pipe even with some residual antifreeze lubricating the inside of the hose and the outside of the pipe.  Indeed, it took considerable and simultaneous pushing and twisting to get the hose on.  It was also a lot harder than I expected to work with the heat exchangers installed in the bases, even without the desk pedestals in place.

I was interrupting my work as needed to take photographs and as I finished up the first hose the camera refused to trigger the shutter.  The LCD screen indicated that the compact flash memory card was full so I went to my office to offload the images from the last few days.  My other CF card was empty so I put that in the camera and set it aside.  I had not backed up my photos to the Network Attached Storage units in quite a while so I decided to take the time to do that.  While I was at it I backed up my blog posts from December of 2014 through July of this year along with several issues of The Gypsy Journal.

As long as I was at my computer I checked my e-mail accounts, logged into RVillage, and logged into my account at B&H Photo.  My new Sony alpha 99 and accessories were on their way from New York and due to be delivered by the end of the day tomorrow.  I am excited to finally be getting a new digital camera with a full frame (35mm) sensor that will work correctly with all of my old Minolta A-mount lenses.

By this point it was lunchtime so I cleaned up (antifreeze is definitely NOT good eats) and scrounged around the kitchen for something tasty but easy to fix.  My “go to” meal is usually roasted red pepper hummus and sourdough pretzel nibblers.  We had a little hummus left, which I finished, but I was still hungry so I made a bowl of popcorn.  I would probably not make a good bachelor.

I went back to the coach and contemplated attaching the other hose to the left heat exchanger.  While I was thinking about it Linda called to let me know she was on her way home.  It was 1 PM so I decided to wait for her to get home to help me install the second hose.  I had some phone calls to make and used the time for that.

I called Karen at Bratcher Electric to schedule the upgrading of our 60 Amp sub-panel in the garage to a 100 Amp main panel.  While I had her on the phone I asked if Mike would itemize the quote.  I also mentioned that they had picked up two or three whole house generator customers through my referrals and perhaps Mike could provide some consideration for that in the pricing.  Next I called Ferman Miller at Countertop Plus in Shipshewana, Indiana to check on the Corian desk top and table.  Ferman answered the phone and said he had called Josh this morning to let him know the pieces were ready for pickup.  I then called Josh to see what his plans were.

We originally agreed that he would pick them up and bring them to our house on his way to visit relatives in the northeast side of the Detroit metropolitan area.  His plans had changed and he won’t be visiting his relatives anytime soon.  He is leaving on Tuesday for a FMCA area rally in the Carolinas and will be gone for a week.  Before he leaves he needs to get something to a customer in Cleveland in addition to getting our stuff to us or deciding that we will have to drive to Shipshewana to get it ourselves.  One option is that we meet him somewhere on Sunday.  Ann Arbor is a possibility but Toledo or Defiance (Ohio) are more likely rendezvous points.

Linda got home around 2 PM and changed into her work clothes.  With Linda’s help I was able to avoid the mess I had with the first hose.  The second hose was even harder to get on than the first one but we managed to do it.  In part because of the arthritis in the joints at the base of my thumbs I do not have as much grip strength as I would like and often need.  The twisting and pushing was hard on my hands and the confines of the base and proximity of crisp wooden edges resulted in lots of small cuts.  This was not something I anticipated in the design and construction of the bases and the installation of the heat exchangers.

I took a break and drove to Northwest Plumbing Supply to see if they had a bleeder valve like the ones in our bus system.  They did not and had never do seen anything like it before.  The showed me a couple of things they did have but I did not buy anything.  I got a call from Brighton Honda that my car was ready for pickup so I headed home to get Linda.  She drove me to the dealership and then went on to Meijer’s for a few grocery items.

I drove to Lowe’s in Howell and was fortunate to find Lars in the plumbing department.  The store was not very busy and he took an interest in showing me various plumbing options that might allow me to replace the bleeder valve with something that would do the same thing while also giving me a way to add antifreeze to the system.  What I ended up with was 3/4″x3/4″X1/2″ copper sweat T and a 1/2″ sweat ball valve with a waste port.

Bruce works on attaching the heater hoses to the fill/bleeder valve T assembly he built.

Bruce works on attaching the heater hoses to the fill/bleeder valve T assembly he built.  (Photo by Linda.)

Back home I cleaned some 3/4″ and 1/2″ copper pipe with 120 grit plumbers sandpaper.  I cut two pieces of the 3/4″ pipe about 3″ long and one piece of the 1/2″ pipe about 1-1/2″ long.  I brushed the inside of all the fittings and test fit the pieces.  I then applied flux to all of the surfaces to be soldered, inserted the two 3/4″ stubs into the run fittings, inserted the 1/2″ stud into the bull fitting, and put the ball valve on the other end of the 1/2″ pipe.  I used the lever on the ball valve to mount the assembly in my bench vise.  I removed the waste port cap to protect the neoprene seal and opened the ball valve so as not to trap heat inside.  I then heated the T and the end of the valve and applied the solder.

I figured there had to be an easier way to get heater hose onto the heat exchanger and that Butch was the guy who would know what it was.  I called and he said antifreeze can obviously be used and works fairly well but that a small amount of dish soap would also work as a lubricant and not harm the antifreeze or the Aqua-Hot and its components.  As long as we were on the phone I caught up on their activities.

They were still there at the RV Park in Bouse, Arizona but only until the 15th of this month.  The terms and conditions of their employment as managers of the park had not turned out to be as described during the interview process and they are wrapping up after only a month on the job.  They will move their bus back to Quartzsite and spend at least part of the winter at Joe and Connie’s place where we both spent last winter.  I know it was a big disappointment to them that the situation in Bouse did not work out, but their situation in Q will be familiar, comfortable, and inexpensive, as well as convenient to the Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Club which they joined this past winter.

For dinner Linda made a blend of onions, garlic, mushrooms, and power greens and served it over a baked potato topped with Daiya cheese.  It was very yummy, and the potatoes kept the dish warm all the way to the end.  The weather had turned cloudy through the afternoon and we got the first raindrops during dinner.

The fill/bleeder valve T assembly with the heater hoses connected.  The assembly is located between the bases at the floor and will be hidden by the center connector/cover.

The fill/bleeder valve T assembly with the heater hoses connected. The assembly is located between the bases at the floor and will be hidden by the center connector/cover.

I had really hoped to have the hydronic heating system reassembled today so we went back out to bus after dinner to hook up the heater hose that runs between the two heat exchangers.  This was actually two pieces of hose with my homemade bleeder/fill valve half way between the two exchangers.  Even with dish soap the two hoses were very difficult to get onto the heat exchanger fittings and the bleeder/fill stubs, but I got them on.  Linda took pictures while I grunted, groaned, and moaned and I took a few more when I was done.

It was 8:45 PM when we finally quit working, secured the bus, and went inside.  I cleaned my hands as best I could but I could not get all of the black from the rubber hoses to come off.  We sat for a while in the living room and had the last of the frozen chocolate torte that Linda made a couple of weeks ago.  We finally turned in around 10 PM and watched Rick Steve’s Europe, Travel in the Americas, and a couple of cooking shows while I worked on this post.