Monthly Archives: February 2014

2014/02/28 (F) A New Air Compressor

I was up early.  I called the Grainger store in Ocala, Florida but got connected to a person in Orlando.  I gave her the model number of my old unit and what I thought was the replacement model number.  She confirmed that my exact model number was no longer available.  They had a Dayton compressor in Orlando I could pick up today or have shipped to Ocala for pickup on Monday.  They also had the Gast compressor at their warehouse in Jacksonville, but I could not pick it up there; it would have to be shipped to Ocala where I could get it on Monday.

I called Braas Corp. in Oldsmar, Florida, the sole Florida-based distributor for Gast products.  Yes, they had the model I needed in stock, and yes, they would sell it directly to be.  I gave them my credit card number, got in my car, and headed for Oldsmar 2.5 hours away.

It was a very nice day for a drive.  I took FL-121 south to US-98/19 south, and picked up the Fl-589 leg of the Florida turnpike which got me fairly close to Oldsmar.  I got to Braas Corp. around 12:45 PM.  The compressor was waiting for me at the loading dock and I was back on the road at 1:00 PM.  I stopped for fuel, took a brief detour to check out the Pyper Kub restaurant location at the Williston airport, stopped at Williston Peanuts for a can of their Honey Roasted Peanuts, and was back at the coach by 4:00 PM.; too late to start on the compressor project, but in plenty of time for the Friday evening fire circle.


2014/02/27 (R) No Air

Not to worry; there is no hole in the atmosphere letting all of the lovely, moderate temperature air leak out of north central Florida.  Quite the opposite, the past week has been pleasant enough here with some rain.

I was draining the auxiliary air tank/system today as I have been every day or so since I first drained it some weeks ago and got a lot of water out of it.  The procedure I’ve been using is to drain the tank until the auxiliary air compressor turns on (~80 PSI), shut the drain valve, wait for the air compressor to turn off (~104 PSI), and repeat until I get dry air from the drain.  This procedure cycles the air compressor more quickly than during “normal” use, but does not exceed a 50% duty cycle.  As I was finishing up, the air compressor tried to turn on but could not turn and pump air.  I could hear the motor trying to run until the thermal protection device opened.  Something mechanical in the unit had seized.  (Once a week or so I’ve been starting the main engine and using the very dry air from the main engine system to dry out the auxiliary tank, but that is not good for the big Detroit Diesel engine.)

Great (not).  Our coach has a really nice air flush toilet that only uses a half gallon of water per flush as long as it has 50 – 60 PSI of air pressure with adequate volume.  No air?  No flush.  (And no dump valves or other air powered accessories.)  Not the end of the world —one of the RV Resort bathrooms is not far from where we are parked—but not convenient either, especially in the middle of the night.

I pulled out the binder with the documentation (such as it is) for our conversion / house systems and found the data sheets for the auxiliary air compressor.  The documentation was for a Dayton Speedaire.  I took my flashlight and inspection mirror to check the actual air compressor.  It was a Gast 34BB-32-W300X.  I wrote down the model number and noticed that it had a five-character code under it that matched one of the model numbers on the Dayton Speedaire sheet, 2Z868.  Hummm.

I got on the WWW and searched for Dayton Speedaire, but all of the hits led me back to Grainger Industrial Supply.  I searched for Gast and found the manufacturer’s website.  The exact model number of my unit was not listed, but they had a similar model number (3HBB-10-M300AX) with nearly identical specifications ( 13″ L, 10″ W, 6″ H, twin horizontally opposed oil-less compressor pistons with Teflon rings, 2.4 CFM @ 0 PSI, 100 PSI maximum pressure, 1/3 HP, 120 VAC single phase electric motor, ~70 dB ).

I called Butch (because that’s what I do in these situations) and we talked it through (because that’s what we do in these situations).  I learned that Dayton is now a “house brand” for Grainger and that Grainger also carries Gast air compressors.  He looked up air compressors in his Grainger catalog, verified that the exact model number I was looking for was not listed, and gave me model numbers of units that were very similar.  He also gave me the phone number for the Grainger location in Ocala, Florida.

I also sent an e-mail off to our mobile mechanic, Joe Cannarozzi.  He sent me a link to a compressor made by California Air tools.  It was available through Home Depot but had to be ordered online and shipped or picked up at a store.  It was designed for running small air tolls and came assembled to an aluminum air tank.  It was less expensive than the Gast replacement and would have been a nice compressor if I had room for the whole thing, but it was not a drop in replacement for the one that failed.  That meant installing it would be a big project; not something I was prepared to take on while parked at the RV Resort.  I also did not want to wait for it to be shipped.

I went back to the Gast website to see where else I might be able to get one if Grainger did have what I needed.  They had one distributor in Florida, Braas Corp., in Oldsmar, Florida just north of St. Petersburg, Florida.

John Hagan had offered to drive up from Dunnellon to help me with bus projects.  I had phoned him every night to push our plans back another day as we waited for warmer, dryer weather conditions.  I called him again to let him know about the air compressor, see if he wanted to help with that project, and set it up for Saturday assuming I could get a new compressor on Friday.


2014/02/25 (T) Bus Project

Photos for today’s post follow the text in a photo gallery.  Maximum dimension is ~300 pixels.

I don’t think I’m obsessive or compulsive, but I can only sit and relax so much before I have to do something.  Linda likes to walk, and I like to walk with her, but I am less inclined to do that on my own just for the doing of it.  Still, I walked to the local ACE Hardware store today for some parts for a “project” and stopped at the Grocery Depot for some supplies on the way back.  It was probably a mile round trip; not enough to really promote cardiovascular fitness, but better than taking the car.

Yesterday I put some water in the garbage disposal opening.  (Yes, our bus has a residential garbage disposal.)  The disposal has never worked since we bought the bus and it occurred to me that the trap in the drain might not have any water in it, which would permit orders from the gray tank to come up into the house portion of the coach.  Not to worry as it turns out; the water did not drain from the In-Sink-Erator.  I left it for a few hours and it eventually drained out.  Examination with a flashlight revealed that the inside was complete rusted, so badly that I could not even see the two pieces that are free to rotate when the disposal is spinning.  I tried scraping the inside, but to free it up, but it was beyond hope.

I also finally understood why the switch which we assumed was for the disposal did not do anything.  At some point in the past someone turned it “on” and the breaker on the bottom of the unit immediately tripped and never got reset.  There would not have been any purpose in resetting it anyway.The only reasonably solution (from my point of view) was to replace the disposer, even though we did not intend to use it very much.  I am not aware of a product that is sold for sealing up the hole where the disposer goes.  (I could have plumbed it into the drain for the main sink basin, but given how small that section of the sink is, that would also serve no practical purpose.)  I did not remove the old unit, but I had a good look at it as I needed to find one of similar size and shape given the space where it had to fit.

Late morning I was getting ready to head to Lowe’s in Gainesville when John (next door neighbor) invited me to join he and Ali and group of folks from the fire pit to go out to the Blue Highway Pizzeria for dinner, so I deferred my shopping trip until later.  (Linda and I had a pizza at the Blue Highway in Micanopy a week or so ago and it was OK.  The staff was great and was very helpful in getting us a vegan pizza, but most pizzas just don’t veganize very well.  They did say that they would put our non-dairy cheese on a pizza for us if we brought it in a sealed package as it comes from the store.  That may be worth a try).

I left early enough to do my shopping at meet up with the group at 3:30 PM.  Luck was on my side.  Lowe’s had a garbage disposer that looked exactly like the one installed in our coach.  It was a Badger Model 1, 1/3 HP.  Badger is In-Sink-Erator’s budget grinder line.

Today I opened the unit, read the instructions (yeah, I’m one of those guys), gathered my tools, and went to work.  As shown by some of the photos that follow, the discharge port of the old disposer was completely clogged with—well, I’m not sure what—some combination of rust and food scraps.  Kind of nasty, although that stuff doesn’t bother me.  I removed the unit and discovered that it was a … In-Sink-Erator Badger Model 1.  Sometimes you just get lucky.  At least it was guaranteed to fit!  Everything went back together fairly easily.  I added water to check for leaks.  Water tight.  Plugged it in and voila, we have a functioning garbage disposer.  And yes, the switch we thought was for the disposer is in fact for the disposer.

The other project I have been contemplating had to do with toilet paper.  Our female cat, Juniper, likes to unroll it, shred it, and eat it.  As shown in the pictures the doors on the bathroom sink cabinet are easily reached when “seated.”  The right door opens into your right knee, but the left door swings clear.  Oh look, I could mount a toilet paper roll holder right there.  Open the door to use, close to hide it from the cat.

So, off to the ACE Hardware store in search of an appropriately sized TP holder.  They had just what I needed; end mounts in (fake) polished brass, and inexpensive too.  I like it when that happens.  I assembled the tools I needed for this project but was not able to find my drill bits.  Back to ACE Hardware for a drill bit.  The project was done quickly as projects go and it works great!  We’ve talked about mounting a paper towel holder somewhere in the kitchen.  That may be tomorrow’s project.

Here are the photos:

2014/02/22 (S) Tin Can Tourists Rally

The Tin Can Tourists (TCT) winter rally was being held at the Sertoma Youth Ranch about 15 miles southeast of Brooksville, Florida.  It started on Thursday, February 20 and was scheduled to conclude on Sunday, February 23.  TCT rallies almost always include a public open house.  For this rally the open house was Saturday, February 22 from 11 AM to 3 PM.

I left WCRV Resort around 10:15 and took the fast route down US-27 to I-75 and then south to exit 293.  From there it was a couple of miles on back roads to get to the Sertoma Youth Ranch.  There was a $5 charge to park, which I knew about in advance and gladly paid.  This is the second TCT open house that I have attended.  Although smaller than their main gathering in May at Camp Dearborn in Milford, Michigan (10 miles from our house) they had good participation with more than 50 rigs.  (I could have been as high as 70, but I didn’t count).

There were a few folks there that I knew.  Cherie Ve Ard and Chris Dunphy (Technomadia) were there with their 1961 GMC 4106.  Forrest and Jeri Bone were there, of course, as Forrest runs the TCT organization and planned the rally.  Hunt Jones, who I met at the Arcadia Bus Rally, was there, and so was Al Hesselbart, the historian for the RV/MH Museum in Elkhart, Indiana.  I had a brief visit with Al and a longer visit with Chris and Cherie.  I learned that the super secret project they are working on (RV social network) is scheduled to “go live” on March 1st.  Assuming that happens, I will have more to say about in my post for that date.

Almost all of the rigs were available for viewing.  Some allowed visitors to go inside; others had the door open but blocked so you could see in but not enter.  Many of the units were beautifully restored and others were somewhere in the restoration process.  Most were “staged” for display with table settings and items arranged on counters.  The owners were all very welcoming and enthusiastic about their vintage RVs.  I photographed most of them and have include some of those photos in the gallery at the end of this post.44

Al invited me to join him and some friends from Breezy Oaks RV Park for Chinese buffet in Brooksville, but I decided to pass, a combination of still being a bit tired from my long day on Thursday and not wanting to over-eat, which I tend to do at buffets.  I left at 3 PM, the end of the public open house, and returned to Williston via US-41, a longer but more scenic and relaxing drive than I-75.  I made a sandwich for dinner, caught up on some e-mail, and headed over to the fire pit around 7:15 PM.  We had our usual group of 20+ people.  John played his guitar and sang, and another man brought his guitar and joined him.  There was plenty of singing along, but folks were more conversational than at many of our previous campfires.

Photo Gallery: Click on thumbnail images to open for viewing.  Maximum dimension is 640 pixels.


2014/02/20 (R) Cape Canaveral (FL)

We were up early this morning and on the road by 6:15 AM in order to get Linda to the Orlando International Airport between 8:00 – 8:30 AM for her 10:30 AM flight back to Michigan.  We took the Florida Turnpike and met that objective easily.  The SunPass we bought for the Florida toll road system has proven to be very handy, speeding us through toll plazas without having to stop, and often without having to slow down.

I had several alternatives for what to do with my day given that I was already in Orlando.  One was to head to Wekiwa SP to finish photographing a bus, but the owners were away for the day.  Another was to pay a return visit to fellow GLCCers Bill and Karen (and Mike and Kathy) at the Orange City RV Park, but they were also away from the campground for the day.

The plan that worked out was to continue on to the east on FL-528 (toll) to the Cape Canaveral area, specifically Merritt Island and Jetty Park, which is on the Atlantic Ocean north of Cocoa Beach.  Pat and Vickie, our friends from GLCC, had recently relocated to the Jetty Park Campground from Fort Wilderness (Walt Disney World) and thought I would enjoy the place.  The Park and Campground are owned and operated by the Cape Canaveral Port Authority and I drove past the cruise ship and freight terminals on the way into the park.

I enjoyed the park and ended up having lunch and dinner with Pat and Vickie (thank you) and stayed well into the evening to watch a rocket launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station just north of the park and south of the John F. Kennedy Space Center.  The launch was to place a military satellite into orbit, and used a 3-rocket booster.  Liftoff was at 9:00 PM and lit up to night sky.  The sound was also impressive

I waited until 9:45 PM for traffic to thin out a bit, and then headed for Williston.  I did surprising well on the drive considering how long a day it turned out to be.  Vickie sent a bag of pretzels with me so I would have something to munch on the drive.  I stopped on the Florida Turnpike (FL-91) for fuel and got some coffee at the Dunkin’ Donuts.  I arrived back at WCRV Resort around 12:30 AM.

Photo Gallery: Click on thumbnail images to open for viewing.  Maximum dimension is 640 pixels.


2014/02/18 (T) Micanopy (FL)

Our neighbors at the RV resort recommended the Blue Highway in Micanopy as a place we might find a vegan pizza to our liking.  They also suggested that they town was worth seeing.  So after several quiet days at home we headed for Micanopy (Mick-ah-no-pee) to check it out and then get some pizza.

Micanopy is an antique town.  That is to say, it is old, and most of the shops are antique businesses, with some local artist and artisan shops, and food.  There is a museum, and an historic inn that is now a B&B.  It was a beautiful afternoon and the place was mostly empty, allowing us to wander from shop to shop without having to fight crowds or weather.  Apparently the place is very crowded at times.  I have included photos from our visit in a gallery at the end of this post.

The Blue Highway turned out to be more than a pizzeria.  A ma, who we think was the owner, suggested which of their pizzas could most easily, and successfully, be made vegan and we took one of his suggestions.  We ordered a salad and a pizza and split both.

Our plan for tomorrow is to go to the Publix supermarket in Gainesville to stock up on groceries for me and get Linda packed for her flight back to Michigan on Thursday morning.

Photo Gallery: Click on thumbnail images to open for viewing.  Maximum dimension is 640 pixels.

2014/02/14 (F) Valentine’s Day

“Hallmark Holidays” have never been a big deal for us, and Valentine’s Day is no exception.  However, we had no plans to visit state parks today, had been looking for a day to visit the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida in Gainesville, needed to make a visit to Walmart, and wanted to try one of the vegan-friendly restaurants in Gainesville, so Valentine’s Day provided the needed excuse to do all of that in the same trip.  Before I go on, I am including a picture of us taken by Marian Hagan on our outing with her and John to the two Crystal River state parks last Sunday.

Us at Crystal River Buffer Preserve State Park.  (Photo by Marian Hagan.)

Us at Crystal River Buffer Preserve State Park. (Photo by Marian Hagan.)

We selected The Jones Eastside which was open all day serving breakfast and lunch, and was staying open for dinner.  We can usually find acceptable food for lunch and dinner if we are thoughtful about our choice of restaurant, but breakfast is often limited to dry toast with jam and/or fresh fruit.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, but also nothing special about it.  At The Jones Eastside, however, we were able to order a tofu scramble with sides of potatoes and fruit and a stack of vegan flax seed pancakes with fresh blueberries and real maple syrup.  We split each dish in half and had a really nice breakfast.  The Jones Eastside was highly recommended on both and, and deservedly so.  It’s a quaint little place using organic ingredients and providing attentive service; you go for the food, not for an upscale setting.

From The Jones Eastside we drove through the heart of downtown Gainesville to where we thought the Florida Museum of Natural History was located.  We enjoyed seeing the non-university part of town, and parts of the UF central campus, but the museum was not where I thought it was.  Our Garmin 465T GPS did, however, and we followed its directions into a major traffic jam.  We had been to Gainesville several times, but had not seen traffic like this before.

We found the museum, paid $4 to park, and went in.  Admission was free except for the Butterfly Rainforest and special exhibits.  We spent a couple of hours exploring the free exhibits and plan to return for the Butterflies and a special exhibit titled “Wolf to Woof” on the evolution of the domestic dog.  Like most serious museums, you could spend days here depending on the level of detail you wanted to absorb.

By the time we were done at the museum it was 4 PM.  Our Valentine’s Day still needed something “sweet” so we headed to Karma Cream for vegan ice cream.  We fought our way (slowly) through more terrible traffic, but it was worth it.  🙂

“GPS, find us a Walmart, please.”  It showed two in Gainesville so I picked the closer one just up the street.  It was closed, the building vacant.  🙁  So I selected the other one on SW Archer (US-24).  We routed ourselves over to FL-121 southbound which intersects Archer close to the Walmart.  YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE ON THIS ROAD DURING AFTERNOON RUSH HOUR, which is actually “hope you’re not in a rush” hour.  Truthfully, you do not want to be in Gainesville during the evening rush hour.  Period.  End of story.  Total gridlock.  Fortunately we were not in a rush to be anywhere in particular by any certain time so we only had to deal with our self-imposed frustration at being stuck in traffic.  It won’t happen again, at least not in Gainesville.

We eventually got to the Walmart (thank goodness they are open 24/7).  We do not go out of way to shop there, but it’s the only place locally where we can find Calgon Bath Beads which we mix with water and Pine Sol and add to our holding tanks.  It is also where we bought our microwave popcorn popper and have to get the disposable cardboard heating discs that go in the bottom.

Shopping done, we had no choice but to venture back out into traffic.  OK, we had a choice; we could have sat there for a couple of hours until traffic thinned.  If we had been the least bit hungry we could have gotten something to eat while we waited, but having just had ice cream our appetites were satisfied.  Fortunately we were close to the SW corner of Gainesville by now where FL-121 turns SSW and heads through the country to Williston.  We arrived back at the RV resort after 6 PM, but there was no fire going in the fire pit.

WCRVR was having a Valentine’s Day dinner/dance starting at 5 PM so the Friday night fire had not been built by Kevin at its usual time as he and his wife had gone to the dinner/dance.  But a short time later I noticed a flickering flame and went to investigate.  Next door neighbors John and Ali had not gone to the dinner/dance either and John, being the backup fire guy, was getting one going.  We opened our bottle of sparkling pink moscato, bundled up a bit against the cool evening air, and went over.  Ali brought John’s guitar, the rocking chairs slowly filled up (~16 people), and we sang along when we knew the words.  It was a lovely capstone to a very nice Valentine’s Day (traffic notwithstanding).


2014/02/12 (W) Dudley Farm Photo Gallery

Images from our visit to the Dudley Farm Historic State Park in Newberry, Florida.  Click once on each image to open a larger view.  Maximum dimension is 640 pixels.

2014/02/12(W) Back In Time

We woke to an overcast sky with rain in the forecast for the afternoon.  One of the closer state parks to us is the Dudley Farm Historic State Park.  I don’t know how many types of state parks Florida has, but so far we have been to: “Regular” (un-designated/default); Preserve; Buffer (Preserve); Wilderness (Preserve); Archeological; Geological; and Wildlife/preserve.  This was our first Historic(al) park and I know they have Battlefield parks.   I will not be surprised to find out there are other types as well, such as Marine or Bird Sanctuary.

Located in Newberry, Florida the Dudley Farm Historic SP is NW of Williston and due west of Gainesville.  We also needed to do some shopping today, so a trip to the state park in the morning (before the rain started) followed by a swing through Gainesville was our plan for the day.  We were on our way by 10 AM, taking US-27/41 NNW out of  Williston through Archer to Newberry where we headed west on Newberry Road (FL-26) about a mile to the park entrance.

Although there was plenty of room to park, we were surprised by the number of cars in the parking lot.  The park is not open on Monday’s and Tuesday’s, but the reason for the crowd became evident when we entered the visitor center.  In addition to the normal park staff and volunteers there where at least six women in period clothing working on an old large quilt and another woman weaving at a small loom.  Wednesday mornings is when this happens and it added a touch of “living history” to our visit.  I have posted a separate photo gallery of our visit to the Farm.

There were a few buildings by the visitor center for display and demonstration, but the main farm was a quarter mile walk through the woods on a level path.  The Dudley Farm was a thriving, successful family enterprise that began before the Civil War and continued until after WW II.  The farmstead, consisting of 18 buildings, equipment, and furnishings, was donated to the State in the early 1980’s along with 23 acres of the 600+ acre farm.  The State later acquired an additional 232 acres and more recently another 80 acres for the visitor center, entrance road and parking lot area.  This is not a “recreated” farm; all the buildings are in their original locations except for the General Store, which was moved to the farmstead from its location near the main road.

We roamed the farmstead for over an hour looking at, and going in, buildings and taking photographs.  We had the place to ourselves except for some birds, chickens, turkeys, and three mules.  Although the farm was “rough” by modern standards, it was interesting to try to imagine this place as a “state of the art” operation full of generations of Dudley’s and farm hands engaged in the slow but steady work of farm and domestic life.  The tendency is to romanticize and envision this place as somehow idyllic.  It wasn’t.  The farmhouse was certainly comfortable compared to being outside, and life was good (at least for the Dudley’s), but it was no doubt a hard life.

By the time we were done touring the farmstead the overcast had lowered almost to a ground cloud and it had started misting.  Although we lacked bright sunlight, blue skies, and intense colors, the soft, even, subdued light was ideal for making lower contrast images and seemed somehow appropriate in mood to the empty, gray, weathered buildings of this now quiet farmstead, preserved so that we might glimpse a moment back in time.

If the Dudley Farm HSP was the past, Gainesville is definitely the here and now.  As we got to I-75 on FL-26 we encountered heavy traffic.  We had not been to this part of Gainesville yet, but now we know where the major shopping area is located!  You name it, it’s here.  Conveniently for us the Office Max, Michaels, Trader Joe’s, and PetSmart were all in the same mega shopping center (one of many).  Trader Joe’s had a quite a selection of house brand wines for $2.99/bottle (750 mL) so we bought several.  I hope they are to our liking, because I sure like the price.  They did not, however, have a house brand moscato 🙁  A final stop at the Kangaroo filling station for fuel and we were on our way back to WCRVResort.

Linda made one of our favorite dishes for dinner; whole wheat capellini (angel hair) pasta with garlic, onions, mushrooms (two kinds), sun-dried tomatoes, and basil lightly sautéed in olive oil; simple, but absolutely delicious.


2014/02/11 (T) Manatee & Fanning Springs SPs (FL)

Manatee Springs Tributary to the Suwannee River, Florida.  (MS-ICE composite of 7 photos.)

Manatee Springs Tributary to the Suwannee River, Florida. (MS-ICE composite of 7 photos.)

Loblolly Pine at Manatee Springs SP (FL).  (MS-ICE composite of 4 photos.)

Loblolly Pine at Manatee Springs SP (FL). (MS-ICE composite of 4 photos.)

Another beautiful day here in the elbow of Florida.  Seriously; look at the map.  The panhandle is like an arm outstretched from the shoulder and the peninsula is like the rest of the arm from the elbow down.  That places the area around Cedar Key and inland to the northeast towards Williston as the crook of the elbow.  We left the WCRV Resort late morning and took US-27 Alt WNW through Bronson to Chiefland where it joins up with US19/US-98 N.  By the time we got to Chiefland we had blue skies, little to no breeze, and temperatures were moving into the mid-70s.  Just on the other side of Chiefland we turned on to FL-320 and drove the final 6 miles to the entrance to Manatee Springs State Park.

Manatee Springs is one of many springs that flow into and form the Suwannee River.  Yup, that Suwannee River.  From Manatee Springs the Suwannee River flows approximately 25 miles to the Gulf of Mexico.  Like all of the springs fed by the Florida aquifer, Manatee Springs puts out millions of gallons of water every day at a constant 72 degrees Fahrenheit.  Several visitors reported seeing two Manatees, a mother and a  youngster, swimming upstream towards the headsprings, but we were not able to catch a glimpse of them.  We did, however, see SCUBA divers.  It turns out that this spring is popular for swimming and SCUBA diving.  Consistent with our experience in other Florida State Parks, the developed areas were very nicely done.  There was an excellent boardwalk that ran along the tributary and over  swamp area that was obviously full of water at other times (high tide) and out to an observation platform at the Suwannee River.

When we were done at the headsprings we drove to the trailhead parking area for the Scenic Trail.  As we have seen in other parks, there was an extensive trail system, but a specific combination of trails looped us back to our car after hiking approximately two miles.  This trail, like others, took us through a woodland that underwent subtle, and not so subtle, changes with only minor changes in elevation.  A trail guide keyed to numbered markers explained these changes as we went along.  In the time we were on the trail we did not encounter any other hikers.  These forests are beautiful, peaceful places, but the beauty is subtle rather than dramatic, and you have to slow your pace and elevate  your senses in order to experience and fully appreciate them.

The headsprings at Manatee Springs SP (FL).

The headsprings at Manatee Springs SP (FL).

Small alligator in Catfish Hole Spring at Manatee Springs SP (FL).

Small alligator in Catfish Hole Spring at Manatee Springs SP (FL).

Linda on the Suwannee River Boardwalk at Manatee Springs SP (FL).

Linda on the Suwannee River Boardwalk at Manatee Springs SP (FL).

A view of the forest on the Scenic Trail at Manatee Springs SP (FL).

A view of the forest on the Scenic Trail at Manatee Springs SP (FL).

From Manatee Springs SP we returned to Chiefland and continued north on US-19/98/27A to the little town of Fanning Springs.  The Suwannee River runs through the center of town and just before you get to the river is the entrance to Fanning Springs SP.  This small park is set up as a place for people to swim, and during the warmer months it is undoubtedly overrun with people.    But today there were only a few other people there, including a couple who were swimming in the headspring.  I took a phone call from Pat, who was working on resetting the DDEC I engine computer on his bus, and then we walked out to the end of another wonderful elevated boardwalk, crossing over/though a cypress swamp before reaching the banks of Suwannee River.  It was a very pretty place but challenging to capture in photographs.  I took some, but I didn’t care for how they turned out, so I did not include any with this post.

There is another trail in this area named The Nature Coast Trail, but we did not hike it today.  It was built on an old railroad bed and runs for over 31 miles, crossing the Suwannee River north of Fanning Springs on an old wooden trestle.  The trail is available for use by hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians, and we will likely hike part of this trail, but not today.  The drive back to Williston took approximately 45 minutes, not including a brief stop at the Winn-Dixie supermarket on the west edge of town for grapes and bananas.  Dinner was green salad, Tofurkey brand vegan pizza, and a small glass of Blueberry-Rhubarb Wine from Forestedge Winery.

2014/02/10 (M) A Day Of Firsts

It was a near perfect day weather-wise, and a pretty decent day in all other respects.   We woke to clear skies with temperatures in the upper 40’s but by late morning it was 70 and gained a few more degrees by late afternoon.  Winds were very light from no particular direction and there were very few flying bugs.  We had a leisurely morning with our usual coffee and granola.  We took showers.  Linda vacuumed.  I opened the awnings on the coach to let them air out and dry, with assistance from Linda for the patio awning.  This was only the second time we have deployed the awnings since we left home, and the first time we planned to leave them open as rain is predicted for only one day in the next 7 to 10 days.

Linda continued with her cross-stitch project and I dealt with e-mail, website, and technology issues.  Bill was unable to clear the error codes on Pat & Vickie’s DDEC I engine computer so I e-mailed Butch, who also has a DDEC I, and provided some additional guidance.  Bill indicated that they needed wiring diagrams, which Pat did not have.  Bill had them, but they were back home in Ontario.  Doh!  I have the diagrams with us on the Network Attached Storage device.  They are all PDFs I got from Bill on a CD.  I located the lists of drawing numbers, picked a half dozen that I thought might be what Pat needed, put them in a folder in our Dropbox, and e-mailed everyone back.  Dropbox has turned out to be one of the better little pieces of technology in our cyber arsenal.

Around noon we walked to the Grocery Depot to pick up a few ingredients for dinner; a one mile round trip and the closest place to the RV resort to buy groceries.  Linda prepared lunch and we ate outside; the first time the weather has been nice enough to do that since we got back to Williston Crossings on January 1st.  We then sat outside to work; again, one of the rare days we have been able to do that.  Mid-afternoon we went for a longer walk around the RV resort that included our first hike down into the quarry.

We noticed that WCRVR had installed a new sign just inside the new entrance to the resort off of FL-121.  This is where the new section of park is being developed with ownership sites that will be available for purchase.  The sign said “The Reserve at Williston Crossings” so apparently that is how they plan to market these sites.  The sign is framed on either side with a new wood rail fence and plants, all of which looks very nice.  The first two sites have had paver blocks added to the concrete pads to dress them up a bit; presumably as demo sites to show prospective owners what can be done if they so choose.  It will be interesting to see what else they do in this area before of the park before leave.

When we returned to our coach we continued to sit outside to work and just enjoy the day.  Although the park is quiet and peaceful, it is not silent during the day.  We rarely hear other residents (talk or music) but there are always folks walking or riding bikes, and maintenance work being done by resort staff and residents.  We are near the south/old entrance so when we are here we see all of the rigs coming and going that way.  We saw more people out tending their sites or cleaning their vehicles than on past walks.  And there are birds—lots of birds—and with the sunnier, warmer weather they have had a lot to say.

Eventually, inevitably, as afternoon faded into evening it cooled off and we lost our light.  We retreated inside, had dinner, and watched Antiques Road Show on Gainesville PBS while working on projects (cross-stitch and BCM) before retiring for the night.  Linda made a delicious acorn squash stuffed with white rice and mushrooms, and onions and we opened our bottle of Blueberry Rhubarb Wine from Forestedge Winery (LaPorte, MN).  We have been spending time at the resort on less than ideal weather days so we could use good weather days to go exploring.  We enjoyed finally spending a nice day at home.


2014/02/09 (N) Crystal River State Parks (FL)

Our destination today was the two state parks near Crystal River, Florida; Crystal River Archeological SP and Crystal River Preserve SP.  We left around 10:45 AM and headed down US-41 to Dunnellon, Florida where picked up John & Marian Hagan from their house.  John navigated us over to the town of Crystal River.  From the heart of downtown a short drive north on US-19 brought us the iconic brown state park sign telling us to take the next left turn to get to the parks.

Crystal River Archeological SP preserves an important pre-Columbian site with burial and midden mounds as well as mounds that once supported temples.  Evidence of occupation goes back before the Common Era and there is a small, but nice, museum explaining the modern history of the site and the archeological activities that led to our present day understanding of the people who built and used the site send its mounds.  The trail system is paved and less than one mile in total length.  It was a quiet place for peaceful if thought-provoking stroll on a beautiful late winter afternoon.

Crystal River Preserve SP is listed on some maps as Crystal River Buffer Preserve SP, and that is an apt name for it.  About equal in size to the archeological state park, it surrounds it and buffers it from encroachment and most recreational uses.  The archeological park has a picnic area, but no place to launch boats, canoes, or kayaks, or to flush.  The buffer preserve, by comparison, has a much longer trail system with lots of access to water.  We hiked approximately 2 miles in pleasant temperatures on a trail through the woods along the water’s edge and saw a number of people fishing.  The light was good and the wind was light which made for nice reflections.  The following photograph is a panoramic composite of three images made using the Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) and post-processed using Faststone Image Viewer.  MS-ICE is an amazing little free program.  The three camera images were hand held with auto-focus and auto-exposure.  The rules for compositing photos to make panoramas are: 1) tripod, 2) special pan head, 3) fixed/manual focus, and 4) fixed exposure.  This image violated all of these rules and still came out well.

Crystal River Buffer Preserve SP (FL).

Crystal River Buffer Preserve SP (FL).  [Click to enlarge to 1280 pixels wide.]

By 3:00 PM we were all getting hungry so we looked for vegetarian friendly options in Crystal River.  The only place that came up was the Brooklyn Dockside Deli but the website indicated they were only open for breakfast and lunch.  We stopped there anyway and they were open until 4:00 PM, so we had a late lunch /early dinner.  John had a Cuban sandwich, Marian had a Reuben sandwich, Linda had a spinach wrap veggie sandwich, and I had a veggie sub.  Everyone enjoyed their food and the un-assuming setting by the water.

We drove John and Marian back to their house and returned to Williston.  We arrived back at our coach before it got dark; something we have rarely accomplished on our recent outings.  Our neighbor, John, invited us to join them later for a small campfire at another neighbor’s rig a few doors down.  Since we were not having dinner as such I off-loaded today’s photographs from the camera, created the panorama, and worked on this blog post.  We checked a couple of times but never saw a campfire where the campfire was supposed to be, so we figured the plans had changed due to the cool temperatures.  Sunday evenings is Masterpiece Theater on PBS, so we settled in for the evening.


2014/02/08 (S) Uptime

We had heavy rain off and on overnight and woke this morning to steady showers so I decided to delay doing the laundry until later in the day.  After making the morning coffee, which serves as Linda’s alarm clock, I finished my blog post for yesterday and updated the BCM page of our website while Linda concentrated on her counted cross-stitch project.  The amount of time that goes into a handcraft project like this is considerable, but she enjoys it and actually finds it relaxing.  The recipient of this effort will be our 14 month old grand-daughter (and her parents) who took her first unassisted steps yesterday.  Her parents captured it on a cell phone camera and sent it to us.  Although Linda is not looking forward to returning to S. E. Michigan weather, she is eager to see Madeline and wants to have her cross-stitch project finished, or close enough to done that she can finish it while she is home.

Our BCM website page has a reverse chronological listing of all the issues of Bus Conversions Magazine that contain articles I have written.  Today I added the listings for the January and February 2014 issues, including the Special Edition of the January issue that BCM produced for distribution via the Great Lakes Area Motorcoach Association (GLAMA) newsletter.  The January issue cover story was my article on the GLAMARAMA 2013 rally back in September 2013 at the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds in Goshen, Indiana.  The February issue cover story was my article on the Arcadia Bus Rally 2014 that was held at the Turner Agri-Civic Center in Arcadia, Florida December 29 – 31, 2013.  I posted extensively about these two rallies and those posts are still available in the blog archive.

Bus Conversions Magazine is continuing to evolve under the ownership of publisher Gary Hall and editor Mike Sullivan.  Starting with the January 2014 issue the digital edition now contains additional content and features not found in the print edition.  Although Gary hopes/plans to expand the print edition, he needs more subscribers and advertisers to justify the added printing and mailing costs.  The digital edition, however, now features additional photographs and clickable advertisements with plans to add links to videos and other content as it becomes available.  Starting with the February issue, the digital edition is now available in Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD) versions as PDF files.  The difference between the SD and HD versions is the resolution of the photographs, which the reader can click to enlarge.  Both versions are available to online subscribers for download but only the SD version is available as an e-mail attachment; the HD version must be downloaded from the BCM website.

In the afternoon I updated the accounting records and roster for our FMCA Freethinkers chapter and did a small load of laundry.  I heard some additional complaints about the park Wi-Fi.  We can connect and log in with our individual devices and we can connect our WiFiRanger, but not log in.  The technician told me a few weeks ago he had not done anything to specifically block a device like a WiFiRanger (booster/repeater) but I suspect he has.  An e-mail to WiFiRanger is in order to see if they are aware of any way a Wi-Fi system could detect that their device is something other than just another Wi-Fi client.

We had an Asian soba noodle dish with tofu and scallions dish for dinner that we bought at the Earth Origins market in Gainesville earlier in the week.  We finished dinner at 6:30 PM, poured a couple glasses of moscato, and headed over to the fire pit.  As seems to be the pattern there were more people than last night, maybe 30 at any given time with a little bit of turnover.  Kevin had a good fire going and John brought his guitar.  John is recovering from something respiratory and still doesn’t have his singing voice back, so tonight became a sing-along.  We met another first-timer WCRVR couple from South Bend, Indiana who owned the KOA there until 2005 and I had a nice chat with the husband about the business of running a campground.  A couple from London, Ontario sat down next to Linda and she had a nice chat with the wife.  By 9:00 PM the declining heat of the fire wasn’t keeping up with advancing cool of the evening and we retired to our coach for the evening.


2014/02/07 (F) Downtime

Earlier in the week we were making plans to go to Crystal River today with John and Marian Hagan but by Wednesday evening realized that being out three days in a row would be too much and put us too far behind on various tasks.  Besides, the weather forecast for Friday was for cold, overcast, rainy conditions; not ideal for exploring and hiking, especially when we had the option of going some other time.  The forecast for Saturday was even worse, but the forecast for Sunday looked much better and turned out to be a better day for them anyway.  We would have had to be back early today anyway as tonight was pizza night and our pickup time was 6:30 PM, so we stayed home today and planned to stay home tomorrow as well.  I did not take any photos today.

Linda concentrated on her cross-stitch, went for a walk, and took a call from Butch, who had another potential buyer for their business (Linda helps them with accounting and tax returns).  I worked on e-mails and blog posts and had a couple of phone calls and e-mails with Pat, who had a relay replaced in their bus and needed someone to clear the fault codes in the DDEC I engine computer.  Unfortunately the only cartridge I had for our Pro-Link was for a DDEC II / III.  Pat had already called Prevost’s Nashville service facility and they did not have a code reader for a DDEC I.  I suggested that he contact Bill in Orange City.  As I blogged in late December, Bill has a newer diagnostic instrument with cartridges for every DDEC version, as well as Allison transmissions, and was camped relatively close to Walt Disney World.  I also suggested Prevost’s Jacksonville service center and Florida Detroit Diesel Allison in Jacksonville, both of which are only an hour from Fort Wilderness.

With the January 2014 issue Bus Conversions Magazine started adding additional content to the digital edition which they send out as a PDF or allow online (registered) users to download.  With the February 2014 issue they began offering the digital edition in two versions; Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD).  The SD/HD editions has expanded content compared to the print edition, most of which is additional photographs with the photos in the HD version being much higher resolution than the in the SD version.  They have also made the advertisements live links to the advertisers’ websites and plan to add video and other expanded content in the future.  I had an old login for Bus Conversions Magazine that no longer worked so BCM set up an online subscription for me so I could access the online only HD version.  My old login did not work for the BBS/Forum either so I also registered for that.

Volunteers at Williston Crossings RV Resort (WCRVR) make pizzas to order every Friday using the clubhouse kitchen, which has a small conveyor type pizza oven.  Orders have to be placed by 4:00 PM on Thursday and are for a specific pickup time.  We decided to give this a try after our neighbors described how it works and told us the pizzas were pretty good.  We ordered one with mushrooms and onions, hold the cheese, and asked for thin crust.

Friday and Saturday evenings are campfire nights at WCRVR so we had a salad at 6:00 PM, picked up our pizza at 6:30 PM, and headed to the fire pit.  The pizza was big enough for two people to split, only cost $6.00, and was partly a social thing.  Kevin, John, and Ali were there along with a few other folks.  Kevin had a nice fire going and John had his guitar.  We ate our pizza and then Linda got us a couple of glasses of Moscato.  WCRVR is not over programmed, but there are plenty of things to do here if you want to join in.  Of all the nice things at Williston Crossings RV Resort, the Friday and Saturday evening campfires have been the nicest, with John, Jeff, and others providing musical entertainment.  And they have been best when they were more lightly attended, which has been the case on these cool, damp evenings, allowing for more and better conversation.

After we returned to our coach for the evening we turned on the TV and watched a couple of interesting shows on PBS while I finished creating the blog posts for the two preceding days.  Such are our days at WCRVR in Florida.


2014/02/06 (R) Orange City (FL)

Our plan for the day was to visit Bill & Karen Gerrie at the Orange City RV Park in Orange City, Florida where they are staying until March 1st along with Mike and Kathy (Bill’s sister).  Orange City, Florida is south east of us, north of Orlando and less than 30 miles southwest of Daytona Beach and the Atlantic Ocean.  The weather turned out not to be the most agreeable and I did not make any photographic images today.

We took US-27 from Williston to Ocala where we stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for coffee and bagels.  We then picked up FL-40 eastbound through the heart of the Ocala National Forest, intersecting US-17 which we took south through De Land to Orange City.  The Ocala NF is large, and parts of it are signed as wilderness.  There were caution signs for black bears, but we did not see any.  FL-40 was an excellent road and we had it to ourselves most of the time.  The housing, RV parks, and commerce scattered along the road appeared to be very economically challenged.

We did not take the by-pass around De Land to the west, so we got a good look at the city center.  De Land was quite charming and looked liked a great place to shop, dine, or just walk around on a nicer day.  Today, however, was cool, overcast, and drizzly, and we had an ETA to honor, so we just admired it from the comfort of our car.  De Land is the northern edge of a more densely populated part of Florida running along the I-4 corridor from Daytona Beach through Orlando/ Kissimmee and then Lakeland to the Tampa / St. Petersburg metropolitan area.

We found the Orange City RV Park and followed the directions to the Gerrie’s site.  We brought our folding camp chairs but the weather was not supportive of outside conversation so we sat in their bus and talked for over four hours.  We did not get out and about to see the area as we might have in nicer weather, but the reason for our visit was to visit, and we had a good one, as we always do.

I mentioned the milky white air tank water to Bill and he thought it was probably oil that leaked from the main engine air compressor and mixed in with water over time; nothing to be concerned about.  (I had some e-mail correspondence with fellow bus owner Butch Williams in which he indicated that it could also just be air in the water.  He had drained the air tanks in his shop recently and had something similar.  Either way, it was nothing to be concerned about.)

By 4:00 PM we were getting hungry and turned our attention to picking a place to have our birthday dinner (mine was Tuesday and Bill’s was today).  We settled on the Olive Garden and Linda went with Karen to let Mike and Kathy know.  It was a good choice all around and we had an excellent waiter who made sure we got menu items free of animal products.

By the time we finished dinner it was raining lightly.  We headed for Williston, reversing the route we had taken this morning, and encountered heavier and more persistent rain most of the way back.  Driving at night in the rain is not Linda’s favorite thing to do, so I took the wheel for the return trip.  We got back to our coach a little before 9:00 PM; another long but very satisfying day.


2014/02/05 (W) Jacksonville (FL)

Prevost Service Center, Jacksonville, FL.

Prevost Service Center, Jacksonville, FL.

Prevost Car Inc has a major service and parts facility in Jacksonville, Florida and had the (one way) check valve I needed in stock.  Jacksonville is a major metropolitan area in the northeast corner of Florida, about two hours northeast of Williston.  We took FL-121 to Gainesville where we picked up FL-24 over to US-301 northbound at Waldo.  US-301 runs up to the west edge of Jacksonville, but the Prevost service center is in the southeast part of town, so the GPS routed us onto FL-16 at Starke and then onto FL-21 and up to I-295 eastbound.  We found the facility easily and ended up having a nice chat with Dann Wiltgen, the VP of Pre-owned Seated Coach Sales and New Key Accounts, who we bumped into at the coffee station.

At the parts counter Service Advisor Jennifer Beardslee got the check valve and also pulled the new auxiliary air filter assembly for me to see.  I decided to buy it, but had to order the mounting bracket from Canada as it was not in stock anywhere in the U. S.  This was the first time we had been to any Prevost facility so I took a few pictures of the exterior before we left.

Looking north from North Beach at Little Talbot Island SP (FL).

Looking north from North Beach at Little Talbot Island SP (FL).

Our business concluded at Prevost we got back on I-295 headed north.  Just after crossing back over the river/bay we headed east on FL-105 (Heckscher Dr.).  We crossed Little Marsh Island, Pine Island, and Fanning Island before Ft. George Island and Ft. George Island State Park.  Fl-105 joins up with FL-A1A which runs along the coast and includes a ferry to the south side of the inlet.  But we were headed north to Little Talbot Island State Park, which occupies the entire Little Talbot Island.

Us on the boardwalk at North Beach, Little Talbot Island SP (FL).

Us on the boardwalk at North Beach, Little Talbot Island SP (FL).

We stopped at the Little Talbot Island ranger station, trailhead, and beach area, parked, and walked out to the shore on a boardwalk across low dunes.  The weather was pleasant enough and we had a nice stroll down the beach and took a few photos.  We continued on to Big Talbot Island, most of which is Big Talbot Island SP.  We parked at the trailhead for the Big Pine Trail and hiked out to the marsh through a beautiful forest.  This area had been most for a while and was very green. I took a few photos, but it’s difficult to capture the nature of such a place which is both grand and intimate at the same time.  Lenses do not “see” the world the same way our eyes do.

The Big Pine Trail at Big Talbot Island SP (FL).

The Big Pine Trail at Big Talbot Island SP (FL).



From Big Talbot Island we crossed to Amelia Island, the southern tip of which was Amelia Island SP and the location of the George Crady Bridge Fishing Pier SP.  The GCBFPSP is the former bridge connecting the toe Islands.  When a new bridge was built the state left the old one, closed it to vehicle traffic, and made it a state park.  Thus was another example of why the Florida State Parks system is the only two-time winner of the award for best state park system in the U. S.



The marsh at the end of the Big Pine Trail, BTISP (FL).

The marsh at the end of the Big Pine Trail, BTISP (FL).

As we left Amelia Island SP for the Nassau area we suddenly found ourselves in the midst of a very high-end resort community.  FL-A1A eventually joined up with FL-200 headed west towards Yulee and across I-95 to Callahan where it becomes US-301/FL-200 headed SSE through the west edge of Jacksonville and then on to Gainesville and Ocala.  Along the way it passes through the little town of Lawtey.  About 5 miles north of Lawtey there is a billboard warning drivers of the “Lawtey Speedtrap.”  We thought it might be a gimmick ad for a restaurant, but it turned out be an actual warning.  As we entered Lawtey there were dings saying “Speed Strictly Enforced” and a Lawtey police car checking vehicle speeds.  We don’t speed when. We drive, so we were not at risk of being trapped, but I don’t understand why states permit little towns to do this sort of thing.  Law enforcement should not be a major source of revenue for any municipality; it distorts the whole purpose and process of law enforcement.

Fungal growth on a dead tree along the Big Pine Trail at BTISP (FL).

Fungal growth on a dead tree along the Big Pine Trail at BTISP (FL).

I had received the Feb 2014 issue of Bus Conversions Magazine a couple of days ago with my article on the Arcadia Bus Rally as the cover/centerfold story.  Many of my photos were used for the expanded digital edition and I had several e-mails going back and forth with Gary Hall, the owner/publisher, and Mike Sullivan, the editor, as is often the case.  Starting with the January 2014 issue they are producing three separate versions of the magazine.  The print version is currently 32 full-color glossy pages.  Gary would like to up the page count, but needs to build the subscriber/advertiser base to do that.  The digital edition now cones in two versions, SD and HD, both of which have expanded content over the print version, especially photographs.  The SD (Standard Definition) version is e-mailed to subscribers and can also be downloaded by online subscribers.  The HD (High Definition) version has the same content as the SD version, but the photographs are much higher resolution, and can only be downloaded.  The SD version for Feb 2014 was ~10 MB while the HD version was ~ 25 MB.  They can be viewed online or downloaded as PDF files.

The beach at Amelia Island SP by the George Crady Fishing Bridge SP (FL).  (4x4 vehicles permitted.)

The beach at Amelia Island SP by the George Crady Fishing Bridge SP (FL). (4×4 vehicles permitted.)

I also had some e-mail correspondence with Don and Kim Greene of Harvest Hosts. We received the February newsletter a couple of days ago and read that they were extending subscriptions for subscribers who mentioned the program on their websites or in their blogs.  We stayed at four “hosts” in 2013 and blogged about each one of them.  We also have Harvest Hosts listed on our website as one of our travel resources.  The posts were a bit dated but I sent an e-mail with the direct links and they were kind enough to extend our subscription by four months.  They also requested one of the photos from Acres of Land Winery and Restaurant to include on their Facebook and Flickr sites.

It seems that when our days are full they are full right up to the brim, and that’s OK. We’re tired at the end of such days, but it’s a good kind of tired.


2014/02/03-04 (M&T) Happy Birthday

After our fairly active weekend we wanted to be home bodies for a couple of days.  It’s not that we couldn’t go all day every day; it’s that we don’t have to and choose not to.  We are not on vacation and we do not have to fill every waking minute with new and exciting adventures to the point of mental and physical exhaustion.  Linda needs quiet days to work on her cross-stitch project and I need quiet days to process photos and write.  Besides, Tuesday was my birthday and Linda wanted to bake a cake.  Oh, and we had to tend to bus issues.

Our male tabby cat Jasper, in his Sphinx position.

Our male tabby cat Jasper, in his Sphinx position.

A bus issue that had been developing for a while involved our auxiliary air compressor.  It was sounding worse by the day when it ran, vibrating excessively and making loud, unpleasant sounds.  I checked the mounting of the air compressor and the vibration dampening rubber mounts appeared to still be OK.  I noticed that the sight gauge on the side of the air accessories filter housing was showing water at the 80% full level so I decided to try draining the auxiliary air tank.


A hard copper line runs from the auxiliary air tank to a drain valve on the front outside corner of the floor in the bay under the driver’s seat.  I had to open it carefully using a pliers, but once it was open it let out what I estimated to be at least a quart of water, including a considerable quantity of milky white liquid similar in appearance to skim milk.

There is a petcock style drain on the bottom of the auxiliary air filter housing so I also opened that.  I got some water out, but not much, and the water level in the sight gauge did not drop.  I needed to start the main engine to roll the bus forward so a different section of the tires was in contact with the pad to avoid flat spots from being parked for three months.  I let the engine fast idle for over 10 minutes and used the higher pressure, very dry air from the main engine air compressor to purge the auxiliary air tank, air lines, and other air accessories.  When I was finally getting nothing but dry air from the drain I closed both drains tight and shut the engine off.

I was checking the bay and heard a distinct hiss indicating an air leak.  I sprayed soapy water on various fittings and finally got bubbles on the air compressor side of the check valve in the main air line from the auxiliary air compressor to the auxiliary air filter.  With the auxiliary air compressor not running this indicated that the check valve itself was leaking, not just the fitting.

I texted and then talked to our mobile mechanic, Joe Cannarozzi, about all of this.  Although he is staying at an RV park an hour from here He was tied up with a major bus project and unable to come work on this for us.  He was confident, however, that I could replace the check valve myself and that Prevost Jacksonville had them in stock.  (He had just spent four days there with the bus he is working on.)  He wanted to know when I had last drained the auxiliary tank.  I couldn’t recall the last time, but it was probably several years ago.   He suggested that I drain it daily.

Since I would have to depressurize the entire air system to replace the check valve I figured I would replace the filter element in the auxiliary air filter at the same time.  I looked up the part in the Prevost CatBase system and found the part numbers for the filter element and the O-ring/gasket kit.  I called Prevost Parts in Elgin, Illinois to order them.  As sometimes happens on an older bus our filter housing, and the service parts for it, were no longer available and had been superseded by a different assembly.  The check valve, however, was available and in stock at the Jacksonville service center.  I wanted to see the part before I purchased it to make sure it was what I needed, so I decided not to order it and instead drive to Jacksonville on Wednesday to get it.  That would be a two hour trip one way, so started looking at what else we could do over there.

Sunset light on thunderstorm cloud to the east.  Our car and coach visible lower right.

Sunset light on thunderstorm cloud to the east. Our car and coach visible lower right.

Linda found a recipe for a vegan vanilla cake and made it for my birthday.  We went for a walk while it cooled.  Thunderstorms were building in the area as the sun set and we got some nice light on the clouds.  It turned out quiet well.  She made a sauce from fresh red raspberries to put on top and it was also very good.  Life is good.


2014/02/02 (N) HSWSP Photo Gallery

This is a more extensive photo gallery (56 images) of the animals at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Homosassa, Florida.  Click once on each image to view in a separate page/tab.  Maximum dimension is 640 pixels.

2014/02/02 (N) Homosassa Springs Wildlife SP (FL)

At sunrise in Williston we had pleasant temperatures in the upper 50’s with heavy fog.  The forecast for the afternoon was partly sunny and dry with a high near 80 degrees and the forecast for Homosassa was basically the same so we decided to head to the State Park located there.  I have included a few photos with this post as a gallery at the end.  The maximum dimension is 400 pixels.  I have posted a separate photo gallery for this date with more photos in a larger size with a maximum dimension of 640 pixels.

The Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park (HSWSP) in Homosassa, Florida is a unique place.  Located at the headsprings of the Homosassa River, it is a rehabilitation facility for injured wildlife, including the endangered West Indian Manatee.  Located WSW of Dunnellon, Florida and about 50 miles from Williston, there are several other state parks in the area, most notably the two at Crystal River and the one at Weeki Wachi, as well as several National Wildlife Refuges encompassing miles of Gulf Coast shoreline and thousands of acres.

Although Williston is a small town of ~2,200 permanent residents (and another 600 – 800 RVers) it is something of a crossroads.  There are three major roads that intersect at the heart of Williston creating six radials in/out of town.  US-27/41 runs NNW to Archer while US-27/FL-500 runs SW to Ocala and US-41 continues S to Dunnellon.  FL-121 runs NNE to Gainesville and SSE towards Homosassa.  US-27alt/FL-500 heads WNW to Bronson where it intersects US-24 heading SW to Cedar Key and NW to Archer.  The I-75 exit at the SW corner of Gainesville is only 15 miles away via FL-121 and the exit 354 on the west edge of Ocala is only 22 miles via US-27.  At our site at Williston Crossings we do not hear any highway noise, yet we have ready access to this part of Florida and are within two hours drive time of Tampa / St. Petersburg and the greater Orlando area.

HSWSP is another state park that was originally a private “attraction.”  As a private attraction it had a small zoo with many exotic animals that were not native to Florida.  When the state took over the facility I the 1970’s a plan was put in place to relocate all of the non-native animals to appropriate zoos and shelters and turn the grounds into a place to care for sick and injured animals while making them accessible to the public.  The Florida State Park system has accomplished this goal and parks like HSWSP are no doubt one of the reasons that the FSP system has been voted best in the nation twice in the last 14 years.

We spent four and a half hours at the park.  The Visitor Center is on US-19/98 with ample, easy access parking.  Daily admission is $13 per person, but our annual park pass was good for admission for two people.  To get to the actual park we rode one of the river boats.  The trip took about 20 minutes and was narrated by the captain in an entertaining and informative way.  There was also a “tram” that goes back and forth on a park road.

There was one animal that the FSP system was not able to place, a hippopotamus name Lou.  A petition drive was launched asking the Governor to let Lou stay at the park as a result of which the Governor issued an executive decree granting Lou status as a Florida citizen, thus making him a “native” and allowing him to stay in the park.  Lou is an average sized hippo at ~6,000 pounds and has been at the park (private and state) for 48 years.  He was 6 years old when he came to the park, and is now 54 years old.

HSWSP is not wilderness and except for some of the birds and the manatees the animals you see there are not “in the wild.”  Most of them are there because they were sick, injured, orphaned, or otherwise unable to survive in the wild.  If they can be rehabilitated and released back into the wild they are.  If not, they have a safe place to live out their lives.  Two of the Bald Eagles have a badly deformed wing and have been at the park since the state took it over in the 70’s.  There were no records on them and their age is unknown.  Because they cannot fly, they are in an open area where you have a clear view of them unobstructed by fences or netting and can be as close as 8 feet away to not more than 40 feet.  You are simply not going to get that close to a Bald Eagle in the wild.  Many of the animals, including the Bald Eagles, have enclosed areas where they spend the night to keep them safe from wild predators.

In addition to the resident animals and birds there are a large number of wild birds who are free to come and go but have chosen on their own to stay.  After all, they are in a safe place where they are fed regularly.  We found it interesting to consider that “wild” animals are not necessarily as keen on being wild as we are on having them be wild.  Animals will, given a choice, chose a safe place that is free from predation with a reliable food supply.  The birds especially seemed to be oblivious to the presence of people unless they happened to buy some bird food from the quarter machines placed around the boardwalk.

2014/02/01 (S) San Felasco Hammock Preserve SP (FL)

Having spent a long day Thursday visiting Pat and Vickie at Fort Wilderness, and with the weather still wet and cool, we stayed around our coach on Friday and relaxed.  Linda worked on her cross stitch for much of the day.  I did a load of laundry.  We went for a walk around the RV resort.  We met another group of campers from Michigan and stopped to chat briefly.  Linda made her wonderful vegan pancakes for dinner and then we went to the fire pit at 6:30 PM.  We visited briefly with Kevin, who is in charge of the fire pit, before he took off to play Texas Hold’em.  John and Ali, our next door neighbors to the east, were there as they are every Friday and Saturday night.  A few other folks showed up, but not as many as we have seen in past weeks, and they did not stay.  By 8:30 PM it was just the four of us and we had a nice, long visit.  Kevin came back after Texas Hold’em and visited for a little while before turning in.  I’ve included a photo gallery at the end of this post rather than insert the photos inline.

This morning we awoke to temperatures in the upper 40’s with dense fog, but the forecast was for a high near 80 degrees with only a 30% chance of rain.  We waited until noon for the temperatures to rise into the mid-60’s and then headed for Gainesville.  We had two State Parks to check out plus some shopping to do.

Our first stop was the Devil’s Millhopper State Geological Park.  A small park on the NW side of Gainesville, Florida the Devil’s Millhopper is a sinkhole to drains water back into the Florida aquifer.  It is 500 feet across at the top and 120 feet deep.  Water flows in from streams that become waterfalls, and seeps out of the steep side walls.  A wooden staircase gets you from the top to the bottom and back up while keeping hikers from destroying the vegetation which leads to serious erosion.

About 6 miles farther west on the same road is the trailhead for the hiking trails in the southern section of the San Felasco Hammock Preserve State Park.  The southern 2/3rds of the park is restricted to hiking only with over 12 miles of trail.  The area is pine flatwoods, with sinkholes and ponds and was the site of a Spanish mission a long, long time ago.  We went for a very pleasant three mile hike and rarely saw anyone else on the trail in spite of a very crowed parking lot at the trailhead.

My birthday is on Tuesday, and rather than make a special trip into Gainesville for dinner, we decided to dine out while we were there today.  Our hike completed, we drove to Karma Cream, a vegan friendly ice cream / pastry / sandwich shop on the north edge of the University of Florida campus.  We ordered a Tofurkey Rueben sandwich and a vegan “bacon” and Tofurkey club sandwich.  We each had a half of each sandwich.  Karma Cream has a good selection of non-dairy and dairy ice cream.  Linda had chocolate peanut butter and I had a Sunday with Lunaberry ice cream, dark chocolate hot fudge, whip cream, and crushed peanuts; all vegan.  Karma Cream is a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, staffed and patronized by college students many of whom had tattoos, but we enjoyed it.  It has a four and half cow rating on Happy Cow, and we felt that was an accurate assessment.

Just around the corner from Karma Cream is the Gainesville Earth Origins organic market, so we did our weekly grocery shopping there rather than at the Publix supermarket.  By the time we got back to our coach and put the groceries away it was time to go to the Saturday night campfire.  Even though the humidity was high, the milder temperatures brought out the crowd.  Jeff and John brought their guitars and played/sang some of their favorite country songs.  While country I not our preferred genre, we appreciated their musicianship and willingness to entertain their fellow RVers.  We can only sit for so long on hard chairs and made our exit from the campfire around 8:30 PM.