The outside air temperature dropped into the upper 50’s last night but we were toasty in our mobile dwelling. Before turning in we closed the roof vents and windows and put the freshly laundered bedspread back on the bed. I turned on the electric heating pad on my side of the bed and snuggled in.
Linda was up at 7 AM and I got up at 7:30. The temperature in the rig (on the kitchen counter) was 67, which felt slightly cool so I put on my sweats. I ground up six scoops of coffee beans instead of the usual eight and Linda toasted our last bagel, which we split for breakfast. We downloaded e-mails onto phones, iPads, and computers, and settled in to doodle for a while before making our final departure preparations. I saw Ron and Vera getting ready to walk somewhere and popped outside to remind them that we planned to pull out between 10 and 11 AM this morning. Their pickup truck is parked crossways in front of their trailer and they agreed to move it to make it easier for me to pull out. We did not get to know them very well, but they were good, pleasant neighbors the whole time we were here.
We finished our coffee around 9 AM, got dressed, and made the bed. We then got busy getting ready to leave. I turned on the block heater and Aqua-Hot engine preheat pump and then shut down our computer technologies and put them away. Linda took a picture of the electric meter with her phone and walked over to the office to take care of our final electric bill while I started prepping the outside of the bus for travel.
There wasn’t a lot to do; stow the awnings, disconnect and stow the water and sewer hoses, stow the water softener, and put away the two bag chairs and folding plastic table, and fold up entry step and stow it in the front bay. I checked the tire pressures on Friday and the engine oil yesterday. No preparation was needed for the car. I checked that the electrical and safety cables for the tow bar were secured for the trip to the filling station as Linda will drive the car separately and we will hook it up after fueling the bus.
When Linda got back from the office she straightened up the interior. I shut off the engine block heater, Aqua-Hot engine preheat pump, Aqua-Hot electric heating element, and all other AC loads that do not run off of the inverter. I then shut off the shorepower to the coach and stowed the shorepower cable.
Mara and Michael came to visit, get a group photo (which a passerby took for us), and say “farewell for now.” I fired up the bus at 10:30 AM and we did a check of the buses lights. Linda guided me out of the site and then followed in the car as Mara and Michael waved us on our way.
Our initial destination was the Shell station on US-17 just north of where FL-70 crosses through downtown Arcadia. We needed to fuel the bus and had previously scoped out this station (on the advice of Jack Conrad, who lives in the area) as the only viable place in town. We did not want to have the car attached to make it easier to maneuver the bus, especially in case we had to back it up to get into position by the diesel pump.
The station has a good sized lot and I was able to pull in and get clear of US-17 without any difficulty. The diesel pump was at the outside edge of a canopy with an 11 foot clearance so I needed to be beyond the end of canopy but as close to it as possible. There was a vehicle in that location when I arrived so I had to wait, but it moved soon enough and I was able to pull up while Linda watched the passenger side clearance. I usually fill the fuel tank from the driver side, as that is the way truck stops are set up, but in this situation I had to fill from the passenger side as that had us pointed in the right direction to leave headed north on US-17 . It’s nice to have that choice.
Another nice thing about this station is that the diesel pumps have the large nozzles, so we can fill our tank in a reasonable amount of time. Still, it takes a while to pump over 100 gallons of fuel, so while the tank was filling Linda pulled the car around behind the bus and we hooked it up for towing. Once the tank was full Linda went in and paid the bill. We then did a light check on the car and bus and were finally ready to roll. We pulled out at 11:20 AM and headed north on US-17.
We had a relatively short drive of about 100 miles and the GPS said we would arrive at 1:36 PM. I knew that was optimistic as our route would take us through Lakeland, but we were not in any hurry. There was a welcome reception at 4 PM so our only concern was getting there in time for that.
Somewhere between Arcadia and Bartow US-98 joins US-17. They split again at Bartow, with US-17 heading northeast, and US-98 heading northwest. We took US-98 through Lakeland as far as FL-471 where we headed straight north to Webster. We pulled off there, however, to investigate an over temperature alarm on our driver side tag tire. The reported temperature climbed as high as 190 degrees F but the pressure was still showing 85 PSI. The cold tire pressure was at 82.5 PSI on Friday, so a 2.5 PSI pressure increase did not seem consistent with the indicated temperature. My concern was that we might have a brake dragging, but if so I wasn’t aware of it while driving.
I pulled safely off the road on a wide shoulder that was also being used by several tractor-trailer rigs. I checked the temperature of the tires with our infrared non-contact thermometer. Most of the tires indicated around 125 degrees F and the driver side tag indicated 138. Higher, for sure, but not 190 degrees. I pointed the thermometer through a couple of the holes in the wheel and got temperatures around 390 degrees F. When I checked the front wheels they were at 250 degrees. The steer and tag tires/wheels have disk brakes but the tag tires are located next to the transmission, and close to the rear of the engine, so it was not unreasonable that they would be a little hotter, but not 140 degrees hotter. One of my problems at this point was that I knew brakes rub slightly all the time and can get quite hot in operation, but had no idea what sort of temperatures were normal and what was excessive by comparison.
At FL-50 there was a three mile traffic backup headed southbound. It took us a minute but we eventually realized that it was probably the traffic leaving the Webster Flea Market. Since the traffic was trying to get out of Webster, not in, it did not affect our travels. In Webster we headed due east on SE 1st Ave (FL-478) and a few miles later turned north into the entrance to Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort.
The resort is set way back from the road and the entrance winds between two cattle fields demarcated by very nice white fences and lined with attractive street lamps. It leads up to the gate house with the large clubhouse building just beyond. It is reputed to be the largest clubhouse building of any RV resort in Florida, and the entrance to the resort makes quite an impression. The gate attendant had us on a list of today’s arrivals and directed us to a large staging lot with enough room for four motorhomes to unhitch towed vehicles or trailers at the same time.
Linda checked in at the office while I unhooked the car. I was escorted to site #230 by a volunteer in a golf cart and Linda followed in the car. The streets here are very wide, wide enough for two-way motorhome traffic with room to spare. The sites all have concrete pads that are wide enough to park two motorhomes side-by-side, and long enough for a 45 foot motorhome and a full-size pickup truck to be parked end-to-end with space to spare. The point being that I was able to get parked easily with a little help from Linda and our escort.
I checked the level of the coach and it was spot on so I switched the control to one of the level-low positions and shut down the engine. I deployed the awnings first and then got out the water softener and water hoses and hooked them up. I got the shorepower cord out and connected it but did not turn the power on right away as I wanted to let the coach run off of the house batteries for a while.
The welcoming cocktail party was not until 4 PM in the clubhouse Billiards Room, so we had a little time before we had to leave. I used the time to fill the fresh water tank with about 80 gallons of water and dump the black- and gray-water tanks.
I got our network technology up and running and got us online with our Verizon Mi-Fi. Linda checked for TV stations via our ZIP code and found that our location is considered part of the Orlando/Daytona market. We are parked facing slightly south of west and Linda was able to pick up CBS and PBS signals out of Tampa on the front TV. I was not able to pick up the same signals on the rear TV so I turned the antenna west towards Orlando. I scanned for stations and found 14, but most of them were too weak to lock onto. The rear antenna has given us problems and needs to be replaced, but it has always been the case that the front and rear antennas do not respond equally unless we are in area of relatively strong signals.
There were about 24 people at the welcoming party including the resort activity director and a few “ambassadors,” people who own lots here and like the place enough to represent it to visitors like us. We had a little wine and a few snacks, met some nice people, and had some good conversations. This resort has a checkered ownership and financial history but the property owners we met were very open and forthcoming about the past and present, and realistically optimistic about the future.
The original developer is in prison (for fraud, I believe). The people currently developing the resort are the forth group involved with the property, but everyone we talked to thinks they have done a good job. They are bringing the resort out of foreclosure and it looks like a large group of residents will finally get their deeds. Further, the long-term expectation is that the 249 sites in Phase 1 will finally all be sold and the developers will finish the 250 sites in Phase 2. Our first impression of Florida Grande is that is already an attractive, upscale (luxury?), well-maintained, Class A motorcoach resort and that it probably has a promising future but that investing here stills carries a significant degree of risk.
Back at our coach we had a light dinner and watched some TV. CBS had rearranged what shows were on and everything was repeats. I also dealt with a GLCC issue but the thing that really preoccupied me was the inverter. It was operating, but the Fault light on the remote was illuminated and the LCD screen was indicating a high AC input voltage. That made no sense given that there was no AC power applied to the coach.
The house batteries seemed to be discharging at a reasonable rate, so I was not concerned about letting the coach run on batteries overnight. The main problem we had was that the voltage into the UPS and line conditioner was apparently varying, causing the relays in the conditioner and the UPS circuitry to switch to batteries and then quickly back. The regulator relays make an audible clicking noise when switching and the UPS emits a repeated warning beep while inverting from its internal battery. I suspected the problem was the very low current draw on the house batteries and inverter under a very low load condition. The best solution would have been to shut off all of the technology and then shut off the power to the UPS and voltage regulator but I did not want to do that. That was probably a mistake as I found it difficult to ignore the noises after I went to bed.